Blog Tour: Kitty and the Starlight Song, written by Paula Harrison, illustrated by Jenny Løvlie

Published by Oxford University Press, artwork by Jenny Løvlie

I am delighted to be joining the blog tour for the eighth book in the delightful Kitty series. These beautifully crafted stories are so much loved by young readers that I’m honoured to be introducing you to the latest adventure of junior superhero Kitty.

For anyone who has not yet met her, Kitty is an ordinary primary school child by day, but when evening falls she dons her cape and mask and the cat-like superpowers that she has inherited from her mum allow her to scamper across the city’s rooftops with her feline friends, solving problems and righting wrongs. Kitty and the Starlight Song like the other books can be read as a standalone story, although it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to resist reading more from the series once you’ve encountered Kitty on a moonlight adventure.

This story begins in the school hall, with Kitty and her class rehearsing for the school concert. In a scene which will be immediately relatable to young readers, Kitty is a bundle of nerves as her turn to sing a solo line of the song approaches. As the teacher plays her accompaniment, poor Kitty cannot find her voice and her cheeks grow hot as some of her classmates turn to stare at her silence. She returns home and shares her worries about her upcoming performance with her loyal cat Pumpkin, and resolves to practise hard over the next two days. However, her rehearsal plans are set aside when another of her feline friends Figaro is hurt as he tries to help Kitty apprehend a jewel thief. Kitty invests all of her energies in taking over the planning for Figaro’s birthday party to cheer him up and distract him from his mortification at having to wear a plastic collar! She rushes around the city gathering tasty treats, decorations and guests to create a perfect evening for her friend.

She pictured Figaro lying in the dark and feeling sad about his birthday. ‘I bet he isn’t asleep yet. Let’s get everything ready and then we can knock on the window! He’ll be so excited when he sees the decorations’

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Paula Harrison’s gentle storytelling is perfectly pitched for a readership in the 5-8 age range, although I have seen older children enjoying these stories too. She builds suspense and excitement but there is not so much peril that sleepless nights will ensue, indeed I would suggest that Kitty and the Starlight Song would make a lovely shared story at bedtime. Kitty and the Starlight Song is fully illustrated on every page in distinctive black, white, grey and orange by artist Jenny Løvlie. The gorgeous images, filled with detail, movement and personality complement the text perfectly and give young readers time to pause and reflect during independent reading. At just over 100 pages, Kitty and the Starlight Song is the perfect length to give newly confident readers the warm glow of satisfaction at reading a whole book alone and the design and size of the book is ideal for small hands.

If you know a Key Stage 1 or lower Key Stage 2 child who loves adventure, pets and problem solving, and you want to provide them with a story full of friendship, kindness, action and overcoming nervousness, look no further than Kitty and the Starlight Song.

My thanks to Liz Scott and Oxford University Press (Oxford Children’s) for providing me with a review copy and inviting me to join the blog tour. Do read the reviews from my fellow book bloggers throughout this week.

Cover art by Jenny Løvlie, published by OUP on 2nd September 2021

My reviews of earlier Kitty stories can be read here: Kitty and the Moonlight Rescue and Kitty and the Sky Garden Adventure

Review: How Was That Built? written by Roma Agrawal, illustrated by Katie Hickey

Cover illustration by Katie Hickey, published by Bloomsbury 16 September 2021

Today I bring you a review of a stunning non-fiction title, due to be published on 16th September, and I can already say that this will be one of my top five books of 2021! It continues Bloomsbury Publishing’s recent trend of re-working adult non-fiction into a format suitable for both children and also adults who might not have the time to read the heavier text content of the adult version. The author, Roma Agrawal, is a structural engineer who is well known for her contribution to the promotion of the engineering profession and her communication skills make this book soar as high as the skyscrapers she constructs. Her engaging explanations of engineering and construction techniques are perfectly complemented by Katie Hickey’s beautifully precise illustrations. This allows the text to be formatted into bite sized chunks which are easily digestible for younger readers as they are able to read and easily refer to the relevant diagrams.

