Monthly Archives: October 2016

Spooktacular Reads – Halloween Reads For Younger Readers

There are so many fangtastic reads for Halloween this year, I have chosen ones which will appeal to even the very youngest of readers. From our favourite friends Mr Men, lift the flap books with lots to discover, to early chapter books. There is something that will captivate, enchant and entertain every little monster in this spooky selection.

Little Monster and the Spooky Party – Pippa Goodheart & Nick Sharratt


When an invitation to a spooky party arrives on the doormat, Little Monster is very excited. Lift the flaps and help him to discover yummy and yucky treats and find his friends in a game of hide- and -shriek.

Wonderful rhymes and bold illustrations make this book a tantalising treat for tiny tots. A real cloud pleaser which will delight and entertain.

Four Silly Skeletons – Mark Sperring & Sue Hendra


Meet four silly skeletons: Fred, Sid, Belle and Bill. They live in a house at the top of a hill. Now, every single day there always seems to be a silly little mishap, sometimes two or three…

Watch as our music-loving skeletons find themselves in lots of trouble in this crazy, calamity story. Enjoy the humorous and detailed illustrations which capture perfectly the chaos unfolding in this wonderful rhyming rendition.


Halloween – Richard Platt & Richard Watson


Join in the Halloween adventure and discover fun facts about trick or treating, dressing up, Halloween celebrations around the world and the history of Halloween in this interactive information book     from Red Shed.

With other 50 flaps to flip, this book is stuffed with intriguing information to amaze and amuse. Children will gasp in glee at the gruesome facts and relish the  sumptuous spreads. Providing hours of learning and entertainment, a real spooky treat.

Mr Men Halloween Sticker Activity Book/Mr Men Halloween Party – Roger Hargreaves


The perfect Halloween treat for all Mr Men fans a new story and activity book, all you need for a Mr Happy Halloween. Join the Mr Men for some creepy colouring, ghoulish games, perfect pumpkins and spooky sticker fun.

We loved the Halloween activity book, guaranteed to keep your little witches and ghoulies out of mischief. Join in with Mr Happy’s Halloween party and see if you can guess the mysterious ghost  in this new spooktastic tale.


Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam The Spooky School – Tracey Corderoy & Steven Lenton


I’m a huge fan of the adventures of the brave baker dogs Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam, so was thrilled when I discovered they had a new illustrated fiction series and this didn’t disappoint. Packed with thrills, spills and mysteries our dynamic duo are back on the case solving more wacky mysteries.

Dealing with cheeky ghosts, a power-grabbing red panda and a racoon gang these hilarious stories will captivate the imagination of newly confident readers. A combination of marvellous storytelling and sublime illustrations ‘Spooky School’ is just divine I absolutely loved it.

Bella Broomstick Halloween Havoc – Lou Kuenzler


Bella is back for a third adventure, it’s Halloween and for a young witch that can only mean one thing – havoc! She can’t wait to do ordinary non- magic things like carve a pumpkin and go trick-or-treating like her friends. But when wicked witch Great Aunt Hemlock decides to pay her a visit, things start to go wrong, Can Bella save the day?

Another irresistible adventure filled with magical mishaps and quirky whimsical drawings. Allow yourself to be totally bewitched by Bella in this delightful new tale. Watch out for lots of comic spells and broomstick thrills in this madcap adventure.

A huge thank you to Egmont, Red Shed, Scholastic and Bloomsbury for sending me copies of these books.


Swan Boy – Nikki Sheehan



When people ask me why I think it’s so important to read I could literally talk for hours about the joys of reading. How it can take you on journeys to weird and wonderful worlds without ever having to leave the comfort of your sofa and offer an escape from whatever you may be feeling. One of the really amazing things that it can encourage is empathy. It allows us to step into other shoes and experience how life and circumstances can affect them. ‘Swan Boy’ by Nikki Sheehan is one of those books which deals with grief and pain in an unusual but poignant way. It gives us an insight into Jonny and his family who are struggling to come to terms with the sudden death of a father and a husband. Not only has the axis of their world been shifted by his death but the family are forced to move away from their home and schools and so the problems begin.

Jonny is thrust into the role of father figure with his Dad gone and his Mum working long hours to keep the family solvent. He’s trying to help his Mum, look after his brother and deal with the school bully Liam Clarke who is trying to make his life hell. But when Jonny gets help from an unusual source, a swan who tries to protect him from Liam, his life takes a dramatic turn and life begins to change in the most unexpected ways. Cast as a lead in the school production of Swan Lake Jonny is challenged to be brave and embrace the role. But with the constant threat of the bully’s revenge hanging over him can he overcome the odds and succeed?
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How To Catch A Witch – Abie Longstaff

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I was really excited to receive an early copy of ‘How To Catch a Witch’ by Abie Longstaff but unfortunately living in a house with two other book lovers I find that quite often they mysteriously go missing. Yet when I ask if anyone has taken them, nobody has they appear to have magically disappeared. Which leads me rather nicely to this marvellous story filled with magic and mayhem which takes everything that we normally see portrayed about witches and turns it on its head. She struggles to fit into school and her anxiety causes her stutter to return making her stand out even more. There are no broomsticks, black cats, wands or ugly old women covered in warts instead we have are introduced to a more modern witch who uses herbs and natural elements to create spells that will heal or protect.

Charlie Samuels life is turned upside down when her family are forced to move from the big city to a country village, where everything feels wrong. There is something very strange about her house and she sees and feels things she can’t explain. Struggling  to make friends, her anxiety causes her stutter to return making her stand out even more. Nothing makes any sense until she finds a woman living alone in the woods who appears to be a witch and Charlie finds herself drawn into a tale of the unexpected, a tale in which good must do battle over an ancient curse not realising that it will change her life forever.

Abie weaves the magical world brilliantly into every day life and takes fairy tale elements seamlessly integrating them into the story in a truly believable way. Yet this sits alongside the realities of the portrayal of Charlie’s difficult life. Her parents are financially burdened, she has lost her best friends and she is terrified to open her mouth to speak to anyone because her stutter is causing her severe embarrassment. She captures the pain and joy of growing up and not feeling comfortable in your own skin. For Charlie it’s the strange sensations she’s feeling, but all children experience this in their own way and reading about others experiences will offer comfort and reassurance. This is an enchanting and captivating story and Abie is a wonderful writer who will delight readers with this magical tale.  You are left feeling that you are on the cusp of uncovering a whole new world filled with adventures for Charlie and we even get a sneak peek of the next book ‘How To Trap A Wolf’ which is out in 2017.

Thank you to Scholastic for sending me a copy of this book.
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The Royal Rabbits of London – Santa & Simon Sebag Montefiore & Kate Hindley


I love that the inspiration behind ‘The Royal Rabbits’ of London came from a late night conversation between parents and a child who was struggling to go to sleep. The thing he loved the most was rabbits and he imagined them living under Buckingham Palace and so this enchanting story was born. Meet Shylo a hopeless rabbit who is slow and clumsy in contrast to the rest of his siblings who are quick and bouncy, destined to live his life as a permanent disappointment to his family. But when Shylo accidentally stumbles across a bunch of menacing rats who are plotting against the Queen. He is forced to find his courage and travel to London to inform the Royal Rabbits in order to thwart their devious plan.

In ‘The Royal Rabbits of London’ a truly believable world has been created, you can instantly visualise this hidden society of animals who are so human like in their behaviour. From using tablets and mobile phones as if this is perfectly normal, to reading newspapers yet they still face the challenges that ordinary animals encounter. Prepare to suspend your disbelief and immerse yourself in this journey to discover these undercover protectors of our Royal Family so that this dastardly plot can be spoilt. Follow Shylo as he searches for the hidden depths of his courage as he tries to outwit and outmanoeuvre the enemy. The characterisation in this story is just wonderful from the timid but courageous Shylo, to the nasty greasy Ratzis each character is distinct in their personality. Kate Hindley’s incredibly beautiful and endearing illustrations capture the traits of these characters wonderfully. They complement the story and help to engage readers with their warmth and energy. Delightful and charming, this tale provides a gentle reassurance to children that they don’t have to be the biggest, bravest and most popular to help save the day. Containing just the right amount of terror and danger to captivate the younger reader and give it a real element of suspense this is an exciting read.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy of this book.

Top 5 places to write – Andy Briggs Guest Post

I am delighted to welcome Andy Briggs to the blog today as part of his ‘Gravity’ blog tour. ‘Gravity’ is the second book in the fast paced new adventure series ‘Inventory’ series, packed with high-tech thrills and excitment. The Inventory is a collection of the most incredible technology the world is NOT ready for. Dev’s uncle is the Inventory’s sole curator, so he has grown up amongst some crazy things. In this sequel to ‘Iron Fist’, it’s up to Dev and his friends to recover technology that was stolen in Shadow Helix’s raid on the Inventory.


Top Five Places to Write

To write you need to be in the moment and in the mood, which means finding the ideal writing place is critical if you want to write anything more than a page at a time. Like most writers, I have my study which is designed for optimal writing performance. I have my desk, a comfy chair and am surrounded by inspirational posters and a selection of toys… um, I mean collectables… to inspire me.

Of course, that doesn’t work.

I find my study is a great place to write outlines and treatments, but when it comes to heavy duty book writing there are just too many distractions. So I move into the lounge and force myself to write as much as possible (such as this blog!) – with the TV off. Turning on the TV then becomes a reward for when I finish the planned scene or chapter.

When that doesn’t work, I move to location three – the library. I have tried working in the public library and, like coffee shops, it offers too many distractions. At home I have a small library filled with my favourite books, travel souvenirs and a fish tank… which is very relaxing. It also allows me to focus on the story without any distractions.

I often have lots of meetings for my scriptwriting work, which means heading into London. That may seem like a huge distraction but (to my own surprise) I find I can do a hugely focused burst of writing on the train. At times I have written more on the journey to and from home than I have in an entire day at my desk. It has now become part of my writing ritual!

The last place is utterly terrible for actual writing, but perfect for proof reading and generating new ideas – and that is a generic place called travel. Whether that is in a hotel room while zooming around the country on a book tour or travelling to some country I have never been to, simply for inspiration, I find that a change in scenery helps reset my imagination. While a new culture and amazing scenery is the perfect requirement to come up with a new idea…

Andy Briggs


Andy Briggs is a screenwriter, producer and author of the, and Tarzan series. Andy has worked on film development for Paramount and Warner Bros, as well as working with Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee and producer Robert Evans. With a strong social media following, Andy tours the UK regularly, doing festival, school and library events.

You can follow Andy on Twitter @abriggswriter or visit his website to find out more.

Blog Tour

You can join in with the rest of the blog tour for more reviews and guest posts.


Monday 17th October

Fiction Fascination

Heather Reviews

Tuesday 18th October

Kirsty Leanne

Emma’s Bookery

Wednesday 19th October

Bookish Outsider

Book Lover Jo

Thursday 20th October

YA Under My Skin

Luna’s Little Library

Friday 21st October


Wonderfully Bookish

Saturday 22nd October

Library Girl and Book Boy

Sunday 23rd October

An Awfully Big Adventure

Monday 24th October

Tales of Yesterday

YA Yeah Yeah

Tuesday 25th October

It Takes a Woman

Sister Spooky

Wednesday 26th October


The Books Bandit

Thursday 27th October

MG Strikes Back

Read it Daddy

Friday 28th October

Snuggling on the Sofa

Live Otherwise

Saturday 29th October

Bart’s Bookshelf

Sunday 30th October






Fiona Ross – The creative inspiration behind Hyde and Squeak

I am delighted to welcome Fiona Ross to the blog today to talk about the marvellous ‘Hyde and Squeak’ a hilarious and witty twist to the Jekyll and Hyde story. Stuffed full of the most glorious illustrations this story will delight and entertain readers, perfect for sharing at Halloween. It is an irresistible combination of spookiness and comedy with plenty of laugh out loud moments.


Fiona Ross – Creative inspiration behind Hyde and Squeak

Little Tiger Press were really keen to make a gothic children’s picture book. They selected one of my earlier illustrations they liked for it’s atmosphere, and this kick started the project. Once we’d worked out the basic story outline the drawing began with designing the characters. This involved playing around with different styles to match the tone of the story, which was constantly evolving at the same time. Hyde felt very animated and slapstick in his silliness, so I looked at characters from The Muppets for inspiration.

I wanted to have several elements of the book in black and white, this felt truly gothic to me like the old RKO horror movies I loved to watch when growing up. I played around with the idea of when we‘re in Granny and Squeak’s world it’s colour, and the framing is straight and uniform. But when Hyde is in the picture, everything is chaotic and the frames of the illustrations become angular as a visual tool to express the bedlam he’s about to unleash. I watched a lot of old cinema such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, (1920) and Nosferatu (1922). Another film which provided much inspiration is Cat People (1942). This film uses it’s strong black and white tones to it’s strength and manipulates the shadowy, eerie atmosphere to build tension and threat. I used shadows in many of the spreads to help lift the characters and detail off the page as well as an atmospheric device

In the book Hyde builds a machine, he’s become a sort of greedy, evil mastermind so of course he needs the help of some crazy device! There was no doubt I was inspired by Heath Robinson’s wonderfully inventive, quirky contraptions. This section of the story was really entertaining but more complex to work out. The detail within the frames had to be simplified so the images weren’t overly busy, the artwork also becomes more graphic and bold allowing Hyde and his invention to be the central focus. I could see Hyde’s ‘Mega Munch Machine’ physically moving along the page and worked out how it functioned, swivelling up and down, spinning and springing, and also propelling him around Granny’s home – even on the ceiling! It was a challenge to show the vehicles potential and movement. I used Lego wheels to print the machines tyre tracks and placed them where they were needed. This also gave me the ability to show the reader where the machine had been and imagine what other funny business Hyde had been up to – he now could have limitless mischief with his invention!

Fiona Ross


Fiona Ross studied illustration at Harrow College of Art before going on to the Royal College of Art to specialise in design for film and television. It is here that Fiona’s TV and Film career began. From designing for BAFTA nominated projects to storyboarding and making models for cinema blockbuster’s Fiona has done it all. She has now turned her talent to children’s book illustration. Originally from Barnsley in South Yorkshire, Fiona now lives in London.

You can follow Fiona on Twitter @fionarossbooks or visit her website to find out more.


Finding Black Beauty – Lou Kuenzler


‘Finding Black Beauty’ is a delightful re-imagining of Anna Sewell’s classic adventure ‘Black Beauty’ from Lou Kuenzler. Lou takes the character Joe Green the poor inexperienced groom from the original novel and retells the story from his viewpoint. Except it has the most marvellous twist. Joe is in a fact a young girl Josie ,who masquerades as a boy after her cruel Aunt casts her aside whose son inherits the family home after the death of her father. She becomes a groom in order to be nearer her horse and to escape from her fate as a companion to an elderly lady. Going from a life of luxury to a life of despair seems intolerable but then Josie falls in love with a horse called Beauty and she is prepared to suffer any hardships to be near him. But when they are cruelly separated she travels to London on a desperate mission to find him.

I absolutely loved the twist in this familiar tale it was a truly enchanting and wonderfully uplifting story. Josie or Joe Green as she becomes is the most endearing character, she is spirited and determined despite facing incredible challenges. Her passion and love for Beauty consumes her and the difficulty of her circumstances pales into insignificance. We are taken on an emotional journey of love, courage, and the power of friendship as Josie sacrifices everything on her quest for her beloved Beauty. Perfect for fans of animal stories, this marvellous adventure will captivate and delight readers.

Lou Kuenzler

Lou Kuenzler

To find out more about Lou Kuenzler you can visit her website, find her on Goodreads or follow her on twitter. If you haven’t already why not try the Shrinking Violet, Princess Disgrace and Bella Broomstick series they come highly recommended by both of my girls.


Blog tour

Why not pop along and visit the other stops on the blog tour!


Thank you to Olivia Horrox and Scholastic Books for my copy of this gorgeous book.


Caroline Busher – Guest Post The Most Magnificent Show on Earth

I’m delighted to welcome Caroline Busher to the blog today with a fantastic guest post about her inspiration for her debut novel ‘The Ghosts of Magnificent Children.’ So without further ado take your seat and prepared to be entertained at ‘The Most Magnificent Show on Earth.’

The Most Magnificent Show on Earth

When I was a child a circus tent appeared in a field on the outskirts of town. Our otherwise grey world was infiltrated with colour as a lively cast of characters spilled onto the streets of our town and it was my fascination with this enchanting world that set the wheels in motion for my debut novel “The Ghosts of Magnificent Children”.

It all began when I was eight years old. For weeks the circus was all that people talked about and it was a welcome diversion to the monotony of life. The performers emerged in the town like ghosts resurrected from damp solitary graves. Putty coloured camels sauntered through winding country lanes, juxtaposed against tractors and diggers, which spluttered regurgitated diesel from smoky engines. Cows raised weary heads in disbelief at the mythical creatures. A shiver of excitement danced down my spine as we entered the tent. I moved closer to my mother as a demur lady in a sequined costume led us to our seats. Her hips swung like a pendulum and she shimmered insolently, her high heels punctuated the grass floor like bullets from a gun. People whispered in the darkness and the circus had begun.

A ringmaster entered the arena, his crimson coat tails trailed behind him, he was reminiscent of a matador in a bullfight, he twirled a pointy black moustache between bony fingers. He commanded attention and evoked silence in the auditorium.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls what you are about to see is the most spectacular show on earth. You will witness death defying acrobats, tigers from Africa and Camels from the Nile. If you are all sitting comfortably, let the show commence”.

Someone coughed, a child giggled and then there was silence.

A clown on a unicycle was the first in the ring, he juggled flame encrusted sticks through the air whilst balancing precariously on his steel construction. People gasped in amazement as the spectacle unfolded before their eyes. Two obligatory clowns somersaulted in front of us and a kaleidoscope of colours erupted in the air. A parody had begun, culminating in a series of comedic exultations. Laughter vented around the ring. I blinked my eyes and watched as a man walked into the ring. Beside him was a resplendent Lion, it oscillated its head and two black eyes that resembled lumps of coal caught fire in the flames of its golden mane.

As there we have it, the spell has been cast. The circus created a world so magnificent and utterly magical that I was powerless to its charms.

The Ghosts of Magnificent Children



The year is 1848. It is a time when magic and ghosts exist. Four Magnificent Children are captured by Badblood’s Circus.

Theo can look into your eyes and reveal your secret thoughts, which come out of his mouth like a swarm of bees.

Ginny has a bird called Blue living inside her. Her ribs are woven together to form a birdcage. Blue perches on a swing made from one of her ribs.

And the Thought-reading Twins, Archie and Millie Luxbridge, have an extraordinary ability to read each other’s minds. They become stars of the circus but are unaware that Badblood has a dark and secret plan.

One hundred years later the children’s ghosts appear on an island off the coast of Ireland where a boy called Rua befriends them. Rua discovers that a terrible fate awaits them and, in a desperate race against time, he struggles to learn how they may be saved.

The Ghosts of Magnificent Children is in bookshops now, or pick up your copy online here.

Caroline Busher


Caroline Busher graduated with a first Class Honours MA in Creative Writing (UCD) and is represented by Trace Literary Agency (USA). She is an award-winning author and was recently appointed the Reader in Residence with Wexford County Council Library Services. Caroline teaches creating writing courses to adults and children and is a curator and Vice Chair of Wexford Literary Festival. Her debut novel “The Ghosts of Magnificent Children” (Poolbeg Press) has been selected for a major project called “Battle Of The Book” by the Dublin Airport Authority and Fingal County Council Library Services.

You can find out more about Caroline on her website  or follow her on Twitter @CarolineBusher


The War Next Door – Phil Earle & Sara Ogilvie


One of the most privileged joys of being a book blogger is getting your hands on books you are desperate to read before you can buy them in an actual bookshop. I have a huge toppling pile of books waiting to be read which increases rapidly on a weekly basis. But sometimes you get a book which demands to be read straight away refusing to take its place within that pile and that book is ‘The War Next Door’ by Phil Earle! I can’t tell you the joy I felt when I received this book because I knew ladies and gentleman that I would be guaranteed a story stuffed full of laughter and heart because nobody does funny quite like Phil Earle, he is a comedy genius.

This is the third book set on ‘Storey Street’, which is based upon a street Phil grew up in, in Hull. Each book tells the story of a different character who lives on the street and in ‘The War Next Door’ we have Masher’s story. I was fortunate enough to chat to Phil last year and when I asked him “who is your favourite character in the series so far?” he told me about this book and Masher in more detail.

“He is deeply flawed and that’s why I love him. I made a deal with myself that if I created a ‘bad’ character, then I would write his story. The next book in the series, ‘The War Next Door’, explains why Masher mashes. I believe no child is born evil, children are taught certain behaviours and we begin to find out why he behaves like he does. There may be redemption in sight for Masher.”

Masher is a menace, all of the children in Storey Street are terrified of getting mashed by him. No one dares stand up to him until one day the fearless Jemima rides into town on her unicycle threatening to end Masher’s reign of terror.  For the first time he goes into a battle without absolute confidence in his ability to win, as the children of Storey Street unite to stop Masher and his greedy Dad from getting their hands on their adopted land. And so begins the war, the war next door, a war like never before.

Hilarious and heartfelt it’s really unusual to see the bully at the centre of the story. Instead of Masher being a one dimensional baddy, Phil allows us to see how his personality has been shaped and influenced by a dastardly devious Dad. We see how he struggles to process his feelings of confusion when Jemima fights his meanness with kindness having never experienced this treatment before. It has an emotional depth to it which I found really touching. Yet this story is still full of incredibly funny moments that will make you laugh out loud, although it is the more subtle humour that makes me smile the most. My favourite line is “Storey Street was quiet. Quieter than a group of librarians on a meditation holiday.” Clearly I haven’t met Phil in person as he wouldn’t be able to use this analogy if he found out what librarians are really like.

Sara Ogilvie again provides the most energetic and magnificent illustrations that I have to applaud. I’m a huge fan of illustrations in books for older reader they allow the child to develop their imagination and stop them feeling overwhelmed by page after page of words. Without a doubt ‘The War Next Door’ is a total triumph, Phil Earle and Sara Ogilvie have created another gem of a book that deserves to be in every school library. Bravo!!

You can read my Q & A with Phil Earle in full over on my blog and read my review of ‘Superhero Street’

To find out more about Phil you can visit his website, like his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter @philearle

To find out more about Sara you can visit her website.


Murder in Midwinter – Fleur Hitchcock


We seem to be in the midst of a murder mystery obsession at school. Every day children are demanding more mystery stories and I’m always on the look out for new and intriguing titles. I was excited to receive a copy of ‘Murder in Midwinter’ by Fleur Hitchcock who according to The Times ‘has cornered the market in hard-boiled crime novels for beginners.’ This certainly captured my attention, just how dark could a crime novel for children be? I could probably just about cope with murder fiction for the over 9s as I must confess I’m easily spooked by anything at all. Intrigued I delved inside to find out more.

Little does Maya know that when she takes a photo of a Christmas window display from the top of the bus, that it will bring danger to her and her family. She captures a couple arguing violently in the middle of a crowded street and is convinced she has spotted a gun. When she goes to the police they dismiss her suggestion, but when a body turns up in the river she is sent into hiding in the country. Trapped in the middle of nowhere she resolves to get to the bottom of the mystery. Then the snow comes and no one can get out. But what if someone can still get in?

Packed with tension, drama and danger this story is wonderfully compelling and will keep you turning the pages desperate to find out the truth behind this unexplained murder. It will keep you on the edge of your seat providing just enough twists and turns to entertain younger readers without terrifying them. ‘Murder in Midwinter’ will have you glancing over your shoulder to check you’re not being followed and make you want to trust nobody, perfect for those who like to be mildly set on edge. That’s not me in case you are wondering!

Thank you to Fiona Scoble and Nosy Crow for sending me a copy of this book.