Tag Archives: Book review

Bookchat: Bug Belly written and illustrated by Paul Morton

Congratulations to author-illustrator, Paul Morton, whose debut funny fiction series is published today by Five Quills! It’s a huge pleasure to feature Bug Belly on the blog today – a book that will make you smile from the very first page.  Delightful and engaging throughout, the story introduces a new children’s character in the shape of a fabulous and funny frog, Bug Belly! And Paul Morton joins us on the blog today to share some of the inspiration behind the story.

Bug Belly cover

It’s Uncle Bug Belly’s turn to babysit! The taddies and the froglets can’t wait to PLAY. But when Uncle Bug Belly’s tummy goes URGLE-GURGLE GLUMP everyone knows it spells trouble!

Imaginative and full of lively, humourous illustrations, the first book in the series entitled Bug Belly: Babysitting Trouble, follows Bug Belly’s adventures as he babysits a whole pondful of tadpoles and young froglets. Full of great ideas to keep them entertained, all is going swimmingly (!) when Bug Belly’s hungry tummy gets the better of him and disaster strikes.  However, not to be beaten by the threat of a dried up pond, a greedy fish, bird AND snake, Bug Belly comes up with an ingenious plan to save the day.  Young readers will love following the adventures and seeing how Bug Belly doesn’t give up even when all seems lost. There are even diagrams to highlight all Bug Belly’s fantastic ideas; a great addition to the story and perhaps inspiration for budding young inventors!  Bug Belly: Babysitting Trouble is a wonderful addition to the world of illustrated fiction and I can’t wait to see what Bug Belly does next!

I’m very pleased to welcome Paul Morton to the blog today for a bookchat – welcome to the blog Paul!

Tell us a bit about your new book, Bug Belly: Babysitting Trouble. The book is the first in a new series of young fiction titles, aimed at readers age 5-8 – both for children who still enjoy being read to as well as those venturing out on their own. Bug Belly is an ingenious, inventive and super fun froggy uncle to lots of little tadpoles and froglets in Top Pond. In this first story, he’s supposed to be babysitting all the taddies, but his hungry belly distracts him and causes a bit of a disaster, resulting in all the water draining from the pond. Bug Belly must race against the clock to save all the tadpoles. He loves a challenge, though, and comes up with an inventive plan to save the day, with the help of three young frogs, Splish, Splash and Splodge. It’s action packed, fun and exciting!

What do you hope readers will enjoy about the book? I hope they will enjoy the humour and action in the story, and I’ve included lots of illustrations throughout the book to introduce the characters, highlight the action and show the funny scenarios Bug Belly finds himself in. The text is great for reading aloud, too, so I hope will be shared in classrooms as well as at home. I recently did a school event which I really enjoyed – sharing tips on writing and firing children’s imaginations, and I hope to do many more of those in the future. I’ve created lots of activity sheets and resources to engage children with the series, so they can have a lot of fun exploring the stories in different ways.

How did you first come up with the idea for Bug Belly? I was playing a game with my nephew. Bug Belly is a rubber frog he has that had lost its squeaker, so insects could be stuffed into its tummy. I thought, ‘there’s a great idea for a children’s book!’ I’ve always been interested in animals, though, and have drawn many frog characters in my career as an illustrator and graphic designer. As a child I owned a green super-bouncy ball, that I kept in my pocket and pretended was a frog that could jump! Now, I’m lucky enough now to have a pond in my garden that is full of frogspawn, tadpoles and frogs every year!

How did you develop Bug Belly’s character, and the stories for this book series? I started by imagining some busy scenes from the story, for example the one where Bug Belly is planning to bag more bugs for his breakfast. I began wondering about all of the gadgets that Bug Belly might use to help him catch the bugs, and I developed his kit bag which you’ll see drawings of in the book – and developed various scenes from there which I stitched together into what I hope is an exciting story.

How do you plan and develop the illustrations for your books? First, I draw the main scenes as rough pencil sketches in my various notebooks and sketchbooks. Then I draw them in more detail on A4 sheets, before scanning them into my computer to add the colour digitally. In total, I produced around 1,000 drawings for Bug Belly: Babysitting Trouble! One of the biggest challenges was all the individual tadpoles! I drew 2,000 of those for this book!

