Princess BMX by Marie Basting

Illustrated by Flavia Sorrentino, Published by Chicken House Books

A wild ride of a book, perfect for readers who want a modern twist on a fairytale classic.

Avariella is not your typical sit pretty, follow etiquette and do as she is told Princess. She is more likely to be found sliding down the stairs in a potato sack and getting told off by her father, The King of Biscotti! She has courage, determination and a curious sense of adventure. All of which tend to get her into trouble.

A funny cast of characters keep the reader and Avariella in good company

Sir Jeffrey Bobbersons- Jeb for short. A fluffy curly haired puppy.

Doreen- micro Unicorn, not very bright.

Bertie- annoying brother, keen to follow Royal Protocol.

We also meet Ethan, Cleo, Mad Aunt Maude and Tyson (her pet tea bag who wears a tiny bobble hat), Odette (evil Aunt) and Nigel (Godfather extraordinaire).

As she is excluded from her families royal trip, Avariella finds her potato sack and continues her sliding. Landing in the ballroom she is met with the delicious scent of toasted marshmallows, and a strange purple mist. Where the hearth once was, is now a hole. Avariella follows her fluffy pet dog down the hole and lands in Camden Town.

What a weird and wonderful place! Mohican clad men, brightly coloured shops and noisy streets! Having visited Camden for the first time a few months ago, I knew exactly what Avariella was experiencing. It is a sight to behold and a colourful gem of London.

Avariella meets Ethan and Cleo and falls head over heels for their BMX bikes. She must have one and learn how to do all the amazing tricks and skills. It isn’t easy to learn but she perseveres and over time and multiple visits, it all starts to fall into place. Ava doesn’t know she will need to draw on these rad new skills to save her kingdom and her family!

A fast paced adventure is being set up and it centres around the weird woman following them in Camden. She is actually the exiled sister of the king, and she is pure evil, set on destroying the kingdom!

Spells are cast on the knights and their steeds, family members are kidnapped and Avariella is locked in her bedroom. Who will save them all?

Princess BMX! That’s who!

This is a perfect book to empower girls to be who they want to be, learn what they are keen to learn and to be brave and curious! Avariella breaks the rules but she knows there is more to life than curtsying, cutting ribbons and smiling politely. She wants to wear jeans, ride a bike and wave madly with 2 hands!

My daughter and I started this book together and loved it. We both laughed at Doreen, thought Bertie would be an annoying brother and wondered if we could find a potato sack to race in.

Oh my Curly candy, this is a brilliant book!

I could say so much more but it is one to read and enjoy!

Come back on Monday 5th August for my spot on the blog tour! Looking forward to sharing some insights from the lovely Marie Basting!


The Bad Luck Lighthouse Blog Tour!

So thrilled to be a part of my first blog tour and especially proud as I am a huge fan of author Nicki Thornton. I loved reading The Last Chance Hotel and was thrilled when The Bad Luck Lighthouse arrived on the doormat. Seth is an excellent character and these books keep you guessing throughout.

If you haven’t yet picked up a copy of The Bad Luck Lighthouse I encourage you to read the first chapters. I am sure you will be very keen to find out what happens next!

Click to access bad-luck-lighthouse_sample_forwebsite.pdf


The Switching Hour by Damaris Young

I read this in a day- broken up by my working day- which I couldn’t wait to get through so I could get back to this fast paced, energetic and spooky tale. One to read with the light on, so deliciously spooky!! Loved it.

Publishing August 2019 by Scholastic

Amaya and little brother Kaleb live with Granny Uma in a land stricken with a serious drought. There is little food and water left and they live simply using the land and their goats. A deadly drought is creating havoc on the eco-system.

The drought is not the only deadly creature lurking in the nights though. When a drought comes, so to comes the Badeko, a stalking creature who feeds on the dreams of children.

All villagers must be locked up in their homes by the time the Switching Hour comes so the Badeko cannot steal them away. Already many families have lost a child, only to lose all memory of them by suffering from the Sorrow Sickness. The worst thing happens to Amaya when she neglects to lock the door and wakes to find Kaleb missing.

Here begins the true, heart stopping, fast paced adventure. Amaya sets off to find him and bring him home. With trusty sidekick Tau, her pet goat and new friend Mally met along the way, a series of unfortunate Badeko tricks make them learn to trust each other and protect themselves as best they can.

