Why Picturebooks Matter: The Philosophy of ERGO by Alexis Deacon & Viviane Schwarz

Picturebooks are unique in the way they explain BIG concepts to little people. Simple and clear, yes. But the detail and nuance they pass on! The way they tease out even more questions, considerations…how they encourage young children to think on their own, it’s astounding. Here’s a new one that I think we should all read, especially in the times we’re living in.

ERGO

author: Alexis Deacon

illustrator: Viviane Schwarz

Walker Books (5 August 2021)

ISBN: 9781406394030

Ergo wakes up and decides to explore her world. First she finds her toes. Then her wings and her beak and her legs. Ergo had found everything. She flapped, kicked, pecked. Could it be that Ergo WAS the whole world?! She was happy with this thought. And then…Ergo found the wall. When she pushed against the wall, her whole world rolled round and upside down. And then, something went bump. Maybe Ergo was NOT the whole world. Maybe there was something else. Ergo had to find out….

Somewhat of a companion tale to the previous I Am Henry Finch, this is the story of Ergo, a new chick contemplating her own world which, as far as she knows, exists only in the walls of her egg. But, as we all know, that is not everything there is. Tracking her exploration from the discovery of her toes through the consideration of what else there may be, we watch her thoughts, her reasoning develop. (It’s very reminiscent of watching babies emerge into the world around them.) The tale is filled with wondering and wonder. As Ergo has one new thought after another, these thoughts are accompanied by emotions….unbridled joy and pride at the thought that she may be the whole world, trepidation as she discovers there might be more, curiosity and frustration as she discovers that “Not knowing is not good” and great determination and courage as she ventures into the unknown world outside.

All of this is accomplished with economy of language and stunning illustration working hand-in-hand across the pages. Together, Deacon and Schwarz have created something really special. Rendered in a bright, limited palette of complementary yellows and blues, the action and expressions are easily read and lend great animation to the many thoughts and feelings the reader is sure to experience, whether they are only new to the world, like Ergo or have been knocking around the planet for quite some time. The flowing, clear line work and bold, vibrant watercolour illustrations guide us fluidly through Ergos’ journey until the end, where the world opens up, in all its’ colour and wonder. The ultimate effect is joyous and glorious.

A very sweet story, happy, gentle and adventurous, this is one to lead us all to consider the entire world…and our place in it. Tender, funny, full of thought, it acts as a guide into life and shows the value of connection. ERGO is wonderful!

Many thanks to Walker Books, and especially Ellen, for sharing this beauty with me (for purposes of review.) I treasure it and can’t wait to spread the ERGO love with a lot of young, budding philosophers. https://www.walker.co.uk/Ergo-9781406394030.aspx

Brilliant Summer Reads for Kids!!! on Litvox

So…as I’m rushing around these dog days of summer, here’s a post on some of my favourite summer reads for kids I wrote for the brilliant LitVox; Irelands’ BEST online bookshop! Just click on the link to find out more!

#LitVox #SummerReadsforKids

Watch Out! The Screen Thief is About!

The Screen Thief by Helen Docherty & Thomas Docherty

As you may have noticed, I am a HUGE fan of Helen and Thomas Dochertys’ books. Separately or together, they always manage to create a story that is funny, comforting, adventurous and just brilliant. So I could resist picking up a copy of their latest picturebook for my shelf…not that it will spend much time there.

THE SCREEN THIEF

author: Helen Docherty

illustrator: Thomas Docherty

Alison Green Books (3 June 2021)

ISBN: 9781407199153

When the little Snaffle arrives in the city, she is only looking for some friends; she only wants to play! Everyone is too busy staring at their screens to notice her. What are these screens, she wonders. What makes them so special? Is there some kind of magic inside them? And then the Snaffle hears a BEEP nearby. It’s somebodys’ phone! When the Snaffle picks it up, she discovers that she loves screens, too…as a snack! They are very tasty. The Snaffle darts through the city munching all the screens she can find. But when her tummy is full, the Snaffle still feels empty somehow. And that’s when the trouble…and the fun really begins!

