Blog Tour (Review): Dr Maggie’s Grand Tour of the Solar System – Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock (Illustrated by Chelen Écija)

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‘An inter-stellar and stand-out addition to the world of non-fiction; Dr Maggie is a revelation in the STEM world. A book that will leave its readers informed, inspired, intrigued and itching to find out as much as they can about the wonders of our Solar System and beyond.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title:Dr Maggie’s Grand Tour of the Solar System
Author: Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock
Illustrator: Chelen Écija
Publisher: Buster Books (@BusterBooks)
Page count: 128
Date of publication: 5th September 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1780555751

Perfect for Year 2, Year 3, Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Space 🚀
2. Epic 🤩
3. Mind-blowing 🤯


Join renowned space scientist, Dr Maggie on an epic journey through the solar system. 

Visit planets, moons, asteroids and satellites, and travel to places where no human has been before.

Along the way, you can discover how we could live on Mars, learn about the hunt for a mysterious super-Earth, have a snowball fight on Mercury, climb the largest volcano in the Solar System and much, much more.

Hold on to your helmet and get set for the cosmic trip of a lifetime.


Review: I’ve been a huge fan of Dr Maggie ever since I saw her astounding Lee Mack, many a celebrity and countless audiences on Sky One’s wildly-unique and amazing factual show, Duck Quacks Don’t Echo putting strange theories to the test. So it is no surprise that when I first cast eyes on this book, I knew it was going to be something special.

Dr Maggie’s Grand Tour of the Solar System is a in-depth, richly knowledgeable and accessible introduction to the ins and outs of the cosmos and the galaxy, the planets and a concise history of space exploration. With July 20, 2019, marking the 50th anniversary of the first landing on the Moon on July 20, 1969, as part of NASA’s Apollo 11 lunar mission, many books are being published on the subject but this is absolutely one of the best I’ve come across for children.

Taking the reader on a ‘grand tour’ is no mean feat but Dr Maggie achieves this with great success. Beginning with a look at getting into space, orbit and preparing for lift-off, Dr Maggie showcases the awe and wonder of space spectacularly in this brilliantly-informative book that is surely one for readers and budding astronomers both young and old.

Told in a way as if Dr Maggie is talking directly to you, the book talks through many topics including the universe, birth of a star, galaxies, the Sun, Solar System and all the different planets, space travel, satellites and the death of stars. Not only that but it’s bang up to date, including information on the latest thinking and developments about things like planet nine and the search for it, the Oort Cloud and where our Solar System ends.

Glorious illustrations adorn every page and it has to be recognised that the design of this book ensures that it is a stand-out on the shelf, feeling as if you’re actually there, standing in the galaxy, immersed in it.

Dr Maggie is a complete revelation in the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and with her ‘Grand Tour’, this is an inter-stellar book that will leave all its readers informed, inspired, intrigued and itching to find out as much as they can about the wonders of our Solar System and beyond.


Big thanks to Maggie, Bethany and all the team at Buster Books for inviting me to be a part of the wonderful Grand Tour of the Solar System blog tour and for sending me an advance copy of the book.

Mr E


Dr Maggie Blog Tour

Be sure to check out the rest of the Dr Maggie’s Grand Tour of the Solar System blog tour for more exclusive 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


Blog Tour (Review & Author Q&A): Beyond Platform 13 – Sibéal Pounder (Illustrated by Beatriz Castro)

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‘Like I’ve been transported back to my own childhood, this is magical escapism at its finest, Sibéal is a very worthy and natural successor to Eva Ibbotson in this feat of storytelling.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Beyond Platform 13
Author: Sibéal Pounder (@sibealpounder)
Cover illustrator: Beatriz Castro
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s (@MacmillanKidsUK)
Page count: 256
Date of publication: 3rd October
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1529002874

Perfect for Year 3, Year 4 and Year 5.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Magic ✨
2. Gump 🚪
3. Mist 🌁


The island of Mist is under siege and Prince Ben and his best friend Odge Gribble – a hag – are in hiding. Desperate to find out why the island’s protective mist is disappearing, Odge travels through an enchanted gump to Vienna, in search of a mistmaker expert.

But instead Odge finds Lina, a nine-year-old girl looking for adventure. With the help of friends old and new and some very interesting magic, Odge and Lina must discover the secret of the mist, before they lose their beloved island completely.


Review: With Beyond Platform 13, a new and exciting novel from Sibéal Pounder – author of the very successful Witch Wars and Bad Mermaids series – we gladly return to Eva Ibbotson’s magical and much-loved world of The Secret of Platform 13, which this year is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Sibeal starts this story at the Island of Mist, where magical creatures (including hags and harpies) live under the cover of a layer of mist produced by white furry creatures, not too dissimilar to Furbys, called mistmakers.

Often coined as the inspiration behind Harry Potter, it is a delight to enter the portal under Platform 13 at King’s Cross Station – or gump to be more accurate – that opens just once every nine years for nine days.

“That’s the thing about magic – it’s only real if you believe in it.”

However, the island is under threat from evil harpies. And so travelling through the gump to Vienna, a young hag who goes by the name of Odge Gribble chances upon a mistmaker expert or so she thinks… but it’s just a nine-year-old girl who’s been caught up in Odge’s path of fighting the resistance and lucky for Odge, Lina is a believer in every kind of magic going.

Scared they’ll lose their beloved island completely, Odge and Lina must discover the secret of the mist. Can they save it before it’s too late? What danger will the two encounter on this adventure? Will Lina’s mistaken mistmaker identity be revealed…?

Like I’ve been transported back to my own childhood, this is magical escapism at its finest. Sibéal is a very worthy and natural successor to the late, great Eva Ibbotson in this feat of storytelling that is multi-layered, well-paced, fabulously-drawn and well-written; I can not recommend it highly enough to lovers of magic and mystery. This could have the effect on children that the original had and although this can be read as a stand-alone story, I would very much encourage you to seek out Eva’s original classic, The Secret of Platform 13, to appreciate the full wonder of this magical, imaginative world.


Author Q & A: Beyond Platform 13
with Sibéal Pounder

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Beyond Platform 13 (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 Beyond Platform 13?

1. Ghostly 🐀
2. Magical 🏝️
3. Mysterious ☁️

What was the most enjoyable part of writing Beyond Platform 13?

I think the most enjoyable part was being back in a world that I loved so much as a child. I read The Secret of Platform 13 when I was around 9 years old, so to be back and writing the characters was incredibly surreal and magical.

I read recently an article that described you as Eva Ibbotson’s biggest fan which is wonderful. Can you describe her influence on you as a writer, on writing Beyond Platform 13 and why you think her books should be a part of every school?

I find her work so very inspiring. I love how she played around with stereotypical fantasy characters. Odge Gribble, for example, in The Secret of Platform 13 is a hag but she looks like an ordinary girl. She dreams of having lots of warts and impressive ear hair like her sisters. I love that play on the classic hag and it influenced how I played around with the concept of witches and mermaids in the Witch Wars and Bad Mermaids series.

Beyond Platform 13 is inspired by The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson but which other books, people, research, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write it?

I started with the research and I hunted down every interview – printed and audio – with Eva that I could find. I wanted to first see if I could find clues as to where she would take the story. The most important thing to me was that the heart of the book felt like an Eva book, and I didn’t want to take the characters or the world in a direction she wouldn’t. I found some useful things that helped guide me. For example, in the book she mentions that every country has a gump (a portal to the secret island), yet we only visit the one on Platform 13 in Kings Cross. That seemed like a solid world building mechanism – a way of establishing a larger framework so if she were to return to the world there would be more to see.

I also went backwards to go forwards and looked at what could’ve inspired various elements and characters – from her life experiences to the people she knew. My favourite find was the similarities between the way she described the character Ben and how she described her husband, Alan Ibbotson – kind, sweet, someone who cared for animals and was fascinated by the natural world. In the book Ben makes a den for the mistmaker (a strange magical creature in the story) and hides it under his bed. In an interview she says, when they first met, her husband made an ant farm and kept it hidden under his bed. I loved that parallel, and things like that were enough for me to believe that she would see Ben as a good-to-his-bones character, and that helped steer how I developed him. Ben was interesting because he is a prince with power on the island so he could be someone to potentially corrupt, but the similarities with Alan Ibbotson gave me enough reason to believe Eva would never do that. So that was how I tried to work, to keep the heart of it hers as much as possible.

I tried to draw as much inspiration from Eva’s world as I could, even the things that seem random have reasoning behind them. For example, there is a new hag character called Netty, which is a nod to Newcastle slang (Eva lived in Newcastle). Apparently it’s slang for toilet, and I thought that was perfect for a hag! Eva said whenever she was stuck when writing she would add an aunt. So there is a moment when a character is physically stuck and a group of ghostly aunts appear to help.

If you were to choose the character that is most like you from Beyond Platform 13, and/or The Secret of Platform 13, who would it be and why?

I think I’m probably most like Hans – very well meaning but prone to mistakes! Also, if my name were Hans, I too would open a cheese shop called Hans-ome Cheeses.


Reading and Writing (4)

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

I loved writing at school and making up crazy stories and characters. I’ve always loved writing, but I didn’t ever imagine I could be an author. I didn’t meet an author when I was little and it wasn’t until I was much older that I realised it was something people do! I worked as a journalist for years before becoming a children’s author, so I always gravitated towards writing, but fiction has my heart – I just love the endless possibilities of it.

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

That’s a really great question! It’s not something I’ve ever thought about before… I think every part of the process has energising and exhausting parts. Drafting is so energising, creating everything from scratch and watching all your ideas come alive on the page. But I also find it exhausting around halfway through when I start to doubt it all. And editing is very energising – solving plot problems and fitting all the pieces of the puzzle back together in a more satisfying way, but it’s also exhausting when things aren’t working and it feels like you’ll never find a solution. So in short, I find all parts energising and exhausting in equal measure – I’m not sure you can have one without the other.

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?

This is something I think about a lot. I think at one point I thought all authors were dead – that the books had all been written. I didn’t really have a concept of an author and that people sat around writing the books when I was very young. No authors ever visited our school (although I do remember a bus full of books visiting once and it has stuck with me forever).

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 books, especially Beyond Platform 13, or any others that you have read and would recommend?

I would recommend ALL of Eva Ibbotson’s books. She wrote across age ranges and covered everything from fantasy humour to adult romance. She was so talented and I think all her books are wonderful (my top recommendations would be The Secret of Platform 13, Dial a Ghost and Journey to the River Sea).

