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

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

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

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


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

She’s Twister.

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

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


The first line:

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


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

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

Twister by name, Twister certainly by nature.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Mr E
📚

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

The making of Maymay the witch

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

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

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

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

Juliette Forrest, author of Twister

 

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

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

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

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

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


The first line:

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


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

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

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

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

Mr E
📚

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

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


The importance of sharing stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Who are the bear folk and what makes them special?

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

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

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

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

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 & Year 6.

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Mr E
📚

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Review: Brilliant Bundle of Books from Bloomsbury Education!

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

Here’s what I think…

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mr E
📚

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

 

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

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

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

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

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


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

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

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

How will YOU make history?


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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr E
📚

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

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

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 & Year 6.

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


Ready for an adventure?

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


The first line:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So who will they join… Culpepper? Or Vane?

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I ask this:

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

What about you, Vashti? 

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Mr E
📚

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reading and Writing

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

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

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

TRT: When you were a child, can you remember contacting any authors or them ever visiting your school and if so, did this inspire you?
VH: We didn’t have author visits, but I would have loved it because I know how inspiring it can be. When I was first taking my writing seriously, I read an interview with Philip Pullman. He spoke of everyone seeing the gliding swan and not seeing the feet kicking furiously beneath the surface. This made me realise I could try!

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

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

Brightstorm and Teaching

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

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

TRT: For those teachers reading this Q&A and would like to enquire about arranging the opportunity of a school visit from yourself, how would it be best to contact you regarding this?
VH: That would be lovely – if you visit my website www.vashtihardy.com you can get a flavour of the book and events and then easily contact me via the online form.

Two more before you go!

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

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

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

VH: Thank you for your great questions!


🎉    Giveaway!   🎉

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

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


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