Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Booky Advent Calendar Day 25: CHRISTMAS DAY! "Christmas Comes to Moominvalley" by Tove Jansson, Alex Haridi, Cecilia Davidsson and Filippa Widlund (Pan Macmillan)

Well we had to save the best till last, of course, and we couldn't resist the idea of spending christmas amongst the Moomins! Tove Jansson's timeless creations are given a new lease of life with family approval in "Christmas Comes to Moominvalley" by  Alex Haridi, Cecilia Davidsson and Filippa Widlund.

In this exquisitely illustrated and authentic re-telling of Tove Jansson's classic story The Fir Tree, the Moomins are woken up from their winter sleep to be told that 'Christmas' is coming. The only trouble is, the Moomins have no idea who, or what Christmas is! Calamities!

A new generation of readers will enjoy meeting the loveable Moomintoll, Moominpappa and Moominmamma, and all their friends as they experience their very first, and slightly stressful Christmas - and puzzle over what it all means. 

Find out how the kind and tolerant Moomins work out what really matters at Christmas, in this retelling of Tove Jansson's unique and wise tale - illustrated with delicate, painterly images full of character and detail and based on Jansson's original drawings and colour plates.

It's the perfect gift - and we dearly hope that you got lots of awesome books in your stocking today! Have a brilliant christmas from all at ReadItDaddy and we look forward to catching up with you in 2020!

"Christmas Comes to Moominvalley" is out now, published by Pan Macmillan (kindly supplied for review). 
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Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Booky Advent Calendar Day 24: CHRISTMAS EVE! "The Night Before Christmas in Wonderland" by Carys Bexington and Kate Hindley (Macmillan Children's Books)

Oh my, now we're excited! It's Christmas Eve and our penultimate Booky Advent Calendar door is open - and inside you'll find "The Night Before Christmas in Wonderland" by Carys Bexington and Kate Hindley.

This gorgeous mash-up sees what Alice encounters in Wonderland when the festive season arrives.

Lewis Carroll's classic Wonderland returns but this time instead of Alice, it's Santa's turn for an adventure down the rabbit hole. Join the Cheshire-Cat, the Mad Hatter, and the reindeer for a tea party with lots of festive fun!

The Queen of Hearts hates Christmas (what a surprise!)

She's such an old meanie that she's banned tinsel, mince pies and even good cheer –because when she was a little Princess the White Rabbit was late delivering her letter to Father Christmas and she didn't receive a present. 

But one snowy Christmas Eve, Santa finally receives her letter and races to deliver her gift! Will Santa and his reindeer be able to put the Merry back into Christmas in Wonderland?

A fantastic twist on the classic "Alice" tale with awesome debut author Carys Bexington coming up with a perfect festive hit, and Kate Hindley's always-brilliant artwork marking this one for special attention!

"The Night Before Christmas in Wonderland" by Carys Bexington and Kate Hindley is out now, published by Macmillan Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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Monday, December 23, 2019

Booky Advent Calendar Day 23: "The Real Family Christmas" by Sue Mongredien and Kate Pankhurst (Pan Macmillan)

Honestly, there's literally nothing better than a brilliant chapter book - and now it's Christmas Eve Eve (or Day 23 on our Booky Advent Calendar, if you like!) let's dip into "The Real Family Christmas" by Sue Mongredien and Kate Pankhurtst.

It's chaos, absolute chaos in the Christmas household. No, I don't mean just any household but Santa's own family household - and here's three stories that see Santa and his missus, kids and relatives going through the sort of manic stuff we all have to put up with as the festive season gets under way.

Nick (a.k.a. Father Christmas) catches the flu just before Christmas day (tsk tsk Santa, didn't you get your Flu Jab?), meaning that it's up to his fun-loving younger brother Harry to save the day in "Uncle Christmas".

In "Granny Christmas" Nick and Harry's Granny turns up with her grumpy pet penguin, Percy, to stay for the festive season, causing chaos with her inventions and nearly ruining all the careful preparation the boys have done! 

Can Granny Christmas prove to her grandsons that her inventions are more helpful than harmful?

Finally, pandemonium ensues when the whole extended Christmas family unexpectedly turn up for the festive season in "Real Family Christmas!" 

With their parents, Uncle Rufus and Aunty Ruby, three wild cousins, Great Uncle Alf and seven-year-old Ivy all staying, how can Nick and Harry make sure that Christmas goes smoothly this year?

Not one, not two but three festive stories crammed into this awesome book. Perfect for confident new readers who love their gags and japes coming at them thick and fast.

"The Real Family Christmas" by Sue Mongredien, illustrated by Kate Pankhurst is out now, published by Pan Macmillan (kindly supplied for review). 
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Sunday, December 22, 2019

Booky Advent Calendar Day 22: "The Return of Sproutzilla" by Tom Jamieson and Mike Byrne (Macmillan Children's Books)

Lord help us, the air is always thick with the smell of these glorious little brassicas at Christmas, and as we're getting nearer the big day, it will soon be time for the sprout to shine!

In fact why wait? Let's dive into "The Return of Sproutzilla" by Tom Jamieson and Mike Byrne, the follow-up to last year's christmas smash.

Mean, green Sproutzilla is back and he's determined to destroy Christmas. 

But watch out . . . this time he isn’t alone! He's recruited a whole gang of fart-inducing pals to really put the stink on Christmas.

Jack and Ruby are getting ready for Christmas when suddenly, Santa's little elves arrive with terrible news – poor Santa's been kidnapped! 

Can Jack and Ruby rescue Santa from stinky Sproutzilla and his menacing sidekicks Broccolisaurus and Tyrannoparsnip rex, before the villainous vegetables ruin Christmas for everyone? 

And can Sproutzilla ever be shown the true joy of Christmas?

With a touch of Grinch-like genius, this is fun stuff for little ones, packed with gaseous gags and brilliant Christmas giggles. 

"The Return of Sproutzilla" by Tom Jamieson and Mike Byrne is out now, published by Macmillan Children's Books. 
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Saturday, December 21, 2019

Booky Advent calendar Day 21: "Starbird" by Sharon King-Chai (Two Hoots Books)

We often like to throw a bit of a curve-ball into our seasonal Booky Advent Calendar selections, and this year "Starbird" by Sharon King-Chai fits the bill perfectly.

Though it's not a christmas book per se, it fits with the season perfectly with its glorious shimmery almost snowy cover, gorgeous illustrations and atmospheric story of a bird's flight as the wee small hours descend, against the backdrop of a silvery moon.

Sharon's lyrical story touches on the subject of freedom and love - for what is freer than a bird able to fly through the sky? As the Starbird soars to escape the clutches of the Moon King, the story gently lulls you in as the brave bird mounts a courageous attempt to burst free from a cage where the moon king has trapped him to give to his daughter. For all birds should be free, and the moon king pays a hefty price for his mistake.

A touching story with a positive message for this time of year, "Starbird" by Sharon King-Chai is out now, published by Two Hoots Books (kindly supplied for review).
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Friday, December 20, 2019

The ReadItDaddy winners of the Picture Book Publisher, Chapter Book Publisher and Comic / Graphic Novel Publisher of the Year 2019



As ever, we're choosing our Publisher of the Year 2019 across three categories (Picture books, chapter books and comic / graphic novels) - so let's take a dig into the stats and see who came up with the most "Book of the Week" wins in those categories, thus establishing themselves as our Publisher / Imprint of the Year.

It was a very hard-fought contest last year, with a total of:

98 Picture Book of the Week Winners

39 Chapter Book of the Week Winners

19 Comic / Graphic Novel of the Week Winners. 

Once again, as in 2018 it was fantastic to see some new publishers and imprints shouldering some of the big guns out of the way, but there was a clear winner in each category, so let's take a look at each in turn.

Our Picture Book Publisher of the Year. 

In third place: Four publishers / Imprints held joint honours with 4 Picture Book of the Week Wins Each. They were:


  • Orchard Books
  • Two Hoots Books
  • Wide Eyed Editions
  • Frances Lincoln Children's Books

So our Bronze Picture Book Award and congratulations to you!

In Second Place - Again three publishers / imprints duked it out for our Silver Award with 5 Picture Book of the Week Wins, and they were: 

  • Templar Publishing
  • Flying Eye Books
  • Chronicle Kids
Again, huge congratulations on such a hard-fought contest. 

Our clear winner in the Picture Book of the Year category with 8 Picture Book of the Week wins was: 

  • Studio Press!
...with a fantastic range of books catering for all our geeky and diverse interests. Congratulations to the team at Studio Press for a fantastic win!


Now to our Chapter Book of the Year Publishers and a Bronze to a publisher who notched up 3 Chapter Book of the Week wins, as well as doing fantastically in the picture book category. Bronze honours and congratulations to:

  • Nosy Crow Books

Our Silver award in the Chapter Book Category goes to a publisher who notched up FOUR Chapter Book of the Week wins in 2019. Congratulations to: 

  • Chicken House Books
Last but by no means least, our Publisher of the Year for Chapter Books pretty much ruling the field with 8 Chapter Book of the Week wins in 2019 is: 

  • OUP / Oxford Children's Books
Huge huge congratulations to a hard-working team who are really producing some of the most glorious chapter books for emergent solo readers, middle grade and YA. 


Finally an extra category this year, celebrating the best in Comics Publishing. We have had 19 Comic / Graphic Novel wins this year so who got the Bronze? 

In Joint 3rd Place this year, two mighty publishing powerhouses from my home town duke it out with 3 Comic / Graphic Novel of the Week wins for 2019. Huge congratulations to: 

  • David Fickling Books
  • Rebellion Publishing
...for once again not only producing some of the brightest and best kid comics out there, but preserving the rich history of Brit comics for future generations to come. Congrats all!

In 2nd Place, nabbing our Silver Award with 4 Comic / Graphic Novel of the Week wins:

  • Dark Horse Comics

... with a truly brilliant eclectic mix of MG/ YA and adult comic titles in their stable. 

Finally, the gold for Comic / Graphic Novel Publisher of the Year probably comes as no surprise to anyone. It's the mighty...

  • Marvel
...notching up 5 Graphic Novel / Comic of the Week wins and only just edging ahead of Dark Horse. 

A huge cheer, massive congratulations and kudos to all our winners, a colossal thanks for all the brilliant books and we look forward to working with you all again in 2020. Here's the full breakdown from the blog in Spreadsheet format to tickle and entertain you (click on the image to see the large version): 





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Our Picture Book, Chapter Book and Comic / Graphic Novel of the year winners for 2019


Well one thing's for certain, 2019 has been a memorable year for both good and bad reasons. But 2019 has definitely been a memorable year for children's books, with some truly stunning books making our task of picking a handful of favourites extremely difficult every week. Now our task is even trickier - choosing the very best books (in our opinion) of 2019 across three categories.

This year, as in previous years, we've both picked a Picture Book of the Year, a Chapter Book of the Year and a Comic / Graphic Novel of the Year. These have been selected from our massive list of Book of the Week winners, shortlisted, narrowed down and distilled into (in our opinion) six incredibly special books.

So without further ado, let's get on with it.

So for our Picture Book of the Year winners - C first...






C's Picture Book of the Year - "Board Games to Create and Play" by Kevan Davis and Viviane Schwarz (Pavilion Children's Books)

It's a bit unfair to call this a picture book, but it stands as one of the most impressive titles we've reviewed this year - and a book that gave both of us a huge amount of enjoyment. For C, an activity book that goes way beyond the usual fairly disposable activity book stuff, providing a ton of amazing insights and information by two folk who are obviously hugely passionate about board games, and know exactly how to pass on that enthusiasm to their readers.

We created our own game, and had so much fun doing so - building something that we both play regularly, and are always thinking of developing and improving. Board games have an amazing power to bring people together in co-operative and competitive ways, taking us away from our screens and tablets and giving us something tangible back. Good for kids and adults, covers a wide range of ages, easily one of our favourite books of the year so glad C chose this one!



My Picture Book of the Year: "The Apartment: A Century of Russian History" by Alexandra Litvina and Anna Desnitskaya, translated by Antonina Bouis (Abrams Books)

Yes yes, I know I've gone on and on about this one - on the blog and on Twitter and basically to anyone who will listen but it's easily Book of the Year for me, a book that I really hope we see becoming a 'thing' for 2020. Narrative-led non-fiction puts us in touch with the human stories around a particular subject and Alexandra, Anna and Antonina have done so with such elegance and charm in a book packed to the gills with such exquisite levels of detail. If you've ever had any interest in what life was (and is) like in Russia, this book lays it out in page spread after page spread of glorious colourful illustrations packed with nuggets of information. Absolutely stunning!


And so, on to Chapter Book of the Year 2019...



C's Chapter Book of the Year: "Dork Diaries: Spectacular Superstar" by Rachel Renee Russell (Simon and Schuster Children's Books). 


I could have predicted C would pick this one, the moment it dropped through the letterbox and the parcel was torn open, there was a whoop of glee - and then silence as C proceeded to wrap herself in reading this book from cover to cover - at least half a dozen times (and I'm pretty sure that she'll go back in and read the entire Dork Diaries series over and over again).

It just hits the nail on the head with her, Nikki Maxwell's crazy chaotic life could have almost been written for C's age group of girls, fusing together all the frustrations, joys and dorkish behaviour you'd associate with tweens and early teens. Brilliantly funny, subversive and just downright good fun!



My Chapter Book of the Year: "Flying to the Moon: An Astronaut's Story" by Michael Collins (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
The unsung hero of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon is a creative and artistic guy who can write up a storm. In a year where we all finally ticked off visiting the amazing Kennedy Space Centre from our Bucket Lists, we soaked up a huge number of different space books - picture books and chapter books as releases came thick and fast in the run up to the 50th anniversary of the first moon landings back in July.

"Flying to the Moon: An Astronaut's Story" is far from the usual dry scientific account of what it's like to become an Astronaut. It's a very personal view of what that momentous mission meant to Michael, as well as what it felt like to watch his comrades Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin disappear into the inky blackness aboard the lunar landing module, on their way to making history. He writes with a wry humour and sometimes a wicked glint in his eye and each and every account of the groundbreaking moments of his life are detailed brilliantly. A fantastic book for children and adults who want to read "the other guy's" view of that amazing mission.

Last but not least let's dig into our Comic / Graphic Novel of the Year winners.



C's Comic / Graphic Novel of the Year: "Akissi Volume 2: More Tales of Mischief" by Marguerite Abouet and Mathieu Sapin (NoBrow / Flying Eye)

This category caused us both a huge amount of soul-searching. In a year when there have been so many excellent comic and graphic novel releases, it's virtually impossible to pick winners but C went straight for the funny bone - and why wouldn't she, as we said in our review, everyone really needs a comic collection like "Akissi: More Tales of Mischief"

The energetic and mischievous little girl has her second collected outing, with Marguerite and Mathieu coming up with another beltingly brilliant selection of hilarious strips. Inside you'll find superheroes, icky gross stuff, crazy teachers and even crazier schoolfriends as Akissi and her pals get up to all sorts of awesomeness in a humble township in Africa. We've said it before and we'll say it again, there's no better entry point for kids who want to get into comics than these and it's quite something to see Akissi kicking Hilda and Looshkin aside and nailing C's top honours.



My Comic / Graphic Novel of the Year: "Stig and Tilde: Vanisher's Island" by Max De Radigues (NoBrow / Flying Eye Books)

Double top-honours to NoBrow / Flying Eye Books, and again such a tough decision to pick just one amazing graphic novel out of a fairly huge list of truly stunning books and comics this year but "Stig and Tilde: Vanisher's Island" addressed something I'd had concerns about in kidlit for a while - that books have become too fluffy, too cosy, too "safe" and not nearly dark enough.

This amazing story cracks along at a heck of a pace, genuinely giving kids a truly amazing slice of escapism the likes of which you won't see this side of the English channel - no of course, as we said in the review, you've got to hand it to the French and Belgian comic creatives to prove what most savvy folk already know - that kids don't mind perilous scares as long as they're tacked to a totally engaging and engrossing story.

Max does wonders here and neither of us can wait till the next adventure (which we'll hopefully see in 2020 - hooray!). This is absolutely fantastic, do not miss it!


WHEW! So there you go, these are our six Book of the Year picks but we'll leave you with the full list of all the titles that made Book of the Week in 2019 (pop any of these into our search box at the top of the site and you'll find our review), and we look forward to seeing what's going to wow us in 2020! If you're an author / illustrator / curator of any of the books below, feel immensely proud, you deserve to!


January

Design for Children
The Graphic Canon of Children’s Literature
Mega Robo Bros Revenge
The Dog who Saved the World
The Human Body - A Pop Up Guide
Conspiracy of Ravens
Polar Bear Island
The Silent Guides / My Hidden Chimp
Mickey Mouse Museum
Mole’s Star
On a Sunbeam
Midnight at Moonstone
Lifesize
Amazing
Spider-Verse
The Secret Diary of Kitty Cask, Smuggler’s Daughter

February

Wisp: A Story of Hope
Animated Classics - The Little Mermaid
Marvel Rising Volume 1
The Chronicles of Will Ryde and Awa Maryam Al—Jameel - A Tudor Turk
The Everyday Journeys of Ordinary Things
The Midnight Hour
Spider-Man Miles Morales Volume 1
Molly’s Moon Mission
The Wall in the Middle of the Book
A Story about Cancer with a Happy Ending
Against All Gods
Hello Lighthouse
Zodiac Starforce Volume 2
Harold Snipperpots Best Disaster Ever
Judges Volume 1

March

Science is Magic
The Incredible Ecosystems of Planet Earth
The Demon Headmaster - Mortal Danger
The Umbrella Academy Volume 1: Apocalypse Suite
The Brontes - The Fantastically Feminist And Totally True Story of the Astonishing Authors
The Last Chip
Dave Pigeon: Royal Coo
The Lost Book of Adventure
How Not to Lose It: Mental Health Sorted
The Burning
The Green Giant
In the Swamp by the Light of the Moon
Fran of the Floods
Christmas Dinner of Souls
Julian is a Mermaid
The Lion Kids Bible Comic
Boot

April

First Names: Harry Houdini / Amelia Earhart
A Mouse Called Julian
A Smile for Sasquatch
Animated Classics: Dumbo
When the Stars come Out
Brave Molly

May

Boy Oh Boy
Animated Classics - Aladdin
You’ve Been Werewolfed
Child of St Kilda
Super Duper You
The Maker of Monsters
The Big Book of Birds
Favourite Stories of Courageous Girls
Blood Sweat and Pixels
The Suitcase
Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life
The Naughtiest Unicorn
Me and Mrs Moon
Nell and the Circus of Dreams
Lone Wolf and Cub Volume 1
The Dragon in the Library

June

D Day untold stories of the Normandy Landings
Albi Learns to Swim
Maresi: Red Mantle
Paper Planes
Planet Fashion
What’s That in Dog Years?
Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse: The Art of the Movie
Secret Agent Elephant
Geek Girls Don’t Cry
Akissi Volume 2: More Tales of Mischief
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
The Jolley Rogers and the Pirate Piper

July

Fungus the Bogeyman
The Bad Luck Lighthouse
Tammy and Jinty Special
What Makes It Go?
The Happy Lion
Glitch
Peril En Pointe
When We Walked on the Moon
Where Once We Stood
Flying to the Moon: An Astronaut’s Story
Sweeny Toddler
Powers of a Girl
Max Crumbly Masters of Mischief

August

The Little Mole Who Knew it was None of his Business
How to think when you Draw
Stig and Tilde: Vanisher’s Island
Hamish takes the Train
Heartstopper Volumes 1 and 2
The Accidental Rock Star
The Runaways
Nordinc Tales
Squirrel Girl Volume 10
Ghost
Speccy Nation
The Inner Child
The Golden Cage
Hilda and the Mountain King

September

Mum’s Jumper
Rabbit and the Motorbike
Greta’s Story
The Lights on Cotton Rock
The Fate of Fausto
Small in the City
Scoop McLaren Detective Editor
Song of the River
Board Games to Create and Play
Ant Clancy Games Detective
Internet Crusader
The Misadventures of Frederick
The Wind in the Wall
Flood World
Kai and the Monkey King
TV Noir

October

Incredible Jobs you’ve (probably) never heard of
Humanimal
Flember: The Secret Book
The World of the Unknown: All About Ghosts
Looshkin The Big Number 2
Grown Ups Never Do that
Dr Seuss’s Horse Museum
Guardians of Magic (The Cloud Horse Chronicles Book 1)
Animated Classics: Frozen
Claire: Justice Ninja
A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks
Strange but True: 10 of the Worlds Greatest Mysteries Explained
The Last Human
The Girl and the Dinosaur
Anatomicum
Marvel Museum - The Story of the Comics
The Girl Who Speaks Bear

November

Hansel and Gretel
The Apartment: A Century of Russian History
Forgotten Fairy Tales of Brave and Brilliant Girls
Asterix and the Chieftan’s Daughter
An Atlas of Imagined Islands
Where’s Gnasher
Worzel Gummidge
Inventor Lab
Black Beauty
Taxi Ride with Victor
Cyborg Cat and the Night Spider
Poems from a Green and Blue Planet
Scouts The Stories that Built a Movement
Dork Diaries Spectacular Superstar 
Heidi
Planet Rescue
Mr Penguin and the Catastrophic Cruise
The Tunnel
Marge’s Little Lulu Working Girl

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Booky Advent Calendar Day 20: "Flip Flap Frozen" by Axel Scheffler (Nosy Crow)

Axel Scheffler's awesome "Flip Flap Frozen" is the latest - and most appropriate for the season - version of his cackle-worthy mixed up animal series yet.

Even tetchy 11 year olds will laugh out loud at the crazy combinations of animals, birds and fish you can cook up in this crazy book - with awesome rhymes to jolly things along even more, and of course a touch of snow as most of these animals enjoy the colder climate to be found in the extreme south and far north of our planet, and all the other environments where snow and ice reign supreme.

It's a giggle a minute! What do you get if you cross a narwhal with a reindeer? It's a nardeer, of course! And how about a penguin with a beluga? Why, that's a penuga! With over 121 possible creations, silly names and strange noises to make you giggle, this new Flip Flap book is perfect for preschoolers and ideal for animal fans.

"Flip Flap Frozen" by Axel Scheffler is out now, published by Nosy Crow (kindly supplied for review). 
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Thursday, December 19, 2019

Booky Advent Calendar Day 19: "Snow Still" by Holly Surplice (Nosy Crow)

A book for teeny tinies now, as we delve into a snowy wintry landscape for a simple but effective tale that's fun to read aloud when kids are more interested in the fantastic illustrations in a book rather than the story itself.

And in "Snow Still" by Holly Surplice, the illustrations truly are gorgeous as a young reindeer plays hide and seek amongst the snowdrifts with all their animal friends gathering round to join in.

Brilliant for emerging readers who will love reading along with their parents, but above all filled with the sort of snowy wintry landscapes we love to see in books at this time of year.

Let's take a closer look inside at some of the gorgeous page spreads. Yes lets!





"Snow Still" by Holly Surplice is out now, published by Nosy Crow (kindly supplied for review). 
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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Booky Advent Calendar Day 18: "Mouse's Night Before Christmas" by Tracey Corderoy and Sarah Massini (Nosy Crow)

A heart-melting and gorgeously atmospheric picture book slides under door 18 of our Booky Advent Calendar with blog favourites Tracey Corderoy and Sarah Massini cooking up the perfect Christmassy picture book for your delectation and delight.

"Mouse's Night Before Christmas" is perfect for snuggling up with in the run-up to the big night, Christmas Eve - so is Mouse ready?

Well not exactly. You see poor lonely mouse doesn't have anyone to share Christmas with, and is resigned to the fact that it's going to be another cold and lonely christmas in the Grandfather Clock he calls home.

However this year will be different. Santa arrives, lost in a blizzard and not quite finished with the all-important task of delivering presents. But can a tiny mouse possibly help Father Christmas find his way through the snow?

Together they embark on a magical sleigh ride, delivering presents all around town. But the best present of all is for Mouse - a special friend to share Christmas Day with!

This is beautiful, perfectly capturing the magic of christmas and friendship, and believing in yourself even if you're as tiny as a mouse.

"Mouse's Night Before Christmas" by Tracey Corderoy and Sarah Massini is out now, published by Nosy Crow (kindly supplied for review). 
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Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Booky Advent Calendar Day 17: "Rose Campion and the Christmas Mystery" by Lyn Gardner and Jez Tuya (Nosy Crow)

Time for a perilous and exciting bit of pint-sized detective work with the fabulous Rose Campion!

In "Rose Campion and the Christmas Mystery" by Lyn Gardner and Jez Tuya, Rose is getting ready for Christmas, and in particular can't wait for the pantomime season to begin at Campion's Palace of Varieties and Wonders.

Preparations are well under way and there's a touch of snow in the air.

Yet Rose Campion and her friends have more to worry about than who'll be filling the role of Cinderella this year.

The Duchess - the deadly ruler of the London criminal underworld - has been released from prison, and she has her sights set not only on Rose, but also on a priceless emerald necklace that has just arrived in the city.


Meanwhile, Campions' is playing host to the mysterious hypnotist Madame de Valentina - but how is she able to communicate with the souls of departed loved ones - even before they've actually died?

This is tight writing, and exactly the sort of book that we can't get enough of at this time of year, sizzling with awesome twists and turns, filled with seasonal touches of snow and the grand spectacle of the theatre, with an envious cast of mysterious villains to tax Rose to the very limits of her young detective abilities.

Superb, superb, superb!

"Rose Campion and the Christmas Mystery" by Lyn Gardner with illustrations by Jez Tuya is out now, published by Nosy Crow (kindly supplied for review).
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Monday, December 16, 2019

Booky Advent Calendar Day 16: "The Snail and the Whale" by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Macmillan Children's Books)

The tale of an unlikely friendship will be this year's big Christmas animation, so despite the fact this story isn't really a seasonal one, we thought we'd drop it into our Booky Advent Calendar anyway, as it's likely to be another superb piece of animation from Magic Light Pictures.

"The Snail and the Whale" by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler wasn't actually one of the J & A books we read to C as a tiny tot, but we re-read it to review and love the positive message that underpins Julia's gently rhyming story, replete with Axel's amazing colourful illustrations as we've come to expect from this amazing duo.

Snail is a seasnail and he's bored with sitting on his rock. He wants to see the world, and amazingly his wish is granted by an unlikely ally - a giant blue whale.

Soon they begin to cruise the oceans together, taking in the amazing sights and sounds - but when Whale is temporarily confused by some daft humans in their speedboats, he ends up stranded on a beach.

Can a tiny snail possibly help a gargantuan mammal back into the sea and safety once again?

A fab story of friendship, determination and one tiny mollusc's bravery, this is sure to find an appreciative audience in both book and animated form this Christmas.

"The Snail and the Whale" by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler is out now, published by Macmillan Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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Sunday, December 15, 2019

Booky Advent Calendar Day 15: "The Snowy Reindeer (Princess of Pets Series)" by Paula Harrison (Nosy Crow)

What better way to spend a few delightful hours, than in the company of an author who has an absolute knack for writing brilliant stories for mighty girls who love animals.

C loves Paula Harrison's books, even now as a slightly sniffy tweenager who has shrugged off quite a lot of middle grade books.

Her latest series, "Princess of Pets" with gorgeous illustrations from Olivia Chin Mueller is another fantastic range of books setting up mighty girl heroes, sworn to protect animals around the world.

One such hero is Bea, a girl who is visiting her cousins at wintry Peruva Castle, the perfect snowy and wintry setting to fit with the season. 

Even more fitting with the season, Bea finds a cold and hungry reindeer hiding in the snow. The poor animal is quite frail and hungry and Bea is determined to sneak it into the castle until it recovers and is strong enough to be set free.  

But with party preparations keeping everyone busy, can Bea keep the little reindeer safe until she can find his family? 

C couldn't wait to dig into this one, and it's perfect for kids who love adventurous tales, and particularly kids who love animals as much as we do. 

Look out for more of Princess Bea's adventures in "The Naughty Puppy" and "The Lost Kitten" too. 

"Princess of Pets: The Snowy Reindeer" by Paula Harrison and Olivia Chin Mueller is out now, published by Nosy Crow (kindly supplied for review). 
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Saturday, December 14, 2019

Booky Advent Calendar Day 14: "Snow Leopard: Grey Ghost of the Mountain" by Justin Anderson and Patrick Benson (Walker Books)

In the realm of the Snow Leopard, in the cold crisp mountain air, this amazingly elusive predator reigns supreme.

Those of you who watched both of the BBC's "Planet Earth" documentaries will be familiar with the work of Justin Anderson and his amazing wildlife photography and filming, teaming up here with Patrick Benson for a dazzling and evocative look at the amazing Snow Leopard in "Snow Leopard, Grey Ghost of the Mountain".

Justin and Patrick have teamed up to 'storify' the amazing life and habitat of one of the world's most well known but often most misunderstood big cats.

In the harsh environment of the Himalayas, the snow leopard uses its excellent camouflage to stalk mountain goats and other creatures, picking its way carefully across rocky ravines and treacherous boulders, looking after its young and teaching them to tread in its velvety footsteps.

We loved the way this one instantly brought home the atmosphere and the amazing spectacle of these creatures in their native habitat in such a brilliant way. Not exactly a Christmas book but one that's perfect for this time of year as the first wisps of snow threaten to settle.

"Snow Leopard: Grey Ghost of the Mountain" by Justin Anderson and Patrick Benson is out now, published by Walker Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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Friday, December 13, 2019

Four corking Christmas books, fabulous gift ideas from New Frontier Publishing

Here's another bumper collection of Christmas book ideas, perfect as presents for younger readers, from innovative publishers New Frontier.

First up is "Santa's High-Tech Christmas" by Mike Dumbleton and Angela Perrine features a very cool Santa indeed.

He might be old but he's definitely not set in his ways, High Tech Santa is tuned into the world wide web and uses a tablet to keep track of his present list.

But what happens when technology fails? Poor Santa drops his tablet and it looks broken beyond repair. It's up to a plucky little girl to help out and show Santa how it's done.

Perfect storytelling for little ones looking forward to Christmas, particularly if they love their gadgets as much as we do (and as much as Santa does too!)

"Santa's High Tech Christmas" by Mike Dumbleton and Angela Perrine is out now, published by New Frontier Publishing.

Meet two distinguished gents in "Sir Darcy and the Christmas Pudding" by Alex Field and Peter Carnavas.

Mr Darcy loves making his famous Christmas pudding, taking lots of time and care over it and getting the ingredients and preparation just right. 

But an unexpected visitor arrives - Mr Collins. Normally Mr Darcy welcomes visitors but when there's a job to do, sometimes too many cooks spoil the broth (or in this case the pud!)

Hilarious and fun for little ones, "Sir Darcy and the Christmas Pudding by Alex Field and Peter Carnavas is out now, published by New Frontier Publishing. 


Oh dear! Well we all know the feeling in the next book, certainly after Christmas if not before. 

"Santa's Tight Squeeze" by Alex Field and Karen Erasmus tells a tale of what happens when Santa scoffs one too many of those mince pies you leave out for him (you DO do this, I hope!)

Santa's big belly gets bigger, and bigger, and bigger - until it's a struggle to climb down the chimney - and Santa gets royally stuck!!

OH NO!

What will happen? Will Santa wriggle free? Will he manage to finish off delivering presents on Christmas Eve? We know that there's always plenty of magic around at Christmas so you'd better pick up this fab and funny book to find out what happens. 

"Santa's Tight Squeeze" by Alex Field and Karen Erasmus is out now, published by New Frontier Publishing. 

Fabulous characters and a gentle and atmospheric story in our next title, "Marvin and Marigold: A Christmas Surprise" by Mark Carthew and Simon Prescott. 

The value of friendship is never greater than at this very special time of year and when Marigold receives a surprise Christmas gift on December the first, she can't wait to share the news with her best friend Marvin. 

Find out what these two cuddly little characters get up to as the snow lays deep and crisp and even on the ground, and the Christmas star flies overhead.

"Marvin and Marigold: A Christmas Surprise" by Mark Carthew andSimon Prescott is out now, published by New Frontier. 

One last brilliant book, and a classic story given a whole new lease of life with gorgeous illustrations. 

"The Night Before Christmas" by Clement C. Moore and Helene Magisson offers a delightful new version of a tale that has delighted children for generations. 

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse!

You know how it goes, but it's a jolly rhyme that just can't be beaten at this time of year. Helene's illustrations are fantastic, and this will make a perfect pressie for kids who aren't familiar with the story. 

"The Night Before Christmas" by Clement C. Moore and Helene Magisson is out now, published by New Frontier Publishing (all books Kindly supplied for review). 
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Booky Advent Calendar Day 13: "Peanut Butter and Santa Claus" by Joe McGee and Charles Santoso (Abrams Books for Young Readers)

Day 13 of our Booky Advent Calendar is a delicious romp through the snow. Wait a minute though, is snow supposed to taste sweet?

In "Peanut Butter and Jelly Santa Claus", Reginald (the zombie), Zarfon (the alien), and Abigail Zink (the human) are all preparing for Christmas in Quirkville

There's a problem though - Poor Santa is snowed in! Stuck at the north pole and unable to get his sled out to deliver presents all over the world.

Our three heroes decide to hatch a plan to save the day.

They load into Zarfon’s spaceship and head straight for the North Pole.




When they arrive, they find that Santa and his elves are trapped, not by snow, but by a marshmallow cream explosion.




With a little bit of creativity, a little bit of Christmas spirit, and one big KA-POW!, the pals from Quirkville save Christmas and inadvertently create a delicious treat!

A fun romp that'll satisfy the cravings of those of us with a really sweet tooth! "Peanut Butter and Santa Claus" by Joe McGee and Charles Santoso is out now, published by Abrams Books for Young Readers (kindly supplied for review)
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Thursday, December 12, 2019

Booky Advent Calendar Day 12: "The Little Fir Tree" by Christopher Corr (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

On the twelfth day of our Booky Advent Calendar, our postie gave to us...a classic tale from Hans Christian Andersen, given a thoroughly modern and gorgeous makeover.

"The Little Fir Tree" retold and illustrated by Christopher Corr delves deep into the forest where a tiny lone pine tree grows.

The pine tree has ambitions to see the world, and when the tree is taken to town at Christmas, it feels like all his dreams have come true.

But what will happen the day after Christmas?

As the story of the little fir tree unfolds – brought to enchanting life with the colourful, folk art–inspired artwork of acclaimed author / illustrator Christopher Corr – so does a touching lesson on appreciating what we already have and a hopeful message of rebirth.

"The Little Fir Tree" by Christopher Corr is out now, published by Frances Lincoln Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Booky Advent Calendar Day 11: "Vegetables in Holiday Underwear" by Jared Chapman (Abrams Appleseed)

It's Day 11 on our Booky Advent Calendar and a subject that seems to make kids giggle uncontrollably.

The mere mention of the word "underpants" is enough to set them off, so in "Vegetables in Holiday Underwear" by Jared Chapman, expect a lot of guffaws, sniggers and titters.

There’s underwear for every day of the week and every month of the year. 

But come December, Pea proclaims to everyone who will listen that it’s his favorite time of the year! 

Having sets of underwear for all of the best holiday activities―playing in the snow, hanging the lights, and baking cookies. 

Plus, underwear makes the perfect gift! 



Everyone wants new undies, even . . . Santa?! 

Following on from his smash "Vegetables in Underwear" Jared gives everything a festive touch in this new fun book for the tiniest of little peas. 

"Vegetables in Holiday Underwear" by Jared Chapman is out now, published by Abrams Appleseed (kindly supplied for review). 
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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Booky Advent Calendar Day 10: "The Christmas Unicorn" by Anna Currey (OUP / Oxford Children's Books)

Ah, Unicorns, still a firm favourite mythical beast - and there's no reason why they shouldn't be a central character in a fabulous warm-hearted Christmas story.

"The Christmas Unicorn" by Anna Currey is a gorgeous and atmospheric story set in the days leading up to Christmas, about one little girl's magical encounter with a unicorn.

Christmas is just days away. A little girl called Milly and her Mum are staying at Grandpa's house.

Dad has been kept away but will join them just as soon as he can.

But Milly feels a little forlorn, away from her friends and without her Dad.

But then something wonderful happens. Milly meets Florian, a unicorn.

One snowy night, he patters into Grandpa's house and transforms Milly's Christmas, filling it with friendship, surprise and sparkle.

Somehow, Florian makes all Milly's wishes come true.

Anna has crafted a beautifully written and sensitively illustrated picture book that will delight every generation as families come together at Christmas.

"The Christmas Unicorn" by Anna Currey is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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Monday, December 9, 2019

Booky Advent Calendar Day 9: "Leah's Star" by Margaret Bateson-Hill and Karin Littlewood (Alanna Max)

Our Booky Advent Calendar Day 9 book is a rather brilliant version of the classic nativity story, brought to life through the eyes of a young girl at the time of Christ's birth. 

In "Leah's Star" by Margaret Bateson-Hill and Karin Littlewood, young Leah has never seen Bethlehem so busy. 

As the innkeeper's daughter she is rushed off her feet as so many guests have come to stay. 

Then in the starlight miracles begin! 

This beautiful, fresh new telling of the Nativity story, through the eyes of a young girl, brings a wonderful humanity to this familiar tale. 

With a story as ancient and familiar as the Nativity, its easy to forget the human drama at its centre a young woman about to give birth for the first time, far away from home, her mother and the women who would usually help her; the older Joseph, concerned for his young wife. 

By telling the story through the eyes of young Leah, Margaret Bateson-Hill allows the reader to see the humanity of the ancient story. 

The Nativitys innkeeper is often portrayed as a callous business man, turning the vulnerable couple away. 

But at the time of the census in Jerusalem, his rooms would have been packed with travellers not an ideal place for a young woman about to go into labour. 

In Leahs Star, we see his humanity in offering Mary and Joseph a warm, private space in his stable. 

Here is a young woman, about to go into labour who is helped by Leah and the local midwife. 

These details bring the old familiar story to new life in a timely and relevant way, echoing what many parents may be going through as they move to a new country away from their homelands. 

"Leah's Star" by Margaret Bateson-Hill and Karin Littlewood is out now, published by Alanna Max (kindly supplied for review). 
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Sunday, December 8, 2019

Booky Advent Calendar Day 8: "Father Christmas and the Donkey" by Elizabeth Clark and Ari Jokinen (Pikku Publishing)

A classic christmas story for Day 7 of our Booky Advent Calendar, brought to stunning life with new illustrations in this new print from Pikku Publishing.

Elizabeth Clark's timeless "Father Christmas and the Donkey" with illustrations by Ari Jokinen is the melancholy tale of a folorn donkey who seems destined to spend another Christmas all alone.

But there's Christmas magic in the air, and this year the sad donkey is befriended by Father Christmas on a cold crisp Christmas Eve and is given the unexpected Christmas Eve gift of a new home.

It's heart-meltingly gorgeous this one, and the new illustrations are destined to make this edition of the book a huge hit with a whole new generation of little ones. 

"Father Christmas and the Donkey" by Elizabeth Clark and Ari Jokinen is out now, published by Pikku Publishing (kindly supplied for review). 
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Saturday, December 7, 2019

Booky Advent Calendar Day 7: "The Tree That's Meant to Be" by Yuval Zommer (OUP / Oxford Children's Books)

Day 7 on our Booky Advent Calendar sees a very talented chap turn his hand to his first christmas book, with brilliant results in a timely and atmospheric story about the importance of our forests and wild habitats - but also a fantastic message about being happy with who you are.

"The Tree That's Meant to Be" by Yuval Zommer is a gorgeous Christmas picture book that's destined to become a festive classic.

A little fir tree is too small and too imperfect to be chosen at Christmas time.

But being left alone in the forest brings more rewards than the tree could ever have hoped for.

This is a charming picture book with a heartfelt message about love and embracing what makes us different. 

Families will love sharing the story and talking about kindness, generosity, and the true meaning of Christmas. 



As ever, Yuval puts his fantastic storytelling and non-fiction knowledge of nature to good use in the tale, weaving an attractive and evocative book world that slowly builds towards the tree's moment of triumph and that amazing feeling of belonging and family. 


"The Tree That's Meant to Be" by Yuval Zommer is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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Friday, December 6, 2019

Three more awesome booky gift ideas for your own Booky Advent Calendars from Templar Publishing

We've got three more brilliant Christmas book ideas for your shopping lists, courtesy of Templar Publishing so let's dig in and take a look at these gorgeous titles.

"Follow the Star" by Andy Mansfield is a fab little pop-up book that captures the essence of Christmas with some nifty paper crafting and gentle storytelling.

Clad in a christmassy cover, it's a delightful journey for a very special star as it makes its way across the sky on Christmas Eve

Andy brings his brilliant graphic design and paper engineering skills to a fab book that's perfect for younger readers as they start getting excited about the build up to the big day.

"Follow the Star" by Andy Mansfield is out now, published by Templar.

Also from Templar, the perfect box set for fans of Sam Usher's "Seasons" series.

Gathered together in a beautiful hard-backed collection, these titles are already well-known and well-loved but this is a perfect opportunity to bag all four in a stunning set, perfect as a gift for a new arrival to the family.

"Spring", "Summer", "Autumn" and "Winter" feature Sam's gorgeously detailed artwork and gentle storytelling about a youngster and their grandad as they make the most of the seasons as they come and go.

The winter one will definitely make you wish for snow!

A fab gift idea, "Seasons" by Sam Usher is out now, published by Templar.

Last but not least, a book that comes straight from Santa's workshop!

"Santa's Christmas Handbook" is lovingly crafted by Santa's amazing elves, with loads of flaps to lift, and secrets to discover.

One of the best-kept secrets about Christmas is that Santa Claus is highly accident-prone and doesn't get on well with gadgets and gizmos! 

That's why his elves have written this handbook - it contains all the knowledge he needs to deliver presents to children around the world in one night. 

Packed with novelties to entertain and explain, discover Santa's reindeer tips, present prompts and useful tools like Santa Nav and the magical jingle bell that summons help.

Superb interactive fun for younger readers, "Santa's Christmas Handbook" is out now, published by Templar. 

(All books kindly supplied for review). 
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Booky Advent Calendar Day 6: "Lucy Makes a Wish" by Anne Booth and Sophy Williams (OUP / Oxford Children's Books)

A fab series gets you ready for christmas in the most charming and delightful way, as Anne Booth's "Lucy Makes a Wish" with fabulous illustrations from Sophy Williams sees a plucky little pup embark on a special festive adventure.

When Boots the puppy bounces into Lucy's life, fun and friendship are never far behind.

Boots is waiting for his forever home, and until he finds one Lucy is determined to give him the best Christmas ever, taking him out and about and giving him all the love he's missed.

But they're going to need the help of all the friends they have made when Boots slips his lead and gets lost. Will Boots find a way home? 

Lucy needs to make a wish. . .

This warm and festive story is an ideal present for a child to read during the festive season. Animal-lovers everywhere will delight in Sophy WIlliams's gorgeous illustrations and the simple language and short chapters are perfect for developing readers or to be read aloud. 



Fans of Anne Booth's previous titles in this series, Lucy's Secret Reindeer, Lucy's Magic Snow Globe, Lucy's Winter Rescue, Lucy's Magical Surprise, and Lucy's Search for Little Star won't be able to resist this latest Lucy story!


Superb and just the ticket for those cold winter nights curled up with your own pups in your lap!

"Lucy Makes a Wish" by Anne Booth and Sophy Williams is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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Thursday, December 5, 2019

Booky Advent Calendar Day 5: "Oh Christmas Tree" by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet (Macmillan Children's Books)

Day 5 on our festive roundup of amazing children's books, and a new bouncy rhyming book from the genius team behind "Supertato"

"Oh Christmas Tree!" by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet is perfect for busy little ones who love a jape or two in the festive build-up.

It’s Christmas time and every tree on Sidney Street is beautifully decorated – except for one! 

This rebellious tree would rather sit at the table and pull crackers on Christmas day than stand in a corner wearing glittery decorations! 

Bauble, Belle and the Tinsel Snake need the tree to behave, so they can fulfil their decorating destinies, but the argumentative tree just won’t stand still and be decorated. 

Then Belle has a crafty idea. . .



This festively funny story is full of Sue and Paul's usual warmth and wit, with brilliant characters and a bouncy rhyming text.


"Oh Christmas Tree!" by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet is out now, published by Macmillan Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Booky Advent Calendar Day 4: "Enid Blyton's Christmas Stories" by Enid Blyton (Hodder Children's Books)

Day 4 of our calendar, and another fantastic author who just belongs here in our christmas roundup with her amazing prolific talent for turning her hand to seasonal stories.

"Enid Blyton's Christmas Stories" is a fabulous selection of 25 tales perfect for the season. An ideal gift for anyone who loved the stories during their own childhood to pass on to the next generation of readers.

Here is a wonderful selection to read and share. From Santa Claus and his helpers to a family putting up their tree, the characters in these stories embrace the Christmas spirit. 

There is mystery and magic, laughter and mischief, the joy of shared times and plenty of delicious food - many of the ingredients which have been delighting Enid Blyton's readers for more than seventy years.

The stories previously appeared in magazines and anthologies from the 1940s and 1960s. 


This collection contains the original texts and is unillustrated.

The collection contains: 

The Lost Presents
Santa Claus Gets a Shock
A Week Before Christmas;
The Christmas Tree Aeroplane
Good Gracious, Santa Claus!
The Tiny Christmas Tree
What Happened on Christmas Eve
The Little Reindeer Bell
The Very Full Stocking
In Santa Claus's Castle
What They Did at Miss Brown's School
Santa Claus Gets Busy
The Christmas Tree Fairy
The Little Christmas Tree
A Family Christmas -Christmas Holidays
A Family Christmas - Bringing Home the Holly;
A Family Christmas -The Curious Mistletoe
A Family Christmas - Balder the Bright and Beautiful
A Family Christmas - The Christmas Tree
A Family Christmas - A Christmassy Afternoon
A Family Christmas -Bringing in the Yule Log
A Family Christmas -Christmas Carols
A Family Christmas -A Visitor in the Night
A Family Christmas -The Story of Santa Claus
A Family Christmas -Christmas Day

"Enid Blyton's Christmas Stories" by Enid Blyton is out now, published by Hodder Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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