Tag Archives: Book review

BLOG TOUR: The Last Monster by Dan Walker

Hold on to your hats for an electrifying new adventure by author Dan Walker, The Last Monster, sequel to the equally electrifying , The Light Hunters, both published by UClan Publishing . I’m kicking off the blog tour with a guest post by author Dan, focused on what made him want to write!

The Last Monster by Dan Walker

The Light Hunters have fought Monsters for centuries and Squad Juno are the very best at it. From cities to villages, the young group’s abilities are on show for all to see now that their powers don’t have to be used in secret. Every victory they have prevents a Monster from taking more victims, preventing more loss. Lux Dowd, Squad Juno’s healer, has had more than enough loss… But a more immediate loss is that of his powers. Lux can’t – or won’t – heal his teammates. Whenever he tries, a terrible energy comes from within and hurts the people around him. Lux can’t afford to lose anymore of those he cares about. Sent on a mission that could end their war against the Monsters, the Light Hunters soon find themselves making new allies in their quest to unearth an Ancient secret that may be able to stop the attacks. Could this really be the last monster they fight?

Get ready to enter a world of Light, Shade and monsters with Squad Juno as they battle not just the huge creatures that threaten their world, but also their own problems – not least Lux’s inability to control his evolving powers. The Last Monster picks up where The Light Hunters left off, so beginning another enthralling adventure, with action aplenty and new characters to add to the plot, which twists and turns throughout. With themes of teamwork and friendship, not only is this a great middle-grade fantasy adventure, but readers will relate to many of the things Lux and his friends face (apart from the monsters!!).

I’m delighted to share a guest post from author Dan Walker, talking about the reason he writes. Welcome to the blog Dan!

“As a children’s author, a big part of our job is visiting schools and talking to young people about our love of reading and writing.

A question that comes up again and again during these events is the following: What made you want to become an author?

It’s a tough one to answer in many ways. If you want to be a Police Officer, it’s easy. ‘My mum is one.’ ‘I want to be like the people who brought my bike back to me.’ But an author? We’re always reading books (hopefully!) so it’s difficult to pinpoint precisely which one or which author inspired us.

When I think back, I think if I had to narrow it down, my wish to be an author was born when I was fourteen years old. I was lucky enough to have been invited on holiday with my best friend at the time to Ibiza. The sun was shining, the food was nice, and the people were lovely. (I won’t mention here the day in the first week when I fell into the swimming pool fully clothed to a rousing cheer from all of the people nearby!)

It was during the second week, when I fell a little ill and had to stay in my bed in the hotel for a day, when my best friend’s auntie lent me a book. It was a science-fiction book called Red Mars, by an author that I still love to this day, Kim Stanley Robinson.

I lay on my bed, reading this 700 page book, absolutely engrossed to find out how a group of 100 scientists who’d been sent to Mars were going to survive. How would they make food? Get water? Would they drive each other crazy?

I finished the book by the end of the holiday, and when I got back to the UK, I brought the next one, and the next, and read them within a week.

And it was after finishing that series, and thinking of how much fun I had in that world, that I first started to think of how great it would be to make the worlds up yourself.

It was five long years before I actually had a go at writing my own book, but I can trace that fledgling attempt to that hotel room back in Ibiza.

Message? If someone gives you a book, read it. You never know where it might take you.”

Find out more at www.uclanpublishing.com and follow the rest of the tour here:

. With thanks to Uclan Publishing for inviting me to participate in this blog tour.

BLOG TOUR & GUEST POST: Where has all the cake gone? by Andrew Sanders and Aysha Awwad

Ah for the love of cake! You can’t possibly resist this gorgeous picture book from very talented duo, Andrew Sanders and Aysha Awwad, Where has all the cake gone? published by Macmillan. Today is my stop on the blog tour and I’m sharing a guest post from author Andrew all about where he get his ideas from, as well as hosting a FACT or FIB challenge for Andrew and Aysha:

“The Emperor Penguin is the largest kind of penguin. On average they measure 100cm tall – the same height as the average 5 year old”

What do you think?! Scroll down to the end of the post to find out!

The almost unbelievable story of a missing cake, LOTS of hungry penguins and a crumb-covered little boy, who swears he’s telling the truth. HE DID NOT EAT THE CAKE! Could his story really be true?

Parents and carers will all relate to this one! That little innocent face looking up at us insisting ‘it wasn’t me’, even though surely it couldn’t have been anyone else! This delightfully entertaining tale celebrates the cheeky nature of little ones and their wonderful imaginations, and reminds all readers that honesty is the best policy in a truly light-hearted way. I defy anyone to read this story and not have a smile on their face or fall in love with the brilliantly illustrated Albert and his penguin friends!

Here is author Andrew Sanders to share about the ideas behind his writing. Welcome to the blog Andrew!

“Where do you get your ideas from?”

That’s the question that authors get asked a lot. I’ve certainly been asked it since my new book, Where Has All the Cake Gone? (illustrated by the brilliant Aysha Awwad) came out. And to be fair, it’s a good question.

