We’re all Big Kids. 8 things which have been remarketed for adulthood.


I’m a big kid. There’s no doubt about it. From bubbles (MY BUBBLES) to bouncy castles to Freddo bars, my pleasure lies in the small things in life. Everything I was told to outgrow by society is making a come-back. Anything goes, I say, but I find it interesting how we hide our interests behind new words to make them feel acceptable. Cosplay or just plain old dressing up? It’s like Harry Potter books with special adult covers. We can hide it behind whatever image we like, but we’re following no-one. Kids might enjoy the same thing, and guess what? That’s fine.

 People are cashing in on our repressed desire to lighten up. Here are 8 things society told me I had outgrown, which have been remarketed to an adult audience.


61cpxlc0dcl-_sx423_bo1204203200_Picture books: I’ve heard parent after parent tell children they are too old for the ‘baby books’ and I always want to ask whether their child is too old for visual literacy. Too many people think pictures are only there to help new readers visualise the text. 

Rant aside, too many people ‘outgrew’ picture books. Graphic novels? Coffee table books? Those are acceptable, even trendy. *rolls eyes, and goes back to Anthony Browne’s latest offering. * 


Soft-play: By eleven, I got strange looks when I turned up for a go on the indoor slides. It was packed away in the trunk of fond memories, but I knew it would make a come-back. As I type, there is an oversized soft-play world touring the country. As well as family sessions, it opens to adults. There’s a special-needs play park in London which raises money by hosting an annual adult fun day, cos guess what? Adults will pay good money to have a go on  swings.


Bubbles: Yep, we’ve established I’m crazy about bubble mix, and yep we’ve done the 4124400890_415214559d_bfish-thing (MY BUBBLES!) Let me guess, you’re much too old for a little bottle of bubble mix, but a festival with a bubble machine? A giant bubble wand? Bubble art? That’s different, right? If we all outgrew bubbles, we wouldn’t keep reinventing them.


Stationery: Let’s face it. We’re too old for the back to school shop. But wait a sec, Paperchase sent a discount voucher, and there’s a cute new range. We’re all stationery addicts, and never more so than late summer/early autumn, when nostalgia and the high street marketing wizards prompt us to stock up.


Petting Zoos: Last time you went to a petting zoo? Unless you took children, (which may or may not be cheating. Depends on your motives, and how much you hogged the bag ofDSCN2064 feed,) I’m guessing you were about six-and-a-half. OK. Last time you went Alpaca trekking? Guinea Pig Fishing? To see the reindeer at Winter Wonderland? Oh, yeah. Hang on a sec. Same hobby, different price-tag.



Playground crazes: Not since Pokemon cards? So you’ve never stalked Primark for an impractically-cup-shaped-purse, because everyone else has one?


Which leads neatly into …


Character PJs: Remember when Disney PJs only came in sizes measurable by age? Heck to that.


Claire’s Accessorises: We totally got over that when our acne broke out. Yeah. We moved three doors down to Accessorize, which is a different thing altogether.


Lego: I’m betting you’ve done one of four things:

  • Invested heavily in Lego, and used the special adulthood tactic of MIAWA (Making it acceptable with acronyms.) You’re an AFOL (adult fan of Lego. That’s a thing.) You don’t play Lego, you construct MOCs (my own creations) using techniques like SNOT (studs not on top). Which is not remotely childish.


  • You outgrew Lego at a respectable age, but that Architecutre range? It’s made for adults.


  • Explored a treasured childhood collection ‘for nostalgia’.


  • Helped the kids. I saw a lot of this during my stint in the Lego store. ‘He really wants the Death Star.’ Yeah. He’s 18 months old, but hey. You’re there to help.


Can you think of anything which had been rebranded as fit for adulthood? Do let me know in the comments below.





Fantastic Q and A between Amy at GoldenBooksGirl and Ruth Lauren, author of A Prisoner Of Ice And Snow.

Golden Books Girl

Hello everyone!

Today, I’m hugely excited to have Ruth Lauren, who wrote one of my favourite reads of this year, here for an interview.

Let’s get started!

HiRuth! Thank you so much for agreeing to an interview; welcome to Golden Books Girl

It’s my pleasure, thanks so much for having me!

1. Can you please describe Prisoner of Ice and Snow in 5 words for anyone who hasn`t read it?

Prison Break meets Frozen

2. What inspired you to write the book? Had you always envisaged it as a series, or did you originally plan for just one book?

The idea began when I was watching Prison Break with my son. I wondered what that kind of story would be like if it was about two young sisters instead (and then if it were set in a fantasy land where I could add all sorts of interesting…

View original post 696 more words

Middle Grade Reviews

Underneath the Brambles. The Secret Hen House Theatre by Helen Peters

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Hannah ducked under a branch. Holding the twig in her mouth, she inched forward, snapping twigs and moving brambles aside with her gloved hands. The gloves were thin and the thorns pierced through them. Brambles clawed into her coat and hat and she had to keep stopping to pull herself free. Lottie followed her, letting out shrieks and moans as twigs sprang back and scratched her face.

‘What will they say at school tomorrow? We’re going to look like we’ve been in the First World War trenches.’ 

Hannah wriggled under a hawthorn bush, and out the other side. She shone a torch in front of her, expecting more brambles. But the beam illuminated what looked like a hedge of ivy. 

Hannah’s heart raced. ‘Quick. Shine it over here.’ 

Lottie squeezed through the bush and got to her feet, rubbing her bleeding face. She moved her torch up and along the ivy-covered surface. 


‘Do you think it is?’ 

Lottie pulled at the ivy-tendrils. ‘

‘Look, a wooden wall! It’s a shed, I know it is!’ 

She turned to Hannah. They could just see each other’s faces in the glow from the torchlight.

”I can’t believe it,’ said Lottie. ‘It’s been here all this time and we never even knew it existed.’ 

(The Secret Hen House Theatre by Helen Peters. P54.) 


Since the death of Hannah’s Mum, her Dad has been unapproachable. Now the landlord has doubled the rent of the farm in a bid to evict them and develop the land. Farming is Dad’s dream, Dad’s life. It is in his blood. The family have farmed the land since the end of the Second World War. Now they will lose the farm for what? A block of flats?

Farming takes over Dad’s thoughts more than ever. Farming and saving the land. When Evie says she wants to be an actress, Dad tells her to stop playing. If she wants to win the play writing competition, she’s going to have to do it herself. So what if you have to belong to a professional company? Why not set one up in the abandoned Hen House. It’s only Evie and her friend Lottie. Dad will never find out, will he?

Except Hannah has nosy siblings and jealous rivals to contend with, as well as all the items she’ll have to ‘borrow’. The ones nobody has touched since Mum died. As Dad’s dreams fall to pieces around his shoulders, Evie’s are set to come true.

Will they be able to pull it off, and get The Secret Henhouse Theatre into production? Will they keep it secret from Dad? Will there be any farm left to hide a theatre in?


A story of determination and empathy. The Secret Hen House Theatre is a book I sold a lot of as a bookseller, and it was one customers came back and raved about. It was one I never got around to at the time, but having enjoyed Evie’s Ghost this spring, I was determined to fit it in somewhere. All I can say is it was worth the wait.

Helen Peters is skilled at showing a child’s perception. In some children’s books, young characters are gifted with adult-like knowledge and skill sets. Remember what it was really like to be eleven or twelve? When packing your own book bag was (possibly) still a chore. Saving the world makes a great story, and for Middle Grade readers is a great escape from a life still controlled by parent influence, but it is important for readers to see their lives reflected in characters. It is also interesting, as an adult reader, to see how Hannah makes choices informed by limited knowledge, and experience of the world.

One major theme is social inequality. Hannah may live on a farm, but her Dad is a tenant farmer, and has found himself a single parent. There is no money. This is relevant all over the country, but particularly in places like Sussex where one child has no money, and the next has two parents commuting to London, or parents who own a string of businesses. Children become aware of these differences at the top end of middle grade, and it is good to have characters like snotty Miranda, who think a little too much of their skiing holidays and designer clothes.

I loved the theatre. It was a beautiful idea, and I loved how it illustrated Hannah’s determination to be herself despite her Dad’s feelings about acting as a career. People tell a20kitten20called20holly-314123-1-360x554her she can’t do it, but her ambitions are there, under the brambles at the end of the field. And there they thrive.  

Helen Peters has a book out this Christmas, and I’m hoping to find it in my stocking. If you’re looking for great writing which helps us to understand one another a little more, look no further.

A Kitten Called Holly is available from the 5th of October 2017.

waiting on wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday – The Extinction Trials by S. M. Wilson.

Untitled designSynopsis –

Betrayal. Sacrifice. Survival. Welcome to The Extinction Trials…51f6k1a6jel-_sx326_bo1204203200_

In Stormchaser and Lincoln’s ruined world, the only way to survive is to risk everything. To face a contest more dangerous than anyone can imagine. And they will do anything to win.

But in a land full of monsters – human and reptilian – they can’t afford to trust anyone. Perhaps not even each other…


Why I can’t wait to read The Extiction Trials –


  • The opening chapter sets the story in an overpopulated world. Overpopulation is one of the greatest dangers facing our planet, and it is something we need to talk about. The other evening on television, I watched an eminent scientist explaining that the human species will need to find another habitable planet within 100 years if it is to survive. The programme went on to discuss the practicalities of this, but totally skipped over the ethics. Should we destroy another planet? Haven’t we destroyed enough? Not everybody would be saved. These are the questions which interest me, and which young readers need to think about. The ethical conflicts. In conflict lies story.


  • It’s great to see dinosaurs marketed at YA. It’s strange, isn’t it, that we want small children to know about dinosaurs, but by the teenage market, dinosaurs seem to be niche. Geeky. Every small child I have ever known has owned plastic dinosaurs, and books. Maybe a t-shirt. It is time that interest was made attractive to teenagers.


  • Dinos in a dystopian future? Bring it on. It is nice to see a setting work with the unexpected. It makes the first part of the book more interesting as a reader, figuring the rules of a totally unique world.


  • I want to know whether Stormchaser and Lincoln stick together. If they turn against each other, what brings them back together? What is (possibly) bigger and more important than their own survival? I’m already interested, given the dystopian setting, to know what the pair will learn about their world.


  • Zoe at No Safer Place gave this a rave review.I was interested by what to she made of comparisons to the Hunger Games, (and turn your nose up if you will, but I think there is lots to love about THG. Team Peeta, if you’re interested.)


The Extinction Trials

S.M. Wilson

January 2018



top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Seasonal Picks



Having written about some of the releases I am looking forward to recently, I thought it would be fun to focus my list for Top Ten Tuesday, the fantastic meme hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish. The books on this list are from my TBR pile, but they are particularly seasonal books. 

I’m sure people do read about warm beaches in the middle of winter, but we all know there is something about autumn which makes us reach for stories about witches and ghouls and forest witches. I know it, you know it, and humanity has known it for centuries. All that Samhain, stuff. Imagination starts with what we see around us, and what we see at this time of year is darkness closing in, and the end of the life-cycle.

Winter fiction used to be predictable, if you ask me, but recently it has come into its own. Last year’s Winter Magic anthology was sublime, and some of the contributors have seasonal stories published separately this year. 


Whenever I click my thumbs



Vlad the World’s Worst Vampire by Anna Wilson – Vlad is a shy vampire, who wants to fit in at human school. How will he keep his identity a secret? As well as being a great read for Halloween, the September release ties in nicely for little vampires off to a new school, or worried about a return to school after the freedom of the summer hols. 

Curse Of The Werewolf Boy by Chris Priestly – Priestly has a reputation for the dark and ghoulish. This is the start of a new series for MG readers called Maudlin towers, about a pair of detectives at a spectacularly creepy school. A ghost in the attic? A bunch of crazed Vikings? What starts with a hum-drum case of a missing school spoon leads to adventure, as secrets come creeping out of the dark. 

The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell – A boy wizard and a girl warrior have been taught to hate each other from birth. The hugely anticipated first in a new series from How to Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell looks like one to read by firelight. 

The Land of Neverendings by Kate Saunders – There’s a place where broken toys go, the Land of Neverendings, where they live on past their life on Earth. One day, the door between the worlds is left open. An exploration of grief from the magical Kate Saunders. 

