Monthly Archives: December 2020

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas – part two

To shamelessly steal a quote from a song but ‘it really is beginning to look a lot like Christmas’, slightly changing the next line to ‘books in every store.’ So if you like nothing better than settling down with a Christmas book or two, or if you’re looking for inspiration for gifts let me share with you today some of my favourites from this year’s releases from younger readers, all the way up to teens.

A Christmas in Time – Sally Nicholls, illustrated. by Rachael Dean (cover Isabelle Follath)

I hugely enjoyed the first book in this series, ‘A Chase in Time,’ so was thrilled to get my hands on the festive, ‘A Christmas in Time.’ Alex and Ruby are back in another time slip adventure and their aunt’s magical mirror has transported them to a Victorian Christmas. Meeting a familiar face makes things easier but they still have to figure out why they have been sent back in time. Despite the cheer and fun of the season, one of the cousins Edith is desperately sad, destined to be sent off to a horrible boarding school. Can Alex and Ruby find a way to save her from a terrible fate? Once again Sally has brought together superb characterisation with a richly, detailed journey to the past. I loved the chaos and disorder in the house and the wildness of the children who really know how to enjoy themselves which contrasts greatly with Edith’s inability to join in with the others. The attention to historical detail is richly imagined and fascinating. I particularly loved the scene where Ruby is getting dressed and is subjected to the horrors of the corset An absolute romp of an adventure that is bound to delight and entertain children, I’m so looking forward to the next books in the series coming next year.

Clifftoppers: The Frost Castle Adventure – Fleur Hitchcock

Fleur Hitchcock is back with the final instalment in the wonderful Clifftoppers series. In, ‘The Frost Castle Adventure,’ cousins Aiden, Chloe, Ava and Josh go on holiday to their grandparent’s cottages at Christmas. Witnessing a car crash they find themselves caught up in the Castle’s winter play where inevitably a mystery is unfolding. After a break-in, the car accident and the theft of a precious locker, the lead actress is convinced she is cursed. But the cousins are convinced that there is more to this than meets the eye and are determined to uncover the true culprit. As the snow falls heavily outside you’ll find yourself gripped by this race against time to find the locket and save the play. With twists and turns at every stage, it will keep you guessing to the end. Containing just the right amount of peril and danger for younger readers, this book brings this series to a glorious end. This series is rightly much loved by so many children at my school.

Trouble on Planet Christmas – Kate Saunders, illustrated by Neal Layton

The Trubshaw family are back in another fun-filled festive adventure when Santa has another crisis on the planet of Yule-1. Rogue toy dinosaurs are threatening to ruin Christmas be eating everything in sight and someone has turned Santa blue. Can Jake and Lucy discover who is behind this dastardly plan and prevent a Christmas catastrophe? This lively and fun tale is packed with chaos and comedy and will truly entertain younger readers. Kate and Neal make for a wonderful collaboration, his humorous illustrations capture her madcap storytelling brilliantly. More Christmassy than a mince pie and crackers , this definitely should be going in a child’s stocking this Christmas.

Tinsel: The Girls Who Invented Christmas – Sibéal Pounder, illustrated by Sarah Warburton

If there was ever a book that would get you in the festive spirit, then it’s, ‘Tinsel.’ This joyful reimaging of the Christmas story takes the reader on a journey to meet Blanche Claus aka Mrs Claus. We’ve always assumed that Santa is in charge of Christmas but what if we’ve got it completely wrong and it was actually Mrs Claus who wanted to spread joy and kindness to all. Hop onboard the sleight for a truly wondrous adventure where you’ll meet an over enthusiastic, dancing tree, a whole host of elves called Carol and a girl who is determined to overcome all of the odds to achieve her dreams. I loved the this vividly imagined world filled with so many wonderful details. The characterisation is superb, from the brave and endearing heroine Blanche to the despicable villain Mr. Krampus who you will love to hate, they bring the story to life magnificently. Sarah’s cover is absolutely sublime with such intricate details, I would have loved to have seen more illustrations from her featured in this book. Funny, warm and completely enchanting it has everything you need for a fabulously festive adventure.

Trouble in a Tutu – Helen Lipscombe

I was completely enthralled by the first book in the Swan House Ballet School mysteries, ‘Peril en Pointe,’ so was delighted to return to Swan House for another new adventure. When an incident takes place at a Christmas performance of The Nutcracker, Swan House is put on high alert. Could this signal the return of the dangerous criminal, the Mouse King? Milly’s mum is forced to abandon their Christmas plans to go off and investigate leaving her and the school in the hands of the charming Max Deverall. But Milly is convinced that Max and his perfect daughter Leonara are hiding something and is determined to expose them. Helen takes us on a fast-paced and thrilling ride full of thrills and spills as Milly tries to unravel the truth in a complex and exciting mystery. Cleverly plotted with lots of twists and turns, every time you think you’re getting close to the truth something else comes along to surprise you. An absolutely brilliant follow up which I will take great delight in recommending at school.

The Silent Stars Go By – Sally Nicholls

There are many historical books that choose to feature significant periods in history, with the World Wars being a favourite. But for me I’ve always been intrigued by the period of time after these wars. What happened to those left behind, the people whose lives where forever changed by the events that had taken place? Luckily for us Sally Nicholl’s has once again captured a slice of social history in the magnificent, ‘The Silent Stars Go By.’ When Margot’s fiancé, Harry, was reported missing in action she is left with a terrifying secrets which threatens to destroy her family’s reputation. Margot returns to her family to celebrate Christmas 1919 and is forced to confront her past when Harry who was later discovered to be alive returns and wants to rekindle their relationship. Can Margot tell the truth and risk ruining any chance of reunion she might have with Harry? The characterisation is flawless, Sally has a real talent for writing characters we genuinely care about. I love how it isn’t afraid to tackle difficult topics and does so in an uncompromising and unsentimental way. A bittersweet tale of love, loss and the damaging after effects of war. This compelling and thoughtful story of changing lives, hidden secrets and the importance of hope in the darkest of times is the perfect choice for the teen in your life.

Thank you to Andersen Press, Bloomsbury, Chicken House, Faber and Nosy Crow for sending me gifted copies. All of these books are available to buy now online by clicking on the the title. If you can please support your local independent bookshop you can find your nearest one here.


It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

To shamelessly steal a quote from a song but ‘it really is beginning to look a lot like Christmas’, slightly changing the next line to ‘books in every store.’ So if you like nothing better than settling down with a Christmas book or two, or if you’re looking for inspiration for gifts let me share with you today some of my favourites from this year’s releases.

Dogger’s Christmas – Shirley Hughes

I can’t tell you how excited I was to get my hand on a copy of, ‘Dogger’s Christmas,’ by the wonderful Shirley Hughes. Dogger is back in this gorgeous festive sequel which is bound to fill you with Christmas joy. Dave is growing up and his beloved Dogger is no longer his constant companion, overlooked in favour of new toys he’s abandoned and seemingly forgotten in the excitement of Christmas. But when Dave wakes up on Christmas Day night he looks to Dogger for comfort but he’s no where to be found. Can they find Dogger before it’s too late? This story is so beautifully illustrated and full of so much love and warmth on every page. In a year where we’ve realised how easily we’ve taken so much of life for granted, it celebrates the simple joy that can be had by sharing Christmas with family and friends. An absolute treasure of a book, I absolutely loved it.

The Twelve Days of Christmas or Grandma is Overly Generous – Alex T. Smith

Following on from the magnificent, ‘How Winston Delivered Christmas,’ Alex T. Smith is back with another fabulously fun and festive book that is guaranteed to entertain and engage younger readers. This hilarious take on the, Twelve Days of Christmas introduces the reader to Eloise and her overly generous grandma who lives to shower her in lavish gifts. At first things seem as normal but when snorkelling squirrels and balancing bears get involved you know you’re in for a heap of laughter. As ever Alex’s illustrations are intricately detailed and completely exquisite with each spread being a pure delight. This is an absolute joy to read aloud and you won’t be able to read without a giggle or two and the twist at the end is a really corker. Destined to be a Christmas classic, this is a must have gift for the child in your life.

A Dancer’s Dream – Katherine Woodfine, illustrated by Lizzy Stewart

‘A Dancer’s Dream,’ is a beautiful picture book adaptation of Katherine Woodfine’s, ‘Casse-Noisette,’ in the Winter Magic anthology. Based on the true story of The Nutcracker ballet, we meet Stana whose dreams come true when she is chosen to play Clara but her happiness is tinged with sadness as her sister Olga is gravely ill. Desperate not to let everyone down she tries to immerse herself in the ballet but finds her thoughts tangled up with the fate of her sister. Can Stana overcome her fears and dance like she’s never danced before? Katherine’s brings her gift of magical and atmospheric storytelling to life in this stunning book. It’s a truly thoughtful and heart-warming story, perfect for emerging readers or to share this Christmas. Exquisitely produced with delicately beautiful illustrations by Lizzy Stewart, it is completely enchanting and magical read.

Where Snow Angels Go – Maggie O’ Farrell, illus. by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini

I don’t tend to read very many books for grown-ups but I can never resist a book from Maggie O’ Farrell, so I was intrigued to discover that she had written her first book for children. ‘Where Snow Angels Go,’ is the extraordinary story of Sylvie who wakes up one night to discover a presence in her room, her very own snow angel that she unknowingly created and it’s here to save her life. She shouldn’t be able to see this being but somehow she can and despite being told she will forget about this night, she never does. Her mind is consumed by worrying about all of those people close to her, who have never created a snow angel, who will look after them? I loved how this story was completely magical but told in an honest and unsentimental way and still it brought tears to my eyes. It manages to be both witty and thoughtful and gives us an insight into the mind of Sylvie who has faced grave danger but doesn’t hide away from it in her quest to protect those she loves. Daniela’s delicate and exquisite illustrations are perfect for this story, she captures the wonder of Sylvie beautifully. This is a story that deserves to be loved and treasured.

Santa Post – Emma Yarlett

It’s Christmas Eve and Santa has a real life Christmas emergency. He’s received a letter from a little girl called Amy but it got burnt coming down the chimney and Santa can’t see what she wants. Despite thinking his very hardest, he can’t work out what she needs. He enlists the help from his friends, the elves, the polar bears and the reindeers. Will he manage to find the perfect gift in time for Christmas Day? Packed with letters and gifts to open this wonderfully interactive book is bound to delight younger readers. It is one of those stories that will be shared over and over again. Emma’s bold and vibrant illustrations are completely joyful, sprinkled with humour and a touch of Christmas magic this book is completely irresistible.

A Thing Called Snow – Yuval Zommer

Yuval Zommer’s books are a masterclass in capturing the beauty and wonder of nature, in ‘ A Thing Called Snow,’ he brings this talent to this lyrical story about the changing of the season. Fox and Hare were born in the spring, grew up in the summer and became best of friends by the autumn. When they hear a whisper of something called winter and with it snow they are curious to know what this thing might be. Together they set off on a quest to find it and on their way they meet many creatures and experience the true beauty of the Arctic. This book is a true celebration of nature seen through the eyes of those who have never experienced this new season emerging before beyond. Each spread is stunningly illustrated in a soft palette capturing the beauty of the natural world. A gorgeous book for curious minds, perfect for exploring and sharing.

Thank you to to Macmillan, Oxford Children’s Books, Penguin, Simon and Schuster and Walker for sending me gifted copies. All of these books are available to buy now online by clicking on the the title. If you can please support your local independent bookshop you can find your nearest one here.

All I Want For Christmas – Beth Garrod

I love Christmas, it’s my absolute favourite time of the year and there’s nothing I enjoy more than a Christmas story. ‘All I Want for Christmas,’ is a huge treat and is the perfect choice for the social media loving teen in your life. Holly is completely obsessed with Christmas but when a mortifying mix-up with her ex and some mistletoe happens it’s just the start of her plans going horribly wrong. Elle is on the other side of the world and is living her so called, ‘dream life under the spotlight of Instagram but the reality is far from the truth. Desperate to win a popularity contest she dreams up an extraordinary plan to swap lives with someone far away and guess who might just be the key to making this a reality? With both girls a long way from home for Christmas can they discover what they both really want from the festive holidays?

This book is a hugely feel good read but it’s not all sugar and spice. Underneath the tinsel and candy cane we see two girls who are a little bit lost and are trying to find their way to happiness. Beth is brilliant at making you laugh out loud as you witness both Holly and Elle going to extreme lengths to tick off their perfect Christmas lists. There are so many hilarious and cringeworthy moments as they both try to fully embrace the Christmas spirit even when they both know something is missing. She cleverly shines a spotlight on how social media creates this false image of reality, luring followers into believing what they see on a screen, when the truth can be so far removed. I think there is everything here you would want from a Christmas read, it’s funny and festive and is sprinkled with romance but it also tackles some difficult themes in a thoughtful way. She has a talent for creating characters that you genuinely care about it and that you’re desperately rooting for and hoping they have a happy ending. If you want to find out if they do, then you’ll have to read it for yourself. A perfect gift to pop in your favourite teens stocking this Christmas.

Beth Garrod

It’s officially Christmas-month! Finally. *scrambles for advent calendar* I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve been waiting since March. And now it’s December 1st, what a better time to unleash those jingle balls – and day two of the All I Want For Christmas tour.

All I Want For Christmas is all about two girls, Holly (Christmas obsessed) and Elle (Christmas way-less-Christmas-bothered) as they end up swapping lives for the holidays. But when Holly switches the UK for the States she doesn’t just want to get over her ex (and experience Red Cups in their spiritual home), she also wants to tick every single thing off her perfect Christmas list, including spreading a whole heap of Christmas cheer. And what better way to do it than sharing some of her favourite festive bops? So, every day on the tour we’ll be sharing just one of them – and for stop number two, it’s time for a tune that is new(ish) but still a certified Christmas banger….. (also, sleep check: 24 left. Woop).

Leona Lewis – One More Sleep:

Holly would describe this as a certified bop. Elle’s brother, Nick wouldn’t be so sure – but that’s because he’s never seen the visual delight of Leona Lewis performing it on the X Factor final in 2017 surrounded by dancing Christmas trees and person-sized presents.  A true festive gift. When Holly drinks multiple Christmas hot chocolates in a row, this is *exactly * the type of sugar-based holiday hallucination she’d have. But *maybe* it’s not just the song that Holly and Elle like – *maybe* they might be about to find out that Leona’s right, there is something magical about counting down to see someone extra special at Christmas. And *maybe* they might be about to find out who. But *maybe* that’s telling you too much…

Blog Tour

I do love Christmas and must confess to having put my tree up weeks ago and been playing Christmas music since the beginning of November, so I’m definitely like Holly. Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour for more Christmas songs and reviews…

Thank you to Harriet and Scholastic for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and for sending me a gifted copy of this festive treat. ‘All I Want for Christmas,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop. If you can please support your local independent bookshop you can find your nearest one here.