Cities of the Dead – Yolanda Zappaterra

I inherited my Nan’s fascination for cemeteries. She instilled in me a reverence for the people whose tombstones I was reading. Horror movies gave me my dread/hope that one day I’ll witness a hand rising from a grave or hear some grave bells ringing.

This book introduces you to a selection of beautiful cemeteries from around the world. For some, their beauty lies in their location, overlooking the ocean or surrounded by trees. Some hold unique cultural or historical significance. Many are the final resting place of people who found fame in life.

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Bonaventure (meaning ‘Good Fortune’) Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia

Each entry includes the history of the cemetery and photos that made me want to visit most of them, but there are also tales of the horror of being buried alive and bodysnatching. If you know me, you know I love fun facts. This book has plenty. Some of my favourites are:

🪦 The headstone of Susan B. Anthony is covered with plexiglass around election time because there’s a tradition of people placing their ‘I Voted’ stickers on it.

🪦 The Sophie Calle installation at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York is a “twenty-five-year artwork entitled Here Lie the Secrets of the Visitors of Green-Wood Cemetery in which people can write down their thoughts or secrets and place them in a white marble ‘tombstone’.”

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Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York

🪦 During summer, movies screenings are held on the Douglas Fairbanks Lawn at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. Movies shown there include Night of the Living Dead.

🪦 Amongst the tombstones in Okunoin Cemetery, Mount Kōya, Japan, you’ll see some more unusual memorials:

a giant termite’s nest that acts as a pest control company’s memorial to all the termites their products have exterminated. Puffer fish that have fallen foul of chefs’ knives, a giant coffee cup, a large space rocket erected by aerospace company ShinMaywa Industries and memorials to the staff of companies such as Nissan, Toyota and Kirin beer all form part of the curious mix.

If you’re superstitious, you may want to avoid this cemetery all together.

Nearby, housed in a small wooden cage near the Gobyobashi Bridge, the equally curious Miroku Stone supposedly weighs one’s sins as you try to lift it from a lower to an upper platform, but more scary is the Sugatami-no-Ido, or Well of Reflections, found just beyond the Nakanohashi Bridge, close to the shrine to the bodhisattva Asekaki Jizo. Legend has it that if you look into this tiny wooden well but don’t see your reflection, you’re fated to die within three years. Probably best to stay on the safe side and avoid it – which might also be good advice for the Zenni Jochi stone memorial to a Buddhist nun of which it is said, if you place your ear you can hear the cries of people in Hell.

Naturally, this is the cemetery I most want to explore.

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Okopowa Jewish Cemetery in Warsaw, Poland

I found the section at the end of the book that explored symbolism in cemeteries particularly interesting.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Frances Lincoln, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Cities of the Dead takes us on a tour of memorial sites, ranging from monastic settlements to grand cathedrals, Shinto shrines to Gothic chapels, tombs and crypts. Enjoy tales of myths and monsters, grave-robbers, pilgrimages, spiritual retreats, remembrance and community. Marvel in cemeteries with a hundred thousand to a handful of graves which feature famous headstones, weeping angels, ocean views, woodlands, thousands of glowing lanterns and a tomb of poets.

From London’s famous Highgate Cemetery, which houses famous names from Karl Marx to Malcolm McLaren, George Eliot to Christina Rosetti, to Hawaii’s breathtaking Valley of the Temples, this book spans the globe to bring you the most fascinating, intriguing and evocative cemeteries across cultures and continents.

Together with evocative images, the stories behind these notable burial sites bring these sanctuaries to life, detailing the features that make them special, highlighting both similarities and differences between time periods, religions and cultures, and showing how cemeteries are about and for the living as much as the dead.

Death for Dinner Cookbook – Zach Neil

I loved Zach’s The Nightmare Before Dinner so was keen to see what yummy horrors he’d be serving up here. There are sixty plant-based recipes inspired by movies and TV shows on the menu, with a selection of Sickening Starters & Sides, Monstrous Mains, Depraved Desserts, Cursed Cocktails and Atrocious Accompaniments.

It wasn’t always immediately clear to me what the connection was between the recipe and its inspiration. Having said that, there were others that were immediately apparent and delightfully appropriate, like The Exorcist inspired Regan’s Pea Soup Vomit (With Bits).

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One of the things I love about cookbooks is being able to drool over photos of the finished products. The presentation of the food in this book was one of the drawcards for me.

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Some recipes, like The Crow inspired Devil’s Night Cauliflower Wings, featured a movie poster instead of the food. Some recipes had no accompanying photos at all.

