Monthly Archives: February 2020

Marvellous Middle Grade Reads

I’m not quite sure where the first two months of this year have gone, time seems to have absolutely flown by. The books I read in January and February are sitting on my desk looking at me accusingly and wondering why I bothered to read them if I wasn’t going to share them on my blog. I’ve apologised for my terrible lack of manners and have forced myself to clear a space on my desk for my laptop and write the reviews. Anyway that’s enough about me, time to share with you some marvellous middle grade books that I have enjoyed amidst all the madness of the last two months.

The Boy Who Fooled the World – Lisa Thompson

A new book by Lisa Thompson is always something to look forward to. Lisa has a talent for creating stories that are wonderfully warm and wise and, ‘The Boy Who Fooled the World,’ is no exception. Cole stands out in school for all the wrong reasons, his trainers are tatty, he doesn’t have the latest phone and inevitably becomes the target for the mean kids at school. Until one day when a painting he created is talent-spotted by a famous artist and it changes his and his family’s life overnight. But there’s one small problem. Cole is hiding a secret and if anyone finds out the truth, the fame and fortune he has come to love could all disappear. This is such a brilliant and clever story, Lisa has excelled herself by weaving this incredible tale of a supposed boy genius and showed how easy it for small white lies to get completely out of control. The struggle that Cole’s family if facing is written thoughtfully and sensitively, so that we become completely caught up in their change of fortune. A truly stellar read, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Shadowsea – Peter Bunzl

It was with much anticipation that I read the fourth and final book in the Cogheart adventures. ‘Shadowsea,’ having loved all of the other books in this series I was sad at the though of saying goodbye to Lily and Robert. But fear not for their finale hurrah, Peter has pulled all of the stops out of the bag in this thrilling and incredibly dramatic story that will hold you in it’s grip to the very last page. A trip to New York leads to a chance encounter with a strange boy who is locked in his hotel room by his very strange Aunt, whose behaviour is causing alarm bells to ring. Determined to help this boy, Lily and Robert break into his room and discover a dark and terrible secret that he has buried within the depths of his mind. And once again they find themselves drawn into a dangerous world, can they risk everything to uncover the truth?  Their is a high level of excitement and peril that runs through Peter’s stories so marvellously and it makes it impossible to put his books down. He never fails to surprise me with his unexpected twists and turns and for me this is another triumph in storytelling.

The Highland Falcon Thief – M.G. Leonard & Sam Sedgman, illustrated by Elisa Pagnelli

‘The Highland Falcon Thief,’ is the first book in an intriguing new mysteries series that I’m sure will be hugely successful. Harrison Beck is massively unimpressed when his parents pack him off with his travel writer Uncle Nat aboard the royal steam train, he can’t imagine anything more boring. However the journey takes an unexpected turn when precious jewels start to go missing. The suspect has to onboard the train and Harrison is determined to turn detective and uncover the identity of this sophisticated criminal. For me this book ticks all my boxes, it’s a classic who dunnit mystery which clues cleverly concealed along the way. I adored the setting it is just glorious, the attention to detail and lavish description conjures up the Highland Falcon so vividly in my mind that I felt I was truly onboard the train. I absolutely delighted in the scene involving fried eggs on the footplate, it’s wonderfully evocative and made me desperate to be there. Elisa’s delightful illustrations capture the excitement and drama of this tale perfectly.  A truly cracking and smart read, that will be completely irresistible to mystery fans.

Orion Lost – Alastair Chisholm

I would love to see more science-fiction in middle grade so I was delighted when, ‘Orion Lost,’ landed in my review pile. Orion is on a mission to set up a new civilisation on a distant planet and Beth is nervous but excited to start her new life. Four months out of earth, when they are a millions of miles from home, disaster strikes leaving them stranded in space. With all the adults trapped in Sleep, Beth and her friends find themselves in charge of a heavily damaged ship with no idea how to make contact with earth and get them all home. Survival seems impossible with a mysterious alien species and space pirates tracking them whilst Ship their AI guide seems to be hiding things from them. Can Beth uncover the truth and save their colony from destruction. This is such a compelling and dramatic adventure, it is packed full of twists and turns which managed to catch me unawares every time. Cleverly constructed with remarkable world-building, this will  be hugely appealing to fans of fast-paced and action-packed adventures.

