Category Archives: Guest post

BLOG TOUR: The Last Monster by Dan Walker

Hold on to your hats for an electrifying new adventure by author Dan Walker, The Last Monster, sequel to the equally electrifying , The Light Hunters, both published by UClan Publishing . I’m kicking off the blog tour with a guest post by author Dan, focused on what made him want to write!

The Last Monster by Dan Walker

The Light Hunters have fought Monsters for centuries and Squad Juno are the very best at it. From cities to villages, the young group’s abilities are on show for all to see now that their powers don’t have to be used in secret. Every victory they have prevents a Monster from taking more victims, preventing more loss. Lux Dowd, Squad Juno’s healer, has had more than enough loss… But a more immediate loss is that of his powers. Lux can’t – or won’t – heal his teammates. Whenever he tries, a terrible energy comes from within and hurts the people around him. Lux can’t afford to lose anymore of those he cares about. Sent on a mission that could end their war against the Monsters, the Light Hunters soon find themselves making new allies in their quest to unearth an Ancient secret that may be able to stop the attacks. Could this really be the last monster they fight?

Get ready to enter a world of Light, Shade and monsters with Squad Juno as they battle not just the huge creatures that threaten their world, but also their own problems – not least Lux’s inability to control his evolving powers. The Last Monster picks up where The Light Hunters left off, so beginning another enthralling adventure, with action aplenty and new characters to add to the plot, which twists and turns throughout. With themes of teamwork and friendship, not only is this a great middle-grade fantasy adventure, but readers will relate to many of the things Lux and his friends face (apart from the monsters!!).

I’m delighted to share a guest post from author Dan Walker, talking about the reason he writes. Welcome to the blog Dan!

“As a children’s author, a big part of our job is visiting schools and talking to young people about our love of reading and writing.

A question that comes up again and again during these events is the following: What made you want to become an author?

It’s a tough one to answer in many ways. If you want to be a Police Officer, it’s easy. ‘My mum is one.’ ‘I want to be like the people who brought my bike back to me.’ But an author? We’re always reading books (hopefully!) so it’s difficult to pinpoint precisely which one or which author inspired us.

When I think back, I think if I had to narrow it down, my wish to be an author was born when I was fourteen years old. I was lucky enough to have been invited on holiday with my best friend at the time to Ibiza. The sun was shining, the food was nice, and the people were lovely. (I won’t mention here the day in the first week when I fell into the swimming pool fully clothed to a rousing cheer from all of the people nearby!)

It was during the second week, when I fell a little ill and had to stay in my bed in the hotel for a day, when my best friend’s auntie lent me a book. It was a science-fiction book called Red Mars, by an author that I still love to this day, Kim Stanley Robinson.

I lay on my bed, reading this 700 page book, absolutely engrossed to find out how a group of 100 scientists who’d been sent to Mars were going to survive. How would they make food? Get water? Would they drive each other crazy?

I finished the book by the end of the holiday, and when I got back to the UK, I brought the next one, and the next, and read them within a week.

And it was after finishing that series, and thinking of how much fun I had in that world, that I first started to think of how great it would be to make the worlds up yourself.

It was five long years before I actually had a go at writing my own book, but I can trace that fledgling attempt to that hotel room back in Ibiza.

Message? If someone gives you a book, read it. You never know where it might take you.”

Find out more at www.uclanpublishing.com and follow the rest of the tour here:

. With thanks to Uclan Publishing for inviting me to participate in this blog tour.

BLOG TOUR & GUEST POST: Where has all the cake gone? by Andrew Sanders and Aysha Awwad

Ah for the love of cake! You can’t possibly resist this gorgeous picture book from very talented duo, Andrew Sanders and Aysha Awwad, Where has all the cake gone? published by Macmillan. Today is my stop on the blog tour and I’m sharing a guest post from author Andrew all about where he get his ideas from, as well as hosting a FACT or FIB challenge for Andrew and Aysha:

“The Emperor Penguin is the largest kind of penguin. On average they measure 100cm tall – the same height as the average 5 year old”

What do you think?! Scroll down to the end of the post to find out!

The almost unbelievable story of a missing cake, LOTS of hungry penguins and a crumb-covered little boy, who swears he’s telling the truth. HE DID NOT EAT THE CAKE! Could his story really be true?

Parents and carers will all relate to this one! That little innocent face looking up at us insisting ‘it wasn’t me’, even though surely it couldn’t have been anyone else! This delightfully entertaining tale celebrates the cheeky nature of little ones and their wonderful imaginations, and reminds all readers that honesty is the best policy in a truly light-hearted way. I defy anyone to read this story and not have a smile on their face or fall in love with the brilliantly illustrated Albert and his penguin friends!

Here is author Andrew Sanders to share about the ideas behind his writing. Welcome to the blog Andrew!

“Where do you get your ideas from?”

That’s the question that authors get asked a lot. I’ve certainly been asked it since my new book, Where Has All the Cake Gone? (illustrated by the brilliant Aysha Awwad) came out. And to be fair, it’s a good question.

The truth is that all us authors buy ideas from the same lollypop lady in North Pembrokeshire. She sells them between 8.20am and 8.40am every weekday morning – has done for years. Rowling, Walliams, Biddulph, Me… We all queue up and buy new ideas each week. It’s not always fun in the middle of Winter when George Martin is hogging her to himself and the sleet is coming down down, but it’s the only way to get new ideas, so you just have to suck it up and get on with it.

“Stop being silly, Andy. I know all the lollypop ladies in Wales, and none of that is true, is it?”

That’s the other thing people say. Usually to me. After I tell them the lollypop lady stuff.

And to be fair, yes. The thing on lollypop ladies is a fib.

But that’s the thing about ideas. It usually just involves taking a simple question or premise and then running off with it in a silly direction.

In day-to-day life, this kind of creative thinking isn’t always helpful. If you go to see your doctor, it’s probably for the best if he doesn’t try something creative, like using a stethoscope made of jelly. But when you’re coming up with ideas for kids’ books, it often pays to be as silly as you can. And the great thing about ideas is that they’re free. You can have as many as you want. If they’re rubbish, then you can stick them to one side and come up with a new one.

That’s why when you’re given a question like “Where do you get your ideas from?” you might end up talking about lollypop ladies from Wales.

For picture books, though, there’s one extra layer to it. Randomness and silliness are all well and good, but they need to be held together with something; a heart in the centre of your story.

And that’s where you need to add relatability. We’re talking about experience that everyone can relate to.

Maybe it’s eating something you shouldn’t have. (In my case, my brother’s Orange Aero on a warm Sunday in 1989.)

Maybe it’s staying up past your bedtime. (For me, Christmas Eve 1992, looking for Santa.)

Maybe it’s breaking something expensive that belongs to your parents. (Sorry about your glasses, dad. Yes, on both occasions.)

From here, it’s just a question of taking a sizable portion of silliness – the sort that kids often love – and exploring the possible reasons for all these scenarios. Who took the cake? Aliens. No, turtles. No, penguins. Why didn’t you stop them? They had jetpacks. No, they froze me in carbonite. No, they put me in a big jar of marmalade.

Some of these silly ideas feel like a better fit than others, and for a children’s book author it’s a question of knowing which is the best option to develop further. For instance, there’s just something inherently charming about penguins – the way they hang around in groups, their cheeky little waddle, the way they dress like little waiters, even though there’s remarkably few suit shops in the Antarctic. They’re fascinating for kids, and they just felt like the perfect little gang to try and create a bit of mischief for Albert.

So, to go back to the original question: “Where do you get your ideas from?” Well, I guess the truth of it is that I just sit down and think about silly, fun stuff and see where I end up. It’s very enjoyable. And every now and again, one of those ideas turns out to be a good one.”

FACT or FIB Challenge:

“The Emperor Penguin is the largest kind of penguin. On average they measure 100cm tall – the same height as the average 5 year old”

Andrew guessed this fact to be a fib as he reckoned that they are even taller than 1 metre. However, Aysha thought it was true. Who’s right?

Andrew was correct – they measure 115cm on average – the same height as the average 6 year old!

With thanks to Andrew for this guest post and for Pan Macmillan for inviting me to participate in this blog tour.

Find out more at www.panmacmillan.com and follow the rest of the blog tour:

BLOG TOUR: Princesses Break Free by Timothy Knapman illustrated by Jenny Løvlie

Watch out – there are princesses about! Today is my stop on the blog tour for Princesses Break Free, a new picture book by Timothy Knapman and Jenny Løvlie, with a guest post from author Timothy. Move over damsal in distress, and hello feisty and fantastic Princess Tilly!

Princesses Break Free is a fun, wild adventure challenging the stereotypical image of the poised, preened damsel; Tilly is a princess who takes life into her own hands without waiting around for anybody else, as she shows princesses – and then princes, witches, and dragons – that they can do anything they want to!

I’m sharing a guest post from author Timothy all about the inspiration behind this delightful story. Welcome to the blog Timothy!

What Was the Inspiration For Princess Tilly in Princesses Break Free?

by Timothy Knapman

“Before my princess story, there was a pirate story.

The princess story is called Princesses Break Free.  It’s my new book, dazzlingly illustrated by the ridiculously talented Jenny Løvlie.  Princesses Break Free tells the story of Princess Tilly, who is carried off one day by a dragon – so far, so traditional.  Tilly’s fairy godmother has told her she must wait until a handsome prince comes to her rescue, but Tilly thinks that’s boring.  So instead she just rescues herself (with a parachute made from knickers, naturally) and in so doing encourages every other princess in fairy tale land to take their destinies into their own hands and go out and do what they want, not what’s expected of them.  Of course, this puts the princesses’ support network of dragons, handsome princes and evil queens out of a job.  Suddenly and unexpectedly having time on their hands, the dragons try being carried off for a change, the princes have a go at getting rescued and the evil queens find a new use for their poisoned apples.  Soon enough, they realise that they all like this new freedom too. 

I’ve wanted to write a princess book for ages.  One of the great pleasures and privileges of being a children’s author is that sometimes you get to go into schools to meet your readers.  If your visit’s anything to do with World Book Day, you’ll probably be welcomed by row upon row of Harry Potters, superheroes, dinosaurs, pirates and princesses.

I can see why kids love dressing up as these big, bold, clearly defined characters.  It’s partly because it’s fun, of course: a brilliant way to enter your favourite fantasy world.  But it also helps them explore and develop their personalities, as they try on different ways of being until they find one that fits.  Weedy little boys (as I was) take comfort in the padded muscles of a superhero outfit, or take advantage of the licence to misbehave as a naughty dinosaur.  Little girls are attracted to the magic and glamour that a princess costume will lend them.  But I’m very conscious that these outfits can also be traps – unthinkingly imposing on the kids wearing them the values and expectations of the original stories, some of which (about class, gender and ethnicity) we have long outgrown.

I’m a children’s author, not a cultural critic, so rather than write an essay about this, my solution was to take some of these traditional characters and have a bit of fun with them.  As I said at the beginning, the first one I picked was the pirate – in a book called Captain Sparklebeard.  It tells the story of a girl called Peg who lives, miserably, by the sea with her wicked step great grand auntie.  Every night, Peg reads pirate stories and dreams of escape and adventure.  She thinks her luck has changed when a crew of real pirates comes to town, but – traditional to the core – the pirates don’t allow polite little girls who can read and don’t have beards to join their crew.  Peg won’t stand for that, and she adopts the persona of the mysterious Captain Sparklebeard aboard a boat made of books.  In the ensuing race for buried treasure, she shows those scurvy sea dogs once and for all who’s the greatest pirate who ever lived.

With princesses there’s a similar range of clearly defined expectations that are, if anything, even more restricting – and therefore even more fun to play with.  Princesses frequently find themselves at the heart of the exciting moments in a story but they don’t often get the chance to do anything about it.  The energy released by turning those expectations inside out is what drives Princesses Break Free, as all that liberated excitement courses through the fresh twists and new possibilities of the story.

I’m not the first person to have tried to reimagine the role of the princess in a story, and I won’t be the last.  Nor am I saying there’s anything wrong with little girls dressing up as princesses.  I’m just suggesting that these familiar characters are so vivid, and so entrenched in our collective consciousness that they can withstand, and even benefit from, a little narrative mischief.

More importantly, I want my young readers to know that if they ever find themselves limited by the imaginative worlds handed down to them, they can always bend and twist and reconstruct those worlds to suit them better. 

And if they ever need to escape, they can always make a parachute out of knickers.”

With thanks to Walker Books for inviting me to participate in this blog tour. Follow the rest of the tour here:

BLOG TOUR: The Dragon in the Bookshop by Ewa Jozefkowicz

The Dragon in the Bookshop is a beautifully told story by Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize shortlisted author,  Ewa Jozefkowicz, published by Zephr. I’m delighted to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour celebrating the publication of the book, and sharing a short guest post by the author with an exclusive extract.

The Dragon in the Bookshop by Ewa Jozefkowicz

Inside the pages of a Polish legend, a hungry dragon stirs…The town of Krakow is in danger! Konrad and Maya’s quest to rewrite the ending of the legend and save the townspeople leads them on a magical adventure that sizzles with myth, mystery, dragons and dinosaurs. Will they find the right words and the power of stories to heal broken hearts?

Moving and magical, this wonderful adventure will captivate readers everywhere, and demonstrates the power of stories to bring hope and healing. We will all experience grief at some point in our lives, and stories like this that raise awareness are just what is needed to bring empathy and understanding.

Polish author Ewa Jozefkowicz’s Dad was a bookseller who inspired her love of reading and storytelling. He died when Ewa was a teenager and she became selectively mute in response to her grief. The Dragon in the Bookshop is Ewa’s exploration of the bereavement she experienced as a child and a tribute to the memory of her Dad. In her role working for a school support service, Ewa has experienced first-hand the life-affirming work of charity Grief Encounter (www.griefencounter.org.uk) who support children and young people who have experienced the death of someone close to them – this is one child in every UK classroom by the time they reach 16 years old.

Grief Encounter did not exist when Ewa lost her dad. Ewa and Zephyr are partnering with Grief Encounter to raise awareness of the charity and the book will help promote their work. As a charity, Grief Encounter work closely with individuals, families, schools and professionals to offer a way through the anxiety, fear and isolation so often caused by the grief of losing someone close.

I am really pleased to welcome author Ewa to the blog today with a guest post and an extract from the story. Welcome to the blog Ewa!

“The Dragon in the Bookshop is a story about grief, hope, the healing power of nature, and the realisation that the people we love are never truly gone. They’re in so many elements of what we do every day – in the things we say, the decisions we make, even the books we read. The main character in the story is Kon, who stops speaking after his dad’s death and is struggling at school. But things begin to change when he meets Maya on the beach that he used to explore with Dad. Later, they go to visit his Dad’s bookshop together, and get whisked away on a magical adventure through one of the books that Kon used to enjoy reading with him.

Below is an extract from the story, which describes the moment in which they find themselves in the bookshop, before strange things begin to happen.”

Being in the bookshop with Maya was fun. I was rediscovering the magic that Dad always spoke about.

“What’s this one?” she asked, pulling out a book from the middle of the pile, “Look at it – it’s beautiful.”

She handed it to me and I ran my fingers over the silky green cover. It shimmered in the light. And then my heart stopped. There were tiny footprints embossed in gold round the edge of it, shaped just like the print that I’d found. I turned the book over and checked the spine, but there was no title. It was obvious that the book wasn’t new, like all the others in this bookshop. In fact, it looked very old. When I dared to open the cover, I found thinned, yellow paper and a sweet, musty smell.

I flipped over to the title page and there I saw a picture of the dragon. It was so detailed and intricate that you could see every muscle in its body. Just looking at its eyes made my stomach suddenly heavy with fear. It wasn’t just any dragon – it was the one from Vavel Castle. The legend that Dad had always read to me. He must have somehow found a special edition. Maybe he’d been waiting to give it to me for my birthday.

I turned the pages greedily, recognising every word of the story, but seeing it somehow in a new light. Maybe it was something about the illustrations at the end of every paragraph, or the strange print that looked like old fashioned writing. I had a peculiar sense that the light around me was changing as I read, but all I knew is that I desperately wanted to get to the end.

“Konrad?” It was Maya’s voice but at the same time it didn’t sound like her at all. It wasn’t cheerful and carefree. It was small and shaky and scared.

I glanced up. She was still there next to me. I was still standing holding a book. There were still shelves of other books around us and a wooden floor beneath our feet, but we weren’t in Dad’s bookshop anymore. We were somewhere else entirely.

Find out more here readzephyr.com/books/9781801109185 .

Grief Encounter provide immediate support with a FREEPHONE Grieftalk helpline 0808 802 0111 open Mon-Fri 9am-9pm, a live chat via their website or support by emailing grieftalk@griefencounter.org.uk.

With thanks to Fritha and the team at Zephr for inviting me to participate in the blog tour. Follow the rest of the tour here:

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.