Review & Resources: The Truth Pixie – Matt Haig (Illustrated by Chris Mould)

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‘Utterly wondrous… a story for everyone. Matt is a mastermind.  The Truth Pixie is the perfect present – not just for Christmas – but for all year round. My book of the year!’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Truth Pixie
Author: Matt Haig (@matthaig1)
Illustrator: Chris Mould (@chrismouldink)
Publisher: Canongate (@canongatebooks)
Page count: 128
Date of publication: 18th October 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1786894328

Perfect for Year 2, Year 3, Year 4, Year 5 & Year 6 & older (including adults!).

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Wondrous 😊
2. Heartwarming 💝
3. One-of-a-kind 🥇


Wherever she is, whatever the day,
She only has one kind of thing to say.
Just as cats go miaow and cows go moo,
The Truth Pixie can only say things that are true.

A very funny and loveable tale of how one special pixie learned to love herself.


The first line(s):

In a land two thousand miles from here,
Is a place where snow falls all the year.
There you will find trolls and goblins and elves,
And talking rabbits, rather pleased with themselves.


Review: The Truth Pixie is something else. I hope that the something else is conveyed in my following words…

The Truth Pixie is the kind of story that will make you think over and over about its naturally moving qualities because you can’t help but be captivated by its witty and acutely accurate rhyming couplets that shine a light on being self-aware and feeling at one with yourself.

Telling lies is often seen as the worst thing in the world as it gets you in to the worst kind of trouble, yes? We all know the stories; Pinocchio for instance. But what happens when the only thing you can do is tell the truth and that ends up with you landing you in all kinds of trouble too? Hmm….

The Truth Pixie begins to find out for herself as she suffers the wrath of her darned curse with loss of friends and lingering in loneliness being the worst kind of trouble for her.

But the story really comes into its own in its latter half due to its attentiveness, its sheer sense of uniqueness and its loveable quirkiness.

Appreciation, contentment, warmth, tenderness and a sense of connectedness all feature within its pages in the wonderful words and illustrations of this timely, thoughtful tale.

This is helped by the perceptiveness within the most perfect of partnerships in Matt and Chris who reunite to bring to life the most magnificent of stories.

If you think that A Boy Called Christmas, The Girl Who Saved Christmas and Father Christmas and Me were good, then you can only imagine how good The Truth Pixie is when I say it’s utterly wondrous… Matt is a mastermind.

Overall, I feel that the book is best summed by the four lines that have been most recently widely shared on social media:

‘There will be people you love,

Who can’t stay for ever,

And there will be things you can’t fix,

Although you are clever.’

All in all, this is a beautifully-told blend of poetry, rhyme and imaginative storytelling in its finest form that’s essential reading for children, but it is so much more than that as it is a story for everyone. Ultimately, we are people and we are all humans and in essence, this is what this story is truly about; being human.

If you don’t have a copy of The Truth Pixie in your classroom, your school or your home, you’re definitely missing out.

Mark my words, this may be marketed and sold under the branch of children’s literature but there is so much to be admired, to be reflective of and to be learned from books like this for both children and adults alike. This is an absolute gem that will find its rightful place and resonate not only within its readers’ minds but also deep within their hearts.

This book is the perfect present – not just for Christmas – but for all year round.


Today, the 18th October, is the official publication of The Truth Pixie and I am delighted to have been asked to host these utterly amazing resources for The Truth Pixie and Matt’s other books mentioned in my review above, that should be used in all classrooms:

Download Father Christmas and Me resources here:
http://matthaig.christmas/school-resources/



Big thanks to Jen from Shapes4Schools for sending me an advance copy and inviting me to host these brilliant resources on my blog!


The Truth Pixie is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
📚

 

Author Q&A: Armistice Runner – Tom Palmer (Illustrated by Tom Clohosy Cole)

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‘Powerfully poignant.. not to be missed. If there’s one WWI story you read this year, let it be this one!’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Armistice Runner
Author: Tom Palmer (@tompalmerauthor)
Illustrator: Tom Clohosy Cole (@tomclohosycole)
Publisher: Barrington Stoke (@BarringtonStoke)
Page count: 176
Date of publication: 6th September 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1781128251

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1.  WWI 🎖️
2.  Running 🏃‍♀️
3. Family 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦


Today I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Tom Palmer to The Reader Teacher for an exclusive Author Q&A about his most recent book, Armistice Runner. Read on for a fantastic interview where Tom shares his thoughts about Armistice Runner, his own experiences of reading and writing and how Armistice Runner can be used in the classroom!

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Armistice Runner (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 Armistice Runner?

    1. Fast-paced 🏃‍♀️
    2. Historical 🕓
    3. Emotional 😂
  • What books, people, research, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write Armistice Runner?

I researched a variety of things. There are some great books about the history of fell running, but also histories of the end of WW1. The Forgotten Voices: Armistice book was the best. Also, local material about Cumbria in WW1. The Imperial War Museum has a vast bank of interviews with old soldiers, many available online. I listened to a lot of those. I found out about a real fell champion called Ernest Dalzell. He went to war and died. I based a lot of it on him. I also ran the races he ran to get the feel. But not at his pace. My daughter fell runs too, so her ‘world’ was vital to me getting it right, I hope. Also, remembering dementia and how it has affected people in my family.

  • What was the most enjoyable part of writing Armistice Runner?

Writing about what the trench runner did in WW1. I researched the role and found out how dangerous it was and how men were very keen to do it. I found one book by a trench runner that gave me an idea of how they felt about the war. Then I went out into the dark moors near where I live and pretended I was a trench runner to get into the character.

  • Do you like to run yourself?

Yes, I fell run. My daughter does too. It was an honour to tell the story of fell running 100 years ago. It made me proud of what is quite a niche sport.

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

Lily’s dad. Because he kind of is me. With some changed names.

Reading and Writing (4)

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

I hated reading and writing at school. I was attracted to both by my mum getting me to read about football in newspapers, magazines and books. It gave me confidence and I started to read more broadly. Then my life changed in a thousand ways. I firmly believe the way to engage reluctant readers is through what they are interested in and not always fiction, and not always even books.

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

I am energised by most of it. Writing. Marking up changes. I really love planning and researching and often go too far because it is such fun. The bit I hate is typing the changes I have marked up on the page. But it needs doing. I use coffee to help with that one bit I struggle with.

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

Yes. I wrote to Elizabeth Beresford and she wrote back, twice. I loved the Wombles on TV and my mum read the books to me. I remember the impact that had on me every time I get a letter or email from a child. She taught me a good lesson.

  • Currently, we seem to be living in a golden age of books, especially that of children’s literature. What are some of the interesting things or things you like that you’re seeing in other children’s books today? What are you reading, if you are reading any children’s (or adult’s) literature at the moment?

Loads of my reading relates to what I write. I am reading about the advance paratroopers who went in early on D-Day at the moment. But I like to read fast-paced historical fiction most that the moment, like Bernard Cornwell or Manda Scott. I read other children’s books because of the way children recommend them to me in schools. I love their passion and often go away and get the book. I am a big fan of Anthony Horowitz and Rosemary Sutcliff.

Armistice Runner and Teaching (3)

  • Could you suggest ways that your book could be used in the classroom for the many teachers and school staff that will read this?

I like to hear it is being used as a class read. Because it is about dementia, running, a girl as a main sporting character, WW1, Cumbria and the end-of-war coming together of a British and German soldier – I hope there is a lot in there. My wife and I have developed films, games and texts that teachers can download for free, aimed at KS2 and KS3. I hope they are useful: www.tompalmer.co.uk/armistice-runner.

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

It’s about a girl who likes to run. She finds out via her grandma that her great- great-grandad was a champion runner and war hero. That inspires her on and off the fells.

  • 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?

Direct would be great: info@tompalmer.co.uk. I try to reply within 24 hours.

Two more before you go (2)!

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

Would you like your mum and dad (who died before I was published) to know you did okay?

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

When I started at secondary school I was not allowed to do English Lit or a foreign language because my grip on the English language was not strong enough. (Before I found reading.)

One last one… (1)!

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

I’d like to know if I have gone overboard with my Tweeting about Armistice Runner. I have been banging on about the book and the free resources available on my website – at www.tompalmer.co.uk/armistice-runner – for weeks. (There I go again.) What do they find annoying about authors and what they say on social media and in their blogs?


Thank you so much Tom for answering my questions!

Armistice Runner is now available to order online or from any good bookshop.

Biggest thanks to Tom, Kirstin and all at Barrington Stoke for sending me a copy of this outstanding book and for choosing my quote to feature on it!

