BOOK BLOG: Christopher Lloyd

Absolutely Everything: the perfect book for non-fiction lovers with an insatiable need for facts!

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“Embark on an amazing journey across millennia and continents, and learn about absolutely everything including the creation of planet Earth, the age of dinosaurs, the rise of humans, the miserable medieval times, globalisation, wars, revolutions, technology – and much more! Find out the answers to many big questions about our planet, animals, and the people inhabiting Earth. Engaging design, illustrations and photographs throughout bring to life the most remarkable true stories of all time.”

Absolutely Everything is an incredible collection of all of the facts you could POSSIBLY think of, illustrated so beautifully and told in chronological order. This book would make the perfect gift for a budding historian for Christmas. Told through interesting chapters, with a timeline to match each chapter, including a glossary and an index for those who have specific questions, this is definitely the one to want! 

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Now, I’m not a great historian, so I’ve been reading bits of this and it is genuinely brilliant. It’s told in a fun and engaging way. There’s illustrations and diagrams aplenty. It’s nothing like those history textbooks we learned from – it’s so much more than that! This is perfect for adults and kids alike! 

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The book opens to a gorgeously written contents page showing you all of the chapters and what they entail… the each chapter has a gorgeously vibrant and illustrated front page (the chapter pages might be one of my favourite things about this book!) The illustrations, by Andy Forshaw, are just lush and I think they add so much intrigue and interest to this book.

There’s history from many centuries ago, to the final chapter titled “To be continued…” which looks at what the future might hold. I love the little robot – he’s well cute! Each chapter is a different colour and the edges of the pages are coloured that way to match (this might seem like a simple thing, but I think it’s great for kids!)

There’s illustrations like these (above) all through the book – diagrams, maps, illustrations, photographs – and these add so much to the words that make up the story. As someone who loves a good picture, they make this book so much more enjoyable and therefore so much more is learned. With every question it answers, it probes you to ask more… isn’t that what we all want? To keep learning forever!

Whether you’re a budding historian, or just a bit obsessed with facts, this is the perfect present, especially with Christmas coming up!

If you could go back in time, where would you go to?
Are you a little bit of a secret historian?
What’s part of history that fascinates you most?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

S x

BOOK BLOG: Lara Hawthorne

Silent Night: the classic, beautifully illustrated!

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“Celebrate the magic of Christmas with this beautifully illustrated book, based on the world’s best-loved carol. Rediscover the Nativity Story in all its glory—from quaking shepherds to heaven-sent angels—as the song lyrics are brought to life on every spread. The world’s diversity is reflected in a cast of characters with a range of skin tones. A gorgeous book for all the family to share during the festive season.”

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Christmas is coming and what’s more perfect than one of the greatest Christmas carols beautifully illustrated? Silent Night is one of those classics that everyone knows. I even know the chorus and the first verse in German (I’m not sure why!). I think Christmas is such a lovely time of year and music is an important part of that. 

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Silent Night has been beautifully illustrated in this book, with the lyrics of the book broken into little scenes of the night that Jesus was born. The book features the key people in the Christmas story – angels, shepherds, Mary, Joseph, kings and the stable! 

This book is going to be SO perfect to use at school. Whether kids know the song or not, it is a brilliantly simple, yet beautiful, way to teach them the story of Christmas. 

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I also love that it comes with this information page in the back all about the song. Great for older children to find out more about the song. This could inspire some of your KS2 kids to make their own book of a Christmas song and write their own “about the carol” page. 

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This would make the perfect Christmas present. I already know it’s going to go down brilliantly at school. 

A massive thank you to the wonderful Quarto for sending me a copy of this book! I do now however want to start singing Christmas songs… (but not yet… I can’t until after Halloween!)

Silent Night is out now! 

Do you have a favourite Christmas song?
Is Silent Night up there in your top 10?
What’s your Christmas rules?

Talk to me! Which carol would you like to see made into a book?!

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Matt Haig

The Truth Pixie: poetic, charming and inspiring.

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“From number one bestselling author Matt Haig comes a hilarious and heartwarming story, brilliantly illustrated throughout by Chris Mould Wherever she is, whatever the day, She only has one kind of thing to say. Just as cats go miaow and cows go moo, The Truth Pixie can only say things that are true.”

