Monthly Archives: October 2015

A must have for pony fans – Katy’s Pony Challenge Victoria Eveleigh

Katy pony

In my school library I have a legion of pony fans who are always on the lookout for new stories and information books on their favourite subject. Therefore I was pleased to discover the Katy’s Ponies series by Victoria Eveleigh and ‘Katy’s Pony Challenge’ is the fourth in this delightful series.

Katy lives on a very busy working farm and is trying to manage looking after Jacko, Trifle and a new foal Tinkerbell. We see how Katy struggles with taming Tinkerbell and her reluctance to ask for help despite feeling out of depth. Her friend Alice seems to lead an enviable lifestyle with a champion show jumping pony but for her things too are not what they seem. When a young autistic boy visits the farm and makes a connection with Katy’s horse Trifle she finds herself frustrated and jealous but soon realises the importance of friendship and trust for them both. Katy then discovers a new sport called horse agility and realises this could be the very thing to help them all face their fears and sort out their problems.

Whilst reading this book you feel like you are gaining a real insight into Exmoor and its beauty as well as understanding how harsh the environment can be. It doesn’t give an idealised vision of growing up on a farm  which helps draw you in to the story as it feel so authentic. The book is beautifully descriptive which makes it a joy to read and  the characters are interesting but believable. It will fill you with happiness especially as you watch the bond between James and Trifle grow.

The love for horses shines through this book and the relationship between Katy and her ponies is very special but it is also a very realistic portrayal of the realities of owning a horse. However this is more than just a story about horses it explores friendship, trust and the importance of honesty. We see our characters having to make brave decisions and stand up for what they believe in despite knowing it will be unpopular. Katy is like any other teenager trying to balance school, friends and her passion and any reader will be able to empathise with her. It is a thoroughly enjoyable story and I already know who I will be recommending it to when I return to school.

Thank you to Victoria Eveleigh for sending me a copy of this book to review.

To find out more about Victoria Eveleigh and the other horse stories that she has written, you can visit her website:



Take a Walk on the Wild Side – The Scarlet Files: Cat Burglar Tamsin Cooke

cat burglar

I have been incredibly lucky to get an early copy of Tasmin Cooke’s debut novel ‘The Scarlet Files: Cat Burglar’ which is due for release in January 2016. This picture really doesn’t do the cover (designed by Lizzie Smart) any justice it’s a beautiful shiny silver with a red and black animal print which immediately captures your eye and makes you want to open it and find out more. I was also  really intrigued by the premise that Scarlet is a Schoolgirl by day and Cat Burglar by night and this fantastic book definitely lived up to my expectations. It is a brilliant debut which had me enthralled from start to finish.

Scarlet and her dad are on a mission to return stolen treasures to their rightful owners.  The story opens on an adrenaline rush with Scarlet and her Dad breaking into a house to retrieve an Aztec mask and bracelet. Little does she know that this Aztec bracelet is about to change her life forever and place her and her father into extreme danger. When the bracelet disappears and her Dad is kidnapped she is forced to go on the run. To make matters worse, strange and mysterious things beyond Scarlet’s control start to happen and her reality becomes totally distorted. Pursued by people who will stop at nothing to get the bracelet back, Scarlet is in a race against time to find her father before it’s too late.

This book is packed full of tension, excitement and drama you never know what is going to happen next. It is a great mix of contemporary action interweaved with fantasy elements which I found really compelling. It features a feisty heroine, a genius computer hacker sidekick Ethan and dastardly villains which give the story a real depth. Tamsin manages to make you suspend your disbelief so that when we see Scarlet’s powers developing we are totally accepting of the extraordinary events that unfold. The ending leaves the reader feeling that there really must be more to come from Scarlet and that further details will be revealed.  I’m therefore delighted that there is a second book in the series due for release in July 2016.

To find out more about Tasmin and get a sneak peek at the first chapter you can visit her website:


A big thank you to Oxford University Press for sending me a proof copy to review.

A truly magical tale – Harper and the Scarlet Umbrella Cerrie Burnell Laura Ellen Anderson


‘Harper and the Scarlet Umbrella’ by Cerrie Burnell with illustrations by Laura Ellen Anderson is a truly magical tale, which whisks you away on an amazing adventure that will weave a place into your heart. Whilst Cerrie crafts this gorgeous story, Laura charms with the most beautiful pictures.

Harper lives a seemingly ordinary life in the ‘City of Clouds’ with her Great Aunt Sassy, a place so strange that it rains every day. You think that this would be a dreary place but Cerrie even manages to make the rain sound poetic describing  different types of rain as summer dew, sea mist, heartbeat and cloudburst. When her umbrella get ruined she is finally allowed to use the Scarlet Umbrella which has always been locked away in a birdcage as far back as her memories could take her. It has always been an object of curiosity for Harper and it is with great excitement that she unlocks the cage.


The magical power of her umbrella is revealed when she realises that her precious cat Midnight has gone missing and it draws her to the rest of her neighbours in the Tall Apartment. She then discovers that all of the cats in the City of Clouds have gone missing drawn towards a strange music which plays at midnight by the Wild Conductor. It is up to Harper and her friends to find out what is happening and to try and return all the cats back home.


Throughout, we meet the most interesting of characters who add to the richness and depth of the story. There is Elsie the oldest resident of the Tall Apartment with emerald green eyes who looks like a fairy-tale witch and Nate the boy who has a wolf as a pet to help him to see. All of this is wrapped up in the idea that music can bring love and joy and as such is an integral part of the story. It is such a unique tale of magic and friendship which totally captured both mine and my daughter’s imaginations.


The book itself is a joy to behold the first time I saw it I was immediately struck by the sublime cover. Throughout the book you are delighted by all the details especially the illustrations of Midnight at the beginning of every chapter and the paw prints padding their way along the story. Cerrie has created this spirited and loveable character Harper which Laura has managed to capture and enhance with her stunning illustrations.

I’m delighted that there is more to come in the next story ‘Harper and the Circus of Dreams’ as well as a special World Book Day edition ‘Harper and the Sea of Secrets.’

Thank you to Scholastic for sending me a copy of this truly special book to review.

There’s ‘NO SUCH THING’ as ghosts – Ella Bailey


‘No Such Thing’ by Ella Bailey is a perfect Halloween treat to share with children. It tells the tale of Georgia who – as the days draw into a cool October –  notices weird and strange things happening around the house. But there is no fooling Georgia that just because these occurrences are happening at this very spooky time of  the year that ghosts could possibly be to blame! Because everyone including Georgia knows there’s no such thing as ghosts!!

When food disappears from the fridge, a vase gets smashed and her crayons get stolen the dog, the cat and her brother all get the blame.



Shadows and strange noises late at night could also be explained away by Georgia it was the fault of moths and other creatures there is no way it could be ghosts. Could it??



This story managed to bring sheer delight to my girls when I was sharing it with them. I was playing the role of Georgia adamantly insisting that there really was no such thing as ghosts, whilst they were pointing out the hidden ghosts on every page. Despite them showing them to me I pretended to be oblivious and said ‘I can’t see any ghosts’ which caused much hilarity amongst them.

The illustrations in this book are bold yet beautiful and a very autumnal palette of oranges, greens and yellow is used throughout, which contrasts perfectly with the black used for Georgia. There is so much detail on every page which is glorious and enchanting as we peer through the pages searching for hidden ghosts.  Ella Bailey manages to create a truly enchanting and spooky world for us to get lost in.

A big thank you to Flying Eye Books for sending me this gorgeous book to review. You can buy a copy from Flying Eye’s website:

No Such Thing

One Girl, One Turtle, One Epic Voyage – Nelly and the Quest for Captain Peabody Roland Chambers & Ella Okstad


‘Nelly and the Quest for Captain Peabody’ by Roland Chambers with illustrations by Ella Okstad is fantastically, quirky book which I thoroughly enjoyed. Let me start by introducing you to Nelly,

‘When Nelly says she’s going to  do a thing, she does it, whatever it is.

Juggle tea cups in the dark? Why not?

Live on lemons for a month? Of course!

Set out in a boat with knitted sails to discover her long-lost father, with only her turtle Columbus for company? Absolutely!’

Nelly is a bundle of determined energy with riotous red curls who will not let anybody stand in the way of what she needs to do. Left alone with her mother when her father Captain Peabody decided to go sailing around the world, she decides that she is going to take the matter into her own hands and go and find her father. The fact that her father’s ship named Nelly isn’t seaworthy is just a minor detail and she sets about getting it ready for her journey and knitting sails in the night whilst her mother sleeps.



After leaving her mother in the capable hands of a cabin boy with a full set of household instructions, she embarks on her journey of discovery  with her pet turtle Columbus. Our spirited Nelly endures storms, whirlpools and waterspouts on her travels but nothing will deter her from her true course. She even meets pirates aboard The Red Penny and gets into a battle with them only to discover that the pirate captain is her postman which causes much confusion.


