middle grade fiction

All posts in the middle grade fiction category

Blog Tour – Dougal Daley: It’s Not My Fault – Jackie Marchant, Loretta Schauer (illustrator)

Published May 4, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

I, Dougal Daley, am dead! Ok I’m not actually dead. But if I m not careful I soon will be.

In this first book, football-loving Dougal Daley finds himself at risk from the mysterious creature living in the garden shed. Nobody believes him but as a precaution, he sets upon writing his will – rewarding those who help him and disinheriting those who get on his bad side. Meanwhile, as limbs and windows alike are broken by rogue footballs and unhinged canines, Dougal finds himself in all sorts of trouble. . .and NONE of it is his fault!

Hello everyone and welcome to my spot on the Dougal Daley blog tour! Today, I have a very special guest post to share with you from the illustrator of the book, Loretta Schauer where she talks about her experiences of illustrating this book. Over to Loretta!

For this book we had the text laid out first and knew where we wanted to put the illustrations. Most of the images were to work in amongst the text, rather than taking up a whole facing page, but as you’ll see some of what would otherwise be text was actually illustrated too.

The story is told through Dougal’s voice so we wanted the illustrations to reflect this. They are not entirely drawn as if by Dougal himself, but there is an immediacy and slightly anarchic feel to them, as if visualising the world through Dougal’s eyes. I used pencil for most of the images with the occasional bit of watercolour wash and a few grungy charcoal smudges here and there. Some of the images are as if Dougal is working out his own thoughts and feelings about concepts – like his dilemma actually being a tri-lemma, but sometimes the illustrations are just funny incidental details like Dougal’s big sister Sybil’s nail varnish collection (vomity violet and putrid pink) or the packets of crisps Dougal’s friends are eating when they don’t invite him round because they assume he’s grounded. My favourite bits to draw were Death by Crutches, Claude’s fluffy hamster toy, and of course, the creature in the shed!

For this book, a lot of the text and speech is also illustrated to keep with Dougal’s voice – like Dougal’s jumbled speech bubble when he tries to explain why his friend ended up in the river. Big chunks of the story are told through handwritten notes between the various characters and of course the will that Dougal is writing and updating throughout the book. All these needed to be illustrated “in character”, so I made up a handwriting style for each person (10 in total!) using different pens and pencils, and like an actor, I needed to keep these handwriting characters consistent throughout the story.

I think my favourite hand writing styles were Claude Barleycorn, Angela Sweeter and Dougal’s very important notes to the Police.

The handwritten notes were treated exactly the same as the rest of the illustrations, where we worked out where they needed to be in advance, and sometimes this meant four of five pages in a row of nothing but illustrated notes back and forth between the characters.

‘Dougal Daley – It’s Not My Fault’ was lots of fun to illustrate, and it was great working with Jackie the author and the team at Wacky Bee. I’m looking forward to illustrating book 2 – ‘Dougal Daley – Where’s my Tarantula?’

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Dougal Daley was inspired by a messy bedroom and a random question from my son about writing a will. Dougal Daley has been huge fun to write about – you wouldn’t believe the disasters that happen around him (none of which are his fault of course)! When I’m not writing I love doing school visits and creative writing workshops. I also take time away from the writing world looking after guide dogs while their owners are away.

Website: https://www.jackiemarchant.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JMarchantAuthor

ILLUSTRATOR INFORMATION

I originally studied performing arts and have a degree in Dance Performance – well you never know when you need a quick pirouette! I also worked in practical conservation for a long time, and spent many years battling balsam, identifying lichen, and searching for creepy crawlies before I picked up my pencils and paints and began exploring illustrating and writing for children. In 2011 I won the Waterstone’s ‘Picture This’ competition and I now illlustrate full time. However I am still happiest noodling around for fossils and shells on the beach!

Website: http://lorettaschauer.tumblr.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Loretta_Schauer

A huge thank you to everyone involved in this blog tour and to Loretta for providing me with some wonderful background information about her illustrating journey. Why not check out the rest of the stops on the tour where you’ll find some fantastic reviews from my fellow bloggers? Dougal Daley: It’s Not My Fault was released by Wacky Bee Books on 4th April 2017 and is available from all good bookshops now.

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35003254-dougal-daley

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dougal-Daley-its-Not-Fault/dp/0995697221

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 – APRIL READ – A Snicker Of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

Published May 1, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Introducing an extraordinary new voice—a magical debut that will make your skin tingle, your eyes glisten . . .and your heart sing.

Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers. But that was long ago, before a curse drove the magic away. Twelve-year-old Felicity knows all about things like that; her nomadic mother is cursed with a wandering heart.

But when she arrives in Midnight Gulch, Felicity thinks her luck’s about to change. A “word collector,” Felicity sees words everywhere—shining above strangers, tucked into church eves, and tangled up her dog’s floppy ears—but Midnight Gulch is the first place she’s ever seen the word “home.” And then there’s Jonah, a mysterious, spiky-haired do-gooder who shimmers with words Felicity’s never seen before, words that make Felicity’s heart beat a little faster.

Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch more than anything, but first, she’ll need to figure out how to bring back the magic, breaking the spell that’s been cast over the town . . . and her mother’s broken heart.

What did I think?:

Why have I never heard of this book? When Chrissi and I were researching which books to put on our Kid Lit list for this year, this one appeared which had very positive reviews on GoodReads (4.09 average). Then we got some lovely comments when we did the big reveal of Kid Lit 2017 in January with a few people saying this was one of their favourite children’s books which made us both very excited to read it. Now I’ve finally read it, I can see why. This is a beautiful, magical tale of an ordinary yet very EXTRAordinary young girl that touched my heart with its strong messages about the importance of love, family and friendships.

When we first meet our protagonist, Felicity Pickle she is in the car with her mother, sister and dog, Biscuit travelling to yet another town to start their lives over. Felicity’s mother is described as having a “wandering heart,” and she rarely stays in the same place for too long, feeling an unbelievable urge to move on which is obviously a bit de-stabilising and distressing for the two children at times. However, they are about to return to her mother’s childhood home, Midnight Gulch, a town famous for at one time being a magical, wondrous place until a duel between two magicians and a terrible curse removed most traces of the magic for good.

There has always been something special about Felicity. She sees words in the air around her. This happens when people talk and she sees their innermost thoughts in the form of words and even in objects around her which sometimes suggests the history of a particular place. She writes all the words that are new to her or that she particularly likes down in a little blue book and she has her own talent with words, forming poems for her little sister when she is upset. Joining another new school at Midnight Gulch was always going to be hard for the girls and Felicity especially finds it difficult to form new friendships when there is the risk that she will be removed and taken to another place at any given moment. However, when she meets Jonah, learns more about the history of magic in the town and attempts to lift the dreadful curse, there is a chance she might also be able to cure her mother’s wandering heart and find a home for good.

Oh what a lovely book this is! It’s one of those feel good, warm and fuzzy novels that just makes your heart happy. I just loved the characters, particularly Felicity and Jonah but also the smaller characters on the periphery that added so much to the story. For example, Felicity’s Auntie Cleo, who the family stay with who is just marvellous, adores her sister and the children but has stories all of her own like many of the people in the town. I also really enjoyed how ice cream was so much of the narrative as the town’s biggest business and some of the flavours mentioned made my mouth water – how I wish they were real! This is a fantastic debut from an author that really knows how to write a whimsical, touching tale that gets you hooked, makes you joyful and I enjoyed every minute of it.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her post HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT TIME ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT – The Sea Of Monsters (Percy Jackson and The Olympians #2)- Rick Riordan

Blog Tour – Black Knight (The Inventory #3) – Andy Briggs

Published April 30, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Dev and his friends are back with more mind-bending tech in this third installment of the Inventory series.
The World Consortium is recruiting more agents to defend the most advanced technology the world isn’t ready for, and it’s up to Dev, Lottie and Mase to train them up for action. But will they be ready before Shadow Helix’s next strike? And has Dev uncovered all the secrets of his past, or is there more to know about his special abilities?

Hello everyone and welcome to a very special post on the blog tour for the latest book in the fantastic Inventory series by Andy Briggs. The series began with Iron Fist which you can see my review of HERE and continued with Gravity which I also hosted a guest post for HERE. Today, Andy has been kind enough to tell me his favourite children’s books whilst he was growing up. This is what he has chosen:

ANDY BRIGGS – FAVOURITE CHILDREN’S FICTION

There are many books that inspired me while growing up, but I have selected a few:

STIG OF THE DUMP – by Clive King

I must admit this was a title I hadn’t read for a long time, but even now, at the grand old age of *# I still remember my first impressions on reading this spellbinding book. All you need to know is that it’s about a boy called Barney who discovers a caveman called Stig living in a dump in an old chalk quarry (presumably before his future race driving career). The rest is pure magic.

