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BLOG TOUR: The Midnight Swan by Catherine Fisher

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 brilliant trilogy.

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.”

Find out more at https://fireflypress.co.uk/books/midnight-swan/

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

SHORTLIST ANNOUNCED FOR 2020 CLiPPA (CLPE Children’s Poetry Award)

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.”

THE SHORTLIST

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.

To find out more visit www.clpe.org.uk/poetryline/clippa or contact sarah@clpe.org.uk / 020 7401 3382

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: 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!