Leonora Bolt: Secret Inventor by Lucy Brandt

I’m always on the lookout for exciting new reads for my Year 3 and 4 students, especially for those kids who are moving on from their tried and true favourite series. Leonora Bolt: Secret Inventor is the first book in a new series that is perfect to bridge the gap between the more formulaic series’ for younger readers, and longer more developed novels. Leonora is a character that children will fall in love with and want to read more of her adventures.

Leonora Bolt lives in a lighthouse on remote Crabby Island with her scary Uncle Luther, their housekeeper Mildred, and her pet otter, Twitchy Nibbles. Leonora spends her days creating incredible inventions – like flameproof shampoo and an electric, sock-sorting octopus – watched over by her uncle. Life can be lonely on the island but Leonora gets to do the things that she loves. Her life changes dramatically one day when a boy washes up on her island. He tells her that her uncle is incredibly famous on the mainland as one of the world’s most amazing inventors. Leonora discovers that Uncle Luther has been stealing her inventions and selling them on the mainland as his own inventions. Not only that, but the parents that she believed were dead are, in fact, still alive. For the first time in her life Leonora must leave Crabby Island to stop her uncle from using her latest invention for dastardly deeds and discover the truth about her parents’ whereabouts.

Leonora Bolt: Secret Inventor is bursting with imagination and adventure. There is something in the story for everyone, from mind-blowing inventions and giant piles of treasure, to disgusting food and daring escapes. There is adventure, mystery and plenty of laughs thrown in. Each of the characters are fantastic, from the brave and inventive Leonora to the dastardly Uncle Luther. Gladys Jose’s illustrations perfectly match the tone of the story and really capture the essence of the characters.

Readers will finish the story wanting to go on more adventures with Leonora and her friends, and luckily there are more adventures to come (including the second book, Deep Sea Calamity, which is out now). This would be a wonderful read aloud for Years 3-6.

Grandpa Frank’s Great Big Bucket List by Jenny Pearson

It’s a rare treat to find a book that you know straight away is going to be a winner as a read-aloud. It needs to be a book that has a clear voice, will resonate with children and adults alike, captivate everyone, and have the whole class bursting into laughter. Jenny Pearson’s latest book, Grandpa Frank’s Great Big Bucket List, is one of these books.

The main character, Frank John Davenport, doesn’t feel seen by his parents. His mum
is always too busy and his dad is forever getting caught up in some scheme or other,
leaving his family having to start a new life somewhere else. All of the males in his family are called Frank, which makes for a rather confusing situation when his grandmother dies, leaving her fortune to Frank John Davenport. But there’s a catch – Frank must use his new-found fortune to take care of the grandpa that he has never met. A grandfather that just happens to live in a rest-home in the town that they’ve just moved to. While his parents try to convince Frank to give them the money, Frank decides
that he’ll go and meet his grandpa. His grumpy grandpa doesn’t want to have anything to do with him at first, but Frank knows that he needs to carry out his grandmother’s wishes. He compiles a list of all the ways that he can spend the money and take care of his grandpa, from hot-air balloon rides to swimming with dolphins. He just has to tick everything off his list before his parents take the money away.

Grandpa Frank’s Great Big Bucket List is a hilarious and heartfelt story that was an absolute joy to read.

Below by David Hill

David Hill is an incredibly versatile writer. Over the years he has written historical fiction, sci-fi, adventure stories and one of the best New Zealand novels for children, See Ya Simon. David Hill’s latest book, Below, is an edge-of-your-seat survival story that is going to be a winner with kids.

Liam and Imogen really don’t get on. Liam’s dad is a tunneler, helping to build a new road tunnel through the mountain, and Liam loves the chance to visit his dad at work. He gets to know the others working on the tunnel and see the tunnel boring machines or TBMs up close. Imogen and her family are strongly against the tunnel, believing that it will harm the environment and disturb the wildlife. Liam is determined to show Imogen that she is wrong and that the tunnel will be a good thing. Stealing his dad’s keys, Liam arranges to meet Imogen at the entrance to the tunnel one night and give her a tour. However, while they are exploring the tunnel and checking out the TBM, part of the tunnel collapses, trapping them inside. Not wanting his dad to truly know where he was, both Liam and Imogen lied about where they were going that night, and so nobody knows that they are trapped in the tunnel. As hours and then days pass, more parts of the tunnel collapse and their hope of being rescued dwindles. Liam and Imogen will have to try and keep themselves alive, with the few supplies they do have and hope that Liam’s dad figures out where they are.

