Review & Resources: The Truth Pixie – Matt Haig (Illustrated by Chris Mould)

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‘Utterly wondrous… a story for everyone. Matt is a mastermind.  The Truth Pixie is the perfect present – not just for Christmas – but for all year round. My book of the year!’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Truth Pixie
Author: Matt Haig (@matthaig1)
Illustrator: Chris Mould (@chrismouldink)
Publisher: Canongate (@canongatebooks)
Page count: 128
Date of publication: 18th October 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1786894328

Perfect for Year 2, Year 3, Year 4, Year 5 & Year 6 & older (including adults!).

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Wondrous 😊
2. Heartwarming 💝
3. One-of-a-kind 🥇


Wherever she is, whatever the day,
She only has one kind of thing to say.
Just as cats go miaow and cows go moo,
The Truth Pixie can only say things that are true.

A very funny and loveable tale of how one special pixie learned to love herself.


The first line(s):

In a land two thousand miles from here,
Is a place where snow falls all the year.
There you will find trolls and goblins and elves,
And talking rabbits, rather pleased with themselves.


Review: The Truth Pixie is something else. I hope that the something else is conveyed in my following words…

The Truth Pixie is the kind of story that will make you think over and over about its naturally moving qualities because you can’t help but be captivated by its witty and acutely accurate rhyming couplets that shine a light on being self-aware and feeling at one with yourself.

Telling lies is often seen as the worst thing in the world as it gets you in to the worst kind of trouble, yes? We all know the stories; Pinocchio for instance. But what happens when the only thing you can do is tell the truth and that ends up with you landing you in all kinds of trouble too? Hmm….

The Truth Pixie begins to find out for herself as she suffers the wrath of her darned curse with loss of friends and lingering in loneliness being the worst kind of trouble for her.

But the story really comes into its own in its latter half due to its attentiveness, its sheer sense of uniqueness and its loveable quirkiness.

Appreciation, contentment, warmth, tenderness and a sense of connectedness all feature within its pages in the wonderful words and illustrations of this timely, thoughtful tale.

This is helped by the perceptiveness within the most perfect of partnerships in Matt and Chris who reunite to bring to life the most magnificent of stories.

If you think that A Boy Called Christmas, The Girl Who Saved Christmas and Father Christmas and Me were good, then you can only imagine how good The Truth Pixie is when I say it’s utterly wondrous… Matt is a mastermind.

Overall, I feel that the book is best summed by the four lines that have been most recently widely shared on social media:

‘There will be people you love,

Who can’t stay for ever,

And there will be things you can’t fix,

Although you are clever.’

All in all, this is a beautifully-told blend of poetry, rhyme and imaginative storytelling in its finest form that’s essential reading for children, but it is so much more than that as it is a story for everyone. Ultimately, we are people and we are all humans and in essence, this is what this story is truly about; being human.

If you don’t have a copy of The Truth Pixie in your classroom, your school or your home, you’re definitely missing out.

Mark my words, this may be marketed and sold under the branch of children’s literature but there is so much to be admired, to be reflective of and to be learned from books like this for both children and adults alike. This is an absolute gem that will find its rightful place and resonate not only within its readers’ minds but also deep within their hearts.

This book is the perfect present – not just for Christmas – but for all year round.


Today, the 18th October, is the official publication of The Truth Pixie and I am delighted to have been asked to host these utterly amazing resources for The Truth Pixie and Matt’s other books mentioned in my review above, that should be used in all classrooms:

Download Father Christmas and Me resources here:
http://matthaig.christmas/school-resources/



Big thanks to Jen from Shapes4Schools for sending me an advance copy and inviting me to host these brilliant resources on my blog!


The Truth Pixie is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
📚

 

Blog Tour (Guest Post & Giveaway!): The Train to Impossible Places – P. G. Bell (Illustrated by Flavia Sorrentino)


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‘Wow! This incredible debut puts P. G. Bell full steam ahead in the children’s literature world. All aboard for the most magical of adventures that’ll keep you on the very edge of your seat…’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Train to Impossible Places
Author: P. G. Bell (@petergbell)
Publisher: Usborne (@Usborne)
Page count: 368
Date of publication: 4th October 2018
ISBN: 978-1474948616

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1.  Train 🚂
2. Fuzzics 👩‍🔬
3. Bananas 🍌


Today, as part of The Train to Impossible Places blog tour, I give a warm welcome to its author, P. G. Bell, to The Reader Teacher. Here, he shares with The Reader Teacher his exclusive guest post about how his previous job as a roller coaster operator helped him to write his debut novel in more ways than one!

How to Write a Roller Coaster of a Story

Once upon a time, I worked as a roller coaster operator. Part of the job was taking test runs several times a day to ensure that everything was functioning as expected. As the months passed, I got to know the rides very well – I could close my eyes and anticipate every twist, turn and barrel roll, and after a while I realised something: a good roller coaster is like a good story.

It has pace, structure and variety. It builds anticipation before pitching you headlong into the action. Then it gives you just enough time to catch your breath before twisting you one way or the other, sending you racing off into a new element.

Let’s look at anticipation first. It can be fun to throw the reader straight into the thick of it, but I like to have a little context first – a quick taste of normality before the inciting incident (that first, dizzying drop after the lift hill) arrives to snatch it away.

This was especially important for The Train To Impossible Places as Suzy, our main character, is a staunch rationalist who thinks she’s got things figured out. I needed to show her calm and in control before I crashed a magic train into her life. Even in those first brief chapters, however, the strangeness is creeping in at the edges, priming us for the chaos we know is coming.

When it arrives, I make sure it’s big and loud and fast and (hopefully) funny – a satisfying payoff to reward the reader’s patience. Then it’s a question of knowing exactly how long to keep the story at that pace before I ease up and give the reader a little time to reorient themselves. Too much action can be dull, and the sudden appearance of too many plot elements can be confusing, so it’s a question of including only what is strictly necessary and dispensing with the rest.

In practical terms, I’ve found this means I jettison about eighty per cent of my exposition, background and world building. I spend months cooking them up, and only trace elements survive to the final draft, but by then they’ve informed every line of dialogue and description, so the flavour remains. After all, you don’t need to know how Lady Crepuscula came by her army of statues, you just need to know that they’re there.

Anticipation, release; anticipation, release. It’s exactly how roller coasters work, and it’s not a bad model for an exciting story.

Oh, and one very quick word on cliffhangers, as they’re a key element in the anticipation-release equation: write the whole nerve-wracking, perilous scene, then put your chapter break anywhere from the end of the first sentence to the end of the first paragraph.

I could go on, but the trick is to always leave them wanting more.


P. G. Bell, author of The Train to Impossible Places


Giveaway!

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So to celebrate the blog tour of The Train to Impossible Places, I am delighted to say that Usborne has kindly given me one hardback copy to give away to one of my followers on Twitter. If you’d like a chance of winning this superb prize, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!


Big thanks to Peter, Fritha and Usborne for sending me a proof copy and beautifully-illustrated finished copy of The Train to Impossible Places.
Extra thanks to Peter for writing his utterly fantastic guest post!

Mr E

The Train to Impossible Places is now available to order online or from any good bookshop.


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Be sure to check out the other dates and other bloggers for more reviews and exclusive posts from Peter on the The Train to Impossible Places blog tour this week!

Author Q&A: Armistice Runner – Tom Palmer (Illustrated by Tom Clohosy Cole)

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‘Powerfully poignant.. not to be missed. If there’s one WWI story you read this year, let it be this one!’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Armistice Runner
Author: Tom Palmer (@tompalmerauthor)
Illustrator: Tom Clohosy Cole (@tomclohosycole)
Publisher: Barrington Stoke (@BarringtonStoke)
Page count: 176
Date of publication: 6th September 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1781128251

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1.  WWI 🎖️
2.  Running 🏃‍♀️
3. Family 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦


Today I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Tom Palmer to The Reader Teacher for an exclusive Author Q&A about his most recent book, Armistice Runner. Read on for a fantastic interview where Tom shares his thoughts about Armistice Runner, his own experiences of reading and writing and how Armistice Runner can be used in the classroom!

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Armistice Runner (5)

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

    1. Fast-paced 🏃‍♀️
    2. Historical 🕓
    3. Emotional 😂
  • What books, people, research, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write Armistice Runner?

I researched a variety of things. There are some great books about the history of fell running, but also histories of the end of WW1. The Forgotten Voices: Armistice book was the best. Also, local material about Cumbria in WW1. The Imperial War Museum has a vast bank of interviews with old soldiers, many available online. I listened to a lot of those. I found out about a real fell champion called Ernest Dalzell. He went to war and died. I based a lot of it on him. I also ran the races he ran to get the feel. But not at his pace. My daughter fell runs too, so her ‘world’ was vital to me getting it right, I hope. Also, remembering dementia and how it has affected people in my family.

  • What was the most enjoyable part of writing Armistice Runner?

Writing about what the trench runner did in WW1. I researched the role and found out how dangerous it was and how men were very keen to do it. I found one book by a trench runner that gave me an idea of how they felt about the war. Then I went out into the dark moors near where I live and pretended I was a trench runner to get into the character.

  • Do you like to run yourself?

Yes, I fell run. My daughter does too. It was an honour to tell the story of fell running 100 years ago. It made me proud of what is quite a niche sport.

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

Lily’s dad. Because he kind of is me. With some changed names.

Reading and Writing (4)

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

I hated reading and writing at school. I was attracted to both by my mum getting me to read about football in newspapers, magazines and books. It gave me confidence and I started to read more broadly. Then my life changed in a thousand ways. I firmly believe the way to engage reluctant readers is through what they are interested in and not always fiction, and not always even books.

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

I am energised by most of it. Writing. Marking up changes. I really love planning and researching and often go too far because it is such fun. The bit I hate is typing the changes I have marked up on the page. But it needs doing. I use coffee to help with that one bit I struggle with.

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

Yes. I wrote to Elizabeth Beresford and she wrote back, twice. I loved the Wombles on TV and my mum read the books to me. I remember the impact that had on me every time I get a letter or email from a child. She taught me a good lesson.

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

Loads of my reading relates to what I write. I am reading about the advance paratroopers who went in early on D-Day at the moment. But I like to read fast-paced historical fiction most that the moment, like Bernard Cornwell or Manda Scott. I read other children’s books because of the way children recommend them to me in schools. I love their passion and often go away and get the book. I am a big fan of Anthony Horowitz and Rosemary Sutcliff.

Armistice Runner and Teaching (3)

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

I like to hear it is being used as a class read. Because it is about dementia, running, a girl as a main sporting character, WW1, Cumbria and the end-of-war coming together of a British and German soldier – I hope there is a lot in there. My wife and I have developed films, games and texts that teachers can download for free, aimed at KS2 and KS3. I hope they are useful: www.tompalmer.co.uk/armistice-runner.

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

It’s about a girl who likes to run. She finds out via her grandma that her great- great-grandad was a champion runner and war hero. That inspires her on and off the fells.

  • 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?

Direct would be great: info@tompalmer.co.uk. I try to reply within 24 hours.

Two more before you go (2)!

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

Would you like your mum and dad (who died before I was published) to know you did okay?

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

When I started at secondary school I was not allowed to do English Lit or a foreign language because my grip on the English language was not strong enough. (Before I found reading.)

One last one… (1)!

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

I’d like to know if I have gone overboard with my Tweeting about Armistice Runner. I have been banging on about the book and the free resources available on my website – at www.tompalmer.co.uk/armistice-runner – for weeks. (There I go again.) What do they find annoying about authors and what they say on social media and in their blogs?


Thank you so much Tom for answering my questions!

Armistice Runner is now available to order online or from any good bookshop.

Biggest thanks to Tom, Kirstin and all at Barrington Stoke for sending me a copy of this outstanding book and for choosing my quote to feature on it!

Mr E

 

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): The Missing Barbegazi – H. S. Norup

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‘Combining Helle’s love for skiing and the slopes, this is a snow-sprinkled story that’s so beautifully told you’ll want to snuggle up with it all night. This deserves to be one of this winter’s wonders.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Missing Barbegazi
Author: H. S. Norup (@HSNorup)
Publisher: Pushkin Press (@PushkinPress)
Page count: 256
Date of publication: 4th October 2018
ISBN: 978-1782691815

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1.  Skis 🎿
2.  Barbegazi 👹
3. Family 👪

Review: As Tessa’s grandfather, Opa, has told her, there’s Barbegazi about in the Austrian alps deep within the snow-tipped mountains. Everyone else however thinks he might have been a confused old man who maybe was telling lies but can she prove that her beloved grandfather was right to speak of these fabled creatures…?

As Tessa becomes more and more involved on her mission to find the Barbegazi, she doesn’t just find one but a whole family of Barbegazi in need of her help and soon becomes entangled in their lives far more than she could ever have imagined when setting out to find one.

As the book switches between its dual-narrative chapters between Tessa and Gawion, covering the days from Boxing Day to New Year’s Eve, we share a special story with even greater bonds holding it all together. Tight, inter-generational bonds that really do help to bring this story to life, in more ways than one.

Combining Helle’s love for skiing and the slopes, this is a snow-sprinkled story that’s so beautifully told you’ll want to snuggle up with it all night. With Helle, Pushkin Press have more than a promising author on their hands.

Almost like slalom meeting The Sound of Music. this is a different kind of adventure that ultimately deserves to be one of this winter’s wonders.


Today, on its book birthday, I give a warm welcome to author of The Missing Barbegazi, H. S. Norup to The Reader Teacher. Here, she shares with The Reader Teacher her exclusive guest post about the perspective behind her debut novel for children…

A Barbegazi Perspective by H.S. Norup

When I first had the idea for THE MISSING BARBEGAZI, I had never heard of a barbegazi. The story I began to write was the story of an eleven-year-old girl, Tessa, who wanted to win a ski race. A story set entirely in the real world, dealing with real world problems. No magic. No mythical creatures.

We were living in Switzerland at the time, my two sons were part of a ski racing team, and we spent every winter weekend on skis. I knew how desperately my sons desired the gleaming trophies. And I loved how tightly the kids from the ski club banded together and supported each other on race days, despite their internal competition.

Perhaps the book where a ski race was the climax of the story would have turned out to be a good book, but it wasn’t one I could write. In fact, I had not written more than one chapter before Tessa met a strange furry creature in the snow. It was some kind of elf, it was friendly, and it was scared of Tessa. That was all I knew.

After some research, I discovered that the creature Tessa had encountered was a barbegazi. As mythical creatures go an almost completely unknown species, but every bit of the sparse information I found matched the elf in my story.

The details I discovered about the barbegazi sparked my imagination in curious ways. For example, the fact that barbegazi myths are from the high alps in France and Switzerland, meant that I had to make up a reason for my barbegazi’s presence in Austria, where the story takes place. And, as the name barbegazi comes from the French barbe glacée (frozen beard), I knew their beards were important, so I decided female and young barbegazi needed beards too, and I bestowed barbegazi beards with magical properties. unnamed-5.jpg

Consolidating folklore and invented barbegazi “facts”, I wrote part of a fictional non-fiction book, called: Habits and Habitats: A Historic Account of Alpine Elves, to use in my story about Tessa. But it still wasn’t enough. The barbegazi, Gawion, wasn’t satisfied with a minor role; he wanted to speak for himself and tell part of the story from his point of view.

Tessa’s voice came intuitively, but for Gawion’s chapters I had to set guidelines to ensure his voice was believable and consistent. Many of these came naturally from the barbegazi’s backstory: in 1752, when Gawion’s parents were young, they were captured near their Mont Blanc glacier home and gifted to the empress Maria Theresa in Vienna. Here, they were incarcerated in the imperial menagerie until they escaped in 1862, shortly before Gawion and his twin sister were born. Their fear of being captured again led the barbegazi to avoid all contact with humans in the next 154 years.

The direct implication of this backstory was that their language would be somewhat old-fashioned and that the barbegazi wouldn’t know the terms for anything invented after the middle of the nineteenth century. Imagining how Gawion would describe modern inventions like a snow groomer (a huge metal monster that growls like a thousand angry dogs) was fun. Getting the language sufficiently archaic without sacrificing readability or pace was more challenging.

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The easiest measure was, of course, to write Gawion’s chapters without contractions. While writing early drafts, I experimented with words and sentence structure and listened to Austen and Dickens audiobooks to absorb their language and rhythms. I used thesaurus and etymology dictionaries to find words that were old-fashioned (but still recognisable for middle grade readers) and to ensure I didn’t use words that developed after the barbegazi had lost contact with humans. To create distance between barbegazi and humans and emphasise their view that humans are the odd creatures, I decided that barbegazi don’t distinguish between genders for humans and therefore refer to all humans with the pronoun: it. Furthermore, as Gawion had never experienced anywhere but the snow-covered mountains, all the imagery had to be linked to snow and things he might have seen in the wintery setting, e.g. Hope shrunk to something smaller than a blackberry at the bottom of a gorge.

Writing from the perspective of a barbegazi has been exciting, and, at school visits, it’s wonderful to hear the enthusiastic and inventive responses when I ask how Gawion would describe things like helicopters and mobile phones. The children love spotting and explaining archaic words, and they have been especially interested in learning about old expletives. So, let me end by apologising in advance if readers of THE MISSING BARBEGAZI completely stop using contemporary swear words and from now simply yell: POTZBLITZ!


H. S. Norup, author of The Missing Barbegazi


Big thanks to Helle, Mollie and Pushkin Press for sending me a copy of The Missing Barbegazi. Extra thanks to Helle for writing her superb guest post!

Mr E

The Missing Barbegazi is now available to order online or from any good bookshop.

Author Q&A: There’s a Yeti in the Playground – Pamela Butchart (Illustrated by Thomas Flintham)

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: There’s a Yeti in the Playground
Author: Pamela Butchart (@Pamela_Butchart)
Illustrator: Thomas Flintham
Publisher: Nosy Crow (@NosyCrowBooks)
Page count: 256
Date of publication: 4th October 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1788001168

Perfect for Year 3, Year 4 and Year 5.

#3Words3Emojis:
1.  Yeti 👹
2. Footprints 👣
3. Laugh-out-loud 😁


Today, on its book birthday, I am delighted to welcome to author of There’s a Yeti in the Playground, Pamela Butchart to The Reader Teacher. Here, she shares with The Reader Teacher her exclusive Author Q&A…

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Q&A

There’s a Yeti in the Playground (5)

  • At The Reader Teacher, for my reviews, I describe books in #3Words3Emojis.

Which 3 adjectives and 3 corresponding emojis would you choose to best describe There’s a Yeti in the Playground?

  1. WINTERY ❄️ ️
  2. FUNNY 🤣
  3. WILD 😱
  • What books, people, research, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write There’s a Yeti in the Playground?

When I was on World Book Day tour with my then ten-week-old baby we had quite the snowy adventure! At one point the ‘Beast from the East’ snowstorm trapped us on a train for ten hours. Thankfully, we were warm and the baby had everything he needed but it gave me a lot of time to think plot the new book!  I remember I kept thinking about the snowstorm’s nickname – the ‘Beast from the East’ – and how it sounded like an actual SNOW BEAST. I realised that if this had happened when I was eight-years-old and all the adults were talking about ‘The Best from the East’ that I would’ve DEFINITELY thought a yeti was headed my way!

  • What was the most enjoyable part of writing There’s a Yeti in the Playground?

It was the first book I’d written since my baby was born and I wrote the whole book during his nap time. Some days the baby would nap for only 30 mins so it was a complete race against time to write as much as I could each day in a very short period of time. I found that I had to write faster than I ever have before and it made the story even more FRANTIC and WILD than I’d planned! I also managed to sneak a baby yeti in there too with was fun.

  • What would you do if you found a yeti in the playground?

If it was a baby yeti I’d give it a great big cuddle.

  • If you were to choose the character that is most like you from There’s a Yeti in the Playground, who would it be and why?

I’m most like Jodi. I like to make plans, be in charge and watch SURVIVAL programmes. I’d DEFINITELY put a survival plan in place ASAP if I spotted a mummy yeti in the playground at my school.

Reading and Writing (4)

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

I didn’t always enjoy writing at school because I didn’t like it when you had to write a certain way and do certain things that the teacher said when you were writing a story.  It definitely got in the way of my imagination. But I DID like writing at home. I could write what I wanted, any way I wanted.

I was also a terrible speller which made me a bit anxious to hand in my story to the teacher. But now I know that I shouldn’t have worried about that so much. I’m STILL an terrible speller, I STILL find it hard to make sentences sound right and I STILL forget what an ‘adjective’ and ‘pronoun’ are (I always have to look them up). But none of that matters too much when you have a big imagination and are willing to work hard and not give up.

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

Writing the Izzy books always energises me. I get super-excited when I’m the fast-paced scenes and can often be seen typing at about one hundred miles and hour!

Sometimes editing exhausts me, especially when I can’t quite figure out how to make something work if I take something else out. Once, when writing ‘Attack it the Demon Dinner Ladies’, I turned two characters (who were twins) into one character. That’s was a bit tricky. I find that the best thing to do when I get a bit stuck is to walk away from it and come back to it later. Sometimes I’ll be asleep and wake up because the solution suddenly pings into my brain. It’s weird.

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

I never experienced an author visit or met an author when I was at school. I don’t remember writing to any either. But I do remember meeting my favourite author for the first time…I was lucky enough to meet Judith Kerr a couple of years ago at the Edinburgh Festival and it was awesome. She is my literary hero.

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

I’m pleased to be seeing lots of great funny fiction for children but I’d like to see more written by women.

There’s a Yeti in the Playground and Teaching (3)

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

YES!

  1. Children could work in small groups to write and draw alternate endings to the book.
  2. They could also write their own Izzy adventure with each person in the group having their own task. There could be what I like to call an ‘Idea Generator’ (helping the writer and illustrator), writer/s, editors (helping the writer/checking their work), Illustrator/s, designer/s (designing the layout and what the front cover will look like, publisher/s (presenting the story and front cover/design to the class and explaining what the book is about.)u
  3. They could also work in small groups and act out scenes from the book (always hilarious!).
  4. They could pretend there’s a yeti loose on their playground and make a survival plan!
  5. They could do a follow-up project about yeti sightings and learn about Mount Everest expeditions and sightings.
  • If you were to ‘pitch’ There’s a Yeti in the Playgroundin a sentence or two for teachers to use it in their classrooms or for parents to choose to read it at home, how would you sum it up?

A fast-paced, funny, adventure about getting snowed in at school with a yeti on the loose and having to eat out-of-date beans to SURVIVE.

  • 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?

Sorry! I’m currently on maternity leave and not booking any school visits at this time.

Two more before you go (2)!

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

Who are your favourite funny female funny writers?

Children’s and YA Fiction – Louise Rennison, Catherine Wilkins, Sue Townsend and Joanne Nadin.

Children’s Picture Books – Sue Hendra, Rebecca Patterson and Cressida Cowell.

TV/Film – Sharon Horgan, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey.

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

I wrote ‘The Toilet Ghost’ when I was eight-years-old and it was published when I was 32! So please keep ALL of your stories because you never know, they might end up being turned into a book one day.

One last one… (1)!

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

I had so much fun writing a wintery book (and I really hope you enjoy reading it!). My favourite Winter-themed books are ‘The Snowman’ by Raymond Briggs and ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.’ By C.S. Lewis. What are your favourite wintery books?

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


There’s a Yeti in the Playground is now available to order online or from any good bookshop.

Big thanks to Pamela, Clare and Nosy Crow for sending me a copy of this brilliantly funny book!

Mr E

 

 

Blog Tour (Review): How Rude! – Clare Helen Welsh (Illustrated by Olivier Tallec)

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‘How utterly brilliant! A book, brimming with empathy, that can not only make our young readers cry with laughter but also change their ways and attitudes to become better people.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: How Rude!
Author: Clare Helen Welsh (@clarehelenwelsh)
Illustrator: Olivier Tallec
Publisher: words & pictures (@WordsPicsBooks)
Page count: 32
Date of publication: 2nd October 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1786033598

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

#3Words3Emojis:
1.  Manners 👍
2.  Rude 😝
3. Duck 🦆


Join Dot and Duck in a hilarious story about being rude and making up.

Because in a world where we can be anything, isn’t being kind the greatest kind thing of all?


Review: Manners are, for me, one of the greatest qualities of a person to show. Kindness, honesty, common decency – these are the things that are the basics of life that most people are brought up on. What some and what I call the small things. This is why books of the quality of How Rude are so very much needed, today more than ever.

Through the combination of carefully-chosen and considered text and charismatic illustrations, this story tells the tale of Dot and Duck who start off as friends, become somewhat of an annoyance to each other and end up making up through a life lesson.

This is a story that should be used in foundation stage and early years classrooms up and down the country because this is a book, that is brimming with empathy, that not only has the potential to make young readers cry with laughter but also has the power to change their ways and attitudes and help them to reflect on their behaviour to become better people.

How rude utterly brilliant!

‘How utterly brilliant! A book, brimming with empathy, that can not only make our young readers cry with laughter but also change their ways and attitudes to become better people.’


Big thanks to Clare for inviting me to take part in the wonderful How Rude! blog tour!

Mr E
📚

How Rude! is available to pre-order online or from any good bookshop.


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Look our for the rest of the How Rude! blog tour full of review and posts from these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post: Walking the Line): Gangster School 2: The Brotherhood of Brimstone – Kate Wiseman

To celebrate the book birthday and official publication launch date of Gangster 2, I’m delighted to review, host a guest post from author, Kate Wiseman and host a giveaway of the superbly-written Gangster School 2: The Brotherhood of Brimstone!
Read on for more details…!

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‘Guaranteed to go down a storm with plenty of giggles galore and gangsterly goings-on, this is immediate fun once again from the first page to the very last.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Gangster School 2: The Brotherhood of Brimstone
Author: Kate Wiseman (@KateWiseman)
Publisher: ZunTold (@ZunTold)
Page count: 212
Date of publication: 24th September 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1999863326

Perfect for Year 4 and Year 5.

#3Words3Emojis:
1.  Criminals 🚓
2.  Diamond 💎
3. Gruffles 🐶


Trouble is brewing at Blaggard’s School for Tomorrow’s Tyrants.

Sir Byron’s Brain, a priceless legendary diamond, has gone missing. If it leaves the school grounds, Blaggard’s will be destroyed forever and the head teacher obliterated!

Could the evil Brotherhood of Brimstone – an ancient secret society – have anything to do with it? Best friends Milly and Charlie embark on an adventure to find out. They discover a web of evil plots involving Gruffles, Charlie’s stinky dog, and Wolfie, the robot dog turned invisible superhero.

On top of this, Blaggard’s is expecting a school inspection from the mysterious Dr X – Chief Inspector of Criminal Schools. He could turn up at any time, and no one knows what he looks like.

Time is running out for Milly and Charlie. Will Dr X appear? And can our heroes defeat the evil Brotherhood, rescue their canine companions and save the day?


Review: It’s back to Blaggard’s, an almost Harry Potter-like school for criminals – for those that haven’t yet read the brilliant Gangster School – which is the boarding school to be if you want to be a future criminal until this time, a diamond goes missing which is set to spark a curse on the school. With another mystery to solve, it feels fantastic to be reacquainted with Milly Dillane and Charlie Partridge, the two main characters in this must-read sequel and set off this time to get to know more of this cunning cast of characters.

Since I set eyes on and read Gangster School, I have been eagerly anticipating its sequel and this doesn’t dare disappoint. Back with more characters, more teachers and more lessons, most notably that of (what would probably be my favourite!) Criminal Disguise and Deception.

Striking parallels with real schools, this one is left fearing for the worst as news of an impending inspection reaches Blaggard’s and Dr X, Chief Inspector of Schools, is on his way but no knows what he looks like… or if he’ll even appear…!

With immediate fun once again from the first page until the very last, Gangster School 1 and 2 are a series that is just begging to be read aloud and to classes countrywide because they are guaranteed to go down a storm with plenty of giggles galore and gangsterly goings-on.

The only slight disappointment(!) will be that readers will feel like they’re missing out by not having their very own Gangster School full of capers and adventures to attend.

‘Guaranteed to go down a storm with plenty of giggles and gangsterly goings-on galore, this is again immediate fun from the first page to the very last.’


I am delighted that Kate Wiseman joins me today at The Reader Teacher with a fantastic insight in to her writing of Gangster School…

Walking the Line

Or, Negotiating the Perilous Path between Entertainment and Controversy

 When I had the idea for the Gangster School books, I realised that I needed to make the Gangster School world convincing, and the stories entertaining, whilst ensuring that the subject matter was handled in a way that would make it acceptable to the gatekeepers of kids’ lit – agents and publishers, then parents and teachers.

Although my vision of Blaggard’s School for Tomorrow’s Tyrants was more frivolous than felonious, I saw straight away that there would be a perilous path to negotiate and I put a lot of thought into how I could make the books fun and relevant to their titles, without alienating grown-ups who might conclude that the subject matter was unsuitable for children.

I adopted various measures to ensure that the books are not controversial. One way of achieving this was by ensuring that whilst the school curriculum was appropriate for the world’s best school for would-be criminal masterminds, it didn’t promote criminality or impart any information that could be construed as useful to a budding felon. It also was important not to glorify success as a criminal, or being in a gang, in any way. These things are ridiculed; the bad guys are silly and the heroes are good guys pretending to be bad.

I decided to go for subjects promoting the qualities that would be desirable in criminals, rather than those imparting hands-on skills. So, with the exception of Thievery, which I felt was unavoidable, and which could be exaggerated to the point where it became funny, Blaggard’s teachers are experts in Defiance and Discourtesy, Betrayal, Plotting and Criminal Disguise, among a host of other subjects.

