Monthly Archives: December 2017

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas – Picture books

Christmas isn’t Christmas unless I find a book inside my stocking on Christmas Day. At this time of the year I can’t resist a Christmas story for sharing with my girls, reading at Storytime or for spoiling myself with some peace and quiet and a festive read. Today I am sharing with you my pick of some of my favourite Christmas picture books for younger readers. If you’re looking for the perfect Christmas gift then all of these are just wonderful.

One Christmas Wish – Katherine Rundell & Emily Sutton

It’s Christmas Eve and Theo is left alone with the babysitter as his parents are much too busy to spend any time with him. With only a box of broken decorations to entertain him, Theo is desperate for friends to keep him company. When he sees an odd-looking star out of his window he decides to make a wish. He wishes that he had friends. Moments later he gets the most unexpected friends from the most unexpected of places and so this magical adventure begins. I loved the wondrous storytelling in this whimsical Christmas tale. Full of gentle humour and warmth, it manages to capture the spirit of Christmas and the importance of spending time together with loved ones. Emily’s exquisite illustrations are a veritable feast for your eyes. Each spread is filled with the most beautiful and intricate details that enhance wonderfully this delightful story. A treasure trove of a book, it is just perfect for sharing at Christmas.


Last Stop on the Reindeer Express – Maudie Powell-Tuck & Karl James Mountford

When Mia discovers her Dad won’t be home for Christmas everything begins to feel less bright, less Christmassy. It doesn’t even seem possible that she will be able to get her special card to him in time. But when she discovers a mysterious postbox she finds herself whisked away on an unforgettable adventure across snowy mountains, beautiful cities lit by paper stars in her quest to reach her dad in time for Christmas. Beautifully told with the most sublime, rich illustrations, ‘Last Stop on the Reindeer Express’ is an entrancing, festive read that is bound to delight. It’s peek-through pages and hidden flaps invite the reader to embark on this thrilling journey with Mia. Exquisitely produced from it’s die-cut cover through to it’s stunning end pages this is a story filled with so much magic, love  and beauty that you will be totally captivated.


The Story Orchestra: The Nutcracker – Jessica Courtney-Tickle & Katy Flint

Just in time for Christmas, ‘The Story Orchestra’ brings the classical Christmas ballet ‘The Nutcracker’ to life with this delightful story set to music. It’s Christmas Eve and Clara’s uncle gives her a gift of a nutcracker which comes to life at midnight. Follow Clara in this magical adventure and watch the Nutcracker battles the Mouse King, meet the Sugar Plum Fairy and journey to the Land of Sweets, where wonder and excitement await. Press the musical note on every page and you can hear the story come to life with music from Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Nutcracker’ which is wonderfully engaging and enchanting. Every spread is exceptionally illustrated in a warm, rich palette which makes you feel warm and glowing inside. An irresistible combination of music and magical storytelling this is a book that demands to be enjoyed over and over again.


One Hundred and One Dalmatians – Peter Bently & Steven Lenton

I couldn’t resist sharing this glorious picture book with you again because it does feature one of my favourite spreads of the year and yes you guessed it, it’s a Christmas illustration brimming with so much festive joy! You know from the moment you set your eyes on this stunning, vibrant cover that you are in for a real treat. Peter has brought to life brilliantly this marvellous adventure, managing to capture the thrill of the chase as Missis and Pongo pursue the dastardly Cruella, without making it too scary for little ones. Steven Lenton has created the most exquisite spreads that are filled with the most intricate and joyous details. The attention to detail is wonderfully endearing as we clearly see the personality of each and every single dog.  ‘The One Hundred and One Dalmatians’ is a joy to behold, with the most perfect attention to detail all the way down to its Dalmatian dotty endpapers.


I Went To See Santa – Paul Howard

‘I Went To See Santa’ is a brilliantly, funny and entertaining read which deserves to be read aloud. And read it aloud I did! Having shared this at four storytime sessions at school I know that this is bound to be a big hit this Christmas having had the children giggling and laughing aloud with every read. When a brother and sister go to see Santa, they compete to see who can be given the most bizarre and brilliant things. As they try to remember all the Christmas gifts it gets totally silly and out of control. Really who would actually get seven skating penguins, a reindeer and an actual space rocket for Christmas!! Children will delight in trying to remember all the different gifts in this test-your-memory story. But this story has a very important message that Christmas isn’t really about the gifts we get, instead it’s about the time we spend together.


Oliver Elephant – Lou Peacock & Helen Stephens

Mummy, Noah and Evie-May are going Christmas shopping which is such hard work but they have lots to get, not forgetting a star for the top of the Christmas tree. Good job Noah has his beloved Oliver Elephant for company who loves to hide in doll’s houses, try on socks and get into mischief dancing on table. Exhausted by all this hard work (and fun of course) they stop in a café and tragedy strikes when Noah realises he has lost Oliver Elephant. Where can he be? This is a tale that children and adults alike will relate to and the despair of losing your favourite toy and the relief and joy at finding it are an integral part of family life. Lyrical rhymes and delicate spreads make this a heart-warming read perfect for sharing.

Thank you to Bloomsbury, Egmont, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, Little Tiger Press and Nosy Crow Books for sending me copies of these festive fancies. They’re all available to buy now online (click on the title for the link ) or from any good bookshop.

This will be my last post before Christmas and I want to wish all of the people who have supported me online and visited my blog a very Merry Christmas!




Cover Reveal – The House With Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

I’m really excited to be able to reveal for you today, the cover of the Sophie Anderson’s debut novel ‘A House With Chicken Legs’, which will be published on the 5th April 2018 by Usborne. I’ve had an early read and I’m totally enchanted by this extraordinary, magical story. The lovely team have created this incredible animated cover for the reveal today so you’re in for a huge treat!!

So without further ado here it is…….

This exquisite cover has been designed by Katharine Millichope at Usborne, and illustrated by the brilliant Melissa Castrillón. I love how this animated cover hints at the magic that lies within the pages and captures the strangeness and unpredictable nature of Marinka’s life. I also have a sneak peek of the interior illustrations by Elisa Paganelli to share with you, these are deliciously dark and full of possibility just as a fairy tale ought to be!

The House With Chicken Legs

My house has chicken legs. Two or three times a year, without warning,

it stands up in the middle of the night and walks away from where we’ve been living.

Marinka dreams of a normal life, where her house stays somewhere long enough for her to make friends. But her house has chicken legs and moves on without warning. The only people Marinka meets are dead; they disappear when her grandmother, Baba Yaga, guides them through The Gate. Marinka wants to change her destiny, but her house has other ideas…

Join Marinka on a journey across the globe, between this world and the next, and to places you could hardly ever dream of. Sophie Anderson has created a deliciously macabre world in this breathtaking reimagining of the Russian folk tale of Baba Yaga. With lyrical story-telling, this is perfect for fans of Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Katherine Rundell and Neil Gaiman.

What do you take with you to the Stars? The stars are calling for you.

Sophie Anderson

Sophie Anderson grew up in Swansea, studied at Liverpool University, and has worked as a geologist and science teacher. She wrote textbooks until characters from Slavic folklore began appearing in her work. Sophie has an international family, including a Prussian Grandmother, and loves to write stories inspired by different folklores and cultures. Now living in the Lake District with her husband, Sophie enjoys the freedom of home schooling her three children, fell walking, canoeing, and daydreaming.

You can find out more about Sophie by visiting her website or follow her on her Twitter and Instagram pages.

Melissa Castrillón

Melissa Castrillón is a freelance illustrator and designer with a particular passion for print, pattern and punchy colour combos. She attended the Cambridge School of Art and gained a First class Honours Degree in Illustration in 2009 and a Masters degree in Children’s book Illustration in 2014. Melissa lives in Cambridge, England with Her husband Luke and their cat Chimi. She works with international clients on a range of projects, from Picture books to Home decor, Book covers to editorial.

You can find out more about Melissa by visiting her website or follow her on her Twitter and Instagram pages.

Elisa Paganelli

Elisa Paganelli. was born in Modena, Italy, and since childhood she couldn’t resist the smell of paper, pencils, the magic of books and nature. She attended the Art Institute of her town and an illustration course at the European Institute of
Design (IED) in Turin. She worked as a graphic designer since she was a young student, behind the desk of a communication agency and she decided to leave everything to give birth to her own studio. She’s passionate about images and words, the work which she devotes most of her time, accompanied by a cup of tea and her beloved pet-assistants.

You can find out more about Elisa by visiting her website or follow her on her Twitter and Instagram pages.

Thank you to Sophie and Usborne for inviting me to host the cover reveal.  ‘The House With Chicken Legs’ is available to pre-order online or from any good bookshop.

Cover Reveal – Alex Sparrow and the Furry Fury by Jennifer Killick

I’m really excited to be sharing with you today the cover of the follow up to  Jennifer Killick’s hilarious debut middle grade novel, ‘Alex Sparrow and the Really Big Stink’. ‘Alex Sparrow and the Furry Fury’ is the newest adventure from Alex and Jess and will be published on the 1st May 2018  by Firefly Press.

So without further ado here it is…….

I love this, another stunning, vibrant cover designed by Alex Dimond, featuring again the artwork of Heath McKenzie. Full of energy and humour, it hints at the mystery and mayhem that Alex and Jess will face as they try to unravel the most unexpected clues in their newest investigation.

Alex Sparrow and the Furry Fury

Catching the school’s runaway guinea pigs is not really giving Alex job satisfaction, but how can he find a bigger test for his and Jess’s awkward superpowers? Jess is more worried about the bullied new boy, whose Mum runs the local animal sanctuary. To befriend him she gets a voluntary job there, but she soon realises that something is very wrong; the animals are terrified. People start reporting strange events: things missing, property destroyed, and the local squirrels have turned mean. The police have no suspects. It looks more and more like a job for Agent Alex…

Jennifer Killick

Jennifer Killick has always wanted to be a writer, but really started when she applied for a Creative Writing MA at Brunel University, which is where she first got the idea for ‘The Really Big Stink’. She lives in Uxbridge, in a house full of children, animals and Lego. When she isn’t busy mothering or step-mothering (which isn’t often) she loves to read, write and run, as fast as she can. Jennifer’s favourite things are books, trees and fluffy slippers, and her favourite place in the world is her home, where she can sit in her pyjamas with tea and cake, coming up with story ideas.

Thank you to Jennifer and Firefly Press for inviting me to do the cover reveal, I can’t wait to get my hands on this book I think it will be hugely appealing and I will definitely be adding this to my school library as we loved the first book.

You can find out more about Jennifer Killick on Twitter or on her website

You can find Heath McKenzie on Instagram or visit his website

You can find Alex Dimond on Twitter


It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Christmas isn’t Christmas unless I find a book inside my stocking on Christmas Day. At this time of the year I can’t resist a Christmas story for sharing with my girls, reading at Storytime or for spoiling myself with some peace and quiet and a festive read. Today I am sharing with you my pick of some of my favourite Christmas books for younger readers. If you’re looking for the perfect Christmas gift then all of these are just wonderful.

Jingle Bells – Tracey Corderoy & Steven Lenton

I’m a huge fan of the adventures of the brave baker dogs Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam, so was thrilled to discover they have a new festive adventure in their illustrated fiction series ‘Jingle Bells.’ As soon as I put these books on the library shelves they mysteriously disappear, sounds like a case for Shifty and Sam to investigate. Yet again they’re packed with thrills, spills and mysteries as our dynamic duo try to solve more wacky mysteries. Dealing with a present-grabbing red panda, an illusive sea-monster and a not so lucky cat these hilarious stories will captivate the imagination of newly confident readers. A combination of marvellous storytelling and sublime illustrations ‘Jingle Bells’ is just divine I absolutely loved it.


