Tag Archives: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Sparkly Shoes and Picnic Parties (Amelie and Nanette) by Sophie Tilley

Sparkly Shoes and Picnic Parties (Amelie and Nanette): Sophie Tilley (Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2013)

Sparkly Shoes and Picnic Parties (Amelie and Nanette): Sophie Tilley (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2013)

Longstanding readers of this blog will know how much I hate gender stereotyping, and a book with girl characters that appears to be all about shoes and clothes is therefore unlikely to be on my ‘brilliant books’ list. But…

There is no doubt that this is a beautiful book. We have the hardback copy and it is beautifully made, tactile, has a wonderfully old-fashioned feel to it and the artwork is stunning. The choice of fonts is lovely, the story is sweet, and if I wasn’t me all of these elements would add up to a perfect and beautiful picture book for little girls. But I don’t believe in categorising anything by gender, so that’s not how my review goes.

The story starts with two little girls who are the best of friends, called Amelie and Nanette. One girl is blonde and the other dark-haired, so I am required to change the names of the characters to Destructo-Girl and her best friend’s names when I read it! DG (4) loves this book. The description of the two girls and their friendships starts well, and I love the use of colour.

The first scene is in a shoe-shop. Nanette is choosing a new pair of shoes. Something all children have to do a lot! She then meets up with her friend, who has a new dress. The focus on appearance appears to be the theme for the book. Later the children choose more clothes and jewellery, then look for ‘pretty’ flowers. This is where my gender-stereotyping issues kick in. Focussing only on appearance is a problem.

The good in this book is that the girls are independent and resourceful. They make a picnic up together, happily walk outside, climbing over fences and carrying their picnic and then play in the grass and mud. They worry about their muddy clothes and shoes, but there isn’t any “yuck, I’m dirty, how terrible!” moments, it’s more concern about what their parents will think of how they’ve messed up their new clothes. And the getting dirty is not shown as being a bad thing (which is a good thing!)

It’s a beautiful book and a nicely written story with a lot of positives. I’m not keen on the focus on appearances, although it’s not the only thing in the story but a major part. Amelie and Nanette have the potential to be great role models. I hope the series continues to promote resourcefulness, friendship and honesty.

Disclosure: We were sent a copy of Sparkly Shoes and Picnic Parties by Bloomsbury Children’s Books for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

[Word count: 461; November word count: 4,153]

Picture Book Roundup

July / August 2013 Picture Book Selection

Time for Bed, Fred!: Yasmeen Ismail (Bloomsbury Children’s Books; PB Jul 2013) Beautifully illustrated and perfect for toddlers / pre-schoolers, this is a book with the text style of you talking to the character in the book “Fred? What are you doing up there?” Lots of humour as Fred the dog tries to avoid going to bed by doing all sorts of messy things before eventually going through bath, story and bed! A quite familiar story for most parents of small children, this is a perfect bedtime read.

Eddie and Dog: Alison Brown (Little Tiger Press; HB & PB Aug 2013) Two friends looking for adventure find each other but are kept apart until they come up with a solution. A story of friendship against the odds, full of transport (Eddie and Dog meet at an airport) and humour, and how to keep a pet when you live in a block of flats without a garden. Plus, dog on a moped, it’s just too cute!

The Littlest Bird: Gareth Edwards & Elina Ellis (Picadilly Press / Templar Publishing; PB Aug 2013) Littlest Bird is fed up being squashed in the nest by all her brothers and sisters so sets off to find a space of her own before missing her mum and returning. There are dragons in the middle of the story too, what more can you ask for?! A sweet tale of finding your place in a family.

Captain Brainpower and the Mighty Mean Machine: Sam Lloyd (HarperCollins Children’s Books; PB Aug 2013) Captain Brainpower and Mojo are two toys who end up on a rubbish tip and the story follows their adventures as they fight the Mighty Mean Machine and create lots of things from rubbish. Great for junk modellers, the plane created can easily be copied and made out of household rubbish and there’s lots of interest in the pictures. Great for EYFS & KS1.

Where’s Tim’s Ted? It’s Time For Bed!: Ian Whybrow & Russell Ayto (HarperCollins Children’s Books; PB Aug 2013) Tim is staying at his grandparents farm, but where has his Ted gone? A moonlight stroll through the farmyard, with lots of animals joining in, eventually reunites them and Tim can sleep happily. Ian Whybrow expertly weaves a fun rhyme, and Russell Ayto’s pictures are always a joy.

