WWW Wednesday

I’ve started listening to The Secret of Haven Point on audio. It is not what I was expecting at all, but I am really enjoying it. This is book number 5 from my Beat the Backlist! I am going to be listening to the audio going to and coming from work, then reading my physical copy in the evenings.

I’ve finished three books this week and read another over the weekend. I listened to the audiobook of Tyger which is such an incredible read. It’s definitely a book that makes you think and question, and is one that I found hard-hitting and powerful as well as poetical. This is one I’d definitely consider reading with my Year 6 class as it would be great to open discussions about slavery, racism, capitalism, spirituality and alternate/parallel universes.

I also finished The Tower at the End of Time which is such a fun read. I’d forgotten how wonderful these characters are from Flabbergast the magician without any magic, Dr Spoon looking for Dish (think I might have an inkling who it might be and I so hope I’m right!) and Eric the gentle, kind-hearted troll. The House is such a brilliant character and this time its got the hiccups causing all sorts of mayhem. Nine is a wonderful young girl who is clever, resourceful and brave. I’m not surprised her patience is tried at times! This is ridiculous in the most perfect way!

I also finished The Night Animals and have posted my review. Finally, I devoured The Wildstorm Curse over the weekend, and will be posting my review shortly.

I was very excited to be sent a copy of The Song Walker, and meant to read it over Christmas but Christmas was not what I expected so I didn’t get a chance. I intend to spend a day this weekend reading it and am so looking forward to it as The Shark Caller is one of my favourite ever middle-grade books.

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

Blog Tour: The Octopus, Dadu and Me

Written by Lucy Ann Unwin
Cover Illustration by Selom Sunu
Interior Illustrations by Lucy Mulligan
Published by uclan publishing

Thank you to uclan publishing for inviting me to be part of the Blog Tour for the wonderful The Octopus, Dadu and Me and for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest opinion. Today, I’m sharing my Review and an extract of Chapter 1.

My Review

The Octopus, Dadu and Me is an incredibly touching, sensitively portrayed story of friendship, family and acceptance that brought tears and smiles as I was completely captured by both Sashi’s rescue mission and her emotional journey.

12-year-old Sashi has been told by her parents that she can no longer visit her beloved Dadu who has dementia and is in a home.  Even though her Dadu no longer recognises her, she doesn’t understand her parents’ decision, and is heartbroken by the separation. 

Whilst visiting the local aquarium to help deal with her grief, Sashi makes a close connection with Ian who wants her help to leave the aquarium as he is trapped there.  She may not be able to visit and help her Dadu, but she is determined to assist Ian.  Except there is a problem … Ian is an octopus, and she has no idea how she is going rescue him.  Can Sashi come up with an ingenious plan to free Ian without being caught?  Can she convince her friends Darcie and Hassan to help in the heist?  And could rescuing Ian help her find a way back to her Dadu?

As well as her determination to free Ian, Sashi is struggling to accept her Dadu’s dementia and her changed relationship with him, especially as her parents feel it is best that she doesn’t visit him.  It is clear from her memories of her Dadu that Sashi has a close and special bond with him and that they enjoyed a warm, caring relationship filled with love.  Her memories of Dadu’s first signs of dementia, of his forgetfulness and fear, will resonate with anyone who has been through this with a loved one, and brought tears as it immediately took me back to the start of my dad’s dementia. 

This is both an exciting adventure and a poignant story of a family dealing with a loved one’s dementia and I think these two strands connect perfectly throughout the story.  Sashi uses her mission to rescue Ian as a way to help her cope with her feelings of helplessness at being unable to help her Dadu who she feels is trapped and unable to communicate in the same way as Ian.  

