Blog Tour (Review): Invisible in a Bright Light – Sally Gardner (Illustrated by Helen Crawford-White)

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‘Past meets present in this most fantastical of fairytales… I can categorically say that there is no-one else who writes with the same unique imagination of Sally Gardner.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Invisible in a Bright Light
Author: Sally Gardner (@TheSallyGardner)
Cover illustrator: Helen Crawford-White (@studiohelen)
Publisher: Zephyr (@_ZephyrBooks)
Page count: 320
Date of publication: 17th October 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1786695222

Perfect for Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Chandelier 🕯️
2. Theatre 🎭
3. Game 🎲


It is 1870: opening night at the Royal Opera House in a freezing city by the sea, where a huge, crystal chandelier in the shape of a galleon sparkles magically with the light of 750 candles.

Celeste, a theatre rat, wakes up in a costume basket from what she hopes is a bad dream, to find that everyone at the theatre where she works thinks she is someone else.

When the chandelier falls, she is haunted by a strange girl who claims to know Celeste’s past and why she must risk playing a game called the Reckoning to try to save the people she loves.


Review:

Waking up in a costume basket in the theatre, Celeste thinks she’s just been on the receiving end of a bad dream. However it can only get worse for her when she finds everyone at the theatre where she works thinks she is someone else much grander than she actually is – a dancer preparing for her performance. When she can’t find her mother and someone calls her by a different name, it seems that Celeste – an orphan who’s at the bottom of the theatre pecking order as she runs everyone’s errands – soon realises she is in far deeper into a mystical world than she initially thought.

As the strangeness of the events gets stranger still, a crystal chandelier in the shape of galleon crashes down from the Royal Opera House’s ceiling leaving Celeste injured and unable to dance. Owing to this seemingly at first random accident, Celeste begins to see her former life through a ghostly somebody else who seems to know more about Celeste than she does and plays her part in the Reckoning herself with past meeting present head-on.

From the very first chapter, this story holds you in the palm of its hand with its plot that tantalisingly unfolds and its exceedingly imaginative array of characters from a mysterious man in an emerald green suit that haunts Celeste’s mind from the beginning to his game of the Reckoning which is, in itself, like a character of its very own with its truly terrific twists and turns.

I can categorically say that there is no-one else who writes with the same unique imagination of Sally Gardner. Reading her readers’ note in the proof copy of the inspirations behind this story of a women keeping a chandelier shining in the Royal Opera House in Copenhagen really showcases the quality of how she mixes fact with fiction to create the most fantastical of fairytales.


Big thanks to Sally, Jade and all the team at Zephyr Books for inviting me to be a part of the Invisible in a Bright Light blog tour on publication day and for sending me a signed proof copy.

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the Invisible in a Bright Light blog tour for more exclusive content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review, Extract & Guest Post): Mother Tongue – Patricia Forde (Illustrated by Elissa Webb)

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‘For Letta is one of the best heroines I have come across in a book. Steadfast, strong and unwaveringly resilient, she is the driving force behind why this series is becoming so revered.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Mother Tongue
Author: Patricia Forde (@PatriciaForde1)
Cover illustrator: Elissa Webb
Publisher: Little Island (@LittleIslandBks)
Page count: 224
Date of publication: 12th September 2019
Series status: Second in The Wordsmith series (Standalone)
ISBN: 978-1912417278

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Words 🔤
2. Missing ❌
3. Heroine 💪


After global warming came the Melting. Then came Ark.

The new dictator of Ark wants to silence speech for ever. But Letta is the wordsmith, tasked with keeping words alive. Out in the woods, she and the rebels secretly teach children language, music and art.

Now there are rumours that babies are going missing. When Letta makes a horrifying discovery, she has to find a way to save the children of Ark – even if it is at the cost of her own life. 


Review:

With its themes of climate change and global warming, political power, truth versus lies and oppressive regimes, and set in an apocalyptic, dystopian future, you could say that this story has aspects that ring true to a future that isn’t actually that far from home in today’s political climate.

In this stand-alone sequel to The Wordsmith, the new dictator of Ark wants to silence speech for ever. But protagonist Letta, the wordsmith, is tasked with keeping words alive. For Letta is one of the best heroines I have come across in a book. Steadfast, strong and unwaveringly resilient, she is the driving force behind why this series is becoming so revered. As the evolution of language becomes less and less with each generation, Letta fights back against the system. But as she does, she uncovers more discoveries than she could have ever imagined… Will one of these discoveries be the death of her?

Freedom of speech, a world so well realised and a main character with more than a sense of gutsy determination all are on offer for the reader here and it is with all of these at play that readers – both children and adults – should make Mother Tongue one not to be missed of their To Be Read piles. If you’re looking for more, The Wordsmith (Book 1) is a must.


For those intrigued by my review, you can read more in this extract below:


Extract


Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

This is the question I get asked most often at school events and it is a difficult question to answer.