Penguin on Holiday: Selina Yoon (Bloomsbury Children’s Book; PB Aug 2013) Adorable lino-print style illustrations follow Penguin as he heads for a holiday in the sun, makes a friend and gets a visitor back home. A lovely story of long distance friendship in both hot and cold climates. Beautiful.

September / October 2013 Picture Book Selection

Noisy Farm (Little Tiger Press; BB Sep 2013) I’m a big fan of the Little Tiger Kids imprint and this is another hit for younger children. Big, chunky board pages full of all-important real images of farm animals along with a texture to feel and a button to press on every page. The animal sounds actually sound like the animals too. After the two hundredth time the noises might annoy parents a little but compared to many noisy books I don’t find this one too annoying and I am easily irritated by repetitive sounds. I highly recommend this for babies and toddlers and MG & DG think it should be for them too! There’s also Noisy Trucks for vehicle loving children.

Wibbly Pig Picks a Pet: Mick Inkpen (Hodder Children’s Books; PB Sep 2013) Wibbly Pig and Scruffy Pig discuss all the brilliant animals they’d chose as pets like elephants, giraffes and dinosaurs but then find out that rabbits are perfect after all. I’m not so keen on this one, it’s basically a story where two friends completely rubbish a first friends’ choice of pet before she’s even chosen it. But it’s Wibbly Pig so toddlers will love.

Wibbly Pig and the Tooky: Mick Inkpen (Hodder Children’s Books; HB Sep 2013) Big Pig’s Sister steals a toucan from the zoo and a Wibbly Pig and friends take him back before he’s missed. Gorgeous illustrations as you’d expect, and a tiny bit of tension makes this an exciting adventure for toddlers.

How to Babysit a Grandad: Jean Reagan & Lee Wildish (Hodder Children’s Books; PB Sep 2013) A guide for all children on what to do when your parents leave you with a grandparent to look after. Try to take very special care of him and let him know that your parents will be back soon, and after so much fun it’s nice to know that you can babysit again! Humourous role reversal sure to appeal to all small children who have ever been left to look after their grandparents.

Spider Sandwiches: Claire Freedman & Sue Hendra (Bloomsbury Children’s Books; PB Oct 2013) If you love Morris the Mankiest Monster, then you’ll love Spider Sandwiches with its lists of disgusting foods. Sadly the final food – worse than beetle biscuits, grasshopper smoothie or even cockroach curry – involves sprouts. I like sprouts and find sprout-hatred annoying, if everyone says they taste horrible then how will children ever even try them? A minor quibble in the grand scheme of things I know, and all the other disgusting foods are great fun. The spiders are too cute to eat!

Splat the Cat Fishy Tales: Rob Scotton (HarperCollins Children’s Books; PB Oct 2013) This is not a Splat the Cat book. It is a spin-off book based on Rob Scotton’s characters. The front cover shows this with the all important phrase “created by”. If you have a Splat-mad child then they’ll probably love it but really it’s not a patch on the others.

Disclaimer: We were sent copies of these twelve books by Bloomsbury Children’s Books, HarperCollins Children’s Books, Hodder Children’s Books, Little Tiger Press, and Templar Publishing for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Fables and Reflections: 10 Traditional Tales Retold

After talking about retelling fables, I’d like to share a very small selection of some of the traditional and modern versions we have on our bookshelves. Many of these are recently published, but I’ve added a few extra that I haven’t reviewed yet. You can find more I’ve already reviewed by clicking here for the Fables tag.

The Emperor's Nightingale and Other Feathery Tales (The Story Collector 1): Jane Ray (Boxer Books, 2013)The Emperor’s Nightingale and Other Feathery Tales (The Story Collector 1): Jane Ray (Boxer Books, 2013)
If you’ve any interest in children’s literature, just put this on top of your Christmas list straight away. Or treat yourself now. Or use the children as an excuse. This will make a lovely gift for any child person. The stories are perfect for reading aloud but even fairly early reader’s can attempt the easily laid out text (although the words may be challenging.) This is the first in a series of tales collected by the enormously talented Jane Ray and illustrated using scraperfoil techniques. It is a gorgeous book and only priced at £12.99. A mix of retold stories and collected poetry, this book deserves its own blog post. It is an example of traditional done well, with stories suitable for all ages. All the tales in this collection are linked by feathered friends and include traditional tales from across the globe. (Source: review copy)

