Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): The Truth About Martians – Melissa D. Savage (Illustrated by Daron Parton)

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‘Like a middle-grade ET crossed with a hint of Stranger Things… this is a science-fiction story of strength as much as the grapples of grief.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Truth About Martians
Author: Melissa D. Savage (@melissadsavage)
Illustrator (Cover): Daron Parton (Website)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 336
Date of publication: 3rd January 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1911490821

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Spaceship 👽
2. Friendship 🤝
3. Loss 😟


Mylo knows there’s no such thing as Martians – at least, until a flying saucer crash-lands next to his family’s New Mexico farm. And then he starts to hear the voice, like someone’s trying to communicate with him, asking for help. Desperate to be as brave as his older brother Obie – who passed away over a year ago – Mylo has to investigate the crash. Along the way, he ends up discovering more about the universe than he ever could have imagined.


Review: 

Set in the rural heartlands of south-western America (some references may need explaining to younger readers) and based on the real-life events and conspiracy theories of 1947 when a ‘UFO’ was initially thought to have crash landed in Roswell, New Mexico, The Truth About Martians is a science-fiction story of strength as much as sorrow and sensitivity and the grapples of grief.

Shining a light on an event not known by everyone – and probably not by most of its readership – and covering just over three months between July 4, 1947 – 11:53 p.m. and October 6, 1947 – 6:15 a.m., the story starts with main character Mylo and his best friend Dibs staying over for the night. Since Dibs’ mother left, Mylo’s mom has become almost a surrogate mother for him (which is not surprising considering the quality and quantity of baked goods and sweet treats she makes for the boys!). Throughout the start of the story, we begin to understand that Milo is coming to terms with the loss of his older brother Obie and in turn, we realise that Dibs is slowly becoming the almost-brother that Mylo lost. Friendships are the glue of this story.

As the night sky flashes green and loud bangs are heard which in turn sends Dibs’ overactive imagination in to overdrive, the boys think they’re in with the chance of an alien encounter. Even Mylo who’s never believed in aliens…

The saying goes that curiosity killed the cat but it doesn’t kill these children’s desire to investigate further and so Mylo and his friends set out on an adventure to discover more about the newly-arrived Martians and their mothership. What they don’t know yet is that their discoveries may be more than they could possibly ever imagine.

Drawing on her background and experiences as a child and family therapist, I’ve been a big fan of Melissa’s honest, frank and touching writing style in her previous books – most notably with Bigfoot, Tobin and Me – and long may this continue.

Like a middle-grade ET crossed with a hint of Stranger Things, this is one that should definitely have been included in this year’s space-themed ‘Space Chase’ Summer Reading Challenge collection.



Inspiration for The Truth About Martians

There are many things that inspired me to write The Truth About Martians. One of them is my love of research and learning stories about our world’s history. One such story that has always intrigued me is the 1947 UFO crash outside of Roswell, New Mexico. Although the U.S. military has assured us it was nothing other than a military balloon, there are others who believe beyond a doubt that the crash was something extraterrestrial. Some even stating they saw the bodies of aliens at the crash site. Come on, who wouldn’t find this story intriguing? It has everything a captivating mystery needs to keep us talking about it. Even seventy-two years after the incident happened.

I spent a great deal of time learning about that time frame, the facts of the case, the stories from witnesses and about the atomic age. I visited the town and spoke with the people. I researched eye witness accounts and read sworn affidavits and deathbed confessions by ex-military personnel.  Additionally, I researched the children of that time. What was it like to live in 1947 as a preteen? What were their interests? What did they wear? What did they play? What did they aspire to do and to be? While this may not sound as exciting as the writing component of creating a story, for me, it’s one of my favorite parts of the process. I love doing research because it gives me so many ideas for the story itself – plot, character development, setting, themes, scenes and dialogue. I learned all about 1940’s baseball, the importance of Action Comics, I listened to many episodes of The Adventures of Superman radio program, and I even learned of this strange time called the atomic age which included children’s atomic games and a very special atomic ring kids sent in for with pennies and some Kix Cereal box tops. I have absolutely loved immersing myself in the tiny town of Corona just outside of Roswell, New Mexico at a time when life seemed much slower and maybe a bit more predictable in many ways.

Regarding the crash itself, I still haven’t decided quite yet what I think about it all. I’m a pretty skeptical person in general unless I see something with my own eyes. However, for me, I don’t need a definitive answer to write a story about it. I am a fiction writer. All I need are some amazing facts, and the story of Roswell is ripe with them. Those compelling facts are what inspired me to create a Roswell mystery of my own. Maybe one day we will learn for certain what really happened out in that desert. Until that time, there are plenty of unique and fascinating accounts. Which one is true remains to be seen, but I’m open to hearing each and every one of them.

Even the ones that take me all the way to the stars.

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Melissa Savage


THE TRUTH ABOUT MARTIANS by Melissa Savage out now in paperback
(£6.99, Chicken House)

Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com and melissadsavage.com

Follow Melissa Savage on Twitter: @melissadsavage


 

Big thanks to Laura Smythe, Melissa and all at Chicken House for inviting me to share my thoughts on this out-of-this-world book as part of The Truth About Martians blog tour!

Extra thanks to Melissa for her guest post discussing her inspirations behind her book.

👽  Mr E  👽


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Be sure to check out the rest of the The Truth About Martians blog tour with these wonderful book bloggers for more reviews and exclusive posts!

 

 

Review & Guest Post: The Boy Who Flew With Dragons – Andy Shepherd (Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie)

To celebrate the publication of The Boy Who Flew With Dragons, I’m delighted to share with you my review, a guest post from author Andy Shepherd and some exclusive inside illustrations from Sara Ogilvie.

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‘Laugh out loud humour with a bond between a boy and a dragon that’s irresistible to read… this incredibly successful trilogy finishes on a huge high and has gone from strength to absolute strength.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Boy Who Flew With Dragons
Author: Andy Shepherd (@andyjshepherd)
Illustrator (Cover & Inside): Sara Ogilvie (Website)
Publisher: Piccadilly Press (@PiccadillyPress)
Page count: 256
Date of publication: 10th January 2019
Series status: Third and final book in the The Boy Who Grew Dragons series
ISBN: 978-1848127357

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

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Dragons 🐉
2. Grandad 👴
3. Map 🗺️


We grow dragons.
Dragons that flicker, that frost, and some that fill the sky with fire.

We sit cross-legged round our dragon-fruit tree, waiting for our dragons to hatch.

