Review: The International Yeti Collective: Shadowspring

I loved the first book in The International Yeti Collective and the second one, Shadowspring is just as wonderful.  It is an action-packed, touching and incredibly satisfying read that left me longing for another yeti adventure. 

Just like in the first book, I loved the yeti naming system which definitely brought smiles and giggles – so very, very clever!  This would be brilliant to try with a class of children – and their teachers if brave enough!

Tadpole is a youngling yeti of the Greybeards sett which is led by her mother, Shipshape.  They are getting ready to welcome the first Gathering of the 19 yeti setts in many, many years; however, they worry about whether the representatives of the International Collective can travel to them using the underground waterways as their home, Shadowspring’s water supply is rapidly diminishing.  Does this have anything to do with the unusual tremors that they are experiencing?

Tadpole’s Grandfather, Snowdrift, has died, but Tadpole still communicates with him and, when her mother is in need of help, Snowdrift offers Tadpole a solution, a solution that leads to him meeting Henry Wetwood …

Henry has been sent to Halbrook Hall boarding school where he hears tales of the legendary Greybeards.  Whilst out on a tramp up the local mountain, he finds himself in danger … and meets Tadpole …

So begins a wonderfully warm and action-packed adventure -and friendship- as Tadpole and Henry learn to trust each other, as they seek to solve the dilemma of the diminishing spring water supply, and as they face a threat to the Greybeards existence …

The friendship and acceptance which develops between Tadpole and Henry is wonderful as they take risks to protect each other and show great courage in the face of danger.  Neither is afraid to break the rules in order to make a difference and stand up for what each believes is right. 

This story has a clear environmental message about the need to preserve, respect and protect our natural resources, and the harm caused to wildlife by plastic pollution and trophy hunting, all issues which are handled sensitively through looking at them from the perspective of the yetis and a young boy attuned to his natural environment. 

The full-page illustrations by Katy Riddell are just glorious, and brilliantly capture the personalities of these wonderful characters and their new friend, complementing the story perfectly. 

Shadowspring is a delightfully warm-hearting adventure which is a brilliant continuation of this gorgeous series, perfect for readers of 8+ who I am sure will be just as captivated as I was by these Greybeards, protectors of the environment.

Thank you to Charlie and Little Tiger for an early review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Review: Skeleton Keys The Legend of Gap-Tooth Jack

The Legend of Gap-Tooth Jack is the third tale from the genius that is Guy Bass … I mean, Skeleton Keys.   Dark, spooky and hilarious with the most brilliantly playful use of language, this is an absolutely delicious delight that will immediately disappear from my class library into the hands of an eager child as soon as I can get the obligatory plastic dustjacket on it!  And I’m sure it will spend very little time on the shelf if its predecessors are any indication of popularity!

Ol’ Mr Keys, in his own inimitable style, is back for another fantabulous tall tale of the unimaginary … and this time he’s unravelling the truth behind the legend of Gap-tooth Jack, and what a splediferous treat of a tale it is …

Skeleton Keys has felt the twitch of an unimagining and as is his duty, he has come to investigate in seven-year-old Kasper’s abode. Kasper has unimagined an IF, Wordy Gerdy, a ghoul-girl, and a ghost writer who can use her pen to re-write reality with disastrous consequences …

Luckily, Mr Keys can call upon his rather scary, rather rude -sorry, incredibly rude – unimaginary partner-in-adventure, Daisy (she of the backwards head) to help deal with any shenanigans thrown at him by Wordy Gerdy, but things don’t quite go according to plan … and Mr Keys finds himself without his keys, and stuck in his own past … trying to avoid the person who imagined him into being, for fear of ending the universe!  No problem for someone as fantabulously ingenious as Mr Keys.  All he has to do is hide, and let Daisy do the work …oh, if only it was that easy …

Rather than finding Wordy Gerdy, Daisy finds herself being knocked over by a young, daring pickpocket, Gap-tooth Jack, and the rest, as they say, is history … or rather, a fabulous story filled with monstrous clowns, daring thefts and ripe aromas. Daisy is incapable of keeping a low profile, and is soon reunited with her partner as they give chase to Gap-tooth Jack … and uncover more than they ever expected. Will ‘Ol Mr Keys and Daisy be able to thwart Wordy Gerdy, retrieve his fantabulant keys, and return to reality?

