Scientists are saving the World! by Saskia Gwinn and Ana Albero

In my role as chair of the SLA Information Book Awards I have the immense privilege to see an amazing collection of books every year.  However, I am also aware that many people do not have access to many of these books, or even information on how to find them.  That is why National Non-fiction November is so valuable and we should all be very grateful to the Federation of Children’s Book Groups, for all of the work they do in promoting this event.

The title I am looking at today is aimed at young children and gives them a fascinating insight into the wide variety of work undertaken by scientists.  I suspect that even as adults, we will discover work that is new to us; have you ever heard of an Acoustic Biologist before?  The book is laid out in a very clear way, with each profession getting a double page spread.  The book is based on the idea of a child asking their parent about scientists and what they do, with the mother then talking through a wide range of subjects that are being studied today. The illustrations are in variably sized boxes ( as with graphic novels and comics), so that it is easy to follow and most children will be familiar with the format.  The illustrations are brightly coloured and almost cartoon like in their simplicity, but this makes it easy for the very young reader to understand what is going on.  The text is also very simple and whilst many children will read this with an adult, it is also suitable for them to read for themselves, especially with the support of the graphics.

At the end of the book we have several pages with short notes describing scientists from around the world and who lived at different periods in our history.  There are many that I have not heard of before, as well as some that have become more prominent in the last few years; thanks to the growth of biographies in the children’s book world.  People like David Attenborough are world famous, but I was happy to see another scientist that I became aware of as a child.  At the end of the 1950s, before Jacques Cousteau came on the scene , we were introduced to the wonders of the ocean by the divers, Hans and Lotte Hass, so it is lovely to see a mention of Hans in this book.  For the young readers reading and listening to the content of this book, these details can act as a springboard towards discovering  more about these, often pioneering, scientists.

Because the book is aimed at a young audience, it does not include the usual elements to be found in information books.  So, we do not have a contents, index or glossary; however the inclusion of the list of scientists is very helpful.  For those in the Foundation stage and KS1, who are introducing children to the world of science, this is a brilliant book to get them excited about the world and what they might choose to do in the future.

Thank you to the Federation of Children’s Book groups for asking me to review the book and also to the publisher ‘Magic Cat‘ for providing a review copy.

The Magnificent book of Treasures: Ancient Egypt by Philip Steele and Eugenia Nobati

I have been asked to review this wonderful book for two main reasons; firstly to celebrate National Non-fiction November and secondly to commemorate the centenary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb by Howard Carter and Lord Caernarvon.  Of course I was absolutely delighted to do so, mainly because I love Ancient Egypt and as a child in the 1960s I had ambitions to be an Egyptologist.  This year also sees the bicentenary of Champollion’s first work which opened a window on how we understand hieroglyphs, so all told this is a  very important year for understanding and celebrating the wonder that is Egypt.  This led to an explosion in interest from museums and collectors in Europe and then the USA  What this really shows is how items have been transported across the world in the last two hundred years, finding homes from the USA to Europe, but also thankfully being cared for in Egypt itself. The new Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo is scheduled to open in November 2022, to coincide with the centenary commemoration.  It will be the largest archaeological museum in the world and I would love to go back to Egypt and visit it.

This glorious book is aimed at younger audiences, but also works as a starting point for children in KS2 and beyond.  The text is shown as bullet points and there is a small ‘fact file’ for each item; this shows where it was discovered and where it can be seen today.  However, it is the illustrations that are the star of the show; the illustrator has given us images of such wonderful complexity and detail that we feel that we are in the presence of the real objects.  Importantly though, we are able to see the fine detail and appreciate the skill of the crafts people who worked on these treasures over 3000 years ago in many cases.

Although the commemorations at the moment are for the period of the 18th dynasty (approximately 1330 bce) and many of the images date from that dynasty and the following one, there are also beautiful artifacts from 800 years earlier and also much later.  One of the objects that I am particularly fond of is a small statue of a seated scribe, which although it is nearly 4500 years old is stunningly modeled and gives a feeling of great calm and character.  It seems strange that whilst  Egyptian wall carvings and paintings appear very flat, the sculptures are far more lifelike, even at this early stage of the civilization.

