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Books we've read through our Indie Author Review System. If you're looking to give an independent author a chance, look no further.
A softly lyrical modernisation of an old American classic with a new audience in mind. ‘Old Mother West Wind Tales’ by Muz Murray is a collection of 16 short stories for children with a classic feel. Reminding me of Wind in the Willows, or the Winnie-the-Pooh collections that I read when I was younger, these animal-focused tales are great length for a bedtime read with a classic feel. Each chapter in the book is a story, reinvigorated with reading out loud in mind and in a larger print font making them clear for younger readers to follow along or to read independently. Based on the American childhood classic, ‘Old Mother West Wind’ by Thomas W. Burgess, now in the public domain, the author has refreshed the stories, adding and adapting the creatures of the Grassy Green Meadow for a British audience. It is clear from the endword that this work has been a labour of love, to breathe new life into a book from the author’s own childhood and bring it to the attention of a modern UK audience. The result is a softly lyrical collection of stories with a classic feel, with the addition of ‘Nature Notes’ about the animals within the stories, at the end of each chapter. I think that the author has managed the separation between the stories and these facts well, with the illustrations within the stories kept in a classical black and white sketch style and the fact pages given a more modern feel complete with colour photographs. ‘Old Mother West Wind Tales’ is a sweet collection of stories that will appeal to children aged 7+ who enjoy the classics, and will have a nostalgic feel for parents who share this book with their children. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
A fast-paced teen adventure with plenty of references to pop culture and ancient legends. ‘Luke Stevens and the Blood of St George’ by Ben Peyton begins with a very intriguing prologue, setting the scene of the threat to come before we are introduced to our eponymous character. We see a glimpse of Luke Stevens' mundane life with his aunt Sarah as his 13th birthday arrives and his family history is revealed, pushing him into the middle of a battle he didn’t know was raging against an unrelenting underground Nazi group, with freshly emerging powers he hadn’t realised he had. I enjoyed the way that this book is inspired by the legend of St. George and also how the author manages to intertwine more modern pop culture references too. Patrick’s gadgets are straight out of James Bond and after Charlie and Luke’s discussions of Star Wars I couldn’t help but see similarities there as well (Luke having lost his parents, a prophecy of a chosen one, a teacher referred to as a master who “giggles” like the original Yoda, references to light and dark and a spectral appearance from beyond the grave). There’s also lots of wit, with clever puns and sarcastic comebacks that left me smirking. Luke gets the hang of using his new abilities quickly and, with the help of the other Guardians, he dives straight into the action to try to stop his enemies from gaining power. This story whizzes by and with that epilogue I’m sure teen readers will be keen to hear more from Luke Stevens in future books. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
A Bright and colourful nautical story. ‘Big Blue Boat’ by Susea Spray and Illustrated by Lesley Cybulka is a simple story of a boat and its captain, heading out to sea, then finding a bay to rest in in the evening. The story starts off simple with “A boat” then builds, with each page, showing the towering mast, the billowing sails, the twirling wheel and the Captain that is “as brave as brave can be”. As the story picks up, so does the wind and the vibrant images depict the intrepid captain sailing some very choppy seas before the images and the text calm down again and a place to stop and sleep is found. The images of the boat and the sea and the landscape throughout are lovely. However I think that the close-up images of the captain are a little uncanny. She looks rather like a porcelain doll, lacking dimension and nose, and she isn’t always in proportion. Throughout the text some words are in a bold and coloured font for emphasis. I personally would have considered using this emphasis to highlight the nouns each time (so emphasising Boat not Blue), and maintained some consistency on which type of words were emphasised throughout. I think younger readers will enjoy the repetition of this story and looking at all the pictures. It could also be beneficial for young readers who are looking to build sentences, with the structure of the story at the beginning becoming gradually more complex. This is a great book for showing that girls can dream big, be strong and sail boats and go on solo adventures. The glossary at the end helps readers learn and remember the different parts of the boat and what they’re used for. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Political manoeuvring and cross party cooperation explored in this middle grade mystery. Theo is an ordinary teenage boy. Except he happens to live in Downing Street and his father is the Prime Minister. Theo is struggling to navigate his school life with the weight of his family’s expectations when, during a school trip to the Houses of Parliament, the parliamentary mace is stolen. Forming a new friendship with Sammy, a classmate with a different background and ideals seemingly from across the political divide, can the pair of students beat the Police to discover who the thief is before the government crumbles and Theo’s life is turned upside down again? ‘Mystery in the Palace of Westminster’ by Sarah Lustig is an interesting and adventurous mystery which will entertain young readers while also introducing new information about the different roles within the government and the Houses of Parliament. On top of the mystery of the missing mace we see the personable story of the impact of constant media scrutiny and political upheaval on a family. In a way that allows the reader to sympathise with Theo, we see his struggles to find his footing at school and live up to his father’s expectations while understanding his privileges in comparison to Sammy and her more ordinary life. I think that this book would be a great introduction to politics while also offering a twisting mystery to entertain readers. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Puddocks’s Pond is written and illustrated by Nan Eshelby. It is an educational and entertaining children’s picture book written in rhyme. It is 36 pages long and each page has a beautiful, bright illustration to depict the story. Some illustrations are left blank for children to colour themselves. The drawings are quite detailed, so there is plenty on each page to encourage discussions about the animals and insects. Eshelby uses words that are easy for children to understand. Her clever rhymes tell the story of Puddock the frog. He tells the children that frogs speak to each other in rhyme. He has a magic lily crown which helps him to talk to the children, Maisie, Daisy, and Mo. He asks them to build a pond in the garden so that all the animals and insects can benefit from the water. He explains how they all need water to live. He says that soon frogs, toads, newts, dragonflies, pond skaters, damselflies, foxes, hedgehogs, and birds will visit the garden to use the pond. Eshelby shows children what tools they need to build a pond and how to do it. Puddock explains to the children that toads and frogs will lay eggs (spawn) in the pond and soon tadpoles will hatch, which will eventually turn into frogs. The author hopes the book will inspire children to build ponds and that they will always find ways to help wildlife. I recommend the book to children from age 4 upwards. This is an excellent learning resource. It encourages children to be helpful and caring towards nature. At the end of the book, the author provides more detailed info on frogs, toads, and newts. This information will appeal to older children up to the age of about 10. Susan Gibbs, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
A charming book about asking for help and finding friendship in unexpected places. With humorous, charming and cute illustrations, the reader is taken on a journey learning about different sea creatures along the way. It is a wonderful book about the importance of being helpful and friendly to others and is a witness to how kindness has a ripple effect across people we come across day-to-day. A wonderful book that I would be proud to read to my children time and time again. Lydia Roshanzamir, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
When Cherry Lost Terry by Penny Phillips and illustrated by Clare Mallison is a captivating children’s storybook written in limericks, with elaborate illustrations. The story opens with Anne the Antelope looking out to sea through her binoculars. This creates expectancy. What does she see? She and Billy Badger set off to investigate in his boat. Cherry the Cat jumps onto their boat from a passing ferry. She is searching for her friend, Terry, who fell overboard. We are kept guessing as to Terry's identity. We get a few clues along the way as we meet more and more animals who help in the search. The animal’s names charmingly all begin with the same letter as their animal species. They work together to help Cherry, which teaches children about helping others. The illustrations are gentle with restful colours and expressive animal faces. By the end of the book, it is night-time, Terry has been found and all the animals go to sleep. They are promised another adventure with Wayne the Whale the following day. Children, and those reading to them, will love the way the clever rhymes flow. The beautiful animal illustrations are also praise-worthy and will encourage discussion about animals. Susan Gibbs, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
