Review: The Lost Words – Robert Macfarlane (Illustrated by Jackie Morris)

‘I would go as far to describe The Lost Words as one-of-a-kind; a six-star book. It’s a book that should find itself in to the hands, hearts and minds of everyone… The Lost Words will now be rightfully found again.’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Lost Words
Author: Robert Macfarlane (@RobGMacfarlane)
Illustrator: Jackie Morris (@JackieMorrisArt)
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton (@HamishH1931)
Page count: 128
Date of publication: 5th October 2017
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-0241253588

Perfect for Year 2, Year 3, Year 4, Year 5 & Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Exquisite 😍
2. Magical ✨
3. Awe-inspiring 😲


Once upon a time, words began to vanish from the language of children. They disappeared so quietly that at first almost no one noticed – until one day, they were gone.

But there is an old kind of magic for finding what is missing, and for summoning what has vanished. If the right spells are spoken, the lost words might return…


The first line(s):

Once upon a time, words began to vanish from the language of children. They disappeared so quietly that at first almost no one noticed – fading away like water on stone.


Review: The Lost Words is a complete visual joy to behold; spectacular and outstanding in all its resplendent and ‘oversized’ glory. The Lost Words reminds us to stop, stare and marvel at the natural wonders of our world all around us whilst also reconnecting us with ‘common words [and species] that are falling from common usage’ (Jackie Morris).

Gloriously illustrated by Jackie, this book combines her stunning watercolours with Robert Macfarlane’s richly captivating and evocative acrostic ‘spells’, which remind me of similar semantics and wordplay to my own favourite poet Dylan Thomas’, that are just asking to be read aloud for readers of all ages to lose themselves in the power of his words.

It’s such a landmark book, as it not only talks about environmental sustainability but about the sustainability of the words we keep in use to describe them, that’ll have a legacy which will inspire many a generation. Arguably, there’s no other book quite like this and I would go as far as to describe this book as one-of-a-kind; a six-star book.

After you’ve read and longingly explored its pages, it will be exceedingly difficult not to compare all books to the exquisite quality of The Lost Words because without a doubt, this will be one of the most beautiful books you will ever have the pleasure of holding in your hands. I hope this truly awe-inspiring, breathtaking and special book finds its way in to the hands, hearts and minds of every child, every parent, every teacher, every classroom and every school up and down the country because not having the chance for all to devour this would be a disservice to the future of society.

Owing to the incredible and harmonious collaboration between Robert & Jackie, The Lost Words will now be rightfully found again.


The Lost Words is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

This review can also be found as my nomination for Books for Topics’ ‘Recommended Books about Environmental Sustainability‘ collection.

Mr E
📚

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‘I would go as far to describe The Lost Words as one-of-a-kind; a six-star book. It’s a book that should find itself in to the hands, hearts and minds of everyone… The Lost Words will now be rightfully found again.’

Cover Reveal AND exclusive inside illustrations! The Boy Who Lived with Dragons (The Boy Who Grew Dragons: Book 2) – Andy Shepherd (Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie)

I’m super excited to reveal today the cover AND exclusive inside illustrations of Andy Shepherd’s second in the series, ‘The Boy Who Lived with Dragons’ which will be published on 6th September 2018 by Piccadily Press.

The Boy Who Lived with Dragons – Andy Shepherd

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The second book in a wonderfully funny and sparky series illustrated by award-winning artist Sara Ogilvie.

Dragons are a lot more trouble than cucumbers.

In ‘The Boy Who Grew Dragons’, Tomas finds a dragon fruit tree in his Grandad’s garden. When a tiny dragon bursts out of one of the fruit, he discovers just how much more trouble they are. But it’s not all about the chaos and exploding poo. The first time Flicker curls his tail around Tomas’ wrist and looks at him with those bright diamond eyes, Tomas finds there’s a whole lot more magic in a dragon.

Tomas has to learn to look after Flicker – and quickly. And then more dragonfruits appear on the tree. And Tomas is officially growing dragons…

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Tomas tucked up with Flicker! (from Chapter 8)

Now in this second book, ‘The Boy Who Lived With Dragons’, we find out what happens when Tomas’ friends get in on the action with their own dragons. Add to that a grumpy neighbour and a nosy arch nemesis, who may just have a secret of his own, things could be about to get too hot to handle!

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Kat and Kai in a game of Blast Attack! (from Chapter 9)

Andy Shepherd

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Andy Shepherd is a children’s writer working on middle-grade fiction and picture books. She lives near Cambridge with her husband, two sons and their border collie.

You can find out more about Andy by visiting her website or follow her on Twitter @andyjshepherd.


The wonderful cover artwork and illustrations in the books have been done by Sara Ogilvie.

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You can find out more about Sara and see her lovely illustrations at her website.

Disclaimer: – Please note, all dragon-growing is undertaken entirely at your own risk and Andy cannot be held responsible for any damage your dragon may cause.


Huge thanks to Andy, Tina and all at Piccadilly Press for inviting me to host the cover reveal, I can’t wait to see this on the shelves along with The Boy Who Grew Dragons and get my hands on a copy!

Andy will also be visiting The Reader Teacher soon on her upcoming blog tour for The Boy Who Grew Dragons where I’ll be reviewing The Boy Who Grew Dragons, she’ll be answering my questions in an Author Q&A and there’ll be a giveaway of The Boy Who Grew Dragons!

Mr E
🐲📚🐉


The Boy Who Lived with Dragons is available to pre-order now online or from any good bookshop.

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First in the series, The Boy Who Lived with Dragons is available to pre-order now online or from any good bookshop.

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Review & Author Q&A: Running on Empty – S. E. Durrant (Illustrated by Rob Biddulph)

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‘A remarkable, revealing and realistic read that was every bit as brilliant as I hoped it would be in painting a powerfully poignant and at times, painfully honest picture of life where real heroes don’t wear capes. And sometimes, they don’t wear the correct-sized trainers either… This one will run and run.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Running on Empty
Author: S. E. Durrant (@SEDurrant)
Illustrator (Cover): Rob Biddulph (@RobBiddulph)
Publisher: Nosy Crow (@NosyCrow/@NosyCrowBooks)
Page count: 208
Date of publication: 1st March 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1510102118

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Remarkable ☺️
2. Revealing 😥
3. Real 👟


The thing that makes me different from other eleven-year-old boys, apart from my fantastic running ability, is that my parents have learning difficulties.

It’s no big deal for me. Really it isn’t. I don’t look after them.

We look after each other.

A story of family, friendship and trainers, Running on Empty will grip you till the finishing line…


The first line:

The most amazing thing I ever saw was Usain Bolt winning the 100 metres at the London Olympics.


Review: Living in East London, a quick stretch of the legs away from the hallowed track of the Olympic Stadium, AJ is a boy who was born to run. He lives, sleeps, eats, drinks and breathes running. After watching his idol Usain Bolt – albeit on TV – create history at the 2012 London Olympics by setting the world record, AJ spends his every waking moment trying to emulate his hero. He knows he’s different for two reasons. Different in that he has a terrific talent. But also different in that he leads a life unlike his friends, his peers and the people he sees around him, taking on the role and responsibility of a young carer by looking after his parents who have learning difficulties.

Due to the unconditional love, encouragement and support of his beloved grandfather, AJ’s talent develops in to something more than a talent. However his world starts to unravel as he is forced to adjust to life after the death of his grandfather who was more than his steadying influence, more like his rock. Roles are reversed as AJ soon recognises that his grandfather did more than he realised by keeping it all together for him and his parents, as he took charge of the running of the house and paying the bills. Suddenly AJ now finds himself trying to follow Grandad’s lead but with more responsibility than he could ever imagine bestowed upon his small shoulders.

When you’ve outgrown your trainers, you don’t want to run the risk of alerting social services to the situation and there’s no money left to put in the electricity meter – let alone enough to buy a new pair – it is clear that AJ will have a tough and tumultuous time to come trying to cope with it all. Although it seems that AJ’s grandfather cannot be replaced, his spirit does indeed live on in the security and stability that AJ seeks to provide for his parents. It is also here where his grandfather’s comforting words will live long in the memory: ‘Sometimes people think being different is a problem but actually it can be a very nice thing.’

Written in a series of frank, sincere and heart-to-heart conversational exchanges, we really start to feel for AJ as he breaks down the fourth wall between himself and the reader unveiling elements of what life truly feels like when living on the edge. He talks about what at first seem like unsurmountable hurdles to him; problems of transition between school and home life, the overwhelming sense of responsibility now resting upon his shoulders and trying to keep his family on track. But can he overcome these continual challenges that he is faced with or will it all come crashing down around him…? We begin to notice that although AJ runs as a hobby, it is also acts as a form of escapism for him and a way of channeling his grief, his anxiety, his worries and the instability of the situation he finds himself in.

An emphatically empathetic and deeply moving story that’s both attentively and compassionately written, Running on Empty has all the characteristic hallmarks of Sue’s brilliantly endearing style of writing that showcases the unassuming, unseen and unsung heroes of this world, and she – after the deserved success of Little Bits of Sky – achieves the gold medal standard in this genre once again.

It often brought a lump to the throat and tugged at the heartstrings as its laced with tinges of despair and uncertainty. For instance, the chapter where AJ rummages through the box of lost-property trainers particularly struck me at the time and still stays stuck with me, long after reading this. Though, it so equally often made me smile and feel remotely hopeful for AJ. A real emotional rollercoaster of a read where big-hearted characters run the show and the true power of relationships; of finding help in the unlikeliest of people and of total togetherness is rightfully placed at its core.

This book proves that sometimes that just managing and getting by in life in the long run is more of a marathon than a 100m sprint and that real heroes don’t have to wear capes. In fact, sometimes, they don’t – and can’t – even wear the correct-sized trainers.

‘A remarkable, revealing and realistic read that was every bit as brilliant as I hoped it would be in painting a powerfully poignant and at times, painfully honest picture of life where real heroes don’t wear capes. And sometimes, they don’t wear the correct-sized trainers either… This one will run and run.’

Big thanks to Sue Durrant and Clare Hall-Craggs at Nosy Crow for sending me a copy of this wonderfully written book!

Running on Empty is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
📚

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Author Q&A: S. E. Durrant (SD) with The Reader Teacher (TRT)

I’m very delighted to welcome Sue Durrant to The Reader Teacher today where she’ll be answering my questions about Running on Empty, her reading and writing habits, using her book in the classroom and her favourite footwear!

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S. E. Durrant lives in Brighton with her husband and children. She has wanted to be a writer since she was a child and has always squeezed writing in around the edges of her life. She’s worked on a stall at Covent Garden market, sold paintings in Venice and taught art to children. In order to write AJ’s story, she extensively researched what life is like for child carers, and children growing up in the shadow of social services.


Running on Empty

TRT: At The Reader Teacher, for my reviews, I describe books in #3Words3Emojis.
I’ve described Running on Empty as 1. Remarkable 😊 Revealing 😥 3. Trainers 👟, which 3 adjectives and 3 corresponding emojis would you choose to best describe it?
SD: 1. Optimistic 😊  2. Realistic  💯  3. Empathetic 🙂

TRT: What books, people, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write Running on Empty?
SD: I was inspired to write Running on Empty after reading an article about a parent who had learning difficulties. I began to think about issues learning difficulty parents might face and to wonder how a child of learning difficulty parents might view our often unkind, impatient world. My protagonist, AJ, is eleven years old and has just begun secondary school; his very supportive grandad has died unexpectedly and AJ briefly tries to step into his shoes and manage the family affairs.

I have seen many children make the transition to secondary school, through my own children, and I wanted to explore the likelihood of AJ’s problems going unnoticed in the jump from a small primary to a large secondary. I also think eleven is such an interesting age, as children try to work out who they think they want to be, yet are still very much tied to childhood, veering between self-confidence and embarrassment in moments.

I was also inspired by the 2012 Olympic Games in East London, which is where my book is set. I was lucky enough to spend a day at the 2012 Paralympics Games and found the atmosphere inspirational. AJ and his family watch Usain Bolt win the 100m gold and that moment becomes a source of hope for AJ, who is a very keen runner.

TRT: What do you hope readers will get from reading Running on Empty?
SD: I hope readers will empathise with AJ, his devotion to running and his resilience in the face of difficulties. I also very much hope they find him funny, quirky and relatable.

TRT: If you could build your own pair of trainers, what would they look like? What special features would they have?
SD: Unlike AJ, I am not a runner so my dream trainers would have some special component that would enable me to get up hills.

TRT: What is your favourite footwear that you own?
SD: My favourite footwear, though not beautiful, are my walking boots – when I put them on I know I am going somewhere lovely.

TRT: If you were to choose the character that is most like you from Running on Empty, who would it be and why?
SD: I’m not sure any of the characters are like me though perhaps AJ’s relationship with his mother in some way reflects my relationship with my son when he was eleven/twelve years old.

TRT: What kinds of research did you do regarding young carers and how did this help when writing Running on Empty?
SD: I visited a group of parents with learning difficulties who helped me understand some of the issues they face, for example the huge amount of paperwork their children bring home from school. I also spoke with a boy whose parents have learning difficulties.

Reading and Writing

TRT: What first attracted you to writing?
SD: I have written for as long as I can remember, I think as a way of trying to make sense of the world, and I would continue write regardless of whether my work was published. I love the fact I can create situations and try to figure out what they mean.

TRT: Which parts of writing do you find energise you and which parts do you find exhaust you?
SD: I find the beginning of writing a new book exhausting, particularly trying to work out some sort of plot. The most energising part for me is when I have found the voice of my protagonist and can enjoy trying to imagine the world through his/her eyes.

TRT: What is your favourite book from childhood?
SD: My favourite book from childhood is The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier. I love the way that, against the odds, the children find their way to safety and a future they can have some choice in.

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?
SD: We didn’t have visiting authors when I was at school and I thought becoming an author was completely unattainable and involved some kind of magic.  It can only be a good thing for children to meet authors in schools and discover they are very ordinary human beings and no magic is involved.

TRT: Currently, we seem to be living in a golden age of books. What are some of the interesting things/things you like that you’re seeing in other children’s books today?
SD: I love the fact that a greater variety of books is being published. I think the more child readers can see themselves reflected in stories the better and more interesting for everyone.

TRT: I know you are heavily invested and focused on promoting Running on Empty but can you tell us about any stories you’re working on or what you want to work on next? Do you plan to focus on writing more books for children or do you have something entirely different lined up outside of the publishing world?
SD: I have just written a short story which will be included in the new edition of Little Bits of Sky which will be published in July.  This short story is set in 1947 when Glenda Hyacinth arrives at the orphanage, Skilly House.  Glenda is the girl whose letter Ira finds over forty years later.

