Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): Nevertell – Katharine Orton (Illustrated by Sandra Dieckmann)


‘Gorgeously-evocative writing from a book that is guaranteed to be a winter winner. Fans of The Wolf Wilder, Sky Song, The Wolf Princess and The Tzar’s Curious Runaways should start with this.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Nevertell
Author: Katharine Orton (@KatharineOrton)
Illustrator: Sandra Dieckmann (@sandradieckmann)
Publisher: Walker (@WalkerBooksUK)
Page count: 384
Date of publication: 7th November 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1406385182

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

1. Escape 🏃‍♀️
2. Bravery 💪
3. Sorcery ✨

Sometimes it take a little courage to discover magic.

Eleven-year-old Lina has never seen the world beyond the prison camp until the night she escapes with her best friend, Bogdan. As the pair journey across a snowy Russian wilderness, they are pursued by a vengeful sorceress and her pack of shadow wolves. The children will need every ounce of bravery – and a little sorcery of their own – if they are to survive… 


Set in the uninhabited wilds of Siberia, this winter-bound story starts by introducing to our protagonist Lina. Born in a Soviet prison camp, she has no idea about the outside world after being confined to the surroundings of the camp for all her eleven years. After years of her young life of seeing the people around her being forced into labour, she seizes upon a chance to escape what’s she always been used to. However, this does come at an initial cost, the fact that she has to leave her mother, Katya, behind. At least initially.

Leaving one night is no easy task, and their escape is nearly thwarted when Lina comes face to face with the camp’s Commandant who Lina believes is as close to a father as she has ever known…

However, with a rag-tag group of campmates – Old Gleb, Alexei and Vadim – she leaves the camp only to find that the grass isn’t greener, or should I say the snow isn’t whiter beyond the fence. There is a line within the book that will always stay with me after reading this and it not only perfectly describes the treacherous conditions of the cold that Lina faces but also the way in which Katharine evokes a sense of atmosphere within her gorgeously-illustrative writing and that is “The coldness reached its fingers inside her skull.”

A little way after embarking on their journey, the group begin to hear footsteps and feel as if they may be attacked. However, lucky for Lina, they soon realise that they’ve got company. Company in the form of Lina’s friend from camp, Bogdan. As the group journey further on into the stretches of snow in search of Lina’s grandmother who is appearently located in Moscow, their journey becomes more intensified. Such that they are at the mercy of a sorceress and her pack of shadow wolves who get nearer and nearer…

Will they make the arduous trek across the tundra to safety? Or will they have to dig deep to find the courage they need to conquer the sorceress, her shadow wolves and the freezing cold?

Fans of The Wolf Wilder, Sky Song, The Wolf Princess and The Tzar’s Curious Runaways should start with this. A book that is guaranteed to be a winter winner with all of its readers. I simply can’t wait to read Katharine’s next!

How fairytales inspired Nevertell

Nevertell is deeply inspired by fairy tales. Russian and Slavic ones in particular, which are among my favourites in the world, and which made the most sense to draw on since that’s where the story’s set. They’re part of the fabric of the book, but I’ve never told anyone which particular one inspired Nevertell the most. There’s a little clue towards the end of the book, but that’s all.

For a long time Nevertell had brewed in my head in a nameless, shapeless kind of way. I wanted it to be mainly for children and set in the Soviet Union of the 1950s because, for many reasons, it’s a place and a period of history I’ve been fascinated in my whole life. So I’d been thinking about this story when I came across an amazing book called Inside the Rainbow, where I learned that fairy tales – the magical, fantastical kind that I love so much – were not to be told to children at that particular time in the Soviet Union.

This really got me thinking. About what that would have been like for people with such a rich history of magical fairy tales and folklore – and why such a decision might have been made. On top of this I wondered how a magical world and those from it would cope with that. How might they push back? Baba Yaga wouldn’t like it, I knew that much. What of Vasilissa the Beautiful, or Koschei the Deathless? Could the relics of these other worlds – of our imaginations – be pushed out that easily? From these questions, Nevertell was born.

Now I had the spark for my story, I did more research, which also included my two favourite things: reading about history and about fairy tales. I rediscovered that Slavic folklore is populated with all kinds of nature spirits and supernatural beings, including animal helpers who pop up to aid the protagonists in their hour of need, usually in exchange for an earlier kindness: help, or food. During the story, my main character Lina meets a little moth who becomes important later – and the idea for it sprang partly from this.

There’s also a sorceress called Svetlana in Nevertell who pursues Lina and her best friend with shadow wolves, and you quickly learn that she herself is otherworldly. Some of the characters liken her to the fearsome witch from Russian stories, Baba Yaga. But it’s actually another fairy tale character altogether that relates closest to Svetlana – and she’s from the story which also helped inspire Nevertell.

It’s called The Stone Flower. It’s about an apprentice stone carver who longs to improve his craft and create true beauty. He’s heard of a beautiful “stone flower”, but it’s in the realm of the Mistress of the Copper Mountain, and those who go there never return. I’ll leave you to read about exactly what happens to the apprentice stone carver when he finally does go in search of the stone flower (there’s even a sequel involving his fearless fiancée, Katya), but you guessed it: Svetlana’s character is in part inspired by the Mistress of the Copper Mountain.

So while the knowledge that fairy tales weren’t to be told to children is what helped spark Nevertell into being, it was actually one fairy tale, the tale of The Stone Flower, that gave Nevertell its (mountain-shaped) heart. And, perhaps, when you’ve read both, you might even spy The Stone Flower’s influences on Nevertell in other ways, too.

Big thanks to Katharine and all the team at Walker for inviting me to be a part of the Nevertell blog tour and for sending me an advance copy.

Extra thanks to Katharine for writing such an insightful guest post!

Mr E


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

Blog Tour (Review & Author Q&A): Shadow – Lucy Christopher (Illustrated by Anastasia Suvorova)

‘Ethereal, touching and unique by design… Shadow’s symbolism of inner strength showcases the true meaning of togetherness.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Shadow
Author: Lucy Christopher (@LucyCAuthor)
Illustrator: Anastastia Suvorova
Publisher: Lantana (@lantanapub)
Page count: 40
Date of publication: 7th November 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1911373834

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

1. Shadow 🖤
2. Family 👩‍👧
3. Togetherness 🤝

In our old home, Ma told me there was nothing to be scared of. No monsters hiding behind doors, or in wardrobes, or under beds. She said there were no dark places at all. But in the new house, under my new bed, THAT’s where I found Shadow.


They say don’t judge a book by its cover but my goodness, I want to judge this book based on this one. Not only is it bordering on one of the most beautiful I have seen, but it’s one of the most uniquely beautiful. Unique in its own way because it doesn’t only entice you to read this story but it pulls you in because you can’t help but want this story to be told.

As the protagonist in this story – a young girl who’s left nameless throughout – describes, the book begins with a new house move, once reminiscing about their fearless feelings towards their old house. No dark places at all. But this soon changes for our main character who upon living in her new house finds a shadow, or Shadow, under her new bed in amongst the cobwebs and dust.

