Review: Voyage of the Sparrowhawk

Cover Illustration by David Dean, Published by Faber & Faber

Voyage of the Sparrowhawk took me on the most wonderfully exciting, daring and moving adventure that kept me delightedly gripped from start to finish as I ventured across the Channel with two close friends and their faithful canine companions.

In the aftermath of the First World War, young Ben has suffered two great losses:  the death of his adoptive father and the news that his wounded older brother, Sam, is missing.  Returning to the Sparrowhawk after a spell staying with a friend of his father’s, he makes a rather alarming discovery:  a young girl, Lotti, is hiding on the boat and begs him to hide her as she is being chased by a crook after having stolen a mistreated dog from him, a chihuahua called Federico. 

Ben and Lotti are lonely, having lost much, and quickly form a bond.  Although Lotti comes from a much more privileged background, they have much in common:  loss of loved ones, a connection to France and their love of their dogs, Elsie and Federico. 

When disaster strikes and Lotti finds herself in danger of losing Federico and being dismissed to another boarding school by her uncaring, cruel Aunt and Uncle, she seeks help from Ben.  Meanwhile, Ben has troubles of his own.  He has lied to the local policeman, Albert Skinner, saying that his older brother is on his way home, but Skinner is suspicious and is edging closer to the truth which may see Ben losing his beloved home. When Ben admits the truth about his brother to Lotti, she reveals that her grandmother, who has stopped corresponding with her, lives close to the hospital where Sam was a patient … and so the adventure begins!

These two courageous, tenacious children with a heart for adventure make a decision that will change their lives, a decision that takes them on an action-packed, exhilarating race across the Sea in the hope that they can both find what they have lost before they are caught by a determined pursuer who is hot on their trail …

I was completely engrossed by this thrilling adventure as the children battle to keep one step ahead of the law, as they navigate the open sea on a narrowboat, as they meet new friends and search for answers.  This has a real classic adventure feel that completely swept me into the magic of the storytelling and into the lives of these two wonderful young children as they search for a place to belong.

Voyage of the Sparrowhawk is a truly exceptional, heart-warming and exciting adventure with mysteries to solve, warm humour and delightful friendships.  Perfect for any young adventurers who are keen to escape on an unforgettable voyage.

Thank you to Bethany Carter and Faber & Faber for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

MG Takes on Thursday

This is my 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 Phil Earle

Cover Illustration by Levente Szabo


Published by Andersen Press

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

The voices became noise to Joseph, static, the kind that used to crackle out of Dad’s wireless, no matter how hard he tried to tune it in.

This book in three words:

POWERFUL, EMOTIVE, FRIENDSHIP

When the Sky Falls is a stunning, powerful story that absolutely gripped me from the opening lines. It is a story set during the Second World War, but at its heart, it’s a story of loss, hope, kindness and being brave enough to trust.

The characters in this story are unforgettable and found their way into my heart. Tears were streaming down my face as I read the last few pages, tears of sadness and tears of relief. It really felt like I was taken on such an emotional journey as I read this incredible story.

Whilst many children are leaving London during the Blitz, Joseph has been sent there to stay with a friend of his Grandmother as his father has left to join the War effort.  He is a hurt, angry and broken young boy who feels abandoned and rejected by those who should love him.  My heart ached for him as he struggles to trust, and shields himself from the pain of another rejection with outbursts of explosive anger and the pretence that things do not matter.

Mrs F, the lady who Joseph has been sent to live with, owns and runs a zoo with only a few animals left.  Her pride and joy is the majestic silverback gorilla, Adonis.  After a while, Adonis and Joseph bond in their shared pain and loss – this is a truly beautiful, awe-inspiring relationship which is perfectly captured, and so poignant and hopeful. 

What can I say about Mrs F?  She is a says it as it is, no nonsense, force to be reckoned with and I was in awe of her!  Each is just what the other needs, if only they can break down the walls they have built for self-preservation.   

Joseph also finds a friend in Syd and, although he tries to push her away, Syd proves determined to break down his walls through her honesty and support.  She has been through the unthinkable herself and her resilience is just incredible.  A truly amazing young girl. 

The choice that Mrs F and Joseph are faced with in dealing with Adonis as the bombs get closer to the zoo is unbearable and unthinkable, yet it is this choice that sparked the inspiration for the story and is based on a real event.

