Kim and Leon live on a farm in Suffolk, England. Kim is a schoolboy and Leon is his pet donkey. A rainy day encounter leads them on an adventure far away in Africa. Along the way there are dangers, and fears about who can be trusted. There is also the threatening presence of a slave ship, looming in the bay. Barnaby Allen was a teacher of English and history. In this historical fantasy, he beautifully combines suspense with an immersion in history. This book comes with tasks of writing, acting and drawing. This is a simplified version of the original book. It suits especially ESL pupils.
I received a copy of this book from Random Things Tours in return for an honest review.
I like the writing style of this children’s adventure story. Resembling poetic verse, it is easy to read and presents the story in a reader-friendly format.
The early part of the story, set in rural Suffolk has a traditional feel. It reads as if it was set in a pre-internet age, or even earlier. That would also explain some of the expressions, which are not twenty-first-century politically correct.
The main historical part of the story set in Africa reflects on the slave trade. This is an unusual choice for a children’s book, and parents and teachers should be prepared for children’s questions. The adventure element is charming and the detailed information about life in Africa at that time is interesting to adults too.
Kim goes on a character journey in this story, as much as a fantasy, geographical one. Learning about a different culture, and historic events change his perspective. Leon is a magical donkey, who provides Kim with his opportunity for adventure. His outward gruffness hides a wealth of intelligence and kindness and makes him a wonderful role model for Kim and the book’s readers.
The interactive quality of the book is excellent. The tasks make the children think about what they have heard or read and reinforce elements of the story.
A worthwhile reading book for the children and adults, which is rich in cultural and historical details, but delivered in an exciting, magical way.
Barnaby Allen was born in Suva Fiji, as his father was working there for the British Crown. He was introduced to literature by his mother, who liked to recite poetry and had a gift of telling engaging stories. As an adult, Barnaby Allen worked in education in several countries mostly teaching English. He loved to travel, classical music, discussions, current affairs, Pacific affairs, family, good food and board games. Barnaby’s children also had the benefit of Barnaby telling stories to them and making the characters come alive with acting out different roles.
Harry is a mischievous young dog,
adored by his family, Dad and Mum, Maisie (8) and Max (5). When the family
leave him on his own he creates chaos. Dad demands, “That bad dog must
go!” Alone and sad in bed that evening, Max asks, “Can anyone
help?” How will the Thunkies respond to his call?
I received a copy of this book from the authors in return for an honest review
The family dog or dogs are an integral part of many households, but dogs are pack animals, and many integration problems arise from the dog being unclear about their role in the family.
This beautifully illustrated and cleverly written picture book uses a team of cartoon characters, each with a specific role to help educate a family about their dog’s behaviour when they leave him home alone.
The story is fun to read for adults and their children, and the advice is delivered in bite-size amounts. Using illustrations and short written paragraphs, making the narrative easy to understand.
I like the positive ethos of this story, which reinforces the idea, that things are not always perfect the first time. Sometimes, you have to work at understanding how someone thinks before you can live or work together in harmony.
A well written and engagingly illustrated picture book. Delivers advice in a fun, easy to understand way, about living with our animal friends. I look forward to the next book in the series.
Jerry Rhodes’ life-long research and teaching is the inspiration behind ‘Home Alone Harry’, this first book in a series for children featuring the cartoon characters, Thunkies®. After completing his degree and teacher training at Oxford University, Jerry’s career as a school-master was cut short by polio. He changed course to a management career in industry, discovered his talents for creativity, and formed his worldwide consultancy to collaborate with international organisations. A special project with Philips led to the discovery of ‘Thinking-Intentions’, to which he has now given the playful name, Thunkies®. Jerry writes his books from his weather-beaten old farmhouse in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds.
Rachael Messiter, a Dog Listener, uses the approach
known as Amichien® Bonding pioneered by Jan Fennell. Rachael has her own
practice, Talking Paws, based in Staffordshire. Previously she lived with
wolves for close on two years in Colorado, USA, to learn how packs work. She
has identified a group of issues that dog owners experience that are due to the
well-meaning but flawed behaviours of owners, rather than ‘nuisance’ dogs. How
to properly avoid and resolve such troublesome issues will be the theme of each
book in the series Thunkies® love Dogs.
Nicky Hill is an illustrator and storyteller from
Winterbourne near Bristol. Her artwork is featured throughout the Thunkies®
Love Dogs books, bringing a bright, vibrant style that captures the
imagination. A great lover of animals both wild and domestic, Nicky also
illustrates and writes her own series of books about ‘The Wotton Pack’; a group
of inquisitive pooches who spend their days and nights having many adventures.
She currently lives with her own pack of three dogs in Wotton-under-Edge, a
small town in Gloucestershire, where she also co-runs the shop called ‘The
After Tabby’s father vanishes, a
deep rift develops in Tabby’s family. Tabby’s mother is focused on being a star
performer in her pharmaceutical sales career, while Ava, Tabby’s older sister,
is living with grandparents in Cornwall. Tabby feels neglected by her mother
and jealous of Ava and although outwardly diligent and responsible, she’s like
a kettle about to blow its top… bottling things up until it’s nearly impossible
to keep a lid on her frustration and sadness.
Tabby finds solace with her best friends Cate and Violet at Sweetbriars Farm where she is nursing her dream horse Bliss back to peak performance, to be able to participate in the try-outs for the British Young Riders Squad.
Tabby also finds herself facing other challenges – saving her beloved horse Nancy from the knacker’s yard and finding the courage to tell her friends the truth about her family. Will Tabby be able to save the horses she loves and be brave enough to tell people how she really feels?
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
This book certainly stirred some memories for me. At Tabby’s age, I was totally obsessed with horses, and the scenes in the stable yard evoked happy times. This story is the second in the ‘Sweetbriars series, but as I haven’t read the previous book, and enjoyed it, it reads well as a standalone.
Tabby lives with her mum, who is trying to forge a new life, as a single mum. She has a career and this is her main focus, Tabby is self-sufficient and not surprisingly, old for her years because her mother leaves her to fend for herself a lot of the time. Haunted by her dad’s leaving, Tabby reveals her vulnerability and you empathise.
Estranged from her sister, who lives with their grandparents in Cornwall, this story is about reconnecting with family and understanding that everyone’s life has ups and downs, no matter how ideal it appears from the outside.It’s also about learning to trust your friends and being honest about your life and the problems you face.
The issues are those facing young pre-teens and younger teenagers in contemporary society and are explored in a clear and non- judgmental way.
The focus is on Tabby and the horses, one Bliss, she is helping rehabilitate from an accident, and another horse who she is particularly fond of, she battles to save.
The setting is vividly described, and the characters are realistic, and avoid being stereotypical.
As an adult, I enjoyed reading this story, and feel that is perfect for the intended age group.
The perfect read for any horse obsessed young person.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
Hollie Anne Marsh and the Sweetbriars equestrian series
I wrote the manuscript for the first Sweetbriars book over ten years ago. I had a dream to create a premium equestrian series like the successful Saddle Club series, with an addictive mix of horses and ‘coming of age’ themes.
When I was younger, I loved these kinds of books and read them
all. I would trade books with my friends, and we would discuss them for hours.
After having a baby and being made redundant from my corporate
job, I finished the first book; Leaving The City and then recently, I finished the
second book; Tabby’s Big Year… it’s been great to do something creative again
and fulfil a lifelong dream!
There are three main characters; Cate, Tabby and Violet and they spend most of their spare time at the Sweetbriars Farm.
Cate Sullivan is the daughter of the family who owns the farm and
is the main character in the first book. She is sweet and endearing, however a
bit of a worrier!
In the second book, Tabby’s Big Year, we follow Tabby’s story.
Tabby lives with her mother in the quaint village of the Dales. She is diligent
and hardworking, however, is grappling with her family situation as her father
vanished and her older sister Ava moved to Cornwall to live with their grandparents.
Tabby becomes a regular at Sweetbriars, finding solace with the horses and her
The last character; Violet, she is the sassier of the three girls and she also keeps a horse at ‘Sweetbriars’. She says what she thinks and keeps you guessing with her peculiar ways and habits!
I ran a ‘Search for a Cover Star’ competition for both books in the series and for Leaving The City (the first book), I found a talented young rider, Faye Heppelthwaite, alongside her show pony Gigman George to grace the cover. The photo was taken in an English meadow by the photographer Paul Ruffle and it’s pretty stunning.
For the second book, Tabby’s Big Year, I took it one step further and ran a competition where a young girl could not only grace the cover, she could also win a photo shoot with her pony or horse with photographer Katie Amos. Twelve-year-old Sia Reiss won the competition and participated in a photo shoot in scenic Yorkshire with her eighteen-year-old horse Frankie.
As part of entering the competition I asked entrants why they
thought they should win the competition and here is what Sia said, which I
thought was gorgeous: “My pony Frankie is 18 years old and has arthritis. His
glory days are over. He is a one in a million pony and I love him so much. To
me, the best way I can think of celebrating Frankie is having him on the cover
of a wonderful book.”
Here is one of my favourite photos from the photo shoot. I think
it’s easy to see the special that Sia and Frankie have.
In Tabby’s Big Year, there are important lessons for young readers. The main character, Tabby has been through a lot in her young life and has a habit of bottling things up and pretending she is ok. The book teaches that by bottling things up, problems only seem more significant.
Tabby also thinks she is the only one with problems, and there is
a moment in the book where the neighbour of the Sweetbriars farm Sophia, opens
up and reveals how her father also abandoned her… this is a lightbulb moment
for Tabby, as she thought everyone around her had things perfect.
Tabby also found Sophia strange (she’s eccentric, lives in a
rundown house with oddball parents), but realizes they have a lot in common and
Tabby and Sophia become quite close. So, I think the book also teaches young
readers not to judge people by the way they look. This was also quite prevalent
in the first book too.
Well, the obvious thing seems to write another Sweetbriars book from Violet’s point of view. It could also be fun to write a book about the quirky neighbour of Sweetbriars Sophia and her life… she is a bit of an enigma. Then the books could continue – as the series is in its infancy. At this stage, I am not sure how far I will take it, but I do think it has potential.
Tabby’s Big Year
The second book in the Sweetbriars Equestrian Book Series tells the story of twelve-year-old Tabby and is set in The Dales – a fictional rural Devon village in the Southwest of England.
After the disappearance of
her father, several years before, Tabby, her older sister Ava and her mother,
are still grappling with the consequences. Things need to be brought out into
the open… but go on being unsaid, as a huge rift develops leaving the family
at odds with each other.
While Tabby battles her
feelings of being neglected by her mother, she unexpectedly has to face another
battle – to find the courage to save her last horse, Nancy from being sent to a
premature end at the knacker’s yard.
Tabby also has the
responsibility of caring for a young horse, Bliss – her dream horse who was
entrusted to her and is recovering from a serious accident. The clock is
ticking as Tabby nurses him back to health and peak performance to be able to
achieve her dream: to participate in the try-outs for the British Young Riders
By her side are her two best
friends, Cate and Violet. Tabby also develops an unlikely friendship – with
Sophia. Tabby realises she has much more in common with her than she ever could
It’s a big year for Tabby… will she be able to find the courage not only to save the horses she loves the most but also to speak up and tell the people closest to her how she really feels?
Hollie Anne Marsh is an Australian author who lives in Barcelona, Spain with her partner, baby boy and horse Frieda.
Hollie has been horse riding since she was a little girl, enjoying activities such as Pony Club, showjumping, eventing, and trail riding in the great Australian bush. Hollie lived in England for almost ten years where she had two horses and trained them for dressage.
The ‘Sweetbriars’ series is inspired by all the special moments Hollie spent with horses – good, funny, and challenging moments!
Additionally the ‘coming of age’ and ‘growing up’ experiences that Hollie had. Hollie hopes that readers will be able to identify with the characters, find the books’ fun to read, and they will help readers learn more about horses.
I didn’t plan to post today but this morning I lost a treasured animal friend Tommy. He has been part of our family since he was three months old. My children were 8 and 6 when he joined our family and now they are 25 and 22.
The 17 years Tommy has been with us were filled with fun and love and he will be missed by all of us.
Thankfully his end was mercifully short and now he is at peace.