This book has been burning a hole in my TBR pile for several months now and I am so glad to have read it and be sharing my review today. Author Nizrana Farook, whose debut novel, The Girl Who Stole An Elephant, captivated readers, has returned to fictional Sri Lanka for another tale full of thrills and adventure in The Boy Who Met A Whale for children aged 9+.
Razi, a local fisherboy, is watching turtle eggs hatch when he sees a boat bobbing into view. With a chill, he notices a small, still hand hanging over the side… Inside is Zheng, who’s escaped a shipwreck and is full of tales of sea monsters and missing treasure. But the villains who are after Zheng are soon after Razi and his sister, Shifa, too. And so begins an exhilarating adventure in the shadow of the biggest sea monster of them all…
This is a fantastic adventure story and from the first page, the sights and sounds of the tropical island of Serendib are wonderfully described. You can almost see the coconut trees, touch the sea turtles and hear the waves on the beach! As Razi and Shifa embark on a perilous journey to help their new found friend, Zheng, Razi has his own fears to face having not been in the sea since the death of his father, for which he blames himself. His sister Shifa, is not quite so trusting of Zheng, especially when it’s clear the real danger they face from the villainous treasure hunters. Is there really hidden treasure? And who does it really belong to? The plot thickens with every page, and the wonder of the ocean and creatures who live in it is brilliantly brought to life. With action-packed moments throughout and a great friendship building between Raz, Shifa and Zheng – and not forgetting the blue whale – this is an adventure story everyone should escape into!
With thanks to Nosy Crow for sending me this book to review.
First published in September 2020 by Bloomsbury, with a proportion of proceeds for every sale going to Save the Children, The World Made a Rainbow is a delightful and moving story sharing a message of hope for young children and families – that is relevant for any day you might be feeling blue. Bestselling author Michelle Robinson was desperate to find a way to help small children navigate their way through the complex emotions caused by the lockdown. With charming illustrations from new talent Emily Hamilton, The World Made a Rainbow is the ideal picture book to share with all the family, giving them just the lift and spark of hope needed at this time.
I will happily admit, that as we live through another lockdown, and as life feels a bit like a never-ending hamster wheel, this story was just the encouragement I needed when I read it. Empathy and understanding pours from every page, as a little girl and her mum decide to make a rainbow to help everyone feel better about being stuck at home. Soon her Dad and her brother are helping too, bringing the family together as they create a symbol of hope for all and recall the happy times they have shared. Told with a rhyming narrative and bright and colourful illustrations, the story cleverly highlights all the things we might miss most whilst having to stay at home- family, friends, school days, going outside on adventures. And it reminds us that all those things are still there and will be there when this time comes to an end, and we will be able to make new memories, together.
Gemma Sherrington, Executive Director of Fundraising and Marketing at Save the Children said: “The money raised from the sale of this heartwarming book will go towards supporting Save the Children’s programmes to help every child reach their full potential and to make sure they stay safe, healthy and learning.”
To explore the themes in the book with young children, you can use the activity pack to help with opportunities to think about the things that make you happy and colour your own rainbow.
Today is my stop on the blog tour for the amazing BRITANNICA ALL NEW CHILDREN’S ENCYCLOPEDIA: What We Know and What We Don’t. The great joy of an encyclopedia for children is that the information has already been sifted and sorted by the experts, and is ready simply for them to enjoy and make use of as needed. As a school librarian, I could often be found encouraging children and young people to start with an encyclopedia for a foundation on which to build their knowledge. And you cannot get a stronger foundation than Encyclopedia Britannica, which has been inspiring learning since 1768!
BRITANNICA ALL NEW CHILDREN’S ENCYCLOPEDIA: What We Know and What We Don’t, edited by author and lecturer Christopher Lloyd, is the first book published under a new reference imprint, Britannica Books, a collaboration between Encyclopedia Britannica and What on Earth Publishing. With 416 pages of mind-boggling facts, data and visuals endorsed by more than 100 expert consultants, there is much to discover. Special features highlight some of the most intriguing facts and unsolved puzzles in science, archaeology, history and engineering and there are fascinating segments called FACTastic, Listified, Known Unknowns and Game Changers.
