Book Reviews: Christmas with the Savages & Lily and the Christmas Wish

Book Review: Christmas with the Savages by Mary Clive


Shelved: Children’s fiction (classic)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads
Published: October 2015 (originally September 1977) by Puffin
Pages: 186

Okay, it’s a little late (or early?!) for Christmas stories, but I wanted to share my thoughts on two wonderful children’s books. Mary Clive’s Christmas with the Savages was the perfect children’s classic to read in December. It’s about Evelyn, an 8-year-old who much prefers the company of adults to other children. Evelyn is dismayed when she is sent toTamerlane Hall, a large Edwardian house in the countryside, where she finds more children than she’s ever experienced before – the Glens, the Howliboos, and the Savages.

Christmas with the Savages was a delightful festive read, full of humour. It’s based on Mary Clive’s own experiences growing up – and it was lovely to be transported into this eccentric family’s holiday celebrations. All the children are left to roam the house and gardens, so it’s full of hilarious escapades and antics. I loved Evelyn’s prim and proper opinion on just about everything, from the youngest of children to the Nannies, who can’t quite cope with all 13 children!

Christmas with the Savages is a classic I only discovered this year and I’m so very glad I did. If you’re participating in the 2016 Classics Challenge, be sure to consider this one for December!

Book Review: Lily and the Christmas Wish by Keris Stainton


Shelved: Children’s fiction (contemporary, fantasy)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads
Published: November 2015 by Piccadilly Press
Pages: 160
Source: Thank you to the publisher for providing this book for review!

I think festive children’s stories have to be among the best kinds of stories. Keris Stainton’s Lily and the Christmas Wish was a welcome addition to my winter TBR pile. As Christmas approaches, the little town of Pinewood is so excited that they give everyone a wish to hang up on the town’s giant Christmas tree. But a storm strikes and something odd happens. Christmas wishes begin coming true – but for the wrong people! And Lily discovers that her puppy – an adorable pug named Bug – can talk! Can two children and one pug help make everyone’s wishes come true before it’s too late?

Lily and the Christmas Wish is an incredibly sweet story about festive cheer, fun, and family. It was thoroughly enjoyable to see if Lily – accompanied by her younger brother James – could match up everyone’s Christmas wishes in time. And it was heart-warming to see what everyone wished for: some wishes were funny, some were a little sad. Keris wonderfully blends fantasy with reality. Even though there’s a little bit of magic to the story, it’s really a contemporary tale of a sleepy town and the people who live there. A beautifully wintry story for younger children.

Is it also possible for me to get a talking pug?

Book Review: The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith

Book Review: The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith


Shelved: Children’s fiction (fantasy)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

I must confess, I bought Coralie Bickford-Smith’s The Fox and the Star purely because it’s utterly beautiful. Given the name of this blog, it’s probably no surprise. I was especially intrigued when it won the Waterstones Book of the Year. It’s the sort of book that you discover while browsing the shelves of your favourite bookshop and cannot help but pick up, although I bought my copy from a small bookshop that I hadn’t visited before.

Coralie Bickford-Smith is the award-winning designer of the iconic clothbound Penguin Classics and so I knew before I peeked inside that the illustrations would be as beautiful as the exquisite cover design. The Fox and the Star is inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement and the art of William Blake and is certainly an experience. Much of the book lets the pictures speak for themselves; words are unnecessary. But that doesn’t mean that the words aren’t lovely too. The Fox and the Star is the sweet story of one fox finding the courage to step out into the dangerous, dark world to find his lost star.

The Fox and the Star is a glorious book that I immediately put on display on my desk, the perfect gift for all ages.

“Once there was a Fox who lived in a deep, dense forest. For as long as Fox could remember, his only friend has been Star, who lit the forest paths for Fox each night. But then one night, Star was not there, and Fox had to face the darkness all alone…”


Published: August 2015
Publisher: Penguin Books
Pages: 64

Book Review: The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-SmithBook Review: The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-SmithBook Review: The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith

Book Review: Harper and the Scarlet Umbrella by Cerrie Burnell & Laura Ellen Anderson

Book Review: Harper and the Scarlet Umbrella by Cerrie Burnell & Laura Ellen Anderson


Series: Harper (#1)
Shelved: Children’s fiction (fantasy)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

As soon as I saw Harper and the Scarlet Umbrella, I had to read it. The lovely illustrations! The cute title! The adorable cat! The yellow raincoat (just like mine)! It’s the perfect children’s book for me, written by TV presenter Cerrie Burnell and with pictures by one of my favourite children’s illustrators, Laura Ellen Anderson. And it was just magical.

Once there was a girl called Harper who had a rare musical gift. She heard songs on the wind, rhythms on the rain and hope in the beat of a butterfly’s wing.’

Harper lives with her Great Aunt Sassy and black cat Midnight. One day, her beloved umbrella breaks. This is unthinkable in the City of Clouds, where it rains almost every day. Sassy shouts to Harper to use the scarlet umbrella. As she opens it up, Harper discovers that it’s no ordinary umbrella – it’s magical! Her glee quickly vanishes upon discovering that Midnight is missing, along with the rest of the neighbourhood cats! Off Harper goes on a series of adventures to find the cats, with a little help from the scarlet umbrella.

Harper and the Scarlet Umbrella is a pure delight. It’s colourful and lyrical, with a lovely amount of detail about the City of Clouds. I particularly enjoyed reading about the different kinds of rain! It also features one of my favourite illustrations in children’s lit so far: a spread of the cats playing in the Midnight Orchestra, which is just glorious. Harper is a dedicated and brave young girl, determined to get to the bottom of the mystery of the missing cats. But she doesn’t mind asking for help. I adored Harper’s new best friend Nate, who is visually impaired, and his loyal wolf Smoke, as well as the other helpful children that find Harper along the way.

Harper and the Scarlet Umbrella is a wonderful children’s story about friendship, cats and celebrating a love of music. I loved it so much that even though I borrowed it from Jim, I now have my own copy! I can’t wait for Harper and the Sea of Secrets, one of the World Book Day 2016 books, and the next book in the series, Harper and the Circus of Dreams.


Published: October 2015
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 128

Behold the Pretty Books! / October Book HaulBehold the Pretty Books! / October Book Haul

Book Review: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver & H.G. Chester

Book Review: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver & H.G. Chester


Series:
The Curiosity House (#1)
Shelved:
Children’s fiction (fantasy, mystery)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads
Challenge: Halloween TBR – #4

I’ve enjoyed two of Lauren Oliver’s middle grade novels before – Liesl & Po and The Spindlersso I was quite excited to see that she had written another. It’s the first in The Curiosity House series and was perfect to add to my Halloween TBR. However, I did make the mistake of picking it up straight after reading The Diviners. Both feature an intriguing museum, mysterious murders and characters with unusual abilities. This similarity meant that I was often mixing the two up! But my favourite thing about The Shrunken Head is the wonderful child characters and the message that just because you’re different, doesn’t mean you need to be ashamed.

The Shrunken Head features four extraordinary children: Philippa the powerful mentalist (she can guess what’s in your pockets!); Sam the world’s strongest boy; Max the knife-thrower; and Thomas, who can squeeze himself into a tiny spaces. They adore working at Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders, and are extremely proud of their abilities. That is, until their prized show-stopper – an Amazonian shrunken head – is stolen from the museum. After a string of brutal murders, the press start spreading lies about the children. Everyone believes it’s the curse of the shrunken head and the child ‘freaks’, so it’s up to Philippa, Sam, Max and Thomas to discover the real culprit!

The Shrunken Head is a delightful and dark children’s mystery from Lauren Oliver and H.G. Chester. I’d have loved even more illustrations – one of my favourite things about children’s books! – from Benjamin Lacombe. They were enchanting and brought the story to life. As with The Diviners, I would have preferred the story to be a little shorter – I like my mysteries shorty and snappy! Nonetheless, it’s a story well worth reading for it’s incredible, feisty protagonists!

We get to see the exciting adventure from each of the children’s points of view. They’re all very unique and talented, even if they’re coming together for one cause. Max is possibly my favourite of them all. She’s so incredibly blunt and has an amazing sense of humour, and is extremely loyal and trustworthy! All of the children were wonderful and yet are often treated as outcasts, but the message of The Shrunken Head is a powerful one: it’s okay to be different.

Published: September 2015 (US) October 2015 (UK)
Publisher: HarperCollins (US) Hodder & Stoughton (UK)
Pages: 368
Source: Thank you to the publisher for providing this book for review!

Books On My TBR / Halloween

Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray


Series:
The Diviners (#1)
Shelved:
Young adult fiction (fantasy, historical, mystery, horror)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads
Challenge: Halloween TBR – #3

I’ve owned The Diviners for over 3 years and I finally picked it up as part of this year’s Halloween reads. Hurrah! I couldn’t wait to get stuck into this 1920s murder mystery. Evie O’Neill’s secret ability has led her from small-town Ohio to sparkling New York City, full of speakeasies and Ziegfield girls. She’s living with Uncle ‘Unc’ Will at the Museum of Creepy Crawlies when she befriends a whole host of alluring characters: Sam, Jericho, Mabel and Theta, all with their own credible histories and drawn by beautiful writing. Together they attempt to solve the murders before it’s too late.

The mystery of creepy Naughty John was certainly an experience. Libba Bray has an impressive ability to make it as eerie as possible – from our opening chapter, where we’re introduced to something terrible being unleashed, to the chilling points of view of the victims before they’re murdered. She presents New York as somewhere dark and dangerous, but also intriguing.  Although I’ve never been a superfan of 1920s America, it was difficult to resist. It was compelling and magical and sinister, with scary things lurking in the shadows. I couldn’t help but be drawn to it – by both the glamour and the grittiness.

The Diviners is wonderfully crafted, with incredible detail. We’re told so much about the time, the characters, and the mystery. The reader accompanies Evie and friends on their investigation into the gruesome, brutal murders occurring across the city, with links to religion and the occult. If I had any reservations at all, it would be that I’d have preferred the story to be ~200 pages shorter to tighten it up and make it a little more fast-paced, which appeals to me as a slow reader. But this extra time did mean that we got to delve into the characters’ complicated pasts. It enabled Libba Bray to bring 1920s New York City to life.

The Diviners is a stunning mystery that takes us back to the Roaring Twenties and the supernatural horrors found there. I’m looking forward to meeting new Diviners and a new mystery in Lair of Dreams.

Published: September 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (US) Atom (UK)
Pages: 592

Books On My TBR / HalloweenBooks On My TBR / Halloween