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.

Advertisements

The Light Jar – Lisa Thompson

‘The Goldfish Boy’ was one of my favourite debuts of this year so I was ridiculously excited to get my hands on an early copy of Lisa Thompsons’s new book, ‘The Light Jar.’ Despite my toppling to be read pile I couldn’t resist diving straight into this book and I devoured the whole book in one day because I literally couldn’t put it down. I was totally captivated by the story of Nate and his mother who run away in the middle of the night to hide out in a dilapidated cottage in the middle of nowhere. Nate is lost and confused about why he has been taken away from his home, he has so many questions but his Mum can’t give him the answers he craves. When his Mum heads out to get provisions and doesn’t return his loneliness and confusion is compounded. But salvation comes in the most unlikely of places when he accidentally bumps into a mysterious girl who refuses to let him be alone. This mysterious girl has her own puzzle to solve and together they must try to discover their own happy endings.

It’s so difficult to talk about this book without giving anything away because Lisa has crafted a superb story with so many hidden layers – that are gradually revealed throughout the story – I can’t elaborate too much for fear of spoiling it. But what I can share with you is the raft of emotions I have experienced whilst reading this book. Lisa has tackled an incredibly difficult subject in a completely sensitive way deliberately revealing tiny details throughout the book that when you combine them all together are utterly heart-breaking and desperately sad. However this is just one element of this remarkable story, she has cleverly woven these other mysteries into Nate’s life so that the reader doesn’t feel the full impact of the underlying truth of what has actually happened to him and his Mum. Beautifully written and exceptionally told this is a book that demands to be read and needs to be in every school library.

Thank you to Scholastic for sending me an early copy of this wonderful book, ‘The Light Jar’ is released on January 4th and is available to pre-order online or from any good book shop.

Sky Song – Abi Elphinstone

Sometimes you get your hands on a book that is so full of magic and adventure that you can feel it spilling out of the pages before you even open it. The thought of this book sent shivers down my spine and enticed me with talk of a tale of an evil Ice Queen who rules over Erkenwald, a snowy kingdom where whales glide between icebergs, wolves hunts on the tundra and polar bears roam the glaciers. A place where the children have been left all alone as their parents  lured by a haunted organ have become the Ice Queen’s prisoners at Winterfang Palace. Hope seems futile, despair seems inevitable until fate brings our young inventor Flint to cross paths with Eska, a girl who is trapped in a music box by a wicked curse. Together they must travel to the ends of their kingdom in the hope of discovering the truth behind the prophecy that tells of the Sky Song which is their only possibility of defeating the Queen.

‘Sky Song’ is the most magical, wonderful tale that made my heart sing, my pulse race and filled me with so much joy from start to finish. Magnificently atmospheric, Abi transports the reader to these vast snowy plains –  with dark magic rumbling beneath the surface – where tribes are hidden to protect themselves from the grasp of the Ice Queen. Moving at breath-taking speed this adventure is dark, thrilling and spell-bindingly captivating. Abi has created a cast of characters that are just sublime, a fearless eagle huntress Eska and a wondrous inventor Flint who believe in the old magic against all the odds. They risk everything they love dearly in their battle to save their tribes from the cruelty of the Ice Queen and it’s only the bravery of Eska and Flint that offers a glimmer of hope to overcome the darkness that lies across Erkenwald. Yet Flint’s sister Blu, who I absolutely adore, teaches them both that bravery and knowledge lie in the most unexpected places and sometimes they have to stop and listen to find the answers they’re seeking.

Like the Dreamsnatch series the power of friendship is at the heart of this story. It’s only when Eska and Flint unite that there becomes an opportunity for good to overcome evil. ‘Sky Song’ is a story about acceptance and tolerance, we learn how easily divisions can occur when hate is brought into people’s lives. Blu and Flint are  unique in that they go against the wishes of their tribe to reject outsiders and it’s this courageous decision that ultimately saves them all. The power of the Ice Queen is impenetrable until the tribes join together and unite in their anger at the damage she has done to their lives. An epic adventure filled with heart, friendship and daring this truly is an unforgettable tale I absolutely loved it.

 

Thank you to Abi and Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy of this glorious book, ‘Sky Song’ is released on January 4th and is available to pre-order from any good bookshop or online.

