Tag Archives: Middle grade

BLOG TOUR: Viper’s Daughter by Michelle Paver

Viper's Daughter Blog Tour BannerIt is hugely exciting to be hosting today’s stop on the Viper Daughter’s blog tour, the brand new story in the Wolf Brother series by award-winning author Michelle Paver published by Zephyr, an imprint of Head of Zeus. Today I’m sharing an exclusive extract from the book to give you a glimpse into the story!

Viper’s Daughter is the seventh book in the series which began with the award-winning and million-copy selling title, Wolf Brother. The story continues the adventures of a fantastic cast of characters against the backdrop of the Stone-Age complete with ancient clans, mystic magic and woolly mammoths! Constantly in demand in the school libraries I worked in, I can imagine a whole legion of fans will be delighted to see Torak, Renn and Wolf in print again. Not only this, but readers will also be excited to hear that Wolf Brother is to be made into a T.V series too – see here for more details.

Viper's Daughter copy

For two summers, Torak and Renn have been living in the Forest with their faithful pack-brother, Wolf. But their happiness is shattered when Renn realises Torak is in danger – and she’s the threat….

Returning to the ancient Stone-Age world that is Torak, Renn and Wolf’s home, you can almost hear the calls of the wild, feel the ice-cold wintry landscapes and taste the danger! Introducing faces old and new, adventure quickly takes over as Renn disappears and Torak finds himself in a race against all manner of evils to find her. Torak and Wolf’s powerful bond has never been more needed and they are tested to the limit. Renn must master her Magecraft and battle her own demons – as well as a few real ones, in order to survive.  The world conjured creates a powerful image of clan life and what living in those ancient times might have been like – from what they wore, to what they ate and their belief in folklore and magic.  References to previous events and characters and the use of descriptive terminology add to the authenticity – and give you a very good excuse to read the whole series again! Weaving an enthralling narrative, full of thrills and heart-stopping action, Viper’s Daughter transports you to a place where the bonds of friendship are key to survival and life can change on the tip of an arrow!

Read the extract below for an insight into this gripping adventure:

Viper’s Daughter by Michelle Paver – An Extract

Strangers meeting Dark saw an odd-looking boy with long white hair  and  eyes  like  a  sky  full  of  snow.  They mistook his gentleness for weakness, but soon realised their error. He’d been born without colour and abandoned by his father when he was eight. For seven winters he’d survived on his own in the Mountains, his only companions a white raven he’d rescued from crows, and his sister’s ghost. Two summers ago the Raven Clan had taken him in and made him their Mage.  He was  still  getting  used  to  living  with people in the Forest, and sometimes he went off for a few days alone to clear his head.

Torak flung  away  the  stick  and  glared  at  the  fire.  ‘Tell me why she left.’

With his knife Dark speared a salmon eye and offered it. Torak scowled, so Dark ate it himself. ‘She said things kept happening that she couldn’t explain.’

‘What things?’

‘A spring-trap she forgot to warn you about. And that time she nearly shot you when you were hunting.’

‘Those were accidents.’

‘She didn’t think so. She said, “There’s something inside me that wants to hurt Torak.”’

‘What? Renn would never hurt me!’

‘I know. But she’s terrified that she might. She said she has to find out what it is and make it stop. She thinks – ’ his voice dropped – ‘it might have something to do with her mother.’

The birch trees  whispered  in  alarm.  The white raven  crested her head-feathers and croaked. Torak met Dark’s eyes. ‘But the Viper Mage is dead.’

‘I know, but that’s what Renn told me.’

Torak rubbed his hand across his mouth. ‘And you’ve no idea where she’s gone?’

‘She said the signs all point one way but she wouldn’t say where. I’ve been seeing signs too. And just now my drum told me something weird: The demon that is not demon—’

‘I don’t have time for Mage’s riddles.’

‘And I keep seeing tusks.’ He pointed at a tree where he’d left a small slate weasel as an offering. Shadows of twigs had given it horns. ‘I see them in clouds, in eddies in the river: huge twisted tusks, much bigger than a boar’s—’

‘I don’t care about tusks, I need to find Renn!’

‘But, Torak, they’re linked! The tusks have something to do with her, I can feel it.’

‘Do a finding charm, do it now.’

‘She doesn’t  want  you  to  find  her.  That’s why she left without telling you, because you’d insist on going too and she couldn’t take that risk!’

‘Just do the charm!’

Dark opened his mouth – then shut it. ‘I don’t need to. Look at the sky.’

Above their heads the First Tree glowed luminous green. Its shimmering branches held  the  moon  and  the  stars,  and its unseen roots trapped demons in the Otherworld. Torak felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle. The First Tree shone brightest on dark winter nights and rarely showed itself in summer. It had appeared for a reason. He saw from Dark’s rapt expression that he thought so too.As  they  watched,  the  green  lights  faded  till  all  that  remained  was  a  single  shining  bough  arching  like  a  vast  arrow across the deep blue sky.

‘North,’ said Torak. ‘It’s telling us she’s gone north.’

‘A long way north.’

Torak glanced at him. ‘You don’t mean the Far North?  She’d never try that on her own.’

‘Even further. I can feel it.’

‘But what could be further than the Far North?’

Ark cawed a greeting, and they saw Fin-Kedinn at the edge of the glade. Leaning on  his  staff,  the  Leader  of  the  Raven  Clan  limped  towards  them.  Silver glinted  in  his  dark-red  hair  and his short straight beard. Firelight carved his features in shadow and flame.

‘Beyond the Far North,’ he said, ‘is the Edge of the World.’

Viper’s Daughter by Michelle Paver is out now, published by Zephyr, an imprint of Head of Zeus, priced £12.99 in hardback. 

Find out more at  www.wolfbrother.com. With thanks to Zephyr for sending me this book to review and inviting me to participate in the blog tour! Check out the rest of the tour here:

Viper's Daughter Blog Tour Banner

BLOG TOUR: The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley by Amber Lee Dodd

03

Welcome to DAY THREE of the blog tour celebrating publication of The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley written by Amber Lee Dodd, published by Scholastic!  I’m delighted to be hosting today’s stop and sharing a spooky post from the author herself, featuring the story of an infamous historical curse.

Why, I hear you ask? Well a curse is at the heart of The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley, a fantastic family adventure story with a magical twist.

The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley_cover

 

The Bradley family are constantly escaping from a centuries old curse which means that every home they have ever lived in is destroyed – floods, fire, earthquakes – all manner of destruction. They have just moved to their thirteenth house and although the threat of the curse looms ever closer, Noah is desperate not to have to leave this new home – where he finally feels like a ‘normal’ boy and that he could have a happy life. However, at the sign of a black cat, Noah knows the curse is once again about to strike– can he find a way to break it with the help of his brother and new neighbour, Neena?

I’ve been a fan of Amber Lee Dodd since her brilliant first book, We Are Giants, so I was very excited to read this, her latest title.  It doesn’t disappoint – I was hooked from the first page! Totally engaging, The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley is an original story with a clever plot, that has so much for readers to relate too. There are so many great characters and I adored Noah and his brother Billy and the bond they share. Noah’s care and concern for Billy, who is deaf, is heart-warming. The narrative captures just how important it is to have a place called home and how difficult it can be to constantly move house, change schools and have to make new friends.  Noah struggles with his own desires to fit in, even at the expense of true friendship, but as the story progress we see him realise that fitting in shouldn’t be that hard if people will accept you for who you are.  References throughout to Noah’s love of nature and the situations he finds himself in reflecting animal behaviour bring an added dimension to the story. Add to this the magical elements of a frightening family curse and you have a wonderful tale of family, friendship, bravery and adventure!  Definitely one for the bookshelf!

Today, author Amber Lee Dodd is sharing the story of her favourite historical curse. Welcome to the blog Amber!

King Tutankhamun’s Curse

“One of my favourite historical curses is the curse of the Pharaohs. It’s said that the well-known curse brings down illness, bad luck and death upon any who disturb the tombs. The curse was so well feared that inscriptions were carved into some Royal Egyptian tombs reading,

“Cursed be those that disturb the rest of Pharaoh. They that shall break the seal of this tomb shall meet death by a disease which no doctor can diagnose.”

Even stranger is the real-life story of the six archaeologists who died shortly after opening King Tutankhamun’s tomb. Followed by five more deaths in ten years of people who first visited the tomb, or where involved in disturbing the King. All the mysterious deaths were of course due to natural causes, misadventures and even murder! But that hasn’t stopped people wondering if the curse was real. Spooky!”

Amber Lee Dodd grew up in Portsmouth, where she rode the waltzers, swam in the winter sea and lost her wellies in the marshes. She has worked as a Learning Support Worker in schools with disabled students, and is passionate about incorporating disability representation in her books for children. Amber struggled with undiagnosed dyslexia and dyspraxia at school and on discovering stories, found her very own magic power – telling stories!

Find out more at www.amberleedodd.com. With thanks to Scholastic for sending me this book to review and inviting me to participate in the blog tour. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour:

1024x512-BLOG-TOUR

 

MAMMOTH World Book Day book review blog!

I will admit to having been rather caught up reading through the fabulous Branford Boase Longlist 2020 (no complaints – I’m over the moon to be on the judging panel this year!), hence a lack of reviews of the other brilliant books I’ve read over the last few months. What better day to catch up than on World Book Day, when we’re all sharing stories? ! Read on for a wonderful array of children’s books – Happy World Book Day!   

Picture Books

Image result for underground uijung kim

Hop on board and take a trip through the train tunnels of ten cities around the world! Discover what makes each subway system unique and then see if you can spot the things hiding in the pictures.  From a pillar box in London to a bento box in Tokyo, you’ll learn about cities and trains from all corners of the planet.

Underground by Uijung Kim is a gorgeous celebration of subway systems from around the world.  Aimed at young readers and a great non-fiction book to share, Underground is a brilliantly combined lift-the-flap and search-and-find book. Full of bright, contemporary and colourful illustrations, it gives fantastic insight into what you might find on subways from New York City to Seoul to Paris and London.  I absolutely loved the artwork and can imagine young readers (and their parents and carers!) would spend hours pouring over each spread again and again.

Uijung Kim is a Korean illustrator living and working in New York. Her gorgeous cartoon-style is deeply rooted in Korean culture. For more information about Uijung Kim, please visit her website.

With thanks to Cicada Press for sending me this book to review.

Image result for the adventures of moose & mr brown

Sneakers for cheetahs, scarves for giraffes and perfumed pants for skunks – Moose and Mr Brown can design anything for anyone.  But can they track down Monty, Moose’s missing brother? He got on the wrong plane leaving Alaska and hasn’t been seen since…

The Adventures of Moose and Mr Brown by Paul Smith illustrations by Sam Usher is a lovely tale telling the story of Moose, Mr Brown and the search for Moose’s brother Monty who seems to have disappeared.  Adventure ensues as Mr Brown and Moose travel the globe looking for Monty, all the while solving lots of design problems – like scarves for giraffes, dungerees for kangeroos and even a bib for a spitting cobra.  It’s a full of fun and heart warming story, brought to life with lively, detailed illustrations capturing all the ideas and inspiration throughout. A great story to read aloud and share.

Paul Smith is one of Britain’s foremost designers. He is renowned for his creative spirit, which combines tradition and modernity. Sam Usher is well known for his multi-award shortlisted book Can You See Sassoon?  and popular seasonal picture book series – SnowRainStorm and Sun. Find out more at www.paulsmith.com and www.samusher.com.

With thanks to Pavilion Books for sending me this book to review.

Image result for the ferocious chocolate wolf

A wolf who makes chocolates? When a new chocolate shop opens in town, Mrs Chicken and the animals are very suspicious. It must be a trap – that Ferocious Wolf is surely scheming to eat them all up! Or is he….?

The Ferocious Chocolate Wolf by Lizzie Finlay is a delightful story about a wolf who just wants to share his love of chocolate – and is not interested in eating any animals at all! An engaging narrative and lovely illustrations tell how Ferocious the Wolf opens his own chocolate shop full of treats and only one brave piggy will be his customer.  Piggy is so excited by the yummy chocolates that he offers to help Ferocious get some more customers.  With a wonderful sentiment about friendship and acceptance, The Chocolate Wolf will delight young readers as one by one the animals discover Ferocious really doesn’t live up to his name and really does make wonderful chocolates!

Lizzie Finlay is a best-selling author-illustrator. Her debut book ‘Dandylion’, won the Dundee Picture Book Award and was shortlisted for the NASEN Children’s Book Award. Find out more at www.tallbean.co.uk

With thanks to Five Quills for sending me this book to review.

Image result for handa's noisy night

When Handa has a sleepover with her friend Akeyo, the girls are allowed to spend the night in a little hut near the house. They’re excited to be on their own, but as they get ready for bed, Handa feels more and more nervous. She keeps hearing things – strange snorts, chitter chattering, a big thud……

Handa’s Noisy Night by Eileen Browne follows more of Handa’s adventures, over 25 years after her first story Handa’s Surprise was published . Rich and vibrant artwork brings to life the simple and very humorous story, as Handa has a sleepover in a hut with her friend Akeyo and they hear lots of strange noises in the night.  Every time there is a squeak, snort or rustle, Akeyo explains it’s one of her family members, putting Handa’s mind at rest– but it’s not! It’s a wonderful array of incredible wildlife going about their nightly business, as each spread shows exactly what it going on, despite Akeyo’s explanation. You will smile throughout as you join Handa and friends again and introduce young readers to the wonder of Kenyan wildlife and the excitement and nerves of sleeping in a different place!

Eileen Browne is the author and illustrator of Handa’s Surprise and Handa’s Hen, the two previous best-selling books featuring Handa. Eileen worked as a teacher and youth worker before becoming and author/illustrator. Find out more at www.walker.co.uk.

With thanks to Walker Books for sending me this book to review.

Image result for boundless sky amanda addison

This is the story of a bird that fits in your hand flying halfway round the world looking for a place to nest. This is the story of a young girl from northern Africa fleeing halfway round the world looking for a place of peace.  This is the story of Bird. This is the story of Leila. This is the story of a chance encounter and a long journey home.

Boundless Sky by Amanda Addison and Manuela Adreani is a simply stunning story representing the journey of a refugee. The story uses the migration of a beautiful swallow to depict just how far refugees travel to get to safety, how long and dangerous the journey can be, and how the help and welcome of others is so needed. Two young children thousands of miles apart are brought together, with the bird showing how this happens. Beautifully illustrated and truly tugging at your heart strings, Boundless Sky evokes empathy and understanding and is one of the best stories I’ve read showing the plight of refugees in a totally original way.

Amanda Addison holds an MA in Writing the Visual and lectures in Art and Creative Writing and has previously been long-listed for the Commonword and Virginia Prize. Manuela Adreani is a children’s book illustrator from Italy whose books have been published worldwide. She has previously been nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal. Find out more at www.amandaaddison.com and www.manuelaadreani.blogspot.com

With thanks to Lantana Publishing for sending me this book to review.

Image result for it's a no money day

My mum works really hard and knows lots of fun things to do that don’t cost money. But when there’s nothing left in the cupboards we have to go to the foodbank. Maybe one day things will be different….

It’s a No Money Day by Kate Milner is an utterly moving story focusing on a mother and daughter who live in poverty and have to rely on the kindness of others.  It’s a simple narrative with muted illustrations bringing to life what it means to live without enough money to buy food.  You can see the mother’s sacrifice on her face; the ‘maybe one day’ hope that she shares with her daughter to keep them going is heart-wrenching – and heart-warming. But there is hope and this story shines a light on the brilliant work those who run food banks do and, sadly, how important and much needed they are.