Mr E

 

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): The Missing Barbegazi – H. S. Norup

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‘Combining Helle’s love for skiing and the slopes, this is a snow-sprinkled story that’s so beautifully told you’ll want to snuggle up with it all night. This deserves to be one of this winter’s wonders.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Missing Barbegazi
Author: H. S. Norup (@HSNorup)
Publisher: Pushkin Press (@PushkinPress)
Page count: 256
Date of publication: 4th October 2018
ISBN: 978-1782691815

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1.  Skis 🎿
2.  Barbegazi 👹
3. Family 👪

Review: As Tessa’s grandfather, Opa, has told her, there’s Barbegazi about in the Austrian alps deep within the snow-tipped mountains. Everyone else however thinks he might have been a confused old man who maybe was telling lies but can she prove that her beloved grandfather was right to speak of these fabled creatures…?

As Tessa becomes more and more involved on her mission to find the Barbegazi, she doesn’t just find one but a whole family of Barbegazi in need of her help and soon becomes entangled in their lives far more than she could ever have imagined when setting out to find one.

As the book switches between its dual-narrative chapters between Tessa and Gawion, covering the days from Boxing Day to New Year’s Eve, we share a special story with even greater bonds holding it all together. Tight, inter-generational bonds that really do help to bring this story to life, in more ways than one.

Combining Helle’s love for skiing and the slopes, this is a snow-sprinkled story that’s so beautifully told you’ll want to snuggle up with it all night. With Helle, Pushkin Press have more than a promising author on their hands.

Almost like slalom meeting The Sound of Music. this is a different kind of adventure that ultimately deserves to be one of this winter’s wonders.


Today, on its book birthday, I give a warm welcome to author of The Missing Barbegazi, H. S. Norup to The Reader Teacher. Here, she shares with The Reader Teacher her exclusive guest post about the perspective behind her debut novel for children…

A Barbegazi Perspective by H.S. Norup

When I first had the idea for THE MISSING BARBEGAZI, I had never heard of a barbegazi. The story I began to write was the story of an eleven-year-old girl, Tessa, who wanted to win a ski race. A story set entirely in the real world, dealing with real world problems. No magic. No mythical creatures.

We were living in Switzerland at the time, my two sons were part of a ski racing team, and we spent every winter weekend on skis. I knew how desperately my sons desired the gleaming trophies. And I loved how tightly the kids from the ski club banded together and supported each other on race days, despite their internal competition.

Perhaps the book where a ski race was the climax of the story would have turned out to be a good book, but it wasn’t one I could write. In fact, I had not written more than one chapter before Tessa met a strange furry creature in the snow. It was some kind of elf, it was friendly, and it was scared of Tessa. That was all I knew.

After some research, I discovered that the creature Tessa had encountered was a barbegazi. As mythical creatures go an almost completely unknown species, but every bit of the sparse information I found matched the elf in my story.

The details I discovered about the barbegazi sparked my imagination in curious ways. For example, the fact that barbegazi myths are from the high alps in France and Switzerland, meant that I had to make up a reason for my barbegazi’s presence in Austria, where the story takes place. And, as the name barbegazi comes from the French barbe glacée (frozen beard), I knew their beards were important, so I decided female and young barbegazi needed beards too, and I bestowed barbegazi beards with magical properties. unnamed-5.jpg

Consolidating folklore and invented barbegazi “facts”, I wrote part of a fictional non-fiction book, called: Habits and Habitats: A Historic Account of Alpine Elves, to use in my story about Tessa. But it still wasn’t enough. The barbegazi, Gawion, wasn’t satisfied with a minor role; he wanted to speak for himself and tell part of the story from his point of view.

Tessa’s voice came intuitively, but for Gawion’s chapters I had to set guidelines to ensure his voice was believable and consistent. Many of these came naturally from the barbegazi’s backstory: in 1752, when Gawion’s parents were young, they were captured near their Mont Blanc glacier home and gifted to the empress Maria Theresa in Vienna. Here, they were incarcerated in the imperial menagerie until they escaped in 1862, shortly before Gawion and his twin sister were born. Their fear of being captured again led the barbegazi to avoid all contact with humans in the next 154 years.

The direct implication of this backstory was that their language would be somewhat old-fashioned and that the barbegazi wouldn’t know the terms for anything invented after the middle of the nineteenth century. Imagining how Gawion would describe modern inventions like a snow groomer (a huge metal monster that growls like a thousand angry dogs) was fun. Getting the language sufficiently archaic without sacrificing readability or pace was more challenging.

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The easiest measure was, of course, to write Gawion’s chapters without contractions. While writing early drafts, I experimented with words and sentence structure and listened to Austen and Dickens audiobooks to absorb their language and rhythms. I used thesaurus and etymology dictionaries to find words that were old-fashioned (but still recognisable for middle grade readers) and to ensure I didn’t use words that developed after the barbegazi had lost contact with humans. To create distance between barbegazi and humans and emphasise their view that humans are the odd creatures, I decided that barbegazi don’t distinguish between genders for humans and therefore refer to all humans with the pronoun: it. Furthermore, as Gawion had never experienced anywhere but the snow-covered mountains, all the imagery had to be linked to snow and things he might have seen in the wintery setting, e.g. Hope shrunk to something smaller than a blackberry at the bottom of a gorge.

