Archives for the month of: April, 2019

Image result for the maker of monsters lorraine gregory book

Published by Oxford University Press

NY Published: May 2019

A fun Frankenstein-esque tale. A wild adventure of escape and bravery. It reminded me a little of Stitch Head (Guy Bass), that I reviewed some time ago, I think. This has fewer illustrations (so perhaps for readers who are a little older) and revolves around our hero, trying to do something about hoard of revengeful monsters…on the way making friends and standing up for what is right.

This has some wonderful character parts too – particularly Tingle and Sherman, Brat’s original friends…

Perfect for those who are beginning to get their reading legs going – a wild rampage of a book…

Image result for the last spell breather julie pike oup

Published by Oxford University Press

NY Published – July 2019

Words. Children are often told to ignore words thrown to hurt. As though words can’t, though we all know that sometimes a hurtful word is just as bad as a thrown fist. We all also know that they can be positive. It’s all relative. This takes that a little further.

Words can heal – a spell if you like, but should be carefully administered. Carefully blown over the patient, otherwise issues may arise. A book damaged by fire has repercussions that are far from the usual and results in an adventure like nothing before. This has leanings towards the story of the Magician’s Apprentice, but develops into a tale all of its own.

This is an engrossing, charming tale of sisterly jealousy, bravery and a warning to take care of books…



Image result for girl with the pearl earring book bonnier

Published by Borough Press

I don’t usually stray into the Adult’s section. I recently did so after a discussion with someone who mentioned I might like Chevalier’s books.

My grandfather used to take me pretty regularly to the Wallace Collection in London. We would wander the pictures and decide on the quality of the paintings on show. If a piece of cloth looked real, what the expression on the face said about the sitter. A sort of art appreciation, not that it was formal in any way – a time I remember with pleasure. Those trips probably set the basis for my enjoyment of pictures – of being happy just to look and perhaps see something a little different.

This is a possible story of The Girl with the Pearl Earring. That picture and that girl – it is a possible story of the girl, with the pearl earring too.  It is a story with all the artistic detail which has made me look at it again – it is a very fine picture and the pearl? The pearl does complete it. The cover of my paperback had the image reproduced on it.

If I cover the pearl with my thumb, something is definitely missing.

This is a history if you will of a painting, but also of the people in Vermeer’s life – and a small biography of the artist too. I have never been to the Netherlands – but now am thinking of a trip. I have always loved Dutch paintings – I love the detail….


Image result for malamander thomas taylor walker

Published by Walker Books

Why I never received a proof of this, I don’t know – I thought I was on everyone’s list for pre-publication Children’s books. I must have fallen off a list…

I have only just started this – it arrived at work today and I nicked one to read whilst having my lunch – it is wonderful.

Lost and found. Lots of things get lost – there’s a big Lost Property Office run by T.F.L. which reputedly has some very strange things in it.  I have a transparent box in which I keep lost property for a month – mostly odd toys and the odd glove. Harrod’s had a very efficient and very busy system when I worked there… Generally the items that I took down to the Lost Property Department were things like glasses, gloves, hats, purses and once a wallet that was bursting at the seams (it couldn’t close), with £50 notes, all on their edge, forcing the opening so that it bulged apart by about three inches… I never knew of a person, though to be left, or for that matter to be found in such a place…

This is about a young Lost Property Officer working in a hotel. He looks after lost things. There is though, a mystery around the town and the hotel. A baby that was left (before his time) and the parent’s of that child went missing…leaving just two pairs of shoes and some luggage – now no longer safely stored in his office…

I am LOVING this – and won’t say more at the moment (I can’t, I haven’t finished it yet) – but I can tell you it has some fantastic characters in it – and I’ve only just reached page 44 – I can’t wait to find out about the man with the hook, or about Lady Kraken, Mr Mollusc, or the Belgium chef and of course what happens to Violet (and what happened to her)…let alone Herbie….

There are fantastic pictures of fish throughout the book – vert wild looking and chapter headings illustrations as well. This, I am certain, is a book that everyone will want to read…

It is now 08.51 and I’m going to tweet about this quickly and go to bed, to curl with this very good book and find out what happens next…and the answers to those tantalising questions!

Image result for the land of roar

Published by Egmont

I think most people at some point in their lives, have dreamed about another world…some are famous and are often quoted in books – the idea of going through a wardrobe into another country…

This though is a little unusual – Arthur and Ross used to imagine another world – The Land of Roar, but they haven’t thought about it for years and it is only when they begin to clear out their grandfather’s loft that they begin to remember their imagined adventures. The old rocking horse in the corner…no a little battered and worn…and the fold-away-bed…

Or were they? Should imagination be just brushed aside, as some sort of ephemeral thing? Imagination is a very strong talent and is likely to get you into trouble as it is to get you high marks in English exams. That a whole world might be reliant on your belief, your imagination, is a little disturbing…though wonderful too.

The Land of Roar. Things are different and not for the better…

Image result for the unexpected find ibbotson

Published by Scholastic.

A mystery. A storm and an extremely cold, not to say freezing Swedish winter. This is the story of a skein of three friendships twisted together and compelled to travel in the hope of finding the answers to their questions. It is a story of friendship, trust and bravery.

It is something we may all enjoy reading as the temperature rises in June – it is a long time since I read something that was so compelling and describes the sense of touch, in this case cold, so fundamentally.

Enjoy it. Something different for the Summer.

No idea if this really will be the cover…due out in June 2019

Image result for extraordinary birds sandy stark-mcginnisImage result for extraordinary birds sandy stark-mcginnis

Published by Bloomsbury

Everyone has oceans to fly, if they have the heart to do it. Is it reckless? Maybe,

but what do dreams know of boundaries?

Amelia Earhart

This is something quite unique. A story of recovery, hope and bravery. A story of continuation and existence. A story of hope. This is December’s story. Her last foster home from which she hopes to fly. Literally.

She is known to leap from trees. She has been known to leap from a barn roof. She hopes that the scars on her back will at last allow her wings to unfold and so prevent her from falling.

It is Henrietta’s story too. A bird to be released back into the wild, if all goes well. The training of Henrietta is different from that I have known from my experience of falconry – there the bells are attached to the tail feathers or leg furniture. They are not there to attract the bird’s attention, that is usually done with a whistle or cry. In this the bells attached to the glove do just that.

This is a unusual and quietly compelling tale of the emergence of trust…and hope and of flight.

Not yet published – and I have found two possible covers – I prefer the bottom one – it seems to capture what the book is about much more clearly…

Image result for bog child siobhan dowd

Published by David Fickling Books

Engrossing. Moving. Bog Child is a story of obligation. Fear. Tradition. Love. A time and place of confrontation. Fergus lives in Ireland. His brother in prison. Set at the height of the troubles – this is an extraordinary book that merges ancient history with The Troubles.

Choices – fundamental beliefs challenged. A story of bravery and essentially, of families and hope.

Extraordinarily compelling. A slice of Irish history and a little more.

Image result for lily and the rockets chicken house

Published by Chicken House.

I cannot claim to be a football fan. If pushed, I might say I prefer rugby. Though I have no idea of the rules for either; there is a fluidity with rugby that I don’t see in football.

This though is a history of a sort The tale of women’s football – with a little colour added to make the story personal. You don’t have to be a fan of football, whether men’s or women’s to enjoy this – I thoroughly enjoyed it.

1917 – most young men were at the front. Women were working in munitions factories – but in their lunch-breaks they were getting together to play football…a kick-about…from there it was a short step towards proper teams and a league.

It is a story of comrades, friendship and promises made, broken and the start of something even bigger.

Things were very different then…

The Tiger Club Logo

Back sometime in 2018 I had booked to fly with the Tiger Club near Upminster. The flight was cancelled twice, once because of bad weather and the on the second occasion the plane hadn’t returned to the UK after a trip to Paris. It seems its paperwork had gone awry.

We concluded that at the end of March, the weather would have improved and so it was I found myself driving to the Damyns Hall Aerodrome, just as Spring was getting underway.

A rough green field of grass and a small aircraft hanger at the end of a single track and rather perforated road.

I met Alex, my pilot and we talked for a while in the office before we went out to the plane – We would start slowly – a loop, followed, perhaps, if I was happy, with a roll. Then we would see. I was provided with a paper bag in case of any incidents. I smiled at Alex – explained that I have at various intervals had experience of small planes – and in particular aerobatic flights. He smiled too – but was a little reserved and rightly. There’s always the person who claims they can ride, having just sat on a donkey years ago, on a beach somewhere on the coast. Not that I can fly – but I know how much I enjoy going up into the sky. It is so big –


It is only since I returned home that I realised that I am a little addicted to the adrenalin rush that results from aerobatics flying (amongst other flight orientated experiences). I first went up when I was a member of S.P.I.C.E – I was much younger then. That flight too had been delayed, but I was lucky and was offered a second one, immediately after the first. Shorter it was, but still had the same number of manoeuvres – just in one cube of air, instead of the whole sky – so each one led directly into the next. I remember grinning like a loon, the pilot laughing at me… Again, with S.P.I.C.E, on another occasion, I also went up in a Tiger Moth, which was more basic, slower but gorgeous – then when turned upside-down I remember being amazed when I fell into my straps which moments before had been so tight…

Then I flew again a year or two ago in Wales. That wasn’t so satisfactory – a long drive and a rather tame flight. It made me search for the Tiger Club more earnestly. Am I glad I found them!

So, at last we went out and opened the large doors, pushing them right back on their rollers to then gently ease our aircraft from the hanger and turn it carefully on the cement block, before starting the numerous checks, that are always such an important aspect of flying anything – let alone an aerobatics plane.


We rolled across the sward of grass till we could turn and stop, before we checked all the dials once more, made sure we were both firmly strapped in and grinned at one another, before we moved forwards to gather momentum.

Take off speed was around 80mph, pitch angle around 30 degrees, flaps were then retracted and we climbed at around 100mph (at around 1,200ft / minute) up to 1,800ft. We then cruised at 140mph. I then had the controls (!) and we gently turned around carefully – we were checking the skies for other aircraft, pigeons, hot air balloons, vultures and any other flying creatures… I think we spotted one small plane and Alex mentioned a bird flying low and away from us – then the fun really began.

To quote Alex’s text (here comes the technical stuff): The entry to most of the aerobatic manoeuvres were between 130 & 150mph (the latter for the roll off the top, and one of the stall turns). We performed aerobatics in the local area at between 1,400 & 1,600ft to initiate and then overhead at between 1,000 & 1,200ft.

The list of manoeuvres (in no particular order):


My grin, was I think, stretching from one ear around to the other as we started out, and then slowly spread behind my ears to circumvent my skull – I had forgotten quite how much fun aerobatics can be – I am certain I must have been a bird at some point in one of my previous lives…probably a corvid, or maybe a bat – something that plays in the sky…

G force is a rather wonderful piece of physics. I have no real idea of how it works – just at various times you feel as though you will never be able to leave your seat; that the straps are superfluous, then at other times you suddenly feel totally weightless and if you aren’t concentrating you find yourself left in the air…and are much more aware of how useful those fastenings are…

We did start slowly and Alex checked after each manoeuvre that we performed that I was happy to continue – I think he found it amusing to see how much I was enjoying myself – ‘Would l like to do anything else?’ My response was a general, ‘What else is there?’

As with all things like this – that take you away from everything earth-bound, our flight was over much too soon…

The speed of the approach at the end of the flight was at around 75mph to the ground touchdown at around 60mph.

I asked Alex to text me the details – I knew I would never remember them all – particularly the technicalities. For those of you who want to know we flew a CAP10C – registration G-CDCE which was ‘totally factory rebuilt in 2005.’ The engine is a Lycoming AE10360 – which is supposed to be 180hp – but after tuning by an American company it has been benched at 218hp – according to their mechanics.

Alex did go on to say that we performed considerably more than he usually does on air experiences – and also that I flew very nicely…

Perhaps next time I will persuade him to let me do a little more…this may well become a habit.

I came away with a Tiger Club baseball cap and drove home with a slightly wild look to my eye…

The Tiger Club 1990 Ltd

Damyns Hall Aerodrome, Aveley Road, Upminster, Essex RM14 2TN 01708 524 633