Spring special round up!

Spring time quote 3

I’ve had a lovely few weeks finding out just some of what’s new and coming soon from the world of children’s books.  Thank you to all those who’ve joined the blog over the last month and shared some book-ish inspiration; it’s great to see there’s so much to celebrate in the world of children’s and YA literature. We started with stargazing and ended with bananas and Beyonce!! With reviews, introductions to debut novels and author interviews, it’s been a busy month.

A snapshot of our spring special interviews:

“I want my books to feel ‘realistic’ and address genuine challenges, but I also want to them to entertain and provide a certain amount of escapism for the reader.” Jenny McLachlan, author.

“When you get right down to it, every child is different but they all deserve the chance to become readers” Hannah Rolls, Editor, Bloomsbury

“..I think hope is important, because stories can be there to guide us through difficult times. They are a light in the darkness, and so it’s important not to switch out the light.” Gill Lewis, author.

“I’m concerned about the ways our loyalty to our own group can mean refusal to empathise and understand others.” Alice Broadway, author.

“Throw all the bad stuff you’ve got at your main character… and then make it even worse.” Simon James Green, author.

“Publishing is the most glorious random thing; no one really knows what will be ‘the next big thing’!” Rachel Hickman, author & Deputy MD of Chicken House

“Writing is a skill like any other–one which you get better and better the more you do. If your first attempt doesn’t quite make it, try again.” Hayley Barker, author.

“There’s so much to learn from hearing authors speak live about their writing, their influences and their experiences.” Victoria Henderson, Director of Chiddingstone Castle Literary Festival.

With an ever growing TBR shelf, look out for lots of new reviews coming soon!.  Thank you to all the publishers for sending me these books to review:




Spring Forward! Special feature coming soon…

Oh the irony of waking up to awful wet weather on the official First Day of Spring! It doesn’t feel much like spring today, so to provide a bit of spring time inspiration, I’m pleased to announce a new special feature coming soon!

Spring time quote

‘Just in time for Spring  will celebrate new authors, new books and general all round inspiration in children’s books. With participation from some wonderful children’s writers and publishers, I’ll be interviewing the people who bring to life new worlds and new characters, finding out all about their new projects. It all starts in the next few weeks, so watch this space!

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Christmas is coming!

This Christmas to celebrate the wonder of writing, we’ve made our very own Author Christmas Calendar!

Featuring fuchristmas-1015350_1920n and festive Q & As with a whole host of brilliant children’s authors, every day throughout December.  There are questions from young readers and budding writers, including some from children who go to the Inkpots Writer’s Hut and some who attend Warden Park Academy.

We’ll be finding out, amongst other things, what stories our authors enjoy at Christmas, what their Christmas traditions are and most importantly – mince pies or Christmas pud?!!

Authors participating include Michelle Magorian, Paul Gamble, Gwyneth Rees, Chris Priestly and Abi Elphinstone to name a few.  We’ll also be running a BUMPER Christmas giveaway with an incredible prize for ONE lucky winner!  So watch this space because Christmas is definitely coming!

Bookchat Roadshow – success!

The alarm went off bright and early yesterday morning and it was all systems go.  We got to Warden Park Primary, having pre-loaded the car the night before just as the head teacher, Steve Davis, arrived.  I’ll admit to being a bag of nerves and excitement – more of the latter though as this was something I’ve been planning and thinking about for the best part of the year and I couldn’t believe it had actually arrived!


Set-up didn’t take too long, thanks to various helpers and the friendly school caretaker along with various members of school staff.  With the banners out, participants began to arrive.  Gill from Inkpots was closely followed by exhibitors Discover & Be, Helen Arkell, the Public Library Service and Schools Library Service.  Louise from Lovereading arrived, bringing lots of brilliant information from Barrington Stoke. It was taking shape before my eyes! Waterstones arrived with a fantastic array of brilliant books for the bookstall. Parents and carers filtered in and the air was filled with curiosity and expectancy.

Steve Davis gave a perfect introduction placing reading at the heart of learning.  I began my presentation with a little trepidation but also huge excitement! It was great to be able to share so many ideas and suggestions with parents and carers who want to support their children with reading for pleasure.  Gill from Inkpots followed with an overview of creative writing, saying that we all have a story to tell and that creative writing should be a fun and collaborative process.   Louise Weir shared all the wonderful things Lovereading does to support children’s reading and book choices.  The tea break was buzzing with activity when parents had the opportunity to visit the various exhibitors covering a range of reading and writing related areas from phonics to dyslexia and finding out about the local library service.

Then the grand finale arrived, with three fantastic award winning authors forming the first ever Bookchat Roadshow panel (sadly Eve Ainsworth couldn’t participate due to ill health). Sophy Henn, Nikki Sheehan and Jamie Thomson shared their childhood memories of reading, along with ideas for encouraging children who aren’t enthusiastic about reading and creative writing and their thoughts on the importance of stories.  There were lots of laughs as Jamie kept being ‘taken over’ by the Dark Lord in between reminiscing about childhood reading and where he gets his writing ideas. “Ideas can come from anything – turn the ordinary into the extraordinary! How do you know the old lady on the bus isn’t an international spy?”  Sophy had wonderful insight into starting the creative writing process using images and pictures and how stories can be created just using your surroundings as inspiration. “Even just going on a family walk you can play the inspiration game, all coming up with ideas to create a story!” And Nikki shared that for her empathy is the most important reason for reading and writing stories “We find out who we are and who others are through reading and telling stories”.

