Daddy Hairdo – by Francis Martin, illustrated by Claire Powell

Today it’s my stop on the ‘Daddy Hairdo’ blog tour to celebrate the release of this charming and humorous picture book from Francis Martin and Claire Powell. When Amy is born she has hardly any hair, in fact her Dad has much more than her. But as Dad’s hair slowly disappears –  to who knows where –  Amy’s takes on a life of it’s own and she begins to give Rapunzel a run for her money. The problem is life is quite difficult with extraordinary long hair, you can’t  play trick or treat, it gets all sorts tangled up inside it and the only way to dry your hair is on the washing line. Amy is totally fed up until her Dad steps in with the most ingenious hairstyles, which turn them both into an overnight sensation. Francis’s writing is bursting with hairlarious and curltastic details, this story is bound to entertain and engage younger readers. Claire’s glorious illustrations make this book a total joy to read and is guaranteed to leave a smile on your face. I am delighted to welcome Francis to the blog with a special guest post on his favourite Dads in picture books.

My Top Dads in Picture Books – Francis Martin

I don’t know if it’s just my collection of children’s books or if this is a general thing but dads seem to be absent. I suppose the premise of a lot of the stories is freedom from authority. The author creates a space where children are free to play, explore and take risks. A world without Dad.

So my top 5 dads are…

1. The daddy in The Tiger Who Came To Tea: Mr cool and collected isn’t fazed at all by the tiger’s visit, the lack of water or food in the house. He just pops on his hat and they head out into the night. This is my favourite part of the story, he takes Mum and Sophie into a really fantastical world. Suburban London streets on a moon lit night and into a café. This was my childhood idea of a treat. They even have sausages and it always makes me giggle when I see Daddy nestling a crafty pint of beer. What a brilliant Dad he was with that wise serene smile. He turned what was already a pretty extraordinary day into a perfect one.

2. All hail John Burningham’s Dad in Would You Rather. The ultimate embarrassing dad. He only appears for one page waving his hat and dancing in your classroom as all your mates look on. He’s lost in his own world as your world disintegrates. John Burningham’s pictures are the best, wild fluid warm and funny I want to live in his pictures as long as it isn’t my dad dancing.

3. Not strictly a picture book Dad but as I was an expert at pretending to read books whilst I was really reading comics I will include Leo Baxendale’s homage to frustrated authority Minnie the Minx’s poor set upon dad. Context is everything and if this character were around now he would quite rightly be an object of interest to social services. Minnie was a brilliant anarchic role model for girls who were fed up of being compliant goody two shoes. Her dad was her nemesis her foil. If Dad wasn’t there trying to put a stop to her hijinks, Minnie wouldn’t have been the inspirational character that we love.

4. The dad in Michael Rosen’s and Helen Oxenbury’s We’re Going on a Bear Hunt: Dad here is part of the gang. He’s immersed in the children’s imaginary world. The text tells us nothing about him. It’s only Helen Oxenbury’s pictures that reveal something about him. He carries the smallest child and at one point carries the children’s shoes this gives us the most subtle indication that he has a parental role. The nameless Dad does everything thing the children do. He shows me that being a Dad doesn’t preclude you from spending some time in the child’s world of imagination, even if you do have to carry the shoes.

5. The last choice is a picture book about sharing an experience with your Dad. A whole day exploring a city. A Walk in New York by Salvatore Rubbino. Your Dad is your teacher and your guide. He knows everything. The artist paints beautiful dramatic panoramas of New York and New York life but the readers gaze is drawn to the beautifully observed interactions between a father and son. I can identify with the father in this book but my overwhelming feeling is that of being the child.

Thank you to Francis for a lovely guest post, there are some wonderful picture books mentioned.

 

Blog Tour

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

Thank you to Olivia and Simon and Schuster for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and for sending me a copy of this lovely book. ‘Daddy Hairdo,’ is available to buy now online  and from any good bookshop.

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I Am the Seed That Grew the Tree – selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon

The problem with being a book blogger is that it’s quite possible that you’re not a favourite with your postman. As the doorbell rings, you open the door reluctantly and you’re greeted by the postman grimacing as he hands over a great big stack of parcels, all you can do is smile nicely and hope he’s not to worn out. So the day ‘I Am the Seed That Grew the Tree,’ arrived I could tell that he was not best pleased with this exceedingly heavy parcel. I felt that something truly exciting must be contained within this precious parcel and I was completely right. Nosy Crow Books have put their heart and soul into creating an extraordinary collection of nature poems for every day of the year, carefully selected by Fiona Waters and stunningly illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon. The lavish production of this collection makes this book totally irresistible and extremely covetable.

Each of the spreads are sumptuously illustrated with the most lavish, rich images from nature reflecting perfectly the changes of the seasons and the beauty and majesty of nature. Whilst all of the poems that have been chosen seamlessly fit into the days,  capturing all the different elements and aspects that we see evolving. There is a really interesting eclectic mix of poems from traditional favourites like Walter De La Mare, Emily Bronte and Christina Rossetti to newer discoveries Carol Ann Duffy and Benjamin Zephaniah. It’s a perfect book for dipping in and out of to just savour the joy of the poems, or if you’re looking for inspiration to spark creativity for art or writing. I can’t think of anything more delightful than to share this book with children at home or school and appreciate the glory of the animals, plants, trees, weather and seasons that are such an intrinsic part of our lives.

Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour for reviews and guest posts on this glorious books, I particularly enjoyed the guest post from Kate Wilson on the Minerva Reads blog.

Thank you to Antonia and Nosy Crow for sending me a copy of this beautiful anthology and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. ‘I Am the Seed That Grew the Tree,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.

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

I was totally enchanted by Andy Shepherd’s debut, ‘The Boy Who Grew Dragons,’ illustrated by Sara Ogilvie, so was delighted that the next book in the series, ‘The Boy Who Lived With Dragons,’ has arrived hot on its heels. When Tomas finds a mysterious tree at the bottom of his grandpa’s garden with strange fruit nestled between orange and red fiery tendrils little does he know that a dragon is hiding inside just waiting to hatch. Hilarity and chaos ensue as Tomas tries to keep his new pet a secret but when his friends discover exactly what he’s been up to they want a slice of the excitement. But the reality of actually living with dragons is about to get less magical and a bit more complicated. There are some strange things occurring which Tomas and his friends are determined to get to the bottom of! Extraordinary sized fruit, unexplained shed explosions and a very smug looking and distracted local bully Liam. Nobody could possibly have predicted the trouble that Tomas’s discovery of the dragon fruit tree is about to cause.

Andy has created an equally charming and heart-warming sequel filled with humour and mayhem. We see Tomas torn between wanting to keep his dragon a secret and letting down his grandfather as he weaves a web of lies to protect Flicker. It’s a real testament to the relationship he has with his grandfather that he faces this internal struggle at having to tell lie after lie, it really doesn’t sit comfortably. I love the relationship between Tomas, his friends and their dragons each with their own distinct personalities and interesting challenges. They are completely disillusioned that they have everything under control but in reality that’s so far removed from the truth.

Sara Ogilvie’s sublime illustrations bring this story to life capturing perfectly the carnage and excitement Tomas and his friends experience as their dragons are released into the wild. They sprinkle a layer of wonder and humour over the story making this a truly joyful read. With slightly more peril than its predecessor, life is definitely a little bit more dangerous and a lot more thrilling for Tomas, but this elation is short lived and inevitably becomes tinged with sadness. Bubbling with  hilarity, magic and mayhem you can’t help being charmed by this delightful story.

Thank you to Andy for sending me a copy of this gorgeous book, ‘The Boy Who Lived With Dragons,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.

Storm Witch – Ellen Renner

 

Today it’s my stop on the blog tour for the first book in Ellen Renner’s new epic fantasy series, ‘Storm Witch.’ It is by no means an easy feat for an author to build a world that readers can immediately visualise and that feels truly authentic especially in a fantasy story. A world in which you totally become caught up in and where all components slot into place perfectly making total sense. Yet Ellen effortlessly conjures up the setting for Yanlin, an isolated island watched over by the Elementals who govern the lives of their chosen ones. For 13 year old Storm the time has now come to present herself to be claimed by one of the Elementals. But something strange happens, something that has never happened before. Unknow to Storm she has been bestowed a great and terrible gift that will change the course of her life forever. With her island under attack from a savage band of pirates, she risks losing everything she loves in the fight for survival.

A breath-taking, fierce and thrilling ride, ‘Storm Witch’ will grip you tightly in its hold till the very last page. Ellen has created a formidable cast of characters from the strong willed, head strong Storm to the gentle and thoughtful Minnow. Each character brings a balance and fulfilment to the story, as they each play their part in this society in the most unexpected of ways. The saying ‘with great power comes great responsibility,’ seems to sum up this story perfectly, how are you meant to cope at the age of thirteen when you are suddenly thrust into a role that you could never have imagined. We watch the internal struggle that Storm goes through as she tries to come to terms with her power, whilst dealing with the insecurities and immaturity of emotions that is inevitable at such a young page. The contrast between both of these experiences is played out wonderfully within the story. What really struck me when reading this book was the plight of the pirates – the Drowned Ones- who are perceived as the evil enemy. Yet when we look at the relationship between the islanders and the Drowned Ones we begin to realise that they have been forced into attacking islands as everyone has turned their backs, they are welcome nowhere. There is one particular interaction between Storm and Nim which was incredibly poignant and though-provoking. At the end of this I was left wanting more, what does the future hold in store for Storm, I’m desperate to find out. A compelling, exciting read filled with wonder and magic, this is world-building fantasy at its very best.

Ellen Renner

Ellen Renner was born in the USA’s mountains of Missouri, but came to England in her twenties and now lives in an old house in Devon with her husband and son. Ellen originally trained as a painter and surrounds herself with sketches of her characters as she writes. Her acclaimed novels include Castle of Shadows(winner of the Cornerstone & Writer’s News competition) and City of Thieves. She spins wool as well as stories, plays the violin, fences (badly!), collects teapots and is a keen motorcyclist.

Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour?

Thank you to Siân and Nosy Crow for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and sending me a copy of this spectacular book. ‘Storm Witch’ is released by Nosy Crow on the 6th September and is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.

Picklewitch and Jack by Claire Barker, illustrated by Teemu Juhani

I’ve been such a big fan of Claire Barker’s writing since I first read her delightful debut ‘Knitbone Pepper,’ three years ago. This series is so warm, wonderful and gloriously fun, Claire has a real talent for creating characters that you can’t help falling in love with. So as you can imagine, I was thrilled to discover she had new adventure on the way, which has proved to be equally as marvellous. ‘Picklewitch and Jack,’ the first book in a brand new series illustrated by Teemu Jahani, is a bundle of mischief and mayhem. Meet Jack a boy who has always stood out for the wrong reasons at his old school, so he is relieved to be starting at St Immaculate’s School for the Gifted, a place he feels he will finally find friends just like him. But little does he know that Picklewitch, a tiny witch with some very big plans, is about to turn his life upside down in the most unexpected of ways. For the first time in Jack’s life he finds himself constantly in trouble as he keeps getting the blame for all Pickelwitch’s disastrous magic. Jack really doesn’t need friends like Picklewitch or does he? He soon learns that friendship can be found in even the most unlikeliest of places and that maybe sometimes it helps to have a witch as your best friend.

From the moment I opened this book I was completely enchanted as Claire transports us into Picklewitch’s strange and fascinating world. Wonderfully atmospheric, her rich, lyrical writing allows the reader to see vividly before their eyes the sturdy walnut tree she calls home and hear the wind battering pouncing on the weathervane. You can sense something stirring as Picklewitch first cast her eyes on Jack and makes the decision that despite him being opposite in every way to her with his shiny shoes and smooth hair,  he WILL be her new best friend. As the story unfolds there are so many comic and cringeworthy moments as we watch Picklewitch disrupt Jack’s life beyond recognition. She is totally a law to herself and there is only one way and yes you guessed it, it’s her way.

Teemu’s glorious illustrations capture brilliantly the chaos unfolding, you can feel the energy and naughtiness crackle on the pages. I love how the characters personalities are expressed so clearly through his drawings, they bring Claire’s wonderful characters to life perfectly. Everything about this book is a joy from start to finish! It’s warm, funny and highlights the importance of loyalty in friendship and why above all else we should be true to yourself. Claire has managed to conjure up a real slice of magic that I know readers are bound to love. Heart-warming and hilarious in equal measures, for me this book is a real triumph in storytelling.

Thank you to the lovely Claire for sending me an early copy of this glorious book. ‘Picklewitch and Jack,’ is released on the 6th September and is available to buy online or from any good bookshop.

Amazing August Reads

So you may have noticed that I’ve not been blogging a lot in August  because I am working on an exciting new project. I was delighted to be invited to join this year’s Blue Peter Book Awards 2019 Longlisting panel to help choose the 12 books in the ‘Best Story,’ and ‘Best Books with Facts,’ category. This has meant having to read a large selection of books in a very short period of time and I’m currently working my way through some marvellous books which sadly I can’t share with you on the blog, it’s top secret. After I finished this project I have managed to read some books in August that I thoroughly enjoyed, which I’m going to share with you today. 

Will You Catch Me – Jane Elson

Jane Elson is back with another stunning book that will make you laugh, cry and fill your heart with so much joy that you won’t be able to put it down. ‘Will You Catch Me,’ is a beautiful, empathetic read about a girl called Nell who is craving a normal and predictable life. She lives with a menagerie of animals who provide comfort from her increasingly difficult life. A life where every day she has no idea if it will be a good day or a terrible day depending on whether her Mum has kept her promise to Nell. Nell thinks her only hope is to track down her Dad so that he can look after them all, so her life can be ordinary instead of chaotic. With her best friend Michael she hatches a plan so that her Dad will have to come and claim her, but will she succeed? Heart-breaking and incredibly poignant, Jane’s storytelling brings a really honest insight into the most difficult of topics dealing with them sensitively and thoughtfully. Her stories feel so genuine and truthful. She gets to the heart of her characters allowing the readers to really feel their raw emotions and internal struggles, taking you along on this emotional journey with them. Yet again another moving and sublime read from Jane Elson, I can’t recommend it enough.

Peril in Paris – Katherine Woodfine, illustrated by Karl James Mountford

It was with great sadness for me, that ‘The Sinclair’s Mysteries’ came to a close in the final explosive and dramatic instalment,  ‘The Midnight Peacock.’ But luckily our fearless, intrepid heroines Sophie and Lil are back with a bang in the glorious ‘Peril in Paris,’ the first instalment in the Taylor and Rose Secret Agents series. Recruited by the mysterious Secret Service Bureau our daring duo are sent away on dangerous and deadly missions, where they must learn to trust no one and expect peril at every turn. Furious and fast paced the reader is kept on the edge of their seat as the twists and turns come thick and fast. Intriguing and surprising there are plenty of revelations and unexpected happenings to confuse and confound even the most quick minded reader. This new series captures everything I loved about the ‘Sinclair Mysteries,’ but this story feels more thrilling and exciting, leaving the reader desperate for more with the most glorious ending. Sophie and Lil continue to defy society’s expectations of what a young lady can and should be doing and for that I will always love them. I can’t leave without mentioning Karl J Mountford’s stunning cover and artwork which captures the elegance and spirit of these marvellous adventures perfectly.

Only Love Can Break Your Heart – Katherine Webber

I loved Katherine Webber’s extraordinary debut, ‘Wing Jones,’ so I was desperate to read ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart,’ and I can confirm that it is equally sublime. Reiko has a heart-breaking secret that she can’t share with her family or friends. In a bid to escape from the claustrophobia of her life in the spotlight she seeks refuge in the Californian desert. There she inadvertently bumps into Seth, a misfit who doesn’t fit in at school, especially with her crowd who are at the top of the pecking order. They both recognise in each other something that they both need and become bound together in an increasingly complicated relationship, where neither of them can give what the other needs. Katherine captures this struggle beautifully, dealing with this complex and unexpected situation in an honest and refreshing way. She stands out from the crowd with her rich, diverse characterisation creating fully developed characters who the reader finds themselves totally captivated by. Exploring complicated family dynamics in times of stress and grief, she enables the reader to understand life from everyone’s perspective not just the main character thus creating a truly thoughtful story. Katherine is one of my favourite emerging writers for young teens, for me her writing is beautiful, subtle and truly outstanding.

