Winter wonderland….. 5 sleeps to go!

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Two more lovely picture books join the winter wonderland line up , with jut under a week to go until the big day! A crazy canine countdown and a magical journey to celebrate family at Christmas time.

 

 

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The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by Alison Ritchie and Marisa Morea

A little puppy is caught up in the countdown to Christmas as dogs of all manner, shape and sizes ‘help’ to get everything ready. From choosing the tree, to baking cakes, to running off with festive treats, the dogs are having a wonderful time.  With Chihuahuas, Retrievers, Scottie dogs and Dalmatians there’s a dog for every person – and a task for every dog!

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A great picture book for all dog lovers this is a lovely rhyming treat, reflecting on the fabulous chaos of getting ready for Christmas.  It captures the fun, excitement and just how much we can all get carried away!  Taking inspiration from the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas, this would be a great book to read aloud.  There’s lots to see with lively and colourful illustrations, bringing to life all the different festive traditions from decorating the tree to wrapping presents to preparing food. With lots of excited little ones counting down to Christmas, it’s the perfect time to share this story.

Find out more at www.marisamorea.com and www.simonandschuster.co.uk

 

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Last Stop on the Reindeer Express by Maudie Powell-Tuck and Karl James Mountford

A young girl, Mia, misses her Daddy as Christmas approaches and even the sights and sounds at the Christmas market don’t make her feel more festive.  Mia can’t get the Christmas card she has made him delivered on time, but when she discovers a magical post box that leads her to the Reindeer Express, it seems her Christmas wish may come true.  Mia is taken by a magical reindeer on a fantastic journey over land and sea to meet a very special person and deliver her card!  When Mia has to leave her father the sky is filled with other children on their own reindeer and she understands she is not the only one missing a family member.  This helps Mia and whilst her Daddy can’t spend Christmas at home, she discovers she is brave enough to be without him.

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This is a beautiful book full of heart-warming, magical illustrations with a lovely message about families at Christmas time.  A simple narrative that even young children will relate to conveys the story, with the added magic and wonder of the festive season. Whilst we can’t always be with all of our loved ones at Christmas, knowing we’re not alone makes it easier and we can still enjoy celebrating.  With lots of lovely illustrations to look at and lift the flaps and cut-outs, Last Stop on the Reindeer Express celebrates Christmas and family perfectly.

Find out more www.karljamesmountford.com and littletiger.co.uk/authors

 

With thanks to Simon and Schuster and Little Tiger Press for sending me these books to review.

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Winter wonderland…..13 sleeps to go!

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Looking for some festive cheer on a damp winter’s day? Look no further than these two gorgeous rhyming stories from Nosy Crow, which are sure to put a smile on your face.  Each one comes with a free Stories aloud smartphone audio book, so they can be enjoyed again and again even if you’re on the move, so quite handy for Christmas travels!

 

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Oliver Elephant by Lou Peacock, illustrated by Helen Stephens

Noah is going Christmas shopping with his Mummy and baby sister, Evie-May.  He takes Oliver Elephant with him to help and has a wonderful time playing all around the store while Mummy chooses presents.  When it’s time to go, after a special treat of a nice piece of cake, Oliver Elephant is nowhere to be seen! Noah and Mummy look everywhere, but it’s baby sister Evie-May who finds the missing Elephant. And they even remember to get the Christmas star for the tree – thank goodness for that!

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Young readers are bound to enjoy this festive story which celebrates the everyday life of little ones at Christmas time.

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The lovely rhyming narrative and gorgeous illustrations capture the magic and busyness of festive shopping, the mishaps that can occur and the love that children have for their family – and their soft toys! A real treat to read aloud, Oliver Elephant is a perfect bedtime story for Christmas.

 

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The Princess and the Christmas Rescue by Caryl Hart, illustrated by Sarah Warburton

Princess Eliza loves to invent things, but her parents the King and Queen want her to do something more ‘Princess-like’ and find a friend to play with. So Princess Eliza tries her best, but no amount of frog kissing, making gingerbread or waiting for a Prince to rescue her seems to work! Soon she discovers she’s not the only one in need and sets about using her brilliant inventions to help none other than Santa and his elves. Before she knows it, Princess Eliza has made a whole workshop of friends and helped save Christmas. What could be better than that?!

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This is an absolute festive delight!  The rhyming narrative skips through this charming story with amusing references to well- known fairy tales. Princess Eliza is a wonderful, industrious heroine who I’m sure anyone who’s ever enjoyed making things will identify with.

