A Pocketful of Stars review

A Pocketful of Stars: magical, mysterious and memorable.

(proof cover – see finished cover at the bottom)

When I next open my eyes, I’m back… in front of the house again. It’s night time. The stars wave hello, like they’ve been expecting me. The door of the house, Mum’s house, is wide open, like it expects me too. This time, I go inside…

Safiya and her mum have never seen eye to eye. Her mum doesn’t understand Safiya’s love of gaming and Safiya doesn’t think they have anything in common. As Safiya struggles to fit in at school she wonders if her mum wishes she was more like her confident best friend Elle. But then her mum falls into a coma and, when Safiya waits by her bedside, she finds herself in a strange alternative world that looks a bit like one of her games. And there’s a rebellious teenage girl, with a secret, who looks suspiciously familiar…”

I’d like to preface this review by saying that this book has been one of my most anticipated books of 2019 and that my giddy… it BROKE ME. SO MUCH. 

OKAY. Let’s go. I’m sorry if my thoughts are all jumbled in this review… just bear with me. 

A Pocketful of Stars tells the wonderful story of Safiya, a young girl who is forever battling against her mam and her mam’s opinions on Saf’s hobbies. Saf is a gamer and her mam doesn’t necessarily see that as a “wise” way to spend time. Saf lives with her dad most of the time, but she sees her mam on a weekend. When something happens to Saf’s mam, Saf has to battle to try to save her mam: someone she has more in common than she realises. 

Picking up A Pocketful of Stars was like being transported to this incredibly magic and mystical world. A world where magic is possible; where you can fight for something you need and want desperately; one where that fight matters. There’s a real life setting and there’s this incredible setting of this alternative world. The setting descriptions immerse you entirely in whichever setting Saf is in. Aisha has a GORGEOUS writing style. I didn’t want to stop reading (I was GUTTED when I finished the book… because I needed more!) When Saf learns and understands the link between the two, the magic really kicks off. You see the world through a desperate young lady trying to fix something that may be unfixable.

Saf is a brilliant main character. I loved the fact she was a gamer – it’s so important that we show that girls can be gamers. She’s flawed, brave, clever, resourceful, proud, honest and scared. She makes mistakes. She says things she regrets. She’s warm and kind. She doesn’t pretend to be something she’s not. I think a lot of kids (and adults) are going to like Saf. There’s going to be girls who see a bit of themselves in Saf – and we all know that seeing yourself in a character is so important. She’s proud of who she is, and as you go through the story she becomes more proud of where she’s come from. Learning about her family, in particular her mother, shows Saf that she’s more similar to her mother than she thought. 

I loved that this book dealt with a family dynamic in a way which is kind of flipped on the head. Usually, you see that children live with mam and go and visit dad. Here, however, you have Saf lives with her dad and goes and visits mam. It might seem like a small detail, but for me, I really liked it. Family is a massively important theme in this book – both the family you have now and the family that came before you. There’s a lot of discovery in this book. Saf learns about herself, her parents and her extended family throughout this book: in more ways than one. 

This book is BRILLIANT for kids 9+. Teenagers will love this too. It’s a bit more grown up than typical 9-11 books. I think (and this is a total compliment) this is one of those books that we discover privately. It gives me slight A Monster Calls vibes – another book I PROPER adore. 

This book is like a deliciously written scavanger hunt. We all love going on an adventure and this book scratches that itch satisfyingly so. You go on a scavenger hunt in a very unconventional way with Saf. I don’t want to spoil too much because it’s one of the things that was just incredible about this book – but the magic of this book (we all know I love a bit of magic in my life) just made my heart complete. The way in which Saf tries to go about saving her mam made my heart just leap with joy.

Along with joy however, there was a LOT of tears. I need to warn you guys of that.

Not that we judge books by their covers (ahem) but LOOK AT THAT MAN. It is just incredible. There’s going to be some real shelf appeal with this. I adore it.

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My Goodreads review:

God. This book. BROKE MY SOUL. Guys, it’s bloody brilliant. It’s full of hope, magic, wonder, intrigue and love. There’s so much love in this book: between friends, with family and for yourself and your own strength. I loved Saf’s story and I can’t wait for you all to discover it.

