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Mar 27 2017

The summer seaside kitchen by Jenny Colgan

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Little, Brown, 2017. ISBN 9780751564808
(Age: 16+) Recommended. Romance. Scotland. Environment. This is the first book that I have read by Jenny Colgan, a Sunday Times top ten bestselling author, and I found it immensely enjoyable. Flora is living in London, trying to cope with her job and city living and crushing on her boss, Joel. When she is asked to go back to Mure, the isolated Scottish island where she grew up and where people refuse to forget her past, she is uncertain but knows that she can't refuse. Her firm's rich client wants to stop a wind farm spoiling his view and her boss thinks that she can influence what happens on the island with her insider knowledge of people and their motivations.
Arriving back home, Flora has much to contend with - her father seems to have grown smaller and more introverted and her three brothers aren't very happy. Soon she finds herself immersed in family life and the discovery of her mother's recipe books leads to a love of cooking and also the opening of a little shop on the harbour.
Although essentially a romance, Colgan keeps the reader guessing about who Flora will end up with and the background of the island's politics and personalities play an important part in Flora's realisation of where she wants her future to lead.
The wonderful setting of a quiet Scottish island adds interest as its inhabitants struggle to keep their young people on the island and try to ensure that the millionaire building a resort actually employs some of the islanders.
This is a feel good book, peopled with relatable characters and events. Its warmth and uplifting plot made it very readable. I will certainly follow this author in the future when I want to enjoy a good escapist romance.
Pat Pledger




Mar 22 2017

I'm going to eat this ant by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros

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Bloomsbury, 2017. ISBN 9781408869901
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Ants. Anteater. Food. Cooking. Anteater is hungry. He is sick of licking up wriggly, squirmy ants, but he is hungry. He puts all of his efforts into just one ant - the trouble is that it is the wrong ant. This ant is cunning and ties the anteater in knots avoiding being licked into his mouth. This very funny look at the contest between an anteater and his quarry will have kids rolling in the aisles as they watch the contest between the eater and the (usually) eaten.
Anteater imagines all the different ways he can eat this ant: in a sandwich, sucked up through a straw, simmering in a soup, stir fried, or in a sorbet. But the ant has other ideas. While anteater is dreaming up the different ways of eating the ant, his long tongue has been wrapped around a tree, making it an excellent bridge for the ant and his friends.
Boldly outlined but spare drawings give a good impression of the antics behind the words, and small differences in the way the eyes are drawn for both creatures tells the readers lots about what they are thinking, adding to the laughs for the readers.
They will learn lots about the two animals and the story will have them seeking out more information, while the list of ways the ant will be cooked will find favour (flavour) amongst the readers.
Fran Knight




Mar 22 2017

Echoes in death by J.D. Robb

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In death bk 44. Little, Brown, 2017. ISBN 9780349410869
(Age: Adult) Murder. Fans of J.D. Robb will be thrilled with the 44th book in this series featuring Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her cohort of helpers, including gorgeous husband Roarke. Eve and Roarke are on their way home one night when a young woman stumbles into the street in front of them. She has been attacked and her attacker looked like the devil.
Investigating, Eve discovers other attacks have occurred, all with a violent rape and burglary but this time the attack has resulted in murder. It is clear that the man behind the masks is becoming more violent and it is imperative that Eve finds him before more people are murdered. Eve and Peabody and the rest of her team, ably supported by Roarke, gets to grips with the backgrounds of the wealthy people who are being targeted, and the reader easily gets caught up in the police work involved in solving the crimes.
Witty repartee between Eve and Peabody gives a lift to the often dark moments in the book, and the steady and deep relationship between Eve and Roarke is as satisfying as ever. A theme of domestic violence and how it affects women pervades the book and gives the plot depth and complexity.
Books in the In depth series are always rewarding reads and ones that fans know they will enjoy.
Pat Pledger




Mar 22 2017

Wrestling Trolls: The final countdown by Jim Eldridge

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Hot Key Books, 2015. ISBN 9781471402692
(Age: 7+) Highly recommended. The Final Countdown is book 6 in the series that sees Jack, a half troll and a prince, travelling with his friends, a talking horse and a phoenix. They follow the wrestling matches around the country and are quite famous for their wrestling skills. This book is 2 stories in one. In the first story, Jack receives a message for help from his grandfather. Despite being a rather unkind person, Jack decides he needs to help his grandfather. On arrival in the town, near where Jack's grandfather is being held, villagers try to stop Jack and his friends. Luckily, Jack gets to the castle but it is not his grandfather who is there to meet him. Jack has been tricked by the wizard named Wazza. Wazza is waiting for Jack and he wants Jack's ring. How will Jack get himself out of this mess?
In the second story, Jack and his group of friends head to Veto castle to help the orcs. The orcs are being kicked out of their kingdom by a mean troll who has claimed the throne. Ironically, Veto castle and the surrounding land is Jack's kingdom. He just doesn't want it. Jack's friends Dunk and Big Rock are arrested by the troll guard. To free them and save the orcs, Jack must wrestle the new king. Unfortunately, Jack's ring has been stolen. This ring helps him turn into a troll. How will he beat a troll in a wrestling match without it?
The Wresting Troll stories are fun and entertaining and highly recommended for readers aged 7+. The characters are quirky and the adventure moves quickly. They are easy to read and new readers don't have to read them in order as each story is separate from the previous one. The wrestling troll theme is a great way to engage reluctant readers who are wrestling fans.
Kylie Kempster




Mar 20 2017

Seven days of you by Cecilia Vinesse

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Hachette, 2017. ISBN 9781510200395
(Age: 13+) Seven days of you is a beautiful story about Sophia's last week in Tokyo before her big move back to the United States. This move was always planned and Sophia and her sister were accustomed to flying back and forth between their mother and their father throughout their childhoods. But this move was different for Sophia, from the first instant that she set foot in Tokyo a couple of years before, she knew that she'd find some sort of a home here. Through the years, Sophia became friends with Mika and David and they were the anchors within her life in Tokyo, lasting up until the week Sophia is set to leave. Mika's old best friend James is set to return from an American Boarding school exactly seven days before Sophia departs. After some complications at the last time they saw each other, Sophia is less than pleased to be seeing him again. Through some significant events within the lives of all the friends, enemies become allies and best friends become distant strangers. How much will change in the last seven days leading up to Sophia's flight from Japan, and who will still be there for Sophia when she needs it the most?
Seven days of you really captures the poetry of everyday life as Cecilia Vinesse writes the story of Sophia's last week in Tokyo so vibrantly and with so much emotion that the reader can imagine the city streets. The characters that Vinesse has created are all individual, each have a unique personality and take on life that allows readers to be able to relate with the novel. Seven days of you is aimed for a young adult audience (13+) as the characters struggle with the concepts of love, friendship, loss and family. Seven days of you is a sweet and memorable story that imparts the importance of relationships and friendships that are made in unexpected circumstances.
Sarah Filkin




Mar 20 2017

The apprentice witch by James Nicol

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Chicken House, 2017. ISBN 9781910655153
(Age: 9+) Highly recommended. When we doubt ourselves we lose confidence. When others seem to succeed more than us we doubt ourselves. Arianwyn doubts her abilities as a witch. Her school enemy, Gimma, has berated Arianwyn throughout school and now Arianwyn has failed her witch evaluation while Gimma has succeeded. Arianwyn is still an apprentice but thanks to her grandmother's position in the community, Arianwyn has a chance to develop her skills and face re-evaluation when she is ready. Arianwyn is sent to Lull, a small village, on the outskirts of The Great Woods. The town hasn't had their own witch for many years and she has a lot to do. Arianwyn's self doubt doesn't lend itself to a successful first week but over the months her confidence improves and her skills are evident. The arrival of Gimma seems positive but will Arianwyn be able to overcome the past? Will she remember to not let Gimma get under her skin? Why does Arianwyn keep seeing a forbidden glyph? Arianwyn will develop an amazing friendship, courage and will put others before herself despite the danger and possible disaster.
The apprentice witch is a lovely story of courage, friendship, a passion for a calling and building confidence and belief in yourself. Watch Arianwyn develop, creating an amazing role model for young girls as she reminds us all to believe in ourselves. This story is easy to read and has adventure, magic and funny moments. The magical events are descriptive, creating great images in your mind as you read. These descriptive moments would be great read out loud in the classroom and are great models for developing writers. This book is highly recommended for readers aged 9+.
Kylie Kempster




Mar 20 2017

Antoinette by Kelly dePucchio and Christian Robinson

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Simon and Schuster, 2017. ISBN 9781481457835
(Age: 4-8) Recommended. Paris. Bravery. Family. Dogs. A charming tale of being yourself, of following your heart has Antoinette, despairing of her place in the household, where her three brothers are known for their strengths. Rocky is clever, Ricky is fast and Bruno is strong, but she has nothing to compare with them. Mum reassures her that she has a special gift but it is not yet apparent. One day while in the park, Mrs Bulldog notices that one of the poodle pups is missing. Antoinette sees her brothers try out their special gifts, but they cannot find Oo-La-La. She decides to try for herself and follows the scent after the others have given up. Her nose takes her across the park to the Louvre, and despite being chased by a guard, she finds Oo-La-La in a most perilous position and rescues her. Her bravery and tenacity is apparent for all to see and later she becomes a famous police dog.
The stylish naive illustrations give the impression of block prints with slabs of acrylic colour used as the background to the story. The reduced pallet of colour compliments this impression, making the story stand out against a pared back setting, while the dogs have a collage appearance, which children may like to emulate after reading the book. I loved the setting with images of Paris on several pages. Readers, like me, will have a great time recognising iconic images of Parisian life and its buildings: the Louvre, an artist, poodles, a beret amongst others along with some French words to further pique interest.
Fran Knight




Mar 20 2017

A tragic kind of wonderful by Eric Lindstrom

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Harper Collins, 2017. ISBN 9780008183011
(Age: 13+) Themes: mental illness, bipolar disorder, friendship, family, love.
Mel Hannigan has bipolar disorder, diagnosed after a period of traumatic events, requiring a period in hospital. Her best memory is of the day her brother Nolan encouraged her to wag school and they had an amazing day of doing crazy things together. But this memory is closely tied to her worst memory, one she won't allow herself to contemplate, an ability she describes as her “superpower”. We soon find out that Nolan died and this precipitated her parent's divorce, requiring Mel and her mother to move in with her aunt. On her first day at a new school Mel was bullied by a group of girls but rescued by Annie, Zumi and Connor who soon became best friends. After her breakdown Mel is reluctant to tell her friends about her illness and the friendship suffers. She is not the only one in her family to suffer this mental disorder, HJ, her aunt prefers to enjoy the highs and endure the lows rather than take medication, and it is pretty obvious that her brother's death happened while he was in the grip of a manic episode. We find that the disorder manifests itself in a wide spectrum of symptoms and Mel keeps track of her own symptoms by keeping a mood diary which helps when adjusting her medication. At school Mel describes herself as an antisocial underachiever but she works at a retirement home where she is in demand for her empathy and cheerful assistance, there she meets David, the grandson of one of the residents and they have immediate rapport. The normal highs and lows of teenage life (including mood swings with the onset of menstruation) are complicated by Mel's disorder and her unwillingness to share knowledge of it with her friends. When problems with her friends become traumatic, coinciding with a crisis in her mood, things go terribly wrong. Packaged up into a readable story about friendships and first love, readers are introduced to what it must mean for a teen to live with bipolar disorder in a way that is both detailed and insightful. Following on from Lindstrom's Not if I See you First and joining a number of recent stories about mental disorders, this novel is sure to find an enthusiastic readership especially from year 9/10 girls.
Sue Speck




Mar 20 2017

The Great Shelby Holmes girl detective by Elizabeth Eulberg

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Ill. by Matt Robertson. Bloomsbury, 2017. ISBN 9781408871478
(Age: 8-10) Recommended. Shelby Holmes is a feisty nine-year-old girl detective who loves to solve mysteries in her local neighbourhood. She lives upstairs in Apartment 221B Baker Street Harlem, New York City, with her family, Mrs. Hudson their housekeeper and Sir Arthur their English bulldog. Shelby is a well-known and liked figure in her neighbourhood, where she uses her logic and skills of observation to solve crimes.
As eleven-year old John Watson and his mother move in downstairs, a loud explosion startles them. A rather dishevelled Shelby comes down to apologise for the commotion and she totally surprises them with her astute observations. She deduces that John has diabetes, that his parents were recently divorced and Mrs. Watson had been an Army doctor in Afghanistan. John's observations and feelings are openly shared with the reader; his relationship with his father, who does not keep in contact, his mother's concerns about his diabetes and his friendship with Shelby. He expresses his feelings through journal writing recording his feelings and daily adventures with Shelby.
Shelby takes John under her wing and they venture all over, meeting a diverse mix of shopkeepers and neighbourhood characters. Their first mystery to solve together involves a stolen dog, dog trainers and culminates at the Dog Show. Along the way, John meets some new friends and becomes closer to Shelby. The scenes at the Dog Show are humorous, as John sneaks Sir Arthur on to the subway train and has to handle the British bulldog in the ring.
Matt Robertson's fun drawings are entertaining; there is Shelby's frizzled hair after the explosion, the paw embellishments, Sir Arthur's poses and the colourful front cover. Author Elizabeth Eulberg has creatively woven characters and elements of the Sherlock Holmes novels into The Great Shelby Holmes Girl Detective. With themes of friendship, solving mysteries and overcoming worry and anxiety, this is an enjoyable novel suited to ages 8-10.
Rhyllis Bignell




