Walker Books

Small in the City


A young child, bundled up against the cold of winter, takes the bus into the heart of the city. Leaving the bus, the child makes their way through the buildings and the bustle, talking as they go. I know what it’s like to be small in the city… As the story continues, the reader comes to realise that they are addressing someone in particular, offering advice about how to survive-dryer vents that will keep you warm, somewhere that plays music to be enjoyed, a friendly shopkeeper who might give you some food…When the child pins a pink poster with the word ‘Lost’ and a picture of a cat, the reader understands who the child is talking to. The storm builds as the child makes their way home, the longing for their pet evident, where they are welcomed home. The final page shows a reassuring set of paw prints through the snow.


This is a wonderful book in so many ways. The child seems so small and alone against the towering buildings, the busy traffic and the crowds of people as it is captured in close ups, wider scenes and even as a broken image as if seen through panes of glass. Each illustration is evocative of childhood- that sense of being small and vulnerable- yet our young hero seems confident as they walk a familiar path.


The story is full of clues as to who the child is speaking to. Once you have seen the pink lost poster, you notice them dotted throughout the pages and the advice is couched in language which (once you know!) applies perfectly to cat-like behaviour. This all adds to the touching sense of loss and the tender concern in the advice offered.


This book offers so much potential for using with a class. The author cleverly leads the reader in one direction, building their expectations, before adding a twist which makes makes you re-read the story with fresh eyes. Succinct text and atmospheric illustrations combine perfectly to create a real gem which really exemplifies the power of a great picture book. Simply beautiful.

Small in the City Sydney Smith

Walker Books ISBN: 978-1406388404


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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

Shakespeare's Telling Tales: Rob Lloyd Jones


On Saturday, I went to the Globe Theatre for their ‘Shakespeare’s Telling Tales’ festival. The atmosphere was wonderful and I was very excited to be attending two events. Whilst waiting for the first, I wandered round ‘Bottom’s Book Market’, a lovely area created for people to gather and enjoy sharing stories and watch events like Tudor costuming.


Tales on Moon Lane were responsible for a bookshop in the middle of Bottom’s Book Market, selling copies of books by the authors appearing at this family storytelling festival. I might have been tempted to buy one or two things..!


My first event was listening to Rob Lloyd Jones, author of ‘Wild Boy’ and the ‘Jake Atlas’ books. Full of enthusiasm for history and writing, he explained how he didn’t really read as a child- he was a ‘reluctant’ reader- but that he enjoyed telling stories, or ‘lying’ as he put it! People seemed to like the stories he told so he felt that this might be something he would enjoy doing.


Rob spoke with great enthusiasm about television programmes and the films he enjoyed when he was younger (and now!) and how important he feels they are to storytelling. His parents tapped into this love to encourage him to start reading- and it worked!


Talking about where his ideas for stories come from, Rob told us about a chance visit he made to the Hunterian Museum. Here, he saw lots of anatomical specimens and amongst them, the skeleton of a gentleman known as the ‘Irish giant’, called Charles Byrne who was exhibited as a ‘freak’ at side shows. This led Rob to start researching these Victorian shows and the idea for his book, ‘Wild Boy’ came to him. It was fascinating to hear how a chance visit to somewhere could lead to the creation of such an excellent story.


Rob’s fascination with Egyptology was the inspiration behind his exciting ‘Jake Atlas’ series of books which were much enjoyed by some of my last year’s class. With three books already published, we were told that the fourth - and last- adventure for Jake and his family would be following soon. There were lots of questions at the end of the session, showing just how engaged the audience had been.

A fascinating event in a fabulous location!

You can read our review of ‘Jake Atlas and the Emerald Snake’ here.