Monthly Archives: July 2020

Prima Donna Pony – Polly Faber, illustrated by Sarah Jennings

Following on from the fabulous, ‘Pony on the Twelfth Floor,’ Polly Faber and Sarah Jennings are back with another hilarious horse adventure in, ‘Prima Donna Pony.’ Rose absolutely loves horses but she likes them on films and on posters and spotting them from a distance in a field but in real life she has been nervous of them since an unfortunate incident with an ice cream. So when Rose wins an actual real life horse – not just any old horse, the most famous pony in the country – in a competition everyone assumes she will be thrilled. In the back of her mind she is convinced she isn’t a worthy winner and things everyone knows this. To make matters worse Maltie Delight is more concerned with maintaining his superstar image then helping a shy girl overcome her fears. Can these unlikely duo find a way to make friends?

Hilarious and heartfelt this is a wonderful romp of an adventure filled with so many moments of comedy that are bound to delight the reader. One of my favourite scenes is when Rose is trying to entice Maltie to come to her, when a friend suggests give him something he’ll love she gets out her camera to take a selfie with him and well you’ll soon see what happens. There is a really interesting cast of characters who help Rose along the way and they’re made more believable because of their flaws. I particularly Billy whose ineptitude and lack of any organisational skills forces Rose to be brave for the first time in her life. It manages to mix the outrageous with the believable creating a fun and entertaining storyline. Polly cleverly contrasts the love that Maltie Delight has for himself with Rose’s insecurity and lack of confidence. You couldn’t imagine a pair more different yet somehow they both discover things about themselves that they hadn’t realised. Sarah’s illustrations capture the full scale of Maltie’s vanity brilliantly as well as the fun and shenanigans that unfold in the story. This is the perfect book to put a smile on your face, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Thanks to Polly for sending me a gifted copy of this wonderful book for the school library. ‘Prima Donna Pony,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop. If you can please support your local indie bookshop.


Villains in Venice – Katherine Woodfine

In case you missed it, last week my blog had a special birthday it was five years old. One of the first books I reviewed on my blog was by a debut author called Katherine Woodfine whose book introduced us to orphan Sophie and sophisticated Lil, two girls who accidentally found themselves embroiled in, ‘The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow.’ Fast forward five years and this dynamic duo have had four ‘Sinclair Mysteries,’ and when that series sadly came to a close, luckily a whole brand new series, ‘Taylor and Rose Secret Agent’s,’ was born. Last year in a shocking turn of events Katherine left the second book in the series, ‘Spies in St. Petersburg,’ at a criminally, cliffhanger of an ending which left the reader eager to know what happened next. So I was absolutely thrilled to receive an early copy of, ‘Villains in Venice,’ the next instalment in this thrilling espionage series.

Sophie and Lil have been given another new mission by the Secret Bureau but for the first time they are at odds, both convinced that their way to right the wrongs against their friend is the only possible route. With a double agent on the loose, Sophie and Lil don’t know who they can trust and an undercover mission is planned to Venice to see if they can uncover the final piece of the puzzle before their enemies get their dastardly hands on it. Nothing is as it seems, with unexpected twists and turns being sprung on them at every turn. Venice is a dark and dangerous place and someone unexpected is lurking in the shadows determined to thwart their plans. Can our heroines unravel the truth and prevent a terrible catastrophe?

This story is an absolute triumph from start to finish, I raced through the whole book with my heart in my mouth and my nerves totally shredded. Quite a few times I had to stop, close the book and take a deep breath as I couldn’t believe what had just happened. It has to be one of the most delectable and thrilling of Katherine’s mysteries. Superbly plotted with the most intricate of puzzles spun throughout this story, it is a joy of a read. Once again she excels in transporting the reader – through her wonderfully descriptive writing – to the setting, stimulating all  your senses and  making you feel like you’re actually there watching the story unfold. She has captured all the haunting beauty of Venice and contrasted this against the darkness of the sinister organisation who are determined to seize power for their own malevolent purposes. I particularly liked how she used the carnival that Venice is famous for as a device to heighten the fear and distrust the characters feel and fill the reader with suspense as they try to guess who can be trusted especially when you can’t see face behind the mask. If you are looking for a daring and dramatic adventure then this book is pure perfection, it completely excelled my expectations. I couldn’t possibly review this book without mentioning the incomparable illustrator Karl James Mountford whose exquisite cover and beautiful interior illustrations complement marvellously Katherine’s writing. I only have one complaint and that is the complaint of an impatient reader who can’t quite believe that once again Katherine has delivered an incredibly climatic ending that left me anxious for more.

