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BLOG TOUR: Flyntlock Bones: The Sceptre of the Pharaohs by Derek Keily and Mark Elvins

Ahoy there me hearties! It’s a pirate’s life for me…well not really, but you can’t help feel pirate-y after reading the first of a brand new trilogy of pirate adventures with a twist, Flyntlock Bones: The Sceptre of the Pharaohs, by acclaimed author Derek Keilty and debut illustrator, Mark Elvins.  This is the first chapter book offering from Scallywag Press for children aged 7-10 years and it definitely lives up to their usual high standards of exciting and quirky new books.

I’m delighted to share my review of this new book on today’s stop of the blog tour celebrating Flyntlock’s publication this month!

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Flyntlock Bones: The Sceptre of the Pharaohs, by Derek Keilty illustrated by Mark Elvins

Welcome to the Black Hound – a ship full o’ the cleverest pirate investigators ya ever set eyes upon…You OK, lad? Ya gone paler than a full moon.’ 

When Flynn applies for the job of cabin boy on the Black Hound, he doesn’t expect it to be a pirate ship! But soon he’s setting sail for the Seven Seas, on a perilous quest to recover ancient treasure bound by a magical curse….

Adventure abounds from the first page as we join Flynn on the Black Hound on his first sea voyage – well his first journey anywhere!  Having been in an orphanage most of his life, Flynn can’t wait to escape and after getting over the shock of discovering he’s on a pirate ship, he can’t help but be excited when he finds out that Captain Watkins and his crew are actually pirate-investigators!  Flynn immediately makes friends with Red, a feisty girl who is a pirate-ship pro and he soon has to find his sea legs as the Black Hound heads to the Isle of Tut to solve another mystery.

It’s a brilliant twist on pirate stories, combining all the best bits – think treasure maps, swashbuckling, suitably grumpy pirate cooks, walking the plank, pirate grog  – with a mystery thriller narrative including a villain named Captain Morihearty! Highly enjoyable with a fantastic cast of characters, the story is brilliantly enhanced by illustrations reminiscent of the master himself, Chris Riddell.  This is definitely one to watch and I’m sure will go down brilliantly with would-be pirates and sleuths alike.  Great fun!

Find out more at www.scallywagpress.comand check out the rest of the tour using #FlyntlockBones

Derek Keilty lives in Belfast and is the author of over ten books for children. His work has been translated into many different languages, and shortlisted for the Children’s Books Ireland Book of the Year. He has a thriving schools program, storytelling and taking creative writing workshops around local schools.

Mark Elvins lives in Yorkshire. When he’s not drawing pirates he’s a print-maker and recently won an English Heritage competition to illustrate the displays at Whitby Abbey.

With thanks to Scallywag Press for inviting me to participate in the blog tour and sending me this book to review.

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Bookchat: Boundless Sky by Amanda Addison and Manuela Adreani

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Boundless Sky by Amanda Addison and Manuela Adreani featured as part of my World Book Day Blog.  It is a simply stunning story using the migration of a beautiful swallow to illustrate the journey of a refugee.  The story depicts just how far refugees travel to get to safety, how long and dangerous the journey can be, and how the help and welcome of others is so needed. And of course highlights the wonder of nature and how incredible the migration of birds really is. Published by Lantana Publishing, Boundless Sky evokes real empathy and beautifully depicts the power of nature and kindness; it’s a story we can all learn from.

unnamedToday, I am sharing a Q & A with author Amanda Addison who shares some wonderful insights into the inspiration for the book and how stories can connect us all. Welcome to the blog Amanda!

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind Boundless SkyThe natural world and travel are both inspirations for my writing and painting. Boundless Sky was inspired by several things coming together to form the seed of an idea about bird migration. Mark Cocker, (co-author of Birds Britannica) lives in a neighbouring village. When I read Crow Country there were so many amazing facts about bird migration that it sowed the seed of an idea to use bird migration in fiction. My first exploration of the idea was in connection with nomadic peoples and yurts in my textile-inspired novel, Laura’s Handmade Life.

