Monthly Archives: Jan 2018

Review: Tin by Padraig Kenny

Tin cover

You must read this wonderful début! It’s full of ingenious inventions, great bravery and enormous heart.

Meet Christopher. He is a ‘proper’, a human orphan, growing up in Mr Absalom’s junk yard amongst a motley crew of robot mechanicals. There’s Jack who could be sold as a ‘real boy’, Round Rob made from a cooking pot, Manda who’s just a little bit wonky everywhere, Gripper the giant who’s as kind as he is strong, and Estelle, the other ‘proper’ who helps out ‘like a real grown up’.

Together they embark on a thrilling journey of discovery, adventuring to Ironhaven and the Crag, finding their inner strength and undiscovered skills.

This is a world like ours (in the 1930s) but filled with glyphs and mechanicals, Blakes and Runcibles.

A winning combination of Pinocchio with The Wizard of Oz and a bit of I, Robot.

I thought it was a delightful story of friendship, love, and what it means to be human.

What would your robot look like? Would you like to be a robot?

ISBN 9781911077657 pbk

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Posted by on 30/01/2018 in review


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Review: Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy


What a ride!

This is a great story for ‘middle grade’ readers full of amazing inventions, an exciting adventure, a pair of brave and clever twins, helpful animals and a heartless enemy. With added air ships.

Meet Arthur and Maudie, the Brightstorm twins. They’re inquisitive, adventurous, bright, and brave. They’re also about to be orphaned. Their father is an intrepid explorer who doesn’t return from his last expedition to try to rWhat each South Polaris, the furthest point known to humanity.  Maudie is an engineer in the making, reading and investigating mechanical workings as much as possible. Arthur is more thoughtful but always joins his twin on her adventures. She made his iron arm so he can clamber the rooftops alongside her.

The twins seek their escape from the ‘care’ of the Begginses by joining an expedition North. But will they choose the beautifully dressed, famous Eudora Vane or the young, reckless Harriet Culpepper?

On their adventures, they come across transforming houses, thought-wolves and learn the importance of a well-appointed spoon.

This story is full of imaginative inventions, bravery and friendship. There are moments of real peril, sadness and delight. The society of Lontown is well realised, and the wild landscapes of the Second and Third continents are exciting and untamed.

Now I’m off to dream of swamp cakes and honey tea while steering my own sky ship across the continents…

‘Love is what you decide to do – the choices you make.’


Thanks to Scholastic and Bounce Marketing for the gorgeously presented advance proof copy. The published book looks even shinier!

Published March 2018

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Posted by on 26/01/2018 in review


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Review: The Girl With the Lost Smile by Miranda Hart

img_20180124_154918_hdr.jpgNow, I’m not usually a fan of ‘celebrity children’s books’; sometimes very little writing has been done by the ‘celebrity’ themselves, but also some of the stories can be so poor they would be unlikely to be accepted for publication without the famous name attached to it.

This is definitely not the case with Miranda Hart’s children’s novel. It is good, funny, age-appropriate, shows great imaginative flair, has moments of real peril and emotion.



I should also point out that I am a fan of Miranda Hart’s comedy; I like her silly, observational humour. I know that she’s quite a ‘Marmite comedian’ but I like both Marmite and Miranda!

I received a review copy from the lovely people at Hatchette Kids but at a similar time my daughter received one as a birthday present. Who was going to read it first? (She did, within a week) Perhaps I was a little sceptical (see above) and slow to start reading, but my daughter had been given her copy with an enthusiastic recommendation from her friend: ‘ This is my FAVOURITE book!’ And she doesn’t mind lugging a hardback around in her bag all day.


In essence, the title tells the story: on her eleventh birthday, Chloe loses her smile. Why? And will she find it again? Well, yes – it’s got to have a happy ending, hasn’t it? – but the journey to finding the smile is itself full of smiles (from the reader at least), sand animals and shadow bandits.

