Tag Archives: Book reviews

GUEST POST: Author Catherine Bruton on Another Twist in the Tale and Creating Characters the Dickensian way!

It’s the second Victorian-inspired blog this month in celebration of the launch of Mr Dilly’s A Very Victorian Christmas, the festive treat for primary schools that the whole school community can enjoy! I’m really excited to welcome Catherine Bruton to the blog, author of No Ballet Shoes in Syria and most recently, the Oliver-Twist inspired Another Twist in the Tale. Today, I share my review of this wonderful tale and Catherine is sharing some wonderful insight into creating Dickensian characters.

You have heard, no doubt, the tale of Master Oliver Twist – that rags-to-riches boy; the parish orphan who became heir to the Brownlow fortune. But what few know is that was a second Twist – a girl, brought into this world moments ahead of her brother. This is the story of Twill Twist – and her journey through the gambling dens and workhouses of London, as she attempts to make a life for herself, rescue her friends, and uncover the mystery of her past – while meeting some familiar faces along the way…

For me, Oliver Twist always brings back memories of Christmas – the musical version was always on at Christmas time and who can fail to recall Ron Moody’s fantastic performance as Fagin?! And now, author Catherine has brought to life Dickens’ Victorian London again, with the most wonderful twist, as the title suggests. Meet Twill, none other than Oliver Twist’s twin sister, rescued from death by Baggage Jones, herself a young girl fighting for survival in Victorian London. Intertwining characters from the original story – including the wonderful Artful Dodger- with utterly delightful new faces, Catherine weaves a world fraught with danger for Twill as she navigates her way through the backstreets of Victorian London, trying to discover the truth about her past. Another Twist in the Tale is one of the most authentic, engaging and downright enjoyable books I’ve read in recent times and I am really pleased to welcome Catherine to the blog with a brilliant post about creating Dickensian characters. Welcome to the blog Catherine!

Creating Incredible Characters – the Dickensian way! By Catherine Bruton

“What was the best thing about writing ‘Another Twist in the Tale’, my sequel to Charles Dickens’ ‘Oliver Twist’ set in Victorian London and featuring Oliver’s long lost twin sister? That’s easy – it was the characters! Rediscovering familiar old faces from Dickens – the Artful Dodger, Fagin and Oliver Twist himself  – and creating a host of exciting new heroes and villains of my own – Baggage Jones, the Monstrous Madame Manzoni and Miss Twill Twist –  was just so much fun!  So what did I learn from Dickens about how to create incredible characters?

Names

From Mr Pumblechook, Martin Chuzzlewit, Ebenezer Scrooge, Pip Pirrip, The Aged P, the Artful Dodger, Mr Jaggers, Abel Magwitch and The Barnacles  to Creake, Crumple, Cripples and Cruncher, Dickens’ character names are as weird and wonderful, glorious and grotesque, sad and funny and moving and brilliant as Dickens’ incredible cast of characters themselves. So how did he do it?

Well, Dickens knew how to play with sounds, from the assonantal Scrooge and Drood, the plosive Pip Pirrip, the alliterative Newman Noggs and Nicholas Nickleby, to the onomatopoeic Creakle and Jingle and Crimple.  And he loved using homophones and puns too – Micawbre/Macabre, Jaggers/Jagged, Uriah/Urine, Claypole/Maypole, Krooks/Crook, to name but a few. Sometimes the word association goes further – from McChoakumchild, choking all the joy out of children, to the deadly Lady Dedlock and the heartless Harthouse. Dickens also  enjoyed using everyday objects in his names – Bucket, Pocket, Guppy, Slime and Honeythunder – and he was the absolute master of the pithy epithet: who can forget The Artful Dodger, The Avenger and The Aged P?