Anyone who has been here for a while will know that I am a MASSSSSSIVE Matt Haig fan (he’s probably one of my most read authors). I’d heard whispers of a new kids book a few months ago and this made me so happy! The Truth Pixie just seems to have shot up on me and come in no time at all, but I am so glad it’s in my life! 

The Truth Pixie tells the story of a young pixie who was blessed/cursed with only being able to tell the truth. She has very few friends because no one wants to hear the truth. Her family don’t want to know her because of her truth-telling, so she lives alone and dreads going out into the wide world. One day, when shopping for groceries, she comes across a troll who changes everything for her. (He’s not a nice troll…)

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I think my favourite thing about this book is that it delivers quite a few MASSIVE messages to kids in ways that they’re going to understand. If you’ve ever read one of Matt’s books, you’ll know they’re books that will restore your faith in humanity and this one delivers just that. It has some important messages about being yourself, being sad (and that being ok) and the truth being something that we should embrace. 

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I read The Truth Pixie aloud to myself laid in bed and it’s such a glorious one to read aloud. I might have to reread it a few times before I read it aloud to any kid though – it made me cry, quite a lot. It’s pages like these 2 above that just turn me into a bumbling mess. Adults and kids alike will love this book. It’s written in a beautifully rhyming style that made it so easy to read aloud. It’s going to be a firm favourite for me to use in the classroom – as a story, as a book with a message. The illustrations (by the incredibly talented Chris Mould) are just wonderful too. They add so much to the story. 

This book is a total victory. I will continue to champion Matt Haig books forever. This book is already on its third print run and it’s been out less than a week! 

My goodreads review:

Just incredible. I love the poetic, rhyming style of this book, the incredible illustrations and the absolute championing message of this book. I definitely cried when I read this (aloud to myself, so what of it?) because no one is too old to hear this advice, ever. Off to buy another copy for school.

(And yes, I have bought a second copy for school… one for me, one for school!)

Have you read The Truth Pixie?
Do you also love Matt Haig?
What’s your favourite book to read aloud?

Talk to me! I’d love to know your thoughts!

 S x

Reading Rocks North

Two weekends ago, I spent an amazing Saturday at a school in Blyth with some people I admire most in my teaching bubble, learning all about reading and everything that entails. 

For those of you who don’t know, Reading Rocks is a wonderful community which grew from a community of educators and librarians sharing and talking on Twitter about getting every pupil reading. It’s a place to share ideas for teaching reading and writing; reviewing and recommending books and sharing ways to grow a love of reading. It started as just a community of teachers, educaters and librarians loving books and now it’s grown into this incredible day of CPD. So far RR has been in the North, South and has even gone to uni!

You can follow all of the wonderful fun via their twitter (@_Reading_Rocks_) and their website (Where Reading Rocks).

When I heard that RR was coming to the North East, I knew I needed to get myself a ticket and I was lucky enough to get one! 

The day came, I was up at the crack of dawn (in fact it was before dawn when I got up!) and set off to Blyth to Horton Grange Primary School for my day of learning, reading and bookish fun. Now, you know me by now, you know this is my idea of a WONDERFUL Saturday. It was so incredible to be there and see all of the amazing teachers who had given up their Saturdays to be there to celebrate reading! You have to sign up for workshops and, as I was so early (I know right, quelle surprise?!) I managed to get a space in the 2 workshops I wanted most!

My first trip was a trip to the bookshop (again, what a surprise!) but I was quite reserved and only bought 2 books!

One of the most amazing things about RR is that, not only does it unite teachers, but it brings authors along too! We were lucky enough to be accompanied by Piers Torday (author of The Last Wild trilogy and The Lost Magician), Dan Smith (author of so many amazing books, including Boy X and Below Zero) and Ross Welford (author of The 1000 Year Old Boy, Time Travelling With A Hamster and What Not To Do If You Turn Invisible).

