Review and Giveaway: Hey Duggee Sticky Stick Sticker Book


About Hey Duggee and the Sticky Stick Song

Stick Stick Stick Stick

Sticky Sticky Stick Stick.

Who would have thought the hit of the World Cup would be an animated stick? Hey Duggee is an animated series for pre-school children. It follows the adventures of the Squirrel Club as they gain badges and explore the outdoor world. The Sticky Stick song featured in a single episode of the programme but has since gained something of a cult following. Millions of views later and a special version was introduced for the World Cup.

Kick Kick Kick Kick

Add some techno-vibes, background chanting and an animated stick and an anthem is born. 

 Sticky Stick Sticker Book review and giveaway

The lovely people at Penguin Random House sent me some copies of the Sticky Stick Sticker book to review and share with my readers. 

img_6638The book combines stickers with puzzles, activities and your favourite Hey Duggee characters. There is an added element which would earn a great big WOOF of support from Duggee – as well as the usual sticker activities, the book encourages children to get outside, find a stick and decorate it with their stickers. This would be a lovely activity to share with pre-school children and a great way into nature play for the shy or reluctant. 

Great fun was had in the creation of sticky-characters. The stickers didn’t stick perfectly to the real sticks, but this would be a nice introduction to decorating sticks with objects from the garden. An alternative would be to use ice-lolly sticks, or to photograph your sticks before the stickers come off. Why not create a gallery of stick friends? 


The stickers peel easily and repeel from the pages without tearing. They are big and solid enough for their young audience. The puzzles and games are pitched at different levels so this would be as friendly to a six-year-old as it would to a smaller child. The suggested age range is 3 years upwards. 

If you would like to win a copy of the Sticky Stick sticker book head over to my Twitter. I have FOUR copies for giveaway within the UK and Ireland. Many thanks to Penguin Random House for the opportunity to host this giveaway 

Middle Grade Reviews · Young Adult Reviews

Review: The Cradle Of All Worlds (The Jane Doe Chronicles) by Jeremy Lachlan



‘…Your future had obviously been set in stone long before you fell through the Manor doors. It was as if you were destined to be held accountable for the Night of All Catastrophes.’ 

(The Cradle Of All Worlds by Jeremy Lachlan. P80.)


Fourteen years ago Jane Doe and her father arrived in Bluehaven on the steps of the Manor – the entrance to a labyrinth which connects many worlds. On the same night, the earthquakes started. Bluehaven has been torn apart and Jane and her father have been despised ever since.

When Jane’s life is endangered, the strongest quake ever hits and the Manor is reopened. Adventurer Winifred Robin takes Jane to the entrance to the labyrinth and tells her to run. There is only one problem – once Jane is in the labyrinth there is no guarantee she will get out. Doors to Otherworlds aren’t wide open and the labyrinth has been colonised by a terrible villain and his army. Jane’s quest begins – she must learn about her past, find her father and save all the worlds.


You need to read this book.

Sometimes a book comes along and you think ‘this is going to be something’. I felt that way when I read Abi Elphinstone’s first novel and I feel this way now. Every part of the adventure kept me hooked and the worldbuilding is stunning.

Did you ever read The Magician’s Nephew? In this old classic the children jump into new worlds through pools of water. The worlds are connected by The Wood Between The Worlds – one of the most memorable yet underexplored settings in fantasy. The Labyrinth in The Cradle Of All Worlds is a similar place – it connects multiple worlds – yet Lachlan has understood its potential as a setting in its own right. Making the doors to the Otherworlds difficult to access turned this setting into something extraordinary. Potentially it is a gateway to anywhere but it is also a trap. Throughout the novel we want to know where Jane will end up. How.

There is a trio of main characters, as in many stories, but the relationships between these characters are not the easily-made friendships which are more usual in children’s fantasy. It is common for a little friction to lead to a deep and trusting bond. Jeremy Lachlan’s characters? There’s friction until the very last page and it works. While friendships are wonderful, I found these frenemies fascinating. We don’t always get along with people in life but that doesn’t mean we can’t work together. I always wondered how this would play out in a saving-the-universe situation.

There is a hint at future F/F romance between two of the lead characters. Yep, a hint. Not explored. Not analysed. Set-up like any romance in any trilogy. It is glorious. I’m rooting for them all the way.

