Book of the Month: Where Once We Stood by Christopher Riley and Martin Impey

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Fifty years ago today man landed on the Moon. I can only imagine just how unbelievable it must have seemed to the world at the time that we could actually walk on the Moon. It is therefore totally fitting that my latest Book of the Month celebrates that momentous occasion and is one that shares rare insight into the  historic event and the Apollo project as a whole.

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Where Once We Stood by Christopher Riley illustrated by Martin Impey captures first-hand accounts of what it really felt like to land on the Moon. Between July 1969 and December 1972 twelve men landed their spaceships on the Moon, known as the Apollo project. The author has spent a lifetime studying the Apollo project and interviewing the astronauts who walked on the Moon.  In this wonderful collaboration, each Apollo mission is explored with incredible details from the conversations Christopher Riley had with the astronauts and their families.  Martin Impey’s artwork, which has been celebrated by the astronauts themselves, is a fitting accompaniment to the insight these conversations bring.  Beautiful and otherworldly, you can almost feel the lunar experience.

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On an informative note, there’s a map of the landing sites and at various points throughout, helpful facts share some of the science behind the Moon.  Each chapter explores one of the Apollo missions, from the first footprints left by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the final ambitious expedition as astronauts drove electric cars deep into the mountains of the moon.

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It is a completely fascinating read and I found myself discovering a whole world of unknown science and exploration.  This book would be wonderful to share, a fabulous addition to your family bookshelf or school library. You could study it for hours again and again and not fail to be inspired – which I think is so important in a world where the wonder of science can be lost and exploration like something that belongs in the past.  Combining a unique series of illustrations with words spoken by the astronauts themselves, Where Once We Stood is a beautiful book that will capture the imagination of readers young and old.

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Excitingly, this book is published by a new publishing house founded by Emilie James and Martin Impey, who aim to publish high quality books about challenging subjects for readers of all ages.  This is their first publication, bringing the human face of the Moon landings to both younger readers and those who remember them from their own childhoods.  Visit www.harbourmoonpublishing.com for more information.

With thanks to the publishers for sending me this book to review.

 

 

 

 

New review: Under a Dancing Star by Laura Wood

If you’re looking for a great summer read then look no further than the gorgeous new YA novel Under a Dancing Star by Laura Wood, published on 4th July by Scholastic.  A captivating coming-of-age story set in 1930s, it will sweep you into a glorious, romantic summer haze!

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Under a Dancing Star by Laura Wood

In 1930s England, Bea’s parents want her married off to keep the family estate alive. but she longs for adventure. A golden summer in Italy with her bohemian Uncle opens up a whole new world, which includes Ben , a handsome, infuriating artist. Sparks fly between the quick-witted pair until one night, under the stars, a challenge is set – can they put aside their teasing and have the perfect summer romance? There is only one rule – they absolutely must not fall in love.

Beatrice Langton has never quite fulfilled her parents expectations of being a dutiful daughter – in fact far from it. Her fascination with nature and scientific discovery, her desire for exploration and freedom do not sit well with her parents plans for marrying her off to a rich husband, thereby saving the crumbling family estate and ancestral home of Langton Hall.  Exasperated with Beatrice’s behaviour, which in their eyes is not becoming to a young lady of 17 years, her parents think that sending her to stay with her Uncle in Italy for the summer will drum some sense into her – but they couldn’t be more wrong! For Beatrice’s Uncle, after the death of his wife, has take up with a flamboyant artist and they live a wonderfully bohemian life, with her young cousin Hero, offering an open house to artists from all over the world who want somewhere inspirational to work.  So Beatrice, or Bea as she is called by her young cousin, suddenly has a world of wonder opened up to her, set against the backdrop of the beautiful Italian countryside.

