Category Archives: Book review

Book Review – Roller Girl

Title: Roller Girl

Written and illustrated by: Victoria Jamieson

Published by: Puffin

Roller Girl

Embark on your own Roller Derby of emotions with Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson. The illustrations in this graphic novel portray the character’s feelings so poignantly. Right from the start it was a joy to see Astrid’s love and excitement at the roller derby compared with her best friend, Nicole’s reactions. All of Victoria’s characterisations are spot on. I laughed out loud, wiped away tears of disappointment and yelled out encouragement as Astrid became tougher, stronger and fearless in her ambition to be a roller girl.

This graphic novel draws you into the world of Roller Derby and being part of a team. Astrid’s courage and determination is an inspiration to all as she struggles to succeed without the companionship of Nicole. The story gets to the heart of a common adolescent occurrence of drifting away from previous relationships and making new friends.

Let’s hope we see more graphic novels like this on the shelves of the UK bookshops.

Book Review – cock-a-doodle hooooooo!

Title: cock-a-doodle hooooooo!

Written by: Mick Manning

Illustrated by: Brita Granström

Published by: Little Tiger Press

Cock-a-doodle hooooooo!

Another book with a theme of empathy. This beautiful picture book also encompasses themes of friendship, acceptance, role models and just being yourself. One stormy night, a lost and lonely owl walks into a farmyard looking for a place to rest. He sleeps in the hen house, but next morning the hens don’t want him to stay. They need a cockerel, not an owl! Owl has to convince the hens that he can be their perfect cockerel.

Cock-a-doodle hooooooo! is an entertaining story from award-winning author-illustrator team, Mick Manning and Brita Granström. I just love Owl’s facial expressions. This is a wonderful picture book to read aloud to pre-school aged children. Owl is very patient and does try and fit in to the hen house but in the end the hens realise he is perfect just the way he is. This is an ideal book for introducing a discussion on ourselves and looking at similarities and differences.

Book Review – Mole’s Star

Title: Mole’s Star

Written and Illustrated by: Britta Teckentrup

Published by: Orchard Books

mole's star

Mole’s Star by Britta Teckentrup is a cosy picture book about sharing and empathy told in fourteen spreads. Each night Mole sits on his favourite rock, gazing at the twinkling stars. One day he sees a shooting star and makes a wish. He wishes he could own all the stars and his wish comes true. Mole fills his burrow with star light and loves it.

But after several days, Mole misses his favourite rock so pops out of his burrow and finds the world is in darkness. He is shocked to discover all the other animals are upset about this. When he made his wish, he had not considered the effect it would have on the whole forest and had not realised the other animals loved the stars as much as he did.

Mole finds the wishing star and sets about putting the stars back with the help of the other animals so they can all enjoy the magical star light together.

This is a book for sharing. I think every child will enjoy comparing the dramatic contrast of the night sky with and without stars, which Britta Teckentrup’s portrays in her delightful illustrations. I particularly like the way some of the ladders are made of tiny little stars.

inside mole's star

This timeless book about the night sky is ideal for reading at bedtime to children from birth upwards. It has an enchanting lyrical feel that will calm and relax your child ready for a good night’s sleep. It could also be used at Key Stage One as the basis of classroom discussion on sharing and considering other’s feelings.

Book Review – The Buried Crown

Title: The Buried Crown

Written by: Ally Sherrick

Cover illustration by: Alexis Snell

Published by: Chicken House Books

The Buried Crown

The Buried Crown is set in WWII when Britain was on the brink of invasion. Londoner George has been sent to live in the countryside while his brother Charlie trains to be a spitfire pilot. But he’s far from safe, he’s been placed with Bill Jarvis a drunken bully, the policeman’s son picks on him because he’s from the city and Nazis are hiding across the river. His only friend is Bill Jarvis’s tortured dog and refugee Kitty, the granddaughter of a Jewish archaeologist who came to Suffolk on the Kindertransport.

This exciting historical adventure hits all the tick buttons for me. I enjoy ghost stories, I love history and I love mythology even more. The novel successfully and seamlessly weaves Anglo-Saxon mythology with real WWII history, Adolf Hitler’s love of mythical objects and the 1939 discovery of the Sutton Hoo archaeological site, where the famous early 7th century longship and its stunning treasure was found. It is believed to be burial ground of Redwald, King of the East Angles and High King of Britain.

Sutton Hoo treasure

The ship contained grave goods ranging from humble domestic items such as cups and buckets to some of the most stunning treasures ever discovered in northern Europe. Many of the most precious items, including the famous Sutton Hoo helmet, shield and sword belt, are decorated with dragons which the Anglo-Saxons believed liked nothing better than to sit beneath burial mounds jealously guarding the treasure hoards, as powerfully depicted in the Anglo-Saxon epic poem, Beowulf.

So when the fictitious, priceless Anglo-Saxon crown is stolen, George is plunged into danger. It’s up to him and Kitty to protect the crown before it’s too late and help the ghost of Redwald rest in peace. The characterisation is strong and believable.

It would be an ideal book to support a topic on WWII in the classroom. It demonstrates the emotional turmoil of both evacuees and refugees during the 1940’s. Ally Sherrick creates a real atmospheric feel for the era with her vivid descriptions. This book is an exciting and dramatic adventure full of twists and turns from the beginning to the end. A must read book.

