Top books to read for tween girls this summer

Taking the books on holiday!

I love the fact that the twins are passionate about reading and I am so proud that they are so good at it! They are currently on Ruby level which is an excellent place to be and reading helps with their spelling, English lessons and comprehension. It also helps with all of the other subjects too, the comprehension, the writing and the revision when the time comes.

After a disastrous Year 4 (4 changes of teacher in 1 year!) we shall be pleased to see the back of it but I do feel it is more important than ever to keep the girls ticking over during the summer and reading is the perfect way to keep them amused and up to date. Bonus for me that it won’t be a hardship, maths, well maths will require the patience of a saint this summer…

There are so many fantastic books out there that when Harper Collins asked if we’d like to review some titles for them I jumped at the chance. The good news is, the books were all so good (sent just before last half term) that I’m going to have to go out and buy some more. Fortunately, many of the titles below were the first book in a series, so I know exactly what to buy them!

The girls are working their way through them,  here’s what they had to say…

Geek Girl – Holly Smale

Top books to read for tween girls this summer









This was the first book that Alice chose out of the six we were sent to review and she couldn’t put it down. Bessie is reading it at the moment.

“My name is Harriet Manners, and I am a geek.” 

Harriet knows a lot of things, all sorts of things but she doesn’t know why nobody seems to like her at school. This is one of children’s greatest fears: not being liked by their school friends. It can cause great upset and reading about another child’s take on the situation helps in understanding how they can get on more.

Harriet goes into modelling, which of course isn’t going to be everyone’s way out of the problem. In fact, it doesn’t help Harriet much either as the reader will find out. So it’s up to Harriet to look for another alternative and that’s where the can’t-put-the-book-down syndrome kicks in.

Alice says: I really loved this book and want to read the others now.

Blink and you die – Ruby Redfort

Top books to read for tween girls this summer









Ruby Redfort: undercover agent, code-cracker and thirteen-year-old genius – you can count on her when the ice starts to crack.

All good things come to an end… Ruby Redfort is running scared, a whole bunch of people want her dead and worst of all one of them is on her team. But just who is this agent of doom?

You can run, Ruby, but you can’t hide…

Alice says: I couldn’t get into this book so I have put it to one side to try later on.

Scarlet and Ivy, The Lights Under The Lake – Sophie Cleverly

Top books to read for tween girls this summer









Scarlet and Ivy’s school trip takes a turn for the worse as another mystery begins to unfold…

The fourth book in the SCARLET AND IVY series is perfect for fans of MURDER MOST UNLADYLIKE.

It’s summer and as a special treat after the horrors of last term Mrs Knight announces a school trip to Shady Pines Hotel on the shores of Lake Seren. Scarlet and Ivy are thrilled to get away from Rookwood for a break!

But the old hotel and the waters of the lake reservoir are covering up dark secrets. And when mysterious things start happening to hotel guests it seems that a malicious new threat is haunting the girls.

Locals say that at night you can hear the ringing of the church bells and see lights under the lake, that troubled souls buried in the flooded graveyard no longer rest…

Bessie’s first pick. she says: I really  loved this book and want to collect the others now too.

Top books to read for tween girls this summer









When Fran the Fabulous Fairy turns up in Tiga Whicabim’s shed to tell her she’s a witch, Tiga doesn’t believe her. Or at least not until Fran points out that TIGA WHICABIM is actually an anagram of I AM A BIG WITCH and magics her away down the drainpipes to compete in Witch Wars – the competition to crown the next Top Witch of Ritzy City.

Filled with silly spells, delectable dresses, ridiculous riddles and a serious shoe problem, Witch Wars is a witch story like no other. Although if you enjoyed The Worst Witch, you’ll love this too!

Bessie says: This was really funny and I really enjoyed it.

Radio Boy – Christian O’Connell

Top books to read for tween girls this summer









Alice read this book and loved it, see what she has to say …

From leading breakfast radio star Christian O’Connell comes a brilliant and laugh-out-loud story of an ordinary boy with an extraordinary secret radio show. (Broadcast from his shed.)

Meet Spike, aka Radio Boy: a new Adrian Mole on the radio for the internet generation.

Spike’s your average awkward 11 year old, funny and cheeky and with a mum to reckon with. When he becomes the first presenter ever to be sacked from hospital radio, he decides to carry on from a makeshift studio in the garden shed, with the help of his best friends Artie and Holly, disguising his voice and going by the moniker Radio Boy.

Week by week, word gets around and soon Spike is a star… if only people knew it was actually him. When Spike begins to believe his own hype, and goes too far with his mocking of the school headmaster, a hunt is launched for the mysterious Radio Boy.

Can Spike remain anonymous? Will he get to marry the girl of his dreams, Katherine Hamilton? Will he become famous and popular? The answer to most of these questions is no…

Alice says: Such a good book, it made me laugh a lot and I couldn’t put it down.

Goodly and Grave in a bad case of kidnap – Justine Windsor

Top books to read for tween girls this summer









An archly funny, classic mystery adventure with a magic twist!

Lucy Goodly is the new boot girl at Grave Hall, working for the cold, aloof Lord Grave. The other staff – Vonk the Butler, Mrs Crawley the cook and Violet the scullery maid – all seem friendly but Lucy soon notices that strange things are afoot in her new home – and not just Mrs Crawley’s experimental anchovy omelettes. There are moving statues, magical books and Lord Grave has a secret. Meanwhile, all over the country, children are vanishing. Could the mystery of the missing children be linked to the strange goings-on? Lucy is determined to find out…

Nobody has read this one yet but judging by the standards of the others sent through, we think this is going to be a really good read.

Skulduggery Pleasant – Derek Landy

Top books to read for tween girls this summer









Meet the great Skulduggery Pleasant: wise-cracking detective, powerful magician, master of dirty tricks and burglary (in the name of the greater good, of course).

Oh yeah. And dead.

Then there’s his sidekick, Stephanie. She’s… well, she’s a twelve-year-old girl. With a pair like this on the case, evil had better watch out…

“So you won’t keep anything from me again?”
He put his hand to his chest. “Cross my heart and hope to die.”
“Okay then. Though you don’t actually have a heart,” she said.
“I know.”
“And technically, you’ve already died.”
“I know that too.”
“Just so we’re clear.”

Stephanie’s uncle Gordon is a writer of horror fiction. But when he dies and leaves her his estate, Stephanie learns that while he may have written horror, it certainly wasn’t fiction.

Pursued by evil forces intent on recovering a mysterious key, Stephanie finds help from an unusual source – the wisecracking skeleton of a dead wizard.

When all hell breaks loose, it’s lucky for Skulduggery that he’s already dead. Though he’s about to discover that being a skeleton doesn’t stop you from being tortured, if the torturer is determined enough. And if there’s anything Skulduggery hates, it’s torture… Will evil win the day? Will Stephanie and Skulduggery stop bickering long enough to stop it? One thing’s for sure: evil won’t know what’s hit it.

Nobody has read this one yet but judging by the standards of the others sent through, we think this is going to be a really good read.

A lovely selection of great books that will keep tweens hanging on for more, why not invest in a couple or see if your local library has them?

Disclosure: Harper Collins sent us through these books to read for the purpose of this post, we would really recommend them to you

luggage handlers on aeroplaneThe Paralympics finished and yesterday in London all the athletes were driven around London in front of huge crowds to allow us to recognise them for their brilliance and respect the awareness they have raised for people with disabilities. How they were cheered on by the spectators all anxious to capture the moment on photo. A true moment in history.

I had my own close up experience of what it’s like to be a mum of a  special needs child and I was in awe of this woman.

I was on a British Airways flight returning from Verona. The weather outside was atrocious, looking out of the window it was easier to believe I was in London it was so grey and the rain so persistant.

Passengers were filing on and I still had two free seats beside me ‘I wonder if I’ll be lucky and they’ll stay empty?’ I mused knowing that it wouldn’t be so. I watched the last hassled family of five make their way directly towards me and the three free seats in front of me. Dad went over to the window seat, the youngest child was loud and crying. Mum became more flustered and glared at dad to help. The youngest was seated next to dad and mum then proceeded to direct 2nd child next to me.

I knew she had ‘Special Needs’ immediately as she needed directing to her seat and was wearing a bib to catch her constant dribble, to my surprise mum sat next to the youngest and Dad and the oldest son sat on the third seat on my row to look after his sister.

How could she let this child sit on her own when she clearly needed assistance? I wondered.

I stole glimpses of the pretty little girl beside me, her blonde tight curly hair framing her face and her cornflour eyes catching mine. She was curious to see me and I was curious to see her.

I smiled at her, noticed her brother watching and smiled at him too. He went back to his electronic game and I turned my gaze to the luggage handlers who were getting soaked loading our suitcases onto the conveyor belt.