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Lovely, bright and detailed illustrations bring to life the magical workshop and all it’s inhabitants and of course, the wonder of Christmas!  Another fantastic book to read aloud that will have young readers reaching for their craft box.

 

Find out more at  www.helenstephens.com/

www.carylhart.com and http://sarahwarburton.blogspot.co.uk

With thanks to Nosy Crow for sending me these books to review.

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Winter wonderland….18 sleeps to go!

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Two very different animals feature in our next winter wonderland installment. Whilst not strictly festive (apart from the snow!), both books have wonderful themes of being brave and celebrating friendship and would make lovely gifts at Christmas time!

 

 

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Don’t Leap, Larry! by John Briggs, illustrated by Nicola Slater

You can’t help but fall a little in love with Larry the lemming.  He is bold and fearless and unlike his fellow lemmings, loves to be different and think for himself.  From going sledging with the puffins to choosing his own very brilliant name (everyone else is just called lemming!) he stands out from the crowd. So much so in fact he decides to see if he’ll fit in better with another group of animals – but nothing works – especially not the polar bears!  Finally, Larry returns home only to discover he can help his fellow lemmings think for themselves just like he does.

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This is a gorgeous story. Funny and heart-warming with a few thrills and spills to boot, it will have all readers cheering for Larry and eventually, the other lemmings too. Brilliantly drawn by Nicola Slater, it’s a joyful story with a wonderful message about being brave, standing out from the crowd and not worrying about thinking differently.

Find out more at www.johnbriggsbooks.net and www.goodillustration.com

Published by Pavilion Books 

 

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The Snow Lion by Jim Helmore and Richard Jones

This is a lovely tale about a little girl who needs a friend and some courage. Who better to help her than The Snow Lion? Caro and her mum have moved home and Caro is just a little bit lost in her new surroundings of bare white walls and no one to play with. As if by magic, a beautiful big white lion appears and soon Caro has made a new friend with whom she can play all day!  And not only does he stop her from being lonely, the Snow Lion helps her find the courage to go outside and make new friends. As the gentle narrative unfolds, Caro’s new home isn’t so lonely anymore; it’s filled with colour – and friends! The Snow Lion quietly leaves but Caro will always know where to look for him…

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Text and wonderful illustrations come together perfectly to create a charmingly touching story young readers will want to visit again and again.  I loved the beautifully described friendship between the Snow Lion and Caro, and how he gently and ever so kindly encourages her to be brave. It’s reassuring to know that sometimes we all need a little comfort and how it’s very often finding a friend in unexpected places that can be just the thing!

Find out more www.stripyhorse.com and www.paintedmouse.com

Published by Simon & Schuster

 

 

With thanks to Pavilion Books and Simon & Schuster for sending me these books to review!

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Winter wonderland…20 sleeps till Christmas!

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With only twenty sleeps to go till Christmas Day, it’s really starting to feel festive! For the next few weeks in the run up to Christmas I’ll be featuring some gorgeous wintry and festive stories on the blog. Today we’re exploring some snowy landscapes!

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Up and Down: A Walk in the Countryside with Nosy Crow and The National Trust, beautifully illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw, takes young readers on a walk through a snow covered landscape introducing them to the idea of opposites.

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Two little walkers explore the woods and discover ‘up and down’, near and far and many other ‘opposites’, all the while enjoying getting close to nature.

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Young readers will love to spot the various animals who live in the woods and all manner of festive creatures. There’s even a snowman!  This is a great addition to the A Walk in the Countryside board book series and will have everyone wishing for snow!

Find out more at www.rosalindbeardshaw.com

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Another wintry landscape is stunningly brought to life in this beautiful exploration of winter; Little Hazelnut by Anne-Florence Lemasson and Dominique Ehrhard. I literally gasped when I opened this book – there’s something utterly magical about pop-up books.  Books like this make me love them even more! Little Hazelnut takes the reader on a journey with a variety of animals and birds venturing into the garden during winter.

Each page features a different animal pop up, with a charming narrative capturing the variety of life that appears in a garden in winter. The blue-tit is my favourite – just gorgeous! Simple but detailed, the artwork shows even the animals’ footprints as they navigate the snowy landscape. Little Hazelnut is an absolute delight and would make a lovely gift at Christmas time.

Find out more at Old Barn Books.

 

With thanks to Nosy Crow and Old Barn Books for sending me these books to review.

