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Neon Leon & Firefly Home

We have been reading Neon Leon & Firefly Home by Jane Clarke & Britta Teckentrup.

In Neon Leon we meet a chameleon who doesn’t change colours like the other chameleons and is looking for somewhere he can fit in. In Firefly Home we meet Florence the firefly who needs help finding her way home.

I think these are perfect read aloud books as the children can join in either counting to 10 before turning the page, tracing the bright firefly trails or answering the simple questions to help Florence or Leon. As well as having fun joining in & feeling part of the story the books also teach the importance of kindness & helping.

These beautifully bright eyecatching books have you glowing inside & out.

The books also inspired us to get creative. We added our own twist to the Hot & Cold game. While one of us hid a see through chameleon who could blend into any background the other (with Leon & Florence) had the tricky task of finding them.

We were kindly sent these books from the publisher.

Tin by Pádraig Kenny

A review by my 10yr old

“Tin is set in a world where mechanicals are self aware. Engineers who make these mechanicals use a combination of metal & magic runes.

Christopher is an ordinary boy who lives with Mr Absalom, a greedy engineer, and his mechanicals; Jack, Round Rob, Grippa & Manda. 

Christopher is involved in an accident which uncovers an alarming secret & leads to him being taken away. His mechanical friends & Estelle, a “skin maker”, go on a daring rescue mission enlisting the help of one of the greatest mechanics of all time.

This is a sentimental book focusing on friends & family alongside an exhilarating adventure. I enjoyed how the adventure brought the friends, with their different personalities closer together. I also thought the human characters were always quick to anger and I felt the mechanicals showed more humanity, which made me think about how the humans could learn from these robots. 

My favourite mechanical in the story is Round Rob, with his barrel shaped body he was always rolling around & losing his head which made me laugh.

I would recommend this book to anyone who liked Peter Bunzl’s Cogheart (another good read), likes adventures and likes stories that make you think. “

Spy Dad by Jukka Laajarinne and Timo Mänttäri

There is plenty to enjoy in Spy Dad, with its stylish retro illustration, intelligent humour & story with an important message. 
In the story Olivia has had enough of her parents being constantly busy. Her dads job as a spy means long hours so when he decides to quit to spend more time with her it isnt long before Olivia realises that they need something that makes them both happy. 
Like all exciting action movies the first double page has our hero in peril tied to a chair with a ticking bomb, he frees himself with seconds to spare and gets away hanging off a helicopter. Usually at this point the camera pans away as we breathe a sigh of relief that the hero escaped but this time we get to see him take a call from his daughter who is keen for an answer to the important question of getting a pet.

I really enjoyed the humour of the juxtaposition of the mundane with the exciting spy life. It also provided a remarkable backdrop to the theme of the story, a common worry for some families about spending enough quality time together.

This was a story I could very much relate to, while my occupation has more to do with spreadsheets & less to do with death defying adventures, as a family we do strive for a better work life balance in order to that we could all be happy.

A beautifully designed & smart picture book highlighting some of the tricky decisions adults face.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy

The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius

A review by my 9yr old

“This is a really good murder mystery book with lots of unexpected twists like a dead man who’s not dead and a murderer who’s not a murderer. I was really intrigued by the book cover which completely hooked me in. Once I started reading I couldn’t put the book down.

While reading this story I felt sorry for the main character Sally Jones because often she has no one to trust but herself. I think this fabulous books needed a fabulous protagonist and it certainly delivers with Sally Jones. Sally Jones is an ape who understands humans. She is really clever especially at chess, good at fixing things and always considerate. She is however also very lonely but determined to save her best friend.

I found the story to be like a maze with lots of twists & dead ends, for example when Sally discovers that Alphonse might be alive but when they reach the house he is no longer there and could possibly have died from malaria. All these twists make it an exciting read as everything you know is constantly turned upside down leaving you wanting to keep on reading and to unlock the whole mystery of the book.

This is an epic story as it covers two years of Sally’s thrilling life and while the size of the book might be intimidating it is really worth it. Throughout the book there are very intricate and detailed pictures which give a break from the exciting text.

I would recommend this book to anybody who likes suspense, mystery and adventure.”

Halloween Reads

We have been reading some spooky fun stories this half term, all ready for halloween.

The Invincibles: The Beast of Bramble Woods by Caryl Hart & Sarah Warburton is a perfect early reader book with delightful illustrations and a story with just the right mix of excitement & peril. 

