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

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

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

Perfect for Year 6 & Year 7.

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Boys and Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Virginia Clay, author of Warrior Boy

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

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


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

Mr E
📚

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


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

Review & Giveaway: The Ice Garden – Guy Jones (Illustrated by Helen Crawford-White)

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‘With scenes echoing more than that of The Secret Garden meeting The Chronicles of Narnia… this is a fantastical mix of magic and frozen fantasy across a literary landscape that glistens with absolute grace.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Ice Garden
Author: Guy Jones (@guyjones80)
Illustrator (Cover): Helen Crawford-White (@studiohelen)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 224
Date of publication: 4th January 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1911490043

Perfect for Year 5 & Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Atmospheric ✨
2. Friendship 👫
3. Acceptance 😌


Jess is allergic to the sun.
She lives indoors in a world of shadows, peeking at other children from her curtained house. One night, she sneaks out. And there, just beyond the empty playground she’s longed to visit, she discovers an impossibility – a magical garden made of ice.


The first line:

They called it the Hat.


Review: Frozen out of going to school, going outside and making friends in the real world due to her allergy to the sun, Jess – pained and pitiful – finds herself becoming more and more frustrated with her life. Confined to being home-schooled and being routinely taken to hospital visits where the doctors don’t listen to her and her own mother doesn’t either, she’s stuck in a world where her emotions ice over, her confidence is often shattered and that darkens when it’s light.

So when it’s night time, it’s the perfect opportunity for Jess to defy her mother wishes, remove the Hat and secretly explore her city.  However, there’s more than a chill in the air when Jess discovers something greater than she could ever have imagined: an enchanted, frozen paradise in the form of a magical ice garden that transcends between this world and that. Behind the playground she’s familiar with, an altogether different kind of playground emerges that’s worlds apart from what she’s used to and it is here where she discovers a feeling of unburdening freedom in the most unlikeliest of places. I suppose you could call it her garden of Eden. And where she meets the most unlikeliest of friends…

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First with Owen, a mysterious ice boy who she shares more than his ice garden with.
Then back at the hospital, with an unconscious boy called Davey who she shares more than her written stories with, as these soon become stories within a purely magical story. The connections between these characters stretch far beyond what is immediately apparent.

Despite this being what some would consider a short book, every word is worth its weight in gold. Metaphor is gloriously used throughout with my favourite examples being ‘The purple sky was streaked with brontosaurus ribs of white cloud.’ (p.44) and ‘The next day was like a held breath.’ (p.51). With scenes echoing more than that of The Secret Garden meeting The Chronicles of Narnia, Guy has sculpted a sense of sumptuous sophistication within his writing which ensures that just as discovering The Ice Garden was a revelation for Jess, discovering Guy Jones’ writing will be a revelation for you.

A fantastical mix of magic and frozen fantasy adorned with hues of hope and heart that should be encouraged in to the hands of as many readers as possible. Even though this story may leave readers with the slightest feeling of cold hands, this will soon thaw to leave them too with the warmest of hearts. It’s an incredibly fine example of an atmospheric, tender and multi-layered tale that is at times bittersweet yet glistens with absolute grace. I can only hope that Guy will be writing many, many more as I am eagerly anticipating his next.

‘With scenes echoing more than that of The Secret Garden meeting The Chronicles of Narnia… this is a fantastical mix of magic and frozen fantasy across a literary landscape that glistens with absolute grace.’

Big thanks to Guy for sending me an advance copy of this beautifully written book!

The Ice Garden is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
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Giveaway!

So to coincide with my review of The Ice Garden, I am delighted to say that Guy has kindly given me three copies of The Ice Garden to giveaway on Twitter. If you’d like a chance of winning this superb prize, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

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Review: Below Zero – Dan Smith (Illustrated by Steve Wells)

‘A spine-tingling sci-fi adventure that both trembles and thrills whilst embodying all of the bite, chill and snap of the setting that it takes place in.’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Below Zero
Author: Dan Smith (@DanSmithAuthor)
Illustrator (Cover): Steve Wells (@SteveWellsArt)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 304
Date of publication: 4th January 2017
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1910655924

Perfect for: Year 5, Year 6, Year 7 & Year 8.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Chilling ❄️
2. Gripping ✊
3. Tense 😮


When Zak’s plane crash-lands on Outpost Zero, a small Antarctic research base in one of the most isolated places on Earth, he discovers a cold, dark nightmare. The power’s out and the people who live there have disappeared. Worse, as he searches for answers, bizarre visions suggest a link to something else – deep beneath the ice – which only he can understand…


The first line:

There was something happening at Outpost Zero.


Review: Brace yourself because there’s no holding back as a sudden surge of panic pulls you in from the opening page to this already action-packed, arctic adventure as we encounter Sofia Diaz in a flashback three days ago from Outpost Zero. Sofia, the youngest member on base at Outpost Zero at fourteen years old, is stationed there with her family and seven others to participate in experimental training for the Exodus Project for a future life on Mars. However, a number of others are also there for altogether unexpected and unexplained reasons…

The pace of the story unrelentingly pulsates on, as we turn to the next chapter, with the attention switching to twelve-year-old Zak Reeves who is supposed to be enjoying a relaxing holiday in the sun with his family – Mum, Dad and older sister May – before he visits hospital for surgery for an as yet unnamed illness. From the start, there’s a sense of foreboding whereby we begin to notice that Zak is different. But it’s not until the end that we discover exactly how different he is.

Instead, the whole family have to cut their exotic holiday short to board a plane to the Antarctic in order to fix the ‘spider drones’ his parents have designed to support the Exodus mission as a result of them starting to mysteriously malfunction. As they arrive (…just!) on one of the last available planes in to Outpost Zero due to forecasted adverse weather conditions, they realise that things are about to go awry from the moment their plane crash lands in to the ice outside the research base whilst the whole site is plunged in to an abandoned and absolute darkness. This leaves Zak and his family finding themselves caught up in a flurry of fright and fear that will gradually end up with them fighting for their lives…

Throughout the story, the interchange of the dual narrative, which only adds to the suspense, between chapters backwards to Sofia Diaz and forwards to Zak in the present day continues. Further on, a triple narrative transpires as we are introduced to a new character known only by his alias, The Broker. It would be only maybe here that I could foresee any potential difficulties arising for some reading independently – particularly those readers closer to the lower age of recommendation – as they may be unsure of how to temper these three storylines occurring sequentially. But, by this point you’ll be feeling how I did where the sheer apprehension of what was about to happen to Zak next meant that you just have to read on to find out more with every turn of the page…

As the plot mysteriously shifts from the eerie and the sinister to the anxious and the downright heart-pounding, Zak makes a very important and other-wordly discovery about himself that’s been tormenting him ever since he got here.

Winter is not the only thing that’s coming for Zak…

As he starts to hear things…
Tick-tack. Tick-tack.

But then he starts to feel things…
Tick-tack. Tick-tack.

And then he starts to see things…

A discovery, deep within his psyche, which culminates in an almost apocalyptic, catastrophic crescendo of a climax that would rival any of the battles from Star Wars (I know from the references dotted throughout the book that the author, Dan, is a huge fan!) as nearly all of the previously described characters – under the condemned instructions of The Broker – converge for one last time.

I particularly enjoyed the brother-sister relationship between Zak and May and it is portrayed perfectly in that they initially tease, argue, annoy and fight with each other and they might not declare an immediate fondness for each other all the time yet we recognise early on how important they are for each other and this comes to an all important head at the very end of the story.

Fraught with all of the most essential ingredients found in the best adventure stories (i.e. tension, high intensity and peril), the front cover warns you that ‘Your blood will run cold…’ so as Dan advises in Below Zero, ‘Be Prepared’ or failing that, at least listen to and try to adopt the unofficial motto and mantra of the US Marines and ‘improvise, adapt and overcome’.

Thank you to the lovely Dan Smith and Jazz Bartlett at Chicken House for sending me an early copy.

Below Zero is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

‘A spine-tingling sci-fi adventure that both trembles and thrills whilst embodying all of the bite, chill and snap of the setting that it takes place in.’


Mr E
📚

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