Blog Tour (Review & Author Q&A) – The Comet & the Thief – Ruth Morgan


‘Cleverly-written, historically-accurate, drama-filled and oozes with tension… perfect for fans of Fleur Hitchcock, Eloise Williams and Catherine Fisher.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Comet and the Thief
Author: Ruth Morgan (@alienruth)
Cover designer: Gary Evans (@GwasgGomerPress)
Publisher: Gwasg Gomer (@GwasgGomerPress)
Page count: 231
Date of publication: 26th September 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1785623103

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

1. Book 📖
2. Thief 👌
3. Curse ✨

The Comet and the Thief is a fresh, fantasy time-slip between two periods in British history: Georgian and Medieval.

Kit, a born actor, hates being a thief in eighteenth century London.

When wicked Lord Colwich hires him to steal a missing page from a mysterious medieval book in his library, it results in Kit having to flee the city…

Review: Thrown headlong in to the mid-seventeen hundreds otherwise known as the Georgian era, The Comet and the Thief begins with an opening that oozes all kinds of tension and swells and stirs from the first chapter.  As we encounter protagonist Kit in the middle of performing a demonic fortune-telling ritual in the outlandish character of Ashentoth for a group of wealthy men, this story starts in the same compelling and captivating manner as it means to go on.

The character of Kit develops rapidly and the reader soon finds themselves rooting in more ways than one for the devilish exploits of this wiry, mischievous do-gooder. Caring for his love, Gabe, who is suffering with all of his heart and soul, Kit is quickly dragged back under in to the heady underworld of what he knows best: thieving, when a stranger who goes by the name of Lord Colewich requests his services to find a missing page of a book he has long sought after.

‘The only magic in life is the magic we make for ourselves…’

What Kit doesn’t realise is that this book holds more power than he could have ever imagined, and of which connects him to the inhabitants of a cursed village from the past – two historical time periods associated by the appearance of a well-known comet (Read Ruth’s Q&A for more below!). So how will Kit save them before it’s too late…?

This is such a cleverly-written, historically-accurate, drama-filled and imaginative novel that will thrill and delight readers young and old; perfect for fans of Fleur Hitchcock, Eloise Williams and Catherine Fisher. Thank you Ruth for taking me along on this alluring, immersive and gripping adventure.

Author Q & A: The Comet and the Thief
with Ruth Morgan


The cover of the book is very mysterious and striking: a silhouetted someone running away from a place which seems familiar…

Yes, it’s a brilliant cover, isn’t it?  Designed by Gary Evans at Gomer Press. That’s my main character Kit running away from the city of Bath where something very public and shocking has just happened, and Kit is bound to get the blame. I’ve always loved Bath.  When I was a teenager, my cousin lived nearby, and we used to travel in on the bus and buy our clothes from the antique markets, usually a fashion mash-up of army greatcoats and Victorian petticoats. It was a pleasure to research the history of that splendid place and use it as a setting for the story.

So Kit travels around a lot in the story, but he also travels in time, doesn’t he?

That’s right.  Time travel stories are wonderful, but I wanted a give the time travel in this story a new twist, so instead of travelling between our modern day and an historical period, Kit travels between what is to us, two periods in British History: Georgian and Medieval times, specifically 1759 and 1456 which are two of the years when Halley’s Comet has appeared in our skies.

There may be readers who’ve never heard of Halley’s Comet.  Can you tell them a bit about it?

I’ve heard Halley’s Comet described, rather disrespectfully, as a huge, dirty snowball with a tail, which travels through space. It’s named after Sir Edmond Halley who calculated when it would return to the Earth back in the eighteenth century.  It makes a complete orbit around the sun and back every 75 years or so. It last visited us in 1986 and is due its next visit in 2061. For the sake of the story I’m most interested in how it’s been feared throughout history as a bringer of wondrous or calamitous events.  It’s been suggested that the star of Bethlehem which the three wise men followed was actually Halley’s Comet. It is also pictured on the Bayeux Tapestry, heralding the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Very intriguing… but The Comet and the Thief has been published hard on the heels of your MG gaming-themed novel Ant Clancy Games Detective (published by Firefly Press).  Two such different themes! What attracts you to write about a particular subject?

Yes, these two books are very different, but I only enjoy writing about subjects which interest me.  I live in a family of keen gamers and I also love history so the link between these themes is…me!  More than anything, what I want to do is write a compelling story that’s going to keep my readers entertained from start to finish.  As long as I can do that, I’m happy whatever the subject.

You’ve been writing for a long time.  What started you off and what keeps you interested in writing for children?

Yes, I have been writing for ages but it’s mainly my other part-time job as a primary teacher that keeps me interested. Children tend not ‘block’ – or repress – their ideas the way adults do, and they are a ceaseless source of inspiration. My first book was published more than 20 years ago as a direct result of my writing stories for the reception class I was teaching at the time.  An editor from a very big reading scheme company visited our school to trial some new books. When she saw my stories, she offered to publish one in a new series they were putting together. Imagine my excitement; I had always assumed that getting published professionally was way out of my reach! It led on to my writing lots more picture books, short stories, non-fiction, poetry, plays and longer novels for a variety of publishers as well as scripts for animation and radio series.  And all of it snowballed from that one chance meeting at school.  It still amazes me, how it’s all worked out…

So it takes luck as well as hard work to become an author?

It has in my case.  But more than anything you have to want to write, really want to, if you hope to make a career of it. It’s not a smooth road by any means and you face loads of rejection. You have to be motivated and believe in your ability, but also be prepared to accept criticism. You love and believe in your work but can’t be too precious about it – it’s a weird balance.

What do you plan to write next?

There are very few moments when you might catch me at a time when I’m not writing or planning something new but – scarily – you have caught me at one of them. Launching two books so close together has meant a very busy schedule of late but I know I will get twitchy soon if I’m not feeling that buzz from creating something new.  I am sure Ant Clancy has more mysteries to solve.  I am also attracted to the idea of writing some short, ghostly stories for children, similar to my collection ‘Matchstick Man and Other Creepy Tales’ (Gomer Press).  I loved ghost stories as a child and still do.

…And finally, what are you reading at the moment?

Funnily enough, a book of ghost stories!  Three Strikes (Firefly Press), a collection from Lucy Christopher, Kat Ellis and Rhian Ivory.  Creepily enjoyable!

 Big thanks to Ruth for inviting me to kick off The Comet and the Thief blog tour and for being such a brilliant interviewee with her insightful answers to these questions.


Be sure to check out the rest of the The Comet and the Thief blog tour for more exclusive guest posts from Ruth & content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Extract): The Cloud Horse Chronicles: Guardians of Magic – Chris Riddell


Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Cloud Horse Chronicles: Guardians of Magic
Author: Chris Riddell (@chrisriddell50)
Publisher: Macmillan (@MacmillanKidsUK)
Page count: 320
Date of publication: 19th September 2019
Series status: First in the series
ISBN: 978-1447277972

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 & Year 6.

To celebrate the upcoming publication, I’m delighted to share with you an exclusive extract from Guardians of Magic, the first title in a brilliant new magical adventure series from the creator of Goth Girl, Chris Riddell.

With gorgeous two-colour illustrations throughout and a special full-colour guide to the giants in the book, this fantastic hardback is a perfect gift.

For as long as anyone can remember, children have made a wish on a cloud horse, never quite believing that their wishes will come true. But times are changing. The future of magic is in danger. Enemies are working together to destroy it – especially the magic of nature and its most powerful source, The Forever Tree. Unless three brave children fight back and believe in the impossible, soon magic and the cloud horses will be gone. Zam, Phoebe and Bathsheba don’t yet know how powerful they are…

In Guardians of Magic the Costa award-winning, 2015-2017 UK Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell weaves together a magical quest. This is the first title in The Cloud Horse Chronicles series.

Click to download extract


Be sure to check out the rest of the Guardians of Magic blog tour for more exclusive content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review, Guest Post & Giveaway!): The Boy With the Butterfly Mind – Victoria Williamson

Butterfly Boy Front Cover 1.jpg
‘Truly sensational. Told through two voices and suffused with real heart; empathy and emotionally-invested storytelling at its best that has so much to teach today’s children. My heart genuinely aches. A must, must, must read.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Boy with the Butterfly Mind
Author: Victoria Williamson (@strangelymagic)
Floris Books (@FlorisBooks)
Publisher: Kelpies (@DiscoverKelpies)
Page count: 264
Date of publication: 12th September 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1782506003

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

1. Heart 💖
2. Family 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦
3. Butterflies 🦋

It doesn’t matter what I try.
There’s no cure for being me.

Jamie Lee wants to be normal. But his ADHD makes him feel like his brain is full of butterflies.

Elin Watts wants to be perfect. If she can be, surely her dad will come home.

When Jamie and Elin’s families join, chaos and order collide. But perhaps they have something in common. Maybe there’s no such thing as normal, or perfect. Maybe being yourself is more than enough.


Told through a two-voice dual perspective that’s soon becoming Victoria’s inimitable style of storytelling, The Boy with the Butterfly Mind tells the stories of Jamie and Elin, who unbeknownst to each other at the start of the book, become part of the same blended family.

The difference between the two protagonists is immediately noticeable. As the character of Jamie is introduced to us through his struggles with his work at school, we see on the flip side that Elin is thriving academically. However they actually have more in common than first appears. Yes, they’re both eleven years old but actually they’re both finding it hard to ‘fit in’ and it soon becomes clear that socially they stand out amongst their classmates.

Reading on, the two’s home dynamics are shared with the reader and it is clear that both of these characters are experiencing very complex and fractured family breakdowns. With Jamie, he soon becomes a spare part as his mother wishes to move to the United States with her new partner who isn’t that tolerant of Jamie’s ADHD, forcing him to move in with his father who’s living with his own family. Whilst Elin is a pure perfectionist who distracts herself from her father walking out of the family home by whiling away her time in fairyland writing fictional stories based on the real-life characters around her, believing that if she is perfect enough her dad will soon step back into her life.

Through this chain of events, Jamie and Elin find themselves all living under the same roof, though Elin assures herself that it won’t be for very long as when Jamie comes to stay, his behaviour and the changes in her life soon sends her up the wall. Will she feel that she can continue to live with him? What will change her attitude towards him? Can they live harmoniously?

Victoria yet again gets in to not only the heads but also the hearts of her characters and this story will surely permeate in to not only the heads but also the hearts of its readers. This is a story of self-discovery, suffused with real heart and bursting with empathy, with so much to teach today’s children.

It takes an author with immense compassion, with perception and with to not just recognise the complexities, intricacies and eccentricities that are weaved into this story but to also write them with a nuance that shows that when it comes to emotionally-invested storytelling, Victoria really is in a class of her very own.


A Summer Adventure on The Book Bus

When you think of a mobile library, what’s the first image that comes to mind? If you’re anything like me, then it won’t be any of these:

Book Bus Animals - The Reader Teacher Blog
But volunteering with The Book Bus in Zambia, elephants by the side of the road, tame zebras, cheeky monkeys and crocodiles in the rivers are part and parcel of the reading assistant’s everyday experience.

This summer I spent four weeks working on Book Bus Charlie in Livingstone, visiting local communities and helping run story and craft activities in the primary schools and libraries which the reading charity has partnered with. It was a unique experience, but the project is something that anyone with a passion for books, children’s literacy and international development can get involved with, either through volunteering, or donating to keep the buses on the road and the bookshelves full.

The Book Bus charity was founded in 2008 by publisher Tom Mascheler, and initially began work with schools in Zambia, before opening further reading schemes in Malawi and Ecuador in 2010. Each Book Bus programme is run by local teams all year round, who work alongside teachers to provide literacy support and literary schemes to improve the children’s overall education standards. The teams also run regular reading sessions at community and public libraries, with the staff in Ecuador running an after-school programme of remedial reading sessions for children struggling in the classroom. Over the summer, international volunteers are invited to join the Zambia project for between two and four weeks, planning and running story sessions, reading activities, and crafts in the primary schools and libraries around Livingstone.

