Umbrella Mouse to the Rescue by Anna Fargher and Sam Usher

The second and final book in this sequence is being published in July and will be eagerly awaited by the many fans who loved the first story.  It was originally due for publication in April, but the pandemic has meant that there has been a delay, as with so many other books this year.  The adventures of Umbrella Mouse are the first books that the author has published and they are a stunning success.  Anna’s imagination is glorious, but it is also grounded in the reality of what is actually achievable for the individual creatures, so we never have a sense of being outside the realms of possibility.  The illustrations by Sam Usher are truly delightful, as you would expect from such an accomplished illustrator.  I particularly love his series about a young boy and his grandfather and would definitely recommend “Snow” and his new title “Wild“.  Not only has he produced the cover illustration for  Anna’s book but he has also  given us some  really strong images to link with the text throughout the book.

I came across the first book when the proof copy was available at a conference I was attending, probably in late 2018 or early 2019.  Needless to say, I absolutely loved it and especially the young mouse Pip Hanway who is the heroine of both stories.  At the beginning of the sequence she is living on the premises of a well known umbrella maker in London, but then one day the shop is bombed and the owners killed; Pip has no where to go as her parents are dead, so she decides to follow an old family story about a museum in Italy, where the ancient umbrella she owns was originally from.  As she starts her journey she meets up with a group of animals that support humans in the fight against the Nazi enemy; they are called Noah’s Ark and they agree to help her with her quest.  Most of the action takes place in France, where Pip is instrumental in foiling a plot by German troops and their animal supporters.

The second story sees the delightful ‘Umbrella Mouse and her friends in the French animal resistance recovering from their battle against the Nazis and linking up with the group in the local area.  Unfortunately the German animals, led by a renegade dove called Lucia, are still trying to kill Pip; making the band of friends decide to try and get to Paris, to help in freeing the city.  Their adventures put them in great peril and they lose some of their comrades on the way, but their determination and sense of loyalty is what sees them get through.

This is a wonderful story of friendship and of courage and I am sure it reflects the feelings of the millions of humans that went through the trauma of the Second World War.  The author has allowed the animals to experience the dangers that real people faced during this and other conflicts, but because it at a slight distance from us, it is easier for the audience to cope with.  However we all understand the feelings when loved ones are lost and when something positive and uplifting happens to the central characters .  This is a heartwarming story at so many levels and is perfect for the older middle grade.  Whilst it is an animal story it does not shy away from describing the dangers and tribulations that were faced by ordinary people during this period of history and is very suitable for reading to children who are studying the war.

I am not giving the game away about the ending, but I will tell you that there is a very fitting ending and that we are left with a sense of hope for the future.  This really is highly recommended reading

 

Summer sun and cakes

For those in the children’s book world this is a very busy time of year.  Not only do we have a swathe of book awards but we have book launches, publishers parties and book festivals and conferences as well as  advance notice of some of the wonderful offerings coming in the autumn.  It can be quite overpowering knowing what to read next, but this can be helped when you get to see some of your favourite authors.

Cakes in Space by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

2014-07-17 12.36.58

Oxford University Press, 9780192734563

For younger readers one of the most exciting books to look for this autumn will be the fantastic new offering from Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre called ‘Cakes in Space’.   Fantastic costumes

Fantastic costumes

2014-07-01 19.29.34

The pre-launch party was amazing and as always the two stars produced the best entertainment with a new song to go with the book. The book itself is about a young girl, Astra, who wakes from from a frozen sleep to find that robot like cakes are taking over the spaceship she is on.  All of this as a result of her asking the Nom-O-Tron computer for cakes “so delicious, it’s scary”, before she went into hibernation.  Science Fiction has never been such fun and this is going to be a real favourite for this Christmas.

 

 

 

Scavenger Zoid by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

2014-06-21 11.07.12

Macmillan, 9781447231486

 

Macmillan,

Macmillan,

 

Keeping with the science fiction theme, the new book by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell is also set on a space craft but it is a very different world from that of the ‘Cakes’.  Aimed at the 9-12 years it is about the human survivors aboard a huge space vessel which has been taken over by ‘Zoids’ which have evolved from Robots intended to help and protect humans.  As you would expect, the illustrations are amazing and the story itself is quite dark as groups of people find each other and combine to try and overcome their increasingly sophisticated enemies.

 

Dragon Shield by Charlie Fletcher

Hodder 9781444917321

Hodder
9781444917321

This is the first in a new trilogy by the author of Stoneheart.  Once again it is set in London and statues are coming to life.  However this time the source of the danger is  from the Egyptian gallery at the British Museum, a place full of mystery and an atmosphere that makes the plot really feasible.  This really is a great book for reminding you of places you have visited and those you would really like to go to .  I know that there have been walking tours based on the previous books, so perhaps this is another opportunity to add to the literary walks around central London. Aimed at a slightly younger audience than previous books, this will still find fans among those of us well past our 21st birthdays.

 

 

 

Destination earth by Ali Sparkes

I first came across the books of Ali Sparkes when she produced her Shapeshifter series and I really loved them.  However I have to admit that my favourite for several years has been ‘Frozen in Time’ but this latest book is absolutely fascinating.  Lucy is the last survivor from her planet and has spent the last ten years on a journey to Earth, where she hopes to find a safe haven.  Over the years she has been finding out about the world she is hoping to live in.  Unfortunately what she does not realize until it is almost too late is that she has got an unwelcome stowaway on the outside of her space ship – one of the creatures that has killed off the rest of her race.  Lucy, together with two children from earth are in a race to prevent the same catastrophe happening here.

Oxford University Press 9780192733443

Oxford University Press
9780192733443

 

 

Purely by accident I seem to have had a bit of a Sci-Fi Fest here.  However,  perhaps we are seeing a rise in the number of books that have been published recently within this genre, a move away from the dystopian and vampire/zombie stories which have been so popular over the last few years.  For those who enjoy Sci- Fi why not try and look out authors from the past such as Andre Norton and John Christopher, both of whom were read widely in the 1970s.