THE LOST WORLD – by Arthur Conan Doyle

Yes, the same Arthur Conan Doyle who created Sherlock Holmes, it’s not that common a name. This has always been my favourite Doyle book and, although not strictly an MG book, I read it when I was 11 or 12 and it captured my imagination so much that, when I became an alleged adult, I eventually travelled to the very flat-topped mountains in Venezuela that inspired Doyle. Eccentric Professor Challenger leads a party of explorers into the depths of South America to discover that dinosaurs still exist. It’s an exciting adventure story and one that instilled a sense in me that the world is still a wondrous place with many amazing things left to discover…

CAPTAIN COBWEBB – by Gordon Boshell

When David and Tony’s uncle Septimus Cobwebb sits in a fairy ring and vanishes into another realm, the fun begins. This is a magical series of books in which our heroes are sent on missions to various fantastic places, encountering amazing creatures and people…

Sadly, these books are no longer in print, which is a crime in my view. You just can’t have much more fun than Captain Cobwebb and the Red Transistor, which got me through a particularly terrible bout of chicken pox. Find them, read them!

WARLOCK OF FIRETOP MOUNTAIN – by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone.

I distinctly remember buying this book (from a sadly long extinct indecent bookstore in Prescot, Merseyside called Reading & Writing). I had no idea what I was getting myself into. This was the first book that launched the Fighting Fantasy series and showed me that a book can be so much more than passive story.

For those who don’t know, this was one of the first books in which you made decisions by turning to different pages, thus affecting the outcome of your story. You were able to fight monsters using a clever system that decided you fate on the roll of a dice. It was, and still is, the perfect form of escapism… and all without a computer.

Finally, I have to put in an honourable mention for the ASTERIX books by Goscinny and Uderzo. They are fabulous graphic novels – beautiful art, wonderful characters, exciting stories with a grounding in history.

The world is split between Tintin and Asterix. But only one has a magic potion which makes them invincible…

 

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Andy has extensive experience working on multinational co-productions and has worked in comics, books, TV, film and trans-media projects.

Andy wrote and Executive Produced Legendary, currently the most successful independent UK/Chinese co-production. Released in China and grossing $5 million in the first week, with a theatric US release in 2014. With his brother he worked on Hollywood features such as Judge Dredd and Freddy vs. Jason and TV shows for the SyFy Channel and Netflix.

He wrote and co-created Secret Agents, a trans-media interactive spy experience for children, currently on at the Discover Centre, Stratford. He has 16 books and graphic novels published in the UK and around the world.

He has written 20 books and graphic novels published in the UK and around the world. In 2016 his latest feature, Crowhurst, will be released.

Website: http://www.andybriggs.co.uk

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/aBriggswriter

A huge thank you to everyone involved in this blog tour and to Andy for providing me with his favourite children’s fiction (and possibly some ideas for my Kid Lit challenge!) Why not check out the rest of the stops on the tour where you’ll find some fantastic reviews from my fellow bloggers? Black Knight (The Inventory #3) was released by Scholastic Press on 6th April 2017 and is available from all good bookshops now.

Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34704550-black-knight?ac=1&from_search=true

Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Inventory-3-Black-Knight-ebook/dp/B06XGKFMPK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1493055078&sr=8-1&keywords=black+knight+the+inventory

 

Blog Tour – Dream Magic (Shadow Magic #2) – Joshua Khan

Published April 6, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

In a world ruled by six ancient Houses of Magic, a girl and a boy begin an epic and dangerous journey of discovery . . . Lilith Shadow, princess of darkness, is struggling with her growing powers. Castle Gloom is filling with ghosts, zombies roam the country and people throughout Gehenna are disappearing. Then Lily is attacked in her own castle by a mysterious sorcerer known as Dreamweaver and his army of jewel-spiders whose bites send victims to sleep. Thorn, and his giant bat Hades, must save Lily from the realm of sleep and help her overcome the evil Dreamweaver in order for her to reclaim her kingdom.

What did I think?:

Welcome to my post on the blog tour for Dream Magic, the second book in the Shadow Magic series by British author, Joshua Khan, a series that Rick Riordan has quoted on the covers: “I defy you not to love this story.” Well, with an endorsement like that, what else could I do but read it? I read the first book, Shadow Magic recently, check out my post HERE and definitely recommend reading the series in order to get the back story of the characters and an introduction to a beautiful fantasy world that I just loved.

