BLOG TOUR: Sofa Surfer by Malcolm Duffy

Today is my stop on the blog tour for the new book by Malcolm Duffy, Sofa Surfer. A story of one boy and his friendship with a girl called Spider; about family and belonging and what it means to be homeless.  I am totally delighted to be hosting such a brilliant book on my first blog tour of the year. Malcolm Duffy is the author of the award winning Me Mam, Me Dad, Me, which was inspired by his work as Creative Director with Comic Relief.

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When 15-year-old Tyler meets Spider at the pool, he is led into a dark and dangerous world he never knew existed….

Sofa Surfer by Malcolm Duffy is fantastic, the perfect balance of a heartfelt story and gritty plot. The story tells of 15-year-old Tyler, who is furious when his parents decide to move from the only home he has ever known in London, to a small Yorkshire village.  Upheaval beckons and no amount of encouragement from his parents will persuade Tyler to embrace the change – even the new family dog can’t remove his loneliness. Enter a strange and skinny girl called Spider, who Tyler meets at the local lido and through whom he learns what having a home really means.

Totally absorbing, Tyler’s voice echoes throughout the engaging narrative, drawing you in to his world of frustration and ever increasing desire to help Spider, no matter what the cost.  Sofa Surfer shines a light on the reality of homelessness, family ties and what empathy in action really looks like. You cannot fail to be moved by Spider’s situation and Tyler’s response, nor the prejudice shown by so many that readers will all recognise. I loved the added plot twist showing Spider getting the help she needs from someone who themselves had been given a second chance. Sofa Surfer is a simply a really great read – one I’d highly recommend for all young people aged 12+ (and older people too!).

 

With thanks to Zephyr for sending me a proof copy for review.9781786697660

Find out more at www.malcolmduffy.com and follow the author on Twitter @malcolmduffyUK. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour:

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Guest blog: The Heart of Humour by author Kate Scott

I am delighted to welcome to the blog author Kate Scott, whose books Giant and Just Jack are two fabulous examples of funny books for children. Both stories explore important themes through humour and are hugely entertaining, but full of heart.  Kate is sharing today why she thinks funny books are one of the best ways to engage children in stories.

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Book of the Month: Fabio The World’s Greatest Flamingo Detective: The Case of the Missing Hippo by Laura James

book of the monthWhat a gorgeous book!  I opened the package from Bloomsbury and out fell this fabulous illustrated chapter book.  You can’t help but fall in love with Fabio the flamingo, a brand new character from author Laura James (who writes the Adventures of Pug series) with fabulous illustrations by Emily Fox!

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Fabio The World’s Greatest Flamingo Detective: The Case of the Missing Hippo by Laura James, illustrated by Emily Fox

Fabio, the world’s greatest flamingo detective, just wants to sit on the veranda of the Hotel Royale and drink pink lemonade, not judge the local talent show.  But when Julia the jazz-singing hippo disappears from the stage, Fabio knows he’s been served a tall, refreshing glass of crime.

This first story in the series sees Fabio the flamingo on the case of finding a missing hippo of all things.  Having been roped into judging the local talent contest, Fabio uses his detective skills to find out just who is behind the disappearance, all the while hearing the many and varied talents of the local residents of Lake Laloozee!  Aided by his somewhat hapless assistant, a giraffe called Gilbert who loves to be helpful and put on a disguise, Fabio cleverly weaves his way through the suspects to find out who kidnapped the star-songstress Julia.  It seems nearly everyone has a motive, but Fabio is not one to give up easily and notices everything – after all he’s the world’s greatest flamingo detective!

I thoroughly enjoyed this story, which had echoes of many of my favourite detective novels.  A convincing setting; a fantastic cast of characters from moody hotel owner Smith the vulture to the fabulous jazz band trio of crocodiles Kevin, Delilah and Tiny Bob; and plenty of suspects – this read like an Agatha Christie for kids! The imaginative plot will keep young readers guessing and laughing out loud; especially where Gilbert the Giraffe is concerned.  I absolutely loved the artwork and three colour illustrations throughout, bringing to life the animals and their various personalities. Fabio, of course, is the favourite – who knew a flamingo could be so suave and sophisticated?! The culprit is of course caught but it’s a suitably happy ending with the world’s greatest detective in charge! I absolutely cannot wait for the next adventure and am sure this series will be a hit with young readers far and wide.

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Find out more at www.laurajamesauthor.com and www.emilyafox.co.uk.

With thanks to Bloomsbury for sending me this book to review!

 

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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New reviews: Beautiful picture books to warm the heart..!

 

What could be better on a cold winter’s day than two beautiful picture books to warm the heart?  Old Barn Books publish some stunning titles and these two are no exception, both having been nominated for the 2018 Kate Greenaway Medal.  They would make lovely gifts for little ones and budding readers to enjoy.

 

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Pea Pod Lullaby by Glenda Millard illustrated by Stephen Michael King.

This is a beautiful lyrical lullaby putting into a very few words just how important we can be to each other, especially during times of great need. A family – mother, baby, boy and dog – are escaping danger across the sea in a tiny boat, through wind and rain.

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During their journey they come across a stranded polar bear, who too needs help. Together they cross the ocean and eventually both the family and the polar bear find a place of safety.

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The stunning illustrations depict the many wondrous ways we can help each other – shelter, reassurance, food, light, acceptance, love.  The words are perfectly and lovingly placed to appear just at the right moment as your eyes travel over the pages. Pea Pod Lullaby is a wonderful example of how words and pictures can effortlessly communicate a truly heartfelt message – a message that can speak to any and every situation where we might find ourselves in need.

