Category Archives: Book review

Book review: The Blue Umbrella

Title: The Blue Umbrella

Written by: Emily Ann Davison

 Illustrated by: Momoko  Abe

Published by: Anderson Press

The Blue Umbrella by Emily Ann Davison and Momoko Abe is a beautiful picture book with a theme of sharing. The pastel colours give the illustrations a satisfying sense of calm. Written in the first person it is unclear whether the main character is male or female and it could easily have been either. I liked this but for the for ease of writing this review I decided to identify them as a girl.

A blue umbrella turns up on the doorstep and all that is on it is a note saying, ‘For you’.

So our young protagonist takes the umbrella for on a walk to the park with her mother even though it is not raining. Lucky she did as it starts to rain. She realises that if she suggests her mum shelters under the umbrella with her it would mean she would get wet as there would not be enough room for both of them but she suggests it anyway. This is a truly selfless act and sets the tone of this elegant picture book.

To her surprise they both fit and she believes the blue umbrella has grown bigger to accommodate them both. Soon they are both inviting more and more people to shelter under the blue umbrella. The umbrella grows bigger and bigger to keep everyone dry.

The people have fun sharing stories and their picnics under the blue umbrella. They do not even notice when the rain stops. Being sociable, chatting to each other and making new friends opens up the world to new possibilities. From this date they come together as a community. The park becomes a gathering place to meet up and escape isolation. This is such an important message and will hopefully encourage people to be more caring and climb out of their bubbles the recent pandemic left us with.

The message is one of hope for the future.

To read my review of another of Emily’s picture books please take a look here: Book Review: Every Bunny is a Yoga Bunny

You can also read my author interview with Emily on my blog here: An interview with… Emily Ann Davison.

You can buy copies of The Blue Umbrella by Emily Ann Davison and Momoko Abe and Every Bunny is a Yoga Bunny by Emily Ann Davison and Deborah Allwright from your local bookshop, or online at, an organisation with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops.

Book Review: Glow Up Lara Bloom

Title: Glow Up Lara Bloom

Written by: Dee Benson

Published by: Hot Key Books

Glow Up Lara Bloom is a great concept middle grade book, written in the style of an online diary and reminds me of the Angus, thongs and full-frontal snogging series by Louise Rennison.

When 14-year-old Olmara Bloom falls for the hot new boy, Caiden, she initially thinks the best way to get him to notice her is to give herself a glow up. She keeps a journal on a private online app, to keep it away from the prying eyes of her blackmailing brother, outlining her feelings, expectations and the often devastating consequences. The diary format really draws you in making this book a fun, quick and easy read.

With themes of self-confidence and identity in the light of peer pressure, Glow Up Lara Bloom realistically portrays the life of a teenager and the doubts and fears they face. I found myself laughing and crying with Lara and the devastating chaos that plagues her. I particularly liked the way, she comes to the empowering realisation she is better off being herself no matter how clumsy she is.

A truly hilarious coming of age story, suitable for upper key stage 2 and lower key stage 3 readers.

I would like to thank Antonia Wilkinson for organising a review copy of this book.

You can buy copies of Glow Up Lara Bloom by Dee Benson from your local bookshop, or online at, an organisation with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops.

Book Review: Pick a Story A Dinosaur + Unicorn + Robot Adventure

Title: Pick a Story A Dinosaur + Unicorn + Robot Adventure

Written by: Sarah Coyle

Illustrated by: Adam Walker-Parker

Published by: Farshore Books

Pick a Story A Dinosaur + Unicorn + Robot Adventure is fabulous picture book which encourages children to read in a very different imaginative way. Children can learn to make decisions so they can influence the route the story takes to achieve its final conclusion.

This is the second book in the series of Pick A Story laugh-out-loud, interactive picture book adventures. This time instead of pirates, aliens and jungle animals searching for the lost dog, Sarah Coyle and Adam Walker-Parker have amalgamated dinosaurs, unicorns and robots into one fun-filled escapade to find the missing birthday cake. It is such a clever device to incorporate a wide range of characters. This way the book will appeal to a large readership.  

The zany, eye-catching illustrations pop with colour and excitement. One of my favourite was the look on the dinosaurs face when it had to clean up the mess after the food fight. In fact, there are lots of food related shenanigans throughout the book.

It is great the way the book encourages the reader to interact and make their own choices. It is a brilliant way to keep the children entertained and engaged in reading with the possibility of a different story each time the book is read. There are four alternative endings with options to continue if you and your little one are determined to find the cake.

I would recommend this book for children aged 2 and upwards and it would be ideal in the classroom for children with short attention spans. In my opinion there should be more books like this for Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2.

I would like to thank Antonia Wilkinson for organising a review copy for me.

