Blackbird Reads – Made in Cornwall

Blackbird Reads:

Made in Cornwall

by Deborah Wright

Cornwall has some wonderful children’s writers and illustrators, some of whom self-publish. Do search them out, they are so talented and deserve to be widely read.

 ‘Percy Pengelly and the Wibble-Wobble’

by Jenny Steele Scolding BR-Percy-Pengelly-250

published by Serpentine Design

Percy is a tightrope walker in the circus till he gets too old and wobbly. So what can he do instead? Why become a chimney sweep in his little Cornish seaside town! And up on the roofs he doesn’t wobble at all. A smattering of Cornish phrases add to the charm. For 4+


‘The Mermice of Mousehole’

BR-MermiceOfMousehole-250by Michelle Cartlidge

published by Mabecron Books

What a perfect idea to find mermice in Mousehole! I love Michele Cartlidge’s mice – we had a wonderful Christmas model mouse house by her which was so loved it eventually fell apart and I also recommend ‘The Cornish Mice who Went to Sea’. For 4+



‘The Hare and the Wise Old Apple Tree’


by Annie B

published by Blue Ocean

Cornish writer and illustrator Annie B has written a moving story about loss and loneliness and the importance of love. As snowflakes softly fall and hare grieves for his dead mother, the apple tree gently explains how love is always with us, and winter turns into spring. For 5+



‘An Ynys Dhu’

by Hergé BR-An-Ynys-Dhu-250

published by

Tintin has just been translated into Cornish, so for those of you bringing up your children to be bilingual, or anyone who is fascinated by the language this is brilliant. The English version is ‘The Black Island’, and Tintin and Snowy (or Milik in Cornish) set off to hunt down a dastardly gang of forgers. Every generation loves Tintin, perhaps the greatest comic series of all time.BR-An-Kanker-Owrek-250





‘Children’s History of Cornwall’

by Peggy Burns BR-Children's-History-250

published by Home Town World

My nephew’s middle name is Piran, but who was St Piran? And why is the Cornish flag black and white? Cornwall has a proud history and there is a good mixture of old photos, cartoons and timelines which makes fascinating reading – for adults too. Age 7+


‘Callum Fox and the Mousehole Ghost’

BR-Callum-Fox-250by AC Hatter

published by Woodside White Books

When Callum, on holiday in Cornwall, is knocked unconscious by an ambulance he starts to see ghosts, who wander the streets of Mousehole. The story switches between 2014, and the 1940s with the story of Jim, an evacuee who saves a German airman but is killed and returns to haunt Callum. Cornwall is much more exciting than he ever imagined. For 10+


Also recommended: ‘Stormbreaker’ by Anthony Horowitz, published by Walker, an Alex Rider story, set in Cornwall, for 9+, Helen Dunmore’s trilogy ‘Ingo’, published by Harper Collins for 10+ and don’t forget Michael Morpurgo’s wonderful Cornish stories, including ‘The White Horse of Zennor’, published by Egmont.



Other book reviews – samples below:

Winter Fun

by Deborah Wright


When it’s freezing outside and the wind howls, settle in front of a warm fire and read some winter stories together…

‘Frog in Winter’

by Max Velthuijs, published by Andersen
The Frog books are deceptively simple and have reassuring themes of friendship and kindness for young children. Frog isn’t very happy in the snow but his friends come to the rescue and build a fire to keep him warm till spring comes. For 3+

‘I Completely Love Winter’

by Lauren Child, published by Puffin
Two Charlie and Lola stories. Typically Lola is obsessed with having her own ice skates, and pesters until she gets some – and then discovers it’s not as easy as it looks. The familiar endearing scribbly characters, collages and crazy fonts. For 4+



‘Winter Story’

by Jill Barklem, published by Collins
Enter the enchanting world of the mice who live in Brambly Hedge. There’s a book for each season, and the most detailed and delightful illustrations. Store cupboards are crammed with provisions and as the snow falls heavily outside, the mice prepare for the magical Ice Ball. For 4+


‘It’s Snow Day’

by Richard Curtis, illustrated by Rebecca Cobb, published by Puffin

Every child’s dream…so much snow that school is cancelled! Only Danny turns up and only one teacher, but unfortunately it’s his arch enemy, Mr Trapper. Then at break something amazing happens and Mr Trapper discovers how to have fun in the snow, and what fun they have. For 5+