Then I was asked to make a piece of artwork for a Bird themed exhibition – birds and migration was circling around in my head! If I had a super power it would be to be able to fly. And that was my ‘light bulb’ moment of telling the story of a migrating swallow from its own Bird’s eye view of the children it meets en-route. I have wanted to write about the refugee crisis in an empathetic way and so the story links the amazing migration of the swallow (something we are familiar with) with an understanding of the lengthy journeys many people fleeing conflict, climate change etc have to make to survive and thrive. Journeys are made to survive and thrive. Bird’s journey can be seen as a metaphor for coming together under the same boundless sky.

However, there is still work to be done in extending people’s intellectual and emotional empathy around this issue. Leila offers Bird the life-giving water it needs to continue its journey when the adults don’t notice. This is my favourite spread as children often notice what is really important.

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My hope is that Boundless Sky will be part of that change and help us to understood migration on both an intellectual and emotion level.

What research did you carry out to inform the story? I returned to some of the bird facts in various books which inspired me to write about bird migration in the first place. I also read accounts of swallow migrations. There were some amazing facts which I couldn’t fit directly into this story, such as how in the past people really didn’t believe it was possible for a bird so small to migrate and so they believed that they hibernated underground! However, I used this belief to inform the beginning of the story:

“Nobody knew,

nobody dreamed,

nobody even considered the possibility

that a bird which fits in your hand

might fly halfway round the world –

and back again.”

How did you work with the illustrator to bring your words to life? When Alice from Lantana suggested Manuela Adreani, I thought her work was a very good fit as she uses bold compositions with a tender use of colour and tone which would be just right. The final images are gorgeous and stylish! I love the echoing of flight shapes, wings, kites, butterflies, hands etc. What I particularly like about the pictures is the way you can look at them again and again and get something more out of them.

We had a few discussions to clarify some things in the text. But in the end (as I used to work as an illustrator and did my first degree in illustration at Chelsea School of Art) I wanted to trust Manuela and give her the freedom to come up with something beyond my own imagination. The best illustrators complement a story and bring an extra dimension to it.  Also, Manuela and I are indebted to the book’s designer the book designer made beautiful use of complementary colours with orange type and spine against turquoise background.

Home has a particularly poignant meaning in these difficult times – what do you think your story can teach people about this today? When I wrote Boundless Sky, I never dreamed that the book’s message of resilience, interconnectedness and helping each other would be so important, in such a different context. In fact, one reviewer said the book is for 5-89 years! as it’s a heart-warming story for us all. As home becomes smaller for us during social isolation, our sense of place and connection with others becomes more important.

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Stories can allow us to be mental travellers, allow us to explore places from our past, our imagination and inter connectedness with the whole world. Times are tough, but as with bird’s journey we are reminded that the world is truly interconnected and we must support each other to enlarge our common humanity. Stories of tenderness, kindness and connection can help us come through this pandemic with our humanity intact.

Finally, can you share what new projects you are working on? I am working on more stories on the theme of home and away for both adults and children. It is difficult to focus at the moment on new ideas, but I am finding it a perfect time to re-write my drafts-in-progress and this is a comfort of sorts. The conservatory, my usual studio space isn’t working out with everyone at home so I have turned part of my greenhouse into an art studio and will be painting from nature!

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Find out more at www.amandaaddison.com.You can download resources for Boundless Sky and watch Amanda read the story aloud here.

With thanks to Lantana Publishing for sending me this book to review and to Amanda Addison for participating in this bookchat!

 

BLOG TOUR: Literally: Amazing words and Where They Come From by Patrick Skipworth, illustrated by Nicholas Stevenson

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I’m delighted to be hosting today’s stop on the language safari blog tour for LITERALLY: Amazing words and Where They Come From by Patrick Skipworth, illustrated by Nicholas Stevenson, published by What On Earth Books.  LITERALLY is an amazing collection of some of our most commonly used words and shares the history behind them.  Prepare to be astounded as you discover more about one of our most precious commodities, learning not just about the origins of words but also about how their meanings have changed and how far they have travelled.  Accompanied by vibrant and humourous illustrations, this is a wonderful book to share and enjoy again and again.

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Today I’m sharing a guest post from author Patrick Skipworth, who studied Classics and Linguistics in London and the Netherlands, connecting the dots between ancient cultures, their histories, and their languages.  Welcome to the blog Patrick!

Language Safari part 3: Language on a plate: food words from around the world

In the guest posts on the LITERALLY Blog tour I’ll be taking a closer look at three familiar areas of English vocabulary to reveal some of the surprises hidden in our words.