Kate Milner is an award-winning author-illustrator whose previous title My Name is Not Refugee won the Klaus Flugge Prize. Find out more about at www.katemilner.com

With thanks to Barrington Stoke for sending me this book to review.

 

Illustrated Fiction

Image result for all the dear little animals chapter book

One summer’s day we started a business called Funerals Ltd, to help all the poor dead animals in the world. Esther did the digging, I wrote the poems, and Esther’s little brother, Puttie, cried.

All the Dear Little Animals by Ulk Nilsson illustrated by Eva Eriksson is the sweetest story about three children who decide someone must bury all the world’s poor dead animals. Originally published as a picture book, this illustrated chapter book version shows a child’s perspective of death through play. Light-hearted but not without depth, the gorgeous illustrations complement the simple narrative and dry humour, giving a glimpse into how children view death and mourning.  A beautifully presented book for every bookshelf.

Ulf Nilsson is a celebrated award-winning children’s writer from Sweden and wrote the internationally acclaimed series Detective Gordon for children. Eva Eriksson is one of the world’s great illustrators having one the Astrid Lindgren Prize and been nominated regularly for the Hans Christian Andersen Award.

With thanks to Gecko Press for sending me this book to review.

Image result for thimble wonga bonkers review

When Mum goes away for the week, Jams, Dad and Thimble the monkey are left with just thirty quid for the groceries. Dad makes a shopping list, but when Thimble gets hold of the supermarket trolley, everything goes bananas. Soon the intrepid trio are so desperate they will do anything for money … anything! Will Dad end up selling his soul to make ends meet, or can Jams and his monkey pal save the day?

Thimble Wonga Bonkers by Jon Blake and illustrated Martin Chatterton reunites readers with Jams and his friend Thimble the monkey in another hilarious instalment of this addictive, award-winning series.  The now-trademark humour and one liners skip along with the story, and readers will laugh out loud as Jams’ hapless Dad and Thimble need rescuing after many unfortunate incidents. A story guaranteed to make you smile and with great illustrations bringing the adventures – or should I say ‘misadventures’ – to life!

Jon Blake lives in Cardiff and two children, one of whom he based Jams’ character on, and has been writing since 1984 – books, TV and radio scripts.  Martin Chatterton has illustrated many books in the UK and Australia, including some of the Middle School books with James Patterson. Find out more at www.jonblake.co.uk and www.worldofchatterton.com.

With thanks to Firefly Press for sending me this book to review.

Image result for five ways to make a friend

It’s Ella’s first day at her new school and she wants to find a friend. But it’s really hard. The girls aren’t interested in her and she doesn’t have the courage to just join in … When she finds a book about making friends Ella decides to try out the tips it recommends. With five excellent ideas up her sleeve, Ella will be friends with the girls in no time … Right?

Five Ways to Make a Friend by Gillian Cross illustrated by Sarah Horne brings to life a touching tale of friendship and the challenges of starting a new school.  Readers will identify with Ella, a sweet girl, desperate to make new friends but not seeing the real like-minded soul right in front of her.  Ella’s trial and error approach is captured in lively illustrations and you can’t help but cheer as she finally understands she has indeed made a new friend without even realising!

Gillian Cross is an award-winning author best known for the Demon Headmaster series.  Sarah Horne is a regular illustrator of children’s books, with a fun and funky illustrating style. Find out more at www.gillian-cross.co.uk and www.thescribblegirl.wordpress.com

 With thanks to Barrington Stoke for sending me this book to review.

Middle Grade

Image result for otto tattercoat and the forest of lost things

Otto lives in the frozen city of Hodeldorf, gripped by eternal winter. When his mother goes missing one icy morning, Otto vows to find her – joining forces with the Tattercoats, a gang of brave orphans. Now they must journey into a dark forest on a heart-racing adventure that will chill you to the bone. Witches lurk. Sun dragons lie sleeping. Endless winter shivers. Will you enter the lost forest – or would you rather stay safe at home?

Otto Tattercoat and the Forest of Lost Things by Matilda Woods is set in a wintry landscape, with all sorts of magical people and creatures ready to delight the imagination. Middle-grade readers will love exploring the Forest of Lost things, as Otto goes in search of his mother, closely followed by his fellow Tattercoats, Nim and Blink. Adventure awaits, reminiscent of classic fairytales and Narnian magic, with enchanting characters – both good and bad – to keep readers hooked.   A wonderful story and magical place to escape to!

Matilda Woods is both a writer and a youth social worker, based in Australia. Her previous books, The Boy the Bird and the Coffin Maker and The Girl The Cat and the Navigator. Find out more www.matildawoods.com.

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

Image result for demelza and the spectre detectors review

Demelza loves science – she loves it so much that she stays up late to work on her inventions. But she soon discovers she’s also inherited a distinctly unscientific skill: Spectre Detecting. Like her grandmother, she can summon the ghosts of the dead. When Grandma Maeve is kidnapped, Demelza and her pasty-faced best friend, Percy, must leap into action to solve the deadly mystery …

Demelza and the Spectre Detectors by Holly Rivers is the first in a fantastically spooky and scientific series which will spark the imaginations of all who read it.  Demelza is a feisty and fun character, who adores inventions and finds out she has inherited her beloved Grandma Maeve’s talent as a Spectre Dectector.  The supernatural meets science as Demelza learns more about her new talent. An original idea and a fresh take on grief and losing those you love, alongside a bundle of mystery and mayhem make for a thoroughly engaging read!

Holly Rivers is famously known for playing Drusilla Paddock in ITV’s original Worst Witch series. She now concentrates on writing, travelling and leading creative workshops for children. Follow Holly on Twitter @HollyRivers_Lit

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

Image result for the year we fell from space

Liberty Johansen is going to change the way we look at the night sky. Most people see the old constellations, the things they’ve been told to see. But Liberty sees new patterns, pictures, and possibilities. She’s an exception. Some other exceptions: Her dad, who gave her the stars. Who moved out months ago and hasn’t talked to her since. Her mom, who’s happier since he left, even though everyone thinks she should be sad and lonely. And her sister, who won’t go outside their house. Liberty feels like her whole world is falling from space. Can she map a new life for herself and her family before they spin too far out of reach?

The Year We Fell From Space by Amy Sarig King focuses on a family going through divorce and depression and is both funny and sad.  These issues affect many children and this story is sensitively written and hugely insightful, capturing the reality of family breakdown alongside everyday teen existence.  In Liberty, we see the fallout of divorce and its impact on all her relationships. But also we see the importance and empowerment of seeking help and speaking about how you are feeling. She is a compelling character and empathy for her grows with each page. There is no cure for divorce, and it hurts; but there is hope for healing – it just takes time.  A well-written story which will stay with you long after the final page.

Amy Sarig King has written many critically acclaimed and prize winning young adult novels. Find out more at www.as-king.com

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

Find out more about World Book Day at www.worldbookday.com

Image result for world book day sharing stories

 

 

 

 

BLOG TOUR: Invisible in a Bright Light by Sally Gardner

I recall a time when Sally Gardner’s I, Coriander was permanently on loan from the school library, with a reservation list as long as your arm.  I would not be surprised if the same is to be true of her fantastic new novel for middle grade readers Invisible in a Bright Light published by Zephyr Books and I am delighted to be participating in the blog tour today!

Gardner_INVISIBLE_Jacket Image.jpg

It is 1870: opening night at the Royal Opera House in a freezing city by the sea, where a huge, crystal chandelier in the shape of a galleon sparkles magically with the light of 750 candles. Celeste, a theatre rat, wakes up in a costume basket from what she hopes is a bad dream, to find that everyone at the theatre where she works thinks she is someone else. When the chandelier falls, she is haunted by a strange girl who claims to know Celeste’s past and why she must risk playing a game called the Reckoning to try to save the people she loves.

Celeste knows something is not quite right and can’t seem to remember exactly who she is and where she has come from. Distant voices and strange memories of a man in an emerald green suit haunt her as the truth is slowly reveavled. Her current reality of being a theatre rat just doesn’t ring true and even those she loves are not themselves. What is the mystery behind the glorious chandelier that adorns the ceiling of the opera house? And why won’t anyone accept that Celeste’s name is not Maria?

A stunning narrative reveals a compelling and dark fairy-tale of love, family and magic set against the backdrop of the opera. Full of startling discoveries, bold characters and family bonds that even time itself cannot break, this story will draw you in one page at a time. The theatrical world of opera is brought wonderfully to life and Celeste’s determination to win what seems the most impossible game is palapable. Beautifully described, I read this in one sitting finding myself totally absorbed and thoroughly enjoying each twist and turn right to the satisfying ending.  This novel really stands out in the crowd; Invisible in a Bright Light will captivate it’s audience from beginning to end.

The story behind the novel
As a young costume designer working at the Royal Opera House in Copenhagen, Sally Gardener glimpsed a chandelier which hung majestically from the dome of the opera house into the auditorium. One wintry day, she visited the dome that looked out across the rooftops of Copenhagen and found an old lady living there, whose job it was to polish the chandelier until it gleamed. Sally felt as if she had stepped into a fairy tale and the experience left an indelible mark on her imagination. Inspired by this and by her love of ghost ships, theatre and fairy tale, Invisible in a Bright Light is a story she has
been waiting to write for a long time. It reunites Sally with her favourite middle grade audience and recreates the splendour and dark magic of her award-winning debut novel I, Coriander.

Find out more at www.sallygardner.co.uk and @TheSallyGardner

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

Sally Gardner Blog Tour Graphic

 

BLOG TOUR: Mother Tongue by Patricia Ford

MT Blog Tour CORRECTEDI absolutely loved The Wordsmith by Patricia Forde, the first in this post-apocalyptic series (read my review here) so when I heard there was a standalone sequel, Mother Tongue, I was delighted to read it and participate in this blog tour.  Today, I’ll be sharing my review and a timely guest post from the author focusing on the issues at the heart of this upper middle-grade novel. Published by Little Island BooksMother Tongue continues the story of Letta’s fight against injustice in a world unrecognisable after a climate disaster.  Language is a weapon and hope and creativity the only defence in this dystopian novel that feels all too real.  

Mother Tongue

Mother Tongue by Patricia Forde

After global warming came the Melting. Then came Ark.  The new dictator of Ark wants to silence speech for ever. But Letta is the wordsmith, tasked with keeping words alive. Out in the woods, she and the rebels secretly teach children language, music and art. Now there are rumours that babies are going missing. When Letta makes a horrifying discovery, she has to find a way to save the children of Ark – even if it is at the cost of her own life. 

Whilst it is quite possible to read Mother Tongue as a standalone novel, the book brilliantly follows on from the narrative of the first story and reaffirms the role Letta, the Wordsmith, must play in restoring freedom to her world.  John Noa might be gone, but the new leader of Ark is even more fearsome and will stop at nothing to control the people through taking their words. But Letta, equally determined and incredibly brave, knows that in order to save the people, she must fight for their words – their voice. Whilst she has much to lose, the tension-building plot shows Letta’s true heroism as she battles injustice alongside her fellow ‘Desecrators’.  Totally enthralling, Mother Tongue invites you to return to a world where the horror of climate change has been realised but despite the despair, the hope of humanity lives on in Letta and her friends. A truly riveting read, you download an extract here.

I’m delighted to welcome author Patricia Forde to the blog with a thought-provoking guest post on what extinction really means.

“Extinction is the saddest word of all.

So says John Noa, ruler of Ark in my novel The Wordsmith.  And he should know. As both The Wordsmith and its companion novel Mother Tongue are set in the future, Noa is in a position to judge. This story takes place after The Melting when almost all of the world has been swallowed by the sea. Rising tides have taken people, technology and almost all hope from Earth. For the small group of people who survive and live in Ark, there is plenty of time to consider the mess that humans created, on their home planet.

When I was growing up, dinosaurs were extinct. That was about the only time I heard that word being used. While doing research for my novels,  I did a lot of research about climate change and its effect on this planet. Scientists tell us that we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction of plants and animals. This is the sixth wave of extinction in the last half-billion years. Extinction, we are told, in a natural phenomenon. It occurs at a rate of about one to five species per year.

When I read that, I had to pause to take a breath. That many?

Then I read on.

Today we are losing species at up to 1,000 times that rate with many species becoming extinct every day. That’s why they are calling it an Extinction Crisis. Did you know that there are two subspecies of giraffe on the endangered list? Illegal hunting and the disappearance of habitat has been blamed. Translated, that means that humans are to blame.

The blue whale is in danger because she eats mostly krill and requires massive amounts of it. Unfortunately, we humans have developed a taste for krill. Increasing demands for krill oil by humans could sound the death knell for the poor whale.

It’s the inter-connectivity of nature that we are ignoring. Take insects. Small, often scary and very quiet generally. We interact with insects usually with a rolled up newspaper or a cocktail of deadly chemicals but they are our waste management team. At life end, plants and animals of all sizes, from daisy to dinosaur, leave dead organic matter that has to be cleared away.  Bring on millions of munching insects and the processes of decomposition and decay, so critical to life on Earth, can get started. We wouldn’t last long without them.

Way back in 1987 renowned Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson wrote:

The truth is that we need invertebrates but they don’t need us … if invertebrates were to disappear, I doubt that the human species could live more than a few months.

How did we miss that? As I write we are living under a storm alert and it’s all people can talk about.  Will  trees come down? Will the lights go out?  Will there be enough bread to last 48 hours? But when a renowned scientist says that if we keep killing insects we could all be wiped out in a few months – no! We didn’t hear that.

We moved from the city to a house in the country in 2004.  Our house is surrounded by trees. We were under constant attack from midges the first years we were here.  Every summer, as soon as the weather warmed up and the barbeque was taken out, in came swarms of midges. Neighbours assured us that they would be devoured by the bats who lived in the old shed at the back of our site. For the last two summers we’ve had hot weather and no midges. I can’t say I’ve missed them but I liked the bats and now I’m wondering what they fed on this summer and where the midges have gone?

That’s how extinction works, I suppose. First they come for the midges, then it’s the bats, and before you know it, the giraffe is on the endangered list.

Extinction is the saddest word but there’s still time to turn things around. According to National Geographic, there were only 2,000 sea otters extant in 1911, due to years of hunting this lovely creature for its fur. Today, globally, the figure has rebounded to 100,000. We have stronger laws and greater protection enacted in the North Pacific to thank for this miracle. So we can do it. It’s not too late. But to quote Greta Thunberg – the house is on fire.

We didn’t listen in 1987. Are we listening now?”

Find out more about Patricia Forde at www.patriciaforde.com  and find her on Twitter @PatriciaForde1; on Instagram @TrishForde1.

With thanks to Little Island Books for sending me this book to review and inviting me to participate in this blog tour. Check out the rest of the tour:

MT Blog Tour CORRECTED.jpg

Reviews, reviews and more reviews! A big blog catch-up.

IMG-7848

How many books can you fit on one blog? I’ve read so many great books over the summer months into autumn– newly published and yet to be published- it’s hard to know where to start, but here are just some of the titles I’ve really enjoyed reading.

Donut_of_doom-726x4841-726x484

The Doughnut of Doom by Elys Dolan brings us a new kind of super villain in a picture book tale reminiscent of all the best kinds of monster movies. Think King Kong with a slightly stickier coating! Great characters in the shape of different types of talking food – from peanut butter sandwiches to fried eggs to chilli peppers – bring the action to life and create a veritable feast of a story. Hilarious from the first page, The Doughnut of Doom will liven up bedtime reading and spark the imagination of young readers with its lively a narrative and even livelier illustrations.

Available now published by Nosy Crow age 2+

book-covers-gallery-of-cats-300

Gallery of Cats by Ruth Brown is a gorgeous collection of pictures reminiscent of famous masterpieces, with a twist. Each picture features a cat with the characteristics of the painter, described in the accompanying narrative.  The story begins with Tom, a young boy visiting an art gallery and stumbling upon this very unusual exhibition and as he visits each picture the cat featured jumps down to join him on his tour.  Clever and humorous, Gallery of Cats is a fantastic introduction to the world of art and a lovely story to share.

Available now published by Scallywag Press for age 3+

dino

The Girl and the Dinosaur by Hollie Hughes and Sarah Massini is a captivating picture book sharing the wonder of the imagination and dreams.  A little girl discovers old dinosaurs bones on a beach and at bedtime wishes with all her heart that the dinosaur will come to life. And it does, taking her on the most marvellous adventure to a secret place where only children play in their dreams!  It’s a lovely tale, beautifully illustrated and captures the magic of children’s imagination.

Available now published by Bloomsbury for age 3+

51ZkX3ExqBL._AC_SY400_

Beaver’s Big Adventure A Journey Home by Magnus Weightman is a gorgeous book exploring all kinds of animal homes brought to life in delightful, detailed illustrations. The story tells of Beaver embarking on his big dream to explore the world. From the big city to the forest, Beaver meets all kinds of animals living in different nests, underground burrows and even termite mountains. With illustrations reminiscent of the Busy World of Richard Scarry, this is a fantastic book to explore over and again, each time discovering something new.

Available from 1st October published by Five Quills for age 3+

Kitty by Paula Harrison illustrated by Jenny Lovie is a brand new six-book series introducing superhero-in-training Kitty.  Gorgeous colourful illustrations capture the action, as Kitty braves the night time to solve mysteries and recover stolen treasure in the first two adventures, Kitty and the Moonlight Rescue and Kitty and the Tiger Treasure.  These books are sure to be a hit with young readers, as they meet Kitty and her Cat Crew, including her number one companion Pumpkin the ginger cat!  Themes of bravery and friendship will capture the imagination of all who read Kitty’s adventures and with a Super Cat Facts section at the back of each book, cat lovers in particular will enjoy!

Available now published by Oxford University Press, for age 5+

bakery

The Bakery of Happiness by Ian Beck is a heart-warming (and tummy tempting) story set in a bakery in the beautiful streets of Paris. It’s a sweet story of love and friendship that will surprise and delight all who read it, evoking the feel of a classic romance and the smells of wonderful baking!  The magic of Paul du Pains’ bakery is clear as every customer who enters, leaves feeling happier than before. But the magic doesn’t come from the fabulous cakes and breads he bakes – it comes from Marie, his marvellous assistant who serves each customer and has a voice to brighten even the most miserable person’s day. How will Paul restore the magic to his shop when Marie leaves for the opera? With lovely illustrations, The Bakery of Happiness will remind all who read it to take a chance on friendship and love as soon as it appears.

Available now published by Barrington Stoke for ages 5-8 

White-Fox-1-666x1024

White Fox by Chen Jiatong illustrated by Viola Wang is the first modern middle-grade children’s fiction series to be translated into English from Chinese. The series brings to life the adventures of an orphaned white fox cub, Dilah, who longs to be human.  Myth and magic combine as Dilah embarks on a quest guided by a magical moonstone, which will show him to a treasure that is said to transform animals into humans! An incredible adventure ensues, and Dilah makes new friends and discovers dangerous enemies as he seeks the treasure. Readers will be enthralled by the twists and turns of Dilah’s quest and desperate to find out what happens next to the young fox and his friends. A great read, White Fox is a fantastic introduction to Chinese children’s fiction.

Available now published by Chicken House for age 9+

teen withc

Teen Witch by Katy Birchill is fun, teen fiction at its best. Morgan Charmley is about to start a ‘normal’ school at the age of 13. But how will she fit in? Because Morgan is a witch and although she can control her powers, she can also cast a spell with a click of her fingers. And even though she’s passed the Young Witch Exam (after the eight time of taking it) the trials and tribulations of every day school life are somewhat challenging – especially when her witch familiar, Merlin, decides to turn himself into a tarantula on her first day at school. Join in the fun as Morgan deals with this and other incidents, and tries to fit in, inadvertently befriending a warlock.  Great fun!

Available now published by Scholastic for age 11+

Anna-at-War-497418-1-456x702.jpg

Anna at War by Helen Peters is a brilliant wartime adventure about a young German Jewish girl who finds herself sent away to safety in England.  Leaving her parents is hard enough but then Anna finds herself caught up in a web of spies, betrayal and intrigue as well as dealing with being a German in England whilst the war rages on.  Anna tries not to lose hope for her family and as the plot thickens she realises there are other ways to fight the Nazi’s. Great storytelling shows Anna’s bravery and the narrative is full of heart, capturing wartime efforts and shedding light on the experiences of German Jews. There’s a really beautiful moment towards the end of the story; you’ll need your tissues. Anna at War is a compelling, well-balanced read that will tug at the heart strings and the themes of conflict, courage and wartime displacement are all relevant for today.

