Review: The Same Inside: Poems about Empathy and Friendship – Liz Brownlee, Matt Goodfellow and Roger Stevens (Illustrated by Debbie Powell)

‘Wonderfully uplifting and understanding in equal measure… a must-have poetry collection not just for every classroom but also for use across the whole school carrying far-reaching messages and morals that everyone should take home with them to live life by.’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Same Inside: Poems about Empathy and Friendship
Poets: Liz Brownlee (@lizpoet), Matt Goodfellow (@EarlyTrain) & Roger Stevens (@PoetryZone)
Illustrator (Cover): Debbie Powell (Website)
Publisher: Macmillan (@MacmillianKidsUK)
Page count: 96
Date of publication: 11th January 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1509854509

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 & Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Uplifting 😊
2. Understanding 😃
3. Thought-provoking 💭


A gentle and thoughtful anthology of poems about empathy and friendship.

The Same Inside
Red perfumed apples
and crunchy, crisp green
used straight from the tree
or in tasty cuisine,
like honey nut charoset
and pies with ice cream.

In Fujis from Co-ops
and Cox’s from Spar
or Java apples
from far Zanzibar;
look inside any apple
and there is a star!
Liz Brownlee


Review: The Same Inside is a true celebration of diversity, difference and tolerance that reflects all that makes us the humans that we are, warts and all. As Jo Cox said, ‘We have far more in common than that which divides us’ and this message really permeates through the pages of this collection of beautifully-written, perceptive and lasting poems.

When the world sometimes appears grey and lifeless and blackened by anger, fear and hate, these poems will bring hope, light and life to try to make sense of the wonderful world that we live in and of the equally wonderful variety of people whom we share our wonderful world with.

Rich in empathy and emotion that will make you think, make you laugh, make you smile and make you feel the whole range of emotions, The Same Inside would make a worthy and valuable addition to every classroom and school. The scope of poems housed in this collection could be used at any part of a lesson or assembly – especially those with a PSHE (personal, social, health education) element – as a springboard to start, a piece of poetry to pick apart and analyse or as an ending moment to reflect on. However, not only is it filled full of poems that can be used as learning opportunities but they should also be adopted as far-reaching messages and morals that everyone can take home with them to live life by.

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For instance, my particular personal favourites include such delights as ‘Fingerprints’ (MG) which at only eight lines long is a true embodiment of the old adage of quality over
quantity, packing a punch with every single word, especially during the last stanza ‘don’t try to understand what is unique‘. Equally, ‘Speaking and Listening’ (RS) and ‘Just Like Me’ (LB) stand out for their compassion, humility and warmth that will resonate with many. I can also really imagine ‘Judge Me’ (MG) being a good performance poem for children helping to highlight issues of equality, fairness and mutual respect in a lively, powerful and most of all, memorable way.

By touching on and providing a tender look at situations that children may find themselves experiencing within school – directly and indirectly – such as managing feelings, empathy, respect, courtesy, bullying, disability and responsibility in a naturally engaging and accessible way, sharing this collection could be rather life-affirming through changing perspectives and altering attitudes.

Wonderfully uplifting and understanding in equal measure… it’s a gentle reminder that we all possess aspirations, fears, worries, hopes and dreams and so ultimately are all The Same Inside.

Where darkness, comes light.
Where actions often speak louder than words, sometimes words can be just as strong. Especially in ‘The Same Inside’.

Definitely one to feature in Empathy Lab‘s 2019 #ReadforEmpathy Book Collection.

‘Wonderfully uplifting and understanding in equal measure… a must-have poetry collection not just for every classroom but also for use across the whole school carrying far-reaching messages and morals that everyone should take home with them to live life by.’


A big thank you to Matt Goodfellow and Macmillan for sending me a copy of this wonderful book!

The Same Inside is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
📚

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Review: Brilliant Bundle of Books from Bloomsbury Education!

After requesting a review copy of Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World by Kate Pankhurst from @KidsBloomsbury, Lizz Skelly kindly asked if I wanted to be put on the Bloomsbury Education mailing list, so I said a resounding YES please and look what arrived through my letterbox! I am so fortunate to receive ten (yes, TEN!) of their upcoming 2018 titles. You have done me so well and for that, a huge thank you to @LauraEmBev and @BloomsburyEd!

