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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.
Another lovely story from Once Upon a Dance encouraging movement and creative expression. Dayana is delighted when she finds out her new brother is here and can’t wait to play and do her favourite thing with him: dance! But babies aren’t the best dance partners and Dayana gets to learn new ways of moving with him. Then something magical happens. The focus of this book is moving, dancing and performing. This is the second story that I’ve come across from Once Upon a Dance and again I really enjoyed the concept of a storyline with accompanying movements and actions. ‘Dayana, Dax, and the Dancing Dragon’ is a lovely and simple story about the excitement of a new sibling as well as a magical mini-adventure. The story is well written and I think it could be enjoyed without the actions. I liked the illustrations, throughout, they are bright and colourful and I think that young readers will enjoy looking at the illustrations in between having a go at the actions. I also like the ribbon detail present to separate the story and the actions, it’s a little detail that adds a really nice finishing touch. I found that the actions and photographs were clear but also encouraging for any reader that wanted to try out their own move or adapt it to fit them. I liked the positivity throughout that suggests that the actions can be performed for another or done in your own space, and the brief safety reminders to be careful of what’s around you when performing the actions. I think that this book will be well-loved by any budding young performer. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
The second in a series, ‘(Im)Mortal Earth’ by J.J.Faulks sees Piprin and Orleigh set off to find the Seer in the hopes of a cure for Piprin’s sick mother. This journey raises more questions than answers and sends the pair of friends on a quest to save the Key of Life. I would recommend starting with ‘The Seer’s Curse’ to get to know Orleigh and Piprin properly, and understand the opening of ‘(Im)Mortal Earth’ and their previous quests. In a world of mythology, where suspicion of outsiders runs rife, the same suspicions that were directed at Orleigh in the first book are turned against those seeking asylum from the West, a land where crops are failing and famine runs rife. This is a well-written story, with detailed world building, gods and mythology to entertain young fantasy readers. I liked the way the author manages to incorporate folklore while also making sure that the pace of the story isn’t affected. There’s lots of action and interference from the gods, who I would have liked to know more about and why I recommend any reader start with ‘The Seer’s Curse’. There is a satisfactory conclusion with plenty of scope for a third book and more challenges for the young friends.
A whistle-stop tour through some of the more iconic stories in the bible. ‘XII’ by Robin Bennett tells in only 12 chapters some of the most well-known bible stories. Including the story of Creating, Noah and his ark and the life and death of Jesus, this book has been created to engage teens and older readers in order to spark or re-ignite an interest in the Bible. I really liked the colloquial and conversational tone used throughout the book. I found that this writing style made the stories more engaging and I could see it appealing to a 13+ audience. I liked that the author used some of the more well-known bible stories, and understand that this book has been created as a “gateway” to further Bible study. However, as stated by the author in the Epistle, the Bible is “not light reading”, and perhaps this could be an opportunity for a series and for the author to share some of the lesser known stories in the same approachable and accessible manner. ‘XII’ is well-written and I can see the narrative voice could be used effectively to engage with even more Bible text. I think that ‘XII’ is an entertaining collection of stories that is quick to read and could be used to explore and educate about Christianity and the Bible in a more effective way than initially just reading from the tome itself. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
I read this with my granddaughter. We both enjoyed the colourful pictures - the winds were great fun. The storyline is good with a few challenging words which will make them stick in the mind. It's a good story to show the way water gets into the clouds and then back onto the land and the pictures clearly reflect it too. It's not too long as 24 pages and can easily be read in one sitting. Linda Amons, 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
In this cheerful, bright and colourful counting story, Eliza explores the natural world around her closely, using her magnifying glass. On each page she discovers a new set of small creatures, all commonly found in gardens and parks, and all instantly recognisable. The creatures, minibeasts and even the acorns are given human features and funny phrases, which make them relatable, but they are also very carefully and realistically drawn. This is a book full of visual knowledge and the delightful collage-like textures add to the realism. There is so much to see and talk about within these pages, it would be a great pick for a young child interested in the natural world or a class starting out on a science topic. The reader will certainly feel like taking the author’s advice to follow their curiosity out of the door to explore! Rachel Elvidge, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