whatsthetimemrwolfWhat’s the Time, Mr Wolf?: Debi Gliori (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2012)
Technically not a retelling at all, but packed full of familiar characters following Mr Wolf’s day. Most children are familiar with the “What’s the Time, Mr Wolf?” game and the repeatedly asked question leads us through the day from 7am when Mr Wolf is woken by four and twenty blackbirds (“It’s time for blackbird pie,”) and sleepily wakes up and gets chores done in time for… Ah, that would be telling. Featuring three little pig neighbours (who slam their doors – “It’s time for bacon sandwiches,” (I feel like that most mornings when woken too early, and thankfully this Mr Wolf is a nice wolf when he isn’t being annoyed by naughty neighbours!) Gorgeously illustrated with Debi Gliori’s recognisable style, a humourous and happy story for toddlers and up. I’ve lost count how many times we’ve read it. What’s the time, Mr Wolf? Time to buy more books… (Source: review copy)

Beauty and the Beast: Ursula Jones & Sarah Gibb (Orchard Books, 2013)Beauty and the Beast: Ursula Jones & Sarah Gibb (Orchard Books, 2013)
The illustrations for this traditional retelling of Beauty and the Beast are exquisite. A mix of silhouettes and washes of colour, with gold foiled cover, this is a book to be cherished for its beauty and every detailed poured over. DG (4) certainly thinks so and requests the story night after night, and it’s a wordy book but she listens raptly all the way through and asks again (tomorrow, it’s a bit too long to read twice in a row…) I have some issues with the retelling. It is traditional, and there is a lot of focus on the sisters only being interested in gaining husbands, and new dresses every day being a highlight of Beauty’s stay in the Beast’s house. Beauty is also frequently described as stupid. It is, however, the most complete picture book retelling I’ve read. This Beast is not a Disney-fied softy but there is real horror in his appearance and the “ear-crunching noise” that accompanies his arrival. This really is a stunning, traditional retelling and deserves its place on any child’s bookshelves. (Source: review copy)

Goldilocks and Just the One Bear: Leigh Hodgkinson (Nosy Crow, 2012)Goldilocks and Just the One Bear: Leigh Hodgkinson (Nosy Crow, 2012)
Another modern tale and not quite a retelling of Goldilocks but to say much more would give too much away. “Once upon a time, there was this bear…” and so begins a story  of a bear finding himself in a big city and accidentally entering an apartment. There he tries to find some porridge, but the soggy, crunchy and dry “porridge” that he finds aren’t quite right (hilariously illustrated, you just have to get this book to see!) The same happens with the chairs, and the beds… The Daddy, Mummy and little persons who come across the mess left by the bear aren’t very amused, but the wonderfully satisfactory conclusion perfectly ends this familiar-sounding tale. Funny, stunningly illustrated, and a perfect addition to any bookshelf, I can’t recommend Goldilocks and Just the One Bear highly enough. (Source: own copy)

The Girl With A Brave Heart, A Tale From Tehran: Rita Jahanforuz & Vali Mintzi (Barefoot Books, 2013) The Girl With A Brave Heart, A Tale From Tehran: Rita Jahanforuz & Vali Mintzi (Barefoot Books, 2013)
This is a traditional tale that I had no previous knowledge of. It starts in a Cinderalla-like way; Shiraz’s mother dies young and her father remarries but after he too dies, her life changes from one of happiness to drudgery as the step-mother and step-sister make her their maid. Unlike Cinderella, no prince is required for a happy ending. Shiraz loses a ball of wall off her balcony, precious to her because it was her mother’s, and goes to the house whose garden it dropped in. The lady living here appears to be an unkindly witch and sets three tasks, which Shiraz gladly completes. Because of Shiraz’s kind heart, and the good that she does, it appears that the old women gives her the gift of beauty. In reality it is Shiraz’s own personality shining through. The step-sister attempts to replicate what Shiraz has done but it backfires because of her selfishness. Beautifully illustrated and with an exotic (to my children) location, this story especially grips MG (6) who listens attentively (she usually wanders off during stories to do other things) and tries to read it herself after. A very positive and non-stereotyped story, this is the perfect antidote to Disney princesses. (Source: review copy)

