Eagle Warrior by Gill Lewis

In her latest book Gill Lewis combines her knowledge, understanding and concern for wildlife with her skill in storytelling to create a thought provoking read that will enthral children and inspire them to think about conservation.

Ten year old Bobbie lives on the family farm on the Scottish moors with her parents and Granny. She is thrilled that a golden eagle has settled near them and she and Granny watch him with care and interest. However not everyone feels the same about this majestic bird and Bobbie is distressed to discover this in a brutal manner. One day while out walking, her Granny’s beloved dog is poisoned and dies so Bobbie now knows that the bird is in danger is and she is determined to protect the eagle. Sometimes difficulties arrive together in life and she must also deal with the possibility that she will be sent away to school so Bobbie must now find the strength to fight for the things that matter most to her.

Inspired by the true story of the ‘disappearance’ of a Golden Eagle called Fred in suspicious circumstances near a Scottish grouse moor this book raises many questions about environmental issues. Children are increasingly aware of the threat to our natural habitat and this thrilling adventure will engage them and encourage them to research further into the subject too. Gill Lewis has pledged to send her PLR royalties from this book to Wild Justice, a new organisation challenging the legal ties of wildlife law.

However it is the story itself that will spark interest in young readers. Bobbie’s character is appealing and children will want things to be resolved happily for both her and the golden eagle she cares so much about. Barrington Stoke publishers have ensured that this story is accessible to a wide range of readers and it is presented in their usual super readable style. This would also make a good read aloud for the classroom prompting discussion and linking well to lessons on environmental issues.

Eagle Warrior is out now and can be bought in all good bookshops or online

If you would like a quick taste of Eagle Warrior the first chapter is available on the Barrington Stoke website There is information about Golden Eagles and their current situation on the Scottish Wildlife website

Gill Lewis has written many excellent children books on the theme of our natural world and if you are looking for another accessible, short read I would highly recommend Run Wild.

I would like to thank Kirstin Lamb and Barrington Stoke for my free review copy.

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Anna at War by Helen Peters (20 Books of Summer -Book 3)

“The British were so magnanimous to welcome us foreigners… truly showing a phenomenal humanity.”

These words were part of the inspiration for this enthralling and immensely thoughtful book set in World War 2. They were said by a woman in her nineties, a former Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, who wanted to thank Brighton College for taking her in more than 70 years ago. The sentence struck Helen Peters more forcibly in view of the prejudice and hostility sometimes displayed towards refugees today. Anna at War tells the moving story of a twelve year old girl who, thanks to her parents’ bravery, escapes to England just before the outbreak of war as part of the Kindertransport rescue effort. Inspired by real events and people this is a remarkable story of bravery and resilience but also of compassion and friendship that will engage and inspire young readers.

Life in 1930s Nazi Germany has become increasingly difficult for Jewish families such as Anna’s and the tension and fear have gradually increased, culminating in the dreadful events of Kristallnacht, following which Anna’s father is temporarily sent to a concentration camp. When he is released he and his wife make the heartbreaking decision to send Anna alone to safety in England. Helen Peters’ description of both the terrifying night when Anna’s father was taken and her subsequent journey by train out of Germany is utterly gripping. The terror experienced by Anna has she hides in the wardrobe as soldiers ransack their home, the raw grief of the farewell at the station and the mounting fear on the train journey are conveyed with an eye to the age of her readers and yet with great emotion. Throughout all of this we are beginning to appreciate that Anna is a remarkable and resilient character.

Once in England Anna is fostered by the kindly Mr and Mrs Dean and lives on their farm with their daughter Molly and her younger brother, Frank. Life in the Kent countryside is very different to Anna’s previous experiences and yet she is determined in her desire to make the best of things and to try to enable her parents to join her eventually. The reader accompanies Anna in her attempts to adapt to English schooling, life on the farm and making friendships in an atmosphere of growing fear of the enemy as war is declared in England. The fears that Anna thought she had left behind her in Germany are now real again and she finds herself caught up in a web of secrets and betrayal. The subsequent adventure is one with a lasting impact and is of such extreme tension that children reading will be utterly enthralled.

