Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

The Go-Away Bird by Julia Donaldson and Catherine Rayner


The Go-Away Bird sits up in her nest. The other birds want to talk and play with her, but the Go-Away Bird finds them too chatty and scatty and greedy and just plain not to her satisfaction. She sends them away one at a time. Then a whole other type of bird comes along. A big, bad Get-You bird. Suddenly the Go-Away Bird can see the value in friends and supporters. 

A witty and wonderful tale about the value of friendship from master storyteller Julia Donaldson. 

img_8685What I love about Donaldson’s works is she writes new classics. Short tales which are timeless and could be told and retold for centuries. They are like the very best stories we know from childhood and are full of relatable characters. We have all felt hunted like Mouse, or unadventurous like Snail or quite frankly unimpressed with people like the Go-Away Bird.

She’s a beautiful character. I love the Go-Away Bird with her grouchy expressions and tail feathers in the air and her beak turned up in disgust. Catherine Rayner’s imaginative illustrations have brought her to life in a way which is as memorable as any of Donaldson’s best-known characters.

I adore the background of foliage and sky, the pale washes of colour and the brightness of the feathers. The different birds are equally beautiful and when they get together they look like streaks of colour across the sky. 

Having a favourite Donaldson is like having favourite chocolate – most people have a range because different stories are the best on different occasions. The Go-Away Bird is up there among my favourites. It is simple but that’s the genius of it. It is almost as if I have always known the story. As if it emerged out of the mists with our best-loved tales. I rooted for the character from the word go because although she was flawed she was only as flawed as the rest of us. 

Another winner from Julia Donaldson, and beautiful work from Catherine Rayner whose style was just perfect for the tale. 

Louise Nettleton


Thanks to Macmillan Children’s Books UK for my gifted copy of The Go-Away Bird. Opinions my own.

awards · Chat · Uncategorized

Celebrate children’s literature and show your love for the Carnegie medal.

Celebrate children’s literature and show your love for the Carnegie medal.

carnegie 2019

Looking for a great way to celebrate children’s literature? Get yourself behind the Carnegie awards.

The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway awards are judged by children’s librarians. What makes them unique is that this never changes. The only people who have ever judged them are qualified librarians. Those magical people who work with books on a daily basis and put them into children’s hands. They have the double-expertise of qualifications and regular contact with young readers.

The medal is also uniquely brilliant at identifying books which we will still be reading in 50 years time.

Look at the list of past winners. The Little White Horse, The Borrowers, Tom’s  Midnight Garden. Many of the earliest winners are still beloved reads. Still in circulation and read by the current generation of children. The medal has spotted debut authors who have gone on to be some of the biggest names in children’s storytelling (David Almond’s Skellig, for example, was awarded the medal). 

Every year people in my Twittersphere debate whether children should have a say in the judging process. This conversation can get heated because there are people who are rightly passionate about children having a say in their own literature. 

greenaway 2019

It is also important to recognise children’s writing as a craft. An art. Too often children’s literature loses press space and attention and literary critics have made comments which dismiss children’s fiction as something inferior to the adult literary canon. To stand against this and say we recognise the artists at work in children’s literature today, we need awards run by professionals. That’s not to dismiss children’s voices. In fact, the awards feature a very popular shadowing scheme, where school and library groups work their way through the shortlist, and for the first time this year has introduced the Shadowers’ Choice Award to celebrate the shortlisted book most popular with young people.

I support the Carnegie then because it champions children’s literature as an art, it has a great track record of picking future classics and it gives dedicated authors and illustrators the recognition they deserve.

With this year’s list on my bookshelf, I am already exploring a great range of literature and illustration and making notes about the merits and qualities of every book.

I look forward to reviewing the shortlisted titles and sharing my thoughts over the coming weeks. Join in the discussion: let me know your predictions on this year’s medal, your favourite past winner or who you would like to see nominated in the future.

The most wonderful thing about the Carnegie of all is it gets us talking about books.


(Images from CILIP Carenegie and Kate Greenaway website.)


(#Gifted) Take your toy brick worlds to new heights with Strictly Bricks

Take your toy brick worlds to new eights 


What is Strictly Briks?

With Lego and other building block brands topping the toy charts, it is clear that there is love for the interlocking brick. 

Why investigate other brands? Many people are familiar with Lego and happy not to try other products. What caught my attention when I heard about Strictly Briks, was the great towering skyscraper worlds people had managed to build. You see, there is one key difference to this product which makes it a valuable addition to any collection: the full-sized base plates have holes at the bottom too. 

This means that wider base areas can be built at height. Towering buildings and great cityscapes become possible to the builder. 

Of course, people with huge brick collections and budgets can build pretty much anything, but the focus here is on young builders. Few young children will be able to replicate the sculptures designed by semiprofessional builders for brick shows, but they still want height in the buildings. With a set of Strictly Briks and baseplates, they too can create a tower. 

What about the educational benefits?

Playtime is the best sort of education there is, and the system is perfect for exploring basic STEM principles. Weight distribution can be tested and extra bricks added to build the sturdiest tower possible. 

Questions to ask when building include:

  • Will this currently be strong enough to take the weight of what we want to build?
  • What could we do to make this sturdier? 
  • Should we use the same pattern on every level or design it for what we want on the next floor? 
  • If we want the next plate to overhang, what must we build to support it? 

Other things you should know.

Strictly Briks promise to be compatible with every major brand of interlocking brick. That is to say they use the same formula as Lego and will fit with any bricks which are compatible with a Lego brick. 

The plastic quality was good, better than most brands of Lego compatible brick including the next biggest competitors. The colour distribution is solid and the plates are nice and strong. 

The bricks clicked together and came apart easily, which means minimum frustration for younger builders.

What else is available in the range? 

Brick towers are just the beginning.

Strictly Briks offers triangular, circular and semi-circle shaped baseplates, a wide range of translucent colours, silicone bridges and baseplates with built-in trapdoors and ramps. To explore the range further and take your building to a new level visit their website at https://strictlybriks.com/. 


Gifted – This feature contains a product which was gifted by Media PR in exchange for review. Opinions remain my own.

Middle Grade Reviews · teen

Review: Halo Moon by Sharon Cohen

Review: Halo Moon by Sharon Cohen



I may never sleep again until I find a way to warn the people six thousand kilometres away of a catastrophe that is certain to happen.

(Halo Moon by Sharon Cohen. P90.)



Halo Moon loves watching the stars in her Yorkshire village. Nothing ever happens, but Halo loves walking the moor and going to the library with her new friend Pedro. Then a stranger appears and tells them that a catastrophe is going to endanger the lives of everyone in the village.

Ageze digs up a stange device from the ground near his home in Ethiopia. It appears to be an ancient fortune teller, and with a little help Ageze is able to use it to make accurate predictions. When it tells him that a great disaster is going to occur thousands of miles away, Ageze knows it is duty to change the course of fate.

Can Halo help Ageze in time to change their destiny?



A group of friends, a strange fortune-telling instrument and a disaster which could affect the lives of many people. With that formula, it was always going to be gripping. What I didn’t realise was I would be hooked ages before by the characters and their day to day lives.

Halo loves her home. Even if she isn’t the wealthiest, even if there isn’t much to do other than go to the library. She is struggling to be a good friend to Jade, the perpetual show-off whose behaviour is only getting worse in light of her parents’ potential separation. Halo prefers to spend time with her new friend, Pedro, a boy who is new to the village and shares her interests. Then there is Ageze, who lives miles away, the son of middle-class parents with high aspirations. Ageze wants to be a good son, but he also knows he must help the strangers whose lives are in peril. To do this he must break a lot of rules.

Their daily lives wind on until they come together. Not everybody wants to listen to Ageze, but Halo is able to look past his status a ‘stranger’. This exploration of how we can live apart but be connected by the same fate an interesting theme.

It was lovely to see a small Northern village as the main setting. The UK can be very Londoncentric (I speak as somebody who grew up in London) and many people in and around the capital know little about what the rest of the country looks like. When Ageze finds out how far it is from Heathrow to Halo’s village, he doesn’t see it as the same defeat that somebody in the UK would. He works out logically how many days it would take at x miles per day and sets off. It was refreshing to see a character stand in London and feel they are close to being in the North.

The writing is superlative and the story rolls along. A brilliant adventure about friendship, bravery, and shared experiences.  


Thanks to Querces Children’s Books for my gifted copy of Halo Moon. Opinions my own.


blog tour · Young Adult Reviews

Blog Tour: Alice Oseman shares her experience of illustrating a story for the Proud anthology.