Fantasy villains run the risk of becoming pantomime characters, popping up at random and not really scaring anyone. Roth isn’t like that. He has powers to rival a hundred dementors, powers which hold his villains in a psychological prison. People sense him before they see him. A burn in the throat. An itch on the skin. Bile. The scent of rancid meat. He conceals his real face behind a shiny white mask. If you want a villain who genuinely sends a shiver down your spine, this is the book for you.

When we learn about the creation of this world – no spoilers – it is one of the most compelling creation myths ever written. The past is integral to the future of this story, from the story of creation to the books written by people who have adventured through the Labyrinth and into Otherworlds.

The Jane Doe Chronicles is a masterpiece. An original word, a compelling adventure and a creation story to blow your mind. Prepare to read into the night.

Young Adult Reviews

Review: Floored (collaborative)


Review – Floored (Collaborative)


The swot. The fraud. The dutiful daughter. The child star. The fangirl. The asshole. Six teenagers are at the scene when a man collapses in a lift. None of them have the skills necessary to save his life. Although the teenagers come from totally different worlds – and have different aspirations – they recognise the significance of the moment and keep in touch via social media.

The group meets every year on the anniversary of the man’s death. Romances are formed and broken, lives change and change again and the group becomes a larger part of their lives with every passing year.

One Day meets YA-literature in this explosive collaboration.


Floored is one of the most highly anticipated UKYA novel of the year. Written between seven YA authors, the question buzzing around the bookish community is which author wrote which character? Six characters and a narrator. We know that it is one author to one voice. The rest is secret. The buzz this has caused is publicity-gold.

The story follows a group of young people across five years. They come from different walks of life but they discover similarities as well as differences. 

One of the things I liked about Floored was its current-day themes. In the wake of Brexit social divisions have become more apparent. Politicians and national publications fail to understand anyone outside the metropolitan elite. Floored captures these attitudes and gives them faces. Joe, who wants to distance himself from the town where aspiration means becoming a supervisor. Hugo, who thinks people without money are lazy scroungers. Floored is a book of its time and it challenges its readers to see past those divisions. 

To clarify – this is not a political book. It is not about Brexit or Trump or left VS right. It is a book about people. It is about young people in Britain today.

All of the voices are distinctive. I particularly enjoyed the introduction, where we saw how each character had become entrenched in one way of thinking. Joe wants to escape his hometown. Sasha wants her father’s approval. Hugo doesn’t want anything to change – he just wants to trog through the system until he too has a high-flying job. I loved how the characters bounced off one-another, changing each other’s outlook and self-perception. 

I have said for years that UKYA needs more books aimed at the oldest end of its (target/marketing) audience. This gap seems to have been noticed and Floored is one of the books which fills that space. It looks at the transition from teenager to young adulthood and the different routes journeys people take. 

Did I have strong feelings about the relationships in the novel? I was more interested in the friendships and the trajectories of the individual characters. Dawson’s relationships interested me most because they were so much a part of his self-discovery.

A story about young people redefining themselves. Redefining each-other. I recommend this if you enjoy character-driven fiction or contemporary stories with a large cast.

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Picture book review: Tomorrow by Nadine Kaadan


Yazan is no longer allowed out to the park to play. He isn’t allowed outside at all. He no longer sees his friend next door. The world is changing. His parents stay inside with the news on and the volume turned up. Their fear and worry take over the house like a dark cloud. Meanwhile, Yazan is bored. Will he ever be allowed outside again?

A poignant and sensitive look at the war in Syria from a small child’s perspective. 

The brilliant thing about this book is how it tells children enough, but not so much that they will be frightened. Certainly, they will understand that Yazan is frightened. The illustrations make clear that Yazan’s world has turned to a dark place. Blackness shrouds the hallways and strange images appear on the television screen. The genius is not a single one of these images tell children exactly what is happening in Syria. Yazan eventually learns that there is fighting in the streets. Until the fighting stops he will be stuck indoors. 

That is enough information for a very small child. Conversely, if the child in question came from a wartorn country, they could apply their own knowledge and use the book to talk about their experiences and emotions. The book isn’t so bright as to make light of the subject but it tackles a difficult subject in a child-friendly manner. 

