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Saturday, 23 February 2013

Emerald Star by Jacqueline Wilson

Emerald Star - Hetty Feather 3

This is a fantastic new adventure for brave, feisty Hetty Feather - one of Jacqueline Wilson's most well-loved characters. Since leaving the Foundling Hospital, Hetty has seen her fair share of drama, excitement, tragedy and loss. After the death of her beloved mama, she sets off to find a real home at last - starting with the search for her father. But Hetty is no longer a simple country girl, and begins to fear she'll never truly belong anywhere. And even when she is reunited with her beloved childhood sweetheart Jem, Hetty still longs for adventure - especially when an enchanting figure from her past makes an unexpected reappearance. Could a more exciting future lie ahead for Hetty?

This is the third instalment in the popular Hetty Feather series by Jacqueline Wilson, charting the life of a former Foundling Hospital orphan. 

At the end of the previous book, Sapphire Battersea, Hetty had found her mother and had said a sad goodbye as she died in hospital, she had left service as a maid, and found work in a seaside attraction as the smallest mermaid.  At the start of this book  Hetty goes in search of her real father before a letter from her foster brother means she must travel back down south to her favourite foster home for a reunion with her Jem where she falls into a life of mundane housework and caring for her infirm mother (foster) before a visit from a travelling attraction gives her an opportunity to change her life

I really enjoyed this book. I have read these books out of order. After receiving the second book to review, I immediately raided my daughter's book shelves to read the first and was waiting in anticipation for this, the third and final book, in the trilogy. I have not been disappointed. This book, as the previous two, has Hetty getting herself into many difficult scraps, which she exits from in true Hetty style.

The book has lots of historical fact and social history included and as I have previously noted in the review for Sapphire Battersea it would make a perfect book to link into history lessons for students of Victorian England.

I would recommend this book as a fantastic read, although I recommend to get the best understanding and enjoyment of the book, i recommend that readers read the previous two books before this one, as it is a fantastic series.

I am sure I read somewhere that this is a trilogy, meaning that this is the end of Hetty Feather, however this book has been left in a place where the series could be continued. I really hope that it is, because I really want to know what Hetty gets up to next and if her decision was the right one!

When this book was released in September 2012, Jacqueline Wilson undertook a book tour and my daughter and I were really excited to learn that she would be visiting Worcester and I was on the telephone as soon as I found out the tickets were on sale. It was well worth the phone call. Jacqueline Wilson is an excellent speaker. The theatre was full of preteen girls and their parents (i checked the audience and didn't see one boy) and there was silence as Jacqueline talked about her inspiration for the books, her journey to becoming a published author (did you know she worked on Jackie magazine and was the inspiration for the title) and then opened up the floor to questions from the audience, to which she answered many. After a short break and change of venue, Jacqueline very kindly promised that every child who was in the audience would have their book signed and the queue snaked all around The Hive, Worcester's new library (opened by the queen and then graced with the presence of Dame Jacqueline Wilson!!) and outside onto the bridge but I am assured everyone had their books signed.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Ruby, Blue and Blanket by Jane Hissey

Ruby, Blue and Blanket
Brand new picture book from much-loved author/illustrator Jane Hissey. Ruby, Blue and Blanket are playing dressing up, but Ruby doesn't know what to be; a cowboy, a witch or a ghost in a sheet? 'I just can't decide!' she cries. Luckily Blanket's idea makes everyone happy, but who will win the glittering prize?

When I hear the name Jane Hissey I immediately think of brown teddy bears, traditional stories and stories which become childhood favourites and stay with you for a long time.
This book is another one which is going to be brought out time after time, shared and retold by parents, their children and their children in the future. It is written in Hissey's fantastic rhyme and is accompanied by beautiful illustrations which would look perfect in any child's nursery or bedroom. Timeless elegance which will stand the test of time.

