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

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

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

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


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

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Armistice Runner (5)

  • At The Reader Teacher, for my reviews, I describe books in #3Words3Emojis.
    Which 3 adjectives and 3 corresponding emojis would you choose to best describe Armistice Runner?

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

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

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

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

  • Do you like to run yourself?

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

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

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

Reading and Writing (4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Armistice Runner and Teaching (3)

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

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

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

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

  • For those teachers reading this Q&A and would like to enquire about arranging the opportunity of a school visit from yourself, how would it be best to contact you regarding this?

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

Two more before you go (2)!

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

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

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

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

One last one… (1)!

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

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


Thank you so much Tom for answering my questions!

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

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

Mr E

 

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

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

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

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

Perfect for Year 4 and Year 5.

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Walking the Line

Or, Negotiating the Perilous Path between Entertainment and Controversy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Mr E

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


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

 

 

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

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

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

Perfect for Reception to Year 4.

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

Mr E
📚


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


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

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): Warrior Boy – Virginia Clay

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

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

Perfect for Year 6 & Year 7.

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Boys and Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Virginia Clay, author of Warrior Boy

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

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


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

Mr E
📚

Warrior Boy is now available to order online or from any good bookshop.


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

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

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

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

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Mr E
📚


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

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


Giveaway!

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


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

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

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

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

Sparking Imagination: the Unpredictable Influence of Children’s Books

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

the suitcase kid

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

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

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

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

Fleur the mascot

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


Harriet Muncaster

 

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

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

Cover Reveal & Giveaway: The Five Realms: The Beasts of Grimheart – Kieran Larwood (Interior illustrations by David Wyatt & cover illustration by Fernando López Juárez): Out 6th September 2018!

Today, I’m absolutely delighted to exclusively reveal the cover of Kieran Larwood’s eagerly-anticipated next episode of the Legend of Podkin One-Ear, The Five Realms: The Beasts of Grimheart which will be published on 6th September 2018 by Faber Children’s.

I’m also super excited because the very lovely people at Faber Children’s have given me three copies of The Five Realms: The Beasts of Grimheart to give away!
Find out more below!


The Five Realms: The Beasts of Grimheart – Kieran Larwood

Podkin Grimheart

The bard is captured by the bonedancers and taken to their temple where he has to retell the tale that earned him a contract on his life. The story of Podkin continues . . . The Gorm have started to attack the forest, trying to flush out the Darkhollow rabbits. Podkin and the others leave for Sparrowfast warren, on the other side of the forest, to ask his uncle for help and for the use of his magic bow (one of the 12 Gifts).

As they make their way through the forest, Vetch turns traitor and tries to seize the Gifts Podkin and Paz own for his masters, the Gorm. The young rabbits flee into the forest depths, where they discover a lost tribe of rabbits and a another of the sacred Gifts – a crown which lets the wearer speak to animals.

With their new allies, Podkin, Paz and Pook emerge, meeting up with the others at Silver Rock warren. His uncle and the Sparrowfast rabbits are already there, as the Gorm have marched round the forest edge and taken their warren. When the two sides meet in battle, who will win? And will the bonedancers let the bard live?


Publisher: Faber & Faber
 
ISBN: 9780571328444 
Number of pages: 320


Kieran Larwood

Kieran-Larwood-200x300(Image credit: http://www.kmlarwood.com)

Kieran Larwood has been passionate about stories and storytelling ever since he first read The Hobbit aged six. He graduated from Southampton University with a degree in English Literature and now works as a Reception teacher in a primary school. He lives on the Isle of Wight with his family, and between work, fatherhood and writing, doesn’t get nearly enough sleep. The Five Realms: The Legend of Podkin One-Ear is Kieran’s second book after Freaks, now better known as The Peculiars. Podkin One-Ear won the Blue Peter Book Award 2017. The Legend of Podkin One-Ear is the first in the The Five Realms series, followed by The Gift of Dark Hollow and on September 6th, The Beasts of Grimheart.


David Wyatt

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(Image credit: http://neverpedia.com/pan/David_Wyatt)

David Wyatt is an illustrator living in Devon. He has illustrated many novels and is also much admired for his concept and character work. He has illustrated tales by well-known authors such as Diana Wynne Jones, Terry Pratchett, Philip Pullman, and J. R. R. Tolkien.


Fernando López Juárez

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Fernando López Juárez is a Spanish Illustrator who creates realistic cartoon & comical characters for children’s books.


Huge thanks to Kieran, Hannah and all at Faber Children’s for inviting me to host this stunning cover reveal and amazing giveaway, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

Mr E
📚


The Five Realms: The Beasts of Grimheart is available to pre-order online from Amazon, Waterstones or from any good bookshop.

Podkin Grimheart


Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Faber Children’s have kindly given me three copies of The Five Realms: The Beasts of Grimheart to give away!

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

Copies to be sent to winners when available from Faber Children’s, near or on publication on 6th September 2018.

Podkin Grimheart

Cover Reveal & Giveaway: You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yeti! (The Nothing to See Here Hotel #2) – Steven Butler (Illustrated by Steven Lenton): Out 20th September 2018!

Today, I’m SO excited to reveal the cover of Steven Butler & Steven Lenton’s all kinds of amazing sequel, You Ain’t Seen Anything Yeti!, to The Nothing to See Here Hotel which will be published on 20th September 2018 by Simon & Schuster Children’s UK.

I’m also super excited because the very lovely people at Simon & Schuster Children’s UK have given me one copy of The Nothing to See Here Hotel to give away!
Find out more below!


You Ain’t Seen Anything Yeti! (The Nothing to See Here Hotel #2) – Steven Butler

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The second book in this fabulously funny series by bestselling author Steven Butler and the wonderful Steven Lenton!

Having just saved the hotel from a goblin prince, Frankie Banister and the guests are looking forward to enjoying themselves and celebrating the summer holiday of Trogmanay! But when a snow storm blows in (complete with Yeti family), and a number of mysterious guests arrive, something sinister seems to be taking over the hotel and celebrating is the last thing on anyone’s mind…

PRAISE FOR THE NOTHING TO SEE HERE HOTEL:
‘This book is so good you won’t blunking believe it!’
Tom Fletcher

‘Hilariously funny and inventive, and I love the extraordinary creatures and the one thirty-sixth troll protagonist…’
Cressida Cowell

‘A rip-roaring, swashbuckling, amazerous magical adventure. Comedy Gold.’
Francesca Simon

`This hotel gets five stars from me’
Liz Pichon

‘A splundishly swashbungling tale of trolls, goblins and other bonejangling creatures. Put on your wellies and plunge into the strangest hotel you will ever encounter. This is a hotel I hope I never find! Wonderfully, disgustingly funny.’
Jeremy Strong

`What a fun hotel! Book me in immediately!’
Kaye Umansky


Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd

ISBN: 9781471163852
Number of pages: 208


Steven Butler

steven-butler-hscolour54(Image credit: http://www.stevenbutlerbooks.com)

Steven Butler is the author of the bestselling Diary of the Dennis the Menace fiction series. As well as writing the hit 2015 World Book Day title, World Menace Day, Steven also hosted the ten key nationwide events, for the Biggest Book Show on Earth, for over 13,000 children and dozens of top-name authors.

Steven Butler is an actor, dancer and trained circus performer. He has appeared in The Wizard of Ozin London’s West End and was Henry in Horrid Henry Live and Horrid!

His primary school headmaster was the fantastically funny author Jeremy Strong. Steven’s first novel, The Wrong Pong, was shortlisted for the prestigious Roald Dahl Funny Prize in 2009.


Steven Lenton

Steven_Lenton_LT_photo-765x275-e1477574244803(Image credit: https://mmbcreative.com/clients/steven-lenton/)

Steven hails from Cheshire and now works from his studio in Brighton, creating an array of charming characters for his books.

Best known for illustrating Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam, written by Tracey Corderoy, he has illustrated many lovely books and wrote his first picture book with Nosy Crow, Princess Daisy and the Dragon and the Nincompoop Knights.

Steven also loves to visit schools, festivals and bookshops, encouraging and inspiring his audience to draw, giggle and create! He is also a children’s book blogger – just search for his name on YouTube. More information about him and his work can be found at stevenlenton.com.


Huge thanks to Steven, Steven, Eve and all at Simon & Schuster Children’s UK for inviting me to host this totally awesome cover reveal, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!


Mr E

📚


You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yeti! is available to pre-order online from AmazonWaterstones or from any good bookshop.

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Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Simon & Schuster Children’s UK have kindly given me one copy of The Nothing to See Here Hotel to give away!

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

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Cover Reveal: The Black Amulet (The Boy With One Name/Badlands: Book 2) – J. R. Wallis (Out 6th September 2018)

Today, I’m absolutely delighted to exclusively reveal the cover of J. R. Wallis’ The Black Amulet, the second book in the Badlands series illustrated by Manuel Šumberac following The Boy With One Name, which will be published on 6th September 2018 by Simon & Schuster Children’s UK.

I’m also super excited because the very lovely people at Simon & Schuster Children’s UK have given me three copies of J. R. Wallis’ first in the series, The Boy With One Name, to give away! Find out more below!


The Black Amulet – J. R. Wallis

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Welcome to the Badlands … a hidden part of our world populated by creatures which most people think exist only in fairy tales and nightmares.

Jones, Ruby and Thomas Gabriel have spent the summer apart following the extraordinary events of last winter – Jones is now a “normal” boy living with his parents, Ruby is secretly training to be a Badlander and Thomas Gabriel has commenced and has his own  Badland area to protect. But magic is about to pull them back together once more, as they are tasked with hunting down the all-powerful magical artefact, The Black Amulet, with each hoping it will hold the secret to their problems…


J. R. Wallis

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J. R. Wallis is a children’s author and is always on the look out for strange and mysterious things to put in his books. He believes that if you look hard enough you can usually find something interesting to photograph or write about. His new book ‘The Boy With One Name’ is about the things people don’t notice if they’re not watching out for them.

He also writes YA fiction under the name Rupert Wallis and his work has been shortlisted for awards both in the UK and abroad. His debut novel ‘The Dark Inside’ is now being adapted for film. In addition to writing books, he is a Teaching Associate at Cambridge University’s Institute of Continuing Education, where he lectures on creative writing.  He also mentors students at the Faber Academy.

He lives in Norfolk.

You can find out more about J. R. Wallis and his books on his website or on Twitter.


Manuel Šumberac

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Manuel Šumberac is a Croatian based illustrator and animator. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb where he was drawn towards the fascinating world of illustration. His work has been published and recognized in numerous book illustrations and book covers, such as Pinocchio, Snow White, The Night Before Christmas and Steampunk Frankenstein, amongst many others. Manuel creates his illustrations using digital techniques combined with traditional media.

You can see more of Manuel’s work, cover illustrations and portfolio on his website.


Huge thanks to Rupert, Jo and all at Simon & Schuster for inviting me to host this marvellously magical cover reveal, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

Mr E
📚


The Black Amulet is available to pre-order now online or from any good bookshop.

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Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Simon & Schuster Children’s have kindly given me three copies of The Boy With One Name to give away!

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

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‘Delightfully magical and brilliantly told.’
Abi Elphinstone, author of Sky Song on The Boy With One Name

First in the series, The Boy With One Name is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

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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