Blog Tour (Review & Giveaway!): The Night I Met Father Christmas (Illustrated by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini)

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‘A gilt-edged gift that’s more than a gift… this is a story that no doubt will become a festive favourite but is a book that will take big kids back to feeling like believers again.


Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Night I Met Father Christmas
Author: Ben Miller (@ActualBenMiller)
Illustrator: Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini (@djterrazzini)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s (@simonkids_UK)
Page count: 304
Date of publication: 1st November 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1471171536

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

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Magical ✨
2. Charming 😊
3. (Father) Christmas 🎅


Jackson knows all about the flying reindeer, he knows about the elves and the secret North Pole workshop, he knows about the magic that allows Father Christmas to deliver presents around the world in just one night, but there’s one thing he doesn’t know …  how did Father Christmas become Father Christmas?

That all changes when, one Christmas Eve, Jackson meets Father Christmas and hears his incredible story.   
 
So begins an enchanting fairy-tale into a magical snowy landscape, where Torvil, a mean-spirited and miserly elf, is about to discover the true meaning of Christmas. This might not have been the story Jackson was expecting but, as Father Christmas tells him, no good story ever is… 


Review: You’ll most probably know Ben Miller for his vast array of utterly brilliant comedy, TV and film work, most notably with writing partner Alexander Armstrong. My favourite of  his being the hilarious The Worst Week of My Life. So it is with great pleasure that The Night I Met Father Christmas shows that Ben can turn to his hand to the children’s literature world with the same enthusiasm in this joyful, festive offering. The Night I Met Father Christmas is Ben’s first foray in to writing for children and I’m certainly hoping it’s not his last.

In his heart of hearts, Jackson is a believer, always has been a believer and always will be a believer but owing to the smallest seed of doubt placed in his mind by one of his friends that’s slowly festering and growing bigger, he’s determined to find out for real about the true origins of Father Christmas.

With grand plans to meet the main man himself by fervently staying up late on Christmas Eve, Jackson is ready and armed with that ever-elusive and all-important unanswered question that’s reverberating around his head to find out his true identity, How did Father Christmas become Father Christmas?

But this all starts to slightly come unstuck when Father Christmas arrives down his chimney with a problem all of his very own…

As Father Christmas injures himself coming down Jackson’s chimney leaving the world at the mercy of not receiving their presents, Jackson finds himself at the delivery service of this small Santa in return of wanting to reveal the secret backstory behind his being.

With echoes of the great Charles Dickens’ The Christmas Carol and in particular The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, so begins the revelatory journey that Jackson finds himself on. Accompanied by a talking reindeer, Jackson discovers the story of a Scrooge-like elf with a surname that’s the only thing in common with Christmas who rediscovers himself in more ways than one…

Friendship, flashbacks, fairy-tale and festivity combine in the most delightful of ways to make this a book that has all the potential of becoming the next Christmas classic. Not only a wonderful book to read at home in the build-up to Christmas Day that’s guaranteed to be a big hit with the whole family but also one that could inspire a whole generation of young readers to write their own origin stories, you’ll never think of Father Christmas in quite the same way again.

An absorbing read that’s sure to sprinkle Christmas spirit and sparkle through every turn of its glorious and gorgeous DJ Terrazini black-and-white illustrated pages, this is a book that no doubt will become a festive favourite but is also a book that will take big kids back to feeling like believers again.

Make sure to find space on your book shelf for this gilt-edged gift that’s more than a gift; it’s the perfect present to read this Christmas and to return to for all Christmases to come.

‘A gilt-edged gift that’s more than a gift… this is a story that no doubt will become a festive favourite but is a book that will take big kids back to feeling like believers again.


Big thanks to Eve Wersocki-Morris, Ben and all at Simon & Schuster Children’s UK for inviting me to share my thoughts on this beautifully-written and illustrated book as part of The Night I Met Father Christmas blog tour!

🎁 🎅  Mr E  🎅🎄

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The Night I Met Father Christmas is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.


Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Simon & Schuster Children’s UK have kindly given me ONE copy of The Night I Met Father Christmas to give away!

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If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning one of these copies of this superb book, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

Blog Tour (Guest Post): Frostfire – Jamie Smith (Illustrated by Karl James Mountford)

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Title: Frostfire
Author: Jamie Smith (@JamieHBSmith)
Illustrator (Cover): Karl James Mountford (@karlj_mountford)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 288
Date of publication: 1st November 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1911077879

Perfect for Year 5 & Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1) Mountain 🏔️
2) Avalanche ❄️
3) Secrets 🤐


Chosen for the honour of bonding with a frostsliver – a fragment of the sentient glacier that crests her icy home – Sabira embarks on the dangerous pilgrimage to the top of the mountain. But when a huge avalanche traps her on the glacier and destroys the pass, Sabira is determined to find another way home.

In order to survive, she must face up to the merciless mountain – but there are dark and fiery secrets hiding in its depths…


I’m delighted to welcome Jamie Smith, author of Frostfire, to The Reader Teacher where he shares his exclusive guest post talking about how he can push the boundaries of the fantasy genre and how this makes him think more innovatively about the way he builds his worlds…

Tolkien’s Legacy by Jamie Smith

For decades, the shadow of fantasy’s biggest name has loomed large. Only recently have others begun to chip away at the legend that Lord of the Rings built – and deservedly so. It’s a great world, with fantastic characters and plenty of original ideas! However, I can’t help but feel that the super success of the books has limited what fantasy can be for all too long. It doesn’t have to be elves and dwarves all the way down!

These concepts, along with the dark lord, orcs and countless others became the foundation for other mega-franchises and have stuck around ever since. You’ll never see an elf in my books. Not because they can’t be interesting, but because I’ve seen them so many times before. I’d rather build something new and personal to me than putting a new spin on someone else’s idea.

Fortunately, in recent years, it seems like a number of other authors are coming to agree with me. Names like Brandon Sanderson, Brent Weeks, Tomi Adeyemi and more. Every time I see something fresh, it inspires me to do better too – and the further the fantasy genre is pushed, the better. It’s a place where literally anything can happen, after all!

That’s why my book has a sentient glacier in it, and not a hint of a dark lord in sight.

I’m hoping that by expanding the worlds we tell these kinds of stories in, I and others can help break free of the weight of those writers that came before (while still using them for a leg up from time to time). That way, we don’t have the limits of medieval Europe constraining us, and we can be more inclusive with our characters. Even our world is full of places that are not stone castles and mild-weathered woodland, after all.

So, I do my best to fill my world with strange creatures, fantastic magic, heroes with strength of character and flaws to overcome, just like Tolkien did when he (practically) founded the genre.

I’ll just paint a different picture over the top while I do it.


FROSTFIRE by Jamie Smith,
out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com
and follow Jamie
@JamieHBSmith and jhbsmith.com


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Look our for more reviews and guest posts from Jamie on the rest of the Frostfire blog tour from these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review): Absolutely Everything!: A History of Earth, Dinosaurs, Rulers, Robots and Other Things Too Numerous to Mention – Christopher Lloyd (#NNFN)

I’m delighted to have been asked to share my review today as part of National Non-Fiction November (#NNFN)!
National Non-Fiction November is the Federation of Children’s Book Groups’ annual celebration of all things factual. Born out of National Non-Fiction Day, the brain child of Adam Lancaster during his years as Chair, the whole month now celebrates all those readers that have a passion for information and facts and attempts to bring non fiction celebration in line with those of fiction.


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‘ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE… a book of beauty that will inspire a new generation. This is a time-travelling trek through Planet Earth as you’ve never seen it before!’


Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Absolutely Everything!: A History of Earth, Dinosaurs, Rulers, Robots and Other Things Too Numerous to Mention
Author: Christopher Lloyd
Illustrator (Cover): Justin Poulter
Illustrators (Inside): Andy Forshaw & Will Exley
Publisher: What On Earth? (@whatonearthbook)
Page count: 336
Date of publication: 4th October 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1999802820

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Enthralling 🤩
2. Exciting 😆
3. Everything 🌍


It’s impossible, of course, to tell the whole story of absolutely everything. But simple impossibility will not stop author Christopher Lloyd. Join him for a fast-paced, entertaining and incredibly informative worldwide whirlwind tour connecting the science, nature and history of our world.


Review: Beginning with the Big Bang and speeding through 13.8 billion years of time and space moving us all the way forward in to the modern world, this book through it’s fifteen fantastic chapters brings all things history, geography, science and technology to life.

When author Christopher found himself looking at the earth around him with fresh eyes, he realised that he – along with many others – did not know the true extent as to what our world and absolutely everything in it has been through before and why it has all happened. This spark of curiosity was the catalyst for the creation of this Big Book, and wasn’t too dissimilar from the spark that created our very own world – the Big Bang.

Wowzers! With more facts, information and knowledge than you could ever imagine, this is an excellent reference book for all ages. But it is SO MUCH more than that! It’s a book that you could lose all sense of time from being immersed in. It’s a book that you are sure to find something new and interesting every time you open its pages. It’s a book for the passionately curious. It’s a book for all the family. It’s a book that will inspire a new generation.

To add to the vast amount of facts, its incredible page design with easy-to-follow text, vivid and striking photographs, drawings, tables, charts, and quotes make this – for me – THE stand-out non-fiction book published this year.

