A Place Called Perfect

Author: Helena Duggan

Published: 1st August 2017

Publisher: Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN: 978-1474924160

RRP: £6.99

Age range: 9+

Available at: A Place Called Perfect

Let’s just jump straight in with the cover designed by Karl Mountford. I straight away got this creepy feeling and I love the contrast of the dark background with the eye catching colours. When you look closely at the flowers, the eyes are weird and coupled with the teapots, it’s like a dark version of ‘Alice in Wonderland’, I love it. When I received a ‘books of the month’ email from Waterstones (owners of all my money), I was intrigued straight away and went the same day. I have not been disappointed!

Violet is forced by her parent to move to Perfect against her will, as her dad has been head-hunted by the Archer brothers due to his success as an opthamologist. Everyone in Perfect goes blind, supposedly because of their location in relation to the sun and everybody wears glasses but everything else in Perfect is, in fact, Perfect! However, Violet suspects there is more to this when her parents start acting weird….and who is the mysterious ‘boy’?

Helena Duggan has created a fantastic mystery, which had me gripped from the first page. Comparisons have been drawn with ‘Coraline’ by Neil Gaiman (I have only seen the film to date) but the whole feel of the town and characters reminded me of the storyline of a Nintendo Professor Layton game without the puzzles, which is awesome and it also reminds me a bit of the BFG joined with a Tim Burton film. That said, comparisons aside, this story is unique in itself and I just could not put it down.

Violet is fantastic, both scared and feisty, which gives a more 3D feeling to her. She is full of love for her parents and will do whatever it takes to save them. No matter what the Archers try, some imaginations just can’t be stolen and Violet’s is one of these! I loved the idea that the glasses worn in Perfect make her unable to see or hear Boy but when she takes them off, there he is! Boy is brave and fun, Perfect’s answer to the Artful Dodger and an orphan. I love that he laughs off having no parents but we can feel acutely just how much he feels alone without a family.

The Archers are comical baddies, though worshipped by the inhabitants of Perfect, which is what they’ve always wanted. I don’t want to give any of the excitement away but I will say their control mechanisms over the town are fantastic and Duggan’s imaginative side shines through brilliantly!

I also love the addition of the map. When I opened the book and saw it, it meant nothing but halfway through the book, I went back to it and it is quite fabulous to see Perfect laid out in front of you!

I think for the age range, it’s excellent as it alludes to science topics, such as eyes and transplants, not in great detail, but definitely could be linked with curriculum material and science for KS2. I love a book that makes me want to know  more about other things!

Please go and get this book NOW (or even better, yesterday!) for your child, yourself, your class reading shelf, whatever! Too excited for the upcoming sequel!!

Rating: 3/3, Waterstones opened an hour ago, go now!!


Being Miss Nobody

Author: Tamsin Winter

Published: 1st June 2017

Publisher: Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN: 978-1474927277

RRP: £6.99

Age range: young adult

Available at: Being Miss Nobody
Hi folks, been a while sorry!

Anyway, I got this book two days ago. I could not put it down!

Rosalind has selective mutism and can only speak in front of her parents, her little brother (who has cancer) and her neighbour. After starting high school where the bullying is relentless, Roz sets up a blog under the guise of Miss Nobody to help everyone fight back the tide of bullies but then the bullying gets twisted even further.

There was so much I loved about this book. First of all, it’s another gripping book about a young person with mental health issues. So many people expect children to just be happy, they are ‘too young to be depressed’ etc, the old cliche. I like that there is no obvious reason for Roz’s SM, it just is as always has been but with the right interventions and support, it can be overcome is the general message and it’s true. It’s very true to life as well, the guilt because her brother has ‘real concerns’ i.e. Cancer, and the humiliation but being unable to do anything about it. The writing is really representative of an 11 year old child and the way they think and the use of speech bubbles and clouds of Roz’s thoughts are really effective at getting the point across.

I think Winter writes about the cancer brilliantly as Seb is a very poorly boy but alsoobsessed with poo. The humour lightens the mood in many of the scenes with Seb and he is his sister’s biggest champion. I think Roz’s support at home is brilliant and I wish all kids had parents like hers! The relationships for Roz in this book are so healthy and nurturing, even with Aunt Marie, who has never heard Roz speak.

The high school scenes were awful but true. Kids are just so cruel and we are becoming ever more aware of the consequences of bullying. Cyber bullying is particularly prevalent nowadays so the subject is just awesome. Kids need to be reading things like this and reflecting on it, a novel like this can really get through to them. It was a brilliant representation of how a noble goal (the blog) can become twisted as more pages pop up from the bullies using the same name and how some kids don’t know where to draw the line. I won’t tell you what happens but I don’t at any point feel sorry for Maisy. Roz is a nicer person than me though and does the right thing! She really learns from her mistakes and grows in the way you would want an 11 year old to grow. Her attitudes change and she is a brilliant person.

My other favourite part of this book is a character called Rajit. His book week ideas are superb and he really made me laugh! I loved Ailsa too, she’s the kind of friend we all wanted as a child.

So overall, I think this book is really relevant. Sometimes we say too much, sometimes not enough but it definitely helps to consider how our actions make people feel. I for one cannot wait to read Winter’s next novel!

Rating: 3/3*

I am changing my rating system. I wouldn’t review books I didn’t finish or hated so I am going to rate books out of 3 standing as:

1: Good book, worth a read if you come across a copy

2: Go out and get it at some point, this book is really good

3: fantastic, everyone should read it or own a copy, get to your local book store now!!


The Island At the End of Everything

Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Published: 4th April 2017

Publisher: Chicken House

ISBN: 978-1910002766

RRP: £6.99

Age range: 8+

Available at:  The Island at the end of everything

First of all, how gorgeous is the cover of this book? Of course, never judge the book based on this but in this case the story follows suit!

The story tells of Ami, ‘untouched’ by leprosy but living on an island, Culion, with many afflicted, including her nanay (mother). Until, that is, Mr Zamora arrives on behalf of the government to turn Culion into a leper colony, with all those untouched being sent to a different island and the untouched children going to an orphanage.

The descriptions of Culion are beautiful, but the contrast of all those diseased with their bodies rotting away is a great juxtaposition. There is imagery of both the leprosy and butterflies throughout as these are essentially the two main themes with a clever play on words, lepidopterist (someone who studies moths or butterflies) and lepido, meaning scaly, the word that spawned the name leprosy, closely linking the two.

There is so much to this book in terms of content. I felt like I learned a lot about butterflies, about the prejudice against leprosy (and was inspired to find out more about it) and I love that the characters are not two dimensional. We see Ami, our brave protagonist running back to Culion with her new friends Mari and Kidlat, desperate to reach her mother to the point she is cruel to the very people helping her before struggling with the guilt. Then there is the cruel bully, Mr Zamora, struggling with his own demons and yet, so passionate about butterflies that he is almost a decent being to people when discussing them. Ami hates him and yet can’t help but be fascinated when he talks about butterflies. I think all of these flaws and emotions make the characters realistic and I loved that as it is too easy sometimes to make the protaganist too goody-goody. The supporting characters add well to the plot and build up a clearer picture of Ami and her passion and bravery.

The book is easy to read but challenges prejudice and deals with leprosy in a sensitive manner. There were parts I cried, which is always a sign of a great book. For me, the only thing missing was I wanted to know more about Mr Zamora: what was his illness, did he get his comeuppance? Life tells us that the baddies don’t always get what they deserve but I feel there was more to him than I got to read about.

All in all, this was a fantastic read, a book of love, heartbreak, adventure and bravery and there is very little to improve upon. Having won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize for 2017 with her first novel, The Girl of Ink and Stars, Kiran Millwood Hargrave is really shaping up to be one of the big children’s authors of the day.
Rating: 5/5


The Bear and the Piano

Author: David Litchfield

Published: Feb 3rd 2016

Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

ISBN: 978-1847807182

RRP: £6.99

Age range: 3-7

Available at: https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-bear-and-the-piano/david-litchfield/9781847807182

As a piano player, this book jumped out at me and so, once again, Waterstones took my money ☺️.

The Bear and the Piano tells the story of a bear who discovers a piano in the forest. He isn’t very good at playing but over time he improves and moves to New York to be a famous concert pianist. However, once there he is lonely and misses his friends.

The big thing for me with this book was the illustration. They are magical. Never has a picture book made me wish to be in the forest so much.

The colours are bold without being too in your face and in both the woodland scenes and the city images, they just projected me there, I really got the atmosphere just from the pictures, which is amazing. The bear is also very sweet and I love the idea of him learning the piano.

The story itself is….’nice’. It wasn’t anything really unique. Bear misses his friends and returns to the forest but his friends are gone. He finds them and they have a shrine to him as they are so proud. The messages are good, don’t get me wrong: bear was terrible at piano but worked hard, persevered and achieved a dream and also, friends and family are more important than fame and fortune. It just wasn’t gripping or new to me.

Overall, the story is average but as a picture book it works due to the beautiful illustrations. 

Rating: 3/5


Happy 20th Birthday Harry Potter: An A-Z

Harry Potter. The boy who lived. For me, these books evoked so many emotions, I laughed out loud, I cried, I grew up loving every last word and having nightmares about Lord Voldemort! Now, 20 years later, I have a 4 year old who is edging into Harry’s world too, and I still feel all those same feelings. A small idea from one woman really can change the world in a huge way! So to celebrate #HarryPotter20, I’ve shared my A-Z of all things magical!

A, Arithmancy: Hermione’s favourite subject, a form of divination using numbers, resulting in a precise way to calculate the future. How useful would this actually be?! In actual fact, arithmancy is real and was used by the ancient Greeks, historians believe, to predict the outcome of a battle.

B, Bellatrix: I hated her so much! Such an evil character and then Warner Bros. go and cast Helena Bonham Carter, a national institution. How can I hate her?! Bellatrix is responsible for the death of Sirius  and Dobby and is the mother of Delphini, a love child conceived with her beloved Lord Voldemort.

C, Cruciatus: The unforgivable curse that ultimately drove Alice and Frank Longbottom insane, leaving Neville with parents who no longer knew him. This curse was used by the death eaters to torture muggles and those who fought on their behalf.

D, Dumbledore: My favourite character of all. I still have not finished grieving in fact. The final book of the series revealed so much I was in shock for at least a week. Considered to be the most powerful wizard and the only one who Voldemort ever feared, Dumbledore is famed for his defeat of Gellert Gridlewald. A prefect, head boy and proud Gryffindor, he turned down the role of minister for magic several times and succeeded Armando Dippet as head teacher of Hogwarts. He lived for 115 years and, though probably mad, was the greatest of wizards but also a lover of sherbet lemons!

E, Expelliarmus: a disarming spell, used frequently by Harry Potter, including in his defeat of Lord Voldemort.

F, Felix Felicis: The potion awarded to Harry by Professor Slughorn, that could make whoever consumed it lucky. Harry pretended to spike Ron’s drink with it in order to give him confidence in a Quidditch match, but in fact, Harry used it to extract that all-important memory from Slughorn.

G, Goblet of fire: used to select the competitors in the fourth instalment for the Triwizard tournament. Used eventually as a portkey to get Harry to Voldemort, leading to the untimely death of Cedric Diggory. I read this book first, bizarrely then started from the beginning. Then my life began!!

H, Hogwarts: I so wanted to go to this school. However, I will never find it as to us muggles, it looks like an old, abandoned castle in the highlands of Scotland. Many of the rooms and staircases move and the school motto is ‘Draco Dormiens Nunquam Tittilandus’, meaning ‘Never tickle a sleeping dragon’ (Obviously!). The school was founded in 990 AD by Godric Gryffindor, Salazar Slytherin, Rowena Ravenclaw and Helga Hufflepuff, though Slytherin fell out with the other three founders not long after due to his wish to only admit purebloods.

J, Jelly-Legs jinx: a spell to cast to make your foe’s legs all wobbly and weak!

K, Knockturn alley: a shopping area for the dark and dodgy, full of all the naughty magic!! Borgin and Burkes can be found here, a shop that specialises in items with strong magical properties and was the work place of Tom Marvolo Riddle shortly after he left Hogwarts. All sorts of shady characters hang around here, including the Malfoys. It is just off Diagon Alley in London and best avoided if you don’t want trouble!

L, Luna Lovegood: Zany, a bit mad, and just an all-round excellent character. I love that she just didn’t care what other people thought of her! Raised by her dad, Xenophilius, the editor of the Quibbler, Luna echoes many of his theories though everyone thinks she is mad. Luna is a Ravenclaw and went on to become a famous wizarding naturalist.

M, Mandrake: There are so many Ms but who else thought the movie depiction of the mandrakes were just too cute! They remind me of my toddler, haha!! I loved them and their squeaky cry. Mandrakes are, in muggle life, hallucinogenic and narcotic and were used in times gone by as anaesthetic, and in magic practices. It was believed if the root was dug up, the mandrake would scream and anyone who heard would be killed. Despite it’s many uses, it could have a number of seriously detrimental effects, including delirium and madness.

