BOOK BLOG: Abi Elphinstone

Jungledrop: exciting, filled with heart and adventure!

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“Eleven-year-old twins, Fox and Fibber, have been rivals for as long as they can remember. Only one of them will inherit the family fortune and so a race is afoot to save the dwindling Petty-Squabble empire and win the love of their parents. But when the twins are whisked off to Jungledrop, a magical Unmapped Kingdom in charge of conjuring our world’s weather, things get wildly out of hand. An evil harpy called Morg is on the loose. And if she finds the long-lost Forever Fern before the twins, both Jungledrop and our world will crumble. Suddenly, Fox and Fibber find themselves on an incredible adventure in a glow-in-the-dark rainforest full of golden panthers, gobblequick trees and enchanted temples. But, with the fate of two worlds in their hands, will the twins be able to work together for once to defeat Morg and her dark magic?”

Jungledrop is the second book (technically third) in Abi Elphinstone’s incredible Unmapped Chronicles series (Rumblestar being the other novel length one and Everdark being the other one – a World Book Day book!). This series gives me SO MUCH JOY. 

When the amazing humans at Simon and Schuster emailed me asking if I wanted a proof copy, I couldn’t refuse. I am a massive massive fan of Abi’s writing. She writes such incredible stories which are always adventure filled and magnificence that I needed to get my hands on it (plus, my Year 6’s would have lynched me if I had turned it down… they are also massive fans!) 

eq0otw6waaeqkceJust look at this proof man… HOW SHINY AND GORGEOUS. 

Jungledrop tells the tale of the two obnoxious and rude twins (Fox and Fibber) who have an awful lot to learn about themselves and about the world. They’re not the kindest or friendliest protagonists to start with and when they begin their quest to save their world and the Unmapped Kingdoms, you find that in fact, they’re going to have to grow and change to get through it. They have to learn to be kind, to show humility and be brave. They are of course on the quest to save the world from Morg (cruel, mean Morg, who is set on taking over the Unmapped Kingdom with her dark heart). 

This book is a total adventure with an awful lot of heart. Abi Elphinstone writes new worlds and new characters with such brilliance that is hard not to fall in love with the stories straight away. It’s rich in language, setting, characters and messages. 

One of the things that always stands out to me about Abi Elphinstone books is the messages that are delivered through brilliant storytelling. This one delivers a gorgeous message about the importance of being kind and being brave. Bravery comes in all forms in this book. It comes from small acts of kindness and massive acts of a heroic nature. The twins learn a lot about how unkind they can be and how kindness can actually help them to learn about themselves and each other. 

This book is so jam packed with wonderful characters. New and old.

The twins are not very likeable at first: they’re mean, selfish, obnoxious and just plain spiteful. They’re very self-obsessed. They’re not very compassionate. They’re not kind to each other. But when they realise they need each other and they need to be vulnerable and trust other people, they really start to change. They’re devious and conniving at times. You definitely warm up to them in the end though. 

Of course, mean, power-hungry Morg is back and she’s up to her old funny business again. Trying to destroy the world of Jungledrop. Trying to capture the people. Trying to grow stronger after the happenings of Rumblestar. As much as she terrifies me, it was great to be back with her. She’s one of those deliciously evil characters (a bit like Maleficent).

In the lands of Jungledrop, the twins meet a wonderful array of characters. When they end up in their adventure, they are accompanied by Heckle the parrot. He’s very aptly named and he definitely kept the laughs coming. He sticks around despite all rebuffs from the twins (Fox in particular is mean). In these magical lands, the twins come across many other magical animals who lend a hand, even though the twins try and avoid this happening (they’ve been brought up to be hardy and get on themselves!).

There’s another familiar face that appears in this book that made my heart so happy. I loved seeing them again. I’m glad they reappeared. 

My Goodreads review:

Blooming magnificent. A book, like all of Abi’s others, filled with adventure and heart. You can’t read one of her books and not be swept away with the lives of her characters, the depth and richness of her worlds and the brilliance of her baddies. I loved the twins and the journey they go on: kindness really is the bravest thing in the world. As much as Morg terrifies me, it was great to be back with her dastardly ways. And Heckle is a brilliant character (with a perfect name!) bloody bravo Abi Elphinstone!! 

And that’s it! If you like the sound of this, why don’t you consider preordering it?

Amazon Preorder Link

Waterstones Preorder Link

Hive Preorder Link

A massive thank you to the gorgeous Simon and Schuster for sending me a copy of Jungledrop – it’s in the possession of one of my Year 6s as we speak! They’re planning to send it around each other! Speak to you all soon! 

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Matt Haig

Hello!

Now… for those of you who are new around here, there is an important message I need you to take from today:

I am a MASSIVE Matt Haig fan.

I think he writes BRILLIANTLY. He’s one of the few authors who I read ANYTHING they release (non fiction, adult, MG). In fact, I’d go so far as to say I’ve read ALL of his books… I may even OWN them all (if not all of them, MOST of them!) I’ve reviewed quite a few of his books on here, but I recently read Evie in the Jungle (the Worls Book Day 2020 book by him) and thought this was the opportune moment to FINALLY review Evie and the Animals and Evie and the Jungle!

Evie and the Animals: a great story about the importance of kindness

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“Ten-year-old Evie has a talent. A SUPERTALENT. Evie can TALK to animals and HEAR their thoughts. Pretty amazing, isn’t it? One day at school, Evie sets Kahlo the rabbit free from her too-small cage. Evie knows she’s done A Good Thing . . . but it lands her in BIG trouble. Evie’s dad and Granny Flora say her talent is a curse; she must never use it again. Until a year later pets on her street – including Lady Gaga the cat and a hamster named Cheryl – start disappearing. Evie is determined to find them. But it’s dangerous for her to help. Because the villain has a talent of their own, and only wants to use it for evil… Can Evie save the pets before it’s too late, even if it means DARING TO BE HERSELF?”

Evie and the Animals is a gorgeous story where Dr. Dolittle meets modern day issues to do with conservationism and activism! 

Evie has a special talent: she can understand other species. She can talk to them and she can hear what they are saying. Whether it’s the dogs of the neighbourhood, the school rabbit who wants to be set free or even scarier animals, Evie can hear them and talk to them. For so long she’s been ignoring them because she doesn’t want to be different (don’t we all worry about this!?), but when they start to go missing, Evie knows she needs to do about something about it. She knows she needs to use her power to try and help. 

This book has one of those brilliant things that kids are instantly hooked into. It’s exciting and enticing – who wouldn’t like to talk to animals?! We’ve had loads of chats about what animals the children would talk to if they had Evie’s powers (with answers ranging from tigers, to worms and pets, it’s been a topic of hot debate in the classroom!)

This book is full of elements that kept me wanting to read. There’s mystery, talking animals, scary moments (scary big cats at the zoo), bad guys and powers.

Evie is a brilliant main character. She’s full of heart and gusto. She’s got a brilliant message to deliver to children about being kind and the power behind those acts of kindness. She’s caring and gentle to both the people around her and the animals she encounters. Plus, she’s on her way to solving a mystery! 

My Goodreads review of Evie and the Animals:

A lovely story about the importance of being kind (to humans AND animals), being yourself (even when everyone tells you not to be) and looking after the world. I bloody love Matt Haig SO much.

Evie and the Jungle: a new adventure into the Amazon!

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“Twelve-year-old Evie has a talent. She can HEAR what animals are thinking and she can TALK to them with her mind. When Evie goes on a trip to the Amazon rainforest, her powers are put to the test. She makes friends with pink river dolphins, must save an injured sloth, and discovers the secret life of a jaguar. Soon she sees that the jungle is in serious and deadly danger, and comes up with a rather risky plan to help save it…”

Evie in the Jungle is a wonderful addition to the Evie family of books. She’s a brilliant protagonist that children might know from the first book, but I don’t think you NEED to know her as this book stands by itself if necessary.

This second adventure takes us on a fascinating (and sometimes a little bit scary!) trip all the way to the Amazon Rainforest, where we hear about Evie’s adventures in Peru with her dad. Evie and her dad have the chance to meet all kinds of incredibly exotic animals, including an adorable sloth, some very rude monkeys and a downright rude Scarlet Macaw. They go to help save so many of these animals who are affected by the destruction of the rainforest. 

One of the things I loved about this book is that there are so many facts jam packed into it that it appeals to my wonderfully science loving class! I learned that pink dolphins exist (no, I didn’t know that!) There’s some pretty shocking facts to be learned in this book too: humans are destroying enough rainforest to fill 30 football pitches every minute; 35 species of the Amazon Rainforest become extinct every day.

This book is an exciting and fun story, with lots of very important messages about looking after our planet, being kind to each other and the importance of doing good things. It’s got wonderful messages about compassion and honesty too. It’s a perfect length for new readers without being intimidating! 

My Goodreads review:

I really enjoyed this short story about Evie, the girl who can talk to animals. It’s got important messages about saving the rainforests, the importance of nature and kindness. 

And that’s it! Completely and utterly recommend these books (and the rest of Matt Haig’s catalogue of books too, if you’re after some recommendations!)

Have you read any of Matt Haig’s books?
Can you recommend me any more books with similar messages?

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Emma Carroll

The Ghost Garden: Historical fiction done splendidly

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“SUMMER 1914. When Fran unearths a bone in the garden of Longbarrow House on the same afternoon that Leo breaks his leg, it must surely be just a coincidence. But Fran can’t shake the uneasy feeling that the events are somehow connected, and there is a shift in the atmosphere that leaves her troubled and anxious. Roped into keeping wheelchair-bound Leo company, Fran is forced to listen to his foolish theories about the looming threat of war in Europe. But as the pair start to uncover more secrets buried beneath the garden, they dredge up threatening shadows of the future, and Fran begins to fear that Leo’s dire predictions might be coming true…”

The brilliant squirrels over at Barrington Stoke sent me one of their brand new titles and I couldn’t have been more over-joyed to receive it. They have collaborated with Emma Caroll (Queen of all things historical fiction) and created an absolute winner!

