Blog Tour (Review): A Witch Come True – James Nicol (Illustrated by Daniela Terrazini)

A-Witch-Come-True.jpg

‘Fizzing with magic…
this is a trilogy to treasure of which James conjures to an end so exquisitely.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: A Witch Come True
Author: James Nicol (@JamesENicol)
Cover illustration: Daniela Terrazini (@djterrazzini)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 352
Date of publication: 7th March 2019
Series status: Final book in the trilogy
ISBN: 978-1910655986

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Magic ✨
2. HotChocolate ☕
3. Witch 🧙‍♀️


The war is done and Arianwyn has discovered the secret of the quiet glyphs at last, but her troubles are far from over. Her day-to-day work as Lull’s witch is tricky enough: winter has set in, bringing endless rain, ice imps and some rather befuddling Yule traditions. But when enemies and dark magic converge on Lull, stealing away someone very dear indeed, our witch faces her greatest challenge so far. What really makes a witch come true? Our loveable heroine is about to find out…


Review: Saying goodbye to a series you’ve enjoyed can be hard but saying goodbye to a series of books you’ve thoroughly endeared is harder still. When James released the first book in the trilogy, The Apprentice Witch, back in 2016, it was almost obvious to see that this was going to be such a triumph of a series and with each book that has followed, it has been, for me, better than the last and that only says something about the quality of his purely exquisite and wonderful writing.

With the third terrific instalment of Arianwyn’s adventures in A Witch Come True, we find her after the war and hoping that her life can return to normal where she’s able to learn the truths of the quiet glyphs at last. With family reunions and Christmas on its way, it seems that life in Lull could rebalance itself for Arianwyn in the right way. However, dark magic doesn’t lie low for long before resurfacing in to her life once again and causing her one of the greatest challenges she’ll face so far. Can she save the inhabitants of Lull, her family and herself before its too late…?

If you haven’t yet read The Apprentice Witch or A Witch Alone, I suggest you get right to it because this is a trilogy to treasure. Fizzing with magic and a dash of mayhem, this series sparkles with sheer delight and is not just ‘another series of books about magic’ but is a trilogy that you can’t help but fall under its spell and take them so close to your heart with a cast of characters you really care about and most of all, a hearty and hopeful heroine who is sure to live long with readers well after the last page.

A mug of hot chocolate is the perfect complement and the most fitting of accompaniments to the end of this series which James conjures to a close so perfectly. It’s little wonder that James has recently received offers to bring The Apprentice Witch series to our screens and of that, we are all eagerly awaiting it!


‘Fizzing with magic…
this is a trilogy to treasure of which James conjures to an end so exquisitely.’


Big thanks to James, Jazz and all the team at Chicken House for inviting me to share my thoughts and bring the A Witch Come True blog tour to a close too and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this review.

Mr E


aezxwjuf.jpg

Be sure to check out the rest of the A Witch Come True blog tour for more reviews, exclusive guest posts and Q&As from these collection of brilliant book bloggers!

Blog Tour (Review): The Boy Who Flew – Fleur Hitchcock (Illustrated by Ben Mantle)

The-Boy-Who-Flew-479572-1.jpg

‘A dangerously, dark, Dickensian romp through the backstreets, and rooftops, of Bath that never lets you go… Fleur’s first foray into fantasy passes with flying colours!’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Boy Who Flew
Author: Fleur Hitchcock (@FleurHitchcock)
Cover illustration: Ben Mantle (@benmmantle)
Publisher: Nosy Crow (@NosyCrowBooks)
Page count: 256
Date of publication: 7th March 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1788004381

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Flying ✈️
2. Invention ⚙️
3. Murder ☠️


When his friend, Mr Chen, is murdered, Athan Wilde must stop the flying machine they were building from falling into the wrong hands. But keeping the machine safe puts his family in terrible danger. Athan faces a dreadful choice – flight or family? Which one will he pick?

A tense, grime-filled thriller from a master storyteller.


