Monthly Archives: December 2015

Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space – Dominic Walliman & Ben Newman

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‘Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space’ by Dominic Walliman and  Ben Newman is a perfect book if your child’s enthusiasm for space has suddenly developed with our very own astronaut Tim Peake jetting off to the International Space Station (ISS). This fantastic book takes you on a journey across space spanning the universe, stars, planets It also  looks at practical aspects of space travel from rockets to space suits and even has pages devoted to life aboard the ISS with just enough detail to satisfy the curiosity of any child.

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Me and my girls shared this book alongside the Professor Astro Cat App which compliment each other perfectly. As a school librarian I have encountered many Space books but this once really captured my attention straight away. The design, layout and illustrations are sublime and really striking. It feel more like a Picture Book than an Information book and is stunningly presented in such a way that you are drawn to opening up this book and delving in to find out more. It tackles quite  complex subjects but presents them in a format which  manages to make it easily accessible and enjoyable for children to learn new facts. This book is a truly exceptional information book which we thoroughly enjoyed reading together as a family.

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After sharing this gorgeous book we decided to road test the App and see what we all thought of it, the girls enjoyed testing out their knowledge through the jetpack challenge to see how much they had learned and they are rewarded  with medals which allow them to build a spaceship. They were both absorbing the facts and enjoying the game, completely unaware of all the new information they were learning.

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You can watch a trailer of the App by following the link below:

https://youtu.be/LTZVGtx9-tc

I highly recommend the book and the App they both have so much information, you will keep going back to find out more. There is another book in the series due out in March 2016 ‘Professor Astro Cat’s Atomic Adventure’.

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Waiting for Callback – Perdita & Honor Cargill

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‘Waiting For Callback’ is a hilarious YA debut novel from mother and daughter duo Perdita and Honor Cargill. It is released on January 28th 2016 but I’ve been fortunate enough to get a sneak peak of this lively and entertaining read. Who knew that I would strongly identify with a 15 year old girl struggling to keep track of her life whilst endlessly waiting for the phone to ring. This book made me laugh out loud and remember my very own cringe worthy growing up experiences from seriously unrequited love to struggling to fit in at school. I think that any teenager will really empathise with Elektra’s unsuccessful attempts in dealing with friendship problems, parents and having to deal with a major crush.

Elektra is living a normal teenage life when she is discovered by an agent but instead of this launching her into a successful acting career we see the harsh realities of this world with terrible auditions seemingly for lots of ‘dead girl’ roles, constant rejections and her highlight being the lead squirrel in a TV advert. I love that Elektra is just a normal, awkward teenager she is not at all shiny and glossy like the popular girls at school. Despite her best efforts  to try and replicate the cool girls she can’t pull it off when she tries the ‘messy bun’ look It makes her look like ‘a cow has pooed on my head.’ I remember at school trying to pull of this weird sticking up fringe look back in the 80s and just looking like I had got locked inside a wind tunnel. It is comments and dialogue from Elektra like this which make her so endearing and likeable.

Throughout the story it is the subtle references which make this story such a fantastic read my favourite and I admit to being totally biased is the Pride and Prejudice remarks.  I particularly love the scene where Elektra and her best friend Moss are at a school social and are comparing it to the Meryton Assembly they recognise the irony that nearly 200 year later girls are still taking turns around the room in an attempt to catch the eye of boys. Elektra also compares her mother ‘channeling her inner  Mrs Bennett’ loving nothing better than to interrogate her about boys (or girls) desperate to know if she has ‘snogged anyone’. It feels like a very witty social commentary on the world teenagers are growing up in today. Bubbling underneath the surface of this funny, enjoyable read we feel the pressures teenagers face today from the constant threat of being exposed on social media, to demanding pushy parents who schedule their childrens lives to such an extent that they can’t just have ‘me’ time. Yet the storyline itself is so compelling  we desperately hope that Elektra will get that illusive callback and willing for her to rise above those who seek to make her life miserable.

The characters in the story are wonderfully substantive, instead of just being one dimensional in the background we get a real sense of the roles they play in Elektra’s life . You can feel the love from her parents who are genuinely trying to do the best for her whilst protecting her at the same time. I loved the hilarious scene where Elektra finds them ‘twerking’ in the kitchen after having too much champagne much to her embarrassment. The conversations that take place between them feel very honest and real so that you almost feel you are eavesdropping on their lives.  Another fabulous character who I adored is her glamorous eccentric French grandmother Eulalie who defies stereotypes in every way including posting photos of herself in sarongs on Instagram. I think it’s fantastic that she plays such a key role in Elektra’s life and I loved the bond between these two characters.

