Archive for the ‘Children’s literature’ Category

I always get customers coming in saying something along the lines of ‘My child has read this, they absolutely loved it, can you recommend anything similar?’ Sometimes, it’s hard to recommend anything similar, and sometimes I’m tempted to suggest something quite different, so the child has a broad reading range but in the case of a customer the other day asking for books similar to Enid Blyton I just had to recommend two fantastic authors whose books I really admire, and love.


Lauren St. John – She’s won the Blue Peter Fiction award and has a huge following. I particularly love the Laura Marlin mysteries set in Cornwall. Orphan Laura is forced to move to her Uncle’s weird house in Cornwall and longs for a life of adventure- just like the ones in her favourite books and it’s not long before she find some at Dead Man’s Cove, a place her Uncle has forbidden her to go to…

The second in the Laura Marlin series ‘Kidnap in the Caribbean’ was published last month by Orion and we follow Laura all the way to the Caribbean and things are a little different there. Cornwall certainly doesn’t have pirates and sharks on the shore! It’s another fantastic book in this series. Well written, with a really loveable, charming character – books like these are rare and certainly echo the fun, innocent nature of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books in which going out to play meant finding your own adventures!

I also can’t stop raving about Helen Moss and her book ‘Adventure Island: Mystery of the Whistling Caves’. It might be the cover which appeals, but it also might be the mysterious action packed story in which three children and a dog make their own investigation when the local whistling caves suddenly go quite and lots of treasure goes missing.

This is good old fashioned story telling with a modern setting – I loved it. Also part of a series, ‘The Mystery of the Midnight Ghost’ is out now.

The Laura Marlin Mysteries 1: Dead Man’s Cove (978-1444001488)

The Laura Marlin Mysteries 2: Kidnap in the Caribbean (978-1444000214)

Lauren St John

Orion Children’s Books


Adventure Island 1: Mystery of the Whistling Caves (978-1444003284)

Adventure Island 2: The Mystery of the Midnight Ghost (978-1444003291)

Adventure Island 3: The Mystery of the Hidden Gold (978-1444003307)

Adventure Island 4: The Mystery of the Missing Masterpiece (978-1444003314)

Helen Moss

Orion Children’s Books


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To accompany the book blog tour which is stopping at mine tomorrow, I have written a review for ‘The Queen Must Die’. Now since writing the post for the blog tour, I have felt a bit uneasy about writing The Queen Must Die. It doesn’t sound very patriotic does it? But all became clear after reading the book.

Katie, an assuming teenager who loves nothing more than reading books under her bed. (Who doesn’t) Books are the one thing that keep her company. Her Mum isn’t around much, the housekeeper ignores her and she has none to zero friends at school.

But Katie’s boring life changes pretty swiftly in the book when after falling asleep whilst reading, she wakes up in a very different place to where she began…Buckingham Palace to be exact. And it’s no longer present day – Katie soon finds out she has time travelled back to 1851, a time when Queen Victoria was at the throne and there were many threats to her and the  Royal Family.

Katie is forced to make friends and finds help in the form of Princess Alice and James who promise to find out how to get her home. But that’s not the worst of Katie’s problems, she soon discovers a secret plot to kill the Queen and must do everything she can to stop it and whilst doing so…discovers she’s not the only person who can time travel.

This comes at a time when Katie’s time travelling is explained in further detail. I usually get lost with time travel..Back to the Future was too complicated for me but the author deals with it very well and keeps it in-keeping with the story. The book reminds me of a similarly themed book I read a few years ago ‘Beswitched’ by Kate Saunders and it’s great that books which explore similar themes and subject lines can be so different and original. 

She ran the risk of historical fiction not working with sci-fi/fantasy themes but it does and the result is a fantastic action story suitable for girls and boys aged 9-12. The pace is fast, the characters likeable and I can’t wait for the next book The Queen at War in this trilogy; The Chronicles of the Tempus, due to be published in 2012.

The author clearly did her research. 1851 was the year of the Great Exhibition and I was very interested to read about it in the book because I studied it, along with that era’s literature in great detail.

Check back tomorrow for K.A.S Quinn’s guest post and an exclusive extract from The Queen Must Die.

The Queen Must Die by K.A.S. Quinn

Atlantic Books



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Casper Candlewacks in Death by Pigeon first came to my attention because it was heavily promoted in my area due to the (very young author) being local. I’m glad I found it because it’s a really great book – completely crazy but fun, and full of adventures which will keep boys and girls intrigued for hours.

The debut author Ivan Brett, is young – 22 in fact but don’t let that deter you from the fact that he is an incredibly talented storyteller. In fact, it should encourage you because being 22 means you are so much closer to your own childhood than if you were say, 23!

The book itself is crazy from page one. Just look at the title! Death by Pigeon? It could be true. I sincerely believe pigeons will one day take over the world. Casper Candlewacks lives in the village Corne on the Kobb where everyone is crazy and has no sense but him. And when people have no sense they generally like to think they can do crazy things like take over the world which is what Great Tiramasu tries to do when he curses the village. And it’s up to Casper Candlewack to save the day.

This book is recommended for 9-12 year olds and the illustrations by Hannah Shaw really bring the book to life. Think a mix of Roald Dahl, Andy Stanton and Jo Nesbo! It’s a winner. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and have been recommending it to lots of customers looking for something new to read.

Casper Candlewacks in Death by Pigeon by Ivan Brett

HarperCollins Children’s Books


£5.99 PB 

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Yes, THAT James Patterson. The world famous crime writer who also writes children’s books. There’s a Patterson for every reader!

‘Middle School – The Worst Years of my Life’ is a hilarious tell-all account from Rafe Khatchadorian a pupil at a very oppresive school (at least in Rafe’s opinion). Rafe has enough problems to deal with and doesn’t need school rules to worry about on top of all that and so sets about to break every single rule in the Code of Conduct.

Now, we know how these things go down and sometimes we need a little help (or hindrance) from our friends and in Rafe’s case, help comes in the form of the hilarious Leonardo the Silent! With Rafe breaking every rule from running in the hallway to setting off a fire alarm, it all starts to catch up with him and soon Rafe has more than measly detention to worry about…

I loved this book. It’s light-hearted yet deals with young angst and issues appropriately without diverting from the humour throughout the book. Fans of Jeff Kinney’s ‘Wimpy Kid’ series will love this. The illustrations, by Chris Tebetts are spot on  for characterisation and are in the whole book, on almost every page.

There’s a big emphasis on Patterson’s desire to get kids reading as he too has a kid who was once reluctant to read. I think he recognises that children unconsciously like something to relate to in a book. Even if the book has the most obscure characters or monsters in, we all still need something to grasp on to, to allow us to say “Yep, I understand!” And I think James Patterson has achieved that sense of talking to the audience because really, we’ve all been there. Whether we were the class clown, the quiet hard-worker or the naughiest kid in school…we were all there all going through issues (often horrifically embarassing) every day at school!

Thinking about it, if there’s one way to describe this book, it’s Jacqueline Wilson for boys. Fantastic stuff.


HB £9.99 9780099543985

JULY 2011 . Published by Arrow (Young), Random House.

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A borrowed book? It has to be from the library. Now I don’t currently have any books out from the library, but I do have a book from the 90’s which I never returned because I lost it. Don’t worry, I paid my fine. And then, a few years ago a funny thing happened and I found the book behind a book case.

What is this book I hear you ask? Why, it’s Winnie the Pooh. I must have subconsciously lost the book on purpose as a child because I adore Winnie the Pooh and everything he stands for. I believe some of the greatest philosophical though can be found in a book by A A Milne. If only we could live our lives by the way of Pooh and Piglet.

The illustrations are as much a part of the book as the story itself. The scratchy sketches of Christopher Robin and his friends are carefree and joyous – a testament to the adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood.

Because of course, he was just a silly old pooh bear, but he was our silly old pooh bear and brought a lot of smiles to a lot of faces, old and young.

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If you keep up to date with new film releases then you will know that Jim Carrey is starring in a new film ‘Mr Popper’s Penguins’. But did you also know that the film is actually an adaptation from a book, originally published in 1938?

Mr Popper, a gentle fellow is a poor house painter who lives with his family. Like many people he dreams of bigger adventures, not least to visit the Antarctica. One day, he receives a very special  parcel in the post…a penguin (reminds me of Oliver Jeffers’ ‘Lost and Found’). Before long, Mr Popper has a lot of penguins on his hand, and not enough ice or money for their lavish tastes!

So Mr Popper does the only sensible thing – he creates a performing penguin group that travels the country far and wide and performs tricks and stunts. But the penguins can’t sleep in the fridge forever and when Spring starts to emerge, it’s a race against time for the penguins who prefer colder climbs. Will the penguins get back to their home, and will Mr Popper realise his dream of travelling to Antarctica? Well, the penguins will need a tour guide along the way!

The book is wonderfully illustrated, bringing the charming, cheeky penguins to life. The book might not be as well know in the UK as it is in the US, where it was originally published. But if you ever come across an old copy, do give it a try. It’s a wonderful book full of whimsy, magic and dreams. I mean, who doesn’t dream of having a pet penguin or two, or three…

Here is the trailer for the new film…

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This week I seem to be succumbing to wedding fever and running a fun feature in which I discover some rather old books, some new ones and a few that never made it back to the library.

Now, as you all know me to be completely in love with children’s books, you know that I have a lot. I save a lot, receive a lot and buy far too many. Even as organised as I am, I also forget about books I have. Which is why, when I stumbled across Flour Babies by Anne Fine the other day I came up with the idea of this ‘wedding themed’ feature.

Something Old: ‘Flour Babies’ by Anne Fine

First published in 1992, this book like many of Fine’s was a runaway success and I read it with a smile on my face (whilst secretly hoping I would never be given the same homework task). Simon Martin and his school friends are given the unwelcome task of each looking after a bag of flour as their own ‘babies’ in the school’s bid to raise awareness of teen pregnancies and the responsibilities it comes with. Simon himself is a bit of a handful so imagine the delight in reading about his (often messy) adventures with a bag of flour.

Anne Fine, once the Children’s Laureate knows who she is writing for and what their needs are. She writes with understanding and compassion whilst recognising the need for fun and adventure in a children’s book.

This is a wonderful book bringing back many memories for me. Not least because it’s like I grew up with the character of Simon. We see him mature and learn so much throughout the book, whilst still retaining his trademark charm. I read this many times when I was younger and it’s nice that, at 22 I can still come back to this book and read it with ease.

Tomorrow I review Something New – Sweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal. Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are back, but things as good as when we left them at Sweet Valley High…

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