Blog Tour (Resources: Grace-Ella: Spells for Beginners) – Grace Ella: Witch Camp – Sharon Marie Jones (Illustrated by Adriana Puglisi)

Grace Ella Witch Camp.jpg

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Grace-Ella: Witch Camp
Author: Sharon Marie Jones (@sharonmariej)
Illustrator: Adriana Puglisi
Publisher: Firefly Press (@FireflyPress)
Page count: 160
Date of publication: 30th September 2019
Series status: Second in the Grace-Ella series
ISBN: 978-1913102067

Perfect for Year 2, Year 3 and Year 4.

1. Witch 🧙
2. Friendship 👭
3. Cat 🐱

Grace-Ella is nervous and excited to go to Witch Camp, with her cat Mr Whiskins, of course. She is put in a cabin with Dilys, Mati and Aisha. Grace-Ella likes them all.

But when Dilys’s broomstick flying goes very wrong, and Mati convinces them breaking the rules and going into the woods at night is the only way to help her, Grace-Ella finds herself on a real adventure.

Will she be able to save her friends?

To celebrate the publication of Grace-Ella: Witch Camp and this blog tour, I’m delighted to host these excellent teaching resources produced by Sharon for first book in the series, Grace-Ella: Spells for Beginners.

You can download them below!

Spells for Beginners Teaching Resources

Big thanks to Sharon, Meg and all the team at Firefly Press for inviting me to be a part of the Grace-Ella: Witch Camp blog tour and for sending me a advance copy.

Mr E

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Be sure to check out the rest of the Grace-Ella: Witch Camp blog tour for more exclusive content & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!


Review & Resources: Evie and the Animals – Matt Haig (Illustrated by Emily Gravett)


‘Matt Haig never fails to amaze me. Another complete masterclass in empathy.
One I’ll definitely be keeping on my shelf long enough to one day hopefully read to children and grandchildren of my own.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Evie and the Animals
Author: Matt Haig (@matthaig1)
Illustrator: Emily Gravett
Publisher: Canongate (@canongatebooks)
Page count: 256
Date of publication: 6th June 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1786894281

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

1. Animals 🐶
2. Mind-chat 🧠
3. Kindness 😊

Evie was a girl who loved animals.

But Evie didn’t just love animals. She didn’t just know facts about them. She also had a very special skill. A very unusual skill.

She could HEAR what animals were thinking. And, sometimes, without moving her lips or making a sound, Evie could TALK to animals.

It was her very own SECRET SUPERPOWER…


Meet Evie. A not normal child. A special child. As she’s so called by her dad. But then again most dads call their child special. So that’s completely normal. But Evie wished and knew it would be probably easier to be just a normal child rather than have the kind of specialness that she had.

For Evie was anything but normal. For she has a talent. A super talent known as The Talent. A talent so good that most of us probably wish we had it too; talking to animals. But it’s not quite the Doctor Doolittle-esque talent we all have seen before. This is a deeper, more refined talent of communicating through thought and the art of the mind-chat. As we know, animals are skilled in the form of non-verbal communication; a wag of a tail, a tilt of a head, echolocation, and many more modes of language are the ways in which they tell us how they are feeling. But Evie really knows their thoughts; warts and all.

Beginning with the school rabbit who hates being held up in its hutch all day and longs for the moment to escape. Cue Evie who puts thought in to action and releases it to the wild, hoping she doesn’t get in trouble in the process. However this small act of kindness comes back to haunt her as she discovers that the Talent that she holds is way more powerful than she could ever imagine. Promising to her dad that she’ll never use it again, it only takes a year for it to resurface again and this time everything changes…

With the animal world up in arms and every animal in danger, can Evie – who has the almost-telekinetic mind power of Matilda – use the Talent and herself for the greater good and use what she knows best and her inner strength to dare to be different and be herself in order to save everyone she loves?

Guaranteed to strike a chord with animal lovers, this book (with its joyful and fabulously distinctive illustrations from the incredible Emily Gravett) is, as we’ve come to expect from Matt, a complete masterclass in empathy. With one of the most important messages in a children’s books for years, this is a story that’s not just for the next generation but for all generations.

Subtly scattered throughout the story lies the true astuteness, power and genius of Matt Haig’s writing. He never fails to amaze me. In each of his books, there’s always something that will resonate deeper than you first think. Deeper than most of us realise that stays with us way after we’ve read the last page and this is no different.