OK, I’m going to lie down now and have another little cry about this book. Because it’s brilliant. pocketful of stars

Have you read A Pocketful of Stars?
How do you feel about a scavenger hunt?
DO YOU LOVE THAT COVER THO?

Talk to me! A massive thank you to the humans of Egmont for sending me a proof copy of A Pocketful of Stars. Year 5 are going to DIE.

S x 

S4S – Books from my childhood

Afternoon! How is everyone on this here chilly Sunday?

Today we’re here for another installment of #SixforSunday! I hope you’re enjoying this celebration of everything kids lit… I know I am! 

Today’s #SixforSunday is a celebration of:

Books from my childhood

So here are 6 books that I read as a child, or that were read to me as a child that I STILL find myself wanting to reread as an adult!

I don’t think these will really surprise anyone. Some of the best stories I’ve ever read are still here on this list. I’ve included books form being a proper tiny to vividly remembering reading them as a child and them sparking a love of reading in me!

Share your favourite 6 books from childhood with me using the hashtag #SixforSunday and I’l check them out! 

See you next week! 

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Anna Williamson

How Not To Lose It: a brilliant book to use when talking MH with kids

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“The go-to mental health guide for kids!
Exam stress? Friendship issues? Panic attacks?
How Not to Lose It will help you be the boss of all of this, and more.

It’s not just your body that should be fit and healthy – your mind needs to be, too! How Not to Lose It is the go-to guide for achieving a balanced mind and strong emotional well-being. With immediate, heart of the matter advice and a chatty yet honest tone, Anna Williamson addresses all of the key issues affecting children today.”

As a teacher, it’s so important that I have resources available to me for talking to kids about their mental health. We are seeing more and more that MH is something that is talked about in schools – and rightly so. There are more and more books becoming available to help kids learn about and talk about their MH and How Not To Lose It is a brilliant example of a book that’s going to do that! Aimed at 9-14 year olds, this book covers a wide variety of topics and is filled with empowering advice, delivered in a honest and chatty tone. 

How Not To Lose It covers such a wide variety of topics that you can find advice based on almost anything. The contents page kicks off in the way the book continues – friendly, colourful and it doesn’t feel like your typical “self help” book. There’s a handy index in the back too – always useful when you just want ONE specific thing. The topics covered in the book are:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • stress
  • friendship
  • bullying
  • relationships and sex
  • family life and bereavement
  • phobias
  • peer pressure
  • self-harm
  • self-esteem and confidence.

I love that this book is approachable. If a kid (this book is aimed at 9-14 year olds) picked it up, it’s appealing to them and it’s not just pages and pages of words. There’s agony aunt letters aplenty and there’s these brilliant “myth busting” boxes throughout. The illustrations are perfect for the age range that it’s aimed at and I read through as an adult and I learned things! The language used is chatty and honest, which makes it brilliantly readable for kids without sounding patronising.

This book is BRILLIANT. Properly brilliant. I love the variety of topics that it covers. These ‘To sum it all up…’ pages are my favourite pages throughout – there’s some proper sound advice on them. (This one about friendship is one of my favourites!) 

Anything that empowers our kids and helps them deal with anything they’re going through is a proper winner in my books and this one is brilliant! 

What are your favourite resources to use in the classroom about mental health?
Would you find this resource useful in the classroom?

A massive thank you to the publishers, Scholastic, for sending me a copy. I am going to have this at hand in my classroom. This book is out now and I would recommend UKS2/KS3 teachers to check it out!

S x

BLOG TOUR: Jane Kerr

The Great Animal Escapade: adventure filled brilliance!

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When The Elephant Thief came out in 2017, I absolutely devoured it, so when I heard there was going to be a sequel I was thrilled to be asked to be part of the blog tour! My expectations were pretty high for this follow up book… and man was I not disappointed. Filled with adventure, mischief, mayhem and mystery, this book is just as good as it’s predecessor.