What can we expect in future Bug Belly stories? More fast paced fun and even trickier challenges for Bug Belly. Book two is being developed at the moment and involves a daring rescue mission to save one of the little froglets. Obviously I don’t want to give too much away but the story will feature sneaky snake and other predators, oh – and flying frogs!!

With thanks to Five Quills for sending me this book to review and inviting me to host a bookchat! Bug Belly by Paul Morton publishes today (Five Quills), £6.99 paperback.

Sample chapters, activity sheet downloads and lots of other resources available from www.bugbelly.com

Bug Belly cover

 

 

Book of the Month: The Night Before Christmas by Clement C Moore and Roger Duvoisin

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Celebrating the final Book of the Month for 2019, I’m delighted to share Roger Duvoisin’s eye-catching interpretation of Clement C Moore’s classic poem from 1954, The Night Before Christmas, republished for 2019 by Scallywag Press . It’s been a tradition in my house since my children were little to read aloud The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve so I have a huge soft spot for this gorgeous poem.

The poem, also known by the name A Visit from St Nicholas, was first published in 1823, with the author wishing to remain anonymous. It wasn’t until some years later that Clement C Moore claimed ownership. The Night Before Christmas was the first time St Nicholas  – Santa Claus – had been depicted in this way and led to the first visualisation of Santa with his reindeer and sleigh. A few hundred years later, it doesn’t fail to capture the imagination and is still a wonderful festive treat to enjoy with whole family. This version is beautifully presented in a long thin format to depict Santa coming down the chimney. Brightly coloured and eye-catching artwork bring the magic and wonder of Christmas Eve to life; I particularly love the spread of Santa and his reindeer flying over the rooftops. You couldn’t really ask for anything more magical at Christmas time!

Find out more at www.scallywagpress.com.

With thanks to Scallywag Press for sending me this book to review!

 

 

Review & Giveaway! Moon and Me: The Little Seed by Andrew Davenport illustrated by Mariko Umeda

For this of you with little ones who like to watch CBeebies, you’ll probably know Moon and Me and have met Moon Baby, Pepi Nana and friends. Well now their charming adventures have been brought to life in a traditional storybook, Moon and Me: The Little Seed by Andrew Davenport and illustrated by Mariko Umeda, perfect for reading at bedtime. I’m very pleased to share this new book on the blog today and be running a giveaway for one lucky reader to win set of Moon and Me books!

Moon and Me was created by Andrew Davenport, the man behind Teletubbies and In the Night Garden, and inspired by tales of toys coming to life when no-one is looking (possibly one of the things I wished would happen most when I was little!) My eldest son, now 22, absolutely loved the Teletubbies and I can imagine were he still young he’d be a huge fan of Moon and Me too. TV character-led fiction can be a great way to engage children with books, and Moon and Me: The Little Seed is a sweet story that tells how Pepi Nana and Moon Baby first became friends.

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As the moon comes out at night, little toy Pepi Nana comes to life and sends an invitation to the Moon to come and share a story with her in her doll’s house, little realisng her invitation will be read by Moon Baby who lives there. Moon Baby arrives and wakes up all the other toys, and together they have some lovely adventures. The gentle storytelling, with a magical feel will capture the imagination of little ones as they join these charming characters and hear they became friends. Delightfully illustrated, this is a great story to read at bedtime, especially as the tale ends with all the toys saying goodnight and drifting off to sleep. The moon has never seemed so magical!

Find out more at www.scholastic.co.uk and enter the giveaway on TwitterWith thanks to Scholastic for sending me this book to review and offering a giveaway to win these three titles:

 

Book of the Month: Adventures on Earth by Simon Tyler

book of the monthAdventures on Earth by Simon Tyler published by Pavilion is a stunning book about the world’s most extreme environments with a powerful message of conservation.  In keeping with Simon Tyler’s previous titles (Bugs and Adventures in Space – both of which I loved) expect incredible, bright and colourful illustration accompanying amazing information that will keep you totally absorbed.  Published this Autumn, I’m very pleased to make it Book of the Month especially as it’s National Non-Fiction November!

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Adventures on Earth invites you to travel throughout history alongside the world’s bravest explorers, across deserts and oceans, over mountains and through polar regions. Learn about the world’s most wild terrain, as well as the animals that live there and the people who have explored them. A glossary and useful explanations and maps give a depth to the text, bringing each part of the world in focus to life. Readers will also find out how each of these regions is under threat and what can be done to conserve them.

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A true celebration of the wonder of the world, coupled with the achievements of those who have dared to explore, anyone reading this book will want to ensure we do everything we can to protect our planet.  This is a book to be enjoyed again and again by all the family.

Find out more at www.simontyler.co.uk  and  www.pavilionbooks.com

With thanks to Pavilion for sending me this gorgeous book to read and review.

 

BLOG TOUR: Invisible in a Bright Light by Sally Gardner

I recall a time when Sally Gardner’s I, Coriander was permanently on loan from the school library, with a reservation list as long as your arm.  I would not be surprised if the same is to be true of her fantastic new novel for middle grade readers Invisible in a Bright Light published by Zephyr Books and I am delighted to be participating in the blog tour today!

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It is 1870: opening night at the Royal Opera House in a freezing city by the sea, where a huge, crystal chandelier in the shape of a galleon sparkles magically with the light of 750 candles. Celeste, a theatre rat, wakes up in a costume basket from what she hopes is a bad dream, to find that everyone at the theatre where she works thinks she is someone else. When the chandelier falls, she is haunted by a strange girl who claims to know Celeste’s past and why she must risk playing a game called the Reckoning to try to save the people she loves.

Celeste knows something is not quite right and can’t seem to remember exactly who she is and where she has come from. Distant voices and strange memories of a man in an emerald green suit haunt her as the truth is slowly reveavled. Her current reality of being a theatre rat just doesn’t ring true and even those she loves are not themselves. What is the mystery behind the glorious chandelier that adorns the ceiling of the opera house? And why won’t anyone accept that Celeste’s name is not Maria?

A stunning narrative reveals a compelling and dark fairy-tale of love, family and magic set against the backdrop of the opera. Full of startling discoveries, bold characters and family bonds that even time itself cannot break, this story will draw you in one page at a time. The theatrical world of opera is brought wonderfully to life and Celeste’s determination to win what seems the most impossible game is palapable. Beautifully described, I read this in one sitting finding myself totally absorbed and thoroughly enjoying each twist and turn right to the satisfying ending.  This novel really stands out in the crowd; Invisible in a Bright Light will captivate it’s audience from beginning to end.

The story behind the novel
As a young costume designer working at the Royal Opera House in Copenhagen, Sally Gardener glimpsed a chandelier which hung majestically from the dome of the opera house into the auditorium. One wintry day, she visited the dome that looked out across the rooftops of Copenhagen and found an old lady living there, whose job it was to polish the chandelier until it gleamed. Sally felt as if she had stepped into a fairy tale and the experience left an indelible mark on her imagination. Inspired by this and by her love of ghost ships, theatre and fairy tale, Invisible in a Bright Light is a story she has
been waiting to write for a long time. It reunites Sally with her favourite middle grade audience and recreates the splendour and dark magic of her award-winning debut novel I, Coriander.

Find out more at www.sallygardner.co.uk and @TheSallyGardner

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

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BLOG TOUR: Mother Tongue by Patricia Ford

MT Blog Tour CORRECTEDI absolutely loved The Wordsmith by Patricia Forde, the first in this post-apocalyptic series (read my review here) so when I heard there was a standalone sequel, Mother Tongue, I was delighted to read it and participate in this blog tour.  Today, I’ll be sharing my review and a timely guest post from the author focusing on the issues at the heart of this upper middle-grade novel. Published by Little Island BooksMother Tongue continues the story of Letta’s fight against injustice in a world unrecognisable after a climate disaster.  Language is a weapon and hope and creativity the only defence in this dystopian novel that feels all too real.  

Mother Tongue

Mother Tongue by Patricia Forde

After global warming came the Melting. Then came Ark.  The new dictator of Ark wants to silence speech for ever. But Letta is the wordsmith, tasked with keeping words alive. Out in the woods, she and the rebels secretly teach children language, music and art. Now there are rumours that babies are going missing. When Letta makes a horrifying discovery, she has to find a way to save the children of Ark – even if it is at the cost of her own life. 