I’m also working on my next children’s book. It is early days yet and I’m still struggling with the plot but it will be set in Brighton where I now live and will have an eleven year old female protagonist.


Running on Empty and Teaching

TRT: Could you suggest ways that your book could be used in the classroom for the many teachers that will read this?
SD: Running on Empty could be used as a starting point for discussing grief, poverty, running, resilience, school transition and day to day embarrassment of being eleven years old.

TRT: When reading Running on Empty, I particularly liked the scenes between AJ and his PE teacher, Mr Higgins. When researching young carers, what were your experiences of visiting schools and speaking to teachers? What did you find out? Did you test out your ideas for Running on Empty on them?
SD: I didn’t test my book on teachers but as a parent I have had a lot of recent experience of PE teachers and have always found them remarkably dedicated and energetic. The PE teacher in Running on Empty starts out as a bit of a caricature, which I suppose is how time-pressed teachers often appear, though in time he shows a more human side.  I enjoyed writing the scenes between Mr Higgins and AJ – they are each trying to gauge what each other think without giving too much away.

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

SD: I find it hard to pitch my own books so have chosen two lovely reviews:

Little Bits of Sky
– This story of looked-after siblings of 9 and 11.. is instantly engaging, sustaining emotional involvement throughout… this is an uplifting and convincing evocation of time and place, of two vivid young lives, and of the hope that kindness can offer. Nicolette Jones, The Sunday Times

Running on Empty – AJ is a boy who just loves to run. Swept away on the belief and hope that anyone can achieve their dream after watching the 2012 London Olympics, all he wants to do is run on the hallowed track where he saw his idol Usain Bolt win gold… Incredibly emotional and powerful storytelling makes ‘Running On Empty’ a truly, compelling read. bookloverjo.wordpress.com

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?
SD: Through Twitter @SEDurrant or via my publisher Nosy Crow @NosyCrow/@NosyCrowBooks.

Two more before you go!

TRT: What has an interviewer/blogger never asked you before, that you always wished you could answer?
SD: I’ve never been asked my favourite book but if I was I would choose Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

TRT: Finally, can you share with our readers something about yourself that they might be surprised to learn?
SD: I have never given anyone a full box of chocolates.

TRT: Thank you so much for stopping off at The Reader Teacher today, Sue. I wish you every success with Running on Empty!

You can find out more about Sue by visiting her publisher’s website or following her on Twitter.

Author Q&A & Giveaway: Eloise Williams (Elen’s Island/Gaslight/Seaglass)

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I am honoured to welcome Eloise Williams, award-winning author of such wonderful books as GaslightElen’s Island and Seaglass to The Reader Teacher today.

To celebrate the cover reveal of her forthcoming novel Seaglass (which I am so excited about reading and reviewing!) which is out in September 2018 and also on the first birthday of Gaslight, Eloise is here to answer more than a few of my questions about Seaglass, about her reading and writing habits and about using her books in the classroom.

The giveaway follows on after the ‘Author Q&A’ interview!


Author Q&A: Eloise Williams (EW) with The Reader Teacher (TRT)

Seaglass

TRT: On The Reader Teacher, I describe books using #3Words3Emojis. Which 3 adjectives and 3 corresponding emojis would you choose to best describe Seaglass?
EW: 1. Ghostly 👻 2. Mysterious 🕵️ 3. Thrilling 😲

TRT: When recommending Seaglass to others on social media, I have had lots of replies (including from other authors such as Emma Carroll) commenting on how lovely a title it is. How did you choose and end up settling on such a wonderful title? Were there any other options that came a close second?
EW: How lovely! Emma Carroll is such a gorgeous and supportive author and is quite a bit brilliant with words herself so that means a lot! There were a few titles bandied about and they all contained references to sea glass. Sometimes simplicity is best.

TRT: So far we know that Seaglass will be ‘a salty, windswept, seaside ghost story for age 9+ will be published in 2018 to coincide with Wales’ Year of the Sea!’
Can you tell us any more than that at the moment about Seaglass?
EW: Here’s the information Firefly Press are putting out.
I’m being very careful not to give the plot away!

‘She will come for you.’

Lark struggles to settle when her Roma family moves to a new site by the sea. Her mother is ill, her little sister Snow isn’t talking and she has fallen out with her best friend. She distracts herself looking for sea glass on the foggy beach. But is someone following her? Who is the figure that Snow keeps drawing, the girl in green? Do the locals who tell them to leave the site just hate travellers, or is there something about the history of the beach that Lark needs to find out? A story that perfectly combines the chill of a ghost story with the warmth of a family tale about standing up for each other and being brave.

TRT: What books, people, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write Seaglass?EW: Where to begin? All the ghost stories I’ve ever read. From one of my very first books ‘The Worried Ghost’ by Seymour Reit to much later books read as an adult. I have a huge support network of family, friends and other authors. They help me to keep writing. My grandmother, who was a lovely woman and is still very much missed, was a driving force for this story too. Ideas and inspiration mostly came from the young people I work with and the landscape I live in. They mingled, knitted, wove together, fleshed out the story. When I got stuck along the way a young person would say something which would spark my imagination, or a storm would ignite an idea, or a beautiful jay would land in the garden and I’d be writing again. It seems strange to put children, storms and birds together but it’s the truth and truth is a big inspiration for this book too.

TRT: What do you hope readers will get from reading Seaglass?
EW: Ooh… difficult without giving too much away… Firstly, most importantly, a really good read. Secondly, that we are capable of change. Is that vague enough? I think so, yes.

TRT: The cover was revealed yesterday (Thursday 5th April) for Seaglass, can you tell us a little more about its creation or conception?
EW: Both the cover for Seaglass and for Gaslight were designed by Anne Glenn. I’m very lucky that Anne and Firefly Press take my views into consideration when it comes to cover designs. We discussed both of these covers closely and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am with them! I think both depict beautifully the essence of the stories in the pages.

Reading and Writing

TRT: What first attracted you to writing?
EW: The creativity of it. I was an actor for a long time and it meant I was consistently waiting to be given a role so that I could be creative. With writing I can be creative anywhere and at any time. It’s very freeing.

TRT: Where’s your favourite place to write and why?
EW: I have a writing shed of sorts. I often have to climb over a lawnmower to actually get to my desk but it’s lovely once I’ve made it. I can hear the sea from there, watch a mouse scurrying across the garden and the birds having a wash in the birdbath.
I also write everywhere else!
On the beach, in bed, at the kitchen table, in cafes, libraries, on trains…

TRT: Which parts of writing do you find energise you and which parts do you find exhaust you?
EW: Energising things are creating the story and characters. Tossing ideas about and playing with words.  Inventing, wondering, deliberating, the actual writing. Living in an imaginary world.

Exhausting. Elements of the business side of writing can be competitive and I’m just not. Recognition for a tale well told is wonderful, of course, but I want everyone to do well.

 TRT: What is your favourite book from childhood and why?
EW: Without a doubt it’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It opened my mind to possibility. Magical worlds just around the corner. Lands where children were courageous and won battles. All that and it SNOWED almost all the time!

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?
EW: No! None at all. Being an author was something otherworldly. I believed in Narnia more than I believed in my chances of being an author. Children, schools and authors get fabulous opportunities to connect with each other now and that’s such an inspiring thing. Working with young people always makes me determined to keep improving my writing so that my stories can be of the best quality I am capable of creating.

TRT: Currently, we seem to be living in a golden age of books. What are some of the interesting things or things you like that you’re seeing in other children’s books today?
EW: I am constantly astonished by the amount of talent in children’s literature. I like seeing everything! There are so many writers creating work with such passion and excellence. We are all in it together. The more writing, art, creativity we all put out there, the more beautiful the world is.

TRT: I know you are heavily invested in writing and focused on promoting Seaglass but can you tell us about anything else you’re working on or what you want to work on after Seaglass? Do you plan to focus on writing more books for children or do you have something entirely different lined up inside or outside of the publishing world?
EW: I am always working on something else. At the moment I have four books for young people in very early stages so it’s a question of deciding which one to focus on. I’m excellent at starting writing books but not so good at finishing them. I’d also like to do something crazy with my life! I have no idea what so suggestions on a postcard please…

Teaching

TRT: I know that you often work in schools yourself, are you testing out the ideas for Seaglass on pupils or teachers?
EW: I’ve tested out the first couple of pages of Seaglass with a few schools now. It is the most nerve-wracking experience you can possibly imagine. So far, they’ve given it a huge thumbs-up, which is a relief!

TRT: Lots of teachers are using Gaslight in the classroom to complement their teaching of the Victorians. Could you suggest ways that Seaglass could be used in the classroom for the many teachers that will read this?
EW: Some key elements are: Inclusion. A sense of belonging. Bullying. Anger. Friendship. Wildlife and nature. Facing fears. There are other themes, but I can’t disclose them without giving away the story!

TRT: If you were to ‘pitch’ your books to teachers for them to use in their classrooms or for parents to choose to read them at home, how would you sum them up?
EW: Elen’s Island –  ‘A delightful, magical tale full of mystery, intrigue and the unknown.’ Book Lover Jo.
Gaslight – ‘A deliciously dark romp through the backstreets of Victorian Cardiff.’ Emma Carroll.
Seaglass – ‘You are trying to get me to give away the plot again aren’t you?’ Eloise Williams.

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?
EW: I love working in schools and have a contact page on my website www.eloisewilliams.com

General

TRT: What has an interviewer/blogger never asked you before, that you always wished you could answer?
EW: I’d like to be asked if I’ve touched the rocking chair from the stage show of ‘The Woman in Black.’ Answer: Yes, I have. Eek!

TRT: Finally, can you share with our readers something about yourself that they might be surprised to learn?
EW: I share my birthday with Hans Christian Andersen and Adrian Mole.

TRT: Thank you ever so much for taking the time to answer my questions today, Eloise!

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Eloise was born in Cardiff and grew up in Llantrisant. She now lives in Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire, very close to the beach where she walks her dog Watson Jones and collects sea glass with her artist husband, Guy Manning.

She worked in the theatre in various odd jobs before going on to study Drama at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and Guildford School of Acting. After working for over ten years as an actor, she decided to change path a little and take a Masters in Creative Writing at Swansea University.

Her first book was Elen’s Island, published in 2015.

Her second novel, a Victorian Middle Grade thriller, Gaslight, was published in April 2017.


Giveaway!

So to celebrate Gaslight being one and the cover reveal of Seaglass, I am delighted to say that Eloise has kindly given me a signed copy of Gaslight AND an original postcard sized oil-painting of the view from the beach which inspired Seaglass – created by Guy Manning who illustrates inside the books – to giveaway to one of my followers on Twitter. If you’d like a chance of winning this superb prize, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

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Guy has also painted 365 consecutive paintings of Pembrokeshire over 365 days which you can see here at https://www.postcardsfrompembrokeshire.com/


 

Review: When the Mountains Roared – Jess Butterworth (Illustrated by Rob Biddulph)

‘A stunningly compelling & evocative tale that surpasses far beyond the highest of expectations, carrying with it an all-important message of preservation; of the potency of poaching; and of being at peace with the wild and the world; that will live long not only in the minds, but also in the hearts of its readers.’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: When the Mountains Roared
Author: Jess Butterworth (@J_T_Butterworth)
Illustrator (Cover): Rob Biddulph (@RobBiddulph)
Publisher: Orion Children’s Books (@the_orionstar) / Hachette Kids (@HachetteKids)
Page count: 288
Date of publication: 5th April 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1510102118

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Evocative 😥
2. Stirring ☺️
3. Conservation 🐾


When Ruby’s dad uproots her from Australia to set up a hotel in the mountains of India, Ruby is devastated. Not only are they living in the middle of the wilderness surrounded by scorpions, bears and leopards, but Ruby is sure that India will never truly feel like home – not without her mum there. 

Ever since her mum died, Ruby has been afraid. Of cars. Of the dark. Of going to sleep and never waking up. 

But then the last remaining leopards of the mountain are threatened and everything changes. Ruby vows to do all she can to protect them – if only she can overcome her fears…


The first line:

I duck low to the ground and creep forwards, following the two men and the boy ahead. / I know something’s wrong as soon as I step through the front door.


Review: Following the very much deserved success of Jess’ richly atmospheric and accomplished debut Running on the Roof of the World (which I reviewed here as my fiction choice for Books for Topics’ Best Books of 2017), she returns on familiar ground this year with what I’m sure will be another roaring success, When the Mountains Roared.

Heralding her Himalayan heritage, real-life inspirations and childhood experiences, Jess once again vibrantly and beautifully realises the lush, mountain landscapes complete with their soaring scenery and diverse range of flora and fauna but this story starts itself in a wholly contrasting way…

My fingers come away deep red.
My breath catches.
Blood.
I wipe my shaky hands on my trousers. There’s a leopard out there, injured.
And I have to find it before they do.

After a sudden flashback – later on reencountered in the story – we meet Ruby; a lost soul reeling from the sudden death of her mother, with no control over where she’ll find herself living in the world from one minute to the next and wishing for some stability, some routine, some normality and somewhere to call home.

Unfortunately or maybe fortunately for her, she finds herself having absolutely none of that. As facing yet more domestic and homely upheaval, the whole family – that’s Ruby, Dad, Grandma and Polly (her dog) along with an altogether unexpected animal companion – have to leave Australia in the dead of night whilst evading Dad’s ‘friends’ whom he owes money to.

Another new start. Another new country. A new hotel?

Another new start for Ruby this time leads the family this time to the dizzying heights of the Indian mountains where Dad has taken over the running of a hotel but things aren’t quite what they first imagined. A dilapidated building that only serves to exacerbate Ruby’s fears and the surrounding wildlife is even more on the scary side as snakes and scorpions scuttle around her and a bear banging on her door in the middle of the night suggests.  But all is not lost as Ruby makes an important discovery that could change her life forever…

The unseen, unscrupulous and often unknown world to many of us of the fight against poaching is highlighted and brought immediately into focus. This is where this book helps to provide a subtle and empathetic exploration in to the endless and immeasurable myriad of problems associated with it, whilst also providing the reader with more than a glimmer of hope in its resolution. This tale also has lots of educational potential and could be used in schools as a starting point for discussions on animal rights, endangered animals and the risk of extinction which is particularly relevant at this recent time of the death of the last male northern white rhinoceros in Kenya.

