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!

Guest Post: 10 ways to engage children and young adults with the 75th anniversary of D-Day – Tom Palmer for D-Day Dog (Illustrated by Tom Clohosy Cole)

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It is with great pleasure to host Tom Palmer on The Reader Teacher today with his guest post sharing his ten ways to encourage children and young adults to become engaged with the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

D-Day Dog is a beautifully written and compelling novel written for readers aged 9+, and is perfect for the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.


Jack can’t wait for the school trip to the D-Day landing beaches. It’s his chance to learn more about the war heroes he has always admired – brave men like his dad, who is a Reserve soldier. But when his dad is called up to action and things at home spiral out of control, everything Jack believes about war is thrown into question. Finding comfort only in the presence of his loyal dog Finn, Jack is drawn to the heart-wrenching true story of one particular D-Day paratrooper. On 6 June 1944, Emile Corteil parachuted into France with his dog, Glen – and Jack is determined to discover their fate…

A gripping and poignant celebration of the incredible bravery of the D-Day soldiers and the unbreakable bond between man and his best friend.


D-Day was one of the most significant days in the history of Europe and the world. The beginning of the end of Nazi Germany. On June 6th this year, Europe will be celebrating the 75th anniversary of D-Day. There are international, national and local events that will help teachers work with children and young adults to explain the significance of the day, along with books, resources, films and websites.

  1. Watch the news. On 5th and 6th June there will be extensive news coverage of commemorative events in Portsmouth and Normandy, including the MV Boudicca sailing with 300 D-Day veterans from England to France on the same journey they made exactly 75 years before.
  2. Get hold of a special edition £2 coin to mark the D-Day 75th anniversary, featuring a map of the D-Day landing beaches. Something for children to hold onto and remember and maybe give to their own children on the 100th anniversary of D-Day in June 2044?
  3. Go to your local public library and check out some of the books about D-Day in the history section. Some books have amazing photographs in them and first-hand accounts. Most public libraries will have several books on the shelves about WW2 and D-Day.
  4. Visit The D-Day Story, a fantastic museum in Portsmouth with a permanent exhibition that does a great job focussing the mind on the planning and actioning of D-Day. They’ll be hosting special events from 5th to 9th www.theddaystory.com/
  5. Go online and search for D-Day links to where you liveThe D-Day Story has an interactive map to help you do that: https://theddaystory.com/d-day-on-your-doorstep-interactive-map/The Imperial War Museum’s amazing online collection allows you to search for images and recordings of the men and women who took part in D-Day and made it home to be able to tell their story: https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections
  6. Look out for films on TV, including The Longest Day, Saving Private Ryan and Storming JunoThe TV series Band of Brothers starts with D-Day and is very powerful. There will be documentaries on TV too. But make sure what you are watching is age-appropriate.
  7. From 1st to 9th June the Imperial War Museum will retell the extraordinary land, air and sea story through their Second World War collection and three historic sites, HMS Belfast, IWM Duxford and the Churchill War Rooms, which experienced first-hand the events of D-Day. https://www.iwm.org.uk/visits/d-day75
  8. There will be events in towns and cities all over the UK.Some places will witness flypasts of significant aircraft. There will be parties. And many airmen, seamen and soldiers will be remembered in their home counties. Check out your local newspaper’s website for information.
  9. Read Tom Palmer’s children’s book, D-Day Dog, about a boy who joins a school trip to Normandy where he finds out hard facts about the events of 6th June 1944.Use D-Day Dog as a class read. There are free videos, activities and other resources for schools at http://tompalmer.co.uk/dday-dog/. You can contact Tom for free posters and bookmarks for all your pupils too.
  10. Some of you might be going to France for your summer holidays.If so, why not travel via Portsmouth and stop for an hour or two to visit some of the key D-Day historic sites and museums in Normandy. Visit the Normandy tourist information site for more details: http://en.normandie-tourisme.fr/things-to-do/sites-and-attractions/d-day-and-the-battle-of-normandy-113-2.html


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Tom Palmer, author of D-Day Dog


Big thanks to Tom for his brilliant guest post highlighting ten different ways to commemorate and be involved in the 75th anniversary of this momentous day.

Thanks too to Kirstin and the team at Barrington Stoke for sending me a copy of D-Day Dog.

Mr E


D-Day Dog is available now to pre-order online and from any good independent bookshop.

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): The Great Animal Escapade – Jane Kerr (Illustrated by Alexis Snell)

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‘Returning to this follow-up is like revisiting an old friend again…  with brilliantly-executed twists, this menagerie mystery is one not to be missed.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Great Animal Escapade
Author: Jane Kerr (@janekerrwrites)
Cover illustration: Alexis Snell
Cover design: Steve Wells
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 304
Date of publication: 7th March 2019
Series status: Second in The Elephant Thief series
ISBN: 978-1911490340

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Maharajah 🐘
2. Escape 🏃
3. Father? 👨


Working at Belle Vue Zoo is life-changing for Danny. Once, he lived on the streets, pick-pocketing to survive. Now he has a new family and a new job – caring for a zoo of exotic creatures, including the famous elephant, Maharajah. But when animals start escaping, Danny is the prime suspect: after all, everyone knows he used to be a thief. And when a man turns up claiming to be his real father, the plot thickens.

Can Danny untangle the mystery of the animal escapade – and find out where he really belongs – or will his wonderful new life also disappear?


Review: When it was published back in 2017 The Elephant Thief soon became a stand-out story for me, so going back to it with the sequel in The Great Animal Escapade – with its returning cast of characters and follow-up story – is like revisiting an old friend again.

This time, we rejoin a different Danny. One with a new family and a new job –  and a new life entirely from what he was used to on the streets of the first story. Working in Belle Vue Zoo, under the ownership of the Jamesons, you’d think Danny would have settled in to working life and all remnants of his previous life would have been soon forgotten. But think again! As his old life soon catches up with him when the animals start to mysteriously escape from their enclosures and all hell starts to break loose. Especially when Mr Jameson had plans in place to host the grandest of spectacles, a show featuring his most prized possessions and attractions – including the most famous of all, Maharajah.

Suspicion mounts and the finger ends up slowly being pointing towards Danny due to his background and his past life. But surely this level of sabotage can’t all be down to him… As word gathers pace, the zoo’s critics’ voices get even louder in their campaign in their threats to close it and even more animals escape, is the future of the zoo at stake?

With all this happening, Danny’s life is changing for the worse but with the appearance of a man claiming to be his father: will it start to get better and does Danny find that long-lost sense of belonging he has always craved?

Try as he might – and some may call him fearless; others audacious – Mr Jameson puts up the only fight he can to relent the oncoming fracas the best he can, still scheduling his plans for his show of all shows but will the show go on…?

There are important messages throughout this epic adventure of good-versus-evil: the rights of animals and the place of zoos in historical and modern society being the main one that will make the reader think more deeply. But in Danny, there is a much more pressing message in that care and love goes further than anyone can imagine.

With superbly-executed twists along the way, this menagerie mystery is one not to be missed.

It is so interesting and insightful to read Jane’s author note (and lucky for you, this is the theme of Jane’s guest post below!) in the back of the book which details the fact behind the fiction and the real-life stories of the Belle Vue Zoological Gardens in Manchester and Maharajah which inspired the idea for this book and its predecessor. Although this book is a sequel, it can be read as a stand-alone knowing that Danny has been saved from the streets. However, if you really want to maximise the potential of this story and become immersed in the quality of Jane’s writing, I fully recommend reading The Elephant Thief in all its glory.

‘Returning to this follow-up is like revisiting an old friend again…  with brilliantly-executed twists, this menagerie mystery is one not to be missed.’


You can read more about them, or as Jane calls them: the Disneyland of the North, as I’m delighted to welcome Jane to The Reader Teacher today with her beautifully-written guest post below…


Belle Vue: Disneyland of the North

Known as the Disneyland of the north, Belle Vue Zoological Gardens attracted more than two million visitors a year. And yet today, the only sign that it ever existed is a commemorative plaque at the spot where the entrance once stood.

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A Belle Vue programme cover  (Courtesy of Chetham’s Library)

Belle Vue began life in the 1830s as a small tea garden but the owner John Jennison had big ambitions. As well as an aviary of parrots, he introduced kangaroos, a rhino, a couple of lions, a bear and some gazelles. And then in 1872, he bought an elephant: Maharajah.

Over the next ten years, Maharajah became one of Belle Vue’s best-loved animals, giving rides to thousands of children, and taking part in city parades. He’s also the undisputed star of my books: The Elephant Thief and the latest adventure, The Great Animal Escapade.