I love the use of colour – Yazan’s home and local area are painted in a sombre pallet to reflect the situation. Everything which brings him joy – his bike, his parents and his memories of outdoors are given a splash of colour. In the final pages, he and his mother paint a pretend park inside the house, bringing joy and colour back to the house. 

A book which promotes empathy and gives children a space to ask questions about the more frightening things in the world. 


Five Things I Learned In July

July is an odd month. Summer has barely started and yet it isn’t so long until autumn. At home, we are coming to the end of a three-week heatwave. I have been working in the summer house with the windows wide open and the birds singing in the trees. 

The format of this post was inspired by Anne from the wonderful Modern Mrs Darcy. Anyone who hasn’t found this blog needs to get on board ASAP. It is the epitome of all things bookish and it is one of my major blog-crushes. Anne proves that bookish posts can sit alongside lifestyle content. 

I want to bring more chatty content to my blog. To tell you what I’ve been up to and to hear from my readers. We learn so much over the course of a month – we learn about ourselves. We learn big, life-changing philosophies. We also learn small things like our latest favourite dessert and book-gossip from the publishing world. What have you learned this month? Let me know in the comments below. I love hearing from you. 




Still here reading 

Posing is a misleading word


Regular followers might have noticed there are very few pictures of me on either my blog or my social media. While I believe in maintaining a level of privacy, I would love to include more photographs of myself. There is only one problem: I have never found it easy to pose for a photograph. With ambitions to grow my blog, I decided this was something I wanted to overcome.

Several hundred awkward selfies later and I have realised that posing is a misleading word. Tell me to pose and that’s exactly what I’ll do – pull my face into an overdramatic expression. A parody of a smile. Instead of posing for the camera we need to simply be. Be as if the camera isn’t there. How would you smile for your friend? How would you look at a book?

This journey is going to be long-haul but I’ve figured out what’s putting me off.


Kids need reading role models

For the first time in a thousand years, I watched football. 

 My interest in football is limited to major tournaments, on the occasions when England reach a stage worth talking about. And that’s fine. I have my hobbies, you have yours and we can all get along together. 

What’s not fine is sporting personalities bashing readers. Not when the audience includes millions of children. Sporting figures seem happy to put their names to ghost-written fiction. Perhaps they could tell children about the place reading has in their lives.  It doesn’t seem too much to ask. 

During the World Cup quarter-finals, Martin Keown, former Arsenal defender and BBC co-commentator, told anyone reading a book to ‘get a life’. It’s a sad precedent and the exact opposite of what children need to hear. No, I’m not suggesting we interrupt the football with book trailers, but casual comments like that affirm negative beliefs children hold about literacy. Kids need role models to promote the joys of reading.


Finishing a draft is only the start

I am about to write the immortal words the end under a 40,000-word draft. More than that, this one is worth editing. I already have a list of changes I want to make and I am looking forward to developing the characters. At the moment they are more like sock-puppets. They need fleshing out with characteristics. 

The rough draft is finished. Now the hard work begins. 


In with the old 

Time to catch up 

New releases are a delight. The biggest change my blog has brought to my reading habits is my reading calendar. I often promote books several months ahead of their release. By the time their release date falls I have heard a lot about the title in question. It’s amazing … but it sometimes comes at the expense of other books on my shelves.

No longer. I have vowed to work in other books even if my blog schedule falls a little behind. This month I have been catching up on Robin Stevens’s Murder Most Unladylike series and I have a mental list of books which I have been staring at for the past eighteen months. It’s time to catch up on my unread novels. My blog will be better for it.


Evanesco money

Evanesco is the vanishing spell in Harry Potter. The Lego Company are, once again, about to perform a vanishing spell upon my life savings. Aside from the new Harry Potter sets, a new series of minifigures is set to focus on characters from the Harry Potter universe. The lineup includes figures never before seen in Lego such as Cedric Diggory and Cho Chang. There are also six figures from the Fantastic Beasts franchise, which, as you will find out later this year, rules my world. 

My skills as a blind-bag feeler will once again be put to the test. 

Middle Grade Reviews

Review: Season Of Secrets by Sally Nicholls



… if the man in the man is a god, and if he brings the summer, and plucks growing things out of the air and does whatever else a summer god does, what else can he do? 