This is an exceptional, powerful and moving story which doesn’t shy away from the harsh reality of war and of the challenges faced by Joseph as he struggles with dyslexia (words dance on the page), bullies and trying to find a place where he feels he belongs and where he is safe.  There is so much in this story that made me angry, especially at the way Joseph is treated by the Headmaster and at the cruelty of the bullies.  But there is also so much kindness and love in the story.  I won’t deny that it is heart-breaking and difficult to read at times, but it is also a lesson in fierce courage, kindness and hope. 

I don’t tend to compare books with others very often, but this one is reminiscent of Goodnight Mr Tom which is the book I used as an NQT in Year 6 many years ago and which is, in my opinion, quite rightly a modern classic.  This undoubtedly deserves to become a classic and, oh my goodness, how wonderful would it appear as a film! 

I cannot recommend When the Sky Falls highly enough for both adults and children.  It is perfect for children in Upper Key Stage 2 and for those studying the Second World War as, whilst they will learn lots about the realities of The Blitz, they will also be able to empathise with these characters with struggles they may also be facing.  Unforgettable and unputdownable!

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 had thought I’d read this at the weekend, but life – and reports!- got in the way! I’m just about to start it this evening, and am so looking forward to reading it.

I finished listening to Pride & Prejudice on audiobook, and absolutely loved it! Definitely one of my favourite classics. Elizabeth Bennett is a wonderful character, and I just can’t help but love her interactions with Darcy! I also finished reading Voyage of the Sparrowhawk at the weekend which I really enjoyed. It felt like such a classic adventure with characters who I really liked. I will be writing my review at the weekend.

I’m going to read Mystery of the Night Watchers next and listen to Hold Back the Tide on BorrowBox as it has now become available.

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

Review: Skyborn

Just wow! Skyborn is an electrifying adventure that transported me into an exhilarating, richly drawn world, captured my heart and left me with the sigh of satisfaction I get when I’ve finished something very special: a story that will stay with me for a long time, and one I will want to read again and again. This will make a perfect class read-aloud and, luckily for me, I’m a teacher, so I can indulge my love for this story and read it aloud to my class. This is a prequel to Eye of the North, but can easily be read as a standalone, although I would definitely recommend that you read it too!

The story opens with an intriguing prologue which takes place 20 years before the main events; it sets the wheels in motion perfectly for the epic adventure that follows. 

Having already read Eye of the North (twice), I already knew some tantalising background for Bastjan, so I was eager to find out more about his origin story – and what a breath-taking, heart-pounding and, at times, heart-breaking story it is!

Bastjan is a part of a tumbling troupe at the Quinn Family Circus, a circus run by his stepfather Cyrus Quinn.   Summoned to Quinn’s caravan, he is blackmailed into performing on the high wire in return for something he desperately wants:  his late mother’s treasure box.  Hidden in these treasures, he finds a locked enamelled box which he is able to hide from Quinn before the remainder of the treasures are taken again.  Quinn is hoping that a death-defying performance on the high wires will draw in the crowds he needs to save the circus from financial ruin.  Will the young son of the woman, who fell to her death during her trapeze act, be able to fly high above the sawdust of the big tent floor, and save the circus from ruin?

But Bastjan is not the only one desperate to have his late mother’s possessions.  A mysterious stranger, Dr Bauer (if you know, you know!), is desperate to get his hands on it too, so offers a loan to save the circus as a means to obtain his goal.  Can Bastjan keep his most precious possession, a possession that links him to his mother’s legacy, out of the hands of these two cruel, determined men?

When summoned to another town to perform for Dr Bauer, who wishes to check on his investment, Bastjan has the good fortune to meet young runaway, Alice.  So begins THE most dazzling, action-packed, danger-laden  kaleidoscope of an adventure that had me on the edge-of-my-seat and unable to stop reading as Bastjan and Alice race to uncover the secrets hidden within his mother’s box, a race that will take them on an incredible journey …

Bastjan and Alice are the most wonderful characters who I absolutely adored; I really cared about what happened to them. They are incredibly brave, resilient and determined and face their fears head-on. They become firm and loyal friends who are prepared to take risks for each other, and to offer support and encouragement when needed.

The world-building is stunning. I was immediately wholly immersed in the sights, sounds and life of the circus, both the behind-the-scenes gruelling practice and the danger and excitement of performances. But what really captured me was the feeling of family, a close-knit group of talented performers who have been brought together to entertain others, who face the joy and hardship of circus life as a team under a power-hungry and ruthless owner. I especially loved the relationship between Bastjan and Crake, the circus strongman who is like a father to Bastjan and clearly cares deeply for him.