 

But just like my fictional Belle Vue, the real park boasted many other attractions. The Jennison family built a maze, a dance hall, an archery field, several tearooms, Italian gardens and even a platform for hot air ballooning.

One of the annual highlights was a summer show staged on the island in the middle of Belle Vue’s boating lake. Local men – paid in pies and beer – were enlisted to play soldiers and act out scenes from historic battles.

Huge painted canvases formed the backdrop to these dramatic performances, while overhead, rockets and firecrackers coloured the sky.

But the displays were not without danger. Almost every night, the wooden stage caught fire and on one occasion in 1883, flames broke out on the island destroying half the painted scenery – a drama that provided inspiration for The Great Animal Escapade.

It didn’t stop people from coming. Such was Belle Vue’s success, that Jenison launched his own omnibus service to transport visitors to and from the park, and a rail service ran to the nearby station every half hour.

But the gardens were not popular with everyone. Local church leaders demanded Jennison stop business during Sunday services. His blunt reply was ‘I’m like you: I make my living on Sundays.’ They didn’t bother him after that.

The Jennison era ended in 1925 when the family finally sold the park. It was taken over by a businessman called John Henry Iles. He expanded Belle Vue, adding a rollercoaster and speedway track, as well as welcoming big-names like The Rolling Stones, The Who and Led Zeppelin.

But times were changing for the menagerie. As well as increased competition from other, more modern zoos, there were growing – and justified – concerns about animal welfare and conservation.

With little investment, Belle Vue was simply not able to keep up with the new thinking, and after 140 years in business, the zoo closed in 1977. Within four years, the other attractions had shut down as well.

Now, all that remains are memories “…of the most magical, marvellous and mesmerising zoological gardens on this great earth!”

THE GREAT ANIMAL ESCAPADE by Jane Kerr is out now in paperback
(£6.99, Chicken House)

Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com and connect with Jane on Twitter:  @janekerrwrites


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

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

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the The Great Animal Escapade blog tour for more reviews & exclusive guest posts from Jane and these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): She Wolf – Dan Smith (Illustrated by Jill Calder)

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‘With She Wolf, Dan succeeds in turning his hand to historical fiction once more. Both ravaging and raw… this should be top of the pile for teachers and schools learning more about Viking England.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: She Wolf
Author: Dan Smith (@DanSmithAuthor)
Cover illustration: Jill Calder (@jillcalder)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 320
Date of publication: 7th March 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1910655931

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Bow-and-arrow 🏹
2. Shield-maiden 🛡️
3. Revenge 😠


Northumbria 866.
Washed ashore on a frozen English beach, Ylva’s survived. She will not cry. She’s meant to be strong. She’s a Viking.

But when her mother dies at the hands of a three-fingered man, and the wolves of the forest circle closer, Ylva will need more than the memory of her mother’s stories to stay alive. Can she shape her own legend? Will it end in revenge – or is there another way?


Review:

With an opening where we encounter Ylva (eel-va), our bold and brave protagonist, left reeling and reacting in a state of shock after the murder of the mother to a terrifying figure and a mysterious woman who’s wearing her mother’s necklace, She Wolf starts as it means to go on. With revenge in mind, Ylva sets off on the most bloodthirsty of tasks: to kill the man who killed her mother. The three-fingered murderer.

Together with her dog, Geri – her loyal and trustworthy companion who sticks by her side through thick and thin – Ylva treads through the treacherous, frozen lands of Northern England in her plight to avenge her mother’s death. What we learn throughout Ylva’s very own saga is that she is most definitely her mother’s daughter. Gutsy, headstrong and staunchly independent, she is on a one-girl mission and nothing is going to stop her. But the journey is not easy and the weather is constant; biting and freezing and everybody is not as friendly as they first seem either…

Will Ylva survive or will she fall at the hands of the very same people that murdered her mother?

Fighting off foes and holding her belief in the gods close to her heart, this quest is more than a quest for Ylva. It’s character building and courage-forming. And for the reader, it’s both a ravaging and raw look at Viking life and what it would have been like to live during these harsh and historical of times. With descriptions of the wilderness that surround Ylva that arouse all of the senses, Dan has a canny knack for transporting us deep in to the heart of his settings: this time in amongst the trees to experience her epic, dangerous and sometimes, violent (although not overly graphic) journey first-hand.

Dan is the master of all-action, heart-pounding, breathless books and for me, She Wolf achieves this in spades. With She Wolf, he succeeds again (after the success of My Friend the Enemy and My Brother’s Secret) in turning his hand to historical fiction once more, leaving readers demanding more and more. This should be top of the pile for any teachers and schools learning more about the history of Viking England.

‘With She Wolf, Dan succeeds in turning his hand to historical fiction once more. Both ravaging and raw… this should be top of the pile for teachers and schools learning more about Viking England.’


Read on for Dan’s guest post of how a question from a young girl at a school event inspired the creation of Ylva… I’m delighted to be hosting him at The Reader Teacher.


Shield-Maiden – No Myth!

A couple of years ago, during the Q&A after a presentation at a school, a young girl at the front of the audience put up her hand to ask a question.

‘Have you ever written a story with a girl as the main character?’

Before SHE WOLF, I published five books for younger readers. Those books take readers through the hardships of World War II, they send them hunting in the forests of Finland, racing through the jungles of Costa Rica, and investigating a mystery in the icy wastes of Antarctica. All but one of those books (the one based on a film I didn’t write) have two main characters; a boy and girl. It made sense to me, having both a son and a daughter, that I would want both of my own children to be able to see themselves in one of those characters. But it would be fair to say that, yes, the boy was usually the main main character.

So I decided to change that. My next story would have a girl as the main character. But, when we think about Vikings, we think about large, bearded, menacing men with swords and axes, so how was I going to do that? Well, maybe it’s time to change our thinking; while researching the Viking Age, I discovered that women were an important part of Viking society. They had many rights and freedoms that the Christian women in the countries they invaded didn’t have. And when the Vikings eventually became Christians, those women lost their freedoms.

But what about warriors? Were there any female Viking warriors? I wanted my main character, Ylva, to be fierce like a wolf. I wanted her to feel comfortable with an axe in her hand. She should know how to swing a blade, and not be afraid of a little blood. Ylva needed to be a warrior.

In several of the Viking sagas – epic poems about great Viking heroes – there is mention of female warriors, known as ‘shield maidens’ but until recently, historians thought these were a myth. They believed that Viking raiders were all men; that women were not strong enough, or brave enough, or fierce enough to have joined the raiding parties that ventured over the seas.

In 1889 a Viking grave was excavated in Sweden, containing the remains of a warrior surrounded by weapons, and two sacrificed horses. Known as the ‘Birka Warrior’, archaeologists believed this to be the grave of a wealthy, famous male warrior. But during the 1970’s, and again in 2016, close analysis led bioarchaeologists to believe that the remains of the Birka Warrior might actually belong to a woman. In 2017, a team of scientists, led by Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson, carried out genetic tests on the remains and discovered that the Birka Warrior was a woman. A shield maiden.

And that’s what Ylva wants to be. 

So my Viking hero is no bearded giant. Instead, she is a brave and resourceful girl with an axe in her hand and revenge burning in her heart. Dan-Smith.jpg

Who says girls can’t be tough?

SHE WOLF by Dan Smith is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

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

Connect with Dan Smith on Twitter: @DanSmithAuthor


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

Extra thanks to Dan for writing such a superb and insightful guest post!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the She Wolf blog tour for more reviews, exclusive guest posts from these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet – Martin Howard (Illustrated by Chris Mould)

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‘A fantastic fusion of the time travelling of Adams, the humour of Pratchett and the eccentricities of Stanton. Outlandishly good… this is imagination at its pure and absolute wildest!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet
Author: Martin Howard (@MJHowardWrites)
Illustrator: Chris Mould (@chrismouldink)
Publisher: Oxford University Press Children’s (@OUPChildrens)
Page count: 336
Date of publication: 7th March 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-0192767509

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Cosmos 🌌
2. Atlas 🗺️
3.  Brains-in-Jars 🧠


Bored of the same old routine?
Longing for a bit of adventure in your life?
Love living life on the edge?
Then join Alfie Fleet and discover a whole universe of wonders (and things that are not so wonderful too, but we won’t go into that now).

From giant sand lobsters on planet Maureen and the Twang Bears of Mumsy, to the eerie (yet oddly quite boring) brains in jars on Brains-in-Jars World – there’s something for everyone. And if danger’s your thing you won’t want to miss Outlandish, with its gold-hoarding dragon, take-your-life-in-your-hands cuisine, and welcoming locals who’ll fire lightning bolts at you.

Thrills and adventure await, just hop on board the slightly old and rusty moped of infinity!


Review: After desperately needing some money and thinking that he’s in luck, Alfie Fleet (a poor, destitute young boy who lives with his mother in a ramshackle, run-down house) responds to an advert in the newspaper where he thinks he can make the extra £49.99 to add to his £100 to make his mother’s dreams come true to buy her the most wonderful of birthday presents: the Sole Sensation 6000 Foot Spa.

However (and it’s a common theme in this book), Alfie’s best-laid plans go slightly awry in meeting the man who he thinks will bestow him with this most needed of money. Meeting a professor might be a transformative experience for many but for Alfie it’s life-changing. Especially one who goes by the rather amusing name of Professor Bowell-Mouvemont and mark my words, there’s plenty more amusing names to come!

Taking Alfie on a tour where he experiences new dimensions, new worlds and new characters and creates a world for this book of its very own as Martin’s mind comes to life on these very pages through the incredible, inter-cosmological and inimitable illustrations of Chris Mould. As the professor reveals (rather hysterically!) that these new lands are often unmapped and undocumented, Alfie begins to articulate his adventures through his own version of the Cosmic Atlas. If you think you’ve seen one travel guide then you’ve seen them all, well think again because this ranges from the surreal to the sublime and will be a source of inspiration for its readers to create peculiar places of their own.

But as the Professor and Alfie are soon left to discover for themselves, the way back home may not be as simple as it first seemed. Can they return to give Alfie’s mum the present he thinks she’s always wanted or will they be trapped in this weird and wonderful world…?

It’s more than science-fiction or science-fantasy with every page taking you in a different direction and this is what makes it truly unique. Wacky, insanely inventive and heaps of fun, I can completely guarantee that this book will be lapped up by children (and adults!) who love laughing out loud due to its fantastic fusion of the time-travelling of Adams, the humour of Pratchett and the eccentricities of Stanton.

Forget the boundaries of space, forget the boundaries of time and forget the boundaries of imagination because this is outlandishly good. This is imagination at its pure and absolute wildest!


A fantastic fusion of the time travelling of Adams, the humour of Pratchett and the eccentricities of Stanton. Outlandishly good… this is imagination at its pure and absolute wildest!


What’s It All About, Eh?

If you are interested in the universe or anything in it then The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet is the book for you. Not only is it a proper science-fiction, fantasy, travel guide adventure, but it answers questions that have left science scratching its chin. Who could ask for more? As a taste of the surprises that await, The Reader Teachercan reveal just a few of those secrets. Glue your eyeballs to this screen for just a sample of that astonishing knowledge …

How Did Human Life on Earth Begin?

Let’s start with the BIG question. Some books tell you it all began with monkeys. Wrong! The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleetteaches us that stone circles brought humans to Earth. Yes, stone circles. You know, like Stonehenge. This is how it happened …

About a million years ago, a man named Partley Mildew invented stone circles on the planet Wip-Bop-a-Looma, starting a craze for inter-galactic travel. His circles had the power to send people across a bejillion miles of space in the blink of an eye, allowing humans to explore the universe. People loved them. Travelling to distant planets meant they could go swimming with Giggling MegaFish on planet Mip before breakfast then have lunch on the other side of the universe while their brains were spring-cleaned by friendly Limpation Cranium Toads. Soon, holiday companies were building bigger and bigger stone circles to cope with crowds of tourists. Across the universe, happy holiday-makers dipped their toes in the Sweat Sea on planet S’Panq, flapped across planet Win’span on homemade wings, or danced on Ominoss-Merkwerld, lit by swarms of multi-coloured discoflies.

Tourists first arrived on Earth about forty thousand years ago, and immediately described it as “delightful”. As the travel brochures said, “Comefor the fresh air, stayfor the mammoths.” Of course, these early tourists didn’t call the planet “Earth.” They called it “Toby”. Toby became a popular holiday destination, famous for its beaches and great restaurants. Some humans decided to make their home here, and also decided that Toby was a nice enough name for a boy but sounded silly on a planet. As there was a lot of earth on Toby, the planet’s new people took a vote and renamed their world “Earth.” Interestingly, the name “Chickens” came in second place.