One of my favourite hobbies is cooking. Ever since I was very little I’ve enjoyed trying new foods, and now as an adult I love experimenting in the kitchen. Things sometimes don’t turn out as planned, but that’s half the fun. Food also provides an opportunity to combine one passion with another – words! Words for the vegetables, herbs, spices and animal products we use to make our dinners are a treasure trove for etymologists, with connections spanning thousands of years and crossing the world. The easy access we have today to globally imported foods in every supermarket or high street means we get to discover new words all the time.

Even familiar food words can have distant origins: pepper and sugar, for example, have their roots in Sanskrit from ancient India, and tea comes from Chinese (ch’a). Or take the humble potato. This ubiquitous feature of Sunday lunch in the UK was originally introduced to European stomachs after it was brought back from South America by Spanish conquistadors. The Inca who ruled the area around what is now Peru were huge fans. But, as with many words, unpacking the potato reveals a more complex journey into English. Long before its recent resurgence in trendy recipes, the sweet potato was the original ‘potato’ for English speakers. It took its name from batata, probably its name in Taíno but certainly a language from the Caribbean. The arrival of the less-sweet potato from South America saw it eventually take over as arguably the most loved root vegetable. Elsewhere the story is just as complicated: compare French pomme de terre (‘potato’, literally ‘apple of the earth’ – also see Dutch aardappel) with the more familiar looking patate douce (sweet potato), or, even more telling, Spanish patata (‘potato’) and batata (‘sweet potato’).

Through the various forms and changes around this single word we can identify a period of history that saw invaders and colonists taking two plants from the Americas back to Europe and causing linguistic mayhem. These words reveal historical connections around trade and colonialism that have shaped a significant part of societies today. Often these connections are actually right in front of us, such as for the word peach which comes ultimately from ‘Persia’, through which this fruit once made the long journey from China to Europe. A less common sight, the Roman snail (or escargot) was introduced across Europe by the Romans who had a taste for the slimy molluscs which has been passed down to French cuisine today. Red herrings abound though (French fries originate in Belgium for example), so any etymologist always has to stay on their toes. Next time you have your dinner, take a closer look at the words on your plate – you might discover some amazing stories.

Follow Patrick on Twitter @PSkipworth and Nicholas @xonicholasxo.

With thanks to What On Earth Books for inviting me to participate in this blog tour! Don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour:

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Branford Boase Award – SHORTLIST ANNOUNCED FOR 2020!

I am SO excited to share the Branford Boase Book Award Shortlist for 2020! Not least because I am on the judging panel this year and it has been the most brilliant experience but challenging too, because the quality of books on the longlist was outstanding.  However, myself and my brilliant fellow judges – Sue Bastone, vice-chair SLA;  Layla Hudson of Round Table Books, Brixton; and Muhammad Khan, author of I Am Thunder, winner of the 2019 Branford Boase along with panel chair, Julia Eccleshare, children’s director of the Hay Festival, deliberated and discussed all the wonderful books and we are delighted with the hugely impressive final shortlist:

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Little Badman and the Invasion of the Killer Aunties by Humza Arshad and
Henry White, edited by Holly Harris and Sharan Matharu, illus Aleksei Bitskoff (Puffin)

The Space We’re In by Katya Balen, edited by Lucy Mackay-Sim, illus Laura Carlin
(Bloomsbury)
A Pocketful of Stars by Aisha Bushby, edited by Liz Bankes and Sarah Levison
(Egmont)

Bearmouth by Liz Hyder, edited by Sarah Odedina (Pushkin Press)

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson, edited by Lindsey Heaven
(Electric Monkey)
Frostheart by Jamie Littler, edited by Naomi Colthurst (Puffin)
The Million Pieces of Neena Gill by Emma Smith-Barton, edited by Naomi
Colthurst (Penguin)

 

Congratulations to all the authors and editors who have created such memorable stories!

Since 2000, the Branford Boase has been awarded annually to the author of an outstanding debut novel for children. Uniquely, it also honours the editor of the winning title and highlights the importance of the editor in nurturing new talent. The Award is the joint idea of Julia Eccleshare and Anne Marley. Julia is chair of PLR and director of the Hay Festival children’s programme. Anne was a co-director of Authors Aloud UK and was Head of Children’s, Youth & Schools Services for Hampshire Library & Information Service for many years. Founded to commemorate author Henrietta Branford and influential Walker Books editor Wendy Boase, the Branford Boase Award is recognised as one of the most important awards in children’s books with an impressive record in identifying outstanding authors at the start of their careers. Winners and shortlisted authors include Siobhan Dowd, Meg Rosoff, Mal Peet, Philip Reeve, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Frances Hardinge, Patrick Ness and Marcus Sedgwick.  Since starting The Book Activist, I have supported the award through my blog and have been absolutely honoured to participate on the judging panel this year!

Julia Eccleshare, one of the founders of award and chair of the judges says: “In
highlighting the most exciting new authors and the most talented editors, the Branford Boase Award also identifies the preoccupations and strengths of current children’s literature and we are pleased to say that this year’s shortlist is particularly rich and diverse. Here are extremely powerful, challenging stories tackling complex issues alongside funny, exciting, original fiction; the range of voices represented is unparalleled in the award’s history. We are excited not only about the books on the shortlist, but about what their authors will write next too.”

You can read the judges comments here. The winner of the Branford Boase Award would normally be announced at a ceremony in London in early July. This year the announcement of the winner has been delayed until 24th September. The winning author receives a cheque for £1,000 and both author and editor receive an inscribed crystal plaque.

For further information about the Award contact Andrea Reece on andrea.reece@zen.co.uk

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#FCBGCBA2020 BLOG TOUR: Wildspark by Vashti Hardy

It’s my absolute pleasure to be supporting The Children’s Book Award blog tour championing the brilliant Wildspark by Vashti Hardy. To celebrate, I’m delighted to be running a giveaway – one lucky winner will receive a copy of Wildspark! Head over to Twitter to find out how to enter.

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Prue is a young farm girl whose older brother, Francis, had a natural talent for engineering. But after his untimely death, the family have been shattered by grief. Everything changes when a stranger arrives at the farm. A new, incredible technology has been discovered in the city of Medlock, where a secretive guild of inventors have found a way to bring spirits of the dead back into the world, capturing their energy and powering animal-like machines (the Personifates). Unaware that Francis has died, the Ghost Guild wants him to join them as an apprentice. Prue poses as “Frances” and goes to Medlock to learn the craft – but she’s on a mission of her own, to bring her brother back home. And to find Francis, she needs to find a way to help the ghost machines remember the people they used to be. But if she succeeds, the whole society could fall apart.

I was fortunate enough to read and review Wildspark last year for Scholastic (full review here) and therefore I know how deserving Vashti Hardy is of this shortlisting in the Confident Reader’s Category! Featuring a truly imaginative world full of breath-taking scenery, wondrous inventions and the most marvellous array of characters you could hope to meet, Wildspark was one of my absolute favourite reads last year.

The Children’s Book Award is the only national award voted for solely by children from start to finish. It is highly regarded by parents, teachers, librarians, publishers and children’s authors and illustrators as it truly represents the children’s choice. Author of Wildspark, Vashti Hardy, says:

“I’m overjoyed and honoured that Wildspark has been shortlisted for the FCBG Children’s Book Awards 2020! The FCBG is such a force for good in sharing and celebrating a love of books and I can’t wait to attend the ceremony, which I was lucky enough to be a guest at last year. It’s a lovely day and a great opportunity to meet some of the fantastic young readers who have taken part in reading the shortlisted books, the teachers, and of course the wonderful FCBG volunteers. Wildspark is a fantasy adventure story that celebrates the power of invention, dreaming big, friendship, and grief, and it also explores how we treat the notion of ‘other’ and difference through imagining you could bring back ghosts inside lifelike animal machines, a subject that resonates so strongly with our times. I’m looking forward to seeing what all the readers think and chatting some more to them all!”

Thanks to the support for the Award by the publishers, over 1,000 new books are donated to be read and reviewed by Testing Groups across the country every year, with over 150,000 total votes being cast in the process. At the end of each testing year, nearly 12,000 books are donated to hospitals, women’s refuges, nurseries and disadvantaged schools by our groups. It truly is a wonderful award.

Find out how to vote here. Find out more about the Award here. Follow the Award on Twitter using #FCBGCBA2020

Find out more about Wildspark on the author’s website www.vashtihardy.com and check out the whole blog tour here:

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