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31 December: Mark Powers

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Happy New Year! What better way to celebrate the final day of our calendar than with a debut author?!

mark-hi-resMark Powers has been making up ridiculous stories since primary school and is slightly shocked to find that people now pay him to do it. As a child he always daydreamed that his teddy bear went off on top secret missions when he was at school, so a team of toys recruited as spies seemed a great idea for a story. He grew up in north Wales and now lives in Manchester. Spy Toys is publishing in January 2017!

Name three things on your Christmas list this year! Chocolate, more chocolate, upset stomach medicine.

Christmas is a time of family traditions – what are your best (or worst!) family traditions? In the Powers family, we are firm believers in the tradition of the Enormous Christmas Day Family Argument.  It usually starts over something trivial (“We’re not watching the boring Queen’s speech!”, “Why aren’t you wearing the lovely socks/tie/scarf I bought you?”, “Who made that smell?”) and ends up as a massive shouting match about who’s always been the favourite child (it’s me, of course) complete with neighbours banging on the walls and police sirens.

(Sounds like a nice ‘peaceful’ time!!)

‘What is your favourite story to read at Christmas? A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  Christmas is the perfect time for spooky stories – when it’s snowy and dark outside and you’re tucked up snugly inside with a hot drink and your feet slowly t51veqhzdbll-_sx321_bo1204203200_oasting by the fire.

If you could have Christmas dinner with anyone (alive today or person from history) who would it be? I would choose Sue Townsend (author of the brilliant Adrian Mole books, who died in 2014).  I think she would have been a fascinating and hilarious dinner companion.

Your debut book Spy Toys features amazing toys that are ‘alive’. If you could choose any of your Christmas toys from childhood to come to life which would it be? I had a toy Dalek for Christmas when I was six and it would be amazing to see it come alive and obey my commands.  It would definitely give me the edge in the Enormous Christmas Day Family Argument.

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You’ve been making up stories from a young age; if you had to make up a festive story for Christmas who would be your main character? I think I might write a story about a sad snowflake that has only five points instead of six.  Might make a good picture book.  Hands off my idea if you’re reading this, David Walliams!

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Reader’s question from the children at Inkpots Writers’ Hut; how do you start writing a story; do you type or write them by hand? I usually type them on my laptop; sometimes I make notes on my phone.

Turkey or goose? Goose.

Real or fake tree? Real.

Mince pies or Christmas pudding? Christmas pudding.

Stockings –  end of the bed or over the fireplace? End of the bed.

Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve? Christmas Eve!

Thank you for joining our festive Q & A! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Find out more about Mark at www.bloomsbury.com and follow him on Twitter @mpowerswriter.

You can read a review of Spy Toys on the Bookshelf.

Spy Toys is illustrated by Tim Wesson who was born somewhere in England. As a young boy he enjoyed climbing trees and drawing pictures of dogs in cars. Eventually he became an illustrator who creates children’s books. Tim doodles and paints whenever he can and likes to draw the first thing that pops into his head. He lives by the sea in Suffolk with his family.

30 December: Kat Ellis

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YA Author joins us on our penultimate day!

kat-ellisKat Ellis grew up in North Wales and studied English with Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. She is an active blogger and amateur photographer. Kat has had short stories published and wrote Blackfin Sky last year after trying her hand at sci-fi. Her first published novel, Blackfin Sky will also be released in the US next autumn.

Name three things on your Christmas list this year! Notebooks (I have a bit of a collection building… some might call it a hoard), fancy coffee (because I usually spend January trying to be a bit posh in my drinking habits, but inevitably go back to instant), and a novelty mug (to put the fancy coffee in).

Christmas is a time of family traditions – what are your best (or worst!) family traditions? Christmas Day for me usually involves bustling around to visit family members, but on Boxing Day – which is also my husband’s birthday – we traditionally go out for a curry, just to do something completely un-Christmassy.

(Curry on Boxing Day sounds like a great idea!)

What is your favourite story to read at Christmas? Growing up, Jenny Nimmo’s The Snow Spider was my favourite Christmas read. Last Christmas I read Katherine Rundell’s The Wolf Wilder, which was snowy and wonderful, and I think this year I’ll be reading Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan for a bit of festive romance.

If you could have Christmas dinner with anyone (alive today or person from history) who would it be and why? David Bowie, for sure. As well as being an amazing musician, he was also an artist, starred in films like Labyrinth – which is one of my all-time favourites, especially at Christmastime – and he just seemed like a fascinating person. I bet he’d have some good stories to share over the Christmas crackers!

