Wilde – Eloise Williams

I’ve long been a fan of Eloise Williams’s writing from the irresistibly gothic, ‘Gaslight,’ to the haunting and heart-breaking, ‘Seaglass,’ she has a natural gift for storytelling creating tales that really capture your imagination. So I was intrigued to read her latest book, ‘Wilde,’ which brings a century’s old witch’s curse to a modern welsh town, Witch Point. A place renowned for it’s dark and mysterious past, a place where Wilde’s parents used to call home. Forced to return to Witch Point, Wilde feels a sense of unease. All of the unexplained things that have been bubbling underneath the surface, are starting to become more obvious to Wilde as if something is being unleashed inside her. She can no longer ignore these strange occurrences. However, Wilde is determined to supress these feelings, she just wants to be normal and fit in at her new school but fate has cast it’s hand against her. When rehearsals start on a play based on the tale of a local witch, pupils at her school become unsettled when they receive curses from someone claiming to be the witch. Can Wilde find a way to stay in control and discover the true identity of the ‘witch’,’ before she is ostracised once more?

I love how this story weaves together the true life persecution of so called ‘witches,’ – and how they were maligned by the world for trying to use their skills for the good of others – with a slice of magical realism as Wilde slowly uncovers the truth about herself. This could easily become a tale of dark magic and unnatural events but Eloise’s cleverly parallels Wilde’s experience of coming to terms with who she really is and finding her place in the world with other children who feel on the outside for many different reasons. We see how easily it is for our thoughts and feelings to be influenced by other’s prejudices and realise how it takes extreme courage to stand up for those we believe in when everyone else around you is against them. There are some darker elements in this story as Wilde struggles to control her powers, making for a tense and dramatic story. A compelling a thoughtful tale of loss, friendship and courage that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Thank you to Firefly Press for this gifted proof copy. ‘Wilde,’ is available to buy now online or from you local bookshop. Please support your local indie bookseller if at all possible.

LLama Out Loud – Annabelle Sami, illustrated by Allen Fatimaharan

Yasmin Shah lives with the noisiest family in the world. Okay I may be exaggerating slightly but for Yasmin this is exactly what it feels like. All squished together in a thin house squashed between two normal houses, she struggles to find a moment of a peace. Her only retreat is her tiny room at the top of the house in the attic. With everyone competing to make themselves heard and the volume level being constantly out of control, Yasmin decided at a very young age that there is little point in speaking. A chance encounter with a raggedy looking llama toy in a market one day, changes her life forever because Levi is a little bit magical. In fact Levi is so magical he comes to life but only Yasmin can hear and see him resulting in lots of mix-ups!. As far as Yasmin is concerned, Levi is ruining her life and has to go. But can Levi find a way to give Yasmin the courage to be who she really wants to be?

Annabelle has created a hilarious and heartfelt read that will leave you with a huge smile on your face. She has assembled a marvellous cast of characters which come bursting out of the pages giving you an immediate sense of the noise and carnage that fill Yasmin’s life, making it difficult for her to be who she wants to be. Misunderstood by her family, her refuge is a home for octogenarians where she thrives in a totally different environment. Despite Levi making her life miserable, he forces Yasmin to take a long, hard look at how she is choosing her to be by completely pushing her out of her comfort zone. There are so many moments when you could quite cheerfully throttle Levi for his ‘brilliant’ ideas to help Yasmin come out of herself and it’s the level of annoyance which makes this book so brilliantly funny. Allen’s illustrations perfectly capture the personalities of the different family members and the chaos and confusion unfolding as Levi wreaks havoc in Yasmin’s life. Fun, fast and frenetic, this book is a hugely entertaining read.

Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour to find out more!

Thank you to Hilary and Egmont for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and for sending me a gifted copy of this book. ‘Llama Out Loud,’ is available to buy now online or from your local bookshop. Please support independent book shops where you can.

Irresistible Illustrated Fiction

Regular readers of the blog will know I’m a huge fan of illustrated fiction books. They are perfect for newly confident readers allowing them to gain confidence without being overwhelmed by pages of text. Here is my round up of my favourite recent reads all guaranteed to enthral and entertain younger readers. They would make wonderful additions to any primary school library.

Midge and Mo – Lara Williamson & Becky Cameron

Lara Williamson is an incredibly thoughtful writer and she had brought her talent for creating beautiful stories to young fiction in, ‘Midge and Mo.’ Midge doesn’t want to go to school, his whole life has been turned upside down since his parents separated and he’s completely overwhelmed with sadness. When Mo is assigned as his buddy at school she tries everything to break through his sadness and make him smile but it causes him to retreat into his shell further. It’s only when Mo remembers how she felt starting somewhere new that she realises that it’s okay to be sad as well as happy and she comes up with a plan to make Midge feel better. A truly wonderful and empathetic tale that focuses on the difficulties that change can bring and the transformative effect of friendship. Becky’s illustrations masterfully use different colour palettes to capture the sadness and the happiness of the characters beautifully. A truly poignant and heartfelt story.

Captain Whiskers – Jeremy Strong & Matt Robertson

Jack feels left out at school, all of the other children in his class have pets, even the teacher. It makes him feel even more alone than he already does and despite his pleas his parents refuse to let him have any pets, not even a stick insect. A chance encounter with a mysterious man in a top hat and a cat that appears to understand every word he says turns his world upside down. 101 cats suddenly appear at his house and everyone is blaming Jack. His house is in chaos with cats in pans and cats in cupboards, they even follow him to school. But Jack soon discovers that this might just be his chance to get the one thing he wants and give him the chance to finally fit in. Magical and hilarious in equal measures, Jeremy has created a truly entertaining book. Matt’s illustrations perfectly capture the kitty confusion caused by this extraordinary event. Another wonderful addition to the Little Gems collection.

Break-Time Bunnies – Pamela Butchart & Becka Moor

Wigglesbottom Primary,’ is back with another three adventures guaranteed to have you giggling under your school desk. This series has been phenomenally successful in school and I have had to buy multiple copies for the library. A school where the unexpected is just waiting for you around the corner, with all sorts of shenanigans waiting to be discovered. From an invasion of bunnies on the school playground cancelling break time, to an identity mix up with a school inspector. There is so much fun to be had in each and every story. This series is a perfect blend of silliness and fun, it puts a huge smile on my face every time I read a new adventure. Pamela excels in telling school stories that are effortlessly diverse and ridiculously funny, which Becka captures superbly in her hilarious and brilliantly observed illustrations. If you haven’t already read this series you are seriously missing out, they really deserve to be top of the class.

Mirabelle Gets Up to Mischief – Harriet Muncaster

The Isadora Moon series is much loved in school, the children can’t get enough of these enchanting books. From the world of Isadora comes a brand new adventure featuring Mirabelle – Isadora’s cousin –  who is half witch and half fairy. Mirabelle is a little bit different and a lot naughty. When her dad warns her she must be on her best behaviour at the fairy celebration, Mirabelle knows she should resist the temptation to get up to mischief. Torn between her fairy side which says she should be good and listen to her parents and her witch side which usually wins she is unable to resist taking her potions along. But what harm could be caused by the tiniest bit of witchy magic. Bursting with magic and mayhem this is a charming and whimsical read full of magical mischief. I can see this being a huge hit in school.

Unipiggle: Unicorn Muddle – Hannah Shaw

Princess Pea doesn’t quite fit into idyllic Twinkleland Kingdom where everything is just absolutely perfect, she finds it all too exhausting. When her mother, Queen Bee declares she has to have the perfect unicorn and organises as special parade, Princess Pea knows she has no chance of escaping from even more royal duties. But when a unicorn pig gatecrashes the parade, Princess Pea finally finds someone like her, someone who is a little bit different and likes getting a lot muddy. Now she just has to convince her parents that he’s the perfect royal unicorn despite him definitely not being what they had in mind for their precious princess. I really enjoyed this twist on the usual fairytale, Princess Pea is full of fun and mischief refusing to conform to everyone’s expectations of her. Vibrantly illustrated in a riot of colours this is an entertaining and energetic tale.

Kitty and the Treetop Chase – Paula Harrison & Jenny Løvlie

‘Kitty and the Treetop Chase,’ is the third book in this charming series from Paula Harrison and Jenny Løvlie. Kitty finds it strange when her mum invites a new friend over for a sleepover but she soon discovers that despite their difference they both have something in common, their superpowers. But they are still unsure of each other both convinced their ways are the best. When a commotion happens at the bakery it’s up to these new friends to find a way to work together. Can teamwork and friendship save the day?  These fun filled first adventures are truly delightful they’re already hugely popular at school. Beautifully illustrated in a two tone by Jenny, they are completely irresistible! She captures the fun and excitement of Kitty’s moonlight escapades brilliantly.

Thanks to Barrington Stoke, Little Tiger, Nosy Crow, OUP and Usborne BAH for sending me gifted copies of these books. You can buy all of these books online (click on the title link) or from your local bookshop. If you can please support an independent bookshop.

While We Can’t Hug – Eoin Mc Laughlin & Polly Dunbar

It feels like our world is scattered with the same phrases at the moment, ‘unprecedented times,’ ‘new normal,’ and ‘social distancing.’ While these have become an ingrained part in our everyday lives, for children these words are meaningless. How do you explain to children that they can only see their grandparents from a distance and for those that are back in school the reason why they can’t hold their best friend’s hand on the playground. Luckily for parents and educators the wonderful Eoin McLaughlin and Polly Dunbar have created the most beautiful and important picture book, ‘While We Can’t Hug,’ which brilliantly conveys the difficulties of the current climate and how it can impact on how we feel.

Hedgehog and tortoise are the best of friends and are desperately sad they can’t hug until wise owl comes along and reminds them there are many ways that you can show someone you love them. Instead of focusing on the negatives of the situation of the things they ‘can’t do,’ it illustrates quite simply all the wonderful things they ‘can’ do for those we love. From drawing pictures, to singing songs and writing letters our friends find a way to connect and show each other how much they care. The exquisite illustrations capture the sadness of Hedgehog and Tortoise’s feelings perfectly and with each spread we’re shown the transformative effect of doing special things for those we love. This book is an absolute joy from start to finish, it clearly demonstrates the power of words and pictures in providing comfort and reassurance in the strangest of a times. The first time I read this book it was with tears in my eyes, it really is a truly uplifting and joyful read.

Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour for more reviews and guest posts.

Thanks to Faber for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and for sending me a gifted copy of this gorgeous book. ‘While We Can’t Hug,’ is released on the 25th June and is available to pre-order online or from your local bookshop.

Cover Reveal – Lori and Max and the Book Thieves

I’m really excited to be sharing with you today the cover of the follow up to  Catherine O’ Flynn’s brilliant mystery story, ‘Lori and Max.’ Our dynamic duo are back in another tricky case in, ‘Lori and Max and the Book Thieves.’ It will be published on the 8th October by Firefly Press.

So without further ado here it is…

I love how this cover designed by Anne Glenn gives us a hint at the mystery lying inside the cover, with clues designed to tantalise any aspiring detective. Let’s shine a light on this newest case and find out a bit more about what Catherine has in store for us…

Lori and Max and the Book Thieves

I was really excited to get my hands on a sneak peek of, ‘Lori and Max and the Book Thieves,’ it was packed full of twists and turns. Yet again Catherine has created a story filled with drama and tension, I completely devoured it in one sitting. In this newest mystery we will discover, a stolen phone and an unruly dog; a buried lunchbox and an antique children’s book. It’s up to Lori and Max must dig through layers of lies to solve not one but two mysteries as they seek to right wrongs and return stolen items to their rightful owners. Another compelling and thoughtful tale that is bound to delight mystery lovers.

Thank you to Firefly for inviting me to host the cover reveal. If you haven’t read the first Lori and Max mystery you can order it here and you can pre-order, ‘Lori and Max and the Book Thieves,’ online or from your local bookshop.

This Book Has Alpacas and Bears – Emma Perry & Rikin Parekh

Today on the blog I’m thrilled to share with you the fabulous, ‘This Books has Alpacas and Bears,’ written by Emma Perry and illustrated by Rikin Parekh. Alfonso the Alpaca loves to read but is incredibly frustrated about the lack of alpacas in his books. There seems to be a multitude of stories featuring all different types of bears from funny to grumpy ones but absolutely no alpacas! Determined to make a stand for alpacas everywhere he decides to write his own story but he soon realises the only way he can do this is to enlist his friend Colin who happens to be a bear! This is such a clever and brilliantly funny book. Alfonso and Colin are a truly delightful duo who will engage and entertain you with their bizarre and hilarious antics. Rikin’s vibrant and energetic illustrations capture all the fun and humour of this story wonderfully.

To celebrate the release of, ‘This Story Has Alpacas and Bears,’ I have a special guest post from author Emma Perry and a fun activity for children (and adults) to try.

Alfonso’s all-important Bow Tie: An Alpaca Activity for Kids

If you peer closely at the front cover of This Book Has Alpacas and Bears, and then a bit closer at the title page, the eagled eyed amongst you will spot that both Colin and Alfonso are sporting rather fetching bow ties.

A bow tie? Why a bow tie, I hear you asking rather urgently.

I know Rikin Parekh doesn’t mind me telling you that the bow ties he has placed on both of our characters have most definitely been influenced by this man…

Never spotted (get it, ‘spotted’, sorry/not sorry) without a bow tie this is David Fickling, of David Fickling Books – always nice to get a nod to your publisher snuck into your books. Nicely done, Mr Parekh!
Alfonso is definitely a flamboyant character, and I’m pretty sure he has more than one bow tie lurking around. I wonder what the others would look like?
Do you think he has particular bow ties for particular occasions?
A particularly snazzy party bow tie, maybe?
A soothing bedtime bow tie?
Or even… a rock and roll themed bow tie for when he strums on his electric guitar?
I wonder what they would look like?
I bet you’ve got a good idea. Tell you what…. why don’t you have a go at designing a bow tie for Alfonso? I bet you could come up with a GREAT one that Alfonso would LOVE.
Download the template below, (click on the link) print it out, grab some colours and let your imagination go WILD!

Design Alfonso’s bow tie…

Rikin and I would love to see your creations – ask an adult to pop it on social media (details below) – we can’t wait to see them!

Twitter: @_emmaperry @r1k1n

Instagram: @emmaperry @r1k1n_parekh

Websites: www.emmaperryauthor.com www.rikinparekh.com

Thank you to Emma, Rikin and David Fickling Books for inviting me to join in with the blog tour. You can get your hands on a copy of, ‘This Book has Alpacas and Bears,’ online or from your local bookshop. Please support your local independent bookshop if possible.

Empathy Day – Checkmates by Stewart Foster

Empathy Day was established by not-for-profit EmpathyLab, who are on a mission to inspire the rising generation to drive a new empathy movement. On 9 June they will host a day of brilliant online events and home-based celebrations to help children READ, CONNECT AND ACT using empathy. Today I am delighted to welcome Stewart Foster to the blog to mark the countdown to this year’s Empathy Day. Stewart’s book, ‘Check Mates,’ is included in Empathy Lab’s Read for Empathy Collection, he has chosen an extract from his book and tells us why he feel it’s a powerful read to develop empathy.

Check Mates – Stewart Foster

Empathy in Writing – Is It Okay to Pray Only When You Want Something?

I’m going to start with an apology, because I find it very hard to analyse my own writing, what did I do? What did I try to do? Because the truth is, I just sat down and wrote, putting myself in Felix’s position, as I did for the whole six months it took to write the book. You see, empathy is not something I consciously switch on and engage. It’s something that is always there, and it arrives as sure as my heart will perform its next beat.

In this excerpt, Is It Okay to Pray Only When You Want Something, Felix is desperately worried about his granddad, who is ill in hospital. The only way Felix can reconcile his feelings, is to compare it with the devastation he felt when his grandma died. And I think this is something we all, do. It doesn’t matter if it’s your pet hamster, or dog – it is something that affects us greatly when we lose them. I know, up until recently, the most upset I’d ever been was when my dog, Ted, died. I can’t say I consciously thought about that when I wrote the scene, but it is certainly something that was stored in my emotional bank.

As with the rest of Check Mates, Felix does not want you to feel sorry for him, he just wants you to understand. He copes by remembering nice things about his granddad, like the chess pieces, and German sausages. Things that he once found irritating about his granddad, are now the things he misses most. I think that is something that is true for all of us. When his mum tries to comfort him, she does so by recalling the ‘funny’ if irritating things, Felix’s granddad used to do. People often tell me that my writing is funny and sad at the same time and I think humour plays a big part in empathy. It’s always okay to smile, when someone is down, feeling in need of help, and when Felix’s mum says, ‘He’ll (Granddad) will soon be picking you up again from school in his pink car.’ That’s her trying to say to Felix, that she ‘gets’ how he is feeling, but trying to cheer him up at the same time.

And that is about it. In the same way you can’t push yourself to give empathy, I can’t push myself to analyse what I do. Because in both cases, if you force something too much, it will come out as being false. Writing, like empathy, is a delicate balance. Yes, you can understand how someone feels, yes you can help, but the most important thing I take from this is that you can offer all the above, but the most important aspect of all, is to allow people space to breathe. And I hope, that is something you can appreciate, not just in my books, but also those in the #readingforempathy recommendations.

To read the extract, click on the link below

Check Mates It’s Okay to Want Something

Thank you to Stewart for his thoughtful guest post today and for sharing an extract with us. If you want to find out more about, ‘Check Mates,’ you can read my review.

Empathy Day 2020

For the first time this year, EmpathyLab will host its Empathy Day programme online to support families at home. Events on 9 June will begin at 9:30am with Children’s Laureate and best-selling author Cressida Cowell, who will introduce Empathy Day. The day’s activities, designed to introduce children to the concept and importance of empathy and how to put it into action, include a draw-along with Rob Biddulph, a poetry challenge with Sarah Crossan, Empathy Charades with Joseph Coelho, exercises on listening with Jo Cotterill and Robin Stevens, before rounding up the day with an activity on putting empathy into action with Onjali Rauf and Sita Brahmachari. Finally, an evening event with Cressida Cowell, Muhammad Khan and psychologist Professor Robin Banerjee aimed at parents, teachers and librarians will address the science that drives EmpathyLab.

The full programme can be found HERE https://bit.ly/EmpathyDay2020

Blog Tour

Thank you to Fritha and the EmpathyLab for inviting me to join in with the blog tour for Empathy Day. You can meet some of more of this year’s authors on the other blog stops.

A Kind of Spark – Elle McNicoll

Once in a while a book comes along that completely moves me and I know that it will stay with me a long time, ‘A Kind of Spark,’ by Elle McNicoll is one of these. This thoughtful debut features Addie who is autistic and is struggling to navigate the world around her more so than normal since her sister Keedie – who is also autistic- has gone to college. When her teachers introduces a new topic: Withcraft, she learns of real life ‘witches,’ who were targeted and executed and feels an affinity with these women who were different and misunderstood. Desperate for her town to recognise this wrong doing she campaigns for a memorial but is met from opposition in all quarters. Can Addie win them over and find a way to create a  space where she can find peace too?

You feel Addie’s feelings and experiences so viscerally through this book. At times it is painful and raw to read as she faces the torment of her terrible teacher and others who don’t even try to understand what life is like from her. The reader is invited to see the world through Addie’s eyes, allowing them to have true empathy for how sometimes even the most smallest and seemingly insignificant thing can be completely unbearable. There’s a real sadness to this story as Addie comes to realise her sister Keedie is masking who she really is from her new friends. The toll this takes on her is incredibly heart-breaking. I loved how Addie sees that these women have been dealt a terrible fate and can relate to how suspicious other people can be of those who are different in any way. She uses her passion and enthusiasm and channels it into something extraordinary. This is a book that needs to be in every primary and secondary school library. It’s not only important that children see their lives reflected in books but that we create a culture of empathy and understanding. A truly stunning debut, I absolutely loved it!

 

Elle McNicoll

Elle McNicoll is a children’s author from Scotland, now living in East London. As a neurodivergent writer, she is passionate about disability rights and representation. She was inspired to finish A Kind of Spark after her Masters research revealed that only 0.05% of protagonists in children’s books are neurodivergent. When she isn’t writing fiction, Elle assists as a mentor for neurodivergent students at UCL, works as an editor and in her spare time, makes colourful chokers for friends to wear. A Kind of Spark is her first novel.

 

 

 

Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour to find out more…

Thank you to Knights Of and Ed PR for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and for sending me a gifted proof copy of this wonderful book. ‘A Kind of Spark is released on the 4th June,’ and is available to pre-order now online or from your local bookshop.

Asking For a Friend – Kate Mallinder

Today I am delighted to kick off the blog tour for Kate Mallinder’s second teen book, ‘Asking For a Friend.’ After loving Kate’s confident and assured debut, ‘Summer of No Regrets,’ I was excited to get my hands on an early copy of this book and it didn’t disappoint. Agnes is desperately missing her sister Rose who has moved to Weston Super Mare, no longer can she rely on the structure that she provides and she feels adrift. When she discovers her bus companion Hattie’s aunt has a guest house there, a plan begins to formulate in her mind and she soon convinces Hattie and Jake to come away with her for a ‘study break.’ But none of them will admit their true motivation for wanting to escape from normality. In this week they’ll discover things about each other and themselves, whilst finally understanding the meaning of true friendship.

Kate has assembled an intriguing and diverse cast of characters whose lives the reader immediately become caught up in. Once again she writes from each of their points of views in an insightful and thoughtful way, seamlessly weaving their stories together. She doesn’t shy away from dealing with the difficulties that teenagers face growing up, from friendship issues, fear of illness,  to being bullied on social media. Each of the character’s circumstances is explored with the most wonderful empathy allowing us to feel truly immersed in their journeys.  Kate has a real talent for getting into the hearts and minds of teens, understanding their vulnerabilities and the challenges they face. There are so many moments of sadness, joy and drama that make this book a compelling and uplifting read. It’s the perfect escape and is bound to delight young teens looking for something true to life.

Competition

I have two signed copies of, ‘Asking For a Friend,’ to giveaway, to enter comment on this blog post and for an extra entry RT the review on Twitter. UK only Ends 4th June 2020.

 

Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour for more reviews and posts?

Thank you to Kate and Firefly for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and for sending me a gifted copy of this wonderful book. ‘Asking For a Friend,’ is released on 4th June and is available to buy online or from you local bookshop.

The Book of Mysteries – J.R. Wallis

Today I’m sharing with you, A Tale from the Badlands, ‘The Book of Mysteries by J.R. Wallis. Although this is the third book in the series, it works incredibly well as a stand alone and despite not having read the first two, the world is established quite quickly and I soon became lost in the Badlands. The Badlands is a place full of monsters and creatures that hide in the shadows waiting on their prey. These fearsome beasts are not the stuff of fairy tales and nightmares but real life and they are kept at bay by the Badlanders who are sworn to protect mankind. Ruby is determined to prove that she is worthy to be a Badlander but despite her record of defeating monsters the order is reluctant to admit her because it is the preserve of men. When a divided vote casts Ruby’s fate into uncertainty she is challenged with an impossible task to prover her worth, she most solve a unsolvable case from The Book of Mysteries. Together with her friend Jones they must travel to Great Walsingham, a place where no Badlander has ever returned. Can they solve the mystery before it’s too late?

This is such an intriguing and compelling story, that I was immediately swept away into this brilliantly imagined world of the Badlands. I love when two worlds collide and the thought of living in a place where monsters hide in the shadows makes this story more chilling and believable, allowing the reader to feel on edge throughout. The characterisation is excellent, Ruby is a well thought out character with an interesting mix of flaws and strengths which make her frustrating and endearing in equal measures. Both Ruby and Jones are dealing with inner turmoil as well as external threats, creating a more complex and layered story that makes you race through the book desperate to know if they will succeed in this impossible task. Compelling storytelling meets superb world building in this frenetic and thrilling adventure.

The Book of Mysteries – J.R. Wallis

To celebrate the release of this marvellous book, J.R Wallis is sharing chapters from his book and I’m delighted to share one on the blog today from the home of:

University of Cambridge Centre for Creative Writing

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for sending me a gifted copy of the book. All of the books in the series are available to buy now online or from your local bookshop. Click on the title to find out more:

The Boy with One Name

The Black Amulet

The Book of Mysteries