Picture Book and Play on a Rainy Day

Picture Book and Play is a weekly(ish) post featuring books Peapod has been enjoying recently and some of the play we’ve had based on it.

This week, it’s a topsy-turvy post as the play came first and the books came later! I don’t know what it’s been like where you all are but we have had A LOT of rain this week!

We did some rainy day painting using watered down poster paint and droppers (colour mixing, science, creativity and fine motor all rolled into one 😂) Peapod loves ‘process painting’ like this, he had a great time!

We also played lots of Spiders and Spouts (I’m in no way affiliated with Orchard Toyd, we just like them!) We swapped outvthe dotty die included though to use a numbered one for practicing number recognition.

On Monday, it threw it down all day. We’d stayed in all morning but by the afternoon, we very much needed a big of fresh air so it was on with the waterproofs and wellies and out hunting for puddles!

We had an absolute blast – stomping splashing and jumping in, over and through puddles. Then Peapod decided to float his umbrella in one (don’t get too excited – it really just sat in the inch of water but he was happy pretending!) and after this wanted the umbrella to blow us away, so we ran home with it stretched out ahead of us – “aaaargh! We’re being blown away! Come back umbrella!”

I’ve never enjoyed the rain so much!

Well, after this there were two bedtime stories I picked out. Neither of which had anything to do with rain but reminded me of our play – Lost and Found with its umbrella-boat and Blown Away with Penguin Blue and friends being swept away by the wind (this will no doubt also feature in a windy day post at some point!)

Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers is an old favourite of mine and our copy is tattered and battered and worn from years of use in school.

A little boy finds a penguin on his doorstep one day. He goes to extraordinary measures to try to find out where its come from and get it home, eventually embarking on an epic rowing boat ride to the South Pole, only to realise that perhaps the penguin wasn’t lost but lonely…

Sparse text lets the illustrations do the work with buckets of gentle, dry humour and warmth. Oliver Jeffers books are modern classics for a reason!

Blown Away by Rob Biddulph is a very funny, rhyming tale about Penguin Blue’s kite flight across the sea to the jungle (with the friends he collects along the way!)

Bringing to life the joys of travel… and that unbeatable feeling of coming home again, it’s a feel good story of friendship and adventure, with a brilliant ending!

We’re also in the throes of a “why” epidemic currently, so comments like “it’s raining” are frequently met with “why?” With this in mind, I bought this book for us to look at…

What Makes it Rain? by Katie Daynes and Christine Pym

This is a gorgeous non-fiction book for little readers. Usborne do loads of this sort of lift the flap information books on a variety of topics for a variety of ages and they do them SO WELL.

This one has a double page on each type of weather, with questions children might ask peppered across the bright, cheery illustrations of things we might see or do in that sort of weather.

Lift the flap under each question to reveal its answer – perfectly pitched with just enough detail and information for little ones to understand.

It’s perfect for dipping in and out of on different weather days or to read little and often with those whose attention drifts! We’re big, big fans.

Have you been enjoying the rain this week?

What have you been reading or playing?

The Supreme Lie

I was lucky enough to request and be approved to read this on netgalley in exchange for an honest (but late – sorry!) review. All views and opinions are my own.

The Supreme Lie by Geraldine McCaughrean, cover art by Leo Nickolls, interior art by Keith Robinson, published by Usborne

I had high hopes for this after loving Geraldine McCaughrean’s Where the World Ends and, while WTWE is still my favourite, this certainly lived up to expectations; I loved the darkness of WTWE but for those who may have found it a little too dark, this provides a little more light relief and hope to balance out its heavier themes and events.

When a catastrophic flood hits Afalia and the Suprema (their Head of State) secretly flees, her maid Gloria is forced to step in and pretend to be her in order to cover it up.

With rising water levels, impossible choices deceitful politicians and an unhappy public, Gloria and Timor (the Suprema’s husband) must make some difficult and dangerous decisions which sees thousands of lives (their own included) at risk.

I loved the characters in this – they were without doubt its strongest feature for me. Gloria herself was a brilliant, believable main character who you couldn’t fail to empathise with and warm to. Her naivety and optimism were her strengths and a perfect tonic to the lies and treachery all around her.

The rest of the cast were fantastic too (I especially liked Timor) and the twists and doubts surrounding their actions, motives and intentions were very clever, with some truly despicable, though all too believable and familiar, villains.