For fantasy, I’d highly recommend Abi Elphinstone, PG Bell, Claire Fayers, Jessica Townsend, Sophie Anderson… I could go on and on – you’re right, it is such a golden age for children’s books right now!


Beyond Platform 13 and Teaching (3)

If you were to ‘pitch’ Beyond Platform 13 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?

Return to Eva Ibbotson’s much-loved classic and find out what happens when the gump opens again…

Could you suggest ways in which Beyond Platform 13 or The Secret to Platform 13 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 found it was a really interesting exercise to return to a world that was already set up and waiting – the characters had been defined, the world had been built. It has definitely helped my writing, and I think a really fun exercise would be to have the children pick their favourite character (can be from any book they like) and write a short sequel story. They’ll need to establish things like when they are going to return – is it 1, 10, 50, 100 years later – and how the characters have changed (and therefore what the characters were like before), they will have to decide what other characters to bring back and how they might have changed, what other elements of the story (objects, for example) they can bring back to work with the plot and crucially, what the character wants now. I do this exercise in my school events for Platform 13 and it’s really interesting to see how writing a sequel for a favourite character can really help with their creative writing. Sometimes playing in another author’s world is great practice for building your own.

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?

They can contact me at HelloRitzyCity@gmail.com or clare.hall-craggs@macmillan.com


Two more before you go (2)!

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

Q: What do you think are the most bafflingly named food brands? A: Wimpy and Skips.

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

 I have a cat assistant called Galligan and I’m pretty convinced she has the longest whiskers in the world. I measured them and compared them against the current Guinness Book of World Records holder and Galligan’s are longer! I’m debating whether or not to enter her though, as I’m not sure how she’d deal with fame.


One last one… (1)!

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

Yes please. I would love to know how they feel about Skype school visits? Do they think the children get much out of them and does it have as much of an impact as an author being there in person? I’m always interested in digital solutions when being there in person isn’t possible for whatever reason, but very interested in how much children get out of Skype visits.


Big thanks to Sibéal, Clare and all the team at Macmillan for inviting me to be a part of the wonderful Beyond Platform 13 blog tour and for sending me an advance copy and proof copy of the book.

Extra big thanks to Sibéal for being such a brilliant interviewee with her insightful answers to these questions, I really loved learning more about her inspirations and admiration of Eva Ibbotson.


On 15th October 2019, there is a very special ‘Returning to Other Authors’ Worlds’ events organised at Waterstones Piccadilly, starring Sibeal Pounder, Amy Wilson, Hilary McKay and Robin Stevens.

You can see more and book your ticket here: https://www.waterstones.com/events/returning-to-other-worlds-with-sib-al-pounder-hilary-mckay-amy-wilson-and-robin-stevens/london-piccadilly


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Be sure to check out the rest of the Beyond Platform 13 blog tour for more exclusive guest posts from Sibéal & content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review & Author Q&A) – The Comet & the Thief – Ruth Morgan

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‘Cleverly-written, historically-accurate, drama-filled and oozes with tension… perfect for fans of Fleur Hitchcock, Eloise Williams and Catherine Fisher.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Comet and the Thief
Author: Ruth Morgan (@alienruth)
Cover designer: Gary Evans (@GwasgGomerPress)
Publisher: Gwasg Gomer (@GwasgGomerPress)
Page count: 231
Date of publication: 26th September 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1785623103

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Book 📖
2. Thief 👌
3. Curse ✨


The Comet and the Thief is a fresh, fantasy time-slip between two periods in British history: Georgian and Medieval.

Kit, a born actor, hates being a thief in eighteenth century London.

When wicked Lord Colwich hires him to steal a missing page from a mysterious medieval book in his library, it results in Kit having to flee the city…


Review: Thrown headlong in to the mid-seventeen hundreds otherwise known as the Georgian era, The Comet and the Thief begins with an opening that oozes all kinds of tension and swells and stirs from the first chapter.  As we encounter protagonist Kit in the middle of performing a demonic fortune-telling ritual in the outlandish character of Ashentoth for a group of wealthy men, this story starts in the same compelling and captivating manner as it means to go on.

The character of Kit develops rapidly and the reader soon finds themselves rooting in more ways than one for the devilish exploits of this wiry, mischievous do-gooder. Caring for his love, Gabe, who is suffering with all of his heart and soul, Kit is quickly dragged back under in to the heady underworld of what he knows best: thieving, when a stranger who goes by the name of Lord Colewich requests his services to find a missing page of a book he has long sought after.

‘The only magic in life is the magic we make for ourselves…’

What Kit doesn’t realise is that this book holds more power than he could have ever imagined, and of which connects him to the inhabitants of a cursed village from the past – two historical time periods associated by the appearance of a well-known comet (Read Ruth’s Q&A for more below!). So how will Kit save them before it’s too late…?

This is such a cleverly-written, historically-accurate, drama-filled and imaginative novel that will thrill and delight readers young and old; perfect for fans of Fleur Hitchcock, Eloise Williams and Catherine Fisher. Thank you Ruth for taking me along on this alluring, immersive and gripping adventure.


