Cover Reveal AND exclusive inside illustrations! The Boy Who Lived with Dragons (The Boy Who Grew Dragons: Book 2) – Andy Shepherd (Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie)

I’m super excited to reveal today the cover AND exclusive inside illustrations of Andy Shepherd’s second in the series, ‘The Boy Who Lived with Dragons’ which will be published on 6th September 2018 by Piccadily Press.

The Boy Who Lived with Dragons – Andy Shepherd

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The second book in a wonderfully funny and sparky series illustrated by award-winning artist Sara Ogilvie.

Dragons are a lot more trouble than cucumbers.

In ‘The Boy Who Grew Dragons’, Tomas finds a dragon fruit tree in his Grandad’s garden. When a tiny dragon bursts out of one of the fruit, he discovers just how much more trouble they are. But it’s not all about the chaos and exploding poo. The first time Flicker curls his tail around Tomas’ wrist and looks at him with those bright diamond eyes, Tomas finds there’s a whole lot more magic in a dragon.

Tomas has to learn to look after Flicker – and quickly. And then more dragonfruits appear on the tree. And Tomas is officially growing dragons…

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Tomas tucked up with Flicker! (from Chapter 8)

Now in this second book, ‘The Boy Who Lived With Dragons’, we find out what happens when Tomas’ friends get in on the action with their own dragons. Add to that a grumpy neighbour and a nosy arch nemesis, who may just have a secret of his own, things could be about to get too hot to handle!

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Kat and Kai in a game of Blast Attack! (from Chapter 9)

Andy Shepherd

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Andy Shepherd is a children’s writer working on middle-grade fiction and picture books. She lives near Cambridge with her husband, two sons and their border collie.

You can find out more about Andy by visiting her website or follow her on Twitter @andyjshepherd.


The wonderful cover artwork and illustrations in the books have been done by Sara Ogilvie.

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You can find out more about Sara and see her lovely illustrations at her website.

Disclaimer: – Please note, all dragon-growing is undertaken entirely at your own risk and Andy cannot be held responsible for any damage your dragon may cause.


Huge thanks to Andy, Tina and all at Piccadilly Press for inviting me to host the cover reveal, I can’t wait to see this on the shelves along with The Boy Who Grew Dragons and get my hands on a copy!

Andy will also be visiting The Reader Teacher soon on her upcoming blog tour for The Boy Who Grew Dragons where I’ll be reviewing The Boy Who Grew Dragons, she’ll be answering my questions in an Author Q&A and there’ll be a giveaway of The Boy Who Grew Dragons!

Mr E
🐲📚🐉


The Boy Who Lived with Dragons is available to pre-order now online or from any good bookshop.

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First in the series, The Boy Who Lived with Dragons is available to pre-order now online or from any good bookshop.

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Review & Author Q&A: Running on Empty – S. E. Durrant (Illustrated by Rob Biddulph)

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‘A remarkable, revealing and realistic read that was every bit as brilliant as I hoped it would be in painting a powerfully poignant and at times, painfully honest picture of life where real heroes don’t wear capes. And sometimes, they don’t wear the correct-sized trainers either… This one will run and run.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Running on Empty
Author: S. E. Durrant (@SEDurrant)
Illustrator (Cover): Rob Biddulph (@RobBiddulph)
Publisher: Nosy Crow (@NosyCrow/@NosyCrowBooks)
Page count: 208
Date of publication: 1st March 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1510102118

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Remarkable ☺️
2. Revealing 😥
3. Real 👟


The thing that makes me different from other eleven-year-old boys, apart from my fantastic running ability, is that my parents have learning difficulties.

It’s no big deal for me. Really it isn’t. I don’t look after them.

We look after each other.

A story of family, friendship and trainers, Running on Empty will grip you till the finishing line…


The first line:

The most amazing thing I ever saw was Usain Bolt winning the 100 metres at the London Olympics.


Review: Living in East London, a quick stretch of the legs away from the hallowed track of the Olympic Stadium, AJ is a boy who was born to run. He lives, sleeps, eats, drinks and breathes running. After watching his idol Usain Bolt – albeit on TV – create history at the 2012 London Olympics by setting the world record, AJ spends his every waking moment trying to emulate his hero. He knows he’s different for two reasons. Different in that he has a terrific talent. But also different in that he leads a life unlike his friends, his peers and the people he sees around him, taking on the role and responsibility of a young carer by looking after his parents who have learning difficulties.

Due to the unconditional love, encouragement and support of his beloved grandfather, AJ’s talent develops in to something more than a talent. However his world starts to unravel as he is forced to adjust to life after the death of his grandfather who was more than his steadying influence, more like his rock. Roles are reversed as AJ soon recognises that his grandfather did more than he realised by keeping it all together for him and his parents, as he took charge of the running of the house and paying the bills. Suddenly AJ now finds himself trying to follow Grandad’s lead but with more responsibility than he could ever imagine bestowed upon his small shoulders.

When you’ve outgrown your trainers, you don’t want to run the risk of alerting social services to the situation and there’s no money left to put in the electricity meter – let alone enough to buy a new pair – it is clear that AJ will have a tough and tumultuous time to come trying to cope with it all. Although it seems that AJ’s grandfather cannot be replaced, his spirit does indeed live on in the security and stability that AJ seeks to provide for his parents. It is also here where his grandfather’s comforting words will live long in the memory: ‘Sometimes people think being different is a problem but actually it can be a very nice thing.’

Written in a series of frank, sincere and heart-to-heart conversational exchanges, we really start to feel for AJ as he breaks down the fourth wall between himself and the reader unveiling elements of what life truly feels like when living on the edge. He talks about what at first seem like unsurmountable hurdles to him; problems of transition between school and home life, the overwhelming sense of responsibility now resting upon his shoulders and trying to keep his family on track. But can he overcome these continual challenges that he is faced with or will it all come crashing down around him…? We begin to notice that although AJ runs as a hobby, it is also acts as a form of escapism for him and a way of channeling his grief, his anxiety, his worries and the instability of the situation he finds himself in.

An emphatically empathetic and deeply moving story that’s both attentively and compassionately written, Running on Empty has all the characteristic hallmarks of Sue’s brilliantly endearing style of writing that showcases the unassuming, unseen and unsung heroes of this world, and she – after the deserved success of Little Bits of Sky – achieves the gold medal standard in this genre once again.

It often brought a lump to the throat and tugged at the heartstrings as its laced with tinges of despair and uncertainty. For instance, the chapter where AJ rummages through the box of lost-property trainers particularly struck me at the time and still stays stuck with me, long after reading this. Though, it so equally often made me smile and feel remotely hopeful for AJ. A real emotional rollercoaster of a read where big-hearted characters run the show and the true power of relationships; of finding help in the unlikeliest of people and of total togetherness is rightfully placed at its core.

This book proves that sometimes that just managing and getting by in life in the long run is more of a marathon than a 100m sprint and that real heroes don’t have to wear capes. In fact, sometimes, they don’t – and can’t – even wear the correct-sized trainers.

‘A remarkable, revealing and realistic read that was every bit as brilliant as I hoped it would be in painting a powerfully poignant and at times, painfully honest picture of life where real heroes don’t wear capes. And sometimes, they don’t wear the correct-sized trainers either… This one will run and run.’

Big thanks to Sue Durrant and Clare Hall-Craggs at Nosy Crow for sending me a copy of this wonderfully written book!

Running on Empty is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
📚

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Author Q&A: S. E. Durrant (SD) with The Reader Teacher (TRT)

I’m very delighted to welcome Sue Durrant to The Reader Teacher today where she’ll be answering my questions about Running on Empty, her reading and writing habits, using her book in the classroom and her favourite footwear!

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S. E. Durrant lives in Brighton with her husband and children. She has wanted to be a writer since she was a child and has always squeezed writing in around the edges of her life. She’s worked on a stall at Covent Garden market, sold paintings in Venice and taught art to children. In order to write AJ’s story, she extensively researched what life is like for child carers, and children growing up in the shadow of social services.


Running on Empty

TRT: At The Reader Teacher, for my reviews, I describe books in #3Words3Emojis.
I’ve described Running on Empty as 1. Remarkable 😊 Revealing 😥 3. Trainers 👟, which 3 adjectives and 3 corresponding emojis would you choose to best describe it?
SD: 1. Optimistic 😊  2. Realistic  💯  3. Empathetic 🙂

TRT: What books, people, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write Running on Empty?
SD: I was inspired to write Running on Empty after reading an article about a parent who had learning difficulties. I began to think about issues learning difficulty parents might face and to wonder how a child of learning difficulty parents might view our often unkind, impatient world. My protagonist, AJ, is eleven years old and has just begun secondary school; his very supportive grandad has died unexpectedly and AJ briefly tries to step into his shoes and manage the family affairs.