Whilst it is quite possible to read Mother Tongue as a standalone novel, the book brilliantly follows on from the narrative of the first story and reaffirms the role Letta, the Wordsmith, must play in restoring freedom to her world.  John Noa might be gone, but the new leader of Ark is even more fearsome and will stop at nothing to control the people through taking their words. But Letta, equally determined and incredibly brave, knows that in order to save the people, she must fight for their words – their voice. Whilst she has much to lose, the tension-building plot shows Letta’s true heroism as she battles injustice alongside her fellow ‘Desecrators’.  Totally enthralling, Mother Tongue invites you to return to a world where the horror of climate change has been realised but despite the despair, the hope of humanity lives on in Letta and her friends. A truly riveting read, you download an extract here.

I’m delighted to welcome author Patricia Forde to the blog with a thought-provoking guest post on what extinction really means.

“Extinction is the saddest word of all.

So says John Noa, ruler of Ark in my novel The Wordsmith.  And he should know. As both The Wordsmith and its companion novel Mother Tongue are set in the future, Noa is in a position to judge. This story takes place after The Melting when almost all of the world has been swallowed by the sea. Rising tides have taken people, technology and almost all hope from Earth. For the small group of people who survive and live in Ark, there is plenty of time to consider the mess that humans created, on their home planet.

When I was growing up, dinosaurs were extinct. That was about the only time I heard that word being used. While doing research for my novels,  I did a lot of research about climate change and its effect on this planet. Scientists tell us that we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction of plants and animals. This is the sixth wave of extinction in the last half-billion years. Extinction, we are told, in a natural phenomenon. It occurs at a rate of about one to five species per year.

When I read that, I had to pause to take a breath. That many?

Then I read on.

Today we are losing species at up to 1,000 times that rate with many species becoming extinct every day. That’s why they are calling it an Extinction Crisis. Did you know that there are two subspecies of giraffe on the endangered list? Illegal hunting and the disappearance of habitat has been blamed. Translated, that means that humans are to blame.

The blue whale is in danger because she eats mostly krill and requires massive amounts of it. Unfortunately, we humans have developed a taste for krill. Increasing demands for krill oil by humans could sound the death knell for the poor whale.

It’s the inter-connectivity of nature that we are ignoring. Take insects. Small, often scary and very quiet generally. We interact with insects usually with a rolled up newspaper or a cocktail of deadly chemicals but they are our waste management team. At life end, plants and animals of all sizes, from daisy to dinosaur, leave dead organic matter that has to be cleared away.  Bring on millions of munching insects and the processes of decomposition and decay, so critical to life on Earth, can get started. We wouldn’t last long without them.

Way back in 1987 renowned Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson wrote:

The truth is that we need invertebrates but they don’t need us … if invertebrates were to disappear, I doubt that the human species could live more than a few months.

How did we miss that? As I write we are living under a storm alert and it’s all people can talk about.  Will  trees come down? Will the lights go out?  Will there be enough bread to last 48 hours? But when a renowned scientist says that if we keep killing insects we could all be wiped out in a few months – no! We didn’t hear that.

We moved from the city to a house in the country in 2004.  Our house is surrounded by trees. We were under constant attack from midges the first years we were here.  Every summer, as soon as the weather warmed up and the barbeque was taken out, in came swarms of midges. Neighbours assured us that they would be devoured by the bats who lived in the old shed at the back of our site. For the last two summers we’ve had hot weather and no midges. I can’t say I’ve missed them but I liked the bats and now I’m wondering what they fed on this summer and where the midges have gone?

That’s how extinction works, I suppose. First they come for the midges, then it’s the bats, and before you know it, the giraffe is on the endangered list.

Extinction is the saddest word but there’s still time to turn things around. According to National Geographic, there were only 2,000 sea otters extant in 1911, due to years of hunting this lovely creature for its fur. Today, globally, the figure has rebounded to 100,000. We have stronger laws and greater protection enacted in the North Pacific to thank for this miracle. So we can do it. It’s not too late. But to quote Greta Thunberg – the house is on fire.

We didn’t listen in 1987. Are we listening now?”

Find out more about Patricia Forde at www.patriciaforde.com  and find her on Twitter @PatriciaForde1; on Instagram @TrishForde1.

