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Amazing Expeditions by Anita Ganeri

This is a gorgeous book highlighting some of the most famous explorers from history.

The book has a simple, easy to follow layout full of wonderful illustrations and maps that bring each exploration to  life in a new way.  This would be an excellent addition to any class studying explorers as it covers a huge range of explorers, types of expeditions and history.
I learned about more details about explorers such as
Ibn Battuta, Columbus and Armstrong.  It was also nice to see female explorers added in so it isn’t a completely male dominated book.  We know historically, men were more likely to be explorers so its brilliant to see a couple of brave, bold women in the mix.
The journeys, peril and time spent away from home is amazing and these brave people sacrificed so much in the search for treasure, notoriety, and land.  Many paid the ultimate sacrifice of their lives.  This book also shows how we have improved travel, our understanding of the world and ways to protect the Earth over the span of time.  It highlights, not only those who traversed oceans, but mountain climbers, pilots and astronauts as well.

Anita Ganeri is an expert author and so I knew it would be an excellent book.  This is a topic I know little about and I spent a happy afternoon reading every part of this book.  This is one that might draw in more boys to read and enjoy as the topic involves danger, fighting and shipwrecks at times.

A fascinating read and one I will be buying for my own shelves as well as those at school.

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The Artist Who Loved Cats by Susan Schaefer Bernardo

Publishing 6 June

This is a gorgeous picture book full of colourful, bold illustrations and rhyming lyrical text.

I wanted to read this based on the cover alone- I know it goes against the Don’t Judge a Book by its cover adage but it is a lovely cover and I found myself drawn to the historical aspect of it as well.

Antoinette, travelling with her baguette, pops into Monsieur Arvieux’s Antique shop after spotting something new in the window.  She has clearly visited before and listened to the stories about the items in the shop.  It is a wonderful shop full of treasures and charms from history.  “Each thing has a past, each place has a history”, such a beautiful line from the story.  Antoinette sits down to listen to the tale of the cat statue and finds herself drawn into the history of France in the late 1800’s when artists and musicians found Paris was the place to be.  Steinlin, a superb illustrator of everyday life, is always happiest when drawing cats.  He studies fabric design to earn money but always comes back to cats.  He realises his dream when he illustrates for a popular artist magazine and over time his work becomes historically recognisable, even today.

Monsieur Arvieux is a loveable grandfather type character who takes the time to care for the items in his shop and learn of their history and story.  He clearly loves to share their stories.

I enjoyed learning more about Steinlin and I absolutely loved that it was told in rhyme and in picture book format.  It could become a wonderful series, in which we learn of other artists and musicians who came to Paris throughout history.  It is an excellent way to introduce art, artists and their lives and history to a younger generation.

I was captivated by the book from start to finish.  The illustrations are simply gorgeous, full of bright bold colours and they really bring the story to life.  Great work by Courtenay Fletcher

One to read and enjoy over and over again.

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Extraordinary Birds by Sandy Stark-McGinnis

This is a moving, heart warming story of a girl who wholeheartedly believes she is meant to fly. It is full of hope and a longing for “home”. 
We meet December in the upper branches of a tree. We see a woman calling her out of the tree and threatening to send her back and we hear December’s thoughts as she recalls her journal entries.  
Life for 11 year old December is hard, she has been abandoned by her mother and struggles with foster homes, not to mention the fact she truly believes she is a bird.  Her journal is filled with glimpses into her past, her beliefs about herself and the waiting for wings to break free.
Eleanor becomes the next foster mum for December and she is different than the others.  She isn’t forcing December to eat human food, or pushing her too far out of her comfort zone.  She rescues animals and knows many facts about birds, although not enough to rival expert December. It is this shared interest where the bond slowly starts to form.  
There is such sadness in December and my heart was breaking every time an entry from her journal was read.  The abandonment and scars on her back, the lack of understanding over both events.  No child deserves this and December deserves so much more. The hope that Eleanor will keep December and give her the “home” she is desperate for kept me reading late into the night and again before work this morning.  Tears silently falling down my cheeks as I saw December with a friend, a mum and a home.  
A wonderful story, perfect for ages 10 and up.  Perfect for anyone who has hopes, dreams and a sense of wonder at the world around them.  I learned so much about birds through reading this.
A stunning book! 
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The Golden Butterfly by Sharon Gosling

I wish I were in a theatre in a standing ovation shouting Bravo! Encore! And stamping my feet for more. A well deserved honour for a wonderfully spun tale of magic, family, friendship and girl power!

