Marie Curie and the Power of Persistence (My Super Science Heroes) by Karla Valenti and illustrated by Annalisa Beghelli

  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Amazon age Range: 4 – 8 years     My suggested age range: 6-10 years

I have never formally studied Marie Curie and so am ashamed to say I had no more than a very basic understanding of her achievements. This book might be aimed at kids but it helped. It is easily accessible for children and Beghelli’s illustrations are clear and engaging. The story paints Marie Curie as just a different kind of superhero from those that children are perhaps more familiar with which is bound to appeal to the littlies and could be a very smart way of hooking them in to non-fiction.

Throughout the story, the viewpoint alternates between that of Marie Curie and that of Nemesis who introduces various minions to aid his cause – Mr Opposition for example is called upon to convince Marie that she shouldn’t learn – only boys are allowed to go to University! The illustrations that accompany Nemesis’ parts are darker – check out those angry eyes! But I don’t think they are too dark for littlies.

I must admit I was surprised by the age guidance for this book. I’m not sure it’ll appeal to many 4 years olds – both content wise and being nearly 50 pages long, but it has been a while since mine were that small so I could well be wrong. In any case, the message of persistence is bound to get through no matter what the age of the reader. I learned lots that I didn’t know about Marie Curie and enjoyed the journey.

Links:

Amazon.

Goodreads.

I would like to thank both Net Galley and Sourcebooks Explore for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Boy Who Made the World Disappear by Ben Miller

Oh my goodness me. I LOVED this story! It is a child-friendly romp through space but with an all important message for children everywhere…

Ben Miller’s own children are the stars of the show – how cool is that? The main star is Harrison who absolutely loves anything to do with space. Like most 8 year olds though, he finds it hard to control his temper, even though he realises that actually, his anger tends to show itself when he is anxious or worried about something.

At the start of this story, Harrison is going to Hector Broom’s birthday party. He is not looking forward to it. Hector is a bully who takes great delight in pinging Harrison with his ever-present elastic band. But like 8 year olds everywhere, the thought of missing out is even greater because his whole class is going to be there. Poor Harrison does NOT have a good time. Despite learning about constellations and black holes in Hector Broom’s living room, he and the party entertainer, Shelley, do not hit it off and things go from bad to worse. He does get a special balloon to take home however. A VERY special balloon indeed…

Harrison finds out very quickly that his balloon has very strange powers. I’m not going to spoil it by saying exactly in what way, but what initially seems fabulous and incredibly helpful to Harrison, soon takes an ominous turn and things quickly get out of control. To sort things out, Harrison knows that Shelley is the only one who can help him. But Shelley isn’t home. How can 8 year old Harrison get to Chile to meet her at the The Very Large Telescope (VLT) in the Atacama Desert? Nothing is impossible when you have an enterprising older brother…

A wonderfully engaging, timeless story that is sure to engage children everywhere. I loved it!

‘…anger can be good, important even… But it’s about what you do with your anger…’

Page count: 272

Age group: 8 years +

Links:

Amazon.

Goodreads.

Waterstones.

I would like to thank both Net Galley and Simon & Schuster Children’s UK for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What Gives You Your Sense of Identity? by Sue Moorcroft

In Summer on a Sunny Island I’ve made heroine Rosa’s mum, Dory, like me. She was born into an army family and lived in Malta for several childhood years. She loves Malta and is thrilled to have the opportunity to rent an apartment there for six months. (I would be, too!)

Rosa doesn’t completely understand her mum’s joy. The sun gives her headaches, there are insects, it’s too hot, too busy and there’s too much building going on. I made her fall in love with Malta eventually but while I was busy burrowing under her skin and trying to understand her, I began to realise that she didn’t particularly understand Dory’s childhood, so different to her own.

Hero Zach’s the son of an army kid too and his grandmother’s Maltese. When he goes to live in Malta he realises that he’s got two sets of roots there. The book was more about identity than I’d realised.

And that made me think about my own.

Both my parents served in the army, although Mum had to leave to marry Dad – unfair but common in those days. I was born in Germany and left aged six weeks. Like most army kids, I was registered as a British citizen. Apart from a two-year posting to Hampshire, until I was eight-and-a-half I lived on the Mediterranean islands of Cyprus and Malta. I don’t remember Cyprus so most of my childhood memories are bound up in Malta.

The majority of people didn’t look like me and spoke a language I didn’t understand. Whether army schools should have taught the language of their host country is up for debate but I didn’t realise I was a minority. If I thought about divisions and differences it was probably more about the army, navy and RAF than about British and Maltese – or, perhaps, officers, non-commissioned officers and other ranks. The army was unified by the colour khaki. Our fathers wore it. The kids wore it to school in summer. Vehicles were painted in it. Where we lived was owned by the army and so was the furniture. We had our own places: our own schools, barracks, quarters, a lido, the NAAFI and a host of military buildings with shutters in a particular blue.