Beautifully described throughout, Under a Dancing Star, brings to life a whirlwind summer romance and is a wonderful exploration of first love.  The stifling world of British aristocracy contrasts with the exuberant world occupied by those who can live as they choose.  The looming clouds of war and references to fascism and the approaching peril invade the summer haze at times and bring a dose of reality. The price of freedom is often loss of some kind which we see in the wonderful cast of characters Bea meets including, Ben, whose mother died and who ran away from an orphanage as a young boy. But the heart of the novel is Bea’s self-discovery, her new found feelings of love which are as transformational as the butterflies she likes to study and the realisation that she can choose her future.  Under a Dancing Star really does make the perfect summer read!

Find out more at www.lauraclarewood.com and www.scholastic.co.uk. With thanks to Scholastic for sending me this book to review.

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New review: How High the Moon by Karyn Parsons

I was instantly intrigued by this story given it was written by Karyn Parsons, best known for her role as Will Smith’s ditsy cousin Hilary Banks in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Karyn has since gone on to found and produce Sweet Blackberry an award-winning series of children’s animated films to share stories about unsung black heroes in history. How High the Moon is her debut novel for children aged 9 and up.  A sweeping tale of growing up in segregated America, it tells the story of Ella and her family and friends and will stay with you long after the final page.

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How  High the Moon by Karyn Parsons

“Boston was nothing like South Carolina. Up there, colored folks could go anywhere they wanted. Folks didn’t wait for church to dress in their fancy clothes. Fancy was just life. Mama was a city girl . . . and now I was going to be one too.”

It’s 1944, and in a small, Southern, segregated town, eleven-year-old Ella spends her summers running wild with her cousins and friends. But life isn’t always so sunny. The deep racial tension that simmers beneath their town’s peaceful facade never quite goes away, and Ella misses her mama – a beautiful jazz singer, who lives in Boston. So when an invitation arrives to come to Boston for a visit Ella is ecstatic – and the trip proves life-changing in more ways than one. For the first time, Ella sees what life outside of segregation is like, and begins to dream of a very different future. But her happiness is shattered when she returns home to the news that her classmate has been arrested for the murder of two white girls – and nothing will ever be the same again.

A moving and beautifully written historical tale drawing you into a world of racial tension, family bonds and friendship. It is told through the voices of the various central characters –11 year old Ella, desperate to find her place in the world; Henry, Ella’s steadfast best friend and Mryna, an orphan girl taken in by Ella’s grandparents who experiences first love with classmate George.  Ella has a love-hate relationship with Myrna and is often in conflict with her. When Ella goes to Boston to stay with her mother she hopes to find the truth about her father – who judging by Ella’s skin-colour and the prejudice she is often on the receiving end of, was white.  However, Ella finds her mother unwilling to share any more than this and unwilling to give up her lifestyle of late-night performing to be a stay-at-home mother. Ella finds a surprising ally in her mother’s roommate, Helen, but the time comes when she must return home. The story takes a heart-rending turn when George, Myrna’s boyfriend is accused of murder, turning their world upside down and causing increased racial tension with the threat of lynch-mobs never far away.

There are so many facets to this brilliant story and it weaves a believable but haunting narrative. Ella is a brave heroine, with a voice that must be heard. The character building is excellent and you can’t help but feel Ella, her friends and family really existed, pulling empathy from the reader from the first page. Sadly, the story of George is based on truth – George Stinney Jr was 14 years old when he was excused of murdering two white girls and executed for murder. Seventy years later he was exonerated and his trial and sentence declared a sham.

I never fail to be horrified by man’s inhumanity to man and shedding light on the racial tensions in 1940s Deep South, and what it was really like to live during this time is important. Particularly in the current climate where racial inequality still exists; this book will build empathy and understanding and would be most suitable for older primary children and also good for those students studying this period of history.  How High the Moon is brilliant and brave storytelling and is deservedly described as future classic.

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Find out more www.penguin.co.uk. With thanks to Puffin for sending me this book to review.

Guest post: The True Colours of Coral Glen by Juliette Forrest

Today on the blog I’m sharing my review of The True Colours of Coral Glen by Juliette Forrest (published by Scholastic on 4th July) and a guest post from the author.

