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Sunday, 18 December 2016

Crochet yourself Calm by Carmen Heffernan

Crochet Yourself Calm: Repeat Patterns and Mindful Motifs to Lose Yourself in (Paperback)

Keep your hands busy and your mind relaxed, as you crochet this inspiring collection of repeat patterns, some designed as small geometric motifs, others on a larger scale. By focusing on the repetitive rhythms of creating your piece, stitch by stitch, you will be truly in the moment; your breathing and heart rate will slow down, your serotonin levels will rise, and you will become calm. The act of creating is known to have a healing effect on the mind, which is harnessed by art therapists - and the publishers of adult colouring-in books! Add to this the impact of the other therapies involved in crocheting - colour therapy, energy therapy, and touch therapy - and crochet becomes a really powerful tool in reducing stress and increasing feelings of well-being. Plus, you will have made a lovely, one-of-a-kind piece at the end of it. It's time to pick up your crochet hook - and put down your cares!

Publisher: Search Press Ltd
ISBN: 9781782214793
This book is a great collection of crochet patterns which have been split into Circles, Squares, Triangles, Stripes and Zig Zags. Each pattern has a colour photograph which shows the design beautifully and instructions both written and as a diagram. There is a shopping list for each design, with wool used for the photographed piece, suggested crochet hook size and skill level, along with a tension guide, and finished size.
The instructions are clearly laid out and easy to follow. There are some projects included in the book which use some of the designs from the book and these could be adapted to use other designs. 
The book finishes with a chapter including crochet basics, ideal for anyone who wants to give it a go. The patterns included within the book range in difficulty and therefore can be used by any crocheter and is a great resource to return to when inspiration is needed. 
I recommend this book as a great gift to give to anyone who wants to try crochet, or who is a keen crocheter already. Add in some double knit wool and a 4mm crochet hook and the recipient can get started straight away.
Thank you to the publishers, Search Press, who sent me the book to review in return for an honest review.

The Ultimate Peter Rabbit - A visual guide to the world of Beatrix Potter

The Ultimate Peter Rabbit (Hardback)

Packed with detailed sketches of Beatrix Potter's best-loved characters, descriptions of each of the 23 "Little Books" she created, and a selection of gorgeous original illustrations, The Ultimate Peter Rabbit is the perfect guide for new and dedicated fans alike. Generous access to the Potter estate's archives has produced a volume which includes 300 artworks from the books and over 50 specially commissioned photographs of Beatrix Potter's English Lake District home, the inspiration for the bucolic settings of the long-adored children's classics. Prepare to celebrate a century in print with one of the most visual guides to one of the world's best-loved children's characters.
Publisher: Dorling Kindersley Ltd
ISBN: 9780241289655
This is a must have for any Beatrix Potter fan. It is a beautiful book which has been updated for the celebration of 150 years of Beatrix Potter's birth. It is a detailed guide of all things Beatrix Potter.
The book has a whole section dedicated to Peter Rabbit and how Beatrix Potter began creating the popular books. There are lots of photographs, letters and hand drawn illustrations throughout the book and I really enjoyed reading all about Beatrix's life and her inspiration. 
Each of Beatrix Potter's characters are included in the book along with the beautiful location, Hill Top, where she lived. The book takes the reader on a journey around the area in which the stories are set and it has made me want to visit even more. 
This would be the perfect gift to give this Christmas to any Beatrix Potter or Peter Rabbit fan.
Thank you to the publishers, DK, for sending me this book to review in return for an honest review. 

Fantastically Great Women who changed the world by Kate Pankhurst

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World (Paperback)

Kate Pankhurst, descendent of Emmeline Pankhurst, has created this wildly wonderful and accessible book about women who really changed the world. Discover fascinating facts about some of the most amazing women who changed the world we live in. Fly through the sky with the incredible explorer Amelia Earhart, and read all about the Wonderful Adventures of Mary Seacole with this fantastic full colour book. Bursting full of beautiful illustrations and astounding facts, Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World is the perfect introduction to just a few of the most incredible women who helped shaped the world we live in. List of women featured: Jane Austen, Gertrude Ederle, Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo, Marie Curie, Mary Anning, Mary Seacole, Amelia Earhart, Agent Fifi, Sacagawa, Emmeline Pankhurst, Rosa Parks, Anne Frank

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN: 9781408876985
I love this book! It has a scrapbook style appearance and is jam packed full of facts and knowledge. Each fantastically great woman has a double page spread dedicated to them and would be a great starting point for any project. The facts are displayed in a number of different ways which will attract attention. The book has a cartoony appeal but it is does not detract from the information contained within. 