This highly enjoyable adventure is brought to life by Ella Okstad’s sublime illustrations in a vivid palette of red and grey, which manage to capture Nelly’s spirit.  They provide a perfect contrast of Nelly set against the rest of the world who are seemingly trying to prevent her from making her dreams come true. Roland has created this fabulous world including  lands within volcanos that are stuffed with so much sumptuous detail. You really do feel that you are part of Nelly’s intrepid adventure and get swept along in the excitement.


The relationship between Nelly and her father is intriguing as you feel that she is more of an adult but at the same time she desperately wants him to come home and be her father again. Although she is brave there is a sense of vulnerability about her which makes her more identifiable as a character. However I do think that children will love the fact that Nelly is able to sail this boat on her own through all sorts of perils, fight pirates and navigate her way to the North Pole all without any grown up help. This story will certainly capture their imaginations and take them on a rollercoaster of a journey full of danger and excitement. I can’t wait to join Nelly on more adventures in the future!


A big thank you to Oxford University Press for sending me a copy of this lovely book to review.

A Penguin, a minion, a squid and some unicorns – Evil Emperor Penguin Laura Ellen Anderson





The Evil Emperor Penguin is Laura Ellen Anderson’s first graphic novel and I can confirm that it’s totally genius. You know it’s going to be brilliant just by reading the back cover:

‘Far away in the icy wastes of Antarctica lives a warm and cuddly, kind-hearted penguin who only wants to do good in the world……………..NOT!’

As the cast of the novel assemble in EEP’s Evil Underground Headquarters we meet the Evil Emperor Penguin, his minion Eugene the Abominable Snowman Clone and Number 8 his Squid (It’s Octopus Sir!). Their mission is world domination through a series of dastardly plans which seemingly get thwarted much to my daughter’s disappointment.

Evil Emperor Penguin is stuffed full of mind boggling inventions, hilarious catastrophes and magical creatures. It’s really difficult for me to choose my favourite parts to share with you but I’m going to try.

In ‘Cat-Astrophe’ Number 8 brings a cat into a lair who seriously creeps out EEP by stalking him and no matter what happens he won’t go away. Then matters take a turn for a worse when the seemingly cute cat starts talking to EEP and it turns out he’s actually trying to take over the world himself with his brilliant, evil moustache. It looks like EEP may have met his match in his new arch-nemesis ‘Evil Cat’.


In the ‘The Truce: Part 1 and Part 2’ we see the Evil Cat send a deadly plant to EEP pretending to be a truce and he tries to get rid of it but unknown to him Number 8 decides to adopt it not realising what it truly is. There is a scene in the Kitchen of Evil where EEP and Eugene are hiding from the monster plant and trying to stay very still and quiet so they’re not found which just reminds me of Jurasssic Park and it really made me chuckle.


One of my girls favourite characters is Keith the Unicorn who can project rainbow blasts out of his bottom. He first appears in ‘World Wide Web’ when Eugene accidentally hits the ‘BIG RED EVIL BUTTON’ which he has been warned not to touch by EEP, which causes Evil Cat to become involved  ‘in the cutest nightmare ever…’ I love the fact the unicorn looks very cute and girly but is in fact totally fearsome. He plays a crucial role in the fight against Evil Cat in ‘The Return’ when he befriends Eugene and gets caught up in the fight for world domination between our two enemies.


I absolutely loved Evil Emperor Penguin and both my girls picked it up and didn’t put it down until they had read it cover to cover. It was such a joy to read and I’m hoping we have more to come in this series from the very talented Laura Ellen Anderson.

If you want to find out how you can draw your very own Evil Emperor Penguin then follow the link below and find out more:

Here is our very own Evil Emperor Penguin!


I won a copy of Evil Emperor Penguin in a Phoenix Comics  competition, so a big thank you to them for my prize.




Monstrous Mayhem – There’s A Monster In My Fridge Caryl Hart & Deborah Allwright



‘There’s A Monster In My Fridge’ (title must be read aloud with peril in your voice) by Caryl Hart with illustrations by Deborah Allwright is a perfect spooky read just in time for Halloween. You know you’re in for a treat when the front and back cover alone are packed with fantastic details such as a shopping list on the fridge:

Baked Brains

Hairball Soup

Fish’s Fingers

Monster Mash

Unfortunately, the rest of the list is missing as one of the monsters is greedily munching on it.

As you open the book the scene is set with the fiendish purple endpapers covered in cobwebs creating an eerie atmosphere and helping to build tension with the reader. We then see a spoookkkyyy castle in the distance with a sign saying ‘KEEP OUT’ and we wonder what on earth could possibly lie ahead if we dare continue on our journey!