Here’s what I think…

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Apes to Zebras: An A-Z of Shape Poems by Liz Brownlee, Sue Hardy-Dawson and Roger Stevens (Out 22nd March 2018)                             ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Shape poetry is always a popular choice in primary schools among teachers and children alike, particularly when introducing features of poetry to children in younger year groups, so this much-needed collection will no doubt provide the perfect range and repertoire of examples to read, share and use in the classroom. Featuring a full alphabetical array from the extraordinary and the exotic to the extinct and the non-existent from well-liked and recognised poets Liz Brownlee, Sue Hardy-Dawson & Roger Stevens, this will amaze, amuse and appeal to classes throughout the primary school and have them eagerly wanting to write their own shape poems. My personal favourites include Emperor Penguin (LB), Turtle (SH-D) and Snail (RS). I know that this will become a staple resource among many teachers on their bookshelves as I’ll certainly be using it every year!

Apes to Zebras: An A-Z of Shape Poems is available to order online or from any good bookshop.


What’s Worrying You? by Molly Potter and illustrated by Sarah Jennings (Out 8th February 2018)                        ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
With schools now focussing upon mental health, wellbeing and mindfulness more in the curriculum, there is a pressing need for books like this which explain school and social situations (e.g. when you find something difficult or when you fall out with a friend etc.), and appropriate ways of dealing with them. Bright, visually appealing and emotionally accurate, this book will help promote resilience in children; improve self-awareness and communication skills through the development of vocabulary associated with a range of moods and feelings (in the ‘how you might feel’ boxes – e.g. angry, misunderstood, sad, disappointed, distrustful, lonely, confused, ignored) and would be perfect for use throughout the primary school in PSHE lessons and nurture-based intervention groups.

What’s Worrying You? is available to order online or from any good bookshop.


Stone Age Tales: The Great Cave; The Great Flood; The Great Monster & The Great Storm by Terry Deary (Out 8th March 2018)        ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
From the master of historical non-fiction and fiction Terry Deary himself, well-known for writing the Horrible Histories series, comes the latest offering in his Tales series – Stone Age Tales. Mixing historical fact with fiction, these books provide both an insightful and informative read about these time periods whilst being strongly based on real historical and archaeological evidence. Travelling across the length and breadth of this time period and even branching in to the Bronze and Iron Ages, we visit Lascaux, France (17,300 years ago); Mespotamia (2,500 years ago) & Skara Brae (5,000 years ago). My personal favourite of these tales is The Great Cave as the story of the cave paintings of the setting of Lascaux that this story is based on still captivates me to this day, years after hearing it. Thoroughly enjoyable whilst providing a glimpse in to our past, they are the first choice of books I think about to complement any history topic in school.

Stone Age Tales: The Great Cave; The Great Flood; The Great Monster & The Great Storm are available to order online or from any good bookshop.


Skate Monkey: Demon Attack (High/Low) / Kidnap (High/Low) by Paul Mason (Out 11th January 2018)      ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

The Football Trials: Kick Off (High/Low) / Dangerous Play (High/Low) by John Hickman (Out 5th April 2018)   ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

Printed on tinted paper, these two series of short stories are part of Bloomsbury’s High/Low range and intended to help readers who are developing their confidence, fluency and accuracy. This is achieved through a mix of whole-page illustrations; linear plots, simple sentences and paragraphs on each page and increased font sizes.

Loosely inspired by a 16th Century Chinese folk tale, Skate Monkey and his friends, Zu and Sandy, used to live in the Emperor’s Cloud Palace. But after playing all sorts of tricks on people up there with their magical powers, the Jade Emperor had had enough and so sent them down to Earth. In Demon Attack and Kidnap, the gang are called to investigate the strange goings-on happening at school and in their neighbourhood. Can the group of friends use their magical powers for good and overcome what’s causing everyone chaos…? A light and enjoyable read that’s packed full of adventure, action and the appearance of some downright creepy demons, I can see this series being very much enjoyed in schools whilst also adding a spot of variety to traditional guided reading and intervention sessions for developing readers.

