Brief Review – The Peculiars by Kieran Larwood

I loved the cover and the blurb for this book, but when I began reading it I wasn’t too sure at first. Then as new characters were introduced in new situations, along with an intriguing mystery to be solved, I became hooked.

A lot of thought has gone into the book and its setting so the reader really gets a great sense of the awful lives of the poor in Victorian England and London in particular. Tied to that is the way so many people were exploited by unscrupulous people for their own benefit.

Yet in spite of this world’s dark aspects, the story is fun, overall. Not only does this strange band of peculiars look after one-another, they each use their individual traits to great effect as they investigate a worrying number of poverty-stricken children.

I thoroughly recommend this book to adults and children alike.

Brief Review – The Wizards of Once

The Wizards of Once (The Wizards of Once, 1): Cowell, Cressida:  9780316508339: Books

I’ve not read anything by Cressida Cowell before (I know, stupid, right?) but this will certainly not be the last book of hers I read. This was a delight from start to finish and I can see why she was chosen as the current Children’s Laureate.

The characters are fantastic and almost escape from the page they burst with so much life. The illustrations – by Cowell herself – perfectly match and enhance the feelings evoked by the story. Because of the way the story is written and illustrated, it’s almost impossible to imagine one without the other.

The story itself takes place over 24 hours yet so much is crammed into that time it almost makes the head spin and you can’t help but feel exhausted for the characters by the end. But in a wonderful, “I want to read more of this” way. Thankfully, there are more books in the series.

I know I’m not the target audience, but such a delightful book transcends the boundaries of age and other demographics and I wish this book had existed when I was a child.

Brief review – The Boy at the Back of the Class

The Boy At the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Rauf, Pippa Curnick |  Waterstones

I liked this book a lot, although with a few provisos.

The writing style was superb and really captured the feel of a nine-year-old narrator with a well-meaning attitude but limited world knowledge. Not only does the reader get carried along with the enthusiastic, caring narration, they get to share in the expansion of knowledge that feeds into the story in an important way.

With the issue of refugees constantly an arguing point, it seems, this book handles the matter in a thoughtful, caring way by wrapping it up in a genuinely good story with lows and highs throughout.

The provisos I mentioned concern the author holding back certain details until very late in the book when I couldn’t see any good reason to do so, though I won’t go into details in case of spoiler material.

I heartily recommend the book, particularly if your children have questions about refugees.

The Girl of Ink & Stars – a brief review

After previously finishing a very disappointing children’s book, The Girl of Ink & Stars was a delight to read from the very first page. The author immediately established the richness and style that drew me in and carried me along, with my mind filled with curiosity and a longing to discover more.

Although covering a number of serious situations – tested friendships, loss, suffering and deadly danger – doing so from the viewpoint of the main character gives each a grounding that children will be able to connect to.

And the main character herself is both determined and doubtful, qualities that make her very human and give the reader all the more reason to keep with the story to the end.

Kiran Millwood Hargrave has written a wonderful book that will fire a child’s imagination.

Brief book review – How to Self-Publish and Market a Children’s Book

A writer friend bought this for me as a gift and it’s such a welcome one. I wish I’d read it before I published my two recent books.

The best thing about this book is that it comes directly from the author’s personal experience of publishing her own children’s books and it shows in every page. In a way it’s a little bewildering, not through lack of clarity but from the amount of detailed information, useful comments and valuable pointers.

This is an excellent resource for anyone considering publishing their own children’s book.

Another great review

This one appears on Amazon UK and I couldn’t ask for a better one.

“From the opening chapter, the four Quads are given their own distinct personalities, with the same being true of the other characters introduced throughout the book. Whilst the initial introductions put broad brush strokes on the characterisations, additional details appear naturally in the narrative, giving the characters real depth. Even the villains are not painted as simply bad for the sake of it, proving to be well-rounded individuals by the end.”