Author Q & A: The Comet and the Thief
with Ruth Morgan

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The cover of the book is very mysterious and striking: a silhouetted someone running away from a place which seems familiar…

Yes, it’s a brilliant cover, isn’t it?  Designed by Gary Evans at Gomer Press. That’s my main character Kit running away from the city of Bath where something very public and shocking has just happened, and Kit is bound to get the blame. I’ve always loved Bath.  When I was a teenager, my cousin lived nearby, and we used to travel in on the bus and buy our clothes from the antique markets, usually a fashion mash-up of army greatcoats and Victorian petticoats. It was a pleasure to research the history of that splendid place and use it as a setting for the story.

So Kit travels around a lot in the story, but he also travels in time, doesn’t he?

That’s right.  Time travel stories are wonderful, but I wanted a give the time travel in this story a new twist, so instead of travelling between our modern day and an historical period, Kit travels between what is to us, two periods in British History: Georgian and Medieval times, specifically 1759 and 1456 which are two of the years when Halley’s Comet has appeared in our skies.

There may be readers who’ve never heard of Halley’s Comet.  Can you tell them a bit about it?

I’ve heard Halley’s Comet described, rather disrespectfully, as a huge, dirty snowball with a tail, which travels through space. It’s named after Sir Edmond Halley who calculated when it would return to the Earth back in the eighteenth century.  It makes a complete orbit around the sun and back every 75 years or so. It last visited us in 1986 and is due its next visit in 2061. For the sake of the story I’m most interested in how it’s been feared throughout history as a bringer of wondrous or calamitous events.  It’s been suggested that the star of Bethlehem which the three wise men followed was actually Halley’s Comet. It is also pictured on the Bayeux Tapestry, heralding the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Very intriguing… but The Comet and the Thief has been published hard on the heels of your MG gaming-themed novel Ant Clancy Games Detective (published by Firefly Press).  Two such different themes! What attracts you to write about a particular subject?

Yes, these two books are very different, but I only enjoy writing about subjects which interest me.  I live in a family of keen gamers and I also love history so the link between these themes is…me!  More than anything, what I want to do is write a compelling story that’s going to keep my readers entertained from start to finish.  As long as I can do that, I’m happy whatever the subject.

You’ve been writing for a long time.  What started you off and what keeps you interested in writing for children?

Yes, I have been writing for ages but it’s mainly my other part-time job as a primary teacher that keeps me interested. Children tend not ‘block’ – or repress – their ideas the way adults do, and they are a ceaseless source of inspiration. My first book was published more than 20 years ago as a direct result of my writing stories for the reception class I was teaching at the time.  An editor from a very big reading scheme company visited our school to trial some new books. When she saw my stories, she offered to publish one in a new series they were putting together. Imagine my excitement; I had always assumed that getting published professionally was way out of my reach! It led on to my writing lots more picture books, short stories, non-fiction, poetry, plays and longer novels for a variety of publishers as well as scripts for animation and radio series.  And all of it snowballed from that one chance meeting at school.  It still amazes me, how it’s all worked out…

So it takes luck as well as hard work to become an author?

It has in my case.  But more than anything you have to want to write, really want to, if you hope to make a career of it. It’s not a smooth road by any means and you face loads of rejection. You have to be motivated and believe in your ability, but also be prepared to accept criticism. You love and believe in your work but can’t be too precious about it – it’s a weird balance.

What do you plan to write next?

There are very few moments when you might catch me at a time when I’m not writing or planning something new but – scarily – you have caught me at one of them. Launching two books so close together has meant a very busy schedule of late but I know I will get twitchy soon if I’m not feeling that buzz from creating something new.  I am sure Ant Clancy has more mysteries to solve.  I am also attracted to the idea of writing some short, ghostly stories for children, similar to my collection ‘Matchstick Man and Other Creepy Tales’ (Gomer Press).  I loved ghost stories as a child and still do.

…And finally, what are you reading at the moment?

Funnily enough, a book of ghost stories!  Three Strikes (Firefly Press), a collection from Lucy Christopher, Kat Ellis and Rhian Ivory.  Creepily enjoyable!


 Big thanks to Ruth for inviting me to kick off The Comet and the Thief blog tour and for being such a brilliant interviewee with her insightful answers to these questions.


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Be sure to check out the rest of the The Comet and the Thief blog tour for more exclusive guest posts from Ruth & content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Extract): The Cloud Horse Chronicles: Guardians of Magic – Chris Riddell

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Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Cloud Horse Chronicles: Guardians of Magic
Author: Chris Riddell (@chrisriddell50)
Publisher: Macmillan (@MacmillanKidsUK)
Page count: 320
Date of publication: 19th September 2019
Series status: First in the series
ISBN: 978-1447277972

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 & Year 6.


To celebrate the upcoming publication, I’m delighted to share with you an exclusive extract from Guardians of Magic, the first title in a brilliant new magical adventure series from the creator of Goth Girl, Chris Riddell.

With gorgeous two-colour illustrations throughout and a special full-colour guide to the giants in the book, this fantastic hardback is a perfect gift.


For as long as anyone can remember, children have made a wish on a cloud horse, never quite believing that their wishes will come true. But times are changing. The future of magic is in danger. Enemies are working together to destroy it – especially the magic of nature and its most powerful source, The Forever Tree. Unless three brave children fight back and believe in the impossible, soon magic and the cloud horses will be gone. Zam, Phoebe and Bathsheba don’t yet know how powerful they are…

In Guardians of Magic the Costa award-winning, 2015-2017 UK Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell weaves together a magical quest. This is the first title in The Cloud Horse Chronicles series.


