Below Zero – Dan Smith

Zak is furious when his parents take him and his sister May away from their tropical holiday in St. Lucia to a remote base on Antarctica, one of the most isolated places on Earth. Outpost Zero is part of the Exodus Project a mission to prepare for life on Mars, and his parents have to fix a problem with the Spider drones they built. When they survive a crash landing in a horrific storm they’re incredibly relived but their problems have only just begun. All of the people who live there have mysteriously disappeared, the power is out and there is no way to communicate with the outside world. Outside dark forces are at work, threatening  Zak and his family. As he searches for answers, he keeps experiencing strange visions, someone is trying to communicate with him, something buried deep beneath the ice. Can he discover what is really going on before it’s too late?

‘Below Zero’ is an action-packed, suspense filled read that will enthral and entertain you in equal measures. Brilliantly atmospheric Dan transports you to the cold, darkness of the Antarctic where every step you take potentially leads you to into further danger. It’s this constant fear of the unknown that keeps you turning the pages as you try to make sense of this confusing place that Zak and his family find themselves in. It feels quite dark and menacing at times, Dan manages to create the most tense and brittle mood that you feel could just snap at any moment, leading to certain catastrophe. The story intersperses different narratives of before and after Zac and his family arrive at Outpost Zero, allowing the reader to get glimpses into the lives of the missing people which adds to the dramatic tension. This is not a story for the faint-hearted, be prepared to be totally scared and freaked out ( I know I was), definitely one for readers of 11 years and over. If you love high tension and fast-paced drama then this is a highly recommend read

Blog Tour

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

Thank you to Laura and Chicken House for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and for my copy of this thrilling book. ‘Below Zero’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.


Irresistible Illustrated Fiction

Regular visitors to the blog will know I’m a huge fan of illustrated fiction books, they are just perfect for newly confident readers allowing them to gain confidence without being overwhelmed by pages of text. Here is my latest round up of my favourite recent releases all guaranteed to enthral and entertain younger readers. They would make wonderful additions to any home or primary school library.

Dotty Detective The Birthday Surprise – Clara Vulliamy

Dotty Detective is back in a new intriguing mystery, ‘The Birthday Surprise.’ Both Dot and her teacher Mr D are both super excited about their upcoming birthdays. Dot’s Mum is planning a special party for her and the class had made a surprise present for Mr D. But when the gift mysteriously disappears, who could have taken it? The appearance of a new boy in class causes upset and it soon becomes a boy versus girl race to discover the truth, much to Dotty’s disappointment. As Beans becomes close to Bradley, Dot feels left out and their friendship troubles are dealt with thoughtfully. Both children and parents will appreciate the warmth and humour which shines out from this series. With it’s interesting mixture of diary entries, doodles and pictures, you really feel that you are getting a sneak peek into Dot’s real-life notebook which I think is a winning format for younger readers. This has to be one of my most favourite illustrated fiction series and it’s a huge hit at school!


Teacup House: Meet the Twitches – Hayley Scott & Pippa Curnick

Stevie loves her life living in her tower block, her room, her friends even her school so is really unhappy when her Mum decides to move to the countryside and she has to leave them all behind. To cheer her up, her beloved grandmother gives her a very special gift, a teacup house containing four tiny toy rabbits the Twitches. Little does Stevie know just how special they really are because they have a secret, when she she’s not looking they come to life. Our rabbits have a nose for an adventure and it’s not long before they find themselves in turmoil when Daddy Gabriel gets lost. It’s up to brave, inventive Silver to come to his rescue and save the day.  Hayley deftly mixes real life and fantasy in this enchanting tale that I absolutely loved. Paired with Pippa’s stunning full colour illustrations that are filled with the most wondrous details and warmth, this is bound to delight and charm younger readers.


Dave Pigeon (Racer) – Swapna Haddow & Sheena Dempsey

Dave and Skipper are back in their funniest adventure yet with more mischief and mayhem in an adventure that is guaranteed to have you in stiches.  Swapna manages again to craft pure comedy that is bound to amuse and delight. It has all the necessary elements of a truly dramatic story, bitter rivalry, a long lost relative, a dog who can speak pigeonese and stacks of jammy biscuits. Whilst the story may change, the relationship between Dave and Skipper is still key, their bickering and correcting of each other is wonderfully entertaining whilst their loyalty never wavers – unless a secret stash of biscuits is involved! Its really interesting style and layout of with it’s mix of captions and hilarious illustrations has younger readers turning the pages. Sheena’s captures brilliantly the personalities of the characters as well as the warmth and humour of the book. I think the collaboration between Swapna and Sheena is just marvellous and their love of Dave and Skipper and the other host of characters shines through this book, another triumph from our dynamic duo.