Not superpowers or jewels or fairy palaces. I don’t want those things. My wishes are simple and plain.

Could he make my dad take us back?

Could he bring my mum safe home? 

(Season Of Secrets by Sally Nicholls. P60.) 


 Nothing has been the same since Molly’s Mum died. She and her sister have been sent to Hexham to live with their Grandparents because Dad can’t cope with children right now. One stormy night, Molly sees a desperate man running from a pack of hounds. Who is the man and why is he being chased? Why is it that Molly can see him but nobody else can?

A story of grief and mending meets an ancient legend in this beautiful novel.



Ancient folklore meets a modern story of grief in this haunting and lyrical novel. Season Of Secrets reminded me in so many ways of Skellig – both are stories of one person coming to terms with a difficult situation. Both involve an encounter with an otherworldly figure. Both show an exceptional command for the musicality of words.

Folklore is one of my interests and Season Of Secrets weaves an ancient story with modern day in a way which reminded me of some of my favourite novels – The Owl Service, The Dark Is Rising, Long Lankin and Midwinterblood. The Holly King and the Oak King battle for supremacy. Their battle plays out across the year. It is the story of life and death, birth and renewal. Molly learns the truth about their battle as she deals with her grief. 

The story is set in Hexham, a town on the Border between England and Scotland. It is unusual to see stories set in the borders, let alone stories with such a specific location. I love it when books are set in specific regions of the UK. Too many books have a generic setting (middle-class south-east suburbia) and it delights me when books break that mold – particularly books written before the clamour for representation which has come in the past couple of years.

I have Sally Nicholls’s latest novel on my TBR and I can’t wait to dive in. Season Of Secrets has given me a whole new author to explore and I can’t wait to explore her other novels. Thanks to Amy from GoldenBooksGirl for the recommendation.

Guest Post

Author Guest Post: Pippa Goodhart


Author Pippa Goodhart talks about bookish characters in an amazing guest-post. 

When one of Bill’s experiments goes badly wrong, and his father loses his job, Bill sets out to make money selling fossils. He finds something amazing, something which might make him a fortune, but is the world ready for the questions raised by Bill’s discovery? 

I delighted to have Pippa Goodhart on the blog to talk about bookish characters and Bill’s thirst for knowledge. Thank-you Pippa for your time. 


The Facts Behind the Fiction

By Pippa Goodhart

How is it that spiders know how to build complex webs, but flies don’t know to avoid those web traps?  Why is the earth layered into different kinds of soil as you dig downwards?  Why are there so many fossils of sea creatures found so very many miles from the sea?  How can there be rhino fossils in an island nation thousands of miles from Africa?  What happened to the dinosaurs and other ancient creatures which are no longer around?

My story’s main character, eleven-year-old Bill, wants to find answers to all sorts of questions.  His nurseryman father has some answers, and, like Bill, enjoys chasing those questions with ideas.  But then Bill meets young academic Robert Seeley, real-life assistant to the great Victorian professor of geology at Cambridge University, Professor Sedgwick, and the world of research into scientific and theological matters opens to him.

Bill is also trying to work out answers to the questions he has about himself and his family.

There are so many stories in which the main character is bookish in a literary way, meaning stories and poetry rather than books about how things work.  That’s perhaps not surprising when those who write books are naturally bookish and sympathetic to such interests.  But the world is full of so many different kinds of interest, and actually fiction can be a very effective way of imparting knowledge and enthusing interest in science and history and so much more.  I’ve always loved stories which give practical information about things which are new to me.  I reckon I could just about build a log cabin and tap maple trees for syrup to be boiled into molasses from my reading of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books!

I am not an expert on pre-history or fossils, but I knew the questions I wanted answers to, and I hope they are questions that readers will also want answers to.  Because those answers come in the form of fairly brief conversations within the developing personal story of Bill’s life, they are necessarily brief and, I hope, accessible.  I had advice from the Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge which holds the fossils used in my story, just to be sure I wasn’t getting the historical and scientific side of things wrong.

My hope is that, as well as enjoying the up personal and who-dun-it mystery sides of this book, children will also pick up Bill’s habit of really noticing and questioning the world they live in.  As Dad says,

It turns out that the biggest question of all in this story is about Bill himself.