Proud Blog Tour.jpg

Blog Tour: Alice Oseman shares her experience of illustrating a story for the Proud anthology.


Alice Oseman on Illustrating ‘Penguins’

While I’ve been drawing my own characters and comics for years, I’d never tried illustrating someone else’s story until Proud. I was so excited to be invited to illustrate one of the many incredible stories in Juno Dawson’s LGBTQ+ anthology and was even more excited to discover I’d be illustrating Simon James Green’s story, ‘Penguins’, having read and loved Simon’s Noah Can’t Even duology.

The first thing I did was read Simon’s story without thinking too much about how I’d illustrate it. I, of course, loved it! After that, I read it again, this time much more carefully, thinking about which parts would make a good illustration and what sorts of images could properly express the feelings of the story. It’s such a sweet, romantic, adorkable story that I quickly decided that I had to draw the two main characters, Cam and Aaron, and I knew that would suit my own strengths too, as my artwork is mostly characters and cartoons.

I spent a couple of days trying out some sketches. I highlighted the parts of the story that revealed little bits about the boys’ physical appearances, but mostly I was left to my imagination, so I tried to capture their personalities – Cam’s awkwardness and Aaron’s shyness!

Alice Art B characters.jpeg

After that, I sketched out a couple of composition ideas. I knew I wanted to create a comic page, as that’s what I love drawing above all things, and I had decided that I wanted to draw the kiss at the end of the story, as that was my favourite part, and I suspected would be many readers’ favourite part.

Alice Art B characters

Once I’d decided on my final composition, I got to work drawing it with my graphics tablet into Photoshop. I spent a few days working on it and I’m so happy with the result. And it’s incredibly exciting to see my illustration in a book!

Proud – AO Penguin Art.jpeg

A huge thanks to Alice Oseman for your time and for sharing your sketches.

Many thanks to Charlie from Stripes Publishing for arranging this opportunity as part of a promotional blog tour.

Young Middle Grade

Younger fiction and young middle-grade round-up: March 2019

Younger fiction and young middle-grade round-up: March 2019

Amelia Fang And The Half-Moon Holiday by Laura Ellen Anderson

Amelia Fang and her Rainbow Rangers troop are off to Sugarplum Island. They’re going to earn their Food Foraging Badge by making meals from bobbin-berries, frillyflowers img_8471and dung pods of all sizes. After eating plums from a curly branch, something strange happens. Amelia and her friends shrink to the size of insects. They need to break the curse, but suddenly the island feels like a huge place. 

Packed with humour and adventure, Amelia Fang and the Half-Moon Holiday is the latest installment in the hit series. 

This is my first Amelia Fang book, something which I can’t comprehend given the popularity of the series on my bookish Twitter network. Parents, teachers and librarians all report is as being a big hit with their young readers, and I’ve noticed that is has transcended age divisions to be a big hit with older readers. The setting must play some part in this. With its band of supernatural friends, the adventure island and the strange things which grow there, The Half-Moon Holiday is exactly the sort of world I would have adored as a pre-teen. There is something Studio Ghibli about the assortment of beings and worlds contained within a single location. 

Laura Ellen Anderson’s illustrations are amazing to the extent that this is worth buying for the art alone. The book makes me want to sketch imaginary worlds, or design costumes or start a mood board. I love how the amount of space the illustrations take up on a page is so varied, from the best part of a double page spread to a small illustration at the bottom.

This will doubtless delight fans of the series and as a new reader I was spellbound. 



Little Lion Rescue by Rachel Delahaye. Illustrations credited to Artful Doodlers.

Fliss is disappointed on a school trip to the zoo when the new lion cubs are asleep. Keeper Jonty offers Fliss a sneaky peek at the end, and Fliss finds herself transported to the Serengeti where she comes across a lost lion cub. Her knowledge of wildlife helps her to come up with a plan and she and the cub set out across the plains. There are all kinds of dangers for a girl in the wild. Fliss must overcome hunger, thirst and stampeding bison to reunite the cub with its pride.

Little Lion Rescue is the first in a new series which follows aspiring vet Fliss on magical adventures which bring her into contact with wild creatures. Although Fliss is transported to different locations via a portal – in this case the zoo – her powers are entirely based on real-world knowledge.

