Category Archives: Blog tour

BLOG TOUR: The Time Traveller and the Tiger by Tania Unsworth

Tigers? Time Travel? Tropical forests? Three intrepid adventurers? What more could you ask for in historical middle grade adventure?! It’s my absolute pleasure to be hosting a guest post for the final stop on the blog tour for this fantastic new book, The Time Traveller and the Tiger, written by Tania Unsworth, published by Zephr Books.

Cover Art: Helen Crawford-White

Elsie is not looking forward to the long summer holidays with her creaky, old Uncle John. But then the unimaginable happens as Time unravels and Elsie tumbles back to 1940s India to meet her Uncle John as a young boy on a tiger hunt. Can Elsie change the future by stopping him from doing what he’s already told her is a wrong he can never right? Face to face with the mightiest and most majestic predator in the jungle, Elsie is in awe of the tiger’s beauty. She’s on a mission to have the adventure of a lifetime, save the tiger and change the future.

I love tigers and I love time-travel stories so this story caught my eye immediately. I’m also always taken by 1940s India – my grandfather served with the Ghurkas in the Second World War and my mother was born in India whilst he was there. In addition, my great-grandfather was Mountbatten’s Chief Medical Adviser so I’m always fascinated by hearing stories of India. This was no exception and I thoroughly enjoyed being taken on this wonderful adventure. Alongside themes of friendship and bravery, the story doesn’t shy away from the reality of animal poaching and prejudice that existed and encourages the reader to think seriously about conservation. Elsie, John and Mandeep are a wonderful cast of characters, each with their own fears to face creating a multi-layered story of thrilling adventure. Brilliantly brought to life, the Indian forests are teeming with atmosphere and the tiger is utterly majestic, particularly as we see the world through his eyes at key moments throughout.

I’m delighted to welcome author Tania Unsworth to the blog today to share her thoughts on using description in children’s books. Welcome to the blog Tania!

The Time Traveller and the Tiger is an adventure story set in the forests of Central India, and the minute I finished the first draft, I knew I had a problem. Although the characters and plot were coming along nicely, I’d hardly described the setting at all. It felt fake – like the painted backdrop on a stage. I’d read books and looked at pictures, but I simply didn’t have enough information. So, I decided to spend a week visiting a tiger reserve in India. And that was when I ran into my second problem.

Now, I had too much information. I came back with a notebook crammed with facts and figures and breathless accounts of everything from the light of dawn to the stars at night. And because I’d fallen in love with the place, I wanted to put all this description into my book.

Usually, I’m quite sparing with description. I tend not to describe what my characters look like, for example, because I think part of the pleasure for readers comes from creating their own pictures. At the same time, some description is needed in children’s fiction. And it’s often for a different reason than in fiction for adults. Adult readers might automatically get a visual image when they read the words ‘a mountain chalet’ say, or ‘the boardroom of a large corporation’. But chances are, most children won’t have a good sense of what these places actually look like, because almost everything is new to them.

On the other hand, long descriptions are risky in children’s books. They can slow reading progress and get in the way of the story. As Joan Aitken points out in her guide The Way to Write for Children, “if you do nothing but describe…although it will be a pleasure for you, and to some of your readers, others will automatically skip all your best descriptions, and the plot will creep at a snail’s pace.”

I decided that if I wanted to include a lot of description in my book, I would have to weave it in using stealth. Through dialogue, for example. Elsie – my main character – knows nothing about the Indian forest. That was an opportunity to have my other characters, John and Mandeep, point things out and give her descriptive snippets of information. Wherever possible, I tried to convey the appearance of things through action. Instead of describing a giant spider web, I had Elsie run into one. Rather than telling the reader what termite mounds look like, I made Elsie mistake them for weirdly caped figures in the dark.

I made a rule that I wouldn’t describe anything unless the description added directly to the story. To create atmosphere, say. The grasping, knotted tendrils of a banyan tree echoing the sinister machinations of a group of trophy hunters. Or to show character motivation and personality. Light coming through the trees reminds Mandeep of a temple, revealing the depth of his love for the forest…

Of course, I didn’t always stick to that rule. Sometimes I couldn’t resist just…describing. But by making the setting less of a backdrop, and more of an active participant in the story, I hoped readers wouldn’t be slowed in their gallop to the end.

I’d love to know if you think I succeeded!”