I’ll leave you with one of these gems: ‘Kindness is a boomerang. You throw it out and you get it back. You had done kind things in the world, and you had been rewarded with kindness in return.’

For me, if I had to choose two attributes or qualities that a child can develop during their primary-aged years, it would be kindness and empathy and this book achieves this so brilliantly and in effect, makes this story a must-read. In fact, this is one I’ll definitely be keeping on my shelf long enough to one day hopefully read to children and grandchildren of my own.


There is an Evie and the Animals activity pack, bookmarks and a teachers’ pack available for KS2 which includes extracts, discussion questions and activities that are aimed at developing children’s awareness of the natural world around them and stimulating discussion around important themes in the story.

This can be found at Canongate or downloaded below.

Activity pack


Teacher’s Pack

Big thanks to Jen at Shapes4Schools and all the team at Canongate for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Mr E


Blog Tour (Review & Author Q&A): No Ballet Shoes in Syria – Catherine Bruton (Illustrated by Kathrin Honesta)


‘This story that needs to be told the world over champions compassion and community in a way that only a few others do so well… This book has changed me, as it will change you. My recommendation for the 2020 Read for Empathy collection.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: No Ballet Shoes in Syria
Author: Catherine Bruton (@catherinebruton)
Cover artwork: Kathrin Honesta
Cover typography: Anneka Sandher
Publisher: Nosy Crow (@NosyCrowBooks)
Page count: 272
Date of publication: 2nd May 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1788004503

Perfect for Year 6 and Year 7.

1. Kindness 💗
2. Flashbacks 💬
3. Community 🧑🏽‍🤝‍🧑🏽

Aya is eleven years old and has just arrived in Britain with her mum and baby brother, seeking asylum from war in Syria.

When Aya stumbles across a local ballet class, the formidable dance teacher spots her exceptional talent and believes that Aya has the potential to earn a prestigious ballet scholarship.

But at the same time, Aya and her family must fight to be allowed to remain in the country, to make a home for themselves, and to find Aya’s father – separated from the rest of the family during the journey from Syria. 

Review: Aya is eleven years old, sitting in her local community centre and is easily distracted by the music she can hear. Sounds a little bit normal, right? However, she’s also in a place most eleven years old wouldn’t find themselves in. Having escaped from war-torn Aleppo in Syria, she is waiting for a moment that could change her life. The moment when she’s granted safe haven in a country she’s only been in for three weeks. Unbeknownst to her, this may take more time than she thinks…

Holding her baby brother, looking after her mother and with no idea of where her father is, she sits opposite her case worker with the weight of the world and full responsibility falling on her small shoulders. As the story progresses, we come to learn that Aya hasn’t arrived in this country straightforwardly. In fact, her journey to get here has been arduous,  tiring, painful and one that’s been physically, mentally and emotionally draining from start to finish… and it’s not quite finished yet.

To some, community centres might not be a source of inspiration but to Aya, this is where she finds a source of unexpected comfort. Hearing the familiar bars and notes of the piano and the French language brings Aya back home to Syria and brings back memories of happier times when she used to dance. Feeling this, she longs to dance and it is only when ballet dance class teacher Miss Helena encounters Aya dancing to a tune of her very own that she asks Aya to join the class, offering at least some small hope to her.

Throughout the dance class, Aya doesn’t only find a group of girls that she begins to call her friends but she also begins to find herself. Led by a teacher who (for me, is my favourite character) sees Aya’s natural talent, embodies kindness and has her very own story to tell, Miss Helena suggests that Aya should go for a prestigious scholarship – one that could have significant and life-changing consequences for Aya and her family if she can achieve it.

Combining flashbacks of Aya’s time in Syria with her story of living in the UK, this powerful, multi-layered story champions compassion and the spirit of community in a way that few others stories do so well – and as such, it is my recommendation for the 2020 Read for Empathy collections collated by EmpathyLabUK. Even though it is raw, very real, personal and heart-wrenching throughout, it’s told with hopefulness, humanity and heart and I absolutely love it when the writing is this good that it makes me directly feel for the characters. This did so, effortlessly. My heart feels heavy with empathy for Aya and her family. This book has changed me, as it will change you.

Please think about buying this for your children in the later years of primary school who love stories, or are still searching for the one to get them hooked. And then read it after them because this is Aya’s story and it is a story that needs to be told the world over.

I’m delighted to welcome Catherine to The Reader Teacher today where she’ll be answering some of my questions about No Ballet Shoes in Syria, her reading and writing influences and using her book in the classroom with a link to teacher resources plus her greatest claim to fame!

Catherine Bruton.jpg

No Ballet Shoes in Syria (5)

At The Reader Teacher, for my reviews, I describe books in #3Words3Emojis.
Which 3 adjectives and 3 corresponding emojis would you choose to best describe No Ballet Shoes in Syria?

1. Heartbreaking 💔
2. Hopeful ☺️
3. Balletic Screen Shot 2019-04-28 at 16.22.04.png

Hope that is right?
My kids will tell you I’m not good with emojis! Apparently I misuse them!

Which books, people, research, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write No Ballet Shoes in Syria?

It is inspired by many of the books I loved as a child: on the one hand Noel Streatfeild’s ‘Ballet Shoes’, the ‘Sadler’s Wells’ books by Lorna Hill, the ‘Drina’ stories of Jean Estoril and ‘The Swish of the Curtain’ by Pamela Brown; on the other hand ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’ by Judith Kerr (hearing her talk at the Bath Children’s Lit Fest was a big reason I wrote this book) and ‘The Silver Sword’ by Ian Serraillier. After watching the heart-breaking new footage of the Syrian migrant crisis, I made contact with local charities and resettlement projects working with refugees, and was extremely fortunate to talk to members of the Syrian community in the UK. I think ultimately the idea probably dates back to my very first teaching experiences in Africa working with  child refugees from Rwanda, Angola and East Germany. Their voices – and those of other refugee children I have encountered over the years – are very much at the heart of this book, and the reason I wrote it.

What was the most enjoyable part of writing No Ballet Shoes in Syria?

I loved writing the ending, although it made me cry! I knew it couldn’t be a simple happy ending – that wouldn’t have been true to the complex issues the book explores – but I did want to offer some hope, to celebrate ‘the kindness of strangers’, the importance of community, the goodness that exists in the world alongside the harsher stuff. I hope it does that.

You use flashbacks really well at the end of chapters to recount and contrast Aya’s experiences of living in war-torn Aleppo with that of living in the UK and her journey from Syria whilst seeking asylum including travelling by boat and living in refugee camps in Turkey and Greece. For me, they are incredibly moving pieces of prose. Were these scenes difficult to write? 

Oh golly yes! For a long, long time I could not get this book right. Aya’s voice eluded me – sometimes she was there, clear as a bell, at other times she slipped away from me. And I found it particularly hard tying together the story of her past in Syria with the present in the UK. Until I realised that recalling traumatic past events, reconciling them with the present, looking to the future is incredibly hard for many children like Aya. That’s when I decided that it had to be done in flashbacks – at first the two voices are quite distinct, but as dance becomes a medium for Aya to begin to process what she’s been through, to let go of guilt and look to the future the two voices start to merge. I did a lot of research because it felt so important to ensure the scenes in Syria, in the refugee camps, crossing the Med etc are accurate and as authentic as possible, but some were really heart-breaking to write,  mainly because stories like Aya’s are unfolding in real life every day.

If you were to choose the character that is most like you from No Ballet Shoes in Syria, who would it be and why?

Hmm – I am probably a mixture between Dotty (talks too much, bit scatty, heart in the right place!) and Grace who – despite her name – is quite bad at ballet but tries ever so hard!

Reading and Writing (4)

What first attracted you to writing? Did you enjoy writing at school?

I have always been a daydreamer, a diary-writer and a kid who loved making up stories.  I was fortunate enough to have wonderful teachers  at both Primary and Secondary school who gave opportunities, inspiration and encouragement! #teachersrock #mrscott #mrcolman #misswaring #mrhornby #mraylin #mrsdaniels #missharrison #mrsbarratt #bestteachersever #thankyou!

Which parts of writing do you find energise you and which parts do you find exhaust you?

I love the thrill of a new story – when it pours out as if  I am reading it, rather than writing. That doesn’t always happen though. I hate it when I know it’s wrong but I can’t figure out why – or how to fix it. That’s when the dementors of self doubt descend! Thank goodness for my lovely agent, great editors and amazing writing pals who help drive the dementors away!

When you were a child, can you remember contacting authors or any of them ever visiting your school and if so, did this inspire you?

