Tag Archives: Blog tour

BLOG TOUR: The Tale of the Whale by Karen Swann, illustrated by Padmacandra

It’s DAY THREE of the blog tour for The Tale of the Whale by Karen Swann and Padmacandra. I’m so pleased to share a guest post from illustrator Padmacandra with insight into the artwork from the story, as well as my thoughts on the book.

The Tale of the Whale is undoubtedly a stunning debut from both author and illustrator, telling the story of a child and whale journeying through the oceans. Their beautiful friendship captures the symbiotic relationship between humans, the sea and the creatures who live in it, and their discoveries show the extreme harm plastic is causing. A lyrical narrative combines with beautifully drawn scenes from under the waves and brings to life the reality of pollution. A brilliant book to support children’s understanding of environmental issues and show just why we need to act now to save our seas. Not only this, it’s a really beautiful book to read and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this on award shortlists in months to come.

Welcome to the blog Padmacandra!

“Hello! I am Padmacandra, the illustrator of the Tale of the Whale. I am an ordained Buddhist which is why I have a funny name! Many people think this means the I should be wearing robes or have a bald head, but within my Order it means that I have made a commitment (with quite a long training process) to do everything in my life in the light of kindness and awareness, with the aim of waking up more and more to the truth of the interconnectedness of all life. I was delighted to be asked to illustrate The Tale of the Whale which speaks to this interconnectedness so lyrically and beautifully. Karen and I talked about the importance of the connection between the child and the whale and their friendship throughout the book, as well as connecting with the awesome beauty, joyfulness and depth of the ocean. It was so inspiring to research and make the images of all the ocean creatures, and their home, trying to communicate this beauty and connectedness.

One other detail about me is that I also work part time as a carer for the elderly, mostly living in for a week at a time. I enjoy the simplicity and practicality of the work: it can be such a straightforward way to be of service to others.  I have the privilege of often being alongside people when they are facing the challenges of old age – when they have stopped feeling the need to “put on a face”- which feels like a real meeting.  Perhaps also this flavour of joy in meeting comes across in the tale of the whale!

My Art Processes

I remember trying to learn Salsa some years ago and finding myself challenged by following step by step instructions. However, when the music started and I was in a group with other people dancing I found myself picking up some of the steps and moves by simply feeling my way. Likewise, with art I’ve found I seem to learn best by playing around and making mistakes. I also find it invaluable to look at the work of others that I admire. Not to copy, but to educate my eye. I find Instagram a good place for this.

I love to experiment with mark making.  This was very much encouraged on the Cambridge Art School MA, and I continue to do so.  I seem to have settled with oil pastels and wax crayons as a main medium, sometimes (as in The Tale of the Whale) combining these with monoprint textures (the monoprints are created by rolling ink and paint onto paper).  I usually create images by laying down lots of lovely colours in layers first. Then I will either create images by scratching away layers to reveal what is underneath, or I add lines and shades on top with more crayon, coloured pencil, and occasionally acrylic pens. Usually, it’s a combination of these!

The Tale of the Whale was a lovely text to illustrate, and particularly as it was my first book as illustrator – I felt in good hands with the designer Ness Wood, and editor Janice Thomson. It was obvious that Karen had really thought about the illustrations in a very skilled way when writing her text. One challenge was to render the underwater scenes as well as the scenes above water. In the end, the method of layering waxy crayons with soft oil pastels on top worked very well, and I combined monoprints with these digitally.

Bringing texture to images is important to me – especially for this older age group of 4 to 8-year-olds who are starting to have a subtler appreciation of it. I hope texture brings more psychological depth, interest and sensitivity to my images. It reflects the way that nature is.  Of course, it’s important to get the balance right between simplicity and complexity in an image – an area I find interesting to explore.”

The Tale of the Whale by Karen Swann, illustrated by Padmacandra, out now in hardback (£12.99, Scallywag Press. Find out more at scallywagpress.com. With thanks to Scallywag Press for inviting me to host a stop on the blog tour. Don’t forget to follow the rest of the tour:

BLOG TOUR: What did the Tree See? by Charlotte Guillian, illustrated by Sam Usher

It’s a celebration of nature and history on the blog today! I’m delighted to share a guest post today on my stop of the blog tour for What did the tree see? by Charlotte Guillain and Sam Usher. When I first heard about this picture book I absolutely loved the idea of it. There is something wondrous about the mighty oak tree and the fact they have often lived for hundreds of years – what indeed have these majestic trees seen throughout history? What did the tree see? is a non-fiction picture book that captures exactly this premise through a charming lyrical narrative and wonderfully detailed illustrations. We see an oak tree grow from an acorn, to sapling to a fully grown tree. As it grows, it sees the land change before it, with villages turning to towns and the advent of industrialisation. It’s a lovely depiction of the oak tree and it’s importance in our heritage. There’s a wonderful spread charting the life cycle of an oak tree and a historical timeline tracking what happened in history over the course of a 1,000 years – oak trees can live for a long time! Published in partnership with The National Forest by Wellbeck Children’s, 10p of every book sold goes towards helping look after our forests. Today, we discover a day in the life of a picture book author with Charlotte Guillain and she shares are top tip for would-be writers. Welcome to the blog Charlotte!

