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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.
‘Valletta and the Year of Changes’ by Simone Mansell Broome is a chapter book with beautiful illustrations that follows a fiery little mouse called Valletta Stowaway and her family. The first thing that struck me was the lovely illustrations by Cerys Susannah Rees, on the cover and of the family tree. I think that young readers will find them enchanting. The story flows well, we see the Stowaway clan have to come to terms with the lockdown, as the humans do above the floorboards of 46 Spring Blossom Road. Focusing on positivity, kindness and family support this book covers a lot of the feelings I’m sure lots of young readers would have been feeling during the initial stages of lockdown, from a lack of uncertainty to cabin fever and frustration about not being able to go on holiday. I like the Stowaway song that’s repeated throughout the story and I could see younger readers joining in with it throughout. A very relevant picture book to the events of the past 18 months but with larger messages about family support and community. With entertaining characters and lovely illustrations, I see this book having a wide appeal. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
'The Elf 'N Trees' is a charming Christmas story but contains universal lessons applicable throughout the year. Written by Ellena Waskett-Burt and illustrated by husband Andrew, it is inspired by and dedicated to the couple's two daughters. Elf 'n trees are the little people who are trained to live in your Christmas tree throughout the festive season, changing blown light bulbs, tweaking decorations and generally spreading Christmas magic all around the house whilst remaining out of sight, especially of cats! Leafy is one such elf but she is having trouble passing her final test before she can 'go solo'. She enlists the help of her friend, Crinkly, and next time passes with flying colours. Leafy is able to return the favour very soon, when Crinkly is too late to find a tree of his own when they go on sale. The two friends soon discover that sharing a tree is twice as much fun and they go on to make sure that the little girls in the house they end up in enjoy the best Christmas ever! A really delightful story, colourfully illustrated, shows the power of friendship and co-operation. This unlikely pairing works because it's based on mutual understanding and respect and Santa's secret is safe with these two enterprising elf 'n trees. A wonderful addition to a young child's stocking. Drena Irish, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
'Eve's Ducklings', written by Maria Monte and illustrated by Emelie Wiklund, is a lovely picture book aimed at three to five year olds. It starts with an experience that almost every young child will relate to, that of going to the park with a much loved older family member, and takes us through all the emotions Eve feels there and how she learns and grows because of them. When Grandpa takes Eve to the lake for the first time, they are delighted to see that the duck family has two ducklings. Eve runs to try to catch and hold them, hug and pat them but grandpa warns her that their mother will not be happy about that. On every visit she still tries to show them her love in the only way she knows but the ducklings just retreat to the middle of the pond until one day Eve falls in the water in her efforts to reach them. This makes her really start to think about her approach and, taking a step back, she scatters sunflower seeds for them instead. Before long, the ducklings come for the seeds and Eve is at last able to see them close to. This book is an excellent encouragement for children to start thinking about their relationship with wild creatures, how to show them respect, give them their own space and love and care for them in a suitable and responsible way. A charming and inspiring story. Drena Irish, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
‘Hair’ by L.A. Shaw is an amusing and irreverent children's fiction book. The main character Teddy Wackett as he spots a strange man stealing the hair off dogs in a local park and uncovers a larger, hairier mystery. As the reader we are taken around the town and introduced to the rather eccentric hairdressers and what’s so great about hair and why it’s the focus of this mad-cap story. This book is adventurous, and there’s plenty of action to keep younger readers entertained from the first page to the last. I liked Teddy, and I’m sure that some younger readers will relate to his aversion to showering. The whole cast of characters are colourfully described with detail. I think readers will find the plot of this book funny and enjoyable. I personally particularly liked Mr Wackett’s reaction to his sudden surge of hair growth. Throughout ‘Hair’ there’s plenty of amusing illustrations by Sarah Reeve that I think will have wide appeal, in a style I found quite similar to Quentin Blake or Tony Ross. I think the combination of the short chapters and engaging illustrations could make this a book that could be read as a family, with younger siblings following the pictures or parents helping with the text. At around 80 pages ‘Hair’ is a relatively short story but perfectly formed and packed full of adventure, humour and entertainment that I’m sure readers from 8 upwards will enjoy. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Absolutely beautiful! First of all, the illustrations are superb. They are bright, colourful and draw the eye wonderfully. They help to tell the story well and I adored them. The animals all came to life through the vibrancy and lines of the illustrations. Now to the story. I read this book with three hats on. First, my mum hat, second my primary school teacher hat and finally my bibliophile hat. This book ticked every single box. It was written well, using simple enough but engaging language. It made you want to turn the page to see what was going to happen next. It made you think about possible scenarios, for example what sorts of things might other animals be asked to do? And most importantly, it ended with a big happy smile on my face and a little chuckle. This is definitely a book I would read to my children and also to my class. I love the fact that some of the proceeds go to helping literacy in the Caribbean as well. Amanda O'Dwyer, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
The Cloud Children is a fantasy story for I’d say younger children. We meet brother and sister Simon and Katie and they are quickly whisked away on a cloud to start their year of adventures as Cloud Children. I found that everything moved quite quickly at the beginning, and I think there is some room for more detail early on, I would have liked to know more about Simon and Katie and their personalities as the story started. The interesting quirk to this storyline is that the siblings are chosen to serve as Cloud Children for a year, but when they arrive back home no time has passed at all (think Peter Pan but time stops so the parents can’t miss them?). I think that this has been included in the storyline as a reassurance for younger readers about Simon and Katie disappearing for a year of adventures. Part of their role as Cloud Children is to travel the world and help people. I think that this aspect of the novel is nice and allows for morals to be integrated into the story. There are also illustrations dotted throughout the book which I thought were a nice touch. In all, I think it is a nice adventure story. It’s a chapter book, although the chapters are quite short and I think that the story itself would appeal most to younger readers. Perhaps this is a book for readers looking to gain their independence, with some support from a parent or teacher.
Maya enjoys going to the beach and is especially fond of swimming with her friend Finn, the parrot fish. Thanks to her magical webbed feet, she is able to rescue three of her marine friends who have become unwell through environmental issues. Turtle has ingested plastic bags, the water has become too hot for Coral and Dolphin has become trapped in a fishing net. This delightful little picture book is part of a series that the author Lucy Munday is creating in order to highlight the effects of environmental damage to our planet. Illustrated attractively in bold and bright colours, the message is clear but is not communicated in a way that would be distressing to young children. Each time Maya encounters a problem, the question DO YOU KNOW? follows, enabling discussion. At the end of the story there is further information about the three threats to the environment visited in the book, together with a useful website. This book would be a very useful addition to an infant school library, providing a helpful introduction to this subject matter in a gentle way. Val Rowe, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Absolutely loved this! I couldn’t put it down and actually lost sleep reading it. It is written so well and descriptively that you actually feel as if you are on the ship with Bart and his friends Jonah and Sebastian. There are parts which are particularly gruesome and there are also parts which describe how black people were treated back in the 1700’s, which is hard to read, but I feel it needs to be written about and discussed, not just omitted because it’s uncomfortable. The story moves at a fast pace and keeps you hooked right to the very end. It gives a great insight into life at the time and in particular how life was on ships. I can see this being the beginning of a fabulous series of books about Bart and the boys. It’s also a great way to learn about history and about ships. I loved the fact there is a glossary of terms at the end as well, just so you know what you’re reading about. An absolutely brilliant book that will hopefully set lots more children on the road of reading enjoyment. Amanda O'Dwyer, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Necropolis is a Young Adult dystopian fiction with a thrilling concept. In a time where society is becoming more restrictive and segregated, Wyn embarks on a perilous quest to prove the gender divide imposed by her society wrong, as she goes undercover in the army. Will the challenges she faces as a recruit on top of her fight to remain undercover derail her ambitions before she’s had time to achieve her goal? With mention of ‘The Breakdown’ and the illusive nature of the Necropolis, you are immediately drawn in to a different world. As I read I was keen to learn more about this world and Wyn’s journey. The plotline progresses quickly and this is a story that you could enjoy easily over a weekend. In a society that is quite this strict about the gender divide, I think that there could have been a bit more tension built as Wyn enquired about joining up, and I found Mrs Clay’s critical outbursts in History and eagerness to help Wyn a little bit overzealous and at odds with my expectations of a restricted society within a dystopian novel. Regardless of this I found the plotline enjoyable and Wyn very endearing. This is an interesting story.
'Beyond the Forest Floor: Forest Tales' by Joanne McFall is a collection of 13 short stories inspired by nature, folklore and Celtic mythology. The dark and troubling tales are illustrated by Ruth O'Kelly with monochrome line drawings, which add to the brooding atmosphere, so reminiscent of the Brothers Grimm. Like all fairy stories, they are timeless and designed to appeal to all ages. Also true to tradition, the characters, both human and animal, embark on journeys which transform them, as they discover they possess qualities, strengths and powers to carry out whatever is required of them whilst the forest remains the same and eternal. This is a very evocative and immersive set of stories, slightly disturbing but rewarding. I particularly liked 'Other Moon', which has all the elements of a good fairy tale...a prince, a castle, a wolf, a woodcutter, a magic seed, a wish granted but also the unexpected appearance of an angel, who shows the prince how to prove himself by helping the poor. A very interesting read.
I wanted to read this novel as even as a grown up I like reading a variety of reading genres including junior and young adult fiction. And what an experience meeting Bucky and the hierarchy of felines turned out to be. A thrilling escapade through physical & far away places combined with touches of fantasy and science fiction. An exhilarating read for confident readers of any age including adults! The author has a vivid and descriptive writing style with which this novel grows and grows holding the readers attention all the way. I found it very well written with creatively-worded sentences and chapters. I also loved the actions of the cats; some powerful, some enigmatic, but even if you're not a cat lover give this story a go-you wont regret it! I was engrossed from the very beginning where the action is centered on strange goings on at London's Natural History Museum. But that's just the start of a great adventure. Add in some episodes of tele-porting, tunnels, caves, jets and even pyramids then you're all set for a rocketing ride. If you're a Londoner or familiar with the layout of the city then even better as you'll be able to picture where the action happens. Caroline Highy, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
The Rainbow Blots are a delightful little family; each member is a colour of the rainbow with his/her own distinctive personality. Mummy Blot encourages them to have fun and they each do so by immersing themselves into activities linked with their specific colour. They have another little trick that they are able to perform as they can change themselves into a colour related object. Written in a rhyming format, this charming little book is illustrated in bright and bold colours which would appeal to young children. I like the fact that each colour character is unique and Indigo baby is my favourite! I especially liked the illustration of them tucked inside their little beds. The names and order of the colours of the rainbow are reinforced in the middle of the book - the child is encouraged to say them aloud - and there is the opportunity of drawing one's own rainbow blot at the end. This would be a very useful addition to an infant school library and a book which would be reread frequently if owned at home. It is certainly one which I would have made use of when teaching Reception aged children. Val Rowe, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
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