Writing from the perspective of a barbegazi has been exciting, and, at school visits, it’s wonderful to hear the enthusiastic and inventive responses when I ask how Gawion would describe things like helicopters and mobile phones. The children love spotting and explaining archaic words, and they have been especially interested in learning about old expletives. So, let me end by apologising in advance if readers of THE MISSING BARBEGAZI completely stop using contemporary swear words and from now simply yell: POTZBLITZ!


H. S. Norup, author of The Missing Barbegazi


Big thanks to Helle, Mollie and Pushkin Press for sending me a copy of The Missing Barbegazi. Extra thanks to Helle for writing her superb guest post!

Mr E

The Missing Barbegazi is now available to order online or from any good bookshop.

Author Q&A: There’s a Yeti in the Playground – Pamela Butchart (Illustrated by Thomas Flintham)

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: There’s a Yeti in the Playground
Author: Pamela Butchart (@Pamela_Butchart)
Illustrator: Thomas Flintham
Publisher: Nosy Crow (@NosyCrowBooks)
Page count: 256
Date of publication: 4th October 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1788001168

Perfect for Year 3, Year 4 and Year 5.

#3Words3Emojis:
1.  Yeti 👹
2. Footprints 👣
3. Laugh-out-loud 😁


Today, on its book birthday, I am delighted to welcome to author of There’s a Yeti in the Playground, Pamela Butchart to The Reader Teacher. Here, she shares with The Reader Teacher her exclusive Author Q&A…

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Q&A

There’s a Yeti in the Playground (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 There’s a Yeti in the Playground?

  1. WINTERY ❄️ ️
  2. FUNNY 🤣
  3. WILD 😱
  • What books, people, research, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write There’s a Yeti in the Playground?

When I was on World Book Day tour with my then ten-week-old baby we had quite the snowy adventure! At one point the ‘Beast from the East’ snowstorm trapped us on a train for ten hours. Thankfully, we were warm and the baby had everything he needed but it gave me a lot of time to think plot the new book!  I remember I kept thinking about the snowstorm’s nickname – the ‘Beast from the East’ – and how it sounded like an actual SNOW BEAST. I realised that if this had happened when I was eight-years-old and all the adults were talking about ‘The Best from the East’ that I would’ve DEFINITELY thought a yeti was headed my way!

  • What was the most enjoyable part of writing There’s a Yeti in the Playground?

It was the first book I’d written since my baby was born and I wrote the whole book during his nap time. Some days the baby would nap for only 30 mins so it was a complete race against time to write as much as I could each day in a very short period of time. I found that I had to write faster than I ever have before and it made the story even more FRANTIC and WILD than I’d planned! I also managed to sneak a baby yeti in there too with was fun.

  • What would you do if you found a yeti in the playground?

If it was a baby yeti I’d give it a great big cuddle.

  • If you were to choose the character that is most like you from There’s a Yeti in the Playground, who would it be and why?

I’m most like Jodi. I like to make plans, be in charge and watch SURVIVAL programmes. I’d DEFINITELY put a survival plan in place ASAP if I spotted a mummy yeti in the playground at my school.

Reading and Writing (4)

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

I didn’t always enjoy writing at school because I didn’t like it when you had to write a certain way and do certain things that the teacher said when you were writing a story.  It definitely got in the way of my imagination. But I DID like writing at home. I could write what I wanted, any way I wanted.

I was also a terrible speller which made me a bit anxious to hand in my story to the teacher. But now I know that I shouldn’t have worried about that so much. I’m STILL an terrible speller, I STILL find it hard to make sentences sound right and I STILL forget what an ‘adjective’ and ‘pronoun’ are (I always have to look them up). But none of that matters too much when you have a big imagination and are willing to work hard and not give up.

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

Writing the Izzy books always energises me. I get super-excited when I’m the fast-paced scenes and can often be seen typing at about one hundred miles and hour!

Sometimes editing exhausts me, especially when I can’t quite figure out how to make something work if I take something else out. Once, when writing ‘Attack it the Demon Dinner Ladies’, I turned two characters (who were twins) into one character. That’s was a bit tricky. I find that the best thing to do when I get a bit stuck is to walk away from it and come back to it later. Sometimes I’ll be asleep and wake up because the solution suddenly pings into my brain. It’s weird.

