Forgotten Faves: MG edition

Hello!

How are we all today?

Today, I thought I would share with you some of my “forgotten” faves.

What is a “forgotten fave” I hear you say?

For me, a “forgotten fave” is a book that I loved reading that I don’t really ever talk about because there are 70294723940 books that instantly come to mind when I am asked for a recommendation. They’re those quietly loved books. They’re the books you love talking about when people are reading them, but they don’t come to mind instantly. They’re the books that you JUMP about when you see someone else recommending them. They’re the books that get forgotten, but that you love so.

Why am I taking to my blog and sharing my forgotten faves?

I think it’s important that books aren’t forgotten about. There are SO MANY BOOKS that are recommended to us and they’re usually either BRAND NEW BOOKS or they’re books that are recommended over and over again. It’s important that we remember books that were published more than the past few months. I am the most guilty about shouting about books that are BRAND NEW because they’re at the forefront of my mind, so this is my way of saying hello and I love you again to the books I read a while ago that I loved.

So here we go, today I’m taking on my middle grade forgotten faves (or at least 10 of them!)

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A Girl Called Owl (and all of Amy Wilson’s books tbf) is full of magic, friendship and beauty. This is one of those books that just give you a tap of magic that remains with you forever.

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A Boy Called Hope is a gorgeous book. It’s one of those wonderful warm, funny and quirky books that comes along. I remember reading it in the sunshine and thinking “this is gorgeous, but also a little sad”. Canny Dan and his search to find his Dad

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A Darkness of Dragons is an amazing story – a retelling of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Anyone who loves a folktale and a brave main character will be gripped by this. I properly loved it and I can’t wait for the second book!

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A Place Called Perfect. Man, this book. I think it’s one of the best kids, spooky, mysterious books around. I devoured this book in a matter of hours AND then the sequel too. I miss these characters, I do hope there will be more!

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I truly believe this is one of those books that is NOT talked about enough. I devoured Storm Witch quickly. It’s an incredible tale of coming of age, identity and belonging. I would LOVE to be a Storm Witch, but I truly believe I am not cool enough for a title like that hah!

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This book was an absolute delight to read! Imagine Charlie and the Chocolate Factory met Bugsy Malone – that’s what you get here. Candy sees a world where sweets have been banned and there is a black market for them. I just adored this.

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The Buried Crown is a brilliant historical book. It’s got amazing characters and a memorable plot! Who wouldn’t want to read a story about a young man trying to protect the crown from Hitler?

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I read The Company of Eight almost 2 years ago now and I STILL recommend it to people. It’s one of those fantastic fantasy adventure story with old-London themes, pirates and mysterious spies. Totally one that younger me loved (grown up me absolutely did!)

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When I first read Eye of the North, I was blown away. This is the best kind of adventure. It’s filled with messages about being brave and being kind. If you’re after something with wonderful main characters, family secrets and pretty terrifying villains, you can not go wrong with this!

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Another wonderful mystery story that I don’t talk about enough. The Goodly and Grave series is a firm favourite in mine – I love seeing a new book announced. This series is a brilliant tale of magic, mystery and menacing characters.

And there you go! Ten of my “forgotten faves” for now!

If you’d like to share your forgotten faves, please do! I’d love to see some of the lesser talked about books being shown some love!

See you soon!

S x

BLOG TOUR: Boot

Boot: a fun and friendly story all about finding yourself!

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“When toy robot, Boot, wakes up at a scrapyard, it has no idea how it got there and why it isn’t with its owner, Beth. Boot is scared but tries to be brave, which is hard when its screen keeps showing a wobbly, worried face. Luckily Boot meets Noke and Red – other ‘advanced’ robots who have learned to survive in secret. With its new friends by its side, Boot is determined to find Beth and the gang set off on a dangerous adventure.”

Very occasionally a book comes along that makes you just SMILE and feel buoyed up by things in life. This book is 100% one of those books. 