Skyborn is an exhilarating, action-packed and utterly breathtaking adventure that completely captivated me from start to finish. An absolute must-read!

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

Review: Lost in the Clouds

Written and Illustrated by Tom Tinn-Disbury

Published by Dorling Kindersley

Published on 6th May

Lost in the Clouds is a heartfelt and sensitively written story about grief and the loss of a parent.

Billy’s mother has died and he imagines that she lives in a cloud.  On good days, he plays in the garden with his father and imagines that his mother has made their day brighter.  On other days, his mother’s cloud appears bigger which allows him to feel closer to, and talk to her, but this also makes him feel her loss more deeply. 

One day, when he is feeling her loss more keenly, Billy decides to climb up to her clouds so that he can talk to her …

This is a wonderfully told story that explores the feelings surrounding grief and loss in an accessible and gentle way for young children.  The use of weather analogy to explore emotions is something children will intuitively understand from sunny, bright days to dark storm clouds.

The emotions felt by both Billy and his father are honest and heartfelt.  When Billy feels his mother’s loss most, so does his father which makes it more difficult for them to communicate as they are both dealing with their own grief.  However, when Billy needs his father most, he is there to catch him even when he is struggling to cope with his own loss. 

This beautiful story captures how important it is to talk: to talk to the person you have lost; to talk to the other people who are grieving that loss too; and, to talk to others about how you are feeling. 

Remembering those we have lost is an important part of dealing with our grief:  this moving story leaves its reader with a heartfelt message of hope and healing.

The illustrations are wonderful and really capture the changing emotions explored through the words which makes this a perfect book to use to discuss this difficult issue with young children.

There is also a guide for adults to help children going through grief and a list of organisations that can be contacted to offer additional support. This is a heart-warming story dealing with grief in an empathetic manner, offering support to both children and adults.   

Thank you to Abi Walton and DK for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

First Lines Friday

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 storm appeared without warning. Morbid clouds moved over the horizon, eclipsing the distant blue as though an enormous blanket was being pulled across the sky. One milliday Orin Crowfall was gazing at the cobalt sea, then it became muddy green, and in no time at all, it was an angry brown, and the breeze had become powerful enough to ruffle his cropped brown hair.

Any ideas?

Vashti is a must-buy author for me. I’ve adored all of her fantastic adventure books, and was lucky enough to be able to arrange a virtual author visit for our Year 4 classes on Tuesday this week which was fantastic! I was very excited to find I had been sent an early copy of Crowfall the next day which has jumped to the top of my TBR!

Waterstones Synopsis:

Ironhold is an orderly place where “industry brings prosperity”, and where nature is pushed aside for progress. But when Orin Crowfall, a lowly servant boy, learns that the island itself is in grave danger, that knowledge makes him a target of powerful forces. He narrowly escapes on a small boat, but then faces a fight for survival with his robot friend, Cody, in the stormy ocean, pursued by a terrifying sea monster.

Can they make it to safety, somewhere beyond the horizon? And will Orin find a way back to save his family before everything is destroyed? To succeed, Orin will need to dig deep for courage, trust in new friends, and, ultimately, have faith in himself.

This is fantasy adventure at its finest: riotous adventure, memorable characters, incredible world building, and a powerful, thought-provoking message about ecological balance.

WWW Wednesday

I’m almost finished Pride & Prejudice on audiobook, and have so enjoyed this journey back to a favourite classic book. I’ve also started Voyage of the Sparrowhawk. It’s a wonderful adventure so far with two very sympathetic children, Ben and Lotti who are both lonely and have formed a close friendship. Ben lives on a narrowboat, The Sparrowhawk. They are both missing loved ones, so set off on a voyage to find them. It has a feel of a classic adventure and I’m looking forward to continuing it over the next few days.

I finished reading The Cooking Club Detectives which is a wonderful story of friendship, family and community. I took part in the Blog Tour on Tuesday where I posted a piece from the author and my review. I also read When the Sky Falls and, I’m not ashamed to say, finished it with tears streaming down my face. Wow! This is such a powerful story that completely gripped me. Joseph, Syd and Mrs F, not to mention the silverback gorilla, Adonis all found a way into my heart. A blisteringly astounding book that deserves all the awards I’m hoping come its way. It would be a perfect book for Year 6 studying the Second World War.

