Book of the Month: The Land of Roar by Jenny McLachlan

book of the monthThe Land of Roar by Jenny McLachlan, published by Egmont, is a joyous celebration of the wonder of imagination. I absolutely loved it – not just because it took me back to being a young girl playing imaginary games in the garden, but because it is storytelling at its best. So I’m really pleased to make it my Book of the Month!  It’s Jenny McLachlan’s middle grade debut and demonstrates her skill at weaving wonderful stories full of heart and imagination.  Illustrations by Ben Mantle throughout will no doubt bring this to life if the cover art is anything to go by (I saw a proof copy).

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The Land of Roar by Jenny McLachlan

When Arthur and Rose were little they were heroes in the Land of Roar, an imaginary world that they found by climbing through the folding bed in their Grandad’s attic. Roar was filled with things they loved – dragons, mermaids, ninja wizards and adventure – as well as things that scared them (including a very creepy scarecrow…). Now the twins are eleven, Roar is just a memory. But when they help Grandad clean out the attic, Arthur is horrified as Grandad is pulled into the folding bed and vanishes. Is he playing a joke? Or is Roar…..real?

Arthur and Rose might be twins but as now they’re eleven, and secondary school beckons, they couldn’t be more different. Rose is only interested in her friends and her mobile phone; whereas Arthur longs for things as they used to be when he and his sister played together.  Sibling frustrations simmer off the page, so when Grandad suggests sorting out the attic so they can create a more grown-up den, the twins are given a welcome distraction. But as they sort through the junk in the attic, reminders of their imaginary games are rife– an old rocking horse, a wizard hat and even a map of Roar. Is someone trying to get their attention?  It seems that way especially when Arthur is convinced he can hear the ominous rustle of feathers from the Z-bed – the gateway to Roar. Rose refuses to be drawn back into her childhood world but Arthur is convinced in her heart, she remembers Roar – and does care about it.  And he’s right. For when their Grandad vanishes and Arthur follows to rescue him, Rose isn’t far behind. It’s clear the twins’ connection to Roar is more important that they could ever have realised! Together with their best imaginary friends – Wininja the Wizard, Prosecco the Moonlight Stallion and dragons Pickle and Vlad they must defeat their arch nemesis and surely the most creepy of villains, Crowky the winged scarecrow, in order to save Grandad.

The Land of Roar is just as fantastic as you could imagine and you are quickly immersed in the magic, as Arthur and Rose rediscover their role as Heroes of Roar.  With engaging characters, just the right amount of humour and a whole lot of heart, this story will bring out your inner child and you’ll want to go through the z-bed too!  Jenny McLachlan’s skill is creating stories with characters you care about, with narratives that are as exciting as they are heart-warming and The Land of Roar is no exception. Grandad is delightful with his eccentricity and care for his grandchildren. Rose and Arthur’s changing relationship is perfectly captured as they prepare for their new school.  Their trip to Roar reminds them (and us) that you never have to stop believing in the power of imagination. It’s no wonder my son and niece were so inspired by it they played for hours in the garden their very own imaginary quest, using a map to guide them! I hope there will be more adventures to come – Hear me Roar!

Find out more at www.jennymclachlan.com

With thanks to Egmont for sending me this book to review.

 

 

 

Guest post and review: The Switching Hour by Damaris Young

Today is publication day for a brilliant debut middle-grade novel from author Damaris Young, The Switching Hour – congratulations! Damaris studied on the Writing for Young People MA at Bath University, where she wrote this novel taking inspiration from her childhood in Southern and Central Africa.  Damaris now lives in the UK and I’m very excited to be hosting a guest post by her on the blog today!