So, as mentioned in the synopsis, this world involves a number of different lands, ruled by six Houses of Magic. In the first story, it focuses on the House of Shadows and the thirteen year old ruler, Lilith Shadow who takes up the mantle of ruler after her parents and brother were murdered. She makes friends with Thorn, a peasant boy who is currently a squire at Castle Gloom and along with his giant bat, Hades, helps her deal with an attempt on her own life shortly after ancient enemies, the Solars from Lumina come to Gehenna after she becomes engaged to their heir, Gabriel. Here’s where we are now. Lily is no longer engaged to Gabriel and is somewhat weakened after the surprising events at the end of the last story but is gradually growing stronger with the help of her father, now a ghost but managing to appear to her in the library of Castle Gloom and helping her amass the skills she needs to defend her land and her people.

For there is a new threat in Gehenna. The trolls have started marching, determined to create a war as their people have started disappearing and they blame the House of Shadows. However, villagers from all over the lands, inside and outside Gehenna are going missing, including Lily’s protector and faithful executioner, Tyburn. When Lily and Thorn investigate, they uncover a strange plague of jewel spiders that put everyone they bite into a seemingly endless sleep. After many frightening incidents, they discover that a powerful sorcerer is controlling these jewel spiders for his own dastardly reasons. What is his connection with the House of Shadows and why is he so hell-bent on revenge? Can Lily and Thorn solve the puzzle of what’s going on before they lose any more of her people or become embroiled in a bloody war with the trolls?

Once again, Joshua Khan knocks it out of the park with an amazing fantastical world that was so exciting to read about and was a genuine roller-coaster of a reading experience. He has a huge, seemingly endless imagination for creating new worlds and it was another magical story that I thoroughly enjoyed. We learn a lot more about the characters back stories, especially Thorn and his family in this book which I appreciated and even a tid-bit into the stoic Tyburn’s past which only made me hunger for more! Of course, it was wonderful to see the return of Hades the giant bat who has to be one of my favourite non-human characters and I hope to see lots more of him in future books in the series. Finally, I also love that the author doesn’t shy away from using potentially scary creatures, like zombies and massive spiders, which is exactly what I wanted from authors I chose to read when I was younger. I would suggest that because of this it might not be suitable for much younger children but if you have a particularly precocious reading child – go for it, it’s certainly a wonderful series to read!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Joshua Khan was born in Britain. From very early on he filled himself with the stories of heroes, kings and queens until there was hardly any room for anything else. He can tell you where King Arthur was born* but not what he himself had for breakfast. So, with a head stuffed with tales of legendary knights, wizards and great and terrible monsters it was inevitable Joshua would want to create some of his own. Hence SHADOW MAGIC. Josh lives in London with his family, but he’d rather live in a castle. It wouldn’t have to be very big, just as long as it had battlements.
*Tintagel, in case you were wondering.

Website: http://www.joshuakhan.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/writerjoshkhan

Thank you to everyone who invited me to be a part of this blog tour, I’ve had a great time doing it. Dream Magic, the second book in the Shadow Magic series was released on 6th April 2017 by Scholastic Books and is available from all good bookshops now!

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34740944-dream-magic
Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dream-Magic-Shadow-Joshua-Khan/dp/1407172093

Want to know more? Why not check out all the other stops on the blog tour from my fellow bloggers?

Shadow Magic (Shadow Magic #1) – Joshua Khan

Published April 5, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

In a world ruled by six ancient Houses of Magic, a girl and a boy begin an epic and dangerous journey of discovery… After her parents’ murder, 13-year-old Lilith “Lily” Shadow rules Gehenna from Castle Gloom, an immense and windowless citadel. Once Lily’s ancestors commanded spirits, communed with the dead, and raised armies from out of the grave. But now her country is about to be conquered by the Shadows’ ancient enemies – the Solars, the lords of light. Thorn is a peasant boy, wily and smart, sold into slavery and desperate to escape. So when he’s bought by Tyburn, executioner to House Shadow, he’ll agree to just about anything – even to serving Castle Gloom for a year and day in order to earn his freedom. When Lily is nearly poisoned by a ruthless and unknown assassin, she and Thorn embark on a dangerous quest to save Gehenna, a weird and wonderful land of haunted castles, mysterious forests and an unforgettable giant bat. Together they must unravel a twisted plot of betrayals, pride and deadly ambition.