There are also reflections on the joy of categorising one’s joke collection, the best (only?) game of snakes and ladders in literature and the quest for the comfort of a new duvet. Chloe’s parents and her Gran have their own dramas to play out; as an adult reader, the implications of this are clear to see.

What raises this story above other imaginative adventures is the underlying metaphor; I understood Chloe’s lost smile as symptomatic of the state of depression. The feeling that you might never smile again, that nothing can lift your spirits, that it’s your own fault and that it’s making everyone you love just as sad as you are. And that’s a brave subject to tackle in a children’s book. I thought it was done very well, with a balance of taking the emotions seriously, but treating it in a very imaginative, fun way by taking Chloe to her own Magic Land to discover her ‘courage, hope and love’ and – spoiler alert! – find her smile.

The illustrations by Kate Hindley are great; encapsulating the silliness in this search.

My daughter and I had ‘Such Fun’ reading Chloe’s story. We wonder what’s next for the glorious Miss Hart…?


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Posted by on 25/01/2018 in review


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Review: Kin by Snorri Kristjansson

I don’t think I know enough about the Vikings.


Daughter’s Viking helmet from last term’s topic; she knows more than me about Viking life!

I do know they didn’t wear horned helmets. Or rape and pillage everyone mercilessly. I HAVE watched and read my Horrible Histories’ Vicious Vikings, I promise. But I don’t know much about how they ‘lived, moved and had their being’.

Now I do.

Kin is the first in a projected series about a young Viking girl, Helga Finnsdottir. Set in the summer of 970, Helga’s adoptive parents, Unnthor and Hildigunnur, host a family reunion for their four adult children. And like any family get-together, there are tensions, quarrels and resentment. Oh, and murder. With plenty of honey mead to ease the pain.

Helga is a good pair of eyes to see this family through; she knows the parents very well but does not yet have the measure of their children.  She becomes, in effect, the sleuth, solving the question of ‘whodunnit’.

There was an impressive detail of daily settled Viking life; I found it fascinating.  This is billed as ‘Viking Noir’; perhaps anything in an unforgiving setting is ‘noir’, despite this being in a Nordic summer. There is blood but it is not too gruesome. The murder mystery element was satisfyingly solved and resolved, although I worked out the twist long before the end.

I read this as a proof but I am assured by the lovely folks at Quercus that a family tree will be included on publication. That should help you to avoid the confusion I felt over the combination of husbands and wives, siblings and relatives.

This could be the start of an interesting crime series. Mere, dak!


Published March 2018   ISBN 9781786489012

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Posted by on 25/01/2018 in review


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Review: Teacup House: Meet the Twitches by Hayley Scott and Pippa Curnick


Here’s a lovely book for an ’emerging reader’ who likes a good balance of words and pictures on their page. And a sprinkling of (possible) magic…

Meet the Twitches is the debut in a proposed series with words by Hayley Scott, and pictures by Pippa Curnick. As expected with the wonderful Usborne books, this is a perfect paring with a lovely balance of plot, contemporary interest, humour and ‘sweetness’ for a story in this age range.

Stevie (and her Mum) moves from her tower block flat to a cottage. On their departure, Nanny Blue gives her a teacup house, four rabbits and their own box of furniture, food and books. This is the Twitch family of four beautifully dressed grey rabbits: Gabriel, Bo, Silver and Fig.

However, an element of mild peril has to be added, and in this first adventure, Gabriel (Daddy) Twitch falls out of the box, getting lost in the vast wilderness of the new cottage’s garden.

Will he return to his family? Who is the most inventive Twitch? Do rabbits really like carrots?

And what does Stevie think of her new home? Will it ever feel like home?

And why does Mum already know about the Twitches…?

There is a hint of magic (‘There was a funny feeling in the air…’) and the action is divided between the Twitch family and Stevie and her mum, rooting the magical, inventive story in a ‘real-world’ situation. I love the way that even the tiniest event can be an enormous adventure. I am looking forward to seeing how Stevie’s garden grows, and some of the stories in the Twitches’ impressive book collection.
I will be whole-heartedly recommending this little series as it develops to young readers – and their grown ups.