Another set of images that are really stunning are the set of three inter-stacking coffins for a princess Henettawy.  She lived about 400 years after Tutankhamun and as a member of the royal family she served as an important priestess of Amun-Ra.  In order to find out more about this lady, I visited the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art at https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/548264

It was fascinating to discover that she was only 21 years old when she died, perhaps not that surprising given the health risks that people faced, but as a priestess she would have had a better diet and living conditions that most of the population.

The final image that I have decided to show, is one of the most famous items from the tomb of Tutankhamun and I am happy to say that I have actually seen it when we visited Egypt in the early 1990s.  The throne of Tutankhamun is absolutely exquisite from all angles; however, it is the back rest that really draws everyone’s’ attention.  The image of the young pharaoh and his wife is so beautifully portrayed, with a real sense of the close relationship that they appeared to have.  Whilst this type of imagery became quite normal during the reign of  his father Akhenaten, it is far less formal than is usually found in most Egyptian art work and definitely when portraying royalty.

I hope that I have been able to give you a flavour of this book and the magnificent images that have been chosen to show the splendour that was Ancient Egypt.  Studying this civilization is still part of the primary curriculum and every school will have a collection of books and other materials, to help the children understand what life was like.  This book is a  five star addition to any school library or classroom and I really do recommend it.

Thank you to the Federation of Children’s Book Groups (FCBG) for asking me to take part in the events this month and also to the publisher WeldonOwen for providing a copy of the book for review.

The Gita for Children by Roopa Pai

We live in a nation that is multi-ethnic and becoming even more so as the years go by.  It is therefore very important that we all have some understanding of the beliefs and histories of the various communities who share our small island.  As a librarian for a school library service, I was always aware of the need for books that reflect on the main religious and cultural groupings that are found in our schools.  Whilst there are some excellent books aimed at primary schools, both as information books and as re-tellings of myths and legends, this appears to be the first book that not only tells the  story of the Gita, but also explains so many of the names, events and thoughts that we read about in the book.  I am delighted that I have been asked to host this article by the author and I hope that this book will bring the characters alive to the intended audience.  Happy Diwali to everyone.

Why did you write The Gita for Children, and what age is it aimed at?

The first edition of The Gita for Children was published in 2015. If anyone had told me, even in early 2013, that I would write a book for children on this subject, I would have laughed. Uproariously. My book ‘What if the earth stopped spinning, and 24 other mysteries of science’ had just come out, and the last thing on my mind was a book that had anything to do with religion.

Soon after, I was brainstorming with my editor on the possible themes for my next book, when she suggested I try my hand at a retelling of the Bhagavad Gita, one of India’s ancient and revered texts, for children. Aghast, I staunchly refused to even consider it. Despite never having engaged seriously with the Gita, I believed the text was too abstract, too esoteric, too religious, probably sexist and casteist, somewhat irrelevant in the modern age, and certainly not for children.

But my editor, bless her heart, would not let it go. In the end, I decided it was fair that I read the text once, with some commitment, before I made my decision. What I discovered blew my mind.

Far from being religious, the Gita is a book of secular wisdom, a self-help book for life, delivered as a conversation between two best friends, the warrior prince Arjuna and his mentor Krishna. Its luminous ideas on self-belief, rightness of action, success, happiness, and doing one’s work with no expectation of reward, but simply as an offering to the universe, are as relevant to children as to adults, as meaningful to Indians as to people of other cultures, and as true to the age it was composed in as to the 21st century.

What’s more, its recommendations are practical, not idealistic, and entirely non-judgmental. There are no saints or sinners in the world, says the Gita, just people who make decisions that are mindful and in tune with their own natures, and people who make decisions that are guided by their emotions and the opinions of other people. As for gods and demons, they both live inside of us, not outside – who we are is who we choose to be.

In the increasingly polarized world that young, confused Arjunas inhabit today, the importance of the Gita’s compassionate guidance, which urges them to make friends with their own Krishna, the wise best friend who lives inside each of them, and trust him to guide their chariots through the battlefield of life, as another Arjuna did so many millennia ago, cannot be overstated.

