Monthly Archives: August 2019

How To Write A Great Story – Caroline Lawrence, illustrated by Linzie Hunter

August has been a quiet month on the blog, I’ve been busy working away on a new story which has completely consumed my brain. I haven’t read as many books as I would in the summer holidays normally (although I do have an August reads round up coming soon) but I couldn’t resist dipping into, ‘How To Write A Great Story,’ by Caroline Lawrence with illustrations by Linzie Hunter. It arrived at the perfect time when I was knee deep in edits, not able to see the wood from the trees and I desperately devoured it hoping for some nuggets of wisdom that could help. And help it did indeed!

Caroline has created a book stuffed full of tips, tricks and tropes to get your mind whirring. It is aimed at those who want to learn the necessary skills to write whatever their age and for me as I embark on launching creative writing classes I was really intrigued to see what it had to offer. Linzie’s fun and quirky illustrations make this book accessible and entertaining allowing the younger reader not to feel intimidated by the wealth of information inside. From structuring stories, to ideas for writing workshops this has everything you need to get your creative juices flowing. I was particularly drawn to part two of the book which encourages the reader to dip in an out when they need specific advice or need to understand a concept quickly. This works really well with my brain as despite reading lots of books my brain is easily distracted and I often find myself multi-tasking while reading or writing. I think this is a perfect gift for an aspiring writer and would make a useful addition to any school library.

Thank you to Caroline for sending me a gifted copy of this book in exchange for a review. ‘How To Write A Great Story,’ is available to buy now 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.

Agent Weasel and the Fiendish Fox Gang – Nick East

Watch out dastardly criminals there’s a new secret agent in the woods. His name is Weasel, Agent Weasel. He likes his hot chocolate shaken but not stirred and he always ready to crack the most trickiest of cases when the head of WI6, H gets in touch. But Weasel is about to face his most dastardly challenge yet when the Fiendish Fox Gang’s plan for woodland domination causes criminal chaos everywhere he turns. Can he foil their evil plans before it’s too late. Nick East has created a hero who will keep us massively entertained with his comedy capers as he tries to outwit those fiendish foxes in the most unconventional ways. His hilarious and detailed illustrations capture the humour and carnage perfectly as Weasel tries spectacularly hard to get the gang just where he wants them. Everything about this book will  appeal to children, from the wonderfully illustrated front cover, to the brilliant mix of humour and mystery inside, this is a real treat of a book. I look forward to this next book in this series.

The Classroom Cat – Pamela Butchart & Becka Moor

‘Wigglesbottom Primary,’ is back with another three adventures guaranteed to have you giggling under your school desk. This series has been phenomenally successful in school and I have had to buy multiple copies for the library. A school where the unexpected is just waiting for you around the corner, with all sorts of shenanigans waiting to be discovered. From the cat that’s is trying to give the children a warning, rumours that a puddle crisp will make you seriously ill flying around and Joel’s imaginary friend joining them on a school trip, there is so much fun to be had. This series is a perfect blend of silliness and fun, it puts a huge smile on my face every time I read a new adventure. Pamela excels in telling school stories that are effortlessly diverse and ridiculously funny, which Becka captures superbly in her hilarious and brilliantly observed illustrations. If you haven’t already read this series you are seriously missing out, they really deserve to be top of the class.

The Great Raspberry Mix-Up – Harriet Whitehorn & Alex G. Griffiths

I’m a huge fan of Harriet’s ‘Violet,’ mysteries so I was really intrigued to see what she had instore for us in the first book in the brand new series of ‘Freddie’s Magic Bakery.’ Pitched at a slightly younger market this capitalises on our obsession as a nation with a baking after the success of a certain baking series. Meet Freddie the most amazing baker in town, where people queue round the block to get their hands on his divine patisserie. When the grand hotel announces a baking competition everyone is sure that Freddie will win but rival baker Bernard Macaroon is determined to succeed at any cost. A charming tale that is bound to delight younger readers with it’s marvellous storytelling and fun illustrations, I mean who wouldn’t want to take a helter-skelter ride to work.


The Truth Pixie Goes To School – Matt Haig & Chris Mould

Last Christmas Matt Haig and Chris Mould came along and well they didn’t (in the tradition of Wham) give you their heart but they did deliver one of the most heart-warming tales of the season. I adored, ‘The Truth Pixie,’ and when I shared it at my library sessions the children were totally captivated by this magical tale. When the Truth Pixie goes to school she soon discovers that this isn’t a place where truth is welcomed and so finds herself in deep trouble more often than that. But when she faces the wrath of the bully she sees what everyone else doesn’t that they are insecure and are only mean to make themselves feel better. Poor Aada finds school exceptionally tricky with Pixie at her side. Can she find a way to make friends and be true to herself. Heartfelt and humorous in equal measures, this book is another absolute triumph and I can’t wait to bring back the magic to the children at school when I share this wonderful story.

The Jolley-Rogers and the Pirate Piper – Jonny Duddle

The ‘Jolley-Rogers,’ series is a masterclass in writing and illustrating that I absolutely adore, Jonny is brilliantly funny and enteraining and this series has gone from strength to strength. With a twist on the Pied Piper story Matilda and Jim Lad find themselves caught up in their trickiest adventure yet when the children of Dull-on-Sea are lured away by a piratical pirate after the town refused to pay him for ridding them of their rat infestation. Full of twists and turns they have to use all of their sea-faring cunning to outwit this dastardly and dreadful pirate. Full of so much humour and fun this is a joy to read from start to finish, Jonny’s illustrations are so wonderfully witty and intricated, every time I read one of his books I spy more brilliant details that deserve to be savoured. Like all of the other books in this series, it is bound to be a huge hit at school.


Cinder & Sparks: Magic at Midnight – Lindsey Kelk & Pippa Curnick

Okay so we’re all familiar with the Cinderella story, the tale of a downtrodden girl, her talking pet dog and her fairy godmother Brian. Oh hang on a minute no that’s not the version we know! Fear not Lindsey has brought this well loved tale up to date in a modern retelling which will truly capture the imaginations of younger readers. Unlike her stepsisters Cinderella doesn’t have the latest phone or time to sit around staring at her reflection in the mirror, not when she has a mountain of dishes to wash. But a chance encounter with Brian who turns out to be the worst fairy godmother ever, changes her life completely but not the way you expect. Instead of bringing beauty and glamour into her life, he causes total chaos and Cinderella is about to turn her story upside down. Pippa’s beautiful illustrations are filled with warmth and humour, they wonderfully enhance this mixed up fairytale. With magic and chipolatas aplenty this is bound to entertain and amuse younger readers.

Thanks to Canongate, Hachette, Nosy Crow, OUP and Templar for sending me gifted copies of these books in exchange for a review. You can buy all of these books now online (click on the title to purchase) or from any good bookshop.

Scoop McLaren Detective Editor – Helen Castles

As much as I’m intrigued by the title of a book, it’s usually the cover that speaks to me the most. I spotted ‘Scoop McLaren,’ on Twitter and was immediately captivated by Beatriz Castro’s illustrations, it really made me want to find out what a mouse, a seagull and some frogs would have in common. So it was a lovely surprise to get a copy in the post. I’m a huge mystery fan but I do have a stash of mysteries waiting to be read but my ten year old daughter read it and raved about it. So here I am today on the blog tour for the first book in a brand new series, ‘Scoop McClaren Detective Editor,’ by Helen Castles.

Scoop Maclaren is horrified when a new online newspaper is launched in direct competition to ‘Click,’ her very own creation. ‘The Dark News,’ offers something that no other newspaper can, the news before it actually happens. Launched at exactly one minute past midnight every night, it predicts plagues of frogs, torrential weather and children turning into stone, causing huge commotion in the town of Higgity Harbour. Scoop alongside her sidekick Evie is determined to expose the editor, the evil Sonny Fink and prevent them from destroying her beloved town completely. But with confusion and chaos at every turn how can they ever hope to uncover the truth and bring this dastardly villain to justice?

I have to say that this book really surprised me, the plot was fast paced and packed with twists and turns that will keep even the best young detective guessing. It had for me a real Jessica Fletcher kind of vibe going on with a seemingly sleepy seaside town facing a totally unexpected crime and I suspect like Jessica wherever Scoop goes a mystery will reappear.  Helen has assembled an interesting cast of characters who I feel that readers will find really appealing. It feels like a fresh and original series that I can see being hugely popular at school, I can’t wait to see what Scoop has instore for us in the future.

Blog Tour

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

Thank you to New Frontier publishing for sending me a copy of this fab mystery. ‘Scoop Maclaren Detective Editor,’ is available to buy online now or from any good bookshop.


Princess BMX – Marie Basting, illustrated by Flavia Sorrentino


Today it’s my stop on the, ‘Princess BMX,’ blog tour a fun and magical debut from Marie Basting, illustrated by Flavia Sorrentino. Princess Avariella Petulia Winifred Pandoro D’Allessandro of Biscotti is so bored of being a princess, she can’t bear having to be good all day and would much rather be sliding down the stairs in a potato sack than be dressed in a frilly frock smiling at the crowds. Convinced she will die of boredom Ava’s live changes in the most unexpected of ways when she accidentally discovers a portal to a different world so unlike the fairytale kingdom she has grown up in. And then she spies a BMX bike something she has only ever seen in books and she’s immediately drawn to this thrilling and exciting sport. Packed full of thrills and spills, Ava is a modern day princess who readers are bound to love. Fierce and loyal, she finds herself caught up in a quest to save her brother and defeat her banished aunt the truly evil Odette. Joyful word building meets compelling storytelling in this fun and entertaining debut, a must for those who love to break the rules and challenge the status quo.

I am delighted to welcome Marie to the blog today with a special interview she did with Dakota Rose Tucker, a young BMXer.

(photo credit BMX Widow)

1 Can you please tell me a little about yourself and how long you’ve been riding BMX?

My name is Dakota. I am 6 years old, nearly 7, and I started riding BMX just before I was 5.

2. How long have you been racing competitively? Can you tell us more about what this involves? (Are you part of a club? How often do you train and where? What does training involve?)

I started racing as a novice for one season before turning to expert. I race in the South West region for my home club ‘Exeter Eagles’, but also belong to a National Race Team called ‘Absolute’, where we attend the British Cycling National Series each year. I have also raced in Europe in their UEC European Cup, and travelled to Verona in Italy, Zolder in Belgium and Sarrians in France. This year I also qualified to race in the World Championships, a single, annual race held each year in a nominated country for the top riders in the World. I represented Team USA due to my dual nationality, whilst still being a bit too young to race under team GB. I train most days on a variety of tracks with a mixture of training regimes with riders of all ages.

3. Can you tell us more about the races and meets you attend? (Do you travel all over the country? What is it like to be part of the BMXing community?)

We travel all across the country to different tracks, spanning from Cornwall to Glasgow, where almost every weekend a different race is on somewhere in the Country. Being part of a BMX community feels enjoyable because you have friends all around you, who look out for each other, and look after people. The BMX community is really special. It makes the world feel small with the amount of friends I have got all over the world. This year the racing has taken me to America and Europe, making new friends, learning of different cultures and making memorable adventures with my family.

4. Who are your BMXing heroes? (Would particularly like to hear about the girls and women.)

Stumbling along a YouTube video of Caroline Buchanan one day got my attention to want to be like her and started this whole journey. She kindly gave me a signed race plate for my fifth birthday which got me hooked. The great thing about this sport, which is unlike most others is how close you can get to your heroes. I have been lucky enough to meet my heroes; (Elite Riders) Alise Willoughby, Felicia Stancil, Bethany Shriever, Laura Smulders, Saya Sakakibara, (Local Riders) Freya Challice, Ruby Moore’s and Betsy Bax.

5. What makes a good BMXer? (Thinking here about attitude, mindset etc)

A good BMX rider is someone who is never afraid, who always makes moves and keeps strong. Racing will always have its challenges, but with persistence and hard work good results will come.

6. Why BMX racing and not freestyle?

I always enjoyed riding my bike from the age of 4. I love watching motorsport and racing, and the adrenalin I get from racing makes me want to always be faster. Freestyle is a bit different but I’m sure is just as fun.

7. What is your biggest BMXing achievement? What about your future goals?

My biggest achievement is qualifying for the World Championships in Zolder, Belgium in July 2019, and also being South West Number 1 and British Number 4. My future goals will be to improve on my results and develop my techniques and skills to become an even better rider.

8. How can someone who knows nothing about BMX get involved in the sport?

BMX is available for all abilities, and there are lots of tracks around the country. Join a club, hire a bike, give it a go, and the sky is the limit.

9. Is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself or BMX?

BMX has taken me to places I otherwise probably wouldn’t have visited. It’s taught me about courage, confidence and teamwork. The sport is so much more than just riding a bike. It brings people together, creates times of fun and laughter, and most of all memories that I’ll cherish forever.

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. ‘Princess BMX,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.


I, Cosmo – Carlie Sorosiak

Today I am delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for the wonderful, ‘I, Cosmo,’ by Carlie Sorosiak, a heart-warming and bitter sweet tale of family life. Cosmo senses that something is going wrong with his family, he can see that his brother Max is struggling and he can hear the constant arguing between Mum and Dad. He knows he has to find a way to keep his family together as he can’t bear to be separated from Max. With nobody else seeming to have a plan, it’s up to Cosmo to find a way to stop his family disintegrating. And the fact that Cosmo is a Golden Retriever isn’t going to stop him from trying to save the day. But how can one dog make a difference when even the grown ups can’t figure out a way through this pain and bitterness?

I love everything about this book, it’s truly marvellous to see the world through the eyes of Cosmo a wise, old dog who has witnessed the highs and lows of his family. The inextricable bond he has with Max is completely joyful, we see him pushing himself to his very limits in his quest to deliver his master plan. Sensitively and thoughtfully told it offers a real insight into the damage that lies and secrecy can cause. Because no matter how much you try to hide them, they seep out causing damaging ripples that can cause incredible hurt. By trying to protect the ones you love you can inadvertently create even more sorrow. Playing against this background of warring parents, we see how Cosmo adores Max, their relationship is totally endearing. Cosmo gives Max a sense of purpose, providing a distraction from his woes and gives him hope and security where none seems possible. But this is far from being overly sentimental, it is a realistic portrayal of family life with an intriguing twist that Cosmo sees everything – there is no hiding from him. My heart was so full of joy whilst reading this story despite the fact it’s mingled with sadness, it’s still filled with so much love. An original, moving story which will stay with me for a long time.

Thank you to Karen 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. ‘I, Cosmo,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.

Blog Tour

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