Monthly Archives: January 2021

Cover Reveal – Wee? It wasn’t me! by Clare Helen Welsh, illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne

Today I am delighted to welcome Clare Helen Welsh to the blog to tell us about her new book, ‘Wee? It wasn’t me!’ illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne and she will also be exclusively revealing the cover. I have been lucky enough to have a sneak peek and it’s just brilliant. A clever mix of funny facts and hilarious storytelling captured wonderfully by Nicola’s humorous and vibrant illustrations.

Clare Helen Welsh – Wee? It wasn’t me! Cover Reveal

I’m really excited to be writing this guest post for Booklover Jo, with the details and cover reveal of my next picture book!

Wee? It wasn’t me?’ is illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne and publishes with Macmillan on April 1st. It is the second book in a series about Lenny the lemur, who goes on holiday and gets more than he bargained for!

In his first adventure, ‘Poo! Is that you?’ Lenny visited the Amazon rainforest and when a nasty niff interrupted his snooze, he learned all about some wonderful animals and their smells.

Poo is that you? illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne

In this next instalment, Lenny is holidaying in Alaska and is once again on a mission – this time to find out who made the piddle of piddle he slipped in.  

Interwoven with facts about wolves, mountain goats, caribous and more, it’s the perfect combination of story, learning and laughs!

So, without any further ado, here it is!

Doesn’t it look brilliant? The insides are spectacular, too! Nicola and designer, Becky Chilcott, really have worked magic. Lenny is also delighted, which got me thinking… are there any other fabulously famous lemurs in children’s fiction? Lenny and I did a little research and picked our favourites.

Here they are:

1. How to Lose a Lemur – Frann Preston -Gannon

In this story, a child tries to escape an ever-growing number of lemurs. It’s fun spotting and counting the lemurs through the settings that include scorching desserts, mountain blizzards, skies, lakes and forests. I particularly like that this story plays on the true to life nature of lemurs –once they take a liking to you, there isn’t much you can do about it! It reminds me of when I was a teacher and I took my class on a trip to the zoo. A lemur jumped out of nowhere and onto a parent’s handbag! There’s a photo of that moment somewhere.

2. The Lemur’s Tale – Ophelia Redpath

A Lemur’s Tale is a touching story about finding safety in a country that isn’t your own. A ring-tailed lemur is stowed away on a boat from Madagascar and ends up in a city, secretly living in a house with a girl and her family. It’s beautifully illustrated and was on the Kate Greenway longlist in 2014. The lemur causes quite a lot of mischief – as lemurs often do – raiding the larder and nibbling plants, but the lemur brings hope and happiness to the Laruby family in the end.

3. Little Lemur Laughing – Josh Siegel

Not a picture book but a collection of poetry, Little lemur Laughing is a book packed with lots of silly, funny poems written by Josh Siegel. This book came recommended to me by another brilliant poet, Coral Rumble, and didn’t disappoint. Covering everything from conkers, to stickers, to spaghetti-eating dogs and a stomping brontosaurus, there’s a poem about pretty much everything (yes, even lemurs). All the poems are wonderfully visual, accessible are perfect for sharing aloud.

‘Wee? It Wasn’t Me!’ is published on April 1st by Macmillan and is available to pre-order now online and from all good bookshops, I can highly recommend ‘Stories by the Sea’ and ‘Bear Hunt Books,’ who can deliver to your door! 

Stories by the Sea – Where Reading Rocks! 

Bear hunt independent, online children’s bookshop UK – Bear Hunt Books 

Thank you to Clare and Macmillan for inviting me to host the cover reveal, I’m really looking forward to sharing this hilarious book with the children at school.

Cover Reveal – Setsuko and the Song of the Sea by Fiona Barker, illustrated by Howard Gray

I’m really excited to be able to reveal for you today, the cover of Fiona Barker and Howard Gray’s new picture book collaboration, ‘Setsuko and the Song of the Sea,’ which will be published by Tiny Tree books on the April 22nd 2021.

So without further ado here it is…

This stunning cover was illustrated by Howard Gray and designed by Howard and James Shaw. For me this intriguing artwork hints at the beautiful tale that lies beneath the cover. I’ve been lucky enough to have an early read and this is truly thoughtful and powerful story which will completely delight its readers with it’s hopeful message. Let’s find out more about what Fiona and Howard have instore for us in, ‘Setsuko and the Song of the Sea‘.

Setsuko loves the sea.

She swims its shallows. She dives its depths.
But she worries that her friends have chosen to abandon her way of life. Then she meets a whale who also fears he is the last of his kind.
In return for giving him hope, he gifts her a song which she uses to remind people of the beauty of the ocean.

The Song of the Sea is a story of friendship and hope in an uncertain world.

This story was inspired by Fiona and Howard’s love for the ocean and by Howard’s amazing skill in capturing its beauty. A proportion of the profits from the book are going to support the work of the Marine Conservation Society. Fiona changed the way she does things after taking part in the MCS Plastic Free July Challenge in 2017. That had to be part of Setsuko’s story.

Setsuko is an ama; a free diver. These incredible women dive without breathing equipment in cold dangerous waters, looking for shellfish. Strong, proud and independent, many of them have been diving all their lives and are now in their 70s and 80s. It is a way of life on the brink, just as the overall health of the ocean and its inhabitants teeters on a knife edge due to human activity and negligence. A heavy subject for a picture book perhaps but, don’t worry, the ending is hopeful if everyone listens to the song and pulls together.

Howard has drawn on influences from traditional Japanese art and updated it with a hint of manga.

Thank you to Fiona and Tiny Tree books for inviting me to host the cover reveal. ‘Setsuko and the Song of the Sea,’ is available to pre-order now online or from any good bookshop. If you can please support your local independent bookshop you can find your nearest one here.

The House at the Edge of Magic – Amy Sparkes

Today on the blog I’m delighted to be joining in with the blog tour for Amy Sparkes debut middle grade adventure, ‘The House at the Edge of Magic.’ When pickpocket Nine steals an unusual house shaped ornament from a mysterious woman’s purse, little does she know she has set a wild and mysterious game in process. As she knocks on the door something completely unusual and magical happens that changes her life in the most unexpected of ways. Inside this higgledy-piggledy house she meets the most strange and eccentric creatures and finds herself caught up in their quest to break a terrible curse. Expect chaos, carnage and bundles of charm in this truly wonderful story that bowled me over with it’s wild imagination and quirky characters. It totally enchanted me and stole a little piece of my heart, leaving me with a warm glow inside. I think we all need a sprinkle of Amy’s magical storytelling in our lives right now.

To celebrate the release of, ‘The House at the Edge of Magic,’ I have a special guest post from Amy on writing her characters in this wonderful story.

Meet The Characters – Amy Sparkes

Until ‘The House At The Edge of Magic’, I had put off writing middle-grade despite having a million ideas. With an increasing handful of children and already enough writing work on my plate, I didn’t feel I could really give it the time it deserved, so I stuck with more bite-sized writing of picture books, chapters books and magazine articles.

The title of the book had tantalisingly arrived in one go, complete, a few years ago. I knew it was a story I wanted to write. But I didn’t want to write it yet. I started with a few notes about the concept and the characters, with the promise to myself to write it properly ‘one day’. At that point the main characters were twins, and it was set in the modern day. I even wrote the first three chapters where they discovered the House. However, I put the story to one side.

After the birth of my sixth child, I finally admitted there really was never going to be a good time to write a novel, so I might as well get on with it. I revisited my notes. The characters inside the House were already there from the earlier, contemporary version. Having waited years for me to write them, they were practically ready to burst onto the page. Flabberghast the Wizard had always been Flabberghast the Wizard, eccentric, highly-strung and fond of hopscotch. Eric the Troll had always been Eric the troll, too. My eldest son was and still is very into Scandinavian trolls and was annoyed how ‘trolls’ in children’s fiction were so often portrayed as baddies. So, I had created Eric, a troll who is probably the most gorgeous, wholesome character I think I’ve ever written, with a penchant for feather dusters and boiled sweets.

The only one who changed slightly was Dr Spoon. He was originally Agent Spoon, but my editor suggested changing him to something else. The idea of him being a scientist/professor/other-things-which-are-too-secret-to-disclose-right-now came quickly and my fingers were soon wiggling with excitement at the plot possibilities of this change. But his personality and voice stayed the same. Just a slight, definitely shady shift of profession. (I’m sure I heard him grumbling because he’d been called out).

But I still had the issue of the discovery of the House. That marvellous, magical discovery. My current, contemporary set up just didn’t feel right. It was ok, but it felt a little hollow. It didn’t sing to me. I scrapped the modern day setting and took it back 150 years. From that moment, the world felt darker, more mysterious, more shadowy and more fun. The twins and their modern dilemma instantly disappeared (sorry, guys Another time). Which left me, along with the residents of the House, eagerly awaiting to see who was going to find this magical House and knock on the door…

And then along came Nine. As soon as the setting changed, she marched in, somewhat impatiently, as if she’d been in the wings all this time, folding her arms and rolling her eyes, and waiting for her moment to arrive. The outside-the-House world then developed around this broken little pickpocket, and I started to ask her questions to reach through her tough exterior and see into her heart. There were secrets and sadness and so much hurt, but such resilience and determination in her soul. I knew she was ready for the House. Even if the House was possibly not quite ready for her!

The joy of having a book which straddles two worlds was that I got to create two villains: one in the real world, and one within the magical world. I’m not going to say too much because… spoilers. But, as anyone who knows me knows, I am wild about villains, so to create two was a dream. And I love these two villains dearly. Their voices were always so clear to me, bringing both humour and darkness. My core characters were created.  