The 3rd book in the series with Nell & Freddie up to their usual high jinks. Using the ingenious Pester Power they gatecrash Nells big brothers camp out. When its time for them to go to bed they decide to play a few tricks but are they safe out in the dark with the beast?

Amelia Fang & the Barbaric Ball by Laura Ellen Anderson is a sweet little adventure. We had chuckles a plenty with the fun word play, gruesomeness  and cast of kooky characters. Working on rescuing her pet pumpkin, Squashy, from the spoilt prince Amelia & her friends encounter a number of surprises & revelations. The book perfectly sets up the next adventure  ‘Amelia Fang & the Unicorn Lords’ which we are now ‘dying’ to read.

This companion novel to the Witch Wars series by Sibéal Pounder & Laura Ellen Anderson is full of facts about the characters and tips & activities to setting up your own magical party against the backdrop of Fran making a documentary about Sinkville’s most famous witches.

Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power by Mariko Tamaki was a more fantastical then spooky read as we follow a group of five friends on an adventure like no other, based on the Lumberjane comics. The five girls tackle a mysterious mountain which tests their friendship when they find themselves stranded in the clouds with some quirky cloud folk. With plenty of good cheer & teamwork the girls soon devise a new plan to try and make it back to camp. Another fun adventure story with a diverse set of characters. 

Picturebook goodness

Here are some lovely picturebooks we borrowed from the library this month.

In Hibernation Hotel (by John Kelly & Laura Brenlla) bear decides to check himself into a hotel for some proper sleep away from his friends. It is described as “A hilarious book about getting what you want then discovering what you need” and we found plenty to chuckle at.

In Pink Lion (by Jane Porter) we meet Arnold, a lion raised by flamingoes. This is a sweet story about discovering who you are as Arnold finds his inside lion when dealing with an unwelcome visitor. The illustrations are striking with thier simple lines & a limited pallete. 

Another story about discovering yourself & having the courage to ‘dance to your own tune’ is Perfectly Norman (by Tom Percival). When Norman grows a pair of wings he starts to worry about what his parents might think so decides to hide them under a coat. He soon realises that hiding his wings wasnt making anyone happy. This is an uplifting read & makes such great use of colour, with the monochrome spreads aside from Norman’s yellow coat when he’s hiding his wings to the glorious technicolour when he is finally happy. 

Also its not often we come across a page of charaters where the kids can see people resembling thier own family. 

Funny Chapter Books

We have been enjoying a trio of fabulous books from the publisher, Nosy Crow.
First up is the second book in a series published by Nosy Crow in partnership with the National Trust, The Secret Diary of Jane Pinny, Victorian Housemaid (and accidental Detective) by Philip Ardagh & Jamie Littler.

This highly illustrated story is brimming with facts, laughs, drama, intrigue & a pigeon who writes. The story is generously peppered with historical nuggets, interesting & short enough not to distract you too much from the exciting story. I really liked the way it gently introduces some history alongside painting a vivid picture of life in a grand house. I have no doubt that on our next visit to a NT stately home property we shall be thinking about Jane & life as a housemaid.

A book we just couldnt put down was Spectre Collector, To Ghoul for School by Barry Hutchinson. In this story a schoolboy calked Denzel finds himself mixed up with Spectre Collectors, a secret ghost-battling organisation. He finds himself suddenly losing any sense of normality & being left completely unprepared to deal with the supernatural. Luckily he discovers some friends to help him save the day

While reading I was reminded of great blockbuster movies such as Men in Black & Ghostbusters owing to its fast pace, great sense of humour & explosive action.

The last book is You Cant Make Ne go to Witch School by Em Lynas which follows the story of Daisy Wart. Daisy finds herself at Witch school but feels it’s a big mistake as she should really be at drama school. Her attempts to escape the school lead to adventures, new discoveries & more importantly new friends. 

Daisy is the star of this show & it was great to have such a sparky characterful protagonist bringing this story to life. 

Al’s Awesome Science: Egg-speriments by Jane Clark and James Brown

Al’s Awesome Science is not only a fun introduction to conducting science experiments but a sweet story too. Its easy to get carried along with the enthusiasm of Al & his sister Lottie as they work towards testing whether an egg is the most suitable shape for a time machine.

Throughout the story Al writes up his experiments noting down what the used, what they did, the results & most importantly his observations. There are also some handy tips if tempted to try these out at home.

After reading this book I did have a few worries about what mess I might find in the garden as daughter took it on herself to experiment. I soon realised however that if the book encouraged curiosity, independence, a desire to question and to test out theories, a few broken eggs would be totally worth it.  

Thanks to the publisher, Five Quills,  for the review copy.