Blog Tour: (4 in 1: Review, Extract, Teachers’ Notes & Giveaway!) The Storm Keeper’s Island – Catherine Doyle (Illustrated by Bill Bragg)

Today, it is my absolute pleasure to be a part of this blog tour for Waterstones’ Children Book of the Month for July, The Storm Keeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle.
Bloomsbury Children’s Books have provided me with an extract of The Storm Keeper’s Island, Teachers’ Notes and TEN copies to give away! See below!

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‘Magic and myth combine to make The Storm Keeper’s Island a novel like no other. With a different kind of magic, this is a contemporary classic that will move its readers to feel like they’ve discovered and rediscovered their love for reading all over again.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title:
 The Storm Keeper’s Island
Author: Catherine Doyle (@doyle_cat)
Illustrator (Cover): Bill Bragg
Lettering (Cover): Patrick Knowles (@PatrickKnowle14)
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books (@KidsBloomsbury)
Page count: 320
Date of publication: 1st July 2018
Series status: First in the series
ISBN: 978-1408896884

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Memories 💭
2. Candles 🕯️
3. Island/Ireland 🇮🇪


When Fionn Boyle sets foot on Arranmore Island, it begins to stir beneath his feet …

Once in a generation, Arranmore Island chooses a new Storm Keeper to wield its power and keep its magic safe from enemies. The time has come for Fionn’s grandfather, a secretive and eccentric old man, to step down. Soon, a new Keeper will rise.

But, deep underground, someone has been waiting for Fionn. As the battle to become the island’s next champion rages, a more sinister magic is waking up, intent on rekindling an ancient war.


The first line(s):

In a field full of wild flowers, a boy and a girl stood side by side beneath an oak tree. The sky was angry, the thunder growling like an angry beast.

Extract

Download extract of The Storm Keeper’s Island


Review:

Inspired by Cat’s very own childhood connections to the island of Arranmore – off the west coast of Ireland – and intertwined with the ripe richness and rurality of Irish mythology, The Storm Keeper’s Island is a novel like no other.

IMG_8564.JPGOriginally, I had started to write this review after receiving an advance proof copy of this story back in May, before it had been chosen as Waterstones’ Children’s Book of the Month for July. It is safe to say that it is no surprise to me that it has proudly earned this accolade because it blows everything out of the water and far away across the sea.

Starting off in the school holidays, Ffion and his sister Tara are sent away across the sea, by their mother (who later on we find is still riddled with shock after the death of their father), to a lonely island to stay with their grandfather. From the very first page, Fionn becomes the kind of almost hidden hero you can really start to root for, as the angsty brotherly-sisterly dynamic between him and his sibling starts to seep through.

But the island and his grandfather are not quite what Ffion first expected, in fact they too are like no other. The island of Arranmore is a larger-than-life land surrounded from within by magic, ancient folklore and legend. An island steeped in a strong sense of history and with a beating heart all of its own. Inhaling, gasping, waking up and with a voice that seemingly speaks to Ffion in his deepest dreams, this is an island that breathes and begins to come to life before your very own eyes through Cat’s choice of beautiful and almost lyrical language that lilts and sings itself off the page.

As candles, memories (including a grandfather living with Alzheimer’s) and ancient wars meander and merge, Ffion finds himself in the middle of a changing of the guard as the island seeks out to select its next Storm Keeper but more than magic, mystery and myth stand before him.

With a feel of a contemporary classic, like a blend of Funke with Millwood Hargrave and Rundell, this is an all together different kind of magic and fantasy that’s on offer. One that’s very much multi-layered; it felt like there were so many stories within stories just waiting to be awoken to be told. And it is this that I cannot wait to see progress in Catherine’s future stories.

This is a stunning, secretly-enchanting story imbued with a strong, original and inherent sense of ancestral self from Catherine that makes it shine so brightly, and will embrace its readers and move them to feel like they’ve rediscovered their love for reading all over again.

Just as once in a generation, the island of Arranmore chooses a new Storm Keeper; once in a while, a book as special as this comes around.

If I could mould this book in to its very own candle, calling it The Storm Keeper – 1st July 2018, it would continue to burn to be relived and reread. For this is a light book that I hope never goes out and one that I will be waxing lyrical about for years to come.


Huge thanks to CatherineEmma, Emily, and all at Bloomsbury Children’s Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, providing me with the resources and sending me an advance proof copy, finished copy of this beautifully-written book!

Mr E
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Catherine Doyle
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Catherine Doyle grew up in the West of Ireland. She holds a first-class BA in Psychology and a first-class MA in Publishing. She is the author of the Young Adult Blood for Blood trilogy (Vendetta, Inferno and Mafiosa), which is often described as Romeo and Juliet meets the Godfather. It was inspired by her love of modern cinema.

Her debut Middle Grade novel, The Storm Keeper’s Island (Bloomsbury, 2018), is an adventure story about family, bravery and self-discovery. It is set on the magical island of Arranmore, where her grandparents grew up, and is inspired by her ancestors’ real life daring sea rescues. 

​Aside from more conventional interests in movies, running and travelling, Catherine also enjoys writing about herself in the third-person.


Teachers’ Notes

Download The Storm Keeper’s Island Teachers’ Notes


Giveaway!

I am absolutely elated that the very lovely people at Bllomsbury Children’s Books have kindly given me TEN copies of The Storm Keeper’s Island to give away!

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

Storm Keeper Cover

Blog Tour (Guest Post): Aliens Invaded My Talent Show! (Happy Book Birthday!) – Matt Brown (Illustrated by Paco Sordo)

Aliens Invaded My Talent Show

Title: Aliens Invaded My Talent Show!
Author: Matt Brown (@mattbrownauthor)
Illustrator: Paco Sordo (@damealgo)
Publisher: Usborne (@Usborne)
Page count: 256
Date of publication: 28th June 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1474933667


Eric Doomsday loves doing magic tricks. But even though his best friend, Vinnie Mumbles, thinks they’re great, they do always seem to go a bit… wrong.

When some very important School Inspectors threaten to close down Eric’s school, his headmistress decides to put on a talent show. A talent show with Eric in it. And Eric’s magic tricks.

Thank goodness the Earth isn’t being inspected by aliens at the same time! Because magic, aliens and talent shows are sure to be a horrible mix… Aren’t they?


The first line:

In the whole of his entire, actual life, Eric Doomsday had never got anything through the post.


To celebrate the official publication date and launch (Happy Book Birthday!) of Aliens Invaded My Talent Show, I’m absolutely delighted that I’m opening up the Aliens Invaded My Talent Show! blog tour on The Reader Teacher today!

