This is the second Tales by Mail box and I have to say I am still enjoying them a lot. As mentioned before, this is from the same people behind Book Box Club and it is all about the middle grade love. So let’s see what was included in this box:
The activity worksheets. Usually they encourage you to write a short review and include some other fun things to do. If you got the starter pack then it fits neatly to go after the previous pack of activities.
A woodmark with the theme art.
Several promotional pins for Pizzaz and one for the theme card.
A cute pencil
And the two main books, Wonderscape and Sky Pirates
Both books look very interesting and I am looking forward to reading them. I am also happy that there’s not a lot in the box to clutter, just activities and great reads.
I saw this book on Twitter and it felt very tempting to read and buy, so I preordered and lo and behold, it did not disappoint.
For starters the house where Betsy lives is full of ferns and it has a piano and she’s the daughter of two famous pianists, so she has to become the next one, like them. Her very patient grandfather is happily teaching her despite the potential failures.
Betsy tries so hard to make her parents porud but something just doesn’t work, instead she gets a letter on the post with the promise of a secret way to be able to play the piano like her parents. It comes free, but the only thing is, she has to keep the method a secret.
She accepts and oh, the delightful brilliant madness of this comes true. I loved the secret method and it just made me feel happy to read the book.
There was a lot of “want to hug you and reassure you” feelings towards Betsy as she is doing her best to impress her parents. It highlights how conversations adults have can make a big impression on a child and affect their perception of themselves and of their future.
And of course there’s a lot of humour and things to make you smile and the sweetness of a good children’s book that will leave you feeling like you’ve just had a nice plate of warm cookies, your favourite kind.
I recommend this book if you like music, fun families, crazy stories and lots of little giggles, and of course, if you are curious about what the 44 tiny secrets are.
Due to some technical issues (aka, my husband was in hospital) no pretty jigsaw picture this time! And as a disclaimer I was provided a free copy by the publishers so I could review the book for this tour. This doesn’t affect my review or views on it.
The Great Revolt made my reenactor and history buff heart all happy inside. We get to meet Matilda (usually goes by Tilda in the book) and her father Thomas. And let me start by saying that this is a book where both the father and the child are part of the story and it is done well. I found this refreshing to read since normally the parents get killed or out of the picture, but Thomas is part of the story as much as Tilda is.
And both have their own motives, personalities and ideas, which makes this a book with well fleshed characters, several interesting points of view and conflicting ideas and just a lot to read about in a relatively short book.
At first I felt like I wanted desperately to get to teh juicy parts of the revolt but then I just wanted to learn more and more about the characters and their world, so bonus points on making this a world I can feel I am a part of. It was also good to read Thomas being okay with his life and seeing it as “better than what other options could be”. Yes, maybe it could be better but he is content, and again, usually everyone is unhappy or if they aren’t, they’re the villain, but that is not the case here and the dynamics of interactions and relationships are a lot more grey than just black and white.
Obviously, revolution comes at a cost and Tilda gets in some interesting adventures and makes some new friends. I kinda felt happy to read all the variety of the book and to feel part of that revolt and march to London to talk to the king.
I’d say if you are into history, into sweeping tales and wonderfully interesting books this is one for you. It has a lot of interesting points I don’t see often executed this well in a book. (If you want anything to compare to, I’d say it reminded me of Sally Nichols books or that style of historical but putting in the middle of the action but not from the safe point).
The Boy who Dreamed of Dragons by Andy Shepherd. Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie.
I discovered The Boy who Grew Dragons a while back and adored it so I ended up buying all three books. And then they announced there would be a fourth one and I immediately preordered it because between the cute illustrations and the adorable story, I was sold (plus, dragons, very important part).
The best way I can summarise what the book is all about is to say that it is a transition story, from what happened in the previous three to what is to come if there are more books (which I hope there are). There a lot of changes for the superhero squad, and some new characters added.
Tomas is struggling to cope with the changes and feels like things are moving too fast, but there are ways around them and change brings growth which is a lesosn he definitely has to learn in this book. Plus one of the new characters brings potentially lots of new stories to the game (and I am hoping they will come in more books for sure). We see more Flicker and more dragosn whcih was enjoyable, I just was sad that my original idea of what dreaming of dragons meant wasn’t what happened but I still liked what the title implied to (and it was more fo a “I went expecting/guessing this and something else happened but I still wish this one thing was something in this universe” maybe it will be at some point…)
One of my favourite things is the cute dragons and how unique they are which was wonderful to see here. And the relationships of family like how Tomas and his sister Lolli get along and I love that, or when he interacts with his grandfather. It is lovely to see some family around and the dynamics behind them.
As I mentioned before, the artwork is great and very enjoyable, giving the story a little bit more fun and depth. So go get the first one, or maybe the whole set, because maybe you will suddenly find an interesting fruit and need to know how to deal with the little dragon that may pop out of it!
Tales by Mail is a new book box subscription that happens bi monthly, has a podcast and is focused on 8-12 years old! The people behind it are the masterminds behind Book Box Club so of course I had to try this one and as is evident by my blog posts, I read Middle Grade and other children books so it felt right up my street.
This is the very first box of Tales by Mail and the theme was Mansion House Mysteries (makes me think of my own young self watching Scooby Doo!), and starting on the top right and going clockwise, let’s see what was included:
Not included in the box but can be bought separately is a binder to hold the pages of activities and “reviews” that get sent with each box. I decided to get it alongside the box as it felt more organised to myself that way and a simple way to collect them in a designated place.
A sampler of The Train to Impossible Places.
A tote bag for The Strangeworlds Travel Agency which I am super happy to find in the box.
Promotional bookmark for Tran to Impossible Places.
Mini notebook to write all the notes on mystery solving with the theme artwork on the front.
On top fo the books, are two pins, one makes you an official member of the Postal Express and the other has the theme art for the box.
The House to Hoarder Hill. This looks spooky like and I am super itnrigued.
Jack’s Secret Summer, which feels more like a fun adventure with a bit of mystery and no spooky (but I may be wrong)
The theme cards and activities, it has a couple fo pages for a review of each book but it also has activities and ideas so it’sa fun supplement!
As you can see it is jam packed with things to read and do and it’d be a good kickstarter for a childs’ creativity and adventures, so I was excited by it. There is also nothing in the box that I felt was just added for bulk, but instead it shows the focus of the subscription. Activities, fun little things that can be kept and lots of adventures to be. So far I can highly recommend it as a wonderful thing to get for children to enjoy and if you’re like me, for adults too.
When I heard there was going to be a book box for The Strangeworlds Travel Agency, I had to get it, so that is why I have We Read Box.
The theme was Expend your Mind, and the contents, going, clockwise and staritng on top right were:
A booklet with more details of the items and a few other articles/things about the theme.
A literary Passport (such a cute idea)
A glittery stunning pin to match the book.
The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L. D. Lapinski, which I am very excited to read!
A travel tag (luggage tag?) which is in the shape of a suitcase on wheels which I thought was super cute and made me smile.
All in all it was a lovely little box, I know they intended to include a book sleeve but the world had other plans for what 2020 was going to be doing (oh well), but they did reduce the price fo the box and it is still a nice one.
When I was a teenager I went from artistic rollerblading to inline hockey and loved it. Derby sounded fun but it just wasn’t an option so I did the ones I had available and loved them. This meant that when I saw this book pop up in suggested reads I got curious and bought it because it sounded fun.
We start with Astrid being bullied a little about the fact she’s rollerblaidng and that it is something for little kids rather than teens/older kids (she’s 12 years old) by someone she doesn’t like and her used to be best friend.
Their friendship soured over summer camp as Astrid had fallen starry eyed for roller derby and wanted to do a roller derby summer camp whereas Nicole (the ex best friend) is a ballet dancer and didn’t tell Nicole she wasn’t going to go with her, just kinda let her assume she would join and then told her she was actually going to ballet camp. (Is there a camp for everything?)
Astrid sees this as a betrayal and this adds up to the fact that roller derby isn’t as easy as she thought it’d be and the camp is hard work.
The story is very much a “becoming a teen and dealing with confusion, new emotions and changes in your whole social life” which I got so well as it went along. Astrid has to navigate making new friends, evaluating who she is and what type of friend she wants to be versus what she used to be and relationship dynamics (not just friends but what about her relationship with her mother?).
It is a lovely graphic novel dealing with a lot of interesting topics, particularly bases of changes as you slowly turn into a teenager and hormones start making you a bundle of confusion (plus how we all do things at a different pace, and how some do it due to peer pressure whereas others just do their thing and become outcasts).
I’d happily give this book to teen me as she struggled to comprehend and deal with all the sudden changes, it would’ve made it a little easier. As Astrid did, I found skating was a wonderful activity and gave new friendships and new things to do outside of school.
All in all, it kept me in the story, I felt for Astrid but also wanted at times to shake some sense into her but at the end felt very proud of where she got to. And now I want to do some rollerblading too…
I had The Library of Ever on preorder so it was a nice surprise the day it arrived in the post. I opened, started reading it and was hooked. Alas, I had to go work, so it was put aside until later.
