Monthly Archives: June 2017

Aubrey and the Terrible Ladybirds – Horatio Clare illustrated by Jane Matthews

I absolutely loved ‘Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot’, although you wouldn’t know that because I secretly read it and savoured it all to myself and didn’t share it with you the readers of my blog and for that I can only apologise. But luckily for us all Horatio Clare has brought Aubrey back in another incredible adventure, ‘Aubrey and the Terrible Ladybirds’ beautifully illustrated by Jane Matthews. This time Aubrey has a lot more to save than his father, the spiders want him to save the world after a diplomatic incident involving the Ladybirdz family upsets the delicate balance of nature. But with his parents rowing and the fact he’s accidentally been shrunk to the size of an earwig Aubrey feels totally overwhelmed. How can one tiny boy save the world, even one who can talk to the animals.

I love how this extraordinary tale manages to deal with many complex issues whilst still whisking the reader away on an incredible adventure. Horatio brings to life the animals in a way that makes you care about what happens to them and really feel for the struggles they have. When the Ladybirdz family arrive it takes the reader three pages before you realise that they are in fact ladybirds not a human family embarking on a new life. The behaviour they encounter from the other ladybirds who are suspicious about these new arrivals because they look strange and sound strange is quite horrific and allows children to understand how migrant families may suffer discrimination. Yet this disharmony isn’t the only action that is disturbing the earth, our disregard for the environment through excessive consumptions plays a key role too, as Aubrey discovers when he meets Pascale  as he tries to find a solution to this insurmountable problem.

Exceptional storytelling combined with an exploration of important issues that the world is currently facing makes ‘Aubrey and the Terrible Ladybirds’ a must have read. Jane Matthews sublime illustrations enhance this story capturing the sheer scale of the task Aubrey faces in his unwanted quest to save the planet. They manage to conjure up this remarkable world where you can travel through time on a spider web, shrink yourself using a swallow stone and have a boy who has genuine relationships with animals.  Wonderfully compelling this is a story that will stay in my mind for a really long time.


Thank you to Firefly Press for sending me a copy of this stunning book.


Kid Normal – Greg James & Chris Smith illustrated by Erica Salcedo

Just when you thought wasps couldn’t get even more of a bad reputation, along comes ‘Kid Normal’ to secure their place in the Hall of Fame for Truly Awful Things! Murphy Cooper the hero – not superhero- of the story would certainly agree as he unwittingly gets himself caught up in a battle with Nektar the evil half-man, half-wasp villain of the piece. So how does an ordinary boy possessing no superpowers find himself battling a despicable genetic experiment gone wrong? Well it all kind of began when Murphy’s Mum accidentally enrolled him in a school for superheroes, a place where he was bound to stand out not because he was new, or he had funny hair but because he was the only ‘normal’ kid there. And in a place like this school being ‘normal’ is not going to get you anywhere fast. But Murphy soon finds out that you don’t have to have superpowers in order to save the day!

‘Kid Normal’ is incredibly funny, witty and stuffed full of heart which is no surprise as it’s written by Greg James and Chris Smith who are an undeniably a hilarious duo. It is the irresistible combination of laugh out loud and subtle humour which really packs a punch and ticks all the boxes for me. Although the obvious humour is outstanding, it is the subtle witty observations captured by narrator’s voice which win me over every time.  It is an absolute joy to read, Greg and Chris have created a story which is brilliantly humorous but full of heart and emotion. At the heart of this story the reader feels that no matter if you are different from everyone else, your differences are important and they are what makes you unique. Together they have assembled this genuinely likeable and unlikeable cast of characters, who are essential to the brilliance of this book. My favourite character is inevitably the school librarian whose ‘capability’ is the ability to silence a room with her foghorn voice which is a quality on some days I would love to have.

I couldn’t finish this review without giving a huge shout out to Erica Salcedo who has created a wonderful array of illustrations. Bursting with energy, they capture perfectly the chaos and humour of the story enhancing this fantastic book.  Unfortunately I have only seen a proof copy so I’m really excited to see the completed version with the final illustrations inside. I predict that the ‘Kid Normal’ series will be a triumph and a real hit at school, I can’t wait to find out what Murphy and his friends get up to next.

Thank you to Emma at Bloomsbury for sending me a copy of this brilliant book. ‘Kid Normal’ is released on the 13th July and is available to pre-order online or from any good bookshop.