That is why I wrote The Gita for Children. And because I believe that we are all children where the Gita is concerned, the book is for anyone above the age of 9.

The Gita for Children is published by Swift Press on the 24th of October (to correspond with Diwali), but it can be pre-ordered here: https://swiftpress.com/book/the-gita-for-children/

Roopa Pai is a computer engineer who always knew she was going to write for children. In addition to Taranauts, India’s first fantasy adventure series for children, she has several other published books to her credit, including The Vedas and Upanishads for Children. To make a living, she brings together three other loves – history, working with young people and her hometown in Bangalore – in her day job as a guide with Bangalore Walks, a history and heritage walks & tours company.

clone tag: 957285346232456861

The Little Squirrel who Worried by Katy O’Donoghue

The past two years have had a profound effect on how we all interact with others.  For many adults it has been a difficult time, but for children, whether very small or older, it has been even more difficult as they were only just beginning to learn how to integrate with other children; both at nursery and then at primary school.  For those ho are just that little bit older, it can be even more of an issue.  After all, they had just got used to school and having new friends and then suddenly they were cut off from this contact and often restricted to a very small space as well; those living in small flats would have had a particularly difficult time.  This charming little book follows Little Squirrel as he gradually learns to renew his contact with the world around him and finds that the other animals are friendly and caring and want to help him get used to the wood he lives in.

Thank you for Katie O’Donoghue for writing this introduction to her work and explaining the background to the story.  With her work as a child therapist she has first hand experience of the issues that young people face at times like this and hopefully her book will help many children cope with all of the changes they face.

From the author:

It’s time for Little Squirrel to start collecting acorns for winter, but he hasn’t left his tree since last autumn. He is nervous about going outside again after such a long time tucked up in his nest. The more Little Squirrel thinks about venturing down to the forest floor, the more he worries about the unknown and what might be waiting for him….The past few years have certainly had an impact on everyone’s wellbeing and mental health, with research identifying that anxiety in children ages 3-17 have increased over the last five years.

The tale of “The Little Squirrel Who Worried“, introduces the reader to the world of a Little red Squirrel and follows him on his adventures through the forest. As little squirrel encounters new friends on his journey we learn valuable strategies to equip us with skills that will benefit us our whole lives. We engage with anxiety psychoeducation*, helping the reader to understand anxiety what it is and how it can physically present. Distraction techniques that helps to take your mind off worried thoughts. Coping strategies, relaxation techniques and CBT** Thought challenging skills. These complex issues are told gently in a child like way and through the engagement of the characters in the forest that little squirrel meets. The tale invites the reader to meet Wren and Snuffly Hedgehog, Grey Rabbit to Mister Fox and from Old Badger to Great Stag. All these techniques can be useful in helping children manage any worried thoughts and feelings they may be having. It is the perfect book for a parent and child to sit down together and to use as a springboard for difficult conversation. Its also a great resource for teachers to use in the classroom to help children learn mindful techniques which can support them through the rest of their lives.

* psychoeducation learning about and understanding mental health and wellbeing

** CBT – Cognitive behavioural therapy

A timely story with a message that’s suitable for children and adults alike. As well as teaching coping strategies to help manage anxiety, it is a lovely way to help a child relax and regulate.  With the increase in children being impacted by anxiety and other mental health concerns and a demand in services, resources like The Little Squirrel Who Worried are needed to help families navigate the ways to best support children’s wellbeing.”

Jump! by J G Nolan and Carina Roberts

I am going to start this post by saying that I was not sure about reading this book.  I will admit that I am not a follower of football, so any book on the subject really takes me out of my comfort zone.  Football has always been at the periphery of my life, starting with having to keep track of the football results on a Saturday afternoon for  one of my aunts.  Going to library school in Manchester also had an impact as everyone seemed to support United or City.  When I lived in Scotland I was aware of the teams but did not really know them and so my slight links to the sport carried on.  Over the years we have had a large number of books about football, but they tend to be about fictional clubs and players; this is different as it is based around one of the most iconic clubs in the UK.