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

The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real by Margery Williams (Illustrated by Sarah Massini)

Velveteen Rabbit: Or How Toys Become Real - Nosy Crow Classics (Hardback)

When the Velveteen Rabbit first arrives in the nursery, he's snubbed by the other toys. But the Rabbit soon makes friends with the Skin Horse who explains how toys can become 'real',if only they are loved enough. But when Boy is ill with Scarlet Fever, and Rabbit is thrownaway, Rabbit finally discovers what it truly means to be real.

Publisher: Nosy Crow Ltd
ISBN: 9780857636966
This is a beautiful book, an heirloom which could be passed from grandparent to grandchild, with happy memories of their own parents reading it to them. The story was originally published in 1922 and has remained a firm favourite with children ever since.  It has not aged and is still as popular today.
The illustrations throughout this book are beautiful, they are not the original illustrations but they are similar in style and will be loved by children of all ages. The story is a long one and therefore this would make a beautiful gift for older children (age 5+) who can curl up with their parents or relatives and enjoy listening to the story of when toys in the nursery come to life.
This book would be the perfect gift to give to a child when they are born or as a present at birthday or Christmas time. It will be kept on the shelf, and taken out to read together, regularly and enjoyed by all. An heirloom which can be passed down the generations. 
Thank you to the publishers, Nosy Crow, for sending me the book to review in return for an honest review.

The magical world of Amy Lee

The Magical World of Amy Lee (Hardback)

Get ready to explore Amy Lee's Land of Love! Jam-packed with fact files, puzzles, crafting, games, quizzes, colouring, mazes, stories and much more. Can you escape from the witch, decode a secret message from the fairies, stop Mittens causing too much chaos and become a cute recruit? Loves it!

Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 9781407171005
I had not heard of Amy Lee before receiving this book and I now know that she is a Youtube hit and has her own channel, on which she uploads Minecraft videos daily. The book is aimed at girls and looks to be suitable for age 5+. Most of the other Minecraft books I have seen are not targeted at girls, although of course girls do not only look at pink and cute merchandise etc, but this is definitely aimed at girls. It is brightly coloured and the layout is great - easy to follow and dip into to find something to do.
The  book is jam packed full of things for children to do - lots of creative oppurtunities, quizzzes to complete and things to read. Throughout the book, there are lots of warnings about staying safe online, not to share pictures online unless you have parental approval. 
This would be a great book to give before a long journey. It will keep children occupied for ages and needs little parental involvement, for those children who are confident to read independently.
Thank you to the publishers, Scholastic, for sending me the book to review in return for an honest review.

How to hide a lion at school by Helen Stephens

How to Hide a Lion at School (Paperback)

Lions aren't allowed at school, but Iris's lion doesn't want to be left behind. He even stows away on the school trip to the museum, causing much madness and mayhem as he hides among the exhibits. The third warm and funny adventure in the bestselling HOW TO HIDE A LION series is guaranteed to delight children everywhere.

Publisher: Scholastic US
ISBN: 9781407166315
This is a very important question .... How do you hide a lion at school? This book is a funny story, one which toddlers and slightly older children will enjoy reading over and over again. It is a slightly longer story, with more words on each page but which are spread out with illustrations interspersed throughout.
The illustrations are beautiful, a slightly sketchy appearance and remind me of the great Tony Ross and Quentin Blake. There is lots to look at on each page and children will enjoy seeing what the lion is doing on each page.
I wholeheartedly recommend this story book as a gift. i believe it will quickly become a child's favourite story to read again and again.
Thank you to the publishers, Scholastic Children's Books, for sending me the book to review in return for an honest review.

I Promise by Zanib Mian and Maria MigoT

I Promise (Paperback)

A whimsical girl goes through life seeing one too many broken promises, including a promise from a man to give her the world, so she decides to create a promise of her own - one that can never be broken! Join her on her travels and find out if she can give herself the world!A warm, endearing tale about girl power and the value of a promise, beautifully depicting the diversity of the world!

Publisher: Sweet Apple Publishers
ISBN: 9780993564406
This is a fantastic story with a perfect message that children can learn from - only make promises you can keep. 
The book is suitable for older toddlers, with few words per page, great illustrations and a very clear message. It is a multi cultural story which would be great to read at circle time and could be a great conversation starter.
Thank you to the publishers, Sweet Apple Publishers, for sending me the book to review. 

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Pinball Science

Pinball Science (Hardback)

From Isaac Newton's laws of motion to types of energy and forces, the 32-page book explains everything you need to know about how your pinball machine works, and includes awesome experiments to do at home. Follow the step-by-step instructions to assemble the 88-piece model with plunger, leavers and flippers.