I Killed Father Christmas – Anthony McGowan & Chris Riddell

 ‘I Killed Father Christmas’ is pure Christmas magic. It’s more Christmassy than a room full of reindeers, tinsels and baubles with carol singers singing ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas.’ It’s Christmas Eve and Jo-Jo’s mum and dad are having a huge argument over his excessive Christmas list which is so long surely it will stop Father Christmas being able to deliver to all the children in the world. Convinced he’s killed Father Christmas he sets off to take on the big man’s job dressed up in his Mum’s red coat with pillowcases stuffed with his old toys for his whole street. But things don’t go exactly to plan and Jo-Jo soon learns there’s more to Christmas than expensive gifts, in this wonderful tale stuffed with heart and humour. I absolutely love the Little Gems series and this has to be one of my favourites this year.


The Happy Christmas – Jenny Colgan & Thomas Docherty

‘The Happy Christmas’ is the latest story in the ‘Polly and the Puffin’ series by Jenny Colgan. They feature Neil the puffin who first made an appearance in one of Jenny’s books for adults the ‘Little Beach Street Bakery. This series has been a huge hit at school, it’s constantly on loan from the library. In ‘The Happy Christmas’ Polly is waiting not very patiently for Christmas she can’t believe it’s only November. To make matters worse, Neil is helping keep an egg warm so doesn’t have much time to play.   Children will be enchanted by this heart-warming Christmas tale which is perfect for snuggling up and sharing together. It’s stunningly illustrated by Thomas Docherty in a palette of black and orange which perfectly compliments the striking colours of a puffin. His illustrations capture the warmth and joy of this tale and his ability to capture the mood in the characters expressions help engage younger children who may not be able to read all of the text. Inside there are festive recipes, rhymes and activities which really enhance the story and bring it to life for children.

There’s A Dragon In My Stocking – Tom Nicoll & Sarah Horne

 So on Christmas Eve the expectations are high that somebody will be coming down your chimney laden with lots of treats, what you don’t usually expect to find is a pair of dragons! That’s exactly what happens to Eric and Pan when they hear voices inside their chimney and out pops Pan’s Mum and Dad. It’s difficult enough to keep one mini-dragon hidden how ever will Eric manage to keep three whole mini-dragons secret. But it turns out that they’re not the only unexpected visitors and soon their house is fit to burst with even less hiding room for a family of dragons. There are plenty of laughs in this chaotic, crazy adventure which are brilliantly captured in Sarah Horne’s lively and energetic illustrations. Why not open your doors and welcome a dragon into your home for Christmas but warning they’ll probably melt your snowballs, flame-blast your turkey and get you struck off Santa’s Nice List.

A huge thank you to Barrington Stoke, Little Brown Books, Nosy Crow Books and Stripes Publishing for these fabulously festive books. All of these books are available to buy now online (click link in the title) and from any good bookshop.


Poppy Pym and the Beastly Blizzard – Laura Wood

‘Poppy Pym and the  Beastly Blizzard ’ is the fantastic new book in Laura Wood’s fabulous mystery series.  Meet Poppy Pym a girl who was left at a circus by her mother and discovered when Marvin the Magician pulled her out of his magic hat. After growing up in a travelling circus, you might think that being sent to boarding school would mean Poppy’s life would be boring.  But fear not she manages to  find herself tangled up in mysteries along with her trusty pals Ingrid and Kip. When a runaway van crashes into Saint Smithen’s at the start of the new school year it marks a series of unexplained events that seem to involve near misses for Poppy. Not only this, Poppy is feeling unnerved as she can’t shake the feeling that somebody is watching her every move.  With the Christmas holidays looming and rumours of a dangerous beast on the loose, can Poppy unmask the hidden spy before someone gets hurt!

Laura has captured my imagination again with this perplexing wintry puzzle. Wonderfully intriguing and featuring the most brilliant cast of characters, with each book this series just gets better. Poppy, Ingrid and Kip make for a formidable team  – although the focus of one of the members could definitely be distracted by any kind of culinary treat, yes Kip we’re talking about you! Trapped in the school by an unexpected  blizzard the whole story becomes really dramatic making it a real page turner. And just when you think you have it all worked out a huge twist is thrown right at you which made me gasp aloud. This marvellous series is perfect for children who love adventures, mysteries and boarding school stories. Full of mystery and mayhem that will test the skills of the very best amateur sleuths.

