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The Tzar’s Curious Runaways by Robin Scott-Elliot

This is a highly original story with elements of Russian folk tales, unique characters and a daring journey to find “home”.

Three mis-matched curiosities are escapIng the Winter Palace following the death of the Tzar. Peter the Great was a huge fan of the weird and wonderful, filling his palace with his Circus of Curiosities though now he has died, the Tzarina wants them rounded up and sent away. If an accident should befall them during this, then so be it.

Katinka, Alexei and Nikolai form an unlikely band escapIng the palace and travelling across Russia searching for safety. Before they make their escape, Katinka is given a map from her friend and scholar, Johann Daniel. Little does Katinka know just how special this map is! It will guide them and perhaps save them from time to time.

This is an enthralling, daring adventure and I loved every page. I really connected with the plight of the characters and felt such strong emotional pulls throughout. I couldn’t help but hope there was a happy ending. I was kept guessing as to whether there was a home for the 3 curiosities all the way to the last few pages.

An amazing debut novel and one to watch! I would happily read this book over again!

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The Longest Night of Charlie Noon by Christopher Edge

Christopher Edge is a master storyteller and infinite weaver of details and wonder.

Similarly to Jamie Drake and Maisie Day, I was left questioning what I read, challenging myself to figure out the intricate details and relationships. I love a book that challenges my imagination and my emotions. I had to re-read some of Charlie Noon as I felt I was missing something. This is a book to read properly, not skim through as those intricate details are essential to the entire story.

Charlie and classmates Dizzy and Johnny get lost in the woods and struggle to find their way back home. They must learn to work together to survive in this unknown, noisy and scary world. What seems real isn’t always so and revelations are made throughout the night. The events bring the three closer together and by the time morning dawns they are friends.

This is an incredibly unique story and I was left flabbergasted at the events taking place during the longest night, being lost in the woods. The sense of magic and mystery is intense and I savoured every moment reading it. This is one I will pick up again.

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The Last Spell Breather by Julie Pike

“Sticks and Stones May break my bones but words…that’s a whole different story.”

From the opening line, “The spell wouldn’t stay on the shelf.”, I was completely hooked. The elements of magic come alive in this brilliant book. It is completely new and different from other books with a magical element. Rayne is an apprentice spell breather, being taught by her mother. Unfortunately, spells do not come easily to Rayne and sometimes disaster strikes.

Rayne finds herself alone and in trouble after spells start going wrong. She must find her mother but she will need to leave the safety of her world. She takes her friend Tom with her but the road is paved with danger. There is much they need to learn and they must work together. This unfamiliar world will test their strength, friendship and courage.

I found myself unable to leave Rayne and Tom, so read late into the night. There is so much brilliance in this book, full of surprises, magic and love.

There is also enough at the end to leave you wanting more.

What more could you want?

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The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson

I asked the lovely and kind Jacob at Usborne if there was any chance that a copy of Sophie Anderson’s newest work of art was left behind….and somehow he managed to find one! I will be forever grateful!

I could not have been happier when this package arrived on the mat…

This must be one of the most anticipated books of the year, building up from watching the proofs be hand stamped to seeing them land on twitter in the hands of lucky readers.

I can attest that it is worth waiting for, will become an instant classic and most certainly a new favourite for many. I also predict accolades and awards.

We meet Yanka, a girl found in the woods as a baby. She is found and loved by her Mamochka but feels like part of her belongs in the forest. She has a best friend Sasha and a house Weasel named Mousetrap. When Yanka feels she has to leave her home, it is Sasha who she will miss and who wants her to stay. It is Mousetrap who helps her along her journey. What a journey it is…..I can’t say more as it will give amazing details away and I couldn’t take anything away from those discovering this joyous book for themselves.

This story is full of rich language, folktales and friendships. Yanka is courageous, curious and loyal. She yearns to know more about her past and we learn details from the interwoven folktales that all link together seamlessly.

Sit back and relax while Sophie Anderson begins “Once Upon a Time…”

This is simply stunning! Full of magic, courage and finding family along your journey!

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Christopher Pumpkin by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet

A perfect spooky Halloween book but I couldn’t resist reading it early!

This is a hilarious, laugh out loud book that any class will love to listen to. A witch needs help planning her party so she creates an army of pumpkin workers. There’s Gnarly, Grizzly, Grunty and others and then along comes Christopher. He is huggy, fun and loves glitter and sparkle.

Surely the witch has made a mistake! While the nasty pumpkins get on with jobs, Christopher makes fairy cakes, hangs bunting and strums his guitar. He loves to decorate and have fun, but the witch gives him an ultimatum. Be scary or be soup!

I couldn’t have guessed the ending! Read it and I am sure you will agree it was the perfect one!

I smiled while reading this, laughed when Christopher wanted a group hug and applauded his efforts to help get ready for the party.

My children loved it and we will save it for Halloween so we can read it again and again!

Favourite page is building up to the ending and the look of the faces of the monsters is superb!

Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet are expert picture book authors and I know any book written by them is one to buy and share!

Nick East is fast becoming one of my favourite illustrators and his new book, Agent Weasel and the Fiendish Fox Gang is at the top of my wish list.

Christopher Pumpkin has worked his way into my heart and I think this is a brilliant book!

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Tooth Fairy in Training by Michelle Robinson

I think it was the super shiny and sparkling cover that first drew me in, but once I started reading I realised that this is a wonderful, rhyming story of Tate. Tate and sister May are tooth fairies and travel the world collecting teeth from kids.

May is teaching Tate how to “practise the old switcheroo”, coin for tooth from under sleeping heads.

My favourite line and illustration from the book has to be

We learn that lots of animals lose teeth too! It’s a very sweet book with stunning illustrations throughout. Briony May Smith has illustrated a few of my recent favourites, including Nell and the Circus of Dreams and Stardust. Her unique style is beautiful, full of details and a lovely use of colours.

My youngest still believes in the tooth fairy and this is a perfect book for any child holding on to that belief. My daughter could very well be like the little girl at the end of the book, who loves to catch and kiss fairies!

I highly recommend this sparkling book….maybe put it under the pillow in place of a coin!

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I have an Idea by Herve Tullet

A gorgeous book based on the simple fact that an idea, from its first thought, can be brilliant!

The use of simple illustrations, primary colours and note taking like font make this a book to be explored, thought about and used to help children understand the creative process.

My favourite page has to be

I am forever telling my children to ask questions, look at the world around them and discover their place in that world.

I enjoyed this book and sharing it with my children. They loved the simplicity of it and came away buzzing about ideas they have had in the past and relating to that intake of breath when a good idea forms!

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Goodnight World by Nicola Edwards

We are in a time when the world needs love, care and respect. This book will do its part in teaching us new languages, respect for other cultures and an understanding that children around the world have a similar bedtime routines.

A rhyming book, showing children of all ages and races brushing their teeth, sharing a story, and saying goodnight.

I love the languages, and of course the help in pronouncing them! It is lovely to see the text of some of the languages, such as Russian, Finnish, Arabic and Hindi. It brings the world to your home!

Beautiful illustrations take us from home to home seeing the children, their families and their differences.

This is the perfect bedtime story to share with little ones in your family. It would also make a lovely gift for a family!

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Grumpycorn by Sarah McIntyre

You can’t help but love Grumpycorn. He has a rainbow coloured mane, a sparkly horn and a face like thunder! A brilliant character and a new perspective on unicorns.

Unicorn just wants to write the best story, but he needs his fluffy pen, tea and fancy notebook. Still the story doesn’t come.

Writers Block is the worst and although his friends all try to help, they get rudely dismissed.

Will Unicorn ever get his story started?

Will his friends forgive him for being so grumpy?

Read this colourful, imaginative tale to find the answers.

I love the story and the illustrations of this picture book. They are bright and eye catching, and full of gorgeous details. Grumpycorn might just be my new favourite unicorn.

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Sneaky Beak by Tracey Corderoy and Tony Neal

This is a hilarious story, full of bounce test bunnies, cool gadgets and the ultimate salesman, Sneaky Beak!

Sneaky Beak appears on tv adverts trying to sell bouncy beds. His sales technique fills Bear with enough self doubt to order a new bed, new bath and better, crunchier breakfast cereal. But Does Bear feel happier with his new things?

A brilliant story that would be ideal for those children in your life who need the newest toy, gadget, phone to keep up with the market. As soon as we buy our children something, they are already planning the next toy or game they want. I love that this book tackles materialism and teaches the lesson that newer is not always better.

I am a huge fan of Tracey Corderoy and this book happily gets added on to our favourites list. Tony Neal brings Sneaky Beak to life with his huge, in your face salesman personality. An excellent character.

I will plan on sharing this with a small school during our next assembly. It will make them laugh out loud and we can chat about whether newer is better!