Tag Archives: Adventure

New review: The Accidental Wizard by Kimberly Pauley illustrated by Jason Cockcroft

Twig is the last surviving apprentice of the great wizard Ripplemintz, which, as a job, is just as terrifying as it sounds. Oh Ripplemintz always means well, but for a wizard of such high regard he really does make an awful lot of mistakes. And who’s always left to clear them up? That’s right – Twig. So when Ripplemitz’s most powerful spell is let loose on the world, off Twig goes to catch it. And catch it he does, except… not quite in the way that he intended. Because, instead of catching it in an enchanted jar, Twig sort of… well… catches it in… HIMSELF.

The Accidental Wizard by Kimberly Pauley introduces the reluctant Wizard Twig, along with a menagerie of hilarious characters that captivate throughout. With more magical mayhem than you can shake a stick at, middle-grade readers will be quickly drawn into a world of riotous adventure, competing wizards, greedy citizens who all want their moment of magic and at it’s heart, an unlikely friendship between a wizard, a hag and a gnome (who has the best name – Glimfinkle!). I also particularly liked the chapter titles (for example ‘In Which Something Doesn’t Blow-Up’) and the proof copy I read had wonderful illustrations giving a taste of artwork to come by Jason Cockcroft. Reminiscent of classic magical adventures and bags of fun, The Accidental Wizard carves a well-deserved space for itself in this genre and I’m sure children will want to visit The Kingdoms again and again – ably guided by the lovely map at the beginning!

Find out more about the author http://www.kimberlypauley.com/the-accidental-wizard/ and at www.scholastic.co.uk.

With thanks to Scholastic for sending me this book to review.

BLOG TOUR: The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley by Amber Lee Dodd


Welcome to DAY THREE of the blog tour celebrating publication of The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley written by Amber Lee Dodd, published by Scholastic!  I’m delighted to be hosting today’s stop and sharing a spooky post from the author herself, featuring the story of an infamous historical curse.

Why, I hear you ask? Well a curse is at the heart of The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley, a fantastic family adventure story with a magical twist.

The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley_cover


The Bradley family are constantly escaping from a centuries old curse which means that every home they have ever lived in is destroyed – floods, fire, earthquakes – all manner of destruction. They have just moved to their thirteenth house and although the threat of the curse looms ever closer, Noah is desperate not to have to leave this new home – where he finally feels like a ‘normal’ boy and that he could have a happy life. However, at the sign of a black cat, Noah knows the curse is once again about to strike– can he find a way to break it with the help of his brother and new neighbour, Neena?

I’ve been a fan of Amber Lee Dodd since her brilliant first book, We Are Giants, so I was very excited to read this, her latest title.  It doesn’t disappoint – I was hooked from the first page! Totally engaging, The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley is an original story with a clever plot, that has so much for readers to relate too. There are so many great characters and I adored Noah and his brother Billy and the bond they share. Noah’s care and concern for Billy, who is deaf, is heart-warming. The narrative captures just how important it is to have a place called home and how difficult it can be to constantly move house, change schools and have to make new friends.  Noah struggles with his own desires to fit in, even at the expense of true friendship, but as the story progress we see him realise that fitting in shouldn’t be that hard if people will accept you for who you are.  References throughout to Noah’s love of nature and the situations he finds himself in reflecting animal behaviour bring an added dimension to the story. Add to this the magical elements of a frightening family curse and you have a wonderful tale of family, friendship, bravery and adventure!  Definitely one for the bookshelf!

Today, author Amber Lee Dodd is sharing the story of her favourite historical curse. Welcome to the blog Amber!

King Tutankhamun’s Curse

“One of my favourite historical curses is the curse of the Pharaohs. It’s said that the well-known curse brings down illness, bad luck and death upon any who disturb the tombs. The curse was so well feared that inscriptions were carved into some Royal Egyptian tombs reading,

“Cursed be those that disturb the rest of Pharaoh. They that shall break the seal of this tomb shall meet death by a disease which no doctor can diagnose.”

Even stranger is the real-life story of the six archaeologists who died shortly after opening King Tutankhamun’s tomb. Followed by five more deaths in ten years of people who first visited the tomb, or where involved in disturbing the King. All the mysterious deaths were of course due to natural causes, misadventures and even murder! But that hasn’t stopped people wondering if the curse was real. Spooky!”

Amber Lee Dodd grew up in Portsmouth, where she rode the waltzers, swam in the winter sea and lost her wellies in the marshes. She has worked as a Learning Support Worker in schools with disabled students, and is passionate about incorporating disability representation in her books for children. Amber struggled with undiagnosed dyslexia and dyspraxia at school and on discovering stories, found her very own magic power – telling stories!

Find out more at www.amberleedodd.com. With thanks to Scholastic 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 blog tour:



New review: Our Castle by the Sea by Lucy Strange

Happy New Year! Here is my first review for 2019 of the highly-anticipated second novel by Lucy Strange. Our Castle by the Sea is set during the second world war, evoking all the danger experienced by those who lived through it. The story is also a celebration of the bonds of family showing despite what we might face, family matters most.

our castle by the sea

Our Castle by the Sea by Lucy Strange 

England is at war. Growing up in a lighthouse, twelve-year-old Pet’s world has been one of storms, secret tunnels and stories about sea monsters.  But now the clifftops are a terrifying battleground, and her family is torn apart.  This is the story of a girl who is small, afraid and unnoticed.  A girl who freezes with fear at the enemy planes ripping through the skies overhead. A girl who is somehow destined to become part of the strange, ancient legend of the Daughters of Stone…..

Our Castle by the Sea is a brilliantly told and thrilling wartime adventure told through the eyes of twelve-year-old Pet, a young girl who lives in a lighthouse with her father, her German-born mother and her older sister, Mags.  Their idyllic life is changed forever when war breaks out and sets off a chain of events none could have foreseen. With Mutti, Pet’s mother, sent to an internment camp, Pa in a permanent state of stress, the police investigating mysterious packages and Mags disappearing at strange hours of the day, Pet is forced to face her fears alone.

The story weaves a startlingly believable tale of the misfortune faced due to their family’s German heritage and the dangerous but important role of a lighthouse keeper in wartime.  The narrative highlights the fate of foreign citizens and wartime internment, childhood evacuation, as well as the trouble caused by traitorous wartime spies. The family bond portrayed is very moving and Pet becomes a force to be reckoned with, overcoming her fears and facing terrible danger, to find the truth about her parents and discover what secrets her sister Mags is keeping. Set against the backdrop of the mysterious legend of the Daughters of Stone, the ancient standing stones that guard the coastline, Our Castle by the Sea is a really gripping read told with great heart.  A perfect book to start your New Year reading with!

I am delighted to be participating in the blog tour this week and hosting a guest post by the author Lucy Strange.  See below for details of the tour starting today!

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Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com. 

Our Castle by the Sea is recommended for children aged 9+.

With thanks to Chicken House Books for sending me this book to review.

our castle by the sea

25 December: Abi Elphinstone



Merry Christmas! A suitably snowy feel to our Q & A today.


Abi Elphinstone grew up in Scotland where she spent most of her childhood building dens, hiding in tree houses and running wild across highland glens. After being coaxed out of her tree house, she studied English at Bristol University and then worked as a teacher. The Dreamsnatcher was her debut novel for 8-12 years and was longlisted for the Brandford Boase Award. The Shadow Keeper is her second book and a third book, The Night Spinner, will complete the trilogy in February 2017. When she’s not writing, Abi volunteers for Beanstalk, visits schools to talk about her books and travels the world looking for her next story. Her latest adventure involved living with the Kazakh Eagle Hunters in Mongolia and you can read about that here.

Name three things on your Christmas list this year! Books, trainers and adventures. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead; a new pair of running trainers; a dog-sledding trip across the Arctic. That last item has been on my Christmas list for many years but, excitingly, I think this December it might become a reality (great timing, too, because I’m currently 20,000 words into an adventure set up in the frozen north…).

