Tag Archives: Author interview

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: You’re Safe with Me by Chitra Soundar illustrated by Poonam Mistry

I’m delighted to be hosting this stop on the blog tour for You’re Safe with Me, a stunning picture book which celebrates the wonder of nature. I think we can all remember being frightened of thunder storms when we were little and this story captures that feeling and how a little bit of comfort and wisdom can allay our fears.  The beautiful, intricate illustrations will mesmerise young readers and the poetic narrative will calm their minds, making this a perfect bedtime story.

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Children’s Book Award BLOG TOUR: I Have No Secrets by Penny Joelson

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I am hugely excited to be participating in the Children’s Book Award official blog tour in the books for older readers category.  It’s the only national book award to be voted for entirely by children from start to finish, so I can imagine how wonderful it must feel as an author to be nominated by the readers. Today I am sharing I Have No Secrets by Penny Joelson, a London based author who says:Penny Joelson “I was delighted when I heard that ‘I Have No Secrets’ had made the top ten for this award – one of three books in the older children category. It is particularly special as I know it is an award where the voting is entirely by children and young people themselves. I enjoyed writing this book so much and it is wonderful to think about so many young people reading it now.  I can only say – I am utterly thrilled!”

I Have No Secrets, published by Electric Monkey features fourteen year old Jemma, who has severe cerebral palsy. Unable to communicate or move, she relies on her family and carer for everything. She has a sharp brain and inquisitive nature, and knows all sorts of things about everyone. But when she is confronted with a terrible secret, she is utterly powerless to do anything. Though that might be about to change…

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Blog tour: Kaya’s Heart Song by Diwa Tharan Sanders & Nerina Canzi

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Kaya’s Heart Song by Diwa Tharan Sanders and Nerina Canzi 

Kaya is looking for her heart song – the song that happy hearts sing. Her search takes her on a journey deep into the jungle where a broken down carousel waits for a very special song to make it turn again…

I’m thrilled to be hosting this stop on the blog tour for Kaya’s Heart Song by Diwa Tharan Sanders, illustrated by Nerina Canzi. This beautifully illustrated and joyous story focuses on Kaya’s adventure to find her heart song and share her magical journey with all around her! I’m talking to the author Diwa Tharan Sanders, a Malaysian author of Indian-Filipino heritage. At a young age, Diwa discovered that writing gave her the freedom to be as bold, funny or as clever as she dared. As an adult, Diwa finds newfound freedom in using heart and spirit to capture the minds and imaginations of young readers everywhere.

Congratulations on your beautiful story Kaya’s Heart SongTell us about your inspiration for writing it.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book that delivered an inspirational message in a manner that children could related to. I also felt that in order to do so, I had to tap into my own inner child to tell a story that was either from experience or close to my heart. Kaya’s Heart Song is a reflection of both these things. At the time of writing, I was going through a re-birth of careers, if you like. I had moved out of the city, left the 9-to-5 grind and suddenly found myself with the time and space to do everything and also nothing. Having this luxury and freedom was in itself a journey of self-discovery and so when I started writing this story (it’s actually the fourth in a series of other stories I had written about Kaya), I poured what I was experiencing at the time into it. And through this process of discovering my own heart song, Kaya’s Heart Song came to form. Because I was living on a beautiful tropical island and spending my time in amongst trees and nature these elements were naturally reflected in my book.

The story is centred on the ideas of mindfulness and how to get to a place of self-awareness. Why did you want to write about this for children? It’s interesting that the idea of mindfulness is the centre of my book as that was not my original intention. I wanted to tell a story of being true to your heart and following the beat of your own drum. And in that process and I suppose as I fell into my own heart’s desires in order to write the book, this story about mindfulness revealed itself. I think it’s wonderful for children to have an awareness of being mindful because it’s important for everyone to make a conscious choice to slow down, take a breath and just allow – anything and everything to be. Anything cultivated from a young age, usually continues as we grow and so learning about mindfulness – whether its about being able to acknowledge how you’re feelings in the present moment, observing the present moment in silence, or pausing to take a few deep breaths – are all powerful tools that keep us grounded, balanced and more connected to ourselves.

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The magical elephant carousel is beautiful! Is there significance in choosing elephants for the children to ride on? I’m glad you think so! I love it too, Nerina did a wonderful job. Well, I chose to include elephants because I love them. We have elephants in Malaysia and to me, they symbolise strength, wisdom and protection. Carousels have always reminded me of my childhood; they’re fun, magical and whimsical. So marrying these two seemed like an appropriate way to introduce elements that reminded me of the joys of being a young child, while keeping an Asian relevance to the story.

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Your story is brought to life with amazing illustrations. Tell us about working with an illustrator. I cannot begin to tell you how much I love Nerina’s illustrations. As a first-time author, I feel incredibly lucky to have been paired with such an amazing illustrator. Nerina truly brought magic to my words through her illustrations. The process was very smooth and such a delight, to be honest. Once we had Kaya’s character nailed down, every single drawing that I saw after was truly so spot on, so beautiful and so special. I was in tears when I saw the first few illustrations, because she captured the essence of Kaya and the story so perfectly, I couldn’t have dreamed it better myself. I loved working with Nerina and although we haven’t even met in person (yet!) I feel like I’ve built a connection with her through this process.

