Archives for posts with tag: Harper Collins

Published by Harper Collins

This series has been on my radar for some time, but I never picked one up until today. I borrowed the first volume from our shelves to read with my lunch. I haven’t put it down. I am presently reading a book on Madagascar (too heavy to carry to work), Alison Weir’s new paperback biography/fictional account of Anne Boleyn, a book on venom and now this – which I suspect will be my ‘main’ read until it is finished.

I’m only up to page 82. My favourite quote though, so far, was on page 28:

“Stuffed dogs, Miss?” I wondered aloud.

“Can’t stand the things. I like to see them dead.” replied Miss Fox

You can tell she’s not on the good side…immediately. Someone to watch.

This is something I am really enjoying. I should be having some time off soon (if all goes to plan), and if I do, I have a feeling I will be wanting to read all the other titles by Sophie Cleverly – The Whispers in the Walls, The Dance in the Dark, The Lights Under the Lake, and The Curse in the Candlelight.

Even the titles are intriguing.

What have I been doing?

I feel this series has been overlooked by the publicists, and the reading public. To my shame I have overlooked the books. They have not given the attention they deserve.

The Lost Twin (book one in the series) is a superb story. Scarlet has gone. Scarlet was brave, outspoken, determined and everything Ivy is not. Ivy though, has been enrolled in Scarlet’s school…to replace her…to become her…

It’s quite a thing to be told that you don’t exist anymore…

Its brilliant!

For twins and for people who are not twins – everywhere…


Published by Harper Collins

This is a rather clever book. I am not sure I would ever have wanted to live for ever. The world changes so fast, and not always for the better. I wouldn’t have minded being able to time travel, though, that would be different. As long as I was able to return to where I should be; today – now: 27th of December 2017 at 10.57 am.

This story, though, (unless everything changes), is about a boy who will essentially live forever. Like Peter Pan, he will never grow up; he will stay 11 years old and unless he has an accident, will never die.

For some, that sounds almost perfect. Alfie, though, finds his friends grow away from him. They don’t understand how he can stay a boy, when their interests begin to change. He is still playing football and with his cat and wants to stay with his mother. His interests are still those of an 11 year old boy. Friends never last long.

He and his mother live a very quiet life. His father died a long time ago from an accident on a ship and so they live in peace with his cat.

When his mother dies in a fire, Alfie finds himself alone and begins to think that perhaps he would prefer to grow up with his friends and to live a normal life. He has one opportunity to do this, a way of changing things. Other factors, however, are beginning to be brought to bear on his life – things are changing and being a boy alone, life is getting more complicated, more difficult.

This is about a boy and Biffa, his cat from around 1014 AD. living in the 21st C. It is clever and touching. What happens in the end, is for me coloured by Biffa’s survival – but for all that, this is a story of friendship, history and that peculiar yearning we have to ‘live for ever’. Do we really want to?


Published by Harper Collins.

It is now 02.15 – early in the morning. Dark outside and cold. I have just finished reading this small book, having gone to bed with it, and then to wake to finish it some while ago.

The dark can be disturbing. Actually outside now it isn’t really dark. There are street lights, pale now as it is early morning and they are run, I think on solar energy – and weaken in the early hours. There are Christmas lights too, shining from one of the houses, and someone has left their light on over their door. So not really dark at all.

Number the Stars is the fictional tale of one instance of what happened in Denmark during the war. Of what happened in so many different ways all over the country.

It follows the story of a family caught up in that terrible time, when the world was not only dark physically,  spiritually and in so many other ways.

It is simply and clearly told; it is the story of a great aunt who never was. A story of two girls, friends almost from birth. The God of Thunder falling into a milking pail. A story of young men and women doing what they could, and risking their lives for their country, and what was right.

It is the story of Denmark, Copenhagen and the Nazis…it is also the story of bravery, and hope. It is a remarkable, extraordinary story.


Sandi Toksvig wrote Hitler’s Canary – another book about the Danes – which is also superb, but is probably for readers who are slightly older than eight. I am a little ashamed that I haven’t reviewed that – but mention it here, as reference for those who would wish to read it. Both books are clearly and compassionately written.




Published by Collins Modern Classics.

