Monthly Archives: August 2015

What a Grrrrreat Book – Grrrrr Rob Biddulph


‘Grrrrr’ is the second picture book the award winning  Rob Biddulph and just like the first book I’ve been ‘Blown Away’ (apologies for the pun) by this one as well.

It tells the tale of Fred the Bear who has won the Best Bear in the Wood contest for three years in a row and he has a legendary Grrrrrrrrrrrrr!!But this contest winning doesn’t leave much time for friends but:

‘Who needs Jemimas,

or Davids or Sophies?

My friends are my prizes,

my medals, my trophies.’

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Unknown to Fred a new bear in town Boris sneaks into his cave in the middle of the night, but what mischief is he up to? Disaster strikes on the morning of the contest Fred wakes up and finds out he has lost his roar. But Eugene the owl enlists his friends and offers to help Fred find his growl.

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What will happen to Fred if he can’t find his Grrrrr will Boris manage to steal his crown? Will his new friends save the day? And why does Boris wear a sweater? To find out the answer and more then you will need to read it yourself to find out!

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Just like Rob Biddulph’s first book ‘Blown Away’, ‘Grrrrr’ is a perfect read aloud story and a must for storytime. The rhyming words flow beautifully, the illustrations are vibrant and it truly is a fantastic book. At the heart of the story we discover that everyone needs friends in their life, being a success is simply not enough. This would be a delightful addition to any child’s picture book collection and perfect for sharing.

On a final note, I was also delighted to see Penguin Blue and Wilbur from ‘Blown Away’ make an appearance as Fred’s cuddly toys which was a lovely touch.

A big thank you to HCUK International for my signed copy of the book which I won in a Twitter competition, it will be going to a good home in my school library.


A Swashbuckling Adventure – The Great Cheese Robbery Chris Mould

pocket pirates

If you love pirates, adventures, daring and teeny tiny people then Chris Mould’s new series the ‘Pocket Pirates’ is just for you. I won the first in the series ‘The Great Cheese Robbery’ in a competition and Chris was kind enough to send it to me in a magnificent illustrated envelope with a superb dedication to the children at the school.


Our Pocket Pirates live inside a ship in a bottle, in a old junk shop and when nobody is watching they come out and explore. When you are ‘smaller than a teacup’ the world (or in this case the junk shop) is a very dangerous place. We are introduced to The Old Junk Shop and our crew Captain Crabsticks, Old Uncle Noggin, Button and Lily  by some sublime illustrations from Chris Mould.

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Things get very tricky for our fearsome crew when the skirting-board mice kidnap James, the ship’s cat and demand a large chunk of cheese as ransom payment.  But the only way they can get cheese is to undertake a perilous journey to the place where it’s always winter ‘THE PLACE CALLED FRIDGE’. Our brave adventurers have to endeavour danger, hardship and use their cunning to ensure they have a successful mission. Will they manage to reach their destination safely and be able to resuce  James from those roguish mice, you will have to wait and see?

What I really enjoyed the most about this book is the attention to tiny details which fill the book, so much so you feel that the creator Chris Mould must have shrunk to a teeny size himself to be able to have captured this so accurately. I have heard tales that Chris Mould can shrink himself like old Mrs Pepperpot and grow back again before people find out. As this time I cannot substantiate these claims but it does explain why the story is told so perfectly. I love the cotton reels Button sits on, the old mustard pot they take baths in, and the pot of coffee cream they keep for special occasions.

Another reason this book is such a joy is Chris Mould’s illustrations throughout, perfect for newly confident or reluctant readers there is plenty to keep them amused and engaged. My favourite is the map at the back of the book which allows the reader to visualise just how far our intrepid crew have to go on their adventures.

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I’m pleased to say that there is more to come from our Pocket Pirate Crew with the release of ‘The Great Drain Escape’ in Spring 2016. This book is such a delight and joy and I’m so pleased to be sharing it with you.

