Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post: Books that encourage care): My Pet Star – Corrinne Averiss (Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw)

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‘…this heartwarming story emits empathy from its pages within. It definitely gives you all the feels.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: My Pet Star
Author: Corrinne Averiss (@CorrinneAveriss)
Illustrator:
Rosalind Beardshaw (@RosBeardshaw)
Publisher: Orchard (@orchardbooks) (@HachetteKids)
Page count: 32
Date of publication: 8th August 2019 (Paperback)
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1408353660

Perfect for Nursery, Reception & Year 1.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Star 🌟
2. Heart 💛
3. Friendship 🤗


I found him underneath a tree,
not somewhere a star should be!
He’d fallen from his home in space,
bumped and tumbled, scratched his face.

When a little girl discovers a star who has fallen to Earth, she takes him home and nurses him back to health.


Review: 

I’ve been a big fan of Corrinne’s deeply thoughtful, empathetic and emotive stories ever since I first saw Joy, and I am eagerly awaiting another that is coming soon in Hope.

With My Pet Star, a beautiful rhyming picture book that explores the relationship between a young girl and a star that she’s surreptitiously found one evening and shortlisted for the Sainsbury’s Children’s Book Awards 2019 Picture Book, it is clear to see that Corrinne continues to write in such a way that resonates with all readers.

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Fearing that the star had lost his glow, the little girl takes the star home to nurse and nurtures him back to good health; the little girl acting as the star’s cosmic vet and the star as the little girl’s new-found pet. As the two begin a friendship that’s formed on reading, learning and enjoying being in each other’s company, it appears that they build more than an unbreakable bond between themselves.

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As the little girl learns more about the star with each passing day, she realises that at times they live very different lives from each other. With the star being nocturnal, unable to communicate verbally and shining so bright during the night, the little girl starts to recognise that her house may not be the best place for this well-again star.

Opening the window wide, the star returns to its natural habitat and is able to live once again in the night sky shining down on the little girl and the world below thanks to the love, care and devotion shown by she.

With soft, expressive and characterful illustrations from Rosalind, this heartwarming story emits empathy from its pages within. This sweet-natured story about letting go sometimes to the things you love most dearly would be brilliant for sharing at bedtime, in assembly time in schools for a younger audience or for reading at home between parent and child. It definitely succeeds so well in giving you all the feels.


Books that encourage care… by Corrinne Averiss

My Pet Star is a little story inspired by a child’s instinct to nurture; to prioritise the needs of someone else because they empathise with their suffering or discomfort.

My three year old daughter is always tending to things – throwing blankets over our cat, asking her if she ‘wants another cat biscuit?’ with head sympathetically to one side and recently, sharing her books with her. Even inanimate objects and toys draw her affection and sympathy, we can have cars with plasters on and stones wrapped in blankets.

The little girl in My Pet Star finds a fallen star in her garden and nurses it back to health, but Pet Star is representative of many things… it could be a hedgehog, a small bird fallen from its nest, a sick parent, sibling, friend or even our own mental health or inner child. Whatever it is that needs ‘love and time and care…’ to feel better again.

Ice creams are missed… toys aren’t played with… but a bond is forged through time and tenderness and the Star’s glow is restored.

Feeling small and helpless in the world themselves, it is powerful for a child to be able to reassure someone they perceive to be more vulnerable. I’ve chosen a few books that I feel also represent this theme. Treating others – be they human or animal – with respect and tenderness. Just curiosity and an open heart allowing the needs of another to be observed and understood.


The Smartest GIANT in Town – Julia Donaldson and Axel Sheffler

I love the instinctive kindness of George the Giant who helps the animals he meets on his journey even when this results in his own comfort. It’s such a powerful littlestory and I adore the pride in his song, that grows with each good deed ‘…my shoe is a house for a little white mouse’. My shoe! Look what it means to someone else!

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Lost and Found – Oliver Jeffers

It’s important not to assume we know what someone needs – to be open-minded, helpful, and to see what unfolds.

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The Storm Whale – Benji Davis

Noi reacts quickly to help the storm whale; keeping him wet in the bath, reading to him, playing music, feeding him. He is instantly completely present and ‘there’ for thewhale and its needs.

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How to Hide a Lion – Helen Stephens

Similarly, Iris dedicates herself to caring for the lion – brushing his mane and offering a bandage for his sore paw. She elects herself sole defender of the lion from suspicious grown-ups and this beautifully captures the way children feel themselves to be the equals of animals.

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Big thanks to Corrinne, Alison and all the team at Hachette for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of the My Pet Star blog tour and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Corrinne for writing such a brilliant guest post!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the My Pet Star blog tour for more exclusive guest posts from Corrinne & Rosalind, content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

 

Blog Tour (Review & Giveaway!): I, Cosmo – Carlie Sorosiak (Illustrated by Ben Mantle)

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‘A story that shows the power of pooches, the magnificence of man’s best friend and proves that anything is paws-ible when you have a dog by your side. Every dog will have its day but for Cosmo, this extraordinary dog will absolutely have your heart fur-ever.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: I, Cosmo
Author: Carlie Sorosiak (@carliesorosiak)
Cover illustrator:
Ben Mantle (@BenMMantle)
Publisher: Nosy Crow (@NosyCrowBooks)
Page count: 272
Date of publication: 1st August 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1788003872

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Dog 🐶
2. Companionship 🐾
3. Heart 💝


The story of one dog’s attempt to save his family, become a star, and eat a lot of bacon.

Cosmo’s family is falling apart. And it’s up to Cosmo to keep them together. He knows exactly what to do. There’s only one problem. Cosmo is a Golden Retriever.

Wise, funny, and filled with warmth and heart, this is Charlotte’s Web meets Little Miss Sunshine – a moving, beautiful story, with a wonderfully unique hero, from an incredible new voice in middle grade fiction – perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead and Kate DiCamillo.


Review:

I grew up having dogs in my life. In fact, I think it’s most probably fairer to say that dogs grew up with me in their lives. Dogs were in my family’s life well before I was. I remember, even now, pictures of a baby me being taken in my car seat with my first dog Tammy, and first of three West Highland White Terriers (Holly and Daisy) we’ve had, sat next to me almost guarding me. So even then – at that very young age – I knew all too well the strength in the bond of a dog and its family.

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Therefore this story, personally, has so much more to it than just its words. With warmth, with feeling and with so much sentiment that I think my heart could burst, it takes its readers on the most endearing and captivating of journeys through the twists, turns and turmoils of family life.

