Author Archives: thebookactivist

About thebookactivist

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

BLOG TOUR: Moonchild: Voyage of the Lost and Found by Aisha Bushby illustrated by Rachael Dean

It’s the final stop on the blog tour for the first in a magical new middle-grade series, inspired by the Arabian Nights. Beautifully told and full of imagination, Moonchild: Voyage of the Lost and Found by Aisha Bushby illustrated by Rachael Dean will transport you to a world of wonder!

We all have our stories. And if we feed them, some may grow all the way to the moon…..Magic has always been part of twelve-year old Amira’s life, even though her world frowns on it. When a mysterious storm begins to rage and Amira’s magical cat companion goes missing, she decides to set sail. An extraordinary adventure awaits – one that will change Amira’s life forever…..

Aisha lives on board a dhow with her sea witch mothers and her jinn, a magical cat called Namur. They only visit the land to make their living selling tonics in the souks and buy supplies. Amira has spent all her life at sea so when her mothers tell her she is old enough to go to the souk, she cannot wait. Amira’s magical ability – to read people’s emotions through her sense of smell – is somewhat overwhelmed as she navigates the stalls and helps her mother. Little does she know a chance encounter with a boy called Leo, who also has a jinn in the form of a magical goldfish, will start to unravel the mysteries Amira has been pondering. Not least why Namur, who usually only appears when Amira is angry, has been visible ever since a dangerous storm arrived on the Sahir Penninsula. So begins the most marvellous but dangerous adventure, leading Amira to discover the truth about her magic and rescue her beloved jinn.

Moonchild: Voyage of the Lost and Found is a captivating tale, drawing you in to Amira’s world. Magic and mystery abounds with each page a discovery in itself, featuring beautiful descriptions, heartfelt emotions and fantastic characters. The use of emotions and how we deal with them is present throughout, shining a light on the importance of accepting how we feel. I loved the Arabian Nights-inspired narration and invitations to accompany Amira as she embarks on her quest to find her jinn and the truth she so desperately seeks. Each character has a story to tell, embedding a sense of myth throughout and the narrative cleverly intertwines these stories to create a tapestry of adventure.  Accompanied by wonderful illustrations bringing Amira and her world to life, Moonchild will transport you to a place so full of enchantment you won’t want to leave!

With thanks to Egmont for sending me this book to review and inviting me to participate in this blog tour. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour!

BLOG TOUR: Return to Roar by Jenny McLachlan illustrated by Ben Mantle

Come and join a marvellous adventure in Return to Roar! Today is the final stop on the blog tour for this brilliant new book by Jenny MacLachlan and illustrated by Ben Mantle, taking us back to the Land of Roar with twins Rose and Arthur. It’s not always that a sequel is as good as the first in a series, but this one definitely is – you will not be disappointed! I’m delighted to share my review and even more excited to share a Q & A with author Jenny McLachlan!

Twins Rose and Arthur are so excited to be going back to Roar, their magical world of dragons, ninja wizards and anything else they can imagine! But then the twins receive a message from arch-enemy Crowky. WHAT’S IN THE BOX? The Box contains the things that scare the twins the most. If Crowky gets hold of it, he could use it to conjure up Rose and Arthur’s worst nightmares and destroy Roar….FOREVER.

In Return to Roar, Rose and Arthur are spending half term with their Grandad – at least that’s what their parents think! But Grandad knows better and he’s more than happy for the twins to ‘stay’ with him and travel back to Roar through the magic portal – the Z-bed in the attic! Little do they know, there’s an even bigger adventure than last time awaiting them – bigger than flying on dragons, catching unicorns and swimming with merfolk. Before they know it, Rose and Arthur are doing battle again with evil villain, a terrifying scarecrow called Crowky, who is determined to destroy Roar forever! Rose, Arthur and their friends, Wininja the wizard and Mitch the Mermaid must travel to The End and find The Box before Crowky – and a new fearsome villain – wreaks havoc on their imaginary world – and their home too!