Do you believe in fairies? In Darkling Wood – Emma Carroll

indarkling wood

I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of my copy of ‘In Darkling Wood’ by Emma Carroll after hearing so many amazing comments about this book and it totally lived up to my expectations. On a rainy day yesterday I wrapped myself up, hid from the world and got lost  in this truly  magical story.

It tells the story of Alice who is sent to live with a previously unknown grandmother Nell in Darkling Cottage while her brother Theo is taken into hospital for a heart transplant. Interspersed within the story there are letters from a girl who also lives in Darkling Cottage to her brother in 1918 who is away at War. They are both hoping for good news from their brothers and get caught up in the mysteries of the Darkling Wood. You feel that they are inextricably linked together as there stories unfold.

Alice is trying to stop her grandmother cutting down the woods after meeting a strange girl called Flo  who tells her that fairies live there and will seek revenge if their home is destroyed. Alice doesn’t believe in fairies but strange events keep happening to delay the woods being cut down and she starts to think that maybe  they really do exist. Flo is also a mystery to Alice, nobody has heard of her and she appears with no warning and wears the most ‘weirdest outfit’. The letters also reveal that the girl has found fairies in the woods and takes photos to prove their existence. Life gets increasingly difficult for both girls as Theo’s condition deteriorates and the girls who writes the letter receives a telegram  that her brother is missing presumed dead.

We see both of our heroines struggling to come to terms with the difficulties in their lives. Alice is trying to cope with a new school, separated parents and living with a grandmother who she doesn’t feel wants her. For both of them the woods provides sanctuary and lets them believe that magic can be possible, when they are able to see it.  However this is not just a story about fairies it’s about  the need to keep hope alive in the darkest of circumstances. It looks at the importance of families and how the effect that tragedy can have on relationships and the bond that exist between siblings.

This is a such a compelling and beautiful story that you can’t help getting caught up In the lives of the girls. It feels so truthful that you do actually believe in the magic of Darkling wood and I love the fact that the adults in the story don’t dismiss the possibility that magic can be real. Although it has a bittersweet ending you can’t help feeling that  hope, love and the belief in magic can be so important in the darkest of times. I truly loved this book and I look forward to  recommending It to readers at the library.

Emma Carroll has also written two more books:

Frost Hollow Hall

The Girl Who Walked on Air





The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow – Katherine Woodfine


‘The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow’ by Katherine Woodfine is like a beautiful gift, wrapped up in shiny paper and decorated with a large satin bow. From the moment you enter Sinclair’s Department Store you know you are in a magical place of mystery, delights and wonder.

Our heroine Sophie finds herself orphaned and in desperate need and Sinclair’s appears to be her salvation, only things don’t turn out quite as she planned. Sophie manages to find herself a prime suspect in the theft of the famous Clockwork Sparrow and finds herself without a job and at threat of losing her home. It is up to her friends Lil and Billy to help her clear her name and solve the mystery of its disappearance. We find them drawn into a dangerous criminal world ruled by the seemingly illusive Baron and they find out there is a more than missing jewels at stake.

Katherine manages to conjure up this vivid world of contrasts between the  darkness of the criminal gangs set against the opulence of the store, through her fantastically rich descriptions. You can imagine yourself gliding down the famous stairs, trying on the latest fashion and sampling delicious treats. We can also feel the genuine fear of the characters as they try to outwit and outmanoeuvre the real perpetrators. The characters Sophie, Lil and Billy are so daring and fearless you forget that they are still children and it moves a such a thrilling pace you are left breathless by the experience. It is full of twists, turns and surprises that you never know quite what is around the corner.

There is more to come from our heroines Sophie and Lil in the next instalment ‘The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth’ which is due to be released in March 2016. I really can’t wait to find out further adventures and intrigue they manage to get themselves involved in next time.

A Truly Magical Tale Stonebird – Mike Revell


‘Stonebird’ by Mike Revell is a truly special read and invites you to believe in magic and the power of storytelling. It tells the tale of Liam who has to move away to a new home to be nearer to his Grandma who is suffering from dementia. We see him struggle to fit in at his new school and to keep his family from disintegrating around him. His Grandma is  getting increasingly worse, his mum clearly can’t cope and his sister is skipping school. Liam doesn’t know how to fix everything that is going wrong in his life and feels increasingly despondent.