Informative, in-depth, intriguing and incredible: the levels of richly-packed detail, vocabulary and terminology such as evolution, new civilisations, classic empires, explorers, conquerors, revolutions and wars that feature within this wonderful-written book are phenomenal. You would find it hard to not learn anything from simply picking this up and flicking through at first sight.
It is clear to see that Christopher Lloyd is in awe of this planet and its history and wants us to fall in complete awe of it too. With this superbly-written book, he succeeds so well in achieving this.  More recently, with its long-list nomination for the Blue Peter Book Awards 2019, every home and every school should be doing everything they can to own a copy of this extraordinary book.

Overall, Absolutely Everything! is best summed up by Christopher’s own words with it being for people ‘who love to ask questions as much as they like to find out answers’. A book like this would have been my bible when I was younger.

This is a time-travelling trek through history as you’ve never seen it before! So with 13.8 billion years of history waiting for you with a turn of the page… Get ready to explore and embark on a journey of a lifetime. The Earth’s lifetime! What are you waiting for?

‘ABSOLUTELY AMAZING… a book of beauty that will inspire a new generation.
This is a time-travelling trek through Planet Earth as you’ve never seen it before!’


Big thanks to Chris Routh from FCBG (Federation of Children’s Book Groups) for inviting me to share my thoughts on this superb book as part of the National Non-fiction November blog tour!

Mr E


Absolutely Everything!: A History of Earth, Dinosaurs, Rulers, Robots and Other Things Too Numerous to Mention is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

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Blog Tour: (Review & Guest Post) Danny and the Dream Dog – Fiona Barker (Illustrated by Howard Gray)

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‘Capturing perfectly the character, companionship and camaraderie (and sometimes… the chaos) that a dog naturally brings to a home, this is a heartfelt story that’ll warm the hearts of animal lovers everywhere.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Danny and the Dream Dog
Author: Fiona Barker (@Fi_BGB)
Illustrator: Howard Gray (@hwigray)
Publisher: Tiny Tree (@TinyTreeBooks)
Page count: 32
Date of publication: 25th October 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1910265659

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

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Dreams 💭
2. Dogs 🐕
3.  Friendship 💓


Danny really, really wants a dog, but Mum says no.

Find out whether a new neighbour can help Danny achieve his dream and much more besides.

A story about finding friendship in unexpected places.


Review: Danny is like most schoolchildren up and down the country. He dreams of having his very own dog. But unfortunately for him, his dreams come crashing down as his mum puts to a stop to this very thought. So what can he do? Well he’s already asked nicely, pleaded, whined and finally begged… but it all appears that it’s in vain. Doing his best to try to hound(!) his mum to get him a dog, he even does a pretty convincing job at looking after his toy dog.

But mum’s better judgement still wins through as she explains to Danny that this is the sensible option because there’ll be no-one to care for Danny’s dream dog during the day so for now, Danny’s dream dog stays… well… a dream.

That all changes however when a new neighbour moves in downstairs and Danny’s dream becomes a bit closer to home. Mum’s lined him up for the job of walking Mrs Owen’s dog, Maximus and Danny thinks all his Christmases have come at once.

However upon meeting Maximus for the first time, Danny’s best laid plans go awry as Maximus behaves more like a cheeky monkey than a show dog. Rabbit-chasing, squirrel-hunting, puddle-splashing Maximus ends up being the talk of the town, sometimes for all the wrong reasons!

But Maximus is far too loveable to stay mad at and Danny ends up growing increasingly fond of seeing him, but only at the end of the day.

Realising that looking after a dog takes far more effort than he first thought, Danny like the rest of us recognises the power of man’s best friend and falls under his spell… and his wet tongue!

This is a heartfelt story that’ll warm the hearts of animal lovers everywhere. Growing up as someone who’s always had a dog by my side, this book with Howard’s charming illustrations, reminds me why I always have and captures perfectly the character, companionship and camaraderie (and sometimes… the chaos) that a dog naturally brings to a home.

Empathy, education and emotion are at the heart of this touching story that children will want read and re-read again, so much so that it’ll probably end up becoming dog-eared (which is a very good thing!).


I am delighted to welcome Fiona Barker to The Reader Teacher, as part of the Danny and the Dream Dog blog tour, with a brilliant insight in to her working with a charity as part of writing it…
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I didn’t write this as an ‘issue’ book or a charity book but when you finish Danny’s story you will see some information about The Cinnamon Trust.

I didn’t write the story with the Trust in mind but once I had written it then it felt very relevant as it covers the theme of how helping someone look after their pet can bring people together. That’s what The Cinnamon Trust does. It’s an amazing charity helping people in their last years and their companion animals, including dogs. The Trust maintains a register of 15,000 volunteers who help owners care for their much-loved pets in their own homes. The Trust helps over 30,000 people and their pets stay together every year. I hoped I could help raise awareness of the charity through telling the story.