When the pages become somewhat more ethereal-looking rather than eerie, we realise that Shadow is more than a character, and is symbolic of the family dynamic between mother and child. A friend for our friendless character who isn’t seen by the mother but is by the child.

With their friendship developing, they strike up quite the bond between them whilst also keeping the darkness at bay. But still, it is Ma who cannot see Shadow. And sometimes, she doesn’t properly ‘see’ life for days, alluding to her state of mind. With the young girl focused on her new friendship, things take a turn for the worse when Shadow leads her into the woods and merges into the darkness with the others, leaving our already-isolated character feeling even more alone.

However when it feels like all is lost, there’s always a speck of light that floods life back into the pages of this touching tale, and thus emerging with it a small sense of hope which this story excellently delivers within it. To sum this story up in a sentence, it’s symbolism of inner strength showcases the true meaning of togetherness. One that should be used in the junior classroom as a springboard to many much-needed conversations for children.

Author Q&A: Lucy Christopher


At The Reader Teacher, for my reviews, I describe books in #3Words3Emojis.
Which 3 emojis would you choose to best describe Shadow?

1. ❄️
2. 💡
3. 👩‍👧

Which books, people, research, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write Shadow?

I think Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak is an obvious inspiration. Sendak’s story is also psychological and child focused.  His exploration of anger is similar in style to my exploration of loneliness within SHADOW.

In terms of other research and inspiration, about three years ago I undertook a foundation year’s study in psychotherapy. The exploration we did during this course about the ‘shadow self’ made me wonder about a literal meaning – if we were to actually meet our shadow self, what would they look like, what might we do together?

What was the most enjoyable part of writing Shadow?

I wrote the first draft very fast, in one go, just throwing words down on the page. It was done in under an hour.

Do you remember how you felt when you saw the marvellous illustrations by Anastasia Suvorova? What do you feel they bring to the book?

Oh, I was completely blown away by them. They’re absolutely beautiful and so right. They add so much to this story. I think the colours and tones that Anastasia uses really add to the feeling of transition within the story – moving from a place of loneliness to a place of coming together / cosiness. They also add to the fairy tale / fable quality within the story. And on a very literal level, Anastasia’s addition of the ‘Shadow-cat’ at the end is a stroke of genius.

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

It would be the protagonist. I was a child who moved house five times by the time I was as many years old (as well as moving countries three times). By then my parents had also separated, with my father moving back to Australia while my mum and I moved to live with my Grandma in Wales. I was a lonely child, without siblings or friends. When I was nine, we did it all again – moving back to Australia. It was hard to be uprooted so many times as a young child.

Reading and Writing (4)

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

I loved writing at school – it was my favourite thing to do in lessons. I was attracted to writing from an early age. As soon as I could write, I was always writing letters. When I was in Wales, I wrote to friends back in Australia. When I was in Australia, I wrote to family in Wales. I had loads of pen-pals, sometimes I would buy notebooks and fill them with one long letter to send to my friends.

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

Thinking of and daydreaming about new ideas is always the most exciting part of writing for me. I love the sense of possibility that a new idea brings with it – the feeling that you could go anywhere and do anything with this.  The hardest part for me is finding the courage to get to the end of the first draft, battling the self-doubt and anxiety that always arrives around the half-way mark to tell me the project isn’t working, or it’s too hard, or I don’t know how to finish it!

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?

Absolutely – all the time! My contact with authors as a young person is definitely one of the reasons I became a reader and then later a writer. I wrote regularly to authors. Some of them even wrote back – I had a letter-writing friendship with one of my writing heroes, John Marsden, who I am still friends with today. John Marsden even wrote the book cover endorsement for my first novel, Stolen, when it was published in Australia.  My school was great at bringing in visiting authors and illustrators – some of my favourite times at school were when these special guests came in. I remember these visits really clearly still!

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?

There are so many wonderful books out there, you’re right! Well, I spoke earlier about my love for Where the Wild Things are, so I would obviously recommend that. I would also really recommend John Marsden, the author I spoke of above, particularly for his emotional and hard-hitting books for young adults (the Tomorrow When the War Began series is amazing) but also for his picture books (The Rabbits is a mature exploration of colonisation from the perspective of the colonised). My favourite picture book I have read recently is Cicada by Shaun Tan – another mature and confronting book about the loneliness of the migrant worker. On a lighter note, I loved Raine Telgemeier’s new book, Guts  – a funny and charming book about dealing with scary things.

Shadow and Teaching (3)

If you were to ‘pitch’ Shadow 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 a new house, a young child finds a shadow under the bed who she makes friends, and mischief, with; it’s a story about loneliness and sadness and, ultimately, of coming together.

Could you suggest ways in which Shadow 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 think SHADOW could be particularly useful for exploring feelings of loneliness and sadness. Teachers could explore the book through looking at its stylistic features – its illustration, setting, colours – and how these change as the story progresses.  Teachers could also ask children to think about what the shadow might mean to them – does it only come out when the child is lonely, sad? Might the shadow come back again to help comfort the child when she is lonely and sad at another time?  does the Shadow-cat mean at the end?  What would their own shadows look like if they found a literal shadow under the bed – or somewhere else – and what things would they do with them if they could get up to anything? Perhaps the children could draw or make their own shadows, and then talk about their own experiences of being lonely or sad.

There might also be some scope for talking about a relationship with a parent – possibly a single parent – and how a child might be able to help them sometimes too. How the two could comfort each other.

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?

I love to do school visits, and have lots of experience.  It would be best to contact me through either my website – – or my email,

Two more before you go (2)!

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

Tell me how riding a horse is similar to writing a story!

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

I can do some pretty fantastic expressions of a kookaburra, a crying baby, and a dolphin!

One last one… (1)!

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

Can I ask two? 🙂

  • What difficult topics would you like to see being explored in a picture book?
  • Do you use picture books in teaching / reading with older children, too?

Shadow is available in good UK, US, Canadian and Australian bookshops or you can purchase it from Lantana’s website here:

For every book purchased from our website, Lantana Publishing will donate a book to children’s hospitals in the UK.

Big thanks to Lucy and all the team at Lantana for inviting me to be a part of the Shadow blog tour and for sending me an advance copy.

Extra thanks to Lucy for her brilliant answers to my questions!

Mr E

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

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): Black Water – Barbara Henderson (Illustrated by Sandra McGowan)

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‘Exquisite writing… every word is used for effect. This story is not only one of legend and lore, but one of pulsating action and adventure eagerly awaiting its readers.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Black Water
Author: Barbara Henderson (@scattyscribbler)
Publisher: Cranachan (@cranachanbooks)
Page count: 88
Date of publication: 31st October 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1911279624

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

1. Smuggling 🛢️
2. Poetry ✍️
3. Father-son 👨‍👦

Down by the coast, black water swirls and hides its secrets…

Dumfries, 1792.
Henry may only be thirteen, but he has already begun his training in the Excise, combatting smuggling like his father does. But when a large, smuggling schooner is stranded nearby, the stakes are high – even with reinforcements, and the newly recruited officer, a poet called Robert Burns.

