Reading season continues over here… and in this post we have our latest and greatest reads for children from PanMacmillan South Africa.


I have to say, we are so hooked on the Wizards of Once, that we literally waited on the edge of our seats – all year for Knock Three Times to hit the shelves… it is fantastic of course!!!


The Wizards of Once Knock Three Times by Cressida Cowell

The most anticipated read of the year in our house… and so absolutely worth the wait. We love the Wizard of Once Series… these books, great big fat chapter books, filled with Cressida Cowell’s incredible illustrations have been read over and over again. The books are the kind of books that you read, turn the last page and begin again at the beginning… immediately. They are that good. And if you are patient enough then the audible versions, read by David Tennant, are totally worth listening to, they are absolutely fantastic!!!

In this book, the third in the series, we pick up where Book Two left us hanging: Our three heroes: a wizard called Xar, a warrior called Wish and a bodyguard, called Bodkin. They are flying over the wildwoods in a time long, long before the Dark Ages. They are precariously balanced on a flying door… There are along with their entourage of very animated iron tools and little spirit like beings, not to mention a “wise” old crow… They are being pursued by witches from above and wizards ahead of them… it is a fast and furious read, as they lurch from one terrifying moment to the next. Our two heroes and their bodyguard, who falls asleep at the threat of any danger are rushing to complete a quest, to gather the ingredients for a Lovespell. The question is, why do they need this Lovespell so badly, and how will they cross through all the treacherous challenges to gather their ingredients.

Good books are good for any age and this series has been the one that draws me closest to that feeling you have when reading an exciting book as a child, definitely not written down to children… any audience will do. There is wit, there is humour, there is irony, there is frustration, heady excitement and wild unputdownableness… dinner can definitely wait, while I read these. What I love is her true to love characters, our heroes are so flawed, have such good intentions and yet they just somehow cannot do whatever they set out to do. This is delight driven reading at its very best. My only complaint is that Cressida Cowell just cannot write this series fast enough. You can meet the author, Cressida Cowell, over here. Previously in the Series: Our Reviews of Book One, The Wizards of Once and Book Two, Twice Magic.


Poems to Fall in Love With chosen and illustrated by Chris Riddell

You know we are huge fans of Chris Riddell, and the day we spent visiting with him is fixed in our children’s memories forever. His latest poetry book, of course, has his wonderful illustrator’s magical touch… A collection of love poems from all sorts of genres, inter-woven with his beautiful and incredible drawings.

Classic poems, familiar poems and plenty of new to us poems; Funny poems, sad poems and terribly dramatic poems… collected together in themes: friendship, family, love, valentines, when love ends… some of these poems were tragic and appealed to some of the romantic hearts in our house and other were downright funny.

Our absolute favourite, that I had to read daily for weeks: Postcards from the Hedgehog by A.F. Harold. The illustrations were superb and inspiring… his usual sketchy magic: dragons, knights and princesses abound. Just a beautiful hardback book, that provided a great break in our school year as we chose to read these poems, as our read aloud for a week or two.

This book is perfectly giftable, and would make the most fabulous present, a valentine gift, or an anytime gift for a dreamy teenager, who doesn’t like reading more than a snippet at a time, they will be captivated by this book, which is filled with love.


The Star Outside My Window by Onjali Q. Raúf

I now understand why Onjali Rauf’s books are so renowned and I am definitely going to be looking out for her books in the future. What an incredibly beautiful story, written about a really difficult and tragedy driven theme. This is a tenderly written story, from the perspective of 10 year old Aniyah, who together with her little brother, suddenly finds herself in the foster care system. As an adult reading you can glean that her mother has been the victim of domestic violence, and adults around her with the use of euphemisms, have left Aniyah believing that her mother is a star, somewhere out there in a “happier place.” The foster home is as one would expect, all of the “foster siblings” have been through some sort of trauma and they are all in various stages of recovery.

A competition on National TV, the naming of a newly observed star, takes Aniyah and her housemates on an incredible adventure across London, dashing through the streets on bicycles, catching all sorts of public transport on their own in the dead of might… a wild and exciting adventure, all to get to the Royal Observatory in time to name the newly discovered star after Aniyah’s mum. Of course there are problems along the way, of course there is one child who works against the grain and of course, (spoiler alert) they overcome. This is a beautiful, poignant story, an important read as it helps to see the foster care through the eyes of a child. I loved this book and highly recommend it, not just for kids to learn more about the foster system, but for kids to understand their friends better. This is not about perfectly behaved children, that find themselves in a flawed system… rather it is about kids that need all the help they can get, they make mistakes and they have their faults… but their intentions are good and their love and care for each other, through thick and thin is sweet. I loved this book, it is a real heart warmer in a troubled world.


A Girl Called Justice Jones by Elly Griffiths:

Middle grade mystery at it’s best and right up Hood #7’s (age 11) street. Think crime writing for kids, with a school story thrown in for good measure. Set in the 1930’s, twelve your old Justice Jones is reluctantly beginning her first term at Highbury House boarding school. Sleuthing skills are in her genes, and she can’t help but to begin to unravel secrets and hidden agendas at the school… missing girls and murder. A cross between Agatha Christie and Enid Blyton, the school has a bleak and isolated location and only when they are completely cut off from the world by a snowstorm, does the depth of the mystery come to life. It is up to Justice, and her remarkable journaling skills, to make conclusions and connections that nobody else could possibly fathom… exciting, gripping and hopefully the beginning of a great series.


Shadows of Winterspell by Amy Wilson

Magical reading and middle grade fantasy. The story of Stella, who lives in an enchanted forest with her Nan’s imp, the most delightful Peg. Stella desperately wants to live in the “real” world and go to school and make real friends. Her loneliness runs deep and she secretly enrols at the local school, which turns out to be not quite what she expected it to be. As soon as she leaves the forest she finds herself caught between the enchanted forest and the real world, not quite fitting into either, but her quest to save the forest from the Dark King… keeps her soldiering onwards. This book is about endearing and enduring friendship, Stella does find a cure for her loneliness in her loyal best friends. I have to say, I really enjoy Amy Wilson’s writing… it is somewhat poetical and her choice of word is lovely… Interesting reading, and even though I could put it down, I was always drawn back to it… I needed to know how this magical story ended. Reads like a fairy tale, reality mixed with fantasy, for your younger teens, Hood 6 (age 13) loved it. We have reviewed her previous book, A Girl Called Owl, over here.


Heartstream by Tom Pollock

A Psychological thriller for slightly older teens or young adults, written in an age of “life, love and everything else online” Heartstream will appeal to the generation that sees the world through a screen. There is an app called Heartstream, that through nodes that you stick onto your head, you can live stream your deepest feelings to your hundreds and thousands of followers. Amy has used Heartstream to broadcast her feelings around her mother’s losing battle with cancer, and as if that isn’t enough, the book begins at her mother’s funeral. And a promise to her little brother that she won’t use the app during the funeral is broken, when loads of followers turn up at door…

Meanwhile, interwoven with Amy’s story is Cat’s story, a teenage girl who knows all about fandom and massive followings, who falls in love with a superstar. You really get the idea of what it would be like to be on the wrong side of the media from her perspective.
Clearly, they are both addicted to the high of social media and can’t even leave it for their own health and well being. It gets worse, there are consequences to living your life online, and within the first few chapters of the book you realise that one of Amy’s stalkers has entered her home and is armed with a bomb and Cat’s idea of love online is not nearly as sweet as she imagined it would be… and the rest of the book plays out from there.

Gripping, tense and very, very exciting. This one should not be read alone at home… It is a very quick read, not so much because it is short, but because you can’t turn the pages fast enough.


King of Scars by Leigh Bargudo

Leigh Bargudo writes epic fantasy fiction for older teens and young adults, and her books come highly anticipated, book after book after book. She creates worlds, she writes about them and you will get hooked. Before I go any further, all good books begin with a beautiful map, and you can download the stunning map from King of Scars at this link. From the very first chapter, as a young country boy goes out to close the barn door on a dark and stormy night, and comes face to face with a monster… you know that this book is filled with a deep dark magic. The hero is Nikolai a king. A king with a secret… and a team that takes care of him at night, so that he doesn’t become the monster within himself. The book is written from the perspectives of Nikolai, Zoya, and Nina… and the plot spins in and around the three of them. The intrigue is political, the battles convincing, and the writing compelling. Not to mention the ending, will leave you dying for the next instalment. If you are ready for a new series, inside a whole new world, then you may want to go back to the authors previous series… to set the scene so to speak, and to fill the void while you wait for the next instalment. You can meet the author and her fantasy world over here.

Amazon Affiliate Links to the Books Mentioned in this Blog Post

We would like to thank PanMacmillan South Africa for providing us with these books for review. This post is not sponsored in any way and the opinions expressed are as usual our own.

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