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Purge is your third YA novel. Mason is often in trouble in the novel; do you think Father Christmas would visit him and if so, what would he give him? I think if Father Christmas paid Mason a visit, the only thing he’d give him is a stern telling off. Not that Mason would be bothered, mind you. He’d probably nick Father Christmas’s sleigh and go joyriding.

(*laughs out loud* Definitely belongs on the naughty list!)

You’re a keen photographer; what or who would your ideal Christmas photo feature?Living in North Wales, I have plenty of amazing scenery to photograph, so maybe a nice snowy castle or forest.

winter-1027822_1920Reader’s question from the children Warden Park Academy: we sometimes have to correct our creative writing. How do you feel when you have to make corrections to your work? Before I share a story with anyone else, I read it over and over, looking for mistakes and polishing it to make it as good as possible. But – and I don’t think I’m alone here – I inevitably reach a point where I can’t look at my own work objectively, and I might miss a mistake that’s obvious to someone reading it for the first time. That’s why I’m always grateful to work with editors; they offer me expert guidance to make my stories flow better, and make my writing more polished. Writing is a skill you never stop learning and honing, so it’s great when you have someone helping you to improve.

(Wonderful writing advice!)

Turkey or goose? Turkey, always.

Real or fake tree? Fake (if you’ve ever trodden on pine needles with bare feet, you’ll know why.)

Mince pies or Christmas pudding? Errrrr….neither? I’m more of a sherry trifle fan.

Stockings –  end of the bed or over the fireplace? Over the fireplace.

Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve? Christmas Eve!

Thank you for participating in our festive Q & A! Wishing you a Happy Christmas and New Year! 

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Find out more about Kat at katelliswrites.blogspot.co.uk and follow her on Twitter @el_kat

29 December:Chris Priestley

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Photo by Martin Bond

Chris Priestley lives in Cambridge with his wife and son. His novels are brilliantly original additions to a long tradition of horror stories by authors such as M.R. James and Edgar Allan Poe. Chris wrote one of the World Book Day books for 2011 and has been shortlisted for a variety of prestigious children’s book awards.

Name three things on your Christmas list this year! A time machine, a holiday and socks. 

Christmas is a time of family traditions – what are your best (or worst!) family traditions? I’m a big fan of Christmas – can’t think of any bad traditions in my little family. The best are all pretty ordinary – good company, good food, a roaring fire, a walk on Boxing Day, a few films, the odd board game.

 There are wonderful stories shared at Christmas time. What is your favourite story to read at Christmas? A Christmas Carol has a special place in my affections. But I also like The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. That was a regular when my son was little. As was 51hmtth98cl-_sx258_bo1204203200_John Burningham’s Harvey Slumfenburger’s Christmas Present.

 If you could have Christmas dinner with anyone (alive today or person from history) who would it be and why? My mum, dad and brother. Because I missed so many when they were alive. 

Your brilliant book The Last of the Spirits is a take on the classic A Christmas Carol. If you could write another take on any novel, which would it be and why? Well I’ve done my tribute to Frankenstein in Mister Creecher. That’s probably me done with other people’s novels now.

In Christmas Tales of Terror you feature lots of Christmas characters with a scary twist. If you had to choose one of them to write a full length novel about, which one would it be and why? I’m not sure any of the Tales would make a full length novel. They are very different things. I love writing and reading short stories. They are they’re own very particular pleasure. 

Reader’s question from students in Year 10 at Warden Park Secondary Academy; why do you write in this particular genre (horror)?  The fact is I don’t just write horror! I’ve written over 20 books and only a handful have been horror. I’ve written funny stories, historical adventures and non-fiction. I write what is most interesting to me at the time. I’m working on three books at the moment. One is horror, one is part of a funny series, the third is a YA story about love and loss and superheroes.

(We can’t wait to read them!)

 Quick fire round:

Turkey or goose? Turkey

Real or fake tree? Real

Mince pies or Christmas pudding? Both!

Stockings – end of the bed or over the fireplace? Back of a chair

Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve? Christmas Eve all the way. Never quite got the hang of New Year’s Eve

 Thanks for the questions and Merry Christmas one and all!

Thank you for participating and a very Happy Christmas to you!

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Find out more about Chris at www.chrispriestleybooks.com or on Facebook or Twitter @crispriestley