Friday, 25 July 2014

The Moonshine Dragon - Cornelia Funke - Barrington Stoke Review

Interest Age: 6+     Reading Age: 5 - 8

The Moonshine Dragon is a beautiful and enchanting book, (who I had to wrestle off of my son to read and review). Penned by the confident hand of Cornelia Funke author of the bestselling movie adapted Inkheart, it tells the tale of Patrick who wakes on silvery moonlit night to see a dragon crawl out of one of his books, and be pursued by a fearless dragon killing White Knight.

The easy read of this books, makes for a face paced caper, with Patrick soon being shrunk down to the same illustration size as the Dragon and Knight, and finding himself fighting to save hi and the friendly dragon from the lance and crayon wielding White Knight.

The story is funny, with name calling, “Evil fire-worm!”, “Devlish Warlock!”, “Stupid bucket-head” with plenty of action and even an iron dragon being used remotely to deposit the knight back in the book where he belongs. This book will appeal to all children but especially boys as it is fast paced and has plenty of boy’s classic elements, dragons, castles, diggers, untidy room all wrapped in a beautiful cover, accompanied by lovely illustrations by Monica Armino.

Monica Armino’s illustrations are beautiful, creating depth with the limed palette of creating greyscale images, which are full of energy. The characters are full of personality and feel like thay could actually walk off the pages. Patrick is cheeky, freckled and missing a tooth. The White knight is pompous yet strong, and the Dragon is cute. The illustrations look like animations, and it came no surprise to learn that Monica, was involved with designing the Pocoyo TV series which is one of my favourite (my 28th birthday cake had Pocoyo characters on it!)

This is yet another brilliant book from Barrington stoke, that with enthral even more advanced readers, and compel more challenged readers too.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Murder Most Unladylike - Robin Stevens – Editor Interview - Natalie Doherty Random House - 3D Review

What was your favourite children's book as a child?

I loved The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and A Little Princess – anything sweeping and a little bit gothic with miserable orphans! The Suitcase Kid by Jacqueline Wilson was a huge favourite for me too – I had divorced, constantly squabbling parents and I felt like it was talking directly to me.

What is your favourite children's book as an adult?

I loved – and still love – anything by Roald Dahl. Probably The BFG was my special favourite when I was younger, but I read Boy over and over too – the moment where his nose is sliced off in the car accident isn’t easily forgotten - and I can still quote big chunks of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More. When I got a bit older, it was his incredible short stories in books like Kiss Kiss and The Great Automatic Grammatizator and Other Stories. The twists in stories like Royal Jelly and The Landlady never fail to send a shiver down my spine. I wish I’d worked in children’s publishing thirty years earlier so that I might have got the chance to meet him.

What do you think makes children's books so inspirational?

I love how there are just no rules and no limitations whatsoever in children’s books – anything goes and they can take you anywhere.

What do you love about Murder Most Unladylike and what makes it stand out?

So many things made me fall in love with this book! The narrative voice is the most obvious – I knew within a couple of pages that it was really special, genuine and authentic, and I just wanted to keep reading. Hazel and Daisy’s friendship and double-act is gorgeous – it really reminded me of the relationships you have with your school friends at that age, and as one of the quieter ones in my friendship group, I definitely had my own Daisy to contend with! Plus, I was blown away when I found out who the murderer was, and that showed me what a skilful, clever plot I’d just worked through – and made me really want to work with Robin.

How many people have worked on this book and for how long?

Robin and her lovely agent Gemma had already done lots of work on the story before it arrived at Random House, and once we acquired it, which was just over a year ago, lots of people have played a part. Other than me, there were two copyeditors and two proofreaders working on the text; a designer and an illustrator creating the cover and the wonderful map inside; a publicist, Harriet, who sent copies of the book out to reviewers and bloggers; and various people in the Sales, Marketing and Production teams. All in all probably fifteen people have had a direct role, and then lots more who are more behind the scenes.

What made you want to work in children's publishing?

I’d always been a big reader and it was the only thing I felt really passionately about, but it had never occurred to me to try to work in publishing – I’d been told it was super competitive and I was convinced I didn’t stand a chance. Then I did a children’s literature module at university, and at the same time I signed up to do some work experience with the brilliant, encouraging, very enthusiastic New Writing North, up in Newcastle. The two things put together made me realise I needed to give it a shot.

For a chance to win a copy of Murder Most Unladylike tweet us with the hash tag #MMU3DReview to @BookshelfSpace or e-mail us with MMU GIVEAWAY in the subject bar. Good Luck!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Murder Most Unladylike - Robin Stevens – Author Interview - 3D Review

Robin Stevens was born in California and grew up in an Oxford college, across the road from the house where Alice in Wonderland lived. She has been making up stories all her life.

When she was twelve, her father handed her a copy of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and she realised that she wanted to be either Hercule Poirot or Agatha Christie when she grew up. When it occurred to her that she was never going to be able to grow her own spectacular walrus moustache, she decided that Agatha Christie was the more achieveable option.

She spent her teenage years at Cheltenham Ladies’ College, reading a lot of murder mysteries and hoping that she’d get the chance to do some detecting herself (she didn’t). She then went to university, where she studied crime fiction, and now she works at a children’s publisher, which is pretty much the best day job she can imagine.

Robin now lives in Cambridge with her boyfriend and her pet bearded dragon, Watson.

What was your favourite children’s book as a child?

Either The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson or the Chrestomanci books by Diana Wynne Jones. I loved magic and adventure, but I hated it when they ended with the end of the book’s story. Both Diana Wynne Jones and Eva Ibbotson show magic spilling over into ordinary life and changing it forever, and that’s what made their books so special for me.

What is your favourite children’s book as an adult?

Still anything by Ibbotson and Wynne Jones! I think they’re timelessly perfect.

What do you think makes children’s books so inspirational?

Children’s books are so special because they are one of the ways a child first sees the world. They bring children into contact with ideas and stories for the very first time, and so they have incredible impact. Every adult – even the ones who don’t see themselves as readers any more – can instantly tell you about the children’s books that affected them, and that says a lot about kidlit’s power to shape people.

Why did you start writing for children?

I started writing as a child (actually, I ‘wrote’ my first story before I could read, because I didn’t understand how writing worked), and I just never stopped! These days, everything I write seems to end up being a middle-grade novel – I think because that was when I first read the books that really inspired me. Those are the readers I want to reach.

What made you want to write this book?

I went to an English boarding school, just like the one that Daisy and Hazel go to – but as an American, I wasn’t exactly the typical pupil. I was totally fascinated by boarding school life, and I couldn’t stop noticing how weird it was. It always seemed to me like the perfect setting for a detective novel. I’ve known since I was about fifteen that I was going to write a boarding school murder mystery one day!

What is your favourite aspect of writing for children?

When you’re a child, almost everything feels new and interesting – you’re constantly having experiences for the very first time, and that makes children fantastic characters to write about, and a great audience to write for. They’re also the most discerning readers around: they won’t tolerate writing that’s boring or slow, and if they don’t like a book they’ll just put it down and read something else. I think that’s a brilliant challenge – and I hope I’m up to it!

Murder Most Unladylike has a tightly knitted complex plot, have you any tips on how to plot (and not get you yarn in knots!)

It’s a huge relief to hear people saying that the plot works now! It took me a lot of discussion with my agent, and then more discussion with my editor, before I managed to sort out my ideas and my alibis into something vaguely coherent. What I’ve learnt is that it’s important not to overcomplicate things. When you’re constructing a mystery plot, you only need five red herrings at most – three is absolutely fine. I’ve also discovered spreadsheets. I ended up creating a gigantic Excel document for the evening of my murder, with the characters’ movements divided up in five minute slots. It let me make absolutely sure that everyone was doing the things they were supposed to for the story – and also let me check that I hadn’t written two characters into the same ‘empty’ room at the same time!

You yourself went to boarding school (although obviously not in the 1930’s). How different was your experience to Hazel and Daisy’s?

Hazel’s and Daisy’s school life absolutely isn’t mine. I never discovered a murder, I was never alive in the 1930s and (most importantly) I was never taught by the people who teach my detectives. But I did spend many depressing hours hanging around on wet sports fields, I learnt Latin, I went to San and I ate masses of bunbreak (and tea, and dinner, and after-dinner snacks . . . there was a lot of food involved in my school days). So Deepdean is a complete invention, but one that’s based on my memories.

Do Hazel and Daisy have any more mysteries to solve? If so can you give us some hints of what to expect?

They absolutely do! I’m delighted to say that there will be two more Wells & Wong Mysteries. In fact, I’m already working on the second draft of Wells & Wong 2, so I certainly know what’s next for the girls! The book will be called Arsenic for Tea, and it takes place in Daisy’s country mansion, Fallingford, during the Easter holidays after the events of Murder Most Unladylike. From the official Random House blurb:

Daisy's glamorous mother is throwing a tea party for Daisy's birthday, and Daisy's eccentric family are all invited. Then one of their party falls seriously, mysteriously ill - and everything points to poison.

With furious storms preventing anyone from leaving, or the police from arriving, Fallingford suddenly feels like a very dangerous place to be. No one at Fallingford is what they seem - and everyone has a secret or two. And when someone very close to Daisy looks suspicious, the Detective Society must do everything they can to reveal the truth . . . no matter the consequences. It’ll be released in early 2015, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I’m enjoying writing it now!

Question From our Child Reviewer Isobel (aged 9): I would like to ask the author if she ever went to boarding school, and if so, what was the most exciting thing that occurred while she was there?

I certainly did go to boarding school - a girls' boarding school very like the one that Daisy and Hazel go to - but sadly, nothing really exciting ever happened to me while I was there. I was always hoping it would: I watched my teachers very carefully in case they did anything suspicious, but they never did. I actually once followed two of them around the supermarket to see if they had any shocking secrets, but all they did was buy cereal, like normal people. Actually, our teachers were just as interested in us as we were in them. They thought that we would try to run away - or even worse, run away with boys. There were always a few people who managed it every year, but the worst things my friends and I ever did was disguise ourselves as different people so we would be given second bunbreak. We also used to hide ourselves at the bottom of our wardrobes to get out of going to church on Sundays. If there had been a murder, though, I'm quite sure that we would have been on the case immediately

For a chance to win a copy of Murder Most Unladylike tweet us with the hash tag #MMU3DReview to @BookshelfSpace or e-mail us with MMU GIVEAWAY in the subject bar. Good Luck!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Murder Most Unladylike - Robin Stevens – Review - 3D Review

Adult Review

The blurb on the back of book states, “Murder Most Unladylike’ is Enid Blyton meets Agatha Christie; an intricately plotted and gripping mystery set at a 1930’s boarding school. In Murder Most Unladylike d├ębut Author Robin Steven’s has managed just that, producing one of those rare books that is perfect for competent 11+ readers who crave a more sophisticated read that is age appropriate.

Murder Most Ladylike, is a gem, capturing the time period and yet retaining enough similarities to today’s children to make it obtainable to the reader, and bringing the feel of a classic the likes of Blyton’s Mallory Towers or Secret Seven. The story follows The Wells and Wong Detective Society; a secrets organisation founded and run 13 year olds Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong, to solve mysteries like The Case of Lavinia’s Missing Tie, as they investigate the murder of their science mistress Miss Bell. Despite the ‘M’ word in the title, Murder Most Unladylike is suitable for the readership, it is tastefully written with no gore or violence, and starts with Hazel when she stubbles across the dead body of Deepdean School for Girl’s science mistress Miss Bell. When Hazel fetches help only to find the corpse has vanished, self-appointed president of the detective society the confident cunning and beautiful Daisy declares that there is only one thing to do, solve the murder because “People can’t be allowed to get away with murder at Deepdean!”

The girls begin their investigation, drawing up a list of suspects (from the airing cupboard), all whom have the motive and opportunity to have committed the crime. Using every trick in the book (or at least then detective and murder mystery novels that Daisy reads) they whittle down the down the list, all without the hindrance of an police investigation as Miss Bell conveniently left a letter of resignation after her fatal fall from the gym balcony. The girl take full advantage of the school gossip and take on take ever increasing daring endeavours to uncover the truth, from following the suspects to feigning sickness so to be omitted to the sickbay in the main building so they can search the school at night. 

The plot is complex, and every time Daisy and Hazel get close a new piece of evidence stirs them into a new direction, and the when they finally solve the case the twist is most unexpected and satisfying. This book will keep readers guess and on the tip of their toes, it also has all the feel of the great murder mystery novels of the time, with Daisy’s brisk no nonsense Sherlock / Poirot character to Hazels more timid Watson/ Miss Marple. The book also has a map of Deepdean School showing all the important locations to the case which has an air of Cluedo about it which is an added bonus, and they have helpfully listed the key characters and included a Daisy’s Guide to Deepdean which is a glossary of terms, which tells you exactly what a chump, card View’halloo is and why you can eat a squashed fly! 

Child Review by Isobel (age 9)

Murder Most Unladylike is a detective story featuring two school girls at Deepdean boarding school. When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong find a mistress murdered on the floor of the gym hall, they start a detective society and when another mistress goes missing they need to find out, who is the murderer?

The book is an easy read and you meet lots of Daisy and Hazel’s classmates. There are hand written suspect lists and diary entries in the book which add to the story. When Daisy calls her Mum from school you only read Daisy’s side of the conversation but you can guess the other side and it’s funny to imagine the Mother’s voice. 

Murder Most Unladylike is a book containing comedy, mystery and tragedy, an enjoyable read and once picked up is impossible to put down, I read the first half in one evening! You have to wait until the very end to find out the solution to the mystery, and I was amazed by the complexity.

The book is a more grown up Malory Towers type read (8-11 years olds) and it’s just how I imagine boarding school to be. I’m looking forward to reading more in the series and following Hazel through school.

For a chance to win a copy of Murder Most Unladylike tweet us with the hash tag #MMU3DReview to @BookshelfSpace or e-mail us at with MMU GIVEAWAY in the subject bar.

Good Luck!