Blog Tour (Review & Giveaway!): I, Cosmo – Carlie Sorosiak (Illustrated by Ben Mantle)

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‘A story that shows the power of pooches, the magnificence of man’s best friend and proves that anything is paws-ible when you have a dog by your side. Every dog will have its day but for Cosmo, this extraordinary dog will absolutely have your heart fur-ever.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: I, Cosmo
Author: Carlie Sorosiak (@carliesorosiak)
Cover illustrator:
Ben Mantle (@BenMMantle)
Publisher: Nosy Crow (@NosyCrowBooks)
Page count: 272
Date of publication: 1st August 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1788003872

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Dog 🐶
2. Companionship 🐾
3. Heart 💝


The story of one dog’s attempt to save his family, become a star, and eat a lot of bacon.

Cosmo’s family is falling apart. And it’s up to Cosmo to keep them together. He knows exactly what to do. There’s only one problem. Cosmo is a Golden Retriever.

Wise, funny, and filled with warmth and heart, this is Charlotte’s Web meets Little Miss Sunshine – a moving, beautiful story, with a wonderfully unique hero, from an incredible new voice in middle grade fiction – perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead and Kate DiCamillo.


Review:

I grew up having dogs in my life. In fact, I think it’s most probably fairer to say that dogs grew up with me in their lives. Dogs were in my family’s life well before I was. I remember, even now, pictures of a baby me being taken in my car seat with my first dog Tammy, and first of three West Highland White Terriers (Holly and Daisy) we’ve had, sat next to me almost guarding me. So even then – at that very young age – I knew all too well the strength in the bond of a dog and its family.

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Therefore this story, personally, has so much more to it than just its words. With warmth, with feeling and with so much sentiment that I think my heart could burst, it takes its readers on the most endearing and captivating of journeys through the twists, turns and turmoils of family life.

“There is a word I’ve learned in my twelve years: doggedly. It means “with persistence and full effort.” Humans attribute this to a dog’s stubbornness – our refusal to give up chewy sticks, the way we freeze in the doorway when it rains. But really, it’s the way we love, with our whole hearts, no matter the circumstance. I vowed to protect Max – and my family – doggedly, for the rest of my life.

Elderly golden retriever Cosmo lives with Max, his owner, or as he prefers to see it, his brother and his family. As family life starts to become too much what with a parental relationship breaking down, it’s up to Cosmo to take care of Max and his anxieties after Uncle Reggie tells him to “Protect their hearts.”. Their unbreakable bond is and becomes even more inseparably, indescribably beautiful as the story goes on. Written in Cosmo’s perceptive perspective with an authentic, anecdotal style of retelling the daily goings-on within the family home including holidays, Halloween and happier times.

From his love of old movies (with more than a slight mention of his favourite film Grease, I hear ya!) and dancing, lessons are to be learned. These lessons being that Cosmo and Max find themselves entering themselves into a dog-dancing competition in a bid to stop, what Max thinks is, the impending separation of his parents and the separation of him from his dog as the family splits quite literally in half. With Uncle Reggie’s help in masterminding teaching the old dog new tricks, will the partnership of canine and companion go all the way in succeeding to show off what they’re about or will there be a few obstacles standing in their way…?

If you’ve ever wanted to get into the head, the eyes and the heart of man’s best friend, this is most definitely the closest you’ll come. I feel that I could make comparisons of this to other canine-inspired classics but I can’t. It would feel unjust and unfair because, for me, it is unique. Unique in the way that an author has captured an animal’s thoughts, feelings and emotions so directly, so perfectly and so exquisitely that it is so rare to see it done so well. Observations, mannerisms and nuances all full of wit, humour, self-deprecation, shrewdness and love, it’s almost as if I believe that Carlie may have been a dog in a previous life; it’s that stark. This is why it is my major recommendation for next year’s EmpathyLabUK’s Read for Empathy Collection.

“…I do believe that, with the right human by your side, it’s possible to leap fearlessly into the unknown.”

A story that shows the power of pooches, the magnificence of man’s best friend and proves that anything is paws-ible when you have a dog by your side. Every dog will have its day but for Cosmo, this extraordinary dog will absolutely have your heart fur-ever.


‘A story that shows the power of pooches, the magnificence of man’s best friend and proves that anything is paws-ible when you have a dog by your side. Every dog will have its day but for Cosmo, this extraordinary dog will absolutely have your heart fur-ever.’


Giveaway!

To celebrate the publication of I Cosmo, the very lovely people at Nosy Crow have kindly given me THREE copies to give away!

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If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning this stunning story, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!


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Be sure to check out the rest of the I, Cosmo blog tour for more reviews & exclusive content from Carlie and these brilliant book bloggers!

Review & Guest Post (The Inspiration Behind The Monster): The Switching Hour – Damaris Young (Illustrated by Kelsey Buzzell)

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‘Spooky, suspenseful and Stranger Things. Damaris’ haunting yet hopeful words and worlds so atmospherically realised here suggest she could be the next and natural successor to Hardinge.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Switching Hour
Author: Damaris Young (@damarisyoung)
Cover illustrator:
Kelsey Buzzell (Website)
Publisher: Scholastic (@scholasticuk)
Page count: 288
Date of publication: 1st August 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1407195049

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Friendship 👭
2. Monster 👹
3. Drought ☁️


Never stay out after the Switching Hour… never let the outside in…

Every night, at twilight, Amaya locks her door to keep out the Badeko, a creature that vanishes children away to devour their dreams.

When Amaya’s small brother is taken, she must fight her way through the terrifying and twisting forest to the Badeko’s nest.

She must face her fears that come alive after dark…


Review:

Fishing in her local river, we are introduced to Amaya who lives with her grandmother, her small brother Kaleb and her pet goat Tau. Soon realising she’s been out for far too long, she rushes back home just in time before the time of the Switching Hour starts where the day turns to night and the living turn to the lure of a legend…

“The creature licked its lips and sucked the dream through its sharp teeth, but the empty hunger in its belly still roared. It wasn’t enough.
Always hungry. Always thirsty.”

The legend of Badeko. A monster. A demon. A beast. A dream-eating devil who steals away children at night. Awoken greater now by the terrible drought that’s plaguing Amaya’s homeland, of which is stripping it of its little food and water and limited resources that’s left.

To stop Badeko, every night the doors must be locked at twilight. For Amaya, she’s come too close to comfort before to its humming, haunting presence and so now with the insistent calls of her grandmother ringing in her ears, she ensures that all the doors are not only closed but slammed shut, bolted down and checked at least three times. But when her wise old grandmother is needed by a local in a remote, far-off community, she’s left to look after her younger brother all by herself. Will she be able to protect what matters most to her?

“Dragging my feet over to my bed, I curled up under the covers without caring to change out of my clothes. As I drifted off, I had the uneasy feeling of something left undone.”

But whilst the adults are away, and unbeknownst to Amaya who’s sleeping soundly, the Badeko reappears to play one evening during the Switching Hour rearing its head and wilfully prowling outside her home to try its luck at the seemingly-locked front door only to find its way in to Kaleb.

Snatched away in the dead of night in the clutches of this creature, Amaya awakes to find her brother gone; her worst nightmares coming true; her heart and soul ripped out; her world torn apart and thus the start of a creepy, compulsive and compelling adventure in which she must undertake to face her deepest and darkest fears across the Blackened Forest to seek out the Dead Tree – where Badeko calls home – to bring her brother from the back of beyond. Legend has it that once Badeko claims a child, all relatives will forget their existence within three days and be left in a state of eternal grief and mourning. They call it the Sorrow Sickness, so can Amaya rescue her sibling before this lingering longing sets in?

In its central character of Amaya, Damaris has created a heroine of unforgettable power. With her faithful goat-friend Tau for company, she finds herself as much on a physically-arduous journey as a mentally-testing one.

Submerged in a supernatural and almost tribal-tinged world, influenced by Damaris’ own experiences of myths and legends of a childhood growing up in South Africa, it shows the power of friendship, especially with supporting character Mally, and the very real fear of forgetting the ones you love. Therefore, it’s no surprise that this spooky, suspenseful story with all senses of Stranger Things about it will completely snatch hold of its readers and keep them gripped the whole way through. Her haunting yet hopeful words and worlds so atmospherically realised here suggest she could be the next and natural successor to Hardinge.


‘Spooky, suspenseful and Stranger Things. Damaris’ haunting yet hopeful words and worlds so atmospherically realised here suggest she could be the next and natural successor to Hardinge.’


The Inspiration Behind The Monster in The Switching Hour

When I started writing The Switching Hour, I had been interested in climate issues for a long time and it was important to me that the story had a connection to this crucial topic, without being too taken over by it.

In The Switching Houra dream eating creature is awoken by a terrible drought. This monstrous creature is my interpretation of our global changing climate, as the drought threatens to devour all life. It preys on young children by eating their dreams, in the same way climate change will affect generation to come. In The Switching Hour, while the adults hide away behind locked doors, it is the children who are brave and take action.

In our real world, it is young people who are also leading the way when it comes to creating awareness about climate change. The young activist Greta Thunberg is inspiring global protests, urging politicians to take action, and proving that no matter how old you are, your voice matters!

With demands from social media to connect and engage, to the bombardment of the news and the pressures to achieve, young people often feel like they have little control over the world around them, which is why The Switching Houris ultimately a story of courage and hope. It may seem like there is too much that is out of our control, but there is still so much that is. Every one of us has a voice and it’s up to all of us to fight our monsters, real or imagined.z7-envEw_400x400.jpg

 

 

Damaris Young, author of The Switching Hour


Big thanks to Damaris, Mary and all the team at Scholastic for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of The Switching Hour blog tour and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Damaris for writing such a brilliant and insightful guest post!

Mr E


Blog Tour (Review & Giveaway!): The Bad Luck Lighthouse – Nicki Thornton (Illustrated by Matt Saunders)

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‘This series is without doubt becoming the recommended read for mystery lovers young and old. Nicki is establishing herself very much as the Christie for children.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Bad Luck Lighthouse
Author: Nicki Thornton (@nicki_thornton)
Cover illustration: Matt Saunders (@msaunders_ink)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 384
Date of publication: 4th July 2019
Series status: Book 2 after The Last Chance Hotel
ISBN: 978-1912626304

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Lighthouse💡
2. Magic ✨
3. Murder ☠️


Welcome to the Bad Luck Lighthouse.

In solving the mystery at the Last Chance Hotel, Seth has discovered a world of magic. Swept up in a new case at Snakesmouth Lighthouse – the murder of eccentric owner Mina Mintencress – he is determined to prove himself. 

With the help of his cat, Nightshade, Seth must put his new-found magic to the test. Can they unmask a sinister sorcerer… before it’s too late?


Review: 

Danger, dishonesty, dark magic and deception all characteristically return in this sequel set a few months on from the accolade-winning The Last Chance Hotel (The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition 2016/Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month for October 2018). As this is almost a direct continuation from Nicki’s first book in the series, I’d most definitely advise you to seek out and devour The Last Chance Hotel before reading this. 

For lowly kitchen boy Seth Seppi, you’d think solving one mystery would be good enough however he is back and this time he is out to test himself with learning how to use the magic that’s been bestowed unto him in a whole new world. Introduced to us in this one as doubting himself as a ‘natural’, he’s left holding a book called the Easy-Peasy book of magic which on the surface provides Seth with the slightest glimmer of hope of achieving the ‘spark of magic‘ that he believes others see in him. But sadly for him, he hasn’t been able to complete a single spell since receiving it. 

Therefore struggling, getting desperate and following a fleeting visit from Inspector Pewter – last seen in the last book – he flings himself through a portal after Pewter and soon becomes embroiled in another magical murder-mystery after discovering Snakesmouth Lighthouse, a hotel that’s supposedly haunted… or is it?

Storms are battering the lighthouse outside; guests are not forthcoming and with staff leaving or who have already left in their droves, this seems like another sinister setting that no-one wants to visit. When suddenly Seth happens upon the death of a very important character who actually owns the lighthouse which stopped me completely (pardon the pun!) dead in my tracks whilst reading. With talking cat-companion Nightshade for company – which just has to be one of the best cases of nominative determinism as one of the very best pet names I’ve come across in children’s literature – he tries his hardest to uncover the mystery and web of lies, agendas and revelations that he’s managed to entangle himself in. Sometimes it’s the things that are often left unsaid in these stories that lead to greater suspense than the things that are said.

Bringing back some old faces such as Inspector Pewter and Angelique really helps the reader to find the touch of familiarity from the previous book and adding some new, such as personal-favourite Celeste, completes and complements the cast of characters and suspects in this new thrilling mystery from Nicki. After reading a recent blog by her, it’s so pleasing to see an author write a sequel of a book with characters she so dearly loves and it is with this that I hope that these classically-written but contemporary-styled mysteries may long continue. This series is without doubt becoming the recommended read for mystery lovers young and old. Nicki is establishing herself very much as the Christie for children.


‘This series is without doubt becoming the recommended read for mystery lovers young and old. Nicki is establishing herself very much as the Christie for children.’


Giveaway!

To celebrate the publication of The Bad Luck Lighthouse, the very lovely people at Chicken House have kindly given me THREE sets of both books, The Last Chance Hotel & The Bad Luck Lighthouse, to give away!

If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning these two classically-written but also contemporary mysteries, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!


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Be sure to check out the rest of the The Bad Luck Lighthouse blog tour for more reviews & exclusive content from Nicki and these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Guest Post): The True Colours of Coral Glen – Juliette Forrest (Illustrated by Jamie Gregory)

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‘With Coral Glen, any signs of second novel syndrome are banished as it’s an absolute feat of storytelling; full of the magical, multi-layered and ethereal world-building we’ve come to know, love and expect from Juliette.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The True Colours of Coral Glen
Author: Juliette Forrest (@jools_forrest)
Cover illustration: Jamie Gregory (@jgregorydesign)
Publisher: Scholastic (@scholasticuk)
Page count: 300
Date of publication: 4th July 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1407193229

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Colours 🌈
2. Grief 😥
3. Ghosts 👻


Coral Glen sees the world through a rainbow of colours not visible to others.

An afternoon of adventure is Treasure Island Gold, but a morning with a maths test is Stormy Canyon Grey. When her beloved grandma dies, Coral can’t conjure the colour to match how heartbroken she is.

She meets a mysterious boy who offers to help her say a last goodbye to Gran – in exchange, Coral must stop an evil spirit from escaping the graveyard, and go on a daring adventure full of witches, ghosts and other things lurking beneath the surface of her not-so-ordinary-after-all town…


‘With Coral Glen, any signs of second novel syndrome are banished as it’s an absolute feat of storytelling; full of the magical, multi-layered and ethereal world-building we’ve come to know, love and expect from Juliette.’


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It gives me great pleasure to welcome Juliette Forrest, author of The True Colours of Coral Glen, and the wonderful Twister, to The Reader Teacher today where she talks more about the inspirations and ideas behind her second book…


The inspirations behind The True Colours of Coral Glen

When I was in the middle of writing my second children’s book, I went to stay in Ayrshire for a while. I was no stranger to the place as it was where my grandparents had lived. They told me stories about the area’s dark history of witch trials, warring clans, Covenantors, smugglers, cannibals, black death victims and ghosts. As a kid, it became impossible to separate folklore from historical fact. I could imagine the past creeping out from the shadows to coexist with the present and was keen to capture this sense of magic and danger lurking around every corner. I have my grandparents to thank, as they were the ones who planted the seeds for this colourful tale.

What would you do to be with a loved one again?

At the heart of this story is a girl who is bereft at the loss of her grandmother and will do anything to see her one last time before she crosses over to heaven. I’ll never forget a documentary I watched where a woman talked about the death of her son, and how she would give anything to have just one more minute with him. It was so powerful and moving, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It made me wonder what you would be prepared to do to make this happen. Coral Glen chooses to risk everything for the chance of a final farewell with her gran.

Coral Glen sees a rainbow of colours not visible to others

My heroine has the enviable ability to see an extraordinary range of colours others can’t, which opens doors into a world she never knew existed. I used to work as an art director in advertising and fell in love with the names of paints. Yellow was never plain old boring yellow: it was Luscious Lemon Drops or Treasure Island Gold or Downy Duckling or Tuscan Sun. It was as if they could, somehow, magically transform your life for the better. I wanted the different colours to add an extra layer of vibrancy to the story as well as to be positively life-changing for Coral Glen.

Tales of the supernatural

I never got to meet my grandpa Forrest. When I was young and listening into conversations I shouldn’t have been, I heard mention he’d show up at family christenings. Nothing strange there you might think – until I tell you that he had died many years before I was born. I never caught sight of his ghost myself, but I always liked the idea that death hadn’t stopped him from enjoying a good shindig and found it comforting he came back to be with the family. It was this curious tale that inspired the idea of Coral Glen being able to see people others couldn’t.


The True Colours of Coral Glen will be released on 4th July.


Big thanks to Juliette, Mary and all the team at Scholastic for inviting me to host this guest post as part of the The True Colours of Coral Glen blog tour and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Juliette for writing such a insightful and suitably supernatural guest post!

Mr E


 

Blog Tour (Author Q&A & Giveaway!): Dragon Daughter – Liz Flanagan (Illustrated by Angelo Rinaldi)

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Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Dragon Daughter
Author: Liz Flanagan (@lizziebooks)
Illustrator: Angelo Rinaldi (Website)
Publisher: David Fickling (@dfb_storyhouse)
Page count: 368
Date of publication: 2nd May 2019 (Paperback)
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1788450218

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Dragons 🐉
2. Island 🏝️
3. Secrets 🤐


The DRAGONS were lost and forgotten until NOW…

Milla sees a man murdered and finds herself caring for the last four dragon eggs. Forced to keep them secret amidst the growing tensions on the island of Across, Milla must fight to save the dragons and everything that their return stands for.

Fiery friendships, forgotten family and the struggle for power collide as Milla’s battle for freedom leads her to uncover her own hidden past.


I’m so pleased to welcome Liz Flanagan to The Reader Teacher today where she Liz_Flanagan_cr_Sarah_Mason__Photographyanswers my questions all about Dragon Daughter including its recent award-winning success; her reading and writing influences and sharing teacher resources for her incredible book!

Dragon Daughter (5)

  • At The Reader Teacher, for my reviews, I describe books in #3Words3Emojis.
    Which 3 adjectives and 3 corresponding emojis would you choose to best describe Dragon Daughter?

    1. Friendship 👫
    2. Fiery 🔥
    3. Dragons! 🐉
  • What books, people, research, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write Dragon Daughter?

Dragon Daughter wasn’t an easy book for me to write. I kept getting stuck and putting it aside, and I must have done about 20 drafts, especially of the second half of the book. In one of my stuck phases, I started writing Eden Summer, which became my debut novel, but I couldn’t give up on Dragon Daughter!

It wasn’t till I was working with my editor Rosie Fickling, that I managed to see clearly enough and get the story finished in a way that would suit middle-grade readers. So it was her vision and love of the story that really inspired me and helped me to write it.

I love books about dragons. I wasn’t consciously thinking about any in particular when I was writing it, but I’m sure that Anne McCaffrey’s and Ursula LeGuin’s dragons must have filtered into my teenage brain and come out in the writing of Dragon Daughter, and I can definitely see the influence of American fantasy writer Tamora Pierce.

I’ve got a much clearer and more specific spark for the sequel, which I’m writing now – a documentary about the tunnels under a particular European city. More of that soon!!

  • What was the most enjoyable part of writing Dragon Daughter?

I loved writing the hatching scene! It was a joy to write, and for this chapter at least the words came tumbling out. It’s also the part I love reading aloud the most now. Milla – and the reader! – has had to wait quite some time before she finally gets to meet her dragon, but I hope it was worth it.

  • Firstly, I think a big congratulations is in order. Well done on Dragon Daughter winning the Leeds Book Award and the Calderdale Book of the Year recently. What is it about Dragon Daughter do you think that has made it so successful with children?

Thank you so much! I was so delighted about these awards, not only because they’re in my local region, but also because the children voted for Dragon Daughter. That’s what authors dream of!

I love hearing directly from readers and learning what they’ve enjoyed. So far it seems to be:

  • The characters, especially Milla
  • The dragons, and choosing which colour dragon is their favourite
  • The exciting adventure, even if it gets slightly scary at times
  • If you were to choose the character that is most like you from Dragon Daughter, who would it be and why?

Ah, I wish I could say Milla, but she is what I wish I were like, so resilient and resourceful and courageous. I’m probably more like Isak – he knows what the right thing is, but it takes him a while to do it!


Reading and Writing (4)

  • What first attracted you to writing? Did you enjoy writing at school?

I loved writing at school. We had an amazing teacher in Year 4 who gave us wonderful writing prompts and I first noticed how time could disappear while I was writing. I still remember a long story about a pink flying horse, so maybe things haven’t changed so much after all! I lost my writing confidence in my later teens and twenties, and didn’t start writing again till I had my own children. For a while the stories I was writing were definitely aimed at the age of my eldest daughter, but now they’re teenagers, I think I’ll stay away from writing YA for a while: my girls don’t need me trying to write teens while they’re busy being them.

  • Which parts of writing do you find energise you and which parts do you find exhaust you?

I love the energy and excitement of a first draft, but it is also quite nerve-racking – is this a story? Can I write it? But it’s also a real journey of discovery, getting to know the characters and what they want. I’ve learned to let myself create what I call a ‘dirty first draft’ and trust that I can come back and polish it up later. I have come to enjoy editing, but I always get daunted just before a new round of edits. Then, once I’ve got stuck in, it’s very satisfying.

  • When you were a child, can you remember contacting authors or any of them ever visiting your school and if so, did this inspire you?

I don’t remember any authors visiting our school. I didn’t realise that ordinary people could be authors. I met Berlie Doherty on an Arvon course when I was seventeen, and she read from the unfinished manuscript of Dear Nobody and actually asked for our opinions on it. That blew me away!

  • Currently, we seem to be living in a golden age of books, especially that of children’s literature. Can you recommend any other children’s books to children (and adults!) who may be interested in similar themes explored in your book or any that you would recommend?

I know, I am loving the feast of amazing books being published for this age group & I’m constantly gobbling up middle-grade novels. Recent ones I’ve loved are: Fire Girl, Forest Boy by Chloe Daykin for its adventure, wonderful setting and the cutest animal with an unlikely name; The Storm Keeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle for great characters and a spellbinding mix of magic and real life; Sky Chasers by Emma Carroll for pace, excitement and a brilliant protagonist; The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Rauf for friendship, hope and characters you’d like to be friends with; The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell for courageous characters, fabulous plot and beautiful writing; and The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson for its brilliant protagonist, another adorable animal character and more gorgeous writing you could read all day.


Dragon Daughter and Teaching (3)

  • If you were to ‘pitch’ Dragon Daughter in a sentence for teachers to use it in their classrooms or for parents to choose to read it at home, how would you sum it up?

In this exciting fantasy adventure, servant girl Milla witnesses a murder and finds herself caring for the last four dragon eggs, but as unrest spreads across the island of Arcosi, who can she trust?

  • Could you suggest ways in which Dragon Daughter could be used in the classroom for the many teachers and primary school staff that will read this and wish to use it in their schools?

In my school visits I’ve been doing workshops showing some wild and wonderful mythical creatures from around the world, then inviting children to imagine their own beautifully coloured egg and what might hatch from it.

A teacher friend of mine, Susan Williams, very kindly created some classroom resources and lesson plans, some focusing on life cycles, and also using the idea of dragon eggs as story prompts for descriptive writing. She’s created some free downloadable lesson plans, on the subjects of hatching dragons / descriptive writing / dragon eggs, which are available here: http://lizflanagan.co.uk/dragon-daughter-teacher-resources

The story also has themes of migration and tolerance, which can be used for discussions of those subjects in a fantasy-based way.

  • For those teachers reading this Q&A and would like to enquire about arranging the opportunity of a school visit from yourself, how would it be best to contact you regarding this?

That would be wonderful! Please contact me via lizflanagan.co.uk/contact, or you could also book via Authors Aloud: https://authorsalouduk.co.uk/speaker/liz-flanagan/


Two more before you go (2)!

  • What has an interviewer or blogger never asked you before, that you always wished you could answer?

An interviewer hasn’t asked me, but children always do: what kind of dragon would I have?

I think the answer is Iggie, Milla’s dragon. He’s lapis blue, loyal, small and fragile to begin with, and huge and fire-breathing by the end.

  • Finally, can you share with our readers something about yourself that they might be surprised to learn?

I always talk in my school visits about how long it took me to become an author:

10 years + 2 unpublished novels + 20 drafts of Dragon Daughter = All worth it!


One last one… (1)!

  • Do you have a question you would like to ask the readers of The Reader Teacher?

What do you wish authors knew before they came into school – if you can narrow it down!! – and what kinds of resources do you find most helpful on authors’ websites?

Thank you so much Liz for taking the time to answer my questions!

Thanks so much Scott, I really appreciate all your support!


Giveaway!

The very lovely people at David Fickling have kindly given me ONE paperback copy of Dragon Daughter to give away!

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If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning this copy, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

Huge thanks to Liz, Liz and all at David Fickling for inviting me to host this Author Q&A with Liz and a giveaway!

Extra thanks to Liz for answering my questions with her brilliant answers!


Mr E

📚


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Be sure to check out the rest of the Dragon Daughter blog tour for more exclusive guest posts from Liz; and content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!


 

Blog Tour (Review & Author Q&A): The Last Spell Breather – Julie Pike (Illustrated by Dinara Mirtalipova)

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‘It’s a magical must-read that takes place in such an original, chapter-turning and cleverly-imagined world I didn’t want to leave behind. With The Last Spell Breather, Julie doesn’t just write about magic, she writes with a special kind of magic; as if her pen is gold-tipped.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Last Spell Breather
Author: Julie Pike (@Juliepike)
Illustrator: Dinara Mirtalipova (Website)
Publisher: Oxford University Press Children’s (@OUPChildrens)
Page count: 304
Date of publication: 4th July 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-0192771605

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Magic ✨
2. Fox 🦊
3. Words 👄


Enter the unique world of the Spell Breathers!

Spell Breathing does not come naturally to Rayne – she loathes the hours of practice, the stacks of scrolls, and the snapping mud grotesques that cover her mother’s precious spell book. When she holds the spell book over a fire, it is only meant as an empty threat – until she feels the grotesque’s tiny teeth biting into her finger and lets go. In one clumsy move, her mother’s spells are broken, her village is plunged into danger, and an incredible adventure begins…


Review: I often think if only I had some way of transforming myself to be able to do something else. I often think about magic. I think we all often think about magic. But within the pages of this very special story, magic comes to life in an equally special way. Breathed to life. By the name of spells. Spells with a capital S. Spells that are strong and wrap around you and which possess a magic of their very own. However should those words come out in the wrong order or be directed in the wrong direction, then these Spells can cause a chaos of their very own too. And for the sometimes-creator of that chaos, let’s meet Rayne…

With the title of Spell Breather’s apprentice bestowed upon her ever since her mother decided to take her out of school (and almost away from her friends!), the world of spell breathing is not one Rayne is familiar with. Sometimes bungling and with a lack of self-confidence but often with her head elsewhere like wanting to play with her friends which reminded me of The Worst Witch meeting Luna Lovegood, she feels that she doesn’t have the same way with words that her magical mother, who is at the call of the community to help them, does.

You see, Rayne’s mother has been at this spell-breathing skill for some time. Not only does she service the locals with her powers but she also preserves the barrier that is keeping their town, Penderin, safe. However when an unexpected visitor arrives at the barrier, something is amiss and Rayne’s mother has to leave, meaning that Rayne has to learn quickly to look after herself and her town.

After speaking to Julie and hearing about her being from Wales, I’m sure I spotted more than a few Welsh references which resonated especially well with me. It’s a magical must-read that takes place in such an original, chapter-turning and cleverly-imagined world I didn’t want to leave behind. With The Last Spell Breather, Julie doesn’t just write about magic, she writes with a special kind of magic; as if her pen is gold-tipped.


‘It’s a magical must-read that takes place in such an original, chapter-turning and cleverly-imagined world I didn’t want to leave behind. With The Last Spell Breather, Julie doesn’t just write about magic, she writes with a special kind of magic; as if her pen is gold-tipped.’


I’m so pleased to welcome Julie Pike to The Reader Teacher today with her awe-inspiring and life-affirming blog post about the wondrous adventures she has been on that have influenced the writing of The Last Spell Breather…

When I set out to write The Last Spell Breather, I knew I wanted to create a magical page turning adventure. What I didn’t know was how to go about it. I went to see Garth Nix talk at the Hay Festival. It was my first ever author talk, and it was wonderful. One thing he said stood out like a beacon…  ‘I learned how to write’.

I spent the next decade learning how to write my ‘page turner’, wrapping my head around plot, character arcs, pacing, story beats, magic systems and a whole lot more. I’m not done yet, I still have much learning to do.

Along the way, I realised there was one aspect of story I already knew inside out and back to front. I already knew that the best adventures were filled with high stakes and personal challenges. How did I know? Because the stories I’d devoured as a child had inspired me to have real-life adventures of my own.

Here’s a taste of my adventures, along with some grainy, pre-smart phone pictures, for good measure. 

Wondrous Adventures
I’ve adventured overland through India, Nepal, Tibet and China. I left the UK on my own and made friends along the way. We slept on trains and visited friendly elephant reserves. We sailed down the Ganges to beautiful Varanasi. We slept in tents on the high plains and under the stars in the deserts. We journeyed to Everest’s mighty North Face and slept at Rongbuck monastery. We cleared road blocks in Lhasa, even pushing aside a police car with two coppers inside (thankfully they didn’t mind!). We ordered food in restaurants by pointing at other people’s dishes, because the only language we shared was smiling and laughter. We climbed mountains, and on the last night, we climbed to an abandoned part of the Great Wall of China and camped in a dazzling lightning storm.

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Yes, my hair really was that red

Hard Work Adventures

My hardest adventure was climbing Kilimanjaro. The peak is 5,895 metres and a three-day hike from the park entrance. The higher you climb, the colder it gets and the water in your bottle freezes. The altitude makes it tricky to get a good night’s sleep and makes you feel queasy, so you don’t feel like eating. Closer to the top you’ll get a headache and may drop out, because it’s just too darn hard.

The final push begins at 11pm at night, where you climb the steep scree slope under a star filled sky. The idea is to be at the top for sunrise. It sounds wondrous, but by this point all you can think about, for hours and hours, is putting one foot in front of the other.

I didn’t make the top at sunrise, I was about 100 metres below. I sat on a rock and watched the sun crest the horizon, mesmerised by its red, orange and golden glory. By that point I was empty. I couldn’t go on. And I was sure I had no energy to get down either. Did Kilimanjaro have mountain rescue?

But I was wrong. I did have more. My guide, Arbogast said, ‘you can give up if you’re tired, but you’ve come from Europe to climb this mountain.’

Talk about the power of words! I picked myself up and staggered-crawled to the crater’s rim.

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Me and Arbogast, I wouldn’t have made it without his support.

Leap of Faith Adventures

I’ve ridden white water in Chile, tandem-sky dived over the Great Lake of New Zealand and abseiled down a 100-foot freezing waterfall in France. None of these are skills I possess myself, they’re all borrowed from other people. Before each activity I feel sick with nerves and ‘what ifs.’ But I’ve done my research, I know my guides are experts, so I follow their instructions and take a leap of faith into adventure!

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Come on in! The water’s lovely.

And then there are the adventures where you have no guide, you’re on your own, it’s totally down to you and there are no grainy pictures – because when you’re in a REAL adventure, the stakes are too high to stop and pose.