I’m most interested in spectacularly failing to replicate the Trick ‘r Treat inspired All Hallows’ Eve Lasagna and Dexter inspired Blood (Orange) Cheesecake Trifle. Both of these came with photos so I’ll get to compare my efforts with what the food was actually supposed to look like.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Rock Point, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

From the mad mind of acclaimed chef, Zach Neil comes this killer plant-based cookbook inspired by your favourite horror movies and TV shows. The follow-up to his best-selling cookbook, The Nightmare Before Dinner, the Death for Dinner Cookbook delivers gruesome goodness in 60 stick-to-your-guts comfort-food recipes, from startling starters and monstrous mains to depraved desserts and cursed cocktails, including:

  • Crystal Lake BBQ Sliders, inspired by Friday the 13th – The only thing better than warm sunshine, campfires, and working up an appetite after escaping the clutches of Jason Vorhees are these pulled mushroom sliders.
  • Children of the Hominy, inspired by Children of the Corn – An ancient recipe from Gatlin, Nebraska, this pozole will make anyone rise up from the stalks. 
  • The Hills Have Fries, inspired by The Hills Have Eyes – This hill of hand-cut french fries smothered in a béchamel and chilli sauce and topped with fresh scallions, red onion, fakon, cilantro and lime sour cream will have everyone watching you.
  • Blood Orange Cheesecake Trifle, inspired by Dexter – Complete with blood orange, vegan cream cheese, and hints of lemon, this dessert is the right amount of sweet and airy – no gloves or plastic wrap are required to make. 
  • Never Sleep Again, inspired by Nightmare on Elm Street – Stay awake (and alive!) with this alternative take on an old-fashioned cocktail made with a shot of espresso.

Though the recipes may look terrifying, they are easy to make and will impress even the most stubborn carnivores. So, get ready to throw the ultimate Halloween party or some epic movie nights. Let’s just hope Freddy, Michael, and Jason stay on the screen and off the guest list. [cue the beet-juice splatter!]

World of Weird – Tom Adams

Illustrations – Celsius Pictor

One of the things I remember my Nan saying throughout my childhood was ‘normal is boring’. She was most certainly never boring and she didn’t want me to be boring either. An all too obvious outcome of being told this by my favourite person in the world has been that if I hear something’s weird, my brain says, ‘Ooh, tell me more’. A book with weird in the title is pretty much guaranteed to wind up on my TBR pile.

The more mysterious or gruesome the better!

Dr Leila McCreebor’s great grandfather, “the eminent explorer and philosopher Dr McCreebor”, left notebooks containing records of the curiosities he encountered in his life. Here, Leila presents annotated records of curios grouped into the following categories:

  • Artificialia – pieces of art
  • Naturalia – natural objects, animals and people
  • Spiritualis – the spirit world
  • Scelus et Supplicium – crime and punishment
  • Scientifica – scientific instruments
  • Magicae – magic
  • Morteum – death.

There are so many ingenious and bizarre finds in this book, and I’m tempted to tell you about all of them. I’m going to restrain myself, though, sharing my favourite weird thing from each chapter.

The Tempest Prognosticator (storm predictor) was the brainchild of George Merryweather. George had paid enough attention to leeches to realise that they become agitated before a storm. George transformed this fun fact into an early warning system, inventing a contraption that consisted of twelve glass jars, levers and some bells. A leech in a jar would flick a lever when agitated, which would then ring a bell. If all the bells tolled, then it was a sure sign inclement weather was on its way.

People believed that if the hand of a hanged man was severed as he still swung from the gallows, the hand would gain the powers to put people to sleep and unlock doors. The perfect tool for a burglar! The thief could even light the fingers of the hand, as if they were candles. If any of the fingers or thumb failed to light, it showed there was someone still awake in the house.

Trepanning: when you cut holes in people’s skulls for … reasons, oftentimes without anaesthetic.

I’d heard of the Brazen Bull before. A victim would be locked inside a hollow bronze bull, a fire would be lit under the bull and then the cooking alive would begin. What I wasn’t aware of previously was that the bull’s head contained tubes and pipes that “turned screams of agony into the sound of a bellowing bull, like some warped musical instrument.” The moral of this story? Don’t set your Delorean to Sicily around 2,000 years ago.

You’ve heard of having a feather in your cap but have you heard of a cap covered in teeth? Eighty eight teeth cover this 19th century London tooth puller’s felt cap.

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Want revenge Roman style? Well, you’re going to need a curse tablet. Then you can call upon the gods or demons to exact revenge upon those who vex you.