Boot tells the story of a robot, who lives in a world where his kind have been replaced by newer, fancier and more up to date models. Boot wakes up in a scrapyard and is very confused. It only has two and a half glitchy memories which don’t really help it to find out where it is, who it is or where it should be. These memories tell it that it was once loved, which means something important to humans. Through these memories, you see that it has once lived a happy life with its human, Beth. It knows instantly that it needs to get back to Beth, but getting out of the scrapyard and across the city with only a glitchy memory and no help is harder than it seems. 

Boot manages to find friends who will help him along the world. Early on in his adventure, Boot realised that it is different. Boot feels emotions and thinks differently to other robots – other robots who just function and don’t think. This makes Boot feel alone, until it meets other robots, and other friends, who are just like Boot is.  

I really loved this story. It was one of those stories that made me smile. It reminded me of the power of friendship, adventure and not giving in, even when things get tough. Boot goes through the story from a very scared and lonely robot, to someone who finds his friends, his family and his purpose: you’ve got to be brave and a special robotto find these things. You can’t beat a good story that will make you laugh, make you feel good about the world and make you appreciate your friends! 

As well as having a gorgeous story, this book has some stellar illustrations. They are SO SO LUSH. I’m a BIG fan of an illustrated book, so Boot ticks off so many boxes for me! 

This book would sit beautifully from Year 2/3 up. It’s a slightly longer chapter book, but it’s such fun.

My Goodreads review reads:

This is fun, friendship and finding yourself. I loved Boot and his bunch of merry robot friends! Imagine waking up one day with only 3 memories and a sense that you need to get home! Boot needs to find his way back to Beth and to himself. I chuckled a lot at this!

Boot was quickly picked up by a few of the children in school and they ADORED it:

“This is a really fun story. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have only a few memories, but Boot shows that you can do anything you put your mind to”

“Stories about robots are funny because they’re not real humans, but Boot is like a human. I’d love to be his friend”

“I loved this story because it was like seeing the future through the eyes of someone really fun and really brave. I would love to be brave like Boot”

Massive massive thank you to the publishers, Hachette Children’s, for sending me a review copy and inviting me onto the blog tour! This book is Boot-iful! Check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour! 

Boot Blog Tour2

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Ada Twist

Ada Twist: a funny story which is jam packed with Science and fun!

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“Ada Twist is full of questions. A scientist to her very core, Ada asks why again and again. One question always leads to another until she’s off on a journey of discovery! When Rosie Revere’s Uncle Ned gets a little carried away wearing his famous helium pants, it’s up to Ada and friends to chase him down. As Uncle Ned floats farther and farther away, Ada starts asking lots of questions: How high can a balloon float? Is it possible for Uncle Ned to float into outer space? And what’s the best plan for getting him down?”

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Ada is one of those lovely characters to read! She’s constantly questioning things. Why does her mam’s coffee smell stronger than her dad’s? Why do her brothers shoes stink? What kind of birds can she see in her back yard? How can she solve these problems? How can she do things that will help people? I love this about Ada. Kids SHOULD be inquisitive creatures: they SHOULD want to know more. We should encourage this with our children.

It’s a good job she asks so many questions because she ends up seeing a man in strange pants floating in her back yard… and she has to come up with a solution! With the help of her friends, they go on an adventure filled with Science and problem solving to get Uncle Ned down! 

Ada uses what she knows about everything to get Uncle Ned down. She’s a very clever little bean and she knows things about more Science than I do! Gas, buoyancy, temperature… all sorts! She uses all of this knowledge to get the uncle down, and save him from peril! Her friends try to help her, but ultimately, it’s Ada’s Science knowledge that ends up saving the day! I love that she never gives up either – she keeps trying, even when her plans don’t go smoothly. 

I really love these books. They are fun with short chapters and they are brilliantly illustrated. I love that these characters are encouraging STEM! These books are perfect for children who are just starting to read longer chapter books… AND perfect for those with scientific, or inquisitive, minds. I learned some things reading this, so children are definitely going to!

A massive massive shout out to David Roberts for his illustrations. They make this book even more incredible in my eyes! I am DIGGING this purple and brown theme in the book. Look how stylish Ada’s mam is man – I wish I was that stylish. 

I love this series so much and I can’t wait to see what’s coming next. These books go from strength to strength and you can bet that they’re going to keep going! If you don’t have this book, or the picture books, I would STRONGLY encourage you to! 

A massive thank you to the publishers, Abrams and Chronicle, for sending me a copy for review! I just adore these books and I know they have a place in every house, library and classroom!

S x 

BLOG TOUR: In The Shadow Of Heroes

Today I have the utter joy of hosting author Nick Bowling who is sharing his thoughts on some Unheroic Greek heroes. We all know I love a bit of mythology (if you didn’t know that then WHERE HAVE YOU been?!) so this post is PERFECT in my life!

Nick’s new book In The Shadow of Heroes is out now and I can’t wait. It’s been snatched up by one of the kids in my class… so I guess I need to wait my turn!

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“Fourteen-year-old Cadmus has been scholar Tullus’s slave since he was a baby – his master is the only family he knows.

But when Tullus disappears and a taciturn slave called Tog – formerly a British princess – arrives with a secret message, Cadmus’s life is turned upside down. The pair follow a trail that leads to Emperor Nero himself, and his crazed determination to possess the Golden Fleece of Greek mythology. This madcap quest will push Cadmus to the edge of the Roman Empire – and reveal unexpected truths about his past…”

Unheroic Greek heroes

The Greeks thought differently about what a hero was. Google the word “hero” today and you get the following result: “A person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”  Most people would agree with this as a definition. But in an Ancient Greek dictionary the word heros brings up three fairly vague ideas: 1) the Greeks before Troy, all free men of the Heroic age; 2) men born from a god and a mortal; 3) inferior local deities, patrons of tribes, cities, guilds, founders of cities etc. etc.

The important difference is that the heroes of Greece usually were people who demonstrated “courage” and performed “outstanding achievements”, but “noble qualities” were often sorely lacking. Nowadays, we assume that a hero has some kind of moral rectitude, but for the Greeks and Romans there were more shades of grey. Their heroes were messy, complex, conflicted, often just plain awful people. This is what makes them interesting; it’s also what makes them function as mirrors to our own lives.

IN THE SHADOW OF HEROES takes this idea and asks the question: what is a hero? To get you thinking, here are five heroes you might have heard of, along with some of their less “outstanding achievements”:

  1. We’ve all heard of Hercules suffering nobly through his Twelve Labours, but less well known is the reason why he had to perform them: he killed his wife and all his children in a fit of madness. The rest of Hercules’ life is similarly chequered with random acts of extreme violence. He killed his music teacher for correcting his mistakes, he killed King Eurytus and his sons when he was denied the hand of his daughter in marriage, he killed Sileus for forcing him to tend his vineyards. All of which was, sadly, left out of the Disney motion-picture.
  2. Heroic slayer of the Minotaur, but also heroic home-wrecker. He escaped from the Labyrinth with the help of Ariadne (King Minos’ daughter), who then eloped from Crete with him. Theseus then abandoned her on the island of Naxos, and upon returning to Athens forgot to change his black sail to a white sail, which would have signalled his success in defeating the Minotaur. His father Aegeus, assuming his son was dead, threw himself into the sea.
  3. After reclaiming the Golden Fleece from Colchis with the help of Medea (the King Aeetes’ daughter – there’s a pattern developing here…), Jason settled Corinth with her as his consort. He then got embarrassed by having a girlfriend who was foreign and, admittedly, a bit weird, and promptly dumped her to marry Creusa. This, despite the fact Medea helped him win the fleece in the first place, betrayed her family and travelled halfway around the world to be with him. This pushed Medea to perform one of the all-time great acts of female vengeance (no spoilers).
  4. Perhaps better known for his bad behaviour, but it still bears repeating. Achilles had the mother of all tantrums because Agamemnon took a slave girl from him. He refused to fight and said he won’t return until Agamemnon say sorry. Hundreds of his own men died as a result.
  5. Even the most unwarlike heroes don’t get clean consciences. Daedalus was a master craftsman, inventor and architect, who built the Minotaur’s labyrinth. While you might pity him for the death of his son Icarus (of melting wings fame), you’ll probably feel less sympathetic when you hear he killed his own nephew – threw him off the top of the Acropolis – because he came up with the idea for the handsaw before Daedalus did.