Thank you to Macmillan, Nosy Crow, Scholastic and Usborne for sending me gifted copies of these books. You can get your hands on these books online (click on the links in the title) or from you favourite local bookshop.


Demelza and the Spectre Detectors by Holly Rivers, illustrated by Alex T. Smith

Demelza loves science more than anything in the world. Her fascination for inventing started at a young age when she made the Magnificent Belly Button Cleaning Machine at the tender age of four. And now she spends her nights, when she should be asleep, beavering away on her latest inventions desperate to perfect whatever contraption her wild imagination has conjured up. But when she hears unexplained noises one night, she discovers something very strange, she has a very special talent that defies everything she has ever come to trust and believe in. This talent is something that will put her and her grandma in incredible danger as the encounter the terrifying Snatcher who will stop at no lengths to use her powers for his own gains. It’s up to Demelza and her sickly friend Percy to find a way to save her Grandma and herself.

‘Demelza and the Spectre Detectors,’ is an intriguing and delightful debut from Holly Rivers that I devoured in a few hours.  Demelza is a heroine that you can really get behind with her scientific obsessions and her unwillingness to follow the rules if it doesn’t fit in with her ideals. You know she’s really used to getting in trouble when she invents a robotic hand that can expertly forge your writing just so you can avoid writing lines at school. Holly has assembled a delightful cast of characters from the eccentric Grandma Maeve to the terrifying Ms Cardinal and the unexpected bully Miranda, everyone is full of surprises. It manages to be quite unexpectedly fun yet still manages to be thoughtful in it’s dealing with grief and the afterlife. This is a book that will keep you on your toes right to the very end as with it’s seemingly never-ending twists and turns. Every time you think you’ve worked out exactly what is going on Holly throws in something to completely confuse you. It really is a wonderfully constructed and entertaining mystery.

Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour for reviews and guest posts from Holly.

Thank you to Laura and Chicken House for sending me a gifted proof copy of this book. ‘Demelza and the Spectre Detectors,’ is availabe to buy now online of from any good bookshop.


The Ice Bear Miracle – Cerrie Burnell, illustrated by Sandra Dieckmann

Marv Jackson’s life changes forever when he survives a bear attack as a small child. He and this extraordinary tale become a legend that is retold and reshaped by members of his close-knit community. However they are reluctant to accept his recollection, that on this fateful night he was drawn to a baby’s cry, an abandoned child left on the ice. As he grows up his scar is not the only thing that is a constant reminder of the night and he wonders what has happened to the child. A chance encounter with a mysterious girl and her ice skating polar bear brings this memory back to the surface, taking them both on an incredible journey that they’ll never forget. Exquisite storytelling meets sublime characterisation in this stunning tale from Cerrie Burnell. I was completely entranced by the Isle of Bears, a place in the deep frozen north, where the lives of bears and the community are inextricably bound together. The sense of community, friendship and the way those who are alone and vulnerable can find family in the most unexpected of places is totally joyful. It completely won over my heart with it’s beautifully, atmospheric and magical prose. Effortlessly diverse and incredibly thoughtful this is an absolute gem of a read.

It seemed entirely fitting that Cerrie launched this beautiful book at Somerset House ice rink, where she told us about her love of skating. Today on the blog she shares her thoughts with us…

Why I love to skate – Cerrie Burnell

There is a swift sweeping joy that comes from gliding across the ice- with out falling- face tilted up toward the sky, surrounded by other giddy skaters caught up in their own rushing excitement. You’re swept along on a wave of adrenaline, a cloud of ice air and feeling of childlike wonderment. Though it wasn’t quite like this at the beginning.

The first time I ventured on the ice as an adult was wrought with agony and woe. We were a squashed in a little out door pop up rink near the London eye, in a melee of other novices. My daughter age five, clung to me, screamed at me and all but dragged me down to a merciless frozen hell.

And yet through out the arguing and unsteady terror of falling, there were tiny moments of utter hilarious delight.

The next time a few years later we found ourselves almost alone in the middle of the afternoon on a surprise (read forgotten) inset day. It was a grey afternoon steeped in sea-light and we had the little practice rink at the Brighton Pavilion almost entirely to ourselves. As we moved around the small starry square, twilight gathering above us – her clutching a plastic savour in the form of a penguin, me amazed I hadn’t fallen, we let go of the boards and began – very gradually – to glide, and then a soft magic unfurled and a complete feeling of freedom took hold of us. We could not stop smiling.