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

I never experienced an author visit or met an author when I was at school. I don’t remember writing to any either. But I do remember meeting my favourite author for the first time…I was lucky enough to meet Judith Kerr a couple of years ago at the Edinburgh Festival and it was awesome. She is my literary hero.

  • Currently, we seem to be living in a golden age of books, especially that of children’s literature. What are some of the interesting things or things you like that you’re seeing in other children’s books today? What are you reading, if you are reading any children’s (or adult’s) literature at the moment?

I’m pleased to be seeing lots of great funny fiction for children but I’d like to see more written by women.

There’s a Yeti in the Playground and Teaching (3)

  • Could you suggest ways that your book could be used in the classroom for the many teachers and school staff that will read this?

YES!

  1. Children could work in small groups to write and draw alternate endings to the book.
  2. They could also write their own Izzy adventure with each person in the group having their own task. There could be what I like to call an ‘Idea Generator’ (helping the writer and illustrator), writer/s, editors (helping the writer/checking their work), Illustrator/s, designer/s (designing the layout and what the front cover will look like, publisher/s (presenting the story and front cover/design to the class and explaining what the book is about.)u
  3. They could also work in small groups and act out scenes from the book (always hilarious!).
  4. They could pretend there’s a yeti loose on their playground and make a survival plan!
  5. They could do a follow-up project about yeti sightings and learn about Mount Everest expeditions and sightings.
  • If you were to ‘pitch’ There’s a Yeti in the Playgroundin a sentence or two for teachers to use it in their classrooms or for parents to choose to read it at home, how would you sum it up?

A fast-paced, funny, adventure about getting snowed in at school with a yeti on the loose and having to eat out-of-date beans to SURVIVE.

  • 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?

Sorry! I’m currently on maternity leave and not booking any school visits at this time.

Two more before you go (2)!

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

Who are your favourite funny female funny writers?

Children’s and YA Fiction – Louise Rennison, Catherine Wilkins, Sue Townsend and Joanne Nadin.

Children’s Picture Books – Sue Hendra, Rebecca Patterson and Cressida Cowell.

TV/Film – Sharon Horgan, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey.

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

I wrote ‘The Toilet Ghost’ when I was eight-years-old and it was published when I was 32! So please keep ALL of your stories because you never know, they might end up being turned into a book one day.

One last one… (1)!

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

I had so much fun writing a wintery book (and I really hope you enjoy reading it!). My favourite Winter-themed books are ‘The Snowman’ by Raymond Briggs and ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.’ By C.S. Lewis. What are your favourite wintery books?

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


There’s a Yeti in the Playground is now available to order online or from any good bookshop.

Big thanks to Pamela, Clare and Nosy Crow for sending me a copy of this brilliantly funny book!

Mr E

 

 

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
📚

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


Blog Tour-2
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 & Guest Post): Warrior Boy – Virginia Clay

Warrior Boy Jacket
‘Absorbing and captivating… it’s so immersive, it’s like you’re in the African savannah yourself.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Warrior Boy
Author: Virginia Clay (@VClayAuthor)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 256
Date of publication: 6th September 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-0857636409

Perfect for Year 6 & Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Maasai 🇹🇿 🇰🇪
2. Poachers 🔫
3.  Warrior 🛡️


London schoolboy Ben is heading for Kenya to meet his Maasai family. But how is an outsider like him going to fit in?

When he meets his cousin Kip, he discovers they share more than he thought – if only Ben can keep up.

Together, the boys must survive the African savannah: hunt for food, defend elephants from poachers – and even face the king of the beasts. Does Ben have what it takes to be a twenty-first-century warrior?


Review: Set deep in the African savannah, Warrior Boy tells the tale of Ben, a London schoolboy about as far removed from a tribal lifestyle as he can be, visiting the homeland of his father. As he travels to Africa with his conservationist mother, he finds himself in for a few shocks to say the least.

As he confronts his biggest fears within moments of arriving (including taking part in a ritual that ends up showing he has far more in common with his family than he so realises), he soon knows he’s in for more than he bargained when he comes across poachers who seem to have it in for his family and give them more than a serious warning to let them carry on poaching…

Can Ben – who already feared the lack of acceptance from his father’s family – defend the savannah’s animals from these callous poachers, fit in to the tribe and follow in his father’s footsteps to become a warrior? Only time will tell.

Thanks to Virginia’s own experiences, this is written in such an absorbing and captivating way that’s so immersive you’ll really feel the mix of the soaring heat and the pulsating dangers of the grasslands making it feel like you’re experiencing the savannah for yourself.


