Blog Tour (Review): BOOT: small robot, BIG adventure – Shane Hegarty (Illustrated by Ben Mantle)

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‘Breaking down the fourth wall between robot and reader, this small robot is sure to be a HUGE hit. Empathy, compassion and adventure combine in this read that’ll leave you feeling nuts and bolts about BOOT.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: BOOT: small robot, BIG adventure
Author: Shane Hegarty (@shanehegarty)
Illustrator: Ben Mantle (@BenMMantle)
Publisher: Hodder/Hachette (@hodderchildrens)
Page count: 240
Date of publication: 16th May 2019
Series status: First in the BOOT series
ISBN: 978-1444949360

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

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Robot 🤖
2. Empathy ☺️
3. Human 👫


Hello! I’m BOOT.
(I’m a robot.)

I woke up in a scrapyard with a cracked screen and only two-and-a-half memories. I know I had an owner, Beth, and I’m certain she never meant to lose me. I have to find her. I just don’t know her…

Join BOOT on a dangerous adventure to find where home is, what friends look like, and why humans are so leaky and weird.


Review: Waking up in a scrapyard with only two-and-a-half memories to your name may seem like something is wrong. But for BOOT it is glaringly wrong because he has been built to store millions of memories and even has room in his left butt cheek for emergencies. As you can most probably tell by now, BOOT is not a human. BOOT is a robot.

At the beginning of this book, we find BOOT inches from a smashing, mashing, bashing, grinding machine which is going to make BOOT in to lots of mini-BOOTs any minute… Knowing he has to get away fast, BOOT escapes the scrapyard to go and find Beth but this is not as easy as BOOT initially thought. Trying to make sense of sketchy memories, people like the detestable Flint out to get him and the world becoming bigger and bigger for every step that BOOT takes, it seems like this could be quite the challenge for him. Will he find his rightful owner…?

The biggest element of this book is the empathy that the reader develops for BOOT and what this book does so well is convey empathy for younger readers in the most humanely way possible. For when BOOT realises he is feeling certain emotions, it is almost that BOOT checks with the reader the strange emotion he is experiencing for the first time and breaks down that fourth wall between robot and reader.

Brilliantly illustrated by Ben Mantle whose illustrations go hand-in-hand in bringing Shane’s mechanical world to life, and with a rag-tag group of robot friends to help him on his way, a yearning sense of gutsy resilience that keeps BOOT going and a personality which is up there with the very best of fictional robots such as Wall-E, R2D2 and the toys of Toy Story; this small robot is sure to be a HUGE hit. For me, it’s on the same level as Tin by Padraig Kenny but will definitely appeal to that widely underrated 6-9 year old readership who love illustrated fiction and being a big fan of Shane’s Dartmouth series myself and recommending this lots, it is fantastic to now be able to suggest something written by him to a younger audience also. I know it’s certainly left me feeling nuts and bolts about BOOT and I can’t wait for many more adventures from Shane and Ben.

‘Breaking down the fourth wall between robot and reader, this small robot is sure to be a HUGE hit. Empathy, compassion and adventure combine in this read that’ll leave you feeling nuts and bolts about BOOT.’


As part of the BOOT blog tour, I’ve been asked to revisit a piece of technology that holds special memories for me.

When I mention certain devices and pieces of technology to the class I teach, they give me the most weirdest of looks back as if to say “Mr Evans, we weren’t born then” or “We think what you’re telling us about didn’t really exist” or “We think you should know as ICT co-ordinator that we’re digital natives”. But hang on a minute, for I was only born in the 1990s.

So the piece of technology that I remember growing up with is the Nokia 3310.

Having a mobile phone was huge in this era, and I distinctly remember my mum having a huge brick to start off with and then changing to this thing of absolute beauty and iconic status which has been recently updated.

Most fondly, I remember playing the wonderful game of Snake. For most modern day children, this game would not be enough. Watching a dashed line move round the screen almost one-pixel at a time taking its toll getting round the screen to eat another pixel-shaped bit of food and growing longer and getting quicker each time were many of the satisfying things about the simplicity of the game. Like most modern day children in front of their PS4s and X-Boxes (and other electronically devices that are available), I’m sure this game had many playing for hours.

So maybe, children of the 21st century we’re not all that different after all!

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Big thanks to Shane, Lucy and all the team at Hodder & Hachette for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of the BOOT blog tour and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the BOOT blog tour for more reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

Cover Reveal & Book Giveaway: The Frozen Sea – Piers Torday (Illustrated by Ben Mantle & designed by Samuel Perrett) – Published 5th September 2019

I’m so excited to be able to reveal the cover of Piers Torday’s incredible second instalment in the The Lost Magician series, The Frozen Sea (which has been brilliantly illustrated by Ben Mantle and designed by Samuel Perrett) which will be published on 5th September 2019 by Hachette.

I’m also super happy because the very lovely people at Hachette have given me five proof copies of The Frozen Sea to give away near to publication day!

Find out more below!


The Frozen Sea

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‘If you can imagine it, it exists … somewhere.’ 

The second incredible instalment of a spellbinding fantasy adventure from the bestselling, award-winning author of The Last Wild trilogy.

It is 1984 and forty years since Simon, Patricia and Evelyn and Larry first stepped through a magical library door into the enchanted world of Folio. When Patricia’s daughter, Jewel, makes a mysterious discovery in an old bookshop, she begins a quest that will make her question everything she thought she knew. Summoned to Folio, she must rescue a missing prince, helped only by her pet hamster and a malfunctioning robot.