A Pocketful Of Crows by Joanne Harris – Love drew her into the human world, the world of tamed things. Only revenge will set her free. Based on the words of Child Ballad 295, this is a story of folklore and nature, love and revenge. 


When the Frost Lay Round About


Wish Upon A Snowflake (various) – After the huge success of last year’s middle grade anthology, Winter Magic, it is lovely to see another anthology, especially one geared towards younger middle grade readers. This offering from Stripes Publishing includes offerings from authors including Jeanne Willis, Holly Webb and Linda Chapman

A Kitten Called Holly by Helen Peters – Evie’s Ghost was a favourite spring release, and I have just finished The Secret Henhouse Theatre. Peters writes beautiful coutryside settings, and I am pleased to see her name on the Christmas fiction list. 

The Polar Bear Explorers Club by Alex Bell – regualr readers of my blog know how much I am looking forward to this enchanted wonderland of a story. I practically have a count-down set. 

The Snow Angel by Lauren St John – Did it say TBR. I cheat. Another which regualr readers are now familiar with, but I can’t stress enough how much of a heart this story has. Did I say frost? Maybe in the Highland setting of the second half, but the first part of the story is set in Kenya. This story will have you reaching for the tissues, and believing there is hope in every situation. 

Prisoner of Ice And Snow by Ruth Lauren – One which my friend Amy assures me is outstanding. Valor gets herself thrown into terrible fortress of Demidova in order to break her little sister out. 

Chat · Days Out

September Staycation #2 – Sweet-toothed Trail

You’ve heard of Grasmere Gingerbread and Kendal Mint Cake. Maybe you’ve heard of Cartmel sticky toffee pudding. I live in a region of sweet-toothed treats, which is apposite. I am Queen Sweet-Tooth. It’s a wonder they’re not rotten! Anyway, what you didn’t know is that Kendal Mint Cake is just the tip of the sugary ice-berg, and that actually, it’s not only the Lake District which produces famously fantastic treats. It’s not only Cumbria. It’s the entire border reigon. 

When we lived in London, me and my parents would spend a week’s holiday in a barn outside of Appleby. Our holidays were planned around food and walks – a convenient balance was achieved, and we ate everything from pub food to giant meringues and three-scoop ice-creams.

For our second staycation day, we chose to revisit some old holiday favourites. I was also on a mission to choose some treats for the top of my birthday cake next month. 

First stop was Appleby Bakery. You’ve seen Appleby-in-Westmoreland on the news. It’s that-place-with-the-horse-fair, except it is so much more. I love Appleby, and I especially love the Appleby bakery, with it’s pies and regional cheeses, and tray bakes. Most of all it’s tray bakes. Today I chose a picnic slice, which is basically a Hagrid-sized florentine. 

Ask nicely and I’ll share.

We moved from cake, into chocolate and ice-cream. Kennedy’s chocolate shop in Orton is a gem. Housed in an old school-house, you can see the chocolate being mixed and shaped in moulds behind the shop, and from windows in the cafe. 

The shop itself stocks every flavoured bar under the sun, all made on site. Selection IMG_2608boxes are family celebration staples – my favourite flavours are from the dessert range – butter fudge cream and Mississippi mud pie. You can get an idea of the selection here. Kennedy’s deliver through the post, and I can tell you from experience that the chocolates arrive safely. 

Savoury food as well as is sweet is available in the cafe, and there is a good range of food, including a menu of daily specials. It was nice to see local produce used, such as Lancashire cheese. 

Ice-Cream is also made on premises, and we enjoyed our ice-cream sundaes. I was particularly taken with the idea of serving in long, thin bowls. This enabled me to try different flavours together. As any serious sweet-tooth knows, ice-cream sundaes served in a cup tend to end up looking like poster paint mixed by a four year-old. 

Complimentary chocolate flowers came with the receipt; a cute touch, but if you haven’t come in for chocolate, I defy you to walk out without. One taste and I was sold. Peeking into the factory while lunch was being prepared was lovely. The opening to the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film? It’s not far off. They actually have sinks full of pure chocolate. Good job they keep the public separate. Full of sugar I might have been, but I would happily have stuck my head under and drunk it all up. 