Ooh, no! This didn’t seem to happen in the 70s in the North! In fact I recently found out that I lived round the corner from Robert Westall (‘The Machine Gunners’) my whole childhood but he never came to visit our school. I wish he had! When I was young, authors felt very  remote people,  and I think that’s a great thing about Twitter and school visits and wonderful book blogs like this one. Putting readers in touch with authors is amazing – and it inspires in both directions! I love meeting young readers and they inspire me endlessly!

Currently, we seem to be living in a golden age of books, especially that of children’s literature. Can you recommend any other children’s fiction or non-fiction books to children (and adults!) who may be interested in the themes explored in your book?

Ooh, so many!  Booktrust have an amazing list of books for all ages about refugees and asylum seekers:

A few top picks from me  – old and new – are ‘The Boy At the Back of the Class’ by Onjali Q Raúf; ‘Jackdaw Summer’ by David Almond; ‘The Morning Gift’ by Eva Ibbotson; ‘Fox Girl and the White Gazelle’ by Victoria Williamson; ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’ by Judith Kerr; ‘The Silver Sword’ by Ian Serraillier and ‘The Bone Sparrow’ by Zana Fraillon.

Oh, and two real life accounts I came across recently: ‘Butterfly’ – by Yusra Mardini (the Syrian refugee who nearly drowned in the Med and then went on to swim at the Olympics) and ‘Hope in  a Ballet Shoe’ – Michaela de Prince (the ballerina born in war-torn Sierra Leone who was adopted by an American family and went on to become an international dance star).

No Ballet Shoes in Syria and Teaching (3)

“A classic story of heartbreak and hope, with wonderful authentic ballet writing and an important message championing the rights of refugees.”

If you were to ‘pitch’ No Ballet Shoes in a sentence for teachers to use it in their classrooms or for parents to choose to read it at home, how would you sum it up?

A classic story of heartbreak and hope, with wonderful authentic ballet writing and an important message championing the rights of refugees.

As a teacher yourself, could you suggest ways in which No Ballet Shoes in Syria could be used in the classroom for the many teachers and primary school staff that will read this and wish to use it in their schools?

I know some schools are using it as part of a wider topic on refugees and asylum seekers with a cross-curricular focus, so, I asked my colleagues  at school for some suggestions on how it could be used for different subjects. Here goes!

History/Current affairs: Find out about the history of the war in Syria – when, why did it start? How did it develop? How did the rest of the world respond? Why did so many people flee the country? What can you find out about the siege of Aleppo? What is going on  in Syria now? This could be explored as a newspaper article, timeline of events or cartoon.

Geography: Find out about the journeys undertaken by families like Aya’s who chose to flee Syria. Trace Aya’s journey on a map, find out what you can about the refugee camps she stayed in, the dangers of crossing the Mediterranean and other perils facing asylum seekers. Prepare a presentation/ debate asking ‘Would you risk it?’

RS/Philosophy and Ethics/Media studies: Find official definitions of the terms ‘refugee’ and ‘asylum seeker’. Then gather articles from different magazines and newspaper articles about refugees, asylum seekers, the migrant crisis. Compare how the issues are discussed in different sections of the media. Class discussion on whether countries like the UK have a moral obligation to take in more asylum seekers.

Maths: Find out some statistics on refugees and asylum seekers (there are lots to be found via the British Refugee Council or Refugee Week website) then record them in different ways – bar chart, pie chart, ratios, percentages etc. Extension task: calculate the distance Aya and her family travelled from Aleppo to Manchester!

Literacy: My publishers have produced a lovely resource with questions designed to enhance reading comprehension and analysis skills. There are also lots of writing tasks pupils could try: what if Aya wrote a letter to her father, or to one of her old friends from Aleppo? Or pupils could try using five objects to tell ‘the story of who I am, where I come from, who I want to be’ – as Aya does in her dance. Or you could bring in unusual objects for pupils to use as story starters – that always works for me! You’ll find them on the Nosy Crow website here

For those teachers reading this Q&A and would like to enquire about arranging the opportunity of a school visit from yourself, how would it be best to contact you regarding this?

Send me a tweet via @catherinebruton or email my publisher Nosy Crow at

Two more before you go (2)!

What has an interviewer or blogger never asked you before, that you always wished you could answer?

This is a truly excellent question which has set me pondering! People rarely ask about writing friends –  and to me they are so important. I was so stuck on this book until I talked to my dear friend- the amazing author Joanna Nadin – and she sorted me out good and proper! Sharing the wonders and woes  of story-telling with other book-types is one of the greatest joys of being a writer! #lovelybathwriterpeeps #joannanadin #annawilson #fleurhitchcock #maudiesmith #elencaldecott #rachelward #karensaunders #angiemorgan #juliagreen #tracydarnton #writingcommunity

Finally, can you share with our readers something about yourself that they might be surprised to learn?

I once danced with Nelson Mandela! September 1997 – Steve Biko Cemetery, King William’s town, RSA. He complimented my red dress! It is my greatest claim to fame.

One last one… (1)!

Do you have a question you would like to ask the readers of The Reader Teacher?

If any teachers share ‘No Ballet Shoes in Syria’ with pupils whose stories are parallel to Aya’s, I would love to hear what they think!

Big thanks to Clare, Catherine and all the team at Nosy Crow for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of the No Ballet Shoes in Syria blog tour and for sending me a proof and advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Catherine for answering my questions!

Mr E

No Ballet Shoes blog tour banner.jpg

Be sure to check out the rest of the No Ballet Shoes blog tour for more reviews & exclusive Q&As and guest posts from Catherine and these brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review & Resources & Giveaway!): A Pinch of Magic – Michelle Harrison (Illustrated by Melissa Castrillón)


‘Sumptuously magical… this is like nothing I’ve read before. An exquisitely-enchanting tale in a world weaved with wonder. With hearty heroines who embody the truest sense of sisterhood, prepare to fall under the spell of the story everyone will be wanting to read in 2019.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: A Pinch of Magic
Author: Michelle Harrison (@MHarrison13)
Illustrator (Cover): Melissa Castrillón (@mv_castrillon)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s (@simonkids_UK)
Page count: 368
Date of publication: 7th February 2019
Series status: First in the Widdershins’ adventures
ISBN: 978-1471124297

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

1. Sisters 👭
2. Curse 🗝️
3. Magic ✨

Three sisters trapped by an ancient curse.

Three magical objects with the power to change their fate.

Will they be enough to break the curse?

Or will they lead the sisters even deeper into danger?


Widdershins. What a word. A surname to describe the misfortune, haplessness and down on one’s luck that the Widdershins sisters often feel and have experienced for generations. Three sisters – Fliss, Betty and Charlie – whose mother is dead, their father’s in prison and who live with their Granny Bunny in her rather rowdy inn. Three sisters who are about to find out for themselves that they will have three bespoke magical items soon in their possession that can achieve so much but for an ancient family curse that leaves them trapped upon the rolling, misty marshes of their island of Crowstone for ever more…

Focusing on middle sister Betty who is craving for more than the island of Crowstone and telling the story through her eyes, this is like nothing I’ve read before and so it is little surprise that this has been recently chosen as Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month for February. As the sisters embark on a journey to try to break this curse and put to use their most magical of items – a scruffy carpet-bag that can make its bearer travel anywhere it wants, a set of dolls that can make you invisible and a mermaid-like mirror that can let its bearer talk to people on other islands, the girls meet mystery, dark magic, betrayal, revenge and a prisoner who may hold all the cards to the sisters’ fate.

Adventure most certainly awaits the audacious in this tale that left me completely enamoured and enraptured. This beautifully-written book doesn’t only just show a pinch of magic but the absolute power of magic where not a word is wasted. Surely one of 2019’s standouts and mixing island legend with incredible world-building that oozes and fizzes with magic, this is a story to devour. As Michelle recently alerted readers to this being the first in the Widdershins’ adventures, I’m on tenterhooks for the next.

Readers of upper-primary and lower secondary will be thrilled, enchanted and awed by its three headstrong, spirited protagonists (even Charlie, the youngest sister whose young age doesn’t dissuade her) in their plight to rid them of this wretched curse that’s plagued them and their island since times gone by.

Luring, mesmerising and sumptuously magical, A Pinch of Magic is an exquisitely-enchanting tale in a world weaved with wonder. With hearty heroines who embody the truest sense of sisterhood, prepare to fall under the spell of the story everyone will be wanting to read in 2019.

‘Sumptuously magical… this is like nothing I’ve read before. An exquisitely-enchanting tale in a world weaved with wonder. With hearty heroines who embody the truest sense of sisterhood, prepare to fall under the spell of the story everyone will be wanting to read in 2019.’

To celebrate the official publication date and launch (Happy Book Birthday!) of A Pinch of Magic, I’m absolutely delighted that author Michelle Harrison joins me on The Reader Teacher to provide fantastic teaching ideas to use in the classroom…

A Pinch of Magic: Teaching IdeasMichelle Harrison Pinch of Magic.jpg

A Pinch of Magic is the tale of the Widdershins sisters, Betty, Fliss and Charlie, who set out to break a family curse which keeps them trapped on the small island of Crowstone. But the curse isn’t the only unusual thing about the Widdershins. Three magical objects have been passed down their family: a set of wooden nesting dolls, a mirror, and a scruffy carpet bag. Will they be enough to break the curse? Or will the sisters have better luck with the mysterious prisoner who says he can help them . . . for a price?

This story is probably best suited to readers aged 8-12, depending on ability. There is plenty of scope for it to be used in a classroom, particularly to inspire imagination and atmospheric writing, as well as the study of folklore, superstition and symbolism. Here are some suggestions:

Pre-reading activities:

  1. Look at the front of the book. What do you think the curse could be, and the worst that could happen? Can you think of any other stories about curses?
  2. Who illustrated the book’s cover? Can you find out the titles of two more books this artist has created the covers for? Are there any in your classroom?
  3. Look at the back of the book and read the blurb (the writing which tells you about the story). Does it make you want to read the story? Why, or why not?
  4. Study the front and back covers. What do you think the three magical objects in the story could be? What do you imagine they do? Make up your own list of three objects, and their magical powers.
  5. Look at the map in the front of the book. Which of the islands do you think will be the most important to the story? Find other words with the same meanings as Lament, Repent, and Torment.


  1. Read the author’s note at the start of the book. What does the word ‘widdershins’ mean and what is it linked to? Have you ever heard of this word before? Can you find out a word meaning the opposite?
  2. Research the history of Halloween. Can you find other names for it? Where do the traditions of trick or treat, dressing up, and carving pumpkins come from? Is there any significance to Betty’s birthday falling on this day?
  3. What clues point to the Widdershins being an unlucky family? Are there any numbers, objects or creatures mentioned in chapter one that signal good or bad luck? Research and write down five more superstitions.
  4. Research your local area. Is there any interesting history or folklore? Write down the names of five real places that you could imagine in a story. Think of towns, forests, street names, beaches and even pubs! Give reasons for your choices.
  5. How were people who were suspected of witchcraft treated throughout history? What sort of tests did ‘witchfinders’ do to determine whether someone was a witch? What are your thoughts on this?


  1. Design a flyer for the Halloween Fayre in Marshfoot. What kind of words and images might it use to appeal to someone like Betty?
  2. Write a letter from Prisoner 513 to Granny, convincing her to visit him in jail. How would he persuade her to help him?
  3. Rewrite the scene where Betty and Charlie are given their magical objects, but from Charlie’s point of view. Imagine what she is thinking and feeling, as someone who is much younger than her sisters.
  4. Write a secret diary entry for Prudence. What are her feelings towards her sister – and herself? Is she proud of her actions, or sorry?
  5. Write a cautionary poem or verse to warn travellers away from the Misty Marshes. Think of the way the author has written about the marsh mist as a living thing, and add your own descriptions to this. Consider other dangers such as will-o’-the-wisps, and escaped prisoners! It doesn’t have to rhyme.

Other relevant stories:

Snowglobe by Amy Wilson
Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone
Secrets of a Sun King by Emma Carroll
Wood Angel by Erin Bow
The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh

Big thanks to Michelle, Olivia and all at Simon & Schuster Children’s for inviting me to take part in the A Pinch of Magic blog tour on its book birthday!

Extra thanks to Michelle for providing these superb teaching ideas!
I can’t wait to use them myself!

Mr E


The very lovely people at Simon & Schuster Children’s have kindly given me three finished copies of A Pinch of Magic to give away!


If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning a stunningly-illustrated copy of this sumptuously magical story, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

Copies will be sent to winners when available from Simon & Schuster, as soon as possible.


Be sure to check out the rest of A Pinch of Magic blog tour this week to see more exclusive guest posts, Q&As, giveaways and reviews!

Review & Resources: The Truth Pixie – Matt Haig (Illustrated by Chris Mould)


‘Utterly wondrous… a story for everyone. Matt is a mastermind.  The Truth Pixie is the perfect present – not just for Christmas – but for all year round. My book of the year!’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Truth Pixie
Author: Matt Haig (@matthaig1)
Illustrator: Chris Mould (@chrismouldink)
Publisher: Canongate (@canongatebooks)
Page count: 128
Date of publication: 18th October 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1786894328

Perfect for Year 2, Year 3, Year 4, Year 5 & Year 6 & older (including adults!).

1. Wondrous 😊
2. Heartwarming 💝
3. One-of-a-kind 🥇

Wherever she is, whatever the day,
She only has one kind of thing to say.
Just as cats go miaow and cows go moo,
The Truth Pixie can only say things that are true.

A very funny and loveable tale of how one special pixie learned to love herself.

The first line(s):

In a land two thousand miles from here,
Is a place where snow falls all the year.
There you will find trolls and goblins and elves,
And talking rabbits, rather pleased with themselves.

Review: The Truth Pixie is something else. I hope that the something else is conveyed in my following words…

The Truth Pixie is the kind of story that will make you think over and over about its naturally moving qualities because you can’t help but be captivated by its witty and acutely accurate rhyming couplets that shine a light on being self-aware and feeling at one with yourself.

Telling lies is often seen as the worst thing in the world as it gets you in to the worst kind of trouble, yes? We all know the stories; Pinocchio for instance. But what happens when the only thing you can do is tell the truth and that ends up with you landing you in all kinds of trouble too? Hmm….

The Truth Pixie begins to find out for herself as she suffers the wrath of her darned curse with loss of friends and lingering in loneliness being the worst kind of trouble for her.

But the story really comes into its own in its latter half due to its attentiveness, its sheer sense of uniqueness and its loveable quirkiness.

Appreciation, contentment, warmth, tenderness and a sense of connectedness all feature within its pages in the wonderful words and illustrations of this timely, thoughtful tale.

This is helped by the perceptiveness within the most perfect of partnerships in Matt and Chris who reunite to bring to life the most magnificent of stories.

If you think that A Boy Called Christmas, The Girl Who Saved Christmas and Father Christmas and Me were good, then you can only imagine how good The Truth Pixie is when I say it’s utterly wondrous… Matt is a mastermind.

Overall, I feel that the book is best summed by the four lines that have been most recently widely shared on social media:

‘There will be people you love,

Who can’t stay for ever,

And there will be things you can’t fix,

Although you are clever.’

All in all, this is a beautifully-told blend of poetry, rhyme and imaginative storytelling in its finest form that’s essential reading for children, but it is so much more than that as it is a story for everyone. Ultimately, we are people and we are all humans and in essence, this is what this story is truly about; being human.

If you don’t have a copy of The Truth Pixie in your classroom, your school or your home, you’re definitely missing out.

Mark my words, this may be marketed and sold under the branch of children’s literature but there is so much to be admired, to be reflective of and to be learned from books like this for both children and adults alike. This is an absolute gem that will find its rightful place and resonate not only within its readers’ minds but also deep within their hearts.

This book is the perfect present – not just for Christmas – but for all year round.

Today, the 18th October, is the official publication of The Truth Pixie and I am delighted to have been asked to host these utterly amazing resources for The Truth Pixie and Matt’s other books mentioned in my review above, that should be used in all classrooms:

Download Father Christmas and Me resources here:

Big thanks to Jen from Shapes4Schools for sending me an advance copy and inviting me to host these brilliant resources on my blog!

The Truth Pixie is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E


Blog Tour: (4 in 1: Review, Extract, Teachers’ Notes & Giveaway!) The Storm Keeper’s Island – Catherine Doyle (Illustrated by Bill Bragg)

Today, it is my absolute pleasure to be a part of this blog tour for Waterstones’ Children Book of the Month for July, The Storm Keeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle.
Bloomsbury Children’s Books have provided me with an extract of The Storm Keeper’s Island, Teachers’ Notes and TEN copies to give away! See below!


‘Magic and myth combine to make The Storm Keeper’s Island a novel like no other. With a different kind of magic, this is a contemporary classic that will move its readers to feel like they’ve discovered and rediscovered their love for reading all over again.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

 The Storm Keeper’s Island
Author: Catherine Doyle (@doyle_cat)
Illustrator (Cover): Bill Bragg
Lettering (Cover): Patrick Knowles (@PatrickKnowle14)
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books (@KidsBloomsbury)
Page count: 320
Date of publication: 1st July 2018
Series status: First in the series
ISBN: 978-1408896884

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

1. Memories 💭
2. Candles 🕯️
3. Island/Ireland 🇮🇪

When Fionn Boyle sets foot on Arranmore Island, it begins to stir beneath his feet …

Once in a generation, Arranmore Island chooses a new Storm Keeper to wield its power and keep its magic safe from enemies. The time has come for Fionn’s grandfather, a secretive and eccentric old man, to step down. Soon, a new Keeper will rise.

But, deep underground, someone has been waiting for Fionn. As the battle to become the island’s next champion rages, a more sinister magic is waking up, intent on rekindling an ancient war.

The first line(s):

In a field full of wild flowers, a boy and a girl stood side by side beneath an oak tree. The sky was angry, the thunder growling like an angry beast.


Download extract of The Storm Keeper’s Island


Inspired by Cat’s very own childhood connections to the island of Arranmore – off the west coast of Ireland – and intertwined with the ripe richness and rurality of Irish mythology, The Storm Keeper’s Island is a novel like no other.

IMG_8564.JPGOriginally, I had started to write this review after receiving an advance proof copy of this story back in May, before it had been chosen as Waterstones’ Children’s Book of the Month for July. It is safe to say that it is no surprise to me that it has proudly earned this accolade because it blows everything out of the water and far away across the sea.

Starting off in the school holidays, Ffion and his sister Tara are sent away across the sea, by their mother (who later on we find is still riddled with shock after the death of their father), to a lonely island to stay with their grandfather. From the very first page, Fionn becomes the kind of almost hidden hero you can really start to root for, as the angsty brotherly-sisterly dynamic between him and his sibling starts to seep through.

But the island and his grandfather are not quite what Ffion first expected, in fact they too are like no other. The island of Arranmore is a larger-than-life land surrounded from within by magic, ancient folklore and legend. An island steeped in a strong sense of history and with a beating heart all of its own. Inhaling, gasping, waking up and with a voice that seemingly speaks to Ffion in his deepest dreams, this is an island that breathes and begins to come to life before your very own eyes through Cat’s choice of beautiful and almost lyrical language that lilts and sings itself off the page.

As candles, memories (including a grandfather living with Alzheimer’s) and ancient wars meander and merge, Ffion finds himself in the middle of a changing of the guard as the island seeks out to select its next Storm Keeper but more than magic, mystery and myth stand before him.

With a feel of a contemporary classic, like a blend of Funke with Millwood Hargrave and Rundell, this is an all together different kind of magic and fantasy that’s on offer. One that’s very much multi-layered; it felt like there were so many stories within stories just waiting to be awoken to be told. And it is this that I cannot wait to see progress in Catherine’s future stories.

This is a stunning, secretly-enchanting story imbued with a strong, original and inherent sense of ancestral self from Catherine that makes it shine so brightly, and will embrace its readers and move them to feel like they’ve rediscovered their love for reading all over again.

Just as once in a generation, the island of Arranmore chooses a new Storm Keeper; once in a while, a book as special as this comes around.

If I could mould this book in to its very own candle, calling it The Storm Keeper – 1st July 2018, it would continue to burn to be relived and reread. For this is a light book that I hope never goes out and one that I will be waxing lyrical about for years to come.

Huge thanks to CatherineEmma, Emily, and all at Bloomsbury Children’s Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, providing me with the resources and sending me an advance proof copy, finished copy of this beautifully-written book!

Mr E


Catherine Doyle

Catherine Doyle grew up in the West of Ireland. She holds a first-class BA in Psychology and a first-class MA in Publishing. She is the author of the Young Adult Blood for Blood trilogy (Vendetta, Inferno and Mafiosa), which is often described as Romeo and Juliet meets the Godfather. It was inspired by her love of modern cinema.

Her debut Middle Grade novel, The Storm Keeper’s Island (Bloomsbury, 2018), is an adventure story about family, bravery and self-discovery. It is set on the magical island of Arranmore, where her grandparents grew up, and is inspired by her ancestors’ real life daring sea rescues. 

​Aside from more conventional interests in movies, running and travelling, Catherine also enjoys writing about herself in the third-person.

Teachers’ Notes

Download The Storm Keeper’s Island Teachers’ Notes


I am absolutely elated that the very lovely people at Bllomsbury Children’s Books have kindly given me TEN copies of The Storm Keeper’s Island to give away!

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

Storm Keeper Cover