Piers Torday was first up talking to us about the importance of reading for pleasure. His talk was just incrediblereading should make you think about who you are, what you believe and what you think you could be. Having never met Piers before, but beinga massive fan of his books (I told him the embarrassing story about reading The Last Wild on the train and a man consoling me because I was so upset), I was slightly starstruck and awed. 

In the afternoon, Ross Welford took to the RR stage, talking to us about the importance of the magic of books. Not just magic (like wands), but finding the magic of reading. Once you find that, once you find that passion and spark, it won’t go away – you just have to know how to feed it. His talk was hilarious. I genuinely cackled at one point. He even did some magic tricks for us!

Last up was Dan Smith, who rounded up an amazing day with an incredible talk about how it’s stories that matter. It’s stories that bring out awe and wonder. It’s the stories that kids are interested in. He had so many wonderful tales to regale about his life (he’s a well travelled man, I did not know!) and even read us some of his letters home to his parents as a child (mainly about going to see Star Wars!).

(Are you still with me? Not much more to read!)

As well as the amazing authors, going to workshops was so inspiring. I’d managed to get on the list for Rob Smith‘s workshop about using films in the class. Rob is the founder of The Literacy Shed (you should check it out, I LOVE IT) and he talked to us about using videos for a variety of purposes (reading skills, writing lessons). I’m a massive fan of using videos to inspire writing, so I left the workshop feeling invigorated and ready to take on a new video. Also, he’s BLOODY HILARIOUS. 

The second workshop I managed to get in was the main one that I’d hoped I’d get to go to. My brilliant friend Jack was doing a workshop all about vocabulary. Jack is amazing. He’s been a brilliant twitter friend to me, so I was a bit starstruck when I met him for the first time! He talked us through some amazing games to use in the classroom to get kids thinking about words and read us an incredible book – The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds. If you’re unfamiliar with Jack, he’s the creator of the brilliant Verbivore website, which you definitely need to check out (he does lose points however for his odd socks wearing!)

All of this amazing CPD, meeting teachers that have been long time twitter friends and my ticket was only like £20. I would recommend getting yourself to a Reading Rocks day if you can! It is worth every penny (and waking up at dawn hours for).

Massive thanks to Heather for bringing RR to the North! I can’t wait for the next one!

S x

S4S – Rereading books?!

Morning friends!

How are you all on this here Sunday morning? What are you up to today? Anything nice? What are we all reading?

Today’s #SixforSunday is all about:

Books I want to reread

Now, I’m not a regular rereader of books. I am a keeper of books that I love, but I don’t often reread them.

1. The Sun Eater’s Daughter trilogy – Melinda Salisbury

2. Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

3. Nevermoor – Jessica Townsend

4. The Explorer – Katherine Rundell

5. The Exact of Opposite of Okay – Laura Steven

6. A Quiet Kind of Thunder – Sara Barnard

Easiest #SixforSunday in a long time. I love each of these books with all of my heart and for different reasons. The magic of all of them, experiencing them for the first time was just great. Reading them a second time, I might get to witness something new! (Will I ever get round to reading them again? Who knows!)

Thanks so much for popping along! Don’t forget to check out my other posts this week and join me next week for more #SixforSunday! Share your post using the hashtag!

S x

Disney princess recommendations

Hi everyone!

Happy Friday!

Last week, my lovely friend Amy posted this post on her blog and I absolutely loved it… so having mulled over it for a few days, I decided that I would in fact give it a go! Today I’m recommending some books to Disney princesses based on my knowledge of them! (It will become very evident quickly who I know a lot about and who I just know OF)

Snow White

My prevailing memories of Snow White are she eats the apple, doesn’t have a perfect family and has some trusty friends to help her along in her life. I think I’d recommend ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’ by Katherine Webber. I have no real reasons why, except that it is an EXCELLENT story and I feel like Snow White should read it. 

Cinderella

Again, not one I’m MASSIVELY a fan of. Blue dress (?), fairy godmother and a ball that she can’t really go to, but goes to anyway. I think Cinderella is a romantic at heart. She wants her Prince. I’d recommend ‘Simon vs the Homo-Sapiens Agenda’ by Becky Albertalli to Cinders. She needs something to make her smile on those days when her family are just being horrible. 