Available now published by Nosy Crow for age 8+

Zumbie cover

Alex Sparrow and the Zumbie Apocalypse by Jennifer Killick is the fantastic third book in this series about Alex, Jess and their very quirky superpowers. This time the action takes place in a local Zumba class, with Alex’s mum and grandma placed firmly in the danger zone as it appears the evil Montogomery McMonaghan is up to his usual dastardly tricks. Of course it’s up to Alex and Jess and their crew of unusual helpers including Bob the goldfish and Dexter the pigeon to solve the mystery. They meet some new and surprising characters along the way and face some really hairy moments keeping you on the edge of your seat! Alex and Jess are two of my favourite characters in middle-grade fiction today; I love that despite all the bonkers antics – or perhaps because of – they always discover something new about themselves and have a better friendship at the end of each tale.   Great fun, full of humour and totally entertaining, Alex Sparrow never disappoints!

Available now published by Firefly Press age 9+

With thanks to Barrington Stoke, Bloomsbury, Firefly Press, Five Quills, Nosy Crow, Oxford University Press, Scallywag Press and Scholastic for sending me these books to review.

 

BLOG TOUR: Spylark by Danny Rurlander

Spylark Jacket lowresI’m kicking off the autumn term on the blog with the first stop on the blog tour for Spylark by Danny Rurlander. What a great way to bring in the new term!  Spylark is a fantastic middle-grade thriller full of adventure, lots of action and some great characters – not to mention a really cool and clever idea at the heart of the story!  Spylark is set in the author’s native Lake District and uses the islands that inspired Swallows and Amazons as the backdrop. Danny Rurlander’s debut novel is a perfect adventure of the absolutely classic kind. With themes about the importance of friendship, bravery, terrorism and technology, readers will be swept up into the daring mission to save a Very Important Person from assassination. A thoroughly riveting read, Spylark is a must for middle grade bookshelves!

Danny Rurlander Photo.pngDanny Rurlander studied English Literature at the University of East Anglia, and worked in the finance sector for several years. He now serves on the staff team of a multi-cultural, city-centre church. While at University Danny spent two years learning to fly with RAF, as an officer cadet in the Cambridge University Air Squadron.  He has lived in Austria, Kenya, Devon and Australia, but always longed to return to his native Lake District where he grew up exploring the fells and camping on islands, so it’s no wonder his descriptions of the landscape where Spylark is set are so real! I’m delighted to welcome Danny to the blog today to share some insight into what inspiration means to him.

Inspiration

“There’s a moment, roughly half way through the book, when Jim Rothwell, an older man whose wisdom and life experience help the child protagonists navigate some of the trickier moments of their adventure, offers a challenging view of love.

 ‘Joel, my lad, love is not always a feeling. Sometimes it’s a decision.’

This down to earth and counter-intuitive idea of love is also true, in my experience, of ‘inspiration’.  Inspiration, for the fiction writer, is not so much a feeling, but a decision, an act of the will.  If you sit around waiting for it to turn up, you’ll never write anything. But where does inspiration come from?  The answer is so obvious it seems almost unnecessary to say it.  Inspiration comes from two spheres: what you already know and what you don’t know, but know you need to know.

In writing Spylark a number of key influences and experiences (the first sphere of inspiration) found their way into the book: my own childhood adventures in the part of the world where the book is set; a first-hand knowledge of flying aeroplanes gained through my time with the RAF; and perhaps most of all, memories of books I read as a child.  In particular I grew up not only reading Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons adventures but trying to live them out!

Spylark is a classic action-adventure thriller, involving spies, criminals, and a group of child heroes who save the day.  But the book plays with this genre by means of a key technological concept. Tom, the main character, who has suffered a life-changing accident several years before the story begins, ‘escapes’ the harsh realities of his life by means of his home made drone.  This enables him to be in two places at once, and enables the narrative to switch between locations in the blink of an eye.

This brings me to the second source of inspiration – what you don’t know, but know you need to know. Before I started I knew nothing at all about drones.  So I had to find out enough to make the story convincing.  Writers traditionally call this ‘research’ but that has always sounded rather outfacing and dull when you are itching to get going with the story.  I prefer to think of it as fueling the tanks for the creative energy of writing.

The internet makes this easy of course. I subscribed to a few drone blogs to understand the technical stuff.  I then tried to get my head around what could actually be possible, and how a terrorist might use this technology for destructive purposes.  (At one stage if – for some reason – my hard drive had been examined by the police, it could have looked rather suspicious!)  But it’s a good idea not to rely too heavily on Google.  I also bought a book on drones, went out to the local beach to watch people flying them, and met up with a local enthusiast to watch him at work and ask him questions.

The key to this is not to think of what you don’t know as a barrier but an opportunity.  I often say that writers are nosey-parkers!  They learn to listen in on other people’s conversations on the bus; they observe the world around them in fine detail, tune into the stories of other people’s lives and actively imagine the world from someone else’s point of view.  After all, one of the reasons children read is to learn about what they don’t know.  If as a writer you can learn something new, the chances are the story will be even more vivid and fresh than those that come from your experience.”

Find out more at dannyrurlander.com and chickenhousebooks.com. SPYLARK by Danny Rurlander is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

With thanks to Chicken House for sending me this book to review. Be sure to follow the rest of the blog tour:

Spylark blog tour banner.jpg