While working on the book, I was privileged to meet volunteers Caz and Elaine and dog owners Chris and Tony. You can watch their stories in these short videos:

It really is a win-win-win situation for the owners, volunteers and pets. That’s what we’ve tried to sum up in the penultimate spread.

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The Trust is always looking for new volunteers across the UK if you think you might be able to help.

Tips for working with a charity on a book:

Approach them early on in the process

Explain clearly what you are planning

Negotiate what you will provide and what you expect from them – make it clear whether or not this is a financial arrangement or something reciprocal about raising awareness.

Put it in writing – this doesn’t need to be a formal contract but make sure both sides are happy.

Keep them informed throughout the journey to publication.

I’m really looking forward to spreading the word about the Trust at author events and school visits. I’m hoping that along with hearing the story and having some dog-themed fun at an event, children and adults will take home a little bit of knowledge about the Trust and its wonderful volunteers, almost without realising!

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Danny and the Dream Dog is available to pre-order online and from any good bookshop.

Big thanks to Fiona for inviting me to be a part of this brilliant blog tour, for writing her fantastic blog post and for sending me an advance copy of Danny and the Dream Dog!

Mr E


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Keep a look out this week and last for more review posts and exclusive content from Fiona and Howard on the Danny and the Dream Dog blog tour!

Blog Tour (Guest Post & Giveaway!): The Train to Impossible Places – P. G. Bell (Illustrated by Flavia Sorrentino)


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‘Wow! This incredible debut puts P. G. Bell full steam ahead in the children’s literature world. All aboard for the most magical of adventures that’ll keep you on the very edge of your seat…’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Train to Impossible Places
Author: P. G. Bell (@petergbell)
Publisher: Usborne (@Usborne)
Page count: 368
Date of publication: 4th October 2018
ISBN: 978-1474948616

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1.  Train 🚂
2. Fuzzics 👩‍🔬
3. Bananas 🍌


Today, as part of The Train to Impossible Places blog tour, I give a warm welcome to its author, P. G. Bell, to The Reader Teacher. Here, he shares with The Reader Teacher his exclusive guest post about how his previous job as a roller coaster operator helped him to write his debut novel in more ways than one!

How to Write a Roller Coaster of a Story

Once upon a time, I worked as a roller coaster operator. Part of the job was taking test runs several times a day to ensure that everything was functioning as expected. As the months passed, I got to know the rides very well – I could close my eyes and anticipate every twist, turn and barrel roll, and after a while I realised something: a good roller coaster is like a good story.

It has pace, structure and variety. It builds anticipation before pitching you headlong into the action. Then it gives you just enough time to catch your breath before twisting you one way or the other, sending you racing off into a new element.

Let’s look at anticipation first. It can be fun to throw the reader straight into the thick of it, but I like to have a little context first – a quick taste of normality before the inciting incident (that first, dizzying drop after the lift hill) arrives to snatch it away.

This was especially important for The Train To Impossible Places as Suzy, our main character, is a staunch rationalist who thinks she’s got things figured out. I needed to show her calm and in control before I crashed a magic train into her life. Even in those first brief chapters, however, the strangeness is creeping in at the edges, priming us for the chaos we know is coming.

When it arrives, I make sure it’s big and loud and fast and (hopefully) funny – a satisfying payoff to reward the reader’s patience. Then it’s a question of knowing exactly how long to keep the story at that pace before I ease up and give the reader a little time to reorient themselves. Too much action can be dull, and the sudden appearance of too many plot elements can be confusing, so it’s a question of including only what is strictly necessary and dispensing with the rest.

In practical terms, I’ve found this means I jettison about eighty per cent of my exposition, background and world building. I spend months cooking them up, and only trace elements survive to the final draft, but by then they’ve informed every line of dialogue and description, so the flavour remains. After all, you don’t need to know how Lady Crepuscula came by her army of statues, you just need to know that they’re there.

Anticipation, release; anticipation, release. It’s exactly how roller coasters work, and it’s not a bad model for an exciting story.

Oh, and one very quick word on cliffhangers, as they’re a key element in the anticipation-release equation: write the whole nerve-wracking, perilous scene, then put your chapter break anywhere from the end of the first sentence to the end of the first paragraph.

I could go on, but the trick is to always leave them wanting more.


P. G. Bell, author of The Train to Impossible Places


Giveaway!

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So to celebrate the blog tour of The Train to Impossible Places, I am delighted to say that Usborne has kindly given me one hardback copy to give away to one of my followers on Twitter. If you’d like a chance of winning this superb prize, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!


Big thanks to Peter, Fritha and Usborne for sending me a proof copy and beautifully-illustrated finished copy of The Train to Impossible Places.
Extra thanks to Peter for writing his utterly fantastic guest post!

Mr E

The Train to Impossible Places is now available to order online or from any good bookshop.


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Be sure to check out the other dates and other bloggers for more reviews and exclusive posts from Peter on the The Train to Impossible Places blog tour this week!

Blog Tour (Review): How Rude! – Clare Helen Welsh (Illustrated by Olivier Tallec)

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‘How utterly brilliant! A book, brimming with empathy, that can not only make our young readers cry with laughter but also change their ways and attitudes to become better people.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: How Rude!
Author: Clare Helen Welsh (@clarehelenwelsh)
Illustrator: Olivier Tallec
Publisher: words & pictures (@WordsPicsBooks)
Page count: 32
Date of publication: 2nd October 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1786033598

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

#3Words3Emojis:
1.  Manners 👍
2.  Rude 😝
3. Duck 🦆


Join Dot and Duck in a hilarious story about being rude and making up.

Because in a world where we can be anything, isn’t being kind the greatest kind thing of all?


Review: Manners are, for me, one of the greatest qualities of a person to show. Kindness, honesty, common decency – these are the things that are the basics of life that most people are brought up on. What some and what I call the small things. This is why books of the quality of How Rude are so very much needed, today more than ever.

Through the combination of carefully-chosen and considered text and charismatic illustrations, this story tells the tale of Dot and Duck who start off as friends, become somewhat of an annoyance to each other and end up making up through a life lesson.

This is a story that should be used in foundation stage and early years classrooms up and down the country because this is a book, that is brimming with empathy, that not only has the potential to make young readers cry with laughter but also has the power to change their ways and attitudes and help them to reflect on their behaviour to become better people.

How rude utterly brilliant!

‘How utterly brilliant! A book, brimming with empathy, that can not only make our young readers cry with laughter but also change their ways and attitudes to become better people.’


Big thanks to Clare for inviting me to take part in the wonderful How Rude! blog tour!

Mr E
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How Rude! is available to pre-order online or from any good bookshop.


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Look our for the rest of the How Rude! blog tour full of review and posts from these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post: Walking the Line): Gangster School 2: The Brotherhood of Brimstone – Kate Wiseman

To celebrate the book birthday and official publication launch date of Gangster 2, I’m delighted to review, host a guest post from author, Kate Wiseman and host a giveaway of the superbly-written Gangster School 2: The Brotherhood of Brimstone!
Read on for more details…!

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‘Guaranteed to go down a storm with plenty of giggles galore and gangsterly goings-on, this is immediate fun once again from the first page to the very last.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Gangster School 2: The Brotherhood of Brimstone
Author: Kate Wiseman (@KateWiseman)
Publisher: ZunTold (@ZunTold)
Page count: 212
Date of publication: 24th September 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1999863326

Perfect for Year 4 and Year 5.

#3Words3Emojis:
1.  Criminals 🚓
2.  Diamond 💎
3. Gruffles 🐶


Trouble is brewing at Blaggard’s School for Tomorrow’s Tyrants.

Sir Byron’s Brain, a priceless legendary diamond, has gone missing. If it leaves the school grounds, Blaggard’s will be destroyed forever and the head teacher obliterated!

Could the evil Brotherhood of Brimstone – an ancient secret society – have anything to do with it? Best friends Milly and Charlie embark on an adventure to find out. They discover a web of evil plots involving Gruffles, Charlie’s stinky dog, and Wolfie, the robot dog turned invisible superhero.

On top of this, Blaggard’s is expecting a school inspection from the mysterious Dr X – Chief Inspector of Criminal Schools. He could turn up at any time, and no one knows what he looks like.

Time is running out for Milly and Charlie. Will Dr X appear? And can our heroes defeat the evil Brotherhood, rescue their canine companions and save the day?


Review: It’s back to Blaggard’s, an almost Harry Potter-like school for criminals – for those that haven’t yet read the brilliant Gangster School – which is the boarding school to be if you want to be a future criminal until this time, a diamond goes missing which is set to spark a curse on the school. With another mystery to solve, it feels fantastic to be reacquainted with Milly Dillane and Charlie Partridge, the two main characters in this must-read sequel and set off this time to get to know more of this cunning cast of characters.

Since I set eyes on and read Gangster School, I have been eagerly anticipating its sequel and this doesn’t dare disappoint. Back with more characters, more teachers and more lessons, most notably that of (what would probably be my favourite!) Criminal Disguise and Deception.

Striking parallels with real schools, this one is left fearing for the worst as news of an impending inspection reaches Blaggard’s and Dr X, Chief Inspector of Schools, is on his way but no knows what he looks like… or if he’ll even appear…!

With immediate fun once again from the first page until the very last, Gangster School 1 and 2 are a series that is just begging to be read aloud and to classes countrywide because they are guaranteed to go down a storm with plenty of giggles galore and gangsterly goings-on.

The only slight disappointment(!) will be that readers will feel like they’re missing out by not having their very own Gangster School full of capers and adventures to attend.

‘Guaranteed to go down a storm with plenty of giggles and gangsterly goings-on galore, this is again immediate fun from the first page to the very last.’


I am delighted that Kate Wiseman joins me today at The Reader Teacher with a fantastic insight in to her writing of Gangster School…

Walking the Line

Or, Negotiating the Perilous Path between Entertainment and Controversy

 When I had the idea for the Gangster School books, I realised that I needed to make the Gangster School world convincing, and the stories entertaining, whilst ensuring that the subject matter was handled in a way that would make it acceptable to the gatekeepers of kids’ lit – agents and publishers, then parents and teachers.

Although my vision of Blaggard’s School for Tomorrow’s Tyrants was more frivolous than felonious, I saw straight away that there would be a perilous path to negotiate and I put a lot of thought into how I could make the books fun and relevant to their titles, without alienating grown-ups who might conclude that the subject matter was unsuitable for children.

I adopted various measures to ensure that the books are not controversial. One way of achieving this was by ensuring that whilst the school curriculum was appropriate for the world’s best school for would-be criminal masterminds, it didn’t promote criminality or impart any information that could be construed as useful to a budding felon. It also was important not to glorify success as a criminal, or being in a gang, in any way. These things are ridiculed; the bad guys are silly and the heroes are good guys pretending to be bad.

I decided to go for subjects promoting the qualities that would be desirable in criminals, rather than those imparting hands-on skills. So, with the exception of Thievery, which I felt was unavoidable, and which could be exaggerated to the point where it became funny, Blaggard’s teachers are experts in Defiance and Discourtesy, Betrayal, Plotting and Criminal Disguise, among a host of other subjects.

The teachers are exaggerated too, to emphasise their criminal qualities and to make them so incredible that they couldn’t possibly be regarded as role models. Their names reflect their subjects and characters and were chosen to ensure that there is no possibility of their being taken too seriously. So, Thievery is taught by Nick Lightfinger, Fabrication by Edgar Borgia and the Head Teacher, feared by all who meet her, is Griselda Martinet. I have to admit, I’d really like to be Ms Martinet.

Another potential problem was in establishing my two protagonists, Milly and Charlie. I just couldn’t see how I could make eager would-be crims acceptable, except by exaggerating them to the point where they were in danger of being caricatures. If this happened, there would be no contrast or conflict between the protagonists and their teachers or their antagonists. The answer I came up with was to make them secret Dependables. In Blaggardian parlance, a Dependable is a non-criminal. Someone honest, just like you and me. Ahem.

But then why would two Dependables be at Blaggard’s School for Tomorrow’s Tyrants? I gave them both dedicated felonious families, with centuries-old allegiances to the school. Now Milly and Charlie had a compelling reason for being there.

That led on to another question. Why would they not simply get themselves expelled? After all, they would hate it at Gangster School, wouldn’t they? There needed to be an even worse school where Blaggard’s rejects are invariably sent. Enter Crumley’s School for Career Criminals, terrifying in looks and reputation. It’s only a few miles away from Blaggard’s and Charlie sees it every time he opens his bedroom curtains. It crouches on a craggy hill like a gargoyle and is a constant reminder to both Milly and Charlie of the price they will pay for failure at Blaggard’s.

As for hating it at Blaggard’s, I’ve done everything I can to make the school sound like a mad but fun place, with almost daily food fights, weird initiation ceremonies and a long history peppered by distinctly dodgy personalities and even dodgier school legends. The pupils there might think that they want to be criminals, but they are really just rather naughty.

Now for story lines and subject matter. Hmmm. Tricky. So much was immediately unsuitable – murder, torture, terrorism. I wanted my readers to be transported away from the worries of 21st century living, not to be reminded of them. Fortunately, my personality and interests are nothing if not quirky and it was natural for me to look beyond the nitty gritty of life and to fasten on the weird and the whimsical.  So, in Book One, the arch villain Pecunia Badpenny, (based loosely on my best friend, an English language teacher who likes golf), has a plan for world domination (of course) using a robot wolf, but he goes off to play with Charlie’s Scruffy hound, Gruffles, and Badpenny ends up bedraggled and humiliated. Blaggard’s was shaping up.

