Published by Orion

“Ned was the reason why Mr Doyle had to get a pacemaker fitted.”


“And besides, according to most of our teachers, you are not supposed to give power to wild boys on horses. It only encourages them”

Another superb book from the Orion stable.

This is a book about friendship, horses, and being your own person. It is about horse racing, bravery and standing up for what is right. It is about finding out that not everything fits neatly in boxes and that it is rare for people to do so too.

I marked two small points in this book – both made me laugh out loud and they are quoted above…

Ned is something else. I wish I had met Ned when I was a child – wild, different and silent. He doesn’t attend school very often. Ned, though is special – an extraordinarily talented boy – wild, determined, and exceptional. He reminds me a little of my favourite uncle –

This is a story with characters that almost engulf the book.

Minty’s parents though, are parting…things are not right at home. An understatement, if there ever was one. Her father’s stuff is in a skip in their drive, her mother is smiling fake smiles and talking about “turning new leaves”, “starting again” and “new lives”.

The trouble is Minty rather liked the other one – the one before her parent’s began to talk earnestly in whispers, and started smiling fake smiles at one another and then there is Ned.

Ned who doesn’t ‘do’ school. He is the boy that the teachers shrug about. Who glowers at everyone and has something to do with horses…

K M Peyton’s Blind Beauty was my favourite ‘horse’ book. Now I’m not so sure – I suspect it is this, a glorious celebration of being different, bravery and friendship. They should both be sold together – I feel they are a pair of siblings…

I wish I could ride like Ned…I wish I could have a relationship with a  horse like he has with Dagger… but that would entail so much more…

It is superb.




Published by Nosy Crow

This is a post with my sister Clare in mind. She breeds Middle White Pigs…in Yorkshire – and once won the Great Yorkshire Show with her boar Boris…Not that I’m inordinately proud of my big sister…but there you are. So you get a picture of her and her pigs with this too!

Back to the review – Jasmine’s father is a cattle farmer. There are no pigs on his farm at all. He doesn’t want pigs; he only has enough time for the cows on his farm and doesn’t need or want the complications of pigs to add to his work load. His wife is a vet – dealing with everything from large animals to pets. The family is busy – the children going back and forth to school; everyone with their own interests….

Jasmine’s interests? Well, Jasmine is into all things porcine. Jasmine, would love a pig – whatever her parents say. She is reading up on all the rare breeds in a magazine she receives regularly, and any books she can get hold of. When her mother takes her out on a call to a calving at a local farm she asks the disagreeable farmer if she can look at his pigs whilst her mother deals with the calving. Without really thinking about it the farmer tells her that there are piglets – 12 of them.

There, in the third enclosure, sure enough, is a sow with 12 bright pink fat little piglets… but what is that movement under the straw?

This is the start of a wonderful series of books about Jasmine, her family and the animals she comes across.  Though a book for five to eight year olds it has not followed many other animal books for younger readers. The book includes details of the hard work involved and the more technical aspects of looking after animals, and this is stirred well into the mix – Jasmine knows about colostrum, about using the warmth from an oven to help small animals to recover. I don’t think this series will shy away from death either, (Jasmine makes the observation that the first 24 hours are the most important) – and it looks to cover the care of animals as well as having a good plot for this most important age group.

I hope there won’t be too many Jasmine books – just the right number and no more – I don’t think, though that Helen Peters will be prolific, and I suspect these will become much loved classics. I hope too that pigs, (perhaps Middle White Pigs) will feature again in one of the later books.

Published by Simon and Schuster

A number of this charming book arrived in the store today. Published as a small octavo hard back with a wonderful dust jacket – it is very distinct.

There are not enough good quality books for this age group. It is often difficult to find books that are well written, with a good engaging plot and pictures that complement the book. This small book ticks all those boxes…

At least so far; I have only just started it, however I am confident that I am very unlikely to change my mind about it.

I picked up a copy and started to read it on the shop floor. Not something that is really approved of; we are there to sell books, not to read them. So most of my knowledge comes from those I either buy, or receive as proofs and read on the train and in bed, just before my cat gets too irritated and pushes the book out of the way, or knocks the pile by my bed to the floor.

I have so far read to the end of chapter 4 – and I’m thoroughly enjoying the story – I want to know all about Shylo and Horatio’s history too – I’m curious to find out why Horatio is in such a tatty condition.

I have recently set up a small table for books for this age group that shouldn’t be missed. It will be put there when I get into work tomorrow.

It starts with the definition of different types of rabbit… Please see the entry for the play Toad of Toad Hall, the play for which I have written a post, which references different types of rabbit – so this pleased me from the beginning.  The Rabbit Kingdom, it seems, is made up of six different types:

Buck – A male rabbit.

Bunkin – A country rabbit.

Bunny – A young rabbit.

Doe – A female rabbit.

Hopter – A large, strong and clever rabbit

and lastly – perhaps the best,

Thumper – A Special Forces commando rabbit.

It starts with our hero Shylo, a young bunny visiting Horatio, a rabbit with a bit of history. He lives on his own on the outskirts of the warren near the farm and Shylo is not supposed to go anywhere near the farm and certainly never to speak to Horatio…

He has visited Horatio at least once before to listen to his stories about The Royal Rabbits of London and Horatio’s adventures. I’m afraid Shylo hasn’t been very honest with his mother; making up stories about where he goes when he is supposed to be out foraging.

I have just reached the part when Maximilian his eldest brother catches up with him…

Its superb – beautifully written, and illustrated by Kate Hindley with gorgeous black and white pictures which are full of character.

If I can I’d like to have an event for the book – but that is something I will have to look into tomorrow. The book though should be purchased by everyone – at just £11 (less 1 penny) it won’t break the bank and further will encourage those younger readers with parents of a wise, discerning and sensible disposition to try something new.

Buy it. Waterstones Finchley Road O2 have some signed copies. At least they did this evening. We may run out in the next few days.



Published by Canongate.

This is the new book (the second) in the Christmas Series by Matt Haig and is due out at the very beginning of November. The first book, A Boy Called Christmas came out last year as a hardback, and will be out this year as a paperback, and both books should be bought as a pair for the season and read allowed to all good little children, and any bad, who haven’t been found out yet.

This is a Christmas story (hence the red type face, I thought it would look seasonal), and is full of hope and the belief in Christmas. Amelia has only one thing she wants for Christmas, but there is a very good chance that Christmas, might not happen at all and she has found herself in a workhouse – at Christmas.

It is full of possibly impossible things (though that rather depends on your point of view), and a others which are decidedly not impossible. There is a cat, with a rather determined and brilliant character, a mouse, the Northern Lights, a troll, (actually several of these) a jealous and rather lonely newspaper editor, truth-telling pixies, and story-telling pixies too…and of course there is Father Christmas…

The books should be bought together, and read as bed time stories in the lead up to the end of the winter term – a superb couple of books for everyone to enjoy…both illustrated by Chris Mould. Read and enjoy!


Published by Canongate

This was published as a lovely small hardback edition last Christmas, and will be published this as a paperback. The book is illustrated by Chris Mould and the combination of a good Christmas tale and his illustrations makes this, and the follow on book, The Girl Who Saved Christmas a brilliant pair of volumes for Christmas. I hope that Waterstones will make the set of books the Book of the Month for November – they are ideal to be used as a book at bed-time for the winter term…in preparation for Christmas.

Nikolas’ mother has died before the story begins. His father is a poor forester, and Nikolas has only ever been given two presents in the whole of his life: a turnip doll, his mother gave him, and a small sleigh from his father. He is happy enough, however and has a small brown mouse for company. When Nikolas’ father is offered a job, that will take him far into the North, his aunt comes to look after him and his life is turned upside down.

Which is where the story really begins…a true Northern adventure for Christmas. Full of elves, pixies, (including a truth pixie), trolls, reindeer, a kidnap (yes, a kidnap), bravery, sacrifice, hunting, magic…and things that aren’t impossible…a word no child should ever use… 

Buy this in good time for Christmas, and save it – to be read to all good little children (and some perhaps some not so good), up to Christmas…make it a tradition.


Published by Bloomsbury

With a back drop of the Russian landscape this is an extremely atmospheric tale of adventure. Feodora and Ilya, heroine and hero along with a small pack of  wolves are racing against time. There are rumbles of a revolution, whispers of people taking back control and ending the suffering that has pervaded the land for so long.

This is a wonderful adventure full of the smells of winter and wolves. Feodora’s life has been sheltered; she has had little to do with people, her life has been spent helping her mother ‘repatriate’ wolves no longer wanted by the rich of Russia’s elite. A repatriation  that is dangerous as wolves are intrinsically  not reliable, and people can’t be trusted, in certain circumstances either.

This is a book full of the stuff that fairy tales are made of. It certainly has the feel of folk lore and is a brilliant adventure. It will be one of those books to be read around a fire, with the snow falling in flurries outside a dark window…




Published by Simon and Schuster January 2017

Mathew Corbin is an only child and  he spends the majority of his time in his bedroom, watching people go past in the street. He writes everything down along with the times people go out, when they return, and how often they water their pot plants.

Life is not easy for Mathew. He believes that he is responsible for a tragedy in his past and this colours everything he does, and doesn’t do. Life is prescriptive, threatening and painful. He suffers from a form of obsessive compulsive disorder.When a neighbour’s small grandson goes missing Mathew decides that he has to do something, even if it can’t be very much, since going outside isn’t really on the cards.

There are obvious correlations between this and Mark Haddon’s book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, though this is much more suited for younger readers.

Ultimately this is a positive book, dealing with a severe mental disorder and that worst nightmare of a missing child…



Published by Corgi early November 2017

This is a story of a day – an extraordinary day centred around Natasha and Daniel – two young people destined, perhaps, to meet. Is there such a thing as Destiny? This is one story of these two characters, there may be other stories about them, that don’t turn out as this one does, but this is this story…not one of those.

It is the story of emigration. The small things that happen, that are catalysts for larger life changing events.

It is a story of racism. Of hopes, dreams, fears, regrets and prayers. It is a roller-coaster of a story – a day in the life of two people and some others, along the way.

There are mini chapters, mini interludes if you like, covering subjects as

Fate – A History,

Half-life – A History of Decay,

Multiverses – A Quantum History,

Hair – An African American History, and

Eyes – An Evolutionary History, which are fun and curious, but mainly it is essentially a book about people, the interconnection between different people and how they relate to one another. It is a love story.

Nicola Yoon is also the author of Everything, Everything, already reviewed in this blog.



There are good teachers, and bad teachers. Fat and ‘fin’ teachers. Some ugly and others are pretty. Some are ‘cool’, a few are clever. Some can teach. Others are just able to recite what they know, but are unable to explain it. Some think outside of the boxes. Some don’t know about boxes at all. Some are kind, and some are bullies.  There are frightened teachers, relaxed teachers. Others are brave, and then there are the down right brilliant teachers, teachers such as he.

I would not say that I particularly enjoyed school. I would rather have spent my time with Ptolemy, my Abyssinian  guinea-pig. I did, however make an impression on one or two people.  My headmistress expelled a pupil, in circumstances that I felt weren’t right. I told her what I thought about that.  I also had a short discussion about the freedom of choice about how much money should be put in the weekly collection. I explained to another how the death of a clergy orphan’s father, was none of a class’s business, and I also spelt the word library wrong, when I moved from lower school to senior.

It seems the first R is of importance.

Probably more so than the library rules that we had been transcribing.

My year and I were told, by the English teacher who had set the work that, amongst other things, that this proved that there was little point in attempting to teach such a person, who could make such an error. In fact it was further stated that should she ever be given the rather questionable opportunity of trying to teach me, that she wouldn’t. As there was no point; so she wouldn’t do so and didn’t want to.

I suppose we must have been allowed out from the library at some point. I don’t remember much more, apart from realising I would do well to avoid having anything to do with her. She was a large woman & I remember thinking she was older than most of the others, heavy, with her greying hair plaited tight around the crown of her head – I suppose in some sort of ancient Greek style.

She taught Latin, and English and frankly, I avoided her like the plague. As did several other pupils. It was certainly worth walking down the other side of the corridor. I wasn’t very good at Latin either; I remember once receiving the great result of 11% in an exam – but I look on this as not something that was particularly my fault. After all she was the teacher, I but the pupil. It didn’t help, that I really didn’t like her. For that matter, I don’t think she liked me either. She also took the classes for those pupils who weren’t doing so well at English, as well as putting us through our paces with Latin, and I was always rather relieved to know that I was in the middle group stream – with Mr Brown.

He was a smallish man, who wore a tweed jacket with elbow patches, he had a beard and a twinkle in his eyes, slightly dwarfish in appearance. Apart from being relieved about the group I was in, I didn’t think much about him really.

Until the day he called me up to his desk and asked me whether I would mind moving down to her group, as he felt my English would benefit from a firmer grounding. To be honest the idea didn’t appeal, as you can probably imagine. It was like Mr Brown to ask, rather than arbitrarily move me to her stream. I suppose, though, the end result would have been the same, except I replied that I didn’t, (which was I’m afraid a lie), however, I knew that she would.

Mr Brown looked at me very hard, and asked why I should think such a thing, as it couldn’t be true. I replied that I knew that it was, and further that she had already stated that given the opportunity she wouldn’t, as she had said there was no point in trying. Mr Brown looked surprised, and asked me for the details of what had happened. He was sure I had misunderstood. So I explained. He turned to the class and asked whether it was true, to which my friend Philippa replied that it was, and no-one understood why anyone would bother trying to teach me – there wasn’t any point.

Mr Brown left her in charge of the class and took me to the staff room, knocked on the door and we waited. When she came out Mr Brown asked her about it. She replied that she didn’t remember. So I gave her more details. Her reply amounted to the fact that she may have said something of the sort, she really couldn’t really remember, but what of it?

Mr Brown pulled himself up to his full height, and turned on this Grecian colossus – he explained that what she had said was not true and went on to express his opinion of what she had done in words that were clear and disparaging…so much so she seemed to shrink. His anger was as all encompassing as any I have seen or experienced in my life – perhaps made more impressive as I had never heard him so much as raise his voice before. Thinking back now, I realise that even then he didn’t shout. It was just a very intense and clear statement of facts. It wasn’t even a conversation, more of a soliloquy.

At the end, he turned to me and told me that if I was willing he would prove to me and her that he was right. Would I be happy to do extra work for him – which he would mark and give back to me? I could write about anything I wished – but he would ensure I got good grades, and further would enjoy English too.

Which resulted in my writing numerous essays,  and I received two B’s for my English exams, but what is more important to me now is that he instilled a love of words, and the use of English. For that, and for standing up for me in such a way, I will never forget him, he was truly a brilliant and inspiring teacher.

Sadly a few years ago, when I thought to contact the school to let him know about how English has become so important to me, I heard he had died.

Since there is no proof either way, however, I like to believe that Mr Brown knows about my blog, letters, books and the fact that I have encouraged so many children to read and to enjoy the language.

He was a remarkable man, and an exceptional teacher.






Published by Corgi / Penguin Random House Group

I have reached page 128 – and I can’t put this volume down. Ant and her brother Mattie were put with an emergency foster family when their parents disappeared. From there they have landed up in HMP London, otherwise known as Spike – a ‘family’ prison. This used to be HMP Holloway and Pentonville. Things have changed since then. They are there as a result of Heritage crime (Noun): A previously undetected crime committed by your parents or grandparents for which you are held responsible.

Ant believes that they should fight the system – as much as is possible, however, that leaves her small brother vulnerable to that same system along with her foster parents who are also residing in HMP London along with hundreds of others.

This book is intense. Are you responsible for other people’s behaviour? At the moment people are in prison for many reasons – their beliefs, for errors of judgement, for murder. Some are caught in a system that they will never manage to escape. I am not aware, though of any society that makes the children pay for crimes committed by their parents. I have recently begun to think that ideas in books, can often reflect what could happen, unless we are careful. We are not responsible for other people’s behaviour. We are all individuals and should be taking responsibility for our selves and for our children. This is a book about blame. About society’s responsibility to the individual and the individual’s responsibility to society. To care for one another. We are responsible for our own actions…

So far there has been little in Blame to make me laugh. Its not that type of book. I relate so well to Ant and her impetuosity and the need to speak out. I hope and trust though, should I ever be in a similar situation that I too would fight, and protect. I don’t know, though. I have been lucky – my ‘fights’ have been non existent compared to this.

I did laugh out loud though on the way to work this morning. I stopped reading the story and thought I would look at any notes e.t.c. at the end of the book – for background research really for this…and as expected there is a page of acknowledgements.

The first sentence I read was the following.

‘Personally, I blame Michael Morpurgo.’

I had to get off the tube at that point (because I had arrived for work) – but will be reading the rest of the Acknowledgments before I continue Blame – I suspect Simon Mayo there is more to that statement than at first appears..

This is an important book. I hope that the world becomes a better place, and not a worse one.

Simon Mayo is also the author of the 9 – 12 ‘Itch’ trilogy Itch, Itch Rocks and Itch Craft – about a boy who collects samples of all the elements of the periodic table – a marvellous series for those who are ‘into’ science…