I came home today to find that I’d been sent an early copy of Crowfall, so it has jumped straight to the top of my TBR. I’ve loved everything Vashti has written, and can’t wait to read this. It will be released on 1st July. Our Year 4 children had a virtual visit with her yesterday where she talked to them about her books and did a fantasy world-building map workshop with them. The children were so engaged: they loved listening to her talking about her inspiration for Brightstorm, creating maps and asking questions. They then spent the afternoon completing their maps which were fantastic. They will be so excited when I bring this in to school!

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

Blog Tour: The Cooking Club Detectives

Written by Ewa Jozefkowicz

Cover art by Katy Riddell

Published by Zephyr

Published on 10th June

I am very excited to be part of the Blog Tour for this wonderful book today where I will be sharing a piece from Ewa and my review.

Thank you so much to Fritha Lindqvist and Zephyr for my invitation, and to Ewa for sharing the following piece on how she hopes The Cooking Club Detectives will be used by adults living and working with children to discuss the themes of community and food poverty. Ewa has also shared some passages that could be read and used as conversation starters with KS2 children.

The Cooking Club Detectives was inspired by the work of Magic Breakfast, a wonderful charity which provides nutritious meals for children at risk of hunger in the UK. The story centres on themes of community, friendship and food – and has a mystery at its heart.

Erin, Tanya, Frixos and Sam all come from different walks of life, but they are brought together by their mutual love of food in their school’s cooking club. When the community centre, in which the club is hosted, comes under threat of closure, they work together to find out who is behind it all, aiming to stop them before it’s too late!

I hope that the book might provide some support to parents and teachers discussing the themes of community and food poverty with KS2 children. Below are a couple of passages which might be useful conversation starters:

Erin’s friend Sam talking about the community centre:

‘I’ve been going there since I was a child,’ said Sam, suddenly speaking up in a way that I’d never heard before. ‘I went to daycare there when I was little so my mum and my grandma could go to work. We used the food bank in the early days, while Mum got back on her feet. Later, I went to football club there, which was great fun, and most importantly it was free – otherwise I would have never been able to go.’

The gang discussing how to cook a meal for eight people:

What are you making?’ I asked the boys. ‘Can I help?’

‘Err… I was thinking of going to the chicken shop down the road and getting a couple of those family buckets. Either that or pizza.’

‘Why only those two options?’

‘Because I don’t have that much cash,’ said Frixos, looking slightly embarrassed. He dug his hand in his pocket and pulled out a crumpled ten pound note.

‘What if we spent the money on ingredients and cook something?’

‘Like what? There’s no way that we would be able to afford it. Not to fill up that many people anyway. There would be eight of us.’

‘OK, what if I prove to you that you could?’

‘Ah, she wants a challenge!’ said Sam, rubbing his hands together. ‘Frixos, let her do it.’

So we went to the supermarket, and the boys watched in awe, as I bought ingredients for dinner which came to a total of £9.10. We laid them out in Frixos’ kitchen and everyone helped me cook.

‘Cool. So we’re going to call this dish Frixos’s Feast,’ I said, because you’re our host. ‘It’s a version of fish paella – a Portuguese dish that my mum likes to make.’

The pandemic has had a huge impact on food insecurity, with as many as 2.3 million children affected. So through my book, as well as telling a good story, I wanted to highlight the importance of community and to show children that they should never be afraid to ask for help when they need it.

I hope that children, parents and teachers enjoy reading The Cooking Club Detectives just as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Ewa Jozefkowicz grew up in Ealing and studied English Literature at
UCL. Her debut novel The Mystery of the Colour Thief, published by
Zephyr in 2018, was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book
Prize. Her second book Girl 38: Finding a Friend blends contemporary
times with WWII Poland. And The Key to Finding Jack explores sibling
bonds. Ewa has worked for a school support service for many years and
has been a governor at an inner London primary school. She lives in
North London with her family.

My Review

The Cooking Club Detectives is a heart-warming, insightful mystery centring on friendship, family and community that completely captured me as I was caught up in the tenderly portrayed relationships, and in the very satisfying mystery.  

Erin has moved to the village of Milwood and is living in a flat with her mum, Lara.  Both Erin and her Mum have a shared love of cooking; her Mum writes recipes with a twist that can be easily made on a budget.

When exploring the area, Erin finds herself drawn to an old ramshackle house which is used as community centre, Skipton House. This place is to become an important part of her life as she finds herself joining the Cooking Club being held there with her new friends, Tanya, Frixos and Sam.  It is not long before rumours of Skipton House closing down are proved true which devastates the friends as the community centre is pivotal in providing support to families who rely on its facilities, including Music Breakfast Clubs, a food bank, creche, dance and sports as well as hosting their Cooking Club.

These are young people who care about their community and each other, who are empathetic and kind-hearted, so they are determined to solve the mystery of who has bought Skipton House and why.  They form The Cooking Club Detectives and are soon drawing up a list of suspects and beginning their investigations … Erin’s adorable new puppy, Sausage, proves a brilliant accomplice as he proves an irresistible distraction to any suspect.  Will they be able to track down the new owner of Skipton House and, if they do, convince him or her that it is much too important to be taken from the local community?  I really enjoyed how the children worked together and supported each other in finding clues and how they involved others to help which really added to the sense of a community coming together. 

This story has important and sensitively portrayed messages relating to food poverty and online bullying.  Erin and her Mum know what it is like to have to survive on a tight budget and have a keen interest in budget-friendly cooking, something that Erin is eager to share with her friends.  Her Mum has had a life-long dream to become a chef and, when Erin helps her set up a Cooking Blog, she finds herself the victim of online bullying.  Erin’s friend, Sam, lives with his mother and Grandma who have relied on the Breakfast Club, food bank and creche at Skipton House, so he intrinsically understands the importance of the Centre to the well-being of the community.  All of these elements are perfectly woven into the mystery to sprinkle it with tantalising clues, and to give a real sense urgency in solving it.

The openness and genuineness of the friendship between Erin, Tanya, Sam and Frixos is just gorgeous. Their support of each other, team work and empathy is incredibly refreshing and made me really care about what happened to them. They also show great perseverance as they eliminate suspects and continue to follow their detective trail with ingenuity. 

I loved the relationship between Erin and her Mum.  They clearly have a very close bond and a shared love of cooking.  The recipes that they make together are sprinkled throughout the story, making them perfect to try out during, or after reading.  I’ve had a go at Eggsquisite Egglets (yummy) and definitely intend to try Erin’s Banana Bread Bonanza. 

I think this quote from Sam’s Grandma perfectly sums up many of the characters in this story, and is a great message for everyone:

My grandma always says that a winner is a loser who tried one more time.

This is an important and relevant story for today’s society, wrapped up in an engaging mystery, that is told with real heart and warmth, and provides a perfect opportunity to open discussion around food poverty, online bullying and the importance of community.   

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

July anticipated releases …

There are SO MANY books due for release in July which I am really looking forward to reading. I’ve taken the synopsis for each of these from the Waterstones website. I have read and loved books by many of these authors, and have also included a few new-to-me and debut authors whose books have definitely caught my interest. I have been lucky enough to get early copies of some of these and aim to post my reviews before publication date.

