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!

The spell wouldn’t stay on the shelf. It bounced on the floor and rolled under the kitchen table. Rayne sighed and picked it up for the third time, feeling the scroll softly vibrate.

Any ideas?

I’ve had this one on my TBR for a while now – it’s definitely my kind of book and I’m looking forward to reading it. I love the cover by Dinara Mirtalipova. I don’t know what has taken me so long to read it – just so many fantastic books!

Goodreads synopsis:

A stunning fantasy debut, enter the unique world of the Spell Breathers.
Spell Breathing does not come naturally to Rayne – she loathes the hours of practice, the stacks of scrolls, and the snapping mud devils that cover her mothers precious spell book.
But it is spell breathing that keeps her village safe from the dreaded monster curse that plagues their world. It is ancient powerful magic, but as Rayne learns to her horror . . . it is also fragile.
In one clumsy move, the magic that keeps them safe is broken, her village is plunged into danger, and an incredible adventure begins . . . 

WWW Wednesday

This is a meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words.  It asks three questions:

1.      What are you currently reading?

2.      What did you recently finish reading?

3.      What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m currently reading Guardians of Magic which is the first book in The Cloud Horse Chronicles, a new series by the fantastic Chris Riddell. The story is wonderful and the illustrations are just magical!

This week I’ve finished The Wind Reader by Dorothy A Winsor which I really enjoyed. It is a story of friendship and hardship against a backdrop of political intrigue with a fantasy element. Review to follow shortly. I also read Owen and the Soldier by Lisa Thompson which was such a beautiful, heartfelt story.

I want to read The Little Fir Tree which I was approved to read via NetGalley and The Last Spell Breather by Julie Pike which I’ve been keen to get to for a while now.

100th Post: September Wrap-Up

September has been a very long, busy month, and I’m only now finding time to wrap-up.  I’ve actually decided to do the first week of October too as I’ve left it until now to post, and I’ve bought lots of new books and been to some bookish events!  I’ve also had my biggest disaster using WordPress!

I’ve been back at work for a month now.  I have a wonderful class of children and love being in the classroom, but work outside the classroom keeps me away from reading and blogging as much as I’d like to!  However, I have made a pledge to myself that I will not work at the weekend unless I absolutely have to, and this has really helped me relax at the weekend, and enjoy some down time.

OOPS aka Sugar Plum Fairy (which isn’t me swearing – much!)

I’ve been using WordPress since April when I started my blog, but today I learned that I’m still such a beginner!  My media was getting very large, so I decided I would delete some images from it!  BIG MISTAKE!  I have now learned that deleting media is not a good idea as it deletes it from my posts.  I bet everyone else knows this, so why didn’t I know ?  Let’s just say, I had to spend quite a long time re-loading images and updating posts!  I won’t make that mistake again! 

BOOKISH EVENTS

Bath Children’s Literature Festival

I went to the Bath Children’s Literature Festival for the first time on Sunday 29th September.  I went to hear the wonderful Irish authors Sinead O’Hart and Catherine Doyle talk about some of my favourite books, The Eye of the North, The Star-Spun Web, The Storm Keeper’s Island and The Lost Tide Warriors. The Eye of the North was the children’s book that got me hooked on children’s books as an adult.  They really were inspiring to listen to as they talked about how their first books just sort of ‘popped’ into their heads, Catherine’s inspiration for Malachy coming from her Grandfather and Sinead being just like Emmeline.  The strangest question came from a child who asked ‘How would you like to die?  They both handled this really well and with good humour. 

I got to meet them and have my class books signed by them.  They were very friendly and ‘knew’ me from Twitter! 

Reading Rocks

On Saturday 5th October, I went to my first Reading Rocks, South which is an annual event attended by those in education who have a passion for reading children’s literature.  It was a fantastic day – meeting new people, catching up with those I knew, listening to some inspirational speakers and buying yet more books! 

The two speakers who really stood out for me were Jane Considine who has a real passion for reading which absolutely shines through in every word she says – she is also extremely funny!  The image she showed from an old Sex Ed book for children was not fit for sight at 10am!  Afterwards, I met her at her book signing – she immediately noticed that I was not from ‘around these parts’.  We had a lovely chat about Irish-isms as her Gran was from Southern Ireland. 

The other speaker was one of my favourite authors, Vashti Hardy, who gave a wonderful talk about her books, which included references to STEM and gender stereotyping.  She also spoke about her own bookish influences growing up.  I was very excited to meet her afterwards and have Brightstorm signed by her.  She also recognised me from Twitter!