Writers are hoarders, I find. We hoard images, snippets of conversation, stories from the local newspaper. This stash of inspiration is kept in our heads or hopefully in a notebook or on a computer file until we need it. When I wrote The Wordsmith the process started with a single image. I imagined a girl, called Letta, working in a shop selling words. I had no idea who she was or why she was selling words but I could see the location clearly. A big wooden counter and behind that rows of pigeon holes. Each pigeon hole held a box and each box held cards. Each card had a word written on it. I could hear Letta’s voice talking to her customers – did they want words for everyday colours or something more elaborate? The standard box had words like blue and black and white in it but the special box had cerise and indigo and violet. Slowly, over days and weeks and months I discovered her story. She wasn’t selling words, she was distributing them. She was distributing them because by law people were only allowed to have five hundred words. Show don’t tell, everyone said, so I set about showing this strange law in action.

In the first chapter of The Wordsmith we see Letta’s master learning that from now on citizens of Ark will be given a list of five hundred words and they are the only words they are allowed to use.

Writers, by and large, are divided into those who plan their novels and those who do not. I belong in the latter camp. My challenge with The Wordsmith was to uncover this strange world, why it came to be, why language was rationed and what my protagonist was going to do about it.

Standing back from it now, I can see where some of the ideas came from. My father had a shop in Galway, where I was born and still live. I was used to the world of the counter and of customers coming and going. I speak Irish, a language now under threat with an ever-diminishing list of words in daily usage, and I was concerned about global warming. As I dug for my story all of those things influenced me and shaped the ultimate narrative.

Mother Tongue continues the story and puts us back in the world of Ark. When I tried to imagine Letta, after the first story finished, I saw her in a field teaching children. That brought me straight back to the history I had learnt in school.

After the accession of William and Mary in the 1690’s, the education of Catholics in Ireland was expressly forbidden under the Penal Laws. As a result an underground system of ‘hedge schools’ sprang up across the country. They were so called because the classes were often convened under the shelter of hedges or in stables or barns. The teacher risked life and limb but the children received an education in the Irish language, reading, writing and arithmetic.

And so, in the first chapter of Mother Tongue we find Letta teaching in a hedge school.

Another strong storyline in Mother Tongue is about the disappearance of babies. Amelia, the new ruler of Ark, is carrying out an experiment. If children never hear language will it follow that they will never speak?

Babies were very much in the news as I was writing. In March 2017, the Irish commission of investigation into Mother and Baby Homes announced that the remains of 796 infants had been found in Tuam buried on the site of a former institution for unmarried mothers. The remains of the children had been placed in an old septic tank.

Tuam is about twenty-five miles from where I live. The country was in shock.

And then, in the United States, we heard of families being separated at the Mexican border. Most of these people were from Central America and the campaign was designed to deter families hoping to immigrate to the United States. Babies were taken from their mother’s arms and placed in foster care.

The youngest child separated from his family, Baby Constantin, was four months old. I hoarded the image of Constantin with his deep brown eyes and long eyelashes.

Where do you get your ideas from? You get them from life, your own life and the lives of others, and you try to make sense of them by putting them into stories.

Mother Tongue is dedicated to the memory of the Tuam babies and to all children without a voice.


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Patricia Forde is from Galway, on the west coast of Ireland. Her first novel THE WORDSMITH was published to great critical acclaim in 2015. It has since been published in the United States, Australia, Denmark, Russia, Turkey and the Netherlands. It has won a White Raven Award from the International Youth Library, is an American Library Association Notable Book for Children in the United States, and was shortlisted for the Children’s Book of the Year Award in Ireland. In 2018 Patricia wrote BUMPFIZZLE THE BEST ON PLANET EARTH, which was chosen as the Dublin UNESCO Citywide Read 2019. MOTHER TONGUE, the sequel to THE WORDSMITH, has just been published in 2019 by Little Island Books. She is married to Padraic and has two grown up children. She still lives in Galway, her favourite city in the world. You can visit her at www.patriciaforde.com, find her on twitter @PatriciaForde1 and on Instagram @TrishForde1.


Founded by Ireland’s first Children’s Laureate, Siobhán Parkinson, Little Island Books has been publishing books for children and teenagers since 2010. It is Ireland’s only English-language publisher that publishes exclusively for young people. Little Island specialises in publishing new Irish writers and illustrators, and also has a commitment to publishing books in translation. In 2019 Little Island was the Irish winner of the inaugural Small Press of the Year award from The Bookseller magazine. You can find them online at www.littleisland.ie, and on Twitter and Instagram at @LittleIslandBks.


Big thank to Patricia, Matthew and all the team at Little Island Books for inviting me to be a part of the wonderful Mother Tongue blog tour and for sending me an advance copy of the book.

Extra thanks to Patricia for writing such a fascinating guest post!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the Mother Tongue blog tour for more exclusive guest posts from Patricia, content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

 

Blog Tour (Guest Post & Extract): The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow – Emily Ilett

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Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow
Author: Emily Ilett (@EmilyrIlett)
Publisher: Kelpies/Floris Books (@DiscoverKelpies) (@FlorisBooks)
Page count: 224
Date of publication: 26th September 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1782506072

Perfect for Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Shadows 👥
2. Adventures 🏃‍♀️
3. Sisters 👭


Gail used to be close to her big sister. But lately Kay has changed: she’s sad and quiet, and Gail has no idea how to help.