Their mission to the Frozen Sea will bring them face-to-face with a danger both more deadly and more magnificent than they ever imagined.

What Jewel discovers will change not just who she thinks she is, but who we all think we are…


Publisher: Hachette Children’s Group
ISBN: 9781786540768
Number of pages: 352 


Piers Torday

 

I was born in 1974, in Northumberland, which is possibly the one part of England where more animals live than people.

My father Paul worked for the family engineering business in Newcastle, while my mother Jane ran a children’s bookshop in Hexham called Toad Hall Books. Alongside my younger brother Nick, I spent my very early years crawling around on the floor of that shop, surrounded by piles of books right from the start.

I was extremely lucky to come from a writing background. My grandfather Roger Mortimer was a racing journalist who wrote hundreds of very funny letters to his children and grandchildren, and you can learn the extraordinary story of his life in Dearest Jane, by him and my mother, Jane.

I enjoyed reading, writing and drawing from an early age. My parents loved reading to me, and I particularly enjoyed books with good pictures – such as the Moomin stories by Tove Jansson, The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien and Hergé’s Tintin graphic novels. Other favourites included Roald Dahl, C. S. Lewis’s Narnia series and Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. My mother was always writing as I was growing up – newspaper articles, gardening and cookery books, local history – and it seemed a normal thing to want to do.

My first cartoon, aged 7,  was about a superhero called Super Sid, which won a competition in a local newspaper. Then I started making comics, and my first one was about all the sheep who lived on the hills around us, called…The Sheep! At school, I spent most of my time in the library or the computer room, where I wrote short stories and funny articles for the school magazine.  Then I went to university, where I was meant to study English but mainly wrote, directed or produced plays and comedy shows.

My first job, in 1996, was in a fringe theatre in London, The Pleasance, where I started working behind the bar but was eventually allowed to read a few scripts and then help choose what plays were put on, both in London and at their Edinburgh Fringe Festival venue.  I was very fortunate to be a Trustee for the last 15 years.

Then I co-ran a theatre production company, touring new plays and promoting comedians. I also worked in TV for several years, including a short spell in Los Angeles, coming up with ideas for everything from reality shows to hidden camera pranks.

On a break between TV jobs one summer in 2008, I booked myself onto an Arvon writing course at Ted Hughes’s old house on the West Yorkshire moors, and it was there I began writing the adventures of a boy called Kester who can’t talk to people but can talk to animals, in an environmentally precarious world.

Finally, after 17 drafts, and many early mornings and late nights later, The Last Wild was published in 2013 by Quercus Children’s. It was nominated for the Carnegie Award shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, the UKLA Award, and won both Stockton Children’s Book of the Year and Calderdale Children’s Book of the Year. The book has been published in 13 other countries, including the USA.

That same year, I married Will Tosh, an academic.

In 2014, the sequel to The Last Wild, The Dark Wild,  came out, and won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. The third and final book in the series, The Wild Beyond came out in 2015, and was shortlisted for Islington Book of the Year.

After my father died in 2013, I found his last unfinished novel (a political thriller for adults) amongst his papers. With the agreement of my brother and his agent and editor, I finished the book for him , and The Death of an Owl was published in 2016 by W&N.

That Christmas, my fourth book for children,  There May Be A Castle was published by Quercus Children’s. It was a Children’s Book of the Year in The Times and has just come out in paperback.  You can also read some new short stories by me in Winter Magic (curated by Abi Elphinstone), Wisp of Wisdom and Scoop magazine.

I also occasionally write articles and book reviews for The Guardian, The Daily Expressand The Spectator, amongst others. I have judged the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, and the Costa Book Award.

My adaptation of John Masefield’s classic The Box of Delights  opened at Wilton’s Music Hall in London last Christmas, directed by Justin Audibert, designed by Tom Piper, starring Matthew Kelly and Josefina Gabrielle and was revived in Christmas 2018 starring Theo Ancient, Nigel Betts and Sarah Stewart.

I am now delighted to also be an Associate Artist at Wilton’s.

I am passionate about the opportunities for imaginative futures that reading allows, and have been a trained Reading Helper with Beanstalk Reads for five years, working with children on their reading on my local primary schools.

I am delighted to be a Patron of Reading at the inspirational St. Silas’s in Toxteth, Liverpool, and am a Trustee of the Ministry of Stories, a charity which works with children in East London and further afield to enable their creativity and storytelling skills in multiple different forms.

I am also a Patron of the magnificent Shrewsbury Book Fest, a visionary book award, festival and school outreach scheme all in one.

My latest book is called The Lost Magician, and was published in September 2017.

I am currently also working on the sequel to that book, alongside a new play and a new film, but spend most of my time wrangling our very naughty – but adorable – puppy, Huxley.


Ben Mantle

Ben was born in Leamington Spa in 1980, and developed a very early interest in things artistic, designing programme covers for school productions and even coming first in his local library colouring-in competition. From there he went on to study animation at Surrey Institute of Art & Design, graduating in 2003.. He then gained valuable experience working on Tim Burton’s “Corpse Bride” before moving to Brighton to work as ‘Head of Animation’ in a media company, focusing on Character and Background design.

He was also part of the Animation team creating the BAFTA winning ‘Big and Small’ CBeebies website. Since 2008, Ben has been working as a Children’s Book Illustrator from his shared studio in Brighton and he also produces screen prints and digital artwork to exhibit. He illustrated ‘Callum’s Incredible Construction Kit’ which won the Bishop’s Stortford Picture Book prize 2013.