Sutton Hoo Burial Ground

The only thing that was really missing was a map. I would have really liked a map of the site, village and location of the army site as Ally Sherrick imagined it. The amount of times I checked for a map because I thought I must have missed it was unbelievable. So I ask, please add a map in the next edition.

Sutton Hoo Burial Ground2

Book Review – Go to Sleep, Monty!

Title: Go to Sleep, Monty!

Written and illustrated by: Kim Geyer

Published by: Andersen Press

Go to Sleep, Monty!

Every child wants a pet – right? Wouldn’t it be great to have someone to play with, someone to share things with, and someone to care for? Max gets the dog of his dreams, but he soon realises that looking after a puppy isn’t as easy as it looks! When Max gets the dog of his dreams, he soon finds out looking after a puppy isn’t as easy as it looks! How on earth can he persuade mischievous Monty to go to sleep?

A charming and funny picture book debut about the trials and tribulations of owning a boisterous puppy!

This is a heart-warming story which anyone who has had a puppy can identify with. Max does everything he can to persuade Monty the puppy to settle down to sleep. From an educational point of view, parents will also be able to identify with the story, as parallels can be made to trying to get a restless child to sleep.

This is a good story for reading to the class at the end of the day. The children will love looking at Kim Geyer’s beautiful illustrations and spotting what Monty is up to instead of going to bed.

This book review was previously published on the online Armadillo Children’s Book Review Magazine.

Book Review – Curse of the Nomed

Title: Curse of the Nomed

Created by: The Whizz Writers

Written by: B B Taylor

Illustrated by: Holly Bushnell

Published by: Weird ‘N’ Wonderful Publishing

Curse of the Nomed

The Curse of the Nomed, weaves the worries and insecurities children have when moving from primary to secondary school into an exciting adventure to defeat the ancient Egyptian God of Chaos, Sett.  This book was created in partnership with pupils from the Four Dwellings Academy in Birmingham. It incorporates the real-life experiences of the pupils when they first started secondary school.

Main protagonists, Jacob, Eleanora and Stefan discover that the ancient god Sett has disguised himself as Mr Siriso, the headmaster, and has put all the pupils under a spell with the school scarab beetle badge on their uniform.  Guided by Miss Ali the librarian (who they bought back to life) they have to find the Book of Life to save the students and ultimately prevent Sett from taking everyone’s soul to get revenge on his brother Osiris. The book is in the inner deepest vault of the House of Life and the journey is full of traps and curses.  

We learn about the main character’s backgrounds and personalities through a series of flashbacks triggered by events in the plot. They give their top tips for moving schools which include:

  • Talk to someone you trust about your feelings
  • Find out about the extra clubs and activities you can be involved in at lunchtime and after school
  • Be kind, ask questions and listen to others.

There is a lot going on in this short, easy to read novel. Not only does it have of theme of the transition from one school to another, it also touches on issues of loneliness, greed, jealousy, loss, unexpected kindness, friendship and courage. These issues and ideas could be a great discussion starter for a PSHE lesson before the children leave primary school in Year Six and during their first year of secondary school in Year Seven.

A contribution from the sale of this book goes to Partnership for Children a charity that runs school based programmes in Birmingham to encourage good mental health. In line with this worthy cause the end-pages contain inspiring quotes from award-winning authors Chris Callaghan, Gareth P Jones, Maz Evans, Tommy Donbavand, Jenifer Killick and Kathryn Evans.

My overall feeling is that The Curse of the Nomed is an ingenious enterprise that is pulled together by the dedication and cooperation of a great team of both adults and children. Holly Bushnell’s illustrations throughout the book help create atmosphere and tension. The book is neatly plotted with a great cliff-hanger ending that left me thinking there may be a sequel.

You can find out more about author B B Taylor’s books and writing on her website and follow her on Twitter @BB_Taylor and on Facebook @AuthorBBTaylor

You can find out about Holly Bushnell’s illustrations and other books on her website and follow her on on Facebook @hollybushnelldesigns and Instagram @hollybushnelldesigns

Book Review – Writing From Life

Written by: Lynne Hackles

Published by: How to Books

Writing from Life

This book does exactly what it says on the cover. It is absolutely jammed packed with great ideas. So, even though `nothing much has happened to me’, just reading the book has fired my imagination.

If you are thinking about taking a writing course, I suggest you buy this book first and work though it, whether you want to write for children or adults, feature articles to gothic horror, as it will show you how your own past can make your writing come alive.

Writing from Life demonstrates how to take all those things that you thought were fairly insignificant and make good use of them. Nothing goes to waste from noticing the colour of a leaf to baking a cake for you grandson. It talks you through how you can use personal experiences to put more emotion into your writing and provide vivid settings. There are examples and anecdotes not only from the author’s life, but from a whole range of highly successful, professional writers, who talk about how they have used their personal experiences in their writing.

Each chapter contains exercises and tips that not only inspire you, but explain how YOU can make money from your writing by identifying the markets available to send your writing to.

This book is a `must have’ for every writer’s bookshelf.

I have previously published this book review on Amazon.