With thanks to Little Island Books for sending me this book to review and inviting me to participate in this blog tour. Check out the rest of the tour:

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BLOG TOUR: Spylark by Danny Rurlander

Spylark Jacket lowresI’m kicking off the autumn term on the blog with the first stop on the blog tour for Spylark by Danny Rurlander. What a great way to bring in the new term!  Spylark is a fantastic middle-grade thriller full of adventure, lots of action and some great characters – not to mention a really cool and clever idea at the heart of the story!  Spylark is set in the author’s native Lake District and uses the islands that inspired Swallows and Amazons as the backdrop. Danny Rurlander’s debut novel is a perfect adventure of the absolutely classic kind. With themes about the importance of friendship, bravery, terrorism and technology, readers will be swept up into the daring mission to save a Very Important Person from assassination. A thoroughly riveting read, Spylark is a must for middle grade bookshelves!

Danny Rurlander Photo.pngDanny Rurlander studied English Literature at the University of East Anglia, and worked in the finance sector for several years. He now serves on the staff team of a multi-cultural, city-centre church. While at University Danny spent two years learning to fly with RAF, as an officer cadet in the Cambridge University Air Squadron.  He has lived in Austria, Kenya, Devon and Australia, but always longed to return to his native Lake District where he grew up exploring the fells and camping on islands, so it’s no wonder his descriptions of the landscape where Spylark is set are so real! I’m delighted to welcome Danny to the blog today to share some insight into what inspiration means to him.

Inspiration

“There’s a moment, roughly half way through the book, when Jim Rothwell, an older man whose wisdom and life experience help the child protagonists navigate some of the trickier moments of their adventure, offers a challenging view of love.

 ‘Joel, my lad, love is not always a feeling. Sometimes it’s a decision.’

This down to earth and counter-intuitive idea of love is also true, in my experience, of ‘inspiration’.  Inspiration, for the fiction writer, is not so much a feeling, but a decision, an act of the will.  If you sit around waiting for it to turn up, you’ll never write anything. But where does inspiration come from?  The answer is so obvious it seems almost unnecessary to say it.  Inspiration comes from two spheres: what you already know and what you don’t know, but know you need to know.

In writing Spylark a number of key influences and experiences (the first sphere of inspiration) found their way into the book: my own childhood adventures in the part of the world where the book is set; a first-hand knowledge of flying aeroplanes gained through my time with the RAF; and perhaps most of all, memories of books I read as a child.  In particular I grew up not only reading Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons adventures but trying to live them out!

Spylark is a classic action-adventure thriller, involving spies, criminals, and a group of child heroes who save the day.  But the book plays with this genre by means of a key technological concept. Tom, the main character, who has suffered a life-changing accident several years before the story begins, ‘escapes’ the harsh realities of his life by means of his home made drone.  This enables him to be in two places at once, and enables the narrative to switch between locations in the blink of an eye.

This brings me to the second source of inspiration – what you don’t know, but know you need to know. Before I started I knew nothing at all about drones.  So I had to find out enough to make the story convincing.  Writers traditionally call this ‘research’ but that has always sounded rather outfacing and dull when you are itching to get going with the story.  I prefer to think of it as fueling the tanks for the creative energy of writing.

The internet makes this easy of course. I subscribed to a few drone blogs to understand the technical stuff.  I then tried to get my head around what could actually be possible, and how a terrorist might use this technology for destructive purposes.  (At one stage if – for some reason – my hard drive had been examined by the police, it could have looked rather suspicious!)  But it’s a good idea not to rely too heavily on Google.  I also bought a book on drones, went out to the local beach to watch people flying them, and met up with a local enthusiast to watch him at work and ask him questions.

The key to this is not to think of what you don’t know as a barrier but an opportunity.  I often say that writers are nosey-parkers!  They learn to listen in on other people’s conversations on the bus; they observe the world around them in fine detail, tune into the stories of other people’s lives and actively imagine the world from someone else’s point of view.  After all, one of the reasons children read is to learn about what they don’t know.  If as a writer you can learn something new, the chances are the story will be even more vivid and fresh than those that come from your experience.”

Find out more at dannyrurlander.com and chickenhousebooks.com. SPYLARK by Danny Rurlander is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

With thanks to Chicken House for sending me this book to review. Be sure to follow the rest of the blog tour:

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