Let’s Find Fred – Steven Lenton

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Today it’s my stop on the ‘Let’s Find Fred’ blog tour and I’m delighted to share this panderrific picture book from Steven Lenton with you on the blog today. Every night, Stanley the zookeeper says goodnight to all of the animals and tucks them into bed. But one night, he can’t find Fred! Where can he be? Dreaming of balloons, candyfloss and parties Fred decides to set of on an adventure of his own.  Join Stanley as he searches for the pesky panda amongst all the sights of the city  children will love spotting Fred as he hides at the market, the art gallery, in the park, at the funfair and finally at a very special party.

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You know from the very moment you lay your eyes on this book (or indeed when it lays it’s eyes on you – watch out for the moving eyes on the cover), that this is going to be a lively and mischievous read. Confusion and chaos runs through the black and white filled pages where pandas seem to be everywhere or maybe not as Stanley finds out, when the ‘Fred’ he spots turns out to be Dave, a big burly bloke. I love how the writing twists, turns and changes direction emphasising how Stanley is chasing Fred all over town and making it more challenging for newly independent readers to enjoy.

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This book is guaranteed to have children pouring over the pages for hours as each spread is filled with delicious details that will appeal to both children and parents. Every time I’ve read this book I’ve spotted new things: from a monkey playing with a Rubix Cube; Goldilocks sharing a picnic with the three bears; a small boy drawing on an attendant’s face and a Mum feeling very sick on a tea cup ride. Not forgetting the many famous faces that appear in the book (see who you can spot), the white butterfly on every page and the puns that are scattered throughout the story. Who wouldn’t want to watch ‘The Panda of the Opera’ or ‘Star Paws’? My favourite being the ‘Dirty Dancing’ reference which I challenge you to find.  An absolute gem of a picture book, I absolutely loved it!

Steven Lenton

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Steven Lenton is a highly-acclaimed artist whose bestselling titles include the Shifty McGifty series by Tracey Corderoy and The Astounding Broccoli Boy by Frank Cottrell Boyce. Steven has also worked as an animation director in children’s television. Originally from Congleton in Cheshire, Steven now splits his time between Bath and London where he works from his studios with his little dog, Holly.

You can find out more about Steven by visiting his website or follow him on Twitter @2dscrumptious

Blog Tour

You can catch up with the rest of the blog tour with more reviews and guest posts.

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Thank you to Steven and Olivia at Scholastic for inviting me to be part of the blog tour and for my copy of ‘Let’s Find Fred.’

 

Ally Kennen – The Everything Machine Guest Post

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I am delighted to welcome Ally Kennen to the blog today with a special guest post on her ‘Tope 10 Fictional Inspirations’ as part of ‘The Everything Machine’ blog tour. ‘The Everything Machine’ is a hilarious new adventure about three children who are let loose with a top-secret magical machine with a mind of it’s own…..what could possibly go wrong? Olly, Stevie and Bird have just had a very special delivery. It’s a machine that has a name, can speak and is able to print ANYTHING they want it to. How about a never-ending supply of sweets and a cool swimming pool in the shed, for starters?

But is getting everything you’ve ever wished for all it’s cracked up to be?

So now it’s time to find out what books inspire Ally Kennen.

 

Top 10 Fictional Inspirations

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I am a rabid reader, and everything I read probably gets churned up and processed and feeds the writing beast. I am currently reading ‘Vanity Fair’ by William Thackeray and I do love the wicked and irreverent Becky Sharp. I like characters who lead the plot rather than the other way round.

It is way too hard to choose only 10 fictional inspirations, so instead I have 15, which was also very hard. In no order at all…

 1) Absolute Zero by Helen Cresswell I love this series of children’s books about Ordinary Jack, marooned within his horribly high-achieving family. This is funny writing about an eccentric, crazy family. The humour is delicious.

 2) The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Arghhh! This book is SO SCAREY and CREEPY and dark. It is brilliant and awful. I could never write anything so terrifying, and actually, that’s OK!

3) The Shipping News by E. Anne Proux. I keep rereading this funny, dark book. The language is so rich, the salty- seascapes so vivid, the characters unique. I am utterly behind Quoyle, the soft-hearted, unlucky, bumbling lead.

4) N-W by Zadie Smith. This is fine-honed super-writing. And funny. And a cracking story and deeply inventive. There are no superfluous sentences. Every. Word. Packs. A. Punch.

5) The Circle by Dave Eggers. What a crazy book! But this foray into the not too distant future is enticing and horribly convincing. Where we are all sewn into our virtual worlds. There is even a car chase at the end which is something I am personally fond of.

6) The Big Sleep  by Raymond Chandler. Actually I haven’t read it for maybe 10 years so I’d better not waffle here. But I remember a line ‘She was a blonde who would make a Bishop kick in a stained glass-window,’ that I find very entertaining. (That line might have come from another Chandler book) I love his characters’ dialogue, the dry wise-cracks are inspirational!

7) Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy.  Oh I love Thomas Hardy. I come from a deeply rural upbringing, no buses, hardly any cars, just hedges and cows and things. The red postbox on the road was the most exciting thing around, a portal to another universe. Maybe this is why I am drawn to the heavy, immersing, pastoral settings of Hardy’s books, the lengthy discourses on the quality of the light, the bridle-ways and tracks and plantations, and of course, the dreadfully sad, yet compelling, plots.

8) Titus Groan by Melvyn Peake.  Reading these Gormenghast books is like burying yourself in another utterly immersive world, like being swept up by a far richer brain and being towed along by the thoughts. Crazy stuff: scary, wild characters, poetic. A brilliant series of fantasy books.

9) Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. This is a compelling page turner thriller. I love the warped characters and their motivations. The main characters are married, and absolutely loathe each other. This is like Uber-Twits!

10) The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. This book is so sad in places I can hardly bear to re-read it. But it is a story of a family’s progression through the Great American Depression. It is epic, but you don’t have to feel noble for reading it. It is gripping and  thought-inducing and will colour in a new part of your mind…

11) Elizabeth and her German Garden by Elizabeth Von Arnim. Ah Elizabeth! she grows a glorious garden, she is married to a Man of Wrath, she has many babies and there are many many lines in this book, which one has to reread, like those plaque things with inspirational  life-affirming messages. Only far better, and woven into a magical book.

12) Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. Ok, this is the biggie. Hilary Mantel is the Usain Bolt Olympic super-human of the writing world. She writes books fit for the Gods. This book is the real thing. It has everything, story, PEOPLE, sorrow, poetry, more story. Actually I’m going to have to stop at 12 books and start reading it again. Sorry Mr Thackeray.

Ally Kennen

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Ally Kennen has been an archaeologist, museum guard and singer-songwriter. Her dark and thrilling teen novels have been nominated for over eleven literary awards. She lives in Somerset with her husband and four children.

You can visit her website or follow her on Twitter @allykennen to find out more.

Blog Tour

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Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour for more guest posts and reviews

Monday 13th February

Fiction Fascination

Bookish Outsider

Tuesday 14th February

Girl Vs Books

Book Lover Jo

Wednesday 15th February

Live Otherwise

A Daydreamer’s Thoughts

Thursday 16th February

MG Strikes Back

Alejandra’s Life

Friday 17th February

Library Girl and Book Boy

Luna’s Little Library

Saturday 18th February

Big Book Little Book

Mum Friendly

Sunday 19th February

Tales of Yesterday

Powered by Reading

Amazing Animal Picture Books

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Animals in stories have always held huge appeal to me when choosing stories to read aloud at storytime. Offering the chance for children to join in by allowing them to recreate the animal noises or tell me what they know about different animals is a real joy to me. I like nothing better than a library filled with roaring tigers or mooing cows, so let me share with you some of my favourite animal picture books that have been recently released.