If you want to know about that one, come by an event or signing table and ask.

I try to bring all my adventures into my writing. I hope I’ve succeeded. I hope you enjoy The Last Spell Breather, and it inspires you (just like the stories I read as a child) to have adventures of your own.

Happy reading. Happy writing. Happy adventuring!


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Julie Pike – Biography

Julie grew up on a council estate, nestled between the forests and foothills of the Welsh Valleys. She is passionate about adventure stories, and volunteers in local schools and libraries in Dorset, helping children find stories that excite them. She is passionate about real-life adventures too, and has crawled inside the great pyramid of Giza, travelled to the peak of Kilimanjaro, and camped on the Great Wall of China in a lightning storm.

Twitter: @juliepike


Big thanks to Julie and all the team at Oxford University Press Children’s for inviting me to kick off and share my thoughts as part of the The Last Spell Breather blog tour and for sending me a copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Julie for writing her excellent guest post!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the The Last Spell Breather blog tour for more exclusive guest posts from Julie, content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review): A Planet Full of Plastic – Neal Layton

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Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: A Planet Full of Plastic
Author & illustrator: Neal Layton (@LaytonNeal)
Publisher: Wren & Rook (@wrenandrookbook)
Page count: 32
Date of publication: 27th June 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1526361738

Perfect for Year 1, Year 2, Year 3 and Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Plastic 🧴
2. World 🌍
3. Conservation 😀


PLASTIC IS EVERYWHERE,
AND IT’S HURTING PLANET EARTH.

From animals mistaking it for food to rivers getting clogged up with it, pesky plastic is causing all sorts if problems for our planet. But the good news is we can do something about it!

Find out all about the plastic problem, and discover the ingenious ways we’re trying to fit it. Then roll up your sleeves – it’s up to all of us to make things better!


Review: As the first line of the blurb says, plastic is everywhere. In our houses, in the shops, in our streets, on our TV screens and now it’s filling up our oceans faster than we can possibly conceive. Plastic is in places it should not belong.

Kicking the book off by making us think about materials, their properties and exactly what things are made of, Neal puts us headfirst into the history and the headlines of plastic. With surprising facts such as that there was no plastic on this Earth one hundred and fifty years ago and introducing to super scientific vocabulary and terminology like biodegradable within the first five pages, this is a book for all ages.

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With Neal’s characteristic collage style complements every word of this book, the problem of plastic is made loud and clear. This fantastic non-fiction book takes on the task of raising awareness amongst us all in the plight against plastic and for that, it should be highly commended.

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So much so, that it stands apart from any other book about conservation, looking after our planet and raising global issues, that it should belong it every classroom up and down the country for our next generations. And therefore, I urge you to get this book. In fact no, I urge the government to do something about this book if they are serious about solving this plastic problem and get it in to schools.


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

If I were to ask you for the 3 Rs, you’d probably be able to give me ‘Recycle’ as the first but personally, I don’t think there’s enough said about reusing stuff.

So what things can we reuse?

Plastic bags

We really don’t really need to buy a new plastic bag every time we buy something. A reusable bag is more than good enough. Carrier bags can also be reused in the shops or as bin bags around the house. Paper bags make useful wrapping paper and twist ties can be used to secure loose items together, such as computer wires. Yet we have become such a throwaway society we have almost forgotten about reusables. Introduced in Wales in 2011, a charge to pay for plastic bags has done its bit to try to help this problem.

Jars, pots and tins

By cleaning glass jars and small pots, you can use them as small containers to store odds and ends. We do this in school with the big baked beans tins that our canteen uses. Now they store headphones, stationery and all manner of things in classrooms!

Old clothes

You’ve all heard of hand-me-downs but old clothes can also be made into other textile items such as cushion covers or teapot cosies. Why don’t you try your hand at turning your clothes into a creation of something else?

Packaging 

Packaging like foil and egg cartons can be donated to schools and nurseries, where they can be use in art and craft projects. The children love junk modelling and with their imaginations can make foil in to the fantastic and egg cartons in to the extravagant!

Envelopes

A big reusable that I am now starting to see publishers doing which is very promising is with envelopes.  By sticking labels over the address you can reuse envelopes to send your mail!


Big thanks to Neal, Namishka and all the team at Hachette/Wren & Rook for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of the A Planet Full of Plastic blog tour and for sending me a copy in exchange for this review.

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the A Planet Full of Plastic blog tour for more exclusive guest posts from Neal, content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

 

Blog Tour (Author Q&A): Check Mates – Stewart Foster (Illustrated by Leo Nickolls)

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Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Check Mates
Author: Stewart Foster (@stewfoster1)
Cover artwork: Leo Nickolls (@leonickolls)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (@simonkids_uk)
Page count: 352
Date of publication: 27th June 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN:978-1471172236

Perfect for Year5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Chess ♟️
2. Relationships 🤝
3. Grandfather 👴


Felix Schopp isn’t a problem child.
He’s a child with a problem…

Felix’s ADHD makes it hard for him to concentrate and his grades are slipping. Everyone keeps telling him to try harder, but no one realises how hard it is!

When Mum suggests Felix spends time with his grandad, Felix can’t think of anything worse. Grandad hasn’t been since Grandma died, and he’s always trying to teach Felix boring chess.

But sometimes the best lessons come in the most unexpected of places and Grandad soon shows Felix that there’s everything to play for.


Today, I’m delighted to welcome Stewart to The Reader Teacher where he’ll be answering some of my questions about Check Mates, his reading and writing influences and why he’s a bit like his main character, Felix!

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Photo credit: Tallulah Foster

 


Check Mates (5)

  • At The Reader Teacher, for my reviews, I describe books in #3Words3Emojis.
    Which 3 adjectives and 3 corresponding emojis would you choose to best describe Check Mates?
    1. Touching
    2. Triumphant
    3. Historical

Sorry, I prefer words over emojis.

  • What books, people, research, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write Check Mates?

For experience of life in East Germany I read Anna Funder’s Staziland. For the experience of chess tournaments I used The Rookie, by John Moss. I researched online for the chess moves and had them checked and rechecked by an experienced club chess player. I also interviewed two children with ADHD along with two class support workers. I thought it very important to find out what it’s like to cope with having ADHD and how schools deal with this. Of course I also used my own experiences of ADHD, as it was very evident during the writing of the book because I wrote it in half-hour burst. I just couldn’t keep still any longer than that.

  • What was the most enjoyable part of writing Check Mates?

Discovering the characters and watching them grow, was my favourite part. I loved Felix, Granddad and Jake, and each morning when I sat at my computer it was like going back and meeting my friends. I found them all very easy to write, or maybe I should say, natural.

  • In Check Mates, the main game of the story is chess. Are you good at the game yourself, maybe a grandmaster? And how does your experiences of the game influence your writing about it?

I’m a total novice at chess, pretty rubbish to be honest. However, I did play at school and in one lunchtime I was winning a game comfortably until my opponent opened his lunchbox and pulled out a peanut butter sandwich. I hate peanut butter and the smell of it made me feel so sick I lost the game. I used the scene in Check Mates, with Felix, only I swapped peanut butter out for Doritos.

  • If you were to choose the character that is most like you from Check Mates, who would it be and why?

I’m a hybrid of Felix and Jake. I’m like Felix for the terrible attention span, and like Jake for the randomness of his acts without thinking of the consequences, even though he has good intentions. I also like to think I’m loyal to my mates, like he is to Felix.

Reading and Writing (4)

  • What first attracted you to writing? Did you enjoy writing at school?

I used to write short stories and poems about my classmates in secondary school. At first, they were scared of what I’d write but after laughing at two stories they seemed to clamour to be the next one in line. It was huge fun, and much like the class comedian it made me quite popular, and we all want to be that. I loved writing in general, especially in English and History. In fact, my History teacher was a big fan until one day he said, ‘Stewart, I love your stories, but History is recollection of real events, not things you make up’. I remember us both laughing. I didn’t change the cause and outcomes of wars, but I did create a few bloody battles in between.

  • Which parts of writing do you find energise you and which parts do you find exhaust you?

The first draft is the most fun by far. I don’t plan my novels, so each page is as unknown to me as it is to the reader. It keeps me fresh, but it does lead to a ‘scruffy’ first draft to send to my editor. And that’s when the exhausting bit kicks in, going over and over the whole story again.

  • When you were a child, can you remember contacting authors or any of them ever visiting your school and if so, did this inspire you?

I loved reading Bobby Brewster stories and when the author H E Todd came to my school, I was the happiest kid on the planet. He and his books smelt of tobacco and as he signed my copy, I told him I was writing a story about a crocodile that lived under my living room carpet. He said it was a great idea and that I should finish the story. I recall running home to tell my parents I’d met a real author and wrote the story that night by torchlight. It was the most exciting time and makes me realise the importance of talking but also listening to kids when I visit schools.

  • Currently, we seem to be living in a golden age of books, especially that of children’s literature. Can you recommend any other children’s books to children (and adults!) who may be interested in similar themes explored in your book or any that you would recommend?

It would have to be Lisa Thompson. She does a wonderful job of addressing some of the issues that affect youngsters today and does it in a way that doesn’t talk down to them. When I was writing All the Things that could go Wrong, I discovered The Goldfish Boy was coming out. Both our books featured a protagonist with OCD and for a while I considered stopping writing mine as she’d done it so well. However, thankfully I continued.  Like I tell keen writers, it’s okay to write on the same subjects or themes, after all, there’s more than one book or film about the Second World War.

Check Mates and Teaching (3)

  • If you were to ‘pitch’ Check Mates in a sentence for teachers to use it in their classrooms or for parents to choose to read it at home, how would you sum it up?

A boy with ADHD learns that the best lessons come in the most unexpected places and from whom you least expect.

  • Could you suggest ways in which Check Mates could be used in the classroom for the many teachers and primary school staff that will read this and wish to use it in their schools?

I’d love to children to discuss or take part in activities to extend the reading experience, rather that have to study it piece by piece.

For example, they could talk to their grandparents and share stories about them in class. This could lead to empathy with Grandparents and understanding. What did they learn about their lives? What might child and Grandparent learn from each other.

Learn to play chess…link to maths, problem solving skills, planning, strategy, patience, focus and self-discipline. Promote discussions about sportsmanship and fair play.

Cold War, Berlin Wall are not usually studied in Primary schools, so a refreshing topic to raise and for children to be curious about. Promote discussion on separation and the value of family unit.

  • For those teachers reading this Q&A and would like to enquire about arranging the opportunity of a school visit from yourself, how would it be best to contact you regarding this?

Now I’ve finally got a decent website, it’s best to contact me through there. Stewartfosterauthor.co.uk

Two more before you go (2)!

  • What has an interviewer or blogger never asked you before, that you always wished you could answer?

How does your deafness affect your writing? A young girl asked me this a couple of weeks ago and I thought it best question in a long while.

  • Finally, can you share with our readers something about yourself that they might be surprised to learn?

I’ve run London Marathon five times.

One last one… (1)!

  • Do you have a question you would like to ask the readers of The Reader Teacher?

Do you think children should be encouraged to read books that help them escape their problems or should they read books that tackle young people’s issues directly?


Thank you Stewart for answering my questions!


Check Mates is available now to order online and from any good independent bookshop.


Big thanks to Stewart and all the team at Simon & Schuster for inviting me to do an Author Q&A as part of the Check Mates blog tour and for sending me a proof and advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Stewart for answering my questions!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the Check Mates blog tour for more exclusive guest posts from Stewart, content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

Cover Reveal & Book Giveaway: The International Yeti Collective – Paul Mason (Illustrated by Katy Riddell) – Out 17th October 2019!

Today, I’m absolutely ecstatic to exclusively reveal the cover of Paul Mason’s first book in a brand new series that combines adventure, empathy, and global thinking, The International Yeti Collective (illustrated by Katy Riddell and designed by Sophie Bransby) which will be published on 17th October 2019 by Stripes.


The International Yeti Collective

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“Without wilderness there is no yeti…there is much more behind our thirst for monsters than curiosity or escapism. There is the fear that the earth is losing the last regions where myths can flourish.”

Reinhold Messner, Mountaineer


Ella is trekking through the Himalayas with her broadcasting-explorer uncle searching for yeti, but what seems like the adventure of a lifetime is cut short when she realizes that these secretive creatures might not want to be found. Tick knows it’s against yeti law to approach humans, so when some arrive on the mountain, why does he find himself peering through the trees to get a closer look? Unbeknownst to them, their actions will set off a series of events that will threaten the existence of yeti all over the world. How can they make things right?


The International Yeti Collective draws on the worldwide myths of yeti, Bigfoot and Sasquatch, to create a fully realized society of hidden creatures on the edge of the human world. Packed with humour and excitement, this is a thrilling adventure with friendship at its heart, and with strong ecological themes – yetis help nature and keep the world in balance. Mason deftly highlights environmental conservation issues throughout this story, a subject that resonates very deeply with him and also with his readership of future change-makers, who have climate change, habitat destruction, and sustaining our planet at the forefront of their concerns.


Beautifully illustrated throughout by Ka­­ty Riddell, daughter of former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell, The International Yeti Collective is the first in a brand new series that combines adventure, empathy, and global thinking.


Praise for The International Yeti Collective

“As a biologist, I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of yetis. To do so would endanger them the world over. This book taps into the secret lives of our mythical and very hairy cousins and takes us on an adventure like no other. Tick and his hairy friends show us what it means to work together and why we need to save the world.”

 – Professor Ben Garrod, author of ‘The Chimpanzee and Me’

 “By turns funny, moving, and action-packed, THE INTERNATIONAL YETI COLLECTIVE is a fast-moving adventure with a meditative, philosophical heart. Perfect for fans of H.S. Norup’s THE MISSING BARBEGAZI.”

– Sinéad O’Hart, author of ‘The Eye of the North’ and ‘The Star-Spun Web’

 “Super excited and looking forward to this SO much. October can’t come soon enough to see this on the shelves; one of my most eagerly anticipated releases of the year!”

– Scott Evans, @MrEPrimary

“A delightful tale of yetis, bravery and protecting nature.  This is a fast-paced, heart-warming adventure.”

– Erin Hamilton, @erinlynhamilton


RRP £6.99
ISBN 9781788950848
Format Paperback
Publisher Stripes
Age 9 – 12


Paul Mason

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Photo: Emma Hughes

Paul Mason was born in London, has travelled the world, and now lives in a cottage on an island in New Zealand, with his wife and children. He has written a dozen children’s books, and some of his stories are now being used by the University of Auckland to encourage new teachers to include sustainability in their classrooms. Find Paul online: Instagram: @writerpaulmason, and Web: www.paulmasonwriter.com.


Katy Riddell

Katy Riddell grew up Brighton and was obsessed with drawing from a young age. Plenty of encouragement from her parents, both artists and illustrators, led her to spend hours writing  and illustrating her own stories, which her father (former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell) collected throughout the years.  Since graduating with a BA Hons in Illustration and Animation from Manchester Metropolitan University, Katy has worked on a variety of commissions including Pongwiffy by Kaye Umansky and Midnight Feasting by A.F. Harrold. She loves working with children, and currently runs an art club at her local school. She lives and works in Manchester.

Find Katy online: Facebook: @kriddellillustration, and Instagram: @katyriddell_illustration.


The International Yeti Collective is available to pre-order online now from Amazon, Hive, Waterstones or from any good independent bookshop.


Huge thanks to Leilah, Paul, Katy and all at Stripes for inviting me to host this stupendously good cover reveal, I am more than YETI to get my hands on a copy!


Mr E

📚


Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Stripes have kindly given me five copies of The International Yeti Collective to give away!

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If you’d like to be in with a chance of being one of the first people to read this beautiful story, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

Copies will be sent to winners when available from Stripes, as soon as possible.

Author Q&A & Giveaway!: My Cousin is a Time Traveller – David Solomons (Illustrated by Robin Boyden)

Today, I’m absolutely delighted to welcome David Solomons, author of the award-winning and incredibly popular and successful My Brother is a Superhero series, to The Reader Teacher to answer my questions to celebrate the publication of the fifth and final book in the series, My Cousin is a Time Traveller, published by Nosy Crow on 27th June 2019.


My Cousin is a Time Traveller (5)

  • At The Reader Teacher, for my reviews, I describe books in #3Words3Emojis.
    Which 3 adjectives and 3 corresponding emojis would you choose to best describe My Cousin is a Time Traveller?

    1. Superpowered
    2. Toasted
    3. Concluding

And if anyone can tell me where to find emojis in Word, that’d be super.

  • How does it feel to bring your hugely successful My Brother is a Superhero series to an end with My Cousin is a Time Traveller?

Satisfaction tinged with sadness. I began writing these books when I became a dad for the first time, and in so many ways the series is bound up with my kids. Also, these books have changed my life, giving me an unexpected midlife change of career, so there’s inevitably some sadness in saying goodbye (to the series, not my career). However, I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of creating a fitting ending.

  • What was the most enjoyable part of writing My Cousin is a Time Traveller?

Knowing that I was heading towards a final full stop was refreshing. It helped to focus the various plot strands and gave me a sense of freedom while I was writing.

  • In My Cousin is a Time Traveller, Luke discovers that his cousin can time travel (not really a spoiler alert with that title, haha!). If you could time travel, would you go forwards or backwards in time and why?

Definitely forwards in time! The past was way too dangerous. I’m terribly short-sighted and I wouldn’t have lasted two minutes before the invention of spectacles. I’d have been the straggler at the back, easy prey to every snackish sabre tooth tiger.

  • If you were to choose the character that is most like you from My Cousin is a Time Traveller, who would it be and why?

A particularly apt question for this novel, since Luke and the others receive a school visit from an author who is not unlike me. In a horribly metafictional and rather sentimental tactic, I wrote myself into the narrative so that I could say goodbye personally to my lovely characters.


Reading and Writing (4)

  • How has writing the My Brother is a Superhero series and the Doctor Who books been both similar and/or different for you?

A significant difference is the voice. My Brother is a first-person narrative told from the pov of an eleven-year-old boy. With Dr Who I use a limited third-person pov. There’s a bit of head-hopping, but most chapters are from a single character’s perspective, with one notable exception. I purposefully avoid seeing through the Doctor’s eyes. I wanted to keep her mysterious, alien, a bit unknowable.

  • In terms of upcoming work in progresses and writing your next book for children, can you share with us any of what you have planned next?

I’m working on a new funny book for Nosy Crow, but the details are top secret for now! There’s another Dr Who on the way. It’s entitled the Maze of Doom, and there might be a Minotaur loose on the London underground, among other things.

  • Hearing your book titles never fail to make me laugh. Children in all my classes have loved them. They must be some of the most brilliant in the children’s book world. How do you come up with them? What appears first in your mind: the title or the story?

First off, thank you! Frankly, they’re a nightmare to come up with. And it’s my fault, since I created a rod for my own back. I vividly remember the meeting to discuss the first sequel. I was the twit who insisted that each subsequent novel must follow the My X is a Y format. Have you noticed recently that for this age group propositional titles work very well. You could call it the ‘It Does What It Says on the Tin’ approach. Lots of The Boy WhoThe Train to… The House with… Charlie Changes into… My Brother is… With so many books on offer, the title has to work hard and fast. Tell them what it’s about, at a glance.

  • Currently, we seem to be living in a golden age of books, especially that of children’s literature. Can you recommend any other children’s books to children (and adults!) who may be interested in similar themes explored in your books or any that have read and would recommend?

I’m going to defer to you on this one – you read many more books for this age than I do. And I tend to avoid anything that’s like my own stuff. However, I do wonder if we’re living in a golden bubble. No question that there are lots of fabulous books published every month, and passionate people like you tweet about them, so that when I dip into this world it feels as if those books are everywhere. But sadly that doesn’t reflect the wider world. One of the things I have a gentle pop at in My Cousin is a Time Traveller is the whole celebrity-authored children’s book industry. My five cents: if a child is going to read one book a year, it would be better for that book to be one of the best published that year, and not one bought solely on the celebrity of its author. Not that I know how to make that happen! All brilliant suggestions, on the back of a ten-pound note, to my home address, please.


My Cousin is a Time Traveller and Teaching (3)

  • If you were to ‘pitch’ My Cousin is a Time Traveller in a sentence for teachers to use it in their classrooms or for parents to choose to read it at home, how would you sum it up?

What if the smart appliances in your home got so smart that they decided to take over the world?

Or

What if the Terminator was a four-slice toaster?

  • Could you suggest ways in which My Cousin is a Time Traveller or any of the other books in the My Brother is a Superhero series could be used in the classroom for the many teachers and primary school staff that will read this and wish to use them in their schools?

Is it OK to say I feel a sense of weariness when I read this question? I don’t write issue-driven books, or set my stories in curriculum-friendly historical milieux. When teachers want to engage a certain kind of boy, they might latch onto the superhero theme. But my experience tells me that funny books are a hard sell in the classroom. In the same way that they’re excluded from literary prizes (don’t get me started), they’re often overlooked as a teaching resource. By definition, they lack seriousness. However, I am deadly serious when I write. I wring out every drop of creativity and technique in my effort to make the books effortlessly funny. How about taking a passage that makes you laugh and digging into it? Change a word or word order in a sentence. Is it still funny? Funnier? What about the POV? Often I create humour out of the gap between the character’s perception of the world and the reader’s. Look at language. Some words are like comedy magic – inherently funny. I call it the Guacamole Effect. What I’m saying is: treat humour seriously!

  • For those teachers reading this Q&A and would like to enquire about arranging the opportunity of a school visit from yourself, how would it be best to contact you regarding this?

Please get in touch with Nosy Crow (press@nosycrow.com) for anything Superhero related. And Penguin for Dr Who stuff.


Two more before you go (2)!

  • What has an interviewer or blogger never asked you before, that you always wished you could answer?

I’m grateful that bloggers are kind, gentle and circumspect in their questioning, because I fear that the wrong (right?) question might unleash a tirade.

  • Finally, can you share with our readers something about yourself that they might be surprised to learn?

I have a mole… in my back garden. I’m like some dastardly moustache-twirling villain from a 1970s cartoon in my attempts to off the furry menace. And as in those cartoons, I always fail. Meep-Meep!


One last one… (1)!

  • Do you have a question you would like to ask the readers of The Reader Teacher?

What would encourage you to use my books in your classroom?


Thank you David for answering my questions!


Giveaway!

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I have kindly been given TEN Nosy Crow POS packs for My Cousin is a Time Traveller featuring a copy of the new book and plenty of resources, bunting, badges and display materials to give away!

If you’d like to be in with a chance of being one of ten lucky winners of this very special giveaway and this utterly brilliant series-ender, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!


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Be sure to check out the rest of the My Cousin is a Time Traveller blog tour for more exclusive guest posts & Q&As from David and content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): The Adventures of Harry Stevenson – Ali Pye

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‘Reminiscent of a rodent-style Mr Bean, Harry Stevenson will become a firm favourite for readers. These books could be the ones that start and keep a child reading.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Adventures of Harry Stevenson
Author & illustrator: Ali Pye (@alipyeillo)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (@simonkids_UK)
Page count: 192
Date of publication: 13th June 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1471170232

Perfect for Year 1, Year 2, Year 3 and Year 4.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. GuineaPig 🐹
2. Adventures🎈
3. Hilarious 😄


Meet Harry Stevenson. At first glance, he doesn’t seem any different from your average guinea pig. He can’t do magic, or talk, or secretly fly around the room when nobody is looking.

But don’t be fooled. You see, although Harry Stevenson just wants to sleep and eat (and then eat some more), somehow he always manages to get swept up on the most unexpected of adventures…


Review:

What could be better than being a guinea pig, eh? Eating… sleeping… and then eating some more sounds like quite the lifestyle to have. However Harry Stevenson is not just your average guinea pig. When life events like moving house and having a house party bring more than just a little mischief to Harry’s life, it’s up to long-time companion Billy Smith to save him from his daring and slightly dangerous exploits that he finds himself embarking on.

Flying over the town and ending up in the middle of one of the most important football matches in the local team’s history, Harry becomes swept up in swathes of shenanigans and does not do things by halves.

One of the features that will be enjoyed most throughout both tales is Harry and Billy’s unique bond of friendship, which is heartfelt, empathetic and will completely capture many of its readers’ hearts. It is clear to see that the pair understand each other fully and one would definitely not work without the other.

Coupled with Ali’s stories are her inimitable, expressive illustrations in brilliant shades of fluorescent orange which (you need to see below as they) really ensure that these stupendously good stories stand out on the shelf. Perfect for fans of illustrated fiction and who love Olga da Polga and Piggy Handsome, this guinea pig – who reminds me of a rodent-style Mr Bean – sits alone in being an entirely original creation from its two predecessors and is surely set to become a firm favourite among its readers who will be asking for more adventures. These books could be the ones that start and keep a child reading.

As it says within the pages of this story, there’s only one Harry Stevenson… well except when you’ve got two of his adventures packed into one gloriously hilarious book. I’m hoping for another two or maybe three in the next one!


‘Reminiscent of a rodent-style Mr Bean, Harry Stevenson will become a firm favourite for readers. These books could be the ones that start and keep a child reading.’


Life Lessons from Harry Stevenson

Lots of people think that because guinea pigs don’t do much apart from laze in the hay scoffing carrots, they can’t be very clever. Some* have even gone as far as describing them as ‘mindless balls of fluff.’ How wrong they are. Guinea pigs are thoughtful and sensitive types, and I’m sure that far from sitting mindlessly in their cages, they are actually pondering the meaning of life and other perplexing conundrums. It has been said that ‘leisure is the mother of philosophy’: that’s certainly the case with guinea pigs, as they have plenty of time to observe the world and mull over what they’ve seen.

I suspect that guinea pigs hide their intellect very carefully, happy to be underestimated if it means they are well fed and cared for whilst they get on with the important business of thinking. However, being a very kind and generous creature, Harry Stevenson has agreed to share a few nuggets of wisdom with us – in return for a few edible guinea pig nuggets, of course…

The Meaning of Life

Harry has been part of the Smith family for as long as he can remember: he lives with seven-year-old Billy Smith and Billy’s mum and dad, in a small and cosy flat. From his cage in Billy’s room, Harry has observed the Smiths and drawn several important conclusions. The most significant of these is the Meaning of Life itself! This, Harry has decided, is to love Billy and be loved in return. Mr and Mrs Smith appear to share this view, so it must be true. Harry thinks it could possibly apply to other families, so there you go – love and be loved. Pass it on!

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If you want something in life you need to put some effort into getting it. For example, Harry adores food. But those carrots in the Smith family’s fridge won’t come to Harry by themselves; they have to be worked for. A noisy WHEEK often does the trick and brings Billy running, bearing a tasty snack. If not, Harry needs to try harder, perhaps with some flashy jumps in the hay, or a charming scamper around his cage. Billy will be entranced and fetch the carrots: bingo!

Sometimes you have to be bold

9781471170232.in03.jpgDespite Harry’s best efforts to live a quiet and uneventful life, he has often been led astray by his greedy stomach, resulting in some tricky dilemmas. Faced with the choice of never seeing the Smiths again, or jumping on the back of a big scary dog, Harry has needed to be brave and ride that Alsatian. Similar leaps of faith have involved Harry hurling himself from a wall into the basket of a passing bicycle, and from the back of the dog onto a pizza-delivery driver’s moped. The life lesson here is: take a deep breath and face your fears!

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Having experienced excitement and drama, Harry can confirm that there really is no place like home. Thrilling adventures are all very well, but nothing can compare to spending time with people you love – preferably on a squashy sofa, watching a nature documentary, with a bunch of carrots to work through.

Eat Five a Day

You simply can’t have enough vegetables. Harry wouldn’t elaborate on this unfortunately, as he was too busy tucking into a stalk of celery.

ALI PYE Jan19 300dpi.jpgI do hope these Life Lessons are useful. If Harry Stevenson imparts any more guinea pig wisdom, you will be the first to know.

*Like my husband. He knows better now.


Ali Pye, author of The Adventures of Harry Stevenson


Big thanks to Ali, Olivia and all the team at Simon & Schuster for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of the The Adventures of Harry Stevenson blog tour and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Ali for writing such a brilliant guest post!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the The Adventures of Harry Stevenson blog tour for more exclusive guest posts from Ali, content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

Cover Reveal & Giveaway! Max the Detective Cat: The Catnap Caper – Sarah Todd Taylor (Illustrated by Nicola Kinnear)

Today, I’m absolutely thrilled to exclusively reveal the cover of Sarah Todd Taylor’s exciting third instalment in the Max the Detective Cat series, Max the Detective Cat: The Catnap Caper (illustrated by Nicola Kinnear) which will be published on 3rd October 2019 by Nosy Crow.

I’m also super happy because the very lovely people at Nosy Crow have given me three copies of The Catnap Caper to give away! Find out more below!


Max the Detective Cat: The Catnap Caper

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With a beautifully fluffy tail and a keen nose for adventure, Max the Detective Cat (HerculePoirot in feline form) is ready for any mystery…

The pampered cats of Paris are being kidnapped! Can it have something to do with a singing competition that is gripping the city? Max knows he has to solve the mystery and bring them home. Especially as he’s fallen in love with one of the victims…


 Extract:

Oscar sighed. “Well, I suppose this one will have to be solved by the police,” he said. Maximilian frowned. It would be rather splendid to solve a kidnapping. Though Max did not like to admit it, one of his favourite things about the cases he had solved had been how much of a fuss everyone made of him afterwards, and a kidnapping would make him a real hero!


 • Everyone loves a crime-busting cat!

• Beautifully written and highly illustrated throughout.

• New look covers for all the books in the series.

• Rides the popular wave of historical thrillers, but with a feline twist!

• The exciting third instalment in this middle-grade mystery series; plenty of fun and drama with a vintage crime feel.


 Editor says:

“Maxis the best cat detective out there! He’s brave and determined, and nothing, not even a delicious salmon mousse, will distract him from his case!”


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Sarah Todd Taylor

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(Photo credit: https://twitter.com/scraphamster)

Sarah Todd Taylor was brought up in Yorkshire and Wales, surrounded by books and cats. She discovered the theatre when she was a teenager and was instantly hooked, appearing in over 20 musicals in her hometown as well as helping out backstage. In her spare time she likes to sing opera in wonderful dresses, and she shares her home with her fabulous husband, two guinea pigs and a hamster. Lives in: Mid Wales.


Nicola Kinnear

Nicola Kinnear grew up in North West Kent where her inspiration for drawing was fueled by books, trips to the countryside and quite a few pets. Since graduating from the Illustration Animation BA at Kingston, Nicola has continued her love of storytelling and drawing characters through children’s book illustration. She still has quite a few pets. Lives in: Kent.


Max the Detective Cat: The Catnap Caper is available to pre-order online now or from any good bookshop.

Max the Detective Cat: The Disappearing Diva (Book 1) and Max the Detective Cat: The Phantom Portrait (Book 2) are available to order online now or from any good bookshop.


Huge thanks to Sarah, Rebecca, Julia and all at Nosy Crow for inviting me to host this super cover reveal, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!


Mr E

🐈 📚 🐱


Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Nosy Crow have kindly given me three copies of Max the Detective Cat: The Catnap Caper to give away!

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If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning a copy of this third exciting instalment, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

Copies will be sent to winners when available from Nosy Crow, as soon as possible.