Historical fiction for children gives a voice to those who are no longer able to tell their stories and they are stories that need to be told. Helen Peters has managed to balance the need to explain a harrowing and deeply sad period of history with the desire to make it accessible to a young audience. The various strands to Anna’s story do not all have happy endings but this is important in order to maintain historical accuracy. However this is a story of hope and determination which celebrates the bravery of the parents who sent their children away and the impressive manner in which their children responded to the opportunity. The author introduces the book with a school project for which children are researching life in World War 2 which is a neat and appropriate way of enticing young readers in to the story and provides a link to today’s familiar world.

Anna at War has now joined my list of favourite children’s books of the year so far. Combining history and adventure in a story that is both relevant and relatable for today’s children this is a compulsive and enjoyable read. It was published on 4th July and is available in all good bookshops or online The cover illustration is by Daniela Terrazzini.

Thank you very much to Nosy Crow Publishers who kindly provided my review copy.

This is my third book in the #20BooksOfSummer challenge organised by Cathy on 746 Books. If you would like to see which other titles are on my challenge list I wrote about them here

If you are looking for other children’s books set during World War 2 I can recommend D-Day Dog by Tom Palmer, Letters from the Lighthouse by Emma Carroll and the classic, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr.

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Bookworm – A Memoir of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan (20 Books of Summer Book 2)

What is a bookworm? The Cambridge dictionary definition describes it as “Someone who reads a lot.” For Lucy Mangan it means so much more than that. In the introduction to this homage to the joys of reading she says that books are so important to her that “they made me who I am.” This, I think, applies particularly to the books that we read in childhood. In her best selling memoir Lucy Mangan reflects on the characters and worlds that books brought to life for her when she was young and in doing so confirms something that I have long believed. Reading is not something done in isolation, it connects us. To the characters, to the author and to the book’s other readers. It is a shared experience that unites us in an understanding.

Lucy Mangan’s memory for detail is impressive as she takes us on her reading journey from her early encounter with The Very Hungry Caterpillar all the way on through her school days culminating in her teenage reading of Summer With a German Soldier. Along the way we detour to savour the best of children’s illustration, an obsession with Enid Blyton and the Sweet Valley High series and a healthy dose of classics such as Tom’s Midnight Garden and What Katy Did. The range of titles enjoyed is broad and even those that Mangan enjoyed less or even not at all are ascribed an importance in so far as she recognises that they are important to other readers. In addition to the delightful and sometimes hilarious anecdotes about her childhood, her reading choices and her family Lucy Mangan also includes a brief history or further background information about the authors and illustrators she loved or the literary trends that helped to produce their books. I found this aspect fascinating and it has prompted me to want to find out more about some that were mentioned.

As is often the case with a budding bookworm there is an adult behind the scenes acting as a guide or mentor. For Lucy Mangan this was her father whose sharing of beloved books at the right time is wonderful, a gentle suggestion or a book given with a quiet encouragement that was so appreciated by his daughter. This is an approach that can be equally successful in libraries and schools, subtly nudging a would be reader and opening the door a little onto a whole new world. On many pages I smiled in recognition of a beloved book or a particular character and often my favourites were those of Mangan’s. This is interesting in itself as I am older and my formative reading experience took place in the 1960s rather than the 70s or early 80s. We shared a love of the classic Ladybird information books, Enid Blyton’s Willow Farm and numerous pony books despite the fact, or maybe even because of it, that we would never ever have ponies of our own. However, perhaps this age difference would account for the marked difference in our teenage reading habits. In the early to mid 1970s a teen or YA market did not exist as such and like my contemporaries I jumped from a childhood world of magic, schools, animals and adventure to that of adult best sellers with a short diversion to the classics in between. I fear I may have missed out a little.

One aspect that remains the same for all bookworms regardless of the decade is that when we read we are transported to another place entirely. Oblivious to distractions, summons to ‘come and eat’, ‘do homework’ or all the other pleas from our parents that fell on deaf ears as we fought battles in Narnia or accompanied Jill as she won yet another rosette in a gymkhana.

Another aspect that Lucy Mangan mentioned and one I have noticed in my work as a school librarian is that for child readers rereading is a vital part of the process. For adults the desire to try something new, the fear of missing out on wonderful new books or of wasting precious time is a nagging and real concern. For children it is different. Firstly there is the mechanics of reading itself, the just learned skill of decoding and discovering the meaning of words takes effort, then the understanding of the plot itself requires concentration and often a second look. Only once all this is done can a child return, reread and ponder on the characters themselves, their development, the underlying emotion or relevance to themselves and to their own lives. Hence the need and the desire to reread old favourites. We need to remind ourselves of this instead of rushing young readers on to the next level or pushing them too fast too soon.

This book is full of warmth, great humour and an honest insight into the slightly obsessive love that many of us have for the books that we care about. I enjoyed it thoroughly and found it nostalgic in the best possible way. Not a sad reflection of something long gone and now lost but a celebration of something that I am able to continue to build on and to share.

Bookworm – A Memoir of Childhood Reading is available at all good bookshops, your local library or online

This is my second book in the #20BooksOfSummer challenge organised by Cathy on 746 Books

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All the Ways to be Smart written by Davina Bell illustrated by Allison Colpoys

A celebration of what makes each and every child special, this positive and joy filled book acts as a reassuring balance to the message that the only things that matter are those that can be measured and assessed.

“I can’t wait to share with you how smart you are the whole day through.”

From the opening lines this book’s message is an extremely positive one. The rhyming text continues to explain that being smart is not only about having work marked as correct but also about being creative or practical or knowing how to use your imagination. Perhaps even more importantly being smart means being kind and caring and knowing how to be a thoughtful friend. All manner of life skills are included and acknowledged as a vital part of learning and growing. Everything from being able to choose what to wear to having a go at things even when you are scared is celebrated and valued. So many different aspects are included that each and every child sharing this book will discover that they are smart at something. I love the idea of a child listening to this read aloud or reading it alone and realising that their skills or things they enjoy matter. Even being able sit still and quiet is mentioned, a skill not all little people can manage for very long!

The cheerful illustrations are slightly nostalgic in appearance but are also diverse and inclusive and a delight for young children to examine. They complement the text well and the overall tone of the book is a comforting one. A lovely book to share both at home and in school this has the added advantage of being both reassuring and encouraging.

Thank you very much to the publishers, Scribe Publications UK Ltd, for providing my review copy.

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When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr – 20 Books of Summer (1/20)

“Nowadays, my escape from Germany and everything that followed seems far away. I’ve lived in London more than seventy years. I have been happily married and our children are a joy. It has been a wonderfully happy life. But it almost didn’t happen…I can never forget how lucky I’ve been.”

Judith Kerr ( Note from the author 2008 When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit)

When Judith Kerr, the award winning children’s author and illustrator, died in May at the age of 95 there was an outpouring of love, respect and, despite her great age, a sense of shock. There were many articles written about the long lasting effect her picture books such as The Tiger Who Came to Tea and Mog the Forgetful Cat had on children. These picture books are classics, their images and storylines have become part of the fabric of many families’ everyday life and traditions. Like all the very best children’s books Judith Kerr’s gentle stories work partly because they encourage us to savour those small, everyday joys.

My first book in the 20 Books of Summer challenge is When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. This is a semi autobiographical novel relating the story of Judith Kerr’s family’s escape from Nazi Germany in 1933 and their life as refugees in Switzerland, France and finally in England. The first of a trilogy it is regarded as a classic and has been popular in school classrooms since its publication in 1971. Anna, the nine year old narrator of the story is a child of intelligence but also of practical and resolute optimism. She notices the good things each day and treats life as an adventure. Although this was largely due to the manner in which her brave parents protected Anna/Judith and her brother from the mounting horrors of pre-WW2 Europe, the author’s positive attitude to life is undoubtedly a trait which helped carry her through these difficult times. This positivity shines through her children’s books and is, quite probably, one of the reasons why we love them so much.

At the beginning of this novel Anna is too busy with schoolwork and tobogganing to pay much attention to the talk of Hitler. Her friend says that when her little sister saw his face on a poster she mistook him for Charlie Chaplin. This innocence is in sharp contrast to the reality for Anna’s Jewish parents. Unknown to Anna and her older brother, their father, a published writer of anti Hitler articles, is wanted by the Nazis. In the middle of the night he flees to Switzerland to avoid capture and this is when Anna’s world changes. They must leave Germany quickly and Anna may choose only the very few things that will fit in her bag. After deliberation she selects a new woolly toy dog rather than her old but much loved pink rabbit, a decision she later regrets. She, her brother and her mother rush to join Anna’s father in secrecy, leaving their home, their friends and everything the children have ever known.

“He put his arms around Mama and hugged her. Then he hugged Anna and Max. He hugged and hugged them all and would not let them go.

‘I couldn’t see you,’ said Papa. ‘ I was afraid…’

‘I know,’ said Mama.”

Judith Kerr tells the story of the family’s escape as an adventure with moments of humour. However there are difficult incidents too and once or twice the reality of the brutality and horror of the situation strays into the protective bubble Anna and Max’s parents have created for their children. For the children their lives as refugees revolve around adapting to their new surroundings, learning a new language and making new friends. Anna’s matter of fact attitude to her changed circumstances makes the moments when the exposure of the cruelty that has triggered their situation all the more shocking. The burning of books by the Nazis, including those written by Anna’s father and the prejudice shown by the German family holidaying in Switzerland who will not allow their children to play with Anna and Max because they are Jewish give young readers an idea of some of the attitudes at the time. The most shocking moment occurs when Anna overhears a conversation between her mother and grandmother about the fate of a well known professor who was imprisoned in a concentration camp. Anna feels sick as she listens and the reader feels a similiar sense of revulsion. As an adult reader with a knowledge and understanding of historical events this is difficult to read and yet Judith Kerr has carefully presented her experiences in an accessible manner for young readers that makes it easier for them to cope with.

It is the fact that the family are united throughout all of this that enables Anna to cope. Their previous comfortable lifestyle may be long gone but she draws great comfort from the sound of her father typing in the next room and family meals in their cramped flat in Paris. Again and again we are reminded of what matters. A sense of belonging, no matter where they live, and the support of a loving family make things bearable for Anna. In fact there are times when she thinks her new life is exciting and an improvement on her old one. As an adult reader we realise that this is largely due to her parents keeping the worst of the situation from their children but for children the underlying message of hope, determination and resilience is an encouraging one.

“Do you think we’ll ever really belong anywhere?”

“I suppose not,” said Papa. “Not the way people belong who have lived in one place all their lives. But we’ll belong a little in lots of places, and I think that may be just as good.”

Judith Kerr was a shining example of someone who made the most of her opportunities and was lucky to be able to seek refuge and make a home in a country that welcomed her. This important novel will continue to convey a message of kindness and hope to future generations of children.

This lovely and fascinating interview with Judith Kerr from The Financial Times in 2017 is well worth a read.

Following a recommendation by children’s author, Emma Barnes I intend buying a copy of Judith Kerr’ s Creatures – A Celebration of the Life and Work of Judith Kerr

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Owen and the Soldier by Lisa Thompson

Owen and the Soldier is a touching story relating how we all need to have someone to listen to us when times are hard but also need to be brave enough to ask. In her first title for Barrington Stoke, Lisa Thompson has yet again tackled difficult subjects, depression, loss, anxiety and grief, with an understanding and kindness that children will find both comforting and relatable.


Owen has a secret. He likes to go and sit in the park and talk to his friend the soldier. The soldier is made of stone and sits on a bench in the memorial garden, a tribute to the brave people who lost their lives in war. Things are difficult for Owen and his mum. They are both struggling to cope and this struggle manifests itself in different ways in each of them. Owen finds comfort in talking to his silent friend as he can share his worries with the soldier safely. Then he learns that the council are planning to modernise the park and get rid of his soldier. Owen is devastated and decides to fight to save the statue and show everyone how important it is. However to achieve this Owen will have to be brave and reveal why the soldier means so much to him.

This is a compelling read that I found extremely moving. Lisa Thompson has already proved that she can write about difficult subjects with compassion and understanding in her longer middle grade novels such as The Light Jar and in this novella she has made them accessible to slightly younger readers. Owen is an extremely likeable character and young readers will readily engage with this worried and sad little boy.  As they follow his story they will also learn the importance of asking for help when it’s needed, the importance of accepting the hand of friendship and that sometimes you can be braver than you imagine.

