Thursday, 25 August 2016

The Graces by Laure Eve

Everyone said the Graces were witches.
They moved through the corridors like sleek fish, ripples in their wake. Stares followed their backs and their hair.
They had friends, but they were just distractions. They were waiting for someone different.
All I had to do was show them that person was me.

Published by Faber and Faber in September 2016
Pages - 432
Like everyone else in her town, River is obsessed with the Graces, attracted by their glamour and apparent ability to weave magic. But are they really what they seem? And are they more dangerous than they let on?
This book is like a amalgamation of all my favourite witch novels, films and shows! The story keeps you glued to your seat from the first page and you are instantly caught up in River's obsession with the mysterious Grace family. 
I loved River. I loved how she was determined to be friendly with the Graces. Be prepared for a heart ripping twist. Fenrin & River nearly broke me! I really didn't see that coming.
I really enjoyed the mystery surrounding The Graces. For some reason it made me think of The Great Gatsby. The Graces have that enigmatic air, similar to the Gatsbys. 
I heard a rumour there might be a sequel. I really truly hope so, because I need to find out what happens next. 
There is darkness, there is serious witchery and there is love. 
If you loved When We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, you will love this. An abundance of wicked witchery! Bursting with everything I love about witch craft!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Augustus and His Smile by Catherine Rayner

Augustus the tiger was sad.
He had lost his smile.
So he did a HUGE tigery stretch and set off to find it.

Summary From Little Tiger Press

Augustus the tiger is sad. He has lost his smile. So he does a HUGE tiger stretch and sets off to find it…

As he climbs mountain crests patterned with frost and swims to the bottom of inky blue oceans, Augustus soon realises that his smile would be there whenever he is happy.

He just needs to open his eyes to the beauty of the natural world around him.
Rediscover the magic of Catherine Rayner's illustrations with this stunning 10th anniversary edition of Augustus and His Smile.
Now in a gift edition with a gold foil jacket, this remarkable book approaches sadness with a lightness of touch, celebrating the beauty of the world and the simple happiness it brings us when we open our eyes to it. Augustus and His Smile is a stunning example of how art can be used to start conversations about coping with our emotions from a young age. Catherine's debut picture book was nominated for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Award and won the 2006 Booktrust Early Years Award.
This picture book tells a simple story about a tiger searching for his lost smile. It uses poetic language and almost abstract illustrations that work together beautifully to make a memorable, prize-winning book for young children on the theme of finding happiness in the natural world.

The book was originally published in 2006 and this special anniversary edition is a hardback with a lovely gold jacket. For every copy sold, a donation will be made to the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation's Tiger Time campaign, which aims to protect wild tigers.

The book would be a good starting point for discussing emotions, particularly sadness, with young children. If you look carefully, you'll see Augustus's mouth beginning to curl up at the corners as he swims under the sea, prances through a desert and by the time it starts to rain… Well, read it yourself and find out what happens. I'm sure you'll find yourself smiling, too.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Marge In Charge by Isla Fisher

My name is Jemima Button. I am seven years old and I'm the tallest girl in my class. My little brother is Jakeypants, though grown-upscall him Jake, and he is four years old. He loves wrestling, dinosaurs and icecream. 

Published by Piccadilly Press in July 2016 
Pages - 176
Jemima and Jake's new babysitter doesn't look too promising. In fact she looks very sensible, very old and VERY small (she only comes up to daddy's armpit!). But the moment their parents leave the house, Marge gives a mischievous wink, takes off her hat and reveals a marvellous mane of rainbow-coloured hair! 
Marge really is a babysitter like no other and the children spend a wild evening with her - racing snails, slurping chocolate soup and mixing potions in the bath! But if Jake and Jemima want her to babysit again it's time for them to take charge of Marge, tidy up and settle her down for a little sleep.
Three hilarious, anarchic and charming MARGE stories from A-list actress, mother, writer and comedian Isla Fisher. 
This chapter book consists of three short episodic events in Jemima's life, where Marge's baby sitting services are needed. Each tale is bright, magical and inspiring. Marge is ageless and energetic - she will try anything and everything at least once. 
What a delightfully strange yet unique character our Marge really is. I feel like I know her so well, I'm comfortable in calling her our Marge, because she waltzs in like she's part of the family and quickly makes herself at home. She has an uncanny knack of making the completely bizarre look incredibly normal. 
Everyone should have a Marge in their lives. 
Marge is excellent at getting things done, even if she doesn't intentionally mean to. She gets Jemima's little brother, Jake, doing all the things he hates and not realising that he is doing them. It's like Marge has magic hidden in her rainbow coloured hair. 
If I had to compare Marge to any other character, I'd say she was like a grown up version of Opal Moonbaby by Maudie Smith. 
Jemima is a bit of a worry head, but one with very mature responses to Marge's antics. It was a refreshing change to find Jemima, the child, cleaning up after Marge, the adult, falls asleep,
Marge is one of those characters I can't wait to read more about. I think this is a series that could run and run.

Monday, 22 August 2016

#ReviewMonday with KM Lockwood: Black Powder by Ally Sherrick

Friday 25 October 1605
The hangman stood hunched at the top of the wooden scaffold like a hungry black crow. A mob of screaming gulls wheeled above him, but his eyes stayed fixed on the noose as it swayed to and fro in the cold sea breeze.
Tom’s heart jolted. He didn’t want to watch a man die, but if he ran away now, everyone would know he was a Catholic for sure. He gripped the handle of the pail and steeled himself.
A murmur rippled through the crowd. He craned his neck but his view was blocked by a mass of sweaty bodies.
‘’Ere. Climb on this, lad.’ A pock-faced man next to him seized the pail and turned it upside down. Before Tom could stop him, he’d grabbed him round the middle and heaved him up on to it.

Published by Chicken House in August 2016
300 pages in paperback (without bonus materials) 
Also available as an e-book
Cover by Steve Wells Designs, illustrations by Alexis Snell
Summary  from Chicken House website
England, 1605.
12-year-old Tom must save his father from hanging. He falls in with a mysterious stranger – the Falcon – who promises to help in exchange for his service. But on the long journey to London, Tom discovers the Falcon's true mission – and a plot to blow up Parliament with barrels of black powder.
Tom faces a terrible decision: secure his father's release, or stop the assassination of the king ...
There are those in the children’s book world who say historical books are a hard sell. They would think again if they read this exciting adventure!

Have a good look at the cover and I think you’ll get the idea. (The paperback has gold lettering for the title by the way.) There’s red for excitement and danger, black for secrets and people kept in the dark, and sulphurous yellow for potions and cowardice. All those elements and more appear – together with courage, loyalty and friendship. There’s even a glint of humour with Jago (no spoilers!)

Author Ally Sherrick has really done her homework – and there are bonus pages for those who get the time-travelling bug – but all that research doesn’t slow the essential story down. Most of us know what happened in the Gunpowder Plot – but we don’t know how Tom’s story will end. So we just have to read on.

This story matters for at least three reasons: 
We too live in a time where someone’s religion can make other people frightened or cruel. 
It’s important to know the conflict behind Bonfire Night – and why it’s celebrated. 
Stories about difficult choices are never old-fashioned if you care about the characters as much as Tom Garnett. 
Black Powder not a difficult read in terms of literacy, but in keeping with the Jacobean period, some parts are violent and upsetting. The Hangman’s Noose on the back gives you a clue. It wouldn’t be truthful – nor anywhere near so exciting - if it were all quothing, ruffs and farthingales.

Black Powder would make an excellent project focus for KS2 History “Pupils should be taught about events beyond living memory that are significant nationally or globally [for example, … events commemorated through festivals or anniversaries]” because it’s so exciting. I could also see it as a TV mini-series, with episodes ending on cliff-hanger after cliff-hanger.
In short, you want plotting, danger and excitement all in the strange and fascinating 17th century? Then Black Powder is the book for you. Check out the author’s video here.

K. M. Lockwood lives by the sea in Sussex - see the pics on Instagram. She fills jars with sea-glass, writes on a very old desk and reads way past her bedtime. Her tiny bed-and-breakfast is stuffed full of books - and even the breakfasts are named after writers. You're always welcome to chat stories with @lockwoodwriter on Twitter.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

My Funny Family by Chris Higgins

At school we are doing seeds. 
Dontie says he did seeds when he was in Miss Pocock's class and it's boring.
He's wrong.
It's not boring, it's AMAZING. 

Published by Hachette Children's Books in April 2013
Illustrated by Lee Wildish
Pages - 128

Mattie is nine-years-old and she worries about everything. Which isn't surprising, because when you have a family as big and crazy as hers, there's always something to worry about. Will the seeds she's planted in the garden with her brothers and sisters grow into fruit and vegetables like everyone promised? Why does it seem as if Grandma doesn't like them sometimes? And what's wrong with mom? Fortunately, reassurance is always close at hand in this first winning story about the lovable Butterfield clan.
I came across this book by accident. I was scanning the shelves of the library, looking for more chapter books to read and research when this one fell off the shelf. Instantly I was drawn to the cover. Who can resist the gorgeous illustration of Mattie on the front, who even looks like a worrier from the picture? And on the back, the family are brought to life by Chris Higgins descriptions, perfectly matched with Lee Wildish's illustrations.
Mattie is a bit of a worrier and will appeal to many children of her age, who take the worries of the world onto their shoulders, even though the things they worry about may not happen and aren't anything they have control over. Mattie's family deal with her worries perfectly and show great patience and understanding when it all starts to get too much for Mattie.
This book also looks at the life cycle through seeds and growing their own food as events unfold within the family and Mattie's school life. 
I think this is a wonderfully warm and funny book. For such a short book, there is so much crammed into it - you really get the feel of every word counting.  I've fallen in love with this family and I can't wait to read the rest of the books in the series.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Goodnight Tiger by Timothy Knapman and Laura Hughes

It was the middle of the night but Emily couldn't sleep…
because of all the BELLOWING and STOMPING and TRUMPETING and GROWLING!

"The animals must have escaped from the zoo!" she cried.

But there was no one in the street except next door's cat.

Summary From Little Tiger Press
Goodnight Tiger is a funny bedtime story, full of jungle animals and surprises. With vibrant, characterful illustrations by Laura Hughes (Daddy Sandwich), this charming picture book by best-selling author Timothy Knapman (Mungo and the Picture Book Pirates and Dinosaurs in the Supermarket) is sure to delight children at bedtime – and it's great for reinforcing bath and bedtime routines too.
Published in April 2016 by Little Tiger Press
Goodnight Tiger is the perfect book for bedtime! It tells the magical story of the noisy animals in Emily's wallpaper and how she tries to help them go to sleep. But the jungle's a very different place to Emily's house and having a bedtime bath and a cup of hot chocolate don't work at all. And as for hugging a bear… well, read the book and see what happens!

Laura Hughes's illustrations are bright and colourful and the animals' facial expressions are delightful. There's plenty to talk about in the illustrations, too, though not so much that little ones will still be chattering when it's time to go to sleep. I'd definitely recommend this book – especially for parents frazzled by trying to get reluctant children into bed. Don't miss it!

Monday, 15 August 2016

#ReviewMonday with KM Lockwood: The Door that Led to Where by Sally Gardner

AJ Flynn has just failed all but one of his GCSEs, and his future is looking far from rosy. So when he is offered a junior position at a London law firm he hopes his life is about to change - but he could never have imagined by how much.
Tidying up the archive one day, AJ finds an old key, mysteriously labelled with his name and date of birth - and he becomes determined to find the door that fits the key. And so begins an amazing journey to a very real and tangible past - 1830, to be precise - where the streets of modern Clerkenwell are replaced with cobbles and carts, and the law can be twisted to suit a villain's means. Although life in 1830 is cheap, AJ and his friends quickly find that their own lives have much more value. They've gone from sad youth statistics to young men with purpose - and at the heart of everything lies a crime that only they can solve. But with enemies all around, can they unravel the mysteries of the past, before it unravels them?

Hot Key 2015
288 pages in paperback – read courtesy of NetGalley
My goodness, Sally Gardner can write in a variety of styles – from the jolly capers of the Wings & Co. books for younger readers via the extraordinary Maggot Moon to the marvellously dark fairy tale of Tinder. Yet The Door that Led to Where is different again. 

It begins in a contemporary, recognisable London with almost-17-year-old AJ. Many readers will feel for his difficult circumstances - and warm to his sense of humour. But then there’s added time travel – which brings its own set of perils and challenges to his complicated life.

It’s more than a touch Dickensian – but as if in a Simon Pegg film. Moments of visual and character-driven comedy lighten the adventures in the dark streets – and there’s a mystery to puzzle out. That may make it sound a bit superficial – but friendship and family are right at the heart of the story. 

For me, AJ and Elsie are a particular highlight. I don’t give spoilers but seeing relationships across generations gives extra depth to a story – think of Boy in the Tower by Polly Ho -Yen. I would also mention the eclectic mind of largely self-taught AJ – we’re close to it most of the time – and it’s so entertaining. 

I would say experienced readers would get the best out of The Door that Led to Where – it has a complex plot and the language is mature at times. (Though under the circumstances, actually quite restrained!) 

Perfect for those who love London, history, and adventures with lots of threat.
The US cover captures the spirit of the book admirably.

K. M. Lockwood lives by the sea in Sussex - see the pics on Instagram. She fills jars with sea-glass, writes on a very old desk and reads way past her bedtime. Her tiny bed-and-breakfast is stuffed full of books - and even the breakfasts are named after writers. You're always welcome to chat stories with @lockwoodwriter on Twitter.