Thursday, August 25, 2022

Thursday’s Child by Noel Streatfeild


2020 (first published 1970)

Margaret Thursday was abandoned as a baby, on a Thursday. Hence her name. She was left with “three of everything “of the finest quality. Every year a bag of money is left for her upkeep – until one year it runs out. So, she is sent to an orphanage where she discovers that everything is run very badly. There she befriends two boys and their older sister who obtains work as a scullery maid in a nearby big house.

The Lord and Lady at the big house suspect that the orphanage is not well run. They arrange an intervention but it comes a little too late.

The older boy, Peter, has “borrowed” some books and Margaret fears that he will be arrested and imprisoned. With the help of Jem, one of the stable boys, Margaret and the two boys escape and go and live with Jem’s family on a canal boat for a while, before joining a travelling theatre company.

Lord Corkberry recognises the boys and reunites them and their sister Lavinia with their grandfather.  The grandfather offers a home to Margaret but she refuses. She must find her own way in life. There is a sequel.

  The text is blocked and uses a serif font and has difficult ‘a’s and ‘g’s. It is 321 pages long.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Wicked Little Deeds by Kat Ellis



Dead-eyed Sadie is said to appear just before a member of the Thorn family is about to die. This seems indeed to happen as people around Ava Thorn die or are murdered.  She becomes a suspect in a murder case and in turn she and her unlikely ally, Dominic Miller, suspect one of their teachers.

The Millers and the Thorns have been enemies for some time.  Dominic and Ava find out out that his may go back to the time of Sadie Burnett Miller who was left to die by the Thorn family. Her eyes were gouged out.  Despite Dominic’s sister Freya and Ava’s best friend Ford being two of the people who die, Ava and Dominic become close.

Ava’s parents were killed in a car accident and Ava blames Dominic’s father, whose car slammed into theirs on an icy evening as they drove home. Ava’s Uncle Ty and his wife Caroline have to sell the manor, the Thorn family home, before the bank forecloses and Ava is astounded that they sell it to the Millers. Freya and Ava clash particularly; they are both promising art students and compete for the summer school art scholarship. Ava still endures nightmares and more recently has also had  hallucinations. She puts this down to the trauma of losing her parents and of being the one who found Freya’s body.  

The truth is horrible.  Caroline is a fortune-seeker. Uncle Ty resented Ava’s father as her grandfather had left Ty none of his fortune.  Much of the proceeds of the sale of the manor has been put into a trust fund for Ava. But Caroline and Ty plot to kill her and frame her for Freya and Ford’s deaths. Caroline has systematically been adding a drug to Ava’s drinks. She and Ty were also instrumental in her parents’ death and the arrival of Mr Miller was just a lucky (unlucky?)  coincidence.

Ava and Dominic almost get trapped in the manor which is burnt to the ground.      

There are also strong bildungsroman elements in this.  Ava grows: she loses her family home and the value she attached to it, she overcomes the enmity between the two families and she finds out that her beloved uncle Ty and her close friend Ford were not quite what they seemed.   

This is a fast-paced novel and keeps readers engaged right to the end. Yet there is also plenty of solid character development.

This is a long book – 385 pages of blocked text in a serif font.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Voyage on the great Titanic by Ellen Emerson White



Margret Anne Brady has been brought up in convent. She is hired as a companion for a Mrs Carstairs, and American lady who is returning to New York to  meet her first grandchild.  Her daughter has just given birth.  Margaret hopes to join her brother William who is already living in Boston.  Of course, in the early hours of 14 April 1912 the Titanic hits an iceberg and sinks.  Margaret, Mrs Carstairs and her dog Florence all survive. The cabin boy, Robert, who has befriended Margaret does not. Margaret names one of her children after Robert.  She does manage to meet up with her brother who finds her in New York.     

Margaret uses a sophisticated language for a young girl who has been brought up in convent. This may affect the reader.  For this reason I also recommend it for lower secondary.  The text is delivered in diary form     

There is a useful timeline at the end of the book and some interesting photos with quite detailed notes.

The text is blocked and uses a serif font and has difficult ‘a’s and ‘g’s. The print is small throughout the book and even smaller when it accompanies the photos. The novel is 189 pages long.  

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Find Fergus by Elizabeth Dale and Becky Davies



This is a very carefully written book produced by Reading Champions.    It is a turquoise band book.  This means that there is a fair amount of text on each page, with some pages having no illustration at all. This gives the child the opportunity to read like a more experienced reader across longer passages of text.  Where there are pictures, they may only depict one aspect of what is going on in the story, as the plots become more complex.  They illustrate. They don’t offer extra story.

Imran loses his toy rabbit; he is not able to sleep without this rabbit.  The story shows us how he finds it and what happens next.

The text is ragged right.  The font is plain and quite large. It has simple ‘a’s and ‘g’s. 

Two pages at the end of the book offer suggestions to adults as to how they might use this book with their children.

There is a picture quiz for the reader; they are asked to put the captioned pictures in order - in effect creating a story board of Imran’s adventure.

Politeness for Penguins by Zanna Davidson and Duncan Beedie



pre-school, ages3-5, lower primary school, Davidson Zann, Beedie Duncan, Good Behaviour Guide,    

The penguins are a bit of a mess.  But the Emperor is coming and they must mend their ways.  So, they learn to become super polite. However the Emperor he is not particularly well-mannered himself.  Despite this the penguins decide to hold on to their new ways as they realise that good manners come from kindness and kindness is a good thing to practise.

Usborne describes this as a “Good Behaviour Guide”.     

This is a very busy book. The pages in which the penguins behave badly are full of entertaining pictures and colourful vocabulary.  The pictures tell a supplementary story. The last double spread is particularly busy. Many of the pictures are integrated into the text and there are speech bubbles in some of them.  Pre-schoolers may enjoy attempting to read some of the words.   

The font is large but is definitely one for the more sophisticated reader.    

A Tempest of Tea by Hafsah Faizal

2024   Spendthrift is an innocent tea room by day and by night a den for vampires, where they can enjoy a different sort of tea and indulg...