In a stark difference to the first book, Danny has left behind his life on the streets to be working and living somewhere far more comfortable. His past however is never far behind him, and he never really gets the chance to forget it! It hangs about him like a bad smell. He is now living with the Jamesons, who, despite the fact they have taken him in, never really trust himespecially when things start to go wrong! He never really feels like he fits in – not in this new life, or in his old life – and he has so many unanswered questions that it starts to play on his mind a little. Throw in the mysterious character who says he knows more of Danny’s life… and you’ve got one well and truly confused main character!

I loved Danny. I think that’s one of the biggest things about this book is that you proper fall for him and you want things to work out for him. We all love a good main character we can root for… so Danny fits that category perfectly. You want people to believe him and trust him, and you really feel for him when things start to go a little awry in his life – both in and out of the zoo! Danny’s got a brilliant heart and you can tell throughout the book that he just wants whats best for the animals – his care and attention for them is lovely to read. We see things aren’t perfect, but the animals’ one constant is Danny’s love. 

No book is complete without it’s very own villain… and there is definitely a character who lives that role perfectly. He’s a mysterious and untrustworthy character, who we don’t really know a lot about. He’s elusive and secretive and we definitely don’t know whether or not to trust him at the start. I like a character like this because it makes the guessing game all the more satisfying! Plus, they’re a little more interesting to talk about than down and out evil characters.

This book is filled with magic, mystery and intrigue and makes a brilliant read: perfect for Year 5s and 6s! I’d quite like to travel back to this time and experience what it was like… and maybe give Danny a big hug! This book delivers quite a punch with its messages, but does it in ways which are subtle and just plain great. If you’re after a book that is sure to make you want to read on, then look no further!

A massive thank you to the publishers Chicken House for sending me a review copy – it is now at school being consumed by my class! 

Check out the rest of the blog tour below: there’s some cracking posts to get your teeth into! 

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S x

 

COVER REVEAL: Dino Knights

Hello! Happy 2 post Friday (watch out for my other post going live this afternoon!)

Today I am thrilled to share with you a cover of a new book coming out! A while back the brilliant people of Awesome Reads got in touch to tell me about a new book that they were publishing and asked if I’d be interested in sharing the cover… I of course said yes! I was sold when I heard it was a brand-new series set in medieval times with a twist – dinosaurs still exist and roam freely across the human world. Dinosaurs and medieval times? WINNER WINNER.

DINO KNIGHTS

Title: Dino Knights

Author: Jeff Norton

Release date: June 6th

Short synopsis: Imagine medieval times where the dinosaurs never went extinct. When dinosaur stable boy Henry Fairchild stops a vicious T-Rex from attacking his master, he is invited to join the most elite group in Brecklan, the brave Knights of Panterra, the Dino Knights. But before he can prove himself, the enemies of Brecklan attack with a flock of pterodactyls and kidnap Lord Harding. Whether he’s ready or not, Henry and the Dino Knights mount a daring rescue mission…but nothing is what it seems.

Link for pre-order: https://awesomereads.com/book/dino-knights/

Massive thank you to the publishers for inviting me to be part of this cover reveal! I’m loving it! Dinosaurs and swords: what more could a girl ask for?! Watch out for the blog tour in June!

S x

BLOG TOUR: She Wolf

She Wolf: an exciting adventure with a brilliant main character!

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“Northumbria, 866. Washed ashore on a frozen English beach, Ylva’s survived. She will not cry. She’s meant to be strong. She’s a Viking. But when her mother dies at the hand of a three-fingered man, and the wolves of the forest circle closer, Ylva will need more than the memory of her mother’s stories to stay alive. Can she shape her own legend? Will it end in revenge – or is there another way?”

As a massive fan of Dan Smith books, I was super excited to have my hands on a copy of She Wolf. (I’m not going to lie: this book DID fly out of my hands and in to the hands of a few of my chidlren before I got to read it though! Their short reviews are shared at the bottom of this review!) The cover interested me INSTANTLY and once I’d read the blurb I was like YES THANKS GIMME. The back cover tells us it’s “Vikings. Vengeance. Wolves” and never have I known a book summarised so well in 3 words – what more could you want from a book?! 

She Wolf is a brilliant account of what it would have been like to be poor living in the FREEZING cold Northumbria in 866. Ylva loses her mother at the beginning of the book and sets off on a mission to avenge her mother’s death (I mean who wouldn’t?!) She has a few clues about the murderer, but she knows that she’s going to struggle to trust people along the way on her mission. She does have one constant she can trust though: her brilliant dog, Geri. What ensues for Ylva is an adventure filled with twists, turns, survival, some violence and the quest to find herself.