Sashi is an incredibly sympathetic young girl who shows great courage and determination in her efforts to free Ian whilst struggling with guilt and grief as her family dynamics and friendships change.  She makes mistakes in her actions and friendships as she wants to keep control of Ian’s rescue, knowing that she doesn’t have the same choices in relation to her Dadu.  I really liked both Darcie and Hassan who show themselves to be supportive, kind and caring friends even if Sashi is not always able to accept their advice due to her own emotional turmoil. 

I loved the comic strip illustrations throughout which complement the story perfectly, showing both the warmth in Sashi’s relationships and her connection with Ian.  I also really enjoyed the fascinating facts about octopuses which are shared in bold text throughout the story.  

This is poignant, heart-warming, empathetic story of the strength and love of family and friendship, of the pain of loss and acceptance, and of the joy in memories and making connections. 

Extract: Chapter 1

Do check out the other stops on the Blog Tour:

Review: The Night Animals

The Night Animals is a beautifully told, touching and hopeful story of family and friendship; of dealing with mental health issues; and, of finding the strength and courage to ask for help. 

Ten-year-old Nora’s mum has been signed off from her work as a paramedic due to having PTSD.  She has good days and bad days and, on the worst days, stays in bed and leaves Nora notes telling her to stay with a friend.  Nora has begun to see the shimmering ghost animals which used to visit her when she was younger.  Could these animals help her find a path away from her loneliness and isolation? Could they hold the key to helping her find the courage and strength to ask for, and accept, the help she and her mother need?  Could they take her back to her past and into a more hopeful future?

Chasing a ghost fox across the school playground, Nora is pulled beneath the branches of a cherry tree by Kwame who is hiding from a bully.  Kwame lives close to Nora and spends a lot of his time with his Grandad both to help him and to get away from his noisy, boisterous siblings.  Nora tries to push Kwame’s friendship away, but he proves himself to be a kind-hearted, determined and supportive friend who can see that Nora needs help even when she can’t see this herself. 

Together, they find themselves on an incredible adventure on the trail of a ghost fox, hare, raven and otter, an adventure that opens a path for Nora to find the help her family needs.

Nora is an incredibly sympathetic young girl who is a young carer for her mother who is struggling with PTSD.  The two have been a close unit since her parents’ divorce and feel that they are fine on their own, hiding the truth of their situation from others.  Both have been visited by ghosts:  her mother by the ghosts of memories from trauma witnessed in her role as a paramedic and Nora by shimmering rainbow ghost animals that had also visited her in her past.  Despite her own feelings of loss, grief, loneliness and anger, she shows compassion, support and kindness towards others.  I loved how Nora opened herself up to the ghost animals, learned to be honest with herself through what she learned from them and followed them into an adventure which brought her family the help they needed. 

I think this incredible story is a wonderful opportunity to open discussion in class about young carers, mental health issues, bullying and is one that will encourage empathy.

The cover and internal illustrations are stunning and bring to life the gorgeous rainbow ghost animals that take Nora on such an important journey.

This is a heartfelt and beautifully told, empathetic story of finding the strength to face problems, of recognising when everything is not fine and having the courage to ask for and accept help from others.  Highly recommended for readers of 9+.

First Lines Fridays

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

Somebody had made a snow angel in a perfect white snow drift down by the lake. There was something odd about it. Something about it that didn’t look right. I saw it from the window of a bus heading home from town. We were on a bridge, high above the frozen lake. I looked down, and there in the woods on the shore was the snow angel. There was something strange about it.

Any ideas?

There was a single trail of footprints, the first I’d seen all morning. They were fresh tracks, I saw, the edges of the impressions in the snow quite hard. Small feet. Like mine. Someone my age.
Then they stopped. When mysterious footprints appear in the Stockholm snow, ten-year-old Kara must discover where they’ve come from – and who they belong to. They lead Kara to Rebecca, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl, and her younger brother Samuel. Kara realises they are refugees – from another time, World War Two – and are trying to find their way home. The grief and loneliness that Rebecca and Samuel have endured is something Kara can relate to – feeling like you’re always on the outside looking in – and she finds herself compelled to help them. Through her eyes, we rediscover the magic that lies in the world around us, if only we have the courage to look for it.

Review: Saving Neverland

Saving Neverland is the most magical, mesmerising story that swept me wholeheartedly into its icy world adventure with unforgettable characters, incredible feats of peril and delight and heart-warming bonds of family and friendship.  In fact, this was so good that I have already read it twice, and cannot wait to share it with my class. 

Martha Pennydrop has moved to a townhouse at Number 14 Darlington Road with her father and younger brother, Scruff.  Martha is adamant that it is about time she grows up:  after all, she is ten years old!  Silly things like believing in magic, imaginative games and hugging must stop, but Martha is about to discover that magic is real as a boy and a fairy fly through the window-that-never-shuts …

Peter Pan and Muddle have flown from Neverland to ask for her help to save their home which is in the icy clutches of a curse laid upon it by Peter’s arch-enemy, Captain Hook.  Should Captain Hook and his pirates successfully fulfil the curse and return to Neverland, its magic will disappear forever and the joys of childhood will vanish from the Mainland. 

Whilst Martha is reluctant to leave her home, Scruff has no such qualms and, with a sprinkling of fairy dust, flies out of the window with his teddy None-the-Wiser.  Martha finds the courage to follow and it is not long before they arrive in Neverland only for Scruff to be kidnapped …

And so begins the MOST captivating, unputdownable adventure fizzing with excitement, peril and imaginative delights that kept me turning page after page with awestruck relish. Will Martha find the magic, belief and courage hidden within to save both her brother and Neverland before time runs out?  Will she find her way back to her childhood where imaginative play, curiosity and hugs are the order of the day? 

This is a re-imagining of Peter Pan but with none of the problematic associations with the original.  Anyone who has read any of Abi’s stories (and, if you haven’t, you really, really must) will know about the exquisite and immersive world-building, the inclusive and heartfelt messages and the playfulness and genius of the names!  And this is no exception!  Icy landscapes with mermaid lagoons and giant mountains, prowled by frostbears and snowtigers with magical trees and Gulping Mirrors not to mention a woolly mammoth called Armageddon (seriously gorgeous and loyal!). 

The full-page illustrations in this stunning hardback edition are absolutely beautiful, each having a quote from the story, complementing it perfectly.

Saving Neverland epitomises everything I love in children’s books – in any books!  It reaches out and wraps me in a comforting hug whilst taking me on incredible adventures where imagination knows no bounds, where fears are faced with courage, where strong bonds of friendship are built and where empathy and the most gorgeous uplifting messages of hope, kindness and wonder live at its heart. 

This is a truly unforgettable adventure that captured my imagination and heart and is one that I know I will be returning to again and again.  An absolutely magical, unmissable and snugglesome story for adventurers of 8 to 80+.

WWW Wednesday

I’m listening to Tyger which is utterly brilliant. I’m enjoying the themes of darkness and light in this version of London, and am looking forward to finding out how Adam changes through his relationship with the tyger. I’m reading The Tower at the End of Time as my ‘huddled up in bed before I sleep’ read as I just knew it would be a fun read. I’d forgotten how brilliant and zany the characters are, so its such a treat to be back with them. My ‘when I’ve finished school work’ read is The Night Animals. I’m really enjoying how the ghost animals Nora meets help her to learn things about herself as she tries to cope with her Mum’s PTSD. And I’m so glad she has a friend in the wonderful Kwame.

I’ve finished Harley Hitch and the Fossil Mystery and Monster Hunting: Monsters Bite Back which are both published tomorrow – and I’ve already posted my reviews.

I’ve been aiming to get to this one for a while as I really enjoyed The Bird Singers so I’m hoping to be able to pick it up to read over the weekend.

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

Review: Monster Hunting: Monsters Bite Back

Written by Ian Mark
Illustrated by Louis Ghibault
Published by Farshore

Monster Hunting:  Monsters Bite Back is the second scerrifyingly hilarious adventure for apprentice monster hunter Jack, his friend Nancy and 200-year-old monster hunter Stoop.  This can be read as a standalone, but I have no doubt that young readers who haven’t already devoured – and belched a little – at Monster Hunting for Beginners will be eagerly hunting it down after reading this.

When Jack gets a letter from the Sisters of Perpetual Misery asking for his help to rid them of some monsters who are making their lives in Muckle Abbey a misery, he cannot turn them down.  Especially as an ancient curse prophesying THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT may be enacted if they are forced to leave the abbey … 

And so begins a ferociously funny, action-packed and exciting adventure brimming with razor-sharp humour, a splatter (or maybe a platter) of rudeness and oodles of unforgettable, not-at-all-as-expected monsters as Jack, Nancy and Stoop travel by seven-league boots to Scotland via a quick game of Hoo Shank with some Fog Goblins …

Can Jack help the nones nuns (their names are genius!) stay in their abbey?  Could there be something more sinister behind the infestation of mayhem-loving monsters in the abbey?  Will Jack’s monster-hunting skills keep him safe from harm?  And can the THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT be prevented? 

This is written in the first person from Jack’s viewpoint, and I really loved the chatty, funny, warm style with the scintillating witty commentary in the footnotes.  I thought the plot was very clever with some unexpected twists and turns that kept me turning the pages after I’d stopped giggling at some of the most ridiculously funny encounters and characters. 

The monsters which Jack, Nancy and Stoop encounter are just brilliant and I loved reading the entries about them in Jack’s magical book, Monster Hunters for Beginners.  I definitely don’t think I’d want to meet any of them … especially the loud, unpredictable and very dangerous ones!  Maybe I’ve chosen the wrong profession!  Although, on second thoughts, a mischievous Lubber or ten might be fun on the playground – definitely not in class!

The hardback edition is just gorgeous with the cover under the dust jacket full of monsters who could definitely bite back!  The full-and-partial-page internal illustrations are stunning and complement the story’s monstrously good humour perfectly. 

This is a rollicking, ridiculously fun adventure that is guaranteed to bring giggles and groans of delight in equal measure:  perfect for young adventurers of 7+ who I have no doubt will adore monster hunting with Jack, Nancy and Stoop just as much as I did.

Thank you to Rory Codd and Farshore Books for an early copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Review: Harley Hitch and the Fossil Mystery

Written by Vashti Hardy
Illustrated by George Ermos
Published by Scholastic

I absolutely loved joining Harley, Cosmo and Sprocket on their third exciting, BIG, time-twisty adventure in Harley Hitch and the Fossil Mystery.

When Harley receives a letter from school just before the start of the summer term, she is relieved to discover that her antics of the previous term have not led to a suspension!  Instead, she discovers that new teacher, the aptly named Professor Anning, is taking the class on a trip to Inventia Jurassic Coast. 

When it seems that Harley may be the only member of her class not to discover a fossil, Sprocket, her robot-dog, unwittingly helps her to find a one-of-a-kind fossil:  a dinosaur footprint!  Could Harley have discovered a new dinosaur species?  And could this discovery, at last, help her to win the coveted Pupil of the Term?  Of course, there is the little matter of proving her discovery, especially as her former friend and now rival, Fenelda Spiggot, suggests that the fossil might not even be real. 

And what better way to prove its authenticity than to build a time machine which will also be her entry in the ‘best invention’ competition set by Professor Spark.  But, where Harley is concerned, things don’t always go exactly to plan …

And so begins another amazing, action-packed adventure which is guaranteed to keep young readers turning pages as they follow Harley on her quest to travel back in time with some brilliantly unexpected consequences sure to bring roars of delight and maybe a few squeals of fright!  Those who have read the previous adventures will be delighted to meet some well-loved characters such as the inspirational metal fish in the Rusty River and – my absolute favourites – the dazzling stars in the star-chatter observatory who I think deserve a book of their own!

Harley has definitely won a place in my heart! She really is the most wonderful young girl:  ever-curious, tenacious, a risk-taker, believing in the possibility of the impossible, as well as being kind-hearted, a quick-thinker and someone who takes responsibility for her actions.  She is such a brilliant role model for young readers, especially for those interested in STEM subjects.  I really enjoyed the blend of science with science-fiction and the perfectly scientific process that Harley takes towards her invention.    

The partial and full-page illustrations by George Ermos are wonderfully expressive and capture the fun and excitement of this adventure perfectly.  Professor Anning riding into town on her dino trundle bike is a particular favourite as is Ursa Major’s reaction to Halley’s guitar playing. Brilliant!

Harley Hitch and the Fossil Mystery is a joyous, exciting and playful adventure, perfect for young readers of 7+ who are guaranteed to want to travel into this world time and time again! 

Thank you Scholastic for providing me with an early copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

BEAT THE BACKLIST READING CHALLENGE

I’ve seen this challenge on a few posts today and it couldn’t have come at a better time for me! The Beat the Backlist Challenge is in its seventh year and was started by Austine Decker. Details of how to take part are on the blog but the rules are simple:

  1. The book must be published in the previous year or earlier (for the 2023 challenge, anything published in 2022 or earlier counts).
  2. You have to start and finish the book in 2023.
  3. And that’s it!

The challenge runs from 1st January 2023 to 31st December 2023

I had already made a list of books I’d bought in 2022 which I hadn’t read yet (there’s 55) and these are only the middle-grade books, but I’m taking one step at a time. I’d also taken these from the random places they are on my bookcase and put them on to two shelves. I have also included a couple of second books in series which I need to read before moving on to the third book which I bought in 2022! The second picture is of the hardback middle-grade books I bought in 2022 which also form part of my challenge!

And the good news? I’ve already read two of them: The Vanishing of Aveline Jones and My Story: Princess Sophia Duleep Singh.

I’m hoping that taking part in this challenge will keep me on track to read 2022 releases as I know I’m also going to be tempted by all the upcoming 2023 releases!

December Wrap-Up

December already feels a long time ago as I’m getting myself ready to go back to work tomorrow! I did a little work at the start of the holiday and finished off planning yesterday which didn’t really feel like work as I really enjoy preparing reading comprehension lessons. Christmas was not quite the relaxing experience that I’d hoped it would be, but then I suppose life never goes exactly to plan. On to my reading month …

Goodreads Challenge:

I had set my Goodreads Challenge at 100 books and managed to surpass it with 140 books. This included physical books, e-books and audiobooks.

Books I’ve read:

This has definitely been a better month for reading as I’ve doubled what I read in November. I’ve read 12 books this month which includes 10 physical books and 2 audiobooks. One of these, Saving Neverland is a re-read as I’d read it on NetGalley in November, then saw the hardback copy in Waterstones over Christmas and couldn’t resist buying it and re-reading as I loved it so much!

NetGalley:

My feedback ratio is at 95%. I have requested and been approved to read two books this month. I have now got a physical copy of The Night Animals as I found it released a little early in Waterstones over Christmas. I haven’t read Lisette’s first book, The Secret of Haven Point, which is on my bookshelves, so I will read it before reading her new one.

Books sent by publishers:

I am grateful to have been sent five books by Publishers this month. I have read and written reviews for four of them. My Blog Tour post for Once Upon a Hillside has been posted. I will be taking part in the Blog Tour for The Octopus, Dadu and Me and will be sharing my reviews for Harley Hitch and Monster Hunting: Monsters Bite Back this week.

Books bought:

I’ve bought 8 books this month and have read three of them.

I also got 3 books for Christmas:

How has your reading month been? Have you read any of these? Have you any of them on your TBR?