Dominique Valente

NSTBA READ ALOUD CATEGORY LONG LIST 2019 part 2

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Coming from a magical family who can do extraordinary things, Willow Moss's talent of finding things does not seem very special. Her sisters, with their 'proper magic', take after her mother; Willow, with her long stick-straight brown hair and brown eyes, takes after her father. So whilst her mother and her sisters visit the Travelling Fortune Fair, Willow is left behind to find things for those in need of her services. However, she finds her queue of customers vanished and the most feared witch in Starfell, Moreg Vaine, in their place. Last Tuesday has gone missing and Moreg needs a 'finder' like Willow to help her. And so an unwilling Willow finds herself embarking on a quest to locate the missing day, finding friendship, adventure and a lot of self belief on the way!

This is a wonderful story in so many ways. Full of fabulous characters, the story romps along at an enchanting pace to a very satisfying conclusion. The world of Starfell is full of detail and colour. Wisperia, the largest, most magical forest, 'an unpredictable place with magic fizzing about', the Midnight Market full of 'dangerous and deadly looking goods for sale', Troll Country where few apart from trolls venture- each location is beautifully imagined and described. Great fun to read aloud, there are plenty of opportunities for leaving your audience dying to hear more! The perfect read for those who enjoy adventure with a touch a magic.

Starfell: Willow Moss and the Lost Day Dominique Valente, illustrated by Sarah Warburton

Harper Collins ISBN: 978-0008308391

You can read another review of this book here.

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Summers staying with their grandparents mean freedom and adventure for cousins, Aiden, Chloe, Ava and Josh. However, when a day out for a picnic at a nearby stately home leads to a mystery involving a speeding sports car, several shady characters and stories of stolen diamonds, the cousins are in their element and pit their wits against all that comes their way.

Reminiscent of the Famous Five, ‘Clifftoppers’ is a fresh take on these classic stories with a real zest for life and sense of mischief mixed in. Complete with Bella, their dog, there is someone to appeal to everyone in this story and the pacey adventure will keep children begging for more. Full of rich language and vivid descriptions, it makes an excellent read aloud with plenty of action to keep everyone on the edge of their seats. With more stories in the series to come, this also offers other adventures for children to move on to once the class book has been shared. Brilliant!

Clifftoppers: The Arrowhead Moor Mystery Fleur Hitchcock

Nosy Crow ISBN:978-1788004695

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Storm of Odin is the youngest hound of the Wild Hunt and longs to be chasing through the sky with the other hounds. However, he falls from the sky during his first hunt and lands near Abergavenny. Here he is found by Jessica Price, who longs for a pet. She is alarmed to find that lots of people are very interested in her new puppy and that mysterious, magical things are going on.

Mixing mythology and action with a lovable puppy, ‘Storm Hound’ is a wonderful read. Storm’s voice is a joy to read as he comes to terms with each new misunderstanding about the world he has found himself in. There is plenty of humour in the story, but Jessica is also well written, a very emotionally vulnerable child, reeling from her parent’s split and trying to come to terms with her new life. A rompingly good read!

Storm Hound Claire Fayers

Macmillan Children’s ISBN: 978-1509895045

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In this fabulous quest, three children with magical talents come together to defeat those who threaten the cloud horses. But magic is forbidden and so brings danger to those who can use it.

Lavishly illustrated, this adventure is full of creative characters and exciting action. The story draws on myths and fairy tales, using elements that will be familiar, yet new! Moving at a pleasing pace, the story is perfect for reading aloud, whilst sharing the illustrations which have all Chris Riddell’s usual charm. Just wonderful!

The Cloud Horse Chronicles: Guardians of Magic Chris Riddell

Macmillan Children’s ISBN: 978-1447277972

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The Pringle family have fallen on hard times and so determine to try their luck in the north- well, as far north as Uncaster. Travelling by the recently invented train- which gives them their new name- the family discover that they have no lodgings; fortunately, recently widowed Mrs Poskett , has fallen on hard times and needs to take in lodgers. However, they are not the only performers in Uncaster- Baby Bubbles, a child magician, is also performing and his mother dies not appreciate the competition.

Full of fabulous characters, this is a book which was written to be performed. Each character is bursting with personality, offering great potential for getting into role whilst reading. For those who are less confident with their acting abilities, the plot romps along at a pleasing pace with plenty to interest and amuse. The story also speaks of kindness and cooperation and having baddies who get their comeuppance is very satisfying. A fabulous read aloud!

The Steam Whistle Theatre Company Vivian French

Walker Books ISBN: 978-1406376319

You can read another review of this book here.

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Surrounded by a thick forest, sits David and Penny’s new home – their mother’s childhood home. Along with their father, they have moved to the mysterious house following heir death of their mother. But they are not alone.

The house and the woods themselves are home to other mysterious creatures, like nothing David and Penny have ever seen before. Tiny, hairy Pog, - a magical creature who lives in the attic – is one of the First Folk and protects the boundary between worlds. As the children befriend Pog and he shares with them the secrets hidden below the house, they soon realise that creatures are slipping through from the other world… dangerous creatures… creatures that feed on pain and steal memories. It is up to Pog and the children to stop them! However, David has a secret. Lured deep into the woods, he has made a pact with another creature, a creature of darkness who insists it can bring his mother back.

Full of twists and turns, cliff hangers and wonderfully creepy creatures, this is an action-packed, spine-tingling fantasy adventure. Padraig Kenny has created a captivating magical world.full of strong characters which will have children desperate to hear more. It is also a story about grief and bravery. The children and their father have to learn to exist in a world without their mother; in places it is raw and full of feeling, but at heart, it is a story of family and friendship.

The rich vocabulary makes it a pleasure to read aloud. With its engaging characters and compelling plot, this is a story to share.

Pog Pádraig Kenny

Chicken House ISBN: 978-1911490395

Starfell

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Willow Moss is nobody special. True, she was born into a magical family and has special abilities, but the ability to find missing socks and lost keys could hardly be considered extraordinary. As the least powerful member of her family, Willow is often overlooked, especially by her mother and sisters. She is given the responsibility of caring for old Grandmother Flossy who, despite being kind and supportive, isn’t entirely in her right mind due to a terrible potions accident. It isn’t until the great witch, Moreg Vaine, seeks out Willow, offers her a cup of tea and asks for her help that Willow begins to realise that her magical abilities might be worth something.

Moreg Vaine is in need of a finder and Willow Moss’s special talents are exactly what Starfell needs to uncover the secret of the lost spells and a missing day. For the whole of Starfell to lose a day is quite remarkable. So many mundane moments make up an ordinary day, but Willow’s insight allows her to see the value and significance of even the most ordinary of days and their extraordinary significance. She must get that day back so that it doesn’t simply vanish from memory. However, Willow must overcome her own deep insecurities before she is able to see her magic’s value and worth and its significance to this quest; she needs to understand that great adventures don’t need big magic- maybe you’ve just got to be willing the try.

The world of Starfell is a place that is dramatically changing. Where magic was once accepted and embraced, it is now regulated and contained. The feared ‘Brothers of Wol’ are slowly starting to exert control over the magical folk and as an unexpected result, magic appears to be dying. Moreg’s last hope is Willow and her unique power and a journey where they hope that, together, they will uncover what is lost. But when Moreg is captured, all hope appears lost, Willow must find the strength to carry on alone. Thank goodness she has brought along her grumpy monster-under-the-bed, Oswin, for company.

No magical adventure should be undertaken alone and Willow makes some remarkable friends that come to her aid in her darkest moments: Nolan Sometimes, the forgotten teller, who can see into an individual’s past; Feathering the dragon, searching for his own missing family; Calamity the troll, who appears out of place amongst her own kind and Essential Jones, a fellow young witch with a knack of picking locks that comes in very handy. Willow soon comes to realise that even in the darkest, most hopeless of times there is always a choice, and she is grateful for the helpful and supportive choices of her quest companions in helping her to carry out Moreg’s wishes.

Starfell is a magical story that teaches the valuable lesson that ’it’s not about what you’ve got; it’s about what you do with the little bit of what you have that matters most.’ Wonderful characters, a classic magical quest story line and a self doubting heroine make this a book to really fall in love with. It would be perfect to read aloud to a class with a good attention span that enjoy fantasy settings. Willow’s bravery amidst challenges and her thoughtful nature will leave readers feeling uplifted and encouraged to face problems of their own.

Dominique Valente’s text contains some really fantastic inspirational quotes. This would prove to be really wonderful topic for a class PHSE discussion; a book hunt (for other characters or settings they may apply to) or the openers for short stories…

‘I think you’ll find that even in the darkest, most hopeless of times there is always a choice when you look hard enough’.

‘Incredibly special and mundane moments go into the recipe of one ordinary day.’

‘Magic is like life - it’s what you do with it that counts.’

‘Maybe you don’t need big magic to save the world? Maybe you’ve just got to be willing to try?’

Starfell Dominique Valente

Harper Collins ISBN: 978-0008308391

Willow Moss and the Lost Day

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Coming from a magical family who can do extraordinary things, Willow Moss's talent of finding things does not seem very special. Her sisters, with their 'proper magic', take after her mother; Willow, with her long stick-straight brown hair and brown eyes, takes after her father. So whilst her mother and her sisters visit the Travelling Fortune Fair, Willow is left behind to find things for those in need of her services. However, she finds her queue of customers vanished and the most feared witch in Starfell, Moreg Vaine in their place. Last Tuesday has gone missing and Moreg needs a 'finder' like Willow to help her. And so an unwilling Willow finds herself embarking on a quest to locate the missing day, finding friendship, adventure and a lot of self belief on the way!

This is a wonderful story in so many ways. Full of fabulous characters, the story romps along at an enchanting pace to a very satisfying conclusion. Willow embodies those feelings of not being quite good enough that we all experience from time to time and her realisation that real skill and talent doesn't have to be showy or exciting to be valuable is a pleasure to see. Her courage, determination and vulnerability make her a very likeable character- one the reader is willing to succeed. Her 'sidekicks' in her quest are no less appealing! Oswin, the monster from under the bed who bears a striking resemblance to a cat, Nolin Sometimes, Essential Jones, Featherling, Calamity... each is well developed and engaging.

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The world of Starfell is full of detail and colour. Wisperia, the largest, most magical forest, 'an unpredictable place with magic fizzing about', the Midnight Market full of 'dangerous and deadly looking goods for sale', Troll Country where few apart from trolls venture- each location is beautifully imagined and described.

The perfect read for those who enjoy adventure with a touch a magic, 'Starfell and its heroine, Willow, are sure to be a hit and I look forward to reading the next in the series.

Starfell: Willow Moss and the Lost Day Dominique Valente, illustrated by Sarah Warburton

Harper Collins ISBN: 978-0008308391

Published on the 2nd May 2019