Archives for category: For All Ages

Image result for national velvet book 1st edition

Published by Egmont Modern Classics.

THIS is what dreams are made of.

The fictional tale of a young girl entering the Grand National.

This is frankly one of the best books I have read for years.

The passion, pace and the use of language are wonderful. The use of colloquialisms (this was published in 1935) perhaps a little strange, but add colour to this gorgeous book about a young girl’s dreams…

‘They’ made a film of it in 1944 (Elizabeth Taylor was in it) – but I suddenly remembered the book last week, realised it wasn’t in stock, had the ‘powers that be’ order some and bought a copy.

I can’t put it down.

‘She bent slightly and held him firm and steady, her hands buried in the flying mane firm on the stout muscles of his neck. She urged him no more, there was no need, but sat him still. He was a natural jumper. She did not attempt to dictate to him. They cleared the wall together, wildly, ludicrously high, with savage effort and glory, and twice the force and power that was needed…’

I so wish that I had read this when younger – a powerful book of the culmination of dreams and determination against – well – read it!

In 1935 women weren’t allowed to ride in the Grand National. In 1976 the Sex Discrimination Act was passed and Charlotte Brew entered the National in 1977 on Barony Fort.

In 1982 Geraldine Rees, on Cheers – finished the course. In 1988 three female jockeys entered. In 1994 Rosemary Henderson (riding Fiddlers Pike) finished in fifth place as did Carrie Ford (on Forest Gunner) in 2005. More recently in 2012 Katie Walsh rode Seabass and finished third…and Nina Carberry has entered the race five times… They have and are taking on the world…

There has been a plethora of books written about fictional and non-fictional tales of young girls/women who have done something remarkable. This precedes them all, both in age and in wonder, but is so much more than that – it’s glorious. I am SO pleased that Egmont have kept it in print. It is such an important volume.

Full of hope and horses…

What more could anyone want?

The cover above is that of the first edition hardback (no longer available), however, this is the cover Egmont have given this edition (17th) – just as powerful, but I wanted to acknowledge the age of this one – it is so very special.

National Velvet



Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat and all that goes with it. I am asked regularly for titles as gifts…which can be complicated. These though are the books that I have reviewed this year, with one or two that were published and reviewed some time ago, but shouldn’t be missed. I don’t ‘sex’ books – the main protagonists in these are sometimes male, sometimes female, on the whole – but everyone can read them – the age indication, is just that. If you feel that your recipient can, should and would enjoy a book in an older range, that’s up to you. Do be aware though that some are quite dark, though wonderful (otherwise they wouldn’t have got on the list).  Sometimes they might enjoy a book from a younger age group…

I thought this time to give an indication of my favourites, those in bold. These aren’t necessarily my favourite of all time – some of those are on the list, but not in bold, but they are titles I think are special for other reasons…and actually, I can’t say I have a favourite picture book, for example, as I find the Tadpole’s Promise story simply glorious (esp. as it has no sugar, or sugar substitute in it), but the illustrations in The Night Gardener, a new publication for this year are gorgeous

Happy Christmas / 2017


The Night Gardener / Terry & Eric Fan  / Simon & Schuster

Stardust / Jeanne Willis / Anderson Press

Kevin / Rob Biddulph / Harper Collins

Tadpole’s Promise / Jeanne Willis  / Anderson Press

The Story Orchestra The Nutcracker / Jessica Courtney-Tickle / Frances Lincoln

Wild Child / Jeanne Willis / Illus. Lorna Freytag / Walker Books

Olivia Helps with Christmas & Olivia goes to Venice / Ian Falconer / S&S

FOR 5 – 8 YEARS:

Hippo at the End of the Hall / Helen Cooper / David Fickling 

The Creakers / Tom Fletcher / Puffin / Penguin

Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball / Ellen Anderson / Egmont

Det. Nosegoode & the Music Box Mystery / Marian Orlon / Pushkin

Bookshop Girl / Sylvia Bishop / Scholastic

Bottersnikes & Gumbles / S.A. Wakefield / Harper Collins

Olga Da Polga / Michael Bond / Harper Collins

Meet at the Ark at Eight / Ulrich Hub / Pushkin

My Naughty Little Sister / Dorothy Edwards / Egmont

The Story of Doctor Dolittle / Hugh Lofting / Red Fox

FOR 9 – 12 YEARS:

Very Good Chance / Sarah Moore Fitzgerald / Orion

Nevermoor / Jessica Townsend / Orion

The Girl Who Drank the Moon  / Kelly Barnhill / Picadilly Press

Wonderling / Mira Bartok / Walker Books

Sky Dancer / Gill Lewis / Oxford University Press

Murderer’s Ape / Jakob Wegelius / Pushkin

Wild Magic Trilogy – Begone the Raggedy Witches / Celine Kiernan / Walker Books

Prisoner of Ice & Snow / Ruth Lauren / Bloomsbury

Pax / Sara Pennypacker / Harper Collins

The Jamie Drake Equation / Christopher Edge / Nosy Crow


Welcome to Nowhere / Elizabeth Laird / Macmillan

Witch Born / Nicholas Bowling / Chicken House

Kick / Mitch Johnson / Usborne

Being Miss Nobody / Tamsin Winter / Usborne Books

Coyote Summer / Mimi Thebo / Oxford University Press

Undrowned Child / Michelle Lovric / Orion

Fish Boy / Chloe Daykin / Faber & Faber

Truth or Dare / Non Pratt / Walker Books

Monster Calls / Patrick Ness / Macmillan

The Huntress – Sea / Sarah Driver / Egmont


Published by Buster Books (Michael O’Mara Books Ltd)

This is a small, but important book. It is just 183mm square, and just 34 pages long. I feel it is a book that should be given to all politicians – all heads of religion (apologies, there is probably a ‘proper’ word for those ladies and gentleman), teachers…managers…trade unions…and I suppose parent’s too. It should be given to everyone who has power to remind them of our often hard won freedoms.

I am sometimes amazed by what people believe is their right – which is sometimes confused with what they would like, even if all the indications are that they would probably be better off accepting what has happened, and moving on. This may be contentious – but I believe we should be looking out for each other – irrespective of creed, colour or what ever we are – whether animal, vegetable or mineral… and perhaps thinking about other people first.

We need to start to look out for one another – the old adage – do what you would be done by, seems to have disappeared. Respect and an understanding of our freedoms – of everyone’s freedoms seems not to be important any more.

Perhaps we should be slowing down and not going so fast – taking the time to see one another as we are…to learn from one another….to accept that we are all different with different ideas, and that is all right. That some are better at some things, and some at others – but we all have a value.

This book is a reminder of our responsibility to each other, as well as to the world we live in. In Chris’ introduction he states the following.

We all want a good life, to have fun, to be safe and happy and fulfilled. For this to happen we need to look after each other. In this book there are sixteen different freedoms that help look after us. They are truly wonderful, precious things. these freedoms were created to protect us, forever. We need to stand up for them and look after them just as they look after us.

My favourite is Thought – We all have the right to the information we need to make up our own minds. We have the right to say what we think and share ideas with other people.

The illustration is of a girl of just that age (when they know everything) …striding forth with her nose firmly in a book with a fox bounding beside her.

I would happily pay more in my taxes for those members of parliament who are supposedly running this green and pleasant land to have a copy.




Reviewed titles on this blog – in no particular order, but they are particularly good!

Happy Christmas / 2017


Mousehole Cat / Antonia Barber / Illus. Nicola Bayley / Walker Books

Who’s in the Loo / Jeanne Willis / Anderson Press

The Story of the Orchestra: Four Seasons / Jessica Courtney-Tickle / Frances Lincoln

Ferdinand the Bull / Munro Leaf / Puffin

Jesus’ Christmas Party / Nicholas Allen / Red Fox

The Dark / Lemony Snicket / Illus. Jon Klassen / Orchard Books

This is not my Hat / Jon Klassen / Walker Books

Something Else / Kathryn Cave / Illus. Chris Riddell / Puffin

Susan Laughs / Jeanne Willis / Illus. Tony Ross / Anderson Press

The Dot / Porter H Reynolds / Walker Books

FOR 5 – 8 YEARS:

Me & Mr P / Maria Farrer / OUP

A Piglet called Truffle: Jasmine Green Adventures / Helen Peters / Nosy Crow

Life according to Dani / Rose Lagercrantz / Gecko Press

My Naughty Little Sister / Dorothy Edwards / Egmont

Olga Da Polga / Michael Bond / OUP

Big Book of Bugs / Yuval Zommer / Thames and Hudson

Nelly & the Quest for Captain Peabody / Roland Chambers / OUP

Secret Railway / Wendy Meddour / OUP

Wildwitch: Wildfire / Lene Kaberbol / Pushkin

Bicycling to the Moon / Timo Parvela / Gecko Press

FOR 9 – 12 YEARS:

Little Bits of Sky / S E Durrant / Nosy Crow

Very Good Chance / Sarah Moore Fitzgerald / Orion

Wildings / Nilanjana Roy / Pushkin

Longbow Girl / Linda Davies / Chicken House

Flour Babies / Anne Fine / Puffin

Black Powder / Ally Sherrick / Chicken House

Blind Beauty / K M Peyton / Scholastic

Beetle Boy / M G Leonard / Chicken House

Ned’s Circus of Marvels / Justin Fisher / Harper Collins

Wolf Wilder / Katherine Rundell / Bloomsbury


Sun is also a Star / Nicola Yoon / Corgi

How Not to Disappear / Clare Furness / Simon & Schuster

Unbecoming / Jenny Downham / David Fickling

The Hawkweed Prophecy / Irena Brignull Orchard Books

Stone Rider / David Hofmeyr / Penguin

Love Song / Sophia Bennet / Chicken House

Blame / Simon Mayo / Penguin / Random House

Maladapted / Richard Kurti / Walker Books

My Life Next Door / Huntley Fitzpatrick / Egmont

Running Girl / Simon Mason / David Fickling









Wide Eyed Editions

This is a book like none other that I have come across. An exploration of the world of nature using coloured lenses to bring clarity to the pictures.  I wish that I didn’t know about the science behind it, and for those who don’t, it will be a simply magical volume. Without doubt Carnovsky’s illustrations in three colours make this book the extraordinary volume it is. This is not a story book, this is a non fiction book showing animals and vegetation like never before. It is not only a beautifully illustrated book – it is full of information too. A wonderfully remarkable volume that should be given to all good little girls and boys  who enjoy natural history.

The lenses are set carefully into the inside of the front boards for safe keeping.

It is beautiful and extraordinary.

Published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

This is so much more than a story book. Beautifully illustrated it relates the story of Isabelle and her friend and companion, Pickle her dog. Vibrant and a superb gift it details the four seasons as they occur throughout their adventure.

What really makes this a superb volume is the music. Each page has a button which when pressed plays a small excerpt of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to go along with the story. It brilliantly allows young people to experience a gorgeous piece of classical music mixed with a lovely narrative and beautiful illustrations. The rendition is as good as many CD’s I have heard play; it is not a ‘noisy’ book – it does not fit into that genre – the book plays music.

I am pleased to note that there are to be more books like this produced by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books. I am hoping that the next piece will be either, the Nutcracker or perhaps better still, the 1812 – what fun to have a book with cannons!



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 Julia MacRae Books 1986 Now Out of Print.

This is a small volume that I treasure, and at just 3 and a half inches tall by 3 wide, it is one of the smaller books I own. With detailed illustrations by John Lawrence. It is, perhaps just a catalogue of babies: Good, Bad (I particularly like the engraving for the  Bad Babies), Sweet, Sour, Bald, Curly, Fat, and “Fin Ones”… all the way through to “Bye Bye Baby Ones”.

It is sadly out of print, so your best bet to purchase one of these small nuggets of joy – is to look on ViaLibri where you will find (as I did this morning) various copies listed from around £8 and upwards. Certainly worth looking into, though be aware that Amazon does deal through that site too, and I always feel that they should be avoided and ‘real’ second-hand and rare bookshops should be supported where possible…

The above illustration is taken from the Internet. That copy has a stain across the front board and spine. I have to say mine is in mint condition. Do be careful when purchasing second-hand or antiquarian books off the Internet. Unless you really just want the text; the condition is all important!

It is a little gem of a book.

Published now by Penguin.

This charming black and white story originally published in 1936 is one of the oldest children’s books that is still in print.

American, with black and white possibly lino illustrations it tells the story of Ferdinand, a bull in Spain who is a rather peaceful fellow. More inclined to sit under his cork tree than to run around with the other young bulls, who are always butting their heads together. He likes to smell the flowers. His mother (as mothers do), worries about him, but he is content to just smell the flowers. That is until he has the misfortune to sit on a bee…

Gorgeous naïve illustrations that I have loved since I was a child… When I first helped set up the Children’s Books section in Harrod’s and came across this – I was so pleased, it was like meeting a very old friend again.


The original story about Badger, Rat, Mole and of course the irrepressible Toad. A story every child should have read to them – charming and wonderful.

Badger wise, retiring and a bit of a recluse (if that isn’t tautology). Ratty – friendly, full of confidence, brave, generous and resourceful, Mole, shy, a little cautious, but kindly forgiving  naïve but full of common-sense and then there is Toad – exuberant, brilliant, full of life, affluent and trying ever so hard to be ‘someone’.

It is the story of a yellow canary coloured caravan. An otter cub going missing. The river, and animals just messing about in boats…a story of stoats and the weasels, picnics, horse theft, horse dealing, an escape from prison, a train chase,  car theft, a washer woman, and a grand battle.

The language is wonderful and this is one classic that everyone should read, at least once – though I suspect many will read it again and again.

It is a book about friendship, and bravery.

The play Toad of Toad Hall by A A Milne was developed from this story – with the backing of Kenneth Grahame – and both are marvellous.

There are almost too many different editions produced of this classic title. Each with different illustrators, and bindings. I grew up with A A Milne’s illustrations and Arthur Rackham’s too – both so different from one another it didn’t matter. There are many other illustrators now for all the different editions available or for that matter for those that are out of print.

The pictures illustrating this post are from Milne and Rackham’s editions – they are the people who illustrated the books for me….