This story is about dressing up, a past time which children of all ages enjoy. It is for this reason that this book will capture a young child's imagination and can lead to enchanted conversations after reading the book about what to dress up as next on a long rainy afternoon or as inspiration when another party invitation comes home from school and another costume is required!

This would make a beautiful gift to a small child or as a book to share during story time or at bedtime.

Thank you to Antonia Wilkinson and Scribblers for sending me this beautiful book to review. It is one that my children and I will treasure and I am sure it will be book that will be reread many times.

With Love at Christmas by Carole Matthews

With Love at Christmas
Can the imperfect family really have the perfect Christmas? Juliet Joyce adores Christmas. She loves the presents, the tree, the turkey, the tinsel, everything. Already the festive spirit is upon her, which is just as well as this Christmas things are starting to get out of hand. Her son Tom is out of work and bringing home a slew of unsuitable partners; pregnant daughter Chloe and her little boy have moved back in; Juliet's father, Frank, is getting over a heartbreak of his own and Rita, her eccentric mother, is behaving more erratically each day. And has the chaos got too much for Juliet's husband Rick? With the big day fast approaching, Juliet hopes that she can stop everything spiralling out of control, because the only thing she wants is her family all around her and her home to be filled WITH LOVE AT CHRISTMAS.

I have only recently been introduced to Carole Matthews and I am loving every book I read of hers. When I read the synopsis for this book I knew this one would become a favourite and I am glad to say that it definitely is!

I am sure many people will be able to empathise with the main character, Juliet Joyce. She loves Christmas time and spends plenty of time planning for the festive period. Her main objective is to have all her family around her and to make the day as special as she can for all her join her. However, this is a mammoth task and Juliet tackles it with her best effort - going that little bit further to ensure her family's happiness.  Of course, as with any family over the festive period, there are the usual family conflicts and attitudes, all of which make the book real and believable to its readers.

As with all of Carole's books the story is one which the reader can loose themselves in. Although the book is entitled 'Love at Christmas', the story starts in September and I believe that it would be  good read at any time of the year. Matthew's brilliant writing style with humour and quick one liners is throughout this book and the story has many laughs throughout although there are a few times of sadness and all the emotions in between.

I would recommend this book to all Carole Matthew's lovers and to any readers who want to try a new author, particularly those who love 'grown up' chick lit.

Carole Matthew's also has a new release, A Cottage by the Sea, out 28 March 2013 which will be reviewed on my blog in the coming months.

Thank you to the publishers, Sphere, for sending me the book to review.

Lexiland by Suzi Moore

Secrets uncovered, mysteries unravelled and a friendship to last forever. This is a story about grief, friendship and identity. One year ago, Emma's twin sister, Laura, died at their birthday party and since then Emma's life has not been the same. Without her louder and stronger sister, Emma starts to feel lonely and invisible, missing the one person that she could always rely on to be at her side. Then she meets Lexi and everything changes. Lexi is wild, crazy an surrounded by mystery, and Emma quickly finds herself pulled into the orbit of 'Lexiland', a place where it seems like anything can happen. And, as their friendship grows, Emma starts to realise that letting someone new into your life can be the best way to mend a broken heart...

 You will find this book in the young adult section of bookshops and libraries, however I think it is a book which can be enjoyed by both adults and young adults alike. It is a book which should be full of sadness, a girl, Emma, who has lost her twin sister, Laura and the year following her death where Emma has to come to terms with the death. However, it is not all gloom and doom, there are many points during the book where I felt a smile appearing on my face and ever times of humour, while always be mindful of the feelings of Emma and her family.

I really liked the style of the author's writing. The book is written from the point of view of Emma, with the prose being interrupted by dialogue which I think will appeal to many readers, who like the authors to mix up styles of writing during their work. The topics within the story are quite grown up subjects but I think that the author, Suzi Moore, has addressed them in a way that is suitable for children but still gives them the importance they deserve.

There are many themes within this book; the loss of a twin; the loss of a child (from a parents perspective); the worry of a medical condition; the feeling of a child that there parents are overprotective; the attempts of a child to make friends with a new child at school to name but a few. There are some great characters within the book. Emma is the main character who has a fantastic story, but we are also introduced to Lexi - a new child in school who has secrets, but she also appears quite mad, who finds it difficult to make friends. I also liked Emma's grandfather who is an accomplished traveller and has many stories to tell. He lives in a houseboat which in itself makes him an interesting character.

I think that this is a great read and would recommend it to readers aged 9+. It is a book which will get readers thinking and empathising with Emma and her family.

Thank you to the publishers, Simon and Schuster Children's Books, for sending me the book to review.

The Odds Strike Back by Adam Perrott

The Odds Strike Back - The Odds 2
Have you ever fallen flat on your face when you're carrying an ice cream? Or put down a drink, gone back to get it and it's nowhere to be seen? That's the Odds at work! A family of Professional Pranksters who delight in playing the most rib-tickling tricks on the townspeople of Trott. This time, the Odds face inspection by the Head Prankster to ensure they're still up to their meddling best. But the new man who'll be doing it is none other than Mr Nobody, sworn enemy of Mr Odd! This calls for a spectacular pranking plan...

This is the second book in the series about The Odds, a family of professional pranksters, created by Adam Perrott. I reviewed the first book in the series, The Odds, previously on this blog and loved it. This, the second in the series, continues the fantastic series and is as good, if not better, than its predecessor.

The Odds Strike Back finds the odds being inspected by the Head Prankster, who is Mr Odd's arch enemy. Their fate seems to be in trouble when Mr Odd looses his memory, will his family be able to prank the world and the inspector adequately to be allowed to keep their 'jobs'?

This is a great read which will keep children laughing throughout the book - there are constant pranks and humour throughout the book, which children will love. Probably not the best book to share as part of a relaxing bedtime routine but is one which will keep a child's interest throughout the whole book and will encourage them to read just one more chapter before putting it away for next time.

The story is again accompanied by the fantastic illustrations of Tom McLaughlin who captures the pranks perfectly in his illustrations.

Thank you to the publishers, Stripes Publishing, for sending me this book to review - I look forward in anticipation to see what The Odds get up to next time!

Staradust Stables: A Star is Born by Sable Hamilton

A Star is Born - Stardust Stables Bk.1

Welcome to Stardust Stables - only daredevil riders need apply! Stardust is a stables with a difference...Set in the Colorado mountains, it's home to the super-talented kids who are stunt riders for movie stars! New girl, Kami, can't wait to join the team at Stardust, but she soon discovers that life there isn't all glitz and glamour - there's plenty of mucking out to do ...not to mention the hours of training! When a studio comes looking for a stunt girl for a major new movie, Kami is eager to get the job, but will she have enough experience to rise to the challenge?

Many girls go through a 'phase' of liking horses and dream of horse riding, now I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I never liked horses or dreamt of horse riding lessons, although that may have been due to a donkey ride on Weston Super Mare beach where the donkey went as fast as he could in order to return to his lunch as quickly as possible. Because of this when I received this book I was unsure of if I would enjoy it, however I soon found that this was no usual horsey book, this was Rodeo riding and stunts galore!

Set in America, Kami has a summer placement at the famous Stardust Stables where she is set to learn about how to be a stunt rider and is soon set to audition to become a stunt double in a Hollywood film. The book follows Kami through the summer, learning the skills, nervous about the audition and then success as she wins the part, however could disaster be about to cut short her delight when a rival horse trainer tries to sabotage her chance when he lets out the horses before they are due to travel to the airport??

This is a good read for horse fans everywhere. As I have previously said, this book is different to many of the horse stories on the book market at the moment and has a great story which includes a young girl's nerves of being away from home, her friends and her beloved horses, an opportunity to learn a new skill while living with her peers and then being up against these peers in a competition/audition for the opportunity to star in a film.

The author has written many books for both children and young adults and this book is the first in a new series about Stardust Stables. I am sure it will be another popular series for the author and I will be looking forward to reading the next instalment from the stables soon.

I would recommend this to readers aged 9+ who enjoy stories about horses but want something a bit different.

Thank you to the publishers, Stripes Publishing, for sending me this book to review.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Starting School by Caryn Jenner and Arthur Robins

Starting School

This book is aimed at children who are due to start school, and can be shared with young children to answer their many questions about what school life will be like. Many varied school settings and scenarios are explored to show that different schools work in different ways. At all times, children are encouraged to look forward to this new experience and to be reassured that there will be other children just like them at school, and that there will always be people there to help them settle in.Warm and funny illustrations by the wonderful Arthur Robins will reassure and amuse children and adults alike. There is also a Top Tips section to provide ideas for parents or carers on how to support their child in the run up to the Big Day.

This book is a really well thought out book which is perfect to share with little ones before they start school. It is not a traditional storybook, rather a factual book to share before their first day. It is split into small sections,each a double page spread which focuses on an important aspect of a school day or term. The sections are:
  •  What is school
  •  Getting ready
  • Arriving at school
  • Morning routine
  • In the classroom
  • People at school
  • Around the school
  • School toilets
  • School rules 
  • What we learn
  • Playtime
  • Lunchtime
  • Special Days.
Each section is full of useful information, points which children (or parents) may be worried about or things which can be discussed before that first day to get the ideas into the children's minds. The information is written in child friendly language, in simple, short sentences and is accompanied by great illustrations which children will love looking at.

The book starts with some great ideas for parents and carers to how to get the best from the book. It reminds parents that children may find their first day at school daunting and that this is often for the case for parents too!

I would recommend this book as a must have for parents and children who will be starting school in the near future. It would be a great addition to any playgroups, pre-schools or children's centres book corners for parents to borrow or to use in story time in the weeks or months before September.

I received this book through the Amazon Vine Programme.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Blog Tour - Lexi Land by Suzi Moore

Today I am pleased to welcome Suzi Moore, author of Lexi Land, to my blog.  Suzi Moore was brought up in Manchester but now lives in Somerset with her husband. She is well-tuned in to what children like to read, having worked as both a nanny and a teaching assistant. In her spare time, she is partial to a few cakes and biscuits. Her first picture book Little One's Bedtime publishes in 2011 and her debut young fiction novel in 2013.

Suzi Moore 
 Today, Suzi joins me to tell us about 'A day in the life' of an author:
So far it’s been a bit like this. Some words keep swirling round my brain until I have to write them down. They’ve come from nowhere and somewhere and before I know what’s happening I’ve written 1000 words or so. Then nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not a thought, not an idea not a single step forward. A month later, maybe two I’ll read those first words and see something I didn’t see before. Perhaps I’ll be out walking with my husband. Maybe we chat about it over supper. “That sounds good.” He’ll say. “I’d go with that idea.” And so I do.
When I wrote Lexiland life became very different. I didn’t think about anything else, I didn’t do anything else and I think my husband forgot what I looked like. I didn’t do the housework, I didn’t read, I didn’t speak to friends, I sometimes forgot to eat and on the whole I looked as though I had slept in a hedge. But it was wonderful.
With my second novel it was pretty much the same but in a different house. I woke up, I took a cup of coffee down to my office and I only came out again when I needed the loo. When I got stuck, when I found myself glaring at the screen I read over the words again and again until I couldn’t take it anymore.
On days like that I put on my running kit and head out across the moor or along the coast path and I’ll find the steepest hill I can. But the words never leave me. A constant chatter. A never ending internal dialogue, one where I move the characters forwards or backwards. Where I delete scenes and add more colour to existing ones. And sometimes, I’ll have a moment, a sort of break through where I’ve turned around and run back home.
And when it’s over, when I have finished that draft I feel more tired than I have ever felt. I send the manuscript to my agent, I crawl back out into the real world and I wait. I wait to hear if the words are any good. And that is the hardest part. It is the only time I read. I catch up TV programmes, I see my friends, I eat properly, I sleep properly and I wash my hair and get dressed.
So far it has been like this but next time it might be different – perhaps it will be even harder, perhaps it’ll be easier, perhaps I’ll get stuck for months and months.  Either way I know it will be worth it because the moment I found out I was going to be published and the day I held a copy of Lexiland in my hands were probably the best moments of my life

Thank you Suzi for dropping into my blog today. i am reading Lexi Land right now and I am enjoying it so far. My review will appear on this blog this week!.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

100 First Animals (My first book of words)

My First Book of Words: 100 First Animals - My First Book of Words
With 100 engaging and colourful photographs, this thematically arranged board book is the perfect introduction to the animal kingdom, developing vocabulary and word-picture association in the very young.

There are pages dedicated to; Pets, Farm animals, Safari animals, Ocean dwelling animals, Ice and Snow dwelling animals, Rainforest animals, Woods and Forest dwelling animals and Birds. Each page is full of photographs depicting animals along with their names written clearly. There are bright colourful blocks separating each animal and each page has a question about one animal from that page.

It is another fantastic book from Little Tiger Press in this new series and I will be recommending it to new parents to buy for their child or to be given as a gift to a young baby. The publishers have put a lot of thought and consideration into these books and the needs of  young children. It is perfect for very little babies, with its thick board pages - it is never too young to introduce young babies to books.

Thank you to the publishers, Little Tiger Press, for sending me this new collection to review on my blog.

Count 1 2 3 (My first touch and trace)

My First Touch and Trace: Count 123 - My First Touch and Trace
Each page of this interactive counting book incorporates large, grooved numbers, complete with directional arrows, for children to finger-trace. Lift the flaps to discover what's underneath and practise counting.

This is a very  clever idea, one which I can't remember seeing in counting books before. The book concentrates on the numbers 1-20.  Each page concentrates on one number and each has one lift the flap section -  a large number which is traceable using a finger, as it is indented in the page and also has follow the direction arrows to help children learn how to write the numbers in later months. The flap has photographs of items to count i.e. five rabbits, six cupcakes and also has the words to show correct spelling of the numbers. At the end of the book there is a standard number line with dots to count and also some extra how many ......? pages with the answer hidden under the flaps.

The book has been cleverly designed and I think that the traceable numbers along with the directional arrows to show how to write them is very useful as I have seen adults showing their children very unique ways to write their numbers! all items have photographs of items, which children can identify with easily. The pages are cleanly designed and bright colours make them attractive to young children.

This is another fantastic book which I would recommend for very young children as a gift which will be both educational and attractive to them. It is never too young to start introducing babies to books.

Thank you to the publishers, Little Tiger Press, for sending me the book to review.

First Colours (My first lift and learn)

My First Lift and Learn: First Colours - My First Lift and Learn
This simple left-the-flap book of colours works hard to support your child's development. Most importantly, it makes learning fun.

This 12 page board book is the perfect first book for a young baby to begin to learn their colours. Each page (excluding the front and back pages) consist of one simple photograph and the words "What colour is the ........?". The photographs are on a flap door - underneath are more photographs of items which are the same colour and on the opposite side are the outlines of the photographs with the word typed inside along with the colour name.

This is a very well thought out book - with clear, sharp photographs of items which are seen in everyday life or in books etc (there are not many elephants of koalas walking the streets of the UK). The colours and pages are bright and eye catching and the pages are uncluttered and clean.

I would recommend this book very highly to new parents or to be given as a gift to a new baby.

Thank you to the publishers, Little Tiger Press, for sending me the book to review.