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Cover art: Kelsy Buzzell

The Switching Hour is set in a land suffering from a terrible drought, which has unleashed a dark and dangerous creature, Badoko, who snatches children away to eat their dreams. One night, Amaya’s little brother Kalen is taken and Amaya embarks on a nerve-wracking, spine-tingling chase to rescue him.  She only has three days before The Sorrow Sickness sets in and all memory of her brother is lost.  Accompanied by her faithful companion, her goat Tau, Amaya meets Mally, and finds the true value of friendship as together they search for Kalen in the heart of the Blackened Forest. Full of bravery and heart, The Switching Hour, weaves a wonderful tale, drawing you in, bewitching the senses and showing the true power of family bonds, in the face of absolute peril. A fantastic read and one that highlights the havoc that climate change can cause – watch out for the Badoko!

I’m delighted to welcome author Damaris Young to the blog today to share her thoughts on writing about the weather in The Swtiching Hour and how it represents a force to be reckoned with.

Writing About Weather In The Switching Hour by Damaris Young

“Writing about weather can very easily get overlooked when you’re speeding ahead to get the exciting bits of the plot, but it is such a vital part of writing a story. Weather is a key player and often drives the action by affecting the characters behaviour or mood, or adds tension and conflict, like a storm on the horizon.

I find that it’s all too easy to resort to clichés when it comes to writing about weather, so I allocate time to really think about new and fresh ways to describe it. I find it helpful to go outside into the garden or the park and close my eyes; can I smell the rain? Can I hear the wind? Can I feel the cold or the heat?

In The Switching Hour, it was very important to get the weather right, as it is set during a terrible drought. In my story the drought unleashes a creature that is my interpretation of climate change, a monster that eats the dreams of the young in much the same way that climate change affects the generations to come.

To immerse the reader in the story, I had to focus on some of the main elements of weather: wind, temperature, pressure, humidity, clouds, and precipitation. In every scene, I had to be thinking how the temperature would affect the characters, how the lack of clouds would mean the sun was brighter and harsher, the lack of wind would mean there was no reprieve from the heat. My protagonist, Amaya, seeks out shade on her journey but the ground beneath her feet becomes increasingly too hot to walk on. The lack of rain means that the leaves fall off the trees, the ground cracks and the food resources become scarce.

I lived in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana for many years growing up, where there is low rainfall for large parts of the year and where the natural plants and animals are adapted to the climate. I drew on that experience to write about the heat and the lack of rain, but what I wanted for The Switching Hour was to write a story about an extreme weather event and its devastating effects, much like climate change has an impact on global weather patterns.

For me, the most important thing to remember when writing about weather was not to underestimate its value to the story. I wanted the drought to be a character in itself and so I treated it like a character, giving it motives and thoughts and desires through Badeko, the Dream Eater. This in turn, changed the weather from an afterthought to becoming something real and powerful, a force to be reckoned with.”

Find out more www.damarisyoungauthor.com 

With thanks to Scholastic for sending me this book to review and inviting me to host a guest post.

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

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

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The True Colours of Coral Glen by Juliette Forrest

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

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

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

The importance of watching other authors by Juliette Forrest

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

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

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

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

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

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New review: The Worldquake series by Scarlett Thomas

On the blog today, a review of a series of books that have been on my radar for months, but it wasn’t until Book #3 arrived in the post that I took the opportunity to read them all! TheWorldquake series is set in a dystopian future where modern technology has been destroyed.  The non-magical world exists alongside the magical world, with opposing sides working to defeat the other. The story centres on Effie Truelove and her friends navigating their way through magic school and trying to save the universe! 

The Worldquake series by Scarlett Thomas

There are three titles in this brilliant fantasy middle grade series – Dragons Green, The Chosen Ones and Galloglass. Bursting with magic, the story follows Effie and her friends as they discover their magical powers, explore the Otherworld and battle against the Diberi who are intent on destroying the universe. Effie learns all about magic from her grandfather Griffin Truelove but even he couldn’t prepare her for what lies ahead.  When he disappears, he leaves her his library of very special books – which are more than just books; they hold the answers to everything (which of course made me love the story even more!).

