Saturday, June 30, 2018

The boy who grew Flowers by Jen Wojtowicz illustrated by Steve Adams

Every now and then I pick up a book and it just makes me gasp. I know it is silly to say a book is a favourite but for a few minutes (until the next book arrives) The boy who grew Flowers is my new most favourite book!  It was published in 2005 but you can still buy the paperback version.

I seem to have read so many books about seeds and flowers linked with urban renewal (see below) so I thought here we go again - but I was totally wrong.  This is a book about kindness and individuality. It is about observation and patience. It is about talents and the joy of friendship.

"Rink Bowagon was a boy from the deep country.
He lived out past where the blacktop road
became a dirt road, and the dirt road
petered out into a little footpath.

The path wound through the ancient trees
of a wild forest, hopped Black Bear Creek,
headed all the way up Lonesome Mountain,
made a right-hand turn and ran smack
into the Bowagon's door."

I was hooked from the first two words.  What a brilliant name - Rink Bowagon. Rink's family are a talented bunch but Rink himself has the best talent of all. During the full moon he "sprouted flowers all over his body."

A  new girl arrives at the school with the equally delightful name of Angelina Quiz. "She had an easy manner, a luminous smile, and her right leg was shorter than her left leg by an inch." Angelina comes from a family of ballroom dancers but sadly she cannot dance. This issue comes to the fore when the teacher posts a notice that the school dance will be held this Saturday.

Rink is a problem solver. He gathers materials at home and he works for three days. You can see the result here.

"Angelina wriggled her bare toes into the slippers then and there.
For the first time in her life, she felt herself stand up straight.
She took on step, then another, and then she did a little practice dance step.
Angelina looked at Rink with delight."

Now find this book and keep reading because there are more surprises in store.

There are some publishers who you can approach with great confidence and one of them is Barefoot Books.  I am so happy they found this book and published it.

Even though it is not the topic of this book if you are thinking about urban renewal I would look for books such as The Flower by John Light, The Gardener by Sarah Stewart,  Joseph's Yard by Charles Keeping, The Seeds of Friendship by Michael Foreman, Florette by Anna Walker and The Curious Garden by Peter Brown.

For an older child I would link The boy who grew Flowers with the novel Bronze and Sunflower.

Out for the count by Anne Fine illustrated by Vicki Gausden

Love Reading4Kids

Out for the Count is a title from the Little Gems series I mentioned recently. The real strength of this story comes from the unresolved ending. This is an unusual plot device in a book designed for beginning readers but it totally works because at the end of this book you simply have to have a conversation.

  • Will Hugo still want a gerbil?
  • Will Hugo's dad change his mind and let Hugo have a gerbil?
  • Did Hugo learn anything about care of pets from the one hour and 28 minutes in his room?
  • Why did Anne Fine finish the story with Hugo running free?
  • What would you have done in Hugo's room to pass the time?
  • What three toys would you take with you and why?
  • How would things have been different if the floor was covered with comics?
  • Would you have been tempted to climb out of the window?
  • Do you look at the life of your own pet in a different way after reading Out for the Count.

Hugo wants a gerbil. He is desperate. His father says no.

"Think of the gerbil. How would you like to spend your whole life stuck in a cage?"
"I'd let it out," Hugo said.
"But you're at school all day."
Hugo counted on his fingers. I'm only out for seven hours," he said.

And so Hugo and his dad make a bargain. Hugo will stay alone in his room for seven hours from midday until evening. He is allowed food, water, three toys and all the newspaper that's spread over the floor because his father has been painting Hugo's bedroom.

Time ticks slowly when you are watching the clock. Perhaps Hugo did not make such good choices with his three toys - a ghost puppet, a dancing monkey on a stick and a box of baby bricks. Hugo does try hard. He rations his food and plays with his toys and he even imagines he is at sea on a raft or under an orange tree in Spain but in the end he does not even last two hours in his "cage".

This is a warm story with bright illustrations by Vicki Gausden.   Anne Fine has two other titles in the Little Gem series.  You should also look for her classic stories Flour Babies and Bill's New Frock.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Charlie and me 421 Miles from home by Mark Lowery

Martin is doing his best to be a good big brother, but it's hard when there's something so huge coming once they get to Cornwall ... Toppsta

Imagine filling a puppy with blue Smarties and Lemon Fanta, then bouncing it on a trampoline: that's Charlie when he's excited.