I really liked Ylva. She’s really brave and bold. She’s determined and stubborn. She’s like an onion. You learn a lot about her as you go through the book – you turn the pages and you stip off another layer of her personality. This was one of the things that the kids liked most about her. They loved learning more about her as a person through the story. I really liked the relationship between her and Geri – this was touching. It’s important for us all to have a “constant” in our life and whether it’s a person or a companion of some description, they have a massive impact on our lives. 

One of the things I liked about this book was that once I opened the pages, I was there. There’s plenty of action, there’s plenty of intrigue. There’s intelligent twists and turns. I think Dan has written a brilliant story here that has got a lot of children talking!

A few of the thoughts of my kids:

“I loved that she was just like a person. Sometimes book charactes are never scared of things. I’d be really scared if my mam was killed and I’d never be brave. Plus she makes mistakes and no one’s perfect. I’d love to ask her how she was so brave!”

“I loved that this book was set in the past because books set in the past are the best. Just imagine living in that time. This book was really fun to red because there’s so much to read about and so many things happen. Plus there’s some scary characters to deal with”

“Imagine having a friend who loved you all the time. I really liked Geri because I’d like a dog who went with me everywhere!”

A proper hit! I can’t wait to see what Dan does next!

Thank you so much to Chicken House books for sending me an early copy of the book to review! Check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour to find out more about this brilliant adventure!

She Wolf blog tour banner

S x 

BLOG TOUR: Dinosaur Department Store

Today is my stop on The Dinosaur Department Store blog tour and I am delighted to share with you my review! 

The Dinosaur Department Store Cover

The Dinosaur Department Store: a brilliantly illustrated picture book with a gorgeous nod to looking after animals! 

“Eliza Jane was an unusual child. Some called her wilful, some called her wild! Our feisty heroine Eliza Jane isn’t your average child. Instead of a cute, fluffy bunny, she has her heart firmly set on a prehistoric pet. Join Eliza Jane and her parents on a marvellous magical tour of their local dinosaur department store. From huge, stomping sauropods stretching their necks to a pair of loved-up Ankylosaurs called Maud and Frank, there are plenty of amazing dinosaurs for Eliza Jane to choose from. But this wild child is hatching a fantastic plan of her own.”

The Dinosaur Department Store tells the story of brilliant Eliza Jane who doesn’t want a fluffy bunny for her birthday. Oh no, she wants a dinosaur… obviously! Her parents take her to the perfect place for her to shop for a dinosaur… but when she gets there, she realises that what she really wants is the dinosaurs to all be free!

I LOVE that Eliza has parents of different races – which was something that one of my children noticed when I read it to them. This created a lovely talking point for some of the children in the class I read it to. I think it’s SO important to introduce children early to different families, so a massive thumbs up from me for this!

It’s such a brilliant thing to see a girl in a book who loves dinosaurs too! She’s a very determined young girl, who most definitely loves dinosaurs… which I KNOW will go down well with lots of parents of girls who love dinosaurs! Girls can love them too! This again created conversation about who can play with what toys!

I absolutely adore the bright and vibrant illustrations in this book. My eyes were constantly caught on the pages looking at all of the detail. Each page gives you something else to look at and search for. A particular shout out to the back page for its BRILLIANT pronunication guide (it certainly helped me to practice saying the names… being the dinosaur novice I am!)

Massive thank you to the publishers for sending me this gorgeous picture book – I think it’ll go down so well for so many reasons! So many brilliant things to talk about and look at in this book! This book went down SO well with the group of children I read it to! I can’t wait to read it to more children to see what their reactions will be.

Why don’t you check out the rest of the blog tour to see what some other amazing bloggers thought of this book?

DINO QUOTE CARD

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Sinead O’Hart

The Star Spun Web: what would you do if you discovered you held one of the most incredible pieces of scientific gadgetry in your hand?!

img_4853(Star Spun Web kept me company on the train to London recently… and it gripped me STRAIGHT away!)