Set at the start of World War 1, The Ghost Garden tells the story of Fran: a young girl whose family works at Longbarrow House. She ends up digging up a bone in the garden of the house and then something happens to one of the grand-children of the rich family. She worries that these things are connected (she’s not the biggest fan of Leo and his siblings) and is concerned that there is more to it than just coincidence. She ends up being roped into looking after Leo as he is wheelchair bound and his siblings don’t look after him well. As they spend more time together and go deeper into some well-kept secrets, they discover there’s more to Longbarrow House than they first knew!

I absolutely adored this story. It was one that I picked up and then gobbled up in a very short space of time! Something that I love about Barrington Stoke books is just that: they’re readable and brilliant. Their books are perfect for reluctant readers… and this is one that I would recommend whole heartedly!

Throughout the story, there’s an over riding sense of bad omens and a lot of tension is built up in very subtle but effective ways. I can see a lot of children loving this book for that sense of fear and tension.

I also thought the characters were brilliant too. Fran is a great main character and I think a lot of children will like her! She’s definitely pretty brave – I don’t think you’d find me going on adventures through the gardens of Longbarrow House in search of secrets and history! 

My Goodreads review

This is great! Properly classic Emma Carroll: historical fiction done well. I loved the apparent bad omens and tension throughout. Fran is a great main character. I’d love to visit Longbarrow House. Although I definitely would be as brave as Fran was!

Another massive thank you to Barrington Stoke for sending me a copy of this fantastic read! It’s out in July! You’re all in for a treat!

S x 

Federation of Children’s Book Groups: Children’s Book Award

Hello!

Today I have the honour of sharing one of the books which is on the shortlist for the Children’s Book Award with The Federation of Children’s Book Groups. The award is the only national award voted for solely by children, so it is an honour to be involved. 

The book which I have the true joy of honouring is:

The Runaway Pea by Kjartan Poskitt and Alex Willmore

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“It’s time for tea, but one pesky pea has decided to ping himself off the plate in search of a party! The rogue pea shoots, flings and bounces across the kitchen as he embarks on his perilous adventure – but will he find the fun he is looking for or is the kitchen a scarier place than he thought? This quirky caper from debut duo Kjartan Poskitt and Alex Willmore will show you just what can happen when you take your eye off your dinner for a second!”

This picture book by Kjartan Poskitt and Alex Willmore is a wonderfully entertaining story of a rogue pea who just wants to do his very own thing. We’ve all had that one pea who just doesn’t want to get on your fork, doesn’t want to stay on your plate and will roll off into the nowhereness! 

The pea in question in this gorgeously bright picture book thinks he’s the best, most brilliant, most amazing energetic vegetable in the whole wide world world. He does not want to be eaten: he wants to party. He knows that there is so much fun to be had! 

He sets off on a very perilous journey across the kitchen. He knows he can do it. He SPLATs, PLOPs and TWANGs all over the kitchen and is having a ball… but of course the fun of an adventure has to come to an end! And what happens when his adventure ends is done so so brilliantly. 

I adored the rhyming pattern and the hilariousness of this book! It is a story which will appeal to children of all ages – because even Year 6s deserve to have picture books read to them! The incredible illustrations add so much to this story too: you see so much of the pea’s personality from the ways in which he is drawn. You get to meet a lot of his friends too, and some of them are just BRILLIANT. 

This is a gorgeously bright and colourful picture book that is sure to have kids talking about the adventures of food! 

The Children’s Book Award is the only national award voted for solely by children from start to finish. It is highly regarded by parents, teachers, librarians, publishers and children’s authors and illustrators as it truly represents the children’s choice. Thanks to the support of the publishers, over 1,000 new books are donated to be read and reviewed by our Testing Groups across the country every year, with over 150,000 total votes being cast in the process. At the end of each testing year, nearly 12,000 books are donated to hospitals, women’s refuges, nurseries and disadvantaged schools by our groups.

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The overall winner of last year’s CBA Book Award was a picture book.  Mixed by Arree Chung. (which I ADORE)

Voting will be open on the website and any child up to the age of 18 can visit to vote for their favourite books from the top 12. For more details, check out the website here: http://fcbg.org.uk/childrens-book-award/ 

S x 

Half term reads…

HELLO!

As you will have seen from yesterday’s post, last week was half term, and as we know, in half term…

I READ ALL OF THE BOOKS. 

I love half terms because it gives me a proper chance to just gobble through a whole load of books. Today, I thought I would share with you what I read and VERY QUICK reviews of them! Some of them I have full reviews planned for in the coming weeks, but if you’re interested in full reviews of any, let me know and I’ll schedule them in! 

This half term I read 10 books and started an 11th. I think that’s pretty impressive for a half term holiday. I read a load of YA books which makes my brain so happy!

