Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): She Wolf – Dan Smith (Illustrated by Jill Calder)

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‘With She Wolf, Dan succeeds in turning his hand to historical fiction once more. Both ravaging and raw… this should be top of the pile for teachers and schools learning more about Viking England.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: She Wolf
Author: Dan Smith (@DanSmithAuthor)
Cover illustration: Jill Calder (@jillcalder)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 320
Date of publication: 7th March 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1910655931

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Bow-and-arrow 🏹
2. Shield-maiden 🛡️
3. Revenge 😠


Northumbria 866.
Washed ashore on a frozen English beach, Ylva’s survived. She will not cry. She’s meant to be strong. She’s a Viking.

But when her mother dies at the hands of a three-fingered man, and the wolves of the forest circle closer, Ylva will need more than the memory of her mother’s stories to stay alive. Can she shape her own legend? Will it end in revenge – or is there another way?


Review:

With an opening where we encounter Ylva (eel-va), our bold and brave protagonist, left reeling and reacting in a state of shock after the murder of the mother to a terrifying figure and a mysterious woman who’s wearing her mother’s necklace, She Wolf starts as it means to go on. With revenge in mind, Ylva sets off on the most bloodthirsty of tasks: to kill the man who killed her mother. The three-fingered murderer.

Together with her dog, Geri – her loyal and trustworthy companion who sticks by her side through thick and thin – Ylva treads through the treacherous, frozen lands of Northern England in her plight to avenge her mother’s death. What we learn throughout Ylva’s very own saga is that she is most definitely her mother’s daughter. Gutsy, headstrong and staunchly independent, she is on a one-girl mission and nothing is going to stop her. But the journey is not easy and the weather is constant; biting and freezing and everybody is not as friendly as they first seem either…

Will Ylva survive or will she fall at the hands of the very same people that murdered her mother?

Fighting off foes and holding her belief in the gods close to her heart, this quest is more than a quest for Ylva. It’s character building and courage-forming. And for the reader, it’s both a ravaging and raw look at Viking life and what it would have been like to live during these harsh and historical of times. With descriptions of the wilderness that surround Ylva that arouse all of the senses, Dan has a canny knack for transporting us deep in to the heart of his settings: this time in amongst the trees to experience her epic, dangerous and sometimes, violent (although not overly graphic) journey first-hand.

Dan is the master of all-action, heart-pounding, breathless books and for me, She Wolf achieves this in spades. With She Wolf, he succeeds again (after the success of My Friend the Enemy and My Brother’s Secret) in turning his hand to historical fiction once more, leaving readers demanding more and more. This should be top of the pile for any teachers and schools learning more about the history of Viking England.

‘With She Wolf, Dan succeeds in turning his hand to historical fiction once more. Both ravaging and raw… this should be top of the pile for teachers and schools learning more about Viking England.’


Read on for Dan’s guest post of how a question from a young girl at a school event inspired the creation of Ylva… I’m delighted to be hosting him at The Reader Teacher.


Shield-Maiden – No Myth!

A couple of years ago, during the Q&A after a presentation at a school, a young girl at the front of the audience put up her hand to ask a question.

‘Have you ever written a story with a girl as the main character?’

Before SHE WOLF, I published five books for younger readers. Those books take readers through the hardships of World War II, they send them hunting in the forests of Finland, racing through the jungles of Costa Rica, and investigating a mystery in the icy wastes of Antarctica. All but one of those books (the one based on a film I didn’t write) have two main characters; a boy and girl. It made sense to me, having both a son and a daughter, that I would want both of my own children to be able to see themselves in one of those characters. But it would be fair to say that, yes, the boy was usually the main main character.

So I decided to change that. My next story would have a girl as the main character. But, when we think about Vikings, we think about large, bearded, menacing men with swords and axes, so how was I going to do that? Well, maybe it’s time to change our thinking; while researching the Viking Age, I discovered that women were an important part of Viking society. They had many rights and freedoms that the Christian women in the countries they invaded didn’t have. And when the Vikings eventually became Christians, those women lost their freedoms.

But what about warriors? Were there any female Viking warriors? I wanted my main character, Ylva, to be fierce like a wolf. I wanted her to feel comfortable with an axe in her hand. She should know how to swing a blade, and not be afraid of a little blood. Ylva needed to be a warrior.

In several of the Viking sagas – epic poems about great Viking heroes – there is mention of female warriors, known as ‘shield maidens’ but until recently, historians thought these were a myth. They believed that Viking raiders were all men; that women were not strong enough, or brave enough, or fierce enough to have joined the raiding parties that ventured over the seas.

In 1889 a Viking grave was excavated in Sweden, containing the remains of a warrior surrounded by weapons, and two sacrificed horses. Known as the ‘Birka Warrior’, archaeologists believed this to be the grave of a wealthy, famous male warrior. But during the 1970’s, and again in 2016, close analysis led bioarchaeologists to believe that the remains of the Birka Warrior might actually belong to a woman. In 2017, a team of scientists, led by Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson, carried out genetic tests on the remains and discovered that the Birka Warrior was a woman. A shield maiden.

And that’s what Ylva wants to be. 

So my Viking hero is no bearded giant. Instead, she is a brave and resourceful girl with an axe in her hand and revenge burning in her heart. Dan-Smith.jpg

Who says girls can’t be tough?

SHE WOLF by Dan Smith is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

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

Connect with Dan Smith on Twitter: @DanSmithAuthor


Big thanks to Dan, Laura and all the team at Chicken House for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of the She Wolf blog tour and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Dan for writing such a superb and insightful guest post!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the She Wolf blog tour for more reviews, exclusive guest posts from these brilliant book bloggers!

Cover Reveal & Book Giveaway: The Frozen Sea – Piers Torday (Illustrated by Ben Mantle & designed by Samuel Perrett) – Published 5th September 2019

I’m so excited to be able to reveal the cover of Piers Torday’s incredible second instalment in the The Lost Magician series, The Frozen Sea (which has been brilliantly illustrated by Ben Mantle and designed by Samuel Perrett) which will be published on 5th September 2019 by Hachette.

I’m also super happy because the very lovely people at Hachette have given me five proof copies of The Frozen Sea to give away near to publication day!

Find out more below!


The Frozen Sea

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‘If you can imagine it, it exists … somewhere.’ 

The second incredible instalment of a spellbinding fantasy adventure from the bestselling, award-winning author of The Last Wild trilogy.

It is 1984 and forty years since Simon, Patricia and Evelyn and Larry first stepped through a magical library door into the enchanted world of Folio. When Patricia’s daughter, Jewel, makes a mysterious discovery in an old bookshop, she begins a quest that will make her question everything she thought she knew. Summoned to Folio, she must rescue a missing prince, helped only by her pet hamster and a malfunctioning robot.

Their mission to the Frozen Sea will bring them face-to-face with a danger both more deadly and more magnificent than they ever imagined.

What Jewel discovers will change not just who she thinks she is, but who we all think we are…


Publisher: Hachette Children’s Group
ISBN: 9781786540768
Number of pages: 352 


Piers Torday

 

I was born in 1974, in Northumberland, which is possibly the one part of England where more animals live than people.

My father Paul worked for the family engineering business in Newcastle, while my mother Jane ran a children’s bookshop in Hexham called Toad Hall Books. Alongside my younger brother Nick, I spent my very early years crawling around on the floor of that shop, surrounded by piles of books right from the start.

I was extremely lucky to come from a writing background. My grandfather Roger Mortimer was a racing journalist who wrote hundreds of very funny letters to his children and grandchildren, and you can learn the extraordinary story of his life in Dearest Jane, by him and my mother, Jane.

I enjoyed reading, writing and drawing from an early age. My parents loved reading to me, and I particularly enjoyed books with good pictures – such as the Moomin stories by Tove Jansson, The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien and Hergé’s Tintin graphic novels. Other favourites included Roald Dahl, C. S. Lewis’s Narnia series and Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. My mother was always writing as I was growing up – newspaper articles, gardening and cookery books, local history – and it seemed a normal thing to want to do.

My first cartoon, aged 7,  was about a superhero called Super Sid, which won a competition in a local newspaper. Then I started making comics, and my first one was about all the sheep who lived on the hills around us, called…The Sheep! At school, I spent most of my time in the library or the computer room, where I wrote short stories and funny articles for the school magazine.  Then I went to university, where I was meant to study English but mainly wrote, directed or produced plays and comedy shows.

My first job, in 1996, was in a fringe theatre in London, The Pleasance, where I started working behind the bar but was eventually allowed to read a few scripts and then help choose what plays were put on, both in London and at their Edinburgh Fringe Festival venue.  I was very fortunate to be a Trustee for the last 15 years.

Then I co-ran a theatre production company, touring new plays and promoting comedians. I also worked in TV for several years, including a short spell in Los Angeles, coming up with ideas for everything from reality shows to hidden camera pranks.

On a break between TV jobs one summer in 2008, I booked myself onto an Arvon writing course at Ted Hughes’s old house on the West Yorkshire moors, and it was there I began writing the adventures of a boy called Kester who can’t talk to people but can talk to animals, in an environmentally precarious world.

Finally, after 17 drafts, and many early mornings and late nights later, The Last Wild was published in 2013 by Quercus Children’s. It was nominated for the Carnegie Award shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, the UKLA Award, and won both Stockton Children’s Book of the Year and Calderdale Children’s Book of the Year. The book has been published in 13 other countries, including the USA.

That same year, I married Will Tosh, an academic.

In 2014, the sequel to The Last Wild, The Dark Wild,  came out, and won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. The third and final book in the series, The Wild Beyond came out in 2015, and was shortlisted for Islington Book of the Year.

After my father died in 2013, I found his last unfinished novel (a political thriller for adults) amongst his papers. With the agreement of my brother and his agent and editor, I finished the book for him , and The Death of an Owl was published in 2016 by W&N.

That Christmas, my fourth book for children,  There May Be A Castle was published by Quercus Children’s. It was a Children’s Book of the Year in The Times and has just come out in paperback.  You can also read some new short stories by me in Winter Magic (curated by Abi Elphinstone), Wisp of Wisdom and Scoop magazine.

I also occasionally write articles and book reviews for The Guardian, The Daily Expressand The Spectator, amongst others. I have judged the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, and the Costa Book Award.

My adaptation of John Masefield’s classic The Box of Delights  opened at Wilton’s Music Hall in London last Christmas, directed by Justin Audibert, designed by Tom Piper, starring Matthew Kelly and Josefina Gabrielle and was revived in Christmas 2018 starring Theo Ancient, Nigel Betts and Sarah Stewart.

I am now delighted to also be an Associate Artist at Wilton’s.

I am passionate about the opportunities for imaginative futures that reading allows, and have been a trained Reading Helper with Beanstalk Reads for five years, working with children on their reading on my local primary schools.

I am delighted to be a Patron of Reading at the inspirational St. Silas’s in Toxteth, Liverpool, and am a Trustee of the Ministry of Stories, a charity which works with children in East London and further afield to enable their creativity and storytelling skills in multiple different forms.

I am also a Patron of the magnificent Shrewsbury Book Fest, a visionary book award, festival and school outreach scheme all in one.

My latest book is called The Lost Magician, and was published in September 2017.

I am currently also working on the sequel to that book, alongside a new play and a new film, but spend most of my time wrangling our very naughty – but adorable – puppy, Huxley.


Ben Mantle

Ben was born in Leamington Spa in 1980, and developed a very early interest in things artistic, designing programme covers for school productions and even coming first in his local library colouring-in competition. From there he went on to study animation at Surrey Institute of Art & Design, graduating in 2003.. He then gained valuable experience working on Tim Burton’s “Corpse Bride” before moving to Brighton to work as ‘Head of Animation’ in a media company, focusing on Character and Background design.

He was also part of the Animation team creating the BAFTA winning ‘Big and Small’ CBeebies website. Since 2008, Ben has been working as a Children’s Book Illustrator from his shared studio in Brighton and he also produces screen prints and digital artwork to exhibit. He illustrated ‘Callum’s Incredible Construction Kit’ which won the Bishop’s Stortford Picture Book prize 2013.


Samuel Perrett

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Photo credit:https://uk.linkedin.com/in/samuel-perrett-8735a177/de

Samuel Perrett is Senior Designer at Hachette Children’s Group.
He also designed the cover for Piers Torday’s The Lost Magician and many more bestselling books from Hachette.


Pre-order: The Frozen Sea is available to pre-order now online at AmazonWaterstones or from any good independent bookshop.


Biggest thanks to Piers, Emily and all at Hachette for giving me the wonderful opportunity to reveal this stunning and spellbinding cover and for providing copies for the giveaway!

I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

Mr E


Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Hachette have kindly given me five copies of The Frozen Sea to give away!

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If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning a copy of The Frozen Sea, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

Proof copies will be sent to winners when available from Hachette, as soon as possible near to publication day.

Blog Tour (Review): A Witch Come True – James Nicol (Illustrated by Daniela Terrazini)

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‘Fizzing with magic…
this is a trilogy to treasure of which James conjures to an end so exquisitely.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: A Witch Come True
Author: James Nicol (@JamesENicol)
Cover illustration: Daniela Terrazini (@djterrazzini)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 352
Date of publication: 7th March 2019
Series status: Final book in the trilogy
ISBN: 978-1910655986

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Magic ✨
2. HotChocolate ☕
3. Witch 🧙‍♀️


The war is done and Arianwyn has discovered the secret of the quiet glyphs at last, but her troubles are far from over. Her day-to-day work as Lull’s witch is tricky enough: winter has set in, bringing endless rain, ice imps and some rather befuddling Yule traditions. But when enemies and dark magic converge on Lull, stealing away someone very dear indeed, our witch faces her greatest challenge so far. What really makes a witch come true? Our loveable heroine is about to find out…


Review: Saying goodbye to a series you’ve enjoyed can be hard but saying goodbye to a series of books you’ve thoroughly endeared is harder still. When James released the first book in the trilogy, The Apprentice Witch, back in 2016, it was almost obvious to see that this was going to be such a triumph of a series and with each book that has followed, it has been, for me, better than the last and that only says something about the quality of his purely exquisite and wonderful writing.

With the third terrific instalment of Arianwyn’s adventures in A Witch Come True, we find her after the war and hoping that her life can return to normal where she’s able to learn the truths of the quiet glyphs at last. With family reunions and Christmas on its way, it seems that life in Lull could rebalance itself for Arianwyn in the right way. However, dark magic doesn’t lie low for long before resurfacing in to her life once again and causing her one of the greatest challenges she’ll face so far. Can she save the inhabitants of Lull, her family and herself before its too late…?

If you haven’t yet read The Apprentice Witch or A Witch Alone, I suggest you get right to it because this is a trilogy to treasure. Fizzing with magic and a dash of mayhem, this series sparkles with sheer delight and is not just ‘another series of books about magic’ but is a trilogy that you can’t help but fall under its spell and take them so close to your heart with a cast of characters you really care about and most of all, a hearty and hopeful heroine who is sure to live long with readers well after the last page.

A mug of hot chocolate is the perfect complement and the most fitting of accompaniments to the end of this series which James conjures to a close so perfectly. It’s little wonder that James has recently received offers to bring The Apprentice Witch series to our screens and of that, we are all eagerly awaiting it!


‘Fizzing with magic…
this is a trilogy to treasure of which James conjures to an end so exquisitely.’


Big thanks to James, Jazz and all the team at Chicken House for inviting me to share my thoughts and bring the A Witch Come True blog tour to a close too and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the A Witch Come True blog tour for more reviews, exclusive guest posts and Q&As from these collection of brilliant book bloggers!

Cover Reveal & Book Giveaway: Fire Girl, Forest Boy – Chloe Daykin (Illustrated by David Litchfield) – Published 4th July 2019

I’m so excited to be able to exclusively reveal the cover of Chloe Daykin‘s third children’s novel, Fire Girl, Forest Boy (which has been brilliantly illustrated by David Litchfield) which will be published on 4th July 2019 by Faber Children’s.

I’m also super happy because the very lovely people at Faber have given me five proof copies of Fire Girl, Forest Boy to give away so you can be one of its very first readers!

Find out more below!


Fire Girl, Forest Boy – Chloe Daykin
(Illustrated by David Litchfield)

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A book about light, about magic and belief, and about unlocking your own potential, from the critically acclaimed author of Fish Boy and The Boy Who Hit Play.

Maya has to escape. She’s on the run in a country she doesn’t know and has no idea who to trust. Raul is escaping too – travelling back to his home where a terrible tragedy happened, ready to stir up trouble. When their paths collide in the middle of the jungle, the sparks begin to fly. As modern world corruption meets the magic and legends of ancient times, can Maya draw on her hidden light to find the way through to the truth?


Chloe Daykin

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Photo credit: https://felicitybryan.com/fba-author/chloe-daykin/

 

Chloe won a ARHC studentship to study the MA in Creative Writing at Newcastle University where she graduated with distinction, winning the universities taught masters prize and Northern Writers Award to write her debut novel Fish Boy. Fish Boy was published by Faber & Faber in 2017 to critical acclaim and was nominated for the Carnegie Medal, long listed for the UKLA and is currently shortlisted for the Branford Boase children’s debut of the year award.

Chloe won the wonderful inaugural Julia Darling Fellowship to research her second novel The Boy Who Hit Play, travelling around the wild icy land of Norway and its many beautiful islands, published in 2018.

In December Chloe journeyed across the otherworldy land of Peru thanks to the fantastic support of the Arts Council England. Her third novel, Fire Girl, Forest Boy, is due to be released in July 2019.

Chloe Daykin lives in Northumberland with her family including one husband, two boys and three cats. She loves an unusual adventure and is a fan of all things fun, poetic and surprising.


David Litchfield

 

David Litchfield is a multi-award winning illustrator and author represented by the Bright Agency.

David first started to draw when he was very young, creating Star Wars and Indiana Jones ‘mash up’ comics for his older brother and sister. Since then David’s work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, books and on T-shirts. He has also exhibited his illustrations in both solo and group shows in the U.K, Europe and America.

David’s  author/illustrator picture books ‘The Bear & The Piano’  ‘Grandad’s Secret Giant’ and ‘The Bear, The Piano, The Dog & The Fiddle’ are out now.

He has also illustrated a number of picture books for authors such as Ross Montgomery, Andy Stanton and Sally Lloyd-Jones as well as book covers for David Almond, Kate Dicamillo, Neil Patrick Harris and many more.

David lives with his family in Bedford, England.


Pre-order: Fire Girl, Forest Boy is available to pre-order now online at AmazonWaterstones or from any good independent bookshop.


Biggest thanks to Sarah and all at Faber for giving me the wonderful opportunity to reveal this gorgeously colourful cover and for providing proof copies for the giveaway!

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 proof copies of Fire Girl, Forest Boy to give away!

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If you’d like to be in with a chance of being one of the first readers to read Fire Girl, Forest Boy, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

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

Blog Tour (Review): The Boy Who Flew – Fleur Hitchcock (Illustrated by Ben Mantle)

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‘A dangerously, dark, Dickensian romp through the backstreets, and rooftops, of Bath that never lets you go… Fleur’s first foray into fantasy passes with flying colours!’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Boy Who Flew
Author: Fleur Hitchcock (@FleurHitchcock)
Cover illustration: Ben Mantle (@benmmantle)
Publisher: Nosy Crow (@NosyCrowBooks)
Page count: 256
Date of publication: 7th March 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1788004381

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Flying ✈️
2. Invention ⚙️
3. Murder ☠️


When his friend, Mr Chen, is murdered, Athan Wilde must stop the flying machine they were building from falling into the wrong hands. But keeping the machine safe puts his family in terrible danger. Athan faces a dreadful choice – flight or family? Which one will he pick?

A tense, grime-filled thriller from a master storyteller.


Review:

As this tale begins to rapidly unfold, we are first introduced to the backstreets of Bath where the shadows swathe the streets in darkness swallowing all of the light and where we soon enter a murky world of mystery and murder…

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Hidden away are Athan Wilde, our young protagonist, and his inventor friend, Mr Chen who are busy at work creating their latest contraptions. Most recently, that being a flying machine. For Athan – who dreams of taking to the skies – Mr Chen is the man who can turn imagination into idea and aspiration into actuality. However, Athan’s dreams are all but diminished upon hearing that his great friend has been brutally murdered in his own home. Fearing the worst and that all of their inventions and well-kept secrets could be revealed, Athan soon finds it falling to him to rescue their plans and plot a way forward for their dream of flying, now his dream, to survive.

But there’s more than many a ruthless and sinister villain who will stop at nothing to thwart Athan’s ambition, especially when there’s a competition prize of 10,000 guineas at stake. Hold on to your hats for a dangerously, dark, Dickensian romp through the backstreets, and rooftops, of Bath to join Athan on his adventures of aviation. Warts and all…

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Even though Athan is living a life that’s shrouded in poverty, destitution and hardship, this book is filled with the power of family and friendship – complete with a frank, funny and farting Grandma who (for me) absolutely steals the show.

Engrossing, exciting and most of all, riveting are the words that I choose to use to describe this fast-paced, frenetic and unmissable tale that just will not let you go until the very last word of the very last page. I highly recommend The Boy Who Flew to Upper Key Stage 2 readers who enjoy stories told with intensity interwoven within an inventive, immersive world that you can’t help but be drawn into. Fleur’s first foray into fantasy passes with flying colours and The Boy Who Flew should be renamed The Book Who Flew because that’s what it’ll be doing… flying off the shelves!

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Big thanks to Fleur, Rebecca and all the team at Nosy Crow for inviting me to share my thoughts and kick off The Boy Who Flew blog tour and for sending me early copies of the proof and finished versions in exchange for an honest review.

Mr E 


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Be sure to check out the rest of The Boy Who Flew blog tour this week for more reviews of this magnificent adventure that you don’t want to miss!

Blog Tour: FCBG Children’s Book Award: What Do You Do if Your House is a Zoo? – John Kelly (Illustrated by Sarah Laberis)

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‘Guaranteed to bring the most beaming of smiles and the loudest of laughs… this story showcases the bond between person and pet so perfectly and is sure to become its reader’s best friend.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: What Do You Do If Your House Is a Zoo?
Author: John Kelly
Illustrator: Steph Laberis (@StephLaberis)
Publisher: Little Tiger Press (@LittleTigerUK)
Page count: 32
Date of publication: 9th August 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1848699496

Perfect for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. House 🏠
2. Pets 🐕
3. Friendship 🤝


Oscar is getting a pet!
But which pet should he pick?

And what on earth will he do when they all move in?
His house is like a zoo.

A book for animal lovers, BIG and small.


Review: I am absolutely delighted to be hosting What Do You Do If Your House is a Zoo?, one of the four picture book titles in the 2019 FCBG (The Federation of Children’s Book Groups_ Children’s Book Award blog tour. This is my very first year on this tour and it is such a privilege to support this award, the only national award voted for solely by children from start to finish and is highly regarded by parents, teachers, librarians, publishers and children’s authors and illustrators as it truly represents children’s choice.

What Do You Do if Your House is a Zoo? is a beautifully-told picture book of the time when Oscar, our main character, is given permission to get the pet he’s always wanted from his mum and dad. The only thing is that he can’t decide and there’s way too many to choose from.

Dogs, cats, parrots, elephants, snakes, fish, hamsters – all these animals and so little time to pick. So he lets nature take its course and puts an advert in the classifieds section of his local newspaper only to become inundated with replies from the very animals themselves!

As the replies flood through Oscar’s letterbox thick and fast through hand-written letters with handwriting that wittily matches the characteristics of their animal sender (a perfect learning opportunity to look at this wild letter writing), Oscar’s choice becomes even more confusing with ostriches, meerkats, horses, gorillas, wolves, bulls, beavers and whales joining the picking party.

As Oscar deliberates and ponders over his choice, things go bad from worse as the animals arrive at his home to set up camp and Oscar gains his own massive menagerie right outside his front door.

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Creating absolute carnage and chaos, this zany zoo of animals soon take over not just his garden, not just his next door’s neighbour’s garden and not just his front road but even the inside of his house! Taking cover in a tent outside, the only option is for all the animals to go. All except for the appearance of a letter from a pet that Oscar had missed reading…

With an ending that will melt even the coldest of hearts, this is a special story told with complete and utter sincerity. There is nothing like the irreplaceable, mutual bond between person and pet and this book showcases this so perfectly. This story is sure to become its reader’s best friend. Brought to life by the bright, bold and brilliant illustrations of Steph Laberis, this tale is one to treasure that’s guaranteed to bring the biggest of beaming smiles, the loudest of laughs and is one with a message to hold close to your heart.


‘Guaranteed to bring the most beaming of smiles and the loudest of laughs… this story showcases the bond between person and pet so perfectly and is sure to become its reader’s best friend.’


Big thanks to Kate for inviting me to be a part of this year’s FCBG (Federation of Children’s Book Groups) blog tour showcasing the ten choices for this year’s Children’s Book Award. I would love to be involved again next year!

Mr E

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If you’d like to follow other blogs on this year’s blog tour, you can find them below:

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1st March 2019 (@Fi_BGB): The Wondrous Dinosaurium by John Condon & Steve Brown (Maverick)
4th March 2019 (@toppsta): Mixed by Arree Chung (Macmillan)
8th March 2019 (@Readitdaddy): The Last Chip by Duncan Beedie (Templar)
11th March 2019 (@MrEPrimary): What Do You Do If Your House is a Zoo? by John Kelly & Steph Laberis (Little Tiger)
13th March 2019: Picture Book Round Up (FCBG)


18th March 2019: Mr Penguin and the Fortress of Secrets by Alex T. Smith (Hodder/Hachette)
22nd March 2019: The Dog Who Lost His Bark by Eoin Colfer, illustrated by P. J. Lynch (Walker)
25th March 2019: Funny Kid – Stand Up by Matt Stanton (HarperCollins)
29th March 2019: Younger Readers Round Up (FCBG)


1st April 2019: The Light Jar by Lisa Thompson, cover illus. by Mike Lowery (Scholastic)
5th April 2019: The Storm Keeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle, cover ills. by Bill Bragg (Bloomsbury)
8th April 2019: Armistice Runner by Tom Palmer, cover illus. by Tom Clohosy Cole (Barrington Stoke)
12th April 2019: Older Readers Round Up (FCBG)

The voting will open shortly here: http://childrensbookaward.org…. and if you’d like to keep up with all the news and updates, you can follow FCBG on Twitter.

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet – Martin Howard (Illustrated by Chris Mould)

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‘A fantastic fusion of the time travelling of Adams, the humour of Pratchett and the eccentricities of Stanton. Outlandishly good… this is imagination at its pure and absolute wildest!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet
Author: Martin Howard (@MJHowardWrites)
Illustrator: Chris Mould (@chrismouldink)
Publisher: Oxford University Press Children’s (@OUPChildrens)
Page count: 336
Date of publication: 7th March 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-0192767509

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Cosmos 🌌
2. Atlas 🗺️
3.  Brains-in-Jars 🧠


Bored of the same old routine?
Longing for a bit of adventure in your life?
Love living life on the edge?
Then join Alfie Fleet and discover a whole universe of wonders (and things that are not so wonderful too, but we won’t go into that now).

From giant sand lobsters on planet Maureen and the Twang Bears of Mumsy, to the eerie (yet oddly quite boring) brains in jars on Brains-in-Jars World – there’s something for everyone. And if danger’s your thing you won’t want to miss Outlandish, with its gold-hoarding dragon, take-your-life-in-your-hands cuisine, and welcoming locals who’ll fire lightning bolts at you.

Thrills and adventure await, just hop on board the slightly old and rusty moped of infinity!


Review: After desperately needing some money and thinking that he’s in luck, Alfie Fleet (a poor, destitute young boy who lives with his mother in a ramshackle, run-down house) responds to an advert in the newspaper where he thinks he can make the extra £49.99 to add to his £100 to make his mother’s dreams come true to buy her the most wonderful of birthday presents: the Sole Sensation 6000 Foot Spa.

However (and it’s a common theme in this book), Alfie’s best-laid plans go slightly awry in meeting the man who he thinks will bestow him with this most needed of money. Meeting a professor might be a transformative experience for many but for Alfie it’s life-changing. Especially one who goes by the rather amusing name of Professor Bowell-Mouvemont and mark my words, there’s plenty more amusing names to come!

Taking Alfie on a tour where he experiences new dimensions, new worlds and new characters and creates a world for this book of its very own as Martin’s mind comes to life on these very pages through the incredible, inter-cosmological and inimitable illustrations of Chris Mould. As the professor reveals (rather hysterically!) that these new lands are often unmapped and undocumented, Alfie begins to articulate his adventures through his own version of the Cosmic Atlas. If you think you’ve seen one travel guide then you’ve seen them all, well think again because this ranges from the surreal to the sublime and will be a source of inspiration for its readers to create peculiar places of their own.

But as the Professor and Alfie are soon left to discover for themselves, the way back home may not be as simple as it first seemed. Can they return to give Alfie’s mum the present he thinks she’s always wanted or will they be trapped in this weird and wonderful world…?

It’s more than science-fiction or science-fantasy with every page taking you in a different direction and this is what makes it truly unique. Wacky, insanely inventive and heaps of fun, I can completely guarantee that this book will be lapped up by children (and adults!) who love laughing out loud due to its fantastic fusion of the time-travelling of Adams, the humour of Pratchett and the eccentricities of Stanton.

Forget the boundaries of space, forget the boundaries of time and forget the boundaries of imagination because this is outlandishly good. This is imagination at its pure and absolute wildest!


A fantastic fusion of the time travelling of Adams, the humour of Pratchett and the eccentricities of Stanton. Outlandishly good… this is imagination at its pure and absolute wildest!


What’s It All About, Eh?

If you are interested in the universe or anything in it then The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet is the book for you. Not only is it a proper science-fiction, fantasy, travel guide adventure, but it answers questions that have left science scratching its chin. Who could ask for more? As a taste of the surprises that await, The Reader Teachercan reveal just a few of those secrets. Glue your eyeballs to this screen for just a sample of that astonishing knowledge …

How Did Human Life on Earth Begin?

Let’s start with the BIG question. Some books tell you it all began with monkeys. Wrong! The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleetteaches us that stone circles brought humans to Earth. Yes, stone circles. You know, like Stonehenge. This is how it happened …

About a million years ago, a man named Partley Mildew invented stone circles on the planet Wip-Bop-a-Looma, starting a craze for inter-galactic travel. His circles had the power to send people across a bejillion miles of space in the blink of an eye, allowing humans to explore the universe. People loved them. Travelling to distant planets meant they could go swimming with Giggling MegaFish on planet Mip before breakfast then have lunch on the other side of the universe while their brains were spring-cleaned by friendly Limpation Cranium Toads. Soon, holiday companies were building bigger and bigger stone circles to cope with crowds of tourists. Across the universe, happy holiday-makers dipped their toes in the Sweat Sea on planet S’Panq, flapped across planet Win’span on homemade wings, or danced on Ominoss-Merkwerld, lit by swarms of multi-coloured discoflies.

Tourists first arrived on Earth about forty thousand years ago, and immediately described it as “delightful”. As the travel brochures said, “Comefor the fresh air, stayfor the mammoths.” Of course, these early tourists didn’t call the planet “Earth.” They called it “Toby”. Toby became a popular holiday destination, famous for its beaches and great restaurants. Some humans decided to make their home here, and also decided that Toby was a nice enough name for a boy but sounded silly on a planet. As there was a lot of earth on Toby, the planet’s new people took a vote and renamed their world “Earth.” Interestingly, the name “Chickens” came in second place.

Wow. Why Didn’t We Know About This?

As thousands more years went by tourism died off. Tobians, or “Earthlings” as they now called themselves, forgot they had cousins on other planets. They forgot what stone circles had been used for, too. “Hmm,’ historians thought to themselves. “These stone circles must have been important. Something to do with gods, I’ll bet.” It’s worth mentioning that if people don’t understand something, it’s often blamed on gods. Gods get quite cheesed off with this.

How Has this Incredible Secret Been Preserved?

Around the universe most folk had forgotten about the power of stone circles but one group remembered. They called their society the Unusual Cartography Club, and the members continued to travel the universe, mapping planets for their Cosmic Atlas: the finest collection of extra-terrestrial maps this side of Nerwong-Nerwong Plinky-Plonk.

That Sounds Like the Sort of Thing People Would Remember

Well, no. Not really. People forget important stuff all the time. Pyramids for example. If you think space travelling stone circles are weird, pyramids would reallyblow your mind. Plus, though the UCC wasn’t exactly a secretsociety its members got tired of people giving them funny looks. Try this simple experiment: next time you’re invited to a party, open a conversation by saying, “Hullo, I spent last week mapping planet Foopsie-Wigglefinger. They have pink ostriches with three bottoms there, you know.” Funny looks, right? And no more party invitations.  After a while the UCC’s explorers just stopped talking about their adventures.

Interesting. Tell Me More About This Unusual Cartography Club

It’s a club with a long history. At first, its members used Stonehenge to get around. Around two thousand years ago though, bits started falling off the ancient circle. Instead of repairing it, the UCC’s President – Dogstinkle the Crispy, who suffered from a bad leg in damp weather – decided to build a smaller circle, indoors where he would be out of the rain. More years went by and a city grew up around the new UCC headquarters. Empty fields became Wigless Square. Dogstinkle’s mud hut was demolished and replaced many times, most recently with a large mansion, now surrounded by other houses and Mr Hong’s Happy Dragon takeaway. A cavern was dug beneath the house and the circle moved onto a rotating platform. Invented by Medelaine Tusk, it made spinning the heavy stones to new co-ordinates much, mucheasier than shifting them about by hand.

The UCC’s mission of mapping the universe went on but the club lost members. Some got eaten by ghastly tentacled things, or blown up by unexpected volcanoes. Others just wandered off on worlds they liked better. Eventually, only one member of the UCC remained at Number Four, Wigless Square; one man in all the world who knew the power of stone circles: Professor Pewsley Bowell-Mouvemont. But the old UCC headquarters on Wigless Square was about to be demolished and the UCC’s maps, treasures and secrets destroyed forever.

No! What a Waste!

Woah there. All is not lost. Luckily, the Professor had a bad back and needed help with some light lifting and carrying. Enter Alfie Fleet – a boy with a destiny. Thanks to Alfie’s amazing brain-power, the old Unusual Cartography Club is about to change forever. Oh, and the entire universe, too. Sounds like fun? Well, read on. The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleetcontains further surprises about the universe, plus travel information about where to eat and stay on the planet of Outlandish, as well as stuff you did not know concerning elves, villainous scum hairdressers, Pulsating Swibs, and much, much more …

Enjoy! Or, as the Professor would say, “Who me? Ahh, what would I say? No, it’s gone. Forget my own … umm … thingy next. Something about prawns, was it?”

COMPETITION TIME: If you’re the kind of person who enjoys reading about strange planets and the weird people who live on them why not enter our competition? Design us a planet and Martin Howard and Chris Mould might help bring it to life so it can be included in book two of Alfie Fleet’s adventures! The winner’s planet will appear in the book and their name in the credits. They’ll also get a signed book, signed Chris Mould print of their planet and any other goodies we can lay our hands on. Probably chocolate. More details will be posted on Martin’s website soon: https://booksbymart.pub/


Big thanks to Martin, Emma and all the team at OUP Children’s for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet blog tour and for sending me early copies of the proof and finished versions in exchange for an honest review.

Extra thanks to Martin for writing his fascinating guest post!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet blog tour with exclusive guest posts and reviews from all of these brilliant book bloggers!