14-year-old Leah has a lot of big questions, about life, about the universe and about her place in it. Struggling to form her questions and feelings into words, this sometimes makes her feel like an outsider. Thankfully she has great friends and family around her who all seem to help her ponder the big questions too. An experience stargazing one night transforms Leah, and challenges her to step outside her comfort zone, heading for an international summer camp to broaden her horizons and hopefully find some of the answers she’s looking for. This book touches on everything from etymology to more traditional teen issues of school bullies and body image issues and the ever increasing urgency to act to slow down global warming. It's clear that the author has some passionate and spiritual ideas they wish to share with readers about unity and how a sense of ownership and belonging might inspire more action to reduce pollution and the other behaviors that are harming the world around us. Although written with great intentions, I would have liked to find more dimension in Leah, something outside of her existential musings to help me relate to the character. I liked how Leah’s family and friends were supportive of her exploring her ideas. I like the messages throughout to push outside your comfort zone to learn more about the world and yourself, as well as the conflict resolution at the summer camp. This is a book with a lot of positive messages and would be a good introduction into more philosophical thinking for teenagers while helping them to perhaps understand themselves and the world around them better. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
‘Frances Finkel and the Passenger Pigeon’ by D.M. Mahoney is a valiant tale of achieving your dreams and overcoming the odds to do so. A historical fiction tale based on WWII, we follow the eighteen year old Fran, a competent pilot eager to play her part as a pilot in WWII. With a tale of friendship and family intertwined as Frances seeks adventure as part of the air force. Although set well within 1940s America, I feel that this storyline will feel relatable to modern teen readers. The coming of age themes throughout seem universal, as are the themes of loss, new friendships, determination and positivity. It’s brilliant to have books that shine a light on strong female lead characters and even better when these books are based in part on the female history and participation in the war, something not always taught in schools. I think that this book would appeal to historical fiction fans but it also has a wider audience as the main narrative follows a young girl dealing with grief and loss but determined to achieve her dreams, find where she belongs and do what she can to make a difference. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
‘The Tale Of Brian And The House Painter Mervyn’ by Lance Lee is an interesting tale of magic and art intertwined. When Brian is under strict doctor’s orders to stay in bed, he misses everything about the outside. Moab, Brian’s father, sets out to find someone who will paint the white walls of Brian’s room with everything he misses about Sandstone-by-the-Sea, but only Mervyn, a grumpy and mysterious character, will paint the scenery without their artist’s impression, exactly how it is. The results are magical and lead to trouble, as Mervyn becomes more sought after than the witches, wizards, artists and tourist locations throughout the town. There’s a traditional feel to the way this story is told and there’s plenty of bold illustrations throughout for the reader to explore. Because of the traditional feel of the book I expected some sort of parable or message at the end, however I seem unable to find one. I personally found some of the text could have flowed a bit more, in some places it seems quite lyrical, whereas in others it’s quite repetitive. This stood out most to me at the very beginning, when stating Brian “‘was used to a great deal of running around and fun. But when he fell ill from a mysterious disease the Doctor ordered him to be and ended all running around and fun”. I would have liked to see this rephrased slightly to avoid the repeated use of ‘running around and fun’ in such a short space of time. This is a brief and creative story filled with magic and art with lots of vibrant and eccentric characters that could appeal to readers aged 7-9. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Written and illustrated by Lisa Wee, ‘Li Na is My Name’ is a bright and colourful picture book with a message that encourages children to be who they are and encourages everyone reading to stop and think before “light-heartedly” teasing children for their hobbies and passions. Li Na likes to rollerblade and play football with her friends, but she is labelled as a tomboy by everyone around her for her ‘not-so-girly' hobbies and clothes. I loved the illustrations throughout, there’s so much colour which will capture any young reader's attention and lots to see as Li Na, her family and friends play and get ready for the school concert and talent show. I really loved the message that there’s no such thing as a ‘girly’ or ‘boy’ hobby and that everyone should be able to have fun doing what they love. I think that this message would come across in a way that’s more memorable to younger readers if there was a rhyme or rhythm to the writing but as it is ‘Li Na is My Name’ is a positive and eye-catching children’s book with an important message. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Sunny the Sideloader by Anne and Louise Jordan is a remarkable children’s picture book, printed with vegetable ink on recycled paper. The colourful 3-D illustrations were created by building sets with real toy trucks, photographing them, and digitally altering them. There is plenty to promote discussion with young children as each background scene is very detailed. Caring for the environment, following instructions and teamwork are the themes of this entertaining, educational book. Sunny the Sideloader truck is excited to start working at the Sanitation Station in Workerville. He joins 7 other electric trucks called Forest, Electra, Gruff, Starletta, Mighty, Digit, and Sprout. They collect electronics, garbage, compost, and yard waste. Sunny is told by Manager Mike to follow Electra. He is so excited that he races off without her. He starts lifting bins at such a fast pace that piles of recycling fall out and litter the streets. Sunny is sad that he has made such a mess and worried about what his workmates will say. What will happen next? Can Sunny fix the mess he created and succeed in making Workerville a clean city? This engaging unique book will appeal to children up to age 5 or 6, especially truck lovers and environmentally aware readers. Susan Gibbs, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