Without further ado, here’s Matt’s guest post where he talks about space, space travel and asks ‘DO YOU THINK ALIENS EXIST?’… 


Aliens Invaded My Talent Show! Blog: Space and Space Travel

You won’t be super-surprised to find out that my new book, Aliens Invaded My Talent Show! is full of aliens.  So, let me ask you something.

DO YOU THINK ALIENS EXIST?  I’m going to level with you, I think they do.  I have no idea what they look like or whether they breathe through their eyeballs, or eat raw sardines and custard, or have reversible heads but I do think they’re out there.

When I was ten my dad told me that the universe went on forever. Obviously, I laughed right in his face.

“Ha ha ha ha ha!” I said.  “That’s impossible, you fool!”

I was aware there were big things, of course.  The oak tree in the field at the bottom of our road was big.  My school was big. My grandma’s bras were big.  But never-ending?  I simply couldn’t understand what he was blithering on about.  But even though I couldn’t really imagine what an infinite universe looked like, I started to think about where we lived in a slightly different way.  Not just in a house, or a town, or a country but where we lived in space.  It was around this time that I started addressing all envelopes and postcards like this.

Address

Then a few years later I saw something that changed my life, it was this photograph.

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The photo was taken on February 14th, 1990 by the Voyager 1 space probe.  You see the little dot in the middle?  That’s the Earth seen from a distance of 3.7 billion miles.  Look how little we are.  For the first time I realised what we would look like to aliens.  We were as tiny as one of the distant stars I look up at in the night sky.  As tiny as a grain of sand on a beach.  A speck, a blemish, a dot.  One of the scientists who worked on the Voyager probe was Carl Sagan.  When he saw the photo he said:

“We succeeded in taking that picture and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives.”

The Voyager 1 space probe is nearly as old as me.  For the last forty years it has travelled at a speed of over 38,000 miles per hour away from the Earth.  As I’m writing this, Voyager is over 13 billion miles away and is currently flying in the interstellar medium, which is the space between solar systems in a galaxy.  Can you imagine?  It has travelled at 38,000 miles per hour, every hour for the last 40 years and it has only just left our solar system.  And our solar system is teeny, eeny, weeny when you compare it to our galaxy.  Our sun is one of two hundred billion suns in our galaxy and there are at least one hundred billion other galaxies in the bit of the universe that we can see.  So, even if only one percent of the suns in the universe have planets orbiting them and one percent of those planets are like Earth then that is still 2,000,000,000,000,000,000 places where life might exist.  And that is a LOT of places, they are just very, very, very far away.

So, when you next look up at the night sky just think that there’s probably someone, or something, looking back at you from another galaxy.  Let’s just hope they’re not as stupid as the aliens in Aliens Invaded My Talent Show!

Matt Brown, author of Aliens Invaded My Talent Show!

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The award-winning Matt Brown is BACK, with a HILARIOUS new novel jam-packed with talent shows, aliens and a whole lot of bonkers…


Huge thanks to Liz and all at Usborne for inviting me to take part in Matt’s blog tour! Extra thanks to Matt for taking the time to write his awesome guest post!

Mr E
📚

Aliens Invaded My Talent Show! is available to order online or from any good bookshop.


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Be sure to check out the other dates and other bloggers for more reviews, posts and exclusive content from Matt on the Aliens Invaded My Talent Show! blog tour this week!

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

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

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

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


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

Not ever. Not once.

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

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

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


The first line(s):

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


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

Man Boy overboard!

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


But does he sink or does he swim?


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

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

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

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


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

Mr E
📚

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


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

Cymbeline Igloo, the birth of a character by Adam Baron

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

It’s true.

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

AND THAT’S ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW.

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

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

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

And it’s not just real people.

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

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

Okay Cymbeline.

Adam Baron, author of Boy Underwater

Adam

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


Giveaway!

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

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

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): CANDY – Lavie Tidhar (Illustrated by Mark Beech)

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‘Like a mini Miss Marple meets Maynards… this mouthful of mystery will leave every reader feeling like a child in a sweetshop; just craving to read more from Lavie!’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title:
 Candy
Author: Lavie Tidhar (@lavietidhar)
Illustrator: Mark Beech (Website)
Publisher: Scholastic (@scholasticuk)
Page count: 304
Date of publication: 7th June 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1407184272

Perfect for Year 4 & Year 5.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Confectionary 🧱🍫
2. Prohibition ❌
3. Detective 🕵️‍♀️


In a city where candy is a crime and biscuits are banned, Nelle Faulkner is a telve-year-old private detective looking for her next client.

So when a notorious candy gangster asks for her help, Nelle is on the case.

Swept into a secret world of sweet smugglers and chocolate crooks, can Nelle and her friends find a way to take the cake? Or will they come to a sticky end…


The first line(s):

The sun was bright through my office window in the backyard of our house. I had a desk and two chairs, one for visitors, a bookcase and a cabinet – everything a private detective’s office needs.


Review: A town knee-deep in a confectionary chaos, a missing teddy bear and an unsolved case that throws up more questions than answers… why wouldn’t you want to read this?

In Lavie’s first foray into writing for children, he thrusts the reader (especially for those younger readers) in to the middle of what will seem like the utter unimaginable; a city where chocolate and sweets are forbidden under a prohibition act, with sugar gangs roaming the streets and corrupt candy cops round every corner.

However, fear not for super-sleuth and private-eye Nelle Faulkner – committed to always doing the right thing – to step up and take on what develops as the most intriguing of cases… As she investigates several people in *confection* with the previously-mentioned stolen teddy bear, the case goes from what seems like returning a missing cuddly toy to its rightful owner to an assortment of antics and more than the odd spot of confectionary capers (‘bootlegging, extortion, corruption, wilful destruction of property, intimidation and attempted murder’) that you can’t help but feel like you have to bite into.

Roles often reverse as grownups start acting like children and children act more like grownups in this original, highly-enjoyable and tempting twist on what happens when the town suffers from the symptoms of sugar withdrawal.


Can Nelle track down the teddy bear?
Solve the ongoing feuds of the candy gang war?
Save the city’s finest chocolate factory? 


Mark Beech’s joyful illustrations add tastes of humour, quirk and life to complement Lavie’s brilliant and charismatic characters; infused with an infectious influence of the collaboration between Dahl and Blake.

Like a mini Miss Marple meets Maynards… this mouthful of mystery will leave every reader feeling like a child in a sweetshop; just craving to read more from Lavie!


Big thanks to Lavie, Emily and all at Scholastic for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and for providing me with an advance copy!
Extra thanks to Lavie for writing his guest post!

Mr E
📚


Today I give a warm welcome to author of Candy, Lavie Tidhar to The Reader Teacher as part of his Candy blog tour. Here, he shares with The Reader Teacher his exclusive guest post about the inspiration behind his debut novel for children…

My Inspiration for Candy

Candy draws on a whole bunch of sources. Scholastic have described it as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets Bugsy Malone for 9+ readers”, and both of these certainly qualify as inspirations. Sometimes I like to explain Candy as what would have happened if at the end of Charlie the chocolate factory was shut down, Prohibition was declared, and Mr Wonka has gone missing.

But there is a huge amount of other inspirations that fed into – and snuck in! – the book. I grew up reading a lot of classic children’s books, anything from Tove Jansson’s Moomin books to Michael Ende’s Momo and The Neverending Story to Erich Kastner’s Emil and the Detectives… And detectives play a surprisingly important part in children’s books. There was Kalle Blomkvist in Astrid Lindgren’s books, of course, and Enid Blyton made a whole career out of the adventures of inquisitive kids running up against troublesome adults… And while I’m not sure I read any Nancy Drew growing up, I adore the 2007 movie! And then there was that annoying know-it-all Encyclopedia Brown, of course…

I love detective stories. I particularly love Raymond Chandler’s hardboiled adventures of sun-drenched California. Chandler reinvented and set the template for a new kind of detective story, one that was not purely concerned with solving some elaborate mystery, but rather with the society his detective operated in, and the lives of the people who lived it. It occurred to me that a hardboiled detective in a children’s book was not something one saw very often and, more importantly, it struck me as pretty funny. It seems to me there is a great similarity between being a child and being a detective – in both instances you are tasked with trying to solve the world. And the world, as both children and detectives know, is big and confusing and incomprehensible at times. It is the same with science fiction. A child, like an explorer, is learning an alien world. Somehow, I thought, it might be fun to join these two influences together.

Candy, with its world of banned sweets and its mean streets of Prohibition, is of course a world much inspired by numerous crime stories. I had a ridiculous amount of fun sneakily parodying any number of favourite movies, from The Godfather to the television series Justified  (“We used to dig in the sandbox together”, says Nelle of the candy bootlegger Eddie de Menthe, bringing to mind Raylan’s famous assertion of his antagonist Boyd, which bookends the series, “We dug coal together”). When Nelle visits the Used Goods store, she finds any number of unidentifiable objects for sale, from a Brasher Doubloon (“Whatever that was”) to a statue of a black falcon. I got to name the Mayor Thornton (it was Raymond Chandler’s middle name), and map the streets of my town, from Sternwood Drive (The Big Sleep), to Leigh Brackett Road. Brackett was, of course, the screenwriter of both The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye, beside being a science fiction writer of some renown.

In truth, it’s what I do with every book I write. I’m barley even conscious of doing it anymore. I like to say originality is stealing from people no one reads anymore, but really what I do is somehow take all these influences and very different sources and mix them up into a new thing, like some sort of cooking experiment that marries unusual ingredients together. You just have to hope it doesn’t hit you in the face like a cream pie at the end.

I like Candy. I like to cook, though I’m not much of a baker. I made chocolate chip cookies for the first time the other day. If the batter is the book, then perhaps the hidden references are the chocolate chips inside.

You can eat the book as it is, or you could hit a chocolate chip and get something extra out of it, but either way, I hope it tastes good.

Lavie Tidhar, author of Candy

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Lavie Tidhar is an Israeli-born writer working across multiple genres. He has lived in the United Kingdom and South Africa for long periods of time, as well as Laos and Vanuatu. He is a multiple award winning writer, especially in the genres of fantasy and science-fiction. Candy is his first book for children.

You can find out more about Lavie by visiting his website or by following him on Twitter @lavietidhar.


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

 

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

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

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

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


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

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


The first line(s):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

Mr E
📚

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

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

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


Walls (5)

TRT: At The Reader Teacher, for my reviews, I describe books in #3Words3Emojis.
Which 3 adjectives and 3 corresponding emojis would you choose to best describe Walls?
EF:
1. Funny 😁
2. Magical ✨
3. Moving 😥

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Reading and Writing (4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Walls and Teaching (3)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Two more before you go (2)!

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

EF: Where would you time-travel to?

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

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

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

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

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


One last one… (1)!

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

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

Blog Tour: Empathy Day #ReadforEmpathy Guest Post: AF Harrold

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Today I am honoured to welcome author of The Song from Somewhere Else and many others, AF Harrold to The Reader Teacher as part of the Empathy Day and #ReadforEmpathy blog tour. Here, he shares with The Reader Teacher his exclusive guest post about how reading books when he was younger like The Lord of the Rings helped him to see one beginning of empathy


I read a lot of books when I was younger (I still read a lot now), and few things have had so lasting an influence, have left so lasting a mark, as that final scene of The Lord of the Rings.

For anyone who hasn’t read the books or seen the films, and who thinks they might want to, here’s a spoiler warning for you: Read no further!

For the rest of you, here’s a reminder of how it goes.

You’ve had two and half books of adventure, of warfare and death and heroism and darkness. Everyone has been tested, everyone has had their own paths and none of them have been sunlit and simple. But Frodo and Sam made it alone and ashen, starving and wearied, to the slopes of Orodruin, Mount Doom, where they planned to destroy the One Ring. They had suffered and survived for a month, on foot, through desolate lands, in and out of the clutches of enemies, across the slag-heap desert plain of Mordor, right up to the foot of the mountain. It was a month of not knowing whether their companions lived or died, a month of not knowing whether the war out there was already won or lost, a month of just them, foot-sore and dry-mouthed, slow-plodding towards the end of their quest.

And what an end. At the lip of the fire, at the edge of the chasm into which the One Ring should be cast, at the moment when the destruction of that ring would undo all Sauron’s works, reducing his power to a mere scrabble of smoke against the sun, Frodo failed.

Instead of casting the ring into the fire he put it on. Claimed it for himself. Declared himself the new Lord of Middle-earth. After six months of bearing the ring, of carrying it from the Shire all the way to this end of all places, he finally gave in to its whisper, its temptation, its glamour, and put it on.

Of course it came right after that. He lost a finger, the ring finger, and the One Ring with it, to Gollum and the fiery pit, and the War came to a close with the utter collapse and ruin of Sauron’s power.

And then months went by. Eight months as they retrod their steps back home, this time with light and laughter, and they arrived in a Shire that was changed and another battle had to be fought, right on their doorstep. But that shadow, too, passed and it seemed the War was truly ended.

But as the following October rolls round Frodo’s wound, where he was stabbed by one of the Nazgûl in the fight at Weathertop, aches, and later, in March, the wound where Shelob, the great spider, stung him pains him too. And he finds he just doesn’t fit right in the world he’s come home to. He has changed, and has been changed, by the things he’s seen and done, and by the things that were done to him. His part in affairs beyond the sleepy borders of the Shire, in the great affairs of the world, weigh on him and no one notices.

