Wildings

by Eleanor Glewwe

wildings-by-eleanor-glewwe

 

 

Do your kids (and you) love the magic of Harry Potter, InkHeart, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe? Do they love fantasy fiction but have run out of books to read? I know my middle grade reader has read just about every fantasy book under the sun. I was happy to pass on Wildings to her after I read it, I know she is going to fall in love with this book. I had not read or heard of the book Sparkers so this was my first introduction to the magical world that Rivka, Arik and other Wildings live in. I will go back and read it this book was so good I didn’t want it to end. I loved that Rivka is a strong girl who doesn’t back down if she feels she is doing what is right! We need more books with good, positive girls. This book deals with the topic of racism within the magical world and Rivka doing everything she can to reunite and change the laws so other wildings can be reunited with their families. Grab a copy for your fellow bookworms and gift it this holiday season. I really hope this story line continues I would love to read more and see where they go from here.

summary: Rivka is one of the magical elite and the daughter of an important ambassador. But she harbors a deep secret: She once had a twin brother, Arik. When Arik failed to develop his own magical abilities, the government declared him a wilding, removed him from his home, placed him with non-magical adoptive parents, and forbade him any contact with his birth family. Now it is as if he never existed at all.

But Rivka refuses to forget her twin brother. Even though she knows she could lose everything—her father, her friends, even her freedom—she sets out to find Arik. She has nothing to go on except her still-new magical powers and her love for her brother. Can that possibly be enough to bring them together again, when all of society believes they belong apart?

Thank you Viking Books for Young Readers for allowing me to read Wildings. All thoughts and opinions are my own and not influenced by the free book.

Return to the Secret Garden

by Holly Webb

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Return to the Secret Garden for me wasn’t quite as magical as the classic but then it’s so hard to beat or be up there with a classic as big as The Secret Garden. I feel this book was written for a younger reader/listener than the classic was intended for. Overall the book was good and had the charm of The Secret Garden,  if you or your child has never read the classic than this has every bit of the charm, emotions and magic. If you have read the classic to your child before they might not feel the same magic but would still enjoy the book. This was a great try at updating a classic, but sometimes classics just shouldn’t be messed with. As a stand alone and no comparison to the classic is holds its own and is quite good. However with the title I don’t think most will not be able to compare it to the probably one of the top 5 children’s classics of all time (at least for me it is). This book did make me want to reread the classic and all of Frances Hodgson Burnett other classics. For me I say read the classic to your child and then read this one let them experience both worlds. A great gift bundle would be the classic The Secret Garden, the movie and Return to Secret Garden.  This is a great way to start introducing even little bookworms to the classics.

 

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summary: Return to the magic of Burnett’s classic tale with a brand-new character as she discovers a very secret garden.

It’s 1939, and the occupants of the Craven Home for Orphaned Children have been evacuated to Misselthwaite Hall, a fancy manor in the English countryside, to escape the Blitz. Emmie would hardly call the orphanage “home,” but her heart breaks knowing that leaving Craven means leaving her beloved cat, Lucy. Away from everything she’s ever known and trapped in imposing Misselthwaite, Emmie finds herself more miserable than ever.

But soon she starts discovering the secrets of the house—a boy who cries in the night, a diary written by a girl named Mary, and a garden. A very secret garden…

Book Excerpt: 

One

The children marched down the street in a long line of twos, and only one of them looked back. The others didn’t turn because they didn’t need to. There was nothing to look back for. Everything they owned was with them—-a few clothes, a battered, shapeless stuffed toyhere and there. Each of them carried a paper bag and a gas mask, and that was all they had.

Emmie trailed, peering over her shoulder, so that Arthur, behind her, gave her a shove to tell her to keep up. She kicked him swiftly and walked backward instead, still trying to see.

But Lucy wasn’t there. It was stupid to expect that she would be anyway, Emmie thought. Lucy hardly ever came out onto the street. She was shy, and she hated loud noises. Emmie still stared though, hoping to see the small, black cat peering after her around the corner of the tall house. Lucy had probably fled out into the backyard, Emmie decided miserably. She kicked Arthur again because he was smirking at her—-and because she felt like it.

“Emmeline Hatton!”

Emmie whipped around with a sigh. Of course Miss Dearlove hadn’t seen Arthur giving her a push. She never did see. “Me, miss?” she asked innocently, trying to look as though she didn’t know what was the matter.

The matron glared at her. “No, the other Emmeline Hatton. Of course you! You bad–tempered little girl, how dare you kick Arthur like that?”