What followed was a wild and unpredictable romp through my imagination. I planned very little, not only because I’m a very spontaneous person (and probably every editor’s nightmare), but also because that went hand-in-hand with the unpredictable chaos of the House itself. If a character opened a door in there, I didn’t plan what was behind it.  I discovered the answer at the same time as the character did, off the top of my head. That first, glorious draft was absolutely exhilarating and really connected me with the nature of the House. The characters were the anchor – the ‘constant’ in the waves of playful unpredictability. I knew who they were, what they wanted, and what they needed. And that guided the story throughout.  

This book is only the start of their journey. This world is only starting to reveal itself to me. There is so much more to come. And I can’t wait to discover more of these characters’ secrets, learn more about their pasts, and see how they grow and change as more marvellous, magical adventures come their way.

Thanks to Amy for this really insightful guest post, I love hearing from author’s how their stories have developed from their initial thoughts to what finally appears on the pages.

Blog Tour

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

Thank you to Rebecca and Walker Books for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and for sending me a gifted copy of this magical story. ‘The House at the Edge of Magic,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop. If you can please support your local independent bookshop you can find your nearest one here.

The Ghost Garden – Emma Carroll, illustrated by Kaja Kajfež

Today I am delighted to share with Emma Carroll’s first novella for Barrington Stoke, ‘The Ghost Garden,’ illustrated by Kaja Kajfež. Regular readers to the blog will know I’m a huge fan of Emma’s writing so I’m thrilled that by partnering with Barrington Stoke her work will be accessible to so many more children. It’s June 1914, just before the outbreak of the First World War. When Fran unearths a bone in the garden of Long Barrow House on the same afternoon that Leo breaks his leg, it triggers a series of unsettling coincidences that leave Fran cold. Roped into keeping wheelchair bound Leo company, Fran is forced to listen to his absurd theories about the looming threat of war in Europe. But as the pair uncover more secrets, the garden seems to be showing them threatening shadows of the future and Fran begins to fear what they’ll discover next.

I was lucky enough to have an early read of this compelling story and shared it with the year 6 children at my school and they were completed captivated by this eerie and atmospheric tale. Despite only being 85 pages, Emma has managed to draw together all of her trademark strengths: superb characterisation; well constructed historical settings and moving storytelling to create a truly remarkable story. Although our time with Fran and Leo is brief she still manages to convey all the uncertainty of the period perfectly and gives us a real insight into the character’s hearts and minds. For the reader as the story unravels it becomes more poignant as we know the dark times they will soon face. It’s this sense of foreboding mixed with superstition that make for a really impactful and spine-tingling story. Kaja’s illustrations capture this sense of unease and spookiness of this tale brilliantly. A book that deserves to be in every school library, another absolute gem from Emma.

Thank you to Kirstin and Barrington Stoke for sending me a gifted copy of this wonderful book. ‘The Ghost Garden,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.  If you can please support your local independent bookshop you can find your nearest one here.

The Boy Who Sang With Dragons – Andy Shepherd, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie

Today I am delighted to share with you the fifth and final book in, ‘The Boy Who Grew Dragons,’ series. I have been completely captivated and enchanted by this series and, ‘The Boy Who Sang with Dragons,’ is the absolute perfect ending to this wonderful adventure. By now you would expect Tomas to be a fully fledged dragon expert but he is failing to keep the last seeds from the dragon tree alive. If only he could solve the final piece of the puzzle and discover the magical ingredient that will bring the seeds back to life and save the day. Together with his new friend Aura they are determined to uncover the truth but even he after all of his experiences isn’t prepared for what he discovers hidden away for many years as he embarks on the final exciting adventure.

For me this series has gone from strength to strength, every time I feel like Andy can’t possibly create more enchanting stories then along she comes and fills me with absolute wonder. I have a real fondness for Aura whose enthusiasm for dragons and life sparks something new in Tomas encouraging him to find out the key to saving his favourite flying friends. It’s filled with lots of ooh and ahh moments, that will keep children turning the pages. At the heart of these books is a wonderful message about being brave enough to be yourself and to embrace what is unique about you. Once again the characterisation is superb, I particularly love how family orientated these stories are, so many children’s books exclude the grown-ups but here they have a special role to play. Andy deftly mixes humour and heart and sprinkles her stories with magic and excitement which is captured superbly by Sara’s sublime illustrations. All of the elements of each book are drawn together creating a truly unexpected and charming finale which will absolutely delight fans of this series.

You can read an exclusive extract of the first chapter here:

Blog Tour

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

This is the perfect book for sharing in class and Andy has loads of great resources on her website including ones ideal for parents home-schooling at the moment and a teacher’s activity pack – https://www.andyshepherdwriter.co.uk/

Thank you to Piccadilly Press for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and for sending me a gifted copy of this wonderful book. You can get your hands on a copy of this and the rest of the book in the series now online or from your local bookshop. If you can please support your local independent bookshop you can find your nearest one here.