#MGTakesOnThursday: The Thieves of Ostia by Caroline Lawrence

This is a weekly meme started by @marysimms72 on the brilliant Book Craic blog.

MG TakesonThursday
Image created by @MarySimms72 and used with permission.

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.

thieves ostia


Author: Caroline Lawrence

Illustrator: Peter Sutton and Fred van Deelen (mosaic)

Publisher: Orion Children’s Books

Favourite sentence from Page 11: “They had almost reached the umbrella pine when the boy looked back, stopped, and reached towards his belt.”

This book in three words: Ancient Roman Adventure

Once again for this feature, I am returning to a book which I read several times before I started my blog. As you can probably tell from its battered appearance, this book has been much-loved by my family. My chosen sentence marks the point when Flavia Gemina, the central protagonist and only daughter of a widowed Roman sea captain, is rescued from a pack of wild dogs in the necropolis behind her villa. Her noble rescuer is Jonathan, a teenage boy who has recently moved in next door. Together with an African slave-girl, Nubia and a mute beggar, Lupus they set out to investigate who is responsible for killing the dogs of Ostia and find themselves delving into the criminal activities of the ancient Roman port of Ostia.

I love this book and the subsequent sixteen in the Roman Mysteries series which still sit proudly on a bedroom bookshelf. In classic ‘whodunnit’ plotting Caroline Lawrence dispenses her knowledge of the classical world with such lightness of touch that children cannot help but absorb facts as they accompany the young detectives through thrilling adventures. I cannot recommend this series highly enough to any Key Stage 2 child studying the Ancient Romans, and for adults who read these as bedtime stories I can only say that I have found myself answering “University Challenge” questions purely based on knowledge gained from The Roman Mysteries!

One final comment, if you ever get the chance to take your child to one of Caroline Lawrence’s events, book a ticket immediately. Her talks are utterly fascinating, she answers all questions with kindness and she signs books with a phrase in Latin, which is totally inspiring, especially for children who attend state school and might not get this inspiration otherwise!




#MGTakesOnThursday: Mickey and the Animal Spies by Anne Miller

This is a weekly meme started by @marysimms72 on the brilliant Book Craic blog.

MG TakesonThursday
Image created by @MarySimms72 and used with permission.

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.


mickey and animal spies


Author: Anne Miller

Illustrator: Becka Moor

Publisher: OUP Children’s

Favourite sentence from Page 11: “Mickey was craning her neck as she tried to read (and answer) Rachel’s homework over her shoulder as they bumped their way through the city’s winding roads.”

This book in three words: ciphers, animals, humour

I’m highlighting Mickey and the Animal Spies this week because I don’t think it has had the attention it deserves as a thoroughly engaging introduction to the spy – mystery genre for MG readers. My full review can be read here: Mickey and the Animals Spies by Anne Miller

Review: The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski


I had seen a lot of praise for this book on Twitter and was delighted to be approved by NetGalley and Hachette Children’s for an eARC to review.

Without delay, I have to say that I loved L.D. Lapinski’s world-building, protagonists and ability to combine an important message within a fast-paced contemporary fantasy for MG readers (thanks to blogger Lily Fae for the genre description).

The two main protagonists, Jonathan and Flick, are fully realised characters who fully engage your interest and sympathy from the moment you meet them. The progression of their relationship throughout the arc of the story is entirely believable and emotionally involving. Both characters are old before their time, with the weight of responsibility on their young shoulders. Jonathan, an eighteen year-old who dresses like a Victorian has been left as the sole custodian of The Strangeworlds Travel Agency since the death of his mother and the disappearance of his father. He is lonely, bewildered and mourning the loss of family. Meanwhile, Flick has been the archetypal latch-key-kid on an inner city housing estate whilst both parents worked long hours to keep the family afloat. The arrival of a baby brother, Freddy and a move to a house in the village of Little Wyverns has made Flick feel even more alienated and resentful that she has to take responsibility for many household chores.

Flick longs to travel and when she stumbles into the shabby, old-fashioned Strangeworlds Travel Agency with its curiously stacked multitude of suitcases, her dreams come true, albeit in an unexpected fashion! Once she overcomes Jonathan’s passive-aggressive sarcasm and proves her previously undiscovered magical abilities she joins him on a quest to discover the whereabouts of Daniel Mercator, his missing father.

From the moment that Flick takes a leap of faith into one of the suitcases in which Jonathan’s great-great-great-grandmother Elara trapped magical schisms between worlds in the Multiverse, the adventure takes off. Each suitcase has an individual destination and the author’s imagination conjures deserted beaches where you can taste the salty air; a forest world populated with forever-children; Coral City with its candy coloured landscape and extraordinary gravity, and the multiversal hub, the fragile City of Five Lights. 

I don’t want to give away any plot spoilers, but the tension ratchets up as the plot races to its conclusion, with valuable messages about the devastating impact on a world greedily exploiting its irreplaceable resources, and the power of “ resolve, wrapped in righteous ferocity and fear “ to achieve the seemingly impossible. I loved the way that the story ended on a cliff-hanger, and cannot wait to read the next instalment.

I will certainly be adding this book to my library shopping list when it is published in April, when I am sure it is going to be extremely popular with fans of Harry Potter, The Train to Impossible Places, Rumblestar and The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet.


Dragons for St George’s Day!

I thought that for St George’s Day I would give a shout-out to my favourite dragons in MG literature. So, in no particular order, here they are:


Dragon in LibraryIn  The Dragon in the Library  by Louie Stowell, we meet Draca, the giant sleeping dragon who resides deep under The Chatsworth Library where librarian Faith allows her young apprentice Kit, and her two best friends Alita and Josh into the secret of library dragons. I love the idea of a dragon being kept happily asleep by visiting librarians reading her stories, and the theory that profoundly shocking world events occur when dragons are awoken from their slumbers. Quite wonderfully, this book also features Dogon, a cute half-dog, half-dragon, who I sincerely wish lived in my little school library! Perfect for newly confident readers of 7+, or as a whole class story.

book dragonThe Book Dragon  by  Kell Andrews, features a dragon who remains nameless throughout the story. In this book which again celebrates the joy of reading, an important message is delivered about thinking for yourself. The town has banned books and indeed anything written on paper for fear of the Book Dragon who lives on the outskirts of town. It is said that she will appear to steal your books and then return the following night to search for more. However, when Rosehilda investigates for herself, she finds that the bookish dragon has entirely different motives and a happy solution is found to suit all parties. This picture book is ideal for children of 4+.



IMG_3401Dirk Dilly the hero of Dragon Detective: Catnapped by Gareth P Jones, fits all the tropes of a private investigator from the classic black and white movies. Sitting with his feet up on the desk of his unkempt, office with smoke unfurling from his nostrils, I can absolutely imagine him talking out of the side of his mouth with Humphrey Bogart’s voice! Of course Dirk Dilly has actually exhaled that smoke because he is a dragon! To be precise: an urban-dwelling, green-bellied, red-backed mountain dragon. Although projecting a hardened, cynical shell, his soft heart is slowly revealed as he works alongside his young client (Holly Bigsby) to unravel the mystery of the disappearing cats. A funny, exciting story for children of 8+.


RumblestarFrom Rumblestar by Abi Elphinstone, Arlo the miniature, blue dragon who belongs to impulsive and reckless Utterly Thankless. must be one of the cutest dragons to appear in literature. Although tiny, there is no doubting Arlo’s huge heart as he demonstrates true bravery in protecting  both Utterly and Casper Tock, a nervous but ultimately heroic boy who has accidentally stumbled into the kingdom of Rumblestar. Arlo is one of many things to love in this exciting and imaginative adventure. Suitable for children of 8+.