The story starts with Lenora being very bored and unhappy until they end up in a library and she stumbles upon The Library of Ever. This is the coolest library ever and I loved the concept of it. It is a library will all knowledge and is accesible by librarians from all over the world and time and it is based on the motto that Knowledge is Light.
As Lenora accepts a job as fourth assistant, she gets assigned to different areas the more she grows her rank. Each time she has crazy adventures and my favourite part is that in each of them, a lot of knowledge and facts make part of it. Including challenging the concept that sometimes “common” knowledge isn’t correct (like the longest name for a place isn’t that one in Wales, for example, it may be one fo the longest one word names for a place but not the longest)
It was a joy to read and to be in the adventures with Lenora, plus learning new things at the same time (I did pause a few times just to go find out more about what Lenora was learning/doing in her adventure). Outside of those pauses, it was a fast delightful read and I highly recommend it and can’t wait to read the next one.
I managed to get a nice deal for the WeReadBox of November 2019, since there was some issues with the one for The Strangeworlds Travel Agency. As expected, as soon as I saw the fox theme I had to have it (what else, right?). So to unbox what is inside, let’s start on the top right:
A jigsaw puzzle for the image on the box. This is to match both books, and I love it.
The Clockwork Crow and The Velvet Fox, as the two featured books by Catherine Fisher.
A bookmark that is two sided one per book.
A super gorgeous fox enamel pin (it is inbetween the books).
A tiny acorn phone charm (it’s on top of the black piece of paper)
And the final item is a craft to make an ornament with an origami fox and crow and a cog.
This was my first WeReadBox and I am glad I got it, plus the theme was wonderful and it has a lot of foxes. The craft intrigues me, but you need to go to their website to find instructions and I kinda wish there had been instructions on the leaflet that comes with the books just in case, but otherwise I like the contents of the box and can’t wait to get the one for Strangeworlds!
This is the fourth book in the Narwhal and Jelly series and it is as delightful as the previous ones have been.
The artwork is “simple” but it still manages to convey a lot of emotion and environment, plus the text is big and eays to read. Tehre is a lot of cuteness and humour and you get some true facts about the characters (or rather, the animals behind the characters).
In this book, we encounter an otter who insists it has had all sorts of adventures, one crazier than the other, and Jelly is very skeptical about this. But also, Jelly is a little jealous of how easily Narwhal seems to have replaced their friendship for Otter.
So Jelly sets out to find a new friend.
As per usual, the level of cuteness, amount of necessary waffles (yum, this is always a perfect thing), plus the superhero mini comic and the facts we get make it a fun easy read. It is also great for children and I find it a great read as an adult when I want something to give my brain a respite from work or a tedious/intense task. It is a little bit of sunshine and joy in the day.
The only complaint is that the books are too short, I wish they were longer, but they definitely are great and I will keep getitng thema s they come out (I certainly hope for more of them). Highly recommended!
Witch in Winter by Kaye Umansky. Illustrated by Ashley King
This is the last one of the Elsie Pickles books that are out there for now, and I just wish there were more. I had such a blast reading through the series as part of the #Februwitchy readathon. They are magical, fun and really cute.
I would’ve loved them as a child and read them over and over until the book fell apart. That kind of delightful and fun that they are.
Some of my faovurite things about them, and it applies particularly well for the things that happen in Witch in Winter, is that Elsie has a very small repertoire of magic, she only knows a few spells and none of them are the kind of spells that are impressive or anything special. They’d be classified as “child’s play” type of things. But somehow, she finds creative ways of making use of them and leveraging them to help her friends.
In Witch in Winter, it seems winter has been to long, there is just too much snow and Magenta has gone missing. And someone seems to be wanting to take over the Tower, so Elsie gets involved to try to see how to help. And she does very well, once again, making the best of the things she has at hand and her customer service skills.
Aggie/Silvine does well in this one too, leveraging her odd parts accidentally (everything is technically an accident with her) to make new friends and somehow get things to work out way better for everyone while Elsie saves the Tower from the mysterious one that may have caused Magenta to disappear.
Don’t want to spoil all the fun but I enjoyed it, thought it was a great follow up to Witches (Un)Welcome! and just want to know more fun and more adventures with Elsie and her crew of friends.
Each character is developing better into their own space and identity with their specific strengths and weaknesses and it is nice to see them not being cookie cutter characters but unique and very “human” in their own way (or as human as they can be).
Witches (Un)Welcome! by Kaye Umansky. Illustrated by Ashley King.
The third book in the series of Elsie Pickles. If you’ve been following my reviews, I read them for #Februwitchy. I had bought the first two and wasn’t sure if I’d like them, but I did, so after finishing the first I ordered this and the fourth one (that’ll be the next review out).
The whole series if lighthearted and fun and witchy but also it is about customer service and how to interact with others.
In this particular book, Magenta, who in the previous one had her shop almost close, decides that a better way to deal with having a shop is to have a physical one rather than mail order. Less complaints through the mail, less postage, etc. But she’s not really a people person.
She doesn’t take this into consideration, and using a gift from her sister that allows her to do a shortcut for magic, sets up a magical shop in Smallbridge, where Elsie lives.
This is not exactly welcome news for the villagers who have a split in their views towards witches. And so chaos and crazy things ensue. The fact that the shop is there means it attracts magical folk, and they find the town quaint and decide to set up shop too, maybe offer their own wares, which is quite disruptive and confusing for the people in town.
Of course, Elsie, being a people person and knowing her customer service rules saves the day and surprisingly, Silvine/Aggie does too in her own chaotic clumsy way.
It was lots of fun, with a tiny bit of cringe for Silvine (I don’t think I’ll ever not feel a bit of “oh gosh, damn” for her), but still, I read it in an afternoon after dinner and enjoyed it thoroughly.
Can still recommend it alongside the previous two. Fun for read aloud, fun for young readers, fun for older readers…
Wish for a Witch by Kaye Umansky. Illustrated by Ashley King.
Wish for a Witch is the second book in the Elsie Pickles series. I reviewed Witch for a Week here. As with the first one, this was read for #Februwitchy and it was an absolute delight of a book.
In this book, Magenta has already figured out Elsie is very good at customer service and sales, so she is her first pick when she is in a particular trouble. Magenta’s shop has gotten her in the bad books since she isn’t keeping up with orders, or with complaints or anything really.
Elsie comes tot he rescue and helps organise the complaints, make a list fo things that need to be made and sent, etc. She definitely has her own kind of magic. But Magenta doesn’t have all the ingredients to make the things she has to sell and send so that means a trip to a magical bazaar!
This part was very exciting and Elsie still comes to the rescue and does wonders while Magenta does her best to try to me amicable (as little as possible) and ends up buying a mirror, some clothes for a mirror genie, and a few other things (she did promise one for each of them).
All in all, this had me giggling, with a tiny bit of cringing at some of Silvine’s antics and Magenta’s want to do things but not committing to it.
I still highly recommend this series and that you check the first book. Totally worth it!
Witch for a Week by Kaye Umansky and Illustrated by Ashley King
More #Februwitchy books, and this oen was definitely one I saw Asha talk about and bought the first two, forgot about them in my middle grade shelf and dug them out for the readathon.
What a great gem they are! Once I finished Witch for a Week, I ordered books 3 and 4 so I could keep reading them, because I needed more. That good was it.
Elsie Pickles lives a “boring” simple life helping her dad in their shop and living by Customer Service rules. I have done customer service and I loved the rules. They were just so eprfectly encompasisng of the whole how to deal with customers. It made this book dearer to me. But then she gets to “house sit” for the local witch.
The house is actually a tower with a personality, and it comes with a snarky obnoxious raven, and some fun visitors who befriend Elsie. And then there is the fact that part of the offer meant more books for Elsie to read, and maybe some magic may happen. Even if Elsie isn’t too sure about it.
It was just very fun to read the story, meet the characters who come to the door and do some shenanigans. It was great to just escape to the tower (I want a tower that gives me cake or whatever I want when I knock on the larder/cupboard). The perfect mixture of cute and fun and magical in a book.
Picklewitch & Jack and the Cuckoo Cousin by Claire Barker
This is the sequel to Picklewitch & Jack, I read both for #Februwitchy, and I have to say I enjoyed this one a little more than the first one. Maybe because Jack and Picklewitch have eased into a better interaction and relationship.
And they are getting into a pattern, despite Picklewitch being unpredictable and easily bored still. But she is fun and Jack is ahppy they are friends, and she respects his boundaries better. But then she gets a letter about her cousin visiting and she gets all excited and ready to be with the cousin.
Jack gets a little jealous and also terribly worried because if Picklewitch was enough to handle, a cousin can only mean more trouble, right? So it is a big surprise when the cousin turns out to be a very well behaved boy who is also very knowledgable and seems to fit almost perfectly at the school.
He doesn’t disrupt things like Picklewitch, barely uses magic and seems to good to be true. And that is exactly what it is, too good to be true.
It was fun to see the creative and clever plans Picklewitch and Jack devise (some on the spot) to try to fix the chaos that is happening due to the truth behind who the couisn is. And it just made their relationship more valuable to both of them as they each got jealous of the other having a better friendship with the cousin.
I can happily recommend this as a fun witchy book which made me laugh and feel happy after finishing it.