Aurora

Genuinely a princess I have to remind myself of in life… she’s Sleeping Beauty. She doesn’t seem (like Cinders and Snow White) all that up on how badass and powerful young women are, so I’d definitely recommend ‘The Exact Opposite of Okay’ by Laura Steven to her. Izzy O’Neill is the perfect potion to wake Aurora from her slumber and realise she don’t need no man to wake her up.

Ariel

Controversially, I’m not a MASSIVE The Little Mermaid fan. In fact, I’m not even sure that I’ve seen it since I was a child. Maybe it’s time to rewatch it. However, from what I gather about Ariel, she’s a bit of a dreamer. I’d totally recommend ‘My Box Shaped Heart’ by Rachael Lucas. It’s such a subtly, romantic story AND there’s a swimming pool – perfect!

Belle

Oh, Belle. I think I could recommend EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD to her and she’d love them. However, Belle reads to escape. She’s got a very certain sense of right and wrong. I think she would ADORE ‘Show Stopper’ byy Hayley Barker just as much as I did. Here we have a completely different world to the one she lives in, with some of the characters she knows well – Gaston is so many of the characters in this book, the Beast is a brilliant Ben. I think she’d love it!

Jasmine

Oh Jasmine, you lovely human with your pet tiger. I mean who has a pet tiger? Apart from Jasmine. She’s brilliant. And has some beautiful clothes. I think if we’re going for something similar-ish to her life, I’d recommend the ‘Rebel of the Sands’ trilogy (I think she’d see a lot of herself in Amani). If we’re going to go down the brilliant badass young woman who is being oppressed by society around her though, I’d recommend ‘The Sin Eater’s Daughter’ trilogy to her. I think she’d love both of these. 

Pocahontas

Yet another Disney film I don’t know that I’ve seen? Or I’ve definitely seen it less than enough times for it to make an impact on me? Sorry not sorry. So Pocahontas, as far as I remember/know, is all about the animals and the being at one with the world… I think for Pocahontas I’d recommend ‘The Extinction Trials’ by Susan M Wilson. There’s a fair amount of greenery in that book and who knows… she might be a massive dinosaur fan!

Mulan

Oh Mulan. You’re so very badass and brilliant. (Mulan is another one I’ve not seen a lot of!) I think Mulan would enjoy a bit of a thriller, something that would make her think and challenge her. I’d recommend ‘White Rabbit, Red Wolf’ by Tom H. Pollock. That book blew my mind. 

Tiana 

Oh Tiana. YES MY LOVE. I really like her. She’s got a brilliant voice too. For some reason, as soon as she popped into my head, ‘Six of Crows’ by Leigh Bardugo ALSO popped into my head. You find the connection and I’ll reward you one point. I guess that’s my recommendation!

Rapunzel 

I bloody love Tangled. And Rapunzel. She’s funny, clever, talented, does ALL of the things. However, she won’t have ever visited a bookshop, so for Rapunzel I’d recommend ‘The Bookshop Girl’ by Chloe Coles. I think Rapunzel would appreciate the humour and the comfiness of a bookshop.

Merida

Merida, after Belle, is my favourite Disney princess. She’disney recss just BRILLIANT. I needed to think of an equally brilliant book for Merida. I think she’d love ‘Slay’ by Kim Curran. There’s a lot of badass-ness in this book and it’d be great for her to get lost in. 

Massive thanks and credit to Amy for posting this and inspiring me to do the same! 

What books would you recommend to Disney princesses?
Who is your favourite Disney princess?
How many of these do you agree with?

Let me know, I’d love to know what you think of my opinions!

S x

 

BOOK BLOG: David Levithan

Someday: what happens when you accept the love you never thought you could have?

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“For as long as A can remember, life has meant waking up in a different person’s body every day, forced to live as that person until the day ended. A always thought there wasn’t anyone else who had a life like this. But A was wrong. There are others.

A has already been wrestling with powerful feelings of love and loneliness. Now comes an understanding of the extremes that love and loneliness can lead to—and what it’s like to discover that you are not alone in the world.”