The language is technical, Roma never patronises her young readers, but explanations are given relating complex engineering principles to scenarios which are easily understood. For example the stresses on a supporting beam are compared to trying to bend a carrot, just one example of suggested activities that can be carried out at home or in the classroom. The book fully explores the multi-disciplinary nature of engineering and construction, within its covers you will learn about architecture, chemistry, computing, geography, geology, mathematics and physics, and their relationship to engineering.

Structurally, the book demonstrates different engineering techniques in the context of a specific building. The challenges of the construction, the materials and equipment used, the geological or geographical hurdles are all examined and a human face is put on the stories with mini biographies of engineering pioneers. For example, The Shard on which Roma worked is used to talk about the challenges of building very tall buildings. The Thames tunnel demonstrates tunnelling techniques; the Sapporo dome is used to talk about constructions with moving parts and the culturally-sensitive Te Matau Ā Pohe bridge shows how to design in an earthquake zone. I have always been fascinated by arches and domes in ancient buildings that I have visited on city breaks and therefore appreciated the explanation of how to build a dome, as illustrated by The Pantheon, a breathtaking building constructed nearly 2000 years ago.

Additionally, there are fascinating pages about construction materials, their evolution and some of the prominent names in their development. Who could have imagined that cement, glass or bricks could be so interesting? The horizon scanning in the section about future building materials also provides interesting facts about biomimicry and robotics.

Text by Roma Agrawal, illustrations by Katie Hickey, published by Bloomsbury Publishing

The challenges of building on ice or under the sea provide two of my favourite sections in the book. The British Antarctic Survey’s Halley VI research station looks like something my children would have constructed from Lego, but has had to factor in so many different elements to cope with the harsh climate of the ice shelf. The undersea Ithaa Restaurant in the Maldives looks utterly fantastic in Katie Hickey’s artwork. Finally, the book ends with an Engineers’ Gallery in which female engineers and engineers from multi-cultural backgrounds are featured, continuing the author’s mission to promote her discipline more widely.

Roma Agrawal is likely to encourage many more young people to consider a career in engineering through this wonderful book. Additionally, she enlightens many more of us in the complexities behind our built environment. I know that I will look with more educated eyes the next time I find myself sightseeing or in a city surrounded by high rise buildings.

I would urge all schools to get hold of a copy of this book. It answers so many of the questions that curious children ask and I can imagine it being hugely popular with the group of children who prefer non-fiction to fiction. It will be a brilliant resource for DT projects, especially the annual bridge building construction sessions. Although it is primarily aimed at Key Stage 2, I wish it had been available when one of my own children worked on an engineering project in Key Stage 4 as it would have provided excellent background information on which to build! If you want to buy a book as a gift for an inquisitive child, make it this one!

I am very grateful to Bloomsbury Publishing for sending me a copy of How Was That Built? in exchange for my honest opinion.

Review: What it’s Like to be a Bird written by Tim Birkhead, illustrated by Catherine Rayner

Cover illustration by Catherine Rayner, published by Bloomsbury, 19-08-2021

A fantastic example of non-fiction aimed at children, What it’s Like to be a Bird is written by renowned ornithologist and Professor of Zoology, Tim Birkhead and illustrated by CILIP Greenaway Medal-winning artist Catherine Rayner. The combination of real science presented in colourful, eye-catching large format is as engaging as it is educational. The cover gives a clear example of the delightful illustrations, brimming with personality, to be found within, and every detail of this book from its size, hardcover and beautiful endpapers painted with speckled bird’s eggs speaks to its quality.