BOOK, BOOKS AND MORE BOOKS

I might have slightly overdone it with book purchases, but it’s really not my fault – I blame the release of an incredible number of amazing children’s books on Thursday 3rd October.  Not sure what excuse I can make for my other purchases.  Oh yes!  Believathon is coming up in November and I want to make sure I have plenty of books to choose from!

My September/October (so-far) purchases:

1.      Uki and the Outcasts by Kieran Larwood

2.      Guardians of Magic by Chris Riddell

3.      Skeleton Keys:  The Unimaginary Friend by Guy Bass

4.      The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson (I also won a copy  of this one on Toppsta)

5.      The Boy Giant by Michael Morpurgo

6.      The Princess Who Flew with Dragons by Stephanie Burgis

7.      The Time of Green Magic by Hilary McKay

8.      The Great Brain Robbery by P G Bell

9.      The Velvet Fox by Catherine Fisher

10.    Frostheart by Jamie Littler

11.    The Star Outside my Window by Onjali Q Rauf

12.    The Somerset Tsunami by Emma Carroll

The Discovery Centre Library

Normally I go to a closer library rather than the main town library, but this time I went to our main library and it is just gorgeous.  I was amazed by the incredible selection of books and the huge papier mache of the BFG!  I got just a few shorter books from there!

1.      The Road to Ever After by Moira Young

2.      The Snow Sister by Emma Carroll

3.      Owen and the Soldier by Lisa Thompson

4.      A Most Peculiar Toy Factory by Alex Bell

NetGalley

I’ve finally got my 80% badge!  I have requested and been approved for a few books.  My successful requests were:

1.      The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave.  This is her first adult  novel which I’m very excited to read as I’ve adored both her middle-grade and young adult books.

2.      The Little Fir Tree: From an original story by Hans Christian Andersen by Christopher Corr.  I remember the Hans Christian Anderson story in a whole school assembly a few years ago, so I really wanted to read this one.

3.      Guardians of Magic by Chris Riddell.  I was approved for this one after the publication date by which time I couldn’t resist buying it!

This was a longer post than I thought it would be.  Thank you if you stuck it to the end!

#Six for Sunday

The October theme for Six for Sunday, hosted by A Little But a Lot is Autumn Feels and today’s prompt is for Books with Leaves on the Cover. I was surprised by how many books I had with leaves on the cover. These are the six I’ve chosen:

This tense story is set in a wood where three children become lost …

This is the incredible story of a young girl who has come to Britain on the kindertransport

This is the story of a dangerous, enchanted forest …

This one is on my TBR – it sounds like a really magical read …

Another one on my TBR. I love the front cover … and I’m always intrigued by stories about witchcraft.

This is my latest purchase. It is the follow-up to The Clockwork Crow.

WWW Wednesday

This is a meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words It asks three questions:

1. What are you currently reading?

2. What did you recently finish reading?

3. What do you think you’ll read next?

I am currently reading The Wind Reader. I love the premise of this story whose main character I’m really rooting for!

I’ve just finished reading The Unimaginary Friend which is just glorious! I can’t wait to introduce ‘Ol Skeleton Keys to 365 children tomorrow! I’m sure there will be much delight!

My next read is Guardians of Magic which I’ve just been approved to read via NetGalley. I have already bought a copy as I knew I’d want the hardback version of this – the illustrations are wonderful.

Review: The Switching Hour

Published by Scholastic
Published on 1st August

Oh wow!   This was a captivating, spine-tingling read imbued throughout with an underlying sense of danger in an environment of stifling heat, inspired by the landscape of Southern Africa.  The writing is exquisite and lyrical and took me on the most incredible journey of fear, awe and heartbreak, but also let me see the incredible bravery and strength of others in the face of seeming hopelessness and abject loss … this really is a story to be devoured in a single sitting. 

Twelve-year-old Amaya’s community is suffering from a dreadful drought which is threatening the destruction of their homeland.   People believe that it has also awoken the terrifying Badeko, a creature that steals away children during The Switching Hour to feed upon their dreams, leaving their loved ones to suffer from the curse of the Sorrow Sickness, grieving for someone they can’t remember. 

Amaya clearly adores her younger brother, Kaleb so imagine her terror when she wakes up one morning to discover he has disappeared, taken by the Badeko.  Now imagine her guilt when she realises his disappearance is her fault. To add to this, her Granny Uma has been called away, so Amaya is left to take action on her own. 