Today, I am sharing my thoughts on the section entitled ‘Humans’, almost fifty pages of dazzling insight into everything from how our bodies work to the clothes we wear, the food we eat, our emotions, human art and culture, money, crime and law, education and religion. Immediately you are struck by the high-quality production of the book and can see straightaway much thought has gone into making the information exciting and accessible. Layouts are colourful, easy to read and full of fantastic illustrations bringing the information to life.
This is the kind of book an avid reader will lap up and a reluctant reader will be very happy to dip in and out of – they won’t even realise they’re reading as they absorb the many fabulous facts on display in words and pictures! Facts like – a human being can make more than 10,000 different faces, and, scientists found 5,700 year old DNA in a piece of chewing gum! Alongside these engaging insights, children will learn so much more about human history, science and culture – this is a book readers will come back to again and again. It will also be very useful as an introduction to a whole range of topics – definitely one for the classtoom and school library.
My particular favourite spreads were (unsurprisingly) ‘Reading and Writing’ – did you know the world’s first novel, The Tale of Genji, was written over 1,000 years ago by Murasaki Shikibu, a lady-in-waiting in the Japanese court? I didn’t! And the ‘Creating Art’ and ‘Performing Arts’ spreads showing just how important the Arts are to humans; creating art has been a part of our lives for over 40, 000 years. If you haven’t picked up an encyclopedia for a long time, then this is one I’d highly recommend- great to share in school and at home, inspiring curiosity and encouraging reading.
It’s the final stop on the blog tour for The Midnight Swan by Catherine Fisher, a fabulous finale to the Clockwork Crow series published by Firefly Press. Today, I’m sharing a guest post by Catherine focusing on writing the third book in this brillianttrilogy.
The Midnight Swan by Catherine Fisher
With an invisible girl, a parliament of owls and a pen that writes by itself, the journey to the garden of the Midnight Swan might be Seren’s most dangerous adventure yet. Can she, Tomos and the Crow complete their quest and get back where they belong?
Beautifully written, depicting a magical Victorian setting with characters we’ve come to know and love, The Midnight Swan is both gripping and heart-warming. The kind of adventure I would have gobbled up as a child (metaphorically speaking of course!), you’ll be transported back into Seren and Tomos’ world as they race against time to save their schoolteacher friend, the Clockwork Crow. In addition to facing the eerily terrifying Tylwyth Teg, Seren must contend with her worries of being sent back to the orphanage too. Perhaps being taken by the faery folk wouldn’t be so bad…?
Today on the blog, author Catherine Fisher shares insight into writing the final book of the trilogy. Welcome to the blog Catherine!
“The Midnight Swan is the third in the Clockwork Crow series, about the adventures of Seren, an orphan in Victorian Wales, and her tetchy, vain friend, the Crow. The series has been huge fun to write. I have enjoyed mixing in all the things I like best- a big old house, lakes and woods, magic and folklore, strange other worlds and the silvery faery beings of Wales, The Tylwyth Teg. I wanted it to be firmly rooted in Wales. So I have used Welsh names and fragments of the language, as well as some of our folklore. The house of Plas-y-Fran is imaginary, but based on a house I know well, where I used to go to school, especially the creaky upstairs corridors and the staircase with its portraits that look down on Seren.
Each book is set in a different season, the first in winter and the second in autumn. The Midnight Swan is set at Midsummer, when the days are long and hot, and the nights short and magical. The last book is always the trickiest of the three to write. That’s because if readers enjoyed the first two, they are looking forward to this one a lot and I don’t want to disappoint them! Also the third book has to wrap the story up in a satisfying way and have everyone living happily ever after. In this book, Seren and Tomas and the Crow must find a way to break the spell that keeps him as a moth- eaten bird and find a way to restore his human shape. And Seren has to come to finally be accepted as part of the Jones family and lose her fears of being sent back to the orphanage.
Also the book has to have its own exciting adventure! So we have a Midsummer Ball, a stolen Box with a strange message on the lid, a pen that writes by itself and an invisible girl. Seren and the Crow journey to the Garden of the Midnight Swan, and on the way they meet all sorts of animals, problems and dangers. Who is following them? And can they get back in time to stop the Tylwyth Teg invading the Ball? Above all, will the Midnight Swan help them break the spell? I hope it’s a thrilling, funny and satisfying end to the series, and that you love reading it.”
It’s an exciting day for poetry today! Not only is it National Poetry Day, but it’s also the day we find out who is on the shortlist for CLiPPA (Centre for Literacy in Primary Poetry Award)! And I’m really happy to be sharing the shortlist on the blog this morning, announced by none other than Michael Rosen on behalf of CLPE! (view here).
The Award is run by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE). Established in 2003, the CLiPPA is the UK’s only award for published poetry for children. As well as celebrating outstanding poetry, the CLiPPA encourages schools to explore the shortlist with their pupils through its Shadowing Scheme, each year prompting poetry performances in many hundreds of classrooms across the UK.
The 2020 shortlist reflects the extraordinary vitality of the UK’s poetry publishing for children. Birmingham based independent The Emma Press has two books on the five-strong shortlist, including a collection by the Spanish poet Karmelo C. Iribarren newly translated into English by Lawrence Schimel, and an illustrated collection of LGBT themed poetry based on retellings of Scottish folk tales. Tiny independent Troika Books are also represented with Cherry Moon, a collection of nature poems by Zaro Weil, illustrated by newcomer Junli Song. The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog published by Walker Books is an anthology of ‘how to’ poems collected by poet Paul B. Janeczko and illustrated by Richard Jones that features an eclectic mix of topics. In Midnight Feasts, published by Bloomsbury, A. F. Harrold collects together poems ancient and very modern all on the theme of food, pairing for example Ian McMillan’s Praise Poem for Yorkshire Puddings with Indian Cooking by Moniza Alvi.
Louise Johns-Shepherd, Chief Executive, CLPE said “In this challenging year, we are particularly delighted to be announcing the shortlist for the CLiPPA and to be doing it on National Poetry Day, when everyone is invited to celebrate and share poetry. Our judges have selected five poetry collections that, though very different, will each inspire and enthral young readers. We are excited to make the announcement and look forward to sharing the shortlist through our shadowing scheme.”
Midnight Feasts. Tasty Poems chosen by A.F. Harrold, illustrated by Katy Riddell, Bloomsbury. The judges said: a delicious and quirky collection of poems old and new, skilfully curated and perfectly paced.
Poems the Wind Blew In, Karmelo C. Iribarren, illustrated by Riya Chowdhury, translated from Spanish by Lawrence Schimel, The Emma Press. The judges said: a book to carry around with you, proof that poetry is ideas, thoughts and emotions captured in words.
The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems, compiled by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Richard Jones, Walker Books. The judges said: a wonderfully varied collection of poems that will speak directly to young children.
Wain: LGBT Reimaginings of Scottish Folklore, Rachel Plummer, illustrated by Helene Boppert, The Emma Press. The judges said: a fresh voice and take on something that could have felt archaic but is made to feel new.
Cherry Moon, Zaro Weil, illustrated by Junli Song, ZaZaKids Books/ Troika Books. The judges said: meditative and nicely paced; Weil presents beautiful snapshots of the natural world and has thought carefully about the form for each.
Steven Camden, poet, winner of the 2019 CLiPPA commented: “I was pretty nervous going into the judging meeting because I felt really strongly about my choices. My favourites on the list really affected me and I was apprehensive about fighting their corner with people I didn’t really know. Within five minutes it was clear that those books that touched me had touched the other judges just as strongly and what followed was a gorgeous celebratory conversation of some truly stunning creations. What a treat and privilege.”
This year the judges are poets Valerie Bloom and Steven Camden, winner of the CLiPPA 2019, alongside Tracey Guiry, director of the Poetry Archive and Charlotte Hacking, Central Learning Programmes Leader at CLPE.
In a first for the CLiPPA, thanks to a new partnership with The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, the winner of the 2020 Award will be revealed at the culmination of the CLF schools’ programme, on Friday 9October, in a Poetry Show introduced by CLiPPA judges, poets Valerie Bloom and Steven Camden, and featuring performances by the shortlisted poets as well as live drawing by former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell. Schools across the UK and beyond will be able to watch the show for free on The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival platform and access poetry CPD sessions created by CLPE. The free Shadowing Scheme to involve schools in CLiPPA 2020 will launch alongside the announcement of the winner.
The CLiPPA is delivered in partnership with the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) and supported by Arts Council England.