Publisher: Templar Publishing
ISBN: 9781783705894
This is a perfect gift for a budding scientist or engineer. It is a book which also contains everything the reader needs to make a pinball machine and there are also a number of experiments in the book. The book uses the concept of a pinball machine to look at many of sciences theories including resistance, mass, friction, gravity to name but a few.
The science theories are explained simply and with diagrams, words and ideas to relate them to. They are double page spreads and full of great information. The instructions to construct the pinball machine are very clear and easy to follow and perfect for an older child to follow independently. 
I love these type of books, which contain everything you need to make the item shown and which explain important concepts and theories in a fun and interesting way which children will enjoy doing without realising they are learning.
Thank you to the publishers, Templar Publishing, for sending me the book to review in return for an honest review.

Midnight at the Zoo by Faye Hanson

Midnight at the Zoo (Hardback)

Max and Mia are very excited about their school trip to the zoo. But when they arrive not much is happening; the zebra is asleep, the lions are hiding and they can't even see a monkey. Max and Mia make the best of it - after all, if you look very carefully there is something to see everywhere. Then they fall too far behind everyone else ...and are locked in the zoo at night! What they didn't realise is that midnight is time the zoo comes alive. Flamingos are doing the flamenco, the lions dance till dawn and the pandas have a party. Illustrated in Faye Hanson's magnificently detailed style, this is an exciting new book from the writer and illustrator of The Wonder.

Publisher: Templar Publishing
ISBN: 9781783703272
I really enjoyed this book, a scholl trip to the zoo which isn't very successful because the animals are either hiding or asleep, and then Maz and Mia are left behind. However as the clock strikes midnight, the animals come out to play and Max and Mia are treated to a spectacular as the lions dance, flamingos (my favourite) flamenco and the panda's have a party. It is a great story which children will enjoy listening to and reading over and over again.
My one thought about this book is about the illustrations. They are beautiful but I think that they are suitable for slightly older toddlers. They are not the usual illustrations in children's books, they have an 'orangey' tone, as one reviewer has stated for a previous Faye Hanson book 'the soft sepia-toned world' (Maker of small things, 05/10/14, Amazon). It gives an added effect to the illustrations, adding to the mysterious after midnight world of the zoo. I really do like the illustrations, they are beautiful and are very unique. 
Thank you to the publishers, Templar Publishing, for sending me the book in return for an honest review.

My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things

My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things (Hardback)

Full of fun facts, colourful illustrations, and games that will feed a child's imagination and quench their thirst for knowledge, whilst supporting the National Curriculum. My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things is the perfect book for children from 4 - 7 years of age. Supporting the national curriculum and providing all the information young minds need and much more, My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things is split into four sections, All About Me, Animals, People, and My Planet, covering everything from the continents to the blue whale in fun and engaging ways. Bursting with knowledge and loads of very important things to set young minds alight.

Publisher: Dorling Kindersley Ltd
ISBN: 9780241224939
When I was younger, homework would often involve heading to the book shelves and pulling out an encyclopedia to look up an answer, however my children pull a face everytime I suggest they look it up in a book and find it so much easier to 'just Google it mum!'. I still encourage them to use books and have a couple of encyclopedias on our book shelf. 
This book is perfect for younger children, who are just starting in Key Stage One (Reception, Year One and Year Two), who are asking 'Why?' or are interested in learning new things. It is published by DK, who I believe, publish very informative books for all ages and as it says on the cover 'For little learners who want to know everything'. The book is split into a number of handy, colour coded sections:
  • Very important things about my planet
  • Very important things about places
  • Very important things about animals
  • Very important things about people
  • Very important things about me
  • Here are some other very important things
Every page in this book is brightly coloured, with lots of illustrations and photographs. There is a good mix of words and pictures and there are lots of useful information and is a great starting place for any homework project. 

I would recommend this book as a great gift for any child who is starting school, or is always asking questions, wanting more information. It is a book that will sit on a shelf but will be referred to frequently and I think children will choose this book to look through over story books on many occasions.

