The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley | Orion - Bringing  You News From Our World To Yours

Published by Orion Books

‘…Rattled him a bit, it did. Don’t think I didn’t get in a good kick or two. Him and his filthy paws! I’d have scratched his eyes out if I’d had half the chance.’

She looked at me as if she’d said too much: as if a great social gulf had suddenly opened up between us.

‘I’d have scratched his eyes out and sucked the holes.’ I said….

This is pure JOY! Flavia is a character of my own heart. Perhaps she’s not for everyone – but I so understand her – She’s resourceful and bright – and perhaps her sisters’ worst nightmare. At the beginning of the book she is in the throws of plotting revenge her siblings. She’s inventive to say the very least.

The book is in some ways darker and more macabre than many crime books for 9 – 12 – but any with spirit will enjoy that and the English is gorgeous.

This has had me laughing out loud. A crime story with a unique and rather determined heroine. Why is there a body of an unknown man amongst the cucumber plants? What is the connection with the suicide at her father’s school? Has her father anything to do with either death? If so, in what way?

This is one of the best books I have read for a very long time… A book that takes you away from everything, a book I can’t put down.

Flavia is a fantastic character.

Why Orion should think the cover of the book is an asset, I don’t know. Designed to reflect the period of the book, I think, it really doesn’t reflect the brilliance of Flavia, the language or the story itself.

Published back in 2009, just as I was beginning to sell The Undrowned Child (Michelle Lovric) – this is certainly one I want to have in stock for when I have run out of that – it is superb. There’s a bonus too – this is the first book in a series…I’m not sure quite what I can do about that – I shall have to ration myself…

Kidnap on the California Comet Adventures on Trains: Leonard,  M. G., Sedgman, Sam, Paganelli, Elisa: Books

Macmillan Children’s Books

The second volume in the Adventures in Train Series and is as good as the first –  The Highland Falcon Thief, just as I expected. So this is a bit of a late review. I should have read it when it was first out, but, knowing it was brilliant – I didn’t need to – its easy to sell Maya Leonard and Sam Sedgman’s books even without reviews.

Once more Hal and his uncle Nat are embarking on an extraordinary holiday/work trip – this time across America. Hal’s observations of people even before the train begins its journey has him aware that things on the trip might be a little different…

You don’t have to read these in order – you can if you wish, read this one first – if you so desire and have a thing for trains in America (in particular the California Zephyr) – without hindrance. You don’t have to have read the Highland Falcon Thief…but why not purchase both? You may find they are part of a deal.

The third book Murder on the Safari Star is out in February 2021 – but these would be a wonderful Christmas present for anyone into trains or mysteries…

Buy them!

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi, Yusef Salaam | Waterstones

Published by Harper Collins

If there are no butterflies here

no pretty little wings flapping in the hood

then we can’t change a thing, he said.

I don’t often review YA titles. Those that I do are because they are in someway different from the usual. It is true that I don’t read many – I am asked for advice mainly by people buying 9 – 12 or 5 – 8 titles. Young adults / teenagers, generally know what they want to read. So those YA I read and review are unique, well written and have something special about them. This one has an additional attribute. It is an important book.

Whether you count yourself as black, white, some sort of pasty colour, chocolate, ivory or sort of pale pinkish, whether you believe yourself to be handsome, beautiful, ugly – short and squat or tall, willowy of great important, or someone who doesn’t matter at all (for your information EVERYONE matters – just in case you should feel differently) – this is a book for you.

Dr Yusef Salaam was (if you don’t remember) one of The Central Park Five – convicted of an act he didn’t do. This book written with Ibi Zoboi is a story of a young man, similarly convicted who uses his poetry and art to try to keep his soul together – it is a story of injustice. Moving, extraordinary and in some ways visceral. Everyone should take the time to get hold of a copy.

It is a profound story of truth. One of which we should all be ashamed. That said it is also a story of hope. It has been written and published and is out there for people to read.

Think about it. Don’t assume.

The Art of War: Examining Picasso's Guernica as a Tool for Leader  Professional Development
Ghost by Jason Reynolds, Selom Sunu | Waterstones

A book for the athletes and runners out there… People run for all kinds of reasons. Join clubs too. This is a story about a boy who has many reasons to keep on running and some of them are very good. Others, perhaps not so.

This is the first book in a series about four youngsters who run for different reasons. Each book tells a different story – this is the first. Castle Cranshaw has been running since his father – well, that’s for Ghost to tell you about…if Ghost can keep it together and not get in to trouble, which to be honest is a little unlikely – then perhaps he will make it to the team…

Brilliant. If you run – a book for you. If you don’t – it is also for you and you just might start!

The Space We're In: Balen, Katya, Carlin, Laura: Books

This is the story of Max, Frank and their parents. It’s a story of brothers – of a family – not perhaps the most usual sort. It is a story of grief, but also of love. I read this book in under a day (I was working, but read it whenever I had a moment free) and have just finished it. Lying in bed I wept this morning, just now, at around five o’clock. It is now nearly six o’clock and I wanted to get this down – it is a very important book.

Things happen in all families. All families have their problems, issues, colours, broken bits, mended and some are positively ragged around the edges. This story is one of hope, a journey through a time that makes the family what it is. A story of love, acceptance and as I said, hope and the future too. It is really superb.

It is a beautiful book.

If you haven’t read Where the Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak) or We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (Michael Rosen) – do, they won’t take long. Classic picture books. You will understand why, when you read this…

Those two titles should be sold along side this and will be as soon as I can arrange a display at Finchley Road O2.

Alex English

Simon & Schuster

Airships. Pirates. Adventure!

Orphan Echo Quickthorn lives in the castle, but can never leave – there is nowhere beyond her city to go to – there is nothing out there. Taken in by the king the only companion she has is Horace his son and Gilbert her pet lizard… Just as she feels things can’t get much worse, having been banned from the castle library, an airship crashes against her bedroom window…

Super book – illustrated too – what more do you want?

Sky Pirates: Echo Quickthorn and the Great Beyond by Alex English, Mark  Chambers | Waterstones
The Silent Stars Go By by Sally Nicholls | Waterstones

Published by Andersen Press

Set just after the 1st WW – a tale of love, decisions made, perhaps for the right reasons, beliefs and accepted ways of doing things. A tale of its time. It’s superb. I loved it. A tale of hope. A wonderful distraction when too many things are going wrong… I loved it – a story with heart, a story of people.

One of the smallest reviews I have ever written. That’s not to be an indication of value – this is lovely…

The Silver Arrow: Lev Grossman: Bloomsbury Children's Books

Published by Bloomsbury

‘Get some rest,’ he called. ‘Tom’s birthday is coming up and I’m thinking of getting him a submarine.’

Small hardback – published both in the UK and in America – but the English edition has American spelling and references. That said (I do wish books published for children in the UK would reflect our language – so much easier for learning) – it is rather gorgeous, both content and design wise.

The story of a young girl who has never met her uncle. He’s a bit of a ‘black sheep’ – and not approved of by her parents. Rich, but the laziest man they know. Actually, the best sort of uncle. The story relates what happens to her and her brother when she writes to her unknown relative and asks for a present for her birthday and he arrives with a steam engine…a rather unique steam engine.

A thought provoking rather wonderful book A view of conservation and the environment carefully and beautifully told…

Katherine Woodfine (@followtheyellow) | Twitter

Published by Egmont

By now you will know my favourite city is Venice.

I read the first of the Taylor & Rose series (Peril in Paris) some time ago – and moved on to new authors, as is my way. Then saw this one – and couldn’t resist.

Beautifully atmospheric (as only Venice can be) a tale of subterfuge and bravery. Joe is missing at the start of this story – and agents haven’t been able to trace him…Lil stays in London whilst Sophie travels alone to Venice…an old adversary awaits. For those who enjoy the Murder Most Unladylike series (Robin Stevens) and haven’t tried these – this is something to get your teeth into… They really are superb!

The Night Bus Hero by Onjali Q. Rauf | Waterstones

Published by Orion

NY Published: October 2020

My proof of this got left in the garden – so is very wrinkled and the plastic came off the cover too – so it isn’t in the best of condition. A pity as this was brilliant. Hector is in trouble. Well, I’m afraid there is nothing new in that – he’s always in trouble. He is, what a school teacher referred to as a ‘lost cause’. Written from a bully’s perspective this is a remarkable story not usually told. He’s a thief, a bully – but not a liar. He likes to see the expressions when he tells the truth…it is so unexpected…and usually not good news either.

This was brilliant – another one from Onjali to disappear into – a story of truths and hope too.

Not sure if signed copies will be available – but it looks as though Waterstones will be publishing an edition signed by this brilliant author (see picture above) – try & of course your local branch – we will order it for you! I would do that soon – just in case! If you do manage to get you hands on a signed copy – don’t leave it in the garden…