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Half term reads meets MG books

The Bigwoof Conspiracy – Dashe Roberts

This was a whole lot of fun. A small little town that’s being taken over by Bigfoot type monsters, a little girl who refuses to accept that the adults don’t have the answers and a factory owner who is plying the town with sugar. I don’t think I’d like to visit… but I’d love to be Lucy’s friend! A great sci fi mystery!

Bad Nana: All The Fun of the Fair – Sophy Henn

Lush to be back with Bad Nana and the gang. As usual, she is up to no good! This book, like the rest of the books in this series, are loads of fun! I love the gorgeous illustrations and this one proper made me chuckle!

The Shark Caller – Zillah Bethell

Well… this was a BEAUTIFUL story filled with love, hope, grief and friendship. I absolutely adored Blue Wing and Mabel’s stories: how they went from being cold to each other to bonded. How important the sea is. How important kindness is. This is a magical story. I just loved it. (Full review already scheduled)

Jungledrop – Abi Elphinstone

Blooming magnificent. A book, like all of Abi’s others, filled with adventure and heart. You can’t read one of her books and not be swept away with the lives of her characters, the depth and richness of her worlds and the brilliance of her baddies. I loved the twins and the journey they go on: kindness really is the bravest thing in the world. As much as Morg terrifies me, it was great to be back with her dastardly ways. And Heckle is a brilliant character (with a perfect name!) bloody bravo Abi Elphinstone!! (Full review already scheduled)

Half term reads meets YA books

Noah Goes Nuclear – Simon James Green

A wonderful short story that I was delighted to get my hands on. Brilliantly funny, quintessential Simon James Green. Poor Noah. I love him so much. “Abort all intercourse” might be one of my favourite quotes from these books. Cackled through this! (The couple opposite me on the train were a bit taken aback by my laughter!)

Into the Crooked Palace – Alexandra Christo

My friend Charlotte gave me this to borrow and I really enjoyed it! Really interesting characters and some interesting relationships going on. Secrets, lies, manipulation, magic (YES) and a battle for power. I am looking forward to the sequel provided the sister isn’t in control cause she scares me a lot.

First Day Of My Life – Lisa Williamson

This book is all kinds of magnificent. It’s heartbreaking and tough and hard to read. It’s revelations and secrets. It’s love in so many forms. It’s doing what’s right for you even when you know it’s going to hurt the people you love. It’s hard hitting and raw at times. I love how intertwined the 3 characters are and how their stories unfolded. The 3 perspectives worked so well. The epilogue made my heart so happy. Massive shout out to the scene between Ram and the policeman: it broke my heart. Bloody bravo! (Full review to come)

The Pieces of Ourselves – Maggie Harcourt

This book is honest and raw and interesting. It’s different and it’s curious. It made me think and it made me feel. I love Flora and Hal’s story so much. There’s so much goodness in their lives and they’re surrounded by questions. I see a bit of myself in Flora. I loved Charlie and Felix so much. Just a brilliant story that made me shocked, made me cry and made me fall a little bit in love. History and the present well and truly overlapping. (Full review scheduled)

Rules for Being A Girl – Candace Bushness and Katie Cotungo 

This made me all kinds of angry, disgusted, happy and sad. I love that Marin’s family were so lovely. Team Grey all the way. The power of believing a person’s truth and their story, versus a battle of power. She was treated so unfairly, but she’s a fighter. There’s so much truth in this book and it made me cross for women all over the world.

Love Is For Losers – Wibke Bruggemann

A great book! I loved the diary entry format and the sarcastic, cynical voice of the MC. She goes through a lot in this book, but she comes out on top. Shout out to the kittens, the representations of love in all its forms and grief in this book. This is a great story told in a brilliant way.

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And that’s it! A very quick, whistle-stop tour of all of the books I read in half term! I’m sure my reading will slow down a bit now that we’re in term time, but I still read EVERY day so I should get through a few books in the next few weeks!

Do you read more during half term?
What did you read in half term?
What are you excited to read in the coming weeks?

Talk to me in the comments. I’d love to know which of these books you’re most interested in hearing about! 

S x 

 

BOOK BLOG: Kirsty Applebaum

Troofriend: a little bit creepy, a little bit scary, but SUCH a good story!

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“Imagine having the perfect friend, one who never steals, lies or bullies. Now you can, with the TrooFriend 560, the latest in artificial intelligence! What can go wrong with a robot buddy? Especially one that’s developing human characteristics and feelings, and who has just run away with her human?”

I AM A TROOFRIEND.
I DO NOT BULLY. I DO NOT HARM. I DO NOT LIE. I DO NOT COVET OR STEAL OR ENVY.
I AM YOUR PERFECT FRIEND. YOUR ONE TROOFRIEND.

Troofriend is the second book from the brilliant Kirsty Applebaum, author of The Middler, which was one hell of a book. I had high hopes when I saw there was a new book and I really enjoyed Troofriend. It was the perfect mix of creepy and thought provoking. 