The danger of eschewing nitty gritty is that a book can become bland, a thought that horrified me. I’ve done my very best to avoid this. In Gangster School 2, for instance, which is being released in the UK today, I had great fun writing a short, one-man play that the pedantic would-be genius William Proctor performs at Founders’ Day. The play deals with the role of Sir Thomas Blaggard, the school’s founder, in the execution of Anne Boleyn. Proctor manages to rhyme ‘shiny pearls’ with ‘decomposing girls.’ I’m especially proud of this couplet: ‘Without her head she’ll be a whole lot shorter/Bet then she’ll wish she’d acted like she oughta.’ That came to me in a dream. Or was it a nightmare?

I hope that I’ve given you a flavour of Blaggard’s, and convinced you that nothing dangerous or damaging will be found in my Gangster School books.

Unless you consider bad verse and dodgy puns to be damaging. I have to hold my hands up to those.


Kate Wiseman, author of Gangster School 2: The Brother of Brimstone and Gangster School 1


Big thanks to Kate for inviting me to join in with the Gangster School 2: The Brotherhood of Brimstone, particularly on its launch date!

Mr E

Gangster School 2: The Brotherhood of Brimstone and Gangster School are now available to order online or from any good bookshop.


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Keep a look out this week and last for more review posts and exclusive content from Kate on the Gangster School blog tour!

 

 

Blog Tour (Review): Maybe the Moon – Frances Ives

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‘Unbelievably good… The words, the message, the illustrations; it’s just everything a picture book should be!’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Maybe the Moon
Author: Frances Ives (@francesives)
Publisher: Michael O’Mara (@OMaraBooks)
Page count: 32
Date of publication: 20th September 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN:978-1910552827

Perfect for Reception to Year 4.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Moon 🌕
2. City 🌆
3. Friendship 👫


“Maybe the moon, so high above,
Is shining on me and the friends I love.”

Eric feels like the luckiest boy in the world,
living in the forest with his animal friends for company.
When he moves to the city, Eric wonders if he can discover
happiness there, away from the homes he loves.


Review: From the moment I set eyes on this absolutely beautiful book, I knew it would be a good one. However I actually underestimated how good it would be. It’s unbelievably good.

Maybe the Moon is Frances’ debut picture book and wow, what a truly stunning book it is! The story was inspired by her own relocation of moving to London from the countryside, and the effects that this change in environment can have.

Each turn of the page is an absolute joy as Frances’ characterful, unique and completely wonderful illustrations coupled with her words that move you as much as the illustrations, ensure that is a treasure to read that gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling. The combination of its words, its message, its illustrations together make this everything a picture book should be.

I am already eagerly anticipating the next offering from Frances because maybe, just maybe, this is my favourite picture book this year. Mark my words, if you haven’t read Maybe the Moon you’re definitely missing out!


Big thanks to Alara and Michael O’Mara for inviting me to take part in the Maybe the Moon blog tour.

Mr E
📚


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Maybe the Moon is now available to order online or from any good bookshop.


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Be sure to check out the Maybe the Moon blog tour and other bloggers for more reviews of this beautiful book!

Blog Tour (Review) & Giveaway!: Storm Witch – Ellen Renner

I’m delighted to feature on the book birthday and publication date of Storm Witch by Ellen Renner today. I am equally delighted to be able to offer a giveaway for a copy of Storm Witch and you can find out more about winning it below!

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‘A strong story that had me gripped in an instant and has left me wanting for more with each and every chapter…’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Storm Witch
Author: Ellen Renner (@Ellen_Renner)
Publisher: Nosy Crow (@NosyCrowBooks)
Page count: 256
Date of publication: 6th September 2018
Series status: First in the four-book series
ISBN: 978-0857636409

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Elementals 🌬️
2. Storm 🌩️
3.  Magic ✨


Much is needed from you.
Learn what it is!
Now go, Storm-child.
Remember my words…

Storm’s always been different. She has a boy’s name, a strange fear of water and everyone says her family is cursed. But her arrows fly so straight and true, it’s as if they’re helped by great magic… When Storm’s island home comes under attack from the Drowned Ones, will Storm’s magic save them all? Or will it destroy everything?


In many books and literary worlds, you will encounter a Chosen One. Harry Potter for instance. But in Storm Witch, you must meet Storm. You could say that Storm is one of a kind. Unique within her community. A girl with a boy’s name. Teased for it but exhibiting powers that no-one – not even the Elders of the island – can begin to understand.

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Turning thirteen, or should I say Thirteen-year, is a landmark achievement for the children of Yanlin as they must undertake The Choosing and be claimed by one of the almighty Elementals… but things don’t quite go to plan for our Storm. With four Elementals all vying for her, will she be a Child of Air or a Child of Water? Or will she end up being a Child of Earth or Fire?

