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

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Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 & Year 6.


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

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


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

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


Click to download extract


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

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

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

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

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


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

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

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

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


Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Summer Adventure on The Book Bus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Giveaway!

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

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


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

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

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

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

Perfect for Nursery, Reception & Year 1.

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


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

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


Review: 

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

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

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

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

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

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


Books that encourage care… by Corrinne Averiss

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

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

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

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

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


The Smartest GIANT in Town – Julia Donaldson and Axel Sheffler

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

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Lost and Found – Oliver Jeffers

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

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The Storm Whale – Benji Davis

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

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How to Hide a Lion – Helen Stephens

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

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

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

Mr E


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

 

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

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

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

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


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

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

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

She must face her fears that come alive after dark…


Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


The Inspiration Behind The Monster in The Switching Hour

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

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

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

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

 

 

Damaris Young, author of The Switching Hour


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

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

Mr E


Blog Tour (Guest Post): The True Colours of Coral Glen – Juliette Forrest (Illustrated by Jamie Gregory)

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‘With Coral Glen, any signs of second novel syndrome are banished as it’s an absolute feat of storytelling; full of the magical, multi-layered and ethereal world-building we’ve come to know, love and expect from Juliette.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The True Colours of Coral Glen
Author: Juliette Forrest (@jools_forrest)
Cover illustration: Jamie Gregory (@jgregorydesign)
Publisher: Scholastic (@scholasticuk)
Page count: 300
Date of publication: 4th July 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1407193229

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Colours 🌈
2. Grief 😥
3. Ghosts 👻


Coral Glen sees the world through a rainbow of colours not visible to others.

An afternoon of adventure is Treasure Island Gold, but a morning with a maths test is Stormy Canyon Grey. When her beloved grandma dies, Coral can’t conjure the colour to match how heartbroken she is.

She meets a mysterious boy who offers to help her say a last goodbye to Gran – in exchange, Coral must stop an evil spirit from escaping the graveyard, and go on a daring adventure full of witches, ghosts and other things lurking beneath the surface of her not-so-ordinary-after-all town…


‘With Coral Glen, any signs of second novel syndrome are banished as it’s an absolute feat of storytelling; full of the magical, multi-layered and ethereal world-building we’ve come to know, love and expect from Juliette.’


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It gives me great pleasure to welcome Juliette Forrest, author of The True Colours of Coral Glen, and the wonderful Twister, to The Reader Teacher today where she talks more about the inspirations and ideas behind her second book…


The inspirations behind The True Colours of Coral Glen

When I was in the middle of writing my second children’s book, I went to stay in Ayrshire for a while. I was no stranger to the place as it was where my grandparents had lived. They told me stories about the area’s dark history of witch trials, warring clans, Covenantors, smugglers, cannibals, black death victims and ghosts. As a kid, it became impossible to separate folklore from historical fact. I could imagine the past creeping out from the shadows to coexist with the present and was keen to capture this sense of magic and danger lurking around every corner. I have my grandparents to thank, as they were the ones who planted the seeds for this colourful tale.

What would you do to be with a loved one again?

At the heart of this story is a girl who is bereft at the loss of her grandmother and will do anything to see her one last time before she crosses over to heaven. I’ll never forget a documentary I watched where a woman talked about the death of her son, and how she would give anything to have just one more minute with him. It was so powerful and moving, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It made me wonder what you would be prepared to do to make this happen. Coral Glen chooses to risk everything for the chance of a final farewell with her gran.

Coral Glen sees a rainbow of colours not visible to others

My heroine has the enviable ability to see an extraordinary range of colours others can’t, which opens doors into a world she never knew existed. I used to work as an art director in advertising and fell in love with the names of paints. Yellow was never plain old boring yellow: it was Luscious Lemon Drops or Treasure Island Gold or Downy Duckling or Tuscan Sun. It was as if they could, somehow, magically transform your life for the better. I wanted the different colours to add an extra layer of vibrancy to the story as well as to be positively life-changing for Coral Glen.

Tales of the supernatural

I never got to meet my grandpa Forrest. When I was young and listening into conversations I shouldn’t have been, I heard mention he’d show up at family christenings. Nothing strange there you might think – until I tell you that he had died many years before I was born. I never caught sight of his ghost myself, but I always liked the idea that death hadn’t stopped him from enjoying a good shindig and found it comforting he came back to be with the family. It was this curious tale that inspired the idea of Coral Glen being able to see people others couldn’t.


The True Colours of Coral Glen will be released on 4th July.


