Author Archives: thebookactivist

About thebookactivist

Celebrating children & young people’s reading through all sorts of book-ish activities.

Guest Post for #NNFN: How I started writing non-fiction by Cathy Evans

As we continue to celebrate National Non-Fiction November, I’m delighted to welcome Cathy Evans, author of Cat Eyes and Dog Whistles (the Seven senses of humans and other Animals), published by Cicada Books, to the blog. Cathy shares her journey to becoming a non-fiction writer for children. Welcome to the blog Cathy!

How I started writing non-fiction by Cathy Evans

“I’ve come to children’s non-fiction by a slightly unusual route. I worked as a vet, and took a break when my kids were born. Writing has always been a passion of mine, so when my kids were a little older I started writing the occasional article for local papers and websites, and gradually gained confidence. I was drawn to the idea of a book about the senses for kids when I was home schooling my kids. We were doing a lot of work about current events and news/fake news. I started explaining to my older son how our bodies tell us stories through our sensory organs; how the story of the self starts with anatomy, with our bodies telling us what is real. He was surprisingly fascinated by it all. Particularly proprioception – how brilliant is it that you can touch your nose with your finger without seeing either body part?! I pitched it as an idea and within a year Cat Eyes was born!

My editor paired me with Becky Thorns, who is a brilliant illustrator, and who really brought the material to life. I think that there’s such a gap in the market for books that communicate information in an exciting graphic way.

Speaking as a parent, I want my kids to be curious and explore the world, but I don’t necessarily want them doing that online. My son is very much a visual person. He likes text to be broken into chunks and he likes illustration to guide him around the subject matter. Sometimes it’s hard to find science books that do this effectively and which reach out to kids, like my son, who aren’t natural science enthusiasts, but who can be drawn into it by means of engaging text and presentation.

In a world that can be very confusing, factual books can be very reassuring. I believe we need to teach kids how things work – nature, our bodies, the planet – because if there’s anything the past couple years have taught us, it’s that nothing can be taken for granted.”

Find out more about Cathy’s book here. With thanks to Cathy and Cicada Books for contributing this guest post.

New reviews: Early readers with Bloomsbury Education

Looking for stories to support young readers, building their independence and reading stamina? Now’s the time to try the Bloomsbury Early Readers series supporting children aged 6 and up with great stories written by award-winning authors and illustrators.

Featuring adventures told with humour and fun, to retellings of Shakespeare, myths and legends, to contemporary stories that will engage, these books are ideal for those children just starting to develop their own reading tastes and independence. Engaging tiles – such as Scratch and Sniff; Ping and the Missing Ring or The Night the Moon Went Out grab attention and the series features a range of genres and topics, in accessible formats and with diverse characters.

There are also discussion points and online guided reading notes written by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) for added support, either at home or in the classroom. For those children who aren’t quite ready for full-blown chapter books, this series is a great option and one they can work through at their own pace. The book banding is helpful as a guide, but it’s always important to remember that children’s reading skills develop individually and not necessarily in line with banding.

A series that will engage and entertain as well as support reading skills development, these are great for the classroom and school library, find out more here.

With thanks to Bloomsbury Books for sending me these books to review.

New reviews: Picture books to brighten your day

I don’t know about you, but glancing out the window is enough to make one feel a little fed-up with gloomy overcast skies. I can’t wait for the cold, frosty winter sun to come out but until it does, reaching for a picture book or two always works to bring a smile to my face! Especially these lovely titles.

The Three Happy Lions by Louise Fatio, illustrated by Roger Duvoisin is the third title in this very happy series! This time, the third happy lion is a baby and as he grows up his parents begin to wonder which career he should choose. Perhaps a fireman? A policeman? Or a pet? And of course, there’s always the circus…Whichever one he chooses, you can be sure it will be a marvellous adventure getting there, beautifully told and illustrated! Published by Scallywag Press.

