Archives for category: Book Review

Image result for darkie and co oxford childrens library

Now out of Print, originally published early 1930’s

I found this on a stall at the National Book Fair near Russell Square Hotel, last Sunday and have spent the intervening week reading it with immense pleasure, between my time at work and doing those things that are essential for sanity and comfort.

It was priced at £4 – but I paid just £2 – as everything on the stall was marked half price.

It has been a joy, not least because of the use of language, which was a pleasure – ‘No imperance,’ the sergeant replied, drawing himself up with dignity. ‘No imperance to the Law, my lad. Which I took to mean no impertinence…

The paper is thick, off white and it is regularly illustrated with wonderful pictures, black and white and full of character. The font is about 12 point and the book has good margins and a nice sized gutter too and, what is more, it has a dust jacket…

It was published by Oxford Children’s Library – I think in 1930/31 which reflects the use of language, particularly in the title which could, in these more recent years be held to be politically questionable. Darkie though is bright and intelligent and his name is given as a term of affection… The story is a proper adventure – our young hero has run away, and becomes involved with a puppet master and gypsies – out to get what they can in the way of a ransom.

Lastly this small volume has that wonderful smell that comes with old books – slightly musty…a comforting sort of smell.

It is a delight.

This post, is by way of a reminder, that one can find good reading (and books that are designed properly and beautifully) for very reasonable prices for very little – if you are willing to try something a little different, that might have a history…


Image result for the girl who speaks bear

Published by Anderson

Once upon a time…

A story of tales. A story of a young girl with memories of a bear. A tale of identity. A tale of beliefs. An adventure story too – a search for family – history.

This has elements of Anderson’s last book (The House with Chicken Legs) – definitely has the same feel. A young girl begins to search for her youth, knowledge of her parents, her adoptive parents and what happened before. She is accompanied by a house weasel – as she searches for the bear that raised her. The call to the woods is too strong…

As she travels and searches she finds herself befriending and travelling with an wonderful array of creatures – a herd of different creatures  – from wolves, a young boy,  through to birds…

This is lovely – definitely one for those who enjoyed The House with Chicken Legs

Due to be published in September – one for reading as the evenings draw in.




Published by Chicken House

This is one of the most extraordinary books I have ever read.

Another dystopian novel, this one set after the waters have risen. A group of people are left surviving – floating on the back of an enormous jelly fish. That in its turn seems to be farming them, throwing fish onto its mesoglea, so that they can survive. Protected somewhat from the elements, wind, sun and salt by the plastic that they have pulled from the sea to make a small shelter. They are on their own. The sea lapping at the edge of the jelly fish, dark shapes rising and falling beneath their feet.

In the distance they can see a small coastal village, nothing and no-one moves around the buildings and the fields above, apart from sheep high above the cliff and enormous crab like creatures, possibly the relations of those little crabs found in rock pools, are seen scuttling around the houses, large and formidable.

This is as I said quite the most peculiar book I have read, in a very long time. A quirky strange tale – almost a fable – and very different…a most extraordinary book…

Something to be read by the sea…

Image result for the monster who wasn't

Published by Bloomsbury

I think it was J.M. Barrie who had the idea that fairies are born from a baby’s first laugh. I’m not certain – he certainly had an idea of that sort. I  think it’s in Peter Pan…T. C. Shelley has taken this just one step further. If a baby’s first laugh makes fairies, then perhaps a monster might come from a person’s last sigh. The bigger the sigh, the more formidable the monster. Those with small regrets, begetting smaller monsters. Those who have greater qualms or misgivings creating larger…

What happens then, when a baby’s first laugh is mixed at the same moment with that of a last sigh?

So a monster that looks very similar to a boy – a human boy, but a boy with a monster’s sense of smell for one thing. An imp boy, perhaps it would be the best way to describe such a creature. A being so outwardly similar as to confuse humans into believing he is, just that, a small, rather dirty, ragamuffin of a boy…

This should by rights be read in some great cathedral – it should be read by the boys who attend those Choir Schools – you know the sort – that sing so stupendously at Christmas…a book of monsters, gargoyles and at least one angel…

This is wonderful – I’m only part way through this and I’m finding that I can’t get on with other things as a result.

It is out now – buy it.

Image result for the dead world of lanthorne ghules

Published by Pushkin Press.

Two headed creatures with long investigating tongues…

The tongues explored Edwin’s legs slowly and carefully, peeling themselves away after each touch. They moved up to the hollows at the backs of his knees and then curled themselves around each knee, squeezing it tightly.

A baby kidnapped in the depths of the night.

A jealous sibling, furious and hurt.

Diets of raw and over-ripe food…

A dim world with little colour. Apart from shades of grey.

A people who have a taste for the unusual…especially at times of celebration…

This is a gloriously Gothic, but fun adventure.

A warning to those who think a pen-friend might be just what they want – they may get more than they bargain for.

I loved it – Edwin and Lanthorne are brilliant characters and Aunt Necra – well… I am glad she wasn’t an aunt of mine! I would love, though to have a tame snarghe – I suspect one would be a very useful addition to a household…

‘They can work things out. Good boy.’

One of the heads stopped snarling and fixed Lanthorne with an unfriendly stare.

‘ Good girl, too. Good boy and girl.’

The two heads went back to snarling…

Due to be published October 2019 – just in time for Halloween.

Place your orders now.




Image result for jemima small versus the universe

Published by Usborne





This is a story of comparisons. Those we make ourselves and those others make about us.

Jemima Small is larger than life.

She is larger than life, than average, in many things.

She’s funny, bright (very bright) and kind.

She is also larger than average, physically.

Which can make her feel like nothing at all. Of no importance. Of no use. It has been a gradual thing – incremental and a slow transition and it colours her life.

There are things she does and things she doesn’t do because she is deemed to be different. She doesn’t accept challenges which would mean she has to stand up and be someone, as no-one would want to see someone like her representing the school…

Jemima is, however, intelligent. Clever and knows all sorts of things that other people don’t.

We are all made of star dust.

Who we are is not what we look like.

We are all so much more than that.




Image result for where the river runs gold

Published by Orion Books –

Freedom Fields Family

Stronger Together

Education, Healthcare, Work Experience, Training

Food, Fresh (air), Fair (treatment), Freedom and Fun

A Family for Life

This book is by way of a warning.

A dystopian novel set after the last bees have gone. A distant memory. Where there were meadows, fields and trees there are now bricks, mortar and steel. Food is hard to come by. People make do and their children are sent to the Freedom Fields to help pollinate crops by hand.

This is the tale of a sale of hair and the last tendrils returned as a skein to be kept and given as a gift. Of free-thinking. Resistance. Seeds and hope. It’s a tale of families and siblings. A story of belief.

Themba and his sister Shifa’s adventure begins as they realise that the Freedom Fields Family isn’t quite what the brochure suggested and there’s that secret too…

Brilliant. Read it. Enjoy it. Trust in the bees.



Animal Photograph - Spiders Of Britain And Northern Europe by Natural History Museum, London/science Photo Library


My garden has got a little wild and my paeonies all needed to be looked at. Though the main white one – the big one, had finished flowering some time ago. The smaller herbaceous varieties I have are still blooming, though many of the heads are becoming manky, to use a technical term. I have a general rule that ‘mankiness’ should be removed before it goes sludgy and makes things worse. So, I de-head anything that has gone over. It’s an easy rule – and satisfying too. Now the little white paeony is going over – the petals are worn and the heads are looking very tatty.

I have been taking them off regularly and went to take one of the last when I saw a movement and met Blanche – my friendly neighbourhood WHITE spider sitting amongst the petals. So, I left her alone – she obviously lived in the bud – and I do believe in trying to garden without disturbing anyone too much.

