Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post – Why I wrote about the child of an alcoholic in Will You Catch Me?): Will You Catch Me? – Jane Elson

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‘Jane’s writing exudes empathy where history and heart combine to make this story one that you should hold so close to your heart.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Will You Catch Me?
Author: Jane Elson (@JJELSON35)
Publisher: Hachette (@HachetteKids)
Page count: 336
Date of publication: 9th August 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1444927788

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Heart 💓
2. Drink 🍷
3. History 👑


Most kids want adventures.
I just want normal.

Nell Hobs lives with a tortoise, two guinea pigs, two goldfish, two gerbils, a hamster and an assortment of beasts and bugs living in jam jars on her windowsill. She is proud to be the only naturalist on the Beckham Estate.

Caring for her family of animals is a good distraction from caring for her mum. But Nell knows her chaotic life can’t continue as it is. Nell needs a dad. So she hatches a plan with her best friend Michael: a way to make her dad step forward and catch her. But will she succeed?


Review: 

I have so much to say about this unforgettable, powerful and poignantly-written book. For many who read this book it will provide an insight in to a hidden problem. A hidden problem that children face today in our classrooms, our schools and our lives. But for some, this will be their lives. The life they’ve had to live, they’ve had to endure and for those, I hope this book is a kind of tribute to the suffering they have had to face as it acts as a stark reminder to everyone to be kind, compassionate and thoughtful to each other because sometimes we do not know the battles that other people are fighting.

As we are introduced to Nell Hobs who lives on the Beckham Estate, we discover that she is ever the natural naturalist who can’t help but adopt more animals to her mini-zoo that gets bigger each and every week with a new and additional animal appearing. But not only does she live with her mini-menagerie of animals but she lives with her mother. A mother who at first appears to be wanting to do all she can to please Nell that is until the ‘demon drink’ takes over. She’s an alcoholic. In a life surrounded by her mother’s empty promises, a home life that is way more erratic than anybody could imagine and the ever-present worry of her mother relapsing mean that Nell’s mental health is a constant source of agony and – rarely ever, ecstasy. For, whenever it is a feeling of happiness it’s nearly always short-lived and dripping with false hope.

This is why Nell starts out on her quest of soul-searching. She needs a dad. She needs some kind of stability. Someone to sort this mess out and someone to be her state of normal. But will she find the person that can catch her when she needs it most?

As she tries hard to balance school – of which with her chaotic life, she can’t help but always arrive late to – with bringing herself up, Nell takes some sort of solace in the community around her. Without her extended family, her neighbours and two teachers who are the shining light of Nell’s life, Nell would not be Nell. These people are her life; her crumbs of comfort, her lifeblood and when living with her mother becomes all too much: her escape route.

Then someone else comes in to her life. Unexpectedly at first, yet the more she appears, the more welcome she is. For that person is Nell Gwyn. Introduced at first by her history teacher, Nell’s namesake soon becomes the honorary ancestor and ally that she has been craving. Guiding her through her life, her imaginary historical friend is her inspiration. Can Nell help Nell on her journey to finding her father…? Readers will be in awe of the real-life accounts and pursuits of Nell Gwyn and will be itching to research her life after reading this.

Will You Catch Me? captured my heart in the same way that Nell Gwyn captured Nell Hobs. With heaps of heart and a story of history that also needs to be told, it gets better and more emotionally investing with every chapter. This is frank, real storytelling with perceptive and innocently acute observations that have the power to make you think differently. I don’t think you’ll realise quite how much this book has such an effect on you, it’s a life lesson. Such a carefully-considered concept for a children’s book that could only be delivered with the writing wisdom of Jane. Her writing exudes empathy and she establishes herself as an author that all readers should be aware of. For this is another of Jane’s beautiful books that you should hold close to your heart because like me, your heart will ache with feeling after reading it.

‘Jane’s writing exudes empathy where history and heart combine to make this story one that you should hold so close to your heart.’


Great Big Hill of Hope:
Why I wrote about the child of an alcoholic in Will You Catch Me?

In this, the first blog of my tour to mark Children of Alcoholics week, I felt it important to say why I wrote my children’s book, Will You Catch Me?

When I first said that I was going to write a middle grade novel about eleven-year-old Nell Hobs whose mother is an alcoholic people were taken aback. But then the headlines started to hit the media. Every Week there were news stories about the statistic that 2.6 million children in this country are affected by a parent’s drinking.

IMG_4388.JPGJournalist, Camilla Tominey’s Sunday Express headline ‘My Mummy Is Drunk Please Read To Me’ broke my heart, brought back buried memories and made me determined to give a voice to these children. My editor at Hodder Children’s Books, Naomi Greenwood, agent Jodie Hodges and her assistant Emily Talbot gave me their blessing and supported me throughout.

Will You Catch Me? is my oldest story, a little itch in my imagination that just wouldn’t go away. I had a recurring image of a young girl, running home from school and seeing her mother, an alcohol addict, carried out from their flat on a stretcher, people standing around watching and as she ran and ran and tried to reach her mum, everything going into slow motion.  In my mind the 4 Non Blondes song, ‘What’s Up’ was playing. The lyrics ‘Trying to get up that great big hill of hope / for a destination / I realized quickly when I knew I should / that the world was made up of this brotherhood of man’ were so relevant to this scene that looped in my mind.

The words – ‘Brotherhood of Man’ – the community which would be so vital to this little girl. Without which she would have nothing.

Fast forward many years, I switched on the television and Calum Best was talking movingly on the Lorraine show about his father George Best and the charity Nacoa – The National Association For Children Of Alcoholics – of which he is patron.  As the statistics rolled out that one in five children have a parent who drinks too much and that a 100 teenagers a day are made homeless due to having a parent who is alcohol dependent, my childhood came flooding back. My dad was a heavy drinker with a terrible temper. I grew up a very anxious, nervous little girl. One strand of the story was set.

I have always had a fascination with, and felt a connection to Nell Gwyn, the 17th century celebrity actress. In my late teens I worked as an usherette in Drury Lane where 320 years before Nell Gwyn had done the same job – they sold oranges then rather than half melted ice creams, so they were known as the Orange Girls. I discovered that Nell Gwyn’s mother was an alcoholic and that she did not know her father. Nell Gwyn was the perfect guardian angel for my modern day Nell, the protagonist of  Will You Catch Me? – whose mum is also an alcoholic.

Writing Will You Catch Me? was the most extraordinarily immersive experience of my life. In fact, I had an operation half way through writing it, and when I came too from the anaesthetic I woke up in the world of my book and was nattering on about Nell Gwyn. It took the nurses ages to get me fully awake.

As I worked day and night on Will You Catch Me? I visualised myself finishing Nell’s story and contacting Nacoa to tell them about my book. It was my light at the end of the tunnel.

I did not realize what a bright light in my life Nacoa would be. They are a group of truly amazing, passionate and strong people. Hilary Henriques MBE who is the CEO of Nacoa welcomed me with open arms and made me part of the Nacoa family. She is a tower of strength and an inspiration.  When I visited Nacoa’s headquarters in Bristol I was particularly moved by the telephone booths from which they run their children of alcoholics help line. Real children, in similar situations to Nell, or to younger me, can ring Nacoa at any time, in confidence, to get advice or just talk. After that visit I knew that Will You Catch Me? would be the most important story I have ever told.

