A couple of years back I enthusiastically endorsed The Silver Arrow and I am very pleased to say that this second instalment is equally as enchanting for your middle school readers.
A year after they first encounter The Silver Arrow and begin their mission to save the world’s endangered animals via the Great Secret Intercontinental Railway, Kate and Tom are back on board as conductors, but this time things are different. The pair come across a very different train on the secret railway – The Golden Swift – which is also dropping off animals at stations. The problem is that these other conductors are delivering animals to the wrong stations and Kate is determined to find out the whole story.
The ensuing adventures range across the globe from the outback wilds of Australia to the depths of the Bering Sea in a magical submarine and once the identity of the rival conductors is known, Kate feels that they have formed an undeniably positive partnership – one which will change the course of nature for the better. But there’s a huge realisation coming their way – insights into themselves and their new friends, but also a deeper understanding of the complex intertwinings of the natural world – past, present and future.
Like the first, this is not simply about the exciting adventure and quirky characters (where else would you encounter a bossy cassowary who is the dispatcher for the railway or indeed a completely crazy wolverine?) but offers up much food for thought with rich discussions on ethics, brainstorming possible solutions to the terrible castrophe with which the world is faced, and strategies to avoid further damage.
Beautifully imaginative once again, this is a must to add to your collection and your astute readers from around ten upwards will adore it.
Sam, half monster/half fairy, has not only that secret to keep but many others. For example, there’s the one about his pack – the gargoyles who protect him, and the one about his school friends, the shape shifters who can change into dogs at will. There’s also the one about the rumour that he is the new King of Ogres and that Queen Maggie, the very nasty faerie who purports to be his mother, is delighted to find out that has more powers than she had imagined. Not to mention that he’s hatched a tiny gargoyle just by sneezing – and that the Kavanagh family, with whom he is fostered, are, in fact, his real family, from whom he was stolen many years before. Sam is not one to bow down and do evil, no matter how high the stakes, so he must find a way forward to defeat Maggie and create a new world for monsterkind. With the aid of his pack and his own innate goodness and ability to express kindness to all, he is well on his way to a fitting climax to his arduous battle.
There is high drama, and much humour. There is unswerving belief in acting with integrity, and there is unshakeable loyalty. There is a wonderful lesson in diversity and accepting differences, and, above all, the importance of love, especially that for family and friends.
I have loved this series so much – and I am also happy/sad that it has come to an end but I do look forward very much to T. C. Shelley’s next foray into writing – particularly if it is for upper primary/lower secondary.
Highly recommended for your lovers of magical fantasy from around 9 years upwards.
As we get ready to celebrate 25 years of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Bloomsbury Publishing wants to hear YOUR memories of your first reading experiences of Harry Potter. On 26th June 2022 (the anniversary itself) Bloomsbury will release a video of fans’ first memories of reading Harry Potter.
Get your entries to Bloomsbury for a chance to be featured in the video AND for a chance to win a signed copy by J.K. Rowling of the anniversary edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (publishing 9th June).
It seems hardly any time at all since I reflected on 20 years of HP and yet, here we are, at the start of a huge year of silver anniversary celebrations for what is, to my mind at least, the most successful fiction series of all time. Many of you will have already got the heads up about the many events planned but if not, do make sure you check them out and sign up for newsletters and activity packs. I am hugely excited for the upcoming release of the illustrated Tales of Beedle the Bard and, in my new library, starting up yet another PotterHeads group as well as beginning plans for a Harry Potter Night event later in the year.
There is also a great Miles of Magic competition which might excite your kiddos – I’ve been sharing it with mine, as well as my staff and library groups.
In the meantime, given it is the anniversary and, no doubt, as I have done you have a regular re-purchase of titles as they get shabby and worn out (how many others can you say that about!?), you might like to consider buying the anniversary edition, either paperback or hardback as a special – or even to offer up as the ultimate desirable prize for a celebratory competition of your own.
My own HP collection continues to expand. Besides jewelry, clothing, accessories, and the pieces I have at school in my library, I’ve just re-organised my ‘home’ collection as it had outgrown its space on the regular bookshelf. My latest acquisition is the adorable handmade mandrake ‘Cadfael’ – he’s just so cute! But also quite new from Xmas: the Sorting Hat, the Pensieve kit and the Hufflepuff wax seal set – from my equally HP crazed middle daughter – thanks Kimmy, fellow Hufflepuff! 🙂
The Kid just shakes her head each time something new in the HP line comes into the house (where did I go wrong? WHY is she so resistant to the charms of HP et al?) but that’s unlikely to stop the flow any time soon.
Happy Silver Anniversary Harry and congratulations to J. K., Bloomsbury and the artists and creators who have added so much to the original stories – and special thanks to the lovely Sonia at Bloomsbury Australia, who understands my obsession very well. Some of us will never be too old for Harry!
A year ago I reviewed my first Lesley Parr historical fiction and absolutely loved it – I book-talked it for weeks afterwards to my kiddos, many of whom also enjoyed it hugely. So I was most excited to receive this new title, about to be published, and equally as fascinating, engaging and emotive.
This new tale is set post The Great War and 12-year-old Natty is a very truculent protagonist who has moved with her mother to the Welsh countryside. Her mother, Ffion, has been sacked from her factory job after sticking up for workers’ rights and, unable to afford the rent on their very humble lodgings, the pair must go and live with family, Natty’s aunt and uncle. For Natty, it’s a combination of everything that makes her so miserable and antagonistic – feeling like a charity case, having to change schools, living in the countryside and, above all, having to share a room with her cousin, Nerys, – the ultimate paragon and insufferable know-it-all. She gets on much better with her older cousin, Huw, but his terrible mental state after returning from the war has reduced his capacity to moderate his moods and to re-connect with his family and friends.
Then Natty encounters some of the convalescing soldiers hosted in the village and her friendship with them, along with her determination to help, especially, Johnny whose amnesia has robbed him of his entire life. Natty becomes more and more sure that not only might she be able to help Johnny solve the mystery of his past, but perhaps, along the way, she can help Huw as well.
If that’s not enough, Natty and Nerys become reconciled through their joint campaign to demand equitable access for all the students at the local school, and in doing so, Natty develops a true understanding of her mother’s passion for equal rights and justice.
It’s a great read for sure and, more than that, explores so many important themes that will provide fodder for much rich discussion with your readers.
I highly recommend it for your readers from around Year 5 upwards, particularly those eternally fascinated with stories of children in difficult circumstances.
Every now and then a book comes along that is just so utterly charming that it nestles straight into your heart immediately. It doesn’t happen very often but when it does, you just know it’s a book that will stay with you forever. That’s exactly how I feel about this delightful and heart-warming story which is so very perfect for a Christmas read.
It is 1952 in post-war London and Penny Black (clever!) is feeling quite lonely. After losing her dad in the war, it’s just been Penny and her mum, which can become tricky, as her mother is a pilot flying mail planes. When her mother gets caught up in France due to extreme fog, Penny is sent to stay with her Uncle Frank, a rather taciturn London postmaster, who is far from child-friendly really. Uncle Frank is even grumpier when he discovers that Penny has released a ‘rat’ from the trap in the post office. Of course, the creature is not a rat at all. It is Wishyouwas, a Sorter, and one of a whole crowd of secret little critters who take on big responsibilities in getting mail – especially lost letters- to the rightful recipients.
When Wishyouwas shows Penny the hidden underworld beneath the street of London, where he and his friends live and work, he gets into a lot of trouble from his higher-ups but worse than this, a nasty human called Stanley Scrawl, employed by HM Royal Mail as official rat-catcher is determined to sabotage the little furred mail guardians and, at the same time, provide himself with both kudos and rewards. He really is quite odious and thoroughly deserves to be caught in a rat trap himself!
Any readers from around 8 or 9 years upwards to around 13ish would thoroughly enjoy this book and if you are looking for the perfect book to gift for Christmas or, indeed, to read aloud over the festive season, you should make this a top choice. I, for one, would enjoy more stories of the fluffy little mail guardians should they come along. I highly recommend it to you for either your library or classroom collection or your own personal bookshelves.
So of course the piece de resistance of any batch of books, particularly at Halloween, is new HP ones and these two are absolute corkers!!!
Harry Potter – Magical Creatures: a movie scrapbook
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Any HP fan would love this and if kids, will certainly strip all its special additions out to adorn their walls, school books, lunchboxes whatever. There are all manner of inserts: stickers, art prints, postcards, even a woven cloth badge!!, all of which will absolutely delight any dedicated PotterHead (including this one!).
I don’t think any true fan finds it a disappointment to find out more about how their favourite stories were brought to life on the screen, and even those who are purists who might pretend to disdain a movie version of their darlings, can still appreciate the imagination, creativity and technical skill that goes into kindling life into mythical and fictional creatures.
No matter your favourites (for me, definitely bowtruckles and pygmy puffs – I do prefer my magical beasties small and friendly – although I wouldn’t say no to a niffler), you will derive much pleasure in finding out more about their role and their presentation in the movies. Read the profile on so many of the creatures that are part of the Wizarding World from beautiful and loyal Fawkes the phoenix to much-loved Hedwig as well as the nasty ones like the Basilisk and mountain trolls.
Harry Potter – A Magical Year: The Illustrations of Jim Kay – J. K. Rowling (author), Jim Kay (illustrator)
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
If you have a PotterHead in the family, look no further for their Christmas gift. This is simply magnificent and any devotee will be so thrilled with it, will pore over it for hours and treasure it for years to come.
This is exactly what you might guess from the title. It is what I would describe as an almanac of significant events and memories from the Wizarding World so for each day there is an excerpt or quote as well as the absolutely dazzling illustrations throughout. Just look at these examples:
As I browse through this, I am captivated by the sheer beauty and detail of Jim Kay’s illustrations which so exquisitely envisage our cavalcade of favourite characters and recall so many of our memorable moments whether from the first time we read the books or the latest re-reading. Of course for those of us who were among the first readers two decades we have always had our own mental picture of certain people, places or plot details and somehow, when I see Kay’s interpretation, it is always exactly right.
Of particular interest are the additions of insights such as reproductions of original sketches and prepping. These are always fascinating and I have often shown children insights into the process of illustrating and they are always completely enthralled.
I know many of my HP aficionado friends are planning to put this on their shelf – of course, mine is firmly ensconced with its family as you will see below!
No higher recommendation can I give than to say it’s a must – you would rather buy this than eat your next meal and most definitely for any family or friends who deserve a sumptuous gift, you would be on a winner with this in their Christmas stocking.
I cannot thank Bloomsbury (and Sonia) enough for allowing me to wallow in the Wizarding World so often – I appreciate it so very much.
PS: re: “treasure it for years to come” – I went to the Bloomsbury website to check I had all the necessary details and see they had said the same thing! (well to say it independently I’m sure confirms it!).
Well didn’t I feel so special when the lovely Bloomsbury Australia folk sent me these – knowing full well my HP obsession! And they will make the most highly-sought after Christmas gifts for any PotterHead in your circle too!!
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: MinaLima edition
Even the Kid (not a HP fan – where have I failed???) thinks this is just superb! It’s the Philosopher’s Stone as you’ve never seen it before with simply stunning papercraft embellishments throughout as well as stylish bordered pages, full colour illustrations and arguably the most handsome binding I’ve ever encountered.
My able assistant agreed to show you just a couple of the enchanting surprises. First the entry to the Grynffindor common room – swing the Fat Lady’s portrait out to reveal the interior of the cosy room we all wish we could visit.
Next up this amazing fold out of Diagon Alley – have you got your sickles and galleons ready to spend? Just tap the right brick – away you go!
I suppose you could buy it for a child of your acquaintance – but really I think it will be we adults who will revel in this the most!
Christmas at Hogwarts: a movie scrapbook – Warner Bros
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
RRP: A$29.99 NZ $32.99
Another perfect Christmas gift filled with not only glorious stills from the movies including Harry’s first Christmas at Hogwarts, in The Burrow and the holiday spent in Grimmauld Place but with the most delightful inserts of various kinds: stickers, bookmarks, sketch designs of costumes, concept illustrations as well as other insights.
There are reflections from both the actors and film makers along with special informational pieces on decorating and festive traditions in the magical sphere. Christmas as celebrated by the witches and wizards we’ve come to love like family is a bright and beautiful experience and it would be a very hard-to-please recipient who wouldn’t treasure this for their HP collection.
Needless to say these are staying right on my HP shelf which is fast becoming fuller and fuller – and very likely will continue to do so!!!
But do rush out and buy these for someone you love – trust me, they will be so filled with joy! Thank you again to the lovely Sonia from Bloomsbury who knows me so well!! What a fabulous gift with which to end a year of reviewing for this wonderful publishing company!!
PS – I’m already planning our Harry Potter Night event for the start of Term 1 2021! Let the magic continue to sparkle!