The Great Sea Dragon Discovery by Pippa Goodhart out now in paperback (£6.99, Catnip)

Connect with Pippa @pippagoodhart  and Catnip @catnipbooks


Lists · Picture Books

8 Picture Books about friendship and getting-along


There is no better way to discuss problems with small children than via a picture book. Lots of children encounter conflict at some point or another in their friendships. The difficulty with finding a book to help is that most guides are not specific enough. All of these books are about conflict and resolution, but the characters fall out for different reasons – Rainbow Fish thinks too much of himself, George won’t share, Hummingbird doesn’t respect boundaries and Something Else wants a Friend who is just like himself. Although these books are about the same theme, their messages are slightly different. 

Here are eight picture books about friendship -getting along, falling out and sharing. Check the key messages to understand what the book is about. birdThree by the Sea – Mini Grey

Cat, Dog and Mouse live by the sea. They get along just fine until a stranger arrives and offers them a free gift. He whispers things in their ears until Cat, Dog and Mouse no-longer trust each-other. Can they resolve their quarrels or is this the end of their life together? 

Key message – Don’t let anyone or anything come between an established friendship. 


Sharing A Shell – Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks 

Crab finds a new shell to live in but he doesn’t want to share it with anyone. Then a purple blob works its way in, then a brush. The trio realises they can help each other and it is the start of a new friendship. Life in the rockpool proves tough and crab decides he needs new housemates. What will it take for the three to make friends? 

Key message – We bring different things to a team 


Hector And Hummingbird – Nicholas John Frith

A hummingbird makes friends with a bear called Hector who loves the peace and quiet. When Hummingbird gets too noisy, Hector stomps off to be alone, but he finds he misses his friend. A story of difference, compromise and the need to give each other space.

Key message – Learn and be comfortable with each other’s boundaries. 


The Rainbow Fish – Marcus Pfister 

Rainbow Fish is the most beautiful fish in all the seas. He doesn’t have time to play with the ordinary, non-sparkly fish. When he refuses to share his sparkling scales the other fish stop trying to play. Suddenly Rainbow Fish is all alone. Could making friends be more important than being special? 

Key message – It is better to be ordinary and have friends than special and alone. 


Grumpy Frog – Ed Vere

Frog’s not grumpy. Not at all. Lots of things make Frog annoyed and he likes to win but he isn’t grumpy. The genius of this book is how we see Frog’s monologue pushing everyone else out of the story.

Key message – When we are grumpy we forget to listen to other people’s perspectives. 


Hortense And Shadow – Natalia and Lauren O’Hara

Hortense hates her shadow. It jumps out in unexpected places and frightens her. When Hortense shuts her shadow out of her life she thinks she is safe – but she reckons without a team of bandits. Who will save Hortense? 

Key message – We should overlook minor annoyances because friends are there to help in the darkest of times. 


This Is Our House – Michael Rosen and Bob Graham 

George’s cardboard house is for himself. It isn’t for people with red hair, girls, small people, twins, people with glasses or people who like tunnels. One by one, all of George’s friends are refused entry. Then they build a house of their own. George finds himself on the receiving end. George must rethink his attitude before his friends will let him in. 

Key message – If we make other people unwelcome nobody will want to play with us. This could also open some discussion about excluding people by traits – do we want a world in which certain groups feel unwelcome? 


Something Else – Kathryn Cave

Something Else is different to everyone else. His clothes are different, his food is different and he even plays different games to everyone else. Something Else retreats home. The same night, there is a knock at the door. Something is just like Something Else, but Something Else isn’t certain he wants to be friends with someone who is not like himself. 

Key message – we don’t have to be the same to get along. This would be useful if children are having difficulty with inclusivity. 


Young Adult Reviews

Review: Bookshop Girl by Chloe Coles



…if Bennett’s Greysworth were to go, then we’d have to get a train to the nearest bookshop. And I wouldn’t get a staff discount or first dibs on any of those books. I wouldn’t be able to sit behind the counter in those bookshops, pretending to enjoy coffee, and dipping into a book that makes me look sophisticated and intellectual. 

(Bookshop Girl by Chloe Coles. PP. 21 – 22.) 


Bennett’s bookshop has been Paige’s refuge for as long as she can remember. It gave her a place to escape the dull prospects of her hometown, it introduced her to other worlds and it gave her a Saturday job. Now the bookshop is due to close. Soon there will be nothing left on the high-street except cheap shoes and buskers.

