This morning I woke up to the sight of snow outside my window. A light, icing sugar dusting of snow had covered the garden, the driveway, the cars – everything within my view was delicately coated in a pleasant sprinkling of snowfall. It’s still there now, and I think we’re forecast more over the next few days, providing the most perfect opportunity to curl up under a blanket, grab a hot water bottle and get lost in a book (or two).
Because I’m a bit of a book obsessive (perhaps the understatement of the century…?), I love seasonal reads and matching the book I’m reading to the weather outside. Cosy, wintry reads are just the thing for this time of year, and in recent months we have been treated to quite the number of amazing new children’s fiction releases. Here are a couple that I’ve read recently, and think would make the perfect cold-weather reads.
Published 2nd November 2017 by Faber & Faber // Purchased // ☆☆☆☆
It sounded like a respectable and worthy enough death for an explorer – tumbling from an ice bridge to be impaled upon a mammoth tusk – but Stella really, really didn’t want that to happen, just the same.
Join Stella Starflake Pearl and her three fellow explorers as they trek across the snowy Icelands and come face-to-face with frost fairies, snow queens, outlaw hideouts, unicorns, pygmy dinosaurs and carnivorous cabbages . . .
When Stella and three other junior explorers get separated from their expedition can they cross the frozen wilderness and live to tell the tale?
This was, quite simply, an absolute delight to read. The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club follows our protaganist Stella Starflake Pearl, aspiring explorer, as she and three other junior explorers head off on an adventure across the Icelands. When things don’t quite go to plan, our explorers have to step up and brave the snow-filled land on their own, and what follows is a rather hilarious and utterly magical adventure.
Stella was a fantastic main character; brave, determined, and willing to stand up for what she believes in. I love how she challenged the norms surrounding female explorers – while the other members of the club were at first reluctant to have her be a part the expedition, they quickly forgot about gender stereotypes and it was just accepted without question that girls could join in, too. It was refreshing to see within a children’s fiction novel, with “You can be whatever you want to be,” being the underlying message throughout the narrative. Stella certainly didn’t let anyone stop her from achieving her dreams of becoming an explorer, and her actions throughout made her the perfect Middle Grade heroine – I loved her.
The world-building was also fantastically done within the novel – the magical elements, from iced gem trees to unicorns as pets, were really unique and fun, and brought the world completely to life. I’d love to have a miniature penguin as a pet, although it’s certainly made me look at cabbages differently! Basically, I want to be a member of the Polar Bear Explorers’ Club – who do I need to speak to about making that happen?!
Fun, witty, fast-paced and full to the brim of adventure, this was a book that I couldn’t put down, and got completely sucked into. I really felt like I was on the expedition along with Stella and co, and I loved watching their friendships develop throughout the pages. Their journey wasn’t always easy, and Alex Bell isn’t afraid to tackle difficult topic such as the loss of a parent or sibling, but I enjoyed every page immensely. I’m very glad that we’re getting a sequel, and I’m looking forward to going on another adventure with Stella soon!
Published 4th January 2018 by Simon & Schuster Ltd // Purchased // ☆☆☆☆☆
In the snowy kingdom of Erkenwald, whales glide between icebergs, wolves hunt on the tundra and polar bears roam the glaciers. But the people of this land aren’t so easy to find – because Erkenwald is ruled by an evil Ice Queen and the tribes must stay hidden or risk becoming her prisoners at Winterfang Palace.
Join Eska, a girl who breaks free from a cursed music box, and Flint, a boy whose inventions could change the fate of Erkenwald forever, as they journey to the Never Cliffs and beyond in search of an ancient, almost forgotten, song with the power to force the Ice Queen back.
This is a story about an eagle huntress, an inventor and an organ made of icicles. But it is also a story about belonging, even at the very edges of our world…
It’s always the books that you love the most that are the hardest to review, and I have a feeling that this is going to be the case with Sky Song. From the very first page I was completely sucked into this magical tale of friendship and adventure, and it truly reads like a classic in the making. It reads as both an action-packed adventure story and a classic fairytale, with echoes of The Snow Queen, The Chronicles of Narnia and Northern Lights, and Eliphinstone’s writing is just beautiful to read. While it may be aimed at children, there is a lot to love within the pages of Sky Song, however big or small you may be.
Our protagonist Eska stole my heart from the very beginning. Watching her grow from a terrified and confused prisoner to a strong, competent and determined young person throughout the course of the the book was a real journey, helped along by Eska’s fantastic friendship in Finn. Friendship is a huge part of the book, and the relationships between Eska, Finn and his sister Blu were so special and heartwarming to read. The bonds between animals and our main characters were also a central theme of the book, and I loved reading about the wildlife as Eska encountered it. Nature, winter and the outdoors were hugely important, making it all the more cosy to be reading tucked up in bed on a cold night, although it felt as if the kingdom of Erkenwald was just right outside my door.
A beautiful, magical tale of bravery and friendship, Sky Song is one of the best children’s books I’ve read in a long time. It’s a truly exceptional book about finding your tribe and opening your heart, and Eska and Finn will have a warm place within mine for a long time to come. I highly, highly recommend.