Tales Before Bedtime Juniors – Celebrating Books for Children 2018 and before


Winnie and Wilbur by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul

Oh, how I love Winnie and Wilbur. I discovered them when my son was small and now he’s much bigger I still love reading them (I think he has a sneaky peek too).

The partnership between Valerie’s words and Korky’s illustrations works incredibly well. Korky’s rather stunning art work brings her characters and words alive. His illustrations are filled with humour and there is so much to look at, discuss and chuckle over on each and every page.

Some years back now, I saw him at a literary festival. He held the children captive and had both them and the adults in fits of laughter as he chatted and drew Winnie and Wilbur before our very eyes. It was incredibly memorable. I love his attention to detail and it never fails to amaze me when I look through the books. Winnie always looks rather wonderful in a swimsuit to my mind and her party dress in Happy Birthday, Winnie, is particularly marvellous

There are lots of books to choose from if you are new to these curious, charming characters but the latest offerings are a great place to start. They are just wonderful and I heartedly recommend them.

Winnie and Wilbur: The Monster Mystery

Winnie and Wilbur decide to explore

the MYSTERIOUS forest that surrounds

their home. They want to discover just

who has been leaving the STRANGE

FOOTPRINTS on their lawn. Their foray into the

FOREST is just the start of a WILD and WOODED

drama but will they solve the MYSTERY?







Winnie and Wilbur make every day

SPECIAL! An outing to the museum

turns into a DINOSAUR discovery,

they use MAGIC to make a birthday

party EXTRAORDINARY, and when they

fly over a ruined CASTLE it’s the start

of a thrilling day of MEDIEVAL mayhem.

Both books were published by Oxford University Press in paperback on 7th March 2019.

The Truth Pixie by Matt Haig and Illustrated by Chris Mould


Matt Haig is well known for both his adults and children’s novels and although The Truth Pixie is aimed at younger readers, there is a message that will touch us all, no matter our age or circumstance. Beautifully presented and wonderfully illustrated, this is an absolutely gorgeous book bursting with Christmas sparkle.

Matt has had an amazing year in books. He is a prominent figure in the fight to raise awareness for mental health issues. From his own personal experiences he has chosen to help those who may be suffering and anyone in general understand a little more about mental health. He is outspoken, courageous and is a fantastic storyteller. I would wholeheartedly recommend any of his books but this one in particular, one that will encourage children from a young age to love themselves for who they are, will make a perfect Christmas Eve book.

Wherever she is, whatever the day,

She only has one kind of thing to say.

Just as cats go miaow and cows go moo,

The Truth Pixie can only say things that are true.

A very funny and loveable tale of how one special pixie learned to love herself.

With words by the bestselling mastermind Matt Haig and pictures by the inky genius Chris Mould.

The Night I Met Father Christmas by Ben Miller and Illustrated by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini

I’m so delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for The Night I Met Father Christmas by Ben Miller. This novel is a festive feast that captured my heart from the very beginning. It’s been an absolute joy to read and chat about over the last few days. Ben has a wonderful writing style and his humour, wit and personality shine through in the seasonal tale before us. Not only is it as warm and comforting as a mug of hot chocolate topped with cream and marshmallows but it also answers the question… how did Father Christmas become Father Christmas?


Jackson is a young boy who is having the teeniest of doubts about Father Christmas. In his heart he believes and he argues that logically he must be real – after all who else leaves the presents and eats all the mince pies? And yet the seed has been planted and so Jackson is determined to meet the man himself this Christmas Eve and ask him one very important question… How did he become Father Christmas? And so begins the story of a mean elf called Torvil, his under-appreciated and under-paid assistant Steiner, and of course, a talking reindeer. Torvil is a miser, a Scrooge like figure who puts profit above compassion, generosity and kindness. Yet on this very special Christmas Eve Torvil is given the opportunity to learn from his past and earn himself a happier, brighter future.

The Night I Met Father Christmas has been described as a ‘classic in the making’ and I wholeheartedly agree. It is full of Christmas cheer, memorable characters, humour and adventure.  it would make the perfect Christmas gift and will be enjoyed for many a Christmas to come by readers young and old.


Now I would like to step in Father Christmas’ shoes and bestow one copy of this fine tale to one of you my dear readers.  So go forth and like, comment and share this post with the hashtag #FatherChristmasBeliever, and of course give me a follow, and I’ll pop your name in the hat.  Enter by midnight on Friday the 7th of December and I’ll announce the winner this coming weekend.

This competition will run via this blog, as well as on Twitter and Facebook. If you take part on all three platforms then your name will be entered thrice.  So please get sharing and remember to follow me here, on Twitter and my Tales Before Bedtime page on Facebook.  Thanks much and good luck.

*Please note this giveaway is only open to residents in the UK.  The winner will be sent a finished copy of Ben Miller’s The Night I Met Father Christmas  direct from the publisher. 

And just in case you missed my earlier posts which include a Q&A with author Ben Miller and Illustrator Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini, here they are…


The Night I Met Father Christmas by Ben Miller

Jackson knows all about flying reindeer, he knows about the elves and the secret North Pole workshop, he knows about the elves and the secret North Pole workshop, he knows about the magic that allows Father Christmas to deliver presents around the world in just one night, but there’s one thing he doesn’t know…how did Father Christmas become Father Christmas?

That all changes when, one Christmas Eve, Jackson meets Father Christmas Eve, Jackson meets Father Christmas and hears his incredible story.

So begins an enchanting fairy-tale into a magical snowy landscape, where Torvil, a mean-spirited and miserly elf, is about to discover the true meaning of Christmas.  This might not have been the story Jackson was expecting but, as Father Christmas tells him, no good story ever is…

A Christmas classic in the making from actors and comedian Ben Miller that will prove once and for all that Father Christmas really does exist!


IMG_20181101_194428Ben Miller is pretty well known.  Comedian, actor and now author, he crosses generations with his work.  In our house we know him from his time playing DCI Richard Poole in Death in Paradise and more recently as Bough, the hilarious side-kick to Rowen Atkinson’s Johnny English.  In my school Library we know him for his books The Aliens Are Coming!: The Exciting and Extraordinary Science Behind Our Search for Life in the Universe and It’s Not Rocket Science, both giving interesting, insightful and enjoyable access to their subject matter.  And now he brings us this wonderful festive tale about a young boy named Jackson.  Jackson who has had a tiny seed of doubt planted into his mind about Father Christmas.  So he comes up with a plan to meet the man himself and ask him a very important question.  

I love Christmas.  I love the build up, the magic that seems to fill the air and ever since having my son (eleven years ago now), I’ve rediscovered the joy of being a .  It’s easy as adults to lose that magic and we can quite often become cynical.  So as the big day approaches Christmas stories come pretty close to the top of the list of things that make me happy.  Especially Christmas stories that I can share with my son.  When writing The Night I Met Father Christmas, Ben took inspiration from some great authors to create a wonderful tale that already feels like a classic. I already read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol every year – I love the language, moral and sheer joy that this tale brings – and I can see The Night I Met Father Christmas being enjoyed for many years to come.  So I asked Ben what his favourite Christmas Story is.

‘That one! A Christmas Carol. I am a huge fan of Dickens generally and he has been a huge influence on everything I’ve done. Having English teachers as parents meant I was introduced to him at a very early age and I love his unique and infectious wit and psychedelic warmth. Dickens is the perfect grounding for a career in sketch comedy!’

But how does one go from writing books about science to writing a Christmas story?  This is Ben’s first work of fiction and I asked him if any of the characters were based on himself or people he knows.

‘I based Jackson, the main character, on my own son. I did ask if he as OK with that! He said yes — I hope he feels the same when he’s older. Torvil, I think, is basically me.’


The Night I Met Father Christmas by Ben Miller with Illustrations by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini

So, earlier I spoke about Ben. Now I would like to mention the beautiful illustrations by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini.

A great story is made even greater by wonderful illustrations and the combined effort of the Simon and Schuster design team and Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini have brought us an absolutely stunning hardback book that will earn precious space on your bookshelf.  It really is a keeper.  The cover is stunning, with gold foil that brings it to life and makes the book literally jump out at you when you see it.  There is so much detail throughout the entire book  and Daniela has created a gorgeous selection of illustrations that complement Ben’s writing brilliantly.  She really is a great talent and I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to ask her the following questions.

How do you begin to create the wonderful art work that brings Ben’s story to life?

‘After having some initial ideas, inspired by the story, I always plunge myself into extensive visual research, mainly to find the kind of visual reference that will support me in drawing characters and things that feel real, that feel like they could exist in a parallel dimension of wonder. The drawing stage always feels quite technical in some ways for me; this is where I sweat to get the composition, anatomy ad perspective right. While the painting stage is really where all the magic happens for me… where I focus on getting the atmosphere and feel right for the picture. And where I feel like I’m in my element. Each stage is very important. But some are more “nerve-wracking” than others….’

If you could choose one other classic Christmas story to illustrate, what would it be?

‘A Christmas Carol of course :), although I would also quite like to make my own version of A Nightmare Before Christmas…’

Do you believe in Father Christmas?

‘Well, I wasn’t sure to begin with if I have to be honest… but reading ‘The Night I Met Father Christmas’ has definitely put the doubts to rest in my mind! I’m definitely going to be putting out mince pies and brandy for him this Christmas!’





Book Launch – The Night I Met Father Christmas by Ben Miller

It was a damp and mild November evening when the Fallows family headed up to London.  Nature is giving a wonderful display of autumnal colour; golden brown, fiery reds and burnt orange underfoot with sticky, mushy leaves wet from the rain earlier in the day. This last week we’ve gained an hour and darker evenings for sparkly lights and magical time to curl up with a good book.  Winter is well and truly on its way… and with it comes Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year. Never shy of taking an opportunity to get into the Christmas spirit as early as possible, I was delighted to have been invited to join in celebrating the launch of a bright and sparkling new, Christmas story.



Flash back to summer.  The days were long, the sun was shining and people were already beginning to panic about ever seeing rain again. I however,  was settling down to read my first Christmas book of the year.  The Night I met Father Christmas by Ben Miller.

There are so many wonderful children’s authors bringing books to our young readers that will inspire and encourage a life-long love of reading.  So when someone we admire for their other work gives us a novel, I always feel a little apprehensive.  I expect it to be good enough to share a place on the shelves of those whose main body of work is children’s fiction.  Children’s books are important, they matter.  As Meg Ryan said in You Got Mail “When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.” With so many other distractions it’s important that we can grab their attention with stories that will fill them with wonder and let them love books rather than see them as a chore and bore.

I very much enjoy watching Ben on the screen.  We’re big fans of Death in Paradise in our household and grew to love his grumpy, yet brilliant Inspector Richard Poole and even more recently his role as Angus Bough, the ever patient side-kick to Rowen Atkinson’s, Johnny English. So I was excited to hear that he had written a Christmas story and keen for him to have done it well. It’s encouraging to know that Ben is not new to the written word, he has already published two non-fiction titles, It’s Not Rocket Science and The Aliens Are Coming!: The Exciting Science Behind Our Search For Life in the Universe.   The Night I Met Father Christmas is his first fictional title and trust me when I say, it is wonderful and very much deserves its place on any child’s (or adult’s) bookshelf.

It was an absolute treat to attend his launch party and Ben Miller is as funny and warm in the flesh as he comes across on the screen.  With a room full of people vying for his attention he took the time to sign copies of his book and my own young Ben was thrilled to meet him (as was I).  We also chatted and mingled with some lovely people and was finally able to say hello to some familiar faces including children’s author, Philip Ardagh.


When Ben met Ben

The team at Simon and Schuster did Ben proud and the event was lovely.   We had the opportunity to meet the wonderfully talented illustrator Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini, whose stunning illustrations bring the story to life.  Simon and Schuster’s design team have produced a stunning book complementing both story and illustrations. It truly is beautiful and will make a wonderful early Christmas present or perhaps be the perfect book to share with your little ones in the run up to the big event itself.


The Night I Met Father Christmas is available to buy now.  It is already generating wonderful reviews and much excitement.



The Black Amulet by J.R.Wallis

Screen Shot 2018-09-30 at 15.07.17


Reunited with his parents, Jones is finally living the ‘normal’ life he’s always wanted.  But, despite leaving the Badlands behind, there’s still magic inside him…

His two friends, Ruby and Thomas Gabriel, are struggling with their new lives too; Thomas Gabriel’s magical abilities are fading away and Ruby is railing she might never be accepted as a ‘proper’ Badlands in a world of monster-hunting run by men.

One thing could help all of them – the Black Amulet, a magical artefact hidden for centuries by the most powerful Badlands that ever lived.  But finding it won’t be easy, and using it even harder, because things are never simple when magic’s involved…

This is a fantastic second Tales From the Badlands.  All three friends are working together to find the Black Amulet but all for very different reasons.

The Black Amulet gives us more insight into both Ruby and Thomas Gabriel.  Both are desperate for their magical difficulties to be resolved and the Amulet offers the solution to those problems.  Yet it has a dark side to it. It is a powerful artefact and can take possession of those who wear it with sometimes deadly consequences.  There are ways to stay remain immune from its effects, however,  the Amulet is constantly working to break down those protections.  Perhaps together, Ruby, Thomas and Jones, can find the way to use it safely to take away all their problems.   Yet how much can you trust your friends?

I love the way the novel highlights how important it is to be true to yourself and that being ‘different’ is good.  This is a great series and The Black Amulet finishes perfectly to continue on in a third book.  I have another wait ahead of me but I have no doubt it will most definitely be worth it.

And a little taster…

    ‘But Ruby, I want to be an ordinary boy too and I can’t be that with magic inside me.  It’s not meant to be in the regular world…’

     Ruby leant forward and took his hands in hers.  ‘You can still be both if you want t0.’  Ed looked at her, unsure what she was getting at.  ‘You don’t have to be a regular Badlands.  I won’t be, even if Drewman fixes our Commencement.  I’ll always be a girl.  I’ll be different to other Badlands.  So why can’t you be a different type of Badlands too?’

Review copies supplied by the lovely people at Simon and Schuster (thanks so much:)

Find out more about author J.R.Wallis by visiting his website: here.

Snowglobe by Amy Wilson


A shimmering , mesmerising gem of a novel, Snowglobe is absolutely stunning.

I do feel we are spoilt these days with a wonderful array of children’s authors and the imaginations they possess. Amy Wilson, author of A Girl Called Owl and A Far Away Magic returns with her third novel, Snowglobe. I was delighted to receive a proof copy back in the summer and I can honestly say that Amy’s writing, beautiful from the outset, continues to bring us the most wonderful stories. Snowglobe is a magical tale of a hidden house upon a hill, filled with snow globes, each a tiny prison protecting the world from those who have magic in them. Yet should everything we don’t quite understand be made small and locked away?

This is a story about accepting the chaos that surrounds us and that it all works together to create a world filled with magic and wonder.  We can’t always control what happens to us but we can make a difference by being ourselves and showing courage even in the darkest of times.  It’s a story about accepting past mistakes and rather than hiding away, embracing what we have learnt from them so that we can move on and become the very best version of ourselves.   Snowglobe shows us that when times are tough, we should not hide away but embrace the world and add our own precious magic to it.