We weren’t graceful or dazzling or daring, but we were upright and suddenly it felt like I was flying. I found myself letting everything else go. You can’t think about submitting your tax return, or wonder if you remembered the cheese for the packed lunch tomorrow, or consider anything more pressing when you’re balanced on a whisper thin blade that’s sharp enough to harm you. You have to give yourself over to the ice. Its a moment in time where existing is enough.

So we kept going, kept falling, kept clambering up, kept learning. Learning to overcome our doubt, learning to lace up our skates (that’s a whole other trilogy in itself) learning to love the shivering bone cold of indoor rinks. Through house moves, career changes, different schools, scorching summer days and deep winter nights we kept skating, and the quiet joy we felt was a little frosty miracle.

What astonished me about the rink was the community, the automatic welcome. A place where every one is expected to join in, all you have to do is be brave enough to step onto the ice. There are inclusive Ice hockey clubs, disabled skate sessions, people competing who didn’t find skating until they retired in their sixties. You can be any age, of any background, gender or faith, the ice is there for you.

Of course if you’re gifted or you want to excel then you can train with a coach – and that’s a much harder discipline. Watching the young figure skaters train takes my breath away, sometimes moves me unexpectedly to tears at the sheer fearless grace of them as they fly over the ice.

But if – like us – you just want to do something wonderful. Something gloriously fun. Something that frees you from all other ties, just for a rare few moments, you should give it a try. Skating by twilight on outdoor rink – is to me like magic.

Thanks to Cerrie for this lovely guest post and for encouraging me to get back on the ice after breaking my arm 30 years ago!

Cerrie Burnell

Cerrie Burnell is an actress, singer, playwright, children’s author, and television presenter, with a high profile on TV, in children’s publishing, and across social media. Her positive and engaging attitude across all platforms is incredibly inspiring for readers young and old. Her middle grade novel The Ice Bear Miracle, published by OUP, is available now for readers age 9+ .

Thank you to Liz and OUP for inviting me to the launch of ‘The Ice Bear Miracle,’ and for my gifted copy of this extraordinary book.


I Don’t Like Books. Never. Ever. The End. by Emma Perry, illustrated by Sharon Davey

Today it’s my stop on the blog tour for Emma Perry’s debut, ‘I Don’t Like Books. Never. Ever, The End,’ illustrated by Sharon Davey. Despite what the title may have you believe this glorious book is a true celebration of the transformative effect of reading in our lives. Poor Mabel really doesn’t like books, not one bit but nobody pays any attention. She gets books for her birthdays, books for treats and well just because… Mabel decides while books aren’t good for reading, they do in fact make excellent plates, sledges and stools much to the consternation of her books. One day the books revolt and change Mabel’s mind in the most unexpected of ways. I absolutely loved everything about this story, Emma is a natural storyteller. It’s so much fun to read aloud and is fit to burst with comic moments, it really did put a huge smile on my face.  Sharon bold and vibrant illustrations brilliantly captures Mabel’s frustration at the predicament she finds herself in, always surrounded by books. Wonderfully imaginative, it is a joy from start to finish.

To celebrate the publication of this marvellous book I have a special guest post from Emma on her journey from book blogger to author.

From reviewer to author – how on earth did that happen?  – Emma Perry

It has to be said, inadvertently setting up My Book Corner, way back in 2011 did eventually lead to me writing fiction. But, it was never meant to be that way.

It wasn’t the plan.

It wasn’t my intention.

In fact, I actively RAN AWAY from the idea… several times!

However, looking back it was clear that delving headfirst into My Book Corner was the catalyst – I just didn’t know it at the time.

I set up My Book Corner back in 2011 while we were living in Australia. It was tricky finding work in a new country with a young family, and it was my husband who suggested I review books online “because you like them so much.” He also volunteered to build the website. Perfect. I rummaged through the kids’ bookshelves to review their favourites and merrily set about telling my 2 visitors (thanks Mum and Dad) why I liked them. I was amazed when publishers started offering me books to review, and I was even more gobsmacked when I started receiving books before they even appeared on the shelves. It felt (and still does) like such a privilege and honour to get to see these beautiful books so early.