But when Kay’s shadow slips away as well, Gail knows she must bring the shadows back.

Gathering her courage, Gail chases the shadows through caves and forests, discovering maps, a pearl and an unexpected new friend who can speak to birds.

Can she find what the shadows are seeking?


“Gail and Kay used to swim every week, but everything had changed after their dad left. Now, Kay never left her room if she could help it. She hardly ate, and if she looked at Gail, it was like she was looking all the way through her, as if she was invisible.”

When Gail’s older sister, Kay, becomes depressed, Gail doesn’t understand what is happening. The two sisters used to do everything together – they dreamed of being marine biologists and swam in the sea whenever they could. So when Kay becomes tired, sad and distant and won’t swim with Gail anymore, Gail feels abandoned and is furious with her sister.

The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow follows Gail as she chases across the island after her sister’s shadow, certain that if she finds it and brings it home, everything will go back to how it was before. On her journey, Gail befriends a young girl called Mhirran.

“A strange girl with orange hair tapping Morse code deep inside a tunnel like the whole island might be listening.”

Mhirran speaks Dolphin and talks to the stalagmites in Morse code. She can mimic bird calls and wave her arms in semaphore. She talks about whistling languages and how spiders can communicate through their webs, like playing guitar strings. She talks about the ways elephants can feel the warning call of other elephants through the ground and how whales speak to each other through miles and miles of cold water.

At first, Gail dismisses Mhirran’s constant chatter. She says that Mhirran talks all the time but never says anything real. But when Gail hears Mhirran’s own story, she realises that Mhirran is also trying to reach out across a difficult silence in her life. And as she begins to listen more closely to her friend, Gail draws strength from learning how different creatures communicate.

This is a story about the impact of Kay’s depression on Gail, and how she finds the courage to be there for her sister, just as Kay has looked out for her, so many times before. I hope this story will help young people and families talk about depression and mental health, and the different ways we can continue to reach out to each other through difficult and painful experiences. Gail learns to ask for help and take the help that is given, and I hope this book, through a tale of magic and adventure, supports young people to ask for, and give help, themselves.


Emily Ilett, author of The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow

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“Kay said too many people try to do things by themselves – she couldn’t understand it. It’s a brave thing to ask for help, she said. The bravest thing.”


In this extract, Gail is trapped inside a tree’s shadow and she is looking at a photograph of Kay in the hope that it will give her the strength to escape the shadow.

“Gail ran a forefinger down the photo, following the curve of Kay’s cheek. Kay had always been the strong one, not her. She remembered the time when she’d broken her arm and Kay had drawn twenty-three octopi on her cast so that she had all the arms she needed, and when Kay had spent hours explaining the tides because Gail was afraid of not knowing when the ocean would shift or shrink. She remembered when her sister had taken the blame the day Gail had turned their mum’s umbrella into a jellyfish with pink tissue paper and superglue, and when she’d squeezed Gail’s hand and distracted her with stories of marine biologist Asha de Vos while Gail had her first terrifying injection.

And she remembered one day after Kay had started sinking, when she had turned to Gail in the sticky silence, and said softly, “Do you remember the time we went swimming last October? We stayed in for ages and when we came out our lips and fingers were blue. You squeezed my hand and I couldn’t feel anything at all.” Gail had nodded and Kay stared at her own hand, flexing her fingers. “I feel like that now, Gail. Everything is numb. It’s like I’ve been swimming for hours. But I don’t know how to get out. I can’t get out.”

Gail had stiffened at Kay’s words then. Kay was the strong one. She needed Kay to be the strong one. And so she had tightened her mouth and tapped at the window and shrugged and said nothing at all.

Twigs broke behind her. They crunched in a creature-like way. Gail held her breath; she slipped the photo back in her bag and tried once more to wrestle her feet from the tree’s shadow. It was beginning to convince her that there were leaves growing from her nostrils and in between her teeth: Gail had to touch her face to check that there weren’t. She tugged her hair behind her ears, and shifted her rucksack higher on her back.

Leaves crackled to her right, followed by the scuttling of insects disturbed.

“Hello?” Gail whispered. “Who’s there?”

For the first time, she wondered why the deer had been running so fast. Perhaps something had spooked them in the forest…

Gail shrank her head into her jumper. She had to get out of the tree’s shadow. Who am I?Remember who I am. But all she could see was Mhirran’s pale face, and Kay, flexing her fingers sadly on her bed.

Caww. A crow burst upwards, startled into flight: something was moving in the forest. Gail froze. She could smell animal: damp fur and hunger. Every part of her body tensed. She squeezed her eyes shut, frantically racing through all the defences she knew: the octopus’s spray of ink, the eel’s organ regurgitation, the slime of the hagfish. She thought of the leafy seadragon’s camouflage and the jellyfish’s sting. And then she thought of Kay and the way she stared everybody down without any other kind of weapon at all. So Gail opened her eyes.

The eyes staring back at her were full of wilderness. Of hunts and hiding. Of exile and territory. They were full of night secrets and independence. They were coral-proud and luminous. They shone.”


Big thanks to Emily, James and all the team at Kelpies/Floris for inviting me to be a part of the wonderful The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow blog tour and for sending me an advance copy of the book

Extra big thanks to Emily for her guest post and to Kelpies/Floris for inviting me to share this wonderful extract above.

Mr E


Review & Guest Post (The Inspiration Behind The Monster): The Switching Hour – Damaris Young (Illustrated by Kelsey Buzzell)

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‘Spooky, suspenseful and Stranger Things. Damaris’ haunting yet hopeful words and worlds so atmospherically realised here suggest she could be the next and natural successor to Hardinge.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Switching Hour
Author: Damaris Young (@damarisyoung)
Cover illustrator:
Kelsey Buzzell (Website)
Publisher: Scholastic (@scholasticuk)
Page count: 288
Date of publication: 1st August 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1407195049

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Friendship 👭
2. Monster 👹
3. Drought ☁️


Never stay out after the Switching Hour… never let the outside in…

Every night, at twilight, Amaya locks her door to keep out the Badeko, a creature that vanishes children away to devour their dreams.

When Amaya’s small brother is taken, she must fight her way through the terrifying and twisting forest to the Badeko’s nest.

She must face her fears that come alive after dark…


Review:

Fishing in her local river, we are introduced to Amaya who lives with her grandmother, her small brother Kaleb and her pet goat Tau. Soon realising she’s been out for far too long, she rushes back home just in time before the time of the Switching Hour starts where the day turns to night and the living turn to the lure of a legend…

“The creature licked its lips and sucked the dream through its sharp teeth, but the empty hunger in its belly still roared. It wasn’t enough.
Always hungry. Always thirsty.”

The legend of Badeko. A monster. A demon. A beast. A dream-eating devil who steals away children at night. Awoken greater now by the terrible drought that’s plaguing Amaya’s homeland, of which is stripping it of its little food and water and limited resources that’s left.

To stop Badeko, every night the doors must be locked at twilight. For Amaya, she’s come too close to comfort before to its humming, haunting presence and so now with the insistent calls of her grandmother ringing in her ears, she ensures that all the doors are not only closed but slammed shut, bolted down and checked at least three times. But when her wise old grandmother is needed by a local in a remote, far-off community, she’s left to look after her younger brother all by herself. Will she be able to protect what matters most to her?

“Dragging my feet over to my bed, I curled up under the covers without caring to change out of my clothes. As I drifted off, I had the uneasy feeling of something left undone.”

But whilst the adults are away, and unbeknownst to Amaya who’s sleeping soundly, the Badeko reappears to play one evening during the Switching Hour rearing its head and wilfully prowling outside her home to try its luck at the seemingly-locked front door only to find its way in to Kaleb.

Snatched away in the dead of night in the clutches of this creature, Amaya awakes to find her brother gone; her worst nightmares coming true; her heart and soul ripped out; her world torn apart and thus the start of a creepy, compulsive and compelling adventure in which she must undertake to face her deepest and darkest fears across the Blackened Forest to seek out the Dead Tree – where Badeko calls home – to bring her brother from the back of beyond. Legend has it that once Badeko claims a child, all relatives will forget their existence within three days and be left in a state of eternal grief and mourning. They call it the Sorrow Sickness, so can Amaya rescue her sibling before this lingering longing sets in?

In its central character of Amaya, Damaris has created a heroine of unforgettable power. With her faithful goat-friend Tau for company, she finds herself as much on a physically-arduous journey as a mentally-testing one.

Submerged in a supernatural and almost tribal-tinged world, influenced by Damaris’ own experiences of myths and legends of a childhood growing up in South Africa, it shows the power of friendship, especially with supporting character Mally, and the very real fear of forgetting the ones you love. Therefore, it’s no surprise that this spooky, suspenseful story with all senses of Stranger Things about it will completely snatch hold of its readers and keep them gripped the whole way through. Her haunting yet hopeful words and worlds so atmospherically realised here suggest she could be the next and natural successor to Hardinge.


‘Spooky, suspenseful and Stranger Things. Damaris’ haunting yet hopeful words and worlds so atmospherically realised here suggest she could be the next and natural successor to Hardinge.’


The Inspiration Behind The Monster in The Switching Hour

When I started writing The Switching Hour, I had been interested in climate issues for a long time and it was important to me that the story had a connection to this crucial topic, without being too taken over by it.

In The Switching Houra dream eating creature is awoken by a terrible drought. This monstrous creature is my interpretation of our global changing climate, as the drought threatens to devour all life. It preys on young children by eating their dreams, in the same way climate change will affect generation to come. In The Switching Hour, while the adults hide away behind locked doors, it is the children who are brave and take action.

In our real world, it is young people who are also leading the way when it comes to creating awareness about climate change. The young activist Greta Thunberg is inspiring global protests, urging politicians to take action, and proving that no matter how old you are, your voice matters!

