January Reads

Here are the kids top reads for the month of Jan all scoring 4 or 5 stars. It was the month they both discovered manga series they liked from the local library as well as re-reads of favourite series.

  • Sea (Huntress Trilogy) by Sarah Driver – an exciting adventure book set in a complete fantasy world.
  • Goblins by Philip Reeve – a funny read with a great adventure.
  • The Stormkeeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle – a magical amazing read with heart (highly recommended)
  • Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa – magic & wizardry 

  • The Legend of Podkin One-Ear by Kieran Larwood & David Wyatt – its a great adventure series.
  • Bunny vs Monkey by Jamie Smart – is really really funny.
  • Splatoon vol 1 by Sankichi Hinodeya – liked the characters & their cool names.
  • Harry Potter & the Philosophers Stone by J.K.Rowling & Jim Kay – thrilling & I wanted to know what happens next.

Mini Bookish Village – Advent

In Dec 2018 I created a mini bookish house/hotel/library/castle/zebra crossing etc. each day leading up to Christmas based on some of our fave reads. 

Luckily with such fantastic illustrated fiction it was easy to copy iconic buildings to hide an advent treat behind.  It was also a fun way to rediscover some glorious books & reminisce about why we enjoyed them so much.

Here are some close ups and pics of all the wonderful books that they were based on which we highly recommend.

Going from the top row –

And last but not least a series we discovered watching the Blue Peter book awards and has become a huge favourite. 


Harry Potter series by JK Rowling (we also love the illustrated series by Jim Kay)

Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

Riddle of the Runes Dr Janina Ramirez Illustrated By David Wyatt

Pugs of the Frozen North by Sarah McIntyre & Philip Reeve 

Witch Wars by Sibéal Pounder & illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson

House on Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl illustrated by Quentin Blake

Ottoline series by Chris Riddell 

Uncle Stories by J.P Martin illustrated by Quentin Blake

Nothing to See Here Hotel by Steven Butler illustrated by Steven Lenton

Hilda by Luke Pearson

Wild Robot by Peter Brown

King Flashypants by Andy Riley

Dave Pigeon by Swapna Haddow illustrated by Sheena Dempsey

Beetle Boy series by M.G Leonard illustrated by Júlia Sardà

Bunny vs Monkey by Jamie Smart

The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius

Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Sinclair’s Mysteries by Katherine Woodfine illustrated by Karl James Mountford 

Mango and Bambang by Polly Faber illustrated by Clara Vulliamy

The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig illustrates by Chris Mould

The Hobbit by J.R Tolkien

Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson 

Podkin One Ear by Keiran Larwood illustrated by David Wyatt

Hilarious picture books

A couple of picture books that have had the kids rolling on the floor with laughter.Oi Duck-Billed Platypus by Kes Gray & Jim Field.

Cat, dog & frog are back for a fourth book and this time they face a ‘crowd of animals with impossible-to-rhyme-with names’. The only solution is to rhyme with their first names. 

Glorious brightly coloured pages of animals sitting on the absurd & wonderful rhymes to wrap your tongue around, comedy gold.

Going on a volcanco by Andy Stanton and Miguel Ordóñez

This book does what it says on the cover ‘So funny you’ll ERUPT with laughter’ and no matter how many times we read it (quiet a lot) it does not fail at making the kids laugh out loud.

A simple tale of Dwayne & Jane-o, going to the volcano told in repetitive rhyming couplets. Adding an -o to the end of words triggered endless chuckles, as did the funny characters including ‘Roger the incredible colour-changing cat’. 

The perfect silly read.

Summer Reading Map

In the summer son decided to read books set in different countries. So after drawing & painting a map of the world, asking our local bookshop & twitter for suggestions he was ready to set off.

It was an epic journey discovering new authors, trying different genres, hunting out books set in exotic locations & remembering to write a postcard from each book. 

Books read:

ANTARCTIC – Below Zero by Dan Smith

ARCTIC – Voyage to Magical North by Claire Fayers

BRAZIL – Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

CANADA – Spynosaur in The Spys the Limit by Guy Bass

CHINA – Ghosts of Shanghai by Julian Sedgwick

EGYPT – Jake Atlas and the Tomb of the Emerald Snake by Rob Lloyd Jones

FINLAND – Big Game by Dan Smith

FRANCE – Gommer Goof:Mind the Goof (Gaston Lagaffe) by Andre Franquin & Jerome Saincantin

Peril in Paris by Katherine Woodfine

INDIA – Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth

INDONESIA – Kick by Mitch Johnson

IRELAND – Midnight (Skullduggery Pleasant) by Derek Landy

ITALY – Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

MEDITERRANEAN SEA – Illegal by Eoin Colfer

MEXICO – Jake Atlas and the Hunt for the Feathered God by Rob Lloyd Jones

PAKISTAN – I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban By Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

RUSSIA – House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

Spirou & Fantasio in Moscow by Tome & Janry

UK  -Itch by Simon Mayo

The Whispering Mountain by Joan Aiken

USA -Wonder by R J Palacio

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil by E. Frankweiler

Pony on the twelfth floor by Polly Faber and Sara Jennings

This week we have been reading Pony on the Twelfth Floor by Polly Faber illustrated by Sarah zjennings
This is a story about a girl called Kizzy who’s dreams come true when she discovers a pony in her local supermarket. Looking after a pony when you live in a tower block without your mum finding out is however not without its problems. 

We were not pony mad when we started the book but by the end Kizzys unwavering love of all things horses & her dedication to caring for Flapjack completely won us over. 

Kizzys schemes to keep flapjack & fulfil her dreams of learning to ride kept us completely hooked & often in fits of giggles, anything relating to horse poo were a particular favourite with daughter (luckily this featured a lot)

This funny read with its tremendous heart depicts the power of friendship & community in helping realising your dreams. (Another key message is drawing horses takes lots of practise)

Summer Adventure Books

Here’s the perfect solution to summer moans of ‘I am bored’, two recently released chapter books

A Chase In Time by Sally Nicholls & illustrated by Brett Helquist is the first in a new timeslip adventure series. The story is about Alex & his sister Ruby who, while staying at their Aunts house, are pulled through a mirror back to 1912. Luckily they are befriended by Dora & Henry and it isnt long before the four children fall headlong into a mystery that needs solving & criminals that need catching.

This is a fast paced exciting quick read with heaps of action & plenty of historical detail. Finding themselves in Edwardian times Alex & Ruby are continually amazed at how things have changed and are often comparing modern life with the past which I thought was a great way of bringing history to life. 

I also liked the way the story while set in the past had ties to the present. Alex & Ruby were not only fortunate enough to meet their ancestors but in helping them they also get to help themselves making for a fulfilling read.

Packed with adventure, including a gripping car chase, and a great cast of children & adults there is plenty to enjoy in this book.

In Knights & Bikes,  by Gabriella Kent illustrated by Rex Crowle & Luke Newell, we head off to the Island of Penfurzy for more adventure although this time with a touch of the fantastical & strange (but in a good way). 

This book is based on an upcoming video game, of the same name, and now having met the main protagonists Demelza & Nessa am in no doubt that whatever the format these two rule.

This was another excellent & exciting read with a budding new friendship, a goose called Captain Honkers, a town full of eccentrics & a knight worthy quest. Daughter was keen on wanting to read more adventure stories and this more than fitted the bill.

Demelza & Nessa are on a quest to uncover the mysteries of the Penfurzy Knights which leads them to perilous situations & dangerous obstacles to overcome. They are determined to find the treasure and save the day.

There is much to celebrate in the book especially the two heroines whose courage & loyalty drive the story as they battle with diggers, statues & even a castle. Their tendency to dive in regardless of the danger or risk is why I am in no doubt that these are the role models that my daughter has been waiting for.

For me part of the fun of the book was in the quirky setting & in spotting 80s pop culture references.

This is the perfect summer read for when the children are taking a break from their own amazing madcap adventures and the good news is it looks like there is more to come!

Fabulous Picturebooks

Lately we have been reading 3 picture books which I would urge you to seek out & enjoy too.

This beautifully poetic book by Chitra Soundar & Poonam Mistry is the perfect bedtime read. Mama Elephant (who according to daughter reminds her of me, am hoping more for my comforting nature & less for my size) is helping a group of young animals get to sleep. Out in the wild they are kept awake by noises such as the wind, thunder & rushing water. Luckily Mama Elephant has comforting words of wisdom weaving the perfect soporific atmosphere. With hypnotic words & illustrations we were all ready for a good nights sleep after reading this. 

From the sleepy to the exuberant next up is New Neighbours by Sarah McIntyre where we meet a tower block of characterful creatures. 

News reaches the young bunnies at the top about the arrival of new neighbours. They race down to tell the others but joy soon turns to worry as each neighbour adds their own concerns & prejudice. Unsurprisingly their neighbours arent all they feared. 

This is a gem of a book full of fun but with an important message too. Both children instantly understood the dangers of jumping to conclusions & the value of being welcoming. They were pleased that the neighbours learnt this lesson too. 

Daughter was very taken with the young rabbits whose enthusiasm to meet the new neighbours wasnt dampened by the others. Using the activity sheet created by the author she started her own comic, featuring versions of the rabbits, titled the ‘Magic Portal’, hopefully a portal to a generous & understanding world.

Our last read introduced us to our new favourite heroine, Billy in Billy and the Beast by Nadia Shireen. With donuts in her hair, compassion & intelligence whats not to love! 

Billy & Fat Cat are walking in the woods one day when they meet a big hairy hungry beast. Fortunately with some quick thinking  Billy is able to save the day. There is plenty of fun to be had in outwitting the Beast & we are Team Billy forever.

Ghouls & Giggles

This week we’ve been reading two hilarious books. 
Izzy and her friends are back with a new adventure in The Phantom Lollipop Man by Pamela Butchart illustrated by Thomas Flintham. When the lollipop man seemingly disappears the gang soon believe they are being haunted by his phantom.

There were plenty of laughs in the book for both me and the kids, I was especially tickled by the Office Ladies. 

School life, while exaggerated, is excellently observed making it a comfortable read for the kids. They always enjoy how quickly the gangs plans escalate into tricky & sometimes embarrassing chaotic situations. 

In amongst the humour the book also deals with important themes of friendship & loneliness. 

Daughter tells me this was as good as the other books in the series and that she was going to re-read them all, clearly another hit

In Sam Wu is NOT Afraid of Ghosts by Katie & Kevin Tsang illustrated by Nathan Read we meet another group of friends who get caught up in a little mayhem & silliness.

After an embarrassing school trip Sam Wu is on mission to prove he is no scaredy cat. Believing his house is haunted Sam, with a little help from his friends, family and favourite TV show , is determined to defeat the ghost king.

This was a super fun read and there was plenty I adored about this book. I loved Sams home made costumes as it is exactly what my kids get up to. I liked the layout of the book with its mix of illustrations, expressive fonts & funny little side notes. I empathised with Sam’s anxiety about his friends seeing his home life & culture. Mostly however I smiled, grinned & laughed out loud.

A perfect read full of of heart, excitement & laughs. Both kids picked this up, devoured it independently and declared it was brilliant.

Splendid Sleuths

This week we have been reading a couple of fabulous detective stories aimed at early readers & both highly illustrated.

In Fabio The Worlds Greatest Flamingo Detective by Laura Janes & illustrated by Emily Fox, we are introduced to a suave flamingo detective with the adorable sidekick Gerald, who as a giraffe struggles to be a master of disguise. With an animal cast of rhinos, snakes, vultures the mystery of a missing rhino is diligently tackled with a list of suspects & interviews ending with a big reveal. 
The book is brightly packaged & we loved the neon pink & green bursts of colour in Emily Fox’s illustration. An appealing read which once we started had to finish in one sitting as like Fabio we were keen to find the culprit. 

We were also very pleased to discover the return of our favourite tie wearing skateboard riding plant detective in Inspector Flytrap: The Goat Who Chewed Too Much by Tom Angleberger & illustrated by Cece Bell.

The inspector is on the case of a stolen Pickle Paperweight but before long his case list grows as more things are stolen including the priceless painting ‘The Mona Spaghetti’ 

Another hilariously madcap adventure with wonderfully comic illustrations from Cece Bell. It was Nina the Goat & her constant refrain of ‘Big Deal’ however who was the star of the book for my daughter. She thought Nina was hilarious. 

Here are a few of our family favourite detective reads

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

I recently read Aru Shah and the End of Time, which is the first book from the ‘Rick Riordan Presents’ imprint. As with Rick Riordans Percy Jackson books this is also packed with adventure, puzzles to unravel & plenty of humour in seeing demons & gods in a modern day setting.

Aru finds herself cast into role of hero as she accidentally frees an ancient demon who can stop time. On her quest to save her mum, friends & ultimately the world she is helped by a ‘wise cracking pigeon & her long-lost half sister’.

I enjoyed reading a story with two young indian girls, Aru & Mini, as the main protagonists, battling their own demons as well as real ones. With common concerns of making friends, trying to fit in & having self confidence there are plenty of real life concerns amongst talking palaces & a demon beautician.

I also loved the pantheon of hindu gods & demons the story introduces you too and luckily this is just the start, with more half-sisters to meet & a demon still to catch this promises to be a thrilling new series to get stuck into.

Here are a couple of family favourites on hindu gods & myths.