This story is a slight departure for the Dochertys, whose previous books support and advocate for all the joy and pleasure to be had in reading. Instead, it examines how much we don’t see; the joy might never know when we are glued to our screens all the time and what could happen if we put them down. Instead, it encourages us to play outside…have fun and make new friends.

Told in Helens’ lovely, rhythmic rhyming style, The Screen Thief is just magical! Easy and joyous to read aloud, and for young ones to remember, it captures the various moods of the Snaffle as she bounces along, first trying to find a friend, then trying to find…well, food (quite literally) to fuel her new screen obsession, giving both a lot to think about and a lot to giggle at. She is quite a resilient creature! The text is matched perfectly by Thomas’ wonderful, vivid illustrations that ooze humour and happiness. The pictures are filled with gorgeous, subtle details throughout; facial expressions, glimpses of the residents and different places as they take us on a rather madcap jaunt around the city streets. It is amazing the number of things you can read into the story; about the setting, about feelings and concepts; and little side-stories that are created in the detail. (Personal note: I was happily surprised to find my old book-friend The Snatchbook advertised in this fictional city.)

Altogether, what is created is an utterly wonderful tale and very timely! With a lovely message that includes understanding, friendship and acceptance, it is bubbly, bouncy, funny, free and filled with heart. “Screens away! It’s time to play!” https://shop.scholastic.ie/products/The-Screen-Thief-9781407199146

Why Picturebooks Matter: Over the Shop by JonArno Lawson and Qin Leng

I love the magic of wordless (or “silent”) picturebooks. For the grown-up observer or artist, there is a purity in the way they tell the story. For the child, they hold a real sense of adventure and autonomy. You look closely; carefully taking in the details and the movement in the images. Without words prescribed to the telling, suddenly here is a book with a story that belongs to you…and you can change it as you like. Personally, I teeter along the edge of both perspectives, letting the small child deep inside tell the tale anew with each reading, while the adult wanders by her side exclaiming “oh! I didn’t see that before!” each lost in their own wonder. It’s why my personal shelf has so many wordless picturebooks on it. So, I was beside myself with delight when a new one came through the door….

OVER THE SHOP

author: JonArno Lawson

illustration: Qin Leng

Walker Books (7 January 2021)

ISBN: 9781406396676

A lonely girl and her grandparent live behind their shop, with a flat above, desperately in need of repair and love. They must find someone to move in, but none of the potential renters have the imagination to see the potential in the tatty and rundown space. Until one special couple come along. With their resourceful and creativity, the little girls’ big heart and a lot of hard work, the nearly derelict fixer-upper changes, blooming into a place of warmth, welcome and family. And so does the shop and everything around it.

Each line, tone and position of the figures…every page brings feeling and flow in this gentle, moving story of family, friendship, support, diversity and building a community. The delicate, deft hand of the illustrator allows the transformation of the old, bedraggled building to wash over us with a tender insight and observation, succinct details and minute shifts of colour. And this shows off the change in the characters themselves. The grandparent begins as old, cranky, disappointed with the way things are. The little girl is obviously lonely, but slowly shines with a hopeful determination. Potential renters come and go, clearly thinking the flat is a lost cause; and perhaps it is until the right people come along and change everything.

As the story grows, the colours gradually brighten, the facial expressions and even the postures of the characters lift and relax. The visuals flow across page after page to bring an understanding of the joy that is blooming as this diverse community of people come together. The shop itself, not really dirty or disheaveled, but certainly lack-luster and dull, has a new life injected into it and it gradually becomes welcoming and intriguing. Even the scruffy alley cat turns into a beloved pet. The entire mood of the story shifts, allowing us to experience in a few short pages the patient, steady timeline across which the transformation of house to home, convenience shop to bustling community, strangers to friends and, eventually family.

