New reviews: Fantastic Non-Fiction!

It’s National Non-Fiction November and a great time to share the amazing non-fiction books that bring the world we live in to life! Perfect for readers young and old to share, learn about all manner of brilliant subjects and just enjoy fantastic books.

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The National Trust Children’s Almanac 2019  by Anna Wilson illustrated by Elly Jahnz  is a beautifully written and illustrated month-by-month journey through the seasons.  Featuring everything from animal behaviour guides to seasonal recipes to activity ideas, this is a really delightful book to inspire even the most reluctant of young explorers to step outside. The author has taken great trouble to bring lots of interesting information together and show ways of being creative.  Accompanied by bright and colourful artwork, this is also a wonderful debut book for illustrator Elly Jahnz.

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I absolutely loved the activities, helpful top tips and that readers can make notes if they want to at the end of the book.  Each month includes special days to note at the start and highlights anniversaries of historical events such as the first moon landing or the Great Fire of London. The Children’s Alamanac would make a perfect gift and wonderful book to share, encouraging family outings and ways to discover new things about the world around us. Published as part of Nosy Crow’s ongoing partnership with The National Trust,  this is definitely one to add to the Christmas list!

Find out more at www.nosycrow.com and www.nationaltrust.org.uk

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Sleep by Kate Prendergastpublished by Old Barn Books, is a beautiful picture book looking at the sleeping habits of animals through stunning illustrations and simple facts.  I can’t imagine anyone seeing the book’s front cover and not wanting to pick it up! With a gentle narrative, each page describes how the animals sleep, some with extra footnotes to add different facts. The illustrations are quite amazing bringing to life the sleeping inhabitants of the book and showing their various habitats.

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Young readers will love identifying the different animals and habitats. The last spread introduces the idea of dreaming and in the final pages there are additional fascinating facts with web links to connect to online information should you wish to find out more.

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This is a really lovely book to introduce the animal kingdom to young readers and perhaps great to read at bedtime, encouraging even the most restless of little ones that everyone goes to sleep!

Find out more at www.kateprendergast.co.uk

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Secret Science The Amazing World Beyond Your Eyes by Dara O’Briain illustrated by Dan Bramall explores the incredible science behind everyday life with Dara O’Briain’s trademark humour, bringing to life even the most complicated scientific facts from molecules to neurotransmitters.

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If you’ve ever enjoyed Dara O’Briain’s stand up shows, then you’ll know the hilarious observations he makes and his brilliant use of emphasis. This translates brilliantly for kids into a very funny and totally inspired book.  Secret Science will have you laughing out loud as you discover all manner of weird and wonderful facts about things such as KILLER RAYS FROM SPACE (the Sun) to the ‘sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia’ (BRAIN FREEZE).

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Lively illustrations and larger than life graphics capture both the science and the humour perfectly showing us that it really is everywhere and ensuring readers will be utterly fascinated – as well as hugely entertained.  Published by Scholastic, Secret Science is great for all the family and a wonderful initiation in all things science!

Find out more at www.scholastic.co.uk

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Absolutely Everything A History of East, Dinosaurs, Rulers, Robots and things too numerous to mention by Christopher Lloyd is a beautifully presented book taking readers aged 9 and up on a journey through everything from the beginning of time to the present day.  Each chapter covers a specific time period  but connects the various eras within that time frame rather than separating them.  I enjoyed the inviting narrative style which enables you to see how history, science and nature connect. This is definitely a book for confident readers but one that could be shared and enjoyed by the whole family.  It has an index and a glossary so you can navigate more easily. Colourful and bold illustrations, alongside images of historical artefacts and locations bring many of the fascinating facts to life. It is a really informative book, that will challenge young historians to think differently.

The publication of Absolutely Everything is part of a wider campaign to connect knowledge and raise awareness of the value of a more cross-curricular approach to teaching and learning.  Having invited Christopher Lloyd to perform his What on Earth workshops in schools I have worked in, his passion for this is evident and I loved how he brought history, science, technology, literature and sport to life in just one hour!  As did the children!  Christopher’s belief is that “only by connecting knowledge back together again can children learn to think out of the box, develop critical thinking skills and become their own self-learning systems.”