The Football Trials tells of the transformation of a boy used to playing football on Sunday league pitches and growing up in a high-rise tower block as he adjusts to joining the elite of a Premier League football academy. In Kick Off, when a scout from United notices Jackson’s talent in the park, it looks like he’s off to make it by earning mega bucks playing in the Premier League. But all may be not as it appears as he seems to encounter some kind of trouble in the form of losing his friends, a new crush (in Dangerous Games), worrying about not fitting in and his temper all getting in the way of his ultimate dream. Can he manage all of these to become the superstar that his talent deserves…? This series will interest older readers towards the end of primary school or beginning of secondary school and any football fan.

A little more about what Bloomsbury say about their High Low books:
‘Bloomsbury High Low books encourage and support reading practice by providing gripping, age-appropriate stories for struggling and reluctant readers, those with dyslexia, or those with English as an additional language. Printed on tinted paper and with a dyslexia friendly font, Skate Monkey is aimed at readers aged 8+ and has a manageable length (72 pages) and reading age (7+). This collection of stories can be read in any order.

Produced in association with reading experts at CatchUp, a charity which aims to address underachievement caused by literacy and numeracy difficulties.’

Skate Monkey: Demon Attack  / Kidnap (High/Low) and The Football Trials: Kick Off  / Dangerous Play are available to order online or from any good bookshop.


Mr E
📚

A big thank you again to all at @BloomsburyEd and @KidsBloomsbury!
I look forward to using more of your books in the classroom!

 

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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Review: Star in the Jar – Sam Hay (Illustrated by Sarah Massini)

‘Incandescently, radiantly, resplendently brilliant!
It’s a dazzling delight that will truly shine on your bookshelf.

Full of feeling, friendship and fulfilment brought to life and beautifully realised with the finest of writing and illustrations.’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Star in the Jar
Author: Sam Hay (@samhayauthor)
Illustrator: Sarah Massini (@SarahMassini)
Publisher: Egmont (@EgmontUK)
Page count: 32
Date of publication: 11th January 2017
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1405284301

Perfect for: Nursery, Reception, Year 1, Year 2, Year 3 & Year 4

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Charming ☺️
2. Heart-warming 💝
3. Uplifting 🌟


Up high, in the dark, dark sky . . . a message: LOST, ONE SMALL STAR.

When a little boy stumbles across a special star, he puts it in a jar and takes it on adventures. 

But the poor star misses its home…

Can the little boy and his big sister find a way to send the star safely back?


The first line:

My little brother likes looking for treasure.


Review: As soon as I opened this book and began to read, my eyes lit up and my heart warmed at the sight of these beautifully-drawn illustrations that help to really set itself apart from many of its contemporaries. This story is both preciously told in word and beautifully depicted in picture which combine to make it an absolute joy and pleasure to behold. Bringing plenty of warmth and light, it really does give us the little lift we all need!

Star in the Jar opens with both main characters playing within one of many of Sarah Massini’s richly distinctive, vivid and characterful double-page spreads.

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Narrated through the eyes of his older sister, we start to see that her younger brother loves nothing more than to rummage through absolutely everything searching for all kinds of treasure (‘Tickly treasure…  glittery treasure…  even litter-bin treasure!’). One day, he finds himself a solitary star. However this is not just any star, this is a star so special he knows that it must indeed belong to someone else.

After tirelessly trying to track down who they think may be it’s proper owner, he keeps it safe enclosed within a jar and fondly befriends it by choosing to take it everywhere(!), in turn becoming increasingly attached to it.

Whilst marvelling at the night sky one evening, he realises the star is not quite as happy as he and so sets out to return it to its rightful home.

At first… slightly unconventionally.

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And then with the bright ideas of his older sister…

But ultimately, does losing his star mean that he loses his friend too?

I am sure that this will be both a clear winner and a resounding success at story time. For children, parents & teachers alike will no doubt cherish this tale so much that they find themselves coming back to enjoy reading it time and time again. This story will keep putting a starry feeling in your heart and after reading this, children in your class and at home will be wishing for their own star in a jar.

One that I will be highly recommending to teachers and schools to share. Several schools that I visit utilise a praise system whereby pupils place a star in the jar for demonstrating positive behaviour and so this would definitely enhance and complement that practice.

An exceedingly enchanting story that encapsulates both the awe and wonder of the stars, the night sky and of the unique bond between siblings. So much so that I can really envisage this book being both a superb choice and a thoroughly rewarding experience for older children to read to their younger siblings.

