Tag Archives: Middle Grade Fiction

New reviews: A little middle-grade magic – great books for Christmas!

Today I’m sharing some middle-grade magic in the shape of fantastic books for middle-grade readers that I’ve enjoyed in recent months – all of which would make great Christmas gifts!

The Peculiar Thing with the Pea by Kaye Umansky illustrated by Claire Powell is a fantastic retelling of The Princess and the Pea. Prince Pete has no interest in getting married, after all he’s only 11! But his mother the Queen has other ideas and soon she’s putting her tried and tested method of using a pea to discover if Patsy really is the Princess she claims to be. An accessible read with lively illustrations, this story will have children laughing-out-loud and no doubt joining in with some of the eye-rolling at the embarrassing-mum moments! Published by Barrington Stoke, find out more The Peculiar Thing with the Pea – Barrington Stoke

Lori and Max and the Book Thieves by Catherine O’Flynn is the second in the series featuring two school friends who have a penchant for solving mysteries! Warm-hearted and thoroughly enjoyable, this story sees Lori and Max solving several mysteries with a priceless book at the heart of the equation. Not just a mystery story though, there are layers of emotion as Lori and Max deal with multiple real-life issues and use all their determination and the power of their friendship to find the solutions. A standalone adventure, this is a great addition to the series. Published by Firefly Press, find out more Lori and Max and the Book Thieves | Firefly Press

The Marvellous Land of Snergs by Veronica Cossanteli illustrated by Melissa Castrillon is a total delight! A forgotten classic first published in 1927, the story has been brought back to life with the support of the family of the the original author E.A Wyke-Smith. Pip and Flora, running away from a Children’s Home, stumble into the Marvellous Land of the Snergs – a magical world of cinnamon bears and incredible feasts alongside vegan ogres, dastardly Kelps and a purple-wearing villain. Enter Gorbo, a lovable snerg who proves to be Pip and Flora’s only friend. But can he help them find their way home? A fabulous adventure ensues, full of everything you would expect from the story that is said to have inspired J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Marvellous by name, marvellous by nature, this totally deserves it’s place as a classic and will surely find it’s way into the hearts of a new generation of readers. Published by Chicken House, find out more Chicken House Books – Marvellous Land of Snergs

Little Badman and the Time-Travelling Teacher of Doom by Humza Arshad and Henry White, illustrated by Aleksei Bitskoff sees the return of the wannabe rapper, Humza aka Little Badman and his best friend Umer. This time they have been sent away to summer school in Pakistan, and something strange is going on. Humza is convinced there’s a sinister plot and given recent experiences with Alien Aunties, perhaps he’s right! Guaranteed mayhem and chaos, hilarious observations and a huge helping of laugh-out-loud humour; if you are looking for a funny book for the middle-grade readers in your life, then Little Badman is it! Published by Puffin, find out more Little Badman and the Time-travelling Teacher of Doom (penguin.co.uk) Read my review of Little Badman’s first outing here.

Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre retold by Tanya Landman brings two classics of English literature to a new audience, in these accessible retellings. The Carnegie Medal-winning author uses her critically acclaimed writing talents to take both these stories to new heights, accentuating key elements and scenes into a more concise format. The stories lose none of their timelessness nor any of the power of the characters they portray. Both of these titles would be a great way to introduce the classics to a new generation of readers in an accessible format, giving the stories a new lease of life. Published by Barrington Stoke, find out more Wuthering Heights: A Retelling by Tanya Landman – Barrington Stoke

Trouble in a Tutu by Helen Lipscombe is the sequel to the critically acclaimed Peril en Pointe (review here) and returns to the Swan House Ballet School – a secret spy training school! This time, Milly must investigate a dangerous trickster in the shape of the ‘Mouse King’ as he threatens the safety of everyone at the school. Milly has to contend with suspects all around, making sure her jealously of a new arrival doesn’t blind her investigations. Full of adventure and themes of friendship at it’s heart, this is middle-grade espionage at it’s best, perfectly combining the art of ballet with the world of spies! Published by Chicken House, find out more Chicken House Books – Trouble in a Tutu

With thanks to Barrington Stoke, Chicken House, Firefly Press and Puffin Books for sending me these books to review.