Find out more at www.whatonearthbooks.com

With thanks to Old Barn Books, Nosy Crow, Scholastic and What on Earth Books for sending me this titles to review!

New review: Gaspard the Fox by Zeb Soanes and James Mayhew

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You may well have heard the story of Gaspard the fox. Author and broadcaster Zeb Soanes first encountered the real-life Gaspard at his home in London.  The fox was injured and Zeb fed her till she recovered – forming such a bond that Gaspard became a regular visitor appearing at the sound of Zeb’s bicycle and even bringing her cubs to visit. Since then the fox now has her own Twitter page with over 5,500 followers.  Which is probably one of the more random facts I’ve shared on my blog!

If you haven’t heard of Gaspard then I’m sorry I haven’t shared this book sooner, having been given a copy by the publishers Graffegg a while ago.  We usually only glimpse foxes at night; they can seem ethereal and perhaps a little bit scary.  But they really are beautiful animals and this story brings that to life in a joyful urban adventure, featuring illustrations by award-winning illustrator James Mayhew.

Gaspard the Fox by Zeb Soanes and James Mayhew

Come with Gaspard the Fox as he sets out one summer evening in search of super.  One his travels he meets Peter the cat and Finty the dog who help him navigate the local canal with its colourful boats and people – some friendlier than others!

This is such a lovely story! Gorgeous illustrations bring each character to life and you cannot help but fall in love with Gaspard, Peter and Finty.  A well-paced narrative shares each moment of Gaspard’s evening walk to find supper.  Despite some of the tricky scrapes Gaspard gets into –crashing into bins, falling in the river, being chased away by people – he makes two brilliant new friends.

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Peter the cat is rather wonderful persona; just as you imagine a cat to be.  Finty is a clever little dog full of excitement.  But it’s Gaspard who really wins your heart and when he finally finds his supper through the kindness of the man on the bicycle, you find a big warm smile on your face.  Children will absolutely love this gentle story of urban adventure and next time they see a fox will wish it was Gaspard himself!  I am looking forward to his next adventure!

Find out more at www.zebsoanes.com and www.jamesmayhew.co.uk

With thanks to Grafegg for my copy of this lovely book!

Guest blog: Margrete Lamond on The Sorry Tale of Fox and Bear

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The Sorry Tale of Fox and Bear by Margrete Lamond, illustrated by Heather Vallance is a quirky, bittersweet tale of friendship.  It stands out for its slightly darker tone and not necessarily happy ‘ending’ rather like one of Aesop’s fables – but perhaps give a more lifelike picture of how some friendships really can be.  In this story accompanied by stunning charcoal illustrations, Fox and Bear fall out, with Fox being a cunning trickster and Bear falling for his ploys – again and again. Bear realises he too can play the trickster and he sets about to teach Fox a lesson. Hare and Rooster join in with their opinions on Fox’s trickery giving Bear even more desire to get back at Fox.  But as you might imagine, Bear doesn’t feel quite so good afterwards and wonders if he made the right decision…..

Children are often far more intelligent and resilient than they’re given credit for and I can imagine many heartfelt and heated opinions if you read this aloud to your class. The Sorry Tale of Fox and Bear takes off the rose-tinted glasses and shows how sometimes ‘friends’ can be mean, sometimes they can let us down and sometimes we can let our friends down. Perhaps the point about being friends is accepting friendship won’t always be perfect and that forgiveness is central to ensure its longevity.  Margrete Lamond

Today to share more insight into to the inspiration behind this story, I’m really pleased to welcome to the blog author Margrete Lamond, who I am sure will have you reaching for your copy to re read or ordering one from the bookshop immediately! Welcome to the blog Margrete!

“The Sorry Tale of Fox and Bear is an aggregate of several Norwegian folk-tales. It is also a mash-up of scenarios, an introduction of unrelated characters and relationships, and a reinvention of the motivations of the main players Bear, Fox, Rooster and Hare. Each borrowed tale, and each character, has been twisted, moulded, pummelled and reshaped. Even so, the original sources remain clear.

I can’t resist retelling a folk tale. Retelling, for me, is the ultimate writerly indulgence. The bones of the story have been established and much of the brain-grinding groundwork has already been done. All I need do is sit down and play with language, sentences, patterns and rhythms and sounds, invest the story with an uneasy voice, suggest a disturbing undertow and – O ultimate joy – craft an ambiguous ending. Not to mention play around with the hopes, desires and motivations of the characters. All this, without once having to agonise over fundamental plotting. Tweaking, yes. Retelling, yes. Giving the original tales a thoroughgoing structural edit, yes. Starting with a blank page, no.

At this level of indulgence – where I sport in a sandbox full of toys I didn’t pay for – any folk tale is fun to retell, no matter how well-known, well worn, or even worn out it may be. I will happily find ways to retell Red Riding Hood or Goldilocks and the Three Bears (Little Hare 2015), for example, so that the protagonists’ motivations are a little more twisted and the endings a little more dissonant than the originals were intended to be. But I am most happy when I play with tales that are less well-known. Lesser-known tales offer adventures into the complete unknown, into scenarios that often are decidedly peculiar, and acquaint us with erratic, eccentric and psychopathic characters whose behaviours require not a little agility of invention to render them narratively plausible, at least to the contemporary reader.

Most importantly of all, lesser-known traditional tales offer ranges and nuances of emotion rarely encountered in the accepted folk-tale canon. Self-delusion, psychosis, braggadocio, falsehood, vaulting ambition, errant foolishness, unassuageable guilt … such riches for those who care to dig them out! When Einstein declared that if we wanted more intelligent children we should read them more fairy tales, he must surely have been talking about this breadth and depth and richness of emotional experience that traditional tales offer.

It was in this vein of seeking emotional breadth that I sourced the stories for The Sorry Tale of Fox and Bear. They are decidedly gritty, if not downright harsh and violent. The bad guys sometimes win, the good guys are sometimes bad, and the really bad guys are really bad in cruel, underhanded and unpunished ways. These elements remain in my retelling. They are perhaps even highlighted, as a result of being woven into a theme of psychological danger in friendship. I’ve deliberately drawn a dark, dark world, but also hope I have suggested the warmth of sun gleaming through the clouds. Bear’s deep and simple wisdom, Fox’s contrition and fundamental loyalty, the unspoken love that reverberates between them even in estrangement … each of these, and more, suggests that even in our own confusing world, forgiveness, love and loyalty offer ongoing understanding and hope.”

Margrete Lamond © 2018

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Margrete Lamond is a publisher of Little Hare Books in Australia, author of many modern re-tellings of traditional tales.  She is passionate believer in quality artwork in books for young readers.

Heather Vallance is a studio artist who has taught in remote communities in Australia and regional schools and galleries.

If you would like to find out more visit www.oldbarnbooks.com With thanks to Old Barn Books for sending me this book to review and Liz Scott for organising this guest blog.

Pets as therapy – in books and in action!

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When Madeline Finn and the Library Dog arrived from Old Barn Books, it was clear this was a very special book.  The story, written and illustrated by Lisa Papp, features Madeline Finn a little girl who really does not like to read – at all.  Madeline struggles with reading so she really does not enjoy it, especially when she has to read aloud at school.

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So when she meets Bonnie the library dog at her local library, something quite wonderful happens. Madeline stops worrying about getting it wrong; she stops worrying about being stuck and she learns to be patient with herself. Bonnie makes her feel that it’s okay to go slowly and Bonnie doesn’t laugh at her like the other children in the class do so Madeline can practice her reading aloud without any worries.  And on the day when Bonnie isn’t there to help her, Madeline pretends that she is and reads so well that she even gets a special star from her teacher!