I shared this novel with some of my young readers in the school Library asking should we have a copy for the school? Is it good enough to sit on our shelves? A resounding ‘yes’ I heard in response but of course I knew it would be. Every time I recommend an Amy Wilson book to a child who loves magic, mystery and adventure, they always return it with a smile saying ‘I loved it.’ What better recommendation can you get than that?


When daydreamer Clementine discovers a mysterious house standing in the middle of town that was never there before, she is pulled towards it by the powerful sense of a mother she never knew. The place is full snow globes, swirling with stars and snow and each containing a trapped magician, watched over by Gan, the bitter keeper of the real world but who is now desperate for her help.

So Clement ventures into the snowglobes, rescuing Dylan and discovering her own powerful connection to the magic of these thousand worlds. Vowing to release the magicians from the control of their enchantments, Clem unknowingly unleashes a struggle for power that will not only put her family, but the future of magic itself in danger.

Snowglobe is published by Macmillan on the 18th of October 2018

Suitable for aged 9-11yrs+

My Dad, The Earth Warrior

My Dad, the Earth Warrior - cover

Today I’m delighted to be taking part on both Tales Before Bedtime and Tales Before Bedtime Juniors in the blog tour for My Dad, The Earth Warrior by Gary Haq.  I’m particularly honoured today because it is not only publication day but is also World Environment Day.  Now this is a children’s book and normally I would review books for children on Tales Before Bedtime Juniors (previously Story Makers) but I wanted to share this here too to mark the fact that it is World Environment Day and it’s a great book too. 🙂

My Dad, The Earth Warrior is funny, insightful, unique and full of fantastic illustrations.  Not only is it fun to read but it’s also full of important messages and touches on issues that young children have to deal with today from grief, loneliness to concerns about fitting in.

Hero’s dad hasn’t been quite the same since his mum passed away.  He disappears into books leaving Hero feeling a little lost and at times forgotten.  He wants his dad back but things go from bad to worse when a bookshelf collapses leaving his dad with a rather large bump on his head, his memory lost and convinced that he is an Earth Warrior who must do whatever it takes to help mother earth and the fight against a ruthless energy tycoon.  Much to Hero’s horror it seems to involve being naked quite a lot.  Follow Hero as he tries to keep things together AND keep his dad somewhat clothed.

This is a book that celebrates knowledge and how being aware gives us power and the ability to change things for the better.  It is also a book that will make you think twice about the impact each one of us has on the world today.  Yes, we can change the world.

This is a super book to share with emerging readers and newly independent readers too.  It’s fun to read but it’s also a great book to raise awareness with our children about the environment, the world we live in and the impact we have on it.  But that’s enough from me… here is a little more about the book and some words of wisdom from the author himself.

My Dad, the Earth Warrior - coverHero is an ordinary boy who wants nothing more than to have a normal dad. But Dad is only interested in reading his books and filling his head with useless facts. Then one day Dad has a freak accident and wakes up claiming to be an Earth Warrior sent to protect the land from a ruthless energy tycoon. Hero is forced to go along with Dad’s new personality.

But when Gran mysteriously disappears, Hero and Dad embark on a dangerous adventure. Can Hero save Gran and get his old dad back before it’s too late?

My Dad, the Earth Warrior is a heart-warming tale of a boy and his dad who reconnect their distant relationship and set out together on a mission to save Mother Earth. It is a story of personal growth, environment and discovering the warrior spirit that lies in all of us – written with humour sure to make children laugh out loud.

Written by leading human ecologist Gary Haq and publishing to coincide with World Environment Day, the book addresses issues of our changing climate, heatwaves, flooding and the need for action in an engaging way which will inspire all young readers to be eco-warriors.

So how can you become an Earth Warrior?  Here are Gary’s tips…

Gary Haq

Gary Haq, author of My Dad, the Earth Warrior

How to be an Earth Warrior!

Today is both World Environment Day and the official release day of my children’s book, My Dad the Earth Warrior. This is a story about the relationship between a boy called Hero and his Dad who have grown apart since the death of his mother. One day Dad has a freak accident and wakes up claiming to be an earth warrior sent to protect Mother Earth…

The Earth is our mother, our life-support system, our home. We depend on it for the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. It provides us with shelter and warmth and all the materials that allow us to live our lives to the full. We need to take care of it, protect it, and make sure it’s in good shape, not only for ourselves but for future generations. We can all be earth warriors and take action to protect Mother Earth, so why not join the tribe and become one yourself? Here are some handy tips on how you too can be an earth warrior!


Turn off lights and electrical appliances when not in use. This saves money on electricity bills and reduces your carbon footprint too!

Food waste has a big impact on climate change. If it ends up in a landfill site, it will rot and release methane (a damaging greenhouse gas) into the environment. So, only take what you need and finish your plate.

If you’re cold, wrap up and put on a jumper rather than turning the thermostat up. This saves energy and carbon.


Growing your own fruits and vegetables will help prevent CO2 emissions from trucks, planes and ships that your bring your food from far away.


Planting a tree can help remove CO2 from the atmosphere and help tackle climate change.


Reduce the waste you produce in your daily life. For example, by using a refillable water bottle or cup rather than buying a new plastic bottle each time.


Recycle your waste and think about using second-hand items or swapping things you no longer want rather than buy new.

If it’s safe, then consider walking, cycling and taking the bus for short trips rather than going by car.


Consider how much water you need when washing and brushing your teeth. Try not to waste any by leaving the tap running too long.

Encourage your friends, family, neighbours and teachers to do their bit and become earth warriors too!


Gary Haq is an earth warrior whose day job is saving the planet. He is an associate researcher at a prestigious global environmental think tank and a research scientist at a European research centre. He tries his best to be the change he wants to see in the world and hopes to inspire others with his stories. When he’s not involved in his own eco-adventures, he likes to write, read, learn languages and explore new cultures. Gary lives with his wife and young daughter, and spends his time between York, England and Laveno, Italy.

It’s been such a pleasure hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for My Dad, the Earth Warrior and I thoroughly recommend sharing this book with your young readers today. This is our world and it is important we look after it and teach our children to do the same.  Looking at Gary’s advice I can honestly say that I am well on my way to being an earth warrior too.  I love this planet and its beauty fills me with joy every single day.  If we each do our best to do just these little things, then I believe we can all make a big difference.

There is so much more I could write about this book and the subject matter but for now I urge you to take a look at this fantastic book, Gary’s website and World Environment Day by clicking on the links below.

Discover more about Gary by visiting his website here: www.garyhaqwrites.com

Follow Gary on Twitter: @drgaryhaq

He’s also on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/garyhaqauthor

Find out more about World Environment Day: www.worldenvironmentday.global

I’m absolutely delighted to be able to include a sample from My Dad, the Earth Warrior.  Just click on the link below:


Thank you to Gary and Hannah Cooper for inviting me to review My Dad, the Earth Warrior.

If you haven’t taken a look at Tales Before Bedtime Juniors yet then why not take a look now and maybe give me a cheeky little follow. 🙂

Summer is here and the days are long so here is another of my recommended reads for children to help keep those heads in books over the coming weeks. Banish those calls of ‘I’m bored’ and keep them entertained when the heat gets a little too much for them with fantastic books for all ages.

Great Bunny Bakes by Ellie Snowdon


6 Bunny Bakers

1 Badly – Disguised Wolf

1 Mischief – Maker

1 Golden Egg Trophy

Mix them all together and you’ve got the


Aprins on, recipes at the ready – it’s time for the biggest, besets, funniest baking competition. Only – who is this strangest dressed contestant?!

Quentin is a wolf with a very unusual hobby.  He loves to bake! So when he accidentally receives an invitation to take part in a Great Bunny baking competition he’ll do anything to enter.  Masterfully disguised (ahem) as a bunny, Quentin sails through round after round with his peerless pastry and heavenly honeybun tower.  And when he slips and drops his Showstopping Chocolate cake it looks like all his work has been in vain…

But all is not as it seems in this charming tale of hidden identity, bravura baking and unexpected kindness.

This is such an absolutely charming, beautifully illustrated picture book. Perfect for fans of cakes, bunny and bake off… oh and wolves too because Quentin is an absolute sweetie.

Find out more about author/illustrator Ellie Snowdon by visiting her beautiful website here.

Great Bunny Bakes is published by Simon and Schuster.  Click here to find out more.

Today I have an absolute treat in that I’m recommending not one but three books in a series.  There is something rather wonderful about discovering a great series – especially if three out of four of the books have already been published. Read on my lovely readers, read on…

Who Let The Gods Out? – Book 1


Elliot’s mum is ill and his home is under threat, but a shooting star crashes to earth and changes his life forever. The star is Virgo – a young Zodiac goddess on a mission. But the pair accidentally release Thanatos, a wicked death daemon imprisoned beneath Stonehenge, and must then turn to the old Olympian gods for help. After centuries of cushy retirement on earth, are Zeus and his crew up to the task of saving the world – and solving Elliot’s problems too?

Elliot Hooper is back in the second book in the fantastic, adventure filled series from Maz Evans.

Poor Elliot is still having a tough time of it. Not only does he have a group of immortal Greek housemates who have sworn to protect him from Thanatos, Deamon of Death, but this time Thanatos has been joined by his evil mummy – so now there’s double the trouble. Elliot’s mum’s health is worse and teen goddess Virgo, is struggling to come to terms with her lack of immortality AND she’s having the worst bad hair day ever. All in all, it doesn’t make for an easy life. But if Elliot has any chance of making life better, for him, his mum and the world he needs to find the second chaos stone before Thanatos does.

Another high energy adventure with plenty of laughs and an amazing cast of characters – oh and a very welcome return from the Queen and her family make this an awesomely funny sequel that will have kids laughing out loud.

Simply The Quest – Book 2


Elliot Hooper’s troubles are far from over: his mum’s health worsens, he’s struggling at school, and a bunch of anarchic Greek immortals have moved into his home – including teen goddess Virgo, who’s in trouble with the Zodiac. What’s more, death-daemon Thanatos and his scary mum are at large. As even more immortal and enemies emerge, Virgo and Elliot must learn how to be heroes …

Elliot Hooper is back in the second book in the fantastic, adventure filled series from Maz Evans.

Poor Elliot is still having a tough time of it. Not only does he have a group of immortal Greek housemates who have sworn to protect him from Thanatos, Deamon of Death, but this time Thanatos has been joined by his evil mummy – so now there’s double the trouble. Elliot’s mum’s health is worse and teen goddess Virgo, is struggling to come to terms with her lack of immortality AND she’s having the worst bad hair day ever. All in all, it doesn’t make for an easy life. But if Elliot has any chance of making life better, for him, his mum and the world he needs to find the second chaos stone before Thanatos does.

Another high energy adventure with plenty of laughs and an amazing cast of characters – oh and a very welcome return from the Queen and her family make this an awesomely funny sequel that will have kids laughing out loud.

Beyond The Odyssey – Book 3


Elliot’s life is spiralling out of control. He’s been suspended from school, his ex-convict dad is useless around the house and his mum’s health is worsening. What’s more, the gods are determined to forge on with the quest for the third chaos stone. An unlikely, hilarious and heart-warming odyssey begins. But Elliot has heard of a mythical potion rumoured to cure all ills – can he save his mum, even if it means sacrificing the fate of the world?

The penultimate in the series, Beyond The Odyssey continues with poor Elliot’s life becoming more difficult by the day. The situation with his mum is desperate and poor Hermes is still in a coma, but there is a glimmer of hope as Elliot hears of a potion that is rumoured to cure all. Yet even the gods doubt its existence and even if it does exist it won’t be easy to find. And so they set out on yet another quest to find the third chaos stone AND the mythical potion in an attempt to cure his mum and Hermes, whilst saving the world from evil Deamon of Death, Thanatos. No pressure there then!

This series just keeps getting better and better and Maz will have you crying tears of laughter and sadness whilst cheering on our hero as we watch him face his toughest challenge yet. Superb, and I can’t wait to find out what happens in the fourth and final instalment to this epic tale of courage, heartache and heroism.


You can find out more about the fantastically funny, wonderful author Maz Evans by visiting her website here.

You can follow maz on twitter: @MaryAliceEvans

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog by Lisa Papp


A beautiful, reassuring, story for all those struggling to read. Oh my goodness this is a heart-warming book! Just stunning and perfect to share with reluctant readers or anyone who worries about making mistakes and not being good enough.

Madeline Finn doesn’t like to read. Not at all. She tries and tries but keeps getting the words muddled and wrong. Her teacher encourages her to keep on trying but people also giggle when she reads out loud and she dreads it. Until one day she visits the library and is given the chance to read to Bonnie, a beautiful white dog. Bonnie is patient and doesn’t mind when Madeline gets the words wrong. She doesn’t giggle and doesn’t rush her. She simply sits and lets Madeline pet her whilst she works out the tricky words.

Inspired by her local ‘Read-to Dogs‘ programme, Lisa Papp has written and illustrated a beautifully gentle story that shows us it’s okay to make mistakes and that with compassion, patience and courage we can shine.

Find out more about author/illustrator Lisa Papp by visiting her website here.

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog is published by Old Barn Books.  Visit their website here for more information.

Truly, Wildly, Deeply by Jenny McLaclan


Annie is starting college. She can’t wait. No more school, no more uniform, and no one telling her what to do. It’s the start of a new adventure and Annie’s not going to let anyone or anything get in the way of that. Freedom matters to Annie. She has cerebral palsy and she’s had to fight hard to get the world to see her for who she truly is. Then she meets Fab. He’s six foot two, Polish and a passionate believer in…well, just about everything, but most of all Annie and good old fashioned romance. The moment Fab sees Annie, he’s wildly drawn to her and declares she must be his girl. Annie’s horrified. She doesn’t want to be anyone’s anything, especially if it means losing her independence. But then Annie finds herself falling for Fab. As things go deeply wrong, Annie realises that love can make you do wild, crazy things, and so she sets out to win his heart with a romantic gesture of truly epic proportions!

Fans fell in love with the warmth, wit, romance and fierce friendships in Flirty Dancing, Love Bomb, Sunkissed and Star Struck. Jenny McLachlan writes the best kind of real-life fiction – with big themes and characters you’ll love, her books go straight to your heart.

Here are my thoughts on Truly, Wildly, Deeply…

Annie is a teenager. She’s feisty, passionate about life and her independence, doesn’t want to depend on anyone oh and she has cerebral palsy. For the first time ever she is stepping out in life on her own terms as she begins college. No mum, no learning support assistant – just Annie. And that’s exactly how she likes it. So it’s a slight inconvenience when she meets Fab, a young polish student who she sits next to in class. Fab is different. He is full of zest for life, good natured, kind, a little unusual, and has taken an instant shine to Annie. Of course they don’t hit it off straight away due to a misunderstanding but he has a certain charm that she soon finds hard to resist and I must admit to thinking how everyone could do with a Fab in their life.

Truly, Wildly, Deeply is a Wuthering Heights fuelled love story that will sweep you away. Warm, strong, likeable characters and a girl who has battled prejudice and for the right be seen for the girl she is rather than her disability. Fab was wonderful; a lovely, unique teenager who is drawn to Annie and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the both of them and following their journey as they slowly discovered that life is a whole lot brighter with each other.

A story about love, friendship and that there is more to a person that what you see on the outside and also, just as importantly, that you can be part of something special without losing your identity.

