WooHoo!!! It’s more Mouse & Mole!!!

Mouse & Mole: Clink, Clank, Clunk! by Joyce Dunbar & James Mayhew

It’s no secret that I love Mouse & Mole! All of these gentle, funny tales of two friends never cease to make me smile and warm my heart. And today is the publication day of their eighth book of adventures; Mouse & Mole: Clink, Clank, Clunk! Let’s see what they get up to….

MOUSE & MOLE: CLINK, CLANK, CLUNK!

author: Joyce Dunbar

illustrator: James Mayhew

Graffeg Ltd (22 September 2022)

ISBN: 9781802580877

Mouse hears a lot of clinking, clanking and clunking coming from the shed. It’s Mole, tinkering with their motorbike. But Mole goes a bit too far with his repairs….. One day, Mole becomes worried that he might fall off the roof. What if something is living on their and he has to chase it down? Fortunately, Mouse helps Mole see that really, he has very little to worry about…. While Mouse is preparing a surprise breakfast outdoors, a very confused Mole looks out the window to see Mouse being confronted by a frisky, fluttery ghost! Oh no! Whatever will they do?

Once again, these beautifully written expressions of friendship hit the mark! The drama, misunderstandings and minor mishaps let the reader know there is always an answer to the all too confusing circumstances of daily life, as long as you work together. I love the personalities of Mouse and Mole. Mole is a real dreamer; creative, rather messy and prone to a bit of imaginative exaggeration. Mouse, on the other hand seems more practical; imaginative yes, but a little more down-to-earth in his view…most of the time. The two work well together, asking questions, bouncing solutions back and forth…they are a great pair. The wonderful illustrations capture to tone and action of the story, with a natural palette that gives a reassuring sense of place, while placing the reader firmly in the habitat of Mouse and Mole. And the facial and body expressions! Marvelous!

This is a book of stories meant to be enjoyed and make you think. Is it really necessary to fix something that isn’t broken? Do you really have to worry about things that probably won’t happen? Is everything what you think it is? I always marvel at the adventures and the wisdom of Mouse and Mole. Addressing anxiety and worry (and the aforementioned imaginative exaggeration) with reassurance, gentle humour and keeping its’ theme of friendship and curiosity to the fore, Clink, Clank, Clunk is an utter delight! Charming, witty and comforting…just wonderful!!!

Thank you so very much to Graffeg Ltd for this pre-release copy…what an amazing bit of bookpost! And also, many thanks to both Joyce Dunbar and James Mayhew for creating the continuing saga of Mouse & Mole. https://graffeg.com/products/mouse-mole-clink-clank-clunk

Learning to Say Goodbye….Goodbye, Hobbs

Goodbye Hobbs by Emma Bettridge & Jospehine Birch

Learning to say goodbye is one of the most difficult lessons. That feeling of love and loss; of not knowing what to do or how to do just normal things is overwhelming. Here’s a picture book that just might help…

GOODBYE HOBBS

author: Emma Bettridge

illustrator: Josephine Birch

Graffeg Ltd (11 October 2022)

ISBN: 9781802582222

Merlin doesn’t want to go out; not without Hobbs. All Merlin can feel; all he can see is the empty space. But off he goes anyway; down the familiar route, up the lane by the house, across the fields…through the gate. But wait. What’s that familiar smell? Will it help him learn to say “goodbye Hobbs”?

This is a story about what it means to love and lose a friend; and how to find a reason to carry on. The writing is simple with an easy and familiar-feeling flow; the rhythm of ordinary life written with a clear eloquence that evokes emotion. The beautiful line and watercolour pictures convey the atmosphere of sorrow; the sense of autumn both in the outer world and inside, in the heart. And the posing and positioning of Merlins’ body, the expressions given to his face deliver the feelings perfectly. The loss of a much loved friend is clear. Warning: if you have ever lost a loved one, you will shed tears. But you will also find heart here. As we near the end of the book, hope lifts up into the story. We understand the simplest of things…those we love never truly leave us. Quiet, meaningful, filled with feeling…a book that helps you find reasons to go for a walk again. Beautiful.

I am posting this today as I remember our dear Molly. It has been six months to the day that we lost our dear friend. It’s hard. I still expect her to come to the door when I return home from work. There are times when I still reach for her food bowl…or stare at her unused bed. This book has helped…there are reasons to go for a walk.

Thank you to Graffeg, Ltd for sending this lovely, heartfelt book just when I needed it most. https://graffeg.com/products/goodbye-hobbs

Seeking…The Lord of the Forest (by Caroline Pitcher & Nicola Morris)

Happy Book Birthday to a picture book that can only be described as stunning…in every way. Out now, in striking large format, it’s….

LORD OF THE FOREST

author: Caroline Pitcher

illustrator: Nicola Morris

Graffeg Ltd (15 September 2022)

ISBN: 9781802581645

Following Little Tiger from his very first day, we watch him grow and play and learn the ways of his surroundings. Everything he hears is new and exciting. He tells his mother of all the wondrous sounds around him, and always she cautions Little Tiger, “When you don’t hear them, be ready. The Lord of the Forest is here!” But who is the Lord of the Forest? And how and when will Little Tiger find him?

The lyrical text waxes and wanes across the pages of this book, telling us Little Tigers’ tale, gently uncovering many aspects of life as a tiger living in the wild. We learn much. But we are also party to the growing anticipation of the arrival of the Lord of the Forest. Our watchful eyes scan page after page of the most beautiful watercolour paintings revealing the details and atmosphere of the forest. Each illustration is eloquent, filling our eyes with the story in a way that matches the words to perfection and giving us so much more. This is a book holds the wonder and rhythm of this little patch of the natural world, yes. But also, it is an encouraging story that speaks of growing up and recognising the true self when it emerges. Filled with feeling, power, delicacy and the balance of nature; elegant, fascinating…and glorious.

I would like to thank Graffeg Ltd for sharing The Lord of the Forest. https://graffeg.com/products/lord-of-the-forest

Taking A Trip Up Green River

The Story of Green River by Holly Webb

Holly Webb is well-known for her puppy and kitten stories for younger, newly competent readers; and for her Maisie Hitchins mystery series and so many others. All are a delight to read, capturing young hearts. Here now is something a little different. Touching on environmental themes and the effects of climate change; a story to mesmerise animal lovers everywhere…

THE STORY OF GREEN RIVER

author: Holly Webb

illustrator: Zanna Goldhawk

Orion Childrens Books (1 September 2022)

ISBN: 9781510111219

The river is high, again. The beavers’ dam needs fortifying against its’ incoming water. Silken is too small, too weak to help rebuild the dam, and her strange singing makes the practical and strong beavers feel uneasy. When she is blamed for an accident, she knows she will never truly belong there. And something calling her. She must take hold of her courage and embark on a dangerous journey up the river.

Young Sedge is the reluctant heir to the leadership of the Greenriver otter holt. His first spring he was nearly drowned in a flash flood that swept through the otter community, taking away much of what they knew; what they had of comfort and security. And now, the waters are rising again. Sedge believes he can save his holt from another flood, but he has to be brave enough travel downstream for help. As the two animals unknowingly swim towards each other, they are drawn to the heart of the river, its’ age-old song and the spirit of Greenriver, who takes the form of a snow-white otter, Lady River. But will Lady River hear their plea for safety?

An adventure that holds many twists and turns, dangerous encounters and a deep connection with the natural world, The Story of Green River is a real beauty! Here we meet characters not unlike ourselves, filled with social structures and constrictions, rumour and suspicion, with much to learn and experience and the heart to do it. Silken and Sedge are both quite young. They show the boldness, mischief and determination of that youth, but every step of the way, they must seek help from those older and more experienced if they are going to save their communities…and in the end, themselves. But it is the rashness of their youth, which has a wisdom of its’ own that brings them to their destinies and opens up the space for the old ways to be honoured, the new ways to be practiced and joining of both.

