My Lockdown Books: Forty Eight

Here’s another review from The Scotsman for a very good book.

From Nosy Crow comes Little Bits of Sky, SE Durrant’s debut novel. The story of Zac and Ira, siblings in care in the 1980s, it is a beautiful book. The plot is slight but the characters and the emotion are things of joy. SE Durrant conveys both economically and subtly as she tells the story of the children and the mysterious Glenda. In spite of its lyrical quality, realism permeates the book and the ending, whilst optimistic, is entirely believable. I can offer no higher compliment than that this is worthy of Elizabeth Laird at her very best.

My Lockdown Books: Forty Five

Every so often, but not often enough, a book comes across my desk that makes me laugh and laugh. Cue: Weasels by Elys Dolan and published by the always wonderful people at Nosy Crow.

Have you ever wondered what weasels do all day? Wonder no more.  It turns out that they plot, and prepare for, world domination! The book takes us inside their HQ on the day they have arranged to take over the world. But as the countdown begins something happens to derail their plans. I guarantee that you will laugh out loud as you read this complex, absurd, utterly engaging picture book.

Who’s it for? Well, everyone!

My Lockdown Books: Twenty Two

Another book from Nosy Crow today and another author whom my friend Dom put my way.  I read and enjoyed Fleur Hitchcock’s Dear Scarlett ahead of publication and looked forward to succeeding books.  Murder in Midwinter is my favourite to date.  It’s a murder mystery combined with a family secret.  Here I am again in The Scotsman:

Travelling home by bus one day, Maya takes a photo of the Christmas lights as she passes but inadvertently catches something else. Suddenly she is under police protection and living in the remote Welsh mountains with her distracted aunt and surly cousin. Is she really in danger as the police think? And is being cut off by snow a blessing or a curse? Murder in Midwinter is a taut and exciting thriller. Fleur Hitchcock beautifully captures Maya’s sense of unreality and fear as she untangles family relationships along with the mystery.

If you’re looking for something new to read for yourself or your children I’d certainly recommend Fleur Hitchcock’s books.

My Lockdown Books: Twenty One

I was an unofficial champion for this series right from the beginning as a friend of mine was then working for Nosy Crow, the hugely successful independent children’s publishing house.  I reviewed many of them because I genuinely enjoyed them myself as well as thinking that children would!

I’ve chosen Olivia’s Enchanted Summer, the fourth in the series because it’s set in Edinburgh where I had the very great pleasure of meeting Lyn Gardner.  I had a press ticket to her event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.  That was quite strange.  I’m more used to being on the stage in conversation with authors and I don’t very often have time to sit in the audience.  Here’s what I said about the book in The Scotsman the previous autumn.

Edinburgh is the star of Olivia’s Enchanted Summer by Lyn Gardner. Set during the Festival, it vividly conveys the vitality and diversity of that season of the city’s life. The Swan Circus, featuring Olivia and her Dad Jack, is performing on the Fringe but there is more drama outside the Big Top than their audiences could ever guess at. Why are Olivia’s Dad and Grandmother arguing? Who does a young street magician remind Olivia of? And what is the mystery surrounding Evie and Tati? As Olivia’s summer unfolds it feels anything but enchanted. Lyn Gardner goes from strength to strength in this series full of complex and developing characters and believable but exciting storylines.

Rose Campion and the Christmas Mystery by Lyn Gardner

I first came across Lyn Gardner’s books when Nosy Crow sent me a copy of Olivia’s First Term the first book in a contemporary stage school series.  I enjoyed it very much and went on to read all the books in the series and review many of them.  One of the (many) lovely things about Nosy Crow for a reviewer is that they remember the kind of books you’ve shown a particular interest in and send you others like them.  And so I also acquired the Rose Campion series by the same author.

Rose Campion and the Christmas Mystery is the final outing for this heroine and now seems like the seasonally appropriate time to mention it.  Rose is a feisty and independent leading lady, a foundling who has made a life for herself at Campion’s Palace of Varieties and Wonders.  She’s solved mysteries before this but now faces something more deadly.  The Duchess, ruler of London’s criminal underworld, is about to be released from Holloway…

Lyn’s books are immediately appealing, written with a light touch, and full of strong and believable characters.  As soon as I opened this one I wanted to know wat was going to happen.  I can’t tell you much as almost any information would spoil the story.  But I can say that Lyn knows how to tell a good story and that, if you enjoy a good mystery, this is one you shouldn’t miss.  It’s written with upper primary school children in mind but I’m with CS Lewis in thinking that a good children’s book can be read by anyone.  This is a good children’s book.

Up and Down: a walk in the countryside


Nosy Crow and the National Trust have collaborated on a range of books recently. One of these is Up and Down: a walk in the countryside by Rosalind Beardshaw.  It’s a beautifully produced board book of opposites.  It’s sturdy with thick, heavy pages that feel as though they’ll survive much handling by young fingers.  The illustrations have just enough detail to make them interesting but the characters are not overwhelmed by the background.  The colours are strong and bright and dynamic and come to life beautifully.


Be Creative

With the summer holidays fast approaching in Scotland, I thought I’d take the opportunity of sharing some books with you for children and young people with a creative bent. There are loads out there and the five I’ve chosen aren’t necessarily the best but they do comprise a selection of my favourites.

From Edinburgh-based Floris books, in its Kelpies imprint, is A Super Scotland Sticker Book with illustrations by Susana Gurrea.  As you’d imagine there are stickers galore to affix to the pages of typical Scottish scenes: a highland glen, the Royal Mile, the Forth Bridge, Edinburgh Zoo and so on.  The stickers and illustrations are bright and cheerful and will provide hours of amusement.  For good measure there are a few puzzles thrown in too.


I have two offerings from Sterling Books. Now these come with a caveat: they are American publications so, of course, some of the spelling is a bit weird!!  If you can cope with that these are great books.  One is a crafty one, Creative Lettering for Kids by Jenny Doh.  It gives tips on different techniques you can use to create art with letters.  It’s lavishly illustrated and clearly laid out and has loads of different ideas to try, none of which needs expensive or specialist equipment.  If you like your letters formed into words and sentences try Write It Out by Brandon T Snyder.  This is a journal full of creative-writing prompts and lots of space to let your imagination run riot.


From Ammonite Press comes another journal, this one giving prompts for creative artwork. Creative Space Journal by Lucy Irving is organised by emotion so whether you’re sad, playful or sleepy, happy or bored there are ideas for you to try.  Some are fairly obvious but there are more quirky prompts too that should have all teenage artists (I fail to qualify on two counts) rushing for a pencil.


My final offering comes from Nosy Crow and is another of their collaborations with the British Museum. The Colouring Book of Cards and Envelopes does exactly what it says on the tin.  Inspired by objects from the museum’s collection Rachel Cloyne has designed this selection of stationery that will need meticulous attention to detail to do it justice.

If you’re looking for something challenging and fun for a young person this summer give one of these a try. You’ll probably find yourself wanting to help with the project – or maybe buy one for yourself!