This story is brimming with exquisite excitement, twists galore, oodles of danger, stomach-aching hilarity, an adorably rude (with hidden depths of kindness – very well hidden!) invisible girl, a perfectly polite skeleton and an unforgettable legend.  What more could anyone possibly imagine? 

The illustrations by Pete Williamson are absolutely perfect, and really capture the heart of this explosion of the imagination, although my clown phobia has not been helped!

I have it on good authority from my class that this series is endlessly entertaining and I have no doubt that Gap-Tooth Jack will be just as popular.  Thank you, Mr Keys, … strange things can indeed happen when imaginations run wild, and there is nothing better for a teacher than seeing children engrossed in such fantastic stories!  I’m so excited that there will be another adventure with the fantabulous Mr Keys …

Thank you to Charlie and Little Tiger for an early review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Review: Grimm

Grimm is an incredibly enjoyable story brimming with action, humour, a reluctant but brave hero, wonderfully eccentric characters, sinister occurences, a mystery to solve – and a curse!  Oh – and rats!  I hope that this has whet your appetite as this is a story to devour in a single sitting! 

Eleven-year-old Rory McKenna’s life is forever changed when he unwittingly becomes the marketing genius for Zizz Cola.  His success draws attention from the eccentric, and feared, owner of the sinister Hotel Grimm which overlooks the town. When a letter arrives summoning him to a meeting, he dare not refuse … for fear that he will meet a fate on par with, or worse than, some of the unfortunate former residents …

When he visits the hotel, he is charged with the task of rebranding Hotel Grimm in order to attract guests.  He is rather surprised by the owner of the Hotel, Granville Grimm who may not be quite what he has been branded by the town newspaper, The Chronicle.  Will Rory be able to improve the Hotel’s reputation in time to save it from closure?  Has its owner been misjudged by the town which so fears him, or will Rory become the next victim of Hotel Grimm?

This is such a clever, insightful story which was full of brilliant twists, revelations and family secrets that kept me completely intrigued as I uncovered the history of Hotel Grimm – and what an incredible history is revealed!   The messages around treating others fairly, honesty, media influence and not pre-judging others were brilliantly interwoven into the story. 

I really liked Rory who is determined, tenacious and courageous when needed.  He is willing to admit his mistakes and learns that honesty may well be the best policy.  I loved his relationship with his housebound Grandfather who he clearly adores.  I also really liked Bonnie, a wheelchair user, who is bright, helpful, astute and kind-hearted.  Rory and Bonnie’s friendship is warm and honest.

This is a thoroughly engrossing and perceptive mystery which completely immersed me in its pages … and I LOVED the ending! 

Thank you to the author, Mike Nicholson, for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Blog Tour: Emily Knight I am … Becoming

Written by A. Bello
Cover Illustration by Alexandra Artigas
Published by Hashtag Press

Thank you to Helen Lewis, Literally PR and Hashtag Press for inviting me to be part of the Blog Tour for this wonderful book, and for providing me with a paperback copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

My Review:

As soon as I was invited on the Blog Tour for the third book in the Emily Knight series, I read the first two books, Emily Knight:  I am and Emily Knight I am … Awakened so I was eagerly anticipating the third book.

Emily Knight I am … Becoming can be read as a standalone BUT, I would definitely recommend that you pick up the other books too!  The first book would suit 9-12 year olds whereas this one is better suited to slightly older readers.

I really enjoyed this fast-paced contemporary fantasy which is brimming with danger, excitement and super powers:  expect the unexpected as secrets are exposed, powers are controlled and heroes fight back …

15-year-old Emily Knight is finally reunited with her father and brother, Thomas and Lox.  Thomas is the renowned leader of the legendary Five Warriors who has spent the last eight years trying to find his son Lox who had joined forces with Neci, a powerful adversary who has her own reasons to hate all warriors and wage a battle to see their annihilation.   

Will the remaining Warriors and their elite newest teenage members be able to defeat Neci and her army of followers before she destroys them all?  So begins an electrifyingly gripping story as Emily and her friends find themselves pitted against the full force of Neci and her army, forced to use both their ingenuity and their new-found and growing super powers to confront their nemesis …

I really enjoyed the dynamics of the friendships and fledgling romances between Emily, Michella, Wesley, Jason and Julian which felt authentic and relevant to today’s teenagers even though these teenagers have super powers!  The friends all attend the Osaki Training School to learn how to use and control their powers.  Whilst there, they learn the importance of friendship and teamwork, supporting each other despite the dangers they face.

The friends each have their own unique powers, including healing, telepathy, telekinesis and teleportation, but will these be enough to protect society and each other from a determined and relentless foe?  Will they be able to find and exploit her weakness before it is too late?

Emily is a brilliant character:  it is so wonderful to see diverse characters at the forefront in this story.  She is courageous, determined and fierce, and is incredibly protective of her family and friends.  Emily has not had her father or her brother in her life for many years, so they have to learn to re-connect as a family again.  Not only does she have to handle these sometimes-strained relationships, but she also has to train hard to be ready for a war with Neci.  She handles these pressures from inside and outside with great resilience and tenacity, surrounded by friends who are willing to put themselves in danger to protect and support her.

Emily Knight I am … Becoming is an explosively exciting addition to this fantastic series, and I am definitely looking forward to seeing Emily grow even more in the next book. 

About the Author:

Abiola Bello

A. Bello is an award-winning author and publishing entrepreneur, born and raised in London, where she still lives and works. In2018, Abiola was named ‘Trailblazer of the Year’ by London Book Fair. Abiola wrote her first novel at the age of eight–when she fought monsters and dragons on a daily basis–and experienced her first taste of ‘being published’ after winning a school poetry competition at the age of 12. Seeing her words in print fuelled a passion for writing that remains to this day. The first incarnation of the Emily Knight story can be traced back almost 20 years; Abiola wanted to fill the gaping hole in children’s fiction for an inspirational, strong, black, female, young protagonist. This ‘gap’ in publishing remains in today’s publishing world despite continued calls for more BAME authors and diversity within characters and plot lines. She is the founder of The Lil’ Author School and co-founder of The Author School (short listed for The Great British Entrepreneur Awards 2016 and celebrating its fifth birthday in 2020). A. Bello is regularly asked to contribute to the media; she has been featured in About Time Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Female First, Daily Mirror, BBC1XTRA, The Bookseller, The British Blacklist, Melan Magazine, London Post, and many more. Abiola is also a regular at literary festivals and gives talks to children in primary and secondary schools, as well as to young writers and people wishing to get into the publishing business.

Links:

Website: https://www.a-bello.com/

Twitter: @ABelloWrites

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/abiolabello/

Check out the rest of the Blog Tour below:

MG Takes on Thursday

This is my new weekly meme celebrating amazing middle-grade books. I hope others will enjoy taking part in this too!

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 Ross Welford
Cover Illustration by Tom Clohosy Cole
Published by Harper Collins

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

‘I, erm … I just thought … I was wondering, you know, if … erm …’ Iggy’s not normally like this, but he’s not normally normal anyway, and besides, nothing’s normal at the moment.

This book in three words:

SCI-FI ADVENTURE, FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP

I absolutely love watching science-fiction, and would love to see more middle-grade science-fiction stories, so when this one came along, I was very eager to read it – just wow!

This is a completely absorbing science-fiction read which is very cleverly written in four parts from a dual narrative with extra information being presented as newspaper reports.   The short chapters kept me wanting just one more chapter – a genuinely compulsive read! 

The story opens with a news report about missing 12-year-old Tamara (Tammy) Tait from the small village of Kielder.  It then switches to another planet with the shocking revelation that a young girl is being exhibited in a ‘human zoo.’ One of the inhabitants there, Hellyann, makes a dangerous and courageous decision that changes many lives … and leads to an incredible adventure …

There is so much opportunity for discussion based on this story from exploring themes of loss, grief, family and friendship to an exploration of animal and human rights, activism and the nature of society, not to mention the belief in the existence of alien life forms! 

This is a compellingly gripping action-packed, heart-warming adventure: you can read my full review here.

I’d love if anyone who wants to give this meme a go would comment in the comments box and include a link to your post so I can visit, comment and find some great middle-grade recommendations. If you do create a post and are on Twitter, and would like to share your post, please use the hashtag  #MGTakesOnThursday so I can find it, read it and share it!

WWW Wednesday

I am currently reading the second book in the The International Yeti Collective series, Shadowspring which I’m loving! The youngling yetis are wonderful and I can tell this one will have a strong environmental message. I’m listening to Bloom which is absolutely gorgeous – quirky and humorous. Sorrel is a such a likeable character. I’m really looking forward to finding out what happens as I get further into the story!

I’ve finished reading the third book in the Emily Knight I am … Becoming series. I will be posting my review as part of the Blog Tour later this week. I also finished listening to Orphans of the Tide which is one of the best books ever! I was absolutely blown away by the twists in this and the incredible story-telling. I can’t wait to find out what happens in the next book. I also read After the War which I found incredibly powerful and touching.

I loved the first two books in the Skeleton Keys series, so am very much looking forward to returning for another take from ‘Ol Skeleton Keys!

Middle-Grade releases in October Part 2!

Last week, I posted about LOTS of gorgeous middle-grade books I’m really looking forward to in October. You can read the first part of my October Middle-Grade releases here. It was only when I started the post that I realised there were so many that I decided to do my post in two parts. Last week’s blog post focussed on releases on 1st October. This week’s include a couple more for 1st October and then those for the rest of the month. I’ve included the synopsis from Waterstones website.

For years Grace’s family have been wardens of the Griffin map, using its teleport technology to help people and fight crime across the land of Moreland. At thirteen, Grace is too young become a warden, but she longs to go on missions herself. After all, if her brother Bren can do it, why can’t she? So when Grace finds herself alone with the map when a distress call comes in, she jumps at the chance to prove she’s up to the task. But the map transports Grace to a remote village where nothing is quite as it seems. Has she landed right in the middle of a treacherous scheme?

A gorgeously gothic debut series. Packed with wonderful characters, witty writing and thrilling adventure. STARFELL meets THE ADDAMS FAMILY. Meet Malice Morbid Malign. She’s from Underland, land of sorcery, spooks and skulduggery. But, she and her family live in Topside and mischief is their business . . . And the business of mischief is a very serious matter! The Malign family hate books, they hate bathing, and they especially HATE helping. But when grandad ghosts mysteriously start disappearing, including her own beloved grandad, Malice has no choice but to help. She partners up with her Uncle Vexatious, to solve the case of the missing grandad-ghosts. 

The first rule of the Monstrous League of Monsters is: Keep monsters hidden from humans. But when zombie George and his cat companion Bandit find an abandoned baby, they can’t leave her to be eaten by hobgoblins. So they spirit her home where she quickly becomes part of the family. Fast-forward ten years, and young Theodora doesn’t seem too scarred by her monstrous upbringing. But now a series of anonymous letters suggest that someone is about to reveal their secret. If Theodora doesn’t act fast, she may lose her family for ever…

Morrigan Crow and her friends have survived their first year as proud scholars of the elite Wundrous Society, helped bring down the nefarious Ghastly Market, and proven themselves loyal to Unit 919. Now Morrigan faces a new, exciting challenge: to master the mysterious Wretched Arts of the Accomplished Wundersmith, and control the power that threatens to consume her. Meanwhile, a strange and frightening illness has taken hold of Nevermoor, turning infected Wunimals into mindless, vicious Unnimals on the hunt. As victims of the Hollowpox multiply, panic spreads. There are whispers – growing louder every day – that this catastrophe can only be the work of the Wundersmith, Ezra Squall. But inside the walls of Wunsoc, everyone knows there is a new Wundersmith – one who’s much closer to home. With Nevermoor in a state of fear and the truth about Morrigan threatening to get out, the city she loves becomes the most perilous place in the world. Morrigan must try to find a cure for the Hollowpox, but it will put her – and everyone in Nevermoor – in more danger than she could have imagined. 

It’s the Christmas holidays and Thea is looking forward to spending them with her father. She can tell him all about her plans to become a writer, and maybe he’ll buy her the typewriter she’s been dreaming of. But when Thea arrives in Norway, everything feels … wrong. Her father is as distant as ever and now she has to share him with his new family: his girlfriend Inge and her children. Then Thea makes a surprise discovery. Deep in the snowy woods by the house, is a bear. He’s scared and hungry and he desperately needs Thea’s help. When the town hears about a bear living in the woods, Bear’s life is in even greater danger. Thea needs to show everyone that he’s not dangerous – he’s a Good Bear – if she’s to save him.

Being stuck in an eternal summer is not fun. Especially when you’re Jack Frost’s daughter. Owl’s friend Alberic – who also happens to be the Earl of Autumn’s son – is missing. Determined to find him and end the perpetual summer, Owl and her best friend Mallory embark on an adventure that will take them deep into the magical world of time itself. But Alberic’s disappearance is shrouded in secret, and there’s more going on than meets the eye. As an epic battle of the elements approaches, will Owl and Alberic be able to control their magic and restore the natural world?

This debut middle-grade novel chronicles the harrowing journey taken by Sami and his family from privilege to poverty, across countries and continents, from a comfortable life in Damascus, via a smuggler’s den in Turkey, to a prison in Manchester. A story of survival, of family, of bravery … In a world where we are told to see refugees as the ‘other’, this story will remind readers that ‘they’ are also ‘us’.

Agra 1857, the Indian rebellion. Three children are trying to make their way through a country at war with a circus tiger in search of safety. Jacques is a boy acrobat who has lost his circus; Beatrice ( Bea) and Ping are both orphans. United by a deep friendship and their desire to save Tonton the tiger, find Bea’s lost brother and Kamal the fire-eater, they set out on a wild and dangerous journey. Will they make it? A magical tale based on the true story of a lost French circus during the Indian rebellion.

In snow white covered St. Petersburg, young dancer Stana‘s dreams have finally come true – she has been chosen to play the lead role in Tchaikovsky’s new ballet, The Nutcracker. But with all eyes looking at her, can Stana overcome her nerves and dance like she’s never danced before?

What if somewhere along the way we’ve all got the Santa story a bit wrong…? Join Blanche Claus and her best friend Rinki for a funny festive sleigh ride you’ll never forget! From Sibeal Pounder, bestselling author of the Witch Wars and Bad Mermaids series, this tale of friendship and mince-pie feasts is the perfect book to curl up with this winter. Funny, feminist and with a huge heart, it’s a gloriously Christmassy adventure that will delight even the biggest Grinch.

October is an incredible month for children’s books, and I can’t wait to get all of these wonderful books.

MG Takes on Thursday

This is my new weekly meme celebrating amazing middle-grade books. I hope others will enjoy taking part in this too!

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 Eve McDonnell
Cover & Illustrations by Holly Ovenden
Published by Everything with Words

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

To thank his bird for finding it, Needle stretched a worm from a tuft of frosty grass, taking care not to break it, and offered it whole.

This book in three words:

ADVENTURE, FRIENDSHIP, COURAGE

Those who follow me on Twitter and who read my Blog will know that I’m an avid fan of middle-grade. I’ve read a LOT of books this year, and this has been one of my absolute favourites. I adore time-slip novels, and this one is just so incredibly brilliantly written. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Elsetime  completely captivated me as it took me on a fascinating journey where past, present and future meet in ‘elsetime’, a time where intrigue, danger and revelations swirl amidst friendships, courage and hope. 

Young Mudlark, Needle, and jeweller’s apprentice, Gloria find that their destiny is linked to a terrible disaster that threatens the town of Inthington , where 14 lives will be lost as a result of a flood – unless the children can avert it. They both know the wonderful crow, Magpie who has astounding secrets of her own.

Eve has embroidered a rich tapestry with an intriguing and intricate plot, filled with excitement, peril and the most incredible twists and revelations.  Inspired by the real-life Great Flood of London in 1928, this is a stunningly spectacular read with a beautifully heart-warming ending.