Our next posting was to London and we lived in Inglis Barracks in Mill Hill East, near Finchley. This country I was supposed to call ‘home’ was cold and suddenly we were a long way from the sea. When I complained, Mum said, ‘Well, we’re not in Malta now!’ Still, I went to a school outside the barracks without realising it wasn’t an army school because it was filled with army kids, like me.

Then we moved into Civvy Street. And no one was like me.

The majority looked like me and spoke the same language but there the similarity ended. I was branded a liar when I said I’d lived in Germany, Cyprus and Malta and wasn’t even grudgingly accepted until I won a fight (it’s not always wise to pick on a barracks brat, to be truthful). I’m pretty sure some continued to think I was a liar and I needed to fit in to survive so I said a lot less about Germany, Cyprus and Malta after that. What I learned from the experience was that in order to earn friends I had to be like them.

Even now, I meet comparatively few service kids. When I do, I love chatting about shared experiences because I’m still conscious of being the misfit. I don’t remember the same childhood TV programmes as my local friends because we got Australian and US programmes in Malta. At one time we didn’t even have a TV! I was sitting on cannons to wait for my dad to finish work or snorkelling, diving from tall rocks, watching battleships and frigates sail into Grand Harbour.

Do I have a sense of identity? Well, yes, but it’s a fluid thing. It’s contextual. I’m adaptable and self-sufficient. Like many service kids, I have no ready answer to ‘Where do you come from?

I no longer hide the fact that I lived in Germany, Cyprus and Malta, though. It’s a big part of me.

With HUGE thanks to Sue Moorcroft and HUGE congratulations on the publication day of Summer on a Sunny Island. I am currently reading it, so watch this space…

Sue Moorcroft is a Sunday Times and international bestselling author and has reached the coveted #1 spot on Amazon Kindle. She’s won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award, Readers’ Best Romantic Novel award and the Katie Fforde Bursary. Sue’s novels of love and life are currently released by publishing giant HarperCollins in the UK, US and Canada and by an array of publishers in other countries.

Her short stories, serials, columns, writing ‘how to’ and courses have appeared around the world.

Born into an army family in Germany, Sue spent much of her childhood in Cyprus and Malta.

Summer on a Sunny Island blurb and buy links:

The #1 bestseller is back with an uplifting, happy read that will raise your spirits and warm your heart!

This summer, sparks are flying on the island of Malta

When Rosa Hammond splits up from her partner Marcus, her Mum Dory suggests a summer in Malta. Not one to sit back and watch her daughter be unhappy, Dory introduces Rosa to Zach, in the hope that romance will bloom under the summer sun. But Rosa’s determined not to be swayed by a handsome man – she’s in Malta to work, after all.

Zach, meanwhile, is a magnet for trouble and is dealing with a fair few problems of his own. Neither Rosa or Zach are ready for love – but does fate have other ideas? And after a summer in paradise, will Rosa ever want to leave?

Kindle: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Summer-Sunny-Island-uplifting-bestseller-ebook/dp/B07YLFLV2P/

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/summer-on-a-sunny-island

Apple: https://books.apple.com/gb/book/summer-on-a-sunny-island/id1482741071

Paperback: https://www.waterstones.com/book/summer-on-a-sunny-island/sue-moorcroft/9780008321826 Audio: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Summer-on-a-Sunny-Island/dp/B084YV1SX8

Duncan Versus the Googleys by Kate Milner

‘Bad people in chaotic situations are not always very fair’.

Oh my goodness, what a gorgeously topsy turvy and brilliant story from Kate Milner! There is absolutely nothing ordinary or boring about this book – kids will love it.

Meet Ursula who from the very beginning, we realise is not living an ‘ordinary’ life. We learn that she sleeps in a cardboard bed with newspaper blankets and shares only one room with her father, Mr Meager who is the caretaker for the most amazingly named retirement complex ever: Arthritis Hall. Whilst he works, Ursula explores. On the face of it, you’d think Ursula would be rather down in the dumps but there is nothing sad about this story. Ursula, like every other child in this world, covets the latest toy craze – robotic pets called Poo-Chi Pets…

Ursula’s story runs alongside that of Duncan who owns a Poo-Chi pet called Gizzmo. He also has the Poo-Chi Pet app on his phone – Poo-Chi Planet – and he plays it ALL THE TIME along with various other children from around the world: Zhang from Shanghai, coding expert Kobe from Kenya and Ratboy Ryan from Australia. At the start of the story, he is travelling to Arthritis Hall to stay with his Great Aunt Harriet. Harriet is no gentle old lady leading a quiet life. Far from it. She is a rather mad inventor whose previous successes include a mechanical armadillo and a robot postman!

As you may already have worked out, Arthritis Hall (with its executive helipad on the roof) is no ordinary retirement complex. It is managed by the tiny but terrifying Linoleum Grunt (yes, really!) who makes it abundantly clear that children are not welcome. ‘You will be required to stay in one place at all times and make no noise whatsoever’… As well as Linoleum and Harriet, it is also home to Mrs Pettigrew who turns out to be a world class computer game player and Pork Pie the cat.

But things at Arthritis Hall are not destined to just chug along peacefully. A new robotic toy is hitting the shelves. Will Googleys prove more popular than Poo-Chi Pets? There are people out there that will make damn certain of it…

‘Duncan could not help feeling that the whole world was a bit more mad than he could cope with’.

I loved the craziness of this story and read it in one sitting. Stylistically, it is different to any other kid’s book I’ve read and there is so much within it that children today will identify with that they are sure to be sucked in. Highly recommended.

Page count: 224

Age group: 8 – 10 years

Links:

Amazon.

Goodreads.

Waterstones.

I would like to thank both Net Galley and Pushkin Press for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Nevertell by Katharine Orton

‘Don’t trust your eyes…’

Oh my. That cover…!

Welcome to the freezing, harsh landscape of Siberia. Here we find a forced labour camp filled with prisoners arrested in the purges of the ‘Great Leader’, Joseph Stalin, and home to 12 year old Lina and her mother, Katya.

There are thousands in the camp – whole families – many arrested on minor charges. The vast majority are required to work in the mine. Lina however, who was born in the camp and has known no other way of life, has inherited her grandfather’s talent for gardening and as such, is allowed to work in the greenhouse under the strict gaze of Commandant Zima. Zima is preparing for the Officer’s Banquet in a week’s time and is hoping that the vegetables Lina grows will win him prestige amongst the officers. The word around the camp is that Zima is Lina’s father, which is why he gives her preferential treatment. Lina isn’t so sure…

At the very beginning of the book, we learn about an escape plan involving Lina, her mother, Vadim – a 16 year old prisoner who ‘already has the tattoos of the criminal underworld’, Alexei – described as ‘Vadim’s muscle – twice (his) age and double his size’ and old Gleb. An unlikely group to be working together but all selected for the individual skills they can bring to the attempt. At the last minute, Lina’s best friend – Bogdan Buyan – the only other person of her age in the camp – tags along. His parents are political prisoners in another camp. His father is a map maker and Bogdan brings along draft maps of Leningrad and Moscow; as such, he is allowed to stay.

Katya is known throughout the camp as playing ‘a ruthless game of poker’ and she sets up a game with the officers to serve as a distraction on the night of the escape. Before she leaves, Katya gives Lina a beaded necklace of her grandfather’s and tells Lina to make her way to her grandmother in Moscow – she was away when her husband, Katya and her son were arrested and is therefore still free. We learn that she has great power…

It isn’t long before they run into problems on the outside and Lina and Bogdan end up on their own. This is only the start of their problems as they are captured again – this time by the Sorceress, Svetlana, also known as ‘Man Hunter’ and her invisible wolves – humans who have been captured and wolfbound to serve her forever. How will they escape this time…?

’NEVER TELL CHILDREN ABOUT THINGS THEY CANNOT SEE…’

I devoured this book. I loved it from the beginning, but when the magical elements were introduced I couldn’t put it down. Children (and adults) will love accompanying Lina and Bogdan on their adventure!

Page count: 384

Age group: 9-12+

Links:

Amazon.

Goodreads.

Waterstones.

I would like to thank both Net Galley and Candlewick Press for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Sleep Sister by Laura Elliot

Trigger warning: Child sexual abuse

I read a lot, and I’ll be honest – I was looking forward to this as a fairly nice, easy, quick read. But it isn’t any of these. It is SO much more! It reminded me of both John Boyne’s The Hearts Invisible Furies and Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit yet with an entirely unique voice. I became completely involved in the lives of these characters – so much so that I miss them now I’ve finished it.

‘Sometimes it’s necessary to carry secrets inside us so that those we love don’t suffer our pain.’

The book is split into four parts, all of which show events from a different character’s perspective and from a different time. This is a book that spans a generation and delves deep into the lives of those involved – it is about, family, lies, shame, power, corruption and love in all its forms. I couldn’t read it too fast – there is too much to soak up. It is NOT an easy read, but oh boy, is it gripping.

At the very start of the story, we learn of the suicide of Sara Wallace, and the rest of the book seeks to explain what exactly led to that event. It is far from simple…

Anaskeagh, Ireland. Meet the Tyrell family through the eyes of 8 year old Beth – the eldest daughter. Barry, the father, is a musician who is desperately trying to support his family by following his passion, much to the disappointment of his wife. Beth is a daddy’s girl and his number one fan. Marjory – genius seamstress – is a cold, harsh wife and mother – at least to Beth. She is much more maternal and nurturing to her younger sister, Sara. Right from the start, we learn that something is not quite right: ‘The monster lived upstairs in the wardrobe…’ Is this the usual flight of fancy of a young girl, or something much more sinister?

The Grant Family. Albert is married to May and they have two sons – Kieran and Conor. Albert isMarjory’s brother and is the most important man in the town. He is well respected – owning both a factory and a furniture shop and later, having a successful career in politics. He helps the Tyrell family out financially, constantly trying to convince Barry to go and work for him so that he can support his family better. Albert’s constant refrain is that, ‘family is everything’ which leads him to make some incredibly hurtful decisions and unfortunately, his power over everyone allows him to see them through.

The O’Donovan Family. Frank works full time and then some, on their farm. Catherine, his wife, works on the farm during the day and at the local hospital at night to make ends meet. Their daughter Jess is Beth’s best friend – a friendship that lasts a lifetime despite their entirely different paths in life. Beth finds peace and happiness at the O’Donovan Farm that she never finds at home. Ultimately, a decision that Beth makes involves the O’Donovan family and links the families together forever.

Oldport, Ireland. The McKeever Family – Barry finds a second chance at happiness after he leaves Marjory and his children and falls in love with Connie. They move in together with her two children – Stewart and Marina – and Beth joins them when she finally has enough and runs away from Marjory’s sharp tongue. Connie and Stewart work at a clothes factory and after a time, Beth joins them there and starts to gain her independence.

The Wallace Family – Della owns and manages Della Designs, a successful clothes factory that employs Connie, Stewart and later, Beth. Her son Peter is known for having, ‘a tongue that would charm snakes from a basket’. They live in a large country house – Havenstone – and both Peter, and Havenstone, become central to the story.

26 years later… and the character’s situations have changed and moved on. Some of them have come together in ways I really hadn’t seen coming. I don’t want to say much more than that and spoil the read but I will say that Beth is now married with children of her own. Sara has a successful career as a photographer and is also married.

This is a true family epic of a read. I loved it and so wish it wasn’t over.

‘There was a time when silence was more important than honesty’.

Sleep Sister by Laura Elliot is only £1.99 on kindle at the moment.

I would like to thank both Net Galley and Bookouture for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads.

Waterstones.

War is Over by David Almond and illustrated by David Litchfield

From the author of Skellig.

‘Outside the dream, the war went on…’

Wow! What a gorgeous, uplifting, sad and poignant book all rolled into one. David Almond wrote this book to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the First World War and he has done an absolutely masterful job. War is Over is aimed at 9-11 year olds but I would extend this to 8-12 at least. It is accessible and engaging – children will love it.

When the story begins, John’s father is away fighting in France and his mum works at the nearby munitions factory – ‘the biggest munitions factory in the world’ – where warships, guns, bombs and shells are made. John can barely remember life before the war and hears about the devastation on a daily basis when fathers of his friends are killed. He realises that he can barely remember what his own father looks like. This first part of the book is quiet and sad. The illustrations are grey, black and cold.

Mr McTavish, John’s Headteacher tells him and the other pupils that they are all at war with Germany – even John – and describes a local man, Gordon, as a coward and a traitor as he refuses to fight. When Gordon is hurt, for refusing to hurt others, and the children hear his screams of pain, the reader gets a glimpse through John’s eyes of just how confusing and barbaric the situation is. John’s questioning, peaceful character is contrasted vividly with that of Alec, who plays at killing Germans and finds the trip to the munitions factory the height of excitement.

There follows an incredible moment. In the nearby woods, John comes face to face with Jan, a German boy from Dusseldorf. He later re-visits Jan in his dreams and finally, writes to him, to explain that he doesn’t feel as though he is at war with him. His letter is found and he is branded a traitor which leads him to ask some very difficult questions of his mum.

I don’t want to spoil the ending, so will just say that it is a very satisfying one. The mood entirely changes and I was left hopeful, perhaps with a little tear in my eye…

‘When the end came, it happened fast.’

Please don’t buy this on kindle – I urge you to go for the hardback or paperback versions, in order to fully appreciate David Litchfield’s stunning illustrations and to allow you to share them with the little people in your life.

I would like to thank both Net Galley and Candlewick Press for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.