This will appeal to readers who love animals, and what makes it special is that it differentiates between finding toy animals and animal videos cute and really appreciating animals for who they are and learning to recognise their communication ranges, habits and needs.

The book is well written and introduces a promising series.


Vlad The World’s Worst Vampire by Anna Wilson. Illustrated by Kathryn Durst.

Vlad is a vampire but unlike his family he isn’t the slightest bit scary. He hasn’t found his super strength. He’s also been going to a human school in secret. 

When the school play is announced, Vlad is delighted to find he has been given the main part, but then it causes all kinds of problems. Having his photograph taken is tricky for a start, as vampires really can’t deal with camera flash. And how will he ever keep it a secret from his parents? 

A wonderful series about fitting in and being comfortable with your own identity. Vlad doesn’t want to go to a special vampire school to study fitting in with humans. Not when he fits in perfectly well with his friends. He is under constant pressure to be as good as his cousin Lupus, but his parents fail to see that Vlad has different strengths. At times they don’t get the chance. Vlad is desperate to keep his place at human school a secret. 

I adore the illustrations which are very character-centric and make great use of exaggerated facial expressions. I also love how the spooky vampire castle is full of homely touches, like a roaring log fire in the living room and a pair of socks on the floor beside Vlad’s coffin bed. 

Make friends with Vlad and you’ll root for him from the word go. 


Isadora Moon Has A Sleepover by Harriet Muncaster

What fun is staying up until midnight when vampires do that every night?

img_8577Half vampire, half fairy Isadora is off to a sleepover at her friend Zoe’s. A school baking contest has been announced, and Isadora hopes her magic wand can her entry the edge so that she and Zoe can meet television personality Whippy Mcfluff. However, when the lights go out, Isadora is unable to sleep. Her conscience is bothering her and the cake doesn’t seem so magical after all. They bake a different cake, but it seems Zoe has other ideas about which one they should enter.

A charming tale about friendship, honesty and cakes galore.

The first thing I noticed about this young reader was the design. It balances pink and glitter with bat wings and black. It would be perfect for the smallest readers who want to explore their inner vampire without letting go of the pink and glittery. After all, Isadora Moon can be two things at once.

The supernatural details are grounded by a story set in the ordinary world. Isadora goes to a human school, has human friends and likes to the same things as anybody else. It would be lovely for young readers who want to explore fantasy while feeling secure in the known world.

Although most small children have never used magic, most will, at some point, push the boundaries with cheating. Learning why cheating is unfair, and that it doesn’t feel like much of a win without the achievement, is a big step.

An attractive book with a relatable storyline.



Shifty McGifty And Slippery Sam – The Aliens Are Coming by Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton

Three mysteries with our two favourite baker dogs.

Have aliens really landed? How does Red Rocket manage to win the sandcastle contest without putting in any work? How is Miss Peachy Pie’s Cafe attracting so many customers? This collection of stories sees the heroes use their quick wit, daring … and skills at running away, fast.

There is something Scooby-Dooish about these mysteries. They are just the right level of scary with plenty of laughs thrown in. The heroes are fallible and mysteries are not their whole lives – rather, they interrupt everyday life at the bakery.

The illustrations use a minimal colour palette to great effect – different shades of grey, black white and lime green. The green runs throughout the book and makes it different to others in the series. This is a lovely way of making books quickly findable. It is easier to remember that a story was in ‘the red book’ than to recall a title.

Tracey Corderoy is a master of humour for younger readers. Shifty and Sam have already featured in picture books and it is lovely to see the characters in a different format. A big thumbs up for laughs and for memorable main characters.


The Rescue Princesses – The Amber Necklace by Paula Harrison. Illustrations credited to Artful Doodlers.

Princess Zina loves the lemurs and their forest home, and she would do anything to protect them, but she finds herself with a fight on her hands. The carnival is passing through the kingdom of Ramova but the floats are too wide pass. A team has been contracted to cut down the trees, but this will leave the lemurs without a home. Can Princess Zina and her friends persuade the demolition team to step back, or is there a magical stone which will save the day?

The latest in a popular series about a group of princesses who use their knowledge of magical gemstones to protect the wildlife.

This story will appeal to readers who like their princesses with some social responsibility, determination and a hint of magic. The illustrations look so much like a particularly beautiful colouring book that they would make a lovely gift for anyone who likes to colour in their own readings books (nb. This is not always advised. Only if the book belongs to you and you especially want to add colour.)

A story with a strong environmental message, a beautiful setting, and a great group of friends.


Magical Kingdom Of The Birds – The Missing Fairy-Wrens by Anne Booth

Maya loves her new friends in the human world, but she is always pleased to be called img_8576into the colouring book to meet her bird and fairy friends. Maya is excited to see the new fairy-wrens, who present their mates with petals, but more than half the birds have gone missing. As guardian of the book, it is Maya’s duty and pleasure to help. 

Maya sets out towards the fairy castle to find out whether villainous Lord Astor is up to his usual schemes. 

The Missing Fairy Wrens is the third book in this delightful series, and it just keeps getting better. 

It is lovely to find a younger book about fairies and petals and sparkles which is totally palatable and attractive to a large number of readers. Stories about fairies can lapse too easily into sentimentality, but this series is genuinely well written, the threat level is just right and the world is unique and interesting. 

The fact it teaches readers about birds is an added bonus. Fairywrens are real Australian birds with beautiful plumage. With the ability to identify birds dwindling among adults, it is important that this knowledge is passed down to younger generations. Introducing birds through stories and illustration is a great idea. There is a reason we are all familiar with robins regardless of how many we see. It is time this was extended to a wider range of species. 

A real favourite series. The books are a joy from start to finish. 


Many thanks to Egmont UK, Nosy Crow Books, Oxford University Press and Stripes Publishing for gifting the titles reviewed in this feature. Opinions remain my own.

Middle Grade Reviews

Review: She Wolf by Dan Smith

Review: She Wolf by Dan Smith



‘What happened here wasn’t any kind of destiny; it was murder, and no one expects you to avenge it. Not even your Gods.’

(She Wolf by Dan Smith. P46.)



Viking girl Ylva washes up on the frozen shores of Northumbria, but her mother is killed. Ylva swears to avenge her memory as the Gods decree and sets out into the wild with her wolf Geri.

The land is wild, but it is not only the wolves that Ylva has to fear. She must also work out whether she can trust Cathryn and Bron, the Saxons who offer her shelter.

An epic tale of trust and the truest forms of bravery. 



An epic historical adventure which reminded me of the works of Rosemary Sutcliff. Viking attitudes towards revenge were examined in a way which was both sensitive to the time period and relevant to the modern day.

Ylva’s quest for vengeance begins with her certainty, as a Viking, that it is her role. This is the only narrative she has ever heard and it is how her people live. In fact, as she discovers, it is how other tribal people live during the same time period. Cathryn begs Ylva not to go in search of vengeance, but she is set on it. The examination of the motives behind revenge and the use of religious belief to justify it was fascinating. It is also a lesson which might be relevant to much smaller scale problems. Sometimes, no matter what wrong someone has done us, the best thing is to let that be the last bit of damage.

It was great to see a narrative about fights and the quest for justice centered around girls. Although there are male characters, there are female warriors in the story with the same bloodthirst and ideas about vengeance. Girls need to believe they have a decision about when to pick a fight and to know that often the bravest thing you can do is turn away. 

It was also great to see a novel about Vikings in Britain, and especially to see one with both Viking and Saxon characters. Too often these stories are told through a lens which favours one or the other so that even if there are characters of other nationalities, they are cast as antagonists and enemies. Life was more complex than that and it is important to understand that things are never so black and white.

This novel was all about setting, from the mounds of snow to the wolves howling through the pine trees. It is the kind of setting which you feel beneath your skin and imagine with every sense.

If you like adventure or want to know more about the time period, add this to your TBR pile.


She Wolf is available now from Chicken House Books, priced £6.99.

Many thanks to Chicken House Books and Laura Smythe PR for my gifted copy. Opinions my own.

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

5 illustrated books about the great outdoors.

5 illustrated books about the great outdoors.

Outdoor adventures are wonderful at any time of year, but with spring on the way there has never been a better time to put on those wellies or walking boots and embrace the great outdoors.

The books reviewed here are all about nature, but they all focus on a different lens. Which would be of most interest to you? If you were stepping outside today, what would you want to think about or see?


The Green Giant by Katie Cottle

img_8613Bea is visiting Grandad in the countryside. She loves his wild garden and sitting in the great outdoors. When her dog runs off, Bea discovers a greenhouse full of wild treasures and befriends the Green Giant.

One the Green Giant roamed the city, but it became too grey and difficult to breathe. He gives Bea some seeds in the hope that one day the city will become greener again.

A timely fairytale about the decreasing awareness of nature in urban populations.

img_8614It is not enough to know facts. It takes something more to move humans into action, and that is empathy. Care. As readers empathise with the giant, pushed away from the city by the inaction of humans, they take the first steps into caring about nature.

This is an irresistible book. I adore children’s stories about visitors, particularly ones like the giant whose plight makes us reconsider our own attitudes, but this one stands out with its gentle narrative and a colour-palette of greens and yellows taken straight from the natural world.

Katie Cottle’s publication deal came about after she won a prize, and she is a talent to watch.




A Walk Through Nature: A Clover Robin peek-through book. Written by Libby Walden. 

Nature is all around us. Over and under and beneath our feet. How often do we take the time to look at the natural world?

img_8596The format of this book allows us to pick a landscape or microhabitat – a beach, the nighttime sky or a single log – and to look closer at the life which might be found in that setting. The second page of every double-page spread has an extra flap. This opens out to reveal a second full-page illustration and a bank of information.

This would make a lovely book for less confident readers. With each fact limited to three or four sentences, it is less daunting than many non-fiction books. That the fact files can be ignored in favour of a rhyming text which runs through the book is another plus. This would make a lovely bedtime book, with the information introduced in little bursts.

I adore the illustrations. A muted background makes them stand out, and I love the visible brushstrokes and different textures. This would be a lovely book to look at ahead of painting, especially studies of leaves and fields.




When The Stars Come Out by Nicola Edwards and Lucy Cartwright.

What is the night? Why does it even happen and how come the moon is there and why do stars appear? 

This book not only answers the questions commonly asked by children about the night, it goes beyond to explore the night time through different lenses. The book is divided into four sections: The Sky At Night, The Earth At Night, Animals At Night and Humans at Night. The chapter divisions work well, allowing the activity in different habits to be explored separately from biological facts about animals. There is also a short introductory section which deals with the physics of sunrise and sunset. 

What strikes me immediately about this volume is that it is visually stunning. Both the illustrations and the design are of the highest quality, and every double-page spread is a feast for the eye. It is the sort of book which you want to open at random and delve into. Leave it in a book corner or face out on a library shelf and it will be snapped up by curious readers. 

It would also be a lovely art prompt, especially because it celebrates the range of colours associated with nighttime. It goes well beyond the midnight black, celebrating lilacs and pale blues and light orange hues. 

There is just enough information on every topic, and what is there is insightful. It never scrimps on depth but challenges the reader with facts which will be new to many adult readers. I also adore the mixture of biology, physics, geography and myth.

A treat for younger and older readers, this will expand the reader’s worldview and encourage them to look harder at the night sky. 



Beneath The Waves by Helen Ahpornsiri


Journey through the world’s oceans and take a close up look at their inhabitants.

The art in this book is made from pressed seaweeds, coastal flowers and a smaller number of garden plants. The beauty of it struck me before I had turned a single page. The plants are brought to life, their colours and shapes working together to show animals from under the water and around the seashore.

img_8630The information in this book is divided into four sections: Coast, Open Ocean, Tropics and Polar Waters. These four chapters help readers to understand that, like the land, the waters have different climates depending on where they are in the world. 

Each animal or subject is given two or three paragraphs. Identifying features, diets, habitats and breeding are all introduced.

With STEM subjects sometimes receiving more attention than the arts, I am always delighted to find books which promote the two together. After all, where would science be if people hadn’t once spent time observing and drawing what they saw? Where would technology be if mankind hadn’t learned to imagine?

The illustrations in this book push the bounds of what has been done in children’s literature before. They are extraordinary and worthy of celebration.



The Lost Book Of Adventure by Unknown Adventurer.


Imagine getting out into the wilderness. Really getting out, beyond the bounds of the known, and living outdoors.

img_8522This is the ultimate compendium of outdoor survival knowledge, taken from the notebooks of an unknown adventurer. Starting with the basics, form how to pack for camp, this incredible volume offers insights on everything from first aid to rafting to panning for gold.

It is also a love letter. A nostalgia for adventures of the past and a reminder of the skills and knowledge which was once common-place.

