Monthly Archives: August 2018

The Secrets of the Sun King – Emma Carroll

The thing when you are a bookworm, is that you have an overwhelming need to read no matter what else needs doing in your life. Carpets to hoover, why bother they just get dirty again! Clothes to iron, no point they’ll just get creased again! It’s amazing how many excuses I will make and things I will avoid doing just to carve out a little bit of reading time. So it’s only logical that after spending 3 solid weeks reading 20 books for this year’s Blue Peter Book Awards longlisting panel that I reward myself by picking up and devouring my most anticipated read of the year. A new book by Emma Carroll has to be the ultimate reward. I can’t tell you how much I’ve been wanting to get my hands on a copy of this book since hearing whispers about an Egyptian tale featuring a ‘lost boy’ first emerged on Twitter. Then the pain of having a copy and knowing you can’t read it straight away because of a looming deadline is almost too much to bear. But bear it I did, and I can confirm it was definitely worth the wait, ‘The Secrets of the Sun King,’ is a book that dreams are made of, sumptuously told and brilliantly written.

Emma Carroll’s genius lies in her ability to transport the reader back in history and gives them such a sense of time and place that you find yourself right there, amongst the story watching it unfold before your very eyes. London, 1922. Lil’s grandfather is seriously ill and sent on an errand she finds a mysterious parcel on his doorstep. Even more mysterious is the sender of the parcel, a famous Egyptologist who has died in the most extraordinary circumstances that very morning. Unknown to Lil the strange parcel contains a secret hidden inside which holds the key to a story about a famous Egyptian king whose tomb everyone is desperate to find. With the help of her friends, Lil has to undertake a remarkable journey to return the package to it’s rightful resting place, in the hope it will save her grandfather and break the deadly pharaoh’s curse.

Emma has created a truly remarkable story in ‘The Secrets of the Sun King.’ Skilfully weaving this tale with so much excitement and mystery, then liberally sprinkling with darkness and danger to create a thrilling, enthralling adventure. The characterisation is just flawless, Emma has assembled a delightful cast of characters. I completely fell in love with Lil, a scholarship girl who doesn’t quite fit in at her school but has the most fierce determination to do what is right even if it lands her in trouble. Her willingness to do whatever it takes to protect her family, even at the risk to her own well being is really endearing. She is drawn to the daring Tulip who although seemingly has everything she could wish for, is just like her an outsider who is also fiercely lovely to her family especially her brother Oz. Every person within this story has a secret, a longing, that they feel the need to keep locked away.

Emma cleverly creates stories that contain so many layers of thought within them, they have a real depth that I always enjoy. Despite it being four years since World War One ended we still feel the damage still lingering in the grief of Tulip’s family over the loss of their brother and the emotional damage to Lil’s father mental health. We can feel the inequalities that still exist for the working class through Lil’s father’s determination for her to have an education so she can have a better life. It also explores the uneasiness surrounding the treatment of ancient Egyptian artefacts and the entitlement to ownership that was felt by this wealthy explorers and archaeologists. All of these thoughts and feelings running parallel to the story make it so much more than an intoxicating adventure. These elements combined with her ability to write gripping, page-turning tales confirm Emma as an incredibly special and genuinely talented writer, whose books I absolutely adore.

‘The Secret of the Sun King,’ Emma Carroll’s eight book and is available to by now online or from any good bookshop.


The Secret Deep – Lindsay Galvin


Today I am bringing ‘The Secret Deep,’ blog tour to a close with my review of this intriguing debut from Lindsay Galvin. When Aster wakes on a tropical island she is confused and distraught, her mind is full of questions. Where is she? How did she get here? And most importantly where is her younger sister, Poppy? Her last memories are blurred all she can remember is being on a boat with her aunt and other members of the eco-village where she was sent to live after the death of her mother. Nothing makes sense, she can’t think clearly but she feels the answers to all of her questions may lie beneath the sea. But nothing can prepare her for the secrets and revelations that she will uncover in her search for her sister and the truth.