Boys and Reading

The most surprising but yet thrilling thing I have noticed since Warrior Boy’s release, has been the number of parents who have told me, having read the book, how excited they are that their son might start reading now. Of course, it’s wonderful that anyone should have such high hopes for my story, but also shocking because I hadn’t realized boys were not reading in such vast numbers.

Perhaps I have been slightly fooled by the phenomenal success of David Walliams; he has done so much to encourage boys to read. And whilst I hear lots of parents – and writers – say they are fed up with his monopoly hold on the market, for every one of those, there are two teachers who adore him. When you have a student who will do anything to avoid reading, but encounters DW and reads one of his books in two days, quite frankly you could fall down and worship at his feet.

But it has been ten years now since The Boy in the Dress was first published, which is probably a good time to take stock. And I am wondering whether Walliams hasn’t just turned boys who don’t read, into boys who read David Walliams, when we really want them to be getting a varied literary diet.

So how can we help them be braver about approaching new titles? The children’s author Chris Bradford says it’s all about finding the right subject to fit the boy:

“If all they ever play is an Xbox, perhaps start them on Game Boy by Alan Durrant. If they’re into sports, challenge them with Tom Palmer’s Football Academy series or his award-winning Ghost Stadium. If they’re interested in technology or science, connect them with Dot Robot by Jason Bradbury or Itch by Simon Mayo.

As a child, I read everything from L.M Montgomery to Tolkien but research shows that girls are more likely to try a wider range of subjects than boys and to get the latter sailing away from the warm, familiar waters of Walliams and into uncharted waters, we need to find subject matter they are passionate about.

Bradford continues, “The key element here is to plug into their everyday interests and let them live the book both in their minds and in their lives. Remember, every boy wants to be the hero!”

So where does this leave Warrior Boy? Are there any boys out there who have an obsession with spear throwing and warthog wrestling? It certainly has a hero at its heart, and I think this could be the key. All readers – boys and girls – need to identify with the main character enough to feel they could overcome the potential threat. The hero in my story faces a formidable threat in the form of elephant poaching. Will parents’ hopes be realised for their sons to read Warrior Boy? I certainly hope so!


Virginia Clay, author of Warrior Boy

WARRIOR BOY by Virginia Clay out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

 Connect with Virginia on twitter @VClayAuthor and find out more at http://www.chickenhousebooks.com


Big thanks to Laura Smythe and Chicken House for sending me a copy of this brilliant book and for inviting me to join in with the Warrior Boy blog tour.
Extra thanks to Virginia for writing her guest post!

Mr E
📚

Warrior Boy 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 guest posts on the Warrior Boy blog tour this week!

Guest Post: Sparking Imagination: the Unpredictable Influence of Children’s Books – Harriet Muncaster (Isadora Moon Makes Winter Magic)

To celebrate the publication today of the next book in the very successful Isadora Moon series, Isadora Moon Makes Winter Magic,
I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Harriet Muncaster to The Reader Teacher today!

Without further ado, here’s Harriet’s guest post ‘Sparking Imagination: the Unpredictable Influence of Children’s Books’ where she talks about the benefits of reading for children; how even the smallest idea in a story can inspire a big one and her own mascot…

Sparking Imagination: the Unpredictable Influence of Children’s Books

We all know that reading has lots of benefits for children, not least improved language and literacy abilities. But reading a range of stories helps to expose children to different ideas that can spark their imagination in unpredictable ways. When a child reads a book, they’re stepping inside a whole new world, and coming across ideas they may never have been exposed to before. A tiny detail or action in any book could really resonate with a particular child, even if dozens of others would just skim over it. And there’s no knowing what that could be.

the suitcase kid

For me, The Suitcase Kid by Jacqueline Wilson contained just such a small idea that inspired me in a big way. In The Suitcase Kid, a little girl’s parents are getting divorced and she is finding this change hard to deal with. In truth I only vaguely remember the events of the main plot, perhaps because I’m fortunate enough not to have first-hand experience of this situation. I’m sure for many children who have been in a similar situation, reading the story would offer relatability and catharsis.