First off I need to say do not, do not, DO NOT jump to the last pages before you finish this book. Even giving this advice feels like a spoiler. Just read Charlie and Me 421 Miles from home and let the surprises unfold.

Martin has organised everything -  food, money, and the family biscuit tin. He is running away with his young brother, Charlie. Martin loves Charlie even though the youngster is challenging.

"Here's what I'd say about Charlie.  'Lazy eye, massive head, snores like a hippo, often ill, weird taste in food, terrible memory, always out of breath cos of his asthma, cheeky, can't do anything for himself or concentrate for more than two seconds, brain's inside out, no understanding of danger. My absolute best mate in the whole entire world."

Buying the train tickets is as complex as the actual journey which involves so many changes to different trains you almost need a map. You can read more of the plot by clicking on the review quotes above and below.  Rather than relate the plot I would like to share some of Charlie's words of wisdom.

Charlie loves foil covered biscuits "the hefty thick ones in the golden foil? ... Ninety per cent chocolate. Five per cent biscuit.'  'What's the other five percent?' I ask ... Charlie sniffs hard. 'Dreams."

"What's what?' 'The meaning of life.' 'Ah. Well, actually, it turns out it's ... cheese."

When Charlie sees a dolphin jump out of the water, Charlie tells his dad "It was like a ... a ... a bobble hat full of hope and happiness."

Charlie finished his breakfast which "tastes of the future." He has porridge with three fried eggs on top.

I would pair Charlie and Me 421 Miles from home with The Secrets we Keep, Run, Pip, run and The Honest Truth

I highly recommend Charlie and me 421 Miles from home as an engaging, surprising and fast paced personal story of love between two brothers.  The story structure of flashback chapters and Martin's poems add interest. Big thanks to Beachside Bookshop for my Advanced Reader Copy. For more books by Mark Lowery take a look at his web site.

In Charlie and Me, Mark Lowery has delivered a very special story. Readers will cry with laughter and sadness in equal measure, as they share in the journey of two children on a mission to rediscover whatever the magic ingredient was that made an old family holiday so special. Books for Keeps

Ice Palace by Robert Swindells illustrated by June Jackson

Young children often ask for 'scary' stories in our library.  Ice Palace is a book you could recommend.  It reads like a folktale, filled with moments of extreme tension, it is an example of perfect storytelling and it is only 90 pages.  I am so pleased I found this book on my recent visit to UK where I found one of the best children's bookshops ever! The Norfolk Children's Book Centre.

Starjik comes to each village in the dead of night and takes a child. When his brother is taken Ivan sets off to find him. The journey is freezing cold and extremely dangerous.

Robert Swindells had me hooked from the first page:

"Turn your face to the east wind, and if you could see forever you would see Ivan's land. It is a land where summer is short and  pale like a celadine; winter is long and cold as an icicle."

Celadine: This is a yellow flower - see below.

As in all good folktales, Ivan faces three challenges. He is attacked by wolves, he almost falls down an crevasse and Starjik lures him with the illusion of a happy village where children are dancing and singing. Each time he is rescued at the very last minute.

"The wolf-cries drew nearer. He looked back. Dim shapes moved in the dark beneath the trees ... A few seconds more and they would be upon him."

Ivan eventually meets an old woman who has been saving his tears. She tells Ivan to use these against Starjik. Ivan reaches the cave palace and confronts the monster Starjik. In a scene with echoes of Narnia, he finds all the children captured in ice.

"Ivan clapped a hand to his mouth, stifling a cry. He was looking at a great block of ice. It was higher than three houses and as long as the cavern. The ice was clear as a crystal pool and inside he saw children. Many children, trapped in the solid ice. ... There were frozen smiles and frozen frowns, and there, right at the front, gazing out from his icy prison, was Ivan's brother."

Ice Palace is not a new book. It was first published in 1977 and my Puffin edition is from 1992 but the good news it you can still find this book. Here is a review by an eight year old published in The Guardian.  TES also have teaching notes.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Hattie and Hudson by Chris van Dusen

"The townspeople saw you yesterday ... Everybody thinks you're dangerous. Tomorrow they're coming to catch you and take you away. I don't know where to, but we can't let this happen. We need a plan."

Here is a book that celebrates the power of the individual, the importance of community, problem solving and the importance of overcoming prejudice - all in one picture book!

Hattie is out exploring in her canoe one sunny day. She is a quiet girl who notices all the wonders around her - a beaver, two bald eagles and some turtles basking in the sun. She is so happy she sings a little song. Down in the bottom of the lake a mysterious creature hears her song. He comes up to the surface to investigate and he sees Hattie. She is not afraid.

"There was something in his eyes, the way he looked at her and the curious tilt of his head."

It is at this contemplative moment in the story that everything is spoiled. Some people from the town who are also in boats on the river, scream in horror, faint and roar off in a frenzy when they see this "monster". The next day there is a meeting in the town hall to talk about the ways to get rid of this thing.

"She tried to say something, but she was interrupted
She tried again, but no one heard her.
She tried several times to speak.
Finally she gave up."

Hattie is not defeated. She talks over the problem with "the monster" - she has named him Hudson. Together they make an excellent plan.

Here is a video of the whole book. Take a look at Chris van Dusen's web site. He is the illustrator of the Mercy Watson books and the related stories.

The little songs scattered through out this story would be perfect for a storytelling time with young children and reminded me of all the songs in the Frances books.  Take a minute to read this interview with Chris where he explains his illustration techniques. This book also features on the Mighty Girl web site. I would pair this book with Boy by Phil Cummings.

Outdoor enthusiasts will celebrate this brave young heroine as she schools the town on acceptance.   Kirkus

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Akiak A tale from the Iditarod by Robert J Blake

I recently saw a copy of Little Devils by Robert J Blake and I was captivated by the wonderful illustrations and story about our little Tasmanian devils - unlikely heroes for a story especially by an American author.  I looked for more books by Robert J Blake and found Akiak. This book appealed to me because as a young child I loved books by Jack London such as Call of the Wild and White Fang.

Akiak is based on a true story. There are maps on the opening pages showing the route for the Iditarod Race.

"A musher must stop and sign in at each check point ... take a twenty-four-hour stop at some point during the race ... An injured, stick or fatigued dog may be dropped at a designated dog drop ... A dropped dog may not be put back in harness and may not run next to the team."

Akiak does not know all these rules.  This is her eight attempt at this race. "She had bought them in fifth, third and second, but had never won."

Everything is going well until sadly on day four Akiak is seen to be limping. Her pawpads are damaged. Mick reluctantly leaves Akiak to be flown home. Of course this cannot happen. Akiak needs to race, she needs to win. She escapes from the handlers and heads off alone to catch up with the race. The race volunteers know she will stick to the trail but all their attempts to catch her fail. By day nine she is just two hours behind her team. "A crowd lined the trail to watch her run through the town." She finally catches up and while she cannot go back into the lead harness she can ride in the sled! "As sure as if she had been in the lead position, Akiak won the Iditarod Race."

This is a perfect book for dog lovers.  I would pair Akiak with Stone Fox.  I am very keen to read more books about husky dogs by Robert J Blake especially Togo, Swift and Painter and Ugly.

Read some reviews
Carol Hurst
Publishers Weekly

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

You may already be a winner by Ann Dee Ellis

I am really struggling at the moment with suggested ages for many of the Middle Grade books I have been reading. The back cover of this book You may already be a winner suggests ages 10 and up but I feel it would better suit an older audience. Adding to my dilemma Kirkus suggest 8-12. I simply cannot imagine child in Grade 3 or 4 having any understanding or interest in this book. I was pleased to see Lamont books list this as a Secondary school title.

Having said all of that I did enjoy You may already be a winner and in fact I read the whole book in one sitting. Olivia is a day dreamer and her interspersed dreams make this a complex book to read because the lines between reality and her dreaming are often quite blurred. The Breakpoint review said "because of both the form and the content, some middle-schoolers may find it tough going."

In the opening scene Olivia imagines she has sunk to the bottom of the swimming pool, she has died and Troy, the lifeguard, rescues and revives her.  Troy, in her day dream, kisses Olivia. "Though I'd never been kissed, my soft mouth molded to his as he tried to breathe life back into my body."  This sentence alone gives me rise to recommend this book to 11+ along with the fact that Olivia herself is 12 years old.

Olivia lives in a trailer park with her mother and younger sister and a strange assortment of people on the edge. Her father has left the family supposedly to work Bryce Cannon National Park.  One strength in this story comes from the letters Olivia writes to her father pouring out her hopes and daily struggles. There is no money even though her mother is working long hours as a cleaner. They cannot pay day care fees for little sister Berkeley and so both girls are left at home. Olivia knows she is slipping behind with her school work but she tries to set up a daily routine of lessons, art and exercise.

Eventually the school authorities catch up with them. Berkeley cannot go to day care and so Olivia takes her to school and hides her in a supply cupboard. Olivia loves her little sister and she tries to hard to keep everything afloat.

"The bell rang which meant my next class was already starting which meant I wasn't going to get to check on Berkeley which meant she was going to be scared and what if she had to go to the bathroom and I had some crackers in my bag that I'd forgotten to leave with her and what if they'd found her because what if they used that closet even though it looked dusty and smelled like old rags and was clear out of the way but even though that, what if they found her?"

Read this review by Ms Yingling.  Here is a review with more plot details.

I would pair this book with Waiting for Normal - which had a more profound impact on me and Wish upon a Unicorn. You could also look for books by Jacqueline Wilson such as Lily Alone.

The Big-Hearted book by Nicholas Allan

Babette and Bill were joined by a ribbon of hearts. 
They were always together.

In London recently I visited the wonderful Illustration Cupboard. Along with their exciting collection of fabulous original art work they also have some shelves of children's books. I sat down and did some browsing and discovered The Big-Hearted book. This was published in 2013 but it was new to me.

Babette and Bill are friends but they do have their differences. They don't like the same food, or the same stories and Bill always wins their running races. One day Babette simply stops. She cannot run, or finish reading the story or even get out of bed. Babette needs to go to hospital. Bill tries to get on without Babette but he cannot do things alone. Babette has her heart repaired in hospital and she returns to full strength and comes back to her friend Bill.

This book was written in support of the International Children's Heart Foundation.

I would pair The Big-Hearted book with A friend like Ed and Mr Nick's Knitting by Margaret Wild.

If you have not yet discovered the wonderful books of Nicholas Allan I recommend heading into your library where you are sure to find a few. These are in our school library.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Smile by Michelle Magorian illustrated by Sam Usher

While I was in London recently I found some shops had shelves filled with titles from this series - Little Gems published by Barrington Stoke. There are forty Little Gems written by very famous UK authors such as Michael Morpurgo, Alexander McCall Smith, Anne Fine and as you see here Michelle Magorian -  the author of one of my most favourite senior primary titles - Goodnight Mister Tom. Little Gems are a small size which is appealing, they have fold-over covers, easy to read text with plenty of white space and one or two puzzle pages linked with the story. I would recommend adding all of the books from this series to a Primary School library.

Luckily for me the library I visit each week has the full set of these little beginning chapter books so over the coming weeks I plan to borrow and read a few.  I started with The Smile. The Smile has just seven chapters which take place over one night.

You can see on the front cover Josh is holding a baby - this is his brother and as you might expect, Josh is feeling very left out. The family have moved to a new house. Josh is in his new room but his things are not yet unpacked or set up for him. AND his new baby brother seems to be taking all the attention. Life was better before all this change!

Mum wants to take a quick shower. She asks Josh to hold the baby. Charlie is exactly 17 days old.

"Josh watched her stagger to the door. She had had less sleep than all of them. All of a sudden he felt ashamed that he had been so grumpy. 'Take as long as you like in the shower, Mum,' he whispered. 'Me and Charlie will be OK."

The power of this story telling comes from the genuine way Josh's emotions are explored.

If you would like to explore other books on the topic of a new baby take a look at my Pinterest collection. One of the books I would link with The Smile is The Swap.

The Glassmaker's Daughter by Dianne Hofmeyr illustrated by Jane Ray

Happiness is inside all of us. 
You only have to discover it.

Daniela's father is desperate to see his daughter smile. He offers a huge reward of a magnificent glass palace.

"So his glass-blowers set to work. They blew and pulled and pinched the molten glass into silver-spun walls with pineapple-topped turrets and winged-dragon doors."

Gift givers and performers arrive from all over the land. There are elaborate masks, magic performers, lions, opera singers, tart bakers and even sausage stringers.  Nothing works. Daniela is a melancholy girl - gloomy, glum and bored. Then Angelo arrives. He has made a special piece of glass. It is a mirror. Looking at her own face she begins to laugh and as she laughs the glass palace shatters. Jane Ray has made the most spectacular page filled with smithereens of glass.

This is a scrumptious book. It has richly detailed illustrations and uses wonderful words such as shimmering, gloomier, quivered and splintered.  The setting of Venice adds to the delight.

Here is the Kirkus review. I need to seek out more picture books by Dianne Hofmeyr.

I would link this book with The Quiltmakers Gift by Jeff Brumbeau, The Greatest Treasure of Charlemagne the King by Nadia Wheatley, The Minstrel and the Dragon Pup by Rosemary Sutcliff and The Most wonderful thing in the world by Vivian French.  This might be a book you could link with the CBCA 2018 theme "Find your Treasure".

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Just right for Two by Tracey Corderoy illustrated Rosalind Beardshaw

About a week ago I was sitting in a small public library in London browsing their picture books when I saw Just right for Two

Dog has a big, blue suitcase and it contains so many special things such as a really good stick, some dancing leaves and a big, red shiny button. "I have everything I need!"  Or does he? Mouse arrives. He is curious about the contents of the suitcase. Then Mouse suggests the pair enjoy a game of hide and seek.  That evening, after Mouse leaves, Dog looks in his suitcase and it seems something is missing.  This book would be absolutely perfect to share with a young child. It is a truly comforting story.

I would follow this book with Pig and Small, Lost and Found and Herman's Letter.  You could also link this book with our CBCA 2018 slogan "Find your Treasure."  Here is a video reading of the whole book.

My reading pile

Yesterday I called into Beachside Bookshop and the owner Libby kindly gave me a some advanced reader copies of new Middle Fiction to read.  I also picked out a couple of books to buy for myself.

Fire Witch by Matt Ralphs
I have been keen to read this after I had enjoyed Fire Girl.
From the blurb : "Hazel Hooper is no ordinary girl - she is a Fire Witch on a quest. Her mother, Hecate, has been kidnapped by a demon, and Hazel is determined to enter the underworld and bring her back - regardless of the danger."

You may already be a Winner by Ann Dee Ellis
I picked up this one for the usual reasons - I liked the cover, the endorsements were glowing and the blurb sounded good.  I actually read this whole book today! I will post a longer review later and YES it is good!
From the blurb: "Olivia knows that luck is real. And she's counting on it to bring her a million dollars so that she and her little sister, Berkeley, can move away from Sunny Pines Trailer ark. So she doesn't have to miss school to take care of Berkeley since they can't afford daycare. So her mom doesn't have to work all the time and be too tired to be a mom at all."

Advanced Reader Copies

Swallow's Dance by Wendy Orr  Due for publication July 2018
This is the sequel to Dragonfly Song which was short listed by our CBCA a couple of years ago.
From the blurb: "Lira is starting her initiation as a priestess when her world is turned upside down. A violent earthquake leaves her home - and her family - in pieces. And the goddess has finished with the island yet."

Charlie and me 421 Miles from home by Mark Lowery Published April 2018
The setting for this story is Cornwall which is a place I adore.
From the blurb: "Martin and his brother Charlie are on a very special journey. They're travelling 421 miles, by train, bus and taxi, all the way from Preston to the very tip of Cornwall. ... It's a journey full of challenges and surprises."

Inheritance by Carole Wilkinson Due for publication September 2018
Many years ago I read Dragonkeeper by Carole Wilkinson - it is a book I should re-read I remember it was such a powerful and rewarding story.
From the blurb: "Nic is left in the care of her grandfather at the remote family property that was once her mother's childhood home; a place with 30 rooms, three dogs and no mobile reception. Left to her own devices, Nic searches for clues about her mother - who died when Nic was born. But what Nic discovers is so much more than she could have imagined. A dark and shocking secret that haunts the land and the people who live there."

Children of the dragon The Relic of the Blue Dragon by Rebecca Lim Due for publication August 2018
This is the first book in this series (thank goodness) and I do enjoy a good dragon story!
From the blurb: "When Harley Spark 'finds' and old Chinese vase on the footpath something compels him to stuff it under his jumper and head for home. But in a moment of misadventure the vase shatters and a young Chinese warrior rises from the fragments."

Splash by Charli Howard Due for publication July 2018
Nosy Crow always do brilliant books and I really like the cover on this one although it seems to have been slightly changed for the publication copy.
You can see inside this book here.

The infinite lives of Maisie Day by Christopher Edge Due for publication August 2018
I will need to read The Many Worlds of Albie Bright.
The trailer for Maisie Day certainly has some powerful endorsements.

Friday, June 22, 2018

What about me? by Gertie Evenhuis

Years ago I found What about me? in my school library.  This is an obscure little book which I first read in about 1997 but somehow the story lingered.  I often recommended it to students who read Number the Stars, The Silver Sword or The Upstairs room. Sadly our library copy disappeared and ever since I have had this book in my mind as a title to look for in used bookstores. Fast forward over 20 years to my recent holiday in UK.  While I was in Suffolk I visited a very messy and huge second hand bookshop. I was browsing the small selection of children's titles when to my huge delight and surprise I saw What about me? tucked away on the shelf. And it only cost 70 pence.