The only companions who would understand, who share similar burdens, similar experiences, are busy doing what he doesn’t feel able to do, are getting on with their lives. Sam has married and is having a family, Merry and Pippin are off in their corners of the Shire leading their lives. Frodo feels alone, lost, if not misunderstood by his neighbours, at lost not-understood.

Eventually he sails to the West, takes the ship with the last of the elves leaving for the lands beyond the sea. There, he hopes, in Valinor, his wounds will be healed and his heart will be at peace, at last.

And Sam and Merry and Pippin are there, at the Grey Havens, to see him off, to say their farewells, and Gandalf, who is sailing too, says: ‘Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth. Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.’

And the three hobbits get on their ponies and ride slowly homewards, and as they go they say nothing, and their paths part one by one, and eventually the camera of the book’s eye follows Sam, just Sam, plain Sam, dependable Sam, right up to his door, and it opens and Rosie draws him in and puts his daughter in his lap and he is where he should be.

And even as I type this now the tears are pooling in my eyes, and I realise that I know, and knew when I read this aged 12 or 13, that I understand Sam and how he feels and I understand Frodo and how he felt. And the heart breaks and does not cease breaking at this ending… at this ending which is another beginning, and is a middle, and is all those other parts of a life, and Tolkien shows us what the best-hearted books show – the life beyond the adventure, the pedestrian day-to-day, the normalcy, the place where the real soul resides…

You can never know what is happening inside another person’s head, or heart. But the characters in books, in your favourite books – they open up and share themselves with you. You can hear their thoughts and know them, a little. And perhaps, by knowing them, a little window will be opened into the lives of your friends and family, into the strangers and people you see in the news. Just knowing that window exists is one beginning of empathy.


AF Harrold, author of The Song from Somewhere Else, The Imaginary, Greta Zargo, Fizzlebert Stump and many more

A.F. Harrold is an English poet, performer and children’s author. He writes and performs for adults and children, in cabaret and in schools, in bars and in basements, in fields and indoors. He was Glastonbury Festival Website’s Poet-In-Residence in 2008, and Poet-In-Residence at Cheltenham Literature Festival in 2010. He won the Cheltenham All Stars Slam Championship in 2007 and has had his work on BBC Radio 4, Radio 3 and BBC7. He is active in schools work, running workshops and slams and doing performances at ungodly hours of the morning, and has published several collections of poetry. He is the owner of many books, a handful of hats, a few good ideas and one beard.

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AF Harrold’s book The Song from Somewhere Else features in Empathy Lab’s
2018 Read for Empathy Guide.

You can find out more about AF by visiting his website or following him on Twitter.


Big thanks to AF for writing his most wonderful and stirring of guest posts and to Fritha, Miranda and all at Empathy Lab UK for inviting me to take part in this year’s blog tour! Here’s to many more in the future!

Mr E
📚


What is Empathy Day?

Empathy Roundel18 Final OutlinedEmpathy Day was founded in 2017 by EmpathyLab. With hate crimes at their highest level since records began, it uses stories to help us understand each other better, and highlights empathy’s power in our divided world. (https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/hate-crime-statistics). Empathy Day 2018 is on 12 June.

Empathy Day’s calls to action

READ – because reading in itself can make us more empathetic

SHARE – because sharing perspectives through books can connect us in new ways

DO – put empathy into action and make a difference in your community

How to join in

  • Share ideas for empathy-boosting books using #ReadForEmpathy @EmpathyLabUK
  • Use the free Read For Empathy Guide to 30 children’s books – at www.empathylab.uk
  • Follow this blog tour to hear the powerful voices of the authors and illustrators involved
  • Hundreds of schools and libraries are already taking part. Gt a free toolkit from info@empathylab.uk
  • Use the ideas and free downloadable resources at  http://www.empathylab.uk/empathy-day-resources

#ReadforEmpathy       #EmpathyDay     @EmpathyLabUK


With this guest post, I am finishing the EmpathyDay blog tour in readiness to celebrate Empathy Day tomorrow on the 12th June. But be sure to check out the other dates and other wonderful bloggers for more posts and exclusive content from a superb range of authors from the past week!

Blog Tour 7

Blog Tour: Review & Guest Post: Mirror Magic – Claire Fayers (Illustrated by Becka Moor)

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‘Claire has conjured up a story that’s a richly magical, mid-nineteenth century myriad of mirrors and mystery. Her writing not only transcends beautifully between magical realms but in the real world too… This is definitely my most favourite of Claire’s yet!’ 

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Mirror Magic
Author: Claire Fayers (@ClaireFayers)
Illustrator (Cover): Becka Moor (@BeckaMoor)
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s (@MacmillanKidsUK)
Page count: 304
Date of publication: 14th June 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1509870066

Perfect for Year 5 & Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Mirrors 🖼️
2.  Faerie-fantasy ✨
3. Book 📒


Welcome to Wyse, the only town left in Britain with a connection to the magical Unworld.

When twelve-year-old Ava meets Howell on the other side of a mirror, the two are quickly drawn into a mystery to discover why the enchantments that link their towns are disappearing.

But it’s hard to distinguish between friends and enemies when magic is involved and Ava and Howell soon learn that it can be very unwise to mess with mirrors…


The first line(s):

The town of Wyse, set precisely on the border of England and Wales, is remarkable for one thing: it is the only remaining town where magic works.


Review: Two worlds seem to begin, for better words, worlds apart but come together in the most magical of manners in this mid-nineteenth century myriad of mirrors and mystery. The worlds of Wyse and Unwyse who unbeknownst to orphans Ava and her brother, Matthew, remain separated by the power of mirrors… at least for now. Going back to her birthplace of Wyse, on the edge of Victorian England and Wales, where magic only exists, Ava feels something that’s not quite right. In the air, something different. Something that smells quite different too…

Under the control of Lord Skinner – a fine gentleman*, as I said – the town appears to be losing its sense of magical life. With the town’s conjurors closed down and seeing the once-thriving town scene dishevelled, dejected and dilapidated, Ava and Matthew think that this might not be the place they might have even distantly remembered.

Things soon change whilst discovering a working magic mirror that’s been hidden away, Ava uncovers more than she could have ever imagined. Deep connections and links to a well-imagined and all-kinds-of-wonderful world emerge after she meets and has to join forces with Howell, one of the Fair Folk from Unwyse, as they find themselves appointed the guardians and master protectors of a very important object that’s being hotly pursued by the ghastly Mr Bones.