Thank you to the publishers DK for sending me the book in return for an honest review.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Christmas at Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin

Christmas at Lilac Cottage: Book 1: A Perfect Romance to Curl Up by the Fire with (White Cliff Bay) (Paperback)

Snow is falling on White Cliff Bay, where Christmas is magical and love is in the air ...Penny Meadows loves her cosy cottage with its stunning views over the snow-topped town of White Cliff Bay, but not even the roaring log fire can keep her personal life from feeling frozen. That is until dashing Henry and his daughter Daisy arrive at the cottage for the festive season. And between decking the halls and baking delicious mince pies, Penny realises there is more to Henry than meets the eye. With sleigh bells ringing and fairy lights twinkling, the ice-sculpting competition and Christmas Eve ball are in full swing. Will Penny be able to melt the ice and allow love into her heart? And will she finally have the perfect Christmas she's been dreaming of?

Publisher: Zaffre Publishing
ISBN: 9781785762703
I look forward to each year's Christmas novels with excitment. Not only do I love the festive stories but I also love their covers, lots of glitter and sparkle on the outside of the book and fantastic stories to curl up and enjoy against the cold and dreary weather outside. This book has a beautiful cover, the snow is sparkly and is a great reflection of the story it holds within.
Christmas at Lilac Cottage is the first book I have read by the author, Holly Martin, but it is definitely not my last. As soon as I started reading it, I was drawn in. I immediately loved the main character, Penny Meadows, and I think her job, an ice sculptor carver, also interested me. She appears to be a vulnerable character, who has lost her mum but has a surrogate mum in her cleaner. She wants to find love but is scared she will get hurt. She has an annexe in her house which she wants to rent out, cue Henry, a good looking male, who has a teenage daughter, of whom he is very protective, but who thinks Penny would be a great mum. She also eyes up one of the locals as a prospective first love for herself but with an over protective father can she have a relationship.
 The book is set in White Cliff Bay, an idealic country setting, a place I would love to visit and I have a picture in my mind of how it would look. The story has a real good message and sees the villagers pulling together with fantastic community spirit to overcome potential disaster.
I really like Holly Martin's writing style, it is an easy read and I kept wanting to read just one more chapter before putting it down. There were also a few scenes within the book that would make Penny's ice scuptures start to melt but these were fantastic and added to the story. 
This is the first book in a new series by Holly Martin and I am definitely looking forward to the next installment as there are some loose ends in the story which I really want to know the answer to. 
Thank you to the publishers, Bonnier Zaffre Books, for sending me the book to review in return for an honest review.

Five give up the booze by Enid Blyton/Bruno Vincent

Five Give Up the Booze (Hardback)

‘Maybe you’ve been hitting it a bit hard over the Christmas period?’ suggested George.
‘No more than usual,’ he replied – a statement that gave them less assurance than he thought.
George, Dick, Anne, Julian and Timmy confront a new challenge: give up the booze.
Give up alcohol you say? Why, of course they can! Talk about an easy challenge!
Five old friends set about this simple task and find all of a sudden that: the days are longer; they get to see each other for who they really are; the empty laughter of ordinary conversation is so much harder to fake.
Yes, they're saving money and losing weight, but the world itself seems to take on a slow, dreary inevitability.
Soon they begin to snap at each other, and then fight - until they begin to wonder, have the Five at last found the challenge that will defeat them?
The perfect gift for anyone who has woken up and promised themselves that they will never drink again… At least until next weekend.
Enid Blyton's books are beloved the world over and The Famous Five have been the perennial favourites of her fans. Now, in this new series of Enid Blyton for Grown-Ups they’re about to discover that the trials of being an adult are even trickier to handle than a gang of smugglers.
I think it’s time for another ginger beer…
Publisher: Quercus Publishing
ISBN: 9781786482266
I absolutely adore Enid Blyton books. As a child I had the complete set of Famous Five books, they had been passed down to me by older cousins and were a complete set with the covers taken from the television adaptation. I really regret when I passed them on to younger cousins and would love to replace them, but I want the orginal books before they were modernised and made PC.
When I heard that Quercus books were publishing five new Famous Five books I was excited but also dubious. How could someone take over from Enid Blyton and recreate the fantastic adventures that Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy went on, solving mysteries, crimes and having lots of fun with lashings of Ginger Beer.  Of course, this new series of five books are 'Enid Blyton for Grown Ups' and in my honest opinion, they are books which have been written using Enid Blyton's popular characters about modern day problems. The writing, although the author has tried to recreate Blyton's own style, is not as good as Enid Blyton's, but are a good laugh. The cover does not even mention Bruno Vincent as the author, instead having Enid Blyton's name prominently displayed on the cover. They are perfect stocking fillers, secret santa gifts or as a 'joke' present but not for serious, die hard Blyton fans. 
One thing that I did find distracting were the illustrations throughout the book. By themselves they are quite good, I could see them as a picture on a wall, with their clever one liners, but the pictures have been dotted throughout the book and, most, are not even in the correct chapter.
A great jokey present but not for those who want to reminisce with their favourite characters. 
Thank you to the publishers, Quercus Books, for sending me the book to review in return for an honest review.