It’s hard to sum up this fantastic series in just a short paragraph – there is so much in it and whilst Effie is the central character the supporting cast add plenty of dynamic to the twisting and turning plot. There’s human interest throughout such as dealing with step-parents, boring lessons, difficult teachers and finding friendships alongside the many fantasy elements of the narrative. As Effie and her friends discover their ‘kharacter’ – their unique magical personality and abilities – the plot thickens and nothing is as it seems. The magical realm beckons and Effie delves deeper into the Otherworld to find where she truly belongs. The Diberi threaten at every turn and at times, even Effie’s own father seems to be against her.

Each book builds the mystery creating a magical world you can’t wait to dive into again. With thrilling action and lots of humour, heart and heroism the Worldquake series will have you hooked until the final page.

Find out more at www.worldquake.co.uk .With thanks to Canongate for sending me these books to review. 

Book of the Month: Mo, Lottie and the Junkers by Jennifer Killick

book of the monthMo Lottie and the Junkers is the first in a new middle grade series written by Jennifer Killick, author of the Alex Sparrow series. Published by Firefly Press, this series introduces us to an unlikely detective duo who readers will love! I absolutely love Jennifer Killick’s books – fun, accessible, original, just the right amount of thoughtfulness and really great characters – this new title is no exception and that’s why it’s Book of the Month!

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Mo, Lottie and the Junkers by Jennifer Killick

Mo Appleby’s ordered life is turned upside down when he and his mum move in with his new stepdad and stepsisters, Lottie and Sadie. The home he left behind is just across the street, and there’s something not quite right about the new occupant. Other strange new people keep popping into his life, too: a bonkers lollipop man and a boy called Jax, who seems to understand Mo better than anyone else, especially Lottie. Who are the weird new people in their town? Do they have any involvement in the disappearance of Mo’s dad many years ago? And why does the ice cream taste so good? Lottie is determined to find out exactly what’s going on, even if it makes Mo mad, and even if it leads them both into serious danger…

Mo, Lottie and the Junkers is a totally engaging and highly amusing sci-fi-come-detective story featuring a brilliant duo in Mo and Lottie, who provide hilarious narration. With tons of original and eccentric ideas throughout the narrative you can’t help but be drawn in to the mystery.  Who on earth are the junkers? Why is the lollipop man behaving so strangely? Why can’t they stop thinking about the ice-cream van? There is definitely something odd going on – and odd is something Mo knows all about. He’s a wonderfully eccentric character who likes to collects lost property and try to return it to its owners, amongst other things. Mo enjoys peace and quiet and having his own space.  His new stepsisters on the other hand are loud, nosy and drive him mad which makes for some very amusing sibling scenarios.

Against this back drop of getting to grips with a new family home and a blended family set-up, Mo and Lottie join together and do their best to find the truth and solve the mystery. They face danger with bravery and determination and each helps the other deal with their various frailties and fears.  It’s great to see the warmth and friendship they develop as the story progresses, balanced perfectly with sibling irritation! With some brilliant plot twists, you couldn’t predict what’s coming and the very gruesome discoveries they make.  Be prepared for some mad moments, nasty villains and edge of your seat action.  A great read for middle grade, Mo, Lottie and the Junkers should be on all your bookshelves!

Find out more www.jenniferkillick.com and follow Jennifer on Twitter 

With thanks to Firefly Press for sending me a proof copy of this book to review. 

 

 

New review: Pog by Padraig Kenny

Pog is the highly anticipated new middle-grade novel from the author of Tin, Pádriag Kenny. Published by Chicken House, Pog was chosen as Independent Bookseller’s Book of the Month for April. Featuring a unique magical creature and a heartfelt adventure, Pog brings to life a fantastical world and vibrant characters and is sure to achieve the same critical acclaim of the author’s first novel.

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Pog by Pádriag Kenny

David and Penny’s strange new home is surrounded by forest. It’s the childhood home of their mother, who’s recently died. But other creatures live here … magical creatures, like tiny, hairy Pog. He’s one of the First Folk, protecting the boundary between the worlds. As the children explore, they discover monsters slipping through from the place on the other side of the cellar door. Meanwhile, David is drawn into the woods by something darker, which insists there’s a way he can bring his mother back …

Totally quirky from the first page, Pog brings to life a brave new hero and a heartfelt story of loss, love and family.  Moving in to their ancestral home surrounded by an old and dark forest, Penny and David are reeling from the death of their mother, with their father on the brink of breakdown.  The atmosphere of grief is palpable and little do they realise there are dark creatures just waiting to feed on their sadness.  Thankfully Pog, a Lumpkin and member of the First Folk and protector, lives in the attic. He’s a funny little creature whose task it is to protect The Necessary, the portal to another world through which dark creatures threaten to invade. With the ever-increasing danger lurking and David being tricked into thinking he can get his mother back, Pog has his work cut out in protecting the family, capturing the creatures that have already escaped through the portal and making sure The Necessary is forever closed.  This adventure’s finale will have readers holding their breath!

Pog’s antics are often very humorous and provide a good balance to the sadness of the tale, reminding us that there is always hope. The tension builds throughout and there are some truly moving moments between the family as they all try and come to terms with their grief, which are handled very sensitively and feel very real. The forest and its creepy inhabitants are also thoroughly believable – I don’t ever want to meet a bloodworm or a greebeldy! Pog’s bravery unites both Penny and David – his story is that of a true hero and will delight all readers.

Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com  and follow the author on Twitter

With thanks to Chicken House for sending me this book to review.

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New review: Wildspark by Vashti Hardy

After the success of the brilliant Brightstorm, it is no surprise that Vashti Hardy’s latest novel Wildspark published by Scholastic, has been much anticipated. And with good reason – it’s brilliant!  Featuring all the best elements of a great children’s sci-fi fantasy novel – awe inspiring imagination, incredible characters, unexpected plot twists and a truly believable world – middle grade readers will dive into Medlock and not want to come back! Vashti Hardy is a copywriter with an MA in Creative Writing and an alumna of and mentor at the Golden Egg Academy

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Wildspark by Vashti Hardy

Prue is a young farm girl whose older brother, Francis, had a natural talent for engineering. But after his untimely death, the family have been shattered by grief. Everything changes when a stranger arrives at the farm. A new, incredible technology has been discovered in the city of Medlock, where a secretive guild of inventors have found a way to bring spirits of the dead back into the world, capturing their energy and powering animal-like machines (the Personifates). Unaware that Francis has died, the Ghost Guild wants him to join them as an apprentice. Prue poses as “Frances” and goes to Medlock to learn the craft – but she’s on a mission of her own, to bring her brother back home. And to find Francis, she needs to find a way to help the ghost machines remember the people they used to be. But if she succeeds, the whole society could fall apart.

If you lost someone you loved and thought there might be a way to get them back, would you do anything you could to try? Even if it meant going against your parents’ wishes and deceiving all those around you? That is the idea at the heart of this fantastic story – and the challenges that trying to reverse the inevitability of death causes. Bursting at the seams with thrilling adventure and a truly thought-provoking narrative, Wildspark will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout.  As the story unfolds, we discover Prue is a feisty and determined heroine, applying her engineering knowledge – and a whole lot of new skills she learns as an apprentice – to find her brother.

Against a backdrop of uncertainty about the future of Personifates and growing debate about their rights as ‘humans’, Prue must use all her ingenuity and quite a bit of deception to enable her to succeed.  Thankfully she finds support from her new found friends and fellow apprentices – Agapantha and Edwin – who is the first ever Personifate apprentice. Together they navigate the challenges of being apprentices, boarding school and meeting their training mentors. But it is clear that Prue’s desire for discovery will come at a very high price and she and her friends face all manner of dangers in order to overcome the terror that is constantly lurking.

Featuring a truly imaginative world full of breath-taking scenery, wondrous inventions and the most marvellous array of characters you could hope to meet, Wildspark is one of the best books I’ve read this year. I hope there will be a sequel!

Find out more at www.vashtihardy.com and follow Vashti on Twitter.

With thanks to Scholastic for sending me a proof copy of this book to review.

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