Return to Roar is a storytelling delight, celebrating the wonder of imagination and the power of friendship. With great character development, brilliant new faces to meet and places to visit, along with some really heart-warming themes, it makes a fantastic sequel to Land of Roar (review here). Rose and Arthur have become closer now they’re a bit older and their support for each other – with a bit of healthy sibling rivalry – is great to see. The inhabitants of Roar are fantastic and make you want to join the fun. In amongst the adventure and excitement, there is a subtle theme of how to deal with bullies running through the narrative and some really wonderful moments of compassion and kindness. All in all, Return to Roar is a wonderful read, with brilliant illustrations throughout capturing the action. If I were you, I’d get your hands on a copy now – don’t miss your chance to visit Roar!

Jenny McLachlan was kind enough to share some insights into writing Return to Roar so read on to find out more!

How did you find travelling back to Roar?! Was it more difficult than the first visit?It was actually! I had no problem describing Roar and stepping back into Arthur’s shoes, and it was absolutely brilliant meeting Win and Grandad again, but there is quite a lot going on in the plot: Rose has a secret, the children go on a treasure hunt across Roar, and I introduce two new characters. It’s all go!

There’s some fantastic new places to visit and characters to meet in Return to Roar. What was your inspiration for them? ike ALrthur, I’m a big fan of Frozen Planet and this inspired The End. I’ve got a beautifully illustrated book that accompanied David Attenborough’s series and I spent a lot of time gazing at it! Mitch is inspired by lots of my favourite females: my daughters, my sister, my mum. She was probably the character that appeared most fully formed in my head. Some characters require a bit of work, others seem to have always existed. Mitch was just waiting to be written down. In fact, she was originally in The Land of Roar – I think I was very keen to include her! – but I took her out to save for the sequel.

Crowky is back and badder than ever – he makes a great villain and surely belongs in the children’s fiction villains’ hall of fame! Who is/are your favourite villain(s) in children’s fiction? I really love properly scary villains. I think my favourite villain in children’s fiction is probably Miss Trunchball. I took my daughters to watch the musical Matilda! when my youngest was only six. You should have seen her face when Miss Trunchball appeared! It was touch and go for a moment, and I wondered if we were going to have to make a speedy exit, but she wasn’t going anywhere! I found Moon-Face in The Far-Away Tree very scary, although I don’t think he was supposed to be. I wonder if he inspired Crowky…

I love Mitch the Mermaid – what a great character – (who also happens to have lots of tattoos)! If you were going to have any tattoos what would it be and why? Writing Return to Roar did involve a fair amount of tattoo Googling so I have given this some thought! I would have a beautiful fox somewhere I could always see it – my arm? I love foxes. I did wonder if I could ever get Mitch’s map tattoo . . . it’s quite big though. I don’t think I’m brave enough!

You draw on Rose’s experiences with her school friends – and you show real compassion in her actions right at the end. Why did you include this theme in the story and what do you hope readers will draw from it? I, like a lot of people, experienced some bullying at school. When it happens it’s absolutely terrifying. I can completely understand why it would scare Rose so much, and also why she would keep it a secret from Arthur. I really didn’t enjoy the first three years at secondary school. It felt like an unsafe place. Some days, I felt like Rose did when she was being chased by Hati. It’s very difficult to stand up to bullies. I didn’t want to offer a glib solution to Rose’s problems, but I did want her to, ultimately, triumph. If there is one thing I would like readers to draw from Rose’s experience it would be to start listening to that voice inside. The one that, when you know you are being spoken to unkindly, says, this isn’t right, and rather than keeping quiet about it, speaks out.

Thank you for participating and I cannot wait to read Book 3!

Find out more at https://jennymclachlan.com/ and https://www.benmantle.co.uk/.

With thanks to Egmont for inviting me to participate in this blog tour and sending me this book to review. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour!

Guest Post: Jamie Littler author and illustrator of Frostheart

We have a guest on the blog today! None other than the author of the brilliant fantasy adventure Frostheart, Jamie Littler, who was recently shortlisted for the Branford Boase Book Award along with his editor, Naomi Colthurst. Frostheart is his first published book as an author/illustrator. Described by The Bookseller as a “A rip-roaring action adventure, full of humour, heart and unforgettable characters”, it holds a well-deserved spot on the shortlist!

Jamie shares his top tips for writing today, with some brilliant insights into what’s important for anyone wanting to get into writing. Welcome to the blog Jamie!

“I was thrilled to be asked to write a guest post for the Book Activist and to share some of the tips that helped me to write my fantasy-adventure book, Frostheart.

It’s definitely the question I get asked the most: ‘Do you have any advice for someone who wants to get into writing?’ Now, I could go on about making sure you read lots, (which is important!), or learning how to use proper grammar (which is always nice, I suppose), but those aren’t the things that really helped me to write my book. No, the biggest, most spectacularly important secret to writing a story is this: have fun. That’s it – that’s the secret! Thank you for reading, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Oh, you want an explanation?

Okay, here goes.

I’ve been an illustrator for ten years, but my dream was always to write my own stories as well as to draw them. And I tried and tried, but my stories were always turned down by the publishers. I could’ve made wallpaper out of all the rejection letters I received (and did – but believe me, it’s a very ugly room to be in). At first, the rejections were hard to hear. “You know that story you wrote, the one you worked really, really hard on? Yeah, well, it’s rubbish.” I mean, they were never quite so rude, but that was the general gist of it. And sadly, they were right. I still had a lot to learn, and there were many ways my writing needed to improve. But practice makes perfect.

So, I kept on trying. I wrote another story, and another. And another after that. Some will never leave my work-in-progress drawer (aka the bin), others I was super proud of, but they were never to be. Gradually, the rejections began to change in tone. They now said that the writing was fine, the idea was good, but something was still not clicking. I was banging my head against a wall, trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. Maybe I wasn’t meant to be an author after all?

One day, I was talking to another author about my ideas. I asked which one they thought would give me the biggest chance of getting a publishing deal. They said it didn’t matter what they thought, I had to write the story that meant something to me. Deep down, they said, I knew which one I wanted to write. And it was then that it hit me. I’d been so desperate to get my story turned into a book, I’d been writing what I thought I should’ve been writing, instead of what I truly wanted to write. I’d been looking at what books were popular at the time; the kinds of books I should try to make. But those books meant something to the authors who wrote them, they didn’t mean anything to me.

I vowed to write a story that I would’ve wanted to read, the type of book that kept me turning the pages, something that filled me with excitement, that felt so enjoyable that it couldn’t possibly be considered actual work. I vowed to have fun, even if what I was writing wasn’t the most popular type of book at the time. And if a few other readers enjoyed it to, then all the better.

The next story I wrote became Frostheart, my first published book as an author/illustrator. Writing a story is personal. Try not to focus on what others say a good story should be. If you make something that you enjoy writing, it will shine through on the pages, and the readers will be whisked away by your passion and enthusiasm. They will fall in love with your characters, they will gasp at what happens to them, and they will stay up late to reach the last page. Grammar, spelling, all of that comes later. What’s important is that you’re writing the story you want to tell.

Oh, and try not to make wallpaper out of your rejection letters, it really isn’t a great look.”

With thanks to Jamie for his brilliant advice! Frostheart is published by Puffin Books. Find out more about the Branford Boase Book Award Shortlist here and visit the website here.

New Reviews: A plethora of picture books! Out now and coming soon.

Today on the blog, it’s a picture book kind of day! Picture books are always guaranteed to make you smile and tug at your heart strings. Especially these ones, which are out now or coming soon this summer and have been arriving through the post over the last few months. From unicorns to detective dogs, to finding friends and gorgeous celebrations of life and even washing your hands, these books have it covered! I’m delighted to share my thoughts on them with you and highly recommend adding them to your to be read list.

OUT NOW

I am Brown by Ashok Banker illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat is a delightful story about celebrating the skin you’re in. Beautifully drawn characters on every spread showing how wonderful life is and the variety of opportunities there are. Every page made me smile and I loved the celebration of culture from clothes to language to faiths bringing the wonder of the world to life. Published by Lantana this book is available now.