Little Red Riding Hood: Alison Jay (Templar Publishing, 2013)Little Red Riding Hood: Alison Jay (Templar Publishing, 2013)
This is another huge success in our household, and has torn pages to show for how much its been read (sniffles!) Here we find Fairytale Village, where all the fairy tale characters live. Little Red Riding Hood’s mother runs the tea shop and sends our heroine with some treats to see her grandmother. But, oh, the illustrations! They tell the story and more. Starting in the tea shop, there’s Hansel buying a loaf of bread, the Frog Prince gloomily drinking a cup of tea, Rapunzel and the Gingerbread man chatting, Three Little Pigs munching cakes, and who’s that shifty looking character in dark glasses and a trenchcoat pretending to choose jam? MG (6) was the one who pointed out to me that the wolf appears on every single double page of the book, if you look carefully, and she’s right. The backgrounds of the illustrations tell too many stories to mention: Jack taking his cow to market, Hansel and Gretel going for a walk… The Hansel and Gretel tale plays out throughout the entire book, and we regularly see the woodcutter keeping an eye on Little Red Riding Hood too. Which brings me to my only grumble with the story. Despite the mostly modern retelling (the wolf locks grandma in a cupboard instead of eating her, and is sent to a school for naughty fairytale creatures at the end), this retelling doesn’t take the opportunity for Little Red Riding Hood to be resourceful and work her own escape, she is a passive traveller in the tale and the story just happens to her. I do wonder about Grandma too, she lives next door to the gingerbread house, didn’t she notice what was happening to the children there? Apparently I’m reading too much into this! The book really sucks you into the fairytale world and is wonderful for reading again and again. I do hope there will be more stories in this series and thoroughly recommend this version. (Source: review copy)

The Lion and the Mouse: Nahta Noj (Templar Publishing, 2013)The Lion and the Mouse: Nahta Noj & Jenny Broom (Templar Publishing, 2013)
This is a very clever book. Cut-outs in the pages mean that what you think is part of a butterfly’s wing on one page, becomes a lion’s eye on the next; plants on one page become footprints on the next… The art style is simple enough to encourage small children to try making animals with paper collage, and complex enough to hold interest throughout. This is a beautifully illustrated and designed book and for that I think the designer, Jonathan Lambert, should be on the front cover too because he has done a superb job. This would make a lovely gift for toddlers and pre-schoolers (and grown ups…) and is full of educational potential as well as being a lovely read aloud. (Source: review copy)

Cinderella: An Art Deco Love Story; Rapunzel: A Groovy Fairy Tale; and Little Red: A Fizzingly Good Yarn retold by Lynn Roberts & illustrated by David Roberts (Pavillion Children's Books, 2001, 2003 & 2005)Cinderella: An Art Deco Love Story; Rapunzel: A Groovy Fairy Tale; and Little Red: A Fizzingly Good Yarn retold by Lynn Roberts & illustrated by David Roberts (Pavillion Children’s Books, 2001, 2003 & 2005)
We love these books so much! David Roberts is one of the best illustrators working today and these three retellings of favourite fairy tales showcase his art beautifully. They are retold by his sister, Lynn, talent obviously running in the family. “In a time not too long ago and in a land much like our own, there lived…” begins each tale. Each has its own era. Cinderella is set in the Art Deco 1920’s/1930’s; Rapunzel in the 1970’s; and Little Red sometime in the 1700’s. They are all thoroughly hilarious with so much to look at in the illustrations that you could just spend hours pouring over them. They are a labour of love, and a must for any fan of fairy tales (or children’s books, or illustration, or humour…) Cinderella follows the most traditional route, with a prince and a ball along with step-mother and step-sisters. How Cinderella ends up with her step-mother is comic genius (a very absent-minded father is involved) and the attention to detail in the pictures is astonishing. We originally borrowed this one from the library but after keeping it for several months I had to buy it and the two others from the series. I am so sad there haven’t been any more since, it looks like plans for the fourth were postponed and I can but hope there are more one day as these are excellent. Rapunzel is set in the 1970’s with a dinner-lady aunt who keeps her long-haired niece on the top floor of a tower block before Roger from the school band finds her. No royalty or weddings in this tale which makes a lovely change, and oh, the ’70’s is so perfectly represented. The illustrator note in this book says he imagined Rapunzel being related to Cinderella somehow so look out in the background for items that appear in both books. Finally, Little Red is set further in the past and Red is gender-swapped to become a boy. I think there should be more gender-swapping in retold tales, it changes the stereotyped interactions into something more interesting in many cases. For instance Princess Rosamund in The Tough Princess finds a sleeping prince to wake. Just wonderful. Little Red does outwit the wolf on his own (now I wish he was female again, but only because of all the other female Reds who have to be saved) and how he gets grandma back after she was swallowed whole should delight almost every child. These three are a delight for children and adults. Humourous, intelligent, and great fun. (Source: own copies)

I would love to include more, because there are so many to write about, but I’m up to almost 2000 words already so this is finished but I’m sure I will write about more retold fables in future.

