BOOK BLOG: ANNA HOGHTON

The Mask of Aribella: a complete victory!

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“On the eve of her birthday, Aribella discovers she has a secret power – when angered, flames shoot from her fingertips. Frightened, she runs away, only to be rescued by a magical organization of masked heroes with their own special skills. Aribella and her new friends have sworn to defend Venice, but can they defeat the evil rising from the Island of the Dead?”

The Mask of Aribella is one of those books with complete shelf appeal. I knew as soon as I saw it that I needed to own it in my life. As soon as I knew Waterstones Newcastle had it, I dashed to buy it and it jumped to the top of my TBR pile. 

If you look at the blurb it has so many things in that I absolutely love: magic, heroes, secrets, a battle between good and evil. And let me tell you it did not disappoint! 

The Mask of Aribella tells the story of Aribella, a young girl who learns she has a secret power. She’s torn away from her life and thrown into an incredibly different one: a one where appearances are not all the seem to be. She learns she has powers and has to learn how to control these powers, build new friendships and learn to trust this new bunch of people around her. She hears stories of murder, magic and secrets. She’s not sure who to trust, but knows that she needs to trust someone. 

This book just completely stole my heart. There’s so much I loved about this book. It’s so many juxtapositions in one book: light vs dark; reality vs appearances; good vs evil; secrets vs lies. It’s written so beautifully. There’s characters who you will absolutely fall for. There’s baddies who were a bit terrifying and goodies who were wonderful. It’s perilous. It’s danger. It’s dark and mysterious. There’s a setting that just oozes with temptation and magic. 

I read this book in a matter of hours and I can’t speak highly enough of it.

Aribella is a wonderful main character: she doesn’t shy away from showing fear, but she’s also incredibly brave. She fights for what she thinks is right. She stands up for her friends. She shows kindness and her fierceness in abundance. She makes mistakes and makes moves to fix them. 

And then there’s Rodolfo. My friends, I think he’s just magnificent. He’s Aribella’s mentor and we all know I love a good mysterious, positive role model in a book. I’d love to know more about him. In fact, I’d love a Rodolfo book. If that could happen, I’d appreciate that. He’s just that perfect mix of mysterious, kind, supportive and strict. He’s got secrets and he’s got a history. I can tell. He’s a brilliant character to read. 

I really enjoyed reading the magic in this story (lol, this is not a surprise to anyone). I loved all of the different portrayals of magic with the different characters and the relationship the magicians have with their masks was gorgeous. (I did read this whole book wondering what MY mask would look like!) It was all just wonderfully fascinating and I fell in love with the whole world. 

THE WORLD. Man, this book made me want to visit Venice. If someone would like to take me on holiday to Venice, I would appreciate that a lot. The descriptions of the city just made me very wanderlust-y (is that right?!). 

My Goodreads review: 

What a complete victory this book is. It’s magic and friendship; dark and light; good and evil. It’s believing in yourself and surrounding yourself with goodness. It’s dark stories of murder and magic. It’s beautiful Venice and not judging by appearances. BLOODY YES. I absolutely adored Rodolfo – he’s my fave. I would LOVE to know more about him!

So yes. Basically this review should tell you one thing… this book is magic and gorgeous AND YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY BUY IT. 

Have you read The Mask of Aribella?
What magic power would you have if you were magical?
What would you want your mask to look like if you went to the mask maker?

Let me know in the comments! I’d love to talk magic!

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Louie Stowell

The Monster In The Lake: mermaids, magic and handsome librarians… what more could I need?

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“Kit is a wizard. The youngest wizard in the world, in fact. But her magic keeps going wrong, and all kinds of weird stuff has started happening – exploding fireballs, animals talking when they shouldn’t be, and a very strange new arrival in a nearby park. So Kit and her two best friends – along with their local librarian – set off to investigate, and to save the world… again.”

Having read Louie Stowell’s first book ‘The Dragon in the Library‘ I knew I needed to read this as soon as I spotted it in Waterstones. I won’t lie, I got SO excited when I saw it on the trolley that I had to pick it up and then I excitedly went over to talk to the booksellers about how glad I was they had copies in! 

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Monster (we’ll call it this for ease!) follows the story of Kit, a young magician who is still learning all about her magic, and the adventures she gets up to when she has to help when magic starts to go awry. It all starts when her practising of magic goes completely wrong (but others write this off as her being new to the whole thing, but she knows) and then animals start to talk. With the help of her friends, her mentor and a rather dashing mobile library magician, Kit helps to save the day! 

Just like Dragon, I thought this was such a brilliantly fun book. The plot is brilliant. Which kid doesn’t want to learn about mean mermaids, a monster who is in the wrong lake and a bunch of children who all have their own talents? This books is jam packed with some of the best characters around. Kit and her friends are a great mix. Plus, there’s a dragon that they have to keep asleep by going down to read tales to. And a magical library. 

Everything about this book appealed to me. 

Add all of these wonderful story telling things to a book which is SO BEAUTIFULLY illustrated by Davide Ortu and you’ve got a book that is as visually appealing as it is with its words. The illustrations add so much to the book that I often find myself just looking at them to learn more! 

This book is jam packed with nods to the importance of books and stories too… I mean what’s not to love?! 

This is going to be a perfect read for Year 3s. It’s got the perfect mix of illustration, plot and message to grip them! Plus its part of a series… who doesn’t love a series? (I know I can’t wait for the next book in the series… bring on September!) 

My Goodreads review:

I really enjoyed this! A lot of fun, magic and bookish references. What would you do if your magic was going awry and you were needed to save the day? I love Kit and her bunch of friends – they’re such great people. And I’m a big fan of Duncan!

S x 

p.s. Just here to say I think Duncan is wonderful *heart eyes*

 

BLOG TOUR: Respect

Respect: an informative and approachable way to teach children all about the importance of consent.

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“Your body belongs to you and you get to set your own rules, so that you may have boundaries for different people and sometimes they might change. Like when you hi-five your friends and kiss your kitten, but not the other way round! But consent doesn’t need to be confusing. From setting boundaries, to reflecting on your own behaviour and learning how to be an awesome bystander, this book will have you feeling confident, respected, and 100% in charge of yourself and your body.”

Due to changes in the curriculum and the importance of conversations around consent, it has been added to the PSHE curriculum which all schools must teach. Respect is a wonderful little book which ties in so beautifully with that: it’s child friendly, doesn’t shy away from some tough topics and deals with them with great respect (lol) and isn’t patronising at all. 

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One of the things that I loved most about this book was how it managed to bring to life some of the toughest conversations we might need to have with children around these themes. Using the incredible illustrations, children learn quickly all about these things. It’s fun, it’s playful and most importantly it’s smart: it teaches kids at their level. It’s certainly been a big hit in my Year 6 classroom with quite a few of my children picking it up and then having some tricky conversations and asking some big questions. 

For parents and teachers alike, themes like consent can be really bloody daunting, so teaching them, when appropriate, about these things is an absolute necessity. When you’re able to do it through the medium of a book which children find engaging, that’s when you’ve hit a winner. 

I really do think this book is brilliant and I think it’s an important one for parents and teachers alike to think about. Our kids are a lot more savvy and clued up than I certainly was when I was younger, so we need to equip them with the tools for the world they live in now and this book, while it couldn’t have all of the solutions, is a brilliant tool for kids to have at their disposal. 

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A massive thank you to the publishers for inviting me to be on this blog tour! This book is already a hit at school and I’d love to see more books like this available to children, parents and teachers alike. 

Can you recommend any books around these themes?

Speak to you all soon!

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!

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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)

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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 

November in books

Happy December everyone! 

Now that December is here, it’s almost time to start thining about the best books of the year! However, I’m not ready to do that yet. I’m here to share the books I read in November with you!

I’ll be honest with you all. November was a HARD month. I struggled quite a lot with my SAD. Work was tough. I’ve had to do a lot of soul searching and thinking. I’ve had to do a bit of crying. I’ve not read that many books because my brain just wasn’t in the right frame of mind. I was getting home and just wanted to climb into bed. I watched a lot of Colleen Ballinger videos because she seems like she’s the loveliest. That was easier for my brain than reading and that’s OK. I’m glad I managed to get through some books though, so that’s good! I got to read 2 of my most anticipated books in November and THAT WAS DELIGHTFUL.

MG books I read in November

I’m a massive fan of the Polar Bear Explorer’s series, so spotting Explorers on Black Ice Bridge in Waterstones filled me with ABSOLUTE delight. I read it in a matter of hours and it made me so happy. You’ll find my review here – I’d love it if you could check it out! 

I also managed to get my hands on my DELIGHTFUL FRIEND L.D.Lapinski’s debut MG novel, The Strangeworlds Travel Agency, thanks to my brilliant friend Adele. I DEVOURED it in a matter of hours… I had to pace myself because otherwise it was going to be over too quickly and FRIENDS. It is EXCEPTIONAL. It’s out next year and it’s available to preorder at all of the places. If you’re after something magical, fun, inclusive and a proper adventure, you should check it out. A full review is coming… I just need to formulate my thoughts into cohesive sentences. (Also, go follow Lapinski on twitter)

YA books I read in November

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Yes friends, you see that correctly. I was blessed by the book fairies (thank you Simon!) and was sent a proof One of Us Is Next by Karen M. McManus. I read it ALL on Saturday and it blew my mind. It’s SO SO good. I can’t talk about it too much because ALL OF THE SPOILERS WILL FALL OUT OF MY MOUTH. But it’s so good. It’s out in January and you guys need to get on it! (Also, if you’ve not read One of Us Is Lying, then where have you been? and you need to!)

