The Girl who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson

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If you have read Sophie Anderson’s debut novel, The House with Chicken Legs, you will already know what an incredible and utterly beautiful storyteller Sophie is. If you have not read The House with Chicken Legs, then where have you been? Get it, read it because it is marvellous and one of my favourites of the last year.

Which brings me to The Girl who Speaks Bear. Released on the 5th September, I was beyond excited to win a signed copy of the American proof a few weeks ago.

The Girl who Speaks Bear is another beautifully crafted book that is wrapped in Slavic folklore. It is the story of 12 year old Yanka who was discovered in a bear cave as a baby and follows her journey of self-discovery.  She feels out of place in her small village and when she wakes one morning to find her legs have become those of a bear she decides to leave and head into the Snow Forest to find out who she really is.

Yanka’s story is interspersed with traditional tales from the mysterious wanderer, Anatoly, and together they forge a truly magnificent story about family, identity, courage and belonging.

With many books that I love, I find myself reading quickly to find out what happens. With The Girl who Speaks Bear the writing is so exquisite and beautifully poetic that I wanted to savour every single word.

This is an absolute must read – a real masterpiece. It is one of the most astoundingly beautiful books I have ever read and I urge everyone to go and read it when it is released!

 

Cookie and the Most Annoying Boy in the World by Konnie Huq

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Konnie Huq’s debut children’s book is the hilarious and heartwarming story of a nine year old girl who is trying to deal with her best friend moving away, her lack of a pet and the most annoying boy in the world joining her class and moving to the house next door. Cookie is a relatable wee girl and children up and down the country will be able to identify with her struggles with friendships, jealousy and disappointment. She is a very likeable character who is not without her flaws and shows that nobody is perfect, but that’s okay!

Told from Cookie’s perspective we learn that she is dealing with all sorts of issues. Her best friend, Keziah is due to move away, she still hasn’t got the pet she wants (a small kitten in the pet shop she names Bluey) and she does not like the new boy, Jake, who she has to sit next to in class.  But there is a glimmer of hope. Her favourite quiz show, Brainbusters, wants a pair of children from their school to compete and Cookie is determined that she will get on the team.

Cookie is a fabulous gem of a story with themes of friendship, kindness and understanding and some great science ideas thrown in for good measure. Fans of Tom Gates will love the chatty format and there is plenty of challenge and ideas to keep every reader interested. Konnie Huq has pitched it perfectly and children are going to be able to empathise with Cookie and her struggles! Fantastically enjoyable read that chidlren are going to love. I certainly did.

 

Callum and the Mountain by Alan McClure

Every so often a book comes along that is so intriguing and original that it simply blows you away. Callum and the Mountain is just such a novel. It is a beautiful and poetic piece of storytelling about our relationship with the spiritual and natural world with a mythical feel to it. It is told in such a way that it genuinely feels unlike anything I have read before.

Callum Maxwell lives in the small peaceful village of Skerrils in Scotland. It is a lovely wee place where not much happens. That is until the school unexpectantly explodes and Callum finds his life beginning to change forever as he meets various spirits and starts to see the world in a completely new way.  Throughout the book we see the development of the fascinating relationship between Callum and his Papa, a real connection between young and old. It always feels like we are inside Callum’s head and we live the story with him and even when I wasn’t reading it I still felt I was with him.

One of the things that I really love is how Alan McClure has included lots of Scots vocabulary, giving the characters a real authentic, believable feel. It has lots of wonderful examples of this beautiful language.

Callum and the Mountain is a beautifully crafted novel that has a magical, mysterious and almost ethereal feel to it. It is intriguing, mystifying and absolutely exquisite. It is one of the most interesting books I have read for a long time and I would absolutely recommend it!

Thanks to Alan McClure for the advance copy.

Callum and the Mountain is published by Beaten Track Publishing on 15th August. EBspYZqWwAAV-_c.jpeg

Pog by Padraig Kenny, provided for review by @BooksforTopics

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Having read and loved Padraig Kenny’s debut novel Tin a few months ago, I was incredibly excited to read his new novel, Pog, and was not disappointed by this intriguing, heart-warming and emotional tale.

After recently losing their mum, David, Penny and their Dad decide to move to their family’s old house, situated in the heart of a somewhat mysterious forest. It is meant to be a fresh start after the death of their mum and an opportunity for the three of them to try and move on, but with each of them still trying to deal with their grief in their own way, relationships remain strained.

On top of this, the children begin to hear noises in the attic. On further investigation they discover a strange but friendly creature called Pog, who we discover is dealing with bereavement of his own and coping with an overwhelming sense of loneliness . As more creatures start to emerge from the forest and out from ‘The Necessary’ (a mysterious door leading to another realm), we quickly find that not all these creatures are as friendly as Pog and have some far more sinister intentions.

Pog is a brilliantly entertaining story of other-worldly beings that live side by side with humans, normally unheard and undiscovered. The fantastically rich and diverse characters make this a compelling and enjoyable read. However, at its heart, Pog is a story of a family coming to terms with the death of a loved one, dealing with their individual grief in their own ways and coming together again as a family. It is a warm, exciting and overwhelmingly uplifting and positive book that I absolutely loved.

Provided for review by Books for Topics and originally published here:
https://www.booksfortopics.com/post/review-pog

Rumblestar by Abi Elphinstone

Abi Elphinstone is the most exquisite storyteller I have ever come across.
My first introduction to Abi was the wonderfully enchanting Sky Song that I read last year. It was such a glorious adventure that I knew I would need to read everything that Abi went on to write.
When one of my favourite days of the year approached and the World Book Day offerings were announced I was delighted to see Abi and Everdark in there with some other outstanding authors . An introduction to The Unmapped Chronicles, Everdark is a gripping adventure which sets the scene for what is to come.
Rumblestar, therefore, was one of my most anticipated releases of the year and, I have to say, it was even better than I could have possibly hoped for.
Rumblestar is the story of two unlikely heroes – Casper Tock, an eleven year old boy whose life is dictated by bullies and his own need for rules and timetables – and Utterly Thankless, whose defient persona hides a troubled wee girl at heart.
The two embark on the most fantastical adventure through Rumblestar in an effort to defeat the evil harpy, Morg.
Abi Elphinstone has a sensational and awe-inspiring way of telling stories. She has created a world that is believable in its vulnerabilty, honesty and susceptibility to evil and I didn’t want to leave. I was a more than a little gutted when it was over.
At the heart of the story are two slightly awkward and insecure characters (3 if you include Arlo, the tiny smoke breathing dragon).
Watching their characters develop and the friendships grow is really what this story is about. But it is wrapped up in the most amazing magical adventure – a glorious world that you never want to leave.
As a teacher, I can’t help to think about the possibilities for learning and inspiration contained within this book.
Rumblestar is possibly the most magnificent and wonderful story I have ever read. Full of adventure, excitement and all sorts of twists and turns, it is an absolutely breath-taking work of brilliance. Loved it!

Ps. READ EVERDARK FIRST!

A wee plea for more original books in Scots and review of Nip Nebs by Susi Briggs, Illustrated by Ruthie Redden

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I love reading and sharing books written in Scots and I believe it is vitally important that we continue to preserve, promote and enjoy the Scots language. It is such an expressive and beautiful language with a wonderfully rich vocabulary and it so enjoyable to read, speak and listen to.

There are lots and lots of brilliant Scots translations of children’s books which I love and have written about before. From David Walliams to JK Rowling to Julia Donaldson there is definitely a growing bank of children’s books in Scots, which shows the demand and interest is there.

However, what I have noticed is a distinct shortage of original children’s books written in Scots and some of the brilliant original books that are out there are out of print. (Some of Susan Rennie’s original  books spring to mind)

Within schools, early years settings and homes, we are crying out for some more original children’s  books in Scots whether that be picture books, short stories, novels, graphic novels or comics.

We need every child to have access to books that reflect the way they speak and use the vocabulary that they use to allow them to engage with and develop a love of books and reading from an early age. We need children to see that their culture and language are valued.

Which brings me on to the beautiful and fabulous Nib Nebs, an original, enchanting story about Jack Frost written in Scots, by Susi Briggs. It is an excellent rhyming story which conjures up images of winter, snow and cosying up with family . The language is so descriptive and the illustrations are utterly exquisite, providing lots of scope for discussion and reenactment. I particularly loved the opportunities to join in with actions – ‘strinkle, strinkle, strinkle’ -making it an ideal book to read with young children. There is also a helpful glossary at the back.

Nip Nebs is a brilliant wee book. It flows beautifully with wonderfully rich vocabulary and is perfectly illustrated. Let’s have more like it!

Boot by Shane Hegarty, Illustrated by Ben Mantle Age 7+

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picked up Boot from the host of books on the shop shelf because I could not resist the bright inviting cover with the delightfully cheery little robot dancing along the street with a broken umbrella.  I do love a robot story and Boot is up there with the best.  This enchanting story of the little lost robot trying to make his way home is full of charm, adventure and humour and the brilliant illustrations top it off, making it an excellent and endearing story.

Boot is the tale of a little robot who wakes up in a scrapyard with only two-and-a-half memories. He is not sure where he is or why he is there but in his limited memory he knows that he belonged to a girl called Beth and that he must find his way back to her and back to his home, wherever that may be.

On his adventure he meets those who want to do him harm as well as a wonderful array of friends, all with their own personalities, strengths and quirks.  Boot soon comes to realise that he and his friends are not like other robots who blindly follow instructions. Somehow, they have developed the ability to feel emotion. I absolutely willed the group to succeed on their quest to find Beth and find their happy ending.  There are some real philosophical questions at the heart of Boot about the nature of home, family and friendship and about the development of Artificial Intelligence.

I absolutely loved Boot. It is a glorious story about friendship and belonging and I really adored the loveable central character who is perfectly depicted in the brilliant drawings.  I was genuinely upset to come to the end of the book, but overjoyed to discover that there are 2 more adventures coming in 2020!

Children's Book Reviews

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