Pony on the Twelfth Floor – by Polly Faber illustrated by Sarah Jennings

I was thrilled to host the cover reveal for Polly Faber’s charming new story, ‘Pony on the Twelfth Floor,’ illustrated by Sarah Jennings earlier this year. So it was with great excitement that I got my hands on an early copy of the book. Having loved Polly’s ‘Mango and Bambang,’ series with Clara Vulliamy, my expectations were ridiculously high and I can confirm that Polly completed exceeded them with this funny, heart-warming tale. Kizzy is completely obsessed with ponies, from her pony posters on her walls all the way down to her pony slippers and she dreams that one day she might have one of her very own. The problem is if you live in the city on the twelfth floor of a tower block it’s not as if you’ve got the space to keep one. But when Kizzy stumbles across a pony in the bakery aisle in her supermarket, she’s not prepared to let small details like this get in the way. Surely it’s perfectly possible to hide a pony in your bedroom without her Mum finding out, what could possibly go wrong?

Kizzy’s unstoppable determination to keep the mischievous and loveable Flapjack is just bonkers yet really endearing. I love how Polly weaves in a really interesting cast of characters who can’t help but get caught up with Kizzy’s infectious enthusiasm despite knowing it’s bound to lead to chaos and many comic moments. Whilst having ponies right at the centre of this story, this book really does celebrate the tenacity of the human spirit and highlights the transformative power of friendship. From the grumpy caretaker, to the lonely old lady who help her out, their lives are enriched by her reaching out to them in her hour of need in her desperate attempt to keep Flapjack. Wonderfully diverse, it’s really interesting to read a pony story that isn’t set in an idyllic countryside, the city setting makes for an engaging idea. Just like Kizzy we all have dreams that we would love to fulfil and even though you know she must take Flapjack back you just will her to be able to keep him for just that bit longer.  You can’t help but fall in love with this story, I thoroughly  enjoyed every moment. Sarah Jennings’s gorgeous illustrations capture brilliantly the warmth and humour of this story and I really wish more middle grade stories were illustrated. Bursting with humour and mayhem, Polly has created the most glorious story that will leave you with a warm glow in your heart and a smile on your face.

Thank you to Walker Books for sending me a copy of  this wonderful book,’Pony on the Twelfth Floor,’ is released on the 5th July and is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

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Aliens Invaded My Talent Show – Guest post Matt Brown

Today I am delighted to welcome the hilarious Matt Brown to the blog for a special guest post to celebrate his latest book, ‘Aliens Invaded My Talent Show,’ illustrated by Paco Sordo. Eric Doomsday loves doing magic tricks. But even though his best friend, Vinnie, thinks they’re great, they always seem to go a bit…..wrong. When some very important school inspectors threaten to close down Eric’s school, his headmistress decided to put on a talent show. A talent show with Eric in it. And Eric’s magic tricks. Thank goodness the Earth isn’t been inspected by aliens at the same time! Because magic, aliens and talent shows are sure to be a horrible mix…..Aren’t they? This madcap adventures sounds absolutely brilliant and Paco’s illustrations are just bursting with comic moments, this looks like a really winning combination.

Creating  Awesome Character  Names – Matt Brown

Sir Ziggy Silverdale

Is that a great name for a character, or what?  I see Sir Ziggy as a brilliant detective, brought in by the baffled police to help crack a case.  Or perhaps Sir Ziggy is a secret jewel thief, or super-villian.  Well, anyway, the name Sir Ziggy Silverdale was really easy to come up with.  Keep reading and I’ll let you in on some of my character naming secrets.

You see, creating strong character names is really important to me.  When I’m writing a book, I can’t properly begin to work out who a character is, or what they sound like, until I am one hundred percent completely happy with their name.  And in a book there are usually a LOT of characters.

In my new book, Aliens Invaded My Talent Show!, I created over thirty new characters.  That means that I had to come up with thirty new character names and in order to do this I used a few different methods.

Naming Method Number 1: Place Names

Quite a few characters in Aliens Invaded My Talent Show! were named after places that are familiar to me.  For example, Vinnie Mumbles is named after a beautiful part of the south Wales coastline near where I grew up.  And Betty Goonhaven is named after a village in Cornwall, which is near where I went on holiday last year.  If you’re stuck for a juicy surname then look on a map.

Naming Method Number 2: Collective Nouns

All the teachers in Aliens Invaded My Talent Show! have surnames that are collective nouns for different animals.  The headteacher is Mrs Tittering, a tittering is a group of magpies.  There is a Ms Fesnying (ferrets).  And a Mrs Mustering (storks).

Naming Method Number 3: Asking My Son

My son, Sam, contributed three different character names to Aliens Invaded My Talent Show!  They were all invented characters that he created for other things that he then said I could use because I loved them so much.  So, he had a teddy that he called Steve Enjoy, which became the hamster in my book.  We used to play a game on car journeys that he created Jonny Smuthers for (the game is very complicated so I shan’t go into that here).  And he has always loved the name Cheeseballs and so Barry Cheeseballs became a YouTuber in my book.  If you have access to a nine-year-old and you need character names then just ask them.

Naming Method Number 4:  The Pet/Street Equation

And so we return to Sir Ziggy Silverdale.  He is a product of the most effective character name generator that I’ve ever come across.  You simply take the name of your pet (or a pet of a friend) and combine it with your street/village/town name.  Ziggy is the name of my dog and ‘Silverdale’ is the name of a road we used to live on.  Then I simply added the ‘Sir’ for a bit of extra pizzazz.  Go on, have a go, I’m sure there’s a brilliant character name just waiting to be created.

You can check out all the names I created for Aliens Invaded My Talent Show! from 28th June, 2018, when the book comes to all good bookstores.  I really hope you like it.

Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour for my guest posts and giveaways.

 

Thank you to Matt for this really inspiring blog post I always find naming characters tricky so this is really useful. Thanks to Liz Scott and Usborne for sending me a copy of this funny book and for inviting me to join in with the blog tour. ‘Aliens Invaded My Talent Show,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.

The Polka Dot Shop – Laurel Remington

I am delighted to be kicking off the blog tour today for Laurel Remington’s latest book, ‘The Polka Dot Shop.’ Laurel has a flair for writing heart-warming, funny stories that capture brilliantly the ups and downs of family life. Andy’s life feels officially over when her school announces a new no-uniform policy. While she is desperate to look and dress like everyone else she knows she will be forced to wear dreadful cast offs from her Mum’s vintage boutique and when the ‘fashion police’ see what she’s wearing she’ll never live it down. Fast forward two years and she’s confined to the outskirts of friendship groups and her problems have grown bigger than having terrible fashion sense. Her Mum is becoming increasingly distant and the vintage shop is under threat and all Andy can focus on is finding a way to dress so she can fit in. A chance find of a bag full of designer clothes in the shop, changes everything. Will Andy uses this to make her dreams come to true or can she find a way to help her Mum and transform the shop? Delightful in every way, ‘The Polka Dot Shop,’ totally charmed me with it’s winning formula of friendship, family with just enough of a sprinkling of romance to leave you with a warm glow inside.

 

Inspiration behind The Polka Dot Shop – Laurel Remington

When I was a girl, we had a box of old clothing in the garage. I don’t even know who it all belonged to – my mother and various grandmas, I suppose – but once something found its way to the box, it was mine.

            I remember playing dressing-up with friends from the street or on my own. We used to put on shows – singing songs from musicals, using the dressing up box clothing as costumes. It was fun being someone else, wearing things that might suit me someday, but right now, didn’t quite fit. Wondering where they’d last been worn for real – on a happy day, a sad day, or just a day like any other.

