#MGTakesOnThursday: The Children of Swallow Fell by Julia Green

Image created by @MarySimms72 and used with permission.

This is a weekly meme started and hosted by @marysimms72 on her brilliant Book Craic blog.

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 image by Helen Crawford-White, published by Oxford University Press

Author: Julia Green

Illustrator: Helen Crawford-White

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Favourite sentence from Page 11: The narrator of the story, Isabella rushes to the phone early in the morning, hoping that there is news from her Mamma who has not returned home since the previous day’s bombings…

” There’s a hissing sound, then silence, then her voice again, fainter”

This book in three words: Breakdown – Rebuilding – Hope

This is one of those perfectly composed books that swept me along in its enthralling narrative until I actually had to force myself to put it down and let the story percolate a little before continuing.

Narrated by Isabella in a breathless, present-tense stream of consciousness mixed with dialogue, the story immediately plunges you into a world turned on its head. From bidding “Ciao” to her best friend Marta at the school gates on page one, isabella’s leisurely journey home turns to nightmare as explosions rip through her un-named Italian city by page three. Short sentences punctuated with frantic text messages immerse the reader into the panicked crowd as it surges across narrow bridges under a sky darkening with smoke and Isabella rushes home to her anxious, artist father. The tension mounts as they await messages from older sister Gabriella, away at university in another city and mum, stuck at work in the danger zone. News and internet blackouts add to the feeling of helplessness and it becomes clear to the reader that political forces are at play of which Isabella in her schoolgirl innocence, has not been aware.

A hurried phone call from Mum, who it appears is the dynamic force of the family, orders Dad and Isabella to flee to Dad’s old family home in the north of England, where she and Gabriella will join them when they can. Their subsequent train journey had resonances of one of my favourite chapters in all children’s fiction – the escape from Berlin of Anna and her mother and brother in When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. However, in this book, the roles are reversed and Isabella must take charge of the situation as her Dad sinks deeper into confusion, depression and helplessness. 

When they eventually arrive in the empty, musty house, situated in an abandoned village in a remote northern corner of a near-future England broken by political and economic catastrophe (read into this what you will) all hope seems lost. While Dad remains shut in his bedroom, trying to draw, it is Isabella who must explore her new surroundings and try to start rebuilding their lives. When he eventually rouses himself to seek fresh supplies leaving Isabella alone, she has to rely on a pair of wild children to ensure her survival. As she adjusts to a new reality without electricity, shops and running water, Isabella’s longing for her entire family to return as the swallows do, to their ancestral home, is palpable.

I won’t go into any more details about the plot as I strongly urge you to read this book yourself and enjoy Julia Green’s supremely skilled revelation of the story. I love the spareness of her writing, with the space she allows for her readers to interpret the meaning of hints and suggestions in the text. I can see this book becoming a future classic, a vivid imagining of the results of selfish governance and the hope for a better, simpler future driven by the idealism and energy of the younger generation. I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone of 10+.

I am most grateful to Oxford University Press for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Dragon Detective Sky High! by Gareth P Jones, illustrated by Scott Brown

Cover image by Scott Brown, published by Little Tiger Publishing

The third Dragon Detective mystery, Sky High! soars into the bookstores on 1st October and I am most grateful to Little Tiger Group for sending me an early copy of the latest in a series in which I am more heavily invested than a dragon in its stash of gold!

Dirk Dilly, the orange-squash-swigging, four-metre-long, red-backed, green-bellied, urban-based, Mountain Dragon Private Investigator has been hired by Mr. Strettingdon-Smythe, the curator of a London art gallery. His mission: to investigate why and how important pieces are going missing without any evidence left behind on the electronic surveillance equipment. He is distracted from this investigation by the clumsy and destructive arrival in his office of Alba Longs, a Spanish Sea Dragon with an aversion to the ‘humano’ world, who insists that he helps her discover the whereabouts of her ‘vamoosed’ sister Delphina.

Meanwhile, Holly Bigsby, Dirk’s twelve-year-old investigative partner needs his help to discover what the world’s seventh-richest man, Brant Buchanan, founder of Global Sands and prospective employer of her step-mother is planning. He is obviously using Mrs Bigsby to acquire the top secret weapon hidden away by her previous colleagues in government but what is his target and with whom is he working?

