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Spy for the Queen of Scots - Theresa Breslin

Spy for the Queen of Scots; Theresa Breslin; Doubleday Children's; 2012

Book summary (taken from Amazon UK): As lady-in-waiting to Mary, Queen of Scots, the beautiful Ginette - known as Jenny - is the young queen's closest childhood friend. Growing up in the elegant but ruthless French court, surrounded by enemies and traitors - not least the jealous, manipulative Catherine de Medici, and Mary's own scheming half-brother, James - Jenny has always been fiercely loyal to her mistress. But when she overhears a mysterious whispered plot, closely followed by several unexplained deaths at court, she puts her own life in danger and turns spy for Mary.

Literature for Lads Review:
There is no doubt that Mary Queen of Scots is one of the most colourful,and oft misunderstood, characters in Scottish history. Regarded by many as a woman of great beauty, yet by others as vain and selfish, there is no doubt she was certainly an intriguing character. Over the years a number of books have been written about her but few tackle the Queen's formative years growing up in the French royal court.

This is where Breslin's story starts, catapulting us back to the 16th century and introducing us to many of the characters which played such an important part in Mary's life. Catherine de Medici, John Knox, Lord Darnley and the Earl Of Bothwell are just some of the historical figures who feature in a book that not only entertains but also educates.

We meet Mary for the first time in the books prologue as she awaits her execution near the end of the 16th century. Little is given away in this short introduction to how Mary ended up in in this predicament before we are quickly transported back 29 years earlier to 1558 where Mary Stuart is living in the royal court in France.

In this opening sequence we are introduced to Jenny, close friend and companion to Mary who has grown up with her at the French royal court. Breslin soon makes it apparent that the royal court is a place of ruthless ambition, full of secrets and danger and it is whilst at court that Jenny, in light of several mysterious deaths, decides to turn spy for Mary.

What follows is an intriguing, historical thriller which takes in 3 countries, 30 years of history and an interesting cast of characters. As we follow Mary's journey from the royal court in France back to Scotland to claim her throne Mary, Jenny and the royal entourage encounter various dangerous plots, suspicious characters, not to mention attempts on Mary's life itself.

The book is full of depth and Breslin expertly creates the 16th century that Mary is living in. At times it feels like we are not merely the reader but rather a spectator watching from the sidelines as Mary's amazing story unfolds. The sights, smells and and sounds of 16th century Scotland are brought to life throughout the book, adding to the reading experience.

This is a great historical thriller from Breslin which cements her place as one of the best contemporary writers for young adults. The book deals with one of the most interesting periods of Scottish history and tells the story of the often misunderstood Mary Queen of Scots in a fresh light. The book's cast of characters are full of ambition, intrigue and yet are equally deceitful, and would think nothing of stabbing their best friend, or future Queen, in the back. 

Marks out of 10: 7

For more information on the author vist her webpage http://www.theresabreslin.co.uk/

Here is short video of some images of Mary, Queen of Scots.



Miffy in the Snow - iPad App

Miffy in the Snow; iPad App; Sanoma Media Netherlands b.v. (in collaboration with Mercis b.v.)

Compatible with iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later

Description:(Taken from itunes store): Hooray, it has been snowing! With her hat and boots on, Miffy can’t wait. Dress up warm and ride a sleigh with Miffy over the hills. Listen to the story and it will tell you what to do. Miffy in the snow is the 4th Miffy app for iPad, developed specifically for toddlers and pre-schoolers. Very young children can enjoy listening and watching while older children can participate more actively in the story and the games.


Literature for Little Lads Review:
This is our first App review on the site so be gentle with us as we get used to writing about Apps...

G and I have been playing on my iPad together for the last 3 months or so and I have been amazed at how quickly he has learned to use both the general iPad controls and how to navigate his way through specific Apps. As a child myself I loved the Miffy books written by Dick Bruna so I was delighted to be given the opportunity to introduce my 2 year old son (G) to Miffy via this App.

The app is based on the book 'Miffy in the Snow' and the story itself is included within the App.  It's a great little story centring around Miffy enjoying playing in the snow.  Each page displays on the screen with text down the left and animations on the right.  The page is turned by pressing the small arrow on the bottom right although it would have been good to turn pages with a swipe as G's little fingers did sometimes struggle with the small arrow.

Their are various options for the story including having it read out by the App or recording your own voice and then playing it back.  This is really simple to use and allows you to record 3 different voices for playback. Great if Mum or Dad can't make it back for story time that night! There is also the option to turn playback off completely which importantly allows reading aloud of the book to take place 'live'.

Within the story itself 4 minigames are included, Dress Miffy warmly; Sledging with Miffy, Find the bird and Build a birdhouse. G was easily able to understand how to play these and found them enjoyable. They linked to the story well and helped G to feel like he was part of Miffy's adventure. In addition to the minigames included in the story there are a further two games included in the App, Throwing Snowballs and Find a Matching Pair.

When we opened the App G went for these first as they are accessed by a image of a ball on the home screen.  He was a little disappointed that there was no game involving a ball, but did he enjoy the Matching Pairs game. This was set at an appropriate level and the progression was gentle enough that he continued to feel challenged. G (and I) found the Throwing Snowballs game less enjoyable. G found it really difficult to knock the snowman's hat off and got bored very quickly.  Even when I attempted the game I struggled to get beyond the 2nd level!

There is also an option to create your own Miffy card and send via email. This is done via simple dragging and dropping of images onto the centre of the screen.  G did get a little frustrated that some of the images were restricted on where they could be placed, however he did perserve and make a card.

G and I both enjoyed this App. I was delighted to see that the charm of Miffy was still prevalent in the App and G enjoyed the ability to have a story read to him whilst also being able to interact, via the minigames, with the story. The story, minigames and additional games that are included will ensure that we will definitely be going back to this App to have more fun with 'Miffy in the Snow'!.

Marks out of 10:7

The ‘Miffy in the Snow’ app for iPad is available on iTunes priced £2.99

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/miffy-in-the-snow/id584778412?mt=8