Tag Archives: Middle grade

BLOG TOUR: Elsetime by Eve McDonnell – review and guest post

I’m very excited to be participating in the blog tour today for Elsetime by debut Irish author Eve McDonnell, published by Everything With Words, a wonderful historical time-slip novel with a delightful cast of characters. Today I’m sharing my review and a guest post from the author.

It’s January 6th 1928, the day before the Great Flood. There’s a snowstorm and the river is about to burst its banks – fourteen lives will be lost. Can Glory, an orphan with only one hand, her time-travelling friend Needle and their pet crow change the future? Is there anyone among all those people entombed in that snow-shrouded town who will listen? Warning: Time travel isn’t something you should try unless you are prepared to face the consequences.

I’m a huge fan of time travel historical adventures and Elsetime lives up to expectations! It’s exciting, engaging, thrilling and has a fantastic twist at the end which I loved. Add to this characters you care about; the feisty and determined Glory and kind and courageous Needle, not forgetting Magpie the pet crow (!), it’s a recipe for success. Historical detail creates a believable world which I was happy to dive into as the plot thickened. Inspired by true events, Elsetime is a fantastic story of adventure and bravery with goodness at its heart – a great read.

I’m really pleased to welcome author Eve McDonnell to the blog today to share the inspiration behind the story!

ElsetimeThe Great Flood of London 1928

“One of my favourite past-times is treasure hunting – searching the pebbles and mud alongside a river or the sea for something sparkling: an old button once part of a queen’s gown, perhaps, or a key to a mythical treasure chest, or a war medal from a hero who saved countless lives. It’s no wonder a hobby so rich in possible stories was the inspiration for Elsetime with its tale of a young mudlark called Needle, searching the foreshore for treasures he could sell. Glory, an impetuous jeweller’s apprentice sprung to mind too, and I imagined her taking those muddy finds and transforming them into treasures to behold under the eyes of her strict mistress, Mrs Quick. They had to be from the 1920s, my imagination assured, but I wasn’t, at that stage, quite sure what was going to happen to my new-found friends.

Then, I found a newspaper clipping. It told of a real-life tragic event: The Great Flood of London in 1928. At its epicentre was Needle’s haunt – the stretch of foreshore alongside the Tate Gallery (now known as the Tate Britain). I needed to know more, and my research began.

Nearly ninety-three years ago, at the source of the Thames, families enjoyed a snowy Christmas akin to picture-perfect postcards. But, quick as a wink, the snow thawed, sending torrents of water along streams and brooks that fed the Thames. A deluge of rain in the days that followed raised the level of the great river higher and higher as it twisted and turned its way towards the bustling centre of London and out towards the sea.

Photo Credit: Daily Mirror 1928

As Londoners partied away the Twelfth Day of Christmas, or snuggled their loved ones into bed in old basement flats, the raging river met its match: a powerful storm in the North Sea. At the turn of the tide, waves swelled so high at the mouth of the Thames, beyond anything they had ever seen. Seawater tunnelled its way up the river, clashing with the deluge of snowmelt and rainwater. X marked the spot where the river narrowed and its depth deepened following foolish dredging to allow passage to larger ships. Not long after midnight, the embankment walls near the Tate Gallery gave way.

Freezing cold water raced down stone steps and into the homes of poor basement dwellers, trapping them before they even knew their fate. Muddy water inundated the basement galleries of the Tate Gallery, destroying many fine pieces of art, including several priceless Turner paintings and drawings. Big Ben was surrounded, the Underground submerged. The moat at the Tower of London filled for the first time in nearly a century. Fourteen souls lost their lives that night and, as my research deepened, so too did my shock and sadness when I read the names listed on that Daily Mirror 1928 newspaper clipping. One name stood out: Mrs Quick – a name I had already chosen for the owner of The Frippery & Fandangle Jewellery Emporium where Glory worked. As I stared down at her name, it felt like a message from the past. Though Elsetime and its characters are merely figments of my imagination, I knew one thing for sure: the Great Flood would star in this story of mudlarks, mysterious crows and jeweller’s apprentices – it was a story I had to tell.”

Find out more at www.everythingwithwords.com.

With thanks to Everything With Words 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:

New review: Wilde by Eloise Williams

Moving to live with her aunt, Wilde is afraid that strange things are happening around her. She just wants to fit in at her new school, but in rehearsals for a school play telling the legend of a witch called Winter, ‘The Witch’ starts leaving pupils frightening letters cursing them. Can Wilde find out what’s happening before everyone blames her? Or will she always be the outsider?

Wilde by Eloise Williams is a wonderful contemporary tale with magic at its heart. Drawing a picture of a feisty but fearful girl, Wilde is a unique character but like many young girls, struggling to be herself and desperate to fit in. Witch Point is where her mother grew-up and the mystery throughout is tangible as strange occurrences bring Wilde closer to the truth, with the legend surrounding the town seeming to come eerily to life. Alongside this, the narrative brilliantly captures school life, the perils of friendship and the importance of courage and kindness. Drama is not just reserved for the school play and as events come to head, the plot thickens page by page! Wilde is a lesson for us all in acceptance and embracing who we really are – a great contemporary adventure.