With demands from social media to connect and engage, to the bombardment of the news and the pressures to achieve, young people often feel like they have little control over the world around them, which is why The Switching Houris ultimately a story of courage and hope. It may seem like there is too much that is out of our control, but there is still so much that is. Every one of us has a voice and it’s up to all of us to fight our monsters, real or imagined.z7-envEw_400x400.jpg

 

 

Damaris Young, author of The Switching Hour


Big thanks to Damaris, Mary and all the team at Scholastic for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of The Switching Hour blog tour and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Damaris for writing such a brilliant and insightful guest post!

Mr E


Blog Tour (Author Q&A): Check Mates – Stewart Foster (Illustrated by Leo Nickolls)

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Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Check Mates
Author: Stewart Foster (@stewfoster1)
Cover artwork: Leo Nickolls (@leonickolls)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (@simonkids_uk)
Page count: 352
Date of publication: 27th June 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN:978-1471172236

Perfect for Year5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Chess ♟️
2. Relationships 🤝
3. Grandfather 👴


Felix Schopp isn’t a problem child.
He’s a child with a problem…

Felix’s ADHD makes it hard for him to concentrate and his grades are slipping. Everyone keeps telling him to try harder, but no one realises how hard it is!

When Mum suggests Felix spends time with his grandad, Felix can’t think of anything worse. Grandad hasn’t been since Grandma died, and he’s always trying to teach Felix boring chess.

But sometimes the best lessons come in the most unexpected of places and Grandad soon shows Felix that there’s everything to play for.


Today, I’m delighted to welcome Stewart to The Reader Teacher where he’ll be answering some of my questions about Check Mates, his reading and writing influences and why he’s a bit like his main character, Felix!

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Photo credit: Tallulah Foster

 


Check Mates (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 Check Mates?
    1. Touching
    2. Triumphant
    3. Historical

Sorry, I prefer words over emojis.

  • What books, people, research, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write Check Mates?

For experience of life in East Germany I read Anna Funder’s Staziland. For the experience of chess tournaments I used The Rookie, by John Moss. I researched online for the chess moves and had them checked and rechecked by an experienced club chess player. I also interviewed two children with ADHD along with two class support workers. I thought it very important to find out what it’s like to cope with having ADHD and how schools deal with this. Of course I also used my own experiences of ADHD, as it was very evident during the writing of the book because I wrote it in half-hour burst. I just couldn’t keep still any longer than that.

  • What was the most enjoyable part of writing Check Mates?

Discovering the characters and watching them grow, was my favourite part. I loved Felix, Granddad and Jake, and each morning when I sat at my computer it was like going back and meeting my friends. I found them all very easy to write, or maybe I should say, natural.

  • In Check Mates, the main game of the story is chess. Are you good at the game yourself, maybe a grandmaster? And how does your experiences of the game influence your writing about it?

I’m a total novice at chess, pretty rubbish to be honest. However, I did play at school and in one lunchtime I was winning a game comfortably until my opponent opened his lunchbox and pulled out a peanut butter sandwich. I hate peanut butter and the smell of it made me feel so sick I lost the game. I used the scene in Check Mates, with Felix, only I swapped peanut butter out for Doritos.

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

I’m a hybrid of Felix and Jake. I’m like Felix for the terrible attention span, and like Jake for the randomness of his acts without thinking of the consequences, even though he has good intentions. I also like to think I’m loyal to my mates, like he is to Felix.

Reading and Writing (4)

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

I used to write short stories and poems about my classmates in secondary school. At first, they were scared of what I’d write but after laughing at two stories they seemed to clamour to be the next one in line. It was huge fun, and much like the class comedian it made me quite popular, and we all want to be that. I loved writing in general, especially in English and History. In fact, my History teacher was a big fan until one day he said, ‘Stewart, I love your stories, but History is recollection of real events, not things you make up’. I remember us both laughing. I didn’t change the cause and outcomes of wars, but I did create a few bloody battles in between.

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

The first draft is the most fun by far. I don’t plan my novels, so each page is as unknown to me as it is to the reader. It keeps me fresh, but it does lead to a ‘scruffy’ first draft to send to my editor. And that’s when the exhausting bit kicks in, going over and over the whole story again.

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

I loved reading Bobby Brewster stories and when the author H E Todd came to my school, I was the happiest kid on the planet. He and his books smelt of tobacco and as he signed my copy, I told him I was writing a story about a crocodile that lived under my living room carpet. He said it was a great idea and that I should finish the story. I recall running home to tell my parents I’d met a real author and wrote the story that night by torchlight. It was the most exciting time and makes me realise the importance of talking but also listening to kids when I visit schools.

  • Currently, we seem to be living in a golden age of books, especially that of children’s literature. Can you recommend any other children’s books to children (and adults!) who may be interested in similar themes explored in your book or any that you would recommend?