Troofriend tells the story of a world set in the near future where parents can buy a Troofriend for their child. A Troofriend is the “perfect friend” for their children. They don’t bully, harm, lie, covet, steal or envy. What could go wrong? Sarah is a young girl whose parents do just that: they buy her a Troofriend because they’re very busy and she wants a puppy. When things start going wrong with other Troofriend Mark IVs like Ivy (Sarah’s Troofriend), we see an exploration of what it means to be human, what it means to be friends and some interesting talking points about robots! 

I really enjoyed this book. The story is told from Ivy’s point of view and I found that really endearing. You got to see into the world of the robot. You got to watch as Ivy changed and became something different to what you’re originally led to believe. Sarah isn’t convinced about Ivy to start with – she has Ivy turned off a lot of the time at the beginning, but as she starts to warm to Ivy, things start to change. Sarah wants to use Ivy to show off to her friends at ‘Bring Your Tech To School Day’.

I loved the ending. I thought it was very touching!

I read this book with a very ominous, tense feeling throughout. It was sold to me as Black Mirror for children and I can totally see it! There was always a feeling that something was going to go HORRIBLE wrong with the robots. This is the kind of book that I can see kids absolutely loving. I can’t wait to put it in the hands of some of my Year 5s and 6s.

It is going to create some real good talking points. This book lends itself to some brilliant converstaion starters/PSHE lessons about friendship, is it ever OK to lie and the future of the world with robots and AI becoming more and more prevalent. 

 My Goodreads review:

I really enjoyed this! Lots of brilliant talking points and I really loved the characters! I was tense a lot of the time. A lot of gripping reading!

Are you excited for Troofriend?
Would you want a Troofriend?
Can you recommend me any books like this?

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

Massive thank you to the publishers, Nosy Crow, for sending me a proof copy of Troofriend for review! It;s sat in my classroom waiting to find a new friend after half term! 

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Jason Reynolds

Sunny: a brilliant story to add to a brilliant series! 

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Anyone who’s been here before (or follows me on Twitter) will know that I am a MASSIVE fan of the Run series by Jason Reynolds. I have read both Ghost and Patina (spoiler: I loved them both), so when I saw that it was time for Sunny to be out, I needed to get my hands on it. 

This series follows a bunch of 4 runners who are part of the same running team. They’re 4 diverse characters who are dealing with a whole host of different things in their lives and they have running as some kind of escape from their lives.

These books are wonderful books for Year 5s/Year 6s to read when they want something a bit more meaty to deal with. There’s some mature themes dealt with in them, but they’re done brilliantly. 

Anyway, let’s get on with talking about Sunny!

“When Sunny stops running in the middle of a race, Coach asks him what he wants to do instead. His answer is dance, but you can’t be on a track team and dance… can you? With his dad’s expectations weighing down on him, Sunny finally finds a track event that feels like dancing. But as he practices for this new event, can he let go of everything that’s been eating him up inside?”

I started reading this book and was instantly met with this wonderful, bright, weird (self-confessed) young man who saw colour and sound in everything in the world. There’s a sound to match everything in Sunny’s world: the way he dances, how people walk, how he runs. He’s writing in his diary because that’s what he does to make the noises stop slightly. His world gets a bit too noisy, and he gets a bit too angry, so he writes in a diary to make these things seem less intimidating. 

You meet this young man who is going through it all. He’s learning about himself and that the image his dad has of him isn’t the image he has of himself. He’s not a runner anymore. He’s tired of running. It doesn’t challenge him. He knows he can run and win. So he just stops. Mid race. He loves dancing. It makes sense to him. It makes him happy. He’s scared to share this with the people around him because it’s not what is expected of him, but when he does share it with Coach, Coach does (of course) use it to show Sunny that there is something he can do that isn’t running: discus throwing. As Coach says “it’s basically dancing”. 

What you get in this story is an exploration of finding out how to be good at something that you’re not naturally good at. How you can blame yourself for something that isn’t your fault. How family will always be family. How grief can appear in adults. How guilt can drive motives. How there’s always light in the world. How hope can be the thing that keeps us moving. 

Sunny is a wonderful main character. He’s so full of pizzazz (is that how you spell that word?!) and he’s so unique. I loved that he was different. He thinks in his own way and reading his diaries was refreshing. It was so lovely to hear his story through his thoughts, through his eyes. His relationship with his dad starts as cold and distant, but as the two grow to learn about each other (with the help of Gramps and Aurelia, who I loved) this begins to change. The last page gave me such feels. There’s some gorgeous moments of gentleness in this story that really punched me in the guts. I think the contrast between his relationship with Coach (who I have adored for 3 books now and I want him to have his own book) and his relationship with dad was interesting. Dad’s arc was gorgeous to read though. Reading adult grieving processes in stories always hits me where it hurts. 

I loved that this book explored the importance of Sunny making decisions for himself, not just proceeding with the decisions made by his parents for him. He does things because he’s trying to fill a hole that he thinks he made. He runs because he’s trying to fill a hole in his dad’s life, where his mum should be. When he gets to the point where he realises that’s not who he is, he makes a decision and just stops. Dead in the middle of a race. He’s tired. He’s tired of being what others think. 