Harry PotThere are a number of dragons to choose from in the Harry Potter series, written by J.K. Rowling but my personal favourite is Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback, hatched from an egg by Hagrid in the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.  Hagrid has wanted a dragon all his life and ignores the ruling, against owning them, by the Warlock’s Council of 1709 when presented with the opportunity to hatch a large black dragon egg. I love the way that JK Rowling wrote this magical creature into the story, and in so doing provided a marvellous insight into the character of Hagrid, a true giant of MG literature. The image of Hagrid bucket-feeding Norbert with a mixture of hen’s blood and brandy has remained lodged in my mind since I first read this book to my children nineteen years ago!

boy grew dragonsIf you happen to discover an unusual looking, spiky, plant with yellow and orange tendrils resembling bursts of flame in your vegetable patch, then, beware. You too might be about to grow dragons like Tomas, The Boy Who Grew Dragons written by Andy Shepherd. You’d better hope that they turn out like Flicker, the cutest little dragon ever to hatch from a dragon fruit, with his smoky little hiccups and out-of-control arrowhead tail. Of course, having a pet dragon can have drawbacks and there are plenty of comic moments to laugh at in this wonderfully entertaining book for anyone of 7/8+.



Smaug from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien the majestically avaricious dragon from The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet  by Martin Howard are rather less cute and cuddly than those previously mentioned. Both sharing an obsession with guarding a sizeable haul of treasure and behaving in a less than welcoming manner to those they suspect of coveting their hoards! Both of these fearsome reptilians stand in the way of the heroes being able to fulfil their quests. Can Bilbo Baggins and Alfie Fleet outwit their dragon foes? If you want an exciting, mythical quest read The Hobbit, if you like laughs and adventure in equal measure, read The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet!

Do you have a favourite Dragon? Which dragons have I missed? Let me know in the comments below.

#MGTakesOnThursday Alfie Fleet’s Guide to the Universe by Martin Howard

MG TakesonThursday
Image created by Mary Simms and used with permission.

This is a weekly meme started by Mary Simms on the brilliant Book Craic blog.

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: Martin Howard

Illustrator: Chris Mould

Publisher: OUP Children’s Publishing


Favourite sentence from Page 11: “You’re all bird-people here on Winspan. Very interesting,” said the Professor.”

This book in three words: Hilarious, Cosmic, Adventure

There is nothing like humour to encourage young readers to enjoy a book, and this one from Martin Howard offers more laughs per page than anything I’ve read since …The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet. Read it, but just make sure you’re not drinking at the time, unless you enjoy the prospect of tea exploding from your nostrils!

My full review can be read here. Alfie Fleet’s Guide to the Universe

Review: Kitty and the Sky Garden Adventure by Paula Harrison, illustrated by Jenny Løvlie

Kitty skygarden


This is the third magical Adventure for Kitty, a little girl who has inherited her mum’s cat-like superpowers and one day aims to follow in her mum’s paw prints to become a superhero!

For the time being she is happy to pull on her supercat costume, with its billowing, black cape, and skip over the night-time rooftops with her many feline friends, enjoying gentle adventures from which they all learn essential life lessons.

At the start of this story, Kitty and her rescue-cat Pumpkin are visited by their friend Pixie, who arrives to tell them about a magical rooftop garden she has heard about. Kitty is seeking inspiration for a school project so the three of them set out on a night time expedition across the town, with Kitty using her enhanced sense of smell to locate the plant-filled wonderland of the Sky Garden. When they arrive her two cat companions go crazy in a capnip plant until they are scolded by an old tortoiseshell cat named Diggory. He is the guardian of the Sky Garden who explains the number of years of work that his owner, Mrs Lovell, has invested into creating this living paradise. After suitable apologies the three explorers are allowed to investigate the wonders of the garden and Kitty finds inspiration for her school garden design.

However, Pixie cannot keep the news of this incredibly beautiful space to herself, and by spreading the news far and wide causes unexpected trouble. Kitty will require all her reserves of skill and intelligence to try to rectify the damage!

This is a wonderful book for newly confident readers, and would equally make a lovely shared experience for younger, emerging readers. The story is beautifully crafted by Paula Harrison, nurturing a sense of respect for the hard work and property of others and encouraging thoughtfulness, all wrapped in an exciting adventure. The illustrations by Jenny Løvlie are wondrously striking in a palette of black, white and orange. There is so much intricate detail to explore and talk about that this book will invite hours of exploration. 

