The Sea House

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Having just lost her parents, Coral cries herself to sleep one night. In the morning, she wakes to find her home transformed into a magical underwater world full of wonderful sea creatures. Here she meets Fabulous, a beautiful Damselfish, determined to be her best friend. There is darkness lurking in the house as well and Coral must find the strength to overcome this with the help of her new friends.

There is much to this relatively short story. Descriptive writing using rich and varied vocabulary makes it a pleasure to read aloud and offers plenty to challenge a developing reader. Many sea creatures are introduced and described in the story with Fabulous’s Fantastic Fish Facts offering additional information at the end of the story.

Grief is also a theme of the story and through her experience in the Sea House, Coral comes to realise that her parents accident was not her fault and that their love will always be with her in her heart. Overcoming the evil creatures in the house helps her to face her fears and her grief.

Coral celebrates her Welsh heritage in the story by singing ‘Calon Lan’ or ‘Pure Heart’ and the words are given in both Welsh and English, adding another layer of interest to the story. The illustrations throughout the book are just delightful. Full page pictures, chapter headings and illustrations inset into the writing mean there are many pictures throughout the story which adds to its charm.

Perfect for guided reading with younger children or as a class read aloud, ‘The Sea House’ is well worth a read.

The Sea House Lucy Owen, illustrated by Rebecca Harry

Firefly Press ISBN: 978-1910080825

Oxford Literary Festival part 2- Martin Brown

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Last week, I went to see Martin Brown at Oxford Literary Festival where he was talking about his new book, Lesser Spotted Animals 2. The first Lesser Spotted Animals was our 2017 Information Category winner, a wonderful book which uses humour and empathy to introduce the reader to animals - many endangered- which are less well known than perhaps they should be. It is a fascinating book being very successfully used for guided reading in addition to being a fabulous book for the library.

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Martin’s session was wonderful. His brilliant sense of humour instantly engaged the audience as he skilfully introduced us to some fabulous creatures: the black and rufous sengi- also known as the black and rufous elephant shrew, for example and Blainville’s beaked whale for another. Martin explained that although he could have used photographs or made very realistic drawings for his books, he decided to use the cartoon style of illustration so that he could adopt a more light-hearted approach.

Martin set out to convince the audience that anyone can draw- that no one is born playing the piano or able to do maths. These are skills that are learned and developed just as drawing can be. He then set about engaging everyone in making suggestions and showing how a face can be built with different features and showing different expressions.

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This second book introduces more wildlife we rarely get to hear about, making the argument that we can’t help any creature- endangered or not- if we don’t even know of its existence. In Martin’s very chatty and accessible style, the plight of each creature introduced is shared with the reader as well as fascinating facts about them and where they live. Although humour is successfully used, Martin does not shy away from conveying the danger many of these creatures are in. When talking about the grey slender loris, for example, he ends with the words ‘The problem is, us big primates are not going away.’

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Every bit as enjoyable as the first book, ‘Lesser Spotted Animals 2’ is as entertaining as it is fascinating. Bravo, Mr Brown- another triumph!

Lesser Spotted Animals 2 Martin Brown

David Fickling Books ISBN:978-1788450393

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You can read our review of Lesser Spotted Animals here.

The Middler

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Maggie Cruise is a middler. Her brother, Jed, is an eldest - special because he is the family’s first born. Her younger brother, Trig, is the little one, everyone’s favourite. Being a middler means she is overlooked and ignored, but Maggie yearns for recognition and success. Fennis Wick, where they live, is protected from the outside world by a thick hedge. Dirty, dangerous, deceitful wanderers roam the land, threatening their lives. But when Maggie meets Una Opal, a hungry wanderer who needs her help, everything Maggie has been led to believe is turned upside down.

I loved this book! Being a ‘middler’ myself, I recognised Maggie’s sense of frustration and injustice at being the invisible middle one- particularly as a girl between two boys. She is a wonderful figure, loving and loyal, but flawed, making an engaging main character.

The world she lives in has been expertly crafted and filled with believable characters. Sent to fight in the Quiet War, sacrificing their lives at home for the good of their families, Eldests may seem to have the best of everything and live a charmed life, yet Jed and Lindi, another Eldest, are well rounded characters, shown to have worries about their future as well. Trig is lovely- full of life and skilled in his own way.

Gripping from start to finish, this is a one-sitting sort of book which completely captivates you. Although there are dark moments full of menace, the story is ultimately uplifting and full of hope and love. Highly recommended, this is a fabulous read.

The Middler Kirsty Applebaum

Nosy Crow ISBN: 978-1788003452