This is a story full of warmth, love, respect and sadness, but also JAM PACKED with hope. Hope that you can be whoever you want to be. Hope that you can do what makes you happy. Hope that even the hardest of times have an ending. Hope that the people around you will support you, even if you don’t think they will.

I can’t wait for the fourth book in this series to come out (later this year I think), but at the same time, I’m not ready for it to be over. I hope Jason Reynolds writes books for many years to come. And I hope Knights Of keep giving me amazing books to read too! 

My Goodreads review:

I love this series so much and getting to know these kids makes me so happy. This deals so gently with grief and how adults deal with it in the background, and in the foreground you’ve got brilliant Sunny who is weird and wonderful and great. He’s a runner, a dancer, a worrier. He’s surrounded by these amazing people and I’m so glad.

Have you read any of the Run series?
Are you following the escapades of Knights Of?
Can you recommend me any books like this?

If you’re not following Knights Of on twitter, please go do that. They are making waves and I just think they’re doing such an amazing job. 

S x

BOOK BLOG: L.D.Lapinski

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency: the start of a complete adventure that I can’t wait to go along on!

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“At the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, each suitcase transports you to a different world. All you have to do is step inside…
When 12-year-old Flick Hudson accidentally ends up in the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, she uncovers a fantastic secret: there are hundreds of other worlds just steps away from ours. All you have to do to visit them is jump into the right suitcase. Then Flick gets the invitation of a lifetime: join Strangeworlds’ magical travel society and explore other worlds. But, unknown to Flick, the world at the very centre of it all, is in danger. Buildings and even streets are mysteriously disappearing. Once Flick realizes what’s happening she must race against time before it collapses into nothingness — and takes our world with it.”

Now, we all know I love a good fantasy book over here at A Little But A Lot, and it’s SO INCREDIBLY REFRESHING to read a fantasy book that I haven’t come across before. To read a bunch of characters, a plot and a world (or group of worlds) that I’ve not come across is just gorgeous. You can’t beat that feeling of stepping into a new world and just falling head over hells for it. With The Strangeworlds Travel Agency, I found that. I found a book that I needed to devour. I read it greedily. I needed to know what was coming next. I wanted to know what was going on. I had a million questions and I needed the answers. There were characters who I needed to know more about. I wanted their back stories. 

The premise of this book, this series of books I SHOULD say (we all know I love a series too so that was music to my ears) is that there are magical people in the world who have the powers to visit other worlds through magical suitcases. Young Flick (our MC) is a girl who discovers she is able to do this, but it comes at a price: saving the world. Imagine that… being able to open one of these magical suitcases and jumping in (following the rules of course) and then being in a new and wonderful world. I don’t know that I’d be brave enough to do that to be honest, but I absolutely love the idea. Something that I love about this book is that it made the ordinary extraordinary. Nothing was quite what it seemed. There was always a bit of a spark of magic with everything. There was that twinkle in the eye.

The world building in this book is top notch. From Flick and Jonathon’s very real world, to the many and varied worlds they jump into, there’s something for everyone. I loved that as I went through, it was a very immersively written book. You are there. As you read, it’s like reading a film. You see it so clearly and you can’t help but feel like you’re there. Regardless of where you are, who you’re with, you’re there in the book in the amazing array of worlds that Lapinski has written. Each of the unique worlds are crafted so beautifully that you could quite happily stay there to discover the magic and the wonder in these places. You leave with more questions than you started with and I think that’s the majesty of this book. You should have more questions. You should want more from these worlds. That’s what makes you want to read more. I can’t wait to see where we get to explore in the coming books.

Along with the incredible worlds that I really adored, you have characters who show the determination, braveness and humour that the best people have. You meet Flick: brave, bold, brazen. She finds out she’s got to help save a city from certain destruction, but not just the city, but the world. She’s hesitant at first (who’d blame her?) but allows her curiosity to bubble under the surface. She wants to seem cool, but we all know that deep down she can’t wait to get her feet wet and start adventuring. She’s a brilliantly loveable character. Alongside Flick, we have the ever sassy and much needed Jonathon. He’s got a very quick wit; there’s a lot of snark. He seems to be uncaring, but deep down he very much takes his job seriously. He’s desperate to do something about finding what was lost. He needs help, but he’s a bit proud. He definitely shone to me as a character that you don’t read much in MG books and I think he is a WELCOME addition to the world of MG. Both of these characters are the kind that grip onto you and you can’t quite get rid of in the very best ways. You become invested in them and what is happening to them, so you HAVE to read on to know they’re OK. 

