Aveline Jones #2: The Bewitching of Aveline Jones – Phil Hickes

Illustrations – Keith Robinson

“Haven’t you ever experienced something you can’t explain?” 

Aveline isn’t spending her summer break at the beach like she’d hoped. Instead, she and her mother are staying in a cottage in the sleepy village of Norton Wick.

While Aveline is initially concerned that this holiday will be boring, it turns out to be anything but. Conveniently located at the end of the garden are The Witch Stones, an ancient stone circle with mysterious origins.


Aveline, with her love of things that go bump in the night and anything else that would be of interest to Mulder, is in her element. Harold, her friend from Malmouth, is coming to visit for a few days with his uncle and Lilian, Aveline’s aunt. 

Together, Aveline and Harold hope to solve the mysteries of the stone circle and the strange bottle Aveline found in the garden. 

Old bottles with things inside them couldn’t just be ignored. 

Before Harold arrives, Aveline makes a new friend, Hazel Browne. That’s “Browne with an e.” She also meets the local vicar, Alice, who’s fond of bowler hats and rainbow socks.

I was glad when Harold showed up because, although I was initially intrigued by Hazel, her possessiveness didn’t endear her to me at all. I never connected with her so found it difficult to see beyond her abrasiveness, even after I understood where she was coming from.

I enjoyed the magic in this book and definitely considered indulging in dessert with Aveline and Hazel. 

Aveline and Harold’s first response, regardless of the ooky spookiness they’re facing, is to find a bunch of books and do research. That affords them kindred spirit status with me for life.

I love both Aunt Lilian and Mr Lieberman, who I met in the first book, but they didn’t have much of a role in this one. I had been looking forward to getting to know Aveline’s mother but I didn’t really get much of a sense of her personality. I hope to get to know the adults better in the next book.

I absolutely adored Keith Robinson’s illustrations in this book. The cover image was dark, mysterious and creepy. I particularly loved the magpie featured at the beginning of each chapter.


Although I definitely got sucked into the mystery of the first book more than this one, I love Aveline and can’t wait to hang out with her and Harold again in The Vanishing of Aveline Jones

“Everything’s creepy as far as you’re concerned, Aveline”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Turn on your torches and join Aveline Jones!

Aveline is thrilled when she discovers that the holiday cottage her mum has rented for the summer is beside a stone circle. Thousands of years old, the local villagers refer to the ancient structure as the Witch Stones, and Aveline cannot wait to learn more about them.

Then Aveline meets Hazel. Impossibly cool, mysterious yet friendly, Aveline soon falls under Hazel’s spell. In fact, Hazel is quite unlike anyone Aveline has ever met before, but she can’t work out why. Will Aveline discover the truth about Hazel, before it’s too late?

Join the world of Aveline Jones, where mysteries are solved, spirits are laid to rest, and everybody gets to bed on time.

Aveline Jones #1: The Haunting of Aveline Jones – Phil Hickes

Illustrations – Keith Robinson

“Do you ever feel like something bad is about to happen? I’ve been getting that a lot lately.”


Aveline Jones loves ghost stories and cheese sandwiches. She’s not thrilled with the idea of staying with her Aunt Lilian in Malmouth while her mother visits her granny in hospital.

Before long, though, Aveline finds the perfect book of ghost stories, along with the diary of Primrose Penberthy, a missing local girl. Aveline suspects the two books are connected.

Part of her wished she’d never picked it up. Or the book of ghost stories. They appeared to be leading her to a place she wasn’t wholly sure she wanted to go.


This story takes place around Halloween and Malmouth has the perfect weather for a spooky adventure. There are even some really creepy childlike scarecrows.

I’m all set because Malmouth has a second hand bookstore and coffee shop. You will love the bookseller immediately and you’ll want to be friends with his great-nephew (not immediately because he’s shy and can seem kinda grumpy at times, but he’ll grow on you).

Aunt Lilian, who quite possibly has OCD, seemed a bit prickly at first but by the end of the story I wanted to go get a coffee with her. Aunt Lilian also provided me with my favourite sentence:

“So is there anything the matter, Aveline, or have you just decided to be pale and interesting today?”

I loved the mystery; the excerpts from Primrose’s diary, along with the newspaper article Aveline reads, really helped to draw me in. I was a scaredy-cat as a kid so I doubt I would have been able to read this book after dark, although it’s the kind of scary that would have both freaked me out and made me want to keep reading.


I absolutely adored Keith Robinson’s illustrations. They capture the atmosphere of the story brilliantly and the scarecrow pictures, in particular, are creepy as hell. The cover image is absolutely gorgeous – Aveline looks just as I imagined she would and the weather, which has a significant part to play in the story, is highlighted.