Within the first chapter I was captivated by Luciana and the sad passing of her beloved Grandfather, the Magnificent Marko!
It doesn’t take long to delve in and find a mystery to be solved.  Why did her grandfather stop performing? What is the mystery surrounding The Golden Butterfly and what happened to Adeline, his talented assistant?

Thirteen year old Luciana is talented, in magic tricks, solving puzzles and finding trouble! She becomes embroiled in the plot used to discredit her grandfather and learns some hard truths surrounding her family and her nightmarish fear of fire. Is it a memory or simply a recurring nightmare?

Luciana and her best friend Charley travel to London in search of answers.  They find more than they bargained for and have to learn who can be trusted and who is a spy for the dastardly Thursby, the Master of the Grand Society of Magicians.  Rumours abound that he doesn’t always play by the rules and accidents happen to great magicians who threaten his own abilities!

The plot continues to thicken with great theatrical aplomb and I loved seeing just how far Luciana would go to save the reputation of her Grandfather and his greatest illusion, The Golden Butterfly!

A wonderful story full of colourful characters, magic and women proving men wrong about how clever, talented and wondrous they truly are!

Publishing 2 May by Stripes 

Cover Design by Pip Johnson
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The Company of Eight by Harriet Whitehorn

I must urge you all to buy and read this book! 

It has everything you could possibly want in a book….a map of The Longest World, a fierce female and sword fights with pirates.  Not to mention the circus acrobats, The Island of Women, and a Company of Secret Vigilantes! 
Cass, our acrobatic heroine, is an orphan with dreams of joining the circus. Obstacles bar her way in many forms and she must really fight to survive and conquer her fears in order to find her way home. 
Where is home for Cass? With her elderly guardian in the Great City of Minaris? Teaching little ones on the Island of Women or afloat on the circus boat? She fits in all these homes but some are more dangerous than others.  She makes friends and enemies on her travels and help comes in the truest of forms, through the women she meets.   
Cass meets some amazing, strong and fearless women.  The Company of Eight is formed entirely of them.  They are working tirelessly to rid the Longest World of the pirates who are stealing, burning and intimidating all in their path.  The women help to define her, shape her and allow her to use her own strengths in the fight over evil.  I found myself rooting for Cass throughout the entire journey and hoping she would be able to become a fierce warrior! 
There are some wonderful characters supporting Cass and her journey.  From her friends Tig and Lin in Minaris, to Elsba who she meets on her journey to The Island of Women, to Lion a little slave boy. Not to forget, Rip who I think might become a love interest in the future! 
This book made me cry, laugh and physically want to pick up a sword.  
“…she felt a delicious feeling of excitement and anticipation at the thought of all the adventures to come…”
I feel that this could be the brilliant first in a wonderful series about Cass and The Company of Eight! 
The front and back cover are stunning and all down to the very talented Maria Surducan!

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Four Wonderful New Titles

Look out world…there are some amazing new titles coming into the world.  I am thrilled to be able to share these with you and let you know my own thoughts on them.

First up is The Dragon in the Library by Louie Stowell
Published by Nosy Crow

Image result for the dragon in the library louie stowellJosh, Kit and Alita are on summer holidays and discussing where to go and what to do.  Kit, the adventurous one wants to play in the graveyard but her friends suggest the library so they can get the next in a popular new series of books.  Kit is not a reader….and doesn’t see any adventures to be had in the library.  How wrong she was!

They meet the head librarian, Faith, who dispels some of the myths surrounding libraries and the wonders they contain.  Kit discovers she has a gift- finally!  As the proper middle child in the family with both older and younger siblings, she has longed to be special.  Now she realizes she can save the world, if she can just save the library.

Amazing discoveries are waiting to be had by Kit and her friends.  They meet new friends, keep a sleeping dragon from waking up and defeat a bad guy!  And the best news of all…Kit learns to love books! 

An excellent book to enjoy and perfect for 8+.  I really liked the characters and felt that Kit would appeal to both boys and girls, readers and non readers. She just wants adventures and to be noticed.  Alita and Josh are wonderful best friends for Kit.  Faith is a young, magical librarian and can relate to the children in new ways.

Next on my reading journey is Malamander by Thomas Taylor
Published by Walker

Herbert Lemon is a lost and founder…he looks for owners of lost items in the Grand Nautilus Hotel in a small seaside village known as Eerie on Sea. 
Local legends abound about a mysterious and deadly creature lurking in the ship wreck of The Leviathan.  Herbert, not being the overly adventurous type, is happy looking for owners not scaling walls, searching for creatures or running away from mad men holding harpoon guns.  Happy that is until Violet, an adventurous girl, crawls through his window.  She brings with her a mystery to be solved and insists Herbert help her.

