Review: Call the Puffins! by Cathy Howe, illustrated by Ella Okstad

Cover image by Ella Okstad, published by Welbeck Publishing, 2nd March 2023

It is time for Muffin the Puffin to leave the safety of the underground burrow she has shared with mum and dad and fly with them to the Island of Egg to join the puffin training colony. On the one wing she is excited to begin her training but on the other wing, worried about passing the training challenges required to be recruited into “the Unflappables” the elite corps of rescue puffins!

This gentle and fun tale of teamwork, hard work and purpose, which reflects children’s experiences of being in new surroundings or joining a new class or a club, models the behaviour that enables friendship development, wrapped in a flapping good story. Cath Howe brings all the skill that I have admired in her books for a middle grade audience, this time delivering drama, humour and the cutest bundles of feathers imaginable. The greyscale illustrations by Ella Okstad are full of life and joy and I am sure will make young readers want to discover more about these beautiful seabirds. Fortunately this can start in the non-fiction section at the end of the book, providing some fun facts about puffins.

Call the Puffins! has been carefully designed to appeal to children who are gaining confidence as independent readers. The font is clear and nicely sized, with plenty of white space. The short chapters, 120 page length and liberal use of illustrations ensure that youngsters can gain that sense of achievement that results from being able to read a whole book and I am sure that this is a book that children will be queueing to borrow from the classroom or library shelves. An ideal choice for children of 6-8 years old.

My thanks to Welbeck Publishing and Antonia Wilkinson for my review copy of Call the Puffins! which was published on 2nd March 2023 and is available from book sellers now.

MG Review: Rainbow Grey Battle for the Skies written and illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson

Cover illustration by Laura Ellen Anderson, published by Farshore, 2nd February 2023.

The third and final book in the Rainbow Grey series is an epic final showdown between the good rainbow magic of Ray Grey and the dark, monotone forces of Weather Rogue, Tornadia Twist. Readers will be swept up in the story as easily as a leaf in a hurricane, there is destruction and peril to leave you clinging to the arms of your reading chair, but tempered with the humour, hope and honour that make a perfect read for children of 8 years and above.

Laura Ellen Anderson has written the perfect ending to Ray Grey’s journey from outsider to fully-fledged heroine in a series which introduces readers who are growing in confidence to the delights of following a character through a story arc across multiple books. However, knowing that purchasing books is likely to become a luxury for many families, I particularly applaud the succinct review of previous storylines in the opening chapter. This is so important when children are relying on library or classroom book collections and cannot always obtain books from a series in the correct order. Another great joy of all the Rainbow Grey books is the magnificent artwork on every single page, whether the borders decorated with weather symbols or the half- and full-page pencil illustrations which perfectly complement the energy of the text. The map of Celestia on the opening pages along with the magical descriptions of the setting brings the fantasy setting to life to such an extent that it becomes another character in the story.

Battle for the Skies begins with Ray and her two best friends, Snowden Everfreeze and Droplett Dewbells celebrating Pitter Patter Pancake Day in the canteen of Sky Academy where all the young Weatherlings are educated. Despite the festivities and utterly delicious pancakes, Ray is totally pre-occupied with the threat of Tornadia Twist. However, in an early illustration of her character, she doesn’t hesitate to show kindness to outcast twins Frazzle and Fump, demonstrating empathy in action to young readers, as she recalls her own recent “outsider” status. When the light is suddenly cut accompanied by purple lightning flashes and the destruction of the great sunflower and Sun Citadel, Ray realises that her worst fears have been realised. But even in the darkness there is hope, as the increasingly visible bright star, which embodies her former teacher La Blaze Delight, reminds Ray that she should never give up.

With the unfailing loyalty of her great friends, plus Nim the cloud cat, Coo La La the haughty pigeon who formerly belonged to La Blaze and new-found allies, Ray Grey embarks on her mission to end Tornadia’s quest for ultimate power over the weather. The page-turning action, hilarious meteorological wordplay, weather events which include snot-nados and relentless onslaught of Tornadia’s destructive powers make this a book that young readers will not want to put down. For those who care to examine the deeper layers of meaning, there is a supremely well-crafted message of the power of the natural world and the destructive forces that can be unleashed by the actions of the greedy and power-hungry. As I read of the razing of the sunflower fields and severing of the Cloudimulus Suburbs, I couldn’t help my mind turning to the images we are presented with daily from Ukraine. This is the superpower of great children’s literature, the ability to create empathy by engaging the imagination in an age-appropriate manner.