After an introduction which taps into the desire to fly that most of us have experienced at some time, each double page focuses on one aspect of bird behaviour as illustrated by a particular species. After initially pointing out that there are some similarities between birds and humans, the rest of the book highlights the diversity to be found in the class of birds and the range of adaptations displayed by birds which have enabled them to inhabit all the continents of the globe. The spreads are fully illustrated in Catherine Rayner’s sumptuous muted watercolours, with the text arranged in paragraphs blended with playful font effects.

As each bird is examined, its extraordinary skills and behavioural patterns are recounted in story-like prose which is easily understandable but does not talk down to young readers. Scientific vocabulary is used and explained precisely. The sections have titles that might be found in a chapter book; The Hunter Who Listens, Falling from the Skies and Sledging for Beginners are some examples. The book is therefore equally suited to being read aloud by an adult to share with children, or read and understood independently by Key Stage 2 or even advanced Key Stage 1 readers. Within the pages you will learn which bird has the most light-sensitive eyes of any animal species; which bird loses half of its body weight whilst waiting for its egg to hatch and which bird flies non-stop for eight days on its migratory journey between Alaska and New Zealand. Tim Birkhead shares his expertise with a light touch, comparing the incredible skills exhibited by the birds with everyday objects and phenomena with which children can easily relate. In my opinion, this is a marvellous gift to present to children; first rate information in a format that they can easily comprehend.

I absolutely love this book and know that I would have loved it as a child; I can still remember my primary school Year 3 teacher who signed our whole class up to be young ornithologists, constructed a bird table outside our classroom window and instilled a life-long love of birds. Whilst my knowledge and interest back then was based on observation of the natives of Hampshire (I clearly remember the excitement when a nuthatch clambered up the bird table) I would have been fascinated to learn about the symbiotic relationship between honey guides and humans, the local accents of macaw parrots and the carrying-pouches hidden under a male sungrebe’s wings. As with all the best children’s books, I learned something new from reading it, an amazing fact about the robin which I will leave you to discover for yourself. I highly recommend this book as an addition for all school libraries and classroom bookshelves. It would also make a beautiful gift for any primary school aged child, a fountain of knowledge that they will enjoy referring to time and again.

I am most grateful to Bloomsbury Publishing for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

#20 Books of Summer 2021: Mickey and the Trouble with Moles by Anne Miller

I’m kicking off my #20BooksofSummer Challenge hosted by Cathy who writes the marvellous 746books.com blog, with a smart, entertaining and funny book aimed at the Middle Grade market: Mickey and the Trouble with Moles written by Anne Miller and illustrated by Becka Moor.

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I was delighted to discover that a second Mickey adventure, written with wit and whimsy by Anne Miller and wonderfully illustrated by Becka Moor, had been published last month as I adored the first in the series, Mickey and the Animal Spies. This book starts with a recap of the essential facts and can therefore be read as a standalone…although I would strongly urge you to read both!

Michaela Rose Thompson (Mickey) might appear to be an ordinary girl who dutifully attends school and gymnastics lessons and reliably takes responsibility for herself when her parents are working late on their scientific experiments. However, Mickey has an unusual aptitude for code-cracking and her undercover activities as human liaison officer to COBRA, a secret organisation of animal spies, set her apart from the crowd. This time she and her animal colleagues must delve into the rogue activities of the moles, dig into their motivation for tunnelling into the United Bank’s ‘Impossible Vault’ and try to unearth the brains behind the plan. Will Mickey’s obsession with the writings of Hildegarde L. McTavish help her crack the triple encryption and rescue a comrade before the ticking clock runs down?

If you like your spy mysteries to be filled with humour, quirky wordplay and an innovative use of seagulls as anti-surveillance accessories, this is the book for you! I would imagine that Anne Miller had enormous fun playing with the tropes of classic spy fiction to create this brilliantly amusing, engaging and satisfying story. It is the perfect length for newly confident readers to finish independently, has a great balance of whole and half-page illustrations by Becka Moor and as an added bonus contains an interactive element as readers are encouraged to crack different ciphers throughout the narrative. I enjoyed reading it enormously and know that it would have been devoured by my youngest had it been around when she was in primary school. As if things couldn’t get any better, it ends on a cliff-hanger, leaving this reader and I’m sure many others, hungry for book three!

