Rumblestar

I absolutely relished the deliciously rich, breath-taking world of Rumblestar which invites the reader to savour its many wonders, including the landscape of floating clouds, spectacular castle and magical creatures.  

Casper Tock is living in Faraway (our World), which is being devastated by very unusual weather conditions.  He is trying to escape from school bullies when he inadvertently unlocks the way to Rumblestar, one of the Unmapped Kingdoms, which is being threatened by an old enemy. 

There he meets the irrepressible, and brilliantly named, Utterly Thankless who promptly arrests him … and shortly after rescues him.  And so begins their incredible adventure into The Beyond where they meet magical creatures including the delightfully creepy drizzle hags and the kind-hearted, new-age snow trolls. 

Their daring mission to attempt to save both their worlds is full of fast-paced action, tension which ebbs and flows with magical ease interspersed with humour and the realisation of a deep friendship.

I adored both Casper and Utterly, and her delightfully sensitive, brave and clever, dragon, Arlo.  Casper hates taking risks and loves nothing better than lists, routines and regimented organisation.   Utterly is a quick-witted rule-breaker with a penchant for recklessness. And yet, each is just what the other needs. Together, they build a heart-warming friendship forged in adventure, honesty, loyalty and courage – and brilliant one-liners!

This is a real marvel of a story:  an enchanting read, brimming with adventure, nuggets of wisdom and a testament to the power of friendship.  I am excited to share Rumblestar with my class who I know will adore Casper, Utterly and Arlo as much as I did.

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for an e-ARC of Rumblestar.

The Star-Spun Web

I was completely engrossed from start to finish in the life of Tess de Sousa, a wonderfully realistic and determined heroine whose courage is mixed with moments of uncertainty, guilt and fear.

She is living happily in an orphanage, where she was left in very unusual circumstances, when she is discovered by a long-lost relative … so starts Tess’s adventures and startling discoveries. Tess has rather a penchant for science and discovers a way to travel to a parallel world, in the grips of WWII, using a Star-spinner.

The villains in this book really are deliciously dark and devious! The story builds wonderfully to a tense climax, which had me holding my breath.

For me, this story is a real testament to the power of friendship and trust, whether that be from the childhood friends Tess grew up with, her incredibly comforting (and not at all scary!) pet tarantula or the boy she meets in the parallel world.

This is a perfectly paced, incredibly enjoyable and intelligent book, perfect for middle-grade readers – and their grown-ups!

POG

POG is an incredibly poignant, yet ultimately up-lifting story, tackling the difficult subject of family grief in a skilful and sensitive manner.  I became absolutely absorbed in the lives of Penny and David Cresswell as they struggle to come to terms with the death of their mother.

The family move to a rather dilapidated house in the forest, with past family history.  Eleven-year old David, who is angry and hurting, soon wanders into the forest where he has a strange encounter, the consequences of which haunt him for much of the story. 

The family’s move into their new home draws unwelcome guests, from the weakening Necessary boundary, who are drawn to the heart-wrenching grief of the family’s memories of loss. 

Fortunately, Pog, one of the First Folk, who has been charged with protecting our world from the perils that lurk beyond the Necessary, is living in their attic and knows how to handle a staff and sword.  And what a hero he is!  A two-foot-tall warrior, just as adept with words as with actions. Compassionate, clever, courageous:  I adored him!

Although their first encounter with Pog doesn’t happen in the most fortuitous of circumstances, a heart-warming relationship soon develops between Pog and the children as they join forces against the invasion of some rather grisly creatures such as the greebeldies and bloodworms.  What follows is perfectly-paced action with elements of danger, deception and betrayal balanced with cathartic moments, humour and bravery.

For me, what really shines through in this story is the courage the children show, with the help of Pog, to confront their terrible loss and begin to heal their pain through ultimately having the strength to focus on the importance of joyful memories and embrace a new beginning.