Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Picture Book Review: Grandma Bird by Benji Davies


Review: Grandma Bird by Benji Davies

Noi isn’t at all sure about spending summer at Grandma’s. She lives on a remote island and never has time to play. Then Noi finds a bird stranded at sea and gets caught up in the waves. Only Grandma Bird knows what to do. 

A stunning picture book about family and friendship. 

Adults are pushed for time. In the modern world, there is an increasing amount of pressure to be on the go from dawn until dusk, and the rise of technology has seen a decline in the concept of clocking off. Even when we’re at home, we might be expected to answer a phone call or an email. 

Children are competing with work, overtime, and technology for adult attention. While most children don’t have a Grandma who lives on a rock at sea, they will certainly relate to the themes of the story. Sometimes it must be hard not to feel ignored and unwanted. 

Grandma Bird teaches us, in a touching way, that people don’t have to be available 24/7 to have their loved ones’ backs. When Noi is in trouble, Grandma Bird is straight to the rescue. 

Iimg_6586-1 love Benji Davies’s work and have collected his picture books since The Storm Whale came out. There is something special about his remote and homely settings. They are books of adventure and shelter and family. I love the wide vistas, which are as likely to be populated with animals as people. The color-pallette is that of nature – soft greys and blues. 

There is a sense of security and love in his worlds. His protagonists are not afraid to venture away from home, but we know they are loved and looked out for. 

After the success of Davies’s first books, this will doubtless be on many Christmas lists. I can’t think of a better story to share as the nights are closing in.  


Thanks to Simon and Schuster UK for my early copy of Grandma Bird. Opinions my own.

Non-Fiction · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Peek And Seek by Charlotte Milner and Violet Peto


Review: Peek And Seek by Charlotte Milner and Violet Peto

A flock of birds. A troop of monkeys. Peek under each flap to discover different animals, learn fun facts about their species and uncover a great big hide and seek game. With five different flaps and ten things to find in each spread, this book will keep young explorers happy for hours. 

I adore this book because it is a fact-file which is accessible to very young readers. Before we read paragraphs and sentences, before we even recognise letters, we have positive experiences with books. Hide-and-seek games are a wonderful way to share time with children. They are also brilliant for keeping kids entertained and they encourage children to be observant. Trusting that information is on the page, even if we can’t initially see it, is an important step to analytical-thinking. 

peekandseek2The short facts on each spread will encourage reading skills and help children to take an interest in wildlife. With more people than ever out of touch with nature, it is important that we use books and media to pass on our knowledge and vocabulary of the natural landscape. 

Peek And Seek is bold and colourful, with appealing illustrations. Each spread takes us straight into the landscape of the different species, from the snowy mountains where the wolves hunt to the burrows and tunnels beneath tree-roots where rabbits hide their food. There is lots to be learned from the illustrations alone: which other species can be found in a habit, what sort of home the animals keep and whereabouts in the world they might be found. The illustrations promote huge amounts of conversation which will teach children about the natural world. 

An attractive and engaging book which demands to be shared and enjoyed together. 


Many thanks to Antonia Wilkinson and Dorling Kindersley Limited for my copy of Peek And Seek. Opinions my own.

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Sing To The Moon by Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl and Sandra van Doorn


Review: Sing To The Moon by Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl and Sandra van Doorn

Being indoors on a rainy day is boring. One little boy dreams of all the things he could be doing while the rain comes down and wishes on the moon for the rain to stop. Then he finds Jjajja – his grandfather. Together they play games and tell stories until a rainy day no longer looks like a miserable thing. 

A gentle, rhyming story which tackles something known to every small child – boredom. 

In a day and age when adults are always on the go, and children’s hours are filled for them, it is hardly surprising that they are afraid to stop. This beautiful picture book introduces the idea that time to entertain ourselves is one of the most precious and magical things we can experience. 

It is also a touching look at a relationship between a child and his grandfather. Grandparents often play an important part in a young child’s world and picture books about these relationships have been published before … but, most often, the protagonist is white. This story focuses on a grandfather who tells African myths. On a boy who climbs guava trees. Culture is about far more than skin-colour. Food and stories, music and landscape make up the things we associate with our families. It is tremendously important that children from all cultures are represented in book-corners and libraries. 

I love the illustrations and the whole book design – it shimmers and sparkles with the magic of Jjajja’s stories. I love the dark pages with patches of candle-light – they made me feel as if I was in the dark house, sitting around the table with the characters in the book. 

A reassuring and uplifting story which will help children change their approach to rainy days and boredom in general. 


Thanks to Lantana Publishing for my copy of Sing To The Moon. Opinions my own.


Middle Grade Reviews

Review: Snowglobe by Amy Wilson




There were three sisters, named for Jupiter’s moons: Ganymede, Callisto and Io. As they had blood in their veins, so they had magic, fine and strong as a spider’s web. They lived in a house of white marble, and the tower stretched to the sky and speared the clouds, searching, they said, for the moon. They filled it with miniature worlds, set whole galaxies spinning, caught within glass spheres. And then they hid in their house while the world changed. That was their lot.

(Snowglobe by Amy Wilson.) 



There are three sisters with strong magic, named for Jupiter’s moons – Io, Ganymede and Callisto. Callisto vanished ten years ago, leaving behind a young daughter.

Now Clementine is showing signs of the same magic. When she turns it against the school bully, Clementine faces a short suspension from school. This prompts her to go in search of information about the magic and takes her to the house where the three sisters lived.

The house is filled with magic. Clementine discovers a room full of snowglobes like perfect little worlds. Inside one of those snowglobes is Dylan – a boy from school who never joins in the bullying, but never stands up for Clementine either.

Together they journey through the snowglobe words and hunt for answers about Clementine’s connection to the magic.


A lyrical tale of bullying and individuality. Amy Wilson’s debut novel – A Girl Called Owl – was the first book I reviewed as a blogger. I remember being caught up in the snowy world and being impressed at how the fantasy story linked to the character’s development in the real world. This is Amy Wilson’s third novel and it left me with the same chills. I adore her subtle magic. Her characters weave between everyday situations and the fantastical with ease. Magic isn’t an ordinary part of her worlds, but certain individuals are in touch with special powers and secret realms. Magic is both extraordinary and part of the normal world.

There are some strong themes such as bullying and manipulation. The snowglobes, as well as being beautiful, are slightly sinister. They are used to imprison anyone who disagrees with the sisters. This was a perfect metaphor for manipulation. The prisoners are caught in one person’s view of perfection when their magic belongs in the outside world. It made me think of people who have an idea of how others should think and behave. Everyone needs to be free to explore and share their own personalities.

I liked the friendship between Dylan and Clem. Dylan is the kid who nods along with bullying but doesn’t support it. Clem goes to school every day to harassment and teasing. While she needs to learn not to see the worst in every single person, Dylan needs to assert himself and stand up for what he thinks is right. I liked how there was no blame – both Clem and Dylan need to alter their perspective and both have things to learn.

I also loved the house with its room of snowglobes. Amy Wilson has created magical houses before, and they are unique to anything I have ever seen. They have their own magic and their own secrets and they are so well described I feel as if I have walked through their halls.

A beautiful story to read by the fire. Amy Wilson has confirmed her place as a writer of lyrical and poetic stories.


Thanks to Macmillan Children’s Books UK for my proof copy of Snowglobe. Opinions my own.

Middle Grade Reviews

Review: A Darkness Of Dragons by S.A. Patrick



When the Hamelyn Piper was finally caught, he refused to reveal what had become of the children. Many wanted to see him die for what he had done, convinced he would never reveal the children’s fate, but the council kept him alive and gave him the cruelest punishment they could devise. The Iron Mask: fastened around the head of Hamelyn Piper, it prevented him ever using his abilities again, as no magic could escape it. 

(From A Darkness Of Dragons by S.A. Patrick. P94.)



After a song on his magical pipe goes terribly wrong, Patch is sentenced to life in jail. That’s where he meets Wren, the girl turned into a rat by enchantment,. It is also where he first encounters the Hamelyn Piper. 

The Hamelyn Piper is a notorious criminal. He was locked in the dungeons at Tiviscan after his attack on the children of Hamelyn and the dragon children.

Then Patch learns something terrible. The Hamelyn Piper is on the loose. Can he uncover the secret around the Hamelyn Piper before something catastrophic happens? Alongside Wren and a dracogriff called Braver, Patch sets out to prevent the biggest battle of all time.


Welcome to a world of dragons and griffins and magical pipes. A world where magical piping is overseen and policed by a council of elders. The story about the Piper of Hamelyn is not as you know it, and that story was just the beginning …

I adore books which put a twist on myths and fairytales but this story has been told particularly well. At its core, it is the narrative we all know about dark power and corruption, but it is told in such a way that you won’t figure out what is going on until exactly the right moment. The climax will take your breath away.

Patch, Wren and Braver may be my new favourite team. Patch is the archetypal underdog. After failing to win a place to train as an elite piper, Patch ran away from his magical academy. Remember Harry Potter realising that Hogwarts was his true home? Tiviscan is the opposite of that. It is delightfully creepy and authoritarian and we’re rooting for Patch from the get-go because although he breaks the rules, his intentions are better than the people in charge.

I loved the worldbuilding, from the magical pipes to the politics between humans and dragons. Every culture within this world has a separate history and political stance. I love how important these histories are to the plot and how they make the setting feel real.

An unmissable fantasy from a talented voice. I loved the characters, the plot and the setting. I’m certain Patch and his friends will remain with me even now I’ve closed the book.


Blog Tour: The Caged Queen by Kristen Ciccarelli




Roa and her sister Essie shared an unbreakable bond. A bond so strong that, when Essie was killed, her soul remained in this world. Roa swore she would never forgive the boy responsible for Essie’s death but, when Dax came begging for help, Roa made a deal.

She would provide an army for his uprising if he agreed to make her Queen and end the sanctions which kept the Scrublanders in poverty.

Dax didn’t keep his side of the bargain. Not only has he not made the slightest improvement for the Scrublanders, he is seeing other girls. He hasn’t honoured any of the bonds he made with Roa. There is no reason to think he will turn out any differently to his manipulative, cruel father.

There is an old myth. A myth about the Skyweaver, who sends the souls of the dead into the sky where they belong. If Roa can get her hands on the Skyweaver’s knife she can reclaim her sister’s soul.

All she would have to do is kill Dax, the boy king.

A powerful sequel about love, betrayal and the bond between two sisters.



Please note: This review assumes you are familiar with The Last Namsara and its storyline. If you haven’t read The Last Namsara, please be warned that there are spoilers. Check out my review of The Last Namsara here.

 The Last Namsara was one of my favourite books of 2017. It was a brilliant and lyrical fantasy which told the story of a young woman who overturned a corrupt king and freed the dragons who had been hunted almost to extinction. The Caged Queen is told in the same style. Short fairytales are interwoven into the main story. These build up a storyline about an object so powerful it could return the soul of a loved one to a body.

We follow the same group of characters, but the narrative is told from a different perspective. This time, the story centres on Roa, the Scrublander warrior who was key to the rebellion. Roa gave up everything to marry the Firgaardian King, including the boy she truly loved. It was a move which she hoped would liberate her people. I love how the same characters look totally different from a different set of eyes. The history between the two cultures exacerbates this – what appeared heroic to a Firgaardian might appear oppressive to a Scrublander.