IN THE SHADOW OF HEROES by Nicholas Bowling out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com

Follow Nicholas Bowling on twitter @thenickbowling

Why don’t you check out the rest of the blog tour?

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Massive thank you to Chicken House and to Nick for his blog post! What a great start to a Wednesday! 

S x

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 

Mini reviews: MG edition

Good morning! 

How are we all?! Today I come to you with some mini reviews. I’m going to keep them short and sweet, but these are some books that I’ve read recently that I want to shout about that I’ve just not had a chance to yet!

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The Fire Maker – Guy Jones

“Alex loves magic – its glamour, tricks and illusions. He’s good at it, too: he’s reached the semi-finals of a prestigious competition for young magicians. But when he stumbles into eccentric Mr Olmos’s back garden while running from his former best friend, Alex sees something he can’t explain: three tiny flames floating in the air. Fire magic. Real magic. Soon, Alex and Mr Olmos are swept up in a great adventure of secrets, genies and an ancient, bitter rivalry…”

I loved this book. It’s a quick but brilliant story about Alex, a magician, who ends up stumbling across a mysterious old man and his mystifying magical flames. They spring up an unlikely friendship and Alex makes a mistake: one which has some pretty bad consequences! A brilliant tale of magic, friendship, secrets and lies. With interesting charactes and an interesting plot, this is perfect for KS2 readers! 

Good Boy – Mal Peet

Sandie has been battling it since childhood: the hulking, snarling black dog of her nightmares. For years, her precious pet dog Rabbie has kept the monster at bay, but when he is no longer there to protect her, the black dog reappears to stalk Sandie in her sleep … Illuminating the undeniable power of Mal Peet’s pared-back prose, Good Boy is an evocative examination of fear and anxiety that will leave you guessing long after its final page.

I’m not going to lie – the first chapter in this had me a LITTLE bit scared. This book is probably more suited for teens than younger readers, but there’s nothing particularly horrifying in it. It’s a complex and interesting story all about a young girl and her nightmares. It’s an interesting portrayal of what our nightmares look like and what they can do to us. It really made me think and has definitely left a lasting impression. There’s some wonderful illustrations too!

Amelia Fang and the Half Moon Holiday – Laura Ellen Anderson

It’s the half-moon holidays in gloomy Nocturnia which means no school for Amelia and her friends! Instead they are going to spend it with their Rainbow Rangers troop, (lead by unicorns Ricky and Graham) earning badges on Sugar Plum Island. But whilst exploring, Amelia and the gang stumble upon an ancient curse – and are shrunk to the size of bugs! How will they make the bloodcurdlingly BIG journey to break the curse when they are all so very TINY?

I’m a massive fan of the Amelia Fang series! You definitely need to get on this series if you’re a KS2 teacherthey’re fun and filled with great messages! Amelia Fang is such a polite character and these books are filled with humour. This latest installment of the series sees Amelia and her friends going on a camping trip as part of Rainbow Rangers (think Brownies/Rainbows/Scouts). Shout out here for Ricky and Graham – the unicorn leaders of Rainbow Rangers. These books are jam packed with illustrations that add so much to the story. I hope this series just goes on and on. 