So I gave myself licence to have fun with names in ‘Another Twist in the Tale’. I have my own alliterative heroes and villains – from Tommy Tickle, Madame Manzoni, Bob the Butcher’s Boy to Twill Twist herself (not that she becomes a Twist right away!) as well as my own associative names – Mrs Spanks who is famous for her beatings, Fleet who is fast and stinky as the river she takes her name from, and the cherubic Angel.

Names in ‘Another Twist in the Tale’ are particularly important because many of my characters’ names have been lost – or found! ‘Baggage Jones was quite sure she’d had another name once but it had been lost like a penny down the floorboards or an odd sock in the laundry  … she  had spent her fourteen years on this earth being addressed thus ‘Get over ‘ere, you baggage … Fetch this, you useless baggage …. Get on, you baggage you’ – that she had come to believe Baggage was indeed her name.’ Similarly, all of the members of the Sassy Sisterhood of Saffon Hill are named after the places where they were found, shivering and starving on the streets – ‘There was Sloane whose half-closed eye and scarred cheek had been gained in an encounter with the Old Bill on the King’s Road, Chelsea who has slept a whole winter in the snow on Eaton Terrace and little Angel who has been found starving on a street corner in Islington.’ Poor Piccadilly and Trafalgar – the asymmetrical twins – come off rather worse in this particular naming strategy! Meanwhile, many of the urchins who find themselves prey to the exploitative Blacking Factory sweatshop are nameless – ‘the latest arrival had no idea what his name was so the boys called him Nemo (which means nobody)’  Oh, and there’s  the one known simply as Boy Number 12 (my nod to ‘Hard Times’!)

Meanwhile some of my names are riddles. The mysterious Mr Barrabas (not his real name!) takes his pseudonym from another literary baddie who poisoned his own daughter and a houseful of nuns with porridge (can you name the author and the play?) Oh, and this evil gentleman’s name also links him to another famous Dickensian villain to whom he bears a striking resemblance. ‘Mother Earth’ and the mysterious Mrs C also have names that prove to be riddles to be solved before our heroine can save the day. Meanwhile, Madame Manzoni is a tribute to one of my favourite characters from a classic novel NOT by Dickens! I shall leave the literary sleuths amongst you to figure out who (look out for the clue later on in the blog!)

As for  Miss Twill (Twist/Brownlow) Jones – also known as Camberwell, Will Camberwell or  just South o’ th’ River to her friends – well, our plucky heroine loses a name,  gains a name, changes her name, throws off  a name and gets a brand new one at the end! Yes, names are a big part of this story!

Appearance

Dickens’ character descriptions are famously gloriously visual, almost cartoon-like at times. His characters come in different shapes (the ‘square’ Mr Gradgrind), sizes (Tiny Tim) and colours (just think of Miss Havisham’s wedding attire faded to sere yellow, like her hopes!) and his descriptions are peppered with wonderful metaphors and similes  – who can forget the letterbox mouth of Mr Wopsle?

So, you can just imagine how much fun I had creating my own character descriptions, drawing on Dickens’ techniques and allowing myself licence to exaggerate as much as I liked. There’s the monstrous Madame Manzoni ‘who had once been a diminutive bird-like woman of singular beauty. But over the years a monstrous accumulation of flesh had descended upon her tiny body like lava upon a doomed city, burying the fairy-like girl in waves and waves of undulating white flesh’. Or Baggage Jones, ‘a scrawny scrap of a creature who bore a squashed appearance as of clothing hastily scrumpled.’ Or Twill Jones who ‘shared all her brother’s angelic beauty, but her big blue eyes shone with a fierce light and there was a determined tilt to her chin and firm set to her rose-petal mouth which reflected her fearless temper.’

And I had the most brilliant fun inventing suitably Dickensian metaphors and similes: ‘wobbling like a colossal blancmange’, ‘a tall hot, poker of a woman’, ‘tiny beady eyes that glimmered like currants in the swelling pudding of her doughy face’, ‘an eyebrow raised like a slug wriggling on a vast mountain of lard’, ‘he had the soft, plump features of a newborn and not much more hair on his head than a babe-in-arms neither’, ‘a squat looking girl with the appearance of a pugilistic pug’. Yes, when it comes to creating Dickensian characters it’s all about the imagery – the more weird, wonderful and grotesque the better!

Voices

During a trip to the Dickens’ Museum in London I learned that the great man would ‘act out’ his characters in front of a mirror to get the voices right (I even got to stand in front of the actual looking glass and mutter a few of the Artful Dodger’s choicest phrases!)  Dickens uses dialogue almost like a play-write to evoke his characters’ idiosyncrasies. From Mr Sleary’s lisp and Harthouse’s lazy drawl, to the catchphrases for which so many of his characters are famous – Fagin’s obsequious ‘my dear!’, Scrooge’s ‘Bah Humbug!’, Uriah Heep’s ‘Umble’  to Jo the Crossing Sweeper’s ‘I don’t know nothink’ and Stephen Blackpool’s ‘Tis all a muddle!’ not forgetting my personal favourite, Joe Gargery’s ‘Ever the best of friends!’

Dickens researched the idiolect of his characters carefully, studying a book of Lancashire dialect before writing ‘Hard Times’ and introducing into his  London novels the earthy  Cockney slang associated with the working class, the theatre, or the criminal underworld,  such terms as butter-fingers (a clumsy person), flummox (bewilder), sawbones (surgeon), and whizz-bang (sound of a gunshot). He also made up plenty of words of his own – comfoozled meaning exhausted is my particular favourite. He turned nouns into verbs (and vice versa) ‘I won’t submit to be mother-in-lawed’ declares Fanny – adding prefixes and suffixes, and creating compound words, many of which have found their way into the Oxford English Dictionary (manslaughter and corkscrew apparently!). This playfulness with language lends a richness and variety to his  novels and particularly to his dialogue, bringing characters vividly and memorably to life.

So, as a writer who spends a (possibly worrying!) amount of time ‘acting out’  characters in my head – and sometimes out loud, too (I frequently find myself talking in role as I potter round the supermarket or on the school run!), this was music to my ears. I loved going back to my well-thumbed copy of ‘Oliver Twist’ and studying the dialect of Fagin, Bumble, Dodger and other characters. This allowed me to mimic the cadences and rhythm of their speech, as well as echoing the syntax, peculiar idiosyncrasies of grammar, lexical sets and other idiolect features (yes, my English teacher geekhood quivering with delight!)

Oh, and I rather fell in love with Philip Thorne’s appendix in the Penguin Classics edition with its glorious list of Dickensian slang which I devoured hungrily, allowing me to pepper the Sassy Sisters’ dialogue with some of the choicest Victorian vernacular.  I gave my characters their own catchphrases – ‘Spare the spoon and spoil the child,’ ‘Beauty is your duty’ – and allowed myself to go fully to town on accents, phonetic spelling – and even the occasional made up word of my own!

Yes, Dickens’ characters inspired many children’s authors, from Roald Dahl to J K Rowling, and his methods of characterisation are so distinctive that his creations live long in the memory. Following in his footsteps was the most incredible fun as a writer and when young readers close the covers of ‘Another Twist in the Tale’ I hope it might inspire them to check out one of Dickens’ stories for themselves. I love the idea that Twill Twist might introduce readers to her long lost brother Oliver and  Nancy and Bill Sykes, to  Pip and Magwitch and  Miss Havisham, to Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchitt and Tiny Tim, to Nicholas Nickleby and David Copperfield and many more of  the glorious characters and unforgettable adventures created by the inimitable Charles Dickens!”

Another Twist in the Tale by Catherine Bruton is published by Nosy Crow (5th November 2020, £7.99 paperback). With thanks to Nosy Crow for sending me this book to review.

A Very Victorian Christmas Booklist!

The first of two Victorian-inspired blogs this week, I’m delighted to be sharing a very special festive collection of book reviews today in celebration of the launch of Mr Dilly’s A Very Victorian Christmas online show for primary schools. A festive treat for the whole school community, the show features themes of the Nativity and festive favourite, A Christmas Carol, as well as amazing insight into some of our most treasured Christmas traditions that became popular in Victorian times and remain so today! You’ll meet Charles Dickens, Prince Albert, the Innkeeper, Shepherd and more as the magical Christmas treat unfolds! View the trailer here.

The following stories feature Victorian settings or themes (including a re-imagining of a Christmas classic) and would make a marvellous addition to your festive bookshelf!

A Christmas in Time by Sally Nicholls illustrated by Rachael Dean is another fun-filled, festive time-slip adventure with Alex and Ruby, the twins who keep falling through the mirror in their Aunt’s house into a different historical period. Each time they must solve a problem for a long-distant member of their family so they can then return home. Lively characters, authentic Victorian historical setting and lots of fun bring the story leaping to life and I love the insight into how Victorian families celebrated Christmas – not so very different to our own celebrations! Great fun, you’ll be counting down till the next in the series! Published by Nosy Crow

The Girl who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig, illustrated by Chris Mould is a magical tale featuring a wonderful cast of characters -including a cameo from Charles Dickens and a brilliant scene with Queen Victoria ! Amelia Wishart is the ‘girl’ in question and after her mother dies, she is sent to the Workhouse, where her hope in everything slowly slips away. But it’s hope that powers Christmas and Father Christmas knows he must save Amelia so that with her help, Christmas can be saved. Full of festive magic and all the things we love about the festive season – from elves to gingerbread men, the story brilliantly shows the importance of hope and how it keeps the magic in our world alive! Published by Canongate Books

Tinsel: The Girls Who Invented Christmas by Sibeal Pounder brings more festive heroines to life in a story celebrating friendship and Christmas in equal measure, and giving a twist on the origin tale of Santa Claus. Blanche Claus is homeless on the streets of Victorian London when she receives her first ever Christmas gift – a magical bauble. So begins a madcap adventure that will see Blanche making new friends and finding magic she couldn’t have possibly imagined! So much so, Blanche wants to share her festive dreams and wishes with all children. Sleigh rides, the North Pole, elves (or Carols…), mince pies – there’s more Christmas than you can shake a stick at, turned on it’s head with laugh-out-loud results and lots of love. Tinsel is bound to be a festive favourite for years to come! Published by Bloomsbury.

The Miracle on Ebenezer Street by Catherine Doyle is a gorgeous modern reimagining of Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol – hence including it in this list! We meet George, who isn’t allowed to celebrate Christmas since his mother died on Christmas Eve. Life is rather grey until he stumbles upon a magical shop with a magical snow-globe – and embarks on a transformational adventure that will rescue him and his father from despair. With journeys to past, present and future, and some fantastical characters including an elf on the shelf, this story positively beams the magic of Christmas across the pages and will tug at your heart-strings AND warm your heart. Published by Puffin Books.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is a must for a Victorian Christmas booklist – or any festive booklist for that matter! And there are, as you can imagine, more than a few versions of this incredible story. I’ve included three of my favourites today. Barrington Stoke publish a dyslexia-friendly, unabridged edition of this timeless story, in a format accessible to all readers. Pavilion Books publish an absolutely beautiful version illustrated by Quentin Blake and Puffin Books publish a lovely classic edition.

It’s Victorian London and Ebenezer Scrooge is a lost soul – not that he knows it. Scrooge is a bitter, and quite honestly, unpleasant old man, who cares more for money than anyone or anything. No-one feels this more than his long-suffering clerk, Bob Cratchit and his determined nephew, Fred who every year invites Scrooge for Christmas – only to be told the festive season is nothing more than ‘Bah Humbug’! But this all changes when Scrooge is visited on Christmas Eve by the ghost of his old business partner Marley, who warns Scrooge he will be visited by three spirits who will show him the true meaning of Christmas. The most wonderful Christmas tale, A Christmas Carol embodies the spirit, heart and soul of Christmas and really does bring hope and joy to all who read it.