Musket fire, obstructive locals, quicksand and cannonballs – it is a mission of survival. As it turns out: Henry has a crucial part to play…


Historical fiction and short stories, for me, are rather something of hidden gems in the children’s literature world. There’s such a dearth of both quantity and quality in the two genres that when I see a book that is set especially in a time period which has not been written about in detail before, I am thrilled and this is exactly how I felt when I cast my eyes over Black Water to see it satisfying both these untapped criteria.

As teenager Henry Lewars finds himself out at sea and hiding in the shadows of his father, he finds too that he has a lot to learn in following in his father’s footsteps and getting the hang of working for the Excise. It’s 1792, in the early hours of the morning and Henry, his father and their fellow officers are floating on the Solway Firth, determined to chase and catch the oncoming smugglers and their contraband whom are looming large. As they bring their captives and evidence ashore, it seems that Henry has, according to his father, done ‘tolerably well’ in one of his first missions.

But all is not quiet in the Firth for long… as news of an even larger ship – a schooner by the name of the Rosamund – has been spotted. As Henry and his father depart to take down these tax evaders on the orders of Riding Officer, Mr Walter Crawford, they realise however that they may need more reinforcements. One of them, a very famous one who is more known for his poetry (some of which is featured within Black Water) than his involvement as an Exciseman: Robert Burns.

Will Henry survive? Will he not only learn how to work for the Excise but finally earn the respect of his father? How does the bard help in their quest to board the Rosamund? And who is Old Finlay… a character who from the start holds more than a mystery about him?

With musket fire, cannon fire, bribery, quicksand, a race against the tide and battle-hardened sailors, this story is not only one of legend and lore, but one of pulsating action and adventure eagerly awaiting its readers. Barbara’s level of research is second-to-none and from reading her author’s note, a brief history of smuggling in Scotland and extracts from Crawford’s journal and Burns’ poetry itself, you can see how every word is used exquisitely for full effect and so proves that good things come in small packages.

Burns and me, we have history
by Barbara Henderson


I have a terrible admission to make. Until I was 19 years old, I had never ever heard of Robert Burns.

I’m not kidding. Having grown up in Germany, I could recite Goethe and Schiller and had read a smattering of the German classics. I had covered some Shakespeare in English lesons at school, but Scots? My teachers would have run a mile! It was their job to produce an accent akin to BBC presenters in the 60s, crystal clear and a little old fashioned. Any deviation from this was frowned upon and avoided at all cost.

Imagine my surprise when I arrived at Edinburgh University to study English Literature and, in a moment of madness, signed up to do Scottish Lit instead (the two were interchangeable and I fancied learning something new). I came to regret it – fluent in English, I was an absolute beginner when it came to Scots words – and Burns used quite a few of those! I bought a trusty second-hand copy of his works and set to work. It didn’t take long before there was a connection – I took to the romanticist element in his work (I had loved the same in Goethe) and there was something phonetically truthful in these words. Here was a poet who was making a point, taking a risk: deliberately including the language of ordinary people in literature. Here was someone deeply flawed, but at the same time drawn to goodness and virtue. Someone who believed in an egalitarian society before we were anywhere approaching that – and we still have some way to go! Someone who wrote poetry about mice and lice, all the way commenting on society as he saw it. One of my favourites is Holy Willie’s Prayer – exposing religious hypocrisy in a humorous way, digging at double standards.

Traditional Burns’ Suppers became a January fixture in our house (and our best friends got together at one of those!).

It’s always an occasion, and a joyous one at that. What’s not to love? Whenever in Edinburgh, I still pop into the Writers’ Museum to have my wee fix of Burns, Stevenson and Scott. One year I even persuaded the family that we really, really wanted to holiday in Dumfries – I was interested in visiting the place where he had lived. It hadn’t occurred to me that the poet would feature in one of my stories until I found out about the incredible events surrounding the seizure of the Rosamund, the real events that underpin Black Water. How on earth has no-one written for kids about this? It is a gift! It features the poet, but in his day job as an Exciseman which he took on as he needed a reliable income – but it is clear that his heart was in his poetry. This posed an interesting idea for me: What would he be like? How would he treat a child? Would he be likeable? I decided that yes, flawed as he was, he would have been likeable! He was passionate about his art, and that is as appealing today as I’m sure it was then.

It seems that, nearly 30 years after I first encountered him, I’m still a little charmed by the bard.

Big thanks to Barbara and all the team at Cranachan for inviting me to be a part of the Black Water blog tour and for sending me an advance copy.

Extra thanks to Barbara for writing such an insightful guest post!

Mr E

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

Blog Tour (Resources: Grace-Ella: Spells for Beginners) – Grace Ella: Witch Camp – Sharon Marie Jones (Illustrated by Adriana Puglisi)

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Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Grace-Ella: Witch Camp
Author: Sharon Marie Jones (@sharonmariej)
Illustrator: Adriana Puglisi
Publisher: Firefly Press (@FireflyPress)
Page count: 160
Date of publication: 30th September 2019
Series status: Second in the Grace-Ella series
ISBN: 978-1913102067

Perfect for Year 2, Year 3 and Year 4.

1. Witch 🧙
2. Friendship 👭
3. Cat 🐱

Grace-Ella is nervous and excited to go to Witch Camp, with her cat Mr Whiskins, of course. She is put in a cabin with Dilys, Mati and Aisha. Grace-Ella likes them all.

But when Dilys’s broomstick flying goes very wrong, and Mati convinces them breaking the rules and going into the woods at night is the only way to help her, Grace-Ella finds herself on a real adventure.

Will she be able to save her friends?

To celebrate the publication of Grace-Ella: Witch Camp and this blog tour, I’m delighted to host these excellent teaching resources produced by Sharon for first book in the series, Grace-Ella: Spells for Beginners.

You can download them below!

Spells for Beginners Teaching Resources

Big thanks to Sharon, Meg and all the team at Firefly Press for inviting me to be a part of the Grace-Ella: Witch Camp blog tour and for sending me a advance copy.

Mr E

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Be sure to check out the rest of the Grace-Ella: Witch Camp blog tour for more exclusive content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!


Blog Tour (Review): Invisible in a Bright Light – Sally Gardner (Illustrated by Helen Crawford-White)

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‘Past meets present in this most fantastical of fairytales… I can categorically say that there is no-one else who writes with the same unique imagination of Sally Gardner.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Invisible in a Bright Light
Author: Sally Gardner (@TheSallyGardner)
Cover illustrator: Helen Crawford-White (@studiohelen)
Publisher: Zephyr (@_ZephyrBooks)
Page count: 320
Date of publication: 17th October 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1786695222

Perfect for Year 6 and Year 7.