We reach the castle, enter the kitchen to see monstrous mayhem everywhere, with monsters riding whisks, cooking themselves in a large pot and sitting in the scales could it possibly get any worse!  Oh no  wait what’s that hiding behind the fridge door???? Dare we open the page and see……..



Aaarrrggghhh it’s  a monster eating raspberry Jelly!!!!

We then tiptoe up the stairs and hear splashing and laughing from the bathroom. Peeping round the door we  see two shadowy figures behind the shower curtain eeeekkk, are we feeling brave enough to have a peek???



It’s scaaarrryyy skeletons making a big splash!!!

We wander into the bedroom and see monsters and ghosts trying to wake up something who has sharp fangs and a hairy back. Don’t wake it up, don’t lift the sheet! Oh no it’s too late!!!!



Waaaaaahhhh it’s a werewolf scratching his behind, ruuuuunnnnnn!!!

This is such a superb book perfect for sharing with younger readers, although both my girls were thoroughly entertained by it and they’re 6 and 9. I shared this book at Storytime at school and in the library and got such a great response from the children. It is wonderfully interactive having the split pages you can build up the children’s excitement when reading it and they loved guessing what might be behind the pages and were desperate for the reveal. When I asked them what they enjoyed about the book they said the ‘monsters’ and it was ‘spooky’, ‘scary’ and ‘very funny’. The last page of the book which I won’t reveal had them shrieking and laughing in delight.

Deborah Allwright’s gorgeous illustrations perfectly accompany the story and every page is full of exquisite detail such as toothpaste fighting In the bathroom and eyeballs in the cotton wool jar. There’s so much going on in the book that every time you read it you discover more mayhem in every crook and cranny. I absolutely adore this book and will be adding it to my favourite spooky picture book collection.

Thank you to Caryl Hart for sending me a copy of this lovely book to review it has been a pleasure.

The Wreck of the Argyll – John K. Fulton

wreck of the argyll

The Wreck of the Argyll by John K. Fulton takes us back to the time of the First World War where everybody’s  lives are unavoidably changed by the conflict. It opens with our heroine Nancy who is frustrated that she is unable to find a way to contribute to the war effort unlike the rest of her family. So when Nancy suspects her teacher is a German spy she embarks on a dangerous mission with the help of a homeless boy Jamie to uncover the truth and protect her country from an imminent deadly plot.  We are also introduced to  Midshipman Harry Melville who is on his first voyage aboard HMS Argyll and has no idea that his fate and the rest of the crew are inextricably bound with Nancy and her quest for the truth.

What I really enjoyed about this story is that you are immediately drawn into the action as it opens with Nancy  trailing her teacher late at night with no apparent thought for her own well being. She is so patriotic and passionate about what she is trying to achieve and when she meets  Jamie he  has no option but to be drawn into her plans. When  their suspicions are confirmed and they find out that nobody  can be trusted they find themselves forced to try and track down the enemy themselves.

On board the HMS Argyll, the crew are unaware that there are more dangers ahead beside navigating a safe course to Rosyth. John perfectly captures the mood on board as they struggle against the sea and  you can feel the tension of the crew throughout the book. The reader is obviously aware that the ship is sailing towards danger and that a disaster is looming ahead. For the reader this is really compelling and keeps you turning the pages desperate to know their fate.

This was a enjoyable read which I found really difficult to put down. It has the perfect mix of brave children, dastardly villains and a totally dramatic but  believable plot. I already know who I will be recommending it to at my school and I know that they will be thoroughly entertained by this story.


It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas – Squishy McFluff Secret Santa Pip Jones & Ella Okstad

Discovering Squish Mc Fluff by Pip Jones and Ella Okstad for the first time was a very special moment for me. It came in to the library and I opened it and was immediately enchanted by this little girl Ava and her invisible cat. I knew my daughter would adore it this beautifully rhyming tale with the most sublime and engaging illustrations and I was right! The brilliance of Squishy McFluff is that it’s perfect for  sharing with younger readers but also ideal for newly confident readers to read independently.