Autobiographical/memoir books I read in November

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I adored This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay, so when I heard there was going to be another one, I knew I needed it. This one is much shorter and it’s just as brilliant. Would completely recommend both books!

And that’s it! That’s all the books I read in November. 

HOW AM I DOING FOR MY BOOK CHALLENGES?

GOODREADS CHALLENGE: 129/52
#52BOOKS CHALLENGE (JUST KIDS BOOKS): 68/52

Thanks for stopping by. Talk to me in the comments!

How did you do with your reading in November?
Did you have a more productive reading month than me?

What were your stand out books from last month?
Have you started thinking about your favourite books of the year yet?

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Alex Bell

Explorers on Black Ice Bridge: a rip-roaring adventure through icy cold depths!

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“Ice princess Stella Starflake and her father Felix are in trouble: President Fogg has expelled them from the Polar Bear Explorers’ Club, and banned them from going on any further expeditions. Stella’s not going to be put off by rules and regulations though. She knows her friend Shay is in danger of turning into a witch wolf himself, since receiving a deadly bite on their last adventure. It’s vital that Stella and her friends set out to find the spellbook that could save his life, even if it means travelling over the cursed Black Ice Bridge.”

Anyone who has spent any time on this blog knows that I am a MASSIVE fan of the Polar Bear Explorers series. The first book absolutely blew me away. The second book (of which you can read my review here) was one of the best books I read last year. I had very high hopes for the third book in the series. I’d been sat around ever since last year waiting for this to come out… and my word. What a total winner! 

Explorers on Black Ice Bridge starts with a total bang. Pearl and her dad Felix are in a  LOT of trouble. They got up to a lot of mischief (although I would argue they were doing it for good) in book 2, so they are having to deal with their actions now. The council of the Polar Bear Explorers’ Club are NOT happy with Stella and Felix. Ultimately, Stella and Felix are expelled from the Polar Bear Explorers’ Club (more fool the club in my opinion tbh). This leaves them in a very tricky situation because they still have an exploration they need to go on to save Stella’s friend, but now that they don’t belong to a club, they’re not allowed to. 

Of course, Felix being Felix, he knows that there is no such thing as an explorer who isn’t allowed to explore. He knows that Stella and her friends need to be able to get their mission completed because when friends are in need, it’s down to them to stick together to help. Felix and Stella, with the use of Stella’s ice magic and her friends, make things happen. They get the exploring ball rolling again. What ensues is a complete adventure into frozen lands, a surprisingly charming and funny flamingo who dons a top hat and friendship that always wins. 

Something I loved most about this book was that I was CONSTANTLY surprised. There were things that I wasn’t expecting. Characters you thought were one thing, who ended up being another thing. Choices made which definitely were unexpected. Settings and places I wouldn’t have predicted visiting. Some tiny subtle things which made my heart explode (there’s a wonderful bit about bad memories and it almost made me cry!). There’s a wonderful setting at the end of the story and it just floored me because it was SO out there, but it worked so beautifully for the story. 

There’s some wonderful messages in this book about looking after each other, the importance of kindness, looking after the world and being responsible. We are all responsible for the world we live on – whether it’s Stella in her world, or us in our world. This was a lovely thing to read because it wasn’t preachy, but it was beautifully written. Something which would make children think without intimidating them. 

My Goodreads review:

A rip-roaring adventure through ice, self doubt and friendship. With a flamingo (who is rather fun) and a menacing villain, this book was surprise after surprise. I really enjoyed this! I’m hoping there’s more to come because that ending lends itself to more…

If you’re looking for an icy adventure, perfect for a winter’s day, look no further than Explorers on Black Ice Bridge (but remember to read the two previous books first… they are MOST binge worthy). If you don’t fall for Felix, then we can’t be friends. 

I don’t know if this review does the book ANY justice… so please go out and read it! Then we can talk about how bloody awesome it is. I can’t wait to give it to my own explorers! They’re going to love it! 

Have you read Explorers on Black Ice Bridge?
Do you think you’d make a good explorer?
Where would you explore to if you had the chance?

Explorers on Black Ice Bridge is out now! GO GO GO!

S x 

BOOK BLOG: We Are Artists

We Are Artists: a gorgeous exploration of the life and work of 15 female artists from around the world.

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We Are Artists places the spotlight on women painters, sculptors, printmakers, illustrators, designers, and craftswomen who created monumental artwork, often against daunting odds. The book includes reproductions of modern and contemporary artwork by Frida Kahlo, Yayoi Kusama, Georgia O’Keeffe, Alma Thomas, and Kenojuak Ashevak, to name a few. Through their personal stories, readers will learn about the art movements each artist worked in and the influence they exerted on both the art world and society as a whole.”

I received this book in the post this week from the absolute wonders over at Thames and Hudson and I can see SO MUCH coming from this book that my brain is BRIMMING with ideas! 

We Are Artists is a gorgeous exploration of 15 different female artists from around the world, their art and their work. I’ll be honest, art is not my strong point, but learning about inspiring and innovative women is something that I am VERY PASSIONATE about. This book is jam packed with information and it’s all beautifully presented – there’s nothing worse than a boring inside to a non-fiction book. 

Something I love (and learned though reading this book) about this book is that it puts the spotlight on not just painters but printmakers, illustrators, designers and craftswomen alike who are often missed out of history/art history books. I’ll be honest there’s one or two of the women who I hadn’t heard of/didn’t know a lot about in this book, so naturally they were the pages I started with. I think it’s really important to expose children to as many different types of artist as possible because for some children artists are only people who sit at an easel and paint! 

For each artist, you get a gorgeous portrait, a quote from them and then a few pages all about their lives. Through each of the biographies of these incredibly inspiring women, you get pictures of their artwork along with dates. The information is written in a way which tells you what the women had to go through, but in a sensitive and carefully crafted manner. (If it’s not already clear, I’m a massive fan of a biography and this book makes me so happy as a teacher and a reader).

Some of my favourite quotes from these women:

‘If you’re not afraid, how can you really be brave?’ (Tove Jansson)

‘Not all of us are painters but we are all artists. Each time we fit things together we are crezating’ (Corita Kent)

‘My art is not my career, it is myself’ (Amrita Sher-Gil)

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Something else I loved about this book is that at the back there is a glossary of terms. For me, as an inexperienced and unconfident art teacher, this was so helpful. You can never stop learning in the world. Every day is a learning day in my life. The definitions are all really child friendly too and I think this is great – kids can take this book and just get on with reading it. 

SO… if you’re looking for an incredible piece of non-fiction about wonderful women who have made a stamp in art history, you should probably consider giving this a check out. 

Who is your favourite artist?
What kind of art is your favourite?
Do you have a secret bookish passion?

Talk to me in the comments! A massive thank you to the publishers, Thames and Hudson, for sending me a copy of this book. You guys are amazing: inspiring a new generation of artists! 

S x 

BOOK BLOG: The Snow Dragon

The Snow Dragon: a beautiful story filled with hope, dreams and wonder!

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You can be late for many things in life, but you should never keep an adventure waiting…

In Griselda Bone’s gloomy orphanage, daydreaming is banned, skipping is forbidden and Christmas is well and truly cancelled. But for Phoebe and her sausage dog Herb, is it possible that, just when things seem at their bleakest, magic awaits in the swirling, snow-filled air?”

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As a massive fan of Abi Elphinstone books, I knew I needed to get my hands on this book as soon as it came out. I was in fact very lucky to get an early sneak peek at this at Abi’s Rumblestar launch and I’ve been waiting for its release ever since then! This book does not disappoint… it has been well worth the wait! This is a tale full to the brim with emotion, danger, wonder, hope, friendship and love. 

Filled to the top with magic, this book makes me so happy. We all know I love a bit of magic. It sweeps you away. It made me feel like a child again. The illustrations, beautifully crafted by Fiona Woodcock, add such a charming depth to Abi’s ever-gorgeous words. I loved exploring the pictures. There’s so much you can see and read into the pictures, without even reading the story! The words and the pictures pair together to give you a tale you want to go on. You’re swept up into this magical world of a girl, her sausage dog and a magical dragon. Who wouldn’t want to go on an adventure with a magical snow dragon?

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You can’t not fall for Phoebe. She’s a brave and brilliant character. She’s like every child. She wants something she thinks she’ll never have. She doesn’t realise how special she is. She’s a young girl full of hope and compassion. Her story is captivating and you really will root for her. She worries no one will ever hear her. I think this is something lots of children will feel at some points in their lives. Luckily, Phoebe is heard by the gorgeous Snow Dragon, who hears her hopes and needs, and takes her on an adventure of a lifetime

This book is one of those gorgeous “definitely winter-y but can be read at any time of the year” books. We all know that when it comes to winter, Christmas books take over, so this is a refreshing book to have in my arsenal of books. 

Have you read The Snow Dragon?
What would you want the Snow Dragon to grant you?
What are your favourite winter picture books?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments. You need to read this beautiful picture book if you haven’t yet!

S x