1. Chandelier 🕯️
2. Theatre 🎭
3. Game 🎲

It is 1870: opening night at the Royal Opera House in a freezing city by the sea, where a huge, crystal chandelier in the shape of a galleon sparkles magically with the light of 750 candles.

Celeste, a theatre rat, wakes up in a costume basket from what she hopes is a bad dream, to find that everyone at the theatre where she works thinks she is someone else.

When the chandelier falls, she is haunted by a strange girl who claims to know Celeste’s past and why she must risk playing a game called the Reckoning to try to save the people she loves.


Waking up in a costume basket in the theatre, Celeste thinks she’s just been on the receiving end of a bad dream. However it can only get worse for her when she finds everyone at the theatre where she works thinks she is someone else much grander than she actually is – a dancer preparing for her performance. When she can’t find her mother and someone calls her by a different name, it seems that Celeste – an orphan who’s at the bottom of the theatre pecking order as she runs everyone’s errands – soon realises she is in far deeper into a mystical world than she initially thought.

As the strangeness of the events gets stranger still, a crystal chandelier in the shape of galleon crashes down from the Royal Opera House’s ceiling leaving Celeste injured and unable to dance. Owing to this seemingly at first random accident, Celeste begins to see her former life through a ghostly somebody else who seems to know more about Celeste than she does and plays her part in the Reckoning herself with past meeting present head-on.

From the very first chapter, this story holds you in the palm of its hand with its plot that tantalisingly unfolds and its exceedingly imaginative array of characters from a mysterious man in an emerald green suit that haunts Celeste’s mind from the beginning to his game of the Reckoning which is, in itself, like a character of its very own with its truly terrific twists and turns.

I can categorically say that there is no-one else who writes with the same unique imagination of Sally Gardner. Reading her readers’ note in the proof copy of the inspirations behind this story of a women keeping a chandelier shining in the Royal Opera House in Copenhagen really showcases the quality of how she mixes fact with fiction to create the most fantastical of fairytales.

Big thanks to Sally, Jade and all the team at Zephyr Books for inviting me to be a part of the Invisible in a Bright Light blog tour on publication day and for sending me a signed proof copy.

Mr E

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Be sure to check out the rest of the Invisible in a Bright Light blog tour for more exclusive content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review & Author Q&A): The International Yeti Collective – Paul Mason (Illustrated by Katy Riddell)

‘The kind of book you wish your parents had read to you as a child. An emotionally intelligent, absorbing adventure that carries at its heart the most wonderful message of being at one with nature. Are you YETI for this?’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The International Yeti Collective
Author: Paul Mason
Illustrator: Katy Riddell (@RiddellKaty)
Publisher: Stripes (@StripesBooks)
Page count: 288
Date of publication: 17th October 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1788950848

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

1. Yeti 👹
2. Friendship 🤝
3. Nature 🏔️

We’re stronger together than apart. Particularly at times like this, when danger lands at our feet.

Ella is on a yeti-hunting expedition in the Himalayas with her uncle Jack, a celebrity explorer. She’s expecting an amazing trip, but nothing more. Everyone knows that yeti don’t exist.

Tick is a young yeti who can’t help but ask questions. What is beyond the mountain he calls home? Are humans really as bad as everyone says they are?

When Tick’s curiosity sets off a chain of events that threatens the entire yeti community, Ella is swept up in the adventure. Can the unlikely pair work together to protect the yeti before it’s too late?

They’re going to need help. Help from The International Yeti Collective.


As Ella Stern whiles away her time on an expedition with her uncle Jack in the middle of the Himalayas, she’s in a world of her own dreaming up headlines of encountering the mystical and magical Yeti. Unfortunately for her, the yeti have been proven to not exist and all previous encounters judged as fake… so it becomes a bit of a pipe dream for her in more ways than one.

Nevertheless, unperturbed by this, her Uncle Jack is intent on filming his latest nature show in the middle of the mountain range. Making sure all the camera shots are happening, the crew set up various cameras in particular hotspots and it’s only upon checking the last reel of film (and the scent of a ‘barnyard that hasn’t been cleaned in ages’) does Ella realise that they may have come across exactly what they’ve been searching for.

On the flip side of this story however is Tick, a young yeti. Unfortunately for him, he’s extra curious after learning that his mother wanted to find out more about humans and you know what they say with curiosity killing the cat yeti and as a result of this, his yeti community put him in front of their Elders for further questioning and thanks to their decision, they banish him from their collective and sett, and in turn set Tick and Ella off on the wildest chain of events…

Told through this double narrative, this is an emotionally intelligent, absorbing adventure that carries at its heart the most wonderful message of being at one with nature. Perfect for fans of H. S. Norup, Sinéad O’Hart and Abi Elphinstone… this is the kind of book you wish your parents had read to you as a child. One of my absolute favourite reads of the year. 

Are you YETI for this?

P.S. After reading this, I discovered (or made up!) my own yeti name – Page (he who must read).

Meet the Author – Paul Mason

I’m delighted to welcome Paul Mason, author of the International Yeti Collective to The Reader Teacher to answer questions about his book and some quick-fire questions!


Photo: Emma Hughes

  1. Can you sum up The International Yeti Collective in a paragraph?

When young yeti Tick leads a group of humans to his front door, the yeti are forced to flee. In their panic, the ancient yeti slabs are abandoned—soon finding their way into human hands. If the slabs are deciphered, every Yeti, Sasquatch and Bigfoot will be in danger, not to mention their vital role in helping the Earth. Now Tick and his friends must set off on a quest to rescue the slabs before it’s too late.  Along the way they get help from an unexpected source…

  1. What were your favourite books when you were growing up?

Anything Roald Dahl, but Danny the Champion of the World is my pick. The closeness between Danny and his dad is heart-warming.

  1. What are the three main things a reader will find in your books?

Paper, ink and words—words like kerfuffle.

  1. Did you always want to be a writer? Have you had different jobs before you were an author? Do you think a variety of work experiences has helped you to write?

I started writing for enjoyment and thinking I could be a writer when I was in high school and college, but I lost sight of it over the years.  Then when I became a Dad and a teacher, I rediscovered my joy in telling stories.  In between, I’ve carried antique furniture, covered lots of ground in restaurants and been a primary school teacher. All part of who I am–but my years as a teacher really influenced my writing.

  1. Where do you get your ideas from, and how do you store them?

As Roald Dahl says: “watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets lie in the most unlikely places.” I carry around a little black book and a fountain pen to catch them before they disappear.

  1. The environment and conservation are main themes in The International Yeti Collective. Do you think storytelling is an effective medium for getting people engaged in real-world issues?

I hope so.  My aim in The International Yeti Collective and some of my short stories is to get readers to consider and appreciate the things we have in nature, and what’s at stake if we lose it.

  1. How much of Paul Mason is reflected in your characters?

Tall, big feet, a good set of teeth. I could be a yeti.

  1. You are in a library with a 12-year-old who claims that they don’t like reading… Which 3 books would you reach for to try to change their mind?

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and Holes by Louis Sachar.