The scene I remember so vividly did not disappoint. Dirk is about to turn 12. The Germans have invaded Holland. Dirk is anxious to know what is happening. He sees change all around him but his older brother, who he once idolized, keeps telling him he is too young to understand. Dirk suspects his brother is involved with the resistance. He knows his brother has 'illegal' papers and posters in his room.

"I looked round hurriedly, Yes, there were forbidden newspapers. I snatched a handful. It was the least I could do. After all, the pamphlet had said: pass this on. I would be able to do something for my country at last. I might not be able to kill Hitler, but I could do something to help."

Dirk posts some of the papers on walls around the town and passes one onto his beloved teacher.  The next day word reaches the class that Mr De Lange has been arrested. Dirk now has the awful task of disposing of all these papers. In one terrifying scene he even tries to flush them down a toilet all the time sensing terrible danger for himself, his brother, his teacher and his whole family.

Gertie Evenhuis (1927-2005) was a Dutch children's author of over thirty books. This one was originally called En Waarom ik Neit? which translates as And why not me? and published in 1970. The translated by Lance Salway, the Puffin edition was published in 1976.

I would follow What about me? with The Little riders by Margaretha Shemin and Honey Cake by  Joan Betty Stuchner. Both are set in Holland and feature the work of the resistance during WWII. The art work on the cover may look familiar.  Richard Kennedy has quite a collection of book covers from past favourites.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Tin by Padraig Kenny

Tin is about heart and soul, friendship, and mechanical strength – it’s about the future of machines and the inheritance of human loyalty. It’s also funny, adventurous, and loving.  Barry Cunningham Chicken House books in The Bookseller.

I really enjoy books where the author asks the reader to do some work, some thinking.  A book where the pieces of the plot puzzle are slowly revealed.  Where, as a reader I keep forming and re-forming theories about the characters, time period, and in this case, the political scene.

Enter the world of Tin.  There are mechanicals and propers.  Propers are human.  Mechanicals are mostly robots made by engineers and most look like children.  Engineers need a licence to operate and create mechanicals and there are strict laws.  It is forbidden to :

"confer life and sentience upon any raw material which conforms to the standard agreed dimensions of an adult or 'proper' human being."
"it is strictly forbidden to confer life upon a mechanical using the principals of refined propulsion, otherwise known as 'ensoulment."

As the story opens Mr Absalom, who seems to be a shady character, is striding through the town with Christopher and Jack.  It is clear Jack is a mechanical. 

"Snow was falling from the night sky, and all the world was cold and hushed except for the regular metallic squeaking of Jack's joints."

Christopher is a mystery. He shows emotion, he seems to be working for Absalom but it is Jack, not Christopher, who sabotages Absalom's plans. Absalom has other mechanicals in his yard -

Round Rob - Rob's head was always coming loose and  "the trunk of his body was made from an old cooking pot (and he) ... could be hired out for proper children to roll him down hills at festivals and fetes."

Manda "Her grin was a crooked as ever, and the brown curls on her head didn't sit quite right. Her left eye was larger than the right and her right leg was shorter than the left ... "

Gripper  "the largest standing over eight feet tall with a barrel chest that tapered at the waist. He had tree-trunk wide legs and great clod-hopping feet. His huge arms were a muscled collage of wires and rivets and piping - they ended in gigantic clawed hands ... "

Estelle - a young girl - human -  skilled in the application of skin.

Together these disparate and kind creatures form a team.  Christopher is in danger and it will take all their ingenuity to save him.

You can read more of the plot here but I would wait until you finish reading Tin as it does contain some spoilers. You can hear the author speaking about the themes in his book in this brief video. Here is a great idea - Waterstones have collected images of window displays from their shops in this Pinterest board.  I highly recommend Tin for mature primary students and junior high.

There have been so many items in the media lately about Artificial Intelligence AI - Tin shows a possible beginning for the machines which are now part of our world along with the hope for kindness and the triumph of good over evil. Click on these links to read more about the current debate.

Each character is written tenderly, with exquisite details that are really immersive. The story sets out questions of war, morality and shows you how powerful friendship can be, with or without a human connection. Estellosaurus

It is tempting to hope that some movie studio is fighting to snap up film rights for this must-read YA novel, but would a movie spoil the book? Read Tin now before anyone else gets their hands on it. It is brilliant. John Millen Young Post City University of Hong Kong.