Click to download extract


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Be sure to check out the rest of the Guardians of Magic blog tour for more exclusive content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review, Guest Post & Giveaway!): The Boy With the Butterfly Mind – Victoria Williamson

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‘Truly sensational. Told through two voices and suffused with real heart; empathy and emotionally-invested storytelling at its best that has so much to teach today’s children. My heart genuinely aches. A must, must, must read.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Boy with the Butterfly Mind
Author: Victoria Williamson (@strangelymagic)
Illustrator:
Floris Books (@FlorisBooks)
Publisher: Kelpies (@DiscoverKelpies)
Page count: 264
Date of publication: 12th September 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1782506003

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Heart 💖
2. Family 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦
3. Butterflies 🦋


It doesn’t matter what I try.
There’s no cure for being me.

Jamie Lee wants to be normal. But his ADHD makes him feel like his brain is full of butterflies.

Elin Watts wants to be perfect. If she can be, surely her dad will come home.

When Jamie and Elin’s families join, chaos and order collide. But perhaps they have something in common. Maybe there’s no such thing as normal, or perfect. Maybe being yourself is more than enough.


Review:

Told through a two-voice dual perspective that’s soon becoming Victoria’s inimitable style of storytelling, The Boy with the Butterfly Mind tells the stories of Jamie and Elin, who unbeknownst to each other at the start of the book, become part of the same blended family.

The difference between the two protagonists is immediately noticeable. As the character of Jamie is introduced to us through his struggles with his work at school, we see on the flip side that Elin is thriving academically. However they actually have more in common than first appears. Yes, they’re both eleven years old but actually they’re both finding it hard to ‘fit in’ and it soon becomes clear that socially they stand out amongst their classmates.

Reading on, the two’s home dynamics are shared with the reader and it is clear that both of these characters are experiencing very complex and fractured family breakdowns. With Jamie, he soon becomes a spare part as his mother wishes to move to the United States with her new partner who isn’t that tolerant of Jamie’s ADHD, forcing him to move in with his father who’s living with his own family. Whilst Elin is a pure perfectionist who distracts herself from her father walking out of the family home by whiling away her time in fairyland writing fictional stories based on the real-life characters around her, believing that if she is perfect enough her dad will soon step back into her life.

Through this chain of events, Jamie and Elin find themselves all living under the same roof, though Elin assures herself that it won’t be for very long as when Jamie comes to stay, his behaviour and the changes in her life soon sends her up the wall. Will she feel that she can continue to live with him? What will change her attitude towards him? Can they live harmoniously?

Victoria yet again gets in to not only the heads but also the hearts of her characters and this story will surely permeate in to not only the heads but also the hearts of its readers. This is a story of self-discovery, suffused with real heart and bursting with empathy, with so much to teach today’s children.

It takes an author with immense compassion, with perception and with to not just recognise the complexities, intricacies and eccentricities that are weaved into this story but to also write them with a nuance that shows that when it comes to emotionally-invested storytelling, Victoria really is in a class of her very own.

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A Summer Adventure on The Book Bus

When you think of a mobile library, what’s the first image that comes to mind? If you’re anything like me, then it won’t be any of these:

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But volunteering with The Book Bus in Zambia, elephants by the side of the road, tame zebras, cheeky monkeys and crocodiles in the rivers are part and parcel of the reading assistant’s everyday experience.

This summer I spent four weeks working on Book Bus Charlie in Livingstone, visiting local communities and helping run story and craft activities in the primary schools and libraries which the reading charity has partnered with. It was a unique experience, but the project is something that anyone with a passion for books, children’s literacy and international development can get involved with, either through volunteering, or donating to keep the buses on the road and the bookshelves full.

The Book Bus charity was founded in 2008 by publisher Tom Mascheler, and initially began work with schools in Zambia, before opening further reading schemes in Malawi and Ecuador in 2010. Each Book Bus programme is run by local teams all year round, who work alongside teachers to provide literacy support and literary schemes to improve the children’s overall education standards. The teams also run regular reading sessions at community and public libraries, with the staff in Ecuador running an after-school programme of remedial reading sessions for children struggling in the classroom. Over the summer, international volunteers are invited to join the Zambia project for between two and four weeks, planning and running story sessions, reading activities, and crafts in the primary schools and libraries around Livingstone.

That’s the background, but what’s the actual experience of being a volunteer like?

Well, the day starts early on Monday-Fridays, with breakfast from 7am depending on how far away the school to be visited that week is. Planning for the morning’s activities has already been done in pairs or small groups the afternoon of the day before, so after a quick check to make sure you have all the books, colouring pencils, crayons, scissors and craft materials you need, Charlie sets off from the Lodge.

It’s hot during the dry season, so don’t forget your hat, sandals and sun screen!

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The roads to the schools around Livingstone can be narrow and often lack tarmac, so Book Bus Charlie’s driver, Edward, has to take it easy on the tyres over potholes and slow down as branches brush past the windows, making sure the bus and its occupants all get to the schools in one piece! This gives the volunteers plenty of time for sight-seeing along the way, and elephants and zebras are often spotted along the road through the national park.