Eloise Williams has written other great middle-grade books including Gaslight and Seaglass. Find out more https://fireflypress.co.uk/books/wilde/

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

New review: The Accidental Wizard by Kimberly Pauley illustrated by Jason Cockcroft

Twig is the last surviving apprentice of the great wizard Ripplemintz, which, as a job, is just as terrifying as it sounds. Oh Ripplemintz always means well, but for a wizard of such high regard he really does make an awful lot of mistakes. And who’s always left to clear them up? That’s right – Twig. So when Ripplemitz’s most powerful spell is let loose on the world, off Twig goes to catch it. And catch it he does, except… not quite in the way that he intended. Because, instead of catching it in an enchanted jar, Twig sort of… well… catches it in… HIMSELF.

The Accidental Wizard by Kimberly Pauley introduces the reluctant Wizard Twig, along with a menagerie of hilarious characters that captivate throughout. With more magical mayhem than you can shake a stick at, middle-grade readers will be quickly drawn into a world of riotous adventure, competing wizards, greedy citizens who all want their moment of magic and at it’s heart, an unlikely friendship between a wizard, a hag and a gnome (who has the best name – Glimfinkle!). I also particularly liked the chapter titles (for example ‘In Which Something Doesn’t Blow-Up’) and the proof copy I read had wonderful illustrations giving a taste of artwork to come by Jason Cockcroft. Reminiscent of classic magical adventures and bags of fun, The Accidental Wizard carves a well-deserved space for itself in this genre and I’m sure children will want to visit The Kingdoms again and again – ably guided by the lovely map at the beginning!

Find out more about the author http://www.kimberlypauley.com/the-accidental-wizard/ and at www.scholastic.co.uk.

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

BLOG TOUR: Flyntlock Bones: The Sceptre of the Pharaohs by Derek Keily and Mark Elvins

Ahoy there me hearties! It’s a pirate’s life for me…well not really, but you can’t help feel pirate-y after reading the first of a brand new trilogy of pirate adventures with a twist, Flyntlock Bones: The Sceptre of the Pharaohs, by acclaimed author Derek Keilty and debut illustrator, Mark Elvins.  This is the first chapter book offering from Scallywag Press for children aged 7-10 years and it definitely lives up to their usual high standards of exciting and quirky new books.

I’m delighted to share my review of this new book on today’s stop of the blog tour celebrating Flyntlock’s publication this month!

Flyntlock Bones Jacket

Flyntlock Bones: The Sceptre of the Pharaohs, by Derek Keilty illustrated by Mark Elvins

Welcome to the Black Hound – a ship full o’ the cleverest pirate investigators ya ever set eyes upon…You OK, lad? Ya gone paler than a full moon.’ 

When Flynn applies for the job of cabin boy on the Black Hound, he doesn’t expect it to be a pirate ship! But soon he’s setting sail for the Seven Seas, on a perilous quest to recover ancient treasure bound by a magical curse….

Adventure abounds from the first page as we join Flynn on the Black Hound on his first sea voyage – well his first journey anywhere!  Having been in an orphanage most of his life, Flynn can’t wait to escape and after getting over the shock of discovering he’s on a pirate ship, he can’t help but be excited when he finds out that Captain Watkins and his crew are actually pirate-investigators!  Flynn immediately makes friends with Red, a feisty girl who is a pirate-ship pro and he soon has to find his sea legs as the Black Hound heads to the Isle of Tut to solve another mystery.

It’s a brilliant twist on pirate stories, combining all the best bits – think treasure maps, swashbuckling, suitably grumpy pirate cooks, walking the plank, pirate grog  – with a mystery thriller narrative including a villain named Captain Morihearty! Highly enjoyable with a fantastic cast of characters, the story is brilliantly enhanced by illustrations reminiscent of the master himself, Chris Riddell.  This is definitely one to watch and I’m sure will go down brilliantly with would-be pirates and sleuths alike.  Great fun!

Find out more at www.scallywagpress.comand check out the rest of the tour using #FlyntlockBones

Derek Keilty lives in Belfast and is the author of over ten books for children. His work has been translated into many different languages, and shortlisted for the Children’s Books Ireland Book of the Year. He has a thriving schools program, storytelling and taking creative writing workshops around local schools.

Mark Elvins lives in Yorkshire. When he’s not drawing pirates he’s a print-maker and recently won an English Heritage competition to illustrate the displays at Whitby Abbey.

With thanks to Scallywag Press for inviting me to participate in the blog tour and sending me this book to review.

Flyntlock Bones Jacket

 

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