Fab February Books for Kids

Fab February Books for Kids
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Get ready to fall in love with the fabulous books I have picked for you this February.  Read on to find out more …

Picture Books

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Are you a Monster?  Guilherme Karsten (author and illustrator), Happy Yak (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

Monster is a monster and he is looking for a friend.  Are you a monster too?!  If your little ones are anything like mine, they will adore this brilliantly interactive picture book.  They will giggle away when you ask them to show you their long, pointy tail, or their big yellow eyes, or even the prickles on their backs!  They will love making noises to prove their monster status…. Can they growl, can they roar…. How about stomping on the floor?!  With the most hilarious ending that has my children in stitches (but I can’t possibly give that one away), this book is a superb book to really engage your little one with the fun of reading.  There are actions galore, noises to make and brilliant drawings to look at.  We love the gorgeous little monster (who is not at all scary by the way!) who features in the book and the humorous illustrations, combined with the brilliant words, make this a laugh out loud picture book to enjoy with your little one.  Perhaps not a bedtime book (it makes my twins very excitable because it is so much fun), but certainly a feel good, funny, enjoy-for-the-love-of-reading and sheer, child-like joy book.  We adore it.

How to Make a Story – Naomi Jones (author), Ana Gomez (illustrator), Oxford University Press (publisher)

Aww, I feel like this book has been written for my children!!  One of my twins loves wolves, the other loves tigers and there are boy/girl twins in the story and so my children absolutely adored it as soon as we read it together!  Do you have a little one who loves making up stories?  Mine are constantly making up stories about wolves, tigers (see above comments!), superheroes, crooks and villains, to name but a few!  Milo just wants to tell a story but he doesn’t want to read one he has already read, he wants to make up a brand-new story, all for himself.  The trouble is, he doesn’t know how to go about it.  He is told that all good stories need a beginning, a middle and an end.  With the help of his family and the things that surround him, including two little ‘monsters’, Milo comes up with the best story ….if only he can learn to share it with his little brother and sister.  I just adore this book about storytelling and Milo learning the most valuable lesson of all: that stories are meant to be shared.  We love how the reader is educated about creative writing in the most age-appropriate and fun way, through wonderful, encouraging words and vibrant illustrations.  It’s a story which packs a punch about the power of words, but it also encourages empathy (Milo learns to see things through his little brother and sister’s eyes), love and sharing.  We love the fun, adventure story Milo designs within this story –  I mean, a story within a story, what’s not to love?!  The illustrations are fun, vibrant and pop with colour and brilliance, bringing to life the power of the written word in the most visual splendour.  Filled with imagination, fun and the potential and power of the adventures your stories can take you on, this is perfect picture book for little children with big imaginations.

Lizzy and the Cloud – The Fan Brothers (authors and illustrators), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

What a gorgeous book!!!  Wonderful and whimsical, wispy and wondrous.  We adore it!  Beautifully imaginative, exquisitely illustrated, I guarantee that it will captivate both the adults and the children in your house.  Lizzy and her parents go for a walk every Saturday to the park.  One Saturday, Lizzie chooses Milo, a little cloud from the seller in the park.  Other children might think clouds are a little out of fashion, but not Lizzie.  Milo is the cloud for her.  Armed with her cloud instructions for care, she takes Milo home and looks after him tenderly.  It is a job she takes very seriously and she pays careful attention to the instruction leaflet.  Sure enough, with her watchful care and attention, Milo begins to flourish.  He grows.  And grows. And grows.  Until there is just not enough room for one cloud and one little girl in the house.  What will Lizzie do?  We loved this story.  It’s whimsical and old-fashioned in some ways and yet it is so totally relatable to children in others.  Lizzie begins to realise that what is best for her cloud might not be best for her …. but if you love something then you just have to let it flourish.  It’s also hugely poignant and beautiful to every adult with a child or a pet with its endearing, part heart-breaking, part uplifting ending (I don’t want to spoil things too much but it is a beautiful ending to a beautiful book).  We adore the illustrations and the colour tones used throughout the book – there are pages with gorgeous splashes of colour and vibrancy and pages of pale, almost hazy-like monotone drawings; just perfect to convey the wispy cloud Milo.  The illustrations themselves are simply stunning, the book is an artwork in itself.  If you are after a book to give as a gift, this is a truly special one and I would urge you to seek out a copy.  We adore Lizzie and Milo and we hope you will too.

The Gecko and the Echo – Rachel Bright (author), Jim Field (illustrator), Orchard Books (imprint of Hachette Children’s Group, part of Hodder & Stoughton) (publisher)

Well, what an addition to the series by the dynamic duo, Rachel Bright and Jim Field.   It’s just the vibrant, fun pick-you-up you and your children never realised you needed and the perfect book to snuggle down with and think of lands afar during this wet and cold February!  On a sunny island paradise lives a little gecko with BIG dreams.  Goldy wants one thing only: to be a STAR.  He thinks he has musical talent.  All day and night, it’s always the Goldy-show and there is nothing Goldy won’t do to get to the top.  When the other animals on the island have had enough of Goldy’s selfish attitude, they finally confront him only for Goldy to flounce off thinking that they just don’t appreciate his talents.  Goldy travels on a lonely journey of self-discovery and begins to realise that fame and stardom isn’t everything!  We love this amazing story of love, kindness and selflessness which shows the power of giving our very best to the world and being in awe of what comes echoing back.    It’s side-splittingly funny to my five-year-old twins (what child doesn’t find burping hilarious, I ask you?!) and the brilliant, rhyming verse with its gorgeous story makes it a superb read-aloud.  The illustrations are simply stunning: spreads of fun and flamboyant behaviour from Goldy the gecko and gorgeous, colourful scenes of lush landscapes that make you feel warm just by looking at them!  Without spoiling anything, we love the ending of the book.  Heart-warming, filled with fun, lashings of love and a romp of a rhyming story, its our new favourite picture book!

The Emerald Forest- Catherine Ward (author), Karin Littlewood (illustrator), Otter Barry Books Limited (publisher)

What a powerful and moving book this one is!!  My heart.   Orangutan lives in a beautiful, verdant green forest, surrounded by wildlife and beauty as far as the eye can see.  She brings up her family, showing them how to swing through the emerald green trees, find food to eat and how to build a sleeping nest for rest.  But terror and strife come to the forest. There are loud noises, strange crashing sounds, alien metal creatures, acrid smells and smoke and fire …. Trees are torn down and Orangutan and her family are caught right in the middle of it.  She sees devastation and destruction all around her and trusts no one…. Until, that is, a kindly face offers her an outstretched hand and a smile.  Will there be someone to help?  Will she find somewhere to live with her family, after all?  This book is so beautifully moving.  It powerfully highlights the plight of the endangered orangutans for children and adults alike.  Through the exquisitely evocative illustrations, children can see the plight of the orangutans and the environmental crisis and habitat destruction that is taking place.  This is all done in an accessible and understandable way for its target audience and this beautiful book ends with hope, showing the work that wildlife campaigners and environmentalists are doing offering the misplaced animals a brighter and greener future.   We also love the note at the end of the book providing children with more information about the island of Sumatra in Indonesia (where Orangutan and her family are released into the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park (Thirty Hills)) and explaining how children can help orangutans, the rainforests and the other creatures that live in them.  A stunningly beautiful book telling a moving story, this would be perfect for any budding environmentalist but should be a staple for every bookshelf so that our children are brought up to value the Earth and all her amazing species.

Oh Armadillo! This Party’s All Wrong! – Ellie Irving (author), Robert Starling (illustrator), Happy Yak (imprint of Quarto) (Publisher)

What a fun book!!  I will let you into a secret, when I first photographed this book, I photographed it upside down (the proof is still on my Instagram grid!) but, do you know what?  That’s kinda the point of this book.  To show we all make mistakes, we all look at the world a little differently and it can all still be ok, it can all still be fun!  Armadillo doesn’t have many friends because he does things a little differently (personally, I think every Pineapple should have a name!)… and so he decides to invite the other jungle animals to his party.  Each of the animals enjoy different party treats, games and fun and little Armadillo tries to make the perfect party for each one of them.  He puts sponges in the sponge cake and makes a hot air balloon for big balloons, not to mention the actual musical chair he has gone great lengths to make.  So, he really can’t understand it when the jungle animals arrive and think his efforts are rather unusual.  Poor Armadillo!  What will happen at his party?  Maybe the jungle animals will end up having even more fun than they would ever have anticipated?!  This is such a hilarious romp of a picture book that my twins have giggled away at.  Armadillo’s antics are laugh out loud funny and entertaining in the sweetest of ways.  The gentle message underlying the rhyming story is so very important: there is nothing wrong with thinking differently to others –  creativity and imagination make the world go round.  The illustrations are bold and vibrant, brilliant drawings adding yet more fun and joyfulness into this humorous picture book.  It’s a hoot.  Armadillo, we think your party is all RIGHT.  We just wish we could join you at it!

Finding Floss  – The Colour Changing Cockapoo – Cara Matheson (author), Mirna Imamovic (illustrator), Owlet Press (publisher)

Don’t be fooled by the cover of this story.  It might look like an edible rainbow of cloud fluff (aww, it is just too visually gorgeous) but it is a book which really packs a punch about an immensely important subject matter for children: getting lost and staying safe.  I still remember to this very day the terror I felt when I lost my Mum in Woolworths when I was a child!!  Floss the cockapoo is very cute and very cheeky and has an extraordinary ability: to colour-change! She fits in perfectly with her blended family but she is always up to mischief as her colour-changing disguises cause riotous fun and havoc.  She loves to play “Finding Floss” but with her ability to blend into the background with chameleon-like abilities, she can cause a bit of trouble, especially when she hides in the toppings at the ice-cream shop.  The storyteller in this book is a little girl who is so excited when the family funfair comes to town but Floss is made to stay behind because she enjoyed it a little bit too much last time!!  Floss doesn’t let that stop her though and with her colour-changing ability, she enjoys all the fun of the fair (think coconut shies and bouncy castles, candy floss and rides) and is around to save the day when disaster strikes on the family’s day out.  Goodness me, this book is pure joy.  Not only will it brighten up your bookshelves but it also contains so many important messages – of love in all its various forms; of the special relationship and bonds with your pets; and of what to do and how to stay safe if you get lost.  Added to all of this are the joyous illustrations filled with colour, fun and fluffiness, and the representation of a mixed-race blended family, plus the information at the back of the book which provides advice on how children should behave if they get lost, this makes this book one of the must-reads of the year.  Oh, and those endpapers have just stolen our hearts!!