That’s the background, but what’s the actual experience of being a volunteer like?

Well, the day starts early on Monday-Fridays, with breakfast from 7am depending on how far away the school to be visited that week is. Planning for the morning’s activities has already been done in pairs or small groups the afternoon of the day before, so after a quick check to make sure you have all the books, colouring pencils, crayons, scissors and craft materials you need, Charlie sets off from the Lodge.

It’s hot during the dry season, so don’t forget your hat, sandals and sun screen!

Book Bus 1 - The Reader Teacher Blog.jpg

The roads to the schools around Livingstone can be narrow and often lack tarmac, so Book Bus Charlie’s driver, Edward, has to take it easy on the tyres over potholes and slow down as branches brush past the windows, making sure the bus and its occupants all get to the schools in one piece! This gives the volunteers plenty of time for sight-seeing along the way, and elephants and zebras are often spotted along the road through the national park.

Reaching the school, the team sings songs with the children in a big group, often learning local songs and dances in return, before splitting into smaller groups in classrooms and on mats outside. For the next few hours the Book Bus staff and volunteers, often assisted by the school’s teachers, read a story book with the children, followed by songs, activities and crafts based around a chosen theme.

This year’s theme was, very appropriately, ‘Animal Planet’, and all of the books and activities chosen were based around animal stories. At the start of the week, a group working with the older children might look at a book such as Usborne’s Big Book of Animals, helping children read information about the animals, locate where those animals live on a map, and draw pictures of animals they’ve learned about  for hanging on the classroom wall or for taking home.

Later in a week, once the team has had a chance to gauge the children’s reading levels and English vocabulary, they might choose sets of story books that the children will be able to read along with. One that worked very well this year was The Tortoise’s Gift: A Story from Zambia by Lari Don and Melanie Williamson. The children enjoyed making lion masks, monkey finger puppets and a giant tortoise to act out the story at the end of the week.

After packing the books, mats and craft materials back onto Charlie, the team sings some final songs with the children before heading back to the Lodge for lunch and planning for the next day’s activities. Tuesday and Thursday afternoons are spent in one of the local community libraries, reading one-to-one with children and helping them develop their literacy skills and English vocabularies. This is particularly important as English is the official language of Zambia, however there are a total of 73 languages spoken in the country, and children are taught in their local language in Grades 1-3 in school, and are taught in English from Grade 4, which can be confusing in terms of learning to read a new set of phonics to go with all of the new English words.

On returning to the Lodge, volunteers have the chance to wash away the dry season dust, have dinner, continue planning, or have some time to relax. This year some of the evening activities involved card games, roasting marshmallows over a brazier (while trying to stop them being eaten by the tame Lodge zebras!) and singing campfire songs with the group of Girl Guides who joined the project for several weeks. One of the highlights of working with The Book Bus is being part of a team of enthusiastic volunteers who have come together to share their time and effort for a common purpose. As one former volunteer on Book Bus George said: ‘Because of the length of time the project has been running, and the impact it has had, everyone recognises George (not to mention the yellow shirts!), and you immediately become part of the community, rather than just another tourist. Children wave as the bus goes past, shouts of “Book Bus!” accompany any journey by George on the road, and the children suddenly appear at school once George is parked.’

Book Bus 4 - The Reader Teacher Blog.jpg
Does it sound like a project you’d like to get involved with? Find out more about The Book Bus, volunteering and donating here:


To celebrate the publication of The Boy with the Butterfly Mind, Victoria has  kindly given me this butterfly BUNDLE to give away!


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

Butterfly Mind Blog Tour - Victoria Williamson.jpg

Be sure to check out the rest of the The Boy with the Butterfly Mind blog tour for more exclusive guest posts from Victoria & content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!