Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball – Laura Ellen Anderson

It was with huge excitement that we discovered early on in the year, that Laura Ellen Anderson would be embarking on her first fiction series. We’ve long been fans of Laura’s work having spent hours reading the fabulous Evil Emperor Penguin and because my daughter can spot a book illustrated by Laura a mile away in a bookshop, we’ve ended up devouring the ‘Witch Wars’ series from Sibéal Pounder as well as Cerrie Burnell’s ‘Harper’ series. So it was with huge anticipation that we got our hands on a copy of ‘Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball’ and after a small tussle between myself and my daughter (she won of course) we finally allowed ourselves to become lost in Amelia’s world of Nocturnia.

Amelia and her family live in the gorgeously gothic world of Nocturnia where school is at night and dinner time at 4 am because well, the reason being, ok I’m just going to say it out loud and quickly, they are actually vampires. But fear not this is after all a story for younger readers, so our vampires are not blood drinking monsters instead they are more likely to be found eating ‘Flabbergasting Falafels’ and drinking ‘Scream Tea.’ So please don’t believe everything you read in stories, I mean how scary can they possibly be when these vampires are terrified of glitter and frightened of unicorns!! Amelia is just like a normal girl, she would much rather hang out with her best friends, her pet pumpkin Squashy, Florence the Yeti and Grimaldi the reaper than dance at her parent’s boring Barbaric Ball. But she soon has greater problems on her hands than avoiding the ball when the spoilt prince of Nocturnia captures Squashy and refuses to give him back. It’s up to Amelia and her friends to plan a daring rescue but what they discover on the way is that the Kingdom of the Dark is not as it may seem!

Exquisitely produced with the most intricate and humorous of details you can’t help but fall in love with the world of Nocturnia. Children will delight in the wonderfully gruesome details, who could resist reading about feasting on toe jam or worms on toast just to give you a tiny insight. Laura’s intricate and entertaining illustrations capture brilliantly Amelia’s magical home of Nocturnia and the chaos and excitement of their adventure unfolding. However this story isn’t simply a spooky, hilarious tale of a daring escapade, there is a lot more to this tale than meets the eye. Amelia makes a discovery that challenges her very way of life and everything she has been brought up to believe, but instead of shying away from the truth, she accepts it and tries to get others to embrace those who are different instead of living in fear. Laura has created a charming, irresistible story filled with the most appealing and likeable characters which is bound to captivate and enchant readers.

‘Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball’ is released on October 5th, you can buy an early copy now at Waterstones  where it is the current Children’s Book of the Month. I am delighted to say that ‘Amelia Fang and the Unicorn Lords’ is released in March 2018.

Advertisements

Scaredy Cat, Scaredy Cat – Phil Earle & Sara Ogilvie

It was with mixed emotions that I started to read the fourth and final book in the Storey Street series from Phil Earle and Sara Ogilvie. I absolutely adored the first book, ‘Demolition Dad’ it featured in My Top 10 MG Reads of 2015 and subsequently raved about both ‘Superhero Street’ and ‘The War Next Door’ how could ‘Scaredy Cat, Scaredy Cat’ live up to my incredibly high expectations? Well let me reassure you, it most certainly did. Phil has an incredible talent for finding stories wherever he goes, Storey Street on the surface seems like an ordinary unassuming place but he introduces us to people who underneath their outside persona have a whole realm of hidden depths, that we get to discover as the individual stories unravel. In ‘Scaredy Cat, Scaredy Cat,’ Kay Catt is the most nervous and anxious girl that you could ever hope to met, she is so scared, even her own reflection when caught unexpectedly fills her with fears. But when a mysterious old man is spotted on Storey Street, an unlikely friendship forms and little does Kay know that he will be a catalyst for change in her life. Slowly as Kay comes out of her shell, the only reason she can think that this change is possible is that the old man – who has a fondness for wearing a cloak and a pointy hat –  is an actual real life wizard!

Hilarious and sometimes heart-breaking, Phil chooses like in ‘The War Next Door’ to take the usually one dimensional characters and allow us the reader to discover what has shaped them and made them the way they are. There is more to Kay than just a simple figure of fun and derision, something more complex lies within her. Kay is convinced by a grieving father that the world is a dangerous place, so much so that her very life is fraught with anxiety wherever she goes. We see the emotional turmoil that she goes through as she tries to obey her Dad’s ridiculously strict and somewhat impossible rules, with her desire to start to make changes in her life. The grief lays heavily on them both but the story is not one of sadness but one of hope and Phil deftly mixes humour and heart to highlight their struggles through the healing process. Again my favourite elements of the story are when the narrator is commenting on the story unfolding, it is this quiet observational humour which appeals to me the most. The mixed-up literary references to ‘Dumblewosit,’ ‘You -Know-What’ and ‘Lord of the Bing-Boys’, because the narrator never did read fantasy books properly put the biggest smile on my face. The glorious ending is more comforting and reassuring than an hot chocolate, fluffy blanket and a cat sat on your lap on a cold autumnal day.

Yet again this book is illustrated by the magnificent Sara Ogilvie who captures the hilarity, chaos and warmth of this story beautifully –  with special shout out for the cat disco scene! I’m a huge fan of illustrations in books for older readers they allow the child to develop their imagination and stop them feeling overwhelmed by page after page of words. I’m extremely sad to see the end of the Storey Street stories but I know that they will live in the imaginations of the children in my school for a long time to come.

 

Thank you to Orion books for sending my a copy of this hilarious book, ‘Scaredy Cat, Scaredy Cat’ is available to buy now online or in any good bookshop.

The Potion Diaries – Amy Alward

September brought with it big changes to the book lover home, with my eldest daughter leaving the primary school where I work (yes, you have to feel for her having her Mum’s desk right next to her classroom) and going all the way to the secondary school  – well it’s actually just round the corner. After spending years knowing instinctively whether or not my daughter would enjoy a book after reading it, I would now be at a loss when she strayed towards the ‘Teen’ section of our local library. So I did what any other normal Mum would do (that’s what I tell myself) and thought about the old adage, “if you can’t beat them, join them!” So it seemed like a natural progression for my blog to feature books which will appeal to KS3 children that have a sprinkling more of romance and danger than I would normally read and recommend. I’ve been intrigued by ‘The Potion Diaries’ series since reading the short story in the glorious ‘Winter Magic’ curated by Abi Elphinstone, so when the lovely people at Simon and Schuster sent me the whole series, I promptly ignored my family and allowed myself to be swept away into a world of alchemy, bitter rivalries and heart-stopping adventures.

 

The Potion Diaries

When Princess Evelyn accidentally poisons herself with a love potion, it causes great danger to herself and the people of Nova. A nationwide Wilde Hunt is called and all eligible alchemists are summoned to find a cure, including Samantha Kemi whose family was once the most respected alchemist in the kingdom until they fell out of favour with the Royal Family. Sam is determined to restore her family’s great reputation by winning the hunt but how can she possibly hope to compete with the rich and successful Zoroaster whose synthetic potions have overtaken natural potions as the people’s choice. Sam is forced to travel the world to find the rarest ingredients –  in order to make the cure. But even if her wildest dreams she could never have anticipated that she would face the most deadly and dangerous of events around every corner. Mix one part magic and two parts danger and let the hunt begin!

 

 

The Potion Diaries: Royal Tour

After the Wilde Hunt, Sam’s life might have changed for the better but that doesn’t mean she’s in for an easy ride. Supposedly accompanying Princess Evie on a Royal Tour it seems like a remarkable and luxurious opportunity for an ordinary girl. However the reality is far from just the chance to experience first hand, beautiful dresses, grand balls and opulent palaces. Sam is up against the clock to develop a potion that will contain Princess Evie’s power so that she can’t accidentally destroy Nova and her life gets  even more complicated when someone tampers with her grandad’s mind. Unknown to Sam somebody is trying to unlock his memories so they can develop the most powerful potion in the world, which people would literally kill for. A whirlwind trip, a race against time and just to make matters worse the whole world is watching.

 

The Potion Diaries: Going Viral

Just when we think Sam’s life must surely be due to return to normal, Princess Evie makes a disastrous match that is  causing division and chaos in Nova. As if that wasn’t bad enough the Princess is showing symptoms of a deadly disease which is highly contagious with the potential to spread like wildfire through the city. The good news is that Sam thinks there might be a cure for the virus but the bad news is that the most essential ingredient for the potion is buried half way across the world, right next to an active volcano. Unfortunately for her, Sam’s not the only one after it. Can she find what she needs against the most deadliest and dangerous of odds, before it’s too late. Oh and did I forget to mention that whilst her life is spiralling out of control she has her very own film crew trailing her every move. This time Sam’s adventure is really going viral!

 

I just adore this fabulous series, it’s fast, frenetic, dark, dangerous and with just enough of a sprinkling of romance not to distract from this thrilling storyline. Sam Kemi is a heroine to love, her passion for alchemy is totally captivating. One of my favourite things that captures this wonderfully is the way Sam’s brain is automatically tuned to creating the perfect potions to cure in her head every time she comes across an ailment and how every ingredient she spots is scooped right up into her mind to be used for a multitude of potions. She lives and breathes alchemy from her fingers to her toes but she refuses to allow herself to be drawn into the battle between the old natural methods and the new synthetic creations, because in her heart she is practical and wants the best for everyone. I loved Princess Evie, who unwittingly manages to fling Sam and her people of Nova into increasing danger not for purely selfish reasons but because she can’t conform and accept the royal bonds than constrain her from making her own choices. In a world of limited choice and high expectations she is the one who refuses to be what everyone expects her to be. Not only is it an exciting adventure, it quite cleverly gives us an insight into how easily division can occur in society and how people can react in the most unexpected of ways when put under enormous pressure. And just one more thing, just when I thought I couldn’t love it any more it’s genuinely diverse which sadly we don’t see enough of in children’s books. So what are you waiting for, if you have a young tween/teen who loves being taken on breath-taking adventures then this is the series for you. Enjoy!

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for sending me ‘The Potion Diaries’ series it has been a huge treat to read. All of the books are available to buy now from any good bookshop.

Eloise Undercover – Sarah Baker Guest Post

I am delighted to welcome Sarah Baker to the blog today for a special guest post. Author of the intriguing and beautiful, ‘Through the Mirror Door,’ she is back with a new gripping mystery ‘Eloise Undercover’ which follows brave 12-year-old Eloise as she tries to find her father during the German occupation of France during World War Two. What secrets will she discover in the search for her father?

 

ELOISE UNDERCOVER   Monsieur X – Sarah Baker

My very favourite types of books to read are books about books. Add to that a childhood love of adventure stories and you have the inspiration for the Monsieur X books that Eloise in Eloise Undercover loves.

We moved, on average, every 3.5 years during my childhood and it was usually to somewhere rather remote. Once we moved to a farm with a stream running right through it, another time to a topsy-turvy house where the living rooms and kitchen were upstairs, the bedrooms downstairs, and the building almost completely surrounded by a forest. It was usually a long car trip to the nearest town so my library card became my best friend. We visited the library at least once a week and I remember the moment the Librarian told me I could take out a maximum of eight books. Eight whole books! I would try to make them last.

If I’d been particularly good (I came second in a gymkhana once and made a convincing singing robin in the local panto chorus another year) then I’d get a book present. This was amazing. I’ve loved bookshops since I can remember. The smell, the sheer volume of all those books; all those stories! The idea that I could take one of them home and it would be mine forever. I don’t think I’ve lost that. I still get a bit overexcited in a bookshop.

My absolute childhood favourites were the Famous Five and Secret Seven books by Enid Blyton. Oh and Malory Towers and St. Clare’s. In fact the latter are entirely responsible for my successful campaign to go to boarding school aged 10. The former are the inspiration behind the Monsieur X books that Eloise loves so much.

Eloise’s love of detective/adventure books is something we share, though while she longs to be a detective, I simply loved stories. What better way to be anything you ever wanted to be than by reading a book and experiencing it? There’s this bit in The Never Ending Story where the grumpy bookshop owner asks Bastian, “Have you ever been Captain Nemo, trapped inside your submarine while the giant squid is attacking you?” That’s what I love. Being Captain Nemo, Darrell Waters in Malory Towers, George in The Famous Five or Dinah in the Castle of Adventure.

The Monsieur X books are a homage to those adventure stories I loved so much as a child. The ones that let me expose spies, foil burglaries and have midnight feasts and lacrosse matches. They took me on fantastic adventures and I hope El (and Monsieur X) will take new readers on adventures too.

Thank you to Sarah for her fascinating guest post and to Laura and Catnip for inviting me to host this blog post. ‘Eloise Undercover’ is available to buy now online and from all good bookshops.

 

I’m Just No Good at Rhyming – Chris Harris & Lane Smith

I’m thrilled to be sharing my favourite poem from the fabulous, ‘I’m Just No Good at Rhyming And Other Nonsense For Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups,’ as part of the celebrations for National Poetry Day on September 28th. Chris Harris has written the smartest, funniest and most downright mischievous poems that are guaranteed to amuse and entertain, which have been divinely illustrated by Lane Smith. Let me tell you it was no easy feat deciding which poem to choose but I was drawn to ‘My Dessert Tummy,’ because as a parent I’ve had more conversations with my girls than I care to remember about eating their dinner. When they protest “I’m full, I can’t eat anymore,” on a regular basis, I used to feel that I could produce my best Mummy card and say, “well if you’re all full up you won’t want any pudding then?” My glee soon turned to despair when thy claimed, “Aahh but it’s my dinner tummy that’s full, my dessert tummy is totally empty so I can still have pudding!!!” So this poem is for all those parents out there who are tearing their hair out at dinner time and for all those children who take great delight in foxing their parents!

Remember parents and children that poems are no just for National Poetry Day but for every other day to! And if you’re looking for the perfect book to capture their imagination and tickle their funny bones then, ‘I’m Just No Good At Rhyming,’ is just superb! This book is a joy to behold not only is it exquisitely produced but it is stuffed full of inventive, absurdly funny and a little bit naughty poems which I just loved!

Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour for more delectable, daring and down right hilarious rhymes.

Thank you to Bea and Two Hoots for sending me a copy of this glorious book and inviting me to take part in the blog tour. ‘I’m No Good at Rhyming,’ is published on the 19th October and is available to pre-order now online or at any good bookshop.

Lollies 2017 The Best Medicine – Christine Hamill

I am delighted to welcome Christine Hamill to the blog today as part of the Lollies 2017 blog tour. Her hilarious book, ‘The Best Medicine’ has been shortlisted in the category of the Best Laugh Out Loud Book for 9-13 year olds. The Lollies were created in response to findings from Scholastic’s Kids & Family Reading Report, which found that what two-thirds of children aged 6-17 looked for when choosing books for themselves were ‘books that make me laugh’. As a school librarian the most popular genre that children request for recommendations are funny books, so I am thrilled to support such a fantastic award.

‘The Best Medicine’ deals with an incredibly difficult subject in a humorous but touching way. Philip is twelve years old and life is pretty good. He gets on with his mum and gets by pretty well at school – in spite of girl problems, teacher problems, bully problems and – er – poetry problems. Philip’s happy-go-lucky life is disrupted when his mother gets breast cancer. Bad enough that your mother is seriously ill – but could she not have developed a less embarrassing kind of cancer – toe cancer, maybe, or ear cancer? Philip’s attempts to cope with his situation are both hilarious and touching. Through it all, he’s writing letters to his hero, the comedian Harry Hill, looking for advice. Then there’s The Yeti, The Goddess, The Meerkats and Philip’s best friend Ang. Oh, yes, and Mrs Chihuahua next door and her annoying mutt.
A hilarious take on life, love, glasses – and cancer!

For my stop on the blog tour I asked Christine to tell me about her favourite funny children’s books. So without further ado here are her choices.

Christine Hamill – My Favourite Funny Children’s Books

In no particular order, here are my favourite funny books for kids/young teens. (Have to say, this was the most fun blog request to write.)

Louise Rennison’s Angus, thongs and full-frontal snogging’ was one of the first ‘kids’ books I read as an adult for no other reason than I wanted to (I wasn’t reading to or for someone). At last a book about teenagers that was angsty and funny (I like my angst diluted by comedy otherwise I come over all depressed and existential). Georgia’s diary records her life in language that sounds like a real teenage girl – she has nicknames for people, something I did at school (still do – don’t tell anyone). The book is full of LOL moments – my favourite: Georgia accidentally shaves off one of her eyebrows – nearly lost control of my bladder when I read that.

My son introduced me to my next choice – Jeremy Strong’s Stuff’. He laughed so much I thought he would choke on his tonsils.  Stuff (aka Simon) is having a bit of a hard time – his dad’s new girlfriend and daughter have just moved in to their house.  Disaster. Stuff is so funny, even his attempt to make a cheese sandwich is hysterical, and that chapter where he builds a particle accelerator in the bathroom and gets accused of flashing at the pensioner next door… I defy any boy or girl or oldie not to laugh. And it is written partly in comic strip so it has extra appeal.

Next up is ‘Framed’ by Frank Cottrell Boyce. I love his books because they are often funny and a bit sad at the same time – like real life. Dylan gets involved in an art theft when posh chap (Lester) from London mysteriously arrives to stash priceless works of art in a disused mine. Lester thinks Dylan’s hens Donatello and Michelangelo are named after artists but really it’s the teenage mutant ninja turtles! This book is full of fun, like the two elderly sisters who drive their car out once a week – one sister can drive but can’t see and the other sister can see but can’t drive – one drives while the other steers! Priceless.

Poetry this time: Revolting Rhymes’ by Roald Dahl.  We didn’t have a lot of books in our house when I was growing up but my dad used to tell us traditional fairy stories. I was quite a literal child so when he would describe how Goldilocks jumped out of a bedroom window all I could think was Home come she didn’t break her legs?  When the woodcutter chopped open the wolf to let Little Red Riding Hood’s granny escape I thought, How come she’s not all chewed up and covered in slime? When in Jack and the Beanstalk… you get the picture. Revolting Rhymes makes sense to me.

My final choice isn’t strictly for children, although I know loads of young teens who’ve read and loved this book: ‘The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13′  by Sue Townsend. I am not going to try and describe it because I’ve just opened it up again and can’t stop laughing.  Adrian’s first diary entry lists his New Year’s resolutions:

I will help the blind across the road.

I will hang up my trousers.

I will stop squeezing my spots.

I will help the poor and ignorant….

He then he says, ‘My father got the dog drunk on cherry brandy at the party last night…’

Admit it, you are laughing. I know you are.

 

Thank you to Christine for this fabulously funny guest post and to Antonia and Scholastic for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

 

Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour for more guest posts, Q & A’s and giveaways.

 

Kevin – Rob Biddulph

There must be somebody living in my house who I don’t know about. Do you know how I know this? Well let me tell you? If I ask “who’s used the last of the toilet roll and not replaced it?” Or “who’s put the empty yoghurt box back in the fridge?” It really is none of the people living here because everyone says “it wasn’t me.” Now Rob Biddulph has captured this quandary perfectly in ‘Kevin’, because when Sid Gibbons does something wrong he always blames Kevin. The thing about Kevin that makes things very easy for Sid – but very frustrating for his Mum –  is that Kevin is imaginary. And because he’s imaginary then surely his feelings wouldn’t be hurt by taking the blame for all the bad things that Sid has done. But Kevin is about to show Sid that while he might be imaginary, his feelings are very real.

 

Rob manages to capture the quirks of the human condition in a humorous and stunning way in every one of his books and ‘Kevin’ is just as brilliant. You know that when you share this with a child there will be a definite understanding of the game Sid is playing, it’s something that we all do in life. Beautiful written with the most sumptuous rhymes the story trips effortlessly off your tongue as you read it aloud, which for a picture book with as many words as this is a real triumph. He expertly contrasts Sid and Kevin’s world by using a muted palette for the ordinary world versus a bright, vibrant palette for the imaginary world. I love Rob’s incredible imagination and attention to detail with stripy ladybirds and spotty bumblebees flying round purple trees with jelly leaves, there is so much to see for children to keep returning to re-read.  In each of his books Rob scatters clues to previous stories, I’ve managed to find an Odd Dog, a Penguin Blue and a pirate’s hat. Can you spot anymore, I would love to know. I’m planning to share ‘Kevin’ at my storytime session at school tomorrow and can’t wait to see the children’s reactions.

Thanks to Rob and Harper Collins for sending me a copy of this glorious book, ‘Kevin’ is available to buy now from all good bookshops or online.