  1. What’s the best and worst things about being an author?

The best thing is that I get to play with words and tell stories. Working with amazing illustrators like Katy Riddell is also a real privilege. Seeing my characters come alive through pictures—wow! The worst thing? The times of self-doubt when I can hardly seem to string a sentence together.

  1. Do you have any advice for budding writers?

Read often. Write often. Watch the world. Tell your stories. You have a voice like no other, it’s important you share it.


  1. 3 words that describe you:

Tall, friendly, humorous (or so my daughter says.)

  1. Favourite time of the day?

Climbing into bed at the end of the day is pretty hard to beat.

  1. 3 random facts about you:

I live on a small island. Spike Milligan once wrote me a letter. A 150 year old leather boot sits on my desk.

  1. Go-to snack?

Prawn cocktail crisps.

  1. The best advice you ever got:

To thine own self be true: Shakespeare via my Dad.

  1. “If I could go anywhere in the world right now, I’d head for…”

In the stands on the halfway line at the Arsenal, just in time for kick-off.

  1. If I could time-travel, I’d set the counter for the year …

Somewhere around AD 170,

Because… To pick the brains of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. I might have to learn some Latin first.

  1. An easy way to be a bit more green:

Cut down on food waste. Help your family plan meals. Buy only what you need.

  1. Your dream place to curl up with a book?

The sofa in front of a crackling fire, with Kipling my cat on my lap.

  1. The 3 books you’d like to get for your next birthday:

The Adventures of Alexander Von Humboldt by Andrea Wulf and Lillian Melcher; Adventures of a Young Naturalist by Sir David Attenborough; Art Matters by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell.

Big thanks to Paul, Katy, Leilah and all the team at Stripes Books for inviting me to kick off The International Yeti Collective blog tour and for involving me in this book’s release all the way along from proof to finished copy, including having my quote wonderfully published within it. This means the world!

Extra thanks to Paul for answering these questions!

Mr E


Be sure to check out the rest of The International Yeti Collective blog tour for more exclusive guest posts from Sibéal & content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review, Extract & Guest Post): Mother Tongue – Patricia Forde (Illustrated by Elissa Webb)

Mother Tongue.jpg

‘For Letta is one of the best heroines I have come across in a book. Steadfast, strong and unwaveringly resilient, she is the driving force behind why this series is becoming so revered.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Mother Tongue
Author: Patricia Forde (@PatriciaForde1)
Cover illustrator: Elissa Webb
Publisher: Little Island (@LittleIslandBks)
Page count: 224
Date of publication: 12th September 2019
Series status: Second in The Wordsmith series (Standalone)
ISBN: 978-1912417278

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

1. Words 🔤
2. Missing ❌
3. Heroine 💪

After global warming came the Melting. Then came Ark.

The new dictator of Ark wants to silence speech for ever. But Letta is the wordsmith, tasked with keeping words alive. Out in the woods, she and the rebels secretly teach children language, music and art.

Now there are rumours that babies are going missing. When Letta makes a horrifying discovery, she has to find a way to save the children of Ark – even if it is at the cost of her own life. 


With its themes of climate change and global warming, political power, truth versus lies and oppressive regimes, and set in an apocalyptic, dystopian future, you could say that this story has aspects that ring true to a future that isn’t actually that far from home in today’s political climate.

In this stand-alone sequel to The Wordsmith, the new dictator of Ark wants to silence speech for ever. But protagonist Letta, the wordsmith, is tasked with keeping words alive. For Letta is one of the best heroines I have come across in a book. Steadfast, strong and unwaveringly resilient, she is the driving force behind why this series is becoming so revered. As the evolution of language becomes less and less with each generation, Letta fights back against the system. But as she does, she uncovers more discoveries than she could have ever imagined… Will one of these discoveries be the death of her?

Freedom of speech, a world so well realised and a main character with more than a sense of gutsy determination all are on offer for the reader here and it is with all of these at play that readers – both children and adults – should make Mother Tongue one not to be missed of their To Be Read piles. If you’re looking for more, The Wordsmith (Book 1) is a must.

For those intrigued by my review, you can read more in this extract below:


Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

This is the question I get asked most often at school events and it is a difficult question to answer.

Writers are hoarders, I find. We hoard images, snippets of conversation, stories from the local newspaper. This stash of inspiration is kept in our heads or hopefully in a notebook or on a computer file until we need it. When I wrote The Wordsmith the process started with a single image. I imagined a girl, called Letta, working in a shop selling words. I had no idea who she was or why she was selling words but I could see the location clearly. A big wooden counter and behind that rows of pigeon holes. Each pigeon hole held a box and each box held cards. Each card had a word written on it. I could hear Letta’s voice talking to her customers – did they want words for everyday colours or something more elaborate? The standard box had words like blue and black and white in it but the special box had cerise and indigo and violet. Slowly, over days and weeks and months I discovered her story. She wasn’t selling words, she was distributing them. She was distributing them because by law people were only allowed to have five hundred words. Show don’t tell, everyone said, so I set about showing this strange law in action.

In the first chapter of The Wordsmith we see Letta’s master learning that from now on citizens of Ark will be given a list of five hundred words and they are the only words they are allowed to use.

Writers, by and large, are divided into those who plan their novels and those who do not. I belong in the latter camp. My challenge with The Wordsmith was to uncover this strange world, why it came to be, why language was rationed and what my protagonist was going to do about it.

Standing back from it now, I can see where some of the ideas came from. My father had a shop in Galway, where I was born and still live. I was used to the world of the counter and of customers coming and going. I speak Irish, a language now under threat with an ever-diminishing list of words in daily usage, and I was concerned about global warming. As I dug for my story all of those things influenced me and shaped the ultimate narrative.

Mother Tongue continues the story and puts us back in the world of Ark. When I tried to imagine Letta, after the first story finished, I saw her in a field teaching children. That brought me straight back to the history I had learnt in school.

After the accession of William and Mary in the 1690’s, the education of Catholics in Ireland was expressly forbidden under the Penal Laws. As a result an underground system of ‘hedge schools’ sprang up across the country. They were so called because the classes were often convened under the shelter of hedges or in stables or barns. The teacher risked life and limb but the children received an education in the Irish language, reading, writing and arithmetic.

And so, in the first chapter of Mother Tongue we find Letta teaching in a hedge school.

Another strong storyline in Mother Tongue is about the disappearance of babies. Amelia, the new ruler of Ark, is carrying out an experiment. If children never hear language will it follow that they will never speak?

Babies were very much in the news as I was writing. In March 2017, the Irish commission of investigation into Mother and Baby Homes announced that the remains of 796 infants had been found in Tuam buried on the site of a former institution for unmarried mothers. The remains of the children had been placed in an old septic tank.

Tuam is about twenty-five miles from where I live. The country was in shock.

And then, in the United States, we heard of families being separated at the Mexican border. Most of these people were from Central America and the campaign was designed to deter families hoping to immigrate to the United States. Babies were taken from their mother’s arms and placed in foster care.

The youngest child separated from his family, Baby Constantin, was four months old. I hoarded the image of Constantin with his deep brown eyes and long eyelashes.

Where do you get your ideas from? You get them from life, your own life and the lives of others, and you try to make sense of them by putting them into stories.

Mother Tongue is dedicated to the memory of the Tuam babies and to all children without a voice.

Patricia Forde photo

Patricia Forde is from Galway, on the west coast of Ireland. Her first novel THE WORDSMITH was published to great critical acclaim in 2015. It has since been published in the United States, Australia, Denmark, Russia, Turkey and the Netherlands. It has won a White Raven Award from the International Youth Library, is an American Library Association Notable Book for Children in the United States, and was shortlisted for the Children’s Book of the Year Award in Ireland. In 2018 Patricia wrote BUMPFIZZLE THE BEST ON PLANET EARTH, which was chosen as the Dublin UNESCO Citywide Read 2019. MOTHER TONGUE, the sequel to THE WORDSMITH, has just been published in 2019 by Little Island Books. She is married to Padraic and has two grown up children. She still lives in Galway, her favourite city in the world. You can visit her at, find her on twitter @PatriciaForde1 and on Instagram @TrishForde1.

Founded by Ireland’s first Children’s Laureate, Siobhán Parkinson, Little Island Books has been publishing books for children and teenagers since 2010. It is Ireland’s only English-language publisher that publishes exclusively for young people. Little Island specialises in publishing new Irish writers and illustrators, and also has a commitment to publishing books in translation. In 2019 Little Island was the Irish winner of the inaugural Small Press of the Year award from The Bookseller magazine. You can find them online at, and on Twitter and Instagram at @LittleIslandBks.

Big thank to Patricia, Matthew and all the team at Little Island Books for inviting me to be a part of the wonderful Mother Tongue blog tour and for sending me an advance copy of the book.

Extra thanks to Patricia for writing such a fascinating guest post!

Mr E

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


Blog Tour (Review): Dr Maggie’s Grand Tour of the Solar System – Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock (Illustrated by Chelen Écija)

Dr Maggie's Grand Tour of the Solar System.jpg
‘An inter-stellar and stand-out addition to the world of non-fiction; Dr Maggie is a revelation in the STEM world. A book that will leave its readers informed, inspired, intrigued and itching to find out as much as they can about the wonders of our Solar System and beyond.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title:Dr Maggie’s Grand Tour of the Solar System
Author: Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock
Illustrator: Chelen Écija
Publisher: Buster Books (@BusterBooks)
Page count: 128
Date of publication: 5th September 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1780555751

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

1. Space 🚀
2. Epic 🤩
3. Mind-blowing 🤯

Join renowned space scientist, Dr Maggie on an epic journey through the solar system. 

Visit planets, moons, asteroids and satellites, and travel to places where no human has been before.

Along the way, you can discover how we could live on Mars, learn about the hunt for a mysterious super-Earth, have a snowball fight on Mercury, climb the largest volcano in the Solar System and much, much more.

Hold on to your helmet and get set for the cosmic trip of a lifetime.

Review: I’ve been a huge fan of Dr Maggie ever since I saw her astounding Lee Mack, many a celebrity and countless audiences on Sky One’s wildly-unique and amazing factual show, Duck Quacks Don’t Echo putting strange theories to the test. So it is no surprise that when I first cast eyes on this book, I knew it was going to be something special.

Dr Maggie’s Grand Tour of the Solar System is a in-depth, richly knowledgeable and accessible introduction to the ins and outs of the cosmos and the galaxy, the planets and a concise history of space exploration. With July 20, 2019, marking the 50th anniversary of the first landing on the Moon on July 20, 1969, as part of NASA’s Apollo 11 lunar mission, many books are being published on the subject but this is absolutely one of the best I’ve come across for children.

Taking the reader on a ‘grand tour’ is no mean feat but Dr Maggie achieves this with great success. Beginning with a look at getting into space, orbit and preparing for lift-off, Dr Maggie showcases the awe and wonder of space spectacularly in this brilliantly-informative book that is surely one for readers and budding astronomers both young and old.

Told in a way as if Dr Maggie is talking directly to you, the book talks through many topics including the universe, birth of a star, galaxies, the Sun, Solar System and all the different planets, space travel, satellites and the death of stars. Not only that but it’s bang up to date, including information on the latest thinking and developments about things like planet nine and the search for it, the Oort Cloud and where our Solar System ends.

Glorious illustrations adorn every page and it has to be recognised that the design of this book ensures that it is a stand-out on the shelf, feeling as if you’re actually there, standing in the galaxy, immersed in it.

Dr Maggie is a complete revelation in the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and with her ‘Grand Tour’, this is an inter-stellar book that will leave all its readers informed, inspired, intrigued and itching to find out as much as they can about the wonders of our Solar System and beyond.

Big thanks to Maggie, Bethany and all the team at Buster Books for inviting me to be a part of the wonderful Grand Tour of the Solar System blog tour and for sending me an advance copy of the book.

Mr E

Dr Maggie Blog Tour

Be sure to check out the rest of the Dr Maggie’s Grand Tour of the Solar System blog tour for more exclusive content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Guest Post & Extract): The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow – Emily Ilett


Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow
Author: Emily Ilett (@EmilyrIlett)
Publisher: Kelpies/Floris Books (@DiscoverKelpies) (@FlorisBooks)
Page count: 224
Date of publication: 26th September 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1782506072

Perfect for Year 6 and Year 7.

1. Shadows 👥
2. Adventures 🏃‍♀️
3. Sisters 👭

Gail used to be close to her big sister. But lately Kay has changed: she’s sad and quiet, and Gail has no idea how to help.

But when Kay’s shadow slips away as well, Gail knows she must bring the shadows back.

Gathering her courage, Gail chases the shadows through caves and forests, discovering maps, a pearl and an unexpected new friend who can speak to birds.

Can she find what the shadows are seeking?

“Gail and Kay used to swim every week, but everything had changed after their dad left. Now, Kay never left her room if she could help it. She hardly ate, and if she looked at Gail, it was like she was looking all the way through her, as if she was invisible.”

When Gail’s older sister, Kay, becomes depressed, Gail doesn’t understand what is happening. The two sisters used to do everything together – they dreamed of being marine biologists and swam in the sea whenever they could. So when Kay becomes tired, sad and distant and won’t swim with Gail anymore, Gail feels abandoned and is furious with her sister.

The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow follows Gail as she chases across the island after her sister’s shadow, certain that if she finds it and brings it home, everything will go back to how it was before. On her journey, Gail befriends a young girl called Mhirran.

“A strange girl with orange hair tapping Morse code deep inside a tunnel like the whole island might be listening.”

Mhirran speaks Dolphin and talks to the stalagmites in Morse code. She can mimic bird calls and wave her arms in semaphore. She talks about whistling languages and how spiders can communicate through their webs, like playing guitar strings. She talks about the ways elephants can feel the warning call of other elephants through the ground and how whales speak to each other through miles and miles of cold water.

At first, Gail dismisses Mhirran’s constant chatter. She says that Mhirran talks all the time but never says anything real. But when Gail hears Mhirran’s own story, she realises that Mhirran is also trying to reach out across a difficult silence in her life. And as she begins to listen more closely to her friend, Gail draws strength from learning how different creatures communicate.

This is a story about the impact of Kay’s depression on Gail, and how she finds the courage to be there for her sister, just as Kay has looked out for her, so many times before. I hope this story will help young people and families talk about depression and mental health, and the different ways we can continue to reach out to each other through difficult and painful experiences. Gail learns to ask for help and take the help that is given, and I hope this book, through a tale of magic and adventure, supports young people to ask for, and give help, themselves.

Emily Ilett, author of The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow


“Kay said too many people try to do things by themselves – she couldn’t understand it. It’s a brave thing to ask for help, she said. The bravest thing.”

In this extract, Gail is trapped inside a tree’s shadow and she is looking at a photograph of Kay in the hope that it will give her the strength to escape the shadow.

“Gail ran a forefinger down the photo, following the curve of Kay’s cheek. Kay had always been the strong one, not her. She remembered the time when she’d broken her arm and Kay had drawn twenty-three octopi on her cast so that she had all the arms she needed, and when Kay had spent hours explaining the tides because Gail was afraid of not knowing when the ocean would shift or shrink. She remembered when her sister had taken the blame the day Gail had turned their mum’s umbrella into a jellyfish with pink tissue paper and superglue, and when she’d squeezed Gail’s hand and distracted her with stories of marine biologist Asha de Vos while Gail had her first terrifying injection.

And she remembered one day after Kay had started sinking, when she had turned to Gail in the sticky silence, and said softly, “Do you remember the time we went swimming last October? We stayed in for ages and when we came out our lips and fingers were blue. You squeezed my hand and I couldn’t feel anything at all.” Gail had nodded and Kay stared at her own hand, flexing her fingers. “I feel like that now, Gail. Everything is numb. It’s like I’ve been swimming for hours. But I don’t know how to get out. I can’t get out.”

Gail had stiffened at Kay’s words then. Kay was the strong one. She needed Kay to be the strong one. And so she had tightened her mouth and tapped at the window and shrugged and said nothing at all.

Twigs broke behind her. They crunched in a creature-like way. Gail held her breath; she slipped the photo back in her bag and tried once more to wrestle her feet from the tree’s shadow. It was beginning to convince her that there were leaves growing from her nostrils and in between her teeth: Gail had to touch her face to check that there weren’t. She tugged her hair behind her ears, and shifted her rucksack higher on her back.

Leaves crackled to her right, followed by the scuttling of insects disturbed.

“Hello?” Gail whispered. “Who’s there?”

For the first time, she wondered why the deer had been running so fast. Perhaps something had spooked them in the forest…

Gail shrank her head into her jumper. She had to get out of the tree’s shadow. Who am I?Remember who I am. But all she could see was Mhirran’s pale face, and Kay, flexing her fingers sadly on her bed.

Caww. A crow burst upwards, startled into flight: something was moving in the forest. Gail froze. She could smell animal: damp fur and hunger. Every part of her body tensed. She squeezed her eyes shut, frantically racing through all the defences she knew: the octopus’s spray of ink, the eel’s organ regurgitation, the slime of the hagfish. She thought of the leafy seadragon’s camouflage and the jellyfish’s sting. And then she thought of Kay and the way she stared everybody down without any other kind of weapon at all. So Gail opened her eyes.

The eyes staring back at her were full of wilderness. Of hunts and hiding. Of exile and territory. They were full of night secrets and independence. They were coral-proud and luminous. They shone.”

Big thanks to Emily, James and all the team at Kelpies/Floris for inviting me to be a part of the wonderful The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow blog tour and for sending me an advance copy of the book

Extra big thanks to Emily for her guest post and to Kelpies/Floris for inviting me to share this wonderful extract above.

Mr E

Blog Tour (Review & Author Q&A): Beyond Platform 13 – Sibéal Pounder (Illustrated by Beatriz Castro)

‘Like I’ve been transported back to my own childhood, this is magical escapism at its finest, Sibéal is a very worthy and natural successor to Eva Ibbotson in this feat of storytelling.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Beyond Platform 13
Author: Sibéal Pounder (@sibealpounder)
Cover illustrator: Beatriz Castro
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s (@MacmillanKidsUK)
Page count: 256
Date of publication: 3rd October
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1529002874

Perfect for Year 3, Year 4 and Year 5.

1. Magic ✨
2. Gump 🚪
3. Mist 🌁

The island of Mist is under siege and Prince Ben and his best friend Odge Gribble – a hag – are in hiding. Desperate to find out why the island’s protective mist is disappearing, Odge travels through an enchanted gump to Vienna, in search of a mistmaker expert.

But instead Odge finds Lina, a nine-year-old girl looking for adventure. With the help of friends old and new and some very interesting magic, Odge and Lina must discover the secret of the mist, before they lose their beloved island completely.

Review: With Beyond Platform 13, a new and exciting novel from Sibéal Pounder – author of the very successful Witch Wars and Bad Mermaids series – we gladly return to Eva Ibbotson’s magical and much-loved world of The Secret of Platform 13, which this year is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Sibeal starts this story at the Island of Mist, where magical creatures (including hags and harpies) live under the cover of a layer of mist produced by white furry creatures, not too dissimilar to Furbys, called mistmakers.

Often coined as the inspiration behind Harry Potter, it is a delight to enter the portal under Platform 13 at King’s Cross Station – or gump to be more accurate – that opens just once every nine years for nine days.

“That’s the thing about magic – it’s only real if you believe in it.”

However, the island is under threat from evil harpies. And so travelling through the gump to Vienna, a young hag who goes by the name of Odge Gribble chances upon a mistmaker expert or so she thinks… but it’s just a nine-year-old girl who’s been caught up in Odge’s path of fighting the resistance and lucky for Odge, Lina is a believer in every kind of magic going.

Scared they’ll lose their beloved island completely, Odge and Lina must discover the secret of the mist. Can they save it before it’s too late? What danger will the two encounter on this adventure? Will Lina’s mistaken mistmaker identity be revealed…?

Like I’ve been transported back to my own childhood, this is magical escapism at its finest. Sibéal is a very worthy and natural successor to the late, great Eva Ibbotson in this feat of storytelling that is multi-layered, well-paced, fabulously-drawn and well-written; I can not recommend it highly enough to lovers of magic and mystery. This could have the effect on children that the original had and although this can be read as a stand-alone story, I would very much encourage you to seek out Eva’s original classic, The Secret of Platform 13, to appreciate the full wonder of this magical, imaginative world.

Author Q & A: Beyond Platform 13
with Sibéal Pounder

Sibeal Pounder.jpg

Beyond Platform 13 (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 Beyond Platform 13?

1. Ghostly 🐀
2. Magical 🏝️
3. Mysterious ☁️

What was the most enjoyable part of writing Beyond Platform 13?

I think the most enjoyable part was being back in a world that I loved so much as a child. I read The Secret of Platform 13 when I was around 9 years old, so to be back and writing the characters was incredibly surreal and magical.

I read recently an article that described you as Eva Ibbotson’s biggest fan which is wonderful. Can you describe her influence on you as a writer, on writing Beyond Platform 13 and why you think her books should be a part of every school?

I find her work so very inspiring. I love how she played around with stereotypical fantasy characters. Odge Gribble, for example, in The Secret of Platform 13 is a hag but she looks like an ordinary girl. She dreams of having lots of warts and impressive ear hair like her sisters. I love that play on the classic hag and it influenced how I played around with the concept of witches and mermaids in the Witch Wars and Bad Mermaids series.

Beyond Platform 13 is inspired by The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson but which other books, people, research, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write it?

I started with the research and I hunted down every interview – printed and audio – with Eva that I could find. I wanted to first see if I could find clues as to where she would take the story. The most important thing to me was that the heart of the book felt like an Eva book, and I didn’t want to take the characters or the world in a direction she wouldn’t. I found some useful things that helped guide me. For example, in the book she mentions that every country has a gump (a portal to the secret island), yet we only visit the one on Platform 13 in Kings Cross. That seemed like a solid world building mechanism – a way of establishing a larger framework so if she were to return to the world there would be more to see.

I also went backwards to go forwards and looked at what could’ve inspired various elements and characters – from her life experiences to the people she knew. My favourite find was the similarities between the way she described the character Ben and how she described her husband, Alan Ibbotson – kind, sweet, someone who cared for animals and was fascinated by the natural world. In the book Ben makes a den for the mistmaker (a strange magical creature in the story) and hides it under his bed. In an interview she says, when they first met, her husband made an ant farm and kept it hidden under his bed. I loved that parallel, and things like that were enough for me to believe that she would see Ben as a good-to-his-bones character, and that helped steer how I developed him. Ben was interesting because he is a prince with power on the island so he could be someone to potentially corrupt, but the similarities with Alan Ibbotson gave me enough reason to believe Eva would never do that. So that was how I tried to work, to keep the heart of it hers as much as possible.

I tried to draw as much inspiration from Eva’s world as I could, even the things that seem random have reasoning behind them. For example, there is a new hag character called Netty, which is a nod to Newcastle slang (Eva lived in Newcastle). Apparently it’s slang for toilet, and I thought that was perfect for a hag! Eva said whenever she was stuck when writing she would add an aunt. So there is a moment when a character is physically stuck and a group of ghostly aunts appear to help.

If you were to choose the character that is most like you from Beyond Platform 13, and/or The Secret of Platform 13, who would it be and why?

I think I’m probably most like Hans – very well meaning but prone to mistakes! Also, if my name were Hans, I too would open a cheese shop called Hans-ome Cheeses.

Reading and Writing (4)

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

I loved writing at school and making up crazy stories and characters. I’ve always loved writing, but I didn’t ever imagine I could be an author. I didn’t meet an author when I was little and it wasn’t until I was much older that I realised it was something people do! I worked as a journalist for years before becoming a children’s author, so I always gravitated towards writing, but fiction has my heart – I just love the endless possibilities of it.

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

That’s a really great question! It’s not something I’ve ever thought about before… I think every part of the process has energising and exhausting parts. Drafting is so energising, creating everything from scratch and watching all your ideas come alive on the page. But I also find it exhausting around halfway through when I start to doubt it all. And editing is very energising – solving plot problems and fitting all the pieces of the puzzle back together in a more satisfying way, but it’s also exhausting when things aren’t working and it feels like you’ll never find a solution. So in short, I find all parts energising and exhausting in equal measure – I’m not sure you can have one without the other.

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?

This is something I think about a lot. I think at one point I thought all authors were dead – that the books had all been written. I didn’t really have a concept of an author and that people sat around writing the books when I was very young. No authors ever visited our school (although I do remember a bus full of books visiting once and it has stuck with me forever).

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 books, especially Beyond Platform 13, or any others that you have read and would recommend?

I would recommend ALL of Eva Ibbotson’s books. She wrote across age ranges and covered everything from fantasy humour to adult romance. She was so talented and I think all her books are wonderful (my top recommendations would be The Secret of Platform 13, Dial a Ghost and Journey to the River Sea).

For fantasy, I’d highly recommend Abi Elphinstone, PG Bell, Claire Fayers, Jessica Townsend, Sophie Anderson… I could go on and on – you’re right, it is such a golden age for children’s books right now!

Beyond Platform 13 and Teaching (3)

If you were to ‘pitch’ Beyond Platform 13 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?

Return to Eva Ibbotson’s much-loved classic and find out what happens when the gump opens again…

Could you suggest ways in which Beyond Platform 13 or The Secret to Platform 13 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 found it was a really interesting exercise to return to a world that was already set up and waiting – the characters had been defined, the world had been built. It has definitely helped my writing, and I think a really fun exercise would be to have the children pick their favourite character (can be from any book they like) and write a short sequel story. They’ll need to establish things like when they are going to return – is it 1, 10, 50, 100 years later – and how the characters have changed (and therefore what the characters were like before), they will have to decide what other characters to bring back and how they might have changed, what other elements of the story (objects, for example) they can bring back to work with the plot and crucially, what the character wants now. I do this exercise in my school events for Platform 13 and it’s really interesting to see how writing a sequel for a favourite character can really help with their creative writing. Sometimes playing in another author’s world is great practice for building your own.

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?

They can contact me at or

Two more before you go (2)!

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

Q: What do you think are the most bafflingly named food brands? A: Wimpy and Skips.

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

 I have a cat assistant called Galligan and I’m pretty convinced she has the longest whiskers in the world. I measured them and compared them against the current Guinness Book of World Records holder and Galligan’s are longer! I’m debating whether or not to enter her though, as I’m not sure how she’d deal with fame.

One last one… (1)!

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

Yes please. I would love to know how they feel about Skype school visits? Do they think the children get much out of them and does it have as much of an impact as an author being there in person? I’m always interested in digital solutions when being there in person isn’t possible for whatever reason, but very interested in how much children get out of Skype visits.

Big thanks to Sibéal, Clare and all the team at Macmillan for inviting me to be a part of the wonderful Beyond Platform 13 blog tour and for sending me an advance copy and proof copy of the book.

Extra big thanks to Sibéal for being such a brilliant interviewee with her insightful answers to these questions, I really loved learning more about her inspirations and admiration of Eva Ibbotson.

On 15th October 2019, there is a very special ‘Returning to Other Authors’ Worlds’ events organised at Waterstones Piccadilly, starring Sibeal Pounder, Amy Wilson, Hilary McKay and Robin Stevens.

You can see more and book your ticket here:

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Be sure to check out the rest of the Beyond Platform 13 blog tour for more exclusive guest posts from Sibéal & content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!