So much adventure in this book and is perfect for 9+ readers.  I loved the name of the creature and the legend behind it.  I felt totally immersed in the story and my heart was in my throat while Violet and Herbert fought bad guys, saved old ladies and solved mysteries.

I don’t want to say too much more as it could spoil the joy of the story.  An incredible adventure, new friends and a local legend are the perfect parts to a perfect story. 

Pick this one up and devour it- I did and can’t wait to share it with my own children and some schools!

Third…
A Girl Called Justice by Elly Griffiths
Published by Hodder and Stoughton

Justice Jones is new to boarding school and has a lot to learn. 
She adjusts to her new home and soon makes herself indispensable to a murder case that needs solving.  With a name like Justice, a crime writer for a mother and a barrister for a father, she seems to attract the mysteries of Highbury House.  Add in a snowstorm, extra murders and suspects galore and you have an exciting story.  Justice, gradually makes friends, and learns who she can trust and who might be a suspect.
Expect adventure, cold late night meetings and twists and turns!  It was fast paced, exciting and full of Justice and her brilliant, sparky personality. 

As the first in a series I can say that this would be the perfect introduction to crime, murder and detective stories for the next generation!

I was hooked and have to admit that I didn’t discover “whodunit” until it was revealed.  To me that is an incredible achievement.  I don’t tend to think too much about solving the mystery myself and just fall into the story and enjoy every delicious word.   

Wonderful book and I look forward to more Justice Jones stories.

Last but certainly not least…
Swimming Against the Storm by Jess Butterworth
Published by Hodder and Stoughton

Eliza and her sister Avery live in Louisiana, near the swamps and the local legend Loup-Garou.
Their family are shrimpers and live in a house on stilts near the water.  Eliza and Avery know the swamp like the back of their hands, they know the animals, the land, water and how to be safe.

They have survived tornadoes and hurricanes and know the value of family and community.

When Avery goes missing, Eliza and her friends must go back to family and the community to ask for help.  It becomes a fast paced, hugely exciting story to save Avery, who might have been taken by the Loup-Garou. 

In order to find Avery, get home and save their community, Eliza, Huy and Grace must first survive a hurricane, encounters with alligators and flooding.

Jess Butterworth is an incredible writer- her stories involve such daring adventures and strong brilliant characters.  It is a must read for adventurers aged 9 and above!

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Midnight at Moonstone by Lara Flecker

Midnight at Moonstone 

Written by Lara Flecker
Illustrated by Trisha Krauss
Moonstone is a costume museum filled with “extravagant wonders”, although most have lost their sparkle and the museum is being threatened by a property developer.

Kit is a young girl angry at her family for not understanding her.  In her anger, Kit decides to run away to her mother’s family home.  Moonstone is now crumbling and looks derelict.  Her grandfather, Bard, is not happy to see her and plans to send her home immediately.

However, Kit is stubborn and determined, a lot like her grandfather! She makes a plan to help her grandfather keep the museum open and save his home. However, she is one small girl.  How could she possibly do this on her own?

Luckily, there is magic in the air and at the stroke of Midnight the costumes come alive. Kit is shocked at first but she soon adapts and puts the willing costumes to work to fix costumes, clean curtains, windows and mirrors. Not all are welcoming to Kit and are quite rude towards her and to other costumes in the museum.  Kit must prove herself to them.  It takes time and a brave rescue but things start to change and Bard is feeling surprised and proud.

Obstacles, inspections and angry family members appear but Kit shows her determination and the others follow her lead.

I really loved this story, and I will buy the finished copy for the promise of beautiful illustrations of the costumes.  I thought the magic and mystery surrounding Moonstone was perfectly written and I lost myself in the museum with Kit as she explored and learned more about herself, her mother and her family.

Wonderful book for 9+!

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The Maker of Monsters by Lorraine Gregory

The Maker of Monsters

Written by Lorraine Gregory
Cover Illustration by Meg Hunt
Read with the lights on! A spooky middle grade title for ages 9+.  A great introduction to classics like Frankenstein!
I was fascinated by the blurb on the back…isolated castle, vicious creatures, and the unthinkable escape of the monsters created by Lord Macawber! What a brilliant hook into a spooky story and what an inspired name for a creator of monsters! 
Brat, also aptly named, is the carer of all vicious creatures in the castle.  He feeds them, mucks out their dirt and tries to stop Lord Macawber from using all his magic to create a monster army.  The lord is using necromancy to bring back dead creatures mashed together into new ones.  His final burst of magic brings forth the worst of all creatures, and one who will not obey his master.
Brat must summon all his courage and try to save the World! He must also bring along two sidekicks…early creations of Lord Macawber.  Ones who have no evil in them and who have become Brat’s only friends in the world, Sherman and Tingle.  They too are mixed up creatures but Brat has cared for them and they have a true bond!
On his travels, Brat meets a brave girl, called Molly, who is ready to take on the army alongside Brat and her father.  They must travel to the City to warn everyone but they are not welcomed or listened to. 
We learn much about Brat and Molly and see a wonderful friendship develop.  Brat has been told he is useless by the Lord all his life and so needs to overcome this in order to prove himself.  He shows true bravery and is willing is sacrifice it all for the greater good.  What a wonderful character.
Molly is spirited, brave and a complete hero! She shows no fear and she has a soft side which we see throughout the story.
Add in monsters, a kidnapped daughter, and a magic locket and you have the perfect story for an amazing evening…with the lights on of course! 
Highly recommended from me! 
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Bloom by Nicola Skinner


The old adage, “you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover” was broken with this request.  I saw the cover and knew immediately I needed to read it.  The cover, nor the story, disappoint!
I highly recommend this book for all aged 9 and older.

 It is a fascinating story about a girl in Year 6, who transforms her world and the people living around her.  The town has turned into a concrete jungle, and the love of gardening and plants has been erased from the lives of the townspeople.  In order to seek revenge for a promise broken, a woman placed a curse on a package of seeds about a hundred years before.  Sorrel, named for the herb, finds the seeds and so begins the trouble.  The seeds bring a voice from the past promising “what you need will come to you”.  The self-seeding seeds sound too good to be true, especially for a girl desperate to win an contest and holiday for her and her mum.  The seeds grow, with hilarious results, and the entire town are caught up in the chaos that ensues.

 I became lost in the story and couldn’t put the book down.  I thought Sorrel was a brilliant character, full of doubt but also brave, kind but driven by the need to be the best.  This drive is what truly gets her into trouble with her best friend, Mum, school and the entire town.  She had made mistakes and caused havoc but ultimately she is good and there is a happiness to the ending, although not all returns to normal!

Brilliantly written and a joy to read! Pick this one up, you will not regret it!

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Last WBD Titles

World Book Day lands tomorrow and the hype surrounding this year’s titles has been enormous. So many great authors and illustrators getting behind the message that Reading is hugely important and deserves to be celebrated!
Like librarians around the world will argue, every day should be World Book Day! We should celebrate reading in classes and schools around the world!

When I introduced the World Book Day titles to a small school in Suffolk, they were immediately drawn to them. They loved many of the titles, and wanted to delve straight in.  At the end of a reading afternoon today, we gave each child a book and the looks on their faces were priceless.  Amazement and an excitement to start reading. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that many of them read after school and into the evening, drawn into the worlds of Everdark, Cruella, gangs and Bookworms.
That is what we are constantly trying to promote- Reading is amazing, exciting and must happen at any time!

Thank you for the titles World Book Day! I can’t wait to see what you have in store for next year!

Tonight I finish with Percy Jackson and the Singer of Apollo and Everdark!
Two brilliant, very different books!

Percy Jackson is a popular series and this one fits right in.  Percy must try and find the deadly back up singer before she charms the world into tears, violence or sleep.  Apollo is putting on a show and his fourth back up singer has disappeared.  Percy and Grover must search for her and of course adventures follow Percy.
I loved the second line of the book, “Percy Jackson, why are you hanging from a Times Square billboard without your jeans on, about to fall to your death?”.
How can I not read on? I haven’t read a lot of Percy Jackson before but I will be recommending my son to try this one and perhaps we can move onto the first in the series together.
This is an excellent introduction to the world of Percy Jackson!

Everdark is the first book and introduction to a brand new series.  One that is eagerly anticipated by anyone in the children’s book world.  Abi Elphinstone is a writer of masterpieces and this is no exception.
Twitter abounds with the news that Rumblestar proofs are out tomorrow which is perfect timing.  We have been warmed up with Everdark, the mystery of the Phoenix, a little girl named Smudge and her eccentric monkey called Bartholomew! Rumblestar will fly off the shelves!

Crackledawn is in danger and only one girl stays awake to be able to help! Can she remember enough of her lessons to manage the dangerous journey ahead of her? Learning is a challenge for Smudge and she needs to work hard to stay safe, fight beasts and make it past the Northswirl.
What is waiting for her on the other side? Can she save her world and the others in the Unmapped Kingdoms?
I would love a proof of Rumblestar but am doubtful! I will watch with baited breathe for it to be released into bookshops.  This must be the reason I am saving my Waterstones voucher!