Review: Letters from the Lighthouse

Firstly, an apology for the lack of book reviews on here recently. I have been rather preoccupied with my Year 8 extended study project…but more of that later.

I’ve been a huge fan of Emma Carroll since I first met her at a local book festival event which happened to take place at my school four years ago. I have been captivated by each of her novels and I was delighted to see that Waterstones had made her latest work, Letters from the Lighthouse, their children’s book of the month.

The “Queen of Historical Fiction” has, this time, painted a captivating mystery set during the Second World War. The story starts with Olive, her younger brother, Cliff, and her older sister, Sukie, taking an ill-fated trip to the pictures. An air raid interrupts the film, leading to a chain of events which will take each of them far from their familiar London home. Sukie vanishes into the night and their mother decides to send Olive and Cliff to stay with their neighbour’s sister in Devon. On the evacuees train, Olive takes a keen dislike to a girl called Esther, whose unpleasant behaviour will be explained later in the book.

The children receive a mixed reception from the locals when they arrive in a small Devon village, but soon become conspirators in a heroic mission, due to a coded note which Olive has found in the coat that Sukie was wearing on the night of the fateful cinema trip.

Once I had started this book I read it continuously, as I was desperate to find out how the plot would resolve. As she always does, Emma Carroll has created a heroine who is relatable and totally genuine and has constructed a beautifully crafted story that will not let you go until you have reached the final page. I love the way she portrayed the different emotions and viewpoints of the characters and made you understand the importance of empathy and not judging others harshly. I think this is a wonderful book and I would give it a 10/10 rating; I think that anyone from Year 4/5 upwards would enjoy either reading it, or having it read to them.

I was especially lucky that Emma Carroll was signing copies in my local Waterstones today so I had the pleasure of meeting my literary hero again!

Oh, and back to the little matter of my extended study project – I have made Lego stop-frame animations of four of my favourite novels; one of which is Emma Carroll’s previous book, Strange Star, which you can see here (warning – contains spoilers)

Books in Brickfilm – Strange Star

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books and Lego

 

At school this year I have been given the opportunity to learn a new skill as a part of the Year 8 Extended Study project. I chose to combine my existing love of books with investigating Lego Stop-Frame animation.

When I started the project in October, I planned to create storyboards of the key scenes from some of my favourite books and then film them as short Lego movies; originally I though I might manage about 5 book adaptations and then have time to experiment with other forms of animating. Of course, since then I have learnt just how time consuming it is to create just a few minutes of movie with stop-frame (not to mention how long it took to sort out the family Lego collection which had been carefully scrambled and deposited in two huge plastic boxes!!)

Anyway, I have recently completed two short films, posted them on YouTube and had some positive feedback from friends and family. It now seems to be a good time to show them to the wider world, I know they are not super professional but I hope they give an indication of how much I love these books.

You can watch “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Under 3 Minutes” here

and

“The Wolf Wilder in Under 3 Minutes” here

 

I am currently filming “Strange Star in Under 3 Minutes”,  I ideally hope to complete it during this half-term.

I hope you enjoy these as an alternative to the conventional book review.

Recent Bookish Things

I have to start by apologising for the lack of posts on here recently. I’ve been very busy since my last review working on my “Extended Study” project for school, which has been far more time consuming than I thought it would be when I first started! I am going to blog about it in more detail next month, but for now I will just say that it is book related and I hope to show you the work-in-progress soon.

As for recently purchased/read books, I won’t write any long reviews today, but here are some recommendations from my “recently read” pile.

This is a gorgeous selection of short stories, curated by Abi Elphinstone, and written by some of my favourite authors including: Emma Carroll, Katherine Woodfine, Lauren St John and Piers Torday. A perfect book to curl up with on a cold winter’s day!

img_1061

As a massive fan of the Roman Mysteries, I have started to read Caroline Lawrence’s new Roman Quests series which are set in Roman Britain. Caroline writes such interesting and exciting stories that you don’t realise you are absorbing historical facts as you read. If only all history lessons were this entertaining!

 

img_1058

This is the journal of Cassandra Mortmain who recounts the tale of her eccentric family with extraordinary humour and warmth. I loved the narrator from the first sentence “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.”

img_1060

 

Yet another story packed with imagination from another of my favourite authors: Frank Cottrell Boyce. This time an alien called Sputnik crashes into Prez’s life and together they have to save the world.

img_1059

Finally I have just re-read the second in the Sinclair Mysteries in anticipation of the release of The Painted Dragon. A thrilling new case in which Sophie and Lil flit between the lives of Debutantes and the Chinese community in the East End of London to once again foil the evil plans of “The Baron”.

img_1057

 

 

Review: Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens

img_0965

I have been eagerly anticipating the release of the fifth Murder Most Unladylike Mystery since I met Robin Stevens in the summer holidays (link to blogpost here). The first Christmas adventure shared by my two favourite fictional detectives has put me in the festive spirit very early this year.

At the start of the story, Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong arrive in Cambridge full of expectation of a jolly Christmas spent with Daisy’s brother, Bertie, and her aunt Eustacia. Robin Stevens describes Cambridge beautifully, and you can imagine walking past the ancient colleges and absorbing the festive atmosphere. I love the way that Hazel, true to her character,  looks longingly into Fitzbillies on her first walk through the cobbled streets, describing the best Chelsea Buns in Cambridge and the fact that her mouth is watering as it had been hours since she had eaten warm, gluey cheese and chutney sandwiches on the train!

Of course, being the Detective Society, it does not take long before they suspect that something suspicious is going on with two of Bertie’s friends.

If you have read the two previous Wells and Wong mysteries you will have already met Hazel’s friend Alexander Arcady, and in this book you are introduced to his best friend George Mukherjee, they are known as the Junior Pinkertons and it is not long before they are teaming up with the Detective Society to solve a case.

Once again Robin Stevens has managed to effectively combine an excellent mystery – one that left me puzzling over the clues, with the underlying themes of the lack of women’s rights in the 1930s and intolerance and racism. (It seems incredible that these themes are so relevant today!!) I love the fact that in this book there was teamwork with another detective society and that Daisy found someone to match her intelligence in George.

I would highly recommend this story to anyone who is looking for a brilliant book to give as a Christmas present this year. I will definitely be diving back into its wonderful world during the frosty festive season, accompanied by a Christmas-cake-ish bun break! I give it five-out-of-five stars.

 

Wild Wolves, Wonderful Authors, Sketching and Meeting a Long Distance Mentor at Guardian Live

Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend the Guardian Live Children’s Book Event at the Unicorn Theatre in London, it was a spectacularly wonderful day!

 

First, wild wolves and two wonderful authors! This is the second book event where I have listened to Katherine Rundell talking about her inspirations and research behind The Wolf Wilder, and honestly I could listen to her talking about her art many more times. It is no surprise that she writes such brilliant novels when you hear about all the ingredients she uses to bring them to life. Katherine went to meet a real wolf which had been reared in captivity in Wales, while William Grill, the second author, had stayed for a week in a wolf sanctuary in New Mexico before writing his illustrated book The Wolves of Currumpaw

Next we were treated to a drawing class by William. We had to rapidly sketch the most wonderfully behaved guide dog called Kika, we only had 30 seconds to try to capture Kika’s image using bold strokes with a pencil or charcoal. It was very enjoyable and certainly helped me gain confidence with my drawing!

This brings me on to the third author, who is a fantastic illustrator herself, Lauren Child. If you have read my previous blog post you will know that Lauren’s series about the girl spy Ruby Redfort has been one of my favourite reads throughout my childhood so it was brilliant to hear Lauren talking about the whole series now that it has come to an end. I am inspired to crack the code on the bookspines of the hardback books as Lauren told me that the clues I will need are in the final book!

Finally, meeting a mentor! It was such a pleasure to finally meet Emily Drabble, with whom I had so much email correspondence when she was editor of The Guardian Children’s Books website. She was as lovely in person as I imagined she would be and I will always be grateful to her for encouraging me with my book reviewing.

The event was an exciting start to my half term, and I would like to thank everyone who was involved in its organisation. I would also encourage everyone to try to attend an event where authors talk about their books, they are always utterly fascinating!

 

My review of The Wolf Wilder can be seen here.

 

Blink and You Die (Ruby Redfort 6) by Lauren Child

img_0912 img_0914-1

I read the first Ruby Redfort book five years ago, on the day it was published. On 8th October the sixth and final book was released. There is something quite sad about leaving the series that has been my companion for a large part of my childhood, so for once I lingered over the story, making sure I appreciated all the final twists in the tale.

In case you haven’t encountered Ruby Redfort before, she is a 13 year old with a brilliant mathematical brain and a great repertoire of wisecracks. In the first book she was recruited by the spy agency Spectrum 8 and each book sees her facing mortal danger head-on. The entire six book series has spanned a period of 7 months in Ruby’s life, which I really like as each book picks up where the last one finished.

As with the previous books, this one relies on Ruby using one of her senses to crack the case in front of her; but this being the sixth book, the “sense” is ESP. Throughout this book, our heroine Ruby feels a sense of unease. Lauren Child totally captures this feeling and I read the book with a growing sense of foreboding. The pace is fairly steady until the last 100 pages when the action goes into overdrive and there are many twists and turns leaving you unsure who you are rooting for! I don’t want to write any more about the plot because I would hate to put in any spoilers for fellow fans of the series.

In conclusion this book (and the whole series) are essential reading for any fans of the child spy/adventure category of books. I hope that Lauren Child continues to write MG/YA books as I have loved everything that she has written to date.

 

For my previous reviews of Ruby Redfort books, see these links:

Pick Your Poison

Feel The Fear

Hang in there Bozo

For an interview with Lauren Child, in which I asked some questions, for the Guardian Children’s Books website click here

 

 

Katherine Woodfine and Julia Golding: Mystery Girls

img_0905 img_0884 img_0885

Inspired by Agatha Christie’s Crime Writers Club, Mystery and Mayhem is an anthology created by a group of twelve current authors of children’s mystery stories. I absolutely loved this book, as you can tell from the review I wrote for The Guardian Children’s Books website here: Mystery and Mayhem Review

I was delighted when I found out that this year the Bath KidsLit Festival, which I have visited each year since I was 8, would be featuring an event entitled Mystery Girls with Katherine Woodfine and Julia Golding. The event was every bit as thrilling as I anticipated!

Both authors talked about their inspirations, including the suspenseful detective novels that they had read, snippets of unusual conversations that they had overheard and interesting historical facts that they had discovered. They told us how they go about the process of writing a new book and what they do when they are faced with a blank page. Julia Golding showed us her special bag with four writing prompts inside, and a book which she had written when she was still at school! At the end of the talk they tested the audience with a fun quiz about fictional detectives!

One of the many books that Katherine Woodfine recommended was The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, which she described as being one of the inspirations for The Jewelled Moth, I am now determined to read it myself. I am so grateful that Katherine and Julia gave up their time to talk to young readers, I found it so interesting to listen to them and I think it helps me to become a better reader. Finally, they both kindly signed my Mystery and Mayhem book, adding their signatures to Robin Stevens’, whose signature I collected earlier this summer (Robin Stevens a la Ronde blogpost), I now only have 9 more to collect in this book!!