– review first featured on Lovereading4kids

The Secret Sky Garden by Linda Sarah & Fiona Lumbers


Funni creates a beautiful garden on a car park rooftop.  

She Likes spending time there, but something is missing.

Zoo spots the patch of bright colour from a plane and knows he has to visit the garden in the air.

When the two meet, it’s not just the flowers that blossom, but a very special friendship.

This is a beautiful picture book.  Funni loves to spend time on an old, deserted car park rooftop.  It’s ‘greyer than a Monday sky’ but she loves looking out over the rooftops and listening to the planes in the sky.  Yet something is missing and it’s not long before Funni hatches a plan to make her own garden on the sky.  She creates a beautiful garden but something still isn’t quite right and she soon discovers that things aren’t complete until you have a friend to share them with.

An absolutely delightful story featuring two of my favourite things – friendship and flowers.  A perfect summer story to share with your little ones.

The Secret Sky Garden has been published by Simon & Schuster and is available in both hardback and paperback.

The Accidental President by Tom McLaughlin

On a visit to the US things take a strange turn for 12-year-old Ajay when, completely at random and totally by accident, he is sworn in as the new president. Well, I guess he can’t be any worse than that guy who had the job before him, right? Wrong. It’s quite easy for power to go to your head and Ajay, overwhelmed by it all, goes rogue. Soon he’s too busy ordering sparkly capes and enforcing the new national spider plan to spot the dastardly plot unfolding right under his nose.

Another fantastically funny book from the author of The Accidental Prime Minister.

After a disastrous run as the Minister of Education, Ajay is given one last chance to work work with his friend Joe who also happens to be the youngest ever Prime Minster. Ajay wants to impress and what better way than becoming the Ambassador to the United States.  Ajay thinks it will be a breeze.  I mean how hard can it be?

Perfect for young readers aged 7+.

Love the look of this?  Then why not try the following too?

Discover more about author Tom McLauglin by clicking here.

The Yellow Bills by Michelle McKenna


Mya is a little girls who loves anything to do with flying.  At eight years old her ambition is to become a pilot and see the world every which way she can.  In the meantime she’s content to build her model airplanes and dream of one day taking to the skies herself. Yet her dreams may come true sooner than she thinks.  One day upon hearing some strange noises through the bushes in her garden she stumbles across the Little Duckling Flying School.  The only problem is that Maya is not a duckling, she’s a human and as Lieutenant Drake rudely points out “GIRLS AND BOYS DON’T FLY”.  Hurt and upset by his dismissal, Mya begins to cry but soon a little duckling with a big heart called Goose offers to teach her to fly.  Mya is determined to prove Lieutenant Drake wrong AND earn her pilots hat.  But has she got what it takes to fly before the prestigious Yellow Bills Squadron? She’s going to give it her best shot but then a grumpy drake called Mr Sour discovers her trying to fly and goes out of his way to make sure that she’ll fail.

This gentle, delightful story is one that I think young children will love.  Michelle has a wonderful imagination and has created a heart-warming story that shows how the bullies can be silenced and dreams can come true with hard-work, determination and some good friends. I loved getting to know, Mya, Goose and the flying school.

This is a perfect read for newly independent readers or to share with younger readers.  It had some lovely illustrations and my only suggestion would be that I would have loved to  have seen more throughout the book to help break up the text a little and just because they are so delightful.  The cover is also beautiful  (I especially love the ducklings in their little pilot hats).  Michelle’s writing it absolutely lovely and I hope there will be more adventures from Mya, Goose and the Yellow Bills.  It was a pleasure to read and had some delightfully funny moments that made me laugh out loud .  It is most definitely the bee’s knees or as Goose would say, ‘The duck’s quack”.

Why not take a look at The Yellow Bills website, it has a lovely video which really shows the beautiful illustrations in colour. You can also find out more about author, Michelle McKenna there too.

The Yellow Bills is available to buy now and I thoroughly recommend it for your little ducklings. 🙂

Time School by Nikki Young

Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour to celebrate the publication of Time School by Nikki Young.


A power cut and a series of mini disasters means friends, Jess, Nadia, Tomma and ash barely make it to the station to catch their train to school.  What they find is a far cry from the usual packed commuter train they’re expecting…

When the arrive at Hickley School, the children are surprised to find some of the buildings missing and they don’t recognise any of the other pupils, who are all dressed in a different style of uniform.  The only person who takes the time to help them is Martha, despite being preoccupied by her own worries about her family being hungry and not hearing from brother, Henry whom she says is away fighting.

The children soon realise this is no normal day and it’s not until they return home that they’re able to figure out what happened.  What they don’t know is whether it was a one-off day, or if they will get to see Martha and the other pupils again.  Jess hopes so.  She has something she needs to tell Martha.  Not knowing how or why, she feels a connection and an obligation to this girl she can’t explain.

2018 marks the centenary of the end of the First World War and offers a great opportunity to teach our younger generations about this terribly sad, yet important part of history.  Nikki’s novel is a great way in.  The story begins with four Yr7 pupils relieved to find seats on the train after a mad dash to the station.  Yet everything isn’t quite as it seems and they soon discover they are in the very last carriage of what turns out to be a steam train.  They eventually arrive at school but it’s not the school they are familiar with.  What exists now looks cleaner and yet there are buildings missing and things definitely aren’t as they should be.  It’s not long before the foursome come to realise they have gone back in time. But why and for what purpose have they been sent there?

The duel-timeline method Nikki has used is wonderful at highlighting the differences between the world we know today and the world as it was back in 1918.  It is quite often difficult for children to appreciate how much harder things were back when the war was on.  The constant concern for loved ones fighting overseas, the lack of food to eat and coal to keep warm were some of the difficulties faced on a daily basis. It also highlighted how the memory of our fallen heroes can begin to blur into the background.  War memorials are quite often overlooked and not recognised for what they are.  The names almost become meaningless as it can be hard to relate to people who fought and died so long ago.  So following Jess, Nadia, Tomma and Ash as they return to the past and embark on their own adventure is a fantastic way to encourage greater understanding and empathy to these events and the people who endured them.

This was a delightful, heartfelt story and I feel it would make a good addition to any KS3 reading list for children 8yrs+, especially this of all years.

Nikki Young

Author Nikki Young is a writer and lover of stories and ‘The Mystery of the Disappearing Underpants’ is her first book. Nikki credits her lively imagination to an amazing childhood, growing up in Yorkshire and living in a cul-de-sac in the days when children were allowed to run free and left to make their own fun! Now a mum of three, she says that in her head, she hasn’t really grown up and those memories of her childhood days. remain strong and active.’

You can discover more about Nikki Young by visiting her website here.

Time School by Nikki Young can be purchased direct from her website or from Amazon.

You can also follow Nikki on Twitter.

Supertato and the Valley of Doom by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet

There is something very special about receiving books in the post.  It always brightens my day.  Do you know what’s even MORE special than receiving books in the post?  Receiving the latest book about one of your favourite superheroes AND receiving an oven glove with said superhero on.  Yes.  An oven glove.


The oven glove you see in the picture above is now taking pride of place in my kitchen – although I do feel a little guilty when I use it to retrieve hot, baked potatoes out of the oven. Not sure how Supertato would feel about that.

So you may well ask why the dickens am I receiving an oven glove with a potato dressed in a cape? Well that is no ordinary potato you see before you.  That is Supertato! and he’s adorning this rather fabulous oven glove in celebration of the publication of his latest adventure Supertato: Veggies In The Valley Of Doom.

When a game of hide-and-seek

turns into an EPIC treasure hunt,

the veggies must face fearsome foes,

the impassable Cactus Canyon

and the dangerous Valley of DOOM!

Will our heroes EVER make it to the treasure aisle?