During the panel discussion, there were questions from the audience and these were responded to not just by the authors, but by the various representatives of exhibiting organisations and those who had delivered presentations. It was collaboration in action, with the conversation focusing on supporting those attending so they could go away feeling truly inspired.

Initial feedback has been hugely positive which fills me with great joy! Huge thanks to all those who participated, supported, attended and helped in any way. Whilst the dust is still settling, I am on to planning Bookchat Roadshow number 2, so spread the word and we may well visit a school near you!

For more information about the next event email thebookactivist@gmail.com

The Bookchat Roadshow

I am so excited to announce the first ever Bookchat Roadshow!  It’s been a long time in the planning and came about as part of my desire to help and encourage parents in supporting their children with reading.  Parenting is hard work, endlessly rewarding of course, but so often we don’t have time to do all things we’d like to for our children, especially when it comes to reading.

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My first YALC!

Attending YALC for the first time, I wasn’t sure what to expect. As part of the London Film & Comic Con, YALC has been running since 2014, created with the support and encouragement of the then Children’s Laureate, Malorie Blackman.

It was, quite simply, FANTASTIC! A veritable feast of YA authors spoke on a variety of topics from Resistance & Protest in YA Fiction to Humour in YA.  Authors from both the UK and US were in attendance.  I particularly enjoyed the YA Book Prize Panel featuring Sarah Crossan, Jenny Downham, Catherine Johnson & Lisa Williamson who shared insights into their wonderful shortlisted novels and writing in general.  I also loved the conversation with Frances Hardinge, Philip Reeve and Tanya Landman.  The New Voices authors gave a wonderful insight into being the new kid on the block.

“Once you’ve written a book, it’s almost like the characters aren’t yours anymore – everyone is emotionally invested” Lisa Williamson

“Read everything!”   “You want to write something that’s the you-ness of you!”  Catherine Johnson

“Writing for unheard voices – you’ve got to be passionate” Deirdre Sullivan, author of  Needlework, Unheard Voices Panel

“Be prepared to let go of the things that aren’t working and learn from them”  “Stories are really organic; they grow; they’re like a collage”  New Voices Panel

“I can convey more about the real world through fantasy than with what might be considered ‘realistic'”     “I am allergic to unfairness: it brings me out in literature”   Frances Hardinge

“Everything you read, everything you see, everything you’ve done feeds into your writing”  Tanya Landman

“The job of the author is to write the story they want to write”  “I like inventing worlds”  Philip Reeve

Author panel discussions are a brilliant way to find out more about the writers behind the pages, the inspiration for their novels and a thoroughly enjoyable way to see how authors respond to questions from both the host and the audience.

The major publishers of YA fiction were out in force, with fantastic displays of current and up & coming books.  Their stalls were manned by lovely book-ish folk – one girl I met was an intern with OUP and was clearly having a ball: what a great internship to do!

There were some self published authors working hard to promote their books, who I thought were incredibly brave and I really hope they had a good response.  It’s not easy putting yourself out there amongst what might be considered the ‘big guns’.  I know exactly how that feels! For me, it was an amazing opportunity to network and meet new people, bump into new friends again, sharing my love of reading with all. I had some really great chats with people about books, my work, their work and reading in general.  It definitely gives you a boost to be amongst like minded people. I was also fortunate to have my ‘bag man’ with me, ready at a moments notice to take pics etc! Thank you Mr Book Activist. Except on the Sunday, where I had to do the selfie thing, with minimal success!! Trying to get your arm at the right length away from you body, without pulling some weird grimace is not easy – I clearly need to practice more…

Taken courtesy of Mr Book Activist!

There was something very special about seeing so many young people enthused about reading; getting excited about seeing their favourite authors; clamouring for autographs; taking full advantage of all the fantastic freebies.  And on the last day there was this wonderful moment where I looked around and there were young people sitting on the floor, just reading – totally engrossed in their new purchases. If I could bottle that enthusiasm and pour it over everyone I meet, like a love potion for books, I would.   If these wonderful YA advocates of reading are able to share this with their friends, then there is definitely hope for all those young people who haven’t discovered the magic of reading, isn’t there?

Branford Boase Award 2016 Shortlist Reviews

I’m very excited to have been invited to review The Branford Boase Awards Shortlist 2016.

“The Branford Boase Award is given annually to the author of an outstanding debut novel for children. Uniquely, it also honours the editor of the winning title and highlights the importance of the editor in nurturing new talent. Now in its sixteenth year the Branford Boase Award is recognised as one of the most important awards in children’s books with a hugely impressive record in identifying authors with special talent at the start of their careers. Meg Rosoff who has just been awarded the world’s biggest children’s book prize, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, won in 2005 with How I Live Now, while Frances Hardinge, who this year won the Costa Book of the Year Award with her children’s novel The Lie Tree, was named Branford Boase Award winner exactly ten years ago.”

Branford Boase Shortlist 2016v2

The 2016 Shortlist is full of fantastic fiction and I’m a little relieved I don’t have to pick the winner – it’s going to be a tough decision. I’ll be posting reviews on the Bookshelf over the coming weeks. The winners will be announced on Thursday 7th July at a ceremony in London.