Meet all of these spellbinding characters and more as you can’t help but delve deeper as Claire thrusts us in to the middle of this faerie-fantasy, where magic leaps and swirls from every page, that’s full of enchantments, magical mists and a book that can only heartily be described as The Book.  Introducing every chapter with a witty exchange or dry remark, the book or should I say The Book is one of my favourite ‘characters’ who has quite the gift for forecasting the future…

Like Diana Wynne Jones meets Susanna Clarke (author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell), Claire has conjured up a stupendous story. I am so pleased to say that Claire’s writing not only transcends beautifully between magical realms but in the real world too, as within Mirror Magic, it reflects and showcases her strength in writing between differing genres and books so well… This is definitely my most favourite of Claire’s yet!

*Read on to find out for yourselves if this is in any way to be as believed as the good people of Wyse would tell you…

‘Claire has conjured up a story that’s a richly magical, mid-nineteenth century myriad of mirrors and mystery. Her writing not only transcends beautifully between magical realms but in the real world too… This is definitely my most favourite of Claire’s yet!’ 


Big thanks to Claire, Karen and all at Macmillan Children‘s for inviting me to open up the blog tour for Mirror Magic and for sending me this gorgeously magical book. Extra thanks to Claire for writing her guest post!

Mr E
📚

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Today I am also delighted to welcome author of Mirror Magic, Claire Fayers to The Reader Teacher. Here, she shares with The Reader Teacher her exclusive guest post to open her Mirror Magic blog tour where we travel back to a time where Claire shows us what it might have been like had the Romans had magic and newspapers…

If Rome had magic…

Mirror Magic imagines a world exactly like our own but with one big difference – magic exists. Fairy mirrors connect us to the Unworld where the Fair Folk have promised to provide magical goods and services to anyone who asks.

The story starts in 1842, when most mirrors have stopped working and only one small town on the border of Wales and England still has access to the Unworld. The Wyse Weekly Mirror (expertly designed by Jess at Macmillan Children’s Books) gives an insight into daily happenings in the last town of magic.

But what of other time periods?

What would newspapers look like if, for example the Romans had magic (and newspapers)…

Rome Built in a Day

In celebration of our illustrious Emperor’s birthday, Rome has been rebuilt in a single day. Conjurors across the Empire came together and worked tirelessly, commanding their fairy servants to bring fine marble, gold, and other precious metals from the Unworld. All day long the city echoed with the sound of hammers and the groans of complaining fairies as they hauled blocks of marble into position.

A grand celebration was held in the newly built amphitheatre, including chariot races and trials of combat. As a finale, fiery horses were brought through a mirror from the Unworld to race the Emperor’s own chariot team. The resulting conflagration caused major damage to the arena and several unlucky citizens were eaten by the Unworld horses before the creatures could be caught.

Rome Building Project Proves Disappointing

A week after Rome’s dramatic rebuilding, the cracks are beginning to show. It started when the statue of our illustrious Emperor collapsed in the middle of the night. Now, buildings are crumbling. A whole section of the great amphitheatre turned to leaves yesterday afternoon and blew away.

Three conjurors have been arrested and have confessed that fairy magic is mainly made up of illusion. The marble pillars and gold statues may look convincing for a little while, but beneath the façade of enchantment, they are merely mud and leaves.

Rome, it seems, was not built in a day after all.

Roman Roads Conquer Britannia

News from the Ilse of Britannia where our army is fighting a brave battle to subdue the savage inhabitants and bring them into the civilisation of the Empire.  Roman conjurors have found a new way to travel across the isle’s rough countryside – fairy roads.

We know that fairy enchantments fade when exposed to the real world, but a road only needs to exist long enough for an army to march along it.

Conjurors work at night to create a road. The next day the army marches, claiming all in its path. Some of the island tribes have fought back but many surrender the moment they see the army approaching.

I came. I conjured. I conquered.

Claire Fayers, author of Mirror Magic

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Claire Fayers grew up in South Wales, studied English and Comparative Literature at the University of Kent in Canterbury, and is now back in Wales where she spends a lot of her free time tramping around castles in the rain, looking for dragons.

She has worked as a church caretaker, a shoe shop assistant, in accountancy, in health and safety, in IT, and in a library. Only one of these prepared her in any way for life as a full-time author.

Her first book came about after she won a writing competition. She was more surprised than anyone. She works from her home in Cardiff, sharing her workspace with a pair of demanding cats and an ever-expanding set of model dinosaurs who sometimes like to pretend they are pirates.

Mirror Magic is her third book after The Accidental Pirates: Voyage to Magical North, shortlisted for The Children’s Book Award and The Accidental Pirates: Journey to Dragon Island.


Be sure to check out the other dates and other bloggers for more reviews, posts and exclusive content from Claire on the Mirror Magic blog tour this week and next!

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Blog Tour (3 in 1): Me and Mister P: Ruby’s Star (Illustrated by Daniel Rieley) – Maria Farrer: Review, Guest Post: How stories help with developing empathy – Maria Farrer & Giveaway!

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‘A series of stories that goes from strength to strength with a big bear and an even bigger heart that do more than break the ice; Mr E is most definitely a huge fan of Mister P!’ 

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Me and Mister P: Ruby’s Star
Author: Maria Farrer (@FarrerMaria)
Illustrator (Cover): Daniel Rieley (@daniel_rieley)
Publisher: Oxford University Press Children’s (@OUPChildrens)
Page count: 224
Date of publication: 7th June 2018
Series status: Second book in the ‘Me and Mister P’ series but can be read on its own
ISBN: 978-0192766519

Perfect for Year 3, Year 4 & Year 5.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Understanding 😌
2. Heartening 💓
3. Un-bear-ievable! 🐾


Our flat isn’t big, but at least it’s high up. I can stand on the balcony and look up at the stars. I reckon Dad’s out there somewhere looking up too. And I bet he’s thinking about me. I do love Mum and Leo but it’s hard work looking after both of them. Sometimes I wish things were a bit easier.

What’s not easy is a RIDICULOUS, ANNOYING, IN-YOUR-FACE POLAR BEAR moving in!
I mean what use is he going to be? i’ve tried to get rid of him, but he seems very determined to stay…

PREPARE TO MEET THE WORLD’S MOST HELPFUL(ISH) POLAR BEAR!


The first line(s):

Ruby slipped out of the door onto the small balcony of her flat. Sitting with her back against the wall, she stared out across the rooftops and chewed the end of her pencil.


Review:

I’m absolutely delighted that Maria Farrer’s wonderful Mister P series is back with Me and Mister P: Ruby’ Star, subsequently being published after the first book, Me and Mister P, was at the beginning of 2017. Having been shortlisted for a number of awards since then including the UKLA Book Award 2018 and chosen as part of the 2018 Read for Empathy Book Collection for Empathy Day, it is clear to say that Me and Mister P has been a resounding success for all the right reasons.

With Ruby’s Star, Mister P this time helps out a new ‘me’ character in the form of Ruby. Longing for her missing dad, she looks towards the stars hoping that he is looking down on them but wait…

Is it a bird?
Is it a plane?
No, it’s Mister P!

Not just content with showing up on doorsteps, Mister P this time takes to the skies to crash land, quite literally, in to Ruby’s life with the help of a hot-air balloon. Looking after her mum and baby brother Leo and balancing going to school is hard enough without a whopping great big polar bear showing up on her balcony… so how on earth is she supposed to live with him?

Causing immediate chaos by lying in the middle of the road, burying himself amongst the fish fingers in the frozen food freezers in the supermarket and making too much noise bear-boogieing, he doesn’t get off to the best start at fitting in to Ruby’s already-chaotic life. Thinking he’s more trouble than he’s worth, Ruby tries desperately to run away from Mister P, lose him and not claim that he’s hers but that’s to no avail as he always ends up returning back to Ruby… and sometimes to a friendly neighbour who just loves feeding him his fish fingers.

Luckily for her, Mister P –  full of patience and paws-itivity – has a most charming, calming and characteristic knack for bringing families together, all without opening his mouth or saying a word. Ruby is a keen skateboarder and it’s amazing to see her attitude change towards Mister P throughout the story as he becomes not only a big part of her family, but a big part of her heart. The best kind of company. The missing puzzle piece.

Embracing themes and values of empathy, tolerance, acceptance, diversity and children with additional needs and young carers in the most considerate, gentle and attentive of ways; this is a series of stories that goes from strength to strength with a big bear and an even bigger heart that do more than break the ice.

Highly recommended for all, especially families as this series makes for a perfect shared reading experience. Through these books, not only do main characters Arthur (in Me and Mister P) and Ruby become better siblings or better friends but they also become better people, thanks to the intervention of Mister P. The same could be said of the readers, both young and old, who read this book and who will empathise and resonate almost instantly with the larger-than-life characters and situations within its pages.

Mr E is most definitely a huge fan of Mister P!

‘A series of stories that goes from strength to strength with a big bear and an even bigger heart that do more than break the ice; Mr E is most definitely a huge fan of Mister P!’


Big thanks to Maria, Hannah and all at OUP Children’s for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for this wonderfully-written book and organising the fantastic giveaway below! Extra thanks to Maria for writing her guest post.

Mr E
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Today I am also delighted to welcome author of Me and Mister P: Ruby’s Star, Maria Farrer to The Reader Teacher. Here, she shares with The Reader Teacher her thoughts on building empathy through reading books and writing stories in the classroom…

READING BOOKS, WRITING STORIES AND BUILDING EMPATHY

Screen Shot 2018-06-02 at 21.13.51(Illustration by Daniel Rieley)

As teachers, empathy is at the centre of what we do. Understanding and connecting with the feelings and perspectives of our students is the basis of how we inspire, motivate, and teach effectively. Yet, as we know only too well, every child is different and every class made up of students with diverse abilities, experiences, interests, intelligences, languages, cultures and personalities. It is  this diversity which makes the classroom both inspiring and challenging in equal measure. It also makes it a great place to explore and nurture empathy and understanding within a safe and supportive environment.

Developing empathy and emotional literacy in the young is being recognised, increasingly, as central to both emotional wellbeing and academic attainment. Human beings have a natural capacity for empathy from a very early age. When faced with a sad or happy situation, we usually react by feeling sad or happy too. However, empathy has many facets. Sometimes we need to actively and thoughtfully consider the perspective or point of view of another person in order to understand the way they are feeling, acting or reacting. It is this thoughtful or ‘cognitive’ empathy that allows us to align ourselves more closely with a person or situation in order to work out how we would feel in similar circumstances and how we can most effectively act or react in response.

 “Integrating work on empathy with literacy and reading for pleasure is efficient and hugely potent.”
(Professor Robin Banerjee, University of Sussex).

Reading and writing are great ways to build empathy and emotional literacy. Good books allow readers to identify so closely with characters that they are able to stand in the shoes of a fictional character and ‘live’ their feelings. Losing yourself in a story is just that … losing your self and temporarily becoming another self. Experiencing situations from different fictional perspectives helps to build valuable emotional resources for dealing with real-life situations. When reading as a group, stories can also provide a great springboard for discussion and debate. Stories can be used more explicitly to help to recognise and understand empathy. I love getting children to subvert perspective and see what happens—the results can often be dramatic and fun. Take, for example, re-writing or discussing Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit from the point of view of Mr McGregor, making Mr McGregor the good guy. The good guy?! Really?! It takes guidance and support from the teacher in order to reassure children that it is OK to explore the possibilities, but once they get the hang of it, the outcomes can fuel interesting debate! There are numerous stories that lend themselves to this kind of activity. Align yourself with the antagonist and see what happens. Is there another side to this story? “Voldemort terrified into hiding by teenage wizard”? Can our empathy be shifted, even temporarily? With older groups, this has led on to discussions of how writers can actively influence our emotions one way or the other—leading to consideration of bias and prejudice.

A sack of random footwear or props can be handy when thinking about empathy and perspective—physically putting yourself in the shoes of another person can help with the mental leap. Inviting children to ‘choose their shoes’ and then writing a story from that perspective can help them to lose their ‘self’ in story writing as well as reading.

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I suppose putting a polar bear on skateboards was taking things to extremes but the Mister P series encourages children to think about empathy and perspective in a playful, yet (I hope) meaningful way. It is often non-verbal behaviour that provides a window on underlying emotions and elicits empathy. That is precisely why Mister P never speaks or thinks in human. For sure, it is much easier to talk about our feelings when we are happy. Sharing when we are angry or sad or frustrated or scared is much harder. Sharing comes with risks because we don’t know who we can trust with our emotions or how people will react. Often we are reluctant to reveal worries or weaknesses for fear these may be used against us. This can increasingly skew the way we feel about others and ourselves—the perennial dangers of social media where everyone is having a better time than we are!

But sharing through books and stories and writing takes away those risks and provides a stepping stone for children to build a recognition and understanding of empathy, providing them with skills they need to build their own strength, resilience and success.

RESOURCES:

Great information and free resources are available from http://www.empathylab.uk along with useful booklists to help young children develop empathy.

