Monday 30 August 2010

The Ice Bear by Jackie Morris

An enchanting, magical book
Review by Maryom

I feel extremely privileged to have a copy of this for review as I've been following its development through Jackie Morris' website and blog, and eagerly awaiting its publication.

An enchanting, magical book set in the beginning of time, before the naming and fixing of things, when men and animals were all equal. A polar bear cub is stolen away from his mother by a raven and raised by hunters as their child, till the day when he wanders far from home and is found by his bear-twin. Then he finds he must choose between his two families....

As always, Jackie Morris's paintings are the most gorgeous things imaginable for a children's book - though to call this merely a children's picture book is doing it a great dis-service. This isn't a 'picture book' in the sense of a cartoon type film tie-in but one of exquisite paintings, whether of wide open Arctic spaces or intimacy of hunter's tent. She manages to convey both the power and strength of the massive bears and their tenderness and love.

With wonderfully descriptive, poetic prose, it's suitable as either a bedtime storybook for a young child or read-alone for an older one, or play 'spot the arctic fox' as he hides in the background of many pictures. A book to spark a child's imagination and one they will treasure for always - or give in and treat yourself!

I'm a bit disappointed with the copy of the cover as lifted from the publishers' web site - the original has greater depth and such feeling in the bear's eyes. If you haven't come across Jackie Morris' work - either as paintings or book illustrations - visit her website where you'll find more of the illustrations and some rough drafts from The Ice Bear and other books.

Jackie blogs at

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Frances Lincoln
Genre - Artistic Picture Story Book - All Ages

Thursday 26 August 2010

Fantastic Fantasy

Having been reading quite a lot of Fantasy recently left me thinking about this genre that is called 'fantasy'. As a youth I accumulated swathes of science fiction books and enjoyed them immensely. Asimov, Clarke,  Lois McMaster Bujol, Heinlein, Moorcock and many more - but no fantasy. Many years later I became aware of fantasy as a genre and wondered why I had never encountered it before. On reflection I now understand.that Fantasy didn't exist. Everyone was obsessed with SF and everything was classified as such if the publishers could get away with it.

I thought I would now look back and choose the best fantasy stories I have read. Therein lies a problem... You tend to favour the books you read recently which means you end up listing the most recent books instead. I will try not to do that here, but instead reclassify some of that old SF as fantasy and try to be impartial.

So what element is needed to make it fantasy, rather than SF? For me the separation is that the story must contain non explainable fantastic elements that are key to the story. This tends to come down to .... Magic.

I will now list some of the fantasies that have either influenced my reading or have become favourites. There is a temptation to do a top 5 or 10 but I will resist that and try to cover them in chronological order of my reading them.

Magic Inc. - Robert Heinlein
   I acquired this book (Waldo and Magic Inc.) as a teenager and have to admit that it is the first story I can recollect reading that I could classify as 'fantasy'. By today's standards it probably doesn't classify as that good but I include it as an influence in my taste for fantasy. It was classified as SF at the time, but wouldn't be today, although 'Waldo' - the other story in the book - probably would still be SF.
Dune - Frank Herbert
    Very much a 'cult' read shortly after it was published but I left it a few years before trying it. It started to define fantasy in a way but also spawned sequels which never quite came up to the original. As a story I wasn't overly impressed but like so many fantasy novels the hero is very special and the story focuses on the individual. It was an all too frequently followed idea.
Lord of The Rings - Tolkien
   I tried to read this at school and stopped at Bilbo's eleventy first birthday party. OK the first couple of pages but I was a serious minded teenager and could not take this silly idea. I tried again later when I was married and a father and while I found the writing style not to my taste I did get totally pulled into the story and had to admit that I enjoyed it. It was Frodo's 'unspecialness' that made him such a wonderful and innocent hero and allowed me to really enjoy it. Perhaps I should have persevered as a teenager?
Stardust - Neil Gaiman
    I read this at the recommendation of my wife. I found it very sweet and very different to anything I had read before. Our hero that we meet in the first few pages doesn't remain with us and his son takes over. I later saw the film and found I was disappointed as it didn't feel very much like the book I read and enjoyed so much.
Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula LeGuin
   This is sort of back to the special hero formula, but is also a 'dark' story and at times it almost feel depressing in it's 'darkness'. So why include it?  Well at the recommendation of my wife, I read it to my daughter as a bedtime story. We did enjoy it, though I have never read the next two books.
Colour of Magic - Terry Pratchett
   Fantasy fiction for me would be nothing today if not for Mr. Pratchett. I felt Discworld was not for me - it seemed it would be too silly so I ignored it. So why did I change my mind? I didn't - my daughter made me. It was my birthday and one of my presents was 'The Colour of Magic'. I could not believe  my wife had bought it me. She hadn't I was told when my daughter was asleep, my daughter had because she liked the picture on the cover. My daughter was reception class at the time. Well what could I say - such innocence. I had to read it because it had made it special, so I did. I was totally HOOKED. Since then I have acquired a shelf full and borrowed many more from the library but Rincewind and his luggage remain a very firm favourite and I always hope my next Pratchett will have them in, if only in a cameo roles. This book will always be special to me.
Ye Gods - Tom Holt
   I was in hospital - confined against my will - reading a Pratchett - I forget which - when a nurse asked what I was reading. I showed her and she asked if I had read any Tom Holt. When I replied that I hadn't she brought Ye Gods in for me to read. I tried it and was entranced. One thing I very much like about Tom Holt is that he has very few recurring themes. Things like 'Wells & Co' do appear in more than one book but the concept is not overdone. His humour is not as schoolboy as Pratchett and that is another attraction - variation. I only have half a shelf of Tom Holt but have added to that shelf Robert Rankin and Andrew Harman. And all because a nurse encouraged me to try Ye Gods by Tom Holt.

Since branching into the humourous fantasy genre I have read a great deal more serious fantasies and now find SF far harder to read. After 30+ years in IT I find myself questioning technologies in stories instead of suspending disbelief and loosing myself in the plot. With fantasy I can make that release and whether reading Holt, Rankin and Pratchett or Pehov, Juliet E Mckenna and Gillian Philip then I can find I can put the world on hold and just relax in the humour or tension of fantasy.

Monday 23 August 2010

Shopaholic Abroad by Sophie Kinsella

Becky Bloomwood's back - this time taking on New York.
review by Maryom

Continuing my Shopaholic reading challenge with OneMorePage.
Confessions of a Shopaholic finished on a high note - Becky had got a new job with more pay and paid off all her debts, BUT, in the months since then, 'taking the long view' and 'investing' in her career have started to run up the bills again, and her favourite bank manager has retired to be replaced with someone far less sympathetic.
Now she's off to New York with her entrepreneur boyfriend, Luke, who's looking to expand his business there. Unfortunately, it's a place full of opportunities to spend - from bijou shops to flashy department stores, sample sales to the Guggenheim Museum, everything says 'buy me' and this time her debts really are going to catch up with her in a most unpleasant way.
Another wonderful Shopaholic book, in many ways funnier than Confessions. Who but Becky would try to get round packing for the weekend by having their clothes delivered by courier, direct to the hotel? Who else, out to impress their boyfriend's mother at an important lunch, would get mistaken for a waitress? but when it comes to the crunch and Luke's business is failing apart around his ears, who but Becky can save it?

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Genre - Chick-Lit

Shopaholic Abroad can be purchased from

Sunday 22 August 2010

Friday 20 August 2010

Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

Shop Till You Drop
review by Maryom

I was inspired to re-read this by the Shopaholic challenge at I don't think I'm likely to finish all 5 books before September, but I thought I'd give it a go.

This is undoubtedly one of my favourite chick-lit feel good reads. Becky Bloomwood is a financial journalist who knows all about finance - unless it involves her own personal spending. Starting with an interest free overdraft after leaving university, she just keeps adding to it - and ignoring any nasty little bank and credit card statements that turn up in the post. At last though, she feels some action is needed. First she tries Cutting Back - this somehow leads to MORE spending. Then she tries Making More Money - hhmm, no that doesn't work either. How is she ever going to sort out her finances?

I actually prefer its original title of Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic because so much of Becky's time is spent in that dreamworld - where she will win the lottery, be photographed on the street for magazines, be swept off her feet by a movie star - rather than the dull one of financial journalism. It's only when she starts to take her journalism seriously, instead of it being a stop-gap job on the way to bigger things, that she accidentally finds a way out of her financial mess.

I've heard the Shopaholic series knocked for portraying Becky as a scatter-headed bimbo, saying it doesn't provide a suitable role model for today's young women, but chick lit is meant to be light, fluffy and escapist, and that's what the Shopaholic books are all about. I love them!

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Genre - Chick-Lit

Confessions of a Shopaholic can be bought from Amazon

Wednesday 18 August 2010

The 10pm Question by Kate De Goldi

What Are Your Worst Fears?
review by Maryom

Frankie Parsons isn't like the rest of the kids in Year 8. While they enjoy life, totally carefree, he spends all his time worrying about anything and everything - are aching muscles a sign of meningitis? is his headache actually an aneurism? has the cat passed on fleas to the family? To keep his fears at bay, he recites lists - of birds or animals. The only person who understands his fears, and listens to them, is his Mother. But while she can still comfort and reassure Frankie, she has problems and fears of her own. Then a new girl arrives at school with her own problems and her own way of dealing with them, and disrupts Frankie's orderly world.
There's a rather slow start to this tale, but the ever-worried Frankie and his slightly weird family gradually come to life as you read on. Kate De Goldi paints a sensitive and thought provoking picture of children coping with the vagaries of parents, whether brought on by illness or lifestyle.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Templar Publishing
Genre - Children's (12+)

The 10pm Question can be purchased from

Monday 16 August 2010

Hue and Cry by Shirley McKay

Murder - 16th Century Style
review by Maryom

Hew Cullan returns home to St Andrews after 6 years studying Law in Paris and is immediately caught up in the events surrounding the death of a thirteen year old boy, the private pupil of an old friend, Nicholas Colp. Gossip insists there was too close a relationship between pupil and master, and following the discovery of incriminating letters Nicholas is the main suspect. Believing that this cannot be true, Hew sets out to investigate.
Hue And Cry is an absorbing murder mystery set in 16th century Scotland, a time when homosexuality was punishable by death, when the sight of burning at the stake was seemingly commonplace. In some ways Hew Cullan with his abhorrence for punishments meted out by the legal system seems a little too modern and out of step with his environment to ring true, but otherwise this is an excellent read. Shirley McKay presents the reader with a cast of believable characters, with their varying concerns and secrets - university scholars, merchants and tradespeople of the town, the almost outcast dyer and his family.
I thought I'd managed to outsmart the author and guess the culprit's identity - but I was wrong, deliberately led up a blind alley. Despite its slightly contrived ending to reveal the killer and expose the corruption within the College, Hue and Cry is an excellent read. One that should appeal to lovers of Brother Cadfael and other historical murder mysteries.

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Polygon
Genre - Adult historical crime

Hue and Cry: A Hew Cullen Mystery (Hew Cullan Mystery 1) is available from Amazon

Friday 13 August 2010

Summer Things to Make and Do - Usborne Activities

Keep the kids busy
Review by Maryom

The title really speaks for itself - an art and craft book of summer-related things to draw, paint and make. It's absolutely full of a variety ideas to keep children occupied throughout the school holidays Printing, collage, paper-crafting - whichever your child prefers, they're sure to find something.
There are simpler ideas, such as collage flowers or fingerprint seahorses, that would suit fairly young children, particularly if helped by an adult or older child, and more complex ones, such as the fishing boat mobile, for older children to make on their own. Each activity comes with easily-followed, illustrated step-by-step instructions.
Although inspired by summer things - seaside, flipflops, ice cream - this isn't a book that will be used only in summer. There are projects in it to inspire a child's imagination at any time of year.
I mustn't forget to mention the most important bit in so many children's eyes - over 250 stickers!! Kites and ice creams, fishing boats and seashells, flowers and insects... lots and lots to decorate paintings, cards, notebooks..
All in all an excellent book filled with hours of creative fun.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Usborne
Genre - Children's Non-Fiction (Craft)

Buy Summer Things to Make and Do from Amazon

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Gillian Philip - Author Interview

Gillian Philip was born in Glasgow and has been writing all her life, starting with short but frenetic novels about Captain Scarlet and The Man From UNCLE (having massive crushes on both). She has worked as a barmaid, theatre usherette, record store assistant, radio presenter, typesetter, and political assistant to a parliamentary candidate. While living in Barbados, where her steadiest job was as a singer in an Irish bar, she took up writing professionally, and wrote many short stories for women’s magazines.

In 2001 she moved back to Scotland, and now lives in Morayshire with her husband Ian, twins Lucy and Jamie and their two dogs, Cluny and Milo.

We had thought of Gillian as a busy writer for some time, but were surprised at how busy when we got the chance to interview her.

Your website talks of Crossing the Line, Bad Faith and the 'Darke Academy' series, but I suspect there are more books that you have written. Am I right and can you tell me anything about them?

I’ve written all four of the Rebel Angels series after Firebrand... but the other three need substantial rewriting! I’m at the editing stage of another book for Bloomsbury, The Opposite of Amber. And I’m about a quarter of the way through another contemporary novel about a politician’s daughter. I’ve written a few short novels for Evans Brothers, some still in the publishing pipeline. But also sitting on my hard drive are three or four romantic novels, from when I tried and completely failed to break into that market. But hey, they were fun to write and it was good practice...

Bad Faith... Maryom feels this is a serious novel about a religious state along the lines of "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood whereas TheMole read it as a semi humorous swipe at the idea of a theocracy. How do you view Bad faith?

Hmm. I’d lean more towards the second interpretation. That’s certainly how I thought of it as I was writing it – though I tried to make the issues subject to the story of the characters – and I think humour is an important weapon against any control-freak state. On the other hand, my feelings about theocracy and state oppression, and the attitudes I wanted to challenge in the book, are absolutely serious.

I understand your father was in the church? Did that inspire or assist you in the writing of Bad Faith? And did this cause any personal impact?

It influenced me for sure – my father was a very liberal Episcopalian priest. I was brought up with the assumption that the church would naturally grow more socially liberal. Me and my sheltered upbringing. The nineties were a shock to my system – a combination of moving to the West Indies and witnessing religious misogyny and homophobia at first hand, and realising that the church hierarchy in the UK would bend over backwards (to use an unfortunate phrase) to accommodate those kind of views.

Church unity had always been presented to me as a good and desirable thing, but I began to wonder. I thought that if the all the sects and denominations did decide to unite, it would likely be at the expense of liberal attitudes, not fundamentalist ones, because the liberals were always so willing to tolerate intolerance – in other religions as well as their own. There are fundamentalist Christians in the US who have a lot of sympathy and common ground with extreme Islamists. That’s not so surprising, but for UK church leaders to excuse some repulsive attitudes as ‘cultural differences’? Oh, please.

I would occasionally wonder if I’d pushed the limits of credibility in Bad Faith; and then, for instance, the Archbishop of Canterbury would suggest that some groups in UK society should have a parallel and equally valid judicial system – sharia, in other words. And I’d decide I hadn’t gone far enough. I never take my western liberal freedoms for granted, not any more. And I would never assume they’re immutable.

My mother’s still very devout, and I did worry I might upset her – I think she was a bit worried too – but as soon as she read the book I think she realised I wasn’t having a go at religion per se, only religion as a political system. And it probably helped that I dedicated the book to my father.

Crossing the Line... A very different book and far more serious than Bad Faith and about a highly topical subject. What gave you the idea of knife crime as a subject for a book as you appear to live in a rural idyll?

I suppose knife crime was in the news a lot at the time. Still is, unfortunately. So far as I remember it wasn’t a deliberate choice, but the natural progression of the plot – I just realised quite early on that Nick carried a knife, and that that was going to have consequences for him and those around him.

I did deliberately choose an urban setting – Bad Faith had such a rural and suburban background that I wanted a change. And I haven’t always lived in the country – I like city life too. My mother still lives in Aberdeen, so when I was writing Crossing The Line I’d go and stay with her and walk for miles around the city, letting scenes and characters pop into my head. Walking combined with location scouting is definitely one of the best sources of ideas.

The subjects of bullying and trauma (as caused by sudden death) are both covered with compassion and understanding. Did you have to research these subjects deeply?

No. I didn’t really want to, because I wanted to come at these topics raw. I didn’t want to take any of my characters from a case study, even by accident, and anyway I don’t know that research is as helpful with this kind of thing as memory, experience, observation. To an extent I used people I know, friends who have lost loved ones, experiences I’ve had. Maybe writers just have a cold spot in their hearts. Some of us, anyway.

At the end there is a slight and subtle twist. Does this reflect any religious views or is there a statement being made?

It doesn’t reflect any religious belief and no, I wasn’t trying to make any kind of statement. It was just one of those plot elements that grows on you. I didn’t know when I started writing that things were going to turn out like that – if I can put it that way! I could add that I’ve heard too many convincing stories to dismiss this kind of phenomenon. And I find that quite reassuring, not frightening.

You write for young adults, Do you have to 'dumb down' the language or content at all?

I certainly don’t dumb down my language or vocabulary – I write as I would for adults. With language and content I feel I have to be thoughtful, but nothing is off-limits. I use obscenities, but I don’t feel I can pepper the dialogue with them. In fact I usually swear a lot in my first draft, then on a rewrite I’ll go through it and delete nine out of ten, and tone others down. It’s almost invariably stronger for it, and the real profanity has more impact. I think one of the strongest aspects of YA lit is the fact that we have to think about every word, every act of violence, every sex scene. Nothing’s gratuitous.

The other difference though is in style – I’d say that is a big difference between YA and adult books. You can’t mess around with too much introspection or description; you can’t waste a word; you have to get right to the heart of the action and keep it moving.

Are there other subjects you would like to write about that are either not appropriate for young adults or that publishers want to steer clear of?

I honestly can’t think of any that they’d try to discourage. For instance, my friend Tabitha Suzuma has just written a wonderful novel about incestuous love between a brother and a sister, Forbidden. My latest – The Opposite of Amber – is about a prostitute, and my publishers didn’t bat an eye about the subject matter.

I imagine, though, that any publisher would want to be very careful how a dangerous subject was approached. Which is fair enough. In YA literature as in children’s, there are gatekeepers in the form of parents, librarians and teachers, and that has to be taken into account.

The two book covers Bad Faith and Crossing the Line have a lot in common although they were from different publishers. Was this deliberate as the cover for Firebrand is far different and more exciting and still published by Strident?

No, there was no consultation between the publishers at all! It’s a fantastic coincidence. I loved both the covers, and when I saw the cover for Crossing The Line I was enormously chuffed that it matched Bad Faith so beautifully. I still hold them up together at talks to show them off.

And now we come to Firebrand which is published very soon on 13th August. A very different style and a very different subject. Is this return to fantasy, because Darke Academy was also fantasy, something you have looked forward to?

Firebrand actually predates the Darke Academy series (which I write as a collaborative project with Hothouse Fiction). It had a very tortuous beginning – when I decided to focus on Young Adult fiction, my first attempt was a fantasy book called Rebel Angels. It wasn’t very good, and I rewrote it many times, but I’d got hooked by the characters and the story and by this time I was writing the sequel.

The trouble was, the whole story was taken over by its villain, who appealed to me more than any of the other characters. To get him out of my system I decided I had to tell his ‘origin’ story – and that was the book that became Firebrand. I’d intended it as a ‘prequel’, but it became the heart of the story, and getting Seth out of my system just hadn’t worked – he was still the guy pulling my (heart)strings. So Seth became an antihero rather than a villain, and Firebrand became Book 1 of a Rebel Angels series – and all the others are being rewritten in the light of that story, including the original Rebel Angels, which is now Book 2 and called Bloodstone. If you’re still with me!

But to answer your other question – yes, I have looked forward to getting back to this series, and I’m really excited about the rewrites. I think the books will be much improved and I like spending time with the characters.

We have both read and enjoyed tremendously Firebrand can you tell us about the rest of the series at all?

Thank you! I truly was delighted that you both liked Firebrand. In Book 2, Bloodstone, the story takes a substantial leap forward in time to the present day. Because of the Sithe’s longevity, though, we’re still with the characters from Firebrand. Conal and Seth are still defying Kate and moving between the worlds – and this has huge and disastrous consequences for the family. Thereafter – well, there are new characters, of course, from past and present, and from both worlds. And there will be war, and rebellion, and some intense romances, and death. And there’s fatal treachery from an unexpected quarter. And that’s all I’m saying!

Thanks so much for a great interview!

And many thanks for finding the time to answer our questions, it was most revealing.

Gillian can be followed on Facebook, Twitter and she blogs at and at

Gillian also has a website : which currently has a minor bug, but ignore this (it is not a virus or anything, just a little rogue code) - it is being looked at.

Read our reviews of Firebrand :- Maryom's and TheMole's
Read our reviews of Bad Faith :- Maryom's and TheMole's
Read our reviews of Crossing The Line:- Maryom's

Firebrand (Rebel Angels Series) is published on 13th August 2010 and can be purchased from Amazon amongst many other outlets.
Bad Faith and Crossing the Line can also be be purchased from Amazon.

Monday 9 August 2010

A Wartime Poetry Journal By Effie M Roberts

Wartime recollections
Review the Gerry(TheMole)

Written throughout the war by Effie M Roberts, these poems tell of her mood and reactions to events during the war. She reflects on the sadness the war brought, the hardships and the people.

Effie was not a natural poet and much is simple rhyming poetry with the rhyme all too predictable. During the writing of the journal over the course of the war you can see an improvement in her style but still not ending in anything to challenge the poet laureate. But is this important? Arguably not. Today these poems could be considered as part of the 'mass observation' project that was done before, during and after the war although they are not officially part of it. Much of the 'mass observation' project was written with an adult readership in mind, as daily diaries. This can make it very useful for historians but stuffy for the younger reader. Effie's poems, while being simple rhyming poems, are the nature of poem that can appeal to children and with the second world war being very much a curriculum item, then these poems can make a small part of that history more accessible.

TheMole's review - 3 stars
Publisher - Fractal Publishing
Genre - unsure

Buy A Wartime Poetry Journal from Amazon

Friday 6 August 2010

Blackhope Enigma by Teresa Flavin

Made me wonder
Review by TheMole

A story of three children who chance upon a fantastic discovery that takes them into perils and situations that leave the reading reeling and thinking. Sunni and Doran visit Blackhope tower, a museum that has an intriguing clause in the bequest that 1 room, the Mariners Chamber, may have no changes made to it whatsoever. Over the years this has been honoured and the room houses a fine painting by Fausto Corvo - an artist with colourful story. There they meet Blaise and while Sunni and Blaise talk about the painting and the artist, Doran gets bored. And so begins a fast paced and fascinating tale that left me wondering.... How do authors like Teresa Flavin come up with such imaginative plots? How do they extend a simple idea to all the complexities that they do? And how do they do it so well? The characters vary in their depth with the 'good guys' being better developed than the 'bad guys'. Whether this is because the author is a naturally 'good guy' or whether it's to stop the reader becoming attached to the baddies I don't know but whatever it is it did leave me, throughout the reading, remembering that this is a 'tweens' age group book (I have a 13 year old and I can see her enjoying it). Some children's books you lose track of the age group it was intended for because of the way it is written (not because of it's content). This recognition of it's age group did not detract from my enjoyment of the book though. I found it to be well plotted, well written and paced beautifully for the younger reader. Highly recommended!

TheMole's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Templar Publishing
Genre - Children's 10+

Buy The Blackhope Enigma from Amazon

Wednesday 4 August 2010

Reading for Babies.

Maryom's Top Three Books to read and share with babies - and one that got away.
All of these are available as board-books. A wonderful picture book can be lovely to look at but sometimes a book needs to be able to withstand a bit of hammer - being chewed, thrown around, dropped from the buggy, having to be wiped down.. which is where baby friendly board books come in.

Top of my list just HAS to be
Guess How Much I Love You
by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram.
I bought this as an alleged 'first Christmas present' from my daughter , then 7 months, for my husband (along with an 'I LOVE DADDY' bib) I actually hadn't expected it to be READ as a book - I thought it would just get chewed and mauled, but my husband sat down with her and read it and then started doing the 'actions' along with little nut brown hare - I love you this much - stretching his arms wide .. I think at first it was these actions that caught my daughter's attention - she was just at the age when babies start to copy. By the time she could toddle my daughter would fetch this book thrust it at people and expect to have it read then and there.

by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
is a different sort of book - no actions here but filled with rhythm and rhyme, and of course pictures of the Baby! I'm sure someone knows why, I don't, but babies are fascinated with pictures and photos of other babies - in books, on TV. With each verse, there's a hole to peep through at the Baby - great for a child of 6 months or so, just learning to play Peepo with Mum or Dad.

Peace At Last
by Jill Murphy
the tale of poor Father Bear who is unable to get to sleep for all the noises he can hear at night. There's lots of opportunity with this book to have fun making the noises - Mrs Bear's snoring, Baby Bear's aeroplane noises, brrr of the fridge, tick tock of the clock. Some of them your baby may start to join in with.

And the one that got away
Can You See A Little Bear?
by James Mayhew and Jackie Morris
This one I've only discovered since my daughter has grown too old for baby books. Lots of bears to hunt on the pages, the repetition of 'can you see a little bear?' as he gets up to all sorts of things and the most gorgeous illustrations for a baby's book ever.

Buy Guess How Much I Love You from Amazon
Buy Peepo! (Viking Kestrel Picture Books) from Amazon
Buy Peace at Last from Amazon
Buy Can You See a Little Bear? from Amazon

Monday 2 August 2010

The Map Of Marvels by David Calcutt

A Marvellous Adventure Tale
review by Maryom

A rainy day. Connor sits at the table and tries to draw a map for homework. His sister Alice is making up stories with her toys on the floor. He draws a tower - the Tower of Truth - on his map. She builds one from books and toys. But Alice sees a horrid face staring from the Tower window out that frightens her, so she scribbles it out. Connor is angry and knocks Alice's tower to the floor, but something catches him up, whirls him around and Connor discovers himself on a ship INSIDE his map. With him on the ship are Sindbad, King of Pirates, and his fierce and fearless daughter, Sherazhad - they too have been plucked from their own world. The only way for any of them to get home is to follow the adventures that the map leads to, till eventually they can find the way to the Tower which holds the key.
Inspired by the Mappa Mundi in Hereford cathedral, David Calcutt has created a world where the mundane, everyday world of a child playing with their toys mixes seamlessly with fantastical journeying in a different reality. The Map of Marvels is a wonderful, action packed, terrifying at times adventure, through the landscape of The Arabian Nights. The reader is transported along with Connor from stormy seas to bone dry deserts, meets with pirates and giant whales, djinn and ifreets but the scariest of all is the man who Alice saw at the Tower's window.
If you or your children loved Narnia or the Inkheart Trilogy, then try this. The publishers suggest this is a book for the over 11s but it's the kind of adventure tale we used to read as a bedtime story to our 8 year old daughter and I feel it would appeal to a lot of that younger age group.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Genre - Children's 11+ (But I would be happy with 8+)

Buy The Map of Marvels from Amazon