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So many wonderful nonfiction books…

I am in awe of the pile of nonfiction books sat in front of me today. There is truly something for everyone in here, from chemistry to oceans, cities and birds and all are filled with stunning illustrations and fantastic facts!

The Extraordinary Elements, The Periodic Table Personified

I must admit Chemistry was never a subject I excelled in, but I can’t help but wonder whether this book would have helped my plight in understanding the periodic table of elements. Through using infographics and relating them to a basic understanding, I know more now than in highschool. The bright, bold and unique illustrations lead you to read about and learn where the elements can be found, their dangerous uses and a bit of history on their discovery and naming. Using plenty of technical language but keeping descriptions easy to understand, this book will satisfy the youngest and oldest chemists in your family. Completely fascinated by this book! (and keeping it set aside for son starting highschool in September- this could be the ultimate study companion).

Metropolis

I doubt you will find a more colourful and expressive introduction to cities around the world than this delight. Featuring 32 major cities, there is plenty to observe and learn on each page. Again with an infographics feel and the use of bright colours, there is so much travelling to be done in this book! I am certainly inspired to visit a few more cities and would love to frame and display the pages of cities I have been to- they are works of art. The endpapers are maps, helping to learn where the cities are in the world.

How Many Spots has a Cheetah Got?

I love random number facts and learning about anything and everything from animals to robots and buildings. Do you know how many bathrooms Buckingham Palace has? Or How many thumbs a mole has? So many funny yet fascinating questions and answers in this bright and brilliantly illustrated book. I loved the size and feel to this book, being a paperback and easy to flip through to random pages searching for the best fact. The high quality illustrations are lovely and perfect for visualising each fact!

Sounds of the Skies

I am not sure who had more fun with this book, me or my children. It was a race to see who could find and press the buttons the quickest. We were all quite surprised at the sound of the ostrich. What a fabulous way to learn more about birds around the world. Striking the right balance with text and illustrations, young ornithologists will be delighted with seeing and hearing some species of birds. Grab the book a set of binoculars, and start peeking in gardens, parks and zoos to spot some birds in your town!

Colours of the World, Blue Planet, Life in Our Oceans and Rivers

From the gorgeous cover through all the pages, this is sure to awe and inspire children to discover more about Earth, water and sea creatures. The text is simply written to appeal to all ages and there is so much detail within the pages covering plenty of aspects of water; animals, homes, boats and uses of water. The illustrations are wonderfully life like and will help the youngest reader to imagine the creatures lurking in the oceans, rivers and lakes. I am hopeful that this becomes a series and if so, then I will be ensuring I have the rainbow of colours in my libraries! Beautiful!

Cities of The World

From the peek through front cover featuring iconic buildings to flipping through each city learning about its highlights and culture, this book is sure to impress. Travel around the world visiting 12 fascinating and important cities to see what they have to offer travellers. Incredible thought and detail has gone into creating such a colourful and enchanting book. A map at the back highlights other important cities around the globe. Jump in and see what you discover! I think I will use this book to plan my next city break!

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#MGTakesonThursday

This is the new weekly meme from BookCraic celebrating amazing middle-grade books. I hope others will enjoy taking part in this too, it is so much fun!

How to Join In

  • Post a picture of the 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. 
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

This week I am celebrating

Written and Illustrated by The Brothers McLeod, Publishing August 1, 2020 by Guppy Books

Favourite Sentence on Page 11…”He was brave and noble, but one day he failed to stop the double-headed dragon Borax from eating King Burt’s brother, Prince Garibaldi (famous for smelling faintly of biscuits)”

Three Words to Describe this Book… Hilarious, Daft, Brilliant

My Recommendation… This book is hilarious and slightly daft, and full of surprises. Basically, Knight Sir Louis is “a hero in a bonkers world”. He lives in Castle Sideways (take that literally) and he is off to save the world from a giant damsel who is scoffing all the chocolate coins. He is accompanied by his trusty steed, a robot horse named Clunkalot and a magical boar named Mr Catalogue.

What could go wrong? A more apt question might be what can go right? Knight Sir Louis is ready for the challenge and I can guarantee this is one epic you won’t want to miss!

Between the humour and the illustrations, this will have you giggling with tears streaming down your face! A sheer delight from beginning to end. I hope there may be more daring adventures yet to come from brave Knight Sir Louis and The Brothers McLeod!

