BLOG TOUR: The Fire Maker by Guy Jones


Fire Maker

The Fire Maker by Guy Jones

Alex loves magic – its glamour, tricks and illusions. He’s good at it, too: he’s reached the semi-finals of a prestigious competition for young magicians. But when he stumbles into strange Mr Olmos’s back garden while running from his former best friend, Alex sees something he can’t explain: three tiny flames floating in the air. Fire magic. Real magic. Soon, Alex and Mr Olmos are swept up in a great adventure of secrets, genies and an ancient, bitter rivalry …

From the first page The Fire Maker is a fantastic, bursting-with-magic, totally engaging story! It is with great pleasure I am hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for Guy Jones’ second middle grade standalone novel, published by Chicken House. With themes of trickery, trust and ambition and an unforgettable friendship, The Fire Maker is sure to achieve the critical acclaim of his first book The Ice Garden. 

I was completely hooked on this new tale – it’s impossible not to love with the central characters in The Fire Maker. Eleven year old Alex, a magician in the making, and his strange, and somewhat unusual elderly friend Mr Olmos are a perfect combination. This story is a real page-turner with magic at it’s heart and themes of friendship and family making it totally relatable for young readers.  I’m delighted to welcome Guy Jones to the blog today with a guest post sharing his thoughts on the experience of writing his second novel:

The Sophomore Slump

Guy Jones Photo lowres“A confession. I am bad at answering questions about my books. Sometimes it’s the fault of the questioner. For example, there is no good answer to the poser ‘what kind of book is it?’ But mostly the problem lies with my own awkwardness, embarrassment and congenital inability to talk about my writing without feeling like a complete tool.

But, in the lead up to the publication of my new book, The Fire Maker, I’ve been asked the same thing over and over, by all kinds of people, and it’s got me thinking. The question is this… Was it more difficult to write the second one?

I think that’s a loaded sentence. I think it comes with an implicit knowledge of what Americans call the sophomore slump – that is, when someone’s second effort singularly fails to live up to the standards of the first. Its most famous manifestation is the ‘difficult second album’ so many bands encounter, but you can find it everywhere, from art to sport to scientific discovery. Look no further than the progression from Crocodile Dundee (Rotten Tomatoes critics rating – 87% fresh), to Crocodile Dundee 2 (11% fresh.) Ouch.

So, am I worried about meeting the same fate as Mick Dundee? Well, yes, obviously. Suddenly there are expectations to measure up to – my own, my publisher’s, and those of the readers kind enough to tell me they enjoyed The Ice Garden. But, to be honest, like many writers I am often brought up short by the thought of ‘oh my god, what if this is terrible?’ That’s not a second book thing, that’s just a thing. And, besides, there are just as many successful follow ups as there are flops. The Dawn of the Dead, The Empire Strikes Back, and Gremlins 2 (yes, really) all knock the originals into a cocked hat.

For me, the second go was easier in some ways. I could neatly sidestep, or at least stagger around, some of the traps I’d encountered in writing my first book. In fact, it was a lovely feeling to spot mistakes coming and give them a swerve (only to run into a whole bunch of exciting new ones of course). On top of that, having a timetable from my publisher was brilliant for focusing the mind. You can’t write yourself in circles when you’re on a deadline.

But the second book did bring one main difficulty, and that was in choosing an idea to start with. The first time around I could wait until the idea that had been brewing at the back of my mind was ready to go. This time around however there was time pressure, and I had to start pouring when it was still weak and watery. I had to plunge headlong into writing something and hope to god I didn’t get two-thirds of the way through only to discover it was a stinker.

So, was it more difficult to write the second one? Yes it was, in lots of ways. And no, it wasn’t in others. Every book is difficult on its own terms. But the excitement of the second book for me was in wanting to live up to expectations. And I very much hope that’s what I’ve done.”

Find out more at Chicken House  and follow Guy on Twitter @guyjones80 

With thanks to Chicken House for sending me this book to review and inviting me to be part of this blog tour. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour:

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Children’s Book Award BLOG TOUR! Armistice Runner by Tom Palmer

CBA-no-date-3-300x219I am hugely excited to be participating in the Children’s Book Award official blog tour in the books for older readers category again this year.  It’s the only national book award to be voted for entirely by children from start to finish and as such makes the award even more noteworthy.

Today I’m championing Armistice Runner by Tom Palmer, published by Barrington Stoke.  Tom has written some fantastic historical fiction titles and this is no exception.

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Armistice Runner by Tom Palmer

Lily has lots of worries. Sheʼs struggling to compete in her fell-running races and, worse, sheʼs losing her gran to Alzheimerʼs. But then she discovers her great-great-grandfatherʼs diaries from the First World War. Could his incredible story of bravery help her reconnect with her gran and even give her the inspiration she needs to push through and win?

Lily is really fed-up with always finishing her beloved fell-races as a runner-up.  At the end of every race, she just can’t seem to breakthrough the final barrier and push forward for the win. Endlessly frustrated, Lily’s worries are compounded by a visit to her grandparents and being faced with the reality that her wonderful grandmother is suffering with dementia.  The impact her grandmother’s illness is having on her family becomes all too real – even Lily’s irritating little brother can see how different everything is and looks to her for comfort.  A surprise discovery about her great-great-grandfather, Ernest, provides an unexpected escape and incredible connection with the past, offering Lily the inspiration she needs.  For he too was a fell-runner and faced huge pain and suffering during the course of World War One.  As his experiences come to life in the pages of his diaries, Lily starts to see that maybe she can get through her struggles and be like Ernest.

First and foremost this is a fantastic story – moving, engaging, thrilling, insightful – brilliant storytelling at its best. Bringing together two narratives, Armistice Runner provides an amazing insight into the fallen heroes of World War One alongside the experiences of Lily, whose family situation is causing great suffering.  With themes of conflict, family, rivalry and perseverance you can’t fail to be moved.  I knew nothing about fell-running prior to reading this story and found this aspect completely fascinating.  I have read many stories set in World War One, but Armistice Runner brings a new perspective on the horrors of trench warfare and the suffering endured by those on the Front and those at home. Tom Palmer captures this brilliantly and the empathy that Lily feels for Ernest, perfectly mirroring her own sadness as her grandmother slowly fades through dementia. It was particularly moving to see how this horrible illness affected the whole family and the moments where Lily sees her father’s response to his mother’s decline will have your heart aching. As Lily reaches the end of Ernest’s diaries, she finally discovers what happened to him and is given the best example of perseverance, kindness and friendship.

Armistice Runner offers opportunities for readers to truly relate to the themes of conflict through the parallels drawn with fell-running and the determination, bravery, and grit required to complete a race.  Endurance takes on new meaning as we see Ernest running through the trenches to save his fellow soldiers and escape the horrors of war. However, at no point is the story inaccessible to readers, on the contrary, it will help them gain a new understanding of World War One through the understanding it generates.  With a great female protagonist in Lily and an inspirational hero in Ernest, Armistice Runner is the best combination of story, hope and empathy. I would highly recommend it and its place on the Children’s Book Award shortlist is thoroughly deserved.

You can reading the first chapter of Armistice Runner here and find out more about Tom Palmer here. As a Barrington Stoke title, Armistice Runner offers a truly accessible read, with a super-readable layout and typeface so that even more readers can enjoy it.

CBA-no-date-3-300x219The Children’s Book Award is the only national award voted for solely by children from start to finish. Any child up to the age of 18 can visit to vote for their favourite books from the top 10. It is highly regarded by parents, teachers, librarians, publishers and children’s authors and illustrators as it truly represents the children’s choice. Thanks to the support of the publishers, over 1,000 new books are donated to be read and reviewed by Testing Groups across the country every year, with over 150,000 total votes being cast in the process. At the end of each testing year, nearly 12,000 books are donated to hospitals, women’s refuges, nurseries and disadvantaged schools by the Testing Groups. Previous winners of the award include, Michael Morpurgo and Michael Foreman, Quentin Blake, JK Rowling, Jacqueline Wilson and Rick Riordan.

Follow the award on Twitter @cbacoordinator and use #fcbgcba19 to stay up to date!  And don’t forget to check out the rest of the CBA Blog Tour and the other books in the Older Reader’s category:

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With thanks to  the Children’s Book Award for inviting me to participate in this wonderful award blog tour. Thank you to Barrington Stoke for sending me a copy of Armistice Runner to review.

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Picture Book Bonanza!

I absolutely love picture books. What better way to introduce children to the wonder of storytelling than through incredible illustrations pictured alongside brilliant narratives? The best picture books can be fun and light-hearted celebrating the world around us, but can also leave you with something to think about.  Picture books can very often open the door to conversations around empathy and understanding and help children see themselves and how they can relate to others. So here’s my round up of some newly published and soon to be published picture books for Spring!

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When a Dragon Comes to Stay by Caryl Hart and Rosalind Beardshaw

 

When dragon comes to stay, will she behave herself? Why of course she will. Obviously she knows she must share her toys, eat daintily and skip happily upstairs at bathtime.  Well….not quite. Like all toddlers this little dragon finds good manners a tiny bit tricky. Luckily she has some friends to help her.

What a lovely rhyming story this is! Bright, colourful illustrations bring dragon and her friends to life, perfectly capturing the perils of life as a toddler and show just what good behaviour looks like. Great to read aloud and have young readers joining in this is sure to be a hit at bedtime. And grown ups who want to encourage good manners will love it too!

Available now, find out more at www.nosycrow.com,  www.carylhart.com and www.rosalindbeardshaw.com

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Wish by Chris Saunders

Rabbit has never caught a wish before, then one magical day he catches three! But what amazing things should he wish for? With the help of his best friends Mouse, Fox and Bear, Rabbit discovers that thinking of others can sometimes bring the greatest reward of all.

This is an absolutely gorgeous book with an emotive story about the wonder of friendship and kindness. Muted, atmospheric illustrations with touches of colour, create a beautiful landscape where Rabbit discovers the true power of a wish. It also celebrates the possibilities of adventure and the hopes and dreams we all have. A lovely story to share, Wish would be a great way to start conversations around empathy and being kind, but also a really lovely story to leave in children’s imaginations as they drift off to sleep at bedtime!

Available now, find out more at www.quartoknows.com

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The Astro Naughty Naughty Baddies by Mark Sperring and David Tazzyman

54321 Blast off! The Naughty Naughty Baddies are zooming off the the moon. Kerzoom! Will our fiendish fraudsters come undone with their mischievous plans to capture some aliens? Mwa-ha-ha!

Another adventure featuring the Naughty Baddies that will have children and adults giggling along with glee!  And these baddies are very naughty indeed, doing anything they can think of to come up with mischief and mayhem – even if it means trying to fool the President.  Larger than life, brilliant illustrations bring the deliciously devious baddies to life and children will love the intergalactic theme. And grown-ups will be relieved that the naughtiness gets its comeuppance! A great fun read for families to share.

Available now, find out more at www.bloomsbury.com and www.davidtazzyman.com

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Mira’s Curly Hair by Maryam al Serkal and Rebeca Luciani

Mira doesn’t like her hair, it curls at the front. it curls at the back. It curls everywhere! She wants it to be straight and smooth, just like her Mama’s. But then something unpredictable happens…and Mira will never look at her Mama’s hair the same way again!

A fabulous story which many will identify with – there’s nothing worse than a bad hair day -especially if it’s every day! Humourous depictions of Mira trying to straighten her curly hair, which seems to have a life of its own, will bring a smile to your face. A simple narrative and vibrant illustrations with a stunning Arabic backdrop bring the story to life as Mira discovers that her Mama’s hair is just like hers so she doesn’t feel so bad anymore. Delightful to share, this story will encourage young readers to celebrate their uniqueness!

Publishing in April, find out more at www.lantanapublishing.com and www.rebecaluciani.es

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Crime Squirrel Investigators The Naughty Nut Thief

Rosie can’t believe it! Who’s eaten all of her delicious hazelnuts? She’s determined to find the naughty nut thief and ask Charlie to help her.  Can the two Crime Squirrel Investigators solve the case?

A fun mystery adventure for young readers, this story creates a wonderful woodland world with delightful characters. Rosie and Charlie use all their wits to solve the mystery but Charlie has a secret which he finds very hard to share. A story to entertain and get children thinking in more ways than one; they can discover more about woodland creatures, use the clues to help find the culprit and learn about being truthful and saying sorry. An all round great read!

Available in May find out more about this story and Little Door books at www.bouncemarketing.co.uk

I Don’t Want to be Small by Laura Ellen Andersen

I don't want to be small

This little boy is fed up with being so little. He wants to be as tall as his friends and his big brother. But when he loses his teddy bear up a tree, not even his new tall friend can get it back for him. Maybe with a little bit of help they can reach the bear together …

With all the ingredients for a perfect picture book, I Don’t Want to be Small is a fantastic story sure to delight young readers! With brilliant illustrations featuring Laura Ellen Andersen’s trademark style, you instantly empathise with the little boy’s plight as he shares his frustration at being small.  There’s just the right amount of humour and heart, and a very satisfying ending as he makes a new friend and finds out being small isn’t so bad after all.  I loved it!