The National Association For Children Of Alcoholics helpline number is 0800-358-3456. Children of Alcoholics week (10-16 February) aims to raise awareness of the lives of the 2.6 million children in the UK who are growing up affected by parental alcohol problems. For further information, including ways you can help and a downloadable #URNotAlone poster, please visit their website www.coaweek.org.uk or www.nacoa.org.uk

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Jane Elson, author of Will You Catch Me?

 


Big thanks to Jane, Fritha and all at Hachette for inviting me to take part in the Will You Catch Me? blog tour.

Extra thanks to Jane for writing her incredibly insightful guest post!

Mr E


 

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Be sure to check out the rest of the Will You Catch Me? blog tour with more exclusive guest posts, reviews and giveaways discussing this much-needed issue.

Blog Tour (Review & Resources & Giveaway!): A Pinch of Magic – Michelle Harrison (Illustrated by Melissa Castrillón)

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‘Sumptuously magical… this is like nothing I’ve read before. An exquisitely-enchanting tale in a world weaved with wonder. With hearty heroines who embody the truest sense of sisterhood, prepare to fall under the spell of the story everyone will be wanting to read in 2019.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: A Pinch of Magic
Author: Michelle Harrison (@MHarrison13)
Illustrator (Cover): Melissa Castrillón (@mv_castrillon)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s (@simonkids_UK)
Page count: 368
Date of publication: 7th February 2019
Series status: First in the Widdershins’ adventures
ISBN: 978-1471124297

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Sisters 👭
2. Curse 🗝️
3. Magic ✨


Three sisters trapped by an ancient curse.

Three magical objects with the power to change their fate.

Will they be enough to break the curse?

Or will they lead the sisters even deeper into danger?


Review:

Widdershins. What a word. A surname to describe the misfortune, haplessness and down on one’s luck that the Widdershins sisters often feel and have experienced for generations. Three sisters – Fliss, Betty and Charlie – whose mother is dead, their father’s in prison and who live with their Granny Bunny in her rather rowdy inn. Three sisters who are about to find out for themselves that they will have three bespoke magical items soon in their possession that can achieve so much but for an ancient family curse that leaves them trapped upon the rolling, misty marshes of their island of Crowstone for ever more…

Focusing on middle sister Betty who is craving for more than the island of Crowstone and telling the story through her eyes, this is like nothing I’ve read before and so it is little surprise that this has been recently chosen as Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month for February. As the sisters embark on a journey to try to break this curse and put to use their most magical of items – a scruffy carpet-bag that can make its bearer travel anywhere it wants, a set of dolls that can make you invisible and a mermaid-like mirror that can let its bearer talk to people on other islands, the girls meet mystery, dark magic, betrayal, revenge and a prisoner who may hold all the cards to the sisters’ fate.

Adventure most certainly awaits the audacious in this tale that left me completely enamoured and enraptured. This beautifully-written book doesn’t only just show a pinch of magic but the absolute power of magic where not a word is wasted. Surely one of 2019’s standouts and mixing island legend with incredible world-building that oozes and fizzes with magic, this is a story to devour. As Michelle recently alerted readers to this being the first in the Widdershins’ adventures, I’m on tenterhooks for the next.

Readers of upper-primary and lower secondary will be thrilled, enchanted and awed by its three headstrong, spirited protagonists (even Charlie, the youngest sister whose young age doesn’t dissuade her) in their plight to rid them of this wretched curse that’s plagued them and their island since times gone by.

Luring, mesmerising and sumptuously magical, A Pinch of Magic is an exquisitely-enchanting tale in a world weaved with wonder. With hearty heroines who embody the truest sense of sisterhood, prepare to fall under the spell of the story everyone will be wanting to read in 2019.

‘Sumptuously magical… this is like nothing I’ve read before. An exquisitely-enchanting tale in a world weaved with wonder. With hearty heroines who embody the truest sense of sisterhood, prepare to fall under the spell of the story everyone will be wanting to read in 2019.’


To celebrate the official publication date and launch (Happy Book Birthday!) of A Pinch of Magic, I’m absolutely delighted that author Michelle Harrison joins me on The Reader Teacher to provide fantastic teaching ideas to use in the classroom…

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A Pinch of Magic is the tale of the Widdershins sisters, Betty, Fliss and Charlie, who set out to break a family curse which keeps them trapped on the small island of Crowstone. But the curse isn’t the only unusual thing about the Widdershins. Three magical objects have been passed down their family: a set of wooden nesting dolls, a mirror, and a scruffy carpet bag. Will they be enough to break the curse? Or will the sisters have better luck with the mysterious prisoner who says he can help them . . . for a price?

This story is probably best suited to readers aged 8-12, depending on ability. There is plenty of scope for it to be used in a classroom, particularly to inspire imagination and atmospheric writing, as well as the study of folklore, superstition and symbolism. Here are some suggestions:

Pre-reading activities:

  1. Look at the front of the book. What do you think the curse could be, and the worst that could happen? Can you think of any other stories about curses?
  2. Who illustrated the book’s cover? Can you find out the titles of two more books this artist has created the covers for? Are there any in your classroom?
  3. Look at the back of the book and read the blurb (the writing which tells you about the story). Does it make you want to read the story? Why, or why not?
  4. Study the front and back covers. What do you think the three magical objects in the story could be? What do you imagine they do? Make up your own list of three objects, and their magical powers.
  5. Look at the map in the front of the book. Which of the islands do you think will be the most important to the story? Find other words with the same meanings as Lament, Repent, and Torment.

Research: 

  1. Read the author’s note at the start of the book. What does the word ‘widdershins’ mean and what is it linked to? Have you ever heard of this word before? Can you find out a word meaning the opposite?
  2. Research the history of Halloween. Can you find other names for it? Where do the traditions of trick or treat, dressing up, and carving pumpkins come from? Is there any significance to Betty’s birthday falling on this day?
  3. What clues point to the Widdershins being an unlucky family? Are there any numbers, objects or creatures mentioned in chapter one that signal good or bad luck? Research and write down five more superstitions.
  4. Research your local area. Is there any interesting history or folklore? Write down the names of five real places that you could imagine in a story. Think of towns, forests, street names, beaches and even pubs! Give reasons for your choices.
  5. How were people who were suspected of witchcraft treated throughout history? What sort of tests did ‘witchfinders’ do to determine whether someone was a witch? What are your thoughts on this?

Activities:

  1. Design a flyer for the Halloween Fayre in Marshfoot. What kind of words and images might it use to appeal to someone like Betty?
  2. Write a letter from Prisoner 513 to Granny, convincing her to visit him in jail. How would he persuade her to help him?
  3. Rewrite the scene where Betty and Charlie are given their magical objects, but from Charlie’s point of view. Imagine what she is thinking and feeling, as someone who is much younger than her sisters.
  4. Write a secret diary entry for Prudence. What are her feelings towards her sister – and herself? Is she proud of her actions, or sorry?
  5. Write a cautionary poem or verse to warn travellers away from the Misty Marshes. Think of the way the author has written about the marsh mist as a living thing, and add your own descriptions to this. Consider other dangers such as will-o’-the-wisps, and escaped prisoners! It doesn’t have to rhyme.

Other relevant stories:

Snowglobe by Amy Wilson
Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone
Secrets of a Sun King by Emma Carroll
Wood Angel by Erin Bow
The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh


Big thanks to Michelle, Olivia and all at Simon & Schuster Children’s for inviting me to take part in the A Pinch of Magic blog tour on its book birthday!

Extra thanks to Michelle for providing these superb teaching ideas!
I can’t wait to use them myself!