As one of the biggest fans of David Levithan, I knew that I needed to read this book as soon as I heard that it was coming out. For those of you who aren’t sure about this world, A never wakes up in the same body twice. Rhiannon is a young girl who A met in book 1 and their tale is one that’s stuck with me for a long time.

Immersing myself back into the magical world of A and Rhiannon again was such an incredible experience. I’d loved their story for a long time. The thought of not being the same person every day terrified me though. The thought of the person I love not being the same every day equally baffled me. Through the book, you get such an overwhelming feeling of yearning and want from both sides. They both might have “moved on” with their lives… but they still feel this invisible thread holding them together. We’ve all been there. We’ve all wanted to speak to soneone we can’t anymore. If we were given the opportunity, should we take it? Would it be any help?

Honesty time: I’m going through this a bit at the minute. There’s people from my past that I’d love to just talk to, so I know how both of them are feeling.

Different from the other books in this series, there’s another character who is like A. X is a bit more sinister, a bit more evil than A. X’s perception of what they do is different to A’s. They both come at what happens to them with different motives in mind. X is quite a desctructive force; A wants to be a positive force in these people’s lives. X scared me at times. They were everything A isn’t. My brain struggled at times to accept that there could be “bad versions” of A in this world. 

One of the things I love most about Levithan’s writing is that it makes you question so much. What is it to be human? What is it to love? Are we ever the same person every day? Don’t we all change? What is a soul? I love a book that makes me think. I love a quotable book. There’s so many passages in this book that I could quite happily go back and highlight, frame and preach forever. This one about everyone’s story just made my soul sing when I read it:

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This book was everything I wanted from it. There’s a gorgeous gentle ebb and flow of loving, missing, adjusting, accepting – just as there is in life. I felt protected and trusted this book (which could be a weird thing to say? I don’t know how else to explain it!) 

So yeah. Go read this whole series. Imagine living in A or Rhiannon’s shoes. You are already living them – you’re never the same person you were when you woke up yesterday. 

If you so fancy it, I have the ABSOLUTE honour of chairing a chat with David Levithan and Laura Steven (author of the incredible The Exact Opposite of Okay) at the end of October (30th to be exact) at Waterstones Newcastle. Come along and hear me fangirl and not know what to say to two authors I absolutely admire. It’ll be lots of fun! Tickets are only £3 can be bought here or in the shop! I’d love to see lots of friendly faces! 

S x

BOOK BLOG: Peter G Bell

Today, I have the utter joy of hosting author Peter G Bell on my blog, talking about the story opening in The Train to Impossible Places. You’ll also get to hear about his wonderful main character, Suzy, and her rationalist beliefs and how these relate to the action of the story and the reader. Hope you enjoy!

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Reason Vs Weird

Most of us would love to discover that magic is real. Imagine if you came downstairs one night to find a trans-dimensional train, crewed by fantastical creatures, waiting to whisk you off to uncharted realms were anything was possible. You’d be thrilled, right?

   This is exactly what happens to Suzy, the main character of The Train To Impossible Places. And she is not thrilled at all.

   On the contrary, she feels positively offended. Because, as an eleven year old rationalist, she knows full well that magic can’t be real, and that trolls can’t exist. The laws of physics are sacrosanct. In short, the train shatters her understanding of the world. How she chooses to deal with that will determine both her fate, and the fate of everyone she meets on her adventure.

   I made Suzy a rationalist because I knew the train and its crew were going to be fairly anarchic and unpredictable, and I wanted a main character who would push back against that. In doing so, Suzy keeps the story grounded, even when she’s out of her depth (which is most of the time) and always asks the questions the reader needs answering.

   When it comes to science, the trolls’ rule of thumb is this: the laws of physics are all well and good, but as soon as they become inconvenient, a dash of magic is needed to help grease the wheels. This is fuzzics (like physics, only fuzzier), and it drives Suzy up the wall. Sometimes literally.

   I’m no sociologist, but I suspect many of our culture’s current problems stem from the conscious uncoupling of reason from the other human faculties; a nasty habit we picked up during the Enlightenment, and which has been indulged to a greater or lesser extent ever since. On the one hand, this culminates in people choosing to dismiss the valid spiritual, philosophical and emotional foundations of so much human experience. On the other, it leads to a suspicion of empirical knowledge, which opens the door to all manner of charlatans eager to present us with “alternative facts”. Neither condition is good for us.

