Category Archives: LBC Puffins

Support the Puffin’ Puffin – Run for Cystic Fibrosis


As many of you know, Leeds Book Club just wouldn’t work without the effervescent Helen – she runs LBC Puffins, co-hosts LBC White Swan and is up for each and every reading challenge (that orientates around books for younger people). Frankly I don’t know how she does it – she’s a tireless wonder and source of inspiration and joy.

So it comes as no surprise to find that she has taken on a new challenge and will be completing a 10km run next month to raise money for a great cause.


If you can, have a read below and send any and all support to Helen (from virtual hugs to actual pennies).

There is still 4 weeks to go before the big run! All encouragement is greatly appreciated. 

Read the rest of this entry


LBCPuffins review book 31 – The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

 About the book

The leaves were cold and slightly clammy. There was no mistaking them. She had seen their likeness painstakingly sketched in her father’s journal. This was his greatest secret, his treasure and his undoing. The Tree of Lies. Now it was hers, and the journey he had never finished stretched out before her.When Faith’s father is found dead under mysterious circumstances, she is determined to untangle the truth from the lies. Searching through his belongings for clues she discovers a strange tree. A tree that feeds off whispered lies and bears fruit that reveals hidden secrets. The bigger the lie, the more people who believe it, the bigger the truth that is uncovered.The girl realizes that she is good at lying and that the tree might hold the key to her father’s murder, so she begins to spread untruths far and wide across her small island community. But as her tales spiral out of control, she discovers that where lies seduce, truths shatter. . . .A beguiling tale of mystery and intrigue.

About the Author

Frances Hardinge spent her childhood in a huge, isolated old house in a small, strange village, and the two things inspired her to write strange, magical stories from an early age. She studied English at Oxford University and now lives in Oxford, England.

                      *spoilers* *spoilers**spoilers*

This latest addition to Puffins was recommended by one of the groups friend. Now, for me as soon as I saw the costa sticker, I wasn’t holding out much hope. Then life got in the way and I found myself sat in the pub on the day of the meeting finishing it off and I loved it. For some of the group the book was a slow burner. It appeared to be building up the story, not something I personally was expecting. However the book was highly rated. Although for one it didn’t seem to give as much enjoyment, struggling with the Victorian ideals, and the how late in the story the murder finally taking place and another  found the ending rushed. As for the rest of the group had points but still loved it overall.

We begin the story with Faith and her family including her Mother’s brother Miles. heading to a new home, the fictional Island of Vane off the English coast. Her father, an eminent scientist, is to join an archaeological dig there, but the turn of events will come as a shock to them all. Faith who ‘Usually she managed to fade into the background, since nobody had the attention to spare for a fourteen year old girl, with wooden features and a mud-brown plait’ is the hero of this story. Having lost many siblings mostly boys from a young age, some not lasting long after birth and only Howard to be the longest-serving so far, Faith finds herself looking after him and herself most of the time, we find a strong young girl who has probably lived through events she perhaps should not have seen. The story in a sense is about Faith herself, we follow her growing up, learning about her family, the secrets kept, the secrets coming out. Faith discovers after helping her father to hide a plant in a cave that, he had been hiding several secrets. This then leads onto the death of her father and how Faith comes to discover the truth. Her Father is dead and everyone is lead to believe he has committed suicide. Faith, not believing this goes in search of the truth, and with help from the ‘lie tree’ she discovers that little lies changes the course of people’s thinking. This leads to ideas being put in people’s heads and the truth being unveiled that her father had a hidden past she may not of wanted to know.

This book is a complex and rich story, another one where the adults appear to be useless and it is left to the child to outwit/accomplish things,  discovering the issues about truth and lies, values – especially Victorian ones – Sundays being days of rest and breaking convention by having a funeral on that day (also I think shopping should be banned but that’s just me, I love my Sunday’s off, gives me a chance to rest. Status being of high importance, where new things were frowned upon or things such as people being left-handed or women/females being unwed and seen out with boys/men. This book also touched on, power of convention and assumptions, revenge, reputation and family values, how we treated the dead, the use of photography and creating lies which brings us to perception and what we want to believe.

As for the characters in the book, we once again find ourselves with a strong girl character leading the way, the female characters we found were working within the restrictions and struggles of the Victorian lifestyle. The adults in the book of course are typical for the young reader, where a few seemed to be weak aka Miles and his sister myrtle who wanted everything and to carry on her status.