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Madeline Finn and the Library Dog perfectly illustrates how some children struggle to read and how those struggles take away any joy they might discover between the pages of a book.  Madeline could have been any number of children I have worked with during my career as a librarian – I wish I’d had a library dog on hand to help.  What an amazing way to help a child feel more confident in themselves!  Beautiful illustrations depict the frustration and joy Madeline experiences and of course, bring to life the gorgeous dog Bonnie. This really is a lovely book and one that could help struggling readers understand they’re not alone and those who can read well feel more empathy with those who can’t. For every copy of this book sold Old Barn will donate 50p to support the work of the Read2Dogs programme run by Pets as Therapy.

It seemed a huge coincidence that at the time of receiving this book, I heard that the school my son attends, Warden Park Secondary Academy, had got a therapy dog.  I wanted to find out more so I’m delighted to say that the teacher behind the scheme, Amanda Bell, joins me on the blog today to share how this came about and the impact the gorgeous dog has had so far. Welcome to the blog Amanda!

Tell us how you came to have a therapy dog at Warden Park. The idea originated from setting up the garden space which was an area developed through an ASDAN course we were running. Part of that project led us into getting chickens and ducks. I watched the impact these animals had on bringing the children into school but also taking responsibility for their care. I wanted to see how I could engage a wider audience through animals and so researched the organisation ‘Pets as Therapy dogs’ and then contacted schools that already had a therapy dog. This enabled me to research into the impact of a dog in classrooms.

How did you go about finding/choosing the right dog? I researched the breeds – mainly for their temperament in working with children but also with regard to their ability to be trained and came up with a Springador which is a cross between a Labrador and a springer spaniel.

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Tell us about her! We decided to call our dog a name that links with the Forest as this was another initiative we had recently brought into the department. This would mean that we would not favour a particular child’s name – however, we did find out that we had one child with this name so I asked him if he would mind if we called our dog after him! We first brought our therapy dog into school at just ten weeks old to get her used to the noise and lots of different people. We also secured the help of Michelle Garvey from Essentially Paws who has already trained eight school therapy dogs. She did a few training sessions with me and then I worked on this over the summer holiday. At nearly seven months old, Oakley is now involved with individual students, tutor groups, interventions and staff book her for lessons in a variety of subjects. We have a ‘puppy points’ scheme where students have a card that they can collect points on essentially for acts of kindness towards each other, staff or the environment. Once they have accumulated some points, they can earn free time with Oakley, teaching her tricks or just being with her.

What is the main purpose of your therapy dog? Oakley helps with the well being of the students and just has a ‘feel good factor’. Classes respond with calmness. Some teachers have a group task where they present/read to Oakley. For some students, they are able to express how they feel more readily to the dog than a member of staff! Research has shown that during interventions, students are more likely to engage with the sessions and attend than without a dog present. We will be gathering data to measure impact. Oakley will also be around the school at lunchtimes and breaktimes and allows students to engage with her who may not have a pet at home.

How have the students responded?  There must be a queue to see him at times! Students have engaged really well with the dog. Their role is to ensure that they take control and make her sit before stroking her. They also have to ask if it is OK to stroke her before doing so in case she is in training or on a toilet break. They really love her being in their class and many students have collected a puppy points card. Each week, Oakley writes a blog in the newsletter and currently there is a little competition for students to identify where she is from a photo.

Would you encourage other schools to do the same? It can be time consuming in the first few months and it is essential to get the training right so that the dog learns to respond appropriately to students. However, only a few months in we would definitely repeat the experience as there have been many more benefits that we had not anticipated!

Thank you Amanda. I think the work you and Oakley are doing sounds like an incredible opportunity to support and encourage students in school in a completely unique way.  

Find out more about the above book and pet therapy at www.lisapapp.comwww.petsastherapy.orgwww.wardenpark.co.uk

With thanks to Old Barn Books for sending me this book to review.

 

 

 

New Review: Safari Pug by Laura James, illustrated by Eglantine Ceulemans

Who could resist the adventures of a courageous Pug dog?!  Safari Pug is the third book in The Adventures of Pug series by Laura James, illustrated by Eglantine Ceulemans.  It continues the trend of fantastic storytelling, set by the Pug’s first adventure Captain Pug, which was shortlisted for the Watersones Children’s Book Prize!