The girl amused herself by walking her feet up the chair in front of her and walking them down again occasionally knocking my foot on her descent. It wasn’t a violent movement, just repetitive.

Her brother would place his hand on her legs softly to calm her, gently pushing her feet to the floor and keeping her still before returning to his game but sooner or later she’d go back to her chosen pastime.

As I gazed out of the window I felt a warm little hand clutch mine, it made me smile. I turned to see her looking at me. It was natural to stroke her hand and lower arm and keep hold of her hand as long as she wanted.

Later in the flight I was looking out at the clouds over the Alps and I felt a lick on my hand!

Her brother stepped in quickly and wiped my hand apologising.

‘Please don’t worry,’ I assured him. ‘It’s no problem.’ I suspect it was my bright red nails that had caught her eye and I was amused by her action. I was more and more intrigued by this little girl.

It wasn’t until half way into the flight that mum swapped seats with her son. We struck up conversation and I discoverd that her youngest daughter also had brain damage like her sister but not as severe.

So that was why she sat in front! She had two little girls both with special educational needs.

lifejacket under your seat

We started talking and I learnt that Amy (name changed) was 7 that she’d been a happy baby growing well until, during a bathtime at 9 months old she went blue in the face and started having her first seizure. Mum was understandably petrified and screamed the house down. They rushed the baby to the hospital and there began a long, long search to try and discover what was wrong and how to correct it. Sadly they didn’t find the correct medication immediately and so with each following seizure Amy suffered more brain damage.

When her little sister was born a few years later and slightly earlier started the same seizures, the parents battled immediately to avoid the rigmarole of trying each drug and go straight to the one that worked. It was a fight they won and positive as her younger sister, can talk and frequents mainstream school with an assistant to help her.

Mum told me they had taken the kids on the ferry across Lake Garda during their stay, she had taken Amy outside on deck as she loved the feel of the wind in her hair, they sat down and Amy ,so pleased, let out noises, they were quite loud as she was loving the sensation. Mum was horrified when a non English speaking lady came over, made signs by putting her hands over her ears that Amy’s noise was too loud, She gabbled on and pointed to mum and then child obviously saying ‘Tell your child to be quiet!’

Mum tried to explain in pigeon English, ‘She doesn’t understand.’ baffled as to why the woman couldn’t see Amy had complex physical and learning disabilities. It was obvious that mum had been upset by this intrusion on a large and open ferry and at the lack of tolerance from an older adult.

I tried to cheer mum up by saying there are some people out there who don’t like ANY children at all and have absolutely no tolerance. I referred to the woman as an old bag.

aeroplane inside

I learnt many things on that short flight and I recognised just how trying it is to look after a child with both physical and cognitive complex additional needs. Because of the story of the old bag on the ferry I decided I wanted to share what I gained from mum and make people aware of the love and commitment required for such special children.

  • Amy doesn’t always sleep at night, in fact the night before departure she’d been up all night. Mum had to stay up too as she would wander around the rented villa. Mum was exhausted but still had a smile on her face.
  • Mum pulled out a large flask containing a pureed meal as Amy doesn’t chew properly, every family outing needs careful preparation to make sure they have something for Amy to eat.
  • Amy is still in nappies and most likely always will be as potty training is not a possibility.
  • Amy dribbles constantly. There are drugs to help with this but the medication she is on is so strong that her mum decided she’d prefer not to introduce others. I understand this decision.
  • Amy attends a school where she enjoys many different activities. She loves music, she loves the trampoline, she loves to hold a plastic coated wire in her hand and twiddle it between her finger and thumb. Another of her toys was a long string of wooden beads which she would  swing round and round in front of her face but never catching herself. Mum and I were ducking on occasion though ;)
  • As Amy grows she is getting heavier and faster making mum’s life that little bit trickier when it comes to parenting her.

I take my hat off to these parents. Both work, mum full time and dad three days a week, the oldest son goes into secondary school now and has his own after school activities and life to lead. There is no doubt that their family life holds many more obstacles compared to mine but Amy was a true sweetheart, I left a little piece of my heart on that BA flight.

If you’d like to find out more please read our monthly BritMums Special Needs round-up written by bloggers with children of ranging diagnosis, whatever you do don’t ever become an old bag.

