#MG Review: Rainbow Grey – Eye of the Storm by Laura Ellen Anderson

Cover image by Laura Ellen Anderson, published by Farshore

Banish the gloom and journey to The Weatherlands to join Ray Grey and her friends on their second whirlwind adventure! I couldn’t have wished for a more appropriate book to read on the weekend that the UK was battered by winter storms. This story erupts with vivid world building, meteorological characters and excitement of hurricane proportions.

Ray Gray is the only Rainbow Weatherling to have lived in The Weatherlands for the last one thousand years, and is still trying to get to grips with her magnificent magical powers. In addition, she is made to feel “othered” as her magic stands out from that of the Cloud, Rain, Sun and Snow Weatherlings amongst whom she lives. The importance of her loyal friends, Snowden Everfreeze and Droplett Dewbells, the reformed Rogue Weatherling LaBlaze Delight, as well as her explosive cloud cat Nim is central to her wellbeing and self-belief; a theme which will be relatable to many young readers.

When Ray’s fledgling grasp on her magic is blamed for the disappearance of the baby cloud creatures from their puff pods, a cloud detective, Agent Nephia Weatherwart arrives on the scene. However, Ray’s suspicions are heightened when she begins to see a glowing eye symbol at the site of every cloud creature disappearance. As the City of Celestia begins to fragment, it appears that legendary Rogue Weatherling, Tornadia Twist has returned and is threatening the very existence of The Weatherlands, with ominous knock-on consequences for the weather on Earth. The future of the kingdom depends on the bravery of Ray, Snow and Droplett, ably assisted by LaBlaze. They must travel to the eye of the storm and hope that Ray can summon and master the magic of the entire tribe of Rainbow Weatherlings to break Tornadia’s dark spell. As the tension rises the reader finds the pages turning as quickly as if blown by a hurricane-force wind and then there is a powerful moment where time almost stands still. The eye of the storm! Ray’s  bravery rises in relation to the threat to those whom she loves most, as well as the very future of cloud magic and the weather on Earth. This is a fantastic story of determination, bravery and friendship set in a perfectly imagined fantasy kingdom with relatable and inspirational characters, brim full of humour and action.

There are many elements which I loved; the imaginative character names, the world building complete with illustrated map, the pacing of the plot and the underlying ecological theme which is carefully threaded through the plot, just enough to spark thoughts about the causes of extreme weather. It it touches the full spectrum of emotions from Ray’s feelings of being “othered” at the opening family party; her deep feelings of gratitude for the friendship displayed by Snow and Droplett; her fear, anxiety and ultimate bravery in the face of dark magic; and the explosive relief offered by humorous situations usually centred around the antics of Nim her adored cloud cat.

I can imagine Rainbow Grey – Eye of the Storm, being hugely appealing to readers of 8+ from the moment they see the gorgeous rainbow coloured cover and the bright orange sprayed edges! Laura Ellen Anderson’s expressive and delightful illustrations appear throughout the story, sometimes as full pages, sometimes panels and sometimes just on page edges or chapter titles. I applaud this attention to design which makes the story accessible to readers of any ability, which is so wonderful for inclusivity in the classroom. I highly recommend this to every school library, Key Stage Two classroom and for anyone who wants to buy a child of 8+ a book which will which they will thoroughly enjoy reading. With the UK celebrating World Book Day, the event which promotes reading for pleasure, next week, I recommend adding Rainbow Grey – Eye of the Storm to your reading choices!

I am most grateful to Hannah Penny and Farshore for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

#MGTakesOnThursday: Otherland by Louie Stowell, illustrated by George Ermos

Graphic by @MarySimms72, Cover image by George Ermos, published by Nosy Crow 2021

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: Louie Stowell

Illustrator: George Ermos

Publisher: Nosy Crow

Favourite sentence from Page 11: 

Myra’s mum honked her red nose, which meant she was indeed interested in some chai, and the adults filed off into the kitchen.

page 11

This book in three words: subversive fairy tale

I missed reading this book when it was first published last year, although I do remember it getting rave reviews at the time. Therefore I was extremely pleased when Otherland was chosen as the Primary School Book Club read for January 2022 and this time around I am thrilled that I had the time to enjoy it. Louie Stowell has created a playfully subversive fairy tale that can be enjoyed by middle grade readers and older (in my case, very much older) readers alike. She plunges you into a fully realised fantasy world, where your expectations are turned on their head in a whirlwind of dark humour and relentless action!

Myra and Rohan are connected by a strange coincidence. They were born on the same day, in the same hospital, and both had to be resuscitated after birth. That is where their similarities cease. Wild and impulsive Myra lives with her larger-than-life mother at the poorer end of town and seems to actively attract trouble, whilst cautious, well-behaved Rohan lives with his perfect family in a quiet, leafy neighbourhood in a well-ordered, predictable style. This doesn’t stop the two families getting together every year to celebrate their joint birthday. As Myra reluctantly accompanies her mother across town to spend her eleventh birthday afternoon with Rohan she considers that:

Standing next to him felt like turning up to school in your dirty pyjamas when everyone else is wearing perfectly ironed white clothes.

page 3

This is such a clever analogy, conjuring up the anxiety dream that so many children experience on the last night of the holidays and giving such an early insight into Myra’s feelings of discomfort and unworthiness. Her feelings of rejection are compounded when she overhears her mother talking to the other adults about the difficulties of starting a business whilst caring for a child.

However, life is about to get exponentially more complicated for Myra. In the chaos generated by the secret stash of fireworks she has brought to the party, Rohan’s adored baby sister, Shilpa, is stolen through a portal to Otherland, a vividly imagined, mildly terrifying fairy kingdom! Here, the wicked fairy queen Gloriana wishes to change Shilpa into a green-skinned, vicious fairy. Rohan and Myra are guided by an exiled fairy, Mab, into the presence of Gloriana where they are inducted into the Knight Game; three fiendishly difficult tasks to accomplish in order to free Shilpa and escape back to the real world. These challenges take place against a backdrop of kaleidoscopic landscapes inhabited by a cast of sharp-toothed, sharp-clawed and poisonous foes.

I don’t want to reveal any more plot details for fear of spoiling the fun for anyone who has yet to read Otherland. However, the clever weaving of aspects of myth and folklore with an entirely original, almost surreal depiction of the fairy kingdom, allied with one character who does not necessarily wish to escape from the evil queen’s clutches, make this story a unique reading experience. The characters, both good and evil, spring from the page fully-formed. Their dialogue drips with wry humour and every chapter abounds with labyrinthine plot twists. I enjoyed the way that Myra and Rohan’s distaste for each others’ personalities gradually turned to self-reflection and eventual mutual support and friendship. I have a huge soft spot for Rohan and his big-brotherly love for little Shilpa and I hope that the final chapter of Otherland leaves the possibility of further adventures to come!

Review: Noah’s Gold by Frank Cottrell-Boyce, illustrated by Steven Lenton

Cover image by Steven Lenton, published by Macmillan, 2021

I have been a huge fan of Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s writing since discovering Millions and reading it aloud as a bedtime story almost 20 years ago. His children’s stories are as appealing and enjoyable for the adults who might read them aloud as they are for the children who listen to them, or read them independently. He is an entertainer, who hooks you from page one and sets you down gently at the final page where you might think “that was fun” and rush off to play football or you might start to think about the clever way that he has wrapped a modern dilemma in a coating of humour and warmth and passed on some of his gentle brand of wisdom in the process.

Noah’s Gold is told in the form of (unposted) letters home from eleven-year-old Noah, who has inadvertently stowed away in the luggage compartment of the minibus taking his older sister Eve on a school geography trip. The irony of geography teacher Mr Merriman missing the intended destination of the Orinoco Wonder Warehouse “the internet with a roof on” because he has put too much faith in the SatNav is just the start of a series of mishaps associated with modern technology which power the story. The drama and humour increases with every epistle, as the group of children stranded on an uninhabited island after their minibus plunges off a cliff and their teacher vanishes, face a series of challenges whilst learning to live without modern technology. Noah blames himself for breaking the internet and his attempts to find the location of the re-set button for the submarine transatlantic internet cable, whilst convincing the older children that they are on an island treasure hunt, take readers on a joyful journey of discovery.

I am not going to describe any more of the plot because I don’t want to ruin a moment of your enjoyment of the way in which this narrative unfolds. I adored the way that the children’s characters are revealed. They each have their unique personality traits but are fully rounded and believable in their conversation and actions. Noah is small in stature but huge-hearted, always fair and determined to do the right thing. Eve is an individual who exudes inner confidence and natural leadership. Her persuasiveness can be overwhelming at times but when family duty calls, she proves herself to be the big sister that everyone would want in a time of crisis. School Council representative Lola, who wears the school first aid kit like a badge of honour, takes on the responsible adult role. Ryland, the screen-obsessed gamer appears to be rather self-entitled at first but grows into a team player as he realises the value of real friendship compared to his online “tribe”. Dario with his scientific approach to everything likes to establish the “fun fact” in every encounter whilst Ada exhibits awe and wonder, seeing the magic in everything she observes on the island of AranOr.

As the children adjust to life without the internet and are no longer distracted by their screens, they all begin to observe and appreciate the natural beauty of the island. They work together and learn to communicate and collaborate. In one particularly touching scene they all use the old-fashioned handset in the island telephone box to “talk” to their families in order to share their worries. As well as communication, the importance of sharing food runs through the story, from Noah’s realisation at the start that the sandwiches he has made for Eve might be a danger to a nut-allergy sufferer to his knack of cooking up a feast for six famished children from scavenged tins and wild food; a skill honed by his family’s reliance on food banks. Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s use of child-friendly food imagery adds another layer of delicious insight into Noah’s character, so at one point he finds himself “perched on a tiny rock the size of a Colin the Caterpillar chocolate cake” and describes the front end of the wrecked minibus as “concertinaed like a melted Viennetta”.

I loved absolutely everything about this book; the way the plot unfolded, the children’s characters, the villains, the humour, the illustrations by Steven Lenton, the strong sense of family and the discovery by a group of children, from a school named in honour of St Anthony of Padua, of the most valuable treasures in life. I highly recommend for anyone of 9+, to be enjoyed at home, in school or public libraries and in the classroom. Noah’s Gold is without doubt one of my favourite books published during 2021.

#MGTakesOnThursday: Star by Holly Webb, illustrated by Jo Anne Davies

Image created by Mary Simms, book cover illustration by Britta Teckentrup, published by Little Tiger Press

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: Holly Webb

Illustrator: cover Britta Teckentrup, internal Jo Anne Davies

Publisher: Little Tiger Press

Favourite sentence from Page 11: 

If it doesn’t start before you go to bed tonight, you will wake up to a white world tomorrow, I’m certain.

Baba talking about expected snowfall, on p11

This book in three words: Tiger – Snow – Determination

This book contains all the elements of a perfect tale to enrapture a middle grade readership; bravery, determination and adventure in a wintry landscape with a sprinkling of magic and huge downfalls of snow! The black and white illustrations throughout give children at the younger end of the MG readership a chance to linger over details and contribute to the satisfaction of independent reading.

Anna is staying the night at her Russian grandmother’s (Baba’s) flat in London, excitedly anticipating the snowfall that the heavy clouds have been promising all afternoon. When her Baba promises Anna that she will wake to a snowy landscape, Anna does not realise quite how different her world will look in the morning!

Shortly before going to bed she watches a news report about a tiger on the loose, close to where her cousins live in Russia. She falls asleep clutching a small wooden tiger which her uncle has carved for Baba and when she awakes the following morning, she has magically inhabited the body of her cousin Annushka and shares breakfast with her cousins, aunt and uncle in their snowbound Russian house! The talk of the village is the sighting of a tiger which seems to have strayed towards the human settlement from the neighbouring forest. Children are warned to stick close together on their way to and from school, but during a game Anna/Annushka is separated from her cousins and has a close encounter with the tiger, which she realises is a young and frightened, underfed cub.

The sensation of locking eyes with a scared, wild, creature makes Anna determined to help it, despite the sensible and kind wisdom presented by her father about the dangers of feeding a wild predator. Can she rely on his advice to wait for the people from the wildlife sanctuary to come and take the apparently orphaned cub away for re-wilding, or will she need to act to prevent the village hunters or even poachers seal the cub’s fate? You will have to read this exciting, heart-warming adventure, set in a frozen, snow-covered landscape to find out. Holly Webb has an incredible talent for weaving beautiful stories around animals and pitching them with the perfect level of peril and tension for young MG readers. I highly recommend Star for animal-loving children of 8+.

I am most grateful to Little Tiger Press for my review copy of Star in exchange for my honest opinion.

If you enjoy this story and wish to read another wintry, sparkling and magical adventure by Holly Webb, why not try Frost, a time-slip adventure set in London?

#MGTakesOnThursday: Between Sea and Sky by Nicola Penfold

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: Nicola Penfold

Illustrator: Kate Forrester

Publisher: Little Tiger Press

Favourite sentence from Page 11: 

“It predates not only the floods and the Hunger Years, but the Decline, and even the Greedy Years before that. It’s from when the land was still healthy enough to farm, before the poisons and the saltwater got in.”

Cover art by Kate Forrester, to be published by
Little Tiger on 8 July 2021

This book in three words: Environment – Family – Metamorphosis

This is an incredibly beautiful and powerful story set in a near future coastal community on the east coast of England. The extract that I have quoted from page 11, locates the reader in the space with great economy, as it describes Crier’s Windmill which will become a pivotal location in the story. As the book opens, you join Nat and his two best friends Tally and Lucas as they set off on their bicycles for summer holiday pranks and dares amongst the sterile landscape of the solar fields and Edible Uplands factory farm. It cleverly positions young readers in a recognisable activity before the clues about this dystopian future lead to the realisation of how society could be changed following ecological disaster.

Meanwhile, sisters Pearl and Clover, live with their father and their collective grief on an oyster farm; a ramshackle structure of narrowboats and the remnants of an offshore oil rig, held together as precariously as their family, with bindings that require constant re-knotting to stop the construction coming apart. We quickly learn that siblings are not allowed in the district of Blackwater Bay, where the feared Peacekeepers remove illegal second children, issue civil disobedience points and regularly send unlucky trespassers to the prison ship which is anchored further out in the bay. A visible reminder to all that resisting the state rule will be punished.

The two existences come together when Nat’s mum, Sora, a senior scientist, is sent by the District Controller to study the farming methods pioneered on the Oyster Farm to try to enhance food production for the district. When the “landlubbers” relocate to the feared world of the water, Nat brings some uninvited guests – jars of caterpillars that he has collected from the wild thistles in the solar fields. This act of rebellion (all pollinators are claimed by Central District) sets a metamorphosis in motion that will affect more than just the lepidoptera.

Nicola Penfold has written an exquisite story which brilliantly captures some of the pressing concerns of our age, she has crafted memorable characters and a plot that simmers with tension and edginess as the storm brews in the background. Her love of the natural world shines through the narrative which is peppered with a feast of Easter eggs in the form of the names of both human and non-human characters. She acknowledges the fact that children show far more awareness and concern about the environment and the plight of migrants than many adults; this is perfectly encapsulated by Pearl:

“You’re missing all of it because you’re not bothering to look! None of you are!”

I am sure that this book will prove to be extremely popular with upper Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 children, I can imagine it becoming a favourite whole class read, perhaps to accompany topics on global warming or food production. It is also a book that many adults would benefit from reading; a perfectly assembled plot with a thoughtful and valuable message. I loved it.

I am very grateful to Little Tiger Press and NetGalley for allowing me early access to an electronic version of this book which will be published on 8th July 2021.

Review: Skyborn by Sinéad O’Hart

Cover art by Sara Mulvanny, published by Little Tiger Press

If you want an MG story to grab you by your emotional lapels and hurl you back and forth like a trapeze artist’s swing, then buy your ticket to Cyrus Quinn’s circus, take your seat in the big top and enjoy the show!

From the opening line of the prologue I was absolutely enthralled as Ester defied her mother’s instructions and began her perilous journey upwards. As her dreams of flight segue into her son Bastjan’s story, I couldn’t tear myself away from his quest to investigate his mother’s past and return an ancient treasure to its rightful owner.

Sinéad O’Hart’s writing is lyrical, big-hearted and utterly compelling. She effortlessly brings Bastjan’s character to life on the page, the reader feels the warmth and love with which Crake, the circus strongman, provides protection and support for the young, orphaned tumbler. This is brilliantly contrasted with the cold tyranny with which Quinn treats his stepson as he tries to reverse the fortunes of his foundering business. Since the death of his star performer, Ester, who held the crowds enraptured with her Dance of the Snowflakes trapeze routine, the crowds have dwindled and Quinn will seemingly stop at nothing to replace her. But what was the secret of her aerial ability, and has her son inherited her fearless talent?

The arrival of an upper-class runaway, Alice Patten, proves the catalyst for twists and turns in the plot that build to a crescendo of explosive action. I will not go into any details for fear of ruining your enjoyment of a story with more thrills and spills than a tent full of acrobats. Suffice to say that the immaculate world-building combined with wonderfully drawn characters make this a book to be savoured, it is a hugely enjoyable work of speculative fiction combining a brilliant blend of circus, steampunk and fantasy. It will be massively enjoyed by confident readers of 9+ and would make an excellent whole class or bedtime story which I am sure that adults will enjoy as much as their young audience; just be prepared for constant pleas for “one more chapter”!

Skyborn will be published on 10th June 2021 and I am most grateful to Little Tiger Press for providing me with a pre-publication copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

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.

#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.