   That’s why, in the midst of all the fantasy elements, I made sure never to undermine Suzy’s belief in science. It is never shown to be untrue – on the contrary, she uses Newton’s Laws of Motion to save herself from danger at one point – but she also discovers that science isn’t the neat and tidy solution to all life’s problems that she thought it was. She is never tempted to reject it, but she does have to expand her thinking beyond it and, to her credit, that’s exactly what she does.

   She makes room in herself for a broader perspective. And that’s what sees her through in the end.

You should definitely check out The Train to Impossible Places! It’s such a great story and the cover is JUST EXCEPTIONAL. 

Massive thanks to Peter for this blog post! I love getting an insight into authors and their characters – authors really do know their characters inside out! 

S x 

Giving a part of yourself…

This past weekend, I was at an amazing day of CPD centred all around reading. At this conference, Piers Torday spoke and said something that has stuck with me, something I hadn’t even thought of, but something that I think is so true. It’s one of those quotes that just hits the nail on the head and then resounds with you for a long time.

“Recommending a book is like giving a part of yourself”

(It wasn’t those exact words, but it was that sentiment nonetheless)

Let that sit with you for a little moment. I’m a day in from hearing that quote (as I write this blog post) and it still blows my mind a little.

I think it’s so important to remember that recommending books is something that happens naturally. We enjoy a book, we want to tell people we enjoyed the book, we hope they also enjoy the book. The act of recommending isn’t the bit that’s scary, it’s the other bit. It’s the someone reading the book and seeing a little bit into who you are. 

Recommending books reveals so much about who you are. Whether that’s as a reader, a person, a thinker, a doer. Recommending books (for either OMG I LOVED IT or MEH it wasn’t for me reasons) reveals so much about your self – the characters and actions you approve of, the ones you question, the stories you relate to. Revealing these things can be quite a scary thing.

We’ve all that terrifying moment of recommending one of our favourite books to someone and “OMG what if they don’t like it?“. I don’t think it’s the “what if they don’t like the book?” bit that scares us, it’s the “this book meant something to me, I hope that person can see it and doesn’t then judge me for it” bit (for me it is anyway, I shan’t generalise).

What you’re saying when you recommend a book to someone is essentially “there’s something in this book that speaks to who I am, deep down, and I don’t mind you seeing it, finding it, exploring it, knowing it about me”. That’s massive.

There’s something very personal about recommending a book to someone, but it’s very liberating. It can open doors, conversations, perspectives that you might never have lived before. 

S x

S4S – Favourite trilogies

Hello guys!

Happy Sunday! How are we all today? I spent all day yesterday at amazing reading CPD so I’m pretty tired today, but envigorated about reading in school!

Today’s #SixforSunday explores one of my favourite things:

Favourite trilogies/series

I am a TOTAL sucker for a trilogy. I LOVE getting to know characters and then seeing them through their stories. I’m also team standalone, but there’s something special about trilogies. 

So here we go… (I’ve totally bent the rules, I’m doing 6 YA and 6 MG… I’m the boss!)

YA

  1. The Sin Eater’s Daughter trilogy by Melinda Salisbury
  2. The Paper Magician trilogy by Charlie N. Holmberg
  3. Rebel of the Sands trilogy by Alwyn Hamilton
  4. Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo
  5. Show Stopper duology by Hayley Barker
  6. The Spinster Club series by Holly Bourne

MG

  1. Who Let the Gods Out? by Maz Evans
  2. Violet series by Harriet Whitehorn
  3. A Place Called Perfect series by Helena Duggan
  4. The Wild Robot series by Peter Brown
  5. The Nowhere Emporium series by Ross Mackenzie
  6. Amelia Fang series by Laura Ellen Anderson

So yeah, ALL OF THE RECOMMENDATIONS. Sue me. 

What are your favourite series? Do you prefer a standlone or a series? 

Talk to me! Tweet me using #SixforSunday and I’m looking forward to seeing the series I am missing out on!

S x