Review policy

Due to time pressures, I am unable to commit to reviewing books at the moment. However, please feel free to recommend or discuss by tweeting @MsTick68 or commenting on here. Thank you!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Book review: Prankenstein by Andy Seed


Pugh Thompson, known as Soapy, has three afflictions: an extremely risk averse lawyer mum , who is very ambitious for her son, the appalling Venus, who will stop at nothing for the best parts in the school play and to win a TV talent show, and his allergy to cheese.

Overnight a prankster has started hitting Soapy's family and neighbours, with the sort of pranks he would love to get away with. Who will be hit next? And is there any connection to the crumbs of cheese found nearby...

This is a fun book for fans of a Horrid Henry seeking more challenge, or of Mr Gum. I'd recommend it for Y3 or Y4 book corners. The illustrations are fantastic. My only criticism is for a couple of typos, and that some references are perhaps over the heads of this age group.

This review previously appeared on Goodreads. Thank you to Fat Fox Books who sent me a review copy; the views above are my honest opinion.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Happy Hooves: Ta Dah! By A Bogie and Rebecca Elliot

This gorgeous book landed on my doormat on Saturday. Rebecca Elliot is one of my favourite illustrators, so I was very keen to read it.
A group of farmyard animals decide to go on a trip to the seaside. The journey is going perfectly, until they get to a cattle grid. All the animals get over it in different ways- rolling, jigging, jumping- except the cow. The friends band together and ensure that cow can come too.

I particularly love the retro illustrations, reminding me of picture books from my childhood. There's a repeating refrain, as with most rhyming picture books, and my 5 year old stepson enjoyed joining in "TA DAH!" 

It kept Small Boy's attention, and he stopped me turning over the pages to admire the images.

I particularly enjoyed the gender divide in the book- cow is female, of course, but so is foal; I'll take 2 out of 5 animals! 

My proof copy was nicely solid to feel, with good, tactile paper. I'll put it in Small's book collection and feel confident that it will survive his tough love.

Please note that this book was sent to me by the publisher, but this is my honest opinion. 

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Recent reads

Here is a round up of some great graphic/ illustrated books I've recently read.


Jane, the fox and me is a gorgeous graphic novel. The protagonist is a pre-teen girl, left behind by her peer group and now ostracised and convinced that she's fat. She takes solace in reading Jane Eyre, particularly in Jane's sense of self-worth despite her lack of beauty and status. On summer camp an encounter with a fox and meeting another "outsider" changes her outlook. Beautiful, restrained illustrations and clever use of colour  makes this a fabulous read, one for 10+. 


Azzi In Between, winner of last year's Little Rebels award, tells the story of Azzi and her family, escaping from a war and travelling to a new country. They leave behind a happy, comfortable home and Azzi's beloved grandmother. In the new country, they have a small apartment, very few possessions, and Azzi'z father can't find work. However, little by little, Azzi finds familiarity in her new land. A great, important book, definitely not one to save just for Refugee Week. 7+


Flora and Ulysses: the illuminated adventures won this year's Newbery medal in the US, and Kate DiCamillo is US ambassador for young people's literature. I adored this book. Flora Belle Buckman is a cynic and keen comic reader, living alone with her mother since her parents' separation. In a bizarre encounter, she meets Ulysses, a poetry-writing squirrel with super powers. Together they overcome enemies and discover that love and hope can be found in the most unexpected places. This part-novel, part-comic is a joyful read, for 8+. Do yourself a favour, and get a copy today.

I am linking to Hive from now on. Hive is an excellent network which benefits independent bookshops. You can choose to have books delivered free to your local participating shop, or to any UK address.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

#ReadUKYA- Sawbones by Catherine Johnson


Catherine Johnson is one of my favourite writers. Author of Brave New Girl and Nest of Vipers, she writes fantastic novels for young people, many set in multicultural London both contemporary and historic. 

This wonderfully creepy tale is the story of Ezra McAdam, a mulatto boy, the apprentice of an anatomist. He is an intelligent boy, eager to learn all he can from his master. However, events take a sinister turn following the dissection of a corpse who has injuries that don't seem easily explained away, and Ezra's comfortable life becomes precarious. When he meets up with Loveday Finch, who is convinced that her conjurer father was murdered, it becomes positively dangerous, with all leads seeming to end up at the Ottoman embassy. 

I enjoyed every minute of reading this book. London of 1792 leapt off the page, with its smells, noise and dangers. The scientific advances of the time are well explained, and the interlocking plots added intrigue and interest for me, with the political and trade links between England, France, Turkey and Russia coming to life. I cared about Ezra and Loveday, and exclaimed so much that my partner has read it too, and recommended to the YA librarian at the library where he works. I was delighted to discover that Catherine is writing a sequel, and I can't wait to read it. 

This post is to link to the Read UKYA weekend. To find out more about Young Adult novels by UK-based authors, have a look at the UKYA and Project UKYA blogs. We have some fantastic authors here who should be celebrated!

Friday, 3 January 2014

Seasonal reads 11: Claude on the Slopes by Alex T Smith


Alex T Smith's  Claude is a small, plump dog in a jumper and beret (under which he keeps the most extraordinary things, much like Mary Poppins does in her carpet bag) whose best friend is a sock, Sir Bobblysock. They live with Mr and Mrs Shinyshoes, but once they head for work, Claude and Sir Bobblysock have extraordinary adventures!

In this, his latest adventure, Claude wakes up in a loud sort of mood. The day before he had exuberantly visited the library, but discovered that his one man band outfit is unwelcome there, so had been very quiet. So he decides to get some fresh air- and discovers that it has snowed. He and Sir Bobbysock follow whooshing people on sledges and skis to the Snowy Mountains' Winter Snow Centre. Here they play with snowballs, sledge (and Sir Bobblysock investigates Apres Ski) but Claude learns that Outdoor Voices are not always good to use Outdoors...

I love these books. I love the nostalgic warmth and wit of the illustrations- my friend Princess of VP said that they remind her of the illustrations for Anatole the Mouse- and I love the affection with which Alex T Smith writes about his characters. If you haven't met Claude yet, then do seek them out. They would be great to read aloud to 5+, and a good reader of 6+ should enjoy reading them independently.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Seasonal reads 10- Yeti and the Bird by Nadia Shireen


Lonely Yeti lives in the forest. One winter's day, he finds a little bird lost on her migration south. He takes her home and looks after her, and the two friends have fun together, until it is time for her to leave. A sad Yeti lets her go, but discovers that his kindness to Bird has made the other forest animals less scared of him, so he has lots of new friends- and Bird comes back to visit now and then.

This lovely book has vibrant, colourful winterscapes, and would be a fantastic read on a cold winter's bed time. The language is adventurous- it's one to read to children rather than them reading for themselves, I think. I particularly liked "Every evening, the friends sang sad, sweet songs together, which soothed the forest to sleep." I have bought this for some small people in my life, and hope to make a Yeti finger puppet from felt, and a pom pom bird, with the four year old, like these.these.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Seasonal reads 9- Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

Image: Walden Pond Boks

10 year old Hazel has just gone through some difficult changes in her life- her father has left her mother, she has had to move to a new school, where she doesn't fit in, and her mother needs her to take greater responsibility for herself.

As the snow falls, she and her best friend, Jack, talk about superheroes and supervillains, play fantasy games based on their reading, and make plans to go sledging. However, at the same time, a magical mirror gets broken, and in a playground accident, Jack gets a piece in his eye. The shard travels to his heart, making him cold and careless. He forgets about his plans with Hazel, and arranges to sledge with some boys who tease her in class. On arriving at the hill, he sledges by himself, in defiance of neighbourhood rules. On the hill, he meets a mysterious woman, who is in a sleigh pulled by wolves. She tucks him in her sleigh, kisses him on the forehead, and takes him into the woods.

Hazel is badly hurt by Jack's behaviour, but on hearing from one of the boys that he has gone into the woods with a strange woman, she resolves to go after him. On the journey she encounters wolves, a woodsman, a woman who wears the skin of a swan, and other characters from traditional tales. However, the imagination and knowledge of fantasy fiction that has earned Hazel mockery at school and got her into trouble for daydreaming allows her to navigate the difficult journey through the woods and face not only danger, but the knowledge that whether we want to or not, we must accept that change is inevitable.

This wonderful book was a joy to read; a bookish 9-12 year old will delight in encountering references to Hans Christian Anderson's fairy stories, Wolverine, Narnia, The Hobbit, A Wrinkle in Time and When I Meet You, amongst others. I'd have adored reading this to my class, and guiding them to the texts referenced in it. This would make an exciting blogging project with Year 5 or 6, I think. Unfortunately this book doesn't have a UK publisher, but it could be easily ordered from your local bookshop for not much more than buying it online.