Running alongside Gloria’s narrative is that of Clem, or more accurately Clem’s dog Heinz. Clem lives outside the capital; cut off and flooded out his family flee but are separated from his beloved dog Heinz, who we follow on his journey through the floodwater to reunite with his boy.

This was a really effective way of highlighting the damage and devastation caused by the freak rain and flooding, to both communities and to the natural world, which was so hard to read without a worrying air of ‘that could be us’ hanging over it.

Likewise, it served also to show the way those outside the capital were pretty much abandoned to their fates and left to look out for themselves (and each other). I won’t say much more here for risk of spoilers but the Rosies and were wonderful to read!

This was also a great way to provide that aforementioned light to balance out the dark. The use of both Clem’s dog, Heinz and Gloria’s dog, Daisy, was a great way to inject some hope, comfort and loyalty into a book otherwise filled with despair, discomfort and deception.

And their relationships with the children in the story was a heart-warming thing. Dog lovers everywhere will feel this in their hearts.

The use of newspaper reports throughout raised the very topical issue of ‘fake news’ and cleverly highlighted the way political agendas, and politicians themselves, can manipulate and manufacture what the public see and hear for their own gains or plans.

I loved the twist in the newspaper tale and the daily anagrams, and Keith Robinson has done a fantastic job of illustrating these articles, which feel real and perfectly in keeping with the rest of the book. They are a brilliant addition to the story.

Dark and darkly funny too, this is a sharp and witty social and political commentary that I thoroughly enjoyed – “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” has never felt so true or so timely.

Picture Book and Play – Jack and the Beanstalk

Picture Book And Play is a weekly post in which we look at a picture book (or books) Peapod’s been enjoying recently and some of the play we’ve had based on it.

We’ve actually not done a huge amount of anything this week after a busy Easter weekend finally being able to see family, hunting for eggs and going for walks.

So I’ve picked out a story that we return to often and some of our past play activities around it – Jack and the Beanstalk.

I’ve talked before (many times!) about the brilliant Campbell First Stories range (here or here for example). Peapod loves this edition of Jack (illustrated by Natascha Rosenberg), especially finding Jack hiding in the cupboard or chopping down the beanstalk and seeing the giant fall!

The moving parts remain a big draw and the simplified, rhyming version of the story is a great first telling for little ones.

We added the Peep Inside version to put collection too as it’s a slightly longer, more faithful version, including for example the essential “Fee Fi Fo Fum…” lines which are a must in our house! Peapod loves shouting them out when playing!

The rich illustrations and intricate cut outs of the peep through elements add a more grown up touch and make these a really attractive series to read and handle too.

I also really like the way there’s a lift-the-flap style to some of the pages and peep-inside parts, which helps retain an interactive feature that children always enjoy.

The Peep Inside books are the perfect follow on from the Campbell First Stories, and we’ll be adding lots more to our collection!

Obviously, there’s so much you could do with this story; it’s one we could (and no doubt will) return to repeatedly over the years adding in lots of different activities – planting, natural collage, painting, measuring, counting, as well as variations on what we did this time with sensory activities, role play and building/small world.

This was by far Peapod’s favourite – building the castle and beanstalk and using figures to tell the story!

He also used his climbing toys as a beanstalk – climbing up, stealing the gold and sliding down before chopping it down!

He’s been practising his cutting so we started making a giant beanstalk but he lost interest once it was time to add any leaves! Still, we cut and stuck a lovely, long, green stripe!

We made a tray using butter beans, gold coins and green covered cardboard tubes for filling, pouring, hiding, stacking, dropping…

… and building of course! It just wouldn’t have been the same of the builders and diggers didn’t get involved 😂

What have you been reading and playing this week?

MG Takes on Thursday – Songs of Magic

#MGTakesOnThursday was created by Mary over at Book Craic and is a brilliant way to shout about some brilliant MG books!

To join in, all you need to do is:

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence.
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

I’m cheating again this week (is there even a week when I don’t?!) and I’ve picked two books:

A Darkness of Dragons and A Vanishing of Griffins, Books one and two in the Songs of Magic trilogy by SA Patrick. Cover art by George Ermos. Published by Usborne.

I had A Darkness of Dragons waiting for an embarrassing amount of time. The only good thing about this is the fact that it meant I could go straight onto A Vanishing of Griffins when I finished it. (Only now I’m left desperate for book three with at least a year to wait!)

I love (almost) any book which draws on fairy or folk tales, so I was really drawn to the way this used the story of the Pied Piper as its base. And it works so well – all at once we have a brilliant take on a classic tale; a fantastically dark, powerful and mysterious villain; and a unique and believable magic system.