Things start to change in Liam’s life when he comes across a stone gargoyle in a church. He recognises it as something he thought he had just imagined flying over his house but when he sees the same gargoyle Stonebird drawn on his Grandma’s diary he feels inextricably linked to this being. But Gargoyles can’t come to life can they?

Liam is soon drawn into a world where the gargoyle is bringing to life the stories he is telling at school and he thinks it can save his family. However things take a turn to the dark side when Liam allows his anger to create a potentially deadly situation. His wish for Stonebird to protect him backfires and he is no longer sure this is the answer to his problems.

This book is not afraid to tackle lots of issues such as dementia, bullying,  and estranged families but it doesn’t make this the main focus of the story. Instead we are drawn into this magical world of Stonebird where you get swept up in the magic of this creature trying to protect and hold together Liam’s family. I’m not sure how Mike Revell does it but he manages to make it feel so  realistic that it doesn’t take a massive leap of the imagination to believe that Stonebird really does come to life. This is an incredible debut novel which took me on an emotional rollercoaster, I couldn’t put it down it totally blew me away.

You can find out more about Mike Revell on his website:

Or on Twitter:


The delightful Dixie O’Day – Shirley Hughes & Clara Vulliamy


When you’re woken up early in the morning by your 6 year old daughter shouting ‘Mummy there’s another Dixie O’Day book Haunted House coming’ you know you’ve found a winning series. Dixie O’Day is a superb collaboration between mother and daughter team Shirley Hughes and Clara Vulliamy, and there are three so far in this charming series:

Dixie O’Day In the Fast Lane

Up, Up and Away

Dixie O’Day and the Great Diamond Robbery

As a children’s librarian I’m always on the look out for first chapter books for newly confident readers which will engage and inspire children and this series is perfect. We meet the main characters Dixie and Percy in a short interview in each book where we find out more about what they enjoy. The rest of the gang are introduced via Clara Vulliamy’s sublime illustrations. 20150823_142721-1





In Dixie O’Day In the Fast Lane we first meet Lou Ella who is Dixie’s neighbour who likes to show off her new car and generally be unpleasant to everyone she meets. When they take part in the All-Day Race together Dixie is determined he will beat Lou Ella but with a car that’s always breaking down against a shiny new convertible, how can he possibly win?  There are lots of mishaps, dastardly deeds and confusion as we watch to see who will win the race.

‘Dixie O’Day and the Great Diamond Robbery’ sees our heroes on  holiday getting caught up in a mystery when a famous actress Peaches Miaow’s necklace goes missing. Our intrepid duo go out of their way to save a drowning man they’re brought into a world of caves, secret passages and cat burglars. Will they be able to save the day and find the  missing jewels?

In ‘Up, Up and Away’ we find out more about Lou Ella Dixie’s archenemy who has a parrot Ariel who is desperate to escape from her. Our friends sneak Ariel away and get caught up in adventure in a hot air balloon after hiding from Lou Ella. As she pursues them on their journey will she catch up with them and get Ariel back or will Dixie and Percy manage to escape and save the day again?

These books are not only packed with fun filled stories but they include lots of lovely extras.

Interviews with Shirley and Clara

Dixie and Percy’s Games

Spot the Difference, Mazes and Quizzes


I think they are  truly lovely books beautifully written with such gorgeous illustrations, they have such an irresistible  appeal.

‘Dixie O’Day and the Haunted House’ is released in September and I know both myself and my daughter Evie can’t wait for more adventures from this delightful duo.


Clara has also collaborated with Polly Faber on ‘Mango & Bambang The Not-a-Pig’ which is released early September and I’m really looking forward to reading and reviewing on my blog.