This book is a delight; moving and meaningful, it is a poignant and joyous celebration of the power of community and acceptance to transform. One of the taglines says “a beautiful rendering of what it means to find your tribe and fill your home with love and joy.” That says it perfectly.

Thank you to Walker Books, and especially Ellen for gifting me with this wonderful, wonderful book for review purposes. It is a real treasure. https://www.walker.co.uk/Over-the-Shop-9781406396676.aspx

Four from Nosy Crow! Short (I hope) and Sweet Reviews

I have a dear, dear bookselling friend who knows what I’m like; my constant hunger for more books matched by a tendency to read very quickly and, sometimes, two or three at a time (depending on my mood) and then, out the back on my TBR stack to read again. So…not altogether infrequently, she bundles up a stack of proof copies that others have left on the staff shelf and sends them along to me. I was delighted when I received this lovingly chosen batch of proofs from her…all little wonders from Nosy Crow publishers. (a wonder in and of themselves.) Rather than carefully space and place them on my pages, I thought I would give a “Great New(ish) Books from Nosy Crow” post a shot. So, without further ado…

TALKING TO THE MOON; author S. E. Durrant

ISBN: 9781788004701 (20 March 2020)

S.E. Durrant is an exceptional author who can cut right to the feelings and give us an incredible story at the same time. Here, we meet Iris, staying with her grandmother, Mimi. Mimi is beginning to forget things; she puts jam on Iris’ scrambled eggs, wears her clothes inside-out and talks to the moon. As her memory fades, Iris feels as if her own life is getting as muddled as Mimis’ thoughts. Mimi speaks often of Coral, who she believes drowned in an accident as a young child. But who is Coral? And what really happened all those years ago. A wonderful, sweet relationship between grandmother and grandchild gives us a gentle story with a lot of spark, family drama and friendship. Filled with moving glimpses of the past and the present.

LUNA RAE IS NOT ALONE by Hayley Webster

ISBN: 9781788006040 (4 February 2021)

Luna Rae has moved to a new house. And a new school. Everything’s new and Luna Rae is worried; about the new smells, new stuff and fitting into her own life…especially school; especially when there’s so much going on at home. It feels like she’s been forgotten in a way and is just expected to get on with things. But when the school announces a parent-child baking competition, Luna Rae KNOWS she can fix everything if she can just win it. So she enters herself and her Mum. They are a such brilliant, creative baking team! There’s only one problem…her Mum has disappeared. A wise, genuine family story about change and starting again, it draws you right in to Lunas’ world and warms your heart.

THE LIFE AND TIME OF LONNY QUICKE by Kirsty Applebaum

ISBN: 9781788005241 (6 May 2021)

Lonny Quicke is a lifeling. He has the power to heal any living creature, even bring it back to life with just a touch. But, as with any great gift, there is a great price to pay. By lengthening the creatures’ life, time is taken from his own. Lonny gets older every time. So Lonny has to be very careful; he has to stay hidden in the forest and well away from the town. It’s no fun, but of people found out what he can do, Lonny would be left with no life at all…. An amazing, fable-style story that brings true understanding to the phrase, “it’s what you do right now that really matters.” Intriguing, compelling and full of the right kind of tension; this book glows with possibilities, thought-provoking ideas and…well, it’s just beautiful.

THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE by Alex Cotter

ISBN: 9781788008624 (1 July 2021)

Faiths’ Dad has gone and her mother is refusing to get up and do anything, caught in depression and grief. Her little brother is obsessed with the sea ghosts he claims are living in the basement. This leaves Faith to do everything that needs doing to keep her family safe. But they are living in an old house on the top of a crumbling seaside cliff; a cliff with a crack in the garden that is getting bigger by the day. It’s only a matter of time until….. And then, to make matters worse, her little brother disappears as well. Faith begins to think that maybe the ghosts aren’t such a far-fetched idea, after all. Can she find her brother and bring back her father before everything she holds dear crumbles into the relentless sea below? This book is simply breathtaking (in more way than one.) A brilliantly described landscape, extraordinary characters, mysteries that keep on coming and a riveting, multi-layered rich story that insists we look deeper, beyond and within the everyday. I love it!

Branford Boase Award 2021: And the Winner is

The Branford Boase Award is a literary award presented annually to an outstanding childrens’ or Young Adult novel (for ages 7 years and up) by a first-time writer. Created to commemorate the lives and work of Wendy Boase, former editorial director of Walker Books and wonderful author Henrietta Branford, both of whom died in 1999 of cancer. The award seeks to celebrate their lives and memory by encouraging and supporting new talent in childrens’ literature, honouring the debut author and their editor.

The years award was announced yesterday, chosen from an incredible shortlist of debut titles covering a fascinating range of genres and writing styles. (see above)

Without further ado, the winner is…

ORPHANS OF THE TIDE

author: Struan Murray

editor: Ben Horslen

Puffin Books (20 February 2020)

ISBN: 9780241384435

The last city in a drowned world sits on a high mountain that juts out over the never-ending sea; a sea that is trying to claim it back. Onto its’ fragile shoreline, a dead whale washes up and out of it climbs…a living boy. The citys’ strict religious authorities name the boy as The Enemy; the god who drowned the world and has come to create chaos and finish off the job he started. It is well known that The Enemy can take possession of any human body and the authorities are determined to destroy it forever. But Ellie, a bold and fearless young inventor living in a workshop filled with curiosities, believes he is innocent. And she must save him…she must prove who the boy really is, even if it means revealing her own dark, dangerous secret.

Atmospheric, inventive, unpredictable and written with an extraordinary, adept storytelling hand, this novel writhes with exquisite world-building and thought-provoking, poignant relationships throughout. An outstanding and unforgettable journey into a fantasy world that is entirely believable, it draws the reader in page after page. A worthy winner indeed.

Congratulations to both Struan Murray and Ben Horslen on their award. You have brought an extraordinary world to light. https://branfordboaseaward.org.uk/

Blog Tour: Tally and the Angel by Eleanor Dixon

Welcome to my stop on a blog tour that takes us on a journey to India with young Tally and her most unusual travel companion…the Angel Jophiel!

TALLY and the ANGEL: Book One India

author: Eleanor Dixon

Burreau Publishing (30 April 2021)

ISBN: 9781838270810

“When Tally discovers her pendant is home to the Angel Jophiel, she knows life will never be same again. But what good is an angel who won’t appear in front of others? Especially when she needs to convince her friend Balvan she knows where the kidnapped children of India are being held. Will Jophiel help Tally and Balvan escape the kidnappers’ clutches, or will they all perish?”

A 13-year old girl, Tally is grieving the death of my mother alongside her father. Although it was not unexpected, Tally is understandably distraught. This distress is momentarily heightened when her father announces his desire to travel the world, leaving Tally behind at a boarding school that she hates. Her mother has left her a most unusual keepsake. A pendant that, as it turns out, contains not just an image, but the actual Angel Jophiel, now in her life to guide and protect until such time as it is ready to be passed to another. Tally now plucks up the courage to tell her father that she needs to come with him. And so begins an extraordinary adventure…

Tally and the Angel is a sweet and exciting story filled with peril and unexpected twists. While Tally believes that, as long as her angel is by her side nothing can go wrong, she soon learns that many of her decisions and actions can still lead her into serious danger, and she needs to step up, to find her courage, her determination and her voice. And that belief in her angel is not enough. Tally still must believe in herself. Uncovering the plight of kidnapped children will take all that determination, and a big dollop of her intuition. It is Jophiels’ support and encouragement of those brave bits of Tally that allow her to understand what she is really made of. An engaging, charming fantasy adventure with friendship and compassion a.t its’ heart.