The central character, Robbie Blair has a lifelong ambition to be a professional football player and with his talent that seems to be a possibility.  Then he suffers several broken bones over a short period and it looks as if his ambitions might be in tatters.  But something strange happens when he has his latest disaster; as he is being carried off the pitch he sees an unknown face who tells him that “it is never over”.  The story follows Robbie as he starts the long road to recovery, with the help of his friend Jamie (a girl) and a mysterious figure who shows him ways to train and improve his strength and stamina.  The setting is Glasgow and Robbie is a tremendous fan of Celtic football club, so it is not difficult to believe that it is the spirit of Patsy Gallacher, on of the team’s greatest ever players, who is helping Robbie achieve his dream.

This is a book that really took me by surprise.  It is full of emotion on so many levels.  The relationships that Robbie has with his mother is very strong, because his father has left home and they depend on each other.  However she is scared by the injuries that her son has suffered and is determined to keep him safe in the future, even if it means banning him from playing football.  There is a feeling in this story that really reminds me of the film “Field of Dreams”; whilst the stories are very different we have that same sense of determination and an understanding that we can learn from the heroes of the past, who often had to contend with greater challenges that we can imagine in the modern world.

I absolutely recommend this story, it will be enjoyed by boys and girls whether they  are  football fans or not, because it is all about friendship, family and holding on to your dream.  This definitely gets five stars from me.

Spellboda by J C Clarke

The relationship between humans and birds is something that has been around for generations, although the appearance of “A Kestrel for a Knave” by Barry Hines probably bought it in to focus for many.  This book is both heart breaking and yet full of hope for the future.  The impact of his mother’s death on both Trevor and his father is something that we really feel, but the relationship that develops with the birds allows for healing and change.  I am delighted that I was asked to take part in this blog tour and this book is going to be a firm favourite for those who love to feel close to nature.

1st September 2021, The Book Guild

“Trust, belief and a little magic… then maybe they could both fly free Since Trevor’s mum died his dad can barely look at him without yelling. Home is awful, school is worse. People just let you down, and Trevor only talks to Mrs. Bingo-Wings, his mum’s cat. But then he meets Midge, a peregrine falcon in danger, and finds out he has a gift that could change his life forever. Trevor is thrown into the heart of a magical adventure that could promise freedom – for Midge and for himself – but can he overcome his doubts and fears, and take on the destiny he’s only just discovered?”

Previously a falconer, consultant and writer-presenter of CITV’s Wild World, JC Clarke is now loving the writer’s life and is also a script consultant and copywriter. She’s been involved in falconry and conservation industries for over twenty years and is passionate about protecting wildlife. An alumna of the Curtis Brown Creative Writing for Children Course, Jo was shortlisted for Best Opening Chapter for Spellboda at the 2019 Jericho Writers Festival of Writing. She lives in Ashford, Kent with her family – and a large number of animals!

For publicity requests, please contact info@literallypr.com
Online media folder: bit.ly/JCClarke_PR

 

In short, what is Spellboda about?
Spellboda is a magical animal adventure about Trevor, a boy struggling with grief and who doesn’t ‘fit in’, but discovers he has a magical gift. He can talk to Midge, a peregrine falcon, who desperately needs his help. Can Trevor work out who wants to steal Midge, why, and most importantly, can he believe he’s worth something, stop the thieves and save Midge from a life in captivity?

What inspired you to write the book?
I’ve worked with birds of prey for much of my career and I’m passionate about animal conservation. Some of my work has also been with young people, and helping them to transition through difficult situations and times in their lives, and I wanted to write a story that would also help young people to be confident in their unique abilities and strengths, and to believe in themselves.

What are some of the key themes that you explore in the book?
Key themes are animal conservation and education, handling grief and relationship dysfunction, finding self-confidence, self-belief and self-esteem, and being brave enough to live life in colour – with a touch of magic!

Is Spellboda your first book? When did you start writing it?
Although I have several manuscripts gathering dust in my cupboard, Spellboda is the first book I was brave enough to take forward to publication. I started writing it in 2014, but I was working full-time at this point so it took a while – especially as I put it through six re-drafts before I was even close to being happy with it. I should have listened to the themes in the story sooner and believed in myself a little more!

Who, or what, are some of your literary influences?
CS Lewis has been a huge influence and inspiration to my writing, as has Alan Garner, who is my hero! I have a love of older classics – including The Water Babies, The Hobbit, Lord of The Flies, and many more, and as I child I used to read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol every December without fail!

What inspired you to write for children / young adults, as opposed to adult fiction?
I’ve always read children’s fiction as a preference to adult fiction, and feel drawn to write it. Imagination is a superpower, and I feel that children aren’t able to let theirs go as much since the advent of tablets, mobiles, gaming and social media… and that books can still give them a chance to let their imaginations go wild.

You were an alumna of the Curtis Brown Creative Writing for Children Course; what was this like, and how did it impact your writing?
The course was hugely helpful to me mid-way through writing Spellboda. It inspired yet another re-draft and also helped me to develop a thicker skin for critical review! Working with respected authors and agents was a great way to gain valuable new perspectives on story writing.

How do you think your story can impact readers?
My hope is that Spellboda helps anyone, no matter their age, to feel worth something when they doubt, to feel they can be brave enough to step up and grab their chance when it comes. I hope awareness is raised for conservation – both in the UK and worldwide – and the belief that making a difference is possible, no matter how small the act.

How long did it take you to write Spellboda, and why?
It took me 6 to 7 years to write Spelloboda, but this was partly because I was working full-time alongside writing, and I wanted to keep re-drafting and working on the manuscript until I felt it was as good as I could make it.

What were some of the challenges when writing the book?
Time and self-confidence were my biggest challenges. Next was finding a place where I could write uninterrupted! I discovered many coffee shops along the way!

And what were some of the highlights?
I vividly recall finishing the book, after the last edit. I think it was because I knew I had got as far as I could at being happy with the manuscript, as much as writers ever can be anyway! I sat at my computer and had tears pouring down my face; happiness at the sense of achievement, but actually more for Trevor, and for his falcon friend, Midge, who have become so real in my life. Other highlights include taking time away to ‘retreat’ to Derbyshire, where Spellboda is set, to walk the peaks and live and breathe in every aspect of the setting I was writing.

You were previously a falconer and have a passion for wildlife; could you tell us more about this?
I fell in love with birds of prey aged 7, when on a trip to Scotland. Sitting in a hide for three hours, at last I watched the UKs only breeding pair of ospreys (at the time) fly over the loch to their nest with fish to feed their babies. I was fascinated, hooked. Even now, every time a bird flies overhead I stop to watch it… especially birds of prey. I spent 18 years as a falconer and my fascination with raptors only got stronger. I’ve been lucky enough to travel more in recent years, and I always seek out the wildlife elements of any place I visit, no matter what or where they are. The natural world is a gift for us all to marvel at and enjoy, and I’ve just felt more and more strongly the responsibility to play my part in protecting it.

How can readers make a difference when they read your story and engage with the messages of conservation and self-belief?
Even the smallest positive act in any area of life will make a difference. My hope is that readers will look at wildlife in a new way, and be more aware of the ways they can help. Even getting involved in local initiatives, such as the work being done at The Wildwood Trust, and many other amazing organisations, will help, and the more of us that get involved, the more difference we will make collectively. I always remember the starfish story!

Why it is important to try to engage with young people in this age bracket (9-15) that often falls between the gaps of middle grade and YA, particularly in light of your youth work?

I believe that ages 9 – 14 are an increasingly crucial stage in development for a young person. It’s a concern to me that so many are exposed to all kinds of material on social media at this age, and the increasing pressure for an unrealistic expectation of some idea of ‘perfection’ that only filters can bring! It’s harder than it’s ever been to be a young person, and to navigate the challenges. I’m sure we can all relate to the teenage years as being a stage we were grateful to survive! Today we see issues relating to personal control, brought about by feelings of inadequacy, and this often seems to manifest in general feelings of hopelessness, a lack of direction and confidence, and sometimes heart-breaking cases of emotional trauma and pain, which can then result in very distressing reactive behaviour. I believe our young people are up against it in a way like never before, and that we need to help them, empower them to believe in themselves, and give them confidence again.

Why do you particularly support charities such as Wildwood and Vulpro? What is it about these charities in particular that stand out for you?

I’m passionate about animal conservation, and supporting Wildwood and Vulpro is hugely important to me. Wildwood’s mission to conserve indigenous species, the work they are carrying out on breed and release projects, is amazing, and they were the obvious local choice for me to support a UK charity. As a worldwide issue, many people are unaware that huge numbers of vultures are dying, and many species are now critically endangered. Vultures are a vital component in our ecosystem and their loss would be catastrophic. I adore vultures, and so this was again a natural choice for me. Vulpro are doing the most amazing work out in South Africa, and they need all the help they can get!

Do you have any trigger warnings on or in the book? The book deals with emotional abuse from a parent – what sort of feedback have you had around this theme?

Some feedback has been that it was a struggle to read about Trevor’s relationship with his father, but some has also been that it was too tame, so I know it’s a very emotive area. It’s hard to acknowledge but many people have gone through some element of abuse or dysfunction through their childhood at some point, so my hope is to face it head on and show different perspectives may help a reader feel reassured and not alone if anything like this was to happen / has happened to them.

What’s next for Trevor and Midge?
Trevor and Midge are fully immersed in the adventure of Book Two now, which is in progress. I’ve also been lucky enough to be asked to write a film script for Spellboda, and I’m currently working on this with an Emmy award-winning writer in LA as my editor – so I’m feeling very grateful!

Do you plan on writing any more books in the future?
I’m planning a set of three books for the Spellboda series, and already have ideas for other books!

And finally, what do you hope that readers will take away from the book?
I hope readers will take away that satisfied feeling that comes from reading a story written with passion, that connects and resonates with them and lifts their spirits. I hope they can lose themselves in the story, and believe amazing things are possible in life, if they believe in themselves!

 

The Asparagus Bunch by Jessica Scott-Whyte

This is one of those books that takes you by surprise, in the best possible way.  It is the story of Leon and his mother Caroline as they navigate the many pitfalls that could occur as a result of Leon’s firm ideas about what is acceptable, due to his diagnosis of Asperger’s.  We begin the story as Leon is starting at his 7 x new school (he is very precise about the number of schools) in Blackpool.  Things do not get off to a good start when he makes a comment about the Afro hairstyle of a girl called Tanya.  After this very rocky episode, he also makes the acquaintance of a boy called Lawrence, who announces that he also has Asperger’s.  Both boys find themselves the target of the school bully, Glen and have to avoid him and his gang of followers.  When you add in the fact that Tanya has dyslexia and Caroline has secretly had a boyfriend for 6 months, then the scene is set for an explosion of misunderstandings .

This sounds like a very serious book and it does have some very strong themes, yet it is also extremely funny as we get to know the three main characters and see how they negotiate with each other, gradually easing their way to a form of friendship.  Leon is the most amazing character and to begin with he feels very difficult to feel sympathy for.  He is so rigid in his thoughts and habits, but does not understand that this is somehow different from the majority of people.  Even his food has to be served in the same way, with a very set menu for the week.  However, I am completely in awe of  Leon’s collection of chocolate, he not only has an encyclopedic knowledge of different types of chocolate bar/sweet, but he has a room lined with drawers containing samples and the room itself is thermostatically controlled and kept at 18.3 degrees Celsius; basically this is like the RHS seedbank, but for chocolate!

I found this book absolutely inspiring and it felt that I was getting a window into the issues that neurodiverse people have to contend with.  There have been quite a few ‘celebrities’ who have recently announced that they have been diagnosed as being autistic and hopefully  this will help others to understand the issues.  I love the banner at the top of the front cover which says “Just do it.  Differently”, to me it just emphasizes the fact that everyone has their own way of doing things, whether it is collecting books about Christmas and also Books/Libraries, as I do, or whether it is having rigid timetables for things.  This is an outstanding 5-star read.