Thank you to Egmont books for sending me an early gifted of this magnificent book. ‘Villains in Venice,’ is released on August 6th and is available to pre-order online or from your local bookshop. If you can please support your local indie bookshop.

Spaghetti Hunters – Morag Hood

Today I am delighted to be sharing with you the latest picture book brilliance from the incomparable Morag Hood, the hilarious, ‘Spaghetti Hunters.’ Duck can’t find his spaghetti anywhere! It’s not in his socks, under the rug or even in his favourite teapot. Just as he’s about to give up hope, Tiny Horse appears proclaiming himself to be the best spaghetti hunter ever! With the help of a fishing rod, some peanut butter and a net, our fearsome duo set off on a challenging mission to track down the missing spaghetti. But try as the might the spaghetti alludes them and Duck is convinced that Tiny Horse may have got hold of the wrong end of the stick. Deciding to take matters into his own hands he finds a new way to solve this impossible puzzle.

This book is a wonderful mix of chaos and confusion as Duck and Tiny Horse get themselves into a right muddle trying to solve the problem of the missing spaghetti. It will really appeal to the wild imaginations of children who will happily accept their confusion about looking for spaghetti growing on trees or lurking in ponds. In a world of supermarkets filled with almost instant food, it will definitely encourage children to think about where their food comes from and create an interest in creating something completely from scratch. Morag has a real talent for mimicking the behaviour of children in her stories giving them an insight into how their actions can effect others and highlighting how easily misunderstandings occur. The vibrant, bold and downright hilarious illustrations capture perfectly the nonsense of the spaghetti hunt and are bound to cause much giggling from the reader. A triumph in humorous and entertaining storytelling.

Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour for more reviews, activities and giveaways.

Thank you to Amber and Two Hoots for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and for sending me a gifted copy of this book. ‘Spaghetti Hunters,’ is available to buy now online and from your local bookshop. If you can please support your local indie bookshop.

Sky Pirates: Echo Quickthorn & the Great Beyond – Alex English, illustrated by Mark Chambers

Today I am delighted to be sharing with you the first book in the wonderful new, ‘Sky Pirates,’ series, ‘Echo Quickthorn and the Great Beyond,’ written by Alex English and illustrated by Mark Chambers.  I was in a bit of a reading slump when I picked this up but I absolutely devoured this book in one day it was so joyful.  Echo Quickthorn doesn’t quite fit into the mould of a Lady, she’d rather be climbing amongst the ramparts of the castle then sitting quietly embroidering. She’s not allowed to leave the confinements of the palace but still she dreams of stepping outside into the unknown. Her life changes dramatically one day, when an airship crashes into the castle and an eccentric professor tells tales of world beyond the barren. Will Echo risk everything and seize her chance to go on the adventure of the lifetime? Absolutely, breathtaking and bursting with excitement, this is a wonderfully charming tale that will sweep you off your feet. I can see children falling in love with Echo and be thrilled and marvel at a world containing sky pirates, mechanical dragons and fiendish villains. Mark’s cover and illustrations capture perfectly the spirit and freedom of Echo and gives us a glimpse of the many wonders we will find inside the pages.  Delightful characterisation meets dramatic storytelling in this truly fantastical story. I simply cannot wait to go on another Sky Pirates adventure with Echo. 

To celebrate the release of this fabulous adventure, I have a special guest post from Alex on her brilliant characters.

A brief introduction to the characters in Sky Pirates –  Alex English

When I write, I tend to start with characters and, once they get going, the story just seems to follow. Sky Pirates: Echo Quickthorn and the Great Beyond began when I was at Bath Spa University. I wrote a scene about a girl called Echo, who heard something strange outside her window and opened the curtains to discover an airship. From that point on, I didn’t stop! More characters appeared and more adventures happened.