I must admit to being a bit of a fan of Supertato.  He’s incredibly loveable and helps all his other veggie friends through the trickiest of situations.  In this latest offering an innocent game of hide-and-seek turns into a nail-biting adventure as our veggie friends discover a treasure map.  But what dangers lay before them in the hunt for the treasure and will the dastardly Evil Pea reach it before them?

Full colour, bright, fun illustrations run throughout their adventure.  Each page has much to look at and discuss with your young readers.  This is another excellent offering from Sue and Paul and I, as always, am absolutely smitten.

Supertato: Veggie In The Valley of Doom is published on the 28th of June 2018 by Simon & Schuster.

Find out more about Supertato and watch the book trailer on Facebook here – (it’s awesome).


“Mwah ha ha ha ha!”

Steve, Terror of the Seas by Megan Brewis

Steve is not very big.

His teeth are not very sharp.

And though he’s no angelfish,

there are far scarier

creatures in the sea…

So why is everyone so

scared of Steve?

Steve is a very scary fish. Everywhere he goes everyone swims away in terror. He can’t understand what makes him so scary. You’d think he’d be lonely wouldn’t you but thankfully Steve has a best friend to swim along. A friend who makes life a great deal better.

I love little Steve the fish. He’s super cute and young pictue book lovers will adore following him under the sea as he tries to understand what makes him so scary. I think Megan’s illustrations are beautiful and utterly charming. Steve , Terror of the Sea is her second picture book. Her debut, Henry and Boo! was published in March 2017.

A delightfully funny, gentle fishy story that will certainly raise some giggles at bedtime.

Steve, Terror of the Seas by Megan Brewis will be published on the 5th of July by Oxford University Press.

To find out more about Megan Brewlis please click here.

Am I Yours? by Alex Latimer

Screen Shot 2018-06-09 at 20.50.10

‘Excuse me, please, but am I yours?

I’m sure I am a dinosaur’s’

When an icy wind pushes an egg far from its nest, five friendly dinosaurs must get it back home before dark.

But who does this lost egg belong to?

And will they figure out in time?


From Stegosaurus through to Tyrannosaurus this book will take your little ones back two hundred million years ago to a little egg trying to find his way home.

This is a beautifully illustrated, colourful, rhyming picture book that young dinosaur lovers will adore.  Follow the little blue speckled egg as he tries to discover who he belongs to. IMG_20180609_210915__01.jpg


Am I Yours? was published by Oxford University Press on the 7th of June 2018.

You can find out more about Alex Latimer by clicking here.



The Company of Eight by Harriet Whitehorn

Screen Shot 2018-06-09 at 20.33.20

Growing up in the Magical District sounds amazing, unless you’re entirely un-magical like Cass.

Instead, she has always yearned to be an acrobat on the Circus Boat.  So when she misses their annual audition, she decides to wait out the year on the mysterious Island of Women.  During the voyage there, she impresses Lord Bastien, who invites her to work on the glamorous Palace Ship.

But Bastian and his son also have other plans for her, and soon Cass finds herself entangled with thieves, slavers… and a shadowy group of sword-fighting women called the Company of Eight.

All her life Cass has dreamt of joining the circus to become an acrobat and travel the islands on the Circus Boat. Once a year the boat visits her home, the Great City of Minaris, and offers auditions to hopeful trapeze artists and acrobats, before sailing off again for another year. This year Cass is determined it’s her time and so she prepares for the most important performance of her life. Unfortunately the opportunity is missed and so she hatches a new plan and soon finds herself on a ship bound to the mysterious Island of Women. Unknowingly Cass is sailing towards an adventure that will lead her through dangerous waters where pirates hold a reign of terror and you don’t know who you can trust.

This is a wonderful story full of acrobatics, sword fights and even a little magic, as Cass must escape the clutches of thieves and pirates. Empowered by the friends she holds dear, a good dose of courage and the passion to follow her dreams, Cass embarks on a gripping adventure that will lead her to the group of women who are the mysterious, Company of Eight. Thoroughly gripping and enjoyable and hopefully the start of many a tale starring the adventurous, brave and lovable Cass.

The Company of Eight was published by @StripesBooks on the 3rd of May 2018.

This review was originally featured on book recommendation site, Lovereading4kids.co.uk


A Far Away Magic by Amy Wilson


Haunting prose that feeds the magical story as monsters are battled, fears are faced and grief is overcome. There is something quite beautiful in Bavar and Angel’s relationship. A special connection that makes them gentler, braver and more compassionate.

Angel doesn’t fit. Not in her new school or in her foster home in the vanilla house with nice Mary. The day her parents died was the day everything changed for her. A burglary gone wrong they said but Angel knows different. Angel knows that monsters really exist but when they don’t believe her she tries to forget the memories that haunt her dreams…that is until she meets Bavar.

He too is different except that he doesn’t draw attention to himself and seems to shrink back into the shadows even though he is seven feet tall. But Angel can see him, and she sees the magic that surrounds him. The two are drawn together by their differences, by the way they stand out and by the sadness that surrounds them. Soon they discover that they have an even deeper connection and Angel believes she’s found a way to stop the monsters but she needs Bavar’s help. He’s reluctant but if there is one thing she’s sure of it’s that she wants to stop the monsters once and for all and make sure that no one else suffers the loss she has.

Bavar, sees the light in Angel, in his world of shadows and darkness she is sunshine and starlight and his need to protect her draws him into her plan to fight the monsters. But are two young teens enough to defeat the Raksasa, the strange, winged creatures you’d only expect to find in a nightmare. Everyday they are growing stronger and it’s only a matter of time until before they break through the gate and kill again.

Beautifully written, filled with magic, love and grief, this is a powerful novel with wonderful characters – I was left feeling a little of the magic had stayed behind with me.

Suitable for aged 9-11yrs+

Discover more about Amy Wilson here.

Published by Pan Macmillan

Published on 25th January 2018

The Misadventures of Winnie and Wilbur

I’ve been a big fan of Winnie the Witch and so I was delighted to receive this brand new chapter book from Oxford University Press.

My son is 10 now but when he was younger we enjoyed sharing the Winnie the Witch picture books.  The words were fun to read but the pictures really made us laugh and we’d spend a long time looking at every detail on each page.  Well, The Misadventures of Winnie and Wilbur is all that and even more.  This is a great book to get kids reading.  The illustrations are just fantastic and take the funny, engaging stories to another level.  Great for emerging, independent readers and also for sharing at story-time.   This is a superb little book.

Screen Shot 2018-06-09 at 19.05.37


The Misadventures of Winnie and Wilbur has eight chapters each featuring a different adventure starring Winnie and Wilbur. I absolutely love Korky Paul’s illustrations which run through each page in a mixture of both colour and black and white.  ‘Winnie’s Knickers’ in which Winnie tries to solve the problem of an uncomfortable broom ride.



‘My bum’s black and blue! said Winnie.

‘A knobbly bottom on a knobbly broomstick is not a comfortable thing.’

So Winnie comes up with a plan to ‘upholster’ her bum with a pair of fetching new home-made knickers.


This is a fabulous book and I will happily add it to the growing collection of Winnie and Wilbur adventures on my bookshelf.

This particular edition is a reissue of this lovely book. The older edition known was known as The Misadventure of Winnie the Witch for which there is an Accelerated Reader quiz for those children who participate in the Accelerated Reader programme.

You can discover more about Winnie and Wilbur by visiting their very own website here.

Find more fantastic books for children by Oxford University Press here.

ps. I think I look a little like Winnie the Witch. 🙂

How To Bee by Bren MacDibble

During my time at Lovereading4kids I was fortunate enough to review some fantastic books. More recently I discovered How To Bee by Bren MacDibble, a fascinating middle grade title that looks at the effects of climate change and poverty.  I felt it was insightful and dealt with important issues wonderfully.  This would make an interesting choice for classroom or book club discussion.

