Image result for alice dent incredible germs chicken house

Published by Chicken House

‘Finally, if you are lucky and live that long, we’ll teach you to shine and sparkle. Sparkling’s Compulsory.’

This small proof arrived a couple of days ago – and I found myself gently pulled into this rather extraordinary story of world domination, happiness, and germs – or at least the prevention of the spread of germs. There’s probably a word for that (I hope it isn’t hygiene, that would be boring) – the dissemination of germs!

Alice Dent’s parents are more than usually concerned about germs. So, when the Best Minister begins to suggest ways to prevent the spread of things like the common cold, by banning birthday parties, dirty children, and would you believe, giggling, the situation begins to get more than a little serious. Her parents already ban Alice to her room, wear face masks and and disinfect every thing should she so much as sniffle.

The trouble begins right at the beginning of the book, when Alice finds that she is having an unbelievable urge to sneeze, and though she tries every way she can to prevent it, her parent’s soon realise that she has a cold, and once again she is locked into her room for the duration. It is when some strange and rather forbidding men come to take her away, and she hears her parents agree to her removal…that she realises that she has to do something about the situation at once

She escapes through her bedroom window…but finds herself caught by the local police, and as she gives a false name, take her in to care…to Tryton Mell, a school that claims to turn grubby good-for-nothings into politely perfect pupils…

Different and clever – this would make a good companion book to The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones / Will Mabbit.

 

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Published by Bloomsbury

Mary was the daughter of Katherine of Aragon and  Henry VIII.

Katherine was Henry’s first wife, whom he set aside to marry Anne Boleyn with whom he had Mary’s half sister, Elizabeth. Both girls were ultimately to rule England. This though is Mary’s story, the story that made a young girl into the Queen she was.

It is a story knotted and entwined in her father’s desperate need to sire a son, with his drive and determination to marry Anne Boleyn, and when that resulted in her death, with his marriage to Jane Seymour.

The Tudors, for me, start English history. From them, my knowledge of history spreads, a little like a poorly made spider’s web.

They weren’t perfect. Then again, history was a different place. They did things differently then…so differently.  Their knowledge and beliefs were diverse too.

This story covers the period before Mary or Elizabeth had ascended the throne. The courtiers, and Henry VIII had nothing to compare, they didn’t know the strength, knowledge and forethought that a woman can have. Hindsight is a marvellous thing. Then again, when you look at our more recent history, perhaps it isn’t so different.

There are gaps in our knowledge about the Tudors. They are the people I’d like to meet from the past – there are so many questions. Not just of this period, but of Elizabeth’s time on the throne, and Mary’s too.

Lucy Worsley, of whom I am quite jealous, lives and works around Hampton Court, amongst other palaces, as their Chief Curator. She knows her history. I hope she will go on to write the other two stories, that of Elizabeth I and that of that much desired boy Edward VI – whose lives were so tied to the need to ensure there was a prince to follow in Henry VIII’s footsteps.

Our history would be so bland if it weren’t for this extraordinary family…

Lucy Worsley has written three books, so far for this age group, though this, perhaps, is my favourite.

 

 

 

 

 

Published by Scholastic

May 2018

A re-imagining of The Little Mermaid.

I received a copy of The Little Mermaid in 1971 – for a prize for attendance at my first school. Not really sure about such a prize. I think my mother should have received it. The fact that I never missed a day was surely down to her. It was an Emerald Book, published by World Distributions and retold by Mae Broadley and illustrated by Jo Berriman – sadly I can’t find a picture on the Internet of it. So it must be rare and obviously, all the more valuable, because I won it at school…

That aside, I have just gone downstairs and found it. Yes, I still have it – its in ‘good’ condition. Well, what would you expect from a girl brought up by an antiquarian bibliophile? I suppose I should really say, the daughter of a bibliophile who collects antiquarian books. Dad may be in his 80’s, but he’s not antiquarian, yet. It is a hardback picture book version with illustrations which are slightly dated, (none the worse for that) and pale; the book wasn’t printed on art paper. So it was a subtly produced volume, the colours were muted. Rather lovely.

I vaguely remembered the story when I received my proof of The Surface Breaks, but not in any great detail. This edition, is without doubt a teen / YA book – written just as Hans Christian Anderson wrote his tales. Without doubt this is a new rendition he would have approved of.

It is a story of coming of age. The patriarchal oppression of women. Of bravery, love and ultimately, sacrifice. This is not a ‘Disney’ version of this tale – it is a strong punchy and determined shout. Dark and twisted.

The cover on the proof has some rather lovely mermaid scales – whether that will translate through to the finished book is in the lap of the ‘Book Gods’.

 

 

This is my first ‘article’ – a piece about something that has come to my notice,  and that I’d like to put ‘out there’.

There are five different safety marks for products produced for children in this country – that number is not necessarily comprehensive. The following is a list from an extremely arbitrary glance a the Internet: Fire Safety, C E Mark, Kite Mark, Age Label & the Lion Mark – all there to prevent youngsters from being harmed. Which is quite right and proper.

Should you, however, wander into any shop selling products for cats you are liable to come across a wide range of items. They often have metal pieces in them – sometimes small wires holding things together, batteries, or springs set so a toy moves in an enticing way.  There are always a number of mice made of heaven only knows what material, that have ears, whiskers and often little eyes stitched on to them –  that I can pull off – with ease.

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I have a new kitten – some of you will be aware I have been off for a few days, in an attempt to ‘settle her in’. She was born at the end of October, so is, as you would expect a young kitten to be, into everything. She pulls sheets of paper out of my tray. Climbs over books in book cases, is fascinated by my computer (in particular any pop-up adverts), my pens, pencils, sheets and pillow cases, waste paper bins, camera straps, the pendant around my neck, boxes, watches, washing, underwear, my toes, the bottom of my dressing gown and the following toys:

A small ‘wand’ with feathers. These, including one tail feather from a pheasant, stick out from the end. It is light enough to carry, and can be violently attacked if the feathers are run across the floor. Safe enough – it hasn’t got anything that might come apart.  Three small mice made of some sort of material that looks like fur, but isn’t. These are about an inch long, have a tail of string, attached to a small piece of felt, in which some more feathers have been attached. These though, aren’t hard feathers, and are much softer and float. These mice are wonderful. They are light enough for her to throw, and the feathers are very enticing. Six small balls; these are light with perforations, that contain a small bell. Small enough to be gripped by little paws, and carried in small jaws. Strong enough not to allow the bell to come out or for her to break. They spin nicely and are great for chasing. She also plays with quite a number of receipts from shopping trips – which are fun if flicked and can be grabbed out of the air and lastly, she has  my favourite toy that I purchased from Germany, off the Internet for her.

This is the ultimate toy – in my humble opinion. It is wetfelted, which means its very strong – the ears are part and parcel of the body, the whole toy is made as one piece and the tail is long and tapering – by that I mean very long – some two – to three foot in length. Certainly long enough that should the body of the mouse be caught, I can distract Sakka with the end of the tail, and have manoeuvrability so that my hands don’t get shredded.

There is nothing to fall apart. Nothing to be pulled off. Nothing for her to swallow. Nothing that might hurt her, should she break into it. It is light enough for her to drag the mouse (and tail) around the floor – and it is beautifully finished. This is the best toy I have come across and should have all the above safety labels attached. It doesn’t. For two reasons:

Firstly, because its a toy made in Germany, and secondly, because its not made for Children.

There is no kite mark for toys for pets.

There should be.

If you would like to purchase one of these wonderful mice then please log into Etsy and look for the shop named Felt for Cat. Or just copy this into Google and press Enter to be taken directly to the Etsy shop:

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/69248735/felted-cat-toy-mouse-with-long-string?ref=shop_home_active_23

Including postage to the UK, the mouse I purchased for Sakka cost c£13 – and was worth every penny.

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Published by Harper Collins

This series has been on my radar for some time, but I never picked one up until today. I borrowed the first volume from our shelves to read with my lunch. I haven’t put it down. I am presently reading a book on Madagascar (too heavy to carry to work), Alison Weir’s new paperback biography/fictional account of Anne Boleyn, a book on venom and now this – which I suspect will be my ‘main’ read until it is finished.

I’m only up to page 82. My favourite quote though, so far, was on page 28:

“Stuffed dogs, Miss?” I wondered aloud.

“Can’t stand the things. I like to see them dead.” replied Miss Fox

You can tell she’s not on the good side…immediately. Someone to watch.

This is something I am really enjoying. I should be having some time off soon (if all goes to plan), and if I do, I have a feeling I will be wanting to read all the other titles by Sophie Cleverly – The Whispers in the Walls, The Dance in the Dark, The Lights Under the Lake, and The Curse in the Candlelight.

Even the titles are intriguing.

What have I been doing?

I feel this series has been overlooked by the publicists, and the reading public. To my shame I have overlooked the books. They have not given the attention they deserve.

The Lost Twin (book one in the series) is a superb story. Scarlet has gone. Scarlet was brave, outspoken, determined and everything Ivy is not. Ivy though, has been enrolled in Scarlet’s school…to replace her…to become her…

It’s quite a thing to be told that you don’t exist anymore…

Its brilliant!

For twins and for people who are not twins – everywhere…

Published by Piccadilly Press.

I love rain. I was staying with my uncle on his farm in Laikipia, Kenya some years ago and my cousin complained that the ‘rains’ hadn’t come. I offered to encourage the weather with a rain dance. George was a pragmatic farmer and African, and he laughed at me. The next day he complained that though it had rained, it hadn’t rained on his tomatoes. So, I promised him more for that night, and danced a dance in the middle of the courtyard…like I have never danced before… or since, to be truthful. I don’t do much in the way of dancing.

The thunderstorm that occurred that night was like nothing I have ever experienced. Loud, all-pervading, and glorious! I couldn’t hear my Mum when she spoke directly into my ear…and the smell was, well – quite sumptuous.

I have always liked the rain, in preference to the sun – so much more going on.

This is a new dystopian volume from Zillah Bethell (author of A Whisper of Horses) – in an era where water is the rarest commodity in the world and as a result those who have water, or are able to use distillation plants to obtain fresh water are at war with those who don’t. This is the background to this multilayered story of a young boy with achromatopsia, a condition which results in the suffer being totally colour blind. They see the world in a spectrum of greys and whites – a rainbow means very little to them.

At the beginning of the story Auden’s father is away fighting in the war. His uncle, a scientist has recently died and left his cottage to his family and Auden’s mother has moved them from London to the country.  Which is when this really begins.

The book raises various questions and ideas, beliefs and thoughts: Does everything have to have a purpose? Is that why things exist? What makes a thing a living entity? What makes us human?

The ideas include the fact that for the most part, humans are kind and truthful and wise and decent and that we should recognise difficulties for what they are, and press on regardless.

Achromatopsia is a real condition – though suffers, the Internet informs me, not only have an inability to see colour, but other aspects of their sight are also affected. Particularly when in bright sun light, and though this is something that Auden also has to deal with, the idea that he is able to see better than someone without it, in poor light, seems not to be the case.

This is a story about doing what is right. Believing in yourself. Friendship, bravery and sacrifice.

 

 

Published by Pushkin Books

This is a rather pretty little hardback. Just 88 pages. It tells the story of two children caught in a snow drift, and taken in by a dog.

I have always liked Irish Wolfhounds – long legged and full of character. This relates the story of the poet, and his relationship with his dog, and the dog’s relationship with the children. Its about love. How someone can be with us, even when they are gone. This is a poignant little volume. It contains a small amount of poetry and is a moving story.

At the moment the book is a reflection of my life, in away. I know that someone I cared about and lived alongside and with me for many years is no longer here. I find, however, that she is also with me, as the poet is with the dog, in this small volume.

Its a rather special.

The picture below is off the Internet – credited as The Pinnacle of Nobility – on Pinterest.

 

        

Published by Piccadilly Press.

It is 03.09 in the morning. Dark. Silent, apart from my oil heater clicking gently behind me. I woke a while ago to continue reading this extraordinary volume.

This is a story set in Grey Britan, after the Gasses. The world has changed, things are not as they once were. Lahn Dan is contained within the Emm Twenty-five and there is nothing beyond.

‘there’s nothing outside of the Emm Twenty-five. Everything outside Lahn Dan is Dead.’

People and society have changed too.

The Aus live lives that are easier than most, though much of their world is fake. They are secure. Have hot water. Fresh food and their grass is green. They have been changed to look like the people of history, those known for their looks. They are beautiful. The Cus, meanwhile, are only able to use technology to support the Aus, and Pb they are the lowest of the low. They work. Have nothing, but stories, are almost illiterate, don’t eat food, but consume small pills for sustenance. Their grass is a sort of muddy brown colour.  They are set apart.

Aus – gold, Cus – copper and Pb – lead.

Lahn Dan to Serendipity is a place of darkness, filth, and hard-work. A place of bridges over the Tems – which she knows used to be one of the largest rivers in the world. Serendipity has never seen a river, but she has heard about them. The Tems is now a thick line of mud, used to dispose of anything unwanted, whether human or otherwise.

London is filled with images of horses. The National Gallery contains, of course, that stunning picture Whistlejacket by Stubbs, along with many others, including The Horses of Achilles, by van Dyke. Then there are the statues: Richard III on horseback outside the Houses of Parliament. The horses in the sculpture entitled Animals at War in Park Lane – there are thousands of them. Lahn Dan is filled with them too..

This book was a serendipitous find. I saw a brief glimpse of its existence in a piece of ephemera at work. Then sent out a plea for a reading copy – a proof, any form of this book for me to read. The author responded promptly and sent me a copy of the hardback – which I took home the day before yesterday, and started to read last night.

I am now just 55 pages into the book. I can’t leave it alone, yet am having to stop, every now and then, because I’m worried about what Serendipity has done, who she has met, and what decisions she is about to make. There are many characters who can and without doubt will affect the run of this story – and one I am in particular, a member of the Aus society, of whom I am most suspicious.

The book quotes a poem I read at school entitled The Horses by Edwin Muir –

We did not dare go near them. Yet they waited, 

Stubborn and shy, as if they had been sent

By an old command to find our whereabouts

And that long-lost archaic companionship.

 I have ridden horses. I have been snuffled at. I have been examined and in turn gazed back, into those gorgeous eyes. I have been trusted. I have ridden like the wind, my mount and I as one, both together. In a small way, I have been part of that archaic companionship. This is a celebration of all of that.

The paperback is due out on the 25th of this month. I’m afraid I prefer the hardback’s dust-jacket to the cover of the new edition coming out – it is perhaps less eye catching, it is perhaps more traditional.  A book though, is more than its cover, as we all know – so  if you can find a copy of the hardback before the 25th of January – then buy it (£9.99).

If not, then order the paperback (£6.99).

I suppose it isn’t long till the 25th of January.

 

 

 

 

 

Published by Chicken House

I once had a balloon flight. I was a member of a group called S.P.I.C.E. (Special Programme of Initiative Challenge and Excitement, if I remember correctly), and had become rather ‘hooked’ on anything to do with flying: I skydived, flew a helicopter, a Mark 2 (I think) Provost Jet, experienced a basic aerobatics flight, followed by a second that was to competition standard, flew a glider, a tiger moth (including doing a loop the loop), and had a lesson in a small plane. I also had the flight in a balloon. It was remarkably peaceful and as though the world was turning beneath, rather than we flying above it – it was most peculiar.

This is about the race to construct and fly the first controlled balloon flight. Its about a young fingersmith (pick-pocket) who is employed to steal a box at the start of this intriguing and rather wonderful story. Which seems a simple enough proposal…initially.

Her adventures, though, are just beginning; as a result of a spur in the moment decision she becomes caught in the ropes dangling below a balloon and finds herself being carried above the trees and a barn…the river below a silver slither of brightness.

When she recovers, (which takes a while) she is offered a job working for the family from whom she was to steal the box…and its not long before her disappointed previous employer appears on the scene…

This is (remarkably) the story of the Montgolfier hot-air balloon -which was unveiled before King Louis XVI of France in 1793. I’m afraid I knew nothing of the two Montgolfier brothers, however, the Internet (the modern day encyclopedia), makes this reference:

On 19 September 1783, the Aérostat Réveillon was flown with the first living beings in a basket attached to the balloon: a sheep called Montauciel (“Climb-to-the-sky”), a duck and a rooster. The sheep was believed to have a reasonable approximation of human physiology. The duck was expected to be unharmed by being lifted and was included as a control for effects created by the aircraft rather than the altitude. The rooster was included as a further control as it was a bird that did not fly at high altitudes. The demonstration was performed at the royal palace in Versailles before King Louis XVI of France and Queen Marie Antoinette and a crowd. The flight lasted approximately eight minutes, covered two miles (3 km), and obtained an altitude of about 1,500 feet (460 m). The craft landed safely after flying.

I don’t know what has happened, but 2018 looks to being a quality year for Children’s writing. This is superb – I have even had to put it down at intervals, because I have been too scared to read what happens next.

Out now. Buy it, read it, and pass it on.

NB – I note two authors. Neal Jackson won The Big Idea Competition in 2014 – and Emma Carroll was asked by Chicken House to write the story based on his idea. So you have two authors. Magic.

Published by Chicken House

A story of crime fighters, but not the usual kind. These are from a freak show – each different from the norm and from one another as they could be: grotesque and curious.

This is the story of missing mud-larks, murder, dastardly deeds, murder and mayhem. Set in Victorian London – the Great Exhibition has opened its doors to the great and the good, but otherwise London was still one of the most aromatic places in the world, and not in a good way.

This is a story of misbegotten characters, and the search for perpetual beauty.

Funny, disturbing, engrossing – a book by the author of  The Legend of Podkin One-Ear and The Dark Hollow. Perhaps for slightly older readers – Superb.