The Starman and Me – Sharon Cohen Cover Reveal

I’m really excited to reveal for you today the cover of Sharon Cohen’s debut novel ‘The Starman and Me’ which will be published by Hachette on 10th August. I can also exclusively let you have a sneak peek extract of the first chapter which I’m sure when you read it you will be desperate to find it more.

So without further ado here it is…………


I think the cover is just stunning it will certainly stand out on my library shelves. The cover is designed by Nic Theobald and it hints at the cosmic mystery that lies within the pages. I’m intrigued to find out what lies beneath that sublime cover so let’s find out more.

The Starman and Me

He wasn’t an alien, I was sure of that. It was more like he’d walked in through
an ancient door from the past … except he was here, in my bedroom and his
misty forest was somewhere real on Planet Earth.

Twelve-year-old Kofi first spots the prehistoric human on a supermarket roundabout. Heis small and dark and curled into a tight ball. His name is Rorty Thrutch and he has zero memory of how he ended up in the unexceptional village of Bradborough, or why he’s being hunted…

Kofi soon finds out that Rorty can do amazing things. He can copy, paste and delete
objects, using only the power of his mind. This is the discovery of the century and mad, greedy scientists will stop at nothing to track him down.

Kofi and best friend Janie are on a mission. Not only must they protect Rorty, but they
have to find his missing girlfriend Pogsy Blue, too. Our prehistoric ancestors have crashedheadlong into the 21st century and time is running out to save them..


And here it is the exclusive sneak peek The Starman and Me Chapter Extract

After reading the first chapter I’m really intrigued to find out more about Kofi and Rorty, it reminds me of one of my favourite films growing up E.T. so for me this book feels like an irresistible combination of wonder and adventure.

Sharon Cohen

Sharon Cohen loves to explore themes of ‘ancient’ and ‘cutting edge’ and intertwines these elements into her stories. After graduating with a first-class science degree and a doctorate earned catching swans and studying their parasites, Sharon became a scientific writer. Her passion for children’s fiction emerged following the birth of her first son and she completed the Open University Children’s Literature course, gaining a distinction. She has three children and lives with her husband, an ex-international sprinter. THE STARMAN AND ME is her debut novel. You can find Sharon on Twitter @SCohen_author

Thank you to Sarah and Hachette for inviting me to host the cover reveal and chapter sneak peek.  ‘The Starman and Me’ is available to pre-order now online or from any good bookshop.


The Big Fat, Totally, Bonkers Diary of Pig – Emer Stamp

Pig is back in his fourth and final madcap adventure ‘The Big, Fat, Totally Bonkers Diary of Pig.’ This series has been really popular at school who could resist the madness and mayhem that Pig and his friends keep finding themselves in. Sometimes all Pig wants to do is to eat yummy slops and play games with Duck and Cow, but somehow things never seem to go to plan. To celebrate the launch of this latest book we would like to offer a big welcome to Emer Stamp the author and illustrator of the Diary of a Pig series with a special guest post.


Favourite animals/characters in the series – Emer Stamp

It is hard for me to pick a favourite character; it feels like asking a parent to pick their favourite child. However, there are definitely characters who I prefer writing for; the bad guys for instance. The Evil Chickens are so wickedly horrible – everything they say is nasty; they’re even vile to each other. When I write for them I get to channel my dark side; it’s lots of fun. Kitty’s the same. I imagined what it would be like being incredibly two-faced, something you don’t want to be in real life, but that’s great fun to be as a writer.

In Pig’s 4th diary there is a new hero; a dog called Rusty. He’s a cross between Bear Grylls and a crazy drill sergeant – I spent many enjoyable hours googling fitness mantras and army slogans. I covered a pin board in them and, as I wrote, tried to get him to say as many as I could.


Thank you to Emer for stopping by the blog and to Katrina and Scholastic for inviting me to be part of the blog tour. You can win copies of all four of the ‘Pig’ books by leaving a comment on this blog post or by popping over to Twitter. Competition closes midnight Monday 19th July U.K. only

Blog Tour

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



Picture Books for Empathy Day

Today sees the launch of the first Empathy Day from Empathy Lab, a platform to emphasise the importance of empathy in our divided world, and raise awareness of the power of stories to develop it.  Books allow children to step into the shoes of others and experience whole new worlds and circumstances, letting them understand their feelings and lives. Picture books help the very youngest readers access difficult topics and feel empathy and understanding for the characters in a way that wouldn’t be possible if we just talked to our children about the world. They help us to have important and meaningful conversations with children at home and in school.  Today I have chosen picture books which address a wide range of social and emotional issues.


We’re All Wonders – R.J. Palacio


When my Year 6 teachers asked me to help them choose a class novel that would help teach the children empathy, my first thought was the fabulous ‘Wonder’ by R.J. Palacio the story of Auggie who is different from everyone and struggles to fit in. So I was thrilled to discover that our beloved Auggie was going to feature in a picture book that encourages children to accept that they are all different in their own way. A simple and poignant tale which highlights how damaging unkind words can be to any child and the hurt and pain that is felt when you don’t feel like you belong. Auggie is not only an ordinary boy, who does ordinary things like riding a bike, eating ice-cream and playing ball but because of how he looks he is seen to be extraordinary by the rest of the world but not in a positive way. A wonderful book to inspire children to be kind and to learn to understand and accept that we should embrace our differences. This book needs to be in every primary school library.


My Name Is Not Refugee – Kate Milner


As a parent it is sometimes difficult to explain complex situations in a way that children can comprehend. They have been bombarded by unhelpful and inaccurate images and information from the media about the ‘refugee crisis’ around the world and I often struggle to answer their questions.  ‘My Name is Not Refuge’ takes the reader on a journey with a boy and his mother who are leaving their town because it is too dangerous. It invites them to become involved with the decision making allowing them to understand the tough choices they must make and the awfulness of the situation the boy and his mother find themselves in. What would you take with you, if you could only bring what you could carry? How would it feel to leave your possessions behind, or to sleep in and strange place and not understand their language when people tried to talk to you.  A gentle and incredibly powerful story, a must have read .


The Lumberjack’s Beard – Duncan Beedie


In a world where some highly influential people insist that ‘climate change’ is a myth and that there is no need to protect the environment in which we live, how can we educate children about the dangers our planet faces? ‘The Lumberjack’s Beard is a humorous exploration of the consequences when we take our finite resources for granted. Jim Hickory chops drown trees all day not realising that he is making lots of woodland creatures homeless. When there are no trees left he is forced to house them all in his beard which inevitably causes him great annoyance and stress. When it gets too much for him to bear he needs to come up with a long-lasting solution. Bold and vivid illustrations bring this story to life and capture the chaos of the destruction of the forest wonderfully.


Under The Same Sky – Britta Teckentrupp


‘Under the Same Sky’ is a wonderful exploration of the animal kingdom celebrating the differences between them whilst embracing what unites them. Using beautiful, lyrical narration we travel across the world and see songs being sung, games being played and love being felt. It is the hopes and the dreams which they share that bring them together. Although this is told through the eyes of the animal kingdom this simplistic message can be applied to humanity as well. No matter who we are or where we are from we are intrinsically share the same thoughts. Britta’s lush, rich illustrations which burst with colour takes the reader on this voyage of discovery, encouraging children to peep through the pages to find out more. A wonderfully, poignant story which demands to be shared!


Welcome – Barroux


When Polar Bear and his friends are swept away from their icy home, they hope to find refuge in a new land. But when they are turned away from one new place after another, they start to doubt that they will ever find somewhere they will be made welcome. This book is extraordinary and Barroux has managed to convey a very powerful message about the plight of migrants and has created so many layers that it opens up a wide range of areas for discussion.  Not only that but visually you will become totally engaged through the story as you see the contrast between the starkness of the Polar Bear’s situation trapped on this tiny bit of ice versus the outstanding beauty of the islands where they try to seek refuge. It really is a unique and powerful story which will appeal to children of all ages.


The Unexpected Visitor – Jessica Courtney-Tickle


We live in a world of excessive consumption where we can get whatever we need at the touch of a button, so much so that we often have too much, much more than we can ever actually need. In ‘The Unexpected Visitor’ we meet a fisherman who lives all alone on a rocky island catching and cooking buckets and buckets of fish in case anyone happened to stop by, but they never do. One day a whale visits him and the fisherman is delighted to share his fish  but when he goes to catch them they are all gone!  This beautiful story introduces the importance of friendship and sharing to children, whilst giving the opportunity to discuss sustainability and how we need to protect our planet and it’s finite resources. Exquisitely illustrated, this gorgeous story is filled with warmth and emotion an absolute gem of a book.


You can find out more about Empathy Day and Empathy Lab you can by visit the website for more information including a special selection of book recommendations. If you have any books that you would like to recommend head over to Twitter and share them using the hashtag #ReadForEmpathy


Thank you to Barrington Stoke, Egmont Publishing, Little Tiger and Templar Books for sending me these stunning books and to Whitchurch Library for the loan of ‘We’re All Wonders’

St Grizzle’s School For Girls, Ghosts and Runaway Grannies – Karen Mc Combie & Becka Moor

Today it’s my stop on the blog tour for ‘St Grizzle’s School For Girls, Ghost and Runaway Ghosts’ by Karen Mc Combie and illustrated by Becka Moor. This fabulous series is back for a second adventure and I couldn’t be happier as I just loved the first book ‘St Grizzle’s School for Girls, Goats and Random Boys’ which has been a huge hit in my school library. Featuring a wonderful diverse and somewhat zany cast of characters prepare for more thrills, spills and to laugh your socks off. Dani is still trying to come to terms with going to a school where there is pyjama assemblies, tree-house-building classes and a loopy goat called Twinkle. But, when the school is asked to make a film showcasing their local town, Dani is over the moon when she’s asked to be director. She sets the rest of St Grizzle’s to work but of course nothing goes to plan! With Spencer and his friends at the local school trying to sabotage them and ghostly goings on in the garden can Dani pull together this motely crew and win the competition?

Stuffed full of madcap nonsense this book proves to be an irresistible combination of humour and heart. The characterisation is just marvellous, Karen has assembled a magnificent cast of characters whose own wonderful brand of uniqueness is captured brilliantly by Becka Moor’s lively and witty illustrations. Who could resist those naughty Newts who are never happier than being caught up in mayhem and mischief. And who wouldn’t want to have a head teacher who is most comfortable in an unicorn onesie or a T-shirt with a logo of an ancient punk rock band on it. My favourite character has to be Dani’s gran who is louder than life and has a bad habit of interfering – I think she reminds me a bit of myself except we don’t share the same taste in earrings. It’s these incredible well thought out details and fabulous characters that make this book feel like having a big warm hug whilst being tickled by a feather duster. I’m ridiculously pleased to say there will be more from this chaotic boarding school in ‘St Grizzle’s School for Girls, Geeks and Tag-Along Zombies’ whose title alone is enough to set your imagination racing!

Blog Tour

Why not visit the rest of the blog tour for more reviews and guest posts.

Thank you to Beth and Stripes for sending me a copy of this fabulous book and inviting me to join the blog tour. You can buy this book now online or from any good bookshop.

My Evil Twin is a Supervillian – David Solomons

Just when you thought the world was safe from dastardly supervillains, along comes another threat to mankind in the shape of ‘Luke’?!? Fans of this fabulous series will no doubt cry out “not Luke, he can’t have stepped over into the dark side?” Ok it’s not exactly our Luke, but another Luke aka Stellar from another dimension who was able to control his bladder and so was granted superhero powers by Zorgon. Luke has read so many comics that he knows his twin from another world has to be a supervillain. Nobody travels through time and space without a plan, and that plan is usually evil. Luke is furious when Stellar tries to recruit Zack for a mission to defeat Gorgon the World-Eater but nobody will listen to his suspicions. Luckily for Luke, Zack’s mocks can’t be interrupted –  just to save the world – giving him just enough time to find out the truth about Stellar’s true purpose. What Luke reveals is even more villainous than he suspected and having two Lukes in close proximity is unwittingly playing cosmic Jenga with the very fabric of existence. Is this the end of the world for everyone……

I absolutely adored ‘My Brother is a Superhero’ and ‘My Gym Teacher is an Alien Overlord’ but David Solomons has excelled himself with the mind-blowingly brilliant ‘My Evil Twin is a Supervillian’. Nothing can prepare you for the twists and turns that this hilarious comic tale will take you on, as we watch the battle unfold between Luke and Stellar. Whilst there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments yet again it’s the subtle humour that I find most appealing. I love when Stellar lands his spacecraft in IKEA and it transforms into a stylishly minimalist bedroom set, this observational humour is wonderfully witty and definitely puts a smile on my face. Action packed and thrilling this feels like the most dangerous of situations that Luke and Star Lad have found themselves in, and it’s nail biting and tense to the very end. David Solomons really is a comic genius, I just can’t get enough of his stories another triumph of a book to add to this fantastic series.

Thank you to Nosy Crow for sending me a copy of this hilarious book, ‘My Evil Twin is a Supervillian’ is released on July 6th and is available to pre-order online or from any good bookshop.

Defender of the Realm Dark Age – Mark Huckerby & Nick Ostler

I’m a huge fan of ‘Defender of the Realm’ by Mark Huckerby & Nick Ostler and it seems forever that I have waited for the sequel ‘Dark Age’ after being left with a huge revelation and cliff hanger at the end. Fortunately, it was definitely worth the wait as it proves to be another thrilling and dramatic adventure guaranteed to enthral and entertain the reader.  After the great battle at the young king’s coronation, the nation thinks that the Black Dragon has gone for good. Alfie tries desperately to learn the ropes but unaware that there is danger is on the horizon, an epic battle beyond anyone’s imagination awaits him. Can he defeat this new enemy and prove to his doubters that he is a worthy successor to the throne and Defender of the nation? Undoubtedly one of the most exciting and compelling action stories I have read this year, superb storytelling that mixes real life and fantasy brilliantly. I simply couldn’t put it down it was fast, frenetic and furious and demands to be read!

To celebrate the release of ‘Defender of the Realm Dark Age’ I am delighted to welcome Mark Huckerby to the blog with a special guest post.

FAIL BETTER  –  Mark Huckerby

Hi, my name is Mark Huckerby and I am a failure. Not only that, my writing partner of some twenty years Nick Ostler is also one. FAIL. It’s a pretty loaded word at the moment. I see it everywhere, from memes of hapless fathers trying to relive glory days on skateboards, to kids yelling it when one of their friends misses a penalty in football. But the effects of the dreaded ‘F-word’ run deeper in society than we can imagine. It’s a big enough issue for some schools to have a “Failure Week”, where pupils are encouraged to take a risk and try out new sports, subjects and hobbies, even if it means they might fail at the first attempt.

After twenty years as a professional writer, I’ve pretty much made my peace with failure and come to embrace it as an occupational hazard. In the same way that failure is built into the ventures of entrepreneurs and researchers using the scientific method, at the micro-level, failure is hard-baked into the act of writing itself. Every time you write a sentence, go back over it, hit delete and write a new one, you’re failing and trying again. It’s just how it is, and as long as you don’t give up, you’re learning and progressing.

So it should come as no surprise that on a wider level, your career as a writer is going to face some set backs before you move forward. After twenty years of doing this with my writing partner Nick, we’ve had some pretty epic fails. In fact, we started with this one:


And he didn’t use the word ‘poop’. That was honestly the first proper note we ever received on our first proper script submission. As we sat in our cold little office in East Dulwich, we looked at each other with expressions of outrage, hurt and disbelief. Rewind a month or so and we’d been full of beans. We were to be fully commissioned writers on a show for ITV. Success! It felt like we’d made it. We truly believed the script we’d just written and sent off was pure story gold and we sat back and waited to be love-bombed by the producer. Then that note arrived and ruined our day. But it worked. We slaved over our rewrite, polished every line, honed every gag – there was no way we were getting THAT note ever again. Word came back, the rewrite was ‘not bad’. We were on our way.

Since then we’ve had scripts rejected, movie ideas trashed, outlines for books obliterated. Of course, in between the lows we’ve also had scripts praised, movies made and a book series published, but if you charted the graph of our career – of any writer’s career for that matter – it’s going to be peaks and troughs. And it’s all interlinked, without the failures you don’t learn anything so you’ll never progress to the successes.

We all fail at some time or another and it’s something we embraced when we came up with Alfie, the boy-king hero of Defender of the Realm. Alfie is a sensitive, clumsy kid who makes nervous jokes and is pretty unsure of himself. In fact, fear of failure stalks his every move, he doesn’t think he’s cut out to be king let alone a superhero and he doesn’t want to let anyone down. But within all the mistakes and muck ups that characterize Alfie are the building blocks of what will eventually make him a hero who can live up to his ancient namesake, Alfred the Great. Alfie is resilient, stubborn and tougher than he looks, the product of all the setbacks he’s faced in life including the divorce of his parents and the death of his father. And for those of you who’ve read the first book, you’ll know that in Defender of the Realm: Dark Age, there’s going to be something else that will test Alfie’s resilience to the limit. And I’m not just talking about the hordes of smelly undead Vikings that are set to invade Britain.

So, I’m a failure. Nick’s a failure. Our young hero, Alfie is a failure. And that’s fine. It’s human. It’s real. And as Samuel Beckett wrote:

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”


Mark Huckerby & Nick Ostler

Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler are Emmy and BAFTA-nominated screenwriters best known for writing popular TV shows such as Danger Mouse and Thunderbirds Are Go! Thank you to Mark for his special guest post, you can find out more about about ‘Defender of the Realm ‘ by visiting their website or follow them on Twitter @Huckywucky and @nickostler