Reaching the school, the team sings songs with the children in a big group, often learning local songs and dances in return, before splitting into smaller groups in classrooms and on mats outside. For the next few hours the Book Bus staff and volunteers, often assisted by the school’s teachers, read a story book with the children, followed by songs, activities and crafts based around a chosen theme.

This year’s theme was, very appropriately, ‘Animal Planet’, and all of the books and activities chosen were based around animal stories. At the start of the week, a group working with the older children might look at a book such as Usborne’s Big Book of Animals, helping children read information about the animals, locate where those animals live on a map, and draw pictures of animals they’ve learned about  for hanging on the classroom wall or for taking home.

Later in a week, once the team has had a chance to gauge the children’s reading levels and English vocabulary, they might choose sets of story books that the children will be able to read along with. One that worked very well this year was The Tortoise’s Gift: A Story from Zambia by Lari Don and Melanie Williamson. The children enjoyed making lion masks, monkey finger puppets and a giant tortoise to act out the story at the end of the week.

After packing the books, mats and craft materials back onto Charlie, the team sings some final songs with the children before heading back to the Lodge for lunch and planning for the next day’s activities. Tuesday and Thursday afternoons are spent in one of the local community libraries, reading one-to-one with children and helping them develop their literacy skills and English vocabularies. This is particularly important as English is the official language of Zambia, however there are a total of 73 languages spoken in the country, and children are taught in their local language in Grades 1-3 in school, and are taught in English from Grade 4, which can be confusing in terms of learning to read a new set of phonics to go with all of the new English words.

On returning to the Lodge, volunteers have the chance to wash away the dry season dust, have dinner, continue planning, or have some time to relax. This year some of the evening activities involved card games, roasting marshmallows over a brazier (while trying to stop them being eaten by the tame Lodge zebras!) and singing campfire songs with the group of Girl Guides who joined the project for several weeks. One of the highlights of working with The Book Bus is being part of a team of enthusiastic volunteers who have come together to share their time and effort for a common purpose. As one former volunteer on Book Bus George said: ‘Because of the length of time the project has been running, and the impact it has had, everyone recognises George (not to mention the yellow shirts!), and you immediately become part of the community, rather than just another tourist. Children wave as the bus goes past, shouts of “Book Bus!” accompany any journey by George on the road, and the children suddenly appear at school once George is parked.’

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Does it sound like a project you’d like to get involved with? Find out more about The Book Bus, volunteering and donating here: https://thebookbus.org/


Giveaway!

To celebrate the publication of The Boy with the Butterfly Mind, Victoria has  kindly given me this butterfly BUNDLE to give away!

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If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning this beautifully emotional story, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!


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Be sure to check out the rest of the The Boy with the Butterfly Mind blog tour for more exclusive guest posts from Victoria & content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post: Books that encourage care): My Pet Star – Corrinne Averiss (Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw)

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‘…this heartwarming story emits empathy from its pages within. It definitely gives you all the feels.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: My Pet Star
Author: Corrinne Averiss (@CorrinneAveriss)
Illustrator:
Rosalind Beardshaw (@RosBeardshaw)
Publisher: Orchard (@orchardbooks) (@HachetteKids)
Page count: 32
Date of publication: 8th August 2019 (Paperback)
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1408353660

Perfect for Nursery, Reception & Year 1.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Star 🌟
2. Heart 💛
3. Friendship 🤗


I found him underneath a tree,
not somewhere a star should be!
He’d fallen from his home in space,
bumped and tumbled, scratched his face.

When a little girl discovers a star who has fallen to Earth, she takes him home and nurses him back to health.


Review: 

I’ve been a big fan of Corrinne’s deeply thoughtful, empathetic and emotive stories ever since I first saw Joy, and I am eagerly awaiting another that is coming soon in Hope.

With My Pet Star, a beautiful rhyming picture book that explores the relationship between a young girl and a star that she’s surreptitiously found one evening and shortlisted for the Sainsbury’s Children’s Book Awards 2019 Picture Book, it is clear to see that Corrinne continues to write in such a way that resonates with all readers.

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Fearing that the star had lost his glow, the little girl takes the star home to nurse and nurtures him back to good health; the little girl acting as the star’s cosmic vet and the star as the little girl’s new-found pet. As the two begin a friendship that’s formed on reading, learning and enjoying being in each other’s company, it appears that they build more than an unbreakable bond between themselves.

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As the little girl learns more about the star with each passing day, she realises that at times they live very different lives from each other. With the star being nocturnal, unable to communicate verbally and shining so bright during the night, the little girl starts to recognise that her house may not be the best place for this well-again star.

Opening the window wide, the star returns to its natural habitat and is able to live once again in the night sky shining down on the little girl and the world below thanks to the love, care and devotion shown by she.

With soft, expressive and characterful illustrations from Rosalind, this heartwarming story emits empathy from its pages within. This sweet-natured story about letting go sometimes to the things you love most dearly would be brilliant for sharing at bedtime, in assembly time in schools for a younger audience or for reading at home between parent and child. It definitely succeeds so well in giving you all the feels.


Books that encourage care… by Corrinne Averiss

My Pet Star is a little story inspired by a child’s instinct to nurture; to prioritise the needs of someone else because they empathise with their suffering or discomfort.

My three year old daughter is always tending to things – throwing blankets over our cat, asking her if she ‘wants another cat biscuit?’ with head sympathetically to one side and recently, sharing her books with her. Even inanimate objects and toys draw her affection and sympathy, we can have cars with plasters on and stones wrapped in blankets.

The little girl in My Pet Star finds a fallen star in her garden and nurses it back to health, but Pet Star is representative of many things… it could be a hedgehog, a small bird fallen from its nest, a sick parent, sibling, friend or even our own mental health or inner child. Whatever it is that needs ‘love and time and care…’ to feel better again.

Ice creams are missed… toys aren’t played with… but a bond is forged through time and tenderness and the Star’s glow is restored.

Feeling small and helpless in the world themselves, it is powerful for a child to be able to reassure someone they perceive to be more vulnerable. I’ve chosen a few books that I feel also represent this theme. Treating others – be they human or animal – with respect and tenderness. Just curiosity and an open heart allowing the needs of another to be observed and understood.


The Smartest GIANT in Town – Julia Donaldson and Axel Sheffler

I love the instinctive kindness of George the Giant who helps the animals he meets on his journey even when this results in his own comfort. It’s such a powerful littlestory and I adore the pride in his song, that grows with each good deed ‘…my shoe is a house for a little white mouse’. My shoe! Look what it means to someone else!

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Lost and Found – Oliver Jeffers

It’s important not to assume we know what someone needs – to be open-minded, helpful, and to see what unfolds.

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The Storm Whale – Benji Davis

Noi reacts quickly to help the storm whale; keeping him wet in the bath, reading to him, playing music, feeding him. He is instantly completely present and ‘there’ for thewhale and its needs.

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How to Hide a Lion – Helen Stephens

Similarly, Iris dedicates herself to caring for the lion – brushing his mane and offering a bandage for his sore paw. She elects herself sole defender of the lion from suspicious grown-ups and this beautifully captures the way children feel themselves to be the equals of animals.

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Big thanks to Corrinne, Alison and all the team at Hachette for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of the My Pet Star blog tour and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Corrinne for writing such a brilliant guest post!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the My Pet Star blog tour for more exclusive guest posts from Corrinne & Rosalind, content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

 

Blog Tour (Review & Giveaway!): I, Cosmo – Carlie Sorosiak (Illustrated by Ben Mantle)

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‘A story that shows the power of pooches, the magnificence of man’s best friend and proves that anything is paws-ible when you have a dog by your side. Every dog will have its day but for Cosmo, this extraordinary dog will absolutely have your heart fur-ever.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: I, Cosmo
Author: Carlie Sorosiak (@carliesorosiak)
Cover illustrator:
Ben Mantle (@BenMMantle)
Publisher: Nosy Crow (@NosyCrowBooks)
Page count: 272
Date of publication: 1st August 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1788003872

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Dog 🐶
2. Companionship 🐾
3. Heart 💝


The story of one dog’s attempt to save his family, become a star, and eat a lot of bacon.

Cosmo’s family is falling apart. And it’s up to Cosmo to keep them together. He knows exactly what to do. There’s only one problem. Cosmo is a Golden Retriever.

Wise, funny, and filled with warmth and heart, this is Charlotte’s Web meets Little Miss Sunshine – a moving, beautiful story, with a wonderfully unique hero, from an incredible new voice in middle grade fiction – perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead and Kate DiCamillo.


Review:

I grew up having dogs in my life. In fact, I think it’s most probably fairer to say that dogs grew up with me in their lives. Dogs were in my family’s life well before I was. I remember, even now, pictures of a baby me being taken in my car seat with my first dog Tammy, and first of three West Highland White Terriers (Holly and Daisy) we’ve had, sat next to me almost guarding me. So even then – at that very young age – I knew all too well the strength in the bond of a dog and its family.

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Therefore this story, personally, has so much more to it than just its words. With warmth, with feeling and with so much sentiment that I think my heart could burst, it takes its readers on the most endearing and captivating of journeys through the twists, turns and turmoils of family life.

“There is a word I’ve learned in my twelve years: doggedly. It means “with persistence and full effort.” Humans attribute this to a dog’s stubbornness – our refusal to give up chewy sticks, the way we freeze in the doorway when it rains. But really, it’s the way we love, with our whole hearts, no matter the circumstance. I vowed to protect Max – and my family – doggedly, for the rest of my life.

Elderly golden retriever Cosmo lives with Max, his owner, or as he prefers to see it, his brother and his family. As family life starts to become too much what with a parental relationship breaking down, it’s up to Cosmo to take care of Max and his anxieties after Uncle Reggie tells him to “Protect their hearts.”. Their unbreakable bond is and becomes even more inseparably, indescribably beautiful as the story goes on. Written in Cosmo’s perceptive perspective with an authentic, anecdotal style of retelling the daily goings-on within the family home including holidays, Halloween and happier times.

From his love of old movies (with more than a slight mention of his favourite film Grease, I hear ya!) and dancing, lessons are to be learned. These lessons being that Cosmo and Max find themselves entering themselves into a dog-dancing competition in a bid to stop, what Max thinks is, the impending separation of his parents and the separation of him from his dog as the family splits quite literally in half. With Uncle Reggie’s help in masterminding teaching the old dog new tricks, will the partnership of canine and companion go all the way in succeeding to show off what they’re about or will there be a few obstacles standing in their way…?

If you’ve ever wanted to get into the head, the eyes and the heart of man’s best friend, this is most definitely the closest you’ll come. I feel that I could make comparisons of this to other canine-inspired classics but I can’t. It would feel unjust and unfair because, for me, it is unique. Unique in the way that an author has captured an animal’s thoughts, feelings and emotions so directly, so perfectly and so exquisitely that it is so rare to see it done so well. Observations, mannerisms and nuances all full of wit, humour, self-deprecation, shrewdness and love, it’s almost as if I believe that Carlie may have been a dog in a previous life; it’s that stark. This is why it is my major recommendation for next year’s EmpathyLabUK’s Read for Empathy Collection.

“…I do believe that, with the right human by your side, it’s possible to leap fearlessly into the unknown.”

A story that shows the power of pooches, the magnificence of man’s best friend and proves that anything is paws-ible when you have a dog by your side. Every dog will have its day but for Cosmo, this extraordinary dog will absolutely have your heart fur-ever.


‘A story that shows the power of pooches, the magnificence of man’s best friend and proves that anything is paws-ible when you have a dog by your side. Every dog will have its day but for Cosmo, this extraordinary dog will absolutely have your heart fur-ever.’


Giveaway!

To celebrate the publication of I Cosmo, the very lovely people at Nosy Crow have kindly given me THREE copies to give away!

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If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning this stunning story, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!


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Be sure to check out the rest of the I, Cosmo blog tour for more reviews & exclusive content from Carlie and these brilliant book bloggers!

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 (Review & Giveaway!): The Bad Luck Lighthouse – Nicki Thornton (Illustrated by Matt Saunders)

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‘This series is without doubt becoming the recommended read for mystery lovers young and old. Nicki is establishing herself very much as the Christie for children.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Bad Luck Lighthouse
Author: Nicki Thornton (@nicki_thornton)
Cover illustration: Matt Saunders (@msaunders_ink)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 384
Date of publication: 4th July 2019
Series status: Book 2 after The Last Chance Hotel
ISBN: 978-1912626304

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Lighthouse💡
2. Magic ✨
3. Murder ☠️


Welcome to the Bad Luck Lighthouse.

In solving the mystery at the Last Chance Hotel, Seth has discovered a world of magic. Swept up in a new case at Snakesmouth Lighthouse – the murder of eccentric owner Mina Mintencress – he is determined to prove himself. 

With the help of his cat, Nightshade, Seth must put his new-found magic to the test. Can they unmask a sinister sorcerer… before it’s too late?


Review: 

Danger, dishonesty, dark magic and deception all characteristically return in this sequel set a few months on from the accolade-winning The Last Chance Hotel (The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition 2016/Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month for October 2018). As this is almost a direct continuation from Nicki’s first book in the series, I’d most definitely advise you to seek out and devour The Last Chance Hotel before reading this. 

For lowly kitchen boy Seth Seppi, you’d think solving one mystery would be good enough however he is back and this time he is out to test himself with learning how to use the magic that’s been bestowed unto him in a whole new world. Introduced to us in this one as doubting himself as a ‘natural’, he’s left holding a book called the Easy-Peasy book of magic which on the surface provides Seth with the slightest glimmer of hope of achieving the ‘spark of magic‘ that he believes others see in him. But sadly for him, he hasn’t been able to complete a single spell since receiving it. 

Therefore struggling, getting desperate and following a fleeting visit from Inspector Pewter – last seen in the last book – he flings himself through a portal after Pewter and soon becomes embroiled in another magical murder-mystery after discovering Snakesmouth Lighthouse, a hotel that’s supposedly haunted… or is it?

Storms are battering the lighthouse outside; guests are not forthcoming and with staff leaving or who have already left in their droves, this seems like another sinister setting that no-one wants to visit. When suddenly Seth happens upon the death of a very important character who actually owns the lighthouse which stopped me completely (pardon the pun!) dead in my tracks whilst reading. With talking cat-companion Nightshade for company – which just has to be one of the best cases of nominative determinism as one of the very best pet names I’ve come across in children’s literature – he tries his hardest to uncover the mystery and web of lies, agendas and revelations that he’s managed to entangle himself in. Sometimes it’s the things that are often left unsaid in these stories that lead to greater suspense than the things that are said.

Bringing back some old faces such as Inspector Pewter and Angelique really helps the reader to find the touch of familiarity from the previous book and adding some new, such as personal-favourite Celeste, completes and complements the cast of characters and suspects in this new thrilling mystery from Nicki. After reading a recent blog by her, it’s so pleasing to see an author write a sequel of a book with characters she so dearly loves and it is with this that I hope that these classically-written but contemporary-styled mysteries may long continue. This series is without doubt becoming the recommended read for mystery lovers young and old. Nicki is establishing herself very much as the Christie for children.


‘This series is without doubt becoming the recommended read for mystery lovers young and old. Nicki is establishing herself very much as the Christie for children.’


Giveaway!

To celebrate the publication of The Bad Luck Lighthouse, the very lovely people at Chicken House have kindly given me THREE sets of both books, The Last Chance Hotel & The Bad Luck Lighthouse, to give away!

If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning these two classically-written but also contemporary mysteries, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!


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Be sure to check out the rest of the The Bad Luck Lighthouse blog tour for more reviews & exclusive content from Nicki and these brilliant book bloggers!