Middle Grade Reviews

One kick and it could all be over. Kick by Mitch Johnson

Kickbanner

img_2975

Extract:

Dad works in a factory that makes smart shirts for businessmen, and even though he doesn’t have to, he always wears a short-sleeved shirt with a collar to work – either his white one or the one with yellow and blue checks. He’s says its important to be proud of yourself. He’s always telling me: ‘Budi, if you don’t respect yourself, nobody will. You must be proud of who you are.’ Today he’s wearing the shirt with yellow and blue checks, and it sticks to a sweaty patch on his chest. As he gets closer he smiles and sits down on the step beside me.

‘What’s happened here then?’ he asks, kissing me on the head. 

‘I cut my leg playing football.’ 

Dad leans over and grimaces as I show him my knee. The cut glistens with fresh blood. 

‘Make sure you get all the grit out. We don’t want it to get infected.’

I nod and keep brushing it with the cloth. 

‘Was it a foul?’ Dad asks.

‘No, but I scored the most amazing goal, so it was worth it.’

‘Good boy! Keep it up and you’ll play for Madrid one day.’ 

Real Madrid, Dad. If you just say Madrid it could mean Atlético Madrid, and I would rather never play football again than play for them.’ 

(Kick by Mitch Johnston. P16.) breakbirdSynopsis:

Budi is Twelve. His dream is to play football for Real Madrid like Kieran Wakefied. Budi practises in all his spare time: in his work break, and if the factory foreman doesn’t keep him over time.The rest of the time he sews football boots together, unless the foreman is cross enough to stick Budi on the boxing section.

Life in Jakarta is hard. There’s talk of a pay rise, but most people say it will never come. Without a pay rise, there is no money for Budi’s education, or Grandma’s medicine. Budi lives with his parents and Grandmother. There was an uncle, but nobody ever speaks of people who go to prison. There are only two ways out of prison: keeling or standing.

Then there’s The Dragon, the main Landlord and money lender. Cross him and he’ll chew you up and spit out your bones.

When a bad kick puts a football through the Dragon’s window, Budi finds himself in the Dragon’s pocket. If the Dragon kills him first, he’ll never play for Real Madrid.

breakbirdReview:

I took interest in Kick for two reasons. Initially I was interested to see a well-written children’s book about football. Don’t mistake me. I’m not interested in football. However, since I sorted books in a charity shop nearly ten years ago, I have been interested in how some subjects in children’s literature inspire poor quality writing. What do I mean? Well, there’s Mal Peet’s series, and lately Tom Palmer has won a lot of fans. How many well-written books about football have you seen? How many poorly-written? I don’t think it is that the good stuff isn’t written. I think there is just a proliferation of books. If you want to see this illustrated, check out one of Palmer’s books on Amazon, and look at under the words ‘customers who bought this item also bought’. Point made.

When I saw Kick in the shop, I knew I had to buy it. The second reason I took interest was the Amnesty International endorsement. Every children’s title I have read this year which has been endorsed by Amnesty has been well-written, and offered me a different perspective on the world. Kick was no exception.

Budi is so optimistic and so determined. I liked what Mitch Johnson said in the interview at the back of the story. Maybe we can’t truly know what it is to experience Budi’s daily life, but we can understand shared hopes and dreams. Football becomes a powerful link between Western comfort and an impoverished life in the East. So does the theme of aspiration in general. We all have hopes and dreams, although too often we ‘outgrow’ these. Get too tired. The message is loud and strong: if you want something, never stop working for it. This message, written for the readers, helps us to empathise with Budi.

Budi has some shocking experiences in the course of the book, which offer a window into that life, and show us how much Budi is up against. The moment which will help child readers get some sense of Budi’s life, and how unfair it is, isn’t an event at all. It’s number-crunching. How long would Kieren Wakefield have to work to earn Budi’s salary? I found it so poignant, that Budi hadn’t grasped the disparity between their lives. It is a clever way to interest children in an issue which might be frightening to think about. Children too young to think about the brutality are capable of understanding those numbers are unfair, and wrong.

I loved Budi’s friendship with Rochy. Rochy has dreams too, but he thinks they are over. His mother and sisters are so worn down, they barely speak. It would have been a distressing and bleak read if Budi and his family felt the same way, but by making him so close to Rochy, we are able to think about how such a life would wear you down, then take comfort in Budi’s dreams. At MG-age, this is hugely important, but I think something similar is true for adults. I might read a few pages of non-fiction on such a difficult subject, but if I’m investing time in it, I need something uplifting.

Masterfully written, yet still accessible. It is interesting to see a story which isn’t about football, but uses football to open an important conversation. I look forward to anything else which comes from this talented debut author. 

Advertisements
Middle Grade Reviews

GoldenBooksGirl on Mystery And Mayhem

mysterybanner

9781405282642You may remember Amy from GoldenBooksGirl from our shared read of Quest. Short Story Anthologies were designed to be shared, whether you read a story together, chat about one story every week or feed back to each other on one half of the book. This is the format we use – it works well from a blogging perspective, and allows us see whether we agree with each other’s verdict when we read the rest of the book. 

Murder And Mayhem is a great anthology for fans of mystery and crime. Me and Amy share a love of Middle Grade detective fiction, and the anthology has some of the greats: Frances Hardinge, Katherine Woodfine and Helen Moss to name three. 

Huge welcome to Amy, who read the first six stories from Murder and Mayhem. breakbird

MYSTERY AND MAYHEM GUEST POST

 

IMPOSSIBLE CRIMES

 

Emily and the Detectives- Susie Day

This is a really jovial opening to the anthology; it tells the story of Emily, a young girl who is the real brains behind her father and his friend Lord Copperbole`s much lauded feats as a detective duo, as she becomes involved in a locked room mystery no one else can explain. However, it also touches on why Emily isn`t given credit, and how unfair it is that she isn`t seen as clever/brave enough to solve mysteries just because she`s a girl. It shows a real historical murder method, which will be educational for some, and especially for younger readers or those not familiar with the historical mystery genre. Finally, I thought the mystery was wrapped up really well even though the solution kind of comes out of nowhere.

 

Rain on My Parade by Elen Caldecott

In her story for the anthology, Elen Caldecott sets a mini-mystery in her Marsh Road setting about the Marsh Road Carnival and a few members of the team solving the mystery of a sabotaged dress. While I did miss Piotr and Andrew in this story, I was pleased to see Minnie, Flora, Sylvie and minor character Big Phil appear. I adore Elen Caldecott`s vibrant, vivid writing style and the imagery she uses as it hugely helps me visualise the setting and understand exactly how each character is feeling, and it brings the world and the story to life. Finally, this story manages to have quite a complex mystery for such a short wordcount as there are several suspects and red herrings for the team to work through and it was as ffun as ever to follow their detective work.

 

The Mystery of the Green Room by Clementine Beauvais

This short story, possibly my favourite of the three in this section of the anthology, is about a large family reuniting in France for a funeral/will reading and what happens when one of their party goes into their room, locks the door and then dies. The protagonist Marcel is super likeable and I like that as well as him being a great detective we also see him struggle with his changing relationship with his slightly older cousin Joseph who he feels is leaving him behind. This is an absolutely fascinating locked room mystery with a solution I definitely didn`t guess, and I really liked the very enclosed setting as it makes the story feel quite dangerous at points. The only thing I`m not keen on in this story is that I struggle to keep the different members of the family straight in my head as there are so many of them.

 

CANINE CAPERS

 

The Mystery of Diablo Canyon Circle by Caroline Lawrence

Going in, I wasn`t expecting a huge amount from this as I’m not really a big fan of the Roman Mysteries series by this author, but I enjoyed this story hugely. Darcy is a great narrator and detective (I also love the literary references of her and her sibling`s names!) and the mystery- the disappearance of a dog called Shane who belongs to her celebrity neighbour- is interesting and I definitely wanted to keep reading throughout. I personally don`t like the ending of this (no spoilers though!) but it`s still an excellent story as this is just down to me personally and not the quality of the ending itself.

