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. 

Hiding Heidi by Fiona Woodcock 

8 Jul

Heidi and her friends love to play hide and seek. The trouble is, Heidi always wins. She can’t help it – she’s just too good! But Heidi soon learns that being hard to find can be hard to take, so she needs to come up with a plan…

Hiding Heidi is a beautifully designed and deceptively simple picture book. The artwork is gorgeous and the story is light and well paced. The joy here is that Fiona Woodcock hasn’t dumbed down for a younger audience, but has left room for them to explore and investigate the pictures and to have their own ideas about what is happening in each picture. 

The illustrations are packed full of printed shapes and patterns and would be wonderful inspiration for printing and shape games for children. There’s lots of scope for talks about hiding and camouflage here too. It really is a book that belongs in nurseries and infant schools alongside a stack of art supplies. 

A very impressive debut. A scrummy, beautiful book that will win the hearts of children and teachers alike.

You can get your copy from Indy-loving, tax-paying here.

Source – kindly sent for review by Simon & Schuster.

How to read Paper Butterflies

8 Jul

There are some books that you can just drop into your bag and pick up whenever you can steal a minute’s peace. And then there are some that need military planning to ensure your survival as you read it. Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield (Electric Monkey, Egmont) sits squarely in the latter category. But don’t let that put you off, for this book NEEDS to be read. It is stonkingly good. You owe it to yourself to read this book. Just follow these pointers to help you through.

Be prepared! There are a few things you will need before opening Paper Butterflies. I would start by checking your freezer. Yep. You will need a book sized space in your freezer in order to lock this book away Joey-style when things get tough. And they get tough! Tissues are also highly recommended. And if you’re like me and feel the need to underline really awesome bits of writing, or stick little tabs in your books when you come across a perfect phrase, then stock up on stationary. The writing here is delicious! 

Location, location. Think about where you can safely read this book. This is not a book for public transport. Unless you like being the one people stare at as you shout at your book and become a shell of your former self before their eyes. Equally, this is not a book to be read when children are within earshot. The writing is so good and the structure so immersive, you will get sucked in and you will be rooting for these characters. I was so emotionally involved that I shouted at them, I swore out loud quite a bit and I did that thing where you read a page and can’t quite comprehend the gravity of what has just happened so you just stare at a wall for a while until you can continue. This book will destroy you. But in a really, really good way. 

It’s all about the timing. This isn’t really the kind of book that you can read a few pages at a time in snatched freedom. It deserves your full focus and attention. It demands it. It will hold you ransom and make you stay up all night and possibly require you to call in sick the next morning. You will not want to put it down.

Organise your back-up. You will probably need to talk about this book when you have finished it. The heartbreak and the plot twist and the general awesomeness need to be shared and discussed. I fully expect some kind of Paper Butterflies support group to be up and running on social media soon. It is heartbreaking. Repeatedly. But it also manages to be full of hope and love and celebration and creativity. It is smart and it will move you and make you think and look at the world in a new way. And there is nothing more you can ask a book to do for you. Bravo, Lisa Heathfield. 

The blurb:

June’s life at home with her stepmother and stepsister is a dark one – and a secret one. Not even her father knows about it. She’s trapped like a butterfly in a net. But then she meets Blister, a boy in the woods. And in him, June recognises the tiniest glimmer of hope that perhaps she can find a way to fly far, far away from home and be free. Because every creature in this world deserves their freedom …but at what price?
You can check out Lisa Heathfield’s previous book, Seed, here.

Source- purchased copy. You can get your copy from Indy-loving, tax-paying here.

Devil and the Bluebird

7 Jul

‘”Do you feel it?” The woman released her chin. Blue nodded. Like September, when the sunlight began to shift and in the middle of wildflowers she could feel the winter coming. A certainty lodged inside her, down in her feet within the cradle of her boots. Her feet knew where to go.’

‘Riley has wrestled with her own demons ever since the loss of her mother to cancer. But when she encounters a beautiful devil at her town crossroads, it’s her runaway sister’s soul she fights to save. The devil steals Blue’s voice–inherited from her musically gifted mother–in exchange for a single shot at finding Cass. Armed with her mother’s guitar, a knapsack of cherished mementos and a pair of magical boots, Blue journeys west in search of her sister. When the devil changes the terms of their deal, Blue must reevaluate her understanding of good and evil and open herself up to finding family in unexpected places.’

Books have the power to lift you out of your life and give you a sense of escape. They can also mirror life; show you the way; provide answers and hope and strength. And sometimes when the world seems to have gone completely batshit crazy, a book like that is exactly what you need. 

Devil and the Bluebird by Jennifer Mason-Black (Amulet Books) was the book I was reading when the Brexit fallout began. And as I read it I found passages that chimed with me and echoed how I was feeling and how I wanted to go forward. It celebrates the power of creativity and self-expression. It says never give up your voice. It says you are not alone. Books are clever like that. You can find yourself in them and they can help you find a way forward. 

“Never accept a deal without knowing everything. Once you give away your voice, Bluebird, you give away your rights.”

Devil and the Bluebird is smart, quirky, beautifully written and full of wisdom. It also contains the most fantastically diverse cast of characters I have read in a long time. And all this in a debut. I can’t wait to see what Jennifer Mason-Black creates next. 
Source – kindly sent for review by Amulet Books (Abrams)

You can get your copy here

Books for Brexit fallout

7 Jul

Two books to help you talk to your kids about this crazy world we live in at the moment. The Journey by Francesca Sanna(Flying Eye Books) is a stunning picture book that tells the story of migration in a beautifully child-friendly way. 

For older children, Girl with a White Dog by Anne Booth (Catnip) is an exceptional book that deals with immigration, inclusion, and what can happen when people demonise difference. 

In my eyes they are both perfect and belong in every school, every library, every home. 

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

5 Jul

‘Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father – who has run away with a dental hygienist – will see Raymie’s picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton, but she has to compete with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante with her show-business background and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship – and challenge them to come to each other’s rescue in unexpected ways.’

Kate DiCamillo has a beautiful way of making storytelling feel new. Her characters are so brilliantly created; they shine from the page and hold your heart. DiCamillo manages to explore the whirlwind of emotions children feel as they grow up and learn about the world, all with the lightest touch. She really is magical.

But what I really love about this book is the way it celebrates friendship and shows the positive power of listening to, and learning about each other and allowing yourself to be a part of something bigger. This book feels like a return to the style and themes DiCamillo wrote about in Because of Winn Dixie. And there’s no greater praise than that. 

Source – bought from my lovely local indie bookshop, The Book Nook. You can order your copy here

An Intergalactic Activity Book

5 Jul

Professor Astro Cat’s Intergalactic Activity Book by Zelda Turner and Ben Newman is an activity book with a difference. Filled with facts, activities and science experiments, this will keep kids busy for the summer holidays. 

This is a brilliant companion book to Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space, with Flying Eye Books’ incredible eye for design and detail. 

The range of activities is outstanding. Whether they fancy designing a new space station, inventing alien codes, making star gazers, exploring space dust, experimenting with meteor craters, or keeping a moon journal, there is something here for every potential astronaut. 

There’s enough detail and information in Professor Astro Cat’s Intergalactic Activity Book to appeal across a wide age range. There really is something for everyone.

You can order your copy here.

Source: kindly sent for review by Flying Eye Books.