How to BeeHow To Bee is unlike any story I have ever read. The narrative voice is heartfelt and the author uses a mild form of dialect to bring both her characters and setting to life. Seen through the eyes of eight year old Peony, we see great hardship and brutality but also friendship, courage and determination. This is at times a harsh and truthful read, tackling difficult issues of environment, poverty and abuse, unafraid to hide the cruelty and yet finding within the beauty of nature, family and what really matters. It’s a story about standing true to your dreams, and that with hard work, love and kindness we can help those dreams come true. It is also a reminder of how precious our natural world is and how we must do all we can to protect it for both us and future generations.

Peony is a pest who dreams of becoming a Bee. It’s a simple life centred on the trees and family. In a world where pesticides have destroyed the bee population it now falls to children like Peony to save the harvest from pests and other dangers that may destroy their precious produce. The best workers who are light and quick become hand-pollinators. Armed with feather wands they climb from tree to tree pollinating the flowers in the hope that they will bear fruit. Peony lives on the farm with her sister Magnolia and Gramps. Her Ma lives and works in the city, coming home every now and then with cash and fresh bruises. At eight years old Peony can’t understand why she doesn’t stay, they live a simple life but they have everything they need. But Ma thinks Peony would be better off working in the city for cash so they can save and build a better future. Strong willed and courageous, Peony is determined to remain in the place she loves and earn her stripes to work as a Bee on the farm.

How To Bee shows that even the smallest person can make a big difference in a challenging world.


Set in a future Australia in a time when there are no bees and children are employed to scramble through the fruit trees with feather wands, much like the pear farmers of Hanyuan in China are forced to do today. Peony wants to be a bee, a hand pollinator: she’s light, she’s fast, and even though she’s a year too young, she’s going to be the best bee the farm has ever seen…except when you’re only 9, it’s hard to get everyone around you to go along with your plan. A beautiful and fierce novel for middle grade readers, ‘How to Bee’ explores an all-too-possible dystopian social landscape with an intensely compelling and original voice.

How To Bee will be published by Old Barn Books on 3rd May 2018.

Visit Bren’s website here to find out more about this fascinating author.

Author Spotlight – Kaye Umansky

October, 2017 and it’s Halloween so what better place for the sparkle of my spotlight to land than on the fantasmical children’s author and poet, Kaye Umansky.


Kaye Umansky

Kaye is of full of wonderful wit and humour and has written over 130 books!! Including: novels, picture books, music books, plays and poems and the ‘Pongwiffy’ series that she is most well-known for – which, by the way, is currently being rather fantastically reissued by publisher Simon & Schuster and is full of brilliant illustrations by the talented Katie Riddell.

If you’d like to find out more about Kaye then do visit her website, it’s rather wonderful (and sparkly).  She was kind enough to answer a few questions for me to share with you, so do take a moment to read on if you can.  Right, back to the books….

There are so many of Kaye’s books that I admire.  Published by Barrington Stoke, The Knights of the Drop-Leaf Table is particularly good for reluctant or dyslexic readers and Algy’s Amazing Adventures in the Jungle holds a special place in my heart as it was one of the first books my own son read and reviewed as part of the Lovereading4kids reader review panel (he was 6 at the time). But unfortunately time and space is limited, so for now here is a little more information about two of my personal favourites.

The Pongwiffy Stories by Kaye Umansky and Illustrated by Katy Riddell

Pongwiffy is hilarious and if you haven’t yet discovered her then I recommend buying the recently published bind-up edition of the first two books. The remaining two will be published in 2018.

Pongwiffy has just moved into a new cave, and it’s dirty, smelly and damp – in other words it’s perfect for a witch like Pongwiffy!  At least it would be if her next dPongwiffy storiesoor neighbours weren’t a group of extremely noisy Goblins… Before long Pongwiffy can bear it no more and enlists the help of her best friend, Witch Sharkadder, to find her somewhere else to live.  And that’s when the problems really start!In the second story , the Goblins are back and up to their usual tricks!  But this time Pongwiffy also has to deal with a badly behaved broom, a bonfire disaster and a strange genie…

Two laugh-out-loud stories of humour and warmth, enticingly mixed with sludge, slime and very bad habit.

The Pongwiffy Stories was published on the 24th of August 2017 by Simon & Schuster.

Witch for a Week by Kaye Umansky and Illustrated by Ashley King

Now Kaye has a new series to add to her wonderful collection of stories.  Meet Elsie Pickles, a young girl whose time is mostly spent helping out in her family’s shop, in the dull town of Smallbridge where life ‘trickled on with calm monotony’ until that is a ‘wind came howling out of nowhere’ and suddenly life for Elsie begins to become rather unexpected and exciting.  “this is a lovely read; full of fun and adventure, comedy and excitement, it will keep children smiling from beginning to end.” Andrea Reece, expert reviewer for Lovereading4kids. For Witch for a Week, Kaye has been blessed with yet another talented Illustrator.  Ashley King’s illustrations are the perfect accompaniment and the beautifully, sparkly cover will appeal to any young wannabe witches (or wizards) out there.

Witch for a weekWhen clever, unflappable Elsie offers to house-sit the mysterious home of local witch Magenta Sharp, she has no idea what she’s getting herself into. Left with a talking raven and a scruffy dog for company, and a book of instruction called Everything You Need to Know, what could possibly go wrong? With an assortment of weird and wonderful neighbours banging at the door and a box of volatile magical ingredients that must be used immediately, Elsie is forced to get experimental with magic!A brand new magical adventure from Kaye Umansky the bestselling author of Pongwiffy!

Witch for a Week was published on the 5th of October by Simon & Schuster.

Now some words from Kate herself…

Which is your favourite book to read aloud from?

My favourite book by somebody else is Just William, by Richmal Crompton – particularly the story where he meets Violet Elizabeth. As to books that I have written – I like reading out scenes featuring the Goblins in the Pongwiffy books. They are incredibly stupid and I love doing their voices.

You have two cats, Heathcliff and Jeremy. Who was Jeremy named after?

Well, I wanted to call him Mr Rochester, who is another dashing romantic type from Jane Eyre. I thought it would go with Heathcliff. But my family wouldn’t let me. My husband thought he looked like a butler, all black and white. For some reason, my husband thinks Jeremy is a butler-ish name. So there you go.

What one piece of writing advice would you give a) to children wanting to write stories and b) to adults wanting to write books for children?

A. Children wanting to write stories. Read, read, read! You will get hundreds of good ideas from books which will stimulate you to have a go at stories of your own.

B. Adults wanting to write books for children. Be clear on the age group you are writing for and use the appropriate vocabulary. Do a bit of research by visiting a library and seeing what is available and popular.

Of all the objects you have in the little office you write in at the top of your house, which is your favourite?

Hmm. Difficult. There are hundreds of bits and bobs. Possibly the tiny pair of brown leather boots I wore as a two year old, sixty eight years ago. I take them in to show the children when I visit schools. They look like they’ve been made by a fairy cobbler.

If you could live for one day as one character from any book, who would you be?

I would love to live for a day as Granny Weatherwax, the cleverest witch in the books by Terry Prachett. She has all sorts of wonderful skills, including being able to enter the minds of birds and animals. And I’d love to fly on a broomstick!

I do hope you’ve enjoyed my author spotlight.  Kaye Umansky really is a treasure and she’s been an absolute delight to write about.  Have a super Halloween and may all your stories be suitably spooky.

The Boy With One Name by J.R.Wallis


I absolutely love Middle Grade fiction. It’s exciting and there is such an amazing choice for kids (and those of us still kids at heart). Unfortunately although there are many amazingly well stocked and managed school libraries out there not all of them have the funds or space to keep a stock of fresh, new titles. If you are lucky enough to have a local library then I urge you to use it if you don’t already and of course a bookshop of any shape or size is always a great place to visit. So, if you are looking for a weekend reading treat here’s my recommendation for this week.