For the last few days I have been studying her. At times she is very white, others an off white and sometimes she has a greenish tinge. No web to speak of, so I assumed (I find rightly) that she is the wait- and-grab type of arachnid and was waiting for some unsuspecting prey to visit. I have kept an eye on her

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ever since, taking photos of her (when she wasn’t hiding behind the sepals of the flower head, or under one of the petals) and thought that the colour change was something to do with sunshine and how it was hitting her body…

I have a copy of The Collins Field Guides: Spiders, (1995 edn.) which has photographs as well as line drawings and low and behold, amongst the photos of lots of brown and very prettily marked arachnids I came across a white example – looking very similar to Blanche. The notation states:

Genus Misumena: The single species in the region sits in flowers, usually white or yellow and ambushes visiting insects in the same manner as Thomisus. It is similarly able to slowly change colour and the female may be white, yellow or greenish, with or without red spots or stripes.

As you will see from the photos Blanche has no spots or stripes, but this is definitely her Genus – without a doubt. It seems her husband is the more usual brown, with a pattern. I was a little concerned about her – she is small – body no bigger than my little finger nail…and she didn’t seem interested in the odd fly that visited the paeony…but then this evening, I made a last visit to her shrub and found her half hidden under a petal, curved over her. She had her legs wrapped very firmly around a bee, I’m afraid and seemed to be determined to hold on to it. Not that I tried to remove it, you understand it’s just that there’s an air of determination about her. As to the bee – she wasn’t moving. I suspect that Blanche has immobilised

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her, or failing that I was looking at a body. I shall be interested tomorrow to see what remains. I am glad though that Blanche has caught a meal – though it is rather a large one – and though I’d prefer not to practice speciesism – I would have liked her quarry not to have been a honey bee…

I have had this book for some time – but haven’t really used it for identifying any arachnids until this week – and it is full of useful information too – if you have even the most basic interest in the smaller fauna then these guide books produced by Collins are extremely useful.


Image result for max kowalski didn't mean it

Published by Puffin Books

‘…and always wait for the weather.’

Not many big brothers would hold a funeral for a desiccated bifurcated dead worm for a younger sister.  This is, however, one of the first things that the hero of this story does at the beginning of this book. He is his father’s eldest child. He is ‘stepping up’ – taking on the responsibility for his family, when his father disappears.

This is a story of families. Of siblings. Of hiding out. Sticking together and responsibilities…a tale of a trip to Wales, of learning to climb, a pink rolling suitcase stuffed with money and a mystery…

I haven’t finished it yet – but it keeps distracting me from what I should be doing….

There are probably lots of definitions of what it is to be a ‘man’ – this small volume (I have finished it now), gives one such definition… Stepping up isn’t what youngsters are supposed to be doing. Theirs is the time for experiments, challenges, support and love.

A book of the mountains and of Wales too. Stupendous. Loved it.

Image result for the dragon in the library

Published by Nosy Crow –

There are some out there who don’t enjoy a good book. I was one, once. Though I did enjoy being read to. I just didn’t see the necessity of learning to read for myself. That is until I visited the Tutankhamun exhibition…but that is another story in itself.

This then is for those out there who think that books and dare I say it, LIBRARIES are rather dull and not for them.

How different things would be if there happened to be a dragon living beneath these extraordinary and wonderful depositories of escapism and other things…

Kit’s friends are ‘into’ books – in a big way – never happier than sitting with a nose stuck into a new novel…she though, would rather spend her time outside – there are trees to climb, places to go…not least the local cemetery… ‘...with its spooky stone angels and matted undergrowth full of cool insects and – one blissful day – a rat….’

When Kit finds herself visiting her local library with her friends things turn out very differently from the way she thought it would…there are wizards and dragons involved and magic too… There is a little of Pages & Co / Anna James (see previous review) in this – however, this one is for those who are a little younger – none the less a book to enjoy over the summer. You never know it may mean a visit to a library, or perhaps to a bookshop – to look at books

Illustrated throughout by Davide Ortu – which is always a bonus…after all what is the use of a book without pictures?