Empathy Day: 12 June 2018. Log on and share!   #EmpathyDay   #ReadforEmpathy

Maria Farrer photo
Maria Farrer is just settling into a new life in the Yorkshire Dales. A keen lover of the outdoors and mountains, she is enjoying exploring the fells with her family and her ever-energetic black labrador. Her dog has played a vital role in the writing of the Mister P series as he been teaching Maria all he knows about how animals and humans communicate.

Maria writes for children and young adults. She loves to laugh and is usually up for a challenge (which is lucky as life with Mister P is mostly quite funny and sometimes quite challenging). She studied Speech and Language Therapy at UCL and has an MA in writing for young people from Bath Spa. She started life as a speech and language therapist and specialised in working with children with language and literacy difficulties.

In her work in schools, she likes to share interesting facts about polar bears and to raise awareness of their increasing fight for survival. One day she dreams of visiting polar bears in the wild. How cool would that be? 

A little known piece of random information:  A lot of Ruby’s Star was written by hand in a small notebook while Maria was crammed into a tiny tent, at a height of more than 4000m in a remote area of Nepal. It was a very scenic office — if a little short on air! 


Giveaway!

The very lovely Maria Farrer and people at OUP Children’s have kindly given me a copy of first book, Me and Mister P and second book in the series, Me and Mister P: Ruby’s Star to give away!

If you’d like to be in with a chance of being the one lucky winner of this set of two Me and Mister P books, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

Be sure to check out the other dates and other bloggers for more reviews, posts and content from Maria on the Me and Mister P blog tour this week!

Me and Mister P Blog Tour

Review: Ottoline series – Chris Riddell & Giveaway (Ottoline signed paperback series & signed print!)

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‘Quintessentially quirky… no-one both writes and illustrates books quite like Chris Riddell. Described as a ‘small girl who has big adventures’, Ottoline is a series which has big appeal.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Titles: Ottoline and the Yellow Cat; Ottoline Goes to School;
Ottoline at Sea & Ottoline and the Purple Fox
Author: Chris Riddell (@chrisriddell50)
Illustrator: Chris Riddell (@chrisriddell50)
Publisher: Macmillan (@MacmillanKidsUK)
Page count: 176; 176; 176; 192
Date of publication (Paperback): 26th February 2015 (Yellow Cat; Goes to School; at Sea); 17th May 2018 (Purple Fox)
Series status: Four in series
ISBN: 978-0330450287; 978-0330472005; 978-0330472012; 978-1509881550

Perfect for Year 3, Year 4 & Year 5.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Original 😀
2. Fun 😄
3. Ingenious 😍


The first line: 
(Ottoline and the Purple Fox)

Ottoline Brown lived in an apartment in the P. W. HUFFLEDINK Tower, which looked like a pepper pot so everyone called it the Pepperpot Building.


Review: If you’ve read any series both written and illustrated by Children’s Laureate 2015-2017, Chris Riddell then you’ll understand completely when I say that no-one both writes and illustrates books quite like Chris. His series are quintessentially quirky, all kinds of loveable and ludicrous and no doubt stand out on the shelf. Therefore I’m very pleased to say that is no different with his offering of Ottoline and her adventures.

Ottoline and the Yellow Cat introduces us to the slightly madcap and outlandishly wonderful world of Ottoline where we meet Ottoline herself, a young girl left on her own by her parents in her apartment and her equally eccentric house guest, Mr. Munroe. Through the story and Chris’ characteristically exquisite and detailed illustrations that will fascinate readers from the first page, we grow to love Ottoline’s quirks and idiosyncrasies as she becomes a super sleuth to solve her neighbourhood’s dog disappearances, burglaries and problems.

Rich in the most wonderful use of vocabulary and description – who’d have thought that you’d find the words ‘Beidermeyer armchair’ in a children’s book? – it’s Chris’ observational charm, dry wit and self-deprecating sense of humour that endears Ottoline’s adventures to the masses.

Ottoline’s antics and adventures are continued through three more beautifully written and illustrated stories in the series, Ottoline Goes to School; Ottoline at Sea and as published in paperback as recently as today (and the reason for this blog post), Ottoline and the Purple Fox. They are all utterly delightful and so I find it so hard to choose but Ottoline and the Purple Fox is my personal favourite where lamppost poetry, urban safaris and doppelgängers all feature in this fantastic fourth instalment. 

Described as ‘a small girl who has big adventures’, Ottoline is a series which has big appeal.

Ottoline and the Purple Fox is available in paperback from the 17th May 2018, £6.99.

‘Quintessentially quirky… no-one both writes and illustrates books quite like Chris Riddell. Described as a ‘small girl who has big adventures’, Ottoline is a series which has big appeal.’


Big thanks to @FrithaL and @MacmillanKidsUK for sending me a copy of Ottoline and the Purple Fox and for providing such an amazing prize of which even I am very jealous of!

Mr E
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Giveaway!

To celebrate the paperback publication of Ottoline and the Purple Fox, the latest book in Chris Riddell’s Ottoline series, I’ve got a signed set of all the Ottoline books to giveaway, plus a signed Ottoline and Mr Munroe print.

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

The Ottoline series has won numerous awards including the Nestle Smarties Prize and the Red House Children’s Book Award, and has won critical acclaim thanks to its beautiful and heart-warming illustrations, paired with a humorous text.


Blog Tour: (3 in 1: Review: The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle – Victoria Williamson (Illustrated by Floris Books); Guest Post: Mirrors & Doors: Diversity in children’s literature – Victoria Williamson & Giveaway!)

The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle Full Cover - Victoria Williamson

‘A truly transformational read. Intensely powerful and immensely poignant at the same time… such a groundbreaking, essential and accomplished debut that not only changes perceptions but also has the power to alter attitudes. With this one, Victoria has most certainly made herself a writer to watch.’ 

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle
Author: Victoria Williamson (@StrangelyMagical)
Illustrator (Cover):  @FlorisBooks
Publisher: Kelpies (@DiscoverKelpies)
Page count: 272
Date of publication: 19th April 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1782504900

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Friendship 👭
2. Courage 💪
3. Empathy ☺️


She is the Fox Girl.
I am the White Gazelle.
Together we can outrun anything.

Reema feels completely lost. She’ll never call this strange country, with its grey skies and boring food, home. Syria is her home and it’s a million miles away.

Caylin feels completely alone. She’s looking after he useless mum, stealing from other kids so she can eat. She can’t tell anyone, they’ll only let her down.

The refugee and the bully – Reema and Caylu – can’t imagine being friends, until a shared secret brings them together.


The first line(s):

Growls in the dark: the monsters are coming /
The home time bell’s so loud it hurts my head.


Review:

Switching between the chapter-changing perspectives of the two main characters, Caylin (who’s used to the streets of Drumhill) and Reema (who’s more used to the streets of war-torn Aleppo), this is a truly transformational read.

There’s not much that these girls can seem to be smiling about as their home lives are somewhat rocky with a mix of domestic depression, alcoholism and wondering where the next meal is coming from for Caylin and culture shock, a language barrier and a complete fear of the unknown for Reema.

However their lives change forever when they both discover a family of foxes. Though it’s this shared secret that initially brings them together to form an unexpected friendship that sometimes boils over yet blossoms, they end up sharing far more than even they could begin to imagine…

With two main characters that are polar opposites of each other: one seemingly damaged by the aftermath of war, the other damaged by circumstance; we see them mature and develop throughout the course of the book. This stunning story gives a voice to characters who, in the world we live in today, so often don’t have a voice and it is in their own words and Victoria’s own experiences working with young asylum seekers that she captures both characters’ voices so clearly and convincingly that they really come to life on the pages before your very eyes.

Bringing the most unlikeliest of friends together, especially this pair, is a difficult thing to do. Yet, Victoria really intertwines these two characters’ lives so pertinently that their storylines fit together in a way that seems that they were always destined to meet each other and bring out the best in each other.

Shortlisted for the Book Awards, this is such a groundbreaking, essential and accomplished debut that not only can change perceptions but also has the power to alter attitudes. It is intensely powerful and immensely poignant at the same time; hitting hard when it needs to whilst tenderly tugging at those heartstrings of yours too.

Overall, it’s a wonderfully well-voiced story from both sides as it’s a touching yet timely reminder of the world in which we live in and how with thought, feeling, compassion and togetherness, we can all live a better life as Jo Cox said, ‘we have far more in common than that which divides us‘.

A book to be proud of writing for Victoria and a book to be proud of reading for all of us. With this one, Victoria has most certainly made herself a writer to watch.

Books can change lives and this just might be one of those books.

One of my favourites of the year so far.

‘A truly transformational read. Intensely powerful and immensely poignant at the same time… such a groundbreaking, essential and accomplished debut that not only changes perceptions but also has the power to alter attitudes. With this one, Victoria has most certainly made herself a writer to watch.’ 

Big thanks to Victoria & Kelpies/Floris Books for sending me an advance copy of this wonderfully written book!

The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
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Mirrors and Doors

‘Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created or recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.’  Rudine Sims Bishop, Ohio State University, ‘Mirrors, Windows and Sliding Glass Doors’.

Most teachers know that books can act as magical doorway to other worlds. But how many of us stop to consider the importance of providing not just doors for children to explore, but mirrors to reflect their own life experiences?

Teaching in Cameroon - Victoria Williamson

The first time I realised that not all stories were universal was when I was working as a VSO teacher in Cameroon. One of my duties was helping develop the small school library, stocked with donated books from the UK and the USA. During a reading lesson with a ten year old who was struggling with literacy, I picked out The Ugly Duckling as a story with fairly easy language. After twenty minutes’ hard slog, we hadn’t got past the first paragraph. We had to keep stopping so I could explain what a duckling was. Then a pond. Then a swan… We gave up and tried other stories, but with no more success. After months of encouraging children to borrow books from the library, only to see their initial enthusiasm give way to apathy, I finally discovered the problem. Those western reading books, despite their bright covers and illustrations, held no relevance for the children. Their stories of ice cream, snowmen, fireworks, and Santa Claus might as well have been written in a foreign language. They were not mirrors reflecting the children’s own experiences of growing up in a small West African village with limited access to electricity and an unreliable water supply, and they couldn’t act as doors to new worlds either, as the children lacked the information keys to unlock those worlds. It wasn’t until I sought out books written by West African writers which featured children growing up in villages like Nkambe, that the library really took off. Children flocked to borrow stories by Chinua Achebe, Mabel Segun and Kola Onadipe featuring characters just like themselves, and their reading abilities began to gradually improve.

Cameroon Library - Victoria Williamson

That was when I first began to understand the power of diverse books. Looking back I realised the stories I’d loved as a child had been dominated by white, middle class, able-bodied characters, which were not representative of the children from the many diverse backgrounds with various special needs that I was teaching as an adult. This had resulted in me recreating the ‘standard’ characters in my own writing, and the stories often fell short of their potential due to the restrictions I placed on them without even realising it.

Travelling, teaching, and reading more widely led me to experiment with a far greater variety of characters in my own novels. The characters in The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle are composed of many voices. Caylin, a troubled twelve-year-old struggling with her mother’s alcohol addiction in a Glasgow council estate, and Reema, a Syrian Muslim refugee whose world has been turned upside down by war, were inspired by some of the children I have taught over the years.

No one is saying we shouldn’t read the classic children’s books in schools – my own imaginative landscape would be infinitely poorer without the wonderful Enid Blyton, Narnia and Harry Potter books. But if the books in a classroom library act only as mirrors for one type of experience – often white, middle class, able-bodied and frequently male – then many children will not only find opaque glass where their mirrors should be, but the doors to new worlds locked and the keys missing.

As teachers we need to be aware that when selecting books to be read in our classrooms, we are choosing which children get to see reflections of themselves in heroic roles. We are also acting as the gatekeepers to exciting new worlds, and we need to ensure that some children are not denied access due to a lack of representation. Have a look right now at the books in your school library and the ones you plan to teach. Are there a wide range of experiences reflected in them? Do they invite all children to share the adventure? If they do then they’re not just books, but mirrors and doors for all of your children to explore literature together.

Victoria Williamson 1

Victoria Williamson is a primary school teacher with a Master’s degree in special needs education. She has worked as a science teacher and teacher trainer in Cameroon and Malawi, an English as a foreign language teacher in China, and as a special needs teacher in the UK.

Victoria has been writing fiction since she was a child, and now writes full time for Middle Grade and YA, with a particular focus on creating diverse characters reflecting the many cultural backgrounds and special needs she has encountered, both as a teacher and as a volunteer. Having worked with children in Africa, Asia and across the UK with additional support needs such as Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Down’s Syndrome, physical disabilities and behavioural problems, Victoria is passionate about creating inclusive worlds in her novels where all children can see a reflection of themselves in heroic roles.

Victoria’s experiences teaching young children in a school with many families seeking asylum inspired her debut novel, The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle, an uplifting tale of redemption and unlikely friendship between Glaswegian bully Caylin and Syrian refugee Reema. Twenty per cent of author royalties for ‘The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle’ are donated to the Scottish Refugee Council.

You can find Victoria on Twitter as @strangelymagic or on her website.


Giveaway!

Victoria has very kindly given me two copies of The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle complete with matching model toy (of fox or white gazelle!) to give away to two lucky winners!

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


Be sure to check out the other blog tour dates for The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle!

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