Set in London in 1909, this mystery brings to life a brand new department store, Sinclair's, as seen through the eyes of its young workers. It doesn't take long before you are just as enchanted with this place as Sophie is!
I was quickly sucked into Sophie's world. Her story is a beautiful blend of elegant imagery - you can practically smell and touch everything in Sophie does - and labyrinthian mystery. Sinclair's is the backdrop for a mystery that is, as times, dark: theft, murder, a crime lord, kidnapping, threats... in short, everything that makes up a satisfying nail-biter. But the overall book doesn't feel dark because of the balance of these plot elements with absolutely enthralling language. And this is an English teacher talking.
Clockwork Sparrow is primarily told from the perspective of Sophie, a young woman who is working in the millinery department (that's hats, if you were born after 1950 ;) of Sinclair's. But the narration jumps between Sophie and a few other key characters: Billy, a young porter who is prone to slipping up; Lil, an adored model of Sinclair's fashion; and Joe, a young man who has found himself in more trouble than he would like to admit.
Sometimes, switching narrators within a story can feel confusing or scattered. It worked for me in this novel, though, because each character has its own voice, and Sophie continues to be a uniting thread throughout the novel. Indeed, I found the additional voices added depth and intrigue to the mystery.
All in all, this novel was great fun - both from the layered mystery to the absolutely enchanting atmosphere of the store. Sinclair's really is a character in this story, and it plays its part well. I won't give spoilers away here, but if you would like details on the story arc before buying the book, send me a message! I understand the desire to know what's coming before handing a novel to a kid. But honestly, just read the book along with your kids! You won't be disappointed.
It's that book that transports you to another time and place... and keeps you there long after you've finished reading.
Buy The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow here! ($6.99, paperback)
Check out The Mystery of the Jeweled Moth for more adventures from Sophie and Lil
Click on the pictures to get a preview of the writing:
"Things to pack for vacation: pants, sunglasses, books, toothpaste, bobble hat, pet cactus, tambourine, toothbrush." This is one little detail that's easy to overlook in Nibbles (A Kane Miller book by Emma Yarlett) because the story itself is so captivating. And I'll say from the start, this is a tough book to accurately portray in words because it's interactive in more of an out-of-the-box way than I've seen in many children's books! Let me try to explain.
Nibbles is a little yellow monster who loves to eat BOOKS. As you're reading about Nibbles, he actually eats his way out of the book and starts chomping through some classic fairy tales. And he takes you with him, following his path through Goldilocks and Little Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk.
But what's hard to explain is that these books are printed inside the Nibbles book - like little books with smaller pages set in the pages of this picture book. And, when Nibbles eats his way through a book, he leaves an actual hole in the page! Maybe let's pause, and I'll show you some pictures:
As Nibbles makes his way through these classic tales, he is changing the story - so, as you see, as the three bears are about to accuse Goldilocks of destroying their house, she cries out, "It wasn't me! It was a monster!"
The golden goose from the giant's castle in Jack and the Beanstalk carries Nibbles back to his own story and deposits him back in the crate - but you quickly discover Nibbles has chewed his way out of the crate, leaving a real hole in the back cover of this really fun, interactive picture book. The story is charming and funny and sweet; the illustrations captivate you, the little character of Nibbles is unavoidably lovable, and your kids will ask you to read it again as soon as you're done.
It's that book that redefines picture books - and fairytales - and monsters - in one fell swoop.
Pick up a copy of Nibbles today! You won't be disappointed. :)
Buy Nibbles, the Book Monster here (hardcover, $16.99)
And bring home a plush Nibbles, too
"Skorpiovenator was an egg-eating nest raider. Its cool name means 'scorpion hunter' because there were loads of scorpions living where its fossil was found." This is just one of the many facts hidden within the pages and flaps of this interactive picture book. On the surface, The Curious Case of the Missing Mammoth (a Kane Miller book by Ellie Hattie and Karl James Mountford) is about a big brother mammoth looking for his baby brother with the help of a boy named Oscar - but, like so many Usborne books, there are layers to this story!
Oscar, a little boy, wakes one night at midnight and sees a mammoth outside his window. The mammoth, Timothy, is looking for his brother, who has escaped from The Curious Museum during the nightly "magic hour" between midnight and 1:00. Oscar and Timothy catch glimpses of baby brother Teddy as they chase him back to and in through the museum.
What follows is a tour of this fun museum during magic hour, while all the animals and paintings and fossils on display come to life. As you follow little Teddy through the museum, flaps of all shapes and sizes teach you about books, pilots, sea turtles, dinosaurs, and any number of other curious subjects.
And, as an added bonus, If you love the little character of Teddy, you can buy him as a plush! This little guy is really sweet - he's soft, bright-colored, and looks ready to be hidden around the house for your young explorers to discover again and again.
It's that book that combines learning and storytelling into a sweet adventure.
Buy The Curious Case of the Missing Mammoth here! ($16.99, hardcover)
Add a little Teddy plush to your life ($12.99)
Hi there! I'm Christine - Usborne Books & More independent consultant, kids' book fan, English teacher, mom of two boys.