‘The Snow Merchant’

by Sam Gayton, illustrated by Chris Riddell,
published by Andersen  Do you know where snow comes from? From the snow merchant of course! And when he calls he changes Lettie Peppercorn’s life for ever. A fantastical tale full of extraordinary characters about the invention of snow. For 8+




‘The Winter Wolf’

by Holly Webb, published by Stripes Publishing
In the depths of winter Amelia goes to stay in a big old house in the wilds of Scotland with cousins she doesn’t know and their dog who looks suspiciously like a wolf. Then she discovers an old diary and the stage is set for a spooky yarn. For 9+




‘The Winter Horses’

by Philip Kerr, published by Walker
Set in Ukraine during the freezing winter of 1941, the Nazis want to exterminate the Przewalski horses, the ancient wild horses of the steppes. Kalinka’s family has been massacred; cold and alone, she is determined to save two of the horses. Based on a true story, miraculously all the Przewalski horses which survive in the world today are descended from just nine horses who were saved. For 10+

Blackbird Reads:  Christmas Books 2014

by Deborah Wright

‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Christmas 123’

by Eric Carle
published by Puffin
A chunky board book with the well known caterpillar counting up to Christmas, and yes, he does become a butterfly on Christmas Day. For 1+

‘The Nativity’

by May Eliot illustrated by Richard Johnson
published by Picture Corgi
This is a simple retelling of the birth of Jesus with gentle illustrations which will introduce very small children to the real story of Christmas.

BR-Slinky-M-250‘Slinky Malinki’s Christmas Crackers’

by Lynley Dodd
published by Puffin
If you don’t know the Hairy Maclary books I urge you to track them down immediately. The escapades of the mischievous cats and dogs (all with brilliant names, like Scarface Claw the Toughest Tom in Town) coupled with the rollicking rhyme is totally infectious. The Christmas tree is doomed from the start when you spy Slinky Malinki peeking out from behind a bauble. For 3+

‘The Sheep that Saved Christmas’BR-The-Sheep-250

by Jason Page, illustrated by Adrian Reynolds
published by Red Fox
You may groan at yet another ‘animal saving Santa’ story, but this one is great fun. Cynthia the sheep is off to the North Pole (I love her queueing up at the airport with her passport) and when Father Christmas’s beard is burnt off, her woolly coat saves the day. For 4+



‘Angelina’s Christmas’

by Katharine Holabird and Helen Craig
published by Puffin
Christmas is the time for old favourites so I highly recommend two reissues which my family have read together every Christmas for over twenty-five years. Angelina Ballerina is such a feisty little character and in this story she and Henry befriend a lonely old mouse who turns out to be a ‘real’ Father Christmas. For 4+

‘Christmas in Exeter Street’BR-Exeter-St-250

by Diana Hendry, illustrated by John Lawrence
published by Walker
The other reissue we love will strike a chord if you’ve a houseful for Christmas. It’s lucky the   house in Exeter Street is large, because more and more people arrive to stay on Christmas Eve: five aunts end up lying on the kitchen dresser, the vicar and his wife are in the bath, and eighteen children are squeezed in somehow. Fortunately they all come with something for Christmas Day and baby Lily Lou, who spends the night in the sink, just smiles and smiles and smiles. For 4+

Front cover of a Strauss House book, The Christmas Truce‘The Christmas Truce’

by Hilary Robinson, illustrated by Martin Impey
published by Strauss House
This is a sequel to ‘Where the Poppies Now Grow’, which I reviewed in August, and tells the famous and moving story of the soldiers who sang ‘Silent Night’ across the trenches and laid down their weapons for one night. An appropriate book for this centenary year. For 5+

‘The Smallest Gift of Christmas’BR-The-Smallest-Gift-250

by Peter H. Reynolds
published by Walker
Greedy Roland doesn’t think much of his tiny present, he wants something much bigger. He stamps his foot: ‘I want a bigger gift!’ It takes a trip in a space rocket to learn what is really important at Christmas. A cheerful moral little tale for 4+


‘The Nights Before Christmas’

illustrated by Tony Ross
published by Andersen
Much better than an Advent Calendar, here are 24 classic Christmas stories and poems to share every day instead. ‘The Snow Queen’, ‘Papa Panov’,
‘The Wind in the Willows’, ‘The Night Before Christmas’, it’s a wonderful collection – start dropping hints to Granny. For 7+


‘Why Does Santa Ride around in a Sleigh?’

by Kay Woodward
published by Puffin
For children who love facts. Why is there no mince in mince pies? Why is Father Christmas called Santa Claus? Where is the biggest Christmas tree? Very useful! For 7+


Blackbird Reads:  Cars

by Deborah Wright

‘Stanley’s Garage’

by William Bee
published by Jonathan Cape
A nice chunky book with lots of brightly coloured cars which all need to be repaired at Stanley’s garage. A perfect book for car-mad toddlers.