N, Nagini: The beloved snake of Lord Voldemort and one of his horcruxes. Possibly the only living being that Voldemort ever cared about, Nagini is loyal only to him and is disinterested in most other people, sometimes annoyed even by the death eaters. She was killed by Neville Longbottom in ‘The Deathly Hallows’, using the sword of Godric Gryffindor.  ‘Nagini’ is a half-woman, half-snake found in Indian mythology.

O, Ollivander: Garrick Ollivander is considered by many to be the best wand maker in the world.  He comes from a family well versed in wand craft and was a Ravenclaw. His own wand was a Hornbeam, 12 3/4, dragon heartstring and he firmly believes the wand chooses the wizard. He can remember every wand he ever sold.

P, Pensieve: such a beautiful idea, that memories can be stored in a bottle and pulled out at whim for you to drop in and watch the scene replay. If only, sigh. Used by Dumbledore and Harry to revisit important events of the past.

Q, Quidditch: A broomstick based sport. Much information can be found in the book ‘Quidditch through the ages’ but basics include the use of a quaffle (to score), bludgers (which attack players) and the golden snitch. Beaters defend the team from the bludgers, the keeper defends the three large hoops of their team, and the chasers try to score goals with the quaffle in the hoops of the other team. Each goal is worth 10 points. The seeker’s role is to catch the golden snitch, which awards the team 150 points and ends the game.

R, Room of Requirement: another great love of mine. The room of requirement is on the seventh floor of Hogwarts and will only appear if someone has great need of it. It will adapt to whatever it is needed to be, for example, as a hideout, used by Neville and other students to avoid the wrath of the Carrows. I love to imagine what would appear for me!

S, Severus Snape: I’m not going to lie. Saying this name just makes me sing the Potter Puppet Pals Mysterious Ticking Sound song haha! (If you haven’t seen this, please, change your life now, you won’t look back!). Such a misunderstood character, driven by his secret love for Lily and wonderfully portrayed by the late Alan Rickman, a true favourite of mine. I never was quite sure where I was with Snape until the end, which I loved. He really kept me guessing!A brilliant potion maker and a Slytherin, Snape was enemies with Harry’s father and godfather, James and Sirius. Despite this, he never stopped loving Harry’s mother, Lily and spent his life looking out for Harry, though outwardly, he loathed Harry. He killed Dumbledore at the latter’s request, maintaining the illusion of a death eater and was eventually killed by Voldemort.

T, Time-Turner: Used by Hermione in ‘The Prisoner of Azkaban’, this device allows time travel, although the user cannot stay in the past for more than 5 hours without serious damage to the traveller and time itself. Hermione, with the permission of the ministry, used the device to study more subjects than time would allow and also helped save both Sirius and Buckbeak, avoiding their capture and death. These would be excellent in real life!

U, Unbreakable Vow: A vow taken that if broken, results in death of the person that made and broke the vow. Snape makes an unbreakable vow with Narcissa Malfoy to protect Draco in  ‘The Half-Blood Prince’.

V, Voldemort: I’ve never really been able to look at Ralph Fiennes the same way. He said he didn’t really want the part but was persuaded by his wife. He plays the part horrifying well and I have had many a nightmare from both the film and written versions! Born Tom Marvolo Riddle, he is half muggle, a Slytherin and also the heir of Slytherin. He is incapable of love, descended from the Gaunts, a family known for violent personalities due to inbreeding. Tom grew up in an orphanage, known as a bully, and was keen to stand out and be powerful from a young age. The only wizard Voldemort ever feared was Albus Dumbledore. He spent Harry’s life trying to defeat ‘The Boy who Lived’, but never succeeded. A truly horrific character!

W, Weasley: A wizarding family made up of all red heads. Ron is the best friend of Harry, and Harry eventually marries Ginny. They treat Harry as their own family and he regards them as family in the absence of his own.

X, Xenophilius: The only X I can think of! He is the father of Luna Lovegood and editor of the quibbler. His political opinions result in the kidnap of Luna and he proves to be rather cowardly.

Y, You-Know-Who: How 99% of the wizarding world refer to Voldemort.

Z, Zonko’s: A wizard joke shop in Hogsmeade, loved by Fred and George Weasley, who go on to open their own shop.

And there you have it, my small dedication to twenty years of my favourite books ever. I could have written so much more but I know have to go and read my special Ravenclaw edition (and purchase the other 3!!).

Happy 20th Birthday and a million thank yous to J. K. Rowling for giving us ‘The Boy who Lived!’


Nibbles the Book Monster

Author: Emma Yarlett

Published: April 6th 2017

Publisher: Little Tiger Press

ISBN: 978-1848692879

RRP: £7.99

Age range: 2-6

Available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/ref=navm_hdr_logo

I saw this book in Waterstones and just had to have it!

Nibbles is an adorable little monster who wants to eat everything but, in particular, books! This book is interactive, with flaps to lift, a page to hunt for Nibbles amongst favourite book titles and books inside books.

I love how the book really gives the impression of Nibbles chewing through the book as we read it and Theo was amused by the whole thing and desperate to read it again. Classic fairytales hide in the book but Nibbles disturbs them, leading to a very annoyed Red riding hood who is upset she is no longer the star of her own book!!

The illustrations are bold and fun and the reader is engaged as we have to help try and trap Nibbles back in his box!

This book is so quirky and clever, and I love anything that is a bit different and magical, which this definitely is. It is silly and kids LOVE silly. Theo loves that the giant gets his bum bitten! I love the idea of getting to the end of the book only to find Nibbles has jumped out, running along my bookshelf. 

This will be a firm family favourite!

RATING: 5*/5!!


Q and A with The author: Lisa Thompson, ‘The Goldfish Boy’

The fantastic Lisa Thompson agreed to a Q & A and so, as promised, here it is!

For those of you who haven’t read ‘The Goldfish Boy’, you can read my review on the previous post but I urge everyone to buy and read it!

So without further ado:

Photo courtesy of LisaThompsonauthor.com

NF: ‘The Goldfish Boy’ centres around Matthew and his OCD, as well as being connected to baby loss. What made you choose these themes and why OCD as opposed to other mental health conditions?

LT: I don’t have any personal experience that I’ve used within the book and the loss of Matthew’s younger brother certainly evolved as the story developed. I think sometimes children’s books can shy away from tough issues, but I wanted to try and write a book that tackled those themes yet was hopeful and inspiring (even with a bit of humour). Regarding OCD, I saw a documentary on Channel 4 about the condition (presented by Jon Richardson) and I was stunned at how debilitating it could be. I knew then that that was why Matthew was becoming too scared to leave his home.

NF: I found a lot of the adults around Matthew target him or view him as strange, due to lack of understanding of OCD. Do you think this is true of young people with mental health conditions in the real world? If so, what can be done to change this?

LT: The GP in the book was very unsympathetic and, at first, I was a bit concerned about writing him in that way. However, during my research I realised that a lot of young people have been treated that way so I felt it was important to include it. With Matthew’s parents, I wanted them to clearly love their son but to also be exasperated as to why he’s behaving in that way. Again this is quite common and I’m sure it’s down to a lack of knowledge. 

NF:What are the main things you would like young readers to take away from your book?

LT: I hope the strongest feeling would be that we shouldn’t be so quick to judge others. In the book Matthew is judged because of his behaviour, but he also forms opinions on the people around him which aren’t always sympathetic. 
NF: Your next novel, ‘The Light Jar’ is due in January 2018. Can you tell us a little bit about it? 

LT: The Light Jar is about a boy called Nate, who runs away from a troubled home with his Mum. They hide out in a run-down cottage and then Nate’s old imaginary friend turns up, just when he needs him..

NF: As a child, what was your favourite book and why?

LT: I was a big Enid Blyton fan but the book I remember being really shocked over was Charlotte’s Web – that ending!! It was the first book I read twice.
NF: What has been your most rewarding experience as an author so far?

LT: Definitely the feedback from readers – young and older! I’ve had quite an amazing response from OCD sufferers saying they wish they had this book when they were younger.
NF: What books have you been reading recently? Do you have any authors who inspire you?

LT: I’ve recently enjoyed Defender of the Realm by Nick Ostler and Mark Huckerby which is hugely entertaining. The ending made me gasp! I have a big pile of books to read. The choice out there is amazing.

NF: What advice could you give to children (or adults) who aspire to write?

LT: The best advice I had was that you don’t need to know the ending before you start. In fact you don’t really need to know much at all – just an idea is enough. Also use your ears! Absorb conversations around you and listen to the radio. You make pictures in your head when you listen, just like you do when you read, and those images are great practise for forming ideas/ characters/ situations.
Thanks so much, Lisa! I for one can’t wait to read ‘The Light Jar’! 

You can find more from Lisa at http://www.lisathompsonauthor.com or on twitter: @lthompsonwrites