Below is a real nail-biting, hold-your-breath kind of read. You are hanging on every one of David Hill’s sentences, hoping that Liam and Imogen will make it out alive. You can’t help but put yourself in the characters’ shoes and think about how you would cope in their situation (not well at all, in my case). The first part of the book is pretty tense, with the middle part slowing the pace down, but also making you feel the sense of timelessness that the characters are feeling. There is not a lot going on in this middle section of the story, but this fits with the fact that Liam and Imogen are mostly just sleeping and eating what little food they have and they have no real sense of time passing. The last quarter of the book ramps up the suspense, and just when everything seems like it’s looking up, David Hill throws another twist in. I didn’t stop reading until I knew how it ended.

Penguin Random House NZ have done an amazing job of the cover of Below! The cover screams ‘READ ME!’ and perfectly captures the tension of the story. One of the best NZ covers for children’s fiction that I’ve seen for ages.

I will be recommending Below to all of my Year 5-8 kids and it’s going to be such an easy book to sell to them. It would be an amazing read aloud too, especially for Year 7/8s. I know they would be begging for just one more chapter.

Bad Panda NZ Blog Tour – Guest Post and Giveaway

I’m super excited that Swapna Haddow and Sheena Dempsey’s new book, Bad Panda, is finally here in NZ! It is an absolutely hilarious read that you will have you giggling along while you read it. You can read my review here on the blog. On my stop of the Bad Panda NZ Blog Tour today Swapna shares her story about collaborating with Sheena. Read on to find out how this collaboration (and their friendship) began. Check out the end of this post to enter to win a copy of Bad Panda.

Working in Collaboration by Swapna Haddow

I first met illustrator Sheena Dempsey in 2014. I had just signed my first book deal with Faber & Faber and Sheena was an author-illustrator in her own right, having a number of books to her name already.

I remember finding out that Alice, my editor, and Will, the art director at the time, had selected Sheena to illustrate Dave Pigeon – they’d seen her portfolio which included a pigeon perfectly in tune with the vibe of the Dave Pigeon text.

I’d Googled Sheena’s work and knew she was perfect for the book but as I waited in the Faber lobby to meet her, my knees bobbed in anticipation. What would she make of a nobody author like me?

As my anxiety was about to tornado into a disastrous spiral of self-doubt, a huge red jacket launched itself into the lobby and there was Sheena. I knew we would be firm friends the minute she decided that the best place to put her huge coat was the middle of the floor.

I didn’t know then that five books later we would be starting our second series together and I certainly didn’t know then that we would have built the friendship we have. Sheena is, without a doubt, my best friend in the publishing world and I couldn’t imagine working on books about daft pigeons and bad pandas with anyone else.

It might surprise you to hear that more often than not, writers and illustrators don’t ever meet. That seems bizarre, right? Publisher often pair an illustrator with an author and they work separately. The text and pictures are then brought together in-house and a book is created without the author and illustrator ever meeting.  The justification for this approach is that the publisher can avoid clashes of creative differences by keeping the author and illustrator apart or at least more easily manage conflict.

Despite that, I still think it is a great shame that two creatives working on a joint project often don’t get to meet and I realise how uniquely positioned Sheena and I are to have actually met during the creative process. Thankfully it has worked out brilliantly for us. We have been able to share our thoughts on the books and events and we still haven’t clobbered each other over the head.

As we have got to know each other over the years, we have worked more collaboratively on our books and Bad Panda is the most collaborated work that we have ever put out into the world. Right from the initial idea, Sheena and I have discussed everything from characters to the layout of the book.

Working in a partnership can be tricky in the creative industry. There are strong opinions and differing tastes and you certainly won’t always see eye-to-eye on everything, but I think the key is to be honest and respectful. It’s important to remember that when someone shows you what they have created, they are making themselves vulnerable, so always offer opinions that are constructive. Equally, there is no space for being meek with your views in order to placate someone else’s pride because it’s your name on the cover too. It’s a balance and if you are considerate and thoughtful, you’ll find that equilibrium easily.

I’ve just sent Sheena the text for the Bad Panda sequel and as the first book makes it out into the world, I can’t help but think just how lucky I am to create books with my friend.