If you wish to put an immersive, satisfying adventure story into the hands of a reader of 8+, get hold of a copy of Rainbow Grey Battle for the Skies, it will be published on 2nd February 2023 and is available for pre-order from all good bookshops and hopefully can be borrowed from a public library near you!

I am most grateful to Farshore Books and Liz Scott for sending me a review copy ahead of publication.

My review of Rainbow Grey Eye of the Storm can be read here.

Review: The Lost Diaries of Charlie Small Vols. 1 & 2 by Nick Ward

Cover images by Nick Ward, published by Guppy Books
2nd February 2023

The Lost Diaries of Charlie Small, discovered by author and illustrator Nick Ward, are due for release in paperback by Guppy Books on 2nd February 2023. Aimed at children of 7-9 years old, they will make a great addition to any classroom or primary school library collection. Filled with doodles, maps, technical diagrams and riotous imagination, they are sure to appeal to a wide range of readers, the diary format being particularly accessible and enjoyable to read in those short bursts often encouraged in classrooms between blocks of work.

The first volume of Charlie Small’s lost diaries, Gorilla City, introduces us to twelve year old Charlie, a boy who clearly loves adventure given that he keeps a pre-packed rucksack loaded with all the essentials for a budding explorer. The stripy, ferociously strong humbugs, turning slightly sticky in their paper bag, will prove to be more useful than expected later in the story! Encouraged by his mum to make use of a break in the stormy weather and get some fresh air, Charlie sets out on the home-made raft moored on the brook at the bottom of his garden and is swept away on the rushing water into unknown territory…

As I mentioned in the introduction, the imagination runs wild in this adventure. Charlie encounters crow-sized dragonflies, a ravenous crocodile, an imperious silverback gorilla, a welcoming troupe of younger gorillas and a steam-punk rhinoceros invention designed by Jakeman’s Works, an entity which seems to be a recurring mystery in these books. The detailed schematics which Charlie has pasted into his diary will intrigue children with an interest in STEM subjects and the fast-paced, perilous encounters that Charlie describes will keep young readers turning the pages. At just over 130 pages, Gorilla City is an ideal length to give readers of 7 years old and above the satisfaction of reading a complete book independently. It ends with Charlie being hurled into a new environment and sets readers up to seek out the next set of diary entries…

Pirate Galleon, The Lost Diaries of Charlie Small Vol. 2 takes up at exactly the cliffhanger on which Gorilla City ended, with Charlie in the vice-like clutches of a crew of female pirates!

Escaping their first demand upon his life, he joins them as the captive cabin boy aboard the pirate ship The Betty Mae and is kept constantly exhausted from his duties cleaning and cooking for the motley crew. Despite his disapproval at their lifestyle, Charlie becomes an asset to Captain Cut-throat and her crew, fending off a variety of foe which include: a monstrous sea slug, a giant octopus and most fearsome of all, Thief-taker Craik who puts a huge bounty on Charlie’s life. Another invention from Jakeman’s Works makes a crucial appearance in this story, and once again the book is laced with fabulous illustrations, ingenious inventions and swashbuckling fun.

Will Charlie Small ever manage to free himself from his seafaring shackles? You will have to read his second volume of lost diaries to see where the ocean currents carry him.

I am most grateful to Liz Scott and Guppy Books for my gifted copies of these two books ahead of publication on 2nd February 2023.

Chapter Book Review: Kate on the Case – The Headline Hoax by Hannah Peck

Cover image by Hannah Peck, published by Piccadilly Press, 12th January 2023

Anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis will know just how much I love a good whodunnit, give me a novel with a mystery at its centre and I will generally read the book in one sitting. This was certainly my experience on picking up The Headline Hoax, the third mystery in the Kate on the Case series! I adored every single aspect of this book!

Let’s start with the fact that Hannah Peck both writes and illustrates this series and performs both of these tasks with elegance and panache. The beautiful pen and ink artwork which is liberally highlighted in a golden yellow, perfectly combines with the precisely worded text to invite the reader into the offices of The Lookout Post and does not allow you to leave until the mysterious hoaxer has been uncovered. The Lookout Post is a grand old newspaper and the publisher of undercover scoops by famous investigative reporter, Catherine Rodríguez, Kate’s ultimate idol. Visiting as a birthday treat with her Dad and faithful mouse sidekick, Rupert, Kate finds herself invited to the luxurious top floor offices of Figgy Fitzharris III, the CEO of the grand publishing institution. There she is tasked with a mission; to uncover the hoaxer who is sabotaging the newspaper which has resulted in some seriously embarrassing headlines.