The school scenes were, I felt, extremely realistic. They captured the feel of everyday routines, the chat amongst classmates and friends and the kindness shown by Owen’s teacher, who, despite what Owen thinks, only wants the best for his pupils. The publication of this book coincides with Empathy Day which was marked this week and this tender story is a wonderful example of the way in children’s fiction promotes an understanding of others and ourselves. Owen and the Soldier is a book that encourages children to care. I loved it, even though it made me tearful and would highly recommend it.

There are some great books being published by Barrington Stoke at the moment and I would like to thank Kirstin Lamb for sending me my free review copy. The finished book has a very appealing cover by Mike Lowery.

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Special Delivery by Jonathan Meres illustrated by Hannah Coulson – Dementia in children’s books

A book about finding friendship in unlikely places, this gentle story focusing on helping others, provides a kind and thoughtful look at dementia and is suitable for younger readers.

Frank would like a new bike. Unfortunately it is not Christmas or his birthday so he has a problem. He needs to start saving! His older sister, Lottie, suggests that Frank helps her with her paper round to earn some money to put towards the bike of his dreams. When he starts his early morning routine he makes an unexpected new friend. Mary is an old lady who wears a cowboy hat and boots and sometimes seems a little forgetful and confused. When she is in trouble Frank is there to lend a hand.

Although dementia is never specifically mentioned this book successfully introduces this difficult subject to younger readers in an accessible and understated manner. Many children will, sadly, know of someone, possibly grandparents, who have some form of dementia and books can be a very useful way of prompting discussion and understanding. Special Delivery will enable this to happen. I liked the kindness shown in the story by the different characters including Frank’s sister and Mary’s son. A short story told with understanding, this would be a useful addition to primary school bookshelves.

Special Delivery is a book in the brilliant Little Gems series for children aged 5-8 published by Barrington Stoke and is presented in a super readable format meaning it is dyslexia friendly too. Perfect for both newly confident readers and those who prefer a shorter read, it would also work as a read aloud for younger children.

Thank you to Kirstin Lamb and Barrington Stoke for sending me my free review copy. Special Delivery is published on 15th June.

Dementia can be a difficult subject to talk about with children and teens but some organisations have put together lists of books that may help young readers understand and prompt discussion with adults. Here are a few you may find helpful.

Alzheimer’s Society – Recommended books about dementia for children and adults

Book Trust – this well known charity have produced a useful list Books on Dementia

Young Dementia UK – this charity assists people affected by young onset dementia Books for Children

The website, www.dementiaexplained.org , provides child-friendly dementia information focusing on the ways people with dementia can change and the effect this can have on families. By bringing together a range of resources including stories narrated by the broadcaster Edith Bowman, videos and interactive games, the site allows young people to discover more about the brain, how it is affected by diseases like Alzheimer’s and share their experiences to help others.

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Twenty Books of Summer

Cathy at 746 Books is hosting the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge again this year. In previous years I have not become involved but having investigated Cathy’s blog she appears to have a very relaxed approach to this “challenge” so I have succumbed. Although I seriously doubt I will manage twenty books between 3rd June and 3rd September, particularly as I’m starting late, I thought it may prompt me to tackle my toppling to be read book mountains. According to Cathy I can reduce the number if I wish to and may alter the list if I fancy too. This sounds appealing! Many thanks to Paula Bardell-Hadley, Book Jotter for making me aware of the challenge.

With my various reviewing commitments, chiefly for children’s books, the time available for reading simply for fun has diminished. Although I greatly enjoy the children’s books I review it will be refreshing to have complete freedom of choice. My list of twenty titles does include some children’s titles, nonfiction and some old classics in addition to presents that I have not had time to read plus one or two I have been sent by publishers to review. So here goes…my #20BooksofSummer list. Perhaps you would like to read some of these too?

1. When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit – Judith Kerr – When I noticed that a shared reading of this book was to take place on Twitter throughout June in tribute to this loved and respected author I knew I wanted to get involved. I was due to hear this remarkable woman speak at the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival last month and have used my ticket refund to buy a new copy of this classic. You can get involved by following the #PinkRabbitReadalong organised by Lorraine Gregory and Annalise Avery

2. The Bookworm – Lucy Mangan – watching the 63Up documentary has prompted me, like many others I imagine, to look back on my life in 7 year chunks. Some of the chunks would be linked to favourite books so I’m sure that this memoir of childhood reading will be fascinating.