 

Mel Foster and the Hound of the Baskervilles by Julia Golding

I had no clue what this story would be like when I started it as Julia Golding is the only author in the anthology I`d never read before, but I`ll be seeking out the novels in the Mel Foster series soon. This was super fun and a great mystery, but I think my favourite part was the relationship between Mel and Eve as their friendship is so nice and they cover each other`s weaknesses and look out for each other in general. I do feel that I may have picked up on some extra references if I`d read the original Hound of the Baskervilles but the story was very easy to follow and I definitely wasn`t confused by anything. Finally, I loved the happy ending and the little cameo from Sherlock Holmes.

 

Dazzle, Dog Biscuits and Disaster by Kate Pankhurst

This story is the very definition of a canine caper, and I love it a lot! It`s about Sid, whose mum runs a dogwalking business, as one of their dogs escapes from its house and Sid gets blamed. He soon sets out to clear his name and find out where Dazzle really is. I actually managed to work out the culprit in this but it`s an utterly delightful read and Sid is a sweetheart of a narrator. If you like Mariella Mystery, I think you`ll love this short story even more.

 

 

Middle Grade Reviews

Nine Places. 150 Applicants. The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

morriganbanner

61xijy9q4bl

Extract:

Nevermoor stretched out for miles in every direction. Morrigan she was imagined she was on a ship, sailing an ocean of buildings and streets and people and life.

A thrill crept down her neck. Leaving a trail of gooseflesh. I’m alive, she thought, and the idea was so absurd, and so wonderful that a laugh spilled from her mouth, cutting through the quiet. Morrigan didn’t care. She felt expansive, bursting with a new joy and termerity which could only have come from cheating death. 

It’s a new age, she thought with disbelief, and I’m alive

(The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend. PP. 80 -81.) 

breakbirdSynopsis:

Morrigan Crow has an unfortunate reputation for making unlucky things happen. A reputation which is damaging her father’s political career, and costing him a fortune in compensation. As far as her family are concerned, there is one small blessing: cursed children die on Eventide, so Morrigan won’t be around much longer.

At the age of eleven, children in the Republic find out whether they have any bids. It’s too expensive to educate every child properly, and there needs to be an underclass. After all, that’s where the servants come from. Only the best and the brightest, and those with well-connected parents receive bids. Morrigan isn’t expecting any bids. After all, she’s on the Cursed-Children Register. Imagine her surprise when more than one person bids.

There’s strange Mr Squall, who is in charge of the energy supply. Then there is Jupiter North from the Wundrous Society, who says Morrigan doesn’t have to die. She can follow him to the free state of Nevermoor, and cheat death.

If she passes three difficult trials, she can stay in Nevermoor as a member of the Wundrous Society.

Why is Jupiter North so convinced Morrigan has a knack – an impressive talent she can demonstrate at the final trial? What does he know that he won’t tell her?breakbirdReview:

I read this with the same rapt delight with which I first read Harry Potter 20 years ago. Jessica Townsend has created something special – a special world, special characters, and a plot which will keep you turning the pages.

I love the voice in which the story is told. Some serious observations are made in a witty asides. It’s like real-world issues hyped up. Children cherry-picked at eleven? Stand them in a hall, while they watch half their classmates receive ‘bids’. Christmas has become commercial? Let’s play off the traditions of the seasons against consumerism in a battle between ‘consumerist fat cat’ St Nick and The Yule Lady, bringer of snow. What I love is, having thought up the most exaggerated scenario, Townsend works it into the narrative in a really subtle way. The plot kept moving, and everything felt like a credible part of the world.

I adored Morrigan. People have been telling her she is cursed, and doomed to die, and she’s so afraid of being forgotten. She is quite low on self-belief. She’s the cursed-child, not someone with an extraordinary gift. Even so, she keeps going through the trials because there is more to her than a special talent.

The folksy touches were great, from the names (Morrigan Crow. Corvus Crow. The Wundersmith) to the measures of time, (Eventide,) to traditions like Hallowmas and the Christmas fight. Townsend has taken pre-existing ideas and reworked them into something new and exciting. She’s also thrown in plenty of totally new things, like a transport system based on umbrellas, and the Magnificat who oversees room service in Jupiter North’s hotel, the place which becomes Morrigan’s home.

I liked the relationship between Morrigan and Jupiter. It showed how difficult it is for children to trust adults blindly, then to discover those adults don’t always have the answer. Another theme was the arrival of new siblings. Morrigan literally becomes invisible to her family, a poignant metaphor for how some children feel at the arrival of a new child.

This will be a real winner, with teachers, librarians, and young readers, but I can see it being popular with readers of all ages. It has the magic and gentle wit which makes a children’s book a classic.

Huge thanks to Hatchette Children’s for giving me a chance to read this ahead of publication via Netgalley. This does not affect the honesty of my review.

Middle Grade Reviews

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

Untitled design (1)

p1020258.jpg

Extract:

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

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

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

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

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

‘Ooooh.’

‘Do you think it is?’ 

Lottie pulled at the ivy-tendrils. ‘

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

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

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

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

breakbirdSynopsis:

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

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

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

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

breakbirdReview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Middle Grade Reviews

Raining Chocolate – The Great Chocoplot by Chris Callaghan

chocobanner.jpg

p1020255.jpg

Extract:

 Gari was standing on a little box at the doorway of the shop, talking. That was why he had a crowd. What was he sating? Jelly stopped and listened, curious.

‘I look around this town, and do you know what I see?’ the shop owner cried.

There was a pause.

I see people seeking the truth of chocolate,’ Gari said, ignoring this. ‘Real chocolate! Not Blocka Chocas, or Wacko Chocs, or Whopper bars –

People began muttering and shuffling away.

‘And, as a true descendant of the Ancient Easter Egg Islanders, the Chocolati tribe -’ Gari went on.

Now this caught everyone’s attention.

 

(The Great Chocoplot by Chris Callaghan. P62 – 63.)

breakbirdSynopsis:

In five days, chocolate will end. At first Jelly thinks it is another silly article on The Seven Show. Something about an ancient prophecy on a place called Easter Egg Island. Jelly’s got more important things to worry about, like whether her Dad will find another job, and where the next meal is coming from. In fact, Jelly does quite a lot of worrying. So many things in life could go wrong.

She decides to prove the Chocopocalypse is a myth, and film the results of her experiment for her class science project.

When the first part of the chocolate prophecy comes true, and chocolate rains down on Easter Egg Island, the world descends into chaos. The shops sell-out, and people turn to rioting and theft to get their hands on chocolate.

As if that wasn’t enough to worry about, Dodgy Dave wants Jelly’s Dad to get involved with a probably-not-legal job, and upmarket chocolatier Garibaldi Chocolati takes offense when Jelly says she would rather buy a Blocka-Chocka. Is the Chocopocalypse going to happen, or is somebody playing tricks?

breakbirdReview:

A laugh-a-minute Middle Grade read which was the perfect treat for a Saturday morning readathon.

The theme of anxiety is brilliantly handled. A light, bubbly approach to mental-wellbeing is well needed when children are experiencing mental health issues at higher rates than ever. I love Jelly (great name for someone who often feels a bit wobbly), and how she adjusts the way she views things to allow herself to appreciate the moment.

Publishing has started to realise that not every childhood is set in middle-class suburbia, and it is great to see warm-hearted books like The Great Chocoplot which captures not only the concerns of working class children, but also their lives. There is also some commentary on social inequality, which, although handled with a sense of humour, is a hugely important comment on the world we live in. (The Prime Minister’s nickname? Toffee-Nosed Posh Boy. Spot on.) 

Callaghan underpins his comedy with a recognisable world. As well as a healthy dose of toilet humour, his world his funny because we relate to it. As an adult reader, I was in stitches at his sending up of The One Show. ‘I wasn’t watching it!’ objects one character, ‘it was just on in the background? You know?’ Oh, I know. Like everybody I have spoken to about the BBC’s inane offering, I don’t ‘watch’ The One Show, but often mysteriously know what has been featured. The Seven Show captures the inanity of the programme to perfection. Callaghan captures the ridiculousness in the mundane, from tweeting silly hashtags, to countdown apps and entering postcodes on the sat-nav for local journeys.

There is lots of great word play. Jelly lives in Chompton on de-Lyte, for instance, and Garibaldi Chocolati? We know he takes his chocolate seriously, and we know he’s going to be send up for it. Genius. There are also lots of foodie names, from Jelly to Mrs Bunstable to Waffle Way.

** amendment: This is a standalone novel. Initially, I fibbed, and promised a sequel. No pressure to the author, but I’ll read anything else set in the same world. 😉 

 

 

Middle Grade Reviews

Luminescent Crocodiles? Review: The Mystery of Supernatural Creek by Lauren St John

supernatural

Extract:

The trouble with being a detective, mused Laura, as she and Paula strolled through the pretty historic village of Blackwood, was that the most innocent of settings took on a sinister aspect.

Where a normal person might visit an idyllic English wood in springtime and be enchanted by a carpet of bluebells, Matt Walker only wondered where the bodies were buried.

Ordinary tourists strolled through Provençal or Tuscan villages, delighting in the sun-drenched piazzas, fields of lavender and shop windows stuffed with cheeses and pastries. Sherlock Holmes, Poirot and Miss Marple knew these places to be hotbeds of intrigue. The jolly woman at the boulangerie might have a sideline selling fake antiques for exorbitant prices. The handsome young Italian posing for a selfie beside his scooter might be the middleman for a gang of ivory smugglers. Calven Redfern had warned Laura that these detective-coloured spectacles – ‘the very opposite of rose-tinted’ – once on, were impossible to take off.

(The Secret of Supernatural Creek by Lauren St John. P55.)

 

Synopsis:

With leader of the Safe A gang behind bars, Laura Marlin should relax and enjoy the school trip of a life time. That’s what Tariq says, but Laura can’t help looking at the world with her detective eyes. After six months evading the criminal gang, it is difficult to relax.

Strange things are happening around Katherine Gorge. A tourist claims to have been attacked by a luminescent crocodile, and a medical plane crashes in an attempt to help him. The pilot claims to have seen a UFO.

Meanwhile, the leader of the Straight As escapes from prison and Laura Marlin sees a joker on the bathroom mirror – the ‘calling card’ the Straight As leave as a warning. Laura’s also growing concerned about her husky, Skye. Why hasn’t Uncle Calvin mentioned him? Why does housekeeper Rowena send a picture of Skye which is six weeks old? Could these things be connected, or is Tariq right? Has Laura become paranoid?

 

Review:

Laura Marlin is like Whippy ice-cream on the beach. It isn’t summer without one. I’ve loved Laura Marlin since book one came out, and am a huge fan of Lauren St John’s horsey novels.

I wish these books had been around when I was a kid. I was animal rights obsessed, but with the internet still being a newish thing, it was easy to type the term into a search engine and fall down the digital rabbit hole. Animal rights is one of those issues where lots of people start with their heart in the right place, but get led astray in how to handle it. Back in the early noughties, there weren’t [m]any child friendly places to learn about animal welfare or environmental issues. Most of Lauren St John’s books are based around a specific issue. There’s just enough ‘issue’ to make readers think, but the focus is on a pacy mystery adventure.

The Secret of Supernatural Creek is the fifth book in series. Laura and Tariq have escaped The Striaght A Gang four or five times, rescued each other, rescued themselves and spent their lives looking over their shoulders. The interesting thing about The Secret of Supernatural Creek is it explores how Laura and Tariq are coping with the pressures of being a fictional detective, (we might call it Famous Five syndrome.) Tariq, who spent eleven years as a slave, wants a chance to be normal. He’s lived with fear for long enough, and wishes Laura would relax. Laura sees everything with detective vision. She’s always on the lookout for something which might be suspicious. It was interesting to see their different viewpoints causing conflict, especially to see how Tariq felt about Laura treating everything as an adventure. A quiet life is the adventure Tariq has never experienced, and it made me think about how down time is invaluable.

The school trip setting brings in a larger crowd of children than usual, more like The White Giraffe. The main introduction is Elspeth, another budding detective, who takes an interest in conspiracy theories. This contrasts with Laura’s cool logic, learnt from her uncle, and her fictional hero Matt Walker. I’ve always loved how Laura’s personality informs how she solves her mysteries – less lucky coincidence, more finding the common thread. At first competitive with Elspeth, Laura learns that people with different personalities can teach us things we overlook.

The mystery has a great solution, and I love how the first chapter catches our interest. Lauren St John is great at simultaneously dropping clues and leading the reader astray. Apologies Tariq – I’ll be back for book 7, and I’ll still be reading at book 17.

Guest Post · Middle Grade Reviews

Guest Post – Amy from GoldenBooksGirl reviews Quest by Aarhus 39

Some blogging friends are there for celebrations, comiserations and totally random conversations. Amy from GoldenBooksGirl is one of those people. Earlier this summer, we agreed to joint-read Quest at a point when Amy could get near her local library. It’s been a great experience to share a short story collection. 

Quest is the Middle Grade anthology from the Aarhus 39. If you’re not up to speed, Odyssey and Quest were published to coincide with the International Children’s Literature Hay Festival, which takes place in October 2017. Every story is centered around a journey. 

Amy took the first half off the book. It’s great to host her reviews – thank you Amy for your time and wonderful thoughts. 

Aarhus

QUEST REVIEWS

Beware Low-Flying Girls by Katherine Rundell

This story is about Odile, a girl with a coat which gives her the power to fly, as she has to face mosnters who prey on her deepest fear (that her grandfather doesn`t love her). Rundell`s writing is as beautiful and distinctive as ever, the world of this story felt vivid and all-encompassing and I also really liked the illustrations. I did find the ending a little rushed but overall this was a solid and heartwarming opening to the collection.

Peeva is a Tone Deaf Cat by Anna Woltz

The 2nd in the collections is about Eva, who feels like a misfit in her family and decides that she must have been switched at birth. Eva`s voice was instantly engaging, and I really enjoyed her narration throughout. I loved the journey Eva goes on, and Tommy, the boy she meets on it. The plotline involving Tommy`s mum was very moving and I also adored the ending.

The Girl With No Name by Aline Sax

I really struggled with this story. I wasn`t a big fan of the narrative style, and I disliked the main character Nelle. I thought the plot (her disliking her name and wanting a new one) was quite silly and insignificant, especially when compared to some of the other stories in the collection. It did, however, feature the best literal journey as Nelle travels through her town and meets several different people who all try to help her, although it was quite slow paced and long winded. The other thing that I thought was quite about this story was the sweet message by the end. All in all, I don`t think this one was for me.

Mr Nobody by Laura Dockrill

I`ll tell the truth here; I considered skipping this story. I didn`t like Darcy Burdock, and I went in looking for reasons to dislike this story too. But it charmed me completely, and even made me cry. It`s the story of Oliver, a boy who has to let go of his imaginary friend as he starts secondary school, and it`s hugely touching. It had perfect pacing, a really sweet main character (I also liked his family), and it has a twist in that Mr Nobody may not actually be all that imaginary…

Hands down my favourite of the collection.

Pipounette`s House by Ludovic Flamant

While the imagery used in the opening paragraphs grabbed my attention, I struggled to understand this story as it developed. It`s about Pipounette, a woman who`s husband built her a house full of wonders just before he died, and her exploring it with her nephews. As I said, the story didn`t really make sense to me but I did empathise with Pipounette as a character and I thought it had a sweet ending. I also loved the illustrations.

The Roof by Nataly E. Savina

Sadly this story didn`t appeal to me either. I can`t even give a summary of what happens as I couldn`t really follow it. I had no attachment to the main character and nothing about this interested me. I especially disliked the random flashbacks to things the character had done with their grandparents; I think this was the main reason I struggled with this story so much as it was incredibly jarring.

A Trip To Town- Maria Parr

 Even though nothing really happens in this story, I enjoyed it a lot. It`s quite hard to explain, but it`s a story about the love between a grandmother and her grandchild, and a story that means a lot to both of them. The writing style had the cosy feeling that Enid Blyton always evokes in me, and I think it was a major part of why I liked this so much. Even though it was short, and didn`t properly fit with the theme of `journey`, this was one of my favourites.

The Great Book Escape

This was a super fun story. I liked the main character Sigrun as I felt she really challenged the stereotype that librarians are quiet and dull, as she goes on a journey to find books for her library. While I liked this idea more than the actual execution of it I still enjoyed the writing style and I thought the ending was very sweet.