Review:

As this tale begins to rapidly unfold, we are first introduced to the backstreets of Bath where the shadows swathe the streets in darkness swallowing all of the light and where we soon enter a murky world of mystery and murder…

a008e2a9-c5c7-45db-a7b4-bd4c3ae1e5a8._CR0,0,2021,625_PT0_SX970__.jpg

Hidden away are Athan Wilde, our young protagonist, and his inventor friend, Mr Chen who are busy at work creating their latest contraptions. Most recently, that being a flying machine. For Athan – who dreams of taking to the skies – Mr Chen is the man who can turn imagination into idea and aspiration into actuality. However, Athan’s dreams are all but diminished upon hearing that his great friend has been brutally murdered in his own home. Fearing the worst and that all of their inventions and well-kept secrets could be revealed, Athan soon finds it falling to him to rescue their plans and plot a way forward for their dream of flying, now his dream, to survive.

But there’s more than many a ruthless and sinister villain who will stop at nothing to thwart Athan’s ambition, especially when there’s a competition prize of 10,000 guineas at stake. Hold on to your hats for a dangerously, dark, Dickensian romp through the backstreets, and rooftops, of Bath to join Athan on his adventures of aviation. Warts and all…

7680d642-9537-4aa1-a87f-26448548654d._CR0,0,2021,625_PT0_SX970__.jpg

Even though Athan is living a life that’s shrouded in poverty, destitution and hardship, this book is filled with the power of family and friendship – complete with a frank, funny and farting Grandma who (for me) absolutely steals the show.

Engrossing, exciting and most of all, riveting are the words that I choose to use to describe this fast-paced, frenetic and unmissable tale that just will not let you go until the very last word of the very last page. I highly recommend The Boy Who Flew to Upper Key Stage 2 readers who enjoy stories told with intensity interwoven within an inventive, immersive world that you can’t help but be drawn into. Fleur’s first foray into fantasy passes with flying colours and The Boy Who Flew should be renamed The Book Who Flew because that’s what it’ll be doing… flying off the shelves!

4e56aead-572d-44b3-ac84-9c2f4f8aaafe._CR0,0,2021,625_PT0_SX970__.jpg


Big thanks to Fleur, Rebecca and all the team at Nosy Crow for inviting me to share my thoughts and kick off The Boy Who Flew blog tour and for sending me early copies of the proof and finished versions in exchange for an honest review.

Mr E 


Blog Tour - The Boy Who Flew v1.1.jpg

Be sure to check out the rest of The Boy Who Flew blog tour this week for more reviews of this magnificent adventure that you don’t want to miss!

Blog Tour: FCBG Children’s Book Award: What Do You Do if Your House is a Zoo? – John Kelly (Illustrated by Sarah Laberis)

81D1HPXMKLL.jpg

‘Guaranteed to bring the most beaming of smiles and the loudest of laughs… this story showcases the bond between person and pet so perfectly and is sure to become its reader’s best friend.’

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: What Do You Do If Your House Is a Zoo?
Author: John Kelly
Illustrator: Steph Laberis (@StephLaberis)
Publisher: Little Tiger Press (@LittleTigerUK)
Page count: 32
Date of publication: 9th August 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1848699496

Perfect for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. House 🏠
2. Pets 🐕
3. Friendship 🤝


Oscar is getting a pet!
But which pet should he pick?

And what on earth will he do when they all move in?
His house is like a zoo.

A book for animal lovers, BIG and small.


Review: I am absolutely delighted to be hosting What Do You Do If Your House is a Zoo?, one of the four picture book titles in the 2019 FCBG (The Federation of Children’s Book Groups_ Children’s Book Award blog tour. This is my very first year on this tour and it is such a privilege to support this award, the only national award voted for solely by children from start to finish and is highly regarded by parents, teachers, librarians, publishers and children’s authors and illustrators as it truly represents children’s choice.

What Do You Do if Your House is a Zoo? is a beautifully-told picture book of the time when Oscar, our main character, is given permission to get the pet he’s always wanted from his mum and dad. The only thing is that he can’t decide and there’s way too many to choose from.

Dogs, cats, parrots, elephants, snakes, fish, hamsters – all these animals and so little time to pick. So he lets nature take its course and puts an advert in the classifieds section of his local newspaper only to become inundated with replies from the very animals themselves!

As the replies flood through Oscar’s letterbox thick and fast through hand-written letters with handwriting that wittily matches the characteristics of their animal sender (a perfect learning opportunity to look at this wild letter writing), Oscar’s choice becomes even more confusing with ostriches, meerkats, horses, gorillas, wolves, bulls, beavers and whales joining the picking party.

As Oscar deliberates and ponders over his choice, things go bad from worse as the animals arrive at his home to set up camp and Oscar gains his own massive menagerie right outside his front door.

81BIyDJLQDL.jpg

Creating absolute carnage and chaos, this zany zoo of animals soon take over not just his garden, not just his next door’s neighbour’s garden and not just his front road but even the inside of his house! Taking cover in a tent outside, the only option is for all the animals to go. All except for the appearance of a letter from a pet that Oscar had missed reading…

With an ending that will melt even the coldest of hearts, this is a special story told with complete and utter sincerity. There is nothing like the irreplaceable, mutual bond between person and pet and this book showcases this so perfectly. This story is sure to become its reader’s best friend. Brought to life by the bright, bold and brilliant illustrations of Steph Laberis, this tale is one to treasure that’s guaranteed to bring the biggest of beaming smiles, the loudest of laughs and is one with a message to hold close to your heart.


‘Guaranteed to bring the most beaming of smiles and the loudest of laughs… this story showcases the bond between person and pet so perfectly and is sure to become its reader’s best friend.’


Big thanks to Kate for inviting me to be a part of this year’s FCBG (Federation of Children’s Book Groups) blog tour showcasing the ten choices for this year’s Children’s Book Award. I would love to be involved again next year!

Mr E

logo_888x240.png


If you’d like to follow other blogs on this year’s blog tour, you can find them below:

D0y0bgTWoAA050D.jpg-large.jpeg


1st March 2019 (@Fi_BGB): The Wondrous Dinosaurium by John Condon & Steve Brown (Maverick)
4th March 2019 (@toppsta): Mixed by Arree Chung (Macmillan)
8th March 2019 (@Readitdaddy): The Last Chip by Duncan Beedie (Templar)
11th March 2019 (@MrEPrimary): What Do You Do If Your House is a Zoo? by John Kelly & Steph Laberis (Little Tiger)
13th March 2019: Picture Book Round Up (FCBG)


18th March 2019: Mr Penguin and the Fortress of Secrets by Alex T. Smith (Hodder/Hachette)
22nd March 2019: The Dog Who Lost His Bark by Eoin Colfer, illustrated by P. J. Lynch (Walker)
25th March 2019: Funny Kid – Stand Up by Matt Stanton (HarperCollins)
29th March 2019: Younger Readers Round Up (FCBG)


1st April 2019: The Light Jar by Lisa Thompson, cover illus. by Mike Lowery (Scholastic)
5th April 2019: The Storm Keeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle, cover ills. by Bill Bragg (Bloomsbury)
8th April 2019: Armistice Runner by Tom Palmer, cover illus. by Tom Clohosy Cole (Barrington Stoke)
12th April 2019: Older Readers Round Up (FCBG)

The voting will open shortly here: http://childrensbookaward.org…. and if you’d like to keep up with all the news and updates, you can follow FCBG on Twitter.

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

9780192767509.jpg

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

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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


What’s It All About, Eh?

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

How Did Human Life on Earth Begin?

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

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

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

Wow. Why Didn’t We Know About This?

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

How Has this Incredible Secret Been Preserved?

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

That Sounds Like the Sort of Thing People Would Remember

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

Interesting. Tell Me More About This Unusual Cartography Club

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

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

No! What a Waste!

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

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

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


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

Extra thanks to Martin for writing his fascinating guest post!

Mr E


CosmicAtlas_BlogTour_1024x512px_TwitterCard_Feb19_2.jpg

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

Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post): Storm Hound – Claire Fayers (Illustrated by Becka Moor)

81tjuAVR4PL.jpg

‘Electrifying, exciting, entertaining and endearing, this melding of Norse mythology with the Celtic culture of Wales is a modern-day myth of its very own.’

Title: Storm Hound
Author: Claire Fayers (@ClaireFayers)
Illustrator: Becka Moor (@BeckaMoor)
Publisher: Macmillan (@MacmillanKidsUK)
Page count: 256
Date of publication: 21st February 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1509895045

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Storm 🌩️
2. Odin 🛡️
3.  Hilarious 😁


Storm of Odin is the youngest stormhound of the Wild Hunt that haunts lightning-filled skies. He has longed for the time when he will be able to join his brothers and sisters but on his very first hunt he finds he can’t keep up and falls to earth, landing on the A40 just outside Abergavenny.

Enter twelve-year-old Jessica Price, who finds and adopts a cute puppy from an animal rescue centre. And suddenly, a number of strange people seem very interested in her and her new pet, Storm. People who seem to know a lot about magic…


Review:

As proud hound Storm of Odin leaps through the raging storm clouds as he joins in with The Wild Hunt, his first experience of this becomes rather short-lived as he crashes to Earth falling from the sky and finding himself face-to-face with a herdful of sheep in the wonderful world of Wales, which is as unexpected to him as the sheep that greet him; open-eyed and open-mouthed. It is within this early glimpse of Storm’s ever-so-slightly cheeky character that seemingly sets the scene for this warmhearted, magical and mythological story and things to come…

Lucky for him he is not left out in the wilderness for long as he becomes acquainted with new owner Jessie – a girl whose own heart doesn’t lie in Abergavenny either, after her parents’ separation and her own relocation to this new land. Thinking that a new dog will ease the pain, Jessie’s dad takes her to a rescue centre where she has the pick of the bunch. Jessie’s brother Ben wants the white dog but there’s something about Storm of Odin that catches her eye and she takes him under their wing and touchingly, she names him Storm.

As Storm starts to encounter many moments from our world, it is the most normal of events that become the most amusing: the meetings with the vet, the postman and the cat to name just a few! The observations and wit in Claire’s writing of these pooch-perspectives to show the mild madness in what most of us would consider to be the mundane and that the world according to dogs is a very different one to what we might perceive is comedy genius.

But wait! Action and adventure are soon abound in this tale as the pair are thrust together to navigate the danger that threatens to take over in the form of three mysterious wizards who are tracing a sign and who are searching for the position of this pup. With Jessie’s help, can Storm stay out of sight for long?

I can see this story going down a storm with readers because of its effervescent and charming main character; a supporting storyline that is as touching as it is triumphant and an author who respects the mythology that she mixes in but who too adds a sense of magic that makes this a modern-day myth of its very own.


The Invisible College

More than twenty sheep were grazing quietly when a silver car purred to a halt at the side of Ross Road just by the sign that said: Abergavenny 5.

Three men got out. They all looked quite identical – to a sheep, anyway. The first was tall and thin with grey hair the texture of wool caught in a bush. He stood gazing up and down the road, his hands in his pockets. One of his companions unfolded a map and laid it on the car bonnet. The third man produced a pair of metal sticks and began pacing up and down the grass slope by the road.

Several sheep strayed surreptitiously closer. The gentleman with the sticks paused mid-stride.

 ‘I don’t like the way the sheep are looking at us, Professor Utterby,’ he said. ‘They’re up to something.’

This is how we meet Professors Utterby, Nuffield and Ryston, the last three members of the Invisible College, a secret institution devoted to the dark arts.

I made up a lot of things in Storm Hound, but the Invisble College wasn’t one of them. It really existed – though it had nothing to do with the dark arts.

The college existed as an idea rather than a physical place. References to it date back to the 17th century, in particular by the chemist Robert Boyle. (It’s no accident that I made Professor Utterby a chemist). Little is known about it, but it appears to have been an informal group of like-minded thinkers who would meet to share knowledge and exchange ideas. The group split between London and Oxford, and in 1660 the group petitioned the King for formal status and the Invisble College became the Royal Society.

The notion of the Invisble College crops up in various guises, especially nowadays when online learning can take the place of buildings. In fiction, Pratchett had his Unseen University, of course. And BBC Radio 4 has an interested set of podcasts on creative writing called The Invisible College.
The link is here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p053dm4v

I like to think that, after the creation of the Royal Society, a breakaway group of philosophers and magicians continued to meet in secret, delving further into the world of magic. The Invisible College has continued to this day, its numbers dwindling as magic faded, until only the three professors are left. But now, magic has returned to the world in the form of a fallen stormhound, and the three professors are ready to make themselves great again. Will they succeed? You’ll have to read the book to find out!


Big thanks to Claire, Karen and all at Macmillan for inviting me to take part in the Storm Hound blog tour and sending me a proof copy.

Extra thanks to Claire for writing her guest post!

Mr E


stormhound2

Be sure to check out the rest of the Storm Hound blog tour for exclusive guest posts, reviews and giveaways!

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

Will You Catch Me Cover Image.jpg

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

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

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


Most kids want adventures.
I just want normal.

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

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


Review: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jane Elson Author Image.jpg

 

 

Jane Elson, author of Will You Catch Me?

 


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

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

Mr E


 

Will-You-Catch-Me_Blog-Tour.jpg

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

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

9781471124297.jpg

‘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.

#3Words3Emojis:
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?


Review:

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.

Research: 

  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?

Activities:

  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


Giveaway!

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

9781471124297

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.


APOM BLOG TOUR.png

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!

Blog Tour (Review & Author Q&A): The Star-Spun Web – Sinead O’Hart (Illustrated by Sara Mulvanny)

Screen Shot 2019-02-03 at 18.37.25.png

‘A fantastic fusion of exciting, excellent and effervescent fiction that’s out-of-this-world! This is science-inspired storytelling at its stellar, supercharged best.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Star-Spun Web
Author: Sinéad O’Hart (@SJOHart)
Illustrator (Cover): Sara Mulvanny (@saramulvanny)
Publisher: Stripes (@StripesBooks)
Page count: 384
Date of publication: 7th February 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1788950220

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Science 🔬
2. Reality ✨
3. Violet 🕷️


Tess de Sousa is no ordinary orphan. When a wealthy stranger appears at Ackerbee’s Home for Lost and Foundlings claiming to be her relative, she embarks on a new life with him. She take nothing more than her pet tarantula Violet and a strange device that she was left as a baby.

But far from providing answers to Tess’s mysterious past, it becomes clear that her guardian’s interest in her is part of a terrible plan. With the future of more than one world at stake, it’s up to Tess to stop him…


Review: As a wealthy man turns up on the very doorstep that Tess de Sousa turned up on herself as a baby, she has little idea of how much her life is going to change. Going by the name of a certain Mr Cleat and claiming guardianship of her, Tess knows that this could be her last chance to find out how she came to end up living at the orphanage home of Ackerbee’s Lost and Foundlings once and for all. But all is not quite as it seems…

Imaginative and inventive – although a little anarchic and with a pet arachnid for company – Tess sets off with this stranger, spanning across a web of parallel worlds and dimensions for a multi-layered and multi-universe mystery that is the adventure of all adventures.

Every element of this tale is cleverly written: in terms of its pulsating plot; the cast of its characters: their relationships; their interactions and their interconnectedness; and the dual (sometimes tri-) narratives occurring in concurrent chapters. With a stunningly-illustrated cover by Sara Mulvanny to match, this book can do no wrong and I can predict it already garnering praise aplenty and appearing in nearly all end-of-year celebratory lists.

As the gripping suspense of this story sucks you in to the web that Tess soon finds herself tangled up in, every turn of its page makes time truly fly by with the sensation that you can travel through time yourself.

With The Star-Spun Web, Sinéad establishes herself fully on the MG stage spinning gossamer threads of alternate realities that collide with fragments of fantasy and overcoming the precarious and notoriously difficult ‘second novel syndrome’ with apparent ease. It’s as if she has story writing down to a science.

Out-of-this-world. This is science-inspired storytelling at its stellar, supercharged best. A book that is a pleasure to read and a book that can’t help but encourage reading for pleasure. Like the very best of science discoveries, I think this could be a momentous and ground-breaking read for children (and adults!) who crave a fantastic fusion of exciting, excellent and effervescent fiction.

cropped-the-star-spun-web-twitter-banner.jpeg


I’m utterly delighted to have Sinéad O’Hart, author of The Star-Spun Web, join us on The Reader Teacher today on publication week with this extra-special interview where she shares her experiences of writing, her inspirations and the best and worst things about being an author…sinead-ohart.png

  1. What was your favourite book when you were 8?
    Alan Garner’s Elidor – and it’s still my favourite book now.
  2. What are the three main things a reader will find in your books?
    Clever, determined girls; brave, ingenious boys; mortal peril!
  3. When did you start to tell stories?
    I wrote my first ‘book’ at 7, a sequel to The Little Prince complete with my own drawings, but sadly I’ve lost it. My parents said I always had a strong imagination and liked to tell stories to myself, drawing pictures to go with them, from as soon as I could talk and hold a crayon. I’ve been pleased to see my own little girl doing exactly the same!
  4. Did you always want to be a writer? Have you had different jobs before you were an author? Do you think a variety of work experiences has helped you to write?
    I always wanted to have a creative life, but I wasn’t sure for a long time exactly how I’d go about it. From the age of seven or eight, when I began to think about the sort of life I wanted to have, I knew I wanted to do something unusual, something where I could use my interest in creativity (and daydream a lot, because daydreaming is very important), but to me that could have been anything from being a visual artist to a scientist – I wanted to be a marine biologist for a long time. It wasn’t until I was a few years older, perhaps halfway through secondary school, that I realised my love for books, reading, stories and art could be made into something cohesive, and it was then I began to dream of being a writer. I’ve had lots of jobs; I’ve worked in a clothes shop, as a tourism adviser, in many different offices including a printers’ and a health centre, in a supermarket, as a trainee butcher, as a researcher, as a tutor and lecturer of English language and literature at a university, as a records manager for an English department at the same university, as a bookseller, and as a freelance proofreader. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few! And yes, of course every job I’ve done has helped me to be a writer. Everything you do in life – everything you read, see, hear, watch, and observe – can go toward helping you to be a writer. The more jobs you’ve done, the more experiences you’ve had, the more things you’ve felt and seen and heard, all help you to describe things in your stories and make them feel real. Of course this doesn’t mean you have to wait until you’re a certain age, or until you’ve done a particular amount of ‘things’, before you can write – if you want to write you can start anytime, and the earlier the better. You’re never too young to switch on your observation skills, and then you’re already well on the way. Reading books, learning from them, and using your imagination are all vital tools in a writer’s kit, and there’s no age or experience limit on those.
  5. Where do you get your ideas from, and how do you store them?
    Ideas are all around, just waiting to be plucked out of the air. I’m inspired through observation of the world around me, and I have an insatiable curiosity. I’m constantly on the lookout for strange and interesting words; sometimes I find them in newspaper articles or books, or in overheard conversations, or on signs. For me, words – particularly if they’re misspelled, or if they’re used as a pun, or if they’re unfamiliar to me – are wonderful idea-seeds. Mostly my ideas seem like tiny fragments of something bigger; I get a scene, or a character name, or a place-name, or a funny line of dialogue, and I don’t have any idea where they go or what sort of story they’ll grow into. They need careful handling until they’ve had a chance to germinate and sprout, so it’s important to have a notebook on your person all the time to keep your idea-seeds safe. However, I usually store my ideas on scraps of paper and my phone, as I never have my notebook handy when I need it!
  6. Every writer creates a story in their own unique way. Roald Dahl had an armchair in his shed, Lewis Carroll liked a standing desk and to write in purple ink. Do you have any unconventional methods, habits or superstitions when it comes to writing?
    I tend to write standing up, but not because of superstition – it’s mostly out of necessity as I have a busy little girl. I don’t have unconventional methods because I need to write in any second I can! I feel very boring now. Perhaps I should invent some strange habits, like writing with a rubber chicken tied to my head. Bok bok!

  7. How much of Sinéad O’Hart is reflected in your characters?
    Quite a lot, I think – and I reckon the same is true of any writer. I think my girl characters reflect some of my own awkwardness and social anxiety; I was a very introverted and thoughtful child, who liked to work things out in my own way, and I found, as a girl, that there weren’t many girls like me in books. I try to remedy that a bit with my stories. Some of my girl characters are deep thinkers with a strong sense of justice, girls who like to observe, and I see my child-self in those characters. In my boy characters I put my heart and vulnerability, and that’s something which comes naturally but it’s also a conscious choice, in part. I think it’s important to create boy characters with emotion and depth, and who show true bravery – which to me means doing what you need to do, even though it frightens you.
  8. You are in a library with a 10 year-old who claims that they don’t like reading… Which 3 books would you reach for to try to change their mind?
    I think I’d be there all day, offering them a new trio of books every five minutes, but at the moment: Dave Rudden’s Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy, which is the grippiest, most engaging, most fun and most absorbing children’s trilogy I’ve read in a long time; Peter Bunzl’s Cogheart books, which feature a wonderful heroine and a complex, layered hero, along with a clankingly good cast of mechanimals and mechanicals alike; and Jennifer Bell’s Uncommoners books, which are fast-paced and twisty, edge-of-your-seat action coupled with a brilliant, detailed world and mythology. (Yes, I know that’s technically nine books!) But ask me again in half an hour and I’ll say Sky Song, the Rose Raventhorpe books and Brightstorm… Don’t make me choose!
  9. What’s the best and worst things about being an author?
    There are loads of good things about being an author but the best is: having a job that, for the most part, fits around my child’s life, and also meeting and hearing from readers. I love getting messages from teachers, librarians and mums and dads telling me about the kids who’ve loved my stories, and I really enjoy meeting readers at school and library events. The worst is pretty bad: writing books for a living is a stressful thing sometimes, and I worry constantly that I’m not good enough, or that I’ll never get another contract. But the good things definitely outweigh the bad.
  10. Do you have any advice for budding writers?
    The first thing you need to be a writer is to remember this ABC – Always Be Curious. Pay thoughtful attention to everything you see and hear in the world around you; listen to snippets of conversation, keep your eyes peeled for the interesting and unique things you see every day, ask yourself questions and make up the answers about the people and places you come across. Then: read, read, read; read anything and everything and immerse yourself in words and stories as often as you possibly can. After that: when you start to write your own stories, write what you love; write what interests you, write the kind of books and stories you’d like to read. But the most important thing is this: never give up. Hopefully you’ll be lucky enough to have parents, siblings, and teachers who’ll support you, but sometimes you won’t. Try not to let anyone put you off writing. Do your best to protect the things you love and the things you’re interested in as much as you can. If there’s something in you which loves to read, or write, or draw, or do anything at all, then guard it and nurture it and never lose that love. You never know when it will suddenly bloom into life and bring joy to you and all around you. If you’d like to write as a career, do know this: it can take a long time, and the most important thing you can bring to it is sticking power. Don’t ever stop writing, improving, and trying your hardest!

QUICKFIRE

  1. 3 words that describe you: Confused. Curious. Reading.
  2. Favourite time of the day? I’m a night owl – evening time!
  3. 3 random facts about you: I once chopped up hearts for a living (don’t panic, they were beef hearts); I have a PhD in medieval English; I really hate balloons.
  4. Go-to snack? Rich Tea biscuits!
  5. The best advice you ever got: Love many, trust few, and always paddle your own canoe.
  6. Complete the sentence: “If I was one of the Seven Dwarves, I’d be…” all of them at once! But mostly Dopey.
  7. Superhero power of choice: The ability to hold the entirety of human knowledge in my head, like a walking library.
  8. Go-to outfit? Whatever fits and isn’t covered in last night’s dinner… Usually jeans, DM boots, and a big shirt.
  9. Your dream place to curl up with a book? Anywhere with a view of the mountains or the sea, at sunset, in a cosy well-lit window seat, with a steaming mug of tea close by. Bliss!
  10. The 3 books you’d like to get for your next birthday: The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave; The Clockwork Crow by Catherine Fisher; and The Girl, the Cat and The Navigator by Matilda Woods.

Big thanks to Sinéad, Leilah and all at Stripes for inviting me to kick off The Star-Spun Web blog tour and share my thoughts and for giving me the wonderful opportunity to do its amazing cover reveal and giveaway!

Extra thanks to Sinéad for her brilliant interview!

Dxr1NmYV4AAZEqz.jpg

Be sure to check out the rest of The Star-Spun Web blog tour this week to see more exclusive guest posts and reviews!

 Mr E 

 

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

screen+shot+2018-03-24+at+12.00.36

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

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

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

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


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

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

They are both amazing – just like everyone else!


Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

steve+antony+author+pic-small

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

twitter-great-schools-libraries1

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


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQ3b2-9dbb4

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

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


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

 Mr E 


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


dxmf1_ew0aeioye.png-large

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

Blog Tour (Review): Lightning Chase Me Home – Amber Lee Dodd

dwyui4lwwaagoyp.jpg-large

‘In Lightning Chase Me Home, Amber Lee Dodd couples inner strength and sensitivity, with central character Amelia the shining heart of it all, in a stirring story that will take the children’s book world by storm.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Lightning Chase Me Home
Author: Amber Lee Dodd (@AmberLeeDodd)
Publisher: Scholastic (@scholasticuk)
Page count: 320
Date of publication: 3rd January 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1407191652

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Magic ✨
2. Sea 🌊
3. Self-belief 😊


Amelia Hester McLeod is named after two of her mum’s favourite explorers. Two amazing, fearless, awesome women: Amelia Earhart and Lady Hester Stanhope. But Amelia herself doesn’t always feel very brave or very bright. She lives on a windblown island in a creaky old house right beneath the North Star. Her dad is sad and silent since her mum left them, and her absent-minded grandpa suddenly seems convinced something strange is about to happen to her. When Amelia makes a birthday wish to be reunited with her missing mum, a wild magic is stirred from the sea…


Review:

With a name inspired by two pioneering explorers, you’d think that Amelia Hester McLeod is the brave, courageous and adventurous 21st-Century version of these women that have gone before her. However, living on Dark Muir – a small, Scottish island where nothing seems to happen (her words not mine!) – and coming to terms with her long-lost mum’s disappearance, it’s little wonder to see early on that maybe this is not initially the case.

On her eleventh birthday, she’s taken out to sea by her father who’s been an Islander all his life. Descended from Islanders himself: born here, grew up here and living here which is only half of what Amelia can say herself as island life never really accepted her mother. Feeling like she needs to do more to fit in, she reluctantly obeys with partaking in the island’s rituals: the first being the touching of the Serpent’s Tooth, a glistening black rock in the middle of the water. But this rock holds more power in its stone than Amelia could ever imagine and it’s only when she wishes to see more of her mum does it really come to life…

With power comes great responsibility but with powerful magic comes even greater challenges. As Amelia finds herself in the midst of this magic balancing a tumultuous start socially and academically to new school life, looking after a grandad who’s fighting against battles of his very own and the yearning for her mother, she discovers some kind of solace in an unexpected friendship.

As her gripping story in the most wildly atmospheric of settings unfolds, readers are taken with Amelia together on an epic journey to realise that to be like the explorers of the names she possesses she doesn’t have to achieve record-breaking feats or imagine herself scaling the highest of heights but to have the characteristics of resilience, belief and hope that will see her through the toughest of times.

In Lightning Chase Me Home, Amber Lee Dodd couples inner strength and sensitivity, with central character Amelia the shining heart of it all, in a stirring story that will take the children’s book world by storm.


Big thanks to Emily, Amber and all at Scholastic for inviting me to share my thoughts on this beautifully-written book and for providing me with a proof copy!

⚡ Mr E ⚡


lightning chase me home_blog tour graphic

Look out for more reviews, exclusive guest posts and giveaways as part of the Lightning Chase Me Home blog tour from these wonderful book bloggers!