January anticipated children’s book releases …

It’s time for my January anticipated children’s book releases by both favourite and new-to-me authors. I’ve been lucky enough to have early reads of a few of these (The Magic of Endings, Saving Neverland and Libby and the Highland Heist) – readers are definitely in for a treat with all of these!). I also have early copies a few of the others to read over Christmas (The Night Animals, Albi the Glowing Cow Boy and The Octopus, Dadu and Me). I’m looking forward to getting copies of all of these to add to my ever-growing class library.

I have taken the synopsis for each of these from the Waterstones website.

Jojo Locke’s dad disappeared six years ago. And what’s stranger still, none of his family can really remember him, there’s a hole inside each of them where Dad should be. But then Aunt Pen arrives, a real faerie, with her tricks and wishes. She tests Jojo to see how deep his courage runs and sets him off on a journey to find their memories of Dad, and an adventure far beyond what he could have imagined begins.

Number 14 Darlington Road, looks like a perfectly ordinary townhouse – at first glance, anyway, but magic is good at hiding . . . when it’s waiting for the right person to discover it. Martha Pennydrop is ten, and desperate to grow up. But growing up is a tricky business. It means turning your back on imagination, fun and magic, because those were the things that led to the Terrible Day when something awful nearly happened to Martha’s younger brother, Scruff, which would have been All Her Fault. But when Martha and Scruff discover a drawer full of mysterious gold dust in the bedroom of their new house – along with a window that’s seemingly impossible to close – it’s the start of an incredible adventure to a magical world: Neverland!

Nora’s mum has good days and bad days, but the bad days are getting worse. It’s been just the two of them for always, and they don’t need anyone else. When the rainbow-shimmering ghost animals Nora used to see when she was small start to reappear, she’s convinced that they hold all the answers. Along with new friend Kwame, Nora follows a glittering ghostly fox, hare, raven and otter on the adventure of a lifetime, helping her to find the strength she needs to help her family.

When Brutalia’s ever suspicious Queen is forewarned of a new enemy – a nearby island called Bonrock – Mort is worried. As a pacifist, he’s a firm believer that strangers are just friends they haven’t met yet. Then he and his best friend and fellow pacifist Weed are sent to the island to investigate. But Bonrock is a warm and welcoming place, with luscious landscapes and tropical waters. Mort’s relieved – there’s no need to fight! Until they stumble upon something terrifying… Perhaps there really is trouble in paradise?

On a quiet farm in a frosty England, under the glowing light of a magical milk moon, a boy calf is born. His name is Albi, and he has no idea how extraordinary he is going to be. Several miles away lives a human boy called Rufus. Rufus is extraordinary in his own way, but he has no friends and no one to love him. Rufus seeks the family he never had, and he’ll go to any lengths to find it. Albi and Rufus must each embark on a journey that will take them across continents, showing them things they never believed could be true. But why are they so deeply connected? And will each extraordinary ‘boy’ find what they’re searching for?

Nine and her friends have cured the house’s hiccups and are off to the strange and utterly unpredictable Back of Beyond in search of Professor Dish – Spoon’s best friend and partner in all things alchemy. When they find Dish trapped by the greedy witch Ophidia in the basement of a particularly marvellous shop, it soon becomes clear they’re going to need something more than Flabberghast’s dicey magic and Nine’s quick thinking to triumph this time. What they really need is a rather clever witch – one particularly good at curses…

Eleven-year-old Ella Durand is the first Conjuror to attend the Arcanum Training Institute, a magic school in the clouds for Marvellers from around the world. Ella discovers that being the first isn’t easy but she finds friendship in fellow misfits Brigit, a girl who hates magic, and Jason, a boy with a fondness for magical creatures and support from her Elixirs teacher, Masterji Thakur. Then the notorious Ace of Anarchy escapes prison, supposedly with a Conjuror’s aid, and Ella finds herself as the prime suspect. Worse, Masterji Thakur mysteriously disappears while away on a research trip. With the help of her friends and her own growing powers, Ella must find a way to clear her family’s name and track down her mentor before it’s too late. 

FACT: Octopuses have three hearts. FACT: Octopuses have BEAKS, like BIRDS. FACT: The octopus at the aquarium is psychic! Sashi feels like she has three hearts and they’re all breaking. She’s losing her beloved Dadu to dementia, and her parents don’t even want her to visit him anymore. She hides from her grief in the aquarium, and that’s where she meets Ian. Like her Dadu, Ian is trapped. Like her Dadu, Ian should be at home with his family. And then Ian tells her he’s in danger and only she can help him escape. Except Ian just happens to be an octopus…

An endangered forest. An abandoned snow leopard. A child who only feels comfortable talking to animals. When fates collide, the unbelievable can happen … ‘Put me in mind of Dodi Smith and Gerald Durrell at their very best – enchanting and thrilling in equal measure.’ Piers Torday ‘Reads like a classic. I loved it.’ Pam Munoz Ryan Maggie’s stutter makes going to school hard. She will do almost anything to avoid speaking in class – even if that leads to trouble. Sent to stay in the depths of Cornwall with a grandfather she barely knows, Maggie discovers an abandoned snow leopard hiding in the nearby Wildoak Forest. Sheltered by the ancient trees, the two of them build an understanding in secret. But when the cub is spotted by local villagers, danger follows – threatening everything she has come to believe in. Can Maggie find an answer before time runs out – not just for the cub, but for herself and the forest as well? 

When Pete, Krish and Nancy read a story in the local paper about weird gunk being found in a field where sheep have gone missing next to Hilltop House, they’re sure there’s a mystery to be investigated. The new research farm at Hilltop is working on the creation of new bio-fuels, but when a storm knocks out the power in the local area and something escapes from the farm, it’s clear that the research has gone horribly wrong … Can the brave trio save the village in their most terrifying adventure yet?

Inventors and artists have gathered in Paris for the World Fair. All eyes are on the aeroplane exhibition – these incredible machines will take humanity to new heights! Alice suspects that some of these inventors are in terrible danger, but no one will believe her. Surrounded by enemy spies, Alice will need to use every trick in the recipe book if she’s to keep her friends safe and stop France’s greatest invention from falling into the wrong hands.With a half-baked plan and a dash of daring, Alice must foil the enemy’s plot before the whole thing boils over…

13-year-old Kallie Tamm can’t wait to spend a week of her summer holidays at the Wildstorm Theatre Camp: she’s determined not to let her dyslexia hold her back from achieving her dream of becoming a playwright. The finale of the whole week is a performance in the local village theatre. But as soon as she arrives, Kallie discovers that the cast will be performing a play written by a 17th Century witch, Ellsabet Graveheart, and strange, scary things start happening. Unbeknown to Kallie, a dark shadow is stirring in the woodland near Wildstorm: an ancient and dangerous creature has awoken from a centuries old slumber, and they’re out for revenge, putting Kallie and all of her new friends in grave danger.

After a tumultuous term in Paris, Libby and Connie are looking forward to a quiet holiday at Connie’s family home. But before long they find themselves caught up in another mystery, this time set against the dramatic backdrop of the Scottish Highlands and Edinburgh.

Twelve-year-old Valentine Crow has lived his entire life at the Foundling Hospital. Now, he and his best friend Philomena are leaving to begin their new lives as apprentices – but Valentine has been assigned to Death himself. Valentine finds himself in an impossible situation when his best friend’s name appears on the list of souls to take. Can he fight Death to save her soul, or does fate have other ideas?

Do any of these catch your interest? What are your most anticipated books for the New Year?

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!

Be a good girl now. People are always saying that to me. Every time the shabby remnants of our tribe come to a new village or town begging for shelter, some stranger pats me on the head and says, ‘Be a good girl now.’ Different voices. Different languages. But always that same phrase, like a ghost that follows me wherever I go.

Any ideas?

I absolutely loved the Spellslinger YA series and am hoping that this will be a welcome return to this world!

Goodreads Synopsis:

Stealing, swindling, and gambling with her own life just to survive, Ferius will risk anything to avenge herself on the zealous young mage who haunts her every waking hour.

But then she meets the incomparable Durral Brown, a wandering philosopher gifted in the arts of violence who instead overcomes his opponents with shrewdness and compassion. Does this charismatic and infuriating man hold the key to defeating her enemies, or will he lead her down a path that will destroy her very soul?

Through this outstanding tale of swashbuckling action, magical intrigue, and dazzling wit, follow Ferius along the Way of the Argosi and enter a world of magic and mystery unlike any other.

Have you read this? What did you think?

WWW Wednesday

I’m listening to While the Storm Rages which is utterly brilliant – there has been both tears and smiles! I’m still slowly (when I’m awake enough in the evening) making my way through The Dark Between the Trees. I just wish I could find more time to read it!

I’ve finished Boy 87 which I absolutely loved. A brilliant evocation of the horrors faced by two young refugees which is heart-breaking and brought many tears. There is also such strength and resilience in the face of hopelessness – the human will to endure and survive – just incredible! I also read The Magic of Endings which had quite a surreal feel with its blending of myth and reality. Definitely a thought-provoking and enjoyable read.

I will be reading Once Upon a Hillside next and will be taking part in the Blog Tour next week.

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

November Wrap-Up

Oh dear! This has definitely been my worst month for reading and blogging since I started blogging. The month started with a week long residential with Year 6 which was great fun, but completely exhausting. I then got ill and have not been able to fully recover – still got a cough and not sleeping as well as I should be, despite how tired I feel. Then, there’s Christmas production, and completing the myriad tasks for my subject leadership responsibilities not to mention planning, marking and prep. I’m definitely looking forward to a break over Christmas!

Books I’ve read:

I only finished 6 books in November, but they were all books I loved, especially Crownbreaker and Saving Neverland.


My feedback ratio is still at 97% and I have now given feedback for 94 books. Not sure I’ll make my 100 books end-of-year target but I’ll not be far off! I have only requested one book which is the new one by one of my very favourite authors, Sinead O’Hart.

Books sent by publishers:

I am grateful to Publishers for sending me these books this month:

Books bought:

I’ve bought 9 books this month.

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

WWW Wednesday

I’m continuing with reading The Dark Between the Trees – slowly! I’m definitely intrigued by what has happened to the Parliamentarian soldiers in 1643 and the supernatural vibes. I’m definitely worried about the group of women investigating this! I’ve just started listening to Boy 87 which is utterly absorbing. I’m already completely invested in best friends, Shif and Bini’s story as their life is ripped apart.

I’ve finished Saving Neverland which is classic Abi Elphinstone and just perfect! I’m aiming to write my review this weekend.

I didn’t get to The Magic of Endings this week, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to pick it up this weekend.

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

Review: Wildsmith: Into the Dark Forest

Written by Liz Flanagan
Illustrated by Joe Todd-Stanton
Published by Uclan Publishing

Wildsmith:  Into the Dark Forest is the first, fantastic book in a new fantasy series for younger readers:  a magical, exciting and captivating adventure that is sure to capture the hearts of its readers.

Rowan does not want to leave her home, father and friends but, when war threatens Gallren, she and her mother must go to stay with a grandfather she doesn’t know existed. 

Her maternal grandpa, Inigo Webster, lives in the forest with his white wolf, Arto, but why has Rowan’s mother never mentioned him?  What secrets can she be keeping from her daughter?  Although Rowan misses home and her father, she is an animal lover and soon builds an affinity with both Arto and Grandpa who heals animals that are brought to him.

When she hears a strange noise, she is determined to investigate and runs into the Dark Forest where she makes an incredible discovery:  a baby dragon whose mother is being taken by poachers.  Rescuing the small, injured, frightened creature, she overhears the poachers mention their need to avoid the Wildsmith.  Imagine her surprise when she discovers that Grandpa is the Wildsmith, a healer who can speak to magical creatures and heal them. 

And so begins the most magical, exciting adventure as Rowan finds herself facing danger in the forest; caring for a clutch of baby dragons; and, working with a trio of powerful witches and her new friends, siblings Will and Cam. Can they thwart the threat from the poachers?  Will they be able to bring safety back to the magical forest creatures?  And, could Rowan herself be a Wildsmith?

Rowan is a truly inspirational young girl.  She is naturally curious, courageous and someone who has a close affinity with animals, feeling protective of them, caring for them and wanting to keep them safe. She is selfless in accepting what is best for them, even when this is a heart-breaking choice. 

The illustrations included in my proof e-copy are gorgeous, expressive and complement the story perfectly.

Although this is a fantasy adventure, I adored the pertinent and timely environmental messages linked to poaching, habitat loss and caring for our natural environment which will resonate with young readers.

Wildsmith:  Into the Dark Forest is an enchanting, heart-warming treat for young readers of 7+ who will relish adventuring with Rowan as she fights to save the forest’s magical creatures whilst finding a new home.  I’m so looking forward to finding out which magical creature she will help on her next adventure!

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

WWW Wednesday

I haven’t got much further with The Dark Between the Trees but I am enjoying the dual timeline and am intrigued to see how the past seeps into the present. I am listening to the audiobook of The Good Turn as I’m hoping to use it as a reading text with my class in the Summer Term. I am really enjoying getting to know the characters and the writing style. I am reading Saving Neverland which is everything I hoped it would be – a really magical, warm read that I’m absolutely loving!