Compelling and disturbing in equal measures, ‘The Secret Deep,’ left me feeling unsettled and anxious in the very best of ways. Lindsay has created a story filled with many layers of mystery that are gradually revealed as the story develops. Each time the reader really doesn’t believe that the reality can be any more shocking yet we continue to be surprised as the pieces of the puzzle slot together. The story sensitively deals with Aster’s all consuming grief examining the physical and emotional torment of her pain and confusion at trying to make sense of the world without her mother in. You become so emotionally involved with Aster’s struggle to find her sister and you feel the inextricable ties that hold her and Poppy together radiating through the pages. Beautifully written and superbly told this is a truly original and spellbinding debut, perfect for teens seeking breath-taking new dystopian adventure.


Lindsay Galvin

Lindsay Galvin was raised in a house of stories, music, and love of the sea, and now lives on the Sussex coast with her husband and two sons. She has a degree in English Language and Literature and teaches science. The Secret Deep is her first novel. You can find out more about Lindsay by visiting her website or follow her on Twitter.

Blog Tour

Why not catch up with the rest of the blog tour for more reviews, guest posts and giveaways.

Thank you to Laura and Chicken House for sending me a copy of this marvellous book and for inviting me to join in with the blog tour. ‘The Secret Deep,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.

The Garden of Hope – Guest post Katie Rewse

Today I am delighted to welcome Katie Rewse to the blog with a special guest post about her picture book debut, ‘The Garden of Hope,’ written by Isabel Otter. This beautiful story by Isabel, tells the tale of Maya and her father as they navigate the difficult path that lays before them with the absence of her Mum. It’s never quite clear what has happened to Mum which cleverly allows the book to be used to talk about the grief of losing a parent as well as the pain of a parent who has left after a family breakdown. A truly uplifting story, we see how Maya finds solace in the garden which her Mum loved so dearly as she tries to bring it back to life by planting seeds. Their growth helps transform the garden and gives Maya a sense of hope in the future that happiness and joy are within her reach. Sublimely illustrated by Katie, I particularly love how she uses the colour palettes of each spread to convey the changes in Maya’s feelings. From sombre dark colours, moving on to those that  sparkle with tiny pops of colour, to a full riot of vivid colours bursting with joy in the final spread. A thoughtful and heart-warming story that manages to tackle difficult themes in a very sensitive way.

Katie Rewse – Garden of Hope

It was this time last year that I received an exciting email from my agent with the project brief for Garden of Hope. For my first picture book, I couldn’t have been happier to be given the opportunity to illustrate such a beautiful and uplifting story. I immediately knew that with the setting of the garden, it was also going to be a real treat to draw.

The brief had the perfect amount of creative freedom for my first book; I was given guidance about what to include on each page, and a few details about how the characters could look, but lots of it was left to my own interpretation.

One of my favourite parts of the process was developing the characters, as I love imagining all the little details that collectively build a character. It’s always so much fun thinking about things like hairstyles and clothing, but on a deeper level I also enjoy the challenge of trying to think about the characters experiences and how these will come across in the illustrations too.

These are some of my first sketches as I began to visualise the main character, Maya.

These are the two designs that I decided to take forward into colour….

… and the final version in which I made her look a little younger.

After getting the go ahead with the characters, I began to work on the rough images. I used to do all of my sketching on paper, but for book roughs I have found it really useful to sketch digitally. This means that, if there are any suggested adjustments, I can quickly make changes.

For this page in particular I was asked to make a few adjustments. I hadn’t really considered that this could be a night time scene, and I think with the team at Caterpillars suggestion the spread was definitely improved. The collaborative nature of illustrating a picture book was a really enjoyable part of the process for me. At times I would think a page was finished, but with a few pairs of eyes, and sometimes with only a small suggestion for change, I found my artwork really grew.


In the story Maya pours a lot of love into restoring the garden. I think my two favourite spreads are when we see the first glimmer of hope as she begins her mission to tidy up….

… and the second to last scene where Maya is pictured looking joyful, in her beautiful, thriving garden.

I’m so excited about seeing Garden of Hope in the shops, I imagine it will be quite a surreal feeling.

This year has flown by, since finishing the artwork for Garden of Hope I have been working on some homeware projects as well as some new images for my children’s portfolio. Looking ahead, I’ve got a couple of exciting projects which I can’t wait to start. When I consider my future as a children’s book illustrator, I would love to work on some books with environmental messages; to illustrate a book by Nicola Davies would be my ultimate dream.

A huge thank you to Katie for giving us this really interesting insight into the illustrations in this wonderful story, I’m always fascinated to look at the creative process behind picture books.

Katie Rewse

Katie Rewse graduated with a Masters Degree in Illustration from the Arts University Bournemouth in 2017. Whilst studying, Katie was longlisted in the House of Illustration and Folio Society Book Competition, and shortlisted for the Batsford Prize. She continues to live and work in Bournemouth. When she is not busy drawing, Katie enjoys exploring the coast with her husband in their camper van.


Thank you to Leilah and Little Tiger for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and for sending me a copy of this beautiful book. ‘The Garden of Hope,’ is available to buy now online and from any good bookshop.

A Chase in Time – Sally Nicholls, illustrated by Brett Helquist

Today I’m delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for the first book in Sally Nicholls’ new time-slip adventure series, ‘A Chase in Time,’ illustrated by Brett Helquist. Every summer Alex and his sister are sent to stay with their Aunt Joanna in the country in her big rambling home which offers a stark contrast to the ugly house that they live in. Unfortunately this will be their last summer of escape, as their Aunt has been forced to sell her home as she can no longer manage the upkeep. Alex loves the house and just adores all of the remarkable objects in the house that have been collected over the years. But he is drawn to one object in particular, an old gilt-edged mirror because when he was 7 years old he is convinced he saw another boy in the mirror instead of his reflection. And one day when he least expects it he accidentally falls through the mirror with his sister and they end up in the same house but in a very different period of time. Soon they find themselves caught up in an adventure filled with arson, theft and erratic car chases as they race to find a precious family jewel. Can they solve the mystery and find a way to return home?

I completely devoured this book in one sitting, time literally flew by as I got totally caught up in this intriguing adventure. It really is like stepping into the past with it’s considered attention to period detail, told with real enthusiasm and insight. Sally has assembled a perfectly marvellous cast of characters who will delight and entertain readers. Alex and Ruby think they’re way ahead of the game compared to their distant relatives from the past Henry and Dora but they soon find they are a worthy match of pluckiness and determination as they work together to track down the thief. The adults are wonderfully eccentric, so full of life and adventure not realising that they are on the brink of the great war that will change their lives forever.  I love how she highlights the difference between life now and back in the Edwardian era, in particular how Ruby is horrified at the constraints Dora’s clothes place on her compared to the comfortable jeans and trainers she wears. Brett’s illustrations complement this story perfectly creating a truly beautiful and engaging read. Fast, frenetic and completely fun this book is a must have read for any confident child who has moved on from first chapter books and is looking to bridge the gap to middle grade reads.

Sally Nicholls

Sally Nicholls is the author of ‘Things A Bright Girl Can Do,’ and contributed to ‘Make More Noise!‘ a collection of stories about women’s suffrage. Sally lives in a little house in Oxford with her husband and sons, and trying to believe her luck.

Brett Helquist

Brett Helquist is the illustrator of many books including ‘The Series of Unfortunate Events,’ by Lemony Snicket and ‘Chasing Vermeer,’ by Blue Balliett. He grew up in Utah and now lives in Brooklyn, NY.

(Photo by Chris Lindsay)

Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour to find out more about ‘A Chase in Time.’

Thank you to Siân and Nosy Crow for sending me a copy of this fabulous book and for inviting me to join in with the blog tour. If you’re intrigued by my review you can read the first chapter on the Nosy Crow website. ‘A Chase in Time,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.