‘Clash of the Totems and the Lost Magaecians’ by Yonnie Garber is a coming of age story for teenagers that focuses on Ellery Brown. The 13 year-old knows very little about her past and her family, growing up with her mother in a remote village with no recollection of her father or extended family. When her school is closed down by a fire, she finds herself in the Earth Science School for Magaecians, and her family history leads her on an adventure of spells and totems against the villainous Saxon Nash. I liked the strong ecological theme throughout, with the Magaecians focused on a life with nature at its heart, knowing that Humanity’s time is limited if they continue to destroy the earth as they do. I also liked the twist on the usual battle between good and evil tropes, with the Magaecians finding power and strength in words, and negativity and physical violence discouraged. I found some similarities in this book with Harry Potter and even the Power Rangers at one point, as the children are encouraged to meditate to “become” their animal totems and “unite” together. This is an action packed adventure and coming-of-age story with an inventive and unique twist, ‘Clash of the Totems and the Lost Magaecians’ is set up to be the start of an interesting new series. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
‘The Adventures of Jimmy Crikey: The Emerald Lake’ by Wallace E Briggs is the fourth book that follows an alien orphan Jimmy McGellan, nicknamed Jimmy Crikey by bullies due to his unusually large feet. Now Jimmy is a teenager, and while he lives happily on earth among his four witch guardians and has lots of friends in different realms, he feels like something is missing. With the same fast pacing as previous books, we not only see Jimmy help the Aquamites of Emerald Lake from flesh eating serpents but also fall in love. Although this is the fourth book in the series I think that there is sufficient information provided to read this as a standalone, or to read the books slightly out of order but I would suggest that to get the most enjoyment out of this book and get to know all of the characters, it would be best to follow Jimmy’s adventures from the beginning. Combining both fantasy and sci-fi, The Adventures of Jimmy Crikey are great for readers who like a sure thing, who want adventure without too much tension and jeopardy. Amongst the magic and the witchcraft, as always it’s the things that make Jimmy different are the things that enable him to help his friends and keep the inhabitants of the Emerald Lake safe, which is a great message for young readers. Perhaps catering to the older end of the middle-grade audience, readers aged 11/12 looking for a fast paced adventure could enjoy this series. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Leonard’s Lunch by Debbie Quinn is a lovely children’s book written in rhyming verse. Each of the 40 pages has a bright and colourful illustration and a maximum of 12 lines of verse. Leonard the lion is hungry and wondering what to eat for his lunch. He meets up with Bear, Monkey, Crocodile, Parrot, and Mouse. Leonard’s repetitive words and questions to his friends will help to engage young learners in the story and aid their learning. They offer him some of their healthy food, but he decides he doesn’t need the health benefits offered by their meals. He opts for some unhealthy snacks instead like pizza, chips, cakes, and sweets. Leonard decides to eat junk food every day. Over time, he begins to suffer some unpleasant side effects. He feels unhealthy and has several health complaints. His friends send him to see Doctor Giraffe. She explains that his unhealthy choices are making him sick. She gives him a list of healthy food to eat so that he will start to feel better. She also suggests that he exercise, drink water, and brush his teeth twice a day. When Leonard feels better, he throws a party for his friends with healthy food on the menu. The book has illustrations of unhealthy and healthy foods and different types of exercise, which will encourage children to talk about each food and activity. There are some amusing references to bodily functions which will make children laugh. The expressions on the animals’ faces are also very endearing. Children will learn the importance of a healthy and balanced lifestyle through Quinn’s humorous and entertaining book. The book’s message is brought across in a gentle, non-lecturing way. Children aged about 4 to 5 will enjoy having the story read to them and older children up to about 8 years old will enjoy reading the book for themselves. Susan Gibbs, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
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