Here’s a little bit about the main characters in Sky Pirates:

Echo Quickthorn

Dark-haired and freckled Echo is a rather impulsive but brave 11-year-old girl. She’s grown up as a ward of the king of Lockfort since being abandoned as a baby, and longs to be allowed to explore outside the castle and find her family. But outside the city walls is the Barren, a bare and rocky expanse, and beyond that is the end of the world (or so she has been told). Her only real friend is her lizard, Gilbert.


Gilbert is a rather special lizard, who can communicate with Echo via chirrups and squeaks. His golden scales change colour according to his emotional state (bright pink when Echo embarrasses him) and he’s an observant and helpful sidekick. He’s rather partial to almonds (and flies) and terrified of birds.

Prince Horace

Horace is also 11 and the only other child in the castle, although not quite up to Echo’s adventurous standards. He’s a pudding heart (Echo’s words) and not terribly brave, at least at first, but he is very well read. He particularly loves butterflies and is quite the bug geek. He and Echo have a love-hate relationship and are always bickering.

Professor Daggerwing

Professor Daggerwing is a dashing, ginger-haired inventor, explorer and adventurer – and more intriguingly, an outsider! He arrives in Lockfort in his airship in the middle of the night, crashes into the castle and is thrown into the dungeons. He claims to have come from beyond the Barren and shows Echo a map of all the places that exist outside the city. 

King Alfons of Lockfort

King Alfons is Horace’s father and he rules the roost in Lockfort. He is fond of doling out punishments, hates outsiders and orders Professor Daggerwing’s map to be burnt. He’s up to something… but what?

There are many more minor characters, but I’ll let you discover those for yourselves!


Thanks to Alex for that really interesting insight, I love finding out more about writers create their stories.

Blog Tour

You can find out more by joining in with the rest of the blog tour for more guest posts and reviews.

Thanks to Olivia and Simon and Schuster for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and for sending me a gifted copy of this wonderful adventure. ‘Echo Quickthorn and the Great Beyond,’ is available to buy now online or from your local bookshop. Please support your local indie bookshop if at all possible.

Rescuing Mrs. Birdley – Guest Post Emma Reynolds

Today I am delighted to welcome Emma Reynolds to the blog for a special guest post to celebrate the release of her first illustrated book, ‘Rescuing Mrs. Birdley,’ written by Aaron Reynolds. This hilarious book features self proclaimed animal expert Miranda, whose obsession with the Nature Joe Animal Show convinces her that her destiny is to return creatures to their natural habitat. So when she spies her teacher, shockingly not at school but in a supermarket she is determined to capture her and return her back to where she belongs, at school. Emma’s vibrant and humorous illustrations brilliantly show the chaos and carnage Miranda causes in her quest to return her teacher to school. Younger children are bound to be entertained by the lengths she goes to on her mission to rescue her teacher.

Emma shares with us the illustrative process behind creating this wonderful book.

Emma Reynolds – Illustrating, ‘Rescuing Mrs. Birdley’

When I received the manuscript from Justin Chanda at Simon & Schuster written by author Aaron Reynolds about an adventurous, wildly fantastic little girl Miranda and lots of animals, it was an instant yes from me! This was in August 2018, and I worked on the book over a year until summer 2019, and the book is out now in summer 2020.

This was my first ever illustrated book, and I learnt so much along the journey!
I’m going to show you how I made the book –

Now the first step for me as the illustrator was to figure out what the characters looked like! I went to my favourite cafe and started sketching – Here are the first character concepts for Mrs. Birdley and Nature Joe

I use a mixture of paper and pencil and sketching in Procreate on the iPad.


Here is one of the first sketches I did of Miranda, which ended up actually appearing in the final book on the opening spread!
I wanted to capture her lively energy and pure joy and excitement about rushing to watch her favourite TV show about animal rescuer, Nature Joe! From the Nature Joe Animal Show, where he rescues lost animals and returns them to their natural habitats!

