And just like that it is the middle of the year and time to write up all the reviews of the books we have been reading over the last couple of weeks. Absolutely fabulous reading… my favourites from this stack have to be My Life on Fire and Leeva at Last the characters in these stories are great, they simply jump out of their stories and join you… and amidst the mix of books for kids I was introduced to a really easy reading mystery for adults, Murder at the Village Church is a Dedley End Mystery and it is well worth getting your hands on that series.


Picture Books


Who Ate What?

by Rachel Levin

illustrated by Natalia Rojas Castro

This is a fabulous big book for history and food loving fact collectors of ALL ages. It’s marketed for kids, but their adults will love it too… it is absolutely packed with fascinating facts!!! Everybody eats, but what do they eat? From cave people to pirates, from the ancient chinese to the middle ages, from ninjas to astronauts… this is a step by step walk through time looking at what people ate, what was available to eat, hat were their favourite feasts, what were there day-to-day go to meals.

It is a lovely large format book, with a double page spread for each era and a little bit of treasure hunt approach… On the first spread you are invited to select which foods they ate during that time, with a couple of “red herrings” – no, cave people did not eat pizza. And on the second spread of each era, there is the truth… a menu of things that they actually ate for example, ninjas did not eat garlic or onions, which were far too smelly for sneaking up on the enemy. This book is full of lovely surprises, the illustrations are packed with things to discover. For curious kids and their adults, this is an absolute winner.

Easy Chapter Books


Dragon Storm

by Alastair Chisholm

illustrated by Eric Deschamps

This is an easy reading adventure series for all dragon lovers, it is fast paced and if your child is in the era of reading everything they can lay there hands on then this is a great series. The stories are set in a medi-evil world, where dragons live in a parallel universe… sounds a little weird, but it isn’t at all.

  1. Tomas and Ironskin (Book 1/8): Tomas working alongside his father in the forge, creating swords that can kill dragons. He has been told that dragons are extinct, only to be invited to join the special and secret Guild of Dragonseers. He discovers his very own dragon but he has to work really hard to connect with it. Tomas and his dragon have a special quest ahead of them, it is important that they can work together as a team… Tomas needs to up his game, but will there be enough time?
  2. Cara and the Silverthief (Book 2/8): This is the second book in this set of dragony stories. In this book our heroine is Cara, who lowly pickpocket, who has spent her whole life listening to a voice in her head… and she cannot believe that it is her dragon? Surely dragons don’t exist? There is an adventure and a mystery and Cara finds an inner strength that she didn’t know existed. This is another great story in the series… and I expect the series will go on and get better and better as we go!!!


Time Machine Next Door

by Iszi Lawrence

Illustrated by Rebecca Bagley

These are fabulous and fun, easy chapter readers for young scientists. Imagine if your neighbour had a time machine, and she steps back in and out of time… This is a fantastic way to introduce young readers to a couple of famous scientists from years gone by, and tweak their curiosity for more, all the while keeping the story fun and engaging. Sunil lives next door to Alex, who is somewhat of an inventor and together this heroic pair go on incredible adventures in and out of time. Of course there is the shady Mr Shaykes and his pet kiwi… always trying to disrupt the action!!!

  1. Explorers and Milkshakes: In this adventure we meet Charles Darwin and Sir Isaac Newton,
  2. Scientists and Stripy Socks: In this book we discover great explorers from the past from Neil Armstrong to Ernest Shackleton
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The heroes of these stories are delightfully falible, mistakes are made, things defintiley don’t go according to plan… and that alone makes for interesting reading. The stories are fun and bring history to life, turning dusty names old in text books into real characters. Thoroughly fun reading for fact loving children.

Chapter Books


My Life on Fire

by Cath Howe

This book – I actually stopped breathing while I read it. Such an incredible look into the hearts and minds of a child, when disaster strikes. One terrible night Ren’s family home burns down and nothing is salvageable, except a sad old tin. While everyone was perfectly safe, and relationships are far more important than things, you realise just how hard it is for a child to lose everything. The family are forced to go and stay with her granny, while her parents try and come up with a plan. Ren has to suddenly embrace life with a very strict granny, care for her small brother as he comes to grips with the loss, she feels abandoned by her parents, who are staying in her grannies caravan, and dealing with home insurers and the fall out of the fire… and some how Ren is supposed to abandon her own grief and soldier on. Soldier on she does, until things start to unravel and then things unravel really fast. She starts to “collect” things that belong to others… a hair-clip here, an ornament there, because everyone else seems to have so much and she literally has nothing. If I could have climbed into the book and given Ren a hug I would have, but her friend Casper comes to the rescue. As soon as he discovers her secret, he is determined to help her. This book is about a deep loss, and friendship… being aware enough about how those around you are feeling. This is a fantastic book to read to middle graders, it is packed with lessons in empathy, without being preachy at all. Great read.


Leeva at Last

by Sara Pennypacker

illustrated by Matthew Cordell

This book is delightful through and through… if you liked reading Roald Dahl’s Matilda, then you are going to LOVE Leeva at Last. I thoroughly enjoyed it, a fresh take on the child who is absolutely positive and makes the very best of a precarious situation. Leeva’s parents are mean and uncaring, and more than a little crooked, but somehow Leeva always manages to smile and above all else learn. Her parents think she was born to cook and clean for them, and her bedding is made up of newspapers but she discovers that on the other side of the hedge is a library, where she inhales books. And more than that she discovers friends.

Leeva has a lot to learn about friendship and people in general. She also has a race against time, doing all the good deeds that she can to make up for the wrongs that her parents have done. There are some of the sweetest characters, ever, in this story and her parents are wildly bad… Leeva at Last is a delightful and wonderful read.

And An Adult Read


Murder at the Village Church

by Victoria Walters

Tucked into my book delivery, which was a delightful stack of books for kids, was an adult mystery… which I thoroughly enjoyed. So much so that when I realised that it was the third in the series I rushed out to find book 1 and book 2. I found Book 1, Murder at the House on the Hill, on audible and it was a fabulous, and frankly wished the whole series was on audible. These are perfect weekend away reads, a murder mystery solved by the owner of a book store and her granny. Nancy and her grandmother, Jane, run a bookstore in a small English town, and the bookstore has a theme: It is a crime, thriller and mystery bookshop, already I was captivated by this idea. When there was a murder at the house on the hill, Nancy and Jane decide to some of their own sleuthing, and to solve the crime. Meanwhile, Nancy is on a quest to find her mother, who disappeared during her childhood: there are red herrings, loose threads, and detective work, not to mention a locked room mystery… Just a generally relaxing and wonderful weekend read.


Amazon Affiliate Links used in this post.

These books were given to us for review purposes by Jonathan Ball Publishers. This is not a sponsored post and opinions expressed are entirely our own.

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