There’s A Pig Up My Nose – John Dougherty & Laura Hughes

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What would happen if one day you found that you had a pig stuck up your nose? Would anyone actually believe you and how would you manage to get it out? One night when Natalie is fast asleep a pig sneaks into her house and climbs up her nose which results in chaos and confusion. Now try explaining this to a group of 5 and 6 year olds and see what reaction you get. I shared this hilarious book at storytime at school and the library was filled with giggles as we watched Natalie’s classmates grand plans for getting the pig out of her nose. My own personal favourite was holding Natalie upside-down whilst hitting her on the head with a large inflatable rhinoceros. John Dougherty has created a rollicking read that is a real joy to share and  Laura Hughes’s warm and witty illustrations capture the humour of this story perfectly.

There’s Brocolli In My Ice Cream – Emily MacKenzie

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Emily MacKenzie is back with another delightful, colourful tale which you will find irresistible – unlike the aforementioned broccoli ice cream in the title. Meet Granville who loves everything sugary and sweet but can’t and won’t eat vegetables of any description. His family despair of his reluctance to be passionate about parsnips or to be mad about mushrooms, so they come up with a plan, not realising that Granville has a plan of his own. This wonderful tale flows beautifully wrapped round with layers of lavish alliteration that captures the passion of our veggie loving family. As always Emily’s illustrations are vivid and colourful, bursting with humorous details that you will discover each time you re read the story, exploring the pages for new and fun things to spot and discover. Perfect for fussy eaters, who may even be tempted to try something new after sharing this story.

Tiger, Tiger – Jonny Lambert

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‘Tiger, Tiger’ by Jonny Lambert is one of those tales which fills my heart with joy. A celebration of young and old we are taken on a journey of discovery through the jungle seeing it through the eyes of the young cub for the first time. Whilst Old Tiger’s world is quiet, dull and devoid of colour, cub feels that there is a world out there waiting to be explored. But Old Tiger has been there and seen it all before, surely there is nothing that could possibly entertain or amuse him. As they journey into the jungle Jonny’s sumptuous spreads turn from muted grey to a vibrant palette portraying the change in Old Tiger’s feelings as he remembers there is more to life than being still and alone. The rich descriptive language captures the energy of the movement of the animals and the irrepressible enthusiasm of the young cub brilliantly. A visual extravaganza filled with warmth and wisdom.

Safe and Sound – Jean Roussen & Loris Lora

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‘Safe and Sound’ is a wondrous celebration of the relationship between baby animals and their parents. No matter how different and diverse the animal kingdom or big and small, they need some help until they’re grown so they can be protected from danger. Jean Roussen tells their stories through a gentle, rhyming text which takes us on a journey as  we visit wolves hidden away in mountains protected by their packs, chipmunks safely buried underneath the ground and crocodile hatchlings hidden away inside their mother’s mouth. Loris Lora’s stunning illustrations convey the wonder of the habitats that each of the animals lives and the bond between the parents and their babies marvellously. Another sublime picture book from Flying Eye books, this is an irresistible combination of beautiful prose and sumptuous illustrations.

As Nice As Pie – Garry Sheppard & Tim Budgen

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‘As Nice As Pie’ is a hilariously, naughty tale from Gary Sheppard which will make you laugh out loud with glee. Kindly Mavis Manewearing loves cooking and sharing, but feeding one lone bird soon turns into a menacing menagerie of potbellied pigeons, greedy gannets and plum parakeets. At the end of her tether she bakes up a surprise dish called ‘Birdie Surprise’ and teaches those cheeky and greedy birds a much needed lesson. Gary Sheppard has created a story which bounces off the pages with humour and energy, demanding to be read aloud with its lively rhymes. Tim Budgen’s illustrations are bright and colourful and filled with pure comic moments and a wonderful attention to detail.

A huge thank you to Bloomsbury, Egmont, Flying Eye Books, Little Tiger and Maverick Books for sending me copies of these amazing animal books.