This was another early character development sketch of Miranda, that also ended up being very close in the final artwork. I remember being encapsulated with my favourite shows and animations, and her cuddly toy animals are joining in too – love a plushie me!

I wanted to capture her here glued to the TV and intently watching her hero! The whole book is about how Miranda sees her teacher Mrs. Birdley in the grocery store, so she assumes she is ‘out of her natural habitat’, and must be returned to school where she belongs! So this establishing shot is very important 🙂

Now I’m going to talk you through the stages of how I made one of the spreads in the book!

I start SUPER rough, as you can see here! The first round of thumbnails are just about basic blocking and communicating what is going to be on each page. It’s not about being super neat at this point, and I used annotations to express my ideas.

I worked closely with my lovely and amazing art director & designer Lizzy Bromley throughout this whole process. Some of the thumbnails don’t change that much until final art, but a lot did.

For example, on this thumbnail, we ended up splitting these two into two separate spreads.



1.More refined sketch        2.Colour key rough      3. Final Outlines     4. Final Artwork
I did colour keys for the entire book – not too much detail, but it showed me how the book would look as a whole, and was an invaluable guide throughout!

We had three main palettes in the book – the warm natural palette of her ‘real world’ suburbia, the limited palette of green tones and flashes of yellow to show the ‘Nature Joe World’ where Miranda is imagining that, and then the supermarket cool colours.

Nature Joe palette on the left where she is setting her trap for Mrs. Birdley. Supermarket reality palette on the right where the trap fails and the poor Deli Man gets caught up in the action!!

I hope you enjoyed a little window into my book making process!

Huge thank you to my agent Thao Le, my editor Justin Chanda and my art director and designer Lizzy Bromley!

Thank you to Emma for this really insightful guest post and for sending me a gifted copy of this wonderful picture book. ‘Rescuing Mrs. Birdley is available to buy now online or from your local bookshop. If you can please support your local indie bookshop.

Monsieur Roscoe on Holiday – Jim Field

‘Monsieur Roscoe on Holiday,’ by Jim Field, is an exciting and inspired bilingual picture book designed to introduce language to children in a fun and interactive way. Monsieur Roscoe, accompanied by his goldfish Fry is off on holiday. Children are invited to join him on an incredible journey as they camp, ski and sail their way across France on the trip of the lifetime. With each new adventure, Monsieur Roscoe finds himself exploring new places causing mischief and mishaps as he strives to involve himself in the local culture, oblivious to they mayhem he is causing.

Every spread is vibrant and lively, packed with so much intricate detail. With different things to find and spot on each page as well as a lots of new French words to learn, there is so much to engage the younger reader. The gentle mixture of humour – conveyed by the fabulously funny illustrations – and entertainment,  will ensure that this is an experience that will never feel like learning for a child. Hopefully by introducing them to languages at an early age it will encourage a life love desire to discover new and exciting words in a fun and accessible way. Exquisitely produced and packed with so much content, this is a book that will be read over and over again.


Blog Tour

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

Thank you to Hachette for sending me a gifted copy of this wonderful book and for inviting me to join in with the blog tour. ‘Monsieur Roscoe on Holiday,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop. Please support your local indie bookseller if at all possible.

Wilde – Eloise Williams

I’ve long been a fan of Eloise Williams’s writing from the irresistibly gothic, ‘Gaslight,’ to the haunting and heart-breaking, ‘Seaglass,’ she has a natural gift for storytelling creating tales that really capture your imagination. So I was intrigued to read her latest book, ‘Wilde,’ which brings a century’s old witch’s curse to a modern welsh town, Witch Point. A place renowned for it’s dark and mysterious past, a place where Wilde’s parents used to call home. Forced to return to Witch Point, Wilde feels a sense of unease. All of the unexplained things that have been bubbling underneath the surface, are starting to become more obvious to Wilde as if something is being unleashed inside her. She can no longer ignore these strange occurrences. However, Wilde is determined to supress these feelings, she just wants to be normal and fit in at her new school but fate has cast it’s hand against her. When rehearsals start on a play based on the tale of a local witch, pupils at her school become unsettled when they receive curses from someone claiming to be the witch. Can Wilde find a way to stay in control and discover the true identity of the ‘witch’,’ before she is ostracised once more?

I love how this story weaves together the true life persecution of so called ‘witches,’ – and how they were maligned by the world for trying to use their skills for the good of others – with a slice of magical realism as Wilde slowly uncovers the truth about herself. This could easily become a tale of dark magic and unnatural events but Eloise’s cleverly parallels Wilde’s experience of coming to terms with who she really is and finding her place in the world with other children who feel on the outside for many different reasons. We see how easily it is for our thoughts and feelings to be influenced by other’s prejudices and realise how it takes extreme courage to stand up for those we believe in when everyone else around you is against them. There are some darker elements in this story as Wilde struggles to control her powers, making for a tense and dramatic story. A compelling a thoughtful tale of loss, friendship and courage that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Thank you to Firefly Press for this gifted proof copy. ‘Wilde,’ is available to buy now online or from you local bookshop. Please support your local indie bookseller if at all possible.

LLama Out Loud – Annabelle Sami, illustrated by Allen Fatimaharan

Yasmin Shah lives with the noisiest family in the world. Okay I may be exaggerating slightly but for Yasmin this is exactly what it feels like. All squished together in a thin house squashed between two normal houses, she struggles to find a moment of a peace. Her only retreat is her tiny room at the top of the house in the attic. With everyone competing to make themselves heard and the volume level being constantly out of control, Yasmin decided at a very young age that there is little point in speaking. A chance encounter with a raggedy looking llama toy in a market one day, changes her life forever because Levi is a little bit magical. In fact Levi is so magical he comes to life but only Yasmin can hear and see him resulting in lots of mix-ups!. As far as Yasmin is concerned, Levi is ruining her life and has to go. But can Levi find a way to give Yasmin the courage to be who she really wants to be?

Annabelle has created a hilarious and heartfelt read that will leave you with a huge smile on your face. She has assembled a marvellous cast of characters which come bursting out of the pages giving you an immediate sense of the noise and carnage that fill Yasmin’s life, making it difficult for her to be who she wants to be. Misunderstood by her family, her refuge is a home for octogenarians where she thrives in a totally different environment. Despite Levi making her life miserable, he forces Yasmin to take a long, hard look at how she is choosing her to be by completely pushing her out of her comfort zone. There are so many moments when you could quite cheerfully throttle Levi for his ‘brilliant’ ideas to help Yasmin come out of herself and it’s the level of annoyance which makes this book so brilliantly funny. Allen’s illustrations perfectly capture the personalities of the different family members and the chaos and confusion unfolding as Levi wreaks havoc in Yasmin’s life. Fun, fast and frenetic, this book is a hugely entertaining read.

Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour to find out more!

Thank you to Hilary and Egmont for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and for sending me a gifted copy of this book. ‘Llama Out Loud,’ is available to buy now online or from your local bookshop. Please support independent book shops where you can.

Irresistible Illustrated Fiction

Regular readers of the blog will know I’m a huge fan of illustrated fiction books. They are perfect for newly confident readers allowing them to gain confidence without being overwhelmed by pages of text. Here is my round up of my favourite recent reads all guaranteed to enthral and entertain younger readers. They would make wonderful additions to any primary school library.

Midge and Mo – Lara Williamson & Becky Cameron

Lara Williamson is an incredibly thoughtful writer and she had brought her talent for creating beautiful stories to young fiction in, ‘Midge and Mo.’ Midge doesn’t want to go to school, his whole life has been turned upside down since his parents separated and he’s completely overwhelmed with sadness. When Mo is assigned as his buddy at school she tries everything to break through his sadness and make him smile but it causes him to retreat into his shell further. It’s only when Mo remembers how she felt starting somewhere new that she realises that it’s okay to be sad as well as happy and she comes up with a plan to make Midge feel better. A truly wonderful and empathetic tale that focuses on the difficulties that change can bring and the transformative effect of friendship. Becky’s illustrations masterfully use different colour palettes to capture the sadness and the happiness of the characters beautifully. A truly poignant and heartfelt story.