Blog Tour (Review & Author Q&A): The Longest Night of Charlie Noon (Illustrated by Matt Saunders)

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‘A mind-blowing, heart-stopping, dimension-defying dash through time that thrums with tantalising twists & leaves you completely breathless. With a nod to WW2 in this masterclass in mixing suspense & science; this is Edge at his most edgiest.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Longest Night of Charlie Noon
Author: Christopher Edge (@edgechristopher)
Cover illustration: Matt Saunders (@msaunders_ink)
Publisher: Nosy Crow (@NosyCrowBooks)
Page count: 176
Date of publication: 6th June 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1788004947

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Woods 🌲
2. Lost 😬
3. Time-bending ⏰


Secrets, spies or maybe even a monster… what lies in the heart of the wood? Charlie, Dizzy and Johnny are determined to find out but when night falls without warning they become impossibly lost. Strange dangers and impossible puzzles lurk in the shadows and, as time plays tricks, Charlie starts to fear for the future…

What if this night never ends?


Review: 

As children typically do, they love a sense of mystery, adventure and playing in the natural environment and this is no different for Dizzy and Charlie. But after Dizzy tells Charlie about the appearance of something in the woods, they set off to investigate leaving the rest of the world behind. As all good friends go, there’s always one who has the sense to hold back. Cue Johnny, who insists the group need to be careful and warns them that there could be monsters roaming. Nevertheless, this does not stop them on their pursuit as they put it down to sensationalised nonsense but could this come back to bite them…?

The story begins to build and build and build and as they find themselves getting deeper in to the woods, they seem to be getting deeper into trouble with cryptic messages, puzzles and strange dangers surfacing. As night falls, darkness descends and their paths begin to disappear, it appears there is no way out and they are soon left relying on each other to find an escape route.

With the legend of child-eating, wood-dwelling Old Crony ringing in their ears, the friends are left with only the natural world to help them. Can they use what they know about code-breaking to flee the forest? A book that absolutely needs to be read to the very last page, just wait for its ending and epilogue… 

Yet again, Christopher Edge combines so successfully science with chapter-grabbing, pulsating and gripping action but this time in a wholly different way to that of Albie Bright, Jamie Drake and Maisie Day and this shows with every story, he is evolving as an establishing writer. 

A mind-blowing, heart-stopping, dimension-defying dash through time that thrums with tantalising twists & leaves you completely breathless. With a nod to WW2 in this masterclass in mixing suspense & science; this is Edge at his most edgiest.


I’m utterly delighted to have Christopher Edge, author of The Longest Night of Charlie Noon, join us on The Reader Teacher today on publication day with this extra-special interview where he shares his experiences of writing, his inspirations behind his book and the first book he remembers reading…portrait.jpg

The Longest Night of Charlie Noon (5)

  • At The Reader Teacher, for my reviews, I describe books in #3Words3Emojis.
    Which 3 adjectives and 3 corresponding emojis would you choose to best describe The Longest Night of Charlie Noon?

    1. Thrilling 🎢
    2. Twisty🌳
    3. Timeless ⌚
  • Which books, people, research, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write The Longest Night of Charlie Noon?

I had to carry out quite a lot of research when writing The Longest Night of Charlie Noon from reading mind-bending books such as The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli, to immersing myself in the work of nature writers such as Robert Macfarlane, Oliver Rackham and Roger Deakin to name but a few.  Whenever I’m working on a book, a serendipitous hand seems to guide me to find the tools that I need to tell the story from stumbling on a collection of essays by Alan Garner to the perfect song by Kate Bush suddenly blaring out of the radio. When I’d completed the first draft of The Longest Night of Charlie Noon, I rediscovered the work of Denys  Watkins-Pitchford, who wrote under the pen name  ‘BB’, and realised that in some ways the story I was writing was a strange tribute to his novel Brendon Chase which tells the story of three children who run away from home to spend a summer in the woods. The night that Charlie, Dizzy and Johnny spend in the woods is the very different from the adventures found in Brendon Chase, but I hope the story might spark the same sense of wonder about the natural world that I found in BB’s writing.

  • What was the most enjoyable part of writing The Longest Night of Charlie Noon?

The setting of the novel is an area of ancient woodland on the border of Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, and visiting these woods and mapping the story to their terrain was a really enjoyable part of the writing process, especially revisiting the woods as the seasons changed and being able to bring these elements into the story. However, I think the most enjoyable part of writing The Longest Night of Charlie Noon has been the way it has changed my brain. People talk about how reading changes the way you think, but I think writing does this too, and I now find myself much more open and receptive to the natural world in a way that has brought a real balm to my life.

  • In The Longest Night of Charlie Noon, the children in the story become lost in the woods. When you were a child, did you ever get lost in the woods and how did you get out?

I grew up in Manchester, so didn’t have too many woods nearby to get lost in. However the broader sense of being lost that Charlie feels in the story, linked to the feeling of powerlessness that can sometimes haunt you as a child, is a feeling that I do remember and in many ways The Longest Night of Charlie Noon is me sending a message back to say there is a way out of the woods in time.

  • If you were to choose the character that is most like you from The Longest Night of Charlie Noon, who would it be and why?

As a child, I did use to hide under a blanket draped over the washing line to draw the birds in my back garden, so there’s definitely a bit of Dizzy in me, but I think I’d have to choose Charlie for the reason above.

Reading and Writing (4)

  • What first attracted you to writing? Did you enjoy writing at school?

I think the stories I filled myself with as a reader, especially when growing up, are what have made me a writer. I enjoyed writing at school, but honestly thought that books were just made in factories and didn’t know there was a job you could do called ‘being an author’.

  • Which parts of writing do you find energise you and which parts do you find exhaust you?

I love the feeling you get when an idea starts to take shape in your brain. It’s really kinetic the way in which different sparks of inspiration can connect and start to become story-shaped. I always think of the famous John Peel quote about The Fall – ‘Always different, always the same’ – for the actual process of writing as this is how it is for me. It’s always hard work, but in endlessly different ways. The joys are when everything flows, and the exhaustion is when you’ve got a deadline flying towards you and not enough hours in the day.

  • When you were a child, can you remember contacting authors or any of them ever visiting your school and if so, did this inspire you?

I didn’t go to a school where authors came to visit, but I used to love comic books and one day, as a teenager, bunked off school to get my comic books signed by Neil Gaiman at a comic book shop in Manchester. I remember standing in the queue as it slowly edged to the front of the shop and watching Neil Gaiman patiently sign every comic book that was thrust in front of him and realising that he was just an ordinary person who’d written this story that I loved. That was the moment when I realised that becoming an author might not be an impossible dream and was something that I could aspire to.

  • Currently, we seem to be living in a golden age of books, especially that of children’s literature. Can you recommend any other children’s books to children (and adults!) who may be interested in similar themes explored in your book or any that have read and would recommend?

I need to be careful what I say as I don’t want to give any spoilers for The Longest Night of Charlie Noon away! Some early readers have made connections with writers such as Alan Garner and Penelope Lively in the ways in which time as a theme is explored, whilst I’d like to mention contemporary writers such as Piers Torday and Lauren St John for the way they write about the natural world, which is a key element of The Longest Night of Charlie Noon. A book I’ve recently read that I really enjoyed is Scavengers by Darren Simpson, although I don’t think this shares any themes particularly with The Longest Night of Charlie Noon, however he’s another writer who I think captures a real sense of place in his writing. 

The Longest Night of Charlie Noon and Teaching (3)

  • If you were to ‘pitch’ The Longest Night of Charlie Noon in a sentence for teachers to use it in their classrooms or for parents to choose to read it at home, how would you sum it up?

It’s a story about now and the power that we have to change the world.

  • Could you suggest ways in which The Longest Night of Charlie Noon could be used in the classroom for the many teachers and primary school staff that will read this and wish to use it in their schools?

I think there are so many subjects that could be linked to The Longest Night of Charlie Noon from building circuits in Science to create your own Morse Code key to studying changing environments in Geography. Links can be made to History, Art and Computing too, whilst the mystery that lies at the heart of the story will help children to develop their reading skills of inference, prediction and problem-solving. I really hope teachers find a wealth of inspiration inside the pages of The Longest Night of Charlie Noon and my publisher, Nosy Crow, are producing a set of Teaching Resources to accompany the book.

  • For those teachers reading this Q&A and would like to enquire about arranging the opportunity of a school visit from yourself, how would it be best to contact you regarding this?

I love visiting schools, so the best way is to get in touch with me via my website here: https://www.christopheredge.co.uk/events

Two more before you go (2)!

  • What has an interviewer or blogger never asked you before, that you always wished you could answer?

What’s the first book you remember reading? To which the answer is Tim and Tobias by Sheila K. McCullagh, the first book in a reading scheme filled with magic and mystery that set a whole generation of children on a  flightpath to reading.

  • Finally, can you share with our readers something about yourself that they might be surprised to learn?

I once won a trolley dash in a record store. For two glorious minutes my life was a cross between Supermarket Sweep and High Fidelity.

One last one… (1)!

  • Do you have a question you would like to ask the readers of The Reader Teacher?

I think Brendon Chase by B B is a bit of a lost classic, so I’d like to hear readers’ recommendations of any other forgotten children’s books they think should be rediscovered.


Big thanks to Christopher, Clare, Rebecca and all the team at Nosy Crow for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of the The Longest Night of Charlie Noon blog tour and for sending me a proof and advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Chris for answering my questions and to Rebecca for giving me the opportunity to do the cover reveal!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the The Longest Night of Charlie Noon blog tour for more exclusive content from Chris & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): Blast Off to the Moon – Ralph Timberlake (Illustrated by Euan Cook)

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‘Not only is it packed to the galaxy with rocketfuls of facts but it delivers a stand-out sense of empathy and really gives its readers the feeling that they are walking that very first and small step for man that was one giant leap for mankind.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Blast Off to the Moon!
Author: Ralph Timberlake
Illustrator: Euan Cook
Publisher: UCLan Publishing (@publishinguclan)
Page count: 40
Date of publication: 3rd June 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1912979011

Perfect for Year 3, Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Moon 🌕
2. Fascinating 😙
3. Inspirational 🤩


Have you ever wondered…

What it’s like to sleep in space?
What you eat on a space mission? And how?
What is the far side of the Moon?

Follow the thrilling story of Neil, Michael and Buzz as they make their epic trip to the Moon. Fully illustrated throughout with facts, photos and diagrams from the NASA archive – this book is the perfect way to celebrate 50 years since the first Moon landing.


Review:

As a child, I was captivated by the prospect of being an astronaut. Watching and reading all kinds of space documentaries, space books and being in awe of our planets, this book couldn’t be more perfect.

It was only upon learning more about Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and the often lesser-known but so vitally-needed Michael Collins that their feats of an astronomical nature of achieving the first moon landing on July 20th 1969 really became evident. Seeing the publication of this non-fiction space scrapbook therefore made my eyes light up.

Through its detailed and wide-ranging factual content, engaging illustrations courtesy of Euan Cook and superb introduction written by the First Briton to travel to space Helen Sharman, this book really is leading the way in commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing.

From the astronauts’ training to preparing for lift off, from the ascent and docking to returning to Earth, it is all here ready to be devoured and indulged by many young (and older!) space enthusiasts like I was myself when growing up.

Not only is it packed to the galaxy with rocketfuls of facts but it delivers a stand-out sense of empathy and really gives its readers the feeling that they are walking that very first and small step for man that was one giant leap for mankind.


Today I’m delighted to welcome Nathan Trail, who helped to produce the book along with Ralph from the British Interplanetary Society.

Blast off to the Moon! Blog Reflection – Nathan Trail

On 12 September 1962, United States President John F. Kennedy stood before thousands of people at Rice University in Houston, Texas, and declared “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Less than ten years later, on 21 July 1969, Kennedy’s goal was realised as Neil Armstrong became the first person to step on the surface of the Moon, marking humanity great technological and societal achievement to date.

As we come up on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission that took Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the Moon, I am reminded of the truly astounding technological innovation that was required during the Apollo program to achieve Kennedy’s dream. Even when faced with a seemingly impossible task and devasting failures, there is nothing more powerful than humanity’s will to succeed. I am reminded of a time when humanity’s quest to go to the Moon captivated tens of millions of people not only in the US, but around the world, transcending cultural and political divisions. As Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the lunar surface, humanity stood together—or rather, huddled around their TV sets together—in awe. I am reminded of a time when humanity’s central desire to explore reached the next frontier. Less than 500 years after Christopher Columbus traversed the Atlantic Ocean to explore the Americas, humanity had traversed the darkness and emptiness of space to explore our only natural satellite—the Moon.

And now, 50 years later, humanity, once again spurred on by its innate curiosity, is charting a course to return to the Moon and go further to Mars. This curiosity has, without a doubt, been motivated as we reflect on the Apollo 11 mission through new books and movies that recount the story of the harrowing 100 hours that preceded the touchdown of Eagle on the Moon. Blast Off to the Moon! is one of those books, combining captivating images of the Apollo 11 mission with enthralling details of the mission, from the specifications of the Saturn V launch vehicle to an overview of the astronauts’ daily meals. It will, without a doubt, inspire the next generation of astronauts that will take humanity to Mars.

Just as Apollo 11 has inspired millions around the world, so to has it inspired my desire to reach for the unknown in the face of great uncertainty. As a student of International Relations, it has inspired me to ensure that space can be an area for scientific cooperation, and that its secrets and resources, are accessible to all.


Big thanks to Nathan, Hazel and all the team at UCLan Publishing for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of the Blast Off to the Moon! blog tour and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Nathan for writing such a brilliant guest post!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the Blast Off to the Moon! blog tour for more exclusive content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

 

Review & Resources: Evie and the Animals – Matt Haig (Illustrated by Emily Gravett)

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‘Matt Haig never fails to amaze me. Another complete masterclass in empathy.
One I’ll definitely be keeping on my shelf long enough to one day hopefully read to children and grandchildren of my own.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Evie and the Animals
Author: Matt Haig (@matthaig1)
Illustrator: Emily Gravett
Publisher: Canongate (@canongatebooks)
Page count: 256
Date of publication: 6th June 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1786894281

Perfect for Year 3, Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Animals 🐶
2. Mind-chat 🧠
3. Kindness 😊


Evie was a girl who loved animals.

But Evie didn’t just love animals. She didn’t just know facts about them. She also had a very special skill. A very unusual skill.

She could HEAR what animals were thinking. And, sometimes, without moving her lips or making a sound, Evie could TALK to animals.

It was her very own SECRET SUPERPOWER…


Review:

Meet Evie. A not normal child. A special child. As she’s so called by her dad. But then again most dads call their child special. So that’s completely normal. But Evie wished and knew it would be probably easier to be just a normal child rather than have the kind of specialness that she had.

For Evie was anything but normal. For she has a talent. A super talent known as The Talent. A talent so good that most of us probably wish we had it too; talking to animals. But it’s not quite the Doctor Doolittle-esque talent we all have seen before. This is a deeper, more refined talent of communicating through thought and the art of the mind-chat. As we know, animals are skilled in the form of non-verbal communication; a wag of a tail, a tilt of a head, echolocation, and many more modes of language are the ways in which they tell us how they are feeling. But Evie really knows their thoughts; warts and all.

Beginning with the school rabbit who hates being held up in its hutch all day and longs for the moment to escape. Cue Evie who puts thought in to action and releases it to the wild, hoping she doesn’t get in trouble in the process. However this small act of kindness comes back to haunt her as she discovers that the Talent that she holds is way more powerful than she could ever imagine. Promising to her dad that she’ll never use it again, it only takes a year for it to resurface again and this time everything changes…

With the animal world up in arms and every animal in danger, can Evie – who has the almost-telekinetic mind power of Matilda – use the Talent and herself for the greater good and use what she knows best and her inner strength to dare to be different and be herself in order to save everyone she loves?

Guaranteed to strike a chord with animal lovers, this book (with its joyful and fabulously distinctive illustrations from the incredible Emily Gravett) is, as we’ve come to expect from Matt, a complete masterclass in empathy. With one of the most important messages in a children’s books for years, this is a story that’s not just for the next generation but for all generations.

Subtly scattered throughout the story lies the true astuteness, power and genius of Matt Haig’s writing. He never fails to amaze me. In each of his books, there’s always something that will resonate deeper than you first think. Deeper than most of us realise that stays with us way after we’ve read the last page and this is no different.

I’ll leave you with one of these gems: ‘Kindness is a boomerang. You throw it out and you get it back. You had done kind things in the world, and you had been rewarded with kindness in return.’

For me, if I had to choose two attributes or qualities that a child can develop during their primary-aged years, it would be kindness and empathy and this book achieves this so brilliantly and in effect, makes this story a must-read. In fact, this is one I’ll definitely be keeping on my shelf long enough to one day hopefully read to children and grandchildren of my own.


Resources:

There is an Evie and the Animals activity pack, bookmarks and a teachers’ pack available for KS2 which includes extracts, discussion questions and activities that are aimed at developing children’s awareness of the natural world around them and stimulating discussion around important themes in the story.

This can be found at Canongate or downloaded below.

Activity pack

Bookmarks

Teacher’s Pack


Big thanks to Jen at Shapes4Schools and all the team at Canongate for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Mr E


 

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post: Grumpycorn: introducing… JELLYFISH!) – Sarah McIntyre

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‘Coupled not only with Sarah’s words but her ever-characterful and rainbow-dazzling illustrations that make readers instantly interested too, this is a quick-witted, frivolous and fun story that turns the art of distraction on its head and on its horn.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Grumpycorn
Author & Illustrator: Sarah McIntyre (@jabberworks)
Publisher: Scholastic (@scholasticuk)
Page count: 32
Date of publication: 2nd May 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1407180823

Perfect for Reception, Year 1, Year 2 and Year 3.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Unicorn 🦄
2. Writing ✍️
3. Cookies 🍪


Unicorn wants to write the most fabulous story in the world. He has a fancy notebook. A special fluffy pen. He has everything just perfect. But Unicorn has no idea what to write!

When his friends try to join in, will Unicorn turn into a… Grumpycorn?


Review:

Procrastination; the action of postponing or delaying something. Some of us do it without realising we are. Some of us do it realising we are. Most of us could call ourselves masters of the art of procrastination. But for Unicorn, procrastination could lead to disastrous consequences.

Listening to authors talking about and discussing their writing processes is one of the most fascinating things to hear because they are all different. Wildly different, in fact. For some, it is as close to the word ‘easy’ as you can describe. Ideas come fully-formed and almost write themselves down word by word on the page in front of them, spilling out for all to see. For others, it can be arduous, consuming, complicated, soul-searching and takes every last bit out of the writer; warts and all. But what happens when on that first page… within that first paragraph… within that first line… nothing appears? Yes, we’ve all heard of that all too-familiar term of writer’s block. Therefore I’m sure every published, and aspiring, children’s author can self-identify with the feelings of Unicorn within this book.

Sitting there with his fancy notebook but still feeling like Grumpycorn can’t get his writing mojo going, he turns his attention to reaching for his special fluffy pen. Surely this will be the key to unlocking his words for as they say ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ and a special fluffy pen has two more adjectives than just ‘the pen’. But no… Maybe a cup of special moonberry tea will be the catalyst for creativity…? Nope. Not that either.

So what about when aquatic friends Narwhal, Mermaid and Jellyfish knock on his door? Can Unicorn put his friends and their ideas to good use… especially when they involve baked goods in order to help him to write the most FABULOUS* story in the world?

Coupled not only with Sarah’s words but her ever-characterful and rainbow-dazzling illustrations that make readers instantly interested too, this is a quick-witted, frivolous and fun story that turns the art of distraction on its head and on its horn.


Today I am delighted to welcome the brilliant Sarah McIntyre to the blog with a special guest post to celebrate the release of her newest picture book, the fabulous, ‘Grumpycorn’, talking about one very special character that makes her smile the most!

Grumpycorn: introducing… JELLYFISH!

Of all the characters in my new Grumpycorn picture book, Jellyfish makes me smile the most. She’s so cheery and enthusiastic and really quite clueless. Even though Unicorn has turned down ideas by Narwhal and Mermaid for his story, she’s SURE that when Unicorn hears her ideas, that he won’t be able to resist writing her into his fabulous story.

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And she is so FULL OF IDEAS! Clearly this interplanetary jellyfish story MUST HAPPEN. 

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But Jellyfish’s effusive outpouring of directions for Unicorn are the final straw that make him blow a fuse. Unicorn doesn’t want Jellyfish’s ideas, he wants HIS OWN ideas. …And he doesn’t have any.

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What makes me laugh about Jellyfish is that, even though Unicorn’s hollered at him, Jellyfish is still so upset that this fabulous story hasn’t been written. Look at her shocked little face! I think she’s rather enjoying all the drama being created by Unicorn’s diva meltdown.

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Endlessly optimistic – ‘Everyone loves jellyfish!’ – Jellyfish will finally get to take part in the creation of this Fabulous Story. …And so can you, by drawing Jellyfish! For all of my books, I create drawing tutorials and other activities, and you can download this and other fun Grumpycorn things to do here on my website!

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Big thanks to Sarah, Louisa and all the team at Scholastic for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of the Grumpycorn blog tour and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Sarah for writing such a brilliant guest post!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the Grumpycorn blog tour for more reviews & exclusive guest posts from Sarah and these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review): BOOT: small robot, BIG adventure – Shane Hegarty (Illustrated by Ben Mantle)

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‘Breaking down the fourth wall between robot and reader, this small robot is sure to be a HUGE hit. Empathy, compassion and adventure combine in this read that’ll leave you feeling nuts and bolts about BOOT.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: BOOT: small robot, BIG adventure
Author: Shane Hegarty (@shanehegarty)
Illustrator: Ben Mantle (@BenMMantle)
Publisher: Hodder/Hachette (@hodderchildrens)
Page count: 240
Date of publication: 16th May 2019
Series status: First in the BOOT series
ISBN: 978-1444949360

Perfect for Year 2, Year 3, Year 4 and Year 5.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Robot 🤖
2. Empathy ☺️
3. Human 👫


Hello! I’m BOOT.
(I’m a robot.)

I woke up in a scrapyard with a cracked screen and only two-and-a-half memories. I know I had an owner, Beth, and I’m certain she never meant to lose me. I have to find her. I just don’t know her…

Join BOOT on a dangerous adventure to find where home is, what friends look like, and why humans are so leaky and weird.


Review: Waking up in a scrapyard with only two-and-a-half memories to your name may seem like something is wrong. But for BOOT it is glaringly wrong because he has been built to store millions of memories and even has room in his left butt cheek for emergencies. As you can most probably tell by now, BOOT is not a human. BOOT is a robot.

At the beginning of this book, we find BOOT inches from a smashing, mashing, bashing, grinding machine which is going to make BOOT in to lots of mini-BOOTs any minute… Knowing he has to get away fast, BOOT escapes the scrapyard to go and find Beth but this is not as easy as BOOT initially thought. Trying to make sense of sketchy memories, people like the detestable Flint out to get him and the world becoming bigger and bigger for every step that BOOT takes, it seems like this could be quite the challenge for him. Will he find his rightful owner…?

The biggest element of this book is the empathy that the reader develops for BOOT and what this book does so well is convey empathy for younger readers in the most humanely way possible. For when BOOT realises he is feeling certain emotions, it is almost that BOOT checks with the reader the strange emotion he is experiencing for the first time and breaks down that fourth wall between robot and reader.

Brilliantly illustrated by Ben Mantle whose illustrations go hand-in-hand in bringing Shane’s mechanical world to life, and with a rag-tag group of robot friends to help him on his way, a yearning sense of gutsy resilience that keeps BOOT going and a personality which is up there with the very best of fictional robots such as Wall-E, R2D2 and the toys of Toy Story; this small robot is sure to be a HUGE hit. For me, it’s on the same level as Tin by Padraig Kenny but will definitely appeal to that widely underrated 6-9 year old readership who love illustrated fiction and being a big fan of Shane’s Dartmouth series myself and recommending this lots, it is fantastic to now be able to suggest something written by him to a younger audience also. I know it’s certainly left me feeling nuts and bolts about BOOT and I can’t wait for many more adventures from Shane and Ben.

‘Breaking down the fourth wall between robot and reader, this small robot is sure to be a HUGE hit. Empathy, compassion and adventure combine in this read that’ll leave you feeling nuts and bolts about BOOT.’


As part of the BOOT blog tour, I’ve been asked to revisit a piece of technology that holds special memories for me.

When I mention certain devices and pieces of technology to the class I teach, they give me the most weirdest of looks back as if to say “Mr Evans, we weren’t born then” or “We think what you’re telling us about didn’t really exist” or “We think you should know as ICT co-ordinator that we’re digital natives”. But hang on a minute, for I was only born in the 1990s.

So the piece of technology that I remember growing up with is the Nokia 3310.

Having a mobile phone was huge in this era, and I distinctly remember my mum having a huge brick to start off with and then changing to this thing of absolute beauty and iconic status which has been recently updated.

Most fondly, I remember playing the wonderful game of Snake. For most modern day children, this game would not be enough. Watching a dashed line move round the screen almost one-pixel at a time taking its toll getting round the screen to eat another pixel-shaped bit of food and growing longer and getting quicker each time were many of the satisfying things about the simplicity of the game. Like most modern day children in front of their PS4s and X-Boxes (and other electronically devices that are available), I’m sure this game had many playing for hours.

So maybe, children of the 21st century we’re not all that different after all!

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Big thanks to Shane, Lucy and all the team at Hodder & Hachette for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of the BOOT blog tour and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the BOOT blog tour for more reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): Lily and the Rockets – Rebecca Stevens (Illustrated by Harriet Taylor Seed)

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‘The legacy of this lady deserves to live on. Keep your eye on the ball and this book with its fascinating insight in to the beautiful game during wartime. Rebecca Stevens proves that girls really did move the goalposts for all the right reasons.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Lily and the Rockets
Author: Rebecca Stevens (@rstevenswriter)
Cover illustration: Harriet Taylor Seed
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 304
Date of publication: 2nd May 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1912626120

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Football ⚽
2. Feminism 👧
3. Friendship 🤝


It’s 1917. Lily spends her days working in a munitions factory, her nights picking metal out of her hair, and her lunchtimes kicking a ball with her workmates. Together they form a football team, The Rockets, and a league soon follows. But when the war ends, the girls lose both their jobs and their football. Not Lily. If her only chance of being a goalie is to play with the men, then that’s what she’ll do.


Review: At the current moment, women’ football could not be in a stronger place. (In fact as I write this book review, BBC Breakfast are actually discussing this right now.) What with primetime broadcasts of the Women’s FA Cup Final and the Women’s World Cup being centre-stage, the creation of the FA Women’s Super League and with recent news of women managers wanting to being involved with the mens’ leagues, it is fantastic to see that girls really are moving the goalposts.

With Lily and the Rockets, Rebecca Stevens takes us back to First World War England for a fascinating, historical insight in to the beautiful game during wartime. Having always been taller than her peers, Lily Dodd stands out. And with a dream to play professional football as a goalkeeper, she stands out even more to her friends and her neighbours and her whole town who think she’s got absolutely no chance of achieving this. Nevertheless, her dream is kept alive whilst living with her football-mad dad, after the death of her mother, who taught her her shot-stopping skills and to remember to always ‘watch the player, not the ball‘.

Leaving school at fourteen, Lily and best friend Amy May dream of what to do next. For the two girls need employment. Living close to the munitions factory in Woolwich, the Arsenal, there’s only one choice for the two. However upon hearing news of her brother’s death, Amy decides determinedly to go off and help the nurses in France as this is her calling. Leaving Lily alone and needing work, she lies about her age to join the ladies at the munitions factory working hard and smelling of metal.

At the factory, Lily is eating her lunch one day when she hears the women playing outside and as she’s called in to action to stop an errant ball hitting a very important visitor to the factory, the team soon realise that they’ve found their goalkeeper that they’re very much in need of. As the team comes together and begins playing in a local league, the crowds get bigger and the team goes from strength to strength. But with the end of the war, comes the beginning of the returning of the male soldiers and with that the loss of jobs in the munitions factory for the ladies and the loss of their beloved football team. What will Lily do to keep her dream going…?

Resolute, resilient and slightly radical, she ends up trying out for nearby rivals of Tottenham Hotspur (my team!) but under the guise of dressing as a boy. Will this help her in her quest to reach her dream or will her true identity be revealed?

Based on the real-life experiences of Lily Parr, who Rebecca talks more about below in her guest post, this captivating story is a life lesson to be learnt for all of us. Breaking convention and being a pioneer in the game, through being there at the time the FA banned the women’s game but not stopping playing and being there when they finally revoked the ban in 1971, it is clear to see that the life of Lily Parr proves that she is not only the greatest women’s player to have lived so far but she should be recognised for the powerful part she played in standing up for what she believed in, what she aspired to be and the way in which the game has developed. I really hope that as many current and future women footballers find out about the achievements of this women as the legacy of this lady deserves to live on. I was going to end this review by asking the FA to commemorate her achievements with a statue but it is testament that upon further research, this is already scheduled to happen. Hats off to the National Football Museum for honouring her like this.


‘The legacy of this lady deserves to live on. Keep your eye on the ball and this book with its fascinating insight in to the beautiful game during wartime. Rebecca Stevens proves that girls really did move the goalposts for all the right reasons.’


‘Football is all very well as a game for rough girls, but it is hardly suitable for delicate boys.’  Oscar Wilde

‘Get me to the hospital as quick as you can, she’s gone and broke me flamin’ arm!’ Professional male goalkeeper after attempting to block a shot from the great Lily Parr (aged fifteen), 1919

Lily and the Rockets: How it began

During World War 1 when the young men and boys were away fighting and dying in the mud and blood of France, their sisters and sweethearts took their places in the factories, making the munitions that were needed for the war.  They also took over the football teams.  At first seen as a novelty, a bit of a laugh, the women’s game grew in popularity until it was drawing huge crowds. The biggest was 53,000 people in the ground with over 14,000 locked out – a record for a women’s match that wasn’t beaten until the 2012 Olympics when England played Brazil.

Lily-Parr.pngLily and the Rockets is a mixture of fact and fiction. Lily Dodd, the central character, didn’t actually exist, but there were lots of other Lilys (and Peggys and Pollys and Jesses) who did. I borrowed my Lily’s name from a Lily who many people think was the greatest female player of all time. Lily Parr started playing when she was only fourteen. She scored forty-three goals in her first season and went on to score nearly a thousand in her playing career. Like my Lily, Lily Parr was a tall girl, nearly six feet, who was said to have a harder shot than most male players. One of her teammates wrote that she’d never seen a woman – ‘nor any man’ – kick a ball like Lily. When a professional male goalkeeper challenged Lily to get a goal past him, she accepted and went on, not just to score, but to break his arm with the power of her shot.

Stories like this make history come alive for me. Just as you can feel the years peel away when you stare into the eyes of a young soldier posing proudly in his uniform before he goes off to the trenches, you can be inspired by stories of girls like Lily Parr, who against all odds became an international football star and continued to play until she was forty five. Inspired to follow your star, to be different, to be yourself.

Or, like me, be inspired to write a story about it.

LILY AND THE ROCKETS by Rebecca Stevens out now in paperback
(£6.99, Chicken House)

Follow Rebecca Stevens on twitter @rstevenswriter

www.chickenhousebooks.com


Big thanks to Rebecca, Laura and all the team at Chicken House for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of the Lily and the Rockets blog tour and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Rebecca for writing such a brilliant and interesting guest post!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the Lily and the Rockets blog tour for more reviews & exclusive guest posts from Rebecca and these brilliant book bloggers!

 

 

Blog Tour (Review & Author Q&A): Starfell: Willow Moss and the Lost Day – Dominique Valente (Illustrated by Sarah Warburton)

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‘Beautifully written and full of surprises; I can not recommend this magical misfit highly enough. Once you fall into the world of Starfell, you won’t want to leave.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Starfell: Willow Moss and the Lost Day
Author: Dominique Valente (@domrosevalente)
Illustrator: Sarah Warburton (@SarahWarbie)
Publisher: HarperCollins (@HarperCollinsCh)
Page count: 288
Date of publication: 2nd May 2019
Series status: First in the Starfell series
ISBN: 978-0008308391

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Enchanting ✨
2. Mesmerising 🤩
3. Courage 💪


Willow Moss is a bit odd. But then the best people often are – and sometimes odd is what it take to save the day…

Willow Moss, the youngest and least powerful sister in a family of witches, has a magical ability for finding lost things – like keys, or socks, or wooden teeth. Useful, but not exactly exciting . . .

Then the most powerful witch in the world of Starfell turns up at Willow’s door and asks for her help. A whole day – last Tuesday to be precise – has gone missing. Completely. And, without it, the whole universe could unravel.

Now Willow holds the fate of Starfell in her rather unremarkable hands . . . Can she find the day to save the day?


Review: You know how the week goes… Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. But where’s Tuesday gone? I’m sure sometimes you feel that the week whizzes by that you lose sense of the days but what happens when an actual day of the week goes missing from memories…?

As magic manifests itself in families, everyone normally gets their fair share however for Willow Moss it seems that she’s drawn the short straw in her family (along with her dad) as the major and ‘proper’ magical powers went to her mother and her sisters, leaving her with a little magical power that in the beginning of the book isn’t proving itself to be what one would call a magical power – finding lost things. Like keys. Or socks. Or recently, old Jeremiah Crotchet’s wooden teeth.

However Willow’s luck soon changes when witch of all witches, Moreg Vaine turns up at her doorstep, invites herself in for a cup of tea and invites Willow – as the chosen one – to join her on the most magical of quests to seek out that missing day. With curiosity getting the better of her, Willow ends up embarking on a journey with a cat-like (although don’t let anybody hear you calling it that!) sidekick called Oswin that’s as grouchy as he is full of gags, across a sprawling and enchanted world full of dragons, trolls, wizards and monsters to try to locate the lost day. There is nothing not to love about this book except maybe when you need to watch out for some brotherly baddies who go by the name of the Brothers of Wol intent on taking over the world!

Dominique doesn’t just write about magic, she writes with magic and this is only furthered by the wondrous, characterful illustrations of Sarah Warburton who propel this story to captivating heights with a cover that will make everyone who sees this book want to snatch it from the shelves. As a result, I want to make sure every child has the opportunity of reading this in my school. Not only because of it’s beautiful and beguiling look but also because of its messages of self-worth, self-belief and overcoming uncertainty that stay with you long after you’ve read this charming story. 

Beautifully written, irresistibly spellbinding and full of surprises; I can not recommend this magical misfit highly enough. Once you fall into the world of Willow Moss and Starfell, you won’t want to leave. Please take me back, Dominique!


‘Beautifully written and full of surprises; I can not recommend this magical misfit highly enough. Once you fall into the world of Starfell, you won’t want to leave.’


I’m delighted to welcome Dominique to The Reader Teacher today where she’ll be answering some of my questions about Starfell, her reading and writing influences and how she re-found her own self-confidence and self-belief, mirroring Willow, when writing the book! dom.jpg

  • At The Reader Teacher, for my reviews, I describe books in #3Words3Emojis.
    Which 3 adjectives and 3 corresponding emojis would you choose to best describe Starfell?

    1. Magical ⭐
    2. Witchy 🧹
    3. Quirky 🤪
  • What books, people, research, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write Starfell?

Since I can remember I have adored stories about magic. The story that hit me like a thunderbolt as a child that really made me fall in love with fantasy worlds and inspired me later to create my own, was The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. It’s why I have my own enchanted forest and my own rather magical tree, called the Great Wisperia Tree. Before then parents and other grown ups had given me fairy tales with stories about princesses, which wasn’t something I ever felt that I related to. Cinderella and romance, bored me. I always preferred the witches in those tales, they were far more interesting to me. One of the best presents I ever received as a child was a colouring book with witches on funny brooms, I still remember that one had an engine and I loved it. So when the time came to write my own brooms I knew one would have to have an engine too! I read Narnia, Alice in Wonderland and later fell hard for the Discworld, and the novels of Terry Pratchett. I think this love of quirk definitely influenced STARFELL.

I was also inspired by my love of plants and trees and the natural world – the hidden ‘magic’ of the world around us. For instance, scientists believe that plants and trees communicate with one another, they share their nutrients and help one another when they are distressed. They believe that plants can see and hear and smell just without noses or eyes or ears, and I thought it would be fun to bring this into my world, in a more direct way – by giving some of the plants eyes or noses and making the trees feel more alive …

Also, while the story rests on a fun and quirky world. I wanted it to be rooted in a world we recognise, with some of the same prejudices and issues we all face. I wanted to create a story that celebrated differences, that embraced being other and saw the value in being who you are. In many ways, Willow’s story – having the least magical ability – is a parallel with me coming to terms with my own difficulties growing up with a disability and learning to embrace who I was.

  • What was the most enjoyable part of writing Starfell?

So many. I think creating the characters. Each one appeared over the course of seven years. I really took my time in getting to know each one, almost like a friend. Also creating the world – that had been endlessly fun. I’ve just finished the first draft of book two and it has been fun exploring an area I hadn’t until then – the waterways.

  • In Starfell, your protagonist Willow Moss’ magical power bestowed upon her is in finding lost things. What is the most important thing that you have lost and found again?

Lovely question. I’d have to say my self-belief. I think it has taken so many knocks over the years, and there was a time when it was really quite thin, but I’ve done a lot of work on that and it feels like it is finally entering more solid ground.

  • If you were to choose the character that is most like you from Starfell, who would it be and why?

It would have to be Willow. We’re not completely the same but I think of all the characters I’ve ever written she’s the most like me. I’m the youngest in my family, and often felt the least special, with two rather fabulous older brothers who were popular and sporty. Like Willow I had to learn to embrace who I was, and put some value on it too. She’s kind, in a world that often isn’t, and that can be hard when you’re a bit sensitive. She’s a do-er, and just gets on with things. Which I think I’m like to a degree. Growing up a lot of things were left to me to do – like the washing and some of the cooking as my brothers were far too busy being important and my mother worked full-time so I used to help out a lot.

Reading and Writing (4)

  • What first attracted you to writing? Did you enjoy writing at school?

Reading. Ever since I realised that books were written by real people I made a pact with myself that I’d write a novel someday. My first attempts at it weren’t the best, but I kept at it. It took quite a few years before a teacher properly praised me, but when one did, it changed everything. Because the teacher made a really big fuss. I was about fifteen, and I think my life can probably be divided into before and after that moment.

  • Which parts of writing do you find energise you and which parts do you find exhaust you?

The first time I sit down to write is electric, it usually starts with just a glimmer of an idea for the first page. Not much else, but I get so fuelled up it’s hard to sit still. Getting to the middle or a few chapters from the end though is like wading against a strong current with weights on my ankles … also the line edits can be a bit taxing and the copyedit too – as there’s always so many changes and it can feel like an assault.

  • When you were a child, can you remember contacting authors or any of them ever visiting your school and if so, did this inspire you?

If only. I grew up in Johannesburg and school visits were just not something that ever happened. I would have loved it though.

  • Currently, we seem to be living in a golden age of books, especially that of children’s literature. Can you recommend any other children’s books to children (and adults!) who may be interested in similar themes explored in your book or any that you would recommend?

I agree, there’s so many wonderful children’s stories. Recent favourites include Pages and Co: Tilly and the Book Wanderers by Anna James, The Train to Impossible Places by P.G. Bell, Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk and Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend.

Starfell and Teaching (3)

  • If you were to ‘pitch’ Starfell in a sentence for teachers to use it in their classrooms or for parents to choose to read it at home, how would you sum it up?

When last Tuesday goes missing a young witch with the worst ability in the family – the ability to find lost things – must find the day, to save the day.

  • Could you suggest ways in which Starfell could be used in the classroom for the many teachers and primary school staff that will read this and wish to use it in their schools?

The joy of imagination – how would you create your world. If you looked at the things you loved, what would your world look like if you could design it yourself? The hidden magic of plants and trees. Themes – celebrating differences, self-love, self-worth and acceptance, and tolerance – it touches on themes of segregation and how hurtful and pointless it is.

  • For those teachers reading this Q&A and would like to enquire about arranging the opportunity of a school visit from yourself, how would it be best to contact you regarding this?

It would be best to chat to my publishers’ HarperCollins to arrange this.

Two more before you go (2)!

  • What has an interviewer or blogger never asked you before, that you always wished you could answer?

Which place would you most like to visit in Starfell and why? I think it would have to be Wisperia because I’d love to see all the unusual plants and animals, and to spend the night in Nolin Sometimes’ tree house.

  • Finally, can you share with our readers something about yourself that they might be surprised to learn?

I was briefly a florist.

                                                            One last one… (1)!

  • Do you have a question you would like to ask the readers of The Reader Teacher?

In the world of Starfell not everyone who is lucky enough to have magic get the really good bits. What is your special ability – not the one you’d like but what it would most likely be? For me, it’s probably the ability to spell most words. I just have an uncanny knack for that.

STARFELL: Willow Moss and the Lost Day by Dominique Valente out now in hardback (£12.99, HarperCollins Children’s Books)

#Starfell

Follow Dominique on Twitter: @domrosevalente


Big thanks to Dominique, Laura and all the team at HarperCollins for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of the Starfell blog tour and for sending me a proof and advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Dominique for answering my questions, it was such a pleasure to interview you!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the Starfell blog tour for more reviews & exclusive Q&As and guest posts from Dominique and these brilliant book bloggers!

 

 

Pontypridd Children’s Book Festival 2019

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Today I am absolutely delighted to be blogging from Pontypridd Museum for the second Pontypridd Children’s Book Festival! A children’s book festival in partnership with Cardiff Book Festival and Pontypridd Town Council held today on Saturday 18th May 2019 at Pontypridd Museum from 10am-5pm.

It’s an all day festival for children and families to celebrate books of all kinds, inspire new authors and enjoy reading, writing and storytelling with joy, fun and friendship. It’s taking place at the beautiful surroundings of the Pontypridd Museum and Pontypridd Library, spilling out onto the banks of the River Taff, under the shadow of the famous old Pontypridd bridge. The event has free entry, displays, props, music and activities as well as ticketed events with authors, readings, masterclasses and Q&As.

Throughout the day, you can see updates of the festival, author talks, events and goings on of the day here and through my Twitter feed (@MrEPrimary) and also at Pontypridd Children’s Book Festival Facebook and Twitter pages.

#PontyKidsBooksFest2019


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Meet David Brayley, author of Champion of Champions! £3

Reading – How It changed my life and made me a sports author.

Sharing how his love of reading for pleasure started thanks to him and his best friend Tony voraciously reading books such as Rothmans’ Football Yearbook 1974-75, David spoke about how reading as a child helped him to not only gain an encyclopaedic knowledge of the football league teams but also unbeknownst to him at the time, his reading skills developing in school.

Further on, David spoke about how hard work led his childhood friends to play professional football for the team that he wanted to play for, Swansea City, even though he had the natural talent to get there himself. Feeling proud of his friends but slightly envious at the same time, David kept in touch with his sporting friends through his love of reading and as a result of the books he read as a child, this led to his life changing in more ways than one. With Tony, his childhood friend, getting back in touch with him to ask him to write his book, There’s Only 2 Tony Cotteys.

51jqBzotXjL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgAs a boyhood Swansea City fan himself, and realising the impact that football and sport books had on him, David also got in touch with friend Ashley Williams, captain of Swansea City at the time that they won promotion to Premier League and ended up writing his book, Ashley Williams: My Premier League Diary, too.  David soon became more well known – even worldwide in parts of South America – and for David, this came full circle as his beloved Swansea City invited him to write a book of the club’s history in the format of a quiz book, The Official Swansea City Quiz Book (linking back to what David loved reading as a child) and going on to write his own novel Champion of Champions, proving that the effects of reading can result in more than we could ever imagine!


Poetry Workshop with clare e potter £3

With a vast array of objects adorning the room, and introducing an antiquated and shabby-looking suitcase, Clare spoke about the importance of objects; their value to us and how they can be a source of inspiration to get us talking, writing and sharing.

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Reading ‘An Ode to My Socks’, written by Pablo Neruda and ‘Fork’ by Charles Simic for their words to act as inspiration, it soon became clear to the audience that there is extraordinary opportunity and possibility in the ordinary objects that are around us if we look at them from a slightly different and altogether imaginative angle. Could a fork be a sword or even… a dinglehopper?

What made the workshop was the level of detail, perspective, emotion and creativity in the poems created and read by the children and adults out loud at the end of the session… including a poem from one of the children in my class with the line ‘a rose standing proud and cold; desperate for someone to hold’.


All aboard The Train to Impossible Places with P.G. Bell £3

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Talking about The Train to Impossible Places to a packed audience, Peter began by telling us about a different kind of troll that he set out to create for his fantastical and magical adventure story which is about as far removed from a typical troll as you can think or as moviemakers can portray.

8db10dc6570e4b64d57e098a176aa804adafbdfd.jpgAs the sound of metal on metal clanged loudly, the Impossible Postal Service smashes itself through the underneath of Suzy’s house revealing its troll, Fletch and its driver to her. As this is not a usual encounter for Suzy, curiosity gets the better of her and she realises she has to be involved on this wildly inventive, thrill-ride of a journey on a train that’s powered by nuclear bananas to universes and realms beyond your wildest imagination! Trollville awaits…

Sharing favourite bedtime stories with the audience Peter revealing that in fact The Train to Impossible Places itself started out as a bedtime story for his son. Racking his brains, he felt he had to take inspiration from somewhere and so The Polar Express crossed his mind. However, what if the train hadn’t just pulled up outside the child’s house but roared its way through the house nearly killing the child in the first chapter and so, The Train to Impossible Places was born.

Having a go at making our own new impossible trains that deliver ice-cream, destroy everything in their wake and snatch children complete with dragons, ghosts and grandmas; nothing is impossible in the imagination of Peter and Pontypridd.


Witch Wars with Sibéal Pounder £3

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Newsflash! Multiple witches spotted in Pontypridd! Appearing within the audience, there were many witches’ hats, wigs and goings-on during Sibéal’s session where she shared her massively successful Witch Wars series, the first of which was shortlisted for Waterstones’ Children’s Book Prize in 2016.

Swapping between Witch Wars and newest series Bad Mermaids, Sibéal spoke hilariously as the audience created real-life versions of her characters and about her magical lands called Swirly Shell, Anchor Rock, Lobstertown and Oysterdale to mash up both series in one creating a new merwitch adventure; even dousing a witch in water and calling one of the characters the best name in the witching world, Witchy Witchbum!


Storm Hound with Claire Fayers £3

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Giving us historical accounts of The Wild Hunt, Claire started with the whole room sat in 81tjuavr4pl-2.jpgsuspense. Horses’ hooves thudding; hounds barking; thunder crashing; lightning flashing, the sound and the spectacle of the hunt is not one to be reckoned with. However lagging behind was a hound called Storm and he couldn’t quite keep up…

This is where the creation of Claire’s (as I called it when I recently reviewed it) electrifying, exciting, entertaining and endearing novel, Storm Hound came fromBut you’re probably thinking that Storm is a strong, stubborn wolf hound full of ferocity however Storm is just a little bit different. Full of cuteness but bestowed with magical powers.

Talking more about norse gods like Odin, Loki and Thor; mythical beasts such as dragons, unicorns and even the Loch Ness Monster and with the appearance of sheep, including a sheep quiz. Spoiler alert! Sheep have rectangular pupils, there are over 1000 breeds of sheep and they can recognise 50 other sheep!). This session was every bit as fun and fantastic as this story is!

Set in the wonderful world of Wales, and brimming with legend, this is a modern-day myth of its very own.


Writing for Children Workshop with Eloise Williams £5

Introducing her three stories for children: Elen’s Island, Gaslight and Seaglass, Eloise began by sharing some of the real-life and literary influences behind her books.

Starting the session atmospherically in the dark (reason for lack of author picture above!), Eloise – a trained actress herself, and now an expert in creative writing and teaching creative writing – invited the audience to visualise and imagine themselves within their own thoughts, feelings, emotions, senses and surroundings to see the world through the eyes of a child.

Developing settings by honing in on images of places and landscapes and focusing on asking questions to create a character including their name, age and their best and worst memories helped the audience to bring distinct facets of their characters’ personalities, strengths and insecurities to life. Cue a crowd naturally captured by concentration! The session ended with an spontaneous author Q&A panel with Eloise, Claire Fayers and Sarah Todd Taylor, author of the wonderful Max the Detective Cat series, who were also in attendance.


 

Blog Tour (Review & Author Q&A): In the Shadow of Heroes – Nicholas Bowling (Illustrated by Erica Williams)

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‘With all the historical detail and research reminiscent of Rosemary Sutcliff blended with the perfect mix of the mythology of Rick Riordan and the humour of Maz Evans, In the Shadow of Heroes will take older readers on a epic quest of action and adventure, mystery and myth, and laughs and legend.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: In the Shadow of Heroes
Author: Nicholas Bowling (@thenickbowling)
Cover illustration: Erica Williams
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 384
Date of publication: 2nd May 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN:978-1911077688

Perfect for Year 6, Year 7 and Year 8.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Mythology 🔱
2. Roman 🏺
3. Slave 🧑🏽‍


Cadmus has been scholar Tullus’ slave since he was a baby – his master is the only family he knows. But when Tullus disappears and a slave girl called Tog arrives with a secret message, Cadmus’ life is turned upside down.

The pair follow a trail that leads to Emperor Nero himself, and his determination to possess the Golden Fleece of Greek mythology. This thrilling quest will push Cadmus to the edge of the Roman Empire – and reveal fantastical truths about his past…


Review: When you think of slaves, you think of uneducated, … and lesser-than-plebs (the general citizenry of Rome at the time). However main character Cadmus is an altogether different kind of slave. Surprisingly he is well-educated thanks to his master, Tullus, of whom he lives under his stewardship since he was found as a baby by him; acting almost as his surrogate father with no knowledge of his family history other than that of what Tullus has told him yet being educated leaves him as a total outsider to all classes in Roman society.

This soon changes when strangers in the name of the emperor’s servants turn up at his master’s door, with a box that holds a more than mysterious offer. Or should I say order… Not long after, his master disappears and Cadmus is left to fend for himself. But will Cadmus survive on his own and will the arrival of a secret message alter the course of his life forever?

As curiosity gets the better of him, he embarks on a journey to possess the Golden Fleece of Greek mythology. Joined by Tog, an indomitable slave – formerly a British princess who fought with Boudicca, the two of them set off for a journey that leads them to wild discoveries, hidden truths, unexpected secrets of ancient heroes and the crazed Emperor Nero who is possessed with the idea of getting his hands on the Golden Fleece himself.

With all the historical detail and research reminiscent of Rosemary Sutcliff blended with the perfect mix of the mythology of Rick Riordan and the humour of Maz Evans, In the Shadow of Heroes will take older readers on a epic quest of action and adventure, mystery and myth, and laughs and legend.


‘With all the historical detail and research reminiscent of Rosemary Sutcliff blended with the perfect mix of the mythology of Rick Riordan and the humour of Maz Evans, In the Shadow of Heroes will take older readers on a epic quest of action and adventure, mystery and myth, and laughs and legend.’


I’m delighted to welcome Nicholas to The Reader Teacher today where he’ll be giving his answers to questions about the ideas and inspirations for In the Shadow of Heroes, his writing influences and his favourite god!

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Where did the idea for IN THE SHADOW OF HEROES come from?

As usually happens, it came from another (much better) book. One of my all-time favourite fantasy novels is “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss. It’s about a legendary figure called Kvothe who over the course of three nights tells his life story to a scribe, and in doing so debunks most of the myths that surround him. It’s basically a story about stories – where they come from, how they’re made and altered in the telling. I thought it would be fun to do the same thing with the Greek myths – to try and uncover the truths and untruths behind the stories. There’s a fair bit of Indiana Jones in there, too.

So, anticipating cease and desist letters from the estates of George Lucas and Pat Rothfuss any day now.

What influenced the creation of your main characters?

Well… Being a Latin teacher I’ve met a lot of young people like Cadmus. He’s clever and a bit precocious, but with a good heart and a clear sense of right and wrong. Blusters a lot, but is actually a lot more shy and self-conscious than you might think. In fact there’s a very specific student I taught years ago whose voice I can conjure on the spot when I need to. I won’t name any names but there’s pretty much a 90% overlap between him and the character of Cadmus.

Tullus, Cadmus’ master, is based a tutor I knew at university. Tog arrived fully-formed from nowhere, which hardly ever happens. I have my editor, Kesia, to thank for that. In a very, very old draft she was a middle-aged bald man with an eyepatch. As soon as my editor suggested making her a girl, everything made sense about her. 

When doing your research for the book was there a fact you uncovered that stood out?

I can’t really call them facts exactly, but there are some amazing stories and rumours about the Emperor Nero. There is an account that he once acted a play about himself in the theatre, playing the character of himself, wearing a mask of his own face. It doesn’t get much more “meta” than that. Nero comes across as someone who can’t really tell the difference between reality and fiction, between stories and life – that’s really at the heart of the book.

Another good one: according to the historian Suetonius, Nero had promised “a performance on the water organ, the flute, and the bagpipes” if he survived Galba’s revolt and clung onto power. Can’t help picturing him like Elton John, done up to the nines and smashing out an organ solo in the middle of the amphitheatre.

Favourite God?

Very good question. I mean, in terms of skillset, Apollo’s got a lot of things covered – song, prophecy, archery, the sun, healing. And as god of poetic inspiration I suppose he’s the one I should appeal to most. But he’s a bit mainstream. If you read the book you’ll know I’ve got a soft spot for the Hecate, goddess of the night, of witchcraft, of the crossroads. She’s creepy as heck and has three faces, so it’s probably understandable that she doesn’t hang out with the other Olympians. Also, we’re both dog people – although, unfortunately, she likes dogs so much that she insists on having dogs sacrificed to her, at which I would probably draw the line.

Favourite word (Latin or English!)?

Well, I’ll try and cover both bases at once with a very Latinate English word: crepuscular, which means “to do with dusk or twilight”. It’s a belter. Also, big shout-out to the word “shoe” and the word “pear”. Not only do they do their job perfectly, and feel lovely in the mouth, but I also find them inexplicably funny. Is that just me?

When you aren’t writing what do you do for fun? 

I absolutely love climbing. It’s good for cleansing the brain after a morning’s writing. Same with open water swimming. I have a habit of finding unbearably cold water to throw myself into. You can usually find me either on the banks of Hampstead men’s pond or at the Castle Climbing Centre, complaining to no one in particular about how much my fingers and toes hurt.

IN THE SHADOW OF HEROES by Nicholas Bowling out now in paperback
(£6.99, Chicken House)

Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com

Follow Nicholas Bowling on Twitter: @thenickbowling


Big thanks to Nicholas, Laura and all the team at Chicken House for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of the In the Shadow of Heroes blog tour and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Nicholas for his incredibly insightful Author Q&A!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the In the Shadow of Heroes blog tour for more reviews & exclusive Q&As and guest posts from Nick and these brilliant book bloggers!

Cover Reveal & Book Giveaway: Anna at War – Helen Peters (Illustrated by Daniela Terrazzini) – Out 4th July 2019!

Today, I’m absolutely thrilled to exclusively reveal the cover of Helen Peters’s brilliant and moving wartime adventure, Anna at War (illustrated by Daniela Terrazzini) which will be published on 4th July 2019 by Nosy Crow.

I’m even more delighted that the team at Nosy Crow have produced a glittering GIF to show off the cover in all its glory!

I’m also super happy because the very lovely people at Nosy Crow have given me three proof copies of Anna at War to give away! Find out more below!


Anna at War

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Carrie’s War meets When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit via John Le Carre

As life for German Jews becomes increasingly perilous, Anna’s parents put her on one of the last trains leaving for England. But the war follows her to Kent, and soon Anna finds herself caught up in web of betrayal and secrecy. How can she prove whose side she’s on when she can’t tell anyone the truth? But actions speak louder than words, and Anna has a dangerous plan…


 Extract: 

I walked back to the barn. We had left the door slightly ajar, and I slipped through the gap. My plimsollsmade no sound on the dirt floor. I heard sounds from the loft, as though the injured man was rummaging in his haversack. He was muttering to himself. My stomach turned over. I stopped dead still.No. It couldn’t be. I must have heard wrong.I stayed completely still, listening, my heart thumping. He was still rummaging, but he had stopped muttering. Something rolled across the loft and dropped over the edge on to the barn floor. The man swore.My blood froze in my veins.He had sworn in German.


• Important message about emigration and war wrapped up in a thrilling adventure story.

• Helen Peters is the natural heir to Philippa Pearce.

• A fantastic new standalone novel by Helen Peters, author of the Jasmine Green series, The Secret Hen House Theatre (shortlisted for Waterstones Children’s Book Prize) and The Farm Beneath the Water.


Editor says:

“This is a brilliant book –a double whammy of entertainment and enlightenment, with a few tears shed on the way. Helen Peters is the new Philippa Pearce.”

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Helen Peters

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Helen Peters grew up on an old-fashioned farm in Sussex, surrounded by family, animals and mud. She spent most of her childhood reading stories and putting on plays in a tumbledown shed that she and her friends turned into a theatre. After university, she became an English and Drama teacher. Helen lives with her husband and children in Brighton.


Daniela Terrazzini

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(Photo credit: https://www.theartworksinc.com/portfolio/daniela-terrazzini/)

Daniela Terrazzini studied Fine Art in Milan. Her contemporary take on a classic style has a beautiful originality and quality, and she has worked with publishers including Crabtree, Puffin, Penguin, Chronicle and Macmillan.


Anna at War is available to pre-order online now from Amazon, Hive, Waterstones, WHSmith or from any good bookshop.


Huge thanks to Helen, Rebecca and all at Nosy Crow for inviting me to host this super cover reveal, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!


Mr E

📚


Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Nosy Crow have kindly given me three copies of Anna at War to give away!

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If you’d like to be in with a chance of being one of the first people to read this stunning story, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

Proof copies will be sent to winners when available from Nosy Crow, as soon as possible.

Blog Tour (Review & Giveaway!): Runaway Robot – Frank Cottrell-Boyce (Illustrated by Steven Lenton)

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‘Storytelling at its snortingly-funny, hugely enjoyable and heartily-emotional best… a little bit warm and wise, a little bit tender and touching; there is a LOT to love about this book.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Runaway Robot
Author: Frank Cottrell-Boyce (@frankcottrell_b)
Illustrator: Steven Lenton (@StevenLenton)
Publisher: Macmillan (@MacmillanKidsUK)
Page count: 288
Date of publication: 2nd May 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN:978-1509851775

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Robot 🤖
2. Hand ✋
3. Friendship 🤝


Eric is six foot six.
He likes to sing.
He’s super polite.
He does as he’s told.
He’s made of metal.
He’s magnetic when anxious.

He’s not easy to miss.

But today there’s no sign of him.

Eric says if you lose something, try to retrace your steps.
So these are my steps…


Review:

Main character Alfie prefers to ‘swerve’ school and spends his days hanging out at the airport which to him is a far more impressive place. Besides this, Alfie is part machine. Part bionic. Handless. Or I should say that he has a hand of a different kind altogether, as the worker at the airport soon finds out. Originally losing his right hand in a serious accident that Alfie has little memory about, he then *loses* his hand again at the airport and so sets off to retrieve it. Starting with airport lost property.

Trying to locate a hand at lost property proves to be more difficult than one may initially think, especially when hand recognition is more like… um… glove recognition. Finding a giant robotic hand that neither looks or feels like it’s going to fit him then suggests that this story could be about to go down the wrong path for Alfie but this accidental discovery changes him in more ways than one because it introduces him to Eric. Slightly lumbering. Quite ungainly. But as anybody reading this book will tell you: THE WORLD’S MOST POLITE ROBOT.

In need of a friend (and I could be talking about both Alfie or Eric here!), Alfie brings Eric home. Unfortunately for him, a recent ban placed on the acquisition of humanoid robots could soon change all this. Will Alfie continue to break the law and be able to keep his new friend safe…? And will Eric be the one who helps Alfie to fill those gaps in his memory, his heart and be the bond that brings everything together…?

Inspired by a trip to the robot exhibition at the Science Museum and his love for all things sciencey, spacey and technological, Frank achieves another guaranteed and humorous hit with Runaway Robot. With his charismatic wit and the characterful illustrations of Steven Lenton that really bring this terrific tale all so engagingly to life, this is sheer exuberant storytelling at its snortingly-funny, hugely enjoyable and heartily-emotional best. It’s all in the delivery and timing of Frank’s writing that within these words, jokes are more than jokes. The perfect mixture of hope, humanity and heart that we’ve all come to grow to love from reading his books. A little bit warm and wise, a little bit tender and touching; there is a LOT to love about this book. Especially its ending.

If anybody asks you to read this book, you tell them I AM YOUR OBEDIENT SERVANT.

Although after reading this, if they ask you a question, you might have to say SORRY, I AM UNABLE TO ANSWER THAT QUESTION.


‘Storytelling at its snortingly-funny, hugely enjoyable and heartily-emotional best… a little bit warm and wise, a little bit tender and touching; there is a LOT to love about this book.’


Biggest thanks to Amber, Frank, Steven and all at Macmillan for giving me the wonderful opportunity to have an early read of this magnificently funny book and for providing copies for the giveaway!

Mr E


Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Macmillan have kindly given me three copies of
Runaway Robot to give away!

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If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning a copy of Runaway Robot, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

Blog Tour (Review & Author Q&A): No Ballet Shoes in Syria – Catherine Bruton (Illustrated by Kathrin Honesta)

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‘This story that needs to be told the world over champions compassion and community in a way that only a few others do so well… This book has changed me, as it will change you. My recommendation for the 2020 Read for Empathy collection.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: No Ballet Shoes in Syria
Author: Catherine Bruton (@catherinebruton)
Cover artwork: Kathrin Honesta
Cover typography: Anneka Sandher
Publisher: Nosy Crow (@NosyCrowBooks)
Page count: 272
Date of publication: 2nd May 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1788004503

Perfect for Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Kindness 💗
2. Flashbacks 💬
3. Community 🧑🏽‍🤝‍🧑🏽


Aya is eleven years old and has just arrived in Britain with her mum and baby brother, seeking asylum from war in Syria.

When Aya stumbles across a local ballet class, the formidable dance teacher spots her exceptional talent and believes that Aya has the potential to earn a prestigious ballet scholarship.

But at the same time, Aya and her family must fight to be allowed to remain in the country, to make a home for themselves, and to find Aya’s father – separated from the rest of the family during the journey from Syria. 


Review: Aya is eleven years old, sitting in her local community centre and is easily distracted by the music she can hear. Sounds a little bit normal, right? However, she’s also in a place most eleven years old wouldn’t find themselves in. Having escaped from war-torn Aleppo in Syria, she is waiting for a moment that could change her life. The moment when she’s granted safe haven in a country she’s only been in for three weeks. Unbeknownst to her, this may take more time than she thinks…

Holding her baby brother, looking after her mother and with no idea of where her father is, she sits opposite her case worker with the weight of the world and full responsibility falling on her small shoulders. As the story progresses, we come to learn that Aya hasn’t arrived in this country straightforwardly. In fact, her journey to get here has been arduous,  tiring, painful and one that’s been physically, mentally and emotionally draining from start to finish… and it’s not quite finished yet.

To some, community centres might not be a source of inspiration but to Aya, this is where she finds a source of unexpected comfort. Hearing the familiar bars and notes of the piano and the French language brings Aya back home to Syria and brings back memories of happier times when she used to dance. Feeling this, she longs to dance and it is only when ballet dance class teacher Miss Helena encounters Aya dancing to a tune of her very own that she asks Aya to join the class, offering at least some small hope to her.

Throughout the dance class, Aya doesn’t only find a group of girls that she begins to call her friends but she also begins to find herself. Led by a teacher who (for me, is my favourite character) sees Aya’s natural talent, embodies kindness and has her very own story to tell, Miss Helena suggests that Aya should go for a prestigious scholarship – one that could have significant and life-changing consequences for Aya and her family if she can achieve it.

Combining flashbacks of Aya’s time in Syria with her story of living in the UK, this powerful, multi-layered story champions compassion and the spirit of community in a way that few others stories do so well – and as such, it is my recommendation for the 2020 Read for Empathy collections collated by EmpathyLabUK. Even though it is raw, very real, personal and heart-wrenching throughout, it’s told with hopefulness, humanity and heart and I absolutely love it when the writing is this good that it makes me directly feel for the characters. This did so, effortlessly. My heart feels heavy with empathy for Aya and her family. This book has changed me, as it will change you.

Please think about buying this for your children in the later years of primary school who love stories, or are still searching for the one to get them hooked. And then read it after them because this is Aya’s story and it is a story that needs to be told the world over.


I’m delighted to welcome Catherine to The Reader Teacher today where she’ll be answering some of my questions about No Ballet Shoes in Syria, her reading and writing influences and using her book in the classroom with a link to teacher resources plus her greatest claim to fame!

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No Ballet Shoes in Syria (5)

At The Reader Teacher, for my reviews, I describe books in #3Words3Emojis.
Which 3 adjectives and 3 corresponding emojis would you choose to best describe No Ballet Shoes in Syria?

1. Heartbreaking 💔
2. Hopeful ☺️
3. Balletic Screen Shot 2019-04-28 at 16.22.04.png

Hope that is right?
My kids will tell you I’m not good with emojis! Apparently I misuse them!

Which books, people, research, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write No Ballet Shoes in Syria?

It is inspired by many of the books I loved as a child: on the one hand Noel Streatfeild’s ‘Ballet Shoes’, the ‘Sadler’s Wells’ books by Lorna Hill, the ‘Drina’ stories of Jean Estoril and ‘The Swish of the Curtain’ by Pamela Brown; on the other hand ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’ by Judith Kerr (hearing her talk at the Bath Children’s Lit Fest was a big reason I wrote this book) and ‘The Silver Sword’ by Ian Serraillier. After watching the heart-breaking new footage of the Syrian migrant crisis, I made contact with local charities and resettlement projects working with refugees, and was extremely fortunate to talk to members of the Syrian community in the UK. I think ultimately the idea probably dates back to my very first teaching experiences in Africa working with  child refugees from Rwanda, Angola and East Germany. Their voices – and those of other refugee children I have encountered over the years – are very much at the heart of this book, and the reason I wrote it.

What was the most enjoyable part of writing No Ballet Shoes in Syria?

I loved writing the ending, although it made me cry! I knew it couldn’t be a simple happy ending – that wouldn’t have been true to the complex issues the book explores – but I did want to offer some hope, to celebrate ‘the kindness of strangers’, the importance of community, the goodness that exists in the world alongside the harsher stuff. I hope it does that.

You use flashbacks really well at the end of chapters to recount and contrast Aya’s experiences of living in war-torn Aleppo with that of living in the UK and her journey from Syria whilst seeking asylum including travelling by boat and living in refugee camps in Turkey and Greece. For me, they are incredibly moving pieces of prose. Were these scenes difficult to write? 

Oh golly yes! For a long, long time I could not get this book right. Aya’s voice eluded me – sometimes she was there, clear as a bell, at other times she slipped away from me. And I found it particularly hard tying together the story of her past in Syria with the present in the UK. Until I realised that recalling traumatic past events, reconciling them with the present, looking to the future is incredibly hard for many children like Aya. That’s when I decided that it had to be done in flashbacks – at first the two voices are quite distinct, but as dance becomes a medium for Aya to begin to process what she’s been through, to let go of guilt and look to the future the two voices start to merge. I did a lot of research because it felt so important to ensure the scenes in Syria, in the refugee camps, crossing the Med etc are accurate and as authentic as possible, but some were really heart-breaking to write,  mainly because stories like Aya’s are unfolding in real life every day.

If you were to choose the character that is most like you from No Ballet Shoes in Syria, who would it be and why?

Hmm – I am probably a mixture between Dotty (talks too much, bit scatty, heart in the right place!) and Grace who – despite her name – is quite bad at ballet but tries ever so hard!

Reading and Writing (4)

What first attracted you to writing? Did you enjoy writing at school?

I have always been a daydreamer, a diary-writer and a kid who loved making up stories.  I was fortunate enough to have wonderful teachers  at both Primary and Secondary school who gave opportunities, inspiration and encouragement! #teachersrock #mrscott #mrcolman #misswaring #mrhornby #mraylin #mrsdaniels #missharrison #mrsbarratt #bestteachersever #thankyou!

Which parts of writing do you find energise you and which parts do you find exhaust you?

I love the thrill of a new story – when it pours out as if  I am reading it, rather than writing. That doesn’t always happen though. I hate it when I know it’s wrong but I can’t figure out why – or how to fix it. That’s when the dementors of self doubt descend! Thank goodness for my lovely agent, great editors and amazing writing pals who help drive the dementors away!

When you were a child, can you remember contacting authors or any of them ever visiting your school and if so, did this inspire you?

Ooh, no! This didn’t seem to happen in the 70s in the North! In fact I recently found out that I lived round the corner from Robert Westall (‘The Machine Gunners’) my whole childhood but he never came to visit our school. I wish he had! When I was young, authors felt very  remote people,  and I think that’s a great thing about Twitter and school visits and wonderful book blogs like this one. Putting readers in touch with authors is amazing – and it inspires in both directions! I love meeting young readers and they inspire me endlessly!

Currently, we seem to be living in a golden age of books, especially that of children’s literature. Can you recommend any other children’s fiction or non-fiction books to children (and adults!) who may be interested in the themes explored in your book?

Ooh, so many!  Booktrust have an amazing list of books for all ages about refugees and asylum seekers: https://www.booktrust.org.uk/booklists/b/books-about-refugees-and-asylum-seekers/.

A few top picks from me  – old and new – are ‘The Boy At the Back of the Class’ by Onjali Q Raúf; ‘Jackdaw Summer’ by David Almond; ‘The Morning Gift’ by Eva Ibbotson; ‘Fox Girl and the White Gazelle’ by Victoria Williamson; ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’ by Judith Kerr; ‘The Silver Sword’ by Ian Serraillier and ‘The Bone Sparrow’ by Zana Fraillon.

Oh, and two real life accounts I came across recently: ‘Butterfly’ – by Yusra Mardini (the Syrian refugee who nearly drowned in the Med and then went on to swim at the Olympics) and ‘Hope in  a Ballet Shoe’ – Michaela de Prince (the ballerina born in war-torn Sierra Leone who was adopted by an American family and went on to become an international dance star).

No Ballet Shoes in Syria and Teaching (3)

“A classic story of heartbreak and hope, with wonderful authentic ballet writing and an important message championing the rights of refugees.”

If you were to ‘pitch’ No Ballet Shoes in a sentence for teachers to use it in their classrooms or for parents to choose to read it at home, how would you sum it up?

A classic story of heartbreak and hope, with wonderful authentic ballet writing and an important message championing the rights of refugees.

As a teacher yourself, could you suggest ways in which No Ballet Shoes in Syria could be used in the classroom for the many teachers and primary school staff that will read this and wish to use it in their schools?

I know some schools are using it as part of a wider topic on refugees and asylum seekers with a cross-curricular focus, so, I asked my colleagues  at school for some suggestions on how it could be used for different subjects. Here goes!

History/Current affairs: Find out about the history of the war in Syria – when, why did it start? How did it develop? How did the rest of the world respond? Why did so many people flee the country? What can you find out about the siege of Aleppo? What is going on  in Syria now? This could be explored as a newspaper article, timeline of events or cartoon.

Geography: Find out about the journeys undertaken by families like Aya’s who chose to flee Syria. Trace Aya’s journey on a map, find out what you can about the refugee camps she stayed in, the dangers of crossing the Mediterranean and other perils facing asylum seekers. Prepare a presentation/ debate asking ‘Would you risk it?’

RS/Philosophy and Ethics/Media studies: Find official definitions of the terms ‘refugee’ and ‘asylum seeker’. Then gather articles from different magazines and newspaper articles about refugees, asylum seekers, the migrant crisis. Compare how the issues are discussed in different sections of the media. Class discussion on whether countries like the UK have a moral obligation to take in more asylum seekers.

Maths: Find out some statistics on refugees and asylum seekers (there are lots to be found via the British Refugee Council or Refugee Week website) then record them in different ways – bar chart, pie chart, ratios, percentages etc. Extension task: calculate the distance Aya and her family travelled from Aleppo to Manchester!

Literacy: My publishers have produced a lovely resource with questions designed to enhance reading comprehension and analysis skills. There are also lots of writing tasks pupils could try: what if Aya wrote a letter to her father, or to one of her old friends from Aleppo? Or pupils could try using five objects to tell ‘the story of who I am, where I come from, who I want to be’ – as Aya does in her dance. Or you could bring in unusual objects for pupils to use as story starters – that always works for me! You’ll find them on the Nosy Crow website here https://nosycrow.com/activity-sheets/no-ballet-shoes-in-syria-discussion-notes/

For those teachers reading this Q&A and would like to enquire about arranging the opportunity of a school visit from yourself, how would it be best to contact you regarding this?

Send me a tweet via @catherinebruton or email my publisher Nosy Crow at press@nosycrow.com.

Two more before you go (2)!

What has an interviewer or blogger never asked you before, that you always wished you could answer?

This is a truly excellent question which has set me pondering! People rarely ask about writing friends –  and to me they are so important. I was so stuck on this book until I talked to my dear friend- the amazing author Joanna Nadin – and she sorted me out good and proper! Sharing the wonders and woes  of story-telling with other book-types is one of the greatest joys of being a writer! #lovelybathwriterpeeps #joannanadin #annawilson #fleurhitchcock #maudiesmith #elencaldecott #rachelward #karensaunders #angiemorgan #juliagreen #tracydarnton #writingcommunity

Finally, can you share with our readers something about yourself that they might be surprised to learn?

I once danced with Nelson Mandela! September 1997 – Steve Biko Cemetery, King William’s town, RSA. He complimented my red dress! It is my greatest claim to fame.

One last one… (1)!

Do you have a question you would like to ask the readers of The Reader Teacher?

If any teachers share ‘No Ballet Shoes in Syria’ with pupils whose stories are parallel to Aya’s, I would love to hear what they think!


Big thanks to Clare, Catherine and all the team at Nosy Crow for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of the No Ballet Shoes in Syria blog tour and for sending me a proof and advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Catherine for answering my questions!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the No Ballet Shoes blog tour for more reviews & exclusive Q&As and guest posts from Catherine and these brilliant book bloggers!

Guest Post: 10 ways to engage children and young adults with the 75th anniversary of D-Day – Tom Palmer for D-Day Dog (Illustrated by Tom Clohosy Cole)

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It is with great pleasure to host Tom Palmer on The Reader Teacher today with his guest post sharing his ten ways to encourage children and young adults to become engaged with the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

D-Day Dog is a beautifully written and compelling novel written for readers aged 9+, and is perfect for the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.


Jack can’t wait for the school trip to the D-Day landing beaches. It’s his chance to learn more about the war heroes he has always admired – brave men like his dad, who is a Reserve soldier. But when his dad is called up to action and things at home spiral out of control, everything Jack believes about war is thrown into question. Finding comfort only in the presence of his loyal dog Finn, Jack is drawn to the heart-wrenching true story of one particular D-Day paratrooper. On 6 June 1944, Emile Corteil parachuted into France with his dog, Glen – and Jack is determined to discover their fate…

A gripping and poignant celebration of the incredible bravery of the D-Day soldiers and the unbreakable bond between man and his best friend.


D-Day was one of the most significant days in the history of Europe and the world. The beginning of the end of Nazi Germany. On June 6th this year, Europe will be celebrating the 75th anniversary of D-Day. There are international, national and local events that will help teachers work with children and young adults to explain the significance of the day, along with books, resources, films and websites.

  1. Watch the news. On 5th and 6th June there will be extensive news coverage of commemorative events in Portsmouth and Normandy, including the MV Boudicca sailing with 300 D-Day veterans from England to France on the same journey they made exactly 75 years before.
  2. Get hold of a special edition £2 coin to mark the D-Day 75th anniversary, featuring a map of the D-Day landing beaches. Something for children to hold onto and remember and maybe give to their own children on the 100th anniversary of D-Day in June 2044?
  3. Go to your local public library and check out some of the books about D-Day in the history section. Some books have amazing photographs in them and first-hand accounts. Most public libraries will have several books on the shelves about WW2 and D-Day.
  4. Visit The D-Day Story, a fantastic museum in Portsmouth with a permanent exhibition that does a great job focussing the mind on the planning and actioning of D-Day. They’ll be hosting special events from 5th to 9th www.theddaystory.com/
  5. Go online and search for D-Day links to where you liveThe D-Day Story has an interactive map to help you do that: https://theddaystory.com/d-day-on-your-doorstep-interactive-map/The Imperial War Museum’s amazing online collection allows you to search for images and recordings of the men and women who took part in D-Day and made it home to be able to tell their story: https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections
  6. Look out for films on TV, including The Longest Day, Saving Private Ryan and Storming JunoThe TV series Band of Brothers starts with D-Day and is very powerful. There will be documentaries on TV too. But make sure what you are watching is age-appropriate.
  7. From 1st to 9th June the Imperial War Museum will retell the extraordinary land, air and sea story through their Second World War collection and three historic sites, HMS Belfast, IWM Duxford and the Churchill War Rooms, which experienced first-hand the events of D-Day. https://www.iwm.org.uk/visits/d-day75
  8. There will be events in towns and cities all over the UK.Some places will witness flypasts of significant aircraft. There will be parties. And many airmen, seamen and soldiers will be remembered in their home counties. Check out your local newspaper’s website for information.
  9. Read Tom Palmer’s children’s book, D-Day Dog, about a boy who joins a school trip to Normandy where he finds out hard facts about the events of 6th June 1944.Use D-Day Dog as a class read. There are free videos, activities and other resources for schools at http://tompalmer.co.uk/dday-dog/. You can contact Tom for free posters and bookmarks for all your pupils too.
  10. Some of you might be going to France for your summer holidays.If so, why not travel via Portsmouth and stop for an hour or two to visit some of the key D-Day historic sites and museums in Normandy. Visit the Normandy tourist information site for more details: http://en.normandie-tourisme.fr/things-to-do/sites-and-attractions/d-day-and-the-battle-of-normandy-113-2.html


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Tom Palmer, author of D-Day Dog


Big thanks to Tom for his brilliant guest post highlighting ten different ways to commemorate and be involved in the 75th anniversary of this momentous day.

Thanks too to Kirstin and the team at Barrington Stoke for sending me a copy of D-Day Dog.

Mr E


D-Day Dog is available now to pre-order online and from any good independent bookshop.

Blog Tour (Review): The Titanic Detective Agency – Lindsay Littleson

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‘With TTDA, we (finally!) have a Titanic text so worthy that it should be used widely in classrooms and schools across the country… a first-class children’s historical novel.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Titanic Detective Agency
Author: Lindsay Littleson (@ljlittleson)
Publisher: Cranachan (@cranachanbooks)
Page count: 204
Date of publication: 9th April 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1911279440

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Titanic 🚢
2. Detective 🔍
3. Key 🗝️


Unlock the secrets of the unsinkable ship…

Bertha Watt, tree-climber and would-be polar explorer, is excited to be on RMS Titanic’s maiden voyage, as she leaves Aberdeen behind for the glamour of a new life in America.

But Bertha quickly realises that some passengers are behaving strangely, and she determines to unravel their secrets.

With new friend, Madge, Bertha sets up her own detective agency to try and solve the mysteries onboard, but they have no idea that disaster is looming for Titanic.

Can they help Johan find the hidden treasure and unmask the identity of the enigmatic Mr Hoffman before time runs out on the ‘unsinkable’ ship?


Review: From the first chapter, as the steam whistles blast, the engines roar and the ship of all ships sets sail for New York, we are immediately transported back to a time before modern technology and invited on board to the wonder that is the Titanic and its maiden voyage. We all know the tragic fate of this apparently ‘unsinkable’ vessel but do we know the whole story…?

Looking at the passengers and surroundings around her, Bertha Watt – who fancies herself more as a polar explorer rather than that of the prim and proper young lady she pretends to be to fit in with her 2nd Class co-passengers – soon becomes bored and begins to notice that the people joining her on this epic journey away from hometown Aberdeen and mainland Britain may not be all as they seem to be.

Finding a new friend in an unlikely situation, Bertha and new friend, Madge create their very own detective agency (The Collyer-Watt Detective Agency) to dig deeper in to the mysteries of the masses, firstly beginning with maybe-murderer(?) Mr Hoffman. Like Daisy and Hazel from A Murder Most Unladylike meeting Poirot, this detective agency has sharp thinking, super sleuthing and more than a dash of speaking Français to assist them in their onboard investigations.

However, these soon take on a different course once Bertha meets Johan – a Swedish boy on board who has little money to his name; constantly feels seasick and struggles to converse as he speaks barely any English whilst Bertha speaks barely any Swedish. Nevertheless the two manage to communicate and communicate they must as Johan holds in his hands a treasure map and (quite literally!) the key that could unravel the most mysterious mystery of all. But with the threat of danger looming… will they crack the case before the clock counts down on the biggest nautical disaster of all time?

It is so refreshing to see a book recently written that is based on the real-life people who experienced these events and emanates with well-researched historical facts and information not just from what is widely known of the Titanic such as the class divides but also the more minor details that are often overlooked or missed entirely including the staggering humiliation of the medical examinations for third-class passengers and the recognition of the difficulties in communication for those foreign passengers on board. I am fascinated by the history of this ship having been to the museum in Southampton myself but the quality of this book is guaranteed to spurn children (and adults) to take a vested interest to learn more about it themselves.

With The Titanic Detective Agency, Lindsay has created a text so worthy to complement further learning about The Queen of the Ocean (finally – said with a great big sigh of relief!) that this first-class children’s novel should be used widely by Key Stage 2 teachers in classrooms and schools across the country.


‘With TTDA, we (finally!) have a Titanic text so worthy that it should be used widely in classrooms and schools across the country… a first-class children’s historical novel.’


Big thanks to Kelly, Lindsay and all the team at Cranachan for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of The Titanic Detective Agency blog tour and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of The Titanic Detective Agency blog tour for more reviews & exclusive guest posts from Lindsay and these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Extract): Galloglass – Scarlett Thomas (Illustrated by Dan Mumford)

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Publishing on 4th April 2019, GALLOGLASS is the eagerly-anticipated third book in Scarlett Thomas’s immersive Worldquake series which has now sold over 40,000 copies. With a glow-in-the-dark book jacket and packed with compelling characters, magical worlds, adventure, danger, humour and evil, GALLOGLASS will not disappoint.

Following the events in Dragon’s Green and The Chosen Ones, GALLOGLASS reunites readers with Effie Truelove and her school friends Lexy, Wolf, Maximilian and Raven as they navigate their worlds, which are under threat from Diberi, a corrupt organisation.  Together, Effie and her friends must use their magical skills to defeat the evil tactics of Diberi before total destruction is wreaked upon the worlds at Midwinter.

Well known for her adult books too, which have sold over 380,000 copies worldwide, Scarlett Thomas’s latest book will delight 8-12 year old readers, especially fans of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter.

Thomas’ bestselling books for adults are fast-paced, intelligent adventure stories packed with magic and mystery; her move into writing for children feels totally natural.


I’m so pleased to be able to host and share with you today an exclusive extract from Chapter 1 of Galloglass. So without further ado…

Praise for the Worldquake series:

 “This tale of magical education is a cracker….. has its own distinctive style.” – Guardian

“Otherworldly… ‘Getting lost in a book’ takes on a new meaning”Mail on Sunday

“A quest to create a magical book is at the centre of this through-provoking fantasy novel… Wonderfully bibliophilic”Financial Times

“A magical adventure that fizzes and crackles with enchantment.”Hilary McKay

Big thanks to Jo, Scarlett and all the team at Canongate for inviting me to share this extract as part of the Galloglass blog tour. Looking forward to seeing it on the shelves!

Dragon’s Green (Book 1) and The Chosen Ones (Book 2) are available now to order online or from any good independent bookshop.

Mr E

Blog Tour (Review & Author Q&A): The Middler – Kirsty Applebaum (Illustrated by Matt Saunders)

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‘With moments of family dynamics, a war quietly raging and undertones of an almost middle-grade Hunger Games meeting Stig of the Dump, this dystopian debut is without doubt one of the books of the year.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Middler
Author: Kirsty Applebaum (@KirstyApplebaum)
Cover artwork: Matt Saunders (@msaunders_ink)
Cover typography: Joel Holland
Publisher: Nosy Crow (@NosyCrowBooks)
Page count: 272
Date of publication: 4th April 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1788003452

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Middler 👧
2. Eldest 👴
3. Youngest 👶


Maggie is a middle child, overlooked and unheard. Beyond her town’s boundary, the Quiet War rages and the dirty, dangerous wanderers roam. Then Maggie meets Una, a hungry wanderer girl in need of help, and everything she’s ever known gets turned on her head…

An absorbing, quietly menacing story of forbidden friendship, loyalty and betrayal, beautifully told.


Review: Entrenched in her own world and feeling ever more discontented, Maggie, or Maggie-middler as she’s more ‘affectionately’ known and seen by her peers and teachers, is stuck. Stuck between being the eldest or the youngest. Stuck between being overlooked and under-heard. Stuck in the middle.

That’s because in the town of Fennis Wick where she lives, the eldest children are the special ones. The chosen ones. Always the chosen ones to win prizes, to be clapped at, to have their portraits painted or to have parties. Or so she believes. But they’re also chosen for something else. Something that’s quietly raging beyond the boundaries of Fennis Wick and something that Maggie knows very little about…

Always quietly questioning and fighting to make her own name for herself, Maggie makes an encounter of a different kind. Hearing that there’s a tribe of people – named ‘wanderers’ and thought of as dirty, deceitful and dangerous – who are as disconnected from society almost as much as Maggie is, she begins to form a forbidden friendship with Una, one of these so-called outsiders who’s been watching her. As her eyes begin to open to the world around her and truths and twists are revealed, this tale proves to be far more than it appears to be on the surface.

Told through the distinctive voice and sometimes-dark perspectives of Maggie, this deeply-atmospheric story within its sinister setting carries with it undertones, a family dynamic and moments of an almost middle-grade Hunger Games meeting Stig of the Dump.

This debut is more than a mystery. It’s more than a thriller. It lingers and lurks in the memory so uniquely, it’s like nothing you’ve read before and nothing you’ll read again and for me, it’s without doubt one of the books of the year.


‘With moments of family dynamics, a war quietly raging and undertones of an almost middle-grade Hunger Games meeting Stig of the Dump, this dystopian debut is without doubt one of the books of the year.’


Author Q&A: Kirsty Applebaum with The Reader Teacher (TRT)

2xvI2k85_400x400.pngI’m delighted to welcome Kirsty to The Reader Teacher today where she’ll be answering some of my questions about The Middler, her reading and writing influences and using her book in the classroom with a link to teacher resources!

TRT: At The Reader Teacher, for my reviews, I describe books in #3Words3Emojis.
Which 3 adjectives and 3 corresponding emojis would you choose to best describe The Middler?
KA: 1. atmospheric ⛈ 2. voice-driven 👄 3. thought provoking 🤔

TRT: What books, people, research, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write The Middler?

KA: There are so many things I could say here – but I’ll just pick out a few. The place where I grew up influenced the setting immeasurably. It’s called Oliver’s Battery, and it’s only a short walk from meadows and butterfly fields just like the ones in The Middler. Sting’s beautiful song Fields of Gold provided the soundtrack – I listened to it whenever I needed to sink myself back into Maggie’s world. John Yorke’s book Into The Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them enabled me to shape my ideas into a readable story. And so many great novels inspired me, for example: Z for Zachariah (Robert C. O’Brien) with its wonderful close narrative; The Testament of Yves Gundron (Emily Barton) with its isolated setting; We (Yevgeny Zamyatin) with its gripping dystopian plot. I could go on forever, but I’ll stop there!

TRT: What was the most enjoyable part of writing The Middler?

KA: The moment I decided to re-write it from a middle child’s point of view. It wasn’t really working up until that point – then suddenly I had a new title, a catchy concept and the four opening lines, all in an instant. I got the physical tingle of excitement I get when I think my writing’s going to work out.

TRT: Are you an eldest, middler or youngest? And can you ear-wiggle yourself?

KA: I’m a youngest – I have one older sister. I can’t ear-wiggle yet because I haven’t had enough discipline to teach myself. It’s on my to-do list.

TRT: If you were to choose the character that is most like you from The Middler, who would it be and why?

KA: Maggie. She’s 100% based on me, entirely deliberately. But she grows in confidence & bravery a lot quicker than I did.

Reading and Writing (4)

TRT: What first attracted you to writing? Did you enjoy writing at school?

KA: As an adult, I started writing after reading stories to my own children – I got that excited tingle as I read them, and thought I could do this. And yes, I did enjoy writing at school. My friends and I used to write about the characters we’d seen in films. I remember thinking up lots of stories about flying monkeys after I’d watched The Wizard of Oz.

TRT: Which parts of writing do you find energise you and which parts do you find exhaust you?

KA: Starting a book is usually the most energising for me. That exciting period of time when I have the image of a perfect, atmospheric novel pictured in my mind and I’m writing the scenes that just flow from my head, rather than the ones that have to be dragged out kicking and screaming. I love writing the second draft too – tightening everything up so that the story hangs together better. The exhausting part is getting through the middle of the first draft – the sticky middle is definitely a real thing. I usually tackle it by re-reading books on the technicalities of plotting, and gradually the story begins to find its way.

TRT: When you were a child, can you remember contacting any authors or them ever visiting your school and if so, did this inspire you?

Sadly, we didn’t have authors come to school. But I did once go to a Puffin Club event where I met the author of the Gumdrop stories. Gumdrop was a vintage car and the author was the awesomely named Val Biro. He signed my book. I treasured it.

TRT: Currently, we seem to be living in a golden age of books, especially that of children’s literature. What are some of the interesting things or things you like that you’re seeing in other children’s books today? What are you reading, if you are reading any children’s (or adult’s) literature at the moment?

It was great to see funny children’s literature being celebrated at the Lollies (the Laugh Out Loud Book Awards) in February. I love a book that makes me laugh. As children my sister and I nagged our grandmother to read us Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator over and over again, never ceasing to find it hilarious. And with my own children some of our funniest favourites were Philip Ardagh’s Eddie Dickens series and Andy Stanton’s Mr Gum. A couple of years ago my neighbour’s son lent me Pamela Butchart’s Baby Aliens Got My Teacher! and I fell in love with funny all over again. And I’m reading a funny book right now – Lissa Evan’s Wed Wabbit. ‘Don’t laugh,’ says the strapline. ‘He’s dangerous.’ 😆😂😄

The Middler and Teaching (3)

TRT: Could you suggest ways that your book could be used in the classroom for the many teachers and school staff that will read this?  

KA: The Middler is suited to pupils aged nine and over, particularly for teaching literacy and writing skills, and for PSHE debate. Nosy Crow have developed an excellent KS2 teaching resource pack with extracts, discussion questions and lesson plans – you can find it at nosycrow.com or on my website www.kirstyapplebaum.co.uk.

TRT: If you were to ‘pitch’ The Middler in a sentence or two for teachers to use it in their classrooms or for parents to choose to read it at home, how would you sum it up?

KA: The Middler tells the story of Maggie, a middle child living in an isolated community where only the eldest children are special. It’s a gripping novel of forbidden friendship, loyalty and betrayal set in a near future world, covering themes of self-doubt, freedom, belonging and lies.

TRT: For those teachers reading this Q&A and would like to enquire about arranging the opportunity of a school visit from yourself, how would it be best to contact you regarding this?

KA: You can contact me via my website (kirstyapplebaum.co.uk) or Twitter (@KirstyApplebaum).

Two more before you go (2)!

TRT: What has an interviewer or blogger never asked you before, that you always wished you could answer?

KA: What is your favourite word? (It’s spoon. Best word ever.)

TRT: Finally, can you share with our readers something about yourself that they might be surprised to learn?

KA: I have grade three euphonium.

One last one… (1)!

TRT: Do you have a question you would like to ask the readers of The Reader Teacher?

KA: Do you think being a youngest, middle, eldest or single child makes a difference to how you feel and act?


Big thanks to Clare, Kirsty and all the team at Nosy Crow for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of The Middler blog tour and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Kirsty for answering my questions!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of The Middler blog tour for more reviews & exclusive Q&As and guest posts from Kirsty and these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): The Great Animal Escapade – Jane Kerr (Illustrated by Alexis Snell)

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‘Returning to this follow-up is like revisiting an old friend again…  with brilliantly-executed twists, this menagerie mystery is one not to be missed.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Great Animal Escapade
Author: Jane Kerr (@janekerrwrites)
Cover illustration: Alexis Snell
Cover design: Steve Wells
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 304
Date of publication: 7th March 2019
Series status: Second in The Elephant Thief series
ISBN: 978-1911490340

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Maharajah 🐘
2. Escape 🏃
3. Father? 👨


Working at Belle Vue Zoo is life-changing for Danny. Once, he lived on the streets, pick-pocketing to survive. Now he has a new family and a new job – caring for a zoo of exotic creatures, including the famous elephant, Maharajah. But when animals start escaping, Danny is the prime suspect: after all, everyone knows he used to be a thief. And when a man turns up claiming to be his real father, the plot thickens.

Can Danny untangle the mystery of the animal escapade – and find out where he really belongs – or will his wonderful new life also disappear?


Review: When it was published back in 2017 The Elephant Thief soon became a stand-out story for me, so going back to it with the sequel in The Great Animal Escapade – with its returning cast of characters and follow-up story – is like revisiting an old friend again.

This time, we rejoin a different Danny. One with a new family and a new job –  and a new life entirely from what he was used to on the streets of the first story. Working in Belle Vue Zoo, under the ownership of the Jamesons, you’d think Danny would have settled in to working life and all remnants of his previous life would have been soon forgotten. But think again! As his old life soon catches up with him when the animals start to mysteriously escape from their enclosures and all hell starts to break loose. Especially when Mr Jameson had plans in place to host the grandest of spectacles, a show featuring his most prized possessions and attractions – including the most famous of all, Maharajah.

Suspicion mounts and the finger ends up slowly being pointing towards Danny due to his background and his past life. But surely this level of sabotage can’t all be down to him… As word gathers pace, the zoo’s critics’ voices get even louder in their campaign in their threats to close it and even more animals escape, is the future of the zoo at stake?

With all this happening, Danny’s life is changing for the worse but with the appearance of a man claiming to be his father: will it start to get better and does Danny find that long-lost sense of belonging he has always craved?

Try as he might – and some may call him fearless; others audacious – Mr Jameson puts up the only fight he can to relent the oncoming fracas the best he can, still scheduling his plans for his show of all shows but will the show go on…?

There are important messages throughout this epic adventure of good-versus-evil: the rights of animals and the place of zoos in historical and modern society being the main one that will make the reader think more deeply. But in Danny, there is a much more pressing message in that care and love goes further than anyone can imagine.

With superbly-executed twists along the way, this menagerie mystery is one not to be missed.

It is so interesting and insightful to read Jane’s author note (and lucky for you, this is the theme of Jane’s guest post below!) in the back of the book which details the fact behind the fiction and the real-life stories of the Belle Vue Zoological Gardens in Manchester and Maharajah which inspired the idea for this book and its predecessor. Although this book is a sequel, it can be read as a stand-alone knowing that Danny has been saved from the streets. However, if you really want to maximise the potential of this story and become immersed in the quality of Jane’s writing, I fully recommend reading The Elephant Thief in all its glory.

‘Returning to this follow-up is like revisiting an old friend again…  with brilliantly-executed twists, this menagerie mystery is one not to be missed.’


You can read more about them, or as Jane calls them: the Disneyland of the North, as I’m delighted to welcome Jane to The Reader Teacher today with her beautifully-written guest post below…


Belle Vue: Disneyland of the North

Known as the Disneyland of the north, Belle Vue Zoological Gardens attracted more than two million visitors a year. And yet today, the only sign that it ever existed is a commemorative plaque at the spot where the entrance once stood.

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A Belle Vue programme cover  (Courtesy of Chetham’s Library)

Belle Vue began life in the 1830s as a small tea garden but the owner John Jennison had big ambitions. As well as an aviary of parrots, he introduced kangaroos, a rhino, a couple of lions, a bear and some gazelles. And then in 1872, he bought an elephant: Maharajah.

Over the next ten years, Maharajah became one of Belle Vue’s best-loved animals, giving rides to thousands of children, and taking part in city parades. He’s also the undisputed star of my books: The Elephant Thief and the latest adventure, The Great Animal Escapade.

 

But just like my fictional Belle Vue, the real park boasted many other attractions. The Jennison family built a maze, a dance hall, an archery field, several tearooms, Italian gardens and even a platform for hot air ballooning.

One of the annual highlights was a summer show staged on the island in the middle of Belle Vue’s boating lake. Local men – paid in pies and beer – were enlisted to play soldiers and act out scenes from historic battles.

Huge painted canvases formed the backdrop to these dramatic performances, while overhead, rockets and firecrackers coloured the sky.

But the displays were not without danger. Almost every night, the wooden stage caught fire and on one occasion in 1883, flames broke out on the island destroying half the painted scenery – a drama that provided inspiration for The Great Animal Escapade.

It didn’t stop people from coming. Such was Belle Vue’s success, that Jenison launched his own omnibus service to transport visitors to and from the park, and a rail service ran to the nearby station every half hour.

But the gardens were not popular with everyone. Local church leaders demanded Jennison stop business during Sunday services. His blunt reply was ‘I’m like you: I make my living on Sundays.’ They didn’t bother him after that.

The Jennison era ended in 1925 when the family finally sold the park. It was taken over by a businessman called John Henry Iles. He expanded Belle Vue, adding a rollercoaster and speedway track, as well as welcoming big-names like The Rolling Stones, The Who and Led Zeppelin.

But times were changing for the menagerie. As well as increased competition from other, more modern zoos, there were growing – and justified – concerns about animal welfare and conservation.

With little investment, Belle Vue was simply not able to keep up with the new thinking, and after 140 years in business, the zoo closed in 1977. Within four years, the other attractions had shut down as well.

Now, all that remains are memories “…of the most magical, marvellous and mesmerising zoological gardens on this great earth!”

THE GREAT ANIMAL ESCAPADE by Jane Kerr is out now in paperback
(£6.99, Chicken House)

Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com and connect with Jane on Twitter:  @janekerrwrites


Big thanks to Jane, Laura and all the team at Chicken House for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of the The Great Animal Escapade blog tour and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Jane for writing such a brilliant and interesting guest post!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the The Great Animal Escapade blog tour for more reviews & exclusive guest posts from Jane and these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): She Wolf – Dan Smith (Illustrated by Jill Calder)

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‘With She Wolf, Dan succeeds in turning his hand to historical fiction once more. Both ravaging and raw… this should be top of the pile for teachers and schools learning more about Viking England.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: She Wolf
Author: Dan Smith (@DanSmithAuthor)
Cover illustration: Jill Calder (@jillcalder)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 320
Date of publication: 7th March 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1910655931

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Bow-and-arrow 🏹
2. Shield-maiden 🛡️
3. Revenge 😠


Northumbria 866.
Washed ashore on a frozen English beach, Ylva’s survived. She will not cry. She’s meant to be strong. She’s a Viking.

But when her mother dies at the hands of a three-fingered man, and the wolves of the forest circle closer, Ylva will need more than the memory of her mother’s stories to stay alive. Can she shape her own legend? Will it end in revenge – or is there another way?


Review:

With an opening where we encounter Ylva (eel-va), our bold and brave protagonist, left reeling and reacting in a state of shock after the murder of the mother to a terrifying figure and a mysterious woman who’s wearing her mother’s necklace, She Wolf starts as it means to go on. With revenge in mind, Ylva sets off on the most bloodthirsty of tasks: to kill the man who killed her mother. The three-fingered murderer.

Together with her dog, Geri – her loyal and trustworthy companion who sticks by her side through thick and thin – Ylva treads through the treacherous, frozen lands of Northern England in her plight to avenge her mother’s death. What we learn throughout Ylva’s very own saga is that she is most definitely her mother’s daughter. Gutsy, headstrong and staunchly independent, she is on a one-girl mission and nothing is going to stop her. But the journey is not easy and the weather is constant; biting and freezing and everybody is not as friendly as they first seem either…

Will Ylva survive or will she fall at the hands of the very same people that murdered her mother?

Fighting off foes and holding her belief in the gods close to her heart, this quest is more than a quest for Ylva. It’s character building and courage-forming. And for the reader, it’s both a ravaging and raw look at Viking life and what it would have been like to live during these harsh and historical of times. With descriptions of the wilderness that surround Ylva that arouse all of the senses, Dan has a canny knack for transporting us deep in to the heart of his settings: this time in amongst the trees to experience her epic, dangerous and sometimes, violent (although not overly graphic) journey first-hand.

Dan is the master of all-action, heart-pounding, breathless books and for me, She Wolf achieves this in spades. With She Wolf, he succeeds again (after the success of My Friend the Enemy and My Brother’s Secret) in turning his hand to historical fiction once more, leaving readers demanding more and more. This should be top of the pile for any teachers and schools learning more about the history of Viking England.

‘With She Wolf, Dan succeeds in turning his hand to historical fiction once more. Both ravaging and raw… this should be top of the pile for teachers and schools learning more about Viking England.’


Read on for Dan’s guest post of how a question from a young girl at a school event inspired the creation of Ylva… I’m delighted to be hosting him at The Reader Teacher.


Shield-Maiden – No Myth!

A couple of years ago, during the Q&A after a presentation at a school, a young girl at the front of the audience put up her hand to ask a question.

‘Have you ever written a story with a girl as the main character?’

Before SHE WOLF, I published five books for younger readers. Those books take readers through the hardships of World War II, they send them hunting in the forests of Finland, racing through the jungles of Costa Rica, and investigating a mystery in the icy wastes of Antarctica. All but one of those books (the one based on a film I didn’t write) have two main characters; a boy and girl. It made sense to me, having both a son and a daughter, that I would want both of my own children to be able to see themselves in one of those characters. But it would be fair to say that, yes, the boy was usually the main main character.

So I decided to change that. My next story would have a girl as the main character. But, when we think about Vikings, we think about large, bearded, menacing men with swords and axes, so how was I going to do that? Well, maybe it’s time to change our thinking; while researching the Viking Age, I discovered that women were an important part of Viking society. They had many rights and freedoms that the Christian women in the countries they invaded didn’t have. And when the Vikings eventually became Christians, those women lost their freedoms.

But what about warriors? Were there any female Viking warriors? I wanted my main character, Ylva, to be fierce like a wolf. I wanted her to feel comfortable with an axe in her hand. She should know how to swing a blade, and not be afraid of a little blood. Ylva needed to be a warrior.

In several of the Viking sagas – epic poems about great Viking heroes – there is mention of female warriors, known as ‘shield maidens’ but until recently, historians thought these were a myth. They believed that Viking raiders were all men; that women were not strong enough, or brave enough, or fierce enough to have joined the raiding parties that ventured over the seas.

In 1889 a Viking grave was excavated in Sweden, containing the remains of a warrior surrounded by weapons, and two sacrificed horses. Known as the ‘Birka Warrior’, archaeologists believed this to be the grave of a wealthy, famous male warrior. But during the 1970’s, and again in 2016, close analysis led bioarchaeologists to believe that the remains of the Birka Warrior might actually belong to a woman. In 2017, a team of scientists, led by Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson, carried out genetic tests on the remains and discovered that the Birka Warrior was a woman. A shield maiden.

And that’s what Ylva wants to be. 

So my Viking hero is no bearded giant. Instead, she is a brave and resourceful girl with an axe in her hand and revenge burning in her heart. Dan-Smith.jpg

Who says girls can’t be tough?

SHE WOLF by Dan Smith is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com and www.dansmithsbooks.com

Connect with Dan Smith on Twitter: @DanSmithAuthor


Big thanks to Dan, Laura and all the team at Chicken House for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of the She Wolf blog tour and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Dan for writing such a superb and insightful guest post!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the She Wolf blog tour for more reviews, exclusive guest posts from these brilliant book bloggers!

Cover Reveal & Book Giveaway: The Frozen Sea – Piers Torday (Illustrated by Ben Mantle & designed by Samuel Perrett) – Published 5th September 2019

I’m so excited to be able to reveal the cover of Piers Torday’s incredible second instalment in the The Lost Magician series, The Frozen Sea (which has been brilliantly illustrated by Ben Mantle and designed by Samuel Perrett) which will be published on 5th September 2019 by Hachette.

I’m also super happy because the very lovely people at Hachette have given me five proof copies of The Frozen Sea to give away near to publication day!

Find out more below!


The Frozen Sea

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‘If you can imagine it, it exists … somewhere.’ 

The second incredible instalment of a spellbinding fantasy adventure from the bestselling, award-winning author of The Last Wild trilogy.

It is 1984 and forty years since Simon, Patricia and Evelyn and Larry first stepped through a magical library door into the enchanted world of Folio. When Patricia’s daughter, Jewel, makes a mysterious discovery in an old bookshop, she begins a quest that will make her question everything she thought she knew. Summoned to Folio, she must rescue a missing prince, helped only by her pet hamster and a malfunctioning robot.

Their mission to the Frozen Sea will bring them face-to-face with a danger both more deadly and more magnificent than they ever imagined.

What Jewel discovers will change not just who she thinks she is, but who we all think we are…


Publisher: Hachette Children’s Group
ISBN: 9781786540768
Number of pages: 352 


Piers Torday

 

I was born in 1974, in Northumberland, which is possibly the one part of England where more animals live than people.

My father Paul worked for the family engineering business in Newcastle, while my mother Jane ran a children’s bookshop in Hexham called Toad Hall Books. Alongside my younger brother Nick, I spent my very early years crawling around on the floor of that shop, surrounded by piles of books right from the start.

I was extremely lucky to come from a writing background. My grandfather Roger Mortimer was a racing journalist who wrote hundreds of very funny letters to his children and grandchildren, and you can learn the extraordinary story of his life in Dearest Jane, by him and my mother, Jane.

I enjoyed reading, writing and drawing from an early age. My parents loved reading to me, and I particularly enjoyed books with good pictures – such as the Moomin stories by Tove Jansson, The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien and Hergé’s Tintin graphic novels. Other favourites included Roald Dahl, C. S. Lewis’s Narnia series and Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. My mother was always writing as I was growing up – newspaper articles, gardening and cookery books, local history – and it seemed a normal thing to want to do.

My first cartoon, aged 7,  was about a superhero called Super Sid, which won a competition in a local newspaper. Then I started making comics, and my first one was about all the sheep who lived on the hills around us, called…The Sheep! At school, I spent most of my time in the library or the computer room, where I wrote short stories and funny articles for the school magazine.  Then I went to university, where I was meant to study English but mainly wrote, directed or produced plays and comedy shows.

My first job, in 1996, was in a fringe theatre in London, The Pleasance, where I started working behind the bar but was eventually allowed to read a few scripts and then help choose what plays were put on, both in London and at their Edinburgh Fringe Festival venue.  I was very fortunate to be a Trustee for the last 15 years.

Then I co-ran a theatre production company, touring new plays and promoting comedians. I also worked in TV for several years, including a short spell in Los Angeles, coming up with ideas for everything from reality shows to hidden camera pranks.

On a break between TV jobs one summer in 2008, I booked myself onto an Arvon writing course at Ted Hughes’s old house on the West Yorkshire moors, and it was there I began writing the adventures of a boy called Kester who can’t talk to people but can talk to animals, in an environmentally precarious world.

Finally, after 17 drafts, and many early mornings and late nights later, The Last Wild was published in 2013 by Quercus Children’s. It was nominated for the Carnegie Award shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, the UKLA Award, and won both Stockton Children’s Book of the Year and Calderdale Children’s Book of the Year. The book has been published in 13 other countries, including the USA.

That same year, I married Will Tosh, an academic.

In 2014, the sequel to The Last Wild, The Dark Wild,  came out, and won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. The third and final book in the series, The Wild Beyond came out in 2015, and was shortlisted for Islington Book of the Year.

After my father died in 2013, I found his last unfinished novel (a political thriller for adults) amongst his papers. With the agreement of my brother and his agent and editor, I finished the book for him , and The Death of an Owl was published in 2016 by W&N.

That Christmas, my fourth book for children,  There May Be A Castle was published by Quercus Children’s. It was a Children’s Book of the Year in The Times and has just come out in paperback.  You can also read some new short stories by me in Winter Magic (curated by Abi Elphinstone), Wisp of Wisdom and Scoop magazine.

I also occasionally write articles and book reviews for The Guardian, The Daily Expressand The Spectator, amongst others. I have judged the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, and the Costa Book Award.

My adaptation of John Masefield’s classic The Box of Delights  opened at Wilton’s Music Hall in London last Christmas, directed by Justin Audibert, designed by Tom Piper, starring Matthew Kelly and Josefina Gabrielle and was revived in Christmas 2018 starring Theo Ancient, Nigel Betts and Sarah Stewart.

I am now delighted to also be an Associate Artist at Wilton’s.

I am passionate about the opportunities for imaginative futures that reading allows, and have been a trained Reading Helper with Beanstalk Reads for five years, working with children on their reading on my local primary schools.

I am delighted to be a Patron of Reading at the inspirational St. Silas’s in Toxteth, Liverpool, and am a Trustee of the Ministry of Stories, a charity which works with children in East London and further afield to enable their creativity and storytelling skills in multiple different forms.

I am also a Patron of the magnificent Shrewsbury Book Fest, a visionary book award, festival and school outreach scheme all in one.

My latest book is called The Lost Magician, and was published in September 2017.

I am currently also working on the sequel to that book, alongside a new play and a new film, but spend most of my time wrangling our very naughty – but adorable – puppy, Huxley.


Ben Mantle

Ben was born in Leamington Spa in 1980, and developed a very early interest in things artistic, designing programme covers for school productions and even coming first in his local library colouring-in competition. From there he went on to study animation at Surrey Institute of Art & Design, graduating in 2003.. He then gained valuable experience working on Tim Burton’s “Corpse Bride” before moving to Brighton to work as ‘Head of Animation’ in a media company, focusing on Character and Background design.

He was also part of the Animation team creating the BAFTA winning ‘Big and Small’ CBeebies website. Since 2008, Ben has been working as a Children’s Book Illustrator from his shared studio in Brighton and he also produces screen prints and digital artwork to exhibit. He illustrated ‘Callum’s Incredible Construction Kit’ which won the Bishop’s Stortford Picture Book prize 2013.


Samuel Perrett

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Photo credit:https://uk.linkedin.com/in/samuel-perrett-8735a177/de

Samuel Perrett is Senior Designer at Hachette Children’s Group.
He also designed the cover for Piers Torday’s The Lost Magician and many more bestselling books from Hachette.


Pre-order: The Frozen Sea is available to pre-order now online at AmazonWaterstones or from any good independent bookshop.


Biggest thanks to Piers, Emily and all at Hachette for giving me the wonderful opportunity to reveal this stunning and spellbinding cover and for providing copies for the giveaway!

I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

Mr E


Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Hachette have kindly given me five copies of The Frozen Sea to give away!

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If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning a copy of The Frozen Sea, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

Proof copies will be sent to winners when available from Hachette, as soon as possible near to publication day.

Blog Tour (Review): A Witch Come True – James Nicol (Illustrated by Daniela Terrazini)

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‘Fizzing with magic…
this is a trilogy to treasure of which James conjures to an end so exquisitely.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: A Witch Come True
Author: James Nicol (@JamesENicol)
Cover illustration: Daniela Terrazini (@djterrazzini)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 352
Date of publication: 7th March 2019
Series status: Final book in the trilogy
ISBN: 978-1910655986

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Magic ✨
2. HotChocolate ☕
3. Witch 🧙‍♀️


The war is done and Arianwyn has discovered the secret of the quiet glyphs at last, but her troubles are far from over. Her day-to-day work as Lull’s witch is tricky enough: winter has set in, bringing endless rain, ice imps and some rather befuddling Yule traditions. But when enemies and dark magic converge on Lull, stealing away someone very dear indeed, our witch faces her greatest challenge so far. What really makes a witch come true? Our loveable heroine is about to find out…


Review: Saying goodbye to a series you’ve enjoyed can be hard but saying goodbye to a series of books you’ve thoroughly endeared is harder still. When James released the first book in the trilogy, The Apprentice Witch, back in 2016, it was almost obvious to see that this was going to be such a triumph of a series and with each book that has followed, it has been, for me, better than the last and that only says something about the quality of his purely exquisite and wonderful writing.

With the third terrific instalment of Arianwyn’s adventures in A Witch Come True, we find her after the war and hoping that her life can return to normal where she’s able to learn the truths of the quiet glyphs at last. With family reunions and Christmas on its way, it seems that life in Lull could rebalance itself for Arianwyn in the right way. However, dark magic doesn’t lie low for long before resurfacing in to her life once again and causing her one of the greatest challenges she’ll face so far. Can she save the inhabitants of Lull, her family and herself before its too late…?

If you haven’t yet read The Apprentice Witch or A Witch Alone, I suggest you get right to it because this is a trilogy to treasure. Fizzing with magic and a dash of mayhem, this series sparkles with sheer delight and is not just ‘another series of books about magic’ but is a trilogy that you can’t help but fall under its spell and take them so close to your heart with a cast of characters you really care about and most of all, a hearty and hopeful heroine who is sure to live long with readers well after the last page.

A mug of hot chocolate is the perfect complement and the most fitting of accompaniments to the end of this series which James conjures to a close so perfectly. It’s little wonder that James has recently received offers to bring The Apprentice Witch series to our screens and of that, we are all eagerly awaiting it!


‘Fizzing with magic…
this is a trilogy to treasure of which James conjures to an end so exquisitely.’


Big thanks to James, Jazz and all the team at Chicken House for inviting me to share my thoughts and bring the A Witch Come True blog tour to a close too and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the A Witch Come True blog tour for more reviews, exclusive guest posts and Q&As from these collection of brilliant book bloggers!

Cover Reveal & Book Giveaway: Fire Girl, Forest Boy – Chloe Daykin (Illustrated by David Litchfield) – Published 4th July 2019

I’m so excited to be able to exclusively reveal the cover of Chloe Daykin‘s third children’s novel, Fire Girl, Forest Boy (which has been brilliantly illustrated by David Litchfield) which will be published on 4th July 2019 by Faber Children’s.

I’m also super happy because the very lovely people at Faber have given me five proof copies of Fire Girl, Forest Boy to give away so you can be one of its very first readers!

Find out more below!


Fire Girl, Forest Boy – Chloe Daykin
(Illustrated by David Litchfield)

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A book about light, about magic and belief, and about unlocking your own potential, from the critically acclaimed author of Fish Boy and The Boy Who Hit Play.

Maya has to escape. She’s on the run in a country she doesn’t know and has no idea who to trust. Raul is escaping too – travelling back to his home where a terrible tragedy happened, ready to stir up trouble. When their paths collide in the middle of the jungle, the sparks begin to fly. As modern world corruption meets the magic and legends of ancient times, can Maya draw on her hidden light to find the way through to the truth?


Chloe Daykin

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Photo credit: https://felicitybryan.com/fba-author/chloe-daykin/

 

Chloe won a ARHC studentship to study the MA in Creative Writing at Newcastle University where she graduated with distinction, winning the universities taught masters prize and Northern Writers Award to write her debut novel Fish Boy. Fish Boy was published by Faber & Faber in 2017 to critical acclaim and was nominated for the Carnegie Medal, long listed for the UKLA and is currently shortlisted for the Branford Boase children’s debut of the year award.

Chloe won the wonderful inaugural Julia Darling Fellowship to research her second novel The Boy Who Hit Play, travelling around the wild icy land of Norway and its many beautiful islands, published in 2018.

In December Chloe journeyed across the otherworldy land of Peru thanks to the fantastic support of the Arts Council England. Her third novel, Fire Girl, Forest Boy, is due to be released in July 2019.

Chloe Daykin lives in Northumberland with her family including one husband, two boys and three cats. She loves an unusual adventure and is a fan of all things fun, poetic and surprising.


David Litchfield

 

David Litchfield is a multi-award winning illustrator and author represented by the Bright Agency.

David first started to draw when he was very young, creating Star Wars and Indiana Jones ‘mash up’ comics for his older brother and sister. Since then David’s work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, books and on T-shirts. He has also exhibited his illustrations in both solo and group shows in the U.K, Europe and America.

David’s  author/illustrator picture books ‘The Bear & The Piano’  ‘Grandad’s Secret Giant’ and ‘The Bear, The Piano, The Dog & The Fiddle’ are out now.

He has also illustrated a number of picture books for authors such as Ross Montgomery, Andy Stanton and Sally Lloyd-Jones as well as book covers for David Almond, Kate Dicamillo, Neil Patrick Harris and many more.

David lives with his family in Bedford, England.


Pre-order: Fire Girl, Forest Boy is available to pre-order now online at AmazonWaterstones or from any good independent bookshop.


Biggest thanks to Sarah and all at Faber for giving me the wonderful opportunity to reveal this gorgeously colourful cover and for providing proof copies for the giveaway!

I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

Mr E


Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Faber have kindly given me five proof copies of Fire Girl, Forest Boy to give away!

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If you’d like to be in with a chance of being one of the first readers to read Fire Girl, Forest Boy, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

Proof copies will be sent to winners when available from Faber, as soon as possible.

Blog Tour (Review): The Boy Who Flew – Fleur Hitchcock (Illustrated by Ben Mantle)

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‘A dangerously, dark, Dickensian romp through the backstreets, and rooftops, of Bath that never lets you go… Fleur’s first foray into fantasy passes with flying colours!’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Boy Who Flew
Author: Fleur Hitchcock (@FleurHitchcock)
Cover illustration: Ben Mantle (@benmmantle)
Publisher: Nosy Crow (@NosyCrowBooks)
Page count: 256
Date of publication: 7th March 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1788004381

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Flying ✈️
2. Invention ⚙️
3. Murder ☠️


When his friend, Mr Chen, is murdered, Athan Wilde must stop the flying machine they were building from falling into the wrong hands. But keeping the machine safe puts his family in terrible danger. Athan faces a dreadful choice – flight or family? Which one will he pick?

A tense, grime-filled thriller from a master storyteller.


Review:

As this tale begins to rapidly unfold, we are first introduced to the backstreets of Bath where the shadows swathe the streets in darkness swallowing all of the light and where we soon enter a murky world of mystery and murder…

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Hidden away are Athan Wilde, our young protagonist, and his inventor friend, Mr Chen who are busy at work creating their latest contraptions. Most recently, that being a flying machine. For Athan – who dreams of taking to the skies – Mr Chen is the man who can turn imagination into idea and aspiration into actuality. However, Athan’s dreams are all but diminished upon hearing that his great friend has been brutally murdered in his own home. Fearing the worst and that all of their inventions and well-kept secrets could be revealed, Athan soon finds it falling to him to rescue their plans and plot a way forward for their dream of flying, now his dream, to survive.

But there’s more than many a ruthless and sinister villain who will stop at nothing to thwart Athan’s ambition, especially when there’s a competition prize of 10,000 guineas at stake. Hold on to your hats for a dangerously, dark, Dickensian romp through the backstreets, and rooftops, of Bath to join Athan on his adventures of aviation. Warts and all…

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Even though Athan is living a life that’s shrouded in poverty, destitution and hardship, this book is filled with the power of family and friendship – complete with a frank, funny and farting Grandma who (for me) absolutely steals the show.

Engrossing, exciting and most of all, riveting are the words that I choose to use to describe this fast-paced, frenetic and unmissable tale that just will not let you go until the very last word of the very last page. I highly recommend The Boy Who Flew to Upper Key Stage 2 readers who enjoy stories told with intensity interwoven within an inventive, immersive world that you can’t help but be drawn into. Fleur’s first foray into fantasy passes with flying colours and The Boy Who Flew should be renamed The Book Who Flew because that’s what it’ll be doing… flying off the shelves!

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Big thanks to Fleur, Rebecca and all the team at Nosy Crow for inviting me to share my thoughts and kick off The Boy Who Flew blog tour and for sending me early copies of the proof and finished versions in exchange for an honest review.

Mr E 


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Be sure to check out the rest of The Boy Who Flew blog tour this week for more reviews of this magnificent adventure that you don’t want to miss!

Blog Tour: FCBG Children’s Book Award: What Do You Do if Your House is a Zoo? – John Kelly (Illustrated by Sarah Laberis)

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‘Guaranteed to bring the most beaming of smiles and the loudest of laughs… this story showcases the bond between person and pet so perfectly and is sure to become its reader’s best friend.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: What Do You Do If Your House Is a Zoo?
Author: John Kelly
Illustrator: Steph Laberis (@StephLaberis)
Publisher: Little Tiger Press (@LittleTigerUK)
Page count: 32
Date of publication: 9th August 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1848699496

Perfect for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. House 🏠
2. Pets 🐕
3. Friendship 🤝


Oscar is getting a pet!
But which pet should he pick?

And what on earth will he do when they all move in?
His house is like a zoo.

A book for animal lovers, BIG and small.


Review: I am absolutely delighted to be hosting What Do You Do If Your House is a Zoo?, one of the four picture book titles in the 2019 FCBG (The Federation of Children’s Book Groups_ Children’s Book Award blog tour. This is my very first year on this tour and it is such a privilege to support this award, the only national award voted for solely by children from start to finish and is highly regarded by parents, teachers, librarians, publishers and children’s authors and illustrators as it truly represents children’s choice.

What Do You Do if Your House is a Zoo? is a beautifully-told picture book of the time when Oscar, our main character, is given permission to get the pet he’s always wanted from his mum and dad. The only thing is that he can’t decide and there’s way too many to choose from.

Dogs, cats, parrots, elephants, snakes, fish, hamsters – all these animals and so little time to pick. So he lets nature take its course and puts an advert in the classifieds section of his local newspaper only to become inundated with replies from the very animals themselves!

As the replies flood through Oscar’s letterbox thick and fast through hand-written letters with handwriting that wittily matches the characteristics of their animal sender (a perfect learning opportunity to look at this wild letter writing), Oscar’s choice becomes even more confusing with ostriches, meerkats, horses, gorillas, wolves, bulls, beavers and whales joining the picking party.

As Oscar deliberates and ponders over his choice, things go bad from worse as the animals arrive at his home to set up camp and Oscar gains his own massive menagerie right outside his front door.

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Creating absolute carnage and chaos, this zany zoo of animals soon take over not just his garden, not just his next door’s neighbour’s garden and not just his front road but even the inside of his house! Taking cover in a tent outside, the only option is for all the animals to go. All except for the appearance of a letter from a pet that Oscar had missed reading…

With an ending that will melt even the coldest of hearts, this is a special story told with complete and utter sincerity. There is nothing like the irreplaceable, mutual bond between person and pet and this book showcases this so perfectly. This story is sure to become its reader’s best friend. Brought to life by the bright, bold and brilliant illustrations of Steph Laberis, this tale is one to treasure that’s guaranteed to bring the biggest of beaming smiles, the loudest of laughs and is one with a message to hold close to your heart.


‘Guaranteed to bring the most beaming of smiles and the loudest of laughs… this story showcases the bond between person and pet so perfectly and is sure to become its reader’s best friend.’


Big thanks to Kate for inviting me to be a part of this year’s FCBG (Federation of Children’s Book Groups) blog tour showcasing the ten choices for this year’s Children’s Book Award. I would love to be involved again next year!

Mr E

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If you’d like to follow other blogs on this year’s blog tour, you can find them below:

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1st March 2019 (@Fi_BGB): The Wondrous Dinosaurium by John Condon & Steve Brown (Maverick)
4th March 2019 (@toppsta): Mixed by Arree Chung (Macmillan)
8th March 2019 (@Readitdaddy): The Last Chip by Duncan Beedie (Templar)
11th March 2019 (@MrEPrimary): What Do You Do If Your House is a Zoo? by John Kelly & Steph Laberis (Little Tiger)
13th March 2019: Picture Book Round Up (FCBG)


18th March 2019: Mr Penguin and the Fortress of Secrets by Alex T. Smith (Hodder/Hachette)
22nd March 2019: The Dog Who Lost His Bark by Eoin Colfer, illustrated by P. J. Lynch (Walker)
25th March 2019: Funny Kid – Stand Up by Matt Stanton (HarperCollins)
29th March 2019: Younger Readers Round Up (FCBG)


1st April 2019: The Light Jar by Lisa Thompson, cover illus. by Mike Lowery (Scholastic)
5th April 2019: The Storm Keeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle, cover ills. by Bill Bragg (Bloomsbury)
8th April 2019: Armistice Runner by Tom Palmer, cover illus. by Tom Clohosy Cole (Barrington Stoke)
12th April 2019: Older Readers Round Up (FCBG)

The voting will open shortly here: http://childrensbookaward.org…. and if you’d like to keep up with all the news and updates, you can follow FCBG on Twitter.

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet – Martin Howard (Illustrated by Chris Mould)

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‘A fantastic fusion of the time travelling of Adams, the humour of Pratchett and the eccentricities of Stanton. Outlandishly good… this is imagination at its pure and absolute wildest!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet
Author: Martin Howard (@MJHowardWrites)
Illustrator: Chris Mould (@chrismouldink)
Publisher: Oxford University Press Children’s (@OUPChildrens)
Page count: 336
Date of publication: 7th March 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-0192767509

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Cosmos 🌌
2. Atlas 🗺️
3.  Brains-in-Jars 🧠


Bored of the same old routine?
Longing for a bit of adventure in your life?
Love living life on the edge?
Then join Alfie Fleet and discover a whole universe of wonders (and things that are not so wonderful too, but we won’t go into that now).

From giant sand lobsters on planet Maureen and the Twang Bears of Mumsy, to the eerie (yet oddly quite boring) brains in jars on Brains-in-Jars World – there’s something for everyone. And if danger’s your thing you won’t want to miss Outlandish, with its gold-hoarding dragon, take-your-life-in-your-hands cuisine, and welcoming locals who’ll fire lightning bolts at you.

Thrills and adventure await, just hop on board the slightly old and rusty moped of infinity!