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Picture Book Perfect

Reviews in pictures today….to try something new! I feel as though sometimes words aren’t enough or they just don’t do justice to the book or to how much I loved the book. So today will feature a mini gallery of pictures with some words! We are here after all to celebrate the wonderful picture book!

Octopus Shocktopus, Written by Peter Bently, Illustrated by Steven Lenton, Published by Nosy Crow
Albert Talbot Master of Disguise, Written by Ben Manley, Illustrated by Aurélie Guillerey, Published by Two Hoots
Spaghetti Hunters, Written and Illustrated by Morag Hood, Published by Two Hoots
One Button Benny and the Gigantic Catastrophe, Written by Alan Windram, Illustrated by Chloe Holwill-Hunter, Published by Little Door Books
When a Dragon Goes to School, Written by Caryl Hart, Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw, Published by Nosy Crow
Slow Down Monkey, Written by Jess French, Illustrated by Eefje Kuijl, Published by Buster Books
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My Own Summer Reading Challenge- Graphic Novels

Over the past ten weeks, the OU/UKLA have brought their book blether online to twitter and it has been an incredibly resource rich hour long chat about books. From illustrated chapter books, non fiction and teen fiction, there has been plenty to learn and much money spent.

One week was dedicated to Graphic Novels and my interest was truly peaked. I was aware of them, have a small range in some of my schools and my son is a fan of them but admittedly, I had never given them much more than a passing glance.

Stereotypically and wrongly, I thought they were more for fans of superheroes, comic lovers and that they didn’t hold much of a story. I knew I needed to invest some more time into this genre and actually read them, appreciate them and learn how they can be used in schools more effectively.

With the help of Richard Ruddick’s blog (comicsinclass.school.blog) and his Padlet of recommendations (https://padlet.com/rruddick9zra/73uh2srzpbia) as well as friend and colleague Sarah Merchant having a stock to let me borrow, I feel I am in with a chance to read a varied selection.

Each week I aim to read a couple and write a short piece about them. It isn’t meant to be a review but more of proof of a change in my thinking and perspective on this genre! Wish me luck, I am diving in!

My starting point!
  • Cici’s Journal, The Adventures of a Writer-In-Training by Joris Chamblain and Aurélie Neyret (Published by 01 First Second)
  • Roller Girl by Victoria Jameson (Published by Puffin)
  • Tom’s Midnight Garden (Graphic Adaptation) by Edith (Published by OUP)
  • InvestiGATORS by John Patrick Green (Published by 01 First Second/Macmillan)
  • Donut the Destroyer by Sarah Graley and Stef Purenins (Published by Scholastic)
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#MGTakesonThursday

This is the new weekly meme from BookCraic celebrating amazing middle-grade books. I hope others will enjoy taking part in this too, it is so much fun!

How to take part:

  • Post a picture of the 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. 
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

This week, I’m celebrating …

Written by Alex Bell, Illustrated by Tomislav Tomic, Published by Faber

My favourite sentence from Page 11 is “Stella saw Felix’s fingers shake slightly as he fumbled with the clasp, and before she knew what she was doing she was on her feet, scattering the fairies, who tumbled to the floor in an indignant heap.”

Three words to describe this book: Adventurous, Dangerous, Friendship

My Mini Review:

Stella Starflake Pearl is back and I couldn’t be happier! She is a bold, fearless but kind character and she has delighted me since first meeting her back in The Polar Bear Explorers Club. Her adventures are legendary as are her powers and her background. A fascinating trilogy and one I would highly recommend for anyone aged 9+.

We catch up with Stella and Felix as they are expelled from the club. They are banned from expeditions but Shay is in danger and they must find the stolen spellbook in order to save him. Crossing the legendary and cursed Black Ice Bridge is their only choice. It certainly won’t be easy and they will meet many who wish them ill on their journey but what adventure would it be without creatures, Princesses and a Gentleman Flamingo, who just might be my favourite character in this book!

Of particular fascination in this book are the rules from the lost ladies of Swan Island…my favourite is “Laugh as long and as hard as possible, wherever possible, and preferably until tears run down your beak”.

Read this series from start to finish and I fully expect you will love it!

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Agent Zaiba Investigates, The Poison Plot by Annabelle Sami

It was so wonderful to be back solving crime with Agent Zaiba and her friends and family.  Since solving her first crime, she is now in charge of the Snow Leopard Detective Agency- UK Office and it is well deserved.  She is clever, cautious and has superb instincts.  