Publishing in May, find out more at www.bloomsbury.com and www.lauraellenanderson.co.uk

With thanks to Nosy Crow, words and pictures, Bloomsbury, Lantana and Little Door Books for sending me these lovely titles to review.

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BLOG TOUR: She Wolf by Dan Smith

Published by Chicken House earlier this month, She Wolf by Dan Smith is an enthralling historical adventure set in the Dark Ages.  This is Dan’s sixth novel for children and I’m delighted to be participating in the blog tour today and sharing my review.  Historical reads were always really popular when I was in school libraries and I’m certain this will make a fantastic addition to any bookshelf, particularly with a such brilliant heroine at it’s heart!

 

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She Wolf by Dan Smith (cover illustration by Jill Calder)  

Northumbria 866. Washed ashore on a frozen English beach, Ylva’s survived. She will not cry. She’s meant to be strong. She’s a Viking.  But when her mother dies at the hand of a three-fingered man, and the wolves of the forest circle closer, Ylva will need more than the memory of her mother’s stories to stay alive. Can she shape her own legend? Will it end in revenge – or is there another way?

Step into the Dark Ages and experience the harsh landscape and even harsher reality of life as a Viking; but also discover courage, bravery and true heroism! Full of nail-biting action sequences, She Wolf will keep you enthralled as Ylva seeks revenge on the three-fingered man who murdered her mother. With her most trusted companion Geri by her side – with whom she shares a unique connection – Ylva’s search leads her on a quest of discovery – not just for a murderer but perhaps for her true self. As she navigates the icy terrain, Ylva must decide whether to continue alone or accept help from a kind-hearted stranger – even though she is not sure who she can trust.

The story brilliantly brings to life the sheer grit and determination of Ylva and her companions as they do their utmost to survive and stay alive, in amongst the treachery and violence of Viking traders.  Great character building and a well-paced plot are added to the historical detail, making She Wolf a compelling as well as interesting read. Even though not based on a true story, you certainly feel Ylva’s story echoes what Viking life could have been like.  For readers who love a real adventure, She Wolf will have you hooked from the first page and I expect create a whole new fan base for Dan Smith!

With thanks to Chicken House for sending me this book to review and inviting me to participate in the blog tour! Find out more at www.dansmithsbooks.com and www.chickenhousebooks.com.

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the tour with guest posts by the author and more reviews!

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BLOG TOUR: The New Boy by Paula Rawsthorne

If you’re looking for a gripping read with a storyline that will keep you on tenterhooks, then look no further than The New Boy by Paula Rawsthorne, published last week by Scholastic.  Paula Rawsthorne is an award winning author of YA novels and passionate about enthusing teenagers to get reading. She is writer-in-residence in a secondary school for charity First Story.

With believable characters, endearing friendships and a very scary and utterly disturbing bad guy, The New Boy is a real page-turner. And today on my stop of the blog tour for this great new YA novel, you can have a sneak peek of the story!

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The New Boy by Paula Rawsthorne 

New boy jack is clever, handsome and popular. At first Zoe is immune to his charms, but she soon falls under his spell. As their romance grows, disturbing events arise – and Zoe doesn’t know who or what to believe. Until she discovers a secret so shocking it will leave her fighting for her life…

Described as a Black Mirror-esque, The New Boy is a psychological thriller exploring ina totally unique way the facades people create for themselves and how social media and our disregard for privacy can have a devastating impact on our lives. Alongside this narrative is a quite touching picture of a group of teens navigating their way through college, expressing themselves and finding their personalities.  With intriguing cover art rather brilliantly reflecting the intriguing plot, The New Boy will keep you hooked right until the totally shocking reveal!  I read this book in one sitting.  To give you a taster, here’s an exclusive extract……

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Find out more at www.firststory.org.uk/writers-schools/paula-rawsthorne/ and follow Paula on Twitter 

With thanks to Scholastic for sending me this book to review. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour:

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BLOG TOUR: The Dinosaur Department Store by Lily Murray and Richard Merritt

If you could imagine the most wondrous shop to visit, especially if you happen to have a passion for the prehistoric, it’s got to be The Dinosaur Department Store! This lovely picture book is written by Lily Murray, who has been writing and editing children’s books for fifteen years and illustrated by Richard Merritt, who has been an illustrator for over ten years. Published yesterday by Buster Books, youngsters are going to fall in love with this fabulously flamboyant story and it is with great pleasure I’m hosting this stop on the blog tour.

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The Dinosaur Department Store by Lily Murray and Richard Merritt

Meet Eliza Jane. She wants a pet for her birthday. Not a rabbit or a hamster or a puppy…..a prehistoric pet.  Join Eliza Jane and her parents at the Dinosaur Department Store. What could possibly go wrong?

Eliza Jane is a bit of a madam, driving her parents to distraction with her wilful ways! When she demands a dinosaur for her birthday, they oblige and take her on a tour of the Dinosaur Department Store, courtesy of the rather wonderful Mr Magisaurus. Every kind of dinosaur is on display from rip-roaring raptors to stomping sauropods (I particularly liked the ankylosaurs named Maud and Frank!). As with everything involving Eliza Jane, there’s an unexpected turn of events, causing more than a little upset at the Dinosaur Department Store…..

A fantastic book to read aloud, I can imagine The Dinosaur Department Store fast becoming a bedtime favourite! I thoroughly enjoyed the rhyming narrative, the characterisation of the very cheeky Eliza Jane and her exasperated parents, for whom you feel quite a bit of empathy.

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With so much to see in the vibrant illustrations – whether it be dinosaur spotting or looking at the incredible detail in the pictures – it’s no wonder the story comes leaping off the page.

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For the many children who are fascinated by dinosaurs this story is a must – and for those less knowledgeable about prehistoric creatures, there’s a helpful selfie-style dinosaur glossary at the back of the book so children can read along using the right dino-pronunciation.  The Dinosaur Department Store is a fun and adventurous tale which is sure to be a hit – make sure you visit soon!

Don’t forget to follow along with the rest of the blog tour:

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With thanks to Buster Books for sending me this book to review and inviting me to participate in the blog tour.

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Happy Book Birthday! Great books for younger readers!

Happy Book Birthday – and Happy World Book Day! It’s publication day for these three titles and I don’t think as an author or illustrator you could ask for a better day to have your book published!  Stripes Publishing are releasing these great books for young readers aged 6 and up. 

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Dirty Bertie: Spider! by Alan MacDonald, illustrated by David Roberts

One of the most popular book characters, Dirty Bertie, is back with three new stories perfect for newly independent readers.  Featuring a new pet spider, his Gran’s awful knitting and digging for treasure children will delight in Bertie’s latest adventures. Fantastic illustrations bring to life the rather revolting habits of young Bertie, along with his classmates and long-suffering parents.  Dirty Bertie is great way to introduce young readers to the fun that can be found in a book!

Find out more at www.alanmacdonald-author.co.uk and www.davidrobertsillustration.com

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Little Lion Rescue by Rachel Delahaye

Little Lion Rescue is the first book in a gorgeous new series following the adventures of Fliss as she saves wild animals in danger.  During a school trip to the zoo, Fliss is magically whisked away to the Serengeti, where she meets a real little lion cub and helps reunite the cub with the lion pride, encountering some amazing animals and birds on the way.  Young readers will love the experiencing the Serengeti, learning all about the different species and the environment in which they live.  With Little Dolphin Rescue and Little Penguin Rescue next in the series, this is sure to be a hit transporting readers to amazing new places.

Find out more at www.racheldelahaye.com

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Vlad the World’s Worst Vampire: Spook-tacular Surprise! by Anna Wilson illustrated by Kathryn Dunst

Another adventure for Vlad makes it’s entrance today and he’s now got his Bat License (remember cousin Lupus?!). But this isn’t enough for his rather fussy mother, who thinks he should have super strength too.  Vlad can’t seem to please her and then things get really tricky as his true identity is revealed at school. But perhaps it’s even more of a shock for his vampire parents as they discover the truth about Vlad’s human friendships.  Thankfully Vlad has some good friends around him to help and just when he needs it, the school play comes to his rescue! These stories are a brilliant take on school life and it’s trials and tribulations. With lively illustrations throughout, readers are bound to relate to Vlad’s conundrums and delight in his successes.

Find out more www.littletiger.co.uk

With thanks to Stripes Publishing for sending me these books to review.