Planes, Planes, Planes! – Donna David (author), Nina Pirhonen (illustrator), Macmillan Children’s Books (publisher)

Get your boarding passes out and get ready for a joyful, vibrant and informative flight of fun through this playful picture book.  We have adored the others in this series (Trains, Trains, Trains! and Cars, Cars, Cars!) so we were very excited to be able to review this bright beauty of a book with its shiny cover which draws young readers in before the proverbial plane doors have even closed!  With its bouncing, rhyming text, this is a colourful book all about planes.  The rhyming text swoops and dives and loops the loop, joyfully following fifty fun planes across brightly-coloured pages.  Which will be your little one’s favourite?  Each plane is individually numbered which is an excellent and fun way to encourage number recognition and counting skills.  Your children are practising Maths without even realising it!  Our favourite part of the whole book though is the superb fold-out ending at the back of the book which details every fun plane (and its number) depicted on the previous pages of the book.  With playful illustrations and hugely engaging and colourful spreads, there is so much to discuss in this book, just like the others in the series….. long planes, short planes…. rescue planes, go planes …future planes, past planes…. your little ones are bound to spot a favourite.  There’s even a “Did you spot..?” section at the back of the book which my twins love because they adore looking for details in the vibrant illustrations.   We also love the hints and tips for carers which are provided at the back of the book about how to read this book together and about discussion points that might stem from this soaring adventure of a book.  Our favourite topic to talk about was where our next plane journey might take us on holiday (we can but dream during this cold and frosty February)!!  We will certainly be packing this gem of a book in our bags when we go.  Educational, fun, filled with expansive vocabulary and brilliantly detailed drawings, long may this “Vehicles” series keep racing on, we will be following wherever the ride takes us!

You Can Do It, Clover! – Hollie Hughes (author), Nila Aye (illustrator), Orchard Books (imprint of Hachette Children’s Group) (publisher)

The first in a new series, Little Bugs, Big Feelings, this picture book is an adorable and uplifting rhyming story reassuring little readers that big changes are never as scary as they first seem.  Meet Clover, she is a happy little caterpillar, enjoying her life and having fun with her friends.  It is almost time for all the young caterpillars to become beautiful butterflies, but sweet little Clover is worried.  She does  not want to leave her lovely life behind – she will miss cabbage and thinks she will be scared of flying.  With a little bit of encouragement from her lovely friend, Basil, Clover begins to realise that change is not as bad as she first thought: “Change, she starts to realise, doesn’t mean the party ends!”  This is a truly gorgeous story with truly gorgeous illustrations that enhance the wonderful words of the book.  With its lilting rhyme (which makes it the most perfect read aloud book), adorable and colourful illustrations of the insect world, and uplifting messages of reassurance, friendship and love, this is one of the most wonderful picture books around.  We love Clover and her worries are so relatable to the target audience of this book.  Change can be a very scary concept for little people (and big people, let’s be honest!) and this book is the sweetest story to help reassure little ones that changes are never as scary as they seem.  We look forward to more books in this wonderful new series.

Beware the Blue Bagoo – Karl Newson (author), Andrea Stegmaier (illustrator), Happy Yak (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

Follow a young detective through the pages of this rhyming picture book as they try to uncover the truth about the infamous “Blue Bagoo”.  Who is the Blue Bagoo?  The detective just has to ask questions of those around them.  Well, it’s grizzly, it’s wild, it’s spiky, no, covered in fur.   It’ll gobble you up for its dinner!! Arrgh!  The little detective listens to all of the wild tales from the community around them and, finally, they meet the Blue Bagoo.  Or is it the Blue Bagoo?!!  This book is MADE to be read aloud.  It has such a brilliant rhythm which twists and winds its way through the rhyming words of the story, just as the young detective winds their way through the cobbled streets of the picturesque seaside town where the story is set.  And if you keep on following then you might just find out the truth.  There’s no need to be scared!  This is such a fun tale with some really important messages: not to jump to conclusions, not to listen to rumours and to make our own minds up without pre-judging others.  The illustrations are fantastic – bold, colourful pages filled with wonderful images of the creatures in the community, really bringing to life the way that they are feeling throughout the pages of the story.  It’s a gorgeous tale of love and kindness and empathy set within a romp of a rhyming tale and my twins have adored it, especially spotting the little blue bagoos in the pages of the story!