Captain Whiskers – Jeremy Strong & Matt Robertson

Jack feels left out at school, all of the other children in his class have pets, even the teacher. It makes him feel even more alone than he already does and despite his pleas his parents refuse to let him have any pets, not even a stick insect. A chance encounter with a mysterious man in a top hat and a cat that appears to understand every word he says turns his world upside down. 101 cats suddenly appear at his house and everyone is blaming Jack. His house is in chaos with cats in pans and cats in cupboards, they even follow him to school. But Jack soon discovers that this might just be his chance to get the one thing he wants and give him the chance to finally fit in. Magical and hilarious in equal measures, Jeremy has created a truly entertaining book. Matt’s illustrations perfectly capture the kitty confusion caused by this extraordinary event. Another wonderful addition to the Little Gems collection.

Break-Time Bunnies – Pamela Butchart & Becka Moor

Wigglesbottom Primary,’ is back with another three adventures guaranteed to have you giggling under your school desk. This series has been phenomenally successful in school and I have had to buy multiple copies for the library. A school where the unexpected is just waiting for you around the corner, with all sorts of shenanigans waiting to be discovered. From an invasion of bunnies on the school playground cancelling break time, to an identity mix up with a school inspector. There is so much fun to be had in each and every story. This series is a perfect blend of silliness and fun, it puts a huge smile on my face every time I read a new adventure. Pamela excels in telling school stories that are effortlessly diverse and ridiculously funny, which Becka captures superbly in her hilarious and brilliantly observed illustrations. If you haven’t already read this series you are seriously missing out, they really deserve to be top of the class.

Mirabelle Gets Up to Mischief – Harriet Muncaster

The Isadora Moon series is much loved in school, the children can’t get enough of these enchanting books. From the world of Isadora comes a brand new adventure featuring Mirabelle – Isadora’s cousin –  who is half witch and half fairy. Mirabelle is a little bit different and a lot naughty. When her dad warns her she must be on her best behaviour at the fairy celebration, Mirabelle knows she should resist the temptation to get up to mischief. Torn between her fairy side which says she should be good and listen to her parents and her witch side which usually wins she is unable to resist taking her potions along. But what harm could be caused by the tiniest bit of witchy magic. Bursting with magic and mayhem this is a charming and whimsical read full of magical mischief. I can see this being a huge hit in school.

Unipiggle: Unicorn Muddle – Hannah Shaw

Princess Pea doesn’t quite fit into idyllic Twinkleland Kingdom where everything is just absolutely perfect, she finds it all too exhausting. When her mother, Queen Bee declares she has to have the perfect unicorn and organises as special parade, Princess Pea knows she has no chance of escaping from even more royal duties. But when a unicorn pig gatecrashes the parade, Princess Pea finally finds someone like her, someone who is a little bit different and likes getting a lot muddy. Now she just has to convince her parents that he’s the perfect royal unicorn despite him definitely not being what they had in mind for their precious princess. I really enjoyed this twist on the usual fairytale, Princess Pea is full of fun and mischief refusing to conform to everyone’s expectations of her. Vibrantly illustrated in a riot of colours this is an entertaining and energetic tale.

Kitty and the Treetop Chase – Paula Harrison & Jenny Løvlie

‘Kitty and the Treetop Chase,’ is the third book in this charming series from Paula Harrison and Jenny Løvlie. Kitty finds it strange when her mum invites a new friend over for a sleepover but she soon discovers that despite their difference they both have something in common, their superpowers. But they are still unsure of each other both convinced their ways are the best. When a commotion happens at the bakery it’s up to these new friends to find a way to work together. Can teamwork and friendship save the day?  These fun filled first adventures are truly delightful they’re already hugely popular at school. Beautifully illustrated in a two tone by Jenny, they are completely irresistible! She captures the fun and excitement of Kitty’s moonlight escapades brilliantly.

Thanks to Barrington Stoke, Little Tiger, Nosy Crow, OUP and Usborne BAH for sending me gifted copies of these books. You can buy all of these books online (click on the title link) or from your local bookshop. If you can please support an independent bookshop.