Paige and her friend Holly vow to fight. They start an online petition to save the bookshop. Meanwhile, Paige is dealing with a major crush on art-school student Blaine Henderson. Will his belief in anarchy make or break the protest?


A contemporary novel perfect for fans of The Exact Opposite Of OK and It Only Happens In The Movies. A witty and wise-cracking protagonist faces up to situations which highlight modern issues.

The major theme is the affect high-street closures have on a town. The story looks particularly at easy access to books – Paige’s local library cuts its hours at the same time that Bennett’s announces its closure. Cutting access to books – access for everyone, because what the middle classes often forget is not everyone has the internet – affects literacy and aspiration. Paige lives in an area of low employment. Reading can open doors. It shows people other worlds. Beyond that, reading allows us to face our own insecurities. It dares us to change our lives and to believe in ourselves.

Blaine Henderson is an interesting character. He comes in like the typical boyfriend in a YA romance – boy walks in, girl experiences palpitations and can’t stop thinking about said boy. His character develops in a way which is more interesting than typical YA boyfriends. Blaine is an artist. He believes in anarchy, in the total freedom of the individual. Without any spoilers, the big question is whether his beliefs might save Bennett’s.

A  chatty, laugh-out-loud novel packed with contemporary references. It is lovely to see a YA novel which celebrates bookshops and bookish culture. With a second installment already in the works, Paige Turner (yes, really) is your new YA BFF.  


Thanks to ReadersFirst and Hot Key Books for my copy of Bookshop Girl. Opinions my own.

blog tour · Chat

Blog Tour: Memories of His Dark Materials stage production

Theatrical blog tour.jpg

Today is my blog spot on the Theatrical blog tour. The story follows Hope, who dreams of working behind stage at a theatre. My favourite thing about the story was the atmosphere. It captured the unique experience of watching a stage production. 

To celebrate the book, bloggers have been asked to recall their memories of going to the theatre. Let me take you back to 2005 and the stage adaptation of His Dark Materials. 


His Dark Materials premiered at the National Theatre in 2003 and was revived between November 2004 and April 2005. It condensed Pullman’s trilogy into two three-hour plays. I saw the production in March 2005.

Theatre Critic Michael Billington described the experience as a clipped hedge compared to Pullman’s forest but that’s not how the play appeared to my young eyes. It was like being swept inside Pullman’s magic. It was the closest I will ever come to cutting a window into the fabric of the universe and stepping into another world.

The story began at the end. Will and Lyra sat on a park bench. Although they spoke to each-other, they were having separate conversations. They could neither see nor hear each other. It was a fantastic hook. If you hadn’t known Pullman’s work you would have been intrigued about Will and Lyra’s circumstances.  

The adaptation brought out Will and Lyra’s character arcs. It is the story of their quest to embrace knowledge and reason against the rule of the Church. Side-stories and characters who might take the reader’s attention from this central arc were cut from the theatre production. Although this meant whole sections of the trilogy were lost – notably the sections which follow Mary Malone – it made a tighter story within the six-hour time-frame.

The actors I remember particularly are Adjoa Andoh as Serafina Pekkala, David Harewood as Lord Asriel and Lesley Manville as Mrs Coulter. The complex relationship between Coulter and Asriel was dramatised to perfection. Their final sequence in which the pair entered an eternal fall was met with standing ovation.

The puppet Joey from the National Theatre’s production of WarHorse has gone down in British cultural history. His Dark Materials deserves a similar legacy. The puppets were designed by Michael Curry, the same person who designed puppets for the stage version of The Lion King. The puppets used for the daemons and armoured bears did not recreate a whole animal but suggested their movements and behaviours. It would have been worth booking tickets twice-over -once to follow the story and once to watch the puppetry with wonder.   

Michael Billington’s criticism, which I referenced at the start of this post,  compared the production directly to the books. A play is never going to be the same as a novel. It is a different form of storytelling which embraces visual and audio magic to draw the audience into the story. Accept that a play will never replicate a novel and it is fair to say that the stage production of His Dark Materials was magical. It was an experience which will stay with me for life.


Have you seen a theatre production which stayed with you for life? Let me know in the comments below.