Monthly Archives: March 2019

Rumblestar – Abi Elphinstone

When I first shared the opening pages of ‘Everdark,’ to a spellbound group of children at school, I knew that Abi Elphinstone’s ‘ The Unmapped Chronicles,’ series was going to be incredibly special. I fell in love with the remarkable idea of a world created from Phoenix tears and was intrigued about the hidden unmapped kingdoms. It felt like a world of adventures was waiting for me within these kingdoms and it gave me a tiny sprinkling of the magic that lies within the first adventure, ‘Rumblestar.’ So I was thrilled to receive an early copy and I wanted to share a sneak peek with you today. I feel that ‘Rumblestar,’ is one of those stories that will be talked about for years to come, it is just the start of an epic journey and I haven’t been this enthralled and excited since Lucy stepped through the wardrobe into Narnia.

Casper Tock is a child who lives in fear of the school bullies Candida Cashmere-Jumps and Leopold Splattercash. He spends his life trying to avoid them by using a carefully planned and regimented schedule. But one day a tiny slip up happens and his life changes in the most unexpected of ways. It forces  him to confront everything that he studiously avoids, friendship, danger and spontaneity when he stumbles upon Utterly Thankless, her miniature dragon Arlo and the kingdom of Rumblestar. On the face of it, Casper and Utterly have nothing in common. He’s a rule abider while she’s allergic to rules, but they are both nursing a hidden pain – a reluctance to form bonds with others. All Casper wants to do is find a way back home but Utterly’s world is in danger and he soon realises that the fate of their two world are inextricably bound. But how can these two unlikely heroes defeat the dark magic that is pervading through the Unmapped Kingdoms?

Abi has created the most magical world filled that feels completely believable, you feel that the grown-ups must have got it wrong and we have closed our imaginations to the truth of these hidden kingdoms. Her writing is wildly imaginative and filled with the most magnificent details, she conjures up the images so vividly as the stories unfolds. We can envisage the cloud giants, storm ogres and drizzle hags who inhabit this world and it makes the reader feel like they’ve stepped into the world and are whisked along beside Casper, Utterly and Arlo. It has to be said that Abi has a unique talent for conjuring up the most fantastical names for her characters and settings, they spark a light of intrigue in the reader and are wonderfully enticing. This feels different than Abi’s other books there is a gentle humour and fun that runs through the story – even in the darkest of times – that I particularly enjoyed.  ‘Rumblestar,’ is such a glorious read bursting with bravery, packed with friendship and full of friendship. I can’t wait for next adventure in the Unmapped Kingdoms.

I think, ‘Rumblestar,’ would make a brilliant class read and luckily for any teachers out there who are intrigued by this story Ian Eagleton of @reading_realm has created a thoughtful and interesting Scheme of Work which is available to download for free on Abi’s website (click the link below). I have a sneak peek to share with you.

Rumblestar Scheme of Work

 

Schools can pre-order discounted copies of ‘Rumblestar,’ from Kensington Books, email Dave@kensingtonbooks.co.uk to find out more.

Thank you to Abi and Simon & Schuster for sending me a gifted copy in exchange for a review. ‘Rumblestar,’ is available to pre-order now online or from any good bookshop.

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A Little Bit Brave – Nicola Kinnear

‘A Little Bit Brave,’ is a glorious picture book debut from Nicola Kinnear that celebrates the joy of overcoming your fears and seizing the day. Logan loves to hear about his best friend Luna’s adventures but likes nothing better than staying at home baking biscuits and watering his plants. But one day Luna loses her temper at Logan’s reluctance to be brave and storms out. Logan is desperately unhappy about upsetting Luna and is determined to conquer his fears. He soon discovers that there’s a whole world waiting outside and realises how much he is missing out on. When he discovers Luna in peril, its time for Logan to be truly brave!

Stunningly illustrated this book is so beautiful and thoughtful. It’s the perfect book to share with children who may be unsure about trying new experiences and it’s reassuringly positive even when things go wrong. Sumptuous spreads are filled with the most exquisite details and Nicola captures brilliantly the range of emotions Logan feels on his journey to becoming brave. I particularly love the autumnal palette bursting with colour and life reflecting Logan’s awe and wonder at this world that has been waiting for him.

A Little Bit  Brave is such a beautifully illustrated book, and Nicola talks about how some of those illustrations came to be.

This is one of my favourite illustrations from the book. I settled on the idea for this spread quite early on and it didn’t really change much when I did the final version.

This is a work in progress shot of the illustration with the wolf trying to eat Luna. I keep the colour thumbnails close by to reference while I’m working. I used Promarkers and coloured pencils to do all of the final illustrations.

