The Wooden Camel


Book Monsters HQ has been very busy of late, so blog posts a little sparse. However, we’re back and have sniffed out and taken bites from some fantastic books. First up we visit Lantana Publishing who’s ethos is to ensure every child recognises themselves in books they read. Therefore Lantana Publishing have been producing unique and exceptional multicultural picture books for children. In fact, gorgeous book The Tigon and Liger has been nominated for this year’s Sheffield Children’s Book Award. Exciting stuff. And I’ll be reviewing this one on the blog very soon.

But first up The Wooden Camel is one such glorious example of what Lantana create, written by Wanuri Kahiu and illustrated by Manuela Adreani.

This story takes us to north-west Kenya, centring around the inspiring Turkana people. Etabo, the young boy in this story, dreams of racing camels, and maybe even one day winning the camel race, or at very least beating his older brother Lopeyok. Unfortunately, one day, Etabo’s father breaks the news to him that they must sell the camels to pay for water, and therefore, for now, Etabo’s dreams are put on hold. But the overwhelming message in this sweet and gentle story is to not give up on your dreams, so little Etabo lives his through his wooden camel, for now, until they may come true. This delightful story encourages children to keep on believing, even when a dream feels unattainable.

This is a beautifully written tale. It has the feel of a folk story, it’s gentle and calm and lovely to read. It has been carefully and simply written so even the youngest of listeners can enjoy and understand the story here. There is a lot of fun and joy in this quite melancholic story, represented in the writing and illustrations, which bring life and smiles to it, preventing it feeling downbeat as the fundamental message is a very positive one.


Adreani’s illustrations take you away, right into the heart of Kenya. The characterisation is beautiful, and it reinforces the folk tale feel with its limited colour palette and playful animals. Lantana have achieved exactly what they aim in this particular book. Children who may not usually be represented in children’s picture books are right here, making them feel important and recognised, while other children are being immersed in a culture they may not ordinarily be familiar with. Yet, this story is also uniting potentially unfamiliar cultures, with a common theme; dreams. All children have dreams, wishes and desires wherever they live, whatever their background, whoever they may be, this is a common link, and teaching children to hold onto their ambitions is a wonderful subject which runs through this book, making it a brilliant storytelling choice for children young and old. Like all Lantana Publishing books I have come across so far, it is simply charming and endearing.

This book is a must have for a school and library environment to represent a more culturally diverse story which is entertaining and full of heart. I applaud Lantana publishing and their team of carefully selected authors and illustrators for creating such unique and beautiful stories for young children.



Author Wanuri Kahiu has a corner of the internet here:

Illustrator Manuela Adreani is here:

To find out more about Lantana Publishing you can visit their website right here:

Thank you for reading this Book Monster review.


The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat

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One of the great things about good literature is its staying power. Its ability to stick in our heads for potentially our whole lifetime, to evoke fond memories. For you to be able to tell someone about a book, and see their eyes light up in recognition! There are not many people about who do not recognise the first few lines of The Owl and the Pussycat as it is such a classic piece of writing. Whether you love or hate it, you are most likely familiar with some of it.

I really love seeing these classic pieces of writing adapted and interpreted for a new young audience and this is exactly what we have here with The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat, written by Coral Rumble, illustrated by Charlotte Cooke and published by Wacky Bee.

The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea, in a box on the living room floor. They sailed away for a year and a day and these are the things that they saw… Join two curious children on a quirky adventure, loosely based on the classic Edward Lear poem, The Owl and the Pussycat.


This version of the story tells the tale of two young friends, a little boy dressed as an owl and his friend, dressed as a pussycat of course. We see them in a living room, surrounded by glue, paint and sticky tape, to hint at the fun that’s to come. The playful pair set sail on their pea green boat, and we enter into their imaginations, and a whole world of crazy and action packed fun.

While at sea the young pair meet pirates, naughty seagulls, grumpy sharks and a flute playing clownfish. It’s all completely bonkers, ocean filled fun. This book is a brilliant reflection of the imagination of a child. There are no barriers or walls in children’s heads, they can invent the most wild and magical scenes without concern as to how realistic these might be. It’s great fun.

The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat is simply, yet beautifully written by Coral, just a few words per page, it’s a quick and easy read. It would be a good book to use as a first reader, as it rhymes really nicely, and the words are reflected with clarity within the illustrations. It would also make a lovely bedtime story. It’s full of fun and frolics, but has a nice calming feel to the writing, and the children end up fast asleep after their adventures. It’s an ideal bed book choice.

Charlotte Cooke’s illustrations in this book are just lovely. They have a charmingly gentle feel to them, yet at the same time, when necessary, the action leaps from the page. I adore the pirate scene for instance. Each page is packed withlittle details that children will love to pour over and pick out their favourite parts. Also providing tons of scope for discussion about what’s happening in the story. Why is the seagull naughty? What might the pirate and swordfish be fighting about? For a book that seems, on the surface, quite simple, there’s a huge amount to be drawn from it.

