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The Bear, The Piano, The Dog and The Fiddle – David Litchfield

Well, there is a new favourite in this reviewers house. My little five year old book tester was enthralled by this lovely tale of a loyal dog Hugo and his elderly owner Hector. As Hector stops playing his fiddle, Hugo takes up the job and becomes a sensation. There’s an emotional argument between the two, which nearly had my little dude in tears, and a possible reunion later in the book – at Bear’s concert tour – where he was upset that the dog may not want to see Hector again.

This, while another Bear and Piano book is definitely the story of the new characters, and is better for it. The temptation in childrens picture books is to repeat the formula ad nauseum, in the vein of Shark in the Park or Oi Frog, but this is a new tale that stands on it’s own.

As always David Litchfield’s artwork is breathtaking, detailed and emotional. The expressions of the characters are so vivid, and when combined with the gorgeous cityscapes and beautiful colour palette it’s a book that we already know will become a firm family favourite. It’s superceded our previous Litchfield illustrated favourite, the Spectacular City!

 

 

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Nobody Told Me – Hollie McNish

This is a new one for us on the reviews section, poetry and diary all mashed up in a wonderful collection. It’s a conversational, accessible warm collection of the experiences of a first time mother. Our reviewer, Claudia, had the following thoughts:

In this book – part diary, part poetry – Hollie has an amazing way of capturing so many of the thoughts and feelings I had when pregnant and with a young child. Her writing is so honest and down to earth and is easy to dip in and out of. I like to pick this up and read just a chapter at a time according to the time of year or my daughter’s age – like Behind the Scenes about the magic of Christmas and the work that goes on in secret to achieve it. And you can find her reading her poetry on YouTube too.

The Guardian review :

This differs from most motherhood memoirs in that it’s also part diary, part poetry collection, charting McNish’s relationship with her child from the moment she realised she was pregnant (at Glastonbury) across a period of three years. With appealing openness and immediacy, she discusses the shifts in her relationship with her body, her partner, her family, friends and colleagues. She is shocked how the world recategorises her, the way she becomes both more, and less, visible as a person. McNish does not shy away from discussing the pain, emotional and physical, the fraying of self that comes with sleep deprivation, the poo, snot, seepages and leakages, but she also captures the bliss and wonder. Her rhymes have a driving quality, urgent words pinning down fleeting feelings, and her prose is warm and conversational, like speaking to a friend.

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

So…. YA Day, and this is not a new release, but always popular in the shop…

The summary from the internet says..

Cath is a freshman in college with a lot of social anxiety and only two things that make her feel completely at home: her outgoing identical twin sister Wren (who chose to live in another dorm) and her love of the fantasy book series Simon Snow (an obvious tribute to Harry Potter). The ultimate FANGIRL, Cath writes popular fanfiction for the Simon Snow fandom.

Stuck with Reagan, a surly, opinonated upperclassman roommate with no sense of boundaries, Cath barely leaves her dorm room. Despite her desire to stay away from people, Cath must deal with the near constant presence of Reagan’s smiley, friendly, chatty boyfriend, Levi — who begins to draw her out of her shell, and even more frightening, charm his way into her heart.

 

What this book does do is provide a straightforward story with the usual twists and turns of a YA novel, but with a protagonist who is not ‘cool-in-waiting’ and genuinely has no desire to take off those glasses and shake out her hair like something out of an early 2000’s teen drama…

Cath is unapologetic in what she likes, but still manages to grow the parts of her life that she has ignored or suppressed.

Levi, the male lead is not the dreamy popular hunk on campus, but is warm, empathetic and interested in not changing anyone. He also has some very real literacy issues that are handled well.

Some YA tries to be edgy and racy, this, while aimed at uni age and younger, isn’t graphic.

It just keeps coming back to the one word relatable.

And when this is read, try her other work Eleanor and Park. That’s nostalgic AND relatable.

Plus check out

@pandanemar on instagram. These gorgeous images come from there and they make any review look sparkly and gorgeous.

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The Train to Impossible Places – P.G. Bell

In a spellbinding debut novel for older children, P.G. Bell has created a unique world to tell his story in. We follow the adventures of Susie Smith an 11 year old, physics loving girl who hitches a ride on a magical postal delivery train that takes a detour through her front room.

She is soon drawn into a fantastical adventure delivering magical post to time stealing evil witches, diving deep to meet pirate ghosts and breaking retired post office trolls out of their retirement home to liberate a secret and gain entry to the obsidian tower where a mystery will be solved and her adventure to save the kingdom of impossible places.

It’s refreshing to see a science loving heroine of colour lead a book like this with action, whimsy and trains. Lots of trains. And trolls. And a yellow monkey powering the train with explosive bananas. Because of course.

This is a thrilling ride, well written, and I can’t wait for more adventures in a fictional world where gravity is negotiable and the post train needs to run on time.

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Here Comes Hercules – Stella Tarakson

This little book is a fun way to introduce your little one to myths and legends.

Tim Baker has to do a lot of things at home that other kids might not. After the loss of his Dad, his Mum needs to work long hours and he has had to figure out hoovering and washing. Tim is bullied as a result and no one notices how unhappy he is. When cleaning he breaks his Mum’s favourite vase, and released the trapped Hercules. The Hercules.

Although Hercules wants to help Tim with his jobs and his bullies , everything he touches turns to disaster (and Hercules is not the brightest bulb). Every situation escalates with Hercules’ assistance, and no one else can see him, so poor Tim gets the blame! Will Tim and Hercules get everything sorted? Read and find out….

Our Rogan’s guest reviewer Bobby (6) says:

The book was epic, and funny, and quite scary, but not too scary. 

I’d send the book to my friends to read, but I’d like to keep it too.

As a parent, it’s a fun way to introduce Hercules and give a summary of his antics, but in a fun contemporary way. It tackles modern issues affecting lots of families, with a light enough touch not to scare young ones – whilst still giving subtle advice. Nick Roberts illustrations are comedic, but the expressions and emotions are deftly drawn.

The sequel is out already, and we’ve got Bobby on the case for his thoughts.

 

 

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Baby’s First Bank Heist by Jim Whalley and Stephen Collins

Rogan’s Reviews is all about getting our customers to review books and make this resource part of the community and Primrose (3) – with some help from Jo (35) were more than willing to oblige!

Baby’s First Bank Heist had an event during the launch tour at Rogan’s Books for this book, with the illustrator Stephen Collins. The children loved trying to draw baby Frank and he did a special doodle for everyone in their book!

Here are Primrose and Jo’s thoughts…

Oh, Baby Frank, how you make us chuckle. I asked Prim today what we should buy for two of her friends’ birthdays. Her immediate answer was ‘Baby’s First Bank Heist’!

Baby Frank desperately wants a pet but Mum and Dad are having none of it. What’s a baby to do? Rob a bank of course! There are no lengths Frank won’t go to in order to get his pet, but will he be able to stop at one?


Jim Whalley’s seriously funny tale will amuse children and adults alike. His rhyming prose is bouncy and infectious – the story is not sacrificed for the sake of making words rhyme and it reads so well aloud. Primrose has found it easy to memorise (particularly the line where his first pet arrives, which she likes to recite emphatically!)
Stephen Collins’ illustrations are genius – colourful, bold and as vibrant as Whalley’s text. Frank goes from innocent, wide-eyed baby to master criminal with the quick addition of a bandit mask, and the animals he gathers are sneakily hidden throughout double page spreads; finding them provides much additional entertainment. My highlight is the sight of Frank on the bus, his romper suit stuffed full of coins and banknotes!
We were lucky to attend an illustrator event with Stephen at Rogan’s Books during Independent Bookshop Week 2018. During a brief chat with him, he mentioned that Jim had written this hilarious story for Collins’ eldest son’s first birthday. Collins decided to illustrate it and Bloomsbury published it. How lucky is the real life Baby Frank?! If you’re after a picture book with plenty of comedy moments and a superb writer/illustrator partnership, look no further.
(For anyone worrying about the moral message behind this tale, fear not – Baby Frank does have to face up to his crimes!)

You will hear from Frank again …. as never fear, the sequel Baby’s First Jailbreak is out in July 2019!!!!
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Bloody Brilliant Women – Cathy Newman

This is a smart well written book that really highlights and draws attention to the massive impact women have had in history with regard to inventions, politics and society that has been swept aside.
It’s almost hard to believe what women pioneers in their field had to go through. A favourite section is in the 1918-39 chapter talks of the first female police officers and how they were not only protected from the criminals, but also the public they were protecting as their presence was an ‘outrageous provocation’. In the end Newman notes, ‘the women were made to patrol in pairs with two ‘experienced’ male policemen following them at a distance of six to ten yards. If they wanted to make an arrest, the women had to enlist the help of their male shadows’

This proper historical investigation might get lost in the embarrassment of riches we have today of books profiling amazing women. This would be a shame, because this is good. Very good.

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Agatha Oddly – The Secret Key – Lena Jones

Agatha Oddlow is 13, and like her namesake, loves a mystery. She’s a detective, with a so far unsuccessful agency in her too posh school. She doesn’t fit in, as you would expect for someone whose current read is about the most poisonous plants in England. She tries to avoid her bullies, Sarah and the CC’s (original meaning forgotten, they are the Carbon Copies – but not to their faces). Her best friend Liam is her escape, and her confidente in all things detective, covering for her as she escapes the school grounds (in her latest disguise) via the recycle bin. She lives with her Dad, in the groundskeepers cottage in Hyde Park and is friends with the local homeless man JP.

Agatha’s mum encouraged investigation, puzzles and mysteries. Her Mum passed away, but Agatha keeps her memories alive through compulsive note taking in her note books, wearing her vintage clothes and re reading her old books.

When an old lady is knocked over by a motorbike in Hyde Park – on purpose – Agatha helps, and starts to investigate why. It turns out the lady is a professor and has a mysterious key tattoo, and before long there are threats to Agatha and her family, cholorform incidents, terror alerts to the water supply in London, and secret socieities under the city. How is this all connected, who is warning her off the case and just what does the key symbol have to do with her mother?

This is a great early teen adventure, with a proactive, brave heroine who literally won’t take no for an answer. Agatha is street smart, observant and persuasive, and rescues herself – and quite often Liam. The mystery is quite high stakes for a book like this, with city wide consequences, but it never loses track of the plot or the books sense of fun.  It’s a complete mystery in and of itself, that has potential for future books, which is refreshing, so you  won’t immediately have to be looking for book two. However, the quality of the writing and the likeable characters mean that you will be first in the queue at Rogan’s Books in March for Agatha’s next case, The Murder At The Museum…

 

 

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The Restless Girls – Jessie Burton

Today’s review is from The Head Rogan of Rogan’s books, in time for the Christmas shopping event on Thursday, this book certainly makes for a beautiful present.

Rachael says:

Oh my heart.

I’ve been saving this up for an afternoon of indulgence. I needed to consume it entirely, in one sitting. And, as I did, I realised that it will be consumed over, and over, and with each visit I will unfurl deeper strands, more dazzling threads.

The term ‘modern classic’ is used frequently and often incorrectly. For this book, the term seems inadequate.

As a child, my favourite book was ‘A Necklace of Raindrops’, written by Joan Aiken and illustrated by Jan Pienkowski. It was a thing of pure magic, less a book, more a portal that I would leap into, transported to another world, a parallel land where colours were bolder and magic could be felt, almost imperceptibly, tickling the surface of the skin.
Through ‘The Restless Girls’ I am returned to that world.

It gives new life to the oldest tales, reminders of the truths we have forgotten, calls to rediscover our selves.

My heart swelled with my first reading and, as I read the final words, I realised I was crying.

@jesskatbee’s words are part prose, part poetry, wholly musical, weaving the sensation of dancing lightly through the pages, skipping towards adventure. The world within those words is given life through #angelabarrett’s illustrations. Colour, and the absence of colour, reflecting tone and mood with precision, yet seemingly effortlessly, light and dark slowly enveloping you as you move through Kalia and beyond.

I cannot wait for my tenth, and hundredth, and thousandth reading of this book. I cannot wait to see what else I will discover.
Also: now I REALLY need some silk pyjamas.

 

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Ocean Meets Sky – The Fan Brothers

This is a children’s picture book that is also a meditation on grief and loss. It tells the story of a little boy, Finn, whose grandfather has recently died, and it’s about going on one last mission to the place of his Grandad’s stories, in the dreamy space where ‘Ocean meets the Sky.’

It’s a beautifully illustrated whimsical look into shared experience of memory, fishing and the sea between a boy and his Grandfather.

 

By the end of the poignant story you get the feeling Finn is coping and will be alright.

 

Plus, just look at the artwork. Look at the dust jacket. LOOK AT THE FOILED COVER underneath the jacket.