Our main characters – Patch, Wren and Barver – make an interesting and loveable central trio who find themselves suddenly and unexpectedly thrown together, but quickly develop strong bonds and an unshakeable loyalty.

Together, they set out to find and stop the villainous Piper, but each with their own journey to make too. The way in which their individual stories unfold and develop is woven into the main plot expertly, and with so many twists and unexpected turns, just when you think they’ve reached their goal, another obstacle appears, another mission is required or another chain of events set in motion.

No quest would be complete without a whole host of interesting characters met along the way, and that is certainly the case here – from noble to untrustworthy to those you can’t quite place; from sorcerers to witches to pipers in hiding and cut-throat pirates; from respectful and respectable elders to power-hungry leaders to, of course, a seemingly unstoppable enemy.

This is a fantastic adventure series, with breathtaking journeys through some well-imagined and depicted places (I am especially intrigued about where our story will pick up in book three!) Full of magic, friendship and excitement – highly recommended!

My favourite quote from page 11 (of A Darkness of Dragons) :

He thought for a moment, but all that came was that terrible, dark wall through the forest, one step after another with no end. His eyes widened.” I don’t even remember my own name!”

These books in three words:

Magic. Quest. Adventure.

Picture Book and Play – Pancakes

Picture Book And Play is a weekly post in which we look at a picture book (or books) Peapod’s been enjoying recently and some of the play we’ve had based on it.

Tuesday was Pancake Day. I love Pancake Day – growing up it was always really fun, flipping (and dropping!) pancakes and filling them with as many sugary treats as possible (my best ever filling that always sticks in my memory being mint choc ice cream, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce and chocolate sprinkles).

Last year, Peapod wasn’t at all keen on pancakes but I was hoping he’d see sense this year. Sadly, he still turned his nose up, but he enjoyed making them – helping to pour, sift, whisk and mix (he was especially keen on the whisking!)

Obviously, he took a back seat for the flipping (leaving that to the experts!!) but helped to choose and chop the fruit to top them with.

Carefully arranging the fruit on his pancake before demolishing all the fruit on both plates and leaving the pancake untouched 😂

After helping with the real pancakes, I set up his tray with flour, water, bowls, whisk, spoons, sieve etc as well as his toy pan, plates and ‘toppings’ with yellow playdough for him to pretend to make his own.

He has LOVED doing this!

And of course, we’ve read some pancake stories too!

Our favourite has to be Mr Wolf’s Pancakes by Jan Fearnley, which we wrote about last year too. Peapod has loved this and we’ve read it at bedtime every day at least once usually twice, since Monday.

He woke on Tuesday and the first thing he asked was to “Play Mr Wolf’s Pancakes?!” So we were straight in the playroom at 6.45am acting it out before he went to nursery! He even switched his shop over to be the shop from the story!

Unfortunately I didn’t get any better pictures as we were too busy playing it!

We’ve also been reading Rhinos Don’t Eat Pancakes by Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie, which was one I’d not read before but we both really like.

It’s got a flavour of Not Now Bernard as Daisy is constantly ignored by her busy parents. And even a purple rhino showing up and stealing all the pancakes can’t get their attention. But a sign at the zoo about a missing rhino soon helps them see the error of their ways.

I love Sara Ogilvie’s gentle, colourful and expressive illustrations in this. I’ve written before about how well she captures ‘real life’ and her depictions of family life here do that perfectly.

Peapod loves the rhino. Not least the page with the rhino on the loo. And not least because he has an obsession with rhino poo (ever since we went to the zoo last year and the enclosure was a bit ‘fragrant’!)

And we’ve read Mairi Mckinnon and Silvia Provantini’s retelling of The Runaway Pancake which Peapod thinks is very funny indeed.

In this traditional tale which has many versions and similar tales the pancake hops out of the pan to escape its fate as fodder and makes a run for it, chased by the family. As it runs, it passes various animals who a join the chase until it reaches Pig, who’s got a much better idea than joining the chase…

We have of course played Runaway Pancake too, both chasing the ball and each other!

I appreciate this is a bit late for pancake day fun now, but both pancakes and pancake stories are for life, not just for pancake day!!

Did you have pancakes? Did you do any pancake play or reading?

Which picture books have you enjoyed this week?