I highly recommend this book to anyone aged 4+, I am looking forward to sharing it through the school library and imagine that many children will be tempted to collect the entire series for their own bookshelves.

For my review of the first Kitty adventure please click here: Kitty and the Moonlight Rescue


Thank you to OUP Children’s Publishing for my copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Review: Jungledrop by Abi Elphinstone


I was ecstatic to be approved for an e-ARC of Jungledrop on #Netgalley and believe me, I will be buying more than one physical copy of this amazing book as soon as it hits the shops. It has totally fizzled my brain with its imaginative brilliance and left my heart quivering with joy. It is a beautiful and necessary book which will delight and entertain all readers, young and old. 

Whilst you could easily enjoy reading this book as a stand-alone adventure, you will be fully immersed in the lore of the Unmapped Chronicles if you have previously read Everdark and Rumblestar. In the latter case, you will know that ancient Phoenix magic dictates that the weather on Earth ( The Faraway ) is controlled by events in the four Unmapped Kingdoms. However, the harmonious functioning of this system is under threat from an evil harpy named Morg who wishes to control the kingdoms for her own wickedly greedy ends.

In this third instalment the future of the Faraway ( which is suffering from a year-long drought ) and Jungledrop are placed in the hands of a very unlikely pair of heroes, eleven-year-old twins Fox and Fibber Petty-Squabble. They are descended from a wealthy German family and live in the ancestral mansion in Munich, Bickery Towers. Their repulsive parents run a business empire built on lies, the family motto is:

“Do not be afraid.

To stamp all over other people’s feelings.”

Their avaricious upbringing has resulted in two children who behave like monsters but deep down feel unloved and lonely. Somehow the ancient phoenix magic has unaccountably chosen them to change the course of history! As they dash into an antiques shop, owned by Casper Tock, the fizz of magic from a long-hidden phoenix tear propels them on a journey of the heart which will determine the destiny of two worlds.

“When magic sets it’s sights on someone, it’s remarkably hard to wriggle free”

There are countless things to love about this story.

  • The brilliantly imagined land of Jungledrop, a glow-in-the-dark rainforest filled with exotically named flora and fauna. This lush landscape is cruelly scarred by burnt and barren enclaves where the greed of Morg has inflicted dark magic, and the descriptions are redolent of familiar scenes from documentaries about the devastation being caused to rainforests all over our planet. 
  • The unique, funny and inspired naming of characters: Tedious Niggle, the ghostly ticket inspectre; Heckle the “emotionally intrusive” yellow parrot; Total Shambles, the slow, ungainly but heroic swiftwing; Doogie Herbalsneeze the jungle apothecary and unicycle-riding unmapper Iggy Blether.
  • The exciting plot with its quest to discover the Forbidden Fern, the suspense and uncertainty over each of the twins’ true intent during the adventure and the perfectly described, complex emotional undercurrents.

Abi Elphinstone has an incredible talent for taking her readers on a heart-stopping journey through gloriously immersive worlds and dropping profoundly moving passages into the middle of jaw-dropping action. Her combination of playfulness, visual storytelling, obvious respect for her readership and genuine ability to include a positive message in her stories make them an essential addition to every bookshelf.

I shall finish with a quote which had me welling up, and which I will be putting on permanent display in the school library:

“To be kind is to be strong. And, if you’re strong enough to pull down a wall around your heart, you can fight with the strength of a warrior because then you will have learnt to love!”


Thank you #NetGalley and S&S Children’s UK for allowing me early access to JungleDrop

Blog Tour: Alfie Fleet’s Guide to the Universe by Martin Howard, illustrated by Chris Mould


With a loud toot on Betsy’s horn, I welcome you to my stop on the blog tour, where I am honoured to join a troupe of wonderful children’s book bloggers, to bring you Alfie Fleet’s latest adventure.