Thank you to Scholastic for sending me a copy of this fantastic book, ‘Poppy Pym and the Beastly Blizzard’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.

Christmas Dinner of Souls – Ross Montgomery, illustrated by David Litchfield

When you think of Christmas books you immediately think of a jolly Father Christmas, Christmas Trees lovingly decorated with baubles, stockings hung on fireplaces and snow as far as the eye can see. Well let me tell you straight away Ross Montgomery’s ‘Christmas Dinner of Souls’ is a far cry from this. Deliciously dark and totally terrifying this is a real festive treat for lovers of fiendish, fearsome tales. On a dark and lonely Christmas Eve Lewis is banished to the ancient Soul College to make amends for a naughty deed but little does he realise how truly awful his punishment will be. For Christmas Eve is the night where a secret club meets who despise children, warmth, happiness and above all Christmas. Whilst Lewis serves up the most disgusting and stomach turning meals each member takes their turn to tell the most terrifying, gruesome tale. Who will win this despicable contest and how can Lewis possibly hope to get out alive?

This really is the most marvellous of books, I loved how these stories from each of the guests are seamlessly woven into this rather macabre plot. From the haunting ‘An Old Forgotten Scream’ which tells of a dastardly Baron who is tormented by the screams of his dead wife to the cleverly constructed and surprising ‘The Kensington System,’ each of these tales aims to chill your blood. But whilst the reader is being distracted by these ghastly renditions Ross is unfolding an even more intriguing plot as Lewis begins to realise there is more to this dinner than meets the eye. Exquisitely produced with stunning illustrations by David Litchfield this is a gem of a book and perfectly sized to pop into a Christmas stocking. I end this review with a caution, this book is not for the faint hearted but if your child delights in spine-chilling, grim tales then they will be totally entranced by this feartastic book!

Thanks to Faber & Faber for sending me a copy of this gruesome book. ‘Christmas Dinner For Souls’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.

The Accidental Father Christmas – Tom McLaughlin

If you’ve followed the blog for a while you should know that I’m a huge fan of Tom McLaughlin’s Accidental series. ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’ was one of the first books I reviewed on my blog and I reviewed ‘The Accidental Secret Agent’ with some of the children at my school for the TES Class Review. It doesn’t seem like five minutes since I shared ‘The Accidental Billionaire’ on the blog and now I have ‘The Accidental Father Christmas’ as my first Christmas recommendation on the blog today. This hilarious book proves that if you don’t believe in Father Christmas you can end up in heaps of trouble, even more so than just finding your stocking on Christmas Day with just a lump of coal in it.

Ben is starting to have serious doubts that Father Christmas is real, every year he writes him a letter pleading for his Dad to be home for Christmas and every year he’s always away. So Ben decides to set an elaborate trap to try and capture him on Christmas Eve. What Ben didn’t factor in his master plan was things going well err right or what I actually mean is wrong. Little did he realise that it would spectacularly backfire, by inadvertently injuring Santa meaning that someone else would have to do the job and I think we can all guess who that is! But Ben is not the only one interested in mysterious flying objects at Christmas, somebody is watching them as they fly round the world trying to save Christmas.

Sprinkled with plenty of festive magic, ‘The Accidental Father Christmas’ is an entertaining mix of comedy and slapstick that proves to be irresistible yet again. There are too many comic moments to share but the one that sticks out in my mind involves Father Christmas pretending to be a clown, an angry elf and a large saw. Tom’s use of song titles for his chapter headings always puts a smile on my face and a song in my head, cleverly he has managed to  incorporate all the Christmas classics into this story. His hilarious, witty illustrations capture the chaos unfolding as they race around the world trying to ensure Christmas happens for every single child. However the thing that struck me most about this story that it reminded me of the things that are most important at Christmas, spending time with the ones you love the most and enjoying simple objects that you treasure. An incredibly rich spoilt prince just wants his beloved bear back and all Ben wants for Christmas is his Dad to be at home so they can enjoy Christmas together. A wonderful combination of heart and humour makes this a perfect Christmas read.

Thank you to OUP for sending me a copy of this fabulously festive book.