“With her passion for scientific experimentation and her pet tarantula Violet, Tess de Sousa is no ordinary orphan. When a stranger shows up at Ackerbee’s Home for Lost and Foundlings, claiming to be a distant relative come to adopt her, Tess hopes to find some answers to her mysterious origins. But as she adjusts to her new life at Roedeer Lodge, it becomes clear that Norton F. Cleat knows more about Tess – and the strange star-shaped device left with her when she was abandoned as a baby – than he’s letting on. And when Tess discovers that the Starspinner is the gateway between her world and a parallel world in which war rages, she realizes she may be the key to a terrible plan. A plan she must stop at all costs…”

The Star Spun Web is the second book from the brilliant Sinead O’Hart – author of the wonderful Eye of the North – and man, it’s A TOTAL RIDE. 

The Star Spun Web tells the story of young Tess, who is living at an orphanage, having been left there by her father in strange circumstances. Tess knows very little about her family, only that she was left at Ackerbee’s Home for Lost and Foundlings when she was a baby and has lived there ever since. There are family secrets aplenty for Tess to discover, but when an ominous ‘uncle’ appears out of nowhere to claim her, she has to upheave her life and move to his MASSIVE mansion. 

Now this all sounds wonderful, moving away from an orphanage to a massive mansion… but Tess loves her life at Ackerbee’s. She’s got friends, there’s adults there who genuinely love her – she doesn’t want to leave with this strange man who has appeared out of nowhere. If you pair these emotions with a strange gadget that is handed to her before she leaves, Tess is well and truly confused. All she knows about this gadget is that it was left with her when she was left at Ackerbee’s… so it must have been important. 

Once Tess has moved from the orphanage, what follows is a complete and utter rollercoaster of science, finding your feet and fighting for what you know is right. 

I loved Tess. She’s such an incredible main character. She’s intelligent, witty, charming. She thinks for herself. She stands up for herself. She fights for her friends. She isn’t afraid to be brave and do her own thinking – big or small thinking, it’s all scary at the end of the day! I loved Violet too… I know… me! Saying positive things about a spider! I think it’s the thing that Violet represents for me that I love. We all need a “constant” in our lives – be it your mam, dad, brother, a friend, a cousin – to keep us grounded, and that’s what Violet did for Tess. 

A brilliant main character, some friends who help her along the way, and some baddies. Oh the baddies. They’re clever and wily. I don’t wanna spoil it too much… but obviously things don’t end up being what they seem. People have ulterior motives. There’s SHOCKS aplenty with some of the characters (one of them floored me at one point). 

I absolutely adored all of the science of this book too. It’s accessible and out there, but it’s explained in such a way that it won’t go over the top of kids’ heads – if I can understand it, then you’ve got a winner! 

This is a brilliantly meaty book to get your teeth stuck into. It’s pretty long for a MG book, but it’s perfect for Year 5s and 6s. It’s gone down wonderfully with my 5s so far. A few quick snippets from 2 children who’ve read it so far:

“It’s a load of fun because it’s really clever. Plus Tess is a great character. I’d love to be her friend”

“Imagine moving to a mansion but then someone wanting to use you to do something terrible? I don’t wanna be in Tess’ position ever, but she’s clever and makes the right choice”

My goodreads review:

I loved this absolute ride! The brilliant characters, the fascinating science, the incredible plot and the brilliant sidekicks. Man, I REALLY hope there’ll be a second one!

Thank you to the brilliant publishers at Stripes for my copy. I’ve since bought 2 more copies for school!

Thanks for coming along! Speak to you all soon! 

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Nicola Killeen

Ollie’s Magic Bunny: a beautifully illustrated and charming story, perfect for bedtime!

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“Ollie and her toy Bunny have been waiting for the day that the rain would stop and they can play in the puddles… Finally that day has arrived! But when a magical breeze of blossom turns Bunny into a real rabbit, Ollie’s day takes an unexpected turn. After Bunny runs off with the other rabbits, Ollie has to find and save her beloved pet toy!”

Ollie’s Magic Bunny is a wonderfully charming tale about Ollie and her bunny rabbit, who one blustery day ends up turning into a real rabbit. When Bunny turns into a real rabbit, it runs away from Ollie, and she must find different, ingenious I may add, ways in which to save Bunny! 

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Lots of children have a teddy that’s special to them, who they carry around with them constantly, so this will appeal to them. It would make a brilliant rainy day read, or a bed time read. It would make for a brilliant question: what would happen if your teddy came to life? Kids will come up with some weird and wonderful answers! 

Ollie has to be clever to follow her bunny as he goes across a big puddle of water, and jumps into the air – transforming her brilliant yellow umbrella into a boat and a parachute at different times!

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The colour palette for this book makes me so happy. It’s all yellow, green and grey. I’m particularly fond of Ollie’s bunny onesie and her yellow boots. The simplicity makes this so much more appealing. There’s cut outs and some beautiful gold foiling on the pages too… to make it even more pleasing to the eye! 

This is a gorgeous and sweet story that would go down brilliantly at bedtime, or any kind of story time. I look forward to reading it to my own bunch of wonderful kids at school! 

Thank you to the brilliant publishers, Simon and Schuster, for sending me a review copy! 

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Cory Leonardo

Call Me Alastair: touching, charming and filled me with hope!

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“Born in the back of a pet store, Alastair the African grey parrot dreams of escape, to fly off with his beloved sister, Aggie. But when Aggie is purchased by 12-year-old Fritz, and Alastair is adopted by Mrs Albertina Plopky, Alastair’s hopeful vision for the future crash-lands. In-between anxiously plucking his feathers, chewing a few books, and finding his own poetic voice, Alastair plots his way to Aggie and their flight to freedom.

This debut novel is a heart-felt, bird’s-eye view of love and what it means to break free from the cages we build for ourselves- and the courage it may take to finally let go.”

It’s not every day you pick up a book that is written from the perspective of a grey parrot, and I’m not going to lie… that was half of the reason I picked it up. The other half was the cover. JUST LOOK AT THAT COVER MAN. However, once I’d picked it up and started it, I found a book that packed a punch, had some BRILLIANT messages and made me feel ALL of the feelings. 

Call Me Alastair follows the story of Alastair, an African grey parrot, who loves poetry, his sister and cherries, and his exploration of freedom, love and loss. When we start the book, he’s living in the pet shop surrounded by some brilliantly hilarious fellow pet shop inhabitants. It was so lovely to read a book told through the eyes of a parrot – it’s not often you get to read a book from an animal’s perspective and that was totally refreshing. It really really helps that he’s really endearing too! 

As the book progresses, we get to the inevitable – the two parrots (Alastair and his sister) have to be separated. Aggie is taken in by a brilliant young man, Fritz, who has aspirations of being a doctor and Alastair is taken in by Bertie, a wonderful old woman. What ensues is an adventure to try to get his sister back, while trying to ensure that everyone around him stays happy. 

We see this story through three different perspectives and I think my favourite was Bertie’s – the old woman who decides to buy Alastair. She decides to buy Alastair to help with her loneliness, broke my heart. She writes letters to her husband. It was heartbreaking to read these letters to him. She just wants someone to talk to, and as always in life, you find these things in the most unlikely of places! 

Alastair is a brilliant character to read because he’s quite dimensional (as much as an African grey aprrot can be I guess!) There are so many nods to sadness from Alastair, and in an MG book it’s important. It’s important for kids to know that you can feel sad and that people will care about you and try to help! He’s funny, sweet and charming. I really liked him! 

My Goodreads review does the honours of reviewing this book in a much more concise way:

A brilliantly moving tale about a young parrot who wants bigger and better things for him and his sister than the shop they live in. This book made me cry, made me laugh and made me hopeful – that’s not something you say after reading many books from a parrots perspective. I love Bertie – she made this book for me! I loved the mixed narrative – Alastair’s perspective through narrative and poetry; Bertie’s perspective through her letters and Fritz’s perspective through his log. Just a lush book.

Call Me Alastair is out now! A massive thank you to publishers Scholastic for sending me a copy to review!

What was the last book you read that was told from the perspective of an animal?
Which animal would you love to see the perspective of?
If you were an animal, what animal would you like to be?

Talk to me! I’d love to talk!

S x