Something which makes this book even more wonderful in my opinion is its exploration of themes which are very real to us all: friendship, identity, family, loss and love in all its guises. Books for kids are more so dealing with bigger and bigger issues and I welcome it with open arms. This book doesn’t shy from dealing with these issues and they’re done in a brilliant way. You very much have an incredible adventure book here that weaves these subplots into the story so you experience them with the characters. I loved the friendship between Jonathon and Flick. It’s unconventional, but it works. They balance each other so beautifully. They’re what the other needs, without accepting that as a thing. I can’t wait to watch their friendship blossom in the rest of the series. There’s nods to gender identity that I think are really bloody important. It’s not a big thing, but it’s there. It’s done so seamlessly and beautifully that it’s just part of the book.

Reading Strangeworlds made me laugh, cry and delighted me. It’s a hug in a book that’s just taken you on a bit of an adventure. It’s danger and then a cup of tea and a biscuit offered when you get back. It’s a glorious mix of is an hope, adventure, exploration, love, humour, excitement, and because every good book needs it, a bit of peril. You never feel like you’re not safe though. This book is a complete hit in my reading life and I can’t wait to see how everything is explored and developed in the coming books. I finished book 1 with SO MANY QUESTIONS, so bring on book 2!

My Goodreads review:

A complete and utter ride. Just everything I needed in a book: magic, friendship, laughter, snark and adventure. I think this is gonna be something huge. Bloody loved every second. There’s something for everyone here and I can’t wait for the world to read it. The characters are amazing; the worlds are just exceptional and the writing is lush. I want to be part of this world!

Because I loved this book so much, I created this mood board that isn’t really spoiler-y at all, but was a collection of pictures that I saw and definitely made me think of this incredible book!

strangeworlds

Phew. What a mammoth review that was. But I need you guys to know that this book is magical and brilliant and wonderful. Out in April, I implore you all to preorder it now!

Would you jump through a suitcase if it took you somewhere new?
What would you hope to see/find there?
HAVE YOU PREORDERED THIS ALREADY PLEASE?

A massive thank you to my friend for letting me read her proof copy of this book! It was much needed for my little brain! And thank you to YOU for reading my blog!

S x

Top 10 MG books of the year

We have made it to that time of a year (well a NEW year) where I have to make that IMPOSSIBLE decision where I share my FAVOURITE books of the year just gone. 

Anyone who knows me, knows that this is a HARD thing for me to do.

I love reading. I love books. I love stories. I love characters. I love exploring new worlds. I love meeting new villains. I love clever, fiesty plots and puzzles. Stories make me a very happy girl indeed. 

I don’t know why I put myself through this decision every year, but every year I do. This list is not a definitive list at all. You could ask me again in a week’s time and there may be one or two changes. But I am fairly confident in this list. I read some ABSOLUTE bangers in 2019. I fell in love with lots of different characters, settings, villains, plots and plot twists. I’m a VERY lucky duck. 

However, you’re not here to listen to me ramble on… so here we have it:

My top 10 MG books I read in 2019

(I say read in 2019 because 1 of them is out in 2020)

2019 mg of the year pic

WOAH. There you have it. They’re not in any particular order.

Looking at that list of books and thinking this is the best of the best tells me that I read some ABSOLUTE SMASHERS last year.

 The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson

Storytelling at its very finest. Brilliant characters, beautiful worlds, exciting adventures and powerful messages. I just adored this. Yanka is a character that kids and adults will adore, and relate to! You can’t beat a bit of finding yourself and your people (or animals) with a good bit of story woven together. Just bloody brilliant.

Against all Gods by Maz Evans 

An incredibly heartbreaking and heartwarming way to finish this series. I 100% wept for the last 30 pages or so. This book is HILARIOUS. It’s interesting. It’s cool. It’s everything you want in the last book of a series. IM JUST SO SAD ITS OVER. Elliot is the bravest of souls and i just think he’s wonderful.

Jemima Small versus the Universe by Tamsin Winter

This book is a rip-roaring revelation. I adored it so so much. Meet Jemima Small, a young girl who is anything but small. She’s big and people like to pick on her for it. I loved this because it didn’t shy away from the truth about being a young, fat kid. You do get bullied, people do say things, you do get looks. I have been Jemima. I can’t wait to put this in the hands of so many young people and tell them you can be whoever you want because you are PERFECT just the way you are. Absolutely magnificent.

High Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson

A BRILLIANT detective book for kids. It’s interesting, funny and has characters you’ll love. I am so glad there’s going to be more because I genuinely could’ve kept going.

The Truth Pixie Goes To School by Matt Haig

A gorgeously written story about the power of friendship, truth and lies. I love these books so much. This is going to be something I read and use in the classroom for years to come!

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

This book is gritty, determined and shocking at times. I just thought it was incredible. A gripping story about a young boy who is running from his past and ends up in more trouble. Along comes someone who believes in him and things start to change. Bloody yes. This book is a proper victory.

Owen and the Soldier by Lisa Thompson

Really bloody enjoyed this. Owen is a BRILLIANT MC and this story is proper touching. Man, I’m definitely not in bed crying… NOPE.