Wow. Why Didn’t We Know About This?

As thousands more years went by tourism died off. Tobians, or “Earthlings” as they now called themselves, forgot they had cousins on other planets. They forgot what stone circles had been used for, too. “Hmm,’ historians thought to themselves. “These stone circles must have been important. Something to do with gods, I’ll bet.” It’s worth mentioning that if people don’t understand something, it’s often blamed on gods. Gods get quite cheesed off with this.

How Has this Incredible Secret Been Preserved?

Around the universe most folk had forgotten about the power of stone circles but one group remembered. They called their society the Unusual Cartography Club, and the members continued to travel the universe, mapping planets for their Cosmic Atlas: the finest collection of extra-terrestrial maps this side of Nerwong-Nerwong Plinky-Plonk.

That Sounds Like the Sort of Thing People Would Remember

Well, no. Not really. People forget important stuff all the time. Pyramids for example. If you think space travelling stone circles are weird, pyramids would reallyblow your mind. Plus, though the UCC wasn’t exactly a secretsociety its members got tired of people giving them funny looks. Try this simple experiment: next time you’re invited to a party, open a conversation by saying, “Hullo, I spent last week mapping planet Foopsie-Wigglefinger. They have pink ostriches with three bottoms there, you know.” Funny looks, right? And no more party invitations.  After a while the UCC’s explorers just stopped talking about their adventures.

Interesting. Tell Me More About This Unusual Cartography Club

It’s a club with a long history. At first, its members used Stonehenge to get around. Around two thousand years ago though, bits started falling off the ancient circle. Instead of repairing it, the UCC’s President – Dogstinkle the Crispy, who suffered from a bad leg in damp weather – decided to build a smaller circle, indoors where he would be out of the rain. More years went by and a city grew up around the new UCC headquarters. Empty fields became Wigless Square. Dogstinkle’s mud hut was demolished and replaced many times, most recently with a large mansion, now surrounded by other houses and Mr Hong’s Happy Dragon takeaway. A cavern was dug beneath the house and the circle moved onto a rotating platform. Invented by Medelaine Tusk, it made spinning the heavy stones to new co-ordinates much, mucheasier than shifting them about by hand.

The UCC’s mission of mapping the universe went on but the club lost members. Some got eaten by ghastly tentacled things, or blown up by unexpected volcanoes. Others just wandered off on worlds they liked better. Eventually, only one member of the UCC remained at Number Four, Wigless Square; one man in all the world who knew the power of stone circles: Professor Pewsley Bowell-Mouvemont. But the old UCC headquarters on Wigless Square was about to be demolished and the UCC’s maps, treasures and secrets destroyed forever.

No! What a Waste!

Woah there. All is not lost. Luckily, the Professor had a bad back and needed help with some light lifting and carrying. Enter Alfie Fleet – a boy with a destiny. Thanks to Alfie’s amazing brain-power, the old Unusual Cartography Club is about to change forever. Oh, and the entire universe, too. Sounds like fun? Well, read on. The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleetcontains further surprises about the universe, plus travel information about where to eat and stay on the planet of Outlandish, as well as stuff you did not know concerning elves, villainous scum hairdressers, Pulsating Swibs, and much, much more …

Enjoy! Or, as the Professor would say, “Who me? Ahh, what would I say? No, it’s gone. Forget my own … umm … thingy next. Something about prawns, was it?”

COMPETITION TIME: If you’re the kind of person who enjoys reading about strange planets and the weird people who live on them why not enter our competition? Design us a planet and Martin Howard and Chris Mould might help bring it to life so it can be included in book two of Alfie Fleet’s adventures! The winner’s planet will appear in the book and their name in the credits. They’ll also get a signed book, signed Chris Mould print of their planet and any other goodies we can lay our hands on. Probably chocolate. More details will be posted on Martin’s website soon: https://booksbymart.pub/


Big thanks to Martin, Emma and all the team at OUP Children’s for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet blog tour and for sending me early copies of the proof and finished versions in exchange for an honest review.

Extra thanks to Martin for writing his fascinating guest post!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet blog tour with exclusive guest posts and reviews from all of these brilliant book bloggers!