#Blog Tour Review: Poppy Loves Devon by Gillian Young

Poppy Loves Devon is the second book in the Crazy Cream Adventures featuring the magnificently friendly golden retriever, Poppy and her “hooman” family. A deliciously sweet tale about friendship, perceived rejection and finding one’s strengths, with a heart as warm as a sunny day on a Devon beach. This book drips empathy which is cleverly anthropomorphised in the character of Poppy and the animals she encounters, opening up recognition of a range of emotions in middle grade readers. For children who love animals and who can sometimes relate to a non-threatening family pet more readily than to their peers, this story could provide valuable insights into behaviour such as sibling jealousy. Other children may not see the deeper subtext but simply thoroughly enjoy a summer holiday read filled with lovable animal characters (and some lovely “hoomans” too)!

Poppy, an adored and adorable retriever sets off for a week of bliss at a farm cottage in Devon with her family; Mum, Dad, Jack and Evie. She cannot wait to have unlimited time to play fetch, be spoiled with doggie ice-creams and explore the exciting new surroundings of the farmyard and neighbouring woods. Her boisterous enthusiasm bounds from the page and her encounters with the farmyard pigs will definitely raise a smile. However, she is stopped in her tracks by the sight of working sheepdog Samson who appears superior and sleek compared to her clumsiness and over-enthusiasm. As the story unfolds, these two canines both learn lessons from each other as their very different strengths bring each of them to realise that they are capable of stepping outside their normal boundaries.

Each of them fear rejection by their owners. Samson is helping to train a younger sheepdog who he feels might replace him on the farm and Poppy thinks that she will be replaced in her family’s affections by a retriever pup that she has discovered abandoned in the woods. As the idyllic week’s holiday draws to a close the reader is gently led through the emotional highs and lows as decisions have to be made. This book will make a lovely summer term or summer holiday read for fans of Michael Morpurgo or Dick King-Smith; it is a gentle story with just a small edge of jeopardy, suitable for children of 8+ who love animals and animal stories. There are beautiful pencil sketches of the animal and human characters decorating the chapter headings. The beach holiday setting will be familiar to many children, and whether you are heading away on holiday or not this summer, Poppy Loves Devon will give readers a relaxing break in the company of a perfect pet.

I am most grateful to the team at LiterallyPR for sending me a copy of the book to review and inviting me to participate in the blog tour. Do read the reviews posted by other book bloggers on the tour!

MG Review: The Unexpected Tale of the Bad Brothers by Clare Povey

Cover illustration by Héloïse Mab, publisher Usborne, 7th July 2022



A fast-paced adventure, set in Paris during the 1920s, featuring a band of orphans and their allies, confronting a conspiracy to bring down the government and reinstall a ruling monarch! This timely tale based on the persuasive power of words, held me gripped as I consumed it on a train journey last week. The continuing battle between young story-teller Bastien Bonlivre and the despotic Odieux brothers, Xavier and Olivier, twists and turns like a Parisian alleyway as they grapple for the hearts and minds of the citizens of the City of Light. Although this is the second in the Bastien Bonlivre adventures it can be read and enjoyed as a standalone novel thanks to author Clare Povey including sufficient details from the backstory.

We start with orphan Bastien discovering that Olivier Odieux has walked free from court, leaving his younger brother Xavier to take the rap and be jailed for the murder of Bastien’s parents. It soon becomes apparent that Olivier has hatched a plan worthy of a megalomaniacal supervillain, aided by the descendants of an ancient secret organisation, the Red Ink Society. As the power-crazy fiend and his associates begin to sow chaos on the streets of Paris, Bastien and his friends from the Orphanage for Gentils Garçons along with accomplices, Mathilde and Alice, must track down the clues to uncover the dreadful secret that led to his parents’ deaths. The narrative moves at a cracking pace as the clock ticks down to the final denouement at the launch of the Exposition Universelle in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.

I loved the fact that Clare Povey has wrapped some highly pertinent sociological ideas into this exciting story, revealing the ways that power-hungry individuals can seek to manipulate the masses with the use of propaganda. I feel sure that creative upper key stage 2 teachers will be using this entertaining story as a class read aloud and incorporating the questions it raises into PHSE and media literacy learning opportunities. The sprinkling of French vocabulary is defined in a glossary, adding another educational layer to this highly entertaining read. The large cast of characters means that many children will be able to identify with one of the protagonists, ensuring engagement throughout and I particularly loved that strong adult role models were included in a story about orphans. Overall, I highly recommend The Unexpected Tale of the Bad Brothers to all readers of 9+ who enjoy immersing themselves in fast-paced adventure. It is available for pre-order from good booksellers and will be available on 7th July 2022.

I am most grateful to Liz Scott and Usborne for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Review: Hetty and the Battle of the Books by Anna James, illustrated by Jez Tuya

Cover image by Jez Tuya, to be published by Barrington Stoke,
7th July 2022

This is a book to make every school librarian or library advocate’s heart soar! As regular readers of my blog will know, I have loved Barrington Stoke books since discovering their titles for one of my own children almost twenty years ago. I have greatly enjoyed the books that they have commissioned from many of the top writers for children in the intervening years and Hetty and the Battle of the Books has just jumped straight to the top of my favourites list.

It is a funny, thoughtful, powerful manifesto for the necessity of having a library and a trained librarian in every school, published in fully accessible format so that it can be read and enjoyed by the very individuals to whom a library often matters the most. Anna James has wonderfully captured the voice of a quirky Year 7 pupil, Hetty, who is going through the friendship issues which occur so commonly as children progress from primary to secondary school. Her place of sanctuary is the school library, which in this story is presided over by Ms Juster, a librarian who knows how to cater for the needs of every pupil who enters her domain. When Hetty learns that the dastardly headteacher, Mr McCarthy, plans to close the library and make Ms Juster redundant, she puts her outrage into action, recruits her former friends to the cause and designs her own campaign to save the library. In a book of approximately one hundred pages the narrative crackles with a sense of urgency and is heavily laced with Hetty’s wry sense of humour. I absolutely adored the greyscale illustrations throughout by Jez Tuya, I am not aware of seeing his artwork before but I shall certainly be on the lookout for further books that he illustrates.

I urge all school librarians and literacy coordinators to purchase a copy of Hetty and the Battle of the Books for your pupils to enjoy, I think it will appeal to all readers of 8-13. In my opinion, this quote from the penultimate chapter summarises all that is magical about school libraries:

You can do your homework there as well as visit a faraway kingdom. You can research the Tudors as well as meet a Greek god, all from a beanbag. You can watch a film, or make a newspaper, or play Dungeons and Dragons. Or you can just read a good book…Because a library is a place for everyone…

Chapter 9

I am most grateful to Barrington Stoke and NetGalley for allowing me access to an e-ARC prior to publication, and I will certainly be buying a paperback copy when it is published on 7th July 2022.

Non-fiction Review: The Invisible World of Germs by Isabel Thomas

Cover image by Geraldine Sy and Ana Seixas, published by OUP, May 2022

The latest in the Very Short Introductions series provides answers to many questions that children and adults might have after the past two years sitting through news briefings about viruses, vaccines and R numbers. Isabel Thomas is a first class science communicator, never talking down to her readership, but presenting scientific information and vocabulary with absolute clarity, leaving readers enlightened and satisfied. This book has been intelligently designed with photos; illustrated diagrams and cartoon strip inserts by Geraldine Sy and Ana Seixas; and shout-outs to introduce new vocabulary and concepts. Information is broken into bite-sized chunks with clever use of colour and layout, so that complex ideas can be understood. The overall package delivers a comprehensive education of the microbial world in under 100 small format pages.

It is split into eight chapters which provide a history of the scientific research that led to our present day understanding of microbes, the effect of different microbes on the human body, immunology, medicines and the positive uses of microbes in our world. I particularly liked the use of regular features throughout the book such as Germ Hero, which provided single sentence biographies of scientists who had made breakthrough discoveries; and Speak Like a Scientist where key scientific terms were explained. As you would expect from a great non-fiction book, there is a glossary at the end.

As a librarian working in the health sector, I am always delighted to find books which provide evidence-based information that is accessible and informative for a wide readership. An informed population is likely to be one that is better able to contribute to the management of their own health and less likely to fall for misinformation. The Invisible World of Germs … and its impact on our lives would be suitable for upper Key Stage 2 classrooms, as well as secondary school settings, and also provides useful information for adult readers; I highly recommend that you read it.

I am most grateful to OUP for sending me a copy of this book in return for my honest opinion.

#PrideMonthReview: The Marvellous Doctors for Magical Creatures by Jodie Lancet-Grant, illustrated by Lydia Corry

Cover image by Lydia Corry, published by OUP, June 2022

This was the most perfect book to read on a hot, sunny June day which radiated the same warmth and colour found within this picture book. Published to coincide with the June Pride celebrations, this story imaginatively promotes acceptance of unique identities, representing a family with two dads as the backdrop to a funny, engaging tale. The interplay of Lydia Corry’s beautiful artwork and Jodie Lancet-Grant’s creative storytelling will bring smiles of delight to readers young and old(er).

From the first page we are introduced to a town populated by a wide variety of magical and non-magical creatures. The text names some of these; dragons, fairies, mermaids and centaurs and children will enjoy spotting many more depicted amongst the humans on the bustling street (I loved seeing the pirate mums from the previous book by this partnership). We are told that whenever anyone in town feels poorly, they know to consult Ava and her dads, Daddy and Papa. I loved the illustrations of “trainee doctor” Ava, with her stethoscope, too long labcoat and expressive face. Alongside the narrative which portrays her inquisitive, kind and observant nature as well as determination to uncover the cause of a unicorn’s tummy-ache, she is a heart-warming poster girl for a career in medicine, in the opinion of this health librarian! The spread where Ava is struck by the answer to her medical mystery is an absolute masterpiece of “show, don’t tell” and strikes right to the heart of this book’s message of celebrating difference.

The Marvellous Doctors for Magical Creatures bursts with a kaleidoscope of colour, energy and kindness and whilst promoting a message of inclusivity, is first and foremost an entertaining and throughly engaging story. Family life is portrayed in scenes such as bedtime story time familiar to all, and shows that whilst there are all kinds of families, they have more similarities than differences. I highly recommend this picture book to be shared with children of 3 -6 years of age and I will certainly be adding it to my recommended reading list for health-related books.

I am most grateful to Liz Scott and OUP for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Empathy Day Review: Wished written by Lissa Evans

Cover image by Sarah McIntyre, published by David Fickling Books,
May 2022

Every so often I come across a book that captures my heart so powerfully that I bang on about it endlessly to those who know me in real life, and purchase multiple editions to give away. I suspected that I would love the latest MG title from Lissa Evans as I am a huge fan of her writing (for both adults and children) and I had read great reviews by two of the bloggers whose recommendations I always trust. However, I really was not prepared for how much I would love it. The phrase “modern classic” is often bandied around – but this story genuinely has all the ingredients to deserve this accolade in my opinion. Reading it gave me the same sense of utter joy that I first felt when I discovered Five Children and It by E Nesbit as a child, one of the characters gave me Just William vibes and the intricately constructed comical wordplay had me laughing out loud in the same register as the Jeeves and Wooster stories by PG Wodehouse. With the deft touch of a writer who is utterly confident in her craft, Lissa Evans has created a story which is deeply moving, wildly imaginative, perfectly plotted and hilariously funny. I don’t expect to read a finer book this year.

There are five main characters in this story, brother and sister Ed and Roo (Lucy), Ed is about 10 and Roo about eight; a boy called Willard who has just moved into the neighborhood; an elderly neighbour Miss Filey, and the most gloriously imperious cat, Atlee. The plot is based on the fact that the birthday candles from Miss Filey’s abandoned 10th birthday party have lain in a drawer for fifty years until Roo lights one of them for Willard’s birthday cake…and their magical power to grant wishes is unleashed. Suddenly the most boring half-term holiday in the entire history of the universe becomes a thrilling journey through a book of fantastical adventures!

The interplay of the characters is absolutely brilliant and the character development over the course of a 250 page story is quite incredible. Ed is a wheelchair user and is clearly not comfortable with the sympathetic comments of strangers or the fact that he has become the face of a fundraising campaign to raise the money to make his family home more accessible. His character is depicted with great skill so that he actually appears as a real ten year old with a complexity of character traits rather than just a two-dimensional figure to raise an issue. He can be quite abrupt and sarcastic, and actually treats his little sister Roo quite selfishly at times. She clearly looks up to him and will do anything to protect and look after him, while he takes her devotion for granted. It takes their new neighbour Willard with his blunt outspokenness to point out to Ed that he should show some gratitude to Roo for everything that she does for him.

Willard is a self-labelled “class clown”. As the son of a vicar he has moved frequently and clearly uses humour to settle into new school environments. Initially, Ed resents this newcomer who might take his position as the boy who amuses the class but they develop a mutual respect and friendship as the story progresses. I really enjoyed Willard’s character; big-hearted, kind and always finding enjoyment in any situation.

Miss Filey is a spinster in her 60s, who has cared for her parents all her life, putting her own dreams on hold for many years. The children consider her to be terribly boring when they discover that she is going to be looking after them for half term, but as they find out about her background and begin to see the girl she once was, they form a wonderful bond with her. The tacit understanding and poignant conversation between Ed and Miss Filey towards the end of the story, where the roles of adult and child are touchingly reversed, is liable to have you reaching for a box of tissues.

Finally, a great deal of the comedy is generated by Atlee an extremely smelly cat of advanced years who exhibits the most acerbic sarcasm that I have encountered in a middle-grade novel. I marvelled at the way his character generated moments of utter hilarity, whilst delivering withering one-liners and simultaneously trying to conceal his genuine affection for Roo in particular. I am not and have never been a cat person, but Atlee is one of the greatest animal characters I have discovered in fiction.

I don’t want to describe any of the magical adventures for fear of ruining anyone’s enjoyment of the perfectly crafted plot. However, I will say that along with the perfectly crafted adventures, I loved the emphasis in the narrative of choosing your words carefully to ensure that there is no ambiguity in what you might say, or wish for. In a novel in which it appears that every single word has been selected with care, I thought this was wonderful.

I have chosen to review Wished for Empathy Day 2022 because this is one of those stories where you get a real insight into the characters’ motivations for the way they behave as the story unfolds, and you also witness the characters developing an understanding of each other, followed positive actions to improve each others’ lives. The utter joy of the book is that it is so astonishingly well written that you absorb these messages by some kind of magical literary osmosis whilst revelling in the outrageously funny story. There is an increasing amount of academic research into the positive benefits of reading fiction for developing our ability to experience empathy; this year’s theme is “Empathy is our Superpower”. Read Wished and you will certainly become an Empathy superhero! I think this would be an absolutely brilliant book to read aloud with children, whether you are a teacher, librarian or parent/carer, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Picture Book Review: Herman Needs a Home by Lucy Noguera, illustrated by Emma Latham

Cover illustration by Emma Latham, published by Brilliant Monsters Books, 8th June 2022

I was honoured to be sent an early review copy of this thoughtfully entertaining picture book, written by Lucy Noguera, who came to my attention last year as a debut Middle Grade author. Her new title for a younger audience is published on World Ocean Day and blends humour, immersive storytelling and ecological themes in the heart-warming tale of Herman the hermit crab.

The interplay of text, playful font effects and glorious illustration by Emma Latham, make this book an absolute delight, and I only wish that I lived close enough to share it with the youngest relative immediately. As Herman and his little sister Hiro embark on a quest to find a new, larger shell for Herman, accompanied by an enthusiastic group of hermit crab friends, every page glows with interest. The little crustaceans’ faces are cutely appealing and express a range of emotions which young children will easily comprehend. The beach and rockpool habitats are rendered so beautifully that you can almost feel the warm sand between your toes and smell the salty tang in the air. This is a story that pulses with life and prompts early thinking about the inter-dependence of life on our planet.

I love the way that the quest veers away from the happy swapping of seashells between different sized crabs to the fruitless search for Herman’s new home amongst the discarded piles of waste on the beach. The darkening of the colour palette combined with the increasingly sad and bewildered faces perfectly convey the sense that all is not well, and open the opportunity for conversations with young children about the problems that careless discarding of waste can cause for marine life. A range of manufactured products that contribute to ecological disruption are highlighted in a thoroughly engaging way for children as Herman tries to make his home in all manner of garbage. At the end of the story there is a page of facts about hermit crabs and ideas about ways we can all help to protect the environment.  I also must give a shout out to the end papers which have the most beautiful images of pastel-coloured seashells, so enticing that my fingers twitched to pick one up and hold it to my ear.


I cannot recommend Herman Needs a Home highly enough as a perfect book to share with children of 3 – 6 years of age, it would make an ideal summer gift to share either at home, in nurseries, pre-schools or Early Years classrooms. Like all the best picture books, there is a wealth of information to explore on every page and the charming story will likely encourage youngsters to join in with repeated readings. For anyone lucky enough to be visiting a beach this summer, Herman’s story will hopefully make us all think about the impact we have on our surroundings and encourage us to take care of a habitat that is home to so many natural wonders.

MG Review: Knight Sir Louis and the Sorcerer of Slime by The Brothers McLeod

Cover image by Greg McLeod, published by Guppy Books, June 2022

Saddle-up for a seriously silly story featuring slime-drones, invasive garden gnomes and a gelatinous monster with a desire for world domination! This third book in the Knight Sir Louis series is guaranteed to cause outbreaks of uncontrollable laughter in middle grade classrooms up and down the land, and don’t worry if you haven’t read the earlier books – there is a handy guide to the characters at the start, so this can absolutely be enjoyed as a standalone story.

And what a cast of characters! Knight Sir Louis is the hero and despite still being a boy he exhibits all the skill, bravery and intelligence of a king’s champion, which is the position we find him in at the start. With his trusty mechanical steed, Clunkalot, and his magical sword, Dave, he manages to fight off an invasion of garden gnomes before breakfast! Unfortunately, King Burt the Not Bad is also not too clever and is rather easily duped by the oleaginous stranger, Squire Lyme, who arrives at Sideways Castle and charms the king with obsequious flattery and a bag of green gummies! Squire Lyme is soon knighted to become Sir Lyme, manages to replace Louis as king’s favourite and sets a slimy and fiendish plot in motion. As Knight Sir Louis embarks on a quest to save the kingdom you’ll meet ogres, witches, a two headed dragon, a slime sorcerer’s apprentice and my favourites; a pair of most unusual librarians who inhabit a LIBRARY SHAPED LIKE A BRAIN! This story is an absolute riot of wacky characters, crazy situations and laugh out loud jokes.

The sibling partnership of Miles (writer) and Greg (illustrator) McLeod has created a hugely enjoyable book to entice a middle-grade readership. Their brand of non-stop action adventure packaged in a highly illustrated style, with very distinctive cartoon-style drawings ensures that their stories are accessible to readers who are not necessarily attracted by long text-heavy books. I think that is it wonderful for upper KS2 classrooms and school libraries to be able to offer this book in their collections, to encourage children to read for sheer joy. Knight Sir Louis is a character that everyone can get behind and root for, he embodies chivalry, never flinching from an unpleasant task and is brilliantly supported by loyal allies throughout. I love the illustrative device of always depicting him with his helmet on so that we never get to see what he looks like, thus every child can imagine themselves as the hero of this story. This is very appropriate as one theme that emerges from the sticky plot is that children are heroes, capable of solving problems and should be listened to rather than dismissed just because of their tender years.

I found so many appealing aspects in Knight Sir Louis and the Sorcerer of Slime that I will be donating my gifted review copy to a local Year 4 classroom where I am sure that it is going to provide many hours of reading enjoyment.

I am most grateful to Liz Scott and Guppy Books for sending me this copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

#MGTakesOnThursday: Harley Hitch and the Iron Forest by Vashti Hardy, illustrated by George Ermos

Banner design by Mary Rees, Cover image by George Ermos, published by Scholastic 2021

This is a weekly meme started and hosted by @marysimms72 on her brilliant Book Craic blog which I urge you to read. When I have time, I love to use this meme to review books which somehow slipped down my TBR stack when they were first published, or perhaps are books that I shared with my (now adult) children before I began blogging. Please check out all the other posts and Tweets with the #MGTakesOnThursday tag, you will be sure to find many fantastic recommendations!

If you love books written for an MG audience and wish to take part, the steps to follow are:

  • Post a picture of a front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence.
  • Write three words to describe the book
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

Author: Vashti Hardy

Illustrator: George Ermos

Publisher: Scholastic

Favourite sentence from Page 11: 

Me and my grandpa Eden like to experiment

page 11

This book in three words:

Imaginative – Scientific – Mystery

I remember this first Harley Hitch adventure arriving last year to a fanfare of outstanding reviews from bloggers whose opinions I always value, and being quite frustrated that I was at a particularly time consuming phase of my librarian qualification and simply did not have time to read for pleasure. Noticing that it is on the reading list for this summer’s Gadgeteers reading challenge, I remedied this oversight today and discovered that those reviews were spot on. Harley Hitch and the Iron Forest is an outstanding work of science-based fiction, written by an author who has an assured sense of how to captivate a middle grade readership, entertaining them whilst also delivering sound scientific principles along the way. Vashti Hardy’s story is perfectly complemented by the stunning grayscale artwork of George Ermos, who captures her brilliantly imagined world in precise detail. The Botanical Guide illustrations on the endpapers are a thing of beauty.

Just in case there is anyone who has not read this story yet, I am not going to describe the plot in too much detail for fear of spoiling your enjoyment. The quote that I used above foreshadows the plot brilliantly…this is a narrative based on scientific experimentation and discovery, teaching prospective young scientists the values of research and resilience without the slightest hint of dogmatism. It is populated by a core of great characters. Harley Hitch is a smart, kind, somewhat impulsive and accident prone girl who wants nothing more than to win the Pupil of the Term award at Cogworks, the technical school she attends in Forgetown. She lives with Grandpa Eden and Grandpa Elliot, who are kindly and supportive in encouraging her to do the right thing, admit mistakes and never give up. Harley strikes up an unexpected friendship with new boy Cosmo after her former friend, turned mean girl, Fenelda ensures that they both get into trouble on the first day of the new school term.

On discovering an unusual and invasive new fungus in the Iron Forest whilst carrying out a detention task, Harley persuades Cosmo to help her with an experimental biocontrol. Against his better judgement, he goes along with Harley’s un-researched plan…with ecologically disastrous effects. The story contained many elements that kept me utterly hooked; from the unusual fauna and flora of the Iron Forest, to a rebel robot uprising and even a terrifying specimen of my least favourite animal species! This is a story which I would have loved myself at 8/9 years of age and which I highly recommend to all readers of 8-11. The story rattles along at a great pace, chapters are short and the frequent illustrations give plenty of pausing space for readers who are in need of the occasional break in text. If you are encouraging a KS2 child to join in with the summer reading challenge this year, do encourage them to read Harley Hitch and the Iron Forest.

