RULES – Leave no trace, Trust no one, Stay one step ahead, Prep for the worst……..Amber’s an expert when it comes to staying hidden – she’s been trained her whole life for it. But what happens when the person you’re hiding from taught you everything you know?When a letter from her dad arrives, Amber knows she’s got to drop everything and run. He’s managed to track her down and he’ll stop at nothing to draw her back into his extreme ‘prepper’ way of life. Now the Rules she’s’ been trying to escape are the ones keeping her safe. But for how long?
The Rules by Tracy Darnton is a gripping YA thriller, keeping you guessing right till the egde-of-your-seat ending. Rules to live by that keep you safe and give guidance are one thing – rules that control your life and keep you prisoner are another, and this is what Amber is running from. Sadly her father is the culprit – the person she should be able to trust most in the world is the person trying to control her and with her mother gone, Amber is on her own. Not even social services can protect her. Amber’s fear but also her grit and determination are palpable from the first page, as the narrative shows us the dark side of being a ‘prepper’ – people who prepare for impending apocalypse, no matter the cost. Set in the run up to Christmas, adding to the isolation and loneliness Amber feels, it seems she is doomed to spend her life on the run. A chance encounter with a face from the past brings some light relief as we meet Josh, someone who has suffered his own traumas but manages to stay positive. And positivity is something Amber really needs if she is going to escape from her father. In light of current circumstances, this story became unnervingly more real -a great read for fans of contemporary YA thrillers.
Tracy Darnton’s previous YA novel, The Truth About Lies was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2019. Find out more at www.littletiger.co.uk.
With thanks to Little Tiger for sending me this book to review.
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.
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:
A very Happy Book Birthday to Jane Clarke and James Brown on publication day for Lottie Loves Nature published by Five Quills! I’m delighted to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour. Lottie Loves Nature isthe first in a brand new spin-off series to Jane’s Al’s Awesome Science books, but this time with Al’s sister taking the lead. Lottie loves the natural world and everything in it and does everything she can to protect it. The first in this eco-adventure series features Lottie, along with her pet parrot, Nacho and her dog, Einstein, stopping her neighbour from getting rid of all the ants in his garden and rescuing the frogs as he’s turned the pond into a putting green! A fun narrative is interwoven with fascinating facts, lively illustrations and great nature projects for budding young conservationists aged 7+ to do at home. Lottie Loves Nature is a brilliant way to encourage children to be more aware of the natural world and start to make a difference right on their own doorstep!
Today, I’m sharing a gorgeous guest post from author Jane Clarke, featuring her Top 5 Stories Set in the Natural World. Welcome to the blog Jane!
“From the time I was a child, I’ve loved stories that are set in the natural world. Here are my Top 5 in the order I read them. The editions shown are the ones I own now, but in the case of the first three, I borrowed earlier editions of the books from my local library:
1. Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A.Milne, illustrated by E.H.Shepard, first published 1926. This is a collection published in 1994.
“Once upon a time, a very long time ago now, about last Friday, Winnie-the Pooh lived in a forest …”
Instantly, I was in Hundred Acre Wood, giggling at the adventures of optimistic, silly Pooh as he searched for ‘hunny’, got stuck in Rabbit’s burrow, tracked Woozles through the snow, attempted to cheer up Eeyore, met up with the not-so-wise Owl, and attempted an ‘expotition’ to the North Pole. Friendship, kindness, humour, nature and adventure stories: I was hooked! I’ve just read it to one of my granddaughters and it still feels fresh!
2. Wind in the Willows by Grahame Greene, first published 1908 (!). This edition is from 2001 and has lovely illustrations by Michael Foreman but I vividly remember the ones by E.H.Shepard. Now the River Bank and Wild Wood burst into life, and emotions ran a bit deeper. I joined Rat and Mole on their adventures, and this book was the first to make me cry – with Mole when he missed his home. I worried about the lost baby otter, and was relieved when that ended well, if somewhat mystifyingly. Mr Toad made me laugh out loud and Weasels made me nervous. Behind it all, I noticed the environment changing with the seasons, but it’s only on re-reading the book that I realise how detailed and poetic some of the natural descriptions are.
3. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell, 1956, written with wit and charm, bursting with eccentric animal – and human – characters, and oozing with Greek sunshine. It took me on a wonder-filled quest to discover the natural world from mini-beasts to ‘magenpies’ with Gerry and his tutor, Theodore. Even today, it has the power to make me laugh out loud in places. I read ‘My Family’ when I was in my early teens, and instantly became a lifelong fan of Gerald Durrell. Through his books, I found out a lot about nature and about efforts to conserve endangered species.
4.The Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson, 2001. Maia, Clovis and Finn are great company, and there’s an exciting story that plays out in an Amazon setting. As a young adult, I lived for a while in Mexico and Brazil, and a few years ago visited Venezuela where my son was then working as an adventure tour guide. Reading this took me right back to a river trip: “the lapping of the water against the side of the boat, the moths, the fireflies,” and the insect bites and the tummy upsets! It all feels (and felt) so adventurous.
5. The Explorer by Katherine Rundell, illustrated by Hannah Horn, 2017. I read this only last week, and again was transported by the sights and sounds of the jungle where four children, who are stranded after an air crash, learn to survive with the help of a mysterious explorer. I was right there, shuddering along with them as they gingerly sampled ground-up grub pancakes. On many pages, Hannah Horn’s fabulous black and white illustrations of the environment frame the text and add to the feeling of being there. Friendship, wonders of nature and an adventure story – it brings me right back to where I started!”
Moving to live with her aunt, Wilde is afraid that strange things are happening around her. She just wants to fit in at her new school, but in rehearsals for a school play telling the legend of a witch called Winter, ‘The Witch’ starts leaving pupils frightening letters cursing them. Can Wilde find out what’s happening before everyone blames her? Or will she always be the outsider?
Wilde by Eloise Williams is a wonderful contemporary tale with magic at its heart. Drawing a picture of a feisty but fearful girl, Wilde is a unique character but like many young girls, struggling to be herself and desperate to fit in. Witch Point is where her mother grew-up and the mystery throughout is tangible as strange occurrences bring Wilde closer to the truth, with the legend surrounding the town seeming to come eerily to life. Alongside this, the narrative brilliantly captures school life, the perils of friendship and the importance of courage and kindness. Drama is not just reserved for the school play and as events come to head, the plot thickens page by page! Wilde is a lesson for us all in acceptance and embracing who we really are – a great contemporary adventure.
Iris’s grandmother, Mimi, is all at sea. She’s started wearing her clothes inside out, serving jam on scrambled eggs and talking to the moon. As Mimi’s life becomes more muddled up and a mystery from the past surfaces. Iris and her friend Mason must search for answers: Who was Coral? What happened to her?
Talking to the Moon by S.E.Durrant is a gorgeous story of family and friendship. With a delightful cast of eccentric characters, this warm-hearted tale handles the difficult subject of dementia and the everyday chaos of family life with a perfect balance of humour and great care. Two year old siblings, a stressed out Mum and a hard working Dad are enough for anyone to deal with! Staying with Mimi provides the ideal escape for Iris and the quirky lifestyle painted contrasts brilliantly with her family home. Iris is immediately likeable, her love for Mimi admirable and her desire to protect Mimi with lists to remind her of all manner of daily tasks utterly moving. The engaging thread of mystery running throughout keeps you guessing and whilst the reality Iris is facing is clear, there is always hope and always love. A really lovely read.
S.E Durrant has written other great middle-grade reads including the brilliant Little Bits of Sky; you can read my review here. Find out more at www.nosycrow.com.
With thanks to Nosy Crow for sending me this book to review.