#BookReview – Monster Doughnuts by Gianna Pollero. Illustrated by Sarah Horne.

The Blurb

Ten-year-old Grace likes doughnuts and cakes as much as the next kid – but they are also her secret weapon. Grace is a monster hunter who owns a bakery – and everyone knows how much monsters LOVE any kind of sweet treat! Just don’t tell them about the secret exploding baking powder inside the doughnuts and the cookies … 

When Grace’s Monster Scanning Machine alerts her to the doughnut-loving, people-eating, board-game-playing cyclops Mr Harris, she realises she’s about to face her biggest challenge yet …

My Thoughts

Monster Doughnuts has all of the right ingredients to make for a great children’s book series. Filled with humour, mystery and great illustrations throughout, I’m not sure what more you could ask for.

The story itself is easy to follow and contains super descriptions that will aid children’s visualisation skills and allow them to picture all of the great scenes that unfold in this brilliant story. Every chapter is short which, in my opinion, is something that is very appealing to children and is also great if you are using this as a class novel as you can pick it up and read a chapter when you have a couple of minutes to spare.

I particularly like that the main character and monster hunter is a girl who demonstrates real courage when tasked with defeating the biggest and scariest of monsters. The monster glossary at the end is extremely useful, I just wish I had noticed this before I started reading but then again it allowed for my imagination to run wild and configure my own monster roles.

Monster Doughnuts is a book I will ensure is firmly installed in my classroom library for children to love! A great start to a new series!

Buy your copy now…

#BookReview – Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman

The Blurb

Richard doesn’t have a past. For him, there is only the present: a new marriage to Tamara, a first chance at fatherhood to her son Elijah, and a quiet but pleasant life as an art teacher at Elijah’s elementary school in Danvers, Virginia. Then the body of a rabbit, ritualistically murdered, appears on the school grounds with a birthday card for Richard tucked beneath it. Richard doesn’t have a birthday—but Sean does . . .

Sean is a five-year-old boy who has just moved to Greenfield, Virginia, with his mother. Like most mothers of the 1980s, she’s worried about bills, childcare, putting food on the table . . . and an encroaching threat to American life that can take the face of anyone: a politician, a friendly neighbor, or even a teacher. When Sean’s school sends a letter to the parents revealing that Sean’s favorite teacher is under investigation, a white lie from Sean lights a fire that engulfs the entire nation—and Sean and his mother are left holding the match.

Now, thirty years later, someone is here to remind Richard that they remember what Sean did. And though Sean doesn’t exist anymore, someone needs to pay the price for his lies.

My Thoughts

My first Clay Chapman book but it has left me excited to read more of his work! From the cover of the book I wasn’t quite sure what I was letting myself in for. To be honest, if I had passed the book in a shop or in the library I would have kept on walking and wouldn’t have given it a second glance but then I would have seriously missed out! However, after seeing the book on Twitter a few times, I did my research and was compelled to give it a go.

The book tells the story of both ‘Sean’ and ‘Richard’ who are, as you work out very early on in the book, one of the same. At the beginning of each chapter you are told who is telling the story which I really liked as it saved any confusion and made it a straight forward read. However, eventually their stories become so intertwined that ‘Sean’ begins to make more and more of an appearance in Richard’s story.

Whisper Down the Lane is inspired by the Satanic Panic of the 80’s which is not something I was familiar with prior to reading this book but is absolutely something I want to read about and understand further. The story is so gripping and twisted that I couldn’t work out what was going to happen next and so I found myself unable to put the book down. I was particularly enthralled by the interview excerpts that are included and couldn’t believe the way this little boy was being questioned in such a goading and leading manner, it was jaw-dropping.

Clay Chapman’s, ‘Whisper Down the Lane’ is full of suspense. It’s gripping and captivating and a book you won’t be able to put down or forget in a hurry! I would most certainly recommend it!

Buy your copy now…

#BookReview – The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

The Blurb

An imposing, isolated hotel, high up in the Swiss Alps, is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But she’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when she receives an invitation out of the blue to celebrate her estranged brother’s recent engagement, she has no choice but to accept.

Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge. Though it’s beautiful, something about the hotel, recently converted from an abandoned sanatorium, makes her nervous – as does her brother, Isaac.

And when they wake the following morning to discover his fiancée Laure has vanished without a trace, Elin’s unease grows. With the storm cutting off access to and from the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.

But no-one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they’re all in . . .