Mr E


Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Simon & Schuster Children’s have kindly given me three finished copies of A Pinch of Magic to give away!

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If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning a stunningly-illustrated copy of this sumptuously magical story, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

Copies will be sent to winners when available from Simon & Schuster, as soon as possible.


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Be sure to check out the rest of A Pinch of Magic blog tour this week to see more exclusive guest posts, Q&As, giveaways and reviews!

Blog Tour (Review): When Good Geeks Go Bad – Catherine Wilkins (Illustrated by Joel Howard)

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‘A coming-of-age story of early teenage angst that combines peer pressure, the risks of rebellion and the tumultuous times of being a not-quite adult yet.
Geek-chic!’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: When Good Geeks Go Bad
Author: Catherine Wilkes (@Catiewilkins)
Illustrator (Cover & Inside): Joel Howard
Publisher: Nosy Crow (@NosyCrowBooks)
Page count: 240
Date of publication: 10th January 2019
ISBN: 978-1788000598

Perfect for Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Shoes 👞
2. Geek 🤓
3. Relationships 👨‍👩‍👧


When Ella’s dad refuses to let her have cool school shoes or stay up later than 9:30, Ella decides to take things into her own hands. Being good hasn’t got her anywhere, so why not try being bad for a while? It certainly looks a lot more fun and what’s a few detentions here and there? But going bad is a slippery slope and soon things are starting to spiral out of control. Can Ella get things back on track? Or is she going to end up with egg on her face?


Review:

Written in first-person narrative, we are introduced to goody-two-shoes Ella asking for and not being bought the two good shoes that she so desperately craves. A typical shopping tale for many a parent and their teenager I’m sure. But they’re not just shoes to Ella. They’re a way in to the cool conversations, looking good and most of all the feeling of fitting in with her peers. Some of whom, like arch-nemesis Olivia who’s been teasing Ella for most of her school life, that she just can’t wait to get one back against.

With central themes of defiance, self-consciousness and insecurity and a social commentary that brings together humour and wit to combat this, we start to see the injustices that Ella finds herself facing. But it’s not just in school that life seems to be going against her. At home, Ella’s parents have recently separated and she hasn’t seen her mum in months.

Living with her dutiful dad who plays everything by the book and realising that the ‘good act’ isn’t working for her, both inside and outside of school, she takes it upon herself to revolt. In small parts at first but her insurgent streak gets greater and greater in scale and severity. As Ella’s mum comes back in to her life all bright and breezy acting more like a best friend than her mother thinking that she’ll provide Ella with everything she wants but not what she actually needs and Ella’s friendship groups changing for the worse, can anybody put a stop to Ella’s experimenting before it’s too late…?

This book took me back to feeling like I was in the corridors and classrooms of secondary school myself and it is this element that will resonate most with readers. From the relationship Ella has with her best friend Jas to the somewhat double-edged teachers that impose detentions and enforce rules, these characters are more than they appear at first read.

For fans of Geek Girl, Splash and Ella on the Outside – two other recent Nosy Crow releases – this is a coming-of-age story that’s as cool as it is geek-chic of early teenage angst that combines peer pressure, the risks of rebellion and the tumultuous times of being a not-quite adult yet.


Big thanks to Catherine, Rebecca and all at Nosy Crow for inviting me to share my thoughts on When Good Geeks Go Bad as part of its blog tour!

Mr E


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Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): Vote for Effie – Laura Wood (Illustrated by Emma Trithart & Mirelle Ortega)

2019 looks like it is sure to be a big year for the United Kingdom what with the ever-present talk of Brexit, people’s vote and second referendums but I can also guarantee that 2019 will also be a big year for Laura Wood with her striking, new novel Vote for Effie. So it is with great pleasure that I kick off 2019 at The Reader Teacher with this review and guest post from Laura herself as part of the Vote for Effie blog tour!

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‘A revelation! A barrier-breaking book that’s about optimism as much as activism and one that definitely gets my vote… Vote for Effie deserves to be a HUGE hit!’


Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Vote for Effie
Author: Laura Wood (@lauraclarewood)
Illustrator (Cover): Emma Trithart (Instagram)
Illustrator (Inside): Mirelle Ortega (@moxvi_)
Publisher: Scholastic (@scholasticuk)
Page count: 240
Date of publication: 3rd January 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1407187723

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Impassioned 📣
2. Rousing 😊
3. Campaign 🗳️


The last thing new girl Effie Kostas needs right now is to be running a high-stakes campaign for Student Council President against the most popular boy in school. But she’s not about to sit quietly by the face of great injustice – SO THE RACE IS ON.

With the help of a band of misfits, a whole lot of glitter glue and an angry parrot, can Effie defy the odds and win the election? And can one girl really make a difference?


Review: Feeling friendless and all alone at her new secondary school after starting mid-way through the year, Euphemia Kostas (‘actually pronounced “Yoo-fem-ia, by the way’) – known more preferably as Effie – finds little in the way of likemindedness or appreciation from her new peers: none of which seem as articulate, as determined or as welcoming as her.

Fear not however as this act of adversity is only a small bump in the road for Effie and does not stop her in her admirable pursuit of friend-finding but that’s not before she has a run-in with Aaron Davis who just happens to be the most popular boy in school… and unfortunately for Effie, he’s also the incumbent Student Council President. After arguing over the only thing Effie is currently enjoying in the school: the last piece of chocolate cake from the canteen, she recognises that Aaron is only in this enviable leadership position for the perks. Being a flagship example for fairness and with a social commentary with more insight and intuition than many adults could possess, Effie is soon on a one-girl mission to try to change this and put democracy back on the map and in to the heart of the school.


Starting with her four-point plan:

  1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Get the school to be greener and start a proper recycling campaign.
  2. Clubs for all: Make more funding available for people who want to start their own clubs and societies NOT JUST THE BOYS’ SPORTS TEAMS.
  3. No-one eats alone: Set up a buddy system so that no one feels left out. Introduce mentors for students so that they feel welcome and included.and my own personal favourite of course…
  4. We need libraries: Raise funds for new books and a proper librarian. Libraries aren’t a luxury, we need them.

With the help of an equally resilient and dynamic group of friends, Effie finds herself standing up for what she believes in and takes on Aaron at his own game – which is news to him – and many of the teachers and the school’s systems – as he’s been mostly unchallenged in previous years.

On the surface, this is a story with a premise that promises lots and I’m pleased to say that underneath it differs from that of some modern politicians’ promises in that it delivers a considerable amount too.

Laura has captured the earnest-yet-empowered, confidence-developing character and indomitable spirit of Effie perfectly as she lives with her family – which includes a loveably cheeky sister who could be another (although ever-so-slightly-different) Effie in waiting – and whose relationships with a supporting cast such as a young-at-heart next-door neighbour are a complete complement to its central character. A thoroughly modern Millicent… Effie is your new best friend, your new sister and your new triple threat of inspiration, idol and heroine all rolled in to one.

This is an absolute revelation! A barrier-breaking book that will gain a majority and inspire a generation by making you feel so energised, so enthusiastic and so eager to join Effie’s campaign that you will want to read it all in one sitting – just like I did. Impassioned, rousing & essential reading for rights… Vote for Effie deserves to be a HUGE hit. Vote with your feet – and hands! – and go and buy/borrow this wonderfully-written story: I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed.


‘A revelation! A barrier-breaking book that’s about optimism as much as activism and one that definitely gets my vote… Vote for Effie deserves to be a HUGE hit!’