However, even though the story hasn’t stayed with me over the years since I read it, one of the ways the little girl tried to cope with the divorce has. You see, she got a little Sylvanian Families rabbit called Radish and decided it would become her ‘mascot’. This meant she treated it like a real, living friend who she took everywhere with her. She took Radish on adventures and made things for her, like a little boat she could go down the stream in. Here the girl is playing with Radish in the bathroom:

“She loves the bathroom. It’s her favourite best ever place. Don’t forget she’s only four centimetres tall. The basin and the bath are her very own Leisure Pool. I generally fix up a superslide by knotting Paula’s tights together and hanging them from the door hook to the bath tap. Radish hasn’t got a very slippery bottom so I soap her a lot to make her slide satisfactorily. This means Paul’s tights get a bit soapy too but that can’t be helped.”

Radish doesn’t even feature on every page, but I just found the idea of having a little character you can make things for and have adventures with so inspiring. As soon as I finished reading The Suitcase Kid I decided I had to have my own ‘mascot’. I got a Sylvanian Families ginger cat and called it Fleur. You can see her here:

Fleur the mascot

From there, the game of mascots grew and developed and I got my friends involved. At the peak of the game there were five of us, each with our own mascots. We would make clothes and accessories for our mascots, take them with us wherever we went, and throw parties for them. The most important rule was that everything they had needed to be real and to work. So, for example, they couldn’t have dolls house food: it had to be actually edible. Every mascot had to have a place to live as well, so we all made special bedrooms for our mascots.

Taking the game further, I started creating mascot magazines for my friends and me to read. These included photographs and stories of the mascots’ adventures, quizzes, and instructions for making things like clothes, patchwork quilts and mascot toothbrushes. I spent ages on these things, and loved every second of it. Even as my friends moved on to new games, I kept on with my mascots, and even now I still have a mascot:

Vinetta in a boat
And you can still see my fascination with miniature people in the normal-sized world in some of my published books:

 

I have always loved anything miniature, especially miniature characters like Tinkerbell and the Borrowers, and I have always loved making things, so I probably would have found some similar creative outlet had I not read The Suitcase Kid. I would have made miniature clothes, or written stories about tiny people, and I certainly would have carried on playing with my Sylvanian Families.

But I might not have found something as big or as captivating as the mascots game. Not something that my friends would get involved in consistently over the course of a couple of years, or that inspired me to create my own magazines. In this, The Suitcase Kid was a catalyst, a springboard for my imagination. For someone who was (and still is!) more interested in stories of fairies and the fantastic, a book about a child dealing with parental divorce wouldn’t necessarily be an obvious choice, but I got something from it much more impactful than anyone might have predicted.

I suppose my message then to parents, teachers, and readers of all ages, is that you never know what new ideas and inspirations you could find between the covers of a given book. So take a gamble; try something new; give your child something they may or may not choose for themselves. I only read The Suitcase Kid because it was a gift, but for all the hours and hours of fun I had playing mascots afterwards, I’m so glad I did!


Harriet Muncaster

 

Harriet Muncaster is the author and illustrator of the international bestselling Isadora Moon young fiction series. Her latest book, Isadora Moon Makes Winter Magic, is available in the UK from September 6th.

You can follow her mascots’ latest adventures on Instagram, see what Harriet has been up to on Facebook  and Twitter, and find a selection of Isadora Moon activities for home and school on her website.

Cover Reveal: Matt Millz Stands Up! – Harry Hill & Giveaway!

Today, I’m delighted to exclusively reveal the cover of Matt Millz Stands Up!, the eagerly-awaited sequel to Harry Hill’s fantastically funny Matt Millz, which will be published on the 18th October 2018 by Faber Children’s.

As if I’m not super excited already, I’m even more excited because the very lovely people at Faber Children’s have given me three sets of both books (Matt Millz & Matt Millz Stands Up!) to give away!
Find out more below!

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Title: Matt Millz Stands Up!
Author: Harry Hill (@HarryHill)
Illustrator: Steve May (@stevemaythe1st)
Publisher: Faber Children’s (@FaberChildrens)
Page count: 464
Date of publication: 18th October 2018
Series status: Second in the Matt Millz series
ISBN: 978-0571345687


Matt did it! His performance at the T Factor has given him the fame he dreamed of. Kitty is getting more gigs booked in with a whole new stable of comedic acts. Unfortunately, Matt hasn’t had time to come up with new jokes so it isn’t long before he is greeted with the worst heckle for a comedian: ‘heard it before!’. But when Kitty suggests he takes a break to work on his routine, Matt can’t stand to go back to his normal life. So he signs up with the stylish Excalibur Agency, brushing his concerns (and Kitty) aside. A life of celebrity awaits! But it doesn’t take long for the shine to wear off and when they try and force him on to his first Live At the Apollo, without any prepara- tion and no new jokes, how can Matt save himself from the ultimate humiliation?


