Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post – Why I wrote about the child of an alcoholic in Will You Catch Me?): Will You Catch Me? – Jane Elson

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‘Jane’s writing exudes empathy where history and heart combine to make this story one that you should hold so close to your heart.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Will You Catch Me?
Author: Jane Elson (@JJELSON35)
Publisher: Hachette (@HachetteKids)
Page count: 336
Date of publication: 9th August 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1444927788

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Heart 💓
2. Drink 🍷
3. History 👑


Most kids want adventures.
I just want normal.

Nell Hobs lives with a tortoise, two guinea pigs, two goldfish, two gerbils, a hamster and an assortment of beasts and bugs living in jam jars on her windowsill. She is proud to be the only naturalist on the Beckham Estate.

Caring for her family of animals is a good distraction from caring for her mum. But Nell knows her chaotic life can’t continue as it is. Nell needs a dad. So she hatches a plan with her best friend Michael: a way to make her dad step forward and catch her. But will she succeed?


Review: 

I have so much to say about this unforgettable, powerful and poignantly-written book. For many who read this book it will provide an insight in to a hidden problem. A hidden problem that children face today in our classrooms, our schools and our lives. But for some, this will be their lives. The life they’ve had to live, they’ve had to endure and for those, I hope this book is a kind of tribute to the suffering they have had to face as it acts as a stark reminder to everyone to be kind, compassionate and thoughtful to each other because sometimes we do not know the battles that other people are fighting.

As we are introduced to Nell Hobs who lives on the Beckham Estate, we discover that she is ever the natural naturalist who can’t help but adopt more animals to her mini-zoo that gets bigger each and every week with a new and additional animal appearing. But not only does she live with her mini-menagerie of animals but she lives with her mother. A mother who at first appears to be wanting to do all she can to please Nell that is until the ‘demon drink’ takes over. She’s an alcoholic. In a life surrounded by her mother’s empty promises, a home life that is way more erratic than anybody could imagine and the ever-present worry of her mother relapsing mean that Nell’s mental health is a constant source of agony and – rarely ever, ecstasy. For, whenever it is a feeling of happiness it’s nearly always short-lived and dripping with false hope.

This is why Nell starts out on her quest of soul-searching. She needs a dad. She needs some kind of stability. Someone to sort this mess out and someone to be her state of normal. But will she find the person that can catch her when she needs it most?

As she tries hard to balance school – of which with her chaotic life, she can’t help but always arrive late to – with bringing herself up, Nell takes some sort of solace in the community around her. Without her extended family, her neighbours and two teachers who are the shining light of Nell’s life, Nell would not be Nell. These people are her life; her crumbs of comfort, her lifeblood and when living with her mother becomes all too much: her escape route.

Then someone else comes in to her life. Unexpectedly at first, yet the more she appears, the more welcome she is. For that person is Nell Gwyn. Introduced at first by her history teacher, Nell’s namesake soon becomes the honorary ancestor and ally that she has been craving. Guiding her through her life, her imaginary historical friend is her inspiration. Can Nell help Nell on her journey to finding her father…? Readers will be in awe of the real-life accounts and pursuits of Nell Gwyn and will be itching to research her life after reading this.

Will You Catch Me? captured my heart in the same way that Nell Gwyn captured Nell Hobs. With heaps of heart and a story of history that also needs to be told, it gets better and more emotionally investing with every chapter. This is frank, real storytelling with perceptive and innocently acute observations that have the power to make you think differently. I don’t think you’ll realise quite how much this book has such an effect on you, it’s a life lesson. Such a carefully-considered concept for a children’s book that could only be delivered with the writing wisdom of Jane. Her writing exudes empathy and she establishes herself as an author that all readers should be aware of. For this is another of Jane’s beautiful books that you should hold close to your heart because like me, your heart will ache with feeling after reading it.

‘Jane’s writing exudes empathy where history and heart combine to make this story one that you should hold so close to your heart.’


Great Big Hill of Hope:
Why I wrote about the child of an alcoholic in Will You Catch Me?

In this, the first blog of my tour to mark Children of Alcoholics week, I felt it important to say why I wrote my children’s book, Will You Catch Me?

When I first said that I was going to write a middle grade novel about eleven-year-old Nell Hobs whose mother is an alcoholic people were taken aback. But then the headlines started to hit the media. Every Week there were news stories about the statistic that 2.6 million children in this country are affected by a parent’s drinking.

IMG_4388.JPGJournalist, Camilla Tominey’s Sunday Express headline ‘My Mummy Is Drunk Please Read To Me’ broke my heart, brought back buried memories and made me determined to give a voice to these children. My editor at Hodder Children’s Books, Naomi Greenwood, agent Jodie Hodges and her assistant Emily Talbot gave me their blessing and supported me throughout.

Will You Catch Me? is my oldest story, a little itch in my imagination that just wouldn’t go away. I had a recurring image of a young girl, running home from school and seeing her mother, an alcohol addict, carried out from their flat on a stretcher, people standing around watching and as she ran and ran and tried to reach her mum, everything going into slow motion.  In my mind the 4 Non Blondes song, ‘What’s Up’ was playing. The lyrics ‘Trying to get up that great big hill of hope / for a destination / I realized quickly when I knew I should / that the world was made up of this brotherhood of man’ were so relevant to this scene that looped in my mind.

The words – ‘Brotherhood of Man’ – the community which would be so vital to this little girl. Without which she would have nothing.

Fast forward many years, I switched on the television and Calum Best was talking movingly on the Lorraine show about his father George Best and the charity Nacoa – The National Association For Children Of Alcoholics – of which he is patron.  As the statistics rolled out that one in five children have a parent who drinks too much and that a 100 teenagers a day are made homeless due to having a parent who is alcohol dependent, my childhood came flooding back. My dad was a heavy drinker with a terrible temper. I grew up a very anxious, nervous little girl. One strand of the story was set.

I have always had a fascination with, and felt a connection to Nell Gwyn, the 17th century celebrity actress. In my late teens I worked as an usherette in Drury Lane where 320 years before Nell Gwyn had done the same job – they sold oranges then rather than half melted ice creams, so they were known as the Orange Girls. I discovered that Nell Gwyn’s mother was an alcoholic and that she did not know her father. Nell Gwyn was the perfect guardian angel for my modern day Nell, the protagonist of  Will You Catch Me? – whose mum is also an alcoholic.

Writing Will You Catch Me? was the most extraordinarily immersive experience of my life. In fact, I had an operation half way through writing it, and when I came too from the anaesthetic I woke up in the world of my book and was nattering on about Nell Gwyn. It took the nurses ages to get me fully awake.

As I worked day and night on Will You Catch Me? I visualised myself finishing Nell’s story and contacting Nacoa to tell them about my book. It was my light at the end of the tunnel.

I did not realize what a bright light in my life Nacoa would be. They are a group of truly amazing, passionate and strong people. Hilary Henriques MBE who is the CEO of Nacoa welcomed me with open arms and made me part of the Nacoa family. She is a tower of strength and an inspiration.  When I visited Nacoa’s headquarters in Bristol I was particularly moved by the telephone booths from which they run their children of alcoholics help line. Real children, in similar situations to Nell, or to younger me, can ring Nacoa at any time, in confidence, to get advice or just talk. After that visit I knew that Will You Catch Me? would be the most important story I have ever told.

The National Association For Children Of Alcoholics helpline number is 0800-358-3456. Children of Alcoholics week (10-16 February) aims to raise awareness of the lives of the 2.6 million children in the UK who are growing up affected by parental alcohol problems. For further information, including ways you can help and a downloadable #URNotAlone poster, please visit their website www.coaweek.org.uk or www.nacoa.org.uk

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Jane Elson, author of Will You Catch Me?

 


Big thanks to Jane, Fritha and all at Hachette for inviting me to take part in the Will You Catch Me? blog tour.

Extra thanks to Jane for writing her incredibly insightful guest post!

Mr E


 

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Be sure to check out the rest of the Will You Catch Me? blog tour with more exclusive guest posts, reviews and giveaways discussing this much-needed issue.

Blog Tour (Review & Resources & Giveaway!): A Pinch of Magic – Michelle Harrison (Illustrated by Melissa Castrillón)

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‘Sumptuously magical… this is like nothing I’ve read before. An exquisitely-enchanting tale in a world weaved with wonder. With hearty heroines who embody the truest sense of sisterhood, prepare to fall under the spell of the story everyone will be wanting to read in 2019.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: A Pinch of Magic
Author: Michelle Harrison (@MHarrison13)
Illustrator (Cover): Melissa Castrillón (@mv_castrillon)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s (@simonkids_UK)
Page count: 368
Date of publication: 7th February 2019
Series status: First in the Widdershins’ adventures
ISBN: 978-1471124297

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Sisters 👭
2. Curse 🗝️
3. Magic ✨


Three sisters trapped by an ancient curse.

Three magical objects with the power to change their fate.

Will they be enough to break the curse?

Or will they lead the sisters even deeper into danger?


Review:

Widdershins. What a word. A surname to describe the misfortune, haplessness and down on one’s luck that the Widdershins sisters often feel and have experienced for generations. Three sisters – Fliss, Betty and Charlie – whose mother is dead, their father’s in prison and who live with their Granny Bunny in her rather rowdy inn. Three sisters who are about to find out for themselves that they will have three bespoke magical items soon in their possession that can achieve so much but for an ancient family curse that leaves them trapped upon the rolling, misty marshes of their island of Crowstone for ever more…

Focusing on middle sister Betty who is craving for more than the island of Crowstone and telling the story through her eyes, this is like nothing I’ve read before and so it is little surprise that this has been recently chosen as Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month for February. As the sisters embark on a journey to try to break this curse and put to use their most magical of items – a scruffy carpet-bag that can make its bearer travel anywhere it wants, a set of dolls that can make you invisible and a mermaid-like mirror that can let its bearer talk to people on other islands, the girls meet mystery, dark magic, betrayal, revenge and a prisoner who may hold all the cards to the sisters’ fate.

Adventure most certainly awaits the audacious in this tale that left me completely enamoured and enraptured. This beautifully-written book doesn’t only just show a pinch of magic but the absolute power of magic where not a word is wasted. Surely one of 2019’s standouts and mixing island legend with incredible world-building that oozes and fizzes with magic, this is a story to devour. As Michelle recently alerted readers to this being the first in the Widdershins’ adventures, I’m on tenterhooks for the next.

Readers of upper-primary and lower secondary will be thrilled, enchanted and awed by its three headstrong, spirited protagonists (even Charlie, the youngest sister whose young age doesn’t dissuade her) in their plight to rid them of this wretched curse that’s plagued them and their island since times gone by.

Luring, mesmerising and sumptuously magical, A Pinch of Magic is an exquisitely-enchanting tale in a world weaved with wonder. With hearty heroines who embody the truest sense of sisterhood, prepare to fall under the spell of the story everyone will be wanting to read in 2019.

‘Sumptuously magical… this is like nothing I’ve read before. An exquisitely-enchanting tale in a world weaved with wonder. With hearty heroines who embody the truest sense of sisterhood, prepare to fall under the spell of the story everyone will be wanting to read in 2019.’


To celebrate the official publication date and launch (Happy Book Birthday!) of A Pinch of Magic, I’m absolutely delighted that author Michelle Harrison joins me on The Reader Teacher to provide fantastic teaching ideas to use in the classroom…

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A Pinch of Magic is the tale of the Widdershins sisters, Betty, Fliss and Charlie, who set out to break a family curse which keeps them trapped on the small island of Crowstone. But the curse isn’t the only unusual thing about the Widdershins. Three magical objects have been passed down their family: a set of wooden nesting dolls, a mirror, and a scruffy carpet bag. Will they be enough to break the curse? Or will the sisters have better luck with the mysterious prisoner who says he can help them . . . for a price?

This story is probably best suited to readers aged 8-12, depending on ability. There is plenty of scope for it to be used in a classroom, particularly to inspire imagination and atmospheric writing, as well as the study of folklore, superstition and symbolism. Here are some suggestions:

Pre-reading activities:

  1. Look at the front of the book. What do you think the curse could be, and the worst that could happen? Can you think of any other stories about curses?
  2. Who illustrated the book’s cover? Can you find out the titles of two more books this artist has created the covers for? Are there any in your classroom?
  3. Look at the back of the book and read the blurb (the writing which tells you about the story). Does it make you want to read the story? Why, or why not?
  4. Study the front and back covers. What do you think the three magical objects in the story could be? What do you imagine they do? Make up your own list of three objects, and their magical powers.
  5. Look at the map in the front of the book. Which of the islands do you think will be the most important to the story? Find other words with the same meanings as Lament, Repent, and Torment.

Research: 

  1. Read the author’s note at the start of the book. What does the word ‘widdershins’ mean and what is it linked to? Have you ever heard of this word before? Can you find out a word meaning the opposite?
  2. Research the history of Halloween. Can you find other names for it? Where do the traditions of trick or treat, dressing up, and carving pumpkins come from? Is there any significance to Betty’s birthday falling on this day?
  3. What clues point to the Widdershins being an unlucky family? Are there any numbers, objects or creatures mentioned in chapter one that signal good or bad luck? Research and write down five more superstitions.
  4. Research your local area. Is there any interesting history or folklore? Write down the names of five real places that you could imagine in a story. Think of towns, forests, street names, beaches and even pubs! Give reasons for your choices.
  5. How were people who were suspected of witchcraft treated throughout history? What sort of tests did ‘witchfinders’ do to determine whether someone was a witch? What are your thoughts on this?

Activities:

  1. Design a flyer for the Halloween Fayre in Marshfoot. What kind of words and images might it use to appeal to someone like Betty?
  2. Write a letter from Prisoner 513 to Granny, convincing her to visit him in jail. How would he persuade her to help him?
  3. Rewrite the scene where Betty and Charlie are given their magical objects, but from Charlie’s point of view. Imagine what she is thinking and feeling, as someone who is much younger than her sisters.
  4. Write a secret diary entry for Prudence. What are her feelings towards her sister – and herself? Is she proud of her actions, or sorry?
  5. Write a cautionary poem or verse to warn travellers away from the Misty Marshes. Think of the way the author has written about the marsh mist as a living thing, and add your own descriptions to this. Consider other dangers such as will-o’-the-wisps, and escaped prisoners! It doesn’t have to rhyme.