Kipper's Christmas Eve by Mick Inkpen

Kipper's Christmas Eve - Kipper 31 (Board book)

This festive board book edition of a classic Kipper story makes the perfect gift for Christmas. Which is best, Kipper wonders, Christmas Day or Christmas Eve? Presents? Or expecting presents? Kipper's friends are all getting ready for Christmas too and Kipper manages to give little Arnold his best Christmas Eve ever. Mick Inkpen's Kipper has been a star of picture books and animation for over 25 years. 'The charmingly comical Inkpen, as always, hits the spot.' Guardian

Publisher: Hachette Children's Group
ISBN: 9781444930290

Kipper has a special place in my heart and when I received this book in the post I was taken back to the birth of my second child back in 2004. My mum had come over to look after my daughter while myself, my husband and our new son where being checked over in hospital and my daughter's favourite book at the time was 'Honk', a Kipper book and my mum must of read it 50 times while we were away - she can still recite it word perfect some 12 years later!
Anyway, back to Kipper's Christmas Eve. This is a special edition of the book as it is marking 25 years of Kipper and he is still as cute and adorable as he was at the start. Unlike some characters, Kipper has not been modified or computer generated, nor have his friends Pig, Arnold, Tiger and Mouse, although I can 't find Honk the Duck in this story unfortunately (although this is just me who loves this character). 
Board books are often thought of as first books, books for babies and likely to be full of big, colourful pictures and few words, whereas this book is suitable for babies, toddlers and, I am sure, young children as a book that is bought out and read every Christmas period (although why not read it in the heat of Summer too). It is a longer story, although I am sure that the children will enjoy looking at the fantastic pictures throughout the book while an adult or older child read the story, which is another fantastic Mick Inkpen story.
I highly recommend this book as a perfect present for a young child this festive time and I am sure it will soon become a firm favourite, that someone, like my mum, will read over and over again and soon know off by heart.
Thank you to the pubishers, Hodder Children's Books, for sending me this book to review in return for an  honest review.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

The Twelve Days of Not Just for Christmas by Alex Brown

Today I am very pleased to be part of the Not Just for Christmas blog tour to celebrate Alex Brown's latest visit to the beautiful village of Tindledale.

A seasonal delight from the No.1 best-selling author of The Great Christmas Knit Off and The Secret of Orchard Cottage.
Kitty, who runs the Spotted Pig Tea-rooms in the picturesque village of Tindledale, thinks she's come to terms with her husband Ed’s death on active duty. When she learns that Ed’s army dog, a black Labrador named Monty, is being retired and needs rehoming, it awakens her heartache once more.
Amber runs the pet parlour, but her love of dogs extends to rescuing abandoned pooches and now her tiny cottage is overflowing with homeless hounds. The only answer is to open a proper rescue centre but where will the money come from?
Kitty knows she could never take on Monty – it would be too painful, but with more than one dog needing a home this Christmas, is a miracle too much to hope for?

I really enjoy visiting Tindledale, it depicts a traditional English country village, and I would love to wander around, stopping for a cup of tea and slice of cake at the Spotted Pig Tearoom before visiting Hettie's House of Haberdashery and whiling away the hours at one of the craft sessions with the other villagers.

In 'Not Just for Christmas' Kitty, the Spotted Pig Tearoom's owner takes centre stage. She has recently lost her husband, Ed,, who died while serving the country at war, but is given the oppurtunity to rehome Ed's best friend, Monty the Labrador, when he is retired from the Army. She is, of course, of two minds whether she can take him on, however one of Ed's fellow comrades also visits, himself injured at war, and makes the decision even harder.

Amber, who works at the village's pet parlour also is heavily involved in this story, her love of abandoned pets sees her turning her mum's home into an animal sanctuary, something which sees her mum putting her foot down but her determination to rescue all the homeless pets, including Monty, a good home and she decides to look for other solutions.

I really enjoyed this novella and would recommend it to anyone who wants to take their first visit to Tindledale. Alex Brown's books are fantastic stories to loose yourself in on a long winter evening. There are a whole cast of characters who pop in throughout the stories, each book being the story of one or more characters and allowing the reader to find out their history and following their story. 

