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

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

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

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


The Dragon in the Library

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

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

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

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

Louie Stowell

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

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

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

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


Davide Ortu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


Mr E

🐉📚


Giveaway!

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

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


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


Review:

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

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

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

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

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


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

⚡ Mr E ⚡


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

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

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

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

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


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


Review: 

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

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

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

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

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

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



Inspiration for The Truth About Martians

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

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

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

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

melissa savage colour (photo by jerri parness)
Melissa Savage


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

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

Follow Melissa Savage on Twitter: @melissadsavage


 

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

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

👽  Mr E  👽


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

 

 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Judith Eagle

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


Kim Geyer

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

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

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



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


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


Mr E

📚


Giveaway!

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

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

Copies to be sent to winners when available from Faber, just before, near or on publication on 2nd May 2019.

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

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

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

Perfect for Year 6 and Year 7.

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


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


Review:

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

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

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

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

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


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

Mr E


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

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

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

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

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

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


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

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

But there’s something I need to tell you.

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Andy Shepherd

 

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

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

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🐉  Mr E 🐉


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

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

and follow Andy Shepherd on Twitter @andyjshepherd



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

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


Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

Beyond the Wall by Tanya Landman, 2017

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

The Buried Crown by Ally Sherrick, 2018

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

Secrets of a Sun King by Emma Carroll, 2018

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

Bone Talk by Candy Gourlay, 2018

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

A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge, 2017

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


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

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


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

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

  Mr E 

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

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

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


Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

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


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

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


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

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


Starting with her four-point plan:

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

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

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

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

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


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


Celebrating young girls who are changing the world

Greta Thunberg

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

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

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

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

Laura Wood

 


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

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

📣  Mr E  🗳️


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


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