‘The Journey Home from Grandpa’s’BR-JourneyHomeFromGrandpa's

by Jemima Lumley

published by Barefoot

The little yellow car sees all sorts of different things on the way home from Grandpa’s. If you put the CD in the car you can sing along (to the tune of ‘The Big Ship Sails on the Ally-Ally-Oh’) or put it in a computer and read along too. For 3+


‘Dixie O’Day in the Fast Lane’

by Shirley Hughes and Clara Vulliamy
published by The Bodley Head
Dixie is a dog who loves his car and off he goes with his side kick Percy in the first book in a new series which newly confident readers will love. Loads of pictures in black and white and red career all over the page as the two dogs set out insearch of adventure. For 6+

‘How Cars Work’BR-how_cars_work

by Nick Arnold
published by Templar
I know absolutely nothing about engines, but thanks to this brilliant book, I’m learning at last. Clear instructions are then brilliantly reinforced with working cardboard models to make. Cogs and gears…it’s not so complicated after all. For 7+

BR-The-Tin-Snail‘The Tin Snail’

by Cameron McAllister
published by Jonathan Cape
Based on the true story of the designing of the Citroen deux chevaux, and set in war-torn  France, a young boy and his father are determined to design a car ‘for the people.’ But they face the evil Nazis determined to steal their plans. A very exciting story, which would make a great film. For 9+


‘Why We Took the Car’BR-WhyWeTookTheCar

by Wolfgang Herrndorf
published by Andersen
When all those car-mad little boys hit secondary age and you want to keep them reading, this is your book. The ultimate teenage dare: to steal a car and set off with no map, no adults and certainly no driving licence. There are plenty of crises but it’s very funny and also moving. For 12+

Blackbird Reads: The First World War

by Deborah Wright

On the eve of the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, it is important to look at books which commemorate this appalling event.

Where the poppies growWhere the Poppies now Grow’

by Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey published by Strauss House

What a challenge to introduce young children to the awful concept of war. Using the rhythm of ‘The House that Jack Built’, the story builds up from a field of poppies where two friends play to the battlefield and the horror.  Moving and very sensitively done.

Archies War‘Archie’s War’

by Marcia Williams published by Walker

Ten-year-old Archie starts writing a scrapbook at the beginning of the First World War and this is his ‘handwritten’ account, packed with his drawings, postcards and letters, as the horror of the war impacted on him. For 6+

War Girls

‘War Girls: a collection of First World War Stories’

published by Andersen

The story of women’s roles in the War is an important one, and these short stories by excellent writers like Anne Fine, Berlie Doherty, Melvin Burgess and Theresa Breslin shows girls today how opportunities for women  were transformed by war. For 10+

When the Guns Fall Silent‘When the Guns Fall Silent’

by James Riordan published by Oxford University Press

Based on his own grandfather’s war story, and written to his own grandson Perry, memories and recollections are beautifully interwoven as old and young visit the war graves and meet two Germans with memories of their own. For 8+

Stay where you are and then leave‘Stay Where You Are and Then Leave’

by John Boyne published by Random House

John Boyne leapt to fame with The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and this is his First World War story about a young boy whose father suffers shell shock and the implications on the family. The reality of mental illness is rather underplayed, naïve even, but then this is a story for children of 8+ and tackles a very difficult subject.

The Silver Donkey‘The Silver Donkey’

by Sonya Hartnett, illustrated by Laura Carlin published by Walker

Two little French girls, Coco and Marcelle, discover a British soldier hiding in the woods, blind and shell-shocked and starving. They feed him and he tells them stories, all linked to his lucky silver donkey. A moving story which had me in tears. For 7+

The Great War‘The Great War’

published by Walker

Another anthology with excellent modern writers, but this time each story is based around an object from the War. I particularly like Marcus Sedgwick’s story inspired by a piece of shrapnel embedded in a tree and the angel, or ghost, of the German airman who hovers above it. Flitting through time, it explores the different thoughts of those who were there and those of us who remember and try to make sense of the senseless. For 10+