The amazing and frankly alarmingly inventive imagination of Martin Howard has taken off on another fantastic journey through the lesser-known planets, and here he explains a little of his creative philosophy! Over to you, Mart…

So, here we are again. Hullo, and it’s good to be back at V’s View From the Bookshelves with everyone’s favourite reviewer, our fabulous host – the one and only Von Price! Let’s give her a big hand …

*Wait for standing ovation*

Von Price, everybody. Isn’t she great? Love the book bloggers. Heart-shape. OK, settle down, we’ve a lot to get through. So, I’m back to bang the drum for the second instalment of Alfie Fleet’s fantastical adventures. He’s off to a fresh bunch of planets, which I’m sure Von will tell you all about in the review. Meanwhile, she’s asked me to talk about how I came up with the idea and why I write funny books.

This could be a looooong piece. Sure you don’t want to talk about biscuits? Biscuits are an author thing, right?


OK then.

Let’s dispense with the how first, ‘cos that’s nice and quick. I came up with the idea of stone circles being used as portals to different places for a book called The Wickedest Witch, which was published about ten years ago. (It’s a good ‘un, by the way. Beeeyootiful illustrations. And still in print – hint, hint.) Years later, one summer afternoon, I was sitting in the garden and my train of thought took a sudden detour. It went something like this: “Pom pom pomty pom. Bees. Ooo, lovely flowers. Pom pom … hey Martypants, you should write about an interstellar cartography club using stone circles to map other planets.” I’ve no idea where it came from but that’s how Alfie was born. A few weeks later I came up with Professor Bowell-Mouvemont (or Major Bowell-Mouvemont as he was originally called). The name made me giggle and, as a writer, if you can make yourself laugh you’re halfway there …

So that’s how. Why I write funny books – that’s a much bigger question.

Hmm. Chin stroking moment. I suppose, when we get right down to the nitty of the gritty, I write funny books because funny seems to be my factory setting. My brain automatically goes for the funny side of any situation, which makes me a hoot at funerals. Now, I’m not saying I’m the world’s most hilarious person (I’m actually pretty annoying and humour is in the smile of the beholder, a lot of people don’t get mine) but I LOVE laughing, and making other people laugh is just about the best feeling in the world. I once made a friend laugh so hard she actually, properly, wet herself. And not just a little bit but a catastrophic loss of bladder control. People were putting animals on boats.

It was the proudest moment of my life.

So, I don’t think I had much choice. I once tried writing a serious YA horror novel. Total disaster. I had a cool, sassy hero lined up. He wore a nifty coat. Plus, I spent ages working out a gasp-worthy, didn’t-see-that-coming plot. In the first chapter he started telling gags. By the end I may as well have had vampires wearing false noses and bonking their victims over the head with rubber chickens.

At that point, I discovered it was funny writing or no writing.

Beyond the fact that I love it so much though, I strongly believe that comedy is much more important than people realise, and especially for children.

Uh-oh, serious bit alert.

Humour makes a massive impact in young peoples’ lives. This we know for an actual fact. I’ve lost count of the school librarians who have told me how much they rely on funny books to turn reluctant readers into eager readers – with all the life benefits that entails – and science tells us that laughter is beneficial on every level: physically, mentally and emotionally. Funny writers – even *yikes* David Walliams – are helping children grow up well-balanced, healthier and better educated.

So, what I’m saying is that we’re basically saints, like lovely, lovely angels making the world a better place one fart gag at a time. I mean, obviously we get paid from time to time, but it’s righteous work and it drives me bonkers that funny children’s books are sometimes seen as less important than serious books like Barry Tortoise Finds Out We’re All Going to Die. For that reason, me and Rachel Delahaye – a writer who is much, much funnier than me – recently set up a blog called Snort! We hope it will grow into a place where funny books are given the attention they deserve.

In the meantime, I’m hugely – enormously – proud to have maybe helped make a tiny difference in one or two children’s lives just by writing barmy stuff about eccentric professors wearing corsets.  Every so often I’ll get a letter from a child saying how much they enjoyed something I’ve written, and how much it made them laugh. For me, more than glory or riches beyond imagination, that is the reward of being a funny children’s writer. That said, if you have any glory or riches-beyond-imagination hanging about, I wouldn’t say no.