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.

New reviews: Fabulous Fantasy Fiction (with a bit of sci-fi too!)

I realised as I was planning some middle-grade reviews, that a whole host of them were fantasy and or sci-fi based. So today I’m sharing five of the best I’ve read in recent weeks, available now (and would make great gifts for the middle-grade readers in your life!)

The Ten Riddles of Eartha Quicksmith by Loris Owen has an intriguing title and equally intriguing plot. A debut middle-grade novel and the first in a new series, this is an exciting race-against-time adventure telling the story of Kip Bramley and the Quicksmiths College of Strange Energy. Kip receives an invitation to join the College and finds himself drawn into a world of chasing riddles and solving puzzles to find the mysterious Ark of Ideas. Dark forces are working against Kip and his friends, with a combination of science and magic creating a thrilling adventure. The Ten Riddles of Eartha Quicksmith is totally inventive and utterly entertaining, and is very likely to be the next BIG series on your bookshelf! Published by Firefly Press with a dedicated website at www.quicksmiths.com

The Griffin Gate by Vashti Hardy has all the hallmarks of Vashti’s signature steampunk, fantasy style and atmospheric illustrations by Natalie Smillie. Featuring the story of Grace, whose family are wardens of the Griffin map invented by her Grandmother, and use it’s teleport technology to protect the people of Moreland. Grace, a brave and determined heroine, can’t join them on their missions yet as she is too young but one day, responds to a distress call and finds herself transported to a remote village, where treachery seems afoot! With her mechanical bird Watson by her side, Grace courageously embraces the adventure and readers are treated to an exciting tale, full of fantastic characters, set in a world they’ll wish they could visit! Published by Barrington Stoke, this is first in the series and a dyslexia-friendly, accessible read.

The Thing in Black Hole Lake by Dashe Roberts is the second book in this fast-paced sci-fi series, set against the backdrop of the strange town of Sticky Pines. After the events of The Bigwoof Conspiracy the two central characters, Lucy and Milo, are no longer friends. But this doesn’t stop them being drawn into another sinister adventure together, when Milo discovers a frightening creature at Black Hole Lake whilst on a trip with his father. With Lucy continuing to investigate the strange history of Sticky Pines and Milo trying to find out just what lurks beneath the water, they’re bound to need each other’s help! The question is, will they realise how important friends really are and rekindle their friendship? A perfect balance of weird, scary and mysterious with lots of humour to lighten the mood, this adventure will have you laughing out loud and gripping the edge of your seat! Move over Mulder and Scully, the new kids are on the block! Published by Nosy Crow.

Donut the Destroyer by Sarah Graley and Stef Purenins is a lively graphic novel with an unlikely heroine at its heart, who lives in a world where everyone is born with a special ability which they can choose to use for good or evil. Donut is an unlikely heroine, because she’s is born into an infamous family of villains – the Destroyers! But unlike the rest of her family, she wants to use her powers for good, much to the annoyance of her best friend, Ivy. And when Donut enrols in the Lionheart School for Heroes, Ivy is determined to persuade Donut to change her mind – no matter what. Even if it means using her villain powers against Donut and her new friends! Fun, full of humour and super-heroic deeds with some nasty villains thrown in, this is a great read for graphic novel and fantasy fans and will leave you with a big smile on your face. Published by Scholastic.

My Life As A Cat by Carlie Sorosiak is the brilliant, heart-warming tale of Leonard, a 300 year old alien who mistakenly ends up in the body of a cat. He should have been a park ranger! All aliens from his home galaxy get the opportunity to spend a month in the body of an Earth creature. But something goes wrong and Leonard ends up as a cat. Miles from where he needs to be to get home, Leonard is adopted by a young girl, Olive, who is a little lost herself. Together, they embark on a journey of discovery and soon find out what is means to be human, the reality of true friendship and just how precious life is, even when you feel (or are) out of place! Leonard is a wonderful protagonist and his cat-behaviour is absolutely spot-on. A delightful, funny and well-observed story, My Life As A Cat has wonderfully positive messages about what home really means. Published by Nosy Crow.