Christmas is a time of family traditions – what are your best (or worst!) family traditions? I grew up in the wilds of Scotland and every year, a few weeks before Christmas, my family and I would set off up the glen to chop down a Norabi-snowdman Fir (they hold onto their needles best) from our friend’s woodland. I remember the excitement my siblings and I shared as we picked our tree and the effort of chopping it down but, most of all, I remember the thrill of using ropes to hoist it up into the stairwell of our house and then, afterwards, decorating it with chocolate ornaments, glittering baubles and colourful fairy-lights. I had troubles getting to sleep as a child but on the nights that our Christmas tree was in the house I used to sleep better. Something about the way the Nordman Fir’s fairy-lights shone through the night was hugely comforting.

There are wonderful stories shared at Christmas time. What is your favourite story to read at Christmas? For me, the best winter stories are poised on the edge of miracles. There has to be a sense of longing and when the snow falls that longing is somehow brought closer. Such is the case with my favourite winter read: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. The youngest of four siblings, Lucy Pevensie’s heart is51ltfjckh4l-_sy344_bo1204203200_ filled with longing. She wants to be believed by her brothers and sister and treated as their equal and it takes a world locked in the depths of winter and hidden behind a wardrobe to make her siblings understand. But Lucy not only dares to hope that Edmund, Susan and Peter will believe her stories of Narnia; she dares to hope that together with them she can save an entire land from the grips of the White Witch. And I think it is Lucy’s ability to hope against the odds and against the cynicism of her siblings that makes this story so powerful. Without it, the way through to Aslan’s values – forgiveness, friendship, courage and compassion – might never have been found.

(I love your description of this wonderful story)

If you could have Christmas dinner with anyone (alive today or person from history) who would it be? C.S. Lewis. I’d want him to tell me, in detail, what a Narnian Christmas would involve. I’d like to know where the Pevensie children would go sledging, what food Mrs Beaver might prepare and what Aslan’s favourite carol would be. I love C.S. Lewis’ non-fiction for adults, too, and I’d love to ask him about his faith.

Your books feature wonderful fantastical adventures in magical places and you’ve been to some amazing places in real life! If you were to go on a Christmas adventure, where would you go to and who would be with you? My Christmas adventure is (hopefully) going to happen at the end of December. It’ll be with my husband – he usually comes on my book research trips with me as he also loves exploring wild places at the very edges of civilisation – and we’ll fly into northern Norway, Tromso, and then set about our travels from there: dog-sledding across the ice, living like the Sami Reindeer Herders used to in the forest and chasing the northern lights by sleigh. And when, finally, I’m back in the UK I’ll be turning all this into my fourth book (out 2018).

(Sounds incredibly exciting – can’t wait to read the book!)

You work with the fantastic charity, Beanstalk, helping children with their reading. What do you think is the best way to help children discover the magic of reading? Find the right book for the right child. There is no such thing as a ‘bad’ book – it’s important to embrace any kind of narratives that eases a child into the wonder of stories. And never dismiss the power of picture books. They don’t have many words but the ones they do have they use wisely. And their illustrations speak volumes.

(Wholeheartedly agree with this!)

winter-1027822_1920Reader’s question from children at the Inkpots Writers’ Hut; what is your most favourite book? (always a tough one to answer!) Northern Lights by Philip Pullman. The heroine, Lyra Silvertongue, taught me that girls can be just as brave and as punchy as boys and I loved the idea of having a daemon and imagining what mine might be. The scale of adventure in this book is unparalleled and the images it conjures up – a girl riding an armoured polar bear across the Arctic, a sky full of witches, Lee Scorsby’s hot air balloon soaring over the mountains – have stayed with me forever.51mo7ylclal-_sy344_bo1204203200_

Turkey or goose? Turkey.

Real or fake tree? REAL, REAL, REAL. Every time. To smell a real Christmas tree is to breathe in winter.

Mince pies or Christmas pudding? Mince pies. With clotted cream.

Stockings – end of the bed or over the fireplace? End of the bed so that you can feel them half way through the night to check that Father Christmas has been.

Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve? Christmas Eve. The magic of that night is tangible.

Thank you so much for participating! Have a very Happy Christmas!


Find out more about Abi www.abielphinstone.com and follow her on Twitter @moontrug.