Every three years, at a ritual known as Ma’nene, the Torajan dig up their dead relatives, give them a wash and dress them in new outfits before burying them again.

I really enjoyed this book and know my Nan would have loved it too. There was enough information to be interesting but not so much that readers who aren’t as fascinated as I am with all things weird and wonderful would get bogged down in details.

Celsius Pictor’s illustrations complimented the text well. They had a vintage feel to them. This made the book seem more authentic, as Dr McCreebor is said to have lived during the reign of Queen Victoria.

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Thank you so much to Allen & Unwin for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In the 21st century, a scientist uncovers their Victorian ancestor’s notebook in a box. This ancestor is Dr. McCreebor – an eminent explorer, philosopher, and collector of the very strange and truly creepy.

Dr. McCreebor’s book is filled with the dark and disturbing stories he has collected on his travels around the world. And now, after over 125 years in a dusty attic, Dr. McCreebor’s writings can be read by only the bravest.

Discover the fascinating stories behind a series of objects, people, and places in every chapter. McCreebor writes from a Victorian perspective – and his descendant isn’t afraid to write notes in the margins, bringing the science into the 21st century.

Uncover Artificalia (man-made objects), Naturalia (natural creatures and beings), Spiritualis (the spirit world), Scelus et Supplicium (crime and punishment), Scientifica (scientific tools), Magicae (magical objects), and Morteum (skulls, bodies, and more). Steampunk illustrator Celsius Pictor intricately illustrates McCreebor’s sketches, maps, records, and photographs.

From shrunken heads to witches’ charms, saints’ blood to graverobbers’ remains, hangman’s salve to trepanning tools, this book is a peek into our grisly and macabre past.

A Little Bit of Respect – Claire Alexander

Spoilers Ahead! (marked in purple)

The Ploofers are back! And I’m so conflicted.

The Ploofers take their rainbow cloud on an adventure and meet some new beings, whose names I don’t currently know. While they’re visiting, one of their new acquaintances doesn’t respect Little One’s boundaries, doing things like squishing their cheeks and constantly saying how cute they are. 

This makes Little One uncomfortable and angry. I loved how expressive Little One was, their usual rainbow ploof transforming into red squiggly lines.

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I was disappointed that Toasty, who was the first to recognise the beauty of the SHOOF! and was by Little One’s side as they overcame their fear of doing a new thing, was nowhere to be seen when Little One’s boundaries were being violated. I would have gotten over this because even Toasty can’t be everywhere and given what I know of them, they would have been there supporting Little One if they’d known what was happening and the impact it was having on them.

I was so excited when I started this book. I was entirely on board for the Ploofers to tackle consent. I loved that Little One had the confidence to set boundaries for themselves and the courage to speak up when they were crossed. They had every right to expect their boundaries to be respected and it looked as though all would be well.

The one who had made Little One uncomfortable listened when Little One explained how their behaviour made them feel. They validated Little One and apologised to them. 

Then everything that was good about this book and its message was undone in the final three pages and now I have red squiggly lines above my head too. 

I’m sure this is not the message that was intended but one of my takeaways, after all of the good that preceded it, was that even if you’re brave enough to stand up for yourself and set clear boundaries with someone, your voice ultimately means nothing. They’re just as likely to give you lip service and go do it to someone else. This is not okay!

If this book had finished just a little bit sooner, when the air had been cleared and everyone was sitting down for a nice picnic, this review would have been entirely different. I wish it was.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Happy Yak, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group – Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, for the opportunity to read this picture book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In this follow-up to the A Little Bit Different and A Little Bit of Courage, the Ploofers are back for a heartwarming exploration of self-awareness and respect.

The Ploofers are visiting a new island and are excited to meet the residents. But when one islander singles out Little One as an adorable cutie pie, Little One isn’t happy and becomes frustrated with the way he is being treated. Will Little One learn to be assertive and stand up for himself? 

With simple, striking illustrations and a cutaway cover design that adds tactile interest, A Little Bit of Respect picks up right where A Little Bit of Courage left off. With a subtle yet powerful message about the importance of self-respect and respecting others, this book will resonate with children and adults alike.

It Fell From the Sky – Terry Fan & Eric Fan

When it fell from the sky, everyone approached it differently. Some tried to figure out where it came from. Others investigated, attempting to taste, roll or hatch it. 

Everyone agreed it was the most amazing thing they had ever seen. 

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Spider decides to capitalise on the Wonder. That is, until things don’t quite go to plan.

