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

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

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 & Year 7.

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


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

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

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

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


Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Summer Adventure on The Book Bus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Giveaway!

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

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


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

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

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

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

Perfect for Nursery, Reception & Year 1.

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


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

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


Review: 

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

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

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

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

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

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


Books that encourage care… by Corrinne Averiss

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

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

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

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

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


The Smartest GIANT in Town – Julia Donaldson and Axel Sheffler

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

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Lost and Found – Oliver Jeffers

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

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The Storm Whale – Benji Davis

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

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How to Hide a Lion – Helen Stephens

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

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

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

Mr E


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

 

Blog Tour (Review & Giveaway!): I, Cosmo – Carlie Sorosiak (Illustrated by Ben Mantle)

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‘A story that shows the power of pooches, the magnificence of man’s best friend and proves that anything is paws-ible when you have a dog by your side. Every dog will have its day but for Cosmo, this extraordinary dog will absolutely have your heart fur-ever.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: I, Cosmo
Author: Carlie Sorosiak (@carliesorosiak)
Cover illustrator:
Ben Mantle (@BenMMantle)
Publisher: Nosy Crow (@NosyCrowBooks)
Page count: 272
Date of publication: 1st August 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1788003872

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Dog 🐶
2. Companionship 🐾
3. Heart 💝


The story of one dog’s attempt to save his family, become a star, and eat a lot of bacon.

Cosmo’s family is falling apart. And it’s up to Cosmo to keep them together. He knows exactly what to do. There’s only one problem. Cosmo is a Golden Retriever.

Wise, funny, and filled with warmth and heart, this is Charlotte’s Web meets Little Miss Sunshine – a moving, beautiful story, with a wonderfully unique hero, from an incredible new voice in middle grade fiction – perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead and Kate DiCamillo.


Review:

I grew up having dogs in my life. In fact, I think it’s most probably fairer to say that dogs grew up with me in their lives. Dogs were in my family’s life well before I was. I remember, even now, pictures of a baby me being taken in my car seat with my first dog Tammy, and first of three West Highland White Terriers (Holly and Daisy) we’ve had, sat next to me almost guarding me. So even then – at that very young age – I knew all too well the strength in the bond of a dog and its family.

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Therefore this story, personally, has so much more to it than just its words. With warmth, with feeling and with so much sentiment that I think my heart could burst, it takes its readers on the most endearing and captivating of journeys through the twists, turns and turmoils of family life.

“There is a word I’ve learned in my twelve years: doggedly. It means “with persistence and full effort.” Humans attribute this to a dog’s stubbornness – our refusal to give up chewy sticks, the way we freeze in the doorway when it rains. But really, it’s the way we love, with our whole hearts, no matter the circumstance. I vowed to protect Max – and my family – doggedly, for the rest of my life.

Elderly golden retriever Cosmo lives with Max, his owner, or as he prefers to see it, his brother and his family. As family life starts to become too much what with a parental relationship breaking down, it’s up to Cosmo to take care of Max and his anxieties after Uncle Reggie tells him to “Protect their hearts.”. Their unbreakable bond is and becomes even more inseparably, indescribably beautiful as the story goes on. Written in Cosmo’s perceptive perspective with an authentic, anecdotal style of retelling the daily goings-on within the family home including holidays, Halloween and happier times.

From his love of old movies (with more than a slight mention of his favourite film Grease, I hear ya!) and dancing, lessons are to be learned. These lessons being that Cosmo and Max find themselves entering themselves into a dog-dancing competition in a bid to stop, what Max thinks is, the impending separation of his parents and the separation of him from his dog as the family splits quite literally in half. With Uncle Reggie’s help in masterminding teaching the old dog new tricks, will the partnership of canine and companion go all the way in succeeding to show off what they’re about or will there be a few obstacles standing in their way…?

If you’ve ever wanted to get into the head, the eyes and the heart of man’s best friend, this is most definitely the closest you’ll come. I feel that I could make comparisons of this to other canine-inspired classics but I can’t. It would feel unjust and unfair because, for me, it is unique. Unique in the way that an author has captured an animal’s thoughts, feelings and emotions so directly, so perfectly and so exquisitely that it is so rare to see it done so well. Observations, mannerisms and nuances all full of wit, humour, self-deprecation, shrewdness and love, it’s almost as if I believe that Carlie may have been a dog in a previous life; it’s that stark. This is why it is my major recommendation for next year’s EmpathyLabUK’s Read for Empathy Collection.

“…I do believe that, with the right human by your side, it’s possible to leap fearlessly into the unknown.”