Celebrating young girls who are changing the world

Greta Thunberg

Writing this just before Christmas, I have recently been so inspired by fifteen-year-old Swedish environmental activist, Greta Thunberg. Between August and September, Greta protested every day outside parliament, demanding that the Swedish government reduce carbon emissions.

In December, Greta addressed the COP24 United Nations climate change summit. She didn’t mince her words, saying, “you only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess, even when the only sensible thing to do is pull the emergency brake. You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to us children.”

One of the biggest things I wanted to address when writing Vote for Effie was the idea that young people, but especially girls are often told that they should be quiet. Boys might be called brave or assertive, where a girl is more likely to be called bossy or shrill. I think Greta is such a wonderful example of what can happen when girls speak up, and why we should all be listening to them.

You can watch Greta’s speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFkQSGyeCWg

Laura Wood

 


Big thanks to Harriet Dunlea, Laura and all at Scholastic for inviting me to share my thoughts on this powerful and passionately-written book as part of Vote for Effie blog tour!

Extra thanks to Laura for her guest post highlighting a real-life example of Effie’s character.

📣  Mr E  🗳️


Vote for Effie is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.


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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!

Blog Tour (Review, Guest Post & Giveaway!): Boy Underwater – Adam Baron (Illustrated by Benji Davies)

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‘A book that shows how the littlest of people can cope with the biggest of issues… Named after Shakespeare’s own Cymbeline, this is both a comedy and a tragedy that’ll leave readers feeling like you’re thrown in at the deep end and completely blown out of the water at the same time.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title:
 Boy Underwater
Author: Adam Baron (@AdamBaron5)
Illustrator: Benji Davies (@Benji_Davies)
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s (@HarperCollinsCh)
Page count: 256
Date of publication: 1st June 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-0008267018

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Moving 😢
2. Swimming 🏊‍♂️
3. Understanding 😌


Cymbeline Igloo (yes, really!) has NEVER been swimming.

Not ever. Not once.

But how hard can it be? He’s Googled front crawl and he’s found his dad’s old pair of trunks. He’s totally ready.

What he’s not ready for is the accident at the pool – or how it leads his mum to a sudden breakdown.

Now, with the help of his friends old and new, Cymbeline must solve the mystery of why his mum never took him near water – and it will turn his whole life upside down…


The first line(s):

Here’s something you won’t believe.
I, Cymbeline Igloo, have never been swimming.


Review: Named after Shakespeare’s own Cymbeline, this is both a comedy and a tragedy that’ll leave readers feeling thrown in at the deep end and completely blown out of the water at the same time. The story starts with a boy (Cymbeline, ‘yes really!’) who’s never swam before challenging one of the class’ strongest swimmers to a race on a school visit to the local swimming baths. This can only go one of one ways: not swimmingly. In fact so bad that after Cym has an accident at the pool, his mum ends up in hospital.

Man Boy overboard!

Feeling like he’s out of his depth with absolutely none of the adults telling him what’s happening, he is determined to find out for himself why his mum’s disappeared and like a fish out of water, he’s been forced to live with his ultra-rich relatives who, unbeknownst to him initially, have many recurring problems of their own.


But does he sink or does he swim?


Told through the very eyes of our protagonist, the character of Cymbeline ebbs and flows from the silly, innocent, almost naïve nine-year-old he is to then providing a social commentary on events, observations and life that even the most perceptive adult may not recognise or be able to articulate so well.

Pushing is an action that sets the story off to a shaky start for Cym however throughout it, we slowly start to see characters pulling people and families apart only for them to later on push people and families back together and it is this that makes this story a must-read. One for older Upper Key Stage 2 readers, of which I recommend being mostly mature Year 5 and Year 6 readers or older: mixing mental health, depression, family dynamics, bullying and strong emotions, this is a story that will make a huge splash when staying in the minds of its readers due to the often hearty emotional content it contains. This is also complemented by the illustrations of Benji Davies (best known for Grandad’s Island, The Storm Whale and The Grotlyn) that add further weight to this already deeply moving story.

I can guarantee that once you’ve dipped your toe in to read a chapter, you’ll be jumping in to read one more and one more after that as you’ll be completely absorbed by the character of Cymbeline and his pursuit in finding the truth about why he’s never encountered water in a way that could, and maybe would, have prevented his previously-mentioned ‘accident’. A truth that you need to watch out for as it’s quite the tumble-turn that will change him and his family forever…
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Emotionally gripping and truly deserving of being awarded Waterstones’ Children’s Book of the Month for June, this is a book that shows how the littlest of people can and do cope with the biggest of issues.

‘A book that shows how the littlest of people can cope with the biggest of issues… Named after Shakespeare’s own Cymbeline, this is both a comedy and a tragedy that’ll leave readers feeling like you’re thrown in at the deep end and completely blown out of the water at the same time.’


Big thanks to Laura and all at HarperCollins for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and for providing me with both an advance proof, finished copy and giveaway!
Extra thanks to Adam for writing his super guest post!

Mr E
📚

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Boy Underwater is available to order now in paperback online or from any good bookshop (£6.99, HarperCollins Children’s Books).


Today I am also delighted to welcome, author of Boy Underwater, Adam Baron to The Reader Teacher as part of his Boy Underwater blog tour. Here, he shares with The Reader Teacher his exclusive guest post about the birth of his main character, Cymbeline with thoughts coming direct from Cymbeline himself…

Cymbeline Igloo, the birth of a character by Adam Baron

Hello! Cymbeline here! You’ve asked Adam to write a blog about how he created me but I’m going to do it for him. The reason is that I know him and he would SO FIB! He’d talk about all sorts of writer techniques, and strategies he used, blah blah. All of this would be aimed at him taking all the credit for Boy Underwater (the big show off) and he doesn’t deserve ANY.  Just because his name’s on the cover, please don’t let that fool you. Boy Underwater is MY STORY, something I know because I AM COMPLETELY, ABSOLUTELY, REAL.

It’s true.

Adam was just sitting there one day staring at the wall when I jumped into his head and took over his brain. He’s so lucky I chose him, believe me, because there are loads of writers out there. Soon I started making him think like me, and talk like me, and then I started making him write down the story of my swimming. And my mum.  And how I got to know Veronique Chang (who smells like someone, somewhere, is eating candyfloss). He tried to stop me at some points (he really is quite lazy) but I made him go on until he’d finished.

AND THAT’S ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW.

Adam, you can say a bit now but don’t go on too long and bore people.

Thanks Cymbeline! Well, I won’t go on long but I’ll add a few things. The first is that Cymbeline is right, of course. He did invade me. He did take over my head. I found myself saying only what he’d say, seeing the world through his eyes. It might be a bit more complicated than he thinks, though.

Thing is, it’s not just Cymbeline I’ve been taken over by. I have three children who each have a hat-load of friends. I also coach my children’s football teams and am surrounded by brilliant, funny, honest, passionate minds. I feel like I’ve been plugged into an incredible source of free energy, though it took me a while to realise it. Writers feed on energy and it seems so natural for me to use it to create stories with. I don’t deserve any credit though, it’s all these people around me.

And it’s not just real people.

You see, I’ve read loads of fantastic books with wonderful first-person narrators. My two favourites are Arturo Bandini from Ask The Dust and Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye, both of whom sweep you into their worlds in about three words and keep you there until their stories are over. I’ve tried to do the same thing (with Cymbeline’s help) in Boy Underwater – by sitting back and intruding into Cymbeline’s story as little as possible. My wonderful publishers at HarperCollins described Boy Underwater as JD Salinger for ten-year-olds, and though I know they were just being gushy, I was pretty happy with that. I’m even happier that it’s now out in the world where you can judge it for yourself.

THAT’S ENOUGH. Let the people go back to reading something interesting.

Okay Cymbeline.

Adam Baron, author of Boy Underwater

Adam

Adam Baron is the author of five successful adult novels and has, in his time, been an actor, comedian, journalist and press officer at Channel 4 Television (as well as things he’s too embarrassed to mention). He now runs the widely respected MA in Creative Writing at Kingston University London. Adam lives in Greenwich, South London, with his wife and three young children. He wrote Boy Underwater (his first novel aimed at younger readers) because they told him to.


Giveaway!

So to coincide with my review of Boy Underwater, I am delighted to say that Laura, Adam’s publicist has kindly given me one copy of the stunning Boy Underwater to give away on Twitter. If you’d like a chance of winning this superb prize, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

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Boy Underwater Blog Tour Banner

Be sure to check out the other dates and other bloggers for more reviews, posts and exclusive content from Adam on the Boy Underwater blog tour this week!

Blog Tour (Review & Author Q&A): Walls – Emma Fischel (Illustrated by Sarah Darby)

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‘Breaking the fourth wall in this story where bricks aren’t barriers, Walls is an emotional exploration of some of the dynamics, difficulties and divides of divorce.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title:
 Walls
Author: Emma Fischel (@emma_fischel)
Illustrator (Cover): Sarah Darby (@strawberrydarby)
Publisher: OUP Children’s (@OUPChildrens)
Page count: 288
Date of publication: 7th June 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-0192763822

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Walls 🧱🏠
2. Boggling 🚶
3. Family 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦


Ned Harrison Arkle-Smith had a good life – a perfect family, a true best friend, and a brilliant secret den – but now everything is ruined! Suddenly his mum and dad want to build a wall right through middle of his home, Bill has made other friends, and his new neighbour has taken over his special place.

Ned is definitely, completely, totally not happy about this. Until the night he loses his temper and something amazing happens. Something that means maybe he can get everyone to come back round to his way of thinking…


The first line(s):

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DdkSuUKXkAAifT1Review:
 Meet Ned Harrison Arkle-Smith. Yes that’s right. Ned Harrison… Wait a minute. For once a week, it’s Ned Harrison Arkle… the Arkle all on its own. And the other, well it’s Ned Harrison Smith… on its own too. You understand, yes? This is all because Ned’s parents are splitting up but as you can see Ned is not taking this news well at all.

Narrated by Ned, Walls introduces us to and explores some of the emotional experiences of divorce through his eyes living with his two sisters, and his parents who have decided that they can no longer continue to live together. However there’s a slight twist to their living arrangements… as they continue to not live strictly ‘together’.

Rather than selling their home or moving out, they decide to separate by separating their existing home, using walls, in to two: the mum-side and the dad-side. With Mum and Dad expecting to carry on as normal living side-by-side, as Ned and his two sisters visit each side on alternating weekly schedules, they later learn that it’s not as easy as just closing the door on their respective side of the house.

Left reeling from seeing his family on opposing sides of HIS house, bricks don’t become barriers for Ned. Sick of the walls surrounding him, he discovers his own special and secret skill of walking through these (and many other) walls one limb at a time which he starts to call ‘wallboggling’.

Throughout the remainder of the story, we begin to uncover that Ned’s difficulties at home and in the past have led him to be the Ned he is today. Quite controlling of others – especially to those closest to him – which leads him to actually pushing them further and further away, he often responds unexpectedly and badly to situations.

But can a new friend help him to change his ways and discover more about himself?

And can he choose to use his special skill for the greater good…?


Divorce rates increase…
Over 40% of marriages in the UK end up in divorce…
Britain has the highest divorce rate in the EU…


These are just some of the headlines concerning the subject of divorce which appears to be increasingly topical at this time. Therefore, after seeing her own children dealing with their changing family dynamic, Emma uses this first-hand experience to write an emotionally-charged story which could be used as a platform for empathy and discussion (as always, I recommend pre-reading it first before sharing with a class to assess the suitability of using it based on your knowledge of the pupils in your classroom) and which has the trials and tribulations of true family and friendship at its magical and moving core.

Breaking the fourth wall in this story where bricks aren’t barriers, Walls is an emotional exploration of some of the dynamics, difficulties and divides of divorce and living in a dysfunctional family.

‘Breaking the fourth wall in this story where bricks aren’t barriers, Walls is an emotional exploration of some of the dynamics, difficulties and divides of divorce.’


Huge thanks to Emma, Hannah and all at OUP Children’s for sending me an advance copy of this wonderfully written book! Extra thanks to Emma for taking the time to answer my questions!

Mr E
📚

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Author Q&A: Emma Fischel (EF) with The Reader Teacher (TRT)

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Emma Fischel had a happy, muddy childhood in the Kent countryside, the middle of five children. She spent many years in London but is now back in Kent. She has three grown-up children, two favourite kinds of potato (mashed and baked, since you ask), and once played in a band. Emma has written fiction and non-fiction books for children of all ages, including the Witchworld series for Nosy Crow. Walls is her first novel with Oxford Children’s Books.

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


Walls (5)

TRT: 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 Walls?
EF:
1. Funny 😁
2. Magical ✨
3. Moving 😥

TRT: What books, people, research, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write Walls?

EF: Well, parents splitting up happens to many children now – including my own. But Walls is written with distance and perspective on that time. And this is Ned’s story, not my children’s – who are nothing like Ned. I’m sure they would all be far wiser wallbogglers than Ned is!

I do think a big part of a writer’s job is to help children make sense of things that are happening to them, or to their friends. But serious subjects can be tackled in exciting and funny ways. And I hope that’s what I’ve done with Walls. By bringing in magic, the story moves from the domestic – and all the favourite books of my childhood were ones where magic happened to ordinary children. Edith Nesbit, Edward Eager, C S Lewis… the list goes on.

And as for help – my agent and editor, without doubt. Agents have calming spells for panicking writers with looming deadlines. And editors have magic powers that make a writer turn a good book into a better one.

TRT: I adore the unique concept of wallboggling in your book. For those readers who haven’t yet read Walls, can you explain what this is without giving too much away?

EF: Wallboggling, aka walking through walls – no spoiler, it’s on the cover! –  is a skill that Ned gets through the sheer power of his anger with the new wall his mum and dad have built down the middle of his house – the physical symbol of their split, and proof to Ned that they will never get back together. Ned has the idea that wallboggling will sort out his life. That with his new power he’ll be able to get all the people – Mum, Dad, his friend Bill – who are not behaving how he wants to come into line… Ned is WRONG. But he does come good in the end!

TRT: If you could pick any wall in the world to wallboggle through, which one would it be and why?

I change my mind on a daily basis. So many walls, so little time…Today, Mr E, the wall I would boggle through is the big wall round the garden of Buckingham Palace. As the queen has never invited me to one of her garden parties, I’d have a stroll around the grounds, and take a few plant cuttings as a souvenir. Better than a royal tea towel or mug, definitely.

TRT: If you were to choose the character that is most like you from Walls, who would it be and why?

I’m not sure I’m very like any of the characters in Walls – but maybe that’s for others to say? Although most writers, I think, put tiny bits of themselves into all their characters. It’s hard not to!

Having said that, Isabel, Ned’s four-year-old sister, does obsess about elves, as I did. And she also names all her paintings. Her painting, Dead Ladybird Under Leaves in the Moonlight was actually one of my finest!


Reading and Writing (4)

TRT: What first attracted you to writing? Did you enjoy writing at school?

I know lots of writers wrote as a child, but I didn’t. I was outside as much of the time as I possibly could be. And I enjoyed writing in school but I never wrote at home – shameful confession, but there you go. What I did write as a teenager was film and tv reviews. I have a huge file of them, all very pompous and very earnest. They could have been written by Adrian Mole.

I did read though, lots and lots. And it was when I started working at Usborne publishing, where I wrote books in-house,  that I started to think about writing as a possibility.

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

That feeling of suddenly knowing I’ve found the key to a character. At last I can hear their voice, I know who they are, they’re real! Or when a scene bursts into life, and leaps off the screen. I can feel a surge of energy, of excitement, and a need to glue myself to the keyboard and get on with it.

Of course, when you’ve got young children – not that I have any longer – that’s often tricky. You have to STOP. You have to make food, run baths, read bedtime stories. But in back of your mind, the cogs are whirring and the longing to get back to work is there!

There are times, usually in the later stages of a book, when I know what needs to happen, what I need to write, but I start to slump. It’s a struggle to reach the finish line. It’s hard to maintain the energy – and it’s extraordinary how much energy hunching over a keyboard takes. Sometimes I feel like I’ve run a marathon by the end of a day!

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

EF: Author visits weren’t a thing back then. Authors just sat at home, authoring and eating biscuits.

And I didn’t contact any authors because I was far too busy contacting pop stars and joining their fan clubs… (This is not going well, Mr E. I should have had a childhood interest in both writing and contacting authors. I should.)

TRT: 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?

It gets worse, Mr E – because I am reading nothing. But that’s because I CAN’T. I’m at the stage with my next book where reading is banned. No reading until I’m sure I’ve found the voice of the book, and the voice of my central character. I am – confession –  an accidental plagiarist,  too easily influenced by the wonderful writing of others. I find they come creeping into my own writing.

However, I do have a pile of children’s books stacked up to read. The 1000-year-old Boy, Planet Stan, Ella on the Outside, The Light Jar – and I’m impatient to get on to them. Children’s books are addressing so many big issues right now, in so many different, brilliant ways.


Walls and Teaching (3)

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

EF: Well, I’ve never been a teacher, so I’m not sure it’s my place to suggest how the book should be used!

But there’s a lot of potential for empathy discussions. The effects on children when parents split, how it manifests in Ned, the different ways it can manifest, how you can help friends in that situation. And maybe some role playing – looking at ways Ned could have handled situations with his friends in a better way, with discussion of the right and wrong ways to behave towards others?

Also, Ned loves making lists – including Ten Questions about Wallboggling. Maybe a class could think about what magic skill they would choose to get, and work out what their ten questions would be.

TRT: If you were to ‘pitch’ Walls 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?

EF: Walls tackles, in a funny and magical way, the effect on a child when parents split up, and what happens when friendships break down. Ned, the central character, has to learn one big lesson: he has no power over changes, the only power he has is how he deals with them.

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?

I’m in the process of setting up a contact page on my website. It should be up and running very soon, and all the details will be there.


Two more before you go (2)!

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

EF: Where would you time-travel to?

Possibly a bit self-absorbed, my answer to this… but I’d love to go back to my own childhood. Because at the time, of course, it was the modern world. So I’d like to see it through those eyes, rather than the eyes of nostalgia and memory.

I’d love to see my family back then, see the house, the garden, the family holidays, poke around my primary school, listen in on conversations with my friends, revisit particular events that I have strong memories of….

I think that would be fascinating, finding how much my own memories tally with the truth of things. But I’d definitely take a big box of tissues – I suspect it might be shocking, and very emotional.

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

I am scared of runny eggs. Bleurgh. Just bleurgh.


One last one… (1)!

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

If you could wallboggle, who would you tell – and who would you NOT tell?

Blog Tour (Review & Author Q&A): Across the Divide – Anne Booth (Illustrated by Serena Rocca)

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‘A book that broaches, binds, blends and bridges big issues…
This is more than historical fiction; this is a story movingly written in a one-of-a-kind way that ensures it will stay with you long after the last page is read.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title:
 Across the Divide
Author: Anne Booth (@Bridgeanne)
Illustrator (Cover): Serena Rocca (@SerenaR_art)
Publisher: Catnip Books (@catnipbooks)
Page count: 320
Date of publication: 7th June 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1910611111

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Tolerance 😌
2. Lindisfarne 🏰
3. Divide ➗


Olivia is stuck in the middle of a horrible row that threatens to tear apart her family, her friendships and her community.

Visiting the island of Lindisfarne, she meets a strange young man, caught between war and peace, who may help her decide what to do.

A beautiful, thought-provoking novel about seeing both sides and having the courage to do the right thing – from the highly acclaimed author of Girl With a White Dog.


The first line:

The only thing I was absolutely sure about at the beginning of the holiday was that I didn’t want to go to Lindisfarne.


Review: After Olivia’s mother is imprisoned for leading a pacifist protest, she is sent to stay with her estranged father on one of author, Anne Booth’s, favourite places of the remote island setting of Lindisfarne. At first, she believes the island has nothing for her and wants to get as far away as possible from it because it’s about as far removed from the life that she’s used to as it could possibly be. However the island has a lot more to reveal of itself than Olivia could possibly first imagine…

Rowing, arguing and differences of opinion or ‘unhealthy’ debate make this a difficult time for Olivia, seeming to have put her home life in to disarray, so much so that we discover that she prefers living at her grandparents. Her grandfather, an ex-army man himself, is the polar opposite to his daughter, Caz – Olivia’s mum. Favouring the military, army life and the opening a new Army cadets programme at school, he encourages Olivia to take a similar path to him and helps her by signing the permission sheet, knowing full well that her mother will not, to enrol her in the cadet programme and even talking about it at her school. But what will her friends think of this and her…?

Divide. It is here where the title, ‘Across the Divide’ is rather apt for this book because small divides start to appear within Olivia’s friendship group, bigger ones within her family and the community; and when she meets William – a mysterious boy who lives in the castle – this in itself presents a larger divide between characters and eras that this book soon starts to span.

As the story progresses, Olivia learns for herself about the old adage of ‘actions speaking louder than words’ through a clever look back at the past as it meets with Olivia’s life in the present, and helps her to come to terms with making her own mind up and choosing the right thing to do for herself. But what does she choose to do…?

There’s elements of politics, contemporary issues and world events that Anne draws on in this story and they’re all handled in an age-appropriate style aimed at this audience with her hallmark of immense sensitivity, considerateness and compassion that echoes within the words of her previous books.

With links to the army, soldiers like Billy Congreve and conscientious objectors, this is particularly pertinent in the year when we commemorate the centenary of the ending of the First World War. I’d never visited Lindisfarne and had only vaguely heard about its historical background but now, thanks to reading Across in Divide, I feel like I have (albeit only for a short time) and that I’ve lived through a part of its history.

Highly topical, this is a book that broaches, binds, blends and bridges big issues including pacifism and peace and war and conflict. This book will do more than make you think because it will make you think differently about the world. This is more than just historical fiction; this is a story movingly written in a one-of-a-kind way that ensures it will stay with you long after the last page is read.

‘A book that broaches, binds, blends and bridges big issues…
This is more than historical fiction; this is a story movingly written in a one-of-a-kind way that ensures it will stay with you long after the last page is read.’


ACROSS THE DIVIDE by Anne Booth is out now in paperback (£6.99, Catnip Publishing)
Follow Anne Booth @Bridgeanne & Catnip @catnipbooks for more information.


Big thanks to Anne and Laura for sending me an advance copy of this wonderfully written book! Extra thanks to Anne for taking the time to answer my questions!

Mr E
📚

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Author Q&A: Anne Booth (AB) with The Reader Teacher (TRT)

Anne Booth CMYK

Anne Booth lives in a village in Kent with her husband, four teenage children, two dogs and two hens. She has worked as a bookseller, a guide round a haunted medieval building (though she didn’t see any ghosts), a table clearer and washer-upper, a teacher of English in Italy, an Arts and Crafts Coordinator in a residential Home for the Elderly and a University lecturer.

Anne’s talks about her most recently published book: Across the Divide; her reading and writing habits and using her book in the classroom. Her other books include Girl With a White Dog, Dog Ears, Refuge and Magical Kingdom of Birds series.


Across the Divide (5)

TRT: At The Reader Teacher, for my reviews, I describe books in #3Words3Emojis.
Which 3 emojis would you choose to best describe Across the Divide?

AB:
1. 🐕
2. ⌚
3.  🏰

TRT: What books, people, research, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write Across the Divide?

AB: I knew I wanted to write about Lindisfarne, because I love it so much.  I am very interested in Lindisfarne Castle at the beginning of the twentieth century, at the time of Edward Hudson and Edwin Lutyens, and was moved to read in a National Trust booklet, the story of a boy, Billy Congreve, who stayed at the castle and then went off to fight in World War One. I feel that was a very poignant story.

I really like the words of the MP Jo Cox, who said that she found ‘we have far more in common with each other than things that divide us’ and in my own life, when I look at my friends, I think this is true, and wanted to write about that.

For ACROSS THE DIVIDE I have been inspired by knowing good people in the army and army cadets, including a very committed Christian who did active service in Afghanistan, but also by very close friends who have spent their lives as Christian Pacifists, one of whom has been frequently arrested for non-violent protests like the one Olivia’s mother does in the book. In my own family, one of my Irish grandfathers received the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his bravery whilst fighting as a soldier in the British Army in The First World War, and yet I know that he advised my father to never be a soldier. So I felt that there were very different, fascinating  stories to tell and compelling but opposite viewpoints that could demonstrate  connections made between people.

I was, as with Girl with a White Dog, aware of the stories being told our children by  headlines in the newspapers, and I wanted to tell an alternative story about politics and where conflict is resolved and about unity and reconciliation, illustrating Jo Cox’s words.

I also wanted as part of this story, to show how religious people make decisions, and how people from the same religious tradition can make very different decisions about war, because I feel that there is a current tendency to fear religious belief and to identify religious commitment with extremism. I set in on an island associated with Christianity and used the debates between Christians at the time of the First World War, and in current debate. I hope that this will help children understand more about people from Christian and other religious traditions and how they follow their god or gods.

TRT: Across the Divide
is set partly in Lindisfarne. For those of us (like myself!) who haven’t yet been to Lindisfarne, could you explain what it is like to visit or live on Lindisfarne?

AB: Lindisfarne is beautiful. It is a small island off the Northumberland coast which you can reach by driving or walking along a causeway, but it gets totally cut off when the tide comes in, and that gives it a unique atmosphere… It has the castle and the abbey,  gift shops and heritage centres and lots and lots of birds. It has farms and fields with sheep, but also part of it is a nature reserve with wild dunes and bird-hides and secluded beaches and wild flowers. There is a particular sense of history and peace there, and some people say it is a ‘thin’ place, a place where the distance between heaven and earth is shorter.  It has been an ancient place of pilgrimage for centuries, a cradle of Celtic Christianity, and was the birthplace of the stunningly beautiful Lindisfarne Gospels.  I have been on holiday on Lindisfarne many times with my family, and I love it.

TRT: You talk about birds often in Across the Divide with mentions of sparrows and starlings, curlews and cormorants just to name a few. This is one of my favourite parts of the book. Can you explain their significance and tell us about your favourite bird and why it is?

AB: I love birds – I find them fascinating and mysterious and beautiful and I find it amazing that we share the world with them. I always feel there is something timeless about them and I love thinking that people we are divided from by time and history across the centuries, have also looked at the way a bird hovers in the air, or listened to bird song. There is an old gaelic poem about a monk listening to a blackbird singing, and I often think about that monk when I hear a blackbird and somehow feel connected over time. So this is all linked with the time travel section of the book, as well as a way of linking Olivia and her grandfather and Aidan and William together by their shared love of birds. It’s impossible for me to choose a favourite bird – I think they are all wonderful! I love the song of the blackbird and the call of the curlew, I love the cheekiness of sparrows and robins, and yesterday I was standing outside my house talking to a friend, and a fledgling blue tit flew down and landed on my shoulder for a minute, which is a highlight of my life!

TRT: If you were to choose the character that is most like you from Across the Divide, who would it be and why?

AB: I am not sure if any one character is like me. I’d love to be as brave as Riya or Aidan, but I don’t think I am. I can see lots of people’s points of view, so I am probably like Olivia, but I am not sporty and never wanted to join cadets. I’d love to be as enthusiastic as Stan the dog. I think, actually, it might be William, as I love dogs and birds and drawing and my own faith is very important to me, but again, I am not sure if I would be as brave – I hope so!


Reading and Writing (4)

TRT: What first attracted you to writing? Did you enjoy writing at school?

AB: I’ve always loved reading and I’ve always loved writing. I had very encouraging teachers and they used to let me illustrate my stories.

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

AB: I love most things about writing. I can get a bit exhausted and muddled if I get too many story lines mixed up and the chronology of a story wrong and have to go back and sort out who did what, when. I have to remind myself to write down times and days beforehand. Luckily, editors are brilliant at helping me sort out any muddles!

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

AB: I don’t remember any writers coming to visit our school or even thinking that I could contact them.

TRT: 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?

AB: I am really impressed by the wonderful range of children’s books at the moment, both in fiction and non-fiction. I love picture books and illustrated books and I also read lots of books for the age range I write for.  I have just read To the Edge of The World by Julia Green, which is a wonderful story, and re-read The Secret of Spiggy Holes by Enid Blyton, I am currently reading and enjoying The Goose Road by Rowena House and loved  Hilary MacKay’s new book The Skylarks’ War, which is out later this year – both are about the First World War, so link to ACROSS THE DIVIDE. A stunning picture book I read recently with gorgeous illustrations by Aurélie Blanz and a stunning text, is Just Like Brothers by Elizabeth Baguley. I am reading a wonderful adult non-fiction book called Curlew Moon by Mary Colwell and I’ve just read Dear Mrs Bird, a great adult novel set in the 2nd world war, brilliantly researched, by my friend AJ Pearce.


Across the Divide and Teaching (3)

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

AB: I blogged about this at: https://www.booksfortopics.com/blog/author-blog-using-across-the-divide-in-schools

TRT: If you were to ‘pitch’ ACROSS THE DIVIDE 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?

AB: A book about standing up for what you believe, and about listening and respecting those with other viewpoints and finding common ground with them. A story which shows children that they have the power to make a difference.

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?

 AB: I think contacting Catnip Books would be a good idea.


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Be sure to check out the other dates and other bloggers for more reviews, posts and exclusive content from Anne on the Across the Divide blog tour from the past two weeks!

Review: The Mystery of the Colour Thief – Ewa Jozefkowicz (Illustrated by Sophie Gilmore) & Guest Post: ‘My thoughts on mental health issues among primary school-pupils and how I hope The Mystery of the Colour Thief will help children to reach out’ – Ewa Jozefkowicz

Jozefkowicz_THE MYSTERY OF THE COLOUR THIEF
‘Simply ‘specsational’. Heart-wrenching yet heartwarming at the same time… it takes a very special talent to achieve this and I’m delighted to say that Ewa does with flying colours.’ 

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Mystery of the Colour Thief
Author: Ewa Jozefkowicz (@EwaJozefkowicz)
Illustrator (Cover): Sophie Gilmore (@sophillustrates)
Publisher: Zephyr (@HoZ_Books)
Page count: 192
Date of publication: 3rd May 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1786698940

Perfect for Year 6 & Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Friendship 👭
2. Strength 💪
3. Colour 🎨


First the accident, then
the nightmares.

A shadowy thief steals the colours
from Izzy’s world.

Will her new neighbour and a nest
full of cygnets save Izzy
and solve the mystery of the colour thief?


The first line:

He came out of nowhere, a man in the smoke.


Review: 

The story begins, as does some of the chapters, with a voice. An unknown voice. A voice given to a character. A most sinister, shadowy character who we can’t see, but later see the effects of, and can instantly feel coming; looming closer with every word. This too is how it feels for main character, Izzy who finds herself waking up more and more as white as a sheet, reeling in shock and horror at the thought of her dreams which are every bit turning in to nightmares that are encroaching upon her, invading her and taking over her sleep.

Izzy’s mum is in hospital after a car accident – and Izzy attributes blame and fault only to herself. Overwhelmed with pangs of guilt, wracked with anxiety and shrouded in grief, Izzy cannot even face the slightest of sights of her hospitalised mother, lying senseless to the world in a coma. So it’s no wonder the colours of her world start to fade. Literally. As she watches the mural on her bedroom wall’s colours mutate and dissipate; reds, yellows, greens, blues: gone. But what could be happening and where could they be going to?

With no mother to turn to, likewise no father to turn to and a best friend who turns her back on Izzy, she’s left in the dark; trapped in a world where’s she continually suffering from the blackest of Blackest Days. However, new hope emerges for Izzy with a new neighbour. Toby. Paralysed after an accident yet full of positivity and perseverance, it is he that starts to bring new life to Izzy in more ways than one.

First with a nest of cygnets that need rescuing. When researching the correct collective noun to describe a group of cygnets, it referred me to swans. More specifically, ‘a lamentation of swans’. Yet towards the end of the story, I think that the first collective noun in the list, ‘a ballet of swans’ becomes the more apt term because it is this small change for Izzy from Toby that brings about a radically different change in Izzy’s thinking. Together can they help the cygnets, who become one of the true centrepieces and cornerstones of the story?

But even greater than that, can they put an end to the disappearing colours, break through the darkness and solve the mystery of the eponymous colour thief?

As Izzy’s father would say himself, this is simply ‘specsational’. Emotive, engaging and full of moving moments, The Mystery of the Colour Thief paints a picture that’s a compassionate and heartfelt look at mental health and ends up being a canvas of hope that permeates through its pages. It’s beautifully and sensitively written; heart-wrenching yet heartwarming at the same time. It takes a very special talent to achieve this, especially with her debut and I’m delighted to say that Ewa does this with flying colours.

 

‘Simply ‘specsational’. Heart-wrenching yet heartwarming at the same time… it takes a very special talent to achieve this and I’m delighted to say that Ewa does with flying colours.’


Big thanks to Ewa and all at Zephyr for sending me an advance copy of The Mystery of the Colour Thief and to Fritha for helping organise this beautifully-written guest post from Eva. So an extra huge thanks Ewa!

Mr E
📚

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The Mystery of the Colour Thief is available to order online or from any good bookshop.


Today I am also delighted to welcome author of The Mystery of the Colour ThiefEwa Jozefkowicz to The Reader Teacher. Here, she shares with The Reader Teacher her thoughts on mental health issues and how she hopes her book will help children to reach out…

‘My thoughts on mental health issues among primary school-pupils and how I hope The Mystery of the Colour Thief will help children to reach out’

‘I knew that nobody else would understand about the colour thief.’

This is what Izzy, the heroine of The Mystery of the Colour Thief says to herself when she’s considering telling her dad about the horrible shadowy man of her nightmares. Unfortunately, she comes to the conclusion that she shouldn’t worry him as he’s already very sad, and she continues to struggle on with her problems on her own, as her world turns increasingly dark.

Izzy avoids her teachers, although  ask her how she’s feeling, and she snaps at her aunt, who comes to stay with her and her dad and wants to help out. This is because she truly believes that nobody will understand the emotions that she’s going through.

It is only much later in the story, when her new neighbour Toby opens up to Izzy about the challenges he faces, that she is able to share the story of the colour thief with him, and together, they try to stop him in his tracks and solve the mystery.

This reluctance to tell somebody is a trait that is sadly very common among primary school children, many of whom might not even realise why they’ve suddenly begun to feel so different. In recent national surveys, teachers and senior leaders have expressed worries about the rising levels of anxiety and depression among their pupils. Some of these conditions are linked to school pressures (such as exam stress from SATs), some are linked to a difficult family situation, or a broken friendship; others still are unexplained. All are incredibly upsetting.

Through The Mystery of the Colour Thief, I’ve tried to bring across three important messages:

  1. If you’re feeling scared, nervous or low, you are definitely not alone.
  2. No matter how bad things get, there will always be somebody caring who will help you to repaint your world, but they won’t be able to do so if you don’t trust them.
  3. Sometimes when you’re not feeling yourself, your friends may not be sure how to act around you, and that’s OK too.

I think that this third point is important to emphasise , as it is particularly relevant among primary school children. In The Mystery of the Colour Thief, Izzy’s best friend Lou has no idea how to act around her following  the accident which changed Izzy’s world. As a result, she decides to slowly spend less and less time with her, and to form a new friendship with Jemima. This broken friendship is particularly distressing to Izzy, who is already going through so much, but it serves to help her understand that she is stronger than she thinks, and that she has other people who care about her and are able to help.

As adults, we all know that relationships are tested in difficult times, but we rarely consider that this is also true of early friendships in primary school years.

Towards the very end of the story, Izzy says to her mum, who is still unconscious in hospital, ‘It turns out that you’re stronger than you think. And sometimes you just need a bit of help,’ which I hope is a message  that will resonate with a number of young readers.


Ewa Jozefkowicz, author of The Mystery of the Colour Thief

Ewa_Jozefkowicz_credit Ruta Zukaite

Ewa Jozefkowicz grew up in Ealing, and studied English Literature at UCL. She currently works in marketing, and lives in Highbury, north London with her husband and twin girls. 
The daughter of a bookseller, she has always been a lover of children’s books and has dreamed of publishing her own. She wrote her first book aged 5 (meticulously self-illustrated with felt tip pen) and twenty five years later achieved her dream of being a published children’s author with ‘The Mystery of The Colour Thief’. She is fascinated by stories about friendship and growing up.

Credit:
The Mystery of the Colour Thief by Ewa Jozefkowicz, published in hardback,
£10.99, 3 May 2018 from Zephyr
@EwaJozefkowicz @HoZ_Books #TheMysteryoftheColourThief