Find out out more at www.headofzeus.com and www.taniaunsworth.com/. With thanks to Zephyr Books for sending me this book to review and inviting me to be part of the blog tour. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour:

BLOG TOUR: Lottie Loves Nature: Frog Frenzy by Jane Clarke and James Brown

A very Happy Book Birthday to Jane Clarke and James Brown on publication day for Lottie Loves Nature published by Five Quills! I’m delighted to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour. Lottie Loves Nature is the first in a brand new spin-off series to Jane’s Al’s Awesome Science books, but this time with Al’s sister taking the lead. Lottie loves the natural world and everything in it and does everything she can to protect it. The first in this eco-adventure series features Lottie, along with her pet parrot, Nacho and her dog, Einstein, stopping her neighbour from getting rid of all the ants in his garden and rescuing the frogs as he’s turned the pond into a putting green! A fun narrative is interwoven with fascinating facts, lively illustrations and great nature projects for budding young conservationists aged 7+ to do at home. Lottie Loves Nature is a brilliant way to encourage children to be more aware of the natural world and start to make a difference right on their own doorstep!

Today, I’m sharing a gorgeous guest post from author Jane Clarke, featuring her Top 5 Stories Set in the Natural World. Welcome to the blog Jane!

“From the time I was a child, I’ve loved stories that are set in the natural world. Here are my Top 5 in the order I read them. The editions shown are the ones I own now, but in the case of the first three, I borrowed earlier editions of the books from my local library:

1. Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A.Milne, illustrated by E.H.Shepard, first published 1926. This is a collection published in 1994.

“Once upon a time, a very long time ago now, about last Friday, Winnie-the Pooh lived in a forest …”

Instantly, I was in Hundred Acre Wood, giggling at the adventures of optimistic, silly Pooh as he searched for ‘hunny’, got stuck in Rabbit’s burrow, tracked Woozles through the snow, attempted to cheer up Eeyore, met up with the not-so-wise Owl, and attempted an ‘expotition’ to the North Pole. Friendship, kindness, humour, nature and adventure stories: I was hooked! I’ve just read it to one of my granddaughters and it still feels fresh!

2. Wind in the Willows by Grahame Greene, first published 1908 (!). This edition is from 2001 and has lovely illustrations by Michael Foreman but I vividly remember the ones by E.H.Shepard. Now the River Bank and Wild Wood burst into life, and emotions ran a bit deeper. I joined Rat and Mole on their adventures, and this book was the first to make me cry – with Mole when he missed his home. I worried about the lost baby otter, and was relieved when that ended well, if somewhat mystifyingly. Mr Toad made me laugh out loud and Weasels made me nervous. Behind it all, I noticed the environment changing with the seasons, but it’s only on re-reading the book that I realise how detailed and poetic some of the natural descriptions are.

3. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell, 1956, written with wit and charm, bursting with eccentric animal – and human – characters, and oozing with Greek sunshine. It took me on a wonder-filled quest to discover the natural world from mini-beasts to ‘magenpies’ with Gerry and his tutor, Theodore. Even today, it has the power to make me laugh out loud in places. I read ‘My Family’ when I was in my early teens, and instantly became a lifelong fan of Gerald Durrell. Through his books, I found out a lot about nature and about efforts to conserve endangered species.

4. The Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson, 2001. Maia, Clovis and Finn are great company, and there’s an exciting story that plays out in an Amazon setting. As a young adult, I lived for a while in Mexico and Brazil, and a few years ago visited Venezuela where my son was then working as an adventure tour guide. Reading this took me right back to a river trip: “the lapping of the water against the side of the boat, the moths, the fireflies,” and the insect bites and the tummy upsets! It all feels (and felt) so adventurous.

5. The Explorer by Katherine Rundell, illustrated by Hannah Horn, 2017. I read this only last week, and again was transported by the sights and sounds of the jungle where four children, who are stranded after an air crash, learn to survive with the help of a mysterious explorer. I was right there, shuddering along with them as they gingerly sampled ground-up grub pancakes. On many pages, Hannah Horn’s fabulous black and white illustrations of the environment frame the text and add to the feeling of being there. Friendship, wonders of nature and an adventure story – it brings me right back to where I started!”

Find out more at www.jane-clarke.co.uk or www.fivequills.co.uk

With thanks to Five Quills for sending me this book to review and inviting me to participate in the blog tour. Check out the rest of the blog tour here:

Lottie Loves Nature: Frog Frenzy by Jane Clarke, illustrated by James Brown, is published today, £6.99 paperback, by Five Quills.

BLOG TOUR: Elsetime by Eve McDonnell – review and guest post

I’m very excited to be participating in the blog tour today for Elsetime by debut Irish author Eve McDonnell, published by Everything With Words, a wonderful historical time-slip novel with a delightful cast of characters. Today I’m sharing my review and a guest post from the author.

It’s January 6th 1928, the day before the Great Flood. There’s a snowstorm and the river is about to burst its banks – fourteen lives will be lost. Can Glory, an orphan with only one hand, her time-travelling friend Needle and their pet crow change the future? Is there anyone among all those people entombed in that snow-shrouded town who will listen? Warning: Time travel isn’t something you should try unless you are prepared to face the consequences.

I’m a huge fan of time travel historical adventures and Elsetime lives up to expectations! It’s exciting, engaging, thrilling and has a fantastic twist at the end which I loved. Add to this characters you care about; the feisty and determined Glory and kind and courageous Needle, not forgetting Magpie the pet crow (!), it’s a recipe for success. Historical detail creates a believable world which I was happy to dive into as the plot thickened. Inspired by true events, Elsetime is a fantastic story of adventure and bravery with goodness at its heart – a great read.

I’m really pleased to welcome author Eve McDonnell to the blog today to share the inspiration behind the story!

ElsetimeThe Great Flood of London 1928

“One of my favourite past-times is treasure hunting – searching the pebbles and mud alongside a river or the sea for something sparkling: an old button once part of a queen’s gown, perhaps, or a key to a mythical treasure chest, or a war medal from a hero who saved countless lives. It’s no wonder a hobby so rich in possible stories was the inspiration for Elsetime with its tale of a young mudlark called Needle, searching the foreshore for treasures he could sell. Glory, an impetuous jeweller’s apprentice sprung to mind too, and I imagined her taking those muddy finds and transforming them into treasures to behold under the eyes of her strict mistress, Mrs Quick. They had to be from the 1920s, my imagination assured, but I wasn’t, at that stage, quite sure what was going to happen to my new-found friends.

Then, I found a newspaper clipping. It told of a real-life tragic event: The Great Flood of London in 1928. At its epicentre was Needle’s haunt – the stretch of foreshore alongside the Tate Gallery (now known as the Tate Britain). I needed to know more, and my research began.

Nearly ninety-three years ago, at the source of the Thames, families enjoyed a snowy Christmas akin to picture-perfect postcards. But, quick as a wink, the snow thawed, sending torrents of water along streams and brooks that fed the Thames. A deluge of rain in the days that followed raised the level of the great river higher and higher as it twisted and turned its way towards the bustling centre of London and out towards the sea.

Photo Credit: Daily Mirror 1928

As Londoners partied away the Twelfth Day of Christmas, or snuggled their loved ones into bed in old basement flats, the raging river met its match: a powerful storm in the North Sea. At the turn of the tide, waves swelled so high at the mouth of the Thames, beyond anything they had ever seen. Seawater tunnelled its way up the river, clashing with the deluge of snowmelt and rainwater. X marked the spot where the river narrowed and its depth deepened following foolish dredging to allow passage to larger ships. Not long after midnight, the embankment walls near the Tate Gallery gave way.

Freezing cold water raced down stone steps and into the homes of poor basement dwellers, trapping them before they even knew their fate. Muddy water inundated the basement galleries of the Tate Gallery, destroying many fine pieces of art, including several priceless Turner paintings and drawings. Big Ben was surrounded, the Underground submerged. The moat at the Tower of London filled for the first time in nearly a century. Fourteen souls lost their lives that night and, as my research deepened, so too did my shock and sadness when I read the names listed on that Daily Mirror 1928 newspaper clipping. One name stood out: Mrs Quick – a name I had already chosen for the owner of The Frippery & Fandangle Jewellery Emporium where Glory worked. As I stared down at her name, it felt like a message from the past. Though Elsetime and its characters are merely figments of my imagination, I knew one thing for sure: the Great Flood would star in this story of mudlarks, mysterious crows and jeweller’s apprentices – it was a story I had to tell.”

Find out more at www.everythingwithwords.com.

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