 

Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour for more reviews and insights into, ‘A Little Bit Brave.’

Thank you to Louisa and Scholastic for inviting me to join in with this blog tour and for sending me a gifted copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. ‘A Little Bit Brave,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.

Mr Penguin and the Fortress of Secrets – Alex T. Smith

Today I’m sharing with you on the blog ‘Mr Penguin and the Fortess of Secrets,’ by Alex T. Smith which has been nominated for this year’s Children’s Book Awards. This is the second adventure featuring Mr. Penguin and his trusty sidekick the ninja spider Colin. When Mr Penguin and Colin crash land on a snowy mountain in the middle of nowhere in a bid to escape some terrifying criminals, they find themselves smack bang in a very strange mystery indeed. All of the rodent pets in the village of Schneedorft-on-the-Peak have mysteriously disappeared including Colonel Tuftybum whose owners is convinced that something odd is happening. With strange goings on at the fortress and sinister characters lurking in the shadows, it’s up to Mr Penguin to and Colin to figure out the truth and save the day!

I loved this snowy and thrilling adventure which features Alex T. Smith’s trademark brilliant humour and unique style. He has a knack for creating the most eccentric and marvellous characters who he brings to life with his intricate and hilarious illustrations. The attention to detail is joyful and wonderfully enhances Alex’s lively tale and the story bounces along at a energetic pace, bursting with red herrings and fish finger sandwich references aplenty. Wildly imaginative with clockwork sleighs and hypnotised snakes, it is bound to captivate younger readers. Containing just the right amount of danger, intrigue and peril for its audience which mixed with the incredibly generous slapstick comedy makes for a hugely entertaining read.

I asked Alex how he felt about being nominated for this award.

Alex T. Smith

“I am thrilled to be shortlisted in the Children’s Book Award. It’s always lovely to be shortlisted for an award but this is especially brilliant as the award is voted for by the cleverest, most discerning readers out there: kids!

I had so much fun creating Mr Penguin so I am delighted that my readers are enjoying his adventures as much as I did writing them.”

Children’s Book Award Top Ten Blog Tour

To get a closer look at the other books nominated for this year’s Children’s Book Award you can visit the website and join in with the rest of the blog tour.

Thank you to Kate and FGBG for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and to Hachette for sending me a gifted copy of the book to review in exchange for an honest review. Your child can vote for their favourite book here!

The Boy Who Flew – Fleur Hitchcock

‘The Boy Who Flew,’ may seem like a departure after Fleur Hitchcock’s contemporary crime novels, which have ‘cornered the market in hard-boiled crime novels for beginners,’ according to The Times. For me this is still quintessentially a Fleur Hitchcock novel, we still have all the core elements that make her stories so compelling. We have a plucky child -Athan Wilde – who finds himself in an impossibly dangerous situation. We have an unexplained murder – Athan’s friend Mr Chen, whose death may be linked to the flying machine that he has been working on in top-secret. And we have a whole host of grown-ups who cause chaos and confusion by being (as grown-ups are want to be) being generally erratic and suspicious in their behaviour. The difference with, ‘The Boy Who Flew,’ is the setting which feels like a character in it’s own right and dominates the novel. Athan lives a poor life, filled with grime and misery awaiting around the corner. The death of Mr Chen seems to have consigned him to a career working in the sewers, which for a bright and inquisitive boy like Athan really is a crime.

The story is packed with drama and tension from the offset as Athan tries to protect Mr Chen’s flying machine from falling into the wrong hands but little does he realise that by doing this he is endangering those he loves. We are taken on a breath-taking journey across the rooftops of Bath and experience a dark and uninviting side, a world away from the fashionable spas and glamorous parties of the upper classes. Fleur’s writing stimulates all of your senses allowing the reader to fully immerse themselves in this dirty, sullied backstreets. Yet Athan dreams of a different life, the one that Mr Chen has given him a glimpse of, as he helped him understand that he has the potential to escape the confines of his birth. He refuses to give in to the demands of the dastardly villains who torment and threaten his family, despite being tested to his very limits. He is an intriguing and genuinely likeable character, you can’t help but admire his bravery and ambition. Fast-paced and thrilling, this truly is a edge-of-your-seat adventure, full of twists and turns that will keep you holding your breath to the very last page.

Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour?

Thank you to Rebecca and Nosy Crow for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and for sending me a gifted copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. ‘The Boy Who Flew,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.

The Blue Balloon – Mick Inkpen

Today it’s my stop on the Kipper’s Big Blue Balloon blog tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of this picture book classic. ‘The Blue Balloon,’ was released just as I started my first foray into the library world working as a volunteer at my local library as part of a Duke of Edinburgh scheme. I still remember casting my eyes on the original book and becoming completely enchanted by the loveable puppy Kipper. When my girls were growing up, the Kipper books were a firm favourite in our bookshelf collection. So it has been so joyous to delve back into Kipper’s world in this special edition.

When Kipper finds a soggy blue balloon in the garden, it seems just like an ordinary balloon at first. But it’s not. It has magical powers so no matter how much you blow it, it never pops, it can turn square and take you on adventures to new and wonderful places. This book is a real celebration of the power of play and using your imagination to take you to worlds where there are no limits. I love the fantastic fold-out pages these really captivate children when you are reading this story aloud as they gasp at the size and shapes that this magic balloon makes. The beautiful illustrations with the use of a soft, muted palette makes this book endlessly appealing for children. It’s an absolute delight for younger readers that can be shared over and over again. What fun to be back in Kipper’s world again!

 

Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour for more reviews and Kipper fun!

Thank you to Lucy and Hodder for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and for sending me a gifted copy of this gorgeous book in exchange for an hones review. This special 30th Anniversary edition is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.

The Classroom Cat Cover Reveal – Pamela Butchart & Becka Moor

I’m really excited to be able to reveal for you today, the cover of the wonderfully talented Pamela Butchart and Becka Moor’s fifth book in the ‘’Wigglesbottom Primary,’ adventures, ‘The Classroom Cat.’ This hilarious series has brought so much joy to so many children at my school and has had a real success in encouraging a love of reading in newly confident readers. With each new book there is an air of excitement over who will be the first to get their hands on the copy, so it’s so fab to share this with you today.

So without further ado here it is…

Becka Moor has created another brilliantly, engaging and funny cover combined with Elisabetta Barbazza’s eye-catching cover design, it’s a real joy to behold. If you pop over to my Twitter account you can see the amazing cover reveal animation that Nosy Crow have created. We know that Class 2R are always getting caught up in hilarious antics so let’s find out what they have in store for us in this latest brilliant trio of stories.

The Classroom Cat

The big, stripy Classroom Cat first appeared on a Monday, lured perhaps by the stinky smell of fish which was on the menu for school dinners that day. He snuck into the classroom and typed a strange message on Miss Riley’s keyboard before being shooed away. But what could the message mean? Was it a warning not to eat the fish for school dinners? Was the cat trying to save their lives as he gobbled up all the fish himself?

When Class 2R head off on a school trip to the museum Joel Jack announces he’s brought along his imaginary friend, Margaret. At first no one believes him but perhaps she does really exist – why else does the carton of juice explode, the plastic bag bus bin burst and the coat move by itself…

When Bobby Henderson dropped his last crisp in the puddle at breaktime everyone chanted at him to eat it. So he did. But then the year 6s came over and said he’d get Puddle-Pox which is even worse than the plague. The school nurse said it was nonsense but how come he had red spots on his arm and was feeling hot? Was the only cure really to roll around in puddle water?

Pamela Butchart

Pamela Butchart grew up in a house full of pets with a mum and dad who she was convinced were bonkers. As a student, Pamela’s jobs included being a fishwife, teaching basketball in America and working as a phlebotomist. She’s currently busy juggling writing more hilarious stories with spending time with her son Albie whilst she takes a break from teaching philosophy to teenagers in Dundee. Pamela has two cats called Bear and Carlos. You’ll find Pamela on twitter @Pamela_Butchart. Pamela’s books have won the Blue Peter Book Award (for The Spy Who Loved School Dinners illustrated by Thomas Flintham), the FCBG Children’s Book Award and been shortlisted for the Lollies.

Becka Moor

Becka Moor is a children’s book illustrator and storyteller living in Manchester. She rents desk space in a stunning grade II listed building with other creative folk, has an obsession with cats and loves anything a bit on the quirky side. She tweets at @BeckaMoor under the strict supervision of her cats Miss Daisy and Bella, aka Ray-Ray and Miss Cinderbella.

 

Thank you to Clare and Nosy Crow for inviting me to host the cover reveal. ‘The Classroom Cat,’ is released on the 4th July and is available to pre-order online or from any good bookshop.

 

 

Irresistible Illustrated Fiction

Regular readers of the blog will know I’m a huge fan of illustrated fiction books. They are perfect for newly confident readers allowing them to gain confidence without being overwhelmed by pages of text. Here is my round up of my favourite recent releases all guaranteed to enthral and entertain younger readers. They would make wonderful additions to any primary school library.

Hotel Flamingo – Alex Milway

When Anna inherits a run-down hotel from her great aunt, she is determined to restore it to its former glory of the sunniest hotel in town. However she is surprised to discover that all of her staff and guests are animals! Despite things seeming rather gloomy she soon rises to the challenge seeing potential amongst the dust and dilapidation. With a sprinkle of love and a little bit of work, Anna knows she can make Hotel Flamingo the place to visit once again. But running an animal hotel is never going to be easy and there are challenges and setbacks waiting around every corner. With the help of her new found friends Anna refuses to give up, she wants everyone to experience a warm welcome at her hotel. Delightful illustrations filled with gentle humour make this story a real treat to read. An irresistible tale of friendship, flamingos and funny characters, I was totally enchanted by ‘Hotel Flamingo.’

Sea-ing is Believing – Steven Butler & Steven Lenton

The Nothing to See Here Hotel has opened its doors for another fabulously funny adventure that is guaranteed to make you laugh-out-loud and rack your brains when it appears something fishy is going on! This series stands out from the crowd with it’s original storytelling, madcap mayhem and wonderfully wacky characters. As Frankie and his family are preparing to celebrate Grandad Abraham’s 175th birthday they make an unlikely discovery that reveals an underwater wing of the hotel that’s been hidden away for years. It sounds like the perfect excuse for a truly spectacular party. But lurking in the shadows are secrets and sea monsters, can Frankie uncover the truth before it’s too late.  Steven’s Butler’s brilliantly bonkers tale is captured magnificently by Steven Lenton’s with witty and extraordinary illustrations featuring the most dark and delightful details. Entertaining and endearing I can’t wait to return for another stay at this monstrously magic hotel.

Mystery of the Theatre Ghost – Pamela Butchart & 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 second exciting new mystery from Pamela. When a local theatre company goes to town, the Secret Seven are excited when they are chosen to help out. But when a series of unexplained incidents occur there is talk from the cast of a theatre ghost being responsible. Not convinced by this explanation the gang decide to delve deeper behind the scenes to help uncover the true culprit. Packed with secret doors, spooky clues, lots of red herrings and mystery aplenty this new adventure is bound to delight and excite younger readers.

Jasper and Scruff – Nicola Colton

Jasper is the smartest kitty on the block. But despite his very fancy apartment, stacks of books and beautiful bow ties he feels like his life is missing the right type of friends. Convinced the gap in his life can be solved by becoming a member of ‘The Sophisticats,’ he invites them round for dinner. A chance meeting with an abandoned, boisterous puppy Scruff derails his plans and his best efforts are not even anywhere good enough. Jasper soon discovers that friendship can happen in the most unlikely and unexpected ways. Bursting with hilarious and perfectly stylish illustrations, I was utterly charmed by ‘Jasper and Scruff.’ Laugh-out-loud moments and a heart-warming story make for a wonderfully charming tale.

Ellie and the Cat – Malorie Blackman & Matt Robertson

When Ellie is abandoned once again by her father she is furious. Left with her dumpy and frumpy grandma she decides to exact her revenge by being rude and spoilt, throwing her dinner on the floor and refusing to do as she is told. But little does she know that her grandma has magic tucked away up her sleeve and her outburst results in her swapping bodies with Jolly the Cat. Can Ellie prove that she can change her ways and complete the challenge she has been set? Or will she spend the rest of her days trapped in Jolly’s body!  Malorie has created a highly entertaining story  filled with magic and mischief that is bound to make you chuckle. Matt’s illustrations cleverly capture the chaos unfolding as Ellie strives to overcome all the obstacles put in front of her, in her race against time. Hilarious and heart-felt in equal measures this a truly delightful story.

Two Sides – Polly Ho-Yen & Binny Talib

‘Two Sides,’ is one of the first books in a  new series of beautifully illustrated full-colour fiction range from Stripes Publishing. It tells the story of Lula and Lenka who are the best of friends but opposites in every way. Lula is always late, while Lenka is always on time. Lenka likes to chat but Lula prefers to watch people. Yet they’re still the happiest together. Until the day when it all goes horribly wrong and the have an enormous fall out and neither of them will apologise. Life isn’t the same without each other and they both get sad and lonely. Will they never be friends again? Cleverly told, this thoughtful story explores the impact of discord in a friendship by showing that there is indeed always two sides to every story. It encourages children to understand how their behaviour can impact on others. Exquisitely produced with stunning illustrations that highlight the emotions of both girls perfectly.

 

Thank you to Barrington Stoke, Hodder, Piccadilly Press, Stripes Publishing and Simon & Schuster for sending me gifted copies of these books in exchange for an honest review. You can buy or pre-order all of these fab books online (click title for the link) or from any good bookshop.