Mwah for now


PS: for the record – a chocolate finger, if you have one.

PPS: Chocolate finger. SNORT!

Review Time!

Thank you for that Mart, and I wouldn’t say no to a little portion of glory and riches myself, or a full packet of chocolate fingers if you have any spare! Onto the review…

Firstly, let’s take a moment to marvel at the glorious cover art by Chris Mould, and let me assure you that his black and white illustrated pages will provide much amusement and enlightenment throughout the book.



It’s possible that your holiday plans this year might be disrupted, but do not worry – Alfie Fleet is back, and he wants to offer you the holiday of a lifetime!

If you read The Cosmic Adventures of Alfie Fleet you will remember that Alfie and his mum moved into Number Four, Wigless Square with Professor Bowell-Mouvement and Derek, the Under-sixteens Unnecessary Violence Champion from the planet Outlandish, where they were planning to start The Unusual Travel Agency (UTA). We rejoin Alfie as he and the Professor embark on a whistle-stop tour of their proposed destinations, putting the final touches to their information leaflets  and ensuring that sufficient travel brochures are left at each hostelry on the tour.

Unfortunately, the planet Bewayre not only proves to be a greenly-unwelcoming place, but also provides some unexpected and unwelcome guests to Wigless Square, in the form of five ragged, crusty and extremely grubby individuals who look like survivors from a Tudor disaster movie! The leader of this pack of adventurers is Sir Willikin Nanbiter, a deeply unpleasant character, former President of the Unusual Cartography Club from 1542 – 1546 (time passes very slowly on Bewayre compared to Earth). He is accompanied by his hideously snobbish wife Lady Gardenia; brow-beaten son Flem; a donkey and two rotten henchmen named Bernard Stiltskin and Incontinence Pance. Using the ancient rules of the UCC they vote the Professor out of office, reclaim control of the UCC and set about destroying the UTA.

Alfie must use every ounce of ingenuity he possesses, to lead the Professor, Derek and Flem, along with trusty Betsy the scooter, on a quest to discover the long-lost members of the UCC to outvote Sir Nanbiter. Searching far and wide for stone circles through which they can travel across the universe, their main objective is Catsic the Henge. He was last heard of on the Planet Frimp, a vast collection of tropical islands where our intrepid heroes discover that they have been pursued across 36 worlds by Nanbiter’s henchmen! Cue a fearsome pirate battle and subsequent ship-wreck.

This book is an absolute hoot from beginning to end. From the hugely inventive planets and their inhabitants (Winspan: looks like a half-chewed tennis ball and has such low gravitational pull that the population own strap-on wings) to the running gags based on the Professor’s constant confusion of words, and the profusion of toilet jokes, it will appeal to the most reluctant of readers. Of course, under the hugely entertaining jokes, there are themes of loyalty, trust and bravery as Alfie strives to meet the expectations placed upon him. The quest zips along at a great pace, with laughs and peril often combined to great effect – the gruesome duties that Alfie encounters whilst crewing on the Jewel of the Breezy Seas had me choking on my coffee!

Will Alfie fulfil his destiny and bring peace and harmony to the universe? Read this book and expect your face and sides to ache with laughter as you find out! Toot!Toot!


Thank you Mart and OUP Children’s Publishing for my review copy and for inviting me aboard Betsy for the blog tour.

Review: Planet Omar Unexpected Super Spy by Zanib Mian


 In his second adventure Omar once again puts his beaming “hypnosis smile” and “pester-power puppy dog” eyes to good use in a charming story about putting others first. 

After emptying his money box in an irreversible fashion, Omar decides to spend the £42-53 he has amassed on a Laser Nerf Blaster, much to the delight of his two best friends Charlie and Daniel. However, when mum tells him that their mosque needs to raise funds quickly for vital repairs, kind-hearted Omar not only donates his Nerf money but also embarks on a fundraising mission.