The teachers are exaggerated too, to emphasise their criminal qualities and to make them so incredible that they couldn’t possibly be regarded as role models. Their names reflect their subjects and characters and were chosen to ensure that there is no possibility of their being taken too seriously. So, Thievery is taught by Nick Lightfinger, Fabrication by Edgar Borgia and the Head Teacher, feared by all who meet her, is Griselda Martinet. I have to admit, I’d really like to be Ms Martinet.

Another potential problem was in establishing my two protagonists, Milly and Charlie. I just couldn’t see how I could make eager would-be crims acceptable, except by exaggerating them to the point where they were in danger of being caricatures. If this happened, there would be no contrast or conflict between the protagonists and their teachers or their antagonists. The answer I came up with was to make them secret Dependables. In Blaggardian parlance, a Dependable is a non-criminal. Someone honest, just like you and me. Ahem.

But then why would two Dependables be at Blaggard’s School for Tomorrow’s Tyrants? I gave them both dedicated felonious families, with centuries-old allegiances to the school. Now Milly and Charlie had a compelling reason for being there.

That led on to another question. Why would they not simply get themselves expelled? After all, they would hate it at Gangster School, wouldn’t they? There needed to be an even worse school where Blaggard’s rejects are invariably sent. Enter Crumley’s School for Career Criminals, terrifying in looks and reputation. It’s only a few miles away from Blaggard’s and Charlie sees it every time he opens his bedroom curtains. It crouches on a craggy hill like a gargoyle and is a constant reminder to both Milly and Charlie of the price they will pay for failure at Blaggard’s.

As for hating it at Blaggard’s, I’ve done everything I can to make the school sound like a mad but fun place, with almost daily food fights, weird initiation ceremonies and a long history peppered by distinctly dodgy personalities and even dodgier school legends. The pupils there might think that they want to be criminals, but they are really just rather naughty.

Now for story lines and subject matter. Hmmm. Tricky. So much was immediately unsuitable – murder, torture, terrorism. I wanted my readers to be transported away from the worries of 21st century living, not to be reminded of them. Fortunately, my personality and interests are nothing if not quirky and it was natural for me to look beyond the nitty gritty of life and to fasten on the weird and the whimsical.  So, in Book One, the arch villain Pecunia Badpenny, (based loosely on my best friend, an English language teacher who likes golf), has a plan for world domination (of course) using a robot wolf, but he goes off to play with Charlie’s Scruffy hound, Gruffles, and Badpenny ends up bedraggled and humiliated. Blaggard’s was shaping up.

The danger of eschewing nitty gritty is that a book can become bland, a thought that horrified me. I’ve done my very best to avoid this. In Gangster School 2, for instance, which is being released in the UK today, I had great fun writing a short, one-man play that the pedantic would-be genius William Proctor performs at Founders’ Day. The play deals with the role of Sir Thomas Blaggard, the school’s founder, in the execution of Anne Boleyn. Proctor manages to rhyme ‘shiny pearls’ with ‘decomposing girls.’ I’m especially proud of this couplet: ‘Without her head she’ll be a whole lot shorter/Bet then she’ll wish she’d acted like she oughta.’ That came to me in a dream. Or was it a nightmare?

I hope that I’ve given you a flavour of Blaggard’s, and convinced you that nothing dangerous or damaging will be found in my Gangster School books.

Unless you consider bad verse and dodgy puns to be damaging. I have to hold my hands up to those.


Kate Wiseman, author of Gangster School 2: The Brother of Brimstone and Gangster School 1


Big thanks to Kate for inviting me to join in with the Gangster School 2: The Brotherhood of Brimstone, particularly on its launch date!

Mr E

Gangster School 2: The Brotherhood of Brimstone and Gangster School are now available to order online or from any good bookshop.


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Keep a look out this week and last for more review posts and exclusive content from Kate on the Gangster School blog tour!

 

 

Blog Tour (Review): Maybe the Moon – Frances Ives

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‘Unbelievably good… The words, the message, the illustrations; it’s just everything a picture book should be!’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Maybe the Moon
Author: Frances Ives (@francesives)
Publisher: Michael O’Mara (@OMaraBooks)
Page count: 32
Date of publication: 20th September 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN:978-1910552827

Perfect for Reception to Year 4.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Moon 🌕
2. City 🌆
3. Friendship 👫


“Maybe the moon, so high above,
Is shining on me and the friends I love.”

Eric feels like the luckiest boy in the world,
living in the forest with his animal friends for company.
When he moves to the city, Eric wonders if he can discover
happiness there, away from the homes he loves.


Review: From the moment I set eyes on this absolutely beautiful book, I knew it would be a good one. However I actually underestimated how good it would be. It’s unbelievably good.

Maybe the Moon is Frances’ debut picture book and wow, what a truly stunning book it is! The story was inspired by her own relocation of moving to London from the countryside, and the effects that this change in environment can have.

Each turn of the page is an absolute joy as Frances’ characterful, unique and completely wonderful illustrations coupled with her words that move you as much as the illustrations, ensure that is a treasure to read that gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling. The combination of its words, its message, its illustrations together make this everything a picture book should be.

I am already eagerly anticipating the next offering from Frances because maybe, just maybe, this is my favourite picture book this year. Mark my words, if you haven’t read Maybe the Moon you’re definitely missing out!


Big thanks to Alara and Michael O’Mara for inviting me to take part in the Maybe the Moon blog tour.

Mr E
📚


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Maybe the Moon is now available to order online or from any good bookshop.


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Be sure to check out the Maybe the Moon blog tour and other bloggers for more reviews of this beautiful book!

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): Warrior Boy – Virginia Clay

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‘Absorbing and captivating… it’s so immersive, it’s like you’re in the African savannah yourself.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Warrior Boy
Author: Virginia Clay (@VClayAuthor)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 256
Date of publication: 6th September 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-0857636409

Perfect for Year 6 & Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Maasai 🇹🇿 🇰🇪
2. Poachers 🔫
3.  Warrior 🛡️


London schoolboy Ben is heading for Kenya to meet his Maasai family. But how is an outsider like him going to fit in?

When he meets his cousin Kip, he discovers they share more than he thought – if only Ben can keep up.

Together, the boys must survive the African savannah: hunt for food, defend elephants from poachers – and even face the king of the beasts. Does Ben have what it takes to be a twenty-first-century warrior?


Review: Set deep in the African savannah, Warrior Boy tells the tale of Ben, a London schoolboy about as far removed from a tribal lifestyle as he can be, visiting the homeland of his father. As he travels to Africa with his conservationist mother, he finds himself in for a few shocks to say the least.

As he confronts his biggest fears within moments of arriving (including taking part in a ritual that ends up showing he has far more in common with his family than he so realises), he soon knows he’s in for more than he bargained when he comes across poachers who seem to have it in for his family and give them more than a serious warning to let them carry on poaching…

Can Ben – who already feared the lack of acceptance from his father’s family – defend the savannah’s animals from these callous poachers, fit in to the tribe and follow in his father’s footsteps to become a warrior? Only time will tell.

Thanks to Virginia’s own experiences, this is written in such an absorbing and captivating way that’s so immersive you’ll really feel the mix of the soaring heat and the pulsating dangers of the grasslands making it feel like you’re experiencing the savannah for yourself.


Boys and Reading

The most surprising but yet thrilling thing I have noticed since Warrior Boy’s release, has been the number of parents who have told me, having read the book, how excited they are that their son might start reading now. Of course, it’s wonderful that anyone should have such high hopes for my story, but also shocking because I hadn’t realized boys were not reading in such vast numbers.

Perhaps I have been slightly fooled by the phenomenal success of David Walliams; he has done so much to encourage boys to read. And whilst I hear lots of parents – and writers – say they are fed up with his monopoly hold on the market, for every one of those, there are two teachers who adore him. When you have a student who will do anything to avoid reading, but encounters DW and reads one of his books in two days, quite frankly you could fall down and worship at his feet.

But it has been ten years now since The Boy in the Dress was first published, which is probably a good time to take stock. And I am wondering whether Walliams hasn’t just turned boys who don’t read, into boys who read David Walliams, when we really want them to be getting a varied literary diet.

So how can we help them be braver about approaching new titles? The children’s author Chris Bradford says it’s all about finding the right subject to fit the boy:

“If all they ever play is an Xbox, perhaps start them on Game Boy by Alan Durrant. If they’re into sports, challenge them with Tom Palmer’s Football Academy series or his award-winning Ghost Stadium. If they’re interested in technology or science, connect them with Dot Robot by Jason Bradbury or Itch by Simon Mayo.

As a child, I read everything from L.M Montgomery to Tolkien but research shows that girls are more likely to try a wider range of subjects than boys and to get the latter sailing away from the warm, familiar waters of Walliams and into uncharted waters, we need to find subject matter they are passionate about.

Bradford continues, “The key element here is to plug into their everyday interests and let them live the book both in their minds and in their lives. Remember, every boy wants to be the hero!”

So where does this leave Warrior Boy? Are there any boys out there who have an obsession with spear throwing and warthog wrestling? It certainly has a hero at its heart, and I think this could be the key. All readers – boys and girls – need to identify with the main character enough to feel they could overcome the potential threat. The hero in my story faces a formidable threat in the form of elephant poaching. Will parents’ hopes be realised for their sons to read Warrior Boy? I certainly hope so!


Virginia Clay, author of Warrior Boy

WARRIOR BOY by Virginia Clay out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

 Connect with Virginia on twitter @VClayAuthor and find out more at http://www.chickenhousebooks.com


Big thanks to Laura Smythe and Chicken House for sending me a copy of this brilliant book and for inviting me to join in with the Warrior Boy blog tour.
Extra thanks to Virginia for writing her guest post!

Mr E
📚

Warrior Boy is now available to order online or from any good bookshop.


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Be sure to check out the other dates and other bloggers for more reviews and guest posts on the Warrior Boy blog tour this week!

Blog Tour (Review) & Giveaway!: Storm Witch – Ellen Renner

I’m delighted to feature on the book birthday and publication date of Storm Witch by Ellen Renner today. I am equally delighted to be able to offer a giveaway for a copy of Storm Witch and you can find out more about winning it below!

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‘A strong story that had me gripped in an instant and has left me wanting for more with each and every chapter…’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Storm Witch
Author: Ellen Renner (@Ellen_Renner)
Publisher: Nosy Crow (@NosyCrowBooks)
Page count: 256
Date of publication: 6th September 2018
Series status: First in the four-book series
ISBN: 978-0857636409

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Elementals 🌬️
2. Storm 🌩️
3.  Magic ✨


Much is needed from you.
Learn what it is!
Now go, Storm-child.
Remember my words…

Storm’s always been different. She has a boy’s name, a strange fear of water and everyone says her family is cursed. But her arrows fly so straight and true, it’s as if they’re helped by great magic… When Storm’s island home comes under attack from the Drowned Ones, will Storm’s magic save them all? Or will it destroy everything?


In many books and literary worlds, you will encounter a Chosen One. Harry Potter for instance. But in Storm Witch, you must meet Storm. You could say that Storm is one of a kind. Unique within her community. A girl with a boy’s name. Teased for it but exhibiting powers that no-one – not even the Elders of the island – can begin to understand.

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Turning thirteen, or should I say Thirteen-year, is a landmark achievement for the children of Yanlin as they must undertake The Choosing and be claimed by one of the almighty Elementals… but things don’t quite go to plan for our Storm. With four Elementals all vying for her, will she be a Child of Air or a Child of Water? Or will she end up being a Child of Earth or Fire?

Watch out for the Drowned Ones too – a wieldy gang of pirates that roam the seas and are ready to attack. Just as Storm is about to say goodbye to one of her friends who has to join the men of the island on a six-month long boat trip… they strike and leave Yanlin a different place to how it started. But can Storm use her powers for the good of her community? Even if she has to go against what is deemed as right.

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In Storm Witch, Ellen Renner has created a fantasy with no limits and has made herself an author to watch. Powerful, riddled with dilemma and fiercely magical in all the right places, this is a strong story that had me gripped in an instant and has left me wanting for more with each and every chapter. So I can’t wait for the next book even though book one – this one – has only just been published today!

‘A strong story that had me gripped in an instant and has left me wanting for more with each and every chapter…’


Big thanks to Siân Heap and Nosy Crow for sending me a copy of this superbly-written book and for inviting me to join in with the blog tour.

Mr E
📚


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Storm
 Witch
 by Ellen Renner is published on 6th September by Nosy Crow in paperback priced £6.99

Storm Witch is available to online or from any good bookshop now.


Giveaway!

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So to celebrate the publication of Storm Witch today, I am delighted to say that Nosy Crow has kindly given me one copy of Storm Witch 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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Be sure to check out the other dates and other bloggers for more reviews and posts on the Storm Witch blog tour this week!

Guest Post: Sparking Imagination: the Unpredictable Influence of Children’s Books – Harriet Muncaster (Isadora Moon Makes Winter Magic)

To celebrate the publication today of the next book in the very successful Isadora Moon series, Isadora Moon Makes Winter Magic,
I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Harriet Muncaster to The Reader Teacher today!

Without further ado, here’s Harriet’s guest post ‘Sparking Imagination: the Unpredictable Influence of Children’s Books’ where she talks about the benefits of reading for children; how even the smallest idea in a story can inspire a big one and her own mascot…

Sparking Imagination: the Unpredictable Influence of Children’s Books

We all know that reading has lots of benefits for children, not least improved language and literacy abilities. But reading a range of stories helps to expose children to different ideas that can spark their imagination in unpredictable ways. When a child reads a book, they’re stepping inside a whole new world, and coming across ideas they may never have been exposed to before. A tiny detail or action in any book could really resonate with a particular child, even if dozens of others would just skim over it. And there’s no knowing what that could be.

the suitcase kid

For me, The Suitcase Kid by Jacqueline Wilson contained just such a small idea that inspired me in a big way. In The Suitcase Kid, a little girl’s parents are getting divorced and she is finding this change hard to deal with. In truth I only vaguely remember the events of the main plot, perhaps because I’m fortunate enough not to have first-hand experience of this situation. I’m sure for many children who have been in a similar situation, reading the story would offer relatability and catharsis.

However, even though the story hasn’t stayed with me over the years since I read it, one of the ways the little girl tried to cope with the divorce has. You see, she got a little Sylvanian Families rabbit called Radish and decided it would become her ‘mascot’. This meant she treated it like a real, living friend who she took everywhere with her. She took Radish on adventures and made things for her, like a little boat she could go down the stream in. Here the girl is playing with Radish in the bathroom:

“She loves the bathroom. It’s her favourite best ever place. Don’t forget she’s only four centimetres tall. The basin and the bath are her very own Leisure Pool. I generally fix up a superslide by knotting Paula’s tights together and hanging them from the door hook to the bath tap. Radish hasn’t got a very slippery bottom so I soap her a lot to make her slide satisfactorily. This means Paul’s tights get a bit soapy too but that can’t be helped.”

Radish doesn’t even feature on every page, but I just found the idea of having a little character you can make things for and have adventures with so inspiring. As soon as I finished reading The Suitcase Kid I decided I had to have my own ‘mascot’. I got a Sylvanian Families ginger cat and called it Fleur. You can see her here:

Fleur the mascot

From there, the game of mascots grew and developed and I got my friends involved. At the peak of the game there were five of us, each with our own mascots. We would make clothes and accessories for our mascots, take them with us wherever we went, and throw parties for them. The most important rule was that everything they had needed to be real and to work. So, for example, they couldn’t have dolls house food: it had to be actually edible. Every mascot had to have a place to live as well, so we all made special bedrooms for our mascots.

Taking the game further, I started creating mascot magazines for my friends and me to read. These included photographs and stories of the mascots’ adventures, quizzes, and instructions for making things like clothes, patchwork quilts and mascot toothbrushes. I spent ages on these things, and loved every second of it. Even as my friends moved on to new games, I kept on with my mascots, and even now I still have a mascot:

Vinetta in a boat
And you can still see my fascination with miniature people in the normal-sized world in some of my published books:

 

I have always loved anything miniature, especially miniature characters like Tinkerbell and the Borrowers, and I have always loved making things, so I probably would have found some similar creative outlet had I not read The Suitcase Kid. I would have made miniature clothes, or written stories about tiny people, and I certainly would have carried on playing with my Sylvanian Families.

But I might not have found something as big or as captivating as the mascots game. Not something that my friends would get involved in consistently over the course of a couple of years, or that inspired me to create my own magazines. In this, The Suitcase Kid was a catalyst, a springboard for my imagination. For someone who was (and still is!) more interested in stories of fairies and the fantastic, a book about a child dealing with parental divorce wouldn’t necessarily be an obvious choice, but I got something from it much more impactful than anyone might have predicted.

I suppose my message then to parents, teachers, and readers of all ages, is that you never know what new ideas and inspirations you could find between the covers of a given book. So take a gamble; try something new; give your child something they may or may not choose for themselves. I only read The Suitcase Kid because it was a gift, but for all the hours and hours of fun I had playing mascots afterwards, I’m so glad I did!


Harriet Muncaster

 

Harriet Muncaster is the author and illustrator of the international bestselling Isadora Moon young fiction series. Her latest book, Isadora Moon Makes Winter Magic, is available in the UK from September 6th.

You can follow her mascots’ latest adventures on Instagram, see what Harriet has been up to on Facebook  and Twitter, and find a selection of Isadora Moon activities for home and school on her website.

Cover Reveal: Matt Millz Stands Up! – Harry Hill & Giveaway!

Today, I’m delighted to exclusively reveal the cover of Matt Millz Stands Up!, the eagerly-awaited sequel to Harry Hill’s fantastically funny Matt Millz, which will be published on the 18th October 2018 by Faber Children’s.

As if I’m not super excited already, I’m even more excited because the very lovely people at Faber Children’s have given me three sets of both books (Matt Millz & Matt Millz Stands Up!) to give away!
Find out more below!

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Title: Matt Millz Stands Up!
Author: Harry Hill (@HarryHill)
Illustrator: Steve May (@stevemaythe1st)
Publisher: Faber Children’s (@FaberChildrens)
Page count: 464
Date of publication: 18th October 2018
Series status: Second in the Matt Millz series
ISBN: 978-0571345687


Matt did it! His performance at the T Factor has given him the fame he dreamed of. Kitty is getting more gigs booked in with a whole new stable of comedic acts. Unfortunately, Matt hasn’t had time to come up with new jokes so it isn’t long before he is greeted with the worst heckle for a comedian: ‘heard it before!’. But when Kitty suggests he takes a break to work on his routine, Matt can’t stand to go back to his normal life. So he signs up with the stylish Excalibur Agency, brushing his concerns (and Kitty) aside. A life of celebrity awaits! But it doesn’t take long for the shine to wear off and when they try and force him on to his first Live At the Apollo, without any prepara- tion and no new jokes, how can Matt save himself from the ultimate humiliation?


Another comic caper that every 9-11 year old aspiring comedian will love, packed full of heart, humour and dos and don’ts!


Harry Hill

IMG_5D2AF26B3C8A-1.jpeg(Photo credit: https://www.faber.co.uk/author/harry-hill/)

Harry Hill is a BAFTA winning comedian and world class swingball player. Born in Woking in 1964, he holds a med- ical degree from the University of London. His books include Flight from Deathrow and Tim the Tiny Horse. He has been a stand-up since the early 90s, and TV shows he’s created and starred in include Harry Hill’s TV Burp and Harry Hill’s Alien Fun Capsule, while he’s also the voice of You’ve Been Framed.


Steve May

Steve_May_img_04341508940966(Photo credit: http://www.picassopictures.com/picasso-pictures/directors/steve-may)

Steve May is an animation director & freelance illustrator based in London (UK). He was born in sunny Hastings & studied painting & film-making at Trent Polytechnic (1988-91) and after several years working as an illustrator / animator, a roady for Nirvana (once) & aspiring (but unsuccessful ) pop star gained an MA in Animation at the Royal College of Art (1999-2001)

As an illustrator he has produced high quality illustration work for a variety of clients including Marks & Spencer, Harper Collins, The GuardianThe Economist, Puffin & Faber amongst many others.


Huge thanks to Sarah and all at Faber Children’s for giving me the opportunity to host this fantastic cover reveal, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

Mr E
📚


Pre-order and order links

Second in the series, Matt Millz Stands Up! is available to pre-order online from Amazon, Waterstones or from any good bookshop.

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First in the series, Matt Millz is available to order online from Amazon, Waterstones or from any good bookshop.

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Giveaway!

If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning one of three sets of both books, Matt Millz and Matt Millz Stands Up!, retweet (RT) this tweet!

Ends 23/8, UK only.

Copies to be sent to winners when available from Faber Children’s, close to publication in October.

 

Sneak Peek: The Twitches Meet a Puppy (Meet the Twitches 3) & Giveaway: Meet the Twitches Trilogy

I regularly recommend Hayley Scott’s Meet the Twitches series of books on Twitter, particularly to teachers who teach Year 2, Year 3 & Year 4, so I’m really excited to have been asked to host a sneak peek of Hayley’s third novel in the series, The Twitches Meet a Puppy – gorgeously illustrated in full colour by Pippa Curnick – which will be published on the 4th October by Usborne.


Giveaway!

I am also incredibly fortunate that Usborne have kindly given me two signed sets of the Meet the Twitches trilogy (3 books: Meet the Twitches, The Twitches Bake a Cake; The Twitches Meet a Puppy) to giveaway. Please see below for the giveaway! ⬇️


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Open up the Teacup House – and meet four little rabbit heroes with big ideas!

Watch out, Twitches – Stevie’s got a furry visitor. The teacup house is turned upside down when a bouncy puppy comes to stay! Silver and Mama Bo hide in the garden, and meet a creature who needs their help.

Now it’s Twitches to the rescue…

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Hayley Scott

ycUMR_XP_400x400(Picture credit: https://www.twitter.com/bookshaped)

Hayley has always loved stories. She grew up near Watership Down, and one of her favourite things to do was visit the big hill to watch the rabbits hopping in and out of their burrows. She’s always loved really small things too. When she was little she used to make tiny furniture for fairy houses, setting them out in scooped out hollows in her back garden. To this day she’s sure the fairies used them…

Hayley lives in Norfolk. Teacup House is her debut series for young readers.

You can find out more about Hayley on Twitter: @bookshaped


Pippa Curnick

g2sSkc5j_400x400(Picture credit: https://www.twitter.com/PippaCurnick)

Pippa Curnick is an illustrator, designer, bookworm and bunny owner. She gets her inspiration from walking in the woods in Derbyshire, where she lives with her partner and their son.  Pippa grew up in Essex and studied at Camberwell College of Art before graduating from the University of Derby with a First Class degree in illustration.
Pippa also enjoys puppet and model making.

You can find out more about Pippa on her website or on Twitter: @PippaCurnick


Meet the Twitches Trilogy Signed Giveaway!

If you’d like to enter this giveaway, simply RT this tweet!


Order links

Third in the series, The Twitches Meet a Puppy is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

Teacup House 3 FRONT_RGB


Second in the series, The Twitches Bake a Cake is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

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First in the series, Meet the Twitches is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

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Big thanks to Liz, Hayley and Usborne for giving me the opportunity to share a sneak peek of their fantastic books and to host this brilliant giveaway!

Mr E
📚

Author Q&A: The Mapmakers’ Race – Eirlys Hunter with Julia Eccleshare

I am delighted to host this Q&A between Eirlys Hunter, author of The Mapmaker’s Race and Julia Eccleshare, one of children’s literature leading figures and currently Editor-at-Large with LoveReading4Kids.
In this blog post, Eirlys discusses writing for children, and the differences between that and writing for adults; her Welsh heritage (which is pretty apt to appear on my blog with being Welsh myself) and writing fantasy stories.

Eirlys Hunter and Julia Eccleshare are schoolfriends who both ended up in the children’s book world—on opposite sides of the world. On the release of Eirlys’ first children’s novel in the UK, The Mapmakers’ Race, we asked them to have a small conversation about children’s books.

Eirlys Hunter is a London-born fiction writer who lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She has published seven books for children as well as a novel and short stories for adults. Hunter teaches Writing for Children at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University (New Zealand’s most prestigious creative writing school).

Julia Eccleshare is a journalist and writer on children’s books, and the former children’s book editor for the Guardian. She published 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up in 2009.

‘I’ve known Julia since we were three, but we became close friends when we were in the same classes in years 12 & 13. We had holidays at her parents’ cottage in Wales and used to go for long walks across the hills, talking about books.’ —Eirlys Hunter

JE: You grew up in the UK in what was thought of as ‘a golden age of children’s literature’. Do you think that influenced your decision to become a writer, especially your decision to write for children?

EH: I’m sure it did, though of course I had no idea of how lucky I was. The children’s library up the road had a constant stream of exciting new books and my sister and I had Alan Garner, Joan Aiken, Philippa Pearce, Susan Cooper, William Mayne, Leon Garfield and Rosemary Sutcliff on our bookshelf.

Nowadays, reading adult novels gives me intellectual pleasure, but for emotional satisfaction and total immersion in another world I still prefer reading children’s books. I have written for adults and I may do again, but when I write for children I feel connected to the period in my life when stories were the only thing that mattered.

JE: Apart from the obvious things about what the characters are able and allowed to do, can you identify any differences between writing for adults and writing for children?

EH: You can write about any subject for children, but there are differences between how you write for children and adults (and by children, I mean pre-teens—writing for young adults is something else again). Of course, there are exceptions to undermine every generalisation, but for me the most important feature of a book for children is that it should have a child’s eye at its centre.

This probably means a child, or a childlike character, but it also means a sense of wonder. So much of children’s experience is new, extraordinary and inexplicable, and children’s writers have to reflect that.

Also, adult readers may be prepared to wade through pages of introspection, but children usually aren’t. Child characters may be thoughtful or dreamy, but they shouldn’t spend a lot of time reflecting until they’re teenagers. Children in books have to be active; they have to be doing.

And children’s books must end, if not entirely happily, at least hopefully.

JE: Does your Welsh heritage and your love for the remote Welsh countryside ever provide a landscape for your stories?

EH: Often! Setting is so important; it provides a mood as well as a stage for the action. There is a small corner of Wales that is in my DNA and I can’t keep out of my writing. The Mapmakers’ Race isn’t set in a named country but the landscape is a blend of the South Island of New Zealand and Snowdonia in North Wales.

JE: When did you discover you were a storyteller and writer? Did you start by writing for your own children or do you write to entertain yourself?

EH: I write because it’s an addiction. I used to make small books, and my parents must have noticed because they gave me an ancient typewriter for Christmas when I was ten. I began my first novel, painstakingly clacking out each letter, but it took two long pages for my heroine to get dressed and have breakfast; I wanted to write a realist novel but had no idea how to skip the reality of toast and tooth-brushing. In my teens I wrote poetry, and what I thought of as scenes—they were short stories really. It was a surprise to be praised for these at secondary school, because in primary school my writing was only ever singled out for poor spelling and wonky margins. As a teenager I kept a diary full of high emotion, and for many years I wrote to find out what I thought and felt.

I started writing for an audience when the last of my four children went to kindergarten, and I wrote for children rather than adults because that’s what I knew best; that’s what I’d been reading most of for so long. And children’s books tended to be shorter and seemed more manageable. I did try to write one novel specifically for my son, but the whole process took so long that he was practically grown-up by the time it was in print. I’d say that I was inspired by my children, but really I write for myself, because I have to.

JE: Do you imagine yourself in stories? In which case, which character from a children’s story would you most like to be?

EH: I always imagined myself in stories when I was young, sailing with Nancy and Peggy,
or languishing in the attic with poor Sarah Crewe. When I was older I spent a long time being Cassandra Mortmain in I Capture the Castle. Now I’d most like to be Lyra Belacqua or Malcolm Polstead, Philip Pullman’s brave, loyal, quick-witted heroes. Or, on less adventurous days, I’d like to be Orlando the Marmalade Cat.

JE: Writing fantasy novels for children has been very popular for the last 20 years, not least because of the success of JK Rowling. What is so attractive about writing fantasy and what opportunities does it give a writer?

I think many writers have been forced into writing fantasy because the reality of most contemporary children’s lives is so boring. They’re driven everywhere, closely timetabled and monitored, and spend so much time looking at their screens. Writers write fantasy because it’s the only way to get rid of the adults in a child’s life without causing major trauma (not that there’s anything wrong with writing about trauma, but then it’s trauma that drives the story). Fantasy may also be the only way to give child characters time to muck about and observe the world, and the opportunity to explore and take risks.

It’s impossible to imagine a contemporary realist novel in which the children have the kind of adventures that were standard in stories of a generation ago. Child welfare agencies would be called in if any contemporary children were observed to be unsupervised
for whole days at a time like the Famous Five or the Swallows and Amazons (and they didn’t wear life jackets!). It seems that only neglected children are free to have real world adventures nowadays. If a writer wants to give their child characters agency and a happy, functional family they have to write fantasy. (Historical fiction can serve the same purpose, but that involves research. I prefer making it all up.)

Fantasy doesn’t only allow child characters autonomy, it also gives writers autonomy.
I’ve been struggling with a contemporary YA novel in which social media is crucial,
but technology and the way it’s used by teens changes faster than I can keep up. In
The Mapmakers’ Race I not only ditched the parents but was free to ditch any aspect of contemporary life that limited my characters’ experience, or that I found hard to imagine, or intrinsically uninteresting. My children lose their mother on page one, but no one intervenes. They must manage without money or any means of communication. They have the technological skills they need for the race but soon discover just how many life-skills they’re missing. But they survive, and grow, and have fun.


The Mapmakers’ Race is out now in paperback (£6.99, Gecko Press)

Find out more at www.geckopress.com and on Twitter: @geckopress


Thanks to Laura Smythe for inviting me to host this exclusive and very enjoyable interview for this brilliantly-written book.

Mr E
📚

Blog Tour (Review): Baker Street Academy: Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Curse – Sam Hearn

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‘A highly engaging mystery… Sherlock is no doubt one of our nation’s favourite detectives and I can guarantee that this young Sherlock will be one of our young nation’s favourite detectives to read about.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Baker Street Academy: Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Curse
Author & Illustrator: Sam Hearn
Publisher: Scholastic (@scholasticuk)
Page count: 160
Date of publication: 2nd August 2018
Series status: Second in the series
ISBN: 978-1407164069

Perfect for Year 3, Year 4 & Year 5.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Mystery ⁉️
2. Ghosts 👻
3. Riddle 📜


The game is afoot! The mystery has begun (again)!

Sherlock, John and Martha are back for a new term at Baker Street Academy when they notice there’s something spooky about their school…

Can Sherlock uncover the mystery of the Baker Street ghost? Or are they all (gulp!) cursed…


Review: Sherlock, Watson, Martha are back to business in Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Curse, by Sam Hearn, the second book in the exciting Baker Street Academy series which will really appeal to budding young detectives and smaller Sherlocks themselves.

A highly-engaging and interesting mystery adventure for younger readers, Baker Street Curse is a delightful read for both parents (many of whom will already be Sherlock fans, who will recognise subtle references to the original stories) and children alike to read together, and also for older readers to read independently. Told through Watson’s diary, and fully illustrated throughout in a graphic novel-style format with comic-strip illustrations bursting with life, Sherlock, Watson and Martha find themselves in the middle of the most spookiest and strangest of goings-on in their school with ghosts, a long-lost curse and a riddle that takes some Sherlock-solving to get their teeth into!


But will they find out what is going on before it is too late?


It’s a great mystery that is easy to follow with some red herrings, plot twists and historical facts scattered along the way that’ll lead readers slightly astray but also bring them closer to the solution, whilst also being supported by a brilliant cast of characters that help to bring the adventure to life. For young Sherlock is just as sharp, astute and observant as we know his older character to be portrayed, and the resolute Watson and the confident Martha add a fantastic friendship dynamic that will have every young reader wanting to be Sherlock, Watson or Martha in their very own sleuthing squad.

First in the series, Sherlock Holmes and the Disappearing Diamond Mystery was one of the winners of The Fantastic Book Awards – Children’s Choice for ages 9-11, judged by children in Lancashire, and I’m sure that this sequel will also be in the running for many awards to come. I am already hoping that there’ll be a third in the series to follow and I could really imagine this series of books being made in to an animated TV series.

These Baker Street Academy books provide the perfect, modern introduction to middle-grade mysteries and to Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic characters. Sherlock is no doubt one of our nation’s favourite detectives and I can guarantee that this young Sherlock will be one of our young nation’s favourite detectives to read about.


‘A highly engaging mystery… Sherlock is no doubt one of our nation’s favourite detectives and I can guarantee that this young Sherlock will be one of our young nation’s favourite detectives to read about.’


Big thanks to Emily Burns and Scholastic for sending me a copy of this book and for inviting me to join in with the blog tour.

Mr E
📚


Baker Street Curse is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

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First in the series, Disappearing Diamond Mystery is also available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

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Blog Tour (Review): A Chase in Time – Sally Nicholls (Illustrated by Brett Helquist)

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‘Like Downton Abbey meets Back to the Future… A Chase in Time is a breathless blast to the past that’ll leave you wanting to read more of this series and more of Sally Nicholls!’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: A Chase in Time
Author: Sally Nicholls (@Sally_Nicholls)
Illustrator (Cover): Brett Helquist (@BHelquist)
Publisher: Nosy Crow (@NosyCrowBooks)
Page count: 208
Date of publication: 2nd August 2018
Series status: First in the series
ISBN: 978-0857638984

Perfect for Year 3, Year 4 & Year 5.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Time-travel ⏰
2. Mirror 🖼️
3. Cup 🏆


Alex Pilgrim is always up for adventure, so he’s super-pleased when he and his sister, Ruby, fall through their aunt’s mirror into 1912. Racing around in a scarily dangerous car, being permanently grubby and even catching a criminal or two is great fun! Now they just need to find a way to get home…


Review: Prepare to wear your finest knickerbockers, petticoats and bodices as you race back in time for this riotously-good, time-travelling read that’s like Downton Abbey meeting Back to the Future.

Alex and his sister, Ruby, are sent away to their aunt’s house for the summer holidays but this is no ordinary house as they are yet to find out for themselves… At first, it’s not looking good for Aunt Joanna as she reveals that she will have to sell her stately home as she can’t afford to keep it anymore. But can the past of Applecott House help towards its future? Only time will tell…

As Alex is suddenly drawn to a mirror that’s always been hanging in the corridor of his aunt’s house, he and Ruby find themselves to be transported in to another seemingly surreal world as they explore the Edwardian era thanks to the powers of the priceless family heirloom that becomes a portal and a passageway to their past. Luckily for them, they recognise that it’s the same house… but it’s an altogether very different (and rather exciting!) place to live as they get caught up in all kinds of ancestral adventures including vintage car-chases, antiquated traditions, theft, arson and more as they have to take on the role of time detectives to help solve the problem of a golden cup that’s gone mysteriously missing…

Sally provides a great deal of accurate and precise historical detail such as an authentic cast of characters and snippets of social history, which are perfectly complemented by Brett’s classical illustrations that are so much in keeping with the time period that it felt like they were really turning back the clock. The backdrop to the book becomes the early-twentieth century before the First World War, as it’s set mostly in 1912, and spans between the differences of then and now. There’s moments in the story when Alex and Ruby reveal what is yet to come for the characters (I’m sure you can predict what’s to come in the future years) and I admired this reflective moment within the book’s fast-paced nature.

But will the siblings find a way out of the bygone days and back home?

I particularly liked how, towards the end of the story, the use of the past and the present come together. It will make you lose track of time – but it will be time that will be very well spent – as you chase down the mystery of the golden cup and join Alex and Ruby on an adventure that they thought they’d never experience. I’m sure they’ll be eager to go back to Applecott House next summer, I know I would be!

After Things a Bright Girl Can Do and her short story, Out for the Count in Make More Noise, it’s safe to say that Sally Nicholls is soon becoming one of the leading lights to look out for in children’s historical fiction. This is another really intriguing and interesting novel from a brilliant writer that readers of all ages, particularly those moving on to chapter books, will enjoy that showcases and highlights what life would have been like in Edwardian England at the time.

Like a breathless blast to the past, this one is sure to leave you wanting more of this series and wanting to read more of Sally Nicholls.

‘Like Downton Abbey meets Back to the Future… A Chase in Time is a breathless blast to the past that’ll leave you wanting to read more of this series and more of Sally Nicholls!’


Big thanks to Siân Heap and Nosy Crow for sending me a copy of this superbly-written book and for inviting me to join in with the blog tour.

Mr E
⏰📚⏰

You can take a sneak peek and read the first chapter of A Chase in Time on the
Nosy Crow website.

A Chase in Time is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

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A Chase in Time - Twitter Banner - Blog Tour v1.1
Be sure to check out the other dates and other bloggers for more reviews, posts and exclusive content from Sally Nicholls and Nosy Crow on the A Chase in Time blog tour this week!

Blog Tour (Review): Knights and Bikes – Gabrielle Kent (Illustrated by Rex Crowle)

KNIGHTS AND BIKES
‘Fast-paced, fun and full of adventure with friendship at its heart, Knights and Bikes is the kind of wheelie-good book that you’ll want to read all day and all (k)night!’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Knights and Bikes
Author: Gabrielle Kent (@GabrielleKent)
Illustrator (Cover): Rex Crowle (@rexbox)
Publisher: Knights Of (@_KnightsOf)
Page count: 256
Date of publication: 1st August 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN:978-1999642501

Perfect for Year 3, Year 4 & Year 5.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Knights ⚔️
2. Bikes 🚲
3. Friendship 👭


Welcome to the sleepy island of Penfurzy, where nothing exciting ever really happens. OR DOES IT?

Adventure awaits Demelza and her new best friend in the whole world, Nessa, as they explore the island and uncover the mysteries of the Penfurzy Knights. With a honking pet goose sidekick, quirky islanders and a legendary treasure to find, it’s up to Nessa and Demelza to ride their bikes, solve the puzzles before them, and face down danger with frisbees, water-balloons, feathers …. and a toilet plunger.


Review: Knights and Bikes, based on a soon-to-be released crowd-funded video game of the same name, is the tale of two girls who become the bestest of friends whilst taking part in exciting, yet mysterious, treasure-hunting adventures on the island of Penfurzy – a fantasy world that any reader themselves would want to adventure in. Within the pages of this book, Gabrielle puts her own stamp on the world of the game ensuring it stays its own story: spoiler-free and original by adding in additional adventures for its characters.

Demelza, the daughter of a caravan park owner and living in her own caravan, lives a very uneventful life on the likewise uneventful island. That is until she – unconventionally – meets Nessa, a girl who at first appears to be a threat, crashing and banging through her door in the middle of the night, but soon becomes her trusty friend. As the pair (plus their pet goose, Captain Honkers who gives some mighty ‘HOOONNNKs’ to welcome readers at the start of the story just to be sure of the name) embark on all kinds of adventure whilst following in the footsteps of her mother before her, they find out what the island really has to offer as it reveals itself, its legends and its long-lost curse. Penfurzy ends up becoming an island that both Demelza and Nessa don’t want to leave behind, and I’m sure the same will be said by all of Knights and Bikes’ readers too.

Older readers will recognise a sense of 80s’ film and popular culture references (boom-boxes included!) that may make them feel rather nostalgic at points; reminiscing about their own childhoods.

Coming from a recently-launched start-up publisher Knights Of (with one goal in mind: to  publish brilliant commercial kids books with one BIG difference – creating an inclusive, diverse, fairer team to make them), there has been increasing speculation and attention directed at Knights and Bikes. So therefore it is with great delight that after reading Knights and Bikes to find that this attention and praise, on my part and many others, is thoroughly deserving and well-warranted.

As the story progresses, it is fantastic to witness the growing bond between Demelza and Nessa as they become more than just friends and more like sisters, or should I say ‘spit sisters‘. Fast-paced, fun and full of adventure with friendship at its heart, Knights and Bikes is the kind of wheelie-good book that you’ll want to read all day and all knight! With the end of the story suggesting that are plenty more quests to come, Knights Of is a publisher that is one to most definitely look out for.

I’ll end this review with a direct quotation from the book as it sums it up perfectly. Sometimes you find the best adventures. But sometimes ‘the best adventures find you‘ and that is what Knights and Bikes is all about. A book with the very best kind of adventure that deserves to find its way to many, many readers and the same could be said of its publishers, Knights Of.

‘Fast-paced, fun and full of adventure with friendship at its heart, Knights and Bikes is the kind of wheelie-good book that you’ll want to read all day and all (k)night!’


Huge thanks to Sian for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and all at Knights Of for sending me a ‘limited edition advance proof’ copy of this fantastically-written book!

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Mr E
⚔️📚🚲


Knights and Bikes is available to order now online or from any good independent bookshop.

Knights and Bikes cover

Guest Post: How the Books Get Made (The Great Sea Dragon Discovery – Pippa Goodhart)

To celebrate the recent publication of The Great Sea Dragon Discovery,
I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Pippa Goodhart to The Reader Teacher today!

Without further ado, here’s Pippa’s guest post ‘How the Books Get Made’ where she talks about answering one of the questions that children often ask at school visits ‘How is your book made?’ After seeing pictures of Pippa on Twitter seeing her book being made, this is a superb insight in to the often behind-the-scenes process…


THE GREAT SEA DRAGON DISCOVERY FULL COVER LH FINAL_Page_1
Title: The Great Sea Dragon Discovery

Author: Pippa Goodhart (@pippagoodhart)
Publisher: Catnip Books (@catnipbooks)
Page count: 272
Date of publication: 5th July 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1910611081

Perfect for Year 5 & Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Questions❔
2. Fossils  🐚
3. Curiosity 🤔


How the Books Get Made

By Pippa Goodhart

When I do school visits one of the questions that children often ask is, ‘How did you make the book?’  After a quarter of a century of writing, and over a hundred books published, with this book I have at last seen the books being made … and it’s an amazing and exciting sight.

Let’s take The Great Sea Dragon Discovery from start to finish –

It all began with me taking an interest in the history of my home village where, in the year after Darwin published his On the Origin of Species, coprolites were being mined and fossils of ancient creatures found.  Bill began to grow as a character in my mind as I researched and wrote notes, then began writing my story.  It probably took a couple of years of me working solo before there was a draft to show a publisher.

Then comes the publisher, with an editor to guide the reworking of the text, sales people to choose the title, and a designer to create the cover, so a handful of people many months.

But the actual ‘making of the book’, printing and binding happens astonishingly fast.  At CPI Book Makers in Chatham they make more than 130 million books a year!  How?

The book files are arranged so that the printing and folding of paper will place the text for each place in the correct place and the right way up for both sides of each page.

Large flexible sheets of steel are etched with the book’s text, making plates from which the book will be printed.

Vast rolls of paper made from Finnish trees are fed into a printing machine, cascading like a waterfall between the rollers that print on both sides of the paper at one.  The machine then cuts and folds each ‘section’ of the book.

Meanwhile the colour printed card for the covers is printed elsewhere, printing four covers per sheet.

Book sections (in correct order!) are fed into the binding machine, as is the cover card.  What follows produces 3,000 books in about twenty minutes.  The compressed book pages are tipped onto their spines, then passed over rollers wet with hot glue.  Those spines are stuck to the covers, and the back and front covers folded to encase the pages.  At this stage, two books are together, head to head, as a single tall book with uncut pages.  The next process saws that in half.  Then each book is guillotined to cut the pages and give clean edges.  The books are stacked and shrink wrapped and labelled, ready to be sent to the distribution centre.

Then come the lorry and fork lift truck drivers, the pickers and more who send the books into shops and libraries.  There, bookshop staff and librarians select and display and recommend the book, bloggers review it, and people buy the book.

Only then does the book get into the hands of readers, and, as they read, into their heads.  It’s quite a journey!

Picture credit: https://twitter.com/catnipbooks


Pippa Goodhart, author of The Great Sea Dragon Discovery

Picture credit: https://www.egmont.co.uk/books/author/4/pippa-goodhart

Pippa Goodhart is a popular author of over thirty children’s books including the Winnie the Witch series and A Dog Called Flow which was shortlisted for the Smarties Prize. Pippa Goodhart’s Raven Boy was in the 2015 Booktrust Read for My School packs, while Finding Fortune was picked for the 2015 Summer Reading Challenge. Pippa is a history graduate and a former teacher and bookseller. She lives in Cambridgeshire.

Find out more about Pippa at http://www.pippagoodhart.co.uk and connect with her on Twitter @pippagoodhart.


The Great Sea Dragon Discovery by Pippa Goodhart out now in paperback!
(£6.99, Catnip)

Connect with Pippa @pippagoodhart and Catnip @catnipbooks


Huge thanks to Laura and all at Catnip for sending me an advance copy of The Great Sea Dragon Discovery and inviting me to host Pippa’s guest post! Extra thanks to Pippa for taking the time to write her really insightful and informative guest post!

Mr E
📚


The Great Sea Dragon Discovery is available to order online or from any good book shop.

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Guest Post: Planning a story is like planning a stunt (Stunt Double: Jungle Curse – Tamsin Cooke)

To celebrate the recent publication of the second in the very successful Stunt Double series, I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Tamsin Cooke to The Reader Teacher today!

Without further ado, here’s Tamsin’s guest post ‘Planning a story is like planning a stunt’ where she talks about being a proud planner when writing; her inspiration for Jungle Curse from a rather eventful dog walk and her brain scrambling with creative ideas… 


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Title: Stunt Double: Jungle Curse
Author: Tamsin Cooke (@TamsinCooke1)
Publisher: Oxford University Press Children’s (@OUPChildrens)
Page count: 288
Date of publication: 5th July 2018
Series status: Second in the Stunt Double series
ISBN: 978-0192749840

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Action-packed 💥
2. Elephants 🐘
3. Blockbuster 🎬


Planning a book is like planning a stunt

Some authors have a great idea and just start to write. Well, I’ve tried this before, and my story goes nowhere. It just meanders along, with no sense of purpose.

Hole picture.jpegSo I am a planner and I’m proud. And I think planning a book is like planning a stunt. You need to ensure there’s a set up, everyone’s in the right place at the right time, there’s dramatic tension, and there are no holes in the story – just like you don’t want any holes in your safety equipment!

I know lots of people, especially children, who groan at the thought of planning, but this is part of the story process that I love. This is where you can allow your imagination to go wild. Once you have a seed of a story, you can play with ideas.Jungle curse.jpg

The inspiration for Jungle Curse came from a dog walk. Having just narrowly missed being hit on the head by a falling branch, I then had to pull an aggressive attack dog off my lovely pet Labrador, when I thought – what else could go wrong on this simple walk?  Then I froze because an idea struck me. What if things kept going wrong on a film set? What if people started believing it was cursed?
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My brain started scrambling in all directions. I had so many ideas for what could go wrong and what could make it go wrong. Over the next few days, dramatic scenes played in my head, and I filled notebooks, as my story came alive.  However, my ideas were jumbled, with no sense of sequencing. If they were a stunt, people would definitely get hurt. Imagine someone had to jump out of a plane – I would have sent the stunt team to one place, the safety equipment to another. So I needed to put my ideas in order.

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I wrote a title of each big scene onto a Post-It note. Then I sequenced them, working out which scene needed to go where; which one worked best at the beginning; which one needed to go towards the end; some I got rid of, filing them away for another book. Soon I had a whole list of events where my characters were challenged and grew. My floor was completely covered in Post-It notes.  I transferred the titles to my laptop, using a programme called Scrivener that helps separate the scenes.

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Then I started to write. This part of my process is most accurately described as ‘word vomit.’ The words spill out of my brain into my laptop. There are always typos, half written sentences and imageless descriptions. It is awful writing, but I don’t care because at this point I just want to get the story out, and no one gets to see it at this stage.

But it is often at this moment that my pesky characters can derail my plans. As I’m writing, it becomes clear that they might not want to carry out what I’d planned for them. For example, I wanted Finn to have an argument with a certain character. I tried forcing him, as I thought it would make a great scene, but somewhere at the back of my mind he was nagging me – telling me this was wrong. In the end I had to cut it because he was right. Finn would not get into an argument with that certain person. Cutting scene.jpeg

Once my ‘word vomit’ is complete, otherwise known as the first draft, I am ready to start writing the real thing. I write the first scene again in detail. Then I edit and edit and edit… until I’m pretty happy with this one section. Then I move to the next scene and repeat. These scenes become chapters and soon my writing begins to resemble a book. This is the equivalent to rehearsing a stunt, where you make sure the performers know exactly what they are doing.

When it feels complete, I read from the beginning, going through each chapter slowly and carefully, making sure there are no plot holes. I edit again, ensuring the story flows. Often I’m reading aloud. This is when the cameras would be rolling and my stunt performer is falling through the sky.

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With stunts, you need to make sure everything is in its right place and all the equipment works. You don’t want to have a faulty parachute. With a story you want to make sure everything works too, that the plot makes sense, and the characters behave in a believable way. Most importantly with a stunt, you need to make sure no one gets hurt. Well… in real life no one was hurt while I wrote Jungle Curse.  Words were deleted, there was some wailing, and a few nails were bitten – but there was no lasting damage!


Tamsin Cooke, author of Stunt Double: Jungle Curse

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Tamsin loves to travel, have adventures and see wild animals. She’s fed a tiger, held a seven-foot python and stroked a tarantula, but she’s too scared to touch a worm. She lives in Somerset with her adrenalin-junkie family. When she isn’t writing, she can be found reading books, eating jelly beans or tromping through the woods with her soppy dog.

Tamsin is back with the heart-stopping Jungle Curse, second book in the Stunt Double series with OUP Children’s.

You can find out more about Tamsin at her website or by following her on Twitter: @TamsinCooke1.


Huge thanks to Hannah and all at OUP Children’s for inviting me to host this guest post! Extra thanks to Tamsin for taking the time to write her really insightful guest post!

Mr E
📚


9780192749840
Stunt Double: Jungle Curse 
(Book 2) is available to order online or from any good book shop.


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Stunt Double (Book 1) is available to order online or from any good book shop.

Blog Tour: (4 in 1: Review, Extract, Teachers’ Notes & Giveaway!) The Storm Keeper’s Island – Catherine Doyle (Illustrated by Bill Bragg)

Today, it is my absolute pleasure to be a part of this blog tour for Waterstones’ Children Book of the Month for July, The Storm Keeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle.
Bloomsbury Children’s Books have provided me with an extract of The Storm Keeper’s Island, Teachers’ Notes and TEN copies to give away! See below!

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‘Magic and myth combine to make The Storm Keeper’s Island a novel like no other. With a different kind of magic, this is a contemporary classic that will move its readers to feel like they’ve discovered and rediscovered their love for reading all over again.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title:
 The Storm Keeper’s Island
Author: Catherine Doyle (@doyle_cat)
Illustrator (Cover): Bill Bragg
Lettering (Cover): Patrick Knowles (@PatrickKnowle14)
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books (@KidsBloomsbury)
Page count: 320
Date of publication: 1st July 2018
Series status: First in the series
ISBN: 978-1408896884

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Memories 💭
2. Candles 🕯️
3. Island/Ireland 🇮🇪


When Fionn Boyle sets foot on Arranmore Island, it begins to stir beneath his feet …

Once in a generation, Arranmore Island chooses a new Storm Keeper to wield its power and keep its magic safe from enemies. The time has come for Fionn’s grandfather, a secretive and eccentric old man, to step down. Soon, a new Keeper will rise.

But, deep underground, someone has been waiting for Fionn. As the battle to become the island’s next champion rages, a more sinister magic is waking up, intent on rekindling an ancient war.


The first line(s):

In a field full of wild flowers, a boy and a girl stood side by side beneath an oak tree. The sky was angry, the thunder growling like an angry beast.

Extract

Download extract of The Storm Keeper’s Island


Review:

Inspired by Cat’s very own childhood connections to the island of Arranmore – off the west coast of Ireland – and intertwined with the ripe richness and rurality of Irish mythology, The Storm Keeper’s Island is a novel like no other.

IMG_8564.JPGOriginally, I had started to write this review after receiving an advance proof copy of this story back in May, before it had been chosen as Waterstones’ Children’s Book of the Month for July. It is safe to say that it is no surprise to me that it has proudly earned this accolade because it blows everything out of the water and far away across the sea.

Starting off in the school holidays, Ffion and his sister Tara are sent away across the sea, by their mother (who later on we find is still riddled with shock after the death of their father), to a lonely island to stay with their grandfather. From the very first page, Fionn becomes the kind of almost hidden hero you can really start to root for, as the angsty brotherly-sisterly dynamic between him and his sibling starts to seep through.

But the island and his grandfather are not quite what Ffion first expected, in fact they too are like no other. The island of Arranmore is a larger-than-life land surrounded from within by magic, ancient folklore and legend. An island steeped in a strong sense of history and with a beating heart all of its own. Inhaling, gasping, waking up and with a voice that seemingly speaks to Ffion in his deepest dreams, this is an island that breathes and begins to come to life before your very own eyes through Cat’s choice of beautiful and almost lyrical language that lilts and sings itself off the page.

As candles, memories (including a grandfather living with Alzheimer’s) and ancient wars meander and merge, Ffion finds himself in the middle of a changing of the guard as the island seeks out to select its next Storm Keeper but more than magic, mystery and myth stand before him.

With a feel of a contemporary classic, like a blend of Funke with Millwood Hargrave and Rundell, this is an all together different kind of magic and fantasy that’s on offer. One that’s very much multi-layered; it felt like there were so many stories within stories just waiting to be awoken to be told. And it is this that I cannot wait to see progress in Catherine’s future stories.

This is a stunning, secretly-enchanting story imbued with a strong, original and inherent sense of ancestral self from Catherine that makes it shine so brightly, and will embrace its readers and move them to feel like they’ve rediscovered their love for reading all over again.

Just as once in a generation, the island of Arranmore chooses a new Storm Keeper; once in a while, a book as special as this comes around.

If I could mould this book in to its very own candle, calling it The Storm Keeper – 1st July 2018, it would continue to burn to be relived and reread. For this is a light book that I hope never goes out and one that I will be waxing lyrical about for years to come.


Huge thanks to CatherineEmma, Emily, and all at Bloomsbury Children’s Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, providing me with the resources and sending me an advance proof copy, finished copy of this beautifully-written book!

Mr E
🕯️📚🕯️

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Catherine Doyle
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Catherine Doyle grew up in the West of Ireland. She holds a first-class BA in Psychology and a first-class MA in Publishing. She is the author of the Young Adult Blood for Blood trilogy (Vendetta, Inferno and Mafiosa), which is often described as Romeo and Juliet meets the Godfather. It was inspired by her love of modern cinema.

Her debut Middle Grade novel, The Storm Keeper’s Island (Bloomsbury, 2018), is an adventure story about family, bravery and self-discovery. It is set on the magical island of Arranmore, where her grandparents grew up, and is inspired by her ancestors’ real life daring sea rescues. 

​Aside from more conventional interests in movies, running and travelling, Catherine also enjoys writing about herself in the third-person.


Teachers’ Notes

Download The Storm Keeper’s Island Teachers’ Notes


Giveaway!

I am absolutely elated that the very lovely people at Bllomsbury Children’s Books have kindly given me TEN copies of The Storm Keeper’s Island to give away!

If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning one of these copies of this truly sensational book, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

Storm Keeper Cover

Cover Reveal & Giveaway: Skycircus (The Cogheart Adventures 3) – Peter Bunzl (Illustrated by Becca Stadtlander & Designed by Kath Millichope)

Today, I’m absolutely ecstatic to exclusively reveal the cover of Skycircus, the next exciting instalment in Peter Bunzl’s superb The Cogheart Adventures, which will be published on the 4th October 2018 by Usborne.

The team at Usborne have sent me this incredible animated cover for the reveal today, that Peter has very kindly created himself, so you’re in for a very special treat!

As if I’m not super excited already, I’m even more excited because the very lovely people at Usborne have given me FIFTEEN copies of Skycircus to give away!
Find out more below!

Skycircus_Medium

Title: Skycircus
Author: Peter Bunzl (@peterbunzl)
Illustrator: Becca Stadtlander (@rhstadtlander)
Designer: Kath Millichope
Publisher: Usborne (@Usborne)
Page count: TBC
Date of publication: 4th October 2018
Series status: Third in The Cogheart Adventures; Cogheart (1) & Moonlocket (2)
ISBN: 978-1474940658


When a travelling skycircus arrives in Brackenbridge, Lily and Robert can’t wait to step aboard… But there’s something sinister about the hybrid children who appear as part of the act. And before Lily and Robert can do anything, they’re captured by shadowy figures and whisked off in the mysterious flying circus to somewhere far, far away…

Treachery, tight-ropes and trickery combine in this incredible third Cogheart adventure…


The third in the widely acclaimed Cogheart adventures, compared to the work of Philip Pullman, Joan Aiken, Katherine Rundell and Philip Reeve.

A contemporary classic to appeal to all readers, full of mystery, mayhem and danger at every turn – with much-loved characters Lily, Robert and Malkin back in action.

Skycircus Animated Cover from Peter Bunzl on Vimeo.


Author: Peter Bunzl

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Peter grew up in South London in a rambling Victorian house with three cats, two dogs, one sister, an antique-dealer dad and an artist mum. He is a BAFTA-winning animator, as well as a writer and film-maker. Like Lily and Robert, he loves adventures and reading penny dreadfuls, but wishes dearly that he had a mechanical fox called Malkin. 
Skycircus is his third novel.

 


Illustrator: Becca Stadtlander

Becca
Becca Stadtlander is a freelance illustrator and fine artist, currently living and working in her hometown of Covington, Kentucky.  Her work is featured on stationery, home decor products, editorial publications, young adult, and children’s books.


Designer: Kath Millichope

Kath
Kath Millichope lives in London and is a children’s fiction cover designer at Usborne Publishing.


Cogheart praise: 

“A glittering clockwork treasure.”
Piers Torday

“I loved the world that Peter has built.”
Robin Stevens

“A gem of a book.”
Katherine Woodfine


Huge thanks to Peter, Stevie and all at Usborne for giving me the opportunity to host this stunning cover reveal, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!


Mr E

📚


Skycircus is available to pre-order online from Amazon, Hive, Waterstones, or from any good bookshop.

Skycircus_Medium


Cogheart (The Cogheart Adventures 1) is available to order online now from Amazon, Hive, Waterstones, WHSmith or from any good bookshop.

Moonlocket (The Cogheart Adventures 2) is available to order online now from Amazon, Hive, Waterstones, WHSmith or from any good bookshop.

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Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Usborne have given me FIFTEEN copies of Skycircus to give away!

If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning one of these fifteen copies of what I can only imagine is the next exciting instalment in the superb Cogheart Adventures, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

Ends 10/7, UK only.

Copies to be sent to winners when available from Usborne, available just before publication in October.

Skycircus_Medium

Author Q&A: My Arch Enemy is a Brain in a Jar – David Solomons & Giveaway: 4 signed books in the My Brother is a Superhero series by David Solomons!

Today, I’m absolutely delighted to welcome David Solomons, author of the award-winning and incredibly popular and successful My Brother is a Superhero series, to The The Reader Teacher to answer my questions to celebrate the publication of the fourth and most recent book in the series, My Arch-Enemy is a Brain in a Jar, published by Nosy Crow on 28th June 2018.


My Arch Enemy is a Brain in a Jar (5)

TRT: At The Reader Teacher, for my reviews, I describe books in #3Words3Emojis.
Which 3 adjectives and 3 corresponding emojis would you choose to best describe My Arch Enemy is a Brain in a Jar?

DS:
1. Funny
2. Exciting
3. Brainy
(I don’t do emojis. Is it a terrible thing to admit that I actively dislike them?!)

TRT: What books, people, research, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write the My Brother is a Superhero series… particularly with your most recent book, My Arch Enemy is a Brain in a Jar?

DS: Traditionally, the brain-in-a-jar is a background prop in the average mad scientists’ laboratory. I thought it was about time to get it out of the shadows and give it a starring role as the main villain.

TRT: Also do you find the books in the series get easier or harder to write as you go along?

DS: I love writing stories for Luke and the gang. Coming up with their adventures has proved alarmingly easy, but nailing the title of each subsequent book, that’s a different matter.

TRT: If you were to choose the character that is most like you from My Arch-Enemy is a Brain in a Jar/My Brother is a Superhero series, which one would it be and why?

DS: On one level the series is the story of a boy who missed out on the one thing he dreamed of having. For a lo-o-ong time I dreamed of having a successful career as a writer, but it always seemed out of my reach. The irony that the biggest success I’ve had should come from telling this particular story is not lost on me. Which is a long-winded way of saying that I am a lot like Luke Parker.

TRT: In My Arch-Enemy is a Brain in a Jar, Luke and his brother, Zack swap bodies by accident. If you could pick any fictional character or real-life person to swap bodies with and to inherit their ‘power’, who would it be and why?

DS: The name’s Bond. James Bond.

TRT: I know this Author Q&A is centred around the release of My Arch-Enemy is a Brain in a Jar but… I just have to ask about The Secret in Vault 13 – A Dr Who Story too. How is writing, drafting and editing going?

DS: As of this precise moment the copyeditor is running her big red pen through the manuscript.

TRT: How did it feel to be asked to write it?

DS: I was filled with a mixture of delight and sofa-cowering terror. Dr Who was a huge part of my childhood, so it’s definitely a career highlight to be entrusted with a story for the 13th Doctor.

Reading and Writing (4)

TRT: What first attracted you to writing?

DS: From early on I liked playing with language – I continue to have a weakness for puns. So I started writing not with a burning need to tell stories, or express some important point of view, but purely for the pleasure of turning a sentence.

TRT: Did you enjoy writing at school?

DS: I did. I wasn’t good at it, but I was enthusiastic. One huge moment for me was late in Primary school when we wrote a story and then went to the younger children to read it aloud to them. I loved that and I recall receiving praise from my teacher as a result. I’m a sucker for a good review.

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

DS: I work very hard to put my characters in impossible situations and then figure out how to get them out again. The effort of working that out is exhausting, but the moment when the solution hits me is worth it every time. More generally, I relish writing first drafts, when the world and the story is all mine. Rewriting uses different muscles, but that can be highly satisfying too. I have a sadistic streak when it comes to cutting words – I take a strange pleasure in killing my darlings. Often I find that when I strip back the text, a good joke rises to the surface. The scariest note is structural – anything that breaks the spine of your story will require significant rewriting. ‘What if we took the ending and put it in the middle?’

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?

DS: I grew up in the Land Before School Visits. If I could’ve had someone come to our school it would’ve been a science-fiction author like Robert Heinlein, Brian Aldiss or Frank Herbert. My passion was the shelf in the library marked ‘Science Fiction’. But most of all I would’ve loved Douglas Adams to drop in and talk Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

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

DS: The contemporary children’s books that I know about are those I read to/with my children at bedtime. We’re currently racing through Pamela Butchart’s oeuvre, which we are all massively enjoying. Such a brilliant, funny voice.

My Arch-Enemy is a Brain in a Jar, My Brother is a Superhero series and Teaching (3)

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

DS: I do a workshop on How to Write Funny Stories. There is this idea that not everyone can do it, but I introduce a few techniques just to show that there is an underlying mechanism. Teachers could dig into a funny section and explore what makes it so. Look at the choice of vocabulary and word placement. What happens to the humour when you move a word? Does it kill the joke? I’m no expert, but it seems to me that focussing on the funny side of the books would be a good way to engage even more reluctant readers.

I also talk about the idea that stories obey the rules of their genre, and that superhero stories are particularly good at illustrating this, mainly because they all tend to work the same way. Moreover, I broke these rules in order to make the reader laugh. So, for example, rule 1: all superheroes have cool vehicles – the Batmobile, Wonder Woman’s Invisible Jet. But my superhero (and his brother) get to the scene of the crime on the bus. Can the children pull out the rules of the superhero story and see how I’ve subverted them for comic effect?

TRT: If you were to ‘pitch’ My Arch-Enemy is a Brain in a Jar in a sentence or two for teachers to use it in their classrooms or for parents to choose to read it at home, how would you sum it up?

DS: It’s Westworld meets the Prisoner, for kids. With a great spa for the grown-ups.

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?

Contact my publisher, Nosy Crow, please. I can’t do a whole heap of school visits as I need lots of time in my office to write the actual books. I am in awe of my peers who can write on trains and planes. I’m useless away from my desk.

Two more before you go (2)!

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

DS: I wrote two novels that didn’t get published.

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

DS: Why are funny novels treated with less inquiry than ‘serious’ novels?


Giveaway!

I have kindly been given a SIGNED series of David Solomons’ books:
 My Brother is a Superhero;
My Gym Teacher is an Alien Overlord;
My Evil Twin is a Supervillain
& My Arch-Enemy is a Brain in a Jar
& a Nosy Crow event pack (with plenty of resources, bunting, badges and display materials)
 to give away!

If you’d like to be in with a chance of being the ONE lucky winner of this very special giveaway and these utterly superb books, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

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Blog Tour (Guest Post): Aliens Invaded My Talent Show! (Happy Book Birthday!) – Matt Brown (Illustrated by Paco Sordo)

Aliens Invaded My Talent Show

Title: Aliens Invaded My Talent Show!
Author: Matt Brown (@mattbrownauthor)
Illustrator: Paco Sordo (@damealgo)
Publisher: Usborne (@Usborne)
Page count: 256
Date of publication: 28th June 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1474933667


Eric Doomsday loves doing magic tricks. But even though his best friend, Vinnie Mumbles, thinks they’re great, they do always seem to go a bit… wrong.

When some very important School Inspectors threaten to close down Eric’s school, his headmistress decides to put on a talent show. A talent show with Eric in it. And Eric’s magic tricks.

Thank goodness the Earth isn’t being inspected by aliens at the same time! Because magic, aliens and talent shows are sure to be a horrible mix… Aren’t they?


The first line:

In the whole of his entire, actual life, Eric Doomsday had never got anything through the post.


To celebrate the official publication date and launch (Happy Book Birthday!) of Aliens Invaded My Talent Show, I’m absolutely delighted that I’m opening up the Aliens Invaded My Talent Show! blog tour on The Reader Teacher today!

Without further ado, here’s Matt’s guest post where he talks about space, space travel and asks ‘DO YOU THINK ALIENS EXIST?’… 


Aliens Invaded My Talent Show! Blog: Space and Space Travel

You won’t be super-surprised to find out that my new book, Aliens Invaded My Talent Show! is full of aliens.  So, let me ask you something.

DO YOU THINK ALIENS EXIST?  I’m going to level with you, I think they do.  I have no idea what they look like or whether they breathe through their eyeballs, or eat raw sardines and custard, or have reversible heads but I do think they’re out there.

When I was ten my dad told me that the universe went on forever. Obviously, I laughed right in his face.

“Ha ha ha ha ha!” I said.  “That’s impossible, you fool!”

I was aware there were big things, of course.  The oak tree in the field at the bottom of our road was big.  My school was big. My grandma’s bras were big.  But never-ending?  I simply couldn’t understand what he was blithering on about.  But even though I couldn’t really imagine what an infinite universe looked like, I started to think about where we lived in a slightly different way.  Not just in a house, or a town, or a country but where we lived in space.  It was around this time that I started addressing all envelopes and postcards like this.

Address

Then a few years later I saw something that changed my life, it was this photograph.

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The photo was taken on February 14th, 1990 by the Voyager 1 space probe.  You see the little dot in the middle?  That’s the Earth seen from a distance of 3.7 billion miles.  Look how little we are.  For the first time I realised what we would look like to aliens.  We were as tiny as one of the distant stars I look up at in the night sky.  As tiny as a grain of sand on a beach.  A speck, a blemish, a dot.  One of the scientists who worked on the Voyager probe was Carl Sagan.  When he saw the photo he said:

“We succeeded in taking that picture and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives.”

The Voyager 1 space probe is nearly as old as me.  For the last forty years it has travelled at a speed of over 38,000 miles per hour away from the Earth.  As I’m writing this, Voyager is over 13 billion miles away and is currently flying in the interstellar medium, which is the space between solar systems in a galaxy.  Can you imagine?  It has travelled at 38,000 miles per hour, every hour for the last 40 years and it has only just left our solar system.  And our solar system is teeny, eeny, weeny when you compare it to our galaxy.  Our sun is one of two hundred billion suns in our galaxy and there are at least one hundred billion other galaxies in the bit of the universe that we can see.  So, even if only one percent of the suns in the universe have planets orbiting them and one percent of those planets are like Earth then that is still 2,000,000,000,000,000,000 places where life might exist.  And that is a LOT of places, they are just very, very, very far away.

So, when you next look up at the night sky just think that there’s probably someone, or something, looking back at you from another galaxy.  Let’s just hope they’re not as stupid as the aliens in Aliens Invaded My Talent Show!

Matt Brown, author of Aliens Invaded My Talent Show!

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The award-winning Matt Brown is BACK, with a HILARIOUS new novel jam-packed with talent shows, aliens and a whole lot of bonkers…


Huge thanks to Liz and all at Usborne for inviting me to take part in Matt’s blog tour! Extra thanks to Matt for taking the time to write his awesome guest post!

Mr E
📚

Aliens Invaded My Talent Show! is available to order online or from any good bookshop.


Aliens Invaded My Talent Show Tour Graphic
Be sure to check out the other dates and other bloggers for more reviews, posts and exclusive content from Matt on the Aliens Invaded My Talent Show! blog tour this week!

Cover Reveal: Gangster School 2: The Brotherhood of Brimstone – Kate Wiseman

Today, I’m absolutely delighted to exclusively reveal (with My Book Corner) the cover of Kate Wiseman’s second instalment of the Gangster School series, The Brotherhood of Brimstone which will be published on 31st August 2018 by ZunTold.


Gangster School 2: The Brotherhood of Brimstone – Kate Wiseman

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Trouble is brewing at Blaggard’s School for Tomorrow’s Tyrants.

Sir Byron’s Brain, a priceless legendary diamond, has gone missing. If it leaves the school grounds, Blaggard’s will be destroyed forever and the head teacher obliterated!

Could the evil Brotherhood of Brimstone – an ancient secret society – have anything to do with it? Best friends Milly and Charlie embark on an adventure to find out. They discover a web of evil plots involving Gruffles, Charlie’s stinky dog, and Wolfie, the robot dog turned invisible superhero.

On top of this, Blaggard’s is expecting a school inspection from the mysterious Dr X – Chief Inspector of Criminal Schools. He could turn up at any time, and no one knows what he looks like.

Time is running out for Milly and Charlie. Will Dr X appear? And can our heroes defeat the evil Brotherhood, rescue their canine companions and save the day?

The rollicking second instalment in Kate Wiseman’s Gangster School series.

Publisher: ZunTold
ISBN: 978-1999863326
Number of pages: 212


Kate Wiseman (@KateWiseman)

(Photo credit: https://katewiseman.uk)

Kate is a children’s writer. She lives in Saffron Walden with her husband, her son (when he’s home from university) and three neurotic cats. One of her cats, Maisie, is actually a ghost cat now, but Kate still talks to her every day.

Kate was a late developer. Before going to university at the age of 38 to study creative writing, she did lots of different jobs ranging from working in a library to promotions work. When she grew up a bit she worked in schools, doing everything from mopping up sick to judging poetry competitions. She graduated from uni with a First and annoyed her family and friends by bringing it into every conversation for a Very Long Time.  She also has a Masters in English Literature, which she took while she was trying to gather the courage to write children’s fiction.

Her claims to fame include winning a prize in a Halloween competition that she hadn’t even entered – “I was just standing there, looking at the costumes,” having criminal ancestors who were hanged and fainting onto a famous film director in a London theatre.

When she’s not fainting on the famous or scaring people with her witchy looks, she writes about Blaggard’s School for Tomorrow’s Tyrants, the world’s best school for trainee criminals. The idea for Blaggard’s originated with her son, who used to say that when he grew up he wanted to be an evil genius. He’s now studying history, so perhaps the world is safe. Or is he just biding his time…..?


Isla Bousfield-Donohue (@squgcreative)

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

Isla Bousfield-Donohue is a young artist from Manchester designed the cover for Gangster School 2: The Brotherhood of Brimstone and Gangster School.


Huge thanks to Kate and all at ZunTold for inviting me to host this brilliant cover reveal, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!


Mr E

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Gangster School 2: The Brotherhood of Brimstone is available to pre-order online from AmazonWaterstones or from any good bookshop.

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Gangster School  is available to pre-order online from AmazonWaterstones or from any good bookshop.

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Blog Tour (Review, Guest Post & Giveaway!): Boy Underwater – Adam Baron (Illustrated by Benji Davies)

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‘A book that shows how the littlest of people can cope with the biggest of issues… Named after Shakespeare’s own Cymbeline, this is both a comedy and a tragedy that’ll leave readers feeling like you’re thrown in at the deep end and completely blown out of the water at the same time.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title:
 Boy Underwater
Author: Adam Baron (@AdamBaron5)
Illustrator: Benji Davies (@Benji_Davies)
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s (@HarperCollinsCh)
Page count: 256
Date of publication: 1st June 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-0008267018

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Moving 😢
2. Swimming 🏊‍♂️
3. Understanding 😌


Cymbeline Igloo (yes, really!) has NEVER been swimming.

Not ever. Not once.

But how hard can it be? He’s Googled front crawl and he’s found his dad’s old pair of trunks. He’s totally ready.

What he’s not ready for is the accident at the pool – or how it leads his mum to a sudden breakdown.

Now, with the help of his friends old and new, Cymbeline must solve the mystery of why his mum never took him near water – and it will turn his whole life upside down…


The first line(s):

Here’s something you won’t believe.
I, Cymbeline Igloo, have never been swimming.


Review: Named after Shakespeare’s own Cymbeline, this is both a comedy and a tragedy that’ll leave readers feeling thrown in at the deep end and completely blown out of the water at the same time. The story starts with a boy (Cymbeline, ‘yes really!’) who’s never swam before challenging one of the class’ strongest swimmers to a race on a school visit to the local swimming baths. This can only go one of one ways: not swimmingly. In fact so bad that after Cym has an accident at the pool, his mum ends up in hospital.

Man Boy overboard!

Feeling like he’s out of his depth with absolutely none of the adults telling him what’s happening, he is determined to find out for himself why his mum’s disappeared and like a fish out of water, he’s been forced to live with his ultra-rich relatives who, unbeknownst to him initially, have many recurring problems of their own.


But does he sink or does he swim?


Told through the very eyes of our protagonist, the character of Cymbeline ebbs and flows from the silly, innocent, almost naïve nine-year-old he is to then providing a social commentary on events, observations and life that even the most perceptive adult may not recognise or be able to articulate so well.

Pushing is an action that sets the story off to a shaky start for Cym however throughout it, we slowly start to see characters pulling people and families apart only for them to later on push people and families back together and it is this that makes this story a must-read. One for older Upper Key Stage 2 readers, of which I recommend being mostly mature Year 5 and Year 6 readers or older: mixing mental health, depression, family dynamics, bullying and strong emotions, this is a story that will make a huge splash when staying in the minds of its readers due to the often hearty emotional content it contains. This is also complemented by the illustrations of Benji Davies (best known for Grandad’s Island, The Storm Whale and The Grotlyn) that add further weight to this already deeply moving story.

I can guarantee that once you’ve dipped your toe in to read a chapter, you’ll be jumping in to read one more and one more after that as you’ll be completely absorbed by the character of Cymbeline and his pursuit in finding the truth about why he’s never encountered water in a way that could, and maybe would, have prevented his previously-mentioned ‘accident’. A truth that you need to watch out for as it’s quite the tumble-turn that will change him and his family forever…
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Emotionally gripping and truly deserving of being awarded Waterstones’ Children’s Book of the Month for June, this is a book that shows how the littlest of people can and do cope with the biggest of issues.

‘A book that shows how the littlest of people can cope with the biggest of issues… Named after Shakespeare’s own Cymbeline, this is both a comedy and a tragedy that’ll leave readers feeling like you’re thrown in at the deep end and completely blown out of the water at the same time.’


Big thanks to Laura and all at HarperCollins for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and for providing me with both an advance proof, finished copy and giveaway!
Extra thanks to Adam for writing his super guest post!

Mr E
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Boy Underwater is available to order now in paperback online or from any good bookshop (£6.99, HarperCollins Children’s Books).


Today I am also delighted to welcome, author of Boy Underwater, Adam Baron to The Reader Teacher as part of his Boy Underwater blog tour. Here, he shares with The Reader Teacher his exclusive guest post about the birth of his main character, Cymbeline with thoughts coming direct from Cymbeline himself…

Cymbeline Igloo, the birth of a character by Adam Baron

Hello! Cymbeline here! You’ve asked Adam to write a blog about how he created me but I’m going to do it for him. The reason is that I know him and he would SO FIB! He’d talk about all sorts of writer techniques, and strategies he used, blah blah. All of this would be aimed at him taking all the credit for Boy Underwater (the big show off) and he doesn’t deserve ANY.  Just because his name’s on the cover, please don’t let that fool you. Boy Underwater is MY STORY, something I know because I AM COMPLETELY, ABSOLUTELY, REAL.

It’s true.

Adam was just sitting there one day staring at the wall when I jumped into his head and took over his brain. He’s so lucky I chose him, believe me, because there are loads of writers out there. Soon I started making him think like me, and talk like me, and then I started making him write down the story of my swimming. And my mum.  And how I got to know Veronique Chang (who smells like someone, somewhere, is eating candyfloss). He tried to stop me at some points (he really is quite lazy) but I made him go on until he’d finished.

AND THAT’S ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW.

Adam, you can say a bit now but don’t go on too long and bore people.

Thanks Cymbeline! Well, I won’t go on long but I’ll add a few things. The first is that Cymbeline is right, of course. He did invade me. He did take over my head. I found myself saying only what he’d say, seeing the world through his eyes. It might be a bit more complicated than he thinks, though.

Thing is, it’s not just Cymbeline I’ve been taken over by. I have three children who each have a hat-load of friends. I also coach my children’s football teams and am surrounded by brilliant, funny, honest, passionate minds. I feel like I’ve been plugged into an incredible source of free energy, though it took me a while to realise it. Writers feed on energy and it seems so natural for me to use it to create stories with. I don’t deserve any credit though, it’s all these people around me.

And it’s not just real people.

You see, I’ve read loads of fantastic books with wonderful first-person narrators. My two favourites are Arturo Bandini from Ask The Dust and Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye, both of whom sweep you into their worlds in about three words and keep you there until their stories are over. I’ve tried to do the same thing (with Cymbeline’s help) in Boy Underwater – by sitting back and intruding into Cymbeline’s story as little as possible. My wonderful publishers at HarperCollins described Boy Underwater as JD Salinger for ten-year-olds, and though I know they were just being gushy, I was pretty happy with that. I’m even happier that it’s now out in the world where you can judge it for yourself.

THAT’S ENOUGH. Let the people go back to reading something interesting.

Okay Cymbeline.

Adam Baron, author of Boy Underwater

Adam

Adam Baron is the author of five successful adult novels and has, in his time, been an actor, comedian, journalist and press officer at Channel 4 Television (as well as things he’s too embarrassed to mention). He now runs the widely respected MA in Creative Writing at Kingston University London. Adam lives in Greenwich, South London, with his wife and three young children. He wrote Boy Underwater (his first novel aimed at younger readers) because they told him to.


Giveaway!

So to coincide with my review of Boy Underwater, I am delighted to say that Laura, Adam’s publicist has kindly given me one copy of the stunning Boy Underwater to give away on Twitter. If you’d like a chance of winning this superb prize, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

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Be sure to check out the other dates and other bloggers for more reviews, posts and exclusive content from Adam on the Boy Underwater blog tour this week!

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): CANDY – Lavie Tidhar (Illustrated by Mark Beech)

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‘Like a mini Miss Marple meets Maynards… this mouthful of mystery will leave every reader feeling like a child in a sweetshop; just craving to read more from Lavie!’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title:
 Candy
Author: Lavie Tidhar (@lavietidhar)
Illustrator: Mark Beech (Website)
Publisher: Scholastic (@scholasticuk)
Page count: 304
Date of publication: 7th June 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1407184272

Perfect for Year 4 & Year 5.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Confectionary 🧱🍫
2. Prohibition ❌
3. Detective 🕵️‍♀️


In a city where candy is a crime and biscuits are banned, Nelle Faulkner is a telve-year-old private detective looking for her next client.

So when a notorious candy gangster asks for her help, Nelle is on the case.

Swept into a secret world of sweet smugglers and chocolate crooks, can Nelle and her friends find a way to take the cake? Or will they come to a sticky end…


The first line(s):

The sun was bright through my office window in the backyard of our house. I had a desk and two chairs, one for visitors, a bookcase and a cabinet – everything a private detective’s office needs.


Review: A town knee-deep in a confectionary chaos, a missing teddy bear and an unsolved case that throws up more questions than answers… why wouldn’t you want to read this?

In Lavie’s first foray into writing for children, he thrusts the reader (especially for those younger readers) in to the middle of what will seem like the utter unimaginable; a city where chocolate and sweets are forbidden under a prohibition act, with sugar gangs roaming the streets and corrupt candy cops round every corner.

However, fear not for super-sleuth and private-eye Nelle Faulkner – committed to always doing the right thing – to step up and take on what develops as the most intriguing of cases… As she investigates several people in *confection* with the previously-mentioned stolen teddy bear, the case goes from what seems like returning a missing cuddly toy to its rightful owner to an assortment of antics and more than the odd spot of confectionary capers (‘bootlegging, extortion, corruption, wilful destruction of property, intimidation and attempted murder’) that you can’t help but feel like you have to bite into.

Roles often reverse as grownups start acting like children and children act more like grownups in this original, highly-enjoyable and tempting twist on what happens when the town suffers from the symptoms of sugar withdrawal.


Can Nelle track down the teddy bear?
Solve the ongoing feuds of the candy gang war?
Save the city’s finest chocolate factory? 


Mark Beech’s joyful illustrations add tastes of humour, quirk and life to complement Lavie’s brilliant and charismatic characters; infused with an infectious influence of the collaboration between Dahl and Blake.

Like a mini Miss Marple meets Maynards… this mouthful of mystery will leave every reader feeling like a child in a sweetshop; just craving to read more from Lavie!


Big thanks to Lavie, Emily and all at Scholastic for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and for providing me with an advance copy!
Extra thanks to Lavie for writing his guest post!

Mr E
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Today I give a warm welcome to author of Candy, Lavie Tidhar to The Reader Teacher as part of his Candy blog tour. Here, he shares with The Reader Teacher his exclusive guest post about the inspiration behind his debut novel for children…

My Inspiration for Candy

Candy draws on a whole bunch of sources. Scholastic have described it as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets Bugsy Malone for 9+ readers”, and both of these certainly qualify as inspirations. Sometimes I like to explain Candy as what would have happened if at the end of Charlie the chocolate factory was shut down, Prohibition was declared, and Mr Wonka has gone missing.

But there is a huge amount of other inspirations that fed into – and snuck in! – the book. I grew up reading a lot of classic children’s books, anything from Tove Jansson’s Moomin books to Michael Ende’s Momo and The Neverending Story to Erich Kastner’s Emil and the Detectives… And detectives play a surprisingly important part in children’s books. There was Kalle Blomkvist in Astrid Lindgren’s books, of course, and Enid Blyton made a whole career out of the adventures of inquisitive kids running up against troublesome adults… And while I’m not sure I read any Nancy Drew growing up, I adore the 2007 movie! And then there was that annoying know-it-all Encyclopedia Brown, of course…

I love detective stories. I particularly love Raymond Chandler’s hardboiled adventures of sun-drenched California. Chandler reinvented and set the template for a new kind of detective story, one that was not purely concerned with solving some elaborate mystery, but rather with the society his detective operated in, and the lives of the people who lived it. It occurred to me that a hardboiled detective in a children’s book was not something one saw very often and, more importantly, it struck me as pretty funny. It seems to me there is a great similarity between being a child and being a detective – in both instances you are tasked with trying to solve the world. And the world, as both children and detectives know, is big and confusing and incomprehensible at times. It is the same with science fiction. A child, like an explorer, is learning an alien world. Somehow, I thought, it might be fun to join these two influences together.

Candy, with its world of banned sweets and its mean streets of Prohibition, is of course a world much inspired by numerous crime stories. I had a ridiculous amount of fun sneakily parodying any number of favourite movies, from The Godfather to the television series Justified  (“We used to dig in the sandbox together”, says Nelle of the candy bootlegger Eddie de Menthe, bringing to mind Raylan’s famous assertion of his antagonist Boyd, which bookends the series, “We dug coal together”). When Nelle visits the Used Goods store, she finds any number of unidentifiable objects for sale, from a Brasher Doubloon (“Whatever that was”) to a statue of a black falcon. I got to name the Mayor Thornton (it was Raymond Chandler’s middle name), and map the streets of my town, from Sternwood Drive (The Big Sleep), to Leigh Brackett Road. Brackett was, of course, the screenwriter of both The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye, beside being a science fiction writer of some renown.

In truth, it’s what I do with every book I write. I’m barley even conscious of doing it anymore. I like to say originality is stealing from people no one reads anymore, but really what I do is somehow take all these influences and very different sources and mix them up into a new thing, like some sort of cooking experiment that marries unusual ingredients together. You just have to hope it doesn’t hit you in the face like a cream pie at the end.

I like Candy. I like to cook, though I’m not much of a baker. I made chocolate chip cookies for the first time the other day. If the batter is the book, then perhaps the hidden references are the chocolate chips inside.

You can eat the book as it is, or you could hit a chocolate chip and get something extra out of it, but either way, I hope it tastes good.

Lavie Tidhar, author of Candy

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Lavie Tidhar is an Israeli-born writer working across multiple genres. He has lived in the United Kingdom and South Africa for long periods of time, as well as Laos and Vanuatu. He is a multiple award winning writer, especially in the genres of fantasy and science-fiction. Candy is his first book for children.

You can find out more about Lavie by visiting his website or by following him on Twitter @lavietidhar.


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Be sure to check out the other dates and other bloggers for more reviews, posts and exclusive content from Lavie on the Candy blog tour this week!

 

Blog Tour (Review & Author Q&A): Walls – Emma Fischel (Illustrated by Sarah Darby)

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‘Breaking the fourth wall in this story where bricks aren’t barriers, Walls is an emotional exploration of some of the dynamics, difficulties and divides of divorce.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title:
 Walls
Author: Emma Fischel (@emma_fischel)
Illustrator (Cover): Sarah Darby (@strawberrydarby)
Publisher: OUP Children’s (@OUPChildrens)
Page count: 288
Date of publication: 7th June 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-0192763822

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Walls 🧱🏠
2. Boggling 🚶
3. Family 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦


Ned Harrison Arkle-Smith had a good life – a perfect family, a true best friend, and a brilliant secret den – but now everything is ruined! Suddenly his mum and dad want to build a wall right through middle of his home, Bill has made other friends, and his new neighbour has taken over his special place.

Ned is definitely, completely, totally not happy about this. Until the night he loses his temper and something amazing happens. Something that means maybe he can get everyone to come back round to his way of thinking…


The first line(s):

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DdkSuUKXkAAifT1Review:
 Meet Ned Harrison Arkle-Smith. Yes that’s right. Ned Harrison… Wait a minute. For once a week, it’s Ned Harrison Arkle… the Arkle all on its own. And the other, well it’s Ned Harrison Smith… on its own too. You understand, yes? This is all because Ned’s parents are splitting up but as you can see Ned is not taking this news well at all.

Narrated by Ned, Walls introduces us to and explores some of the emotional experiences of divorce through his eyes living with his two sisters, and his parents who have decided that they can no longer continue to live together. However there’s a slight twist to their living arrangements… as they continue to not live strictly ‘together’.

Rather than selling their home or moving out, they decide to separate by separating their existing home, using walls, in to two: the mum-side and the dad-side. With Mum and Dad expecting to carry on as normal living side-by-side, as Ned and his two sisters visit each side on alternating weekly schedules, they later learn that it’s not as easy as just closing the door on their respective side of the house.

Left reeling from seeing his family on opposing sides of HIS house, bricks don’t become barriers for Ned. Sick of the walls surrounding him, he discovers his own special and secret skill of walking through these (and many other) walls one limb at a time which he starts to call ‘wallboggling’.

Throughout the remainder of the story, we begin to uncover that Ned’s difficulties at home and in the past have led him to be the Ned he is today. Quite controlling of others – especially to those closest to him – which leads him to actually pushing them further and further away, he often responds unexpectedly and badly to situations.

But can a new friend help him to change his ways and discover more about himself?

And can he choose to use his special skill for the greater good…?


Divorce rates increase…
Over 40% of marriages in the UK end up in divorce…
Britain has the highest divorce rate in the EU…


These are just some of the headlines concerning the subject of divorce which appears to be increasingly topical at this time. Therefore, after seeing her own children dealing with their changing family dynamic, Emma uses this first-hand experience to write an emotionally-charged story which could be used as a platform for empathy and discussion (as always, I recommend pre-reading it first before sharing with a class to assess the suitability of using it based on your knowledge of the pupils in your classroom) and which has the trials and tribulations of true family and friendship at its magical and moving core.

Breaking the fourth wall in this story where bricks aren’t barriers, Walls is an emotional exploration of some of the dynamics, difficulties and divides of divorce and living in a dysfunctional family.

‘Breaking the fourth wall in this story where bricks aren’t barriers, Walls is an emotional exploration of some of the dynamics, difficulties and divides of divorce.’


Huge thanks to Emma, Hannah and all at OUP Children’s for sending me an advance copy of this wonderfully written book! Extra thanks to Emma for taking the time to answer my questions!

Mr E
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Author Q&A: Emma Fischel (EF) with The Reader Teacher (TRT)

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Emma Fischel had a happy, muddy childhood in the Kent countryside, the middle of five children. She spent many years in London but is now back in Kent. She has three grown-up children, two favourite kinds of potato (mashed and baked, since you ask), and once played in a band. Emma has written fiction and non-fiction books for children of all ages, including the Witchworld series for Nosy Crow. Walls is her first novel with Oxford Children’s Books.

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


Walls (5)

TRT: At The Reader Teacher, for my reviews, I describe books in #3Words3Emojis.
Which 3 adjectives and 3 corresponding emojis would you choose to best describe Walls?
EF:
1. Funny 😁
2. Magical ✨
3. Moving 😥

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

EF: Well, parents splitting up happens to many children now – including my own. But Walls is written with distance and perspective on that time. And this is Ned’s story, not my children’s – who are nothing like Ned. I’m sure they would all be far wiser wallbogglers than Ned is!

I do think a big part of a writer’s job is to help children make sense of things that are happening to them, or to their friends. But serious subjects can be tackled in exciting and funny ways. And I hope that’s what I’ve done with Walls. By bringing in magic, the story moves from the domestic – and all the favourite books of my childhood were ones where magic happened to ordinary children. Edith Nesbit, Edward Eager, C S Lewis… the list goes on.

And as for help – my agent and editor, without doubt. Agents have calming spells for panicking writers with looming deadlines. And editors have magic powers that make a writer turn a good book into a better one.

TRT: I adore the unique concept of wallboggling in your book. For those readers who haven’t yet read Walls, can you explain what this is without giving too much away?

EF: Wallboggling, aka walking through walls – no spoiler, it’s on the cover! –  is a skill that Ned gets through the sheer power of his anger with the new wall his mum and dad have built down the middle of his house – the physical symbol of their split, and proof to Ned that they will never get back together. Ned has the idea that wallboggling will sort out his life. That with his new power he’ll be able to get all the people – Mum, Dad, his friend Bill – who are not behaving how he wants to come into line… Ned is WRONG. But he does come good in the end!

TRT: If you could pick any wall in the world to wallboggle through, which one would it be and why?

I change my mind on a daily basis. So many walls, so little time…Today, Mr E, the wall I would boggle through is the big wall round the garden of Buckingham Palace. As the queen has never invited me to one of her garden parties, I’d have a stroll around the grounds, and take a few plant cuttings as a souvenir. Better than a royal tea towel or mug, definitely.

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

I’m not sure I’m very like any of the characters in Walls – but maybe that’s for others to say? Although most writers, I think, put tiny bits of themselves into all their characters. It’s hard not to!

Having said that, Isabel, Ned’s four-year-old sister, does obsess about elves, as I did. And she also names all her paintings. Her painting, Dead Ladybird Under Leaves in the Moonlight was actually one of my finest!


Reading and Writing (4)

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

I know lots of writers wrote as a child, but I didn’t. I was outside as much of the time as I possibly could be. And I enjoyed writing in school but I never wrote at home – shameful confession, but there you go. What I did write as a teenager was film and tv reviews. I have a huge file of them, all very pompous and very earnest. They could have been written by Adrian Mole.

I did read though, lots and lots. And it was when I started working at Usborne publishing, where I wrote books in-house,  that I started to think about writing as a possibility.

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

That feeling of suddenly knowing I’ve found the key to a character. At last I can hear their voice, I know who they are, they’re real! Or when a scene bursts into life, and leaps off the screen. I can feel a surge of energy, of excitement, and a need to glue myself to the keyboard and get on with it.

Of course, when you’ve got young children – not that I have any longer – that’s often tricky. You have to STOP. You have to make food, run baths, read bedtime stories. But in back of your mind, the cogs are whirring and the longing to get back to work is there!

There are times, usually in the later stages of a book, when I know what needs to happen, what I need to write, but I start to slump. It’s a struggle to reach the finish line. It’s hard to maintain the energy – and it’s extraordinary how much energy hunching over a keyboard takes. Sometimes I feel like I’ve run a marathon by the end of a day!

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?

EF: Author visits weren’t a thing back then. Authors just sat at home, authoring and eating biscuits.

And I didn’t contact any authors because I was far too busy contacting pop stars and joining their fan clubs… (This is not going well, Mr E. I should have had a childhood interest in both writing and contacting authors. I should.)

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

It gets worse, Mr E – because I am reading nothing. But that’s because I CAN’T. I’m at the stage with my next book where reading is banned. No reading until I’m sure I’ve found the voice of the book, and the voice of my central character. I am – confession –  an accidental plagiarist,  too easily influenced by the wonderful writing of others. I find they come creeping into my own writing.

However, I do have a pile of children’s books stacked up to read. The 1000-year-old Boy, Planet Stan, Ella on the Outside, The Light Jar – and I’m impatient to get on to them. Children’s books are addressing so many big issues right now, in so many different, brilliant ways.


Walls and Teaching (3)

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

EF: Well, I’ve never been a teacher, so I’m not sure it’s my place to suggest how the book should be used!

But there’s a lot of potential for empathy discussions. The effects on children when parents split, how it manifests in Ned, the different ways it can manifest, how you can help friends in that situation. And maybe some role playing – looking at ways Ned could have handled situations with his friends in a better way, with discussion of the right and wrong ways to behave towards others?

Also, Ned loves making lists – including Ten Questions about Wallboggling. Maybe a class could think about what magic skill they would choose to get, and work out what their ten questions would be.

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

EF: Walls tackles, in a funny and magical way, the effect on a child when parents split up, and what happens when friendships break down. Ned, the central character, has to learn one big lesson: he has no power over changes, the only power he has is how he deals with them.

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?

I’m in the process of setting up a contact page on my website. It should be up and running very soon, and all the details will be there.


Two more before you go (2)!

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

EF: Where would you time-travel to?

Possibly a bit self-absorbed, my answer to this… but I’d love to go back to my own childhood. Because at the time, of course, it was the modern world. So I’d like to see it through those eyes, rather than the eyes of nostalgia and memory.

I’d love to see my family back then, see the house, the garden, the family holidays, poke around my primary school, listen in on conversations with my friends, revisit particular events that I have strong memories of….

I think that would be fascinating, finding how much my own memories tally with the truth of things. But I’d definitely take a big box of tissues – I suspect it might be shocking, and very emotional.

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

I am scared of runny eggs. Bleurgh. Just bleurgh.


One last one… (1)!

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

If you could wallboggle, who would you tell – and who would you NOT tell?

Blog Tour (Review & Author Q&A): Across the Divide – Anne Booth (Illustrated by Serena Rocca)

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‘A book that broaches, binds, blends and bridges big issues…
This is more than historical fiction; this is a story movingly written in a one-of-a-kind way that ensures it will stay with you long after the last page is read.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title:
 Across the Divide
Author: Anne Booth (@Bridgeanne)
Illustrator (Cover): Serena Rocca (@SerenaR_art)
Publisher: Catnip Books (@catnipbooks)
Page count: 320
Date of publication: 7th June 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1910611111

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Tolerance 😌
2. Lindisfarne 🏰
3. Divide ➗


Olivia is stuck in the middle of a horrible row that threatens to tear apart her family, her friendships and her community.

Visiting the island of Lindisfarne, she meets a strange young man, caught between war and peace, who may help her decide what to do.

A beautiful, thought-provoking novel about seeing both sides and having the courage to do the right thing – from the highly acclaimed author of Girl With a White Dog.


The first line:

The only thing I was absolutely sure about at the beginning of the holiday was that I didn’t want to go to Lindisfarne.


Review: After Olivia’s mother is imprisoned for leading a pacifist protest, she is sent to stay with her estranged father on one of author, Anne Booth’s, favourite places of the remote island setting of Lindisfarne. At first, she believes the island has nothing for her and wants to get as far away as possible from it because it’s about as far removed from the life that she’s used to as it could possibly be. However the island has a lot more to reveal of itself than Olivia could possibly first imagine…

Rowing, arguing and differences of opinion or ‘unhealthy’ debate make this a difficult time for Olivia, seeming to have put her home life in to disarray, so much so that we discover that she prefers living at her grandparents. Her grandfather, an ex-army man himself, is the polar opposite to his daughter, Caz – Olivia’s mum. Favouring the military, army life and the opening a new Army cadets programme at school, he encourages Olivia to take a similar path to him and helps her by signing the permission sheet, knowing full well that her mother will not, to enrol her in the cadet programme and even talking about it at her school. But what will her friends think of this and her…?

Divide. It is here where the title, ‘Across the Divide’ is rather apt for this book because small divides start to appear within Olivia’s friendship group, bigger ones within her family and the community; and when she meets William – a mysterious boy who lives in the castle – this in itself presents a larger divide between characters and eras that this book soon starts to span.

As the story progresses, Olivia learns for herself about the old adage of ‘actions speaking louder than words’ through a clever look back at the past as it meets with Olivia’s life in the present, and helps her to come to terms with making her own mind up and choosing the right thing to do for herself. But what does she choose to do…?

There’s elements of politics, contemporary issues and world events that Anne draws on in this story and they’re all handled in an age-appropriate style aimed at this audience with her hallmark of immense sensitivity, considerateness and compassion that echoes within the words of her previous books.

With links to the army, soldiers like Billy Congreve and conscientious objectors, this is particularly pertinent in the year when we commemorate the centenary of the ending of the First World War. I’d never visited Lindisfarne and had only vaguely heard about its historical background but now, thanks to reading Across in Divide, I feel like I have (albeit only for a short time) and that I’ve lived through a part of its history.

Highly topical, this is a book that broaches, binds, blends and bridges big issues including pacifism and peace and war and conflict. This book will do more than make you think because it will make you think differently about the world. This is more than just historical fiction; this is a story movingly written in a one-of-a-kind way that ensures it will stay with you long after the last page is read.

‘A book that broaches, binds, blends and bridges big issues…
This is more than historical fiction; this is a story movingly written in a one-of-a-kind way that ensures it will stay with you long after the last page is read.’


ACROSS THE DIVIDE by Anne Booth is out now in paperback (£6.99, Catnip Publishing)
Follow Anne Booth @Bridgeanne & Catnip @catnipbooks for more information.


Big thanks to Anne and Laura for sending me an advance copy of this wonderfully written book! Extra thanks to Anne for taking the time to answer my questions!

Mr E
📚

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Author Q&A: Anne Booth (AB) with The Reader Teacher (TRT)

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Anne Booth lives in a village in Kent with her husband, four teenage children, two dogs and two hens. She has worked as a bookseller, a guide round a haunted medieval building (though she didn’t see any ghosts), a table clearer and washer-upper, a teacher of English in Italy, an Arts and Crafts Coordinator in a residential Home for the Elderly and a University lecturer.

Anne’s talks about her most recently published book: Across the Divide; her reading and writing habits and using her book in the classroom. Her other books include Girl With a White Dog, Dog Ears, Refuge and Magical Kingdom of Birds series.


Across the Divide (5)

TRT: At The Reader Teacher, for my reviews, I describe books in #3Words3Emojis.
Which 3 emojis would you choose to best describe Across the Divide?

AB:
1. 🐕
2. ⌚
3.  🏰

TRT: What books, people, research, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write Across the Divide?

AB: I knew I wanted to write about Lindisfarne, because I love it so much.  I am very interested in Lindisfarne Castle at the beginning of the twentieth century, at the time of Edward Hudson and Edwin Lutyens, and was moved to read in a National Trust booklet, the story of a boy, Billy Congreve, who stayed at the castle and then went off to fight in World War One. I feel that was a very poignant story.

I really like the words of the MP Jo Cox, who said that she found ‘we have far more in common with each other than things that divide us’ and in my own life, when I look at my friends, I think this is true, and wanted to write about that.

For ACROSS THE DIVIDE I have been inspired by knowing good people in the army and army cadets, including a very committed Christian who did active service in Afghanistan, but also by very close friends who have spent their lives as Christian Pacifists, one of whom has been frequently arrested for non-violent protests like the one Olivia’s mother does in the book. In my own family, one of my Irish grandfathers received the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his bravery whilst fighting as a soldier in the British Army in The First World War, and yet I know that he advised my father to never be a soldier. So I felt that there were very different, fascinating  stories to tell and compelling but opposite viewpoints that could demonstrate  connections made between people.

I was, as with Girl with a White Dog, aware of the stories being told our children by  headlines in the newspapers, and I wanted to tell an alternative story about politics and where conflict is resolved and about unity and reconciliation, illustrating Jo Cox’s words.

I also wanted as part of this story, to show how religious people make decisions, and how people from the same religious tradition can make very different decisions about war, because I feel that there is a current tendency to fear religious belief and to identify religious commitment with extremism. I set in on an island associated with Christianity and used the debates between Christians at the time of the First World War, and in current debate. I hope that this will help children understand more about people from Christian and other religious traditions and how they follow their god or gods.

TRT: Across the Divide
is set partly in Lindisfarne. For those of us (like myself!) who haven’t yet been to Lindisfarne, could you explain what it is like to visit or live on Lindisfarne?

AB: Lindisfarne is beautiful. It is a small island off the Northumberland coast which you can reach by driving or walking along a causeway, but it gets totally cut off when the tide comes in, and that gives it a unique atmosphere… It has the castle and the abbey,  gift shops and heritage centres and lots and lots of birds. It has farms and fields with sheep, but also part of it is a nature reserve with wild dunes and bird-hides and secluded beaches and wild flowers. There is a particular sense of history and peace there, and some people say it is a ‘thin’ place, a place where the distance between heaven and earth is shorter.  It has been an ancient place of pilgrimage for centuries, a cradle of Celtic Christianity, and was the birthplace of the stunningly beautiful Lindisfarne Gospels.  I have been on holiday on Lindisfarne many times with my family, and I love it.

TRT: You talk about birds often in Across the Divide with mentions of sparrows and starlings, curlews and cormorants just to name a few. This is one of my favourite parts of the book. Can you explain their significance and tell us about your favourite bird and why it is?

AB: I love birds – I find them fascinating and mysterious and beautiful and I find it amazing that we share the world with them. I always feel there is something timeless about them and I love thinking that people we are divided from by time and history across the centuries, have also looked at the way a bird hovers in the air, or listened to bird song. There is an old gaelic poem about a monk listening to a blackbird singing, and I often think about that monk when I hear a blackbird and somehow feel connected over time. So this is all linked with the time travel section of the book, as well as a way of linking Olivia and her grandfather and Aidan and William together by their shared love of birds. It’s impossible for me to choose a favourite bird – I think they are all wonderful! I love the song of the blackbird and the call of the curlew, I love the cheekiness of sparrows and robins, and yesterday I was standing outside my house talking to a friend, and a fledgling blue tit flew down and landed on my shoulder for a minute, which is a highlight of my life!

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

AB: I am not sure if any one character is like me. I’d love to be as brave as Riya or Aidan, but I don’t think I am. I can see lots of people’s points of view, so I am probably like Olivia, but I am not sporty and never wanted to join cadets. I’d love to be as enthusiastic as Stan the dog. I think, actually, it might be William, as I love dogs and birds and drawing and my own faith is very important to me, but again, I am not sure if I would be as brave – I hope so!


Reading and Writing (4)

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

AB: I’ve always loved reading and I’ve always loved writing. I had very encouraging teachers and they used to let me illustrate my stories.

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

AB: I love most things about writing. I can get a bit exhausted and muddled if I get too many story lines mixed up and the chronology of a story wrong and have to go back and sort out who did what, when. I have to remind myself to write down times and days beforehand. Luckily, editors are brilliant at helping me sort out any muddles!

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?

AB: I don’t remember any writers coming to visit our school or even thinking that I could contact them.

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

AB: I am really impressed by the wonderful range of children’s books at the moment, both in fiction and non-fiction. I love picture books and illustrated books and I also read lots of books for the age range I write for.  I have just read To the Edge of The World by Julia Green, which is a wonderful story, and re-read The Secret of Spiggy Holes by Enid Blyton, I am currently reading and enjoying The Goose Road by Rowena House and loved  Hilary MacKay’s new book The Skylarks’ War, which is out later this year – both are about the First World War, so link to ACROSS THE DIVIDE. A stunning picture book I read recently with gorgeous illustrations by Aurélie Blanz and a stunning text, is Just Like Brothers by Elizabeth Baguley. I am reading a wonderful adult non-fiction book called Curlew Moon by Mary Colwell and I’ve just read Dear Mrs Bird, a great adult novel set in the 2nd world war, brilliantly researched, by my friend AJ Pearce.


Across the Divide and Teaching (3)

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

AB: I blogged about this at: https://www.booksfortopics.com/blog/author-blog-using-across-the-divide-in-schools

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

AB: A book about standing up for what you believe, and about listening and respecting those with other viewpoints and finding common ground with them. A story which shows children that they have the power to make a difference.

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?

 AB: I think contacting Catnip Books would be a good idea.


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Be sure to check out the other dates and other bloggers for more reviews, posts and exclusive content from Anne on the Across the Divide blog tour from the past two weeks!

Review & Author Q&A: The Boy Who Grew Dragons (Happy Book Birthday!) – Andy Shepherd (Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie)

To celebrate the official publication date and launch (Happy Book Birthday!) of The Boy Who Grew Dragons, I’m absolutely delighted that author Andy Shepherd asked me to visit The Reader Teacher today to take part in her very first Author Q&A, alongside my review.

So I give a big welcome to Andy where she’ll be talking about The Boy Who Grew Dragons, her reading and writing habits, using her book in the classroom (with teaching resources!) and all things dragon-tastic! 🐲

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‘Sure to fire up the imagination and a love of reading, this is only the very beginning to a series that’s going to be a roaring success!
A debut of dragon delight… guaranteed to make children (and adults!) everywhere wish for their own dragon after reading this.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title:
 The Boy Who Grew Dragons
Author: Andy Shepherd (@andyjshepherd)
Illustrator: Sara Oglivie (Website)
Publisher: Piccadilly Press (@PiccadillyPress)
Page count: 224
Date of publication: 14th June 2018
Series status: First in a series of three!
ISBN: 978-1848126497

Perfect for Year 2, Year 3 & Year 4.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Dragons 🐲
2.  Wonder ✨
3. Relationships 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦


We grow dragons, And I can tell you this – they’re a lot more trouble than cucumbers.

Poo in your dad’s porridge? ✔️
Chase your cat? ✔️
Set light to your toothbrush? ✔️

But I can tell you something else. Their bright diamond eyes twinkle up at you. Their warm breath tickles your ear. And you’d better keep them a secret, because who wouldn’t want their own dragon.


The first line(s):

When people ask me what we grow in Grandad’s garden, I think they expect the answer to be cucumbers, tomatoes and runner beans. I don’t think they expect the answer to be dragons.


Review: Being from Wales, dragons are an important part of our culture – rooted in our myths and legends to appearing on our national flag – and so from the start, I felt some kind of connection to this book. Identifying with this book is not something that only I will be able to do easily as it’s also something that many readers will immediately feel when reading this too, whether that be through the familiar characters, the everyday settings of home, school and the garden or through the sense of awe, amazement and magic in the dragon-discovery to come…

After Tomas discovers a strange-looking tree at the bottom of his Grandad’s garden and decides to  take one of its funny-looking fruits home with him, he doesn’t think much of it… until he keeps it in his bedroom and notices it start to move! Here, Tomas makes more than a discovery. Hatching from the aptly-named fruit, Tomas sees Flicker: his own real-life dragon. Trying his best to keep Flicker under wraps from his family, Tomas soon learns that life looking after Flicker is not only fun, but also quite unpredictable to say the very least!

How will Tomas explain:
1) his burnt toothbrush?
2) the chaos and carnage left behind in his bedroom?
and if you think that’s bad, worst of all…
3) the exploding dragon poo stinking up the place?

Andy brings a natural warmth and wonder to the book with her most imaginative of dragon-descriptions, especially when Tomas is – and we as readers are – introduced to Flicker, that are complemented by not only the very visually-appealing and richly-expressive vocabulary that Andy creatively uses but also within Sara’s distinctive and lively illustrations to match.


Here’s a short sample to exemplify when Tomas sees Flicker for the first time:

Things I noticed close up:
Glittery wings
Scales that rippled through every shade of red
Eyes like diamonds
Hot smoky breath
Sharp claws (three at the front, one at the back of each foot)
Arrowhead tail (which he didn’t seem to be able to control very well…)
Two little horns – one longer than the other.


It is through these features that I know that this book will be a catalyst for reading for young readers, because this tail(!) is sure to fire up the imagination and a love for reading as it will claw its way not only in to the minds of its readers but also in to their hearts. Even though it is thoroughly entertaining, I particularly like that it also shows a softer, warmer, friendlier side to dragons which is slightly different to what sometimes is typified in many other stories that children read or films that they may watch of dragons being beasts and monsters to fear and flee from.

As I briefly mentioned earlier, the relationship-building between characters such as Tomas and his grandfather is one to savour and this will resonate among many younger (and older!) readers reminding them of the positive relationships, for some whilst growing up, between themselves and their own grandparents or close relatives.

For me, a sign of a good book is that I read it in a couple of days. A sign of a really good book is that I will read it in a day. So I’ll leave it up to you for you to make your own mind up with how I feel about this one, when I need only say that I read it cover-to-cover in an hour.

Therefore, I’m so pleased to say that Andy Shepherd’s dragon-debut is an absolute delight and is just the very start to a series that I’m sure is going to be a roaring success. It’s a series that – pardon the pun – I just want to drag-on and on and on! Luckily for you, I and everyone else that enjoys it, it does. Perfect to read aloud to a child, a class of children or for them to read themselves, I know I’ll no doubt be recommending this to all (in particular to those that I teach) because it’s easily one of my favourites of the year so far.

Next time that I look at a dragonfruit, I hope that I won’t be left feeling disappointed as I can’t help but expect my very own Flicker to start hatching. After reading this, children (and adults!) everywhere will be wishing for their own dragons.

‘Sure to fire up the imagination and a love of reading, this is only the very beginning to a series that’s going to be a roaring success. A debut of dragon delight… guaranteed to make children (and adults!) everywhere wish for their own dragon after reading this.’


Huge thanks to Andy, Tina, Fliss and all at Piccadilly Press for sending me an advance copy of this delightfully written book! Extra thanks to Andy for taking the time to answer my questions!

Excited for The Boy Who Lived With Dragons and The Boy Who Flew Dragons!

Mr E
🐲📚🐉

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

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


Author Q&A: Andy Shepherd (AS) with The Reader Teacher (TRT)

The Boy Who Grew Dragons (5)

TRT: At The Reader Teacher, for my reviews, I describe books in #3Words3Emojis. Which 3 adjectives and 3 corresponding emojis would you choose to best describe The Boy Who Grew Dragons?

AS: 1. Funny 😄 2. Heartfelt 💖 3. Dragontastic 🐉

TRT: What books, people, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write The Boy Who Grew Dragons?

AS: Definitely my sons. I nick so many ideas off them! I started writing this story after a particularly gutting rejection. I knew I needed to get back to writing just for the fun of it and forget about trying to get published. So I decided to write the story of our dragon, just for my sons. Every day I would write a chapter and then read it to them after school, sitting in the garden. The more I wrote the more invested we all became in it. So much so that one day my youngest son came home to find I hadn’t written anything – it had been a thinking day I told him. He gave me a very hard stare and said: ‘Well, OK, but just make sure that tomorrow is a writing day.’ I couldn’t have left this book unfinished even if I’d wanted to!

My husband and sons have been my greatest cheerleaders and the books wouldn’t be here without them.

Beyond my family, a lot of the stories I loved as a child were rooted in the real world but with a magical element, and that has probably influenced what I write myself. Books like Stig of the Dump, Mrs Pepperpot, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Flat Stanley.

Plus I have always wanted a dragon!

TRT: If you could grow a dragon, what would it look like? What would it be like to live with? What special features would it have?

AS: Well, I do have a dragon and his name is Glint.

He has blue scales down his back and then darker blue on his belly. And his head is even more colourful with the blues turning purple and finally red on his snout. He has a little spike on his snout and more down his back and two quite long horns. He has these deep amber eyes. Like Flicker he’s full of ideas.  He lets out electric blue sparks, like little fireworks that light up my imagination. He can also get really small and curl round my ear and his warm breath carries ideas and pictures into my dreams. So he’s very handy when I get stuck on a story! He has a slightly tricky condition, which means as well as getting small he can, unexpectedly, get very big. This can make things a bit awkward sometimes, because I don’t always know when it’s going to happen.  But it’s generally best to expect the unexpected when you grow a dragon.

TRT: What is your favourite dragon that exists only in literature?

AS: I think it would have to be the poetry-loving dragon from Kenneth Grahame’s The Reluctant Dragon.

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

AS: Probably Tomas because he has a pretty over-active imagination – but also because he is open to the wonder of the world and notices the little things – like a moldy looking fruit that someone else might have thrown away! I like to try and find a little bit of magic in the ordinary mundane things.


Reading and Writing (4)

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

AS: I think it was that feeling of having created something that didn’t exist before. That’s a pretty magical and empowering feeling.  Also that what I had created was just mine, a secret – when I was younger I very rarely showed my writing to anyone. So it was a safe place I could invent, experiment, be brave, tell the truth, make stuff up and be wildly unlike myself all at once.

When I was in primary school I didn’t really enjoy writing, but that may have had a lot to do with being told I wasn’t very good at it! And the fact that the writing we did always had to rhyme.  It wasn’t until I got to secondary school I discovered it really didn’t. I also had a wonderful English teacher who encouraged me to write ALL the time.

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

AS: When I’m in the flow I feel like I’m electrically charged and can’t get the words out fast enough. I might be trying to have some down time and the story keeps rushing to get out. At this point I write in any snatched moments, although those moments tend to run away with me so I end up burning a lot of dinners – or just forgetting to cook parts of the meal!

When the euphoria passes though I can feel shattered. This is when the fatigue hits as I realise I haven’t been looking after myself properly. 

 About two thirds of the way through a first draft I often flag. By then I tend to know the story and where I want to take it. There are less surprises. To keep writing can feel exhausting. But as I plough on I usually get a second wind. And then it’s a mad race to the finish.

I guess my writing process is a bit boom and bust! Generally writing energises me because even when I’m not in the mood, if I stick with it and ideas come that’s almost more pleasurable than the bolt out of the blue.

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?

AS: The only time we ever had an author visit was when I was about fourteen and my English teacher arranged for Roger McGough to come to our school. For me this was the equivalent of meeting Simon Le Bon or George Michael. He was cool. McGough, Brian Patten and Adrian Henri – those Mersey boys. They broke rules and played with words in a wicked way. To meet him – and have my English teacher introduce me afterwards (and tell him I wrote too) – was pretty amazing.

 The other thing that stood out for me was when I wrote to my absolute hero, Douglas Adams. I had started writing what would probably now be called fan fiction. I loved The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy so much, but I felt bad that my book was basically trying to copy it – very very badly. So I wrote to him to ask if he would mind! I had the loveliest letter back from him and he made me feel like a proper writer – he also told me the title to his next book before it had even been finished. I still have that letter.

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

AS: I think there is a lot more focus on upturning gender stereotypes. Not simply opting for so-called ‘feisty’ girls – but genuinely creating characters, both male and female, who leap off the page as relatable and above all interesting.  Most recently, I think Vashti Hardy does this brilliantly in Brightstorm.

 There are so many books with characters I wish I had had access to as a child – Moll in The Dreamsnatcher, Lyra in Northern Lights, Mina in Skellig. Having those books would have made a huge difference to me – I generally got frustrated with the girls in the books I read and only felt I recognised myself in the daring adventures of the boys.

It’s been wonderful too for my sons to read books with girls as the main characters. But then we have also loved seeing books like Cogheart, with the quieter and more sensitive Robert.


The Boy Who Grew Dragons and Teaching (3)

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

I have to admit that having trained as a teacher I can see so many ways of using the books in class – dragons do make a fab topic! As well as all the opportunities for creative writing that could come from the books, there are some great things you could do with Art &DT, like making junk model dragons or clay pottery dragon eyes, or designing and making a class dragon fruit tree and decorating it with individual dragons. There could also be links to geography, finding out more about the amazing dragon-fruit tree, which originally comes from Mexico, but is now grown in many places around the world. Plus it could be tied into a topic about how things grow. It is Screen Shot 2018-06-14 at 00.55.27rather magical – with its vivid tendrils and huge white flowers that only bloom for one night! And then there are the s’mores that Tomas and his friends make in the later books – I have to admit to doing a bit of research here myself, customising and making up recipes for these. (And testing them out of course!)

I’ve been putting together some teaching resources, which people can download from my site.  But there are lots more things I can see myself adding as time goes on. And if anyone does use the books in class I’d love to hear what they do – or see some pictures : )

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

Can I cheat and use a few quotes from other people?

‘My favourite sort of book – warm, funny, full of heart.’ Polly Faber

‘The Boy Who Grew Dragons with adorable illustrations by Sara Ogilvie is utterly charming, warm and funny and is sure to enrapture children.’ Lorraine Gregory.

I hope that beyond the obvious – come on, dragons just are awesome – there are also messages in the books about friendship and family and seeing the good in people and even living mindfully, keeping our eyes open to the magic around us, all of which I hope will offer some talking points.

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?

AS: If people could go to my site and get in touch via the contacts page that would be great.  I would love to visits schools more but, unfortunately, it is difficult for me to travel long distance. I know author visits can also be too costly for many schools. So, I am very happy to offer Skype visits as a more logistically and financially friendly way of connecting with more teachers and classes.


Two more before you go (2)!

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

AS: Do you have a favourite quotation from a children’s book that you wish you had written?

Yes lots, but there is one that I came across recently which is probably of one my favourites now. Because it captures what I was trying to do in the books.

Right at the end of the third book I finally managed to articulate what these books were about for me – it was one of those lovely moments in writing when you realise what the heart of it all is.

A few months later I stumbled across this quotation:
‘And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely of places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.’ Roald Dahl The Minpins

After the inevitable feeling of annoyance when you realise that someone got there first and did it better – I quickly fell in love with it.

Besides I quite like that I got there in my own way – writing is always a personal journey. And just because the stories you tell have been told a thousand times before, and the ideas live in the world beyond you, it doesn’t mean you can’t hope your story will find its own place and add something.

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

AS: I like swimming in mud and I’m really good at picking things up with my toes.


One last one…(1)!

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

AS: If you could grow a dragon, what would your dragon be like?


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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.

The Boy Who Grew Dragons is her debut novel published by Piccadilly Press. There are two more eagerly-awaited stories to follow in this series, The Boy Who Lived With Dragons (published in September 2018) and The Boy Who Flew With Dragons (published in January 2019).

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

CLiPPA Poetry Award 2018 (Shortlisted): The Rainmaker Danced – John Agard (Illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura)

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Today, I’m absolutely delighted to have been personally asked to celebrate this collection of poetry shortlisted for the CLiPPA, The Rainmaker Danced by John Agard in the run up to the winner’s announcement…


What is the CLiPPA?

Established in 2003, the CLiPPA (Centre for Literacy in Primary Poetry Award) encourages and celebrates outstanding poetry published for children. This year sees the largest ever number of poetry book submissions following a bumper year for eligible poetry. This year has seen an increase in submissions of almost 70%, from 19 books from 9 publishers in 2017 to 32 books from 19 publishers in 2018.

Louise Johns-Shepherd, Chief Executive, CLPE said “CLiPPA is leading an essential movement to build on the current huge popularity of poetry and the growing poetry market to ensure that poetry for children is acknowledged as an essential part of this landscape. The shortlist recognises not just great children’s poets but great poets full stop. We want as many people as possible to know about these wonderful works and CLiPPA, the Shadowing Scheme and the resources we produce all come together to make sure that they receive the high profile they deserve.”


The Rainmaker Danced – John Agard


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(Photo credit: Michael Thorn)

Title: The Rainmaker Danced
Author: John Agard
Illustrator: Satoshi Kitamura
Publisher: Hodder Children’s (@hodderchildrens/@HachetteKids)
Page count: 96
Date of publication: 21st September 2017
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1444932607


‘One of the most eloquent contemporary poets’
Helen Dunmore, Observer

‘A specialist in word trickery – Agard is one of our most consistent, culture-crossing spokesmen’
Graeme Wright, Poetry Review

‘With one eye on the past and the other on the present… readers – especially schoolteachers and their pupils – tend to love his work…’
Rory Waterman, Times Literary Supplement

John Agard’s poems display an intense integrity, never talking down to children, encouraging them to question, while being playful in tone, witty or satirical. They focus on social observations, play with ideas from mythology and traditional tales, consider new developments in technology and reflect on nature and humanity and their interaction. The bold black and white illustrations complement and counterpoint the ideas in the poems.

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When Questions Are Bliss

One of my most favourite poems from The Rainmaker Danced is When Questions Are Bliss.
Here’s a video produced by CLPE (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education) of John performing When Questions are Bliss.

You can view more videos of John Agard performing his poetry at the absolutely amazing Poetryline website produced by CLPE here.

You can also find a whole teaching sequence (scheme of work, lesson ideas and resources) for The Rainmaker Danced, including for When Questions Are Bliss by clicking here.

The Rainmaker Danced is available to order online or from any good bookshop.


CLiPPA Poetry Award 2018: The Shortlist

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The winner will be announced at the CLiPPA 2018 Poetry Show on 22 June at the National Theatre, London.

The full shortlist is (with links to teaching resources):

  • John Agard: The Rainmaker Danced(Hodder) Illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura – witty and satirical poems that focus on social observations, play with myths and traditional tales and reflect on the nature of humanity (Suggested for Year 4 and Year 5).
  • Ruth Awolola, Victoria Adukwei Bulley, Abigail Cook, Jay Hulme, Amina Jama: Rising Stars (Otter-Barry Books) Illustrated by Riya Chowdhury, Elanor Chuah and Joe Manners – a showcase for five fresh and exciting emerging writer-performers (Suggested for Year 7 and Year 8).
  • Joseph Coelho: Overheard in a Tower Block(Otter-Barry Books) Illustrated by Kate Milner – a powerful collection, offering glimpses into the challenges of a boy’s life, ingeniously threaded through with fantasy, story, myth and magic (Suggested for Year 6 and Year 7).
  • Sarah Crossan: Moonrise(Bloomsbury) – a moving verse novel for young adults, seen from the viewpoint of a young man whose brother is on death row (Suggested for Upper Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4).
  • Sue Hardy-Dawson: Where Zebras Go(Otter-Barry Books) – a first solo collection uniting a variety of voices with a wide range of poetic forms (Suggested for Year 2, Year 3 and Year 4).
  • Karl Nova: Rhythm and Poetry (Caboodle Books) Illustrated by Joseph Witchall – the first published collection from a Hip Hop poet, demonstrating the currency and significance of rap as a form, especially for young people (Suggested for Year 4 and Year 5).

The 2018 shortlist celebrates and highlights the diversity of voices in the UK poetry scene. From debut collections Sue Hardy-Dawson’s Where Do Zebras Go and Karl Nova’s Rhythm and Poetry, to the legendary John Agard’s The Rainmaker Danced. From books already receiving recognition – Sarah Crossan’s Moonrise and Joseph Coelho’s Overheard in a Tower Block – to the Rising Stars collection celebrating under-represented voices publishing their poems for the first time. The shortlist is evenly split between 3 previous winners and 3 debut collections, with 3 out of the 6 shortlisted books coming from independent publisher Otter-Barry Books.

The winner of the 2018 Award will be announced on 22nd June in the Olivier Theatre at the National Theatre in London. This will be the 4th year that CLPE has partnered with the National Theatre to deliver the Poetry Show which will include performances from children participating in the Shadowing Scheme and the shortlisted poets. The winner of the Award will receive £1000. Former Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell, will live draw the Award Ceremony.

The judging panel is chaired by much loved poet and CLiPPA 2003 winner, Grace Nichols along with Kate Wakeling, poet and CLiPPA 2017 winner for Moon Juice, Imogen Lycett Green, Director of the Betjeman Prize for Young Poets, Charlotte Hacking, CLPE Learning Programme Leader and Anthony Anaxagorou, poet, poetry educator and founder of Out-Spoken Press.

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Big thanks to Liz for inviting me to celebrate this wonderful poetry collection and the CLiPPA award. It would be great to be involved in many more!

Mr E
📚

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Blog Tour: Empathy Day #ReadforEmpathy Guest Post: AF Harrold

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Today I am honoured to welcome author of The Song from Somewhere Else and many others, AF Harrold to The Reader Teacher as part of the Empathy Day and #ReadforEmpathy blog tour. Here, he shares with The Reader Teacher his exclusive guest post about how reading books when he was younger like The Lord of the Rings helped him to see one beginning of empathy


I read a lot of books when I was younger (I still read a lot now), and few things have had so lasting an influence, have left so lasting a mark, as that final scene of The Lord of the Rings.

For anyone who hasn’t read the books or seen the films, and who thinks they might want to, here’s a spoiler warning for you: Read no further!

For the rest of you, here’s a reminder of how it goes.

You’ve had two and half books of adventure, of warfare and death and heroism and darkness. Everyone has been tested, everyone has had their own paths and none of them have been sunlit and simple. But Frodo and Sam made it alone and ashen, starving and wearied, to the slopes of Orodruin, Mount Doom, where they planned to destroy the One Ring. They had suffered and survived for a month, on foot, through desolate lands, in and out of the clutches of enemies, across the slag-heap desert plain of Mordor, right up to the foot of the mountain. It was a month of not knowing whether their companions lived or died, a month of not knowing whether the war out there was already won or lost, a month of just them, foot-sore and dry-mouthed, slow-plodding towards the end of their quest.

And what an end. At the lip of the fire, at the edge of the chasm into which the One Ring should be cast, at the moment when the destruction of that ring would undo all Sauron’s works, reducing his power to a mere scrabble of smoke against the sun, Frodo failed.

Instead of casting the ring into the fire he put it on. Claimed it for himself. Declared himself the new Lord of Middle-earth. After six months of bearing the ring, of carrying it from the Shire all the way to this end of all places, he finally gave in to its whisper, its temptation, its glamour, and put it on.

Of course it came right after that. He lost a finger, the ring finger, and the One Ring with it, to Gollum and the fiery pit, and the War came to a close with the utter collapse and ruin of Sauron’s power.

And then months went by. Eight months as they retrod their steps back home, this time with light and laughter, and they arrived in a Shire that was changed and another battle had to be fought, right on their doorstep. But that shadow, too, passed and it seemed the War was truly ended.

But as the following October rolls round Frodo’s wound, where he was stabbed by one of the Nazgûl in the fight at Weathertop, aches, and later, in March, the wound where Shelob, the great spider, stung him pains him too. And he finds he just doesn’t fit right in the world he’s come home to. He has changed, and has been changed, by the things he’s seen and done, and by the things that were done to him. His part in affairs beyond the sleepy borders of the Shire, in the great affairs of the world, weigh on him and no one notices.

The only companions who would understand, who share similar burdens, similar experiences, are busy doing what he doesn’t feel able to do, are getting on with their lives. Sam has married and is having a family, Merry and Pippin are off in their corners of the Shire leading their lives. Frodo feels alone, lost, if not misunderstood by his neighbours, at lost not-understood.

Eventually he sails to the West, takes the ship with the last of the elves leaving for the lands beyond the sea. There, he hopes, in Valinor, his wounds will be healed and his heart will be at peace, at last.

And Sam and Merry and Pippin are there, at the Grey Havens, to see him off, to say their farewells, and Gandalf, who is sailing too, says: ‘Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth. Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.’

And the three hobbits get on their ponies and ride slowly homewards, and as they go they say nothing, and their paths part one by one, and eventually the camera of the book’s eye follows Sam, just Sam, plain Sam, dependable Sam, right up to his door, and it opens and Rosie draws him in and puts his daughter in his lap and he is where he should be.

And even as I type this now the tears are pooling in my eyes, and I realise that I know, and knew when I read this aged 12 or 13, that I understand Sam and how he feels and I understand Frodo and how he felt. And the heart breaks and does not cease breaking at this ending… at this ending which is another beginning, and is a middle, and is all those other parts of a life, and Tolkien shows us what the best-hearted books show – the life beyond the adventure, the pedestrian day-to-day, the normalcy, the place where the real soul resides…

You can never know what is happening inside another person’s head, or heart. But the characters in books, in your favourite books – they open up and share themselves with you. You can hear their thoughts and know them, a little. And perhaps, by knowing them, a little window will be opened into the lives of your friends and family, into the strangers and people you see in the news. Just knowing that window exists is one beginning of empathy.


AF Harrold, author of The Song from Somewhere Else, The Imaginary, Greta Zargo, Fizzlebert Stump and many more

A.F. Harrold is an English poet, performer and children’s author. He writes and performs for adults and children, in cabaret and in schools, in bars and in basements, in fields and indoors. He was Glastonbury Festival Website’s Poet-In-Residence in 2008, and Poet-In-Residence at Cheltenham Literature Festival in 2010. He won the Cheltenham All Stars Slam Championship in 2007 and has had his work on BBC Radio 4, Radio 3 and BBC7. He is active in schools work, running workshops and slams and doing performances at ungodly hours of the morning, and has published several collections of poetry. He is the owner of many books, a handful of hats, a few good ideas and one beard.

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AF Harrold’s book The Song from Somewhere Else features in Empathy Lab’s
2018 Read for Empathy Guide.

You can find out more about AF by visiting his website or following him on Twitter.


Big thanks to AF for writing his most wonderful and stirring of guest posts and to Fritha, Miranda and all at Empathy Lab UK for inviting me to take part in this year’s blog tour! Here’s to many more in the future!

Mr E
📚


What is Empathy Day?

Empathy Roundel18 Final OutlinedEmpathy Day was founded in 2017 by EmpathyLab. With hate crimes at their highest level since records began, it uses stories to help us understand each other better, and highlights empathy’s power in our divided world. (https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/hate-crime-statistics). Empathy Day 2018 is on 12 June.

Empathy Day’s calls to action

READ – because reading in itself can make us more empathetic

SHARE – because sharing perspectives through books can connect us in new ways

DO – put empathy into action and make a difference in your community

How to join in

  • Share ideas for empathy-boosting books using #ReadForEmpathy @EmpathyLabUK
  • Use the free Read For Empathy Guide to 30 children’s books – at www.empathylab.uk
  • Follow this blog tour to hear the powerful voices of the authors and illustrators involved
  • Hundreds of schools and libraries are already taking part. Gt a free toolkit from info@empathylab.uk
  • Use the ideas and free downloadable resources at  http://www.empathylab.uk/empathy-day-resources

#ReadforEmpathy       #EmpathyDay     @EmpathyLabUK


With this guest post, I am finishing the EmpathyDay blog tour in readiness to celebrate Empathy Day tomorrow on the 12th June. But be sure to check out the other dates and other wonderful bloggers for more posts and exclusive content from a superb range of authors from the past week!

Blog Tour 7

Blog Tour: Review & Guest Post: Mirror Magic – Claire Fayers (Illustrated by Becka Moor)

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‘Claire has conjured up a story that’s a richly magical, mid-nineteenth century myriad of mirrors and mystery. Her writing not only transcends beautifully between magical realms but in the real world too… This is definitely my most favourite of Claire’s yet!’ 

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Mirror Magic
Author: Claire Fayers (@ClaireFayers)
Illustrator (Cover): Becka Moor (@BeckaMoor)
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s (@MacmillanKidsUK)
Page count: 304
Date of publication: 14th June 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1509870066

Perfect for Year 5 & Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Mirrors 🖼️
2.  Faerie-fantasy ✨
3. Book 📒


Welcome to Wyse, the only town left in Britain with a connection to the magical Unworld.

When twelve-year-old Ava meets Howell on the other side of a mirror, the two are quickly drawn into a mystery to discover why the enchantments that link their towns are disappearing.

But it’s hard to distinguish between friends and enemies when magic is involved and Ava and Howell soon learn that it can be very unwise to mess with mirrors…


The first line(s):

The town of Wyse, set precisely on the border of England and Wales, is remarkable for one thing: it is the only remaining town where magic works.


Review: Two worlds seem to begin, for better words, worlds apart but come together in the most magical of manners in this mid-nineteenth century myriad of mirrors and mystery. The worlds of Wyse and Unwyse who unbeknownst to orphans Ava and her brother, Matthew, remain separated by the power of mirrors… at least for now. Going back to her birthplace of Wyse, on the edge of Victorian England and Wales, where magic only exists, Ava feels something that’s not quite right. In the air, something different. Something that smells quite different too…

Under the control of Lord Skinner – a fine gentleman*, as I said – the town appears to be losing its sense of magical life. With the town’s conjurors closed down and seeing the once-thriving town scene dishevelled, dejected and dilapidated, Ava and Matthew think that this might not be the place they might have even distantly remembered.

Things soon change whilst discovering a working magic mirror that’s been hidden away, Ava uncovers more than she could have ever imagined. Deep connections and links to a well-imagined and all-kinds-of-wonderful world emerge after she meets and has to join forces with Howell, one of the Fair Folk from Unwyse, as they find themselves appointed the guardians and master protectors of a very important object that’s being hotly pursued by the ghastly Mr Bones.

Meet all of these spellbinding characters and more as you can’t help but delve deeper as Claire thrusts us in to the middle of this faerie-fantasy, where magic leaps and swirls from every page, that’s full of enchantments, magical mists and a book that can only heartily be described as The Book.  Introducing every chapter with a witty exchange or dry remark, the book or should I say The Book is one of my favourite ‘characters’ who has quite the gift for forecasting the future…

Like Diana Wynne Jones meets Susanna Clarke (author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell), Claire has conjured up a stupendous story. I am so pleased to say that Claire’s writing not only transcends beautifully between magical realms but in the real world too, as within Mirror Magic, it reflects and showcases her strength in writing between differing genres and books so well… This is definitely my most favourite of Claire’s yet!

*Read on to find out for yourselves if this is in any way to be as believed as the good people of Wyse would tell you…

‘Claire has conjured up a story that’s a richly magical, mid-nineteenth century myriad of mirrors and mystery. Her writing not only transcends beautifully between magical realms but in the real world too… This is definitely my most favourite of Claire’s yet!’ 


Big thanks to Claire, Karen and all at Macmillan Children‘s for inviting me to open up the blog tour for Mirror Magic and for sending me this gorgeously magical book. Extra thanks to Claire for writing her guest post!

Mr E
📚

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Today I am also delighted to welcome author of Mirror Magic, Claire Fayers to The Reader Teacher. Here, she shares with The Reader Teacher her exclusive guest post to open her Mirror Magic blog tour where we travel back to a time where Claire shows us what it might have been like had the Romans had magic and newspapers…

If Rome had magic…

Mirror Magic imagines a world exactly like our own but with one big difference – magic exists. Fairy mirrors connect us to the Unworld where the Fair Folk have promised to provide magical goods and services to anyone who asks.

The story starts in 1842, when most mirrors have stopped working and only one small town on the border of Wales and England still has access to the Unworld. The Wyse Weekly Mirror (expertly designed by Jess at Macmillan Children’s Books) gives an insight into daily happenings in the last town of magic.

But what of other time periods?

What would newspapers look like if, for example the Romans had magic (and newspapers)…

Rome Built in a Day

In celebration of our illustrious Emperor’s birthday, Rome has been rebuilt in a single day. Conjurors across the Empire came together and worked tirelessly, commanding their fairy servants to bring fine marble, gold, and other precious metals from the Unworld. All day long the city echoed with the sound of hammers and the groans of complaining fairies as they hauled blocks of marble into position.

A grand celebration was held in the newly built amphitheatre, including chariot races and trials of combat. As a finale, fiery horses were brought through a mirror from the Unworld to race the Emperor’s own chariot team. The resulting conflagration caused major damage to the arena and several unlucky citizens were eaten by the Unworld horses before the creatures could be caught.

Rome Building Project Proves Disappointing

A week after Rome’s dramatic rebuilding, the cracks are beginning to show. It started when the statue of our illustrious Emperor collapsed in the middle of the night. Now, buildings are crumbling. A whole section of the great amphitheatre turned to leaves yesterday afternoon and blew away.

Three conjurors have been arrested and have confessed that fairy magic is mainly made up of illusion. The marble pillars and gold statues may look convincing for a little while, but beneath the façade of enchantment, they are merely mud and leaves.

Rome, it seems, was not built in a day after all.

Roman Roads Conquer Britannia

News from the Ilse of Britannia where our army is fighting a brave battle to subdue the savage inhabitants and bring them into the civilisation of the Empire.  Roman conjurors have found a new way to travel across the isle’s rough countryside – fairy roads.

We know that fairy enchantments fade when exposed to the real world, but a road only needs to exist long enough for an army to march along it.

Conjurors work at night to create a road. The next day the army marches, claiming all in its path. Some of the island tribes have fought back but many surrender the moment they see the army approaching.

I came. I conjured. I conquered.

Claire Fayers, author of Mirror Magic

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Claire Fayers grew up in South Wales, studied English and Comparative Literature at the University of Kent in Canterbury, and is now back in Wales where she spends a lot of her free time tramping around castles in the rain, looking for dragons.

She has worked as a church caretaker, a shoe shop assistant, in accountancy, in health and safety, in IT, and in a library. Only one of these prepared her in any way for life as a full-time author.

Her first book came about after she won a writing competition. She was more surprised than anyone. She works from her home in Cardiff, sharing her workspace with a pair of demanding cats and an ever-expanding set of model dinosaurs who sometimes like to pretend they are pirates.

Mirror Magic is her third book after The Accidental Pirates: Voyage to Magical North, shortlisted for The Children’s Book Award and The Accidental Pirates: Journey to Dragon Island.


Be sure to check out the other dates and other bloggers for more reviews, posts and exclusive content from Claire on the Mirror Magic blog tour this week and next!

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Cover Reveal & Giveaway: The Five Realms: The Beasts of Grimheart – Kieran Larwood (Interior illustrations by David Wyatt & cover illustration by Fernando López Juárez): Out 6th September 2018!

Today, I’m absolutely delighted to exclusively reveal the cover of Kieran Larwood’s eagerly-anticipated next episode of the Legend of Podkin One-Ear, The Five Realms: The Beasts of Grimheart which will be published on 6th September 2018 by Faber Children’s.

I’m also super excited because the very lovely people at Faber Children’s have given me three copies of The Five Realms: The Beasts of Grimheart to give away!
Find out more below!


The Five Realms: The Beasts of Grimheart – Kieran Larwood

Podkin Grimheart

The bard is captured by the bonedancers and taken to their temple where he has to retell the tale that earned him a contract on his life. The story of Podkin continues . . . The Gorm have started to attack the forest, trying to flush out the Darkhollow rabbits. Podkin and the others leave for Sparrowfast warren, on the other side of the forest, to ask his uncle for help and for the use of his magic bow (one of the 12 Gifts).

As they make their way through the forest, Vetch turns traitor and tries to seize the Gifts Podkin and Paz own for his masters, the Gorm. The young rabbits flee into the forest depths, where they discover a lost tribe of rabbits and a another of the sacred Gifts – a crown which lets the wearer speak to animals.

With their new allies, Podkin, Paz and Pook emerge, meeting up with the others at Silver Rock warren. His uncle and the Sparrowfast rabbits are already there, as the Gorm have marched round the forest edge and taken their warren. When the two sides meet in battle, who will win? And will the bonedancers let the bard live?


Publisher: Faber & Faber
 
ISBN: 9780571328444 
Number of pages: 320


Kieran Larwood

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Kieran Larwood has been passionate about stories and storytelling ever since he first read The Hobbit aged six. He graduated from Southampton University with a degree in English Literature and now works as a Reception teacher in a primary school. He lives on the Isle of Wight with his family, and between work, fatherhood and writing, doesn’t get nearly enough sleep. The Five Realms: The Legend of Podkin One-Ear is Kieran’s second book after Freaks, now better known as The Peculiars. Podkin One-Ear won the Blue Peter Book Award 2017. The Legend of Podkin One-Ear is the first in the The Five Realms series, followed by The Gift of Dark Hollow and on September 6th, The Beasts of Grimheart.


David Wyatt

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(Image credit: http://neverpedia.com/pan/David_Wyatt)

David Wyatt is an illustrator living in Devon. He has illustrated many novels and is also much admired for his concept and character work. He has illustrated tales by well-known authors such as Diana Wynne Jones, Terry Pratchett, Philip Pullman, and J. R. R. Tolkien.


Fernando López Juárez

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Fernando López Juárez is a Spanish Illustrator who creates realistic cartoon & comical characters for children’s books.


Huge thanks to Kieran, Hannah and all at Faber Children’s for inviting me to host this stunning cover reveal and amazing giveaway, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

Mr E
📚


The Five Realms: The Beasts of Grimheart is available to pre-order online from Amazon, Waterstones or from any good bookshop.

Podkin Grimheart


Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Faber Children’s have kindly given me three copies of The Five Realms: The Beasts of Grimheart to give away!

If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning one of these copies of this superb book, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

Copies to be sent to winners when available from Faber Children’s, near or on publication on 6th September 2018.

Podkin Grimheart

Blog Tour (3 in 1): Me and Mister P: Ruby’s Star (Illustrated by Daniel Rieley) – Maria Farrer: Review, Guest Post: How stories help with developing empathy – Maria Farrer & Giveaway!

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‘A series of stories that goes from strength to strength with a big bear and an even bigger heart that do more than break the ice; Mr E is most definitely a huge fan of Mister P!’ 

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Me and Mister P: Ruby’s Star
Author: Maria Farrer (@FarrerMaria)
Illustrator (Cover): Daniel Rieley (@daniel_rieley)
Publisher: Oxford University Press Children’s (@OUPChildrens)
Page count: 224
Date of publication: 7th June 2018
Series status: Second book in the ‘Me and Mister P’ series but can be read on its own
ISBN: 978-0192766519

Perfect for Year 3, Year 4 & Year 5.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Understanding 😌
2. Heartening 💓
3. Un-bear-ievable! 🐾


Our flat isn’t big, but at least it’s high up. I can stand on the balcony and look up at the stars. I reckon Dad’s out there somewhere looking up too. And I bet he’s thinking about me. I do love Mum and Leo but it’s hard work looking after both of them. Sometimes I wish things were a bit easier.

What’s not easy is a RIDICULOUS, ANNOYING, IN-YOUR-FACE POLAR BEAR moving in!
I mean what use is he going to be? i’ve tried to get rid of him, but he seems very determined to stay…

PREPARE TO MEET THE WORLD’S MOST HELPFUL(ISH) POLAR BEAR!


The first line(s):

Ruby slipped out of the door onto the small balcony of her flat. Sitting with her back against the wall, she stared out across the rooftops and chewed the end of her pencil.


Review:

I’m absolutely delighted that Maria Farrer’s wonderful Mister P series is back with Me and Mister P: Ruby’ Star, subsequently being published after the first book, Me and Mister P, was at the beginning of 2017. Having been shortlisted for a number of awards since then including the UKLA Book Award 2018 and chosen as part of the 2018 Read for Empathy Book Collection for Empathy Day, it is clear to say that Me and Mister P has been a resounding success for all the right reasons.

With Ruby’s Star, Mister P this time helps out a new ‘me’ character in the form of Ruby. Longing for her missing dad, she looks towards the stars hoping that he is looking down on them but wait…

Is it a bird?
Is it a plane?
No, it’s Mister P!

Not just content with showing up on doorsteps, Mister P this time takes to the skies to crash land, quite literally, in to Ruby’s life with the help of a hot-air balloon. Looking after her mum and baby brother Leo and balancing going to school is hard enough without a whopping great big polar bear showing up on her balcony… so how on earth is she supposed to live with him?

Causing immediate chaos by lying in the middle of the road, burying himself amongst the fish fingers in the frozen food freezers in the supermarket and making too much noise bear-boogieing, he doesn’t get off to the best start at fitting in to Ruby’s already-chaotic life. Thinking he’s more trouble than he’s worth, Ruby tries desperately to run away from Mister P, lose him and not claim that he’s hers but that’s to no avail as he always ends up returning back to Ruby… and sometimes to a friendly neighbour who just loves feeding him his fish fingers.

Luckily for her, Mister P –  full of patience and paws-itivity – has a most charming, calming and characteristic knack for bringing families together, all without opening his mouth or saying a word. Ruby is a keen skateboarder and it’s amazing to see her attitude change towards Mister P throughout the story as he becomes not only a big part of her family, but a big part of her heart. The best kind of company. The missing puzzle piece.

Embracing themes and values of empathy, tolerance, acceptance, diversity and children with additional needs and young carers in the most considerate, gentle and attentive of ways; this is a series of stories that goes from strength to strength with a big bear and an even bigger heart that do more than break the ice.

Highly recommended for all, especially families as this series makes for a perfect shared reading experience. Through these books, not only do main characters Arthur (in Me and Mister P) and Ruby become better siblings or better friends but they also become better people, thanks to the intervention of Mister P. The same could be said of the readers, both young and old, who read this book and who will empathise and resonate almost instantly with the larger-than-life characters and situations within its pages.

Mr E is most definitely a huge fan of Mister P!

‘A series of stories that goes from strength to strength with a big bear and an even bigger heart that do more than break the ice; Mr E is most definitely a huge fan of Mister P!’


Big thanks to Maria, Hannah and all at OUP Children’s for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for this wonderfully-written book and organising the fantastic giveaway below! Extra thanks to Maria for writing her guest post.

Mr E
📚

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Today I am also delighted to welcome author of Me and Mister P: Ruby’s Star, Maria Farrer to The Reader Teacher. Here, she shares with The Reader Teacher her thoughts on building empathy through reading books and writing stories in the classroom…

READING BOOKS, WRITING STORIES AND BUILDING EMPATHY

Screen Shot 2018-06-02 at 21.13.51(Illustration by Daniel Rieley)

As teachers, empathy is at the centre of what we do. Understanding and connecting with the feelings and perspectives of our students is the basis of how we inspire, motivate, and teach effectively. Yet, as we know only too well, every child is different and every class made up of students with diverse abilities, experiences, interests, intelligences, languages, cultures and personalities. It is  this diversity which makes the classroom both inspiring and challenging in equal measure. It also makes it a great place to explore and nurture empathy and understanding within a safe and supportive environment.

Developing empathy and emotional literacy in the young is being recognised, increasingly, as central to both emotional wellbeing and academic attainment. Human beings have a natural capacity for empathy from a very early age. When faced with a sad or happy situation, we usually react by feeling sad or happy too. However, empathy has many facets. Sometimes we need to actively and thoughtfully consider the perspective or point of view of another person in order to understand the way they are feeling, acting or reacting. It is this thoughtful or ‘cognitive’ empathy that allows us to align ourselves more closely with a person or situation in order to work out how we would feel in similar circumstances and how we can most effectively act or react in response.

 “Integrating work on empathy with literacy and reading for pleasure is efficient and hugely potent.”
(Professor Robin Banerjee, University of Sussex).

Reading and writing are great ways to build empathy and emotional literacy. Good books allow readers to identify so closely with characters that they are able to stand in the shoes of a fictional character and ‘live’ their feelings. Losing yourself in a story is just that … losing your self and temporarily becoming another self. Experiencing situations from different fictional perspectives helps to build valuable emotional resources for dealing with real-life situations. When reading as a group, stories can also provide a great springboard for discussion and debate. Stories can be used more explicitly to help to recognise and understand empathy. I love getting children to subvert perspective and see what happens—the results can often be dramatic and fun. Take, for example, re-writing or discussing Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit from the point of view of Mr McGregor, making Mr McGregor the good guy. The good guy?! Really?! It takes guidance and support from the teacher in order to reassure children that it is OK to explore the possibilities, but once they get the hang of it, the outcomes can fuel interesting debate! There are numerous stories that lend themselves to this kind of activity. Align yourself with the antagonist and see what happens. Is there another side to this story? “Voldemort terrified into hiding by teenage wizard”? Can our empathy be shifted, even temporarily? With older groups, this has led on to discussions of how writers can actively influence our emotions one way or the other—leading to consideration of bias and prejudice.

A sack of random footwear or props can be handy when thinking about empathy and perspective—physically putting yourself in the shoes of another person can help with the mental leap. Inviting children to ‘choose their shoes’ and then writing a story from that perspective can help them to lose their ‘self’ in story writing as well as reading.

Screen Shot 2018-06-02 at 21.14.16(Illustration by Daniel Rieley)

I suppose putting a polar bear on skateboards was taking things to extremes but the Mister P series encourages children to think about empathy and perspective in a playful, yet (I hope) meaningful way. It is often non-verbal behaviour that provides a window on underlying emotions and elicits empathy. That is precisely why Mister P never speaks or thinks in human. For sure, it is much easier to talk about our feelings when we are happy. Sharing when we are angry or sad or frustrated or scared is much harder. Sharing comes with risks because we don’t know who we can trust with our emotions or how people will react. Often we are reluctant to reveal worries or weaknesses for fear these may be used against us. This can increasingly skew the way we feel about others and ourselves—the perennial dangers of social media where everyone is having a better time than we are!

But sharing through books and stories and writing takes away those risks and provides a stepping stone for children to build a recognition and understanding of empathy, providing them with skills they need to build their own strength, resilience and success.

RESOURCES:

Great information and free resources are available from http://www.empathylab.uk along with useful booklists to help young children develop empathy.

Empathy Day: 12 June 2018. Log on and share!   #EmpathyDay   #ReadforEmpathy

Maria Farrer photo
Maria Farrer is just settling into a new life in the Yorkshire Dales. A keen lover of the outdoors and mountains, she is enjoying exploring the fells with her family and her ever-energetic black labrador. Her dog has played a vital role in the writing of the Mister P series as he been teaching Maria all he knows about how animals and humans communicate.

Maria writes for children and young adults. She loves to laugh and is usually up for a challenge (which is lucky as life with Mister P is mostly quite funny and sometimes quite challenging). She studied Speech and Language Therapy at UCL and has an MA in writing for young people from Bath Spa. She started life as a speech and language therapist and specialised in working with children with language and literacy difficulties.

In her work in schools, she likes to share interesting facts about polar bears and to raise awareness of their increasing fight for survival. One day she dreams of visiting polar bears in the wild. How cool would that be? 

A little known piece of random information:  A lot of Ruby’s Star was written by hand in a small notebook while Maria was crammed into a tiny tent, at a height of more than 4000m in a remote area of Nepal. It was a very scenic office — if a little short on air! 


Giveaway!

The very lovely Maria Farrer and people at OUP Children’s have kindly given me a copy of first book, Me and Mister P and second book in the series, Me and Mister P: Ruby’s Star to give away!

If you’d like to be in with a chance of being the one lucky winner of this set of two Me and Mister P books, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

Be sure to check out the other dates and other bloggers for more reviews, posts and content from Maria on the Me and Mister P blog tour this week!

Me and Mister P Blog Tour

Review: The Mystery of the Colour Thief – Ewa Jozefkowicz (Illustrated by Sophie Gilmore) & Guest Post: ‘My thoughts on mental health issues among primary school-pupils and how I hope The Mystery of the Colour Thief will help children to reach out’ – Ewa Jozefkowicz

Jozefkowicz_THE MYSTERY OF THE COLOUR THIEF
‘Simply ‘specsational’. Heart-wrenching yet heartwarming at the same time… it takes a very special talent to achieve this and I’m delighted to say that Ewa does with flying colours.’ 

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Mystery of the Colour Thief
Author: Ewa Jozefkowicz (@EwaJozefkowicz)
Illustrator (Cover): Sophie Gilmore (@sophillustrates)
Publisher: Zephyr (@HoZ_Books)
Page count: 192
Date of publication: 3rd May 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1786698940

Perfect for Year 6 & Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Friendship 👭
2. Strength 💪
3. Colour 🎨


First the accident, then
the nightmares.

A shadowy thief steals the colours
from Izzy’s world.

Will her new neighbour and a nest
full of cygnets save Izzy
and solve the mystery of the colour thief?


The first line:

He came out of nowhere, a man in the smoke.


Review: 

The story begins, as does some of the chapters, with a voice. An unknown voice. A voice given to a character. A most sinister, shadowy character who we can’t see, but later see the effects of, and can instantly feel coming; looming closer with every word. This too is how it feels for main character, Izzy who finds herself waking up more and more as white as a sheet, reeling in shock and horror at the thought of her dreams which are every bit turning in to nightmares that are encroaching upon her, invading her and taking over her sleep.

Izzy’s mum is in hospital after a car accident – and Izzy attributes blame and fault only to herself. Overwhelmed with pangs of guilt, wracked with anxiety and shrouded in grief, Izzy cannot even face the slightest of sights of her hospitalised mother, lying senseless to the world in a coma. So it’s no wonder the colours of her world start to fade. Literally. As she watches the mural on her bedroom wall’s colours mutate and dissipate; reds, yellows, greens, blues: gone. But what could be happening and where could they be going to?

With no mother to turn to, likewise no father to turn to and a best friend who turns her back on Izzy, she’s left in the dark; trapped in a world where’s she continually suffering from the blackest of Blackest Days. However, new hope emerges for Izzy with a new neighbour. Toby. Paralysed after an accident yet full of positivity and perseverance, it is he that starts to bring new life to Izzy in more ways than one.

First with a nest of cygnets that need rescuing. When researching the correct collective noun to describe a group of cygnets, it referred me to swans. More specifically, ‘a lamentation of swans’. Yet towards the end of the story, I think that the first collective noun in the list, ‘a ballet of swans’ becomes the more apt term because it is this small change for Izzy from Toby that brings about a radically different change in Izzy’s thinking. Together can they help the cygnets, who become one of the true centrepieces and cornerstones of the story?

But even greater than that, can they put an end to the disappearing colours, break through the darkness and solve the mystery of the eponymous colour thief?

As Izzy’s father would say himself, this is simply ‘specsational’. Emotive, engaging and full of moving moments, The Mystery of the Colour Thief paints a picture that’s a compassionate and heartfelt look at mental health and ends up being a canvas of hope that permeates through its pages. It’s beautifully and sensitively written; heart-wrenching yet heartwarming at the same time. It takes a very special talent to achieve this, especially with her debut and I’m delighted to say that Ewa does this with flying colours.

 

‘Simply ‘specsational’. Heart-wrenching yet heartwarming at the same time… it takes a very special talent to achieve this and I’m delighted to say that Ewa does with flying colours.’


Big thanks to Ewa and all at Zephyr for sending me an advance copy of The Mystery of the Colour Thief and to Fritha for helping organise this beautifully-written guest post from Eva. So an extra huge thanks Ewa!

Mr E
📚

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The Mystery of the Colour Thief is available to order online or from any good bookshop.


Today I am also delighted to welcome author of The Mystery of the Colour ThiefEwa Jozefkowicz to The Reader Teacher. Here, she shares with The Reader Teacher her thoughts on mental health issues and how she hopes her book will help children to reach out…

‘My thoughts on mental health issues among primary school-pupils and how I hope The Mystery of the Colour Thief will help children to reach out’

‘I knew that nobody else would understand about the colour thief.’

This is what Izzy, the heroine of The Mystery of the Colour Thief says to herself when she’s considering telling her dad about the horrible shadowy man of her nightmares. Unfortunately, she comes to the conclusion that she shouldn’t worry him as he’s already very sad, and she continues to struggle on with her problems on her own, as her world turns increasingly dark.

Izzy avoids her teachers, although  ask her how she’s feeling, and she snaps at her aunt, who comes to stay with her and her dad and wants to help out. This is because she truly believes that nobody will understand the emotions that she’s going through.

It is only much later in the story, when her new neighbour Toby opens up to Izzy about the challenges he faces, that she is able to share the story of the colour thief with him, and together, they try to stop him in his tracks and solve the mystery.

This reluctance to tell somebody is a trait that is sadly very common among primary school children, many of whom might not even realise why they’ve suddenly begun to feel so different. In recent national surveys, teachers and senior leaders have expressed worries about the rising levels of anxiety and depression among their pupils. Some of these conditions are linked to school pressures (such as exam stress from SATs), some are linked to a difficult family situation, or a broken friendship; others still are unexplained. All are incredibly upsetting.

Through The Mystery of the Colour Thief, I’ve tried to bring across three important messages:

  1. If you’re feeling scared, nervous or low, you are definitely not alone.
  2. No matter how bad things get, there will always be somebody caring who will help you to repaint your world, but they won’t be able to do so if you don’t trust them.
  3. Sometimes when you’re not feeling yourself, your friends may not be sure how to act around you, and that’s OK too.

I think that this third point is important to emphasise , as it is particularly relevant among primary school children. In The Mystery of the Colour Thief, Izzy’s best friend Lou has no idea how to act around her following  the accident which changed Izzy’s world. As a result, she decides to slowly spend less and less time with her, and to form a new friendship with Jemima. This broken friendship is particularly distressing to Izzy, who is already going through so much, but it serves to help her understand that she is stronger than she thinks, and that she has other people who care about her and are able to help.

As adults, we all know that relationships are tested in difficult times, but we rarely consider that this is also true of early friendships in primary school years.

Towards the very end of the story, Izzy says to her mum, who is still unconscious in hospital, ‘It turns out that you’re stronger than you think. And sometimes you just need a bit of help,’ which I hope is a message  that will resonate with a number of young readers.


Ewa Jozefkowicz, author of The Mystery of the Colour Thief

Ewa_Jozefkowicz_credit Ruta Zukaite
Ewa Jozefkowicz grew up in Ealing, and studied English Literature at UCL. She currently works in marketing, and lives in Highbury, north London with her husband and twin girls. 
The daughter of a bookseller, she has always been a lover of children’s books and has dreamed of publishing her own. She wrote her first book aged 5 (meticulously self-illustrated with felt tip pen) and twenty five years later achieved her dream of being a published children’s author with ‘The Mystery of The Colour Thief’. She is fascinated by stories about friendship and growing up.

Credit:
The Mystery of the Colour Thief by Ewa Jozefkowicz, published in hardback,
£10.99, 3 May 2018 from Zephyr
@EwaJozefkowicz @HoZ_Books #TheMysteryoftheColourThief

Cover Reveal & Giveaway: The Dodo Made Me Do It – Jo Simmons (Illustrated by Sheena Dempsey): Out 9th August 2018!

Today, I’m SO excited to reveal the cover of Jo Simmons’ fabulously funny, The Dodo Made Me Do It, illustrated by Sheena Dempsey, which will be published on 9th August 2018 by Bloomsbury Children’s.

I’m also super excited because the very lovely people at Bloomsbury Children’s have given me three copies of The Dodo Made Me Do It to give away! Find out more below!


The Dodo Made Me Do It – Jo Simmons

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Danny longs for adventure – or just a super-cool summer holiday, for once – but every year he is shipped off to the quiet village of Kinoussie in Scotland to stay with his gran. Nothing ever ever happens in Kinoussie – except his gran makes him eat a lot of porridge, and the only person to hang out with is science-mad Susie, who is more interested in watching programmes about tapeworms than finding fun!

But when Danny hears about a shipwreck just off the coast, his adventure really begins and when he discovers a dodo (of all things!), Danny certainly gets more than he bargains for! Trying to keep the dodo fed, safe and quiet is a mammoth task and Danny’s lies and excuses are soon spinning out of control. Why had he ever wished for something more exciting to happen?

A hilarious tale of wish fulfilment gone wrong that every child will relate to – perfect for fans of Pamela Butchart, My Brother Is a Superhero and David Baddiel’s The Parent Agency.

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN: 9781408877777
Number of pages: 304


Jo Simmons

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(Image credit: https://twitter.com/joanna_simmons)

Jo Simmons lives in Brighton with her husband Steve and their two children, George and Dylan. They share their home with a dog called Betty and a cat called Pickle (before you ask – no, they don’t get on. Pickle lives upstairs; Betty lives downstairs).

Jo studied English at Warwick University and journalism at Cardiff University. She has been a journalist for a really long time, but the Pip Street children’s books are her first go at fiction.

Jo likes sleeping, running and eating ice cream straight from the pot, though not all at the same time, of course. That would be silly. And impossible.


Sheena Dempsey

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Sheena Dempsey is an exciting talent. She is most known for being the illustrator of the pigeontastic Dave Pigeon series (Faber & Faber) written by Swapna Haddow, as well as the illustrator of Fearne Cotton’s debut children’s book Yoga Babies (Andersen Press). Yoga Babieshas sold in nine territories and the second title in the series will be published in 2018. It has recently been shortlisted for the Sheffield Children’s Book Awards 2018.

Sheena is also illustrator of Billy Button the Telegram Boy (Barrington Stoke) written by Sally Nicholls, which was shortlisted for the Book of the Year Award by Children’s Books Ireland.


Huge thanks to Jo, Lizz, Emily and all at Bloomsbury Children’s UK for inviting me to host this totally awesome cover reveal, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!


Mr E

📚


The Dodo Made Me Do It is available to pre-order online from AmazonWaterstones or from any good bookshop.

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Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Bloomsbury Children’s have kindly given me three copies of The Dodo Made Me Do It to give away!

If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning one of these copies of this superb book, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

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Cover Reveal & Giveaway: You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yeti! (The Nothing to See Here Hotel #2) – Steven Butler (Illustrated by Steven Lenton): Out 20th September 2018!

Today, I’m SO excited to reveal the cover of Steven Butler & Steven Lenton’s all kinds of amazing sequel, You Ain’t Seen Anything Yeti!, to The Nothing to See Here Hotel which will be published on 20th September 2018 by Simon & Schuster Children’s UK.

I’m also super excited because the very lovely people at Simon & Schuster Children’s UK have given me one copy of The Nothing to See Here Hotel to give away!
Find out more below!


You Ain’t Seen Anything Yeti! (The Nothing to See Here Hotel #2) – Steven Butler

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The second book in this fabulously funny series by bestselling author Steven Butler and the wonderful Steven Lenton!

Having just saved the hotel from a goblin prince, Frankie Banister and the guests are looking forward to enjoying themselves and celebrating the summer holiday of Trogmanay! But when a snow storm blows in (complete with Yeti family), and a number of mysterious guests arrive, something sinister seems to be taking over the hotel and celebrating is the last thing on anyone’s mind…

PRAISE FOR THE NOTHING TO SEE HERE HOTEL:
‘This book is so good you won’t blunking believe it!’
Tom Fletcher

‘Hilariously funny and inventive, and I love the extraordinary creatures and the one thirty-sixth troll protagonist…’
Cressida Cowell

‘A rip-roaring, swashbuckling, amazerous magical adventure. Comedy Gold.’
Francesca Simon

`This hotel gets five stars from me’
Liz Pichon

‘A splundishly swashbungling tale of trolls, goblins and other bonejangling creatures. Put on your wellies and plunge into the strangest hotel you will ever encounter. This is a hotel I hope I never find! Wonderfully, disgustingly funny.’
Jeremy Strong

`What a fun hotel! Book me in immediately!’
Kaye Umansky


Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd

ISBN: 9781471163852
Number of pages: 208


Steven Butler

steven-butler-hscolour54(Image credit: http://www.stevenbutlerbooks.com)

Steven Butler is the author of the bestselling Diary of the Dennis the Menace fiction series. As well as writing the hit 2015 World Book Day title, World Menace Day, Steven also hosted the ten key nationwide events, for the Biggest Book Show on Earth, for over 13,000 children and dozens of top-name authors.

Steven Butler is an actor, dancer and trained circus performer. He has appeared in The Wizard of Ozin London’s West End and was Henry in Horrid Henry Live and Horrid!

His primary school headmaster was the fantastically funny author Jeremy Strong. Steven’s first novel, The Wrong Pong, was shortlisted for the prestigious Roald Dahl Funny Prize in 2009.


Steven Lenton

Steven_Lenton_LT_photo-765x275-e1477574244803(Image credit: https://mmbcreative.com/clients/steven-lenton/)

Steven hails from Cheshire and now works from his studio in Brighton, creating an array of charming characters for his books.

Best known for illustrating Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam, written by Tracey Corderoy, he has illustrated many lovely books and wrote his first picture book with Nosy Crow, Princess Daisy and the Dragon and the Nincompoop Knights.

Steven also loves to visit schools, festivals and bookshops, encouraging and inspiring his audience to draw, giggle and create! He is also a children’s book blogger – just search for his name on YouTube. More information about him and his work can be found at stevenlenton.com.


Huge thanks to Steven, Steven, Eve and all at Simon & Schuster Children’s UK for inviting me to host this totally awesome cover reveal, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!


Mr E

📚


You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yeti! is available to pre-order online from AmazonWaterstones or from any good bookshop.

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Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Simon & Schuster Children’s UK have kindly given me one copy of The Nothing to See Here Hotel to give away!

If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning one of these copies of this superb book, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

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Cover Reveal & Giveaway: Secrets of a Sun King – Emma Carroll (Illustrated by Julian De Narvaez & designed by Emma Eldridge): Out 2nd August 2018!

Today, I’m absolutely delighted to exclusively reveal the cover of Emma Carroll’s eagerly-anticipated Egyptian novel, Secrets of a Sun King which will be published on 2nd August 2018 by Faber Children’s.

I’m also super excited because the very lovely people at Faber Children’s have given me five copies of Secrets of a Sun King to give away! Find out more below!


Secrets of a Sun King – Emma Carroll

Secrets of a Sun King

It’s November, 1922. In a valley in Egypt the tomb of a long dead pharaoh is about to be discovered.

The world watches and waits for news with baited breath. Thirteen-year-old Lilian Kaye, who lives in a flat above a shop in London, is eagerly following the story. One morning the news takes a sinister turn: a man- a famous Egyptologist- disappears. All that remains of him are his feet. Then Lil’s grandfather is taken suddenly ill, and when a mysterious package turns up for him from the Egyptologist, Lil starts to believe there is truth to the rumours of a pharaoh’s curse.

Publisher: Faber & Faber
ISBN: 9780571328499
Number of pages: 320


Emma Carroll

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After years of teaching English to secondary school students, Emma now writes full time. She graduated with distinction from Bath Spa University’s MA in Writing For Young People. In another life Emma wishes she’d written ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne Du Maurier. She lives in the Somerset hills with her husband and three terriers.


Julian De Narvaez

Julian-De-Narvaez-Studio-1(Image credit: https://folioart.co.uk/in-the-studio-julian-de-narvaez/)

Julian is an illustrator from Bogotá, Colombia, South America. Julian De Narvaez begins his drawings in pen and China ink, gradually assembling and colouring the images digitally. This process lends his illustrations a contemporary, eclectic feel, though with a surprisingly fine, traditional quality. This quirkiness is sought after for its engaging richness.


Huge thanks to Emma, Hannah, Sarah and all at Faber Children’s for inviting me to host this stunning cover reveal, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!


Mr E

📚


Secrets of a Sun King is available to pre-order online from Amazon, Hive, Waterstones or from any good bookshop.

Secrets of a Sun King


Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Faber Children’s have kindly given me five copies of Secrets of a Sun King to give away!

If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning one of these copies of this superb book, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

Copies to be sent to winners when available from Faber Children’s, near or on publication on 2nd August 2018.

Secrets of a Sun King

Review: Ottoline series – Chris Riddell & Giveaway (Ottoline signed paperback series & signed print!)

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‘Quintessentially quirky… no-one both writes and illustrates books quite like Chris Riddell. Described as a ‘small girl who has big adventures’, Ottoline is a series which has big appeal.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Titles: Ottoline and the Yellow Cat; Ottoline Goes to School;
Ottoline at Sea & Ottoline and the Purple Fox
Author: Chris Riddell (@chrisriddell50)
Illustrator: Chris Riddell (@chrisriddell50)
Publisher: Macmillan (@MacmillanKidsUK)
Page count: 176; 176; 176; 192
Date of publication (Paperback): 26th February 2015 (Yellow Cat; Goes to School; at Sea); 17th May 2018 (Purple Fox)
Series status: Four in series
ISBN: 978-0330450287; 978-0330472005; 978-0330472012; 978-1509881550

Perfect for Year 3, Year 4 & Year 5.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Original 😀
2. Fun 😄
3. Ingenious 😍


The first line: 
(Ottoline and the Purple Fox)

Ottoline Brown lived in an apartment in the P. W. HUFFLEDINK Tower, which looked like a pepper pot so everyone called it the Pepperpot Building.


Review: If you’ve read any series both written and illustrated by Children’s Laureate 2015-2017, Chris Riddell then you’ll understand completely when I say that no-one both writes and illustrates books quite like Chris. His series are quintessentially quirky, all kinds of loveable and ludicrous and no doubt stand out on the shelf. Therefore I’m very pleased to say that is no different with his offering of Ottoline and her adventures.

Ottoline and the Yellow Cat introduces us to the slightly madcap and outlandishly wonderful world of Ottoline where we meet Ottoline herself, a young girl left on her own by her parents in her apartment and her equally eccentric house guest, Mr. Munroe. Through the story and Chris’ characteristically exquisite and detailed illustrations that will fascinate readers from the first page, we grow to love Ottoline’s quirks and idiosyncrasies as she becomes a super sleuth to solve her neighbourhood’s dog disappearances, burglaries and problems.

Rich in the most wonderful use of vocabulary and description – who’d have thought that you’d find the words ‘Beidermeyer armchair’ in a children’s book? – it’s Chris’ observational charm, dry wit and self-deprecating sense of humour that endears Ottoline’s adventures to the masses.

Ottoline’s antics and adventures are continued through three more beautifully written and illustrated stories in the series, Ottoline Goes to School; Ottoline at Sea and as published in paperback as recently as today (and the reason for this blog post), Ottoline and the Purple Fox. They are all utterly delightful and so I find it so hard to choose but Ottoline and the Purple Fox is my personal favourite where lamppost poetry, urban safaris and doppelgängers all feature in this fantastic fourth instalment. 

Described as ‘a small girl who has big adventures’, Ottoline is a series which has big appeal.

Ottoline and the Purple Fox is available in paperback from the 17th May 2018, £6.99.

‘Quintessentially quirky… no-one both writes and illustrates books quite like Chris Riddell. Described as a ‘small girl who has big adventures’, Ottoline is a series which has big appeal.’


Big thanks to @FrithaL and @MacmillanKidsUK for sending me a copy of Ottoline and the Purple Fox and for providing such an amazing prize of which even I am very jealous of!

Mr E
📚

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Giveaway!

To celebrate the paperback publication of Ottoline and the Purple Fox, the latest book in Chris Riddell’s Ottoline series, I’ve got a signed set of all the Ottoline books to giveaway, plus a signed Ottoline and Mr Munroe print.

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

The Ottoline series has won numerous awards including the Nestle Smarties Prize and the Red House Children’s Book Award, and has won critical acclaim thanks to its beautiful and heart-warming illustrations, paired with a humorous text.


Blog Tour: (3 in 1: Review: The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle – Victoria Williamson (Illustrated by Floris Books); Guest Post: Mirrors & Doors: Diversity in children’s literature – Victoria Williamson & Giveaway!)

The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle Full Cover - Victoria Williamson

‘A truly transformational read. Intensely powerful and immensely poignant at the same time… such a groundbreaking, essential and accomplished debut that not only changes perceptions but also has the power to alter attitudes. With this one, Victoria has most certainly made herself a writer to watch.’ 

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle
Author: Victoria Williamson (@StrangelyMagical)
Illustrator (Cover):  @FlorisBooks
Publisher: Kelpies (@DiscoverKelpies)
Page count: 272
Date of publication: 19th April 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1782504900

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Friendship 👭
2. Courage 💪
3. Empathy ☺️


She is the Fox Girl.
I am the White Gazelle.
Together we can outrun anything.

Reema feels completely lost. She’ll never call this strange country, with its grey skies and boring food, home. Syria is her home and it’s a million miles away.

Caylin feels completely alone. She’s looking after he useless mum, stealing from other kids so she can eat. She can’t tell anyone, they’ll only let her down.

The refugee and the bully – Reema and Caylu – can’t imagine being friends, until a shared secret brings them together.


The first line(s):

Growls in the dark: the monsters are coming /
The home time bell’s so loud it hurts my head.


Review:

Switching between the chapter-changing perspectives of the two main characters, Caylin (who’s used to the streets of Drumhill) and Reema (who’s more used to the streets of war-torn Aleppo), this is a truly transformational read.

There’s not much that these girls can seem to be smiling about as their home lives are somewhat rocky with a mix of domestic depression, alcoholism and wondering where the next meal is coming from for Caylin and culture shock, a language barrier and a complete fear of the unknown for Reema.

However their lives change forever when they both discover a family of foxes. Though it’s this shared secret that initially brings them together to form an unexpected friendship that sometimes boils over yet blossoms, they end up sharing far more than even they could begin to imagine…

With two main characters that are polar opposites of each other: one seemingly damaged by the aftermath of war, the other damaged by circumstance; we see them mature and develop throughout the course of the book. This stunning story gives a voice to characters who, in the world we live in today, so often don’t have a voice and it is in their own words and Victoria’s own experiences working with young asylum seekers that she captures both characters’ voices so clearly and convincingly that they really come to life on the pages before your very eyes.

Bringing the most unlikeliest of friends together, especially this pair, is a difficult thing to do. Yet, Victoria really intertwines these two characters’ lives so pertinently that their storylines fit together in a way that seems that they were always destined to meet each other and bring out the best in each other.

Shortlisted for the Book Awards, this is such a groundbreaking, essential and accomplished debut that not only can change perceptions but also has the power to alter attitudes. It is intensely powerful and immensely poignant at the same time; hitting hard when it needs to whilst tenderly tugging at those heartstrings of yours too.

Overall, it’s a wonderfully well-voiced story from both sides as it’s a touching yet timely reminder of the world in which we live in and how with thought, feeling, compassion and togetherness, we can all live a better life as Jo Cox said, ‘we have far more in common than that which divides us‘.

A book to be proud of writing for Victoria and a book to be proud of reading for all of us. With this one, Victoria has most certainly made herself a writer to watch.

Books can change lives and this just might be one of those books.

One of my favourites of the year so far.

‘A truly transformational read. Intensely powerful and immensely poignant at the same time… such a groundbreaking, essential and accomplished debut that not only changes perceptions but also has the power to alter attitudes. With this one, Victoria has most certainly made herself a writer to watch.’ 

Big thanks to Victoria & Kelpies/Floris Books for sending me an advance copy of this wonderfully written book!

The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
📚

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Mirrors and Doors

‘Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created or recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.’  Rudine Sims Bishop, Ohio State University, ‘Mirrors, Windows and Sliding Glass Doors’.

Most teachers know that books can act as magical doorway to other worlds. But how many of us stop to consider the importance of providing not just doors for children to explore, but mirrors to reflect their own life experiences?

Teaching in Cameroon - Victoria Williamson

The first time I realised that not all stories were universal was when I was working as a VSO teacher in Cameroon. One of my duties was helping develop the small school library, stocked with donated books from the UK and the USA. During a reading lesson with a ten year old who was struggling with literacy, I picked out The Ugly Duckling as a story with fairly easy language. After twenty minutes’ hard slog, we hadn’t got past the first paragraph. We had to keep stopping so I could explain what a duckling was. Then a pond. Then a swan… We gave up and tried other stories, but with no more success. After months of encouraging children to borrow books from the library, only to see their initial enthusiasm give way to apathy, I finally discovered the problem. Those western reading books, despite their bright covers and illustrations, held no relevance for the children. Their stories of ice cream, snowmen, fireworks, and Santa Claus might as well have been written in a foreign language. They were not mirrors reflecting the children’s own experiences of growing up in a small West African village with limited access to electricity and an unreliable water supply, and they couldn’t act as doors to new worlds either, as the children lacked the information keys to unlock those worlds. It wasn’t until I sought out books written by West African writers which featured children growing up in villages like Nkambe, that the library really took off. Children flocked to borrow stories by Chinua Achebe, Mabel Segun and Kola Onadipe featuring characters just like themselves, and their reading abilities began to gradually improve.

Cameroon Library - Victoria Williamson

That was when I first began to understand the power of diverse books. Looking back I realised the stories I’d loved as a child had been dominated by white, middle class, able-bodied characters, which were not representative of the children from the many diverse backgrounds with various special needs that I was teaching as an adult. This had resulted in me recreating the ‘standard’ characters in my own writing, and the stories often fell short of their potential due to the restrictions I placed on them without even realising it.

Travelling, teaching, and reading more widely led me to experiment with a far greater variety of characters in my own novels. The characters in The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle are composed of many voices. Caylin, a troubled twelve-year-old struggling with her mother’s alcohol addiction in a Glasgow council estate, and Reema, a Syrian Muslim refugee whose world has been turned upside down by war, were inspired by some of the children I have taught over the years.

No one is saying we shouldn’t read the classic children’s books in schools – my own imaginative landscape would be infinitely poorer without the wonderful Enid Blyton, Narnia and Harry Potter books. But if the books in a classroom library act only as mirrors for one type of experience – often white, middle class, able-bodied and frequently male – then many children will not only find opaque glass where their mirrors should be, but the doors to new worlds locked and the keys missing.

As teachers we need to be aware that when selecting books to be read in our classrooms, we are choosing which children get to see reflections of themselves in heroic roles. We are also acting as the gatekeepers to exciting new worlds, and we need to ensure that some children are not denied access due to a lack of representation. Have a look right now at the books in your school library and the ones you plan to teach. Are there a wide range of experiences reflected in them? Do they invite all children to share the adventure? If they do then they’re not just books, but mirrors and doors for all of your children to explore literature together.

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Victoria Williamson is a primary school teacher with a Master’s degree in special needs education. She has worked as a science teacher and teacher trainer in Cameroon and Malawi, an English as a foreign language teacher in China, and as a special needs teacher in the UK.

Victoria has been writing fiction since she was a child, and now writes full time for Middle Grade and YA, with a particular focus on creating diverse characters reflecting the many cultural backgrounds and special needs she has encountered, both as a teacher and as a volunteer. Having worked with children in Africa, Asia and across the UK with additional support needs such as Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Down’s Syndrome, physical disabilities and behavioural problems, Victoria is passionate about creating inclusive worlds in her novels where all children can see a reflection of themselves in heroic roles.

Victoria’s experiences teaching young children in a school with many families seeking asylum inspired her debut novel, The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle, an uplifting tale of redemption and unlikely friendship between Glaswegian bully Caylin and Syrian refugee Reema. Twenty per cent of author royalties for ‘The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle’ are donated to the Scottish Refugee Council.

You can find Victoria on Twitter as @strangelymagic or on her website.


Giveaway!

Victoria has very kindly given me two copies of The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle complete with matching model toy (of fox or white gazelle!) to give away to two lucky winners!

If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning one of these copies of this superb book and complementing model toy, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!


Be sure to check out the other blog tour dates for The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle!

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Pontypridd Children’s Book Festival 2018

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Today I am absolutely delighted to be blogging from Pontypridd Museum for the very first Pontypridd Children’s Book Festival! A children’s book festival in partnership with Cardiff Book Festival and Pontypridd Town Council held today on Saturday 12th May 2018 at Pontypridd Museum from 9am-6pm.

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

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

#PontyKidsBooksFest

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Authors and events

Storytime with How High Do Trees Grow? and Can We Walk to the Moon? by Mark Dorey (Language: English; Age Suitability up to 7 – 30 Mins FREE)

Storytime with Polly’s Magic Bubbles and the Quest for Dizzelwood by Mark Dorey (Language: English; Age Suitability 7+ 30mins FREE)

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Mark started off by reading Can We Walk to the Moon? Inspired by a family holiday to Newquay. Looking at the biggest moon they’d ever seen, Mark’s son asked his dad ‘can we walk to the moon?’ and so the idea for this story was born.

Mark’s picture books are beautifully written in rhyme and illustrated by Mark’s wife Liz which makes them perfect for reading aloud! Mark told us that his wife used silver leaf in some of the illustrations to give the pages of his book that extra sparkle!

Joining in with the rhymes (even the adults couldn’t help joining in!), counting in Welsh and doing all of the actions, the audience grew and grew this morning.

The next of Mark’s books that he read was How High Can We Walk?, again inspired by a question from his son, Tom. The audience loved joining in with the voices and sound effects (Whoosh!), particularly the angry ice cream man.

Up… and up … and up! Full of brilliant illustrations and fantastic vocabulary, this is a super tale of a boy and his dad climbing trees and having an absolute adventure!

Mark’s second session was full of storytelling. This time he told the story, of his brand new book written for 6-9 year olds, Midge the Prince of the Giants about a GIANT baby with a small twist as Midge actually started off by being not very tall… at all.

Mark Dorey is a writer and publisher with over 20 years writing experience and is passionate about engaging youngsters to read and write. Mark has performed poetry and spoken word events all over Wales with National Theatre Wales.

Poetry Workshop with clare e potter (Language: English and Welsh; Age Suitability 4+ £3)

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A very lively and energetic workshop that you couldn’t help but want to be involved in! Clare loves to use objects as prompts for creating poetry so much so that she brought all these wonderful objects, including hag stones, antique fans and all kinds of amazing artefacts.

Clare and all involved thought deeply and talked about the objects being ‘holders of memories’ and ’keepers of secrets’. Using an ‘Ode to Common Things’ by Pablo Neruda as inspiration, Clare helped everyone involved to take an everyday object like a whisk and give it a whole new meaning!

Putting an object in the hot seat and asking it questions together such as ‘What do you remind me of?’ and ‘Where did you come from?’ shows how creativity and imagination can spark from anything and everything around us.

clare e. potter is a writer and performer from Cefn Fforest. She spent ten years in the Deep South where she did an MA in Afro-Caribbean literature. She has had various writing residencies, works on collaborative community projects, and won the John Tripp Award for Spoken Poetry.

Create Your Own Comic with Huw Aaron (Language: WELSH; Age Suitability 8+ £3)

IMG_6203 2Plenty of giggles and lots of fun were to be had in Huw Aaron’s comic workshop even before the comic making(!) as children and adults took part in a pre-comic workout.

Armed with his trusty marker pen, Huw created a range of weird, wacky and wonderful cartoon characters with an audience lapping up every character (gymeriad) including a T-Rex wearing a tutu whilst riding a unicycle and a shark/gorilla hybrid which one of the children coined ’Sharkilla’!

Showing how to truly have fun drawing, Huw brings cartoon art to life so effortlessly and so full of energy!

Huw Aaron is a cartoonist and illustrator. His doodlings can be found in a number of children’s books and comic strips and he has also written and illustrated the welsh language comic/jokes/story/puzzle book Llyfr Hwyl y Lolfa.

Gaslight with Eloise Williams (Language: English; Age Suitability 9+ £3)

IMG_6206Reading from Gaslight, I particularly liked the way Eloise encouraged the audience to read along one line at a time by splitting the first chapter in to single lines or phrases for them to read along with her.

Eloise talked about her inspirations and interest in the Victorian era and architecture and how this led to writing about the finer details of the grittier, darker side of Victorian times. Spending her school holidays in Cardiff, she started to stop and stare at the sights around her, noticing things around her in much more detail. Eloise likes to write about experiences; places she’s been to as she can visualise details, large or small.

She wanted to write a book where the reader almost forgets that its set in Victorian times and has a main character that everything Eloise wishes she could be and everything she’s not.

We were also very lucky to be treated to a sharing of an extract of Eloise’s new book out in September, Seaglass: a modern ghost story inspired by a mist rolling in from the sea at Tenby, which the whole room was absolutely captivated by.

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.

Writing Masterclass with Catrin Collier (Language: English; Age Suitability 11+ FREE)

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Local author and writing heroine, Catrin started by sharing with us the opening extract to her daughter Sophie Anderson’s recently published novel, and Waterstones’ Children’s Book of the Month for May, The House with Chicken Legs.

She followed this with talking about literary worlds and being lost in the world that you write in, being aware of your audience and projecting it so it becomes so appealing that others can’t help but be drawn in to it.

She also took questions from the audience talking about obtaining a publishing deal, working in writers’ circles and using her local knowledge of Pontypridd and all her wealth of experience to provide an invaluable insight in to the publishing world.

If Catrin has one word or one tip for aspiring writers, it’s to ‘persevere’ and that there is no right way to write; it just either works or it doesn’t.

Catrin Collier/Katherine John has published 55 novels in English and translation, 25 as Collier. Her novel, Hearts of Gold filmed by BBC Worldwide, attracted 6.8 million viewers on UK TV.  One Last Summer, based on the wartime diaries of her Prussian mother is recommended reading by the Holocaust Day Memorial Trust. The film she scripted from her crime book By Any Name is showing on Amazon Prime. She is currently working on commissioned film scripts and a series of books.

http://www.catrincollier.co.uk

“Land of our Mothers” with Carolyn Hitt (Language: English; Age Suitability 7+ FREE)

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In her workshop, Carolyn Hitt took us on a journey of awesome women of Wales and pioneering heroines of Welsh history. A much-needed workshop as we couldn’t believe that only a marginal amount of women featured in surveys and votes when asked about popular and historical figures from Wales. I particularly liked the way that Carolyn highlighted that even the word ‘history’ doesn’t seem to account for many of the stories of women in our past (his + story = history).

Learning about landmark women who put their own stamp on our history, Carolyn spoke about such women as Jemima Nicholas, Mary Jones, Frances Hoggan – Wales’ first woman doctor – and Sarah Jane Rees (Cranogwen) who became the first woman to win a prize for poetry at the National Eisteddfod.

Finished off with the audience voting for which woman from Welsh history should be immortalised in statue for generations to remember.

An inspiring workshop that I will certainly be using the knowledge of in the classroom to highlight the leading ladies with even bigger ideas that have shaped the course of our history.

Writing for Children Masterclass with Claire Fayers (Language: English; Age Suitability 16+ £5)

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Claire shared with us her expertise of writing for children of all ages; picture books (with a nod to Sarah McIntyre); early readers; chapter books; ‘middle grade’ and young adult.

After a phone call from her mother-in-law where her MIL couldn’t understand where all her ideas came from, Claire described this as her having to ‘make ideas, rather than getting ideas land in her lap’ for the creation of a story. She also discussed her ideas from her trusty notebook which included sword fights, unicorns and orange feet!

The audience created their own mix of stories using setting, character, action where one member gave the setting, another a character and the other the action which left the room laughing! Ending with discussing publication, Claire talked about the importance of writing groups like SCBWI and competitions like NaNoWriMo.

Thinking about characters was central to Claire’s workshop. She reiterated her belief that giving children characters who change their mind, have problems to solve and develop as the story progresses is good for children and this is something to think about when suggesting books for children to read in the classroom. 

Claire Fayers writes comic fantasy featuring swashbuckling pirates, evil magicians, heroic librarians and man-eating pengiuns. She grew up in South Wales, studied English in Canterbury, and is now back in Wales where she spends a lot of her free time tramping around castles in the rain, looking for dragons!

Writing Masterclass with Rachel Trezise (Language: English; Age Suitability 13+ £5)

IMG_6219.jpgRachel started her workshop by getting everyone talking as they had to introduce each other.

Rachel is known for writing short stories for young adults (13+) and shared a formula for planning short stories called the ABDCE formula: A – start with action or a question; B – background; D – drama; C- climax and E – ending. She also read one of her stories ‘Hard as Nails’ to demonstrate these elements of writing in action.

Rachel Trezise was born in the Rhondda valley in South Wales where she still lives. She studied at Glamorgan and Limerick Universities. Her first novel was In and Out of the Goldfish Bowl. Her first short fiction collection Fresh Apples won the Dylan Thomas Prize in 2006. Her second short fiction collection Cosmic Latte won the Edge Hill Short Story Prize Readers’ Choice Award in 2014. Her first full length play Tonypandemonium was staged by National Theatre Wales in 2013. She also writes non fiction.

 

Cover Reveal: The Black Amulet (The Boy With One Name/Badlands: Book 2) – J. R. Wallis (Out 6th September 2018)

Today, I’m absolutely delighted to exclusively reveal the cover of J. R. Wallis’ The Black Amulet, the second book in the Badlands series illustrated by Manuel Šumberac following The Boy With One Name, which will be published on 6th September 2018 by Simon & Schuster Children’s UK.

I’m also super excited because the very lovely people at Simon & Schuster Children’s UK have given me three copies of J. R. Wallis’ first in the series, The Boy With One Name, to give away! Find out more below!


The Black Amulet – J. R. Wallis

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Welcome to the Badlands … a hidden part of our world populated by creatures which most people think exist only in fairy tales and nightmares.

Jones, Ruby and Thomas Gabriel have spent the summer apart following the extraordinary events of last winter – Jones is now a “normal” boy living with his parents, Ruby is secretly training to be a Badlander and Thomas Gabriel has commenced and has his own  Badland area to protect. But magic is about to pull them back together once more, as they are tasked with hunting down the all-powerful magical artefact, The Black Amulet, with each hoping it will hold the secret to their problems…


J. R. Wallis

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J. R. Wallis is a children’s author and is always on the look out for strange and mysterious things to put in his books. He believes that if you look hard enough you can usually find something interesting to photograph or write about. His new book ‘The Boy With One Name’ is about the things people don’t notice if they’re not watching out for them.

He also writes YA fiction under the name Rupert Wallis and his work has been shortlisted for awards both in the UK and abroad. His debut novel ‘The Dark Inside’ is now being adapted for film. In addition to writing books, he is a Teaching Associate at Cambridge University’s Institute of Continuing Education, where he lectures on creative writing.  He also mentors students at the Faber Academy.

He lives in Norfolk.

You can find out more about J. R. Wallis and his books on his website or on Twitter.


Manuel Šumberac

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Manuel Šumberac is a Croatian based illustrator and animator. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb where he was drawn towards the fascinating world of illustration. His work has been published and recognized in numerous book illustrations and book covers, such as Pinocchio, Snow White, The Night Before Christmas and Steampunk Frankenstein, amongst many others. Manuel creates his illustrations using digital techniques combined with traditional media.

You can see more of Manuel’s work, cover illustrations and portfolio on his website.


Huge thanks to Rupert, Jo and all at Simon & Schuster for inviting me to host this marvellously magical cover reveal, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

Mr E
📚


The Black Amulet is available to pre-order now online or from any good bookshop.

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Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Simon & Schuster Children’s have kindly given me three copies of The Boy With One Name to give away!

If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning one of these copies of this superb book, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

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‘Delightfully magical and brilliantly told.’
Abi Elphinstone, author of Sky Song on The Boy With One Name

First in the series, The Boy With One Name is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

Review & Giveaway: The Ice Garden – Guy Jones (Illustrated by Helen Crawford-White)

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‘With scenes echoing more than that of The Secret Garden meeting The Chronicles of Narnia… this is a fantastical mix of magic and frozen fantasy across a literary landscape that glistens with absolute grace.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Ice Garden
Author: Guy Jones (@guyjones80)
Illustrator (Cover): Helen Crawford-White (@studiohelen)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 224
Date of publication: 4th January 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1911490043

Perfect for Year 5 & Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Atmospheric ✨
2. Friendship 👫
3. Acceptance 😌


Jess is allergic to the sun.
She lives indoors in a world of shadows, peeking at other children from her curtained house. One night, she sneaks out. And there, just beyond the empty playground she’s longed to visit, she discovers an impossibility – a magical garden made of ice.


The first line:

They called it the Hat.


Review: Frozen out of going to school, going outside and making friends in the real world due to her allergy to the sun, Jess – pained and pitiful – finds herself becoming more and more frustrated with her life. Confined to being home-schooled and being routinely taken to hospital visits where the doctors don’t listen to her and her own mother doesn’t either, she’s stuck in a world where her emotions ice over, her confidence is often shattered and that darkens when it’s light.

So when it’s night time, it’s the perfect opportunity for Jess to defy her mother wishes, remove the Hat and secretly explore her city.  However, there’s more than a chill in the air when Jess discovers something greater than she could ever have imagined: an enchanted, frozen paradise in the form of a magical ice garden that transcends between this world and that. Behind the playground she’s familiar with, an altogether different kind of playground emerges that’s worlds apart from what she’s used to and it is here where she discovers a feeling of unburdening freedom in the most unlikeliest of places. I suppose you could call it her garden of Eden. And where she meets the most unlikeliest of friends…

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First with Owen, a mysterious ice boy who she shares more than his ice garden with.
Then back at the hospital, with an unconscious boy called Davey who she shares more than her written stories with, as these soon become stories within a purely magical story. The connections between these characters stretch far beyond what is immediately apparent.

Despite this being what some would consider a short book, every word is worth its weight in gold. Metaphor is gloriously used throughout with my favourite examples being ‘The purple sky was streaked with brontosaurus ribs of white cloud.’ (p.44) and ‘The next day was like a held breath.’ (p.51). With scenes echoing more than that of The Secret Garden meeting The Chronicles of Narnia, Guy has sculpted a sense of sumptuous sophistication within his writing which ensures that just as discovering The Ice Garden was a revelation for Jess, discovering Guy Jones’ writing will be a revelation for you.

A fantastical mix of magic and frozen fantasy adorned with hues of hope and heart that should be encouraged in to the hands of as many readers as possible. Even though this story may leave readers with the slightest feeling of cold hands, this will soon thaw to leave them too with the warmest of hearts. It’s an incredibly fine example of an atmospheric, tender and multi-layered tale that is at times bittersweet yet glistens with absolute grace. I can only hope that Guy will be writing many, many more as I am eagerly anticipating his next.

‘With scenes echoing more than that of The Secret Garden meeting The Chronicles of Narnia… this is a fantastical mix of magic and frozen fantasy across a literary landscape that glistens with absolute grace.’

Big thanks to Guy for sending me an advance copy of this beautifully written book!

The Ice Garden is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
📚

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Giveaway!

So to coincide with my review of The Ice Garden, I am delighted to say that Guy has kindly given me three copies of The Ice Garden to giveaway on Twitter. If you’d like a chance of winning this superb prize, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

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Blog Tour: Sophie Anderson – The House with Chicken Legs (Book Birthday!): Author Q&A & Guest Post: The Snow Maiden – Sophie Anderson

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I am absolutely ecstatic to have Sophie Anderson, author of The House with Chicken Legs,  visit The Reader Teacher today to take part in her blog tour. She will be answering many of my questions and talking more about the messages behind a beautiful Russian tale, The Snow Maiden. For me, this is an incredibly special guest with an incredibly special book as The Reader Teacher started with its first ever review about The House with Chicken Legs and I am also over the moon that a quote from my review has been chosen to be published in finished copies of The House with Chicken Legs.

You can read my review of The House with Chicken Legs by clicking here:
The House with Chicken Legs (Sophie Anderson) – The Reader Teacher!

The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson publishes in paperback, 3 May, £6.99 from Usborne. Cover art by Melissa Castrillón and inside black and white illustrations by Elisa Paganelli.

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


Author Q&A: Sophie Anderson (SA) with The Reader Teacher (TRT):

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Sophie Anderson grew up in Swansea, studied at Liverpool University, and has worked as a geologist, science teacher and text book author. Sophie was inspired to love stories by her Prussian grandmother who fled her homeland during WW2, losing her family in the process. She carried the stories, music and food of her home in her soul and brought them with her to Wales…and to her granddaughter Sophie. Growing up it was the tale of the chicken-legged house that captured Sophie’s imagination the most. She thought it would be incredible to live in a house that could take you to see new places or to visit the homelands of ancestors. Now living in the Lake District with her husband, Sophie enjoys the freedom of home schooling her three children, fell walking, canoeing, and daydreaming.


The House with Chicken Legs

TRT: At The Reader Teacher, for my reviews, I describe books in #3Words3Emojis. I’ve described The House with Chicken Legs as 1. Beautiful 😍 Magical ✨ 3. Heartfelt 💖, which 3 adjectives and 3 corresponding emojis would you choose to best describe it?
SA: Oh gosh, I like your choices! Maybe fairy-tale🧙‍♀️ (the female witch emoji); destiny💫(the stars emoji); circle-of-life💀(the skull emoji). And I know I’ve totally cheated by adding hyphens to words!

TRT: What books, people, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write The House with Chicken Legs?
SA: The House with Chicken Legs was inspired by the Russian fairy tales my grandmother told me when I was young. And while writing Marinka’s story, I dipped into so many books for ideas and information! To name just a few: Myths and Legends of Russia by Aleksandr Afanas’ev, Forests of the Vampire: Slavic Myth by Michael Kerrigan, Russian Folk Belief by Andrei Sinyavsky, and Women Who Run With The Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estés.

After the first draft, which I worked on alone, got picked up by my agent Gemma Cooper, The House with Chicken Legs became a collaborative project. I have had so much help and input from Gemma; and my editors Rebecca Hill, Becky Walker and Mallory Kass, it feels like their names should be on the cover too!

And of course, I could not have done any of it without the support of my husband and children.

TRT: What do you hope readers will take away from reading The House with Chicken Legs?
SA: That life is full of joy and sorrow, loneliness and companionship, pride and regret. To live means experiencing it all. Some things might feel heart-breaking, but they can never truly break your heart. There is always hope for a brighter future, and you might find it in the most unexpected of places – in an encounter with a young friend or an old Yaga, in a house that you thought was your enemy, in the beak of a bird, or in the ripples on a puddle’s surface. Even death can inspire us to embrace life.

I hope my readers try to appreciate every moment – whether light or dark – and keep striving for happiness. We can shape and mould our futures, and the possibilities are as endless as the stars!

TRT: You asked this question on Twitter recently, so now I’m asking it to you… If you had a house with chicken legs for a day, can you describe what it would like? Where would you go? What would you do? Why?
SA: It would be very old, but still full of life, and well-worn, but in a comfortable way. I have always wanted to see the places that inspired my grandmother’s stories. So, I would sit on the House’s roof as it ran over the fells near my current home and the Welsh hills of my childhood, splashed through the English Channel, and galloped all the way across Europe to the enchanted forests, lakes and seas of my grandmother’s first home.

TRT: What is your favourite house that exists only in literature?
SA: Oh, that’s easy! The Moominhouse! The Moomin books by Tove Jansson were my first love. I think it would need some legs though. Maybe heron legs? I think they would suit it…

TRT: If you were to choose the character that is most like you from The House with Chicken Legs, who would it be and why?
SA: The House! Like the house, I love music and travel and playing games. The House wants to have fun with Marinka, but wants to protect her too, and sometimes those two desires aren’t compatible. As a parent, I can relate to that feeling.

TRT: As The House with Chicken Legs is based on Russian folklore, which is your favourite Russian folktale and why?
SA: Probably Vasilisa the Beautiful, as it is the first Baba Yaga story I heard in which I glimpsed the wise woman behind the evil old crone archetype. The story marked the beginning of a life-long love and admiration for Baba Yaga. I have learned so much about her, and from her, and no matter how much I read, there is always more learn!

TRT: What kinds of research did you do and how did this help when writing The House with Chicken Legs?
SA: I read flocks of Slavic fairy tales for inspiration, including all the Baba Yaga stories I could find. I also researched ancient Slavic beliefs, and many of the ideas I came across – death as a journey, the glassy mountains, the black ocean, and Baba Yaga’s links to an ancient Goddess of Death – became incorporated into The House with Chicken Legs.

I experimented with Russian recipes, made my first borsch and ate my first horseradish. I listened to traditional Russian music, discovered many curious and wonderful Russian proverbs, and visited beautiful places – Venice, Africa, Russia, and the Arctic – from my armchair through the magic of books and film.

TRT: You have introduced readers to lots of new vocabulary throughout the book both in English (i.e. balustrade, nebulous, tendrils) and Russian with my favourite being ‘pchelka’, which means ‘little bee, a term of endearment’. What is your favourite Russian word that you have used within the book and why?
SA: My favourite is also pchelka, as it is what I call my daughter!

Reading and Writing

TRT: What first attracted you to writing? Did you enjoy writing at school?
SA: I did enjoy writing at school – I was so proud of some of the stories I produced I saved them, and still have them! But, I always wanted to be a scientist, so I studied biology and geology at university, and became an exploration geologist, then a secondary school science teacher.

It wasn’t until I had children that writing became a big part of my life. I started writing short stories and poems for my children, but I enjoyed the process so much I began writing for myself – simply for the joy of telling a story!

TRT: Which parts of writing do you find energise you and which parts do you find exhaust you?
SA: Each stage of the writing process has its own pleasures; the heady rush of a first draft, the cool clarity at the top of re-write mountain, and the calm, thoughtful polishing towards The End. But each stage can be exhausting too! You have to take care of yourself and know when to step away from your work and replenish your creative well!

TRT: Which is your favourite book from childhood and which is your favourite book now as an adult? Why?
SA: I love the magical world of The Moomins, created by Tove Jansson, and my favourite book of the series is Tales from Moominvalley; because Moominpappa learns so many wonderful things about the mysterious Hattifatteners.

And my absolute favourite book ever is Northern Lights by Philip Pullman; for its beautiful writing, incredible world building, and magical, memorable story.

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?
SA: No! Sadly, I don’t remember contacting any authors, nor do I remember any authors visiting my school! Most of the authors I admired didn’t live in the UK (e.g. Tove Jansson, Tamora Pierce) or were dead (L.M.Montgomery, J.R.R.Tolkein). I would have loved it if an author had visited my school!

TRT: I am SO excited to visit Hay Festival again this year where I will be seeing yourself, Juliette Forrest and James Nicol as part of the HAYDAYS programme. Will you be appearing at other literary events or festivals this year? If so, which ones and what will you be speaking about?
SA: I will be … but it’s all top secret until official announcements are made!

TRT: I know you are heavily invested and focused on promoting The House with Chicken Legs 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 inside or outside of the publishing world?
SA: The next few books I have planned are all middle grade stories inspired by folklore or fairy tales. My ‘book two’ is inspired by a lesser known Slavic fairy tale called The Lime Tree or Why Bears’ Paws are Like Hands. There are several short stories within the main story, inspired by folklore characters such as Zmey Gorynych, Koschei the Deathless and Father Frost.

The House with Chicken Legs and Teaching

TRT: I know that you have resources on your website to help with this. Could you suggest ways that your book could be used in the classroom for the many teachers that will read this?
SA: I think the book could be used to stimulate discussions (about identity and belonging, destiny, the circle of life, the soul, different cultures); or as a starting point for some research into different folklores and fairy tales; or to help inspire children to write their own fairy tale reimaginings.

TRT: If you were to ‘pitch’ The House with Chicken Legs in a sentence or two for teachers to use it in their classrooms or for parents to choose to read it at home, how would you sum it up?
SA: The House with Chicken Legs is a fairy tale reimagining, about a young girl, Marinka, who is struggling to escape a lonely destiny as Guardian of The Gate between this world and the next. Death features, but not in a scary or morbid way, and ultimately it is a book about following your dreams and living life to the full.

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?
Through my website: https://sophieandersonauthor.com/contact/

TRT: Finally, can you share with our readers something about yourself that they might be surprised to learn?
SA: I once won a trip to The Pantanal in Brazil, to assist environmental research scientists, and while I was there I swum with piranhas, snuck up on a caiman, drove a jeep – and rode a horse – through the jungle, and cuddled a baby peccary.

Thank you, Sophie, for taking the time to answer my questions and even bigger thanks for including my quote from my review in the finished copy of The House with Chicken Legs!

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


The House with Chicken Legs Blog Tour:
Fifteen Russian Fairy Tales and What They Mean to Me

  1. The Snow Maiden (on love and happiness)

There are several different versions of the Russian fairy tale of Snegurochka or The Snow Maiden. Many of the stories begin with a childless peasant couple building a little girl out of snow, who then comes to life.

In Alexander Afanasyev’s version, published in 1869, the peasant couple care for the Snow Maiden like a daughter, until one day a group of girls invites her for a walk in the woods. They build a small bonfire and take turns jumping over it. When the Snow Maiden takes her turn, she evaporates into a cloud above the fire and disappears.

The Snow Maiden was made into a play by Aleksandr Ostrovsky, with music by Tchaikovsky, in 1873; and was adapted into an opera by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1881. In this version the Snow Maiden is the daughter of Spring the Beauty and Father Frost. When she meets a young man, she begs her mother for the ability to love. But, when she does fall in love, her heart warms, and she melts.

In Arthur Ransome’s retelling, The Little Daughter of the Snow, published in Old Peter’s Russian Tales in 1916, the Snow Maiden finds herself alone in the forest when her playmates go home at dusk. A red fox offers to lead her home and she accepts. Her parents are grateful to the fox for bringing their daughter home, but when the fox asks for a plump hen as thanks, they decide to trick him. They put a dog in a sack, and when the fox opens the sack – thinking a hen is inside – the dog chases off the fox. Then the parents hear their daughter singing,

‘“Old ones, old ones, now I know
Less you love me than a hen,
I shall melt away again,
To my motherkin I go –
Little daughter of the Snow.”’

The parents run into their home and find their daughter’s clothes in a pool of meltwater, although Old Peter (the narrator of the tale) explains that the Snow Maiden has been carried away by Father Frost and Mother Snow ‘over stars to the far north’, where she plays all through the summer on frozen seas, and in winter returns to Russia.

The story of The Snow Maiden contains powerful seasonal imagery and has been interpreted as representing the death of winter and the coming of spring.

All the versions I have read or heard, also seem to contain the message that it is better to live fully, to seek out love and happiness, even if there are risks associated with this; as a short, full life is preferable to a long, empty one.

In Afanasyev’s version, the Snow Maiden revels in playing with her friends, and jumps over the flames joyfully before evaporating. In Ostrovsky’s version, the Snow Maiden chooses to give up everything for the gift of love. And in Ransome’s retelling, the Snow Maiden leaves her parents because she does not feel they love her enough.

One of the things I love about fairy tales is how they can mean different things at different times in your life. And since I have become a parent, I have found new meaning in the tale of The Snow Maiden. I think there is another message perhaps, about how our time with our children is fleeting, and all too soon they grow up and often move away. So, it is important we try to make our time together filled with as much love and happiness as possible.

There is an adult reimagining of this tale, The Snow Child, written by Eowyn Ivey, published by Tinder Press.


Sophie Anderson

@sophieinspace @Usborne #TheHousewithChickenLegs
Melissa Castrillón @mv_castrillon and Elisa Paganelli @elisaupsidedown

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Review & Resources: 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.


Today, the 5th October, is the one-year anniversary of the publication of The Lost Words and I am delighted to have been asked to host these utterly amazing resources that should be used in all classrooms:

Download The Lost Words Challenge Cards here:
https://www.teachwire.net/uploads/products/The_Lost_Words_Challenge_Cards.pdf


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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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 ch