Animal FACTopia by Julie Beer and Andy Smith

As a judge for the SLA Information Book Award and a librarian for a very long time, I am constantly being reminded of the changing face of information books.  This was re-inforced last weekend when I attended the Federation of Children’s Book Groups Conference.  One of the panels was discussing non-fiction and I was glad that one of the speakers  emphasized the fact that this type of book is not just about learning, it is also about ENJOYMENT.  That has become more noticeable in the range and style of book that we have been seeing emerge over the last decade or so.  I was delighted to be asked to take part in this blog tour because factual books tend to receive less attention than fiction, although I think this is gradually beginning to change.

The first thing to say is that this is a very bright, exuberant and attractive looking book and the size makes it very easy to handle and carry around.  The sub-title of the book tells us that it is a trail of 400 beastly facts covering a very wide range of creatures; it goes from bed bugs to whales and from dust mites to pygmy shrews an as we look at these creatures we follow the trail that links so many of their behaviours.  What we also have is a non-fiction version of the  write your own adventure stories; in this case we have dotted lines that lead us through the text, but then we are given the option to move backwards or forwards in the book, in order to get information that has a close link.

I particularly enjoy the combination of photographs and cartoons and as you can see from the images this is really suitable for Key stage 1 children and those less confident with their reading.  Whilst the text is short, it is also clear and the information is explained well.  One of the main element of this book is the brilliant sense of humour that flows throughout the book.  We have farting zebras, smelly opossums and my favourite the floating alligators;  this reminds me of a visit to a reserve in Florida where my son insisted that the alligator was a fake, only to find that it was very much alive several moments later.

Animal FACTOpia is the fourth in this series using this format.  It is one of these books that you could sit down and read from cover to cover, but I think I prefer the lucky dip approach, as just skimming through the book leads to the discovery of so many fascinating details.  For those who want to use this book as a research tool there is a somewhat unusual contents page, a very full index and a wide ranging list of organizations and online information.


Author: Julie Beer

Julie is an author and editor, who has written numerous children’s books on everything from national parks to space to her favourite subject of all – animals! Julie is based in California, USA.

Illustrator: Andy Smith

Andy is an award-winning illustrator, and studied illustration at the University of Brighton and the Royal College of Art, London. His work combines illustration and typography to create images that have humor, energy, and optimism executed with a handmade, hand-printed, tactile feel. He lives by the sea in Hastings, East Sussex, UK.

Into the Faerie Hill by H S Norup

I first discovered the work of H S Norup when I was asked to review her last book “The Hungry ghost”, so I was particularly excited when I was asked to join in with this blog tour.  I have to say that her writing just keeps getting better , with its ability to immerse the reader in the scenery and atmosphere of the surroundings.

When Alfred moves to stay with his Granny, it is because his father (a civil engineer) is involved in building a road tunnel under the local hill.  As with so many projects like this, there is a lot of local disagreement , mainly around the themes of environment; however there might be some other reasons for not wanting this destruction of the hill area.  Alfred has spent most of his childhood moving to different countries with his father’s work, because his mother had died when he was young.  Returning to his Granny’s home, after a gap of five years,  he is surrounded by feelings of darkness and has the disturbing thought that he can see small faerie type creatures.  It is only when he meets his neighbour, Saga, that he discovers that they can both see these creatures and he begins to understand what a road tunnel could mean to the magical inhabitants of the area.  The children find themselves becoming heavily involved in the fight to prevent the building, but at the same time they are having to deal with the magical world and the dangers that it could  bring to their families.

This really is a fabulous story about the meeting of two worlds; one of them is our own and the other is the magical world of folk lore and myths.  The author has set the action in a scenario that many of us can understand; my own village is due to start on the building of a new bypass after a wait of over 50 years since it was first mooted, luckily our own ‘faerie’ hill is not affected, but I can  really understand the issues that people would worry about.  However the thing that really comes across is the need to understand and cherish the nature that surrounds us.  The world is changing at a rate that could only be imagined  (as a nightmare possibly) when I was a child, however, we need to understand that nature is something that we all need for our physical and mental well-being.

Beyond all of this, it is the story of a young boy who desperately wants to understand what has happened to his mother.  As the story unfolds, he discovers that he has not been told the whole truth and that the reality is stranger than he could imagine.  This really is a very special book and one that will totally enthrall the reader, with its mix of magic and reality.  Thank you so much for allowing me to join in the celebration of this launch and I know that it will be a firm favourite.  A great five-star start to the year.

Author bio:

H. S. Norup is the author of The Hungry Ghost and The Missing Barbegazi—a Sunday Times Book of the Year in 2018. Originally from Denmark, she has lived in six different countries and now resides in Switzerland with her husband and two teenage sons. She has a Master’s degree in Economics and Business Administration and sixteen years’ experience in corporate marketing strategy and communications. When she’s not writing or reading, she spends her time outdoors either skiing, hiking, walking, golfing or taking photos.

Thank you to the author for the author information and the photograph that she has made available on her website










The Wonder Tree by Teresa Heapy and Izzy Burton

Egmont, 9781405292887

We are living in a time that many young children find worrying and they need reassurance that everything will be fine.  As adults we have all been through a variety of occasions where things have been difficult, but we have learnt that these things pass and the world settles down for us.  However very young people are often seeing and feeling these events for the first time, so they do not have that security blanket in place.

this is the delightful story of little owl and how he is worried when the wind start blowing the leaves off the tree, where he lives with his mother.  However his mother is there to comfort him and explain why the tree is losing the leaves.   She goes on to explain the wonders of a tree’s root system and the annual cycle that nature goes through; she remembers when she learnt about such things from her parents and how their memory is entwined with these changes.  The mother gradually helps little owl to understand the wonder of nature and the way that we are all part of this beautiful cycle of life.                   

Teresa Heapy has created a simple but lovely story that will help young children feel more grounded at this time of uncertainty.   The little owl is inquisitive and  yet worried by the events going on around him, so he depends on his mother for the comfort and explanations that help him cope.  This is a story that reads well and will be very popular, not just in the home, but also in nursery and library storytimes.  The illustrations by Izzy Burton are really bold and colourful.  They are full of energy and detail that really helps bring the story to life; giving the audience a chance to explore the pages of the book. This is her picture book debut and it looks to be the start of a very promising career.

Given that we are moving towards Autumn this book will prove to be of particular interest to adults who want to help children understand the natural change in conditions.  This really is a charming, thoughtful and informative story that I really enjoyed.