You can buy your own copy of Pick a Story A Dinosaur + Unicorn + Robot Adventure by Sarah Coyle and Adam Walker-Parker from your local bookshop, or online at, an organisation with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops.

Book Review: Wild Song

This week I am posting two book reviews. today the review is to celebrate the launch of Candy Gourlay’s latest novel, Wild Song.

Title: Wild Song

Written by: Candy Gourlay

Cover illustrated by: Leo Nickolls

Published by: David Fickling Books

The vivid descriptions in Wild Song by Candy Gourlay transport you to life in 1904 not only in the Bontok tribe but also life in America where the inequalities were abundant in this so called land of opportunities. There are a whole host of highly believable characters, in particular the main protagonist Luki, who has a clear, strong voice that carries the story well. I love the way she fights against male/female stereotypes and how she is an inspiration to others, not only in her tribe but also at the St Louis World Fair.

I was impressed with how tight and well-constructed the prose is, as every word of this novel serves a purpose. The dialogue is realistic and keeps the readers turning the pages. This emotional roller-coaster of a young adult novel is steeped in the Bantok history and culture. It is evident Wild Song has been well researched. The story left me thinking long after I’d finished the book.

A masterpiece of a novel.

You can buy copies of Wild Song by Candy Gourlay from your local bookshop, or online at, an organisation with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops.

Book Review: The Swing

Title: The Swing

Written and Illustrated by: Britta Teckentrup

Published by: Prestel Publishing

The Swing by Britta Teckentrup is a gentle, meandering picture book of 160 pages, that guides you through snippets of a whole host of character’s lives all depicted by Britta Teckentrup’s distinctive collage paintings. The soft, calming colours escort the reader on an enchanting journey through time.

The Swing is a meeting place where many relationships and emotional journeys have bloomed. As the seasons change from year to year, we get a glimpse of the many people and animals who have enjoyed swinging, playing, thinking and planning their futures on the swing. Things change, people grow and the swing is the constant that is reassuringly always there. So when it is wrecked in a severe storm those that found solace at The Swing and have cherished memories of their time there, work together to restore the swing to its former glory.

This picture book is a joy for both children and adult readers alike. The message is timeless. A book to treasure

I believe The Swing by Britta Teckentrup would be an excellent discussion opener for people with all types of dementia to evoke memories of a specific place and time, as well as being an excellent resource in the classroom to talk about favourite places and change.

You can buy copies of The Swing by Britta Teckentrup from your local bookshop, or online at, an organisation with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops.

I would like to thank Antonia Wilkinson PR for organising me a copy of The Swing by Britta Teckentrup to review on my blog.

Book Review: Kate on the Case: The Headline Hoax

Title: Kate on the Case: The Headline Hoax

Written and illustrated by: Hannah Peck

Published by: Piccadilly Press

Kate on the Case: The Headline Hoax is a fun, fast-paced adventure with lots of exciting twists and turns to keep the reader turning the pages. Hannah Peck definitely has a great understanding of her 7 – 11 year old readership and her brilliant illustrations compliment the text perfectly.

In this third mystery in the series, Kate is thrilled when she receives an invitation to work as a reporter at the local newspaper alongside her hero, Catherine Rodriguez, for her birthday. But then she discovers, Penny Press the proof reader, distraught as she has checked the copy of The Lookout Post newspaper over sixteen times before it went to press and somehow it still contains spelling errors and nonsense headlines. She insists they were not there when she checked it.

Kate and her trusty mouse sidekick, Rupert, have forty-eight hours to discover who the saboteur is before the owner, Figgy FitzHarris, shuts The Lookout Post down for good. Readers can help solve the mystery alongside our two amateur detectives, Kate and Rupert by unravelling the clues and eliminating the red herrings.

A great book to get those brains ticking. Ideal for all KS2 bookshelves.

This book was previously reviewed on Netgalley and Goodreads.

Book Review: The Forgettery

Title: The Forgettery

Written by: Rachel Ip

Illustrated by: Laura Hughes

Published by: Egmont

The Forgettery by Rachel Ip and Laura Hughes

The Forgettery is a brilliant book that has a theme of memory and how things can be forgotten over time, touching on dementia in a sensitive and reassuring way. This fantastic picture book was one of my favourites for 2021. It is a celebration of love between a young girl and her Granny and has an amazing timeless quality.

Walking in the woods one day Amelia and her Granny stumble upon The Forgettery – ‘a place where you can find anything you have ever forgotten’ from ‘maps, moments and memories.’ Rachel Ip uses alliteration throughout the book to give the text a lyrical charm.

Each double-page spread is full of exquisite details for children to explore and discuss. I particularly like the warning sign of how memories may be delivered out of the blue, the draws full of all the odd socks, glasses, shoes and handbags and the use of colour that make the images fade and amalgamate into each other to give a dream-like illusion.