Ruby is most definitely her grandmother’s granddaughter all over. It’s her grandmother’s curiosity, stubbornness and willpower that’s been instilled within her that really makes Ruby take charge of the situation that she finds herself living in and to try her utmost, with her grandmother’s help, to seek a resolution. Ruby must not only fight her fears but stand up for what she truly believes in even when it appears that most around her, including her nearest and dearest, don’t. The future of these animals rests on Ruby’s shoulders.

Meeting Ruby at the beginning, she’s very much a different girl to how she started. She was subdued: a shadow of herself, pulled from pillar to post and fearing the utmost worst of every situation. However by the end of WtMR, she has begun to overcome her deepest fears and developed into someone who’s mother’s steely determination and spirit lives on within her.

Jess’ books are fast becoming favourites for many and she is ensuring that she is seen as a stand-out talent with her incredibly original style of writing. Culturally enriching, she really imbues her story writing with her own life experiences as somebody who’s been brought up in the UK but is still very much rooted in the Himalayas as well. I really gain the sense that writing a book – particularly this one – for Jess is increasingly more than just writing a book. Not only is it a way of highlighting a vitally important issue or a message but it is also about reliving the magic of moments that have become memories, of which I think your grandmother would be immensely proud, Jess.

That’s why it is such a stunningly compelling & evocative read that surpasses far beyond the highest of expectations, carrying with it an all-important message of preservation; of the potency of poaching; and of being at peace with the wild and the world; that I hope will live long not only in the minds, but also in the hearts of its readers.

If you’re not already a huge fan of Jess and her books, then I can guarantee that you certainly will be after this one!

‘A stunningly compelling & evocative tale that surpasses far beyond the highest of expectations, carrying with it an all-important message of preservation; of the potency of poaching; and of being at peace with the wild and the world; that will live long not only in the minds, but also in the hearts of its readers.’

Big thanks to Jess and her team at Orion Children’s Books and Hachette for sending me an advance copy of this beautifully written book!

This book is out in the wild today on the 5th April!

When the Mountains Roared is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
📚

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Blog Tour: Review: Nimesh the Adventurer – Ranjit Singh (Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini)

‘Turning the ordinary in to the extraordinary… this book is a true visual delight that is sure to ignite the imaginations of both young and old taking them on a journey of their mind’s eye where there’s no end to the possibilities’.

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Nimesh the Adventurer
Author: Ranjit Singh (@RanjittheAuthor)
Illustrator: Mehrdokht Amini (Website)
Publisher: Lantana Publishing (@lantanapub)
Page count: 32
Date of publication: 5th April 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1911373247

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

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Imaginative 💭
2. Extraordinary 😃
3. Heartening 💖


Nimesh is walking home from school.
Except…there happens to be a shark in the corridor.
And a dragon in the library!
And why would crossing the road lead to the North Pole?
In this fun-filled adventure, Nimesh is just walking from school… isn’t he?


The first line(s):

Hello Nimesh, is school over?
School? My friend, this is not a school! It’s an ancient cave, and shhhh!
Or you’ll wake…


Nimesh-the-Adventurer-spread-1Review: Join Nimesh on his otherwise ordinary walk home from school that soon becomes an astonishing adventure of amazement. Turning pretty ordinary objects, people and places in to the magnificent, the wonderful and the extraordinary, Nimesh becomes the adventurer he so wants to be.

To Nimesh, the world turns into the biggest blank canvas to his limitless imagination where dreaming can take him absolutely anywhere he wants to go.

It is a true visual delight that combines Mehrdokht’s illustrations and collage with Ranjit’s words in a way that is sure to ignite the imaginations of young and old and take them on a journey of their mind’s eye where there’s no end to the possibilities.

Nimesh-the-Adventurer-review-copy-8Recently, I attended an event where I had the pleasure of hearing triple laureates, Lauren Child (Waterstones’ UK Children’s Laureate); Casia William (Bardd Plant Cymru/Welsh-language Children’s Laureate) and Sophie McKeand (Young People’s Laureate of Wales) speak about inspiring a love of literature amongst children with a renewed sense of focus upon creativity and a time to dream.

Lauren referenced inspiration coming – as lots and lots of tiny fragments – from everywhere and everyone and that having that time to dream creatively makes those fragments come together and begin to collide, in her case to form the basis for a story. Otherwise those fragments and ideas lay dormant; untouched and unfulfilled. This is another reason why books like Nimesh the Adventurer that encourage imaginative and creative thinking are very much-needed, and, above all, so important to society.

I can really imagine children in class and at home losing themselves deep within these pages; allowing their imaginations to soar and dreaming big. It is the perfect story to share before home time, as every child will be wanting to recreate their own adventures on their way home after reading this. It will also take adult readers back to a carefree time where dreaming big was a natural, normal and daily occurrence and remind them that it so should still be. This would make a very worthy addition to any classroom or school library really encapsulating the power of awe, excitement and wonder all rolled in to one.

Imagination and curiosity is a fragile thing and should be nurtured, encouraged and inspired at each and every opportunity. So next time you’re out and about, ask your children in class and at home what do they see when they look at a classroom? A corridor? A road? A street? A park? A city? Or a line of trees? and see if they see things a little differently, like Nimesh, too! If they don’t, here’s your chance to use this book to open up a land of new opportunity to them!

With more books like this absolute gem to come, Lantana Publishing are certainly a publisher to watch as their catalogue grows and grows.


‘Turning the ordinary in to the extraordinary… this book is a true visual delight that is sure to ignite the imaginations of both young and old taking them on a journey of their mind’s eye where there’s no end to the possibilities’.

Big thanks to Katrina at Lantana Publishing for sending me a copy of this beautiful book and inviting me to take part in Nimesh the Adventurer’s blog tour!

You can imagine it because Nimesh the Adventurer is out today and available to order online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
📚

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Blog Tour: Review: Planet Stan – Elaine Wickson (Illustrated by Chris Judge) & Guest Post: Infographic: A visual representation of information or data, as a chart, diagram or image – Elaine Wickson

‘A highly entertaining ad-VENN-ture that’s loveably BAR-my with hilarity, humour and hap-PIE-ness in all the right places… surely making it a serious (or should I say, not-so-serious!!!) contender for the Lollies (Laugh Out Loud Book Awards) 2018.’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Planet Stan
Poets: Elaine Wickson (@elainewickson)
Illustrator: Chris Judge (chrisjudge)
Publisher: OUP Oxford Children’s (@OUPChildrens)
Page count: 240
Date of publication: 5th April 2018
Series status: First in a series of 3!
ISBN: 978-0192759047

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 & Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Hilarious 😁
2. Out-of-this-world 🌍
3. Chart-tastic! 📊


SOMETIMES the only way to make any sense of my life is to put it all into charts and diagrams . . . BUT even that just makes me realize how far away from normal my family is, especially my little brother Fred!

I hope that you’ll find some useful survival tips in this book, but if not, then at least it’ll cheer you up to know your life is considerably less chaotic than mine!


The first line(s):
Mum! Fred’s been keeping snails under my bed again…
They say we’re all made of stardust.’


Review:
Welcome to Stan’s universe! As the first line suggests, Stan’s life is anything but usual. With a younger brother, Fred – who Mum describes as an ‘effervescent force’ – leaving snails under Stan’s bed and ladybirds in his lunchbox; squeezing toothpaste in his slippers; licking all the crisps; chucking Stan’s pants out the window and cutting holes in his favourite T-shirt AND that’s not all as the list could go on and on and on… you can see why Stan often finds himself in quite a predicament.

To help make some sort of sense of it, Stan uses a mix of charts, diagrams and infographics to explain everything. And when I say everything, I mean everything. Ranging from a ‘cross-section of [his] younger bruv’s brain’ to a Venn diagram of the ‘common (or should I say not-so-common) multiples’ between him and his out-of-this-world brother, and even his ‘My General State of Mind’ sliding scale on each page.

For as long as he can remember (and as long as he can remember asking Mum for one!), Stan has wanted a telescope because he loves everything space. Just as Stan is obsessed with space, Fred adores dinosaurs. In his case, one particular dinosaur exhibit at the museum named Rory who is not only part of Camford Museum’s history but is also part of the residents’ own history as he’s long been there since they were growing up. However unfortunately for Fred, he hears news that dearly-loved Rory’s skeleton is going to be removed from the museum sending him in to meltdown…

Whilst Stan tries his best to look after Fred and lift his spirits AND keep his group of equally disorderly friends on task with their entry for the science competition with first prize being THAT telescope, both his and Rory’s passions in life force the two of them to work together. But will Stan complete Operation SWAT (Stanley Wins a Telescope) in time? And does he end up feeling ‘Over the moon’ or in a ‘Black Hole of Doom’?

Sprinkled with fantastical space facts aplenty with Stan providing a social commentary far beyond his years and reminiscent of a young Sheldon Cooper, it’s a maths, science and infographic fan’s dream of a read. As it’s more than just a read. Elaine, with the help of illustrator Chris Judge’s larger-than-life infographics, really shows the power of how applying infographics in a inventive and innovative way can convey and tell a story just as well as and at times even more fitting than words could possibly hope to achieve. Further to this, Planet Stan could be used in school as a different and light-hearted way in to introducing data handling involving bar charts, pie charts and Venn diagrams to children.

This is a highly entertaining ad-VENN-ture that’s loveably BAR-my with hilarity, humour and hap-PIE-ness in all the right places… surely making it a serious (or should I say, not-so-serious!!!) contender for the Lollies (Laugh Out Loud Book Awards) 2018.

It also shows how sibling rivalry can turn in to the best kind of brotherly love; the importance, inspiration and sense of awe and wonder that museums can hold for children and adults; and finding out that we have far more in common with each other, even when it can sometimes first seem like we don’t have much at all. And also one of life’s most (ahem!) important lessons. If all else fails, make sure you have cake. Cake-on-a-stick!

‘A highly entertaining ad-VENN-ture that’s loveably BAR-my with hilarity, humour and hap-PIE-ness in all the right places… surely making it a serious (or should I say, not-so-serious!!!) contender for the Lollies (Laugh Out Loud Book Awards) 2018.’

HUGE thanks to Elaine for writing such a super guest post about the power of infographics!

Big thanks also to Hannah Penny at OUP Children’s Books for sending me a copy of this beautiful book and inviting me to take part in Planet Stan’s blog tour!

Planet Stan is available to pre-order now online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
📚

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Today I am also very fortunate in that I am delighted to welcome Elaine Wickson to The Reader TeacherHere, she shares with The Reader Teacher readers all about the infographic and shares some of her very own that’s she made about herself, which are guaranteed to make you chuckle! She explores their history right back to 1801 and also explains what Florence Nightingale had to do with pie charts.

Infographic: A visual representation of information or data, as a chart, diagram or image”.

What with Twitface, 500 telly channels, and phones for hands, it’s not hard to see why eye-catching infographics have become so widespread – they are perfect for short attention spans.

‘Infographic’ sounds like a word from our internet era, but it’s been in use since the 1960s, and an idea much earlier than that. William Playfair invented the pie chart in 1801, but look what Florence Nightingale did with it – she turned it into a rose chart (also known as a coxcomb), to show parliament they needed to sort out army hygiene.

Florence Nightingale Rose Chart

There are infographics all around us, like the London Underground map, and Ron Swanson’s Pyramid of Greatness. Take your pick from Quick Facts About Mars, Unravelling Death in Game of Thrones, or Tracking a Book from Idea to Completion. You can even relive the ENTIRE story of Star Wars Episode IV – dazzling, but it may result in “scrolling-wheel finger”.

I’m sure there’s a sciencey explanation as to why we process visual stuff more easily, after all pictures can speak a thousand words (although obviously it depends on the words).

Stanley Fox uses all kinds of infographics in Planet Stan, such as a Periodic Table to remind him what ‘elements’ his brother is made from, or a Lego Death Star Impact Chart which actually explains meteorite craters.

With that in mind, I thought I’d share some infographics about me!

 

I love pictures with stories – my eyes can’t wait to reach them as I scan the text. I have such fond memories of laughing at The Bash Street Kids in buzzy-bee summer hols; scrutinising panels of a fairy-tale comic book that belonged to my Mum; and losing hours with a just-right sunbeam and my 1001 Questions and Answers book (non-fiction is not just for Christmas). Also picture books. Sigh. Why do adults give up picture books?

My infographics are cheeky. They look like pictures, but squeeze in extra bits of story. Like the pie chart to describe someone’s character, or the recipes for disaster likely to befall you when out with a younger sibling.

So, if you were looking for a more sciencey explanation about the visuals lowdown – here’s an infographic about infographics: https://neomam.com/interactive/13reasons/

And if you want to fall down an infographic rabbit hole, take your pick from:

Elaine Wickson, author of Planet Stan

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Elaine Wickson writes stories in a Plotting Shed at the bottom of the garden, surrounded by foxes and fairy doors and more woodlice than she’s comfortable with. When not writing, she loves gazing at stars, trees, and books, preferably whilst eating cheese.
Planet Stan is the first in a series, about a boy who charts his life through infographics.

You can find out more about Elaine by visiting her website or following her on Twitter.

Review: Twister – Juliette Forrest (lllustrated by Alexis Snell) & Guest Post: The making of Maymay the witch – Juliette Forrest

‘Twister by name, Twister by nature…
Deliciously, dangerously dark and thrumming with plot twists and turns aplenty, this is one-of-a-kind fantasy at its frenzied, fictional and feisty finest.’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Twister
Author: Juliette Forrest (@jools_forrest)
Illustrator (Cover): Alexis Snell (Website)
Publisher: Scholastic (@scholasticuk)
Page count: 300
Date of publication: 1st February 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1407185118

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Sublime 😍
2. Thrilling 🌪️
3. Spellbinding ✨


She’s curious, she’s courageous, she’s a riddle, she’s a rebel.

She’s Twister.

This is the story of a brave, bright girl; a witch who lives in the woods; a necklace that turns you into a wolf, a rainstorm or a rushing river; and a spine-chilling villain who will stop at nothing to seize it…

There is magic and danger in these pages, adventure and thrills to be found.
Follow Twister inside – if you dare…


The first line:

When I appeared the sky glowed green and lightning made the windows look all cracked.


Review: After the disappearance of her father six months and three days and four hours ago, Twister – named after being born in a storm – sets out to find her Pa using a mix of a mysterious letter, a magical necklace and the help of a ‘medicine guide’ called Maymay.

Mark my words, Twister is no ordinary character. She’s every inch of what a story’s heroine should be on all fronts and as her birth name suggests, she is a full force. A girl with fire in her belly with a gritty tenacity and a gutsy heart and soul albeit with a tinge of emotional vulnerability about her; she is just the breath gust of fresh air we all need.

Twister by name, Twister certainly by nature.

Living on a farm nestled deep in the heartlands of rural, southeastern America(???), she’d be pretty much on her own if it wasn’t for her Aunt Honey and dear dog and companion, Point. It is in her Aunt Honey that Twister finds someone who is there for her as her Pa vanishes in to thin air and her Ma vanishes in to her own thoughts. Downbeat, downcast, and languishing ever deeper in to a spiral of depression, her Ma wiles away the days being more than miles away mentally from Twister.

So sick of hearing such damning accusations swirling round the town of her father being responsible for the death of two people in a fire, she embarks on a whirlwind of an adventure to find out for herself the real reasons for her father’s disappearance.

The voice of Twister is superbly realised. At first, admittedly, it took me more than a little while to get used to and digest Twister’s distinctive dialect and drawl but my word does she have a way with words. Characterised with chatty, catchy and charming colloquialisms, her turn of phrase is just one of the many facets of Twister that you’ll grow lovingly fond of. She describes vividly the sights, sounds and smells of the settings that surround her with both a simultaneous sense of beauty and an irresistible, intelligible charm and wit beyond her years. If you’ve already had the pleasure of reading, you’ll know what I mean when I say that she front-to-back’s and outside-in’s her words but it is within these imperfections and idiosyncrasies that make her her and help to perfectly frame and capture her rough around the edges and ready character in an almost semantic and lyrical way.

Whilst out and about searching for clues to bring her father back home, she comes across a cottage in the middle of the woods. If you go down to the woods today in Twister, you may be in for more than a big surprise. Because these are no ordinary woods. For this is Holler Woods, where danger lurks and darkness descends. Enter Maymay – a caretaker of knowledge? a medicine guide? a witch? – a character, no doubt, who could take on a whole new story of her own. For when they meet, it is Twister who finds out for herself that she is the chosen owner of a magical necklace, Wah, that can totally transform its wearer in to more than she could imagine.

But hang on Twist because where there’s a world of magical rewards, there’s also a world of magical risk. A creepy, chilling character who’s in to a spot of soul stealing, who will send a shiver down your spine and who longs for this necklace and the power it possesses…  So will she be prepared to take this risk? Especially when there’s her father’s whereabouts at stake?

Within Twister, Juliette masterfully weaves the unusual, the unexpected and the undead in to the unequivocally brilliant. There’s a line whereby Aunt Honey refers to a meal as ‘sunshine in a bowl’ (p.60). Well for me, this is sunshine in a book. An enchanting and sublimely spellbinding kind of sunshine I suppose. But one of my kinds of sunshine, nonetheless.

There’s a perfect storm a-brewing and she goes by the name of Twister. Get ready to be prepared to be swept up in her path because – like me! – you just can’t help but be drawn in to compulsively reading this! Unputdownable.

Twister will no doubt be all the rage, I’m definitely right ‘bout that.

‘Twister by name, Twister by nature…
Deliciously, dangerously dark and thrumming with plot twists and turns aplenty, this is one-of-a-kind fantasy at its frenzied, fictional and feisty finest.’


A big thank you to Juliette and Lorraine at Scholastic for sending me a proof and a stunning finished copy of Twister. Extra thanks to Juliette for writing this thoroughly enjoyable guest post!

Twister is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
📚

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Today I am also very fortunate in that I am delighted to welcome Juliette Forrest to The Reader Teacher. Here, she shares with The Reader Teacher readers one of her favourite things to write about – witches! She explores their history in Scotland (which she herself says is ‘quite dark!’) and what shaped Maymay as a character in Twister.

The making of Maymay the witch

You cannot grow up in Scotland without tales of witches reaching your ears sooner or later. As a girl, I was shown the ‘douking’ pools in the River Gary, where witches were tied to stools and dunked into the water. If the unfortunate souls drowned they were found to be innocent and if they survived they were declared guilty and killed. I remember standing at the edge of the river, peering into the dark, peat-stained water, finding it hard to believe something like that could ever have happened.

It was not the witches from Tam O’Shanter or Macbeth who stuck in my mind from school. It was a classmate writing an essay about one of her relations, who was the last woman to be burned at the stake in Britain. (Although documented she was called Janet Horne, this was a generic name used for witches in the north of Scotland at the time.) It brought it home that the existence of witches had been believed in by all levels of Scottish society and laws had been put in place for dealing with them. Scotland became the largest prosecutor in Europe and it is thought 3,837 people were killed between 1563 and 1736.

Some of the witches I have come across in fiction have either been wholly good or thoroughly evil. When writing the witch for my novel, Twister, I thought it would be interesting to make her much more unpredictable. Was Maymay a lady to be revered and trusted? Or was she someone to be greatly feared? As a nod to the many witches who were condemned for their association with nature and alternative medicine, I made Maymay a healer, who was connected to the plants and animals around her and able to receive messages from spirit guides beyond the grave. (The last woman in Britain to be jailed for witchcraft in 1944 was a Scottish medium called Helen Duncan.) It was important to me Maymay was a far cry from the usual cackling crone – she was wise, straight-talking, ill-tempered, frightening, humorous and mystical, all at the same time.

I will always be fascinated by witches. It is something I think I will keep on coming back to in my writing – I already have one lined up for my next novel. And although they are fantastic characters to create, I am aware there was a time, not so very long ago, where a culture of fear and panic led to many tragic deaths and a long period of endarkenment in Scottish history.

Juliette Forrest, author of Twister

 

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Juliette Forrest has worked as both an Art Director and a Copywriter for some
of the best advertising agencies in the UK, picking up awards for her TV, radio,
press and poster campaigns. In Twister, she wanted to create a firecracker of a
heroine, who saw the world in her own unique way. Juliette lives in Glasgow
where she runs her own freelance copywriting business.

You can find out more about Juliette by visiting her website or following her on Twitter.

Blog Tour: Review: Bear Child – Geoff Mead (Illustrated by Sanne Dufft) & Guest Post: The importance of sharing stories – Geoff Mead

‘A heartfelt bear hug of a book that emulates itself in being the perfect bedtime story.’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Bear Child
Author: Geoff Mead (@NarrativeLeader)
Illustrator (Cover): Sanne Dufft (@DufftSanne)
Publisher: Floris Books (@FlorisBooks)
Page count: 32
Date of publication: 22nd February 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1510102118

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

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Heartfelt 💗
2. Charming ☺️
3. Tender 🙂


‘Now that people live in towns
and bears live in the woods,
have you ever wondered
what happened to the bear folk?’

At bedtime Ursula asks Daddy to tell her the story of the bear folks special beings who can choose to be a bear or a person.

Bear folk are strong and clever, kind and caring.
They love to travel far and wide and eat apple pie.

They live among us, even if we don’t realise it.
Perhaps one day we’ll meet one.
Perhaps we already have…


The first line:

 “Tell me about the bear folk, Daddy,”
said Ursula.


Today I am delighted that Geoff Mead joins The Reader Teacher, as part of his blog tour, to celebrate the publication of his beautiful new début picture book Bear Child, which is illustrated by Sanne Dufft and published by Floris Books.

Review: Bear Child is a lovingly illustrated and delightfully written picture book, showing a true, mutually creative collaboration between author and illustrator. The story is a bedtime tale told by a father to his daughter. The story is so beautiful and the illustrations complement this by capturing the tenderness, timelessness and warmth of the story perfectly. Written as a gift to Geoff’s late wife Chris and paying tribute to her ‘lifelong love of bears’ (especially of the teddy variety) and her ‘fiercely independent spirit’, it’s a heartfelt bear hug of a book that emulates itself in being the perfect bedtime story.

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‘A heartfelt bear hug of a book that emulates itself in being the perfect bedtime story.’

Big thanks to Geoff for writing this fitting guest post and to CJ and Sarah at Floris Books for inviting me to take part in the #BearChild blog tour!

Mr E
📚

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Bear Child is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

So it is with great pleasure that I now welcome Geoff Mead who, in his guest post below, will be talking about storytelling in the classroom and the importance of sharing stories…


The importance of sharing stories

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The practical educational benefits of storytelling are well known: enhanced listening and
concentration; understanding causality and consequences; creativity and use of imagination; sharing and turn-taking; improved speech and writing, to name but a few. But stories and storytelling have other benefits too, like our personal and moral development.

From an early age, stories act on our imaginations. Stories shape who we believe ourselves to be, how we relate to others and how we make sense of the world. They are fundamental to how we think, feel and act. So, choosing the right stories to share with our children is critically important.  We need to distinguish between stories that expand the human spirit and those that distort and constrain our potential.

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Young children rely on us as parents and teachers to provide them with a diet of wholesome stories: ones like Bear Child that encourage self-belief and individuality; a generous and inclusive approach to others; and an ethic of responsibility and care for the human and more-than-human world.

I trained as a storyteller at the International School of Storytelling and now work with many kinds of audiences. I enjoy them all, but every time I tell stories to a room full of young children and see their eyes open wide with wonder, I’m reminded why I fell in love with storytelling in the first place.

Stories can be just for entertainment. But, they can also enable children to begin to consider bigger issues when they are mediated through the experiences of characters in a story, and held in the voice and gaze of a parent or beloved teacher. If the story is good enough, it will convey its ‘message’ perfectly well without the addition of a homily or moral; we don’t have to explain its meaning for our young listeners.

Whether you are reading from a book or telling a story you know, there are three sets of relationships that need attention. One is with your own emotions and sense of wonder so your listeners can connect fully with theirs. Another is the care and attention you pay to the cadences of language and how the unfolding story affects the characters within it. The third is maintaining your connection with your audience by the tone of your voice and by making eye contact.

Reading stories to children can be a wonderful adventure, but I do urge you to try telling stories as well. I don’t mean learning the words of a story by rote and repeating them, but coming to know a story so well that you can tell it in your own words. There’s a wonderful sense of immediacy and freedom when you take the short step from reading to telling a story in this way.

After all, why shouldn’t teachers have fun too?
Geoff Mead, author of Bear Child

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Who are the bear folk and what makes them special?

Bear Child is an inspirational story of parental love, belief and embracing individuality. This beautiful picture book weaves together Geoff Mead’s charming words with Sanne Dufft’s ethereal illustrations to create a truly timeless folktale.

Follow the rest of the #BearChild blog tour with Floris Books on Twitter and Instagram.

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Review: The Same Inside: Poems about Empathy and Friendship – Liz Brownlee, Matt Goodfellow and Roger Stevens (Illustrated by Debbie Powell)

‘Wonderfully uplifting and understanding in equal measure… a must-have poetry collection not just for every classroom but also for use across the whole school carrying far-reaching messages and morals that everyone should take home with them to live life by.’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Same Inside: Poems about Empathy and Friendship
Poets: Liz Brownlee (@lizpoet), Matt Goodfellow (@EarlyTrain) & Roger Stevens (@PoetryZone)
Illustrator (Cover): Debbie Powell (Website)
Publisher: Macmillan (@MacmillianKidsUK)
Page count: 96
Date of publication: 11th January 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1509854509

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 & Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Uplifting 😊
2. Understanding 😃
3. Thought-provoking 💭


A gentle and thoughtful anthology of poems about empathy and friendship.

The Same Inside
Red perfumed apples
and crunchy, crisp green
used straight from the tree
or in tasty cuisine,
like honey nut charoset
and pies with ice cream.

In Fujis from Co-ops
and Cox’s from Spar
or Java apples
from far Zanzibar;
look inside any apple
and there is a star!
Liz Brownlee


Review: The Same Inside is a true celebration of diversity, difference and tolerance that reflects all that makes us the humans that we are, warts and all. As Jo Cox said, ‘We have far more in common than that which divides us’ and this message really permeates through the pages of this collection of beautifully-written, perceptive and lasting poems.

When the world sometimes appears grey and lifeless and blackened by anger, fear and hate, these poems will bring hope, light and life to try to make sense of the wonderful world that we live in and of the equally wonderful variety of people whom we share our wonderful world with.

Rich in empathy and emotion that will make you think, make you laugh, make you smile and make you feel the whole range of emotions, The Same Inside would make a worthy and valuable addition to every classroom and school. The scope of poems housed in this collection could be used at any part of a lesson or assembly – especially those with a PSHE (personal, social, health education) element – as a springboard to start, a piece of poetry to pick apart and analyse or as an ending moment to reflect on. However, not only is it filled full of poems that can be used as learning opportunities but they should also be adopted as far-reaching messages and morals that everyone can take home with them to live life by.

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For instance, my particular personal favourites include such delights as ‘Fingerprints’ (MG) which at only eight lines long is a true embodiment of the old adage of quality over
quantity, packing a punch with every single word, especially during the last stanza ‘don’t try to understand what is unique‘. Equally, ‘Speaking and Listening’ (RS) and ‘Just Like Me’ (LB) stand out for their compassion, humility and warmth that will resonate with many. I can also really imagine ‘Judge Me’ (MG) being a good performance poem for children helping to highlight issues of equality, fairness and mutual respect in a lively, powerful and most of all, memorable way.

By touching on and providing a tender look at situations that children may find themselves experiencing within school – directly and indirectly – such as managing feelings, empathy, respect, courtesy, bullying, disability and responsibility in a naturally engaging and accessible way, sharing this collection could be rather life-affirming through changing perspectives and altering attitudes.

Wonderfully uplifting and understanding in equal measure… it’s a gentle reminder that we all possess aspirations, fears, worries, hopes and dreams and so ultimately are all The Same Inside.

Where darkness, comes light.
Where actions often speak louder than words, sometimes words can be just as strong. Especially in ‘The Same Inside’.

Definitely one to feature in Empathy Lab‘s 2019 #ReadforEmpathy Book Collection.

‘Wonderfully uplifting and understanding in equal measure… a must-have poetry collection not just for every classroom but also for use across the whole school carrying far-reaching messages and morals that everyone should take home with them to live life by.’


A big thank you to Matt Goodfellow and Macmillan for sending me a copy of this wonderful book!

The Same Inside is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
📚

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Review: Brilliant Bundle of Books from Bloomsbury Education!

After requesting a review copy of Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World by Kate Pankhurst from @KidsBloomsbury, Lizz Skelly kindly asked if I wanted to be put on the Bloomsbury Education mailing list, so I said a resounding YES please and look what arrived through my letterbox! I am so fortunate to receive ten (yes, TEN!) of their upcoming 2018 titles. You have done me so well and for that, a huge thank you to @LauraEmBev and @BloomsburyEd!

Here’s what I think…

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Apes to Zebras: An A-Z of Shape Poems by Liz Brownlee, Sue Hardy-Dawson and Roger Stevens (Out 22nd March 2018)                             ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Shape poetry is always a popular choice in primary schools among teachers and children alike, particularly when introducing features of poetry to children in younger year groups, so this much-needed collection will no doubt provide the perfect range and repertoire of examples to read, share and use in the classroom. Featuring a full alphabetical array from the extraordinary and the exotic to the extinct and the non-existent from well-liked and recognised poets Liz Brownlee, Sue Hardy-Dawson & Roger Stevens, this will amaze, amuse and appeal to classes throughout the primary school and have them eagerly wanting to write their own shape poems. My personal favourites include Emperor Penguin (LB), Turtle (SH-D) and Snail (RS). I know that this will become a staple resource among many teachers on their bookshelves as I’ll certainly be using it every year!

Apes to Zebras: An A-Z of Shape Poems is available to order online or from any good bookshop.


What’s Worrying You? by Molly Potter and illustrated by Sarah Jennings (Out 8th February 2018)                        ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
With schools now focussing upon mental health, wellbeing and mindfulness more in the curriculum, there is a pressing need for books like this which explain school and social situations (e.g. when you find something difficult or when you fall out with a friend etc.), and appropriate ways of dealing with them. Bright, visually appealing and emotionally accurate, this book will help promote resilience in children; improve self-awareness and communication skills through the development of vocabulary associated with a range of moods and feelings (in the ‘how you might feel’ boxes – e.g. angry, misunderstood, sad, disappointed, distrustful, lonely, confused, ignored) and would be perfect for use throughout the primary school in PSHE lessons and nurture-based intervention groups.

What’s Worrying You? is available to order online or from any good bookshop.


Stone Age Tales: The Great Cave; The Great Flood; The Great Monster & The Great Storm by Terry Deary (Out 8th March 2018)        ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
From the master of historical non-fiction and fiction Terry Deary himself, well-known for writing the Horrible Histories series, comes the latest offering in his Tales series – Stone Age Tales. Mixing historical fact with fiction, these books provide both an insightful and informative read about these time periods whilst being strongly based on real historical and archaeological evidence. Travelling across the length and breadth of this time period and even branching in to the Bronze and Iron Ages, we visit Lascaux, France (17,300 years ago); Mespotamia (2,500 years ago) & Skara Brae (5,000 years ago). My personal favourite of these tales is The Great Cave as the story of the cave paintings of the setting of Lascaux that this story is based on still captivates me to this day, years after hearing it. Thoroughly enjoyable whilst providing a glimpse in to our past, they are the first choice of books I think about to complement any history topic in school.

Stone Age Tales: The Great Cave; The Great Flood; The Great Monster & The Great Storm are available to order online or from any good bookshop.


Skate Monkey: Demon Attack (High/Low) / Kidnap (High/Low) by Paul Mason (Out 11th January 2018)      ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

The Football Trials: Kick Off (High/Low) / Dangerous Play (High/Low) by John Hickman (Out 5th April 2018)   ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

Printed on tinted paper, these two series of short stories are part of Bloomsbury’s High/Low range and intended to help readers who are developing their confidence, fluency and accuracy. This is achieved through a mix of whole-page illustrations; linear plots, simple sentences and paragraphs on each page and increased font sizes.

Loosely inspired by a 16th Century Chinese folk tale, Skate Monkey and his friends, Zu and Sandy, used to live in the Emperor’s Cloud Palace. But after playing all sorts of tricks on people up there with their magical powers, the Jade Emperor had had enough and so sent them down to Earth. In Demon Attack and Kidnap, the gang are called to investigate the strange goings-on happening at school and in their neighbourhood. Can the group of friends use their magical powers for good and overcome what’s causing everyone chaos…? A light and enjoyable read that’s packed full of adventure, action and the appearance of some downright creepy demons, I can see this series being very much enjoyed in schools whilst also adding a spot of variety to traditional guided reading and intervention sessions for developing readers.

The Football Trials tells of the transformation of a boy used to playing football on Sunday league pitches and growing up in a high-rise tower block as he adjusts to joining the elite of a Premier League football academy. In Kick Off, when a scout from United notices Jackson’s talent in the park, it looks like he’s off to make it by earning mega bucks playing in the Premier League. But all may be not as it appears as he seems to encounter some kind of trouble in the form of losing his friends, a new crush (in Dangerous Games), worrying about not fitting in and his temper all getting in the way of his ultimate dream. Can he manage all of these to become the superstar that his talent deserves…? This series will interest older readers towards the end of primary school or beginning of secondary school and any football fan.

A little more about what Bloomsbury say about their High Low books:
‘Bloomsbury High Low books encourage and support reading practice by providing gripping, age-appropriate stories for struggling and reluctant readers, those with dyslexia, or those with English as an additional language. Printed on tinted paper and with a dyslexia friendly font, Skate Monkey is aimed at readers aged 8+ and has a manageable length (72 pages) and reading age (7+). This collection of stories can be read in any order.

Produced in association with reading experts at CatchUp, a charity which aims to address underachievement caused by literacy and numeracy difficulties.’

Skate Monkey: Demon Attack  / Kidnap (High/Low) and The Football Trials: Kick Off  / Dangerous Play are available to order online or from any good bookshop.


Mr E
📚

A big thank you again to all at @BloomsburyEd and @KidsBloomsbury!
I look forward to using more of your books in the classroom!

 

Review: Fantastically Great Women Who Made History – Kate Pankhurst (Illustrated by Kate Pankhurst)

‘More than that of a bedtime book, more than that of a story-time book, even more than that of just a non-fiction or information book; this is an anytime-of-the-day book… that succeeds yet again in capturing not only the imagination but also the inspiration of a generation!’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Fantastically Great Women Who Made History
Author: Kate Pankhurst (@KateisDrawing)
Illustrator (Cover): Kate Pankhurst (@KateisDrawing)
Publisher: Bloomsbury Kids (@KidsBloomsbury)
Page count: 32
Date of publication: 8th February 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1408878903

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

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Life-affirming 👍
2. Aspirational 💭
3. Fantastical 😊


Fantastically Great Women Who Made History is a celebration of extraordinary women from around the world and how their remarkable lives marched them into our history books. 

Blast into space with astronaut Valentina Tereshkova, become a mighty Egyptian pharaoh with the powerful Hatshepsut and make your voice heard with mother and daughter duo, women’s rights champion Mary Wollstonecraft and Frankenstein’s creator Mary Shelley.

Illustrated and written by the wonderfully talented Kate Pankhurst, this is the perfect introduction to just a few of the extraordinary women who have made their mark on history.

How will YOU make history?


Review: Today marks International Women’s Day 2018, so I couldn’t think of a more timely day and occasion to post this review of Fantastically Great Women Who Made History, which returns triumphantly as part of the Fantastically Great Women seriesI’m absolutely delighted that this hugely-successful series – written by the supremely talented Kate Pankhurst – is back especially after the success of its first, Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World which became the number one best-selling children’s non-fiction title in the UK market in 2017Like its predecessor, this one again stands itself in high acclaim and continues to come highly recommended.

Journey through history as we are introduced to many more truly wonderful women in the form of:

 

 

  • Ada Lovelace, mathematical mastermind and early computer programming prodigy who created patterns known as algorithms which have recently been added as a key skill to be taught to children on the curriculum.
  • Boudicca, warrior queen of the Iceni tribe who ruled alone and battled hard against the might of the Romans who initially underestimated her power.
  • Dr Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman ever to be awarded a degree in medicine.
  • Flora Drummond, one of a group of prominent suffragettes whose efforts lead women towards the equality they deserved by gaining the right to vote for some women in 1918.
  • Harriet Tubman, a runaway slave who decided that enough was enough and searched for her freedom.
  • Hatshepsut, who became one of the most successful pharaohs of Ancient Egypt reigning for 20 years by being a strong leader especially in times of threat and danger.
  • Josephine Baker, a teenager-turned-superstar that wowed audiences in theatre performances across the world, was given a leading role in one of the first shows with an all-black cast to be shown on Broadway who settled in Paris, a city that allowed her to be herself.
  • Mary Wollstonecraft & Mary Shelley, the mother-and-daughter duo whose famous writing and books such as Vindications of the Rights of Women and Frankenstein initially shocked and scared people at the time but which is still read today and now regarded as classic literature, over two centuries later.
  • Qiu Jin, a knowledgeable and fearless lady who travelled across to Japan at a young age to gain more respect than she was receiving in China at the time, but who came back to rebel against the government and the dynasty and who revolutionised equality and rights for women within the country.
  • Noor Inayat Khan, the first female wireless operator to be sent into Nazi-occupied France during World War Two and awarded with the highest honour for bravery – the George Medal for her efforts.
  • Pocahontas, the daughter of the chief of a Native American tribe, often more known through the Disney films, who tried to embrace and bring together the two sides of colonisation by growing the understanding that all people, no matter their culture, deserve respect and kindness.
  • Sayyida-al-Hurra, a pirate queen who ruled the seas around Morocco, after emigrating there from the kingdom of Granada, and fought back against her enemies, the very same people that forced her from her own country.
  • Valentina Tereshkova, whose ambitions carried her all the way to a different dimension as she became the first woman astronaut in space.

PNG image-C0FEF16CD02D-1Kate really does all of these incredible women justice in this book and frankly they all deserve a place here but my own personal favourites include Ada Lovelace, Noor Inayat Khan and Dr Elizabeth Blackwell, most recently voted as the winning woman in a National Book Tokens poll to find out the public’s favourite female who changed history.

This book should not just solely be treated as an excellent introduction to the lives, the adventures and the accomplishments of these women but also, a celebration to tell of these trailblazers who were ahead of their time; to highlight the heroics of these heroines; and to champion them as catalysts of change who pushed boundaries, shifted perceptions and transformed life as we now know it in all their rightful and resplendently-drawn glory.

This range of creative geniuses, great thinkers and pivotal pioneers have certainly left their legacy on society, history and life in more ways than one. At the time, however, whilst being a leading lady eventually resulted in success; it also meant that they too had their own personal hardships that they had to overcome. Much adversity stood in their way such as daring to fight stereotypes and tradition against gender inequality, racism and sexism to suffering segregation, poverty,  persecution and rejection.  These women truly demonstrated characteristics of steely grit, drive and determination, inner strength, resilience and self-confidence in their abilities in order to have their presence even merely acknowledged, their opinions heard and to break down the barriers put before and the glass ceilings put above them. This is why it is important that not only the successes, but the backgrounds of these remarkable role models need to be shared with all.

This would be a perfect read to share and discuss in the classroom and at home to complement a whole range of subjects and topics within the curriculum. It could also be used for help with homework, for research leading to further learning opportunities but above all, for enjoyment and reading for pleasure because it is more than that of a bedtime book, more than that of a story-time book, even more than that of a non-fiction or information book; this is an anytime-of-the-day book that should be pored over by child, pupil, parent, grandparent, teacher and any reader alike. I think reading and sharing this book together would be an equally valuable learning experience for all.

To have a book with such an-all encompassing, wide scope of age and appeal is only tantamount to its superb quality in delivering its informational content in a wholly accessible, encouraging, and child and adult-friendly format. With its factually-fantastic double-page spreads featuring just the right combination of information with Kate’s original and characteristically distinctive illustrations that visually complement one another, it really is a historical, social, cultural, literary, scientific, geographical, mathematical and early technological lesson all rolled in to one.

Coupled with Kate’s initial offering, Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World, these books together would make incredibly worthy additions to every class, school, home and library bookshelf as they could indeed change the world and make history themselves through their potentially long-lasting impact on this generation and the next.

So as a teacher or parent, ask yourself this: how will the children in your class or home go on to make history?

Well after reading this, you can be guaranteed to have a class-full or home-full of budding history-makers and visionaries aspiring to want to follow in the footsteps and discover more about these fantastically great women. What more could you want…?

‘More than that of a bedtime book, more than that of a story-time book, even more than that of just a non-fiction or information book; this is an anytime-of-the-day book… that succeeds yet again in capturing not only the imagination but also the inspiration of a generation!’

Thank you to Lizz Skelly at Bloomsbury Kids for sending me a review copy of this marvellous book!

Fantastically Great Women Who Made History is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
📚

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Blog Tour: Vashti Hardy (3 in 1: Review: Brightstorm: A Sky-Ship Adventure (Illustrated by George Ermos), Author Q&A and Giveaway!)

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‘A scintillating, spectacular, spirited and special debut –
the right kind of adventure… one that’s really going to go down a (Bright)storm!’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Brightstorm: A Sky-Ship Adventure
Author: Vashti Hardy (@vashti_hardy)
Illustrator (Cover): George Ermos (@GeorgeErmos/Website)
Publisher: Scholastic (@scholasticuk)
Page count: 352
Date of publication: 1st March 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1407181707

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 & Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Scintillating 😃
2. Spectacular 💥
3. Spirited 💪


Ready for an adventure?

Arthur and Maudie Brightstorm are devastated by the news that their father, a daring explorer, has died in a failed attempt to reach South Polaris. But a mysterious clue, leads the twins to question the story they’ve been told. To find the truth, they must undertake the journey of a lifetime.


The first line:

The heavy chug of a sky-ship firing its engines rumbled through Lontown.


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Batten down the hatches, start the propellers, look out through your binoscopes and soar! As we board sky-ships Aurora, Victorious, Fire-Bird and Fontaine in a race to explore The Wide from the First Continent across the Second and Third and onwards to the vast and uncharted territory of South Polaris for an absorbing, atmospheric adventure that will not only take you to the frozen south with magical lands and continents anew; but take your breath away and also take the world by storm.

We first meet twin protagonists, Maudie and Arthur excitedly scaling the rooftops of Lontown to gaze skywards at the airships whilst longingly missing their father, an intrepid – yet not truly accepted – explorer who’s on his own sky-ship adventure to South Polaris, the furthest known point of existence. The siblings’ close relationship is shown here, even as early as the first chapter, where we discover that Maudie, an impassioned and gutsy engineer, has built a mechanical arm for Arty, her shrewd, book-loving, disabled younger brother, whose ingenuity and resourcefulness shrine through a little later on in the story.

Soon after, however, news reaches the twins of their dad’s lack of return and all-abandoned ship, Violetta, and their worlds quickly change. Following an inquest attended by what seems like the whole population of Lontown, we – along with Maudie and Arthur – are led to believe that their father has not only disappeared but has also broken ‘explorer code’ by being accused by a certain someone as… a thief! Something that even for the established families of explorers is deeply reviled within the explorer community, let alone for any new blood to the explorer party. Tarnishing the Brightstorm family name for good and rendering their father’s life insurance invalid, this also leaves Maudie and Arthur home-, guardian- and possession-less.

Having been taken in by the beastly, bedraggled Begginses and so seeking their escape from the drudgery of the lives they find themselves living, Maudie and Arthur answer an advert:

Individuals Wanted
For treacherous journey to South Polaris,
Small wages, certain danger,
Shared reward and recognition if successful. 

Well… what are they waiting for? With themselves knowing that this is their one and only chance, Maudie and Arthur don’t just have an amazing adventure to experience by following in their father’s footsteps but more importantly, they have a truth to reveal; their family name’s pride to rightfully restore and a point to prove to Lontown and the world.

In any good adventure, you’re going to need a good crew and this is no different in Brightstorm with its cast of strong supporting characters. Steering the good ship, Aurora, at the helm is Captain Harriet Culpepper, a bold, innovative, young commander who leads very much from the front and inspires Maudie, who I think reminds Harriet a lot of herself.

But then again, there’s also Eudora Vane (skipper of sky-ship Victorious) who visits Maudie and Arthur at the Begginses to tempt them to join her and her crew not long before take-off. A highly-esteemed explorer known throughout the land of Lontown, who so narrowly missed out on the prize last time around thanks to a particular Mr Ernest Brightstorm…

So who will they join… Culpepper? Or Vane?

Despite this array of human characters, my favourites (and what I think may end up being yours too!) are in fact the animals that we meet throughout their journey; steadfast, stealthy and sapient in nature. Parthena – the Brightstorms’ hawk – deserves a special mention returning from afar to help navigate them across the plains past the Great Ice Lake, Impassable Mountains and Silent Sea in to (and, thankfully, out of) the Everlasting Forest, where they encounter the at first terrifying, but actually terrific thought-wolves and a more menacing silver insect connected in some strange way to villainess Vane.

But do they make it to South Polaris and do they find their father? Dead… or alive?

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The shimmering, gold-panelled cover and detailed inside-cover map really add to the world-building in this adventure bringing it all to life.  Further to this you can see below, in her ‘Author Q&A’, a picture of Vashti’s impressive and meticulously hand-drawn map of the Continents and how it has evolved and been even further beautifully realised, with thanks to George Ermos’ striking illustrations and creative design at Scholastic.

A scintillating, spectacular, spirited and special debut – one that’s really going to go down a (Bright)storm! This book is the right kind of adventure that will leave you no doubt rooting for Maudie and Arthur along the way; is a journey of discovery not least just in the physical sense; and is a gentle reminder that where determination, desire and resilience combine to create a will, then there’s most certainly a way. One that I’ll be recommending every moon-cycle.

I found so much to enjoy in Brightstorm because of Vashti’s effortlessly engaging and all-round exciting writing style which made it so that I couldn’t help myself just wanting to join the crew!
I’m in! Where do I sign up? Because every crew needs a teacher, right?

I’m already hoping that Vashti will be writing plenty more and I’ll be snapping up her sequel to this as quick as she can write it! Chime to write some more!

So I ask this:

‘I know I’m ready for another adventure.’ 

What about you, Vashti? 

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Mr E
📚

This just HAS to be Waterstones’ Children’s ‘Book of the Month’ for March!

Big thanks to Vashti and Olivia at Scholastic for providing me with both a proof and a delightfully finished copy of Brightstorm!

Brightstorm: A Sky-Ship Adventure is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

‘A scintillating, spectacular, spirited and special debut –
the right kind of adventure… one that’s really going to go down a (Bright)storm!’


Author Q&A: Vashti Hardy (VH) with The Reader Teacher (TRT)

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Vashti Hardy lives near Brighton and was a primary school teacher before moving into digital marketing. She is an alumni member and buddy at the Golden Egg Academy. Brightstorm is her debut novel published by Scholastic.

I’m very happy to welcome Vashti to The Reader Teacher today where she’ll be answering some of my questions about Brightstorm, her reading and writing habits and using her book in the classroom!

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TRT: For my review, I’ve described Brightstorm in #3Words3Emojis above, which 3 adjectives and 3 corresponding emojis would you choose to best describe it?
VH: I love your choices! I’m going… Adventurous 🏔 Pacey 🏃‍ Imaginative 💭

TRT: What books, people, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write Brightstorm?
VH: I’ve always loved real-life stories of exploration like Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition to Antarctica. I’m a big fan of Bear Grylls too – as I couldn’t go out and jump in quicksand or a frozen lake easily in real life, his programmes were a godsend in helping me learn survival techniques to help Arthur out! I also have a great non-fiction book called A Teacup in a Storm: An Explorer’s Guide to Life by Mick Conefrey which is packed full of excellent explorer facts. I found my initial idea for Brightstorm in the book which was Shackleton’s advert to find his crew. I also love Amelia Earhart for how she inspired so many females to pursue their dreams (she’s basically Harriet Culpepper!).

TRT: What do you hope readers will get from reading Brightstorm?
VH: Aside from sheer enjoyment and an escape into adventure, I hope readers will see themselves in Arthur and Maudie and know that with determination, inner grit and a bit of tenacity, you can achieve amazing things!

TRT: If you could build your own sky-ship, what would it look like? Who would you choose to join the crew? Where would you go? How would it travel?
VH: I don’t think I can beat the Aurora – it’s my perfect sky-ship. It’s elegant and eco-friendly. My crew would probably be made up of my author friends Jennifer Killick, Lorraine Gregory and James Nicol. We would have a lot of fun, but I know they would work hard and have my back too. We would retrace Ernest Brightstorm’s original voyage north to the volcanic isles…

TRT: What is your favourite mode of transport that exists only in literature?
VH: The predator cities of Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve. A genius idea!

TRT: Can you give us a little more of a behind-the-scenes insight in to what goes in to making such a high-quality book like Brightstorm?  Map1

VH: Writing a book is a cyclic process of imagining, writing, planning, editing, revising, and so on whilst bouncing off the brilliant brains of your agent and/or editor, until you reach a stage where you all feel it’s the best it can be! For Brightstorm, I drew quite detailed maps early on because it helped me work out the stops en-route, the hazards they may come across and the journey times. Scholastic said from the start that they’d like a map in the book, so they took my original (TRT: seen here to the right – thank you so much for sending this!) and then their clever designer created the one on the flap of the book!

TRT: If you were to choose the character that is most like you from Brightstorm, who would it be and why?
VH: I think Arthur is most like me. He is tenacious, which I tend to be, and when I was younger I would’ve been able to relate to that feeling of trying to find your way in the world and not knowing where you fit. Also he loves books!

TRT: If you could choose to visit any of the destinations from Brightstorm, where would you go and why?
VH: I would happily explore all of them, but I think spending some time with kings Batzorig and Temur in the Second Continent would be amazing. They are both so warm and positive and would make great allies. Their citadel is full of historical invention and I’d love to find out more…

Reading and Writing

TRT: What first attracted you to writing?
VH: World-building – I love the fact that our imaginations are as large as we want them to be. It’s pretty empowering.  No matter what goes on in life, we all have or imaginations. It’s a great leveller.

TRT: Which parts of writing do you find energise you and which parts do you find exhaust you?
VH: It can all be energising and tiring in equal measure at different stages. Your brain certainly gets a great workout because you’re juggling so many aspects at once when you write, from the big picture heart of your story down to the tiny decisions. But when you know you’ve hit the spot with a piece of writing or an idea it’s magic.

TRT: What is your favourite book from childhood?
VH: Rebecca’s World by Terry Nation was the book that sparked everything for me. I can still see the pictures in my head as clearly as I saw them when I was seven. It showed me that one young girl could change the future of a whole world….

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?
VH: We didn’t have author visits, but I would have loved it because I know how inspiring it can be. When I was first taking my writing seriously, I read an interview with Philip Pullman. He spoke of everyone seeing the gliding swan and not seeing the feet kicking furiously beneath the surface. This made me realise I could try!

TRT: Currently, we seem to be living in a golden age of books. What are some of the interesting things/things you like that you’re seeing in other children’s books today?
VH: I love seeing new twists on genres – for example with A Witch Alone by James Nicol, I love the use of magical glyph symbols rather than wands. Some of the best children’s literature takes a common favourite and twists it into something new, and with so many wonderful books out there it’s fabulous to see what comes next.

TRT: I know you are heavily invested and focused on promoting Brightstorm but can you tell us about any stories you’re working on or what you want to work on next? Do you plan to focus on writing more books for children or do you have something entirely different lined up outside of the publishing world?
VH: There are potentially more adventures for the Brightstorm twins (a certain female explorer has some more dastardly things up her sleeve…) and there could be further sky-ship adventures with other characters set in that world. There’s another story in the early stages too which I’m really excited about, with a whole new world of invention. It carries on a similar Victoriana adventure feel but with a big twist…

Brightstorm and Teaching

TRT: There are going to be teaching ideas listed on your website about using Brightstorm for teachers, schools and parents to use. Could you suggest ways that your book could be used in the classroom for the many teachers that will read this?
VH: There are many links to be made to science with the invention and STEM aspects of Brightstorm, plus it’s especially strong in female STEM characters so great for inspiring that in school, along with eco themes and understanding our relationship with animals and the environment. PSHE could be linked with the diversity and difference, as well as links to raising aspirations. You could work on what you need for an expedition and the hidden qualities such as a positive attitude, courage and determination to achieve your dreams (which relates to all areas of life). The mapping aspect works well for geography along with the eco themes. The invention side would be great for design and technology too – it would be great to see children designing their own sky-ships. Brightstorm would work especially well as a class read if your topics are related to explorers or the Arctic/Antarctic or as a guided reading text.

TRT: If you were to ‘pitch’ your book to teachers for them to use it in their classrooms or for parents to choose to read it at home, how would you sum it up?
VH: A rip-roaring adventure that takes place on sky-ships, and has explorers you’ll want to be, sapient creatures you’ll love to meet such as thought-wolves, and a villain you’ll love to hate. Readers who love fantastical adventure but aren’t yet ready for Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines or Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials will enjoy this story.
(TRT: You can also view Vashti’s #AuthorsAllTogether video, to share in the classroom with your pupils, where she talks about Brightstorm herself by clicking here!)

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?
VH: That would be lovely – if you visit my website www.vashtihardy.com you can get a flavour of the book and events and then easily contact me via the online form.

Two more before you go!

TRT: What has a blogger never asked you before, that you always wished you could answer?
VH: My favourite film – the Labyrinth!

TRT: Finally, can you share with our readers something about yourself that they might be surprised to learn?
VH: Despite having written about the frozen south I really hate being cold! I can also twirl a baton as I was once a majorette…  in case you wondered!

TRT: Thank you so much for stopping off at The Reader Teacher today, Vashti. I wish you every success with Brightstorm!

VH: Thank you for your great questions!


🎉    Giveaway!   🎉

I am also pleased to say that Olivia Horrox, Vashti’s publicist, at Scholastic has kindly given me 3 copies of Brightstorm: A Sky-Ship Adventure to give away!

Retweet this tweet and follow @MrEPrimary and @vashti_hardy to win!


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Review: A Far Away Magic – Amy Wilson (Illustrated by Helen Crawford-White)

‘Hauntingly beautiful and richly enchanting… A Far Away Magic is sure to cast its spell over you. Magic is most definitely not far away with this one, in fact it’s in every moment.’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: A Far Away Magic
Author: Amy Wilson (@AJ_Wils)
Illustrator (Cover): Helen Crawford-White (@studiohelen)
Publisher: Macmillan (@MacmillanKidsUK)
Page count: 352
Date of publication: 25th January 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1509837755

Perfect for Year 6, Year 7 & Year 8.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Spellbinding ✨
2. Bewitching 🌌
3. Supernatural 👹


When Angel moves to a new school after the death of her parents, she isn’t interested in making friends. Neither is Bavar – he’s too busy trying to hide.

But Bavar has a kind of magic about him, and Angel is drawn to the shadows that lurk in the corners of his world. Could it be that magic, and those shadows, that killed her parents?


The first line:

There’s a massive mirror in the drawing room.


Review: Moving all alone to a new home, a new school, a new family, Angel finds herself mother and fatherless, friendless and faceless. Living with her foster family, whom in the beginning she never really gives a chance, she however starts to see something in someone deep within the shadows at school. The same kind of something that she saw in two other people close to her that are no longer here.

We discover that this someone named Bavar is a seven-foot-tall, misunderstood monster of a boy. In more ways than one. Completely and utterly unnoticed at school by his peers, he’s forever been seen as strange and hunched over, almost as if he’s been living with the weight upon his shoulders of the weird and wonderful world that he finds himself within.

At home however he’s different. His background is worlds apart – quite literally – from this lone figure. Living in the house on the hill where portraits of his dead ancestors whisper through the corridors and a bronze bust of his grandfather gives him advice, he discovers that he’s the family’s heir to defending the rift – a piercing void that allows monsters known as raksasa from an altogether otherly world through in to this one.

Once Angel sees Bavar, that’s all she sees. She tries getting his attention, talking to him, accidentally-on-purpose bumping in to him but it’s all in vain. It’s not through lack of trying however. Bavar doesn’t even want any friends. Particularly not one like Angel…

For unbeknown to him, she can see not just in to his eyes.
But his heart.
Even his soul.

Parentless. No friends. Troubled and lost. Invisible to the world.
The two of them together have no idea of how much they both have in common.

As their two, very different worlds begin to collide, the most unlikeliest of friends need to come together to try to resolve each other’s problems and this is where we start to see both characters’ true personalities. Angel may be fatherless, friendless and faceless but she’s also fearless. Whilst Bavar comes not only big in stature but also seemingly big in heart, as he wishes to defy and break his family cycle by not wanting to face up and fight the demons and darkness in the destiny that his predecessors have so dangerously left him in.

With a chapter-changing dual narrative providing both sides of their stories, it took slightly longer for me to get into this one than Amy’s debut A Girl Called Owl (a book I named as one of my top 20 #FaveMGKidsBooks2017) but maybe this was a sign as I started to feel more invested in the characters of Angel and Bavar. Something that Amy herself describes here that has likewise happened to her whilst writing.

Amy masterfully conjures up characters who, to start with, possess echoes of an almost gothic-like Beauty (Angel) and the Beast (Bavar) nature; who, during the story, so desperately need one another; and who, in the end, really do bring the best out of each other.

As readers, sometimes we may not fully acknowledge supporting characters within books. But in my eyes, Mary (Angel’s foster mother) is the most important character. Because if Angel is the only one who truly sees Bavar for who he is, then the same could be said for Mary who I think is the only one who truly sees Angel for who she is.