Another comic caper that every 9-11 year old aspiring comedian will love, packed full of heart, humour and dos and don’ts!


Harry Hill

IMG_5D2AF26B3C8A-1.jpeg(Photo credit: https://www.faber.co.uk/author/harry-hill/)

Harry Hill is a BAFTA winning comedian and world class swingball player. Born in Woking in 1964, he holds a med- ical degree from the University of London. His books include Flight from Deathrow and Tim the Tiny Horse. He has been a stand-up since the early 90s, and TV shows he’s created and starred in include Harry Hill’s TV Burp and Harry Hill’s Alien Fun Capsule, while he’s also the voice of You’ve Been Framed.


Steve May

Steve_May_img_04341508940966(Photo credit: http://www.picassopictures.com/picasso-pictures/directors/steve-may)

Steve May is an animation director & freelance illustrator based in London (UK). He was born in sunny Hastings & studied painting & film-making at Trent Polytechnic (1988-91) and after several years working as an illustrator / animator, a roady for Nirvana (once) & aspiring (but unsuccessful ) pop star gained an MA in Animation at the Royal College of Art (1999-2001)

As an illustrator he has produced high quality illustration work for a variety of clients including Marks & Spencer, Harper Collins, The GuardianThe Economist, Puffin & Faber amongst many others.


Huge thanks to Sarah and all at Faber Children’s for giving me the opportunity to host this fantastic cover reveal, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

Mr E
📚


Pre-order and order links

Second in the series, Matt Millz Stands Up! is available to pre-order online from Amazon, Waterstones or from any good bookshop.

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First in the series, Matt Millz is available to order online from Amazon, Waterstones or from any good bookshop.

Image 16-08-2018 at 16.43


Giveaway!

If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning one of three sets of both books, Matt Millz and Matt Millz Stands Up!, retweet (RT) this tweet!

Ends 23/8, UK only.

Copies to be sent to winners when available from Faber Children’s, close to publication in October.

 

Sneak Peek: The Twitches Meet a Puppy (Meet the Twitches 3) & Giveaway: Meet the Twitches Trilogy

I regularly recommend Hayley Scott’s Meet the Twitches series of books on Twitter, particularly to teachers who teach Year 2, Year 3 & Year 4, so I’m really excited to have been asked to host a sneak peek of Hayley’s third novel in the series, The Twitches Meet a Puppy – gorgeously illustrated in full colour by Pippa Curnick – which will be published on the 4th October by Usborne.


Giveaway!

I am also incredibly fortunate that Usborne have kindly given me two signed sets of the Meet the Twitches trilogy (3 books: Meet the Twitches, The Twitches Bake a Cake; The Twitches Meet a Puppy) to giveaway. Please see below for the giveaway! ⬇️


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Open up the Teacup House – and meet four little rabbit heroes with big ideas!

Watch out, Twitches – Stevie’s got a furry visitor. The teacup house is turned upside down when a bouncy puppy comes to stay! Silver and Mama Bo hide in the garden, and meet a creature who needs their help.

Now it’s Twitches to the rescue…

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Hayley Scott

ycUMR_XP_400x400(Picture credit: https://www.twitter.com/bookshaped)

Hayley has always loved stories. She grew up near Watership Down, and one of her favourite things to do was visit the big hill to watch the rabbits hopping in and out of their burrows. She’s always loved really small things too. When she was little she used to make tiny furniture for fairy houses, setting them out in scooped out hollows in her back garden. To this day she’s sure the fairies used them…

Hayley lives in Norfolk. Teacup House is her debut series for young readers.

You can find out more about Hayley on Twitter: @bookshaped


Pippa Curnick

g2sSkc5j_400x400(Picture credit: https://www.twitter.com/PippaCurnick)

Pippa Curnick is an illustrator, designer, bookworm and bunny owner. She gets her inspiration from walking in the woods in Derbyshire, where she lives with her partner and their son.  Pippa grew up in Essex and studied at Camberwell College of Art before graduating from the University of Derby with a First Class degree in illustration.
Pippa also enjoys puppet and model making.

You can find out more about Pippa on her website or on Twitter: @PippaCurnick


Meet the Twitches Trilogy Signed Giveaway!

If you’d like to enter this giveaway, simply RT this tweet!


Order links

Third in the series, The Twitches Meet a Puppy is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

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Second in the series, The Twitches Bake a Cake is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

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First in the series, Meet the Twitches is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

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Big thanks to Liz, Hayley and Usborne for giving me the opportunity to share a sneak peek of their fantastic books and to host this brilliant giveaway!

Mr E
📚