About the Author: Eleanor Dixon

My school life was spent in a girls’ boarding-school specialising in classical ballet and on leaving I danced professionally, touring Europe, for 4 years. After that I ran my own ballet school in Athens, Greece and simultaneously volunteered as a veterinary nurse, as my love of animals is the driving force in my life. I returned to England with my horse and my cat, and now live on a smallholding in Shropshire with various farm animals and a constant stream of pets.

I started writing while in Greece and completed a Creative Writing Course with the Writers’ Bureau. The same year, I won an annual competition in the Writing Magazine for an adult Fairy Story.

On my return to England, I wrote two children’s books, but my new life, caring for Highland Cattle, sheep, hens and pets, coupled with extensive global travel, meant that writing for publication took a back seat. I continued my love of writing with a daily journal and amusing travel blogs of each trip.

I am now writing full time and TALLY AND THE ANGEL is the first of a planned series. Their next adventure takes place in Canada, in North Yukon and the third in Japan. I intend them to have adventures in Greece, Egypt, Peru, Africa – anywhere I have been, really.

You can contact Eleanor Dixon at:

Home

facebook.com/theburreau

https://www.instagram.com/theburrowinthefield

I want to thank Rachel’s Random Resources (https://www.rachelsrandomresources.com/) and Eleanor Dixon for including FallenStar Stories in this blog tour. I hope you’ve all enjoyed it and please do check out the other fabulous bloggers on the tour (blog banner at the top of the page)…see what they have to say!

When Shakespeare Meets Sci-Fi: Jules and Rom by Pete Mullineaux

We’ve all gone through the works of the Bard in school, especially Romeo and Juliet. And we’ve all seen a plethora of modern adaptations of (what honestly is) this timeless, pertinent masterpiece…frequently wondering what it has to do with us and now. I have met a lot of young people who would argue its’ relevance (and argue for it, I do.) But this YA novel brings something different to the table; something fresh and something….well, a little weird and wonderful. Let’s take a look….

JULES and ROM

author: Pete Mullineaux

cover illustration: Dave Hill

Matador (9 March 2021)

ISBN: 9781800462519

The year is 2040; and life has gone through quite a bit of change. Environmental issues, social disorder and rapidly increasing technological advancement has left its’ mark in dramatic and intriguing ways. The placement of androids in every sector of society has had its’ impact; both beneficial and troublesome. But perhaps it can be seen most profoundly in schools.

Kerry Tracker is a newly qualified teacher, called to a US high school to teach the 10th grade English students; more specifically to manage their production of Romeo and Juliet. The previous android teacher had an emotional meltdown, caused by the kids in the cast who, with unbridled glee, just wanted to see how far they could push it. The ringleader of this seemingly minor rebel uprising, is 15-year-old Harper, a privileged little madam who will suffer no consequences due to her fathers’ position. And there are many human staff at the school who have “issues” with the android staff, causing further disruption in its’ smooth running. It seems some things never change… As Kerry struggles to impart the importance of what they’re doing and lead the kids in the production, the situation escalates from typical teenage ructions to something dark and dangerous in short order. A suspicious death in the school. Special agent Floyd Linton from Homeland Security is called in to investigate the murder. Against the backdrop of Shakespeares’ most familiar play; the story of young love, tragedy and family division enters the brave and confusing new world of the future, besieged by political intrigue and social turmoil, as humans and androids discover themselves and each other, and what each are capable of.

Jules and Rom certainly packs a punch as it tackles themes of young love, AI emotional intelligence, political and social disruption, fear, prejudice and the consequences of our actions. There is much to consider here, but it is given with a subtle creative hand. The plot itself remains relatively true to the Shakespeare tragedy and allows the reader to view it with new, timely eyes. While it is a future-based, speculative work, much of what happens is very familiar and applicable to the present day (which is what the best of speculative fiction is about, really.) The characters are wonderfully written. Each human character is quite recognisable; we all know people like them; we understand their motivation and how they work. But the androids cause a lot of intrigue in the mind of the reader. We begin to wonder and examine their thoughts and feelings; we consider the possibilities within AI creation. And through this, how we define what it means to be human. None of this is ponderous, however. It flows and sneaks in at the margins while we find ourselves absorbed in a tale that is fascinating, gripping and really innovative.

I have known Pete Mullineaux for quite a number of years now, watching him work with children and present poetry and theatre in a way that is always accessible, enthusiastic and timely. He has a gift for knowing how to give children, regardless of their age or ability a view that speaks directly to them, bringing understanding and more importantly…Pete listens to them.

Pete has another book out at the moment; a resource that merges teaching drama to young people with an increasing awareness of environmentalism, climate change and creating a more sustainable development. If you work with young people in schools, drama groups or youth centres, or if you want to bring a greater level of creativity into your home, this is the book you need. Covering a list of sustainable goals, there are eight chapters; or rather, eight projects addressing a range of concerns, interlinking them and approaching through creativity and drama; bringing a huge amount of knowledge, understanding and excitement into the efforts of building a more sustainable world. And isn’t that exactly what we all need.

INTERDEPENDENCE DAY!

Teaching the Sustainable Development Goals the Drama for All Ages

author: Pete Mullineaux

published by Afri (2021)

Interdependence Day! Teaching the Sustainable Development Goals through Drama is published by Afri (Action from Ireland ) and was funded as a lockdown project by Irish Aid through WorldWise Global Schools. From more information about Afri, follow the link: https://www.afri.ie/

And if you would like to learn more about the amazing Pete Mullineaux and his projects and books; here’s his link on WordPress: https://petemullineauxwriter.wordpress.com/

Waterstones Childrens Book Prize

Before it slips away from me to do this, here’s the Waterstones Childrens’ Book Prize 2021. This award celebrated 15 years of honouring great childrens’ books, with the first prize given in 2005. It’s purpose is to “uncover hidden talent in childrens’ writing,” revealing exciting new voices that tell the kinds of stories children want to hear and reflecting their interests and concerns. Without further ado….

The Best Book for Young Readers and Overall Winner of the Waterstones Childrens’ Book Prize 2021 is….

A KIND OF SPARK by Elle McNicholl, published by the incredible KnightsOf… Publishers. An inspired story of difference, acceptance and change, A Kind of Spark lets us into the heart and mind of neurodivergent Addie, as she campaigns for a memorial in her small Scottish town to honour the women who perished at the hands of witchhunters in a time long gone. Written with genuine insight, this is a witty, warm and beautiful story of self-belief, friendship and growing up. Direct, funny, accessible, heartfelt and filled with empathy. A true winner in every way! (If you want to read more of my thoughts on A Kind of Spark, head over to the Teen and Young Adult page of this blog…roughly for ages 11+)

But wait, there’s more…

The Best Illustrated Book Prize goes to…

THE GRUMPY FAIRIES by Bethan Stevens, published by Frances Lincoln Childrens’ Books. We all think that fairies are good, kind, sweet…and a lot of them are. But some of the fairies, particularly the littlest ones, are GRUMPY. These fairies are not at all interested in helping out with their chores! (We’ve all been there!) Grumpy fairies better watch out. There’s a goblin about, and he finds grumpy fairies the most delicious! Wonderful, silly and so much fun, a great take on toddler tantrums and unruly behaviour.

And finally, The Best Book for Older Readers Prize was given to….

WRANGLESTONE by Darren Charlton, published by Stripes Publishing. An unnerving, terrifying post-apocalyptic/zombie novel woven with a tender, moving gay love story, Charlton’s debut paints a brilliantly detailed picture of a community under siege in a post-apocalyptic America. Poetic writing, extraordinary world building, it is atmospheric, consuming, fast-paced and page-turning….incredible…simply incredible.

Such a fabulous bunch of winning books, I am thrilled for you all. Many congratulations to the authors, illustrators and publishers. If you wan to know more about the Waterstones Childrens’ Book Awards…just follow the link, as per usual. https://www.waterstones.com/the-waterstones-childrens-book-prize

All the Money in the World by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

What would you do if you had all the money in the world? Sarah Moore Fitzgeralds’ new book ponders that very question. Fitzgerald is an incredible writer! She has taken us on many journeys through the lives of a wide variety of ordinary young people, all trying to deal with circumstances beyond their control. From Back to Blackbrick through A Strange Kind of Brave, each story expresses their courageous and bold determination to change things, to make a real difference and to do what’s right. And All the Money in the World does it again!

ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD

author: Sarah Moore Fitgerald

Orion Childrens Books (8 July 2021)

ISBN: 9781510104143

Fifteen-year-old Penny is living in a small, damp place with her mother. Like all the other residents, she and her friends Matt and Kitty fight daily battles against mold, bullying classmates, disinterested teachers and a building supervisor that simply can’t be bothered. In the backyard of The Flats (in former times Rosemary House… a beautiful mansion) they entertain themselves with games, schemes and plans, but Penny longs for something more…something better than the day in, day out misery and poverty that has always cast its’ long shadow over their lives. But what? Meanwhile, in Lavender House next door, its’ elderly owner, Violet Fitzsimmons lurks behind the curtains. No one ever sees Violet; it’s said she only comes out after dark…and perhaps, she is a witch who traps young people in her cellar. One evening, Penny gets trapped in her back garden and learns something unusual that belies all the rumours. An accident causes Penny and Violet to strike up an unlikely friendship. And suddenly, it seems possible that of all of Pennys’ dreams could come true. She begins to realise that not only can she change her life, but she can change herself! All it takes is some hard work, a few white lies…and all the money in the world. But at what cost?

In this timely, fascinating novel about friendship, identity, privilege, social background and “cold hard cash,” Fitzgerald explores the impact of poverty on the lives of young people and the possibility that everyone may not be what they seem. That maybe we should look a little deeper before deciding who a person is. Can money really buy you happiness? Does it change who you are? While it is certainly true that money makes a difference in someones’ life, the kind of difference it makes is down to the individual.

Penny is a wonderful character; a typical school girl; kind, intelligent, exhausted by the daily struggle, trying however she can to improve not only her situation, but that of those around her. Keeping secrets and telling little white lies puts her relationships with friends and neighbours, her mother and her new found friendship with Violet to the test in surprising ways, causing new struggles and some perfectly expressed confusion concerning what is real and what is important. Violet shines as a character! Elusive, filled with secrets of her own, she plays a wonderful foil and benefactor to Penny in so many ways. The changes that each affect in the other are quite remarkable, and beautifully expressed. The pair stand as polar opposites and yet, strikingly similar. Together, they dance around each other, creating a dialogue that moves the story to different levels of understanding. The reader will find themselves routing for both every step of the way.

The writing itself is glorious; fluid, expressive, clever and coming from the heart. The pace is steady, never faltering as it gives each characters view and emotion. As the story unfolds, each new scene and new secret is revealed with a subtle, purposeful hand. This gives us a story that is impossible to walk away from…you live it alongside the characters and join in with their struggles, adventures and hopes. As it comes to its’ conclusion and Penny learns the lesson she was meant to all along, the impact and atmosphere are perfectly reflected in the exquisite telling of the tale. Thoughtful, tender, heartfelt, exciting and simply wonderful!

I want to thank Hachette/Orion Childrens Books and, especially Sarah Moore Fitzgerald for the prepublication proof copy of yet another glorious book! I am so grateful. https://www.hachette.co.uk/titles/sarah-moore-fitzgerald/all-the-money-in-the-world/9781510104150/