With thanks to Barrington Stoke, Firefly Press, Nosy Crow and Scholastic for sending me these books to read and review. They will be going to very good homes via my local food bank.

BLOG TOUR: Moonchild: Voyage of the Lost and Found by Aisha Bushby illustrated by Rachael Dean

It’s the final stop on the blog tour for the first in a magical new middle-grade series, inspired by the Arabian Nights. Beautifully told and full of imagination, Moonchild: Voyage of the Lost and Found by Aisha Bushby illustrated by Rachael Dean will transport you to a world of wonder!

We all have our stories. And if we feed them, some may grow all the way to the moon…..Magic has always been part of twelve-year old Amira’s life, even though her world frowns on it. When a mysterious storm begins to rage and Amira’s magical cat companion goes missing, she decides to set sail. An extraordinary adventure awaits – one that will change Amira’s life forever…..

Aisha lives on board a dhow with her sea witch mothers and her jinn, a magical cat called Namur. They only visit the land to make their living selling tonics in the souks and buy supplies. Amira has spent all her life at sea so when her mothers tell her she is old enough to go to the souk, she cannot wait. Amira’s magical ability – to read people’s emotions through her sense of smell – is somewhat overwhelmed as she navigates the stalls and helps her mother. Little does she know a chance encounter with a boy called Leo, who also has a jinn in the form of a magical goldfish, will start to unravel the mysteries Amira has been pondering. Not least why Namur, who usually only appears when Amira is angry, has been visible ever since a dangerous storm arrived on the Sahir Penninsula. So begins the most marvellous but dangerous adventure, leading Amira to discover the truth about her magic and rescue her beloved jinn.

Moonchild: Voyage of the Lost and Found is a captivating tale, drawing you in to Amira’s world. Magic and mystery abounds with each page a discovery in itself, featuring beautiful descriptions, heartfelt emotions and fantastic characters. The use of emotions and how we deal with them is present throughout, shining a light on the importance of accepting how we feel. I loved the Arabian Nights-inspired narration and invitations to accompany Amira as she embarks on her quest to find her jinn and the truth she so desperately seeks. Each character has a story to tell, embedding a sense of myth throughout and the narrative cleverly intertwines these stories to create a tapestry of adventure.  Accompanied by wonderful illustrations bringing Amira and her world to life, Moonchild will transport you to a place so full of enchantment you won’t want to leave!

With thanks to Egmont for sending me this book to review and inviting me to participate in this blog tour. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour!

BLOG TOUR: Return to Roar by Jenny McLachlan illustrated by Ben Mantle

Come and join a marvellous adventure in Return to Roar! Today is the final stop on the blog tour for this brilliant new book by Jenny MacLachlan and illustrated by Ben Mantle, taking us back to the Land of Roar with twins Rose and Arthur. It’s not always that a sequel is as good as the first in a series, but this one definitely is – you will not be disappointed! I’m delighted to share my review and even more excited to share a Q & A with author Jenny McLachlan!

Twins Rose and Arthur are so excited to be going back to Roar, their magical world of dragons, ninja wizards and anything else they can imagine! But then the twins receive a message from arch-enemy Crowky. WHAT’S IN THE BOX? The Box contains the things that scare the twins the most. If Crowky gets hold of it, he could use it to conjure up Rose and Arthur’s worst nightmares and destroy Roar….FOREVER.

In Return to Roar, Rose and Arthur are spending half term with their Grandad – at least that’s what their parents think! But Grandad knows better and he’s more than happy for the twins to ‘stay’ with him and travel back to Roar through the magic portal – the Z-bed in the attic! Little do they know, there’s an even bigger adventure than last time awaiting them – bigger than flying on dragons, catching unicorns and swimming with merfolk. Before they know it, Rose and Arthur are doing battle again with evil villain, a terrifying scarecrow called Crowky, who is determined to destroy Roar forever! Rose, Arthur and their friends, Wininja the wizard and Mitch the Mermaid must travel to The End and find The Box before Crowky – and a new fearsome villain – wreaks havoc on their imaginary world – and their home too!

Return to Roar is a storytelling delight, celebrating the wonder of imagination and the power of friendship. With great character development, brilliant new faces to meet and places to visit, along with some really heart-warming themes, it makes a fantastic sequel to Land of Roar (review here). Rose and Arthur have become closer now they’re a bit older and their support for each other – with a bit of healthy sibling rivalry – is great to see. The inhabitants of Roar are fantastic and make you want to join the fun. In amongst the adventure and excitement, there is a subtle theme of how to deal with bullies running through the narrative and some really wonderful moments of compassion and kindness. All in all, Return to Roar is a wonderful read, with brilliant illustrations throughout capturing the action. If I were you, I’d get your hands on a copy now – don’t miss your chance to visit Roar!

Jenny McLachlan was kind enough to share some insights into writing Return to Roar so read on to find out more!

How did you find travelling back to Roar?! Was it more difficult than the first visit?It was actually! I had no problem describing Roar and stepping back into Arthur’s shoes, and it was absolutely brilliant meeting Win and Grandad again, but there is quite a lot going on in the plot: Rose has a secret, the children go on a treasure hunt across Roar, and I introduce two new characters. It’s all go!

There’s some fantastic new places to visit and characters to meet in Return to Roar. What was your inspiration for them? ike ALrthur, I’m a big fan of Frozen Planet and this inspired The End. I’ve got a beautifully illustrated book that accompanied David Attenborough’s series and I spent a lot of time gazing at it! Mitch is inspired by lots of my favourite females: my daughters, my sister, my mum. She was probably the character that appeared most fully formed in my head. Some characters require a bit of work, others seem to have always existed. Mitch was just waiting to be written down. In fact, she was originally in The Land of Roar – I think I was very keen to include her! – but I took her out to save for the sequel.

Crowky is back and badder than ever – he makes a great villain and surely belongs in the children’s fiction villains’ hall of fame! Who is/are your favourite villain(s) in children’s fiction? I really love properly scary villains. I think my favourite villain in children’s fiction is probably Miss Trunchball. I took my daughters to watch the musical Matilda! when my youngest was only six. You should have seen her face when Miss Trunchball appeared! It was touch and go for a moment, and I wondered if we were going to have to make a speedy exit, but she wasn’t going anywhere! I found Moon-Face in The Far-Away Tree very scary, although I don’t think he was supposed to be. I wonder if he inspired Crowky…

I love Mitch the Mermaid – what a great character – (who also happens to have lots of tattoos)! If you were going to have any tattoos what would it be and why? Writing Return to Roar did involve a fair amount of tattoo Googling so I have given this some thought! I would have a beautiful fox somewhere I could always see it – my arm? I love foxes. I did wonder if I could ever get Mitch’s map tattoo . . . it’s quite big though. I don’t think I’m brave enough!

You draw on Rose’s experiences with her school friends – and you show real compassion in her actions right at the end. Why did you include this theme in the story and what do you hope readers will draw from it? I, like a lot of people, experienced some bullying at school. When it happens it’s absolutely terrifying. I can completely understand why it would scare Rose so much, and also why she would keep it a secret from Arthur. I really didn’t enjoy the first three years at secondary school. It felt like an unsafe place. Some days, I felt like Rose did when she was being chased by Hati. It’s very difficult to stand up to bullies. I didn’t want to offer a glib solution to Rose’s problems, but I did want her to, ultimately, triumph. If there is one thing I would like readers to draw from Rose’s experience it would be to start listening to that voice inside. The one that, when you know you are being spoken to unkindly, says, this isn’t right, and rather than keeping quiet about it, speaks out.

Thank you for participating and I cannot wait to read Book 3!

Find out more at https://jennymclachlan.com/ and https://www.benmantle.co.uk/.

With thanks to Egmont for inviting me to participate in this blog tour and sending me this book to review. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour!