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

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‘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…

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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!

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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.


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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!

Cover Reveal: Check Mates – Stewart Foster (Designed by Leo Nickolls) – Out 27th June 2019!

I’m absolutely delighted to be able to reveal the cover of Check Mates, Stewart Foster’s third novel after the success of The Bubble Boy and All the Things That Could Go Wrong, which will be published on the 27th June 2019 by Simon & Schuster Children’s.


Check Mates – Stewart Foster

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Felix School isn’t a problem child.
He’s a child with a problem…

Felix’s ADHD makes it hard for him to concentrate and his grades are slipping. Everyone keeps telling him to try harder, but no one seems to understand just how hard he finds it.

When Mum suggests Felix spends time with his grandfather, Felix can’t think of anything worse. Granddad hasn’t been the same since Grandma died, and he’s always trying to teach Felix boring chess.

But sometimes the best lessons come in the most unexpected of places, and Granddad soon shows Felix that there’s everything to play for.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
ISBN: 9781471172236
Number of pages: 368


‘Funny and heartfelt with a cunning twist. Stewart Foster is a grandmaster.’
Ross Welford

‘An inspirational underdog story and a chilling mystery! A winning combination.’ David Solomons


Stewart Foster

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Author photo © Tallulah Foster

Stewart Foster is the author of one novel for adults, We Used to be Kings and was one of the Observer’s New Faces of Fiction for 2014. Stewart was named a New Author to Watch by The Guardian and was an Amazon Rising Star for his adult novel, published in the UK. He lives in Bath.

His first novel for children, The Bubble Boy, is about eleven-year-old Joe, whose medical condition means that he has to live permanently inside hospital in a germ-free ‘bubble’. But then someone new enters his world and Joe is given opportunities he had previously only dreamt of – but are they worth the risk?

Stewart’s second novel for children, All the Things That Could Go Wrong, was published in June 2017.

Stewart’s third novel for children, Check Mates, publishes in 2019.


Praise for All the Things That Could Go Wrong

‘A moving, humane, funny portrait of two very different boys discovering what connects us all.’
Kiran Milwood Hargrave

‘It’s amazing!’
Ross Welford

‘I loved it.’
Lisa Thompson

‘A touching, funny, gripping read that tackles important issues in a sensitive and thoroughly enjoyable way. Highly recommended.’
Stuart Robinson

‘A timely story of courage and reminder of what we all share.’
Christopher Edge

‘Powerful and warm … this will linger long in the mind.’
Guardian


Praise for The Bubble Boy,
Winner of the Sainsbury’s Children’s Book Award in 2016

‘Poignant, hopeful and heartbreaking.’
Fiona Noble – Children’s Editor, The Bookseller

‘Deeply moving and utterly gripping . . . Stewart Foster carries off an astonishing feat of storytelling in this exceptional book’ 
Julia Eccleshare, lovereading.co.uk

‘A gripping and deeply moving book.’ 
Jamila Gavin

‘One thing we know about good books is their amazing ability to inspire empathy in the reader; to explore ideas and viewpoints that arise from experiences that are out of our own realm. The Bubble Boy does this with warmth, quirkiness and a light-hearted touch.’ 
Guardian


Leo Nickolls

Leo Nickolls is a freelance book cover designer and illustrator with extraordinary talents. Some of his work includes covers for Stewart Foster’s All the Things That Could Go Wrong Joanna Nadin’s & Anthony McGowan’s Everybody Hurts, Chris Womersley’s City Of Crows, Allegra Goodman’s The Chalk Artist, and the recent 40th Anniversary Edition of Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia.

You can find out more about Leo at his website or by following him on Twitter: @leonickolls


Check Mates is available to pre-order online or from any good independent bookshop.


Pre-order: Pre-order your copy now from Amazon, Hive, Waterstones & WHSmith now!


Big thanks to Stewart and all at Simon & Schuster for giving me the wonderful opportunity to reveal this fantastic cover for what I’m sure is going to be another wonderful addition to Stewart’s catalogue! I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

Mr E


Blog Tour (Review & Giveaway!): The Night I Met Father Christmas (Illustrated by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini)

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‘A gilt-edged gift that’s more than a gift… this is a story that no doubt will become a festive favourite but is a book that will take big kids back to feeling like believers again.


Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Night I Met Father Christmas
Author: Ben Miller (@ActualBenMiller)
Illustrator: Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini (@djterrazzini)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s (@simonkids_UK)
Page count: 304
Date of publication: 1st November 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1471171536

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

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Magical ✨
2. Charming 😊
3. (Father) Christmas 🎅


Jackson knows all about the flying reindeer, he knows about the elves and the secret North Pole workshop, he knows about the magic that allows Father Christmas to deliver presents around the world in just one night, but there’s one thing he doesn’t know …  how did Father Christmas become Father Christmas?

That all changes when, one Christmas Eve, Jackson meets Father Christmas and hears his incredible story.   
 
So begins an enchanting fairy-tale into a magical snowy landscape, where Torvil, a mean-spirited and miserly elf, is about to discover the true meaning of Christmas. This might not have been the story Jackson was expecting but, as Father Christmas tells him, no good story ever is… 


Review: You’ll most probably know Ben Miller for his vast array of utterly brilliant comedy, TV and film work, most notably with writing partner Alexander Armstrong. My favourite of  his being the hilarious The Worst Week of My Life. So it is with great pleasure that The Night I Met Father Christmas shows that Ben can turn to his hand to the children’s literature world with the same enthusiasm in this joyful, festive offering. The Night I Met Father Christmas is Ben’s first foray in to writing for children and I’m certainly hoping it’s not his last.

In his heart of hearts, Jackson is a believer, always has been a believer and always will be a believer but owing to the smallest seed of doubt placed in his mind by one of his friends that’s slowly festering and growing bigger, he’s determined to find out for real about the true origins of Father Christmas.

With grand plans to meet the main man himself by fervently staying up late on Christmas Eve, Jackson is ready and armed with that ever-elusive and all-important unanswered question that’s reverberating around his head to find out his true identity, How did Father Christmas become Father Christmas?

But this all starts to slightly come unstuck when Father Christmas arrives down his chimney with a problem all of his very own…

As Father Christmas injures himself coming down Jackson’s chimney leaving the world at the mercy of not receiving their presents, Jackson finds himself at the delivery service of this small Santa in return of wanting to reveal the secret backstory behind his being.

With echoes of the great Charles Dickens’ The Christmas Carol and in particular The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, so begins the revelatory journey that Jackson finds himself on. Accompanied by a talking reindeer, Jackson discovers the story of a Scrooge-like elf with a surname that’s the only thing in common with Christmas who rediscovers himself in more ways than one…

Friendship, flashbacks, fairy-tale and festivity combine in the most delightful of ways to make this a book that has all the potential of becoming the next Christmas classic. Not only a wonderful book to read at home in the build-up to Christmas Day that’s guaranteed to be a big hit with the whole family but also one that could inspire a whole generation of young readers to write their own origin stories, you’ll never think of Father Christmas in quite the same way again.

An absorbing read that’s sure to sprinkle Christmas spirit and sparkle through every turn of its glorious and gorgeous DJ Terrazini black-and-white illustrated pages, this is a book that no doubt will become a festive favourite but is also a book that will take big kids back to feeling like believers again.

Make sure to find space on your book shelf for this gilt-edged gift that’s more than a gift; it’s the perfect present to read this Christmas and to return to for all Christmases to come.

‘A gilt-edged gift that’s more than a gift… this is a story that no doubt will become a festive favourite but is a book that will take big kids back to feeling like believers again.


Big thanks to Eve Wersocki-Morris, Ben and all at Simon & Schuster Children’s UK for inviting me to share my thoughts on this beautifully-written and illustrated book as part of The Night I Met Father Christmas blog tour!

🎁 🎅  Mr E  🎅🎄

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The Night I Met Father Christmas is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.


Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Simon & Schuster Children’s UK have kindly given me ONE copy of The Night I Met Father Christmas to give away!

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

Cover Reveal & Giveaway: You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yeti! (The Nothing to See Here Hotel #2) – Steven Butler (Illustrated by Steven Lenton): Out 20th September 2018!

Today, I’m SO excited to reveal the cover of Steven Butler & Steven Lenton’s all kinds of amazing sequel, You Ain’t Seen Anything Yeti!, to The Nothing to See Here Hotel which will be published on 20th September 2018 by Simon & Schuster Children’s UK.

I’m also super excited because the very lovely people at Simon & Schuster Children’s UK have given me one copy of The Nothing to See Here Hotel to give away!
Find out more below!


You Ain’t Seen Anything Yeti! (The Nothing to See Here Hotel #2) – Steven Butler

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The second book in this fabulously funny series by bestselling author Steven Butler and the wonderful Steven Lenton!

Having just saved the hotel from a goblin prince, Frankie Banister and the guests are looking forward to enjoying themselves and celebrating the summer holiday of Trogmanay! But when a snow storm blows in (complete with Yeti family), and a number of mysterious guests arrive, something sinister seems to be taking over the hotel and celebrating is the last thing on anyone’s mind…

PRAISE FOR THE NOTHING TO SEE HERE HOTEL:
‘This book is so good you won’t blunking believe it!’
Tom Fletcher

‘Hilariously funny and inventive, and I love the extraordinary creatures and the one thirty-sixth troll protagonist…’
Cressida Cowell

‘A rip-roaring, swashbuckling, amazerous magical adventure. Comedy Gold.’
Francesca Simon

`This hotel gets five stars from me’
Liz Pichon

‘A splundishly swashbungling tale of trolls, goblins and other bonejangling creatures. Put on your wellies and plunge into the strangest hotel you will ever encounter. This is a hotel I hope I never find! Wonderfully, disgustingly funny.’
Jeremy Strong

`What a fun hotel! Book me in immediately!’
Kaye Umansky


Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd

ISBN: 9781471163852
Number of pages: 208


Steven Butler

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Steven Butler is the author of the bestselling Diary of the Dennis the Menace fiction series. As well as writing the hit 2015 World Book Day title, World Menace Day, Steven also hosted the ten key nationwide events, for the Biggest Book Show on Earth, for over 13,000 children and dozens of top-name authors.

Steven Butler is an actor, dancer and trained circus performer. He has appeared in The Wizard of Ozin London’s West End and was Henry in Horrid Henry Live and Horrid!

His primary school headmaster was the fantastically funny author Jeremy Strong. Steven’s first novel, The Wrong Pong, was shortlisted for the prestigious Roald Dahl Funny Prize in 2009.


Steven Lenton

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Steven hails from Cheshire and now works from his studio in Brighton, creating an array of charming characters for his books.

Best known for illustrating Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam, written by Tracey Corderoy, he has illustrated many lovely books and wrote his first picture book with Nosy Crow, Princess Daisy and the Dragon and the Nincompoop Knights.

Steven also loves to visit schools, festivals and bookshops, encouraging and inspiring his audience to draw, giggle and create! He is also a children’s book blogger – just search for his name on YouTube. More information about him and his work can be found at stevenlenton.com.


Huge thanks to Steven, Steven, Eve and all at Simon & Schuster Children’s UK for inviting me to host this totally awesome cover reveal, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!


Mr E

📚


You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yeti! is available to pre-order online from AmazonWaterstones or from any good bookshop.

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Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Simon & Schuster Children’s UK have kindly given me one copy of The Nothing to See Here Hotel to give away!

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

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Cover Reveal: The Black Amulet (The Boy With One Name/Badlands: Book 2) – J. R. Wallis (Out 6th September 2018)

Today, I’m absolutely delighted to exclusively reveal the cover of J. R. Wallis’ The Black Amulet, the second book in the Badlands series illustrated by Manuel Šumberac following The Boy With One Name, which will be published on 6th September 2018 by Simon & Schuster Children’s UK.

I’m also super excited because the very lovely people at Simon & Schuster Children’s UK have given me three copies of J. R. Wallis’ first in the series, The Boy With One Name, to give away! Find out more below!


The Black Amulet – J. R. Wallis

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Welcome to the Badlands … a hidden part of our world populated by creatures which most people think exist only in fairy tales and nightmares.

Jones, Ruby and Thomas Gabriel have spent the summer apart following the extraordinary events of last winter – Jones is now a “normal” boy living with his parents, Ruby is secretly training to be a Badlander and Thomas Gabriel has commenced and has his own  Badland area to protect. But magic is about to pull them back together once more, as they are tasked with hunting down the all-powerful magical artefact, The Black Amulet, with each hoping it will hold the secret to their problems…


J. R. Wallis

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J. R. Wallis is a children’s author and is always on the look out for strange and mysterious things to put in his books. He believes that if you look hard enough you can usually find something interesting to photograph or write about. His new book ‘The Boy With One Name’ is about the things people don’t notice if they’re not watching out for them.

He also writes YA fiction under the name Rupert Wallis and his work has been shortlisted for awards both in the UK and abroad. His debut novel ‘The Dark Inside’ is now being adapted for film. In addition to writing books, he is a Teaching Associate at Cambridge University’s Institute of Continuing Education, where he lectures on creative writing.  He also mentors students at the Faber Academy.

He lives in Norfolk.

You can find out more about J. R. Wallis and his books on his website or on Twitter.


Manuel Šumberac

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Manuel Šumberac is a Croatian based illustrator and animator. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb where he was drawn towards the fascinating world of illustration. His work has been published and recognized in numerous book illustrations and book covers, such as Pinocchio, Snow White, The Night Before Christmas and Steampunk Frankenstein, amongst many others. Manuel creates his illustrations using digital techniques combined with traditional media.

You can see more of Manuel’s work, cover illustrations and portfolio on his website.


Huge thanks to Rupert, Jo and all at Simon & Schuster for inviting me to host this marvellously magical cover reveal, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

Mr E
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The Black Amulet is available to pre-order now online or from any good bookshop.

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Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Simon & Schuster Children’s have kindly given me three copies of The Boy With One Name to give away!

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

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‘Delightfully magical and brilliantly told.’
Abi Elphinstone, author of Sky Song on The Boy With One Name

First in the series, The Boy With One Name is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.