Monthly Archives: June 2019

My Cousin is a Time Traveller – Guest Post David Solomon

Four years ago on a planet not far away from here (okay it’s actually here but you know go with me on this) as I was just starting my blog I stumbled across a book in Waterstones that really appealed to me. Imagine if you will the most superhero obsessed boy – that’s Luke by the way – missing out on being bestowed with superhero powers by an alien just because of a badly timed wee. The thought of this made me properly chuckle and I couldn’t resist buying a copy for my school library and having the first read. Immediately I knew that this book would be hugely popular at school, it was totally hilarious and completely irresistible. Fast forward into the long and distance future (okay actually now, but let’s not split hairs) it was with a heavy heart that I sat and read the finale in the series, ‘My Cousin is a Time Traveller.’ And for me it confirmed what I always suspected that David Solomons is indeed a comedy genius. There were so many hilarious moments , I laughed so much and even shed a tear. This explosive finale turns Luke and Zack’s world upside down when they go to battle with a toaster that wants to take over the world. Nothing is what it seems and as the stakes get higher it seems that they may have finally met their match during an epic battle with their deadly enemy. I don’t want to give too much away but I can confirm that the ending is just so clever, utterly brilliant and deeply satisfying. I have loved everything about this series and if you haven’t had any chance to read any yet, well lucky you because you have five whole books to look forward to.

Let’s find out what David has to say about the final countdown…


And Now the End is Near. But not that End – David Solomons

Let’s start at the beginning, because it got away from me too. My first attempt at writing a novel for children was a disastrous error of judgement. It was meant to be a fun, exciting ghost story, but I chose a character to narrate it who was, in effect, a middle manager in a dead-end job going through a mid-life crisis. Turns out kids (and children’s publishers) aren’t so interested in that.

My ghost story didn’t connect with its intended readership (although I suspect that out there somewhere is an audience of world-weary middle-aged executives who’d find it hi-la-rious). But the experience pointed me in the right direction. My next attempt was the first book in the My Brother is a Superhero series. When his older brother is bestowed with superpowers and told to save the world, Luke Parker is outraged! An eleven-year-old boy furious that he isn’t the Chosen One? Something about that seemed inherently funny. And it gave me an angle – a way in to every scene. I knew immediately I had something to work with.

And now, five books later, I’ve come to the end. My Cousin is a Time Traveller is the final instalment in the series. In the near-future, following a 30-degree Eco wash, a smart washer-drier becomes self-aware and instigates a very domestic apocalypse. Learning about the potential fate of humankind from his cousin and eponymous time-traveller, Dina, our hero, Luke, along with the usual gang, has to contend with an uprising of appliances, a deadly celebrity-authored children’s book, and a villain from the past.

So, here’s the thing. This was not the ending I envisaged. Way back at the beginning I sketched the final outing for my characters. But I didn’t really know them back then. They are loud and insistent and made me do a rewrite to suit the people they’ve become. And I’m glad I listened. Yes, I could’ve forced my original ending on them, but they would’ve sulked and it would’ve rung hollow. Writers are often asked if they are ‘planners’ or ‘pantsers’. I am a ‘hopper,’ bouncing from one to the other as the story – and my protagonist – demands.

I’ve written myself into this book too. Early on, there’s an author visit at Luke’s school, except that he mishears and thinks that the writer’s name is Arthur Veezat. But it’s me. This way I get to bid farewell in person to my lovely cast of characters. They’re rude about me to the end. Thanks anyway. It’s been amazing.


Thanks to David for this really interesting guest post, I definitely get the impression having read the whole series that the characters are very forthright about getting their own way. I have to say that the Arthur Veezat mix up is a real highlight of the books that made me laugh out loud so much during the story.

Blog Tour

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

Thank you to Clare and Nosy Crow for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and for sending me a gifted copy of the series finale. ‘My Cousin is a Time Traveller,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.


The Adventures of Harry Stevenson – Ali Pye

Today is my stop on ‘The Adventures of Harry Stevenson.’ blog tour with a special guest post to celebrate the release of the first book in this hilarious new young fiction series from Ali Pye. Meet Harry Stevenson. He doesn’t live in a castle, or a witch’s cottage, or anywhere exciting like that. His home is in a flat with seven-year-old Billy and his mum and dad. At a first glance, Harry doesn’t seem any different from
your average guinea pig. He has ginger fur and sparkly black eyes and likes
nothing more than snacking on a piece of broccoli. But don’t be fooled! Harry may just want to sleep and eat (and then eat some more) but somehow he always manages to get swept up in adventures: whether it’s surfing the Pacific on a picnic plate or accidentally attaching himself to a helium balloon. This marvellous madcap adventure is bound to appeal to emerging readers with it’s witty and entertaining stories and vibrant, hilarious illustrations. I can see this series being hugely popular at school.

Top Five Animal Friendships in Children’s Books – Ali Pye

Friendship is an important theme of ‘The Adventures of Harry Stevenson’: Harry lives with the Smith family and his best friend is seven-year-old Billy Smith. Harry and Billy will do anything for each other, even though they can’t understand each other’s language. I’ve chosen my top five books that touch on the theme of friendships – three are between animals and humans, but I’ve included two between animals and animals because I think they’re such special books.

The Last Wild series by Piers Torday

This is a three-book series set in a dystopian future, where animals supposedly no longer exist as they have been wiped out by a virus. Twelve-year-old Kester, stuck in a prison-like children’s home, discovers two things: one, there are still animals in the world, and two, he can talk to them. Kester is rescued by a flock of pigeons, who fly him deep into the countryside to meet the last surviving creatures: the ‘last wild’. He sets out with a group of animals to mediate between animals and humans in order to find a cure, forming friendships with a bossy cockroach, a plucky wolf cub and a noble stag along the way.

Squishy McFluff by Pip Jones and Ella Okstad

Squishy McFluff is the gorgeously fluffy and very cheeky star of several young fiction books. He’s in invisible kitten, who appears to an equally cheeky girl called Ava as she plays in the garden one day. Together they cook up all sorts of mischief, which can always be blamed on Squishy. Ava’s parents are driven to distraction, until they bring in clever Great Grandad Bill, who outwits the naughty pair. Pip Jones’ funny rhyming text is perfectly matched by Ella Okstad’s adorable characters.

The ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ series by Cressida Cowell.

I liked the ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ films but I prefer the books because (of course) the characters are more complex. Hiccup is much less a natural hero, while his dragon Toothless is more stubborn and anarchic, not to mention a total drama queen. It’s enjoyable to see the two of them grow in stature over the series, as ‘Hiccup the Useless’ and his supposedly ‘Common or Garden’ friend face trials and tribulations together to become great heroes, the hard way.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White and Garth Williams

‘Where’s Papa going with that axe?’ asks eight-year-old Fern, as her father heads out to kill a runty piglet born overnight. So begins this classic children’s novel, which addresses themes of loneliness, friendship, death and love in the most beautiful, clear and true language. The book tells the story of a lonely piglet called Wilbur, who is saved from being slaughtered by his friend Charlotte the spider. Charlotte weaves words about Wilbur into her web, bringing fame to the farm and saving Wilbur’s life. It is unsentimental and addresses sophisticated topics while being charming, funny and accessible, resonating with children and adults alike.

Bartholomew and the Bug by Neal Layton

This is the first childrens’ book I bought as an adult, just for me, because I loved it. It tells the story of Bartholomew, a chilled out bear who lives at the top of a mountain. Sometimes he looks down at the city below and wonders what it’s like, but never gets around to visiting. His indolent life is disrupted by the arrival of a manic bug who is desperate to reach the bright lights of the city as he only has one day to live. Bartholomew helps him. When the two friends eventually reach the city they are disappointed because there are no lights – but then it gets dark, the lights start to twinkle, and soon ‘the whole place was awash with luminescent glow’ (I love that sentence).  Thousands of bugs arrive TO PARTY! I won’t spoil the rest of the story for you; check it out for yourself, it’s great. The illustrations are brilliant, so free and full of joy, and the text is wry and funny.

Thank to Ali for this lovely guest post, some fab recommendations of books to read.

Ali Pye

Ali Pye is the author and illustrator of a number of picture books,
including You Can Never Run Out of Love and Rosie Is My Best Friend. The
Adventures of Harry Stevenson is her first fiction series and was inspired
by a real-life guinea pig (who turned out to be a girl and was re-named
Harriet Stevenson). She lives in Twickenham with her husband,
children and two guinea pigs: Beryl and Badger.


Blog Tour

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

Thank you to Olivia and Simon & Schuster for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and for my gifted copy of this charming book. ‘The Adventures of Harry Stevenson,’ is availably to buy now online or from any good bookshop.

Cover Reveal – The Somerset Tsunami Emma Carroll

Regular readers of the blog will know that I’m a huge fan of Emma Carroll, who is quite rightly known as the Queen of Historical Fiction. Emma’s storytelling 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, within the story watching it unfold before your very eyes.  So I’m thrilled to be sharing with you today the cover for Emma’s latest historical book, ‘The Somerset Tsunami,’ which will be published on the 3rd October by Faber.

So without further ado here it is…

Hinting at the drama and adventure that lies within these pages this stunning cover has been illustrated once again by Julian De Narvaez, and has been designed by Margaret Hope at Faber. Let’s find out more about what Emma has in store for us in this dark and thrilling tale of mistrust, witchcraft and unnatural weather.

The Somerset Tsunami – Emma Carroll

A sinking boat…

A girl in disguise…

A disappearing sea…

When Fortune Sharpe carves a boat from a tree with her beloved brother, Gem, she’s only having a bit of fun. But now is not the time for a girl to be drawing attention to herself. She is sent away to find work dressed as a boy. Luckily a rich manor house is hiring.

Yet Barrow Hill’s inhabitants harbour dangerous secrets of their own, the suspicious owner is hunting for witches, and the house itself is a little to close to the sea…


Emma Carroll

Emma Carroll was a secondary school English teacher for many years. The Somerset Tsunami is Emma’s ninth novel for Faber: she has also written the highly-acclaimed Frost Hollow Hall, The Girl Who Walked on Air, In Darkling Wood, The Snow Sister, Strange Star, Letters from the Lighthouse, Secrets of a Sun King and When We Were Warriors. She lives in the Somerset hills with her husband and two terriers.

Julian De Narvaez

Julian is one of Faber’s more unusual artists and not surprisingly  his work is quite striking. He usually begins with pen and China ink, and then colours and manipulates the images using advanced digital techniques. Julian specialises in contemporary, eclectic illustrations that nonetheless convey a fine, traditional quality. This quirkiness has found success in many industries and formats.

Thank you to Emma and Faver for inviting me to host the cover reveal. ‘The Somerset Tsunami,’ is available to pre-order online or from any good bookshop. To win 1 of 5 early copies head over to my pinned tweet on Twitter to find out more.





Sophie Johnson: Detective Genius – Guest Post Ella Okstad

Sophie Johnson is back in a new adventure which is bound to delight fans of the first book in this gorgeous series. Now that Sophie has mastered being a ‘Unicorn Expert.’ it’s time to try her hands at something new. She’s studied very hard, read all the books, watched all the tv shows and therefore she is now perfectly qualified to become a detective. So when Lion’s tail goes missing Sophie is swiftly on the case, searching for clues and interrogating suspects. She is far too busy to train up her erstwhile assistant Bella who is a truly awful detective and keeps trying to distract her from her investigation. Morag’s tale is completely hilarious, it’s a joy to watch Sophie so caught up in solving this terrible crime that she fails to spot what is going on underneath her nose. Ella Okstad’s vibrant and intricate illustrations are filled with humour and compliment Morag’s brilliantly clever storytelling perfectly. The story is wonderfully interactive and is a delight to read aloud, especially if you pretend to be as oblivious as Sophie to what’s really happening!

To celebrate the publications of ‘Sophie Johnson: Detective Genius,’ I am thrilled to have the talented and lovely Ella Okstad on the blog with a special guest post.

Ella Okstad – Studio Tour

Hi there!

This is where I work! It is a spacious room in the first floor of my house with a big window overlooking the garden.

After the kids have all gone off to school in the mornings, I sometimes go for a little walk (pretend I’m walking to work, which is actually quite important when working from home). When I get back I give the cat a cuddle, make myself a nice cup of coffee, put the radio on and I´m ready for work!

I love my desk. It is an electric one that can be raised to a standing position whenever I’m tired of sitting.

I always start my projects by sketching on paper trying to find the right look/movement/body language of the character I’m drawing. I find this easier with a pencil on paper than with a digital tool. When I go to finals I use ordinary food wrap paper (I really should get myself a light box) to trace over my sketches and then scan lines to get the hand drawn quality I want. I colour digitally using photoshop.

I work until around 4.30 pm when it`s time to make dinner for my hungry family. Whenever a deadline is approaching (which happens quite a lot) I spend my evenings in the studio before going to bed.

I love my studio!

Huge thank you to Ella for letting us nosy around her studio, I have serious desk envy.

Thanks to Olivia and Simon & Schuster for inviting me to host this blog tour and for sending me a gifted copy of this glorious book (and a fab tote bag) in exchange for an honest review. ‘Sophie Johnson: Detective Genius,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.

The Dragon In the Library – Louie Stowell, illustrated by Davide Ortu

As soon as I heard the first rumours of this story emerge in The Bookseller announcement I was immediately intrigued, to be fair Louie Stowell had me at dragons and libraries. When I discovered that this series would be aimed at 7 – 9 years I was ridiculously gleeful, I’ve been on a mission this year to get my hands on as many quality books as possible for my emerging readers at school who are not quite ready for middle grade books. I can confirm that Louie’s The Dragon in the Library illustrated by Davide Ortu stands out from the crowd in this category. Not only is it brilliantly told but it’s stunningly illustrated, so let’s find out more about what’s hidden beneath this sublime cover.

So this is a story about saving libraries, so our hero surely has to be a book lover who likes nothing better than spending hours locked away reading a book. But no cleverly Louise chooses the least likeliest of heroes who can’t imagine a worse place to spend the summer holiday. Instead Kit would rather hang around with a bunch of dead people at the graveyard then go to a place where she is most likely to ‘die of boredom.’ Sadly Kit’s plans are thwarted by her two best friends Josh and Alita who are determined to get their hands on the latest Danny Fandango book and drag her along. And it’s a good job that they are so insistent because Kit makes an outstanding discovery about herself and the library, that will change her life forever.

Exquisite world-building meets wonderful storytelling in this fiction debut from Louie Stowell. You know that a writer has you totally enthralled when you’re desperate to go and lose yourself in their world, have a wander around, peek in places you really shouldn’t be looking, to see what you might find. The characterisation is divine, Kit is so stroppy with just the right amount of attitude to make her really appealing, foolish and headstrong she doesn’t always get things right but the reader is always firmly on her side even when things go badly wrong. I have a particular fondness for the librarian Faith, clearly Louie knows lots of librarians because she has captured brilliantly the kick-ass, subversive side that we try to keep hidden so that the general public don’t discover our true powers. In case you haven’t worked it out from the title, there are dragons IN the library, now if that doesn’t want to make you read a book I don’t know what will. Davide Ortu’s illustrations are an absolute dream, they enhance the story sublimely filling the pages with excitement and wonder and he has reflected the personalities of the characters superbly. All that is left to say is go forth and buy it, I predict that this book will be a huge hit in my school library.

Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour for more reviews and features?

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

The Cantankerous Molly Darling – Guest Post Alvy Carragher

Today I’m delighted to welcome Alvy Carragher to the blog with a special guest post to celebrate the publication of her hilarious take on family life in, ‘The Cantankerous Molly Darling.’ Molly Darling craves a simple life but the disappearance of her Dad, leaving behind a powerpoint explaining his reasons has turned her world upside down. Her Mum is hiding away in the attic creating obscure works of art, while her sister has aligned himself to the dreadful Brian in an attempt to pull the family together. And when her Mum sells her beloved chickens, her best friend tries to turn into an advantage causing an online viral war. Can Molly find away to fix it all before it’s too late? Hilarious and heartfelt, this story takes an honest look at the ups and downs in family life when things go badly wrong. Young teen readers will empathise with the traumas of Molly trying to stay invisible and fit in when everyone around her is determined to embarrass her and ruin her life. Quirky but realistic, this is a lively and entertaining read guaranteed to make you laugh and cringe in equal measures.

Alvy Carragher – Harry Potter Fever | Memories of a Hufflepuff

(All tucked up and ready for a Harry Potter instalment)

I’m not sure what age we were when Mum came home and recommended Harry Potter to all of us. That was her first faux-pas. Recommending it to all of us. She was breathless, explaining why it was so brilliant, there were wizards, and magic, and it was funny. We did not believe a word of it. Firstly, there was a boy on the cover and secondly, some of us were too old for magic.

I sniffed. As the eldest of four, I was pretty confident my taste in books had far surpassed that of my baby brother. Six years my junior, he still watched baby programmes on the TV and was scared of the giant Batman teddy that was stored in the grandmother clock. We took Batman out at random intervals to see if my brother was over the fear, trying to placate him by punching the Batman. It always ended in tears and Batman would be once again condemned to another six-month stint in the belly of the clock.

I refused to pick up the book and the others, following my lead, ignored it too. But Mum wasn’t about to let Harry Potter go. She decided to read it to our baby brother in bed. We all scoffed. What a child! still curled up in bed, being read to like a baby.

We lived in a tiny cottage and you could hear everything that happened in any other room. It made staying up past your bedtime an act of the utmost subterfuge and ignoring Mum’s impassioned bedtime reading of Harry Potter impossible.

One by one, we slowly crept into the room, crawling into the single bed and finding a space. It didn’t matter about comfort or personal space. Every night, without fail, we were all there, waiting for the next chapter, begging her to read just one more page.

Our love of Harry Potter spiralled. We were the kids that went to midnight book releases, only to leave as soon as we had a book under our arm, rushing home to find out what happened next. Not exactly social. I once cycled 10 miles on a banjaxed bicycle because Mum refused to go to town before noon on the day the new book was released. The idea of waiting four extra hours was so immense that I cycled ahead and then, overcome with Harry Potter Fever, ditched my bike on the way home and sat reading in a random field.

There’s nothing new or original about liking Harry Potter, it’s the kind of book that pops up in other literature as a reference (it’s in my book, how could it not be?), and the sort that is still being read as rabidly by young people now as it was then. We all know what house we’d like to belong to (Ravenclaw) and which house we actually belong to (Hufflepuff…), and the world is better for it. It united me and my siblings for a few short weeks every summer. Those long hours, lying on the floor of the sitting room in a semicircle or tucked up in a single bed, reading aloud until our voices disappeared, are some of the loveliest memories I have.

Alvy Carragher

Alvy Carragher grew up in rural Ireland and considered herself a writer long before it was appropriate. Her first novel “The Cantankerous Molly Darling” is out with Chicken House Books. She is currently holed up in Vancouver where she is tinkering away at a second novel and learning to speak Canadian. You can find out more about her work at Follow her on twitter @ALVYCARRAGHER

Blog Tour

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

Thank you to Laura and Chicken House Books 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 Cantankerous Molly Darling,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.

Cover Reveal – Izzy Gizmo and the Invention Convention – Pip Jones & Sara Ogilvie

I’m really excited to be able to reveal for you today, the cover of the new Izzy Gizmo  collaboration from Pip Jones and Sara Ogilvie. I absolutely adored the original ‘Izzy Gizmo,’ it was one of my favourite picture books of 2017 and I’m thrilled this delightful duo are back with a new creation. ‘Izzy Gizmo and the Invention Convention,’ will be published on the 17th October by Simon & Schuster.

So without further ado here it is…

Sublimely illustrated by Sara Ogilvie with cover design by Simon & Schuster’s Picture Books Art Director Jane Buckley this is a cover that demands to be read. It captures brilliantly Izzy’s energy and determination to create the most marvellous and magnificent inventions. The humour and joy of Izzy’s wild and colourful imagination just radiates off this gorgeously, vibrant and lively cover.

Let’s find out more about what Pip & Jones have in store for us in this wonderful new collaboration.

Izzy Gizmo and the Invention Convention

Izzy and Fixer are back for more machine mayhem…

While their fellow contestants at the Invention Convention are intent on making shiny new things using old power, can Izzy and Fixer build a recycling machine fuelled by nature…AND win the coveted Genius Guild badge along the way?

A joyful celebration of the magic of make-do-and-mend from the creator’s of the much-loved Izzy Gizmo

Pip Jones

Pip Jones is the author of several picture books, including Izzy Gizmo and Daddy’s Sandwich, plus the prize winning 5+ series, Squishy McFluff, which published by Faber. She lives in the West of England and is most often found either writing or herding children.

Sara Ogilvie

Sara Ogilvie was born in Edinburgh and lives in Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK. She is represented by NB Illustration Agency. Sara studied illustration and printmaking at Edinburgh College of Art where she received a BA Hons and a PG diploma. Sara is an illustrator and printmaker who enjoys the challenge of a wide range of subjects. She is inspired by anything from old wives tales and household appliances, to street life, trying to spell sounds, second-hand bookshops and pedestrian oddballs – the stranger the better! Sara’s beautiful illustrations have been used in children’s picture books including The Detective Dog, Izzy Gizmo and Dogs don’t Do Ballet.

Thank you to Pip and Simon & Schuster for inviting me to host the cover reveal. ‘Izzy Gizmo and the Invention Convention,’ is available to pre-order now online or from any good bookshop.

Empathy Day – Guest Post Onjali Rauf

Today I am delighted to welcome Onjali Rauf to the blog for a special guest post about her award winning book, ‘The Boy at the Back of the Class,’  illustrated by Pippa Curnick. In celebration of Reading for Empathy Day on June 11th this year, this incredible book features in the 2019 Read for Empathy guide. There used to be an empty chair at the back of the class but one day it’s filled by a new boy called Ahmet who seems very strange. He doesn’t want to talk to the rest of the children, he spends his breaks in seclusion with the adults and he seems lost and all alone. But they soon discover that Ahmet isn’t strange, he’s a refugee who has fled to London from a terrible war where bullies have dropped bombs on his friends and families. The more they discover about Ahmet the more they want to help him and together they come up with a grand plan to beat all other plans to try and restore happiness in Ahmet’s life. Thought-provoking and powerful this has to be one of my stand out reads of the year, I can’t recommend it enough.

Empathy Day – Onjali Rauf

It’s arrived! Empathy Day is here! And I couldn’t be more glad! A movement founded by EmpathyLab, it’s a day that serves to remind us of just how powerful our imaginations – and our emotions – can be in the conscious effort we all need to make to tear down the barriers that create an ‘other’ out of someone else. Barriers that might be built from our intrinsic and very human instinct to judge, and topped up and added to by negative narratives, images and whirlwinds of fear created by outer, stronger forces too.

For a short brown Asian feminist wielding a headscarf, I often travel through the world feeling as though empathy is a gift that is in staggeringly short supply. With racial tensions and sentiments manifesting themselves into far-right marches in Germany to the awful Christchurch shootings in New Zealand to Brexit and antisemitic or Islamophobic hate crimes here in the UK, the very act of switching on the news channels or my Facebook feed is one that often fills me with dread. After all, the ‘hate’ narrative seems to be so strong, and the ‘hey, let’s not do this – let’s understand, empathise and do away with these fears’ narrative seems barely able to limp along or even on some days, be alive and breathing.

I know I am not alone in feeling this. Dear friends of Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and other ‘perceived’ visible differences, as well as the refugee families and children I have the honour of meeting and working with, are keenly aware of a bubbling hostility that can exist where empathy has failed to find a footing. It makes the world a perpetually scary, and sometimes inhabitable place to exist – because to be misunderstood, labelled or even hated simply for existing is unbearable. Regardless of who we are, or what our age or sex or faith may be, or the colour of our skin, we all want – and need to be understood by our fellow wo/men, and treated with dignity and respect. But those two gifts cannot be given without the basic foundation of understanding deeply where the person standing before us is coming from. Like a steamer used to strip walls bare of the layers of paper used to cover them, empathy helps strip away differences and works to remind us that at the end of the day, we are all of us at our core, simply human.

In The Boy at the Back of the Class, the narrator feels keenly the loneliness and need for a friend Ahmet – a refugee boy – has – and feels it deeply. They go out of their way to explore this ‘other’ boy’s story, and find out the truth behind his silence and lion eye stares, and on doing so, is desperate to help. In short, they empathise fully with a tale that is so different to their own. I have been so fortunate as to see this happening in real time with the book itself, with children and adults alike writing in daily to say the book has opened their eyes to what it means to be a refugee, and asking how they too can help. This almost natural capacity and instinct amongst children especially to empathise, is one of the most staggeringly beautiful abilities to behold, and I often wonder at what age, at what part of our journey, that is lost and even forsaken by the time we reach adulthood – and the forces that make it so.

Ongoing research has shown time and time again, that reading builds empathy. For those of us who love reading, this will be something we already know – and it will probably be why we love reading in the first place. Whether it’s thrillers or romances, children’s classics or Marvel comics, our ability to empathise and step into the word-shaped shoes of the characters being offered to us is not only joyous, it is revealing, educational and potentially transformative. I’m not at all ashamed to say that I still shed tears over Charlotte’s Web and Black Beauty and Frodo’s last words in The Lord of the Rings – and don’t even get met started on the fates of Dobby and Dumbledore in Harry Potter, because they literally continue to floor me. List your most favourite books, and I’ll bet my last ten pence they will be the ones that did just that – floor you in some way, move that inner core and enhance your understanding of what it means to be human, or flawed and vulnerable and nevertheless to persevere.

In a world where narratives of difference and fear seem to reign, Empathy Day is here to remind us of the inestimable power of books to help us dismantle them. So come join in, #ReadforEmpathy, and share with us the books you’re reading to help fight back.

Thank you to Onjali for this really thoughtful and moving post about Emapthy Day and her award winning book.  To find out more about this wonderful book you can read my review on the blog. ‘The Boy at the Back of the Class,’ is available to buy on online or from any good bookshop.

Empathy Day  June 11th 2019 – Ideas on how you can join in

Empathy Day will focus on using books – and talking about them – to shine a light on the ‘superpower’ of empathy.  As well as running Elmer the Elephant empathy-themed events for young children, 98 participating library services will be trialling intergenerational meet-ups. The Empathy Conversation will bring different community groups together to connect and talk at a deeper level, using prompts written by children from one of EmpathyLab’s pioneer primary schools. Schools nationwide are hosting author visits, Empathy Awards and more. Publishers are launching bespoke initiatives for their channels and networks to amplify the message of the Day and everyone is encouraged to join in a mass crowd-sharing of empathy book recommendations through a social media #ReadForEmpathy campaign.

READ – because stories and book characters build our real-life empathy
CONNECT – make new connections with people, inspired by sharing stories
DO – put empathy into action and make a difference in your home and your community

  • Get new ideas for empathy-boosting books, and share your own, by joining in the massive social media #ReadForEmpathy campaign
  • Use EmpathyLab’s Read For Empathy Guides for young people – 45 amazing books for 4-16 year olds –
  • Librarians: sign up and get your Empathy Day toolkit – email; pilot Empathy Conversation events
  •  Teachers: sign up; use our training, booklists, major Empathy Day resources bank at

Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour for more guest posts from an amazing range of authors and illustrators.

Thank you to Fritha and Miranda for inviting me to join in with the Empathy Day blog tour.

The Longest Night of Charlie Noon – Guest Post Christopher Edge

Today I am delighted to welcome Christopher Edge to the blog with a special guest post to celebrate the release of his latest extraordinary book, ‘The Longest Night of Charlie Noon.’ When Dizzy tells Charlie that he found something in the woods last night they set out to investigate despite warnings from the horrid Johnny who claims monsters lie in the woods. However their curiosity outweighs their fears but nothing can prepare them for what they discover deep inside the woods. With puzzles and dangers lurking at every corner can they make it out of the dark woods when seemingly there’s no escape! Once again Christopher has blown my mind with this highly imaginative tale filled with twists and turns. He takes you on an emotional rollercoaster of a journey as they try to make sense of what is happening as time plays tricks on their minds. Prepare to have your senses stimulated, your mind messed with in this emotional and extraordinary story.

The Longest Night of Charlie Noon – Christopher Edge

“Once upon a time, three kids got lost in the woods.

Sounds like a fairy story, doesn’t it?

But what exactly is a time?”

So begins the prologue to The Longest Night of Charlie Noon, but why do so many stories take us into the woods? From tales of Hansel and Gretel to The Wind in the Willows, adventures up the Faraway Tree and Bilbo Baggins battling giant spiders in the depths of Mirkwood, there’s something special about the landscape that storytellers find beneath a roof of leaves.

When I was researching The Longest Night of Charlie Noon, I spent one very scary night alone in the ancient woodland of Lower Woods where the story is set. As darkness fell and the shadows grew around me, I couldn’t help but feel that I’d been here before. Then I remembered that I had, in the pages of a story. One of my favourite childhood books was Danny, The Champion of the World by Roald Dahl, and as I stepped through the darkness of Lower Woods, I felt like I was Danny, searching for his dad in the darkness of Hazell’s Wood; Dahl’s evocative description of this experience always accompanied in my mind by Jill Bennett’s magical illustrations.

The Longest Night of Charlie Noon is also linked to another, maybe more-forgotten, classic of children’s literature: the novel Brendon Chase by the author, illustrator and naturalist Denys Watkins-Pitchford, who wrote under the pen name ‘BB’. When researching the book I immersed myself in nature writing, reading wonderful books by Robert Macfarlane and Patrick Barkham to name but a couple, both writers who have mentioned the formative influence of this novel, as does Philip Pullman who writes in Daemon Voices of the Blakean delight he found in BB’s writing about the natural world.


When I finished the first draft of The Longest Night of Charlie Noon, I picked up a copy of Brendon Chase and in it I found strange parallels with the story I was telling. First published in 1944, but set in the inter-war period, Brendon Chase is about three boys who run away from home to live wild in the woods for months, making their home in a hollow oak tree. The Longest Night of Charlie Noon is about three children who spend just one night in the woods, but for Charlie, Dizzy and Johnny, this night seems to last for a very long time…

In another essay from Daemon Voices, Philip Pullman writes of ‘the path through the wood’, categorising these as ‘the difference between the story-world and the story-line’ and stressing that the duty of the storyteller is to stick to the path. I think he’s absolutely right, but the wonderful thing about stories about woods is that the path has to lead through the darkness of the trees before you can reach the light.

I’ll leave you with one final quotation from The Longest Night of Charlie Noon:

“This tree may look old, but it is only a fleeting moment in the universe. Once upon a time it was a seed, then a sapling and, in another time and place, it will be something else again.” Maybe even a book…

Perhaps that’s why stories so often take us into the woods – it’s because the paper that they’re printed on retains the memories of the trees they once were.

Thank you to Christopher for this really intriguing guest post.

Blog Tour

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

Thank you to Clare and Nosy Crow for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and for sending me a gifted copy of this book. ‘The Longest Night of Charlie Noon,’ is available to buy online or from any good bookshop.

Cover Reveal – Grace-Ella Witch Camp by Sharon Marie Jones, illustrated by Adriana J Puglisi

I’m really excited to be able to reveal for you today the cover of the lovely and talented Sharon Marie Jones second novel. ‘Grace-Ella Witch Camp’, illustrated by Adriana J Puglisi which will be published on September 30th by Firefly Press.

So without further ado here it is…

I think the cover is just gorgeous, I love the striking colours and think it will be massively appealing to younger readers. The cover is designed by Claire Brisley and the illustration is by Adriana J Puglisi. I’m a huge fan of Illustrated Fiction and this book features black and white illustrations throughout also by Adriana. I’m excited to find out what lies beneath that stunning cover so let’s find out more.

Grace-Ella Witch Camp

Grace-Ella is nervous and excited to go to Witch Camp, with her cat Mr Whiskins, of course. She is put in a cabin with Dilys, Mati and Aisha. Grace-Ella likes them all. But when Dilys’s broomstick flying goes very wrong, and Mati convinces them breaking the rules and going into the woods at night is the only way to help her. Grace-Ella finds herself on a real adventure. Will she be able to save her friends?

This sounds really intriguing and I can’t wait to go on another adventure with Grace-Ella and her friends. If you haven’t had a chance to read the enchanting first book in the series, ‘Grace-Ella Spells For Beginners,’ you can find out more in my review.

Sharon Marie Jones

Sharon Marie Jones was born and raised in mountainous North Wales immersed in magical folktale of giants and fairies. She now lives near Aberystwyth with her husband and sons. She studied English and Education at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth graduating with first class honours. She worked as a primary school teacher for 12 years, before becoming a full time author.

Thank you to Meg and Firefly for inviting me to host this cover reveal. You can buy the first book in the series, ‘Grace-Ella Spells For Beginners,’ online or from any good bookshop.