The school fete has arrived and Zaiba has created a Detective trail as an activity- ensuring she has checked all the clues, the path to follow and ensured nothing can go wrong.  What she doesn't expect is an actual case needing to be solved- though she is always on the hunt for new cases and suspicious characters.

During the popular bake off, one of the judges- the new headmistress- gets poisoned.  One of the cupcakes must have had poison in the icing- but who would want to poison the new headmistress?  Was she the actual intended victim?  With so many questions to ask, Zaiba must face facts and solve the mystery as her father and Aunt Raim were 2 of the 3 bakers in the tent.  She needs to solve the mystery to ensure their innocence.  It won't be easy but she, brother Ali and best friend Poppy have plenty of tricks up their sleeves.  They also recruit two new members, cousin Mariam and son of the third baker, Gabriele.  

With a cast full of brilliant characters and plenty of action, twists and turns, this second in the series is a welcome distraction from real life.  One of my favourite parts of the book is "I trust the children of our school completely. She paused and gazed at Zaiba.  This young detective is an especially bright student.  I would like to hear her findings.  Our children's voices are as important as our own"  

I love that the headmistress, though feeling quite ill after the poisoning, is confident in Zaiba and her skills.  

With a confidence beyond her years, Zaiba lays out all the evidence and finds not only the culprit but the type of poison as well.  Nothing gets past Zaiba!

With a glimpse at the titles of Book 3 I am thrilled to see more from Agent Zaiba.
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Time School, We Will Honour Them Blog Tour

Written by Nikki Young, Cover Illustration by Tim Budgen, Published by Hashtag Press

Welcome to the blog tour for the fantastic series of Time School by Nikki Young. Having read and enjoyed the first in the series, We Will Remember Them, I was so pleased to see an early copy of We Will Honour Them.

This series follows a group of friends just starting secondary school and set the challenge to learn more about their families in the past. Where do you come from? Who are your family? The group comprises of Jess, Nadia, Tomma and Ash and they have been best friends since junior school. Waking up one morning, they have all suffered a power cut through the night and are late for the train to school. Boarding the last carriage, they are surprised at its age. In the second book, knowing what might be happening, they wait for the arrival into the town. “They were approaching Hickley town, where they went to school. What they didn’t know was in what year they were due to arrive.” This sentence sums up the beginning of each adventure.

What follows in the both the first and second book is an ingenious plot shedding light on historical time periods. In We Will Remember Them, Jess is introduced to some of her family waiting on news of their son away fighting in World War I. In We Will Honour Them, it is the turn of Nadia to uncover some events in the history of her family. Nadia learns about the racism facing her family in the aftermath of World War II as Polish refugees.

The stories are historically accurate and have enough detail for the 8-12 age range without causing fear or worry. They also deal with issues that children may face today, the death of a loved one, anxiety and friendship issues. These books would form an insightful and fictional enhancement for any group studying history, in particular the first and second world wars.

I am already looking forward to learning more about Ash and Tomma’s families when the next power cut happens. Where and When will the gang arrive next?

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The Orphans of St.Halibut’s by Sophie Wills and David Tazzyman

Dynamic Duo: Sophie Wills and David Tazzyman, Publishing in October 2020 by Macmillan

When I first heard about this book, it was described as Home Alone meets Annie, perfect for fans of Lemony Snicket and Roald Dahl. How could I possibly resist? Sophie Wills and David Tazzyman have joined forces to become the new MG dynamic duo!

The resourcefulness of children, particularly orphans, is highlighted fantastically in this deliciously dark tale. What do orphans do when their matron dies in hilarious accidental circumstances? Well, they bury her nearly as deep as the schoolbooks! They stop bathing, learning and sleeping in their beds.

St. Halibut’s is an orphanage for Waifs and Strays and it sits high on a hill with a long steep climb to get to the door. Plenty of time for the children to see who is coming to see them. You see, ever since the matron died, they have been happily left alone and to their own devices. Mrs Happyday, luckily, left behind a hoard of cash so the three remaining orphans are not starving!

Tig, Stef and Herc are alone and happy for it, until a letter arrives informing them of the imminent arrival of DEATH (Department for Education, Assimilation, Training and Health). An inspector is being sent to check up on Matron and her orphans. They have 3 days to prepare!