I loved that my heart was in my throat throughout the entire book, that I was worried to read further and that I sometimes needed to pause and catch my breath. When a book can make you feel as though you are part of the plot, it is a winner!

A brilliant book! The cover illustration by Kelsey Buzzell brings the truth of the spooky story to life and it was because of this I was immediately drawn to the book. The saying “Never Judge a book by its cover” is completely wrong in this instance- I judged it correctly and couldn’t wait to read it! I was not disappointed.

Congratulations Damaris Young on such a wonderful story!


New to NetGalley!

There are weeks when NetGalley is my go to for a new title, and there are weeks when my interest is not particularly peaked. This past week has been a great week on NetGalley and I have read and reviewed 5 titles. I have also requested a few more that hopefully will get approved so I have some extra holiday reads!

I read three picture books that are all incredibly unique and full of vastly different styles of illustration.

Apple Cake : A Gratitude by Dawn Casey, Illustrated by Genevieve Godbout, Published by Frances Lincoln Children’s

Iced Out, by CK Smouha, Illustrated by Isabella Bunnell, Published by Cicada Books

Show and Tell by Rob Biddulph, Published by Harper Collins Children’s Books

Iced Out

Not fitting in is a popular theme across picture books and middle grade novels. Why fit in when you were born to stand out
This old adage couldn’t be truer than in Iced out.
The seals, narwhal and walrus all attend Miss Blubbers’s School for Arctic Mammals. Wilfred and Neville just don’t fit it. Sports are not their strong suit, they don’t go to parties and actually they don’t even like each other much! Everything changes when new student Betty Beluga arrives. She does her own thing, goes where she wants, plays games with who she wants. A breath of fresh air for Wilfred and Neville.

I love that this book used the Arctic animals, in place of tigers, elephants, giraffes who we might normally find in a children’s picture book.
There is so much diversity in the Arctic world, from the weird and wonderful narwhal to the pristinely white beluga. Diversity and being who you are is such a powerful message for children to hear and I will champion this book in my schools, especially in the Autumn term when this message needs to be reiterated.

A perfect amount of text make this book easy to read and enjoy and the bold use of colours make it lovely to look through.

An brilliant book!

Show and Tell

This is Rob Biddulph at his best. It brings back fond memories of Odd Dog Out, which is one of my all time favourites. I love the use of colour and enjoy his style of illustrations. Rob Biddulph books fly off the shelves in both libraries and bookstores and are a firm favourite of many children and adults that I know.

Show and Tell is what many teachers dread….who will bring in something to show? The worry over what the children will bring in and the length of time show and tell takes. This is a brilliantly funny book taking a look at one class and their special show and tell items

There is a truly special way to meet this class and we start with A…Adam. We work our way through the alphabet from Betty to Kenzo, Parmida to Ulysses. Each student brings something impossibly bigger and better than the student before. We see race cars, alligators, volcanoes and even Big Ben makes an appearance. This captures that spirit of competition that Show and Tell inevitably brings to each class.

It is laugh out loud funny and you turn the page eagerly awaiting to see what is coming next. Surprises galore throughout and the last student is Zorg! What happens when he arrives is surprising and leaves only one winner.

I guarantee this will be an instant hit and I will be reading this far and wide across my schools.

Apple Cake: A Gratitude

In today’s busy world, many of us take the simple pleasures for granted. How often do we thank the world for its bounty and resources?
This gorgeous and beautifully illustrated book show us a young girl gathering ingredients and thanking everything and everyone along the way.
From the flowers to the farmers, the sun and the rain, and the “earth beneath our feet”, she makes sure all are thanked for what they have given her.
We follow the girl on her path with her dog following her along the way. Each page is a painting that could adorn the walls of a gallery- stunning artwork!
A perfect book to teach children thankfulness and joy in the simple ingredients that come together to make a delicious apple cake.
The addition of the recipe at the back makes my mouth water- it is one I will definitely try to make.

Enjoy this book, it is truly special!


Little Tiger-Picture Book Showcase

Armadillo Editor, Louise Ellis-Barrett, kindly offered me the opportunity to attend Little Tiger’s picture book showcase held this past Saturday 13 July.