As she carries out her investigation from editing suite to printing press, Kate meets an intriguing cast of characters, all of whom are brought to life with subtle wordplay. From Hilda Hoop the fashion editor, through Smarty Jones the sports correspondent to Penny Press the eagle-eyed proofreader, each employee has their own quirks and distinctive personalities which emerge through the narrative and illustrations. Referring frequently to extracts from The Special Correspondent Manual, written by the aforementioned Catherine Rodríguez, Kate demonstrates logic, rigour and single-mindedness to sift the clues and discover the villain, aided by her small but essential friend.

In a week when I have seen and heard reports about the essential need to encourage children to read for pleasure, I can only encourage you to offer Kate on the Case: The Headline Hoax to a child of 7 years+, whether in a home, classroom or library. Although it is the third book in the series it can absolutely be read as a standalone story. I think this is so important as many children in this time of economic difficulty have to rely on libraries or classroom collections to obtain books and very often find that they cannot read a favourite series in the correct order. Independent readers will find this book an utter joy to read, with its short chapters, playful font effects and generous helping of illustrations; if you are an adult sharing the reading of this story with a less confident reader, I hope that you find as much to enjoy on its pages as I did!

I am most grateful to Antonia Wilkinson and Piccadilly Press for my gifted copy. The Headline Hoax was published on 12th January 2023 and is available from all good booksellers.

You can read my review of the opening book in the Kate on the Case series here.

Non-fiction review: Shadow Monsters & Courageous Hearts by Hayley Graham, illustrated by Tor Allen

Cover image by Tor Allen, published by Little Steps Publishing

As we see increasing reports in the media about the numbers of children suffering with mental health disorders, I am sure that this accessible text by experienced child psychotherapist, Hayley Graham, will be welcomed by many professionals working with children and young people, as well as parents and carers. This book is aimed at adults to enable them to start conversations with young people about mental health issues and is designed in a way that makes its use straightforward and accessible.

In the preface, the author is candid about experiencing her own mental health issues in her teens, following the loss of her mother, and how this has shaped her desire to help others. The book is in part a distillation of her own experiences combined with her lifelong love of stories. The format is interesting and I think many readers will find it easier to use than ploughing through a jargon-heavy psychotherapy text. Hayley Graham presents five emotionally meaningful short stories, each one carefully constructed to help children and their significant adults make sense of particular aspects of mental health. They are gentle stories, featuring animal protagonists and unpick the triggers to certain behaviours in an easily comprehensible way. The distinctive watercolour illustrations by Tor Allen add greatly to the experience of sharing these stories with a young person. Each story is followed by some suggested questions to encourage an open conversation. Then at the end of the book each story has a corresponding chapter which clearly explains the neuroscience behind each of the featured mental health challenges, providing practical techniques to help manage the issue.

The topics covered by the stories are: trauma, anxiety and OCD, attachment, shame and loss. There are top tips on how to begin talking about difficult topics and each of the stories provides the vocabulary which enables feelings and experiences to be expressed. At a time when mental health services are stretched and school staff are often left to try to deal with issues for which they have little or no training, I think that Shadow Monsters and Courageous Hearts will be a valuable resource.

You can view teachers’ notes for this book on the Little Steps Publishing website here.

I am most grateful to Little Steps for sending me a copy of Shadow Monsters and Courageous Hearts which I am very happy to recommend to teachers, librarians, school nurses and counsellors and anyone working to help children find the language to talk about mental health issues.

Review: Space Blasters ~Suzie and the Moon Bugs by Katie and Kevin Tsang, illustrated by Amy Nguyen

Book cover image by Amy Nguyen, background image copyright free from NASA, book publisher Farshore Books, 05 January 2023

Hold on to your space helmets, Suzie Wen is back for a second action-packed adventure! With foil detailing on the cover, cutely expressive illustrations by Amy Nguyen throughout and fast-paced action, this is the perfect book to encourage 6-8 year olds to read for pleasure.