Hotel Flamingo – Alex Milway

When young Anna inherits a dilapidated once-grand hotel from her Great Aunt Mathilde, she’s determined to restore it to its former glory. But this is no ordinary hotel – all of her staff and guests are animals! Anna soon rises to the challenge. Whether it’s a flamingo, a penguin or a hippo knocking at the door, Anna is ready to welcome them all – with the help of her trusty sidekicks T Bear the doorman, Squeak the friendly elevator mouse, and Lemmy the lemur receptionist … As she soon finds out, though, running an animal hotel is no easy task. Can Anna make Hotel Flamingo a success once more?

I’m always on the look out for slightly longer books that are perfect for Y2 readers and I can look no further than this! With beautifully illustrated pages and an interesting story, this book is perfect. Here you have a story about the importance of team work, hard work and acceptance. A story about a young girl who needs to do up the hotel she’s inherited (which is in a state of sheer disrepair) and her friends who she helps to give the hotel a new lease of life! I really loved this book. I hope there’s more to come from this author! 

And there we go! 

Let me know in the comments if you’re a fan of a mini review, or if there’s anything you’d like to know about these books. 

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Lisa Thompson

Owen and the Soldier: a brilliant tale about the importance of feeling heard 

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Owen and his mum are struggling. It’s just the two of them now and they’re finding it difficult to ask for the help they need.
When Owen discovers a crumbling stone soldier in a memorial garden in the local park, it feels like he finally has someone he can talk to. But the town council can’t see how important the soldier is and they want to remove him. Owen’s so scared that he’ll be left on his own again, but can he find the courage he needs to save the soldier before it’s too late?”

The brilliant publishers of Barrington Stoke had heard how much of a Lisa Thompson fan I was, so asked if I wanted a proof of her newest book… I OBVIOUSLY SAID YES. Lisa is one of my auto-buy authors… she’s just brilliant. 

So… Owen and the Soldier. This book tells the story of Owen, a young boy who is struggling a bit with everything that’s going on in his life. His mum is poorly, he’s not having the best time at school – he’s just not having a wonderful time and he feels really lonely. The one person who always makes Owen feel better, who always listens to him, is a stone statue of a soldier in the local park. Owen visits the soldier every day to talk to him. One day however, it is revealed that there are plans to move Owen’s soldier from the park… and Owen needs to find his voice to help do something about this. 

I REALLY REALLY loved this book. It made me cry, a lot (I know, I know, you’re all shocked that I cried at a book). I think Owen is one of those brilliant characters who come along in MG books. He’s also another character that Lisa does so brilliantly: boys who are going through things. It’s something that I think we need more of in MG books. Here, you have a young boy who is struggling and trying to be strong because he’s the “man” of the house, when in reality his silence is him screaming out for help. A brave decision is made and he eventually gets the help that him and his mam so desperately need. 

I also love the fact that despite the fact he doesn’t WANT to be heard, he ends up doing something which MAKES people listen. He finds something he is very passionate about and it helps him find his voice. Making a stand for something and fighting against his fears to talk about why it’s important to remember those who have gone turns things around for Owen. 

This book has since been read by a few of my Y5s and they just adored it:

“This is a short book but it has such a big meaning. You’ve gotta stand up for something if you want something to change.”

“I loved Owen because he was scared of something at the beginning, but then he changed and it made everything better. We all need to be a bit brave sometimes”

“I loved that this book was a brilliant story in such a short story. You don’t need loads of pages to tell an important story. All stories are important because everyone deserves to be heard – just like Owen”

My goodreads review is SHORT, but says it all:

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

A massive massive thank you to the publishers for sending me a review copy! I can’t wait for the finished copies, because I ADORE that cover so much and I think this is a story that children should read. 

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: 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 

BLOG TOUR: Will You Catch Me?

Today, I have the pleasure of hosting author Jane Elson on my blog as part of the blog tour for Will You Catch Me? 

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“Nell Hobs lives with a tortoise called Bob Marley, guinea pigs Asbo and Chaos, goldfish Beyoncé and Destiny, gerbils Fizz and Tyrone, Aunty Lou the Hamster … and her mum, who drinks too much. Nell does everything she can to be a good daughter so that her mum will stop. But when things get really hard, Nell stands on her head. Everything looks better upside down, don’t you know?