I think this book will be massively appealing and I thoroughly enjoyed it, I’m looking forward to more from Perdita and Honor in the future.

 

Snow – Walter de la Mare & Carolina Rabei

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In ‘Snow’ it is Carolina Rabei’s glorious illustrations which bring Walter de la Mare’s magical wintery poem to life in a way that is accessible for young children. The stunning cover conjures up this idyllic winter wonderland of deep crisp snow with  children all wrapped up warm enjoying this special time. It creates this inviting picture which makes you long to step into this story and join in their fun and evokes memories of snow days of the past. You can almost hear the snow crunching beneath your feet as you make fresh footprints across this huge blanket of snow.

When the children return home we immediately get drawn into their festivities as they prepare for Christmas. The tree is decorated, stockings hung and treats for Santa are left by the fireplace. All the while ‘still the white snow whirls softly down.’ As night falls our family goes to bed in anticipation of a special visitor arriving while they are fast asleep.

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The joy of this book is that not only do you get swept along on this winter adventure by this delightful poem but you get to gaze and get lost in this wintery world which Carolina has crafted. This world is created using only a limited palette of reds, greys and browns contrasting superbly against the bright white snow giving the book a warm and cosy feel. With very limited words throughout the book children can create their own stories and imagine what is going on in every scene. When I shared this stunning book with my girls we lingered over each page enjoying all the details and sharing our thoughts on how the story was unfolding. It is a perfect book for sharing with children of all ages.

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Thank you to Faber & Faber for sending this sublime book to review I thoroughly enjoyed reading and sharing it with my children.

The Many Worlds of Albie Bright – Christopher Edge

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Sometimes I read a book which just blows me away and ‘The Many Worlds of Albie Bright’ by Christopher Edge is one of them. It was the stunning front cover by Matt Saunders which captured my attention and when I read the blurb I knew this was a book I needed to read. I started reading it last night thinking just half an hour before bedtime the next time I checked the clock it was midnight and I had nearly read the entire book. Forcing myself to put it down I went to sleep only to eagerly pick it up upon waking and having to read to the end before anything else could get done today. For me this is a sign of a brilliant book one where you want to stop time just so you can totally focus on enjoying the story,

When Albie’s mum dies he starts to wonder where she has gone, is she in heaven, does heaven exist? Both of his parents are scientists so Albie is naturally inquisitive and is used to them having all the answers to his questions. His Dad who is burying himself in his work in attempt to stave off his grief attempts to pacify and comfort Albie. He uses quantum physics to explain that there is a possibility that we live in a world with lots of parallel worlds and explains this means in theory there is a parallel world in which Albie’s mum never got cancer and she is still alive today. Far from pacifying Albie this opens up a whole realm of possibilities to him and armed with a box, his mum’s computer and a rotting banana we discover just how far he will go to change his world when he sends himself through time and space to find her.

I found this book totally fascinating not only is the story deeply compelling but it makes you look at science in a whole new way. Having never had an interest in science I found myself being drawn into this world and it made me look at life from a totally different perspective. It manages to explain really complicated physics in a way that opens up your imagination to the possibilities that exist in our world. I can imagine children becoming totally engrossed in this idea of different worlds which now feel entirely real because they can be explained scientifically which for me makes the story even more exciting.

We go through this emotional journey throughout the book with Albie who is desperately trying to come to terms with his grief. Feeling ignored by his Dad, he is determined not to let anything to get in his way in his quest to see his mum again. But will Albie find the answers to the questions he seeks and if he finds this parallel world will it restore his happiness, you will have to read it to find out more. This book is such a delight it made me laugh out loud, took my breath away and made me cry it truly is a wonderful story which I loved reading.

‘The Many Worlds of Albie Bright’ is released on January 14th 2016.

Thank you to Nosy Crow for sending me a copy of this book to review.

My favourites of 2015 – a fantastic year for books!