Omar is the most delightful character and the interactions with his friends, his lovely family and his neighbours are relatable and heart-warming. His attempt to give his tired mum a five-senses spa is laugh-out-loud hilarious, and his secret hiding place for his cash is ingenious as well as giggle-inducing!

The fun element of the book is enhanced by Nasaya Mafaridik’s illustrations and the interesting use of fonts throughout the book. Omar, Charlie and Daniel embark on organising a talent show with the support of their perfect teacher, Mrs Hutchinson, and usually grumpy headteacher and the evening is a runaway success. Then disaster! The money they collect goes missing and suddenly their spying talents are called into action as they set a series of rib-tickling traps for their suspects. 

This book has already proved very popular with children with whom I’ve shared it. Firstly the humour is perfectly pitched for children of 7+. Secondly they were very interested in the way that details of Omar’s religious practice is incorporated into the story, and how many similarities there are between this and the Christian practices we are familiar with. I think this is a huge strength of the book, giving children (and adults) an insight into a kind, fun and loving Muslim family and breaking down barriers. I imagine that Muslim and British-Pakistani children will enjoy seeing themselves reflected so positively by Omar, Maryam and Esa.


I received my copy of this book from Toppsta and Hachette Children’s Publishing in exchange for an honest review.


Review:Jasper Dog Books by Hilary Robinson

What a joy to discover the utterly charming, funny and informative Jasper series! These books have colourful and engaging covers, are illustrated throughout with delightful black and white drawings, and most wonderfully have been printed on off-white paper using the Open Dyslexic font. I am passionate about finding books which make reading pleasurable for dyslexic readers and firmly believe that what is good for dyslexics is good for all readers. Some young dyslexic readers have told me that they found the spacing between lines to be really helpful in allowing them to read these books easily.


Review: Jasper Space Dog by Hilary Robinson


The first book in the series was published in 2019 to mark the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. It is cleverly structured as a series of letters written between eight-and-a-half year old Charlie Tanner, on behalf of his dog Jasper, to a rocket scientist Dr Isabella Starr (girl power ). Jasper would like to become a space dog! He already has his moon boots and enjoys strutting around the local park in them, but he requires Charlie to ask a rib-tickling range of questions on his behalf before he ventures to the moon. This is such an engaging device as Jasper’s questions definitely reflect the hugely imaginative ideas that spring from the minds of young children. As I read the increasingly funny questions with a big smile I was delighted that the eminent scientist’s replies to Charlie acknowledged the humour in the enquiries, especially the suggestion to explore explosive chocolate as rocket fuel.

So much care has been taken in the compilation of this book, right down to the final chapters summarising the information discovered so far and then expanding on factual information about moon expeditions. Books which entertain and educate seamlessly are to be greatly valued and I highly recommend this to all schools and to any family looking for a book to engage a reluctant reader and help them discover the joy of books.


Jasper Viking Dog by Hilary Robinson


The second book in the Jasper series follows the same pattern as book one, this time Charlie’s letters are addressed to Astrid the Curator of the local Viking Museum. Jasper has heard that actors are required for the Viking exhibits and believing that he might have Viking roots would like to volunteer as a Viking dog! The humorous letters from Charlie yet again had me snorting with laughter, in particular Jasper’s rapid increase in age, as he convinces himself that he is indeed a Viking dog, and his theory that his friend Bruce descends from a line of Viking Berserker dogs! Each of Charlie’s outlandish questions are answered with great attention to detail by Astrid, thus presenting a host of fascinating Viking facts in easy to assimilate chunks.

Another highlight of these books is the care taken (by Lewis James, under the mentorship of experienced children’s book illustrator, Mandy Stanley) to design the illustrations.  Throughout the text there are intricately detailed drawings of artefacts or appealing cartoon-ish representations of Charlie and Jasper’s ideas, perfectly placed for children whose eyes need a break from reading at regular intervals. The illustrations in these books are .

I hugely recommend these books to any school classroom or library collection, and only wish they had been available when a certain member of my own family was of primary-school-age.


My copies of Jasper Space Dog and Jasper Viking Dog were gifted to me from the publisher, I am planning to order further copies for the library collection.