Incandescently, radiantly, resplendently brilliant.
It’s a dazzling delight that will truly shine on your bookshelf.

Look, even Brian May agrees!

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A huge thank you so much to Sam Hay for sending me an early copy of this stunning book. You’re a star! 💫

Star in the Jar is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

‘Incandescently, radiantly, resplendently brilliant!
It’s a dazzling delight that will truly shine on your bookshelf.
 

Full of feeling, friendship and fulfilment brought to life and beautifully realised with the finest of writing and illustrations.’


Mr E
📚

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Review: Below Zero – Dan Smith (Illustrated by Steve Wells)

‘A spine-tingling sci-fi adventure that both trembles and thrills whilst embodying all of the bite, chill and snap of the setting that it takes place in.’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Below Zero
Author: Dan Smith (@DanSmithAuthor)
Illustrator (Cover): Steve Wells (@SteveWellsArt)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 304
Date of publication: 4th January 2017
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1910655924

Perfect for: Year 5, Year 6, Year 7 & Year 8.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Chilling ❄️
2. Gripping ✊
3. Tense 😮


When Zak’s plane crash-lands on Outpost Zero, a small Antarctic research base in one of the most isolated places on Earth, he discovers a cold, dark nightmare. The power’s out and the people who live there have disappeared. Worse, as he searches for answers, bizarre visions suggest a link to something else – deep beneath the ice – which only he can understand…


The first line:

There was something happening at Outpost Zero.


Review: Brace yourself because there’s no holding back as a sudden surge of panic pulls you in from the opening page to this already action-packed, arctic adventure as we encounter Sofia Diaz in a flashback three days ago from Outpost Zero. Sofia, the youngest member on base at Outpost Zero at fourteen years old, is stationed there with her family and seven others to participate in experimental training for the Exodus Project for a future life on Mars. However, a number of others are also there for altogether unexpected and unexplained reasons…

The pace of the story unrelentingly pulsates on, as we turn to the next chapter, with the attention switching to twelve-year-old Zak Reeves who is supposed to be enjoying a relaxing holiday in the sun with his family – Mum, Dad and older sister May – before he visits hospital for surgery for an as yet unnamed illness. From the start, there’s a sense of foreboding whereby we begin to notice that Zak is different. But it’s not until the end that we discover exactly how different he is.

Instead, the whole family have to cut their exotic holiday short to board a plane to the Antarctic in order to fix the ‘spider drones’ his parents have designed to support the Exodus mission as a result of them starting to mysteriously malfunction. As they arrive (…just!) on one of the last available planes in to Outpost Zero due to forecasted adverse weather conditions, they realise that things are about to go awry from the moment their plane crash lands in to the ice outside the research base whilst the whole site is plunged in to an abandoned and absolute darkness. This leaves Zak and his family finding themselves caught up in a flurry of fright and fear that will gradually end up with them fighting for their lives…

Throughout the story, the interchange of the dual narrative, which only adds to the suspense, between chapters backwards to Sofia Diaz and forwards to Zak in the present day continues. Further on, a triple narrative transpires as we are introduced to a new character known only by his alias, The Broker. It would be only maybe here that I could foresee any potential difficulties arising for some reading independently – particularly those readers closer to the lower age of recommendation – as they may be unsure of how to temper these three storylines occurring sequentially. But, by this point you’ll be feeling how I did where the sheer apprehension of what was about to happen to Zak next meant that you just have to read on to find out more with every turn of the page…

As the plot mysteriously shifts from the eerie and the sinister to the anxious and the downright heart-pounding, Zak makes a very important and other-wordly discovery about himself that’s been tormenting him ever since he got here.

Winter is not the only thing that’s coming for Zak…

As he starts to hear things…
Tick-tack. Tick-tack.

But then he starts to feel things…
Tick-tack. Tick-tack.

And then he starts to see things…

A discovery, deep within his psyche, which culminates in an almost apocalyptic, catastrophic crescendo of a climax that would rival any of the battles from Star Wars (I know from the references dotted throughout the book that the author, Dan, is a huge fan!) as nearly all of the previously described characters – under the condemned instructions of The Broker – converge for one last time.

I particularly enjoyed the brother-sister relationship between Zak and May and it is portrayed perfectly in that they initially tease, argue, annoy and fight with each other and they might not declare an immediate fondness for each other all the time yet we recognise early on how important they are for each other and this comes to an all important head at the very end of the story.

Fraught with all of the most essential ingredients found in the best adventure stories (i.e. tension, high intensity and peril), the front cover warns you that ‘Your blood will run cold…’ so as Dan advises in Below Zero, ‘Be Prepared’ or failing that, at least listen to and try to adopt the unofficial motto and mantra of the US Marines and ‘improvise, adapt and overcome’.

Thank you to the lovely Dan Smith and Jazz Bartlett at Chicken House for sending me an early copy.

Below Zero is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

‘A spine-tingling sci-fi adventure that both trembles and thrills whilst embodying all of the bite, chill and snap of the setting that it takes place in.’


Mr E
📚

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Review: The Light Jar – Lisa Thompson (Illustrated by Mike Lowery)

‘A deeply original mystery so tenderly told in the most profound, sensitive, intricate, authentic and moving of ways.’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Light Jar
Author: Lisa Thompson (@lthompsonwrites)
Illustrator (Cover): Mike Lowery (@mikelowerystudio)
Publisher: Scholastic (@scholasticuk)
Page count: 240
Date of publication: 4th January 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1407171289

Perfect for Year 6 & Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1.Enlightening 💡
2. Heart-rending 💓
3. Rousing ☺️


The first line

I love Mum’s tunnel-singing trick.


In the dead of night, Nate and his mum run away to a tumbledown cottage in the middle of a forest. When Mum heads off for food and doesn’t return, Nate is left alone and afraid, with shadows closing in all around him. 

But comfort comes from the most unexpected places – a mysterious girl on a cryptic treasure hunt, and the surprising reappearance of someone from his past. 

A story of finding friendship and the strength to light up the dark, from the bestselling author of The Goldfish Boy.


Review: Like a moth attracted to the light, I was instantly drawn to reading The Light Jar due to its intriguing plot however I hadn’t anticipated anything like just how captivating it would end up being. So much so, that I read a whopping 106 pages within the first hour of receiving it!

We first encounter Nate and his mum hurriedly speeding off in the car in the middle of the night towards their idea of salvation in the form of an abandoned and ramshackle cottage, belonging to a dearly loved family member’s deceased friend, only having been visited previously infrequently by Nate and his family.

So many questions follow from Nate during the trip.
So many questions, that unfortunately for him, just can’t seem to be answered by Mum.

From the opening page, we start to sense that something is not quite right and on arrival at the cottage, this is when we really begin to feel for Nate as he himself becomes increasingly aware of the fact that something is not quite right either. And when they start to explore their supposed place of solace, that too is not quite as homely as they had imagined it would be.

Desperately seeking provisions after one night’s stay, Mum heads off in search of a place to buy food however her return never materialises leaving Nate all alone to swallow in his new surroundings. Doubt, despair and darkness creep in.

Anxiously fending for himself whilst fighting his fears of the shadows, Nate slowly whiles away the time by reading his well-thumbed book, hoping his magic ball will give him all the answers he so desperately needs and trying his best to avoid the only thing that resembles any indication of life in the place: a scrawny chicken.    

But as time ticks away, and trepidation ensues and the hours turn in to days, Nate soon becomes distracted by the reappearance of an imaginary friend (Sam) and also entangled in an unsolved treasure hunt led by a girl (Kitty) and her cryptic riddles, who doesn’t really seem to belong in the real world either. Sam and Kitty soon develop in to Nate’s companions and confidants – acting as Nate’s closest humanly equivalents to the lights from his light jar – who try to guide, console and feed him through the remaining nights. Whether they’re just being nice, playing devil’s advocate with Nate’s conscience or they are just as lonely as Nate himself remains to be found out…

The story’s many layers continue to unravel themselves to allude to and reveal elements of the troubling home life and the manipulative, coercive and damaging behaviour of his mum’s emotionally-abusive new partner together with the lingering control he progressively possesses over Nate, his mother, his social life and even the fixtures and fittings of his own house.

Yet as you read on, there’s this innate sense of unburdening hope; optimism; faith; belief; warmth; courage; strength and character that shines through to the very end and that is what will stay with me from reading this story. That even after adversity, if you’ve got something to hold on to and can grasp even a glimpse of positivity then that can sometimes feel like the most powerful feeling in the world as Helen Keller once said “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart”.

Like the lights in the light jar offer Nate some comfort, attachment, reassurance and relief from the situations he finds himself in, The Light Jar could potentially highlight and raise awareness of personal, social and emotional (PSHE) issues in an appropriate classroom context leading to powerful discussions; promoting deep questioning and high levels of inference. However, whenever approaching emotive topics within the classroom, caution is to be evidently advised and sensitivity considered. So whilst I highly recommend this book for its thought-provoking and empathetic qualities, teachers contemplating using it should – as they should with all books they choose to use – ensure that they pre-read it to decide on its suitability for their class of children.

Lisa not only does it once again after the richly deserved success of The Goldfish Boy – leaving devoted fans of The Goldfish Boy feeling only ever so slightly disappointed if it means they will have to replace that as their favourite read with this (as I now have to do!). Once more, she achieves it so well in such an understated manner handling yet another intangible and complex issue in such a way that is both highly accessible and as relatable as it can be to readers, which to me is one of the highest forms of writing.

Thank you to Lisa Thompson and Lorraine Keating at Scholastic UK for sending me an early copy of this beautifully-written book.

The Light Jar is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

‘A deeply original mystery so tenderly told in the most profound, sensitive, intricate, authentic and moving of ways.’


Mr E
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Blog Tour: Leonie Roberts (3 in 1: Review: My Colourful Chameleon (Illustrated by Mike Byrne), Author Q&A and Giveaway!)

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A fabulous, fascinating and fun-filled story that is surely set to become a future favourite with children, their parents and their teachers!

Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming Leonie Roberts on her blog tour to The Reader Teacher. Leonie is a primary school teacher and also the author of the recently-released picture book My Colourful Chameleon (illustrated by Mike Byrne), which I must say is a real little gem. Leonie has kindly taken the time to answer a few of my questions too.

Enjoy!


Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: My Colourful Chameleon
Author: Leonie Roberts (@leonierobertsuk)
Illustrator: Mike Byrne (@TheMikeByrne)
Publisher: QED Publishing (@QEDPublishing)
Page count: 24
Date of publication: 25th January 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1784939380

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

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Eye-catching 👀
2. Funny 😁
3. Engaging 😍


The first line(s):
I have a pet chameleon
I love her – she’s the best!
But Mummy doesn’t like her,
she says that she’s a pest!

Review: My Colourful Chameleon opens with a girl constantly losing her camouflaging, colour-changing chameleon. Almost as if it is playing house hide-and-seek, it blends itself into the rooms of the house; the garden; the car and even at school causing all kinds of chaos and commotion for the girl and her family.

Will she be able to explain the reasons for its disappearance to her parents, teachers and others who doubt its awesome ability and be allowed to keep her dearly-loved, particoloured pet?

There is so much educational potential and opportunity within the pages of this book and this is encouraged by the helpful ‘Next Steps’ section at the back of the book. Discussion, questioning, discovery and observation can be promoted further through the introduction of new and interesting vocabulary (e.g. ‘chameleon’, ‘pest’) whilst helping to develop a scientific sense of awe and wonder in young children.

  • Can your children spot the chameleon hiding in the kitchen?
  • Can they see it in the bathroom?
  • Or what about the bedroom?

Delightfully drawn by Mike Byrne, his illustrations completely complement and embody the personalities of the characters within Leonie’s lovely style of rhyming narrative which will certainly be demanded to be heard again and again!

Equally, I’m sure that parents and teachers alike will thoroughly enjoy reading this to their children and their classes as much as they will enjoy listening to it. Due to it just begging to be read aloud, it will help to create a wholly interactive, immersive and enjoyable story time experience to be shared by all.

A fabulous, fascinating and fun-filled story that is surely set to become a future favourite with children, their parents and their teachers!

My Colourful Chameleon is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.

 


Author Q&A: Leonie Roberts (LR) with The Reader Teacher (TRT)

TRT: For my review, I’ve described My Colourful Chameleon in #3Words3Emojis, which 3 adjectives and 3 corresponding emojis would you choose to best describe it?
LR: You stole the best three words!!!
1. Cute 🐶
2. Adorable 🐼
3. Colourtastic 🎨

TRT: What books, people, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write My Colourful Chameleon? As a primary school teacher, did you test out the book or the book’s ideas with young readers at school?
LR: I’ve studied rhyming picture books by many many authors including Julia Donaldson. With this particular book, I didn’t personally test it out with any young readers at school because I was living and working in Italy at the time. However, my good friend who is also a teacher did read an earlier version of this text to her class.

TRT: What do you hope readers will get from reading your book?
LR: In simple terms, I just hope that readers enjoy this book and will want to read it more than once. It would be great if it also inspires them to read more in general.

TRT: Do you know a lot about chameleons to choose them as one of the central characters in your story?
LR: I know more about chameleons now than I did when I wrote the story. In fact, funny tale… it was originally called “My Colourful Iguana” until my Mum pointed out that iguanas are not the colour changing animals!!

TRT: If you could have had any exotic animal as a pet growing up, would it have been a chameleon? Or something else and why?
LR: I always quite fancied owning an exotic parrot so that it could sit on my shoulder and come everywhere with me.

PsammeadTRT: What is your favourite creature that exists only in literature?
LR: Oooo, this is a good question. I would have to say the Psammead from “Five Children and It” that was televised when I was young. Written by E. Nesbit.  

TRT: I can really imagine My Colourful Chameleon being especially fun to read aloud. What would you say are other advantages to writing a picture book in rhyme?
LR: As a teacher myself, I would say that having a picture book written in rhyme often allows the children to anticipate what will happen in the next sentence and to be able to join in more with the storytelling because they can often guess what the rhyming word will be.

TRT: Do you have a favourite two-page spread in My Colourful Chameleon that Mike has illustrated? Did you have any input in to the overall illustrations or the design of the cover?
LR: I didn’t have any input into the illustrations at all but I am very happy with the wonderful pictures that Mike Byrne has created. My favourite spread is possibly the opening spread because I love the image of the little girl being licked by her chameleon – it is so sweet!

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TRT: I know you are heavily invested and focused on promoting My Colourful Chameleon 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 picture books or do you have something entirely different lined up outside of the publishing world?
LR: At the moment, I am working on a number of other picture book texts about all sorts of weird and wonderful things and over the last year I have also begun writing for older children.

TRT: What first attracted you to writing picture books?
LR: Perhaps from having read so many during my time as a teacher and from spending a few years working with young children I simply had lots of story ideas that I felt an urge to get written down. It all started from there really.

TRT: As a primary school teacher yourself, which books (including picture books) do you most like to read to your classes?
LR: I have three favourites that I love to read time and time again…
Jill Murphy’s Peace At Last; Julia Donaldson’s The Smartest Giant in Town (because I like the singing bits); and Lydia Monk’s No More Eee Orrh!

TRT: There are teaching ideas listed at the back of My Colourful Chameleon for teachers, schools and parents to use. Could you suggest any further ways that your book could be used in the classroom for the many teachers that will read this?
LR: I have lots of ideas about this and hopefully I will have time to put some more up on my site at some point. For starters, I would use this book in the classroom as an introduction to rhyme and colours. It would also be good as a starter text that could lead onto a non-fiction topic where children could find out about the features of both non-fiction texts and about real chameleons.

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?
LR: A funny tale that is useful for the introduction of colour language and in heping children to name the different rooms of the house.

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?
LR: The easiest way to contact me would be via the contact form on my webpage https://leonieroberts.com/ – I would love to hear from you!

TRT: When you were a child, can you remember any authors ever visiting your school and if so, did this inspire you?
LR: I can’t remember any authors having visited my school but I can remember one particular teacher who used to read amazing stories to the whole school during assembly times.

TRT: Finally, can you share with our readers something about yourself that they might be surprised to learn?
LR: I learnt how to Salsa dance whilst living abroad.


🎉 Giveaway! 🎉

I am pleased to say that I have been sent an extra copy of My Colourful Chameleon and therefore I will be giving it away!

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


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Huge thanks to Leonie for choosing to visit The Reader Teacher on her blog tour and for sending me a copy (or two!) of My Colourful Chameleon!

My Colourful Chameleon is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
📚

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