Monthly Archives: June 2020

While We Can’t Hug – Eoin Mc Laughlin & Polly Dunbar

It feels like our world is scattered with the same phrases at the moment, ‘unprecedented times,’ ‘new normal,’ and ‘social distancing.’ While these have become an ingrained part in our everyday lives, for children these words are meaningless. How do you explain to children that they can only see their grandparents from a distance and for those that are back in school the reason why they can’t hold their best friend’s hand on the playground. Luckily for parents and educators the wonderful Eoin McLaughlin and Polly Dunbar have created the most beautiful and important picture book, ‘While We Can’t Hug,’ which brilliantly conveys the difficulties of the current climate and how it can impact on how we feel.

Hedgehog and tortoise are the best of friends and are desperately sad they can’t hug until wise owl comes along and reminds them there are many ways that you can show someone you love them. Instead of focusing on the negatives of the situation of the things they ‘can’t do,’ it illustrates quite simply all the wonderful things they ‘can’ do for those we love. From drawing pictures, to singing songs and writing letters our friends find a way to connect and show each other how much they care. The exquisite illustrations capture the sadness of Hedgehog and Tortoise’s feelings perfectly and with each spread we’re shown the transformative effect of doing special things for those we love. This book is an absolute joy from start to finish, it clearly demonstrates the power of words and pictures in providing comfort and reassurance in the strangest of a times. The first time I read this book it was with tears in my eyes, it really is a truly uplifting and joyful read.

Blog Tour

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

Thanks to Faber for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and for sending me a gifted copy of this gorgeous book. ‘While We Can’t Hug,’ is released on the 25th June and is available to pre-order online or from your local bookshop.


Cover Reveal – Lori and Max and the Book Thieves

I’m really excited to be sharing with you today the cover of the follow up to  Catherine O’ Flynn’s brilliant mystery story, ‘Lori and Max.’ Our dynamic duo are back in another tricky case in, ‘Lori and Max and the Book Thieves.’ It will be published on the 8th October by Firefly Press.

So without further ado here it is…

I love how this cover designed by Anne Glenn gives us a hint at the mystery lying inside the cover, with clues designed to tantalise any aspiring detective. Let’s shine a light on this newest case and find out a bit more about what Catherine has in store for us…

Lori and Max and the Book Thieves

I was really excited to get my hands on a sneak peek of, ‘Lori and Max and the Book Thieves,’ it was packed full of twists and turns. Yet again Catherine has created a story filled with drama and tension, I completely devoured it in one sitting. In this newest mystery we will discover, a stolen phone and an unruly dog; a buried lunchbox and an antique children’s book. It’s up to Lori and Max must dig through layers of lies to solve not one but two mysteries as they seek to right wrongs and return stolen items to their rightful owners. Another compelling and thoughtful tale that is bound to delight mystery lovers.

Thank you to Firefly for inviting me to host the cover reveal. If you haven’t read the first Lori and Max mystery you can order it here and you can pre-order, ‘Lori and Max and the Book Thieves,’ online or from your local bookshop.

This Book Has Alpacas and Bears – Emma Perry & Rikin Parekh

Today on the blog I’m thrilled to share with you the fabulous, ‘This Books has Alpacas and Bears,’ written by Emma Perry and illustrated by Rikin Parekh. Alfonso the Alpaca loves to read but is incredibly frustrated about the lack of alpacas in his books. There seems to be a multitude of stories featuring all different types of bears from funny to grumpy ones but absolutely no alpacas! Determined to make a stand for alpacas everywhere he decides to write his own story but he soon realises the only way he can do this is to enlist his friend Colin who happens to be a bear! This is such a clever and brilliantly funny book. Alfonso and Colin are a truly delightful duo who will engage and entertain you with their bizarre and hilarious antics. Rikin’s vibrant and energetic illustrations capture all the fun and humour of this story wonderfully.

To celebrate the release of, ‘This Story Has Alpacas and Bears,’ I have a special guest post from author Emma Perry and a fun activity for children (and adults) to try.

Alfonso’s all-important Bow Tie: An Alpaca Activity for Kids

If you peer closely at the front cover of This Book Has Alpacas and Bears, and then a bit closer at the title page, the eagled eyed amongst you will spot that both Colin and Alfonso are sporting rather fetching bow ties.

A bow tie? Why a bow tie, I hear you asking rather urgently.

I know Rikin Parekh doesn’t mind me telling you that the bow ties he has placed on both of our characters have most definitely been influenced by this man…

Never spotted (get it, ‘spotted’, sorry/not sorry) without a bow tie this is David Fickling, of David Fickling Books – always nice to get a nod to your publisher snuck into your books. Nicely done, Mr Parekh!
Alfonso is definitely a flamboyant character, and I’m pretty sure he has more than one bow tie lurking around. I wonder what the others would look like?
Do you think he has particular bow ties for particular occasions?
A particularly snazzy party bow tie, maybe?
A soothing bedtime bow tie?
Or even… a rock and roll themed bow tie for when he strums on his electric guitar?
I wonder what they would look like?
I bet you’ve got a good idea. Tell you what…. why don’t you have a go at designing a bow tie for Alfonso? I bet you could come up with a GREAT one that Alfonso would LOVE.
Download the template below, (click on the link) print it out, grab some colours and let your imagination go WILD!

Design Alfonso’s bow tie…

Rikin and I would love to see your creations – ask an adult to pop it on social media (details below) – we can’t wait to see them!

Twitter: @_emmaperry @r1k1n

Instagram: @emmaperry @r1k1n_parekh


Thank you to Emma, Rikin and David Fickling Books for inviting me to join in with the blog tour. You can get your hands on a copy of, ‘This Book has Alpacas and Bears,’ online or from your local bookshop. Please support your local independent bookshop if possible.

Empathy Day – Checkmates by Stewart Foster

Empathy Day was established by not-for-profit EmpathyLab, who are on a mission to inspire the rising generation to drive a new empathy movement. On 9 June they will host a day of brilliant online events and home-based celebrations to help children READ, CONNECT AND ACT using empathy. Today I am delighted to welcome Stewart Foster to the blog to mark the countdown to this year’s Empathy Day. Stewart’s book, ‘Check Mates,’ is included in Empathy Lab’s Read for Empathy Collection, he has chosen an extract from his book and tells us why he feel it’s a powerful read to develop empathy.

Check Mates – Stewart Foster

Empathy in Writing – Is It Okay to Pray Only When You Want Something?

I’m going to start with an apology, because I find it very hard to analyse my own writing, what did I do? What did I try to do? Because the truth is, I just sat down and wrote, putting myself in Felix’s position, as I did for the whole six months it took to write the book. You see, empathy is not something I consciously switch on and engage. It’s something that is always there, and it arrives as sure as my heart will perform its next beat.

In this excerpt, Is It Okay to Pray Only When You Want Something, Felix is desperately worried about his granddad, who is ill in hospital. The only way Felix can reconcile his feelings, is to compare it with the devastation he felt when his grandma died. And I think this is something we all, do. It doesn’t matter if it’s your pet hamster, or dog – it is something that affects us greatly when we lose them. I know, up until recently, the most upset I’d ever been was when my dog, Ted, died. I can’t say I consciously thought about that when I wrote the scene, but it is certainly something that was stored in my emotional bank.

As with the rest of Check Mates, Felix does not want you to feel sorry for him, he just wants you to understand. He copes by remembering nice things about his granddad, like the chess pieces, and German sausages. Things that he once found irritating about his granddad, are now the things he misses most. I think that is something that is true for all of us. When his mum tries to comfort him, she does so by recalling the ‘funny’ if irritating things, Felix’s granddad used to do. People often tell me that my writing is funny and sad at the same time and I think humour plays a big part in empathy. It’s always okay to smile, when someone is down, feeling in need of help, and when Felix’s mum says, ‘He’ll (Granddad) will soon be picking you up again from school in his pink car.’ That’s her trying to say to Felix, that she ‘gets’ how he is feeling, but trying to cheer him up at the same time.

And that is about it. In the same way you can’t push yourself to give empathy, I can’t push myself to analyse what I do. Because in both cases, if you force something too much, it will come out as being false. Writing, like empathy, is a delicate balance. Yes, you can understand how someone feels, yes you can help, but the most important thing I take from this is that you can offer all the above, but the most important aspect of all, is to allow people space to breathe. And I hope, that is something you can appreciate, not just in my books, but also those in the #readingforempathy recommendations.

To read the extract, click on the link below

Check Mates It’s Okay to Want Something

Thank you to Stewart for his thoughtful guest post today and for sharing an extract with us. If you want to find out more about, ‘Check Mates,’ you can read my review.

Empathy Day 2020

For the first time this year, EmpathyLab will host its Empathy Day programme online to support families at home. Events on 9 June will begin at 9:30am with Children’s Laureate and best-selling author Cressida Cowell, who will introduce Empathy Day. The day’s activities, designed to introduce children to the concept and importance of empathy and how to put it into action, include a draw-along with Rob Biddulph, a poetry challenge with Sarah Crossan, Empathy Charades with Joseph Coelho, exercises on listening with Jo Cotterill and Robin Stevens, before rounding up the day with an activity on putting empathy into action with Onjali Rauf and Sita Brahmachari. Finally, an evening event with Cressida Cowell, Muhammad Khan and psychologist Professor Robin Banerjee aimed at parents, teachers and librarians will address the science that drives EmpathyLab.

The full programme can be found HERE

Blog Tour

Thank you to Fritha and the EmpathyLab for inviting me to join in with the blog tour for Empathy Day. You can meet some of more of this year’s authors on the other blog stops.

A Kind of Spark – Elle McNicoll

Once in a while a book comes along that completely moves me and I know that it will stay with me a long time, ‘A Kind of Spark,’ by Elle McNicoll is one of these. This thoughtful debut features Addie who is autistic and is struggling to navigate the world around her more so than normal since her sister Keedie – who is also autistic- has gone to college. When her teachers introduces a new topic: Withcraft, she learns of real life ‘witches,’ who were targeted and executed and feels an affinity with these women who were different and misunderstood. Desperate for her town to recognise this wrong doing she campaigns for a memorial but is met from opposition in all quarters. Can Addie win them over and find a way to create a  space where she can find peace too?

You feel Addie’s feelings and experiences so viscerally through this book. At times it is painful and raw to read as she faces the torment of her terrible teacher and others who don’t even try to understand what life is like from her. The reader is invited to see the world through Addie’s eyes, allowing them to have true empathy for how sometimes even the most smallest and seemingly insignificant thing can be completely unbearable. There’s a real sadness to this story as Addie comes to realise her sister Keedie is masking who she really is from her new friends. The toll this takes on her is incredibly heart-breaking. I loved how Addie sees that these women have been dealt a terrible fate and can relate to how suspicious other people can be of those who are different in any way. She uses her passion and enthusiasm and channels it into something extraordinary. This is a book that needs to be in every primary and secondary school library. It’s not only important that children see their lives reflected in books but that we create a culture of empathy and understanding. A truly stunning debut, I absolutely loved it!


Elle McNicoll

Elle McNicoll is a children’s author from Scotland, now living in East London. As a neurodivergent writer, she is passionate about disability rights and representation. She was inspired to finish A Kind of Spark after her Masters research revealed that only 0.05% of protagonists in children’s books are neurodivergent. When she isn’t writing fiction, Elle assists as a mentor for neurodivergent students at UCL, works as an editor and in her spare time, makes colourful chokers for friends to wear. A Kind of Spark is her first novel.




Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour to find out more…

Thank you to Knights Of and Ed PR for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and for sending me a gifted proof copy of this wonderful book. ‘A Kind of Spark is released on the 4th June,’ and is available to pre-order now online or from your local bookshop.