 

Bookshop Girl – Chloe Coles

As a lover of books I find myself drawn to any book that features books or bookshops and therefore when I spotted ‘Bookshop Girl,’ with its vibrant, appealing cover I knew I had to read it. Paige Turner (pun most definitely intended) is a part-time bookseller whose life is turned upside down when her boss informs them that their bookshop –  the only highlight in her dreary town will be closing down. Paige can’t afford to be penniless and her best friend Holly has to get her hands on the final book in her favourite trilogy, so something MUST  be done to save their bookshop. So throw in a passionate campaign, a dreamy anarchist heart throb, oh and some hilarious life drawing and you have a fabulously funny book which is hugely appealing. For me not only is this book entertaining, it’s incredibly accessible for less confident teen readers coming in at just over 200 pages. Chloe has an eye for detail that makes this story feel very real and true to life, capturing all the idiosyncrasies of small town life and the highs and lows of being a teenager. With characters you’ll love and love to hate, this is a lively and engaging read.

 

Thanks to Hachette for sending me a copy of ‘Will You Catch Me.’ All of these books are now available to buy online (click on the title to find out more) or from any good bookshop.

Cover Reveal – A Witch Come True by James Nicol

I’m really excited to be able to reveal for you today, the cover and title of the final book in ‘The Apprentice Witch,’ trilogy by the lovely and talented James Nicol, ‘A Witch Come True,’ which will be published on the 7th March 2019 by Chicken House Books.

So without further ado here it is…….

This stunning cover is illustrated by Daniela Terrazzini with cover design by Steve Wells, they have created another sublime cover that demands to be picked up and read. I’m loving the play on words with the title, ‘A Witch Come True,’ as Arianwyn gets ready to find out more about herself when she’s tested to her limit. I really can’t wait to return to James Nicol’s completely believable world of magic and witchcraft. Arianwyn has totally enchanted me since I met her in ‘The Apprentice Witch,’ as she struggled to come to terms with failing her witch’s assessment and I watched her grow in confidence as she battled with supernatural creatures in the marvellous, ‘A Witch Alone.’ Let’s find out what James has in store next for the remarkable Arianwyn…

A Witch Come True – James Nicol

The war is done and Arianwyn has discovered the secret of the quiet glyphs at last, but her troubles are far from  over. Her day-to-day work as Lull’s witch is tricky enough: winter has set in, bringing endless rain, ice imps and some rather befuddling Yule traditions. But when enemies and dark magic converge on Lull, stealing away someone very dear indeed, our witch faces her greatest challenge so far. What really makes a witch come true? Our lovable heroine is about to find out…

James Nicol

James Nicol has loved books and stories his whole life, though was classified as a ‘slow reader’ at junior school until he discovered ‘The Hundred and One Dalmatians,’ by Dodie Smith. As a child he spend hours absorbed in novels, watching epic 1980s cartoons or adventuring in the wood at the bottom of the garden. When he is not writing books he works in a library and is a Patron of Reading for Boston Pioneers School in Lincolnshire.

He now lives near York in a house with too many books and too many musical instruments (most of which he can’t play!) with his partner and a black and white cockapoo called Bonnie. His favourite things include pancakes, books and laughing. He likes drawing though doesn’t get much time for that these days. He most often described as surprisingly tall and curly!

Daniela Terrazzini

Daniela moved to London from Italy in 1999 to study photography at The London College of Printing. She splits her illustration work into two distinctive and equally successful styles of detailed paintings and graphic surface patterns. Since beginning her career as an illustrator Daniela has worked extensively in many areas and her illustrations can be seen on covers for puffin classics, Abi Elphinstone’s ‘Sky Song’ as well as James Nicol’s first two novels, ‘The Apprentice Witch,’ and ‘A Witch Alone.’

A huge thank you to James and Jazz at Chicken House books for inviting me to host
the title and cover reveal I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of a ‘A Witch Come
True.’