The author, Alex Brown and her publisher, Harper, have very kindly offered me the opportunity to allow one of my blog readers the chance to visit Tindledale themselves and I therefore have a competition to win Alex's back catalogue of books, which includes all the Tindledale books, aswell as Alex's series of books set in the beautiful Carrington store. To be in with the chance of winning this backlist please enter the Rafflecopter prize draw below:

The competition ends at midnight on 23 November and I will draw the winner on 24th November. The prize will be sent direct from the publishers.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Happy Birthday Old Bear by Jane Hissey (Blog Tour)

Today I am very excited to welcome Jane Hissey and Old Bear to my blog. They have been on a week long blog tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Old Bear's first book being published.

To mark the 30th anniversary of the publication of the first Old Bear book in 1986, author and illustrator Jane Hissey has created a brand new story: Happy Birthday Old Bear, which will be published in September 2016.

The toys are getting everything ready for Old Bear’s birthday party, helped by their new friend, Elsie the elephant, who plans on giving Old Bear a painted umbrella as a present. They tie ribbons on the gifts, play party music and make a birthday cake, but when they head into the garden Elsie and her umbrella are blown away by a gust of wind and have to be rescued!

Featuring the soft-toy characters belonging to Jane and her family, this latest Old Bear adventure, illustrated with enchanting original artwork, promises to charm and delight children; both existing fans and those discovering Jane’s work for the first time. 

Praise for Old Bear:
‘I'm not sure you ever grow out of Old Bear stories.’ The Bookbag
‘Sometimes I worry that books that we've loved for years might one day fall out of favour…but Jane's books seem to comfortably buck that trend.’ Read it Daddy
‘Every child deserves to be read to about Old Bear, his many friends, and adventures.’ Our Book Reviews Online
‘Jane Hissey’s characters make so many simple childhood experiences interesting and exciting and we love the way that the toys use their imaginations.’ Story Snug

Happy Birthday Old Bear is published in September 2016 priced £11.99

I am very privileged that Jane Hissey has written a special blog post about how Old Bear has changed over the 30 years of publication.

Old Bear started out life as just a bear. My grandmother gave him to me when I was born and he was my constant childhood companion. I had a largely outdoors childhood so he often needed repairs and I remember my mother stitching him a new nose and eyes when they were presumably lost in the fields! Her stitching remains to this day and helps to give him his unique look.

When I became an illustrator, and was asked to write and illustrate a children’s picture book, I decided this old bear  (though 30 years younger than he is now) should be my lead character.
It is interesting; when you first draw a toy that is to feature in a book, before its character has developed through the story telling, it’s just an illustration of a toy; there is no ‘life’ This must have been the case with Winnie the Pooh and Paddington Bear before they developed their own personalities.

This is the very first drawing of my original group of chosen characters. It was done as a sample drawing before I wrote ‘Old Bear’ and was included on the title page of the finished book. The toys are all just about recognizable but their characters are completely undefined. They stand or sit awkwardly and it is obvious I am still experimenting with capturing their texture and choosing expressions and posture

As I drew Old Bear more and more (throughout that first book and then the subsequent twenty or more books) I found shorthand ways of showing his texture, of indicating the movements he was capable of.  I got to know his shape and form and determined the expression he should have (kind, cheerful and wise.) In other word he became ‘Old Bear’ not just an old bear. 

As Old Bear himself travelled the world to visit schools, bookshops and libraries in such far flung places as Australia and the USA, he left a little bit of his fur wherever he went and is now pretty threadbare. It hasn’t helped that he has also had an attack of the clothes moths and had to spend a short time in the freezer! The slight changes in appearance are noticeable in the more recent books where he has lost much of the velvet from his paws and a bit more of the fur from his nose. But I  
draw him from life and that’s how he is. I say it’s all part of growing old gracefully!

Happy Birthday Old Bear by Jane Hissey

Happy Birthday, Old Bear - Old Bear (Hardback)

To celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of Old Bear and friends, Jane Hissey has created an entirely new adventure featuring the beloved characters, filled with the charm and beautiful illustrations for which she is acclaimed. The toys are getting things ready for Old Bear's birthday party, helped by their new friend, Elsie the elephant, who plans on giving him a painted umbrella as a gift. When they head into the garden, Elsie and her umbrella are blown away by a gust of wind and must be rescued!

Publisher: Salariya Book Company Ltd
ISBN: 9781910706725

Whenever I pick up an Old Bear book by Jane Hissey it is as if I am transported back to childhood. I really enjoy reading the stories and seeing the lovable toybox characters who, along with Old Bear, are enjoying fun and friendship throughout.  The characters are all toys that could be found in any child's toybox and, through Jane Hissey's beautiful illustrations are easily identifiable by children of all ages. 
Old Bear stories are books that I enjoy giving to children aged 0 to ten years. The books make beautiful presents for births, christenings, birthdays or just because and can be shared at any time. Jane's beautiful illustrations are perfect for young children to look at and talk about with their peers or adults. They can be used to tell the story without reading the prose or be looked at while listening to Jane's fantastic story.
I really enjoyed this book, as with Jane's back catalogue Old Bear is a great character to share with young children and with this being a very important landmark publication I would love to share the love of Old Bear with all my blog followers.
From Sarah's Book Reviews I would like to wish Old Bear a very happy 30th anniversary.

Thank you to the publishers, Scribblers. for sending me the book to review and inviting me to be a part of the celebration blog tour.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

The Girl from the Savoy by Hazel Gaynor

Today I am pleased to welcome Hazel Gaynor to my blog. The Girl from the Savoy is based in the 1920's, an era which I am very interested in.

 The prologue starts in 1916, where Dolly is waving her sweetheart, Teddy, off to war. Teddy believes he will soon be back home with Dolly, however Dolly is not so sure. Fast forward to the start of the story, and Dolly is a housemaid, but has secured herself a job in The Savoy, an upmarket hotel in London. She knows it is one of the best hotels in London and Hazel Gaynor's descriptions of the hotel gives the reader an insight into this expensive and ornate decor and experience of the hotel. I have never been to the hotel, only seeing it on television and on the pages of magazines, but would love to experience The Savoy and through Hazel's narrative I feel I have a sense of a day at The Savoy.

Dolly works as a maid within The Savoy and works in order to pay for tickets to the theatre, where she would love to be, on the stage, entertaining the audience. However, there are lots of girls just like Dolly and it is a difficult occupation to go into.  Along the way Dolly meets with both Loretta, a star of the stage, and Perry, a songwriter, who is also Loretta's brother.  Loretta is hoping that she can make Dolly the new star of the stage, however there is the conflict in Dolly's jobs where she must be invisible at The Savoy whereas she must have a presence and be seen on the big stage.

I really enjoyed this book and I will be looking for more of Hazel's work in the future.

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

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Blog Tour - by Liz Nugent

Today I am very pleased to welcome Liz Nugent to my blog. Liz's new book. Lying in Wait, is released on Thursday and is a great read, full of twists and turns and leaves the reader waiting to the very explosive end.

I asked Liz Nugent about the importance of class within her novels:

Class plays a big part in both of my novels Unravelling Oliver and Lying in Wait. Mostly, I use it for comic effect because, let’s face it, snobbery is ridiculous and funny, and everyone gets it wrong. The middle classes think the working class are criminals and the working class think the middle class are rich. The upper classes actually don’t care. They are too busy trying to find ways to keep the heating on in their draughty old stately homes.

I write mainly about middle class characters, and their struggle to keep up a lifestyle they often can’t afford because I think, for them, it is all about appearances.

In Unravelling Oliver, Oliver went to boarding school and then to university, but because he was financially cut off by his father, he had a very real anxiety about being able to keep up with his friends socially. He never lived in real poverty; he never went hungry, but the shame of his circumstances led him to make terrible, terrible decisions with tragic and devastating consequences, which rippled outwards for decades to come. When he finally had the money to match his social class, he became the ultimate snob, sneering at those, like Barney, who he felt were beneath him.

Barney was a salt of the earth working class man who dated a girl from the ‘posh’ house. He never felt good enough for her and when he was usurped by Oliver, he didn’t even put up a fight because he felt that Oliver was better than him, a cut above. Poor Barney!

When I wrote Lying in Wait, and set it in the recession of the 1980s, the matriarch, Lydia’s family has been defrauded by their accountant, a member of her husband’s Old Boy’s club. She cannot deal with the shame and the humiliation so they decide to keep it to themselves. They move their son from a public school to a state school, under the pretence that it is more convenient, because it is closer to home. Lydia is determined to keep her late father’s legacy intact. When Laurence later meets a girl (no spoilers!) from a working class background, he is terrified of introducing her to his mother for many reasons, but one of them is the girl’s social standing.

Speaking on a personal level, I grew up in a middle class family but worked in the Arts for many years. The Arts is a tremendous leveller. You don’t make it in the Arts because of who your Daddy is, or where you went to school. Queen Victoria is quoted as saying ‘Beware of artists, they mix with all classes of society and are therefore most dangerous’! Artists challenge societal norms and often make people uncomfortable. That’s our job!

Thanks, Sarah, for giving me the chance to write about such a thought-provoking topic and for taking part in this wonderful blog tour!

Thank you to Liz and the publishers, Penguin Randomhouse for sending me this book to review and inviting me to be a part of this blog tour.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Blog Tour - The Dog Who Dared To Dream by Sun-Mi Hwang

Today I am very pleased to welcome Sun-Mi Hwang to my blog. The Dog who Dared to Dream is the second book by Sun-Mi and is her second book to be translated into English. Her debut novel, The Hen who Dreamed she could Fly sold over two million copies worldwide.  

The Dog who Dared to Dream  is the story of a dog named Scraggly. Born an outsider because of her distinctive appearance, she spends most of her days in the sun-filled yard of her owner’s house. Scraggly has dreams and aspirations just like the rest of us. But each winter, dark clouds descend and Scraggly is faced with challenges that she must overcome. Through the clouds and even beyond the gates of her owner’s yard lies the possibility of friendship, motherhood and happiness – they are for the taking if Scraggly can just hold on to them, bring them home and build the life she so desperately desires. The Dog Who Dared to Dream is a wise tale of the relationship between dog and man, as well as a celebration of a life lived with courage.

I have been asked to share the first chapter of the book with my blog readers and I hope you enjoy.......

The brown dog lifted her head off the ground and growled as she nursed her pups. But that was it – she didn’t even bare her teeth. ‘I thought he’d come only after we starved to death,’ she muttered.

The wire mesh gate, covered with a blanket, opened with a clang. Cold air rushed in. Shivering, she glimpsed the changing colours of the persimmon tree outside as the old man entered the large metal cage. His footsteps had given him away; she wouldn’t have remained so calm if it had been anyone else. After all, it had only been thirteen days since she’d given birth.

The old man closed the gate behind him and placed a steaming pot on the ground. He blew out cigarette smoke, his face becoming blurry. ‘Now you guys aren’t so green any more,’ he said, reaching down to remove the pups. They kept suckling, their eyes closed. ‘You rascals! You’ll kill her with all that sucking.’

‘I’ll say,’ murmured the mother dog. She slowly got to her feet. ‘This litter has quite an appetite.’ She looked exhausted. Her teats were red and swollen and her fur was stiff. She began to wolf down her breakfast.
The old man crouched nearby and finished the rest of his cigarette, watching her. She was shivering. Her shoulder bones protruded from her thin frame. The pups snuffled around, looking for their mother’s nipples, whining for her attention. She didn’t pay them any mind, focused as she was on eating.

The man turned off the kerosene heater in the corner. It had been on all night long. ‘All different colours,’ he remarked.

Two were entirely brown, two were brown with white spots, three were brown with black spots, and one was very dark, almost bluish black.

‘Just a few more days of hard work,’ he said, stroking their mother with his rough hand. ‘We’ll find them owners soon.’

The mother dog finished the entire pot, but she wasn’t quite full. She licked the remnants on the ground and looked up at the old man, who was holding a spotted puppy that had been pushed off the blanket they had been lying on.

He tutted. ‘The firstborn . . . ’ He looked down at it sadly. The puppy was already stiff. ‘Weak from the very beginning, and now it’s gone.’

‘That one was born too weak,’ sighed their mother. ‘It didn’t even suckle properly. Why is it always the firstborns that make me cry, every time?’ She lay down again with a grunt. The pups burrowed into her, nudging her with their heads and tapping her with their front paws. Her belly jiggled gently. The babies struggled for nipples. The two strongest ones, both brown, pushed their siblings aside and settled in the middle. The black pup fell backwards in the tussle. She tried to push her way back in but couldn’t clamber over her siblings’ legs. Whimpering, she tried again. But nobody moved aside.

The old man gazed down at her. ‘You’re certainly not the weakest. Why are you letting yourself be shoved away?’ He placed the small, lightweight pup on his palm. ‘How did your mother come to have an odd one like you? Your fur’s come in already. And you’re all black!’

Thank you to the publishers, Little, Brown, for sending me the book to review and inviting me to be a part of the tour.

‘It’s a first for me, too,’ said the mother dog. ‘Their father doesn’t look like that.’

The black pup sniffed the man’s hand. It smelled of metal. She knew this scent. Earlier, her siblings had pushed her, causing her to topple over onto the bare floor. She had hit her head on the wire mesh, and this smell had enveloped her. Her eyelids fluttered, her head hurting anew. She opened her eyes slowly to see the man’s wrinkled face, patchy with dark scabs, burned by the sparks that landed on his face when he soldered.
‘Look at you! You’re the first to open your eyes!’ The old man plucked a brown pup nestled in the middle and set down the blue- black puppy in its place.