I moved to Italy when I was 20 and left when I was 37 so I guess you could say I became an adult there. I am sure that many defining parts of my character where finely honed by the Italian culture and here are some of the best bits I brought back with me…

Italian Food

I learnt to cook! Not that I couldn’t cook before but I moved on from Learner to Cook. Mum is the best cook I know and my brother is a chef so the appreciation of good food runs in the family. However the Italians are very conscious of their food and adore telling you how their Mediterranean diet is the best in the world. I like that they use products that are in season and grown locally or at least Made in Italy

Italian Wine

Young people do not HAVE to get blindly drunk to enjoy a Friday night in Italy…sometimes it happens but it’s not a necessity. Enjoying good wine and spirits is a huge part of the Italian lifestyle. Alcohol costs a lot less and there are no age limits in bars but underage drinking exists on a much lower scale than here in the UK. Youngsters there don’t have to get trashed to prove they’re as big as the next guy or to be able to say they had a good night out.

Italian Art

Everywhere you go in Italy you cannot help but be in awe of your surroundings. Churches, town halls, villages with wall art and artists painting, sculpting or creating masterpieces in the village square for all to see. Every place in Italy, be it a tiny village or a city, has something beautiful to show.

Italian Fashion

Some of the greatest designers in the world are Made In Italy, every Italian is enormously proud of their standing in the world’s fashion stakes and this is so visible as everyone takes pride in what they wear and the majority look like models themselves. Makes it a damn sight harder to keep up with the Rossi’s I can tell you!

Italian Family

The Italians I had the pleasure to meet, all put family in first place. The elderly are looked after and respected by all. Italy is also VERY child friendly sometimes verging on the extreme as some parents let their children run riot in restaurants, shops and public places shrugging their shoulders as if they can’t do anything about it. ‘They’re children!’  Hell for waiters and shop owners but be rest assured any holiday in Italy with children will be delightful as you can take them everywhere you go and people will stop to praise them.

Con calma

or Take it easy… yes, there’s no rush, don’t go stressing yourself out, take your time and get it done properly. There’s always tomorrow.

Italian House rules

Whenever you wash your dishes by hand you MUST always rinse the soap off. True! You wouldn’t  dream of leaving shampoo in your hair. Money – don’t get in to debt. Pay as you go and go without if you can’t afford it. This makes for easy sleeping at night.

Italian Patriots

They all share a deep adoration for their country, after all they have got it all; sea, sun, sand, mountains, skiing, lakes, beautiful cities and beautiful people. Their summer vacations are taken within their boundaries, Sicily, Sardegna, Puglia to name a few. Ski trips to Trentino, Courmayeur or Alto Adige, Weekend trips to Florence, Venice, Pisa…I could go on forever.

The Italian language

Of course, I came away bilingual. My written Italian isn’t perfect as their grammar is unbelievably complicated but I can read and of course talk till the cows come home just don’t get me started on their politics….

photo by kerben

It’s list time and Kate from Kate Takes Five has chosen a list close to any mother’s heart, your top 5 wishes for your children and here are mine

  1. Happiness – I’d like to wish my children a lifetime of happiness. I realise in order to appreciate happiness sometimes you have to experience pain and sorrow, it’s the other side of the coin. My children too like the rest of us will have to learn to find happiness and accept themselves for who they are.
  2. LOVE – after all it’s what makes the world go round right? I hope my children don’t have to go through a painful divorce like I did, to see their dreams of true love crash around them. I’d like them to have the patience to wait for the right person and the ability to see when it’s not the right person for them and walk away. I realise that karma plays a huge hand in our relationships so I pray that they get off a bit lighter than me in the love stakes
  3. Optimism – I am blessed with this trait and it has helped me on so many occasions. when the whole world seems topsyturvy I always try and find a positive to focus on and I think by doing this I make my life a better place so I wish my children optimism to always see a way forward or out of a problem.
  4. To always have each other – It can be a very lonely life all on your own. We are social animals and therefore like to surround ourselves with people and interact with them. Not everyone you meet is who they seem, not everyone you meet will be a long term friend. I have found people change, people move on and others hang around. I am grateful that although I don’t see my brothers very often I know they’re there should I ever need them and that is irreplaceable. Sometimes Thomas and Megan have massive disagreements and I get them both on the phone (separately) telling me their view on the matter but I am grateful that I know the bond is there and once the argument has passed they’ll be back on track. I wish this bond for the twins too.
  5. Good Luck – We all need a good handful of luck thrown into our pot so I wish all of my children luck in everything they put their hand to. I feel as if I’ve been an overall lucky person in life so far. I don’t have a six zero bank balance but I do have people in my life that enrich my life every day. I have a roof over my head, I have four beautiful children and a man who loves me. I’ve also just started working again part time which allows me to have a little independence too.

Life is sweet and I wish my children al the very best for their lives too



Kate has tagged me on this lovely meme all about Motherhood. She writes over at Kate On Thin Ice and she has a mission to change the world, bit by bit, one piece at a time. I was very fortunate to meet her last week in London and we shall be working together on a fabulous project over the coming months so watch this space ;)
Kate also has a brilliant project on the go called Groovy Mums and if you could do with a little urging on, a little prod to get you to take that first step then make sure you join in with this great idea.
Here are the questions that have been put to me today….

mari and the twinsDescribe Motherhood in three words

Entertaining, challenging, fulfilling

Does your experience differ from your mother’s? How?

Very. Mum juggled a job, a home and three children, she also kicked out her philandering husband when I was 11 and decided to go alone rather than put up with his constant lying and cheating. It wasn’t easy, she held down two jobs to keep up with the mortgage payments and we never missed a school trip or outing. She also set up her own catering business which in time inspired her to open a restaurant in Essex, she was very successful and ahead of her time.

I think on one hand she regrets the missed time that wasn’t spent with us as we were growing up but on the other, she’s very pleased with her achievements and allowing us a better life standard thanks to all her hard work. My youngest brother was able to attend a private school.

I have been a mother ‘twice’ now. First time round in Italy where I ran the house, looked after the children and worked in the family hotel too. I was 21 when my son was born, ill-prepared and in a strange country with no mum to help out. I look back and see the mistakes I made but am thankful that nonetheless, I have an incredible relationship with my two older kids even at 2000 kilometres apart

Becoming mum again in my 40’s was very challenging on the conception front. I was also made redundant when only 8 weeks pregnant so having given birth to twins, no job to go back to and being at a later stage in life, I have been able to stay at home and enjoy every single day with my girls. It is incredibly fulfilling, exhausting yes but I remind myself every day how quickly this moment will pass and soon they will be going out and I will be indoors worrying about them.

What’s the hardest thing about being a mum?

Knowing what is right for your children and not being able to get them to see that, having had two teenagers/young adults I can say that NOW they know I was right but at the time they would not listen.

What’s the best thing?

Being important to someone. Being someone they can turn to in dark moments and for comfort simply knowing that I am Mum.

How has it changed you?

The minute Thomas was born, I was 21, I realised that he would not survive one day without me. He needed me. My sense of responsibility was born and has never left my side since. I think with my older two children at times I fought this responsibility, I was lucky to have a wonderful mother-in-law who loved our children and would look after for them allowing me to go out and feel young and free again. I think I struggled with this enormous responsibility at times back then but with the twins I am in a completely different stage of my life and staying home of an evening is no hardship, I also have a wonderful partner with similar ideas to mine which helps ;)

What do you hope for your children?

I hope they all have happy, fulfilled lives. I hope they will always have a roof over their heads, food on their table and love in their hearts. I hope they never have to deal with life-threatening illnesses. I hope they never have to go through a world war. I wish we could all be closer (it would make my job so much easier!)

Some people put away vast amounts of money for future university funds and I wonder if they’ve ever asked themselves that maybe their child won’t want to go to university. It’s not for everyone.

I don’t expect my children to do certain things in their lives but I will help them achieve everything they wish as far as I can.

What do you fear for them?

War frightens me, all the unrest in the Middle East scares me and I hope it’s resolvable. Taliban scare me and I wish we could stamp it out. Nuclear bomb threat scares me. Swine Flu scared me when there was the huge scare about it! I don’t want to lose my children to flu or war. Above all I fear for their happiness, I just want them to be happy, to love and be loved in return.

What makes it all worthwhile?

Hearing ‘Thanks mum, I love you’ I’ve heard that from both my older kids over the past few days and ‘I love you mummy’ from the little ones. Then the pitter patter of tiny feet as they run into our room at 6am for a snuggle in the big bed, the cuddles on the sofa watching Tinkerbell, the kisses, the trust and the unquestioning love they have. The confidential phone calls from the older ones when they have no one else to turn to… keep on calling me kids, there is NOTHING that we can’t solve together, I promise.
As Kate did, I’m tweeting the people I’m tagging and if you’d like to use this for your own blog please go ahead, just drop me a comment to let me know you’ve done so so I can link to you in return

Happy Mother’s Day everyone