IMG_2677The birthday cake mission was a success: great plans are afoot, and I’ll keep you updated. It’s not until October 13th, but one thing is certain. This year is going to be a very happy birthday. 

Young Adult Reviews

Review: The Red Ribbon by Lucy Adlington




In silence Marta scrutinised every inch of the emerald silk. In silence she held it up and shook and shimmered it.

‘How about that?’ she said eventually. ‘You can sew. Quite well too. I should know. I trained in all the very best places.’ 

She snapped her fingers for the blouse next. Rabbit-woman was so stiff with fear her hands could barely uncurl from their cloth. She noticed her terrible mistake with the sleeves at exactly the same moment Marta did. 

‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry,’ Rabbit panicked. ‘I know … the sleeves … the wrong way round … I can put them right .. I won’t do it again, I swear. Please let me stay.’

Marta’s voice was low and dangerous. ‘I told you how it it was … only room for one of you. Isn’t that right, schoolgirl?’

(The Red Ribbon by Lucy Adlington. P22.)



Birchwood. Birkenau. How can such a terrible place have such a gentle name?

Ella will do what it takes to survive. Work, keep working, or your name gets on a List. Keep food to yourself. Make it clear to other Stripeys that you won’t be picked on. Keep your head down in front of the guards.

At the age of 14, Ella is picked off the streets and taken to a labour prison camp. The only reason she isn’t killed straight out is her height. She survives longer because of her ability to sew. The commandant’s wife sets up a dress room, so that the guard’s wives can dress in the latest fashions, and Ella’s dream is to own a dress shop. Her identity was stripped of her on arrival – her clothes were taken away, and she was given a number to use in place of a name – but the dress room may be a place where she can keep a small part of her identity.

Except there are other girls, other women, with their own ideas about survival.

There’s Rose, beautiful, delicate Rose, who thinks she can keep her own ideology. Who would be crushed in a second without Ella. There’s Marta, who looks out for herself, and only herself. Carla, the prison guard, who thinks enemies of the people must be annihilated … but takes a liking to Ella.

The one thing they have in common is a desperate desire to survive.


A sensitive and brilliantly-written look at the Holocaust. The Holocaust is a difficult area in fiction. It is an area of history which needs to be told, and needs introducing from a young age, but it is also an area of history where the truth needs to be respected above all else. Lucy Adlington has achieved this brilliantly. In every page I sensed that she respected the historical accounts most of all. Her characters walked through, but did not intrude upon, the facts.

I am always adamant that adults can read YA, and I stick to that. A text is a text. What differs is the perspective we bring to it. When reading about historical atrocities, it is worth bearing in mind that my perspective on a novel, as a 20-something woman, differs to that of the target audience. For the young readers, it may be the first time they have heard of the holocaust, or, more likely by this age-range, the first time they have heard much detail. I want to highlight this because I can’t review the novel from that viewpoint. For what it’s worth, I thought the novel never shied from the truth, but did not seek to alarm. It conveyed horror with subtlety. Characters cried over items which reminded them of dead relatives. Chimneys smoked in the distance. Terrible things happen, but the story ends with a happy twist. On a note of hope.

The story focuses on labour within the camp, an area which is often strangely lacking from Holocaust fiction. It conveys the horrific precision with which the Nazis executed their plans. It is also set roughly during the period leading up to liberation, in which the Nazis tried to kill as many prisoners as possible, even as opposing armies were marching towards the camps.

As a teenager, my philosophical questions used to be about the role of Germans within the camps. Were you bad if you were forced to act? Carla’s character illustrates this scenario well – a person with a terrible ideology, who commits terrible crimes. Capable of doing good, Carla is still rightly accountable for the things she has done during the war. These discussions are difficult for young people to get their heads around, and having characters to think about as they work through scenarios helps them to understand this is about real people. About crimes which were really committed.

Within the terrible setting, Rose and Ella are beautiful. Like the rose garden within the camp, (so aptly named…) it is impossible to imagine how they belong in such a setting. Rose, or Ella, and by extention any of the prisoners.

It was never going to be easy, reading about the Holocaust, but this is one of the best fictional books I have read on the subject. It respects the subject, and encourages its readers to counter hate with kindness, and by never seeing the world as them and us. Beautifully written.