3. Cousins – Salley Vickers – I’ve enjoyed several of this author’s books, in particular Mr Golightly’s Holiday. Family sagas have always featured in my favourite books lists and I am intrigued by this story across the generations.

4. When We Were Warriors – Emma Carroll – a children’s author whose novels always make me feel 10 years old again. I should have read this collection earlier and am determined to put that right.

5. The Writer’s Map – Hugh Lewis Jones – a beautiful Christmas present that I want to make time to savour. I love the imaginary worlds that authors create and am looking forward to finding out more about the process.

6. The Salt Path – Raynor Winn – I came across this memoir when browsing in Waterstones and was struck by a lovely review by Jackie Morris so bought it on impulse. It may be moved up the list…

7. The Old Ways – Robert MacFarlane – I loved The Lost Words created by this author and Jackie Morris and enjoy his word of the day on Twitter. However it is the idea of history hidden in our footpaths and lanes that makes me want to read this one.

8. Singled Out – Virginia Nicholson – a second hand book fair buy, this book about the generation of women who were left alone after the First World War should, I hope be an interesting read.

9. The Silk Roads (Illustrated edition) – Peter Frankopan & Neil Packer – an introduction to world history for children, this beautifully illustrated book is appealing to this adult too.

10. & 11. Little Men & Jo’s Boys – Louisa M Alcott – two childhood favourites. Over the last eighteen months I have reread Little Women and Good Wives and would like to complete the series. I have happy memories of these books.

12. Straw into Gold – Hilary McKay – a retelling of fairy tales by a children’s author I respect.

13. Children’s Hour Folk Stories and Fables – another second hand book fair find I think it will be interesting to dip into this one alongside Hilary McKay’s recent book

14. La Belle Sauvage Volume 1 The Book of Dust – Philip Pullman – a signed copy bought at a British Library event. I have heard so much about this book and want to form my own opinion.

15. Cranford- Elizabeth Gaskell – this was hiding on a shelf in a wonderful secondhand bookshop in a converted chapel in Suffolk and has hidden on my bookshelf ever since. How shaming…

16. The House with Chicken Legs – Sophie Andersen – a children’s book award winner that I have kept intending to read and don’t know why I haven’t done so.

17. Year of Wonder – Clemency Burton-Hill – this is cheating a little. I have had this fascinating book for some time and dip in occasionally. I hope that adding it to the list will mean that I will check the recommended piece of classical music each day.

18. Anna at War – Helen Peters – this is a proof copy sent to me by the publishers, Nosy Crow. I am very impressed with the fiction they have produced for children this year and this sounds like my sort of book so I am looking forward to reading and reviewing this one.

19. Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy – “Hardy’s most bright, confident and optimistic novel” it says on the back cover. I will let you know!

20. The Library Book a collection published by The Reading Agency – as we lose our libraries and librarians around the country this tribute feels like a timely read.


Well, these are my twenty books. Will I change some, quite possibly but I intend to try and keep to the original choices if possible. Even if I only manage five books over the period it will be a valuable exercise in focusing on books I already own. The problem is going to be resisting the pull of the local library and bookshops. There are so many fabulous books being published at the moment but I am aware that this results in some older and just as fabulous books being neglected. #20BooksofSummer is a great idea and I am looking forward to taking part. I hope to post regular updates on my progress.


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McTavish Takes the Biscuit by Meg Rosoff

McTavish the rescue dog returns in this charming and witty third instalment of life with the Peachey family.

McTavish is not just any dog. McTavish is a rescue dog and he has made it his mission to rescue the Peachey family. So far he has done a pretty good job of it, having gently encouraged tidiness and healthy eating in book one McTavish progressed to introducing the family to the wonders of nature and exploring the flora and fauna in book two. Just as McTavish may have been tempted to relax and rest on his laurels a little, for indeed the Peacheys were now a much better and happier family, Pa Peachey takes up baking. Unfortunately his plans for entering the local bake off competition far exceed his baking skills. Can McTavish come to the rescue yet again?