Although it is the second book in the series, Suzie and the Moon Bugs can easily be read as a standalone thanks to the succinct summary of the backstory provided in chapter one. Readers are plunged straight into the inter-galactic action when TUBS (The Universe’s Best Spaceship) with the Space Blasters crew aboard is forced to crash land on Planet Zorg due to unexplained total systems failure! After hastily evacuating their damaged spaceship Captain Jane, Spaceman Jack, Suzie, Three-headed Tommy and Five-eyed Frank encounter fast growing purple grass and the unsettling replicators as they explore their new surroundings. Thanks to their pre-existing knowledge of the galaxy, the crew realise that they must seek out the knowledge worms who reside in the tunnels deep below the planet’s surface to find out how to repair TUBS. It falls to Suzie and Five-eyed Frank to resume their adventurous partnership, which is nicely balanced between friendly-rivalry and increasing mutual respect, as they venture into the dark tunnels to request assistance from the knowledge worms. The plot includes themes of never being embarrassed to ask questions and admitting and apologising for mistakes which are not dogmatic but enmeshed naturally in the quest.

Katie and Kevin Tsang have written a wonderfully engaging story in which the narrative speeds along at a cracking pace, whilst serving up fascinating science facts and gentle dollops of kind wisdom. The book is perfectly designed for young readers who are building their confidence in independent reading, with short chapters, a clear and large font and plenty of illustrations to break the text into manageable chunks. I highly recommend Suzie and the Moon Bugs as well as the first in the Space Blasters series, Suzie Saves the Universe, as a fantastic choice to offer all readers of 6+. I loved the addition of a new crew member at the end and am looking forward to the next mission, Suzie and the Comet of Chaos!

I am grateful to Farshore Books for sending me a copy of this book in advance of publication on 05 January 2023, in exchange for. my honest opinion.

Non-fiction from Noodle Juice Books – January 2023

I was super-thrilled to return home from work on my last day before Christmas leave and find a second package of books waiting for me courtesy of the new children’s publisher NoodleJuice Books. The two books within fully captured my attention, and I think that they will make excellent additions to primary school libraries or classroom collections or home book collections when they are published in January.

From the ‘little book Big Idea’ series, What is Money? will provide answers to the most inquisitive child who wants to explore this topic. The format of the two books that I have now had the pleasure to read from this series, makes the information easily accessible for children of 6 years and above. Each double page spread poses a question, exactly the sort of query asked by curious children when perhaps they’ve heard something on the news or overheard an adult conversation and want to know: what are taxes? how does money grow? or is money good? The explanations begin with a very short paragraph written in plain English which is then enhanced by small blocks of text accompanied by eye-catching illustrations. The range of questions on the subject of money is comprehensive, ranging from the purely factual to the more philosophical aspects of the good and bad outcomes that individuals can create depending on the way that they choose to use their money.

This combination of Sarah Walden’s age appropriate, clear explanations and the engaging artwork of Katie Rewse allow children the time and space to explore the topic of money and allow them to take the first steps in understanding this complex and essential factor of human society. I am so impressed at the ambition of this book and can see it being enjoyed by certain children in Key Stage 1 and used extensively in PHSE and citizenship lessons and discussions in Key Stage 2 of primary schools. It will certainly be a valuable addition to any school or home collection.

All the World’s a Stage: A Celebration of the Value of Creativity is a glorious, practical guide to performance and fills a big gap in children’s library bookshelves. When I was a primary school librarian and was trying to build a non-fiction collection which catered to the interests of all the children in school, I longed to find a book such as this which would appeal to the talented and creative individuals who loved performing at talent shows or in assemblies, or attended dance classes or music classes or showed flair for art or creative writing. Despite having a scientific background myself, I have been appalled at the low value which seems to have been placed on arts education in recent times. I believe that the UK has fostered creativity in all the arts for many years which in turn has made huge contributions to the prosperity and culture of our nation. This book does a wonderful job of encouraging children to see the value in creativity; presenting information on all forms of performance, from open mic nights to opera. There are timelines of famous musicals; facts about different stage types and famous theatres; and comprehensive details about the film and television industries.

I was particularly impressed by a section towards the end which zooms in on the many different career options available in both film and TV. Starting with a spread entitled: It’s not all greasepaint and applause there then follow pages which detail career options, explaining what the role involves and outlining the skills required for success in the role. This content is presented in coloured blocks with distinctive illustrations, very attractively and clearly laid out in a way which is guaranteed to engage readers of all ages. Readers can learn about a broad range of roles including: being a director, a writer, a set designer or location scout, a special effects technician or a costume designer amongst others. The book ends with straightforward, practical advice on how to make your own film and suggestions of websites for further reading.

I not only applaud Sarah Walden’s ambition in writing this book which is beautifully illustrated by Hannah Li, I give it a standing ovation! I would suggest that it is an essential addition to primary school libraries, Year 6 classroom libraries and Key Stage 3 libraries and drama departments in secondary schools. It would also make a beautiful gift if you happen to know a child who enjoys any kind of performance or creativity.

Both What is Money? and All the World’s a Stage: A Celebration of the Value of Creativity will be published by Noodle Juice Books on 12th January 2023 and I am most grateful to the publishers for my review copies in exchange for an honest review.

2022 Reading Highlights

So here it is; I offer you my highlights from newly published books that I’ve read this year. It is always so difficult to pick out just a few, but these are the books that have stayed in my head and my heart long after I finished reading them. I offer them to you, in case you are looking for a bookish gift and are still wondering what to choose from the huge and tempting selections on the bookshop shelves. From the sixty or so books that I’ve read this year, here are my favourites by age category.

Picture Books: For the youngest readers, this selection provides gentle stories combined with gloriously vibrant illustrations to enjoy every time the covers are opened. Read my reviews for the two Tatty Mouse stories and The Marvellous Doctors for Magical Creatures.

Illustrated Chapter Books: For any young readers who are just gaining their confidence in reading independently, the books in this selection offer entertainment presented in short chapters with the text broken up by illustrations. You can read full reviews of each story by clicking on the links: Wildsmith, The Little Match Girl Strikes Back, Rainbow Grey Eye of the Storm, Edie and the Flits in Paris and Breakfast Club Adventures The Beast Beyond the Fence.

MG Highlights: Three of my favourite MG stories were sequels and so well written that I thoroughly enjoyed them, despite not having read the first in each series: The Unexpected Tale of the Bad Brothers, The Butterfly Club: The Mummy’s Curse and Amari and the Great Game. I hope that Seed might have a sequel, the story certainly ended on a note that cries out for a follow up. Wished by Lissa Evans is absolute perfection, she is one of my favourite authors of both adult and children’s books and I love this story.

Young Teen Highlights: I highly recommend these outstandingly well-crafted novels to readers just moving on from primary to secondary school, looking for immersive and enjoyable reads with rich underlying themes. Reviews are available by clicking the links: War of the Wind, The Raven’s Song, Ghostlight and The Haunted Hills.

The YA books that I have read this year indicate to me that there has been a huge improvement in the scope and quality of books for this readership. These three are superb; a story full of righteous anger told in free verse, a reimagining of Greek myth and a deeply moving reflection on grief. Read my full reviews by clicking on the links: Activist, Her Dark Wings and Aftershocks.

Adult Books: The majority of books that I read in my bookclubs this year were not newly published, Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr I think was published just at the end of 2021, so I am perhaps cheating a little by including it here, but it held me enthralled throughout and I loved the way that the multiple narratives were pulled together at the end. Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus was a birthday present and dredged up some long forgotten knowledge from undergraduate studies, made me laugh, made me cry and was the perfect summer holiday read and I can’t even begin to describe the work of genius that is Super-Infinite.

I shall end by thanking the wonderful blogging community that I am a part of, for constant inspiration and encouragement. Thank you to the authors, illustrators and publishers who constantly strive to create books that appeal to all tastes, and grateful thanks to the book PRs who send me review copies. I hope that you’ve enjoyed some of my reading highlights from this year, let me know if you have read any of these in the comments. Wishing all my readers a very happy and peaceful Christmas, however you choose to celebrate during this festive season.

Review: Wildsmith into the Dark Forest by Liz Flanagan, illustrated by Joe Todd-Stanton

Cover illustration by Joe Todd-Stanton, published by Uclan,
2nd February 2023

This fantasy story is a clever and satisfying blend of fairy tale and ecology. A short read with fast paced chapters and illustrated throughout, it is a perfect choice for children who are emerging as independent readers. It is so important to be able to give children a wide source of reading material at this age and I feel sure that the combination of strong child protagonists, mythical animals at risk from poachers and an exciting plot will entice many readers of 7+.

From the opening line

In the morning her life turned upside down, all Rowan could think about was the race against her best friend Bella

page 1

I was gripped by the narrative and literally did not put the book down until I had finished it. I think this is a reflection on the beautiful plotting which gives children enough detail but allows the space for their imaginations to picture the setting, aided by the charming black and while illustrations by Joe Todd-Stanton. My mind conjured up a sort of mediaeval fairytale landscape, of a palace enclosed by city walls with a dark, mysterious forest wilderness beyond.

When we first meet Rowan she is living a happy carefree life inside the city walls where her father works in the royal stables and she enjoys playful days running around the city and clambering up its walls and towers with her best friend. However a war is raging with the neighbouring kingdom of Estriaand as the threat of invasion comes ever closer, her father sends Rowan and her mother away to the care of a grandfather that she has never met before. Initially Rowan is unsettled by this dislocation into the depths of the forest, but her natural affinity with her grandfather’s wolf Arto means that she soon settles in to the snug wooden house where grandfather uses his healing powers, tending to a succession of injured animals and humans.

On her first exploration in the forest beyond Grandad‘s fence, Rowan soon discovers the source of the strange rumbling sounds that disturb the peace of the forest. A patch of smouldering grass, a broken eggshell which seems much larger and thicker than any she has seen before, lead her to a small, frightened, injured dragon which has been left behind after poachers have dragged away its mother. From this point in the story the unconditional love and care of animals, both real and mythical drives the actions of Rowan her two new friends, Will and Cam.

I do not want to give away any plot spoilers but will say that the level of peril and tension is perfectly pitched for a readership of 7+. The ecological message of the threat of extinction caused by poachers who kill magnificent animals believing that their horns contain mythical powers written with a light touch, but the parallels with real life will not be lost on the intended readership. I think that this element of the story will appeal to the great sense of justice and concern for wild animals displayed by many children. In addition to being a thoroughly enjoyable adventure, I think that this book could be used in primary schools as part of class discussions around animal welfare and protection. I am delighted to see that a second book in the series is due to be published later next year.

I am most grateful to Uclan Publishing and Antonia Wilkinson for my review copy of Wildsmith into the Dark Forest in advance of publication on 2nd February 2023.

Review: Aziza’s Secret Fairy Door and the Mermaid’s Treasure by Lola Morayo, illustrated by Cory Reid

Cover image by Lola Morayo, published by Macmillan

This lovely magical adventure is written by the creative partnership of Tólá Okogwu and Jasmine Richards, who create inclusive stories under the pen name Lola Morayo. It is illustrated throughout the story in cute black and white graphics by Cory Reid; the first thing I admired was his gorgeous map of Shimmerton, just inside the front cover. I loved the style of this drawing and can imagine that it would encourage readers to create their own enchanting town maps.

Shimmerton is the setting for Aziza’s magical adventures when she steps through her fairy door. She is transported from the slightly chaotic setting of her family home, where Dad is packing the car for a family camping trip in less than promising weather! After shrinking to fairy size and growing her wings, Aziza finds herself on Shimmerton’s sunny beach. The mischievous Gigglers are noisily excavating sand for a super-sized sandcastle construction much to the annoyance of those in close proximity. Aziza skips past them to join her two close friends Peri and Tiko at the edge of the waves and there she is introduced to super-confident mermaid, Sirena and listens in awe to her stories of bravery and adventure under the ocean waves.

When the Gigglers’ antics wake a sleeping shell-seeker who has been hibernating under the sand, the very stability of all Shimmerton is under threat. Aziza and Peri are transformed into mermaids, Tiko transforms himself into an angler fish and the four friends embark on a quest to find a magical conch shell which will put the shell-seeker back to sleep and return the town to its peaceful existence. The ensuing adventure is filled with positive messages such as the importance of resilience, being your authentic self and the power of teamwork to overcome difficulties. Readers will also gain a knowledge of an incredible range of sea creatures as the quest plays out. At the end of the story there is a short “myths and legends” summary which explains the derivation of many of the character names from the myths and legends of a variety of countries. I found this utterly fascinating and I am certain that it would inspire many young readers to investigate further. It could also spark classroom discussions or projects around the beliefs or stories and legends of different cultural groups.

The length, illustrated style and short chapters in this book make it a perfect choice for children of 6 to 8 who are finding their independent reading confidence and want to get lost in a charming, enjoyable and heart-warming adventure.

I am most grateful to Antonia Wilkinson and Macmillan Children’s Books for my review copy in exchange for my honest opinion. I will be donating the book to my former primary school library, where I am sure it will be a popular choice.