The rest of the book follows the increasingly comedic and complex situations the orphans must face. Whimsical, dastardly and full of brilliant characters! From the foul tempered goat named Pamela, to the Mending factory and mistaken identities, there is plenty of delight and enthrall readers!

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The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar- The Blog Tour!

Written by Maria Kuzniar, Cover by Karl James Mountford, Publishing July 2020 by Puffin Books

Completely thrilled to be part of the blog tour for The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar! This book is a top pick for 2020 for me and I adored every page of it! Check out the other blogs in the tour and find details below for the Virtual Launch on Instagram on Sunday!

This incredible adventure has everything! A crew of fierce female pirates, treasure to be found, magic and a journey to a lost city. Myths, legends, hopes, dreams, family and friendship and finally feeling as though you belong. I want to belong to the family on The Ship of Shadows.

The beginning of the story is every book lovers dream- a young girl, avid reader and lover of libraries. Aleja lives for her books and holds a huge amount of knowledge inside, not just ways to escape her room or the library but languages and legends, history and explorers. She is desperate to explore the world, but girls are not encouraged to explore. However, the arrival of a mysterious ship in Seville’s harbour, an accusation of theft and a daring escape over the homes of the city give Aleja the opportunity she has been dreaming of.

Welcome Aboard The Ship of Shadows! Not all is as it seems and the pirates life is hard work and at times dangerous. Spending hours in weapons training, attempting to crack codes from history and sleuthing around this magical ship keep Aleja from missing her family too much. Aleja has much to prove of herself to Captain Quint, especially if she wants secrets to be shared with her.

The Ship of Shadows holds magic within, and secret rooms reveal themselves, jungles live in cabins and shadows of past pirates roam free. Aleja, friend Frances and other crew members work together to fight kraken, plunder treasure and traverse the desert in search for a piece of map. Legend has it that when the map is put back together, all the treasure in the world will be revealed. On their trail is a shadow catcher, Francois Levasseur, and he means to kill the Captain and crew for past battles lost.

The crew all have their talents and are specifically chosen by the Captain. Frances is an skilled thief, Malika is the weapons master, Aada is the navigator, Griete an expert at mechanics. All work together in harmony and there is space for Aleja as a languages expert but she must ultimately make the hardest decision of her life. Does she stay on The Ship of Shadows and travel the world, adventuring and exploring, living her dream or does she travel back to Spain to be reunited with her family?

And that is where I leave you…wondering what choice Aleja makes!

This swash buckling adventure will leave you breathless, craving an adventure of your own. From the glorious cover by Karl James Mountford, through the adventure and to the ulitmate choice, you will not be able to part from this book. I predict big things for this book and can only hope we meet Aleja again.

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The Haunting of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes

Written by Phil Hickes, Illustrations by Keith Robinson, Publishing October 2020 by Usborne

Aveline Jones loves to read ghost stories, while others her age opt for stories with unicorns or horses. Knowing she is different in this way, she is unstoppable in her quest to find spooky titles.

Being forced to spend October half term with her Aunt Lilian in Malmouth, Aveline is sure to be bored. Her Mum has to travel to Scotland to visit Granny who has been ill. Driving into the town, they are surprised and spooked to see child like figures standing outside of homes. They are creepy and almost too life like from afar.

Within the first day of staying in Malmouth, Aveline has spotted a bookstore and meets the owner Ernst, and his great nephew, Harold. Finding ghost story treasure within the shelves at the back, Aveline takes home her new purchase and sets to reading. To her dismay, she finds the very last short story in the book completely and purposefully crossed out. Disappointed and feeling as though there is a mystery here, Aveline heads back to the shop.

The more she explores the town, the more creepy child like figures keep appearing. Believing it to be some weird Halloween tradition for the town, she hurries past them. When searching for more clues within the bookstore, they discover a young girls diary…Primrose Penberthy. This young girl went missing some 30 years ago on Halloween and the mystery was never solved.

This story had me on the edge of my seat as ghostly sightings, creepy child like figures and Halloween approaching all converged to create this super story. Aveline is the unsuspecting detective and heroine of this story, putting the pieces together and figuring it all out. New friendships are forged and a new fondness for Aunt Lilian is a positive to come out of this spooky and haunting tale.

I read this story in one day and loved it entirely. Feeling spooked, haunted and proud of Aveline all the way through to the end! Whether you read it on a sunny bright day or a rainy grey day, I am sure you will enjoy it! 10 stars for me and the promise of more to come from Aveline Jones!