Samuel Perrett

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Photo credit:https://uk.linkedin.com/in/samuel-perrett-8735a177/de

Samuel Perrett is Senior Designer at Hachette Children’s Group.
He also designed the cover for Piers Torday’s The Lost Magician and many more bestselling books from Hachette.


Pre-order: The Frozen Sea is available to pre-order now online at AmazonWaterstones or from any good independent bookshop.


Biggest thanks to Piers, Emily and all at Hachette for giving me the wonderful opportunity to reveal this stunning and spellbinding cover and for providing copies for the giveaway!

I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

Mr E


Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Hachette have kindly given me five copies of The Frozen Sea to give away!

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If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning a copy of The Frozen Sea, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

Proof copies will be sent to winners when available from Hachette, as soon as possible near to publication day.

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post – Why I wrote about the child of an alcoholic in Will You Catch Me?): Will You Catch Me? – Jane Elson

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‘Jane’s writing exudes empathy where history and heart combine to make this story one that you should hold so close to your heart.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Will You Catch Me?
Author: Jane Elson (@JJELSON35)
Publisher: Hachette (@HachetteKids)
Page count: 336
Date of publication: 9th August 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1444927788

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Heart 💓
2. Drink 🍷
3. History 👑


Most kids want adventures.
I just want normal.

Nell Hobs lives with a tortoise, two guinea pigs, two goldfish, two gerbils, a hamster and an assortment of beasts and bugs living in jam jars on her windowsill. She is proud to be the only naturalist on the Beckham Estate.

Caring for her family of animals is a good distraction from caring for her mum. But Nell knows her chaotic life can’t continue as it is. Nell needs a dad. So she hatches a plan with her best friend Michael: a way to make her dad step forward and catch her. But will she succeed?


Review: 

I have so much to say about this unforgettable, powerful and poignantly-written book. For many who read this book it will provide an insight in to a hidden problem. A hidden problem that children face today in our classrooms, our schools and our lives. But for some, this will be their lives. The life they’ve had to live, they’ve had to endure and for those, I hope this book is a kind of tribute to the suffering they have had to face as it acts as a stark reminder to everyone to be kind, compassionate and thoughtful to each other because sometimes we do not know the battles that other people are fighting.

As we are introduced to Nell Hobs who lives on the Beckham Estate, we discover that she is ever the natural naturalist who can’t help but adopt more animals to her mini-zoo that gets bigger each and every week with a new and additional animal appearing. But not only does she live with her mini-menagerie of animals but she lives with her mother. A mother who at first appears to be wanting to do all she can to please Nell that is until the ‘demon drink’ takes over. She’s an alcoholic. In a life surrounded by her mother’s empty promises, a home life that is way more erratic than anybody could imagine and the ever-present worry of her mother relapsing mean that Nell’s mental health is a constant source of agony and – rarely ever, ecstasy. For, whenever it is a feeling of happiness it’s nearly always short-lived and dripping with false hope.

This is why Nell starts out on her quest of soul-searching. She needs a dad. She needs some kind of stability. Someone to sort this mess out and someone to be her state of normal. But will she find the person that can catch her when she needs it most?

As she tries hard to balance school – of which with her chaotic life, she can’t help but always arrive late to – with bringing herself up, Nell takes some sort of solace in the community around her. Without her extended family, her neighbours and two teachers who are the shining light of Nell’s life, Nell would not be Nell. These people are her life; her crumbs of comfort, her lifeblood and when living with her mother becomes all too much: her escape route.

Then someone else comes in to her life. Unexpectedly at first, yet the more she appears, the more welcome she is. For that person is Nell Gwyn. Introduced at first by her history teacher, Nell’s namesake soon becomes the honorary ancestor and ally that she has been craving. Guiding her through her life, her imaginary historical friend is her inspiration. Can Nell help Nell on her journey to finding her father…? Readers will be in awe of the real-life accounts and pursuits of Nell Gwyn and will be itching to research her life after reading this.

Will You Catch Me? captured my heart in the same way that Nell Gwyn captured Nell Hobs. With heaps of heart and a story of history that also needs to be told, it gets better and more emotionally investing with every chapter. This is frank, real storytelling with perceptive and innocently acute observations that have the power to make you think differently. I don’t think you’ll realise quite how much this book has such an effect on you, it’s a life lesson. Such a carefully-considered concept for a children’s book that could only be delivered with the writing wisdom of Jane. Her writing exudes empathy and she establishes herself as an author that all readers should be aware of. For this is another of Jane’s beautiful books that you should hold close to your heart because like me, your heart will ache with feeling after reading it.

‘Jane’s writing exudes empathy where history and heart combine to make this story one that you should hold so close to your heart.’


Great Big Hill of Hope:
Why I wrote about the child of an alcoholic in Will You Catch Me?

In this, the first blog of my tour to mark Children of Alcoholics week, I felt it important to say why I wrote my children’s book, Will You Catch Me?

When I first said that I was going to write a middle grade novel about eleven-year-old Nell Hobs whose mother is an alcoholic people were taken aback. But then the headlines started to hit the media. Every Week there were news stories about the statistic that 2.6 million children in this country are affected by a parent’s drinking.

IMG_4388.JPGJournalist, Camilla Tominey’s Sunday Express headline ‘My Mummy Is Drunk Please Read To Me’ broke my heart, brought back buried memories and made me determined to give a voice to these children. My editor at Hodder Children’s Books, Naomi Greenwood, agent Jodie Hodges and her assistant Emily Talbot gave me their blessing and supported me throughout.