Advice and diagrams are alternated with insights into outdoor adventures. This makes the volume friendly and accessible to dreamers as well as to serious explorers. Beautiful colour pictures allow the reader a snapshot of the world which awaits us if only we set foot out of the door.

I am shamelessly in love with this book, which offers me plenty of material and information as an aspiring writer. This would be a priceless resource for starting off adventure stories, and I love the tone of the book which claims to speak from direct experience.

If we as a society are to embrace nature and get back out into the wild, we need to remember the old skills which allowed expeditions in the past. The Lost Book Of Adventure will open new eyes to the outdoors.


Many thanks to Little Tiger Press, Quarto Books, Big Picture Press, Pavillion Children’s Books, Catherine Ward PR and Antonia Wilkinson PR for gifting the books reviewed in this feature. Opinions remain my own.




Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Superkitty by Hannah Whitty and Paula Bowles

Review: Superkitty by Hannah Whitty and Paula Bowles


There’s a supersized hero inside Kitty. She’d love to fight crime alongside the Sensational Superheroes, but they would rather Kitty remained in her place by the office phone. She’s just not big like them, or powerful, or showy. She doesn’t have the looks. 

When Kitty sneaks after the gang as they respond to a mission, she finds out their image may be worth more than their skills. 

It is left to Kitty to face Nefarious Norman the dog and rescue an ancient bone. 

A humorous book about heroes with a big heart. I fell in love with Kitty at the cover, and frankly, that kind of charm is a skill which every superhero should have. 

img_8567We live in an era where everybody is conscious of their appearance. Not just physical appearance, but the kind of messages we are selling to others about our lifestyles and work ethics and core beliefs. With so many images of apparently strong, wholesome and successful people everywhere we look, it can be difficult to believe we measure up. Kitty doesn’t look like a superhero, and she creeps around in the background, so she is quickly overlooked. The truth is she has far more ingenuity, daring and quick thinking than any of the Sensational Superheroes. 

This would also be a lovely book for talking about size. For example, just because someone is small or looks young for their age, it doesn’t make them any less brave. Please remember that tall people can feel equally self-conscious! I had a growth spurt at eleven and didn’t stop until my late teens. Lots of my friends were short and they used to get all kinds of encouragement that I just didn’t see. (They hated it. ‘Why are they talking like I’m a baby?’ was a common response). The message isn’t just about small. It is about not judging by what is on the outside. 

The design reminds me slightly of the original Powerpuff Girls, with buildings and rooms as backdrops. Certain objects are picked out while others are the same colour as the rest of the room. This draws the eye to what is important, creating a visual storytelling experience. (And yes, humming theme music as Kitty runs to the rescue is a good idea). 

A sensational story which reminds us that even if we feel overshadowed, we are capable of great things. 


Thanks to Simon & Schuster for my gifted copy of Superkitty. Opinions my own.


Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Winnie And Wilbur – Spectacular Spells by Valerie Thomas And Korky Paul

Review: Winnie And Wilbur – Spectacular Spells by Valerie Thomas And Korky Paul


A trip back to the time of the dinosaurs (and home again with a dinosaur in tow). 

A birthday party made extra-special by magic.

A knightly tournament and a banquet worthy of a witch. 

Three titles full of magic and mayhem from the ever popular Winnie The Witch series. 

I remember reading the very first book in this series when I was small. I chose it at a book fair and took it home for our evening reading session. Now, I had read and been read any number of books, but there was something different about Winnie. She fizzled with a kind of energy which just promised trouble. And laughter. 

Wilbur is also a superstar among picture book cats. He reacts to what is happening with hilarious results and has a huge range of expressions. 

Our brains can only register a certain number of things at any one time. If you look at a field for a second, you might see grass, a bench and some football goals. Sit for a few minutes and you will see huge amounts more. The tiny plants in the grass and the insects crawling up the bench legs and the way the light is filtered through the clouds. The illustrations in Winnie The Witch Books are like that. You could look for minutes and fail to spot everything. They are gems for sharing with one reader or a small group because there is so much to keep the readers interested. 

The illustations are also brilliant for encouraging smaller pen marks. Plenty of examples of lines and patterns used to build textures. 

This collection brings together three titles filled with adventure. it was lovely to revisit Winnie and Wilbur. Long may they entertain readers big and small.