Do You Speak Chocolate – Cas Lester

‘Do You Speak Chocolate’ is an unusual story about friendship developing in the most unexpected of ways. When new girl Nadima arrives at school speaking very little English she struggles to make friends until Jas reaches out a hand of friendship by sharing her chocolate. Refusing to let this small obstacle get in her way Jas tries to communicate in a variety of different ways and she quickly discovers a mutual love of pizza, cake and of course chocolate through the power of emojis in text messages. For Jas this is her opportunity to have a friend who is exclusively her own, after her best friend has seemingly acquired a new best friend.  And so a special friendship is formed but when Nadima’s troubled past comes to light, Jas’s misguided efforts to help her friend put a strain on their friendship.

This is a wonderful story that manages to capture the highs and lows of teen friendship dramas, whilst dealing with an incredibly difficult subject in a sensitive and empathetic way. Cas has a genuine understanding of how girls interact and the pressures that they feel at secondary school. It’s reassuring for the reader to know it’s absolutely fine not to feel like you fit in or to worry about every decisions you make, even if things do go wrong. Jas is like a bull in a china shop she rushes in determined to do the right thing and then when everything turns into to a disaster she does pick herself up and try to carry on. We need to see children in ordinary every day life situations in books to help them make sense of their world and how they feel about themselves within it. In stark contrast Nadima’s experiences as a refugee are incredibly difficult for her friends to relate to,  they can never truly understand what her life was like in Syria. Cas very cleverly captures this fear and brutality Nadima has experienced towards the end of the story and it’s incredibly powerful and moving. I loved the characterisation, both Jas and Nadima’s families feel very honest and real making the story feel incredibly believable. Accessible and engaging this is definitely a story that I will be recommending in my library.

Thanks to Cas and Piccadilly Press for sending me a copy of this book, ‘Do You Speak Chocolate’ is available to buy online or from any good bookshop.

Fascinating Fact Books – For Older Readers

2017 has brought with it a wealth of glorious new non-fiction books for children. Earlier this month I shared my top picks for younger readers with some wonderfully interactive information books and today I will be sharing my favourite choices for older readers. Each of these books are wonderfully informative and feature the most vibrant illustrations and photographs to capture the imaginations of the reader.

Flying Colours: A Guide to Flags From Around the World – Robert G. Fresson

‘Flying Colours’ is one of the most beautiful and interesting information books that I have ever come across. I’ve always had a thing for flags, I used to spend hours as a child pouring over my atlas memorising the different flags of the world. But this brilliant book takes it up to a whole new level by exploring the patterns, colours and crests of flags as they have developed, reflecting the entire history of a country. Did you know that the American flag has had 28 variations since its conception? Or that the Spanish flag had purple bands to represent overthrowing the monarchy? And that the white band on the flag of Thailand represents purity and Buddhism. There is so much more to discover inside this glorious book. I loved the muted, rich palette used in the illustrations which gives this book a really vintage feel. Sublime illustrations matched with the most compelling facts make this book a real treat for inquisitive minds.

 

Horses Wild and Tame – Iris Volant & Jarom Vogel

‘Horses Wild and Tame’ is another visual extravaganza of an information book from Flying Eye Books. Tracking the important role that horses have played in our history, it takes the reader all the way from prehistoric times, through medieval ages to World War One. See how horses have evolved from their ancient relatives, discover famous horses in legends and stores and understand the bond that they have with humans. Each spread is exquisitely illustrated and features an array of captivating facts about these incredible creatures. A must have for horse fans this is a really unusual and beautiful examination of our equine friends.

The Histronauts – Frances Durkin & Grace Cooke

I’m always looking for new graphic novels to fill my library, so when the b small publishing got in touch to tell me about a brand new series they were launching called ‘The Histronauts’ I was immediately intrigued. The Histronauts aka Luna, Nani, Newton and Hero travel back in time to uncover the secrets of the past. By combining an exciting mix of story, facts and activities the reader becomes fully engaged in their journey of discovery. In the first two books they visit Ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire to explore dazzling tombs and ride in a speeding chariot as they take the reader on this breathless trip around the past. Wonderfully appealing and packed with so much to do and see I predict that these will be a huge hit in my school library.

13 1/2 Incredible Thing You Need To Know About Everything – DK Books

DK Books have done it again, another blockbuster book packed with the most incredible information about the most spectacular amount of topics. It doesn’t just give you a top 10 of facts, oh no you get 13 1/2 with the half fact being a misconception or half-truth that you may have heard and it in its place it gives you the actual TRUTH! Awesome photography meets fabulous facts in this comprehensive and entertaining guide to information. Who wouldn’t want to know everything about shark attacks, moon suits, stealthy stingers to name just a few. If you have a child who can’t get enough of facts then this is the book for them, a real treasure trove of mind blowing curiosities.

Thank you to b small publishing, Cicada Books, DK Books and Flying Eye Books for these glorious reads. All of these books are available to buy from any good bookshop and click on the title to buy online.

Cover Reveal – The Eye of the North by Sinéad O’Hart

I’m really excited to be sharing with you today the cover of Sinéad O’Hart’s captivating debut, The ‘Eye of the North’. This wonderful story will be published on the 8th February 2018 by Stripes publishing.

So without further ado here it is…….

Illustrated by Sara Mulvanny with cover design by Sophie Bransby it really is a joy to behold, such a vibrant and eye-catching cover. I absolutely love how this glorious cover sums up perfectly the epic adventure that Emmeline Widget finds herself on in the hunt to discover the truth about the disappearance her parents. Imagine if you will, dastardly villains, terrifying sea monsters and an unforgettable dangerous journey where unlikely friendship are formed and this just gives you a flavour of the brilliance of ‘The Eye of the North.’ I was totally entranced and swept away by this extraordinary, thrilling tale that moved at such a swift pace that it left me breathless. It held me tight in it’s grip with it’s wonderfully compelling  storytelling all the way through to its dramatic and exhilarating finale. Intrigued? Let’s find out more……

The Eye of the North

For as long as she could remember, Emmeline Widget had been sure her scientists parents were trying to kill her. But when they mysteriously disappear, Emmeline finds herself flung into an epic adventure that takes her beyond the barriers of her world and deep into the frozen north. Along the trail she befriends an assorted cast of characters, and together they face the dangerous and the deadly. Not everybody wants Emmeline to succeed, Doctor Siegfried Bauer is resolute on summoning a mythical beast from the depths of the ice. And he is not the only one….The Northwitch has laid claim to the creature, too. Can Emmeline face one of the greatest legends of all time and live to tell that tale?

Sinéad O’Hart

 

Sinéad O’Hart’ lives in County Meath, near Dublin with her husband and their daughter. She has a degree in Medieval Studies. a PhD in Old and Middle English Language and Literature and can read Middle English with perfect fluency. The Eye of the North is Sinéad’s first book. You can find out more by visiting her website of following her on Twitter.

Thank you to Beth and Stripes publishing for inviting me to host the cover reveal, ‘The Eye of the North’ is available to pre-order from any good bookshop or online.

 

Dinosaurium – Curated by Chris Wormell & Lily Murray

Today on the blog I’m kicking off the ‘Dinosaurium’ blog tour and I’m really excited to share with you a video interview with the illustrator of this glorious book, Chris Wormell. This fascinating interview looks at the creation of ‘Dinosaurium’, exploring the process of imagining the different dinosaurs and how Chris created the dinosaurs ensuring they are as factually  accurate as possible. I loved hearing Chris’s thoughts about working on this book and seeing the methods he used to bring the illustrations to life before my eyes. Sit back and enjoy this extraordinary interview….

 

 

‘Dinosaurium’ is another stunning addition to Big Picture Press ‘Welcome to the Museum’ Collection. It mixes perfectly an array of intricate and informative illustrations with the most fascinating facts that are overseen by palaeontology experts to bring you the most current knowledge about these creatures. It transports you millions of years back in time to discover a wide range of dinosaurs from the most well know Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus-Rex to the more obscure of the species Troodontidae and Orinthomimosauria. It is has to be one of the most insightful and comprehensive guides to dinosaurs for children that I have ever seen. Even the most avid of dinosaur fans are bound to discover something new within this incredible book.

Blog Tour

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

 Thank you to Antonia and Big Picture Press for inviting me to join this blog tour and for allowing me to host this wonderful interview.  ‘Dinosaurium’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.