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The Braid – Laetitia Colombani

A review from our Rogan’s Reviewer Claudia for a grown up novel.

The Braid follows the lives of three women separated by class, religion, profession and continent. While they are so different they do share a few things in common; independence, determination and a drive for a better future.

Smita, a low caste Dalit, seeks an education for her only daughter to pull her out of a life of poverty and service. Guila, a young Sicilian faced with misfortune and tragedy, and inspired by a surprising idea, fights convention and entrenched tradition. Sarah, with a successful career and children, is blindsided by a change of events, causing her to examine all she values in life. 

The book follows the life changing challenges the three women face, and how each of them overcomes very different but deeply entrenched societal views of women’s roles in society and the home. 
I found the story hard to read at times because I became very fond of the characters and their aspirations for themselves and their families. Despite the book being split into alternating chapters for each character, the flow of each story isn’t lost and it is easy to follow. I really enjoyed it!

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The Weight of a Thousand Feathers – Brian Conaghan

This book is important. Bobby Seed is a 17 year old who’s not keen on school. He is a carer for his mum who has MS. He has a brother called Danny who is 14 going on 10, who has developmental and social needs they’ve never felt the need to diagnose or categorise. His best friend Bel is sarky, tough and has just a complex a home life.

Bobbys mother declines over the course of his book, and his world expands as he is cajoled into joining a young Carers Group, including a mysterious handsome boy called Lou.

That’s the plot. This book is about the voice. It has a clear, authentic voice, with spectacular characterisation. Booby becomes a loving breathing young adult. It perfectly captures the feelings of a young carer, despair and joy. There is a brilliant sibling relationship, beautifully realised. Bel is the teenage friend we all had or wanted. The burgeoning relationship with Danny and Lou is tentative and rings true, until something truly shocking arises.

The central moral question is tough, and the unrelenting nature of their Mum’s condition is brutal. Despite finding the humour in life this will bring you to tears. This is the more emotional end of the YA market, with concepts of parental loss, euthanasia and trauma.

This book is a rare in teen fiction in that it speaks to boys, and for this reviewer the experience of being gay as well. Not in a dramatic coming out sense, but in just taking those first steps.

Amazing. Tough. Sweary. Essential.

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Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

Bit of an old one today, that has been made current again by the recent film. I’ve yet to see the movie, but this book is a proper dystopian classic…

The novel follows our hero, Tom who is a teenage Apprentice Historian in London. But in this post apocalyptic world London is a movable traction city vehicle, a massive lumbering hulk with buildings and engines and people living on it. They hunt and destroy smaller city vehicles for parts and resources. However, not everyone believes this is a cause for celebration. Tom accidentally interrupts the apprehension of a fugitive Hester Shaw but when he tries to help it’s clear he has seen too much and his own superior pushes him from London.

Hester and Tom then go on a fantastical series of adventures escaping from Cyborgs, meeting airship pilots and encountering pilot towns, ultimately getting themselves on a mission to stop an ancient deadly weapon called MEDUSA.

The story is thrilling, the characters well realised and complex and while some of the themes are quite adult it’s a great bridging novel between middle grade/older children fiction and full YA angst and violence.

It’s the first in a series, and while there’s clearly an adventure after this one (it’s the first of four) it can easily be read as a standalone.

And we just happen to have this wonderful edition in the shop right now.

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Think Big by Kes Gray and Nathan Reed

This lovely little tale is released on February 7th, and is available for pre-order.

This colourful bright story is the tale of Humpty Dumpty planning his future career. All of his fairy tale folk friends want him to do amazing things, but he just thinks that he should become a boiled egg. What careers can they all think of, what will Humpty decide? The writing is sweetly encouraging, gorgeously illustrated in a clear expression filled style. The wicked twist at the end will cause peals of laughter in your little one!

I can’t wait to see what happens to Humpty next!

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Blood and Sugar – Laura Shepherd-Robinson

Here’s a guest review from one of our readers – Matt for a new book releasing on 24 January 2019, available to order in the shop.

This book is crime fiction, set in 1781. A military hero turned aspiring politician, Captain Henry Corsham, is visited by the sister of an old friend of his – Tad Archer – who has disappeared. Corsham makes his way to where Tad was heading to when last heard, Deptford, which was then the centre of the slavery industry in the UK. Tad turns out to have been murdered, and in such a way that strongly suggests links with the slave industry. When it becomes clear that Tad was promoting and working for the abolition of slavery, the link becomes even clearer. Corsham investigates, which takes brings him into contact with various unsavoury characters and the power of slavery interests. As he investigates, he finds that a really shocking incident on board a slave ship lies at the heart of the murder and some of the powerful interests want it to remain a secret.

I found the book really interesting for its coverage of slavery in the UK, which I confess to not having known a huge amount about previously, as what went on in this country is not as widely known as what went on in the US. Slaves and slavery had a legally ambiguous status in Britain at that time, but there was a lot of money in it. What was really shocking was the extreme way in which the slaves were treated not as human beings but as cargo, and the incident which lies at the heart of the mystery was based on a real historical event.

It was also interesting for its description of how London at the time was expanding rapidly, and indeed Deptford where much of the novel is set was at that point outside of London, compared to being several miles inside as today. And indeed the sense of place in the novel was very good, with the atmosphere of a seedy port captured well.
The plot worked well and kept the book going. It was arguably slightly more complicated than it needed to be, but this didn’t detract from the overall quality of the book. 

It was well written, and both locations and characters in the book were believable, and the subject matter made it thought provoking. Historical crime fiction, as with much crime fiction, is very often a series (such as Philip Kerr, and C J Sansom – a quote from who pops up on the cover), but this felt to me like a stand alone. A good debut novel from the author, and for crime fiction fans one worth reading.

Thanks Matt for the review, we’re glad you enjoyed it!

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Illustrators’ official websites

If you’d like to visit the artists’ own websites, we’ve put together a handy list.

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Interesting links

Interesting links

Book information/services/magazines

Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books

House of Illustration

The Book Trust

The Federation of Children’s Book Groups

Books for Keeps

Illustration Magazine

Carousel Magazine

National Literacy Trust

Book Buying


If you can’t pay for a picture in one go, just contact me to pay by monthly instalments instead.

Remember, children’s book illustrations aren’t just for the kids to enjoy! Owning the pictures behind the stories can also be a good investment, especially if you choose one of our “original published” pieces. If you’re new to the market, you may want to see the buyers guideQ & A’s at the bottom of the About Us page.