Watch out for the Drowned Ones too – a wieldy gang of pirates that roam the seas and are ready to attack. Just as Storm is about to say goodbye to one of her friends who has to join the men of the island on a six-month long boat trip… they strike and leave Yanlin a different place to how it started. But can Storm use her powers for the good of her community? Even if she has to go against what is deemed as right.

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In Storm Witch, Ellen Renner has created a fantasy with no limits and has made herself an author to watch. Powerful, riddled with dilemma and fiercely magical in all the right places, this is a strong story that had me gripped in an instant and has left me wanting for more with each and every chapter. So I can’t wait for the next book even though book one – this one – has only just been published today!

‘A strong story that had me gripped in an instant and has left me wanting for more with each and every chapter…’


Big thanks to Siân Heap and Nosy Crow for sending me a copy of this superbly-written book and for inviting me to join in with the blog tour.

Mr E
📚


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Storm
 Witch
 by Ellen Renner is published on 6th September by Nosy Crow in paperback priced £6.99

Storm Witch is available to online or from any good bookshop now.


Giveaway!

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So to celebrate the publication of Storm Witch today, I am delighted to say that Nosy Crow has kindly given me one copy of Storm Witch to giveaway to one of my followers on Twitter. If you’d like a chance of winning this superb prize, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!


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Be sure to check out the other dates and other bloggers for more reviews and posts on the Storm Witch blog tour this week!

Blog Tour (Review): Baker Street Academy: Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Curse – Sam Hearn

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‘A highly engaging mystery… Sherlock is no doubt one of our nation’s favourite detectives and I can guarantee that this young Sherlock will be one of our young nation’s favourite detectives to read about.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Baker Street Academy: Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Curse
Author & Illustrator: Sam Hearn
Publisher: Scholastic (@scholasticuk)
Page count: 160
Date of publication: 2nd August 2018
Series status: Second in the series
ISBN: 978-1407164069

Perfect for Year 3, Year 4 & Year 5.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Mystery ⁉️
2. Ghosts 👻
3. Riddle 📜


The game is afoot! The mystery has begun (again)!

Sherlock, John and Martha are back for a new term at Baker Street Academy when they notice there’s something spooky about their school…

Can Sherlock uncover the mystery of the Baker Street ghost? Or are they all (gulp!) cursed…


Review: Sherlock, Watson, Martha are back to business in Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Curse, by Sam Hearn, the second book in the exciting Baker Street Academy series which will really appeal to budding young detectives and smaller Sherlocks themselves.

A highly-engaging and interesting mystery adventure for younger readers, Baker Street Curse is a delightful read for both parents (many of whom will already be Sherlock fans, who will recognise subtle references to the original stories) and children alike to read together, and also for older readers to read independently. Told through Watson’s diary, and fully illustrated throughout in a graphic novel-style format with comic-strip illustrations bursting with life, Sherlock, Watson and Martha find themselves in the middle of the most spookiest and strangest of goings-on in their school with ghosts, a long-lost curse and a riddle that takes some Sherlock-solving to get their teeth into!


But will they find out what is going on before it is too late?


It’s a great mystery that is easy to follow with some red herrings, plot twists and historical facts scattered along the way that’ll lead readers slightly astray but also bring them closer to the solution, whilst also being supported by a brilliant cast of characters that help to bring the adventure to life. For young Sherlock is just as sharp, astute and observant as we know his older character to be portrayed, and the resolute Watson and the confident Martha add a fantastic friendship dynamic that will have every young reader wanting to be Sherlock, Watson or Martha in their very own sleuthing squad.

First in the series, Sherlock Holmes and the Disappearing Diamond Mystery was one of the winners of The Fantastic Book Awards – Children’s Choice for ages 9-11, judged by children in Lancashire, and I’m sure that this sequel will also be in the running for many awards to come. I am already hoping that there’ll be a third in the series to follow and I could really imagine this series of books being made in to an animated TV series.

These Baker Street Academy books provide the perfect, modern introduction to middle-grade mysteries and to Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic characters. Sherlock is no doubt one of our nation’s favourite detectives and I can guarantee that this young Sherlock will be one of our young nation’s favourite detectives to read about.


‘A highly engaging mystery… Sherlock is no doubt one of our nation’s favourite detectives and I can guarantee that this young Sherlock will be one of our young nation’s favourite detectives to read about.’


Big thanks to Emily Burns and Scholastic for sending me a copy of this book and for inviting me to join in with the blog tour.

Mr E
📚


Baker Street Curse is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

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First in the series, Disappearing Diamond Mystery is also available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

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