November Wrap-Up

I’ve really enjoyed my reading month in November, and have read some fantastic middle-grade books. The stand-out books for me this month were Sweep: The Story of a Girl and her Monster, The Chimeseekers and Shipwreck Island. I’ve really enjoyed introducing my class to the Barrington Stoke Young Editor’s work, where they can offer feedback on an upcoming title, which they absolutely loved. I’d definitely recommend this to any other teachers. I also really enjoyed attending a book launch for the first time in what seems like forever. Strictly speaking, it was at the beginning of December, not November, but it was before I’ve written this post! It was so lovely to catch up with some wonderful book bloggers, and meet some authors I greatly admire. And, it was my birthday at the start of the month, so I’ve included a section on the books I was given.

Books I’ve read:

I’ve read 12 books this month, physical copies, e-books and 4 audiobooks. I think this has been my best reading month for a while.

NetGalley:

My Feedback Ratio is at 96%. I’m trying really hard not to request too many books, but I must admit that it’s very hard as there are some fantastic books on there! I did request The Mermaid in the Millpond, but I’ve read that quickly and submitted my review. I also just had to request A Storm of Sisters, the new Michelle Harrison, but then realised it is a sampler, so I’m just going to have to be patient and wait for the release in February.

Books sent by publishers/authors:

I have been lucky enough to have been sent these books by publishers and authors this month.

Books bought:

I have no control when it comes to buying books that I eventually intend to read and, despite knowing I was getting books for my birthday, I still managed to buy 12 books! From these, I have read Fledgling and The Chimeseekers, and I’ve almost finished The Very Merry Murder Club.

Birthday books!

I got 9 books for my birthday, all of which I might just have hinted at except for Mort which is one my husband read years ago, and wants to see if I’ll like!

That’s a wrap! How has your reading month been? Have you read any of these? Have you any of them on your TBR?

Review: Nature’s Treasures

Written by Ben Hoare
Illustrated by Kaley McKean
Published by Dorling Kindersley on 18th November

Nature’s Treasures is an absolutely stunning, fascinating hardback delight of a book which is guaranteed to entrance young and older nature lovers from 7+.  If ever a book deserves to be a cherished addition to any school or home bookshelf, it is this one.

It is just as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside.  With a holofoil cover, gilded edges, and a breath-taking collection of interior photographs and illustrations enhancing the exuberant descriptions, this is a truly special book.

This wonderful collection of nature’s treasures begins with an author introduction to some of the intriguing objects to be found in the book.  It is divided into four chapters, each with an introductory page:  animals; plants, fungi and algae; minerals and rocks; and objects made by nature.  It has an easy-to-follow format with a contents page, glossary and index.

As an adult, I was completely absorbed in learning about these remarkable objects, so I can only imagine the wonder a child will take from learning about these.  Each of the items has a double-page in the book with gorgeous presentational features including:  amazing close-up photographs; detailed diagrams; gorgeous illustrations; an introduction to the object; and, fascinating facts telling the story of each treasure which clearly show the author’s respect for, and knowledge and love of, nature.  Through words, photos and illustrations, these extraordinary natural creations are placed in the hand of every curious child, taking them on an incredible journey of discovery through the wonder that is our natural and awe-inspiring world.

I love that there are many objects in this book that children can go on a nature spotting adventure to find, and see in their natural environment.  There are even some tips on responsible nature spotting. 

Nature’s Treasures is the perfect gift for curious children who are sure to spend many happy hours absorbed in this treasure trove of objects from the natural world which is presented in a stunning hardback edition.

Thank you to the Publisher and Abi Walton for a copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

WWW Wednesday

I’m still listening to Sweep on Borrowbox. It is so good! It gives a really powerful insight into the life of young sweeps in Victorian London. Nan and her gollum, Charlie have such a gorgeous relationship. There have been some very poignant moments, and the cruelty shown by the orphan’s owners is heart-breaking; however, there are also some adults who want to help Nan and her friends. I’m also continuing to dip into The Very Merry Murder Club and have now read the first six stories. I’m enjoying the variety in the stories which have all been fun reads, especially Shoe-Dunnit and The Beast of Bedleywood.