Don’t Call Me Grumpycorn by Sarah McIntyre sees Unicorn ready for his biggest adventure yet in another wonderful adventure for our favourite one-horned friend. This time Unicorn and friends are travelling to space but trouble brews as they start to argue about where to go – only the most fabulous planet will do! A great fun story about having patience and appreciating your friends, Grumpycorn will definitely brighten your day! Published by Scholastic this book is available now.

We’re Going on a Treasure Hunt by Martha Mumford illustrated by Laura Hughes is a gorgeously illustrated pirate adventure full of treasure and tropical creatures. Young readers will love the lift-the-flap hunt for coins but will have to watch-out for leaping dolphins, colourful parrots, scary sharks and naughty monkeys who keep getting in the way! Lots of fun to be had on this pirate adventure with a suitably summery tropical setting. Published by Bloomsbury this book is available now.

Rex the Rhinoceros Beetle by M.G Leonard, illustrated by Duncan Beedie stars Rex, a little beetle with a big heart! Rex is astounded by his friend Buster’s heroic deeds. He wishes he could be brave like Buster. However, when Rex and Buster are in grave peril, it’s Rex who saves the day and proves who the real hero is! Charming, colourful and with a great message about being honest and brave, this bug-filled book is a celebration of beetles everywhere! Published by Scholastic this book is available now.

JULY

Now Wash Your Hands by Matt Carr is a timely message teaching children the important of washing their hands. Doris the Doctorpus is here to help! She’s going to help the animals to learn how to wash their hands and understand all about where germs can be found and when you need to wash them away. A fun, rhyming narrative and bold lively illustrations help get this important message across and there’s even a hand-washing song at the end to help. Coming soon from Scholastic 2nd July (A 50p contribution from every copy sold will be donated to NHS Charities Together Covid 19 Urgent Appeal)

Say Hello, Say Goodbye by Cori Doerrfeld firmly establishes this award-winning author as someone who can create emotional resonance and understanding through stories even for the youngest of readers! This lovely story focuses on the difficulty of change and how difficult moments can often lead to positive experiences. Whether it be leaving home to start school, having your snowman melt, facing the death of a pet or having a best friend move away, there will always be a way to get through – and friends to help. Coming soon from Scallywag Press 2nd July.

Found You by Devon Holzwarth is the most beautiful debut picture book about making friends. Little Bird is on a mission: to help lonely children make new friends. Sami has just moved to a new country and is finding it hard to fit in; everything is strange. But Little Bird knows just how to help and Sami quickly discovers there are friends everywhere when you know where to look. Strikingly illustrated, with muted colours that have real depth, this story is utterly charming and will resonate with all who read it. We can all remember a time when we had to make new friends; if only we’d had Little Bird to help us! Delightful. Coming soon from Scholastic 2nd July.

Happy Lion Roars by Louisa Fatio illustrated by Roger Duvoisin features classic character The Happy Lion in a wonderful romance. When a beautiful lioness comes to town with a visiting circus, The Happy Lion pays her a visit and it is love at first sight!  But how will they get to stay together?  It is The Happy Lion’s friend, little Francois, who saves the day again. Like it’s predecessor, this book is utterly enchanting and evokes a timeless world of romance and friendship. I hope we see more of the Happy Lion! Coming soon from Scallywag Press 2nd July.

Meesha Makes Friends by Tom Percival is a delightful story about Meehsa, a little girl who loves to make things but isn’t very good at making friends. She doesn’t know quite what to do, what to say or when to say it. But one day she discovers that her creativity will help her to make friends and be more courageous than she imagined. A wonderful story about being brave, helping children understand the best way to make friends is to be yourself. Part of Tom Percvial’s Big Bright Feelings collection, this story will resonate with children of all ages. Coming soon from Bloomsbury 9th July.

AUGUST

That Dog written and illustrated by Emma Lazell features a crime caper with a dastardly dog napper and her rather inept accomplice who just can’t seem to dog-nap the right animal! A whole host of hilarious mistakes run through the narrative with a vibrant collection of all kinds of creatures leaping off the pages and a super clever detective dog. Highly enjoyable, this is one to read again and again with guaranteed laughs to be had. Coming soon from Pavilion Books 6th August.

