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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







Yesterday – the day of the B-March I went up to Holborn to the Peacock Theatre to see a performance of Yamato – Japanese Drummers. Years ago, I saw the Kodo Drummers in a small theatre somewhere in London – don’t know where – but I remember the hairs on the back of my neck standing perpendicular.

Yesterday’s performance was different. Less serious (much less serious), more flamboyant, but as loud. The theatre is small, actually almost too small – my knees were firmly against the seat in front of me and the occupant of that seat was just a touch too tall – but that was of no matter. The auditorium was filled with adults and a very good proportion of children. It started (relatively gently) – and then grew into a series of mini enactments.

The group are made up of 12 members – of which a quarter are female. They seem to do everything their male counterparts did, including playing all the large drums. The only aspect they didn’t do was when the dancers/performers stripped down to their waist in one story to play the largest drums. The one thing that comes across is that the troupe really enjoy playing together – there’s a sense of understanding and fun.

Image result for yamato drummers

There were drums (a bit of an understatement), small, medium, large and extra-large. The sounds varied between a staccato noise, almost high pitched to a resonating boom. The musicians played with one another. One started a sequence with a small drum and encouraged the audience to clap. We did. He made another, we clapped again, and then another musician crept from the side and brought out different drum and played it over the first. He tried to gather it all together again only to go off in a huff and bring out a third. They tried to outdo each other, each getting larger and larger instruments till at last they burst into playing all the drums together in a wild frenzy – with our first performer using all the drums, and pushing the other team to one side to ‘win’. A little while later two of them played tennis with little cymbals. Tossing the imaginary ball between them and catching it again between them – one even served a ball to the other and then a little later threw it and the other made to catch it – when a third musician leapt between them to snatch it ringing out of the air. They played together and then would go back to the serious stuff. Near the end they sat the edge of a platform, facing away from the audience, their drums (large) between their knees. They dropped their cloaks from their shoulders and lent back over the edge of their platform – faces to the ceiling, pulled themselves up to the drums and started a phenomenal sequence. When sitting upright you could clearly see the muscle formations of their backs – and they would regularly drop down below the horizontal to rise again to continue drumming… At the end – they did a last wild rendition and came forward to formally bow. They left the stage – the main character waiving to us wildly… then he returned, grinning and enticed another one back – and then more – and we suddenly had an encore. A good proportion of the auditorium missed it. Just shows sitting quietly at the end of a performance pays off. Two hours of extraordinary sound – filled with joy and fun. I didn’t think of anything else for the whole performance. I admit to snatching another ticket – I’m off work on the last day of their performances and am going to go again…maybe this time I won’t have a tall man sitting in front of me.

So, I did – that was yesterday, their penultimate performance. This time I was in the Stalls, not the Dress Circle, only a few rows from the stage, with three tiny little Japanese children sitting in the row in front of me – ideal!

It was, if anything better than the last time – even with my knowledge of the performance. I arrived early and sat and had an orange juice whilst waiting for my seat to be made available…they were practising….and I enjoyed listening to the thunder that reverberated through the bar area… My seat was placed this time so I could see the expressions on their faces and the instruments in much more detail. This is what I wrote in my notes app. on my phone on my return.

A dozen wild cats with boots on – they perform with supple boots – which look not unlike those worn on building sites. Wild and feral. Joyous, mock jealous and temperamental in character. Drumming – a deep resonant throb, purring to a crescendo till there’s an in-articulated cry, almost feline in tone, that gathers the group. Boots which must be lighter than they look allowing the drummers to leap and prance. Cloaks a whirlwind – drums held high, sticks higher. Primeval. Then other drums staccato and sharp and the flow of the flute twisting through the drums then the trill of the tiny cymbals, bright notes of light cutting through the rumble, rattle and reverberation, as the performers gyrate and fly across the stage. Each piece a short story related in drumming, muscle and music: tales of the joy of life, of living.

I shall go again, when they come back.

Image result for yamato drummers

Image result for boot shane hegarty

Published by Hodder & Stoughton

Boot: Silvery-green and shaped like a light-bulb. Belly round and tough, yet soft to touch or hug. Four chunky fingers. No toes. Head an oval with a small screen along the front with colourful dots that flow together to make a face. Boot is a robot.

This is a lovely positive tale about a robot who has, it seems, lost his owner. He has only three memories to help him find her, and those aren’t exactly the most detailed or helpful. Whilst obviously a story of friendship and determination, with a brilliant villain in the piece, it also touches on memory loss and dementia, but without that taking over the book. On the way to finding his young owner Boot meets various other robots, some of whom have taken refuge in a fun-fair…

This is lovely – a great story about why we hold on to things and what is important.

Shane Hegarty is also the author of the Darkmouth series for older readers.




Image result for old ballet shoes

Published by Nosy Crow

This could be called the sister of Elizabeth Laird’s book Welcome to Nowhere. Though in that, the book details the progress of a family from Syria to the UK, No Ballet Shoes in Syria details what happens to a small family of asylum seekers once they have reached these shores. With what I suppose are literary flash backs of Aya’s home life before the war and the journey to England.

It is an emotional, beautifully written tale, using ballet as a central point of reference – with of course that connection to Ballet Shoes (Noel Streatfield). I know nearly nothing about ballet, however, the terminology and phrases used give a strong ballet-colour to this story.

Sadly a tale that is being repeated again and again in the news. This one reminds those of us who are so lucky, that their names aren’t refugee/asylum seeker, they are the Ayas of the world…

Nosy Crow haven’t given / published the cover that the finished title will have, so I have chosen this image from the Internet. It seemed apposite.

Note Catherine’s alter-ego Cate Shearwater is the author of the Somersaults and Dreams books – about gymnastics.

5 Things to Consider Before Trying Pointe Ballet. The picture is credited to ThoughtCo Ballet Dancers and Bruised Toenails. Pointe shoes.

Image result for cosmic atlas of alfie fleet oxford

Published by Oxford

This is the tale of Alfie, a boy who would like to give his Mum a Sole Sensation 6000 Foot Spa, with Soothejet Technology and Vibrating Toe-Polishers for her birthday. His only problem? He doesn’t have quite enough money to buy her one. He had been planning for months and his latest scheme had just failed  to turn his £100 into £149.99 – he was stuck and her birthday was the next day… Feeling rather despondent he starts to read the Classifieds…

HELP NEEDED due to bad back…

£49.99 paid in cash….

would suit a young person with a

taste of adventure

Sounds ideal…

Thus starts this quite extraordinary adventure. Reminiscent of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams), this is an adventure which includes other worlds, a dragon, a beautiful elf, cartography, an eccentric professor,  a moped named Betsy and Derek – an expert on hunting, fishing, mountain biking and…

threatening behaviour.

Full of characters – this is a fun exploration of space, stone circles and time and planet exploration…

My proof (being a proof), isn’t finished yet – so not all the illustrations are in place. That said there is plenty of scope for Chris Mould’s art and having seen his other work, I suspect it will be filled with them – this is a wild piece of science fiction for perhaps the younger readers out there, though some of the older bibliophiles will enjoy it too…I did…