This year has been a fantastic year for books I truly feel like we are in a golden age of children’s publishing with so many amazing books to choose from. All of the books in my list I have read and recommended and have had great feedback from children who have enjoyed them. I didn’t manage to review all of the books on my lists but you can follow the links highlighted below to read the ones I did.

Here are my Picture Books choices for 2015 all stunningly illustrated and beautifully written.

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Love is My Favourite Thing – Emma Chichester Clark

The Giant of Jum – Elli Woollard Benji Davies

The Princess and the Giant – Caryl Hart  & Sarah Warburton

Grrrrr – Rob Biddulph

Imelda and the Goblin King – Briony May Smith

Grandad’s Island – Benji Davies

Please Mr Panda – Steve Antony

Space Dog – MIni Grey

Oi Frog – Kes Gray & Jim Field

The Day The Crayons Came Home – Drew Daywalt & Oliver Jeffers

There has been an wonderful collection of Illustrated Books released this year and these are the ones that captured my imagination this year.

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The Great Cheese Robbery – Chris Mould

Dixie O’ Day and the Haunted House – Shirley Hughes & Clara Vulliamy

Knitbone Pepper Ghost Dog – Claire Barker & Ross Collins

Squishy McFluff Meets Mad Nana Dot – Pip Jones & Ella Okstad

Pugs of the Frozen North – Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre

Harper and the Scarlet Umbrella – Cerrie Burnell & Laura Ellen Anderson

Mango and Bambang – Polly Faber & Clara Vulliamy

Wigglesbottom Primary The Toilet Ghost – Pamela Butchart & Becka Moor

Claude Lights! Camera! Action! – Alex T. Smith

The Cave of Doom – Jonny Duddle

 

And finally my favourite Middle Grade (8 – 12 years) books from this year these are the books that kept me so entertained that I couldn’t put them down. Truly brilliant reads!

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The Boy Who Sailed The Ocean In An Armchair – Lara Williamson

My Brother is a Superhero – David Solomons

The Wolf Wilder – Katherine Rundell

The Accidental Prime Minister – Tom McLaughlin

Stonebird – Mike Revell

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow – Katherine Woodfine

The Dreamsnatcher – Abi Elphinstone

First Class Murder – Robin Stevens

In Darkling Wood – Emma Carroll

Demoliton Dad – Phil Earle

A big thank you to everyone who has visited my blog this year I really appreciate all your support I am truly grateful. Also to all the authors, publishers and publicists who have kindly sent me books to review so that I can share them with you another huge thank you.

I think 2016 is going to be another amazing year there are so many books I’m eagerly anticipating release and I can’t wait to share them with you.

 

Merry Christmas Blue Kangaroo – Emma Chichester Clark

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‘Merry Christmas Blue Kangaroo’ by Emma Chichester Clark is a much loved part of our Christmas  picture book collection which we love to share every year. We pour over the sumptuous and rich illustrations which never fail to delight us and bask in this beautiful story of the friendship between Lily and her Blue Kangaroo. Every year my daughter says Blue Kangaroo is like my Anna – her precious rabbit she has had since she was a baby.

It’s Christmas Eve and Lily is very excited that it is Blue Kangaroo’s first Christmas. She wants Christmas to be very special, so she makes him a card, decorates the house with paper chains and wraps up a present telling him they are’ just for you’. Everything that happens is all just for Blue Kangaroo from the snow outside to the Christmas tree Uncle George brings and the special kangaroo shaped biscuits that Lily’s Aunties bake.

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Blue Kangaroo seems overwhelmed with all this kindness and feel sad he doesn’t have a present to give to Lily in return. Lily and Blue Kangaroo go to bed on Christmas Eve but he lies awake wondering what he should do. But then he hears a funny noise wonders if Father Christmas has come and whether  he can help him with a  present for Lily. The very next morning Lily rushes downstairs and finds a special stocking, I wonder where that came from?

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This festive tale captures perfectly a young child’s excitement and anticipation growing as Christmas approaches. The setting is idyllic with the snow falling outside, the opulent Christmas tree and the family coming together to celebrate this special time. I also love how we see the sheer joy that Lily gets from sharing her Christmas with  Blue Kangaroo and how rewarding it is to give as well as receive which is a lovely message for children to hear. This is such a delight to read and share it’s a lovely present wrapped up in shiny paper with a gorgeous organza bow.