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.

Florence Nightingale Rose Chart

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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