This will be an excellent addition to classrooms, school libraries and home bookshelves for anyone of 8+, the blend of animals, spy mystery, humour and illustrations wrapped in a cracking plot making it one of those perfect books to read for pleasure.

I am very grateful to Liz Scott and Oxford Children’s Books for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

10 books of summer
Image created by Cathy at 746books.com and used with permission

One summer, three months, 10 books! Thank you Cathy for hosting!

#20 Books of Summer 2021 hosted by Cathy at 246 Books

10 books of summer
Image created by Cathy at 746books.com and used with permission.

I’m hastily posting before the end of the month, that I am looking forward to again taking part in the #20BooksofSummer Challenge hosted by Cathy who writes the marvellous 746books.com blog.

Since moving jobs at the start of this year, I will no longer have a long summer holiday in which to read therefore I am going to set myself the modest target of 10 books this summer! I have to admit that after a long day spent mostly staring at a screen, there are some evenings when I just can’t face reading for an extended period, so I definitely cannot consume books as quickly as I used too. Looking back at my post from this time last year I notice that The Mirror and the Light is making a second appearance, which is a prime example of my lack of reading time over the past 12 months! I am hoping to re-discover my reading mojo and just as importantly I shall look forward to reading the reviews that other bloggers, taking part in this challenge, will post.

My list contains a mixture of MG and adult books, physical and e-books. One, Purple Hibiscus, is a re-read as it is this month’s choice for one of my book groups, and the solitary non-fiction title, The Book About Getting Older reflects my new job in an NHS library. Several of the MG books have been sent to me for review by publishers and one was a very kind gift from a blogger friend, Rachael, bellisdoesbooks.wordpress.com which I feel terribly guilty for still having in my TBR stack.

7 physical books from my TBR
3 e-books, 2 of which are book group choices

So, here it is; one summer, three months, 10 books! Thank you Cathy for hosting!

Review: Johnny Ball Undercover Football Genius by Matt Oldfield, illustrated by Tim Wesson

Cover illustration by Tim Wesson, published by Walker Books on 03/06/2021

This funny and entertaining story from Matt Oldfield, who is well-known for his Ultimate Football Heroes biographies, is sure to be a hit among football-loving primary school children. The seamless link-up play between storytelling, match reports and relentless humour will ensure that young readers are engrossed in Tissbury Tigers’ league challenge right to the final whistle.

Johnny Ball is a nine-and-three-quarter year-old football genius, who has progressed from managing his primary school team’s cup triumph, to becoming the assistant manager of local league team Tissbury Tigers. His ascent is not without its problems. The first of these is the star striker of his new team – Danny Ball, his teenage brother! Danny has “demandz”, the most problematic of which is that he doesn’t want his team-mates knowing that the new master tactician is in fact his little brother. The sibling relationship is portrayed with a great deal of humour, realism and heart and will be very relatable to young readers. Johnny’s attempts to go undercover and hide his true identity are hilarious, especially with the presence of an over-excitable mum on the touch line!

Despite these difficulties, it is not long before Johnny’s footballing brain has identified the one weak point in the Tiger’s line-up, the immobile and inept right-back, Craig Crawley, son of the team manager. Johnny has to use every last wattage of his maverick light-bulb-moment powers to constantly innovate new tactics as he attempts to lead his side to the top of the league table. Will Johnny be able to shake up the title race with the most radical tactics since a certain Frenchman replaced beer and Mars Bars with mineral water and broccoli? Can he cause the greatest upset since a team of locals became the first British side to lift the European Cup? You’ll have to get your hands on a copy of Johnny Ball Undercover Football Genius to find out!

