Tag Archives: Spring

Sophie Finds a Fairy Door by Laura Sheldon, illustrated by Erica Jane Waters


Sophie Finds a Fairy Door by Laura Sheldon illustrated by Erica Jane Waters

Tidying her Teddies, Sophie finds a secret fairy door hidden in her skirting board. Before she knows it she is flying through fairyland, where she is just in time to save the fairies day.

When Sophie uncovers a magic fairy door, she is taken on a magical adventure through fairyland with a beautiful fairy called Bella.  Sophie cannot believe her eyes as she sees the fairy world, and even grows some fairy wings of her very own. And when the fairy tea-cup train is in trouble, it’s Sophie who comes to the rescue and finds out how to get the train working again.

Fairy 2

Well I will admit my smile grew bigger and bigger as I read this gorgeous rhyming story with fairy magic galore!  Sophie Finds a Fairy Door is a charming book and I can just imagine all little readers falling in love with Sophie, Bella the fairy, and their fairy adventures. The lyrical narrative carries you on a cloud of fairy dust and makes it a lovely story to read aloud.  There’s just enough excitement to keep readers captivated, with the opportunity for Sophie to literally put the power of her dreams to the test. I love the use of imagination as the key to solving the problem! The story takes me back to childhood days of hoping I’d discover a fairy living at the bottom of the garden or a door leading to a secret magical world.

Fairy 1

The delightful illustrations beautifully bring to life the fairy world and all its inhabitants. Published in March by Firefly Press, Sophie Finds a Fairy Door is perfect for all those little ones who dream of make-believe magical lands and hope to have a magical visitor one day. Although, be warned, this is the first in the series and once you ‘let the magic into your home’ you’ll be hooked!

Find out more at www.fireflypress.co.uk and on Twitter @LauraSheldon76  and @Ericajanewaters.

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

spring time quote 2



Author Interview: Alice Broadway


I am absolutely thrilled to welcome the author of the Ink, Alice Broadway to the blog.  Alice is sharing some of the ideas and inspiration behind her brilliant debut novel Ink and the writing process in general.  Thank you Alice for joining us!

I just have to say this loudly – I LOVED INK! Couldn’t put it down. For the benefit of those poor people (!) who haven’t read it yet, tell us a bit about it. That makes me so happy – thank you! Ink is set in Saintstone: a world where all your good and bad deeds, all your successes and failures are tattooed onto your skin. Everyone can look at you and know all about you. The purpose of life in Saintstone is to be remembered after you die – and only the worthy deserve this honour. If you are counted worthy after your death your tattoos are preserved in a skin book for your family to keep forever. Ink tells the story of Leora who is sixteen; her Dad has just died and when she looks at his skin book she realises a mark is missing and then everything she thought she knew unravels.

In Ink, people’s memories and significant life moments are tattooed on their skin to create a record of their life story: what was the inspiration for this idea and how did you go about researching it? It’s hard to put my finger on an exact inspiration, but I am definitely indebted to Ancient Egypt: I’m so fascinated by their approach to death and their ways of honouring the dead and their physical bodies. I love anything that makes me think twice about people’s motivations and I’m also really intrigued by the way we present our lives to near strangers on social media.

The world you create is very real, as are the people in it. I loved the use of fables to illustrate the history of Saintstone and where the people’s beliefs come from.   It’s impressive enough to write a novel, let alone the fables within the story too – how did you go about writing them? If I’m facing writer’s block, my solution is to write or dream up a fable. There is something about the magic and gruesomeness of old traditional tales like Grimm’s that captures the idea of story for me. I sometimes work through my own difficulties by creating a fairytale-esque story. Is that weird?! I also come from a background of deep religious faith (although my own faith is very confused!) and I see story as the backbone of so many spiritual worldviews and I wanted this to be represented in Ink.

Leora has some really interesting relationships with the other central female characters in the story – her mother, her best friend and her mentor. Did your own relationships with female relatives and friends inform this? For me, relationships are the things that either cause you to flourish or to fold. I am very lucky to have good female friends, family and role models. I don’t feel that any of the relationships in Ink are exactly representative of the lovely people I have in my life, but I really hope I’ve been able to show the way other people can shape your world and thinking. I really like a lot of the characters in Ink and I feel for each of them. I should say that my Mum is much more chilled than Leora’s!

Faith and belief play a central part in Leora’s story; she is clearly grappling with things she feels she should believe versus the reality of what is happening around her. How important do you think faith is in today’s world?  This is something I wrestle with personally, so for me it’s a big thing but I have no idea how it seems to anyone else. I guess we all spend time trying to work out what life means and how to live a life that is really worthwhile. I have experienced both the comfort of a very rigid faith and the freedom of having no faith at all and I wish I could see how other people make their way on this journey.

You’ve talked about your fascination with death and the afterlife in previous interviews. In the book, the people’s ancestors live on through their skin books; the family get to keep (literally) a part of them – perhaps in the same way that some people in our culture keep the ashes of loved ones. Has writing Ink changed your perception of death and keeping memories of loved ones alive? Researching Ink led to some amazing discoveries and one of those was the death positivity movement, which is a non-religious group of people trying to ease the fear of death and normalise what is a very ordinary thing. I’ve been greatly inspired by the words of Caitlyn Doughty who writes and vlogs brilliantly about death, dying and post-death practices. For me it has forced me to think about death and to talk about it more openly. It has made it a little less scary, which has to be a good thing.

The idea of the Blanks (outcasts and people who don’t share the beliefs of the inhabitants of Saintstone) is quite chilling. This is reflective of so many cultures across the world controlled by religious beliefs or where people who don’t share the same ideals – is this something you wanted to address through your novel? My feeling is that we love to create an identity, and belonging to a group gives us that. I’m concerned about the ways our loyalty to our own group can mean refusal to empathise and understand others. I didn’t aim to write a political book but I’m really interested in the ways it’s inspired people to talk about division, prejudice and control.

Ink is your debut novel; tell us a bit about the process of writing – how long it took; highs and lows; anything that kept you going if there was a low point! I’m super aware that all my answers so far have been a bit gloomy, serious and morbid and I really want to be super cheery BUT, I started writing Ink just after I was diagnosed with depression and for me, writing has been a great therapeutic thing. Of course, it also meant there were days I couldn’t write and that it was slow-going. On a much happier note, it has been just amazing to sign with my dream agent (Jo Unwin) and to then be snapped up by Scholastic, and get to work with an incredible editor (Genevieve Herr). Writing is so solitary and once I had other people giving me feedback and helping shape the book I kept feeling like I was cheating! I think getting to work with gifted and brilliant people has been one of the huge pluses – when people see what you’re trying to do and help you make it better it feels like a dream!

It must be a life-changing – writing a novel, being published, reaching so many readers. How does everyday life feel now and what do your family and friends make of your success? I’m still changing nappies and getting woken most nights by the kids! In all the best ways life hasn’t changed a bit but my dad published a blog post after reading Ink and he wrote that ‘it just goes to show that childhood dreams can come true’. I really feel I’m doing my dream job and I couldn’t be more thrilled. My family and friends have been LOVELY and so supportive and sweet. And so far they’ve been excellent at laughing at me being slightly crap at publicity and the like.

Finally, what would you most want to be recorded on your skin if we lived in a society like Saintstone? I’ve been thinking about this so much! For me, the family tree would be crucial but I wish there would be ways of showing more than just how someone is related to you. Family is so much more than blood or marriage and I would love a way to express how much I love those who are precious to me.

Thank you Alice for such brilliant responses and sharing your insight with us.  We wish you every success with Ink and can’t wait for the next book! 

Find out more at www.alice-broadway.com and @alicecrumbs.

Read my review of Ink here!

Spring time quote

New review: The Wooden Camel by Wanuri Kahiu illustrated by Manuela Adreani


A stunning new picture book, The Wooden Camel is out today from Lantana Publishing written by Wanuri Kahiu and illustrated by Manuela Adreani.  Born in Nairobi, Wanuri Kahiu is a hugely successful African filmmaker. Her films have received international acclaim and have screened in over 100 film festivals around the world.  The Wooden Camel is her first picture book. Manuela Adreani lives in Turin, Italy. After taking a diploma in Illustration, she worked as a graphic artist and then animator.  She was one of the winners of the illustration contest organised for the 130th anniversary of the creation of Pinocchio.

flowers 2

The Wooden Camel by Wanuri Kahiu, illustrated by Manuela Adreani.

For those who keep on believing, even when it seems impossible….Etabo dreams of being a camel racer.  One day he might even beat his older brother when they race. But with the price of water rising, Etabo’s father must sell the camels. What will Etabo do now?

Etabo’s heart’s desire is to be a camel racer and he dreams every day of winning camel races.  Sadly his family have to sell their herd of camels but Etabo doesn’t stop dreaming. Along with his brother and sister, he helps looks after the family’s farm animals – and even tries to race on them, without success! Etabo prays to the Sky God Akuj, who whispers to him “Your dreams are enough”. And one day, he discovers with the help of his older sister, that his dreams are indeed enough.


I loved this story. Beautifully told with a gentle narrative, it’s a simple tale of a young boy and his dream.   Set against the backdrop of the Turkana people in North Africa, who farm the land and care for their livestock; a sometimes difficult life. All the family help to earn a living and make the best of what they have – a lesson we can all learn from. Their day to day life is not so different from our own; we all experience moments of worry, sibling rivalry and changes in circumstances. And we all have dreams.

When Etabo turns to his faith to help him, we see that through the love of family and the talents people are blessed with, you can achieve even your dreams.  The stunning illustrations evoke the spirit of the tale, and beautifully bring to life the Turkana people and the landscape they live in. I particularly love the depiction of Etabo’s sister making him his gift; a beautiful portrayal of kindness and showing that our dreams are often achieved in a totally unexpected way.


The Wooden Camel is an inspiring story of the power of dreams, belief and holding on to hope even when something seems impossible. The reader is uplifted by the wonderful messages portrayed by the narrative and the gentle humour throughout. I would highly recommend The Wooden Camel as an insight into a different culture but also to demonstrate that wherever and whoever we are in the world, we all have hopes and dreams.

Find out more at www.lantanapublishing.com. With thanks to Lantana for sending me a copy of this book to review.

Author Interview: Rachel Hickman

Today Rachel Hickman, author of One Silver Summer joins us on the blog. Rachel is also co-founder of Chicken House children’s books publishers and is talking to us about her new novel and how different it is being on the ‘other side of the fence’!

9781910646298 One Silver Summer

Tell us about the inspiration behind One Silver Summer. One Silver Summer was inspired by so many things, some of which I didn’t realise until the book was finished. It’s inspired by my time spent in Cornwall with my family where the weather has its own moods; it’s inspired by the horses I’ve loved my whole life, and a small, badly behaved black terrier at home who came from Dog’s Trust. I grew up abroad so my heroine isn’t English; and Alex is a little like my son in character.  First novels are like pockets filled with everything in the author’s head, or certainly, mine is.

The story really reminded me of some of the romance sagas I read when I was a teenager.  What books did you enjoy in your teens and how have they influenced your writing? It was inspired by my own love of reading to escape, set in wild and romantic settings. I loved everything by Daphne Du Maurier especially Frenchman’s Creek; Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle, and just about any horse story I could lay my hands on, most especially KM Peyton’s Flambards, or Patricia Leitch’s A Devil to Ride. I would have loved Lauren St John’s novels to read and when my daughter and I were looking for a name for our new young horse, I was unbelievably touched when she suggested we name her Storm.

In One Silver Summer Saskia has recently lost her mother and is going through the painful process of grieving. It must have been difficult to write the moments where she is in turmoil; how did you research this? I’m an overly emotional person who can never hide things well, with a tendency to read too much into almost anything. It wasn’t hard to draw on my own personal stuff: the what ifs, the tough stuff of life that makes you stronger in the end, but hurts so much when it’s happening. Grief isn’t always about death and you can’t get to my age without experiencing it first-hand. I think books can prepare you, or help comfort when it comes.

You’ve worked in children’s publishing for many years. How has your insight into publishing helped you as an author and what advice would you give to anyone in a similar position? I have been shocked at how different it feels on the other side of the fence. I love my job and I get to see the overall picture which is something an author never does. I just want to enjoy the moment, reach readers, and hopefully keep writing if time allows. My work has taught me to temper my authorial expectations and to know that everyone will have an opinion – good or bad, or hmm – on something I wrote from the heart.  If you put it out there, you take the rough with the love! Also, my background in publishing tells me that there is an enormous ocean of books for readers to swim in and not all of them will float. It’s nothing to do with what’s good or bad, but opportunity and luck. Publishing is the most glorious random thing; no one really knows what will be ‘the next big thing’!

Are you working on a new project and if so, will it be a similar genre? Or perhaps a sequel!  Or maybe even a prequel – I’d love to hear more about Alex’s Grandmother and her secret wartime romance! I have got a sequel in my head, and I would love to write your prequel, but the advice I always give authors is to have something new and different worked out. Right now, I’m deep on Dartmoor in winter with a modern-day highwayman, but I am thinking about taking it younger. See ‘the job’ is poking its nose in after all!

Rachel Hickman (col)

Rachel Hickman

Thank you Rachel for participating today and we wish you every success with

One Silver Summer.

Read my review of One Silver Summer. Follow Rachel Hickman @hickman_rachelWith thanks to Old Barn Books and Liz Scott for their support with this interview! 

Just in time for Spring: The Book of Me by Adam Frost illustrated by Sarah Ray


The Book of Me by Adam Frost, illustrated by Sarah Ray

If you ran your school what would your rules be? What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you?  Would you rather talk to animals or speak every language in the world? Answer these questions and much much more, with real life comparisons – how do you compare to an animal, another human, or even your parents? Collect your own data and enjoy ridiculous facts, hilarious quizzes and scribbling activities?

From the winner of the Best Book with Facts in the Blue Peter Book Award, comes this fantastically fun activity book.  The Book of Me is much more than your average activity book; it gets the reader thinking about all sorts of things from fame to superpowers, from school to what kind of dad dancing goes on at home!  With loads of facts about life on Earth, the universe and the ideal holiday destination (did you know 22.5 million people visit Niagara Falls every year?!) readers will learn all about the world around them – and best of all, it encourages them to think about how they feel about it too.

The book is full of quirky and often funny illustrations which are the ideal accompaniment to the text.  With so many jokes and funny ideas, it’s sure to be a hit.  It’s also a great way to get even the most reluctant reader on board with books.  I have to say I laughed out loud at the bad dad jokes (for example: “Two goldfish are in a tank. One says to the other: Do you know how to drive this thing?!”). There’s opportunities for colouring, drawing and testing your knowledge with quizzes and is a great book to keep kids entertained on the go, so very well-timed for the Easter holidays.  But watch out – with a Dad quiz test and a method of measuring how embarrassing mums are, parents will be kept on their toes too! The Book of Me is published today by Bloomsbury.

Find out more at www.adam-frost.com and www.sarahray.co.uk.

With thanks to Bloomsbury for sending me a copy to review.

flowers 2