            Years later when I was living in Los Angeles, I joined the Twentieth Century Society which celebrated the Art Deco era. At that time, I began to collect vintage clothing, and in those days, it was sometimes possible to find hidden gems in antique stores that were actually affordable (and back then, I could even fit into some of them). I participated in 1920s re-enactment events, and we were lucky enough to have two Hollywood costume designers teach a sewing class on 1920s fashion.

            It’s been a while now since I’ve really had a chance to do much dressing-up, and I’m afraid my 1920s clothing collection is now mostly packed away. However, my love of vintage lives on, as the inspiration for The Polka Dot Shop.

            For 13-year old Andy, vintage is not her thing. She dreams of being able to buy new clothes, with a crisp tag, that no one else has worn. Her mum owns a quirky vintage clothing shop, and everything Andy wears is second-hand, ‘pre-loved’ – used.

            Andy’s journey is one of transformation, inside and out. She makes a plan, takes a risk, and finds a way to use her flair for fashion to transform her mum’s shop into something fabulous – that celebrates both old and new. In doing so, she gains a new perspective on classic fashion, and both she and her mum come to appreciate the other’s point of view.

            I like to write stories that build a bridge between children and adults, because so much can be gained and learned on both sides. Each of the characters in the book has a goal, and it’s only by learning to work together that they can achieve the best results.

            I hope that you will find Andy’s story inspiring. And if you have your own stories to share of fun, friendship, fashion – and polka dots! – do drop me a line at my website: www.laurelremington.com.

 

            Be fabulous!

            Laurel x

 

Blog Tour

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

Thank you to Jazz and Chicken House for sending me a copy of this lovely story and inviting me to join in with the blog tour. ‘The Polka Dot Shop,’ is released on the 5th July and is available to pre-order online or from any good bookshop.

Storm – Sarah Driver

Sarah Driver is back with the final instalment in The Huntress trilogy ‘Storm.’ and it’s an epic conclusion to this thrilling series. Life is looking bleak for our heroine Mouse as Stag’s power is growing and Trianukka is trapped in an eternal winter. She is a hunted child and her Dad is determined to keep her safe within the Sky fortress of Hackles. But Mouse grows restless as she knows their only salvation is to find the final storm opal, only then will they be able to defeat Stag’s army and escape this miserable future. Despite all the trials and torments that Mouse has experienced nothing can prepare her for the dark forces that are rising, more terrifying than anything she has seen before. Thrown into the most deadly and perilous situations she realises that the battle that lies ahead means she will have to risk everything to save their kingdom.

Sarah’s incredible world building of Trianukka continues to astound and delight me in this glorious story. With each story the world has become darker, more dangerous and bleak, as hope withers away and life becomes more desperate. Rich, vibrant storytelling captures this epic journey that she must undertake in order to save Trianukka, a chill runs through you as you find yourself swept away by this book. Despite Mouse being headstrong and her rash behaviour bringing her into increasingly life-threatening situations you can’t help but admire her refusal to protect her tribe at any cost. With twists and turns at every corner, the reader is never sure what to expect next or who to trust because we are continually surprised as the plot unravels. It cleverly shows how easily divisions can be stirred up amongst people and how evil can only be overcome when we unite and embrace our differences. Wonderfully atmospheric and deliciously dark you can’t help but being totally entranced by this beautiful but haunting tale.

Thank you to Egmont for sending me a copy of this thrilling book, ‘Storm’ is available to buy online or from any good bookshop.

Fabulously funny picture books

Every week at school I share my favourite picture books at storytime with the younger children during their library visits. Although many books are gorgeous and beautifully written, I need books that are perfect for reading out loud and if I want to get the best reaction from the children it has to be a fabulously funny book. Today I’m sharing a selection of books that will make you smile, smirk and just laugh-out loud at their sheer silliness.

