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When Life Gives You Mangoes by Kereen Getten

Published by Pushkin Press

An incredibly powerful story of Clara and her emotional outbursts, lack of memory from the previous summer and her tumultuous relationship with cousin Gaynah.

Clara and her family live in Sycamore, on a tropical island. Surfing, playing pick leaf and staying out of the intense heat and eating mangoes is all part of their summer holidays. This year though something is wrong with Clara and the entire community know and urge her parents to seek help. Over the course of the book, I speculated on what I could imagine would erase memories and the results were always sad. As I continued to read and get to know Clara, I wanted her to share the secret, show me what happened and I wanted to help her understand.

As her relationship with her cousin Gaynah gets worse over the summer, Clara is thankful for the arrival of new girl Rudy, from England. She is happy to play with Clara and has a calming effect on Clara’s emotions and this new friendship is immensely important to both girls.

This debut novel is stunning in setting, characters and events. Highly evocative and atmospheric I could see and feel the sights of Sycamore, the banana groves, the sand and ocean and I felt a connection to this small community who stick together through good and bad.

When a huge storm threatens the island, Clara is sent to fetch her Uncle Eldorath, the “witch doctor”. These are just rumors of course but it is he who will help unlock the secrets creating the anger in Clara and teach her to overcome the hurt and guilt she is bottling up.

With tears flowing as I came to the realisation, I felt all the emotions as Clara finally lets go. The tears didn’t stop until long after the ending- which causes tears for a different reason- a completely enchanting story and one which will have an everlasting effect on me.

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NetGalley Non Fiction

I have been trying to branch out to read more than just MG fiction or picture books. There are quite a few non fiction books publishing soon that I think should be shared. I hope the physical copies still arrive but for now digital is what I have.

All of these books deserve a front facing space in a library or classroom. Filled with incredible illustrations and fabulous facts, these are spectacular books for all ages.

I am Not a Label by Cerrie Burnell, Illustrations by Lauren Baldo, Published by Quarto, Wide Eyed Editions

“Challenge your preconceptions of disability and mental health” – this book promises to do just that. People from all ages, races and historical times with fascinating stories to be shared and to inspire children.

This book is a celebration of differences, overcoming pre-conceived limitations and being true to who you are. Highlighted in the book are 34 people who have proven that they are strong, worthy and rise to challenges. Inspirational and a brilliant addition to the previously published volumes of stories featuring people we should look up to.

The illustrations are stylish and quirky, each individual given a unique design to help represent who they are and their celebrated differences. There were familiar faces as well as some I didn’t know, which makes the book all the more readable.

Fantastically Great Women Scientists and their Stories, Written by Kate Pankhurst, Published by Bloomsbury

This series goes from strength to strength, highlighting fantastically great woman from history. History has always focused on and favoured the achievements of men, this series pushes those boundaries so we can learn about the women who made huge contributions in their fields. This book looks particularly at scientists, including Marie Curie and Caroline Hershel.

The stories are accompanied by super illustrations mapping out the lives and contributions of each woman. “They never gave up on their dreams”, even when they were fighting to be treated fairly, given proper education and equipment to use.

It is stories like these that help girls to see the world through their dreams. They can aspire to be anything they want, they just need to dream, work hard and be determined.
These books are always incredibly popular within schools.

Ocean Atlas, Written by Tom Jackson, Illustrations by Ana Djordjevic, Published by Quarto Knows

A vibrant, colourful celebration of oceans and seas around the globe. Filled with fascinating facts, scientific terminology and fun creatures of the deep, this book will expand your horizons to see what is under all the water on our planet.

Maps, distances and depths are all recorded as well as facts about explorers discovering lands, shipwrecks and important geological features. Learn about the Mariana Trench, Magellan and submarines that explore the depths.

My children and I pored over every detail in this book and there is plenty to look at on each page. A remarkable book and one I suspect will be very popular.

Atlas of Adventures Travel Edition,

The study of the world around us has taken on bold new ways to understand geography. We used to use a plain old giant atlas that showed boundaries, mountainous regions as well as bodies of water. Now we have the privilege of learning about the world through adventures.