My Thoughts

The Sanatorium is most definitely a page turner! I devoured this book in a couple of days, it was really difficult to put it down! The story itself is very intriguing and most certainly keeps you guessing. I kept thinking that I had it all worked out only for something else to happen, throwing my whole theory out the window.

I didn’t particularly warm to any of the characters however for this book I felt it was a good thing as it made me even more suspicious which simply added to the suspense and my enjoyment. I did grow increasingly frustrated with Elin who kept putting herself in compromising positions despite this being the reason for her career break – will she ever learn? Will was a notably intriguing character, I couldn’t help but feel that there was a devious side to him. I found him quite controlling and opinionated and I struggled to understand or relate to why Elin was so eager to please him. There are no spoilers here so I can’t tell you whether I was right in my feelings towards him, you will have to read the book to find out.

I have to be honest and say that I didn’t love the ending with regards to the reason for the crimes. It does end on a cliffhanger which I don’t mind and I will most definitely be waiting patiently for the next instalment.

Overall, The Sanatorium is a very compelling read and I would recommend it to anyone who is a lover of thrillers and mysteries.

Buy your copy now…

#Audiobook Flamingo Fashion by Samantha Hunter

The Blurb

Freddie and Fifi are two fashionista flamingos who decide to open a fashion boutique and style other animals on the African savanna in fluffy pink feathers. The outfits they create have silly results and calamitous outcomes, teaching the valuable lesson that we are perfect, just the way we are!

“A caper of a story that encourages creative self-expression and promotes the invaluable message that we are perfect exactly as we are.”

Available on Kindle and Audible, the audio version is narrated by actor Michael Maloney.

My Thoughts

This is the first audiobook I have reviewed and the first I have listened to that is aimed at young children, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. Flamingo Fashion is a lovely rhyming story with such a beautiful message. The story itself is aimed at 3-6 year olds and, although I would imagine the book would appeal to 3 year olds, I did feel that the audiobook itself would be more suitable for the older of this age group.

As I was listening to the story my mind was racing with ideas of how this could be used in the classroom. It certainly opens up lots of opportunities for visualisation tasks as the descriptions are very vivid. A great story to have in any teacher’s toolkit!

Flamingo Fashion is a very enjoyable story that children are sure to love!

About the Author

Sam Hunter is a full-time mum, podcast host and entrepreneur. She started writing after the birth of her son in 2017 and self-published her first book – Flamingo Fashion – at the end of 2020. 

Sam wrote creatively as a young girl on her weekends and during visits to her mum’s office in the summer holidays. All of her writing was about animals and it is no wonder that her first book is a children’s story set in an animal’s world! 

Her first book, a middle grade novel called Freddie’s Fantastic Adventures, was inspired by a children’s t-shirt with a flamingo on the front and while out walking a few years later, the idea for Flamingo Fashion popped into her head! 

Sam is passionate about developing both children’s and adult’s creativity and her writing is designed to inspire imaginations in a fun and playful way. Proceeds from the book are going to the LitWorld charity, who work to develop children’s creative confidence and literacy skills, through the power of storytelling.

Sam lives with her son, daughter and husband in Hertfordshire, England. 

Proceeds from book sales all going to the LitWorld Charity: http://www.litworld.org/virtualreadalouds#author

Flamingo Fashion is available in ebook and audiobook now.

#BookReview Paris Cat by Dianne Hofmeyr

The Blurb

Cat is rather different from the other alley cats in the back streets of Paris. She can do anything she sets her mind to. Even if others don’t think so. Leaving her cat family behind, she sets off to explore the city and to sing and dance the night away. On her travels she meets the legendary Edith Piaf and Josephine Baker. Soon she’s famous. But is this the life for her? Cats have nine lives, after all…

My Thoughts

I have to be honest, I was unsure what to think of Paris Cat as I read it through the first time. The illustrations are not appealing to me and I didn’t find it particularly eye catching. However, as I read it through again my ‘teacher brain’ started to go crazy with ideas and appreciate how significant this story could be.

The book is about a cat following her dreams and not being afraid to be different and stand out from the crowd. Lots of vital lessons for the classroom. The cat then follows her dreams and makes them come true, which again could open up so many interesting discussions within a classroom setting. But the main draw for me was the fact that the story features two historical figures, Josephine Baker and Edith Piaf, both of whom worked for the French Resistance during the Second World War. Therefore, reading this story with an older class studying WWII could open up a whole series of lessons and research opportunities.

Thank you to Tiny Owl Publishing for a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Buy your copy here…

#BookReview The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin

This is Marianne Cronin’s debut novel and what a debut it is!

The Blurb

Life is short. No-one knows that better than seventeen-year-old Lenni living on the terminal ward. But as she is about to learn, it’s not only what you make of life that matters, but who you share it with.

Dodging doctor’s orders, she joins an art class where she bumps into fellow patient Margot, a rebel-hearted eight-three-year-old from the next ward. Their bond is instant as they realize that together they have lived an astonishing one hundred years.

To celebrate their shared century, they decide to paint their life stories: of growing old and staying young, of giving joy, of receiving kindness, of losing love, of finding the person who is everything.

As their extraordinary friendship deepens, it becomes vividly clear that life is not done with Lenni and Margot yet.

My Thoughts

Wow! This is one of my favourite books and one which I will be recommending to many of my friends for years to come!

The story begins by comparing terminal illness to an airport terminal, something I thought was very cleverly done and is carried forward to the end of the book making for a very well rounded story.

The main characters Lenni and Margot are, in many ways, an unlikely pairing but their friendship blossoms and together they share stories of their combined 100 years of life. I relished the stories of Margot, she was full of surprises and it was clear that she had lived a very full life, although not without heartache and pain.

Lenni also has a very special relationship with Father Arthur whom she visits on a regular basis. Their conversations made me laugh out loud and highlighted Lenni’s quick wit and sense of humour.

Although the plot is built around death, it focuses so much on life. There is no emphasis on the illnesses that either of these woman have, there is no unnecessary details shared about their suffering. Instead, this part is very much skimmed over to make way for moments of happiness and the joy they bring to one another’s final chapter.

If you only read one book this year, make it this one. It is such a beautiful looking book to own and one which I chose to buy in hardback because it will look amazing on my book shelf.

The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot is an incredible debut novel from Marianne Cronin, an author who is going to go far and I look forward to joining her on her journey.

Buy your copy now…

World Book Day 2021 – Books for toddlers

It is World Book Day so I thought I would mark the day by posting some books for toddlers. As both a parent and a teacher, getting children into reading and encouraging reading for enjoyment is something I am extremely passionate about. Reading has to start from a very young age and so I am always encouraging parents to read to their children and siblings to read to one another. With this in mind, here are my 2 year old daughter’s current favourite books …

I am a Tiger by Karl Newson

This is such a fun picture book about a mouse who tries his utmost to convince all of the other animals that he is in fact a tiger. It is a funny story told through the use of clever illustrations and bold colours. The facial expressions are very cleverly done and my toddler likes to point these out and tell me how the characters are feeling. This is the current book I have to read at least three times before bed but it is no chore, I love it just as much as my daughter!

Little Owl’s Egg by Debi Gliori

Such a heart-warming story of an owl who lays an egg but the baby owl isn’t best pleased. Throughout the story both Mummy Owl and Baby Owl pretend that the animal inside the egg is something other than an owl but in the end Baby Owl concedes that a baby owl would in fact be best. ‘Little Owl’s Egg’ was previously gifted to Primary 1 children across Scotland in 2017 by the Scottish Book Trust.

Say Hello to the Animals by Ian Whybrow

I love this story and you can’t help but sing it as you read. It is the story of a puppy who takes the reader around a farm to say hello to all of the animals. My toddler loves animals and is always making the animal noises and pointing them out to tell me what they are so she loves this book.

Ladybird First Favourite Tales

As a teacher I am always flabbergasted at how many children get to age 10 and do not know some of the traditional tales so I have been searching for a collection of traditional tales that I can add to as my little girl grows up. After a few weeks of searching I came across these books and we both really love them. So far we have Hansel and Gretel, my favourite childhood tale, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears. What I like about these is that the stories are the stories as I remember them, no twists or extra characters, just the traditional tale as they were originally told. A lovely little collection of books that you can add to year after year.

#BookReview Last: The Story of a White Rhino by Nicola Davies

The Blurb

A rhino is put in a zoo in the middle of a grey city, where all he can do is pace back and forth. He misses his home, his mother, the smell of earth and rain. He fears he may be the last of his kind. Then one day, he is rescued and released back into the wild, to live free with the other rhinos.

My Thoughts

If you are a teacher then I would say that this is most definitely a book that you need in your classroom. When you are working with children you can’t help but look for clever ways to hook them in to difficult subject areas to make them relatable and relevant. ‘Last: The Story of a White Rhino’ is most certainly the perfect hook that will undoubtedly open up discussions around a variety of themes and topics that are imperative in our curriculum. 

