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

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

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

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

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


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

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

They are both amazing – just like everyone else!


Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

 Mr E 


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


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