Probably unusually for a middle-aged librarian, I have actually been a football fan all my life, thanks to a football-loving Dad, and I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It gave me many moments of recognition of time spent watching school football matches, made me laugh out loud and reminded me of the enjoyment of the sport in its purest form. I loved the way that Johnny showed remarkable resilience combined with kindness towards his players. The importance of teamwork to build success was a wonderful thread running through the story. I also admired the silky skills of illustrator Tim Wesson, whose artistry brings the on- and off-pitch action to life throughout the book. Additionally, I think it will be a heartening read for those children who are not necessarily the most skilful participants to realise that there are other ways to enjoy sport. In my opinion, this is a book likely to leave Key Stage 2 readers “over the moon”!

I am most grateful to Walker Books for supplying me with a review copy ahead of publication on 3rd June 2021.

Review: Keep Calm by Dr Sharie Coombes, illustrated by Katie Abey and Ellie O’Shea

Illustrations by Katie Abey and Ellie O’Shea, published by Studio Press Books

This is a fantastic activity book overflowing with great advice for young people to help them deal with the worries and anxieties which may have arisen during the COVID-19 crisis. It has been written by Dr Sharie Coombes who is a child and family psychotherapist and I love the reassuring tone that she sets for her young readers. She does not talk down to her audience but provides child-friendly explanations to help young people understand the way the body reacts to stress. For example, she tells us about the amygdala in the ancient limbic system of the brain and how its function is to warn us about anything which could become a problem, but calls the amygdala Bob, a loving but slightly daft guard dog. The lovable illustration of Bob is then used throughout the book to explain how the activities can help to calm Bob and stop him barking unnecessarily. 

The activities themselves can all be added very simply into daily routines and include mindful breathing, colouring, craft and artwork, reframing thoughts from negative to positive, spending time outdoors and even some basic yoga poses. The friendly doodle-style illustrations help add to the cheerful, mood-boosting tone of the book. I would say that all the activities are suitable for children of 8+. At the end of the book there is advice for parents carers and guardians, including contact details for a number of support services. This would be suitable for classroom or home use.

Overall, I would recommend this slim volume as a great addition to your collection for helping children who may be experiencing some negative impact on their mental health following the strange times we have all lived through in 2020 and 2021. I have been actively searching for books to add to a children’s mental health collection and I am happy that Keep Calm is now on my list.

I am most grateful to Toppsta and Studio Press Books for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

#MGTakesOnThursday: Agent Zaiba Investigates The Haunted House written by Annabelle Sami, illustrated by Daniela Sosa

Image created by @MarySimms72 and used with permission.

This is a weekly meme started and hosted by @marysimms72 on her brilliant Book Craic blog which I urge you to read. Additionally, 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.
Cover art by Daniela Sosa, Published by Little Tiger Press

Author: Annabelle Sami

Illustrator: Daniela Sosa

Publisher: Little Tiger Press

Favourite sentence from Page 11: ‘But even if these events aren’t caused by a ghost, we simply have to investigate’.

This book in three words: Inclusive – Detective – Mystery

Agent Zaiba and her team of young detectives from the Snow Leopard Detective Agency are back for their third adventure and this time there may be supernatural forces at work!

Who or what is behind the spooky events at Oakwood Manor, where vases crash to the floor splintering into thousands of shards, plates fly from the kitchen shelves and expensive jewellery vanishes into thin air? With talk in the village of ghostly hauntings or wicked jinn persecuting the new owners of the ancient manor house, it is up to Zaiba and her cool-headed team of junior investigators to discover the true culprit.

In a gripping plot filled with strange disappearances, secret passages and a cast of suspicious grown-ups, young readers will be engrossed in trying to sift the clues from the red herrings. This story fits all the conventions of the “cosy crime” genre, from the setting in a grand manor house surrounded by ancient woodland, to a house party taking place on a storm-ruffled evening attended by a collection of guests exhibiting perplexing behaviour. The short, dialogue-filled chapters generate excitement and tension but in a style and tone perfectly suited to readers of 9+. The addition of Daniela Sousa’s lovely artwork highlights key points in the story and gives young readers a chance to break from the text and mull over their deductions and theories.