I have seen many children make the transition to secondary school, through my own children, and I wanted to explore the likelihood of AJ’s problems going unnoticed in the jump from a small primary to a large secondary. I also think eleven is such an interesting age, as children try to work out who they think they want to be, yet are still very much tied to childhood, veering between self-confidence and embarrassment in moments.

I was also inspired by the 2012 Olympic Games in East London, which is where my book is set. I was lucky enough to spend a day at the 2012 Paralympics Games and found the atmosphere inspirational. AJ and his family watch Usain Bolt win the 100m gold and that moment becomes a source of hope for AJ, who is a very keen runner.

TRT: What do you hope readers will get from reading Running on Empty?
SD: I hope readers will empathise with AJ, his devotion to running and his resilience in the face of difficulties. I also very much hope they find him funny, quirky and relatable.

TRT: If you could build your own pair of trainers, what would they look like? What special features would they have?
SD: Unlike AJ, I am not a runner so my dream trainers would have some special component that would enable me to get up hills.

TRT: What is your favourite footwear that you own?
SD: My favourite footwear, though not beautiful, are my walking boots – when I put them on I know I am going somewhere lovely.

TRT: If you were to choose the character that is most like you from Running on Empty, who would it be and why?
SD: I’m not sure any of the characters are like me though perhaps AJ’s relationship with his mother in some way reflects my relationship with my son when he was eleven/twelve years old.

TRT: What kinds of research did you do regarding young carers and how did this help when writing Running on Empty?
SD: I visited a group of parents with learning difficulties who helped me understand some of the issues they face, for example the huge amount of paperwork their children bring home from school. I also spoke with a boy whose parents have learning difficulties.

Reading and Writing

TRT: What first attracted you to writing?
SD: I have written for as long as I can remember, I think as a way of trying to make sense of the world, and I would continue write regardless of whether my work was published. I love the fact I can create situations and try to figure out what they mean.

TRT: Which parts of writing do you find energise you and which parts do you find exhaust you?
SD: I find the beginning of writing a new book exhausting, particularly trying to work out some sort of plot. The most energising part for me is when I have found the voice of my protagonist and can enjoy trying to imagine the world through his/her eyes.

TRT: What is your favourite book from childhood?
SD: My favourite book from childhood is The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier. I love the way that, against the odds, the children find their way to safety and a future they can have some choice in.

TRT: When you were a child, can you remember contacting any authors or them ever visiting your school and if so, did this inspire you?
SD: We didn’t have visiting authors when I was at school and I thought becoming an author was completely unattainable and involved some kind of magic.  It can only be a good thing for children to meet authors in schools and discover they are very ordinary human beings and no magic is involved.

TRT: Currently, we seem to be living in a golden age of books. What are some of the interesting things/things you like that you’re seeing in other children’s books today?
SD: I love the fact that a greater variety of books is being published. I think the more child readers can see themselves reflected in stories the better and more interesting for everyone.

TRT: I know you are heavily invested and focused on promoting Running on Empty but can you tell us about any stories you’re working on or what you want to work on next? Do you plan to focus on writing more books for children or do you have something entirely different lined up outside of the publishing world?
SD: I have just written a short story which will be included in the new edition of Little Bits of Sky which will be published in July.  This short story is set in 1947 when Glenda Hyacinth arrives at the orphanage, Skilly House.  Glenda is the girl whose letter Ira finds over forty years later.

I’m also working on my next children’s book. It is early days yet and I’m still struggling with the plot but it will be set in Brighton where I now live and will have an eleven year old female protagonist.


Running on Empty and Teaching

TRT: Could you suggest ways that your book could be used in the classroom for the many teachers that will read this?
SD: Running on Empty could be used as a starting point for discussing grief, poverty, running, resilience, school transition and day to day embarrassment of being eleven years old.

TRT: When reading Running on Empty, I particularly liked the scenes between AJ and his PE teacher, Mr Higgins. When researching young carers, what were your experiences of visiting schools and speaking to teachers? What did you find out? Did you test out your ideas for Running on Empty on them?
SD: I didn’t test my book on teachers but as a parent I have had a lot of recent experience of PE teachers and have always found them remarkably dedicated and energetic. The PE teacher in Running on Empty starts out as a bit of a caricature, which I suppose is how time-pressed teachers often appear, though in time he shows a more human side.  I enjoyed writing the scenes between Mr Higgins and AJ – they are each trying to gauge what each other think without giving too much away.

TRT: If you were to ‘pitch’ your books to teachers in a sentence or two for them to use it in their classrooms or for parents to choose to read it at home, how would you sum them up?

SD: I find it hard to pitch my own books so have chosen two lovely reviews:

Little Bits of Sky
– This story of looked-after siblings of 9 and 11.. is instantly engaging, sustaining emotional involvement throughout… this is an uplifting and convincing evocation of time and place, of two vivid young lives, and of the hope that kindness can offer. Nicolette Jones, The Sunday Times

Running on Empty – AJ is a boy who just loves to run. Swept away on the belief and hope that anyone can achieve their dream after watching the 2012 London Olympics, all he wants to do is run on the hallowed track where he saw his idol Usain Bolt win gold… Incredibly emotional and powerful storytelling makes ‘Running On Empty’ a truly, compelling read. bookloverjo.wordpress.com

TRT: 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?
SD: Through Twitter @SEDurrant or via my publisher Nosy Crow @NosyCrow/@NosyCrowBooks.

Two more before you go!

TRT: What has an interviewer/blogger never asked you before, that you always wished you could answer?
SD: I’ve never been asked my favourite book but if I was I would choose Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

TRT: Finally, can you share with our readers something about yourself that they might be surprised to learn?
SD: I have never given anyone a full box of chocolates.

TRT: Thank you so much for stopping off at The Reader Teacher today, Sue. I wish you every success with Running on Empty!

You can find out more about Sue by visiting her publisher’s website or following her on Twitter.

Author Q&A & Giveaway: Eloise Williams (Elen’s Island/Gaslight/Seaglass)

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I am honoured to welcome Eloise Williams, award-winning author of such wonderful books as GaslightElen’s Island and Seaglass to The Reader Teacher today.

To celebrate the cover reveal of her forthcoming novel Seaglass (which I am so excited about reading and reviewing!) which is out in September 2018 and also on the first birthday of Gaslight, Eloise is here to answer more than a few of my questions about Seaglass, about her reading and writing habits and about using her books in the classroom.

The giveaway follows on after the ‘Author Q&A’ interview!


Author Q&A: Eloise Williams (EW) with The Reader Teacher (TRT)

Seaglass

TRT: On The Reader Teacher, I describe books using #3Words3Emojis. Which 3 adjectives and 3 corresponding emojis would you choose to best describe Seaglass?
EW: 1. Ghostly 👻 2. Mysterious 🕵️ 3. Thrilling 😲

TRT: When recommending Seaglass to others on social media, I have had lots of replies (including from other authors such as Emma Carroll) commenting on how lovely a title it is. How did you choose and end up settling on such a wonderful title? Were there any other options that came a close second?
EW: How lovely! Emma Carroll is such a gorgeous and supportive author and is quite a bit brilliant with words herself so that means a lot! There were a few titles bandied about and they all contained references to sea glass. Sometimes simplicity is best.

TRT: So far we know that Seaglass will be ‘a salty, windswept, seaside ghost story for age 9+ will be published in 2018 to coincide with Wales’ Year of the Sea!’
Can you tell us any more than that at the moment about Seaglass?
EW: Here’s the information Firefly Press are putting out.
I’m being very careful not to give the plot away!

‘She will come for you.’

Lark struggles to settle when her Roma family moves to a new site by the sea. Her mother is ill, her little sister Snow isn’t talking and she has fallen out with her best friend. She distracts herself looking for sea glass on the foggy beach. But is someone following her? Who is the figure that Snow keeps drawing, the girl in green? Do the locals who tell them to leave the site just hate travellers, or is there something about the history of the beach that Lark needs to find out? A story that perfectly combines the chill of a ghost story with the warmth of a family tale about standing up for each other and being brave.

TRT: What books, people, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write Seaglass?EW: Where to begin? All the ghost stories I’ve ever read. From one of my very first books ‘The Worried Ghost’ by Seymour Reit to much later books read as an adult. I have a huge support network of family, friends and other authors. They help me to keep writing. My grandmother, who was a lovely woman and is still very much missed, was a driving force for this story too. Ideas and inspiration mostly came from the young people I work with and the landscape I live in. They mingled, knitted, wove together, fleshed out the story. When I got stuck along the way a young person would say something which would spark my imagination, or a storm would ignite an idea, or a beautiful jay would land in the garden and I’d be writing again. It seems strange to put children, storms and birds together but it’s the truth and truth is a big inspiration for this book too.

TRT: What do you hope readers will get from reading Seaglass?
EW: Ooh… difficult without giving too much away… Firstly, most importantly, a really good read. Secondly, that we are capable of change. Is that vague enough? I think so, yes.

TRT: The cover was revealed yesterday (Thursday 5th April) for Seaglass, can you tell us a little more about its creation or conception?
EW: Both the cover for Seaglass and for Gaslight were designed by Anne Glenn. I’m very lucky that Anne and Firefly Press take my views into consideration when it comes to cover designs. We discussed both of these covers closely and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am with them! I think both depict beautifully the essence of the stories in the pages.

Reading and Writing

TRT: What first attracted you to writing?
EW: The creativity of it. I was an actor for a long time and it meant I was consistently waiting to be given a role so that I could be creative. With writing I can be creative anywhere and at any time. It’s very freeing.

TRT: Where’s your favourite place to write and why?
EW: I have a writing shed of sorts. I often have to climb over a lawnmower to actually get to my desk but it’s lovely once I’ve made it. I can hear the sea from there, watch a mouse scurrying across the garden and the birds having a wash in the birdbath.
I also write everywhere else!
On the beach, in bed, at the kitchen table, in cafes, libraries, on trains…

TRT: Which parts of writing do you find energise you and which parts do you find exhaust you?
EW: Energising things are creating the story and characters. Tossing ideas about and playing with words.  Inventing, wondering, deliberating, the actual writing. Living in an imaginary world.

Exhausting. Elements of the business side of writing can be competitive and I’m just not. Recognition for a tale well told is wonderful, of course, but I want everyone to do well.

 TRT: What is your favourite book from childhood and why?
EW: Without a doubt it’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It opened my mind to possibility. Magical worlds just around the corner. Lands where children were courageous and won battles. All that and it SNOWED almost all the time!

TRT: When you were a child, can you remember contacting any authors or them ever visiting your school and if so, did this inspire you?
EW: No! None at all. Being an author was something otherworldly. I believed in Narnia more than I believed in my chances of being an author. Children, schools and authors get fabulous opportunities to connect with each other now and that’s such an inspiring thing. Working with young people always makes me determined to keep improving my writing so that my stories can be of the best quality I am capable of creating.

TRT: Currently, we seem to be living in a golden age of books. What are some of the interesting things or things you like that you’re seeing in other children’s books today?
EW: I am constantly astonished by the amount of talent in children’s literature. I like seeing everything! There are so many writers creating work with such passion and excellence. We are all in it together. The more writing, art, creativity we all put out there, the more beautiful the world is.

TRT: I know you are heavily invested in writing and focused on promoting Seaglass but can you tell us about anything else you’re working on or what you want to work on after Seaglass? Do you plan to focus on writing more books for children or do you have something entirely different lined up inside or outside of the publishing world?
EW: I am always working on something else. At the moment I have four books for young people in very early stages so it’s a question of deciding which one to focus on. I’m excellent at starting writing books but not so good at finishing them. I’d also like to do something crazy with my life! I have no idea what so suggestions on a postcard please…

Teaching

TRT: I know that you often work in schools yourself, are you testing out the ideas for Seaglass on pupils or teachers?
EW: I’ve tested out the first couple of pages of Seaglass with a few schools now. It is the most nerve-wracking experience you can possibly imagine. So far, they’ve given it a huge thumbs-up, which is a relief!

TRT: Lots of teachers are using Gaslight in the classroom to complement their teaching of the Victorians. Could you suggest ways that Seaglass could be used in the classroom for the many teachers that will read this?
EW: Some key elements are: Inclusion. A sense of belonging. Bullying. Anger. Friendship. Wildlife and nature. Facing fears. There are other themes, but I can’t disclose them without giving away the story!

TRT: If you were to ‘pitch’ your books to teachers for them to use in their classrooms or for parents to choose to read them at home, how would you sum them up?
EW: Elen’s Island –  ‘A delightful, magical tale full of mystery, intrigue and the unknown.’ Book Lover Jo.
Gaslight – ‘A deliciously dark romp through the backstreets of Victorian Cardiff.’ Emma Carroll.
Seaglass – ‘You are trying to get me to give away the plot again aren’t you?’ Eloise Williams.

TRT: 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?
EW: I love working in schools and have a contact page on my website www.eloisewilliams.com

General

TRT: What has an interviewer/blogger never asked you before, that you always wished you could answer?
EW: I’d like to be asked if I’ve touched the rocking chair from the stage show of ‘The Woman in Black.’ Answer: Yes, I have. Eek!

TRT: Finally, can you share with our readers something about yourself that they might be surprised to learn?
EW: I share my birthday with Hans Christian Andersen and Adrian Mole.

TRT: Thank you ever so much for taking the time to answer my questions today, Eloise!

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Eloise was born in Cardiff and grew up in Llantrisant. She now lives in Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire, very close to the beach where she walks her dog Watson Jones and collects sea glass with her artist husband, Guy Manning.

She worked in the theatre in various odd jobs before going on to study Drama at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and Guildford School of Acting. After working for over ten years as an actor, she decided to change path a little and take a Masters in Creative Writing at Swansea University.

Her first book was Elen’s Island, published in 2015.

Her second novel, a Victorian Middle Grade thriller, Gaslight, was published in April 2017.


Giveaway!

So to celebrate Gaslight being one and the cover reveal of Seaglass, I am delighted to say that Eloise has kindly given me a signed copy of Gaslight AND an original postcard sized oil-painting of the view from the beach which inspired Seaglass – created by Guy Manning who illustrates inside the books – 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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Guy has also painted 365 consecutive paintings of Pembrokeshire over 365 days which you can see here at https://www.postcardsfrompembrokeshire.com/


 

Review: When the Mountains Roared – Jess Butterworth (Illustrated by Rob Biddulph)

‘A stunningly compelling & evocative tale that surpasses far beyond the highest of expectations, carrying with it an all-important message of preservation; of the potency of poaching; and of being at peace with the wild and the world; that will live long not only in the minds, but also in the hearts of its readers.’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: When the Mountains Roared
Author: Jess Butterworth (@J_T_Butterworth)
Illustrator (Cover): Rob Biddulph (@RobBiddulph)
Publisher: Orion Children’s Books (@the_orionstar) / Hachette Kids (@HachetteKids)
Page count: 288
Date of publication: 5th April 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1510102118

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Evocative 😥
2. Stirring ☺️
3. Conservation 🐾


When Ruby’s dad uproots her from Australia to set up a hotel in the mountains of India, Ruby is devastated. Not only are they living in the middle of the wilderness surrounded by scorpions, bears and leopards, but Ruby is sure that India will never truly feel like home – not without her mum there. 

Ever since her mum died, Ruby has been afraid. Of cars. Of the dark. Of going to sleep and never waking up. 

But then the last remaining leopards of the mountain are threatened and everything changes. Ruby vows to do all she can to protect them – if only she can overcome her fears…


The first line:

I duck low to the ground and creep forwards, following the two men and the boy ahead. / I know something’s wrong as soon as I step through the front door.


Review: Following the very much deserved success of Jess’ richly atmospheric and accomplished debut Running on the Roof of the World (which I reviewed here as my fiction choice for Books for Topics’ Best Books of 2017), she returns on familiar ground this year with what I’m sure will be another roaring success, When the Mountains Roared.

Heralding her Himalayan heritage, real-life inspirations and childhood experiences, Jess once again vibrantly and beautifully realises the lush, mountain landscapes complete with their soaring scenery and diverse range of flora and fauna but this story starts itself in a wholly contrasting way…

My fingers come away deep red.
My breath catches.
Blood.
I wipe my shaky hands on my trousers. There’s a leopard out there, injured.
And I have to find it before they do.

After a sudden flashback – later on reencountered in the story – we meet Ruby; a lost soul reeling from the sudden death of her mother, with no control over where she’ll find herself living in the world from one minute to the next and wishing for some stability, some routine, some normality and somewhere to call home.

Unfortunately or maybe fortunately for her, she finds herself having absolutely none of that. As facing yet more domestic and homely upheaval, the whole family – that’s Ruby, Dad, Grandma and Polly (her dog) along with an altogether unexpected animal companion – have to leave Australia in the dead of night whilst evading Dad’s ‘friends’ whom he owes money to.

Another new start. Another new country. A new hotel?

Another new start for Ruby this time leads the family this time to the dizzying heights of the Indian mountains where Dad has taken over the running of a hotel but things aren’t quite what they first imagined. A dilapidated building that only serves to exacerbate Ruby’s fears and the surrounding wildlife is even more on the scary side as snakes and scorpions scuttle around her and a bear banging on her door in the middle of the night suggests.  But all is not lost as Ruby makes an important discovery that could change her life forever…

The unseen, unscrupulous and often unknown world to many of us of the fight against poaching is highlighted and brought immediately into focus. This is where this book helps to provide a subtle and empathetic exploration in to the endless and immeasurable myriad of problems associated with it, whilst also providing the reader with more than a glimmer of hope in its resolution. This tale also has lots of educational potential and could be used in schools as a starting point for discussions on animal rights, endangered animals and the risk of extinction which is particularly relevant at this recent time of the death of the last male northern white rhinoceros in Kenya.