First published in 1964 –

I suppose I first read this in the early 1970’s and I always remember that I loved it, though I couldn’t tell you what the book was about. Somewhere at my parents’ house there is probably the copy I read amongst other old editions of classic Penguins and the like.

Recently Collins Modern Classics have published a new edition of it – copies of which I found on our shelves at work the other morning, and so, I have been reading this once more.

The book is set in America – and has many Americanisms as a result. There are parts that I found I didn’t understand. Whether I understood them when I was ten or eleven, I don’t know.

This is the story of the eponymous Harriet the spy. At the beginning of the book she lives with her busy parents, a cook and her nurse with whom she seems to have the closest relationship. She has all the material things she could need. She has friends at school, but spends most of her time alone, recording details of people’s lives in a black book. Some of which are not the kindest of observations. When her nurse leaves to get married, Harriet finds herself bereft – and her gathering of information gains pace. Even hiding as she does in people’s houses to listen and to observe them at home, the details carefully recorded.

When her book is found and read by her peers at school their reaction to what she has written is dramatic.

The book is about stories. About the truth, and whether it should be told. About lies. Friendship, families, growing up and the differences between people; backgrounds, lives and beliefs…

Parts of this reminded me of my youth. Being told that some mathematical problem was simple, and that they would show her, reminded me of being told something similar. It may have been simple for them, but never seemed to be to me. However often they tried to show me.  Then there are the episodes of Harriet’s anger at the world, and everything and everyone in it, that also resonated with me too…

An extraordinary American tale – more American ‘flavoured’ than many I have read for some time. Some terms of reference, as I said at the beginning, seemed nonsensical to me, but didn’t affect my enjoyment of this book and my return down memory lane.




Published by Harper Collins

This is one of those colourful, enticing and fun picture books that explain everything you need to know about, in this case – imaginary friends.

Kevin the friend everyone should have – he’s ever so tall and he’s ever so wide. And ever so smiley….Has only one tooth, he’s as strong as a gorilla…has lots of pink spots on fur that is vanilla…. A larger than life character who happens to be blamed for everything that Sidney has done… when, however, the circumstances are reversed, Sidney realises how unfair he’s been…This is a wonderful book.

We were lucky enough to have Rob come into the store today and illustrate one of our glass wall panels – its really superb. What’s more he has kindly signed our stock of Kevin – so visit us soon, they are selling out fast.

Published by Harper Collins.

I think I like most animals. Well, apart from hissing cockroaches – somehow I don’t seem to appreciate cockroaches. They tried to have me handle one in a zoo once. They thought we would have a meaningful meeting of minds. After all, I had just handled a snake or two, and a large rose kneed tarantula (named Rosie) amongst other creatures, so I suppose it was a reasonable assumption. I had to explain that though I was sure Hissing Sid was very nice in his own way, I didn’t want to have him walk from hand to hand, as I had with Rosie. I had, I remember to be quite firm about it…anyway, he survived to be presented to someone else and I was relieved that, to quote Stanley Holloway, that the Manager didn’t have to be called for…

This volume is about the friendship between a young boy and a fox. Friendships with animals should never be just brushed aside. They are as important as those we have with homo sapiens, at least that is what I have found. This starts with the heart rending description of a boy having to release his friend back into the wild…’for his own good.’ Which never really helps as a statement. We know in the front of our brains that perhaps it is, but, then again, perhaps it isn’t. You can never be sure…and there are ways of doing things, and sometimes they shouldn’t be done at all.

I remember once, and only once, walking with Pakka on the common. She took over long to come and I needed to go.  So I left the common without her. Then worried all the way back to find in the middle of the afternoon that she obviously hadn’t been home since that morning…so went out onto the common, called once and she bolted out from the undergrowth calling back as she ran straight to me. She had obviously been searching since the morning. I never did it again, and could never do, what this boy is encouraged to do by his father. Pakka and I lived together with respect for one another. She would wait for me on our walks, and I for her. She supported me, and we watched out for dogs and foxes, because she liked to chase them.  I was there for her when the seagulls flew to close and found her when the magpies ganged up and had her pinned down; we ran home together, she along side me.

This is a superb little book – a story of war, and the powerful connection between a boy and his fox – with illustrations by Jon Klassen, an emotional rollercoaster of the most extraordinary kind…


Published by Harper Collins –

This is due to be published next month – 26th of January 2017

This is a book about passion. A book of dreams, of hope and desire. Its a story of believing in yourself and being a hero – its funny, heart warming and really rather wonderful.

This is about a boy who stands up for himself and his peers – for what is right, who goes, just that little bit too far…and what he achieves in the end is something rather special and important.

Never give up on your dreams – but do try not to have the police involved…

A super book for those cold winter months and the inevitable return to school…I loved it.

Published by Harper Collins –

Ned’s father is protective, overly cautious, never takes a risk and his hobby is spending time with his son, making things together, oh, and television quiz shows.

Ned, however, is beginning to think that making things with your dad was ok, when he was younger, but he is now starting to believe that this isn’t a cool thing to be doing for someone who is coming up to their 13th birthday.

As for Ned? He is the ultimate in unremarkable. His results at school are always the same, teachers hardly realise he’s there, and he has only recently made two friends. Up to now the only friend he has had, is a mouse that he saved from a trap, who he has named Whiskers.

The day before his birthday, is also the last day of term and Ned returns home after texting his dad to let him know he would be there in the next few minutes and is greeted by his Dad telling him he was beginning to get worried…again

Then Ned realises that his dad is behaving more strangely than usual (even for him), especially when not only does he present his son with a tiny gift, but tells him not to open it ’till he reaches the circus – his father, his father who is so nervous about everything is going to take Ned to the circus… He then informs Ned that he will take him to the circus as soon as he returns…and before Ned can ask him what is going on, he bangs out of the door.

Hours later Ted hears a scraping noise at the back door, and hoping its his dad, Ned goes down to see something lit up by the security lights –

‘It was a clown, though nothing like the ones he’d seen in books or on the telly. He had the same shrunken hat, oversized boots and orange curly hair one would expect, but he was caked indirt. His make-up had cracked, like white clay left too long in the sun, and the few teeth he still had were gnarled black stumps.

The horrible scraping sound began again as the clown dragged a claw-like nail across the glass…’

It is then that Ned’s dad returns and this story spirals into a tale of darkness and adventure coloured by characters usually connected with the wilder and more curious side of circus life…

This is a brilliant read. I particularly like the characters of Whiskers and George, but to find out about them, you will need to read the book…










Published by Harper Collins

Running. Everyone does it to some extent if only to catch the bus, chase after a friend. There are others who run marathons, run just around the block, some enjoy running every weekend. I sometimes see runners who run the canal bank which I can see from my study window.

Could you run though, if you couldn’t see? Would you dare to? I’m not sure I would – there are so many obstacles to get in the way – not just inanimate objects / landscape, all those people too, dogs, cats, and if I ran across my local common – there are cows as well – and they would probably come and stare at me, without my knowing they were there.

So, I’m not sure I would.

This is the story of a runner. A runner who can’t see. Who still runs. Regularly. There are some concessions she makes – she knows how many paces it takes to cross various areas of land – but basically she runs on her own and so she runs always in the dark.

It is also the story of recovery. Bravery – and not just because running when you are blind takes a lot of courage anyway. It is the story of a father, and his relationship with his daughter, of families, success and fundamentally relationships.

It is a story that is emotional, driven, touching and one you won’t forget – it is superb.

I read my proof a little while ago – so I’m late reviewing it – actually it got into the wrong pile again, and I have just found it. Many apologies, I thought I had, but on checking  found I hadn’t. Better late they say…

I am more embarrassed than I can say – this again found its way into the ‘saved’ folder and wasn’t published – last updated a month ago…

I will now publish it without further ado.


Published by Harper Collins

9780008156329There is something about time travel – the idea is peculiarly enticing.

Al’s father is dead. That is clear from the beginning of the book. On Al’s 12th birthday, however, he receives a letter from him – and it contains a rather an extraordinary challenge.

I wonder how many twelve year old boys would believe such a letter, let alone take up the challenge of not only going back to where they had lived previously, then to break in, and make their way into the basement…let alone attempt to time travel back to 1984

This is a story about time travel (there’s a surprise), families, a go-cart named The Lean Mean Green Machine, and a small hamster…named Alan Shearer.

Whether Al is successful – is for you to find out, and whether Alan Shearer survives the experiment, is another matter entirely…