Category Archives: Puffin Books

The Worst Witch To The Rescue – Jill Murphy (When What You Need Is A Childhood Read Retreat)

You could be inclined to think that this post is a belated April Fools but its not, and I am sure some literary aficionados might judge this post and that’s fine too. True, I don’t normally review childrens books, I leave that to the likes of my kind volunteers The Bookboy and The Girl Who Reads Too Much. Yet while I have been having ups and downs on the health front of late and been somewhat of an invalid I have wanted certain comforts and that includes childhood ones. In fact whilst reading ‘The Worst Witch To The Rescue’ by Jill Murphy I was eating vanilla custard slices so I really was going back to my ten year old self. ‘The Worst Witch’ series was one of my absolute favourite series as a child and so when I saw that the latest one, as Jill Murphy has brought the wonderful Mildred Hubble back a few times since the first book in the 1970’s and second and third in the 1980’s, in the library I simply had to pick it up. It proved to be the perfect comfort read and as the series was such a huge part of me becoming a reader I wanted to report back on it as it had me spellbound yet again.

Mildred Hubble, to whom the title ‘worst witch’ refers to, is as the title suggests a fairly dreadful witch. Though when you say dreadful we aren’t referring to evil, she is just a bit hopeless. In fact her least favourite teacher Miss Hardbroom often refers to her as a ‘trouble magnet’. In this, the sixth and latest, instalment of the series ‘The Worst Witch To The Rescue’ the first day of a new term at Miss Cackles Academy for Witches all seems to be going unusually well for Mildred Hubble. Firstly she has managed to come up with a surprise summer project which is sure to impress Miss Hardbroom, who she knows is her sternest critic, she shows an incredible natural aptitude at a new subject and even her worst enemy Ethel Hallow seems to be being nice. Of course though this is the world of Mildred Hubble and nothing can stay that good for long can it?

I can’t really say any more than that on the book as I wouldn’t want to ruin how it goes wrong for Mildred in case you decide to throw caution to the wind and get this yourself, which of course you should do. It was wonderful to be reunited with Mildred along with her friends Maud and Enid, plus her faithful feline Tabby and indeed the scary Miss Hardbroom and evil Ethel. It had me feeling like I did when I was much younger and wishing I too was a student at Miss Cackles Academy (the fact I wouldn’t have been able to be a witch didn’t concern me and hey its fiction anything is possible) and could join in with these gentle and enjoyable adventures. I also love the pictures, they evoke a love for the series and reading that I had as a kid.

To say that I enjoyed this book would be a complete understatement. It’s very unusual that a book series you loved in your childhood is still going, there was a gap of a decade between book three and four and again between book four and five when Jill Murphy was looking after her relatives with dementia. I am hoping that there are plans for some more outings of Mildred Hubble as to spend an hour and a half (a real little one read reading treat) in her company is just the thing. 8/10

I took this book out from the local library.

If I had been on the BBC’s ‘My Life in Books’ (or indeed the wonderful series that Simon of Stuck in a Book is doing which I loved reading) then I think it would be highly likely that I would choose The Worst Witch as my childhood book, even over Roald Dahl surprisingly. Of course this post isn’t just about how much I loved the latest Worst Witch tale; it’s about the feelings that turning to your favourite children’s books can evoke. Its also been nice reading some of this book to my littlest cousins. Have any of you read The Worst Witch series? Do you have a series that does this to you too and if so which one is it, is it still going, do you turn to it often?

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Filed under Jill Murphy, Puffin Books, Review

Carrie’s War – Nina Bawden

I know I have often been a little… erm, not sneery exactly but slightly nonplussed by people heading either to children’s classics or to young adult fiction now and again, apart from Harry Potter of course. I am now quite prepared to eat my words because one of the books that seems to have given a rather annoying period of multiple reading block the heave-ho is a children’s classic from the 1970’s, Nina Bawden’s novel ‘Carries War’. This book was just the ticket for an undemanding read that has a lot going on in it. Am I making sense, I do hope so.

‘Carrie’s War’ is set in, you guessed it, the second world war when Carrie Willow and her brother Nick are evacuated to Wales and into the lives of Mr Evans and his sister Louise, who likes to be called ‘Auntie Lou’. Now you would think that this would be a delightful household and indeed when it is just ‘Auntie Lou’ and the children times are quite happy. However as Nick describes him ‘Mr Evans is an OGRE’. A difficult and often bullying man who likes everything just so and who slowly but surely makes Carrie and Nick’s lives a less than happy one (not that they are fearful of him) apart from when they reach the sanctuary of ‘Druid’s Bottom’.   

