Cover Reveal & Giveaway: The Dodo Made Me Do It – Jo Simmons (Illustrated by Sheena Dempsey): Out 9th August 2018!

Today, I’m SO excited to reveal the cover of Jo Simmons’ fabulously funny, The Dodo Made Me Do It, illustrated by Sheena Dempsey, which will be published on 9th August 2018 by Bloomsbury Children’s.

I’m also super excited because the very lovely people at Bloomsbury Children’s have given me three copies of The Dodo Made Me Do It to give away! Find out more below!


The Dodo Made Me Do It – Jo Simmons

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Danny longs for adventure – or just a super-cool summer holiday, for once – but every year he is shipped off to the quiet village of Kinoussie in Scotland to stay with his gran. Nothing ever ever happens in Kinoussie – except his gran makes him eat a lot of porridge, and the only person to hang out with is science-mad Susie, who is more interested in watching programmes about tapeworms than finding fun!

But when Danny hears about a shipwreck just off the coast, his adventure really begins and when he discovers a dodo (of all things!), Danny certainly gets more than he bargains for! Trying to keep the dodo fed, safe and quiet is a mammoth task and Danny’s lies and excuses are soon spinning out of control. Why had he ever wished for something more exciting to happen?

A hilarious tale of wish fulfilment gone wrong that every child will relate to – perfect for fans of Pamela Butchart, My Brother Is a Superhero and David Baddiel’s The Parent Agency.

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN: 9781408877777
Number of pages: 304


Jo Simmons

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

Jo Simmons lives in Brighton with her husband Steve and their two children, George and Dylan. They share their home with a dog called Betty and a cat called Pickle (before you ask – no, they don’t get on. Pickle lives upstairs; Betty lives downstairs).

Jo studied English at Warwick University and journalism at Cardiff University. She has been a journalist for a really long time, but the Pip Street children’s books are her first go at fiction.

Jo likes sleeping, running and eating ice cream straight from the pot, though not all at the same time, of course. That would be silly. And impossible.


Sheena Dempsey

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Sheena Dempsey is an exciting talent. She is most known for being the illustrator of the pigeontastic Dave Pigeon series (Faber & Faber) written by Swapna Haddow, as well as the illustrator of Fearne Cotton’s debut children’s book Yoga Babies (Andersen Press). Yoga Babieshas sold in nine territories and the second title in the series will be published in 2018. It has recently been shortlisted for the Sheffield Children’s Book Awards 2018.

Sheena is also illustrator of Billy Button the Telegram Boy (Barrington Stoke) written by Sally Nicholls, which was shortlisted for the Book of the Year Award by Children’s Books Ireland.


Huge thanks to Jo, Lizz, Emily and all at Bloomsbury Children’s UK for inviting me to host this totally awesome cover reveal, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!


Mr E

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The Dodo Made Me Do It is available to pre-order online from AmazonWaterstones or from any good bookshop.

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Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Bloomsbury Children’s have kindly given me three copies of The Dodo Made Me Do It to give away!

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

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Cover Reveal & Giveaway: You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yeti! (The Nothing to See Here Hotel #2) – Steven Butler (Illustrated by Steven Lenton): Out 20th September 2018!

Today, I’m SO excited to reveal the cover of Steven Butler & Steven Lenton’s all kinds of amazing sequel, You Ain’t Seen Anything Yeti!, to The Nothing to See Here Hotel which will be published on 20th September 2018 by Simon & Schuster Children’s UK.

I’m also super excited because the very lovely people at Simon & Schuster Children’s UK have given me one copy of The Nothing to See Here Hotel to give away!
Find out more below!


You Ain’t Seen Anything Yeti! (The Nothing to See Here Hotel #2) – Steven Butler

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The second book in this fabulously funny series by bestselling author Steven Butler and the wonderful Steven Lenton!

Having just saved the hotel from a goblin prince, Frankie Banister and the guests are looking forward to enjoying themselves and celebrating the summer holiday of Trogmanay! But when a snow storm blows in (complete with Yeti family), and a number of mysterious guests arrive, something sinister seems to be taking over the hotel and celebrating is the last thing on anyone’s mind…

PRAISE FOR THE NOTHING TO SEE HERE HOTEL:
‘This book is so good you won’t blunking believe it!’
Tom Fletcher

‘Hilariously funny and inventive, and I love the extraordinary creatures and the one thirty-sixth troll protagonist…’
Cressida Cowell

‘A rip-roaring, swashbuckling, amazerous magical adventure. Comedy Gold.’
Francesca Simon

`This hotel gets five stars from me’
Liz Pichon

‘A splundishly swashbungling tale of trolls, goblins and other bonejangling creatures. Put on your wellies and plunge into the strangest hotel you will ever encounter. This is a hotel I hope I never find! Wonderfully, disgustingly funny.’
Jeremy Strong

`What a fun hotel! Book me in immediately!’
Kaye Umansky


Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd

ISBN: 9781471163852
Number of pages: 208


Steven Butler

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Steven Butler is the author of the bestselling Diary of the Dennis the Menace fiction series. As well as writing the hit 2015 World Book Day title, World Menace Day, Steven also hosted the ten key nationwide events, for the Biggest Book Show on Earth, for over 13,000 children and dozens of top-name authors.

Steven Butler is an actor, dancer and trained circus performer. He has appeared in The Wizard of Ozin London’s West End and was Henry in Horrid Henry Live and Horrid!

His primary school headmaster was the fantastically funny author Jeremy Strong. Steven’s first novel, The Wrong Pong, was shortlisted for the prestigious Roald Dahl Funny Prize in 2009.


Steven Lenton

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Steven hails from Cheshire and now works from his studio in Brighton, creating an array of charming characters for his books.

Best known for illustrating Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam, written by Tracey Corderoy, he has illustrated many lovely books and wrote his first picture book with Nosy Crow, Princess Daisy and the Dragon and the Nincompoop Knights.

Steven also loves to visit schools, festivals and bookshops, encouraging and inspiring his audience to draw, giggle and create! He is also a children’s book blogger – just search for his name on YouTube. More information about him and his work can be found at stevenlenton.com.


Huge thanks to Steven, Steven, Eve and all at Simon & Schuster Children’s UK for inviting me to host this totally awesome cover reveal, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!


Mr E

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You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yeti! is available to pre-order online from AmazonWaterstones or from any good bookshop.

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Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Simon & Schuster Children’s UK have kindly given me one copy of The Nothing to See Here Hotel to give away!

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

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Cover Reveal & Giveaway: Secrets of a Sun King – Emma Carroll (Illustrated by Julian De Narvaez & designed by Emma Eldridge): Out 2nd August 2018!

Today, I’m absolutely delighted to exclusively reveal the cover of Emma Carroll’s eagerly-anticipated Egyptian novel, Secrets of a Sun King which will be published on 2nd August 2018 by Faber Children’s.

I’m also super excited because the very lovely people at Faber Children’s have given me five copies of Secrets of a Sun King to give away! Find out more below!


Secrets of a Sun King – Emma Carroll

Secrets of a Sun King

It’s November, 1922. In a valley in Egypt the tomb of a long dead pharaoh is about to be discovered.

The world watches and waits for news with baited breath. Thirteen-year-old Lilian Kaye, who lives in a flat above a shop in London, is eagerly following the story. One morning the news takes a sinister turn: a man- a famous Egyptologist- disappears. All that remains of him are his feet. Then Lil’s grandfather is taken suddenly ill, and when a mysterious package turns up for him from the Egyptologist, Lil starts to believe there is truth to the rumours of a pharaoh’s curse.

Publisher: Faber & Faber
ISBN: 9780571328499
Number of pages: 320


Emma Carroll

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After years of teaching English to secondary school students, Emma now writes full time. She graduated with distinction from Bath Spa University’s MA in Writing For Young People. In another life Emma wishes she’d written ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne Du Maurier. She lives in the Somerset hills with her husband and three terriers.


Julian De Narvaez

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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, Hannah, Sarah and all at Faber Children’s for inviting me to host this stunning cover reveal, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!


Mr E

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Secrets of a Sun King is available to pre-order online from Amazon, Hive, Waterstones 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 Secrets of a Sun King to give away!

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

Copies to be sent to winners when available from Faber Children’s, near or on publication on 2nd August 2018.

Secrets of a Sun King

Review: Ottoline series – Chris Riddell & Giveaway (Ottoline signed paperback series & signed print!)

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‘Quintessentially quirky… no-one both writes and illustrates books quite like Chris Riddell. Described as a ‘small girl who has big adventures’, Ottoline is a series which has big appeal.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Titles: Ottoline and the Yellow Cat; Ottoline Goes to School;
Ottoline at Sea & Ottoline and the Purple Fox
Author: Chris Riddell (@chrisriddell50)
Illustrator: Chris Riddell (@chrisriddell50)
Publisher: Macmillan (@MacmillanKidsUK)
Page count: 176; 176; 176; 192
Date of publication (Paperback): 26th February 2015 (Yellow Cat; Goes to School; at Sea); 17th May 2018 (Purple Fox)
Series status: Four in series
ISBN: 978-0330450287; 978-0330472005; 978-0330472012; 978-1509881550

Perfect for Year 3, Year 4 & Year 5.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Original 😀
2. Fun 😄
3. Ingenious 😍


The first line: 
(Ottoline and the Purple Fox)

Ottoline Brown lived in an apartment in the P. W. HUFFLEDINK Tower, which looked like a pepper pot so everyone called it the Pepperpot Building.


Review: If you’ve read any series both written and illustrated by Children’s Laureate 2015-2017, Chris Riddell then you’ll understand completely when I say that no-one both writes and illustrates books quite like Chris. His series are quintessentially quirky, all kinds of loveable and ludicrous and no doubt stand out on the shelf. Therefore I’m very pleased to say that is no different with his offering of Ottoline and her adventures.

Ottoline and the Yellow Cat introduces us to the slightly madcap and outlandishly wonderful world of Ottoline where we meet Ottoline herself, a young girl left on her own by her parents in her apartment and her equally eccentric house guest, Mr. Munroe. Through the story and Chris’ characteristically exquisite and detailed illustrations that will fascinate readers from the first page, we grow to love Ottoline’s quirks and idiosyncrasies as she becomes a super sleuth to solve her neighbourhood’s dog disappearances, burglaries and problems.

Rich in the most wonderful use of vocabulary and description – who’d have thought that you’d find the words ‘Beidermeyer armchair’ in a children’s book? – it’s Chris’ observational charm, dry wit and self-deprecating sense of humour that endears Ottoline’s adventures to the masses.

Ottoline’s antics and adventures are continued through three more beautifully written and illustrated stories in the series, Ottoline Goes to School; Ottoline at Sea and as published in paperback as recently as today (and the reason for this blog post), Ottoline and the Purple Fox. They are all utterly delightful and so I find it so hard to choose but Ottoline and the Purple Fox is my personal favourite where lamppost poetry, urban safaris and doppelgängers all feature in this fantastic fourth instalment. 

Described as ‘a small girl who has big adventures’, Ottoline is a series which has big appeal.

Ottoline and the Purple Fox is available in paperback from the 17th May 2018, £6.99.

‘Quintessentially quirky… no-one both writes and illustrates books quite like Chris Riddell. Described as a ‘small girl who has big adventures’, Ottoline is a series which has big appeal.’