But there’s something I need to tell you.

So keep listening, because you haven’t heard the whole story yet. And once you have, you might not be quite so quick to rush out and grow yourself a dragon…



Review: In the third and final book in The Boy Who Grew Dragons trilogy, it’s time to say goodbye to the dragons as we know them for Tomas yet Tomas can’t imagine life without his little dragon Flicker and neither can we. As Flicker and the other dragons grew in to Tomas and his friends’ lives, lived with them and as more dragons flew in to the pages of this series, they’ve become a part of our reading lives also as they’ve become more than pets and more like friends. However Tomas has a promise to Grandad to keep and he’s already delayed it more than he should…

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Superhero Squad – Sara Ogilvie (The Boy Who Flew With Dragons)

But that isn’t going to stop the dragons appearing at Lolli’s party and creating a scene with thirty-three nursery children. Neither is it going to stop them from making more madness at Halloween. However the dragons’ causing of chaos changes in to the find of the century when searching through Grandad’s things in the shed, Tomas discovers the most mysterious of maps and when Flicker breathes on the map, all is revealed – La Ciudad Oculta de los Dragones: The Hidden City of the Dragons.

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Floorboard – Sara Ogilvie (The Boy Who Flew With Dragons)

With a revelation this big, it means that Tomas is one step closer to working out where the dragons belong but there’s a slight problem before that in that he still has to work out how to get them to leave (oh, and tell his friends that the dragons have to go!). Can Tomas balance keeping his promise to Grandad, letting his friend in Flicker go and will the secrets of the city throw up more questions in answers and help Tomas to unearth the story of the mysterious dragonfruit tree that’s been nestled in Grandad’s garden for all this time…?

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Flicker and Tomas – Sara Ogilvie (The Boy Who Flew With Dragons)

I’m so pleased that Andy finishes the incredibly successful trilogy on a huge high and to see the series go from strength to absolute strength. Not since The Dreamsnatcher trilogy by Abi Elphinstone have I felt so invested in a series as good as this. Closing the end pages of this story, I could feel the tinkles behind the eyes but I could also feel the corners of my mouth transform in to the biggest of smiles because that’s what this series has been truly about. Laugh out loud humour with a bond between a boy and a dragon that’s irresistible to read… a series that will be read and re-read over and over again for years and generations to come.

 

I’m so delighted to see ‘The Boy Who Flew with Dragons’ finally flying into the world. It’s been a long time coming. This story started life as a picture book eight years ago. Since then it’s been through many forms as I rewrote it over and over, coming back to it again and again through the years. I have a 1000 word version, a 5000 word version, a 12000, 20000 and finally the 35000 word version I ended up writing just for my sons that actually got me interest from my publisher.

And now it has become three books! I’m so thankful to Piccadilly Press for giving me the opportunity and space to develop the story. It’s been fun and exciting to see storylines and characters grow. But at its heart the overall arc of the story remains the same. And it was huge fun and quite emotional to write this third book and see that finally paying off.

This is probably my favourite book, not least because it’s the culmination of a very long writing journey. I hope readers enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it! (Though I hope it doesn’t take them quite as long!)

Andy Shepherd

 

Big thanks to Andy, Sara, Georgia and all at Piccadilly Press for inviting me to share my thoughts on this fantastic series-ender and for providing these illustrations!

Extra thanks to Andy for her guest post sharing her thoughts on the final book and the whole series. It’s been an absolute pleasure to support this series and to see my name in the final’s book’s acknowledgements has made my year.

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🐉  Mr E 🐉


THE BOY WHO FLEW WITH DRAGONS by Andy Shepherd out now in paperback
(£6.99, Piccadilly Press)

Find out more at https://www.piccadillypress.co.uk/books/the-boy-who-flew-with-dragons/

and follow Andy Shepherd on Twitter @andyjshepherd



Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): Our Castle by the Sea – Lucy Strange (Designed by Helen Crawford-White)

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‘Tinged with twists at each turn of the page… it reads like a classic that willingly compels you to want more of it with every word.
With Our Castle by the Sea, Strange has created something very special.’


Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Our Castle by the Sea
Author: Lucy Strange (@theLucyStrange)
Designer (Cover & Inside): Helen Crawford-White (@studiohelen)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 336
Date of publication: 3rd January 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1911077831

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Lighthouse💡
2. War 🛩️
3. Family 👨‍👩‍👧‍👧


England is at war. Growing up in a lighthouse, twelve-year-old Pet’s world has been one of storms, secret tunnels and stories about sea monsters. But now the clifftops are a terrifying battleground, and her family is torn apart. This is the story of a girl who is small, afraid and unnoticed. A girl who freezes with fear at the enemy places ripping through the skies overhead. A girl who is somehow destined to become part of the strange, ancient legend of the Daughters of the Stone…


Review: Mystery, adventure and intrigue combine with characters you can’t help but care deeply about.

The prologue to this gripping narrative opens in 1931 where we are introduced to our protagonist Petra – small and so very young at this time – recounting her own experience of her father retelling her family an ol’ folktale of the Daughters of Stone. An ancient myth of monsters that according to Petra is ‘much, much more‘ than it appears to be told and she may be right in thinking this…

Flashing a little further forward to 1939, we find Petra having to increasingly partake in wartime rituals as the threat of invasion looms closer to the Kent coastline and the lighthouse where she lives. Camouflaging the lighthouse green, the event of evacuation and the wearing of ghastly gas masks are all described in the most emotionally-skilful of manners. From the realisation that the impending threat of war is just around the corner or rather, over the cliff face to the heart-wrenching moment that Petra’s parents realise they may have to lose her for the greater good, Our Castle by the Sea really will ensure that its readers see the impacts and consequences of war in a way that will resonate with them – both young and old. So much so that after reading this, the first thing I did was pass this on to my grandmother and grandfather, of whom he himself was evacuated from North London to Wales during World War Two.

For me, the storyline starts to really come into its own as Mutti, Petra’s mother becomes a source of suspicion due to the fact that she is German: this being a familial side to wartime historical fiction that is rarely covered in children’s literature. As sidewards glances and a sense of hostility is rising along with the emergence of family secrets and the shunning of her mother in public becoming more prevalent, Petra becomes only all too aware that her family could be falling apart at its very seams. This reaches a clattering crescendo when Mutti is taken away and forced to live imprisoned in exile in an internment camp.

The demons of doubt begin to forge deeper in Petra’s mind when newspaper headlines, government acts on treason and mysterious letters appear leaving Petra in a state of emotional turmoil. Seeing her gutsy sister, Mags – who for me, is one of the standout characters – and her father entangle themselves in a swathe of secrets of their very own, Petra has no-one to turn to but herself.

With a turn of phrase and a sense of metaphor that makes the most ordinary of feelings and emotions come wildly alive in the reader’s mind, Lucy achieves what all writers are wishing for: a long-lasting connection to their readers. A book that many – and certainly I – will not forget. If this is your first read of a novel by Lucy, I am sure that you’ll be returning to her for many more.

With its links to Dunkirk, Spitfires, Hurricanes and ration books, you may think this book is a typical tale of wartime experience however think again because with Our Castle by the Sea, Strange has created something else entirely and something very special indeed. Suspense and drama set against the backdrop of WWII tinged with twists at each turn of the page. It reads like a classic that willingly compels you to want more of it with every word.


‘Tinged with twists at each turn of the page… it reads like a classic that willingly compels you to want more of it with every word.
With Our Castle by the Sea, Strange has created something very special.’


Historical Fiction for Young Readers – Five of My Favourites
by Lucy Strange

Lucy Strange author pic 2017 (by Claudine Sinnett).jpgOne of the best things about writing historical fiction is that you are never working on a blank canvas: the chosen period provides a richly detailed background – the context for the powerful tale that will be depicted with brighter brushwork in the foreground. I love the challenge of weaving my own stories through a fabric of historical fact (if you’ll forgive the change of metaphor) – it adds layers of conflict and excitement to the narrative, especially when the historical period is already a tense and dangerous one.

My new novel, Our Castle by the Sea, is set at the beginning of the Second World War. There are, of course, already so many wonderful children’s books about this time (Carrie’s War, Goodnight Mr Tom, Blitzcat, The Book Thief, The Machine Gunners and The Boy in Striped Pyjamas to name just a few), but when a story presents itself as needing to be told, there is often very little a writer can do about it. This is how I felt when I first read about the British internment camps for ‘enemy aliens’, the tribunals and categorisation processes, and Churchill’s ‘Collar the Lot’ policy. My central character is twelve-year-old Petra Zimmerman Smith who lives in a lighthouse on the white cliffs of Kent with her unpredictable big sister, her English father and her German mother. When the war begins, and it becomes clear that there is a traitor in the village, the local community turns against Petra and her family, but can her beloved ‘mutti’ really be to blame?

I love reading historical fiction as well as writing it. I think the genre has so much to offer younger readers: the thrill of the past being suddenly and vividly present; the opportunity to explore lost and faded worlds through the eyes of sympathetic characters; the jolt of emotion when you realise that the story you are reading is based on something completely true. Here are some of my favourite recent additions to the canon of historical fiction for children and teenagers . . .

Beyond the Wall by Tanya Landman, 2017

After maiming her master, slave girl Cassia is forced to run away. Her only hope for freedom – and life itself – lies in the wild lands to the north, beyond Hadrian’s Wall. Landman’s 2015 novel Buffalo Soldier won the Carnegie Medal with a moving story of bravery set during the American Civil War. Her unique brand of original, fast-paced and visceral historical fiction frequently explores the darkest times of cruelty, violence, prejudice and powerlessness in human history. 

The Buried Crown by Ally Sherrick, 2018

Ally Sherrick’s historical fiction for children provides an accessible and entertaining portal into British history, venturing through realms of archaeology, espionage and political intrigue. The Buried Crown is a Second World War story about a young evacuee’s adventures as he attempts to save Anglo-Saxon treasure from the clutches of the Nazis. Sherrick’s 2016 novel Black Powder is a gripping, twisting tale based around the Gunpowder Plot and was the winner of the Historical Association Young Quills Award.

Secrets of a Sun King by Emma Carroll, 2018

This beautifully framed mystery takes us from 1920s London back to ancient Egypt – Secrets of a Sun King is a wonderfully thrilling adventure through time. I love Carroll’s books, particularly her gothic novel Strange Star inspired by the life of Mary Shelley, and her Second World War story Letters from the Lighthouse which was nominated for the Carnegie Medal. Dubbed ‘the Queen of Historical Fiction’, Carroll’s novels are a gift to teachers and a joy for bookworms.

Bone Talk by Candy Gourlay, 2018

An established and highly respected children’s author, Gourlay has recently ventured into the genre of historical fiction with her stunning new novel Bone Talk. Shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Book Award, this moving coming-of-age tale takes place in the Philippines where Gourlay grew up. Set at the turn of the century, it explores sophisticated themes such as colonialism and identity, and seeks to redress the balance of Western-dominated narratives in historical fiction.

A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge, 2017

Frances Hardinge is a writer I hugely admire. By blending historical fiction with elements of magical realism and fantasy, she creates a genuinely extraordinary reading experience. A Skinful of Shadows is a strange, dark tale set during the English Civil War, but with the most brilliant supernatural twist. Hardinge’s brilliant 2015 novel The Lie Tree famously won the Costa Book Award. If you haven’t yet read a Frances Hardinge book, you have the most wonderful treat in store.


OUR CASTLE BY THE SEA by Lucy Strange out now in paperback
(£6.99, Chicken House)

Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com
and follow Lucy Strange on Twitter @theLucyStrange


Big thanks to Laura Smythe, Lucy and all at Chicken House for inviting me to share my thoughts on this beautifully-written book as part of the Our Castle by the Sea blog tour!

Extra thanks to Lucy for her guest post highlighting five of her favourite children’s historical fiction novels that I think should be on everybody’s to-be-read (TBR) piles.

  Mr E 

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Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): Vote for Effie – Laura Wood (Illustrated by Emma Trithart & Mirelle Ortega)

2019 looks like it is sure to be a big year for the United Kingdom what with the ever-present talk of Brexit, people’s vote and second referendums but I can also guarantee that 2019 will also be a big year for Laura Wood with her striking, new novel Vote for Effie. So it is with great pleasure that I kick off 2019 at The Reader Teacher with this review and guest post from Laura herself as part of the Vote for Effie blog tour!

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‘A revelation! A barrier-breaking book that’s about optimism as much as activism and one that definitely gets my vote… Vote for Effie deserves to be a HUGE hit!’


Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Vote for Effie
Author: Laura Wood (@lauraclarewood)
Illustrator (Cover): Emma Trithart (Instagram)
Illustrator (Inside): Mirelle Ortega (@moxvi_)
Publisher: Scholastic (@scholasticuk)
Page count: 240
Date of publication: 3rd January 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1407187723

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Impassioned 📣
2. Rousing 😊
3. Campaign 🗳️


The last thing new girl Effie Kostas needs right now is to be running a high-stakes campaign for Student Council President against the most popular boy in school. But she’s not about to sit quietly by the face of great injustice – SO THE RACE IS ON.

With the help of a band of misfits, a whole lot of glitter glue and an angry parrot, can Effie defy the odds and win the election? And can one girl really make a difference?


Review: Feeling friendless and all alone at her new secondary school after starting mid-way through the year, Euphemia Kostas (‘actually pronounced “Yoo-fem-ia, by the way’) – known more preferably as Effie – finds little in the way of likemindedness or appreciation from her new peers: none of which seem as articulate, as determined or as welcoming as her.

Fear not however as this act of adversity is only a small bump in the road for Effie and does not stop her in her admirable pursuit of friend-finding but that’s not before she has a run-in with Aaron Davis who just happens to be the most popular boy in school… and unfortunately for Effie, he’s also the incumbent Student Council President. After arguing over the only thing Effie is currently enjoying in the school: the last piece of chocolate cake from the canteen, she recognises that Aaron is only in this enviable leadership position for the perks. Being a flagship example for fairness and with a social commentary with more insight and intuition than many adults could possess, Effie is soon on a one-girl mission to try to change this and put democracy back on the map and in to the heart of the school.


Starting with her four-point plan:

  1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Get the school to be greener and start a proper recycling campaign.
  2. Clubs for all: Make more funding available for people who want to start their own clubs and societies NOT JUST THE BOYS’ SPORTS TEAMS.
  3. No-one eats alone: Set up a buddy system so that no one feels left out. Introduce mentors for students so that they feel welcome and included.and my own personal favourite of course…
  4. We need libraries: Raise funds for new books and a proper librarian. Libraries aren’t a luxury, we need them.

With the help of an equally resilient and dynamic group of friends, Effie finds herself standing up for what she believes in and takes on Aaron at his own game – which is news to him – and many of the teachers and the school’s systems – as he’s been mostly unchallenged in previous years.

On the surface, this is a story with a premise that promises lots and I’m pleased to say that underneath it differs from that of some modern politicians’ promises in that it delivers a considerable amount too.

Laura has captured the earnest-yet-empowered, confidence-developing character and indomitable spirit of Effie perfectly as she lives with her family – which includes a loveably cheeky sister who could be another (although ever-so-slightly-different) Effie in waiting – and whose relationships with a supporting cast such as a young-at-heart next-door neighbour are a complete complement to its central character. A thoroughly modern Millicent… Effie is your new best friend, your new sister and your new triple threat of inspiration, idol and heroine all rolled in to one.

This is an absolute revelation! A barrier-breaking book that will gain a majority and inspire a generation by making you feel so energised, so enthusiastic and so eager to join Effie’s campaign that you will want to read it all in one sitting – just like I did. Impassioned, rousing & essential reading for rights… Vote for Effie deserves to be a HUGE hit. Vote with your feet – and hands! – and go and buy/borrow this wonderfully-written story: I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed.


‘A revelation! A barrier-breaking book that’s about optimism as much as activism and one that definitely gets my vote… Vote for Effie deserves to be a HUGE hit!’


Celebrating young girls who are changing the world

Greta Thunberg

Writing this just before Christmas, I have recently been so inspired by fifteen-year-old Swedish environmental activist, Greta Thunberg. Between August and September, Greta protested every day outside parliament, demanding that the Swedish government reduce carbon emissions.

In December, Greta addressed the COP24 United Nations climate change summit. She didn’t mince her words, saying, “you only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess, even when the only sensible thing to do is pull the emergency brake. You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to us children.”

One of the biggest things I wanted to address when writing Vote for Effie was the idea that young people, but especially girls are often told that they should be quiet. Boys might be called brave or assertive, where a girl is more likely to be called bossy or shrill. I think Greta is such a wonderful example of what can happen when girls speak up, and why we should all be listening to them.

You can watch Greta’s speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFkQSGyeCWg

Laura Wood

 


Big thanks to Harriet Dunlea, Laura and all at Scholastic for inviting me to share my thoughts on this powerful and passionately-written book as part of Vote for Effie blog tour!

Extra thanks to Laura for her guest post highlighting a real-life example of Effie’s character.

📣  Mr E  🗳️


Vote for Effie is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.


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Blog Tour (Guest Post & Giveaway!): Unicorn Girl – Anne-Marie Conway (Illustrated by Shannon Conway)

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Title: Unicorn Girl
Author: Anne-Marie Conway (@amconway_author)
Publisher: Eponine Press
Page count: 216
Date of publication: 31st October 2018
ISBN: 978-1916436305

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1.  Unicorns
2. Necklace
3. Magic


Today, I ‘m delighted to welcome best-selling children’s author and drama teacher Anne-Marie Conway to The Reader Teacher. Here, she shares with The Reader Teacher her exclusive guest post about why creativity and childhood experiences are ‘at the heart’ of the school workshops she does for new book Unicorn Girl.

I’m also incredibly pleased that Anne-Marie Conway and her team have given me TWO signed copies of Unicorn Girl and two unicorn charm necklaces to be given away with the books! Read on to find out more!

As a drama teacher, I know the power of the imagination and how important imaginary play is, whatever your age.

I began using creativity to deliver the curriculum very early on in my teaching career. In my first job as a general primary teacher, I quickly felt constrained by traditional teaching methods and began to take a more creative approach to what I did. I had a planning meeting every week with my parallel teacher and while she liked my ideas she didn’t always have the confidence to incorporate them into her lessons. In the end we came to an arrangement; she taught maths to my class and I taught literacy to hers.

Nowadays, of course, it’s harder for teachers to hide in the wings. With ‘Teacher in role’ as well as other drama techniques being part of the National Curriculum, educationists everywhere need to find ways of delivering it themselves.

I can’t imagine working any other way. I am currently doing author visits to support my new book, Unicorn Girl, and inspiring the students to think creatively is at the heart of what are proving to be popular workshops.

In the book, my heroine Ariella has recently moved house and school. She is smaller than everyone else, is being picked on by the school bully and is desperately worried about her baby brother, Boo, who was born with a hole in his heart. Enter Albert, a frightened and scruffy young unicorn foal who looks like he needs her help.

The story is about their journey together and is illustrated with beautiful black and white drawings that I use as the starting point for the workshops I do.

At the beginning of each school visit, I lay out three very large versions of these pictures; one from the start of the book where Ariella and Albert are unsure of themselves and each other; one from the middle of the book where they are gaining in confidence and one at the end where they have overcome the hurdles in their way. I don’t want to spell it out much more than this because I don’t want to spoil the story! But you get the idea. There is a narrative arc to this. The characters develop.

The pictures give the students a way of talking about the themes in the book, even if they haven’t read it yet. But to get them imaginatively involved, I ask them to choose the one image they like most and ‘graffiti’ onto it the words and phrases that come to mind. This process involves some pairing up, a lot of chatting and a great deal of walking round the pictures and deciding what to do. And that’s before they start practicing on different pieces of paper with coloured pencils to get exactly the right image, preparing to draw it one last time onto the final picture – no second chances.

The feedback so far has been fantastic. The walking around and freedom to be creative makes it easier for everyone to talk about what’s in front of them. Sometimes it gets noisy and messy but it’s never dull.

My passionate belief in using imagination to connect with children comes from personal experience.

When I was 13 years old, my father announced to the family, out of the blue, that in six weeks’ time we would be going to live in Israel. It would be difficult to exaggerate the impact the move had on me – leaving behind my friends, my school and everything that was familiar to start a new life somewhere where I didn’t speak the language or know a single person. I wondered if I would ever fit in or be happy again.

It’s perhaps no surprise then, that the main characters in my novels often find themselves living in a new area or starting a new school, just like Ariella. It’s a theme I come back to again and again, almost as if I’m still coming to terms with the trauma of moving all those years ago.

I remember, during those first few weeks in Israel, I developed a strange coping mechanism. I used to pretend I was in a movie. I would stand at the bus stop, waiting for the number 90 bus that would take me to my new school, and I would imagine a camera crew filming me for a ground-breaking documentary. I devised the script in my head: Anne-Marie is waiting for the number 90 bus that will take her to her new school. Steam rises from the boiling tarmac, the air around her filled with clouds of sandy dust.

I used to tell myself that when the filming was finished, I’d be going back to my old life and the nightmare would be over. Not only that, but I’d be a huge star. (And this was years before the concept of reality TV even existed.)

Ariella in Unicorn Girl escapes into her imagination too. I’ll leave you to decide exactly how, but Albert appears in her life shortly after her beloved Granny Rae dies.

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Illustration credit: Shannon Conway

Albert has fallen through an invisible barrier that separates the unicorn world from the human world and he has no idea how to get back. It was important to me, when I was writing the book, that Ariella would be instrumental in helping Albert, rather than Albert appearing solely to help Ariella. I wanted their relationship to sustain her, but ultimately empower her. Albert is trying to get back to his old world, but Ariella can’t go back. She has to find a way to fit in to her new world, however difficult that might be.

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Illustration credit: Shannon Conway

The journey they embark on is funny and touching and full of setbacks but on the way, almost without realising, they grow strong and brave and full of courage, until finally, they are able to scale the emotional, as well as physical hurdles in their way.

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Illustration credit: Shannon Conway

Pretending to star in my own movie helped me through some dark, lonely times, too. It helped me to navigate the new and unfamiliar world that was so alien to me, until, slowly, without even realising, the gap between observing my new life and living it, got smaller and smaller.

I don’t think my response to a distressing situation was unique, nor is Ariella’s. A lot of children retreat into an imaginary world to some degree. It is part of how they negotiate their way towards the adult world. This is where drama in the classroom can be so powerful. If children are already working through thoughts and fears in their imaginative worlds, teachers can connect with them quickly by meeting them on familiar ground. We need to have faith that if we meet children halfway, if we stretch out a hand, they will stretch theirs back to meet us.

In practical terms, for teachers, this can mean dressing up, getting into role, entering into the drama. As soon as you put on a hat, or a cloak, or change your voice, students believe. And there are plenty of techniques to help you guide and control this more creative approach to learning. I use a tambourine to signal what I expect from the group. A shake means; ‘Finish up, sit down, it’s time to share what we’ve been doing.’ A loud bang means; ‘Freeze’. It’s important to keep activities short so that the pace of the lesson moves along, and it’s useful to stop at regular intervals to make sure the children are focused and on task.

Although, in my experience, whilst the lessons might be more chaotic than the average maths lesson, there is nothing sweeter than the noise of children devising a piece of drama to enhance and deepen their learning.

The workshop I now do around Unicorn Girl has brought together so many strands of my life, it’s caught me by surprise. I use the content I’ve created as an author, the skills I use as a teacher and the insights of that young girl, finding herself vulnerable and alone in Israel.

I’m out of my comfort zone a lot of the time – learning new things with every visit. But one thing’s for sure…I’m never bored.

Unicorn Girl is available from Peter’s and good bookshops as well as on Amazon and Kindle. Anne-Marie Conway is currently booking school author visits for 2019.
For more information, please visit
www.annemarieconwaybooks.com


Big thanks to Anne-Marie and Michele for all your help in organising this stop on Anne-Marie’s blog tour and for providing the prizes for the giveaway. Extra thanks also to Anne-Marie for writing such an inspiring guest post, especially at this busy time of year!

Mr E


Giveaway!

 

So to celebrate the blog tour of Unicorn Girl, I am delighted to say that Anne-Marie has kindly given me TWO signed copies of her book to give away to one of my followers on Twitter along with two unicorn charm necklaces.
If you’d like a chance of winning this superb prize, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!


Blog Tour (Guest Post): Frostfire – Jamie Smith (Illustrated by Karl James Mountford)

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Title: Frostfire
Author: Jamie Smith (@JamieHBSmith)
Illustrator (Cover): Karl James Mountford (@karlj_mountford)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 288
Date of publication: 1st November 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1911077879

Perfect for Year 5 & Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1) Mountain 🏔️
2) Avalanche ❄️
3) Secrets 🤐


Chosen for the honour of bonding with a frostsliver – a fragment of the sentient glacier that crests her icy home – Sabira embarks on the dangerous pilgrimage to the top of the mountain. But when a huge avalanche traps her on the glacier and destroys the pass, Sabira is determined to find another way home.

In order to survive, she must face up to the merciless mountain – but there are dark and fiery secrets hiding in its depths…


I’m delighted to welcome Jamie Smith, author of Frostfire, to The Reader Teacher where he shares his exclusive guest post talking about how he can push the boundaries of the fantasy genre and how this makes him think more innovatively about the way he builds his worlds…

Tolkien’s Legacy by Jamie Smith

For decades, the shadow of fantasy’s biggest name has loomed large. Only recently have others begun to chip away at the legend that Lord of the Rings built – and deservedly so. It’s a great world, with fantastic characters and plenty of original ideas! However, I can’t help but feel that the super success of the books has limited what fantasy can be for all too long. It doesn’t have to be elves and dwarves all the way down!

These concepts, along with the dark lord, orcs and countless others became the foundation for other mega-franchises and have stuck around ever since. You’ll never see an elf in my books. Not because they can’t be interesting, but because I’ve seen them so many times before. I’d rather build something new and personal to me than putting a new spin on someone else’s idea.

Fortunately, in recent years, it seems like a number of other authors are coming to agree with me. Names like Brandon Sanderson, Brent Weeks, Tomi Adeyemi and more. Every time I see something fresh, it inspires me to do better too – and the further the fantasy genre is pushed, the better. It’s a place where literally anything can happen, after all!

That’s why my book has a sentient glacier in it, and not a hint of a dark lord in sight.

I’m hoping that by expanding the worlds we tell these kinds of stories in, I and others can help break free of the weight of those writers that came before (while still using them for a leg up from time to time). That way, we don’t have the limits of medieval Europe constraining us, and we can be more inclusive with our characters. Even our world is full of places that are not stone castles and mild-weathered woodland, after all.

So, I do my best to fill my world with strange creatures, fantastic magic, heroes with strength of character and flaws to overcome, just like Tolkien did when he (practically) founded the genre.

I’ll just paint a different picture over the top while I do it.


FROSTFIRE by Jamie Smith,
out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com
and follow Jamie
@JamieHBSmith and jhbsmith.com


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Look our for more reviews and guest posts from Jamie on the rest of the Frostfire blog tour from these brilliant book bloggers!

Guest Post: Picklewitch and Jack – Claire Barker (Illustrated by Teemu Juhani)

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‘Absolutely whizz-carking… the kind of charming story that has the perfect mix of playfulness and peculiarity and will have you begging for its next!’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Picklewitch and Jack
Author: Claire Barker (@clairebarker)
Illustrator: Teemu Juhani
Publisher: Faber (@FaberChildrens)
Page count: 240
Date of publication: 6th September 2018
Series status: First in the series
ISBN: 978-0571335183

Perfect for Year 3 and Year 4.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Witch 🧙
2. Whizz-cracking 😄
3. Friendship 👫


Picklewitch lives in a tree at the bottom of the garden. She has a nose for naughtiness, a mind for mischief and a weakness for cake. And unluckily for brainbox and all-round-good-two-shoes Jack (who’s just moved in) – she’s about to choose him as her new best friend…

Jack is in for a whole lot of trouble!


I’m delighted to welcome Claire Barker, author of the fantastic Knitbone Pepper series and more recently, the Picklewitch series, to The Reader Teacher!

Claire is busy writing the next book in the Picklewitch and Jack series, due out next year. She has handed this blog over to her main characters, Jack and Picklewitch to talk about how the book might be used in the classroom. Enjoy!

Jack Door

Winner of most sensible boy three years running and massive fan of everything school and rule-related.

Dear teachers, I hear some of you are reading our story in class, which is very exciting. A longer chapter book full of illustrations, I am told it is ideal for year 3.  I hope you like my suggestions.*

  1. Our story is about playground life, about celebrating difference, being open-minded and challenging gender stereotypes. Most of all though, it is about friendship. Personally, I believe in looking smart, sticking to the rules and being extraordinarily clever. One day I will probably be a Nobel prize winning scientist or possibly an astronaut. However it turns out that being a good friend is also important, but unlike quadratic equations, tricky. I searched for a non-fiction book on this subject in the library, but had no luck. Hopefully this book will help any other children who are forced to be friends with a rude, grubby little witch.
  2. Language and Literacy. Personally I am a big believer in using only standard English. However, you could also use the book to look at Picklewitch’s ‘interesting’ vocabulary, her dialect and sentence structure. You could also look at character development, the tension between opposites, how dialogue and humour is used and the ups and downs of a story arc. Perhaps write some pretend spells and read them aloud! You could even get in touch with Claire Barker on her website (clairebarkerauthor.com) and she will skype your class about inspiration, drafting and editing. There are even some downloadable worksheets on there too.

*  Was in pie chart format but Picklewitch ate it.

PICKLEWITCH

Lives in a tree. Never wrong. Best Friend Ever.

My story is the kipper’s knickers and you should use it becuz:

1) READING IS FUN. My book is lovely and long, with lots of pictures of me (and a few of Jack) inside.

2) it teaches children about Nature WHICH IS MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL THE THINGS. Even owls know this and 50% of everything they say is ‘TWIT’.

3) Science: not nearly enough children know that the weather is caused by a bear wot does live on the moon. It is madness.

4) Maths: how many burds fit into a bin lid? Answer in back of book.

5) Literacy: not difficultatious (that’s a word I invented. I am very good with words).

6) This book will mean more laughing.

7 ) This book will mean more cake.

8) This book will mean more magic.

9) There is no 9.

10) Some pies taste better than others.

Blog Tour: (Review & Guest Post) Danny and the Dream Dog – Fiona Barker (Illustrated by Howard Gray)

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‘Capturing perfectly the character, companionship and camaraderie (and sometimes… the chaos) that a dog naturally brings to a home, this is a heartfelt story that’ll warm the hearts of animal lovers everywhere.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Danny and the Dream Dog
Author: Fiona Barker (@Fi_BGB)
Illustrator: Howard Gray (@hwigray)
Publisher: Tiny Tree (@TinyTreeBooks)
Page count: 32
Date of publication: 25th October 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1910265659

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

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Dreams 💭
2. Dogs 🐕
3.  Friendship 💓


Danny really, really wants a dog, but Mum says no.

Find out whether a new neighbour can help Danny achieve his dream and much more besides.

A story about finding friendship in unexpected places.


Review: Danny is like most schoolchildren up and down the country. He dreams of having his very own dog. But unfortunately for him, his dreams come crashing down as his mum puts to a stop to this very thought. So what can he do? Well he’s already asked nicely, pleaded, whined and finally begged… but it all appears that it’s in vain. Doing his best to try to hound(!) his mum to get him a dog, he even does a pretty convincing job at looking after his toy dog.

But mum’s better judgement still wins through as she explains to Danny that this is the sensible option because there’ll be no-one to care for Danny’s dream dog during the day so for now, Danny’s dream dog stays… well… a dream.

That all changes however when a new neighbour moves in downstairs and Danny’s dream becomes a bit closer to home. Mum’s lined him up for the job of walking Mrs Owen’s dog, Maximus and Danny thinks all his Christmases have come at once.

However upon meeting Maximus for the first time, Danny’s best laid plans go awry as Maximus behaves more like a cheeky monkey than a show dog. Rabbit-chasing, squirrel-hunting, puddle-splashing Maximus ends up being the talk of the town, sometimes for all the wrong reasons!

But Maximus is far too loveable to stay mad at and Danny ends up growing increasingly fond of seeing him, but only at the end of the day.

Realising that looking after a dog takes far more effort than he first thought, Danny like the rest of us recognises the power of man’s best friend and falls under his spell… and his wet tongue!

This is a heartfelt story that’ll warm the hearts of animal lovers everywhere. Growing up as someone who’s always had a dog by my side, this book with Howard’s charming illustrations, reminds me why I always have and captures perfectly the character, companionship and camaraderie (and sometimes… the chaos) that a dog naturally brings to a home.

Empathy, education and emotion are at the heart of this touching story that children will want read and re-read again, so much so that it’ll probably end up becoming dog-eared (which is a very good thing!).


I am delighted to welcome Fiona Barker to The Reader Teacher, as part of the Danny and the Dream Dog blog tour, with a brilliant insight in to her working with a charity as part of writing it…
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I didn’t write this as an ‘issue’ book or a charity book but when you finish Danny’s story you will see some information about The Cinnamon Trust.

I didn’t write the story with the Trust in mind but once I had written it then it felt very relevant as it covers the theme of how helping someone look after their pet can bring people together. That’s what The Cinnamon Trust does. It’s an amazing charity helping people in their last years and their companion animals, including dogs. The Trust maintains a register of 15,000 volunteers who help owners care for their much-loved pets in their own homes. The Trust helps over 30,000 people and their pets stay together every year. I hoped I could help raise awareness of the charity through telling the story.

While working on the book, I was privileged to meet volunteers Caz and Elaine and dog owners Chris and Tony. You can watch their stories in these short videos:

It really is a win-win-win situation for the owners, volunteers and pets. That’s what we’ve tried to sum up in the penultimate spread.

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The Trust is always looking for new volunteers across the UK if you think you might be able to help.

Tips for working with a charity on a book:

Approach them early on in the process

Explain clearly what you are planning

Negotiate what you will provide and what you expect from them – make it clear whether or not this is a financial arrangement or something reciprocal about raising awareness.

Put it in writing – this doesn’t need to be a formal contract but make sure both sides are happy.

Keep them informed throughout the journey to publication.

I’m really looking forward to spreading the word about the Trust at author events and school visits. I’m hoping that along with hearing the story and having some dog-themed fun at an event, children and adults will take home a little bit of knowledge about the Trust and its wonderful volunteers, almost without realising!

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Danny and the Dream Dog is available to pre-order online and from any good bookshop.

Big thanks to Fiona for inviting me to be a part of this brilliant blog tour, for writing her fantastic blog post and for sending me an advance copy of Danny and the Dream Dog!

Mr E


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Keep a look out this week and last for more review posts and exclusive content from Fiona and Howard on the Danny and the Dream Dog blog tour!

Blog Tour (Guest Post & Giveaway!): The Train to Impossible Places – P. G. Bell (Illustrated by Flavia Sorrentino)


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‘Wow! This incredible debut puts P. G. Bell full steam ahead in the children’s literature world. All aboard for the most magical of adventures that’ll keep you on the very edge of your seat…’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Train to Impossible Places
Author: P. G. Bell (@petergbell)
Publisher: Usborne (@Usborne)
Page count: 368
Date of publication: 4th October 2018
ISBN: 978-1474948616

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1.  Train 🚂
2. Fuzzics 👩‍🔬
3. Bananas 🍌


Today, as part of The Train to Impossible Places blog tour, I give a warm welcome to its author, P. G. Bell, to The Reader Teacher. Here, he shares with The Reader Teacher his exclusive guest post about how his previous job as a roller coaster operator helped him to write his debut novel in more ways than one!

How to Write a Roller Coaster of a Story

Once upon a time, I worked as a roller coaster operator. Part of the job was taking test runs several times a day to ensure that everything was functioning as expected. As the months passed, I got to know the rides very well – I could close my eyes and anticipate every twist, turn and barrel roll, and after a while I realised something: a good roller coaster is like a good story.

It has pace, structure and variety. It builds anticipation before pitching you headlong into the action. Then it gives you just enough time to catch your breath before twisting you one way or the other, sending you racing off into a new element.

Let’s look at anticipation first. It can be fun to throw the reader straight into the thick of it, but I like to have a little context first – a quick taste of normality before the inciting incident (that first, dizzying drop after the lift hill) arrives to snatch it away.

This was especially important for The Train To Impossible Places as Suzy, our main character, is a staunch rationalist who thinks she’s got things figured out. I needed to show her calm and in control before I crashed a magic train into her life. Even in those first brief chapters, however, the strangeness is creeping in at the edges, priming us for the chaos we know is coming.

When it arrives, I make sure it’s big and loud and fast and (hopefully) funny – a satisfying payoff to reward the reader’s patience. Then it’s a question of knowing exactly how long to keep the story at that pace before I ease up and give the reader a little time to reorient themselves. Too much action can be dull, and the sudden appearance of too many plot elements can be confusing, so it’s a question of including only what is strictly necessary and dispensing with the rest.

In practical terms, I’ve found this means I jettison about eighty per cent of my exposition, background and world building. I spend months cooking them up, and only trace elements survive to the final draft, but by then they’ve informed every line of dialogue and description, so the flavour remains. After all, you don’t need to know how Lady Crepuscula came by her army of statues, you just need to know that they’re there.

Anticipation, release; anticipation, release. It’s exactly how roller coasters work, and it’s not a bad model for an exciting story.

Oh, and one very quick word on cliffhangers, as they’re a key element in the anticipation-release equation: write the whole nerve-wracking, perilous scene, then put your chapter break anywhere from the end of the first sentence to the end of the first paragraph.

I could go on, but the trick is to always leave them wanting more.


P. G. Bell, author of The Train to Impossible Places


Giveaway!

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So to celebrate the blog tour of The Train to Impossible Places, I am delighted to say that Usborne has kindly given me one hardback copy to give away to one of my followers on Twitter. If you’d like a chance of winning this superb prize, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!


Big thanks to Peter, Fritha and Usborne for sending me a proof copy and beautifully-illustrated finished copy of The Train to Impossible Places.
Extra thanks to Peter for writing his utterly fantastic guest post!

Mr E

The Train to Impossible Places 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 exclusive posts from Peter on the The Train to Impossible Places blog tour this week!

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): The Missing Barbegazi – H. S. Norup

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‘Combining Helle’s love for skiing and the slopes, this is a snow-sprinkled story that’s so beautifully told you’ll want to snuggle up with it all night. This deserves to be one of this winter’s wonders.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Missing Barbegazi
Author: H. S. Norup (@HSNorup)
Publisher: Pushkin Press (@PushkinPress)
Page count: 256
Date of publication: 4th October 2018
ISBN: 978-1782691815

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1.  Skis 🎿
2.  Barbegazi 👹
3. Family 👪

Review: As Tessa’s grandfather, Opa, has told her, there’s Barbegazi about in the Austrian alps deep within the snow-tipped mountains. Everyone else however thinks he might have been a confused old man who maybe was telling lies but can she prove that her beloved grandfather was right to speak of these fabled creatures…?

As Tessa becomes more and more involved on her mission to find the Barbegazi, she doesn’t just find one but a whole family of Barbegazi in need of her help and soon becomes entangled in their lives far more than she could ever have imagined when setting out to find one.

As the book switches between its dual-narrative chapters between Tessa and Gawion, covering the days from Boxing Day to New Year’s Eve, we share a special story with even greater bonds holding it all together. Tight, inter-generational bonds that really do help to bring this story to life, in more ways than one.

Combining Helle’s love for skiing and the slopes, this is a snow-sprinkled story that’s so beautifully told you’ll want to snuggle up with it all night. With Helle, Pushkin Press have more than a promising author on their hands.

Almost like slalom meeting The Sound of Music. this is a different kind of adventure that ultimately deserves to be one of this winter’s wonders.


Today, on its book birthday, I give a warm welcome to author of The Missing Barbegazi, H. S. Norup to The Reader Teacher. Here, she shares with The Reader Teacher her exclusive guest post about the perspective behind her debut novel for children…

A Barbegazi Perspective by H.S. Norup

When I first had the idea for THE MISSING BARBEGAZI, I had never heard of a barbegazi. The story I began to write was the story of an eleven-year-old girl, Tessa, who wanted to win a ski race. A story set entirely in the real world, dealing with real world problems. No magic. No mythical creatures.

We were living in Switzerland at the time, my two sons were part of a ski racing team, and we spent every winter weekend on skis. I knew how desperately my sons desired the gleaming trophies. And I loved how tightly the kids from the ski club banded together and supported each other on race days, despite their internal competition.

Perhaps the book where a ski race was the climax of the story would have turned out to be a good book, but it wasn’t one I could write. In fact, I had not written more than one chapter before Tessa met a strange furry creature in the snow. It was some kind of elf, it was friendly, and it was scared of Tessa. That was all I knew.

After some research, I discovered that the creature Tessa had encountered was a barbegazi. As mythical creatures go an almost completely unknown species, but every bit of the sparse information I found matched the elf in my story.

The details I discovered about the barbegazi sparked my imagination in curious ways. For example, the fact that barbegazi myths are from the high alps in France and Switzerland, meant that I had to make up a reason for my barbegazi’s presence in Austria, where the story takes place. And, as the name barbegazi comes from the French barbe glacée (frozen beard), I knew their beards were important, so I decided female and young barbegazi needed beards too, and I bestowed barbegazi beards with magical properties. unnamed-5.jpg

Consolidating folklore and invented barbegazi “facts”, I wrote part of a fictional non-fiction book, called: Habits and Habitats: A Historic Account of Alpine Elves, to use in my story about Tessa. But it still wasn’t enough. The barbegazi, Gawion, wasn’t satisfied with a minor role; he wanted to speak for himself and tell part of the story from his point of view.

Tessa’s voice came intuitively, but for Gawion’s chapters I had to set guidelines to ensure his voice was believable and consistent. Many of these came naturally from the barbegazi’s backstory: in 1752, when Gawion’s parents were young, they were captured near their Mont Blanc glacier home and gifted to the empress Maria Theresa in Vienna. Here, they were incarcerated in the imperial menagerie until they escaped in 1862, shortly before Gawion and his twin sister were born. Their fear of being captured again led the barbegazi to avoid all contact with humans in the next 154 years.

The direct implication of this backstory was that their language would be somewhat old-fashioned and that the barbegazi wouldn’t know the terms for anything invented after the middle of the nineteenth century. Imagining how Gawion would describe modern inventions like a snow groomer (a huge metal monster that growls like a thousand angry dogs) was fun. Getting the language sufficiently archaic without sacrificing readability or pace was more challenging.

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The easiest measure was, of course, to write Gawion’s chapters without contractions. While writing early drafts, I experimented with words and sentence structure and listened to Austen and Dickens audiobooks to absorb their language and rhythms. I used thesaurus and etymology dictionaries to find words that were old-fashioned (but still recognisable for middle grade readers) and to ensure I didn’t use words that developed after the barbegazi had lost contact with humans. To create distance between barbegazi and humans and emphasise their view that humans are the odd creatures, I decided that barbegazi don’t distinguish between genders for humans and therefore refer to all humans with the pronoun: it. Furthermore, as Gawion had never experienced anywhere but the snow-covered mountains, all the imagery had to be linked to snow and things he might have seen in the wintery setting, e.g. Hope shrunk to something smaller than a blackberry at the bottom of a gorge.

Writing from the perspective of a barbegazi has been exciting, and, at school visits, it’s wonderful to hear the enthusiastic and inventive responses when I ask how Gawion would describe things like helicopters and mobile phones. The children love spotting and explaining archaic words, and they have been especially interested in learning about old expletives. So, let me end by apologising in advance if readers of THE MISSING BARBEGAZI completely stop using contemporary swear words and from now simply yell: POTZBLITZ!


H. S. Norup, author of The Missing Barbegazi


Big thanks to Helle, Mollie and Pushkin Press for sending me a copy of The Missing Barbegazi. Extra thanks to Helle for writing her superb guest post!

Mr E

The Missing Barbegazi is now available to order online or from any good bookshop.