Well, not quite on her own, as she has the wonderful companionship of her pet goat Tau.  I had a pet goat as a child – not very imaginatively called Kid – and remember fondly its stubborn nature and propensity for head-butting!  Of course, I adored Tau who is courageous, protective and loyal … and so much more!

Blaming herself and feeling guilty, she is determined to rescue her brother from the grip of the Badeko.  And this is where I must mention the cover illustration by Kelsey Buzzell which perfectly encapsulates the pervading sense of danger and oppressive heat throughout the story.

I’m not brave.  I’m just too scared of losing him.

Amaya must be both brave and strong as she fights her constant fear on her dangerous journey through the suffocating heat of the forest to the Badeko’s lair to rescue her brother.  Her journey is filled with incredible episodes of tension, awe-inspiring courage, and just the perfect amount of spine-tingling scary moments that kept me turning page after page with bated breath.  The action is fast-paced as time runs out, as the Badeko plays tricks with her mind …  Will her love for Kaleb be strong enough to help her face her greatest fear? 

Friendship … courage … overcoming fears … this story is a perfect read for children of 9+ who I have no doubt will be just as entranced by Amaya’s brave adventure as I was. 

WWW Wednesday

This is a meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words.  It asks three questions:

1.      What are you currently reading?

2.      What did you recently finish reading?

3.      What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m currently reading The Wind Reader. The author, Dorothy A Winsor, contacted me to request that I review this book. It sounded really interesting and, so far, I’m definitely enjoying it.

I’ve just finished reading The International Yeti Collective which I was approved to read via NetGalley. I really enjoyed Tick’s big adventure! This will be released by Stripes Publishing on 17th October. I will definitely be buying it for my class library as I think it will make a great wintery read.

I intend to read The Unimaginary Friend next. This looks like a brilliantly fun read with a skeleton with keys for fingers and a Gorblimey – just fantastic!

Best Publication Day Ever!

What day is this? For me, it’s 3rd October as there are so many fantastic middle-grade books being published that I’ve been waiting ever so patiently for … well, maybe not entirely patiently! My bank balance will really suffer on that day, but my book shelf will be so much richer! Lots of these will be great for #Believathon – if I can hold off until November! Although we are allowed to read the group book, Frostheart before then!

I’ve listed the books in no particular order, and have included the Goodreads synopsis.

Published by Puffin

Goodreads synopsis:

Way out in the furthest part of the known world, a tiny stronghold exists all on its own, cut off from the rest of human-kin by monsters that lurk beneath the Snow Sea.
There, a little boy called Ash waits for the return of his parents, singing a forbidden lullaby to remind him of them… and doing his best to avoid his very, VERY grumpy yeti guardian, Tobu. But life is about to get a whole lot more crazy-adventurous for Ash.
When a brave rescue attempt reveals he has amazing magical powers, he’s whisked aboard the Frostheart, a sleigh packed full of daring explorers who could use his help. But can they help him find his family . . .

Published by Usborne

Goodreads synopsis:

Suzy can’t wait to return to the Union of Impossible Places on the Impossible Postal Express. But when she arrives, she overhears a dastardly plan to destroy Trollville from a shadowy and unexpected villain. Suzy and her friends must race from magical cloud-worlds to secret caverns to catch the culprit, before Trollville comes crashing down…

Published by Faber & Faber

Goodreads synopsis:

A sinking boat. A girl in disguise. A disappearing sea.
When Fortune Sharpe carves a boat from a tree with her beloved brother, Gem, she’s only having a bit of fun. But now is not the time for a girl to be drawing attention to herself. She is sent away to find work dressed as a boy. Luckily a rich manor house is hiring. Yet Barrow Hill’s inhabitants harbour dangerous secrets of their own, the suspicious owner is hunting for witches, and the house itself is a little too close to the sea.

Published by Firefly Press

Goodreads Synopsis:

After rescuing Tomas from enchantment, orphan Seren Rhys is enjoying her first summer at Plas-y-Fran. But as autumn arrives, it brings with it a mysterious new governess who seems intent on drawing Tomas away from Seren and his family.
Dangerous figures from a bewitched toy carousel stalk the house, and fearing the worst, Seren calls on her old friend, the clockwork crow, to help her. 

Published by Pan MacMillan

Goodreads synopsis:

My mum is up there somewhere. She’s waiting — I can feel it. I just have to find her in time, that’s all … Because when I do, I’ll know the truth about who stole her. ‘
Told through the innocent voice of a child, this is a story that celebrates the power of hope and resilience, from the author of The Boy at the Back of the Class.
On her tenth birthday, Sophie makes a wish — a wish for her mum. After school that same day, Sophie and her brother are rushed out of school and driven far, far away.
So Sophie sets out to find out the truth — about the wish and about what happened to her mother. And in doing so she ends up on an adventure she never could have foreseen…one that involves a very clever squirrel, a homeless man named Harry, the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, and the biggest star in Hollywood…

Do any of these appeal to you? Have you already been lucky enough to read any of them? What books are you looking forward to in October?

Review: Pages & Co: Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales

This is a very welcome return to the magical bookshop of Pages & Co with its close-knit bookwandering family. This time Tilly and her best friend Oskar find themselves wandering through Fairy tale Land to try to save these wonderful tales from becoming lost to readers forever.


Melville Underwood has mysteriously returned to the British Underlibrary, having disappeared many years previously during a book wandering tour, and is made Head Librarian.  Immediately, he begins to change the rules for bookwanderers, but for what purpose? 

When visiting Oskar’s father in Paris, Tilly and Oskar meet an old, estranged friend of Tilly’s Grandmother who encourages them to bookwander into fairy tales. Despite warnings to the contrary from her Grandparents, Tilly decides to do some investigating of her own in this land. And what an incredible land it is! 

I loved the richly drawn world of the fairy tales and its wonderful inhabitants from the kind-hearted, brave Jack to the independent, feminist Rapunzel to the rather playfully devious Hansel and Gretel. I loved how familiar fairy tales are overturned and how characters travel between stories, and know each other within this world. Unfortunately, this magical world is in danger of disappearing, and it is up to Tilly and Oskar to attempt to save fairy tales from becoming forever lost. 

Although Tilly loves her Grandparents dearly, she does not agree with all their decisions, and definitely has a strong will which makes her rather rebellious and determined to make her own choices, including wandering into fairy tale land when she has been expressly forbidden. This leads to adventure, wonderful interactions with fairy tale characters, the discovery of important clues, but also danger. Tilly is clever, quick-thinking and resourceful and is very capable of extricating herself from difficult situations, but she can also be impetuous and too trusting which puts her in danger. She is by no means perfect, and this makes her a very believable character, and made me like her even more.

Books welcome everyone who wants to explore them.

As a primary school teacher, I loved the references to the power and importance of reading.

I really enjoyed Tilly’s second adventure which resolves some problems, leaves a few others unresolved, but drops enough tantalising clues to set up Tilly’s next adventure perfectly, and I’m already looking forward to going bookwandering with her again.  I would highly recommend this magical read for children of 8+.

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

Review: The Space We’re In

This powerful story is told from the viewpoint of ten-year-old Frank who has a five-year-old autistic brother, Max.  It’s raw, painful and heart-breaking with an ending that I found heart-warmingly uplifting.

The viewpoint, and language used, reads authentically like that of a young boy, a young boy who is hurting and finding it hard to find his place.  There is a raw honesty in how Frank portrays his feelings about his brother, together with his feelings of shame and guilt about those feelings.  This really made me sympathise with him, even when I found what he was saying difficult reading. 

When Max melts he’s the hardest thing I the world and you think he’s going to explode his bones from his body … He is fury and he’s lost himself and everyone and everything and everywhere.

The story starts with a countdown to Max’s first day at school.  He really struggles with what many others take for granted:  communication, sensory processing, and new experiences, like trying on new shoes … he melts and melts and melts.  This is a family trying their best, adapting, and celebrating successes, like when Max uses a card to express his first word. 

We are her world and her universe and her space and her stars and her sky and her galaxy and her cosmos too.

The boys’ mother is a truly inspirational character, who used to paint the universe and now sees her family as her whole cosmos.  She is the glue that holds the family together and works tirelessly to support Max, and tries so hard to give time to Frank.  When tragedy strikes the family, Frank must work to find a new space for him and Max … to bring their universe closer than it has ever been …

Whilst my heart bled for Max as he had his meltdowns, I was also inspired by his successes, supported by some wonderful people.  I celebrated his successes alongside them. 

I feel that this story is really about Frank, who needs to find his space within his family when sometimes he feels pushed out by his younger brother.  The honesty with which Frank expresses his views, the decisions and choices he makes and his battle to accept his younger brother makes the ending of this story all the more heart-warming.

This is a very emotional, but ultimately, inspiring story which I would recommend to children of 10+.

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