The Travels of Ermine: Trouble in New York – Jennifer Gray & Elisa Paganelli

‘The Travels of Ermine (who is very determined)’ is a charming new series from Jennifer Gray gloriously illustrated by Elisa Paganelli. Ermine is who is most definitely  a stoat and NOT a weasel has been adopted by a Grand Duchess after an unfortunate incident over a fur collar. Sent away on a trip around the world she first embarks at New York, getting the chance to stay with Michael Megabucks and his son Michael. She has her trusted scrapbook to fill and a wish list.  Visit Central Park Zoo, ride in a yellow taxi and zoom to the top of the Rockefeller building. But when her suitcase is accidentally switched, she soon finds herself thrown into adventures that are most unexpected, with two dastardly criminals on her tail. I was totally entertained and captivated by this story, Jennifer’s sparky humour mixed with Elisa’s divine, intricate illustrations make this book incredibly desirable. I can’t wait to see what mischief and mayhem Ermine gets up to in her next trip ‘down under.’

Thank you to Swapna Haddow, Toppsta books and my local library for these delightful reads. You can buy or pre-order these books online (click on the title) or from any good bookshop.

My Colourful Chameleon – Leonie Roberts & Mike Byrne

Today it’s my stop on the blog tour for Leonie Robert’s debut picture book illustrated by Mike Byrne, the bright and beautiful ‘My Colourful Chameleon.’ I’m always on the look out for picture books that will enthral and entertain the children at my school at storytime and this definitely did the trick. They loved helping the little girl find her pet chameleon who kept disappearing, causing lots of mischief and getting her into constant trouble. I took great delight in not being able to spot the chameleon who was craftily hidden, while the children excitedly pointed out that he was indeed hidden: in the plant; the fruit basket, on the TV and on the bathroom taps to name just a few places. I love how the little girl is adamant that her pet is a good pet whilst all around her everyone sees him as a troublemaker, she remains a good and steadfast friend.

Mike Byrne’s bright, vivid illustrations capture wonderfully the humour of the chameleon getting lost and causing mayhem for everyone around him especially the girl’s Mum. His clever use of exaggerated facial expressions to convey the frustrations and annoyance of the girl at all the adults who don’t quite understand make this accessible for the youngest of readers. With gentle lilting rhymes that pace the story brilliantly, this book is a joy to read aloud.  There is so much opportunity to engage and entertain when sharing this story, for me it proved to be an irresistible combination of gentle humour and vibrant illustrations.

Thank you to Leonie for inviting me to join the blog tour and to Quarto for my copy of this colourful book. To win your own copy of the book head over Twitter where I am giving away a copy.

Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour for my reviews, Q & As and giveaways

‘My Colourful Chameleon’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.

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

Regulars to the blog will know I’m a huge fan of Polly Faber’s gorgeous ‘Mango and Bambang’ series with Clara Vulliamy. So I’m really excited to have been asked to host the cover reveal of Polly Faber’s debut MG novel illustrated by Sarah Jennings which will be published on the 7th June by Walker Books.

So without further ado here it is…….

Illustrated by Sarah Jennings with cover design by Laurissa Jones, this cover hints at the fun and mayhem that is bubbling away inside this book. I’m a huge fan of illustrated books for children and I’m totally enchanted by this glorious cover. As if that wasn’t enough to entice you, the lovely Polly and Sarah have stopped by the blog to tell us more about the hilarious ‘Pony on the Twelfth Floor.’

Polly Faber

I’m completely delighted that Jo is letting me loose on her lovely blog today to formally announce my first, proper, “middle grade” book coming this June and to show you the really wonderful cover that has been drawn by Sarah Jennings and designed by Laurissa Jones at Walker Books.

This is the book of my heart; and it was born out my own blogging. I started writing about children’s books in 2011 and then (inevitably!) started writing my own children’s book a year or so later. That first manuscript was about a pony. And, although I was very happy to divert to writing about a tapir for my first published books, I am delighted that six years later my pony, or more accurately the great-great-grand-draft of my pony, is finally going to trot into the world.

I don’t want to give away too much about my pony yet, but I will say that there were about four years of my life where pony stories were all I read and where I also used to volunteer at a local stables every Saturday. And I couldn’t help feeling there was a slight mismatch between the perfect ponies I read about and the real ponies I knew. I also used to fantasise about how I, as a central city dweller, might perfectly feasibly keep my own pony in our small back garden. I don’t suppose I was the only one.

So here, finally, is my answer to that mismatch: I’m proud to introduce you to:

PONY ON THE TWELFTH FLOOR‘, with fantastically funny illustrations by Sarah Jennings, coming out on 7th June.

It’s funny with a girl and it’s ponies in the city. I really hope that you’ll enjoy it!

Polly Faber is the author of the Mango and Bambang series, illustrated by Clara Vulliamy, and of two picture books being published this year. She lives in North London with her family, volunteers for reading charity Beanstalk and enjoys looking after a tiny book swap box outside her house. She entered WH Smith’s competition to win a pony every year it ran but never won, so kept an imaginary bay three day eventer thoroughbred called Pan instead.

You can find out more about Polly by visiting her website or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Sarah Jennings

I’m so excited to be working on this book with Polly, Laurissa and the rest of the team at Walker. I adore the story and it’s been so much fun working on the illustrations so far. I can’t wait to see it out in the world and on bookshelves!

Sarah Jennings is an award winning children’s book illustrator based in London. Since graduating in 2013 she has worked on a variety of books. Her most recent picture book is Wishker by Heather Pindar. She works from her home studio in the company of her three legged cat, Calvin.

You can find out more about Sarah by visiting her website or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

A huge thank you to Polly and Sarah for inviting me to host the cover reveal and for stopping by the blog. ‘Pony on the Twelfth floor’ is released on June 7th and is available to pre-order now online or from any good bookshop.


Brightstorm: High Adventure in the Frozen South – Vashti Hardy

It was with much anticipation that I opened up by beautiful copy of ‘Brightstorm’ by Vashti Hardy after hearing so many people on Twitter rave about how fabulous this book is, and let me tell you they were spot on! This breath-taking, thrilling debut totally enchanted me with its rich storytelling, incredible world-building and compelling cast of characters. It opens with the heart-breaking news that twins Arthur and Maudie are left orphans after their father’s failed attempt to reach the South Polaris. Their family name is disgraced as he stands accused of trying to steal fuel from competitor before he died and they are cast out of their home. Determined to prove his innocence they convince Miss Culpepper to allow them to join the crew of her sky-ship ‘Aurora’ as the race to reach the South Polaris begins anew. Not only must they prove themselves worthy explorers to restore the ‘Brightstorm’ reputation, they must use all their wiles to uncover the truth about their father’s ill-fated mission. Will Arthur and Maddie find the evidence they need to prove their father’s innocence?

This is such a joyful, magnificent read, that totally entranced me from the very first page and captivated me till the very last page. The characterisation is just flawless, Vashti has assembled the most interesting and engaging cast of characters. Arthur has to be only one of a handful of disabled MG characters that I have seen featured but Vashti chooses to make his lack of self-belief his weakness and challenge rather than his disability. His bravery comes from drawing on and developing his inner resources not from fighting to overcome any physical limitation he may have in difficult times. I’m fascinated by Maudie’s inquisitive mind and her remarkable ability to understand the workings of mechanics and her wondrous inventive spirit which is capable of designing the most complex creations. We’re then blessed with the sky-ship’s Captain, the eccentric and rather marvellous Harriet Culpepper who is a genius inventor with an incredibly big heart. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better we have the dastardly, deliciously dark Eudora Vane who will stop at nothing to win the race and steal all the glory for herself. She is so cold and calculating she makes Cruella de Vil look positively saintly!

This is an story of truly epic proportions, it will sweep you away through the skies across frozen plains to unknown lands on a voyage of discovery, that will take your breath away. At the heart of this story is the need for courage and bravery in the darkest of times as both Arthur and Maudie face unsurmountable challenges which they must overcome to clear their father’s name. But it is the power of friendship that holds this story together, incredible bonds are forged in the most unexpected of places as they battle to win the race and complete their expedition.  Vashti has created this remarkable, fully imagined world that you want to lose yourself in. An exceptional story, beautifully told I just loved this thrilling adventure. 

Thank you to Scholastic for sending me a copy of this glorious book, ‘Brightstorm: High Adventure in the Frozen South’ is released on the 1st March and is available to pre-order from online or from any good bookshop.

I Swapped My Brother on the Internet – Jo Simmons illustrated by Nathan Reed

Jonny is fed up of constantly fighting with his older brother, after haven fallen foul to another one of his brother’s stupid challenges when he dares him climb up a tree to retrieve their Frisbee. For him enough is enough! He is sick of Ted teasing him, sick of being the younger brother and made to feel like an idiot all of the time. So when an advert for a new website ‘Sibling Swap’ pops up on his computer promising Jonny the chance to swap Ted for a brand new model, well who could resist? But finding a perfect replacement for Ted isn’t as easy as he first thought. Sibling Swap sends him the most random and bizarre brothers which bring total chaos and disruption into his life. First a merboy, then a brother raised by meerkats, and then the ghost of Henry the Eighth! Each time another brother turns up he dreads to think what’s coming next?! The whole idea is turning out to be a total disaster and suddenly old Ted isn’t looking so bad. But can Jonny ever get him back?