Ruby is most definitely her grandmother’s granddaughter all over. It’s her grandmother’s curiosity, stubbornness and willpower that’s been instilled within her that really makes Ruby take charge of the situation that she finds herself living in and to try her utmost, with her grandmother’s help, to seek a resolution. Ruby must not only fight her fears but stand up for what she truly believes in even when it appears that most around her, including her nearest and dearest, don’t. The future of these animals rests on Ruby’s shoulders.

Meeting Ruby at the beginning, she’s very much a different girl to how she started. She was subdued: a shadow of herself, pulled from pillar to post and fearing the utmost worst of every situation. However by the end of WtMR, she has begun to overcome her deepest fears and developed into someone who’s mother’s steely determination and spirit lives on within her.

Jess’ books are fast becoming favourites for many and she is ensuring that she is seen as a stand-out talent with her incredibly original style of writing. Culturally enriching, she really imbues her story writing with her own life experiences as somebody who’s been brought up in the UK but is still very much rooted in the Himalayas as well. I really gain the sense that writing a book – particularly this one – for Jess is increasingly more than just writing a book. Not only is it a way of highlighting a vitally important issue or a message but it is also about reliving the magic of moments that have become memories, of which I think your grandmother would be immensely proud, Jess.

That’s why it is such a stunningly compelling & evocative read that surpasses far beyond the highest of expectations, carrying with it an all-important message of preservation; of the potency of poaching; and of being at peace with the wild and the world; that I hope will live long not only in the minds, but also in the hearts of its readers.

If you’re not already a huge fan of Jess and her books, then I can guarantee that you certainly will be after this one!

‘A stunningly compelling & evocative tale that surpasses far beyond the highest of expectations, carrying with it an all-important message of preservation; of the potency of poaching; and of being at peace with the wild and the world; that will live long not only in the minds, but also in the hearts of its readers.’

Big thanks to Jess and her team at Orion Children’s Books and Hachette for sending me an advance copy of this beautifully written book!

This book is out in the wild today on the 5th April!

When the Mountains Roared is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
📚

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Blog Tour: Review: Nimesh the Adventurer – Ranjit Singh (Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini)

‘Turning the ordinary in to the extraordinary… this book is a true visual delight that is sure to ignite the imaginations of both young and old taking them on a journey of their mind’s eye where there’s no end to the possibilities’.

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Nimesh the Adventurer
Author: Ranjit Singh (@RanjittheAuthor)
Illustrator: Mehrdokht Amini (Website)
Publisher: Lantana Publishing (@lantanapub)
Page count: 32
Date of publication: 5th April 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1911373247

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

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Imaginative 💭
2. Extraordinary 😃
3. Heartening 💖


Nimesh is walking home from school.
Except…there happens to be a shark in the corridor.
And a dragon in the library!
And why would crossing the road lead to the North Pole?
In this fun-filled adventure, Nimesh is just walking from school… isn’t he?


The first line(s):

Hello Nimesh, is school over?
School? My friend, this is not a school! It’s an ancient cave, and shhhh!
Or you’ll wake…


Nimesh-the-Adventurer-spread-1Review: Join Nimesh on his otherwise ordinary walk home from school that soon becomes an astonishing adventure of amazement. Turning pretty ordinary objects, people and places in to the magnificent, the wonderful and the extraordinary, Nimesh becomes the adventurer he so wants to be.

To Nimesh, the world turns into the biggest blank canvas to his limitless imagination where dreaming can take him absolutely anywhere he wants to go.

It is a true visual delight that combines Mehrdokht’s illustrations and collage with Ranjit’s words in a way that is sure to ignite the imaginations of young and old and take them on a journey of their mind’s eye where there’s no end to the possibilities.

Nimesh-the-Adventurer-review-copy-8Recently, I attended an event where I had the pleasure of hearing triple laureates, Lauren Child (Waterstones’ UK Children’s Laureate); Casia William (Bardd Plant Cymru/Welsh-language Children’s Laureate) and Sophie McKeand (Young People’s Laureate of Wales) speak about inspiring a love of literature amongst children with a renewed sense of focus upon creativity and a time to dream.

Lauren referenced inspiration coming – as lots and lots of tiny fragments – from everywhere and everyone and that having that time to dream creatively makes those fragments come together and begin to collide, in her case to form the basis for a story. Otherwise those fragments and ideas lay dormant; untouched and unfulfilled. This is another reason why books like Nimesh the Adventurer that encourage imaginative and creative thinking are very much-needed, and, above all, so important to society.

I can really imagine children in class and at home losing themselves deep within these pages; allowing their imaginations to soar and dreaming big. It is the perfect story to share before home time, as every child will be wanting to recreate their own adventures on their way home after reading this. It will also take adult readers back to a carefree time where dreaming big was a natural, normal and daily occurrence and remind them that it so should still be. This would make a very worthy addition to any classroom or school library really encapsulating the power of awe, excitement and wonder all rolled in to one.

Imagination and curiosity is a fragile thing and should be nurtured, encouraged and inspired at each and every opportunity. So next time you’re out and about, ask your children in class and at home what do they see when they look at a classroom? A corridor? A road? A street? A park? A city? Or a line of trees? and see if they see things a little differently, like Nimesh, too! If they don’t, here’s your chance to use this book to open up a land of new opportunity to them!

With more books like this absolute gem to come, Lantana Publishing are certainly a publisher to watch as their catalogue grows and grows.


‘Turning the ordinary in to the extraordinary… this book is a true visual delight that is sure to ignite the imaginations of both young and old taking them on a journey of their mind’s eye where there’s no end to the possibilities’.

Big thanks to Katrina at Lantana Publishing for sending me a copy of this beautiful book and inviting me to take part in Nimesh the Adventurer’s blog tour!

You can imagine it because Nimesh the Adventurer is out today and available to order online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
📚

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Blog Tour: Review: Planet Stan – Elaine Wickson (Illustrated by Chris Judge) & Guest Post: Infographic: A visual representation of information or data, as a chart, diagram or image – Elaine Wickson

‘A highly entertaining ad-VENN-ture that’s loveably BAR-my with hilarity, humour and hap-PIE-ness in all the right places… surely making it a serious (or should I say, not-so-serious!!!) contender for the Lollies (Laugh Out Loud Book Awards) 2018.’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Planet Stan
Poets: Elaine Wickson (@elainewickson)
Illustrator: Chris Judge (chrisjudge)
Publisher: OUP Oxford Children’s (@OUPChildrens)
Page count: 240
Date of publication: 5th April 2018
Series status: First in a series of 3!
ISBN: 978-0192759047

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 & Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Hilarious 😁
2. Out-of-this-world 🌍
3. Chart-tastic! 📊


SOMETIMES the only way to make any sense of my life is to put it all into charts and diagrams . . . BUT even that just makes me realize how far away from normal my family is, especially my little brother Fred!

I hope that you’ll find some useful survival tips in this book, but if not, then at least it’ll cheer you up to know your life is considerably less chaotic than mine!


The first line(s):
Mum! Fred’s been keeping snails under my bed again…
They say we’re all made of stardust.’


Review:
Welcome to Stan’s universe! As the first line suggests, Stan’s life is anything but usual. With a younger brother, Fred – who Mum describes as an ‘effervescent force’ – leaving snails under Stan’s bed and ladybirds in his lunchbox; squeezing toothpaste in his slippers; licking all the crisps; chucking Stan’s pants out the window and cutting holes in his favourite T-shirt AND that’s not all as the list could go on and on and on… you can see why Stan often finds himself in quite a predicament.

To help make some sort of sense of it, Stan uses a mix of charts, diagrams and infographics to explain everything. And when I say everything, I mean everything. Ranging from a ‘cross-section of [his] younger bruv’s brain’ to a Venn diagram of the ‘common (or should I say not-so-common) multiples’ between him and his out-of-this-world brother, and even his ‘My General State of Mind’ sliding scale on each page.

For as long as he can remember (and as long as he can remember asking Mum for one!), Stan has wanted a telescope because he loves everything space. Just as Stan is obsessed with space, Fred adores dinosaurs. In his case, one particular dinosaur exhibit at the museum named Rory who is not only part of Camford Museum’s history but is also part of the residents’ own history as he’s long been there since they were growing up. However unfortunately for Fred, he hears news that dearly-loved Rory’s skeleton is going to be removed from the museum sending him in to meltdown…

Whilst Stan tries his best to look after Fred and lift his spirits AND keep his group of equally disorderly friends on task with their entry for the science competition with first prize being THAT telescope, both his and Rory’s passions in life force the two of them to work together. But will Stan complete Operation SWAT (Stanley Wins a Telescope) in time? And does he end up feeling ‘Over the moon’ or in a ‘Black Hole of Doom’?

Sprinkled with fantastical space facts aplenty with Stan providing a social commentary far beyond his years and reminiscent of a young Sheldon Cooper, it’s a maths, science and infographic fan’s dream of a read. As it’s more than just a read. Elaine, with the help of illustrator Chris Judge’s larger-than-life infographics, really shows the power of how applying infographics in a inventive and innovative way can convey and tell a story just as well as and at times even more fitting than words could possibly hope to achieve. Further to this, Planet Stan could be used in school as a different and light-hearted way in to introducing data handling involving bar charts, pie charts and Venn diagrams to children.

This is a highly entertaining ad-VENN-ture that’s loveably BAR-my with hilarity, humour and hap-PIE-ness in all the right places… surely making it a serious (or should I say, not-so-serious!!!) contender for the Lollies (Laugh Out Loud Book Awards) 2018.

It also shows how sibling rivalry can turn in to the best kind of brotherly love; the importance, inspiration and sense of awe and wonder that museums can hold for children and adults; and finding out that we have far more in common with each other, even when it can sometimes first seem like we don’t have much at all. And also one of life’s most (ahem!) important lessons. If all else fails, make sure you have cake. Cake-on-a-stick!

‘A highly entertaining ad-VENN-ture that’s loveably BAR-my with hilarity, humour and hap-PIE-ness in all the right places… surely making it a serious (or should I say, not-so-serious!!!) contender for the Lollies (Laugh Out Loud Book Awards) 2018.’

HUGE thanks to Elaine for writing such a super guest post about the power of infographics!

Big thanks also to Hannah Penny at OUP Children’s Books for sending me a copy of this beautiful book and inviting me to take part in Planet Stan’s blog tour!

Planet Stan is available to pre-order now online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
📚

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Today I am also very fortunate in that I am delighted to welcome Elaine Wickson to The Reader TeacherHere, she shares with The Reader Teacher readers all about the infographic and shares some of her very own that’s she made about herself, which are guaranteed to make you chuckle! She explores their history right back to 1801 and also explains what Florence Nightingale had to do with pie charts.

Infographic: A visual representation of information or data, as a chart, diagram or image”.

What with Twitface, 500 telly channels, and phones for hands, it’s not hard to see why eye-catching infographics have become so widespread – they are perfect for short attention spans.

‘Infographic’ sounds like a word from our internet era, but it’s been in use since the 1960s, and an idea much earlier than that. William Playfair invented the pie chart in 1801, but look what Florence Nightingale did with it – she turned it into a rose chart (also known as a coxcomb), to show parliament they needed to sort out army hygiene.

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There are infographics all around us, like the London Underground map, and Ron Swanson’s Pyramid of Greatness. Take your pick from Quick Facts About Mars, Unravelling Death in Game of Thrones, or Tracking a Book from Idea to Completion. You can even relive the ENTIRE story of Star Wars Episode IV – dazzling, but it may result in “scrolling-wheel finger”.

I’m sure there’s a sciencey explanation as to why we process visual stuff more easily, after all pictures can speak a thousand words (although obviously it depends on the words).

Stanley Fox uses all kinds of infographics in Planet Stan, such as a Periodic Table to remind him what ‘elements’ his brother is made from, or a Lego Death Star Impact Chart which actually explains meteorite craters.

With that in mind, I thought I’d share some infographics about me!

 

I love pictures with stories – my eyes can’t wait to reach them as I scan the text. I have such fond memories of laughing at The Bash Street Kids in buzzy-bee summer hols; scrutinising panels of a fairy-tale comic book that belonged to my Mum; and losing hours with a just-right sunbeam and my 1001 Questions and Answers book (non-fiction is not just for Christmas). Also picture books. Sigh. Why do adults give up picture books?

My infographics are cheeky. They look like pictures, but squeeze in extra bits of story. Like the pie chart to describe someone’s character, or the recipes for disaster likely to befall you when out with a younger sibling.

So, if you were looking for a more sciencey explanation about the visuals lowdown – here’s an infographic about infographics: https://neomam.com/interactive/13reasons/

And if you want to fall down an infographic rabbit hole, take your pick from:

Elaine Wickson, author of Planet Stan

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Elaine Wickson writes stories in a Plotting Shed at the bottom of the garden, surrounded by foxes and fairy doors and more woodlice than she’s comfortable with. When not writing, she loves gazing at stars, trees, and books, preferably whilst eating cheese.
Planet Stan is the first in a series, about a boy who charts his life through infographics.

You can find out more about Elaine by visiting her website or following her on Twitter.

Review: Twister – Juliette Forrest (lllustrated by Alexis Snell) & Guest Post: The making of Maymay the witch – Juliette Forrest

‘Twister by name, Twister by nature…
Deliciously, dangerously dark and thrumming with plot twists and turns aplenty, this is one-of-a-kind fantasy at its frenzied, fictional and feisty finest.’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Twister
Author: Juliette Forrest (@jools_forrest)
Illustrator (Cover): Alexis Snell (Website)
Publisher: Scholastic (@scholasticuk)
Page count: 300
Date of publication: 1st February 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1407185118

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Sublime 😍
2. Thrilling 🌪️
3. Spellbinding ✨


She’s curious, she’s courageous, she’s a riddle, she’s a rebel.

She’s Twister.

This is the story of a brave, bright girl; a witch who lives in the woods; a necklace that turns you into a wolf, a rainstorm or a rushing river; and a spine-chilling villain who will stop at nothing to seize it…

There is magic and danger in these pages, adventure and thrills to be found.
Follow Twister inside – if you dare…


The first line:

When I appeared the sky glowed green and lightning made the windows look all cracked.


Review: After the disappearance of her father six months and three days and four hours ago, Twister – named after being born in a storm – sets out to find her Pa using a mix of a mysterious letter, a magical necklace and the help of a ‘medicine guide’ called Maymay.

Mark my words, Twister is no ordinary character. She’s every inch of what a story’s heroine should be on all fronts and as her birth name suggests, she is a full force. A girl with fire in her belly with a gritty tenacity and a gutsy heart and soul albeit with a tinge of emotional vulnerability about her; she is just the breath gust of fresh air we all need.

Twister by name, Twister certainly by nature.

Living on a farm nestled deep in the heartlands of rural, southeastern America(???), she’d be pretty much on her own if it wasn’t for her Aunt Honey and dear dog and companion, Point. It is in her Aunt Honey that Twister finds someone who is there for her as her Pa vanishes in to thin air and her Ma vanishes in to her own thoughts. Downbeat, downcast, and languishing ever deeper in to a spiral of depression, her Ma wiles away the days being more than miles away mentally from Twister.

So sick of hearing such damning accusations swirling round the town of her father being responsible for the death of two people in a fire, she embarks on a whirlwind of an adventure to find out for herself the real reasons for her father’s disappearance.

The voice of Twister is superbly realised. At first, admittedly, it took me more than a little while to get used to and digest Twister’s distinctive dialect and drawl but my word does she have a way with words. Characterised with chatty, catchy and charming colloquialisms, her turn of phrase is just one of the many facets of Twister that you’ll grow lovingly fond of. She describes vividly the sights, sounds and smells of the settings that surround her with both a simultaneous sense of beauty and an irresistible, intelligible charm and wit beyond her years. If you’ve already had the pleasure of reading, you’ll know what I mean when I say that she front-to-back’s and outside-in’s her words but it is within these imperfections and idiosyncrasies that make her her and help to perfectly frame and capture her rough around the edges and ready character in an almost semantic and lyrical way.

Whilst out and about searching for clues to bring her father back home, she comes across a cottage in the middle of the woods. If you go down to the woods today in Twister, you may be in for more than a big surprise. Because these are no ordinary woods. For this is Holler Woods, where danger lurks and darkness descends. Enter Maymay – a caretaker of knowledge? a medicine guide? a witch? – a character, no doubt, who could take on a whole new story of her own. For when they meet, it is Twister who finds out for herself that she is the chosen owner of a magical necklace, Wah, that can totally transform its wearer in to more than she could imagine.

But hang on Twist because where there’s a world of magical rewards, there’s also a world of magical risk. A creepy, chilling character who’s in to a spot of soul stealing, who will send a shiver down your spine and who longs for this necklace and the power it possesses…  So will she be prepared to take this risk? Especially when there’s her father’s whereabouts at stake?

Within Twister, Juliette masterfully weaves the unusual, the unexpected and the undead in to the unequivocally brilliant. There’s a line whereby Aunt Honey refers to a meal as ‘sunshine in a bowl’ (p.60). Well for me, this is sunshine in a book. An enchanting and sublimely spellbinding kind of sunshine I suppose. But one of my kinds of sunshine, nonetheless.

There’s a perfect storm a-brewing and she goes by the name of Twister. Get ready to be prepared to be swept up in her path because – like me! – you just can’t help but be drawn in to compulsively reading this! Unputdownable.

Twister will no doubt be all the rage, I’m definitely right ‘bout that.

‘Twister by name, Twister by nature…
Deliciously, dangerously dark and thrumming with plot twists and turns aplenty, this is one-of-a-kind fantasy at its frenzied, fictional and feisty finest.’


A big thank you to Juliette and Lorraine at Scholastic for sending me a proof and a stunning finished copy of Twister. Extra thanks to Juliette for writing this thoroughly enjoyable guest post!

Twister is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
📚

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Today I am also very fortunate in that I am delighted to welcome Juliette Forrest to The Reader Teacher. Here, she shares with The Reader Teacher readers one of her favourite things to write about – witches! She explores their history in Scotland (which she herself says is ‘quite dark!’) and what shaped Maymay as a character in Twister.

The making of Maymay the witch

You cannot grow up in Scotland without tales of witches reaching your ears sooner or later. As a girl, I was shown the ‘douking’ pools in the River Gary, where witches were tied to stools and dunked into the water. If the unfortunate souls drowned they were found to be innocent and if they survived they were declared guilty and killed. I remember standing at the edge of the river, peering into the dark, peat-stained water, finding it hard to believe something like that could ever have happened.

It was not the witches from Tam O’Shanter or Macbeth who stuck in my mind from school. It was a classmate writing an essay about one of her relations, who was the last woman to be burned at the stake in Britain. (Although documented she was called Janet Horne, this was a generic name used for witches in the north of Scotland at the time.) It brought it home that the existence of witches had been believed in by all levels of Scottish society and laws had been put in place for dealing with them. Scotland became the largest prosecutor in Europe and it is thought 3,837 people were killed between 1563 and 1736.

Some of the witches I have come across in fiction have either been wholly good or thoroughly evil. When writing the witch for my novel, Twister, I thought it would be interesting to make her much more unpredictable. Was Maymay a lady to be revered and trusted? Or was she someone to be greatly feared? As a nod to the many witches who were condemned for their association with nature and alternative medicine, I made Maymay a healer, who was connected to the plants and animals around her and able to receive messages from spirit guides beyond the grave. (The last woman in Britain to be jailed for witchcraft in 1944 was a Scottish medium called Helen Duncan.) It was important to me Maymay was a far cry from the usual cackling crone – she was wise, straight-talking, ill-tempered, frightening, humorous and mystical, all at the same time.

I will always be fascinated by witches. It is something I think I will keep on coming back to in my writing – I already have one lined up for my next novel. And although they are fantastic characters to create, I am aware there was a time, not so very long ago, where a culture of fear and panic led to many tragic deaths and a long period of endarkenment in Scottish history.

Juliette Forrest, author of Twister

 

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Juliette Forrest has worked as both an Art Director and a Copywriter for some
of the best advertising agencies in the UK, picking up awards for her TV, radio,
press and poster campaigns. In Twister, she wanted to create a firecracker of a
heroine, who saw the world in her own unique way. Juliette lives in Glasgow
where she runs her own freelance copywriting business.

You can find out more about Juliette by visiting her website or following her on Twitter.

Blog Tour: Review: Bear Child – Geoff Mead (Illustrated by Sanne Dufft) & Guest Post: The importance of sharing stories – Geoff Mead

‘A heartfelt bear hug of a book that emulates itself in being the perfect bedtime story.’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Bear Child
Author: Geoff Mead (@NarrativeLeader)
Illustrator (Cover): Sanne Dufft (@DufftSanne)
Publisher: Floris Books (@FlorisBooks)
Page count: 32
Date of publication: 22nd February 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1510102118

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

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Heartfelt 💗
2. Charming ☺️
3. Tender 🙂


‘Now that people live in towns
and bears live in the woods,
have you ever wondered
what happened to the bear folk?’

At bedtime Ursula asks Daddy to tell her the story of the bear folks special beings who can choose to be a bear or a person.

Bear folk are strong and clever, kind and caring.
They love to travel far and wide and eat apple pie.

They live among us, even if we don’t realise it.
Perhaps one day we’ll meet one.
Perhaps we already have…


The first line:

 “Tell me about the bear folk, Daddy,”
said Ursula.


Today I am delighted that Geoff Mead joins The Reader Teacher, as part of his blog tour, to celebrate the publication of his beautiful new début picture book Bear Child, which is illustrated by Sanne Dufft and published by Floris Books.

Review: Bear Child is a lovingly illustrated and delightfully written picture book, showing a true, mutually creative collaboration between author and illustrator. The story is a bedtime tale told by a father to his daughter. The story is so beautiful and the illustrations complement this by capturing the tenderness, timelessness and warmth of the story perfectly. Written as a gift to Geoff’s late wife Chris and paying tribute to her ‘lifelong love of bears’ (especially of the teddy variety) and her ‘fiercely independent spirit’, it’s a heartfelt bear hug of a book that emulates itself in being the perfect bedtime story.

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‘A heartfelt bear hug of a book that emulates itself in being the perfect bedtime story.’

Big thanks to Geoff for writing this fitting guest post and to CJ and Sarah at Floris Books for inviting me to take part in the #BearChild blog tour!

Mr E
📚

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Bear Child is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

So it is with great pleasure that I now welcome Geoff Mead who, in his guest post below, will be talking about storytelling in the classroom and the importance of sharing stories…


The importance of sharing stories

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The practical educational benefits of storytelling are well known: enhanced listening and
concentration; understanding causality and consequences; creativity and use of imagination; sharing and turn-taking; improved speech and writing, to name but a few. But stories and storytelling have other benefits too, like our personal and moral development.

From an early age, stories act on our imaginations. Stories shape who we believe ourselves to be, how we relate to others and how we make sense of the world. They are fundamental to how we think, feel and act. So, choosing the right stories to share with our children is critically important.  We need to distinguish between stories that expand the human spirit and those that distort and constrain our potential.

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Young children rely on us as parents and teachers to provide them with a diet of wholesome stories: ones like Bear Child that encourage self-belief and individuality; a generous and inclusive approach to others; and an ethic of responsibility and care for the human and more-than-human world.

I trained as a storyteller at the International School of Storytelling and now work with many kinds of audiences. I enjoy them all, but every time I tell stories to a room full of young children and see their eyes open wide with wonder, I’m reminded why I fell in love with storytelling in the first place.

Stories can be just for entertainment. But, they can also enable children to begin to consider bigger issues when they are mediated through the experiences of characters in a story, and held in the voice and gaze of a parent or beloved teacher. If the story is good enough, it will convey its ‘message’ perfectly well without the addition of a homily or moral; we don’t have to explain its meaning for our young listeners.

Whether you are reading from a book or telling a story you know, there are three sets of relationships that need attention. One is with your own emotions and sense of wonder so your listeners can connect fully with theirs. Another is the care and attention you pay to the cadences of language and how the unfolding story affects the characters within it. The third is maintaining your connection with your audience by the tone of your voice and by making eye contact.

Reading stories to children can be a wonderful adventure, but I do urge you to try telling stories as well. I don’t mean learning the words of a story by rote and repeating them, but coming to know a story so well that you can tell it in your own words. There’s a wonderful sense of immediacy and freedom when you take the short step from reading to telling a story in this way.

After all, why shouldn’t teachers have fun too?
Geoff Mead, author of Bear Child

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Who are the bear folk and what makes them special?

Bear Child is an inspirational story of parental love, belief and embracing individuality. This beautiful picture book weaves together Geoff Mead’s charming words with Sanne Dufft’s ethereal illustrations to create a truly timeless folktale.

Follow the rest of the #BearChild blog tour with Floris Books on Twitter and Instagram.

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Blog Tour: Vashti Hardy (3 in 1: Review: Brightstorm: A Sky-Ship Adventure (Illustrated by George Ermos), Author Q&A and Giveaway!)

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‘A scintillating, spectacular, spirited and special debut –
the right kind of adventure… one that’s really going to go down a (Bright)storm!’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Brightstorm: A Sky-Ship Adventure
Author: Vashti Hardy (@vashti_hardy)
Illustrator (Cover): George Ermos (@GeorgeErmos/Website)
Publisher: Scholastic (@scholasticuk)
Page count: 352
Date of publication: 1st March 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1407181707

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 & Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Scintillating 😃
2. Spectacular 💥
3. Spirited 💪


Ready for an adventure?

Arthur and Maudie Brightstorm are devastated by the news that their father, a daring explorer, has died in a failed attempt to reach South Polaris. But a mysterious clue, leads the twins to question the story they’ve been told. To find the truth, they must undertake the journey of a lifetime.


The first line:

The heavy chug of a sky-ship firing its engines rumbled through Lontown.


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Batten down the hatches, start the propellers, look out through your binoscopes and soar! As we board sky-ships Aurora, Victorious, Fire-Bird and Fontaine in a race to explore The Wide from the First Continent across the Second and Third and onwards to the vast and uncharted territory of South Polaris for an absorbing, atmospheric adventure that will not only take you to the frozen south with magical lands and continents anew; but take your breath away and also take the world by storm.

We first meet twin protagonists, Maudie and Arthur excitedly scaling the rooftops of Lontown to gaze skywards at the airships whilst longingly missing their father, an intrepid – yet not truly accepted – explorer who’s on his own sky-ship adventure to South Polaris, the furthest known point of existence. The siblings’ close relationship is shown here, even as early as the first chapter, where we discover that Maudie, an impassioned and gutsy engineer, has built a mechanical arm for Arty, her shrewd, book-loving, disabled younger brother, whose ingenuity and resourcefulness shrine through a little later on in the story.

Soon after, however, news reaches the twins of their dad’s lack of return and all-abandoned ship, Violetta, and their worlds quickly change. Following an inquest attended by what seems like the whole population of Lontown, we – along with Maudie and Arthur – are led to believe that their father has not only disappeared but has also broken ‘explorer code’ by being accused by a certain someone as… a thief! Something that even for the established families of explorers is deeply reviled within the explorer community, let alone for any new blood to the explorer party. Tarnishing the Brightstorm family name for good and rendering their father’s life insurance invalid, this also leaves Maudie and Arthur home-, guardian- and possession-less.

Having been taken in by the beastly, bedraggled Begginses and so seeking their escape from the drudgery of the lives they find themselves living, Maudie and Arthur answer an advert:

Individuals Wanted
For treacherous journey to South Polaris,
Small wages, certain danger,
Shared reward and recognition if successful. 

Well… what are they waiting for? With themselves knowing that this is their one and only chance, Maudie and Arthur don’t just have an amazing adventure to experience by following in their father’s footsteps but more importantly, they have a truth to reveal; their family name’s pride to rightfully restore and a point to prove to Lontown and the world.

In any good adventure, you’re going to need a good crew and this is no different in Brightstorm with its cast of strong supporting characters. Steering the good ship, Aurora, at the helm is Captain Harriet Culpepper, a bold, innovative, young commander who leads very much from the front and inspires Maudie, who I think reminds Harriet a lot of herself.

But then again, there’s also Eudora Vane (skipper of sky-ship Victorious) who visits Maudie and Arthur at the Begginses to tempt them to join her and her crew not long before take-off. A highly-esteemed explorer known throughout the land of Lontown, who so narrowly missed out on the prize last time around thanks to a particular Mr Ernest Brightstorm…

So who will they join… Culpepper? Or Vane?

Despite this array of human characters, my favourites (and what I think may end up being yours too!) are in fact the animals that we meet throughout their journey; steadfast, stealthy and sapient in nature. Parthena – the Brightstorms’ hawk – deserves a special mention returning from afar to help navigate them across the plains past the Great Ice Lake, Impassable Mountains and Silent Sea in to (and, thankfully, out of) the Everlasting Forest, where they encounter the at first terrifying, but actually terrific thought-wolves and a more menacing silver insect connected in some strange way to villainess Vane.

But do they make it to South Polaris and do they find their father? Dead… or alive?

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The shimmering, gold-panelled cover and detailed inside-cover map really add to the world-building in this adventure bringing it all to life.  Further to this you can see below, in her ‘Author Q&A’, a picture of Vashti’s impressive and meticulously hand-drawn map of the Continents and how it has evolved and been even further beautifully realised, with thanks to George Ermos’ striking illustrations and creative design at Scholastic.

A scintillating, spectacular, spirited and special debut – one that’s really going to go down a (Bright)storm! This book is the right kind of adventure that will leave you no doubt rooting for Maudie and Arthur along the way; is a journey of discovery not least just in the physical sense; and is a gentle reminder that where determination, desire and resilience combine to create a will, then there’s most certainly a way. One that I’ll be recommending every moon-cycle.

I found so much to enjoy in Brightstorm because of Vashti’s effortlessly engaging and all-round exciting writing style which made it so that I couldn’t help myself just wanting to join the crew!
I’m in! Where do I sign up? Because every crew needs a teacher, right?

I’m already hoping that Vashti will be writing plenty more and I’ll be snapping up her sequel to this as quick as she can write it! Chime to write some more!

So I ask this:

‘I know I’m ready for another adventure.’ 

What about you, Vashti? 

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Mr E
📚

This just HAS to be Waterstones’ Children’s ‘Book of the Month’ for March!

Big thanks to Vashti and Olivia at Scholastic for providing me with both a proof and a delightfully finished copy of Brightstorm!

Brightstorm: A Sky-Ship Adventure is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

‘A scintillating, spectacular, spirited and special debut –
the right kind of adventure… one that’s really going to go down a (Bright)storm!’


Author Q&A: Vashti Hardy (VH) with The Reader Teacher (TRT)

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Vashti Hardy lives near Brighton and was a primary school teacher before moving into digital marketing. She is an alumni member and buddy at the Golden Egg Academy. Brightstorm is her debut novel published by Scholastic.

I’m very happy to welcome Vashti to The Reader Teacher today where she’ll be answering some of my questions about Brightstorm, her reading and writing habits and using her book in the classroom!

Brightstorm

TRT: For my review, I’ve described Brightstorm in #3Words3Emojis above, which 3 adjectives and 3 corresponding emojis would you choose to best describe it?
VH: I love your choices! I’m going… Adventurous 🏔 Pacey 🏃‍ Imaginative 💭

TRT: What books, people, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write Brightstorm?
VH: I’ve always loved real-life stories of exploration like Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition to Antarctica. I’m a big fan of Bear Grylls too – as I couldn’t go out and jump in quicksand or a frozen lake easily in real life, his programmes were a godsend in helping me learn survival techniques to help Arthur out! I also have a great non-fiction book called A Teacup in a Storm: An Explorer’s Guide to Life by Mick Conefrey which is packed full of excellent explorer facts. I found my initial idea for Brightstorm in the book which was Shackleton’s advert to find his crew. I also love Amelia Earhart for how she inspired so many females to pursue their dreams (she’s basically Harriet Culpepper!).

TRT: What do you hope readers will get from reading Brightstorm?
VH: Aside from sheer enjoyment and an escape into adventure, I hope readers will see themselves in Arthur and Maudie and know that with determination, inner grit and a bit of tenacity, you can achieve amazing things!

TRT: If you could build your own sky-ship, what would it look like? Who would you choose to join the crew? Where would you go? How would it travel?
VH: I don’t think I can beat the Aurora – it’s my perfect sky-ship. It’s elegant and eco-friendly. My crew would probably be made up of my author friends Jennifer Killick, Lorraine Gregory and James Nicol. We would have a lot of fun, but I know they would work hard and have my back too. We would retrace Ernest Brightstorm’s original voyage north to the volcanic isles…

TRT: What is your favourite mode of transport that exists only in literature?
VH: The predator cities of Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve. A genius idea!

TRT: Can you give us a little more of a behind-the-scenes insight in to what goes in to making such a high-quality book like Brightstorm?  Map1

VH: Writing a book is a cyclic process of imagining, writing, planning, editing, revising, and so on whilst bouncing off the brilliant brains of your agent and/or editor, until you reach a stage where you all feel it’s the best it can be! For Brightstorm, I drew quite detailed maps early on because it helped me work out the stops en-route, the hazards they may come across and the journey times. Scholastic said from the start that they’d like a map in the book, so they took my original (TRT: seen here to the right – thank you so much for sending this!) and then their clever designer created the one on the flap of the book!

TRT: If you were to choose the character that is most like you from Brightstorm, who would it be and why?
VH: I think Arthur is most like me. He is tenacious, which I tend to be, and when I was younger I would’ve been able to relate to that feeling of trying to find your way in the world and not knowing where you fit. Also he loves books!

TRT: If you could choose to visit any of the destinations from Brightstorm, where would you go and why?
VH: I would happily explore all of them, but I think spending some time with kings Batzorig and Temur in the Second Continent would be amazing. They are both so warm and positive and would make great allies. Their citadel is full of historical invention and I’d love to find out more…

Reading and Writing

TRT: What first attracted you to writing?
VH: World-building – I love the fact that our imaginations are as large as we want them to be. It’s pretty empowering.  No matter what goes on in life, we all have or imaginations. It’s a great leveller.

TRT: Which parts of writing do you find energise you and which parts do you find exhaust you?
VH: It can all be energising and tiring in equal measure at different stages. Your brain certainly gets a great workout because you’re juggling so many aspects at once when you write, from the big picture heart of your story down to the tiny decisions. But when you know you’ve hit the spot with a piece of writing or an idea it’s magic.

TRT: What is your favourite book from childhood?
VH: Rebecca’s World by Terry Nation was the book that sparked everything for me. I can still see the pictures in my head as clearly as I saw them when I was seven. It showed me that one young girl could change the future of a whole world….

TRT: When you were a child, can you remember contacting any authors or them ever visiting your school and if so, did this inspire you?
VH: We didn’t have author visits, but I would have loved it because I know how inspiring it can be. When I was first taking my writing seriously, I read an interview with Philip Pullman. He spoke of everyone seeing the gliding swan and not seeing the feet kicking furiously beneath the surface. This made me realise I could try!

TRT: Currently, we seem to be living in a golden age of books. What are some of the interesting things/things you like that you’re seeing in other children’s books today?
VH: I love seeing new twists on genres – for example with A Witch Alone by James Nicol, I love the use of magical glyph symbols rather than wands. Some of the best children’s literature takes a common favourite and twists it into something new, and with so many wonderful books out there it’s fabulous to see what comes next.

TRT: I know you are heavily invested and focused on promoting Brightstorm but can you tell us about any stories you’re working on or what you want to work on next? Do you plan to focus on writing more books for children or do you have something entirely different lined up outside of the publishing world?
VH: There are potentially more adventures for the Brightstorm twins (a certain female explorer has some more dastardly things up her sleeve…) and there could be further sky-ship adventures with other characters set in that world. There’s another story in the early stages too which I’m really excited about, with a whole new world of invention. It carries on a similar Victoriana adventure feel but with a big twist…

Brightstorm and Teaching

TRT: There are going to be teaching ideas listed on your website about using Brightstorm for teachers, schools and parents to use. Could you suggest ways that your book could be used in the classroom for the many teachers that will read this?
VH: There are many links to be made to science with the invention and STEM aspects of Brightstorm, plus it’s especially strong in female STEM characters so great for inspiring that in school, along with eco themes and understanding our relationship with animals and the environment. PSHE could be linked with the diversity and difference, as well as links to raising aspirations. You could work on what you need for an expedition and the hidden qualities such as a positive attitude, courage and determination to achieve your dreams (which relates to all areas of life). The mapping aspect works well for geography along with the eco themes. The invention side would be great for design and technology too – it would be great to see children designing their own sky-ships. Brightstorm would work especially well as a class read if your topics are related to explorers or the Arctic/Antarctic or as a guided reading text.

TRT: If you were to ‘pitch’ your book to teachers for them to use it in their classrooms or for parents to choose to read it at home, how would you sum it up?
VH: A rip-roaring adventure that takes place on sky-ships, and has explorers you’ll want to be, sapient creatures you’ll love to meet such as thought-wolves, and a villain you’ll love to hate. Readers who love fantastical adventure but aren’t yet ready for Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines or Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials will enjoy this story.
(TRT: You can also view Vashti’s #AuthorsAllTogether video, to share in the classroom with your pupils, where she talks about Brightstorm herself by clicking here!)

TRT: 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?
VH: That would be lovely – if you visit my website www.vashtihardy.com you can get a flavour of the book and events and then easily contact me via the online form.

Two more before you go!

TRT: What has a blogger never asked you before, that you always wished you could answer?
VH: My favourite film – the Labyrinth!

TRT: Finally, can you share with our readers something about yourself that they might be surprised to learn?
VH: Despite having written about the frozen south I really hate being cold! I can also twirl a baton as I was once a majorette…  in case you wondered!

TRT: Thank you so much for stopping off at The Reader Teacher today, Vashti. I wish you every success with Brightstorm!

VH: Thank you for your great questions!


🎉    Giveaway!   🎉

I am also pleased to say that Olivia Horrox, Vashti’s publicist, at Scholastic has kindly given me 3 copies of Brightstorm: A Sky-Ship Adventure to give away!

Retweet this tweet and follow @MrEPrimary and @vashti_hardy to win!


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Review: A Far Away Magic – Amy Wilson (Illustrated by Helen Crawford-White)

‘Hauntingly beautiful and richly enchanting… A Far Away Magic is sure to cast its spell over you. Magic is most definitely not far away with this one, in fact it’s in every moment.’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: A Far Away Magic
Author: Amy Wilson (@AJ_Wils)
Illustrator (Cover): Helen Crawford-White (@studiohelen)
Publisher: Macmillan (@MacmillanKidsUK)
Page count: 352
Date of publication: 25th January 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1509837755

Perfect for Year 6, Year 7 & Year 8.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Spellbinding ✨
2. Bewitching 🌌
3. Supernatural 👹


When Angel moves to a new school after the death of her parents, she isn’t interested in making friends. Neither is Bavar – he’s too busy trying to hide.

But Bavar has a kind of magic about him, and Angel is drawn to the shadows that lurk in the corners of his world. Could it be that magic, and those shadows, that killed her parents?


The first line:

There’s a massive mirror in the drawing room.


Review: Moving all alone to a new home, a new school, a new family, Angel finds herself mother and fatherless, friendless and faceless. Living with her foster family, whom in the beginning she never really gives a chance, she however starts to see something in someone deep within the shadows at school. The same kind of something that she saw in two other people close to her that are no longer here.

We discover that this someone named Bavar is a seven-foot-tall, misunderstood monster of a boy. In more ways than one. Completely and utterly unnoticed at school by his peers, he’s forever been seen as strange and hunched over, almost as if he’s been living with the weight upon his shoulders of the weird and wonderful world that he finds himself within.

At home however he’s different. His background is worlds apart – quite literally – from this lone figure. Living in the house on the hill where portraits of his dead ancestors whisper through the corridors and a bronze bust of his grandfather gives him advice, he discovers that he’s the family’s heir to defending the rift – a piercing void that allows monsters known as raksasa from an altogether otherly world through in to this one.

Once Angel sees Bavar, that’s all she sees. She tries getting his attention, talking to him, accidentally-on-purpose bumping in to him but it’s all in vain. It’s not through lack of trying however. Bavar doesn’t even want any friends. Particularly not one like Angel…

For unbeknown to him, she can see not just in to his eyes.
But his heart.
Even his soul.

Parentless. No friends. Troubled and lost. Invisible to the world.
The two of them together have no idea of how much they both have in common.

As their two, very different worlds begin to collide, the most unlikeliest of friends need to come together to try to resolve each other’s problems and this is where we start to see both characters’ true personalities. Angel may be fatherless, friendless and faceless but she’s also fearless. Whilst Bavar comes not only big in stature but also seemingly big in heart, as he wishes to defy and break his family cycle by not wanting to face up and fight the demons and darkness in the destiny that his predecessors have so dangerously left him in.

With a chapter-changing dual narrative providing both sides of their stories, it took slightly longer for me to get into this one than Amy’s debut A Girl Called Owl (a book I named as one of my top 20 #FaveMGKidsBooks2017) but maybe this was a sign as I started to feel more invested in the characters of Angel and Bavar. Something that Amy herself describes here that has likewise happened to her whilst writing.

Amy masterfully conjures up characters who, to start with, possess echoes of an almost gothic-like Beauty (Angel) and the Beast (Bavar) nature; who, during the story, so desperately need one another; and who, in the end, really do bring the best out of each other.

As readers, sometimes we may not fully acknowledge supporting characters within books. But in my eyes, Mary (Angel’s foster mother) is the most important character. Because if Angel is the only one who truly sees Bavar for who he is, then the same could be said for Mary who I think is the only one who truly sees Angel for who she is.

As Amy describes, it took 17,000 words for her to get Bavar to even think about speaking to Angel so it’s entirely fitting that he has the last word in the final chapter yet Angel really is the catalyst, that she is so often referred to as in the book, to Bavar for helping him to find himself… but can they work together to close the rift in time and keep the raksasa out? Will the truth about Angel’s parents’ deaths be revealed?

This hauntingly beautiful and richly enchanting story while having themes of grief, loss, loneliness, magic and friendship, is also about the power of others seeing something within you and that may be something that you yourself might not believe you even have.

It broods and stirs with a mesmerising quality – full of emotional intensity –  weaving a whole feast of fantastical elements in to Bavar’s world of magical warfare against the backdrop of Angel’s real world. There’s a line in the book when Angel discovers a room in the house of Bavar where men and women gather in clusters and a woman has ‘magic in every movement’, well to paraphrase this: A Far Away Magic certainly has magic in every moment.

Thank you to Amy Wilson and Jo Hardacre for sending me a copy of this mystifying and magical book.

A Far Away Magic is is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

‘Hauntingly beautiful and richly enchanting… A Far Away Magic is sure to cast its spell over you. Magic is most definitely not far away with this one, in fact it’s in every moment.’


Mr E
📚

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