I took my daughter, 8, who is also a huge picture book fan! We traveled down by train, did a spot of shopping and had lunch then walked to the Discover Children’s Story Centre. First and foremost, if you have young children, this is a brilliant place to while away a few hours. There are so many wonderful, engaging hands on story worlds to explore and opportunities to listen to stories and see immersive exhibits come to life.

As we went through the doors to the Story Worlds, we met some familiar friends. Daughter commented that we should hang our favourite friends in our staircase. Sounds a perfect idea to me!

We climbed to the top floor where the event was taking place and met Charlie and Leilah from Little Tiger, the hosts!

Ready for Tracey Corderoy and Sneaky Beak

Tracey is a fabulous story teller and Sneaky Beak is a wonderful book. We enjoyed meeting Sneaky Beak and Bear while they rested in the throne, while Daughter made a rocket!

Up next was Barry Timms, author of Where Happiness Lives. I was so busy and enthralled with following along as Barry read his book that I missed the photo opportunity. The book is delightful with cutouts and lift the flaps. Perfect for little readers!

Where Happiness Lives by Barry Timms and Greg Abbott

There is something so mesmerizing about authors reading their own work- they know just where to emphasize, where to pause, where to use a funny voice or sound. It was so lovely to be read to.

After Barry, Leilah welcomed James Carter and Steve to the floor. Steve is a melodica, a keyboard that you blow into. They are completely unique, as is James Carter. A very funny entertainer who played the Doctor Who theme tune and read from his books.

There were opportunities to colour in, chat to the authors and have your books signed and then to wander around the story worlds again. We managed to get tickets to see the immersive Tiger Who Came to Tea exhibit and have the story acted out by an on site storybuilder. What a great job that must be!

There was so much to keep us entertained and it was hard to leave at the end of the day. I can highly recommend it and we will return!

Just a sample of the photos we took and the fun we had while wandering around.

Thank you to Little Tiger, Discover Children’s Story Centre, Leilah and Charlie for hosting such a positive, fun and engaging event.

Highlights of my day were meeting and chatting to Leilah and Charlie, the authors- who were so friendly and welcoming, and meeting a twitter and blog idol of mine, @faeryartemis, lilyandthefae.wordpress.com. It was lovely to make real life connections.


Even More Fun for Younger Readers

From Agent Weasel to Bad Nana- there are some brilliant books for those children moving into chapter books yet still love poring over the illustrations.

I read voraciously and although I love middle grade fiction, I am always drawn to Younger Reader Books. Perhaps I shouldn’t call them that as my children both adore this style of book and they aren’t classed as younger readers anymore, nor am I. I should aim to call them Illustrated Chapter Books or something a bit less ageist.

Today I am reviewing the second in a series….The Naughtiest Unicorn at Sports Day by Pip Bird. Illustrated by David O’Connell

Published by Egmont

Dave the Unicorn is Mira’s UBFF (Unicorn Best Friend Forever) but he isn’t what Mira expected when she joined Unicorn School.

Dave is the opposite of everything Mira dreamed her UBFF would be.

Dave is short, fat, lazy, farts constantly and eats everything in sight.

Sports Day arrives and the school is placed into competing teams and given clear instructions for the day. What could possibly go wrong? Two things can go wrong- Dave and Sabotage.

Bad things keep happening to Mira and her team and now she needs to find out who wants her team to lose. Is it her sister or someone else entirely. This is a funny book laced with a mystery and dotted with poo, lazy unicorns and finding friends. I loved the first book where we met Dave for the first time and just like Mira, I have come to love Dave and his anti-unicorn ways.

David O’Connell brings Dave to life with his super illustrations. I love the cover where Dave is refusing to cross the finish line. Such a huge character!

There are more adventures to come and I hope to get a copy to add to my blog. Still to look forward to are The School Disco and a Christmas special. I can just picture the antics at Christmas. I might need to add it to our Christmas Book Advent Calendar.


More Fun for Younger Readers

Yesterday featured the brilliant Agent Weasel by Nick East.

Today I will be looking at Bad Nana!

Bad Nana, Older Not Wiser and Bad Nana, All the Fun of the Fair

By Sophy Henn

Published by Harper Collins

She is like your favourite Nana but with an Edge! This is a new series of books and I am so pleased to have read the first two. I was immediately drawn in by the bright bold covers. Why shouldn’t we judge a book by its cover? Especially when they are bright pink, yellow and green- almost neon colours shouting “Read Me, Read Me, Read Me”! So I did! I loved them.

Jeannie is 7 and 3/4 Years old and she has a Nana who is called Bad Nana but she isn’t quite sure why. Although funny things seem to happen more when Bad Nana is around.

Bad Nana is sweet really but not one to be crossed, as her arch enemy Mrs Farquar-Haha might know. They are always at odds and cannot get along.

Jeannie and her friends learn something important about Bad Nana while on a school trip to The Local History Museum and that is “while Bad Nana may have been a little bit naughty and maybe even a tiny bit embarassing, she is mainly brilliant.”

This completely sums it up- Bad Nana does some cheeky things throughout both books and I was giggling each time something happened. I especially loved the announcement made at the fair looking for Mrs Farquar-Haha’s lost marbles.

The use of illustration and bold colours will appeal to those readers still clutching to the safety of a picture book, but will also appeal to their sense of humour and I am sure we all wish we had a Bad Nana to come out and play.

Already checking for publication dates for the next ones!

Sophy Henn is a well established author and illustrator of some of my favourite picture books, including Almost Anything and Edie. Gorgeous illustrations and brilliant stories. Ones to share over and over.


Fun for Younger Readers

There is a growing market for bright, colourful and engaging chapters books aimed at the 5-8 age group. Today I have read and reviewed 5 of my new favourites. Luckily my daughter is at the top of this age range and still loves to read shorter chapter books. We have enjoyed these together. My son who is now out of this range will secretly pick these up to enjoy in private. I know he does it and love him more for it. He feels the pressure to read intense, longer novels but I am just happy he is reading.

Agent Weasel and the Fiendish Fox Gang by Nick East

Published by Hachette

I first found this book at the FCBG Conference in April. Hachette had some sampler books and it appealed to me. I had to have it! I love the style of the illustrations and the choice of a weasel as the main character is brilliant. After devouring the sampler, I was left on a cliff hanger and so I started nagging Hachette for the full book- they were very patient with my requests and one day it landed on the doormat.

Agent Weasel is with WI6- he is a famous super spy. He is also clumsy and so the story begins….with a crash! However there is no time to be laying around, he has been given an assignment. Find out who is behind all the dastardly deeds happening in the woodland. Is it the criminal mastermind behind the FFG- the Fiendish Fox Gang?

As you can imagine, this is a funny, illustrated book full of action, adventure and mishaps! Perfect for younger readers and myself! The story is easy to read and follow along with and would make an excellent class book for reading aloud. It reminds me of the Mr Penguin series by Alex T Smith, also a favourite of mine.

There is a map at the front- a must have for action adventure stories! Excellent illustrations throughout the book bring Agent Weasel, Doorkins and the baddies to life.

Keep your eyes peeled for the second in the series….Agent Weasel and the Abominable Dr Snow! Already drafting my pleading emails to Hachette!


OU/UKLA Reading for Pleasure Group

I attended an OU/UKLA Reading for Pleasure conference in Cambridge some time ago and was so inspired to look at reading across the schools belonging to ASSET Education Trust. I am employed as a Reading Advocate and I work between the schools helping where I can to instill a love of reading.

It occured to me that the nearest OU/UKLA Reading for Pleasure group was some distance away and due to the size of Ipswich I soon realized this was a way to become more involved and share my passion for reading with more people.

I immediately spoke to a friend and colleague who attended the same conference and we decided to apply to run a group for the next academic year. We had to be added to a waiting list but I still remained hopeful. Five months later we were approved for training and for running our own group nearer to home. Just last week, we traveled to London, met the knowledgeable and inspiring Teresa Cremin and so begins our journey.

In actual fact, we will be running two groups. One based at Broke Hall Primary School in Ipswich and another closer to schools in the Waveney Valley part of Suffolk. Both flyers are attached below for sharing. Contact details are on the flyer and we encourage anyone to get in touch to find out more.

It is sure to be a popular group and we are hoping for some amazing reading projects to come out of the group.

To learn more about the research behind these groups and the passion for reading for pleasure please visit https://researchrichpedagogies.org/research/theme/reading-for-pleasure-pedagogy