Although the word dementia is never mentioned there are hints that Granny’s memory loss is more serious by the things she has forgotten, things that she may do every day. The addition of making a memory book to help people remember their most treasured memories is lovely and I’m sure children will enjoy creating their own. The I also liked the excellent memory making advice on how to make beautiful new memories to remember and share. Children will enjoy sharing their ideas and carrying them out.

I believe this book l will be loved by adults and children alike and both will be happy to reread repeatedly, as it leaves you with a warm feeling of love.

Book Review: The Rainforest Book

Title: The Rainforest Book

Written and Illustrated by: Charlotte Milner

Published by: DK Penguin Random House

The Rainforest Book is jam-packed full of facts and interesting snippets about the rainforest from where they are found, why they are important to how climate change affects them and what the children can do to protect them. It provides a very comprehensive look at the environment the plants and animals that can be found there and how they survive through pollination, seed dispersal, the use of camouflage, colourful warnings and mimicking, living in a pack and the predator/prey relationship.

This book provides opportunities for children to discover and explore their own love of nature. The information also supports the statutory requirements for KS1 plants as well as animals, including humans in that as well as the above information there is also double page spreads about life cycles, mating rituals, looking after their young and deforestation.

The author/illustrator, Charlotte Milner, encourages the children to protect the places that are precious to us by finding out more, looking before they buy, supporting conservation groups, recycling, reducing their carbon footprint, eating less meat, avoiding palm oil and planting trees. A great addition is the step by step instructions to inspire the children to plant their own mini rainforest in a jar.

The vibrant, modern feel using bright colours, photographs and infographics will appeal to children of all ages. I particularly liked the way the use of colour within the illustrations to give you a feel and impression of the rainforest. At the back of the book there is a wildlife index to encourage the children to find look up the different creatures featured in the book.

This is the ideal book for anyone who is interested in the environment and are intrigued to discover more about learning the ways they can help. It is guaranteed to help children to develop a deep passion for conservation. The perfect addition for all school libraries.

This book was originally reviewed for Armadillo Magazine.

Book Review: Amazing Mum

Title: Amazing Mum

Written and Illustrated by: Alison Brown

Published by: Farshore Books

With Mother’s Day only a month away in the UK on Sunday 19th March 2023, Amazing Mum, is the perfect book to buy for your kids as it showcases all the incredible, versatile and diverse things mums do to care for their family, which are often taken for granted. It provides a much needed glimpse into the world of being a mum today.

This rhyming picture book aimed at three to six year olds portrays a wide variety of strong, independent mothers as they go about their everyday roles as parents from juggling careers, repairing things when they break and being there to watch their children in their school performance to meal times, bath times and story times.

Alison Brown’s gorgeous illustrations have a snuggly, fluffy feel to them providing the ahh-factor that will get the children of all ages turning the pages. Mums and carers all over the world will most definitely recognise themselves in these adorable anamorphic illustrations. Amazing Mum

Amazing Mum was released on 2nd February just in time for Mother’s Day and is the first in a series with Amazing Dads being launched in April 2023 – yes you’ve guessed it – just in time for Father’s Day on Sunday 18th June 2023.

You can buy copies of Amazing Mum or pre-order Amazing Dad both written and illustrated by Alison Brown from your local bookshop, or online at, an organisation with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops.

Book Review: Rain Before Rainbows

Title: Rain Before Rainbows

Written by: Smriti Halls

Illustrated by: David Litchfield

Published by: Walker Books

Rain Before Rainbows by Smriti Halls and David Litchfield

Rain Before Rainbows was published in 2020 just as we were emerging from lockdowns and the scary time of Covid was behind us. It was released by Walker Books in conjunction with Save the Children to raise awareness for the ‘Saves the Stories’ campaign. It is a beautifully colourful picture book, which is easy to read and leaves the reader with a magical feeling of love and a positive outlook for the future.

Our female protagonist and her fox friend are forced to leave their home and most combat the fierce wind and rain in the dark. They encounter raging storms and symbolic scary dragons travelling across the sea before reaching a brighter new world full of promise and new friends.

This is a clever well-crafted picture book where every word is there for a reason. There is a rhythmic quality that builds around the theme of hope. So there may be ‘rain before rainbows’ and ‘clouds before sun’ but with a little patience and determination we can all survive the bleakest times and scariest of dangers. The illustrations are full of poignant details that add to the atmosphere of the book.

It is the ideal picture book for discussing hopes and dreams in a PSHE lesson giving young children a chance to reveal their own desires. It will also be perfect for talking about refuges having to leave their homes.

A great edition to bookshelves and libraries.

You can buy copies of Rain Before Rainbows by Smriti Halls and David Litchfield from your local bookshop, or online at, an organisation with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops.