Tag Archives: Middle grade

BLOG TOUR: The Last Monster by Dan Walker

Hold on to your hats for an electrifying new adventure by author Dan Walker, The Last Monster, sequel to the equally electrifying , The Light Hunters, both published by UClan Publishing . I’m kicking off the blog tour with a guest post by author Dan, focused on what made him want to write!

The Last Monster by Dan Walker

The Light Hunters have fought Monsters for centuries and Squad Juno are the very best at it. From cities to villages, the young group’s abilities are on show for all to see now that their powers don’t have to be used in secret. Every victory they have prevents a Monster from taking more victims, preventing more loss. Lux Dowd, Squad Juno’s healer, has had more than enough loss… But a more immediate loss is that of his powers. Lux can’t – or won’t – heal his teammates. Whenever he tries, a terrible energy comes from within and hurts the people around him. Lux can’t afford to lose anymore of those he cares about. Sent on a mission that could end their war against the Monsters, the Light Hunters soon find themselves making new allies in their quest to unearth an Ancient secret that may be able to stop the attacks. Could this really be the last monster they fight?

Get ready to enter a world of Light, Shade and monsters with Squad Juno as they battle not just the huge creatures that threaten their world, but also their own problems – not least Lux’s inability to control his evolving powers. The Last Monster picks up where The Light Hunters left off, so beginning another enthralling adventure, with action aplenty and new characters to add to the plot, which twists and turns throughout. With themes of teamwork and friendship, not only is this a great middle-grade fantasy adventure, but readers will relate to many of the things Lux and his friends face (apart from the monsters!!).

I’m delighted to share a guest post from author Dan Walker, talking about the reason he writes. Welcome to the blog Dan!

“As a children’s author, a big part of our job is visiting schools and talking to young people about our love of reading and writing.

A question that comes up again and again during these events is the following: What made you want to become an author?

It’s a tough one to answer in many ways. If you want to be a Police Officer, it’s easy. ‘My mum is one.’ ‘I want to be like the people who brought my bike back to me.’ But an author? We’re always reading books (hopefully!) so it’s difficult to pinpoint precisely which one or which author inspired us.

When I think back, I think if I had to narrow it down, my wish to be an author was born when I was fourteen years old. I was lucky enough to have been invited on holiday with my best friend at the time to Ibiza. The sun was shining, the food was nice, and the people were lovely. (I won’t mention here the day in the first week when I fell into the swimming pool fully clothed to a rousing cheer from all of the people nearby!)

It was during the second week, when I fell a little ill and had to stay in my bed in the hotel for a day, when my best friend’s auntie lent me a book. It was a science-fiction book called Red Mars, by an author that I still love to this day, Kim Stanley Robinson.

I lay on my bed, reading this 700 page book, absolutely engrossed to find out how a group of 100 scientists who’d been sent to Mars were going to survive. How would they make food? Get water? Would they drive each other crazy?

I finished the book by the end of the holiday, and when I got back to the UK, I brought the next one, and the next, and read them within a week.

And it was after finishing that series, and thinking of how much fun I had in that world, that I first started to think of how great it would be to make the worlds up yourself.

It was five long years before I actually had a go at writing my own book, but I can trace that fledgling attempt to that hotel room back in Ibiza.

Message? If someone gives you a book, read it. You never know where it might take you.”

Find out more at www.uclanpublishing.com and follow the rest of the tour here:

. With thanks to Uclan Publishing for inviting me to participate in this blog tour.

BLOG TOUR: Wolfbane by Michelle Paver

Today I’m hosting the final stop on the blog tour for Michelle Paver’s new novel, Wolfbane published by Zephyr Books, the grand-finale in the legendary Wolf Brother Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series. The Stone Age adventures have been read by three million readers worldwide and I’m sure many of them will be waiting with bated breath to find out what happens to Wolf, Torak and Renn.

The end of winter is a perilous time when ice rots and frozen rivers awake. Wolf finds himself adrift at Sea, far from his pack and hunted by an ice demon bent on devouring his souls. While Wolf battles hunger, loneliness and the monsters of the deep, Torak and Renn must find him before the demon can – or lose their beloved pack-brother forever…

Gripping from the first page, Wolfbane is a stunning conclusion to an incredible series that spans eighteen years! Over that time, author Michelle has created an immersive and breath-taking world, bringing to life an ancient time every reader should visit.

As Torak and Renn race against time to find Wolf, not only must they battle the demon, they must face rival clans and the immense and terrifying power of nature itself, before it’s too late. The thrilling narrative sweeps you straight back into the story, with edge-of-your-seat action alongside heartfelt moments between the characters, that shine a light on the themes of friendship and loyalty. A fitting end to a fantastic series, Michelle Paver has crafted another brilliant story in this middle-grade series that generations of readers to come are sure to enjoy!

Share your memories of the Wolf Brother series on the author’s website here and follow her on Twitter or Instagram. Read my review of another title in the series, Viper’s Daughter here.

With thanks to Zephyr Books for sending me this book to read and review. Find out more on the rest of the blog tour:

New reviews: Middle-Grade catch-up!

It’s been an amazing start to the year for children’s books; so many brilliant titles to read and such an abundance of choice for young readers! Here’s a snapshot of the middle-grade books I’ve enjoyed over the last few months which I recommend you add to your bookshelf, classrooms, school libraries and general TBR pile!

Starfell: Willow Moss and the Magic Thief by Dominique Valente illustrated by Sarah Warburton is the fourth book in the Starfell series, which has proved totally charming with a delightful and determined heroine at it’s heart. With themes of kindness, resilience and equality, in this final story we see Willow seeking to restore her magic so she can defeat Silas, the evil wizard determined to steal all magic for himself. Expect an exciting adventure full of humour and the characters we’ve come to know and love, with some new ones to add to the magic! A great read. Published by HarperCollins (Age 8+).

Max Counts to A Million by Jeremy Williams is the heart-warming story of one boy’s experience of lockdown and reflects much that we can all relate too, young or old. Max, in a fit of anger, decides to count to a million rather than the 100 his mum suggests to help him calm down. This leads to more than just a calming-down exercise, as we see how one child attempts to control the world around him as the pandemic ensues. I love the premise behind this story – one Dad’s desire to capture the extraordinary period we have all been through from a child’s perspective. Written in just two weeks, the resulting tale is warm, funny, moving and shows just how courageous we have all been in just keeping going. Published by Nosy Crow (Age 7+).

Rainbow Grey Eye of the Storm by Laura Ellen Anderson creates a wonderful world of imagination, as we enter the second story in this fantastic series. Ray is learning to master her magic, despite things not always going to plan! Readers are drawn into another colourful adventure, with equally colourful characters, as Ray realises there is something dark behind the disappearing cloud creatures. Magic abounds as Ray seeks to prove her innocence, and once you get to know the wonderful cloud-cat again, Nim and a whole host of others, you’ll want to visit The Weatherlands every day. An absolute treat of a story! Published by Farshore (Age 7+).

How to Steal the Mona Lisa by Bethany Walker illustrated by Jack Noel is cleverly told through all manner of written communications (think texts, emails, blogs, coded messages and so on) as Mia and her former best friend Jake attempt to solve the mystery of the Mona Lisa, missing for 200 years, win the £25m reward and save the art department in their school! With strange behaviour by teachers at school, and Mia’s parents at home, there’s more than meets the eye in this uniquely told tale. A celebration of the importance of art in our lives, there’s laughs galore, a lovely relationship between Mia and her Granny, as well as a BIG twist at the end. Confident readers will love How to Steal the Mona Lisa. Published by Scholastic (Age 8+).

The Girl Who Lost a Leopard by Nizrana Farook takes readers back to the beautiful land of Serendib, where Selvi loves to run free in the mountains, just like Lokka, a wild and beautiful leopard. For animal lovers everywhere, this story will delight and hold readers spellbound, as Selvi and Lokka build a bond of friendship and battle against evil hunters. An opportunity to explore themes of conservation, as well as the connection between humans and animals, The Girl Who Lost a Leopard is a richly drawn adventure to be enjoyed by all! Published by Nosy Crow (Age 9+)

Carnival of the Lost by Kieran Larwood illustrated by Sam Usher brings to life an atmospheric, marvellously creepy, Victorian-inspired London and a host of fantastic characters who perform in a Carnival. This story will hold readers in awe, as mystery seeps from the page when no-one but the Carnival Troupe is interested in helping discover where vanishing, poverty-stricken children have gone. Expect the unexpected with a brilliantly written narrative, which includes fascinating historical detail about the period throughout and wonderfully drawn illustrations. It’s definitely time you found the Carnival of the Lost! Published by Faber (Age 9+).

With thanks to all the publishers for sending me these books to review. They will find new homes via my local foodbank.

New reviews: Festive reads for the holidays!

There is a plethora of new children’s books to choose from for festive reading. In addition to Christmas classics like The Night Before Christmas, A Christmas Carol or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe the following stories are sure to delight and entertain over the holidays.

Picture Books

Santa’s New Sleigh by Caroline Crowe and Jess Pauwels takes you on a delightful colourful, rhyming ride, as Santa’s sleigh breaks down and all the elves must come together to try and save Christmas! They try everything from skiing to polar bears to no avail. But one little elf has the right idea and soon Santa is able to take to the skies and bring Christmas to everyone. Festive fun abounds with lively, humourous illustrations bringing it all to life. Published by Faber.

Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam in Santa’s Stolen Sleigh by Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton is another fun-filled Santa story, but this time it’s the elves who are in trouble as they come down with spots and can’t finish getting the presents ready! Luckily, baking duo Shifty and Sam are on hand to help Santa, along with a very naughty polar bear who just wants to fly the sleigh. Watch out for some magical mix-ups as baking ingredients are mistaken for flying dust! A sweet treat for everyone to enjoy at Christmas time. Published by Nosy Crow.

The Christmas Pine by Julia Donaldson and Victoria Sandøy is a magical picture book following the story of a little tree with a very special destiny. Based on the true story of how we come to have a Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square, this utterly delightful tale is full of nostalgia and the magic of Christmas. With a mesmerising rhyming narrative and Beautifully drawn atmospheric illustrations, The Christmas Pine is sure to be a classic for years to come. Published by Alison Green Books.

Middle Grade

Wishyouwas The Tiny Guardian of Lost Letters by Alexandra Page illustrated by Penny Neville-Lee is another story destined for classic status! This timeless tale transports you to a secret underground world full of magic and wonder, as we discover Wishyouwas, a Sorter who makes sure lost letters reach their destinations. With a brave heroine in Penny Black and beautifully described world of postboxes and pens, Wishyouwas is a charming adventure, perfect for Christmas time. You’ll never look at a postbox in the same way again! Published by Bloomsbury .

A Secret in Time by Sally Nichols is the fourth adventure in this highly enjoyable time-slip series. This time brother and sister, Alex and Ruby, head back to the winter of 1947 through the magic mirror in their Aunt’s house. There, they meet the harsh reality of life after World War 2 and have to solve a mystery involving a missing family heirloom. Adventure abounds and historical detail brilliantly brings the time period to life for young middle-grade readers, creating a wintry story for readers to escape in. Published by Nosy Crow.

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

The Christmas Carrolls by Mel Taylor-Bessent and illustrated by Selom Sunu is this year’s ultimate festive read, spreading much-needed Christmas cheer through every page! Holly Christmas and her family celebrate Christmas every day, which is fine until Holly starts a new school. Little does she realise the challenges that await her as she dons her Santa backpack and ready’s herself to share Christmas carols – in September! Discover the power of true Christmas spirit and kindness, in a story that is bursting with festive fun, as Holly battles to save her own Christmas cheer and that of her school’s too. Perfect for everyone who loves Christmas – and those who don’t too! Published by Farshore.

With thanks to Alison Green Books, Bloomsbury, Faber, Farshore and Nosy Crow for sending me these books to review. They will be donated to my local foodbank in time for Christmas!

New review: The Book of Stolen Dreams by David Farr

Inspired by a true story of loss, love and hope, The Book of Stolen Dreams is leading screenwriter and director David Farr’s first novel for children. Published by Usborne, The Book of Stolen Dreams takes you an exhilarating adventure from start to finish.

The Book of Stolen Dreams by David Farr

When Rachel and Robert are passed a stolen book by their librarian father, they have to go on the run and protect it at all costs. With their father captured and everyone hunting for the Book, they must uncover its secrets and track down the final, missing page. But the cruel and calculating Charles Malstain is on their trail. When the children discover the astonishing, magical truth about the Book, they resolve to do everything in their power to stop it falling into his hands. For if it does, he could rule forever.

Set in the fictional world of Krasnia, a land once filled with life and laughter, The Book of Stolen Dreams is a timeless tale which highlights the all-too-real plight of people who live under a dictator’s rule. With echoes of Nazi Germany and more recent persecutions in places like Afghanistan, the Klein children are determined not to fail their father’s request to hide the Book. The thrilling narrative reveals the truth about their task and the implications if they should not succeed; for the Book is a door to the dead and grants the power of immortality to whomever knows it’s secrets. In a race against time, the cast of characters enthral, entertain and terrify in equal measure, and Rachel and Robert must summon all their courage as they try and escape the clutches of Malstain’s evil henchmen.

A truly magnificent adventure, inspired by the author’s own German-Jewish grandparents who helped their children escape Nazi Germany in the Second World War, you cannot fail to be drawn into a world of intrigue and imagination. The final page promises another adventure from the world of David Farr soon – I am looking forward to it already!

Find out more at www.usborne.com. With thanks to Usborne for sending me this proof copy to review.