“There is a word I’ve learned in my twelve years: doggedly. It means “with persistence and full effort.” Humans attribute this to a dog’s stubbornness – our refusal to give up chewy sticks, the way we freeze in the doorway when it rains. But really, it’s the way we love, with our whole hearts, no matter the circumstance. I vowed to protect Max – and my family – doggedly, for the rest of my life.

Elderly golden retriever Cosmo lives with Max, his owner, or as he prefers to see it, his brother and his family. As family life starts to become too much what with a parental relationship breaking down, it’s up to Cosmo to take care of Max and his anxieties after Uncle Reggie tells him to “Protect their hearts.”. Their unbreakable bond is and becomes even more inseparably, indescribably beautiful as the story goes on. Written in Cosmo’s perceptive perspective with an authentic, anecdotal style of retelling the daily goings-on within the family home including holidays, Halloween and happier times.

From his love of old movies (with more than a slight mention of his favourite film Grease, I hear ya!) and dancing, lessons are to be learned. These lessons being that Cosmo and Max find themselves entering themselves into a dog-dancing competition in a bid to stop, what Max thinks is, the impending separation of his parents and the separation of him from his dog as the family splits quite literally in half. With Uncle Reggie’s help in masterminding teaching the old dog new tricks, will the partnership of canine and companion go all the way in succeeding to show off what they’re about or will there be a few obstacles standing in their way…?

If you’ve ever wanted to get into the head, the eyes and the heart of man’s best friend, this is most definitely the closest you’ll come. I feel that I could make comparisons of this to other canine-inspired classics but I can’t. It would feel unjust and unfair because, for me, it is unique. Unique in the way that an author has captured an animal’s thoughts, feelings and emotions so directly, so perfectly and so exquisitely that it is so rare to see it done so well. Observations, mannerisms and nuances all full of wit, humour, self-deprecation, shrewdness and love, it’s almost as if I believe that Carlie may have been a dog in a previous life; it’s that stark. This is why it is my major recommendation for next year’s EmpathyLabUK’s Read for Empathy Collection.

“…I do believe that, with the right human by your side, it’s possible to leap fearlessly into the unknown.”

A story that shows the power of pooches, the magnificence of man’s best friend and proves that anything is paws-ible when you have a dog by your side. Every dog will have its day but for Cosmo, this extraordinary dog will absolutely have your heart fur-ever.


‘A story that shows the power of pooches, the magnificence of man’s best friend and proves that anything is paws-ible when you have a dog by your side. Every dog will have its day but for Cosmo, this extraordinary dog will absolutely have your heart fur-ever.’


Giveaway!

To celebrate the publication of I Cosmo, the very lovely people at Nosy Crow have kindly given me THREE copies to give away!

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


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Be sure to check out the rest of the I, Cosmo blog tour for more reviews & exclusive content from Carlie and these brilliant book bloggers!

Review & Guest Post (The Inspiration Behind The Monster): The Switching Hour – Damaris Young (Illustrated by Kelsey Buzzell)

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‘Spooky, suspenseful and Stranger Things. Damaris’ haunting yet hopeful words and worlds so atmospherically realised here suggest she could be the next and natural successor to Hardinge.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Switching Hour
Author: Damaris Young (@damarisyoung)
Cover illustrator:
Kelsey Buzzell (Website)
Publisher: Scholastic (@scholasticuk)
Page count: 288
Date of publication: 1st August 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1407195049

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Friendship 👭
2. Monster 👹
3. Drought ☁️


Never stay out after the Switching Hour… never let the outside in…

Every night, at twilight, Amaya locks her door to keep out the Badeko, a creature that vanishes children away to devour their dreams.

When Amaya’s small brother is taken, she must fight her way through the terrifying and twisting forest to the Badeko’s nest.

She must face her fears that come alive after dark…


Review:

Fishing in her local river, we are introduced to Amaya who lives with her grandmother, her small brother Kaleb and her pet goat Tau. Soon realising she’s been out for far too long, she rushes back home just in time before the time of the Switching Hour starts where the day turns to night and the living turn to the lure of a legend…

“The creature licked its lips and sucked the dream through its sharp teeth, but the empty hunger in its belly still roared. It wasn’t enough.
Always hungry. Always thirsty.”

The legend of Badeko. A monster. A demon. A beast. A dream-eating devil who steals away children at night. Awoken greater now by the terrible drought that’s plaguing Amaya’s homeland, of which is stripping it of its little food and water and limited resources that’s left.

To stop Badeko, every night the doors must be locked at twilight. For Amaya, she’s come too close to comfort before to its humming, haunting presence and so now with the insistent calls of her grandmother ringing in her ears, she ensures that all the doors are not only closed but slammed shut, bolted down and checked at least three times. But when her wise old grandmother is needed by a local in a remote, far-off community, she’s left to look after her younger brother all by herself. Will she be able to protect what matters most to her?

“Dragging my feet over to my bed, I curled up under the covers without caring to change out of my clothes. As I drifted off, I had the uneasy feeling of something left undone.”

But whilst the adults are away, and unbeknownst to Amaya who’s sleeping soundly, the Badeko reappears to play one evening during the Switching Hour rearing its head and wilfully prowling outside her home to try its luck at the seemingly-locked front door only to find its way in to Kaleb.

Snatched away in the dead of night in the clutches of this creature, Amaya awakes to find her brother gone; her worst nightmares coming true; her heart and soul ripped out; her world torn apart and thus the start of a creepy, compulsive and compelling adventure in which she must undertake to face her deepest and darkest fears across the Blackened Forest to seek out the Dead Tree – where Badeko calls home – to bring her brother from the back of beyond. Legend has it that once Badeko claims a child, all relatives will forget their existence within three days and be left in a state of eternal grief and mourning. They call it the Sorrow Sickness, so can Amaya rescue her sibling before this lingering longing sets in?

In its central character of Amaya, Damaris has created a heroine of unforgettable power. With her faithful goat-friend Tau for company, she finds herself as much on a physically-arduous journey as a mentally-testing one.

Submerged in a supernatural and almost tribal-tinged world, influenced by Damaris’ own experiences of myths and legends of a childhood growing up in South Africa, it shows the power of friendship, especially with supporting character Mally, and the very real fear of forgetting the ones you love. Therefore, it’s no surprise that this spooky, suspenseful story with all senses of Stranger Things about it will completely snatch hold of its readers and keep them gripped the whole way through. Her haunting yet hopeful words and worlds so atmospherically realised here suggest she could be the next and natural successor to Hardinge.


‘Spooky, suspenseful and Stranger Things. Damaris’ haunting yet hopeful words and worlds so atmospherically realised here suggest she could be the next and natural successor to Hardinge.’


The Inspiration Behind The Monster in The Switching Hour

When I started writing The Switching Hour, I had been interested in climate issues for a long time and it was important to me that the story had a connection to this crucial topic, without being too taken over by it.

In The Switching Houra dream eating creature is awoken by a terrible drought. This monstrous creature is my interpretation of our global changing climate, as the drought threatens to devour all life. It preys on young children by eating their dreams, in the same way climate change will affect generation to come. In The Switching Hour, while the adults hide away behind locked doors, it is the children who are brave and take action.

In our real world, it is young people who are also leading the way when it comes to creating awareness about climate change. The young activist Greta Thunberg is inspiring global protests, urging politicians to take action, and proving that no matter how old you are, your voice matters!

With demands from social media to connect and engage, to the bombardment of the news and the pressures to achieve, young people often feel like they have little control over the world around them, which is why The Switching Houris ultimately a story of courage and hope. It may seem like there is too much that is out of our control, but there is still so much that is. Every one of us has a voice and it’s up to all of us to fight our monsters, real or imagined.z7-envEw_400x400.jpg

 

 

Damaris Young, author of The Switching Hour


Big thanks to Damaris, Mary and all the team at Scholastic for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of The Switching Hour blog tour and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Damaris for writing such a brilliant and insightful guest post!

Mr E


Blog Tour (Review & Giveaway!): The Bad Luck Lighthouse – Nicki Thornton (Illustrated by Matt Saunders)

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‘This series is without doubt becoming the recommended read for mystery lovers young and old. Nicki is establishing herself very much as the Christie for children.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Bad Luck Lighthouse
Author: Nicki Thornton (@nicki_thornton)
Cover illustration: Matt Saunders (@msaunders_ink)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 384
Date of publication: 4th July 2019
Series status: Book 2 after The Last Chance Hotel
ISBN: 978-1912626304

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Lighthouse💡
2. Magic ✨
3. Murder ☠️


Welcome to the Bad Luck Lighthouse.

In solving the mystery at the Last Chance Hotel, Seth has discovered a world of magic. Swept up in a new case at Snakesmouth Lighthouse – the murder of eccentric owner Mina Mintencress – he is determined to prove himself. 

With the help of his cat, Nightshade, Seth must put his new-found magic to the test. Can they unmask a sinister sorcerer… before it’s too late?


Review: 

Danger, dishonesty, dark magic and deception all characteristically return in this sequel set a few months on from the accolade-winning The Last Chance Hotel (The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition 2016/Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month for October 2018). As this is almost a direct continuation from Nicki’s first book in the series, I’d most definitely advise you to seek out and devour The Last Chance Hotel before reading this. 

For lowly kitchen boy Seth Seppi, you’d think solving one mystery would be good enough however he is back and this time he is out to test himself with learning how to use the magic that’s been bestowed unto him in a whole new world. Introduced to us in this one as doubting himself as a ‘natural’, he’s left holding a book called the Easy-Peasy book of magic which on the surface provides Seth with the slightest glimmer of hope of achieving the ‘spark of magic‘ that he believes others see in him. But sadly for him, he hasn’t been able to complete a single spell since receiving it. 

Therefore struggling, getting desperate and following a fleeting visit from Inspector Pewter – last seen in the last book – he flings himself through a portal after Pewter and soon becomes embroiled in another magical murder-mystery after discovering Snakesmouth Lighthouse, a hotel that’s supposedly haunted… or is it?

Storms are battering the lighthouse outside; guests are not forthcoming and with staff leaving or who have already left in their droves, this seems like another sinister setting that no-one wants to visit. When suddenly Seth happens upon the death of a very important character who actually owns the lighthouse which stopped me completely (pardon the pun!) dead in my tracks whilst reading. With talking cat-companion Nightshade for company – which just has to be one of the best cases of nominative determinism as one of the very best pet names I’ve come across in children’s literature – he tries his hardest to uncover the mystery and web of lies, agendas and revelations that he’s managed to entangle himself in. Sometimes it’s the things that are often left unsaid in these stories that lead to greater suspense than the things that are said.

Bringing back some old faces such as Inspector Pewter and Angelique really helps the reader to find the touch of familiarity from the previous book and adding some new, such as personal-favourite Celeste, completes and complements the cast of characters and suspects in this new thrilling mystery from Nicki. After reading a recent blog by her, it’s so pleasing to see an author write a sequel of a book with characters she so dearly loves and it is with this that I hope that these classically-written but contemporary-styled mysteries may long continue. This series is without doubt becoming the recommended read for mystery lovers young and old. Nicki is establishing herself very much as the Christie for children.


‘This series is without doubt becoming the recommended read for mystery lovers young and old. Nicki is establishing herself very much as the Christie for children.’


Giveaway!

To celebrate the publication of The Bad Luck Lighthouse, the very lovely people at Chicken House have kindly given me THREE sets of both books, The Last Chance Hotel & The Bad Luck Lighthouse, to give away!

If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning these two classically-written but also contemporary mysteries, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!


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Be sure to check out the rest of the The Bad Luck Lighthouse blog tour for more reviews & exclusive content from Nicki and these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Guest Post): The True Colours of Coral Glen – Juliette Forrest (Illustrated by Jamie Gregory)

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‘With Coral Glen, any signs of second novel syndrome are banished as it’s an absolute feat of storytelling; full of the magical, multi-layered and ethereal world-building we’ve come to know, love and expect from Juliette.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The True Colours of Coral Glen
Author: Juliette Forrest (@jools_forrest)
Cover illustration: Jamie Gregory (@jgregorydesign)
Publisher: Scholastic (@scholasticuk)
Page count: 300
Date of publication: 4th July 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1407193229

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Colours 🌈
2. Grief 😥
3. Ghosts 👻


Coral Glen sees the world through a rainbow of colours not visible to others.

An afternoon of adventure is Treasure Island Gold, but a morning with a maths test is Stormy Canyon Grey. When her beloved grandma dies, Coral can’t conjure the colour to match how heartbroken she is.

She meets a mysterious boy who offers to help her say a last goodbye to Gran – in exchange, Coral must stop an evil spirit from escaping the graveyard, and go on a daring adventure full of witches, ghosts and other things lurking beneath the surface of her not-so-ordinary-after-all town…


‘With Coral Glen, any signs of second novel syndrome are banished as it’s an absolute feat of storytelling; full of the magical, multi-layered and ethereal world-building we’ve come to know, love and expect from Juliette.’


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It gives me great pleasure to welcome Juliette Forrest, author of The True Colours of Coral Glen, and the wonderful Twister, to The Reader Teacher today where she talks more about the inspirations and ideas behind her second book…


The inspirations behind The True Colours of Coral Glen

When I was in the middle of writing my second children’s book, I went to stay in Ayrshire for a while. I was no stranger to the place as it was where my grandparents had lived. They told me stories about the area’s dark history of witch trials, warring clans, Covenantors, smugglers, cannibals, black death victims and ghosts. As a kid, it became impossible to separate folklore from historical fact. I could imagine the past creeping out from the shadows to coexist with the present and was keen to capture this sense of magic and danger lurking around every corner. I have my grandparents to thank, as they were the ones who planted the seeds for this colourful tale.

What would you do to be with a loved one again?

At the heart of this story is a girl who is bereft at the loss of her grandmother and will do anything to see her one last time before she crosses over to heaven. I’ll never forget a documentary I watched where a woman talked about the death of her son, and how she would give anything to have just one more minute with him. It was so powerful and moving, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It made me wonder what you would be prepared to do to make this happen. Coral Glen chooses to risk everything for the chance of a final farewell with her gran.

Coral Glen sees a rainbow of colours not visible to others

My heroine has the enviable ability to see an extraordinary range of colours others can’t, which opens doors into a world she never knew existed. I used to work as an art director in advertising and fell in love with the names of paints. Yellow was never plain old boring yellow: it was Luscious Lemon Drops or Treasure Island Gold or Downy Duckling or Tuscan Sun. It was as if they could, somehow, magically transform your life for the better. I wanted the different colours to add an extra layer of vibrancy to the story as well as to be positively life-changing for Coral Glen.

Tales of the supernatural

I never got to meet my grandpa Forrest. When I was young and listening into conversations I shouldn’t have been, I heard mention he’d show up at family christenings. Nothing strange there you might think – until I tell you that he had died many years before I was born. I never caught sight of his ghost myself, but I always liked the idea that death hadn’t stopped him from enjoying a good shindig and found it comforting he came back to be with the family. It was this curious tale that inspired the idea of Coral Glen being able to see people others couldn’t.


The True Colours of Coral Glen will be released on 4th July.


Big thanks to Juliette, Mary and all the team at Scholastic for inviting me to host this guest post as part of the The True Colours of Coral Glen blog tour and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Juliette for writing such a insightful and suitably supernatural guest post!

Mr E


 

Blog Tour (Author Q&A & Giveaway!): Dragon Daughter – Liz Flanagan (Illustrated by Angelo Rinaldi)

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Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Dragon Daughter
Author: Liz Flanagan (@lizziebooks)
Illustrator: Angelo Rinaldi (Website)
Publisher: David Fickling (@dfb_storyhouse)
Page count: 368
Date of publication: 2nd May 2019 (Paperback)
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1788450218

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Dragons 🐉
2. Island 🏝️
3. Secrets 🤐


The DRAGONS were lost and forgotten until NOW…

Milla sees a man murdered and finds herself caring for the last four dragon eggs. Forced to keep them secret amidst the growing tensions on the island of Across, Milla must fight to save the dragons and everything that their return stands for.

Fiery friendships, forgotten family and the struggle for power collide as Milla’s battle for freedom leads her to uncover her own hidden past.


I’m so pleased to welcome Liz Flanagan to The Reader Teacher today where she Liz_Flanagan_cr_Sarah_Mason__Photographyanswers my questions all about Dragon Daughter including its recent award-winning success; her reading and writing influences and sharing teacher resources for her incredible book!

Dragon Daughter (5)

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

    1. Friendship 👫
    2. Fiery 🔥
    3. Dragons! 🐉
  • What books, people, research, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write Dragon Daughter?

Dragon Daughter wasn’t an easy book for me to write. I kept getting stuck and putting it aside, and I must have done about 20 drafts, especially of the second half of the book. In one of my stuck phases, I started writing Eden Summer, which became my debut novel, but I couldn’t give up on Dragon Daughter!

It wasn’t till I was working with my editor Rosie Fickling, that I managed to see clearly enough and get the story finished in a way that would suit middle-grade readers. So it was her vision and love of the story that really inspired me and helped me to write it.

I love books about dragons. I wasn’t consciously thinking about any in particular when I was writing it, but I’m sure that Anne McCaffrey’s and Ursula LeGuin’s dragons must have filtered into my teenage brain and come out in the writing of Dragon Daughter, and I can definitely see the influence of American fantasy writer Tamora Pierce.

I’ve got a much clearer and more specific spark for the sequel, which I’m writing now – a documentary about the tunnels under a particular European city. More of that soon!!

  • What was the most enjoyable part of writing Dragon Daughter?

I loved writing the hatching scene! It was a joy to write, and for this chapter at least the words came tumbling out. It’s also the part I love reading aloud the most now. Milla – and the reader! – has had to wait quite some time before she finally gets to meet her dragon, but I hope it was worth it.

  • Firstly, I think a big congratulations is in order. Well done on Dragon Daughter winning the Leeds Book Award and the Calderdale Book of the Year recently. What is it about Dragon Daughter do you think that has made it so successful with children?

Thank you so much! I was so delighted about these awards, not only because they’re in my local region, but also because the children voted for Dragon Daughter. That’s what authors dream of!

I love hearing directly from readers and learning what they’ve enjoyed. So far it seems to be:

  • The characters, especially Milla
  • The dragons, and choosing which colour dragon is their favourite
  • The exciting adventure, even if it gets slightly scary at times
  • If you were to choose the character that is most like you from Dragon Daughter, who would it be and why?

Ah, I wish I could say Milla, but she is what I wish I were like, so resilient and resourceful and courageous. I’m probably more like Isak – he knows what the right thing is, but it takes him a while to do it!


Reading and Writing (4)

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

I loved writing at school. We had an amazing teacher in Year 4 who gave us wonderful writing prompts and I first noticed how time could disappear while I was writing. I still remember a long story about a pink flying horse, so maybe things haven’t changed so much after all! I lost my writing confidence in my later teens and twenties, and didn’t start writing again till I had my own children. For a while the stories I was writing were definitely aimed at the age of my eldest daughter, but now they’re teenagers, I think I’ll stay away from writing YA for a while: my girls don’t need me trying to write teens while they’re busy being them.

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

I love the energy and excitement of a first draft, but it is also quite nerve-racking – is this a story? Can I write it? But it’s also a real journey of discovery, getting to know the characters and what they want. I’ve learned to let myself create what I call a ‘dirty first draft’ and trust that I can come back and polish it up later. I have come to enjoy editing, but I always get daunted just before a new round of edits. Then, once I’ve got stuck in, it’s very satisfying.

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

I don’t remember any authors visiting our school. I didn’t realise that ordinary people could be authors. I met Berlie Doherty on an Arvon course when I was seventeen, and she read from the unfinished manuscript of Dear Nobody and actually asked for our opinions on it. That blew me away!

  • Currently, we seem to be living in a golden age of books, especially that of children’s literature. Can you recommend any other children’s books to children (and adults!) who may be interested in similar themes explored in your book or any that you would recommend?

I know, I am loving the feast of amazing books being published for this age group & I’m constantly gobbling up middle-grade novels. Recent ones I’ve loved are: Fire Girl, Forest Boy by Chloe Daykin for its adventure, wonderful setting and the cutest animal with an unlikely name; The Storm Keeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle for great characters and a spellbinding mix of magic and real life; Sky Chasers by Emma Carroll for pace, excitement and a brilliant protagonist; The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Rauf for friendship, hope and characters you’d like to be friends with; The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell for courageous characters, fabulous plot and beautiful writing; and The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson for its brilliant protagonist, another adorable animal character and more gorgeous writing you could read all day.


Dragon Daughter and Teaching (3)

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

In this exciting fantasy adventure, servant girl Milla witnesses a murder and finds herself caring for the last four dragon eggs, but as unrest spreads across the island of Arcosi, who can she trust?

  • Could you suggest ways in which Dragon Daughter could be used in the classroom for the many teachers and primary school staff that will read this and wish to use it in their schools?

In my school visits I’ve been doing workshops showing some wild and wonderful mythical creatures from around the world, then inviting children to imagine their own beautifully coloured egg and what might hatch from it.

A teacher friend of mine, Susan Williams, very kindly created some classroom resources and lesson plans, some focusing on life cycles, and also using the idea of dragon eggs as story prompts for descriptive writing. She’s created some free downloadable lesson plans, on the subjects of hatching dragons / descriptive writing / dragon eggs, which are available here: http://lizflanagan.co.uk/dragon-daughter-teacher-resources

The story also has themes of migration and tolerance, which can be used for discussions of those subjects in a fantasy-based way.

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

That would be wonderful! Please contact me via lizflanagan.co.uk/contact, or you could also book via Authors Aloud: https://authorsalouduk.co.uk/speaker/liz-flanagan/


Two more before you go (2)!

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

An interviewer hasn’t asked me, but children always do: what kind of dragon would I have?

I think the answer is Iggie, Milla’s dragon. He’s lapis blue, loyal, small and fragile to begin with, and huge and fire-breathing by the end.

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

I always talk in my school visits about how long it took me to become an author:

10 years + 2 unpublished novels + 20 drafts of Dragon Daughter = All worth it!


One last one… (1)!

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

What do you wish authors knew before they came into school – if you can narrow it down!! – and what kinds of resources do you find most helpful on authors’ websites?

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

Thanks so much Scott, I really appreciate all your support!


Giveaway!

The very lovely people at David Fickling have kindly given me ONE paperback copy of Dragon Daughter to give away!

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

Huge thanks to Liz, Liz and all at David Fickling for inviting me to host this Author Q&A with Liz and a giveaway!

Extra thanks to Liz for answering my questions with her brilliant answers!


Mr E

📚


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Be sure to check out the rest of the Dragon Daughter blog tour for more exclusive guest posts from Liz; and content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!


 

Blog Tour (Review & Author Q&A): The Last Spell Breather – Julie Pike (Illustrated by Dinara Mirtalipova)

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‘It’s a magical must-read that takes place in such an original, chapter-turning and cleverly-imagined world I didn’t want to leave behind. With The Last Spell Breather, Julie doesn’t just write about magic, she writes with a special kind of magic; as if her pen is gold-tipped.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Last Spell Breather
Author: Julie Pike (@Juliepike)
Illustrator: Dinara Mirtalipova (Website)
Publisher: Oxford University Press Children’s (@OUPChildrens)
Page count: 304
Date of publication: 4th July 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-0192771605

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Magic ✨
2. Fox 🦊
3. Words 👄


Enter the unique world of the Spell Breathers!

Spell Breathing does not come naturally to Rayne – she loathes the hours of practice, the stacks of scrolls, and the snapping mud grotesques that cover her mother’s precious spell book. When she holds the spell book over a fire, it is only meant as an empty threat – until she feels the grotesque’s tiny teeth biting into her finger and lets go. In one clumsy move, her mother’s spells are broken, her village is plunged into danger, and an incredible adventure begins…


Review: I often think if only I had some way of transforming myself to be able to do something else. I often think about magic. I think we all often think about magic. But within the pages of this very special story, magic comes to life in an equally special way. Breathed to life. By the name of spells. Spells with a capital S. Spells that are strong and wrap around you and which possess a magic of their very own. However should those words come out in the wrong order or be directed in the wrong direction, then these Spells can cause a chaos of their very own too. And for the sometimes-creator of that chaos, let’s meet Rayne…

With the title of Spell Breather’s apprentice bestowed upon her ever since her mother decided to take her out of school (and almost away from her friends!), the world of spell breathing is not one Rayne is familiar with. Sometimes bungling and with a lack of self-confidence but often with her head elsewhere like wanting to play with her friends which reminded me of The Worst Witch meeting Luna Lovegood, she feels that she doesn’t have the same way with words that her magical mother, who is at the call of the community to help them, does.

You see, Rayne’s mother has been at this spell-breathing skill for some time. Not only does she service the locals with her powers but she also preserves the barrier that is keeping their town, Penderin, safe. However when an unexpected visitor arrives at the barrier, something is amiss and Rayne’s mother has to leave, meaning that Rayne has to learn quickly to look after herself and her town.

After speaking to Julie and hearing about her being from Wales, I’m sure I spotted more than a few Welsh references which resonated especially well with me. It’s a magical must-read that takes place in such an original, chapter-turning and cleverly-imagined world I didn’t want to leave behind. With The Last Spell Breather, Julie doesn’t just write about magic, she writes with a special kind of magic; as if her pen is gold-tipped.


‘It’s a magical must-read that takes place in such an original, chapter-turning and cleverly-imagined world I didn’t want to leave behind. With The Last Spell Breather, Julie doesn’t just write about magic, she writes with a special kind of magic; as if her pen is gold-tipped.’


I’m so pleased to welcome Julie Pike to The Reader Teacher today with her awe-inspiring and life-affirming blog post about the wondrous adventures she has been on that have influenced the writing of The Last Spell Breather…

When I set out to write The Last Spell Breather, I knew I wanted to create a magical page turning adventure. What I didn’t know was how to go about it. I went to see Garth Nix talk at the Hay Festival. It was my first ever author talk, and it was wonderful. One thing he said stood out like a beacon…  ‘I learned how to write’.

I spent the next decade learning how to write my ‘page turner’, wrapping my head around plot, character arcs, pacing, story beats, magic systems and a whole lot more. I’m not done yet, I still have much learning to do.

Along the way, I realised there was one aspect of story I already knew inside out and back to front. I already knew that the best adventures were filled with high stakes and personal challenges. How did I know? Because the stories I’d devoured as a child had inspired me to have real-life adventures of my own.

Here’s a taste of my adventures, along with some grainy, pre-smart phone pictures, for good measure. 

Wondrous Adventures
I’ve adventured overland through India, Nepal, Tibet and China. I left the UK on my own and made friends along the way. We slept on trains and visited friendly elephant reserves. We sailed down the Ganges to beautiful Varanasi. We slept in tents on the high plains and under the stars in the deserts. We journeyed to Everest’s mighty North Face and slept at Rongbuck monastery. We cleared road blocks in Lhasa, even pushing aside a police car with two coppers inside (thankfully they didn’t mind!). We ordered food in restaurants by pointing at other people’s dishes, because the only language we shared was smiling and laughter. We climbed mountains, and on the last night, we climbed to an abandoned part of the Great Wall of China and camped in a dazzling lightning storm.

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Yes, my hair really was that red

Hard Work Adventures

My hardest adventure was climbing Kilimanjaro. The peak is 5,895 metres and a three-day hike from the park entrance. The higher you climb, the colder it gets and the water in your bottle freezes. The altitude makes it tricky to get a good night’s sleep and makes you feel queasy, so you don’t feel like eating. Closer to the top you’ll get a headache and may drop out, because it’s just too darn hard.

The final push begins at 11pm at night, where you climb the steep scree slope under a star filled sky. The idea is to be at the top for sunrise. It sounds wondrous, but by this point all you can think about, for hours and hours, is putting one foot in front of the other.

I didn’t make the top at sunrise, I was about 100 metres below. I sat on a rock and watched the sun crest the horizon, mesmerised by its red, orange and golden glory. By that point I was empty. I couldn’t go on. And I was sure I had no energy to get down either. Did Kilimanjaro have mountain rescue?

But I was wrong. I did have more. My guide, Arbogast said, ‘you can give up if you’re tired, but you’ve come from Europe to climb this mountain.’

Talk about the power of words! I picked myself up and staggered-crawled to the crater’s rim.

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Me and Arbogast, I wouldn’t have made it without his support.

Leap of Faith Adventures

I’ve ridden white water in Chile, tandem-sky dived over the Great Lake of New Zealand and abseiled down a 100-foot freezing waterfall in France. None of these are skills I possess myself, they’re all borrowed from other people. Before each activity I feel sick with nerves and ‘what ifs.’ But I’ve done my research, I know my guides are experts, so I follow their instructions and take a leap of faith into adventure!

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Come on in! The water’s lovely.

And then there are the adventures where you have no guide, you’re on your own, it’s totally down to you and there are no grainy pictures – because when you’re in a REAL adventure, the stakes are too high to stop and pose.

If you want to know about that one, come by an event or signing table and ask.

I try to bring all my adventures into my writing. I hope I’ve succeeded. I hope you enjoy The Last Spell Breather, and it inspires you (just like the stories I read as a child) to have adventures of your own.

Happy reading. Happy writing. Happy adventuring!


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Julie Pike – Biography

Julie grew up on a council estate, nestled between the forests and foothills of the Welsh Valleys. She is passionate about adventure stories, and volunteers in local schools and libraries in Dorset, helping children find stories that excite them. She is passionate about real-life adventures too, and has crawled inside the great pyramid of Giza, travelled to the peak of Kilimanjaro, and camped on the Great Wall of China in a lightning storm.

Twitter: @juliepike


Big thanks to Julie and all the team at Oxford University Press Children’s for inviting me to kick off and share my thoughts as part of the The Last Spell Breather blog tour and for sending me a copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Julie for writing her excellent guest post!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the The Last Spell Breather blog tour for more exclusive guest posts from Julie, content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review): A Planet Full of Plastic – Neal Layton

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Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: A Planet Full of Plastic
Author & illustrator: Neal Layton (@LaytonNeal)
Publisher: Wren & Rook (@wrenandrookbook)
Page count: 32
Date of publication: 27th June 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1526361738

Perfect for Year 1, Year 2, Year 3 and Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Plastic 🧴
2. World 🌍
3. Conservation 😀


PLASTIC IS EVERYWHERE,
AND IT’S HURTING PLANET EARTH.

From animals mistaking it for food to rivers getting clogged up with it, pesky plastic is causing all sorts if problems for our planet. But the good news is we can do something about it!

Find out all about the plastic problem, and discover the ingenious ways we’re trying to fit it. Then roll up your sleeves – it’s up to all of us to make things better!


Review: As the first line of the blurb says, plastic is everywhere. In our houses, in the shops, in our streets, on our TV screens and now it’s filling up our oceans faster than we can possibly conceive. Plastic is in places it should not belong.

Kicking the book off by making us think about materials, their properties and exactly what things are made of, Neal puts us headfirst into the history and the headlines of plastic. With surprising facts such as that there was no plastic on this Earth one hundred and fifty years ago and introducing to super scientific vocabulary and terminology like biodegradable within the first five pages, this is a book for all ages.

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With Neal’s characteristic collage style complements every word of this book, the problem of plastic is made loud and clear. This fantastic non-fiction book takes on the task of raising awareness amongst us all in the plight against plastic and for that, it should be highly commended.

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So much so, that it stands apart from any other book about conservation, looking after our planet and raising global issues, that it should belong it every classroom up and down the country for our next generations. And therefore, I urge you to get this book. In fact no, I urge the government to do something about this book if they are serious about solving this plastic problem and get it in to schools.


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

If I were to ask you for the 3 Rs, you’d probably be able to give me ‘Recycle’ as the first but personally, I don’t think there’s enough said about reusing stuff.

So what things can we reuse?

Plastic bags

We really don’t really need to buy a new plastic bag every time we buy something. A reusable bag is more than good enough. Carrier bags can also be reused in the shops or as bin bags around the house. Paper bags make useful wrapping paper and twist ties can be used to secure loose items together, such as computer wires. Yet we have become such a throwaway society we have almost forgotten about reusables. Introduced in Wales in 2011, a charge to pay for plastic bags has done its bit to try to help this problem.

Jars, pots and tins

By cleaning glass jars and small pots, you can use them as small containers to store odds and ends. We do this in school with the big baked beans tins that our canteen uses. Now they store headphones, stationery and all manner of things in classrooms!

Old clothes

You’ve all heard of hand-me-downs but old clothes can also be made into other textile items such as cushion covers or teapot cosies. Why don’t you try your hand at turning your clothes into a creation of something else?

Packaging 

Packaging like foil and egg cartons can be donated to schools and nurseries, where they can be use in art and craft projects. The children love junk modelling and with their imaginations can make foil in to the fantastic and egg cartons in to the extravagant!

Envelopes

A big reusable that I am now starting to see publishers doing which is very promising is with envelopes.  By sticking labels over the address you can reuse envelopes to send your mail!


Big thanks to Neal, Namishka and all the team at Hachette/Wren & Rook for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of the A Planet Full of Plastic blog tour and for sending me a copy in exchange for this review.

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the A Planet Full of Plastic blog tour for more exclusive guest posts from Neal, content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

 

Blog Tour (Author Q&A): Check Mates – Stewart Foster (Illustrated by Leo Nickolls)

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Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Check Mates
Author: Stewart Foster (@stewfoster1)
Cover artwork: Leo Nickolls (@leonickolls)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (@simonkids_uk)
Page count: 352
Date of publication: 27th June 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN:978-1471172236

Perfect for Year5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Chess ♟️
2. Relationships 🤝
3. Grandfather 👴


Felix Schopp isn’t a problem child.
He’s a child with a problem…

Felix’s ADHD makes it hard for him to concentrate and his grades are slipping. Everyone keeps telling him to try harder, but no one realises how hard it is!

When Mum suggests Felix spends time with his grandad, Felix can’t think of anything worse. Grandad hasn’t been since Grandma died, and he’s always trying to teach Felix boring chess.

But sometimes the best lessons come in the most unexpected of places and Grandad soon shows Felix that there’s everything to play for.


Today, I’m delighted to welcome Stewart to The Reader Teacher where he’ll be answering some of my questions about Check Mates, his reading and writing influences and why he’s a bit like his main character, Felix!

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Photo credit: Tallulah Foster

 


Check Mates (5)

  • At The Reader Teacher, for my reviews, I describe books in #3Words3Emojis.
    Which 3 adjectives and 3 corresponding emojis would you choose to best describe Check Mates?
    1. Touching
    2. Triumphant
    3. Historical

Sorry, I prefer words over emojis.

  • What books, people, research, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write Check Mates?

For experience of life in East Germany I read Anna Funder’s Staziland. For the experience of chess tournaments I used The Rookie, by John Moss. I researched online for the chess moves and had them checked and rechecked by an experienced club chess player. I also interviewed two children with ADHD along with two class support workers. I thought it very important to find out what it’s like to cope with having ADHD and how schools deal with this. Of course I also used my own experiences of ADHD, as it was very evident during the writing of the book because I wrote it in half-hour burst. I just couldn’t keep still any longer than that.

  • What was the most enjoyable part of writing Check Mates?

Discovering the characters and watching them grow, was my favourite part. I loved Felix, Granddad and Jake, and each morning when I sat at my computer it was like going back and meeting my friends. I found them all very easy to write, or maybe I should say, natural.

  • In Check Mates, the main game of the story is chess. Are you good at the game yourself, maybe a grandmaster? And how does your experiences of the game influence your writing about it?

I’m a total novice at chess, pretty rubbish to be honest. However, I did play at school and in one lunchtime I was winning a game comfortably until my opponent opened his lunchbox and pulled out a peanut butter sandwich. I hate peanut butter and the smell of it made me feel so sick I lost the game. I used the scene in Check Mates, with Felix, only I swapped peanut butter out for Doritos.

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

I’m a hybrid of Felix and Jake. I’m like Felix for the terrible attention span, and like Jake for the randomness of his acts without thinking of the consequences, even though he has good intentions. I also like to think I’m loyal to my mates, like he is to Felix.

Reading and Writing (4)

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

I used to write short stories and poems about my classmates in secondary school. At first, they were scared of what I’d write but after laughing at two stories they seemed to clamour to be the next one in line. It was huge fun, and much like the class comedian it made me quite popular, and we all want to be that. I loved writing in general, especially in English and History. In fact, my History teacher was a big fan until one day he said, ‘Stewart, I love your stories, but History is recollection of real events, not things you make up’. I remember us both laughing. I didn’t change the cause and outcomes of wars, but I did create a few bloody battles in between.

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

The first draft is the most fun by far. I don’t plan my novels, so each page is as unknown to me as it is to the reader. It keeps me fresh, but it does lead to a ‘scruffy’ first draft to send to my editor. And that’s when the exhausting bit kicks in, going over and over the whole story again.

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

I loved reading Bobby Brewster stories and when the author H E Todd came to my school, I was the happiest kid on the planet. He and his books smelt of tobacco and as he signed my copy, I told him I was writing a story about a crocodile that lived under my living room carpet. He said it was a great idea and that I should finish the story. I recall running home to tell my parents I’d met a real author and wrote the story that night by torchlight. It was the most exciting time and makes me realise the importance of talking but also listening to kids when I visit schools.

  • Currently, we seem to be living in a golden age of books, especially that of children’s literature. Can you recommend any other children’s books to children (and adults!) who may be interested in similar themes explored in your book or any that you would recommend?

It would have to be Lisa Thompson. She does a wonderful job of addressing some of the issues that affect youngsters today and does it in a way that doesn’t talk down to them. When I was writing All the Things that could go Wrong, I discovered The Goldfish Boy was coming out. Both our books featured a protagonist with OCD and for a while I considered stopping writing mine as she’d done it so well. However, thankfully I continued.  Like I tell keen writers, it’s okay to write on the same subjects or themes, after all, there’s more than one book or film about the Second World War.

Check Mates and Teaching (3)

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

A boy with ADHD learns that the best lessons come in the most unexpected places and from whom you least expect.

  • Could you suggest ways in which Check Mates could be used in the classroom for the many teachers and primary school staff that will read this and wish to use it in their schools?

I’d love to children to discuss or take part in activities to extend the reading experience, rather that have to study it piece by piece.

For example, they could talk to their grandparents and share stories about them in class. This could lead to empathy with Grandparents and understanding. What did they learn about their lives? What might child and Grandparent learn from each other.

Learn to play chess…link to maths, problem solving skills, planning, strategy, patience, focus and self-discipline. Promote discussions about sportsmanship and fair play.

Cold War, Berlin Wall are not usually studied in Primary schools, so a refreshing topic to raise and for children to be curious about. Promote discussion on separation and the value of family unit.

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

Now I’ve finally got a decent website, it’s best to contact me through there. Stewartfosterauthor.co.uk

Two more before you go (2)!

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

How does your deafness affect your writing? A young girl asked me this a couple of weeks ago and I thought it best question in a long while.

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

I’ve run London Marathon five times.

One last one… (1)!

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

Do you think children should be encouraged to read books that help them escape their problems or should they read books that tackle young people’s issues directly?


Thank you Stewart for answering my questions!


Check Mates is available now to order online and from any good independent bookshop.


Big thanks to Stewart and all the team at Simon & Schuster for inviting me to do an Author Q&A as part of the Check Mates blog tour and for sending me a proof and advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Stewart for answering my questions!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the Check Mates blog tour for more exclusive guest posts from Stewart, content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): The Adventures of Harry Stevenson – Ali Pye

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‘Reminiscent of a rodent-style Mr Bean, Harry Stevenson will become a firm favourite for readers. These books could be the ones that start and keep a child reading.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Adventures of Harry Stevenson
Author & illustrator: Ali Pye (@alipyeillo)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (@simonkids_UK)
Page count: 192
Date of publication: 13th June 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1471170232

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

#3Words3Emojis:
1. GuineaPig 🐹
2. Adventures🎈
3. Hilarious 😄


Meet Harry Stevenson. At first glance, he doesn’t seem any different from your average guinea pig. He can’t do magic, or talk, or secretly fly around the room when nobody is looking.

But don’t be fooled. You see, although Harry Stevenson just wants to sleep and eat (and then eat some more), somehow he always manages to get swept up on the most unexpected of adventures…


Review:

What could be better than being a guinea pig, eh? Eating… sleeping… and then eating some more sounds like quite the lifestyle to have. However Harry Stevenson is not just your average guinea pig. When life events like moving house and having a house party bring more than just a little mischief to Harry’s life, it’s up to long-time companion Billy Smith to save him from his daring and slightly dangerous exploits that he finds himself embarking on.

Flying over the town and ending up in the middle of one of the most important football matches in the local team’s history, Harry becomes swept up in swathes of shenanigans and does not do things by halves.

One of the features that will be enjoyed most throughout both tales is Harry and Billy’s unique bond of friendship, which is heartfelt, empathetic and will completely capture many of its readers’ hearts. It is clear to see that the pair understand each other fully and one would definitely not work without the other.

Coupled with Ali’s stories are her inimitable, expressive illustrations in brilliant shades of fluorescent orange which (you need to see below as they) really ensure that these stupendously good stories stand out on the shelf. Perfect for fans of illustrated fiction and who love Olga da Polga and Piggy Handsome, this guinea pig – who reminds me of a rodent-style Mr Bean – sits alone in being an entirely original creation from its two predecessors and is surely set to become a firm favourite among its readers who will be asking for more adventures. These books could be the ones that start and keep a child reading.

As it says within the pages of this story, there’s only one Harry Stevenson… well except when you’ve got two of his adventures packed into one gloriously hilarious book. I’m hoping for another two or maybe three in the next one!


‘Reminiscent of a rodent-style Mr Bean, Harry Stevenson will become a firm favourite for readers. These books could be the ones that start and keep a child reading.’


Life Lessons from Harry Stevenson

Lots of people think that because guinea pigs don’t do much apart from laze in the hay scoffing carrots, they can’t be very clever. Some* have even gone as far as describing them as ‘mindless balls of fluff.’ How wrong they are. Guinea pigs are thoughtful and sensitive types, and I’m sure that far from sitting mindlessly in their cages, they are actually pondering the meaning of life and other perplexing conundrums. It has been said that ‘leisure is the mother of philosophy’: that’s certainly the case with guinea pigs, as they have plenty of time to observe the world and mull over what they’ve seen.

I suspect that guinea pigs hide their intellect very carefully, happy to be underestimated if it means they are well fed and cared for whilst they get on with the important business of thinking. However, being a very kind and generous creature, Harry Stevenson has agreed to share a few nuggets of wisdom with us – in return for a few edible guinea pig nuggets, of course…

The Meaning of Life

Harry has been part of the Smith family for as long as he can remember: he lives with seven-year-old Billy Smith and Billy’s mum and dad, in a small and cosy flat. From his cage in Billy’s room, Harry has observed the Smiths and drawn several important conclusions. The most significant of these is the Meaning of Life itself! This, Harry has decided, is to love Billy and be loved in return. Mr and Mrs Smith appear to share this view, so it must be true. Harry thinks it could possibly apply to other families, so there you go – love and be loved. Pass it on!

‘No squeak, no spinach’ 9781471170232.in04.jpg

If you want something in life you need to put some effort into getting it. For example, Harry adores food. But those carrots in the Smith family’s fridge won’t come to Harry by themselves; they have to be worked for. A noisy WHEEK often does the trick and brings Billy running, bearing a tasty snack. If not, Harry needs to try harder, perhaps with some flashy jumps in the hay, or a charming scamper around his cage. Billy will be entranced and fetch the carrots: bingo!

Sometimes you have to be bold

9781471170232.in03.jpgDespite Harry’s best efforts to live a quiet and uneventful life, he has often been led astray by his greedy stomach, resulting in some tricky dilemmas. Faced with the choice of never seeing the Smiths again, or jumping on the back of a big scary dog, Harry has needed to be brave and ride that Alsatian. Similar leaps of faith have involved Harry hurling himself from a wall into the basket of a passing bicycle, and from the back of the dog onto a pizza-delivery driver’s moped. The life lesson here is: take a deep breath and face your fears!

Home is where the heart is9781471170232.in02.jpg
Having experienced excitement and drama, Harry can confirm that there really is no place like home. Thrilling adventures are all very well, but nothing can compare to spending time with people you love – preferably on a squashy sofa, watching a nature documentary, with a bunch of carrots to work through.

Eat Five a Day

You simply can’t have enough vegetables. Harry wouldn’t elaborate on this unfortunately, as he was too busy tucking into a stalk of celery.

ALI PYE Jan19 300dpi.jpgI do hope these Life Lessons are useful. If Harry Stevenson imparts any more guinea pig wisdom, you will be the first to know.

*Like my husband. He knows better now.


Ali Pye, author of The Adventures of Harry Stevenson


Big thanks to Ali, Olivia and all the team at Simon & Schuster for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of the The Adventures of Harry Stevenson blog tour and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Ali for writing such a brilliant guest post!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the The Adventures of Harry Stevenson blog tour for more exclusive guest posts from Ali, content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!