Other relevant stories:

Snowglobe by Amy Wilson
Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone
Secrets of a Sun King by Emma Carroll
Wood Angel by Erin Bow
The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh


Big thanks to Michelle, Olivia and all at Simon & Schuster Children’s for inviting me to take part in the A Pinch of Magic blog tour on its book birthday!

Extra thanks to Michelle for providing these superb teaching ideas!
I can’t wait to use them myself!

Mr E


Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Simon & Schuster Children’s have kindly given me three finished copies of A Pinch of Magic to give away!

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If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning a stunningly-illustrated copy of this sumptuously magical story, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

Copies will be sent to winners when available from Simon & Schuster, as soon as possible.


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Be sure to check out the rest of A Pinch of Magic blog tour this week to see more exclusive guest posts, Q&As, giveaways and reviews!

Cover Reveal & Book Giveaway! Owen and the Soldier: Lisa Thompson (Illustrated by Mike Lowery) – Out 15th June 2019!

I’m absolutely delighted to be able to reveal the cover of Lisa Thompson‘s new novella, Owen and the Soldier (illustrated by Mike Lowery) which will be published on 15th June 2019 by Barrington Stoke.

I’m also super happy because the very lovely people at Barrington Stoke have given me three proof copies of Owen and the Soldier to give away! Find out more below!


Owen and the Soldier – Lisa Thompson
(Cover illustration: Mike Lowery)

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Owen and his mum are struggling. It’s just the two of them now and they’re finding it difficult to ask for the help they need.

When Owen discovers a crumbling stone soldier in a memorial garden in the local park, it feels like he finally has someone he can talk to. But the town council can’t see how important the soldier is and they want to remove him.

Owen’s so scared that he’ll be left on his own again, but can he find the courage he needs to save the soldier before it’s too late?


  • Written with sensitivity and honesty, this title deals with various important subjects including depression, loss, young carers and anxiety, within a package that is approachable for younger readers.

  • Lisa Thompson has quickly become a staple of bookshops and a high-pro le name in the industry with her critically acclaimed and bestselling novels The Goldfish Boy and The Light Jar.
  • Featuring cover artwork from illustration star Mike Lowery, Owen and the Soldier is designed with commercial appeal and to complement Lisa’s other novels.
  • Barrington Stoke’s biggest ever proof mailing to capitalise on the author’s massive popularity and reputation.

Publisher: Barrington Stoke Ltd
ISBN: 9781781128657
Number of pages: 96


From Lisa Thompson:

“It has been an absolute joy to work with Barrington Stoke on Owen and the Soldier. I’m incredibly proud of this novella and I can’t wait to share it with readers and hear their thoughts!”


From Ailsa Bathgate, Barrington Stoke Editorial Director:

“Lisa Thompson’s work is captivating and compelling. She writes wonderfully empathetic stories about ordinary children who are going through a tough time and makes you care deeply about what happens to them. She has brought all her compassion and insight to Owen and the Soldier, and I feel excited and proud to bring her voice to our readers.”


Lisa Thompson

Lisa Thompson is the bestselling author of The Goldfish Boy, The Light Jar and The Day I Was Erased. The Goldfish Boy was a Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month and was nominated for the Carnegie Medal, the Branford Boase Award and the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. Before becoming a novelist, Lisa worked as a broadcast assistant for BBC Radio 2 and CPL Productions, where she says she made tea for lots of famous people. Lisa lives in Suffolk with her family and a very large rabbit called Teddy.

You can find out more about Lisa on her website or by following her on Twitter: @lthompsonwrites.


Mike Lowery

(Image 1 credit: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/kids/doodle-adventures-author-mike-lowery-on-using-comics-to-reach-reluctant-readers/)
(Image 2 credit: https://www.instagram.com/mikelowerystudio/?hl=en)

 

Mike Lowery is an author and artist living in Atlanta, Georgia with a beautiful German lady named Katrin and his incredibly genius daughter, Allister. Mike’s work has been seen on everything from greetings cards to dozens of children’s books to gallery walls all over the world. 

Mike has had the enormous pleasure to work on a TON of books, including the New York Time’s best selling series “Mac B, Kid Spy” written by Mac Barnett.  You can check out his other books here:  MIKE LOWERY’S BOOKS

His illustration clients include: Scholastic, Dial Books for Young Readers, workman publishing, hallmark, simon and schuster, random house, walker books for young readers, Nick Jr magazine, gallison/mudpuppy, GP Putnam and Sons, Viking, macmillan, georgia pacific, American Greetings, Disney, Kids Can Press, as well as many Graphic Design and Advertising Agencies.  He now travels nationally giving talks about art and books to schools, universities and bookstores.

He has been featured/interviewed in the Washington Post, Creative Loafing, the Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, the Washington City Paper and many others and a few years back he showed 16 of his tiny drawings in a show in Beijing.

 

You can find out more about Mike on his website or by following him on Instagram: @mikelowerystudio.

 


Pre-order: Owen and the Soldier is available to pre-order online at Waterstones or from any good independent bookshop.


Big thanks to Lisa, Kirstin and all at Barrington Stoke for giving me the wonderful opportunity to reveal this beautiful cover! I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

Mr E



Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Barrington Stoke have kindly given me three proof copies of Owen and the Soldier to give away!

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

Proof copies will be sent to winners when available from Barrington Stoke, as soon as possible.

Blog Tour (Review & Author Q&A): The Star-Spun Web – Sinead O’Hart (Illustrated by Sara Mulvanny)

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‘A fantastic fusion of exciting, excellent and effervescent fiction that’s out-of-this-world! This is science-inspired storytelling at its stellar, supercharged best.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Star-Spun Web
Author: Sinéad O’Hart (@SJOHart)
Illustrator (Cover): Sara Mulvanny (@saramulvanny)
Publisher: Stripes (@StripesBooks)
Page count: 384
Date of publication: 7th February 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1788950220

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Science 🔬
2. Reality ✨
3. Violet 🕷️


Tess de Sousa is no ordinary orphan. When a wealthy stranger appears at Ackerbee’s Home for Lost and Foundlings claiming to be her relative, she embarks on a new life with him. She take nothing more than her pet tarantula Violet and a strange device that she was left as a baby.

But far from providing answers to Tess’s mysterious past, it becomes clear that her guardian’s interest in her is part of a terrible plan. With the future of more than one world at stake, it’s up to Tess to stop him…


Review: As a wealthy man turns up on the very doorstep that Tess de Sousa turned up on herself as a baby, she has little idea of how much her life is going to change. Going by the name of a certain Mr Cleat and claiming guardianship of her, Tess knows that this could be her last chance to find out how she came to end up living at the orphanage home of Ackerbee’s Lost and Foundlings once and for all. But all is not quite as it seems…

Imaginative and inventive – although a little anarchic and with a pet arachnid for company – Tess sets off with this stranger, spanning across a web of parallel worlds and dimensions for a multi-layered and multi-universe mystery that is the adventure of all adventures.

Every element of this tale is cleverly written: in terms of its pulsating plot; the cast of its characters: their relationships; their interactions and their interconnectedness; and the dual (sometimes tri-) narratives occurring in concurrent chapters. With a stunningly-illustrated cover by Sara Mulvanny to match, this book can do no wrong and I can predict it already garnering praise aplenty and appearing in nearly all end-of-year celebratory lists.

As the gripping suspense of this story sucks you in to the web that Tess soon finds herself tangled up in, every turn of its page makes time truly fly by with the sensation that you can travel through time yourself.

With The Star-Spun Web, Sinéad establishes herself fully on the MG stage spinning gossamer threads of alternate realities that collide with fragments of fantasy and overcoming the precarious and notoriously difficult ‘second novel syndrome’ with apparent ease. It’s as if she has story writing down to a science.

Out-of-this-world. This is science-inspired storytelling at its stellar, supercharged best. A book that is a pleasure to read and a book that can’t help but encourage reading for pleasure. Like the very best of science discoveries, I think this could be a momentous and ground-breaking read for children (and adults!) who crave a fantastic fusion of exciting, excellent and effervescent fiction.

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I’m utterly delighted to have Sinéad O’Hart, author of The Star-Spun Web, join us on The Reader Teacher today on publication week with this extra-special interview where she shares her experiences of writing, her inspirations and the best and worst things about being an author…sinead-ohart.png

  1. What was your favourite book when you were 8?
    Alan Garner’s Elidor – and it’s still my favourite book now.
  2. What are the three main things a reader will find in your books?
    Clever, determined girls; brave, ingenious boys; mortal peril!
  3. When did you start to tell stories?
    I wrote my first ‘book’ at 7, a sequel to The Little Prince complete with my own drawings, but sadly I’ve lost it. My parents said I always had a strong imagination and liked to tell stories to myself, drawing pictures to go with them, from as soon as I could talk and hold a crayon. I’ve been pleased to see my own little girl doing exactly the same!
  4. Did you always want to be a writer? Have you had different jobs before you were an author? Do you think a variety of work experiences has helped you to write?
    I always wanted to have a creative life, but I wasn’t sure for a long time exactly how I’d go about it. From the age of seven or eight, when I began to think about the sort of life I wanted to have, I knew I wanted to do something unusual, something where I could use my interest in creativity (and daydream a lot, because daydreaming is very important), but to me that could have been anything from being a visual artist to a scientist – I wanted to be a marine biologist for a long time. It wasn’t until I was a few years older, perhaps halfway through secondary school, that I realised my love for books, reading, stories and art could be made into something cohesive, and it was then I began to dream of being a writer. I’ve had lots of jobs; I’ve worked in a clothes shop, as a tourism adviser, in many different offices including a printers’ and a health centre, in a supermarket, as a trainee butcher, as a researcher, as a tutor and lecturer of English language and literature at a university, as a records manager for an English department at the same university, as a bookseller, and as a freelance proofreader. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few! And yes, of course every job I’ve done has helped me to be a writer. Everything you do in life – everything you read, see, hear, watch, and observe – can go toward helping you to be a writer. The more jobs you’ve done, the more experiences you’ve had, the more things you’ve felt and seen and heard, all help you to describe things in your stories and make them feel real. Of course this doesn’t mean you have to wait until you’re a certain age, or until you’ve done a particular amount of ‘things’, before you can write – if you want to write you can start anytime, and the earlier the better. You’re never too young to switch on your observation skills, and then you’re already well on the way. Reading books, learning from them, and using your imagination are all vital tools in a writer’s kit, and there’s no age or experience limit on those.
  5. Where do you get your ideas from, and how do you store them?
    Ideas are all around, just waiting to be plucked out of the air. I’m inspired through observation of the world around me, and I have an insatiable curiosity. I’m constantly on the lookout for strange and interesting words; sometimes I find them in newspaper articles or books, or in overheard conversations, or on signs. For me, words – particularly if they’re misspelled, or if they’re used as a pun, or if they’re unfamiliar to me – are wonderful idea-seeds. Mostly my ideas seem like tiny fragments of something bigger; I get a scene, or a character name, or a place-name, or a funny line of dialogue, and I don’t have any idea where they go or what sort of story they’ll grow into. They need careful handling until they’ve had a chance to germinate and sprout, so it’s important to have a notebook on your person all the time to keep your idea-seeds safe. However, I usually store my ideas on scraps of paper and my phone, as I never have my notebook handy when I need it!
  6. Every writer creates a story in their own unique way. Roald Dahl had an armchair in his shed, Lewis Carroll liked a standing desk and to write in purple ink. Do you have any unconventional methods, habits or superstitions when it comes to writing?
    I tend to write standing up, but not because of superstition – it’s mostly out of necessity as I have a busy little girl. I don’t have unconventional methods because I need to write in any second I can! I feel very boring now. Perhaps I should invent some strange habits, like writing with a rubber chicken tied to my head. Bok bok!

  7. How much of Sinéad O’Hart is reflected in your characters?
    Quite a lot, I think – and I reckon the same is true of any writer. I think my girl characters reflect some of my own awkwardness and social anxiety; I was a very introverted and thoughtful child, who liked to work things out in my own way, and I found, as a girl, that there weren’t many girls like me in books. I try to remedy that a bit with my stories. Some of my girl characters are deep thinkers with a strong sense of justice, girls who like to observe, and I see my child-self in those characters. In my boy characters I put my heart and vulnerability, and that’s something which comes naturally but it’s also a conscious choice, in part. I think it’s important to create boy characters with emotion and depth, and who show true bravery – which to me means doing what you need to do, even though it frightens you.
  8. You are in a library with a 10 year-old who claims that they don’t like reading… Which 3 books would you reach for to try to change their mind?
    I think I’d be there all day, offering them a new trio of books every five minutes, but at the moment: Dave Rudden’s Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy, which is the grippiest, most engaging, most fun and most absorbing children’s trilogy I’ve read in a long time; Peter Bunzl’s Cogheart books, which feature a wonderful heroine and a complex, layered hero, along with a clankingly good cast of mechanimals and mechanicals alike; and Jennifer Bell’s Uncommoners books, which are fast-paced and twisty, edge-of-your-seat action coupled with a brilliant, detailed world and mythology. (Yes, I know that’s technically nine books!) But ask me again in half an hour and I’ll say Sky Song, the Rose Raventhorpe books and Brightstorm… Don’t make me choose!
  9. What’s the best and worst things about being an author?
    There are loads of good things about being an author but the best is: having a job that, for the most part, fits around my child’s life, and also meeting and hearing from readers. I love getting messages from teachers, librarians and mums and dads telling me about the kids who’ve loved my stories, and I really enjoy meeting readers at school and library events. The worst is pretty bad: writing books for a living is a stressful thing sometimes, and I worry constantly that I’m not good enough, or that I’ll never get another contract. But the good things definitely outweigh the bad.
  10. Do you have any advice for budding writers?
    The first thing you need to be a writer is to remember this ABC – Always Be Curious. Pay thoughtful attention to everything you see and hear in the world around you; listen to snippets of conversation, keep your eyes peeled for the interesting and unique things you see every day, ask yourself questions and make up the answers about the people and places you come across. Then: read, read, read; read anything and everything and immerse yourself in words and stories as often as you possibly can. After that: when you start to write your own stories, write what you love; write what interests you, write the kind of books and stories you’d like to read. But the most important thing is this: never give up. Hopefully you’ll be lucky enough to have parents, siblings, and teachers who’ll support you, but sometimes you won’t. Try not to let anyone put you off writing. Do your best to protect the things you love and the things you’re interested in as much as you can. If there’s something in you which loves to read, or write, or draw, or do anything at all, then guard it and nurture it and never lose that love. You never know when it will suddenly bloom into life and bring joy to you and all around you. If you’d like to write as a career, do know this: it can take a long time, and the most important thing you can bring to it is sticking power. Don’t ever stop writing, improving, and trying your hardest!

QUICKFIRE

  1. 3 words that describe you: Confused. Curious. Reading.
  2. Favourite time of the day? I’m a night owl – evening time!
  3. 3 random facts about you: I once chopped up hearts for a living (don’t panic, they were beef hearts); I have a PhD in medieval English; I really hate balloons.
  4. Go-to snack? Rich Tea biscuits!
  5. The best advice you ever got: Love many, trust few, and always paddle your own canoe.
  6. Complete the sentence: “If I was one of the Seven Dwarves, I’d be…” all of them at once! But mostly Dopey.
  7. Superhero power of choice: The ability to hold the entirety of human knowledge in my head, like a walking library.
  8. Go-to outfit? Whatever fits and isn’t covered in last night’s dinner… Usually jeans, DM boots, and a big shirt.
  9. Your dream place to curl up with a book? Anywhere with a view of the mountains or the sea, at sunset, in a cosy well-lit window seat, with a steaming mug of tea close by. Bliss!
  10. The 3 books you’d like to get for your next birthday: The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave; The Clockwork Crow by Catherine Fisher; and The Girl, the Cat and The Navigator by Matilda Woods.

Big thanks to Sinéad, Leilah and all at Stripes for inviting me to kick off The Star-Spun Web blog tour and share my thoughts and for giving me the wonderful opportunity to do its amazing cover reveal and giveaway!

Extra thanks to Sinéad for her brilliant interview!

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Be sure to check out the rest of The Star-Spun Web blog tour this week to see more exclusive guest posts and reviews!

 Mr E 

 

Cover Reveal: Check Mates – Stewart Foster (Designed by Leo Nickolls) – Out 27th June 2019!

I’m absolutely delighted to be able to reveal the cover of Check Mates, Stewart Foster’s third novel after the success of The Bubble Boy and All the Things That Could Go Wrong, which will be published on the 27th June 2019 by Simon & Schuster Children’s.


Check Mates – Stewart Foster

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

Felix’s ADHD makes it hard for him to concentrate and his grades are slipping. Everyone keeps telling him to try harder, but no one seems to understand just how hard he finds it.

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

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

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
ISBN: 9781471172236
Number of pages: 368


‘Funny and heartfelt with a cunning twist. Stewart Foster is a grandmaster.’
Ross Welford

‘An inspirational underdog story and a chilling mystery! A winning combination.’ David Solomons


Stewart Foster

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Author photo © Tallulah Foster

Stewart Foster is the author of one novel for adults, We Used to be Kings and was one of the Observer’s New Faces of Fiction for 2014. Stewart was named a New Author to Watch by The Guardian and was an Amazon Rising Star for his adult novel, published in the UK. He lives in Bath.

His first novel for children, The Bubble Boy, is about eleven-year-old Joe, whose medical condition means that he has to live permanently inside hospital in a germ-free ‘bubble’. But then someone new enters his world and Joe is given opportunities he had previously only dreamt of – but are they worth the risk?

Stewart’s second novel for children, All the Things That Could Go Wrong, was published in June 2017.

Stewart’s third novel for children, Check Mates, publishes in 2019.


Praise for All the Things That Could Go Wrong

‘A moving, humane, funny portrait of two very different boys discovering what connects us all.’
Kiran Milwood Hargrave

‘It’s amazing!’
Ross Welford

‘I loved it.’
Lisa Thompson

‘A touching, funny, gripping read that tackles important issues in a sensitive and thoroughly enjoyable way. Highly recommended.’
Stuart Robinson

‘A timely story of courage and reminder of what we all share.’
Christopher Edge

‘Powerful and warm … this will linger long in the mind.’
Guardian


Praise for The Bubble Boy,
Winner of the Sainsbury’s Children’s Book Award in 2016

‘Poignant, hopeful and heartbreaking.’
Fiona Noble – Children’s Editor, The Bookseller

‘Deeply moving and utterly gripping . . . Stewart Foster carries off an astonishing feat of storytelling in this exceptional book’ 
Julia Eccleshare, lovereading.co.uk

‘A gripping and deeply moving book.’ 
Jamila Gavin

‘One thing we know about good books is their amazing ability to inspire empathy in the reader; to explore ideas and viewpoints that arise from experiences that are out of our own realm. The Bubble Boy does this with warmth, quirkiness and a light-hearted touch.’ 
Guardian


Leo Nickolls

Leo Nickolls is a freelance book cover designer and illustrator with extraordinary talents. Some of his work includes covers for Stewart Foster’s All the Things That Could Go Wrong Joanna Nadin’s & Anthony McGowan’s Everybody Hurts, Chris Womersley’s City Of Crows, Allegra Goodman’s The Chalk Artist, and the recent 40th Anniversary Edition of Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia.

You can find out more about Leo at his website or by following him on Twitter: @leonickolls


Check Mates is available to pre-order online or from any good independent bookshop.


Pre-order: Pre-order your copy now from Amazon, Hive, Waterstones & WHSmith now!


Big thanks to Stewart and all at Simon & Schuster for giving me the wonderful opportunity to reveal this fantastic cover for what I’m sure is going to be another wonderful addition to Stewart’s catalogue! I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

Mr E


Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): Amazing – Steve Antony

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‘A shining light in children’s literature… cleverly written, incredibly heartwarming and AMAZING. Pun intended. Amazing is the ultimate celebration of childhood.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Amazing
Author: Steve Antony (@MrSteveAntony)
Publisher: Hachette/Hodder (@HachetteKids)
Page count: 32
Date of publication: 24th January 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1444944709

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

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Amazing 😊
2. Dragon 🐉
3. Friendship 🌟


A little boy and his pet dragon are the very best of friends.

They laugh, they sing, they dance, they snooze.

They are both amazing – just like everyone else!


Review:

The unlikeliest friendships are often the ones with the most to share and to value. And this is no truer than in the opening pages of this beautifully heartwarming story as we are introduced to this bond between man and beast boy and pet dragon.

As Zibbo, the pet dragon, is taught how to fly by the boy and together they do most things, the boy finds that the dragon teaches him just as much as he can teach Zibbo. As the bond between them grows stronger, it is easy to see that this friendship will resonate most with its readers.

Laughing and learning, singing and sailing, dancing and drawing, snacking and snoozing are just some of the many things that these two share together. But it is more than just hobbies, interests and having fun that develops for this pair throughout this tender tale.

Inspired by Steve’s time working as a Special Needs Support Worker, Amazing tells the story of a disabled boy who is not defined by his disability. Complemented by Steve’s characterful and glowing illustrations, it evokes feelings of positivity, hope and inclusiveness which shine from its pages within where barriers are broken. This is a shining light in children’s literature that is forward-looking and represents realities in a way that makes it a definite must-read in the classroom, the school, the library and everywhere in between.

To end, I’ll leave you with its lasting message in its latter pages that can be applied to nearly all situations:

When we’re together, I know that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

An absolute delight… the text and refrain together with its illustrations work beautifully in encouraging readers to celebrate and share the joys and everyday discoveries that life brings and promoting the perspective that we are all special, unique and amazing in our own way.

Cleverly written, incredibly heartwarming and AMAZING. Pun intended… Amazing is the ultimate celebration of childhood.


I’m utterly delighted to have Steve Antony, author of Amazing, join us on The Reader Teacher today on publication day with this extra-special and fitting guest post where he shares his experiences and love for school libraries and how significant and vital school librarians are and how teachers continue to inspire him…

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The school library, my experiences and how school librarians and teachers continue to inspire me

I remember my school library well. At least once a week Miss Holcomb would treat us to a story time session. Cross-legged, we sat comfortably on the soft carpeted floor, watched and listened. This was back when I lived in the States, and so authors and Illustrators like Dr Seuss, Shel Silverstein and Margaret Wise Brown were regular fixtures at story time. I particularly liked Silverstein’s whimsical, sometimes poignant but always thought-provoking, stories. To this day The Giving Tree remains a firm favourite of mine.

But Miss Holcomb didn’t just read us stories. She also based fun and creative activities on them, too. She taught us that books are so much more than ink on paper.

I liken opening a book to opening a door that can lead to places you’ve never been before and people you’ve never met before. They can take you places where just about anything is possible. A school library houses hundreds of these little doorways, and each and every school pupil harnesses the key to unlock whichever door they choose. If they open a door to somewhere, they don’t really like, then they can simply close it and open a new door.

I enjoyed opening and closing lots of doors in my school library, especially picture book doors, but our library wasn’t just a home of books. It was a space for fun and imaginative play, too. The one thing I remember most about that library is how colourful it was. There were drawings on the walls and cheerful murals and multi-coloured paper chains. It was joyous.

I was a fairly shy child, so my school library was somewhere I could retreat to when I just needed some time on my own. It gave me the freedom and space to just be. More importantly, it gave me the freedom and space to grow.

As a teenager I was sometimes taunted in the school playground. I hated my first few months at high school. It was a tough time for me, and if not for the school library I would’ve probably wanted to drop out of high school altogether. Eventually I grew strong enough to face the cafeteria, but for a good few months I spent lunchtime in the library. The high school librarian will never know how much she helped me.

Now as a published author and illustrator I have the privilege of visiting school libraries up and down the UK and beyond. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many lovely school librarians from Swindon to Turin to New York and Taipei.

In February of last year, I visited the European School in Taipei during my book tour of Taiwan. I held two story building workshops in their spacious library which was freshly decorated with brightly colourful paper ‘Mr Panda’ doughnuts. They had a wonderfully diverse array of books that included titles from every corner of the globe. I had with me George the Swindon Library Bear much to the delight of the school librarians. As Patron of Swindon Libraries Children’s Services, I’m obliged to take George wherever I tour. (Once I accidentally left him in Manchester Central Library. Luckily a librarian spotted him sleeping on a shelf and kindly sent him back to me.) The European School Library was huge, but school libraries don’t have to be big to be effective.

Recently I had the honour of opening a school library at Lethbridge Primary School here in my hometown of Swindon, which already contains more than 2,000 books of all kinds for the children to read in their lunch breaks. Before it opened, the school only had book cases in each classroom, with no dedicated area for children to sit and read in peace. It was the PTA that managed to raise £10,000 to turn what was once a storage cupboard into resource filled with books. The children were all so thrilled to finally have their very own library, and the local newspaper were all too pleased to cover the story and photograph the long-awaited cutting of the ribbon.

Also in my hometown, the librarians of eleven secondary schools annually co-ordinate the Swindon Youth Festival of Literature. The festival is a vibrant celebration of reading, writing and creativity. During the festival, pupils work with authors, poets, illustrators and storytellers who visit schools for performances and workshops. Last year their line-up included the likes of Steve Cole, Dave Cousins, Ali Sparkes and Jonathan Meres. I had the honour of judging an illustration contest in which pupils were asked to visually interpret an extract from Carnegie winning Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean. Isn’t this just an excellent example of how books can be used to spark imagination and encourage self-expression?

Teachers and school librarians continually impress and inspire me with how they imaginatively use books, including my picture books, as tools for creativity. It’s hard to believe that my first picture book was published almost five years ago. In that time, I’ve compiled a growing list of activities on my website, most of which were devised by teachers and school librarians. The activities range from transforming your reading corner into a jungle to taking a virtual tour of London.

One of my favourite activities is to reimagine The Queen’s Hat (or Handbag, Present or Lift-off) by setting the story in your school or hometown. I have to thank Ramsey Junior School in Cambridgeshire for sharing this ingenious idea. The teacher simply created a small booklet of blank pages. The cover of the booklet read The Queens *BLANK*. The back featured my synopsis but with key words cleverly omitted so that pupils could use their imagination to fill in the blanks with things like GOLDEN POTS, NINJA MONKEY, SPITFIRE, HELICOPTER, CHEEKY HORSE and GOLDEN BANANA. The story is so easy to reimagine, because the plot is essentially a chase passed famous landmarks.

Miss Holcomb was absolutely right, books are so much more than ink on paper. They can spark the imagination and allow us to discover a world of knowledge, open our eyes and enrich our minds.

Sadly, many schools don’t have a Miss Holcomb. Only recently I visited a school whose teachers were fighting to keep their library open. Surely all children should receive the benefits a school library can provide?

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This is why the ‘Great School Libraries’ campaign, which was launched last September, is so important. The ‘Great School Libraries’ campaign (sponsored by Peters) is a collaboration between CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) CILIP School Library Group and the School Library Association. The campaign not only aims to bring school libraries and librarians back to every school in the UK, but also to gather data on the quality and quantity of school libraries that already exist. Believe it or not, school libraries are not statutory. The video below illustrates why libraries and library staff are more essential than ever in the 21st century.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQ3b2-9dbb4

One of the simplest things you can do to help support this great campaign is share this the video along with the hashtag #GreatSchooLibraries. The campaign are also collating case studies to exemplify the importance and effectiveness of school libraries. For more information, please visit greatschoollibraries.edublogs.org.

Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank school librarians and teachers for all that you do. You are amazing.