As My Book Corner continued to grow I started to look at other ways to write. Never did it cross my mind to attempt to write the fiction that I loved reading. Absolutely not. I even went to writers’ conference in Melbourne, and when the keynote speaker started talking about crafting characters and plotlines, I shook my head – this wasn’t for me. No way. I was much happier enjoying the stories of others. I focused on landing a few freelance roles, writing for other publications in addition to My Book Corner. But I think a little seed had been planted that day, I just didn’t know it. In the meantime, I was becoming more and more immersed in the wonderful world of children’s literature and it wasn’t going to let me go!

Returning to the UK was time filled with finding schools and a house and catching up with old friends and starting to think… what’s next? It was one of my old friends (Carey xoxo) who listened to my story about My Book Corner and turned to me and seriously asked, “why aren’t you writing your own books?” My instinct was to laugh it off, but it stayed with me. Then the lovely Tania McCartney back in Australia launched her online creative guide and it just felt the signs were too much – I had to give this a go.

But. I’m a HUGE procrastinator (*cough* half a degree in Psychology *cough*) and knew that I had to go all in from the beginning. That year, for the first time ever, I set two** New Year resolutions with a deadline of Easter. Go for it, see what works – was my mindset. So in between supply teaching I researched ALL the books, I knew I wanted to write for children – but no idea what age to write for or what to write about. Then I came across Ann Whiteford Paul’s Writing Picture Books. It was the one that spoke to me, and the one that fired up that excitement in my belly. I put it down and began scribbling ideas.

A month later I proudly had my first picture book script (just the one!) and had NO IDEA what to do with it. I had NO IDEA whether it was any good. I’d seen SCBWI online but that was too big a step for the voice in my head that screamed ‘you’re not a proper writer – stay away!’ So, what to do? A school run chat with Ele Nash introduced me to the Golden Egg Academy. I looked up their website, which had a big flashy banner ‘Now Accepting Picture Books’… oooo! I closed my eyes, pressed send. It was a huge litmus test for me, the first time my writing had been outside the cosy four walls of my house… and I’m really not sure what I would have done if they had turned me down.

I’m so grateful to GEA for saying ‘yes’! It spurred me on. I had invaluable 121 feedback from industry professionals at GEA, I found the courage to join SCBWI (do it, they are amazing!) and I found the most brilliantly, supportive critique group – Scribbles & Doodles. At that point I was well and truly immersed in the world of writing for children, and I LOVED it.

The SCBWI slush pile competition was the next big gamechanger for me. The brief for the challenge, set by Helen Mackenzie Smith, fitted my latest WIP nicely so off it went. I could not believe my luck when I won it. I could not believe my luck when I trotted off to London to meet Helen for a 121. And I absolutely could not believe my luck when she offered to represent me.

Helen sold my first two picture book scripts to the wonderful home of David Fickling Books within a few months. Under the care of the incredible team there, two amazing illustrators were found for each of them and the books were created. Now we are in 2020 when both of them will be published. I’m still pinching myself, I’m still grinning from ear to ear and I’m still incredibly grateful for this amazing journey.

Important Footnote: well, reading back that it all sounds like plain sailing doesn’t it?! But. There were bumps along the road. Lots. There were plenty of ups and downs and rejections and doubt and waiting and more doubt. I think there always will be. And that’s ok.

**PS: in case you were wondering about my second resolution (skip this bit if you weren’t), it was to teach myself to crochet… I know, I have NO idea where that came from! Anyways, turns out that crocheting is rather handy when you are stuck on a plot point, lost for words… it lets your mind wander quite nicely. Plus, I now have a random collection of crochet blankets and crocheted alpacas (inspiration for Alfonso in ‘This Book Has Alpacas & Bears’ ill by Rikin Parekh – coming June 2020!) scattered around the house.

Emma Perry

Emma Perry can be found either writing books, reading them or teaching them. It’s always been that way. In fact, her first two picture books are about… yep, books.

The founder of MyBookCorner and organiser of International Book Giving Day, the book obsession shows no sign of slowing down.

Twitter: @_EmmaPerry

Instagram: @EmmaPerry



Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour for more guest posts and reviews.

Thank you to Emma for writing this insightful blog post and to Liz and David Fickling Books for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and for sending me a gifted copy of the book. ‘I Don’t Like Books. Never. Ever. The End,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.