I’m so glad Aveline has more stories to tell. I’m already looking forward to the sequel, The Bewitching of Aveline Jones, which also has an amazing cover.

Reread 20 May 2022

It’s so rare for me to reread a book, not because I don’t want to but because my TBR pile is always threatening to bury me alive. My library has now purchased the sequel and I couldn’t resist returning with Aveline to Malmouth before finding out what spookiness she encounters next.

I enjoyed this read just as much as I did the first time around. I was reminded of how much I liked Ghost Girl and Book Boy, and how perfectly the illustrations complimented the story. I appreciated the connection between the creepy scarecrows and the crossed out story in Aveline’s book more this time around. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if the release of the third book in the series makes me want to dive back into the cold, dark water with the lady in the waves. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Aveline Jones loves reading ghost stories, so a dreary half-term becomes much more exciting when she discovers a spooky old book. Not only are the stories spine-tingling, but it once belonged to Primrose Penberthy, who vanished mysteriously, never to be seen again. Intrigued, Aveline decides to investigate Primrose’s disappearance.

Now someone … or something, is stirring. And it is looking for Aveline.

Turn on your torches, and join Aveline Jones in her first charmingly spooky mystery, from debut author Phil Hickes.

Grandpa Frank’s Great Big Bucket List – Jenny Pearson

Illustrations – David O’Connell

Eleven year old Frank, son of Frank, has just inherited £462,000 from a step-grandmother he never knew. Her will says that the money needs to be spent to look after Frank Senior Senior, the grandfather Frank has also never heard of. 

So in the course of one conversation, our Frank has more money to spend than he ever imagined possible and a brand new grandpa. Frank comes up with an ingenious plan to spend the money in style while also getting to know his brand new relative. 

This is the story of our Bucket List and the things I’ve learned along the way. Like old people are actually quite buoyant when dunked in water and true happiness doesn’t come with a price tag. 

Although you may not think of hot air balloons as “wicker floating deathtraps” yet, you will after reading this book. There are some close encounters with ponds and you’ll gain new perspective on swimming with dolphins, as well as some other grandpa approved activities. There’s a bit of a Murphy’s law vibe to everything the youngest and eldest Frank attempt and that brings the humour I was expecting.

What I wasn’t expecting was to also feel so sad for most of the book. Kid Frank’s parents leave a lot to be desired; I wondered on a number of occasions if Matilda Wormwood was available to mete out her unique brand of justice. Grandpa Frank’s falling out with his son and its impacts made me want to cry. I also dreaded the end, not wanting to read what I suspected would happen. It wasn’t the light hearted, fun book I’d hoped for and because of that I almost stopped reading it several times.

I’m an outlier here. Most of the reviews I’ve read so far have given this book five stars and haven’t even mentioned the sadness I encountered hanging out with this dysfunctional family. I’d encourage you to read some of those before deciding if this is the book for you or not. Maybe I’m overthinking it but I wanted kid Frank to spend at least some of that money on some family therapy.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Usborne Publishing for the opportunity to read this book. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When Frank John Davenport inherits piles of money from a grandma he didn’t know he had, things take an unexpected turn…Because the money comes with STRICT instructions …and a NEW grandpa.

Frank quickly compiles a list of all the ways he can spend the money and look after his grumpy grandpa. Money may buy hot-air balloon rides, monster-truck lessons and epic parkour experiences, but can Frank discover that happiness is, in fact, priceless?

That’s Not My Bus … – Fiona Watt

Illustrations – Rachel Wells

The latest cutie patootie animal that’s getting the That’s Not My … treatment is, um, not an animal. Sure, I’ve read about our white mouse’s preferences regarding planes, trains and automobiles cars before but I prefer it when mousie’s rejects are cute and cuddly.

Having found so many of their animals already, mousie probably needs more options for transporting them. So, buses … Before finding their specific bus, mousie rejects those that are either too smooth, shiny, rough, squashy or bumpy. I guess, under the universal law of finders keepers, that means I’m now the proud owner of five buses. This will be super handy for transporting mousie’s rejected animals I’ve previously claimed.

I found this one a bit boring, especially since the buses were all the same colour. I’m sure the target audience will love this addition to the series though, particularly if it comes with a rendition of The Wheels on the Bus.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

All aboard this exciting addition to the much-loved That’s not my … series. Babies and toddlers will love touching the textured patches as they look at buses with shiny doors, squashy bumpers and sparkly lights. The bright pictures and textures to stroke are designed to help develop sensory and language awareness.

That’s Not My Kangaroo … – Fiona Watt

Illustrations – Rachel Wells

In the latest That’s Not My … board book, Mouse turns its attention to kangaroos. The kangaroos that fail inspection are too fluffy, smooth, rough, fuzzy and shiny.

Mouse is thrilled when they find their kangaroo and I assume they’re now hanging out with all of the other animals Mouse has previously found. I know my backyard is getting pretty crowded with all of Mouse’s rejects.


I still really enjoy this series. The faces of the kangaroos didn’t always ring true for me when I compare them to the ones I used to ride to school in Australia [I can’t believe we used to tell exchange students that, or that they believed us!], but they’re really cute.


Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Babies and toddlers will love touching the textured patches as they meet lots of adorable kangaroos. The bright pictures and textures to stroke are designed to help develop sensory and language awareness.

That’s Not My Otter … – Fiona Watt

Illustrations – Rachel Wells

That’s not my obsession! Oh, wait. Yes it is! My library got another one! 😊 This time our little white mouse is being picky about otters. After carefully checking the preceding otters this happy little rodent finally finds their otter, the one with a fluffy tummy.

So the way I see it, there are currently five other otters available for adoption so I’m claiming the rest. I’m now part of a bevy of otters. One has a shiny nose, one has rough paws, one has fuzzy ears, one has a soft tail and the final one has a smooth tongue.

I know I shouldn’t play favourites but I’m quite partial to the one poking its tongue out as I frequently do the same thing. I think I may also add the dragonfly and butterfly to my growing That’s Not My … family.

If Mr Mouse and his otter are interested, my otters and I will be playing in the water and making really cool waterslides most days, and they’re welcome to join us in the fun whenever they want.

Once again, this touchy-feely book is adorable and makes me clucky enough to wish I had my own otter pup baby to read it to.

Bonus Otter Fact: According to Defenders of Wildlife, sea otters have the densest fur in the animal kingdom, ranging from 250,000 to a million hairs per square inch, which insulates them.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A delightful touchy-feely book with simple, repetitive text from Usborne’s flagship series for the very young. Adorable otters fill the pages and a little white mouse appears on every page, for children to spot. Bright, colourful illustrations with carefully chosen textures to touch and feel on every page. Helps very young children develop language and sensory skills.

That’s Not My Unicorn … – Fiona Watt

Illustrations – Rachel Wells

This is the latest in my That’s Not My … obsession. This time we take on UNICORNS!!!! This is my second unicorn read this month and I have another two planned for the weekend. As I missed (shame on me!) Unicorn Day on 9 April, but will most certainly be celebrating it annually from 2018, I officially declare this …
🦄 Unicorn Month! 🦄

This was another cute addition to the That’s Not My … series, but so much better because, duh, unicorns! I for one am stoked that our sweet little white mouse rejected so many unicorns on the way to finding theirs, because that leaves five unicorns looking for someone to love them – and I call dibs on all of them!

I want the one with the fluffy mane. I want the one with the rainbow coloured mane and super soft ears. I want the bumpy hooved one with the pink mane and purple stripey horn. I want the furry tailed one with the yellow mane and horn. Oh, and I certainly claim the smooth winged one with pink mane and yellow horn flying past the rainbow. If any of you want to borrow one at any time you’re more than welcome but as I already made pretty clear, I’ve got dibs on every single one of the rejects. So there, Mr Mouse! You don’t get to change your mind now!

Just between you and I, Mr Mouse had better be on the lookout because I may well be planning on unicorn-napping borrowing his unicorn with the rainbow coloured mane and sparkly horn in the near future.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The 50th title in the internationally best-selling That’s not my … series. This sparkly, touchy-feely book features a magical unicorn to talk about, and a little white mouse to spot on every page. Babies and toddlers will love turning the pages and touching the textured patches as they try to find their unicorn.

That’s Not My Witch … – Fiona Watt

Illustrations – Rachel Wells

This series of board books are just so adorable. I’ve borrowed every one that my library has in stock over the past month or so. Why? Because I can and because they’re just so darn cute. With bright pictures and sections of fuzzy, sparkly, soft and other touchy-feely bits on each page, they’re interactive and aww-worthy. Someone I know needs to have a baby soon so I can share the love. That’s Not My Witch has been published in time for Halloween so the next generation of trick-or-treaters can join in on the fun.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A touchy-feely board book with simple, repetitive text, tactile patches and bold illustrations specially designed for babies and toddlers. Small children can meet a range of friendly witches and their accompanying brooms and cats, just in time for Halloween. Don’t forget to spot the little white mouse that’s hiding on each page! Part of an internationally successful series by bestselling author Fiona Watt, which includes more than forty titles and has sold millions of copies worldwide.