In a similar vein to ‘Who Needs Nappies? Not me!’ this latest, rousing, potty training cry ‘You Can't Wear Panties!’ by Justine Avery is a short and good humoured picture book to celebrate progress during the toilet training process with any young reader. Filled with delightful pictures, offering those who aren’t able to wear “panties” (flowers and goldfish? Most definitely not!) and a triumphant young girl who has reached the stage where she can. young readers are sure to have a giggle at whether each character in the picture would be able to wear big-girl pants as they read. Filled with humour and positivity, this another nice book for any parent who is potty training and looking to encourage excitement around toilet independence. I would have liked some variation in the phrasing to make it more appealing to slightly older readers too (and to assuage my personal dislike of the word “panties”), but the repetition of the two key phrases throughout the book is guaranteed to have young children marching around proudly chanting for the rest of the day. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Five siblings set out on a fantastical quest. Five, strong and smart orphan siblings are trusted to help Lucky, a strange, diamond being escape their miserable city of Lowdar and embark on a magical, fantasy quest. ‘The Lucky Diamond’ by Valinora Troy plunges the reader into a strange world, with great world-building, and transports us across foreign lands as the siblings and Lucky set out on their quest. The inhabitants of Lowdar know that to go beyond the town walls is certain death, but when the siblings must work together and do just that to help Lucky get home, sparkling adventures begin. The beginning of a new series this book reminded me of The Chronicles of Narnia. Each sibling is unique, has a strong character and their own ability, helped by the strange gifts left to them by their mother, to allow them to help in any given situation. I can see young middle grade readers picking their favourite characters out as they read. The story flows well, with lots of things to discover with every turn of the page, new characters (and monsters) to encounter, and evils to overcome. I think that this would be a hit for any middle grade readers who like magical quests and fantasy. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
A lovely story of courage. Dennis has moved house and is scared of going to sleep in his strange new room. Thankfully Mum is on hand to deliver a positive and soothing message about the strength that everyone has within themselves to face the things that worry them, the Lion in their heart. Through beautiful and bright illustrations by Anil Yap and simple but flowing text from R.C. Chizhov, ‘The Lion in your Heart’ touches not only on having the courage to face your fears but also to reach for the stars, sometimes literally, and follow your dreams. This is a lovely picture book, the text and the illustrations work brilliantly together. Dennis’ questions about all the times that his Lion might be with him offer an additional positive and motivational aspect to the novel as I’ve already mentioned, about having courage to achieve anything, as well as facing more immediate challenges, like spiders or sleeping in a strange new room. This would be a great picture book to read with young children, who will no doubt love the story and illustrations and may also want to talk about all the different times that their Lion is with them. A wholesome, and charming picture book. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
‘Everybody Toots’ by Justine Avery follows in the same style as previous books in the series, ‘Everybody Pees’ and 'Everybody Poops’. There’s humorous details to spot on the cover which I’m sure will have young children giggling from the outset. As with the other books mentioned, ‘Everybody Toots’ is a great picture book for normalising bodily functions, and encouraging children to be more confident in their body and what it does. The light-hearted words take you through an extensive list of people and animals who all have one thing in common: they all toot. The illustrations by Naday Meldova are bright and colourful, with lots of amusing facial expressions and scenarios depicted. Another fun book that could help to start the conversation of why we toot with younger readers as well as a way to give confidence and reassurance when needed. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Fantastical adventures abound in this spirited, richly-layered epic. If you were to judge this book by its beautiful cover, you may well expect an exciting, character-driven adventure with a classic flavour, and you’d be exactly right. Henry Chancellor’s epic (both in scope and size) Jack Joliffe Goes Forth tells the exhilarating tale of a 12-year-old girl (“Why am I called Jack? I don’t know. That is one of the many mysteries in my life”) who’s unexpectedly summoned to be a Royal Keeper at St James’s Palace. The novel is narrated in Jack’s jaunty, whimsical voice as she discovers the strange, secret world that exists beneath the palace. A world of fantastical creatures (dragons, fairies and jabberwocks), and a young prince who insists he doesn’t want to become king. A world in which Jack finds herself embroiled in palace intrigue and ancient magic. Though smartly paced and packed with action, at almost 600 pages, this is most likely to be enjoyed by more committed readers, with the glorious hardback format and characterful illustrations making it an ideal gift for 9+-year-olds who like to be well and truly absorbed by fantastical adventures set in richly-detailed worlds. Joanne Owen, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Created in order to help children create healthy lifelong habits, ‘My First Animal Moves’ by Darryl Edwards is a picture and activity book that encourages both parents and children to learn about animals through movement and play. The illustrations are bright and colorful, with funny quips from Lola the dog as Nathan learns the new actions in Animal Moves land. This is a great concept to encourage young people to establish healthy habits around exercise. There’s an enthusiasm throughout that I think could encourage young readers to get excited and try all of the different moves as their parents or a teacher reads to them. Filled with lots of basic movements that are well described, I think that most children would be able to carry out each animal move with little difficulty. Like a P.E obstacle course with no equipment necessary, and no specific order required, this could be a nice story to read followed by a “Simon Says”-style game, for a quick burst of exercise at home or at school. A great concept and interesting new way to get children moving.