The truth is that all us authors buy ideas from the same lollypop lady in North Pembrokeshire. She sells them between 8.20am and 8.40am every weekday morning – has done for years. Rowling, Walliams, Biddulph, Me… We all queue up and buy new ideas each week. It’s not always fun in the middle of Winter when George Martin is hogging her to himself and the sleet is coming down down, but it’s the only way to get new ideas, so you just have to suck it up and get on with it.

“Stop being silly, Andy. I know all the lollypop ladies in Wales, and none of that is true, is it?”

That’s the other thing people say. Usually to me. After I tell them the lollypop lady stuff.

And to be fair, yes. The thing on lollypop ladies is a fib.

But that’s the thing about ideas. It usually just involves taking a simple question or premise and then running off with it in a silly direction.

In day-to-day life, this kind of creative thinking isn’t always helpful. If you go to see your doctor, it’s probably for the best if he doesn’t try something creative, like using a stethoscope made of jelly. But when you’re coming up with ideas for kids’ books, it often pays to be as silly as you can. And the great thing about ideas is that they’re free. You can have as many as you want. If they’re rubbish, then you can stick them to one side and come up with a new one.

That’s why when you’re given a question like “Where do you get your ideas from?” you might end up talking about lollypop ladies from Wales.

For picture books, though, there’s one extra layer to it. Randomness and silliness are all well and good, but they need to be held together with something; a heart in the centre of your story.

And that’s where you need to add relatability. We’re talking about experience that everyone can relate to.

Maybe it’s eating something you shouldn’t have. (In my case, my brother’s Orange Aero on a warm Sunday in 1989.)

Maybe it’s staying up past your bedtime. (For me, Christmas Eve 1992, looking for Santa.)

Maybe it’s breaking something expensive that belongs to your parents. (Sorry about your glasses, dad. Yes, on both occasions.)

From here, it’s just a question of taking a sizable portion of silliness – the sort that kids often love – and exploring the possible reasons for all these scenarios. Who took the cake? Aliens. No, turtles. No, penguins. Why didn’t you stop them? They had jetpacks. No, they froze me in carbonite. No, they put me in a big jar of marmalade.

Some of these silly ideas feel like a better fit than others, and for a children’s book author it’s a question of knowing which is the best option to develop further. For instance, there’s just something inherently charming about penguins – the way they hang around in groups, their cheeky little waddle, the way they dress like little waiters, even though there’s remarkably few suit shops in the Antarctic. They’re fascinating for kids, and they just felt like the perfect little gang to try and create a bit of mischief for Albert.

So, to go back to the original question: “Where do you get your ideas from?” Well, I guess the truth of it is that I just sit down and think about silly, fun stuff and see where I end up. It’s very enjoyable. And every now and again, one of those ideas turns out to be a good one.”

FACT or FIB Challenge:

“The Emperor Penguin is the largest kind of penguin. On average they measure 100cm tall – the same height as the average 5 year old”

Andrew guessed this fact to be a fib as he reckoned that they are even taller than 1 metre. However, Aysha thought it was true. Who’s right?

Andrew was correct – they measure 115cm on average – the same height as the average 6 year old!

With thanks to Andrew for this guest post and for Pan Macmillan for inviting me to participate in this blog tour.

Find out more at www.panmacmillan.com and follow the rest of the blog tour:

BLOG TOUR: The Boy Who Rescued a Rainbow by Corrina Campbell

It’s Day 10 of the blog tour for The Boy Who Rescued A Rainbow by Corrina Campbell, published by Little Door Books, and I’m sharing my review of this delightful picture book.

The Boy Who Rescued A Rainbow by Corrina Campbell

This beautifully crafted picture books explores what being strong, brave and fearless really means, showing the wonder of imagination alongside the reality of life’s challenges, whatever they may be.

A young boy is enjoying marvellous adventures with his faithful dog by his side, when he discovers a broken rainbow. He fixes it, and together they all enjoy even more adventures. But one day, the rainbow disappears and the boy realises he is gone forever. How can he be strong, brave and fearless without his friend?

Thankfully his little dog reminds him it’s okay to feel sad and cry. And eventually the boy picks himself back up and continues his adventures, and is then reminded of his wonderful rainbow friend and the fun they had together.

A simple narrative, accompanied by gorgeous, colourful illustrations bring this lovely story to life. Young readers will love the imaginative play of the little boy, and the friendship he makes, and will be encouraged the develop their understanding of bravery in the face of loss as the story progresses. The Boy Who Rescued a Rainbow is a brilliant book to use in the classroom too, with opportunities for extended learning around themes of kindness and empathy. A real treat.

With thanks to Little Door Books for sending me this book to review and inviting me to be part of the blog tour. Follow the rest of the tour here:

BLOG TOUR: The Dragon in the Bookshop by Ewa Jozefkowicz

The Dragon in the Bookshop is a beautifully told story by Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize shortlisted author,  Ewa Jozefkowicz, published by Zephr. I’m delighted to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour celebrating the publication of the book, and sharing a short guest post by the author with an exclusive extract.

The Dragon in the Bookshop by Ewa Jozefkowicz

Inside the pages of a Polish legend, a hungry dragon stirs…The town of Krakow is in danger! Konrad and Maya’s quest to rewrite the ending of the legend and save the townspeople leads them on a magical adventure that sizzles with myth, mystery, dragons and dinosaurs. Will they find the right words and the power of stories to heal broken hearts?

Moving and magical, this wonderful adventure will captivate readers everywhere, and demonstrates the power of stories to bring hope and healing. We will all experience grief at some point in our lives, and stories like this that raise awareness are just what is needed to bring empathy and understanding.

Polish author Ewa Jozefkowicz’s Dad was a bookseller who inspired her love of reading and storytelling. He died when Ewa was a teenager and she became selectively mute in response to her grief. The Dragon in the Bookshop is Ewa’s exploration of the bereavement she experienced as a child and a tribute to the memory of her Dad. In her role working for a school support service, Ewa has experienced first-hand the life-affirming work of charity Grief Encounter (www.griefencounter.org.uk) who support children and young people who have experienced the death of someone close to them – this is one child in every UK classroom by the time they reach 16 years old.

Grief Encounter did not exist when Ewa lost her dad. Ewa and Zephyr are partnering with Grief Encounter to raise awareness of the charity and the book will help promote their work. As a charity, Grief Encounter work closely with individuals, families, schools and professionals to offer a way through the anxiety, fear and isolation so often caused by the grief of losing someone close.

I am really pleased to welcome author Ewa to the blog today with a guest post and an extract from the story. Welcome to the blog Ewa!

“The Dragon in the Bookshop is a story about grief, hope, the healing power of nature, and the realisation that the people we love are never truly gone. They’re in so many elements of what we do every day – in the things we say, the decisions we make, even the books we read. The main character in the story is Kon, who stops speaking after his dad’s death and is struggling at school. But things begin to change when he meets Maya on the beach that he used to explore with Dad. Later, they go to visit his Dad’s bookshop together, and get whisked away on a magical adventure through one of the books that Kon used to enjoy reading with him.

Below is an extract from the story, which describes the moment in which they find themselves in the bookshop, before strange things begin to happen.”

Being in the bookshop with Maya was fun. I was rediscovering the magic that Dad always spoke about.

“What’s this one?” she asked, pulling out a book from the middle of the pile, “Look at it – it’s beautiful.”

She handed it to me and I ran my fingers over the silky green cover. It shimmered in the light. And then my heart stopped. There were tiny footprints embossed in gold round the edge of it, shaped just like the print that I’d found. I turned the book over and checked the spine, but there was no title. It was obvious that the book wasn’t new, like all the others in this bookshop. In fact, it looked very old. When I dared to open the cover, I found thinned, yellow paper and a sweet, musty smell.

I flipped over to the title page and there I saw a picture of the dragon. It was so detailed and intricate that you could see every muscle in its body. Just looking at its eyes made my stomach suddenly heavy with fear. It wasn’t just any dragon – it was the one from Vavel Castle. The legend that Dad had always read to me. He must have somehow found a special edition. Maybe he’d been waiting to give it to me for my birthday.

I turned the pages greedily, recognising every word of the story, but seeing it somehow in a new light. Maybe it was something about the illustrations at the end of every paragraph, or the strange print that looked like old fashioned writing. I had a peculiar sense that the light around me was changing as I read, but all I knew is that I desperately wanted to get to the end.

“Konrad?” It was Maya’s voice but at the same time it didn’t sound like her at all. It wasn’t cheerful and carefree. It was small and shaky and scared.

I glanced up. She was still there next to me. I was still standing holding a book. There were still shelves of other books around us and a wooden floor beneath our feet, but we weren’t in Dad’s bookshop anymore. We were somewhere else entirely.

Find out more here readzephyr.com/books/9781801109185 .

Grief Encounter provide immediate support with a FREEPHONE Grieftalk helpline 0808 802 0111 open Mon-Fri 9am-9pm, a live chat via their website or support by emailing grieftalk@griefencounter.org.uk.

With thanks to Fritha and the team at Zephr for inviting me to participate in the blog tour. Follow the rest of the tour here:

BLOG TOUR: Happy Sad by Pippa Goodhart and Augusta Kirkwood

It’s blog tour time! Today I’m hosting a delightful new picture book, Happy Sad by Pippa Goodhart and Augusta Kirkwood, published by Little Door Books.

When Toby finds a sad mermaid in a rock pool he takes her home to make her happy. But, away from her sea home and family, the mermaid is ‘Happy Sad’. What should Toby do?

A sweet tale of mixed emotions, as a young boy plays by the sea and finds more than just shells on the beach! Beautifully captured with softly-toned illustrations full of depth, Happy Sad portrays the exact feeling when you’re caught between being happy and sad.

As Toby tries to make the mermaid happy, although he succeeds in some ways, she still misses her true home. Even though they become friends, he starts to appreciate the only way to make her truly happy is to take her home – but this makes Toby ‘happy sad’ too! Happy to see the mermaid happy in her real home; sad because he can’t go with her.

A great picture book to instill empathy and reassure young readers that it’s ok to have mixed emotions, Happy Sad is a lovely story and will brighten up your picture book shelf!

With thanks to Little Door Books for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. Follow the rest of the tour here: