Tag Archives: Hodder Children’s Books

Perfect Presents

We were delighted to receive these two sequels to books that we thoroughly enjoyed. Fiona Roberton’s almost line-drawings are a complete contrast to Rachel Bright’s colourful prints but the art in both is stunning. These are two wonderful series, and I thoroughly recommend both.

The Perfect Present: Fiona Roberton (Hodder Children's Books, 2012, PB 2013)The Perfect Present: Fiona Roberton (Hodder Children’s Books, 2012, PB 2013)

We absolutely loved the first book about Henry and Spot, Wanted: The Perfect Pet, and the duo return here for Henry’s birthday. Spot has found what he thinks is the perfect present, but when Henry gets distracted by another present and doesn’t even open Spot’s, Spot leaves feeling dejected…

Oh, how I feel for poor Spot as he leaves. Not only that but it’s dark and miserable out too, with lightening and things do seem to get a bit hairy… But I’ll let you in on a secret, it does all end well, with Spot and Henry reunited. I am so in love with these characters, they are pitch perfect and adorable. The minimal art style still conveys so much emotion, and it’s all quite wonderfully surreal.

The books are also laid out into chapters, although they are very much in picture book format, but this makes them excellent for early readers. They are more suitable for older (late EYFS/KS1) children because of the subtleties in them, but can be enjoyed by toddlers and pre-schoolers too.

If you’ve not met Henry and Spot yet, I thoroughly recommend finding a copy of Wanted: The Perfect Pet first. The Perfect Present works well independently, but is just even better with the back story.

Love Monster & the Perfect Present: Rachel Bright (HarperCollins Children's Books, 2013)Love Monster & the Perfect Present: Rachel Bright (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2013)

Another fabulous sequel following a wonderful first book. We loved Love Monster in his first tale, and this sequel he’s trying to find a special gift for the most special monster in his life. But although the shops are packed full of sparkling gifts, apparently fluff and buttons don’t go very far to buy them…

How wonderful it is for a book to extol the virtues of heartfelt gifts that do not need to cost the earth. We live in such a materialistic society with children constantly bombarded by the messages of consumerism, and I do fall into the trap of wanting to get my children nice gifts, but it’s good to be reminded about all the things that are worth far more than money.

Mighty-Girl has asked me what I want for Christmas, and I have requested one of her books because she writes such wonderful stories. I hope she realises that this means more to me than anything money could ever buy.

Beautifully illustrated, and full of love, this is a great book for Christmas (you can even borrow it from the library to eschew consumerism – but it would be really nice to put in someone you love’s stocking too!)

Disclosure: We were sent copies of The Perfect Present by Hachette Children’s Books and Love Monster and the Perfect Present by HarperCollins 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: 523; November word count: 2,129]

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.

The BIG-Hearted Book by Nicholas Allan

The BIG-Hearted Book: Nicholas Allan (Hodder Children's Books, 2013)

The BIG-Hearted Book: Nicholas Allan (Hodder Children’s Books, 2013)

Three and a half years ago, I nearly lost my Mum and my children nearly lost their Nanny, because she went to see her GP about chronic ‘indigestion’ and the GP immediately called an ambulance to take my mum to hospital where she was operated on the next day. She had a six hour open heart surgery (triple bypass) and spent six weeks in hospital, two of which in intensive care. Her heart stopped twice during that time.

To say that we, as a family, are indebted to the many health professionals involved in saving her life is an understatement. Heart charities are therefore very close to my heart (no pun intended!) The BIG-Hearted Book was inspired by another woman who underwent life-saving heart surgery: Helen Bower, Sales Director at Hodder. Proceeds from the sale of this book support the International Children’s Heart Foundation, and Hodder also held a charity auction last month in support of this charity.

That’s more than enough reason to buy this book even if it was terrible. Fortunately, it’s far from it! Nicholas Allan is more known for humourous books like Cinderella’s Bum and Father Christmas Needs a Wee but here we have a tale of friendship between Babette (a human) and Bill (a dog) who are linked together by an invisible ribbon of hearts. Babette and Bill do everything together, but one day Babette gets too tired to do things. She can’t run with Bill, she doesn’t cook or eat, she’s not interested in reading. All she does is stay in bed…

The story follows Bill trying to cheer Babette up, and his sadness when one day she goes away. The ribbon of hearts will not be broken though, and Babette’s heart gets fixed reuniting the friends again. This book is suitable for very young children and up because it uses simple language and does not go into details. In fact, it’s perfect for more than just heart illnesses.

I think this book could be used to explain parental depression to a very young child too. Babette loses interest in all the things she’s enjoyed before, and becomes too tired to do things, and then can’t get out of bed any more. All of which are symptoms of depression. The text reads “her heart was on the mend” but this can be taken figuratively rather than literally.

The book works as a story on its own too, but is a valuable addition to a library to help small children cope with illnesses of people close to them. I wish it had existed for me to read to three-year-old Mighty-Girl when my mum was in hospital. We talk about that time when reading the book, but she doesn’t quite remember Nanny being so ill and then getting better and Darling-Girl doesn’t remember at all as she was under one at the time.

There are some parts of this book that don’t quite work for me (Bill is quite selfish at the start so the friendship seems a bit one-sided – I really read too much into stories sometimes!) but the overall story and meaning, and opening for a dialogue with children, more than make up for minor niggles on my part. As for the children? They find it a sweet story with a happy ending, which is just right for cheering up on a grumpy day.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of The BIG-Hearted Book by Hachette 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.

Bears, Bears, Bears!

Bears, Bears, Bears!: Martin Waddell & Lee Wildish (Hodder Children's Books, 2013)
Bears, Bears, Bears!: Martin Waddell & Lee Wildish (Hodder Children’s Books, 2013)

Martin Waddell has been creating picture books for… a little while! His work covers a wide range including enormous classics like Farmer Duck and Owl Babies, and personal favourites like The Tough Princess. He is also, of course, very well-known for the Little Bear stories.

What I find particularly interesting in his work is how his writing has kept up with the changes in picture books over the years. Modern picture books involve tight wording, using as few words as possible to convey the story in conjunction with the pictures. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, when the early Little Bear stories were published, it was still the fashion to have large blocks of text within the picture book but the Little Bear books are beautiful examples of how text and pictures can be combined to appear more interesting.

Bears, Bears, Bears! is Martin Waddell’s latest book, illustrated by Lee Wildish, joint winner of this year’s Red House Children’s Book Award for Spooky, Spooky House. In contrast to the Little Bear stories, the text is sparse. There are 359 words in Bears, Bears, Bears! compared to 976 in Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear? [I just counted them myself, so I may have missed a couple!]

I wouldn’t remove a single word from Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear? any more than I’d want to add any to Bears, Bears, Bears! They are both right for the books they are.

Bears, Bears, Bears! is about a little girl called Ruby who wants to find some bears to play with. A friendly bear pops out from Bear Wood and they have great fun, but Ruby calls for more and more bears. Eventually all the fun becomes too much, and Ruby ends up with just what she needed: one good bear friend.

This is a lovely tale. “More bears mean more fun!” exclaims Ruby near the start, but more bears also mean less space for Ruby. Small children often want “More, more, more!” before becoming over-tired and overwhelmed (some adults too, for that matter!) and a book can be the best place to keep all the excitement, especially before bed time.

Ruby’s bears are a lot of fun and there are some fabulously funny moments throughout. With lots happening in the illustrations, the story is a joy to read. I adore Ruby’s bear especially, with his multi-coloured scarf. One for toddlers, pre-schoolers, and up.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Bears, Bears, Bears! by Hachette 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.

Sixty-four, sixty-four, sixty-four Zoo Lane…

64 Zoo Lane An Vrombaut Hodder Children's Books

Anyone with small children is probably humming the 64 Zoo Lane theme song now… 64 Zoo Lane is an animated series about a little girl called Lucy who lives next door to a zoo and gets told a bedtime story by the animals every night before she falls asleep. It’s often on in the bedtime hour slot on CBeebies (when Abney and Teal and 64 Zoo Lane are both on, bedtime hour is unbeatable viewing for 6pm on a weekday!)

As an adult, you could take the series too seriously and feel for the poor animals in the zoo reminiscing about their life in the jungle or savannah, but that would be just silly. And when you have characters with names like Audrey (ostrich), Reginald (lion), Herbert (warthog), and Esmerelda (snake), you know you shouldn’t be taking it too seriously!

Best of all, the series is based on a set of books by An Vrombaut whose style has been lovingly translated. There are over 100 animated episodes now, but only six original books: Georgina the Giraffe; Joey the Kangaroo; Kevin the Crocodile; Snowbert the Polar Bear; Zed the Zebra; and Henrietta the Hairy Hippo. We were sent copies of the newly reissued Georgina the Giraffe and Zed the Zebra to review, but I’ve since added the rest to our shelves – I’m not sure why we didn’t have any already.

As enormous fans of the TV programme, the books were instant hits with MG and DG. They were instant hits with me because they are not TV tie-ins, the TV series was based on these books rather than the other way around. I am one of those people who dislikes most TV tie-ins, preferring a story that makes sense and is beautifully illustrated.

For fans of the series, the lyrics of the song are printed on the inside back cover. This means I have to sing the theme song every time I read the stories but I can live with that, and my girls tend to join in. It was nice having the lyrics written down actually, because there were a couple I hadn’t worked out!

All six books are joyful to read, and are currently available at the ridiculously low price of £6.99 the set via The Book People. Because I bought all six, I’m giving away the two copies we have duplicates of. To be in with a chance of winning Zed the Zebra and Georgine the Giraffe, please enter via the Rafflecoptor widget below. Closing date is midnight Friday 28 June, open to UK addresses only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: We were sent copies of Georgina the Giraffe and Zed the Zebra by Hachette 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.

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.

Just Like My Dad App News plus Book Giveaway

For those new to the blog, you may not know that I we are huge fans of David Melling in the Chaos household. This addiction goes back six years, when I purchased a copy of Just Like My Dad from one of our local bookshops for Mr Chaos’ first Father’s Day when MG was only a few months old.

That book is enjoyed as much now as it was then. Well, technically it’s enjoyed much more as there’s only so much a four-month old gets out a book, and we’ve double the children now! But I’m sure you understood what I meant before I decided to add needless clarification…

Just Like My Dad app screen

Today, 13th June 2013, Just Like My Dad is being released as an app. Perfect for Father’s Day sharing, it includes burp and fart sounds. What more does any self-respecting 2-8 year old want than burp and fart sounds? Apparently this also applies to most dads too, but I try to avoid gender stereotyping…

I don’t have anything to run apps on, so normally leave app reviews to the wonderful CApptivated Kids. But the fact that the app includes David Melling illustrations and is based on Just Like My Dad would make it worth the £1.99 price tag in my opinion!

Just Like My Dad app screen

The Just Like My Dad app is released in iOS and Android versions, and is available from the iTunes AppStore and Google Play in the UK, Europe, Australia and North America. I’ll add links as soon as I get them.

I normally ignore press releases in my reviews, but as this isn’t a review here’s some facts from the press release:

  • Narrated by a child actor to appeal to children using the app
  • ‘Read to me’, ‘Read by myself’ and ‘Record myself’ options
  • Available in all options, each screen has automated and touch-activated animation
  • Available in all options, each screen includes touch-activated sound effects, including farting skunks and burping dad and son lion
  • Children get to torment ‘dad’ by ripping plasters off the dad lion
  • ‘Record myself’ option allows a child and father to have fun recording the story together

Sounds like fun. I think my two would particularly like the ripping plasters off dad lion part! Amazingly I haven’t actually reviewed Just Like My Dad yet, but for an idea of the style I have written about Just Like My Mum.

Just Like My Dad app screen

To celebrate the release, Hachette have offered me five sets of the Just Like My Dad board book plus toy lion to giveaway. If the lion is anything like the mini Hugless Douglas from his book/toy set then it is cuter than cute (and small enough to smuggle into schoolbags for a bit of comfort away from home…) I wish I could enter my own competitions!

Just Like My Dad Book and Toy Box Set

To be in with a chance of winning one of these book/toy sets, please enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. The prizes will be sent direct from the publisher. Obviously they won’t arrive in time for Father’s Day, but this is a book to be enjoyed any day of the year. The deadline is midnight on Tuesday 18th June. Open to UK addresses only. Winners must reply with addresses within 5 days of drawing, or another winner will be drawn. Five prizes on offer.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Siege by Sarah Mussi

Siege: Sarah Mussi (Hodder Children's Books, 2013)Siege: Sarah Mussi (Hodder Children’s Books, 2013)

Siege is set in a near-future (dystopian) Britain (England) which is scarily very believable. Unlike The Hunger Games or Maggot Moon, this is too close to home and packs a huge emotional punch because of it.

I think Siege will get compared with The Hunger Games for several reasons. The teenage female protagonist wanting to protect her family; the poverty of the people involved; the fight for survival; potential government corruption; children being killed…

This is a YA title that I’d recommend parents and teachers from all walks of life read. I wouldn’t recommend it to children under teenage, but that probably depends on the child. A very mature thirteen and up would be best in my opinion.

Warning: I can’t review this without spoilers. If you prefer not to be spoilered, stop reading now.

Leah Jackson is an average (poor) sixteen year old attending her local Academy School. Since all the cuts, the only non-paying schools are Academies that dump you straight into Volunteer Work Programmes on graduation (daily travel and canteen vouchers supplied, for The Greater Good.) Are you scared yet?

Schooling isn’t free; healthcare isn’t free; the population isn’t free. The government has cut everything and the poor are just expected to be violent wasters, with little opportunity to escape the life they’ve been born into. Since the Riots, the Academies have been fitted with Lock Down, an automatic security system that keeps the kids inside the school with no escape.

On this day, Friday 18 September, a group of kids have started a siege within the school. The school goes into Lock Down, there’s no escape. Due to being late that day, Leah is in detention so thinks the shots she first hears are some kind of fireworks at assembly in the gym. Then the gang start to round-up the rest of the school, and the killings begin.

Told in first person, we find out the setting in snippets throughout the book, as we follow Leah desperately trying to survive; and desperately worrying that her younger brother is one of the shooters. Siege is not a comfortable read, although it took me a few chapters before I was emotionally involved. The first shootings (POW POW POW) didn’t have the deep impact they should have but the narrative grabbed me more the more realistic the setting became to me.

As the politics and action notch up during the last chapters, Siege finishes with a stark list of the casualties of the day. It’s not what you want to read; and with that ending the book knocks you out for the count.

It has its imperfections (Leah’s slang slips and don’t think too hard about the details) but with so much in the news about changes to schooling, and cuts to services, and blaming poverty for violence, Siege is a scary prediction of things that too easily could be.

Source: Copy offered as giveaway by the lovely Karen Lawler @karenlawler on Twitter.

My Funny Family On Holiday by Chris Higgins & Lee Wildish

My Funny Family On Holiday: Chris Higgins & Lee Wildish (Hodder Children's Books, 2013)
My Funny Family On Holiday: Chris Higgins & Lee Wildish (Hodder Children’s Books, 2013)

Warning: contains spoilers!

This is an early reader chapter book aimed at 5+ (although I’d say 7 for most children to read themselves, probably a read aloud earlier than that) about a larger than average family going on holiday told from the viewpoint of second-eldest child Mattie, who is nine.

It’s the second in a series and I’ve not read the first but that wasn’t necessary as all the characters were described and explained in the early pages. I thought it was a wonderful story for young readers containing lots of things that they’ll either be familiar with or could learn about. It’s nicely written, not overly complex and has enough happening to remain entertaining.

For me, it fell apart at the end with the reveal of Mattie’s friend being a ghost. It just seemed so out of place in the story, but maybe for very young readers it might be an exciting reveal. I love fantasy, it’s my favourite genre, but I never think it works tacked on to the end of a book. If the fantastical is there throughout, bubbling under, then fair enough, but this didn’t seem the case to me.

I realise I am completely over-analysing a book that I’m thirty years too old for, but a more literal child who was expecting a story about a holiday may not enjoy the addition of a ghost character either! Otherwise, an excellent book for young readers and one I’m sure my daughters’ school will be glad to receive.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of My Funny Family on Holiday by Hachette. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Note: We are fortunate to receive a variety of review books, far too many to keep! Most of the chapter books and novels, plus about half of the picture books, are donated to either my daughters’ primary school or a local charity.