Release Date: 1st July

Ironhold is an orderly place where “industry brings prosperity”, and where nature is pushed aside for progress. But when Orin Crowfall, a lowly servant boy, learns that the island itself is in grave danger, that knowledge makes him a target of powerful forces. He narrowly escapes on a small boat, but then faces a fight for survival with his robot friend, Cody, in the stormy ocean, pursued by a terrifying sea monster. Can they make it to safety, somewhere beyond the horizon? And will Orin find a way back to save his family before everything is destroyed? To succeed, Orin will need to dig deep for courage, trust in new friends, and, ultimately, have faith in himself. This is fantasy adventure at its finest: riotous adventure, memorable characters, incredible world building, and a powerful, thought-provoking message about ecological balance.
When there’s a murder in the village and a hag is heard howling at the local inn, secret witch Raven Charming realizes she could have a rival – one who practises the worst kind of magic. With the help of amateur sleuth, Mortimer Scratch, and Nightshade, a talking cat with a feline sense of detection, she sets out to solve what’s been going on …
Calla’s mum has never been normal. She’s been known to go out in a lab coat and slippers and often forgets to perform basic tasks because she’s been thinking about ducks. When a job offer arrives to study her beloved birds in the Amazon rainforest, Calla knows her mum has to go. Nervously, she agrees to go to boarding school. She quickly learns that trouble is afoot in this odd convent school. A mean new headmistress is imposing horrible rules and making everyone eat Brussels sprout cake, and the students are itching to revolt. As Calla makes new friends and gets drawn into their rebellious plot, she keeps waiting for her mum to call. She will, won’t she? 
Where has Faith’s dad gone? Why has he left his family living in an old house perched on a crumbling cliff top? A crack has appeared in the cliff and Faith watches anxiously as it gets bigger and bigger each day… Her brother is obsessed with the sea ghosts he claims live in the basement, and when he disappears as well, Faith starts to believe in the ghosts too. Can she find her brother and bring her father back before everything she cares about falls into the pitiless sea below?
Ahoy there! The Nine Sails is casting off for Madagascar so all aboard for a treasure hunt you’ll never forget! Kintana has grown up listening to stories of life at sea from her pa, an ex-pirate turned pet shop owner. So when a tall ship – The Nine Sails – berths at Pirate Island she eagerly joins the motley crew as a cabin boy – even though her main duty will be to look after the pirate’s pets. But someone on board is determined to disrupt the voyage, could the dreaded captain’s curse be to blame? Or is it the lure of buried treasure that will draw the ship back? One thing is for sure, Kintana is about to discover that sometimes adventure is found closer to home.
Fifteen-year-old girl gamer Casey Henderson is obsessed with smash-hit game SkyWake – and she’s good at it, too. Little does she realize it’s actually an alien training tool created by an evil extra-terrestrial race. When the aliens swoop down on a national gaming tournament, Casey and her teammates discover they’re abducting the best gamers to fight in a distant alien war across the galaxy. And they’ve got her brother. Casey’s gaming skills are her best hope of stopping the aliens – but first she and her online teammates must learn to work together in real life…

Release Date: 8th July

Born with a serious heart condition, Dara has been waiting for his Big Operation forever, and this summer it’s finally going to happen. The moment his heart is fixed he’ll row out to the island in the bay all by himself just like he’s always dreamed. But when his op is postponed, Dara snaps. When will he get to live his real life? Maybe the adventures he dreams of are just silly fantasies. And then he finds a girl hiding in the boat shed. She wears animal skins. She has a real live pet wolf. She is, simply, impossible. Could Mothgirl really be from the Stone Age? And what is she seeking on Lathrin Island?
MAY, 1910 As the blazing Halley’s comet draws close to the earth, Nancy is uprooted to start a new life in Suffolk with a grandfather she has never met. With every curtain drawn shut, Nancy is forbidden from leaving her grandfather’s house: no one must know that her or her mother are there. Yet, when Nancy discovers the house’s secret observatory, she watches her mother and grandfather creep out every night… Where are they going? And why mustn’t any of them be seen? As the mysteries pile up, Nancy must bring dark secrets from the past to light – even if doing so will put her own life at risk. 
Billy’s mum isn’t like other mums. All she wants is to teach him the Rules of Survival – how to make fire, build shelter and find food. She likes to test Billy on the rules until one day she goes too far, and Billy is sent to live with a dad he barely knows. Then the world changes forever as people begin to be infected with a mysterious virus that turns their skin grey. As chaos breaks out, Billy has to flee the city. Suddenly he realises that this is what his mum was preparing him for – not just to save his family, but to save the whole world. 
In a near future where a series of environmental disasters has left much of the country underwater, Pearl lives on a floating oyster farm with her father and younger sister, Clover. Following her mum’s death several years earlier, Pearl refuses to set foot on land, believing her illness was caused by the poisons in the ground. Meanwhile, Clover dreams of school, friends and a normal life.
Then Nat comes to spend the summer at the sea farm while his scientist mum conducts some experiments. Leaving behind the mainland, with its strict rules and regulations, he brings with him a secret. But when the sisters promise to keep his secret safe, little do they realize that they may be risking everything… 
Kiki Kallira has always been a worrier. Did she lock the front door? Is there a terrible reason her mum is late? Recently her anxiety has been getting out of control, but one thing that has always soothed her is drawing. Kiki’s sketchbook is full of fantastical doodles of the Hindu myths and legends her mother has told her since she was tiny. One day, her sketchbook’s calming effect is broken when her mythological characters begin springing to life and Kiki is pulled into the mystical world she drew. There, she discovers the band of rebel kids who protect the kingdom, as well as an ancient, monstrous god bent on total destruction. Kiki must overcome her fear and anxiety to save both worlds – the real and the imagined – from his wrath. But how can a girl armed with only a pencil defeat something so powerful?
Welcome to the Land of Lost Things. Unlikely hero Whetstone and trainee Valkyrie Lotta are on an quest to find Whetstone’s long-lost father. But when Loki the trickster God sends his monstrous children after them, and Lotta loses her magic shield and along with it, her powers, things go from bad to worse. Can Lotta and Whetstone survive a sea-serpent attack, a gigantic wolf who likes his tummy tickled and a very lonely queen of the dead, to keep the quest on track?
Rose and Arthur are back in Roar, on a voyage that takes them further than they’ve ever been before: beyond The End. It’s an amazing adventure – full of secrets, surprises and fairies with fangs – but then a mysterious storm changes everything. Shipwrecked on a strange island, they make a shocking discovery … Could this be the end of Roar?
Young reporter-in-training Kate and her mouse-accomplice Rupert are on board a train, to visit Kate’s mum in the Arctic. But as soon as the train departs, mysterious things start happening. A packet of ginger nuts goes missing . . . A collection of gymnastics trophies are stolen . . . And some ancient scrolls disappear . . . Fellow passenger Madame Maude seems the most likely culprit, until a surprising – and delicious – twist turns the whole investigation on its head. 
Aleja and her fellow pirates are eager to embark on a new adventure to find the second piece of the missing magical map. But they soon find themselves panicking, bewildered by a series of confusing clues. And time is running out – fast. When she starts experiencing strange visions, Aleja realizes that someone is trying to tell her something. But can this new knowledge be trusted? And what will it cost her to find out?  With the crew’s loyalties tested and more secrets to unlock than ever, Aleja must find a way to beat the clock and prove herself truly worthy of her place on the ship’s crew . . .
This beautiful gift book, illustrated in full colour by Barry Falls, is divided into five sections: looking out of the window, venturing out into the garden, walking in the woods, investigating heathland and wandering on the river bank. Dara pauses to tell you about each habitat and provides fantastic facts about the native birds, animals and plants you will find there – including wrens, blackbirds, butterflies, tadpoles, bluebells, bees, hen harriers, otters, dandelions, oak trees and many more. Each section contains a discovery section where you will have a closer look at natural phenomenon such as metamorphoses and migration, learn about categorization in the animal kingdom or become an expert on the collective nouns for birds. Each section finishes with an activity to do when you get home: plant wild flowers, make a bird feeder, try pond dipping, make a journey stick and build a terrarium. Dara ends the book with advice for young conservationists.

Release Date: 22nd July

When eleven-year-old Edie Winter finds a mysterious box on the London Underground she’s amazed to discover that it’s home to a family of Flits – tiny winged people. But Impy, Speckle and Nid need Edie’s help. Not only do they need supplies (rice crispies, sugar sprinkles, digestive biscuits and raisins) and someone to look after them, but their brother Jot has run away and they need Edie’s help to find him.
In the quiet Scottish seaside village of Dunlyre, Finn is enduring a winter holiday with his annoying new stepmother, wishing things could go back to how they were, while Sage is enjoying her new home, wishing things would stay as they are. Finn has seen mysterious swimmers in the Firth late at night. Then, from the clifftop, first Sage, then Finn, hears an eerie song. Could the local legend of merfolk living amid the waves actually be true? When the new friends meet the magical sea-people, they are amazed and impressed, but the merfolk are hiding a secret. The two human children must put aside their own problems and help in the battle against the young merfolk’s ancient underwater enemy before the last of their kind are lost forever.

July is going to be another bumper month for book purchases! Do any of these pique your interest, or have you had an early read of any of them? If so, what did you think?

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!

The platform was a battlefield: seventy yards of carnage transplanted straight from the coasts of northern France. Smoke billowed; people clung to each other.

Any ideas?

Synopsis from Goodreads

Inspired by a true story. It’s 1940, and Joseph has been packed off to stay with Mrs F, a gruff woman with no great fondness for children. To Joseph’s amazement, she owns the rundown city zoo where Joseph meets Adonis, a huge silverback gorilla. Adonis is ferociously strong and dangerous, but Joseph finds he has an affinity with the lonely beast. But when the bombs begin to fall, it is up to Joseph to guard Adonis’s cage should it be damaged by a blast. Will Joseph be ready to pull the trigger if it comes to it?

This is my next read and this opening has totally gripped me. I know what I’ll be doing with my weekend!