The Haunting of Aveline Jones

I was lucky enough to request and be approved by the publishers to read an early copy of this on netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

The Haunting of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes, illustrated by Keith Robinson

I wish this book had been around when I was growing up – younger me would have loved it (of course present me did too!) Atmospheric, creepy and chilling it was a perfect read for a grey, rainy day.

Aveline is staying with her Aunt Lillian for a few days in the coastal town of Malmouth. Out of season, this makes for a perfect backdrop to the story that follows – the stormy weather, the deserted streets, the unfamiliarity to city-born Aveline.

The writing was really imnersive and I could feel the wind whipping my hair and the spray from grey waves hitting my face as I hunkered down along the front with Aveline and local boy Harold, who she gradually – somewhat reluctantly at first! – befriends.

Shy, but hiding it with quick comments (and a long fringe), Harold’s clumsy attempts to make friends with Aveline were so well-written and touching to read; I thought he was a great character and I’d love to see more of him in the next book (which I found out about the other day and now can’t wait for!)

I also really liked the way the adults in the story were portrayed too – they aren’t stereotypically stupid, mean or absent, but real, supportive and caring. I especially Lillian and the effect Aveline’s visit had on her.

And when Aveline starts to suspect some ghostly goings on, they don’t dismiss her, but walk a careful line between believing her and suggesting alternative theories, helping her to get to the bottom of it.

And it’s these ghostly goings on that make the book so thrilling. Those and Keith Robinson’s wonderfully dark and atmospheric illustrations!

Aveline loves a good ghost story and ‘stuck’ at her aunt’s for a few days with limited internet and TV, she buys a book of ghost stories from Mr Lieberman’s (another great character!) bookshop down the road.

And this is where the trouble starts. A crossed out story at the end of the book, eerie visions in the sea, a mysterious previous owner gone missing, some truly disturbing scarecrow-like effigies and things that go bump in the night… the tension, mystery and spookiness gradually build and come together leading to an absolutely heart-pounding finale.

Plus, The Specials Madness and cherry red DMs.

I really enjoyed this, and I know if I’d read it as a child I’d have loved it then too. Creepy and atmospheric with a likeable and believable cast, I can’t wait to recommend this in work as the nights draw in and I’m so excited already for book two!

The Castle Of Tangled Magic

I was lucky enough to request and be approved to read an early copy of this from the publishers on netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

The Castle of Tangled Magic by Sophie Anderson, illustrated by Saara Soderlund

I really liked The House With Chicken Legs and I absolutely loved The Girl Who Speaks Bear, so I had high hopes for this one. Well, it didn’t quite manage to knock The Girl Who Speaks Bear off the top spot, but I still very much enjoyed it!

Olia lives in Castle Mila with her parents, new baby sister and grandmother, Babusya. Olia’s family provide a source of comfort and reassurance and a strong and loving base for her on her journey, as she grows to realise it is them and not the building she lives in that make a home.

I was particularly thrilled by her mum at the end of the book, as I know others will be too (but you’ll get no spoilers here!) and, again on a purely personal level, I was warmed to see a breast-feeding, baby-wearing mum in a book!

But it’s the relationship between Olia and her Babusya that’s the truly heart-warming thing here and her Babusya’s belief in her is, ultimately, key to Olia’s own gradual realisation that “Belief is one of the few things more powerful than magic.”

Olia’s Babusya is everything you’d expect from a grandmother in one of Sophie’s books – shrewd and wise but spritely of spirit and Olia’s partner in magical crime. She sees the castle’s spirits and feels its magic, and Olia is desperate to one day discover it too.

That day comes in less than cheery circumstances though as a huge storm threatens to destroy the castle and Olia must accompany the castle’s domovoi (house spirit) Felicks to the Land of Forbidden Magic in order to try and save her home.

Together they journey into the unknown, with setbacks and twists round every corner (right til the very end!) and the clock is ticking! Its one of those stories where just when you think you can breathe a sigh of relief, you’re biting your nails again.

Felicks made for a loyal and understanding companion on Olia’s travels. He had me as soon as he appeared from behind the kitchen stove (bringing with him echoes of The Moomims’ Ancestor) but it was Koshka I liked best in Olia’s new group of friends. Haughty, dry, mistrusting and impatient, we get glimpses of her fallibility and softer side too.

Along the way, they meet various other spirits and magical beings who can both help Olia on her quest, but need her help in return. Can they save both her home and theirs before it’s too late?

