So you may have noticed that I’ve not been blogging over the last few weeks that’s because I am working on an exciting new project. I was delighted to be invited to join this year’s Blue Peter Book Awards 2019 Longlisting panel to help choose the 12 books in the ‘Best Story,’ and ‘Best Books with Facts,’ category. This has meant having to read a large selection of books in a very short period of time and I’m currently working my way through some marvellous books which sadly I can’t share with you on the blog, it’s top secret. Fortunately before I immersed myself in the submitted titles I did manage to read some books in July that I thoroughly enjoyed, which I’m going to share with you today.
‘Flight,’ is a heart-stopping and thrilling debut that totally captivated and enthralled me in equal measures. Austria 1945, Jewish boy Jakob is in hiding at the Spanish Riding School stables when Nazi soldiers arrive after being tipped off to his presence. A hostile altercation results in the death of one of the rare horses and Jakob’s guardian realises it’s imperative to take the horses to safety. But the only way to escape is undertake a terrifying journey across the mountains taking them straight through Nazi territory. Inspired by real life events, this story is filled with danger and peril at every turn as they risk everything to save their precious stallions. Superb characterisation and edge of your seat drama makes for a compelling and exciting read.
The Storm Keeper’s Island – Catherine Doyle
‘The Storm Keeper’s Island,’ crackles with so much magic and wildness, you can feel the darkness rippling on every page. When Fionn arrives on Arranmore Island, he unwittingly disturbs a menacing force that has been bubbling away underneath the surface for hundreds of years. Unknown to him his mysterious grandfather has been the Keeper of the storms and keeps their magic safe from those who would use this power for sinister purposes. And now the time has come for his grandfather to step down, so Fionn finds himself caught up in a hotly contested bid to become the next guardian. Stunningly atmospheric you can feel the elements rise, leaving you holding your breath as the fierceness of nature is harnessed in this battle between good and evil. This is a glorious book, truly original storytelling that completely enchanted me.
Secret Seven: Mystery of the Skull – Pamela Butchart illustrated by Tony Ross
As an avid reader of ‘Secret Seven,’ when I was growing up I was thrilled to see that the series was coming back especially as it was going to be in the very safe hands of the fabulous Pamela Butchart. Maintaining all of the charm and fun of the original series, Secret Seven is brought bang up to date in this exciting new mystery. When Peter finds an old skull mysteriously left in his bedroom, he needs to call an emergency meeting of the Secret Seven to help get to the bottom of this strange discovery. When they discover a gigantic hole in the grounds of a local hotel and the new owners are behaving very suspiciously, they wonder could there be a connection between the two strange events. Packed with midnight bike rides, scrumptious food, lots of red herrings and mystery aplenty this new adventure is bound to delight and excite younger readers. Bravo to Pamela who surely deserves a very large slice of pineapple upside down cake!
The Trapdoor Mysteries: A Sticky Situation – Abie Longstaff & James Brown
‘The Trapdoor Mysteries,’ is an irresistible new mystery series featuring an inquisitive young girl called Tally and her best friend, a squirrel named Squill. Tally who was abandoned at birth after the tragic death of her mother has been brought up as a servant girl in a loveless home where she spends her days scrubbing and polishing from dawn to dusk and her evenings sleeping in the kitchen sink. Desperate and destitute this doesn’t hold Tally back and unknown to the horrid housekeeper she is secretly reading books, keen to learn as much as possible about the world all around her. Using her fierce intelligence, Tally manages to crack a seemingly impossible code which leads to the discovery of a magical library where books come to life. When her home is burgled nobody can understand how it could have possibly happened but Tally cleverly realises the books in the library hold the key to solving the mystery. Brilliantly written and beautifully illustrated, ‘The Trapdoor Mysteries,’ is an engaging, delightful series and I’m thrilled the follow up, ‘The Scent of Danger,’ is equally as marvellous.
Jo Cotterill is back with another absolutely brilliant story that I devoured in one sitting, ‘Jelly,’ is the perfect mix of smart, clever and poignantly funny storytelling. Jelly is the comedy queen of the classroom, she has to be the centre of attention and is constantly pushing the boundaries so that people laugh with her instead of at her. But Jelly is hiding a secret, she isn’t as bubbly and confident as the world sees her. In fact she is struggling inside with how she feels about herself and how she thinks others feel about her. Pouring her heart and soul into her secret notebook, Jelly expresses her innermost feelings and fears, locked away from everybody. That is until her Mum’s new boyfriend comes along and for the first time in her life someone sees through Jelly’s carefully constructed version of herself. Can Jelly risk everything and show the world who she really is? Perfect as a transition read between primary and secondary, it captures the trials and tribulations of growing up thoughtfully and honestly. This is the kind of book I want to put into children’s hands and insist they read it because I absolutely loved it.
Thank you to Bloomsbury, Firefly, Hachette, Little Brown Books and Toppsta for sending me copies of these wonderful books. All of the books are available to buy now online or from any good bookshop. If you’re looking for more books to read over the summer holidays check out Toppsta’s Summer Reading Guide.