The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day by Christopher Edge

I love books written with alternating chapters – some are the same story from two perspectives, some two time zones.  For this Middle Grade novel, Christopher Edge does a brilliant job of using alternating chapters to relate the parallel lives (or are they?) of Maisie Day.

2018 04 05 MG The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day by Christopher Edge, Nosy Crow

Maisie is an academically gifted girl, already studying for a science degree, who wakes on her 10th birthday eager for the party ahead of her.  The social awkwardness she has from not going through a regular school career means a family gathering is her choice, but her relationship with her door-slamming teenage sister, Lily, is decidedly strained.  So when Maisie looks out of the front door and finds all has gone black, the last person she would expect to help her is Lily. What unfolds over the course of these chapters is fascinating – by twist and turns we see Maisie’s understanding  of the univChristopher Edge Bookmarkerse challenged in amazing ways.

Having read, and happily shortlisted, The Jamie Drake Equation for the Haringey Children’s Book Award, and now read Maisie Day, I am now itching to grab The Many Worlds of Albie Bright from my school library’s shelf.  Christopher Edge has shown a canny ability to use science in his books without either over-whelming or boring a non-science-geek audience.  Indeed, his well -researched use of very modern scientific information has certainly left me with both a better understanding and a greater desire to know more.

I see the same applying to children over 8 who will no doubt love this book as will the many adults who are reading it this month as part of Twitter’s Primary School Book Club hosted by @MrEPrimary –

The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day

Written by Christopher Edge, Published by Nosy Crow, April 2018, £6.99 paperback

Many thanks to Clare at Nosy Crow, who sent this book for my school reading group and I to read and review.

The Company of Eight – Blog Tour

The Company of Eight BLOG TOUR BANNER

Today is my turn on the Stripes Blog Tour for Harriet Whitehorn’s new Middle Grade novel, The Company of Eight.

Who can resist a novel with a map in its frontispiece? And then to discover that there is a  close-up map for each chapter! Whether a new world created by Tolkien or Pullman, or more recently Abi Elphinstone or Kiran Millwood Hargrave, a map introduces you to a world created in the author’s imagination, a new setting within which their story can unfold.

Harriet Whitehorn has created the Longest World, a series of islands governed by Lord Bastien and with a royal family.  Each island or group of islands has its own history and population to which we are introduced and the seas are populated by a great many boats: from merchant ships to the Palace Ship and the Circus Boat in particular.

Cass, an orphan in the charge of kindly but dull Mrs Potts, is desperate to join the circus as an acrobat, but she misses her audition when the Circus Boat sets sail, as Mrs Potts has other uninteresting, ambitions for her.  Cass bravely decides she must take her destiny into her own hands.

Heading for the Isle of Women, where her mother had been brought up, Cass ventures through the seas to many of the islands meeting royalty and commoners, learning new skills and persuaded to do undertake regrettable deeds.

Will she ever get to join the circus?

Cass is a strong character, confronting her challenges and daring to try things many would not.  She is brave in the face of the brutality she encounters – be it slavery or piracy. And her bravery comes to the attention of a secretive group, The Company of Eight, who support her and train in many ways but also call on her to undertake daring deeds.

This is an adventure on the high seas – fun, bold and brave.  Some of the characters Cass meets are particularly special – Ms Whitehorn has carefully given enough character to some to particularly hold not just Cass’s interest, but ours as the reader.  I notice that other reviewers and bloggers have, like me, found a special place in their heart for brave young Lion and for Rip, Lord Bastien’s nephew. Cass’s initial meeting with Rip is entertaiming and his role in helping her during her journey on the Palace Ship leads her to look out for him when he needs help.

I can imagine many youngsters enthralled by this ripping adventure and imagining the ups and downs of Cass’s travels through the Longest World.

Special mention must also be given to Maria Surducan for a glorious gold-trimmed cover depicting acrobatics.

The Company of Eight by Harriet Whitehorn, published by Stripes, 3rd May 2018

Do You Speak Chocolate? By Cas Lester

 Jaz is in Year 7 and unhappily getting used to new friendship dynamics. When a new girl joins her class she sees a chance to make a new friend. Only problem is, Nadima doesn’t speak English. How will they find a way to communicate and how will Nadima’s inclusion affect the existing relationships in class?

This is a wonderful a story of friendship, communication , family support and overcoming challenges. Underpinning the writing style is gentle humour, chocolate metaphors and a wonderful understanding of pre-teen girls.

Jaz has the challenge of dyslexia which is sensitively portrayed, but it is Nadima who has faced the brutal challenges we come to understand and empathise with.

Even with books I find moving, I tend not to actually cry. But with the later chapters of this book I found myself welling up; tears fell as the full details of Nadima’s story unfolded and the friendships grew.

My only other book-induced tears this year were when reading Nikki Sheehan’s  Goodnight Boy, another emotive immigration story. (Rock The Boat Books, July 2017).

With a Beautiful cover illustration by Kate Forrester, depicting themes from the book on a chocolate brown background, Do You Speak Chocolate? gets a big thumbs up emoji from me.

Do You Speak Chocolate?

Written by Cas Lester.  Published by Piccadilly Press, August 2017


Witch for a Week

This gorgeous new book from Kaye Umansky is sure to be a hit with primary school aged children everywhere! With gold-trimmed cover artwork and internal illustrations from the talented Ashley King, children will be happily drawn into the world of Magenta the witch.

When Magenta calls into Elsie Pickles’ family shop, Elsie finds herself accepting the position to house-sit at Magenta’s mysterious tower in the woods. Keen to have some peace and quiet to read Magenta’s books, can she resist the spell book in her bedroom?

With a cast of thieving sisters, woodcutters, a raven and a tatty dog, this story shows Elsie to be strong-minded, capable and bright.  The illustrations, some full page, highlight the whacky world of Crookfinger Forest, with its magical tower and the lotions and potions Elsie comes to use.

I am so pleased that ‘Witch for a Week’ is just the first instalment – a further book about Elsie and Magenta is due for release in May 2018.

Witch for a Week  

Written by Kaye Umansky; Illustrated by Ashley King; Published by Simon and Schuster,  5 October 2017


Also just out from Simon and Schuster is this new edition of two of Kaye Umsanksy’s Pongwiffy stories illustrated by Katy Riddell.

St Grizzle’s School for Girls, Ghosts and Runaway Grannies – Karen McCombie

June sees the launch of another chapter in the life of Dani, Swan and Zed and the lively youngsters at the quirky St Grizzle’s boarding school.
St Grizzles 2

In the first of the entertaining series by Karen McCombie we saw Dani learning her way around a very different school to which she was dropped off by her zoologist mum, who was off to investigate penguins’ bums.  Now settled and actually happy, despite missing her friend Arch and her mum and gran, Dani is excited to learn of a film making competition.  She and Arch made films for their YouTube channel so she enthusiastically accepts headteacher Lulu’s proposal that she direct the film. While out in the expansive school grounds, Dani and her friends find a colourful Campervan, here drawn by Becka Moor.  Its owner proves to be a happy surprise to Dani – her runaway granny.  With Granny’s help, will Dani work well with her schoolmates and make a winning film?  And will she learn that she can make true friends in the zany atmosphere of St Grizzle’s school?

The lively illustrations by Becka Moor again enhance this fun, laugh out loud book, ideal for children from about 7 years old.

St Grizzle’s School for Girls, Ghosts and Runaway Grannies

Written by Karen McCombie; Illustrated by Becka Moor; Published by Stripes,  June 2017

Many thanks to Stripes, via Netgalley, for an advance e-copy of this book in exchange for this, my honest review.

Erica’s Elephant

To mark the release of The Bookshop Girl, I am publishing Bishop, Sylvia Erica's Elephantmy review of Sylvia Bishop’s charming first book, Erica’s Elephant.

This book reminded me of the wonderful writing of AA Milne, not just in the fabulous chapter titling like, “The Second Chapter: In which the Elephant earns a reputation”, but also in the manner in which the Elephant’s abilities and personality are written.

When Erica finds an elephant on her doorstep, little does she know the friendship they will form or the lengths she will go to protecting him from being sent to a zoo.  Accustomed to living alone, this ten-year-old is incredibly resourceful, finding ways to fund feeding Elephant and learning about his care.  When the authorities catch up with Erica, she finds an unlikely ally and a hidden talent – will these be enough to save her situation?

Ashley King’s pen and ink illustrations perfectly draw out the humour in Sylvia Bishop’s story-telling; I particularly love his interpretation of Erica’s busybody neighbour, Mrs Pritchett, which truly highlights his cartoonesque ability.   In other parts of the book, such as scenes at the zoo, his eye for detail is delightful.

An enchanting debut book, perfect to read to children from about six and for confident readers them to enjoy from eight.

Erica’s Elephant

Written by Sylvia Bishop; Illustrated by Ashley King; Published by Scholastic, 2 June 2016

Bishop, Sylvia The Bookshop GirlThe Bookshop Girl, the second collaboration between Sylvia Bishop and Ashley King was released by Scholastic on 6th April 2017.



The Giant Jumperee

Written by Julia Donaldson; Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury;  Puffin, 6th April 2017

The Giant Jumperee 2017 04 06Today sees the release of The Giant Jumperee, a beautiful picture book with a simple story supported by wonderful images of its cast of 6 animals.

The story shows animals of increasing sizes, each with characteristics its pre-school target audience will recognise, in fear of the unseen creature which is claiming to be a giant Jumperee. Like Aesop’s lion and mouse or hare and tortoise, there is a realisation that every creature, no matter what its size, has its own strengths.  Also, much as in Julia Donaldson’s own Gruffalo, there is a sense that fear of the unknown can be out of proportion with what the unknown actually is!

Julia Donaldson’s works have fortunately been supported by a range of talented illustrators. Axel Scheffler, of course, worked on the Gruffalo stories and many more including Room on the Broom and my personal favourite, The Smartest Giant in Town.  Lydia Monks illustrated the Princess Mirrorbelle stories, The Singing Mermaid and What the Ladybird Saw amongst others.
This is Julia Donaldson’s first collaboration with the lovely Helen Oxenbury Number of ThingsOxenbury.  I grew up with the award-winning Helen Oxenbury’s earliest works and have always loved them. She is probably best known for her illustrations to Michael Rosen’s text We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, and in The Giant Jumperee we again see the great outdoors with her watercolour brush.

This book doesn’t draw on Julia’s often-seen rhyming talents, but that in no way stops it from being a great read-aloud book which children will be joining in with after a few readings.  I have been fortunate to take a group of children to see Julia perform her works live, husband on guitar to sing the rhyming texts.   If you ever get the chance, do take your youngsters to see her – the many animal hats for this book will no doubt be added to her repertoire!


Published by Puffin – Penguin Random House – 6th April 2017 – 32 pages