Picking Pickle – Polly Faber & Clara Vulliamy

One of my favourite writer-illustrators team Polly Faber and Clara Vulliamy are back in their first collaboration since the glorious ‘Mango and Bambang,’ series. In ‘Picking Pickle,’ we meet the adorable Pickle who has been living at the dog’s home for the longest so is the perfect pooch to show you around and help find your dream dog. But which dog will you take home today? Will it be hungry Harvey who has an insatiable appetite for food? Do you need a guard dog like the magnificent Matilda who has the most marvellous teeth? Or Poochy Petunia Wuffles-Winstanley who has simple tastes, all she needs is a golden bowl and a diamond collar? Polly has created the most adorable, warm story that will fill your heart with joy and leave you with the biggest smile on your face. Whilst Clara’s energetic and fun-loving illustrations leap off the page making you fall head over heels with the delightful dogs. I was totally charmed by this delightful, heart-warming story which has the most perfect surprise ending.

Little Red Reading Hood – Lucy Rowland & Ben Mantle

‘Little Red Reading Hood,’ takes a traditional tale mixes it up and turns it into a celebration of the incredible power of books, reading and most importantly librarians. Little Red has to return her overdue book to the library but despite her mother’s warning not to stray from the path, she doesn’t listen. And when she meets a wolf who suggests she sit down a while and enjoy her book one last time she finds it impossible to resist. We all know how the story plays out but Little Red and the librarian are far too savvy to let this happen and so the wolf is in for a surprise of his own. Lucy has crafted the most rambunctious rhymes making this story bounce along beautifully, it really is a treat to read aloud. Ben Mantle’s gloriously illustrates this entertaining tale combining funny, intricate details with beautiful spreads that capture the magic of books and reading marvellously.

             The Steves – Morag Hood

When Steve the puffin meets Steve the puffin, they are both disconcerted. Surely there can’t be two puffins called Steve that would be a nonsense. And if there has to be two of them then one must be better than the other! Who is the first Steve? The fastest Steve? The tallest Steve? With each spread they get sillier and sillier and more annoyed until they become so mean to each other that they start to regret their behaviour. Brilliantly mimicking the funny arguments children have with each other, it shows how we should celebrate our differences rather than try to be the same as each other and strive to be the best. Eye-catching, vibrant spreads make this story stand out from the crowd. While the use of a limited bold palette creates a truly attractive book that demands to be read. An absolute star of a read, I just loved it.

                                          You Can’t Let An Elephant Drive a Digger –                                              Patricia Cleveland-Peck & David Tazzyman

‘You Can’t Take an Elephant on a Bus,’ is one of my favourite storytime reads it is guaranteed to have children giggling along as the animals get themselves caught up in impossible situations. So I was thrilled to see that Patricia and David had created a follow-up which is equally as funny and totally genius with it’s improbable antics. Join in with the bizarre and hilarious spreads as a seal tries to prepare a meal, a polar bear attempts to cut your hair and a wolf reads a bedtime story that is very gory. Lively, laugh-out-loud rhymes are perfectly complemented by David’s riotous illustrations which capture brilliantly the comedy of the chaos and confusion as the animals try and fail to be helpful. I can’t wait to share this story with the children at my school.

Ten Fat Sausages – Michelle Robinson & Tor Freeman

‘Ten Fat Sausages,’ is one of the genuinely funniest books that I have read this year. I made the mistake of reading it to the children at storytime without having read it first, which meant I spent most of the story just bursting out into laughter as I wasn’t expecting the twists and surprises in every spread. When ten fat sausages are sizzling in the pan they decide drastic action is needed before they go ‘pop’ and ‘bang’ and end up being gobbled up. Each daring escape doesn’t go exactly to plan with rather disastrous consequences for the sausages involved. Michelle’s witty, lively rhymes are perfectly timed to create tension and humour as the readers learns the fate of each of our escapees. Tor’s incredible attention to detail create the most side-splitting moments of pure fun and comedy, with my absolute favourite being the sausage with a bite out of his bottom. I’ve never seen the children at my school laugh so much at a book, if you like anarchic humour then this is the picture book for you.

Baby’s First Bank Heist – Jim Whalley & Stephen Collins

‘Baby’s FIrst Bank Heist,’ is the first in a new series of picture books featuring Baby Frank, who is smarter than your average baby, in fact he’s smarter than your average grown up. When Baby Frank’s parents refuse to give in to his persistent demands for a pet he has not alternative but to turn to a life of a crime. And his parents have only themselves to blame for forcing their only son to rob a bank just so he can have a furry creature in his life. But Baby Frank’s craving for creatures soon gets out of hand, will his parents uncover the truth about their son’s naughty habits? Packed with lively rhymes and many comic moments, this is a really amusing and impressive debut from Jim Whalley. Stephen Collins illustrations are just divine, filled with the most intricate details his style is really distinctive giving this book a really unique edge. I’m looking forward to reading more from this new partnership.

Thank you to Bloomsbury, Macmillan Books, Pavillion Books and Two Hoots for sending me copies of these books to review and to Hampshire School Library Service for my copy of, ‘Ten Fat Sausages’. All of these books are available to pre-order or buy online (clink on the title link) or from any good bookshop.

 

 

Cover Reveal There’s A Yeti in the Playground – Pamela Butchart & Thomas Flintham

I’m really excited to be able to reveal for you today, the cover of the wonderfully talented Pamela Butchart and Thomas Flintham’s latest ‘Izzy’ adventure, ‘There’s A Yeti in the Playground.’ This hilarious series has brought so much joy to so many children at my school and has had a real success in encouraging reluctant readers. They have issued in the library so much that we’ve just had to purchase a whole new set as our old copies had become so well loved. 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 a privilege to share this with you today. And just when you thought this couldn’t get anymore exciting the lovely people at Nosy Crow have created an animated cover reveal for me to share.

So without further ado here it is…..

 

Thomas Flintham has created another brilliantly, engaging and funny cover combined with Nicola Theobold’s eye-catching cover design, it’s a real joy to behold. We know that Izzy has a very overactive imagination so let’s find out what she and her friends have in store for us in this latest hilarious adventure.

There’s A Yeti in the Playground

Izzy and her friends are scared. They’re snowed in at school and there’s something hairy outside. But it’s when they see the really big footprint that they know there’s a yeti in the playground and it’s coming for them!

I wonder if this was inspired by Pamela’s epic travels for World Book Day this year when her train was struck by the Beast from the East………

Pamela Butchart

As a child, Pamela was lucky enough to grow up in a house full of pets, have a mum and dad who were bonkers, and go to The Best Most Awesome Primary School in the WorldTM. As a student, Pamela’s student jobs included: fishwife, teaching basketball in America, phlebotomist, and Artist Liaison for a (really bad) Abba tribute band. Now, Pamela teaches philosophy to teenagers and spends all day pondering questions such as, ‘Is time travel possible?’ and ‘How do I know I’m not really a robot?’ The stories write themselves really.Pamela lives in Dundee with her husband, Andy and their two cats, Bear & Carlos. Carlos only has one eye and is Pamela’s hero.

Thomas Flintham

Thomas lives in Penzance and loves Christmas and chocolate. He works digitally, drawing straight into his computer via his tablet, and also in the old fashioned way on paper with brush, ink and drawing pens. He spends a lot of time drawing, doodling and disappearing into his imagination in search of new characters and ideas. His work is influenced by his interest in all kinds of books, films, comics and Japanese video games. He owns (almost) too many books.

Thank you to Clare and Nosy Crow for inviting me to host this cover reveal, ‘There’s A Yeti in the Playground,’ is released on October 4th and is available to pre-order online or from any good bookshop.