This travel edition will ensure you find something fascinating to do, visit or experience from all over the world. Many of these places will be familiar while others may be new. Come and explore and plan your next adventure. All continents have at least one adventure for you to plan and as you browse each page, you will see plenty of other sights to intrigue you.

Incredible, vibrant and detailed illustrations fill the pages and increase your wanderlust for travelling.

50 Reasons to Love Endangered Animals, written by Catherine Barr, Illustrations by Hanako Clulow, Published by Frances Lincoln

A brilliant book, best suited for younger readers, takes you around the world meeting familiar animals and perhaps some new ones. With fun facts and “show you love” buttons throughout giving ways to learn more about each animal and ways to make small changes to protect the world. This is a lovely book to share.

Colourful illustrations bring the animals to life and will prompt many questions from little learners. Perfect for animal lovers and mini eco-warriors, this book will get your family thinking about what you can do to save the wildlife and planet- from conscious choices about product purchases and sharing the love of new animals with friends.

I would front face this one in a KS1 classroom to be read and enjoyed regularly.

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Kidnap on the California Comet

Written by M.G.Leonard and Sam Sedgman, Illustrated by Elisa Paganelli, Published by Macmillan

Uncle Nat has taken Hal on the trip of a lifetime, all the way to Chicago where they are hopping on board the California Comet. This exceptional three day journey will take them across Western America, through ever changing landscapes and time zones, finally arriving in Emeryville, California.

Believing that riding the train will be the biggest adventure of this journey, Hal and Nat are in for a surprise. From the beginning of this trip, Hal has an unexpected feeling, as though something is going to happen. He begins to record events in his sketchbook capturing faces, moments and details that will of course be hugely important later in the story. Elisa Paganelli’s illustrations are significant to the reader as we can see what Hal sketches and they are incredible!

Hal, a magnet for friends, meets several interesting characters who, like Lenny in book one, become important as the story develops. August Reza has invited journalists, like Nat, to hear a huge announcement about his future plans. He travels in style on his very own custom designed train carriage, alongside daughter Marianne and her bodyguard.

As you read the story, you meet fascinating characters who add a level of mystery to the journey. A man who never lets his briefcase out of sight, a woman wearing a bearded dragon and a father and son duo who seem on edge. Also on board is a grumpy woman with questions and fellow journalist, Zola. With these characters on board, what could possibly go wrong???

A kidnapping-

However, the clues aren’t adding up, the police aren’t interested in Hal’s detailed drawings and theories, so Hal needs to find allies who will listen and believe him. With the incredible cast of characters travelling with him, who can he choose and trust? A new nickname is given to Hal on this trip and it is an exceptional fit- Sherlock Da Vinci!

As with all perfect mysteries, the stage is set, the suspects are in front of you and yet there are still twists and turns to contend with. Can Hal solve this kidnapping before they arrive in Emeryville?

All aboard for an adventurous journey on the California Comet! It is one you won’t soon forget.

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#MGTakesonThursday

Hosted and Designed by Mary Simms on her Book Craic Blog
https://bookcraic.blog/2020/04/09/new-feature-mgtakesonthursday/

Every Thursday, the aim is to promote the brilliant middle grade books we all love so much! There are a few steps needed to participate…

Post a picture of a front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.

Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence from that page. Choose three words to describe the book. Share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

I have recommended some firm favourites and through reading other blogs, have added a considerable number of books to my TBR pile. It is getting harder to decide which to highlight each week as there are so many brilliant books, authors and illustrators I want to shout about.

The Lifters by Dave Eggers

Illustrations by Aaron Renier, Published by Scholastic

Three Words to describe this book- mysterious, dangerous, fascinating

My favourite sentence from page 11- “but the front door of this house in Carousel creaked like an old man waking from a thousand-year slumber.”

A mini-review…

I was immediately drawn to the idea of “mysterious forces…tearing up the earth like mini-hurricanes.” Granite Flowerpot and his family move to the town of Carousel.

Chapter One, in its entirety says, “Gran did not want to move to Carousel”. I love the short bursts of chapters. There are 113 chapters but they are short, snappy and so easy to devour. This would make an incredible class book!A town sinking, a boy called Gran and working together to lift the town out of danger. Fascinating!

Gran and Catalina form a lifting duo, striving to save Carousel from The Hollows which are devouring the town from the earth up. Sinkholes are everywhere and anything from hockey sticks to surfboards are being used to prop the town up. Is it enough? Can they save the town?

This is honestly one of my new favourite books. The short chapters make it easy to read, the fast paced plot races along and the characters are brave, determined and hard to ignore.


Meet the Gatekeepers

Meet the Gatekeepers- Katarina Jovanovic from Usborne

Meet the Gatekeepers

I first started blogging in November 2018 and it was a completely new experience for me. I had been reviewing books for Armadillo Magazine and knew how to approach publishers for books that I was asked to read. In one of those first emails I remember asking, “Do I send the book back once I am finished?”. I received a lovely response saying that the book was now mine and I could gift it to a school or keep it myself.

I then began to think about how I incorporate this into my blog and I slowly began to build my own network of bloggers to follow. I reached out to Jo Cummins of Library Girl and Book Boy fame and she advised me to find the publicists of the different publishers. She called them the Gatekeepers and that term has stuck with me since then. I have long wanted to get to know these gatekeepers better and over time an idea formed. I had a set of 6 questions I thought would help me to know more about them and this incredible job they have. One that I covet but could not imagine being able to do so well!

I sent a few emails and had such a positive response that I now have a new page on my blog all about The Gatekeepers. Several publicists, who I have had the honour of meeting, emailing or bothering have answered these questions in unique ways. I am sure you will find them as fascinating as I do.

Katarina Jovanovic from Usborne is the fifth publicist to take time to answer my questions! Thank you Kat!

How did you get your start in the publishing industry?

I started out interning in literary agencies, specialising in children’s books pretty much straight away. I’m always surprised, when I talk to people trying to get into publishing, that they’re not considering literary agencies, or don’t know a huge amount about them. It’s a fantastic place to get a real overview of the publishing industry and understand the nitty gritty details – like contracts, royalties etc. I spent seven months at David Higham Associates (paid internship!), working with their children’s books and doing everything from liaising with authors and illustrators, scouring over contracts to check for mistakes, and giving edits back on a manuscript. They were incredibly generous with their time and expertise, and it was agent Lizzy Kremer who first suggested a career in PR to me. She won’t remember that offhand comment, but it planted a seed in my mind.

What is the most interesting part of your job?

Oh wow, where to start. You meet the most interesting people when you’re doing book PR – not just your colleagues or your authors/illustrators, but festival organisers, journalists, and other authors that you meet at festivals and events. It’s wonderful to just sit back over a glass of wine or a morning coffee, and let the fascinating conversation wash over you. On the flip side, I love how many conversations I have about unicorns, the placement of ducks, or what the best name for a unicorn-pig hybrid is. (Answer: it’s Unipiggle). Children’s publishing in general is a really fun place.

Oh, and also meeting all the kids. I’m often the only one in the publishing team who actually meets the readers, on school visits and at festivals, and it’s what keeps me going on tough days. They’re so full of creativity and imagination, and have a real love for stories. It’s why I think kids publishing always trumps adult. 😉

What are the challenges of your role?

It’s really tiring. I’m out of the office about one day a week, on average, and whilst I love the travelling and meeting lots of different people, often hundreds of kids a day, it is exhausting! My first few autumns in the industry (the busiest time) left me burnt out, until I learnt to look after myself. The other big challenge is the limited media space we get for children’s books! We need newspapers, radio, TV etc. to give us more space, and for journalists to cover more features/stories on children’s and YA authors. They’ve got amazing stories to tell and this snobbery has to stop!

Describe a typical day or are no two days alike?

No two days area like! I spend a lot of my time talking to my authors – organising details of a tour, going over plans with them, pulling together hooks for press and figuring out what core selling point of their book is. I also write press releases, pull together specialised mailing lists, pitch to journalists over coffee, write pitches for books on auction, brief videos, run social media campaigns, and talk to bookshops and schools for events. It’s a fast paced job, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tips for Book Bloggers?

Don’t send generic emails. It feels like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised how many generic emails you get with [insert book title] put in. If you want to get a free copy of a book, you have to tell me why you should be the one to get it. Show me that you’re really interested in the topic, that its an author you’ve been supporting, that you’ve been blogging about similar books.

Cultivate a relationship with publicists. The more I work with you, the more I know that you’re reliable and enthusiastic, the more likely I am to send big, exclusive titles your way and to think of you when I get a book I know you’ll like. Also, don’t just go for the big releases. Bloggers are a core part of launching debut authors and we really appreciate your support. Plus, you never know what exciting new author you’ll be the first to read!   

Large follower numbers are great, but high engagement is better. If you get really good engagement but have lower Twitter/Instagram followers, make sure you highlight it to me. I’m interested in the community you’re part of and how you interact with it.

What are you currently reading?

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch – the second in the Locke Lamora series. I’m a big fan of chunky fantasy novels! I’m really looking forward to reading Hamlet next.

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The Midnight Guardians by Ross Montgomery

As an avid reader, I have high expectations on books to engage me, interest me and make those emotional connections that will keep the book as a fond memory after reading. Ross Montgomery has done all of those things with The Midnight Guardians. It has the classic feel of Narnia, the historical adventure in WWII and characters who leap off the page and into your heart.

At first we meet three characters sat waiting in an abandoned house, in the attic. They are waiting for Col, “the only hope we have”. There is a 4ft knight in shining armour, a badger wearing a waistcoat and smoking a pipe, and a Bengal tiger. Not out of place in a child’s imagination, we have yet to learn who Col is and why he is the only one to save them.

Meeting Col, a boy of 12 comes next. He has been evacuated to live with his Aunt as London is being bombed nightly. His father has recently passed away and his older sister still lives and works in London. Col is excited as his sister is coming from London to spend Christmas in their cottage not far from his Aunt’s house. When he gets the news she is not coming Col runs away to the cottage.

Hearing voices coming from the attic upon his arrival, Col comes face to face with the characters he has played with so often as a child. The knight, badger and tiger have been waiting for this moment. Now, they are more alive than ever and they need his help to save London.

What follows is what can only be described as a epic adventure of Narnia proportions. The Midwinter King is set to destroy the Green Man in the Spirit World and this will have huge implications on the human world. Once Col has been convinced that this is outside his imagination, he is keen to save London, the spirit world and most importantly, his sister.

Enchanted trees try to stop their progress, salt counting fairies capture them and giants argue over everything! This trip to London is not straightforward or lacking danger but the team must work together to arrive safely and in time.

An utterly beguiling tale, historically accurate and full of emotion, not to mention how exquisitely it all tumbles onto the page as though straight out of a young boy’s imagination.

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Picture Book Perfect

I want to highlight some truly lovely picture books that I have had the immense joy of reading recently. Luckily, some have arrived as physical copies, though I am still able to enjoy the books that arrive digitally as well.

Five More Minutes, written and illustrated by Marta Altés, published by Macmillan

An adorable story about Dad, raising two boisterous fox cubs. Time is always an issue- it either ticks by too quickly or drags on too slowly. Dad wants five more minutes of sleep, the cubs want more time to play yet at the end of the day, they are all happy to share five more minutes of storytime.

This book celebrates all that happens in the day of a parent and reminds us to share “five more minutes” of time with our children. I am in awe of Marta’s talents as both author and illustrator. The illustrations are gorgeously detailed and full of clues to the busy-ness of the home- from drawings on the wall and toys scattered along the floor. Reading this should remind us to slow down and enjoy moments together.

I Can Catch a Monster, written and Illustrated by Bethan Woollvin, Published by Macmillan.

Woollvin’s distinctive artwork fills the pages of this story of bravery and monsters. Bo is small but mighty, left behind by her brothers on their quest to catch a monster. Bo knows she “is smart and brave and strong” so she too goes in search of a monster.

Monster hunting takes a twist as Bo befriends monsters instead of hunting them, and we learn who the true monsters are towards the end of the story. Bo’s brothers learn never to underestimate the bravery of Bo and her incredible kindness towards monsters. There are so many positive messages to explore in this book.

Bloom, written by Anne Booth, illustrated by Robyn Wilson-Owen, published by Tiny Owl.

Bloom is the beautiful tale of a young girl, happy and thankful for the world around her. She is particularly fond of a pink flower near her school. She talks to it every morning until the man who owns the bloom chases her away.

When the flower starts to droop and lilt, the mans frustrations grow and he blames the gardener, lack of shade, not enough water. It takes him awhile to realise that the key to the flower blooming has been chased away. Finally seeking advice, it is not only the plant that comes back to life. A charming and endearing story full of stunning illustrations.

Animal Explorers, Lola the Plant Hunter. Written and Illustrated by Sharon Rentta, published by Scholastic.

Lola is “a bear on a mission”, determined to sail to the Amazon Rainforest in search of singing orchids. Her grandpa Reggie was an intrepid explorer and Lola wants to follow in his footsteps. She gets ready for her adventure, though all the Arctic animals think she is silly.

Her adventures are captured in her diary every evening just like her Grandpa. The jungle is loud, hot and full of amazing plants and animals. When a mudslide takes Lola and the jungle animals on a ride, she is pleasantly surprised to hear a special sound. Could it be she found the singing orchid after all? This adventure is just the beginning for Lola…where will she go to next? Colourful and delightful illustrations fill the pages!

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Picture Book Perfect- Digital Edition

With plenty of books being sent digitally, I have been lucky enough to read and enjoy the the following titles. Whether via Netgalley or sent in PDF by the publishers, these books are worth celebrating.

This is the Path the Wolf Took, Written by Laura Farina, Illustrated by Elina Ellis, Published by Kids Can Press

Gabe, being a brilliant big brother, is retelling some favourite traditional tales to his little sister. However, in his versions of the story, nothing bad ever happens. The big bad wolf does not eat Granny or blow down the pigs’ homes, instead Sir Gabriel dashes in on his trusty steed and scares the wolf away.

“His armour was made of truth, his shield was made of glory and his sword was made of courage”. This line sums Sir Gabriel up perfectly. He is ready to scare the wolf away each time. However, Little Sister is not at all pleased with Gabe’s versions of the stories.

Can brave Sir Gabe save the story and entice his sister back for story time? He will need the power of his imagination, twists and funny endings but I think they might just work. I adored this story, it is perfect for reading aloud and sparking imaginations.

Meesha Makes Friends, written and Illustrated by Tom Percival, published by Bloomsbury.

Tom Percival’s Big Bright Feelings series is an amazing set of books featuring children of all ages and races learning about themselves, their emotions and building their confidence. Stunning stories and pages full of gorgeous illustrations, these books are a must have for every home and school.

Subtle messages are communicated via the story that most children can relate to. This series will build empathy, self confidence and positive self image in all children.

Meesha, a young girl, has talent with making items from paper, She can make things from sound and pictures, but making friends does not come as easily as her designs. Left out and introverted, Meesha decides to make her own friends, and they go with her to a party. For Meesha, this is a scary event and she ends up playing with her “friends” under the stairs, Spotted by a boy, Meesha is worried he will tease her or break her toys. Can she be brave and allow a real friend in?

A wonderful story full of heart and hope, brilliant for those formative years in school where learning to share and make friends is the whole world.

My Best Friend, written and Illustrated by Rob Hodgson, published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

I am a huge fan of Rob Hodgson and was actually on the panel that selected The Cave as Booktrust’s book for all children in reception. It was not a hard choice and I can see this one being as equally well received.
Delightfully illustrated and with bold vibrant colours I can’t wait to get a physical copy to share with children.

Mouse finds himself a best friend….Owl. As we read we can see that Owl really just wants to eat Mouse. Mouse happily believes that Owl is doing nice things for him- like feeding him donuts, playing chase and building a cage for his house.

When Mouse finds himself in a dark tunnel, he hopes Owl will come to rescue him- where could Mouse possibly be?

This brilliant book will make children giggle, laugh and want to protect Mouse- will there be a happy ending?

Buy this book- I can guarantee it will bring a smile to plenty of faces.

Mr Brown’s Bad Day, written by Lou Peacock, illustrated by Alison Friend, Published by Nosy Crow.

I have long been wanting to read this. The cover is so colourful and enticing. Who can resist a tiger in a suit after all?

Mr Brown is a “very important business man” and he has a “very important briefcase”. Leaving the office for lunch with his briefcase, he cannot guess the adventure he will have. When the case gets passed accidentally around town, Mr Brown must chase it! Mr Brown is having a bad day.

It is clear how important this briefcase is, and as the reader, we wonder what important documents are in there! Colourful and bold illustrations make this book stand out and the story is wonderful.

I cannot possibly say what is kept in the briefcase but it was worth the chase for Mr Brown. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day for him.

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#MGTakesonThursday

Hosted and Designed by Mary Simms on her Book Craic Blog
https://bookcraic.blog/2020/04/09/new-feature-mgtakesonthursday/

Every Thursday, the aim is to promote the brilliant middle grade books we all love so much! There are a few steps needed to participate…

Post a picture of a front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.

Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence from that page. Choose three words to describe the book. Share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

I have recommended some firm favourites and through reading other blogs, have added a considerable number of books to my TBR pile. It is getting harder to decide which to highlight each week as there are so many brilliant books, authors and illustrators I want to shout about.

Written by J.M. Carr, Published by The Cindy Press

This book in three words: Friendship, Danger, WWII

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

“Before you could say Jack Robinson, she’d made an
about-turn, leaped into the road, picked up the spuds,
rubbed them clean on her cardy and balanced them back
on the display.”

Please follow the link below to my full review! Book 2 coming soon!

https://myshelvesarefull.wordpress.com/2019/09/07/the-wonder-girls-by-j-m-carr/

Meet the Gatekeepers

Meet the Gatekeepers- Marie-Louise Patton from Faber!

Marie-Louise kindly answered my questions for my Meet the Gatekeepers feature. I want to keep the answers on my main blog page as they are so brilliant and the diverse answers from each publicist is guiding me on my blogging journey!

How did you get your start in the publishing industry?

I completed an MA in Publishing Media at Oxford Brookes University which
helped me gain a wide understanding of the industry as a whole. I also took
every opportunity I could, be that doing work experience at Penguin Random
House or wearing an Elmer suit for the London Book Fair 2019 as a volunteer. 

What is the most interesting part of your job? 

My job is always interesting! Working with a wide range of people is a highlight; from agents, to authors, journalists and booksellers…I especially love seeing a book I really
adored receiving great press and reviews. It’s really rewarding. 

What are the challenges of your role? 

 A lot of my job is out with my control and changes are happening constantly. We are always kept busy!

Describe a typical day or are no two days alike? 

No two days are the same! Sometimes, I will be at my desk all day answering emails and the following day I could be out with an author at events. This is one of my favourite parts of my job, it’s always varied and exciting.  

Tips for Book Bloggers? 

My tips for Book Bloggers would be to write a great pitch email. We receive countless emails from bloggers on a day-to-day basis. Why should you review this book? I know you love to read, we all do – that’s why we’re in this industry. I’d like to read an email that
makes me excited to send you the book and read your review – not something that
is just copy and pasted.   

What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy, a fabulous classic that I discovered only quite recently. A tale of a twenty-year-old woman with pink hair on a jaunt through Paris in the 50s. It’s divine. I also just finished reading the incredible Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa which is shortlisted for the International Booker Prize, it’s completely brilliant and
what I feel to be a must read! I loved every second…