Nell wishes she knew who her dad was. When new teacher Mr Samuels makes history come alive and tells the class the story of Nell Gwynn, the Orange Girl who became one of the first actresses on the London stage, Nell is captivated and is determined to dress up as an Orange Girl for the Costume Parade. She hatches a plan with her best friend Michael: a way to make her dad step forward and claim her. Will she succeed?”

With a Little Help From My Friends: The highs and lows of friendship for the child of alcoholic

Oh, the complexities of schoolgirl friendships! Especially Years 4-7, it’s such a complex thing, often invisible to the adult world.

For children who have an alcohol dependent parent making friends in school can be nearly impossible. How can you have a sleepover or even have someone home to tea when mum or dad might be drunk?

Nell Hobs in my book Will You Catch Me? has a mother who is alcohol dependent and she has fallen out with best friend, Chantal Smith before the story even begins.

‘Chantal and I used to be friends, only she kept wanting to come round to my flat and I just couldn’t have her there, not with my mum the way she is. Chantal kept on and on about coming round, so I started ignoring her and now she hates me.’

Nell’s new best friend is Michael, a looked after child, who lives next door to Nell on the Beckham Estate with Aunty Lou. His mother has had a nervous breakdown and is being taken care of by relatives in Jamaica. His father is a busy business man who rarely sees him. These two vulnerable children stick together like glue. He is the perfect friend because he knows and understands the situation with Nell’s mum.

I had a lot of fun creating Michael. He is a genius and wants to be an inventor when he grows up. He is constantly taking things to pieces for his inventions and causing havoc! His wardrobe, the lock on the bathroom door, his school chair and so on. Michael is flamboyant in his dress preferring waistcoats, bright spotty patterned shirts and bow ties to trainers and tracksuits. This makes him stand out and he is bullied by the Beckham Street Boyz, the gang on his estate and the T Crew from the neighbouring Tarkey House Estate. Then one day he invents a remote control for the school clock and they get out of maths 45 minutes early. Michael, becomes a hero! He has earned respect and is nick named Prof M. Nell and Michael can now walk about the estate freely.

The complexities of school life are hard as fitting in seems to be the way to survive. Anyone who is different and stands out from the crowd has a rocky ride at some stage in their lives but often go on to achieve great things.

Nell and Michael’s friendship is strong, beautiful and I hope touching to my readers. Nell is not perfect; she is so driven by her desire to fix her mum and find out who her dad is that she fails to notice how much Michael is missing his mum.

She is also bossy and tells Michael what to do which leads to a dramatic climax to the story but I won’t spoil the ending of Will You Catch Me?. I loved writing about Nell and Michael’s friendship. They became my friends as I wrote the book and now that it is finished and out in the world I miss them dearly.

I believe that every child has the right to see themselves reflected in a book. I feel Will You Catch Me? is the most important story I have ever written. Not every one of the 2.6 million children who have a parent who drinks too much, like Nell does, is lucky enough to have a friend like Michael.

Nacoa- the National Association of children of Alcoholics- has a message. You are not alone. This week is COA Week- Children Of Alcoholics Week to raise awareness for children like Nell in Will you catch Me? If you are reading this and are one of those children, please phone The National Association For Children Of Alcoholics helpline number is 0800-358-3456 to talk to someone in confidence.

The National Association For Children Of Alcoholics (Nacoa) has a message for children like Nell. It is ‘You are not alone’. Their helpline number is 0800-358-3456. Children of Alcoholics week (10-16 February) aims to raise awareness of the lives of the 2.6 million children in the UK who are growing up affected by parental alcohol problems. For further information, including ways you can help and a downloadable #URNotAlone poster, please visit their website www.coaweek.org.uk or www.nacoa.org.uk

A massive thank you to Jane for writing this post and an equally big thank you to Fritha for asking me to be part of this blog tour!

Check out the rest of the blog tour, I know there promises to be some more brilliant posts coming up!

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S x