The Year of the Geek – James Clarke

When I a teenager I’d buy a new page a day calendar each year. You know the squarish desk ones that have an inspirational quote each day? This book reminds me of those, except this is Fun Facts: Geek Edition. And it’s in book form so it doesn’t matter which day you start.

This is the book you’re looking for if the geek in your life is a sci fi and fantasy all rounder. It covers movies, TV shows, comics, games (computer and board) and books.

Because there are so many entries (365 because apparently nothing notable has ever happened in sci fi or fantasy on 29 February), I’m going to share one fun fact per month.

🕹️ On 25 January 1947, a patent that described one of the earliest computer games was registered.

🍿 On 28 February 1985, Terminator’s John Connor was born.

🧝‍♀️ The first Comic-Con happened on 21 March, 1970.

🍩 The Simpsons first aired on 19 April 1987.

🧛‍♂️ The Buffy the Vampire Slayer finale aired on 20 May 2003.

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🦈 Jaws was released in American cinemas on 20 June 1975.

🍿 Indiana Jones was born on 1 July 1899.

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👻 Ray Parker’s Ghostbusters theme song made it to #1 in America on 11 August 1984.

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📺 The Jetsons was first broadcast on 23 September 1962.

👽 Fox Mulder joined the FBI on 24 October 1984.

🎩 Alice in Wonderland was first published on 26 November 1865.

🎂 Stan Lee was born on 28 December 1922.

While I would have preferred it if less births and deaths were mentioned, overall this was a fun read. I particularly liked the infographics. I don’t think I’m enough of an all rounder to want to consult this book each day but I did enjoy reading about the franchises I love.

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

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The Year of the Geek is a fascinating look into geek culture. Each day will tell a different story from the sci-fi universe, from famous franchises and figures such as Star WarsThe Matrix, Peter Jackson and Luc Besson, to lesser known stories, including the French cult classic City of Lost Children, the Japanese anime Akira and bestselling German novelist, Marcus Heitz. With text written by self-confessed geek James Clarke and accompanied by over 100 infographics that have been specially commissioned for this book, The Year of the Geek celebrates all things geek in a new and intriguing way.

Book Towns – Alex Johnson

It probably shouldn’t delight me so much to learn that there’s an International Organisation of Book Towns, but here we are.

A book town is simply a small town, usually rural and scenic, full of bookshops and book-related industries.

I’m in need of a round the world trip now that I’ve read about book towns in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Scotland, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, USA and Wales.

For each of the book towns explored in this book, you’ll learn its history as well as some must browse bookstores and festivals, and websites so you can delve deeper. There’s plenty of information to entice you to spend your book budget in each town.

I’m always on the lookout for fun facts. Here are my favourites…

Hay-on-Wye, Wales was the first book town. Bookseller, Richard Booth, came up with the concept. He also crowned himself King of Hay in 1977 and declared his town an independent kingdom.

Book stalls in the grounds of Hay Castle

P.L. Travers was living in Bowral, Australia as a teenager when she created Mary Poppins. In 2011, 2,115 people created a very appropriate umbrella mosaic.

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Fontenoy-La-Joûte, France has a signpost in the village centre that points to other book towns around the world. It also points you to some other locations, including “Atlantis, and Edgar Rice Burrough’s fictitious ‘hollow earth’, Pellucidar.”

You need to be between ten and fifteen years old to use Biblio Tøyen, a library in Oslo. It includes a Volvo truck with a kitchen in the back and reading sofa in the bonnet.

Livraria Bertrand in Lisbon, Portugal is the world’s oldest bookshop. It opened in 1732.

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

The so-called “Book Towns” of the world are dedicated havens of literature, and the ultimate dream of book lovers everywhere. Book Towns takes readers on a richly illustrated tour of the 40 semi-officially recognised literary towns around the world and outlines the history and development of each community, and offers practical travel advice.

Many Book Towns have emerged in areas of marked attraction, such as Ureña in Spain or Fjaerland in Norway, where bookshops have been set up in buildings including former ferry waiting rooms and banks. While the UK has the best-known examples at Hay, Wigtown and Sedbergh, the book has a broad international appeal, featuring locations such as Jimbochu in Japan, College Street in Calcutta, and major unofficial “book cities” such as Buenos Aires.

Joy – Corrinne Averiss

Illustrations – Isabelle Follath

Fern adores her Nanna, especially her smile, but Nanna doesn’t smile much anymore.

“It’s like the joy has gone out of her life.”

“What’s joy?” asked Fern.

“Joy is what makes your heart happy and your eyes twinkle.”

Fern takes it upon herself to find some joy and borrow it for Nanna. All afternoon, Fern feels the “whooosh! of joy” but no matter how hard she tries, her catching bag remains empty.

Dejected, Fern returns to her Nanna and tells her about her mission and all of the joy she found.

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I really liked the relationship between Fern and her Nanna. I loved that Fern was so determined to find some joy for her Nanna but at the same time it saddened me that she was so aware of Nanna’s depression and that she felt responsible for making her feel better.

Fern’s ideas for trying to essentially bottle joy were adorable. I loved the solution: time and connection with a loved one.

Isabelle Follath’s illustrations complemented the story. The characters are expressive and colour is used well to highlight different emotions. I particularly liked the colours and shapes used to depict joy when Fern is attempting to collect it.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and words & pictures, 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

Fern’s Nanna has not been herself of late. And when Mum remarks that all the joy seems to have gone out of her life, Fern decides to fetch the joy back. With her catching-kit at the ready, she goes to the park and finds joy in all sorts of unusual places. Whooooshh! But Fern soon realises that joy doesn’t fit in a bag, or a box or a tin! How will she manage to bring some back to Nanna?

Emotional, funny and uplifting, this beautiful picture book has a strong message about empathy and maintaining loving relationships with our grandparents. Guaranteed to bring a bit of joy into every reader’s life, this story is a pure delight.

The Colors of History – Clive Gifford

Illustrations – Marc-Etienne Peintre

This book takes you on a whirlwind trip around the world and through time to teach you the origin stories and fun facts about colour. Each group of colours includes a brief introduction that includes what it has represented over time. For example, yellow is the colour of sunshine but it can also represent illness and cowardice.

The story of yellow contains yellow ochre, chrome yellow, gamboge, Inca gold, saffron and orange.

The reason saffron is the most expensive colour is because to harvest a pound (453.6 grams) of it, you need between 55,000 and 85,000 flowers.

The story of red contains cochineal, vermillion, pink, red ochre and mummy brown.

In some societies in the 19th and early 20th centuries, pink was reserved for young boys, not girls. Red was thought of as a strong, manly color, and as pink came from red mixed with white, it was not thought of as suitable for delicate girls.

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The story of purple contains puce, Tyrian purple and archil.

The king walked in on Marie one day to see her trying on yet another expensive gown. It was made of silk in a purple-pink-brown color. The king tried to put her off the purchase by declaring it to be couleur de puce – the color of a flea after it had been squashed! Marie-Antoinette wasn’t put off. She insisted that every lady in her court wear puce or subtly similar shades known as dos de puce (flea’s back) or ventre de puce (flea’s belly).

The story of blue contains indigo, Prussian blue, Egyptian blue, ultramarine and woad.

A plant called woad grows throughout Europe. Its pretty yellow flowers bloom in fields and meadows, but its crushed leaves make a strong blue dye. It was used to color cloth, and some people – such as Celts in ancient Britain – applied it as a war paint.

The story of green contains verdigris, Irish and Kelly green, and Scheele’s green.

Scheele, a German pharmacist working in Sweden, enjoyed conducting chemistry experiments. In 1775, he invented a new green. It contained copper and arsenic. It was cheap to make, popular and accidentally deadly.

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Then we wrap it up with kohl black and graphite, and lime and lead white.

Kohl was first used more than 5,000 years ago in ancient Egypt, where men and women drew thick lines of kohl around their eyes. It kept their eyes from being dazzled by the sun, but they also believed it had magical protective powers.

I’m always keen to store up some new fun facts and enjoyed this journey through the rainbow. Kid me wouldn’t have read this book for fun but definitely would have used it for a school project.

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A truly unique approach to history and a fascinating read that is guaranteed to keep boredom at bay.

Why did Roman emperors wear purple? Which colour is made from crushed beetles? What green pigment might be used to build super-fast computers of the future? Find out the answers to these and many more questions in this vibrant exploration of the stories behind different colours, and the roles they’ve played throughout history. From black to white, and all the colours in between, every shade has a story to tell. Each colour group is introduced with a stunning and interpretive double-page spread illustration, followed by illustrated entries exploring the ‘colourful’ history of particular shades. With vivid, thought-provoking illustrations and engaging bite-sized text, this book is a feast for the eyes and the mind, ready to enthral budding artists and historians alike.

Amazing World: Bugs – L.J. Tracosas

If you know me at all, you know that I’m just the teeniest bit obsessed with fun facts. This book is essentially Fun Facts: Bug Edition, so a must read for me.

All bugs are arthropods, meaning they all have a joint in the leg or foot, exoskeletons and are symmetrical. After explaining what they are and highlighting some of the ways they protect themselves, this book introduces you to twenty bugs.

You’ll learn where they live, what they eat and how big they are. At the end of the book there’s a glossary. I definitely learned some new words today.

Because I can’t help myself, I need to tell you my favourite fun fact for each bug.

When a Click Beetle is in danger it flips itself over and plays dead. Only it can’t flip back so it flings itself into the air over and over again until it lands the right way.

The body of a Spiny Flower Mantis mimics flower petals, which brings their food to them.

Daddy Longlegs aren’t spiders. Seriously??? They’re part of the arachnid family but are more closely related to scorpions.

The Hickory Horned Devil Caterpillar turns into a regal moth, which doesn’t have a working mouth.

Firefly adults are generally vegetarian but when they’re young many of them are carnivores.

The Jewel Wasp can turn cockroaches into zombies. The process is ingenious but kinda gross.

The female Spiny Orbweaver makes the web and is larger and more brightly coloured than the male.

The Longhorn Beetle eats trees.

Like the hickory horned devil caterpillar, Luna Moths don’t live long enough to eat. Luna Moths are nocturnal.

The nose of some species of Lanternfly is almost half the size of its body.

The Goliath Beetle weighs up to 100 grams (4 ounces).

The Giraffe Weevil was first discovered in 2008. It lives in Madagascar.

If a predator catches a Stick Insect, it may be able to get away by detaching its leg. They grow back!

Glowworms aren’t actually worms. They’re the larvae of the fungus gnat.

Because apparently we don’t call things what they are in the bug world, Railroad Worms are also not worms. They’re female beetles and they look amazing at night.

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When they’re in danger, the Motyxia Millipede “will leak deadly cyanide and other yucky substances from the pores dotting their sides.”

What you know as a stink bug is actually called a Shield Bug.

Giant Devil’s Flower Mantis has a brilliant scientific name: Idolomantis diabolica.

In 1939, someone found a Glowing Cockroach. Just the one and it’s the only one that’s ever been spotted. It’s kind of adorable though; when it glows it reminds me of someone wearing a cape.

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The Hercules Beetle lives up to its name. It’s the world’s strongest insect and “can lift more than 800 times its weight.”

I liked the layout of this book. There wasn’t so much text that young readers would find it overwhelming and there are at least two photos of each bug. I loved that the size of each bug was shown in relation to the size of a hand.

This was an entertaining way to get today’s fun fact fix. I may need to visit Ecuador to see if I can find the second ever glowing cockroach.

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Amazing World: Bugs transports kids around the world to discover the lives of 20 strange and magnificent insects. Adding to the fun, the book includes 13 reusable glow in the dark plastic stickers.

From shimmering glowworms and fireflies to the extremely odd giraffe bug, every insect profile includes up close and personal, full colour photos of each amazing creature and tonnes of fun facts and easily digestible graphics. Kids learn about where each bug lives, what they eat, how they evade predators much, MUCH larger than they are, and so much more! 

Discover each bug’s unique skills for building and defence. Explore the fascinating characteristics of bugs like the lanternfly, which is named for its large snout, or the stick insect, which can blend in anywhere. 

Just a few of the intriguing bugs you will meet: 

  • Click Beetle 
  • Spiny Flower Mantis 
  • Daddy Longlegs 
  • Hickory Horned Devil Caterpillar 
  • Jewel Wasp 
  • Luna Moth 
  • Glowing Cockroach 
  • And more!

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?