Sunday, May 1, 2022

Noel Streatfeild’s Christmas Stories



Although this was compiled in 2018 the stories were first published in various magazines in the early 1950s.  

Noel Streatfeild presents to us an older-fashioned way of living; one we might think would be gentler. Or is it?  

Rationing was still happening and this is evident in many of the stories.  Also surprising that not all of the stories are about well-to-do middle class families although one certainly is and one is even about a princess.

In all of the stories the characters struggle emotionally or financially and in many examples both.

As we might expect from Streatfeild, ballet shoes, skating and shows feature abundantly.

Each story is short and carefully crafted. There are a few line drawings that illustrate the content. The paperback is 174 pages long.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

The Secret of Haven Point by Lisettte Auton



Alpha Lux is disabled and is the first foundling to live at Haven Point.  She was found in a crate that had “Lux Flakes” printed on the side.  She lives with the Captain, other foundlings with disabilities and lots of cats in Old Ben the Lighthouse.  Also near to Haven Point is a colony of mermaids. Mermaid Ephyra helps to raise Alpha. This community supports itself by wrecking.  They capture boats that sail nearby, take the goods they need, but then send the sailors unharmed, on their way. The mermaids are very helpful in this.   

Life is fine and Alpha is relatively happy; she has friends, she is fed and sheltered and she feels s loved. Until one day she sees a glint coming from the old pill box on the coast.  Could this be her real mother looking for her?  No, it is a spy who is trying to find evidence of mermaids. Life becomes complicated when this spy, Bobby, is captured and he falls in love with Ephyra.

Alpha begins to feel excluded, falls out with her friends, and gradually realises that she has been extremely self-centred.

Those who had sent Booby arrive and capture one of the mermaids as evidence of the existence of mermaids. In the ensuing struggle Ephyra is wounded as she protects Alpha. The wound is fatal.

Life has to change at Haven Point. The mermaids leave and go out further to sea. The light house becomes a café and tourist attraction. Alpha has to find her own way in the world.  This borders on being a bildungsroman      

The book is 379 pages long –though the text is double spaced.  It uses a young reader friendly font: 12.25 Bembo though it is serifed and has difficult ‘a’s and ‘g’s.  There are line drawings at the beginning of each chapter and full page illustrations at intervals throughout the book. Three artists have been involved here: Gillian Gamble has created the cover, Valentina Toro the drawings at the beginning of each chapter and the full page drawings, and Luke Ashforth has provided the map and the concept of the lighthouse. There is information about the author and the artists at the end of the book. At the beginning Auton discusses disability.  She labels herself as a disabled person rather than a person with a disability.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Bruno and Frida by Tony Bradman



hi-lo,  ages 9-11, 10-13, upper primary, Key Stage 2, Lower Secondary, Key Stage 3, Bradman Tony  historical, World War II, Nazi Germany, refugees, Rex Tania,     

The story is set at the end of World War II as the Russians start to occupy Nazi Germany. Bruno’s mother is killed as the Russians attack. Bruno is befriended by the dog Frida, and by an old lady who takes him in for a while.  Frida is a suicide bomber dog and Bruno’s first task when he meets her is to remove her vest.

As the Russian occupation takes hold, Bruno has to move on and try and find his grandparents.  He has to leave the old lady behind. He never sees her again and he never finds out what happens to her. He writes to her daughter but she does not reply.

Bruno finds his grandparents and goes on to live a happy life.  He marries, becomes a doctor and has a family.  His granddaughter interviews him about being a refugee.  The family are sympathetic towards the Syrian refugees.     

This is a Barrington Stoke book and created for less able readers. It is printed on yellow papers.  The text is ragged right and the font  is  plain with simple ‘a’s and ‘g’s.  Paragraphs are indented and there is a line between them as well.  The chapters are short. There are a few monochrome illustrations that help with understanding of the texts and also expand the story. It is 72 pages long.  

 Barrington Stoke claims “Our books are tested for children and young people by children and young people.”  Usually they commission a known writer to create the text and their own editors then work on it to make it suitable for the target reader.  

Tony Bradman offers an historical note at the end and also points out how German attitudes have changed since the end of World War II.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

The Boy who Stepped Though Time by Anna Ciddor


The story is set in the modern day in France, and in the same place in Roman times.  Perry gets whipped back in time to the villa the ruin of which he is visiting with his family. He has to learn to become a Roma slave.  

There he meets the girl whose coffin he has seen; she would die very soon if he and his fellow slave Carotus doesn’t save her. He has found a way of getting back to his own time but he postpones this in order to help Valentia, the daughter to his master.

We get a good insight into the Roman way of life both for the nobility and for the slaves. We find out how they were educated, what they ate and what their homes were like.  There ae some surprises; Perry and Carotus go to school with Valentia. At the feast of Saturnalia, a little like our Christmas, the masters become the slaves and the slaves the masters.

Perry gets back to his home time and has not been missed at all. He is not able to tell his family of his adventure in Roman times.  However the label on Valentia’s coffin now says she lives to be 55. He is quite surprised to see who she married.  

The book is 309 pages long –though the text is double spaced.  I uses a young reader friendly  font: 12.25 Bembo though it is serifed and has difficult ‘a’s and ‘g’s.  There are a few line drawings at the beginning of the book which give an impression of what the two homes look like and how some of the young people looked. Each chapter has what looks like a coin with a Roman numeral on it, as part of the chapter heading. There is also an ordinary number and a title for each chapter.  

At the end of the book there is a glossary of terms, notes from the author and notes from the researcher.  We also have bios for the author and the researcher.   

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Santa’s Lost Buttons by Kirsty-Louise Garbutt and Meneer Marcleo



Santa keeps losing his buttons. The child is invited to find them in in the pictures. Some are harder to find that others.

Santa sets off on his journey and we see him visiting homes and enjoying mince pies and other treats.  And of course, losing his buttons.  He has a run in with the Queen’s corgis. He goes to France where we learn his French name.  In Spain we learn his Spanish name.  He goes to the USA and we see the Statue of Liberty. At last his journey is finished.  The elf places one more button in the under the sleeping boy’s bed.  And the reader is invited to find one more that is tucked away at the back of the book in a small envelope.     

The pictures are full of extra activity which provides more story and talking points for the adult and child reading the book together.     

The text is not too dense. It is printed in a simple font, with easy to read   ‘a’s and ‘g’s.  The book is sturdy: it is landscape and in hardback   

Saturday, February 19, 2022



2016, first published 2015  

pre-school, Key Stage 0, ages 1-4,  Booth Anne, Usher Sam, Christian, Nativity,   

This tells the story of Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt with Jesus after Joseph dreams they are in danger.  It is told from the point of view of the donkey that carries them.

The donkey’s voice is strong and he recognises the best in humans – the kindness of the innkeeper, the affection of the parents for the baby Jesus, the encouragement of the shepherds who watch them set off on their journey and the refuge the Egyptians offer.

As always with picture books for this age group there is some much extra story in the pictures. Facial expressions tell a lot: we see the tenderness in the face of Mary and Joseph, the wonder in the wise men, hope and fear as they travel, peace and relief as they arrive in Egypt, and kindness in the Egyptians.

The pictures are mainly grey scale.  Much of the action takes place at night. There are touches of yellow and the daytime pictures show a yellow sky. Yellow symbolises light and comfort in the penultimate double spread.

There is a mixture of pictures going across double spreads and isolated pictures integrated into the text on single pages.     

The text is sparse and the pictures dominate. It uses an adult font though it is large.

The story is fundamentally Christian though deals with a less familiar part of the nativity story. Even for those who do not hold the Christian faith this supplies a story important to many cultures.

 £1.00 from each copy sold goes to War Child. There is page at the end of the book, addressed to adults reading with the child, that explains about the work of War Child.  

There is also a QR code in the front of the book that takes you to a free audio version of the book.


Thursday, December 2, 2021

A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig illustrated by Chris Mould

click on image to view on Amazon 


Nikolas lives with his father. They are poor.  His father works hard and earns little, so he and his friends set off to find the elf village.  There will be a huge reward and they will all be set up for life if they can prove it exists. Meanwhile Aunt Carlotta moves in and makes Nikolas miserable. He leaves in search of his father.


He meets and befriends a flying reindeer, Blitzen, on the way. He finds the elf village but all is not well.  His father and the other men have kidnapped Little Kip. The elves are so annoyed by what the humans have done that they will no longer accept outsiders. Nicolas is imprisoned.


Some magic has happened, however, and Nikolas has enough hope inside him that he is able to float up the chimney and out of the prison.  He rescues Little Kip and brings him back to the village. His father helps him.  However, his father is too heavy for the sleigh and plunges to the ground.  We assume he dies.


Nikolas becomes popular in the village.  Elves, and apparently adopted humans, remain the age they are when they find out what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Nikolas is sixty-two, already called Father Christmas, has a rounded belly, a beard and a distinctive laugh, when he decides he wants to bring joy to good boys and girls every Christmas. The Elves and a group of flying reindeer help him with this.


This story contains some familiar tropes, some quirky passages and the sadness that Nikolas loses his father.


As well as being suitable for the fluent reader, this story may also appeal to younger children if an adult reads it out to them.


The novel is 266 pages long. It has blocked text and uses an adult font. Chris Mould’s line drawing enlivens the text. There are pages from the Daily Snow, the Elves’ favourite newspaper. At the end of the book are some puzzles.   

Noel Streatfeild’s Christmas Stories

  2018 Although this was compiled in 2018 the stories were first published in various magazines in the early 1950s.   Noel Streat...