The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat, is a timeless, gorgeously presented paperback book from Wacky Bee books, with lovely spot embossing detail on the cover, stunning illustrations and sweet endearing writing inside, which will be thoroughly enjoyed by young children and their parents or carers, while also looking rather lovely on the bookshelf.



About Coral Rumble:

I have worked as a poet and performer for many years and I’m proud to have my work featured in Favourite Poets (Hodder). I have three published poetry collections of my own and have contributed to more than 150 anthologies. I am also one of the writers of the popular Cbeebies programmes ‘Poetry Pie’ and ‘The Rhyme Rocket’. I have given workshops in some fairly unusual venues as well…the grandest of which being Buckingham Palace!



About Charlotte Cooke

I was thrilled and proud when my picture book The Adventures of the Owl & the Pussycat was highly commended for the Macmillan Children’s Prize in 2010. Since then I have gone on to illustrate many other picture books and I enjoy making the occasional card too. When I’m not in my studio I’m usually outside running or playing referee to my two kids.




The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat is available from all good bookshops and libraries now.

Thank you for reading this adventurous Book Monster review.


A Proud Inkpot Hero

Inkpots-HeroesI’m just whizzing in quickly to say hello everyone, and quickly wave my little ‘YAY!’ flag. This week I was very very proud to receive the accolade of becoming one of the first Inkpots Heroes, alongside the incredible Sophy Henn, Nick Sharratt and Neill Cameron (Comics Book Club).

To say I was over the moon and overwhelmed is an understatement. The work Inkpots do to support and encourage young writers is incredible and to be able to support and help them achieve this in any small way is a huge pleasure for myself. But isn’t it always so lovely to get a thank you anyway? So thank you right back to my dear friend Gill from Inkpots for including myself in this, and for tirelessly supporting Book Monsters in return. Also, look at that gorgeousness of a logo, which I will have proudly plopped onto Book Monsters!

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A Song for Will and the Lost Gardeners of Heligan


The Lost Gardens of Heligan, near Mevagissey in Cornwall, were, for many years, very much lost. Once a thriving kitchen and flower garden run by a large team of staff, they became neglected and overgrown to such a degree that they were left hidden. In 1990 the gardens were rediscovered and thankfully brought back to life, and you can now visit and view them as they used to be.

The reason for the gardens becoming lost, forms the basis of this story A Song for Will and the Lost Gardeners of Heligan, written by Hilary Robinson and illustrated by Martin Impey.

When World War 1 broke out in 1914, most of the garden staff were enlisted to fight, and tragically, many of them never returned. Their names were scratched into the toilet wall of the gardens, and the discovery of these names led to much work tracking down old photos, documents and relations of those who used to work in the gardens. One such name, was Will, a kind and gentle soul who is at the very heart of this rather beautiful book.

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I recently posted on Twitter that A Song for Will was the book that broke the blogger. It’s completely true. It is quite rare that I’m ever stuck for words, particularly when it comes to books! Yet, this one, has been a struggle to write about. Bear with me, let me, hopefully, show you why.

Hilary and Martin have been producing war based books since 2015, with Where the Poppies Now Grow, The Christmas Truce and Flo of the Somme. All stunning books which you must take a look at if you haven’t already.

We have shelves of war based books in our library as it’s an incredibly important topic, and Hilary and Martin’s books all stand out as a unique way of addressing it. This is because the combination of Hilary’s beautifully poetic writing, along with Martin’s soft and gentle, yet evocative, illustrations put the heart right back into the story. The tales of this harrowing time suddenly become all the more human, emotional and heartfelt. Facts and figures are of course very important, but for children to really understand the sacrifices made by our ancestors we need to go deeper, and this is where Hilary and Martin get it so very right every single time.

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A Song for Will continues this pattern of expertly produced non-fiction, yet it is slightly different to the duo’s previous books.

Firstly, if you order now you can received the special, first edition of A Song for Will, and to begin with, before we even delve into the story, I have to say that this is a beautifully crafted book. It has a gorgeous vintage feel to it, and oozes quality with its royal blue colour and Martin’s stunning illustration on the cover, elements of which have been embossed to give a really luxurious feel. This book has been created with care and attention to the very last detail.

Whereas Hilary and Martin’s previous books were written in a poem style, A Song for Will is a more substantial read, and has been written in the form of letters between young gardener Alfie and his friend and fellow gardener, Fred, who has been enlisted, along with Will and other gardeners, to fight in the First World War.

This was such a clever way of approaching the storytelling in this book, as it provides the story from two, very different, points of view. We have Alfie and other staff members, who remain at home, struggling with the not insignificant effects of war upon their daily life, while remaining stoically optimistic. Missing their loved ones and colleagues, rationing, maintaining life with very little, and, of course, the fear. It’s a side of the war not always addressed very effectively in children’s books particularly.

From Fred’s point of view we see how things are for him out on the front line and all the difficulties he faces along with Will. Not just fighting on front lines, but dealing with other risks such as illness due to the poor living conditions, missing family and the effects of the war upon him and his dear friend Will, which are sensitively shown through Hilary’s delicate and subtle writing:- I noticed that Will’s hand was shaking – he must have been excited to be back.” (Alfie)

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The writing has been perfectly pitchedfor children to allow openings for discussion about how the soldiers and loved ones felt during this time. The story is so carefully developed through the letter writing to show the stress that the soldiers must have experienced in a subtle way, through the eyes of a naive young gardener. The soldiers would come home and want to be the best for their loved ones, put on a brave face, yet all the while struggling to cope with PTSD and the trauma of what they may have seen and experienced. It is really quite heartbreaking to read between the superbly written lines of this story.

As for Martin Impey’s illustrations. I’m not entirely sure how to do them justice. Gently weaving through the written pages of letters, Martin has brought a world to life. A world that did actually exist at one time and suddenly, by reading through this book, you’re taken into the heart of. Each setting and location has its own distinctive atmosphere, the gardens bright and colourful, full of love and life and yet gradually changing as the war develops. Then the war scenes, startlingly different, stark and muted, the bravery and yet the fear crying out from the pages. Each character in A Song for Will is a little creation of character. I fell in love with every person in this story through Hilary’s words and Martin’s drawings, you quickly feel involved with everyone in the story as it plays out in your imagination.

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I will happily admit to stroking my hand across many of the illustrations in A Song for Will, and I’m not sure why. In an attempt to bring the people back, to feel their emotions, to connect with them in some way? I really don’t know. I just know that this book took me by the hand into the intimate lives of some incredibly special people, including kind and gentle Will, who sadly never made it back from the war, and yet left a lasting impression on many people, least of all, thanks to this book, myself.

A Song for Will is perfect for the classroom, there is huge scope for discussion and project work. It’s perfect for libraries, for bookshelves at home, it is for children and adults, teachers, book lovers, illustration and art lovers, historians. A Song for Will is for everyone and anyone.

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When Hilary and Martin get together on a book, magic happens every time, but A Song for Will is different again for the duo. It is incredibly apparent that this is a labour of love. Hilary and Martin are intensely passionate about this subject, they immerse themselves in the stories of the people they write about, and Will’s story, in particular, was no exception. This passion is reflected in every single page, every word written and every line drawn of this precious and emotional book. That is what makes it special. A Song for Will is a book with its very own heartbeat created by this astonishing writing and illustrating team.

A Song for Will and the Lost Gardeners of Heligan is available now from all good book shops and libraries now. Please get it, read it and love it even half as much as I do.

Thank you for reading this Book Monster Review.


To find out more about the Gardens of Heligan please visit their website here:

Author Hilary Robinson resides on the internet right here:

And illustrator Martin Impey can be found here:





Oh I do love a traditional tale! Goldilocks, Three Billy Goats Gruff, Little Red Riding Hood. They are one of our most long standing and most loved forms of stories, and recognisable by most children from a pretty early age. One of my favourite books to read to classes is the Three Little Pigs (or variations of) as children love to join in shouting out the well known sayings in the book as loud as they can! A great way to wake up a sleepy library.

We are now at a stage where modern stories are incorporating the traditional, adding a new twist to them, and giving teachers some brilliant learning materials too. Fum, written by Karl Newson, illustrated by Lucy Fleming and published by Maverick Arts Publishing is one such title.

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Sleep Well Siba & Saba


Lantana Publishing are an independent publishing company who specialise in producing great quality diverse children’s books. Their wonderful tagline being “Because all children deserve to see themselves in the books they read.” sums up what they do incredibly well.

I am a big fan of their books, and have others to feature soon on Book Monsters, but I needed to post about this little gem as soon as I was able, because it’s really quite beautiful.

This is Sleep Well Siba & Saba written by Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl and illustrated Sandra Van Doorn.

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Captain Falsebeard in A Wild Goose Chase


Aah haaarrr!!! Welcome ye buckaneers to a very piratey Book Monster blog. Last year I reviewed the first in the brilliant Captain Falsebeard series of books, which you can read right here: Captain Falsebeard in a Very Fishy Tale

I was then, lucky enough, to be sent the sequel to that book Captain Falsebeard in a Wild Goose Chase written and illustrated by Fred Blunt and published by Puffin.

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The Joys of Writing!


Book Monsters is generally all about the books, where would we be without books? We wouldn’t have such a great opportunity to escape into other worlds, to learn, to share, to improve our vocabulary and develop our imaginations!!

In truth, where would be without authors? Or writers? We would be bookless!! Oh my!!
So, we need fantastic organisations, projects and teachers to nurture writers and writing skills and our authors of the future.

At Book Monsters HQ this week, I was fortunate enough to interact with two such writing inspirations!

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Lost Magic – The Very Best of Brian Moses


I’m a big fan of poetry, for young and old, and we are fortunate enough to have some fantastic and talented poets around to inspire and entertain children and adults. One such poet is the fantastic Brian Moses who has been writing poetry incredibly successfully for many years. I was very fortunate that Brian offered to send me a copy of his latest anthology Lost Magic The Very Best of Brian Moses, Cover illustration by Ed Boxall and inside illustrations by Chris Garbutt and published by Macmillan Children’s Books.

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