BOOKBLOG: Alice Oseman

Radio Silence: honest, emotive and necessary

“What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?
Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken. Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…She has to confess why Carys disappeared…Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness.Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.”

People have been shouting about this book forever and during my half term mega read I finally got a chance to read this and… my god I devoured it. I sat one morning and read this within 4 hours

Here you have a book with an incredible characters. You’ve Frances, the geeky, nerdy brainbox of the school who meets Aled, who is one of those special characters who comes along and changes everything. Frances’ admiration for Aled’s podcast soon changes into working together to an eventual falling out and final rescue. No one can predict the way that life goes, in the same way no one can predict the internet and it’s complexities. I loved that this book dealt with a modern age, a modern frienship – looking at a friendship through modern eyes. The ins and outs of texting, DMing, using twitter and all those things that to us are just the norm. It’s an incredible story about the power and the villainy of the internet

Besides all of that this book has some pretty special messages to deliver. There’s a point in the book where something big happens and everything changes for Frances and Aled. What they were is not what they become. But Frances never loses sight of the power of friendship, the sense of love she has for her friend. Despite everything kindness and love wins. Important for always. Kindness should always win and it absolutely does in this book.

Frances struggles a lot with her dedication to her grades and schooling with her contrast with wanting to be herself, the creative person that she is. Through Aled she gets to divulge these creative parts of herself. She gets to be the person she should be. Another message this book shouts loudly is that. Be true to who you are. You’re the best version of you when you’re being the you you’re meant to be. I loved that. Grades aren’t everything. Yes, they’re important but man it’s better to be yourself. People aren’t going to love your GCSE results, they’re going to love you.

I’ve done this book no justice. But it’s incredible. Alice Oseman is an absolute wonderI need you all to read it, yesterday. I regret waiting so long to read it, but I am so glad I have done now. 

My goodreads review reads:

What an incredible story of friendship, honesty, pain and the wonders of the internet! I absolutely adored this. Aled is everything, I want to give him the biggest hug. I love the messages of this books so much: be your true self, grades aren’t everything and kindness. Always kindness.

Have you read Radio Silence?
What was the message you took away from it?
Can you recommend any books similar to it?

Let me know in the comments or on Twitter – you know where to find me! 

S x

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Favourite childhood books

There’s so many incredible MG books out there today. So many. Looking at my bookshelves there’s a brilliant mix of old and new books. Books from my childhood, books that shaped me as a reader, as the reader I am today. 

I’ve always loved reading. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love reading. A lot of the stories I have of growing up there’s lots of books, lots of trips to the library. I hung about in the local library a lot as a kid. In fact one of my first kisses was in the little park outside a library – beat that. 

I thought I would share with you 5 books from MY childhood, that I reread even now. 

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Matilda – Roald Dahl

One of the greatest kids stories ever. The power of stories. The power of books. As an adult I still love Matilda. 

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The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – C.S.Lewis

Absolutely brilliant. I still recommend this to kids today. Everything about me loved Aslan. I was SO SAD. Kids being brave and fearless.

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Charlotte’s Web – E.B.White

The first story I remember being read TO me at school. 

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The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

I remember reading this in awe and wanting so badly to visit The Secret Garden.

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The Hobbit – J.R.R.Tolkein

I read this at quite a young age and was often scared. It’s brilliance hasn’t worn off yet.

What were your favourite books as a child?
Can you remember the first book read to you?
Do you reread your favourites often?

I could be here ALL DAY recommending books to you from my childhood. I would love to know what books sit firmly in your memory. Let me know in the comments or on twitter! 

S x

5 YA Everyone Should Read

Welcome to another wonderful guest post from my wonderful friend Kelly – who is here to talk about YA books that everyone should read. Enjoy! Go follow Kelly, she’s wonderful! 