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Storm Whale by Sarah Brennan illustrated by Jane Tanner

A beautifully illustrated exhilarating tale, Storm Whale tells of three sisters who visit the beach one windy day and find a whale washed up on the shore.  Their family day at the seaside is transformed; they battle the wind and waves all day to save the whale seemingly to no avail. As night closes in, they have no choice but to return home.  In the morning they rush to the beach only to find no sign of the stranded whale….for with their help and the power of the storm, he has returned to the sea.

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The poetic narrative in Storm Whale reads like an ancient tale and captures the enormity of the task in front of the girls, from which they do not falter. Amazing scenic illustrations, each like a canvas in its own right, bring to life the wildness of the sea, the sound of the wind, the awe of waves and the bravery of the three sisters.

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There is something other worldly about the sea and the creatures who live in it and Storm Whale creates a wonderful connection between ‘our’ world and theirs.   It also depicts a sense of family and warmth between the sisters which I loved.  Despite the danger and the incredible force of nature, their bravery and determination wins through, showing how even though a problem may seem insurmountable it is possible to make a difference.

Both of these picture books would be a wonderful addition to any bookshelf to be enjoyed by readers young and old!

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

Find out more at: 

https://sarahbrennanblog.com/category/storm-whale/

http://www.janetanner.com.au/Home.html

https://glendamillard.com/

https://www.stephenmichaelking.com/books/

 

 

 

 

 

Guest blog: James Brown, illustrator of Al’s Awesome Science.

How many times have you opened a book and marvelled at the illustrations inside?  I often do and feel somewhat envious of someone who can pick up a pencil, pen or paintbrush and create a little bit of magic, bringing to life an authors’ words! AAS_CVR_WEB

James Brown is just such a person and his delightful illustrations in Al’s Awesome Science: Egg-speriments! written by Jane Clarke demonstrate how words and pictures work together to capture the imagination.

Today on the blog, James is sharing his experiences of working on Al’s Awesome Science and insight into his illustration techniques. Welcome to the blog James!

 

“Pictures don’t just trigger the imagination, they fire it up. And in particular for the Al’s Awesome Science series, which features lots of science experiments for young readers to try at home, it was important to get things ‘spot on’. How else could readers give the experiments a go? I think that’s what drew me most to it – the buoyancy, the action and how to convey this visually to readers.

I remember as a child being a bit disappointed when images were repeated in books or when there were insufficient drawings. Al’s Awesome Science is filled with pictures of all the key hilarious moments in the story, but the series also allows for the ‘extras’ – awesome facts and experiments – the refreshing bits and bobs which the designer Becky places so quirkily throughout each book. I admit the experiment pages bring out the kid in me. I like doing them snappily, like I used to do in my homework diary at school. I was forever doodling. I used to Tipp-Ex the inside lid of my pencil case and draw repeatedly on it. Once it was filled, I’d blob over it and start again. If it was a caricature of the teacher I could always hide the evidence!

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When I’m out and about, especially on trains, I love using sketchbooks. I’ve got lots of Moleskin ones, a different colour per project. But, I confess that, in the main, when I’m working up an idea, character or spread, I use everyday plain A4 white paper – and reams of it!  Squiggle, scratch, swirl, sweep. I’m not sure how many other illustrators do this, but I also enjoy sketching in biro first. It’s all about getting the right shape and movement – those ‘unprecious’ sketches and scorings loosen up my initial drawings. Now I understand why editors always jump to the back of portfolios to find the sketchy stuff!

 

Then, from this sketchy beginning, I start refining, trying to retain some of that initial energy. I think that’s why my other favourite stage is watercolour (which I save ‘til last). No matter how adept you might think you are, watercolour has its own mind and it can sometimes surprise you. Often the happy accidents are the ones that add more character, either to clothing or backgrounds.

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Using my lightbox really helps to overlay and position. I do less-rough roughs on my iPad, using Procreate, then crayon, watercolour and gouache for the finals. I always aim to do the final artwork in character batches, for continuity, and have whole afternoons or evenings on just one person. You really get to ‘know’ them that way!

Sometimes characters pop up first time around. Einstein, for instance, is very similar to the first sketch I drew. I was given free rein, which is always exciting. I knew he had to be big, hairy and animated. Immediately I thought of THE Einstein and gave him a big, bushy moustache and scraggly hair. The lolling tongue and sideways eyes gave him just the look I was after. Mr Boffin is basically me (if I ate my spinach, drank umpteen protein shakes and actually went to the gym, that is). Mrs Good is a take on my mum (sorry, Mum!). But Mr Good, who was a little portly at first, took a bit of slimming down… The twins Lottie and Al were a little too old at first but soon lost a couple of years.

The freedom to try things out has been the most splendid aspect of illustrating this series. It’s very much a two-way conversation between me and the creative team. We always bounce ideas back and forth! I think flexibility and being open to ideas is important. My editor Natascha even sends me videos of her son doing the experiments! Then, BINGO! I can picture it and so too (hopefully) can the young scientists reading it with their own sketches and diagrams and oodles of doodles.

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Al’s Awesome Science: Egg-speriments! by Jane Clarke, illustrated by James Brown is out now, £6.99 paperback (published by Five Quills). Look out for more fun and experiments with Al and Lottie in book two, Splash Down!, coming spring 2018!

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With thanks to Catherine Ward and Five Quills for sending me this book to review. Find out more about the illustrator at www.jamesbrownillustration.com.