This book is infused with the smart-talking, action-packed, cynical-PI with a heart of gold vibes you encounter in an old film noir. There are more double crosses than on a piece of third form homework (no offence intended third formers) and never before in the history of MG literature has the hyphen key been in greater demand! As with the earlier Dragon Detective books, there are laugh out loud cameos provided by hapless crooks Arthur and Reginald as well as my personal favourite, Alba finding the “shell” of a tin of beans a little too crunchy for her taste. Chemistry teachers everywhere will be dancing with joy that the process of sublimation will be so well understood by future students thanks to the unique properties of sky dragons! With action spanning the diameter of the globe, from inner core to skyscraper rooftops, readers will be left gasping for air as surely as a dragon who has swallowed a mouthful of liquid fire!

Whilst you await publication on 1st October there is time to catch up on the previous two books in the series; you can read my reviews here: Dragon Detective: Catnapped! and Dragon Detective: School’s Out!

I am most grateful to Charlie Morris at Little Tiger Publishing for an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Frost by Holly Webb

As the nights draw in and the temperature starts to drop, Frost is the perfect book to warm the depths of your heart; a magical time-slip adventure featuring a journey to the London Frost Fair of 1683. Holly Webb’s storytelling sparkles and gleams like the reflected winter sunshine on a frosty path.

Young south Londoner, Cassie, leads a solitary existence with a constant feeling of being left behind. Mum is pre-occupied with baby brother Lucas and she is considered too much of a baby to be allowed to join big brother William and his friends in their football games. One summer afternoon, whilst examining the foxgloves growing in the scrubby wasteland outside her apartment block she senses a movement and spots an inquisitive fox cub. His glorious red coat, white tipped tail and cute face enrapture her and she soon becomes bewitched by the family of four cubs, although Frost as she has named the first one to appear, is always  her favourite. Dismissing the accepted wisdom that urban foxes are dangerous pests, Cassie spends her summer holiday observing and feeding the cubs. When her school-term commences she feeds them the leftovers from her lunchbox, not realising that her secret is being observed by elderly neighbour Mrs Morris!

Cassie is shown to be a generous, warm-hearted girl. She continues to feed the hungry cubs as the seasons change and the weather turns wintry, despite being told off for doing so after Mrs Morris reports on her for encouraging vermin. Additionally, she assists Mrs Morris after finding her in distress due to the broken down elevator, leading to an unlikely friendship and an education about the history of Southwark. Her relationship with Frost develops to such an extent that when she is roused from her bed by howling on the night of the first heavy snowfall, she follows her vulpine friend into a magical adventure!

I am sure that this story will be very popular with a wide range of children of age 7 and upwards; fans of animal stories as well as fans of historical fiction ( I will be highly recommending it to all the Emma Carroll and Michael Morpurgo fans of my acquaintance). The wonderfully detailed illustrations throughout add to its charm and give newly independent readers regular resting places. It is such a heart-warming tale of kindness and friendship that I urge you to buy a copy when it is released in paperback format on 1 October and perhaps gift it to a child you love as a half-term treat or a Christmas present. As an added bonus you are able to read a sample chapter of Luna, another magical animal adventure from Holly Webb at the end of this book!

I am most grateful to Little Tiger Press for sending me a copy of this book to review in exchange for an honest opinion.

#MGTakesOnThursday: Tilly and the Map of Stories by Anna James

Image created by @MarySimms72 and used with permission.

This is a weekly meme started and hosted by @marysimms72 on her brilliant Book Craic blog.

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.
Cover image by Paola Escobar, published by Harper Collins Children’s Books
  • Write three words to describe the book
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

Author: Anna James

Illustrator: Paola Escobar

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books

Favourite sentence from Page 11: 

” I’m looking for a book.”

This book in three words: Magic – Imagination – Stories

A couple of weeks ago I used this meme to highlight my love for Tilly and the Bookwanderers, yesterday I finished reading an eARC of Tilly and the Map of Stories, due for publication on 17th September. It’s my favourite of the series so far, although it is going to cause me nightmares the next time I have to do some book-weeding in the library! Here is my review:

The third book in the Pages & Co series is a magnificent celebration of the magic of stories and an ode to the bookshops, libraries and imaginations from which they are dispensed. The love of story erupts from this novel and inflames your heart with a desire to revisit old favourites and examine their links to the newly published. Combining 21st century London tweens with a fantasy plot that includes encounters with the Great Library of Alexandria, the Library of Congress and a jaded William Shakespeare, this book takes you on an enchanted journey through literature!

Tilly and the Map of Stories begins exactly where book two, Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales ended, with the scheming Underwood twins, Melville and Decima, continuing their dictatorial reign at the British Underlibrary; pursuing their own ends whilst deceiving their followers that they are working for the benefit of all. They have begun binding the source editions of books to prevent book wandering in them…but only a small minority of independent thinkers have the courage to question why. These dissenters of course include Archibald and Elizabeth Pages (Tilly’s grandparents), her mother Bea and a group of their close friends.

I have loved this series from the moment I began reading about Tilly and her grandparents’ bookshop Pages & Co in book one. The idea of being able to wander into the pages of favourite books and share afternoon tea with Lizzie Bennet enraptured me. The addition of librarian in-jokes about cardigans and the Dewey Decimal System just made it all the more engaging. Now with this installment, author Anna James takes us on a metaphysical adventure into the heart of Story itself, conjuring an immersive literary world in which Tilly and her best friend Oskar have to delve right to the origins of Story in their attempt to thwart the plans of the Underwoods. It opens with a customer in the bookshop finding himself unable to remember anything about the book which he intended to purchase and this grasping for memories of books is repeated with other characters. Relying on Tilly’s instinct that the curious assortment of objects she has gathered during her previous adventures are clues to the whereabouts of the legendary Archivists who guard the bookwandering world, her mother Bea despatches Tilly and Oskar to Washington DC to track them down.

I really do not want to go into too much description of the plot because it unfurls so perfectly that I cannot bear to ruin your enjoyment. The labyrinthine quest leads our heroes and thus the reader into the chain of stories where it seems only natural that after travelling on a train constructed of an eclectic mix of carriages, aptly named the Sesquipedalian, you might encounter Shakespeare arguing with Scott Fitzgerald!

Tilly and Oskar are two wonderful protagonists whose relationship has developed over the series to an acceptance of each other’s moods and almost telepathic understanding of each other’s reactions at crisis points in the narrative. Their friendship and partnership drives the narrative on as they seek the truth of the Underwoods’ abuse of book magic. As always, Tilly’s grandparents demonstrate steely determination to stand up against wrong-doing and in this novel Tilly’s mother Bea has snapped out of her dreamlike state and takes agency too.  The locations, real, historical and imaginary are brought splendidly into focus by Paola Escobar’s wondrous illustrations; I would love to spend many hours browsing Orlando’s bookstore Shakespeare’s Sisters situated in a former theatre! I also love the use of typography techniques to throw the reader off-balance at times in the story.

It is obvious that I adore Tilly and the Map of Stories and I think it is a book that many adults will relish reading to their own children or to a class of children. Confident readers of 10+ will love immersing themselves in the adventure on which Tilly and Oskar embark and hopefully will engage with some of the philosophical themes: the importance of imagination and collective memory, the need to share stories for the benefit of all and the necessity to question authority when it designs rules that only enhance the experience of a few.

I am most grateful to NetGalley and Harper Collins Children’s Books for allowing me access to an eARC in exchange for an honest review. I will certainly be purchasing a physical copy as soon as the book is published later this month as this is one of my MG highlights of the year so far.

Review: Question Everything! An Investigator’s Toolkit by Susan Martineau and Vicky Barker

Cover image by Vicky Barker, published by b small publishing

This slim, colourful volume is the perfect complement to information and digital literacy aspects of the primary school curriculum and I would highly recommend it to any teacher who is delivering digital literacy lessons as part of the computing curriculum as well as to every school librarian. 

With clear explanations in short blocks of text, written by Susan Martineau, accompanied by colourful images and diagrams, by Vicky Barker, it takes the reader through different aspects of negotiating the overwhelming quantity of information available through digital and printed sources. The digital-art-style images are perfectly in keeping with the content of this helpful guide to critical literacy.

There is advice on, amongst other things, how to extract the facts from text; how to look carefully at the use of language for signs of sensationalism or advertising; how to identify primary and secondary sources of information; how to spot whether something is fake news and how to avoid being misled by statistics. On each double page spread there is an incredibly useful Words to Know panel, defining key vocabulary for each subject at the point of reference. The activity included in each section could very readily be incorporated into information literacy sessions and I will certainly be aiming to use many of them to supplement existing lesson plans. At the end of the book there is some simple but effective online safety advice about avoiding online bullying, being brave enough to take breaks from the online world and keeping yourself and your online presence safe.

There are a multitude of uses for this brilliant book in schools. For those who have the budget I would suggest a set to be used in non-fiction, guided reading in Year 4 or 5 would be ideal. As previously mentioned, incorporating the ideas and engaging practical activities into digital and information literacy lessons, whether in classroom or library sessions, would be highly beneficial in helping young people to indeed Question Everything! 

The author Susan Martineau has written an interesting article on critical literacy and the background to writing this book for the CILIP Youth Libraries Group blog which you can read by clicking here.

I am most grateful to Toppsta and b small publishing for my copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Series Review: Clifftoppers written by Fleur Hitchcock

Cover image by Tom Clohosy Cole, published by Nosy Crow

I was very fortunate to win a set of the three Clifftoppers Adventures written by Fleur Hitchcock, in a Twitter giveaway, and thought I would take the opportunity to read them before placing them on the school library shelves.

What an absolute joy these books are, the epitome of pleasurable reads!

I can trace my own voracious reading habit back to my childhood “Blyton interregnum” (thank you Lucy Mangan for that magnificent description) and know how compelling child-centred adventures can be for an emerging reader. Fleur Hitchcock, a truly talented author, has created a series which serves up the delights of adult-free mystery solving in the beautiful British countryside. As I read these stories I could almost hear the cries of the seagulls and the rattling of the masts of the yachts in the harbour, smell the farmyard aromas and feel the sting of bonfire smoke in my eyes. They transported me back to carefree childhood summer holidays!

Each book is a self-contained adventure taking place while four cousins; brother and sister Ava and Josh, and only-children Aiden and Chloe get together at their grandparents’ farmhouse during the school holidays. Grandma Primrose and Grandpa Edward own Clifftopper Farm perched above Drake’s Bay, an idyllic getaway for their city-based grandchildren. Their farm dog Bella also plays a key role in the children’s adventures. The stories have a timeless feel to them and although the children are equipped with mobile phones, moorland and coastal locations seem to result in non-existent phone signals at key moments, which perfectly heightens the tension.

These books are just the right length for emerging independent readers to read for pleasure; the short, fast-paced chapters propel you through the story and provide a real sense of accomplishment as a young reader can complete one story in a relatively short time. Just make sure that you have the next one waiting for them on the bookshelf.

The Arrowhead Moor Adventure

Setting off on their first bike ride of the holiday, armed with a delicious picnic lunch (provided by Grandad, who refreshingly does all the cooking in this series) the children and Bella are almost run over by the impatient driver of a bright red sports car. Her aggressive manner immediately leads to suspicions in the children’s minds and when Aiden overhears her having a strange conversation with the owner of The Three Witches pub, followed by Chloe eavesdropping on a mysterious telephone conversation the children decide that the glamorous woman is up to no good.

Each of the four cousins has to call on reserves of determination and bravery as they pedal across moorland paths on the trail of jewel thieves and sheep rustlers, piecing together the clues to foil audacious crimes. 

With short chapters, often ending on cliff-hangers, this is a book which provides an excellent introduction to the detective adventure genre and will have young readers avidly seeking out the next book in the series.

The Fire Bay Adventure

As the story opens the children have just arrived at the farmhouse on the day before the annual Drake’s Bay Fire Festival, at which a huge bonfire is ignited on the beach by villagers carrying flaming tar barrels on their heads. Josh, the youngest and most demanding of the cousins is rather put out to discover that his eldest cousin Ava may take part in the barrel running whilst he is firmly banned from doing so!

The story cleverly combines ancient and modern smuggling plots, with a long-forgotten secret passage which has become part of the local lore making a surprise appearance, a spate of suspicious fires breaking out and dodgy deals in electronic goods being transacted at the harbour. Again the four tenacious children, aided by Bella and a terrified homeless cat, piece together the clues, give chase to the villains and show the bravery and teamwork required to bring the smugglers to justice.

The Thorn Island Adventure

This is my favourite of the series so far, partly down to the addition of a map at the front of the book – I do love to pore over a map!

Published during lockdown, this adventure will allow young readers to vicariously enjoy a thrilling coastal getaway, even if they have spent the summer holiday firmly rooted at home. With echoes of Swallows and Amazons, the eldest of the cousins, Ava, demonstrates her prowess as a sailor in this adventure as the four children try to track down a stolen fishing boat but find themselves investigating a kidnapping.

Whilst scanning the bay and the little offshore Thorn Island in search of the missing fishing craft both Chloe and Josh spot a mysterious face in a tower window. They manage to persuade Ava and Aiden that there may be a link to the newspaper reports of a child abducted from super-rich parents in London. Their daring rescue mission will have readers breathlessly following the twists and turns required to outrun a ruthless gang on land and on sea!

I do hope that there will be further additions to the Clifftoppers series as these are books which I can imagine 8-11 year olds devouring more quickly than Josh can demolish a plate of Grandad’s scones!

#MGTakesOnThursday: Death Sets Sail by Robin Stevens

Image created by @MarySimms72 and used with permission.

This is a weekly meme started and hosted by @marysimms72 on her brilliant Book Craic blog.

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 image by Nina Tara, published by Puffin Books

Author: Robin Stevens

Illustrator: Nina Tara

Publisher: Puffin/Penguin Books

Favourite sentence from Page 11: 

” All right,” said Daisy. “But – oh, if only something interesting would happen!”

This book in three words: Detective Society Forever!

It’s been a few weeks since I read and reviewed this perfect finale to the Murder Most Unladylike series and every time I spot it on the bookshelf I just want to pick it up again! I am still in awe at the way that Robin Stevens pulled all the threads together to complete the collection and I am so pleased that the book has become so successful.

To read my full review of Death Sets Sail, please click here – you will also find links to my reviews of all other books in the series.

Review: The Humans written by Jonny Marx illustrated by Charlie Davis

Cover illustration by Charlie Davis, published by Little Tiger Group

This is the type of non-fiction book that I would have loved as a child and still adore as an adult. With its large size and sumptuously coloured pages it invites you to open it out flat on a table or on the floor and lose yourself in the detail for as long as you can spare. It is certainly a book that I can imagine returning to on multiple occasions.

The book begins by chronicling the emergence of the genus Homo from apes and the eventual dominance of Homo sapiens over the other species such as Homo neanderthalensis and Homo erectus. There is then an excellent map showing the migration of Homo sapiens from the original ancestor Mitochondrial Eve’s birthplace in or near Ethiopia approximately 150,000 years ago. Then the continents are explored one at a time, with their main civilisations and the contributions that these humans made, presented in detail. A feature which I greatly appreciated was the “Where in the World” inset on most pages reinforcing the understanding that similar advancements were being made in different parts of the globe at similar times whilst also making you realise how geography contributed to certain developments.

Small blocks of text and large, bold headings are complemented perfectly by beautifully detailed artwork, enabling reading for information as well as for pleasure. This book covers many of the topics included in the primary school history curriculum as well as many that are not. In my opinion this is what is so special about “The Humans”, it covers many ancient civilisations that are not usually taught in schools and thus helps to put different historical periods into context, aiding the reader’s understanding of the global development of humans. To give one example of this, I was astounded to find a double-page spread on the Micronesians and Melanesians containing information on the design of their sailing vessels and the many languages and cultures found on the islands. I had not heard of the term “Micronesia” until I was an adult and I heard it in an episode of The West Wing! It delights me to know that primary school children will have the opportunity to learn about the emergence of this culture.

Finally, the civilisations are organised in a timeline, which again highlights just how much of human development occurred in periods which are not explicitly taught in the UK. My overall impression of this book is perfectly summarised in the final paragraph, humans are “an intelligent and resilient bunch. We are the best problem solvers on the planet.” This book does a wonderful job of presenting the awesome achievements of humankind and I highly recommend adding it to any school or home library.

I am very grateful to Little Tiger Group for sending me a copy of The Humans in exchange for an honest review.

#MGTakesOnThursday: Tilly and the Bookwanderers by Anna James

Image created by @MarySimms72 and used with permission.

This is a weekly meme started and hosted by @marysimms72 on her brilliant Book Craic blog.

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 image by Paola Escobar, published by Harper Collins Children’s Books.

Author: Anna James

Illustrator: Paola Escobar

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books

Favourite sentence from Page 11: 

“Tilly had never been very far outside London, but she felt like a seasoned traveller within the pages of books: she had raced across the rooftops of Paris, learned to ride a broomstick and seen the Northern Lights from the deck of a ship. “

I just love the way that this quote encapsulates one of the joys of reading as well as referencing three of my favourite books published for children. It sets up the themes of this fantastic bookish adventure perfectly.

This book in three words: Books – Fantasy – Adventure

I am prompted to celebrate the first of the Pages & Co adventures by Anna James this week as I am overjoyed to have been approved for an eARC of the third book in the series, Tilly and the Map of Stories. For anyone immersed in the world of children’s literature this is a must-read; haven’t we all dreamt of being able to enter the world of our favourite books and speak to the characters who formed our early love of literature?

I think that Anna James’ writing is utterly wonderful and she absolutely captures the joy of becoming lost in a book, I highly recommend Tilly and the Bookwanderers to all confident readers, young and old, and encourage adults to read it aloud as a class reader or bedtime story to anyone of 9+.

My reviews of Tilly and the Bookwanderers and Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales by Anna James can be read here.

Review: Trailblazers Stephen Hawking written by Alex Woolf

Cover image by Lisa Uribe, published by Little Tiger UK

This is the second biography from the Trailblazers series that I have been fortunate to read and once again it delivers on the series’ goal to inspire middle-grade readers with a story of a remarkable individual. Stephen Hawking’s life story is recounted by Alex Woolf in clear language, filled with everyday analogies which enable young readers to understand his revolutionary theories.

There is sufficient detail in this book to arm young scientists with an overall understanding of some of the key questions that cosmologists have tried to answer, and inspire them to formulate new questions of their own. If you will forgive the pun, the book starts with a brief history of the theory of black holes, presenting the key breakthroughs in understanding and naming the physicists and mathematicians involved. Alongside the chronological story of Stephen Hawking’s life this book is filled with information about new theories and discoveries in the fields of cosmology and theoretical physics. For example, the reader will learn that the term “black holes” was popularized in 1967 as the young Stephen Hawking was working as a post-doctoral researcher at Cambridge University.

Many fascinating details of Stephen Hawking’s life are included, I can imagine a multitude of young readers will identify with his childhood fascination with model trains and exploring The Science Museum in London. I was very surprised to read that he had not worked particularly hard for his undergraduate degree in Natural Sciences at Oxford, putting more emphasis on his rowing activities and socialising than on studying Physics! However, his diagnosis with the incurable disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) propelled him to focus his intelligence in a way that is inspiring to any reader.

The author Alex Woolf has addressed Stephen Hawking’s life challenges and scientific discoveries in language that confident readers at the upper end of primary school can understand, assisted by excellent diagrams and illustrations created by David Shepard. I would also recommend this book to any secondary school children studying GCSE Physics as excellent background reading to their syllabus. The use of panels throughout the narrative, summarising theories or describing key contributors to the understanding of the universe, certainly aide the comprehension of some complex scientific concepts.

Aside from its value as an educational science book, this biography presents Professor Hawking as an incredibly inspiring individual who refused to let his illness define him or hold him back from pursuing his intellectual dreams. The subtitle “A life beyond limits” encompasses his phenomenal cerebral achievements despite his physical restrictions and his 1983 theory of a “no-boundary” universe. His compulsion to ask questions, propose new theories and not be afraid of making mistakes is a great example to all of us. The fact that he became a best-selling author and cultural icon, even featuring in “The Simpsons” provides empowering knowledge for any young person who might be suffering with an illness or disability. At the end of the book one of his most famous quotes is printed, finishing with the words:

Be curious.

If all readers are inspired to follow this advice then who knows what new theories could emerge to solve the many unanswered questions that still exist about our universe.

I am most grateful to Little Tiger Publishing for my copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.