It would have to be Lisa Thompson. She does a wonderful job of addressing some of the issues that affect youngsters today and does it in a way that doesn’t talk down to them. When I was writing All the Things that could go Wrong, I discovered The Goldfish Boy was coming out. Both our books featured a protagonist with OCD and for a while I considered stopping writing mine as she’d done it so well. However, thankfully I continued.  Like I tell keen writers, it’s okay to write on the same subjects or themes, after all, there’s more than one book or film about the Second World War.

Check Mates and Teaching (3)

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

A boy with ADHD learns that the best lessons come in the most unexpected places and from whom you least expect.

  • Could you suggest ways in which Check Mates could be used in the classroom for the many teachers and primary school staff that will read this and wish to use it in their schools?

I’d love to children to discuss or take part in activities to extend the reading experience, rather that have to study it piece by piece.

For example, they could talk to their grandparents and share stories about them in class. This could lead to empathy with Grandparents and understanding. What did they learn about their lives? What might child and Grandparent learn from each other.

Learn to play chess…link to maths, problem solving skills, planning, strategy, patience, focus and self-discipline. Promote discussions about sportsmanship and fair play.

Cold War, Berlin Wall are not usually studied in Primary schools, so a refreshing topic to raise and for children to be curious about. Promote discussion on separation and the value of family unit.

  • 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?

Now I’ve finally got a decent website, it’s best to contact me through there. Stewartfosterauthor.co.uk

Two more before you go (2)!

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

How does your deafness affect your writing? A young girl asked me this a couple of weeks ago and I thought it best question in a long while.

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

I’ve run London Marathon five times.

One last one… (1)!

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

Do you think children should be encouraged to read books that help them escape their problems or should they read books that tackle young people’s issues directly?


Thank you Stewart for answering my questions!


Check Mates is available now to order online and from any good independent bookshop.


Big thanks to Stewart and all the team at Simon & Schuster for inviting me to do an Author Q&A as part of the Check Mates blog tour and for sending me a proof and advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Stewart for answering my questions!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the Check Mates blog tour for more exclusive guest posts from Stewart, content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): Lily and the Rockets – Rebecca Stevens (Illustrated by Harriet Taylor Seed)

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‘The legacy of this lady deserves to live on. Keep your eye on the ball and this book with its fascinating insight in to the beautiful game during wartime. Rebecca Stevens proves that girls really did move the goalposts for all the right reasons.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Lily and the Rockets
Author: Rebecca Stevens (@rstevenswriter)
Cover illustration: Harriet Taylor Seed
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 304
Date of publication: 2nd May 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1912626120

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Football ⚽
2. Feminism 👧
3. Friendship 🤝


It’s 1917. Lily spends her days working in a munitions factory, her nights picking metal out of her hair, and her lunchtimes kicking a ball with her workmates. Together they form a football team, The Rockets, and a league soon follows. But when the war ends, the girls lose both their jobs and their football. Not Lily. If her only chance of being a goalie is to play with the men, then that’s what she’ll do.


Review: At the current moment, women’ football could not be in a stronger place. (In fact as I write this book review, BBC Breakfast are actually discussing this right now.) What with primetime broadcasts of the Women’s FA Cup Final and the Women’s World Cup being centre-stage, the creation of the FA Women’s Super League and with recent news of women managers wanting to being involved with the mens’ leagues, it is fantastic to see that girls really are moving the goalposts.

With Lily and the Rockets, Rebecca Stevens takes us back to First World War England for a fascinating, historical insight in to the beautiful game during wartime. Having always been taller than her peers, Lily Dodd stands out. And with a dream to play professional football as a goalkeeper, she stands out even more to her friends and her neighbours and her whole town who think she’s got absolutely no chance of achieving this. Nevertheless, her dream is kept alive whilst living with her football-mad dad, after the death of her mother, who taught her her shot-stopping skills and to remember to always ‘watch the player, not the ball‘.

Leaving school at fourteen, Lily and best friend Amy May dream of what to do next. For the two girls need employment. Living close to the munitions factory in Woolwich, the Arsenal, there’s only one choice for the two. However upon hearing news of her brother’s death, Amy decides determinedly to go off and help the nurses in France as this is her calling. Leaving Lily alone and needing work, she lies about her age to join the ladies at the munitions factory working hard and smelling of metal.

At the factory, Lily is eating her lunch one day when she hears the women playing outside and as she’s called in to action to stop an errant ball hitting a very important visitor to the factory, the team soon realise that they’ve found their goalkeeper that they’re very much in need of. As the team comes together and begins playing in a local league, the crowds get bigger and the team goes from strength to strength. But with the end of the war, comes the beginning of the returning of the male soldiers and with that the loss of jobs in the munitions factory for the ladies and the loss of their beloved football team. What will Lily do to keep her dream going…?

Resolute, resilient and slightly radical, she ends up trying out for nearby rivals of Tottenham Hotspur (my team!) but under the guise of dressing as a boy. Will this help her in her quest to reach her dream or will her true identity be revealed?