Middle grade readers have an amazing range of detective mysteries to choose from these days, I find myself quite envious! (In my childhood the choice was Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew and then Agatha Christie). The Agent Zaiba books have hugely broad appeal because they are so effortlessly inclusive of everyone. This inclusivity is embodied in the main protagonist Zaiba, who, in each story welcomes new recruits into her detective agency with appreciation for the unique talents that they bring to her team. In Zaiba’s character Annabelle Sami has created a wonderful role model for young readers; demonstrating the benefit of teamwork, openness to all possibilities, positive encouragement and leading by example. All of these empowering messages are encased in an entertaining mystery story – what more could you ask for?

Agent Zaiba Investigates The Haunted House will be published on 1st April 2021. If you can’t wait until then to join Zaiba’s team of investigators, check out the first two books in the series:

Agent Zaiba Investigates The Missing Diamonds

and

Agent Zaiba Investigates The Poison Plot

I am grateful to Little Tiger Press for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

#MGTakesOnThursday: The Exploding Life of Scarlett Fife by Maz Evans, illustrated by Chris Jevons

Image created by @MarySimms72 and used with permission.

This is a weekly meme started and hosted by @marysimms72 on her brilliant Book Craic blog which I urge you to read. Also, 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.
Illustration by Chris Jevons, published by Hachette Children’s Group

Author: Maz Evans

Illustrator: Chris Jevons

Publisher: Hachette Children’s Books

Favourite sentence from Page 11: 

“Then Miss Hugg went very quiet and William U got Mr Nibbles and I got some BIG FEELINGS about it”

This book in three words: Fun – Feelings – Family

I know that we have not yet reached the end of March but I already feel sure that this will be one of my books of the year when December arrives. Anyone who has spent any time reading with children will know that a funny book will keep them engaged, entertained and contribute to a love of reading and stories.  When that book is written with such skill that it delivers a laugh in practically every paragraph and, underneath the laughter, contains some powerful life lessons, it becomes a treasure in every classroom, library and home.

Scarlett Fife is instantly relatable, an almost-ten-year-old girl with the sorts of worries that any school child will recognise, including wanting to win sufficient “positivity points” to gain the ultimate classroom reward, fending off one particular classmate’s unpleasant behaviour and worrying about losing her best friend to the popular “new girl”. On top of that, her engineer mother is exhausted from working extra hours “to make ends meet” because her stepdad Jakub has been dismissed by his racist boss. This results in the sort of oversights which are huge to a school child like forgetting to send in Scarlett’s spending money and lunch order for a school trip.

However, Scarlett’s biggest worry is her tendency to experience BIG FEELINGS and subsequent temper loss. She describes the way the anger bubbles up inside her tummy until it explodes out of her in language that will ring a bell of recognition with many. We are led to understand that this trait has frequently landed her in trouble, and now Mum has laid down the ultimate Mumishment! If Scarlett loses her temper again she will have her long anticipated trip to Super Mega Awesome Sicky Fun World theme park cancelled. Thus Scarlett must try to contain her anger throughout the provoking situations she faces…with hilariously explosive consequences.

She can rely on her best friend Maisie for sensible words at crucial moments, although Maisie’s use of Latin expressions was the cause of much merriment from this reader. The level of humour in this book is outstanding, with jokes and asides which will have adults and children in fits of giggles. William U, the source of many of Scarlett’s enraged moments is blessed with the Chinook of helicopter parents, who constantly excuses his bad behaviour with an imaginative list of syndromes and Scarlett’s definition of an executive head teacher made me snort with laughter!