Big thanks to Steve, Alison and all at Hachette/Hodder for inviting me to share my thoughts on this truly heartwarming book and for providing me with an advance copy! Extra thanks to Steve for his superb guest post!

 Mr E 


Amazing is now available to order online or from any good independent bookshop.


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Be sure to check out the rest of the #AmazingBlogTour with exclusive guest posts galore from Steve and reviews!

Cover Reveal & Book Giveaway: The Dragon in the Library – Louie Stowell (Illustrated by Davide Ortu) – Out 6th June 2019!

Today, I’m absolutely thrilled to exclusively reveal the cover of Louie Stowell’s eagerly-awaited first novel in her new The Dragon in the Library series, The Dragon in the Library which will be published on 6th June 2019 by Nosy Crow.

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

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


The Dragon in the Library

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Kit can’t stand reading. She’d much rather be outside, playing games and getting muddy, than stuck inside being quiet with a book. But when she’s dragged along to the local library at the start of the school holiday by her two best friends, she makes an incredible discovery: the local library is run by wizards … and she’s one too! The youngest wizard ever, in fact.

But someone is threatening to tear down the library and disturb the powerful magical forces living beneath it. And now it’s up to Kit and her friends to save the library… and the world.

Aimed at younger readers aged seven to nine, the series will have black and white illustrations throughout.

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  • The first book in a highly imaginative, fantastically exciting and accessible new series for 7+.
  • A great message on the power of books, reading and libraries.
  • Illustrated throughout by rising star Davide Ortu.

Louie Stowell

sjmimyia_400x400(Photo credit: https://twitter.com/Louiestowell)

With a solid background commissioning non-fiction for children Louie Stowell – who is Editorial Director at Ladybird – is also a dab hand at writing non-fiction books for children.  As well as having an in-depth knowledge of everything from computer coding to spaceships, she also draws cartoons online (and in the occasional zine) and runs comics workshops at literary festivals and in schools. Louie grew up in London, obsessed with comics, playing at elves in caves in Kent, and running feral in the scrubland by the Thames. She now lives in Hackney with her wife and their dog, Buffy, who is small and fluffy and highly unlikely to slay vampires, unless they’re getting between her and some bacon. Louie’s first novel will be published in 2018, with subsequent books coming six months apart.

(https://www.greenhouseliterary.com/authors/louie-stowell/)

Find out more by following Louie Stowell on Twitter: @Louiestowell


Davide Ortu

(Photo credit 1: http://www.milan-illustrations.com/product/artists/ortu-davide/)
(Photo credit 2: https://twitter.com/Ortu_Ilustrador)

Davide is an Italian artist. He lives in Spain and is represented by Beehive Illustration.

Soon after earning his diploma at ‘Foiso Fois’ Arts High School in Cagliari, Sardinia, he takes up a career as an advertising graphic designer. 

At the same time, he keeps working on his skill on oil paintings, taking part in several art exhibitions. When he moves to Madrid, in 2008, he discovers children’s book illustrations.

Gloomy open spaces, dreamy in-between atmospheres, a strong chromatic impression mixed with imaginary elements are the main features of his work. He is on a quest to conjure colourful and fantastic places, where time stops to offer biggest emotions in smallest people.

Previous children’s books illustrated include The Rose Mysteries written by Imogen White.

Find out more about Davide at https://www.davideortu.com
and follow Davide on Twitter: @Ortu_Ilustrador


Preorder: The Dragon in the Library is currently available to pre-order online from Waterstones or from any good independent bookshop, go support yours!


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


Mr E

🐉📚


Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Nosy Crow have kindly given me three proof copies of The Dragon in the Library to give away!

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

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

Blog Tour (Review): Lightning Chase Me Home – Amber Lee Dodd

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‘In Lightning Chase Me Home, Amber Lee Dodd couples inner strength and sensitivity, with central character Amelia the shining heart of it all, in a stirring story that will take the children’s book world by storm.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Lightning Chase Me Home
Author: Amber Lee Dodd (@AmberLeeDodd)
Publisher: Scholastic (@scholasticuk)
Page count: 320
Date of publication: 3rd January 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1407191652

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Magic ✨
2. Sea 🌊
3. Self-belief 😊


Amelia Hester McLeod is named after two of her mum’s favourite explorers. Two amazing, fearless, awesome women: Amelia Earhart and Lady Hester Stanhope. But Amelia herself doesn’t always feel very brave or very bright. She lives on a windblown island in a creaky old house right beneath the North Star. Her dad is sad and silent since her mum left them, and her absent-minded grandpa suddenly seems convinced something strange is about to happen to her. When Amelia makes a birthday wish to be reunited with her missing mum, a wild magic is stirred from the sea…


Review:

With a name inspired by two pioneering explorers, you’d think that Amelia Hester McLeod is the brave, courageous and adventurous 21st-Century version of these women that have gone before her. However, living on Dark Muir – a small, Scottish island where nothing seems to happen (her words not mine!) – and coming to terms with her long-lost mum’s disappearance, it’s little wonder to see early on that maybe this is not initially the case.

On her eleventh birthday, she’s taken out to sea by her father who’s been an Islander all his life. Descended from Islanders himself: born here, grew up here and living here which is only half of what Amelia can say herself as island life never really accepted her mother. Feeling like she needs to do more to fit in, she reluctantly obeys with partaking in the island’s rituals: the first being the touching of the Serpent’s Tooth, a glistening black rock in the middle of the water. But this rock holds more power in its stone than Amelia could ever imagine and it’s only when she wishes to see more of her mum does it really come to life…

With power comes great responsibility but with powerful magic comes even greater challenges. As Amelia finds herself in the midst of this magic balancing a tumultuous start socially and academically to new school life, looking after a grandad who’s fighting against battles of his very own and the yearning for her mother, she discovers some kind of solace in an unexpected friendship.

As her gripping story in the most wildly atmospheric of settings unfolds, readers are taken with Amelia together on an epic journey to realise that to be like the explorers of the names she possesses she doesn’t have to achieve record-breaking feats or imagine herself scaling the highest of heights but to have the characteristics of resilience, belief and hope that will see her through the toughest of times.

In Lightning Chase Me Home, Amber Lee Dodd couples inner strength and sensitivity, with central character Amelia the shining heart of it all, in a stirring story that will take the children’s book world by storm.


Big thanks to Emily, Amber and all at Scholastic for inviting me to share my thoughts on this beautifully-written book and for providing me with a proof copy!

⚡ Mr E ⚡


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Look out for more reviews, exclusive guest posts and giveaways as part of the Lightning Chase Me Home blog tour from these wonderful book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): The Truth About Martians – Melissa D. Savage (Illustrated by Daron Parton)

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‘Like a middle-grade ET crossed with a hint of Stranger Things… this is a science-fiction story of strength as much as the grapples of grief.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Truth About Martians
Author: Melissa D. Savage (@melissadsavage)
Illustrator (Cover): Daron Parton (Website)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 336
Date of publication: 3rd January 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1911490821

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Spaceship 👽
2. Friendship 🤝
3. Loss 😟


Mylo knows there’s no such thing as Martians – at least, until a flying saucer crash-lands next to his family’s New Mexico farm. And then he starts to hear the voice, like someone’s trying to communicate with him, asking for help. Desperate to be as brave as his older brother Obie – who passed away over a year ago – Mylo has to investigate the crash. Along the way, he ends up discovering more about the universe than he ever could have imagined.


Review: 

Set in the rural heartlands of south-western America (some references may need explaining to younger readers) and based on the real-life events and conspiracy theories of 1947 when a ‘UFO’ was initially thought to have crash landed in Roswell, New Mexico, The Truth About Martians is a science-fiction story of strength as much as sorrow and sensitivity and the grapples of grief.

Shining a light on an event not known by everyone – and probably not by most of its readership – and covering just over three months between July 4, 1947 – 11:53 p.m. and October 6, 1947 – 6:15 a.m., the story starts with main character Mylo and his best friend Dibs staying over for the night. Since Dibs’ mother left, Mylo’s mom has become almost a surrogate mother for him (which is not surprising considering the quality and quantity of baked goods and sweet treats she makes for the boys!). Throughout the start of the story, we begin to understand that Milo is coming to terms with the loss of his older brother Obie and in turn, we realise that Dibs is slowly becoming the almost-brother that Mylo lost. Friendships are the glue of this story.

As the night sky flashes green and loud bangs are heard which in turn sends Dibs’ overactive imagination in to overdrive, the boys think they’re in with the chance of an alien encounter. Even Mylo who’s never believed in aliens…

The saying goes that curiosity killed the cat but it doesn’t kill these children’s desire to investigate further and so Mylo and his friends set out on an adventure to discover more about the newly-arrived Martians and their mothership. What they don’t know yet is that their discoveries may be more than they could possibly ever imagine.

Drawing on her background and experiences as a child and family therapist, I’ve been a big fan of Melissa’s honest, frank and touching writing style in her previous books – most notably with Bigfoot, Tobin and Me – and long may this continue.

Like a middle-grade ET crossed with a hint of Stranger Things, this is one that should definitely have been included in this year’s space-themed ‘Space Chase’ Summer Reading Challenge collection.



Inspiration for The Truth About Martians

There are many things that inspired me to write The Truth About Martians. One of them is my love of research and learning stories about our world’s history. One such story that has always intrigued me is the 1947 UFO crash outside of Roswell, New Mexico. Although the U.S. military has assured us it was nothing other than a military balloon, there are others who believe beyond a doubt that the crash was something extraterrestrial. Some even stating they saw the bodies of aliens at the crash site. Come on, who wouldn’t find this story intriguing? It has everything a captivating mystery needs to keep us talking about it. Even seventy-two years after the incident happened.

I spent a great deal of time learning about that time frame, the facts of the case, the stories from witnesses and about the atomic age. I visited the town and spoke with the people. I researched eye witness accounts and read sworn affidavits and deathbed confessions by ex-military personnel.  Additionally, I researched the children of that time. What was it like to live in 1947 as a preteen? What were their interests? What did they wear? What did they play? What did they aspire to do and to be? While this may not sound as exciting as the writing component of creating a story, for me, it’s one of my favorite parts of the process. I love doing research because it gives me so many ideas for the story itself – plot, character development, setting, themes, scenes and dialogue. I learned all about 1940’s baseball, the importance of Action Comics, I listened to many episodes of The Adventures of Superman radio program, and I even learned of this strange time called the atomic age which included children’s atomic games and a very special atomic ring kids sent in for with pennies and some Kix Cereal box tops. I have absolutely loved immersing myself in the tiny town of Corona just outside of Roswell, New Mexico at a time when life seemed much slower and maybe a bit more predictable in many ways.

Regarding the crash itself, I still haven’t decided quite yet what I think about it all. I’m a pretty skeptical person in general unless I see something with my own eyes. However, for me, I don’t need a definitive answer to write a story about it. I am a fiction writer. All I need are some amazing facts, and the story of Roswell is ripe with them. Those compelling facts are what inspired me to create a Roswell mystery of my own. Maybe one day we will learn for certain what really happened out in that desert. Until that time, there are plenty of unique and fascinating accounts. Which one is true remains to be seen, but I’m open to hearing each and every one of them.

Even the ones that take me all the way to the stars.

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Melissa Savage


THE TRUTH ABOUT MARTIANS by Melissa Savage out now in paperback
(£6.99, Chicken House)

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

Follow Melissa Savage on Twitter: @melissadsavage


 

Big thanks to Laura Smythe, Melissa and all at Chicken House for inviting me to share my thoughts on this out-of-this-world book as part of The Truth About Martians blog tour!

Extra thanks to Melissa for her guest post discussing her inspirations behind her book.

👽  Mr E  👽


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Be sure to check out the rest of the The Truth About Martians blog tour with these wonderful book bloggers for more reviews and exclusive posts!

 

 

Cover Reveal & Book Giveaway: The Secret Starling – Judith Eagle (Illustrated by Kim Geyer) – Out 2nd May 2019!

Today, I’m absolutely delighted to exclusively reveal the cover of Judith Eagle’s eagerly-awaited debut children’s novel, The Secret Starling which will be published on 2nd May 2019 by Faber.

I’m also super happy because the very lovely people at Faber have given me five copies of The Secret Starling to give away! Find out more below!


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Clara has lived a life of solitude, home schooled under her mean uncle’s strict regime . . . Until now!

Her uncle’s house has been losing staff and furniture as his fortunes fail, and finally he disappears himself, leaving Clara all alone in the giant manor with nothing but a wedge of ‘guilt money’.

Luckily, streetwise Peter has been sent to stay . . . at least he has some experience of the real world and how to survive. And the children are far from unhappy with their newfound freedom: a life of sliding down bannisters, making dens in Uncle’s study, warming themselves by a fire of text books, playing sardines with the village children and living off nothing but boiled eggs and mashed potatoes has its appeal!

But then an interfering grown-up turns up with the unwelcome news that the house is to be sold.

Perhaps the mysterious ballet shoe that Stockwell the cat befriends has the answers to Clara’s unknown past… a past that might hold the key to a better future…


Judith Eagle

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Judith grew up in North West London, the daughter of librarians, surrounded by books.  Following in the family footsteps, her first job was as a Saturday assistant in the local library, with special responsibility for the ballet section, which she loved.   After studying Fashion at Saint Martins, she worked as a Fashion Editor and later, as a features writer, mainly writing articles on pregnancy and parenting.  More recently, she completed an MA in Children’s Literature at Birkbeck University and now works as a school librarian.  She lives in South East London. Her first novel, The Secret Starling, will be published by Faber in 2019.


Kim Geyer

Kim lives in London with lots of pets and kids – her biggest inspiration. She loves ice cream and sherbet dib-dabs and being taken for walks by her puppy Dusty.

Represented by the marvellous and magnificent Claire Cartey at Holroyde Cartey.

Clients include Walker Books, Faber and Faber, Andersen Press, Scholastic US, Hachette Books and Clarks.



Preorder: The Secret Starling is available to pre-order online from AmazonWaterstones, WHSmith or from any good independent bookshop, go support yours!


Huge thanks to Judith, Sarah and all at Faber for inviting me to host this beautifully vivid cover reveal, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!


Mr E

📚


Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Faber have kindly given me five finished copies of The Secret Starling to give away!

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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, just before, near or on publication on 2nd May 2019.

Blog Tour (Review): When Good Geeks Go Bad – Catherine Wilkins (Illustrated by Joel Howard)

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‘A coming-of-age story of early teenage angst that combines peer pressure, the risks of rebellion and the tumultuous times of being a not-quite adult yet.
Geek-chic!’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: When Good Geeks Go Bad
Author: Catherine Wilkes (@Catiewilkins)
Illustrator (Cover & Inside): Joel Howard
Publisher: Nosy Crow (@NosyCrowBooks)
Page count: 240
Date of publication: 10th January 2019
ISBN: 978-1788000598

Perfect for Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Shoes 👞
2. Geek 🤓
3. Relationships 👨‍👩‍👧


When Ella’s dad refuses to let her have cool school shoes or stay up later than 9:30, Ella decides to take things into her own hands. Being good hasn’t got her anywhere, so why not try being bad for a while? It certainly looks a lot more fun and what’s a few detentions here and there? But going bad is a slippery slope and soon things are starting to spiral out of control. Can Ella get things back on track? Or is she going to end up with egg on her face?


Review:

Written in first-person narrative, we are introduced to goody-two-shoes Ella asking for and not being bought the two good shoes that she so desperately craves. A typical shopping tale for many a parent and their teenager I’m sure. But they’re not just shoes to Ella. They’re a way in to the cool conversations, looking good and most of all the feeling of fitting in with her peers. Some of whom, like arch-nemesis Olivia who’s been teasing Ella for most of her school life, that she just can’t wait to get one back against.

With central themes of defiance, self-consciousness and insecurity and a social commentary that brings together humour and wit to combat this, we start to see the injustices that Ella finds herself facing. But it’s not just in school that life seems to be going against her. At home, Ella’s parents have recently separated and she hasn’t seen her mum in months.

Living with her dutiful dad who plays everything by the book and realising that the ‘good act’ isn’t working for her, both inside and outside of school, she takes it upon herself to revolt. In small parts at first but her insurgent streak gets greater and greater in scale and severity. As Ella’s mum comes back in to her life all bright and breezy acting more like a best friend than her mother thinking that she’ll provide Ella with everything she wants but not what she actually needs and Ella’s friendship groups changing for the worse, can anybody put a stop to Ella’s experimenting before it’s too late…?

This book took me back to feeling like I was in the corridors and classrooms of secondary school myself and it is this element that will resonate most with readers. From the relationship Ella has with her best friend Jas to the somewhat double-edged teachers that impose detentions and enforce rules, these characters are more than they appear at first read.

For fans of Geek Girl, Splash and Ella on the Outside – two other recent Nosy Crow releases – this is a coming-of-age story that’s as cool as it is geek-chic of early teenage angst that combines peer pressure, the risks of rebellion and the tumultuous times of being a not-quite adult yet.


Big thanks to Catherine, Rebecca and all at Nosy Crow for inviting me to share my thoughts on When Good Geeks Go Bad as part of its blog tour!

Mr E


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Review & Guest Post: The Boy Who Flew With Dragons – Andy Shepherd (Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie)

To celebrate the publication of The Boy Who Flew With Dragons, I’m delighted to share with you my review, a guest post from author Andy Shepherd and some exclusive inside illustrations from Sara Ogilvie.

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‘Laugh out loud humour with a bond between a boy and a dragon that’s irresistible to read… this incredibly successful trilogy finishes on a huge high and has gone from strength to absolute strength.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Boy Who Flew With Dragons
Author: Andy Shepherd (@andyjshepherd)
Illustrator (Cover & Inside): Sara Ogilvie (Website)
Publisher: Piccadilly Press (@PiccadillyPress)
Page count: 256
Date of publication: 10th January 2019
Series status: Third and final book in the The Boy Who Grew Dragons series
ISBN: 978-1848127357

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

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Dragons 🐉
2. Grandad 👴
3. Map 🗺️


We grow dragons.
Dragons that flicker, that frost, and some that fill the sky with fire.

We sit cross-legged round our dragon-fruit tree, waiting for our dragons to hatch.

But there’s something I need to tell you.

So keep listening, because you haven’t heard the whole story yet. And once you have, you might not be quite so quick to rush out and grow yourself a dragon…



Review: In the third and final book in The Boy Who Grew Dragons trilogy, it’s time to say goodbye to the dragons as we know them for Tomas yet Tomas can’t imagine life without his little dragon Flicker and neither can we. As Flicker and the other dragons grew in to Tomas and his friends’ lives, lived with them and as more dragons flew in to the pages of this series, they’ve become a part of our reading lives also as they’ve become more than pets and more like friends. However Tomas has a promise to Grandad to keep and he’s already delayed it more than he should…

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Superhero Squad – Sara Ogilvie (The Boy Who Flew With Dragons)

But that isn’t going to stop the dragons appearing at Lolli’s party and creating a scene with thirty-three nursery children. Neither is it going to stop them from making more madness at Halloween. However the dragons’ causing of chaos changes in to the find of the century when searching through Grandad’s things in the shed, Tomas discovers the most mysterious of maps and when Flicker breathes on the map, all is revealed – La Ciudad Oculta de los Dragones: The Hidden City of the Dragons.

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Floorboard – Sara Ogilvie (The Boy Who Flew With Dragons)

With a revelation this big, it means that Tomas is one step closer to working out where the dragons belong but there’s a slight problem before that in that he still has to work out how to get them to leave (oh, and tell his friends that the dragons have to go!). Can Tomas balance keeping his promise to Grandad, letting his friend in Flicker go and will the secrets of the city throw up more questions in answers and help Tomas to unearth the story of the mysterious dragonfruit tree that’s been nestled in Grandad’s garden for all this time…?

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Flicker and Tomas – Sara Ogilvie (The Boy Who Flew With Dragons)

I’m so pleased that Andy finishes the incredibly successful trilogy on a huge high and to see the series go from strength to absolute strength. Not since The Dreamsnatcher trilogy by Abi Elphinstone have I felt so invested in a series as good as this. Closing the end pages of this story, I could feel the tinkles behind the eyes but I could also feel the corners of my mouth transform in to the biggest of smiles because that’s what this series has been truly about. Laugh out loud humour with a bond between a boy and a dragon that’s irresistible to read… a series that will be read and re-read over and over again for years and generations to come.

 

I’m so delighted to see ‘The Boy Who Flew with Dragons’ finally flying into the world. It’s been a long time coming. This story started life as a picture book eight years ago. Since then it’s been through many forms as I rewrote it over and over, coming back to it again and again through the years. I have a 1000 word version, a 5000 word version, a 12000, 20000 and finally the 35000 word version I ended up writing just for my sons that actually got me interest from my publisher.

And now it has become three books! I’m so thankful to Piccadilly Press for giving me the opportunity and space to develop the story. It’s been fun and exciting to see storylines and characters grow. But at its heart the overall arc of the story remains the same. And it was huge fun and quite emotional to write this third book and see that finally paying off.

This is probably my favourite book, not least because it’s the culmination of a very long writing journey. I hope readers enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it! (Though I hope it doesn’t take them quite as long!)

Andy Shepherd

 

Big thanks to Andy, Sara, Georgia and all at Piccadilly Press for inviting me to share my thoughts on this fantastic series-ender and for providing these illustrations!

Extra thanks to Andy for her guest post sharing her thoughts on the final book and the whole series. It’s been an absolute pleasure to support this series and to see my name in the final’s book’s acknowledgements has made my year.

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🐉  Mr E 🐉


THE BOY WHO FLEW WITH DRAGONS by Andy Shepherd out now in paperback
(£6.99, Piccadilly Press)

Find out more at https://www.piccadillypress.co.uk/books/the-boy-who-flew-with-dragons/

and follow Andy Shepherd on Twitter @andyjshepherd



Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): Our Castle by the Sea – Lucy Strange (Designed by Helen Crawford-White)

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‘Tinged with twists at each turn of the page… it reads like a classic that willingly compels you to want more of it with every word.
With Our Castle by the Sea, Strange has created something very special.’


Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Our Castle by the Sea
Author: Lucy Strange (@theLucyStrange)
Designer (Cover & Inside): Helen Crawford-White (@studiohelen)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 336
Date of publication: 3rd January 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1911077831

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Lighthouse💡
2. War 🛩️
3. Family 👨‍👩‍👧‍👧


England is at war. Growing up in a lighthouse, twelve-year-old Pet’s world has been one of storms, secret tunnels and stories about sea monsters. But now the clifftops are a terrifying battleground, and her family is torn apart. This is the story of a girl who is small, afraid and unnoticed. A girl who freezes with fear at the enemy places ripping through the skies overhead. A girl who is somehow destined to become part of the strange, ancient legend of the Daughters of the Stone…


Review: Mystery, adventure and intrigue combine with characters you can’t help but care deeply about.

The prologue to this gripping narrative opens in 1931 where we are introduced to our protagonist Petra – small and so very young at this time – recounting her own experience of her father retelling her family an ol’ folktale of the Daughters of Stone. An ancient myth of monsters that according to Petra is ‘much, much more‘ than it appears to be told and she may be right in thinking this…

Flashing a little further forward to 1939, we find Petra having to increasingly partake in wartime rituals as the threat of invasion looms closer to the Kent coastline and the lighthouse where she lives. Camouflaging the lighthouse green, the event of evacuation and the wearing of ghastly gas masks are all described in the most emotionally-skilful of manners. From the realisation that the impending threat of war is just around the corner or rather, over the cliff face to the heart-wrenching moment that Petra’s parents realise they may have to lose her for the greater good, Our Castle by the Sea really will ensure that its readers see the impacts and consequences of war in a way that will resonate with them – both young and old. So much so that after reading this, the first thing I did was pass this on to my grandmother and grandfather, of whom he himself was evacuated from North London to Wales during World War Two.

For me, the storyline starts to really come into its own as Mutti, Petra’s mother becomes a source of suspicion due to the fact that she is German: this being a familial side to wartime historical fiction that is rarely covered in children’s literature. As sidewards glances and a sense of hostility is rising along with the emergence of family secrets and the shunning of her mother in public becoming more prevalent, Petra becomes only all too aware that her family could be falling apart at its very seams. This reaches a clattering crescendo when Mutti is taken away and forced to live imprisoned in exile in an internment camp.

The demons of doubt begin to forge deeper in Petra’s mind when newspaper headlines, government acts on treason and mysterious letters appear leaving Petra in a state of emotional turmoil. Seeing her gutsy sister, Mags – who for me, is one of the standout characters – and her father entangle themselves in a swathe of secrets of their very own, Petra has no-one to turn to but herself.

With a turn of phrase and a sense of metaphor that makes the most ordinary of feelings and emotions come wildly alive in the reader’s mind, Lucy achieves what all writers are wishing for: a long-lasting connection to their readers. A book that many – and certainly I – will not forget. If this is your first read of a novel by Lucy, I am sure that you’ll be returning to her for many more.

With its links to Dunkirk, Spitfires, Hurricanes and ration books, you may think this book is a typical tale of wartime experience however think again because with Our Castle by the Sea, Strange has created something else entirely and something very special indeed. Suspense and drama set against the backdrop of WWII tinged with twists at each turn of the page. It reads like a classic that willingly compels you to want more of it with every word.


‘Tinged with twists at each turn of the page… it reads like a classic that willingly compels you to want more of it with every word.
With Our Castle by the Sea, Strange has created something very special.’


Historical Fiction for Young Readers – Five of My Favourites
by Lucy Strange

Lucy Strange author pic 2017 (by Claudine Sinnett).jpgOne of the best things about writing historical fiction is that you are never working on a blank canvas: the chosen period provides a richly detailed background – the context for the powerful tale that will be depicted with brighter brushwork in the foreground. I love the challenge of weaving my own stories through a fabric of historical fact (if you’ll forgive the change of metaphor) – it adds layers of conflict and excitement to the narrative, especially when the historical period is already a tense and dangerous one.

My new novel, Our Castle by the Sea, is set at the beginning of the Second World War. There are, of course, already so many wonderful children’s books about this time (Carrie’s War, Goodnight Mr Tom, Blitzcat, The Book Thief, The Machine Gunners and The Boy in Striped Pyjamas to name just a few), but when a story presents itself as needing to be told, there is often very little a writer can do about it. This is how I felt when I first read about the British internment camps for ‘enemy aliens’, the tribunals and categorisation processes, and Churchill’s ‘Collar the Lot’ policy. My central character is twelve-year-old Petra Zimmerman Smith who lives in a lighthouse on the white cliffs of Kent with her unpredictable big sister, her English father and her German mother. When the war begins, and it becomes clear that there is a traitor in the village, the local community turns against Petra and her family, but can her beloved ‘mutti’ really be to blame?

I love reading historical fiction as well as writing it. I think the genre has so much to offer younger readers: the thrill of the past being suddenly and vividly present; the opportunity to explore lost and faded worlds through the eyes of sympathetic characters; the jolt of emotion when you realise that the story you are reading is based on something completely true. Here are some of my favourite recent additions to the canon of historical fiction for children and teenagers . . .

Beyond the Wall by Tanya Landman, 2017

After maiming her master, slave girl Cassia is forced to run away. Her only hope for freedom – and life itself – lies in the wild lands to the north, beyond Hadrian’s Wall. Landman’s 2015 novel Buffalo Soldier won the Carnegie Medal with a moving story of bravery set during the American Civil War. Her unique brand of original, fast-paced and visceral historical fiction frequently explores the darkest times of cruelty, violence, prejudice and powerlessness in human history. 

The Buried Crown by Ally Sherrick, 2018

Ally Sherrick’s historical fiction for children provides an accessible and entertaining portal into British history, venturing through realms of archaeology, espionage and political intrigue. The Buried Crown is a Second World War story about a young evacuee’s adventures as he attempts to save Anglo-Saxon treasure from the clutches of the Nazis. Sherrick’s 2016 novel Black Powder is a gripping, twisting tale based around the Gunpowder Plot and was the winner of the Historical Association Young Quills Award.

Secrets of a Sun King by Emma Carroll, 2018

This beautifully framed mystery takes us from 1920s London back to ancient Egypt – Secrets of a Sun King is a wonderfully thrilling adventure through time. I love Carroll’s books, particularly her gothic novel Strange Star inspired by the life of Mary Shelley, and her Second World War story Letters from the Lighthouse which was nominated for the Carnegie Medal. Dubbed ‘the Queen of Historical Fiction’, Carroll’s novels are a gift to teachers and a joy for bookworms.

Bone Talk by Candy Gourlay, 2018

An established and highly respected children’s author, Gourlay has recently ventured into the genre of historical fiction with her stunning new novel Bone Talk. Shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Book Award, this moving coming-of-age tale takes place in the Philippines where Gourlay grew up. Set at the turn of the century, it explores sophisticated themes such as colonialism and identity, and seeks to redress the balance of Western-dominated narratives in historical fiction.

A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge, 2017

Frances Hardinge is a writer I hugely admire. By blending historical fiction with elements of magical realism and fantasy, she creates a genuinely extraordinary reading experience. A Skinful of Shadows is a strange, dark tale set during the English Civil War, but with the most brilliant supernatural twist. Hardinge’s brilliant 2015 novel The Lie Tree famously won the Costa Book Award. If you haven’t yet read a Frances Hardinge book, you have the most wonderful treat in store.


OUR CASTLE BY THE SEA by Lucy Strange out now in paperback
(£6.99, Chicken House)

Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com
and follow Lucy Strange on Twitter @theLucyStrange


Big thanks to Laura Smythe, Lucy and all at Chicken House for inviting me to share my thoughts on this beautifully-written book as part of the Our Castle by the Sea blog tour!

Extra thanks to Lucy for her guest post highlighting five of her favourite children’s historical fiction novels that I think should be on everybody’s to-be-read (TBR) piles.

  Mr E 

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Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): Vote for Effie – Laura Wood (Illustrated by Emma Trithart & Mirelle Ortega)

2019 looks like it is sure to be a big year for the United Kingdom what with the ever-present talk of Brexit, people’s vote and second referendums but I can also guarantee that 2019 will also be a big year for Laura Wood with her striking, new novel Vote for Effie. So it is with great pleasure that I kick off 2019 at The Reader Teacher with this review and guest post from Laura herself as part of the Vote for Effie blog tour!

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‘A revelation! A barrier-breaking book that’s about optimism as much as activism and one that definitely gets my vote… Vote for Effie deserves to be a HUGE hit!’


Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Vote for Effie
Author: Laura Wood (@lauraclarewood)
Illustrator (Cover): Emma Trithart (Instagram)
Illustrator (Inside): Mirelle Ortega (@moxvi_)
Publisher: Scholastic (@scholasticuk)
Page count: 240
Date of publication: 3rd January 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1407187723

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Impassioned 📣
2. Rousing 😊
3. Campaign 🗳️


The last thing new girl Effie Kostas needs right now is to be running a high-stakes campaign for Student Council President against the most popular boy in school. But she’s not about to sit quietly by the face of great injustice – SO THE RACE IS ON.

With the help of a band of misfits, a whole lot of glitter glue and an angry parrot, can Effie defy the odds and win the election? And can one girl really make a difference?


Review: Feeling friendless and all alone at her new secondary school after starting mid-way through the year, Euphemia Kostas (‘actually pronounced “Yoo-fem-ia, by the way’) – known more preferably as Effie – finds little in the way of likemindedness or appreciation from her new peers: none of which seem as articulate, as determined or as welcoming as her.

Fear not however as this act of adversity is only a small bump in the road for Effie and does not stop her in her admirable pursuit of friend-finding but that’s not before she has a run-in with Aaron Davis who just happens to be the most popular boy in school… and unfortunately for Effie, he’s also the incumbent Student Council President. After arguing over the only thing Effie is currently enjoying in the school: the last piece of chocolate cake from the canteen, she recognises that Aaron is only in this enviable leadership position for the perks. Being a flagship example for fairness and with a social commentary with more insight and intuition than many adults could possess, Effie is soon on a one-girl mission to try to change this and put democracy back on the map and in to the heart of the school.


Starting with her four-point plan:

  1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Get the school to be greener and start a proper recycling campaign.
  2. Clubs for all: Make more funding available for people who want to start their own clubs and societies NOT JUST THE BOYS’ SPORTS TEAMS.
  3. No-one eats alone: Set up a buddy system so that no one feels left out. Introduce mentors for students so that they feel welcome and included.and my own personal favourite of course…
  4. We need libraries: Raise funds for new books and a proper librarian. Libraries aren’t a luxury, we need them.

With the help of an equally resilient and dynamic group of friends, Effie finds herself standing up for what she believes in and takes on Aaron at his own game – which is news to him – and many of the teachers and the school’s systems – as he’s been mostly unchallenged in previous years.

On the surface, this is a story with a premise that promises lots and I’m pleased to say that underneath it differs from that of some modern politicians’ promises in that it delivers a considerable amount too.

Laura has captured the earnest-yet-empowered, confidence-developing character and indomitable spirit of Effie perfectly as she lives with her family – which includes a loveably cheeky sister who could be another (although ever-so-slightly-different) Effie in waiting – and whose relationships with a supporting cast such as a young-at-heart next-door neighbour are a complete complement to its central character. A thoroughly modern Millicent… Effie is your new best friend, your new sister and your new triple threat of inspiration, idol and heroine all rolled in to one.

This is an absolute revelation! A barrier-breaking book that will gain a majority and inspire a generation by making you feel so energised, so enthusiastic and so eager to join Effie’s campaign that you will want to read it all in one sitting – just like I did. Impassioned, rousing & essential reading for rights… Vote for Effie deserves to be a HUGE hit. Vote with your feet – and hands! – and go and buy/borrow this wonderfully-written story: I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed.


‘A revelation! A barrier-breaking book that’s about optimism as much as activism and one that definitely gets my vote… Vote for Effie deserves to be a HUGE hit!’


Celebrating young girls who are changing the world

Greta Thunberg

Writing this just before Christmas, I have recently been so inspired by fifteen-year-old Swedish environmental activist, Greta Thunberg. Between August and September, Greta protested every day outside parliament, demanding that the Swedish government reduce carbon emissions.

In December, Greta addressed the COP24 United Nations climate change summit. She didn’t mince her words, saying, “you only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess, even when the only sensible thing to do is pull the emergency brake. You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to us children.”

One of the biggest things I wanted to address when writing Vote for Effie was the idea that young people, but especially girls are often told that they should be quiet. Boys might be called brave or assertive, where a girl is more likely to be called bossy or shrill. I think Greta is such a wonderful example of what can happen when girls speak up, and why we should all be listening to them.

You can watch Greta’s speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFkQSGyeCWg

Laura Wood

 


Big thanks to Harriet Dunlea, Laura and all at Scholastic for inviting me to share my thoughts on this powerful and passionately-written book as part of Vote for Effie blog tour!

Extra thanks to Laura for her guest post highlighting a real-life example of Effie’s character.

📣  Mr E  🗳️


Vote for Effie is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.


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Blog Tour (Guest Post & Giveaway!): Unicorn Girl – Anne-Marie Conway (Illustrated by Shannon Conway)

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Title: Unicorn Girl
Author: Anne-Marie Conway (@amconway_author)
Publisher: Eponine Press
Page count: 216
Date of publication: 31st October 2018
ISBN: 978-1916436305

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1.  Unicorns
2. Necklace
3. Magic


Today, I ‘m delighted to welcome best-selling children’s author and drama teacher Anne-Marie Conway to The Reader Teacher. Here, she shares with The Reader Teacher her exclusive guest post about why creativity and childhood experiences are ‘at the heart’ of the school workshops she does for new book Unicorn Girl.

I’m also incredibly pleased that Anne-Marie Conway and her team have given me TWO signed copies of Unicorn Girl and two unicorn charm necklaces to be given away with the books! Read on to find out more!

As a drama teacher, I know the power of the imagination and how important imaginary play is, whatever your age.

I began using creativity to deliver the curriculum very early on in my teaching career. In my first job as a general primary teacher, I quickly felt constrained by traditional teaching methods and began to take a more creative approach to what I did. I had a planning meeting every week with my parallel teacher and while she liked my ideas she didn’t always have the confidence to incorporate them into her lessons. In the end we came to an arrangement; she taught maths to my class and I taught literacy to hers.

Nowadays, of course, it’s harder for teachers to hide in the wings. With ‘Teacher in role’ as well as other drama techniques being part of the National Curriculum, educationists everywhere need to find ways of delivering it themselves.

I can’t imagine working any other way. I am currently doing author visits to support my new book, Unicorn Girl, and inspiring the students to think creatively is at the heart of what are proving to be popular workshops.

In the book, my heroine Ariella has recently moved house and school. She is smaller than everyone else, is being picked on by the school bully and is desperately worried about her baby brother, Boo, who was born with a hole in his heart. Enter Albert, a frightened and scruffy young unicorn foal who looks like he needs her help.

The story is about their journey together and is illustrated with beautiful black and white drawings that I use as the starting point for the workshops I do.

At the beginning of each school visit, I lay out three very large versions of these pictures; one from the start of the book where Ariella and Albert are unsure of themselves and each other; one from the middle of the book where they are gaining in confidence and one at the end where they have overcome the hurdles in their way. I don’t want to spell it out much more than this because I don’t want to spoil the story! But you get the idea. There is a narrative arc to this. The characters develop.

The pictures give the students a way of talking about the themes in the book, even if they haven’t read it yet. But to get them imaginatively involved, I ask them to choose the one image they like most and ‘graffiti’ onto it the words and phrases that come to mind. This process involves some pairing up, a lot of chatting and a great deal of walking round the pictures and deciding what to do. And that’s before they start practicing on different pieces of paper with coloured pencils to get exactly the right image, preparing to draw it one last time onto the final picture – no second chances.

The feedback so far has been fantastic. The walking around and freedom to be creative makes it easier for everyone to talk about what’s in front of them. Sometimes it gets noisy and messy but it’s never dull.

My passionate belief in using imagination to connect with children comes from personal experience.

When I was 13 years old, my father announced to the family, out of the blue, that in six weeks’ time we would be going to live in Israel. It would be difficult to exaggerate the impact the move had on me – leaving behind my friends, my school and everything that was familiar to start a new life somewhere where I didn’t speak the language or know a single person. I wondered if I would ever fit in or be happy again.

It’s perhaps no surprise then, that the main characters in my novels often find themselves living in a new area or starting a new school, just like Ariella. It’s a theme I come back to again and again, almost as if I’m still coming to terms with the trauma of moving all those years ago.

I remember, during those first few weeks in Israel, I developed a strange coping mechanism. I used to pretend I was in a movie. I would stand at the bus stop, waiting for the number 90 bus that would take me to my new school, and I would imagine a camera crew filming me for a ground-breaking documentary. I devised the script in my head: Anne-Marie is waiting for the number 90 bus that will take her to her new school. Steam rises from the boiling tarmac, the air around her filled with clouds of sandy dust.

I used to tell myself that when the filming was finished, I’d be going back to my old life and the nightmare would be over. Not only that, but I’d be a huge star. (And this was years before the concept of reality TV even existed.)

Ariella in Unicorn Girl escapes into her imagination too. I’ll leave you to decide exactly how, but Albert appears in her life shortly after her beloved Granny Rae dies.

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Illustration credit: Shannon Conway

Albert has fallen through an invisible barrier that separates the unicorn world from the human world and he has no idea how to get back. It was important to me, when I was writing the book, that Ariella would be instrumental in helping Albert, rather than Albert appearing solely to help Ariella. I wanted their relationship to sustain her, but ultimately empower her. Albert is trying to get back to his old world, but Ariella can’t go back. She has to find a way to fit in to her new world, however difficult that might be.

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Illustration credit: Shannon Conway

The journey they embark on is funny and touching and full of setbacks but on the way, almost without realising, they grow strong and brave and full of courage, until finally, they are able to scale the emotional, as well as physical hurdles in their way.

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Illustration credit: Shannon Conway

Pretending to star in my own movie helped me through some dark, lonely times, too. It helped me to navigate the new and unfamiliar world that was so alien to me, until, slowly, without even realising, the gap between observing my new life and living it, got smaller and smaller.

I don’t think my response to a distressing situation was unique, nor is Ariella’s. A lot of children retreat into an imaginary world to some degree. It is part of how they negotiate their way towards the adult world. This is where drama in the classroom can be so powerful. If children are already working through thoughts and fears in their imaginative worlds, teachers can connect with them quickly by meeting them on familiar ground. We need to have faith that if we meet children halfway, if we stretch out a hand, they will stretch theirs back to meet us.

In practical terms, for teachers, this can mean dressing up, getting into role, entering into the drama. As soon as you put on a hat, or a cloak, or change your voice, students believe. And there are plenty of techniques to help you guide and control this more creative approach to learning. I use a tambourine to signal what I expect from the group. A shake means; ‘Finish up, sit down, it’s time to share what we’ve been doing.’ A loud bang means; ‘Freeze’. It’s important to keep activities short so that the pace of the lesson moves along, and it’s useful to stop at regular intervals to make sure the children are focused and on task.

Although, in my experience, whilst the lessons might be more chaotic than the average maths lesson, there is nothing sweeter than the noise of children devising a piece of drama to enhance and deepen their learning.

The workshop I now do around Unicorn Girl has brought together so many strands of my life, it’s caught me by surprise. I use the content I’ve created as an author, the skills I use as a teacher and the insights of that young girl, finding herself vulnerable and alone in Israel.

I’m out of my comfort zone a lot of the time – learning new things with every visit. But one thing’s for sure…I’m never bored.

Unicorn Girl is available from Peter’s and good bookshops as well as on Amazon and Kindle. Anne-Marie Conway is currently booking school author visits for 2019.
For more information, please visit
www.annemarieconwaybooks.com


Big thanks to Anne-Marie and Michele for all your help in organising this stop on Anne-Marie’s blog tour and for providing the prizes for the giveaway. Extra thanks also to Anne-Marie for writing such an inspiring guest post, especially at this busy time of year!

Mr E


Giveaway!

 

So to celebrate the blog tour of Unicorn Girl, I am delighted to say that Anne-Marie has kindly given me TWO signed copies of her book to give away to one of my followers on Twitter along with two unicorn charm necklaces.
If you’d like a chance of winning this superb prize, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!


Cover Reveal & Book Giveaway: Swimming Against the Storm – Jess Butterworth (Illustrated by Rob Biddulph) – Out 4th April 2019!

Today, I’m so delighted to exclusively reveal the cover of Jess Butterworth’s eagerly-anticipated third novel after Running on the Roof of the World and When the Mountains Roared, Swimming Against the Storm which will be published on 4th April 2019 by Hachette.

I’m also super happy because the very lovely people at Hachette have given me five copies of Swimming Against the Storm to give away! Find out more below!


Swimming Against the Storm – Jess Butterworth

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Heartland middle-grade adventure set in the swamps of Louisiana, perfect for fans of Katherine Rundell and Lauren St John.

Our land is sinking. It’s disappearing into the water. And no one knows how to save it.

Twelve-year-old Eliza and her sister Avery have lived their entire lives in a small fishing village on the coast of Louisiana, growing up alongside turtles, pelicans and porpoises. But now, with sea levels rising, their home is at risk of being swept away.

Determined to save the land, Eliza and her younger sister Avery secretly go searching in the swamp for the dangerous, wolf-like loup-garou. If they can prove this legendary creature exists, they’re sure that the government will have to protect its habitat – and their community.

But there’s one problem: the loup-garou has never been seen before. And with a tropical storm approaching and the sisters deep, deep in the swampland, soon it’s not just their home at risk, but their lives as well…


Publisher: Hachette Children’s Group
ISBN: 9781510105485
Number of pages: 288


Jess Butterworth

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Jess spent her childhood between the UK and India, and grew up hearing stories about the Himalayas from her grandmother. As soon as she was old enough, she went on her own adventures in search of story ideas. After her undergraduate, Jess studied a creative writing Masters at Bath Spa University and now lives between the USA and the UK.

Her articles about creative writing, and short stories, have featured in publications such as The Writers and Artists’ Yearbook and Scoop Magazine. She’s published two novels for children aged 9+, Running on the Roof of the World and When the Mountains Roared. Her third novel, Swimming Against the Storm will be published in April 2019. Jess regularly visits schools and literary festivals where she works with young people and runs creative writing workshops.


Rob Biddulph

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He is a bestselling and multi award-winning author/illustrator. He is also the official World Book Day Illustrator for 2019 and 2020. His first picture book, Blown Away, was published in 2014 and was only the second illustrated book in history to win the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. It was read as a CBeebies Bedtime Story by Mark Bonnar in 2017.

His second book, GRRRRR!, was nominated for the CILIP Kate Greenaway medal and his third, Odd Dog Out, was nominated for a total of eight literary prizes, winning the BSC Festival of Literature Picture Book Award and the UKLA Student Shadower’s Vote Book Award. It was also read as a CBeebies Bedtime Story by Tom Hardy in 2017. His fourth, Sunk!, was nominated for the CILIP Kate Greenaway medal and shortlisted for The People’s Book Award and Oscar’s Book Prize, and his fifth, Kevin, was nominated for the CILIP Kate Greenaway medal and shortlisted for the BSC Festival of Literature Picture Book Award and the IBW Book Award. His sixth (Happy Hatchday) and seventh (Give Peas a Chance) books are the first two in the Dinosaur Juniors series. Happy Hatchday was awarded a GOLD Junior Design Award in 2018.

As well as working on his own books he also illustrates for other authors including Jeff Brown (the Flat Stanley series), Piers Torday, Jess Butterworth, SE Durrant and Christian O’Connell.  Before he became a full-time author/illustrator he was the art director of the Observer Magazine, NME, Uncut, SKY and Just Seventeen.

He lives in London with his wife and three daughters and hasn’t given up hope that, maybe, one of them will go to an Arsenal match with him one day.


Preorder: Swimming Against the Storm is available to pre-order online from Amazon, Hive, Waterstones, WHSmith or from any good bookshop.


Huge thanks to Jess, Dom and all at Hachette for inviting me to host this beautifully vivid cover reveal, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!


Mr E

📚


Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Hachette have kindly given me five finished copies of Swimming Against the Storm to give away!

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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 Hachette, just before, near or on publication on 4th April 2019.

Blog Tour (Review & Giveaway!): The Night I Met Father Christmas (Illustrated by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini)

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‘A gilt-edged gift that’s more than a gift… this is a story that no doubt will become a festive favourite but is a book that will take big kids back to feeling like believers again.


Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Night I Met Father Christmas
Author: Ben Miller (@ActualBenMiller)
Illustrator: Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini (@djterrazzini)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s (@simonkids_UK)
Page count: 304
Date of publication: 1st November 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1471171536

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

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Magical ✨
2. Charming 😊
3. (Father) Christmas 🎅


Jackson knows all about the flying reindeer, he knows about the elves and the secret North Pole workshop, he knows about the magic that allows Father Christmas to deliver presents around the world in just one night, but there’s one thing he doesn’t know …  how did Father Christmas become Father Christmas?

That all changes when, one Christmas Eve, Jackson meets Father Christmas and hears his incredible story.   
 
So begins an enchanting fairy-tale into a magical snowy landscape, where Torvil, a mean-spirited and miserly elf, is about to discover the true meaning of Christmas. This might not have been the story Jackson was expecting but, as Father Christmas tells him, no good story ever is… 


Review: You’ll most probably know Ben Miller for his vast array of utterly brilliant comedy, TV and film work, most notably with writing partner Alexander Armstrong. My favourite of  his being the hilarious The Worst Week of My Life. So it is with great pleasure that The Night I Met Father Christmas shows that Ben can turn to his hand to the children’s literature world with the same enthusiasm in this joyful, festive offering. The Night I Met Father Christmas is Ben’s first foray in to writing for children and I’m certainly hoping it’s not his last.

In his heart of hearts, Jackson is a believer, always has been a believer and always will be a believer but owing to the smallest seed of doubt placed in his mind by one of his friends that’s slowly festering and growing bigger, he’s determined to find out for real about the true origins of Father Christmas.

With grand plans to meet the main man himself by fervently staying up late on Christmas Eve, Jackson is ready and armed with that ever-elusive and all-important unanswered question that’s reverberating around his head to find out his true identity, How did Father Christmas become Father Christmas?

But this all starts to slightly come unstuck when Father Christmas arrives down his chimney with a problem all of his very own…

As Father Christmas injures himself coming down Jackson’s chimney leaving the world at the mercy of not receiving their presents, Jackson finds himself at the delivery service of this small Santa in return of wanting to reveal the secret backstory behind his being.

With echoes of the great Charles Dickens’ The Christmas Carol and in particular The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, so begins the revelatory journey that Jackson finds himself on. Accompanied by a talking reindeer, Jackson discovers the story of a Scrooge-like elf with a surname that’s the only thing in common with Christmas who rediscovers himself in more ways than one…

Friendship, flashbacks, fairy-tale and festivity combine in the most delightful of ways to make this a book that has all the potential of becoming the next Christmas classic. Not only a wonderful book to read at home in the build-up to Christmas Day that’s guaranteed to be a big hit with the whole family but also one that could inspire a whole generation of young readers to write their own origin stories, you’ll never think of Father Christmas in quite the same way again.

An absorbing read that’s sure to sprinkle Christmas spirit and sparkle through every turn of its glorious and gorgeous DJ Terrazini black-and-white illustrated pages, this is a book that no doubt will become a festive favourite but is also a book that will take big kids back to feeling like believers again.

Make sure to find space on your book shelf for this gilt-edged gift that’s more than a gift; it’s the perfect present to read this Christmas and to return to for all Christmases to come.

‘A gilt-edged gift that’s more than a gift… this is a story that no doubt will become a festive favourite but is a book that will take big kids back to feeling like believers again.


Big thanks to Eve Wersocki-Morris, Ben and all at Simon & Schuster Children’s UK for inviting me to share my thoughts on this beautifully-written and illustrated book as part of The Night I Met Father Christmas blog tour!

🎁 🎅  Mr E  🎅🎄

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The Night I Met Father Christmas is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.


Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Simon & Schuster Children’s UK have kindly given me ONE copy of The Night I Met Father Christmas to give away!

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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!

Cover Reveal & Book Giveaway: The Star-spun Web – Sinéad O’Hart (Illustrated by Sara Mulvanny) – Out 7th February 2019

Today, I’m incredibly excited to exclusively reveal the cover of Sinéad O’Hart’s eagerly-anticipated second novel after The Eye of the North, The Star-spun Web which will be published on 7th February 2019 by Stripes Books.

Click here to request it from Netgalley!

I’m also super delighted because the very lovely people at Stripes have given me five copies of The Star-spun Web to give away! Find out more below!


The Star-spun Web – Sinead O’Hart

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With her passion for scientific experimentation and her pet tarantula Violet, Tess de Sousa is no ordinary orphan.

When a stranger shows up at Ackerbee’s Home for Lost and Foundlings, claiming to be a distant relative come to adopt her, Tess hopes to find some answers to her mysterious origins. But as she adjusts to her new life at Roedeer Lodge, it becomes clear that Norton F. Cleat knows more about Tess – and the strange star-shaped device left with her when she was abandoned as a baby – than he’s letting on. And when Tess discovers that the Starspinner is the gateway between her world and a parallel world in which war rages, she realizes she may be the key to a terrible plan.

A plan she must stop at all costs…


Publisher: Stripes/Little Tiger Press Group
ISBN: 9781788950220
Number of pages: 384


Sinead O’Hart

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(Image credit: https://sjohart.wordpress.com/about-me/)

Sinéad O’Hart was raised in a small house full of books in the south-east of Ireland. She has a degree in Medieval English and has had many careers (including butcher, bookseller and university lecturer). She now lives in County Meath, near Dublin, with her husband, their daughter and an ever-expanding book collection.

Visit sjohart.wordpress.com@SJOHart


Sara Mulvanny

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(Image credit: https://twitter.com/saramulvanny)

Sara Mulvanny grew up with a paint brush in one hand and a cup of tea in the other. After studying Illustration at Kingston, Sara moved back to her North Hampshire studio which she shares with her cat, Simba. Whilst this cheeky feline tries to walk across Sara’s keyboard or balances precariously on stacked sketchbooks, Sara can be found creating her stylised pen and ink drawings, which she digitally transforms with texture and colour. Inspired by the age of Art Deco illustration and muted colour palettes, her charming illustrative style has captured the attention of many clients including Harrods, Sainsbury’s Magazine and Harper Collins.


Huge thanks to Sinéad, Leilah and all at Stripes for inviting me to host this mightily impressive cover reveal, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!


Mr E

📚


Preorder: The Star-spun Web is available to pre-order online from Amazon, Hive, Waterstones, WHSmith or from any good bookshop.

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Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Stripes have kindly given me five physical copies of The Star-spun Web to give away!

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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 Stripes, just before, near or on publication on 7th February 2019.

Blog Tour (Guest Post): Frostfire – Jamie Smith (Illustrated by Karl James Mountford)

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Title: Frostfire
Author: Jamie Smith (@JamieHBSmith)
Illustrator (Cover): Karl James Mountford (@karlj_mountford)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 288
Date of publication: 1st November 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1911077879

Perfect for Year 5 & Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1) Mountain 🏔️
2) Avalanche ❄️
3) Secrets 🤐


Chosen for the honour of bonding with a frostsliver – a fragment of the sentient glacier that crests her icy home – Sabira embarks on the dangerous pilgrimage to the top of the mountain. But when a huge avalanche traps her on the glacier and destroys the pass, Sabira is determined to find another way home.

In order to survive, she must face up to the merciless mountain – but there are dark and fiery secrets hiding in its depths…


I’m delighted to welcome Jamie Smith, author of Frostfire, to The Reader Teacher where he shares his exclusive guest post talking about how he can push the boundaries of the fantasy genre and how this makes him think more innovatively about the way he builds his worlds…

Tolkien’s Legacy by Jamie Smith

For decades, the shadow of fantasy’s biggest name has loomed large. Only recently have others begun to chip away at the legend that Lord of the Rings built – and deservedly so. It’s a great world, with fantastic characters and plenty of original ideas! However, I can’t help but feel that the super success of the books has limited what fantasy can be for all too long. It doesn’t have to be elves and dwarves all the way down!

These concepts, along with the dark lord, orcs and countless others became the foundation for other mega-franchises and have stuck around ever since. You’ll never see an elf in my books. Not because they can’t be interesting, but because I’ve seen them so many times before. I’d rather build something new and personal to me than putting a new spin on someone else’s idea.

Fortunately, in recent years, it seems like a number of other authors are coming to agree with me. Names like Brandon Sanderson, Brent Weeks, Tomi Adeyemi and more. Every time I see something fresh, it inspires me to do better too – and the further the fantasy genre is pushed, the better. It’s a place where literally anything can happen, after all!

That’s why my book has a sentient glacier in it, and not a hint of a dark lord in sight.

I’m hoping that by expanding the worlds we tell these kinds of stories in, I and others can help break free of the weight of those writers that came before (while still using them for a leg up from time to time). That way, we don’t have the limits of medieval Europe constraining us, and we can be more inclusive with our characters. Even our world is full of places that are not stone castles and mild-weathered woodland, after all.

So, I do my best to fill my world with strange creatures, fantastic magic, heroes with strength of character and flaws to overcome, just like Tolkien did when he (practically) founded the genre.

I’ll just paint a different picture over the top while I do it.


FROSTFIRE by Jamie Smith,
out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com
and follow Jamie
@JamieHBSmith and jhbsmith.com


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Look our for more reviews and guest posts from Jamie on the rest of the Frostfire blog tour from these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review): Absolutely Everything!: A History of Earth, Dinosaurs, Rulers, Robots and Other Things Too Numerous to Mention – Christopher Lloyd (#NNFN)

I’m delighted to have been asked to share my review today as part of National Non-Fiction November (#NNFN)!
National Non-Fiction November is the Federation of Children’s Book Groups’ annual celebration of all things factual. Born out of National Non-Fiction Day, the brain child of Adam Lancaster during his years as Chair, the whole month now celebrates all those readers that have a passion for information and facts and attempts to bring non fiction celebration in line with those of fiction.


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‘ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE… a book of beauty that will inspire a new generation. This is a time-travelling trek through Planet Earth as you’ve never seen it before!’


Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Absolutely Everything!: A History of Earth, Dinosaurs, Rulers, Robots and Other Things Too Numerous to Mention
Author: Christopher Lloyd
Illustrator (Cover): Justin Poulter
Illustrators (Inside): Andy Forshaw & Will Exley
Publisher: What On Earth? (@whatonearthbook)
Page count: 336
Date of publication: 4th October 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1999802820

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Enthralling 🤩
2. Exciting 😆
3. Everything 🌍


It’s impossible, of course, to tell the whole story of absolutely everything. But simple impossibility will not stop author Christopher Lloyd. Join him for a fast-paced, entertaining and incredibly informative worldwide whirlwind tour connecting the science, nature and history of our world.


Review: Beginning with the Big Bang and speeding through 13.8 billion years of time and space moving us all the way forward in to the modern world, this book through it’s fifteen fantastic chapters brings all things history, geography, science and technology to life.

When author Christopher found himself looking at the earth around him with fresh eyes, he realised that he – along with many others – did not know the true extent as to what our world and absolutely everything in it has been through before and why it has all happened. This spark of curiosity was the catalyst for the creation of this Big Book, and wasn’t too dissimilar from the spark that created our very own world – the Big Bang.

Wowzers! With more facts, information and knowledge than you could ever imagine, this is an excellent reference book for all ages. But it is SO MUCH more than that! It’s a book that you could lose all sense of time from being immersed in. It’s a book that you are sure to find something new and interesting every time you open its pages. It’s a book for the passionately curious. It’s a book for all the family. It’s a book that will inspire a new generation.

To add to the vast amount of facts, its incredible page design with easy-to-follow text, vivid and striking photographs, drawings, tables, charts, and quotes make this – for me – THE stand-out non-fiction book published this year.

Informative, in-depth, intriguing and incredible: the levels of richly-packed detail, vocabulary and terminology such as evolution, new civilisations, classic empires, explorers, conquerors, revolutions and wars that feature within this wonderful-written book are phenomenal. You would find it hard to not learn anything from simply picking this up and flicking through at first sight.
It is clear to see that Christopher Lloyd is in awe of this planet and its history and wants us to fall in complete awe of it too. With this superbly-written book, he succeeds so well in achieving this.  More recently, with its long-list nomination for the Blue Peter Book Awards 2019, every home and every school should be doing everything they can to own a copy of this extraordinary book.

Overall, Absolutely Everything! is best summed up by Christopher’s own words with it being for people ‘who love to ask questions as much as they like to find out answers’. A book like this would have been my bible when I was younger.

This is a time-travelling trek through history as you’ve never seen it before! So with 13.8 billion years of history waiting for you with a turn of the page… Get ready to explore and embark on a journey of a lifetime. The Earth’s lifetime! What are you waiting for?

‘ABSOLUTELY AMAZING… a book of beauty that will inspire a new generation.
This is a time-travelling trek through Planet Earth as you’ve never seen it before!’


Big thanks to Chris Routh from FCBG (Federation of Children’s Book Groups) for inviting me to share my thoughts on this superb book as part of the National Non-fiction November blog tour!

Mr E


Absolutely Everything!: A History of Earth, Dinosaurs, Rulers, Robots and Other Things Too Numerous to Mention is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

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Cover Reveal & Giveaway: When we were Warriors – Emma Carroll (Illustrated by Julian De Narvaez & designed by Margaret Hope): Out 7th February 2019!

Today, I’m absolutely unbelievably excited to exclusively reveal the cover of Emma Carroll’s eagerly-anticipated World War Two short story collection, When we were Warriors which will be published on 7th February 2019 by Faber Children’s.

I’m also super excited because the very lovely people at Faber Children’s have given me five copies of When we were Warriors to give away! Find out more below!


When we were Warriors – Emma Carroll

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A body washed up on the beach…
Evacuation to an old house with forbidden rooms and dark secrets…
An animal rescue service…

Set in World War Two, Emma Carroll explores the resilience, resourcefulness and inventiveness of children when their lives fall to pieces. Introducing some compelling new characters, as well as revisiting some familiar settings, these adventures are sure to win over new readers, as well as fans of old favourites such as Letters from the Lighthouse and Frost Hollow Hall.

Publisher: Faber & Faber
ISBN: 9780571350407
Number of pages: 256


Emma Carroll

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Emma Carroll was a secondary school English teacher before leaving to write full time. She has also worked as a news reporter, an avocado picker and the person who punches holes into filofax paper. She graduated with distinction from Bath Spa University’s MA in Writing For Young People. When We Were Warriors is Emma’s ninth novel.
She lives in the Somerset hills with her husband and two terriers.


Julian De Narvaez

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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, Sarah, Hannah 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

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Preorder: When we were Warriors is available to pre-order online from Amazon, Hive, Waterstones, WHSmith or from any good bookshop.

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Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Faber Children’s have kindly given me five copies of When we were Warriors to give away!

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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, just before, near or on publication on 7th February 2019.

Guest Post: Picklewitch and Jack – Claire Barker (Illustrated by Teemu Juhani)

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‘Absolutely whizz-carking… the kind of charming story that has the perfect mix of playfulness and peculiarity and will have you begging for its next!’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Picklewitch and Jack
Author: Claire Barker (@clairebarker)
Illustrator: Teemu Juhani
Publisher: Faber (@FaberChildrens)
Page count: 240
Date of publication: 6th September 2018
Series status: First in the series
ISBN: 978-0571335183

Perfect for Year 3 and Year 4.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Witch 🧙
2. Whizz-cracking 😄
3. Friendship 👫


Picklewitch lives in a tree at the bottom of the garden. She has a nose for naughtiness, a mind for mischief and a weakness for cake. And unluckily for brainbox and all-round-good-two-shoes Jack (who’s just moved in) – she’s about to choose him as her new best friend…

Jack is in for a whole lot of trouble!


I’m delighted to welcome Claire Barker, author of the fantastic Knitbone Pepper series and more recently, the Picklewitch series, to The Reader Teacher!

Claire is busy writing the next book in the Picklewitch and Jack series, due out next year. She has handed this blog over to her main characters, Jack and Picklewitch to talk about how the book might be used in the classroom. Enjoy!

Jack Door

Winner of most sensible boy three years running and massive fan of everything school and rule-related.

Dear teachers, I hear some of you are reading our story in class, which is very exciting. A longer chapter book full of illustrations, I am told it is ideal for year 3.  I hope you like my suggestions.*

  1. Our story is about playground life, about celebrating difference, being open-minded and challenging gender stereotypes. Most of all though, it is about friendship. Personally, I believe in looking smart, sticking to the rules and being extraordinarily clever. One day I will probably be a Nobel prize winning scientist or possibly an astronaut. However it turns out that being a good friend is also important, but unlike quadratic equations, tricky. I searched for a non-fiction book on this subject in the library, but had no luck. Hopefully this book will help any other children who are forced to be friends with a rude, grubby little witch.
  2. Language and Literacy. Personally I am a big believer in using only standard English. However, you could also use the book to look at Picklewitch’s ‘interesting’ vocabulary, her dialect and sentence structure. You could also look at character development, the tension between opposites, how dialogue and humour is used and the ups and downs of a story arc. Perhaps write some pretend spells and read them aloud! You could even get in touch with Claire Barker on her website (clairebarkerauthor.com) and she will skype your class about inspiration, drafting and editing. There are even some downloadable worksheets on there too.

*  Was in pie chart format but Picklewitch ate it.

PICKLEWITCH

Lives in a tree. Never wrong. Best Friend Ever.

My story is the kipper’s knickers and you should use it becuz:

1) READING IS FUN. My book is lovely and long, with lots of pictures of me (and a few of Jack) inside.

2) it teaches children about Nature WHICH IS MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL THE THINGS. Even owls know this and 50% of everything they say is ‘TWIT’.

3) Science: not nearly enough children know that the weather is caused by a bear wot does live on the moon. It is madness.

4) Maths: how many burds fit into a bin lid? Answer in back of book.

5) Literacy: not difficultatious (that’s a word I invented. I am very good with words).

6) This book will mean more laughing.

7 ) This book will mean more cake.

8) This book will mean more magic.

9) There is no 9.

10) Some pies taste better than others.

Blog Tour: (Review & Guest Post) Danny and the Dream Dog – Fiona Barker (Illustrated by Howard Gray)

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‘Capturing perfectly the character, companionship and camaraderie (and sometimes… the chaos) that a dog naturally brings to a home, this is a heartfelt story that’ll warm the hearts of animal lovers everywhere.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Danny and the Dream Dog
Author: Fiona Barker (@Fi_BGB)
Illustrator: Howard Gray (@hwigray)
Publisher: Tiny Tree (@TinyTreeBooks)
Page count: 32
Date of publication: 25th October 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1910265659

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

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Dreams 💭
2. Dogs 🐕
3.  Friendship 💓


Danny really, really wants a dog, but Mum says no.

Find out whether a new neighbour can help Danny achieve his dream and much more besides.

A story about finding friendship in unexpected places.


Review: Danny is like most schoolchildren up and down the country. He dreams of having his very own dog. But unfortunately for him, his dreams come crashing down as his mum puts to a stop to this very thought. So what can he do? Well he’s already asked nicely, pleaded, whined and finally begged… but it all appears that it’s in vain. Doing his best to try to hound(!) his mum to get him a dog, he even does a pretty convincing job at looking after his toy dog.

But mum’s better judgement still wins through as she explains to Danny that this is the sensible option because there’ll be no-one to care for Danny’s dream dog during the day so for now, Danny’s dream dog stays… well… a dream.

That all changes however when a new neighbour moves in downstairs and Danny’s dream becomes a bit closer to home. Mum’s lined him up for the job of walking Mrs Owen’s dog, Maximus and Danny thinks all his Christmases have come at once.

However upon meeting Maximus for the first time, Danny’s best laid plans go awry as Maximus behaves more like a cheeky monkey than a show dog. Rabbit-chasing, squirrel-hunting, puddle-splashing Maximus ends up being the talk of the town, sometimes for all the wrong reasons!

But Maximus is far too loveable to stay mad at and Danny ends up growing increasingly fond of seeing him, but only at the end of the day.

Realising that looking after a dog takes far more effort than he first thought, Danny like the rest of us recognises the power of man’s best friend and falls under his spell… and his wet tongue!

This is a heartfelt story that’ll warm the hearts of animal lovers everywhere. Growing up as someone who’s always had a dog by my side, this book with Howard’s charming illustrations, reminds me why I always have and captures perfectly the character, companionship and camaraderie (and sometimes… the chaos) that a dog naturally brings to a home.

Empathy, education and emotion are at the heart of this touching story that children will want read and re-read again, so much so that it’ll probably end up becoming dog-eared (which is a very good thing!).


I am delighted to welcome Fiona Barker to The Reader Teacher, as part of the Danny and the Dream Dog blog tour, with a brilliant insight in to her working with a charity as part of writing it…
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I didn’t write this as an ‘issue’ book or a charity book but when you finish Danny’s story you will see some information about The Cinnamon Trust.

I didn’t write the story with the Trust in mind but once I had written it then it felt very relevant as it covers the theme of how helping someone look after their pet can bring people together. That’s what The Cinnamon Trust does. It’s an amazing charity helping people in their last years and their companion animals, including dogs. The Trust maintains a register of 15,000 volunteers who help owners care for their much-loved pets in their own homes. The Trust helps over 30,000 people and their pets stay together every year. I hoped I could help raise awareness of the charity through telling the story.

While working on the book, I was privileged to meet volunteers Caz and Elaine and dog owners Chris and Tony. You can watch their stories in these short videos:

It really is a win-win-win situation for the owners, volunteers and pets. That’s what we’ve tried to sum up in the penultimate spread.

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The Trust is always looking for new volunteers across the UK if you think you might be able to help.

Tips for working with a charity on a book:

Approach them early on in the process

Explain clearly what you are planning

Negotiate what you will provide and what you expect from them – make it clear whether or not this is a financial arrangement or something reciprocal about raising awareness.

Put it in writing – this doesn’t need to be a formal contract but make sure both sides are happy.

Keep them informed throughout the journey to publication.

I’m really looking forward to spreading the word about the Trust at author events and school visits. I’m hoping that along with hearing the story and having some dog-themed fun at an event, children and adults will take home a little bit of knowledge about the Trust and its wonderful volunteers, almost without realising!

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Danny and the Dream Dog is available to pre-order online and from any good bookshop.

Big thanks to Fiona for inviting me to be a part of this brilliant blog tour, for writing her fantastic blog post and for sending me an advance copy of Danny and the Dream Dog!

Mr E


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Keep a look out this week and last for more review posts and exclusive content from Fiona and Howard on the Danny and the Dream Dog blog tour!

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
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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
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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.

9780571345687

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

Image 16-08-2018 at 16.43


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)

Repro_AChaseInTime_cvrHIGHRES
‘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

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.

THE GREAT SEA DRAGON DISCOVERY FULL COVER LH FINAL_Page_1

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… 


9780192749840

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?
Lola.jpg

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.

Creative ideas.jpg

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.

Post-It notes.jpeg

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.

Jumping from plane.jpeg

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.

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

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

📚


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

final cover v09


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)

Boy Underwater Jacket lowre.jpg

‘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
📚


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?