This madcap and somewhat bonkers adventure is bound to appeal to lovers of funny, absurd stories. Who hasn’t wished at sometime to swap their annoying sibling for someone better? But you know what they say, be careful what you wish for as Jonny soon discovers as his life becomes increasingly more annoying and complicated. There are laughs and groans aplenty as we watch Jonny struggle to get his life sorted whilst he actually manages to make it worse. Jo has made it really interesting by just devising the most ridiculous and diverse bunch of brothers that test Jonny to the very limits with their extreme behaviour, allowing him to appreciate his own brother a whole lot more! An engaging combination of slapstick humour and witty lively illustrations make for an entertaining read. 

Jo Simmons

Jo Simmons began her working life as a journalist. Her first fiction series for children, Pip Street, was inspired by her own kids’ love of funny fiction, and two Super Loud Sambooks followed. In addition to children’s fiction, she co-wrote a humorous parenting book, Can I Give Them Back Now?: The Aargh To Zzzzzz Of Parenting, published by Square Peg. Jo lives in Brighton with her husband, two boys and a scruffy formerly Romanian street dog. I Swapped My Brother on the Internet is her first book for Bloomsbury. You can find out more about Jo by following her on Twitter.

Nathan Reed

Nathan Reed has been a professional illustrator since graduating from Falmouth College of Arts in 2000. He has illustrated Christopher Edge’s How to Write Your Best Story Ever and the Elen Caldecott’s Marsh Road Mysteries Series. His most recent picture book is Samson the Mighty Flea by Angela McAllister. He was shortlisted for the Serco Prize for Illustration in 2014. When he’s not illustrating he can be found with his two boys and a football on Peckham Rye Common. You can find out more about Nathan by visiting his website or follow him on Twitter.

Blog Tour

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

Thank you to Faye and Bloomsbury for my copy of this hilarious book and for inviting me to join in with the blog tour. ‘I Swapped My Brother on the Internet’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.

Cover Reveal – Dinosaurs Don’t Draw – Elli Woollard & Steven Lenton

I’m really excited to be able to reveal for you today, the cover of the latest picture book collaboration from Elli Woollard and Steven Lenton ‘Dinosaurs Don’t Draw’ which will be published on the 3rd May by Macmillan. 

So without further ado here it is…….

This stunning cover has been lovingly created by the illustrator Steven Lenton, it’s bursting with beautiful vibrant colours that make you desperate to open the covers and take a peek. I adored Elli and Steven’s first picture book together ‘The Great Gran Plan’ with it’s wonderful mix of lively rhymes, irreverent humour and intricately detailed illustrations, so can’t wait to see what magic they have created.

Dinosaurs Don’t Draw

Dinosaurs don’t draw, they stamp and stomp and ROAR!

Dinosaurs chomp and clomp and stamp and stomp, but apparently they don’t ever draw. Except for one creative young dinosaur who just can’t seem to stop! He transforms rocks, chalk, sticks and mud into the most wonderful works of art – much to the confusion of his fierce, fighting dinosaur family.

But when everyone hears the THUD of a terrifying T-Rex, they soon see just how effective art can be.

Elli Woollard & Steven Lenton

Elli Woollard

Elli Woollard lives in London with her husband, four children, and a completely demented cat. She has written several picture books and young fiction books with some absolutely AMAZING illustrators, including the wonderful Steven Lenton (Dinosaurs Don’t Draw, The Great Gran Plan), Benji Davies (The Giant of Jum, The Dragon and the Nibblesome Knight) and Laura Ellen Anderson (Swashbuckle Lil). When she’s not writing she’s generally singing. Luckily her family and neighbours seem very forgiving of this. You can find out more about Elli by following her on Twitter

Steven Lenton

Steven Lenton is an award winning illustrator based in Brighton.  As well as designing and illustrating Elli’s wonderful stories, Steven also illustrates the Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam series by Tracey Corderoy, Frank Cottrell Boyce’s fiction titles and a brand new fiction series by Steven Butler called ‘The Nothing To See Here Hotel.’ You can find out more about Steven by following him on Twitter or visit his fantastic website.

Thank you to Steven, Elli and Macmillan for inviting me to host the cover reveal. I can’t wait to read this uplifting story about the joy and the power of art – and daring to be different.