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The True Colours of Coral Glen by Juliette Forrest

Coral Glen sees the world around her through a rainbow of colours not visible to others – a day full of adventure is Treasure Island Gold but one with a maths test is Stormy Canyon Grey. When her beloved grandma dies, Coral can’t conjure the colour to match how heartbroken she is.  She meets a mysterious boy who offers to help her say a last goodbye to her Gran – in exchange, Coral must stop an evil spirit from escaping the graveyard, and go on a daring adventure full of witches, ghosts and other things lurking beneath the surface of her not-so-ordinary town. 

A totally original idea and brilliant storytelling combine to make The True Colours of Coral Glen by Juliette Forrest a heart-warming tale full of magic. Coral’s ability to see the world in rainbow of colours brings to life the world around her in a way no one else can understand – except her grandmother who is no longer there. Coral thinks it’s all her fault so when she meets a ghost-boy, Lyart, in the graveyard after her grandmother’s funeral she accepts his offer of help and begins the seemingly impossible task set by him. Coral’s world takes on a new array of colours as she learns to cast spells, meets witches and talking animals and takes on the evil Muckle Red. At the heart of the tale is Coral’s grief at the loss of her grandmother and how she bravely overcomes her feelings of sadness and guilt, with the help of her new friends. The True Colours of Coral Glen is a story full of imagination, encouraging us to see the wonder of the world in all its colours, even in the most difficult of circumstances.

I’m delighted to welcome to the author, Juliette Forrest to the blog today with a brilliant guest post! 

The importance of watching other authors by Juliette Forrest

Juliette Forrest high-resMy first author event took place last year. I was on stage at Hay Festival with two other well-known writers. I had been fortunate enough to attend an Industry Lab by Scottish Book Trust, which was run to help authors navigate their way through events. Thank heavens for Scottish Book Trust is all I can say, otherwise, I would have been utterly clueless. I pitched up at Hay Festival and braced myself for the unexpected. The festival was such an amazing experience and by far the best bit was being able to observe other writers. By the end of the day, I knew I needed to be more knowledgeable on writing tips for dyslexic kids, it was wise to have a selection of pens in case the only one you owned died on you, and that kids went wild for a badge or a bookmark. I also found out the messages scribbled inside books should be kept short, so people didn’t lose the will to live in the queue, it was prudent not to use your real signature, and even though I’m awful at multi-tasking, it was polite to engage in some chat whilst signing. And not to bat an eyelid when a parent gives you a name that is so unbelievable, you think they are pulling your leg.

A lot of the time I’m asked where I get my inspiration from. It even happened to me immediately after finishing a talk on where I get my inspiration from. Although remaining polite, I recapped briefly over a few of the things I’d previously mentioned, and the child appeared satisfied with my answer. Not long after this, I went to see a top author who was being grilled by schoolkids. He was asked a whole string of similar questions, in quick succession. The writer took his time and made sure he gave a different answer to each child, making them feel as though they’d asked the most interesting question in the world. Here was a true professional at work and I learned so much more about how to handle myself as an author that day.

I think it’s difficult for new writers being flung into the strange and unpredictable world of events. Especially, if you’re like me; shy with occasional dry mouth. I’m happy to report that I’m finding my feet and love working with kids. I’m asking for feedback after every talk or workshop, so I can keep on improving, and so far the comments have been extremely complimentary. If you’ve got all this looming ahead of you and the thought is making you queasy – just remember to be yourself. And try to see as many authors at work as you can. By learning from them, you can be sure your event will always have a happy ending.

Juliette Forrest’s first novel, Twister, was a Sunday Times Book of the Week, the Guardian’s ‘must-read’ kid’s book of the summer and won Calderdale Book of the Year 2019. Her second book, The True Colours of Coral Glen, was released on 4th July. She is in her element delivering workshops and talks for schools, libraries, bookshops and festivals. 

Find out more at www.julietteforrest.co.uk and www.scholastic.co.uk. With thanks to Scholastic for sending me this book to review.

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New review: Scar by Alice Broadway

Scar by Alice Broadway

Picture a world where your every action, every deed and every significant moment in your life is tattooed on your skin forever. When you die, if you have lived a ‘good’ life your skin is removed and made into a book to be presented in a soul-weighing ceremony to your family. However if you have not lived a good life, your skin-book is burnt in a fire, condemning you in death and bringing shame on your family forever.

scarThat is the premise on which this YA trilogy is built and around which the dystopian world of Saintstone is created.  I absolutely loved the first two books in the series – Ink (review here) and Spark – so when Scar the third and final book arrived on my doorstep I couldn’t wait to read it. It doesn’t disappoint (and before I go any further – the cover art is just gorgeous on all three titles!).

With each episode, the heroine Leora has discovered more about herself, her past and indeed her future than she could ever have imagined.  From the day her father died, as secrets about him are revealed, all the doubts she has about her beliefs grow– especially in regards to those who choose not to live as marked – the Blanks – who are exiled to Featherstone.  By the third book, Leora has been through so much, heard so much truth alongside so many lies, her confusion and fear are palpable.  She has to challenge the very foundations on which her society is built even no matter the consequences. With her friends either missing or imprisoned- or perhaps not who they seem, it’s up to Leora to reveal the deception and expose the villainous leaders for who they really are. In Scar we see that Leora has not lost faith in herself and even though she faces her darkest moments, she finds hope.  A thoroughly fitting finale to a great series.

The Ink Trilogy is a brilliant exploration of how society can be split apart by differing beliefs and religion.  It explores how we share ourselves, our actions, thoughts and deeds with one another, drawing parallels with how people display everything about themselves on social media in our society. What imprint does this leave, even after we’re gone? What does this say about who we are and what we do?  People so often need something or someone to aspire to and can be so blinded by the images presented to them, they fail to see who that person really is.

The trilogy features themes of friendship, betrayal, love and family. The really clever use of beautifully written fables throughout demonstrates how tradition can hold us hostage but also help us find our way.  It also shows how the beliefs on which a society has been built can be reflected so differently depending on who is telling the story – comparing the respective beliefs of the people of Saintstone and Featherstone. In each book there are intriguing plot developments, well-written action sequences, lots of tension and some really emotive scenes, all creating a fantastic narrative.  The Ink Trilogy has everything you want in a YA series – a brilliant setting, great storytelling, compelling characters and an utterly thought-provoking narrative. 

Find out more www.alice-broadway.com. With thanks to Scholastic for sending me this book to review.

New review: Mouse and Mole by Joyce Dunbar illustrated by James Mayhew

When this gorgeous picture book, Mouse and Mole by Joyce Dunbar illustrated by James Mayhew, arrived through the post, I was instantly reminded of such classics as Wind in the Willows, Brambly Hedge and Peter Rabbit Originally published in 1993, I am very pleased to say the series is being republished by Graffeg. In addition to the original series of six titles, there are further unpublished stories, with Graffeg also planning to bring some of these into print in the future.

Author Joyce Dunbar is best known for her lively and quirky picture books stories. Many of her stories have been dramatised for the stage and as puppet shows. James Mayhew is an acclaimed illustrator, author, concert presenter and storyteller. James is the illustrator of the highly praised picture book Gaspard the Fox by BBC Radio 4 news presenter Zeb Soanes and the creator of the much-loved Katie and Ella Bella Ballerina series. They make a fantastic team bringing to life the wonderful world of Mouse and Mole.

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Mouse and Mole by Joyce Dunbar and James Mayhew

Mouse and Mole decide to take a picnic into the woods and set out their plan: cheese and cucumber sandwiches if it is a fine day. Or roasted chestnuts and toasted muffins in front of an apple wood fire if it is wild and wintry. But what will they do if it is an in-between sort of day?

This absolutely delightful picture book series will no doubt enchant a new generation of young readers. And who couldn’t be enchanted by the wonderful adventures of Mouse and Mole so beautifully told and illustrated? The narrative captures the exploits and humour to be found in their daily life perfectly – from deciding what to eat to tidying up to even just having a chat. Each spread features wonderful illustrations bringing to life these simple adventures just as you imagine them to be.

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Warm and comforting as the softest blanket, Mouse and Mole should be on every child’s bookshelf ready to be enjoyed independently or shared with a grown up!

The first four titles, Mouse and Mole, Mouse and Mole Have a Party, Happy Days for Mouse and Mole and A Very Special Mouse and Mole published in May 2019.

Find out more at  www.jamesmayhew.co.uk and www.joycedunbar.com .With thanks to Graffeg for sending me a proof copy to review.

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BLOG TOUR: Lily and the Rockets by Rebecca Stevens

 

I’m hosting the final stop on the blog tour for Lily and the Rockets by Rebecca Stevens. I was delighted to be invited to do so, having been a huge fan of Rebecca Stevens previous novel, Valantine Joe. This latest middle grade novel Lily and the Rockets, published by Chicken House, is a fantastic story that celebrates girls and women in football and serves as a poignant reminder of how the first World War impacted the lives of so many. Not just those serving in conflict but those left at home, who had to totally transform their way of living whilst the men were away.

Lily and the Rockets Jacket lowresIt’s 1918. Lily spends her days working in a munitions factory, her nights picking metal out of her hair, and her lunchtimes kicking a ball with her workmates. Together they form a football team, the Rockets, and a league soon follows. But when the war ends, the girls lose both their jobs and their football. Not Lily. If her only chance of being a goalie is to play with the men, then that’s what she’ll do.

Lily is a wonderful heroine, determined to live her dream of playing football. Such is the narrative and quality of the writing, the characters leap off the page and you feel that their story could be true. It was in fact is inspired by the Woolwich Arsenal Rocket Ladies FC, who were one of several female-only teams that thrived while the Great War raged on. Despite their success, once the war was over, a ban was put in place by the FA that was to last fifty years.  Thankfully women’s football is now in a much better place and perhaps without girls and women like Lily and her friends, who were brave enough to stand up to convention, we wouldn’t be about to celebrate the FIFA Women’s World Cup which begins next month (7 June- 7 July 2019).

I’m delighted to welcome Rebecca Stevens to the blog share more about her inspiration for the book!

‘Complaints having been made as to football being played by women, the Council feel impelled to express their strong opinion that the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged’  Football Association spokesman, 1921

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“Lots of people know about the munitionettes of WW1. They’ve seen the propaganda posters of the time, urging women and girls to ‘do their bit’, to fill the jobs in the factories left empty by the men and make the bombs and bullets needed for the war. What fewer people know is that the women and girls started to play football;  they formed their own teams and leagues and then, when in 1915 the Football Association suspended the men’s professional game for the duration  of the war, they started to play on their grounds, attracting crowds as big – and sometimes bigger – than the men’s game.

 

The most successful team of all, the Dick, Kerr Ladies from Preston (the comma isn’t a typo – it was originally a team of workers from a factory owned by a Mr Dick and a Mr Kerr), drew huge crowds. The biggest was a crowd of 53,000 inside the ground with over 14,000 locked out – a record for a women’s match that wasn’t beaten until the 2012 Olympics when England played Brazil. Ladies’ football was a success.

So what happened?  

Well, the war ended. The men and boys needed their jobs back. The women and girls got kicked out of the factories. And the gentlemen of the Football Association decided they didn’t like the idea of females playing football after all and announced that they would expel any club who allowed ladies’ teams to play on their grounds.

And that was that.

But what, I wondered, if it wasn’t. What if there was one girl who refused to give up, who found a way to carry on playing?

Ever since I was little, I’ve loved stories about disguise, people pretending to be someone else and actually becoming more like themselves in the process. Mulan, Sweet Polly Oliver, so many of Shakespeare’s heroines.  Even Cinderella is able to become somebody else just by putting on a different outfit (perhaps that’s why we all love makeovers!).   So, in Lily and the Rockets, I decided to do the same and write a girls’ own story about football, friendship and feminism in the hope that it would encourage readers to follow their own star, whatever that star might be.”

Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com and follow Rebecca Stevens on twitter @rstevenswriter. With thanks to Chicken House for inviting me to participate in this blog tour. Check out the rest of the tour here:

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