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5 YA Books Everyone Should Read

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Hi everyone! I’m Kelly from Kelly’s Rambles and I’m here to take over my dear friend Steph’s blog with my guest post. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a secondary school teacher with a huge passion for reading and YA books are where my heart lies. One of my favourite things about reading is sharing my experience, be that with my lovely bookish friends or with my many enthusiastic pupils. I’m not an English teacher (WHAT? I hear you say) but who said that reading must be confined to English teachers? I love to talk about books with the teenagers I teach and I’ve had some of my favourite bookish discussions with them.

The five books I’ve chosen to feature today are all books that I’ve shared with my pupils. They are also all books that I truly believe everyone should read, regardless of age. These books made a change to my life, my emotions, my outlook and my being because they are wonderful and carry such important messages. Without further ado, here are 5 YA books I think EVERYONE should read!

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A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

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Goodreads link

I can’t imagine there are many people left out there who haven’t at least heard of this wonderful book, especially since the movie was released (I highly encourage seeing this after reading the book!). Reading A Monster Calls was an experience I will never be able to forget. My heart ached, tears spilled down my face and I felt empty of all emotion by the end – feelings only a truly powerful book can evoke. I love the way this is written and having worked with children who are living through the grieving process I can tell you now how much of an impact this book can have on your life. Grief affects all of us, no matter what stage of our life we are in, and this book will resonate with everyone. Such a poignant, heart breaking yet beautiful book.

 A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

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Goodreads link

“Reading this book can only be compared to being trapped in a joyous, wonderful, beautiful whirlpool of raw emotion.” The opening line to my exceptionally long review of this book really does say it all. Reading A Quiet Kind of Thunder is such a unique and wonderful experience and it is such a diverse book. Steffi is such a fantastic character, she is a selective mute, she suffers with anxiety but this story is not about those things. This is Steffi’s coming of age story, it is about her first romance, her relationships with those around her and learning to love herself. This book really touched me especially in the way Sara Barnard talks about anxiety. She portrays such a positive message: anxiety is difficult, it is horrible, but it can and will be okay. I am also super in love with the BSL throughout this book. My words cannot do this book justice, especially in such a small paragraph, but please read this. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will hurt your heart, it will warm your heart, but most importantly, it will enlighten you.

Wing Jones by Katherine Webber

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Goodreads link

When I picked up Wing Jones at the beginning of the year, I was completely clueless as to what would happen next. This book absolutely captivated me, it took an issue that was close to my heart and tackled it head on. It has such raw emotions to it, on so many occasions I wanted to wrap Wing in my arms and tell her it would be okay. Wing Jones is packed full of diversity, it is beautifully written and emotionally driven. Whilst dealing with the consequences of her brother’s drunk driving, Wing embarks on a journey of self-discovery and self-love. To this day I still feel inspired by Wing and her strength and I’m sure that thousands of other readers can take something from Wing and learn. Not only was the issue of racism tackled, but this book also contained a very realistic portrayal of grief, bullying, guilt, self-belief, love. There is something here for everyone to relate to and learn from. On a personal note, I have been completely overwhelmed by Katherine’s kindness and it’s thanks to her that I’ve met one of my best bookish buddies. This book means a lot to me and I’m sure it will mean something to you too.

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

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Goodreads link

I absolutely adore reading Alice Oseman’s books and Radio Silence was the first one I picked up. There are so many experiences in here for young people to learn from and relate to but I also think that as an adult looking back this book is still very relatable and teaches valuable life lessons. I love how diverse this book is with characters of different sexualities and races. I loved the relationships in this book and Oseman writes in a way that makes everything feel so real. A great coming of age story full of love, laughter, sadness and teenage angst. There is something in this book for everyone, I highly recommend it.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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Goodreads link

If at this point in 2017 you haven’t heard about The Hate U Give then you really must have been living under a rock. It was possibly one of the most highly anticipated books of the year and I am not at all surprised why. I struggled for weeks after reading this book to put my words down in a review. Struggled because this book is so powerful and inspiring that I knew I couldn’t do it justice. Angie Thomas tackles racism and police brutality like it’s never been tackled before. This book holds nothing back and will make you check your white privilege if you haven’t already. Reading The Hate U Give is like being on a rollercoaster of emotions that you can’t get off. I felt extreme anger, sadness and hatred and then found myself smiling and laughing a few pages later. Angie Thomas has a powerful voice and isn’t afraid to use it. This book and this wonderful woman are literally changing lives and paving the way to brighter futures for so many young black people who will be nothing but inspired by Angie. This book is life changing and will evoke emotions in you that you didn’t know you possessed. Incredible.

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Phew… I got super emotional just thinking about those books and how much they have affected me personally. These books are excellent examples of why YA books don’t have to be just for teenagers because they can teach so much to adults too. Knowing how hard life can be for teenagers these days I am so grateful that such wonderful books exist to support and inform our young people. I would love to hear from you if you have any thoughts on the books above or any recommendations for me! (Find me at Kellys Rambles on twitter)

I’m going to leave you with one of my 2017 highlights: the moment one of my pupils who is a selective mute came to see me after my recommendation of A Quiet Kind of Thunder with a huge smile and tears in her eyes to say the words, ‘I could see myself in Steffi and I’ve never had that before. I love this book, it means so much to me”.

 

BOOKBLOG: Stewart Ross

The Salvation Project: dystopian destinies reached!

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“A mutation in human DNA means no one lives beyond nineteen. Scientists working to reverse the disease died before their Salvation Project was complete, and they left the results of their research – the Soterion – in a sealed vault. 122 years have passed. The civilisation of the Long Dead is almost forgotten, the Soterion has been burned to ashes, and communities of Constants are tormented by tribes of brutal Zeds. Cyrus, his pregnant copemate Miouda, and his young friend Sammy have escaped from the burning city of Alba. They have rescued a laptop containing the entire contents of the Soterion, including the Salvation Project. On this frail and ancient machine hangs the last and only hope of restoring the civilization of the Long Dead. But the laptop’s batteries are flat, there is no electricity to power it, and it is only a matter of time before the thwarted Zeds set off in pursuit…

A great new dystopian novel, ending the trilogy with a bang! 

These books are full of twists and turns, with plot twists you don’t expect alongside characters who will surprise you along the way. It’s hard not to be surprised by a plot centred around science, challenges and tough choices. There’s times when, as a reader, I thought ‘I don’t want to make that choice’ but the characters have to. It’s their destiny. You want them to reach their destiny however hard or easy that is. Imagine not living past 19 – I would’ve been dead a long time ago, but that is the reality of these characters. The characters, with their bizarre and unusual names, will however worm their way into your heart and take seat there. You’ll feel for them, you’ll want to cheer them on, they’re characters you will learn to love. The ending is great – I didn’t see it coming, it moved me (I mean I cry at EVERYTHING so no one is surprised there!)

If this sounds like your bag of crisps, then go on, treat yourself. Dystopian fiction is one of those I dip into every now and again because I remember how much I love it while I’m there! Stewart Ross has written a great series. Teenagers will love it! It has good pace, enough drama and action to keep you interested! 

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35095911-the-salvation-project

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Salvation-Project-Stewart-Ross/dp/0957101929

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Author Information

Stewart was born in Buckinghamshire and educated in Oxford, Berkhamsted, Exeter, Bristol, and Orlando, Florida. He taught at a variety of institutions in Sri Lanka, the Middle East, the USA, and Britain before becoming a full-time writer in 1989. With over 300 published titles to his credit, he is now one of Britain’s most popular and versatile authors. His output includes prize-winning books for younger readers, novels, plays, three librettos, a musical, and many widely acclaimed works on history and sport. Several of his books are illustrated with his own photographs.Stewart also lectures in France and the UK, gives talks, runs workshops, and visits schools. He is an occasional journalist and broadcaster. His brother, Charlie Ross, is the celebrated auctioneer. In his spare time Stewart enjoys travel, restaurants, sport, theatre, photography, art and music. He lives near Canterbury with his wife Lucy, and – occasionally – his four children and two grandchildren. Each morning he commutes 10 metres to work in a large hut in the garden.

Website: http://www.stewartross.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Booksmyth

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The-Soterion-Mission-194311443946577/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/jstewartross

Thank you so much Faye for inviting me to be part of the blog tour! If you’re interested in the other stops on the blog tour, check out the blogs featured below! There’s lots of fun things going on on the tour!

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S x

 

Happy things…

So a few days ago my gorgeous friend Grace posted a brilliant blog post about things that made her happy, and spurred everyone to do the same… so here we go.

Things that made me happy in the past week. 

Getting so into a book that you lose track of time. Sunshine and shade. Sitting, drinking iced coffee with a book. Smiles from strangers. Meeting incredible authors. Intellectual conversations with friends. Stupid conversations with friends. Calling Twitter friends “friends”. Reading with kids. Reading to kids. Going to work, knowing its what I want to do forever. Kindness. Emails about books. Pictures of the twiglets with stupid Snapchat filters. Good morning texts. 

There are so many other things which make me happy. I quite often get bogged down by the things that make me sad. I’m very in my own head at times. I might make this a semi-regular thing, to remind myself of the positive things in life. 

If you want to read Grace’s post: click, click, click.

I’d love to see other people joining in this! It’s such a lovely idea. 

What makes you happy?
What things do you do to put a smile back on your face?

Let me know in the comments, or on twitter! Share the happy joy! 

S x

S4S – Books in the classroom

Hello! It’s #SixForSunday time again! This week, the 6 books topic is:

Six books I’ve used in the classroom

Books I’ve used in the classroom come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and for a multitude of reasons!

  1. Girl of Ink and Stars – Kiran Milwood Hargrave
  2. The Christmasaurus – Tom Fletcher
  3. Perijee and Me – Ross Montgomery
  4. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
  5. The Day The Crayons Quit – Drew Daywalt
  6. The Way Back Home – Oliver Jeffers

Share your #SixForSunday using the hashtag or tell me your favourites!

S x

 

“Miss, can we do writing again?”

“Miss, can we do writing again?”

NOW THERE’S A PHRASE I NEVER THOUGHT I WOULD HEAR. But hear me out…

So I love teaching writing. I think, alongside reading, that writing is one of my favourite things to do. I will never be an author – I have huge amounts of respect for authors but I just don’t know that I have it in me! My Year 4 class are SUPER KEEN to do a lot of things (yeah there’s certain things they’re not so keen on, but they’ll always give it a go) and they really love it when we get to do a short piece of writing using a picture as stimulus. 

One of their favourite things to do during writing sessions is use a stimulus to write about, using their senses. I give them 3/4 pictures to write about, they can only choose 1 – generally doing a setting description, get them to come up with their own success criteria using our Year 4 writing assessment sheets and give them 20 minutes to write. And my word. They could write for hours. We did this last Friday and although many of them didn’t write much, the things they had planned to write were exceptional – they will get more time to write and finish these descriptions this week. I am thinking about making a display using some of their writing because they genuinely blow me away.

I tend to have very little vocabulary input, as they are encouraged constantly to use our “new vocabulary wall”. Children need access to brilliant vocabulary to write brilliant vocabulary. I could say this 1000 times but children who READ a lot can write well. Some of my kids read like it’s going out of fashion and it’s telling in their writing.

IMG_4926“In the fresh, dark green forest there stood a colourful shining palace. Among the green trees, the little girl heard bluebirds chirping and she found the most beautiful palace she could find on earth”

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IMG_4928“There in the middle of the forest a shadow covered the bright sunlight from reaching the soft green grass. The air smelled amazingly fresh as I slowly walked closer to a giant shadow. I could hear the birds singing a beautiful melody”

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IMG_4930(Shout out to Mr Starr on twitter who shared his circles and ticks idea with me! Going to see if this helps presentation!)

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These are just a few examples using a few pictures from Once Upon a Picture. There was so much more brilliant writing that I could share!

I’ve shared a few posts similar to this, if you’re interested: 
Use your senses?!
Wonderful writing?

What are your favourite things about teaching writing?
Do you like teaching writing?
Do you have any fail safe writing activities that your class love doing?

I’d love to hear about writing in your classroom! Let me know in the comments or on Twitter! 

S x

BOOKBLOG: Peadar Ó Guilín

The Call: dark, gritty, brutal. Dystopian done proper.

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“Imagine a world where you might disappear any minute, only to find yourself alone in a grey sickly land, with more horrors in it than you would ever wish to know about. And then you hear a horn and you know that whoever lives in this hell has got your scent and the hunt has already begun.

Could you survive the Call?”

Everyone had been telling me to read The Call FOREVER and I never quite got round to it, but once I had a copy (thanks Waterstones Newcastle) I had to read it then and there, and MY GOD. What a book

The Call is the story of Nessa, a young girl with a disability, who lives in a world where students are taken away and have these so called three minutes to save their lives; to outrun the enemies. The book starts with Nessa hearing about the loss of her brother to The Call and her parents worrying for Nessa, thinking that, due to her disability, there is no way she would survive ‘the call’ if it ever came for her. The story then follows Nessa through schooling in Ireland where they learn to fight, survive and ultimately prepare themselves for ‘the call’. 

There was so much I loved about this book. I went through a massive ‘dystopian phase’ a year or 2 ago and there is so much dystopian fiction out there that gems like this can get totally lost. I am so glad I came across it now, because it blew me away. The story is so dark, so gritty and there’s some pretty grim things that happen in this story but I LOVED IT. Sometimes a bit of dark, gritty fiction is what I need. Alongside the incredible story there were some pretty incredible characters, which for me totally made the book even better. Nessa, the main character in the story, is badass, brave and never makes her disability an excuse. She’s brazen and bold. Her training isn’t easy, but she gives it her all, never giving up when it gets too hard. She deals with some pretty horrible students, watching other students disappear, love and potential loss, all while being a good friend and a fighter. The other students in the book are so effortlessly diverse: in both sexuality and race. I had a particular soft spot for her love interest in the story. I don’t know what it was about him, but he reminded me a bit of Peeta from Hunger Games. 

I can’t recommend this book enough. I regret waiting so long to read it. AND Paedar is LOVELY on Twitter, go follow him. Read this. I would LOVE to chat about it!

My Goodreads review:

Absolutely brilliant. Genuinely grim and gritty. I liked Nessa straight away. So much brutality and darkness, but interesting and unique. Bloody loved it.

Have you read The Call?
What was it that you loved most about it?
Can you recommend any books similar?

Let me know on twitter (@eenalol) or in the comments, I need some more dark dystopian fiction in my life! 

S x

BOOKBLOG: Catherine Barter

Troublemakers: politically minded, sibling focused deliciousness

Troublemakers(I took this at 7am, whilst on a residential with my class. Even when we’re away, I’ll read!)

“Fifteen-year-old Alena never really knew her political activist mother, who died when she was a baby. She has grown up with her older half-brother Danny and his boyfriend Nick in the east end of London. Now the area is threatened by a bomber who has been leaving explosive devices in supermarkets. It is only a matter of time before a bomb goes off. Against this increasingly fearful backdrop, Alena seeks to discover more about her past, while Danny takes a job working for a controversial politician. As her family life implodes, and the threat to Londoners mounts, Alena starts getting into trouble. Then she does something truly rebellious.”

Troublemakers is the story of Alena, who is figuring the world out. She’s 15, she’s discovering the world as it is, she wants to be part of it, she wants to make her stamp on the world. Her older brother Danny and his partner Nick are her life. She lives with them, Danny took on guardianship of Alena when her mum died. Their relationship (both sibling and parental) intrigued me immensely throughout the story. I love a well written, believable sibling relationship – I have a brilliant relationship with my brother, so seeing other positive brother/sister relationships makes my heart so happy. She has a brilliant relationship with Nick too – he’s a wonderful character, sometimes playing middle man between the warring siblings. There’s parts of this story where my heart was breaking for Danny and Nick. I really liked their relationship. 

I’m not normally one to pick up a political book, but whilst this deals with politics, it’s not in your face. It’s not the only thing about this book. It is a brilliant book in the current climate and it touched on some pretty important things. I won’t spoil it for you but this is a brilliant story. It’s very character centric which I adored. There’s times when you’ll want to punch the characters, hug them, argue with them: books like this are my favourites. I like to feel part of their lives. Not a bystander.

Danny and Alena do not see eye to eye in this. There are so many things they dispute over. One of the main areas of dispute is Alena’s need to hunt out one of her mum’s best friends. Danny HATES this idea. It causes a lot of tension between the siblings. They fall out. They argue. They ignore each other. Alena goes against her brother’s wishes. She rebels. There’s some lovely moments between them where they both soften to each other because they eventually see what the other needs. Danny does things too, gets a job, that Alena doesn’t like either. They both make mistakes; they both rebel against each other to try and find their identity

This book, in the end, filled my heart with joy. 

My Goodreads review reads:

“Fantastic. Absolutely loved it. Totally apt for today’s world. A loving, conflicted sibling relationship. A beautiful relationship. A complicated, yet simple political message. Character centric and I adored it.”

Thank you to Andersen Press for sending me a copy! 

Have you read Troublemakers?
What’s your take on political books?
Do you have a favourite sibling relationship in fiction?

Let me know in the comments or on twitter! I need more brother/sister fictional relationships in my life!

S x

BOOKBLOG: Sylvia Bishop

The Bookshop Girl: Magical, mysterious and delightful

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“This story is about a little girl named Property Jones, so-called because she was left in the lost property cupboard of a bookshop when she was five years old. Property loves living in the bookshop, but she has a whopper of a secret… she can’t actually read! So Property doesn’t see the newspaper article announcing the chance to win the Montgomery Book Emporium, the biggest and most magnificent bookshop in the world! When her family win the competition, Property finds herself moving to the Emporium, a magical place filled with floor upon floor of books and a very bad-tempered cat. But all is not at it seems at the Emporium and soon Property Jones finds herself in a whole heap of trouble”

I’d seen The Bookshop Girl floating around on Twitter and in bookshops and I knew it would be a book that I’d love. Just look at that amazing cover! Books, cats and a bookshop… what more do I need? 

The Bookshop Girl tells the story of Property Jones and her family who win a raffle in which they get to run the magical Montgomery Book Emporium. From their little bookshop to this magical new bookshop, Property and her family can’t believe it! I loved this book from the introduction – the first little bit tells you the story of how Property came to be called Property and the story of how her life began. There’s her brother and her mam, the wonderfully magical Montgomery (the owner of the aforementioned magical book emporium), a weird cat called the Gunther and evil Eliot Pink. This story tells a brilliant tale of adventure, rescue and the magic of books and bookshops. I would love to visit the Montgomery Book Emporium (just as much as I’d like to visit the Jones’ bookshop, it sounds like a perfect bookshop to sit and read for hours!)

This book is GORGEOUS. I absolutely adored it. I can’t wait to give it to my kids at school. I know a fair few children who this will appeal to totally. It’s perfect for Year 3/4 readers. There’s quite a lot of things to do with this book and I think it would make a perfect class novel. I’m tempted to buy another copy, to keep for when I’m a teacher!

My Goodreads review:

A brilliant tale filled with mystery, magic and delight. I devoured this book quickly and I love the name Property. From the first but of the book to the very end, you have a story that will delight kids. I loved this so much!

Thank you so much to the wonderful people at Scholastic for sending me a copy!

Have you read The Bookshop Girl?
What did you think of Property?
Would you like to live in a bookshop?

Tweet me! Comment! Send me answers on a postcard! 

S x