Monthly Archives: July 2018

Summer Recommended Reads

So you may have noticed that I’ve not been blogging over the last few weeks that’s because I am working on an exciting new project. I was delighted to be invited to join this year’s Blue Peter Book Awards 2019 Longlisting panel to help choose the 12 books in the ‘Best Story,’ and ‘Best Books with Facts,’ category. This has meant having to read a large selection of books in a very short period of time and I’m currently working my way through some marvellous books which sadly I can’t share with you on the blog, it’s top secret. Fortunately before I immersed myself in the submitted titles I did manage to read some books in July that I thoroughly enjoyed, which I’m going to share with you today.

Flight – Vanessa Harbour

‘Flight,’ is a heart-stopping and thrilling debut that totally captivated and enthralled me in equal measures. Austria 1945, Jewish boy Jakob is in hiding at the Spanish Riding School stables when Nazi soldiers arrive after being tipped off to his presence. A hostile altercation results in the death of one of the rare horses and Jakob’s guardian realises it’s imperative to take the horses to safety. But the only way to escape is undertake a terrifying journey across the mountains taking them straight through Nazi territory. Inspired by real life events, this story is filled with danger and peril at every turn as they risk everything to save their precious stallions. Superb characterisation and edge of your seat drama makes for a compelling and exciting read.


The Storm Keeper’s Island – Catherine Doyle

‘The Storm Keeper’s Island,’ crackles with so much magic and wildness, you can feel the darkness rippling on every page. When Fionn arrives on Arranmore Island, he unwittingly disturbs a menacing force that has been bubbling away underneath the surface for hundreds of years. Unknown to him his mysterious grandfather has been the Keeper of the storms and keeps their magic safe from those who would use this power for sinister purposes. And now the time has come for his grandfather to step down, so Fionn finds himself caught up in a hotly contested bid to become the next guardian. Stunningly atmospheric you can feel the elements rise, leaving you holding your breath as the fierceness of nature is harnessed in this battle between good and evil. This is a glorious book, truly original storytelling that completely enchanted me.


Secret Seven: Mystery of the Skull – Pamela Butchart illustrated by Tony Ross

As an avid reader of ‘Secret Seven,’ when I was growing up I was thrilled to see that the series was coming back especially as it was going to be in the very safe hands of the fabulous Pamela Butchart. Maintaining all of the charm and fun of the original series, Secret Seven is brought bang up to date in this exciting new mystery. When Peter finds an old skull mysteriously left in his bedroom, he needs to call an emergency meeting of the Secret Seven to help get to the bottom of this strange discovery. When they discover a gigantic hole in the grounds of a local hotel and the new owners are behaving very suspiciously, they wonder could there be a connection between the two strange events. Packed with midnight bike rides, scrumptious food, lots of red herrings and mystery aplenty this new adventure is bound to delight and excite younger readers. Bravo to Pamela who surely deserves a very large slice of pineapple upside down cake!


The Trapdoor Mysteries: A Sticky Situation – Abie Longstaff & James Brown

‘The Trapdoor Mysteries,’ is an irresistible new mystery series featuring an inquisitive young girl called Tally and her best friend, a squirrel named Squill. Tally who was abandoned at birth after the tragic death of her mother has been brought up as a servant girl in a loveless home where she spends her days scrubbing and polishing from dawn to dusk and her evenings sleeping in the kitchen sink. Desperate and destitute this doesn’t hold Tally back and unknown to the horrid housekeeper she is secretly reading books, keen to learn as much as possible about the world all around her. Using her fierce intelligence, Tally manages to crack a seemingly impossible code which leads to the discovery of a magical library where books come to life. When her home is burgled nobody can understand how it could have possibly happened but Tally cleverly realises the books in the library hold the key to solving the mystery. Brilliantly written and beautifully illustrated, ‘The Trapdoor Mysteries,’ is an engaging, delightful series and I’m thrilled the follow up, ‘The Scent of Danger,’ is equally as marvellous.

Jelly – Jo Cotterill

Jo Cotterill is back with another absolutely brilliant story that I devoured in one sitting, ‘Jelly,’ is the perfect mix of smart, clever and poignantly funny storytelling. Jelly is the comedy queen of the classroom, she has to be the centre of attention and is constantly pushing the boundaries so that people laugh with her instead of at her. But Jelly is hiding a secret, she isn’t as bubbly and confident as the world sees her. In fact she is struggling inside with how she feels about herself and how she thinks others feel about her. Pouring her heart and soul into her secret notebook, Jelly expresses her innermost feelings and fears, locked away from everybody. That is until her Mum’s new boyfriend comes along and for the first time in her life someone sees through Jelly’s carefully constructed version of herself. Can Jelly risk everything and show the world who she really is? Perfect as a transition read between primary and secondary, it captures the trials and tribulations of growing up thoughtfully and honestly. This is the kind of book I want to put into children’s hands and insist they read it because I absolutely loved it.

Thank you to Bloomsbury, Firefly, Hachette, Little Brown Books and Toppsta for sending me copies of these wonderful books. All of the books are available to buy now online or from any good bookshop. If you’re looking for more books to read over the summer holidays check out Toppsta’s  Summer Reading Guide.


Access All Awkward – Beth Garrod

Is there anything more exciting than stumbling into a series where you just adore the books and know that you can immediately dive into the rest. Well luckily for me the brilliant Beth Garrod has written two books before the fabulously funny, ‘Access All Awkward,’ so I know I’m in for lots more laugh-out-loud moments. For those like me new to the desperately awkward Bella Fisher, fear not I was able to get to know her very quickly and soon discovered we had a lot in common. Yes because Beth is totally, seriously and downright especially awkward, in fact you could say her life just never goes how she wants it to. So it seems inevitable that she’s dawdled away most of her revision time researching rare breeds of dogs, meaning that her chances of going to college with her friends is increasingly slim. But Bella distracts herself from potential misery with the promise of a festival ticket, if only she didn’t have to work as a litter picker to get one because nothing is ever that straightforward for her. And if things couldn’t get worse her Mum has sent her annoying older sister Jo to watch over, officially ruining her life. Surely that’s the worst thing that could possibly happen, what else could possibly go wrong?

This brilliant story just oozes fun and laughter from every page, I completely devoured it desperate to know just how disastrous Bella’s life was going to turn out to be. In a world of filtered, glamourous teens that dominate social media it’s really refreshing to meet someone who is so real that it hurts. There are so many cringe worthy moments for you to savour as we watch Bella turn from loser to saviour much to the disgust of the popular, mean girls. I’m sure all teenagers can identify with Bella, her struggle to fit in, when she can’t afford the best of everything and having the most embarrassing Mum who appears to be up to something very strange behind closed doors. You will be cheering Bella along all the way, wanting to hug her when things go badly wrong and wishing so hard that she can get through a whole day without being completely awkward. I would love for there to be more series like this, it’s perfect for young teens in secondary school feeling totally overwhelmed with what the world has instore for them. Genuinely hilarious from its head to its toes, this is a truly entertaining read that I just loved.

Blog Tour

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

Thank you to Emily and Scholastic for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and for sending me a copy of this hilarious book. ‘Access All Awkward,’ and the rest of this fabulous series are available to buy online or from any good bookshop.

Shifty McGifty & Slippery Sam: The Missing Masterpiece – Tracey Corderoy & Steven Lenton

It was with great excitement that I got my hands on an early copy of the latest ‘Shifty McGifty & Slippery Sam’, book from duo extraordinaire Tracey Corderoy & Steven Lenton. After a hugely successful visit to our school filled with merriment and mayhem the children were incredibly excited last month to get a sneak peek of this glorious new book, ‘The Missing Masterpiece.’ They were entranced by Tracey’s lilting, humorous rhymes whilst being completely spellbound by Steven’s sumptuous spreads. In fact they thought it was very ooh la la! This story has a Parisian flavour as our delightful doggy duo have been summoned to create a truly magnifique gingerbread Eiffel Tower for a very important art exhibition in ‘Gallery Bonbon.’ But trouble seems to follow them wherever they go and they soon find themselves caught up in a calamity when the famous Bone-a-Lisa painting is swiped by a dastardly fox. Will Shifty and Sam track down this cunning thief and be back in time to serve up their spectacular showstopper?

Tracey and Steven have done it again, ‘The Missing Masterpiece,’ is a truly wonderful collaboration that will delight and entertain younger readers. Tracey’s delightful rhymes are a total joy to read aloud creating just the right level of tension and excitement to have children eagerly turning the pages to find out if Shifty and Sam will solve the mystery once again. There is so much humour to be found in this book for adults as well as children who could resist the canine influenced art,  ‘Pug with a Pearl Earring,’ and ‘Frida Collie,’ to name just a few. Steven’s sumptuous spreads are stunning with intricate and funny illustrations, giving the reader a true flavour of Paris. Beautifully produced, this book is bound to become a firm favourite it just demands to be read over and over again.


The lovely people at Nosy Crow have given me two copies of ‘The Missing Masterpiece,’ to giveaway. To enter leave a comment on the blog and/or hop over to Twitter and retweet my pinned tweet. UK only ends 11th July.

Thank you to Rebecca and Nosy Crow for sending me a copy of this gorgeous book and inviting me to host this giveaway. ‘The Missing Masterpiece,’ is available to buy online now or from any good bookshop.

Pony on the Twelfth Floor – by Polly Faber illustrated by Sarah Jennings

I was thrilled to host the cover reveal for Polly Faber’s charming new story, ‘Pony on the Twelfth Floor,’ illustrated by Sarah Jennings earlier this year. So it was with great excitement that I got my hands on an early copy of the book. Having loved Polly’s ‘Mango and Bambang,’ series with Clara Vulliamy, my expectations were ridiculously high and I can confirm that Polly completed exceeded them with this funny, heart-warming tale. Kizzy is completely obsessed with ponies, from her pony posters on her walls all the way down to her pony slippers and she dreams that one day she might have one of her very own. The problem is if you live in the city on the twelfth floor of a tower block it’s not as if you’ve got the space to keep one. But when Kizzy stumbles across a pony in the bakery aisle in her supermarket, she’s not prepared to let small details like this get in the way. Surely it’s perfectly possible to hide a pony in your bedroom without her Mum finding out, what could possibly go wrong?

Kizzy’s unstoppable determination to keep the mischievous and loveable Flapjack is just bonkers yet really endearing. I love how Polly weaves in a really interesting cast of characters who can’t help but get caught up with Kizzy’s infectious enthusiasm despite knowing it’s bound to lead to chaos and many comic moments. Whilst having ponies right at the centre of this story, this book really does celebrate the tenacity of the human spirit and highlights the transformative power of friendship. From the grumpy caretaker, to the lonely old lady who help her out, their lives are enriched by her reaching out to them in her hour of need in her desperate attempt to keep Flapjack. Wonderfully diverse, it’s really interesting to read a pony story that isn’t set in an idyllic countryside, the city setting makes for an engaging idea. Just like Kizzy we all have dreams that we would love to fulfil and even though you know she must take Flapjack back you just will her to be able to keep him for just that bit longer.  You can’t help but fall in love with this story, I thoroughly  enjoyed every moment. Sarah Jennings’s gorgeous illustrations capture brilliantly the warmth and humour of this story and I really wish more middle grade stories were illustrated. Bursting with humour and mayhem, Polly has created the most glorious story that will leave you with a warm glow in your heart and a smile on your face.

Thank you to Walker Books for sending me a copy of  this wonderful book,’Pony on the Twelfth Floor,’ is released on the 5th July and is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

Aliens Invaded My Talent Show – Guest post Matt Brown

Today I am delighted to welcome the hilarious Matt Brown to the blog for a special guest post to celebrate his latest book, ‘Aliens Invaded My Talent Show,’ illustrated by Paco Sordo. Eric Doomsday loves doing magic tricks. But even though his best friend, Vinnie, thinks they’re great, they always seem to go a bit…..wrong. When some very important school inspectors threaten to close down Eric’s school, his headmistress decided to put on a talent show. A talent show with Eric in it. And Eric’s magic tricks. Thank goodness the Earth isn’t been inspected by aliens at the same time! Because magic, aliens and talent shows are sure to be a horrible mix…..Aren’t they? This madcap adventures sounds absolutely brilliant and Paco’s illustrations are just bursting with comic moments, this looks like a really winning combination.

Creating  Awesome Character  Names – Matt Brown

Sir Ziggy Silverdale

Is that a great name for a character, or what?  I see Sir Ziggy as a brilliant detective, brought in by the baffled police to help crack a case.  Or perhaps Sir Ziggy is a secret jewel thief, or super-villian.  Well, anyway, the name Sir Ziggy Silverdale was really easy to come up with.  Keep reading and I’ll let you in on some of my character naming secrets.

You see, creating strong character names is really important to me.  When I’m writing a book, I can’t properly begin to work out who a character is, or what they sound like, until I am one hundred percent completely happy with their name.  And in a book there are usually a LOT of characters.

In my new book, Aliens Invaded My Talent Show!, I created over thirty new characters.  That means that I had to come up with thirty new character names and in order to do this I used a few different methods.

Naming Method Number 1: Place Names

Quite a few characters in Aliens Invaded My Talent Show! were named after places that are familiar to me.  For example, Vinnie Mumbles is named after a beautiful part of the south Wales coastline near where I grew up.  And Betty Goonhaven is named after a village in Cornwall, which is near where I went on holiday last year.  If you’re stuck for a juicy surname then look on a map.

Naming Method Number 2: Collective Nouns

All the teachers in Aliens Invaded My Talent Show! have surnames that are collective nouns for different animals.  The headteacher is Mrs Tittering, a tittering is a group of magpies.  There is a Ms Fesnying (ferrets).  And a Mrs Mustering (storks).

Naming Method Number 3: Asking My Son

My son, Sam, contributed three different character names to Aliens Invaded My Talent Show!  They were all invented characters that he created for other things that he then said I could use because I loved them so much.  So, he had a teddy that he called Steve Enjoy, which became the hamster in my book.  We used to play a game on car journeys that he created Jonny Smuthers for (the game is very complicated so I shan’t go into that here).  And he has always loved the name Cheeseballs and so Barry Cheeseballs became a YouTuber in my book.  If you have access to a nine-year-old and you need character names then just ask them.

Naming Method Number 4:  The Pet/Street Equation

And so we return to Sir Ziggy Silverdale.  He is a product of the most effective character name generator that I’ve ever come across.  You simply take the name of your pet (or a pet of a friend) and combine it with your street/village/town name.  Ziggy is the name of my dog and ‘Silverdale’ is the name of a road we used to live on.  Then I simply added the ‘Sir’ for a bit of extra pizzazz.  Go on, have a go, I’m sure there’s a brilliant character name just waiting to be created.

You can check out all the names I created for Aliens Invaded My Talent Show! from 28th June, 2018, when the book comes to all good bookstores.  I really hope you like it.

Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour for my guest posts and giveaways.


Thank you to Matt for this really inspiring blog post I always find naming characters tricky so this is really useful. Thanks to Liz Scott and Usborne for sending me a copy of this funny book and for inviting me to join in with the blog tour. ‘Aliens Invaded My Talent Show,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.

The Polka Dot Shop – Laurel Remington

I am delighted to be kicking off the blog tour today for Laurel Remington’s latest book, ‘The Polka Dot Shop.’ Laurel has a flair for writing heart-warming, funny stories that capture brilliantly the ups and downs of family life. Andy’s life feels officially over when her school announces a new no-uniform policy. While she is desperate to look and dress like everyone else she knows she will be forced to wear dreadful cast offs from her Mum’s vintage boutique and when the ‘fashion police’ see what she’s wearing she’ll never live it down. Fast forward two years and she’s confined to the outskirts of friendship groups and her problems have grown bigger than having terrible fashion sense. Her Mum is becoming increasingly distant and the vintage shop is under threat and all Andy can focus on is finding a way to dress so she can fit in. A chance find of a bag full of designer clothes in the shop, changes everything. Will Andy uses this to make her dreams come to true or can she find a way to help her Mum and transform the shop? Delightful in every way, ‘The Polka Dot Shop,’ totally charmed me with it’s winning formula of friendship, family with just enough of a sprinkling of romance to leave you with a warm glow inside.


Inspiration behind The Polka Dot Shop – Laurel Remington

When I was a girl, we had a box of old clothing in the garage. I don’t even know who it all belonged to – my mother and various grandmas, I suppose – but once something found its way to the box, it was mine.

            I remember playing dressing-up with friends from the street or on my own. We used to put on shows – singing songs from musicals, using the dressing up box clothing as costumes. It was fun being someone else, wearing things that might suit me someday, but right now, didn’t quite fit. Wondering where they’d last been worn for real – on a happy day, a sad day, or just a day like any other.

            Years later when I was living in Los Angeles, I joined the Twentieth Century Society which celebrated the Art Deco era. At that time, I began to collect vintage clothing, and in those days, it was sometimes possible to find hidden gems in antique stores that were actually affordable (and back then, I could even fit into some of them). I participated in 1920s re-enactment events, and we were lucky enough to have two Hollywood costume designers teach a sewing class on 1920s fashion.

            It’s been a while now since I’ve really had a chance to do much dressing-up, and I’m afraid my 1920s clothing collection is now mostly packed away. However, my love of vintage lives on, as the inspiration for The Polka Dot Shop.

            For 13-year old Andy, vintage is not her thing. She dreams of being able to buy new clothes, with a crisp tag, that no one else has worn. Her mum owns a quirky vintage clothing shop, and everything Andy wears is second-hand, ‘pre-loved’ – used.

            Andy’s journey is one of transformation, inside and out. She makes a plan, takes a risk, and finds a way to use her flair for fashion to transform her mum’s shop into something fabulous – that celebrates both old and new. In doing so, she gains a new perspective on classic fashion, and both she and her mum come to appreciate the other’s point of view.

            I like to write stories that build a bridge between children and adults, because so much can be gained and learned on both sides. Each of the characters in the book has a goal, and it’s only by learning to work together that they can achieve the best results.

            I hope that you will find Andy’s story inspiring. And if you have your own stories to share of fun, friendship, fashion – and polka dots! – do drop me a line at my website:


            Be fabulous!

            Laurel x


Blog Tour

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

Thank you to Jazz and Chicken House for sending me a copy of this lovely story and inviting me to join in with the blog tour. ‘The Polka Dot Shop,’ is released on the 5th July and is available to pre-order online or from any good bookshop.

Storm – Sarah Driver

Sarah Driver is back with the final instalment in The Huntress trilogy ‘Storm.’ and it’s an epic conclusion to this thrilling series. Life is looking bleak for our heroine Mouse as Stag’s power is growing and Trianukka is trapped in an eternal winter. She is a hunted child and her Dad is determined to keep her safe within the Sky fortress of Hackles. But Mouse grows restless as she knows their only salvation is to find the final storm opal, only then will they be able to defeat Stag’s army and escape this miserable future. Despite all the trials and torments that Mouse has experienced nothing can prepare her for the dark forces that are rising, more terrifying than anything she has seen before. Thrown into the most deadly and perilous situations she realises that the battle that lies ahead means she will have to risk everything to save their kingdom.

Sarah’s incredible world building of Trianukka continues to astound and delight me in this glorious story. With each story the world has become darker, more dangerous and bleak, as hope withers away and life becomes more desperate. Rich, vibrant storytelling captures this epic journey that she must undertake in order to save Trianukka, a chill runs through you as you find yourself swept away by this book. Despite Mouse being headstrong and her rash behaviour bringing her into increasingly life-threatening situations you can’t help but admire her refusal to protect her tribe at any cost. With twists and turns at every corner, the reader is never sure what to expect next or who to trust because we are continually surprised as the plot unravels. It cleverly shows how easily divisions can be stirred up amongst people and how evil can only be overcome when we unite and embrace our differences. Wonderfully atmospheric and deliciously dark you can’t help but being totally entranced by this beautiful but haunting tale.

Thank you to Egmont for sending me a copy of this thrilling book, ‘Storm’ is available to buy online or from any good bookshop.