As Amy describes, it took 17,000 words for her to get Bavar to even think about speaking to Angel so it’s entirely fitting that he has the last word in the final chapter yet Angel really is the catalyst, that she is so often referred to as in the book, to Bavar for helping him to find himself… but can they work together to close the rift in time and keep the raksasa out? Will the truth about Angel’s parents’ deaths be revealed?

This hauntingly beautiful and richly enchanting story while having themes of grief, loss, loneliness, magic and friendship, is also about the power of others seeing something within you and that may be something that you yourself might not believe you even have.

It broods and stirs with a mesmerising quality – full of emotional intensity –  weaving a whole feast of fantastical elements in to Bavar’s world of magical warfare against the backdrop of Angel’s real world. There’s a line in the book when Angel discovers a room in the house of Bavar where men and women gather in clusters and a woman has ‘magic in every movement’, well to paraphrase this: A Far Away Magic certainly has magic in every moment.

Thank you to Amy Wilson and Jo Hardacre for sending me a copy of this mystifying and magical book.

A Far Away Magic is is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

‘Hauntingly beautiful and richly enchanting… A Far Away Magic is sure to cast its spell over you. Magic is most definitely not far away with this one, in fact it’s in every moment.’


Mr E
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Review: Star in the Jar – Sam Hay (Illustrated by Sarah Massini)

‘Incandescently, radiantly, resplendently brilliant!
It’s a dazzling delight that will truly shine on your bookshelf.

Full of feeling, friendship and fulfilment brought to life and beautifully realised with the finest of writing and illustrations.’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Star in the Jar
Author: Sam Hay (@samhayauthor)
Illustrator: Sarah Massini (@SarahMassini)
Publisher: Egmont (@EgmontUK)
Page count: 32
Date of publication: 11th January 2017
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1405284301

Perfect for: Nursery, Reception, Year 1, Year 2, Year 3 & Year 4

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Charming ☺️
2. Heart-warming 💝
3. Uplifting 🌟


Up high, in the dark, dark sky . . . a message: LOST, ONE SMALL STAR.

When a little boy stumbles across a special star, he puts it in a jar and takes it on adventures. 

But the poor star misses its home…

Can the little boy and his big sister find a way to send the star safely back?


The first line:

My little brother likes looking for treasure.


Review: As soon as I opened this book and began to read, my eyes lit up and my heart warmed at the sight of these beautifully-drawn illustrations that help to really set itself apart from many of its contemporaries. This story is both preciously told in word and beautifully depicted in picture which combine to make it an absolute joy and pleasure to behold. Bringing plenty of warmth and light, it really does give us the little lift we all need!

Star in the Jar opens with both main characters playing within one of many of Sarah Massini’s richly distinctive, vivid and characterful double-page spreads.

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Narrated through the eyes of his older sister, we start to see that her younger brother loves nothing more than to rummage through absolutely everything searching for all kinds of treasure (‘Tickly treasure…  glittery treasure…  even litter-bin treasure!’). One day, he finds himself a solitary star. However this is not just any star, this is a star so special he knows that it must indeed belong to someone else.

After tirelessly trying to track down who they think may be it’s proper owner, he keeps it safe enclosed within a jar and fondly befriends it by choosing to take it everywhere(!), in turn becoming increasingly attached to it.

Whilst marvelling at the night sky one evening, he realises the star is not quite as happy as he and so sets out to return it to its rightful home.

At first… slightly unconventionally.

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And then with the bright ideas of his older sister…

But ultimately, does losing his star mean that he loses his friend too?

I am sure that this will be both a clear winner and a resounding success at story time. For children, parents & teachers alike will no doubt cherish this tale so much that they find themselves coming back to enjoy reading it time and time again. This story will keep putting a starry feeling in your heart and after reading this, children in your class and at home will be wishing for their own star in a jar.

One that I will be highly recommending to teachers and schools to share. Several schools that I visit utilise a praise system whereby pupils place a star in the jar for demonstrating positive behaviour and so this would definitely enhance and complement that practice.

An exceedingly enchanting story that encapsulates both the awe and wonder of the stars, the night sky and of the unique bond between siblings. So much so that I can really envisage this book being both a superb choice and a thoroughly rewarding experience for older children to read to their younger siblings.

Incandescently, radiantly, resplendently brilliant.
It’s a dazzling delight that will truly shine on your bookshelf.

Look, even Brian May agrees!

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A huge thank you so much to Sam Hay for sending me an early copy of this stunning book. You’re a star! 💫

Star in the Jar is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

‘Incandescently, radiantly, resplendently brilliant!
It’s a dazzling delight that will truly shine on your bookshelf.
 

Full of feeling, friendship and fulfilment brought to life and beautifully realised with the finest of writing and illustrations.’


Mr E
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Review: Below Zero – Dan Smith (Illustrated by Steve Wells)

‘A spine-tingling sci-fi adventure that both trembles and thrills whilst embodying all of the bite, chill and snap of the setting that it takes place in.’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Below Zero
Author: Dan Smith (@DanSmithAuthor)
Illustrator (Cover): Steve Wells (@SteveWellsArt)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 304
Date of publication: 4th January 2017
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1910655924

Perfect for: Year 5, Year 6, Year 7 & Year 8.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Chilling ❄️
2. Gripping ✊
3. Tense 😮


When Zak’s plane crash-lands on Outpost Zero, a small Antarctic research base in one of the most isolated places on Earth, he discovers a cold, dark nightmare. The power’s out and the people who live there have disappeared. Worse, as he searches for answers, bizarre visions suggest a link to something else – deep beneath the ice – which only he can understand…


The first line:

There was something happening at Outpost Zero.


Review: Brace yourself because there’s no holding back as a sudden surge of panic pulls you in from the opening page to this already action-packed, arctic adventure as we encounter Sofia Diaz in a flashback three days ago from Outpost Zero. Sofia, the youngest member on base at Outpost Zero at fourteen years old, is stationed there with her family and seven others to participate in experimental training for the Exodus Project for a future life on Mars. However, a number of others are also there for altogether unexpected and unexplained reasons…

The pace of the story unrelentingly pulsates on, as we turn to the next chapter, with the attention switching to twelve-year-old Zak Reeves who is supposed to be enjoying a relaxing holiday in the sun with his family – Mum, Dad and older sister May – before he visits hospital for surgery for an as yet unnamed illness. From the start, there’s a sense of foreboding whereby we begin to notice that Zak is different. But it’s not until the end that we discover exactly how different he is.

Instead, the whole family have to cut their exotic holiday short to board a plane to the Antarctic in order to fix the ‘spider drones’ his parents have designed to support the Exodus mission as a result of them starting to mysteriously malfunction. As they arrive (…just!) on one of the last available planes in to Outpost Zero due to forecasted adverse weather conditions, they realise that things are about to go awry from the moment their plane crash lands in to the ice outside the research base whilst the whole site is plunged in to an abandoned and absolute darkness. This leaves Zak and his family finding themselves caught up in a flurry of fright and fear that will gradually end up with them fighting for their lives…

Throughout the story, the interchange of the dual narrative, which only adds to the suspense, between chapters backwards to Sofia Diaz and forwards to Zak in the present day continues. Further on, a triple narrative transpires as we are introduced to a new character known only by his alias, The Broker. It would be only maybe here that I could foresee any potential difficulties arising for some reading independently – particularly those readers closer to the lower age of recommendation – as they may be unsure of how to temper these three storylines occurring sequentially. But, by this point you’ll be feeling how I did where the sheer apprehension of what was about to happen to Zak next meant that you just have to read on to find out more with every turn of the page…

As the plot mysteriously shifts from the eerie and the sinister to the anxious and the downright heart-pounding, Zak makes a very important and other-wordly discovery about himself that’s been tormenting him ever since he got here.

Winter is not the only thing that’s coming for Zak…

As he starts to hear things…
Tick-tack. Tick-tack.

But then he starts to feel things…
Tick-tack. Tick-tack.

And then he starts to see things…

A discovery, deep within his psyche, which culminates in an almost apocalyptic, catastrophic crescendo of a climax that would rival any of the battles from Star Wars (I know from the references dotted throughout the book that the author, Dan, is a huge fan!) as nearly all of the previously described characters – under the condemned instructions of The Broker – converge for one last time.

I particularly enjoyed the brother-sister relationship between Zak and May and it is portrayed perfectly in that they initially tease, argue, annoy and fight with each other and they might not declare an immediate fondness for each other all the time yet we recognise early on how important they are for each other and this comes to an all important head at the very end of the story.

Fraught with all of the most essential ingredients found in the best adventure stories (i.e. tension, high intensity and peril), the front cover warns you that ‘Your blood will run cold…’ so as Dan advises in Below Zero, ‘Be Prepared’ or failing that, at least listen to and try to adopt the unofficial motto and mantra of the US Marines and ‘improvise, adapt and overcome’.

Thank you to the lovely Dan Smith and Jazz Bartlett at Chicken House for sending me an early copy.

Below Zero is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

‘A spine-tingling sci-fi adventure that both trembles and thrills whilst embodying all of the bite, chill and snap of the setting that it takes place in.’


Mr E
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Review: The Light Jar – Lisa Thompson (Illustrated by Mike Lowery)

‘A deeply original mystery so tenderly told in the most profound, sensitive, intricate, authentic and moving of ways.’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Light Jar
Author: Lisa Thompson (@lthompsonwrites)
Illustrator (Cover): Mike Lowery (@mikelowerystudio)
Publisher: Scholastic (@scholasticuk)
Page count: 240
Date of publication: 4th January 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1407171289

Perfect for Year 6 & Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1.Enlightening 💡
2. Heart-rending 💓
3. Rousing ☺️


The first line

I love Mum’s tunnel-singing trick.


In the dead of night, Nate and his mum run away to a tumbledown cottage in the middle of a forest. When Mum heads off for food and doesn’t return, Nate is left alone and afraid, with shadows closing in all around him. 

But comfort comes from the most unexpected places – a mysterious girl on a cryptic treasure hunt, and the surprising reappearance of someone from his past. 

A story of finding friendship and the strength to light up the dark, from the bestselling author of The Goldfish Boy.


Review: Like a moth attracted to the light, I was instantly drawn to reading The Light Jar due to its intriguing plot however I hadn’t anticipated anything like just how captivating it would end up being. So much so, that I read a whopping 106 pages within the first hour of receiving it!

We first encounter Nate and his mum hurriedly speeding off in the car in the middle of the night towards their idea of salvation in the form of an abandoned and ramshackle cottage, belonging to a dearly loved family member’s deceased friend, only having been visited previously infrequently by Nate and his family.

So many questions follow from Nate during the trip.
So many questions, that unfortunately for him, just can’t seem to be answered by Mum.

From the opening page, we start to sense that something is not quite right and on arrival at the cottage, this is when we really begin to feel for Nate as he himself becomes increasingly aware of the fact that something is not quite right either. And when they start to explore their supposed place of solace, that too is not quite as homely as they had imagined it would be.

Desperately seeking provisions after one night’s stay, Mum heads off in search of a place to buy food however her return never materialises leaving Nate all alone to swallow in his new surroundings. Doubt, despair and darkness creep in.

Anxiously fending for himself whilst fighting his fears of the shadows, Nate slowly whiles away the time by reading his well-thumbed book, hoping his magic ball will give him all the answers he so desperately needs and trying his best to avoid the only thing that resembles any indication of life in the place: a scrawny chicken.    

But as time ticks away, and trepidation ensues and the hours turn in to days, Nate soon becomes distracted by the reappearance of an imaginary friend (Sam) and also entangled in an unsolved treasure hunt led by a girl (Kitty) and her cryptic riddles, who doesn’t really seem to belong in the real world either. Sam and Kitty soon develop in to Nate’s companions and confidants – acting as Nate’s closest humanly equivalents to the lights from his light jar – who try to guide, console and feed him through the remaining nights. Whether they’re just being nice, playing devil’s advocate with Nate’s conscience or they are just as lonely as Nate himself remains to be found out…

The story’s many layers continue to unravel themselves to allude to and reveal elements of the troubling home life and the manipulative, coercive and damaging behaviour of his mum’s emotionally-abusive new partner together with the lingering control he progressively possesses over Nate, his mother, his social life and even the fixtures and fittings of his own house.

Yet as you read on, there’s this innate sense of unburdening hope; optimism; faith; belief; warmth; courage; strength and character that shines through to the very end and that is what will stay with me from reading this story. That even after adversity, if you’ve got something to hold on to and can grasp even a glimpse of positivity then that can sometimes feel like the most powerful feeling in the world as Helen Keller once said “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart”.

Like the lights in the light jar offer Nate some comfort, attachment, reassurance and relief from the situations he finds himself in, The Light Jar could potentially highlight and raise awareness of personal, social and emotional (PSHE) issues in an appropriate classroom context leading to powerful discussions; promoting deep questioning and high levels of inference. However, whenever approaching emotive topics within the classroom, caution is to be evidently advised and sensitivity considered. So whilst I highly recommend this book for its thought-provoking and empathetic qualities, teachers contemplating using it should – as they should with all books they choose to use – ensure that they pre-read it to decide on its suitability for their class of children.

Lisa not only does it once again after the richly deserved success of The Goldfish Boy – leaving devoted fans of The Goldfish Boy feeling only ever so slightly disappointed if it means they will have to replace that as their favourite read with this (as I now have to do!). Once more, she achieves it so well in such an understated manner handling yet another intangible and complex issue in such a way that is both highly accessible and as relatable as it can be to readers, which to me is one of the highest forms of writing.

Thank you to Lisa Thompson and Lorraine Keating at Scholastic UK for sending me an early copy of this beautifully-written book.

The Light Jar is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

‘A deeply original mystery so tenderly told in the most profound, sensitive, intricate, authentic and moving of ways.’


Mr E
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Blog Tour: Leonie Roberts (3 in 1: Review: My Colourful Chameleon (Illustrated by Mike Byrne), Author Q&A and Giveaway!)

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A fabulous, fascinating and fun-filled story that is surely set to become a future favourite with children, their parents and their teachers!

Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming Leonie Roberts on her blog tour to The Reader Teacher. Leonie is a primary school teacher and also the author of the recently-released picture book My Colourful Chameleon (illustrated by Mike Byrne), which I must say is a real little gem. Leonie has kindly taken the time to answer a few of my questions too.

Enjoy!


Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: My Colourful Chameleon
Author: Leonie Roberts (@leonierobertsuk)
Illustrator: Mike Byrne (@TheMikeByrne)
Publisher: QED Publishing (@QEDPublishing)
Page count: 24
Date of publication: 25th January 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1784939380

Perfect for Nursery, Reception, Year 1 & Year 2.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Eye-catching 👀
2. Funny 😁
3. Engaging 😍


The first line(s):
I have a pet chameleon
I love her – she’s the best!
But Mummy doesn’t like her,
she says that she’s a pest!

Review: My Colourful Chameleon opens with a girl constantly losing her camouflaging, colour-changing chameleon. Almost as if it is playing house hide-and-seek, it blends itself into the rooms of the house; the garden; the car and even at school causing all kinds of chaos and commotion for the girl and her family.

Will she be able to explain the reasons for its disappearance to her parents, teachers and others who doubt its awesome ability and be allowed to keep her dearly-loved, particoloured pet?

There is so much educational potential and opportunity within the pages of this book and this is encouraged by the helpful ‘Next Steps’ section at the back of the book. Discussion, questioning, discovery and observation can be promoted further through the introduction of new and interesting vocabulary (e.g. ‘chameleon’, ‘pest’) whilst helping to develop a scientific sense of awe and wonder in young children.

  • Can your children spot the chameleon hiding in the kitchen?
  • Can they see it in the bathroom?
  • Or what about the bedroom?

Delightfully drawn by Mike Byrne, his illustrations completely complement and embody the personalities of the characters within Leonie’s lovely style of rhyming narrative which will certainly be demanded to be heard again and again!

Equally, I’m sure that parents and teachers alike will thoroughly enjoy reading this to their children and their classes as much as they will enjoy listening to it. Due to it just begging to be read aloud, it will help to create a wholly interactive, immersive and enjoyable story time experience to be shared by all.

A fabulous, fascinating and fun-filled story that is surely set to become a future favourite with children, their parents and their teachers!

My Colourful Chameleon is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.

 


Author Q&A: Leonie Roberts (LR) with The Reader Teacher (TRT)

TRT: For my review, I’ve described My Colourful Chameleon in #3Words3Emojis, which 3 adjectives and 3 corresponding emojis would you choose to best describe it?
LR: You stole the best three words!!!
1. Cute 🐶
2. Adorable 🐼
3. Colourtastic 🎨

TRT: What books, people, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write My Colourful Chameleon? As a primary school teacher, did you test out the book or the book’s ideas with young readers at school?
LR: I’ve studied rhyming picture books by many many authors including Julia Donaldson. With this particular book, I didn’t personally test it out with any young readers at school because I was living and working in Italy at the time. However, my good friend who is also a teacher did read an earlier version of this text to her class.

TRT: What do you hope readers will get from reading your book?
LR: In simple terms, I just hope that readers enjoy this book and will want to read it more than once. It would be great if it also inspires them to read more in general.

TRT: Do you know a lot about chameleons to choose them as one of the central characters in your story?
LR: I know more about chameleons now than I did when I wrote the story. In fact, funny tale… it was originally called “My Colourful Iguana” until my Mum pointed out that iguanas are not the colour changing animals!!

TRT: If you could have had any exotic animal as a pet growing up, would it have been a chameleon? Or something else and why?
LR: I always quite fancied owning an exotic parrot so that it could sit on my shoulder and come everywhere with me.

PsammeadTRT: What is your favourite creature that exists only in literature?
LR: Oooo, this is a good question. I would have to say the Psammead from “Five Children and It” that was televised when I was young. Written by E. Nesbit.  

TRT: I can really imagine My Colourful Chameleon being especially fun to read aloud. What would you say are other advantages to writing a picture book in rhyme?
LR: As a teacher myself, I would say that having a picture book written in rhyme often allows the children to anticipate what will happen in the next sentence and to be able to join in more with the storytelling because they can often guess what the rhyming word will be.

TRT: Do you have a favourite two-page spread in My Colourful Chameleon that Mike has illustrated? Did you have any input in to the overall illustrations or the design of the cover?
LR: I didn’t have any input into the illustrations at all but I am very happy with the wonderful pictures that Mike Byrne has created. My favourite spread is possibly the opening spread because I love the image of the little girl being licked by her chameleon – it is so sweet!

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TRT: I know you are heavily invested and focused on promoting My Colourful Chameleon but can you tell us about any stories you’re working on or what you want to work on next? Do you plan to focus on writing more picture books or do you have something entirely different lined up outside of the publishing world?
LR: At the moment, I am working on a number of other picture book texts about all sorts of weird and wonderful things and over the last year I have also begun writing for older children.

TRT: What first attracted you to writing picture books?
LR: Perhaps from having read so many during my time as a teacher and from spending a few years working with young children I simply had lots of story ideas that I felt an urge to get written down. It all started from there really.

TRT: As a primary school teacher yourself, which books (including picture books) do you most like to read to your classes?
LR: I have three favourites that I love to read time and time again…
Jill Murphy’s Peace At Last; Julia Donaldson’s The Smartest Giant in Town (because I like the singing bits); and Lydia Monk’s No More Eee Orrh!

TRT: There are teaching ideas listed at the back of My Colourful Chameleon for teachers, schools and parents to use. Could you suggest any further ways that your book could be used in the classroom for the many teachers that will read this?
LR: I have lots of ideas about this and hopefully I will have time to put some more up on my site at some point. For starters, I would use this book in the classroom as an introduction to rhyme and colours. It would also be good as a starter text that could lead onto a non-fiction topic where children could find out about the features of both non-fiction texts and about real chameleons.

TRT: If you were to ‘pitch’ your book to teachers for them to use it in their classrooms or for parents to choose to read it at home, how would you sum it up?
LR: A funny tale that is useful for the introduction of colour language and in heping children to name the different rooms of the house.

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?
LR: The easiest way to contact me would be via the contact form on my webpage https://leonieroberts.com/ – I would love to hear from you!

TRT: When you were a child, can you remember any authors ever visiting your school and if so, did this inspire you?
LR: I can’t remember any authors having visited my school but I can remember one particular teacher who used to read amazing stories to the whole school during assembly times.

TRT: Finally, can you share with our readers something about yourself that they might be surprised to learn?
LR: I learnt how to Salsa dance whilst living abroad.


🎉 Giveaway! 🎉

I am pleased to say that I have been sent an extra copy of My Colourful Chameleon and therefore I will be giving it away!

Retweet this tweet and follow @MrEPrimary and @leonierobertsuk to win!


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Huge thanks to Leonie for choosing to visit The Reader Teacher on her blog tour and for sending me a copy (or two!) of My Colourful Chameleon!

My Colourful Chameleon is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
📚

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Review: Giant – Kate Scott (Illustrated by Alexandra Gunn)

‘A totally transformative tale to read, and read aloud, to help readers truly think and feel what it’s like to be others.’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Giant
Author: Kate Scott (@KateScottWriter)
Illustrator: Alexandra Gunn (@LexiGunn)
Publisher: Piccadilly Press (@PiccadillyPress)
Page count: 192
Date of publication: 9th February 2017
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1848125643

Perfect for Year 4 & 5 (& comic book fans).

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Charismatic ☺️
2. Empowering 💪
3. Feel-good 😃


I’m Anzo.

In case you don’t know, in ancient German Anzo means ‘giant’.<br<br<br
iant.

Things need to change. And that means growing taller. Because if I can grow as tall as the rest of my family, I might feel more like one of them.

EXTRAORDINARY. NOT ORDINARY. 


The first line:
Mum and Dad probably didn’t mean to land me in trouble as soon as I was born.


If you search for Giant to purchase or read reviews about it, you’ll find it’s often accompanied by the phrase ‘A feel-good story children’s book about growing up and being yourself.’

But to me, it’s even more than that.

We meet Anzo at the beginning: an overlooked despondent, reticent Year 6 boy harboured by his own experiences of home and school life, in which he’s often ignored or teased or both. Throughout the story, however, we discover Anzo’s inner voice and uncover his true passions, what makes him tick and what makes him him. By the end, fittingly, he’s grown both literally and figuratively in every sense of the word.

And that’s just Anzo.

Wait until you meet his usually erratic and rambunctious family – Mum, Dad, Uncle Talbert and Uncle Miles – who are more invested in restoring their house for their new restaurant (which explains a lot as to why Anzo initially feels the way he does) than recognising Anzo and his achievements. Fortunately for them, they realise what they’ve been missing out on just in time.

As for his best friend Elise (an old-head-on-young-shoulders), she is the friend we all wish to have and what we all need. A future therapist, she’s read every book, manual and how-to-guide cover-to-cover on modern psychology and subsequently instils Anzo in to the now very much current way of The Power of Positive Thinking. This, however, can only help him so far…

Readers, particularly of older primary school ages, may identify and relate to some of Anzo’s experiences of being teased at school and generally just not quite ‘fitting in’.  But they will definitely connect to Anzo (like I did!) and learn that life is not necessarily about fitting in but finding your own way and in fact, sometimes, standing out. Standing out for the right reasons in acknowledging and nurturing what you already have, not what you want or in this case, what you think or wish you want.

Giant packs in big, strong, heartfelt messages in sincere, thought-provoking paragraphs as a result of Kate’s eloquent, touching and poignant style of writing which will be welcomed in classrooms, schools and homes across the country.

Kate’s writing is also complemented and visually characterised by comic-book style illustrations from Alexandra Gunn, that will greatly appeal to readers in which we peer into’s Anzo imagination where he takes inspiration from his real-life everyday battles with bullies, using these experiences as a form of escapism in to the cartoon world through the character of Giant.

If I were to sum Giant up, it’s such a refreshingly charismatic read that promotes empathy, confidence-building and overcoming insecurities so well. It will have you really feeling deeply for Anzo (some of the time); laughing out loud (most of the time); and will really prove that good things do come in small – and tall – packages (all of the time!).

A totally transformative tale to read, and read aloud, to help readers truly think and feel what it’s like to be others.

If you want to help to not only teach but to also nurture the morals, values and emotions of the children in your class, then I highly recommend that you read this book to them.

Thank you to the lovely Kate Scott for sending me a copy of Giant to review.

Giant is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

Look out for ‘Just Jack‘, her next offering, being published on 5th April 2018.


Mr E📚

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Did you enjoy reading Giant as much as me?
Can you describe it using #3Words3Emojis?
Will you be pre-ordering ‘Just Jack’?

Message me. Tweet me. Email me. Reply to me in the comments below…

Review: The House with Chicken Legs – Sophie Anderson (Illustrated by Melissa Castrillón)

‘Like a snowflake floating on the breeze…a glistening gem of a story with an air of elegance, beauty and fragility.’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The House with Chicken Legs
Author: Sophie Anderson (@sophieinspace)
Illustrator (Cover): Melissa Castrillón (@mv_castrillon)
Publisher: Usborne (@Usborne)
Page count: 352
Date of publication: 3rd May 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1474940665

Perfect for Year 5, 6 & 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Beautiful 😍
2. Magical ✨
3. Heartfelt 💖


“Marinka dreams of a normal life, where her house stays in one place long enough for her to make friends. But her house has chicken legs and moves on without warning. 

For Marinka’s grandmother is Baba Yaga, who guides spirits between this world and the next. Marinka longs to change her destiny and sets out to break free from her grandmother’s footsteps, but her house has other ideas…”

To read the first chapter of the book, Prologue – click here


The first line:

My house has chicken legs. Two or three times a year, without warning, it stands up in the middle of the night and walks away from where we’ve been living.


A little while back, I was scrolling through my feed on Twitter looking for books coming out in 2018 and the one that I kept returning to was this one, The House with Chicken Legs. Was it the sight of the cover, the talk of the plot or the glowing reviews from Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Peter Bunzl and Claire Fayers that kept making me come back? OK, I’ll admit it. It was all of these things but most of all, it was the title.

1. How could you choose to not read a book called ‘The House with Chicken Legs’?
2. How could you not be both fascinated and the slightest bit intrigued by what was to come?

Therefore, I just knew that I HAD to read it. Big thanks to Sophie Anderson and the lovely people at Usborne (@AnnaHoworth), for sending me a copy to read and so started this website!

The House with Chicken Legs is steeped in Russian folklore in the form of a Baba Yaga mythical retelling. You may think ‘Oh, just another retelling…’ but let me assure you, that this reimagining take on this tale is absolutely something else.

How would you feel if your house got to choose where you live?
How would you feel if your house decided who you met and became friends with?
How would you feel if you had great responsibility bestowed upon you but you wanted – no, needed – to choose your own destiny?

Along the way, Marinka, the House and her trusted jackdaw, Jack meet: life – Benjamin, Benji, Salma, Lamya; death – Nina, Serina, The Old Man and his Wife; and Yaga – Baba Yaga, Old Yaga and plenty of other Yagas; to try to work out the answers to these life-changing questions.

And we haven’t even yet spoken of the House. Well what can I say? The House is larger than life with an even bigger heart; personified perfectly with oodles of charm and charisma but also tinged with a loveable rawness and roughness around the edges that’ll have you yearning and pining deeply for it. Marinka is the right kind of heroine for this story but the House is just as much as a hero for me.

The more you read on, the more Marinka will have you wanting to join her on her journey of self-discovery, fate, companionship, loyalty and affinity where houses walk (and run!); where the dead talk; and where life, death and Yaga come together in a superbly crafted story.

Sophie’s use of language is packed full of rich and vivid imagery which ensures that the words leap and dance off the page effortlessly in to the reader’s mind creating stunning worlds of magic and adventure. This is further complemented by her utterly beautiful style of writing and divine choice of vocabulary (e.g. ‘nebulous‘, ‘tendrils‘ and ‘balustrade‘ to name but a few!), which is perfect for logophiles like many teachers and I who want to introduce a broader range of vocabulary to children.

By the end, like I was, you’ll be trying your best to hold on and not say goodbye to these characters and this stunning story. But you’ll also learn some Russian; some chemistry (I loved the mentions of compounds combining to make fireworks and scientists like Rosalind Franklin); wonder why you haven’t experienced a Yaga party before and you’ll certainly want your own House with Chicken Legs after this… I know that I do.

It’s like a snowflake floating on the breeze… a glistening gem of a story with an air of elegance, beauty and fragility.

One that needs to be in your hands as a teacher and in the hands of your class. Unmissable. I adored and devoured every single word.

A purely magical debut and an absolute must-read for 2018.

Out 3rd May 2018!

The House with Chicken Legs is available to pre-order now online or from any good bookshop.


If you can’t wait to hear from Sophie for that long, she’ll be joining The Reader Teacher for a Q&A very soon!

If you have a question you would like to ask Sophie, please click here!


Mr E
📚

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Have you been lucky enough to read the book already?
Can you describe it using #3Words3Emojis?
Will you pre-order the book to read?

Message me. Tweet me. Email me. Reply to me in the comments below…