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

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

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

Perfect for Year 3 and Year 4.

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


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

Jack is in for a whole lot of trouble!


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

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

Jack Door

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

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

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

*  Was in pie chart format but Picklewitch ate it.

PICKLEWITCH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6) This book will mean more laughing.

7 ) This book will mean more cake.

8) This book will mean more magic.

9) There is no 9.

10) Some pies taste better than others.

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

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

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

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

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


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

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

A story about finding friendship in unexpected places.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Tips for working with a charity on a book:

Approach them early on in the process

Explain clearly what you are planning

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

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

Keep them informed throughout the journey to publication.

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

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

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

Mr E


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

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

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

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

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

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


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

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


The first line(s):

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘There will be people you love,

Who can’t stay for ever,

And there will be things you can’t fix,

Although you are clever.’

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

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

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

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


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

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



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


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

Mr E
📚

 

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


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

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

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


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

How to Write a Roller Coaster of a Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Giveaway!

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


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

Mr E

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


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

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

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

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

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


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

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Armistice Runner (5)

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

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

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

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

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

  • Do you like to run yourself?

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

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

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

Reading and Writing (4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Armistice Runner and Teaching (3)

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

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

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

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

  • For those teachers reading this Q&A and would like to enquire about arranging the opportunity of a school visit from yourself, how would it be best to contact you regarding this?

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

Two more before you go (2)!

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

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

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

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

One last one… (1)!

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

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


Thank you so much Tom for answering my questions!

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

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

Mr E

 

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

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

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

A Barbegazi Perspective by H.S. Norup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


H. S. Norup, author of The Missing Barbegazi


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

Mr E

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

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

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

Perfect for Year 3, Year 4 and Year 5.

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


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

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

There’s a Yeti in the Playground (5)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reading and Writing (4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YES!

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

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

  • For those teachers reading this Q&A and would like to enquire about arranging the opportunity of a school visit from yourself, how would it be best to contact you regarding this?

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

Two more before you go (2)!

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

Who are your favourite funny female funny writers?

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

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

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

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

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

One last one… (1)!

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

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

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


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

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

Mr E