In this book, Davies tells the story of a rhino who is captured when his mother is killed and is then taken to a zoo before later being rescued and released back into the wild. The one thing that struck me right away about this book was the clever use of colour as it is so remarkable. From my own experience, the meaning behind the use of colour would be easily picked out by learners of all ages providing an opportunity to delve into further discussions around the stark contrast. 

Furthermore, there is another story told through the images themselves and that is the story of the girl who sees the rhino in the zoo and is subsequently responsible for his rescue. Highlighted in colour against a dark background she is easily identifiable in several images, which again would allow for an interesting and detailed discussion with learners. 

This story could be used in a classroom to open up lines of communication and deep thinking around many themes including sustainability, conservation, animal cruelty and the impact humans have on our environment.  

Last: The Story of a White Rhino is an emotional story told through powerful images, emotive language and contrasting colours. A must have for all teachers! 

Thank you to Tiny Owl Publishing for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Order your copy now

#BookReview The Wife Who Got a Life by Tracy Bloom

The Blurb

Cathy is left open-mouthed when her husband hijacks the family’s New Year resolutions and throws in a midlife bombshell, so after years of school drop-offs and housework, Cathy decides it’s time to take control of life before it takes control of her. She makes a list of monthly goals that she hopes will set her up for the coming of middle age.

Cathy soon realises that nailing the list isn’t quite as easy as it seems, but she’s a mum on a mission and nothing’s going to stop her now…

My Thoughts

It these difficult times we all find ourselves in right now I really needed something light-hearted and uplifting to read that would make me smile and Tracy Bloom certainly delivered with ‘The Wife Who Got a Life’. I am not sure I am going to be able to do this book justice but here goes…

The story is based around Cathy’s life and the motivational diary she receives from her sister at Christmas. At first she is against setting her own goals but eventually comes round to the idea and the goals she sets herself are utter genius. Nothing too radical or drastic but small, easily achievable goals she can work towards to improve her life, many of which made me giggle. As Cathy starts to achieve her goals you see her change as a person, she grows in confidence and becomes more independent and comfortable within herself. I like the relationship she has with her children. It was honest and reflected the trials and tribulations parents encounter as they try their best to raise teenagers. 

The boys in the story were by far my favourite, particularly Freddie whom I found hilarious and definitely someone I would like to be friends with. Robbie seemed like a good guy and I was surprised when Cathy said at the end that she didn’t think his relationship that was blossoming with her daughter would last. I felt sorry for Robbie and the hand he had been dealt as a child but was also amazed at his journey and his ambition. I loved how he very much became part of the family. 

This book made me laugh out loud at several points. The ending was certainly emotional and, not usually one to cry at books, I am not ashamed to admit that I did in fact shed a tear. ‘The Wife Who Got a Life’ is uplifting and emotional and such a poignant reminder of how simple life can be and yet how happy it can make you.

‘The Wife Who Got a Life’ is out on 15th April.

Pre-order your copy now…

#BookReview Bright Burning Things by Lisa Harding

The Blurb

Being Tommy’s mother is too much for Sonya.

Too much love, too much fear, too much longing for the cool wine she gulps from the bottle each night. Because Sonya is burning the fish fingers, and driving too fast, and swimming too far from the shore, and Tommy’s life is in her hands.

Once there was the thrill of a London stage, a glowing acting career, fast cars, handsome men. But now there are blackouts and bare cupboards, and her estranged father showing up uninvited. There is Mrs O’Malley spying from across the road. There is the risk of losing Tommy – forever.

My Thoughts

Bright Burning Things is bold, powerful and extremely emotional. Sonya’s story brings out so many emotions in the reader: anger, sadness, frustration and empathy. I felt that it gave me a real insight into what it is like living with an addiction. Never before have I considered the strength of addiction and how it is so consuming.

I never doubted that Sonya wanted to be a good Mum and I could see that she did strive to do her best but sometimes it just wasn’t good enough. It made me consider the impact positive relationships could have on your recovery, something Sonya was sadly lacking in. Being judged and feeling inadequate really seemed to heighten her stress and anxieties making the road to recovery ever more difficult.

At times this was a difficult read, particularly when reading about some of the decisions she makes with regards to Tommy. Nevertheless, it is captivating!

Preorder your copy now…

Published on 4th March 2021