Based on the real-life experiences of Lily Parr, who Rebecca talks more about below in her guest post, this captivating story is a life lesson to be learnt for all of us. Breaking convention and being a pioneer in the game, through being there at the time the FA banned the women’s game but not stopping playing and being there when they finally revoked the ban in 1971, it is clear to see that the life of Lily Parr proves that she is not only the greatest women’s player to have lived so far but she should be recognised for the powerful part she played in standing up for what she believed in, what she aspired to be and the way in which the game has developed. I really hope that as many current and future women footballers find out about the achievements of this women as the legacy of this lady deserves to live on. I was going to end this review by asking the FA to commemorate her achievements with a statue but it is testament that upon further research, this is already scheduled to happen. Hats off to the National Football Museum for honouring her like this.


‘The legacy of this lady deserves to live on. Keep your eye on the ball and this book with its fascinating insight in to the beautiful game during wartime. Rebecca Stevens proves that girls really did move the goalposts for all the right reasons.’


‘Football is all very well as a game for rough girls, but it is hardly suitable for delicate boys.’  Oscar Wilde

‘Get me to the hospital as quick as you can, she’s gone and broke me flamin’ arm!’ Professional male goalkeeper after attempting to block a shot from the great Lily Parr (aged fifteen), 1919

Lily and the Rockets: How it began

During World War 1 when the young men and boys were away fighting and dying in the mud and blood of France, their sisters and sweethearts took their places in the factories, making the munitions that were needed for the war.  They also took over the football teams.  At first seen as a novelty, a bit of a laugh, the women’s game grew in popularity until it was drawing huge crowds. The biggest was 53,000 people in the ground with over 14,000 locked out – a record for a women’s match that wasn’t beaten until the 2012 Olympics when England played Brazil.

Lily-Parr.pngLily and the Rockets is a mixture of fact and fiction. Lily Dodd, the central character, didn’t actually exist, but there were lots of other Lilys (and Peggys and Pollys and Jesses) who did. I borrowed my Lily’s name from a Lily who many people think was the greatest female player of all time. Lily Parr started playing when she was only fourteen. She scored forty-three goals in her first season and went on to score nearly a thousand in her playing career. Like my Lily, Lily Parr was a tall girl, nearly six feet, who was said to have a harder shot than most male players. One of her teammates wrote that she’d never seen a woman – ‘nor any man’ – kick a ball like Lily. When a professional male goalkeeper challenged Lily to get a goal past him, she accepted and went on, not just to score, but to break his arm with the power of her shot.

Stories like this make history come alive for me. Just as you can feel the years peel away when you stare into the eyes of a young soldier posing proudly in his uniform before he goes off to the trenches, you can be inspired by stories of girls like Lily Parr, who against all odds became an international football star and continued to play until she was forty five. Inspired to follow your star, to be different, to be yourself.

Or, like me, be inspired to write a story about it.

LILY AND THE ROCKETS by Rebecca Stevens out now in paperback
(£6.99, Chicken House)

Follow Rebecca Stevens on twitter @rstevenswriter

www.chickenhousebooks.com


Big thanks to Rebecca, Laura and all the team at Chicken House for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of the Lily and the Rockets blog tour and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Rebecca for writing such a brilliant and interesting guest post!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the Lily and the Rockets blog tour for more reviews & exclusive guest posts from Rebecca and these brilliant book bloggers!

 

 

Blog Tour (Review & Author Q&A): In the Shadow of Heroes – Nicholas Bowling (Illustrated by Erica Williams)

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‘With all the historical detail and research reminiscent of Rosemary Sutcliff blended with the perfect mix of the mythology of Rick Riordan and the humour of Maz Evans, In the Shadow of Heroes will take older readers on a epic quest of action and adventure, mystery and myth, and laughs and legend.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: In the Shadow of Heroes
Author: Nicholas Bowling (@thenickbowling)
Cover illustration: Erica Williams
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 384
Date of publication: 2nd May 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN:978-1911077688

Perfect for Year 6, Year 7 and Year 8.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Mythology 🔱
2. Roman 🏺
3. Slave 🧑🏽‍


Cadmus has been scholar Tullus’ slave since he was a baby – his master is the only family he knows. But when Tullus disappears and a slave girl called Tog arrives with a secret message, Cadmus’ life is turned upside down.

The pair follow a trail that leads to Emperor Nero himself, and his determination to possess the Golden Fleece of Greek mythology. This thrilling quest will push Cadmus to the edge of the Roman Empire – and reveal fantastical truths about his past…


Review: When you think of slaves, you think of uneducated, … and lesser-than-plebs (the general citizenry of Rome at the time). However main character Cadmus is an altogether different kind of slave. Surprisingly he is well-educated thanks to his master, Tullus, of whom he lives under his stewardship since he was found as a baby by him; acting almost as his surrogate father with no knowledge of his family history other than that of what Tullus has told him yet being educated leaves him as a total outsider to all classes in Roman society.

This soon changes when strangers in the name of the emperor’s servants turn up at his master’s door, with a box that holds a more than mysterious offer. Or should I say order… Not long after, his master disappears and Cadmus is left to fend for himself. But will Cadmus survive on his own and will the arrival of a secret message alter the course of his life forever?

As curiosity gets the better of him, he embarks on a journey to possess the Golden Fleece of Greek mythology. Joined by Tog, an indomitable slave – formerly a British princess who fought with Boudicca, the two of them set off for a journey that leads them to wild discoveries, hidden truths, unexpected secrets of ancient heroes and the crazed Emperor Nero who is possessed with the idea of getting his hands on the Golden Fleece himself.

With all the historical detail and research reminiscent of Rosemary Sutcliff blended with the perfect mix of the mythology of Rick Riordan and the humour of Maz Evans, In the Shadow of Heroes will take older readers on a epic quest of action and adventure, mystery and myth, and laughs and legend.


‘With all the historical detail and research reminiscent of Rosemary Sutcliff blended with the perfect mix of the mythology of Rick Riordan and the humour of Maz Evans, In the Shadow of Heroes will take older readers on a epic quest of action and adventure, mystery and myth, and laughs and legend.’


I’m delighted to welcome Nicholas to The Reader Teacher today where he’ll be giving his answers to questions about the ideas and inspirations for In the Shadow of Heroes, his writing influences and his favourite god!

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Where did the idea for IN THE SHADOW OF HEROES come from?

As usually happens, it came from another (much better) book. One of my all-time favourite fantasy novels is “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss. It’s about a legendary figure called Kvothe who over the course of three nights tells his life story to a scribe, and in doing so debunks most of the myths that surround him. It’s basically a story about stories – where they come from, how they’re made and altered in the telling. I thought it would be fun to do the same thing with the Greek myths – to try and uncover the truths and untruths behind the stories. There’s a fair bit of Indiana Jones in there, too.

So, anticipating cease and desist letters from the estates of George Lucas and Pat Rothfuss any day now.

What influenced the creation of your main characters?

Well… Being a Latin teacher I’ve met a lot of young people like Cadmus. He’s clever and a bit precocious, but with a good heart and a clear sense of right and wrong. Blusters a lot, but is actually a lot more shy and self-conscious than you might think. In fact there’s a very specific student I taught years ago whose voice I can conjure on the spot when I need to. I won’t name any names but there’s pretty much a 90% overlap between him and the character of Cadmus.

Tullus, Cadmus’ master, is based a tutor I knew at university. Tog arrived fully-formed from nowhere, which hardly ever happens. I have my editor, Kesia, to thank for that. In a very, very old draft she was a middle-aged bald man with an eyepatch. As soon as my editor suggested making her a girl, everything made sense about her. 

When doing your research for the book was there a fact you uncovered that stood out?

I can’t really call them facts exactly, but there are some amazing stories and rumours about the Emperor Nero. There is an account that he once acted a play about himself in the theatre, playing the character of himself, wearing a mask of his own face. It doesn’t get much more “meta” than that. Nero comes across as someone who can’t really tell the difference between reality and fiction, between stories and life – that’s really at the heart of the book.

Another good one: according to the historian Suetonius, Nero had promised “a performance on the water organ, the flute, and the bagpipes” if he survived Galba’s revolt and clung onto power. Can’t help picturing him like Elton John, done up to the nines and smashing out an organ solo in the middle of the amphitheatre.

Favourite God?

Very good question. I mean, in terms of skillset, Apollo’s got a lot of things covered – song, prophecy, archery, the sun, healing. And as god of poetic inspiration I suppose he’s the one I should appeal to most. But he’s a bit mainstream. If you read the book you’ll know I’ve got a soft spot for the Hecate, goddess of the night, of witchcraft, of the crossroads. She’s creepy as heck and has three faces, so it’s probably understandable that she doesn’t hang out with the other Olympians. Also, we’re both dog people – although, unfortunately, she likes dogs so much that she insists on having dogs sacrificed to her, at which I would probably draw the line.

Favourite word (Latin or English!)?

Well, I’ll try and cover both bases at once with a very Latinate English word: crepuscular, which means “to do with dusk or twilight”. It’s a belter. Also, big shout-out to the word “shoe” and the word “pear”. Not only do they do their job perfectly, and feel lovely in the mouth, but I also find them inexplicably funny. Is that just me?

When you aren’t writing what do you do for fun? 

I absolutely love climbing. It’s good for cleansing the brain after a morning’s writing. Same with open water swimming. I have a habit of finding unbearably cold water to throw myself into. You can usually find me either on the banks of Hampstead men’s pond or at the Castle Climbing Centre, complaining to no one in particular about how much my fingers and toes hurt.

IN THE SHADOW OF HEROES by Nicholas Bowling out now in paperback
(£6.99, Chicken House)

Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com

Follow Nicholas Bowling on Twitter: @thenickbowling


Big thanks to Nicholas, Laura and all the team at Chicken House for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of the In the Shadow of Heroes blog tour and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Nicholas for his incredibly insightful Author Q&A!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the In the Shadow of Heroes blog tour for more reviews & exclusive Q&As and guest posts from Nick and these brilliant book bloggers!

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…

A Pinch of Magic: Teaching IdeasMichelle Harrison Pinch of Magic.jpg

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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