Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- Murder Most Unladylike (Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries #1)

Murder Most Unladylike (Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries, #1)

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Deepdean School for Girls, 1934. When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up their very own deadly secret detective agency, they struggle to find any truly exciting mysteries to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia’s missing tie. Which they don’t, really.)

But then Hazel discovers the Science Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. She thinks it must all have been a terrible accident – but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls know a murder must have taken place . . . and there’s more than one person at Deepdean with a motive.

Now Hazel and Daisy not only have a murder to solve: they have to prove a murder happened in the first place. Determined to get to the bottom of the crime before the killer strikes again (and before the police can get there first, naturally), Hazel and Daisy must hunt for evidence, spy on their suspects and use all the cunning, scheming and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?

Thoughts:

I had heard so much about this book, so I was very happy when it was picked to go on our kid-lit choices. You might think… murder? Surely that’s not middle grade… but it truly is aimed at a younger audience than YA. I thought it was a fabulous, sweet read that was incredibly easy to read. It almost had a Nancy Drew vibe to it, but funnier.

Murder Most Unladylike centres around Hazel and Daisy. They both go to Deepdean School For Girls which is a boarding school in England. They set up a Detective Agency and have been investigating pretty trivial crimes until the point when Hazel comes across the body of one of her teachers, Miss Bell. It is then that Hazel and Daisy decide to investigate the murder. They gather evidence and have a suspect list, but will they get to the bottom of it?

I thought this book was incredibly engaging. I can imagine many children getting really engrossed with the story. I loved how the characters were intelligent, they went about collecting their evidence in a logical way! I also loved how their friendship wasn’t straight-forward. Daisy could be a little overpowering and they did have arguments which was perfectly realistic for girls of their age!

The only reason I didn’t give this book 4 stars is that for some children, I think some of the topics covered would be a bit too much. I’m not saying they shouldn’t read it, but it’s definitely something to think about.

For Beth’s wonderful review, check out her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

Next up in the Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit Challenge (August):
The Creakers- Tom Fletcher

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Sky Chasers

Sky Chasers

How did I get it?
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

An encounter with a boy dangling from the sky changes pickpocket Magpie’s life forever. His family, the Montgolfiers, are desperate to discover the secret of flight. Together with Pierre, Magpie is caught up in a world of inflatable bloomers, spies and unruly animals in a race to be the first to fly a hot air balloon – in front of the King and Queen of France.

Thoughts:

You might look at my previously read by the same author section and infer that I’m quite the fan of Emma Carroll. You’d be right. She’s one of my favourite authors. I always know that I’m in for a decent read when I pick up a book of Emma’s. I really enjoyed reading Sky Chasers and yet it again, it has me yearning to be in Key Stage 2 once more so I can teach it/read it to my class! They’re a little young this year for this book but it didn’t stop me thinking of the ways that this book could be used educatively.

This book comes from an idea by Neal Jackson who was the winner of Chicken House’s The Big Idea Competition. What an idea it was! Sky Chasers is a story that centres around the Montgolfier family. They are part of the race to discover the secret of flight. Alongside pickpocket Magpie, they begin to create a hot air balloon. They need to take it to King Louis XVI.  However, their mission is not easy and they have many obstacles in the way like spies and misbehaving animals.

This story is so much fun and I imagine children would be completely captivated by the tale. I know I was! Emma Carroll’s writing style is simply wonderful and always catapults the reader right into the action. I’ve mentioned before that it feels like you’re inside the story watching the action unfold.

Magpie is a wonderful female character. We’re always looking for strong female leads to inspire our girls at school because quite often it’s a strong male lead. Magpie had gone through so much. She experiences the loss of both parents and has to learn to live and survive on her own. There are some other brilliant characters who are so well developed. I immediately enjoy reading about characters in an Emma Carroll book because they’re well written and incredibly three dimensional.

It didn’t take me long to read this beautiful book! I definitely see myself using it if I ever get back to Key Stage 2. Until then I’ll highly recommend it to my junior colleagues.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A wonderful read! Highly recommended!

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- The Girl of Ink and Stars

The Girl of Ink and Stars

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.

When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.

But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.

Thoughts:

I was really excited when this book was picked as part of our kid-lit challenge. It has been on my radar for quite some time now and this challenge gave me an opportunity to get around to it. For me, this is a solid middle grade read. I started off really loving it, but my enthusiasm waned after a while.

It centres around Isabella who is a cartographer’s daughter. Isabella dreams of lands that her father once mapped. It takes her close friend disappearing for her to begin to explore the world outside of her island. Isabella wants to guide the search. She has knowledge of ink maps and wants to help find her dear friend. The world beyond the island isn’t what she expected at all. Isabella soon encounters things that she thought were just myths are really true.

I loved reading about Isabella’s adventures. I enjoyed the old stories involved within this story. I felt like this made the story very unique. However, I found it really hard to connect to Isabella as a character. There wasn’t anything wrong with her, a perfectly nice character, I just didn’t find myself rooting for her. I actually preferred Lupe, who I found to be incredibly quirky.

I did enjoy how this book was centred around friendship and family. I love books that have friendship at the heart of it. I found Isabella and Lupe’s friendship to be genuine. It was up and down which is totally relatable. As I’ve mentioned before on my blog, I really like books that have strong female characters, especially in middle grade. I think a lot of the time books have male characters as the heroes and we need a better balance!

I thought Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s writing was easy to read and imaginative. I can certainly see why it won the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Awards. There’s so much for children to get stuck into and enjoy.

For Beth’s wonderful review, check out her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

Next up in the Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit Challenge (End of April):
Ratburger- David Walliams

The List Of Real Things

The List of Real Things

How did I get it?:
NetGalley- thanks to Hatchette Children’s Group

Previously reviewed by the same author:

The Apple Tart of Hope

Synopsis:

Grace knows the difference between what’s real and the strange ideas that float around in her little sister’s mind. Their parents died – that’s real. A secret hotel on the cliff-top where their parents are waiting – definitely NOT real. So when grief strikes again, Grace is determined not to let her sister’s outlandish imagination spiral out of control. But the line between truth and fantasy is more complicated than it seems… 

Thoughts:

I enjoyed The Apple Tart Of Hope when I read it a few years back, so I was immediately intrigued by this book. I’m really glad I requested and read this book because it was incredibly heart-warming.

It centres around Grace and Bee who have experienced far too much grief in their life. Grace’s sister, Bee seems to have a very vivid imagination. She believes that their dog can talk, that she’s visited by ghosts and lots more besides. Grace believes that she knows what’s real and what’s not unlike her sister. Grace is determined to show her sister what’s reality. However, she begins to find out that the line between real life and fantasy is much muddier than she had ever anticipated.

I loved the characters, but particularly Bee. I loved that she was so quirky. She wasn’t afraid of who she was. I felt like Grace just wanted to fit in. I loved how Bee was unapologetic. Bee did come across as a little older than she actually is, but that didn’t matter to me. I loved that Bee didn’t care if people thought she was weird whilst Grace was embarrassed of her sister’s quirks.

This book is intended as a middle grade read, so don’t be surprised if you find it to be quite young. It is, but it was also highly enjoyable to read as an adult. It’s so quick to read at just over 200 pages. I loved the hints of magical realism, it made the book stand out for me. I loved how there was a focus on grief, mental health and family.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

A very sweet read with a hint of magical realism!

Flying Tips For Flightless Birds

Flying Tips for Flightless Birds

How did I get it?:
Received from Walker Books for review

Synopsis:

Twins Finch and Birdie Franconi are stars of the flying trapeze. But when Birdie suffers a terrifying accident, Finch must team up with the geeky new kid, Hector Hazzard, to form an all-boys double act and save the family circus school. Together they learn to walk the high-wire of teen life and juggle the demands of friends, family, first love and facing up to who they are – all served up with a dash of circus-showbiz magic.

Thoughts:

I was immediately intrigued by this book when I read about it in an email. The title interested me and I’m all for reading about circuses at the moment. A massive thank you to Walker for sending me a copy of this book. I’m always excited when I hear that a book is a debut. I’m always on the search for fabulous new writing talent. I am happy to say I’d easily read another book by Kelly McCaughrain, I was really impressed with her debut!

It centres around twins Finch and Birdie. They are the stars of the flying trapeze in their family circus. Finch and Birdie are treated horribly at school because they are outsiders, they dress outlandishly and express themselves through their outfits! Lots of people at school pick on them because they’re different. Birdie has a terrifying accident, leaving her out of action for the family circus school. Finch has to work with Hector, a new geeky kid at school. He’s a little bit hopeless at all things circus, but Finch perseveres with him. Finch and Hector grow closer as they learn to deal with friends, family and school pressures. They learn about who they really are.

I thought this was such a cute book! I have to admit that it took me a few chapters to get into it, but when I was, I was completely captivated. I found it incredibly easy to read. I loved how there were many positive messages that could be taken from the story. Finch, Birdie and Hector are such fantastic characters. I especially grew to love Finch and Hector. I loved how their friendship developed over the course of the story. I was championing Hector from the very beginning too. Such an adorable character.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I couldn’t stop turning the pages. My heart grew to love these truly special characters.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A fantastic debut with some amazing characters that became very dear to me!

Banned Books #42- The Agony Of Alice

Welcome to this month’s Banned Books post! This month we read The Agony Of Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.

The Agony of Alice (Alice, #1)

First published: 1985
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2006 (source)
Reasons: offensive language and sexually explicit

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: This is one of the older releases on our Banned Books list for this year (not quite as old as me but nearly there!) and comes with a fantastic vintage eighties cover that did bring a smile to my face. On reading the synopsis and seeing the front cover, I was intrigued as to why this book might be challenged/banned. I think I’ve mentioned before that I deliberately try to avoid seeing the reasons until after I’ve finished the book. Probably so that I can get even more outraged at them but that’s besides the point. I finished The Agony Of Alice at a bit of a loss to understand what problems people could have had with this story and on reading the reasons why I have to admit I’m at even more of a loss.

CHRISSI: This book is older than me! 😉 It was a really interesting one to look at, especially because it made the challenged list in 2006. I was really intrigued to see why this book could be banned. Quite often I can see why a book may have come into some trouble, but I’m completely stumped with this one. I have no idea why it was challenged. Genuinely. I didn’t find anything offensive about the language and as for sexually explicit? Pah!

How about now?

BETH: This book was first published in 1985 and you might think that some attitudes have relaxed over thirty or so years? However….this book was put on the challenged/banned list in 2006, just over ten years ago so that doesn’t really make very much sense. More importantly, I see no reason at all why this book stirred up so many obviously negative feelings towards it. Offensive language? Sexuality explicit? Give me a break. This book is a story of a normal (sometimes slightly annoying) young girl on the cusp of puberty going through normal emotions and struggling with daily life without a mother figure to support her on the journey. If sexually explicit means sharing an innocent first kiss on a piece of cardboard whilst playing a game of Tarzan oh my goodness please ban every single book in the world because they are all bound to have an offensive scene like this! The only way I can get my head round this is that on the list, it says the series of Alice books has been questioned and perhaps further books in the series, as she becomes a teenager have more explicit material in them that has ruffled a few feathers? I’ll just be over here in the corner, rolling my eyes.

CHRISSI: As before, I don’t really understand. I really am at a loss. There are a lot more explicit pieces of literature out there and nothing that happens in this book would be offensive to our modern day young ‘uns. It’s about a girl who is just about to go through puberty. It’s normal. I don’t see why it was challenged. I really, really don’t. I think it’s so dangerous to challenge books such as this!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH:  I can’t lie, it wasn’t the best book in the world for me but I’m obviously not the target age range. I swayed backwards and forwards over Alice as a character but loved the relationships she ended up developing. It’s a quick, easy read and a good introduction to adolescence for those children teetering on the edge of being a teenager. I also enjoyed the fact that it wasn’t a conventional family set up and the author explored what it was like for Alice to be in a family without a mother.

CHRISSI: It’s an okay read, but I didn’t connect with it very much. Baring in mind, I’m not the target audience I think others might really enjoy it. Alice annoyed me a little as a character and I don’t think I’ll be continuing her story, but many others will and have done!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes!

Thank you so much to everyone who has read and enjoyed our Banned Books posts in 2017, we’ve really enjoyed doing them. Join us again on January 1st 2018 when we’ll be revealing our Banned Books list for 2018! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

Holes

Holes (Holes, #1)

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from school!

Synopsis:

Stanley Yelnats is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnatses. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the boys build character by spending all day, every day digging holes exactly five feet wide and five feet deep. There is no lake at Camp Green Lake. But there are an awful lot of holes.

It doesn’t take long for Stanley to realize there’s more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake. The boys are digging holes because the warden is looking for something. But what could be buried under a dried-up lake? Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption. 

Thoughts:

As you may know if you’re a regular reader of my blog, I teach in a primary school (4-11 years old), our older children studied Holes last year and I’m afraid to say I hadn’t heard of it. The English co-ordinator at my school said I had to read it. It took me a while but I’ve finally done it and I can see why they were raving about it. It’s such an exciting read which is incredibly easy to devour. I’m so pleased that they study this book as I can imagine it inspires them so much!

Holes centres around Stanley Yelnats who is falsely accused of stealing a pair of shoes. He is sent to Camp Green Lake which is a cam for criminal boys. The boys have to get up early each day and dig massive holes. If they find anything unusual they are to report it and they will be rewarded with some time off digging. The warden isn’t looking for fossils or anything like that. There’s something darker going on.

I found this story to be really exciting. This book isn’t your average children’s book. It’s quite a mature book. The content is dark, but funny at the same time. It’s also completely whimsical. There’s so much packed into its less than 3o0 pages. There are rattlesnakes, poisonous lizards with red eyes, black teeth and white tongues. It really is a feast for your imagination.

I loved how there were multiple story lines within this story. It was really clever how they began to merge together. I don’t usually get on with books that flip from generation to generation but Louis Sachar did it very, very well indeed.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

An exciting story that I’m glad that I made time for!