ISBN 9781474928120 pbk February 2018

With thanks to Stevie Hopwood at Usborne for the proof; you were right – I loved it!


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Posted by on 15/01/2018 in review


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Book Review: Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce

img_20180112_225324_hdr.jpgDo you worry about What To Read Next?

Do you struggle to find Suitable Reading Material?

Are you looking for a story which is Engaging, Heart-felt and Exciting?

Do you like to read about Real Events?

Then Dear Mrs Bird is the book for you!

Follow the adventures of Emmeline Lake and her best friend Marigold.

Thrill as Emmy and Bunty become Women of the World in the topsy-turvy Time of War.

Smile as Emmy’s dream position of being a Brave Lady War Correspondent is in actuality a post as Junior Typist on the Problem Pages of Women’s Friend.

Brace yourself to meet the Indomitable Mrs Henrietta Bird.

Worry as Emmy begins to answer some of the Problem Letters herself, particularly those which deal with Unmentionables.

Swoon as Emmy meets a handsome army Captain.

Gasp as Bombs Fall on London. Will Emmy and Bunty Stay Safe?

But above all, Welcome Emmy, Bunty and Mrs Bird into your Spring-time reading. You Will Not Regret It!


Published March 2018    ISBN 9781509853892 (HB)

With thanks to Macmillian for the gorgeously presented proof.

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Posted by on 15/01/2018 in review


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Review: Sky Chasers by Emma Carroll


One of the perks of being a bookseller is ‘book post’. Sometimes you can ask a publisher for a particular book; occasionally, one lands in the staff room unexpectedly. Rarely do they arrive be-ribboned and including hot chocolate!

So, yes, I was expecting Emma Carroll’s new novel, Sky Chasers, to be something special. And, no, I wasn’t disappointed.

Having read a few of Emma’s previous novels, I knew I would be in for a good, steady story with an emotional heart. (And the delicious hot chocolate made me feel even warmer inside!)

Working on a prize-winning idea by Neal Jackson and drawing on historical events, Emma Carroll has created a fun adventure about flight, family, friends and the French (sorry, couldn’t resist the alliteration!).

Magpie is a petty thief. As an orphan on the streets of Annonay, southern France, in 1783, she has no choice. With the assistance of her pet rooster, Coco, she is ‘commissioned’ to steal a particular document box from the house of the Montgolfier family by a commanding lady of the name Delacroix. (Coco is less of a hindrance than you might think; he doesn’t crow. Yet.)

Needless to say, it doesn’t work out according to plan. Magpie ends up more involved with the lives of the Montgolfier household than just one night’s thievery, befriending their son, Pierre, his pet goose, Voltaire, and Lancelot, the most endearing sheep in literature I have yet to meet.

Pierre’s father is working on a flying machine  – la balloon – and Magpie and Pierre become – literally – entwined in his prototypes, eventually leading them to a very public display in front of the King himself.

This is an exciting adventure story. It romps along at a heady pace, blown by the wind of the story. I loved Magpie’s character: feisty, strong, as good as any boy – and often better. She is not ashamed of being a different colour to those around her; just as her poverty doesn’t diminish her spirit, neither does her ethnicity. Pierre is a sweet boy and his friendship with Magpie develops well. But it is the animal characters who are most memorable. The (almost) silent Coco who is petted like a cat by Magpie; Pierre’s pet goose, Voltaire, who is fiercely protective (and loud); Lancelot who behaves like a curly-haired, nibbling dog and ends up being the star of the show.

Despite being a historical adventure, this reads like a contemporary story. Magpie’s first-person narration gives it an immediacy which keeps up the fast pace. There is thievery, duelling, cross-dressing and royal cameo appearances; enough to keep any young reader entertained.

Many thanks to Jazz at Chicken House Books for the gorgeously packaged advanced copy. A festive treat indeed!

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Posted by on 06/01/2018 in review