This book is an absolute delight. Meg Rosoff has created in McTavish a canine version of a wise and world weary grandparent overseeing the daily mayhem that is family life for the Peacheys. Told with a dry wit coupled with an understanding of people and what makes them tick this charming novella should appeal to a wide audience. It is a title in the Conkers range by Barrington Stoke targeted at readers who may find the standard middle grade titles too overwhelming and also has the advantage of being dyslexia friendly in appearance. However the content should appeal to anyone who enjoys a good story, especially those who like their reading to be humorous.

The members of the Peachey family made me smile for a variety of reasons. The individual and very different characters are entertaining and the family conversations extremely well observed. It is Pa Peachey who takes centre stage in this instalment desperate to show off his ‘skills’. The despairing children are mortified at his attempts to create a model of the Palace of Versailles, in intricate detail, out of gingerbread! Ma Peachey believes that following your dreams is important and is reluctant to dissuade Pa from entering the competition so it is McTavish who must come up with a cunning plan to save face. There is a subtle message about the importance of keeping fit in this story too. The rejected gingerbread pieces find a way into McTavish’s dog bowl and onto nine year old Betty’s plate and both of them have expanding waistlines and feel rather ill as a result. Another problem for McTavish to solve.

The illustrations add greatly to the appeal of this book and are by Grace Eaton and David Shepherd. There is a recipe for making gingerbread at the end of the book for any aspiring Bake Off contestants. You don’t have to have read the first two books to enjoy this one but I think you would enjoy Good Dog McTavish and McTavish Goes Wild just as much.

A big thank you to Kirstin Lamb at Barrington Stoke who provided my free copies of all three books. I had a very happy time reading them. McTavish Takes the Biscuit was published in May. The first chapter is available to read on the Barrington Stoke website

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The Longest Night of Charlie Noon by Christopher Edge

How to review a book as clever as this one without giving away its secrets has given me pause for thought. Perhaps it could be summed up like this…I read this in one sitting, utterly captivated, and as I read the final sentence I wanted to go back to the beginning and start again. It asks questions about the human understanding of the concept of time, questions about our natural world and about our influence on events. It will encourage children to think and to care. All this in less than 200 pages!

Christopher Edge’s recent books for children have combined science including space travel, black holes and virtual reality with adventure and, sometimes, with hard hitting emotion. Charlie Noon’s story begins like so many before it with the words, “Once upon a time” but then asks what exactly is ‘a time’? The author then introduces the three children who one day decide to find out what lies hidden in the heart of the woods near their village. At first they enjoy the rural idyll and the descriptions of the natural world around them are evocative of long hot summers of childhood. However Johnny, one of the three has told them about the legend of Old Crony, a monster who lurks there unseen. As darkness falls rapidly and the three children become lost the tension mounts as the secrets of the wood, the dangers and the puzzles, whatever their cause, slowly increase the children’s fear of the unknown.

The storytelling in this book is so skilful that I was completely unprepared for some of the breathtaking events and surprises. What at first feels like a traditional adventure gradually evolves into something both thoughtful and thought provoking. By setting this story deep in a wood the reader is reminded of scary woods in other children’s stories. Who among us has not at one time gasped at the idea of the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood or hidden in terror at the thought of the witch in Hansel and Gretel both set in similar woods to these that Charlie, Dizzy and Johnny explore. These familiar fears return as you read. However Christopher Edge balances this with descriptions of a natural world that can also be a solace and a place of great beauty. We witness this through the eyes of Charlie, a child who is knew to the great outdoors and this will mirror the attitude of some of the book’s readers.

It is the playing with the idea of time and our place in it that I found most intriguing. I love the way that this author uses story to introduce children to scientific concepts and feel sure that it will capture young readers’ imaginations in the same way that it captured mine.

The development of the three main characters throughout the story is well done and these children feel very real. The plot is masterly in its twists and I absolutely loved the ending. This is a children’s book of intelligence and emotion and highly recommended. The Longest Night of Charlie Noon is a book that will make children think and ask questions but will encourage them to care and to take notice of the world around them too.

Thank you very much to Clare Hall-Craggs and Rebecca Mason and Nosy Crow Publishers for providing my free review copy and the beautiful finished book with its stunning cover by Matt Saunders.

If you are new to Christopher Edge’s books I can highly recommend The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day

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