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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.

 

 

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The Parentations by Kate Mayfield

I just love a crazy book. And this is properly kooky, and all the better for it.

This story follows a number of paths, with some intriguing groups of people.

Two sisters who sleep for huge parts of the year, in shifts, but always walk the same route of one London park every year, wondering if this is the year ‘he’ will come back. Oh and they don’t age.

A ragtag family who seem to hate each other, with a controlling paranoid woman at the head who is hiding mysterious blue vials around their home – who is being plotted against. Oh, and they don’t age either.

A mysterious group in Iceland, who live near a mysteriously blue water source. And guess what, they’re not exactly spring chickens either.

Are they immortal? What links these weird and wonderful characters?The story then moves back to the eighteenth century and we start to get the full weird and wonderful tale, with complex links between the people, and twists of identity, situation and circumstance.

This was simply, a pleasure. It’s a wonderful gothic high drama, with a sneering operatically fabulous villain who is ten steps ahead of everyone – each one is crueller than the last. There is humour, mystery misery and double-crossing. There is such an interesting central mystery, which is crammed with historic detail quirks of each period it touches and a touch of Icelandic culture. It kept me interested from start to finish. Whenever a character dies, it’s heartbreaking, when someone outwits the antagonist – however briefly – you want to cheer. Despite its length I would happily revisit this gothic world should the author want to expand its scope. However, this quality of prose and such an expansive plot makes her second novel, whatever it may be, one to watch.

 

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Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by L. C. Rosen

 

Todays book is definitely on the A section of YA – and is all the better for it. Definitely aimed at the over sixteens, Jack of Hearts is definitely the book I would have devoured at that age, and found useful beyond measure.

This novel brings us a cool and original central character, Jack, who is a sex positive, completely out, somewhat feminine young man. He is unapologetic in his enjoyment of sex and categorically refuses to respond to over inflated, scandalised rumours of his conquests (and there are more than a few of both). He understands that not everyone will like him or be comfortable with him and the way he chooses to express his identity and sexuality, and is himself anyway.

One of his best friends, Jenna, has a blog about the teens in their community – and wants to capitalise on that reputation to firstly help dispel some of the wilder rumours, but also to educate local teens both about sex and LGBTQ+ issues.

He reluctantly agrees and the book periodically gives us Jacks column, in the form of answers to the questions posed by readers.

This is all well and good until he gets a mystery admirer, who leaves notes in his locker, that start as unsettling and quickly become terrifying. Who is doing this? Why? And how far will their delusions take them into Jack’s personal life?

This book is a delight. The frank look at gay teenage sexuality is refreshing and the column excerpts raise and advise on issues such as consent, empathy, sexual etiquette, the bizarre stereotyping and fetishisation of gay men by some teenage girls and much more.

There’s a sweet burgeoning romance for Jack’s other best friend Ben, with a meaningful and true friendship depicted between the three very different teens. The depiction of Jack’s emotionally withdrawn mother is all too realistic for today’s teen, and the reveal of the stalker, while not the point of the book at all, is deftly handled if a little rushed and clunky.

You don’t see a full and frank discussion of sex in most YA books, reflecting real life for many, where sexual acts can be recreational – rather than part of a great love story, or a supernaturally predestined Great Love.

In lieu of actual sex education in secondary/sixth form institutions, teens could do a lot worse than check out this charming YA debut.

 

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The Cradle of All Worlds (The Jane Doe Chronicles 1) – Jeremy Lachlan

This is a tricky one, it’s a rip roaring adventure featuring a smart, sarcastic heroine who is saving herself, but it’s definitely solely aimed at it’s audience, with less adult appeal than you might expect for a book of this ilk.

Jane Doe appeared with her semi comatose father on the steps of the Manor in the town of Bluehaven.

For years she has been struggling with her social position as her appearance that day lead to her being labelled as cursed. She feeds and looks after her dad, while living in the basement of the family who drew the short straw and had to take her in.

She finds out there is a gateway to other worlds in the manor and that her blood opens mysterious gateways as well as having the power to demolish the buildings of her town.

Once the action moves  into the world behind the manor, the book becomes a thrilling adventure with great set pieces, new characters and great world building.

Which is good as this one finishes on a blooming cliffhanger!

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Pugs of the Frozen North – Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

 

What a lovely book. It’s not the most fantastical of the lovely books collaborated on by Reeve and MacIntyre, but it probably has the most heart.

This gorgeous little book follows Shen the Cabin boy from the Lucky Star ship which becomes stuck in ice and has to be abandoned. The selfish Captain Jeggings dumps the cargo, which includes 66 adorable pugs. Once Shen meets Sika they embark upon the greatest race – The Great North Run, because the prize is the winners hearts desire.

The characters they meet along the way are wonderful, from eternally hungry suspiciously human like Yeti, to snow trolls and Helga Hammerfest, whose sled is pulled by two polar bears Snowdrop and Slushpuppy – and is super proud of her beard as ‘most ladies don’t care for beards, but I find mine helps to keep my chin warm’. And indeed at one point it helps keep 66 pugs warm too.

The art work is beautiful, the two colours working so well together, with line drawing conveying so much emotion, action and fun all at once, and the writing is hilarious, the language whimsical and where it needs to be the plotting is carefully done to make the most of what an age 7+ audience can follow.

With a mixture of Wacky Races, a heroic quest and a barrel of belly laughs, there’s thrills (in the ice), Spills (in the ice) and a surprisingly emotional conclusion (location not be be spoiled as to reveal anything).

Don’t forget Reeves and McIntyre’s new creation, The Legend of Kevin can also be bought in the shop – and who doesn’t want to read about Max the boy and Kevin the Roly Poly Flying Pony who crash lands into his life….