What did I think?:

When Faye Rogers contacted me and asked me to be a part of the blog tour for the second book in this amazing middle grade fiction series, Dream Magic, I jumped at the chance, especially when I read the exciting synopsis. Of course that meant I needed to catch up a little bit and read book one, Shadow Magic first and I’m ever so glad I did. Joshua Khan is a brilliant new voice in children’s literature and one I’m thrilled to discover. His characters are well drawn and instantly appealing to both younger and older readers and his world-building is nothing short of fantastic. A huge thank you to Scholastic Books for sending me a copy of both books in the series so far in exchange for honest reviews and as part a blog tour.

This series is steeped in fantasy and involves a number of magical lands of which we learn more about as the series continues into the second book. For the first however, we are introduced to the House of Shadows, rulers of a land called Gehenna from the (relative) safety of Castle Gloom. I say safety…but Gehenna is probably the darkest of all the lands with a number of ghosts resident in the castle, no windows within the castle to let in light (hey, they didn’t call it the House of SHADOWS for no reason!) and the potential to raise the undead in the form of zombies. The current ruler of Gehenna is thirteen year old Lily Shadow who has been thrust into the role when her parents and brother were brutally murdered by unknown assassins, one of whom has never been caught, by her loyal executioner, Tyburn.

Lily’s Uncle Pan and the rest of the nobility are attempting to arrange a marriage for Lily, to happen in a couple of years when she is old enough. The bridegroom of the moment is heir to the Solars known as the “land of light,” in direct contrast to Lily’s ancestors and, in fact, the two houses have been at war for years. The marriage between the son, Gabriel and Lily Shadow is an attempt to bring about peace between the lands. When the Solars arrive however, Lily is disgusted by her future husband Gabriel and his behaviour. Worse still, after an assassination attempt, Lily’s life and the future of the House of Shadow is in terrible danger. With the help of a young boy called Thorn and his giant bat Hades, Lily must uncover the villain who may want to end her life and protect her beloved Gehenna from certain doom.

I mentioned at the start that I instantly wanted to begin this series because of the synopsis but can I just take a moment to mention the cover? That giant bat (Hades, if you please!) and the two children riding on him made me one hundred percent certain that this was a book that I needed to read. I was delighted to discover a brilliant story within with such fascinating characters, like the smelly, grumpy and ever so loveable Hades and the wonderful main characters of Lily and Thorn themselves. It’s action-packed and broken up with a few pages of beautiful illustrations which I really appreciated and felt really added to the momentum and atmosphere of the story. Best of all for me personally, there was a two page map at the beginning of the book. Now, I do love a map in a book and this one was one of the best I’ve ever seen. It was so detailed and intricate that I could really understand how much work the author has put into developing this world and the characters in it. I’m so excited to get to the next book in the series now, Dream Magic so look out for my post on the blog tour coming tomorrow!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 – MARCH READ – Awful Auntie by David Walliams

Published March 31, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A page-turning, rollicking romp of a read, sparkling with Walliams’ most eccentric characters yet and full of the humour and heart that all his readers love, Awful Auntie is simply unmissable!

From larger than life, tiddlywinks obsessed Awful Aunt Alberta to her pet owl, Wagner – this is an adventure with a difference. Aunt Alberta is on a mission to cheat the young Lady Stella Saxby out of her inheritance – Saxby Hall. But with mischievous and irrepressible Soot, the cockney ghost of a chimney sweep, alongside her Stella is determined to fight back… And sometimes a special friend, however different, is all you need to win through.

What did I think?:

Chrissi and I first put David Walliams on our Kid Lit list a couple of years ago when we read the amazing Gangsta Granny. We enjoyed it so much that we’ve continued to feature his books on including The Boy In The Dress last year. After now having had some experience with his writing, I was really looking forward to diving back into his wacky but wonderful mind accompanied with some brilliant illustrations by Tony Ross, who is remarkably like Quentin Blake. A lot of people compare David to Roald Dahl and I can definitely see why (it’s not just the Quentin Blake connection!). He is incredibly witty and has an amazing imagination for things that children of the target age group love to read and laugh about.

I may have started my other reviews of the author’s work by stating that the one I’m writing about is my favourite David Walliams book and I’m afraid here I go again! Awful Auntie is easily the best one I’ve read so far, I loved the plot, the characters and the jokes and found myself thoroughly charmed by the whole thing. Our main character is a little girl called Lady Stella Saxby, only surviving heir to Saxby Hall after her parents were killed in a horrific car accident. However, there is a relation of the family that her father specifically did not want to ever inherit Saxby Hall, his sister, Alberta. Alberta is not your regular kind and loving auntie I’m afraid. She’s mean, self-obsessed, a bit crazy and only devoted to one thing – her pet owl Wagner who assists her in her wicked deeds. She’s determined to find the deeds to Saxby Hall and force Stella to sign them over to her by any means necessary. Lucky Stella has the ghost of Saxby Hall, a chimney sweep called Soot on her side so that Aunt Alberta can be stopped before anything too terrible happens!

This story was just fantastic. Absolutely hilarious, I loved the character of Aunt Alberta and all her little quirks and villainous ways and I really enjoyed how Stella stood up to her, played tricks on her and remained brave and proud of her heritage despite having suffered the loss of her parents and been lied to and treated abominably by somebody who was supposed to be her close family. Once again, the illustrations were out of this world and really added to the magic and atmosphere of the story although David’s gift with words and humour did give them a major run for their money! I laughed out loud at many points and was constantly delighted by an exciting, fast-paced story that I know children would adore. Two words for you – Owl Urinal. Could they really be a thing? Aunt Alberta seems to think so!

Image from https://www.worldofdavidwalliams.com/book/awful-auntie/

For Chrissi’s fabulous post, please visit her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

COMING UP IN APRIL ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: A Snicker Of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

In Darkling Wood – Emma Carroll

Published March 14, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘You’re telling me there are fairies in this wood?’

When Alice’s brother gets a longed-for chance for a heart transplant, Alice is suddenly bundled off to her estranged grandmother’s house. There’s nothing good about staying with Nell, except for the beautiful Darkling Wood at the end of her garden – but Nell wants to have it cut down. Alice feels at home there, at peace, and even finds a friend, Flo. But Flo doesn’t seem to go to the local school and no one in town has heard of a girl with that name. When Flo shows Alice the surprising secrets of Darkling Wood, Alice starts to wonder, what is real? And can she find out in time to save the wood from destruction?

What did I think?:

I’m a huge fan of Emma Carroll’s writing which is aimed at middle grade readers but can easily be read by children and adults alike. In fact, I like to think it brings out my inner child which I did think was permanently dormant until I get lost in one of her stories. Everything about this story is just beautiful. From the stunning cover art and inviting title to the story and characters within, the author has managed to write an inspiring tale that had me enraptured until I had finished it.

Once again, our main protagonist is female and just as charming and delightful as the author’s previous female leads in Frost Hollow Hall and The Girl Who Walked On Air. Her name is Alice and she has already been through the emotional mill and dealt with much more than a young teenager should have to. Her parents are (quite acrimoniously) separated and she has quite a difficult and distant relationship with her father and her father’s family. To top it all off, her little brother Theo is seriously ill and at the beginning of the novel, gets a long awaited call to have a heart transplant which will undoubtedly save his life. Alice is packed off to live with her grandmother on her father’s side, Nell while the upheaval with Theo is going on.

Nell lives right alongside Darkling Wood, a magical place where Alice manages to make her first friend – Flo, who dresses strangely and only meets her within the wood. Flo tells Alice all about the fairies who call Darkling Wood their home and that they are desperately worried. You see, some of the trees are causing a bit of damage to Nell’s house and Nell has become determined to get rid of the entire wood, despite the pleas of the other people in the town to desist. If this happens, the fairies will lose their home. Alongside this story, we also see wonderful letters from 1918 that a young girl who used to live there wrote to her brother, fighting in the war. Alice has a multitude of things to deal with – worries about her brother, her relationship with her grandmother and father, learning about the past and trying to change the present, all the paranoia that comes with starting a new school and being an outsider, learning to believe in fairies and magic again, healing rifts and building bridges that have been broken for so long.

I was always going to be excited about another Emma Carroll book, let’s be honest. An Emma Carroll book about fairies? Well, knock everything else off the TBR pile, I had to read this one ASAP. Of course, I was in no way disappointed. This wonderful story had everything I wanted and so much more. I loved the fairies, granted but this novel is so much more than that. It’s bittersweet, occasionally dark and sometimes heart-breaking and explores beautifully the complexity of human relationships in such a gentle, intelligent way. I especially loved the nod to actual events, where Arthur Conan Doyle visits girls who have reported that they have seen fairies. The author reminds me with every books that she writes of the old magic and strong characters that I used to live for in children’s literature. She deserves every bit of praise that is written about her and while I eagerly anticipate her next novel, I just want to wholeheartedly thank her for making me believe in fairies again.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0