One of the key themes in the book is the making of mistakes and the idea that, as Olia’s Babusya puts it “everyone makes mistakes. In fact, to live is to make mistakes.” As someone who struggles with this, with past mistakes and prospective ones, this really resonated with me. But personal feelings aside, the idea that to make mistakes is not just acceptable but necessary, that it’s how we move on from them that matters, is one which all children should grow up with.

With a giant, tree spirits, flying feathered horses, a talking cat, water spirits, a maze, riddles, different, brilliantly crafted worlds, a land held together by enchanted thread, a magical sword, sinister floating cloak, a house with chicken legs (of course!), a giant head, friendships new and old, this is a truly spellbinding adventure.

There are many, many links to Russian folklore in this magical world and my only gripe (emphatically at myself, not at the story) is that it made this a frustratingly slow read as I kept stopping to look up characters and stories!

If anything this is simply testament to Sophie’s ability to create a modern spin on traditional tales and on her own knowledge and love of these, original stories.

I bought this after reading Sophie’s earlier books but still haven’t got round to it – this book has made me determined to read it soon!

I realise this has been a long, slightly rambling, more personal musings than helpful review, so I will attempt to end in a less meandering way.

This is yet another marvellously magical book from Sophie Anderson, with folk tales, friendship and family at its heart. With a cast of incredibly varied characters and both a castle and a magic world steeped in imagination, not to mention a quest which seems almost impossible, this is an exciting and immersive adventure that existing fans and new will love!

MG Takes On Thursday – Freddie Yates

Mary over at Book Craic has started a really exciting new meme (I think that’s the right word!) #MGTakesOnThursday.

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence.
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

I wasn’t going to join in til next week, but it’s just about still Thursday and I’ve been meaning to review this for ages (I finished it at the start of February!!) so, I have a bedtime deadline and I’m getting my first #MGTakesOnThursday post in today with…

The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates by Jenny Pearson, illustrated by Rob Biddulph, published by Usborne.

Re-reading page 11 to pick out a quote has reminded me of just how funny this book is. I laughed all the way through it, including many proper laugh-out-loud chuckles on a busy tram.

And this highlights one of my favourite things about the book (as an adult reader). There is absolutely LOADS that kids will find hilarious in this – exploding toilets, cooked clothes, (accidental) superhero-clad escapes from ‘The Gaffer’ and Sheila the miracle sheep, not to mention an impromptu mission on a bike across Wales. BUT there is also loads of humour that, whilst it emphatically doesn’t exclude or mock the young characters (or readers), adult readers will find very funny too.

The shrewd, but incredibly warm observational humour in the book meant it came as no surprise to me that Jenny Pearson teaches!

And it’s this that led to the quote I eventually picked from page 11:

“On the last day of Year Six we sang a really shouty version of “One More Step Along the World I Go” in our leavers assembly.”

As an ex-primary teacher this cracked me up.

The boys in question are a wonderful trio and their friendship a wonderful thing. It’s touching and they don’t half bring a smile, but the dynamic and their characters feel so realistic too – I just loved these three!

By contrast, the daft, madcap and increasingly ridiculous adventures the boys end up on are anything but believable. BUT the family situations that lead them there are – loss, a blended family, biological/non-biological parents and weight, alongside the big change of leaving primary school and moving up, are all dealt with both credibly and sensitively.

I especially liked that the boys all came from really loving homes too though, so while things weren’t perfect it remained positive and didn’t start to feel too desperate, or alternatively, exaggerated or stereotypical.

I don’t really ‘do’ contemporary, but this was just great and really shows the power of humour for helping to confront, make sense of and deal with difficult situations. Brilliantly written with huge heart, understanding and warmth, I hope we’ll see more from Jenny as books like this are a huge asset to any children’s bookshelf.

In three words?

Family. Friendship. Funny.*

*I very nearly just wrote ‘Funny’ three times.

Lions and Tigers and…Hippos?! Oh My!

We were lucky enough to request and receive copies of two of these from Usborne (Hippo we bought ourselves!) in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are our own.

This week, we have three gorgeous Usborne board books to share with you. All are bright, engaging and lots of fun and have definitely been given a thumbs up from Peapod! First up…

Play Hide & Seek with Tiger by Sam Taplin, illustrated by Gareth Lucas

This is a lovely addition to the lift-the-flap range, with large almost whole page style flaps that are sturdy and easy for little fingers to lift.

There are little cut outs in the flaps, which add an extra level of detail, interest and challenge. Peapod is enjoying putting his fingers through and using to lift the flaps too. We also really liked the way the final page folded out via multiple flaps,each revealing another animal.