Win a copy of Bad Panda!

Thanks to Allen and Unwin NZ I have 3 copies of Bad Panda to give away. To enter to win a copy just fill out your details below. Competition closes Monday 13 September. Open to NZ only. Winners will be notified after competition closes. Due to lockdown restrictions I can’t guarantee when prizes will arrive.

Bad Panda by Swapna Haddow and Sheena Dempsey

I absolutely love Swapna Haddow and Sheena Dempsey! They’re the dream team who brought us the hilarious Dave Pigeon series, which has been a huge hit at my school (and makes me laugh every time). They’ve teamed up again to bring us the comedy gold that is Bad Panda. In the first book in this new series, Swapna and Sheena introduce us to Lin, a panda who is sick and tired of being called cute and fluffy.

Since the day that she was born Lin’s cute, fluffy face has been adored at the panda sanctuary. Her face is on all of the posters and people bring her gifts. Eventually though, all this fame wears her down. One of the things that Lin loves the most is spending time with her brother, Face-Like-A-Bag-of-Potatoes. Lin’s brother is her hero and she envies his carefree life. When Lin is taken to her new home at the zoo, she vows to do anything she can to get back to her brother. She is going to be a total grotter of a rotter of a panda, so that the zoo will send her home. On the plane to her new home, Lin meets Fu, the other panda who will be sharing her enclosure. Fu is a huge fan of Lin’s and he is only too happy to help her carry out her plans and prove that she is a bad panda. How can she show the humans how bad she is when they only see how adorable and fluffy she is?

Bad Panda is absolutely hilarious! It had me and my 6-year-old laughing-out-loud the whole way through (so much that I had to stop reading because I was laughing so hard). Swapna Haddow’s text and Sheena Dempsey’s illustrations are the perfect combination. You can tell that both of them have had a ball of a time making this book, because it is so much fun to read. I loved the mention of Dave Pigeon in the story too (look out for this!). It’s a story that begs to be read aloud, so you’ll want to find any kids that are willing to listen. You just have to be prepared to read while giggling. Lin’s brother is called Face-Like-A-Bag-Of-Potatoes and I laughed every time I read his name.

One of the things I love about Swapna’s writing is that she makes a joke last. From the list of things that Lin hates (fluffy blankets and unfluffy blankets) to Fu’s suggestions of things that Lin needs to become to get sent home (a bathtub of baked beans?), the longer the joke goes on, the sillier it gets. Swapna also uses some hilarious similes in this book! The pandas are told on the first day of Panda School that going to the zoo is like ‘eating a chocolate sundae with pizza-flavoured sprinkles.’ My favourite simile though is when Swapna describes Lin’s rage erupting in her tummy ‘like an angry hippo trapped in a vending machine.’ Sheena’s illustration for this image is spectacular!

Sheena Dempsey has perfectly captured both the cute, fluffiness and the many moods of Lin. Throughout the story we see Lin’s mischievous grin, her frustration and anger at being misunderstood, and her determination to make her plans work. One of my favourite illustrations of Lin is when she is raking her hands down her face in frustration because Fu isn’t understanding what she’s saying. So many of Sheena’s illustrations made me laugh, especially the hippo in the vending machine.

Bad Panda will have you laughing out loud. It’s the perfect family read aloud, that will work for different age groups, or as a class read aloud for Years 3-6. I can’t wait to see what Lin and Fu get up to next!

Bad Panda is finally released in NZ and Australia this month, although you may have to wait a little longer due to lockdown. Make sure you follow the Bad Panda NZ Blog Tour to find out more about the book from Swapna and Sheena. See the dates below:

2nd September: Book Trailers for Kids and YA – booktrailers4kidsandya.wordpress.com/

6th September: I’ll have a Bad Panda giveaway and a guest post from Swapna Haddow right here on My Best Friends Are Books – bestfriendsarebooks.com

7th September: What Book Next? – whatbooknext.com

8th September: The Book Whisperer – thebookwhisper2.wixsite.com/mysite/blog

10th September: The Sapling – thesapling.co.nz

The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea by Renée Treml

Renée Treml’s Sherlock Bones series is one of my go-to suggestions for kids who like books like The Bad Guys and Dog Man. It’s a fun and fact-filled series about a bird skeleton who solves mysteries in a natural history museum. Renée has now brought her humour and fantastic illustrations to her new series of graphic novels for younger readers. The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea bursts on to shelves this month with the first two books, It’s Owl Good and Squeals on Wheels.

Ollie is an owl who wears glasses. He’s worried about what others will think of him wearing glasses, because owls are known for their powerful vision. Maybe they can help Ollie to disguise his true identity, like his superhero idol, Super Owl. Without his glasses though Ollie can’t see properly, and he ends up tripping over Bea’s feet. Bea is a rabbit with huge feet, but she thinks that they’re no good for anything. Ollie and Bea will help each other to find their inner superhero, and become best friends in the process.

In Squeals on Wheels, Ollie is ready to go roller skating but Bea keeps making up excuses why she can’t go. Ollie wants to help Bea to find her skates, and even gets the super team to help. Bea admits that she is worried about looking silly, but with a little help from Ollie and his ridiculous costumes, Bea gives it a go.

The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea is a totally adorable and absolutely hilarious graphic novel series for younger readers. The stories are simple, but fun, making them perfect for newly independent readers. The illustrations are cute and the characters are super expressive. The panels are sparse but colourful, which makes the stories easy to follow for younger readers. Renée’s humour shines through in both the pun-filled text and the illustrations. I love a good pun and there are plenty of them in these stories to keep readers laughing out loud.

Kids will find Ollie and Bea really relatable because they deal with real worries with fun and humour. Whether it’s worrying about being teased because of wearing glasses or worrying about looking silly on roller skates, Ollie and Bea are there for each other and try to help each other feel better. I especially love Ollie’s support and encouragement in Squeals on Wheels. I really like the way that Ollie and Bea interact with the reader at different parts too. It really makes the reader feel like part of the story.

Sandra Nobes has done a wonderful job of the cover design of the series. These covers will certainly grab kids’ attention, especially Ollie in his bright wig and underpants on the cover of Squeals on Wheels.

If you know kids who love the Elephant and Piggie or Monkey and Cake stories you need to get them The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea. They’ll be hooked from the first chapter. I hope that this is the first two of many Ollie and Bea books.

Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows by Denis Knight and Cristy Burne

Magic and science don’t often go together. Magic is mysterious and unexplainable whereas science is grounded in fact and can always be explained. Both magic and science are equally important in Denis Knight and Cristy Burne’s new series, Wednesday Weeks. The first book in the series, Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows, is out now and it’s absolutely brilliant!

Wednesday Weeks is always accidentally creating havoc, whether it’s setting things on fire or blowing things up. Her teacher knows what to expect and keeps a fire extinguisher handy at all times. If that wasn’t bad enough her sorcerer grandfather keeps materialising in her classroom, ready to take his apprentice away. Wednesday never asked to be a sorcerer’s apprentice, but her grandpa keeps showing up. One day, Wednesday will be the Protector of the Realms and her grandpa needs her to be ready. When Wednesday and her grandpa travel to the Realm of Slugs, they are attacked by the fire-flinging, psychotic goblin king, Gorgomoth. Grandpa refuses to give Gorgomoth the Ruby Ring, with which he would enslave the Nine Realms, so Gorgomoth takes grandpa and disappears through a void. Together with her best friend Alfie, a prime-number fan and robotics expert, and a wise-cracking talking skull called Bruce, Wednesday must learn to control her magic so that she can rescue her grandpa from the Tower of Darkness. Together they will have to solve puzzles, outwit fairies and survive a laundry maze to reach the Pit of Extreme Discomfort in the heart of the Tower of Darkness.

Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows is an epically awesome adventure that had me laughing out loud the whole way. There is something for everyone in this story, whether you like coding and mathematical problems, magic spells and sorcerers, or power-crazy villains and sarcastic sidekicks. Wednesday and Alfie are two characters that I would follow anywhere. Between them they can solve any problem that comes their way.

The book is bursting with humour, from the characters, like Bruce the wise-cracking talking skull, to the witty dialogue, and Denis and Cristy’s spot-on comedic timing. There are so many parts of the story that made me laugh out loud, like the fact that there is a Realm of Unfriendly Cats, or that Wednesday’s grandpa has a Settee of Interdimensional Contemplation. I love that Bruce is totally sarcastic and you never know what will come out of his mouth. You can tell that Denis and Cristy had a lot of fun writing this story and really let their imaginations go wild. I mean, a maze in a laundry, filled with clothing that turns into a kraken?! Fantastic!

Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows has me hooked on the series. I’m super excited for book two, Wednesday Weeks and the Crown of Destiny, which is out in September. I can’t wait for more adventures with Wednesday, Alfie and Bruce!

Tim Te Maro and the Subterranean Heartsick Blues by H.S. Valley

The Ampersand Prize has launched the writing careers of some of the best YA writers in Australia and New Zealand. The winning books are always amazing stories that are fresh and exciting. The latest winner of the Ampersand Prize is no exception. Tim Te Maro and the Subterranean Heartsick Blues by Auckland teacher and author, H.S. Valley, is one of the coolest YA books you’ll read this year.

Tim Te Maro and Elliott Parker are classmates at Fox Glacier High School for the Magically Adept. They’ve never gotten along, but when they’re both dumped the day before the big egg-baby assignment, they team up to get back at their exes. They can’t stand each other but now they’re thrown together 24/7 to raise an egg-baby together. They make a deal to stick it out until the end of the assignment. Tim isn’t certain of his sexuality, and his experimentation was partly to blame for his breakup with his ex-girlfriend. Elliot is comfortable in his sexuality and he’s only too happy to help Tim figure out what he likes. As Tim and Elliott hook up, with no strings attached, Tim tries to figure out how he feels about Elliott. The deadline for the assignment looms, but how can things just go back to how they were before when Tim has feelings for Elliott?

I love everything about this book! It’s a cute, queer love story, set in a magical boarding school hidden under Fox Glacier. There’s plenty of sexual tension, great dialogue, humour, a hint of magic, and authentic characters who you get to know intimately. It’s a book that makes you want to shout at the characters, especially when Tim clearly can’t see what is right in front of him.

I love these characters! H.S.Valley has created characters who feel very real and relatable. They have insecurities and struggle with their feelings, and Tim in particular overthinks everything. I immediately liked Tim’s voice. He’s bitter from his breakup and hasn’t forgiven his dad for leaving suddenly three years ago. He vehemently dislikes Elliott, because of how he acts and the people he hangs out with. He can’t possibly imagine spending every minute with Elliott for the assignment. The more that he gets to know Elliott though, the more he realises that Elliott isn’t the self-righteous dick that he thought he was. Elliott is willing to help Tim explore his sexuality, at a pace that Tim is comfortable with and without messy feelings getting in the way. Tim also sees how caring and gentle Elliott can be, with their egg-baby. I love the dialogue between Tim and Elliott and the sexual tension between them. Like any teenage couple, they get to the stage where they can’t keep their hands off each other. The only problem is trying to keep their relationship secret from their friends and family. Tim realises that he likes guys, especially Elliott, but he’s not ready for his friends to find out. It is cute watching their relationship develop, but you worry that things might fall apart.

I really enjoyed the magic school aspect of the story, but this often felt like just the setting for Tim and Elliott’s relationship. Their magic and magical education came in to parts of the story but I wanted to see more of this. Having said that, the fact that their magic school is underneath Fox Glacier makes this story feel fresh.

I don’t feel ready to say goodbye to Tim and Elliott. I’ll be thinking about them for ages.

Interview with Leonie Agnew

Leonie Agnew’s amazing new book, The Memory Thief, is a story infused with imagination, wonder and magic. It has just been released by Penguin Books NZ and it is a book that everyone should have on their TBR pile. You can read my review here on the blog.

The Memory Thief captivated me and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. There were so many aspects of the story that I was curious about and I was lucky enough to get to ask Leonie my burning questions. Check out my interview to find out how Leonie adapted the idea of trolls for her story, how Dunedin inspired the story, and which of her memories Leonie wouldn’t want a troll to eat.

  • You wrote the first draft of The Memory Thief while as the Children’s Writer in Residence at the University of Otago College of Education. What was it about being in Dunedin that sparked this story?

I was alone in Dunedin and spent many hours wandering through the local botanical gardens, which was close to my writer’s cottage. I’ve never started a story based on a setting before, but the place felt so atmospheric, especially around twilight. I was also inspired by the name of a park in Howick called the Garden of Memories. Also, while staying in Dunedin, I would often drive to Christchurch and visit family. At my aunt’s house I saw a statue in their neighbour’s garden. At first glance I thought it was a person, which got me thinking about writing a story where statues comes to life.

  • Both Seth and Stella are intriguing characters who have a complex relationship. Did you know from the start how their relationship would develop?

I think so, yes. (Sorry, the first draft was years ago.) Some of the ideas come together in the first draft, but I knew before I started.

  • We’ve seen trolls in fairy tales and stories before but never quite like the trolls in your story. How did you develop the idea of trolls?

Great question! I was googling different books and came across the subject of Scandinavian trolls.  It was almost eerie. Straight away, I read trolls turned to stone, were allergic to iron, could appear human and only came out at night. Perfect! The Dunedin Botanical Gardens had a sign which said ‘Open from dawn until dusk’. (It’s been taken down since, I know because I tried to get a picture.) I loved that because there’s no time, which suggests the original gardeners knew there was something dangerous in the gardens and people’s safety depended on daylight, rather than specific times. Also, the gardens have many statues and a troll could pass for one. Finally, there were iron fences, so I knew my main character would be trapped inside.

There was one problem – trolls were also carnivorous. I felt this was a little boring but, luckily, I had been playing around with the idea of memories and gardens. So I changed the idea, making Seth feed on human memories, rather than actual bodies.

  • What is one of your memories that you wouldn’t want a troll to eat?

Any memory of my mother.

  • The Memory Thief has the best book cover for a New Zealand children’s book that I’ve seen for ages. Kieran Rynhart seems to have captured the characters and the tone of your story perfectly. How did you feel seeing Kieran’s illustrations for the first time?

The same way you did. Kieran hit the tone perfectly and captured a sense of the city, too. The atmosphere of the novel was definitely portrayed on the cover. I’ve had some great covers, but this one is my favourite.

  • How did you manage to score a cover quote from the one and only Chris Riddell?

A lot of people ask me that one! We were on stage together at the Auckland Writer’s Festival. Chris and I got talking and went out for a drink. He wanted to know what I was working on, then asked to read the manuscript. He sent me pictures of the characters, too, which was lovely! He is an extremely collaborative and generous man. I also have some pictures he drew of me on stage.

  • As a School Librarian, I see how hard teachers work and how busy they are. How do you juggle teaching and writing?

It’s very hard and I wish we had more children’s residencies like the one at Dunedin University. School holidays are my golden time, but this year I have a study grant to do a Masters in Creative Writing. I am getting lots of writing done!

  • Do you share your stories with your students before they are published?

No because they’re too young! My books (so far) have been nine and up.

Take the Lead: How to care for your dog by Elena Browne, illustrated by Jennifer Farley

Do you want to get a dog, but you’re not sure how to choose which one? Do you want a furry friend in your life, but you’re not sure what needs a dog has? Do you have a new dog, but you would really like to teach it some cool tricks? Take the Lead: How to Care For Your Dog, by Elena Browne and illustrated by Jennifer Farley, is the book you need.

In Take the Lead, Elena Browne takes young readers through everything you need to know about dog ownership. What do you need to know before you decide to get a dog? How do you decide what kind of breed to get? When you’ve bought or adopted a dog there are all sorts of other things to consider, like naming your dog, welcoming them home, and having somewhere for them to sleep and the right kind of foods to eat. Elena teaches kids how dogs communicate and how they can train their dog, teach them new tricks and play games with them. The health and well-being of your dog is also an important part of the book, especially when it comes to giving them what they need in different seasons.

Take the Lead is a wonderful, kid-friendly book that is essential reading for any young dog-lover. This is exactly the sort of book I would have loved as a kid with a dog of my own. Elena covers all aspects of dog ownership, presenting the information in a simple, but engaging text. Jennifer Farley’s illustrations capture the joy of having your own furry friend, as well as the body language that shows us how a dog is feeling.

The format is visually appealing, with small blocks of text on a colourful background, simple headings, and lots of adorable illustrations and photos. It is clear that Elena is passionate about dogs, as her enthusiasm and experience shines through in the text. There are some cool design features in the book too, like the doggy text-boxes and the use of paw prints and bones instead of bullet points. My favourite parts of the book are the step-by-step guides to teaching your dog tricks and commands, as they’re nicely illustrated and easy to understand.

I will be adding Take the Lead to the very popular section on pets in my school library. I know that kids are going to love it as much as I do.