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D.Lapinski (released in 2020)

A complete and utter ride. Just everything I needed in a book: magic, friendship, laughter, snark and adventure. I think this is gonna be something huge. Bloody loved every second. There’s something for everyone here and I can’t wait for the world to read it. The characters are amazing; the worlds are just exceptional and the writing is lush. I want to be part of this world!

Frostheart by Jamie Littler

GUYS. This is exceptional. It’s fun, daring, dangerous and cool. I absolutely loved my journey on Frostheart with Ash and the crew. A proper icy cold ride, with a massive heart. The illustrations throughout add so much too. Absolute smasher!

Pages and Co 2: Tilly and the Lost Fairytales by Anna James

Wonderfully brave Tilly is on another brilliant, book-loving filled adventure with some familiar faces from fairy tales. If you’ve not picked up these books yet, you absolutely should. I wish I was Tilly’s friend.

And there you go. My 10 favourite MG reads of 2019. 

2019 was an absolutely cracking year for MG books and I could EASILY have had a completely different list. I recommend whole heartedly each and every single book on that list though. 

What were your favourite MG books of 2019?
Do you, like me, struggle to put together a top 10 list?
Have you read all of the books on my list?

I’d love to know your thoughts! MG books are a proper passion of mine so I love talking about them to anyone who will engage with me!

S x 

Fabulous non-fiction

Recently, I’ve received a few brilliant non-fiction titles in the post and I thought I would share them with you! 

NFF

I am LOVING how gorgeous and well-thought out non fiction books are becoming. For so long they weren’t very appealing to look at, but with so many of the new titles out now, that is all changing! It’s certainly helping children to pick up more non-fiction books! 

Colossus – Colin Hynson

Have you ever wondered how the Golden Gate Bridge was built? Or how workers with basic tools created enormous monuments in ancient times? And how do you build a flying laboratory in space? This fascinating book reveals some of the greatest feats of engineering in history. From enormous bridges and tunnels that run for hundreds of miles, to towering skyscrapers and massive space stations, discover how some of Earth’s most colossal structures were made in beautifully illustrated detail. 

This book is BLOODY magnificent. It’s full of facts, gorgeous illustrations and it kept me entertained for a good while learning all about different feats of engineering around the world. Whether you’re a lover of engineering and construction or not, this is definitely one that you should get your hands on. It’s just brilliant! 

Earth Shattering Events – Robin Jacobs

We humans take our domination of the planet for granted, but sometimes nature reminds us that this is an illusion. Tectonics rip open the earth, vast waves sweep away coastal towns, magma spews from volcanoes and hurricanes lay waste to entire countries. This book explores nature at its most destructive. Clear, coherent explanations break down the science behind phenomena including hurricanes, tornadoes, avalanches, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes, alongside fascinating facts about the biggest and the worst. 

This book would be PERFECT for any kind of natural disasters topic in Upper Key Stage 2. It’s SUCH  spot on book. The explanations are scientific enough to educate, but clear enough to not baffle kids. I loved looking through all of the different pages. This might be one of my favourite books I’ve received lately because I learned SO MUCH. This is perfect for a geographer in your life! It’s not only informative but it is BRILLIANTLY illustrated by Sophie Williams: the illustrations add so much to it! Just spot on!

Gut Garden – Katie Brosnan

A visual exploration of the universe that exists within our own bodies. Within our bodies hides an entire world of organisms called microbes. They boost our immune systems, digest our food, regulate our metabolism and even impact on our mental health. This book follows the digestive process from the moment the food enters our mouths to the moment waste leaves our bodies. Along the way we learn about this fascinating scientific frontier and gain an insight into the vastecosystem that exists inside us.

This is another example of a book which is PERFECT for Upper Key Stage 2. This book is JAM-PACKED full of information for children to take in, talk about and thenprobe further. I love the way this book is presented and the information is in small chunks, which is easy to digest (ha). It’s so wonderful to read something which has been so well thought out and flows so well. Kids are going to love this because it covers things that we don’t talk about so much – it’s a bit gross, but fascinating! 

Unseen Worlds – Helene Rajcak and Damien Laverdunt

Discover a hidden universe of microscopic monsters right before your eyes. Travel to locations both familiar and strange as you search for the smallest creatures on Planet Earth. You’ll never see the world the same way again! Unfold each page to reveal stunningly detailed illustrations bursting with jelly-like amoebae, predatory centipedes, ravenous mosquitoes, and more mites than you could imagine. From the murky ocean depths to your kitchen cupboard, and even inside your nose, you’ll travel to locations both familiar and strange as you search for the smallest creatures on Planet Earth.

With fold out pages and a wonderful range of facts to learn, this book is one that I personally learned a lot from. I’m not a big fan of creepy crawlies and the likes, but this can’t hurt me so I am ALL about it! It’s wonderful that you get to explore places you never get to through a book, and in this you get to see microscopic things that your eyes never could and learn about them! What can I say? I’m a big fan of learning and books like this fascinate me because this is something someone knows a lot about! 

A massive thank you to the publicists from What on Earth Books, Templar Books and Cicada Books for these incredible additions to our non-fiction collection!

S x