Spring/Summer 2022 picture books from Catch A Star and Little Steps

Catch A Star and Little Steps are the imprints of New Frontier Publishing dedicated to producing top quality books for babies, toddlers and early years children. I am always delighted when they send me a package of books to review as I know that I will find titles that are carefully designed to engage these age groups, present positive messages and provide vocabulary building opportunities and awareness of the world.

Clementine’s Bath

Cover illustration by Annie White, published by Catch A Star,
April 2022

This rhyming, beautifully illustrated story will appeal to children aged 3-6 whether they have a pet dog or not. Clementine, as drawn by Annie White, looks like an adorable family pet, with a coat as crinkly and soft-looking as a favourite teddy bear. On the first spread she is seen enjoying the scents from the garden flowers…but there, lurking in the lower right hand corner is a little hint of the assault on the senses to come! Yes, Clementine finds and overturned dustbin and delights in rolling around in the rubbish, meaning that she will need to be bathed.

I am looking forward to sharing this charming book with the youngest relative. There is so much energy portrayed in Annie White’s beautiful artwork as the multi-generational family try to catch Clementine and she tries to hide in various places around the house and garden. Her final journey to the bath is laugh-out-loud fun! At the end of the story there is an utterly delightful plan of the house and garden, showing the story journey. I haven’t seen this used in a book for this audience before and I think it is a brilliant idea which I can see being used by Key Stage 1 teachers as part of the early geography curriculum.

Clementine’s Treasure

Cover illustration by Anne White, published by Catch A Star,
May 2022

This is a perfect picture book to share with little ones over the Platinum Jubilee weekend. As in the previous Clementine title, Annie White’s engaging, rhyming text is accompanied by her warm, stylish illustrations. This time Clementine is confused by the energy going into cleaning the house and baking a huge, celebratory afternoon tea. The activity is explained when the glamorous Queen arrives, only to have her prize jewel swiped by Clementine who rushes out to the garden to play with her glittery new toy. When the Queen pauses her cupcake consumption long enough to notice the missing necklace, the entire family search their home, inside and out…finally finding it in a location that will make young children roar with laughter!

The beautiful, expressive illustrations of a multi-generational family, their cheeky canine and assorted chickens, provide so much interest for young children. Again, there is a super story map at the end, so that children can track the action of the narrative and Catch A Star have provided teacher notes here.

Little Days Out: At the Pool

Cover illustration by Sally Garland, published by Catch A Star

A top quality lift-the-flap board book in bright, primary colours, At the Pool is the perfect title to share with babies and toddlers as the weather warms and trips to the pool become a possibility. The happy, positive illustrations by Sally Garland depict all the common scenes you would expect from a visit to the swimming pool, from the reception desk, to the changing rooms, the pool itself and finally the cafe for a post-swim snack. The simple clear text outlining baby’s first pool visit with her Dad and big brother introduces new vocabulary and the “flaps” are perfectly designed and robust enough to provide hours of fun. I highly recommend this to nurseries, pre-schools and parents/carers of children from 6 months of age.

Meadow & Marley’s Magical Mix

Cover illustration by Natalie Creed, published by Little Steps, 1st June 2022

Meadow and Marley are on a mission to understand their heritage in this wonderful picture book written by Katie Mantwa George, who is herself of mixed South African and British heritage. It is a truly empowering story of twins Meadow and Marley who use a trip to the outdoor food market with their mum and aunt to try to discover why the family are constantly asked where they are from. It is such a clever concept to use a situation that will be familiar to most young children to explore multi-culturalism, and the explanation of their “magical mix” by mum is a beautiful summary and celebration of a mixed heritage. The gorgeous artwork by Natalie Creed highlights the positive benefits to us all that stem from a society that is inclusive of all nationalities and combinations of nationalities, including happy smiling depictions of adults and children of many ethnicities, and a mouth-watering selection of cuisines.

This is a fantastic book to share with children of 3-6 years of age, everyone can see themselves represented within the pages, and definitely one that school’s could add to their Empathy Day reading lists.

I am most grateful to Catch A Star and Little Steps Publishing for sending me review copies of this picture book selection, in return for my honest opinion.