Archives for the month of: May, 2018

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Published by Harper Collins

Cymbeline Igloo, nine, is friendly, relatively popular and good at sports. Apart from one. Swimming. Cymbeline Igloo has never been swimming. Not once. He’s never been in a swimming pool, let alone the sea, ever. This hasn’t been a problem, up until Miss Phillips statement  – and the fact that he panicked a bit…..and said it.

‘Er, I said. ‘Well.’ And then I said, and I don’t know WHY I said it, ‘Yearh, I’m like really epic at swimming.’ 

Which resulted in that challenge against Billy Lee which had repercussions far more serious than falling into the pool and displaying more of his anatomy than he would like. That and letting down Veronique Chang.

Cymbeline’s mother has a secret. Cymbeline believes it has something to do with swimming, however, he is unaware of quite what a secret his family is dealing with.

Both funny and touching. This is a book  about families, siblings and illness. About stories and essentially, love and…friendship, of course.

‘Billy and I were…friends now, as weird as that sounds. I felt guilty for making judgements about him and it made me realise that the bit you actually see of a person is like the ears on the hippos on the Discovery Channel. There’s much more underneath.’

This is a good book – it is Waterstone’s Book of the Month for Children from tomorrow. It is a must buy. 

I hope to have signed copies in Waterstones Finchley Road O2 at some point on Monday. Even if you can’t get hold of one of those, come and buy one..


Published by Orion Children’s Books.

I made some very (extremely) brief notes about this book on my mobile as I finished reading it. I had no paper to hand, so typed it slowly by index finger (I do have an oppossable thumb – I’m just not of the generation that grew up with a mobile); some words to denote what I thought, and what the book is about.

So here is a very different review of a rather good book:





























The cover was designed by Rob Biddulph – and to be honest that was what caught my eye. That old adage, ‘never judge a book by its cover’ – is true, however, it is what is first seen, and what first appeals, though I do, generally, read anything that comes into my hands…a well designed cover can entice and excite…as this one does.

I now want to go to India to see leopards…

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Published by Walker Books.

Things are not what they seem in this complex and intricate, roller-coaster of a  thriller.  Relationships that are ‘normal’ are found to be anything but. Pete’s mother does what she can, particularly since his Dad isn’t around any more.  Pete’s twin, his sister, elder by 8 minutes, has always been there for him too – supporting him when life becomes too difficult, because Pete suffers from panic attacks. These too aren’t just debilitating, they are so much more – all encompassing episodes of lack of control.

To try to keep things on the level, Pete counts. Everything. He knows things, facts are clear, unchangeable. Numbers are good – they don’t change either and can prove things that would otherwise be threatening, erratic, and dangerous.

This is a knot of a thriller – a mixture of mathematics and numbers, paradoxes, murder, fires, consequences, relationships – and being a 16 year old male…

I’d read about libido spiking in the wake of a big adrenalin hit, but I’d never experienced it before. It’s really weird: your brain chemistry shouting contradictory instructions at you like a war movie drill sergeant.

“Private Blankman! ATTENTION! Run! Hide! Run again! Good! Now you’re no long in immediate physical danger, father as many offspring as possible in the next sixty seconds, in case the threat comes back! AT THE DOUBLE, YOU MISERABLE MAGGOT!”

It’s an ‘edge of the seat’ sort of book…


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Published by Chicken House

Never judge a book by its cover. I started this proof, whilst reading at least three others. Which isn’t such an irregular event, however, I was thinking of finishing and reviewing White Rabbit Red Fox before starting anything else.This proof, though, seems to have an axolotl on the cover. For those who are unaware these are fascinating salamanders, which keep their larval features throughout their lives – which makes them rather curious. You can buy them as pets, but its a complicated business, and I suspect they’d prefer to be wandering around the rivers of Mexico…

Related imageSo when I began the proof it was with the hope that an axolotl would be involved in this story. I have to admit that I have only reached page 56 – which isn’t very far to be fair, but there isn’t a salamander (whether a Mexican axolotl or not) in the first few pages… so this is to be part one of a two part review…because there is bound to be one, or at least something very similar in the story….

This is a funny and wild book, about a boy whose bicycle is stolen. He needs a new one – urgently, however, since his Dad left, there hasn’t been much money for replacement bikes, and so he applies for a job that is advertised in the local shop.

This is a book about animals. Not the usual sort (though there are dogs and cats in it too)  for example there is an early mammal from the early Mesozoic era, and a baby legendary kraken…that keeps escaping from the bath… Since visiting Madagascar, I find I have quite an interest in creatures that are early forms of more recent ‘editions’….and this book ticks that box beautifully.

George (named after the Saint that went around the country killing rare animals) lives with his two older sisters, and his Mum, who runs a shop full of candles and bells. The job he applies for was advertised with the following notation of the qualities that would be required by the applicant:

Interest in Wildlife Necessary. Must be the Right Person. No squamophobes.

I would hope that I would fill this criteria – and if you don’t know what a squamophobe is, you had better read the book. I hope that the word squamophobe becomes an entry in the next edition of the OED.

This has made me laugh out loud. It is a joy.

‘I have my mother’s hair,’ began Prudence, at last. ‘And her eyes. That’s what everybody says. I don’t have any of the rest of her. She’s dead. So’s my Dad. He was killed. By a hippopotamus.’

A ripple of interest washed through the class. You could see Miss Thripps wondering if she had made a mistake. 

‘Hippos are very dangerous beasts,’ she said. ‘Did it happen in Africa, dear?’

Prudence shook her head. 

‘Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London.’

The blurb that came with the proof states it will be a reissue, with a gorgeous new cover. So it isn’t a new book – so you may have seen it before. The new edition (with the gorgeous new cover) is out in now…

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Mum, Dad and I went to Leatherhead by train yesterday, for a funeral at the Parish Church. I don’t think any of us had been to Leatherhead before, and the town seemed a little confusing I suppose, however, we arrived by train, walked through a park and made our way into the town, searching for the High Street. Before long we found our way to the bottom of the hill, where we found Barton’s Bookshop.

We were about an hour early for the service and to be honest, even if we weren’t, I think we would have deviated from our purpose… After all it was a bookshop. From the outside it looked like one of those special shops… The building looked as though it was Tudor, or at least influenced by that period, with a lovely old black door. It was the smell, however, that emanated from the shop, that was so inviting. Not that soul enhancing aroma of old books, which to be frank, results in my closing my eyes with pleasure, but that other extraordinary smell, of a good bookshop.

This was a cornucopia of a bookshop – books for adults, for children, adults with the heart of children, reference books, fiction, picture books…an eclectic mix of wonderful volumes. It was a small room – but filled with books, the bookcases arranged so you could become lost, and disappear into the children’s section, never to be noticed by a searching parent… There were cards too, a small selection of CD’s of classical music, some audio books too (on tape), and some globes, but it was the selection of books that was marvellous. No piles of the same title here. Single copies, on the whole, making a wonderful range of books to tempt and delight. These were books chosen on their merit, range was important – there was no space for piles of a title…this was a store to spend time in, to search for that book you didn’t know existed…

Image result for barton's bookshop leatherheadPeter Snell, the proprietor knows his books – loves them; if you don’t enjoy reading, then you just haven’t found the right one. He obviously enjoys his books, his customers and making sure the right book goes away with the right customer. He is a joy, an enthusiast and his bookshop reflects this. The building in which Barton’s Bookshop resides, has, I believe three floors. This wonderful shop could only be improved if it were able to extend into these rooms above. I suspect, however, that they may be living quarters either for Peter Snell, or for some other person or other.

This is, I think the first ‘official’ Bookshop Review I have done (that apart from The Most Beautiful Bookshop in Venice) – but I don’t think it will be the last.

We need good Independent Bookshops, as much as we need Waterstones or Daunts. We need a range of bookshops, as we need a good range of books within them.

Both types of bookshop have different things to offer a discerning bibliophile.

So, if you are in Leatherhead, whether for a funeral or for some other reason, I would like to suggest that you either arrive early for your appointment, or leave it promptly and visit Barton’s Bookshop – the details are below.

Barton’s Bookshop Ltd

2 Bridge Street, Leatherhead, Surrey KT22 8BZ

T. 01372 362 988




Image result for riddle of the runes

Published by OUP

Illustrated by David Wyatt of Podkin fame – this is Janina’s first book for children. Up to now she has been writing academic books and papers, which I am sure are very knowledgeable, but can’t be as much fun as this small volume. David Wyatt’s pictures complement the story superbly. Her more erudite titles are listed at the bottom of this blog.

Alva lives with her Viking uncle, her mother, baby brother, her uncle’s pet raven and a wolf in Norway. Her father never returned home from his last adventure.

Alva is a curious, determined young girl and when her village is thrown into a mystery that involves a group of monks from Northumberland, kidnap and revenge she can’t help herself and becomes entangled in an adventure like she has never done before.

A story of revenge, adventure and bravery and one of families, and family ties…

A book to savour – suitable to be read by youngsters, but also to be enjoyed as an evening story before retiring to bed…

I am pleased to say that the book looks to be the first of a series – it is noted as being Viking Mystery 1 – from which we can assume and hope for further books about Alva and her wolf.

The Private Lives of the Saints (2016 Paperback)

Julian of Norwich (2017 Paperback)

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Published by Collins / Harper Collins

This is for those people who never grow out of asking questions.

My sister once complained that I still ask the impossible questions, (usually related to medical subjects) that I should have stopped asking when I left my childhood.

Clare is my elder by 4 years. I ‘put her through medical school’ (not really, but I was working whilst she was training) and now semi-retired, she was/is a consultant. So I expect her to know everything. At least anything to do with medicine.

This book is for those of us who don’t have a geologist in the family – who should know everything to know about Geography. It is, however, by no means ‘just a Geography book’ – there is so much more to this.

It is, I suspect the sort of book that will engender more questions, more ideas, more thoughts.

Page 121 for example:

A few facts about –

MADAGASCAR (You didn’t expect me to use any other country, I hope.)

4th largest island in the world.

Lemur – It’s a clade of primates which includes nearly 100 different species, all of them endemic to Madagascar.

Archaeoindris – With a body mass of 200 kg, it was the largest species of lemur, the size of a gorilla. Its extinction coincided with the arrival of the first humans to the island around 350 BC

Vanilla – 2nd most expensive spice after saffron. Madagascar is the 2nd largest vanilla producer after Indonesia. 

Avenue of the Baobabs – Beautiful & famous dirt road with many prominent baobab trees lining it. I have been there and can confirm that this is so.

Brookesia micra – The smallest chameleon and one of the smallest reptiles on the planet, roughly 3 cm long. It was discovered in the mid-2000’s and can only be found on the small rocky island of Nosy Hara.

Gondwana – The name of the ancient (sic) supercontinent, which once included Madagascar, Antarctica, India, Africa, South America and Australia.

The facts given in the book are split between Geography (1,051), History (667), Society (641), Flora & Fauna (384), Economy 9356) and Science (176)

There are a few ‘general’ pages about the globe at the beginning: Planet Earth (physical attributes), Greatest Explorers, Earthquakes & Volcanoes, Highest Mountains, Largest and Smallest Countries.

Image result for explorers atlas wilkowiecki madagascar

Each page includes a silhouette map of the country/ies  in brown, (with a scale) and if necessary (and logically) any surrounding islands / other countries included on the same leaf.  My only criticism is that it is printed in sepia and often in a very small point font – which isn’t perhaps the best colour for those with poorer eye sight, however, it is printed on cream paper and the paper is matt – not ‘Art Paper’.

The book is bound in boards and measures some 34.5 cm x 27 cm (13.5 inch x 10.5 inch) – so a larger format book, necessary for such an atlas.

I feel I should apologise – I have had this book for a while, but not got around to giving it the review it deserves.






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Published by Harper Collins

Azi is waiting for his grandfather to come home again. He believes that without him he doesn’t belong on the island which has been his home for so long. His uncle tells him that his grandfather has gone to London, but London is a long way away, perhaps though, Azi will be able to go there, and bring him home. Surely he just needs a passport.

It isn’t easy being different, a gift from the sea, without his grandfather. All Azi wants to do is to go back to living with his grandfather by the beach.

This is a story of a monster, many tentacled and the man who leaves to fight the battle against it. Leaving a boy behind, misunderstanding and misinformed too.

This is also a story of new friendship, of friends both canine and human who support Azi, while he waits for his grandfather to return and its a story of hope…oh, and its also about turtles, coming to breed.

The picture below is taken from the Internet – a Loggerhead turtle off Kefalonia Island.

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Published by Jonathan Cape, London

I have been a fan of Mini Grey’s for some time now, probably since she illustrated a pop-up version of Jim (Hilaire Belloc), which was quite extraordinary. It is now available, (sadly without the pop-ups), as a paperback.

This is her new book. Little Red tells her Mum that she’s off to catch a wolf. Now this is a generally agreed fact; there haven’t been many wolves around for some time.  Which is what Little Red’s mother thinks. So she wishes her daughter good luck, and requests she’s home for tea.

The result of Little Red’s adventures through the woods is a door, which is opened by the Last Wolf in the land. The Last Wolf suggests that Little Red might stay for tea, along with the Last Lynx and the Last Bear. They tell her of the


when there were endless miles of forest…thousands of tasty grazing beasts to bite, the world was awash with flowers and bees and dripping with honey…when you could just lie on a branch and wait for lunch to wander under your paws…

This is a picture book about the good old days – and about forests and trees…and it is simply MARVELLOUS.

The Woodland Trust should sell it…


On Saturday 26th of May Mini Grey will be coming to Waterstones Finchley Road O2 (NW3 6LU) to talk to customers about her books…

We will have a selection of her titles to sell, that she will sign and dedicate for customers. Do come – a marvellous opportunity to meet this extraordinarily talented author and artist. She will be there from 3.30pm, and will stay around an hour…or maybe more, depending on how things go…

Copies of her books will be available…whilst stocks last.

You have been warned!



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Published by Nosy Crow

This isn’t a big book. The typeface is larger than most. This is the story of Ella, who has recently moved to a new house with her mother. They live alone together, and have a secret that mustn’t be talked about.

This is a story about wanting to belong. To be accepted.

A story of secrets.

A story of betrayal.

Of doing the wrong thing, for the wrong reasons and ultimately its a story about friendship, who are our friends and why.

I haven’t finished it yet – just got to page 148 – and its a book that interrupts your thoughts, makes you want to finish it…but I have paperwork to do. Car insurance to sort out, and a house covered in cat litter (I have a new kitten), which needs to be cleaned…

I will though, go out into the garden later this evening, and finish this…

Its super.