I’ve read The Girl who Talked to Trees, a series of interwoven stories told by trees to a young girl trying to save the oak tree in her meadow. I’ve posted my review as part of the Blog Tour. I’ve also read The Mermaid in the Millpond which is being published by Barrington Stoke in January. It is a brilliant, dark and atmospheric story set in the Victorian era which I can highly recommend. I will be writing my review to post shortly.

I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of Libby and the Parisian Puzzle by the Publisher. It is one I’ve really been looking forward to so I intend to read it this weekend.

What are you reading? Have you read any of these?

Blog Tour: The Girl Who Talked to Trees

Written by Natasha Farrant
Illustrated by Lydia Corry
Published by Zephyr

The Girl who Talked to Trees is a magical interwoven collection of stories celebrating a young girl’s deep connection to the trees that surround her as they tell her their stories, transporting her to different times and places.    I was utterly entranced by these beautifully written stories resonating with an ecological message of the need to respect and appreciate the natural treasures we have around us.  

This is an exquisite hardback illustrated edition that would make a very special gift for young readers, one to be cherished and returned to again and again. 

Eleven-year-old Olive’s best friend is a 400-year-old oak tree, so when her father decides to cut it down in order to build a summerhouse to impress his friends, this shy young girl decides that she must speak out to protect her friend. Her father makes a bargain with her:  she has seven hours to think of something more impressive than a summerhouse to stop him from cutting down the tree …  Will Olive find a way to change her father’s mind with help from her friend?  Will she be able to keep the promise she makes to the oak trees? 

Seven hours for seven trees and seven stories to tell …

And what wonderfully captivating stories the trees share with her! I absolutely love the idea of listening to the memories of trees, who have witnessed so much, as they tell their stories … stories of danger, of revenge, of change, of hope, of friendship and love … stories that sing with an appreciation of these natural treasures.

Olive is taken on an unforgettable adventure through time and place: to a medieval forest, an underwater forest, into a maze and to Persia and North America.  Each of the stories told by the trees she encounters is a sheer delight imbued with a fairy tale magical quality, but also with messages of the need to preserve, appreciate and protect our trees. 

Before each tree’s story, there is a wonderful illustrated double-page spread about the tree with fascinating tree facts.  And oh my:  the illustrations!  They are absolutely gorgeous:   from the front cover, to the many full-and-partial page internal images and the end pages.  The illustrations are vivid and warm, resonating with the wonder and beauty of the natural world. 

This is a really special book that engenders such an appreciation of nature, and is sure to enchant young readers as they enjoy the magical tree stories and delight in the gorgeous illustrations.  Perfect for children of 8+. 

NATASHA FARRANT is a writer and literary scout. She is the author of Costa Children’s Book Award winner Voyage of the Sparrowhawk, (Faber, 2020) and other novels. She lives in London with her family.

Website: natashafarrant.com

Twitter: @NatashaFarrant1

LYDIA CORRY is a graduate of the Royal College of Art. Her publishing debut was Eight Princesses and a Magic Mirror, written by Natasha Farrant (Zephyr). She lives with her family in Hastings.

Website: lydiacorry.com

Instagram: @lydiacorryillustration

Thank you so much to Zephyr and Lynda Smythe for inviting me to take part in this Blog Tour, and for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Please do check out the other stops on the Blog Tour:

Review: Pie-Rats and the Mist Island Treasure

Pie-Rats and the Mist Island Treasure is a guaranteed giggle-inducing, pie-tastic treasure of an adventure:  playful, hilarious and brimming with piratical capers that are sure to delight young readers.

Captain Greentail has inherited the Black Biscuit and leads a daring and brave crew who also just happen to be fiercely funny and loyal!  When they are attacked by their rivals, the Pantaloonies, they find themselves facing a pie-rat’s worst nightmare:  running low on loot!  Luckily, there be rumours of hidden treasure on Mist Island, and so begins the Pie-Rats daring adventure to replenish their stores …

Of course, there just might be a few obstacles for them to overcome like … finding the island, fighting off the ghosts who are rumoured to protect the treasure, and unexpected chicanery … but this will be no trouble to an intrepid crew of rats, hamsters and cheese sandwiches – will it?

This is an exciting, hilarious, playful and action-packed adventure that captured me wholeheartedly.  I mean, who wouldn’t be delighted by piratical food fights, ear-wax figures and a quest for lost treasure? 

I adored the wonderfully eccentric crew of the Black Biscuit who kept me thoroughly entertained and laughing out loud.  Captain Greentail turns tail and hides at any sign of trouble, making perfect excuses for his actions, but I still adored him!  Steady Eddy holds the crew together, and is a brave, clever and kind First Mate. Then there is his friend George, the mouldy cheese sandwich – yes, that’s right – a mouldy cheese sandwich who may not speak, but goodness, his actions speak louder than words – comedic genius!  Add to this the Pantaloonies, ghost pirates and the other not-to-be-missed island inhabitants, and be prepared for a feast of zany delightfulness!

The illustrations scattered throughout are absolutely delightful and brilliantly expressive!

This is a riot of pie-rat-licious fun that is sure to take young readers on an exciting adventure:  a delicious treat of a story, perfect for readers of 7+. I’m so looking forward to the crew’s next adventure!

Thank you to Kate Poels for an early copy in exchange for my honest review.

WWW Wednesday

I’m currently dipping into the stories in The Very Merry Murder Club and have read three of them so far. I keep hearing how brilliant The Last Bear is, so I decided to pick it up this week as it’s been on my TBR for a long time! I’m absolutely loving it so far. The relationship between April and the Bear is so special, and I can’t wait to see how it continues. I’ve also started listening to Sweep which is wonderful so far – it’s a heart-warming, magical story of a young sweep, set in the Victorian era, whose life changes when she is rescued from a chimney fire by a lump of coal which she discovers is, in fact, a soot golem. These two friends begin to carve out a life for themselves, and I’m so looking forward to finding out more, although I think this one might be a tearjerker!

I finished reading Christmas Dinner of Souls which was satisfyingly terrifying in a perfectly middle-grade way! The stories that are told are brilliant, and I loved the whole concept of sitting around the table, serving meals and telling scary tales. This one has already been snapped up by a girl in my class. I also finished listening to Shipwreck Island which was absolutely gripping. I love the relationship between Ellie and Seth who think they may have reached safety on a new island. This island is being ruled by a Queen who is the vessel for a God, a Queen who Ellie forms a friendship with. This is such a powerful story of manipulation, politics, power struggles and friendship with some incredible revelations! I can’t wait for the final book!

I didn’t get to this one last weekend, but will be reading it this weekend.

What are you reading? Have you read any of these?

Review: The Bear Who Sailed the Ocean on an Iceberg

The Bear Who Sailed the Ocean on an Iceberg is a poignant, humorous and tenderly written story of heartache and healing, of family and friendship:  an utterly compelling read that entranced me from start to finish.

Twelve-year-old Patrick Jolly is trapped by the sadness within him.  He is the target of bullies at school; his best friend has moved away; and, his mum is suffering from depression after the loss of his baby sister.  As if these aren’t big enough worries, imagine his surprise when he walks into his garage and finds a polar bear in the freezer! 

However, this is no ordinary polar bear.  Wilbur Ambrose Cedric Barnaby Montague the Third (otherwise known as Monty) is a well-read, eloquent and polite talking bear who has inadvertently found himself on an adventure which sees him travelling by melting iceberg, ship and canal to take refuge in Patrick’s freezer! 

So begins Patrick’s mission to find a way to keep Monty safe, to get him home to Greenland, to keep him supplied with fish and condensed milk, and to avoid raising the suspicions of mean-spirited neighbour Mr Crankly, all of which is rather difficult when your guest doesn’t appreciate the danger he will be in if he is caught.  I mean, what can possibly go wrong when a large polar bear decides that he has had enough of hanging out in the garage, and has a little sleep in the garden hammock instead? 

I absolutely adored the genuine friendship that develops between Monty and Patrick.  Monty enters Patrick’s life at a time when he desperately needs a friend, and offers him some sage advice, and helps him to confront the difficult situation he finds himself in. The wonderful Monty is partial to Oscar Wilde, condensed milk and has a tendency to wander off, a tendency which leads to plenty of humorous situations, and tricky moments for Patrick as he attempts to keep others from discovering Monty.

The story deals with themes of loss, grief and bullying in a sensitive manner, and offers a perfect opportunity for these issues to be discussed with children.  There is also a strong environmental message relating to climate change threaded throughout the story which I really enjoyed.  I loved that this is a story that is written with an emotional depth that encourages empathy as we are given an insight into the lives of many of the characters. 

The illustrations are completely charming and complement the whimsical nature of the story beautifully. I particularly adored the inside cover illustrations of a sunglasses-wearing Monty dancing – just perfect!

An utterly captivating, warmly humorous adventure that is sure to entrance, and provide food for thought, to readers of 9+.

Thank you to Laura Smythe and the Publisher, Everything with Words for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

WWW Wednesday

I’m listening to Shipwreck Island which I’m really enjoying. I’m loving the twists and danger and can’t wait to see where this one leads. I’ve had Christmas Dinner of Souls since last Christmas, so think it’s about time I picked it up as I’m looking forward to reading a few scarier stories in the lead up to Christmas.

I’ve read Pie-Rats and the Mist Island Treasure which is a really fun and playful story that I really enjoyed. I also read Revenge of the Beast which is just as deliciously dark as the first one. Bethany is just wonderful! I also read The Bear who Sailed the Ocean on an Iceberg which completely captured me. It is a poignant, humorous and tenderly written story that deals with some big issues in a sensitive way. I’ll be posting my review soon.

This is a story I’ve really been looking forward to. The book is gorgeous with beautiful illustrations.

What are you reading? Have you read any of these?

MG Takes on Thursday

This is my weekly meme celebrating amazing middle-grade books, now with a re-vamped banner!

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 Lucy Hope
Illustration by David Dean
Published by Nosy Crow

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

I breathe in the familiar smell of ancient tobacco mingled with old books and leather, a sensory legacy from a great-great-grandfather I never knew.

This book in three words:

GOTHIC, DARK, LEGACY

Fledgling is a gorgeously gothic adventure:  ethereal, dark, powerful and poignant.  It is a story that lingers, that pulsates with a magical quality, and that resonates with hope.

Cassie’s home stands atop a tall rock, looking down on the Bratvian Forest and town of Edenburg.  She lives there with her mother, a famous opera singer; her father who is a taxidermist; and, her Grandma who is very ill.  The relationship between Cassie and her parents, and that between her parents, is a difficult and complicated one.  I really enjoyed following the threads into her family history which casts light on the fragility of the familial relationships in the most unexpected ways.

During a storm, Cassie opens the window to find a cherub has arrived, someone she needs to keep secret from her family.  But the cherub’s presence also heralds the arrival of some terrifying creatures and leads to a series of events that will change Cassie’s life forever …

Unable to tell her family about the cherub, she calls upon her best friend, Raphael for help, but Raphael is hiding his own secrets.  Will Cassie have the strength and courage to protect her home, her family and her friend?  Will she uncover the reason for the arrival of the terrifying storm hawks?  Can she prevent history from repeating itself?

I really enjoyed the tense, foreboding atmosphere that builds throughout the story.  There is a real sense of unease, tinged with darkness and danger that is slowly lifted as shocking secrets are revealed and truths uncovered.  I also loved the house with its library, owlery, engine-room and contraptions which form such an integral part of the story.

This is a heartachingly stunning adventure that completely and utterly enchanted me.  A gorgeous read for a dark wintery evening as the wind rattles at the windows … 

This is a story that I would highly recommend to readers of 10+.

Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for an e-ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

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 took a bit of a break from Shadow Town, but I’m now going back to it. I’m listening to Shipwreck Island which I’m absolutely loving. I’m also dipping in to The Haunting Season.

I’ve finished listening to A Mouse Called Miika which is such a gorgeous story with some wonderful messages. A real treat of a story. I picked up The Chime Seekers at the weekend, and it jumped to the top of my TBR. Oh my goodness – this is such a brilliant story. I love stories of dark faeries, and this one has a brilliant villain. It was very hard to put down, and I found myself looking forward to picking it up every evening. Highly recommended.

I didn’t get to Revenge of the Beast this week, so I’m going to pick it up this weekend.

What are you reading? Have you read any of these?