Find out more about Mr Dilly’s A Very Victorian Christmas show and book online today!

New reviews: Picture book roundup!

There is something quite wonderful about picture books. Is it the combination of amazing words and illustrations? The fact that picture books can convey the most important of emotions and concerns in the most simple way? Or perhaps the sheer joy of the stories that are brought to life on each spread? Or all of the above?! Today I’m sharing my thoughts on a brilliant selection of picture books I’ve received over the last few months, out now or coming soon.

Some people have dresses for every occasion but Afiya needs only one. Her dress records the memories of her childhood, from roses in bloom to pigeons in flight, from tigers at the zoo to October leaves falling. A whimsical celebration of a young girl’s childhood, igniting our curiosity and awe at the little wonders of the everyday

A Story About Afiya by James Berry illustrated by Anna Cunha is a gorgeous picture book sharing the joy of childhood and the wonder of discovery. We follow Afiya as she explores her world and each day finds a new memory ‘imprinted’ on her dress. At night her dress is washed clean, ready for a new memory the next day.

Delightfully simple, beautifully described and stunningly illustrated, this is a precious story to treasure. Find out more at www.lantanapublishing.com

You might think that when you sleep the world sleeps with you, but all through the night others are busy. Firefighters wait for the bell to ring, nurses and doctors look after their patients, postal workers sort letters and parcels. Mums and Dads are up feeding their babies…and out in the wild, owls, bats and foxes search for food.

While You’re Sleeping by Mick Jackson and illustrated by John Broadley will spark the imaginations and bring to life a world of activity children might not realise existed! Utterly fascinating with mesmerising illustrations, watch wildlife as they come out to play and forage for food, alongside the busy people working to keep our lives running.

Particularly poignant at this time, this is a great book to bring new perspective on the world we live in and celebrate the people who help us. Find out more at www.pavilionbooks.com

The next time you look up the night sky, if you stare really hard; you might be lucky enough to see the sparkling metal planet with all its robots and all their robo-babies. A story about the many ways in which babies arrive into their families, including IVF, donor conception, surrogacy and adoption.

Robo-Babies by Laura Gallagher illustrated by Nicci Martin celebrates the many and varied journeys too parenthood. Heart-warming and informative, young children of all backgrounds will see in simple terms the many different ways a child can be brought into this world, with love at the heart of each family.

Brilliantly accessible with lively and colourful illustrations, this is a fantastic picture book with an important and inclusive message at its heart. Find out more at www.owletpress.com

We have explored every corner of our planet, and yet a whole undiscovered universe of microbes hides within our bodies…. Scientists are only just beginning to understand the connections between microbes and health. Follow the digestive process and learn about this fascinating frontier and the vast ecosystem that lives inside you!

Gut Garden : A Journey into the Wonderful World of your Microbiome by Katie Brosnan is quite simply an amazing insight into our insides! Readers young and old will be fascinated by the ecosystem that exists within the human body and how microbes are such an important part of it – from the digestive process to helping cure diseases. It’s no surprise this brilliant book has been nominated for three awards!

An essential part of our health and well-being, every child (and adult!) should visit the Gut Garden! Find out more www.cicadabooks.co.uk

Disaster strikes! Everyone is in a panic. Can Benny save the day? Will he have to press his bright red button? Benny’s new adventure sees all the robots having to work together when more aliens arrive on their planet. 

One Button Benny and the Gigantic Catastrophe by Alan Windram illustrated by Chloe Holwill-Hunter sees the return of charming and cheeky robot, Benny. This time Benny has to rescue everyone’s kidnapped pet cats, pressing his big red button and visiting an alien planet in the process! With help from his friends, Benny saves the day just in time to enter Sparky his pet cat, into the Cool Cat Competition. Can you guess who wins?!