The Author

 

 

Thank you to the publishers, Welbeck for this set of discussion notes that can be used with classes and reading groups.

https://bit.ly/3cjxpo9

“Leon John Crothers is 4779 days old (thirteen years and one month, if you’re
mathematically challenged), he has been ‘moved on’ from six different
schools and most people think he has an attitude problem. Leon doesn’t
care for the label, in the same way that he doesn’t care for Tim Burton,
supermarket trolleys, train fanatics or Bounty bars.
This time, however, things may turn out differently as help comes from where
he least expects it – Dr Snot, a physician at pains to help Leon navigate
‘normal’ and classmates, Tanya and Lawrence who both face their own
challenges. When school bully Glen Jenkins humiliates Leon in the school
canteen and almost destroys Lawrence, Leon very reluctantly agrees to the
formation of a club, The Asparagus Bunch.
How Leon manages to navigate school woes and family drama –
and astonishingly ends up with not one but two friends – is nothing short of a
miracle, or maybe just simply down to being different.”

 

The Asparagus Bunch by Jessica Scott-Whyte is published in paperback on 21 July 2022 for 11+ readers.

Welbeck, 9781801300469

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn Moonbeam: Dance magic ! by Emma Finlayson-Palmer and Heidi Cannon

Uclan, 9781912979769

It is so delightful to see the growth in the number and quality of books for the younger reader.  There was a time when it felt as if it was only reading schemes that were available.  thankfully this is no longer the case.

This is the first in a series of stories featuring the young witch Autumn Moonbeam and her love of all things to do with dancing.  This young heroine really want to make a success of her dancing, but she is unfortunately one of those people who are always accident prone.  she hopes that she will eventually make it big and her real wish is to be accepted into a dance team.  When her friend Leif, who attends Sparkledale Dance Academy, brings a flyer into school, Autumn gets very excited; the Academy is about to hold trials for young people to try out for their competitive dance team, The Black Cats.  However, Autumn’s nasty neighbour Severina is also determined to make the team and she is willing to go to great lengths to achieve her end, even putting a spell on Autumn that turns her into a black cat.  The question is, will our heroine achieve her dream?

What a delightful story that will really resonate with so many young children.  The characters are at that age where they are wanting to branch out and do things, but they are also very vulnerable and worried about whether they can fulfill their dreams.  It is great to see a story where the friends and adults are all very supportive and even the ‘nasty’ Severina is made to understand the consequences of her behaviour and starts to mend her ways.  It is a great read for fans of series such as Amelia Fang and Leonora Bolt.

Once upon a Fever by Angharad Walker

A favourite theme found in literature is that of an alternative world and in this country it very often centres around a world with a vastly different version of London.  If you like this type of fantasy, then you are really going to love this book.

This story centres around two sisters Payton and Ani Darke, who have moved to Lundain with their father, who works as a Methic (Doctor) at King Jude’s Hospital and their mother, who is a patient in the hospital.  They live in a world that is very different from our own because the country has been devastated by a mysterious fever that seems to affect people and their emotions; this has led to a view that all emotion should be suppressed.  There has also been a change in the way the country is governed and the power now lies with two large groups, the Bankers and the Methics, everyone else is subservient to them.

The two sisters discover that their lives are beginning to diverge and whilst Payton looks to science in the hope of finding a cure for her mother, Ani discovers that there might older and more natural ways to help those who are suffering.  As they both explore new paths they discover that  there are some good people in the world, but also that you can’t always trust those who you have looked up to in the past.  They learn the lesson that power can corrupt and that even those closest to us cannot always be trusted.

This is an absolutely brilliant teen novel from the author of “The Ash House“.  It is full of darkness and a lingering sense of evil that permeates the world in which the girls live.  The emphasis is very much on trying to remove emotions from those that have been struck down by the fever, because the illness is creating a wide range of disturbing symptoms in the patients.  It feels like a comment on the world that we live in and the way that mental health has been dealt with in the past; in fact the hospitals bear a close resemblance to the images we have of Victorian hospitals, with their dark spaces and rigid rules.  However, there is a glimmer of hope in the middle of this dystopian world, as Ani discovers when she is taken to Hyde gardens and meets the two remaining members of the ‘Wilders’ Guild.  These are people who are close to nature and understand that we need this link to the natural world and that it can bring a sense of peace, or at least tranquility to the troubled mind.

The author has created a truly frightening world, where disease has changed the way we all behave and has allowed small elites to take control of life.  There are definitely shadows of events that have, or could occur if we cannot deal with the pandemics that arise; we have all seen the rise in authoritarianism and the consequences if this is allowed to continue and take permanent control.  One of the really worrying elements of this are the quasi-scientific methods used by the Methics and the feeling that no one is trying to make any advances, despite the girls’ father supposedly researching a cure for their mother.

I have loved this book and the two main characters, who are each struggling to make sense of the world that they live in.  Many of the people they meet are also fighting against the dangers that they face and they find that together they are able to put up a stronger resistance to the powers that be.  Definitely a 5 stars from me, for this one.

About Angharad Walker

“Angharad Walker grew up on military bases in the UK, Germany and Cyprus, where stories were often being told about far-flung places, past conflicts, and friends and family.

She studied English Literature & Creative Writing at the University of Warwick and the University of California Irvine. Her fiction has been published in Structo and A Million Ways, and her poetry has made it into Agenda broadsheets and Ink Sweat & Tears.

She lives in South London. When she’s not writing, she works as a communications consultant for charities and not-for-profits.”   Chicken House website.

Poppy loves Devon by Gillian Young

This is the second story about a rather fantastic young golden retriever called Poppy.  For anyone who has ever owned a dog there are so many moments when you nod your head and remember when your own dog did exactly the same thing; from rolling  in fox poo, to running after some exciting movement in the undergrowth.  The series is called the “Crazy Cream Adventures” and is based on the author’s own pets, as explained in her resume.  This story takes Poppy and her family, she calls her humans her ‘pawrents’ on their holidays to Devon, somewhere that Poppy loves.  They are staying on a farm and Poppy soon starts making friends, except for the resident sheepdog; who is very reserved.  When Poppy finds a lost puppy, things begin to get interesting and she thinks that there is a ‘monster’ lurking in the woods.  The question is whether our heroine can solve the mysteries and have the holiday she wanted.

This is a great adventure for all dog lovers, even if they don’t have one of their own.  It is told from Poppy’s viewpoint and it is fascinating to see the way that she and her human manage to misunderstand each other.  Whilst not intended as a ‘funny’ story, you can’t help but laugh at some of the antics that the animals get up to.  There are elements of adventure and intrigue in this story, but overall it is a beautifully gentle story of the relationship between dogs and their humans.

About the Author
Gillian Young is a full-time writer and illustrator of children’s middle-grade
fiction.
Gillian has always been passionate about writing and art. Following art
college, she worked as a Graphic Artist. During this time, she settled down, got
married and had two children. Becoming a mother reintroduced her to the magic
of children’s fiction. Every night she’d read Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny to
her kids. Eventually, she had the idea of writing stories of her own.
To be an author was still her dream – that had never gone away. Snatches
of time between going to work and taking care of the children were spent bent
over her laptop writing – until 2015…
A battle with cancer led Gillian to re-evaluate her life. Writing was her
medicine and it was because of this that she decided to ‘go for it ’ and focus on
becoming an author.
Much of Gillian’s work is inspired by her golden retrievers who have
achieved some fame around the world through their Instagram page
(crazy.cream.retrievers). Following her previous books, Poppy on Safari, and
Tammy and Willow, Gillian has appeared on radio and magazines talking both
about her books and her experiences fighting and defeating the big ‘C’.
Gillian lives with her family in Worcestershire.

ESSENTIAL DETAILS

Title: Poppy Loves Devon

Author: Gillian Young

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Middle Grade, Chapter Book

Publisher: Troubador

Publication date: June 2022

Availability: Paperback, eBook, International distribution

ISBN: 9781803132655

Page count: 272

Price: £9.99

Online: www.gillianyoungauthor.com

Media requests & enquiries: info@literallypr.com, www.literallypr.com