The Boy With One Name by J.R.Wallis

I absolutely adore a little magic and mystery. Throw in some mortal danger, monsters and things that go bump in the night and I’m in heaven. 😄

This summer the rather lovely people over at Simon & Schuster kids sent me a copy of The Boy With One Name. The cover alone grabbed my interest as soon as it slipped out from it’s Jiffy bag.

WELCOME TO THE BADLANDS … a hidden part of our world populated by creatures which most people think exist only in fairytales and nightmares.

The story features two young protagonists – Jones desperately wants to be a normal boy but since he was a baby fate has had other plans, because Jones is an apprentice Badlander. Badlanders hunt witches, ogres, shapeshifters and other monsters that ordinary people only see in their nightmares.

Ruby is also desperate for a different life. Running away from her latest foster carer and a difficult home life, Ruby  is searching for a world she can fit into. A world where she has some purpose and meaning.

Things go terribly wrong on the night that Jones is making his first kill as part of his commencement to become a Badlander and suddenly he is left without his master Maitland, the one man who taught him everything he knows and who’s been there for him since he was a baby. Now he is alone with only a talking gun (which he can’t touch) for guidance.

Looking for a safe place to hide, runaway Ruby finds herself caught up in Jones life and the monsters that she thought only belonged in fairytales and nightmares. Before long circumstances force them to work together as each tries to not only stay alive but to find the lives they’ve both dreamed of.

What follows is an adventure story that grips from the very first page as you tumble into the Badlands. Adrenaline filled and full of danger, Wallis will have you cheering for more.

This is a great book about friendship, self discovery, learning who you are and finding courage in even the most desparate of situations. I absolutely loved Jones and fiesty Ruby. They each had their own problems but discovered that working together they could achieve anything.

An exciting start to what I hope will become a series. This will make a fantastic, fun and exciting read.

Published by Simon and Schuster
Published in paperback in August 2017
Review copy supplied by the lovely people at Simon and Schuster (thanks so much:)

Find out more about author J.R.Wallis by visiting his website: here.

Here’s a small taster that I’ve taken from the opening page.

     Jones stopped. He’d felt safe enough creeping down the path in front of the cottage, in the dark.  But now the moon had reappeared from behind the clouds, the world was relit with a softer silver light meaning he was much more likely to be seen.

He kept trying to focus on what Maitland had promised, that he wouldn’t come to any harm. But that was less easy to believe now they were actually here. Scared to go on, Jones looked behind him, to where his Master was hiding, hoping to be beckoned back.

Maitland stepped out from the granite porch concealing the front door of the cottage and stood on the path, big as a bolder in his greatcoat. He said nothing. His craggy face remained hidden below the peak of his baseball cap. And Jones knew right away Maitland wanted him to go on, however bright the moon, because this was his big night. This was his big test.


Poppy and the Blooms by Fiona Woodcock


Firstly, before I go any further, I just have to say that Fiona is a beautiful illustrator. She uses a variety of both medium and techniques that result in some visually stunning images. This is evident in her second picture book, Poppy and the Blooms, an eyecatching book that will demand your attention as it stands proudly on display in any bookshop, library or bookshelf. The images seem to call out to you and I can almost hear Poppy and her friends inviting me to pick them up and have a look. ( I imagine their voices to be fairly high pitched, a little giggly and very friendly.)


Fiona has created within a book the same effect I experience when I see real flowers when I’m out and about. They grab my attention, make me stop and something about them draws me to gently touch their petals and smell their scent. They’re very evocative. Her illustrations capture this perfectly and I think this is one of the key things that will draw both adults and children to pick up the book. Of course once you’ve began to read you’ll also find that the story is absolutely delightful.


Today, as our towns and cities continue to expand, we are becoming more and more aware of the need to retain (and add) as much natural landscape as possible. Poppy and her friends are on a mission to save the last park in the city. The stark contrast between the flora and the grey colourless world of a city without green space is clever at highlighting how lost and bleak things would be without our natural surroundings.

When Poppy awakes one morning,

‘with a strange tingling feeling. It fluttered in her tummy… and shivered the tips of her petals.’

she knew that something wasn’t quite right and so with enormous courage for someone so small she hops on her skateboard (LOVE the skateboards!) and sets off with her friends – Dandy, Bluebell and Buttercup – to try and save the last park in the city. And with a little courage, sunshine, magic, and a big dose of determination the four friends make a BIG difference.

‘Hey, Blooms, we did that,’ she smiled.

‘We did it together’, said Dandy and Bluebell and bright little Buttercup.’

A wonderful story to share, this lovely picture book will show your little ones just how little things can make a big difference.


Published by Simon and Schuster

Published on the 10th August 2017

Visit Fiona’s website here.

Follow Fiona on Twitter: @FionaWoodcock

Or on Instagram: @FionaWoodcock

Visit the Publisher website here.

Follow Simon and Schuster on Twitter: @simonkids_uk

Or on Instagram: @simonkidsuk

Letters From The Lighthouse by Emma Carroll


I have to admit to being a big fan of Emma’s books. Her stories continue to delight and move me, and Letters from the Lighthouse does not disappoint at all.

It’s 1941 and the Second World War rages on longer than anyone anticipated. Reeling from the death of their father and the disappearance of their sister Sukie, Olive and her brother are evacuated to the coast of Devon. After discovering a strangely coded message that she’s certain has something to do with Sukie’s disappearance, Olive embarks on a dangerous adventure as she’s determined to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Emma Carroll has a wonderful takent for bringing historic events to life for today’s young readers and with Letters from the Lighthouse continues to create an enthralling, thrilling read, whilst introducing situations and characters that are still relevant in our world today. Olive is a wonderful protagonist. Being an evacuee she has an understanding of the prejudice that can come from lack of understanding. The thing that touched me most within this wonderful novel was the opportunity to hear the stories behind all those effected by war along with the refugees and the impact they had on the locals. War and hate has the ability to divide communities but Letters from the Lighthouse shows how much can be achieved when people work together.

A beautifully written story about bravery, compassion, understanding, and having the strength to fight for what you believe in.

Publication on 1st June 2017

Published by Faber & Faber

Review originally written for Lovereading.co.uk

Visit Emma’s website here.

The Night Spinner by Abi Elphinstone

Night Spinner

With this action packed third and final instalment to the series, Abi Elphinstone has secured her place in the imagination of young readers.

Dark magic threatens to shroud Moll and everything she holds dear in an eternal night, reducing the world around her to a place without hope. Never has she been further from home or felt more alone, her constant companion self-doubt as she tries to fight back against the last two Shadowmasks. Yet the darkness is hard to fight and it will take every ounce of courage she has to overcome them. Moll must face her deepest fears whilst she, Siddy and Gryff embark on an adventure that will see them face goblins, witches and giants in the northern wilderness. Can they fight the curse of the Night Spinner and find the Amulet of Truth to bring light back to the land, when so many have already fallen under its spell?
Abi Elphinstone is most certainly a writer to watch. You can feel her own sense of adventure and wonder for the world right within the heart of her stories and this is an amazing gift to share with the children who read them. Totally absorbing with just the right level of scary, the fears and feelings within are something that all children will relate to. Through Moll, Gryff and their friends we learn the importance of friendship and learning from your mistakes, whilst being true to who you are and finding courage even in the very darkest of moments. A new adventure is promised from Abi in 2018 but in the meantime this trilogy is certainly one that will be returned to again and again.

Published by Simon and Schuster Childrens Books
Publication Date: 23rd February 2017

Reviewed originally for Lovereading4kids.

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