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Safari Pug by Laura James, illustrated by Eglantine Ceulemans

Pug doesn’t want to meet a LION. But LADY MIRANDA insists. They’ve packed a picnic and now they’re off on a SAFARI ADVENTURE….but what if wild animals like PUGS for lunch?

Another fabulous adventure for Pug this time featuring some very wild animals – and a villainous television celebrity!  Pug isn’t too sure about visiting the safari park, but as usual Lady Miranda thinks its a wonderful idea….So they all pack into the sedan chair and with the running footmen, soon arrive ready to see the wild animals. Their fun however, is interrupted by a very snooty and unpleasant TV presenter, Arlene Von Bling (what a great dastardly name!), who seems to have more than just seeing the animals on her mind – especially when it comes to the unique white lion cub… Adventure ensues and it’s up to Pug to help save everyone – not just from the jaws of the lions but the clutches of Arlene Von Bling!

Safari Pug is a great fun read, full of lively bright illustrations, that is sure to delight emerging independent readers.  I love the characters – there’s the faithful but possibly a bit long-suffering Pug, reluctantly going along with his mistress Lady Miranda’s eccentric ideas; Lady Miranda herself -very sweet but inadvertently getting them all into scrapes; the running footmen Will and Liam, who courageously transport Lady Miranda and Pug in a sedan chair on their adventures – surely the best and only way to travel?! I’ve also read and enjoyed Pug’s previous adventure Cowboy Pug – and my five year old niece is a huge fan of the stories!  Full of humour, the narrative is perfectly brought to life by Eglantine Ceulemans’ colourful illustrations. The Adventures of Pug celebrate a thoroughly endearing friendship and encourage even the most reluctant explorer to be brave and discover the big wide world!

 

Find out more at www.laurajamesauthor.com and www.eglantineceulemans.com

With thanks to Bloomsbury Books for sending me this book to review.

 

New Review: Aubrey and the Terrible Ladybirds by Horatio Clare

In Aubrey and the Terrible Ladybirds, published by Firefly Press, award winning author Horatio Clare takes us back to Rushing Wood; the home of rambunctious Aubrey and all his amazing feathered, furry and sometimes frightening friends! The follow-up to Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot (for which Horatio won the Branford Boase Book Award) it promises to be just as exciting. And it doesn’t disappoint!

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Aubrey and the Terrible Ladybirds by Horatio Clare illustrated by Jane Matthews

In which a small boy and a house spider try to save the world….

It’s the Easter holidays, you’ve just become as small as an earwig, the swallows are back (and offering you rides), and a spider wakes you up in the middle of the night and asks you to save the world. As if that weren’t enough, the Ladybirdz turn up from Bohemia to find they’re not welcome in Rushing Wood….

Aubrey is a bit fed-up. The start of the Easter holidays has been somewhat unsettled with his parents arguing all the time. It’s a welcome, if slightly startling, distraction when Aubrey finds a new friend to share his woes with in the shape of Ariadne, a large spider. And when Hirundo the swallow turns up offering adventure, he can’t resist! With the help of the Swallow Stone he finds himself flying on the back of the bird seeing his home as never before.  However, he soon realises even this magical moment can’t take his troubles away especially when Ariadne reveals there are creatures suffering everywhere and the threat of The Great Hunger is approaching!  Aubrey is not the only one to feel unsettled; a new family of ladybirds have arrived in Rushing Wood hoping to make a home for themselves.  Little do they realise the uproar their arrival is going to create and the turn of events that follows could change the shape of Rushing Wood forever.  Aubrey soon finds himself drawn into a magical journey taking him to France and Italy, making new friends and discovering that maybe there is a way for even the smallest of people to make a difference.