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A Boy Called Hope -Lara Williamson


A Boy Called Hope by Lara Williamson is a truly special book which managed to make me both  laugh and cry. It tells the story of a boy called Dan whose Dad ran off with the woman from the chip shop ‘Busty Babs’ four years ago and he hasn’t been in contact with him since.

Dan has a very vivid imagination and the book opens with  a list of things he wants to come true.

‘I want my sister, Ninja Grace to go to university at the North Pole and only come back once a year.’

‘I want to help Sherlock Holmes solve his most daring mystery yet. And if it could be a Zombie mystery, all the more exciting.’

‘And finally, the biggest dream of all, I want my Dad to love me.’

In the book we see Dan on a mission to get his Dad back in his life after he suddenly appears on his TV screen much to the annoyance of his permanently grumpy sister Grace. He hopes that some how if he manages to get his Dad’s attention he will realise how much he has missed out on by walking out on his family.

There are some fantastic characters in the shape of Dan’s friends and families who help make this story so vibrant and real.  His friend Jo  is forever trying to use her holy relics to help him and his Tae kwon do loving friend Christopher highlight Dan’s quirky but loyal personality. Throughout the book Dan stays determined and hopeful of a reunion with his father whatever the cost.

I love that while this poignant search is unfolding there are hilarious misunderstandings going on elsewhere in the story. We have lots of confusion by Dan and Grace in relation to their Mum’s new boyfriend Big Dad involving pink dressing gowns, fires and a tattoo  which causes further complications. I was constantly laughing at the mischief Dan gets himself into and he is so endearing you hold out hope that he will manage to achieve his ultimate dream.

Without issuing any spoilers all I will say is that the ending is sad but uplifting and beautifully written by Lara. You feel so emotionally attached to Dan and his family that it’s hard to say goodbye but you feel that you’re leaving them in a more hopeful place.


You can find out more about the world of Dan Hope and get access to sneak peeks, downloads and competitions by visiting:

Lara Williamson has a new novel ‘The Boy Who Sailed the Ocean on an Armchair’ is released in October this year and I will definitely be adding to my to read pile.

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Fire Girl – Matt Ralphs


I read ‘Fire Girl’ after hearing it recommended on #UKMGCHAT which is when like minded book obsessive types like me get together and chat on Twitter. I then watched the book trailer and knew this was a book I would definitely enjoy, you can watch the trailer on the link below.

It tells the story of a young girl Hazel Hooper who has spent a solitary childhood with her magical mother growing up in an enchanted glade, to protect her from the outside world. One day her mother is kidnapped by a demon and Hazel discovers in her attempt to fight back, that she too has magical powers. She manages to create a familiar in her rage a dormouse called Bramley who is very grumpy with his new destiny. Hazel knows she has to find her mother and track down the demon but she has never even left the glade before and she sets off into an unknown England. Once she is out there  she enlists the help of demon hunters which is an unhappy alliance for her as they’re also notorious Witch Finders and she must ensure they don’t find out that she is a Fire Witch.

We are drawn into a world of suspicions, dark magic and demons as Hazel embarks on a mission to rescue her mother. Hazel is a fiesty, determined character who is in control of her destiny but at times needs her trusty familiar Bramley to guard over her and guide her on this dangerous quest. I loved the relationship between these two and how it develops over the story from one of indifference to absolute loyalty. The story has just the right element of fear running throughout  which helps build the tension and makes it virtually impossible to put down. The language of this story is beautifully descriptive and it’s very easy to become lost within this magical world. You can imagine yourselves hiding with Hazel in the woods, trying to avoid being captured by the dark forces. For me the book felt more real set in this alternative England which helped to maintain my belief that this could have actually happened and made it more vivid to me.

If you know any children who love magic with an element of darkness then this is the book for them. It will definitely keep them wanting for more and is a really compelling read, I highly recommend it.