Spider, initially only focused on how he could personally benefit from the Wonder, eventually learns a valuable lesson about selfishness. Maybe Wonders are more wonderful if they’re shared.

The illustrations in this picture book are absolutely gorgeous. The animals are so realistic that I almost expected them to crawl, hop and fly off the page. I was tempted to blow on the dandelions. 

While the pictures are incredibly lifelike, that doesn’t mean they’re without whimsy. There’s something so adorable and smile worthy about seeing critters you’d find in your garden casually wearing top hats and carrying briefcases.

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I probably wouldn’t have appreciated this as much as a kid but adult me loved the minimal use of colour in the illustrations. Initially, the only splash of colour comes from the thing that fell from the sky. Gradually, more colour is introduced. 

Beware the five-legged creature!

Thank you so much to Allen & Unwin for the opportunity to read this picture book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A picture book about community, art, the importance of giving back – and the wonder that fell from the sky.

It fell from the sky on a Thursday.

None of the insects know where it came from, or what it is. Some say it’s an egg. Others, a gumdrop. But whatever it is, it fell near Spider’s house, so he’s convinced it belongs to him.

Spider builds a wondrous display so that insects from far and wide can come look at the marvel. Spider has their best interests at heart. So what if he has to charge a small fee? So what if the lines are long? So what if no one can even see the wonder anymore?

But what will Spider do after everyone stops showing up?

Atlas of Forgotten Places – Travis Elborough

Maps – Martin Brown

I love books that explore abandoned places. There’s something hauntingly beautiful about seeing nature reclaiming these areas. I always feel a tinge of sadness as well, being witness to once majestic places falling into disrepair.

This book’s abandoned places are divided into five sections: vacant properties, unsettled situations, dilapidated destinations, journeys ended and obsolete institutions. The locations, covering most continents (a notable exception is Australia), are varied. They include an orphanage, a nuclear power plant, a lighthouse, palaces, hotels, castles, a theme park, a train graveyard and a submarine base.

The history of the locations are accompanied by maps and photographs. Because I love abandoned places so much, I wanted more photos, particularly those that showed the interiors.

I knew about a number of these places already but some were new to me. The one I’m most likely to remember years from now is Akampene Island, Uganda. Women in traditional Bakiga society who became pregnant out of wedlock were exiled there as punishment. The island only had “two trees that bore no edible fruit and offered nothing in the way of shelter”. Most girls had not been taught to swim and to be marooned there meant almost certain death, unless they somehow managed to escape or were rescued. 

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My favourite photos were of Camelot Theme Park’s Knightmare rollercoaster in Chorley, Lancashire,

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the City Hall Subway Station in New York

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and the Gary City Methodist Church in Indiana.

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Here then is a compendium of the misplaced and the neglected. Ruins, ancient and modern, beautiful, ugly and appalling, and in varying states of appreciation and restoration, or lack thereof. The ungotten and the forgotten no one remembers. Abandonment is not a cause to give up all hope but the opposite, if anything, encouraging us all to think longer and harder about the world to come and what might be worth salvaging from the wreckage. 

Thank you so much to NetGalley and White Lion Publishing, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Explore the places that time forgot. Abandoned, mysterious, sleeping monuments around the world have been relegated to the margins of history, pushed off the map and out of sight.

From ancient ruins and crumbling castles to more recent relics – an art deco New York subway station, a Soviet ghost town in the Arctic Circle, a flooded Thai mall teeming with aquatic life – Travis Elborough takes you on a journey into these strange, overlooked and disappearing worlds and immortalises their fates.

Original maps and stunning colour photography accompany Travis Elborough’s moving historic and geographic accounts of each site. The featured locations are a stark reminder of what was, and the accounts in this investigative book help to bring their stories back to life, telling us what happened, when and why, and to whom.

The book features 40 sites, including:

Santa Claus, Arizona, USA: A festive tourist resort turned ghost town deep in the desert where once you could meet Santa Claus any day of the year;

Crystal Palace Subway, London, UK: One of the city’s best-kept secrets is an underground, cathedral-like relic from where many Victorian commuters bustled through;

Montserrat, West Indies: The small Caribbean island with a population of 5,000 that was evacuated when its volcano erupted in 1995. The volcano is still active and nearly half the island remains a designated exclusion zone;

Balaklava Submarine Base, Crimea: The former top-secret Soviet submarine base that was kept off all official maps and known as Object 825 GTS;

Volterra Psychiatric Hospital, Tuscany, Italy: Once dubbed ‘the place of no return’, this long-closed lunatic asylum once housed 6,000 patients who were never allowed to leave.

Capturing Snowflakes – Kenneth Libbrecht & Rachel Wing

A snowflake appears when water vapor in the air converts directly into ice without first becoming liquid water. As more vapor condenses onto a nascent snow crystal, it grows and develops, and that is when its ornate patterning emerges.

We’re all familiar with stellar dendrites, six sided snowflakes, but there are many other different shapes, including diamond-dust crystals (hexagonal prisms), columns, needles and triangles.

It’s true that no two snowflakes are alike. The difference shapes form as a result of variations in temperature and humidity, along with the path they take through the clouds. The higher the humidity, the more complex the design. Some snowflakes are even asymmetrical.

Snowflakes are being manufactured in the atmosphere at an astounding rate – from snowfall data, we calculate around a million billion crystals each second.

This book showcases some gorgeous snowflakes, both those generated naturally and designer snowflakes, those created under laboratory conditions. You will discover how snowflakes are formed and what conditions create which types of snowflakes. You will learn how to preserve a snowflake in resin, how to make paper snowflakes and how to photograph them.

It takes fifteen minutes to an hour to grow a good-sized snowflake. In this time about one hundred thousand nearby droplets will have evaporated away to supply the water vapor to make just one snowflake.

I’ve never seen snow but if I ever get the chance you can bet I’ll be bringing this book with me so I can identify the different shapes and photograph the experience.

My favourite photograph was taken by Jackie Novak. While I loved the details of many of the other photographs, the composition of this one stood out.

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Fun fact: Ken was the snowflake consultant for Frozen, so you won’t see any four or eight sided snowflakes there.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Voyageur Press, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group – Cool Springs Press, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

As much a work of art as a testament to science, this revised, hardcover edition of the best-selling The Art of the Snowflake (now Capturing Snowflakes) includes a laser-cut silver snowflake ornament in its cover and showcases 430+ images of snowflakes captured by the photo-microscope of the world’s leading expert on the subject, Kenneth Libbrecht, a professor of physics at Caltech who also served as a science consultant for Disney’s Frozen movies. 

The snow may seem unvaried to the naked eye, but the microscope reveals an amazing menagerie of beautiful crystalline forms. Building on the pioneering work of Wilson Bentley (1865-1931), Libbrecht has developed techniques for capturing images of snow crystals in unprecedented detail. While wondering at the hundreds of exquisite snowflake portraits, find: 

The science behind snowflakes, including how they form on a molecular level and the complex process that guarantees each one’s uniqueness

Field notes from Libbrecht’s photographic expeditions to the frozen north

The taxonomy of snowflakes and examples of each type: simple plates and prisms, columns and needles, capped columns, sectored plates, stellar plates, stellar dendrites, triangular crystals, double plates, split plates, split stars, and even rare twelve-branched snowflakes

Quotations about the wonder of snowflakes and nature from Aristotle, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and more.

This book is a breathtaking look at the works of art that melt in an instant.

The World’s Most Pointless Animals – Philip Bunting

It’s no secret how much I love books that tell me a whole bunch of fun facts about animals. My favourite facts in this book are:

  • Leeches have 32 brains.
  • Elephant shrews “are typically 15cm long, but can jump almost a metre in the air”.
  • An axolotl can regenerate its body parts when it’s injured.

I’m not sure how well this book will work with its target audience (one website says 4+, others say 5 to 8 years). I didn’t find the humour funny, although kids may. I think some references will go straight over the heads of many kids. Have kids that age even heard of The Beatles?

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Terms that adults would understand could confuse younger readers, especially without a glossary to refer to. A quokka is said to be a “pseudo-roo”. About the myotonic goat: “Somebody should teach them about the fight or flight response.” Do you want to explain to your 5 year old what it means for a stick insect to be “amorous”?

The illustrations are colourful and the animals are cute. I particularly liked the platypus and sloth.

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Thank you so much to NetGalley and Happy Yak, and imprint of Quarto Publishing Group – Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The World’s Most Pointless Animals is a witty, quirky, colourfully-illustrated book featuring fascinating facts about some very silly animals … who we find are perhaps not so pointless after all.

From familiar animals like giraffes (who don’t have any vocal cords) through to those that surely should not even exist, such as the pink fairy armadillo (absurdly huge front claws, super tough protective shell in baby pink, particularly susceptible to stress), our planet is full of some pretty weird and wonderful animals. For example:

  • Koalas spend up to 18 hours a day asleep!
  • Pandas are born bright pink, deaf, and blind.
  • Dumbo octopuses flap their big fin-like ears to move around.
  • A Narwhal’s tusk grows through its upper lip – ouch!

With hilarious text throughout and bright, contemporary illustrations, this guide to absurdly awesome animals contains funny labelled diagrams and some excellent made-up Latin names (N.B. The jellyfish’s scientific name is not actually wibblious wobblious ouchii).

Carrying an important message of celebrating diversity and differences, The World’s Most Pointless Animals inspires a drive to conserve our amazing planet and the creatures we’re lucky enough to share it with.

A Little Bit of Courage – Claire Alexander

The Ploofers are back and they’ve continued to add some colour to their lives thanks to the SHOOF! Ploofer from A Little Bit Different. Now the Ploofers are ready to try something new. But Little One is scared of attempting this new thing.

Luckily Toasty, my favourite carb cheerleader, is also back and ready to provide Little One with some much needed support. I absolutely love that Toasty acknowledges Little One’s anxiety and reassures them that everyone gets scared.

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Little One isn’t left to face their fear alone. Toasty remains by their side, supporting and encouraging them as they bravely attempt the thing they didn’t think they could do.

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Toasty reminded me that it’s okay to accept help, that you don’t have to face the scary things in life alone.

My favourite part of Little One’s story is that he doesn’t overcome his fear on his first attempt. It is through perseverance that Little One succeeds. His fear doesn’t magically go away because he decides to try the scary thing; doing the thing even though you’re scared is what being brave is all about.

I need more of Toasty and the Ploofers in my life!

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Happy Yak, and imprint of Quarto Publishing Group – Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, for the opportunity to read this picture book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In this follow-up to the beloved picture book A Little Bit Different, the Ploofers are back for a heartwarming exploration of fear and finding courage.

The Ploofers have just learned a valuable lesson in celebrating differences and trying new things. They’ve been practicing something very special again and this time it requires extra teamwork… But Little One is too scared to go on this new adventure. Will some kind and encouraging words from Toasty help him find a little bit of courage?

With simple, striking illustrations and a cutaway cover design that adds tactile interest, A Little Bit of Courage picks up right where A Little Bit Different left off. With a subtle yet powerful message on overcoming anxiety and finding the courage to live life to its fullest, this book will resonate with children and adults alike.

A Little Bit Different – Claire Alexander

The Ploofers all PLOOF! Except for one, whose PLOOF! is a SHOOF! This Ploofer loves the thing that makes them different … until the rest of the Ploofers question it.

The other Ploofers all think the SHOOF! is weird. It’s outside of their comfort zone because they haven’t seen a SHOOF! before.

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The judgement of the other Ploofers makes the SHOOF! Ploofer sad. They wonder why the other Ploofers aren’t accepting of the thing that makes them different.

It isn’t until Toasty recognises the beauty of this Ploofer’s SHOOF! and encourages them to embrace their difference that the SHOOF! Ploofer regains their confidence.

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I loved the SHOOF! Ploofer and the message that it’s okay to be different. It can be scary to have the courage to be yourself, especially when the way you express yourself is outside of the norm, but there will always be those like Toasty who will value you for who you are.

Although the other Ploofers originally shy away from what is new, eventually they realise that different doesn’t automatically equal bad. By accepting the Ploofer who is different, the rest of the Ploofers learn acceptance and in doing so their own lives are brightened.

I naturally rebel against any system that asserts that because this is the way we’ve always done something, that’s the only way it can be done. You shouldn’t have to hide your unique gifts just because some other Ploofers are unwilling to think outside of the box. Meaningful change can come when we open ourselves up to possibilities we haven’t considered before.

I’m all for anything that celebrates diversity. In this book, it’s diversity of expression that’s addressed but this can be applied to all forms of diversity.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Happy Yak, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group – Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, for the opportunity to read this picture book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A light and fun story depicting the journey from ignorance to acceptance and celebration. A Little Bit Different by Clare Alexander is a beautiful story exploring acceptance and joy in being different. 

Meet the ploofers. The ploofers have been practicing something special which they all want to do at the exact same time – but wait! What’s that? One of them does something different! When one little ploofer goes against the usual flow of things, the rest of them turn their backs on him. But all it takes is for one person to recognise the beauty in being different to spark a change in attitude of everyone.

With simple and striking illustrations, A Little bit Different is a joyful reading experience for both you and your child, with the opportunity to spark more meaningful discussions about people’s differences and how we accept and value them.