Will You Catch Me? is my oldest story, a little itch in my imagination that just wouldn’t go away. I had a recurring image of a young girl, running home from school and seeing her mother, an alcohol addict, carried out from their flat on a stretcher, people standing around watching and as she ran and ran and tried to reach her mum, everything going into slow motion.  In my mind the 4 Non Blondes song, ‘What’s Up’ was playing. The lyrics ‘Trying to get up that great big hill of hope / for a destination / I realized quickly when I knew I should / that the world was made up of this brotherhood of man’ were so relevant to this scene that looped in my mind.

The words – ‘Brotherhood of Man’ – the community which would be so vital to this little girl. Without which she would have nothing.

Fast forward many years, I switched on the television and Calum Best was talking movingly on the Lorraine show about his father George Best and the charity Nacoa – The National Association For Children Of Alcoholics – of which he is patron.  As the statistics rolled out that one in five children have a parent who drinks too much and that a 100 teenagers a day are made homeless due to having a parent who is alcohol dependent, my childhood came flooding back. My dad was a heavy drinker with a terrible temper. I grew up a very anxious, nervous little girl. One strand of the story was set.

I have always had a fascination with, and felt a connection to Nell Gwyn, the 17th century celebrity actress. In my late teens I worked as an usherette in Drury Lane where 320 years before Nell Gwyn had done the same job – they sold oranges then rather than half melted ice creams, so they were known as the Orange Girls. I discovered that Nell Gwyn’s mother was an alcoholic and that she did not know her father. Nell Gwyn was the perfect guardian angel for my modern day Nell, the protagonist of  Will You Catch Me? – whose mum is also an alcoholic.

Writing Will You Catch Me? was the most extraordinarily immersive experience of my life. In fact, I had an operation half way through writing it, and when I came too from the anaesthetic I woke up in the world of my book and was nattering on about Nell Gwyn. It took the nurses ages to get me fully awake.

As I worked day and night on Will You Catch Me? I visualised myself finishing Nell’s story and contacting Nacoa to tell them about my book. It was my light at the end of the tunnel.

I did not realize what a bright light in my life Nacoa would be. They are a group of truly amazing, passionate and strong people. Hilary Henriques MBE who is the CEO of Nacoa welcomed me with open arms and made me part of the Nacoa family. She is a tower of strength and an inspiration.  When I visited Nacoa’s headquarters in Bristol I was particularly moved by the telephone booths from which they run their children of alcoholics help line. Real children, in similar situations to Nell, or to younger me, can ring Nacoa at any time, in confidence, to get advice or just talk. After that visit I knew that Will You Catch Me? would be the most important story I have ever told.

The National Association For Children Of Alcoholics helpline number is 0800-358-3456. Children of Alcoholics week (10-16 February) aims to raise awareness of the lives of the 2.6 million children in the UK who are growing up affected by parental alcohol problems. For further information, including ways you can help and a downloadable #URNotAlone poster, please visit their website www.coaweek.org.uk or www.nacoa.org.uk

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Jane Elson, author of Will You Catch Me?

 


Big thanks to Jane, Fritha and all at Hachette for inviting me to take part in the Will You Catch Me? blog tour.

Extra thanks to Jane for writing her incredibly insightful guest post!

Mr E


 

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Be sure to check out the rest of the Will You Catch Me? blog tour with more exclusive guest posts, reviews and giveaways discussing this much-needed issue.

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): Amazing – Steve Antony

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‘A shining light in children’s literature… cleverly written, incredibly heartwarming and AMAZING. Pun intended. Amazing is the ultimate celebration of childhood.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Amazing
Author: Steve Antony (@MrSteveAntony)
Publisher: Hachette/Hodder (@HachetteKids)
Page count: 32
Date of publication: 24th January 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1444944709

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

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Amazing 😊
2. Dragon 🐉
3. Friendship 🌟


A little boy and his pet dragon are the very best of friends.

They laugh, they sing, they dance, they snooze.

They are both amazing – just like everyone else!


Review:

The unlikeliest friendships are often the ones with the most to share and to value. And this is no truer than in the opening pages of this beautifully heartwarming story as we are introduced to this bond between man and beast boy and pet dragon.

As Zibbo, the pet dragon, is taught how to fly by the boy and together they do most things, the boy finds that the dragon teaches him just as much as he can teach Zibbo. As the bond between them grows stronger, it is easy to see that this friendship will resonate most with its readers.

Laughing and learning, singing and sailing, dancing and drawing, snacking and snoozing are just some of the many things that these two share together. But it is more than just hobbies, interests and having fun that develops for this pair throughout this tender tale.

Inspired by Steve’s time working as a Special Needs Support Worker, Amazing tells the story of a disabled boy who is not defined by his disability. Complemented by Steve’s characterful and glowing illustrations, it evokes feelings of positivity, hope and inclusiveness which shine from its pages within where barriers are broken. This is a shining light in children’s literature that is forward-looking and represents realities in a way that makes it a definite must-read in the classroom, the school, the library and everywhere in between.

To end, I’ll leave you with its lasting message in its latter pages that can be applied to nearly all situations:

When we’re together, I know that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

An absolute delight… the text and refrain together with its illustrations work beautifully in encouraging readers to celebrate and share the joys and everyday discoveries that life brings and promoting the perspective that we are all special, unique and amazing in our own way.

Cleverly written, incredibly heartwarming and AMAZING. Pun intended… Amazing is the ultimate celebration of childhood.