I noticed in the dedication you mention your father and reading. Can you tell us about the stories you enjoyed as a child? Wow, this question is taking me a long way back! Well, I spent most of my formative years in Boston, Massachusetts so I guess my favourite books are flavoured by growing up there.

I enjoyed reading stories about characters that were uncommon or not people, who were curious and courageous and anything that was set in nature and had adventure, magic or human relationships (although I didn’t really understand them at that age) in them. Some of my favourite stories growing up in Boston include Curious George, Bread and Jam for Frances, The Little House, Strega Nona and Where The Wild Things Are.

It’s wonderful to hear the story behind Kaya’s Heart Song and your inspiration and experience as a writer.  Thank you and we wish you every success with Kaya!

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For more information please visit www.lantanapublishing.com

With thanks to Lantana Publishing for inviting me to participate in this blog tour! Discover the rest of the tour on these brilliant blogs:

 

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Bookchat: Jo Simmons author of I Swapped my Brother on the Internet!

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I’m very pleased to welcome author Jo Simmons to the blog today! Jo’s latest book ‘I Swapped My Brother on the Internet!’ is her first book for Bloomsbury. Read my full review here.

Jo began her life as a journalist and her first fiction series for children, Pip Street, was inspired by her own kids’ love of funny fiction.Jo Simmons Author PicMore books followed and in addition to children’s fiction, Jo has co-written several non-fiction books for adults.  She lives in Brighton with her family and her dog.

Welcome to the blog Jo! Congratulations on the publication of your latest book! Tell us about the inspiration for the story. Back in about 2014, a friend of mine told me how her daughter was being grumpy one evening and said she wished there was a website where she could swap her mum and get a better one. It was that classic light-bulb moment. What a great idea! I knew I wanted to write that story, but with brothers, partly because I have two sons but also because I wanted to keep the drama between and about children.

9781408877753How did you decide on who Jonny would receive as a swap? Were there lots of characters in mind – I can imagine the possibilities must have been endless!! (Henry the Eighth’s ghost was particularly funny!)  I decided each failed swap had to teach Jonny something about his actual brother, Ted, and about himself, too. Gradually, Jonny would work out that Ted was the only brother he could ever have and the best one, too, for all his flaws. I also love writing daft characters, so I wanted there to be a good mix of oddballs and impossible people, to make the comedy more left field. So there’s a merboy and the boy raised by meerkats. I think I was reading Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel at the time, and loving it, so Henry VIII plays a big part, too!

It’s a very funny take on sibling rivalry – do you have siblings and if so, would you ever be tempted to swap them?! I have an older brother. He definitely bossed me about and teased me when we were little. The time he squashed a Dairylea Triangle against my forehead in front of our friends has gone down in family legend. I was also very loyal to him, though, and we have a great bond today. I dedicated the book to him and no, I wouldn’t be tempted to swap him. I also have two sons and, when writing the story, I was watching the older one pulling away from his little brother. He had started secondary school and was becoming more grown up and, as a result, more critical of his little sibling. Ted and Jonny mirror, to some extent, what was happening at home with my two boys.

Children often ask for something funny to read when they’re choosing a book. Why do you think humour in books for children is important? For so many reasons! Laughing comes naturally to kids so they’re really up for funny fiction; they get it! It can also tempt reluctant readers in and persuade them that reading isn’t boring or worthy. It works for reluctant parents, too. I always preferred reading funny books to my children at bedtime, after a long day. We’d do the voices and snort at the jokes and it was a lovely bonding experience. Funny fiction tends to have an energy and anarchy to it, too, which I think children relate to. It can still deal with issues important to youngsters, from fear of change to friendship troubles, but does it with a light touch. Finally, funny fiction tends to include a triad of delights – funny characters, funny language and funny situations – that entertain young readers and can put a fire under their own creative writing, too, showing them what’s possible when you’re writing for laughs.

You have written a number of books for children and also nonfiction for adults and worked as a journalist. How does the writing process and experience differ when writing for children? I find writing fiction the hardest. There is a lot that goes into even just a 10,000 word book. Dreaming up the characters, creating a decent plot, making sure it clips along – it’s surprisingly tricky. But I love writing for children above all else, especially funny fiction. There is license to be silly and imaginative, to push the bounds of possibility and create really joyful, daft characters, often based on people you know, but considerably exaggerated. It’s just great, great fun.

It must have been fun seeing your characters brought to life through illustration – tell us about working with an illustrator.  I’ve never met Nathan who illustrated I Swapped My Brother On The Internet, but we do chat together over email. My editor and I drew up a shortlist of possible scenes to be illustrated then he got to work, but it was super exciting seeing his first roughs and how he had interpreted the characters. That leap from description to illustration is thrilling, and good illustrators like Nathan always bring more to each character than the writer can alone, adding little quirky details that just make the story fly.

Are you planning on any more adventures for Jonny or working on something different? Not for Jonny, but I do have a new book out with Bloomsbury in August 2018, featuring a boy called Danny and an amazing discovery he makes on a tiny Scottish island. It’s called The Dodo Made Me Do It.

Thank you Jo for participating in bookchat! I can’t wait to read all about Danny and his adventures.banner new

 

With thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing for arranging this bookchat!