I do not want to give away too many plot details for fear of ruining your enjoyment of this story but instead will say that I loved it on so many levels. Firstly the uproarious humour. I honestly laughed out loud at many situations, word plays and misunderstandings scattered throughout the plot. This really is a book which will be enjoyed as much by adults who might read it aloud as the children who are listening or reading it independently. Which brings me to my second point; it is another wonderful example of illustrated fiction which makes the reading process relaxing and enjoyable for those children who are still on their way to mastering the process of reading independently. 

Then there is the representation which flows so naturally throughout the book and ensures that many children will see their own experience or that of their classmates on display. Scarlett’s parents have an amicable divorce ensuring that Scarlett feels loved and valued, but she herself compares this to a classmate whose parents do not have this mature relationship. Scarlett’s stepdad Jakub is Polish and her real Dad has only one arm and hardly ever uses his “Prosecco” arm. Much of the plot is built around the upcoming wedding of Scarlett’s Auntie Rosa, a high-powered lawyer to Auntie Amara, a creative therapist. As prejudices to some of these characters are mulled over by the childlike fair-mindedness of Scarlett’s voice, readers can see the obvious message that everyone should be valued for who they are.

Finally, through the different voices of wise adults, Scarlett comes to understand that anger is natural, can in some cases be used to positive effect and that there are strategies she can use to deal with her feelings rather than having to bottle them up inside.

This is a marvellous book, bursting with joy and good sense and celebrating love in its many forms. I am sure that it will become a much-loved addition to your classroom, library or home and I certainly hope that there will be more books featuring Scarlett Fife.

I am grateful to NetGalley and Hachette Children’s Books for access to an eARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

#MGTakesOnThursday: Mort the Meek written by Rachel Delahaye, illustrated by George Ermos

Image created by @MarySimms72 and used with permission.

This is a weekly meme started and hosted by @marysimms72 on her brilliant Book Craic blog which I urge you to read. Also, 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: Rachel Delahaye

Illustrator: George Ermos

Publisher: Little Tiger Press

Favourite sentence from Page 11: 

“ But the crowd wanted to LIVE, so not one of them said or did anything.”

This book in three words: Outrageously gruesome humour!

Imagine being the only pacifist living on Brutalia, ‘an island of terrifying ugliness’ ruled over by a fearsome and pitiless King and Queen. Then imagine being not just a pacifist but the nephew of the island’s overworked executioner. Take one more step along this imaginary path and picture yourself being forced, by the Queen, into taking over your uncle’s role at the execution of your best friend!

If your curiosity has been tweaked at this point, you really need to read Mort the Meek, the darkly hilarious tale of a boy facing an impossible situation in a land where hope and friendship seem doomed. Will Mort, the island’s solitary pacifist, be able to walk the walk of the most brutal brute in Brutalia? His powers of resolve, ingenuity and cunning will be put to the test in a series of fearsome challenges as he tries to remain true to his principles without losing his head! 

Rachel Delahaye has packed this story with unlikely occurrences, fabulous wordplay and the kind of slapstick, gruesome violence that makes young readers snort with laughter. When Mort meets a friend named Ono and discovers that some of the inhabitants of Brutalia are prepared to defy the wicked rulers’ decrees, he glimpses a small possibility of hope amongst the hidden marigold fields.

Featuring a running commentary at the start of each chapter by the island’s ravenous ravens which is not for those of a weak stomach, this is a subversively comic tale about standing up for your beliefs, being unafraid to be different and the importance of friendship. The illustrations throughout by George Ermos perfectly capture the unhinged details of daily life in Brutalia. The sentence that I selected at the top of this post reminds us that bad things happen when collectively we are afraid to speak out and Mort’s story shows that even small, solitary voices speaking out for what is right can bring about change.

You can find teaching notes, created by Scott Evans, to accompany this book on the Little Tiger Press website.

Mort the Meek is published on 4th March 2021 and I am most grateful to Charlie Morris at Little Tiger Press for sending me a review copy ahead of publication.