Marsh Road Mysteries – Crowns and Codebreakers – Elen Caldecott


I was very excited to get my hands on a copy of ‘Crowns and Codebreakers’ by Elen Caldecott after sharing the first in the series ‘Diamonds and Daggers’ with my daughter. Unfortunately for me my daughter had this annoying habit of taking it to school and reading 50 pages at a time which meant I ended up missing vital parts of the story. This time I wasn’t going to make that mistake again so I waited for her to read it and then she  recommended it to me, which is not how it usually happens.

This book is the second in Elen Caldecott’s Marsh Road Mysteries featuring five children  Piotr, Minnie, Andrew, Flora and Sylvia who are great friends and work hard to solve mysteries. Minnie’s gran is visiting her from Nigeria and accidentally picks up the wrong suitcase at the airport. When Minnie opens it up  instead of hibiscus tea there are boy’s clothes in there and a strange postcard. The house is then burgled and only the suitcase goes missing, so Minnie thinks there is a definitely a case to be investigated.

We then see our intrepid five try to find out why the suitcase has been stolen, what has happened to the boy who owns it who they feel must be in danger. As events unfold we find ourselves in a world of smuggling, kidnap and menace which moves at a fast pace as we try to solve the mystery. The story manages to keep up the suspense throughout and keeps you on the edge of your seat as you discover there is no one you can trust and feel that the children are genuinely in danger. It’s inevitable that having five children investigating crimes will draw comparison to Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series and I’m sure fans of these  will love this book. However the Marsh Road Mysteries are much more reflective of life today, less lashings of ginger beer and idyllic settings, and therefore more realistic for today’s readers.

This was one of those books which I had to read in one sitting as I really couldn’t put it down. Elen keeps you guessing right to the end and the story has  the right level of danger and mystery to keep you intrigued. If you know a child that loves mysteries and being thoroughly entertained then this book and the series is a perfect choice.

To accompany the book Bloomsbury has produced a fab activity pack for any would be investigator.

If you want to find out about the other books Elen has written you can visit her website:

And finally a big thank you to Elen for sending me a copy of this book for our school library. She kindly took pity on me as it was my birthday and I failed to win the competition she was running

Completely Irresistible – Completely Cassidy Tamsyn Murray


Completely Cassidy -Tamsyn Murray. Illustrations by Antonia Miller.

I had heard fantastic reviews about this book and I was eager to get my hands on it, even hiding it from my 9 year old daughter so i could read it first. The story opens with Cassidy worrying about starting secondary school and hoping that she receives her letter from Hogwarts before the ‘DD-Day  (Doom and Desperation Day)’ arrives. She’s thinks it’s going to be a disaster as she’s been given this totally weird name Cassidy and she’s being forced to wear her brother’s old stinky blazer which is way too big for her. If that’s not bad enough, her Mum is pregnant with twins, her Dad is an Elvis impersonator  and her brother wants her to pretend she’s adopted! Her life is a total embarrassment and surely it can only get worse.

A mix up at school means that Cassidy is mistakenly identified as ‘gifted and talented’ and is soon enrolled on to the school quiz team with the ‘coolest boy in Year 7’. She tries really hard to impress him which is quite difficult when her dog shows him her  knickers with fairies on and she has a home dye disaster which turns her hair green. I love that Cassidy is a little bit hopeless and different it helps to reassure tweens that it’s absolutely fine to be yourself.

I really enjoyed that the book includes lists, letters and diary excerpts from Cassidy, they really help you gain an insight into who she is and make you feel like you really get to know her. It deals with friendship problems, first crushes and family life all of the things that any young reader will be able to understand. Cassidy is such a likeable character that I really didn’t want to put this down and could have easily read in one sitting but unfortunately I did have to go to bed 175 pages in. I have now given my copy to my daughter as I know she will love it too.

If you want a highly enjoyable read for a child 9+ then I would definitely recommend this book to you. A big thank you to Toppsta for my copy of this book which I won in a Facebook Competition.

There is more to come from Cassidy with another book ‘Star Reporter’ now available and a third book due in January. I have already ordered myself a copy as I can’t wait to find out what happens to Cassidy next.


Tamsyn also has a fantastic ‘Completely Cassidy ‘ website: