Monthly Archives: May 2017

Rachel Hickman – Guest Post One Silver Summer

I am delighted to welcome Rachel Hickman to the blog today for a special guest post to celebrate the release of the glorious ‘One Silver Summer.’ Today Rachel talks about her recommendations for transition books for children moving to secondary school, something which I am really interested in as my daughter will be in year 7 in September. A really wonderful selection, I can’t wait to find out more.

My top 5 books for pre-teens transitioning to Year 7 – Rachel Hickman

A little of everything is good for transitioning readers and sometimes nothing comforts like re-reading books from younger days like Jill Murphy’s WORST WITCH series, or Liz Kessler’s tails of EMILY WINDSNAP; or gulping down a long-running series. But when pre-teens find themselves in scary new places perhaps the best books are those with ‘real’ characters in they can relate to – whose situations are often more perilous than their own.

 

THE GIRL OF INK AND STARS by new author Kiran Millwood Hargrave is an island adventure about a girl called Isabella Riosse who sets out to save her missing best friend. Following her late mother’s map, her heart – and the words of an ancient myth, Isa discovers the true purpose of her journey: to save the island itself – for beneath the dry rivers and smoky mountains, a fiery legend is stirring … Exciting, magical and inspiring– inside and out – this book won the Waterstones Children’s Prize 2017.


AFTER IRIS by Natasha Farrant  Blue Gadsby’s twin sister Iris died three years ago, and since then, her family hasn’t been the same. Her older sister Flora changes her hair colour almost daily; her younger siblings Jasmine and Twig are obsessed with their pet rats; and both of her parents spend weeks away from home – and each other. Blue captures her family’s trials and tribulations in a sequence of film transcripts and diary entries that will make you cry, laugh, and ultimately give thanks for mixed-up families.

THREADS by Sophia Bennett Nonie customises her clothes so she doesn’t look like everyone else. Apart from that, she’s not sure what she’s good at, which is frustrating because her best friend Jenny is about to appear in a Hollywood movie and her friend Edie is top of the class. Life changes for the three friends when they meet a younger girl; a refugee called Crow, sketching a dress at the Victoria and Albert Museum. They discover she’s being bullied and set out to help her. But who’s helping who? And just how far can four friends make a fashion designing dream come true?

  THE ONE DOLLAR HORSE by Lauren St John – Casey Blue lives in an East London tower block and dreams of riding in the Badminton Horse Trials. When she rescues a young horse, she’s convinced that he is her chance. But Casey has reckoned without the consequences of her father’s criminal record, or the distraction of a boy with dark eyes. Casey learns the hard way that no matter how high Storm can jump, or how fast he gallops, she can never beat the past unless she’s very, very determined.


 THE WEIGHT OF WATER by Sarah Crossan

Armed with a suitcase and a laundry bag, Kasienka and her mother head for England. At their shabby new home in Coventry, school friends are scarce, but when a boy called William swims into her life, Kasienka learns there might be a way for her to stay afloat. Moving, unsentimental and unusually told in verse, we meet and share the experiences of a remarkable girl who shows us how quiet courage can win.

And one for luck . . .

THE WOLF PRINCESS by Cathryn Constable

Sophie dreams of being someone special.  On a school trip to Russia, she and her two friends find themselves on the wrong train. They are rescued by the beautiful Princess Anna Volkonskaya who takes them to her winter palace and mesmerises them with stories of lost diamonds and a tragic past. But as night falls and white wolves howl, Sophie discovers more than dreams in the crumbling palace of secrets. Thrilling and dreamy, and set in the coldest place in the world this is a mesmerising story of friendship and destiny.

Thank you to Rachel for stopping by the blog today you can read my review of  ‘One Silver Summer’ over on the blog. ‘One Silver Summer’ is released tomorrow on the 25th May and is available from all good book shops or online.

There’s A Werewolf In My Tent – Pamela Butchart & Thomas Flintham

It was with huge excitement that we got our hands on a copy of the newest ‘Izzy’ book from Pamela Butchart & Thomas Flintham because we just adore this brilliant series. Hugely funny and compelling I have been using this series for years to get reluctant readers to begin to engage with books and it’s always proved to be a success. They are so popular at school that you are more likely to spot a werewolf in my school library than one of these books because they are ridiculously popular. I can already predict that ‘There’s A Werewolf In My Tent’ will be whizzing off my shelves because this is the funniest one by far.

Izzy and her friends are “mega excited” about going away for four whole nights on a school trip camping in the wilderness.  Knowing that they have a tendency to have slightly overactive imaginations, it’s bound not to run smoothly. Having been convinced they have had baby aliens in school and that there head teacher was a vampire rat in previous stories what could they possibly think would happen now? So, when all the sausages mysteriously disappear and they are disturbed by howling in the night they know that something strange is afoot. And then they spot their new teacher’s hairy legs they are convinced there’s a werewolf on their school trip and that they’re all doomed!

This book is wonderfully appealing, I love how Izzy and her friends fall in and out of friendship but still look out for each other, we know that this is true for children and seeing that it can be resolved quite simply is reassuring. It captures perfectly how children can have the most remarkable imaginations which can often lead them to trouble and cause misunderstandings.  Energetic and frenzied, we are swept along with this story by Pamela’s brilliant writing and  punchy short chapters keeping the momentum of the story fast-paced whilst making sure the reader is thoroughly entertained. Your laughter becomes uncontrollable as you see the characters trying to make sense of what’s going on and getting completely muddled with more and more far-fetched scenarios emerging as the story progresses. Wonderfully accessible, the bold typeface interspersed with Thomas Flintham’s  witty and lively illustrations make it a perfect read for newly confident readers tackling chapter books who may be overwhelmed by pages of text. This series is a must have for every primary school library I just can’t recommend it enough.

Thank you to Nosy Crow for sending me a copy of his hilarious book!

Moonlocket – Peter Bunzl

It was with much anticipation that I  opened up the pages of ‘Moonlocket’, Having got my hands on an early copy of the magnificent ‘Cogheart‘ last year I have had to wait a whole year to find out what adventures lay ahead for Lily and Robert. ‘Cogheart’ was deservedly one of my most favourite reads of 2016, a really thrilling adventure and a stunning debut from Peter Bunzl! How could ‘Moonlocket’ possibly live up to the glorious ‘Cogheart’? Well I can confirm that not only does this fabulous book live up to it’s predecessor it in fact surpasses it, being even more compelling and exciting!

When a notorious escapologist and jewel thief known Jack Door breaks out of jail and heads towards Brackenbridge determined to find the mysterious Moonlocket it spells trouble for our formidable heroes.  Secrets from Robert’s past emerge and they soon discover that he holds the long-lost secret to the location of the missing Moonlocket. Robert finds himself inextricably caught up in the search and he’s plunged into terrible danger, trapped in the cruel game that Jack is playing. Can Lily and Malkin unravel the clues to determine the Moonlocket’s whereabouts and protect Robert before it’s too late….

Whilst ‘Cogheart’ was Lily’s story, you really feel that ‘Moonlocket’ the reader’s chance to discover Robert’s story. And just as Robert found himself unwittingly caught up in Lily’s perilous adventure, Lily finds herself swept along in a dangerous journey to try and stop Jack succeeding in his deadly plan. Jack Door is the most menacing and dastardly of villains that I have ever encountered in middle grade fiction, for me he feels more terrifying because it feels more personal this time. Yet again Peter has assembled a marvellous and compelling cast of characters whose lives you can’t help but become engrossed within. His rich storytelling conjures up the most fantastical of worlds within which you manage to feel lost as you find yourself captivated by this truly, exciting and dramatic adventure. Deliciously dark and irresistibly gripping, ‘Moonlocket’ proves to be another extraordinary story that you won’t want to forget from Peter Bunzl.

You can find out more about Peter on his website  which has some fabulous activities perfect for schools or book groups. Or why not follow him on Twitter @peterbunzl

Fascinating Fact books for Older Readers

2017 has brought with it a wealth of glorious new non-fiction books for children and today I will be sharing my favourite choices for younger and older readers. Each of these books are wonderfully interactive and feature the most vibrant illustrations and photographs to capture the imaginations of the reader.

The Anti – Boredom Book of Brilliant Outdoor Things to Do – Andy Seed & Scott Garrett

The phrase that is bound to fill any parent with dread up and down the country from their child is, “I’M BORED!” I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve told my girls  “go and play outside and get some fresh air if you’re bored” only to be met with the same responses “It’s boring outside there is nothing to do!!” Fear not because Andy Seed has come to the rescue just in time to save us from the depths of despair with the fabulous ‘The Anti-Boredom Book of Brilliant Outdoor Things to Do Outside’ which is packed with tons of activities to stave off those cries from bored children. Want to know how to make a rainbow, set a bug tap. construct an awesome summer slide or make a water balloon piñata then this is the book for you! With things to do in the garden, at the beach and even on a rainy day this has everything and more. Scott Garrett’s hilarious illustrations capture the fun and silliness of this book brilliantly, it is a perfect book to get children outside we loved it in my house!

Women in Science – 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World – Rachel Ignotofsky

‘Women in Science’ is a remarkable book celebrating 50 women throughout history who defied the odds to succeed in the worlds of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Refusing to accept the limitations placed on their sex they worked tirelessly to achieve their goals. Featuring a fascinating introduction into why women have faced barriers and how they overcame the obstacles put before them. Throughout history many women who are not necessarily well-known have made significant contributions to the scientific world and this book seeks to highlight and celebrate them. Stunningly illustrated and wonderfully compelling this book deserves to be in every school library, it’s an absolute joy of a book.

The Earth Book – Jonathan Litton & Thomas Hegbrook

‘The Earth Book’ takes us on a voyage of discovery around a tiny sphere in space  – which to us is in fact a huge and fascinating world called planet Earth where the life of humans is only one tiny part of it. Exploring the wonders of the world we are taken to the four corners of the globe to examine animal habitats, super cities, oceans and deserts to try and understand how our planet has evolved. Sublimely illustrated and irresistibly informative, this book covers the most complex of topics but presents then in a truly accessible format. It is the kind of book that you can dip in and out of depending on what part of our planet you would like to delve into. Perfect for children who love to wonder at the world all around them.

Off With their Heads/ I Wish I Knew That – Buster Books

 

Does your child have an insatiable appetite for facts and loves to know details about anything and everything, if so Buster Books new reference series is what you need. I’ve have seen the first two books in this series ‘Off With Their Heads’ and ‘I Wish I Knew That’ both of which are crammed with cool stuff that you might not have had a chance to find out yet at school. Ideal for fans of ‘Horrible Histories’ they are bursting with all the best bits from history and every other subject you can imagine. I can see them being a huge hit in my school library for those children who love to devour information books.

Lesser Spotted Animals – Matt Brown

So you’ve heard of a Gorilla but what about a Zorilla? And we’ve all heard of Wombats but how about a Numbat. Martin Brown takes us on a journey to discover the brilliant beasts that you probably haven’t heard about. Children will laugh out loud as the find out all the funny facts about these creatures they have never met before. With hilarious illustrations this quirky look at the animal kingdom lets you find out things you never knew you needed to know! There is so much humour lurking within the pages that you can’t help but want to read more. Witty and wise a real gem of a book.

Thank you to Bloomsbury, Buster Books, David Fickling Press, Little Tiger Press and Wren and Rook for sending me copies of these fabulous fact books.

Fascinating Fact Books for Younger Readers

2017 has brought with it a wealth of glorious new non-fiction books for children and today I will be sharing my favourite choices for younger and older readers. Each of these books are wonderfully interactive and feature the most vibrant illustrations and photographs to capture the imaginations of the reader.

Early Learning at the Museum – Nosy Crow & The British Museum

  

I’m loving these new chunky board books ‘A B C’ and ‘123’, the first books in an new partnership between Nosy Crow and the British Museum. All of the objects featured in these books form part of the The British Musuem collection and introduce the child to an array of items that span time and originate from all over the world. This allows them to learn basic concepts whilst being exposed to rich and varied cultures, learning from an early age how much we have in common with people from different nations and appreciating the differences. A really interesting element to these books is that they feature QR codes so for an adult to find out more about the objects featured, so they can satisfy those difficult and challenging questions which children often ask. I’m looking forward to seeing more books from this wonderful collaboration.

The Big Book of Beasts – Yuval Zommer & Barbara Taylor

I absolutely adored Yuval Zommer’s ‘The Big Book of Bugs’ so I was thrilled to get my hands on a copy of ‘The Big Book of Beasts.’ “Why is a tiger stripy?’ Why are porcupines spiky? and ‘Why do wolves howl at the moon? “Find out the answers to all of these questions and many more inside the brilliantly, beautiful ‘The Big Book of Beast’. A jam packed book containing an insight into the lives of all kinds of beasts including pre-historic ones, it is the ultimate guide for young animal fans eager to find out more about the different beasts that roam the earth. Featuring the most exquisite and delicate illustrations this book is a joy to behold.  A real treasure of a read which will enchant and delight children and parents alike. We have spent hours poring over this glorious book exploring familiar and unknown beasts and searching the pages for the mystery footprints so cleverly concealed to capture children’s attentions. I simply adore this book!

Amazing Animal Babies – Chris Packham & Jason Cockcroft

Whilst hundreds of thousands of babies are born around the world each day, billions of other animals are born in the animal kingdom. ‘Amazing Animal Babies’ takes the reader on an exploration across the world to meet these animal babies and discover just how different they are from each other as they begin their journey through life. Packed full of fascinating facts we learn how individual species from earthworms to  meerkats, golden eagles and seahorses are born and how they rear their babies. Eager children can find out more in the back of the book as Chris Packham gives us an additional insight into these extraordinary animals. Jason Cockcroft’s illustrations are beautifully detailed making this stunning book accessible to the smallest of children. This is a truly wonderful book!

William Bee’s Wonderful World of Trucks – William Bee

This vibrant and fascinating picture book is a must have for fans of vehicles large or small – although they’re mainly large. Meet William Bee who has an extensive collection of trucks suitable for all occasions. He has an amphibious truck which can  swim, a café truck serving ‘double slug and cheese burgers’, a coal-fired steam truck (for when you run out of petrol) and a ginormous truck to carry all of his racing cars. Irresistibly illustrated with a bold, bright palette and jam-packed with glorious details this book ticks all the boxes for young truck fans. A delightful information book which demands to be pored over for hours and hours time and time again.

Thank you to Egmont, Nosy Crow, Pavilion and Thames & Hudson for sending me copies of these glorious books.

Poppy Pym and the Smuggler’s Secret – Guest Post Laura Wood

I am thrilled to welcome Laura Wood to the blog today to celebrate the release of the  ‘Poppy Pym and the Secrets of Smuggler’s Cove.’ We are huge fans of the ‘Poppy Pym’ series in my house, so you can imagine the excitement when this book landed on our doormat, especially as Laura had left us at the end of ‘Poppy Pym and the Double Jinx’ with a huge question that needed answering. The fact that it is set in Cornwall is an added bonus because it is our favourite place to go on holiday, who can resist pasties, ice-cream and paddling your toes in the sea  – we can’t even in Winter. Laura shares with us today the reasons for setting the latest ‘Poppy Pym’ adventure in Cornwall.

So without further ado I will pass you over to Laura.

Poppy Pym and the Smuggler’s Secret – Laura Wood

When I decided to set my third Poppy Pym book in the early summer there was, I thought, only one place that I could set it… and that place was at the seaside. More specifically the book is set in Cornwall, in a fictional village called Crumley, that sits on top of a cliff and is in possession of a rather spooky old castle. I thought that today I would give you a little tour of one of the places that helped me to imagine the setting for ‘Poppy Pym and the Smuggler’s Secret.’

If you know me then you will know that I am an enormous fan of Cornwall. I’m pretty vocal about it. (This is an enormous understatement.)  I think it is my favourite place in the world, and why wouldn’t it be when you can WALK IN THE CLOUDS LIKE THIS:

I took this picture last year at Watergate Bay, when I was just starting to think about the story for book 3 in the series.  In the book, Poppy and her friends go on a school trip to Crumley Castle, and, while there, Poppy gets caught up in an impossible mystery that has been unsolved for centuries…a mystery that leads to the uncovering of dangerous secrets being kept today. As always the book centres upon Poppy tackling the role of detective alongside her best pals Kip and Ingrid, but in this instance I wanted the location of the book to play an important role.

 I wanted to capture the fun and adventure of the British seaside in the summer, and to draw upon my own memories of holidays to Cornwall as a child. It’s because of this that the book is full of sunshine, and sandcastles, and munching warm pasties on the beach, toes burrowing in the sand, hair in a wet, salty tangle. It sounds like heaven, doesn’t it? When I think about my summer holidays there as a child I think about the wild joy that I felt, the heavy tiredness of my limbs after running in and out of the freezing water and clambering through rock pools with my net and bucket in hand.  It’s still magic as an adult, but there’s a golden quality to these childhood memories that I was really keen to try and capture in Poppy’s experience.

 Here’s another picture that I took of Watergate bay, and I think it’s also the bigness of these beaches that gives me a thrill, when the tide goes out and the sand stretches in front of you for miles and miles. I was also thinking about the position of the castle and the village, and how these secret coves in Cornwall are always hemmed in by quite dramatic cliffs…the perfect location for Crumley Castle. I added the photographs that I took to the research folder of my Scrivener file (a tool I highly recommend to those of you trying to write a book- it makes order out of all my chaos!) so that I could look at them whenever I was writing and I needed inspiration.

Another thing that was great about visiting Watergate Bay was exploring some of the caves and tunnels. These play such an important part in the book which builds upon some of the famous smuggling legends of the region – in particular the infamous John Carter and his brothers Harry and Charles who provided the inspiration for the smugglers in my book. This picture is one that I took from inside the mouth of one of the caves that had tunnels that went back for miles. I don’t know it for a fact but I like to believe that it was put to good use by outlaws and it’s certainly easy to imagine barrels of brandy being rolled through here!

One of the great mysteries in Poppy Pym and the Smuggler’s Secret revolves around the disappearance of the Redshank brothers, Tom and Henry. This is a little snippet from the guide book that Poppy reads before they all make their way to Crumley, which tells the mysterious tale:

During the eighteenth century, Tom and Henry Redshank were fishermen who lived in Crumley village; but they were also notorious smugglers, often arriving onshore at the local beach (the aptly named “Smuggler’s Cove”) to unload their cargo of illegally obtained barrels of brandy. Their small sailboat, Spinning Jenny, had been painted black – right down to the sails – so that on moonlit evenings it was practically invisible to the naked eye. Tom would bring the illegal cargo by boat into Smuggler’s Cove, and Henry would signal his brother that the coast was clear by lighting a lamp on the mainland and awaiting the answering “spark” from Tom.

Details like the painting of the boat, and the ‘spark’, which was a distinctive blue light made by shooting a barrel-less gun filled with gun powder, are drawn from real tales of eighteenth century smugglers, and being inside these amazing caves and tunnels really helps you to imagine what it would have been like.

 I think that’s one of the things that made writing this book so special for me. When you go and visit these amazing beaches in Cornwall (and, goodness, there are so many to choose from) then there is very little that has changed since the days that smugglers and customs men were playing cat and mouse, making trouble and exchanging gun fire. It’s so easy to step into that world and a place that exists, somehow, out of time. It’s this timeless sense of story and adventure that so appealed to me as a child, and its one that I really hope will appeal to the readers of my book.

Laura Wood

Laura Wood is the winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing. She has just completed her PhD at the University of Warwick studying the figure of the reader in nineteenth century literature. ‘Poppy Pym and the Double Jinx’ is the follow up to her first novel ‘Poppy Pym and the Pharaoh’s Curse’.

To find out more about Laura you can visit her website, follow her on Twitter @lauraclarewood or on Facebook and Instagram

Thank you Laura for this fantastic guest post you are making me yearn for another Cornish holiday. Also thanks to Olivia and Scholastic for sending me a copy of this much sought after book.

 

 

 

The Boy, the Bird and the Coffin Maker – Guest Post Matilda Woods

Today I am delighted to welcome Matilda Woods to the blog with a special guest post as part of the blog tour for ‘The Boy, the Bird and the Coffin Maker.’ It tells the tale of Alberto who lives alone in the town of Allora, where fish fly out of the sea and the houses shine like jewels. He is a coffin maker, spending his quiet,solitary days creating the final resting places of Allora’s people. That is until the day a mysterious boy and his magical bird arrive – fleeing from danger and in search of a safe haven…Tito is wary, fearful and suspicious of kindness, but as the winter days grow colder and darker, Alberto’s home grows warmer and brighter.Can Tito and his bird be sheltered from the town’s prying eyes and the shadows of their past?

Without further ado I will pass you over to Matilda to share with you what inspired her to write this beautiful story.


The Inspiration Behind the Story – Matilda Woods

The idea that led me to write THE BOY, THE BIRD AND THE COFFIN MAKER first came to me in March of 2014. The idea could not have come at a better time. I had just spent two years working on a book that I could not find an agent or publisher for. After receiving one hundred and forty rejections from agents and publishers across the world, I was considering giving up on writing completely. Then, one afternoon while I was out running with my dog, the idea came to me.

Lily: the dog I was running with when the idea for THE BOY, THE BIRD AND THE COFFIN MAKER first came to me.

 The idea came in the form of a single image: two people sailing towards a new life in a coffin. The image was extremely vivid – I could see the coffin, the setting and the faces of the lead characters – and instantly it caught hold of my imagination. Who were these two people? Why were they in a coffin? And, where were they sailing to?

Over the next two weeks, I developed the story in my mind. I did not write anything down. Instead, I let the ideas flow through my head and the good ones seemed to stick. By the end of the first fortnight, I had created the central plot. It was a tale that spanned one year in the lives of two people: a frightened boy named Tito Bonito and a lonely old coffin maker named Alberto. Together, they dream of a future where they can both be free and then, with courage, set sail to find it.

As soon as I knew the central plot I began to write the story. It took two weeks to write the tale from beginning to end. There were a lot of problems with the first draft: problems with characterisation, pacing, setting and tone. Basically, problems with everything. So I rewrote the story and then rewrote it again. Usually, the ideas came very quickly: each idea led to another. However, there was one time when I did get stuck and didn’t know how to continue. I wasn’t stuck in terms of the plot, but rather the voice and tone of the novel. I knew it was set in Italy and also in the past so I decided to read the original version of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. This helped me find the voice I was looking for and the rest of the story came quickly.

Every time you write a story it is a gamble: you don’t know if it will be published or if it will not. For this story, I had a real sense, right from the beginning, that the gamble would not pay off. The odds were too far against my favour. The lead character was an old man. The story was set too far in the past. And it didn’t seem to match anything currently on the market. Yet despite these doubts I still wrote it. The image that came to me in March of 2014 refused to leave my mind. There was something special about it: something far more special than any other idea I had ever had. And so, I kept writing, kept reading, kept researching and kept sending out query after query. Now, over three years later, the image that appeared in my head has become a proper, published novel, and I am very glad I didn’t give up on it!

Matilda Woods

Matilda Woods lives in the Southern Tablelands of Australia,
where there are no flying fish, but there is the world’s largest
cement sheep. She currently lives with her four chickens, three
dogs, two cats and one bird. You can find her on Twitter @MatildaWrites

Blog Tour

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

Thank you to Matilda for sharing her special guest post on the blog and to Lorraine and Scholastic for sending me a copy of this beautiful book and inviting me to join in with the blog tour. ‘The Boy, the Bird and the Coffin Maker’ is now available to buy online or from any good bookshop.