thebookactivist-Logo-01 Nowhere emporium

The Nowhere Emporium by Ross MacKenzie  Age 9+


The shop from nowhere can appear at any time, in any city. It’s labyrinth of rooms contains wonders beyond belief. But to enter you must pay a price.  THE NOWHERE EMPORIUM IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS. BRING YOUR IMAGINATION.  When Daniel stumbles into the mysterious Nowhere Emporium in Glasgow, he opens the door to a world of breathtaking magic and looming danger.


The Nowhere Emporium is quite literally full of imagination, a brilliantly weaved story that will delight all those who love to invent stories of their own.  Daniel Holmes is an orphan and when he takes refuge in the Nowhere Emporium, he is instantly drawn to the shop full of wonders and the strange shopkeeper, Lucien Silver.  In that moment Daniel has no idea that this will become is home and introduce him to places only ever found in imagination.  Mr Silver knows he has found his apprentice and seeks to teach him the secrets of the Emporium.  The story weaves a magical picture and we discover the true enchantment of the Emporium, meeting wonderful characters including Ellie, the girl who can never enter the real world outside the shop, and the fantastical artistes who entertain the customers.  The shop travels through time, visiting cities throughout the world, drawing all those who visit into its many meandering corridors, and thriving on their imagination.  But as with all magic, there is a dark, sinister side; a villain with a suitably villainous name, Vindictus Sharpe, a man determined to defeat Lucien Silver and steal his magic at any cost.  Daniel must summon all his courage and face his worst fears to save Lucien, Ellie and the Emporium with all its wonders.


A well-deserved winner of the Blue Peter Book Awards and Scottish Children’s Book Awards, this is a great adventure from start to finish with believable characters and a magical feel throughout.  I love the idea of the Emporium with all its Rooms of Wonder; with the beautiful descriptions it makes you want to visit them yourself! There are moments of menace in places and the storyline keeps the reader hooked wanting to solve the mystery of why the horrible Vindictus Sharpe is after Lucien. The writer cleverly weaves between past and present, bringing to life each colourful character. The elements of fantasy and reality are well-balanced and I’m sure this will appeal not just to fans of fantasy but to those who enjoy adventure and mystery too!  



Crush by Eve Ainsworth      Age 13+


Love hurts....but should it hurt this much?  Will is handsome and loving – everything Anna has always dreamt of.  He wants her to be his alone. He wants her to be perfect. But at what cost?


Crush is a hard-hitting story about an abusive relationship between two teenagers, Will and Anna.  From the very first page the emotional background to the novel is apparent, with Anna in a counselling session at school.  We later discover her parents’ marriage has ended, leaving her fragile, angry and perhaps more susceptible to the advances of an older boy.  Will has his own demons hidden behind a handsome exterior, which are cleverly revealed through letters he writes to an unknown person throughout the novel.  Anna and Will quickly become close, and their relationship impacts on their friendships with others, particularly Anna and her band mates and her best friend Izzy.   We also see how both Anna and Will’s home life impacts on their choices and behaviours, with worrying consequences.  Will attempts to impose his control on Anna, even down to how she wears her hair, and she responds, losing sight of reality in her desire to be loved.  Anna’s already fragile home life suffers with her brother, Eddie and her father becoming increasingly distant.  It is not until the final pages that Will’s true colours and family situation are revealed, but is it too late for Anna to save herself?


This story is well-written from beginning to end, and brilliantly depicts the danger of falling under the control of someone you think cares about you.  The writer weaves issues of divorce, mental health, bereavement, poverty and school gossip into the narrative, creating a very real picture for the reader.  The brooding atmosphere keeps you on the edge of your seat, wondering whether Anna will be strong enough to see what is happening to her.  Both Anna and Will are looking for the security and love they do not get at home, and as a result their relationship seems like the answer.  The writer brings to life the teenage turmoil faced by young people in so many areas, particularly when they are dealing with broken home lives.  The story evokes real empathy for the characters;  Anna who is so desperately angry with her parents, grasping at anything to make her feel better and believe in herself; and even Will, whilst in no way condoning his abusiveness, utterly disturbed to the point of madness by his family situation.  Crush was at times unsettling to read, but in no way gratuitous, which demonstrates how well it is written. It is a realistically told story demonstrating the difficulties some young teenagers deal with on a daily basis and how they overcome them.  I would highly recommend this to all teenager readers – and their parents.


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‘Grrrrr!’ by Rob Biddulph     Age 3+


Fred is the Best Bear in the Wood.  But he’s about to learn that sometimes there are more important things than winning. Because this year, there’s a new bear in town....


From the award winning author of ‘Blown Away’, Rob Biddulph, comes a fantastic new picture book called ‘Grrrrr!’ featuring the wonderful character of Fred the ‘best bear in the wood’! Fred Bear is a champion and has won the contest for Best Bear three years in a row, with lots of medals and trophies to show for it.  From fish catching to hula-hooping, Fred is the best at everything in the competition.  And whilst Fred thinks he doesn’t need friends, spending all his time practising, he soon discovers they are very helpful when he loses his growl just before this year’s contest is due to start.  Will he find it in time to compete in the final and most important event – the growling challenge? And just who is the new arrival who might steal Fred Bear’s champion title, amongst other things?


This is a truly lovely story, told in rhyme, about finding friendship just when you need it the most and how winning can’t replace having friends.  The story cleverly touches on being honest and how we all want to find friends and sometimes we aren’t sure how to. Amazing, vibrant illustrations bring the story to life, perfectly showing the more humorous moments.  All the different animals add something to the narrative – watch out for the little rabbits in the background!  Older children will quickly grasp the language through the rhyming structure and enjoy learning the unusual names of some of the other characters, such as Eugene the Owl.


'Grrrrr!' is a brilliant story to read aloud, with opportunities for audience participation and ‘grrrrring’ at the appropriate moments! After winning the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2015 for his debut ‘Blown Away’, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rob Biddulph picked up more awards for this book too!


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