‘The Pug and the Hen’ is a picture book by Diane K. Yorke that is filled with charming and bright illustrations. Hetty Hen is in training to lay eggs, but she’s bored and wants to “fly the coop” and have an adventure. So she and her friend Pug set off to explore, meeting a new character on their journey. A part of the ‘Puggy Tales’ series, this book is focused on friendship and adventure while sharing messages of kindness, gratitude, and tolerance. I loved the illustrations throughout and the slight twist in expectations at the end. In this fifth book in the series, Hetty Hen is definitely the main character, ‘The Pug and the Hen’ follows her dreams of freedom and adventure. I would have liked to know a little bit more about Pug, and perhaps hear from him a little more in this story, but I’m sure we'll learn more about him by reading the other books in the series. This is a charming story, with great images that I think will capture young readers’ attention. There are nice messages in here that are subtly delivered, and I’m sure both parent and child will have fun reading through this series together. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
‘Who Needs Nappies? Not Me!’ is another bright and colourful picture book from Justine Avery. Boldly illustrated by Seema Amjad, this book introduces us to a variety of children who no longer need to wear their Nappies. With some toilet humour and scenarios that will make young readers gasp and giggle, this book focuses on growing up and leaving dirty diapers behind. Any parent will, I’m certain, have at least one story come to mind while reading each page, which can be laughed about when toilet training is completed. This is written in a simple repetitive style that will allow younger readers to follow along and join in. I thought perhaps that there could have been more of a focus on the potty training process, and the gradual steps to graduating from nappies until eventually the book can declare ‘Who Needs Nappies? Not Me!’. However, I feel this is a book so full of enthusiasm that I think it would be a good way to get young children excited about starting the process. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
‘You Will Always Be in My Heart’ by Arlene Nikita Mensah and beautifully Illustrated by Mauro Lirussi is a story about big life changes through a young person’s eyes. Cookie’s Mum and Dad get married and Cookie and her mum move from Trinidad to England so that they can all live as a family. This is the first of many changes for Cookie and each time she remains strong with the help of her faith. This book has a light hand while dealing with a lot of sensitive subjects, from moving to a new country to divorce and abuse. Throughout the emphasis is on keeping faith and hope, with quotes from the International Children’s Bible at the start of each chapter. I felt that this was a well structured and well-written book, with lovely illustrations. I think that this would be an interesting read for any child going through significant upheaval, but I would echo the advice in the Author’s Foreword and use this book as an opportunity to start a conversation with a parent or relative about what’s happening in the story and any feelings brought up by the narrative. A sensitive, autobiographical tale about change, loss and separation, told through the eyes of a young girl with the powerful message that no matter how you're separated from a loved one, they’ll always be in your heart.
‘Charlie’s Ark’ written by Mike Payne, Illustrated by Adam Prescott and Mike Payne is a collection of stories following the events and adventures Charlie has with the magical new ark he’s inherited from his grandmother. There’s 24 different stories, all written in rhyme and based at different times of the year, making this a brilliant book to come back to again and again. Each poetic story has a soothing rhyme that would make this a great selection of bedtime stories. The soft pastel colours and the shorter length of each story also help to make this a brilliant bedtime read either for younger children to listen to, or older and more confident readers to read for themselves. Beautiful illustrations and beautiful stories. I think that this book will really appeal to young children. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
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