A story that shows the power of pooches, the magnificence of man’s best friend and proves that anything is paws-ible when you have a dog by your side. Every dog will have its day but for Cosmo, this extraordinary dog will absolutely have your heart fur-ever.


‘A story that shows the power of pooches, the magnificence of man’s best friend and proves that anything is paws-ible when you have a dog by your side. Every dog will have its day but for Cosmo, this extraordinary dog will absolutely have your heart fur-ever.’


Giveaway!

To celebrate the publication of I Cosmo, the very lovely people at Nosy Crow have kindly given me THREE copies to give away!

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


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Be sure to check out the rest of the I, Cosmo blog tour for more reviews & exclusive content from Carlie and these brilliant book bloggers!

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

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

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

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


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

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

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

She must face her fears that come alive after dark…


Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


The Inspiration Behind The Monster in The Switching Hour

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

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

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

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

 

 

Damaris Young, author of The Switching Hour


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

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

Mr E


Blog Tour (Review & Giveaway!): The Bad Luck Lighthouse – Nicki Thornton (Illustrated by Matt Saunders)

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‘This series is without doubt becoming the recommended read for mystery lovers young and old. Nicki is establishing herself very much as the Christie for children.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Bad Luck Lighthouse
Author: Nicki Thornton (@nicki_thornton)
Cover illustration: Matt Saunders (@msaunders_ink)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 384
Date of publication: 4th July 2019
Series status: Book 2 after The Last Chance Hotel
ISBN: 978-1912626304

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Lighthouse💡
2. Magic ✨
3. Murder ☠️


Welcome to the Bad Luck Lighthouse.

In solving the mystery at the Last Chance Hotel, Seth has discovered a world of magic. Swept up in a new case at Snakesmouth Lighthouse – the murder of eccentric owner Mina Mintencress – he is determined to prove himself. 

With the help of his cat, Nightshade, Seth must put his new-found magic to the test. Can they unmask a sinister sorcerer… before it’s too late?


Review: 

Danger, dishonesty, dark magic and deception all characteristically return in this sequel set a few months on from the accolade-winning The Last Chance Hotel (The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition 2016/Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month for October 2018). As this is almost a direct continuation from Nicki’s first book in the series, I’d most definitely advise you to seek out and devour The Last Chance Hotel before reading this. 

For lowly kitchen boy Seth Seppi, you’d think solving one mystery would be good enough however he is back and this time he is out to test himself with learning how to use the magic that’s been bestowed unto him in a whole new world. Introduced to us in this one as doubting himself as a ‘natural’, he’s left holding a book called the Easy-Peasy book of magic which on the surface provides Seth with the slightest glimmer of hope of achieving the ‘spark of magic‘ that he believes others see in him. But sadly for him, he hasn’t been able to complete a single spell since receiving it. 

Therefore struggling, getting desperate and following a fleeting visit from Inspector Pewter – last seen in the last book – he flings himself through a portal after Pewter and soon becomes embroiled in another magical murder-mystery after discovering Snakesmouth Lighthouse, a hotel that’s supposedly haunted… or is it?

Storms are battering the lighthouse outside; guests are not forthcoming and with staff leaving or who have already left in their droves, this seems like another sinister setting that no-one wants to visit. When suddenly Seth happens upon the death of a very important character who actually owns the lighthouse which stopped me completely (pardon the pun!) dead in my tracks whilst reading. With talking cat-companion Nightshade for company – which just has to be one of the best cases of nominative determinism as one of the very best pet names I’ve come across in children’s literature – he tries his hardest to uncover the mystery and web of lies, agendas and revelations that he’s managed to entangle himself in. Sometimes it’s the things that are often left unsaid in these stories that lead to greater suspense than the things that are said.

Bringing back some old faces such as Inspector Pewter and Angelique really helps the reader to find the touch of familiarity from the previous book and adding some new, such as personal-favourite Celeste, completes and complements the cast of characters and suspects in this new thrilling mystery from Nicki. After reading a recent blog by her, it’s so pleasing to see an author write a sequel of a book with characters she so dearly loves and it is with this that I hope that these classically-written but contemporary-styled mysteries may long continue. This series is without doubt becoming the recommended read for mystery lovers young and old. Nicki is establishing herself very much as the Christie for children.


‘This series is without doubt becoming the recommended read for mystery lovers young and old. Nicki is establishing herself very much as the Christie for children.’


Giveaway!

To celebrate the publication of The Bad Luck Lighthouse, the very lovely people at Chicken House have kindly given me THREE sets of both books, The Last Chance Hotel & The Bad Luck Lighthouse, to give away!

If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning these two classically-written but also contemporary mysteries, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!


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Be sure to check out the rest of the The Bad Luck Lighthouse blog tour for more reviews & exclusive content from Nicki and these brilliant book bloggers!

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

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

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

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


Enter the unique world of the Spell Breathers!

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Yes, my hair really was that red

Hard Work Adventures

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leap of Faith Adventures

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

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Come on in! The water’s lovely.

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

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

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

Happy reading. Happy writing. Happy adventuring!


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Julie Pike – Biography

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

Twitter: @juliepike


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

Extra thanks to Julie for writing her excellent guest post!

Mr E


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

Blog Tour (Review & Author Q&A): The Longest Night of Charlie Noon (Illustrated by Matt Saunders)

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‘A mind-blowing, heart-stopping, dimension-defying dash through time that thrums with tantalising twists & leaves you completely breathless. With a nod to WW2 in this masterclass in mixing suspense & science; this is Edge at his most edgiest.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Longest Night of Charlie Noon
Author: Christopher Edge (@edgechristopher)
Cover illustration: Matt Saunders (@msaunders_ink)
Publisher: Nosy Crow (@NosyCrowBooks)
Page count: 176
Date of publication: 6th June 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1788004947

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Woods 🌲
2. Lost 😬
3. Time-bending ⏰


Secrets, spies or maybe even a monster… what lies in the heart of the wood? Charlie, Dizzy and Johnny are determined to find out but when night falls without warning they become impossibly lost. Strange dangers and impossible puzzles lurk in the shadows and, as time plays tricks, Charlie starts to fear for the future…

What if this night never ends?


Review: 

As children typically do, they love a sense of mystery, adventure and playing in the natural environment and this is no different for Dizzy and Charlie. But after Dizzy tells Charlie about the appearance of something in the woods, they set off to investigate leaving the rest of the world behind. As all good friends go, there’s always one who has the sense to hold back. Cue Johnny, who insists the group need to be careful and warns them that there could be monsters roaming. Nevertheless, this does not stop them on their pursuit as they put it down to sensationalised nonsense but could this come back to bite them…?

The story begins to build and build and build and as they find themselves getting deeper in to the woods, they seem to be getting deeper into trouble with cryptic messages, puzzles and strange dangers surfacing. As night falls, darkness descends and their paths begin to disappear, it appears there is no way out and they are soon left relying on each other to find an escape route.

With the legend of child-eating, wood-dwelling Old Crony ringing in their ears, the friends are left with only the natural world to help them. Can they use what they know about code-breaking to flee the forest? A book that absolutely needs to be read to the very last page, just wait for its ending and epilogue… 

Yet again, Christopher Edge combines so successfully science with chapter-grabbing, pulsating and gripping action but this time in a wholly different way to that of Albie Bright, Jamie Drake and Maisie Day and this shows with every story, he is evolving as an establishing writer. 

A mind-blowing, heart-stopping, dimension-defying dash through time that thrums with tantalising twists & leaves you completely breathless. With a nod to WW2 in this masterclass in mixing suspense & science; this is Edge at his most edgiest.


I’m utterly delighted to have Christopher Edge, author of The Longest Night of Charlie Noon, join us on The Reader Teacher today on publication day with this extra-special interview where he shares his experiences of writing, his inspirations behind his book and the first book he remembers reading…portrait.jpg

The Longest Night of Charlie Noon (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 The Longest Night of Charlie Noon?

    1. Thrilling 🎢
    2. Twisty🌳
    3. Timeless ⌚
  • Which books, people, research, ideas and inspirations have helped you to write The Longest Night of Charlie Noon?

I had to carry out quite a lot of research when writing The Longest Night of Charlie Noon from reading mind-bending books such as The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli, to immersing myself in the work of nature writers such as Robert Macfarlane, Oliver Rackham and Roger Deakin to name but a few.  Whenever I’m working on a book, a serendipitous hand seems to guide me to find the tools that I need to tell the story from stumbling on a collection of essays by Alan Garner to the perfect song by Kate Bush suddenly blaring out of the radio. When I’d completed the first draft of The Longest Night of Charlie Noon, I rediscovered the work of Denys  Watkins-Pitchford, who wrote under the pen name  ‘BB’, and realised that in some ways the story I was writing was a strange tribute to his novel Brendon Chase which tells the story of three children who run away from home to spend a summer in the woods. The night that Charlie, Dizzy and Johnny spend in the woods is the very different from the adventures found in Brendon Chase, but I hope the story might spark the same sense of wonder about the natural world that I found in BB’s writing.

  • What was the most enjoyable part of writing The Longest Night of Charlie Noon?

The setting of the novel is an area of ancient woodland on the border of Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, and visiting these woods and mapping the story to their terrain was a really enjoyable part of the writing process, especially revisiting the woods as the seasons changed and being able to bring these elements into the story. However, I think the most enjoyable part of writing The Longest Night of Charlie Noon has been the way it has changed my brain. People talk about how reading changes the way you think, but I think writing does this too, and I now find myself much more open and receptive to the natural world in a way that has brought a real balm to my life.

  • In The Longest Night of Charlie Noon, the children in the story become lost in the woods. When you were a child, did you ever get lost in the woods and how did you get out?

I grew up in Manchester, so didn’t have too many woods nearby to get lost in. However the broader sense of being lost that Charlie feels in the story, linked to the feeling of powerlessness that can sometimes haunt you as a child, is a feeling that I do remember and in many ways The Longest Night of Charlie Noon is me sending a message back to say there is a way out of the woods in time.

  • If you were to choose the character that is most like you from The Longest Night of Charlie Noon, who would it be and why?

As a child, I did use to hide under a blanket draped over the washing line to draw the birds in my back garden, so there’s definitely a bit of Dizzy in me, but I think I’d have to choose Charlie for the reason above.

Reading and Writing (4)

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

I think the stories I filled myself with as a reader, especially when growing up, are what have made me a writer. I enjoyed writing at school, but honestly thought that books were just made in factories and didn’t know there was a job you could do called ‘being an author’.

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

I love the feeling you get when an idea starts to take shape in your brain. It’s really kinetic the way in which different sparks of inspiration can connect and start to become story-shaped. I always think of the famous John Peel quote about The Fall – ‘Always different, always the same’ – for the actual process of writing as this is how it is for me. It’s always hard work, but in endlessly different ways. The joys are when everything flows, and the exhaustion is when you’ve got a deadline flying towards you and not enough hours in the day.

  • 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?

I didn’t go to a school where authors came to visit, but I used to love comic books and one day, as a teenager, bunked off school to get my comic books signed by Neil Gaiman at a comic book shop in Manchester. I remember standing in the queue as it slowly edged to the front of the shop and watching Neil Gaiman patiently sign every comic book that was thrust in front of him and realising that he was just an ordinary person who’d written this story that I loved. That was the moment when I realised that becoming an author might not be an impossible dream and was something that I could aspire to.

  • 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 books to children (and adults!) who may be interested in similar themes explored in your book or any that have read and would recommend?

I need to be careful what I say as I don’t want to give any spoilers for The Longest Night of Charlie Noon away! Some early readers have made connections with writers such as Alan Garner and Penelope Lively in the ways in which time as a theme is explored, whilst I’d like to mention contemporary writers such as Piers Torday and Lauren St John for the way they write about the natural world, which is a key element of The Longest Night of Charlie Noon. A book I’ve recently read that I really enjoyed is Scavengers by Darren Simpson, although I don’t think this shares any themes particularly with The Longest Night of Charlie Noon, however he’s another writer who I think captures a real sense of place in his writing. 

The Longest Night of Charlie Noon and Teaching (3)

  • If you were to ‘pitch’ The Longest Night of Charlie Noon 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?

It’s a story about now and the power that we have to change the world.

  • Could you suggest ways in which The Longest Night of Charlie Noon 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 think there are so many subjects that could be linked to The Longest Night of Charlie Noon from building circuits in Science to create your own Morse Code key to studying changing environments in Geography. Links can be made to History, Art and Computing too, whilst the mystery that lies at the heart of the story will help children to develop their reading skills of inference, prediction and problem-solving. I really hope teachers find a wealth of inspiration inside the pages of The Longest Night of Charlie Noon and my publisher, Nosy Crow, are producing a set of Teaching Resources to accompany the book.

  • 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?

I love visiting schools, so the best way is to get in touch with me via my website here: https://www.christopheredge.co.uk/events

Two more before you go (2)!

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

What’s the first book you remember reading? To which the answer is Tim and Tobias by Sheila K. McCullagh, the first book in a reading scheme filled with magic and mystery that set a whole generation of children on a  flightpath to reading.

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

I once won a trolley dash in a record store. For two glorious minutes my life was a cross between Supermarket Sweep and High Fidelity.

One last one… (1)!

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

I think Brendon Chase by B B is a bit of a lost classic, so I’d like to hear readers’ recommendations of any other forgotten children’s books they think should be rediscovered.


Big thanks to Christopher, Clare, Rebecca and all the team at Nosy Crow for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of the The Longest Night of Charlie Noon blog tour and for sending me a proof and advance copy in exchange for this review.

Extra thanks to Chris for answering my questions and to Rebecca for giving me the opportunity to do the cover reveal!

Mr E


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Be sure to check out the rest of the The Longest Night of Charlie Noon blog tour for more exclusive content from Chris & reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!

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

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

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

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

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


Have you ever wondered…

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

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


Review:

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

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

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

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

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


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

Blast off to the Moon! Blog Reflection – Nathan Trail

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

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

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

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


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

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

Mr E


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

 

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

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‘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.

#3Words3Emojis:
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…


Review:

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.


Resources:

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

Bookmarks

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 & Guest Post: Grumpycorn: introducing… JELLYFISH!) – Sarah McIntyre

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‘Coupled not only with Sarah’s words but her ever-characterful and rainbow-dazzling illustrations that make readers instantly interested too, this is a quick-witted, frivolous and fun story that turns the art of distraction on its head and on its horn.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: Grumpycorn
Author & Illustrator: Sarah McIntyre (@jabberworks)
Publisher: Scholastic (@scholasticuk)
Page count: 32
Date of publication: 2nd May 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1407180823

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

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Unicorn 🦄
2. Writing ✍️
3. Cookies 🍪


Unicorn wants to write the most fabulous story in the world. He has a fancy notebook. A special fluffy pen. He has everything just perfect. But Unicorn has no idea what to write!

When his friends try to join in, will Unicorn turn into a… Grumpycorn?


Review:

Procrastination; the action of postponing or delaying something. Some of us do it without realising we are. Some of us do it realising we are. Most of us could call ourselves masters of the art of procrastination. But for Unicorn, procrastination could lead to disastrous consequences.

Listening to authors talking about and discussing their writing processes is one of the most fascinating things to hear because they are all different. Wildly different, in fact. For some, it is as close to the word ‘easy’ as you can describe. Ideas come fully-formed and almost write themselves down word by word on the page in front of them, spilling out for all to see. For others, it can be arduous, consuming, complicated, soul-searching and takes every last bit out of the writer; warts and all. But what happens when on that first page… within that first paragraph… within that first line… nothing appears? Yes, we’ve all heard of that all too-familiar term of writer’s block. Therefore I’m sure every published, and aspiring, children’s author can self-identify with the feelings of Unicorn within this book.

Sitting there with his fancy notebook but still feeling like Grumpycorn can’t get his writing mojo going, he turns his attention to reaching for his special fluffy pen. Surely this will be the key to unlocking his words for as they say ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ and a special fluffy pen has two more adjectives than just ‘the pen’. But no… Maybe a cup of special moonberry tea will be the catalyst for creativity…? Nope. Not that either.

So what about when aquatic friends Narwhal, Mermaid and Jellyfish knock on his door? Can Unicorn put his friends and their ideas to good use… especially when they involve baked goods in order to help him to write the most FABULOUS* story in the world?

Coupled not only with Sarah’s words but her ever-characterful and rainbow-dazzling illustrations that make readers instantly interested too, this is a quick-witted, frivolous and fun story that turns the art of distraction on its head and on its horn.


Today I am delighted to welcome the brilliant Sarah McIntyre to the blog with a special guest post to celebrate the release of her newest picture book, the fabulous, ‘Grumpycorn’, talking about one very special character that makes her smile the most!

Grumpycorn: introducing… JELLYFISH!

Of all the characters in my new Grumpycorn picture book, Jellyfish makes me smile the most. She’s so cheery and enthusiastic and really quite clueless. Even though Unicorn has turned down ideas by Narwhal and Mermaid for his story, she’s SURE that when Unicorn hears her ideas, that he won’t be able to resist writing her into his fabulous story.

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And she is so FULL OF IDEAS! Clearly this interplanetary jellyfish story MUST HAPPEN. 

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But Jellyfish’s effusive outpouring of directions for Unicorn are the final straw that make him blow a fuse. Unicorn doesn’t want Jellyfish’s ideas, he wants HIS OWN ideas. …And he doesn’t have any.

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What makes me laugh about Jellyfish is that, even though Unicorn’s hollered at him, Jellyfish is still so upset that this fabulous story hasn’t been written. Look at her shocked little face! I think she’s rather enjoying all the drama being created by Unicorn’s diva meltdown.

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Endlessly optimistic – ‘Everyone loves jellyfish!’ – Jellyfish will finally get to take part in the creation of this Fabulous Story. …And so can you, by drawing Jellyfish! For all of my books, I create drawing tutorials and other activities, and you can download this and other fun Grumpycorn things to do here on my website!

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Big thanks to Sarah, Louisa and all the team at Scholastic for inviting me to share my thoughts as part of the Grumpycorn blog tour and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

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

Mr E


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