And, it’s finally arrived! I’ve reached the end of the Spellslinger series with CrownBreaker. I have fallen hook, line and sinker in love with this series and am so glad I picked it up. The audiobook has an author’s note at the end which was wonderful and just a great way to finish off the series. I’ve discovered that there will be a new series by Sebastien De Castell in March of next year which I’ll definitely be picking up as I’ve really loved the style of his writing.

I have so, so many books on my TBR that I’m finding it hard to choose my next one, but I think it will be The Magic of Endings.

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

Review: Libby and the Highland Heist

Written by Jo Clarke
Illustrated by Becka Moor
Published by Firefly Press

I adored Libby’s first sleuthing adventure in Libby and the Parisian Puzzle, so was very excited to read her next adventure, Libby and the Highland Heist which I very aptly devoured on a visit to Edinburgh.  And it was an absolute delight: an exciting, action-packed and intriguing mystery in a wonderfully vivid setting that kept me utterly captivated.

Libby and her aunt, Miss Mousedale, have been invited to spend the Christmas holidays with Libby’s best friend Connie’s family on their estate in the Highlands.  Expecting a warm welcome, Connie is somewhat dismayed to find her dad working in his study rather than greeting her, and her mum not quite herself.  Libby notices the crumbling brickwork and the patched-up windows.  Could the family’s less-than-warm-welcome be caused by worries over financial troubles?

Whilst exploring the grounds, Libby discovers a derelict bothy in the woods with boarded-up windows.  When she wakes early the next morning and sees a light moving towards the abandoned house, her natural curiosity is aroused.  And when she hears a strange wailing sound and discovers a secret panel in the house, Libby knows that there is a mystery to solve …

And what a brilliantly clever mystery it is!  I was thoroughly engaged and entertained as I followed Libby and Connie as they unravelled clues to discover who has been stealing from the family.  I don’t want to give away any plot spoilers but suffice to say that this is a heist with a tantalising twist or two!  Family secrets, hidden passages, missing paintings, and one determined young sleuth intent on discovering the culprit with the help of some wonderful friends.  An utterly delightful, action-packed, page-turning mystery, and one which I have no doubt younger readers will adore.

Reading this whilst I was in Edinburgh was just perfect and such a treat!  I was exploring New Town, visiting Greyfriars Kirkyard and going on a ghost tour in the vaults, and then joining Libby and her Travelling School companions when I got back to my hotel room. I loved the spooky, wintery atmosphere and the real sense of danger faced by Libby and was just as desperate as she was to find out the identity of the culprit and their motive. 

Libby and Connie are incredibly likeable young girls who are firm friends.   Libby is naturally inquisitive, empathetic and clever.  Even when she faces danger, she is determined to continue to follow the clues, but can she outwit a villain who is just as determined to get way with a seemingly perfect crime? 

The illustrations are simply stunning and are a perfect complement to this wonderful mystery.

This is a cracker of a mystery:  action-packed, exciting and intriguing and just perfect to read cuddled up with a hot chocolate and shortbread. I’m so looking forward to joining Libby on her next sleuthing adventure in the fantastic Travelling School Mysteries series.

Thank you to Firefly Press and NetGalley for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

WWW Wednesday

I’m not sure what has happened, but I’m not currently reading a middle-grade book! I’m listening to Charmcaster which is wonderful – I can’t wait to see how this finishes, but I’ll also be sad to say goodbye to this brilliant cast of characters. I picked up The Dark Between the Trees when I was in London as the synopsis really grabbed my attention. The timeline alternates between events during the Civil War and a group of modern-day historians who want to find out what happened in the past – and it’s set in a forest! I’m loving the folklore, gothic vibes and am expecting to be scared!

I read Wildsmith: Into the Dark Forest on NetGalley which is the start of a series for younger middle-grade. I really enjoyed this which has some wonderful environmental messages told through a fantasy story.

I still haven’t managed to get to this yet, but I’m determined a dedicate time over the weekend to read it!

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

WWW Wednesday

I’m currently reading The Midnight Howl and am really enjoying being back in the world of the Night Post. I’m also listening to the brilliant Crownbreaker.

I’ve had Skandar and the Unicorn Thief on my TBR since it was published, and don’t know why I waited to long to read it! It is exactly the kind of book I love – action-packed fantasy adventure with wonderful characters. The depiction of the unicorns is fantastic. I’m definitely looking forward to the next one. I also read The Frost Goblin which was just gorgeous, and written in Abi’s wonderfully warm style. This would make a wonderful gift for younger readers.

I’m hoping to read Saving Neverland next.

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