You can read my full review of this gorgeous story here or, better still, treat yourself to this absolute gem of a book.

I’d love if anyone who wants to give this meme a go would comment in the comments box and include a link to your post so I can visit, comment and find some great middle-grade recommendations. If you do create a post and are on Twitter, and would like to share your post, please use the hashtag  #MGTakesOnThursday so I can find it, read it and share it!

WWW Wednesday

I am just about to start Emily Knight I am … Becoming having enjoyed the first two books in this series. I will be taking part in a Blog Tour later this month. I am listening to Orphans of the Tide. OMG!! Why have I left this so long?? It is absolutely riveting. I love when I don’t see something coming … I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

This week, I read Grimm which I really enjoyed. It tells the story of Rory McKenna who becomes famous as a marketing genius who is then called upon to re-brand Hotel Grimm which is not looked upon favourably by the local community. This story has a wonderful depth and some great messages which I really liked. I will post my review shortly. I also read Witch which is a gripping story of witchcraft and persecution and difficult bonds of sisterhood. Again, I will post my review prior to publication on 1st October.

I really enjoyed the first book in this series and am looking forward to reading Shadowspring next.

Review: The Key to Finding Jack

The Key to Finding Jack is a gripping mystery, resonating with warmth and depth, which centres on family, relationships and friendship.  The power of the writing immersed me in the lives of Flick and her family, feeling their pain, their hopes, their closeness.  This is a mystery, but it is a subtle and heartfelt mystery that gently swept me into its entanglement and kept me utterly invested from start to finish. 

Flick has a close bond with her older brother Jack who loves practical jokes and riddles and enjoys sharing them at school and with Flick.  Rather than going to university to study law as his barrister father expects, Jack travels to Peru during his gap year where he is reported missing after a devastating earthquake.  The family are keen to find out what has happened to Jack and live in hope that they will be reunited with him. 

Flick discovers a key which Jack has left behind with a message:  For S.F. to keep until I’m back.  This discovery becomes an intriguing puzzle that Flick is determined to solve as she traces the initials to people Jack knows in the hope that they will lead her to her beloved older brother.

I really enjoyed Flick’s discoveries as she unravels the mystery behind the key, but will this be enough to find her missing brother?  As Flick connects with a range of people who are important in Jack’s life, who he has had a lasting impact upon, their reminiscences stir memories for Flick, and discoveries are made which give her a deeper insight into her brother’s character.  This leads her to question how well she really knows her brother.  How much of himself has he kept hidden from her, and she from him?

Flick is an incredibly sympathetic young girl.  She is hurting at the loss of her brother yet has the strength and courage to continue to hope, and not give up on finding him.  She puts her energy into following the clues opened by the key which takes her on a path to finding out that her brother has hidden depths which give her a new insight into his character.   I really loved that the key gave Flick the opportunity to re-connect with her Grandma through shared sadness and memories. 

I also loved learning about Jack through Flick.  Jack has haemophilia which does not stop him from following the path he has chosen.  He is so much more than the practical joker who gets detention, the riddle-giving doting older brother, and discovering more about him through his relatives and friends is such a wonderful part of this story.  Flick is given an insight into her brother that she already understood at an intuitive level, but has it reinforced through others, and I found this a fascinating aspect of this story. 

I also really enjoyed the mystery within a mystery element with Flick, a keen writer, writing her own Victorian mystery centring on a mother and her missing daughter which helps her escape from her real world and forget her reality for a while, even though there are parallels between her story and her reality.

The juxtaposition between the weight of expectations from family and the strength it takes to live your own life, making your own choices is explored sensitively.  The family’s pain and hope as they search for Jack from afar is heartachingly portrayed, but what really resonates is the closeness and connection they have as they bond over their shared loss.

At the heart of this mystery is finding the courage to be yourself and follow your dreams, even if they don’t fit someone else’s aspirations for you; having the strength not to lose hope in the face of adversity; and, the close bond between siblings even in separation.  A wonderfully heart-warming story.

Thank you to Zephyr and Fritha Lindqvist for a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.