The Painted Dragon – Katherine Woodfine

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Lil and Sophie are back in another thrilling adventure in Katherine Woodfine’s ‘The Painted Dragon.’ I was ridiculously excited to spot an early copy in my local bookshop having had to wait a whole year for the next instalment in the marvellous Sinclair Mysteries. I can definitely confirm that it is absolutely worth the wait With an opening chapter that leaves you feeling like a nervous wreck you know that you’re in for a treat. Less dark and menacing than ‘The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth,’ this feels like a more complex story which hides many layers of secrets waiting to be discovered by our intrepid heroines.

Mr Sinclair in his endeavour to make Sinclairs the most glamorous and sophisticated department store invites London’s rich and famous to visit an exhibition featuring priceless paintings including the King’s very own ‘The Green Dragon.’ But on the morning of the gala evening  a terrible crime is uncovered. The King’s painting has been stolen from a room that was locked, but this is something much more complicated than a locked room mystery. Once again Lil and Sophie find themselves caught up in an elaborate plot and faced with forgery, trickery and deceit on all sides. Will they be able to unmask the true villain and prove that they are detectives to be reckoned with – no matter what danger lies ahead.

Katherine has succeeded once again in creating an intricate mystery waiting to be unravelled, whilst giving the reader a real insight into the inequalities in Edwardian society. She introduces us to Leo, whose wealthy parents don’t know what to do with her because she has a disability. A daughter like that, couldn’t possible have a London Season and what do with her so that she isn’t seen by society. Fortunately Leo manages to escape the confines of her home and finds herself crossing path with our heroines when she is identified as the last person to see ‘The Green Dragon’ and she becomes inextricably wrapped up in their perilous adventure. Assembling characters new and old the story builds to a thrilling climax as our splendid duo will stop at nothing to expose the thief. Wonderfully dramatic and tense, this is a truly marvellous tale that will leave you wanting more.

In case you missed them you can still read my reviews of The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow and The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth.

Cover Reveal – Bad Mermaids by Sibeal Pounder & Jason Cockroft

Me and my daughter are huge fans of the ‘Witch Wars’ series, so I’m really excited to be sharing with you today the cover of the first novel in a brand new series from Sibéal Pounder with illustrations by Jason Cockroft, ‘Bad Mermaids’ will be published on the 1st June 2017  by Bloomsbury Publishing.

So without further ado here it is….

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Wow what a gorgeous cover, it definitely gets the seal (no pun intended) of approval in our home. I love the bold use of colour in the cover design and Jason Cockroft’s illustrations have really captured the fabulously feisty spirit of the story. This is the kind of cover which will stand out on a display and demand to be picked up and read. I’m intrigued to find out more, so let’s find out why our mermaids are so bad!

Bad Mermaids

Something is rotten in the city of Swirlyshell. Could be the oysters.

Mermaids Beattie, Mimi and Zelda are enjoying a summer on land with legs when they receive a strange CRABAGRAM ordering them to return home at once. Some seriously BAD MERMAIDS are on the loose and the girls are the only ones who can stop them.
If they’re going to save the day, they’ll need answers. And a clam car. Definitely piranha-print nail polish. Possibly not the talking seahorse.
CAN THEY DO IT?

Sibéal Pounder

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Sibéal Pounder used to work for the Financial Times, where she researched the How To Spend It section and wrote the For Goodness’ Sake column – interviewing everyone from Veronica Etro to Vivienne Westwood. Now she writes about fabulous witches and feisty fairies in Witch Wars, her much loved series for Bloomsbury. Sibéal’s first book, Witch Wars, was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2016.

A huge thank you to Lizz Skelly and Bloomsbury for inviting me to reveal the cover of this fantastic new book, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

 

Radio Boy – Christian O’Connell illustrated by Rob Biddulph

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At school there seems to be a high demand for two types of genres ‘mystery’ and ‘funny’ and Radio Boy from Christian O’Connell seems to tick both boxes so I can see it being a huge hit with the children at school. When Spike gets fired from hospital radio it seems like his dream of becoming a Superstar DJ is in tatters. But undeterred and with the help of his dad and his two formidable best friends Artie and Holly he launches a new show, under the secret identity of Radio Boy. Radio Boy becomes an overnight sensation with its witty and rebellious format, but fame has it’s problems. Spike’s life begins to slowly unravel when he decides to make an enemy of his headmaster ‘Fish Face’ who is determined to discover just who is Radio Boy. With everyone set against him, can Spike keep his identity a secret?

This is a hilarious debut from Christian O’Connell it genuinely made me laugh out loud and cringe inside as Spike goes out of control as fame goes to his head. I loved how Spike is able to achieve what he wants because he has a teacher who believes in him and a Dad who refuses to let him give up the opportunity to pursue his passion, because a twist in fate meant he’s now a supermarket manager instead of the rock star he wanted to be. The love for music shines through this book in the fabulous soundtrack provided by Artie’s amazing vinyl collection which complements the storyline perfectly. A great cast of believable character has been assembled in this story but my personal favourite is Holly she’s smart and feisty I could easily see her running the country with ease and an exact timetable.  Just when you think it can’t get any better, Rob Biddulph comes along and sprinkles magic throughout the book with his brilliantly funny illustrations which give this book a real edge.

A huge thank you to FMcM and Harper Collins for sending me a copy of this hilarious book.

 

Who Let The Gods Out – Maz Evans

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Okay before I start this review I have a small confession to make…..at school I had a slight obsession with Classical Studies and I was the only one of my year group to opt to study Latin at G.C.S.E. Obviously then it was with much excitement that I got my hands on a copy of Maz Evan’s ‘Who Let the Gods Out,’ where Greek Gods meets modern day life in a story that will have you laughing and crying in equal measures. This hilarious, bonkers adventure stuffed full of heart and an unstoppable energy had me captivated from the first chapter.

Elliot has a secret. His mum has been really unwell, she is becoming increasingly confused and forgetful, while he has just about been coping in looking after her and himself on his own, fearful that the truth may be uncovered.  Especially with their evil neighbour becoming increasingly nosy as she is determined to stop at nothing to get her wicked hands on their farm so she can make a huge profit out of their misery. For Elliot, life is becoming increasingly desperate and solitary. But then fate lends a helping hand when a shooting star, namely Virgo a young goddess crashes to earth  changing his life forever. Unwittingly he finds himself caught up in Virgo’s mission and after accidentally releasing the death daemon Thanatos they have to call upon the old Olympian gods for help. The gods descend upon Elliot’s farm bringing chaos and comfort but after centuries of cushy retirement will they be up to the task of defeating Thanatos?

Maz has assembled a magnificent cast of characters worthy of the most extravagant feast in this riotous tale. Elliot makes my heart bleed, I feel desperately sorry for him as he isolates himself for the sake of survival. It highlights how difficult it can be for young carers but this is just one element of the story. As the gods take over the farm bringing nourishment and soft furnishings (with an occasional piece of MDF) to the lives of Elliot and his Mum you see that friendship and support make them both stronger, despite the fact that carnage is unfolding around them. The gods are just brilliantly entertaining. Zeus ever the ladies man, managing to double book his wedding, Aphrodite running a match making agency and Hermes obsessed with taking selfies and downloading apps on his iGod. Ironically they have become almost the same as us ordinary mortals. The plot is fast and furious and will grab your attention and hold you in its grasp till the very end, then infuriate you (in the very best of ways) by  sneaking in a final cliff hanger to ensure that you are desperate to come back for more. If you want to laugh out loud, sob quietly and be swept away on a madcap mayhem of an adventure, then ‘Who Let the Gods Out’ is the book for you!

Thank you to Chicken House for sending me a copy of this fabulous book.