“In many ways, I’ve been very lucky over the last year. When the pandemic hit us and the lockdowns started, my working life didn’t really change that much. Of course, I missed the opportunity to meet children in schools and at festivals, but the day-to-day job of writing went on pretty much as normal.

I write non-fiction, such as What Did the Tree See? (illustrated by Sam Usher), on my own but I also write picture books with my husband, Adam. We have a room like a box at the bottom of our tiny garden, which we call the Writing Den, and this is where we head every morning. With schools closing and the whole family having to work at home, we’ve never been more grateful for the extra space the Writing Den gives us. After switching on the computers and the heater and checking emails (and Twitter!), we usually start the day properly by going for a walk. We live just over the road from the Blenheim Palace estate, so we normally head there to breathe in the beautiful green scenery and wander among the wonderful mature trees that are scattered throughout the park. It was on one of these walks that I first had the idea for What Did the Tree See? I wanted to tell the story of an oak tree over the hundreds of years that it has been growing and show how much the world around it has changed. Walking in nature always works well for Adam and I to brainstorm new ideas, thrash out plots and solve writing problems.

After our walk, we head back to the Writing Den. I try to do any new writing in the morning, when I’m feeling fresh and energised from going out. On a good day, I’ll be totally immersed and only surface at lunchtime. When things are feeling harder, there will be more Twitter and tea breaks… After lunch I might continue with the new writing, or I might switch to editing projects that are already in progress, update our website, write publicity such as a blog post or deal with any emails that have arrived during the day.

On some days, we might have a virtual visit with a school anywhere in the world. This is always great fun and it’s so important to be reminded who our readers are, even if we can only see them on a screen. We also spend a lot of time recording videos for our YouTube channel. Lockdowns permitting, we might end our working day with another walk among the trees, discussing how much progress we’ve made on a manuscript and helping each other to solve any problems that may have arisen. My top tip for any would-be writers: Don’t spend too much time at your desk! Get out into the fresh air and hang out with some trees if you can. You’ll be amazed how much it helps!

What Did the Tree See? by Charlotte Guillain, illustrated by Sam Usher (£12.99, Welbeck Children’s) available now.

With thanks to Wellbeck Children’s for sending me this book to review and inviting me to participate in the blog tour. Find out more on Twitter: @KidsWelbeck and @cguillain and check out the rest of the blog tour:

BLOG TOUR: All I Want for Christmas by Beth Garrod

It’s the final stop on the blog tour for All I Want for Christmas by Beth Garrod, a gorgeous novel for teens full of friendship, a touch of romance and lots of festive fun! There’s also a positive message about social media – which whilst it can bring people together, also presents a ‘reality’ that is far from the truth. The heroines of the story, Holly and Elle, are both truly engaging, ending up in all manner of hilarious and ever-so-slightly awkward scenarios, and you’ll find yourself rooting for them all the way to the mistletoe- fuelled finale!

US-based Elle is a social-media influencer. But sometimes online attention isn’t all it seems from the outside; with a family who are constantly on the move, and so-called friends putting pressure on her to increase her following, she decides to swap places with one of her followers for the holidays.

Holly lives in a small village in England, and LOVES Christmas more than anything else. Nothing is going to get in the way of this year being the BEST Christmas ever . . . Nothing! But when her mum announces she’s selling their house, and Woody decides they should go on a ‘break’, her plans for the perfect Christmas start to crumble like over-baked gingerbread people.

Will swapping with Elle be Holly’s perfect opportunity to escape? And far from home, will they both find all they want for Christmas?

I’m delighted to share a post from author Beth Garrod, with a fantastic finale to this very festive blog tour – welcome to the blog Beth!

“Today is the final stop on the All I Want For Christmas blog tour – so to do Holly proud it’s finishing with a big tinsely bang. A big tinsely 70s bang. Because when it comes to Christmas, you can be cool like Elle orrrr, you can cover yourself in glitter, pull on your turkey slippers, and dance like no one is watching. Which is exactly what Holly would recommend.

So here it is, the final tune to get you shaking your baubles and twirling those Christmas puddings. After all… IT’S CHRISTMAAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSS.

Wizzard: I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day

This is a song about loving Christmas, a lot – which is something Holly is ALL about (although, when it comes to wanting it to be Christmas every day, 2020 might have clinched that vibe). This song is stuffed with sleigh bells, Christmassy choirs, and lyrics about getting your beard frozen. What more could a Christmas song want?! Sure, the video might be weird, but that is exactly what Spotify is for. Cranking this up and wishing every day could be a day you get to hang out with the best people, wear pyjamas for longer than is necessary, and eat whatever is within reaching distance. Chocolate Orange counts as fruit, right?

So however you like to bring Christmas magic, whether you do it with a million traditions like Holly, or keep it low-key like Elle, get this tune on, and let the bellsssss ring ouuuuut fo-o-orrr Chriiiiistmaaaaaas.”

Find out more here: Beth Garrod (bethhgarrod.com)

With thanks to Scholastic for sending me this book to review and inviting me to participate in the blog tour. Merry Christmas! Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour:

BLOG TOUR: The Time Traveller and the Tiger by Tania Unsworth

Tigers? Time Travel? Tropical forests? Three intrepid adventurers? What more could you ask for in historical middle grade adventure?! It’s my absolute pleasure to be hosting a guest post for the final stop on the blog tour for this fantastic new book, The Time Traveller and the Tiger, written by Tania Unsworth, published by Zephr Books.

Cover Art: Helen Crawford-White

Elsie is not looking forward to the long summer holidays with her creaky, old Uncle John. But then the unimaginable happens as Time unravels and Elsie tumbles back to 1940s India to meet her Uncle John as a young boy on a tiger hunt. Can Elsie change the future by stopping him from doing what he’s already told her is a wrong he can never right? Face to face with the mightiest and most majestic predator in the jungle, Elsie is in awe of the tiger’s beauty. She’s on a mission to have the adventure of a lifetime, save the tiger and change the future.

I love tigers and I love time-travel stories so this story caught my eye immediately. I’m also always taken by 1940s India – my grandfather served with the Ghurkas in the Second World War and my mother was born in India whilst he was there. In addition, my great-grandfather was Mountbatten’s Chief Medical Adviser so I’m always fascinated by hearing stories of India. This was no exception and I thoroughly enjoyed being taken on this wonderful adventure. Alongside themes of friendship and bravery, the story doesn’t shy away from the reality of animal poaching and prejudice that existed and encourages the reader to think seriously about conservation. Elsie, John and Mandeep are a wonderful cast of characters, each with their own fears to face creating a multi-layered story of thrilling adventure. Brilliantly brought to life, the Indian forests are teeming with atmosphere and the tiger is utterly majestic, particularly as we see the world through his eyes at key moments throughout.

I’m delighted to welcome author Tania Unsworth to the blog today to share her thoughts on using description in children’s books. Welcome to the blog Tania!

The Time Traveller and the Tiger is an adventure story set in the forests of Central India, and the minute I finished the first draft, I knew I had a problem. Although the characters and plot were coming along nicely, I’d hardly described the setting at all. It felt fake – like the painted backdrop on a stage. I’d read books and looked at pictures, but I simply didn’t have enough information. So, I decided to spend a week visiting a tiger reserve in India. And that was when I ran into my second problem.

Now, I had too much information. I came back with a notebook crammed with facts and figures and breathless accounts of everything from the light of dawn to the stars at night. And because I’d fallen in love with the place, I wanted to put all this description into my book.

Usually, I’m quite sparing with description. I tend not to describe what my characters look like, for example, because I think part of the pleasure for readers comes from creating their own pictures. At the same time, some description is needed in children’s fiction. And it’s often for a different reason than in fiction for adults. Adult readers might automatically get a visual image when they read the words ‘a mountain chalet’ say, or ‘the boardroom of a large corporation’. But chances are, most children won’t have a good sense of what these places actually look like, because almost everything is new to them.

On the other hand, long descriptions are risky in children’s books. They can slow reading progress and get in the way of the story. As Joan Aitken points out in her guide The Way to Write for Children, “if you do nothing but describe…although it will be a pleasure for you, and to some of your readers, others will automatically skip all your best descriptions, and the plot will creep at a snail’s pace.”

I decided that if I wanted to include a lot of description in my book, I would have to weave it in using stealth. Through dialogue, for example. Elsie – my main character – knows nothing about the Indian forest. That was an opportunity to have my other characters, John and Mandeep, point things out and give her descriptive snippets of information. Wherever possible, I tried to convey the appearance of things through action. Instead of describing a giant spider web, I had Elsie run into one. Rather than telling the reader what termite mounds look like, I made Elsie mistake them for weirdly caped figures in the dark.

I made a rule that I wouldn’t describe anything unless the description added directly to the story. To create atmosphere, say. The grasping, knotted tendrils of a banyan tree echoing the sinister machinations of a group of trophy hunters. Or to show character motivation and personality. Light coming through the trees reminds Mandeep of a temple, revealing the depth of his love for the forest…

Of course, I didn’t always stick to that rule. Sometimes I couldn’t resist just…describing. But by making the setting less of a backdrop, and more of an active participant in the story, I hoped readers wouldn’t be slowed in their gallop to the end.

I’d love to know if you think I succeeded!”

Find out out more at www.headofzeus.com and www.taniaunsworth.com/. With thanks to Zephyr Books for sending me this book to review and inviting me to be part of the blog tour. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour:

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: