Monthly Archives: January 2018

Brightstorm: High Adventure in the Frozen South – Vashti Hardy

It was with much anticipation that I opened up by beautiful copy of ‘Brightstorm’ by Vashti Hardy after hearing so many people on Twitter rave about how fabulous this book is, and let me tell you they were spot on! This breath-taking, thrilling debut totally enchanted me with its rich storytelling, incredible world-building and compelling cast of characters. It opens with the heart-breaking news that twins Arthur and Maudie are left orphans after their father’s failed attempt to reach the South Polaris. Their family name is disgraced as he stands accused of trying to steal fuel from competitor before he died and they are cast out of their home. Determined to prove his innocence they convince Miss Culpepper to allow them to join the crew of her sky-ship ‘Aurora’ as the race to reach the South Polaris begins anew. Not only must they prove themselves worthy explorers to restore the ‘Brightstorm’ reputation, they must use all their wiles to uncover the truth about their father’s ill-fated mission. Will Arthur and Maddie find the evidence they need to prove their father’s innocence?

This is such a joyful, magnificent read, that totally entranced me from the very first page and captivated me till the very last page. The characterisation is just flawless, Vashti has assembled the most interesting and engaging cast of characters. Arthur has to be only one of a handful of disabled MG characters that I have seen featured but Vashti chooses to make his lack of self-belief his weakness and challenge rather than his disability. His bravery comes from drawing on and developing his inner resources not from fighting to overcome any physical limitation he may have in difficult times. I’m fascinated by Maudie’s inquisitive mind and her remarkable ability to understand the workings of mechanics and her wondrous inventive spirit which is capable of designing the most complex creations. We’re then blessed with the sky-ship’s Captain, the eccentric and rather marvellous Harriet Culpepper who is a genius inventor with an incredibly big heart. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better we have the dastardly, deliciously dark Eudora Vane who will stop at nothing to win the race and steal all the glory for herself. She is so cold and calculating she makes Cruella de Vil look positively saintly!

This is an story of truly epic proportions, it will sweep you away through the skies across frozen plains to unknown lands on a voyage of discovery, that will take your breath away. At the heart of this story is the need for courage and bravery in the darkest of times as both Arthur and Maudie face unsurmountable challenges which they must overcome to clear their father’s name. But it is the power of friendship that holds this story together, incredible bonds are forged in the most unexpected of places as they battle to win the race and complete their expedition.  Vashti has created this remarkable, fully imagined world that you want to lose yourself in. An exceptional story, beautifully told I just loved this thrilling adventure. 

Thank you to Scholastic for sending me a copy of this glorious book, ‘Brightstorm: High Adventure in the Frozen South’ is released on the 1st March and is available to pre-order from online or from any good bookshop.


I Swapped My Brother on the Internet – Jo Simmons illustrated by Nathan Reed

Jonny is fed up of constantly fighting with his older brother, after haven fallen foul to another one of his brother’s stupid challenges when he dares him climb up a tree to retrieve their Frisbee. For him enough is enough! He is sick of Ted teasing him, sick of being the younger brother and made to feel like an idiot all of the time. So when an advert for a new website ‘Sibling Swap’ pops up on his computer promising Jonny the chance to swap Ted for a brand new model, well who could resist? But finding a perfect replacement for Ted isn’t as easy as he first thought. Sibling Swap sends him the most random and bizarre brothers which bring total chaos and disruption into his life. First a merboy, then a brother raised by meerkats, and then the ghost of Henry the Eighth! Each time another brother turns up he dreads to think what’s coming next?! The whole idea is turning out to be a total disaster and suddenly old Ted isn’t looking so bad. But can Jonny ever get him back?

This madcap and somewhat bonkers adventure is bound to appeal to lovers of funny, absurd stories. Who hasn’t wished at sometime to swap their annoying sibling for someone better? But you know what they say, be careful what you wish for as Jonny soon discovers as his life becomes increasingly more annoying and complicated. There are laughs and groans aplenty as we watch Jonny struggle to get his life sorted whilst he actually manages to make it worse. Jo has made it really interesting by just devising the most ridiculous and diverse bunch of brothers that test Jonny to the very limits with their extreme behaviour, allowing him to appreciate his own brother a whole lot more! An engaging combination of slapstick humour and witty lively illustrations make for an entertaining read. 

Jo Simmons

Jo Simmons began her working life as a journalist. Her first fiction series for children, Pip Street, was inspired by her own kids’ love of funny fiction, and two Super Loud Sambooks followed. In addition to children’s fiction, she co-wrote a humorous parenting book, Can I Give Them Back Now?: The Aargh To Zzzzzz Of Parenting, published by Square Peg. Jo lives in Brighton with her husband, two boys and a scruffy formerly Romanian street dog. I Swapped My Brother on the Internet is her first book for Bloomsbury. You can find out more about Jo by following her on Twitter.

Nathan Reed

Nathan Reed has been a professional illustrator since graduating from Falmouth College of Arts in 2000. He has illustrated Christopher Edge’s How to Write Your Best Story Ever and the Elen Caldecott’s Marsh Road Mysteries Series. His most recent picture book is Samson the Mighty Flea by Angela McAllister. He was shortlisted for the Serco Prize for Illustration in 2014. When he’s not illustrating he can be found with his two boys and a football on Peckham Rye Common. You can find out more about Nathan by visiting his website or follow him on Twitter.

Blog Tour

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

Thank you to Faye and Bloomsbury for my copy of this hilarious book and for inviting me to join in with the blog tour. ‘I Swapped My Brother on the Internet’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.

Cover Reveal – Dinosaurs Don’t Draw – Elli Woollard & Steven Lenton

I’m really excited to be able to reveal for you today, the cover of the latest picture book collaboration from Elli Woollard and Steven Lenton ‘Dinosaurs Don’t Draw’ which will be published on the 3rd May by Macmillan. 

So without further ado here it is…….

This stunning cover has been lovingly created by the illustrator Steven Lenton, it’s bursting with beautiful vibrant colours that make you desperate to open the covers and take a peek. I adored Elli and Steven’s first picture book together ‘The Great Gran Plan’ with it’s wonderful mix of lively rhymes, irreverent humour and intricately detailed illustrations, so can’t wait to see what magic they have created.

Dinosaurs Don’t Draw

Dinosaurs don’t draw, they stamp and stomp and ROAR!

Dinosaurs chomp and clomp and stamp and stomp, but apparently they don’t ever draw. Except for one creative young dinosaur who just can’t seem to stop! He transforms rocks, chalk, sticks and mud into the most wonderful works of art – much to the confusion of his fierce, fighting dinosaur family.

But when everyone hears the THUD of a terrifying T-Rex, they soon see just how effective art can be.

Elli Woollard & Steven Lenton

Elli Woollard

Elli Woollard lives in London with her husband, four children, and a completely demented cat. She has written several picture books and young fiction books with some absolutely AMAZING illustrators, including the wonderful Steven Lenton (Dinosaurs Don’t Draw, The Great Gran Plan), Benji Davies (The Giant of Jum, The Dragon and the Nibblesome Knight) and Laura Ellen Anderson (Swashbuckle Lil). When she’s not writing she’s generally singing. Luckily her family and neighbours seem very forgiving of this. You can find out more about Elli by following her on Twitter

Steven Lenton

Steven Lenton is an award winning illustrator based in Brighton.  As well as designing and illustrating Elli’s wonderful stories, Steven also illustrates the Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam series by Tracey Corderoy, Frank Cottrell Boyce’s fiction titles and a brand new fiction series by Steven Butler called ‘The Nothing To See Here Hotel.’ You can find out more about Steven by following him on Twitter or visit his fantastic website.

Thank you to Steven, Elli and Macmillan for inviting me to host the cover reveal. I can’t wait to read this uplifting story about the joy and the power of art – and daring to be different.

A Far Away Magic – Amy Wilson

I really enjoyed Amy Wilson’s magical debut ‘A Girl Called Owl’ so was thrilled to get my hands on an early copy of the amazing ‘ A Far Away Magic.’ When a grief-stricken Angel moves to a new school after the mysterious death of her parents, she just wants to hide away from the world. Despite having no desire to make friends she is drawn to a peculiar boy Bavar who also seems to be trying to disappear into the background. For Angel he has a magic around him that is totally compelling and she recognises another lost soul searching for peace. However it is a dark magic surrounding Bavar that is threatening to consume his life through his calling  to protect the world from a magical rift through which monsters are trying to escape. Angel watches Bavar struggling to accept his fate and is determined to find a way for him to choose his own path in life. But it soon becomes clear to Angel that her past is more entangled in this darkness than she could possibly ever imagine.

I was totally spellbound by this unique and bewitching adventure which held me tightly in its grip till the very last page. Amy seamlessly weaves together the contemporary and magical worlds creating this totally believable world of good battling against evil. By allowing both Angel and Bavar to tell their sides of the story it adds a hidden depth and understanding of the personal struggles they both battle. and you can feel their connection vividly. Angel’s determination to support Baver and refusal to give up even when the odds are fierce and their quest seems impossible, is just so wonderfully brave. Whilst Bavar’s refusal to accept the demands of everyone to be something he just can’t bear to be is just inspiringly defiant. Together they must face their own demons without destroying each other before it’s too late to save their world. A story of dealing with grief, acceptance and being strong enough to be yourself in a world. You are bound to be captivated by this extraordinary dark, mysterious tale.

Thank you to Amy and Macmillan for sending me a copy of this magical book. ‘A Far Away Magic’ is released on the 25th January and is available to pre-order online or from any good bookshop.

The House With Chicken Legs – Sophie Anderson

I was delighted to be asked to share with you last month the cover reveal for Sophie Anderson’s incredible debut ‘The House With Chicken Legs’ and it received the most amazing response. This exquisite cover has been designed by Katharine Millichope at Usborne, and illustrated by the brilliant Melissa Castrillón and it just gives you a tiny hint about how beautiful and extraordinary the story is that lies inside. I had a feeling that this book was going to be truly special but nothing quite prepared me for this haunting and heart-breaking tale that I would be emotionally tied to long after reading. Sophie is a born storyteller, she has taken the Russian folk tale Baba Yaga and cleverly weaved the most dark and delicate words to create a truly bewitching tale.

Marinka’s greatest desire is to lead a normal life. A life where she will wake up in the morning in the same place where she went to sleep, a place where she could settle and make friends. But sadly that’s not to be! She lives with her grandmother, Baba Yaga in a house with chicken legs, which without warning will get up and move on. Her grandmother’s is the guardian of the house and must help guide the dead through The Gate, which in turn will be Marinka’s destiny. How does it feel to be destined to a future role that you desperately don’t want and can you possibly change your path which seems so determinedly laid out before you. Follow Marinka as she travels across the globe, between this world and the next, as she struggles against the restraints that hold her bound to this inevitable fate.

It’s incredibly difficult to describe just how much I love ‘The House With Chicken Legs,’ it really is an emotional rollercoaster of a read that left me breathless. Sophie has created so many heart-stopping, desperately sad moments but then has sprinkled deftly seeds of hope and joy throughout allowing, the reader like Marinka to dream of an better future. The characterisation is superb, Marinka is strong and brave but flawed and fragile at the same time as she contends with the demands of the house and the expectations of her people. Her inexhaustible desire to make connections with people who are alive and real is so painful to watch but we know that she has to find her own way in the world and learn from her mistakes. The bond between Marinka and her grandmother is unbreakable despite being tested to the very limits and it just filled my heart with so much warmth and happiness. Even the house demonstrates it’s hold and desire over Marinka’s life, it doesn’t just stand up and walk away it rallies against her desire to be true to herself and Sophie captures this brilliantly with it’s outlandish behaviour. Stunningly told and superbly written this has to be one of the most accomplished debuts I have had the pleasure to read. A truly unforgettable story that will stay with me forever.

Thank you to Usborne for sending me a copy of this glorious book. ‘The House With Chicken Legs’ is released on 5th April and is available to pre-order now online or from any good bookshop.

Things A Bright Girl Can Do – Sally Nichols

This year marks the centenary of women being given the limited right to vote, although it wasn’t until 1928 that women and men were given equal voting rights. How can we today truly understand the struggles that took place to secure these rights when the right to vote is just part of the landscape in which we live and it’s just something that we take for granted. Luckily for us Sally Nicholl’s has captured a slice of social history in the magnificent ‘Things A Bright Girl Can Do.’ She offers us a uncompromising insight into the lives of three very different young women who each play their part in campaigning for change. From the desperate poverty of the East End to the polite drawing room meetings, they all have to make sacrifices for change. But just how much are they willingly to give up in their fight to secure votes for women.

Evelyn, Nell and May all have very different stories to tell and each have their own individual frustrations and hardships to endure. Evelyn desire to be educated is seen as wasteful by her family when her destiny will inevitably be to get married and have children, her life is tightly controlled. Whilst Nell has on the face of it more freedoms to dress and live as she likes, the incredible poverty she faces is made worse by the lack of opportunities for her to work as a woman. As a pacifist who is brought up with a mother deeply involved in the Suffragist movement May’s life is defined by her mothers values and beliefs despite how she may feel. All of their struggles are set against the harshness of the Great War and encapsulates the pain and difficulties for the women who are left behind to wait and mourn and try to hold their families together in the darkest of times.

It’s definitely not a romanticised view of how the right to vote was achieved for woman, it’s a honest and sometimes brutal account of the battle that took place. By seamlessly weaving the girls lives into history you feel like you are stepping back in time to see the world through their eyes. Sally has created these strong women who are realistically flawed and who you genuinely care about it. There are lots of observations that made me smile none more so than Nell bemoaning the lack of pockets in women’s clothes, something that 100 years later is still irritatingly familiar. This is such a compelling and inspiring story, it’s one of those books I want to put into people’s hands and demand that they read it! With all of this taken into account this is a slightly older read than I would usually recommend, definitely one for KS3 and over.

Thank you to Andersen Press for sending me a copy of this book. ‘Things A Bright Girl Can Do’ is available to buy online or from any good bookshop. It is also available in paperback from the 1st February.

The Light Jar – Guest Post Lisa Thompson

I am delighted to welcome Lisa Thompson to the blog today as part of ‘The Light Jar’ blog tour with a special guest post. ‘The Light Jar’ is beautifully written and exceptionally told and I was totally captivated by this remarkable story, Lisa has tackled an incredibly difficult subject in a completely sensitive way deliberately revealing tiny details throughout the book that when you combine them all together are utterly heart-breaking and desperately sad. However this is just one element of this remarkable story, she has cleverly woven other mysteries into Nate’s life so that the reader doesn’t feel the full impact of the underlying truth of what has actually happened to him and his Mum. It is a book that demands to be read, definitely a must have read.

So without further ado I will pass you over to Lisa….

Tips for my 10-year-old self – Lisa Thompson

When I was the age of many of my young readers, I remember a shy girl who liked to make people laugh and someone who found the world around her quite fascinating.  The things I remember most being interested in at this age were:-

Birdwatching (I joined the Young Ornithologists Club)

Saving Whales (I joined the Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society)

The Famous Five (I joined the Famous Five fan club)

Archaeology (I couldn’t find anything to join so I just dug lots of holes in the garden)

Horses (my parents couldn’t afford lessons so I just read up about them)

When I wasn’t absorbed in these, I spent the rest of my time either on roller skates or on my bike.  Playing out was one of my favourite things to do, and making up fantasy worlds with my friends became my first introduction to storytelling.

It was aged ten when I first remember thinking; what will I be when I grow up? What job will I have? Will I travel the world trying to save whales or become an archaeologist or a champion showjumper (even though I’d never actually sat on a horse)? I was in huge rush to think of something, anything that would absorb me and become my vocation.  And as I got into my teens other things started to worry me, like it does for all of us – what people thought of me, how I looked, all the usual ‘stuff’.

I think if I could go back now and give my younger self some advice, it would be this;

1) BEING TALL. Don’t worry about your height and stop stooping in assemblies so that you don’t stand out too much.  And ignore those taunts of being called ‘daddy long legs’. One day those people will be telling you they wish they were as tall as you.

2) QUIRKY INTERESTS. Keep finding things fascinating!  When you get to your teenage years you’ll think it’s uncool to be open about how interested you are in old coins or obscure films or how house martins build their nests.  Don’t worry what others think.  Just absorb everything you can. If nothing else, you’ll be armed with some cracking answers for pub quizzes later in life.

3) MUSIC. Keep listening to music as this love will stay with you forever. Are you weird because you’re only ten and some classical music makes you cry? No.  It means you have emotions you can tap into. Embrace it. You’ll still be crying over those pieces when you’re in your 40’s – go with it.

4) FORGET ABOUT SINGING.  There will be a time when you’ll have your heart set on becoming a singer.  To be honest, I wouldn’t bother.  Just enjoy singing in your bedroom and leave it to those who have far more talent.

5) KEEP YOUR HALF-WRITTEN BOOK. You know that book you’re writing? About the girl saving the horses? You’ll find that book when you’re 13, decide it’s highly embarrassing, then rip it up and put it in the bin.  Don’t. I’d love to see that book now.

6) I COULD NEVER BE AN AUTHOR.  Don’t doubt yourself. And more importantly, don’t listen to those many, many people who stress how hard it is to get published because there is so much competition.  You’ll hear it over and over for years and years and you’ll think it’s just not worth trying. But it is worth trying.

Trust me.

Thank you to Lisa for this fabulous guest post, I would love to go back and talk to my 10 year old self and tell her everything just work out absolutely fine in the end!

Lisa Thompson

Lisa Thompson worked as a Radio Broadcast Assistant first at the BBC and then for an independent production company making plays and comedy programmes. During this time she got to make tea for lots of famous people. Lisa grew up in Essex and now lives in Suffolk with her family. Her debut, The
Goldfish Boy, was a Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month pick in January 2017 and is the bestselling debut of the year as of July 2017. You can find out more by visiting her website or follow her on Twitter.

Blog Tour

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