Books for a Future

12 Nov


We are all reeling from the American election results and the impact a Trump-led leadership is already having on tolerance, equality and justice. And all that on top of our own Brexit backlash! This shift to a right wing leadership is going to have a huge impact on the most vulnerable in our communities and will leave a lasting legacy for our children to fix. 

So what can we do? We can stand together and stand up to bigotry and hate. Now is the time for solidarity, kindness and inclusion. It’s more important than ever to teach the children in our lives to stand up for what they believe in and to look out for others. My social media has been full of positivity and plans for action. It’s one of the things I love most about social media – when the shit hits, there’s always an uprising of hope. 

So here’s what I’m going to do, and I’d love for you to join me…

*Goes full Whitney* I believe the children are our future. And I believe that books can change the world. So I’m going to bring the two together by gifting an empowering, inclusive book to my local school every month, as well as highlighting the best of the bunch on here. 

Books teach children about the world they live in, and in turn about tolerance, appreciating diversity and supporting others. I want to arm children with these qualities. They are going to need them!

This is something everyone can do to make a difference. We all have children in our lives, whether in our families, in our social groups or in our communities. Sharing empowering books with them could make all the difference. And it doesn’t have to cost money. You could donate your time and talk to these kids about books and the world, or share the book recommendations with parents and teachers you know to help get these books to the kids. 


The first book I’m going to give is Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World by Kate Pankhurst (Bloomsbury). It seems very apt! I love this book more than I can say. It’s a hugely empowering, fun and fact-filled picture book about women who changed the world across very different fields, including Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo, Marie Curie, Mary Anning, Mary Seacole, Amelia Earhart, Agent Fifi, Sacagawa, Emmeline Pankhurst, Rosa Parks, and Anne Frank. I want to push this book into the hands of every girl and tell them it will be okay. That they can do it. That we believe in them and that we’ve got their backs. 


Want to join me? Perhaps you could gift a book to your local school, library or community group? Or to a child in your life? Perhaps you could give your time to read with a child at a local school. Have a look at Beanstalk and see if they work with schools in your area. Because reading unlocks the future. 

Sadly this awesome book is out of stock pretty much everywhere at the moment – that’s how good it is! – but more stock is coming and there are tons of fantastically inclusive and inspirational books out there. Perhaps you could gift one of these:

If you are concerned about right wing views on refugees and migration you could gift The Journey. If you fear for the freedom of the press and the impact of a biased media you could give Girl with a White Dog. If you want to empower young women you could give What’s a Girl Gotta Do? If you want to support inclusion try any of The Great Big Book… series. For LGBT awareness you could gift Made By Raffi. Or have a look at Letterbox Library for inspiration. 

I’ll be using #booksforafuture to share the book giving and highlight other awesome world-changing and empowering books that our children deserve in their lives. Come and join me. What books would you add to the list? 

A writer begins – book recs and kidlit advice please!

8 Nov

Right you lovely lot, I need some reading recommendations. My lovely friend @timesforrhymes is embarking on his children’s book writing journey. Mr Tree is a lovely, smiley, brightside person who believes in the power of books and words and reading, of imagination and children and change… He’s going to fit right in! 

Naturally my first response upon hearing his news was to throw loads of books at him ‘for inspiration’! I love sharing my favourites and he has been a captive audience. But now, as he ponders with pen in hand, he has come across the questions we all ask ourselves – as readers, writers, reviewers, publishers, teachers, and librarians – Where do I fit? Where do these words belong? Who is my audience? What is a ‘children’s’ book anyway? 

He has written a post about it here, asking for advice and for people to share their hurdles and how they overcame them. (Please do pop over and join in) It’s made me really sit back and think about my own writing journey. About all the incredible books I’ve read in the last few years, of how we really are living in a golden age of children’s literature and how lucky we are to be able to immerse ourselves in such inspirational and top quality works that move boundaries and push against conventions of age and genre. I want to share All The Books with Mr Tree, but as he starts his new venture and tries to find his place I want to share the books that will help him to do so. He is a poet, a word bouncer, a rhyme and rhythm kind of guy. So far I have shared some Caryl Hart, some A.F. Harold, some Rabbit’s Bad Habits and Wigglesbottom Primary. Next on the list are the wonderfully word bouncy works of Elli Woollard, Sarah Crossan and Katherine Rundell. Then Nuts In Space and Nibbles the Book Monster, combined with a splash of Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve. And this is where you come in… 

I’m looking for books that cross genres, break conventions, use awesome rhymes and rhythms and play with words and language. What would you recommend? What can you share with a fellow booky – or a booky fellow -? Let us know in the comments here or on Mr Tree’s blog here. And maybe pop over to twitter and join him on his journey @timesforrhymes

Albie is back! And it’s AWESOME!

7 Oct

9781471144783

The Albie books by Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves hold a special place in my heart. My daughter has grown up with them as firm favourites and even now, as she embraces full length chapter books and reading to herself, she regularly returns to Albie’s adventures. Her face lit up when this one dropped through the letterbox. A sure sign of a winning format!

I love the Albie books because of their celebration of childhood and imagination, and for their brilliantly casual inclusion. I’ve raved before about how Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves do this and how much I love them for doing so. Because it is an important thing. They make these books so much fun for kids but at the same time they think responsibly about how they present Albie’s world to them. That makes them superheroes in my eyes.

This latest adventure sees Albie turning into a superhero in order to tidy his room in time for ice cream. How to Save a Superhero has all the qualities you expect from a superhero adventure – the villain, mild peril, the trap, the rescue and the okay-i’ll-be-good resolution. It is fast-paced, action-filled and super fun. But guess what? There are different shades of skin colour here! And the villain is female. And there’s a girl superhero. And at one point the girl rescues the boy! 


All brilliant things that make me super happy. But, once again, the children enjoying this book won’t actively notice any of those things. Because THIS BOOK IS SO AWESOME and they will be far too busy dressing up as superheroes and desperately scrawling ‘I want a Flying Game Grabber and a Snooze Ray’ onto their wish lists. As it should be.

Bravo, Caryl! Bravo, Ed! High fives all round.

You can grab your copy here.

Source – kindly sent for review by Simon and Schuster.

The Bone Sparrow – A Refugee Story

7 Oct

9781510101548

Some books are important and teach you about the world and your place in it. Some books are beautiful and inspirational and leave you a changed person. This book is both. It will open your eyes, it will open your mind, and it will open your heart. This is a VERY powerful book.

Subhi is a refugee. Born in an immigration detention centre after his mother fled the violence of a distant homeland, life behind the fences is all he has ever known. But the world of his imagination is far bigger than that. The night sea brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories. The most vivid story of all is in the form of Jimmie, a scruffy, impatient girl who appears one night from the other side of the wires. Subhi and Jimmie might both find a way to freedom, as their tales unfold – but not until each of them has been braver than ever before.

This is a story about hope. It is about looking forward and standing strong for what you believe in. It is the power of storytelling and the importance of friendship. It sings when it could be crying. This is a book of truth, a book that doesn’t hide from the hardships and cruelties facing refugees but chooses to celebrate creativity and love and the strength of human kindness. Zana Fraillon has balanced it beautifully.

This is a book that shows you a world that needs changing and gives you the hope and strength to change it.

Orion Children’s Books are working in partnership with Book Aid International, and for every copy of The Bone Sparrow bought, they will donate a book to a refugee camp library.

You can get your copy here.

Source – kindly sent for review by the publisher.

The Beginning Woods

7 Oct

9781782690900

Oh this book! This book, this book. I almost want to leave the review there. Because how to tell you about this book?

The Beginning Woods by Malcolm McNeill (Pushkin Children’s Books)

The Vanishings started without warning. People disappearing into thin air – just piles of clothes left behind. Each day, thousands gone without a trace. Max was abandoned in a bookshop and grows up haunted by memories of his parents. Only he can solve the mystery of the Vanishings. To find the answers, Max must leave this world and enter the Beginning Woods.

This is a book that is deep and rich and layered. It explores that messy grey area where science and imagination collide and overlap. It looks at what it means to be human, what it means to live. The power of creativity and storytelling is here. The divisive fear of Other is here. It is a book that is far bigger than it appears to be, with whisperings of the past and the feel of an instant classic. It is beautiful. I wanted to both devour it and savour each word.

Did I mention it is Malcolm McNeill’s debut?

Zoe at Playingbythebook has written a wonderful interview with him here.

You can grab your copy of The Beginning Woods here.

Source – purchased copy.

Beyond the Laughing Sky

7 Oct

A beautiful, beautiful book that lifts you out of your reality and reminds you of the wonder in the everyday and that nothing is impossible.


‘Ten year old Nashville doesn’t feel like he belongs with his family, in his town, or even in this world. He was hatched from an egg his father found on the sidewalk and has grown into something not quite boy and not quite bird. Despite the support of his loving parents and his adoring sister, Junebug, Nashville wishes more than anything that he could join his fellow birds up in the sky. After all, what’s the point of being part bird if you can’t touch the clouds?’

Reminiscent of the work of Kate DiCamillo, Beyond the Laughing Sky by Michelle Cuevas (Puffin Books) caught me with it’s perfectly balanced magical realism. This is a book that will speak to you and stay with you long after you close its cover. I picked it up when I was feeling despondent, ashamed by the world we live in and in need of some positivity. And I can’t recommend it enough. It will be the hug-in-a-book that we all need in this crazy world of ours. But mixed with that hug will be a gentle kick up the butt to get you out there and seeing past the doom and gloom to all the wonder and joy and all the things we can do to make a difference. Because after all, there aint nothing that’s impossible, sugar!

You can get your copy here.

Source – purchased copy.

The Knight Who Wouldn’t Fight – and giveaway

5 Aug

I loved The Snatchabook and am a huge fan of Helen and Thomas Docherty’s work. So when I heard about The Knight Who Wouldn’t Fight I knew I was in for a treat. And wow, this book is a treat!


‘Leo the mouse isn’t like the other knights. While they like fighting, he’d rather read a book. Leo’s parents are keen to turn him into a proper knight, so they pack him off on a mission to tame a dragon. But Leo knows that books are mightier than swords, and he tames not just the dragon, but a troll and a griffin, too – by reading them stories. With its witty rhyming text and glorious, detailed illustrations, THE KNIGHT WHO WOULDN’T FIGHT is a joyful, magical picture book about the power of stories.’

Thomas Docherty‘s art work is luminous. I love the way he uses light and colour in his illustrations and the way he highlights sections of his pictures. Just beautiful. And Helen Docherty‘s rhyming prose is always spot on and full of warmth and humour.

What I really love about this duo is the way their books are a celebration of childhood and reading for pleasure. The Knight Who Wouldn’t Fight and The Snatchabook are particularly good at showing the joy of shared reading. What is not to love about a knight who spreads the love of stories and uses his books to make new friends.

To celebrate the release of The Knight Who Wouldn’t Fight, I have three of Helen and Tom Docherty’s books to giveaway. One winner will have The Snatchabook, Abracazebra and The Knight Who Wouldn’t Fight dropping through their letterbox. (UK and IRL only). To be in with a chance of winning, just add a comment on this blog post and I will add your name into the hat. For extra entries, feel free to share a link to this competition on social media – just make sure you add another comment on this blog post to let me know you’ve shared.

I will pick one lucky winner on Monday 8th August at 9am. Good luck!

Source- kindly sent for review by Scholastic. Thanks to Scholastic and Faye Rogers for organising this blog tour and providing copies for the giveaway.

For a brilliant analysis of The Knight Who Wouldn’t Fight pop over to LibraryMouse.

Check out the upcoming stops on the blog tour:


The Secrets of Billie Bright

3 Aug

Firstly, let’s all take a moment to stare at this cover. It is clearly delicious and worthy of a few moments of celebration.


I love Susie Day’s Pea books and have been looking forward to this one ever since she first mentioned it on Twitter. Although The Secrets of Billie Bright isn’t a book about Pea, it is part of the Secrets series and is set in the same world – and includes many familiar characters and all the familiar joy. 

What I love most about Susie Day’s books is the casual inclusion. She is an expert at creating fictional worlds that truly and positively represent the diverse world kids live in today. And once again, she has aced it! 

‘Confident, sparky 11-year-old Billie loves being part of a busy, noisy, messy family: chirpy cafe-owner Dad and her three big brothers – grown-up Gabriel who’s getting married, disaster-prone Raffy, and sweet sporty Michael. She doesn’t mind being the only girl; just being the littlest. But she’s catching up, starting secondary school, leaving the little girl behind. When Miss Eagle tells her class to write a Hero Project about someone who inspires you, Billie knows exactly who to choose: her lovely mum, who died when she was little. She can’t wait to pull out her Memory Box, and hear all the old family stories. But no one seems to want to help. When Raffy angrily tells her to choose someone else, she knows something’s up. Mum left behind a secret. And when Billie unlocks it, nothing will ever be the same…’

It is so refreshing to read a book that represents the families and family events that I see and experience in real life and I am ever-thankful that Susie’s books exist for my daughter to read when she’s older. What makes me even happier is that the Pea books and the Secrets series reflect this diversity as casually and as positively as they do; that the inclusion is always secondary to the story and they never slip into becoming issue books. They are all about the things that are important to middle grade kids- the growing up and figuring out Big School and balancing friendships and deciding whether kissing is a good thing or not. Susie Day really gets what children of this age group are going through and her books are like growing up manuals. She is awesome at creating characters that you fall in love with; that are creative and intriguing and flawed and wonderful. She writes with such skill and pace and whips you along on a positive and affirming ride. 

My daughter has never been teased or treated any differently for having two mums. She is growing up in such a beautifully diverse school and inclusion is the norm for these kids. And slowly the books they are reading are catching up with their reality. Hurrah for Susie Day and for Billie Bright.  

But don’t take my word for it – read it for yourself. You can get your copy here. 

The Smell of Other People’s Houses

31 Jul


Sometimes a title just calls at you. The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock (Faber and Faber) is an evocative title that immediately had me reminiscing and stitching together memories of childhood. And that is how this beautiful YA debut felt to read; like stitching together stories and dreams. It tells four intertwining coming-of-age stories, weaving together family history and strong sense of location. 

‘Alaska, 1970: growing up here is like nowhere else. Ruth wants to be remembered by her grieving mother. Dora wishes she was invisible to her abusive father. Alyce is staying at home to please her parents. Hank is running away for the sake of his brothers. Four very different lives are about to become entangled. Because if we don’t save each other, how can we begin to save ourselves? Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock’s extraordinary, stunning debut is both moving, and deeply authentic. These intertwining stories of love, tragedy, wild luck, and salvation on the edge of America’s Last Frontier introduce a writer of rare and wonderful talent.’

The sense of location soars through this book and centres everything. The descriptions of Alaska’s sounds, scents and sights are vivid and lyrical and the teen voices come to life from the page. The writing sings. Huge themes like teen pregnancy, poverty and domestic abuse are dealt with lightly but thoughtfully. The Smell of Other People’s Houses is heartbreaking yet hopeful. I loved it. 

Evocative, immersive, impressive! A beautiful debut. You can get your copy here

D is for Duck by David Melling

23 Jul

‘Duck is a magician. Abracadabra! He can conjure up a bunny, a chicken and even the King of the jungle. But can he make a dragon disappear?’

David Melling is the well-loved author of the Hugless Douglas series and, our firm favourite, The Ghost Library. D is for Duck is packed with Melling’s trademark humour and brilliantly quirky characters.

I love the way Melling turns the idea of an alphabet book on it’s head and nothing is as expected. It gives the book huge appeal across age ranges and provides so much for children to discover, explore and discuss. 

Just look at this spread. 

The expressions on their faces, the use of ‘hatch’ for H, the tipping table, the desperate duck… D is for Duck would make a great starting point for children’s activities. Making their own alphabet books, discussing what will happen next or using the pictures as a starting point for their own stories. 

There is so much in this seemingly simple alphabet book. The perfect activity springboard for every classroom.

You can get your copy here.

Source- kindly sent for review by Hodder Children’s Books.