Mar 20 2017

I don't know what to call my cat by Simon Phillip

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Ill. by Ella Bailey. Simon and Schuster, 2017. ISBN 9781471124136
(Ages: 3-5) A new pet brings joy, happiness and a few problems for the new owner. Where will it sleep? What to feed it and where to feed it - not the high chair as there will be food everywhere. The biggest problem of all of course, is what to name the kitten, maybe not Kitty. It may be difficult to call 'Kitty', when all the cats in the neighbourhood turn out for tea! The little girl tries Princess High and Mighty, but the cat definitively did not like the princess outfit. She tries everything from Pat, Tricia, Tracey and Betty but nothing seems right. Of course, at the vet's, she discovers an important fact - her kitten is a boy!
After trying Rocky, Arnie and Mr. Maestro, her cat tires of dressing up and of being called names that do not fit his character, so he leaves in a huff. She looks everywhere, even putting up Missing Cat posters all over the zoo. There on a zoo bench she meets Steve the gorilla, who follows her home and cheers her up. He messes up her room, enjoys painting banana pictures, and he even accompanies her to the Museum and a cafe. Unfortunately, the Bureau for Naughty Animals takes him away in the BNA van. To the young girl's surprise, her grey tabby cat returns home with a collar and a name Tricky!
Emma Bailey's delightful digital illustrations are visually appealing; they lift this simple story and bring the characters to life. She engages her young audience with her use of fresh modern colours, wide-eyed creatures and humorous scenes. Look for Tricky hiding in the gorilla scenes, carefully placed in the Egyptian room, the cafe and disguised as a BNA agent.
Simon Phillip's picture book story loses its purpose towards the end, when Steve the Gorilla enters the scene and takes over as the little girl's pet. Fortunately, the tale gets back on track when the lost cat returns home, appropriately named Tricky and prepared to be a great friend to the little girl.
Rhyllis Bignell




Mar 17 2017

Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

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Rebel of the Sands bk 2. Faber and Faber, 2017. ISBN 9780571325412
(Age: 13+) Highly recommended. Fantasy. What a roller coaster of a ride this book turned out to be! Amani, the Blue-Eyed Bandit from Rebel of the Sands, has been captured by the Sultan and imprisoned in his palace. Stripped of her powers, and made to obey the Sultan's every order, Amani is determined to spy on everything that goes on and report back to the rebels. She is desperately plotting to get information out of the palace and to keep the momentum of the rebellion going.
Danger is everywhere, especially in the harem, where intrigue is the order of the day. Amani has to come to grips with people from her past, and begins to think about her actions and where they have led her. Her understanding of the powers of the Demdji is growing as is her confidence in her own abilities and beliefs.
While attending the Sultan's meetings she has the opportunity to observe how he operates and also has many conversations with him, where the nature of ruling and power are discussed. The plight of women in the harem is also highlighted - they are powerless unless they have a male heir, and many disappear. This contrasts with the power that the women who align with the Rebel Prince have - they are leaders, generals and valuable advisors.
The setting of the Sultan's palace forms an interesting background to the political intrigues and the friendships that Amani forms. There are some new characters introduced and some desperate losses as the group face the fact that a traitor has betrayed them. Amani's romance with Jin is low-key as maintaining the rebellion takes up most of the time.
There is a gut-wrenching conclusion that will leave readers longing for the next book in the series.
Pat Pledger




Mar 17 2017

Triangle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

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Walker Books, 2017. ISBN 9781406376678
(Age: 3-5) Warmly recommended. Board book, Shapes, Mathematics, Friendship. A hardcover book about triangles! Hmm. But the face made by the triangle on the front cover invites the reader to open up and look inside.
Triangle lives in his house, a triangle, and uses his door, a triangle. He walks to his friend's house, Square. To get there he walks past big triangles and little triangles, shapes that are not triangles at all, until he gets to Square's house. Here he plays a sneaky trick on his friend, and then is followed by Square all the way back home. Once back home, Square becomes stuck in Triangle's door, and so plays a sneaky trick on Triangle, blocking the light, knowing Triangle is afraid of the dark.
By the end of the story children will be laughing at the tricks the two shapes play on each other, they will know what makes a square and a triangle, and that one cannot fit into the other. They will also have realised that playing tricks on their friends is not quite the best way to treat friends.
The seemingly simple illustrations done in single bold colours will intrigue readers. Shapes are contained on each page, reinforcing the theme of the book, and the eyes peeing out from the shapes will entrance all readers, while the question on the last page will cause wonderment as the readers question what they have seen happen.
By the authors of Sam and Dave dig a hole, and Extra yarn, both Caldecott Honour Books.
Fran Knight




Mar 17 2017

Witch glitch by Sibeal Pounder

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A Witch Wars Adventure series. Bloomsbury, 2016. ISBN 9781408880340
(Age: 8+) Highly recommended. Witch Glitch is another story in the A Witch Wars Adventure series. Tiga has been reunited with her mum, Peggy is in charge of the witching world and Fran the fairy is still annoying. The good thing about this series is readers will know what is going on without reading other stories in the series. In Witch Glitch, Tiga has discovered a book about a group of witches called The Karens. At the same time, Tiga's mum has invented a new fairy and Fran the fairy is rather upset. When Fran receives a letter from The Karens, promising to grant her wishes, Fran disappears and becomes a new story in the book found by Tiga. Tiga and her other friends set out to find Fran and discover a jelly castle and a group of witches all called Karen. Their wishes have evil twists and Fran finds herself growing bigger and bigger and bigger! How will Tiga and her friends save Fran? How will they prevent other witches from seeking out The Karens.
Witch Glitch will have readers laughing at the antics of the witches and the funny world they live in. Australia is even mentioned in it! The story is easy to read and moves quickly and readers will be fascinated with the use of the word 'frog' when they speak, the sneakiness of The Karens and the weirdness of this witchy world. Throughout the story, the local newspaper makes reports on recent events including warnings to watch out for falling cake baskets and chats with witches who think their cat shaped jam jar is a real cat! It is highly recommended to readers aged 8+.
Kylie Kempster




Mar 17 2017

Stormwalker by Mike Revell

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Quercus Children's Books, 2016. ISBN 9781784290696
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. A year ago, Owen lost his mum. He has tried hard to get on with his life but his dad is still struggling. After an argument, Owen's dad agrees to go to counselling and starts to write again. All of a sudden, Owen's reflection is different and during a moment in class Owen sees a dead world around him. After a run in with a bike, Owen finds himself running from the Darkness and running for his life. The world is different, he looks different and everyone is calling him Jack. What is going on? Owen has Jack's memories but he also remembers his life as Owen. As Owen settles into this new life, he has a crazy idea. Is he part of his dad's story? How will he get back to his own world? Can he help save the lives of his new friends? Will Owen's dad realise what he has done?
Storm Walker tackles loss, recovery, adventure and change. The descriptive text is easy to read and follow as Owen skips between make believe and reality. The story moves quickly, keeping the readers on the edge of their seats and it is highly recommended for boys aged 10+. The topic of loss is discussed sensitively but also shows the strength a child can have despite such a great loss.
Kylie Kempster




Mar 15 2017

I don't want curly hair by Laura Ellen Anderson

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Bloomsbury, 2017. ISBN 9781408868409
(Age: 4+) Recommended, Hair. Satisfaction. Body image. With wild hair springing out on every page, and many many words for curls taking up the text, readers will laugh out loud at the antics taken by the protagonist as she tries to straighten her unruly hair. The methods are as wild as her hair, as she ties balloons to her hair in the hope of them going skyward taking her hair with them, or putting heavy books on her hair to iron out the wrinkles, or having her friends pull it out for her. She craves straight hair, and despises her mop of wild unruly hair which makes a birds' nest on her head. The uproarious illustrations will have readers following the girl's attempts with glee seeing her many attempts to tame her hair. But all to no avail, until she hears someone with straight hair trying to change her hair to curly. The exact opposite is happening with someone else. She is trying all sorts of strange methods to get her hair curly and the two have a wonderful time working out fun things they can do with their hair, satisfied that what they have cannot be changed to something it is not.
This book will encourage children to look at their positives and not to be dissatisfied with how they look.
Fran Knight




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