The illustrations are bright and cheerful, with just the right balance between being bold and simple enough for little readers, but detailed enough to talk about and point things out.

The text is all done through speech bubbles, which felt different and begs for the use of voices.

We’re really enjoying this. Peapod loves us naming the animals and making the noises for them, especially roaring like tiger (although, as a very minor point, I think all of us felt tiger should roar on the final page instead of saying boo!), as well as the fun “where can they be?!” hamming-it-up way we can read it to build up to the grand reveals!

And speaking of being overly dramatic and creating a build up when sharing a book, these next two are just as good.

Don’t Tickle the Hippo/Don’t Tickle the Lion by Sam Taplin, illustrated by Ana Martin Larranga

I snapped up Don’t Tickle the Hippo as a Christmas present for Peapod when it came into work as I was certain he’d love it.

He was (still is) going through a spell of loving noisy books and animals are always a win with him, and I was really excited to see the touchy freely elements there too as he loved this aspect of the That’s Not My… books but since growing out of them a bit, we’ve not really found anything touchy freely that’s captured him in the same way.

I promise the hippo top is a coincidence!

Well, he LOVED this. And still does, nearly two months on. So when I was offered a review copy of Don’t Tickle the Lion from Usborne I jumped at it knowing he’d love it even more as this time there was also a lion (ROOOOAAAR!)

Both books follow the same structure. Each features four different wild animals with the repeated phrase “Don’t tickle the…! You might make it…” Each animal has a touchy-feely textured part and when you feel that it makes the animal noise.

(I should also note here that we have one other book that works in this way, Noisy Farm, which we loved the look of but never use because it’s really hard to press on exactly the right spot and hard enough for the sound – these books are infinitely better! Peapod uses them absolutely independently with no trouble at all.)

There is loads to love about these books. First, they feel really high quality – from the textures to the cut outs and shaped pages to the font and text design and layout to the stunning, vibrant and detailed illustrations which have an almost batik feel in parts and have plenty of extra flora and fauna to point out, name, count and talk about.

Secondly, they are just joyous. Not to mention hilarious. By the final double spread, all the animals are in ticklish uproar and there’s a riot of animal noises and music. We continue to giggle our way through these, and theur appeal shows no sign of abating with Peapod!

North Child

I was lucky enough to request and receive a copy of this from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

North Child by Edith Pattou

I was really excited about this – I alresdy thought it sounded great, Usborne have published some of my favourite books this year and I’d seen nothing but race reviews online. And it more than lived up to expectations.

The story follows Rose, the wild child of her family, as she is taken North by a great white bear in return for health and good fortune for her struggling family.

Kept well in a huge castle with everything she could want, Rose starts to wonder about her kind-natured captor and what has led them both to their current situation.

As events unfold, we are taken on a perilous journey across wondrous and harsh lands and culminating in a daring rescue attempt amongst ruthless trolls.

This journey takes us across different terrains, over land and sea, through storms, snow and ice. We also see Rose’s rural family home and the castle in a mountain she’s taken to as well as the Troll Palace. All are described in sumptuous detail; the world building is vivid and real and the power and beauty of nature is clear.

The book is written in very short chapters from multiple viewpoints, which could easily make a book hard to get into or difficult to follow. On the contrary here, it only adds to the intrigue and understanding we have as a reader, as we are allowed glimpses of the full story as it unfolds in different places and different ways for different characters.

The Troll Queen, for example, could easily have been a rather stereotypical and one dimensional character had we only read about her, but seeing chapters written ‘by’ her gave her much greater depth – coloured in shades of grey rather than black and white.

I understand the story itself draws on Nordic folktales, specifically ‘East of the Sun, West of the Moon’. I’m unfamiliar with these (but have bought an absolutely stunning version off the back of this to read!)

Incidentally, that’s my very battered proof copy pictured but I have since bought the finished book.

However, even aside from that there are unmistakable fairytale elements – from the direct comparisons to other tales, like Beauty and the Beast, to more general fairy tale tropes and style throughout.

I loved this about it and even though it meant I didn’t get the ending I was hoping for I coukd jet it go and appreciate the ending we did get as it was very fitting and in keeping with the traditional tales the book comes from.

This is one of my favourite reads of the year. A brilliant folkloric adventure with a journey across varied but perfectly pictured lands, a feisty and determined heroine and just a touch of magic. I only wish it had been released as a gifty hardback – I’d have snapped that up!