The stories are filled full of mischief and fun as Ava and Squishy manage to keep finding themselves in trouble. They are full of fun and laughter as we wonder what trouble this delightful duo will get themselves into next despite how hard they try to be good. I think children can identify with Ava because everyone has invisible friends who often get them into trouble which is why I feel it really captures their imaginations.  There are three books so far in this irresistible series:

Squishy McFluff: The Invisible Cat

Squishy McFluff: Supermarket Sweep

Squishy McFluf:f Meets Mad Nana Dot


Having enjoyed these books with my daughter and recommended them to lot of other parents I was so excited to find out there was a Christmas special coming  ‘Secret Santa’ and was ecstatic to get my hands on a review copy. I absolutely love Christmas books and if it was up to me I would have them on display at the library now as I can’t get enough of them. ‘Secret Santa’ opens in the same way as the previous books with an introduction to Squishy:

‘Can you see him? My kitten?

His long whiskers too?

He’s the best EVER pet.

He’s a wish that came true!

Imagine him, quick!

Have you imagined enough?

Oh, good! You can see him!

It’s Squishy McFluff!’


All of the Squishy McFluff books are illustrated by the incredibly talented Ella Okstad who brings to life Pip Jones’s beautiful stories. The illustration are full of humour and the characters are drawn with such endearing expression that you can’t help but become totally entranced  in these stories. Each of the books has a signature palette which runs throughout and in ‘Secret Santa’ we have shades of red and green which add to the festive ambiance of the book.



It is four days before Christmas and Ava and Squishy are trying their very best to be good because they know if they’re naughty then Santa won’t come. As you turn the pages you can guess the naughtiness which is about to happen as they encounter Christmas trees with wonky stars that just NEED fixing and  leftover Christmas wrapping which invites them to wrap up everything, including Dad. But when Ava is asked to write her Christmas list she just has one thing she wishes she would come true. The ending of the story is truly magical and endearing and  as Christmassy as crackers, mince pies and reindeers! I think this would just be the most perfect Christmas story to share with any child, I know my daughter was totally enchanted by it.



To meet Squishy McFluff follow the link below or visit Pip Jones’s website

Poetry Picture Books Perfect for National Poetry Day

To celebrate National Poetry Day I wanted to review some poetry books that would appeal to very young children. I love when publishers try to make them accessible to all ages by turning famous poems into Picture books, which Faber & Faber have done with these two fantastic titles.  Skimbleshanks The Railway Cat by T.S. Eliot with illustrations by Arthur Robins and The Ride-by-Nights by Walter de la Mare with illustrations by Carolina Rabei.




In Skimbleshanks The Railway Cat T.S. Eliot’s poem is brought to life through Arthur Robins hilarious illustrations. The rhythm of this poem moves along at a steady pace reminding me of the train going along the line, which makes it perfect for reading aloud. Having shared it at storytime it is definitely able to capture children’s imagination and keep them engaged despite having quite complex language.

Skimble is missing and the night train can’t leave until he is found. There is panic all around but eventually he’s found and the train gets on its way. There is so much to see in the illustrations as you peer through the windows in each of the carriages and try to guess the stories of each of our passengers. Or as we look inside Skimbleshanks cabin, see what  tiny details you can spot from the fish shaped biscuits in the jar,  to the mice popping out watching him drink his tea. Our railyway cat is so essential as nothing escapes his attention from the tiniest detail of how a passenger takes their tea to the mail train robbery which is being planned right under his nose. Full of fun, humour and beautifully told it’s a perfect introduction to poetry I absolutely loved it.




In ‘The RIde-by-Nights’ it is Carolina Rabei’s glorious illustrations which bring Walter de la Mare’s magical  poem to life for a young audience. We see a family going trick-or-treating. whilst unknown to them up above witches are flying through the starry Halloween night. As the story unfolds we see the witches and the family enjoying this spooky night in their own unique way. Carolina’s stunning illustrations show the witches flying through the night playing tricks while down below the traditional Halloween fun is happening. One of my favourite parts is when one of our witches sneaks down to  join in the trick-or-treating and swoops away with sweets from an unsuspecting ‘mummy’.

The flow and language of the poem creates a spooky atmosphere in the beginning as our witches are described as ‘crooked and black in the crescent’s gleam.’ It nicely builds the tension as we wonder what mischief our witches might be up to on their special night. Then the rhythm speeds up as our witches fly through the sky swooping and diving through the Milky Way, as they celebrate and have fun. We then feel the poem  start to slow down as the evening draws to a close and both our groups slowly makes their way home. It’s a perfect celebration of Halloween for younger readers being slightly spooky but it’s a gentle fun tale. Great to read aloud but also ideal for sharing as there is so much to enjoy discovering in this exquisitely drawn story.




Thank you to Faber and Faber for sending me copies of these lovely books. ‘The Ride-by-Nights’ is available to purchase now, while ‘Skimbleshanks’ is due for release in early November