Druid’s Bottom is actually the home of Mr Evans estranged sister Mrs Dilys Gotobed (I loved Nina Bawdens choice of names for people and places) her carer Hepzibah Green, who people believe is a witch, and the young Mr Johnny a boy with what we would now call cerebral palsy though people call him ‘simple’ at the time. It is also the home of one of the other evacuated children Albert Sandwich who becomes and unlikely friend to both Carrie and Nick. Druids Bottom also holds a legend of the screaming skull which Hepzibah keeps in the house. As time goes on Carrie is unwittingly drawn into almost spying for Mr Evans on his sister Mrs Gotobed and does something terrible, possibly the worst thing she ever did in her life!

Naturally I am not going to tell you what is it or you wouldn’t read the book. Mind you having said that I would imagine most people have read this book already and so I am probably really behind everyone else in actually getting around to reading it. I think this is a book a lot of children now study at school and rightly so because it’s a really rather enjoyable book for an adult and I would imagine it would be for a child, though as there isn’t really any magic, more myth, or any vampires maybe I am wrong? What has happened to the simple tales of old that people used to write for children, or am I merely just showing my age?

I was charmed by Nina Bawden’s story telling, her plotting and also her characters in this novel. I thought her perceptions of the war, the unknown and the good and the bad from the perspective of Carrie and her brother were incredibly well written, yet for some reason I never quite gelled with Carrie herself. I couldn’t always understand her motives be they wrong or right, intentional or not however that didn’t stop me from really enjoying this as a read. 7/10

I am now keen to read some of her adult literature such as ‘The Lost Man Booker’ nominated ‘The Birds On The Trees’. Have you read any of her adult fiction? Any thoughts on ‘Carrie’s War’ or any of her other younger fiction? I think I could have been missing out on a rather wonderful storytelling author for quite some time!

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Filed under Nina Bawden, Puffin Books, Review

The Bookboy Reads #2

Hello and welcome to my second book blog. Hope you will enjoy it and thank you very much for the response I got for my first blog.

My first book today is going to be a newly released book. A couple of weekends ago, I went to one of my favourite bookshops and had £35 to spend. I had already picked up, Dido by Adele Geras, Tom’s Midnight Garden by Phillipa Pearce, Titanic 2010 by Colin Bateman and The War of Jenkins’ Ear by Michael Morpurgo, when I spotted Johnny Swanson by Eleanor Updale, lying with a magnificent newspaper style front cover.

The main characteris an 11~12 year old boy called, as you may have guessed, Johnny Swanson. It is set in 1929. Johnny is very small for his age and therefore is teased at school. He also has a lot to live up to, as his father (Harry Swanson), died a war hero. Johnny and his mother are poor and Johnny wants to change that, but when he sees an advertisement in the newspaper for “The secret of Instant Height”, he steals the money from his mother and sends off for the answer. Only four words are written on the piece of paper. What are the four words and what will his course of action be?

I had never heard of Eleanor Updale before and was pleasantly surprised by how good the book was. I was shocked by some of the events that occurred in the book and it really did open my eyes as to how unjust things can be. I would recommend this book only for children of ten years of age or over as some of the language is unsuitable and some portions of the book may be harder for younger children to understand.If you have read and enjoyed Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo, then this book will definitely be for you.

My next book is Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. I have only recently read this, because I’d been putting it off and off. I thought it wasn’t going to be any good, but it was fantastic.The main character is a 12 year old criminal mastermind called Artemis Fowl. Fairies exist, and they aren’t just sweet ladies with wings, a lot are tough policeman with guns. However, Artemis knows that each fairy carries a book, with the laws of the fairies within it. Artemis gets the copy of a book and is able, with amazing technology, to decipher it. His intentions are to kidnap a fairy, but will he succeed or fail miserably?

This book was excellent and I enjoyed its many twists and turns and variety, of shall we say colourful characters. I would recommend it to anyone above ten, simply because there is a slight use of bad language and also, because the ideas are very slightly complex for children of younger than ten. Anyone who has read The Higher Institute of Villainous Education by Mark Walden will enjoy this book immensely.

My final choice today is Harry and the Wrinklies by Alan Temperley. I know this may sound very immature and silly to you, the readers, but this book was glorious. The main character is a small boy called Eugene Augustus Harold Montgomery Barton, I think. But, he prefers to be called Harry. Harry lives in London in his Parents’ mansion, however, his parents are never there. Instead, to look after Harry, they have employed a horrible woman called Lavina Mcscrew, whom Harry has nicknamed Gestapo Lil.

In a tragic accident, Harry’s parents are killed and Harry is packed off to live with two great aunts in the country. One, Aunt Bridget, is tall with hair tied back in a bun, whilst the other, Auntie Florrie, has wild blonde hair, wears baby pink lipstick and drives cars at over a hundred miles an hour. On his first evening, Harry hears something that will change his time at Lagg Hall forever. Perhaps, Harry’s aunts and their pensioner friends aren’t quite what they seem? This book was hilarious and it swallowed me up into a sort of bubble of my own, where nothing and no one could penetrate it. I would recommend it to adults and children alike; however, you do have to watch for bad language at times.

I would also like to hear from you what Teenage Fiction or young adult books you’d like to see me review in the near future?

Bookboy.

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Filed under Bookboy Reads, Puffin Books, Scholastic Books

The Girl Who Read Too Much

So this blog seems to be turning into a bit of a family affair, you have already had several posts from Granny Savidge Reads. Next up was ‘The Bookboy’ who I hear is working on his next post. This week you have had two posts from my mother on her top books and also her Savidge Reads Grilling, and now it’s time for another ‘The Girl Who Read Too Much’ (not that of course that’s possible, it’s just a pun on the Larrson books which made us giggle) who is taking you through some of her latest favourite reads… 

“Hello all you bookaholics out there, so as you may know I am ‘The Girl Who Read Too Much’. I’m 12 and I love books. I was pleased that Simon asked me to do a review on his blog and I can’t wait to share my recommendation with you. So here they are…

My all time favorite book is probably ‘Skulduggery Pleasant’ by Derek Landy. A book filled with suspense and magic! The main character, Stephanie Edgley, is dragged into a world of magic and horror shortly after her uncle Gordon’s death and the reading of his will. At the funeral there is a very strange man who Stephanie notices always covers his face, who or what is he and why is he there? The story pulls you into the pages and you feel as if you’re part of the story.The book has sequels which all flow perfectly into the next whilst making you want to read on. The book is violent in some places so as I said the book is probably better for people over eleven. There is also some vocabulary that younger children might not understand. Anyway this book is a fantastic and thrilling read, it is a five star must-read! However you can get hold of it read this book!

Another of my favorites is ‘Along For The Ride’ by Sarah Dessen. This book is an amazing assortment of genres and all to do with teenage life. This book is aimed at mostly teenage girls but if you like love, family issues and teen emotions then this book is for you. The narrator and main character, Auden, is living with her Mum when her Dad phones up and asks if Auden would like to go over to their house by the sea for the summer holidays. Her Dad also announces that his new wife, Heidi, has had a baby! When Auden gets over there she feels like she has a totally different life to the one she had before with her Mum she is allowed to go out loads and just have fun! (Her Mum was against that and just wanted her daughter to study.) This summer brings with it a new beginning so Auden is breathless with excitement. ‘Along For The Ride’ does have some rude language in it so it is probably better for my age and over. This book is fantastic book that makes teenagers see that their lives aren’t over because they’re wearing the wrong things it shows them a proper dilemma and makes people see things in a different light. I give this book five stars! There is also another amazing Sarah Dessen book called ‘The Truth About Forever’ which is a very good as well.

‘Looking for Alaska’ by John Green is a very emotional tale about, love, drugs and alcohol and school. The book is probably aimed at 13+ but I read it anyway. The main character Miles is sent to a rough boarding school that his Dad went to. The pupils there were not just rough but were alcoholics and smokers to. At the school there is a girl called Alaska that Miles immediately fancies. He is also obsessed with last words of people and  in particular those of a poet called Rabelais which were ‘I go to seek the great perhaps.’ Miles is trying to find his perhaps when he meets Alaska. This book has lots of bad language so as I said it’s probably aimed for a teenager. I don’t want to say too much more as I’m giving nothing away! I think a book is very good when you feel like shouting at the characters because you know something’s going to happen and the characters are clueless. Miles himself is a very interesting character who by the end you feel is a friend. This book is a very thrilling and (in my opinion) would deserve a full five stars. Another book you must read!

Goodbye for now, I hope you’ll be back for my next post.

The Girl Who Read Too Much!”

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Filed under Derek Landy, Harper Collins, John Green, Puffin Books, Sarah Dessen, The Girl Who Read Too Much

Introducing… The Bookboy Reads

I have mentioned that I come from a fairly book loving family, and as you have seen Granny Savidge Reads has already done a blog post (and is currently working away at her second) been grilled and shared her top ten books for Savidge Reads. In a week or two my mother (who teaches English and reads heaps) will also be sharing her top ten and getting grilled. I was delighted when one of my younger members of the family asked if he could please write a blog post every now and again with regard to children’s and young adult books. How could I say no? After all though I have seen a few adults concentrating on those genre’s but no youngsters (though I could be wrong). Now as this is a younger member of my family we decided a pseudonym would be best for safety etc, it also adds a certain mystery (and as I said means he can be harshly critical with no come back, ha) to it all.

 So without further ado I shall hand you over to The Bookboy, who after reading his reviews has left me rather worried that I could have some serious competition in a few years time both on book reviewing front and possibly journalism too…

“Allow me to introduce myself, I am eleven years old. I really enjoy books and, therefore, asked Simon if I could do a blog. I am now so glad that I did because it was great fun to write. I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

The first book I am going to review is ‘The Ruby in the Smoke’ by Philip Pullman.

This book is the first in a quartet by Philip Pullman, which is set in the late Victorian era.  The heroine is a young girl of sixteen called Sally Lockhart, who has just heard that her Father, a shipping agent, has drowned. She goes to pay a call upon her late father’s business partner, Mr Selby. After this, Sally decides to investigate the death of her father. Along the way, Sally finds that her Father’s death is intertwined with many other murky events. She makes an enemy of Mrs Holland, an evil landlady and befriends a youthful photographer, plus his actress sister. This book has many twists and turns, just where you least expect them. It had a slightly sinister feel and it made me want to know more about the Victorian period.  Some of the language and features are at times unsuitable, so I would not recommend this book to children of under the age of nine. If you have read any ‘Sherlock Holmes’ by Arthur Conan Doyle, you will enjoy this book.

 My second choice is ‘Goodnight Mister Tom’, which is set during the Second World War, and is by Michelle Magorian.

The main character in this book is a small boy called William Beech. He lives in London, but is evacuated to the countryside due to The Blitz.  William is evacuated to a small town set deep in the country; its name is Little Weirwold.  He is left in the care of a gruff, old gentleman named Tom Oakley.  Will, as William now likes to be called, is starting to settle in, however Tom is not the best person he could have gone to for tender, loving care. Tom, though begins to care for Will as if he was his own. Tom notices a lot of cuts and bruises on Will’s body. Just as he is beginning to feel at home, Will receives a dreaded summons back to London from his mysterious mother. Will he ever see Tom or Little Weirwold again?

This book made me feel excruciatingly sad in some parts, yet exceedingly happy in others. It is without the slightest doubt one of the best books I have ever read. Again, it does have some unsuitable language and scenes, so, I would recommend no younger than ten year olds should read this book.  If you have read ‘A Spoonful of Jam’, also by Michelle Magorian, or ‘The Boy in Striped Pyjamas’ by John Boyne, then you will like this book.

My third and final book for now is ‘Gatty’s Tale’ by Kevin Crossley Holland.

This book is about a farm girl called Gatty, who works on a manor called Caldicot.  She is all alone in the world and greatly saddened by it. This book is set in the medieval times. Then, an opportunity arises for Gatty to accompany the lady of another manor on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  Gatty accepts and a long, perilous journey begins. But, before they set off, Gatty must learn to become a chamber maiden to Lady Gwyneth, the lady who is in charge of the Pilgrimage. Many dangerous things happen on the way and one of the number nearly perishes. All is going well for the pilgrims, until two of them miss the boat.  Is one of them Gatty? This book is excellent. I love the way that he describes everything so vividly that it’s almost as if you’re standing right there beside the characters. Some of the language in this book is rude, so I think only over nine year olds should read this book. If you’ve read the Arthurian trilogy, by Kevin Crossley Holland, you will love this book as it is based around the same sort of thing, and some of the characters are the same.”

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Filed under Bookboy Reads, Kevin Crossley Holland, Michelle Magorian, Orion Publishing, Philip Pullman, Puffin Books, Scholastic Books