It was lovely to learn more about the history of these two cultures. About the rebellion which lead to the divide and the fact that neither culture is perfect. The Scrublanders may have chosen exile over tyranny but over time they forgot their key principle – that there is no such thing as an enemy. The themes explored in this storyline are highly relevant to the modern world. The two cultures have long lived apart. Corrupt Firgaardian rules have taken advantage of this to claim the Scrublanders are something different. Something other. This that could promote discussion of historical divisions and the reasons they continue.

The other theme which has been explored in both books is manipulation. Dax comes from a line of men who have historically exploited others. His father married and then killed a woman from the Scrublands. Dax doesn’t respect Roa as a human being. He sees her as a potential bedmate who is not living up to her duty. It is important to see manipulative behaviour in YA – both in the context of partnerships and in a broader context (manipulation within families, for example, and manipulative rulers.) Manipulative people are often the most charming and the ones in command of their conversation and behaviour. It is important for young readers to see this behaviour in fiction if they are to recognise and avoid it in life.

Another great hit for Kristen Ciccarelli. The Caged Queen confirms this series as one of the great YA fantasies. Watch this author – she’s an extraordinary talent.


Thanks to Victor Gollancz LTD for inviting me on to the tour and for my copy of The Caged Queen. Opinions my own.

Announcements · Chat

Chat: About my second blog and why I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

Love literature? Love stationery and bullet journaling? Check out my new blog.


The secret is out. 

As secrets go, it wasn’t very well kept. I hinted several times during Twitter chats that I was involved in a project with a literary heritage group. I shared pictures with two of my very closest blogging friends. 

The blog was up in the webosphere from June 2018.

Nevertheless, it was my project but now it is out in the big wide word. I’m so pleased to finally share Grasmere Bullet Journal with you. This is my new blog which I am going to run along with BookMurmuration.

Grasmere Bullet Journal began, as all good projects do, with a conversation. I was having a cup of tea with a friend, and pouring over her books when I told her something which had been on my mind.

If Dorothy Wordsworth was alive today, she would make a killer blogger. 

Dorothy Wordsworth was a journaler, pioneering walker and sister of the Romantic poet William. She kept journals throughout her life, most famously the Grasmere Journal which she kept during her time at Dove Cottage from 1800 – 1803. 

Her journal wasn’t a private diary. It was a place where she recorded her observations as well as tracking her daily activities. As I wrote here, this is very much the same thing people do in their bullet journals today. If Dorothy Wordsworth was alive today, I said during that conversation in March 2018, she would be a bullet journaler. 

An idea was born. An idea which I’d had all along without recognising it until I said it out loud. 

One bullet journal and a set of brush pens later and I set to work. 

GrasmereBulletJournal is two things. Firstly, and at its heart, it showcases my creative project – to present information from the Grasmere Journal in bullet journal form. 

Secondly, it is a blog which covers stationary, bullet journaling, and literature. Inspired by the exhibition as Dorothy Wordsworth as a walker, and proud of my own muddy walking boots, I would like to branch out and include posts about walking and nature. 

I would *love* to hear from you over on Grasmere Bullet Journal, as well as right here on BookMurmuration. There are people who comment regularly on my blog who talked to me when I had ten views per post. I value your feedback as much as I did then. As much as always. 

Here’s to our creative pursuits, to blogging adventures and to online friends. 


Do you keep a bullet journal? Are you currently working on any creative projects? Let me know in the comments below.


Review: The Missing Barbegazi by H.S. Norup



Although she had wished for and almost expected it, the next thing that happened surprised Tessa: six fingers and a furry head appeared at the top of the hole. Two pointed ears and a rather large potato-like nose stuck out of the shaggy, whitish fur. Beneath bushy eyebrows, a pair of icy-blue, beady eyes were staring at her. 

(The Missing Barbegazi by H.S. Norup. P59.)


Tessa’s grandfather recently died and her grandmother is ill. Nobody else believes Tessa about the Barbegazi – the fairy-like creatures who live in the mountains. There is only one old book which confirms their existence.

Tessa sets out to prove their existence.

Gawion is a young Barbegazi who has grown up with one golden rule: never trust humans. Humans have imprisoned Barbegazi before, trapping them in iron cages. Humans can’t be trusted.

Now Gawion’s sister is missing and he might have to break that golden rule to get her back.

A story of friendship, trust and the reason some things are better kept secret.


A gentle and beautifully-written fairy tale set in the snowy mountains of Europe. I was charmed by the Barbegazi – a word which describes the creatures’ frozen beards. Barbegazi are fairy-like creatures who hide away in the mountains. They only come into contact with humans during an avalanche. They will rescue any humans who are in danger, but they will knock those humans out so they have no memory of their rescuers.

Many humans can’t be trusted with secrets of the natural world. It is a sad but honest fact – as a species, we are inclined to destroy the world around us in the name of human progress. This story is told from two perspectives – that of a young Barbegazi who needs to recognise that a small number of humans can be trusted, and that of a young girl who wants everyone to believe her when she talks about the Barbegazi.

There is a secondary storyline about an old book and a professor who may be the only person who knows about the Barbegazis’ existence. I loved the way this history was pieced together through extracts from the book. It reminded me of the storyline in Paddington, about the one explorer who gave up everything because he refused to deny the existence of talking bears.

I also loved the setting – the Swiss Alps are simultaneously beautiful and dangerous. A skier distracted by the view can find themselves falling off a precipice or buried under feet of snow. Although this is not somewhere I have visited, it was brought to life in such a way that I felt as if I knew the place. At a time when certain British politicians are pushing anti-European sentiments around, it is important to introduce young readers to the geography and culture of Europe. Stories build connections between people in different places. Now more than ever we need to share art and literature from around the world.

This would be a perfect read in the run-up to Christmas. Snuggle down in front of the fire with a mug of hot chocolate and be swept away by the magic of a great story.


Thanks to Pushkin Press for my copy of The Missing Barbegazi. Opinions my own.





Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books · poetry

Review: I Am The Seed That Grew The Tree – A Nature Poem For Every Day Of The Year


I am the seed

that grew the tree

that gave the wood

to make the page

to fill the book

with poetry

(From Windsong by Judith Nicholls.) 


This beautiful collection contains 366 nature poems – one for every day of the year. Every double-page spread is illustrated with pictures of nature.  This is beautifully designed and was clearly thought out with love for the subject.

img_7049The introductory letter explains how Kate Wilson of Nosy Crow publishers was gifted a volume of poetry as a child. Although she read and reread the book for years to come, the lack of illustrations meant that her initial reaction was not one of enthusiasm.  I Am The Seed … is designed to be attractive to the very youngest readers. Its illustrations are bright, bold and take up every single space. Gone are the terrifying pages of black and white. This is a book to pour over. To enjoy. To share.

The length of the poems, too, has clearly been considered. The inclusion of many short poems – some five or six lines long – and poems with short lines makes this collection perfect for newly confident readers.

I often wish I could recapture the magic of reading poems as a child. I didn’t know my modern poets from my Romantics. My haiku from my free verse. I read without discrimination and judged only on the sound. On the experience of reading and being read to. I Am The Seed… is designed to promote such an experience. There is nothing to tell the reader the date or origin of the poem. This allows the reader to pick their favourites free from ideas about what they ‘should’ enjoy.

To have 366 poems on one theme is special. Flick through the book and something special happens – you’re reading about animals and skies. The sea and the woodland and the stars. A picture of the world builds in the reader’s head. A picture which promotes love and respect for the natural world. The pictures add to this experience and it is possible to browse the book for illustration alone.

Whether you read one poem a day or pour through the anthology, this is bound to be a lovely experience. A beautiful anthology which will be treasured by those lucky enough to read it.


Thanks to Nosy Crow for my copy of I Am The Seed That Grew The Tree. Opinions my own.