Big thanks to @FrithaL and @MacmillanKidsUK for sending me a copy of Ottoline and the Purple Fox and for providing such an amazing prize of which even I am very jealous of!

Mr E
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Giveaway!

To celebrate the paperback publication of Ottoline and the Purple Fox, the latest book in Chris Riddell’s Ottoline series, I’ve got a signed set of all the Ottoline books to giveaway, plus a signed Ottoline and Mr Munroe print.

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

The Ottoline series has won numerous awards including the Nestle Smarties Prize and the Red House Children’s Book Award, and has won critical acclaim thanks to its beautiful and heart-warming illustrations, paired with a humorous text.


Blog Tour: (3 in 1: Review: The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle – Victoria Williamson (Illustrated by Floris Books); Guest Post: Mirrors & Doors: Diversity in children’s literature – Victoria Williamson & Giveaway!)

The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle Full Cover - Victoria Williamson

‘A truly transformational read. Intensely powerful and immensely poignant at the same time… such a groundbreaking, essential and accomplished debut that not only changes perceptions but also has the power to alter attitudes. With this one, Victoria has most certainly made herself a writer to watch.’ 

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle
Author: Victoria Williamson (@StrangelyMagical)
Illustrator (Cover):  (@FlorisBooks)
Publisher: Kelpies (@DiscoverKelpies)
Page count: 272
Date of publication: 19th April 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1782504900

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Friendship 👭
2. Courage 💪
3. Empathy ☺️


She is the Fox Girl.
I am the White Gazelle.
Together we can outrun anything.

Reema feels completely lost. She’ll never call this strange country, with its grey skies and boring food, home. Syria is her home and it’s a million miles away.

Caylin feels completely alone. She’s looking after he useless mum, stealing from other kids so she can eat. She can’t tell anyone, they’ll only let her down.

The refugee and the bully – Reema and Caylu – can’t imagine being friends, until a shared secret brings them together.


The first line(s):

Growls in the dark: the monsters are coming /
The home time bell’s so loud it hurts my head.


Review:

Switching between the chapter-changing perspectives of the two main characters, Caylin (who’s used to the streets of Drumhill) and Reema (who’s more used to the streets of war-torn Aleppo), this is a truly transformational read.

There’s not much that these girls can seem to be smiling about as their home lives are somewhat rocky with a mix of domestic depression, alcoholism and wondering where the next meal is coming from for Caylin and culture shock, a language barrier and a complete fear of the unknown for Reema.

However their lives change forever when they both discover a family of foxes. Though it’s this shared secret that initially brings them together to form an unexpected friendship that sometimes boils over yet blossoms, they end up sharing far more than even they could begin to imagine…

With two main characters that are polar opposites of each other: one seemingly damaged by the aftermath of war, the other damaged by circumstance; we see them mature and develop throughout the course of the book. This stunning story gives a voice to characters who, in the world we live in today, so often don’t have a voice and it is in their own words and Victoria’s own experiences working with young asylum seekers that she captures both characters’ voices so clearly and convincingly that they really come to life on the pages before your very eyes.

Bringing the most unlikeliest of friends together, especially this pair, is a difficult thing to do. Yet, Victoria really intertwines these two characters’ lives so pertinently that their storylines fit together in a way that seems that they were always destined to meet each other and bring out the best in each other.

Shortlisted for the Book Awards, this is such a groundbreaking, essential and accomplished debut that not only can change perceptions but also has the power to alter attitudes. It is intensely powerful and immensely poignant at the same time; hitting hard when it needs to whilst tenderly tugging at those heartstrings of yours too.

Overall, it’s a wonderfully well-voiced story from both sides as it’s a touching yet timely reminder of the world in which we live in and how with thought, feeling, compassion and togetherness, we can all live a better life as Jo Cox said, ‘we have far more in common than that which divides us‘.

A book to be proud of writing for Victoria and a book to be proud of reading for all of us. With this one, Victoria has most certainly made herself a writer to watch.

Books can change lives and this just might be one of those books.

One of my favourites of the year so far.

‘A truly transformational read. Intensely powerful and immensely poignant at the same time… such a groundbreaking, essential and accomplished debut that not only changes perceptions but also has the power to alter attitudes. With this one, Victoria has most certainly made herself a writer to watch.’ 

Big thanks to Victoria & Kelpies/Floris Books for sending me an advance copy of this wonderfully written book!

The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
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Mirrors and Doors

‘Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created or recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.’  Rudine Sims Bishop, Ohio State University, ‘Mirrors, Windows and Sliding Glass Doors’.

Most teachers know that books can act as magical doorway to other worlds. But how many of us stop to consider the importance of providing not just doors for children to explore, but mirrors to reflect their own life experiences?

Teaching in Cameroon - Victoria Williamson

The first time I realised that not all stories were universal was when I was working as a VSO teacher in Cameroon. One of my duties was helping develop the small school library, stocked with donated books from the UK and the USA. During a reading lesson with a ten year old who was struggling with literacy, I picked out The Ugly Duckling as a story with fairly easy language. After twenty minutes’ hard slog, we hadn’t got past the first paragraph. We had to keep stopping so I could explain what a duckling was. Then a pond. Then a swan… We gave up and tried other stories, but with no more success. After months of encouraging children to borrow books from the library, only to see their initial enthusiasm give way to apathy, I finally discovered the problem. Those western reading books, despite their bright covers and illustrations, held no relevance for the children. Their stories of ice cream, snowmen, fireworks, and Santa Claus might as well have been written in a foreign language. They were not mirrors reflecting the children’s own experiences of growing up in a small West African village with limited access to electricity and an unreliable water supply, and they couldn’t act as doors to new worlds either, as the children lacked the information keys to unlock those worlds. It wasn’t until I sought out books written by West African writers which featured children growing up in villages like Nkambe, that the library really took off. Children flocked to borrow stories by Chinua Achebe, Mabel Segun and Kola Onadipe featuring characters just like themselves, and their reading abilities began to gradually improve.

Cameroon Library - Victoria Williamson

That was when I first began to understand the power of diverse books. Looking back I realised the stories I’d loved as a child had been dominated by white, middle class, able-bodied characters, which were not representative of the children from the many diverse backgrounds with various special needs that I was teaching as an adult. This had resulted in me recreating the ‘standard’ characters in my own writing, and the stories often fell short of their potential due to the restrictions I placed on them without even realising it.

Travelling, teaching, and reading more widely led me to experiment with a far greater variety of characters in my own novels. The characters in The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle are composed of many voices. Caylin, a troubled twelve-year-old struggling with her mother’s alcohol addiction in a Glasgow council estate, and Reema, a Syrian Muslim refugee whose world has been turned upside down by war, were inspired by some of the children I have taught over the years.

No one is saying we shouldn’t read the classic children’s books in schools – my own imaginative landscape would be infinitely poorer without the wonderful Enid Blyton, Narnia and Harry Potter books. But if the books in a classroom library act only as mirrors for one type of experience – often white, middle class, able-bodied and frequently male – then many children will not only find opaque glass where their mirrors should be, but the doors to new worlds locked and the keys missing.

As teachers we need to be aware that when selecting books to be read in our classrooms, we are choosing which children get to see reflections of themselves in heroic roles. We are also acting as the gatekeepers to exciting new worlds, and we need to ensure that some children are not denied access due to a lack of representation. Have a look right now at the books in your school library and the ones you plan to teach. Are there a wide range of experiences reflected in them? Do they invite all children to share the adventure? If they do then they’re not just books, but mirrors and doors for all of your children to explore literature together.

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Victoria Williamson is a primary school teacher with a Master’s degree in special needs education. She has worked as a science teacher and teacher trainer in Cameroon and Malawi, an English as a foreign language teacher in China, and as a special needs teacher in the UK.

Victoria has been writing fiction since she was a child, and now writes full time for Middle Grade and YA, with a particular focus on creating diverse characters reflecting the many cultural backgrounds and special needs she has encountered, both as a teacher and as a volunteer. Having worked with children in Africa, Asia and across the UK with additional support needs such as Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Down’s Syndrome, physical disabilities and behavioural problems, Victoria is passionate about creating inclusive worlds in her novels where all children can see a reflection of themselves in heroic roles.

Victoria’s experiences teaching young children in a school with many families seeking asylum inspired her debut novel, The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle, an uplifting tale of redemption and unlikely friendship between Glaswegian bully Caylin and Syrian refugee Reema. Twenty per cent of author royalties for ‘The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle’ are donated to the Scottish Refugee Council.

You can find Victoria on Twitter as @strangelymagic or on her website.


Giveaway!

Victoria has very kindly given me two copies of The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle complete with matching model toy (of fox or white gazelle!) to give away to two lucky winners!

If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning one of these copies of this superb book and complementing model toy, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!


Be sure to check out the other blog tour dates for The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle!

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Pontypridd Children’s Book Festival 2018

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Today I am absolutely delighted to be blogging from Pontypridd Museum for the very first Pontypridd Children’s Book Festival! A children’s book festival in partnership with Cardiff Book Festival and Pontypridd Town Council held today on Saturday 12th May 2018 at Pontypridd Museum from 9am-6pm.

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

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

#PontyKidsBooksFest

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Authors and events

Storytime with How High Do Trees Grow? and Can We Walk to the Moon? by Mark Dorey (Language: English; Age Suitability up to 7 – 30 Mins FREE)

Storytime with Polly’s Magic Bubbles and the Quest for Dizzelwood by Mark Dorey (Language: English; Age Suitability 7+ 30mins FREE)

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Mark started off by reading Can We Walk to the Moon? Inspired by a family holiday to Newquay. Looking at the biggest moon they’d ever seen, Mark’s son asked his dad ‘can we walk to the moon?’ and so the idea for this story was born.

Mark’s picture books are beautifully written in rhyme and illustrated by Mark’s wife Liz which makes them perfect for reading aloud! Mark told us that his wife used silver leaf in some of the illustrations to give the pages of his book that extra sparkle!

Joining in with the rhymes (even the adults couldn’t help joining in!), counting in Welsh and doing all of the actions, the audience grew and grew this morning.

The next of Mark’s books that he read was How High Can We Walk?, again inspired by a question from his son, Tom. The audience loved joining in with the voices and sound effects (Whoosh!), particularly the angry ice cream man.

Up… and up … and up! Full of brilliant illustrations and fantastic vocabulary, this is a super tale of a boy and his dad climbing trees and having an absolute adventure!

Mark’s second session was full of storytelling. This time he told the story, of his brand new book written for 6-9 year olds, Midge the Prince of the Giants about a GIANT baby with a small twist as Midge actually started off by being not very tall… at all.

Mark Dorey is a writer and publisher with over 20 years writing experience and is passionate about engaging youngsters to read and write. Mark has performed poetry and spoken word events all over Wales with National Theatre Wales.

Poetry Workshop with clare e potter (Language: English and Welsh; Age Suitability 4+ £3)

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A very lively and energetic workshop that you couldn’t help but want to be involved in! Clare loves to use objects as prompts for creating poetry so much so that she brought all these wonderful objects, including hag stones, antique fans and all kinds of amazing artefacts.

Clare and all involved thought deeply and talked about the objects being ‘holders of memories’ and ’keepers of secrets’. Using an ‘Ode to Common Things’ by Pablo Neruda as inspiration, Clare helped everyone involved to take an everyday object like a whisk and give it a whole new meaning!

Putting an object in the hot seat and asking it questions together such as ‘What do you remind me of?’ and ‘Where did you come from?’ shows how creativity and imagination can spark from anything and everything around us.

clare e. potter is a writer and performer from Cefn Fforest. She spent ten years in the Deep South where she did an MA in Afro-Caribbean literature. She has had various writing residencies, works on collaborative community projects, and won the John Tripp Award for Spoken Poetry.

Create Your Own Comic with Huw Aaron (Language: WELSH; Age Suitability 8+ £3)

IMG_6203 2Plenty of giggles and lots of fun were to be had in Huw Aaron’s comic workshop even before the comic making(!) as children and adults took part in a pre-comic workout.

Armed with his trusty marker pen, Huw created a range of weird, wacky and wonderful cartoon characters with an audience lapping up every character (gymeriad) including a T-Rex wearing a tutu whilst riding a unicycle and a shark/gorilla hybrid which one of the children coined ’Sharkilla’!

Showing how to truly have fun drawing, Huw brings cartoon art to life so effortlessly and so full of energy!

Huw Aaron is a cartoonist and illustrator. His doodlings can be found in a number of children’s books and comic strips and he has also written and illustrated the welsh language comic/jokes/story/puzzle book Llyfr Hwyl y Lolfa.

Gaslight with Eloise Williams (Language: English; Age Suitability 9+ £3)

IMG_6206Reading from Gaslight, I particularly liked the way Eloise encouraged the audience to read along one line at a time by splitting the first chapter in to single lines or phrases for them to read along with her.

Eloise talked about her inspirations and interest in the Victorian era and architecture and how this led to writing about the finer details of the grittier, darker side of Victorian times. Spending her school holidays in Cardiff, she started to stop and stare at the sights around her, noticing things around her in much more detail. Eloise likes to write about experiences; places she’s been to as she can visualise details, large or small.

She wanted to write a book where the reader almost forgets that its set in Victorian times and has a main character that everything Eloise wishes she could be and everything she’s not.

We were also very lucky to be treated to a sharing of an extract of Eloise’s new book out in September, Seaglass: a modern ghost story inspired by a mist rolling in from the sea at Tenby, which the whole room was absolutely captivated by.

Eloise was born in Cardiff and grew up in Llantrisant. She now lives in Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire, very close to the beach where she walks her dog Watson Jones and collects sea glass with her artist husband, Guy Manning. She worked in the theatre in various odd jobs before going on to study Drama at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and Guildford School of Acting. After working for over ten years as an actor, she decided to change path a little and take a Masters in Creative Writing at Swansea University.

Writing Masterclass with Catrin Collier (Language: English; Age Suitability 11+ FREE)

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Local author and writing heroine, Catrin started by sharing with us the opening extract to her daughter Sophie Anderson’s recently published novel, and Waterstones’ Children’s Book of the Month for May, The House with Chicken Legs.

She followed this with talking about literary worlds and being lost in the world that you write in, being aware of your audience and projecting it so it becomes so appealing that others can’t help but be drawn in to it.

She also took questions from the audience talking about obtaining a publishing deal, working in writers’ circles and using her local knowledge of Pontypridd and all her wealth of experience to provide an invaluable insight in to the publishing world.

If Catrin has one word or one tip for aspiring writers, it’s to ‘persevere’ and that there is no right way to write; it just either works or it doesn’t.

Catrin Collier/Katherine John has published 55 novels in English and translation, 25 as Collier. Her novel, Hearts of Gold filmed by BBC Worldwide, attracted 6.8 million viewers on UK TV.  One Last Summer, based on the wartime diaries of her Prussian mother is recommended reading by the Holocaust Day Memorial Trust. The film she scripted from her crime book By Any Name is showing on Amazon Prime. She is currently working on commissioned film scripts and a series of books.

http://www.catrincollier.co.uk

“Land of our Mothers” with Carolyn Hitt (Language: English; Age Suitability 7+ FREE)

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In her workshop, Carolyn Hitt took us on a journey of awesome women of Wales and pioneering heroines of Welsh history. A much-needed workshop as we couldn’t believe that only a marginal amount of women featured in surveys and votes when asked about popular and historical figures from Wales. I particularly liked the way that Carolyn highlighted that even the word ‘history’ doesn’t seem to account for many of the stories of women in our past (his + story = history).

Learning about landmark women who put their own stamp on our history, Carolyn spoke about such women as Jemima Nicholas, Mary Jones, Frances Hoggan – Wales’ first woman doctor – and Sarah Jane Rees (Cranogwen) who became the first woman to win a prize for poetry at the National Eisteddfod.

Finished off with the audience voting for which woman from Welsh history should be immortalised in statue for generations to remember.

An inspiring workshop that I will certainly be using the knowledge of in the classroom to highlight the leading ladies with even bigger ideas that have shaped the course of our history.

Writing for Children Masterclass with Claire Fayers (Language: English; Age Suitability 16+ £5)

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Claire shared with us her expertise of writing for children of all ages; picture books (with a nod to Sarah McIntyre); early readers; chapter books; ‘middle grade’ and young adult.

After a phone call from her mother-in-law where her MIL couldn’t understand where all her ideas came from, Claire described this as her having to ‘make ideas, rather than getting ideas land in her lap’ for the creation of a story. She also discussed her ideas from her trusty notebook which included sword fights, unicorns and orange feet!

The audience created their own mix of stories using setting, character, action where one member gave the setting, another a character and the other the action which left the room laughing! Ending with discussing publication, Claire talked about the importance of writing groups like SCBWI and competitions like NaNoWriMo.

Thinking about characters was central to Claire’s workshop. She reiterated her belief that giving children characters who change their mind, have problems to solve and develop as the story progresses is good for children and this is something to think about when suggesting books for children to read in the classroom. 

Claire Fayers writes comic fantasy featuring swashbuckling pirates, evil magicians, heroic librarians and man-eating pengiuns. She grew up in South Wales, studied English in Canterbury, and is now back in Wales where she spends a lot of her free time tramping around castles in the rain, looking for dragons!

Writing Masterclass with Rachel Trezise (Language: English; Age Suitability 13+ £5)

IMG_6219.jpgRachel started her workshop by getting everyone talking as they had to introduce each other.

Rachel is known for writing short stories for young adults (13+) and shared a formula for planning short stories called the ABDCE formula: A – start with action or a question; B – background; D – drama; C- climax and E – ending. She also read one of her stories ‘Hard as Nails’ to demonstrate these elements of writing in action.

Rachel Trezise was born in the Rhondda valley in South Wales where she still lives. She studied at Glamorgan and Limerick Universities. Her first novel was In and Out of the Goldfish Bowl. Her first short fiction collection Fresh Apples won the Dylan Thomas Prize in 2006. Her second short fiction collection Cosmic Latte won the Edge Hill Short Story Prize Readers’ Choice Award in 2014. Her first full length play Tonypandemonium was staged by National Theatre Wales in 2013. She also writes non fiction.

 

Review: The Big Book of the Blue – Yuval Zommer (Illustrated by Yuval Zommer)

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‘Readers of all ages are ‘shore’ to have a whale of time poring over the pages of this perfect combination of information and illustration… a special book to increase awareness, attention, awe & appreciation of our natural world.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Big Book of the Blue
Author: Yuval Zommer (@yuvalzommer)
Illustrator: Yuval Zommer (@yuvalzommer)
Publisher: Thames & Hudson (@thamesandhudson)
Page count: 64
Date of publication: 10th May 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-0500651193

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

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Extraordinary 😍
2. Interesting 😃
3. Fin-tastic! 🐠


Why does a crab run sideways?

Is a jellyfish made of jelly?

Why don’t penguins freeze?

Find out the answers to these and many more fishy questions inside. Play search and find in the pictures, too. Can you spot the special fish?

Meet all kinds of slippery, shimmery, powerful and surprising sea creatures from around the world in this first book of the ocean to share with young children.

It is packed with facts about how different types of underwater animals eat, hunt and survive.


Review:
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In Wales, 2018 is the ‘Year of the Sea’ so I couldn’t think of a more timely occasion to review a book like this.  The Big Book of the Blue is a big celebration of the seas which surround us, bringing to life the vast array of sea creatures from the warm waters of the sunlit zone to the dark depths of the abyss.

Ranging from the well-known dolphins, jellyfish, octopuses, sharks and whales to the not-so well-known dragonets, sea snakes, deep-sea fish and krill, every aspect of the seas and oceans that you could possibly imagine is covered so perfectly within its larger-than-life pages. Yuval’s characterful illustrations burst off the page with personality and ensure that this ‘The Big Book of…‘ series continues to go from strength to strength. No classroom, no school and no home should be without one of Yuval’s books and if I had to choose just one to have, I’d have to choose this one!

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Gliding between its illustrations are the succinct and spectacular snippets of fin-tastic facts that’ll make sure that even the most avid and ardent of animal lovers and Blue Planet fans will learn something new every time they open these pages. It really is a book to discover together; to savour; to share and one to keep coming back to time and time again.

the_big_book_of_blue.jpgThere is so much to sea(!) within the double-page spreads of this book. Variety of species; high levels of detail and information; full of subject-specific vocabulary that children will effortlessly absorb and vivacity of illustration: it’s all here in one BIG book! Readers of all ages are shore to have a whale of time poring over this perfect combination of information and illustration.

Towards the end, important issues are highlighted such as that of oceans being in danger through overfishing and global warming and the very topical issue of plastic pollution in our seas. Therefore showing that this is not only an ‘information’ book but a special book to increase awareness, attention, awe and appreciation of our natural world and one that I’m sure Authors4Oceans will be looking at to include on a future booklist for their cause.

A beautifully-illustrated book that will surely inspire future generations of marine biologists, environmentalists and any and all aqua aficionados!


‘Readers of all ages are ‘shore’ to have a whale of time poring over the pages of this perfect combination of information and illustration… a special book to increase awareness, attention, awe & appreciation of our natural world.’


Big thanks to Katrina at Thames & Hudson for sending me a copy of this beautifully-illustrated book!

The Big Book of the Blue is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
📚

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Cover Reveal: The Black Amulet (The Boy With One Name/Badlands: Book 2) – J. R. Wallis (Out 6th September 2018)

Today, I’m absolutely delighted to exclusively reveal the cover of J. R. Wallis’ The Black Amulet, the second book in the Badlands series illustrated by Manuel Šumberac following The Boy With One Name, which will be published on 6th September 2018 by Simon & Schuster Children’s UK.

I’m also super excited because the very lovely people at Simon & Schuster Children’s UK have given me three copies of J. R. Wallis’ first in the series, The Boy With One Name, to give away! Find out more below!


The Black Amulet – J. R. Wallis

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Welcome to the Badlands … a hidden part of our world populated by creatures which most people think exist only in fairy tales and nightmares.

Jones, Ruby and Thomas Gabriel have spent the summer apart following the extraordinary events of last winter – Jones is now a “normal” boy living with his parents, Ruby is secretly training to be a Badlander and Thomas Gabriel has commenced and has his own  Badland area to protect. But magic is about to pull them back together once more, as they are tasked with hunting down the all-powerful magical artefact, The Black Amulet, with each hoping it will hold the secret to their problems…


J. R. Wallis

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J. R. Wallis is a children’s author and is always on the look out for strange and mysterious things to put in his books. He believes that if you look hard enough you can usually find something interesting to photograph or write about. His new book ‘The Boy With One Name’ is about the things people don’t notice if they’re not watching out for them.

He also writes YA fiction under the name Rupert Wallis and his work has been shortlisted for awards both in the UK and abroad. His debut novel ‘The Dark Inside’ is now being adapted for film. In addition to writing books, he is a Teaching Associate at Cambridge University’s Institute of Continuing Education, where he lectures on creative writing.  He also mentors students at the Faber Academy.

He lives in Norfolk.

You can find out more about J. R. Wallis and his books on his website or on Twitter.


Manuel Šumberac

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Manuel Šumberac is a Croatian based illustrator and animator. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb where he was drawn towards the fascinating world of illustration. His work has been published and recognized in numerous book illustrations and book covers, such as Pinocchio, Snow White, The Night Before Christmas and Steampunk Frankenstein, amongst many others. Manuel creates his illustrations using digital techniques combined with traditional media.

You can see more of Manuel’s work, cover illustrations and portfolio on his website.


Huge thanks to Rupert, Jo and all at Simon & Schuster for inviting me to host this marvellously magical cover reveal, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

Mr E
📚


The Black Amulet is available to pre-order now online or from any good bookshop.

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Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Simon & Schuster Children’s have kindly given me three copies of The Boy With One Name to give away!

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

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‘Delightfully magical and brilliantly told.’
Abi Elphinstone, author of Sky Song on The Boy With One Name

First in the series, The Boy With One Name is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

Blog Tour: Review: You’re Safe with Me – Chitra Soundar (Illustrated by Poonam Mistry) & Guest Post – Chitra Soundar

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‘Words and illustrations that are repetitively rich in prose, palette and pattern make this not only a soothing story but also a spectacle for the senses… it’s like mindfulness for younger readers meets The Jungle Book.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: You’re Safe with Me
Author: Chitra Soundar (@csoundar)
Illustrator: Poonam Mistry (@pmistryartist)
Publisher: Lantana Publishing (@lantanapub)
Page count: 32
Date of publication: 3rd May 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1911373292

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

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Soothing 😊
2. Striking 😍
3. Spectacle 🌄


When the moon rises high and the stars twinkle, it is bedtime for the baby animals of the Indian forest. But tonight, when the skies turn dark and the night grows stormy, the little ones can’t sleep. SWISH-SWISH! CRACK-TRACK! FLASH-SNAP! goes the storm. Only Mama Elephant with her words of wisdom can reassure them. “You’re safe with me.”


The first line(s):

When the moon rose high and the stars twinkled, it was bedtime for baby animals. But that night, when the skies turned dark and the night grew stormy, the little ones couldn’t sleep.


Review:

Youre-Safe-with-Me-promo-spread-1-e1507810611364-2The dark; the crack of a thunderstorm; the flash of lightning, the gust of the wind and the rush of the river will never be seen in the same way again after reading You’re Safe With Me. As the animals settle down for bedtime, the little ones find they cannot get off to sleep due to the strange noises around them and so it is only the words of wisdom whispered from Mama Elephant that can allay their deepest fears and hopefully help them to feel worry-free and drifting off in to the land of dreams.

The jungle landscape is so beautifully imagined through Poonam’s authentic, striking and tribal-traditional inspired illustrations that it makes this a complete spectacle for the senses. Weaved in so wonderfully and distinctively amongst Chitra’s words, they help to ensure it becomes a story that will stay long in the minds of its readers. Repetitively rich in prose, palette and pattern whilst echoing all the natural, earthy sounds and sights of the Indian forest, it’s like mindfulness for younger readers meets The Jungle Book.

Youre-Safe-With-Me-promo-spread-3-e1507810659146-2With inclusions of animals that young children will be both familiar and unfamiliar with (a little monkey, a tiger cub, a loris and even a pangolin to name a few!) it’s the perfect introduction to the marvellously diverse wildlife that inhabits the tops of the trees and the floors of the forest.

Full of splendour, this is really a book that offers more with every turn of the page. Memories will no doubt be made reading this book; making this most definitely a story to share. A book that will captivate, comfort and calm children enough to send them soundly to sleep, in the best possible way and the way in which it was originally desired!

As if written as an ode to mother nature and seemingly alluding to one of life’s greatest morals and messages: knowledge is power. With a more reasoned understanding of the unknown, a different perspective can be thought about things. If children can choose to be passionately curious about the world around them rather than approach it with trepidation, the sense of fear becomes almost fought off and faced with a feeling of familiarity and fascination and ultimately fear becomes fearless.

Lantana should be really proud of this book belonging to their catalogue and as such, they are really making themselves one of the publishers to watch in 2018.

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‘Words and illustrations that are repetitively rich in prose, palette and pattern make this not only a soothing story but also a spectacle for the senses… it’s like mindfulness for younger readers meets The Jungle Book.’


Big thanks to Katrina at Lantana Publishing for sending me a copy of this beautiful book and HUGE thanks to Chitra for inviting me to take part in her You’re Safe with Me blog tour!

You’re Safe with Me is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
📚

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Today I am also delighted to welcome author of You’re Safe With MeChitra Soundar to The Reader Teacher. Here, she shares with The Reader Teacher readers about exploring fear, facing the unknown and how this has been used to inspire the creation of You’re Safe With Me!

We all fear things. As teachers, parents and citizens of this world, we fear natural disasters, the neighbour’s annual summer barbecue and maybe the next Ofsted visit.

Often fear comes from the anticipation of facing the unknown. The creaking door is terrifying until you see who’s visiting. We anticipate and worry about things that might harm us because it’s unfamiliar and unknown to us.

A child that’s still discovering the world cannot and should not live in this fear. Because pretty much everything around him or her is new, unfamiliar and the unknown. Their fear comes from what they are often told rather than what they have learnt first-hand. “Don’t touch the fire, it will burn your fingers.”  “Don’t walk backwards on an escalator, it terrifies me.”

As a 6 year old I’ve had first hand experiences of the thunderstorms and floods. Until I understood the fisherman’s forecast on the radio and figured out what a tropical storm was, it terrified me at night. It’s relentless downpour, the water-clogged streets, the power-cuts and the winds that pulled down trees – I feared the storms until I understood them.

As a storyteller, I realised that this fear of the unknown can only be tackled by knowledge. Understanding and interpreting the unfamiliar things makes us accept and respect the things we fear.

You’re Safe With Me is a story that shows you another perspective of a natural force that seems destructive. Are thunderstorms destructive or are they just a natural phenomenon? Can we live without rain and wind? Can we live without the rivers that swell in the floods? Can we avoid the lightning flashes?

So I decided to explain them and reinterpret them. A lightning shattering into stars might not be a scientific fact. But in my imagination that’s what happens. I can hear the groan of the clouds as she carries water and I thank the winds that bring seeds from faraway lands.

My hope is that children enjoy the story and revel in the fabulous illustrations. Then perhaps they would attempt to interpret things they fear using their imagination. How about the dark? What about the volcanoes? Are they afraid of a blizzard? Can they explain how these came to be? Or what they become after they have ravaged the land?Their active imaginations will not only find compassion for the elements they fear, but also find poetry in those moments. And there, your job as a teacher is done. You’ve shown them the way and they’d embrace the journey into life with imagination and empathy.

Chitra Soundar, author of You’re Safe with Me

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Chitra Soundar is an Indian-born British writer and storyteller. She is inspired by the rich epics and folktales of India, its diverse culture and its natural beauty. She has over 30 books in print worldwide and has been published by Otter-Barry Books, Walker Books and Red Robin Books.

You're Safe With Me blog tour announcement

Review & Giveaway: The Ice Garden – Guy Jones (Illustrated by Helen Crawford-White)

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‘With scenes echoing more than that of The Secret Garden meeting The Chronicles of Narnia… this is a fantastical mix of magic and frozen fantasy across a literary landscape that glistens with absolute grace.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Ice Garden
Author: Guy Jones (@guyjones80)
Illustrator (Cover): Helen Crawford-White (@studiohelen)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 224
Date of publication: 4th January 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1911490043

Perfect for Year 5 & Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Atmospheric ✨
2. Friendship 👫
3. Acceptance 😌


Jess is allergic to the sun.
She lives indoors in a world of shadows, peeking at other children from her curtained house. One night, she sneaks out. And there, just beyond the empty playground she’s longed to visit, she discovers an impossibility – a magical garden made of ice.


The first line:

They called it the Hat.


Review: Frozen out of going to school, going outside and making friends in the real world due to her allergy to the sun, Jess – pained and pitiful – finds herself becoming more and more frustrated with her life. Confined to being home-schooled and being routinely taken to hospital visits where the doctors don’t listen to her and her own mother doesn’t either, she’s stuck in a world where her emotions ice over, her confidence is often shattered and that darkens when it’s light.

So when it’s night time, it’s the perfect opportunity for Jess to defy her mother wishes, remove the Hat and secretly explore her city.  However, there’s more than a chill in the air when Jess discovers something greater than she could ever have imagined: an enchanted, frozen paradise in the form of a magical ice garden that transcends between this world and that. Behind the playground she’s familiar with, an altogether different kind of playground emerges that’s worlds apart from what she’s used to and it is here where she discovers a feeling of unburdening freedom in the most unlikeliest of places. I suppose you could call it her garden of Eden. And where she meets the most unlikeliest of friends…

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First with Owen, a mysterious ice boy who she shares more than his ice garden with.
Then back at the hospital, with an unconscious boy called Davey who she shares more than her written stories with, as these soon become stories within a purely magical story. The connections between these characters stretch far beyond what is immediately apparent.

Despite this being what some would consider a short book, every word is worth its weight in gold. Metaphor is gloriously used throughout with my favourite examples being ‘The purple sky was streaked with brontosaurus ribs of white cloud.’ (p.44) and ‘The next day was like a held breath.’ (p.51). With scenes echoing more than that of The Secret Garden meeting The Chronicles of Narnia, Guy has sculpted a sense of sumptuous sophistication within his writing which ensures that just as discovering The Ice Garden was a revelation for Jess, discovering Guy Jones’ writing will be a revelation for you.

A fantastical mix of magic and frozen fantasy adorned with hues of hope and heart that should be encouraged in to the hands of as many readers as possible. Even though this story may leave readers with the slightest feeling of cold hands, this will soon thaw to leave them too with the warmest of hearts. It’s an incredibly fine example of an atmospheric, tender and multi-layered tale that is at times bittersweet yet glistens with absolute grace. I can only hope that Guy will be writing many, many more as I am eagerly anticipating his next.

‘With scenes echoing more than that of The Secret Garden meeting The Chronicles of Narnia… this is a fantastical mix of magic and frozen fantasy across a literary landscape that glistens with absolute grace.’

Big thanks to Guy for sending me an advance copy of this beautifully written book!

The Ice Garden is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
📚

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Giveaway!

So to coincide with my review of The Ice Garden, I am delighted to say that Guy has kindly given me three copies of The Ice Garden to giveaway on Twitter. If you’d like a chance of winning this superb prize, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

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