Holly Webb has a real knack for showing us the natural world in all its’ subtlety and nuance. The descriptions of the area put the reader right in the centre of the story. We gain a true sense of the woodland and river animals; their needs for survival, their lives in the world. She combines this with a sense of who we are as people through her use of personification. There is community and a path for understanding the other (though it may be difficult and rub against the grain, at times.) Every character, every space is fully imagined and well-rounded; made with a real sense of commitment to the tale. Beautifully written; captivating; filled with compassion, subtle humour and great adventure; a simply wonderful animal tale that will win your heart. For fans of her previous work, yes; but also for those who love books like Watership Down, Tarka the Otter, The Animals of Farthing Wood. https://www.hachette.co.uk/titles/holly-webb/the-story-of-greenriver/9781510109629/

Fox & Son Tailers by Paddy Donnelly

Fox & Son-Tailers by Paddy Donnelly; The O’Brien Press

Paddy Donnelly never ceases to thoroughly enchant me with his picture books. Storytelling and drawing have always been an important part of his life and his creations, gifted to us through both his illustrations and his writing, take us on imaginative, quirky, heartfelt journeys into the world around us. Here’s his latest…

FOX & SON – TAILERS

author/illustrator: Paddy Donnelly

O’Brien Press (5 September 2022)

ISBN: 9781788492768

Rory lived with his Dad, Fox in the busy little town of Ballybrush. Fox was a tailer; his grandad was a tailer; his great-grandad was a tailer. Animals came from all over to have their tails made by Fox. And Rory, of course, helped his Dad in the shop. Tailering is a noble profession passed down through the generations. But Rory was bored…all the same tails made all the same ways. Why couldn’t they try something different? When Rory shows his Dad his flashy, new designs, Fox isn’t so sure. Until a Very Important (and very particular) Peacock appears wanting something very special. This V.I.P wants something A-MAZ-ING!

A charming tale filled with wordplay and expressive pictures, this book is full of personality. It is a wonder that shows the magic of following your dreams and staying true to your own course, regardless of what others (even those closest to you) may think. There is also a solid sense of inter-generational family life; carrying on with traditions while adding that special something of yourself that allows for growth, change and well…life to bloom. With meticulous detail and clever twists of the brush, we visit an animal world not unlike our own, with a variety of creatures who have certain needs and expectations, all of which are met by Fox & Son. But it is Rorys’ dream to offer something unexpected. While first met with a gentle “just do as you’re told,” Rory is determined and quietly perseveres. And it seems he was right all along…we need a bit of “different” in our lives! Quirky, fun, creative, joyous…and heartwarming. Fox & Son Tailer is utterly wonderful!

Thank you to the good folk at The O’Brien Press for sharing this very special “tail” with me. Paddy Donnelly…you are a marvel. https://obrien.ie/fox-and-son-tailers

Harp Maiden: Ladder of Charms by Jackie Burke…the final installment

Harp Maiden series by Jackie Burke; covers by Rachel Corcoran; Lindon Books

Evie has come a long way in her journey to become the Harp Maiden. We have seen her receive a scholarship to study with renowned maestro, Lionel Thorn; only to discover it’s all part of a sinister plot orchestrated by the demon, Lord Volok. She has escaped the devastating fire at Dower Hall and seen the death of the ogress; discovering the magical Black Ruby that will bring the demon queen back to life. Overwhelmed, uncertain, but still determined to rid the world of dangerous demons once and for all, in the final installment, Evie faces tragedy at home and distasters plague the entire town and its’ surroundings while she struggles to take the final steps onto her own path….

HARP MAIDEN: LADDER OF CHARMS

author :Jackie Burke

cover illustration: Rachel Corcoran

Lindon Books (September 2022)

ISBN: 9781788462648

The ogress is dead; that we know. But demon lord Volok is still at large, seeking the five talismans so that he may resurrect his wife, the dreaded Queen Madruga. And it’s down to Evie to stop him; she is the Harp Maiden…it’s her job. But tragedy has struck at home, and disaster after disaster plagues her family, friends and the whole town as Evie struggles to complete the six steps of the Ladder of Charms. She must keep going, no matter what the cost, and tap into the powerful magic that awaits her; that will allow her to destroy Volok forever. It’s difficult and overwhelming and Evie worries that this new magic will change her, turning her into someone she doesn’t want to be. Will her friends turn their backs on her when they discover her deepest secrets? And where are the five talismans Volok needs? As Evie struggles to find the answers, her quest is coming to its dangerous close. But not before her father reveals a startling secret of his own. Evie must choose her own path, regardless of what her friends and family think…but it’s a choice she’s finding very difficult.

Dynamic and pacey, this book moves thoroughly across the now familiar landscape on a knife-edge. As the reader comes ever-closer to the end of Evie quest, we face illness, family trauma and the inevitability of consequences for our actions. Evie is growing in confidence, page by page. The choices she makes; decisions she is left to choose from; these all add an emotional turmoil to the tale as Evie struggles to do the right thing recognising with shock that she is not the only one with a hidden secret, that the truth is often fickle and manipulated and that support can come from the most unlikely source; sometimes the source you were trying to protect. And sometimes, you just have to be bold and reckless to accomplish your goal. While there is grave peril and sorrow along the way, there is also encouragement, love and hope. Yes, the consequences are high. Yes, you cannot save everyone, no matter how much love you hold for them. All you can do is your best and trust that will be good enough. A wonderful, enthralling read; complex, dangerous, intriguing…a unique blend of history, adventure, music and magic. A worthy conclusion to a marvelous series.

Many, many thanks to Jackie Burke for sharing the Ladder of Charms with me. I enjoyed every single page. https://www.grindlewood.com/

Danger Lurks Where The Fae Winds Blow… The Book of Secrets by Alex Dunne

The Book of Secrets by Alex Dunne; The O’Brien Press

Summer is over; school is back on and before you know it, it will be time for the Spooky Season. Halloween brings the opportunity for all kinds of magic and mayhem, especially when the fae cross into our world. And have I got a book for you…

THE BOOK OF SECRETS

author: Alex Dunne

cover illustration: Shona Shirley MacDonald

O’Brien Press (5 September 2022)

ISBN: 9781788493208

Eleven-year-old Cat Donnelly and her friends spend their final day of school before midterm break swapping scary stories and planning the ultimate trick-or-treating strategy. And the Pooka awakes from his decades long sleep, disturbed by Other Worldly happenings. For the first time in over fifty years, the Sídhe, the Trooping Fairies arrive in the small town of Clonbridge for their annual revels. Their arrival awakens other creatures, who have mischief and chaos in mind. With the Fairies back in town and other fae creatures on the prowl, this Halloween will be one Cat will never forget. Cat has the Sight, like her Granny Mary. This makes her a magnet for all things supernatural. But when the wild magic hurts her family, she needs to find a friend she can really trust. Together, Cat and Shane face the peril and must use all their wits and bravery to save those they love before the sun rises. Luckily, she has The Book of Secrets….

Throughout this book, even in its’ most mundane, “normal” situations, there is a burgeoning sense of being right on the edge. The author expertly crafts the atmosphere of Halloween; the veil between the worlds thinning, letting the other side creep in bit by bit. Setting this against a story of friendship, both present and lost, growing up, the generations in one family; it is extremely effective at creating a sense of being both real and unreal at the same time. The peril and action creep in until they take over all of Cats’ life as she clutches for some sense of safety, guidance; an anchor-hold in dangerous times. True to form, the faeries twist each circumstance to suit them, but the master of this is the Pooka. Oh, he is magnificent! Cunning, precarious, clever…a real renegade, the Pooka holds all the cards. Putting him back in his place takes every kind of wit and insight Cat can muster. There are strict rules and seeking the loopholes is a confusing, tricky business. All of this; the characterisation, dialogue, setting and human issues combine to create an adventure that cannot be missed. Once you open the book, it’s nonstop and utterly consuming. Compelling, rich in legend and imagination, The Book o f Secrets will make you rethink all your Halloween adventures.

Huge thanks to The O’Brien Press for sharing this fabulous story with me. https://obrien.ie/the-book-of-secrets

Beware! The Light Thieves by Helena Duggan

THE LIGHT THIEVES

author: Helena Duggan

cover illustration: Katie Kear

Usborne (1 September 2022)

ISBN: 9781474991094

The earth has shifted on its axis and a mysterious dark mark has appeared on the sun – the whole world is in peril! But billionaire tech genius Howard Hansom has a plan…
With their parents away and Grandad left in charge, Grian’s sister, Solas unwillingly drags him to a PeoplePower rally to hear Howard Hansons’ plan. But Solas soon goes missing and Grian is convinced she has run off to Hansom’s new city to help save the world. When Grian and his two friends Jeffrey and Shelli track her there, they find that nothing and no one is quite what they seem. Even good old reliable, conspiracy-theory tracking Grandad has hidden depths that Grian never expected. Why is everything so secret? Where is the mysterious Area 13? What does Howard Hansom want with all the people he has enticed to live in his city? The days are getting darker but what’s really happening to the sun?

Now…this book is intriguing! An environmental disaster; a billionaire tech guy with a plan to save us all; a missing sister; people living wild in the woods; being chased by sinister cloaked men…what is going on?! Page after page of twists and turns lead the reader on a merry dance to uncover the truth. With a well-written, continuous flow, this pacey tale reveals both the use and abuse of technology, all the while revealing the complex family dynamics we live with day-to-day. Heaps of action, loads of laughs and gasps and a heart-felt brother/sister relationship grab the attention and will not let go as our hero tries to track down his missing sister and get her back home before Mum and Dad realise she’s gone….but it’s not that easy. Grian needs to use all his wits to untangle the technological nightmare set before him. A cast of characters wind through the story, revealing unexpected talents and quirky tech-flips that may just help him, but what about saving the planet? How much of what Grian knows is actually true?

There is so much going on in this book that it may make your head spin a bit as you try to grasp the nuances and details, but hang in there. it’s really worth it. This is the first in a new series by the author of the A Place Called Perfect series and it promises to be just as fabulous. Relatable, clever, thrilling, incredibly imaginative, quirky… and a whole lot of fun!

Happy Book-Birthday to The Light Thieves and congratulations, Helena Duggan. It’s just marvelous! https://usborne.com/gb/the-light-thieves-9781474991094

A Place Called Perfect series by Helena Duggan

More Ebb and Flo!…Ebb and Flo and the Greedy Gulls by Jane Simmon

It’s such a joy to have the Ebb and Flo picture books reprinted by Graffeg, Ltd. Giving us a day-to-day glimpse of life by the sea, there bare always wonderful adventures to be had and wildlife to be seen. Now, it’s time for number four…

EBB AND FLO AND THE GREEDY GULLS

author/illustrator: Jane Simmons

Graffeg Ltd (25 August 2022)

ISBN: 9781802580693

Ebb, Flo, Mum and Bird go for a picnic by the shore. It’s a lovely day and Ebb settls down, listening to the waves and the laughing gulls. But soon, some greedy gulls swoop down to eat all the food. Ebb gets the blame and goes off to her favourite place and sulks. Then, a sudden storm blows in. It’s time to go home, but Ebb is nowhere to be seen!

We’ve all had the experience of being blamed for something that was not our fault. (And if you live anywhere near the sea, you know exactly how greedy and bold those gulls can be!) This gentle, yet exciting story of friendship and forgiveness shows us everything we need to know about letting things go, understanding and compassion…and the things that are really important. The palette and soft-edged line give a true sense of the seaside and the changes in the atmosphere; you can almost feel the sand between your toes and the stormy wind and rain against your face! Clever attention is given to the rendering of facial details on all the characters (even the gulls!) so that the expressions allow the reader to understand the feeling behind all the action.

A wonderful story for young children, helping them to gain understanding and empathy; Ebb and Flow and the Greedy Gulls sets family and friendship into the world of nature. Charming, richly illustrated, quietly adventurous and full of life and love. Just read it! A welcome addition to your picture book library.

A huge thanks to Graffeg for sharing this delightful book, and for having the insight to republish them. https://graffeg.com/collections/childrens-books/products/ebb-and-flo-and-the-greedy-gulls

Jane Simmons is a children’s author and illustrator and the person behind the Ebb
and Flo picture-book series. Jane studied illustration at Anglia Ruskin University and won the Macmillan Children’s Book Prize in her final 2 years of study. Ebb and Flo picture books were also made into a TV series, aired on Channel 5. The show has been seen in over 120 territories worldwide.

Fabulous Historical Fiction: The Secret of the Treasure Keepers by A.M. Howell

THE SECRET OF THE TREASURE KEEPERS

author: A.M. Howell

illustrations: Rachel Corcoran

Usborne Books (31 March 2022)

ISBN: 9781474991117

February 1948. Waiting for her mother to finish an interview with Mr Knight at the British Museum, Ruth answers an impatiently ringing telephone and takes a message involving the discovery of artifacts at a Norfolk farm. Before she knows it, Ruth is whisked off to the lonely Rook Farm to investigate the long-buried treasure and maybe land her mother that job. Upon arrival, she finds a struggle to keep the farm going, secrets lurking around every corner and a deeply buried mystery about the treasure. Joe, the farmer’s son, is hiding something, while land girl Audrey watches their every move. Before Ruth can find out more, the treasure is stolen… With a storm coming, Ruth must race to uncover the secrets of the treasure keepers before all of their lives are changed forever.

In The Secrets of the Treasure Keepers, we have another historical mystery; one that takes us to post WW2 England, where struggle is rife and into the world of archaeology and the search for Roman hoards. The reader gets a true sense of the time and landscape, how the people are coping (or not) in the aftermath of the war and the hope for things to change. There is also a sense of history, both in the setting of the book, but more importantly, in the search for Roman finds. This is a part of the world that is desperate to know where it came from; how it came to be. And maybe how to keep things as they are. There is a strong theme of change in the story, with compassion as to why people buck against it while still handing the knowledge that we can’t stop time…change is inevitable. It’s what we preserve and why; how to carry our past forward while understanding that it is the past. It’s time is gone and no matter what we do, we can’t call it back.

The mystery is, of course, at the heart of this story; and the investigation. We have seen this trope before and here it is handled well; lending curiosity, intrigue and spirit to give very satisfying results. Ruth is an imaginative, but determined investigator (and a likable character, kind and caring.) She is well able to translate her flights of fancy into practical ideas, and is bold enough to take action and seek out the facts. She has no problem working around authority figures who are stuck in limited thinking and taking chances that lead to discovery. Her interest in archaeology, her skill at puzzling things out and investigating are superb. As she gets to know Joe, a boy with many burdens of his own, she is able to empathise with him, but also to get him onside. Together, they make a formidable team. Using them as a touch-stone, Howell gives us insight into how things are done on archaeological gigs, as well as the types of Roman finds uncovered.

Quietly exciting, this book takes the reader on quite a quest as the heroes investigate and solve an intriguing mystery and come to an understanding of how the past feeds the present and how to go forward. Intelligent, articulate, compelling; a tale with both truth and imagination at its’ heart. It may not be loud and showy, but it is a fascinating read. https://usborne.com/gb/the-secret-of-the-treasure-keepers-9781474991117