“He pushed me…” Emmie started to say, but Miss Dearlove didn’t bother to listen. She grabbed Emmie by the arm and hauled her up to the front of the line. She was a tiny lady, not actually much bigger than Emmie, but Emmie didn’t dare pull away. She had known Miss Dearlove forever. The matron was like a busy little clockwork train, wound up into a clicking fuss of pure crossness. It was best not to get in her way—-but somehow Emmie always did.

“You can walk here with Miss Rose and the babies since you can’t be trusted to behave like a ten–year–old. Why is it always you? And after your ridiculous behavior this morning as well. As if we haven’t got enough to worry about.” She glanced down at her watch. “Miss Rose, we need to hurry. The station’s bound to be busy, and there isn’t that much time to spare.” She scuttled down to the end of the line again with one last growled “Behave!” to Emmie.

Miss Rose was usually less bad–tempered than the matron, but even she eyed Emmie and sighed. “Today of all days, Emmie? I would have thought you’d have more sense.”

“He shoved me,” Emmie muttered. She knew that wasn’t quite true, but she wasn’t letting them have the last word. “It isn’t fair. Why do I always get into trouble?” She walked down the street next to Miss Rose, seething and muttering to herself. If she huffed and growled, she wouldn’t cry, and she wasn’t going to give Arthur Banks the satisfaction of that, however much Miss Rose frowned.

They had been told the day before that they were leaving. Miss Dearlove had stood up at the end of breakfast and explained that since war was expected to be declared within a few days, the Craven Home for Orphaned Children would be evacuated “somewhere safe.”

No one knew what evacuation meant, except that it was vaguely connected with the rows of brown boxes on the shelves in the schoolroom, which contained the gas masks. Once a week for the last few months, they had pulled the masks on and sat staring at each other, snout–nosed and goggle–eyed. After the first few tries, Arthur had figured out how to make a rude noise, a sort of farting snort around the rubber facepiece. He did it every time now, and they all laughed. Even Miss Dearlove didn’t sound that cross when she told him off.

But Emmie had dreamed of those huge, round eyes almost every night since. The glass lenses of the masks leaned over her, stooping down close and staring. The gas masks were supposed to help them breathe, Miss Dearlove said, but when Emmie thought of her mask, sealed away in its flimsy cardboard box, she found her breath catching in her throat. Where was this gas going to come from anyway? No one had said. Arthur and his friend Joey said it would be dropped by planes, but all the gas that Emmie knew about came in pipes to the kitchen for the stoves. She didn’t see how it could be carried in a plane. If only someone would explain, she thought bitterly, kicking at a crack in the pavement as they marched on. Where were they going—-and why? What was happening? No one told them anything. They didn’t need to know. They just got packed up like their clothes and sent away…

“Look.” The little girl Emmie had been shoved next to tugged at her sleeve.

“What?” Emmie muttered, not looking.

“Over there.” Ruby pointed across the road. “See, Emmie, there! Do you think they’re being evacuated too?”

Emmie turned and saw that they were passing a school, where a long column of children was lining up on the playground. They were carrying an assortment of battered cases and brown paper bags, and there were labels tied onto their coats.

“I suppose so.”

“Just like us…” Ruby said thoughtfully. “I didn’t know everybody was.”

“We have to get out of the cities—-in case of planes flying over,” Emmie said vaguely. “All the children do.” That was what the boys had thought anyway. They had been lurking around the matron’s sitting room, listening to the news broadcasts, so Emmie supposed it was possible they were right. The children on the playground did look a lot like them, except that there were mothers huddling around them and even a few fathers. They were pushing packets of sandwiches into children’s pockets, hugging them, and running along beside them as the line of children started to snake out onto the street. The children marched away, following two older boys who had a banner with the school’s name stitched onto it. Almost like a procession, Emmie thought.

Some of the schoolchildren were crying, Emmie noticed. A lot of the smaller ones were clinging to their mothers, pale faced and bewildered. They didn’t seem to know what was happening either. But some of the others looked happy, swinging their cases as if they were off on holiday. Perhaps they were—-they might end up at the seaside.

Emmie blinked thoughtfully. She was almost sure she’d never been out of London. Until now, she hadn’t really thought about where they were going. She’d been too worried about what they were leaving behind. Maybe those two boys in the line with grins all over their faces were right. It was an adventure…

But almost all the mothers were brushing tears away quickly with the sides of their hands so as not to be seen. Emmie shivered. She supposed the children from the Home were lucky—-all the adults they knew were coming with them. It didn’t make her feel lucky though. She tried to remember the softness of Lucy’s head bumping against her fingers, the warmth of her breath as the little cat nuzzled against her. But all she could hear was Ruby, grumbling because she was tired and her shoes were too tight.

They hadn’t gone all that far, but the streets were so much busier than the quiet area around the Craven Home. Even Emmie felt tired, with so many people pressing around her and the constant roar of cars and carts and buses along the bustling street. On any other day, it would have been fun to stand on one of those islands in the road and watch and wonder where all these people were streaming off to. Today, Emmie wished she was back sitting in the window of her dormitory, peering out at the street to see the grocer’s van and a car every so often. She’d wished for something to happen, something exciting, and now it had.

“We’re almost there, Ruby,” Miss Rose said soothingly. “The station’s just along the road there. Do you see? The clock tower and the name underneath: King’s Cross.”

The station was huge, with two great, curving arched windows across the front, like tunnel mouths.

“London and North Eastern Railway? Are we going northeast then, miss?” Emmie demanded sharply, looking at the rest of the white letters along the roof. But Miss Rose ignored her, starting to hurry the line of children across the road. A policeman waved them over, holding up a line of buses and smiling down at little Ruby clutching her faded bear.

There were other lines of children converging on the station now. Hundreds of them, marching along like little ants. More and more poured out of buses, labeled, carrying parcels and bags and battered cases. Emmie had never seen so many people her own age before. How many were going out of London?

Miss Rose slowed as she walked them past the scattering of shops around the front of the great building and glanced around anxiously for Miss Dearlove.

“What is it?” Emmie asked. Miss Rose looked so suddenly uncertain. All the staff at the Home had been brisk and decided about the move, brushing away questions and urging the children to complete their meager packing. Now for the first time, Emmie wondered if they were as confused and worried as the children. Mrs. Evans, the cook, was clutching her big, black handbag against her front like a shield.

“Nothing, Emmie!” Miss Rose replied sharply. She was glancing back and forth between the sandbags built up around the doorway and a flight of steps down—-still with a sign to the Underground but blocked off with a great pile of bits of broken stone. She glanced down at Emmie with a bright smile that showed her teeth. “I just wasn’t quite sure which door we were to take, that’s all. We must expect everything to look a little different in wartime, mustn’t we?” she added in a comforting, singsong voice as though Emmie had been the scared one.

Miss Rose didn’t allow herself to be daunted by the huge space inside the station or the milling crowd of children. She straightened her shoulders and hurried them in, then started counting everybody again in case one of the twenty orphans had disappeared on the way. Emmie didn’t think any of them would have dared. Not with those planes coming—-and the gas. She had thought about running away before—-on days when nothing happened and no one spoke to her. But that had been before she found Lucy.

Miss Dearlove marched over to a man in a station uniform. He frowned down at his list and eventually pointed across to one of the farthest platforms. Then he checked his watch and pointed again, flapping his hands.

The matron came trotting back to them and caught Emmie’s hand, pulling at her sharply. “We haven’t much time. Come along, all of you. No dawdling. There are only so many extra trains for the evacuated schools,” she added to Miss Rose. “The timetable is all upset. If we miss this one, we’ll have to wait hours.” She glanced irritably down at Emmie as she spoke, as if it were her fault that they were late.

The train was already steaming as the children hurtled onto the platform and a porter flung the doors open for them, bundling them in as Miss Rose and Miss Dearlove and Mrs. Evans wrestled with bags and food baskets.

Emmie collapsed onto a padded seat, clutching her brown paper bag of clothes and staring out the window. She could see another train at the next platform with a girl gazing back at her. She smiled faintly, recognizing the strange girl’s expression of fear and excitement. There was even something of her own sickening loneliness. Perhaps that girl had never been out of London either. Perhaps she’d never been on a train. But maybe, just perhaps, the train was taking her toward something new and different. Things might be better—-even though she’d had to leave so much behind.

The girl waved at her, and Emmie lifted her hand slowly as their train shuddered and creaked and began to pull out of the station, out of London, heading for somewhere else.

***

Emmie leaned back against the scratchy velour of the seat. She was facing the window, but she was hardly looking at the green banks next to the tracks that the train was racing through. She wondered where that other girl’s train had been going. She had looked nice—-no, not nice. Nice was what Miss Dearlove and Miss Rose were always encouraging them to be. Play nicely. Now, that isn’t nice. Is it, Emmie? Nice little girls don’t behave like that.

The only other girl Emmie’s age at the Craven Home had left when they were both about five. Louisa had been very nice indeed, and that was why she had been adopted. It had been made quite clear to Emmie that if only she had been more like Louisa, she might have been adopted too. But she was much too old for that now. And she didn’t care anyway.

Emmie ran her hand over the arm of the seat, and tears stung the corners of her eyes. The dark, dusty stuff reminded her of Lucy’s fur.

Whenever one of the younger, sweeter, nicer children was taken away to have a proper home, or when Miss Dearlove snapped at her for being ungrateful, or the boys teased her for being skinny and pale and ugly, Emmie would simply shrug and stare. Miss Dearlove called her insolent, and Arthur had smacked her ears for giving him that look.

She’d stare until Miss Dearlove flounced away or the boys grew bored. And then she’d sneak upstairs to the little window on the landing outside the girls’ dormitory. There was a large cupboard half in front of it, full of musty blankets and spare clothes, and a skinny, ugly, little person could squeeze behind the cupboard and open the window—-and climb out onto the rusted iron fire escape without anyone knowing where she had gone.

The first few times Emmie had been out there in the days just after she’d found the window, she sat there alone, gazing out across the roofs below. She loved the view—-watching the clouds streaked with red as the sun went down. Even on the days when London was choked in fog, she had imagined the sky and the rooftops beneath the layers of gray. If she leaned against the railings, she could just see a slice of the road and watch for passersby and wonder where they were going—-and where she would go one day. She’d even taken a few steps down the fragile, old metal staircase. But then common sense had sent her slinking back again. She had nowhere to go. She couldn’t leave.

Emmie had been out on the fire escape on a February afternoon when she first saw her. It had been almost dark and icy cold, especially because Emmie wasn’t wearing a coat. She couldn’t sneak her coat upstairs, not without someone stopping to ask her why. But being cold was worth it—-for time alone to think and watch the sky.

She had felt as though she were all alone in the city. A purplish light had soaked through the sky, and wisps of cloud floated by, looking almost close enough to touch. Emmie leaned against the metal railings, feeling the hard cold of the iron bite into her cheek and knowing she should go in before they missed her.

Something had made her stay. Afterward, she thought she’d known something was going to happen. There was the faintest creaking on the metal steps, and a darker patch of shadow slunk onto the tiny landing where Emmie was curled.

“A cat!” she whispered. The cat was tiny—-hardly more than a kitten—-and shy. It hesitated at the edge of the landing, watching her suspiciously. She caught a gleam of light reflected in its eyes. Why had it come all the way up here?

Emmie moved her hand cautiously toward her pocket, trying not to move suddenly and scare the cat away. She had hidden a sandwich in her handkerchief—-fish paste. She hated it, but they were supposed to finish everything that was on their plates. Usually she dropped the scraps off the fire escape, but she’d forgotten. She held back a laugh. Perhaps this cat had eaten her leftovers before. Perhaps that was why it had come.

She opened her handkerchief and wrinkled her nose at the smell. But there was a scuffling in the darkness—-the cat had moved. It could smell the fish paste too. Someone turned on the light inside, and both Emmie and the cat froze. But no one saw the open window. There was a quick patter of footsteps up the stairs, and one of the little girls disappeared into the dormitory.

With the light on, Emmie could see the cat—-tiny and skinny, like her. It was hunched at the corner of the metal floor, eyes fixed on the wrapped sandwich, but too scared to come closer.

Slowly, Emmie put the handkerchief down between them and unfolded it properly to let the little thing have a glimpse of the food. Then she wriggled farther back against the wall of the house.

“You may as well eat it,” she whispered. “I won’t. You can have it.” She watched the cat curiously. It was nothing like the cats she had seen in the schoolroom books. They were plump and cushiony, with long, white whiskers. This creature looked half-starved, and it couldn’t resist the sandwich for long. It darted forward and began to tear at the bread, glancing over at Emmie every so often to check that she wasn’t moving.

When the sandwich was gone, the cat sniffed at the handkerchief and even licked it, as if the flavor of the fish paste had soaked into the cotton.

Then it turned and whisked away, skinny tail held low, and Emmie leaned over to watch it scurry down the steps.

The next night, she had only bread and butter, but the cat didn’t seem to mind. It ate the whole slice, and then when Emmie held out her fingers, it sniffed them curiously before it darted away.

Emmie kept taking her scraps out to the fire escape, and the cat kept turning up. As soon as she climbed out of the window, a small, dark shape would appear, faster and faster each time. There were days she couldn’t get out, of course—-days when Miss Dearlove decided on a “brisk walk” or the inspectors came. But it only took seconds for Emmie to slip behind the cupboard and open the window a crack and drop her scraps out onto the fire escape.

It was an odd feeling, waiting and hoping for a glimpse of black fur. It wasn’t even as if the cat stayed for long, not for those first few days anyway. She—-Emmie was only guessing it was a she, but “it” all the time sounded mean—-would eat whatever Emmie had brought, and then when she was sure all the food was gone, she would hurry back to whatever she had been doing. Sniffing around the trash bins, probably,Emmie thought.

It seemed strange to mind so much, to sit in lessons and hope the cat would turn up, but Emmie found that she thought about the cat more than she thought of anything else. She had never had a pet or known any sort of animal. The Craven Home only had the occasional mouse, and then only in the kitchens, where the children weren’t really supposed to go. There wasn’t any chance of taming a mouse with crumbs, even if Emmie had wanted to. Knowing that the cat came to see her, or her sandwiches, tugged at something inside Emmie. The cat wanted her, even if it was only for food. It needed her—-and she needed it too.

In the third week, the cat climbed into Emmie’s lap when she wasn’t fast enough unwrapping another fish–paste sandwich, and Emmie named her Lucy.

“Emmie! Emmie!” Someone pulled at her hand, and Emmie realized Ruby was talking to her.

“Don’t you want a sandwich?” Ruby pushed one into her hand, and Emmie stared down at it, trying not to gag. It was fish paste.

“No!” she said sharply, and shoved it back at Ruby. Then she caught Miss Rose’s eye and added, “No, thank you. I’m not hungry.”

“There’s plain bread and butter, Emmie.” Miss Rose passed her another paper packet. She went on gently. “You need to eat something. It’ll be hours more yet. It’s a long way.”

Emmie nodded. She was too miserable even to ask again where they were going, in case she started to cry.

“Missing that scrawny cat?” Joey leaned over, speaking through a mouthful of sandwich, and Emmie pressed herself back against the seat disgustedly. If only they hadn’t all seen. She had kept Lucy a secret for weeks, but the little cat grew tamer and a tiny bit plumper, and she was clever enough to figure out that Emmie—-and more food—-were inside the house.

Miss Dearlove shooed her out, but Miss Rose seemed to like cats. When she saw Lucy sitting on a windowsill or sneaking along the passage by the schoolroom, she smiled faintly and looked the other way instead of chasing the little cat outside again. And the cook liked her—-Lucy had the sense to catch a mouse and drop it in front of Mrs. Evans’s feet. After that, Emmie would occasionally see a saucer of milk in the yard at the bottom of the fire escape—-a saucer where there had once been milk anyway.

How could they have made her leave Lucy behind if what everyone said was true and London was going to be flattened by bombs? And the gas. Emmie had heard Miss Rose and the cook saying that all the mailboxes were being painted with special gas–detecting paint, so they’d glow yellow instead of red if there was gas floating in the streets. It sounded as though it was going to happen any day now. What would happen to Lucy if that was real?

Emmie shivered and closed her eyes for a second. She could see Lucy lying on the little iron landing of the fire escape, basking in the sun. The little cat liked to stretch out on her side, showing off her rusty reddish black underneath. Sometimes she even lay on her back with her paws in the air. She’d wave them, as if she was inviting Emmie to rub the fluff of her belly. And then if Emmie dared, half the time Lucy would pounce on her and bat at her wrist. But Emmie didn’t mind the scratches.

The other children had petted Lucy and even fed her scraps, but she seemed to remember that Emmie had been her first protector, and she always came back to the fire escape.

Emmie had found a basket the night before while they were packing. It was in that same cupboard of odds and ends that stood in front of their window. There must have been a cat once before—-or perhaps it was meant for picnics in the park, although Emmie wasn’t sure anyone at the Home had ever done something so lovely. She hadn’t asked Miss Dearlove or Miss Rose if they could take the cat. She hadn’t even thought about it. It had been so clear to her that Lucy could not be left behind. She’d simply been grateful that she wouldn’t have to carry Lucy in her arms or tie a string around her neck. She didn’t think the cat would like being on a train.

But before breakfast wasn’t Lucy’s time to appear slinking through the kitchen or creeping up to the top of the iron staircase. Emmie had hurried through the press of twenty excited, bewildered children, dropping paper bags and gas masks and winter coats that smelled of mothballs—-because even though it was a sweltering September day, who knew how long they’d be away for? Miss Dearlove raced around, spooning porridge into the little ones, sewing buttons back on, and in between, dashing back into the kitchen to screech at Mrs. Evans about twenty sandwiches.

In the passage outside the kitchen, she came on Emmie with a fingerful of beef dripping, trying to persuade Lucy into the lidded basket. The little cat had her front paws in, and Emmie was wondering if she should just take a chance and shove the rest of her in too.

“Emmie! For pity’s sake, why haven’t you got your coat on? We’re about to leave! What’s in that basket? You’ve not put your clothes in there, have you? You should have them in a parcel, like the others.”

Emmie glanced around at her, and Miss Dearlove sucked in her cheeks.

Lucy saw that Emmie was distracted and took her chance to launch out of the basket.

“No!” Emmie squeaked. “Oh, miss, catch her!” And she flung herself full length, grabbing the thin, black cat, who to Miss Dearlove looked just as scruffy and ugly as the little girl. Emmie was sallow skinned and thinner than ever, since she’d been hiding away half her food to feed the cat. Emmie’s hair had wisped its way out of her thin braids already, and her arms were all scratched.

“That disgusting stray! I might have known…” Then the matron stopped and stared at the basket. “Emmie Hatton, did you think you were taking that creature with you?”

Emmie crawled clumsily onto her knees and stood up slowly, gripping the squirming cat in her arms. She stood there, wincing as Lucy flailed her claws and pulled several more threads out of her cardigan. The cat didn’t care that she was being saved. She was hungry, and she had not liked the basket at all.

“We have to,” Emmie whispered, her greenish eyes widening as she stared back at Miss Dearlove. It wasn’t one of her purposeful stares—-she wasn’t trying to make Miss Dearlove angry. This was a round–eyed look of panic and disbelief. They couldn’t leave the cat behind. It would be too cruel. “The bombs…” she faltered.

“We are not taking a cat, certainly not a dirty stray like that. Why, even proper pets are…” Miss Dearlove trailed off, shaking her head. “Get going, Emmie. We’ve a train to catch that’s taking us halfway across the country! You’re making us late. Now come along.” Miss Dearlove went to seize Lucy from Emmie’s arms, but Emmie screamed and darted back, and Lucy hissed, not even sure who to be angry with. She fought and bit and scratched, and at last Emmie let go of her with a despairing cry as the cat streaked away through the kitchen and the scullery and out.

“At last! Now get out to the hallway and find your coat. We should have left by now. Mrs. Evans, are you ready? The children are lining up,” Miss Dearlove added to the cook, who was standing in the kitchen doorway watching.

But Emmie crouched to pick up the basket, gazing into it as if she almost couldn’t believe it was empty.

“Put that down!” snapped Miss Dearlove, taking the handle.

Emmie jerked away, snatching it back. “No! I have to go and get her. We have to bring her with us!”

The matron grabbed the basket, and with her other hand, she slapped Emmie across the cheek. Emmie dropped the cat basket and leaned against the wall, tears seeping from the corners of her eyes. She wasn’t crying because Miss Dearlove had hit her, even though it hurt, but because she’d realized that it was true. They meant it. They really were leaving Lucy behind.

“I couldn’t help it,” she heard Miss Dearlove murmur to the cook. “Dratted child, she does it on purpose. Bring her, will you, Mrs. Evans? I need to go and lock up.”

Emmie felt Mrs. Evans’s arm slide around her shoulders, and the cook’s dry fingers stroked her scarlet cheek. She could hear the old woman tutting gently, but her voice seemed to come from a long way away.

“Come along, sweetheart. You come on now. Don’t you worry about that little cat. She’ll be next door, stealing a kipper for her breakfast, I expect. Time we were on our way.”

About the Author:

Holly Webb worked as an editor at Scholastic Books in the UK before she became a full-time writer. She is the author of the popular Rose series. Holly lives in Reading, England, with her family.

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Thank you Sourcebook Jabberwocky for sending me a copy of Return to the Secret Garden. All thoughts and opinions are my own and not influenced by the free book.

A Boy Called Christmas

by Matt Haig

illustrations by Chris Mould

a-boy-called-christmas-by-matt-haig-illustrations-by-chris-mould

 

 

A Boy Called Christmas  in a nutshell is AMAZING! This book captures all the magic of Christmas and being a kid and wrapped it up into a book. This book is for all ages and perfect to read this holiday season! I just felt so happy and so wrapped up in the Christmas spirit while reading this. It makes you really see Christmas and all the magic, joy and wonder of the season. There are some darker moments but nothing so scary that it isn’t suitable for young bookworms. This is a must READ and must BUY – it is perfect for reading aloud around the Christmas Tree with your family. You will be truly captivated and transported into the magical world that the author and illustrator created! I can not say enough great things about this book. It’s on my top 5 list of best books I read this year! Grab a copy for your family – gift copies to your family and friends. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this becomes a Christmas classic in years to come.

 

Summary: Before there was Santa Claus, there was a young boy who believed in the impossible. . . . Lemony Snicket meets Elf in this warmhearted Christmas caper.
 
Eleven-year-old Nikolas—nicknamed “Christmas”—has received only one toy in his life: a doll carved out of a turnip. But he’s happy with his turnip doll, because it came from his parents, who love him. Then one day his father goes missing, and Nikolas must travel to the North Pole to save him.

Along the way, Nikolas befriends a surly reindeer, bests a troublesome troll, and discovers a hidden world of enchantment in the frozen village of Elfhelm. But the elves of Elfhelm have troubles of their own: Christmas spirit and goodwill are at an all-time low, and Nikolas may be the only person who can fix things—if only he can reach his father before it’s too late. . . .

Thank you so very much Knopf Books for Young Readers for sending me a copy of A Boy Called Christmas for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own and not influenced by the free book.

Once Upon A Northern Light

by Jean E Pendziwol

illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

once upon a northern night

 

This picture book is a beautiful work of art! From the poem like story to the magical pictures it captures all the beauty that winter holds! It is told like a story of winter to a child while they were sleeping. I know we still love waking up to a winter sparkly wonderland. I love winter and watching it snow is just so beautiful, there is like a hush that comes with snow and the way it sparkles like glitter. Once Upon A Northern Light captures all the awe and wonder a child has about snow and put it into a  picture book that you will treasure. This is one of those books that you keep and pass down from generation to generation! Perfect for story time, bed time, classes and home, grab a copy of Once Upon A Northern Light and explore and enjoy the beauty within this book!

 

 

summary: While a child is sleeping, the beauty and wonder of a northern winter night unfold.

 

The Spell Thief

by Tom Percival

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The Spell Thief  was so adorable, I loved this little chapter book and your younger bookworms will to. Who wouldn’t love an adventure with Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Jack (from Jack and the Beanstalk) and Anansi. This is like a mash up all the fun fairy tale characters that now all live and hang out together. Add a talking chicken and you’ve got an hilarious book that is great for read aloud or bedtime. The Spell Thief  isn’t just a fun hilarious book it has great talking points and lessons to be learned. This makes a great book to open further discussions on the topics for the younger bookworms. This book would also be a great book for a teacher as their read aloud and stopping along the way to discuss the messages the author has placed through out about how to treat people, not jumping to conclusions and much more. I hope the author continues many more adventures of this fun group of characters!

Little Legends Race Day App:

little-legends-race-day

 

Is a fun free app that you can download for your kids to play ( or you, I know I had fun playing it for a bit for the book review). They are saying it’s free right now so I’m not sure if that is just how they worded it or that eventually they will charge for the game.  It’s a running app much like the Temple Run app so many adults and kids play. This one has the characters from the book and is a lot of fun to play. You can download it from Itunes Google Play or Amazon.

the-spell-thief-little-legends-by-tom-percival

 

summary: Join Red, Jack, Rapunzel, and Anansi in this fun fairy tale mash-up chapter book series!

 Jack (of the beanstalk fame) and his magical talking chicken, Betsy, have always been great at making new friends, like their BFFs Red and Rapunzel. But when Jack spots Anansi, the new kid in town, talking to a troll in the Deep Dark Woods, he immediately becomes suspicious. Everyone knows that trolls mean trouble, and Jack will do anything to prove to the rest of his friends that Anansi is a troll spy. Even if that means using stolen magic!

1

A Ship Comes In

Jack walked through the Deep Dark Woods with his pet hen Betsy tucked under one arm. He took a deep breath of the woodland air. It smelled fresh and exciting. Today was going to be a good day—he could just tell.

He walked toward a small, wooden cottage surrounded by a well-kept wooden fence. There was a fountain in the garden, also made of wood, but instead of water, it was blowing sawdust high into the air.

 squawked Betsy.

“Don’t worry, Betsy. It’s only sawdust,” replied Jack. He wasn’t surprised that his hen had just spoken to him. After all, Betsy was a magical hen. Sadly, “What?” was the only thing she could say, which made most of their conversations rather one-sided.

Jack wiped his feet on the wooden doormat and knocked on the door. He heard booming footsteps from inside. The door swung open with a creak and a very woody smell.

A large man stood in the doorway, covered in wood shavings and holding a lopsided wooden cup.

“Well, look who it is!” he exclaimed with a smile, “Come on through, Jack! Red and the others are all out back.”

He ushered Jack inside, where every surface, and in fact everything, seemed to be made from wood…including the carpet and the curtains.

“So, how have you been, Jack?” asked Red’s dad.

“Good, thanks,” replied Jack politely. “How about you?”

“Oh, good, Jack, very good!” exclaimed Red’s dad. “In fact, I’ve just made a breakthrough!”

“A breakthrough?” asked Jack.

“With the wooden socks!” replied Red’s dad.

“Don’t you mean woolen?” countered Jack.

“Woolen socks?” repeated Red’s father, as if it was the most ridiculous thing he’d ever heard, “I’m a wood-cutter, Jack, not a wool cutter!”

“Er, right…” said Jack.

“Do you want to try them on?” asked Red’s father, holding out two very solid, very wooden–looking socks.

“Um, not right now,” replied Jack. “I’d better go and catch up with Red. But thanks for the offer.”