Mirror Magic – Claire Fayers Guest Post

Today I am delighted to welcome Claire Fayers to the blog for a special guest post as part of the blog tour for her magical new adventure, ‘Mirror Magic.’ I was completely charmed by this story of Wyse, the only town left in Britain with a connection to the magical Unworld through special mirrors. Strangely, the enchantments that bind the towns together are slowly dying and nobody knows why until Ava returns to Wyse after the death of her parents. One day she inadvertently meets Howell on the other side of the mirror and they realise that something peculiar is happening. Nothing is quite as it seems and they don’t know who to trust. They must unravel this mystery and discover what is causing this unrest before it is too late. Imaginative storytelling, bursting with wonder and magic make for a really compelling read. I was totally enthralled by this charming adventure full of twists, turns and the unexpected.

The Wyse Weekly Mirror – Claire Fayers

Mirror Magic imagines a world exactly like our own but with one big difference – magic exists. Fairy mirrors connect us to the Unworld where the Fair Folk have promised to provide magical goods and services to anyone who asks.

The story starts in 1842, when most mirrors have stopped working and only one small town on the border of Wales and England still has access to the Unworld. The Wyse Weekly Mirror (expertly designed by Jess at Macmillan Children’s Books) gives an insight into daily happenings in the last town of magic.

But what of other time periods?

In my blog tour guest posts I’ve been guessing at what the news might look like in different centuries if people had magic. Now we come to today. How would our world look with a little bit of fairy enchantment?

London Marathon Magic Mayhem

The London Marathon once again ended in chaos as some runners used magical shortcuts through the Unworld and others took magical potions for extra speed and energy. Fifty runners were disqualified for using winged costumes.

“It has long been accepted that magical ‘cheating’ will happen,” said a spokeswoman for the race. “And while we are willing to allow a certain amount of flexibility in the name of good fun, runners must complete the entire course, and their feet must remain on the ground at all times.”

Thirty-Hour Working Days Challenge

The practice of using magic mirrors to move workers across time zones, thus increasing their working day, has come under criticism once again.

It has become commonplace for a worker to arrive at the office at 8am in London, work until 6pm, then move to, say,  New York which is five hours behind to continue working. By moving around time zones, it is possible to work up to thirty hours in a single, nine hour shift.

Some workers welcome the practice as an opportunity for earning more money and accumulating more holiday time. Today, however, the Office of Fairy Trade in conjunction with the Royal Office on Family Living (ROFL) stated that time-zone working was detrimental to health and family relationships and should be banned.

E-Readers ‘Not As Good as Real Thing’

The new craze for e-readers appears to be waning.

Enchanted readers allow the user to read from a large selection of books, often with magical enhancements, and, at the end of their lifespan they turn back into dry leaves and can be simply thrown away. Weighing little more than a single sheet of paper, fans loved their portability and their environmentally-friendly construction.

Yet the unpredictable nature of the magic has proved problematic. A small number of e-readers have spontaneously combusted, leading to them being banned on planes. And unhappy customers have complained of the devices disintegrating in the middle of a book. “I never had that problem with paper,” said Mrs Evans from West Wales.

Magical Books, the maker of the most popular brand of e-reader, has promised a new, improved design by the end of the year.

Claire Fayers

Claire Fayers was born and brought up in South Wales, an area of the country sadly deficient in dragons. Having studied English at University of Kent, Canterbury, she built a successful career writing short stories for women’s magazines until the lure of magic became too much and she wrote The Accidental Pirates: Voyage to Magical North. It was selected for Waterstones Book of the Month and shortlisted for the FCBG Children’s Book Award 2016, and its sequel, The Accidental Pirates: Journey to Dragon Island, was published in 2017. When she’s not writing, you’ll find Claire at her allotment. Mirror Magic is her third book with Macmillan Children’s Books.

Blog Tour

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

Thanks to Claire for her wonderful guest post and for sending me a copy of this wonderful book and for inviting me to join in with the blog tour. ‘Mirror Magic,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.