I’m utterly delighted to have Steve Antony, author of Amazing, join us on The Reader Teacher today on publication day with this extra-special and fitting guest post where he shares his experiences and love for school libraries and how significant and vital school librarians are and how teachers continue to inspire him…

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The school library, my experiences and how school librarians and teachers continue to inspire me

I remember my school library well. At least once a week Miss Holcomb would treat us to a story time session. Cross-legged, we sat comfortably on the soft carpeted floor, watched and listened. This was back when I lived in the States, and so authors and Illustrators like Dr Seuss, Shel Silverstein and Margaret Wise Brown were regular fixtures at story time. I particularly liked Silverstein’s whimsical, sometimes poignant but always thought-provoking, stories. To this day The Giving Tree remains a firm favourite of mine.

But Miss Holcomb didn’t just read us stories. She also based fun and creative activities on them, too. She taught us that books are so much more than ink on paper.

I liken opening a book to opening a door that can lead to places you’ve never been before and people you’ve never met before. They can take you places where just about anything is possible. A school library houses hundreds of these little doorways, and each and every school pupil harnesses the key to unlock whichever door they choose. If they open a door to somewhere, they don’t really like, then they can simply close it and open a new door.

I enjoyed opening and closing lots of doors in my school library, especially picture book doors, but our library wasn’t just a home of books. It was a space for fun and imaginative play, too. The one thing I remember most about that library is how colourful it was. There were drawings on the walls and cheerful murals and multi-coloured paper chains. It was joyous.

I was a fairly shy child, so my school library was somewhere I could retreat to when I just needed some time on my own. It gave me the freedom and space to just be. More importantly, it gave me the freedom and space to grow.

As a teenager I was sometimes taunted in the school playground. I hated my first few months at high school. It was a tough time for me, and if not for the school library I would’ve probably wanted to drop out of high school altogether. Eventually I grew strong enough to face the cafeteria, but for a good few months I spent lunchtime in the library. The high school librarian will never know how much she helped me.

Now as a published author and illustrator I have the privilege of visiting school libraries up and down the UK and beyond. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many lovely school librarians from Swindon to Turin to New York and Taipei.

In February of last year, I visited the European School in Taipei during my book tour of Taiwan. I held two story building workshops in their spacious library which was freshly decorated with brightly colourful paper ‘Mr Panda’ doughnuts. They had a wonderfully diverse array of books that included titles from every corner of the globe. I had with me George the Swindon Library Bear much to the delight of the school librarians. As Patron of Swindon Libraries Children’s Services, I’m obliged to take George wherever I tour. (Once I accidentally left him in Manchester Central Library. Luckily a librarian spotted him sleeping on a shelf and kindly sent him back to me.) The European School Library was huge, but school libraries don’t have to be big to be effective.

Recently I had the honour of opening a school library at Lethbridge Primary School here in my hometown of Swindon, which already contains more than 2,000 books of all kinds for the children to read in their lunch breaks. Before it opened, the school only had book cases in each classroom, with no dedicated area for children to sit and read in peace. It was the PTA that managed to raise £10,000 to turn what was once a storage cupboard into resource filled with books. The children were all so thrilled to finally have their very own library, and the local newspaper were all too pleased to cover the story and photograph the long-awaited cutting of the ribbon.

Also in my hometown, the librarians of eleven secondary schools annually co-ordinate the Swindon Youth Festival of Literature. The festival is a vibrant celebration of reading, writing and creativity. During the festival, pupils work with authors, poets, illustrators and storytellers who visit schools for performances and workshops. Last year their line-up included the likes of Steve Cole, Dave Cousins, Ali Sparkes and Jonathan Meres. I had the honour of judging an illustration contest in which pupils were asked to visually interpret an extract from Carnegie winning Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean. Isn’t this just an excellent example of how books can be used to spark imagination and encourage self-expression?

Teachers and school librarians continually impress and inspire me with how they imaginatively use books, including my picture books, as tools for creativity. It’s hard to believe that my first picture book was published almost five years ago. In that time, I’ve compiled a growing list of activities on my website, most of which were devised by teachers and school librarians. The activities range from transforming your reading corner into a jungle to taking a virtual tour of London.

One of my favourite activities is to reimagine The Queen’s Hat (or Handbag, Present or Lift-off) by setting the story in your school or hometown. I have to thank Ramsey Junior School in Cambridgeshire for sharing this ingenious idea. The teacher simply created a small booklet of blank pages. The cover of the booklet read The Queens *BLANK*. The back featured my synopsis but with key words cleverly omitted so that pupils could use their imagination to fill in the blanks with things like GOLDEN POTS, NINJA MONKEY, SPITFIRE, HELICOPTER, CHEEKY HORSE and GOLDEN BANANA. The story is so easy to reimagine, because the plot is essentially a chase passed famous landmarks.

Miss Holcomb was absolutely right, books are so much more than ink on paper. They can spark the imagination and allow us to discover a world of knowledge, open our eyes and enrich our minds.

Sadly, many schools don’t have a Miss Holcomb. Only recently I visited a school whose teachers were fighting to keep their library open. Surely all children should receive the benefits a school library can provide?

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This is why the ‘Great School Libraries’ campaign, which was launched last September, is so important. The ‘Great School Libraries’ campaign (sponsored by Peters) is a collaboration between CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) CILIP School Library Group and the School Library Association. The campaign not only aims to bring school libraries and librarians back to every school in the UK, but also to gather data on the quality and quantity of school libraries that already exist. Believe it or not, school libraries are not statutory. The video below illustrates why libraries and library staff are more essential than ever in the 21st century.


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One of the simplest things you can do to help support this great campaign is share this the video along with the hashtag #GreatSchooLibraries. The campaign are also collating case studies to exemplify the importance and effectiveness of school libraries. For more information, please visit greatschoollibraries.edublogs.org.

Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank school librarians and teachers for all that you do. You are amazing.


Big thanks to Steve, Alison and all at Hachette/Hodder for inviting me to share my thoughts on this truly heartwarming book and for providing me with an advance copy! Extra thanks to Steve for his superb guest post!

 Mr E 


Amazing is now available to order online or from any good independent bookshop.


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Be sure to check out the rest of the #AmazingBlogTour with exclusive guest posts galore from Steve and reviews!

Cover Reveal & Book Giveaway: Swimming Against the Storm – Jess Butterworth (Illustrated by Rob Biddulph) – Out 4th April 2019!

Today, I’m so delighted to exclusively reveal the cover of Jess Butterworth’s eagerly-anticipated third novel after Running on the Roof of the World and When the Mountains Roared, Swimming Against the Storm which will be published on 4th April 2019 by Hachette.

I’m also super happy because the very lovely people at Hachette have given me five copies of Swimming Against the Storm to give away! Find out more below!


Swimming Against the Storm – Jess Butterworth

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Heartland middle-grade adventure set in the swamps of Louisiana, perfect for fans of Katherine Rundell and Lauren St John.

Our land is sinking. It’s disappearing into the water. And no one knows how to save it.

Twelve-year-old Eliza and her sister Avery have lived their entire lives in a small fishing village on the coast of Louisiana, growing up alongside turtles, pelicans and porpoises. But now, with sea levels rising, their home is at risk of being swept away.

Determined to save the land, Eliza and her younger sister Avery secretly go searching in the swamp for the dangerous, wolf-like loup-garou. If they can prove this legendary creature exists, they’re sure that the government will have to protect its habitat – and their community.

But there’s one problem: the loup-garou has never been seen before. And with a tropical storm approaching and the sisters deep, deep in the swampland, soon it’s not just their home at risk, but their lives as well…


Publisher: Hachette Children’s Group
ISBN: 9781510105485
Number of pages: 288


Jess Butterworth

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Jess spent her childhood between the UK and India, and grew up hearing stories about the Himalayas from her grandmother. As soon as she was old enough, she went on her own adventures in search of story ideas. After her undergraduate, Jess studied a creative writing Masters at Bath Spa University and now lives between the USA and the UK.

Her articles about creative writing, and short stories, have featured in publications such as The Writers and Artists’ Yearbook and Scoop Magazine. She’s published two novels for children aged 9+, Running on the Roof of the World and When the Mountains Roared. Her third novel, Swimming Against the Storm will be published in April 2019. Jess regularly visits schools and literary festivals where she works with young people and runs creative writing workshops.


Rob Biddulph

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He is a bestselling and multi award-winning author/illustrator. He is also the official World Book Day Illustrator for 2019 and 2020. His first picture book, Blown Away, was published in 2014 and was only the second illustrated book in history to win the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. It was read as a CBeebies Bedtime Story by Mark Bonnar in 2017.

His second book, GRRRRR!, was nominated for the CILIP Kate Greenaway medal and his third, Odd Dog Out, was nominated for a total of eight literary prizes, winning the BSC Festival of Literature Picture Book Award and the UKLA Student Shadower’s Vote Book Award. It was also read as a CBeebies Bedtime Story by Tom Hardy in 2017. His fourth, Sunk!, was nominated for the CILIP Kate Greenaway medal and shortlisted for The People’s Book Award and Oscar’s Book Prize, and his fifth, Kevin, was nominated for the CILIP Kate Greenaway medal and shortlisted for the BSC Festival of Literature Picture Book Award and the IBW Book Award. His sixth (Happy Hatchday) and seventh (Give Peas a Chance) books are the first two in the Dinosaur Juniors series. Happy Hatchday was awarded a GOLD Junior Design Award in 2018.

As well as working on his own books he also illustrates for other authors including Jeff Brown (the Flat Stanley series), Piers Torday, Jess Butterworth, SE Durrant and Christian O’Connell.  Before he became a full-time author/illustrator he was the art director of the Observer Magazine, NME, Uncut, SKY and Just Seventeen.

He lives in London with his wife and three daughters and hasn’t given up hope that, maybe, one of them will go to an Arsenal match with him one day.


Preorder: Swimming Against the Storm is available to pre-order online from Amazon, Hive, Waterstones, WHSmith or from any good bookshop.


Huge thanks to Jess, Dom and all at Hachette for inviting me to host this beautifully vivid cover reveal, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!


Mr E

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Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Hachette have kindly given me five finished copies of Swimming Against the Storm to give away!

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

Copies to be sent to winners when available from Hachette, just before, near or on publication on 4th April 2019.

CLiPPA Poetry Award 2018 (Shortlisted): The Rainmaker Danced – John Agard (Illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura)

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Today, I’m absolutely delighted to have been personally asked to celebrate this collection of poetry shortlisted for the CLiPPA, The Rainmaker Danced by John Agard in the run up to the winner’s announcement…


What is the CLiPPA?

Established in 2003, the CLiPPA (Centre for Literacy in Primary Poetry Award) encourages and celebrates outstanding poetry published for children. This year sees the largest ever number of poetry book submissions following a bumper year for eligible poetry. This year has seen an increase in submissions of almost 70%, from 19 books from 9 publishers in 2017 to 32 books from 19 publishers in 2018.

Louise Johns-Shepherd, Chief Executive, CLPE said “CLiPPA is leading an essential movement to build on the current huge popularity of poetry and the growing poetry market to ensure that poetry for children is acknowledged as an essential part of this landscape. The shortlist recognises not just great children’s poets but great poets full stop. We want as many people as possible to know about these wonderful works and CLiPPA, the Shadowing Scheme and the resources we produce all come together to make sure that they receive the high profile they deserve.”


The Rainmaker Danced – John Agard


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(Photo credit: Michael Thorn)

Title: The Rainmaker Danced
Author: John Agard
Illustrator: Satoshi Kitamura
Publisher: Hodder Children’s (@hodderchildrens/@HachetteKids)
Page count: 96
Date of publication: 21st September 2017
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1444932607


‘One of the most eloquent contemporary poets’
Helen Dunmore, Observer

‘A specialist in word trickery – Agard is one of our most consistent, culture-crossing spokesmen’
Graeme Wright, Poetry Review

‘With one eye on the past and the other on the present… readers – especially schoolteachers and their pupils – tend to love his work…’
Rory Waterman, Times Literary Supplement

John Agard’s poems display an intense integrity, never talking down to children, encouraging them to question, while being playful in tone, witty or satirical. They focus on social observations, play with ideas from mythology and traditional tales, consider new developments in technology and reflect on nature and humanity and their interaction. The bold black and white illustrations complement and counterpoint the ideas in the poems.

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When Questions Are Bliss

One of my most favourite poems from The Rainmaker Danced is When Questions Are Bliss.
Here’s a video produced by CLPE (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education) of John performing When Questions are Bliss.

You can view more videos of John Agard performing his poetry at the absolutely amazing Poetryline website produced by CLPE here.

You can also find a whole teaching sequence (scheme of work, lesson ideas and resources) for The Rainmaker Danced, including for When Questions Are Bliss by clicking here.

The Rainmaker Danced is available to order online or from any good bookshop.


CLiPPA Poetry Award 2018: The Shortlist

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The winner will be announced at the CLiPPA 2018 Poetry Show on 22 June at the National Theatre, London.

The full shortlist is (with links to teaching resources):

  • John Agard: The Rainmaker Danced(Hodder) Illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura – witty and satirical poems that focus on social observations, play with myths and traditional tales and reflect on the nature of humanity (Suggested for Year 4 and Year 5).
  • Ruth Awolola, Victoria Adukwei Bulley, Abigail Cook, Jay Hulme, Amina Jama: Rising Stars (Otter-Barry Books) Illustrated by Riya Chowdhury, Elanor Chuah and Joe Manners – a showcase for five fresh and exciting emerging writer-performers (Suggested for Year 7 and Year 8).
  • Joseph Coelho: Overheard in a Tower Block(Otter-Barry Books) Illustrated by Kate Milner – a powerful collection, offering glimpses into the challenges of a boy’s life, ingeniously threaded through with fantasy, story, myth and magic (Suggested for Year 6 and Year 7).
  • Sarah Crossan: Moonrise(Bloomsbury) – a moving verse novel for young adults, seen from the viewpoint of a young man whose brother is on death row (Suggested for Upper Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4).
  • Sue Hardy-Dawson: Where Zebras Go(Otter-Barry Books) – a first solo collection uniting a variety of voices with a wide range of poetic forms (Suggested for Year 2, Year 3 and Year 4).
  • Karl Nova: Rhythm and Poetry (Caboodle Books) Illustrated by Joseph Witchall – the first published collection from a Hip Hop poet, demonstrating the currency and significance of rap as a form, especially for young people (Suggested for Year 4 and Year 5).

The 2018 shortlist celebrates and highlights the diversity of voices in the UK poetry scene. From debut collections Sue Hardy-Dawson’s Where Do Zebras Go and Karl Nova’s Rhythm and Poetry, to the legendary John Agard’s The Rainmaker Danced. From books already receiving recognition – Sarah Crossan’s Moonrise and Joseph Coelho’s Overheard in a Tower Block – to the Rising Stars collection celebrating under-represented voices publishing their poems for the first time. The shortlist is evenly split between 3 previous winners and 3 debut collections, with 3 out of the 6 shortlisted books coming from independent publisher Otter-Barry Books.

The winner of the 2018 Award will be announced on 22nd June in the Olivier Theatre at the National Theatre in London. This will be the 4th year that CLPE has partnered with the National Theatre to deliver the Poetry Show which will include performances from children participating in the Shadowing Scheme and the shortlisted poets. The winner of the Award will receive £1000. Former Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell, will live draw the Award Ceremony.

The judging panel is chaired by much loved poet and CLiPPA 2003 winner, Grace Nichols along with Kate Wakeling, poet and CLiPPA 2017 winner for Moon Juice, Imogen Lycett Green, Director of the Betjeman Prize for Young Poets, Charlotte Hacking, CLPE Learning Programme Leader and Anthony Anaxagorou, poet, poetry educator and founder of Out-Spoken Press.

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Big thanks to Liz for inviting me to celebrate this wonderful poetry collection and the CLiPPA award. It would be great to be involved in many more!

Mr E
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Review: When the Mountains Roared – Jess Butterworth (Illustrated by Rob Biddulph)

‘A stunningly compelling & evocative tale that surpasses far beyond the highest of expectations, carrying with it an all-important message of preservation; of the potency of poaching; and of being at peace with the wild and the world; that will live long not only in the minds, but also in the hearts of its readers.’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: When the Mountains Roared
Author: Jess Butterworth (@J_T_Butterworth)
Illustrator (Cover): Rob Biddulph (@RobBiddulph)
Publisher: Orion Children’s Books (@the_orionstar) / Hachette Kids (@HachetteKids)
Page count: 288
Date of publication: 5th April 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1510102118

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Evocative 😥
2. Stirring ☺️
3. Conservation 🐾


When Ruby’s dad uproots her from Australia to set up a hotel in the mountains of India, Ruby is devastated. Not only are they living in the middle of the wilderness surrounded by scorpions, bears and leopards, but Ruby is sure that India will never truly feel like home – not without her mum there. 

Ever since her mum died, Ruby has been afraid. Of cars. Of the dark. Of going to sleep and never waking up. 

But then the last remaining leopards of the mountain are threatened and everything changes. Ruby vows to do all she can to protect them – if only she can overcome her fears…


The first line:

I duck low to the ground and creep forwards, following the two men and the boy ahead. / I know something’s wrong as soon as I step through the front door.


Review: Following the very much deserved success of Jess’ richly atmospheric and accomplished debut Running on the Roof of the World (which I reviewed here as my fiction choice for Books for Topics’ Best Books of 2017), she returns on familiar ground this year with what I’m sure will be another roaring success, When the Mountains Roared.

Heralding her Himalayan heritage, real-life inspirations and childhood experiences, Jess once again vibrantly and beautifully realises the lush, mountain landscapes complete with their soaring scenery and diverse range of flora and fauna but this story starts itself in a wholly contrasting way…

My fingers come away deep red.
My breath catches.
Blood.
I wipe my shaky hands on my trousers. There’s a leopard out there, injured.
And I have to find it before they do.

After a sudden flashback – later on reencountered in the story – we meet Ruby; a lost soul reeling from the sudden death of her mother, with no control over where she’ll find herself living in the world from one minute to the next and wishing for some stability, some routine, some normality and somewhere to call home.

Unfortunately or maybe fortunately for her, she finds herself having absolutely none of that. As facing yet more domestic and homely upheaval, the whole family – that’s Ruby, Dad, Grandma and Polly (her dog) along with an altogether unexpected animal companion – have to leave Australia in the dead of night whilst evading Dad’s ‘friends’ whom he owes money to.

Another new start. Another new country. A new hotel?

Another new start for Ruby this time leads the family this time to the dizzying heights of the Indian mountains where Dad has taken over the running of a hotel but things aren’t quite what they first imagined. A dilapidated building that only serves to exacerbate Ruby’s fears and the surrounding wildlife is even more on the scary side as snakes and scorpions scuttle around her and a bear banging on her door in the middle of the night suggests.  But all is not lost as Ruby makes an important discovery that could change her life forever…

The unseen, unscrupulous and often unknown world to many of us of the fight against poaching is highlighted and brought immediately into focus. This is where this book helps to provide a subtle and empathetic exploration in to the endless and immeasurable myriad of problems associated with it, whilst also providing the reader with more than a glimmer of hope in its resolution. This tale also has lots of educational potential and could be used in schools as a starting point for discussions on animal rights, endangered animals and the risk of extinction which is particularly relevant at this recent time of the death of the last male northern white rhinoceros in Kenya.

Ruby is most definitely her grandmother’s granddaughter all over. It’s her grandmother’s curiosity, stubbornness and willpower that’s been instilled within her that really makes Ruby take charge of the situation that she finds herself living in and to try her utmost, with her grandmother’s help, to seek a resolution. Ruby must not only fight her fears but stand up for what she truly believes in even when it appears that most around her, including her nearest and dearest, don’t. The future of these animals rests on Ruby’s shoulders.

Meeting Ruby at the beginning, she’s very much a different girl to how she started. She was subdued: a shadow of herself, pulled from pillar to post and fearing the utmost worst of every situation. However by the end of WtMR, she has begun to overcome her deepest fears and developed into someone who’s mother’s steely determination and spirit lives on within her.

Jess’ books are fast becoming favourites for many and she is ensuring that she is seen as a stand-out talent with her incredibly original style of writing. Culturally enriching, she really imbues her story writing with her own life experiences as somebody who’s been brought up in the UK but is still very much rooted in the Himalayas as well. I really gain the sense that writing a book – particularly this one – for Jess is increasingly more than just writing a book. Not only is it a way of highlighting a vitally important issue or a message but it is also about reliving the magic of moments that have become memories, of which I think your grandmother would be immensely proud, Jess.

That’s why it is such a stunningly compelling & evocative read that surpasses far beyond the highest of expectations, carrying with it an all-important message of preservation; of the potency of poaching; and of being at peace with the wild and the world; that I hope will live long not only in the minds, but also in the hearts of its readers.

If you’re not already a huge fan of Jess and her books, then I can guarantee that you certainly will be after this one!

‘A stunningly compelling & evocative tale that surpasses far beyond the highest of expectations, carrying with it an all-important message of preservation; of the potency of poaching; and of being at peace with the wild and the world; that will live long not only in the minds, but also in the hearts of its readers.’

Big thanks to Jess and her team at Orion Children’s Books and Hachette for sending me an advance copy of this beautifully written book!

This book is out in the wild today on the 5th April!

When the Mountains Roared is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E
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