 

 

Jack raced through the house and into the garden. The tree house towered up in front of him. Red’s dad had carved it out of one giant tree.

Jack’s friends were all sitting in the main room when he climbed in.

“Morning, all!” he called out.

Red grinned, Rapunzel did her very best curtsy, and the twins waved enthusiastically.

“Hey,” started Hansel.

“Jack!” finished Gretel.

Hansel and Gretel often finished each other’s sentences. Sometimes it could be confusing.

“Hey, Jack!” called Red. “Do you want the good news or the bad news?”

“The good news?” asked Jack hesitantly.

“The good news,” said Rapunzel, leaving a long pause, “is that there’s a ship coming into town from Far Far Away!”

squawked Betsy.

Jack gasped. A boat from Far Far Away! His dad might have sent him a letter…

“Yep!” added Red. “It should be arriving any minute! We’re going to have a race up to Lookout Point to watch it come in—last one there is a smelly troll!”

“So what’s the bad news?” asked Jack.

“The bad news is that Hansel’s just tied your shoelaces together!” said Rapunzel, as she and everyone else scrambled excitedly from the tree house.

Thank you Sourcebooks Jabberwocky for allowing me to read The Spell Thief. All thoughts and opinions are my own and not influenced by the free book.

Hello Kitty Presents

Hello Kitty Presents Storybook Collection is a series of 4 books (so far) and I hope there is more. The collection includes: The Little Mermaid, Little Red Riding Hood, Thumbelina and my all time favorite story ever: Alice in Wonderland. You have the classics that all little girls grow up reading and listening to, add the cuteness of Hello Kitty and you have an adorable picture book series that would make the perfect birthday or holiday gift for the little girls in your life.

Hello Kitty Presents the Storybook Collection Little Red Riding Hood

 

 

Little Red Riding Hood is a Charles Perrault classic that I remember enjoying so much as a child. My girls use to love wearing their little red coats and pretending to be Red Riding Hood. The Hello Kitty version is a bit sweeter and less scary, no wolves eating little girls in this book. This book follows the story very well till the end and then it makes it a very G rated happily ever after ending that makes the book a-okay for bedtime.

Hello Kitty Presents the Storybook Collection The Little Mermaid

 

 

The Little Mermaid is a Hans Christian Anderson classic. Many girls know the Disney version by heart so it is really neat to show them the original classic that inspired the movie. This version was very short and condensed but didn’t lose any of the appeal to the story that we love. The sea witch was not scary looking and there was no trading the singing voice. This picture book will delight all the fans of Ariel even if the Little Mermaid in this book is names Hello Kitty.

Both these picture books are great because not only are the stories short and sweet but they introduce little listeners to the classics. They are not scary in any way – shape – or form. The characters are all very cute looking and looks just like the Hello Kitty illustrations that were around when I was a lot younger. The illustrations are big, bold and colorful that will capture the youngest listener babies and toddlers. I would say if you have a young girl in your house or family please think about adding these to your gift list this holiday season.

Thank you so very much Abrams Appleseed for allowing me to review Hello Kitty: Presents the Storybook Collection: The Little Mermaid and Little Red Riding Hood. All thoughts and opinions are my own and not influenced by the free books.

Love and Chicken Nuggets

Series: Pippa Morgan’s Diary
Author: Annie Kelsey

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Love and Chicken Nuggets by Annie Kelsey

summary: Meet Pippa Morgan, a small girl with a BIG imagination.

Pippa’s class has just been given a project all about “love”—gross! Luckily, there are lots of things she loves—like chicken nuggets and TV detectives, and her best friend forever, Catie Brown. But now that her mom is single, Pippa wonders whether she needs a little more love in her life. She comes up with a way to handle two problems at once…by making her mom the subject of her school project! Will Pippa be able to find her mom a husband? And can she get Catie to taste chicken nuggets for the first time ever? You’ll have to read her super-secret diary to find out!

ALSO BY ANNIE KELSEY: Pippa Morgan’s Diary

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Pippa Morgan's Diary by Annie Kelsey

summary: Sometimes a little white lie can land you in a whole lot of trouble…

Pippa’s new BFF Catie Brown is perfect. So perfect, that Pippa tells her a teeny tiny lie—that she once auditioned for Voice Factor—to impress her. And it works.  It works so well, in fact, that Catie enters Pippa into the school talent show.

 The only problem? Pippa can’t sing. Not at all.  In fact, her singing is so bad it scares the neighbors. But if she doesn’t participate in the talent show, Catie will know she lied. But if she does participate, the whole school will find out what a horrible singer she is…including Catie! It’s up to Pippa to put an end to this pesky problem!