Review: After desperately needing some money and thinking that he’s in luck, Alfie Fleet (a poor, destitute young boy who lives with his mother in a ramshackle, run-down house) responds to an advert in the newspaper where he thinks he can make the extra £49.99 to add to his £100 to make his mother’s dreams come true to buy her the most wonderful of birthday presents: the Sole Sensation 6000 Foot Spa.

However (and it’s a common theme in this book), Alfie’s best-laid plans go slightly awry in meeting the man who he thinks will bestow him with this most needed of money. Meeting a professor might be a transformative experience for many but for Alfie it’s life-changing. Especially one who goes by the rather amusing name of Professor Bowell-Mouvemont and mark my words, there’s plenty more amusing names to come!

Taking Alfie on a tour where he experiences new dimensions, new worlds and new characters and creates a world for this book of its very own as Martin’s mind comes to life on these very pages through the incredible, inter-cosmological and inimitable illustrations of Chris Mould. As the professor reveals (rather hysterically!) that these new lands are often unmapped and undocumented, Alfie begins to articulate his adventures through his own version of the Cosmic Atlas. If you think you’ve seen one travel guide then you’ve seen them all, well think again because this ranges from the surreal to the sublime and will be a source of inspiration for its readers to create peculiar places of their own.

But as the Professor and Alfie are soon left to discover for themselves, the way back home may not be as simple as it first seemed. Can they return to give Alfie’s mum the present he thinks she’s always wanted or will they be trapped in this weird and wonderful world…?

It’s more than science-fiction or science-fantasy with every page taking you in a different direction and this is what makes it truly unique. Wacky, insanely inventive and heaps of fun, I can completely guarantee that this book will be lapped up by children (and adults!) who love laughing out loud due to its fantastic fusion of the time-travelling of Adams, the humour of Pratchett and the eccentricities of Stanton.

Forget the boundaries of space, forget the boundaries of time and forget the boundaries of imagination because this is outlandishly good. This is imagination at its pure and absolute wildest!


A fantastic fusion of the time travelling of Adams, the humour of Pratchett and the eccentricities of Stanton. Outlandishly good… this is imagination at its pure and absolute wildest!


What’s It All About, Eh?

If you are interested in the universe or anything in it then The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet is the book for you. Not only is it a proper science-fiction, fantasy, travel guide adventure, but it answers questions that have left science scratching its chin. Who could ask for more? As a taste of the surprises that await, The Reader Teachercan reveal just a few of those secrets. Glue your eyeballs to this screen for just a sample of that astonishing knowledge …

How Did Human Life on Earth Begin?

Let’s start with the BIG question. Some books tell you it all began with monkeys. Wrong! The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleetteaches us that stone circles brought humans to Earth. Yes, stone circles. You know, like Stonehenge. This is how it happened …

About a million years ago, a man named Partley Mildew invented stone circles on the planet Wip-Bop-a-Looma, starting a craze for inter-galactic travel. His circles had the power to send people across a bejillion miles of space in the blink of an eye, allowing humans to explore the universe. People loved them. Travelling to distant planets meant they could go swimming with Giggling MegaFish on planet Mip before breakfast then have lunch on the other side of the universe while their brains were spring-cleaned by friendly Limpation Cranium Toads. Soon, holiday companies were building bigger and bigger stone circles to cope with crowds of tourists. Across the universe, happy holiday-makers dipped their toes in the Sweat Sea on planet S’Panq, flapped across planet Win’span on homemade wings, or danced on Ominoss-Merkwerld, lit by swarms of multi-coloured discoflies.

Tourists first arrived on Earth about forty thousand years ago, and immediately described it as “delightful”. As the travel brochures said, “Comefor the fresh air, stayfor the mammoths.” Of course, these early tourists didn’t call the planet “Earth.” They called it “Toby”. Toby became a popular holiday destination, famous for its beaches and great restaurants. Some humans decided to make their home here, and also decided that Toby was a nice enough name for a boy but sounded silly on a planet. As there was a lot of earth on Toby, the planet’s new people took a vote and renamed their world “Earth.” Interestingly, the name “Chickens” came in second place.

Wow. Why Didn’t We Know About This?

As thousands more years went by tourism died off. Tobians, or “Earthlings” as they now called themselves, forgot they had cousins on other planets. They forgot what stone circles had been used for, too. “Hmm,’ historians thought to themselves. “These stone circles must have been important. Something to do with gods, I’ll bet.” It’s worth mentioning that if people don’t understand something, it’s often blamed on gods. Gods get quite cheesed off with this.

How Has this Incredible Secret Been Preserved?

Around the universe most folk had forgotten about the power of stone circles but one group remembered. They called their society the Unusual Cartography Club, and the members continued to travel the universe, mapping planets for their Cosmic Atlas: the finest collection of extra-terrestrial maps this side of Nerwong-Nerwong Plinky-Plonk.

That Sounds Like the Sort of Thing People Would Remember

Well, no. Not really. People forget important stuff all the time. Pyramids for example. If you think space travelling stone circles are weird, pyramids would reallyblow your mind. Plus, though the UCC wasn’t exactly a secretsociety its members got tired of people giving them funny looks. Try this simple experiment: next time you’re invited to a party, open a conversation by saying, “Hullo, I spent last week mapping planet Foopsie-Wigglefinger. They have pink ostriches with three bottoms there, you know.” Funny looks, right? And no more party invitations.  After a while the UCC’s explorers just stopped talking about their adventures.

Interesting. Tell Me More About This Unusual Cartography Club

It’s a club with a long history. At first, its members used Stonehenge to get around. Around two thousand years ago though, bits started falling off the ancient circle. Instead of repairing it, the UCC’s President – Dogstinkle the Crispy, who suffered from a bad leg in damp weather – decided to build a smaller circle, indoors where he would be out of the rain. More years went by and a city grew up around the new UCC headquarters. Empty fields became Wigless Square. Dogstinkle’s mud hut was demolished and replaced many times, most recently with a large mansion, now surrounded by other houses and Mr Hong’s Happy Dragon takeaway. A cavern was dug beneath the house and the circle moved onto a rotating platform. Invented by Medelaine Tusk, it made spinning the heavy stones to new co-ordinates much, mucheasier than shifting them about by hand.

The UCC’s mission of mapping the universe went on but the club lost members. Some got eaten by ghastly tentacled things, or blown up by unexpected volcanoes. Others just wandered off on worlds they liked better. Eventually, only one member of the UCC remained at Number Four, Wigless Square; one man in all the world who knew the power of stone circles: Professor Pewsley Bowell-Mouvemont. But the old UCC headquarters on Wigless Square was about to be demolished and the UCC’s maps, treasures and secrets destroyed forever.

No! What a Waste!

Woah there. All is not lost. Luckily, the Professor had a bad back and needed help with some light lifting and carrying. Enter Alfie Fleet – a boy with a destiny. Thanks to Alfie’s amazing brain-power, the old Unusual Cartography Club is about to change forever. Oh, and the entire universe, too. Sounds like fun? Well, read on. The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleetcontains further surprises about the universe, plus travel information about where to eat and stay on the planet of Outlandish, as well as stuff you did not know concerning elves, villainous scum hairdressers, Pulsating Swibs, and much, much more …

Enjoy! Or, as the Professor would say, “Who me? Ahh, what would I say? No, it’s gone. Forget my own … umm … thingy next. Something about prawns, was it?”

COMPETITION TIME: If you’re the kind of person who enjoys reading about strange planets and the weird people who live on them why not enter our competition? Design us a planet and Martin Howard and Chris Mould might help bring it to life so it can be included in book two of Alfie Fleet’s adventures! The winner’s planet will appear in the book and their name in the credits. They’ll also get a signed book, signed Chris Mould print of their planet and any other goodies we can lay our hands on. Probably chocolate. More details will be posted on Martin’s website soon: https://booksbymart.pub/


Big thanks to Martin, Emma and all the team at OUP Children’s for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet blog tour and for sending me early copies of the proof and finished versions in exchange for an honest review.

Extra thanks to Martin for writing his fascinating guest post!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet blog tour with exclusive guest posts and reviews from all of these brilliant book bloggers!

Cover Reveal & Book Giveaway: The Monster Who Wasn’t – T. C. Shelley (Illustrated by Claire Powell) – Published 8th August 2019

I’m so excited to be able to exclusively reveal the cover of T. C. Shelley‘s debut children’s novel, The Monster Who Wasn’t (which has been brilliantly illustrated by Claire Powell) which will be published on 8th August 2019 by Bloomsbury Children’s.

I’m also super happy because the very lovely people at Bloomsbury have given me five proof copies of The Monster Who Wasn’t to give away so you can be one of its very first readers!

Find out more below!


The Monster Who Wasn’t – T. C. Shelley
(Illustrated by Claire Powell)

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A brilliantly rich and strange fantasy adventure that will make us all believe in monsters  be they good, bad or somewhere in between.

It is a well-known fact that fairies are born from a baby’s first laugh. What is not as well documented is how monsters come into being 

This is the story of a creature who is both strange and unique. When he hatches down in the vast underground lair where monsters dwell, he looks just like a human boy – much to the disgust of everyone watching. Even the grumpy gargoyles who adopt him and nickname him ‘Imp’ only want him to steal chocolate for them from the nearby shops. He’s a child with feet in both worlds, and he doesn’t know where he fits.

But little does Imp realise that Thunderguts, king of the ogres, has a great and dangerous destiny in mind for him, and he’ll stop at nothing to see it come to pass…


The first book in a deeply magical fantasy adventure trilogy for 9+ readers.

Perfect for fans of The House with Chicken Legs, The Spiderwick Chronicles and The Uncommoners.


T. C. Shelley

T.C. Shelley studied Creative Writing and Literature at university. She has been teaching English for over twenty years and her first school was classified as the most remote in Australia. She loves an audience and long before she took up teaching was writing and performing her poetry and short stories. She began writing novels to entertain her daughter, who wisely suggested that she try to get them published. Shelley lives with her husband, her daughter and two dogs in Perth, Western Australia.

The Monster Who Wasn’t is her first novel.

You can find out more about T. C. by following her on Twitter: @TCShelley1.


Claire Powell

Life for Claire began in a cupboard under the stairs. Not as punishment like Harry Potter, it’s where she went to draw. Her parents sensing her love for drawing, turned the closet into an art den and it’s where Claire could always be found… until she got too big to fit that is.

Claire is now an illustrator, writer and designer who lives and works in London. Her clients include: Bloomsbury, Simon and Schuster, Hodder, Little Tiger, Harper Collins, Apple, Vital Arts, BBC, UKTV, Nickelodeon and DreamWorks Animation.

You can find out more about Claire on her website or by following her on Twitter: @misspowellpeeps.


Pre-order: The Monster Who Wasn’t is available to pre-order now online at AmazonWaterstones, Hive or from any good independent bookshop.


Biggest thanks to Emily Marples and all at Bloomsbury for giving me the wonderful opportunity to reveal this gorgeously magical cover and for providing proof copies for the giveaway!

I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

Mr E


Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Bloomsbury have kindly given me five proof copies of The Monster Who Wasn’t to give away!

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If you’d like to be in with a chance of being one of the first readers to read The Monster Who Wasn’t, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

Proof copies will be sent to winners when available from Bloomsbury, as soon as possible.

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): Storm Hound – Claire Fayers (Illustrated by Becka Moor)

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‘Electrifying, exciting, entertaining and endearing, this melding of Norse mythology with the Celtic culture of Wales is a modern-day myth of its very own.’

Title: Storm Hound
Author: Claire Fayers (@ClaireFayers)
Illustrator: Becka Moor (@BeckaMoor)
Publisher: Macmillan (@MacmillanKidsUK)
Page count: 256
Date of publication: 21st February 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1509895045

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Storm 🌩️
2. Odin 🛡️
3.  Hilarious 😁


Storm of Odin is the youngest stormhound of the Wild Hunt that haunts lightning-filled skies. He has longed for the time when he will be able to join his brothers and sisters but on his very first hunt he finds he can’t keep up and falls to earth, landing on the A40 just outside Abergavenny.

Enter twelve-year-old Jessica Price, who finds and adopts a cute puppy from an animal rescue centre. And suddenly, a number of strange people seem very interested in her and her new pet, Storm. People who seem to know a lot about magic…


Review:

As proud hound Storm of Odin leaps through the raging storm clouds as he joins in with The Wild Hunt, his first experience of this becomes rather short-lived as he crashes to Earth falling from the sky and finding himself face-to-face with a herdful of sheep in the wonderful world of Wales, which is as unexpected to him as the sheep that greet him; open-eyed and open-mouthed. It is within this early glimpse of Storm’s ever-so-slightly cheeky character that seemingly sets the scene for this warmhearted, magical and mythological story and things to come…

Lucky for him he is not left out in the wilderness for long as he becomes acquainted with new owner Jessie – a girl whose own heart doesn’t lie in Abergavenny either, after her parents’ separation and her own relocation to this new land. Thinking that a new dog will ease the pain, Jessie’s dad takes her to a rescue centre where she has the pick of the bunch. Jessie’s brother Ben wants the white dog but there’s something about Storm of Odin that catches her eye and she takes him under their wing and touchingly, she names him Storm.

As Storm starts to encounter many moments from our world, it is the most normal of events that become the most amusing: the meetings with the vet, the postman and the cat to name just a few! The observations and wit in Claire’s writing of these pooch-perspectives to show the mild madness in what most of us would consider to be the mundane and that the world according to dogs is a very different one to what we might perceive is comedy genius.

But wait! Action and adventure are soon abound in this tale as the pair are thrust together to navigate the danger that threatens to take over in the form of three mysterious wizards who are tracing a sign and who are searching for the position of this pup. With Jessie’s help, can Storm stay out of sight for long?

I can see this story going down a storm with readers because of its effervescent and charming main character; a supporting storyline that is as touching as it is triumphant and an author who respects the mythology that she mixes in but who too adds a sense of magic that makes this a modern-day myth of its very own.


The Invisible College

More than twenty sheep were grazing quietly when a silver car purred to a halt at the side of Ross Road just by the sign that said: Abergavenny 5.

Three men got out. They all looked quite identical – to a sheep, anyway. The first was tall and thin with grey hair the texture of wool caught in a bush. He stood gazing up and down the road, his hands in his pockets. One of his companions unfolded a map and laid it on the car bonnet. The third man produced a pair of metal sticks and began pacing up and down the grass slope by the road.

Several sheep strayed surreptitiously closer. The gentleman with the sticks paused mid-stride.

 ‘I don’t like the way the sheep are looking at us, Professor Utterby,’ he said. ‘They’re up to something.’

This is how we meet Professors Utterby, Nuffield and Ryston, the last three members of the Invisible College, a secret institution devoted to the dark arts.

I made up a lot of things in Storm Hound, but the Invisble College wasn’t one of them. It really existed – though it had nothing to do with the dark arts.

The college existed as an idea rather than a physical place. References to it date back to the 17th century, in particular by the chemist Robert Boyle. (It’s no accident that I made Professor Utterby a chemist). Little is known about it, but it appears to have been an informal group of like-minded thinkers who would meet to share knowledge and exchange ideas. The group split between London and Oxford, and in 1660 the group petitioned the King for formal status and the Invisble College became the Royal Society.

The notion of the Invisble College crops up in various guises, especially nowadays when online learning can take the place of buildings. In fiction, Pratchett had his Unseen University, of course. And BBC Radio 4 has an interested set of podcasts on creative writing called The Invisible College.
The link is here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p053dm4v

I like to think that, after the creation of the Royal Society, a breakaway group of philosophers and magicians continued to meet in secret, delving further into the world of magic. The Invisible College has continued to this day, its numbers dwindling as magic faded, until only the three professors are left. But now, magic has returned to the world in the form of a fallen stormhound, and the three professors are ready to make themselves great again. Will they succeed? You’ll have to read the book to find out!


Big thanks to Claire, Karen and all at Macmillan for inviting me to take part in the Storm Hound blog tour and sending me a proof copy.

Extra thanks to Claire for writing her guest post!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the Storm Hound blog tour for exclusive guest posts, reviews and giveaways!

Cover Reveal & Book Giveaway: The True Colours of Coral Glen – Juliette Forrest (Designed & Illustrated by Jamie Gregory) – Published 4th July 2019

I’m absolutely delighted to be able to reveal the cover of Juliette Forrest‘s second children’s novel, The True Colours of Coral Glen (designed & illustrated by Jamie Gregory) which will be published on 4th July 2019 by Scholastic.

I’m also super happy because the very lovely people at Scholastic have given me five copies of The True Colours of Coral Glen to give away! Find out more below!


The True Colours of Coral Glen – Juliette Forrest
(Cover design & illustration by Jamie Gregory)

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An astonishingly inventive, spooky and heartfelt story of a girl on a race- against-time, gothic-tinged treasure hunt. Coral sees the world around her through a rainbow of colours not visible to others – a day full of adventure is Treasure Island Gold but one with a maths test is Stormy Canyon Grey. When her beloved grandma dies, Coral can’t conjure the colour to match how heartbroken she is.

She must go on a spooky adventure full of witches, ghosts and other things lurking around the corners of her not-so-ordinary-after-all town…


Price: £6.99
Publication Date: 4th July 2019
ISBN: 9781407193229
Pages: 304


  • The Guardian said of Juliette’s debut, TWISTER: “If you only read one children’s book this summer, make it this one.”
  • Hugely imaginative storytelling at its finest, with themes of grief and the supernatural.
  • Building on Juliette’s profile with special media and blogger mailings, plus a programme of events in schools and at festivals.
  • Engaging social assets highlighting the importance of colour within the story.
  • For fans of Neil Gaiman’s THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, Sophie Anderson’s THE HOUSE WITH CHICKEN LEGS and Helena Duggan’s A PLACE CALLED PERFECT, this is a stunning story told in Juliette’s completely original voice.
  • Praise for TWISTER:
    “a soaring fantasy with a down to earth heroine” – The Guardian,
    “an unusual, gutsy and invigorating fantasy with a compelling narrative voice” – The Metro

Juliette Forrest

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Photography by Susan Castillo (Image credit: https://www.julietteforrest.co.uk/about)

 

After finishing school, Juliette left Scotland for the bright lights of London where she trained as an art director and worked in the creative departments of advertising agencies, winning awards for her TV, radio, press and poster campaigns. Wanting a life of adventure, she packed her bags and travelled around the world, where she stayed with the Karen people in Thailand, dived the Great Barrier Reef, explored Malaysian jungles, visited the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island in Hong Kong and hared across America on the Greyhound Bus. Winning a New Writers Award from Scottish Book Trust gave Juliette the support she needed to complete her first novel Twister, which was snapped up by Scholastic and published in February 2018. The rights to it have now been sold in France, Holland and Romania. Juliette is extremely proud to be Writer in Residence at All Saints Primary and has been offered Spring Residency at Moniack Mhor, Scotland’s Creative Writing Centre. When she’s not freelancing as a copywriter, she can be found at her laptop, typing her next book, rather clumsily. Juliette is at her happiest exploring the great outdoors with her rescue dog – even though she has a sneaking suspicion he is the one taking her for a walk.

The True Colours of Coral Glen is Juliette’s second book for children.


Jamie Gregory

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(Image credit: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/jamie-gregory-a896812a)

Jamie Gregory is the Design Manager at Scholastic UK. His most recently designed and illustrated covers include redesigned covers of Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines series (illustrated by Ian McQue), Alice Broadway’s Ink (designed by Andrew Biscomb and Elizabeth B. Parisi), Karen McCombie’s Catching Falling Stars and State of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury.


Pre-order: The True Colours of Coral Glen is available to pre-order online at AmazonWaterstones or from any good independent bookshop.


Big thanks to Juliette, Lorraine and all at Scholastic for giving me the wonderful opportunity to reveal this beautiful cover and for providing copies for the giveaway!

I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

Mr E


Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Scholastic have kindly given me five copies of The True Colours of Coral Glen to give away!

The True Colours of Coral Glen high-res cover

If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning a copy one of this utterly brilliantly sounding story, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

Copies will be sent to winners when available from Scholastic, as soon as possible.

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post – Why I wrote about the child of an alcoholic in Will You Catch Me?): Will You Catch Me? – Jane Elson

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‘Jane’s writing exudes empathy where history and heart combine to make this story one that you should hold so close to your heart.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Will You Catch Me?
Author: Jane Elson (@JJELSON35)
Publisher: Hachette (@HachetteKids)
Page count: 336
Date of publication: 9th August 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1444927788

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Heart 💓
2. Drink 🍷
3. History 👑


Most kids want adventures.
I just want normal.

Nell Hobs lives with a tortoise, two guinea pigs, two goldfish, two gerbils, a hamster and an assortment of beasts and bugs living in jam jars on her windowsill. She is proud to be the only naturalist on the Beckham Estate.

Caring for her family of animals is a good distraction from caring for her mum. But Nell knows her chaotic life can’t continue as it is. Nell needs a dad. So she hatches a plan with her best friend Michael: a way to make her dad step forward and catch her. But will she succeed?


Review: 

I have so much to say about this unforgettable, powerful and poignantly-written book. For many who read this book it will provide an insight in to a hidden problem. A hidden problem that children face today in our classrooms, our schools and our lives. But for some, this will be their lives. The life they’ve had to live, they’ve had to endure and for those, I hope this book is a kind of tribute to the suffering they have had to face as it acts as a stark reminder to everyone to be kind, compassionate and thoughtful to each other because sometimes we do not know the battles that other people are fighting.

As we are introduced to Nell Hobs who lives on the Beckham Estate, we discover that she is ever the natural naturalist who can’t help but adopt more animals to her mini-zoo that gets bigger each and every week with a new and additional animal appearing. But not only does she live with her mini-menagerie of animals but she lives with her mother. A mother who at first appears to be wanting to do all she can to please Nell that is until the ‘demon drink’ takes over. She’s an alcoholic. In a life surrounded by her mother’s empty promises, a home life that is way more erratic than anybody could imagine and the ever-present worry of her mother relapsing mean that Nell’s mental health is a constant source of agony and – rarely ever, ecstasy. For, whenever it is a feeling of happiness it’s nearly always short-lived and dripping with false hope.

This is why Nell starts out on her quest of soul-searching. She needs a dad. She needs some kind of stability. Someone to sort this mess out and someone to be her state of normal. But will she find the person that can catch her when she needs it most?

As she tries hard to balance school – of which with her chaotic life, she can’t help but always arrive late to – with bringing herself up, Nell takes some sort of solace in the community around her. Without her extended family, her neighbours and two teachers who are the shining light of Nell’s life, Nell would not be Nell. These people are her life; her crumbs of comfort, her lifeblood and when living with her mother becomes all too much: her escape route.

Then someone else comes in to her life. Unexpectedly at first, yet the more she appears, the more welcome she is. For that person is Nell Gwyn. Introduced at first by her history teacher, Nell’s namesake soon becomes the honorary ancestor and ally that she has been craving. Guiding her through her life, her imaginary historical friend is her inspiration. Can Nell help Nell on her journey to finding her father…? Readers will be in awe of the real-life accounts and pursuits of Nell Gwyn and will be itching to research her life after reading this.

Will You Catch Me? captured my heart in the same way that Nell Gwyn captured Nell Hobs. With heaps of heart and a story of history that also needs to be told, it gets better and more emotionally investing with every chapter. This is frank, real storytelling with perceptive and innocently acute observations that have the power to make you think differently. I don’t think you’ll realise quite how much this book has such an effect on you, it’s a life lesson. Such a carefully-considered concept for a children’s book that could only be delivered with the writing wisdom of Jane. Her writing exudes empathy and she establishes herself as an author that all readers should be aware of. For this is another of Jane’s beautiful books that you should hold close to your heart because like me, your heart will ache with feeling after reading it.

‘Jane’s writing exudes empathy where history and heart combine to make this story one that you should hold so close to your heart.’


Great Big Hill of Hope:
Why I wrote about the child of an alcoholic in Will You Catch Me?

In this, the first blog of my tour to mark Children of Alcoholics week, I felt it important to say why I wrote my children’s book, Will You Catch Me?

When I first said that I was going to write a middle grade novel about eleven-year-old Nell Hobs whose mother is an alcoholic people were taken aback. But then the headlines started to hit the media. Every Week there were news stories about the statistic that 2.6 million children in this country are affected by a parent’s drinking.

IMG_4388.JPGJournalist, Camilla Tominey’s Sunday Express headline ‘My Mummy Is Drunk Please Read To Me’ broke my heart, brought back buried memories and made me determined to give a voice to these children. My editor at Hodder Children’s Books, Naomi Greenwood, agent Jodie Hodges and her assistant Emily Talbot gave me their blessing and supported me throughout.

Will You Catch Me? is my oldest story, a little itch in my imagination that just wouldn’t go away. I had a recurring image of a young girl, running home from school and seeing her mother, an alcohol addict, carried out from their flat on a stretcher, people standing around watching and as she ran and ran and tried to reach her mum, everything going into slow motion.  In my mind the 4 Non Blondes song, ‘What’s Up’ was playing. The lyrics ‘Trying to get up that great big hill of hope / for a destination / I realized quickly when I knew I should / that the world was made up of this brotherhood of man’ were so relevant to this scene that looped in my mind.

The words – ‘Brotherhood of Man’ – the community which would be so vital to this little girl. Without which she would have nothing.

Fast forward many years, I switched on the television and Calum Best was talking movingly on the Lorraine show about his father George Best and the charity Nacoa – The National Association For Children Of Alcoholics – of which he is patron.  As the statistics rolled out that one in five children have a parent who drinks too much and that a 100 teenagers a day are made homeless due to having a parent who is alcohol dependent, my childhood came flooding back. My dad was a heavy drinker with a terrible temper. I grew up a very anxious, nervous little girl. One strand of the story was set.

I have always had a fascination with, and felt a connection to Nell Gwyn, the 17th century celebrity actress. In my late teens I worked as an usherette in Drury Lane where 320 years before Nell Gwyn had done the same job – they sold oranges then rather than half melted ice creams, so they were known as the Orange Girls. I discovered that Nell Gwyn’s mother was an alcoholic and that she did not know her father. Nell Gwyn was the perfect guardian angel for my modern day Nell, the protagonist of  Will You Catch Me? – whose mum is also an alcoholic.

Writing Will You Catch Me? was the most extraordinarily immersive experience of my life. In fact, I had an operation half way through writing it, and when I came too from the anaesthetic I woke up in the world of my book and was nattering on about Nell Gwyn. It took the nurses ages to get me fully awake.

As I worked day and night on Will You Catch Me? I visualised myself finishing Nell’s story and contacting Nacoa to tell them about my book. It was my light at the end of the tunnel.

I did not realize what a bright light in my life Nacoa would be. They are a group of truly amazing, passionate and strong people. Hilary Henriques MBE who is the CEO of Nacoa welcomed me with open arms and made me part of the Nacoa family. She is a tower of strength and an inspiration.  When I visited Nacoa’s headquarters in Bristol I was particularly moved by the telephone booths from which they run their children of alcoholics help line. Real children, in similar situations to Nell, or to younger me, can ring Nacoa at any time, in confidence, to get advice or just talk. After that visit I knew that Will You Catch Me? would be the most important story I have ever told.

The National Association For Children Of Alcoholics helpline number is 0800-358-3456. Children of Alcoholics week (10-16 February) aims to raise awareness of the lives of the 2.6 million children in the UK who are growing up affected by parental alcohol problems. For further information, including ways you can help and a downloadable #URNotAlone poster, please visit their website www.coaweek.org.uk or www.nacoa.org.uk

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Jane Elson, author of Will You Catch Me?

 


Big thanks to Jane, Fritha and all at Hachette for inviting me to take part in the Will You Catch Me? blog tour.

Extra thanks to Jane for writing her incredibly insightful guest post!

Mr E


 

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Be sure to check out the rest of the Will You Catch Me? blog tour with more exclusive guest posts, reviews and giveaways discussing this much-needed issue.

Blog Tour (Review & Resources & Giveaway!): A Pinch of Magic – Michelle Harrison (Illustrated by Melissa Castrillón)

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‘Sumptuously magical… this is like nothing I’ve read before. An exquisitely-enchanting tale in a world weaved with wonder. With hearty heroines who embody the truest sense of sisterhood, prepare to fall under the spell of the story everyone will be wanting to read in 2019.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: A Pinch of Magic
Author: Michelle Harrison (@MHarrison13)
Illustrator (Cover): Melissa Castrillón (@mv_castrillon)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s (@simonkids_UK)
Page count: 368
Date of publication: 7th February 2019
Series status: First in the Widdershins’ adventures
ISBN: 978-1471124297

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Sisters 👭
2. Curse 🗝️
3. Magic ✨


Three sisters trapped by an ancient curse.

Three magical objects with the power to change their fate.

Will they be enough to break the curse?

Or will they lead the sisters even deeper into danger?


Review:

Widdershins. What a word. A surname to describe the misfortune, haplessness and down on one’s luck that the Widdershins sisters often feel and have experienced for generations. Three sisters – Fliss, Betty and Charlie – whose mother is dead, their father’s in prison and who live with their Granny Bunny in her rather rowdy inn. Three sisters who are about to find out for themselves that they will have three bespoke magical items soon in their possession that can achieve so much but for an ancient family curse that leaves them trapped upon the rolling, misty marshes of their island of Crowstone for ever more…

Focusing on middle sister Betty who is craving for more than the island of Crowstone and telling the story through her eyes, this is like nothing I’ve read before and so it is little surprise that this has been recently chosen as Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month for February. As the sisters embark on a journey to try to break this curse and put to use their most magical of items – a scruffy carpet-bag that can make its bearer travel anywhere it wants, a set of dolls that can make you invisible and a mermaid-like mirror that can let its bearer talk to people on other islands, the girls meet mystery, dark magic, betrayal, revenge and a prisoner who may hold all the cards to the sisters’ fate.

Adventure most certainly awaits the audacious in this tale that left me completely enamoured and enraptured. This beautifully-written book doesn’t only just show a pinch of magic but the absolute power of magic where not a word is wasted. Surely one of 2019’s standouts and mixing island legend with incredible world-building that oozes and fizzes with magic, this is a story to devour. As Michelle recently alerted readers to this being the first in the Widdershins’ adventures, I’m on tenterhooks for the next.

Readers of upper-primary and lower secondary will be thrilled, enchanted and awed by its three headstrong, spirited protagonists (even Charlie, the youngest sister whose young age doesn’t dissuade her) in their plight to rid them of this wretched curse that’s plagued them and their island since times gone by.

Luring, mesmerising and sumptuously magical, A Pinch of Magic is an exquisitely-enchanting tale in a world weaved with wonder. With hearty heroines who embody the truest sense of sisterhood, prepare to fall under the spell of the story everyone will be wanting to read in 2019.

‘Sumptuously magical… this is like nothing I’ve read before. An exquisitely-enchanting tale in a world weaved with wonder. With hearty heroines who embody the truest sense of sisterhood, prepare to fall under the spell of the story everyone will be wanting to read in 2019.’


To celebrate the official publication date and launch (Happy Book Birthday!) of A Pinch of Magic, I’m absolutely delighted that author Michelle Harrison joins me on The Reader Teacher to provide fantastic teaching ideas to use in the classroom…

A Pinch of Magic: Teaching IdeasMichelle Harrison Pinch of Magic.jpg

A Pinch of Magic is the tale of the Widdershins sisters, Betty, Fliss and Charlie, who set out to break a family curse which keeps them trapped on the small island of Crowstone. But the curse isn’t the only unusual thing about the Widdershins. Three magical objects have been passed down their family: a set of wooden nesting dolls, a mirror, and a scruffy carpet bag. Will they be enough to break the curse? Or will the sisters have better luck with the mysterious prisoner who says he can help them . . . for a price?

This story is probably best suited to readers aged 8-12, depending on ability. There is plenty of scope for it to be used in a classroom, particularly to inspire imagination and atmospheric writing, as well as the study of folklore, superstition and symbolism. Here are some suggestions:

Pre-reading activities:

  1. Look at the front of the book. What do you think the curse could be, and the worst that could happen? Can you think of any other stories about curses?
  2. Who illustrated the book’s cover? Can you find out the titles of two more books this artist has created the covers for? Are there any in your classroom?
  3. Look at the back of the book and read the blurb (the writing which tells you about the story). Does it make you want to read the story? Why, or why not?
  4. Study the front and back covers. What do you think the three magical objects in the story could be? What do you imagine they do? Make up your own list of three objects, and their magical powers.
  5. Look at the map in the front of the book. Which of the islands do you think will be the most important to the story? Find other words with the same meanings as Lament, Repent, and Torment.

Research: 

  1. Read the author’s note at the start of the book. What does the word ‘widdershins’ mean and what is it linked to? Have you ever heard of this word before? Can you find out a word meaning the opposite?
  2. Research the history of Halloween. Can you find other names for it? Where do the traditions of trick or treat, dressing up, and carving pumpkins come from? Is there any significance to Betty’s birthday falling on this day?
  3. What clues point to the Widdershins being an unlucky family? Are there any numbers, objects or creatures mentioned in chapter one that signal good or bad luck? Research and write down five more superstitions.
  4. Research your local area. Is there any interesting history or folklore? Write down the names of five real places that you could imagine in a story. Think of towns, forests, street names, beaches and even pubs! Give reasons for your choices.
  5. How were people who were suspected of witchcraft treated throughout history? What sort of tests did ‘witchfinders’ do to determine whether someone was a witch? What are your thoughts on this?

Activities:

  1. Design a flyer for the Halloween Fayre in Marshfoot. What kind of words and images might it use to appeal to someone like Betty?
  2. Write a letter from Prisoner 513 to Granny, convincing her to visit him in jail. How would he persuade her to help him?
  3. Rewrite the scene where Betty and Charlie are given their magical objects, but from Charlie’s point of view. Imagine what she is thinking and feeling, as someone who is much younger than her sisters.
  4. Write a secret diary entry for Prudence. What are her feelings towards her sister – and herself? Is she proud of her actions, or sorry?
  5. Write a cautionary poem or verse to warn travellers away from the Misty Marshes. Think of the way the author has written about the marsh mist as a living thing, and add your own descriptions to this. Consider other dangers such as will-o’-the-wisps, and escaped prisoners! It doesn’t have to rhyme.

Other relevant stories:

Snowglobe by Amy Wilson
Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone
Secrets of a Sun King by Emma Carroll
Wood Angel by Erin Bow
The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh


Big thanks to Michelle, Olivia and all at Simon & Schuster Children’s for inviting me to take part in the A Pinch of Magic blog tour on its book birthday!

Extra thanks to Michelle for providing these superb teaching ideas!
I can’t wait to use them myself!

Mr E


Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Simon & Schuster Children’s have kindly given me three finished copies of A Pinch of Magic to give away!

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If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning a stunningly-illustrated copy of this sumptuously magical story, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

Copies will be sent to winners when available from Simon & Schuster, as soon as possible.


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Be sure to check out the rest of A Pinch of Magic blog tour this week to see more exclusive guest posts, Q&As, giveaways and reviews!

Cover Reveal & Book Giveaway! Owen and the Soldier: Lisa Thompson (Illustrated by Mike Lowery) – Out 15th June 2019!

I’m absolutely delighted to be able to reveal the cover of Lisa Thompson‘s new novella, Owen and the Soldier (illustrated by Mike Lowery) which will be published on 15th June 2019 by Barrington Stoke.

I’m also super happy because the very lovely people at Barrington Stoke have given me three proof copies of Owen and the Soldier to give away! Find out more below!


Owen and the Soldier – Lisa Thompson
(Cover illustration: Mike Lowery)

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Owen and his mum are struggling. It’s just the two of them now and they’re finding it difficult to ask for the help they need.

When Owen discovers a crumbling stone soldier in a memorial garden in the local park, it feels like he finally has someone he can talk to. But the town council can’t see how important the soldier is and they want to remove him.

Owen’s so scared that he’ll be left on his own again, but can he find the courage he needs to save the soldier before it’s too late?


  • Written with sensitivity and honesty, this title deals with various important subjects including depression, loss, young carers and anxiety, within a package that is approachable for younger readers.

  • Lisa Thompson has quickly become a staple of bookshops and a high-pro le name in the industry with her critically acclaimed and bestselling novels The Goldfish Boy and The Light Jar.
  • Featuring cover artwork from illustration star Mike Lowery, Owen and the Soldier is designed with commercial appeal and to complement Lisa’s other novels.
  • Barrington Stoke’s biggest ever proof mailing to capitalise on the author’s massive popularity and reputation.

Publisher: Barrington Stoke Ltd
ISBN: 9781781128657
Number of pages: 96


From Lisa Thompson:

“It has been an absolute joy to work with Barrington Stoke on Owen and the Soldier. I’m incredibly proud of this novella and I can’t wait to share it with readers and hear their thoughts!”


From Ailsa Bathgate, Barrington Stoke Editorial Director:

“Lisa Thompson’s work is captivating and compelling. She writes wonderfully empathetic stories about ordinary children who are going through a tough time and makes you care deeply about what happens to them. She has brought all her compassion and insight to Owen and the Soldier, and I feel excited and proud to bring her voice to our readers.”


Lisa Thompson

Lisa Thompson is the bestselling author of The Goldfish Boy, The Light Jar and The Day I Was Erased. The Goldfish Boy was a Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month and was nominated for the Carnegie Medal, the Branford Boase Award and the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. Before becoming a novelist, Lisa worked as a broadcast assistant for BBC Radio 2 and CPL Productions, where she says she made tea for lots of famous people. Lisa lives in Suffolk with her family and a very large rabbit called Teddy.

You can find out more about Lisa on her website or by following her on Twitter: @lthompsonwrites.


Mike Lowery

(Image 1 credit: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/kids/doodle-adventures-author-mike-lowery-on-using-comics-to-reach-reluctant-readers/)
(Image 2 credit: https://www.instagram.com/mikelowerystudio/?hl=en)

 

Mike Lowery is an author and artist living in Atlanta, Georgia with a beautiful German lady named Katrin and his incredibly genius daughter, Allister. Mike’s work has been seen on everything from greetings cards to dozens of children’s books to gallery walls all over the world. 

Mike has had the enormous pleasure to work on a TON of books, including the New York Time’s best selling series “Mac B, Kid Spy” written by Mac Barnett.  You can check out his other books here:  MIKE LOWERY’S BOOKS

His illustration clients include: Scholastic, Dial Books for Young Readers, workman publishing, hallmark, simon and schuster, random house, walker books for young readers, Nick Jr magazine, gallison/mudpuppy, GP Putnam and Sons, Viking, macmillan, georgia pacific, American Greetings, Disney, Kids Can Press, as well as many Graphic Design and Advertising Agencies.  He now travels nationally giving talks about art and books to schools, universities and bookstores.

He has been featured/interviewed in the Washington Post, Creative Loafing, the Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, the Washington City Paper and many others and a few years back he showed 16 of his tiny drawings in a show in Beijing.

 

You can find out more about Mike on his website or by following him on Instagram: @mikelowerystudio.

 


Pre-order: Owen and the Soldier is available to pre-order online at Waterstones or from any good independent bookshop.


Big thanks to Lisa, Kirstin and all at Barrington Stoke for giving me the wonderful opportunity to reveal this beautiful cover! I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

Mr E



Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Barrington Stoke have kindly given me three proof copies of Owen and the Soldier to give away!

Owen and the Soldier_RGB

If you’d like to be in with a chance of being one of the first people to read this superb-sounding story, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

Proof copies will be sent to winners when available from Barrington Stoke, as soon as possible.

Blog Tour (Review & Author Q&A): The Star-Spun Web – Sinead O’Hart (Illustrated by Sara Mulvanny)

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‘A fantastic fusion of exciting, excellent and effervescent fiction that’s out-of-this-world! This is science-inspired storytelling at its stellar, supercharged best.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Star-Spun Web
Author: Sinéad O’Hart (@SJOHart)
Illustrator (Cover): Sara Mulvanny (@saramulvanny)
Publisher: Stripes (@StripesBooks)
Page count: 384
Date of publication: 7th February 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1788950220

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Science 🔬
2. Reality ✨
3. Violet 🕷️


Tess de Sousa is no ordinary orphan. When a wealthy stranger appears at Ackerbee’s Home for Lost and Foundlings claiming to be her relative, she embarks on a new life with him. She take nothing more than her pet tarantula Violet and a strange device that she was left as a baby.

But far from providing answers to Tess’s mysterious past, it becomes clear that her guardian’s interest in her is part of a terrible plan. With the future of more than one world at stake, it’s up to Tess to stop him…


Review: As a wealthy man turns up on the very doorstep that Tess de Sousa turned up on herself as a baby, she has little idea of how much her life is going to change. Going by the name of a certain Mr Cleat and claiming guardianship of her, Tess knows that this could be her last chance to find out how she came to end up living at the orphanage home of Ackerbee’s Lost and Foundlings once and for all. But all is not quite as it seems…

Imaginative and inventive – although a little anarchic and with a pet arachnid for company – Tess sets off with this stranger, spanning across a web of parallel worlds and dimensions for a multi-layered and multi-universe mystery that is the adventure of all adventures.

Every element of this tale is cleverly written: in terms of its pulsating plot; the cast of its characters: their relationships; their interactions and their interconnectedness; and the dual (sometimes tri-) narratives occurring in concurrent chapters. With a stunningly-illustrated cover by Sara Mulvanny to match, this book can do no wrong and I can predict it already garnering praise aplenty and appearing in nearly all end-of-year celebratory lists.

As the gripping suspense of this story sucks you in to the web that Tess soon finds herself tangled up in, every turn of its page makes time truly fly by with the sensation that you can travel through time yourself.

With The Star-Spun Web, Sinéad establishes herself fully on the MG stage spinning gossamer threads of alternate realities that collide with fragments of fantasy and overcoming the precarious and notoriously difficult ‘second novel syndrome’ with apparent ease. It’s as if she has story writing down to a science.

Out-of-this-world. This is science-inspired storytelling at its stellar, supercharged best. A book that is a pleasure to read and a book that can’t help but encourage reading for pleasure. Like the very best of science discoveries, I think this could be a momentous and ground-breaking read for children (and adults!) who crave a fantastic fusion of exciting, excellent and effervescent fiction.

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I’m utterly delighted to have Sinéad O’Hart, author of The Star-Spun Web, join us on The Reader Teacher today on publication week with this extra-special interview where she shares her experiences of writing, her inspirations and the best and worst things about being an author…sinead-ohart.png

  1. What was your favourite book when you were 8?
    Alan Garner’s Elidor – and it’s still my favourite book now.
  2. What are the three main things a reader will find in your books?
    Clever, determined girls; brave, ingenious boys; mortal peril!
  3. When did you start to tell stories?
    I wrote my first ‘book’ at 7, a sequel to The Little Prince complete with my own drawings, but sadly I’ve lost it. My parents said I always had a strong imagination and liked to tell stories to myself, drawing pictures to go with them, from as soon as I could talk and hold a crayon. I’ve been pleased to see my own little girl doing exactly the same!
  4. Did you always want to be a writer? Have you had different jobs before you were an author? Do you think a variety of work experiences has helped you to write?
    I always wanted to have a creative life, but I wasn’t sure for a long time exactly how I’d go about it. From the age of seven or eight, when I began to think about the sort of life I wanted to have, I knew I wanted to do something unusual, something where I could use my interest in creativity (and daydream a lot, because daydreaming is very important), but to me that could have been anything from being a visual artist to a scientist – I wanted to be a marine biologist for a long time. It wasn’t until I was a few years older, perhaps halfway through secondary school, that I realised my love for books, reading, stories and art could be made into something cohesive, and it was then I began to dream of being a writer. I’ve had lots of jobs; I’ve worked in a clothes shop, as a tourism adviser, in many different offices including a printers’ and a health centre, in a supermarket, as a trainee butcher, as a researcher, as a tutor and lecturer of English language and literature at a university, as a records manager for an English department at the same university, as a bookseller, and as a freelance proofreader. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few! And yes, of course every job I’ve done has helped me to be a writer. Everything you do in life – everything you read, see, hear, watch, and observe – can go toward helping you to be a writer. The more jobs you’ve done, the more experiences you’ve had, the more things you’ve felt and seen and heard, all help you to describe things in your stories and make them feel real. Of course this doesn’t mean you have to wait until you’re a certain age, or until you’ve done a particular amount of ‘things’, before you can write – if you want to write you can start anytime, and the earlier the better. You’re never too young to switch on your observation skills, and then you’re already well on the way. Reading books, learning from them, and using your imagination are all vital tools in a writer’s kit, and there’s no age or experience limit on those.
  5. Where do you get your ideas from, and how do you store them?
    Ideas are all around, just waiting to be plucked out of the air. I’m inspired through observation of the world around me, and I have an insatiable curiosity. I’m constantly on the lookout for strange and interesting words; sometimes I find them in newspaper articles or books, or in overheard conversations, or on signs. For me, words – particularly if they’re misspelled, or if they’re used as a pun, or if they’re unfamiliar to me – are wonderful idea-seeds. Mostly my ideas seem like tiny fragments of something bigger; I get a scene, or a character name, or a place-name, or a funny line of dialogue, and I don’t have any idea where they go or what sort of story they’ll grow into. They need careful handling until they’ve had a chance to germinate and sprout, so it’s important to have a notebook on your person all the time to keep your idea-seeds safe. However, I usually store my ideas on scraps of paper and my phone, as I never have my notebook handy when I need it!
  6. Every writer creates a story in their own unique way. Roald Dahl had an armchair in his shed, Lewis Carroll liked a standing desk and to write in purple ink. Do you have any unconventional methods, habits or superstitions when it comes to writing?
    I tend to write standing up, but not because of superstition – it’s mostly out of necessity as I have a busy little girl. I don’t have unconventional methods because I need to write in any second I can! I feel very boring now. Perhaps I should invent some strange habits, like writing with a rubber chicken tied to my head. Bok bok!

  7. How much of Sinéad O’Hart is reflected in your characters?
    Quite a lot, I think – and I reckon the same is true of any writer. I think my girl characters reflect some of my own awkwardness and social anxiety; I was a very introverted and thoughtful child, who liked to work things out in my own way, and I found, as a girl, that there weren’t many girls like me in books. I try to remedy that a bit with my stories. Some of my girl characters are deep thinkers with a strong sense of justice, girls who like to observe, and I see my child-self in those characters. In my boy characters I put my heart and vulnerability, and that’s something which comes naturally but it’s also a conscious choice, in part. I think it’s important to create boy characters with emotion and depth, and who show true bravery – which to me means doing what you need to do, even though it frightens you.
  8. You are in a library with a 10 year-old who claims that they don’t like reading… Which 3 books would you reach for to try to change their mind?
    I think I’d be there all day, offering them a new trio of books every five minutes, but at the moment: Dave Rudden’s Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy, which is the grippiest, most engaging, most fun and most absorbing children’s trilogy I’ve read in a long time; Peter Bunzl’s Cogheart books, which feature a wonderful heroine and a complex, layered hero, along with a clankingly good cast of mechanimals and mechanicals alike; and Jennifer Bell’s Uncommoners books, which are fast-paced and twisty, edge-of-your-seat action coupled with a brilliant, detailed world and mythology. (Yes, I know that’s technically nine books!) But ask me again in half an hour and I’ll say Sky Song, the Rose Raventhorpe books and Brightstorm… Don’t make me choose!
  9. What’s the best and worst things about being an author?
    There are loads of good things about being an author but the best is: having a job that, for the most part, fits around my child’s life, and also meeting and hearing from readers. I love getting messages from teachers, librarians and mums and dads telling me about the kids who’ve loved my stories, and I really enjoy meeting readers at school and library events. The worst is pretty bad: writing books for a living is a stressful thing sometimes, and I worry constantly that I’m not good enough, or that I’ll never get another contract. But the good things definitely outweigh the bad.
  10. Do you have any advice for budding writers?
    The first thing you need to be a writer is to remember this ABC – Always Be Curious. Pay thoughtful attention to everything you see and hear in the world around you; listen to snippets of conversation, keep your eyes peeled for the interesting and unique things you see every day, ask yourself questions and make up the answers about the people and places you come across. Then: read, read, read; read anything and everything and immerse yourself in words and stories as often as you possibly can. After that: when you start to write your own stories, write what you love; write what interests you, write the kind of books and stories you’d like to read. But the most important thing is this: never give up. Hopefully you’ll be lucky enough to have parents, siblings, and teachers who’ll support you, but sometimes you won’t. Try not to let anyone put you off writing. Do your best to protect the things you love and the things you’re interested in as much as you can. If there’s something in you which loves to read, or write, or draw, or do anything at all, then guard it and nurture it and never lose that love. You never know when it will suddenly bloom into life and bring joy to you and all around you. If you’d like to write as a career, do know this: it can take a long time, and the most important thing you can bring to it is sticking power. Don’t ever stop writing, improving, and trying your hardest!

QUICKFIRE

  1. 3 words that describe you: Confused. Curious. Reading.
  2. Favourite time of the day? I’m a night owl – evening time!
  3. 3 random facts about you: I once chopped up hearts for a living (don’t panic, they were beef hearts); I have a PhD in medieval English; I really hate balloons.
  4. Go-to snack? Rich Tea biscuits!
  5. The best advice you ever got: Love many, trust few, and always paddle your own canoe.
  6. Complete the sentence: “If I was one of the Seven Dwarves, I’d be…” all of them at once! But mostly Dopey.
  7. Superhero power of choice: The ability to hold the entirety of human knowledge in my head, like a walking library.
  8. Go-to outfit? Whatever fits and isn’t covered in last night’s dinner… Usually jeans, DM boots, and a big shirt.
  9. Your dream place to curl up with a book? Anywhere with a view of the mountains or the sea, at sunset, in a cosy well-lit window seat, with a steaming mug of tea close by. Bliss!
  10. The 3 books you’d like to get for your next birthday: The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave; The Clockwork Crow by Catherine Fisher; and The Girl, the Cat and The Navigator by Matilda Woods.

Big thanks to Sinéad, Leilah and all at Stripes for inviting me to kick off The Star-Spun Web blog tour and share my thoughts and for giving me the wonderful opportunity to do its amazing cover reveal and giveaway!

Extra thanks to Sinéad for her brilliant interview!

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Be sure to check out the rest of The Star-Spun Web blog tour this week to see more exclusive guest posts and reviews!

 Mr E 

 

Cover Reveal: Check Mates – Stewart Foster (Designed by Leo Nickolls) – Out 27th June 2019!

I’m absolutely delighted to be able to reveal the cover of Check Mates, Stewart Foster’s third novel after the success of The Bubble Boy and All the Things That Could Go Wrong, which will be published on the 27th June 2019 by Simon & Schuster Children’s.


Check Mates – Stewart Foster

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Felix School isn’t a problem child.
He’s a child with a problem…

Felix’s ADHD makes it hard for him to concentrate and his grades are slipping. Everyone keeps telling him to try harder, but no one seems to understand just how hard he finds it.

When Mum suggests Felix spends time with his grandfather, Felix can’t think of anything worse. Granddad hasn’t been the same since Grandma died, and he’s always trying to teach Felix boring chess.

But sometimes the best lessons come in the most unexpected of places, and Granddad soon shows Felix that there’s everything to play for.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
ISBN: 9781471172236
Number of pages: 368


‘Funny and heartfelt with a cunning twist. Stewart Foster is a grandmaster.’
Ross Welford

‘An inspirational underdog story and a chilling mystery! A winning combination.’ David Solomons


Stewart Foster

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Author photo © Tallulah Foster

Stewart Foster is the author of one novel for adults, We Used to be Kings and was one of the Observer’s New Faces of Fiction for 2014. Stewart was named a New Author to Watch by The Guardian and was an Amazon Rising Star for his adult novel, published in the UK. He lives in Bath.

His first novel for children, The Bubble Boy, is about eleven-year-old Joe, whose medical condition means that he has to live permanently inside hospital in a germ-free ‘bubble’. But then someone new enters his world and Joe is given opportunities he had previously only dreamt of – but are they worth the risk?

Stewart’s second novel for children, All the Things That Could Go Wrong, was published in June 2017.

Stewart’s third novel for children, Check Mates, publishes in 2019.


Praise for All the Things That Could Go Wrong

‘A moving, humane, funny portrait of two very different boys discovering what connects us all.’
Kiran Milwood Hargrave

‘It’s amazing!’
Ross Welford

‘I loved it.’
Lisa Thompson

‘A touching, funny, gripping read that tackles important issues in a sensitive and thoroughly enjoyable way. Highly recommended.’
Stuart Robinson

‘A timely story of courage and reminder of what we all share.’
Christopher Edge

‘Powerful and warm … this will linger long in the mind.’
Guardian


Praise for The Bubble Boy,
Winner of the Sainsbury’s Children’s Book Award in 2016

‘Poignant, hopeful and heartbreaking.’
Fiona Noble – Children’s Editor, The Bookseller

‘Deeply moving and utterly gripping . . . Stewart Foster carries off an astonishing feat of storytelling in this exceptional book’ 
Julia Eccleshare, lovereading.co.uk

‘A gripping and deeply moving book.’ 
Jamila Gavin

‘One thing we know about good books is their amazing ability to inspire empathy in the reader; to explore ideas and viewpoints that arise from experiences that are out of our own realm. The Bubble Boy does this with warmth, quirkiness and a light-hearted touch.’ 
Guardian


Leo Nickolls

Leo Nickolls is a freelance book cover designer and illustrator with extraordinary talents. Some of his work includes covers for Stewart Foster’s All the Things That Could Go Wrong Joanna Nadin’s & Anthony McGowan’s Everybody Hurts, Chris Womersley’s City Of Crows, Allegra Goodman’s The Chalk Artist, and the recent 40th Anniversary Edition of Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia.

You can find out more about Leo at his website or by following him on Twitter: @leonickolls


Check Mates is available to pre-order online or from any good independent bookshop.


Pre-order: Pre-order your copy now from Amazon, Hive, Waterstones & WHSmith now!


Big thanks to Stewart and all at Simon & Schuster for giving me the wonderful opportunity to reveal this fantastic cover for what I’m sure is going to be another wonderful addition to Stewart’s catalogue! I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

Mr E


Cover Reveal & Book Giveaway: The Dragon in the Library – Louie Stowell (Illustrated by Davide Ortu) – Out 6th June 2019!

Today, I’m absolutely thrilled to exclusively reveal the cover of Louie Stowell’s eagerly-awaited first novel in her new The Dragon in the Library series, The Dragon in the Library which will be published on 6th June 2019 by Nosy Crow.

I’m even more delighted that the team at Nosy Crow have produced an awesome GIF to show off the cover in all its glory!

I’m also super happy because the very lovely people at Nosy Crow have given me three proof copies of The Dragon in the Library to give away! Find out more below!


The Dragon in the Library

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Kit can’t stand reading. She’d much rather be outside, playing games and getting muddy, than stuck inside being quiet with a book. But when she’s dragged along to the local library at the start of the school holiday by her two best friends, she makes an incredible discovery: the local library is run by wizards … and she’s one too! The youngest wizard ever, in fact.

But someone is threatening to tear down the library and disturb the powerful magical forces living beneath it. And now it’s up to Kit and her friends to save the library… and the world.

Aimed at younger readers aged seven to nine, the series will have black and white illustrations throughout.

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  • The first book in a highly imaginative, fantastically exciting and accessible new series for 7+.
  • A great message on the power of books, reading and libraries.
  • Illustrated throughout by rising star Davide Ortu.

Louie Stowell

sjmimyia_400x400(Photo credit: https://twitter.com/Louiestowell)

With a solid background commissioning non-fiction for children Louie Stowell – who is Editorial Director at Ladybird – is also a dab hand at writing non-fiction books for children.  As well as having an in-depth knowledge of everything from computer coding to spaceships, she also draws cartoons online (and in the occasional zine) and runs comics workshops at literary festivals and in schools. Louie grew up in London, obsessed with comics, playing at elves in caves in Kent, and running feral in the scrubland by the Thames. She now lives in Hackney with her wife and their dog, Buffy, who is small and fluffy and highly unlikely to slay vampires, unless they’re getting between her and some bacon. Louie’s first novel will be published in 2018, with subsequent books coming six months apart.

(https://www.greenhouseliterary.com/authors/louie-stowell/)

Find out more by following Louie Stowell on Twitter: @Louiestowell


Davide Ortu

(Photo credit 1: http://www.milan-illustrations.com/product/artists/ortu-davide/)
(Photo credit 2: https://twitter.com/Ortu_Ilustrador)

Davide is an Italian artist. He lives in Spain and is represented by Beehive Illustration.

Soon after earning his diploma at ‘Foiso Fois’ Arts High School in Cagliari, Sardinia, he takes up a career as an advertising graphic designer. 

At the same time, he keeps working on his skill on oil paintings, taking part in several art exhibitions. When he moves to Madrid, in 2008, he discovers children’s book illustrations.

Gloomy open spaces, dreamy in-between atmospheres, a strong chromatic impression mixed with imaginary elements are the main features of his work. He is on a quest to conjure colourful and fantastic places, where time stops to offer biggest emotions in smallest people.

Previous children’s books illustrated include The Rose Mysteries written by Imogen White.

Find out more about Davide at https://www.davideortu.com
and follow Davide on Twitter: @Ortu_Ilustrador


Preorder: The Dragon in the Library is currently available to pre-order online from Waterstones or from any good independent bookshop, go support yours!


Huge thanks to Louie, Rebecca and all at Nosy Crow for inviting me to host this super cover reveal, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!


Mr E

🐉📚


Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Nosy Crow have kindly given me three proof copies of The Dragon in the Library to give away!

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If you’d like to be in with a chance of being one of the first people to read this brilliantly funny book, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

Proof copies will be sent to winners when available from Nosy Crow, as soon as possible.

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): The Truth About Martians – Melissa D. Savage (Illustrated by Daron Parton)

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‘Like a middle-grade ET crossed with a hint of Stranger Things… this is a science-fiction story of strength as much as the grapples of grief.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Truth About Martians
Author: Melissa D. Savage (@melissadsavage)
Illustrator (Cover): Daron Parton (Website)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 336
Date of publication: 3rd January 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1911490821

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Spaceship 👽
2. Friendship 🤝
3. Loss 😟


Mylo knows there’s no such thing as Martians – at least, until a flying saucer crash-lands next to his family’s New Mexico farm. And then he starts to hear the voice, like someone’s trying to communicate with him, asking for help. Desperate to be as brave as his older brother Obie – who passed away over a year ago – Mylo has to investigate the crash. Along the way, he ends up discovering more about the universe than he ever could have imagined.


Review: 

Set in the rural heartlands of south-western America (some references may need explaining to younger readers) and based on the real-life events and conspiracy theories of 1947 when a ‘UFO’ was initially thought to have crash landed in Roswell, New Mexico, The Truth About Martians is a science-fiction story of strength as much as sorrow and sensitivity and the grapples of grief.

Shining a light on an event not known by everyone – and probably not by most of its readership – and covering just over three months between July 4, 1947 – 11:53 p.m. and October 6, 1947 – 6:15 a.m., the story starts with main character Mylo and his best friend Dibs staying over for the night. Since Dibs’ mother left, Mylo’s mom has become almost a surrogate mother for him (which is not surprising considering the quality and quantity of baked goods and sweet treats she makes for the boys!). Throughout the start of the story, we begin to understand that Milo is coming to terms with the loss of his older brother Obie and in turn, we realise that Dibs is slowly becoming the almost-brother that Mylo lost. Friendships are the glue of this story.

As the night sky flashes green and loud bangs are heard which in turn sends Dibs’ overactive imagination in to overdrive, the boys think they’re in with the chance of an alien encounter. Even Mylo who’s never believed in aliens…

The saying goes that curiosity killed the cat but it doesn’t kill these children’s desire to investigate further and so Mylo and his friends set out on an adventure to discover more about the newly-arrived Martians and their mothership. What they don’t know yet is that their discoveries may be more than they could possibly ever imagine.

Drawing on her background and experiences as a child and family therapist, I’ve been a big fan of Melissa’s honest, frank and touching writing style in her previous books – most notably with Bigfoot, Tobin and Me – and long may this continue.

Like a middle-grade ET crossed with a hint of Stranger Things, this is one that should definitely have been included in this year’s space-themed ‘Space Chase’ Summer Reading Challenge collection.



Inspiration for The Truth About Martians

There are many things that inspired me to write The Truth About Martians. One of them is my love of research and learning stories about our world’s history. One such story that has always intrigued me is the 1947 UFO crash outside of Roswell, New Mexico. Although the U.S. military has assured us it was nothing other than a military balloon, there are others who believe beyond a doubt that the crash was something extraterrestrial. Some even stating they saw the bodies of aliens at the crash site. Come on, who wouldn’t find this story intriguing? It has everything a captivating mystery needs to keep us talking about it. Even seventy-two years after the incident happened.

I spent a great deal of time learning about that time frame, the facts of the case, the stories from witnesses and about the atomic age. I visited the town and spoke with the people. I researched eye witness accounts and read sworn affidavits and deathbed confessions by ex-military personnel.  Additionally, I researched the children of that time. What was it like to live in 1947 as a preteen? What were their interests? What did they wear? What did they play? What did they aspire to do and to be? While this may not sound as exciting as the writing component of creating a story, for me, it’s one of my favorite parts of the process. I love doing research because it gives me so many ideas for the story itself – plot, character development, setting, themes, scenes and dialogue. I learned all about 1940’s baseball, the importance of Action Comics, I listened to many episodes of The Adventures of Superman radio program, and I even learned of this strange time called the atomic age which included children’s atomic games and a very special atomic ring kids sent in for with pennies and some Kix Cereal box tops. I have absolutely loved immersing myself in the tiny town of Corona just outside of Roswell, New Mexico at a time when life seemed much slower and maybe a bit more predictable in many ways.

Regarding the crash itself, I still haven’t decided quite yet what I think about it all. I’m a pretty skeptical person in general unless I see something with my own eyes. However, for me, I don’t need a definitive answer to write a story about it. I am a fiction writer. All I need are some amazing facts, and the story of Roswell is ripe with them. Those compelling facts are what inspired me to create a Roswell mystery of my own. Maybe one day we will learn for certain what really happened out in that desert. Until that time, there are plenty of unique and fascinating accounts. Which one is true remains to be seen, but I’m open to hearing each and every one of them.

Even the ones that take me all the way to the stars.

melissa savage colour (photo by jerri parness)
Melissa Savage


THE TRUTH ABOUT MARTIANS by Melissa Savage out now in paperback
(£6.99, Chicken House)

Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com and melissadsavage.com

Follow Melissa Savage on Twitter: @melissadsavage


 

Big thanks to Laura Smythe, Melissa and all at Chicken House for inviting me to share my thoughts on this out-of-this-world book as part of The Truth About Martians blog tour!

Extra thanks to Melissa for her guest post discussing her inspirations behind her book.

👽  Mr E  👽


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Be sure to check out the rest of the The Truth About Martians blog tour with these wonderful book bloggers for more reviews and exclusive posts!