Teddy’s Midnight Adventure – Yoko Mori (author and illustrator), Pushkin Press  (publisher)

Akiko loses her beloved Teddy’s eye in the garden one day.  Akiko’s Teddy is so small, how can they possibly ever find his tiny eye ever again?!  Surely it would help to be Teddy-sized?! One magical, moonlit night, after she falls off to sleep in slumberland, Akiko and her Teddy ‘shrink’ down and go to visit the garden to look for Teddy’s missing eye.  The midnight garden is surreal and mysterious but full of wonder and magic.  The two friends search high and low… but is there anyone that can help them?  Can the crickets find Teddy’s eye?  How about Mee-Chan the cat?  Or maybe Mrs Crow?  They come across wonderful wildlife: forests of glowing mushrooms and puffballs they can press…. But will they find Teddy’s eye?  Hopefully by morning Teddy will be good as new.  With its gorgeous and striking black, white and red illustrations laying forth a magical natural wonderland, this is a beautiful story to encourage young children to use their imaginations and to look for adventure even in the most normal of places for them.  It encourages them to be creative, to use their imaginations so that they can transform their gardens and homes into a wonderland of adventure and excitement.   It’s a heart-warming and very sweet read, perfect for getting your little ones off into a lovely sleep full of wonderful dreams where anything is possible.

Swift – Lorna Hill (author and illustrator) – Wren & Rook (imprint of Hachette Children’s Group) (publisher)

What an exquisite book! We adore this educational read all about one frightened little bird named Swift.  Swift feels safe and secure in his nest.  He doesn’t want to leave it but when all the other birds disappear and Swift is left alone Swift realises that he, too, must take flight to a new home, otherwise he will be left behind, cold and alone.  Swift soars speedily across land and ocean on a journey like no other, swooping and swirling in the sky …. But the outdoor environment can be treacherous and Swift is blown out of the sky during a storm.  He’s scared and alone in the middle of a forest and giving up hope until he finds another lost and lonely swift who has been grounded, just like him.  Can the pair stretch out their wings to form a friendship and soar off into the sky together to join the flock of birds moving south?  This is such a beautiful story of friendship and courage, based around the real-life journey of 22,000 miles that these magnificent birds make every single year.  The illustrations are beautifully moving and atmospheric and we adored the two-page spread at the back of the book providing lots of facts about swift behaviour and their marvellous migration, as well as information about the environmental and human threats that they have to face and how your reader can help these beautiful birds thrive.  We particularly liked reading about this after reading Swift’s moving and bold adventure which is brought to life through the stunning illustrations in the book. We hope this one flies off the bookshelves: it’s a gorgeous tale of friendship, community and resilience against all the odds.

Chapter Books

Space Blasters: Suzie and the Moon Bugs-Katie and Kevin Tsang (authors) Amy Nyguyen (illustrator), Farshore (publisher)

This is the second in this fun, STEM-themed series that we have read and we thoroughly enjoyed it.  (But, in case you were wondering, you can absolutely read it as a standalone book).  Suzie Wen is the newest member of an awesome, universe-saving crew called the Space Blasters and she cannot believe how fortunate she is to be able to explore the galaxy on a spaceship and meet lots of different aliens.  But when the Space Blasters’ spaceship crash lands on a strange planet, Suzie and the crew find themselves in a strange situation.  Why does it seem like the walls of the spaceship are giggling?  Why are there lots of carbon copies popping up of the crew?  Suzie is going to have to use her wits and try and get to the bottom of these problems.  With the help of some members of the crew, Five-Eyed Frank and Three-Headed Tommy, Suzie needs to find the knowledge worms on the planet they have landed on and come up with a plan to save the spaceship.  When she discovers that the spaceship has a moon bug infestation which is being led by an evil Queen moon bug, she knows she needs to come up with a brilliant idea, and fast.  Can the Space Blasters save their spaceship, deal with the scary Queen moon bug and save the universe?!!   Perfect for readers age six and above, we love this space-themed story.  Filled with fun black and white illustrations and engaging font and style, it’s a brilliant book to keep your little reader absorbed in the fast-paced storyline.  There are fun hexagonal-shaped fact boxes and non-fiction details interspersed throughout the story which promote STEM themes and are interesting to fiction and non-fiction fans alike.   A sensational space story for any budding scientist, space-enthusiast or adventure addict.

Press Start! – Game On, Super Rabbit Boy! and Super Rabbit Boy Powers Up! – Thomas Flintham (author and illustrator), Nosy Crow Limited (publisher)

Get your game on and Press Start on your reading!  This fabulously full colour new series of graphic novels is all about Sunny’s favourite computer game, Super Rabbit Boy, and will hugely appeal to any child who loves gaming.  Your children can join Sunny and Super Rabbit Boy in the first two books in this fun, colourful series.  In the first book Sunny is trying to rescue Singing Dog from King Viking (the destroyer of all fun in Animal Town) and bring back fun and happiness to Animal Town – can he manage it?  Powered by magic carrots and bucketfuls of determination, this is one action-packed gaming adventure.  In the second book, Sunny and Super Rabbit Boy have to stop the villainous King Viking from stealing the mighty “Super Power Up” which will allow him to take over the land.  It’s hidden away in the Secret Lands and Sunny and his whole family take Super Rabbit Boy on a fun quest across level after fun level to try to find the Super Power Up before King Viking gets his hands on it.  These are wonderful full colour picture chapter books.  They are superb short readers for those who struggle with lots of text in a block and would make brilliant first chapter books for those children setting out on their independent reading journey.  Colourful, filled with hilarious illustrations and gaming references throughout, these would be perfect for any child who loves computer games.  But their appeal is much more wide reaching than that: my children don’t really play computer games but they love the fun style, the visually appealing layout and the action-packed plot line and cannot wait to press start on their next adventure.

Star Friends – Mystic Forest – Linda Chapman (author), Kim Barnes (illustrator), Little Tiger (publisher)

The latest in the very sweet “Star Friends” series sees the friends going off together on an action-packed camping trip.  There is a quick synopsis at the beginning of this book about the characters involved so even if your little one has not read any of the others in the series then this book can easily be read as a standalone, fun-filled adventure.  Maia, Lottie, Sita and Ionie are all friends with a magical secret – they have their own magical Star Animal which helps them tap into magic currents and help people.  In this book, the Star Friends are very excited to be going off on a camping trip to a forest together.  Or are they?  Ionie is less enthusiastic than the other girls and is not quite as keen on some of the outdoor activities but one of the camp leaders, Miss Amadi, provides her with lots of reassurance and she starts to feel a lot better, particularly when things start to go wrong around the campsite and there is a mystery to solve! Could it be that someone, or something, is trying to sabotage the forest camp?  Could magic be being used?  The girls are determined to find out what is going on and stop it!  Can they find out what is causing all the mayhem and chaos?  This is a sweet chapter book, filled with friendship, fun, adventure, and, of course, magic!  There are adorable black and white illustrations interspersed throughout the book, really providing maximum engagement for the target audience of chapter book readers and bringing the magical adventure to life.  We hope for many more in this marvellously magical series.

Middle Grade

21% Monster – P.J.Canning (author), Usborne Publishing Ltd (publisher)

Being honest, this book took me by surprise.  I wasn’t sure whether I was going to enjoy it or not but it totally blew me away.  I was addicted, right from the first chapter and I read the entire book in 24 hours.  Darren Devlin isn’t like the other children at his school.  He finds reading impossible and he loves hiding away from the bullies that tease him and sometimes he feels a rage inside him that he cannot control.  When he is arrested for destroying his school with his bare hands, he begins to realise that it is not just the police who are interested in him.   A secret organisation, responsible for some heinous crimes, are desperate to get their hands on him but so, too, is Marek Masters, the most intelligent being alive on Earth.  Part alien, part human, Marek wants to supply Darren the truth about his unusual DNA and that he is 21% monster, and wants to explain all about the secret organisation that is hunting Darren and Marek down but can Marek be trusted?  Does he just want Darren to be his own pet?  Powerful and dangerous, both boys are wanted and have their own grudges but what will happen to these genetically modified superhumans?  Goodness me, I could not put this fast-paced sci-fi page turner down.  It is a story like no other, blending science, aliens, technology and monsters along with a twisty-turny plot that you don’t want to stop reading.  I didn’t know who to trust half the time!  It’s clever, it’s original and it’s a five-star read from us.  We look forward to the next instalment, pretty please!

Rainbow Grey – Battle for the Skies – Laura Ellen Anderson (author and illustrator), Farshore (publisher)

We were doing equal parts little rainbow squeals of happiness and sobs of sorrow at the fact that the final #raygrey book fell onto our doormats for review.  My eldest daughter and I love Rainbow Grey (we both have very fond memories of reading the book together in the middle of the night one weekend when my daughter was really poorly with tonsilitis!!) and this last book burns bright as the showdown between Rainbow Grey and Tornadia Twist storms and rages.  In the finale of these books all about this wonderful weather world, the whole of The Weatherlands and Earth depends on Ray Grey defeating the terrible and terrifying Tornadia Twist and her evil, raging weather magic.  Ray has to try and figure out what her mystery gift is and unlock the key to her own powerful magic so that she can stop Tornadia from destroying the world.  Can Ray Grey find the two Forever Crystals that can help her succeed?  She is certainly going to need the help of her wonderful weather friends to assist her along the way.  Will she win the battle of the skies?  Well, I obviously can’t tell you that but I can tell you that you really need to read this book!!  Fizzing with fun, inventively brilliant and filled with the most lovely messages of caring for the environment, hope, friendship and resilience, this is one epic adventure.  We adore the amazing black and white illustrations and changes in page colour from black to white and back again which really make this book a visually stunning read, as well as fast, page-turner of an adventure.    We love the power of hugging the trees which comes across in the book (I don’t want to spoil this one so I am not saying any more – I’ll just leave this here, a little cliff tree-hanger, if you will) and colour and magic which bursts out of every page.  It also contains one of the best lines we have read to empower children: “”Each of us is “just one kid” but if EVERY “kid” tries to make a difference, then we become lots of kids making a difference.””  It’s a whirlwind of an adventure with a BIG heart at its centre, filled with friends, old and new, and a fantastic finale. We are broken-hearted and uplifted all at the same time. #raygrey forever!!

The Rescue of Ravenwood – Natasha Farrant (author), Faber & Faber Limited (publisher)

An epic adventure about the fight for what is most important, I raced through this book because I could not put it down.  Bea and Raffy call Ravenwood their home.  It’s wild, it’s unkempt and it’s beautiful.  It’s owned by Bea’s father and two uncles (one of whom, Uncle Leo, is in love with Raffy’s mother Martha, who also lives with them at Ravenwood) and it is under threat.  It’s a refuge to Noa when she is invited to stay.  It’s also about to be sold and demolished and the wildlife contained within its grounds, including an ancient Ash tree, destroyed and cut down.  What can these three children do to stop the world around them falling away and everything they hold precious from being destroyed?  Can Bea make a long journey across Europe all by herself in time?  Can Raffy protect the wildlife he so loves?  Can Noa figure out what caused a fire that put the sale of Ravenwood into motion?  Can three determined, resourceful children fight for what they believe in and win?  I adored this eco-friendly, uplifting, fast-paced adventure.  It’s filled with important themes about protecting our environment and fighting for what you believe in, as well as studying complicated family relationships and highlighting the importance of love, friendship, community spirit and hope.  Its characters are full of resilience and determination and your reader will be flying through the pages desperate to find out what will happen in this gripping adventure.  Inspiring, relevant and hugely important in helping to educate our children about the environment, this book is a definite must-read.

Diary of an Accidental Witch – Unexpected Guests – Perdita & Honor Cargill (authors), Katie Saunders (illustrator), Little Tiger (publisher)

My eldest daughter and I adore these wonderfully witchy books so we were very excited when a new one dropped onto the doormat for review!  This can easily be read as a standalone book but, for background, Bea Black is an eleven-year-old girl who lives in Little Spellshire and attends the Spellshire School of Extraordinary Arts, a school for witches.  Bea is now staying in Little Spellshire for good (yey!!) so she is going to study extra hard on her potions and spells and learn all about her new hero, Minerva Moon.  But the school is under inspection this term – are the pupils ready for such important visitors to come looking around the school?  Can the school friends show off their skills?  What magical mayhem will ensue and what part will Minerva Moon play in it?  You will just have to read this marvellous, magical middle grade read to find out!  And you won’t be disappointed if you do.  We love the diary format of these books, making them easy to read, fun and digestible.  Not to mention the diagrams, the to-do lists, the extracts from notes and letters… all making for such a fun and engaging book.  The black and white illustrations are fantastic: filled with humour and lots of adorable details which really ensure maximum fun. The drawings themselves are hilarious and serve to ensure that your little reader really pays attention to the absorbing details of the storyline.  I think my daughter wishes she was Bea Black and attended Spellshire School herself!  Filled with magic and mayhem, friendship and fun, charms and chuckles, these books have really cast their spell over us and we really hope for more in the series.

The Song Walker – Zillah Bethell (author), Usborne Books Limited (publisher)

A young girl wakes up in the middle of the outback.  She has only one shoe on and she is clutching a strange metal case as if her life depends on it.  She has no idea where she is or who she is. What an opener to a story!!  You can’t turn the pages of this book fast enough to find out what is going on in this extraordinary adventure.  Exhausted and utterly confused, the girl meets Tarni, another young girl who is undertaking a mysterious quest of her own.  Together, the two girls journey across the harsh and unyielding, but spectacularly beautiful, landscape of the ever-changing Australian Outback.  Both of the girls are searching for answers to questions.  But both of the girls are hiding big secrets.  What will happen when they discover the truth?!  The ending of this book had a huge twist that I genuinely did not see coming.  It was an addictive, fast-paced read and I was desperately searching for the answers to the questions that the characters in the book are faced with.  I loved the descriptions of the landscape and the writing was so evocative that I could honestly almost feel myself journeying with the two girls at times.  I also loved the themes of friendship, love and community spirit interwoven throughout the book and I was fascinated to learn more about the First Country heritage.   I won’t spoil the ending of the book for you but if your child enjoys fast-paced adventures, full of suspense and a gripping, twisty-turny plot-line then this is the book for them.

Graphic Novels

Mr.Wolf’s Class – Aron Nels Steinke (author and illustrator), Graphix (an imprint of Scholastic) -(publisher) (recommended reading age: 7-9)

My daughter stole this book and ran off to read it all as soon as it landed on the doormat for review!!  Her words: “It was brilliant, Mummy!”  Let’s take a look why ….  This is a vibrantly colourful new series that centres around the everyday antics in a fourth-grade class of an elementary school.  We join Mr Wolf on his first day of teaching at Hazelwood Elementary: he wants his first day to go swimmingly but he has his hands full with his new class of students.  There’s the new girl, Margot, who just wants to make friends; Aziza, who just wants tests all the time; Stewart, who has brought his great-great-great Grandma’s brain to school for show and tell; not to mention a student who happens to go missing for most of the day!!  This is a laugh out loud graphic novel capturing the everyday goings-on in a typical classroom which is very relatable to its target audience.  The illustrations are brilliant: vibrant, humorous cartoon-style drawings which bring the fun of the storyline to life and make the book an engaging, page turner of a read.  The illustrations are printed in full colour, adding to the fun and playfulness of the storyline itself.  A great graphic novel for any young fans of the genre.  We love it here.

Young Adult

Influential – Amara Sage (author), Faber & Faber Limited (publisher)

Gosh, did this book make me think!  It was a real eye-opener into the influencer world.  Almond Brown was born influential.  Pushed into the limelight by her well-meaning blogging/vlogging/social-media loving mother, at 17 years old she is really feeling the pressure. The pressure to always present a smile, to document her entire life online, to publicise brands, to always look immaculate, or to filter it if she doesn’t!  The notoriety of having 3 million online followers watching her every move comes at a price. Almond is deeply unhappy: she has fallen out with her best friend, is on anti-depressants and she is self-harming.  She is desperate to get away from what her life has become and so when her Mum arranges for her to attend some group therapy sessions for teenagers, it turns out to be the best thing to happen to her for a long time.  When an online troll makes Almond’s life an absolute misery and starts blackmailing her with abusive and horrendous content, Almond finds out that her offline friends are truly the only thing that matters.  This book comes with a lot of trigger warnings – racism, mental health issues, self-harming, alcohol and drug use, suicide, toxic friendships, bullying and sexual harassment – as well as exploring the highs and lows of an online social media presence, but it is such an important and fascinating read.  Yes, it does get quite dark in places but I always felt that it was totally believable and realistic (sadly) in terms of what people will do online, particularly when hiding behind an anonymous username.  It’s an unmissable exploration of online culture and social media presence, all wrapped up in a fast-moving text with a relatable and likeable main character and brilliant themes of friendship, family and love bundled together with the darker themes discussed above.  An amazing new voice dealing with important issues in Young Adult literature. 

Non Fiction

Our Planet – Matt Whyman (author), foreword by David Attenborough, Richard Jones (illustrator), HarperCollins Children’s Books (publisher), recommended reading age – 7 plus.

Wow! This book is a feast for the eyes! The official children’s book all about the amazing Netflix documentary series looking at our awe-inspiring planet, this book will inspire and delight your children in equal measures.  There was a squeal of excitement from my eldest daughter when she saw that the foreword of the book was written by Sir David Attenborough!  Beginning with a beautifully illustrated map of the Earth, the book explores every corner of our planet, from frozen extremes to our deserts and grasslands, the high seas to the forests around the world.  There are gorgeous illustrations and stunningly beautiful photographs throughout each page of the book ensuring maximum engagement with the factual information about the area of the world in focus.  There is information about the area, followed by stories from that area of focus and then blocks of text about how to protect that landscape.  Your children can learn all about these different habitats, the animals that call them home, and how these fascinating habitats interconnect to create the one world we all call home.  The exquisite illustrations and remarkable photographs bring this amazing work of non-fiction to life.  Filled with hope for the future, ideas for protecting our beautiful planet and brilliant text written in an easy to understand and visually appealing format, this is a wonderful work of non-fiction that would make the perfect gift for any animal lover but I believe it is a must for every bookshelf to help educate our children about protecting our planet.

Little People, Big Dreams – Shakira – Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Laura Diez (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

Wowee!! This is the latest book in this fabulous series and what a book.  What a lady.  What an icon.  I defy you to read this book without humming one of her fabulous songs (for me, it’s ‘hips don’t lie’).  The Queen of Latin American music takes centre stage in this brilliant book all about how Shakira became obsessed with music, songs and dancing.  She recorded her first album (which was not a success) at the tender age of 13 but didn’t let the fact that it was not a hit stop her from pursuing her dreams.  We also learn how, at a very young age, she realised that all the aspirations to be a star were worthless if she was not also a good person too and the book tells of her compassion to those less fortunate than her and of the promise she made to herself that she would one day help others who needed her help.  Not only did Shakira persevere to reach the top of the charts in South America but she also took her music right across the globe.  Everyone was swaying and singing to the sounds and rhythms she blended together from around the world.  On top of all of that, she kept her promise: this book showcases the amazing work Shakira has done by creating a foundation that brings hope, education and promise to Hispanic children who need it across the Americas.  It also highlights that work she has done as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for children struggling in developing countries.  A truly inspirational lady who dances to the rhythm of what is right and good in her heart.  Did you know that “Shakira” means “grateful” in Arabic?  Well, we are truly grateful for the work that this lady has done and grateful for this fantastic addition to this fabulous series.  Motivational, full of determination and resilience, packed with amazing artwork to complement Shakira’s colourful life, this is an incredible work of non-fiction.

A Day in the Life of an Astronaut, Mars and the Distant Stars – Mike Barfield (author), Jess Bradley (illustrator), Buster Books (imprint of Michael O’Mara Books Limited) (publisher)

The Blue Peter Award winning duo are back again with the latest in this fantastic series to take your little reader on an out of this world journey through our galaxy and beyond.   What do a hairy star, a space poo, a zombie and a copycat all have in common?  Well, they all feature in the colourful comic-style pages of this superb work of non-fiction.  With over 90 fascinating and fun-packed entries, your reader will be awed (and sometimes grossed out!) by the wonders of the universe.  Your reader can learn all about space onions, or the poisonous clouds of Venus, or the importance of a pack of colouring pencils in space history, or read the secret diary of an Astro-mouse… They can discover the black holes, zombies, super-novas and far-flung galaxies out in infinitesimal space, or find out about the historic figures who pioneered space travel and the awe-inspiring and ground-breaking technology that took them there.  And the best thing?  You can dip in and out of this fantastic book.  Each comic-style entry is filled with colour and fun and yet is fascinating in the extreme.  The information is set out in easy to digest chunks of information with plenty of vibrant and laugh out loud funny illustrations to accompany it  – it’s non-fiction in the most interesting and engaging format.  My eldest daughter LOVES these books and she is really into space at the moment so this one holds a real fascination for her.  Fun, informative, filled with hilarious illustrations and fascinating facts, this book is really out of this world.  It’s space as you have never seen it before.  We can’t recommend it highly enough.

 100 Things to Know about Architecture – Louise O’Brien (author), Dalia Adillon and Leanne Daphne (illustrators), Happy Yak (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

What a concept!  Learn all about the fascinating world of architecture in just 100 words.  This beautifully illustrated book explores some of the world’s most iconic and famous buildings as well as looking at the history of architecture through the ages.  We didn’t know much about architecture before we read this book and that is why it is so brilliant.  You can dip in and out of it, taking in a word or two at a time, or you can pick out specific styles and topics of interest to you.    You can go on a journey through buildings, from mud huts to the most impressive skyscrapers of the world, take in arches and pyramids or look at blob architecture and bubble palaces (I kid you not!!).  It’s inspiring in the extreme, looking at some of architecture’s greatest achievements and developments which are brought stunningly to life through the exquisite illustrations on the pages of this vibrant and beautiful book.  There are so many cool buildings to pore over and wonder at, as well as fascinating people to explore and different civilisations to read about.  It’s fun, it’s bold, it’s beautiful and some of the ideas and concepts are mind-blowing in their ingenuity.  We also love the final pages of the book which talk about the future of architecture and how to preserve our Earth and its wonderful wildlife.  For anyone who wants to know more about architecture, for any budding architects out there, for anyone who has a curious mind and loves a cool book, this is the read for you.  It would also look fantastic on your coffee table after the children have pored over it!

Scientists in the Wild Galapagos – Helen Scales (author), Romolo D’Hipolito (illustrator), Flying Eye Books (publisher)

Come on a journey with some amazing scientists to one of the most fantabulous places on Earth!  Learn all about sperm whales and their emergency poos (!), discover the fascinating and active Wolf Volcano, dive down into Devil’s Crown and go swimming in a glass of champagne!!  With the most beautiful, exotic and rare wildlife to discover – from pink iguanas to blue-footed boobies, giant tortoises to land snails – your little reader will have their minds blown by the fascinating facts that this book contains.  Joining a team of scientists who are tasked with observing and protecting the Galapagos Islands’ amazing and special wildlife, the pages of the book follow their journeys, studying the plants and animals that are unique to this incredible archipelago.  It’s a hugely engaging expedition of a non-fiction book – your child will scale the highs and lows of volcanoes, drive a deep-dive submersible and explore the fascinating main islands and small islets that were all made by volcanoes.  I can’t tell you how many mind-blowing facts about wonderful wildlife we have sucked up and enjoyed because of this fabulous work of non-fiction.  It is exquisitely illustrated, interactive (with its pages you have to turn sideways to read, as if you diving down deep into the Pacific Ocean yourself), and filled with incredibly interesting facts.  We love that the illustrations are plentiful, filled with colour and vibrancy and representative of the gorgeous wildlife that can be found in the Galapagos.  We love that the facts are interspersed throughout each two-page spread so that they are easily digestible and eye-catching.  We love the interactive elements.   We love the information about Darwin.  We love the fascinating yet heart-breaking information about the endangered species.  We love this book.  A superb addition to any non-fiction bookshelf, we can’t recommend it highly enough.  I am off to book our flights to the islands (I wish!!).

Little People, Big Dreams – Terry Fox – Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), T.Connor (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

As you will know if you have been reading this blog for a while, we absolutely adore this series of books.  I found this book about Terry Fox a beautiful but hugely emotional read. Terry Fox – what a hero!  Having loved sports as a child, it must have come as a huge blow to him to be diagnosed with a type of bone cancer which led to the amputation of his leg at only 18 years old.  But did he let that stop him?  No, he most certainly did not.  He became inspired by the first amputee to complete the New York City Marathon and decided that he was going to run the length of Canada – 5000 miles – to raise money for cancer research!!  His mammoth marathon was named the ‘Marathon of Hope’ and crowds of people got behind Terry, who was running almost 26 miles a day, to cheer him on.  He raised thousands of pounds for charity but eventually, he had to end his marathon early because his cancer worsened. Aged only 22 years old, he sadly died.  His life though remains as an inspiration to people across the globe, showing the true strength of the human spirit and the dignity and determinedness he showed when faced with adversity of the most challenging kind. The Terry Fox Run is held annually in Canada and across 30 other countries around the world, highlighting Terry’s tremendous spirit and determination, and is the world’s largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research.  This story is truly an inspiration.  As ever, the illustrations are phenomenal- vibrant and larger-than-life, filled with the colours that evoke memories of the decades in which Terry lived and showed true spirit.  Yes, it is a tremendously sad story, but it is also a story filled with resilience, and determination, and, above all, hope.  The two-page spread with the black and white illustrations is excellent for providing real-life photographs of Terry and setting out a timeline with further details about this man’s remarkable, yet all too short, existence.

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Fiona lives in Yorkshire with her husband and little girl who is 6 months

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