A lively adventure, full of fun with delightful illustrations capturing the action, children will want to read this again and again. Find out more at www.littledoorbooks.co.uk.

Fia longs to go to the mysterious island, where the air is thick with secrets. One night a moonbeam stretches across the bay and leads her there. She rides on the back of a gilded butterfly, dances up the stars in the sky and down to the bed of the sea….

To The Island by Patricia Forde illustrated by Nicola Bernardelli is a beautiful lyrical tale, full of imagination and wonder. Gorgeous illustrations and a charming narrative take you on a magical journey to the island of Hy Brasil, where the world is full of incredible creatures. Join Fia as her dream comes true and she has the most marvellous adventure through the night sky.

You can’t help but feel Hy Brasil is out there somewhere and if we just believe, our imaginations will take us there! A delightful bedtime story, find out more at www.littleisland.ie.

Feeling tired after a busy day? But you can’t sleep? Then Snooze is the perfect book for you! It will explain how to get the best sleep ever.

Snooze by Eilidh Muldoon tells the story of Owl who just can’t get to sleep. This is a humourous take on a problem many will be familiar with, as Owl’s efforts are hampered by a menagerie of noisy animals. A well-paced narrative and lively expressive illustrations combine to create lots of empathy for poor Owl!

Snooze is sure to bring a smile to young readers as well as help them get a good night’s sleep. Find out more at www.littledoorbooks.co.uk.

That fabulous, fluttering fairy, wherever can she be? Join our intrepid family to find out! In this wonderful adventure, readers will enjoy trying to find the hiding fairy, while meeting magical, endangered wildlife in the way.

We’re off to Find a Fairy by Eloise White illustrated by Cory Reid is a lovely story celebrating the magic that can be found in the countryside that surrounds us. Featuring some of our favourite insects and animals from British wildlife, the fairy may elude the family but there’s still wonder in the woods and meadows! This is one of a trio of picture books that encompass incidental diversity, with the family including mixed race and disabled characters. Children will love joining in with the rhyming narrative and spotting the wildlife in the beautifully drawn illustrations. Publishing on 20th October, find out more at www.owletpress.com

With thanks to all the publishers who sent me these books to read and review. They will be donated to a local foodbank I work with to feed minds as well as tummies!

New Reviews: A plethora of picture books! Out now and coming soon.

Today on the blog, it’s a picture book kind of day! Picture books are always guaranteed to make you smile and tug at your heart strings. Especially these ones, which are out now or coming soon this summer and have been arriving through the post over the last few months. From unicorns to detective dogs, to finding friends and gorgeous celebrations of life and even washing your hands, these books have it covered! I’m delighted to share my thoughts on them with you and highly recommend adding them to your to be read list.

OUT NOW

I am Brown by Ashok Banker illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat is a delightful story about celebrating the skin you’re in. Beautifully drawn characters on every spread showing how wonderful life is and the variety of opportunities there are. Every page made me smile and I loved the celebration of culture from clothes to language to faiths bringing the wonder of the world to life. Published by Lantana this book is available now.

Don’t Call Me Grumpycorn by Sarah McIntyre sees Unicorn ready for his biggest adventure yet in another wonderful adventure for our favourite one-horned friend. This time Unicorn and friends are travelling to space but trouble brews as they start to argue about where to go – only the most fabulous planet will do! A great fun story about having patience and appreciating your friends, Grumpycorn will definitely brighten your day! Published by Scholastic this book is available now.

We’re Going on a Treasure Hunt by Martha Mumford illustrated by Laura Hughes is a gorgeously illustrated pirate adventure full of treasure and tropical creatures. Young readers will love the lift-the-flap hunt for coins but will have to watch-out for leaping dolphins, colourful parrots, scary sharks and naughty monkeys who keep getting in the way! Lots of fun to be had on this pirate adventure with a suitably summery tropical setting. Published by Bloomsbury this book is available now.

Rex the Rhinoceros Beetle by M.G Leonard, illustrated by Duncan Beedie stars Rex, a little beetle with a big heart! Rex is astounded by his friend Buster’s heroic deeds. He wishes he could be brave like Buster. However, when Rex and Buster are in grave peril, it’s Rex who saves the day and proves who the real hero is! Charming, colourful and with a great message about being honest and brave, this bug-filled book is a celebration of beetles everywhere! Published by Scholastic this book is available now.

JULY

Now Wash Your Hands by Matt Carr is a timely message teaching children the important of washing their hands. Doris the Doctorpus is here to help! She’s going to help the animals to learn how to wash their hands and understand all about where germs can be found and when you need to wash them away. A fun, rhyming narrative and bold lively illustrations help get this important message across and there’s even a hand-washing song at the end to help. Coming soon from Scholastic 2nd July (A 50p contribution from every copy sold will be donated to NHS Charities Together Covid 19 Urgent Appeal)

Say Hello, Say Goodbye by Cori Doerrfeld firmly establishes this award-winning author as someone who can create emotional resonance and understanding through stories even for the youngest of readers! This lovely story focuses on the difficulty of change and how difficult moments can often lead to positive experiences. Whether it be leaving home to start school, having your snowman melt, facing the death of a pet or having a best friend move away, there will always be a way to get through – and friends to help. Coming soon from Scallywag Press 2nd July.

Found You by Devon Holzwarth is the most beautiful debut picture book about making friends. Little Bird is on a mission: to help lonely children make new friends. Sami has just moved to a new country and is finding it hard to fit in; everything is strange. But Little Bird knows just how to help and Sami quickly discovers there are friends everywhere when you know where to look. Strikingly illustrated, with muted colours that have real depth, this story is utterly charming and will resonate with all who read it. We can all remember a time when we had to make new friends; if only we’d had Little Bird to help us! Delightful. Coming soon from Scholastic 2nd July.

Happy Lion Roars by Louisa Fatio illustrated by Roger Duvoisin features classic character The Happy Lion in a wonderful romance. When a beautiful lioness comes to town with a visiting circus, The Happy Lion pays her a visit and it is love at first sight!  But how will they get to stay together?  It is The Happy Lion’s friend, little Francois, who saves the day again. Like it’s predecessor, this book is utterly enchanting and evokes a timeless world of romance and friendship. I hope we see more of the Happy Lion! Coming soon from Scallywag Press 2nd July.

Meesha Makes Friends by Tom Percival is a delightful story about Meehsa, a little girl who loves to make things but isn’t very good at making friends. She doesn’t know quite what to do, what to say or when to say it. But one day she discovers that her creativity will help her to make friends and be more courageous than she imagined. A wonderful story about being brave, helping children understand the best way to make friends is to be yourself. Part of Tom Percvial’s Big Bright Feelings collection, this story will resonate with children of all ages. Coming soon from Bloomsbury 9th July.

AUGUST

That Dog written and illustrated by Emma Lazell features a crime caper with a dastardly dog napper and her rather inept accomplice who just can’t seem to dog-nap the right animal! A whole host of hilarious mistakes run through the narrative with a vibrant collection of all kinds of creatures leaping off the pages and a super clever detective dog. Highly enjoyable, this is one to read again and again with guaranteed laughs to be had. Coming soon from Pavilion Books 6th August.

Scruff by Alice Bowsher continues the dog theme with a story about a very scruffy dog who doesn’t want to be scruffy! His owner could do with a bit of a spruce up too, so that’s just what they do. And their efforts are rewarded in the best way – at the Dog Show, but perhaps not quite as you’d imagine! Striking illustrations and use of colour bring this simple narrative tale to life and a smile to your face. Coming soon from Cicada Books in August.

The Blue Giant by Katie Cottle is the follow up to the award-winning author/illustrator’s The Green Giant and turns our the attentions from the natural world to our seas. Meera and her mother’s day at the beach is interrupted by a very unexpected creature, made of water and sea plants, who takes them on a journey under water. A very timely, beautifully told story, with a simple narrative highlighting a very important message – the seas need our help. A great story to share and show young children what they can do to help. Coming soon from Pavilion Books 6th August.

All in all a lovely selection of books to share with your young readers! With thanks to Bloomsbury, Cicada Books, Pavilion Books, Scallywag Press, Scholastic and Lantana Publishing for sending me these books to review.

BLOG TOUR: The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley by Amber Lee Dodd

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Welcome to DAY THREE of the blog tour celebrating publication of The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley written by Amber Lee Dodd, published by Scholastic!  I’m delighted to be hosting today’s stop and sharing a spooky post from the author herself, featuring the story of an infamous historical curse.

Why, I hear you ask? Well a curse is at the heart of The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley, a fantastic family adventure story with a magical twist.

The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley_cover

 

The Bradley family are constantly escaping from a centuries old curse which means that every home they have ever lived in is destroyed – floods, fire, earthquakes – all manner of destruction. They have just moved to their thirteenth house and although the threat of the curse looms ever closer, Noah is desperate not to have to leave this new home – where he finally feels like a ‘normal’ boy and that he could have a happy life. However, at the sign of a black cat, Noah knows the curse is once again about to strike– can he find a way to break it with the help of his brother and new neighbour, Neena?

I’ve been a fan of Amber Lee Dodd since her brilliant first book, We Are Giants, so I was very excited to read this, her latest title.  It doesn’t disappoint – I was hooked from the first page! Totally engaging, The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley is an original story with a clever plot, that has so much for readers to relate too. There are so many great characters and I adored Noah and his brother Billy and the bond they share. Noah’s care and concern for Billy, who is deaf, is heart-warming. The narrative captures just how important it is to have a place called home and how difficult it can be to constantly move house, change schools and have to make new friends.  Noah struggles with his own desires to fit in, even at the expense of true friendship, but as the story progress we see him realise that fitting in shouldn’t be that hard if people will accept you for who you are.  References throughout to Noah’s love of nature and the situations he finds himself in reflecting animal behaviour bring an added dimension to the story. Add to this the magical elements of a frightening family curse and you have a wonderful tale of family, friendship, bravery and adventure!  Definitely one for the bookshelf!

Today, author Amber Lee Dodd is sharing the story of her favourite historical curse. Welcome to the blog Amber!

King Tutankhamun’s Curse

“One of my favourite historical curses is the curse of the Pharaohs. It’s said that the well-known curse brings down illness, bad luck and death upon any who disturb the tombs. The curse was so well feared that inscriptions were carved into some Royal Egyptian tombs reading,

“Cursed be those that disturb the rest of Pharaoh. They that shall break the seal of this tomb shall meet death by a disease which no doctor can diagnose.”

Even stranger is the real-life story of the six archaeologists who died shortly after opening King Tutankhamun’s tomb. Followed by five more deaths in ten years of people who first visited the tomb, or where involved in disturbing the King. All the mysterious deaths were of course due to natural causes, misadventures and even murder! But that hasn’t stopped people wondering if the curse was real. Spooky!”

Amber Lee Dodd grew up in Portsmouth, where she rode the waltzers, swam in the winter sea and lost her wellies in the marshes. She has worked as a Learning Support Worker in schools with disabled students, and is passionate about incorporating disability representation in her books for children. Amber struggled with undiagnosed dyslexia and dyspraxia at school and on discovering stories, found her very own magic power – telling stories!

Find out more at www.amberleedodd.com. With thanks to Scholastic 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 blog tour:

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