Disclaimer: We were sent copies of the books labelled review copy by Boxer Books, Bloomsbury Children’s Books, Orchard Books, Barefoot Books (via BritMums Meet Up) and Templar Publishing for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Royal Baby Picture Books

Baggy Brown and the Royal Baby: Mick Inkpen (Hodder Children's Books, reissue 2013)Baggy Brown and the Royal Baby: Mick Inkpen (Hodder Children’s Books, reissue 2013)

Baggy Brown started life as “No. 1”, the first bear in a special line made for the first birthday of Princess Sophinyiniannia of Thingland. In error he ends up battered and worn, and in the hands of Alfie who, thinking “no one” is no name for a bear, calls him Baggy Brown. The search is on for the missing royal bear, and when Alfie sees the news he leaves home to take Baggy Brown back. Princess Sophie prefers Alfie to Baggy Brown, so a lifelong friendship ensues. And if I had time, I’d tell you that this books works just like a fairytale where children grow up, marry and live happily ever after… Mick Inkpen’s illustrations are well-loved and this reissue will do well, although it is not a sequel to the original as it appears to be, which may cause confusion.

Shhh! Don't Wake the Royal Baby: Martha Mumford & Ada Grey (Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2013)Shhh! Don’t Wake the Royal Baby: Martha Mumford & Ada Grey (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2013)

This tale is contemporary, with a Duke and Duchess as parents who look quite like William and Kate (hat included), plus an Uncle very similar to Harry, and a Queen, and corgis. And a King. Hold on a minute, a King? As this book is pretty-much based on the current UK royal family, it seems a bit odd to have a King in it but I suppose two Dukes would be seen as confusing. Maybe Grandfather would have sufficed, as Auntie and Uncle don’t have other titles? I’m overthinking things again… The tale follows the Royal Family trying to get the Royal Baby to sleep, with a lovely nod to the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony in the form of a parachuting queen. Would be a great story to read when looking at UK current affairs. Great fun to read with lovely illustrations, this has just the right amount of silly to get small children laughing.

Disclaimer: We were sent copies of Baggy Brown and the Royal Baby by Hachette Children’s Books and Shhh! Don’t Wake the Royal Baby by Bloomsbury Children’s Books for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Eight Recent Picture Book Paperback Releases

I have realised that I am not going to be able to give every book we have to review a post of its own but I do want to write about them all so here’s a multiple review post with no particular theme or order!

Copycat Bear: Ellie Sandall (Hodder Children's Books, 2012)Copycat Bear: Ellie Sandall (Hodder Children’s Books, 2012)
Plot: A lusciously illustrated tale of Mango the bird and her friend, Blue the bear. Blue copies everything that Mango does until Mango gets fed up and leaves her friend…
Age range: Toddler; Pre-school; KS1
Concepts: Frustration; forgiveness; breaking and making friends
Activity: Make patterns on paper, cut up into leaf shapes to make a tree
Also read: Iris & Isaac by Catherine Rayner

Elephant Pants: Smriti Prasdam-Halls & David Wojtowycz (Orchard Books, 2012)Elephant Pants: Smriti Prasdam-Halls & David Wojtowycz (Orchard Books, 2012)
Plot: Bright, colourful and told in rhyme, this tale follows poor Major Trump who’s lost his knickers! Noah goes through all the animals in the ark until they eventually turn up.
Age range: Toddler; Pre-school; KS1
Concepts: Embarrassment; humour
Activity: Decorate underwear templates, make a washing line
Also read: Pants by Giles Andreae & Nick Sharratt

Jack's Amazing Shadow: Tom Percival (Pavillion Children's Books, 2013)Jack’s Amazing Shadow: Tom Percival (Pavillion Children’s Books, 2013)
Plot: Jack is an ordinary boy with an extraordinary shadow, and together they are the best of friends. Until one day Jack’s shadow gets him into trouble and he shouts at him. Emotions are conveyed beautifully in the artwork, making this a great book to discuss emotions as well as a feel-good story with fun illustrations.
Age range: Pre-school; KS1; KS2
Concepts: Anger; forgiveness
Activity: Copy the ideas on the endpapers to make shadow hands, or cut out black paper shadow shapes
Also read: Copycat Bear by Ellie Sandall

Tim, Ted and the Pirates: Ian Whybrow & Russell Ayto (HarperCollins Children's Books, 2006)Tim, Ted and the Pirates: Ian Whybrow & Russell Ayto (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2006)
Plot: Told in rhyme, a bored boy imagines a swashbuckling pirate adventure during a dull storytime at school.
Age range: Pre-school; KS1; KS2
Concepts: Boredom; imagination
Activity: Look at the cutaway pirate ship, think about what rooms you’d have on your ship and design your own
Also read: Captain Flynn and the Pirate Dinosaurs by Giles Andraea & Russell Ayto

A Farmer's Life For Me: Jan Dobbins & Laura Huliska-Beith (Barefoot Books, 2013)A Farmer’s Life For Me: Jan Dobbins & Laura Huliska-Beith (Barefoot Books, 2013)
Plot: A sing-a-long book (with CD) about different aspects of farming.
Age range: Baby; Toddler; Pre-school
Concepts: Being busy; working
Activity: Sing!
Also read: Over in the Meadow (various versions available)

Pittipat's Saucer of Moon: Geraldine McCaughrean & Maria Nilsson (Hodder Children's Books, 2012)Pittipat’s Saucer of Moon: Geraldine McCaughrean & Maria Nilsson (Hodder Children’s Books, 2012)
Plot: A kitten imagines the moon is a saucer of milk and dreams of climbing the sky to drink it. The art is gorgeous but I find the text too tongue tripping to easily read aloud.
Age range: Pre-school; KS1; KS2
Concepts: Bravery; dreaming
Also read: watch In the Night Garden for similar surreality

Llama Llama Shopping Drama: Anna Dewdney (Hodder Children's Books, 2007)Llama Llama Shopping Drama: Anna Dewdney (Hodder Children’s Books, 2007)
Plot: Young Llama Llama is taken shopping and gets very fed up. Told in rhyme with lots of humour, and great expressions from the baby llama. A very familiar tale for any parent of young children, and great fun to share.
Age range: Baby; Toddler; KS1
Concepts: Boredom; tantrums; forgiveness
Activity: Play shops
Also read: More in the Llama Llama series; How Do Dinosaurs…? series by Jane Yolen & Mark Teague

Florentine and Pig and the Lost Pirate Treasure: Eva Katzler & Jess Mikhail (Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2013)Florentine and Pig and the Lost Pirate Treasure: Eva Katzler & Jess Mikhail (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2013)
Plot: Florentine enthuses about the fun they’re going to have in the sunshine outside, until Pig points out it’s raining. They then imagine they are searching for missing treasure and have a fun day inside instead.
Age range: Pre-school; KS1; KS2
Concepts: Imagination; creativity
Activity: Cooking and crafts already in the book
Also read: Tim, Ted and the Pirates by Ian Whybrow & Russell Ayto

Disclaimer: We were sent copies of all eight books by their respective publishers (Hachette Children’s Books, Harper Collins Children’s Books, Bloomsbury Children’s Books, Barefoot Books and Pavillion Children’s Books) for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

Tuesdays at the Castle: Jessica Day George (Bloomsbury, 2011)

Tuesdays at the Castle: Jessica Day George (Bloomsbury, 2011)

I loved the premise of this book so although it’s a younger read than I usually enjoy I eagerly devoured it. The book follows the inhabitants of Castle Glower, a castle with a mind of its own that generally tends to add an extra room or rearrange itself on Tuesdays. Except, for most of this novel, the changes happened on any day of the week due to the nature of the plot so the title is somewhat misleading.

There are lots of interesting little facets to this story, like how the Castle chooses its own rulers, and the politics between neighbouring kingdoms. The main character is Celie, the youngest daughter of the current King who is aged 11 (but comes across as much younger most of the time) and the plot is full of intrigue where the King, Queen and eldest son disappear and the Council try to force the fourteen year-old heir to take the throne under their stewardship. The Castle itself it a major player, creating a room for Celie and her family when it realises trouble is afoot.

On the whole, this is an enjoyable and exciting tale for approx 8-12 year olds. It has some faults in logic, for instance I’m not entirely sure how an eleven year old can really haul a 300-page atlas that she’s drawn with her at all times, and Celie isn’t as strong a female lead as I’d like (the set-up is quite male oriented) but on the whole it’s a decent read. It ought to appeal to boys and girls, but I suspect the female lead might be a hard sell for boys despite the ‘unisex’ plot.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Tuesdays at the Castle by Bloomsbury for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Recent Reads

As part of the book challenges I joined, I wanted to write reviews of every book I’d read. I’ve not had the time to recently and the longer I leave it after reading, the less detail I can remember to write about. So here are some brief summaries of books I’ve read so far this year that I haven’t yet reviewed.

The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye (Puffin Books, 1980)The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye (Puffin Books, 1980)

This is still my favourite fairy tale after almost thirty years, and I loved it on re-reading as an adult. It deserves its own post and I have no problem with reading it over and over again in order to give it the attention it deserves. The story follows Princess Amethyst Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne, the seventh daughter born to the King and Queen of Phantasmorania, who at her Christening is given the gift of being ordinary by a crotchety fairy. So she grows up with freckles, mousey hair and everyone calls her Amy. In true fairy tale fashion there is danger and romance, but with a twist and a lot of humour.

The Antler Boy and Other Stories by Jake Parker (Jake Parker, 2012)The Antler Boy and Other Stories by Jake Parker (Jake Parker, 2012)

I backed this book on Kickstarter after falling in love with Jake Parker’s art for The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man. It was worth the eight month wait. I’m more of a wannabe comics fan, which I suppose doesn’t make sense as I am a fan but I’m not in the slightest bit knowledgeable and comics are an expensive habit so I never am going to be knowledgeable. Being such a visual medium, and being a bear of little brain, I also find comics impossible to read aloud to children. It’s like audio description for television: very clever and not something I can do! The ten short stories in this volume are wonderful, and completely moreish. I want more of every world Jake Parker has created. I’m very glad I backed this and will read it many times, and when MG and DG are a bit older I might even let them borrow it too!

Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes (Walker, 2012)Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes (Walker, 2012)

I put off reading this novel for ages because it’s not a genre I’m particularly interested in and I didn’t want to dislike something from Shirley Hughes! It took a few chapters to suck me in but the story was compelling and the characters beautifully drawn – in words, not pictures. I hope Shirley Hughes writes more novels and I won’t care what genre they’re in because the writing shines through and makes this novel irresistible. I’m glad I got over my mini-phobia and read this book.

Holes by Louis Sachar (Bloomsbury, 1998)Holes by Louis Sachar (Bloomsbury, 1998)

I got this second-hand and started reading it one evening, only to find I’d finished it in one sitting! For some reason the mystical element at the end, with the gypsy curse appearing to be real didn’t sit right with me despite the entire book being fantastical with juvenile detention camp inmates digging a hole 5ft deep and 5ft in diameter every day. But somehow it all seems to make perfect sense as you read it, and Stanley Yelnets and Zero make good believable characters. It’s a weird and wonderful narrative that pulls you in from the start. Oddly enjoyable.

Dark Angels by Katherine Langrish (HarperCollins Children's Books, 2009)Dark Angels by Katherine Langrish (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2009)

I bought this at the Oxford Children’s Book Group event and started reading it because  Katherine Langrish was  a great speaker and the descriptions of her work sounded just my kind of genre. I’ve just realised what this reminded me of: Redwall by Brian Jacques, although it’s been years since I read any of that series and Dark Angels isn’t about mice! The 12th Century Welsh setting with monasteries and castles is a backdrop to a very human tale. There may be elves, angels, devils and ghosts but they often seem dream-like so this works as historical and fantasy fiction. I loved the world envisioned in this book and the ending holds hope for a sequel. Wolf and Nest call Elfgift their little sister but she seems like their daughter too and I really want to find out more about their relationship. More, please!

Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner (Hot Key Books, 2012)Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner (Hot Key Books, 2012)

This novel has garnered high praise from many quarters and I ended up reading it in one day, in between child-wrangling. It’s not a book to read if you’re after a happy tale, because this is very depressing. It is also compelling and very readable. It’s set in an alternate 1950’s and the places are described as the motherland, the homeland, zones… It’s a miserable existence for Standish and his grandfather but they’re surviving. There are some horrible events in the book so it’s definitely not for younger children but it’s a chilling glimpse into a world that could have been and well worth a read.