Sophie’s Stories by Devon Holzwarth brings the magical world of stories to life with every book that Sophie opens transporting her on a new adventure. How on earth can she go to sleep when stories are so exciting? Vibrant illustrations will bring young imaginations to life, alongside the charming narrative, which shows just how truly magical stories are. Published by Alison Green Books.

The King’s Birthday Suit By Peter Bently, illustrated by Claire Powell is inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s tale The Emperor’s New Clothes. Prepare to be amazed as two smooth-talking tailors promise King Albert-Horatio-Otto the Third a stunning new outfit for his birthday…It’s a right Royal Stitch-Up! Young readers won’t fail to be entertained with this hilarious story that leaps to life through fantastically funny illustrations. Published by Bloomsbury.

Betsy Buglove Saves the Bees by Catherine Jacob, illustrated by Lucy Fleming shows every little garden explorer just how they can help the insects in their gardens, especially the bees! Betsy Buglove uses her magical magnifying glass to show her grumpy neighbour Stan why it’s not a good idea to pave over his garden and scare away the bees. Gorgeous illustrations, a delightful rhyming narrative and fabulous bug facts will bring much-needed sunshine to all who read Betsy Buglove! Published by Scholastic.

The Wall and the Wild by Christina Dendy, illustrated by Katie Rewse is another picture book bringing the magic and wonder of nature to life! As Ana grows perfectly-sized plants and flowers in her garden, throwing all the uneven shoots and seeds over the wall, little does she realise the wild she is creating over the wall. The beautifully muted illustrations shot through with colour, show the power of nature to delight and survive, and how through it we can entice wildlife to our gardens. A lovely story. Published by Lantana.

Stop That Dinosaur by Alex English, illustrated by Ben Cort is a rollicking, rhyming roar-some romp, with a gran-napping brontosaurus. What can the little girl do when a dino steals her granny? Follow the adventure as she chases them through the parkm, fields and forests and finally finds out why the dino did it! Full of fun and with a sweet twist at the end, children will want to read this colourful story again and again. Published by Bloomsbury.

The Queen on Our Corner by Lucy Christopher, illustrated by Nia Tudor tells the story of a young girl who is the only one who ‘sees’ the homeless woman on the corner of the street. In her eyes, the woman is a warrior queen who has fought many battles but sadly lost her palace. It’s not until the woman sounds the alarm and saves the street from fire, that everyone sees her, and helps to make her home again. An important story about noticing everyone around us, especially those in need who all have their own story to tell. Beautifully told and beautifully drawn, a lovely addition to any bookshelf. Published by Lantana.

When Cucumber Loses His Cool by Michelle Robinson, illustrated by Tom Knight shows even the coolest of characters can sometimes lose their cool! Join Kevin the Cool Cucumber as he raps his way round the veg store helping everyone keep it together; but what happens when Red Pepper steps up with his own song to share? Kevin is not impressed; but as we see with the fun, rhyming narrative, it’s ok to have your own song to sing, and soon all the veggie friends are happy together. Great fun and full of beans (pardon the pun) this is a fab story to read aloud and share. Published by Scholastic.

The Longer the Wait, the Bigger the Hug by Eoin McLaughlin, illustrated by Polly Dunbar is a story we can all relate to, as we meet Hedgehog and Tortoise, who have been waiting for a very long time to see each other. Hedgehog gets more and more upset as hibernation has ended and Tortoise is nowhere to be seen and life is just not the same without him. But when they finally meet again, an extra-big hug awaits! A very simple, sweet narrative accompanied by gorgeous illustrations – each of which is a hug in itself – shows just how wonderful it is to be reunited with the ones we love. An absolute delight of a picture book. Published by Faber.

With thanks to all the publishers for sending me these books to review, which will be finding new homes via my local foodbank.

National Non-Fiction November: Cicada Books

Cicada Books is a New York Times award-winning children’s book publisher based in London, who specialise in beautiful, high-end books for children aged 4-11. Their books are often unique, quirky and always engaging, with eye-catching artwork. Today, I am delighted to share a whole host of gorgeous non-fiction titles published by Cicada on the blog, in celebration of National Non-Fiction November.

Map of You by Sophie Williams helps middle-grade readers colour and draw their way to inner peace in this charming wellbeing activity book. Full of helpful advice with opportunities for self-reflection , this delightful book will engage readers and support their development, through lively illustrations and heart-warming positivity.

Atlas of Amazing Architecture: The Most Incredible Buildings You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of by Peter Allen celebrates buildings all over the world from neolithic monuments in Northern Europe to traditional Japanese architecture to the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain. Beautifully presented with detailed artwork, this is a vibrant, wonderful journey across the world and will open the eyes of young readers to the awe-inspiring architecture all around us.

The Young Cyclist’s Companion by Peter Drinkell, illustrated by Thomas Slater will give any young cycling enthusiast the ideal treat and explain all the essentials from bike maintenance to road safety to cycling techniques. Combing colourful, quirky illustrations with photographic images, this informative book will have young readers itching to get out on their bicycles!

Cat Eyes and Dog Whistles: The Seven Senses of Humans and Other Animals by Cathy Evans, illustrated by Becky Thorns is a step-by-step guide through the biology of the senses, bringing to life the remarkable world of communication in all it’s forms. Did you know that smells can trigger feelings and emotion in a way sight and sound can’t? Did you know that a cow has 250,000 tastebuds, compared to a human’s 5,000? A lively and engaging narrative gives brilliant insight, accompanied by colourful and equally lively illustrations. It’s time to make sense of the senses!

History of Cars by Elliot Kruszynski introduces the knowledgeable Professor Wooford McPaw, who takes the reader on a journey through the history of the motor vehicle. Reminiscent of classic book The Busy World of Richard Scarry, quirky characters help Professor Wooford show how the car has changed over time from the age of steam to cars of the future! This book will delight car enthusiasts young and old; readers will love Professor McPaw and be waiting with anticipation for his next canine adventure.

Find out more about the wonderful world of Cicada Books here.

New review: The Book of Stolen Dreams by David Farr

Inspired by a true story of loss, love and hope, The Book of Stolen Dreams is leading screenwriter and director David Farr’s first novel for children. Published by Usborne, The Book of Stolen Dreams takes you an exhilarating adventure from start to finish.

The Book of Stolen Dreams by David Farr

When Rachel and Robert are passed a stolen book by their librarian father, they have to go on the run and protect it at all costs. With their father captured and everyone hunting for the Book, they must uncover its secrets and track down the final, missing page. But the cruel and calculating Charles Malstain is on their trail. When the children discover the astonishing, magical truth about the Book, they resolve to do everything in their power to stop it falling into his hands. For if it does, he could rule forever.

Set in the fictional world of Krasnia, a land once filled with life and laughter, The Book of Stolen Dreams is a timeless tale which highlights the all-too-real plight of people who live under a dictator’s rule. With echoes of Nazi Germany and more recent persecutions in places like Afghanistan, the Klein children are determined not to fail their father’s request to hide the Book. The thrilling narrative reveals the truth about their task and the implications if they should not succeed; for the Book is a door to the dead and grants the power of immortality to whomever knows it’s secrets. In a race against time, the cast of characters enthral, entertain and terrify in equal measure, and Rachel and Robert must summon all their courage as they try and escape the clutches of Malstain’s evil henchmen.

A truly magnificent adventure, inspired by the author’s own German-Jewish grandparents who helped their children escape Nazi Germany in the Second World War, you cannot fail to be drawn into a world of intrigue and imagination. The final page promises another adventure from the world of David Farr soon – I am looking forward to it already!

Find out more at www.usborne.com. With thanks to Usborne for sending me this proof copy to review.