Scruff by Alice Bowsher continues the dog theme with a story about a very scruffy dog who doesn’t want to be scruffy! His owner could do with a bit of a spruce up too, so that’s just what they do. And their efforts are rewarded in the best way – at the Dog Show, but perhaps not quite as you’d imagine! Striking illustrations and use of colour bring this simple narrative tale to life and a smile to your face. Coming soon from Cicada Books in August.

The Blue Giant by Katie Cottle is the follow up to the award-winning author/illustrator’s The Green Giant and turns our the attentions from the natural world to our seas. Meera and her mother’s day at the beach is interrupted by a very unexpected creature, made of water and sea plants, who takes them on a journey under water. A very timely, beautifully told story, with a simple narrative highlighting a very important message – the seas need our help. A great story to share and show young children what they can do to help. Coming soon from Pavilion Books 6th August.

All in all a lovely selection of books to share with your young readers! With thanks to Bloomsbury, Cicada Books, Pavilion Books, Scallywag Press, Scholastic and Lantana Publishing for sending me these books to review.

BLOG TOUR: Llama Glamarama by Simon James Green and Garry Parsons

Llama Roundel 6Could there be better moment to publish a picture so full of fun and flamboyance as well as a really important message about acceptance? Llama Glamarama by Simon James Green and illustrated by Garry Parsons published by Scholastic is a spectacular story that leaves you with a big smile on your face! 

Today is my stop on the non-stop Llama Glamarama Dance Party Blog Tour! I’m sharing a POOL PARTY playlist from author Simon James Green and participating in the Dance Party Challenge. This is Simon’s debut in children’s picture books and it’s safe to say he’s on to a winner!

Llama Glamarama-cover

I first heard this story at the Scholastic Children’s Book preview event, pre-lockdown and it’s safe to say, it was a huge hit. As Simon read the book aloud, illustrator Garry Parsons drew along and Larry the llama came to life before our eyes. By day,Larry is a very well-behaved llama like all his llama friends; but by night a secret dancing superstar. Larry runs away not wanting to admit the thing he loves most in the world and reveal his true self. But thankfully, he finds a place where he can really be himself, and not only that, it helps him feel brave enough to tell the truth!

It’s impossible not to feel good after reading this story and fall in love with Larry, as he discovers that actually, it’s ok to want to dance and in fact, taking pride in who you are will help you be truly happy! Llama Glamarama is a book to be enjoyed over and again and also one that can open the door to conversations about acceptance and being just who you are.

So here’s my Dance Party Challenge:

1. What’s your favourite dance move? The Twist – Pulp Fiction style!

pulpfictiondance

2. Favourite song to groove to? Pretty much any on this Dance Party Tour playlist!

3. Favourite song for a slow dance? A Rat Pack number

4. Ballet or hip-hop? Ballet (Noel Streatfeild anyone?!)

5. Jive or tango? Jive – I would LOVE to learn this dance

6. Flossing or flamenco? Flamenco (purely because of Baz Luhrman’s Strictly Ballroom!)

scott-fran_dancefloor_hero1

And here’s Simon James Green’s POOL PARTY playlist!

“Maybe Llama Glamarama will be a massive hit, and I’ll buy a villa in Spain with a pool, and call it Casa de Larry. Until that time, these water-themed songs would equally work if you don’t have a pool, but just a tepid bath. Splash, splosh and enjoy!”

Purple RAIN – Prince

The TIDE is High – Blondie

The Day we Caught the Train – OCEAN Colour Scene

The RIVER of Dreams – Billy Joel

It’s RAINING Men – The Weathergirls

Here’s a link to the full ‘Llama Glamarama Dance Party Tour’ playlist: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2ADCN4QeWgEcFosldR5nVv?si=Pp_Y6uQRSoKNmdjvN-GBvA. And don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour:

Llama Tour 1

With thanks to Scholastic for inviting me to take part  in this blog tour and sending me this book to review.