Oh, and the snake int the background,one of the side characters, the snake shedding its skin seems to be  a symbolic sign with in the story, we always like the side characters.

One question I will leave you with. Do you read the blurb on the back of the book before reading it?  A few of us read the blurb and one didn’t and thoroughly enjoyed the book, what if we didn’t read about the murder would that have brought more enjoyment to the book?

So, to read the blurb or not to read the blurb, please let us know what you think.



(with 1 spinal tap moment)

Thank you for reading

To find other members of the club, search on twitter for @lbcpuffins
And don’t hesitate to contact White Swan on @whiteswanleeds
Let me know your thoughts by either tweeting me @LeedsBookClub, commenting below or emailing me at


LBCPuffins review book 22 – Over Sea, Under Stone – Susan Cooper


Date: 20th May 2015





Like many adventures, this one began with a holiday in Logres (land of the West and King Arthur), the discovery of an ancient map and a search for a buried grail.

But then it turned into something much more important and frightening.

This is the first of the five books which form The Dark is Rising sequence.


over sea overWe started this book club going off tangent straight away with a debate on the purity of chocolate and modern day book covers versus old ones.

Getting back on point we discussed how this book was originally written for a competition and it wasn’t until a few years later that the author went back and continued the series which resulted in the series being named after the second book rather than the first.

Our books seem to have recurring themes of children whose parents have died. It made a nice change in this book to have the parents alive, if mostly absent.

We had to guess the ages of the children as they weren’t given. Based on studying two years of Latin we guessed eldest child Simon to be about 12 or 13. Most of us ignored the Latin bits!

We thought the descriptions were really good and gave a good sense of menace.

SPOILER alert: We discussed how long it too people to guess that Merry was Merlin which had various results,

Some found Simon and Jane annoying but others like Jane for being sensible and not being a wimp. It made a nice change that she got to do things rather than sit around sewing. We applauded her for her bravery and even when not wanting to go on the boat it was due to gut instinct and not liking the eventual bad guys.

Quote: ‘How long does it take to realise it’s a ****ing cave’ said in relation to the children trying to follow the clues. Why did they not just walk around the headland? But then we joked about how you wouldn’t have a book.

It was hard to work out who the villains were. They were obvious in knowing who they were but there were vague hints of the main villain being perhaps a devil but there were pagan overtones. The bad guys were reassuringly bad and we liked that they seemed to enjoy what they did.

We talked about Mrs Polk. We enjoyed her turning out to be bad and joked about how it was her putting on the head gear that solidified that she was not one of the good guys. But we laughed at the fact that she still made sure they had a packed lunch before arranging for Barney to be kidnapped!

We chatted about how in a lot of books of the mid-1900’s the middle class are good kids, working class kids with accents turn out bad. They must also be rude and have bad manners. Bill was a local kid with an accent so was clearly a criminal.

A few readers were inspired to find out what happens next.

Who’s the new Arthur? It’s not made clear. We didn’t think it was myth-y enough but the language was simple and easy to follow but definitely of its time.


7 / 10


To find other members of the club, search on twitter for #LBCPuffins
Let me know your thoughts by either tweeting me at @LeedsBookClub or Helen @LBCPuffins, commenting below or emailing me at

LBCPuffins review book 06 -Black Beauty

Black Beauty

by Anna Sewell

 About the book

A horse is a horse of course unless of course the horse is Black Beauty. Animal-loving children have been devoted to Black Beauty throughout this century, and no doubt will continue through the next. Although Anna Sewell’s classic paints a clear picture of turn-of-the-century London, its message is universal and timeless: animals will serve humans well if they are treated with consideration and kindness.   Black Beauty tells the story of the horse’s own long and varied life, from a well-born colt in a pleasant meadow to an elegant carriage horse for a gentleman to a painfully overworked cab horse.  Throughout, Sewell rails – in a gentle, 19th-century way – against animal maltreatment. Young readers will follow Black Beauty’s fortunes, good and bad, with gentle masters as well as cruel. Children can easily make the leap from horse-human relationships to human-human relationships, and begin to understand how their own consideration of others may be a benefit to all. Written in 1877

About the AuthorAnna_Sewell_Jugendbild

Anna Sewell was born in 1820 in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England. At the age of fourteen she injured both of her ankles in an accident, which meant that she could never walk properly again. Because of this she relied heavily on travelling in horse-drawn carriages, and it was from here that her love of horses grew. In 1871 Anna began writing a book aimed at encouraging more humane treatment of horses. Owing to her failing health the story took nearly seven years to complete but was eventually published in 1877. Sadly, Anna never got to know of the huge success of Black Beauty, her only book, as she died in 1878, five months after the book’s publication.





‘Do you think that personality and temperament are established by childhood experiences and fixed forever?.’

‘The story is narrated in the first person as an autobiographical memoir told by the titular horse named Black Beauty—beginning with his carefree days as a colt on an English farm with his mother, to his difficult life pulling cabs in London, to his happy retirement in the country.’

Black Beauty is a well know story for children about a horse who survives cruelty and hardship. Where  horses and animals can think to, they just can’t communicate like it stories of Narnia or because us humans can’t read the signs until it’s too late and nothing can be done.  As in another discussion of LBCPuffins, the book isn’t the story most of us remember. For a few members  it was first time of reading the book and some knowing the story from the film with Mark lester in. The film was made, not through talking animals but in the usual ways of humans communicating.

“We call them dumb animals, and so they are, for they cannot tell us how they feel, but they do not suffer less because they have no words.”

For one member of the group this was a childhood favourite, and it was one of those reads that created mixed feelings. Through this book club we have found how as adults we read differently to what we did when we were children. How as adults we bring so much to a book when we sit down to read it when really in some cases we should read like we did as children, and just absorb the story and read it for what it is. Re-reading Black Beauty for some of us, we donut it quite depressing and not what we remembered as a child. One member was a ‘horsey child’ and loved this book for it’s nature and realised that they must have read an abridged version, not remembering all this hurt and suffering. Another felt it red like a horse manual, teaching you how to present a horse and cart or put a blanket over a horses back. Another lesson was that a horse would only drink as much water as it needed and oats and barley were high spirited food so it’s best to stick to bran mash as that gives them a glossy coat and keeps them in check. However it is a story for children and it is about animals and we are very fond of them. The group found that we were all big softies at heart and almost shed a tear when the captain (horse) and Ginger (another horse) died.

Throughout the story the animals are portrayed almost like humans except they cannot speak and the human are seen as ignorant and at one point we can see if they just looked more closely into the animals eyes it might have been able to speak to them, that’s what it shows in most of the film versions of Black Beauty. Although most film versions are not suitable for a younger audience with all the images of cruelty and war and tall handsome men cue Colin Firth in Bridget Jones. The film shows more of the cruelty to the horses of the way they were treated as cab horses, because it was the fashion to be driven around by a horse,  cue Gee Gee cars for a taxi or lead to battle in the wars, and pulling things much to heavy for them.

In the end it was still a much loved book, Black Beauty went on many adventures, met quite a few cruel people, found some amazing friends and showed us it’s quality and not quantity we need.

“My troubles are all over, and I am at home; and often before I am quite awake, I fancy I am still in the orchard at Birtwick, standing with my friends under the apple trees.”

The book  was enjoyed by the group but did bring up mixed feelings from reading it as a child, but it does have  a happy ending which for children it is a good introduction to death, however like most books of it’s time some of the  group felt the writing is brilliant but a bit preachy for some readers, one of which did not turn up for the discussion.

and I end with:

“If you in the morning
Throw minutes away,
You can’t pick them up
In the course of a day.
You may hurry and scurry,
And flurry and worry,
You’ve lost them forever,
Forever and aye.”
― Anna Sewell, Black Beauty

May Book Club meetings


6th May 2015 – I Am Pilgrim (Pilgrim #1)  – Terry Hayes


10th May 2015 – The Owl Killers – Karen Maitland


13th May 2015 – Carte Blanche – Jeffrey Deaver


16th May 2015 – Giovanni’s Room – James Baldwin


20th May  – Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark is Rising #1) by Susan Cooper


27th May – The Girl With All The Gifts -M.R. Carey

Books unpicked for LBCPuffins

I had to share this list of books from our last meeting:

The owl Services – Alan Garner

The Witches – Roald dahl

Hagwitch – Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick

The magicians Nephew – C.S.Lewis

The Chrysalids  by John Wyndham

The animals of farthing wood – Colin Dann

Bitterblue (Graceling Realm, #3) – by Kristin Cashore, Ian Schoenherr

Coram Boy by Jamila Gavin

Elidor by Alan Garner

LBCPuffins review book 19 – Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce


LBC Puffins LogoDate: Wednesday 18th of February 2015

Time: 6:30pm

Venue: White Swan Leeds

 Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce1543387

Lying awake at night, Tom hears the old grandfather clock downstairs strike . . . eleven . . . twelve . . . thirteen . . . Thirteen! When Tom gets up to investigate, he discovers a magical garden. A garden that everyone told him doesn’t exist. A garden that only he can enter . . .

About this Author

Philippa Pearce was one of the twentieth century’s greatest children’s writers. Her books include Tom’s Midnight Garden, winner of the Carnegie Medal; The Squirrel Wife, illustrated by Wayne Anderson; and A Finder’s Magic, created for her two grandsons and illustrated by their other grandmother, Helen Craig. Philippa Pearce died in 2006.





‘A beautiful and haunting story’ loved by kids and adults alike


The one thing about book club is that you never know what you might find. LBCPuffins is all about the little people’s books, one’s that have stayed with us for years that we want to reread and recently one’s we haven’t heard which has led us to discover some little gems.

Tom’s midnight garden is all about a young boy who gets sent away to his Aunt’s and Uncle’s to prevent him from catching measles. He has to stay indoors all the time in case he develops it, but at midnight after hearing the Grandfather clock strike 13, goes downstairs to discover a garden no one told him about. In entering this garden after midnight he meets a young girl called Hatty and after a while becomes really close friends. On later occasions to the garden he finds it’s not always the same, sometimes it’s summer, sometimes it’s winter, sometimes he meets a younger Hatty and then an older one.

The whole story sweeps you along on Tom’s adventures in the garden, meeting Hatty, finding out her story, Tom’s investigation of why Hatty was dressed the way she was, as the group pointed out, not being able to use the internet and digging out the encyclopaedia’s, yet again another book we have read where modern technology is not involved and wonder what we would do without it at the touch of our fingertips even though it’s still quite new age thing, using the internet and such.


‘Nothing stands still, except in our memory’

This was a story loved by everyone. the friendship of the two children, from playing int he garden to Tom’s idea for hatty to hide the skates and for him, and to later find them in the floorboards made him realise she wasn’t a ghost. Previous to this the group enjoyed the little argument the children had about who was the ghost. As the children were from different time periods, it could be said both were. But it was such a sweet scene.

The whole story was beautifully written and captivated the group, with its secret adventures into the garden. The story was also loved for covering years and not weeks when Tom visited the garden, and the fact that he always saw Hatty as the same age until nearly the end when Peter appears and points out Hatty is nearly a woman. The book brought adventure, friendship, and at the end, brought a lot of us to tears when Tom meets the older Hatty.

One question I raised to the group, was had they seen the TV adaption, and some after reading this as a book on its own mentioned that they would be deeply suspicious of any film adaption as it would try to fill in the gaps. It was also mentioned that this book is a world of imagination and with most adapted to screen it makes you lose the characters you created in your head and how you perceived them. I think it might work as a play in the theatre, as the theatre creates magic itself and you feel apart of it. Something I didn’t mention on the night, but film and TV will always be a shady area when it comes to book adaption

In the end the story unfolds that it was all through Hatty’s dreams, similar to a programme once or twice mentioned named Sunset Beach where everything happens and the lead character wakes up and it is all a dream, but this was far better, so find a copy, grab a cuppa and let yourself delve in to Tom’s Midnight Garden.



Check out the trailer (bearing in mind the reservations mentioned above!)

Find fellow members on twitter by searching for #LBCPuffins

Let me know your thoughts by either tweeting me @LBCPuffins, commenting below or emailing me at

LBCPuffins – March pick

Drum roll please! After much talk at LBCPuffins I went in search of this particular book. Loved by one of our regulars, but not heard of by any others I was intrigued to find out what it was about. I am so glad I did! It’s an amazing little book.

It is…..

The wuffler and the querk by Wendy Wharam


llust. by Stepan Zavrel. Mr Bootle was a quiet, ordinary bank clerk. His only peculiarity was writing books about a strange creature called a Querk, an animal with a long rubbery nose and a preference for hanging upside down by its toes. When the housekeeper found Mr Bootle hanging upside down in the cupboard one morning, the trouble really started

Please note fellow Puffins!

This is a rare book! We have two copies and will be doing a book share! contact me @lbcpuffins or @isfromupnorth or Stefanie  @stefarchivist for when you can borrow a copy. If you can source one yourself we don’t mind, but we have until March 18th to read it.

In the meantime please think of book choices for April and May, so we have a couple ahead! Remember it can be anything, old or new. It’s all about Big kids reading little kids books after all 😀

LBCPuffins review book 18 – Five children and it

In this classic tale of adventure and wish fulfilment, five city kids find the countryside to be filled with magic and wonder

Be careful what you wish for.

About the book

15796891After two years cooped up in London, Cyril, Anthea, Robert, Jane, and their baby brother, “the Lamb,” are thrilled to be living in the country. The best thing about their new home is that there are no rules, no places that are off limits. One day while playing in a gravel pit, they uncover a fat, furry creature that has been asleep for thousands of years. The Sand-fairy, also known as It, grants them one wish a day, to be shared among them. At sunset, the wish will turn to stone.

But every wish brings a disastrous result. When the children wish to be beautiful, no one recognizes them. When they wish to be rich, their gold doesn’t buy them anything. When they wish to be able to fly, they end up stuck on top of a church tower with no way to get down. Other wishes lead to a confrontation with Indians, a scuffle with kidnappers, and accusations of thievery. When the children beg the Sand-fairy for more wishes to set things right, It agrees—on the condition that they never ask for another wish again.

E. Nesbit’s pioneering fantasy novel continues to delight new generations of young readers.

“Grown-up people find it very difficult to believe really wonderful things, unless they have what they call proof. But children will believe almost anything, and grown-ups know this. That is why they tell you that the earth is round like an orange, when you can see perfectly well that it is flat and lumpy; and why they say that the earth goes round the sun, when you can see for yourself any day that the sun gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night like a good sun it is, and the earth knows its place, and lies as still as a mouse.”
― E. Nesbit, Five Children and It

About the Author

lrg_128200813849E. Nesbit ( 1858–1924), English author and poet wrote the children’s novel The Railway Children (1906).

Nesbit lived a colourful and active life while writing many poems, plays, short stories, fiction and non-fiction, but some of her most enduring works are her children’s stories. With elements of fantasy, time travel and spies, fairy tales and magic, they are a reflection of her idyllic childhood days and travels through England, France, and Germany. The Railway Children inspired television and film adaptations.

Edith Nesbit died on 4 May 1924 and lies buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s in the Marsh, Kent, England.

Find out more here


In the book we meet five children they are Cyril, known as Squirrel, Anthea, known as Panther, Robert, known as Bobs, Jane, known as Pussy, Hilary, the baby, known as the Lamb and this is their story about the adventures they had when they met “It” the Psammead also known as a sand fairy.

This is one of those classic children’s story, where we have a group of children who are sent to the country to live for a while. One day while playing on the beach the children discover a sand fairy.

The Psammead is described as having “eyes [that] were on long horns like a snail’s eyes, and it could move them in and out like telescopes; it had ears like a bat’s ears, and its tubby body was shaped like a spider’s and covered with thick soft fur; its legs and arms were furry too, and it had hands and feet like a monkey’s” and whiskers like a rat’s. When it grants wishes it stretches out its eyes, holds its breath and swells alarmingly.

During the discussion the group commented on how the book appeared dated, partly the writing style and the idea of going off for a picnic and stuffing their faces. The group also found the wishes the children gave were a bit pointless, like wanting to be beautiful and not thinking through the consequences of what they had wished for.  For example, wishing to be in a castle that’s undersiege, one member asked ‘why, why would you do that!’

And then there was a few health and safety issues that would come into play today if these things happened today. But we’re forgetting it’s a children’s book and this to most children would be a magical story but as some of our members pointed out they much preferred The Phoenix and The carpet as a book but this was always good for a chapter before bed. Overall the book wasn’t loved by all and didn’t score high, but we mustn’t forget the cuteness of the sand fairy in the BBC version to fall back on…….


A big thank you from LBCPuffins


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