Big thanks to Juliette, Mary and all the team at Scholastic for inviting me to host this guest post as part of the The True Colours of Coral Glen blog tour and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Juliette for writing such a insightful and suitably supernatural guest post!

Mr E


 

Blog Tour (Review & Author Q&A): The Last Spell Breather – Julie Pike (Illustrated by Dinara Mirtalipova)

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‘It’s a magical must-read that takes place in such an original, chapter-turning and cleverly-imagined world I didn’t want to leave behind. With The Last Spell Breather, Julie doesn’t just write about magic, she writes with a special kind of magic; as if her pen is gold-tipped.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Last Spell Breather
Author: Julie Pike (@Juliepike)
Illustrator: Dinara Mirtalipova (Website)
Publisher: Oxford University Press Children’s (@OUPChildrens)
Page count: 304
Date of publication: 4th July 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-0192771605

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Magic ✨
2. Fox 🦊
3. Words 👄


Enter the unique world of the Spell Breathers!

Spell Breathing does not come naturally to Rayne – she loathes the hours of practice, the stacks of scrolls, and the snapping mud grotesques that cover her mother’s precious spell book. When she holds the spell book over a fire, it is only meant as an empty threat – until she feels the grotesque’s tiny teeth biting into her finger and lets go. In one clumsy move, her mother’s spells are broken, her village is plunged into danger, and an incredible adventure begins…


Review: I often think if only I had some way of transforming myself to be able to do something else. I often think about magic. I think we all often think about magic. But within the pages of this very special story, magic comes to life in an equally special way. Breathed to life. By the name of spells. Spells with a capital S. Spells that are strong and wrap around you and which possess a magic of their very own. However should those words come out in the wrong order or be directed in the wrong direction, then these Spells can cause a chaos of their very own too. And for the sometimes-creator of that chaos, let’s meet Rayne…

With the title of Spell Breather’s apprentice bestowed upon her ever since her mother decided to take her out of school (and almost away from her friends!), the world of spell breathing is not one Rayne is familiar with. Sometimes bungling and with a lack of self-confidence but often with her head elsewhere like wanting to play with her friends which reminded me of The Worst Witch meeting Luna Lovegood, she feels that she doesn’t have the same way with words that her magical mother, who is at the call of the community to help them, does.

You see, Rayne’s mother has been at this spell-breathing skill for some time. Not only does she service the locals with her powers but she also preserves the barrier that is keeping their town, Penderin, safe. However when an unexpected visitor arrives at the barrier, something is amiss and Rayne’s mother has to leave, meaning that Rayne has to learn quickly to look after herself and her town.

After speaking to Julie and hearing about her being from Wales, I’m sure I spotted more than a few Welsh references which resonated especially well with me. It’s a magical must-read that takes place in such an original, chapter-turning and cleverly-imagined world I didn’t want to leave behind. With The Last Spell Breather, Julie doesn’t just write about magic, she writes with a special kind of magic; as if her pen is gold-tipped.


‘It’s a magical must-read that takes place in such an original, chapter-turning and cleverly-imagined world I didn’t want to leave behind. With The Last Spell Breather, Julie doesn’t just write about magic, she writes with a special kind of magic; as if her pen is gold-tipped.’


I’m so pleased to welcome Julie Pike to The Reader Teacher today with her awe-inspiring and life-affirming blog post about the wondrous adventures she has been on that have influenced the writing of The Last Spell Breather…

When I set out to write The Last Spell Breather, I knew I wanted to create a magical page turning adventure. What I didn’t know was how to go about it. I went to see Garth Nix talk at the Hay Festival. It was my first ever author talk, and it was wonderful. One thing he said stood out like a beacon…  ‘I learned how to write’.

I spent the next decade learning how to write my ‘page turner’, wrapping my head around plot, character arcs, pacing, story beats, magic systems and a whole lot more. I’m not done yet, I still have much learning to do.

Along the way, I realised there was one aspect of story I already knew inside out and back to front. I already knew that the best adventures were filled with high stakes and personal challenges. How did I know? Because the stories I’d devoured as a child had inspired me to have real-life adventures of my own.

Here’s a taste of my adventures, along with some grainy, pre-smart phone pictures, for good measure. 

Wondrous Adventures
I’ve adventured overland through India, Nepal, Tibet and China. I left the UK on my own and made friends along the way. We slept on trains and visited friendly elephant reserves. We sailed down the Ganges to beautiful Varanasi. We slept in tents on the high plains and under the stars in the deserts. We journeyed to Everest’s mighty North Face and slept at Rongbuck monastery. We cleared road blocks in Lhasa, even pushing aside a police car with two coppers inside (thankfully they didn’t mind!). We ordered food in restaurants by pointing at other people’s dishes, because the only language we shared was smiling and laughter. We climbed mountains, and on the last night, we climbed to an abandoned part of the Great Wall of China and camped in a dazzling lightning storm.

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Yes, my hair really was that red

Hard Work Adventures

My hardest adventure was climbing Kilimanjaro. The peak is 5,895 metres and a three-day hike from the park entrance. The higher you climb, the colder it gets and the water in your bottle freezes. The altitude makes it tricky to get a good night’s sleep and makes you feel queasy, so you don’t feel like eating. Closer to the top you’ll get a headache and may drop out, because it’s just too darn hard.

The final push begins at 11pm at night, where you climb the steep scree slope under a star filled sky. The idea is to be at the top for sunrise. It sounds wondrous, but by this point all you can think about, for hours and hours, is putting one foot in front of the other.

I didn’t make the top at sunrise, I was about 100 metres below. I sat on a rock and watched the sun crest the horizon, mesmerised by its red, orange and golden glory. By that point I was empty. I couldn’t go on. And I was sure I had no energy to get down either. Did Kilimanjaro have mountain rescue?

But I was wrong. I did have more. My guide, Arbogast said, ‘you can give up if you’re tired, but you’ve come from Europe to climb this mountain.’

Talk about the power of words! I picked myself up and staggered-crawled to the crater’s rim.

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Me and Arbogast, I wouldn’t have made it without his support.

Leap of Faith Adventures

I’ve ridden white water in Chile, tandem-sky dived over the Great Lake of New Zealand and abseiled down a 100-foot freezing waterfall in France. None of these are skills I possess myself, they’re all borrowed from other people. Before each activity I feel sick with nerves and ‘what ifs.’ But I’ve done my research, I know my guides are experts, so I follow their instructions and take a leap of faith into adventure!

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Come on in! The water’s lovely.

And then there are the adventures where you have no guide, you’re on your own, it’s totally down to you and there are no grainy pictures – because when you’re in a REAL adventure, the stakes are too high to stop and pose.

If you want to know about that one, come by an event or signing table and ask.

I try to bring all my adventures into my writing. I hope I’ve succeeded. I hope you enjoy The Last Spell Breather, and it inspires you (just like the stories I read as a child) to have adventures of your own.

Happy reading. Happy writing. Happy adventuring!


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Julie Pike – Biography

Julie grew up on a council estate, nestled between the forests and foothills of the Welsh Valleys. She is passionate about adventure stories, and volunteers in local schools and libraries in Dorset, helping children find stories that excite them. She is passionate about real-life adventures too, and has crawled inside the great pyramid of Giza, travelled to the peak of Kilimanjaro, and camped on the Great Wall of China in a lightning storm.

Twitter: @juliepike


Big thanks to Julie and all the team at Oxford University Press Children’s for inviting me to kick off and share my thoughts as part of the The Last Spell Breather blog tour and for sending me a copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Julie for writing her excellent guest post!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the The Last Spell Breather blog tour for more exclusive guest posts from Julie, content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): The Adventures of Harry Stevenson – Ali Pye

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‘Reminiscent of a rodent-style Mr Bean, Harry Stevenson will become a firm favourite for readers. These books could be the ones that start and keep a child reading.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Adventures of Harry Stevenson
Author & illustrator: Ali Pye (@alipyeillo)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (@simonkids_UK)
Page count: 192
Date of publication: 13th June 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1471170232

Perfect for Year 1, Year 2, Year 3 and Year 4.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. GuineaPig 🐹
2. Adventures🎈
3. Hilarious 😄


Meet Harry Stevenson. At first glance, he doesn’t seem any different from your average guinea pig. He can’t do magic, or talk, or secretly fly around the room when nobody is looking.

But don’t be fooled. You see, although Harry Stevenson just wants to sleep and eat (and then eat some more), somehow he always manages to get swept up on the most unexpected of adventures…


Review:

What could be better than being a guinea pig, eh? Eating… sleeping… and then eating some more sounds like quite the lifestyle to have. However Harry Stevenson is not just your average guinea pig. When life events like moving house and having a house party bring more than just a little mischief to Harry’s life, it’s up to long-time companion Billy Smith to save him from his daring and slightly dangerous exploits that he finds himself embarking on.

Flying over the town and ending up in the middle of one of the most important football matches in the local team’s history, Harry becomes swept up in swathes of shenanigans and does not do things by halves.

One of the features that will be enjoyed most throughout both tales is Harry and Billy’s unique bond of friendship, which is heartfelt, empathetic and will completely capture many of its readers’ hearts. It is clear to see that the pair understand each other fully and one would definitely not work without the other.

Coupled with Ali’s stories are her inimitable, expressive illustrations in brilliant shades of fluorescent orange which (you need to see below as they) really ensure that these stupendously good stories stand out on the shelf. Perfect for fans of illustrated fiction and who love Olga da Polga and Piggy Handsome, this guinea pig – who reminds me of a rodent-style Mr Bean – sits alone in being an entirely original creation from its two predecessors and is surely set to become a firm favourite among its readers who will be asking for more adventures. These books could be the ones that start and keep a child reading.

As it says within the pages of this story, there’s only one Harry Stevenson… well except when you’ve got two of his adventures packed into one gloriously hilarious book. I’m hoping for another two or maybe three in the next one!


‘Reminiscent of a rodent-style Mr Bean, Harry Stevenson will become a firm favourite for readers. These books could be the ones that start and keep a child reading.’


Life Lessons from Harry Stevenson

Lots of people think that because guinea pigs don’t do much apart from laze in the hay scoffing carrots, they can’t be very clever. Some* have even gone as far as describing them as ‘mindless balls of fluff.’ How wrong they are. Guinea pigs are thoughtful and sensitive types, and I’m sure that far from sitting mindlessly in their cages, they are actually pondering the meaning of life and other perplexing conundrums. It has been said that ‘leisure is the mother of philosophy’: that’s certainly the case with guinea pigs, as they have plenty of time to observe the world and mull over what they’ve seen.

I suspect that guinea pigs hide their intellect very carefully, happy to be underestimated if it means they are well fed and cared for whilst they get on with the important business of thinking. However, being a very kind and generous creature, Harry Stevenson has agreed to share a few nuggets of wisdom with us – in return for a few edible guinea pig nuggets, of course…

The Meaning of Life

Harry has been part of the Smith family for as long as he can remember: he lives with seven-year-old Billy Smith and Billy’s mum and dad, in a small and cosy flat. From his cage in Billy’s room, Harry has observed the Smiths and drawn several important conclusions. The most significant of these is the Meaning of Life itself! This, Harry has decided, is to love Billy and be loved in return. Mr and Mrs Smith appear to share this view, so it must be true. Harry thinks it could possibly apply to other families, so there you go – love and be loved. Pass it on!

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If you want something in life you need to put some effort into getting it. For example, Harry adores food. But those carrots in the Smith family’s fridge won’t come to Harry by themselves; they have to be worked for. A noisy WHEEK often does the trick and brings Billy running, bearing a tasty snack. If not, Harry needs to try harder, perhaps with some flashy jumps in the hay, or a charming scamper around his cage. Billy will be entranced and fetch the carrots: bingo!

Sometimes you have to be bold

9781471170232.in03.jpgDespite Harry’s best efforts to live a quiet and uneventful life, he has often been led astray by his greedy stomach, resulting in some tricky dilemmas. Faced with the choice of never seeing the Smiths again, or jumping on the back of a big scary dog, Harry has needed to be brave and ride that Alsatian. Similar leaps of faith have involved Harry hurling himself from a wall into the basket of a passing bicycle, and from the back of the dog onto a pizza-delivery driver’s moped. The life lesson here is: take a deep breath and face your fears!

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Having experienced excitement and drama, Harry can confirm that there really is no place like home. Thrilling adventures are all very well, but nothing can compare to spending time with people you love – preferably on a squashy sofa, watching a nature documentary, with a bunch of carrots to work through.

Eat Five a Day

You simply can’t have enough vegetables. Harry wouldn’t elaborate on this unfortunately, as he was too busy tucking into a stalk of celery.

ALI PYE Jan19 300dpi.jpgI do hope these Life Lessons are useful. If Harry Stevenson imparts any more guinea pig wisdom, you will be the first to know.

*Like my husband. He knows better now.


Ali Pye, author of The Adventures of Harry Stevenson


Big thanks to Ali, Olivia and all the team at Simon & Schuster for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of the The Adventures of Harry Stevenson blog tour and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

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

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the The Adventures of Harry Stevenson blog tour for more exclusive guest posts from Ali, content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): Blast Off to the Moon – Ralph Timberlake (Illustrated by Euan Cook)

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‘Not only is it packed to the galaxy with rocketfuls of facts but it delivers a stand-out sense of empathy and really gives its readers the feeling that they are walking that very first and small step for man that was one giant leap for mankind.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Blast Off to the Moon!
Author: Ralph Timberlake
Illustrator: Euan Cook
Publisher: UCLan Publishing (@publishinguclan)
Page count: 40
Date of publication: 3rd June 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1912979011

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

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Moon 🌕
2. Fascinating 😙
3. Inspirational 🤩


Have you ever wondered…

What it’s like to sleep in space?
What you eat on a space mission? And how?
What is the far side of the Moon?

Follow the thrilling story of Neil, Michael and Buzz as they make their epic trip to the Moon. Fully illustrated throughout with facts, photos and diagrams from the NASA archive – this book is the perfect way to celebrate 50 years since the first Moon landing.


Review:

As a child, I was captivated by the prospect of being an astronaut. Watching and reading all kinds of space documentaries, space books and being in awe of our planets, this book couldn’t be more perfect.

It was only upon learning more about Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and the often lesser-known but so vitally-needed Michael Collins that their feats of an astronomical nature of achieving the first moon landing on July 20th 1969 really became evident. Seeing the publication of this non-fiction space scrapbook therefore made my eyes light up.

Through its detailed and wide-ranging factual content, engaging illustrations courtesy of Euan Cook and superb introduction written by the First Briton to travel to space Helen Sharman, this book really is leading the way in commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing.

From the astronauts’ training to preparing for lift off, from the ascent and docking to returning to Earth, it is all here ready to be devoured and indulged by many young (and older!) space enthusiasts like I was myself when growing up.

Not only is it packed to the galaxy with rocketfuls of facts but it delivers a stand-out sense of empathy and really gives its readers the feeling that they are walking that very first and small step for man that was one giant leap for mankind.


Today I’m delighted to welcome Nathan Trail, who helped to produce the book along with Ralph from the British Interplanetary Society.

Blast off to the Moon! Blog Reflection – Nathan Trail

On 12 September 1962, United States President John F. Kennedy stood before thousands of people at Rice University in Houston, Texas, and declared “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Less than ten years later, on 21 July 1969, Kennedy’s goal was realised as Neil Armstrong became the first person to step on the surface of the Moon, marking humanity great technological and societal achievement to date.

As we come up on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission that took Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the Moon, I am reminded of the truly astounding technological innovation that was required during the Apollo program to achieve Kennedy’s dream. Even when faced with a seemingly impossible task and devasting failures, there is nothing more powerful than humanity’s will to succeed. I am reminded of a time when humanity’s quest to go to the Moon captivated tens of millions of people not only in the US, but around the world, transcending cultural and political divisions. As Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the lunar surface, humanity stood together—or rather, huddled around their TV sets together—in awe. I am reminded of a time when humanity’s central desire to explore reached the next frontier. Less than 500 years after Christopher Columbus traversed the Atlantic Ocean to explore the Americas, humanity had traversed the darkness and emptiness of space to explore our only natural satellite—the Moon.

And now, 50 years later, humanity, once again spurred on by its innate curiosity, is charting a course to return to the Moon and go further to Mars. This curiosity has, without a doubt, been motivated as we reflect on the Apollo 11 mission through new books and movies that recount the story of the harrowing 100 hours that preceded the touchdown of Eagle on the Moon. Blast Off to the Moon! is one of those books, combining captivating images of the Apollo 11 mission with enthralling details of the mission, from the specifications of the Saturn V launch vehicle to an overview of the astronauts’ daily meals. It will, without a doubt, inspire the next generation of astronauts that will take humanity to Mars.

Just as Apollo 11 has inspired millions around the world, so to has it inspired my desire to reach for the unknown in the face of great uncertainty. As a student of International Relations, it has inspired me to ensure that space can be an area for scientific cooperation, and that its secrets and resources, are accessible to all.


Big thanks to Nathan, Hazel and all the team at UCLan Publishing for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of the Blast Off to the Moon! blog tour and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

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

Mr E


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

 

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

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

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

Lily and the Rockets: How it began

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

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

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

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

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

Follow Rebecca Stevens on twitter @rstevenswriter

www.chickenhousebooks.com


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

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

Mr E


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

 

 

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

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

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

Perfect for Year 6, Year 7 and Year 8.

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

What influenced the creation of your main characters?

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

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

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

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

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

Favourite God?

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

Favourite word (Latin or English!)?

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

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

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

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

Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com

Follow Nicholas Bowling on Twitter: @thenickbowling


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

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

Mr E


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