Book of the Month: The Land of Roar by Jenny McLachlan

book of the monthThe Land of Roar by Jenny McLachlan, published by Egmont, is a joyous celebration of the wonder of imagination. I absolutely loved it – not just because it took me back to being a young girl playing imaginary games in the garden, but because it is storytelling at its best. So I’m really pleased to make it my Book of the Month!  It’s Jenny McLachlan’s middle grade debut and demonstrates her skill at weaving wonderful stories full of heart and imagination.  Illustrations by Ben Mantle throughout will no doubt bring this to life if the cover art is anything to go by (I saw a proof copy).

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The Land of Roar by Jenny McLachlan

When Arthur and Rose were little they were heroes in the Land of Roar, an imaginary world that they found by climbing through the folding bed in their Grandad’s attic. Roar was filled with things they loved – dragons, mermaids, ninja wizards and adventure – as well as things that scared them (including a very creepy scarecrow…). Now the twins are eleven, Roar is just a memory. But when they help Grandad clean out the attic, Arthur is horrified as Grandad is pulled into the folding bed and vanishes. Is he playing a joke? Or is Roar…..real?

Arthur and Rose might be twins but as now they’re eleven, and secondary school beckons, they couldn’t be more different. Rose is only interested in her friends and her mobile phone; whereas Arthur longs for things as they used to be when he and his sister played together.  Sibling frustrations simmer off the page, so when Grandad suggests sorting out the attic so they can create a more grown-up den, the twins are given a welcome distraction. But as they sort through the junk in the attic, reminders of their imaginary games are rife– an old rocking horse, a wizard hat and even a map of Roar. Is someone trying to get their attention?  It seems that way especially when Arthur is convinced he can hear the ominous rustle of feathers from the Z-bed – the gateway to Roar. Rose refuses to be drawn back into her childhood world but Arthur is convinced in her heart, she remembers Roar – and does care about it.  And he’s right. For when their Grandad vanishes and Arthur follows to rescue him, Rose isn’t far behind. It’s clear the twins’ connection to Roar is more important that they could ever have realised! Together with their best imaginary friends – Wininja the Wizard, Prosecco the Moonlight Stallion and dragons Pickle and Vlad they must defeat their arch nemesis and surely the most creepy of villains, Crowky the winged scarecrow, in order to save Grandad.

The Land of Roar is just as fantastic as you could imagine and you are quickly immersed in the magic, as Arthur and Rose rediscover their role as Heroes of Roar.  With engaging characters, just the right amount of humour and a whole lot of heart, this story will bring out your inner child and you’ll want to go through the z-bed too!  Jenny McLachlan’s skill is creating stories with characters you care about, with narratives that are as exciting as they are heart-warming and The Land of Roar is no exception. Grandad is delightful with his eccentricity and care for his grandchildren. Rose and Arthur’s changing relationship is perfectly captured as they prepare for their new school.  Their trip to Roar reminds them (and us) that you never have to stop believing in the power of imagination. It’s no wonder my son and niece were so inspired by it they played for hours in the garden their very own imaginary quest, using a map to guide them! I hope there will be more adventures to come – Hear me Roar!

Find out more at www.jennymclachlan.com

With thanks to Egmont for sending me this book to review.

 

 

 

New reviews: picture books for brightening up the bookshelf!

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Today I’m sharing my reviews of some really delightful quirky picture books, perfect to brighten up any young readers bookshelf and brilliant for sharing.  Step into a world of dinosaurs, cheeky rabbits and magical umbrellas to name a few – you won’t be disappointed!

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The Truth about Dinosaurs by award-winning author and illustrator, Guido Van Genechten, is a wonderful picture book all about dinosaurs – but with a twist! Learn all about what chickens and dinosaurs have in common told from the chicken’s perspective as he takes us on a tour of his family tree. Travel back millions of years and see how dinosaurs evolved and actually really are related to one of our favourite farm yard birds. This is a great fun read, full of fascinating facts and lively colourful illustrations bringing the world of dinosaurs (and chickens!) to life!

Find out more www.fivequills.co.uk

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The Happy Lion by Louise Fatio and Roger Duvoisin is a gorgeous story about a very friendly lion, who lives in a zoo in France. Every day he greets the inhabitants of the town as they walk past his enclosure and they always smile and say hello.  But one day when his gate is left open and he decides to take a stroll, all the town folk no longer smile and wave – they run the other way! Except for young Francois who knows just what to do.  The Happy Lion is a lovely tale with wonderful artwork about understanding who you are and finding friends, and is sure to be a firm favourite with a new generation of readers of all ages! A re-issue of a popular classic, The Happy Lion won the inaugural German’s Children’s Book Prize in 1956.

Find out more at www.scallywagpress.co.uk

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Grandma Z by Daniel Gray-Barnett is a delightful story celebrating the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.  Albert’s birthday is rather dull until the moment Grandma Z sweeps in and takes him on an extraordinary adventure. Showing Albert how to find excitement even in the most ordinary of things, Grandma Z creates a birthday never to forget. Illustrations leap off the page bringing their adventures to life and drawing you in to the excitement. A perfect story for reminding us of the wonder of the world and just how special our grandparents can be, Grandma Z is full of joy!

Find out more from www.scribblekidsbooks.com

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Nits by Stephanie Blake is a vibrant and cheeky story featuring Simon the rabbit – and some rather pesky nits! Simon is totally in love with the new girl Lou, but she doesn’t notice him – that is until she comes into school with nits! Suddenly she needs a friend and Simon is ready to help with a hug and a kiss. Full of fun, Nits is guaranteed to entertain young children – and tackles the rather itchy subject of nits in a light-hearted way.

Find out more at www.geckopress.com

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Umbrella by Elena Arevalo Melville is a lovely tale about a magical umbrella. Clara is feeling rather sad as she has no one to play with at the park. She picks up an old umbrella and to her surprise it comes to life! Beautiful muted illustrations capture the magic as, from that moment on, Clara is introduced to a world where anything is possible  – from helping old Mr Roberts climb trees again to stopping the Moodies from crying. The umbrella has the answer for everything where kindness is concerned and we see that friends come in all shapes and sizes. Young readers will want to experience the magic of the umbrella again and again – and see the ordinary become extraordinary! Umbrella is endorsed by Amnesty International because it celebrates our rights to express ourselves and to choose our own friends.

Find out more at www.scallywagpress.co.uk

iced out

Iced Out by C K Smouha and Isabelle Bunnell is lively picture book featuring the antics of Wilfred the Walrus and Neville the Narwhal as they try and fit in amongst a class of not very friendly seals.  In a story even young children will identify with, Wilfred and Neville are not popular because they’re different – that is until Betty Beluga arrives! Betty changes everything and even though she impresses everyone with all her talents – especially Wilfred and Neville- she isn’t bothered about being popular. She helps Wilfred and Neville see that being different doesn’t matter and they become firm friends.  Bright and expressive illustrations capture the narrative in this engaging tale about friendship and being happy with who you are.  Great fun!

Find out more at www.cicadabooks.co.uk

With thanks to Cicada Books, Five Quills, Gecko Press, Scallywag and Scribble for sending me these books to review.

Guest post and review: The Switching Hour by Damaris Young

Today is publication day for a brilliant debut middle-grade novel from author Damaris Young, The Switching Hour – congratulations! Damaris studied on the Writing for Young People MA at Bath University, where she wrote this novel taking inspiration from her childhood in Southern and Central Africa.  Damaris now lives in the UK and I’m very excited to be hosting a guest post by her on the blog today!

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Cover art: Kelsy Buzzell

The Switching Hour is set in a land suffering from a terrible drought, which has unleashed a dark and dangerous creature, Badoko, who snatches children away to eat their dreams. One night, Amaya’s little brother Kalen is taken and Amaya embarks on a nerve-wracking, spine-tingling chase to rescue him.  She only has three days before The Sorrow Sickness sets in and all memory of her brother is lost.  Accompanied by her faithful companion, her goat Tau, Amaya meets Mally, and finds the true value of friendship as together they search for Kalen in the heart of the Blackened Forest. Full of bravery and heart, The Switching Hour, weaves a wonderful tale, drawing you in, bewitching the senses and showing the true power of family bonds, in the face of absolute peril. A fantastic read and one that highlights the havoc that climate change can cause – watch out for the Badoko!

I’m delighted to welcome author Damaris Young to the blog today to share her thoughts on writing about the weather in The Swtiching Hour and how it represents a force to be reckoned with.

Writing About Weather In The Switching Hour by Damaris Young

“Writing about weather can very easily get overlooked when you’re speeding ahead to get the exciting bits of the plot, but it is such a vital part of writing a story. Weather is a key player and often drives the action by affecting the characters behaviour or mood, or adds tension and conflict, like a storm on the horizon.

I find that it’s all too easy to resort to clichés when it comes to writing about weather, so I allocate time to really think about new and fresh ways to describe it. I find it helpful to go outside into the garden or the park and close my eyes; can I smell the rain? Can I hear the wind? Can I feel the cold or the heat?

In The Switching Hour, it was very important to get the weather right, as it is set during a terrible drought. In my story the drought unleashes a creature that is my interpretation of climate change, a monster that eats the dreams of the young in much the same way that climate change affects the generations to come.

To immerse the reader in the story, I had to focus on some of the main elements of weather: wind, temperature, pressure, humidity, clouds, and precipitation. In every scene, I had to be thinking how the temperature would affect the characters, how the lack of clouds would mean the sun was brighter and harsher, the lack of wind would mean there was no reprieve from the heat. My protagonist, Amaya, seeks out shade on her journey but the ground beneath her feet becomes increasingly too hot to walk on. The lack of rain means that the leaves fall off the trees, the ground cracks and the food resources become scarce.

I lived in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana for many years growing up, where there is low rainfall for large parts of the year and where the natural plants and animals are adapted to the climate. I drew on that experience to write about the heat and the lack of rain, but what I wanted for The Switching Hour was to write a story about an extreme weather event and its devastating effects, much like climate change has an impact on global weather patterns.

For me, the most important thing to remember when writing about weather was not to underestimate its value to the story. I wanted the drought to be a character in itself and so I treated it like a character, giving it motives and thoughts and desires through Badeko, the Dream Eater. This in turn, changed the weather from an afterthought to becoming something real and powerful, a force to be reckoned with.”

Find out more www.damarisyoungauthor.com 

With thanks to Scholastic for sending me this book to review and inviting me to host a guest post.

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