Aubrey’s adventures continue in brilliant fashion in this full-of-fun second instalment with lovely illustrations by Jane Matthews bringing the story to life.  The award-winning Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot is a hard act to follow, but the author absolutely does it justice.  As ever, Aubrey is surrounded by brilliant characters only he can hear and talk to. I’ve always loved the idea of being able to shrink and be tiny (think Mrs Pepperpot or The Borrowers) so it instantly appealed to me when Aubrey discovers he can do this with a bit of help from the Swallow Stone. The narrative takes you on a fantastical journey through time and space, yet again bringing to life the magic of nature. The Ladybirdz family are fun characters, forming part of a tale which deals with complicated issues like the use of pesticides in farming; migration and even family upset, in an accessible way never patronising the reader.  I enjoyed the array creatures who join the story such as the top-hat wearing spider Aloysius Wolf Von Wolf (brilliant name!), Bernado the Bee, Eric the Earthworm and of course the slightly mad swallow, Hirundo. But really Aubrey shines through as the ordinary boy with EXTRA-ordinary abilities – not just in talking to animals but seeing the world differently.   Aubrey and the Terrible Ladybirds has a wonderful plot full of original and imaginative ideas that entertain throughout, demonstrating how we need to pay attention to the world and each other before it’s too late.  Tolerance of others and respect for nature can make all the difference in a world that belongs to everyone.

 

Find out more at www.fireflypress.co.uk. Follow Horatio Clare on Twitter @HoratioClare.  With thanks to Firefly Press for sending me this book to review.

Author Interview: Gill Lewis

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Gill Lewis has written wonderful novels for children, including her first, Sky Hawk, which was nominated for a total of fifteen books awards!  Her books reflect her passion for animals and the natural world whether it be saving gorillas from destruction in the heart of Africa or protecting dolphins of the coast of England.  I was fortunate to meet Gill at a recent event where she was talking about her latest book, A Story Like the Wind, which will be published on 4th May by Oxford University Press and is beautifully illustrated by Jo Weaver.  I am delighted that Gill is joining us today for our spring feature to talk about her new book.

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A Story Like the Wind sounds both uplifting and heart wrenching.  Can you tell us what it is about? A Story Like the Wind is a story about the power of music and stories and how they can offer hope in the darkest of times and unite people to overcome oppression. The story is set on a small boat carrying a small group of refugees fleeing war. One of the passengers, Rami, is a teenage boy carrying the only thing he could not leave behind; his violin, because it holds all his memories of home. As the wind and waves begin to rise, Rami begins to tell his fellow passengers an ancient folk-tale that weaves through all their lives to give them hope and see them into the dawn.

You’ve written some amazing books about animals, nature and the environment tackling challenging issues.  Why did you feel compelled to write this particular story? The refugee crisis is a humanitarian crisis on a massive scale. People are on the move, fleeing conflict, famine and drought, seeking safe and better lives where they and their families can secure a future. The causative issues are complex and intertwined, whether it is Congolese people fleeing conflict perpetuated by world greed for the minerals beneath the soil in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or whether it is people fleeing areas affected by famine exacerbated by climate change, or fleeing wars where western-made bombs rain down on civilians. The refugee crisis is a global problem and bears global responsibility. It is again, intertwined with environmental issues, because unless we can secure peace and safety for people, the natural world is at risk, and we can’t afford to let that happen. The health and survival of biodiversity of the natural world is the single most crucial issue on this planet. It’s grim, but if the natural world dies, we die.

It must have been an emotional time writing A Story Like Wind, given it focuses on the refugee crisis. What research did you do to help inform your writing? Many of us are very lucky. It is hard to imagine having to leave your home, and everything in it. It is painful and almost impossible to imagine your home being destroyed and never being able to return, and leaving loved ones behind. All you have left are your memories and stories. A Story Like the Winds was inspired by different stories and testimonials given by refugees. I was also invited to join an art and writing session at the Islington Centre for Refugees. The sessions are run by writer Sita Brahmachari and artist Jane Ray and have a hugely positive influence on the refugees, as a way of exploring feeling through art and writing.

The book features beautiful illustrations by Jo Weaver.  Why did you decide to include illustrations with this story and how did this come about? I remember the first time I shared the idea of A Story Like the Wind with my editor, Liz Cross at Oxford University Press. I threw it in as an idea, feeling a bit shy about sharing it because it was different from my other books, and maybe it was a silly idea (writers are consumed by self-doubt, especially when an idea is still an egg). But as I read the story, Liz Cross said she wanted to publish it, and straight from the word ‘go’ we decided it should be illustrated and have a modern fairy-tale, fable feel. We were so lucky that Jo Weaver illustrated the text with her atmospheric charcoals.

I love that you described this book as “sharing humanity through stories”. When writing about challenging issues for children, do you think it is important to give a positive message – hope – alongside the sometimes cruel realities of the world? Yes, I think hope is a very important message, without portraying an image of false hope. A story doesn’t have to have a happy or resolved ending, and it should stay true and not flinch from reality. But I think hope is important, because stories can be there to guide us through difficult times. They are a light in the darkness, and so it’s important not to switch out the light.

You have talked about the need to find the character at the centre of your stories as you write – for all those aspiring writers out there, how do you go about doing this?Yes, for me character is central to the story, to find that narrative. There are several things that I try to do. The first thing I do is I try not to think too hard. Part of storytelling comes from the subconscious and the harder you think, the more difficult it becomes. (A bit like trying to remember a forgotten pin number…if you try too hard you can’t do it, you have to think about something else.) I have to day-dream and doodle and let the character find me somehow. Then I like to draw my character and ask lots of questions. I also try to write mini-scenes in first person to get to really know the character. Those mini-scenes can be something mundane, like making a cup of coffee, or something dramatic such as falling in a fast river. I sometimes have songs I associate with my characters too. I feel and live and breathe them, a little like an actor has to get inside the head of a character, an author must do too.

9780192756244The stories you have written for children have received huge critical acclaim, winning and being shortlisted for many awards which must be an amazing feeling!  Does this make the writing process more pressured and again for those aspiring writers, how do you deal with this? Being nominated for, and winning awards is always a real bonus. However, I think the best feeling comes from feedback from readers, or when they share their experiences and their writing. There is always a worry in the back of my mind, ‘will the next book be good enough?’, because I want to be true to the story and write it to the best of my abilities. I have come accustomed to the little monster of self-doubt sitting on my shoulder. I can’t seem to shake him off!

Your books have all been for children and young people (although I’m know many adults have enjoyed them too!) – would you ever consider writing a book for adults?It has never really occurred to me, to be honest. I think the world of children’s literature is so exciting and varied. Children’s books can tell cracking adventures, make us laugh out loud, scare us witless and deal with issues that can touch our soul.  Also they tend to have more illustrations and I love illustrated books. So, no, there is nothing yet to persuade me to write for adults.

Elizabeth Laird recently described your books as having a “profound understanding of animals and how people relate to them”.  Where do you think this understanding comes from; is it something that can be learned or a natural talent? I felt so honoured to hear Elizabeth Laird say that about my writing. Animals have always fascinated me for as long as I can remember. When I was a child, I wanted to be different animals, and often pretended to be anything from an eagle, to a wolf, to a tiny shrew. I would have loved to be a shape-shifter, but I had to contend with shape-shifting inside my mind instead. When I grew up I followed my interest in animals and became a vet. As a vet I could see the deep bond between people and animals and how animals can become a bridge, bringing people and communities together. I think an understanding of how we relate to animals and each other is something we all have huge capacity for. Building empathy for an animal or human allows us to envision what life is like for another living person or creature, and hopefully allow us to build a fairer society respecting the rights of other humans and animals.

Are you working on a new project and if so can you tell us anything about it?! My next book is called Sky Dancer and is set in the uplands of Northern England. It is a story exploring the connection between the persecution of birds of prey and the management of moors for driven grouse shooting. The story is seen through the eyes of Joe, a gamekeeper’s son, who begins to question what it means for the landscape around him to be truly wild. I will be adopting a tagged hen harrier next year and raising money towards community education around the issues affecting these beautiful birds.

Thank you so much Gill, for participating and for such wonderful words of advice and inspiring thoughts about stories in general.  I can’t wait to read A Story Like the Wind  and wish you every success with its publication.

FInd out more at www.gilllewis.com and follow Gill on Twitter @gill_lewis

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