Walk like an Egyptian: part two

Caboodle books, 9781919614809

“The Ancient Egypt sleepover” by Stephen Davies  follows young Mo when he wins a place at a sleepover at the British Museum.  However there are villains about and the young students find themselves having to stop a robbery, after all the adults have been drugged by the robbers.  A great read, especially if you are about to visit the Museum itself.

Maverick, 9781848868144

The Heart Scarab” and “The Crocodile Curse”  by Saviour Pirotta and Jo Lindley are the first two adventures in a series by this superb writer of historical fiction for younger readers.  This series is set during the reign of Ramses II and features two brothers, who find themselves in danger from a villainous magician.  A brilliant addition to the list of books about this civilization.

Maverick, 9781848868946

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, , 9780618756384

“Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos” by R L LaFevers is the first in a series featuring a young girl, whose mother is an archaeologist and her father is curator of a large Egyptian collection.  When a mysterious amulet seems to bring the threat of magic and destruction, Theodosia finds herself caught up in the fight to save the country.  There are four books in this series and a theoretical fifth volume, although I have been waiting for quite a few years for this to appear.

Buster books, ‎ 9781780557519

“Sherlock Bones and the Curse of the Pharaoh’s Mask ” by Tim Collins follows the canine detective and his assistant Dr Catson as they take a well earned holiday in Egypt.  But when a gold mask is stolen, they become the chief suspects.  They have to prove their innocence and find the true thieves to avoid going to prison.  This is full of action and adventure and is great for 7-9 year olds who are exploring Egypt for the first time.

Barrington Stoke, 9781800900073

Tutankhamun’s treasure” by David Long is  Barrington Stoke book aimed at introducing young readers to the story of Howard Carter and Tutankhamun.  This is an information book that is told in an easy to read and understand way.  There are plenty of pen and ink illustrations that help the reader to get the feel of the story.

Welbeck Flame, ‎ 9781801300230

“The Mummy’s Curse” by M A Bennett is the second in a series featuring three young explorers, who can use a time machine to help change history.  In this book, they find themselves travelling forward to 1922 and being present at the opening the tomb of Tutankhamun; but what can they do to prevent robbery and more?  This is an excellent series and is unusual in that the heroes travel FORWARD in time for their adventures.

Faber & Faber, 9780571328499

“Secrets of a Sun King” by Emma Carroll is written by an author who is one of our most highly regarded history writers.  In this story, the heroine Lilian finds herself caught up in the suspect death of an archaeologist, a mysterious package and the discovery of a new tomb in Egypt.  The year is 1922 and the world has got Egypt mania, but are there some real dangers to be faced and new stories to be told?  This is a favourite story for use in KS2 studies of Egypt.

Sweet Cherry, 9781782268161

“Tombful of Trouble” by Pip Murphy.  This is the third in the series of stories featuring the twins, Christie and Agatha (yes, they have lived in Torquay!) and this time they find themselves in Egypt at the same time as Howard Carter discovers his famous tomb.  When precious objects start to disappear from the tomb, the girls (who run a Detective Agency) decide to find the culprit and retrieve the treasures.  This is a great read for younger readers and definitely for those who will go on to read Robin Steven.

Candlewick, 9781536205237

“Julius Zebra: entangled by the Egyptians” by Gary Northfield is the third book in the series featuring the less than fearless Zebra called Julius.  The stories are set in the ancient world and so far the hero and his friends have been taken to Rome, then Britain and now find themselves ship wrecked off the coast of Egypt.  They start by being treated as gods, but things rapidly go downhill.  This is a fun filled story that young readers will love.

Elmside Publishing, 9781999364113

“The Adventurers and the Temple of Treasure” by Jemma Hatt follows a group of young people as they follow clues left by their father and persuade their uncle to take them to Egypt, to search for hidden ‘treasure’.  The adventurers love to detect and this story allows them to do just that.  This is the second in the series and will add more fans to the books.

CreateSpace, 9781478305705

“Mystery of the Egyptian Scroll” by Scott Peters (Kid Detective Zet) is first in a series featuring a young boy called Zed, who lives in ancient Egypt.  He is the son of a potter,  but would much rather be solving mysteries and is actually quite successful at what he does.  This series is great for showing a world that is not just in palaces, but also shows the lives of ordinary people.  there are four stories to be read, but I am sure that readers would love some more in the future.

Puffin, 9780141325507

“The Kane trilogy” by Rick Riorden is an absolute must for fans of Percy Jackson.  Set in the same world, this is based around the Egyptian gods  and features Carter and Sadie, the children of Egyptologists as they are caught up in a war between the gods.  This is a fantastic series for middle grade readers and it is a shame that there are only three full length novels in this series, although there are also several short novellas.

Crescent Vista Press, 9781734155211

The Eye of Ra” by Ben Gartner features American siblings, John and Sarah, who accidentally stumble on a cave  and find themselves drawn back to Ancient Egypt.  There they find themselves up against a mysterious character and need to find a way of getting back to their home, without changing the course of history.  This is the first in a series of three titles in which the children visit the Roman Empire and the Aztec Empire.

b small publishing, 9781911509097

An Egyptian Adventure” (The Histronauts)  by Frances Durkin and Grace Cooke is part of a graphic novel series centred around the major ancient civilizations.  In this book, the heroes are taken back to Ancient Egypt  and make friends with a girl who shows them what life is like.  The book is full of factual information and excellent illustrations that bring the period to life.  This makes for a really good introduction to the life and beliefs of the Egyptian people.

CreateSpace, 9781544763774

The Cleopatra Curse” and “The Great Pyramid Robbery” by Katherine Roberts are part of a series called the Seven Fabulous Wonders.  they are adventure stories full of action and history, but also with a magical and mystical element that really hooks the reader.  the Pyramid robbery is set during the reign of Khufu in early Egypt, whereas the Cleopatra Cure is set in the final days of this great civilization, as Rome flexes its military might.

A & C Black, 9780713674552

“Casting the Gods Adrift” by Geraldine McCaughrean is a short story by a Carnegie winning author.  It is an exciting adventure story, set during the reign of the heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten, when he built his new capital city Amarna out in the desert and away from the Nile river.  This is great for those who prefer shorter books and it deals with a time that is not written about as much.

Andersen Press, 9781849395748

“The Lost Prophesies” by Michael Malaghan  When siblings Callie and Nick go to stay with their uncle at the museum he curates in Egypt, the last thing they expect is to find a message from 4000 years ago and addressed to them.  What follows is a tale of mystery and magic, as they try and unravel centuries of intrigue and danger.

HarperCollins, 9780007514083

Time Hunters; Egyptian Curse” by Chris Blake.  the main character, Tom, finds himself on time travelling adventures to the past after he accidentally breaks a statue at the museum, he sets free a young girl called Isis who had been imprisoned there since ancient times.  They find themselves on a quest to go back in time, retrieve some amulets and in this, the sixth and final adventure Tom finds himself fighting in the forces of Tutankhamun.  Hopefully he will solve the riddle and break the curse that has held Isis captive.

Orion, 9781842556054

“Scribes of Alexandria” by Caroline Lawrence is part of her long series about a small group of children and their detective adventures during some important events in Roman history.  This book sees them in Egypt and having to travel down the Nile in their quest to find the answers to their questions.

Walker books, 9781406361445

“Jake Atlas and the Tomb of the Emerald Snake” by Rob Lloyd Jones is about Jake and his sister Pan as they try and find their parents in the deserts of Egypt.  They face all kinds of problems including thieves and high tec dangers.  This is the first in the series and Jake is not your usual hero, in fact he has some real issues that he has to deal with.

Simon & Schuster, 9781471147197

Violet and the Mummy Mystery” by Harriet Whitehorn this is the fourth adventure for the young sleuth, Violet and her friends.  After a mummy is stolen from the British Museum, Violet hunts for the culprits and is desperate to help her Aunt Matilde, who is an Egyptologist.  This is a delightful and exciting story for young enthusiasts.

 

 

 

With the centenary of the opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb  taking place on at this time, there is a real resurgence in interest; although the fact that it is on the National Curriculum means that there is always a good range of materials available.  I hope that these two blog posts about the subject will spark your interest and that people will discover some new authors to enjoy.

Christmas Joy – Picture books and more.

This year has proved to be a bumper year for festive stories, whether they are about the traditional holidays, or just about the winter season.

Macmillan, 9781529095708

“The Spirit of Christmas” by Nancy Tillman is a charming board book that embodies the spirit of Christmas.  It is written in verse and reads in a similar vein to “The Night before Christmas”.  The important bit at the end reminds us that the festive season is all about those we love and sharing that feeling.

Macmillan, 9781529087055

“What the Ladybird heard at Christmas” by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks reveals how the ladybird and her friends foil a burglary on Christmas night; despite being very small  they are not helpless and turn the tables on the nasty burglars.  Yet another great story told in rhyme and part of a series featuring the ladybird.

Happy Yak, 978071126828

“The Big Christmas Bake” by Fiona Barker and Pippa Curnick takes “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and turns it in to something quite different.  There are children, penguins, dancing hippos and a wide assortment of amusing participants.  A brilliant read for younger children

Andersen Press, 9781839130335

“Tiny Reindeer” by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros is a joyous celebration of Christmas which leaves a lovely warm feeling when you read it.  Tiny reindeer just wants to be able to help, but he is too small to do any of the jobs the others do.  Santa asks him to read through the last of the children’s letters and then Tiny discovers one that he thinks he can help with.  We join him as he hopes to make a little girl’s dream come true.

Little Tiger, 9781801040129

“The Christmas Department Store” by Maudie Powell-Tuck and Hoang Giang reminds us that we don’t need to give expensive gifts to show we love our family and friends at this season.  When Benji is drawn into the magical store, he discovers the perfect presents for his family and it is all about feelings, memories and showing love.  A wonderful message for all of us.

Frances Lincoln, 9780711262935

“Kid Christmas of the Klaus Brothers Toy Shop” by David Litchfield is a brilliant story about the origins of Christmas and how the young Nicky Claus, who works in his uncles’ toy shop wants to bring gifts to children who usually miss out.  As always with David Litchfield the illustrations are fabulous and the story is full of magic and Christmas spirit.

Nosy Crow, 9781839944994

We disagree about this tree” by Ross Collins features our favourite Mouse and Bear as they try and decide how to celebrate Christmas.  Decorating the tree is a bone of contention, with neither of them wanting the same as the other.  However, as with all real friendships, they eventually find common ground and enjoy each other’s company around the final tree.

Walker Books, 9781406397673

“Through the North Pole Snow” by Polly Faber and Richard Jones brings us a very different take on the story of Father Christmas.  It tells the tale of a young fox trying to find something to eat in the snowy wastes of the far north.  When he falls through the snow, he finds himself being rescued by an old man who lives in the snow covered house.  Several months follow, until spring arrives and they are able to get out into the newly refreshed landscape.  As the year progresses we begin to guess who the old man is, but it is a wonderful surprise when the fox finds himself helping Father Christmas deliver gifts around the world.

Owlet Press, 9781913339494

“The Woodcutter and the Snow Prince” by Ian Eagleton and David Ortu is a stunning interpretation of the Snow Queen, but in this story we have a very inclusive variation on the story.  The young woodcutter, Kai, lives alone and spends his days carving wonderful statues, in the hope that people will pass-by and see them, but no one does. Then one Christmas eve he is visited by the magical Snow Prince, who is brought to life for one night every year.  What follows is a story of friendship, love and hope.  The ending should leave you feeling a warm glow inside, despite the snow and ice.

Owlet Press, 9781913339449

Where Bjorn belongs” by Samuel Langley-Swain and Mirna Imamovic tells the story of young Arthur who loses his beloved toy polar bear and writes to Father Christmas asking for a new one for Christmas.  Magic happens when he discovers a real baby bear in his garden at Christmas and despite his mother’s misgivings they look after the bear, until it starts to be too big.  Arthur asks Father Christmas to look after Bjorn and of course his request is granted.  However this is just the start of a wonderful friendship between a boy and a bear.

Scallywag Press, 9781912650989

“The After Christmas Tree” by Bethan Welby is the paperback edition of this delightful book about a small tree that is forgotten after the Christmas festivities are ended.  Young Brian decides to try and save it, but he needs a bit of magical help from the wildlife to make things happen.

Bloomsbury, 9781526632210

“We’re going on a Sleigh Ride” by Martha Mumford and Cherie Zamazing is a take on the favourite rhyme featuring a bear and a family.  This version has Father Christmas and a sleigh full of gifts and toys as they visit children around the world.  The story is fast, furious and full of fun, with lots of lift-the-flap options, to see what presents are hidden underneath.

HarperCollins, 9780008413361

“An Odd Dog Christmas” by Rob Biddulph It is Christmas Eve and Odd Dog has still not found a present for her friend.  But when she sees a sign about the festivities she follows it and finds herself  helping  pull the sleigh for Father Christmas, as Dasher is not well enough to be part of the team.  Odd Dog also learns that simple gifts ‘from the heart’ are better than expensive gifts.  A delightful rhyming story featuring a favourite canine and with the author’s signature illustrations

Graffeg, 9781913134846

“Gaspard’s Christmas” by Zeb Soanes and James Mayhew is the fourth in the series about the fox called Gaspard, and based on a city fox who visits the author’s garden.  This is a timely reminder that many people face homelessness and hardship, especially at this time of year and we all need to do what we can to help. Beautiful illustrations, as always, from James Mayhew; making this a new classic for this season.

Penguin, 9780241488898

Jim’s spectacular Christmas” by Emma Thompson and Axel Scheffler is a story aimed at those who are just beginning to read for themselves, or who can enjoy  a slightly longer story. Jim, the hero, is a dog who lives at the Victoria and Albert Museum as the unexpected pet of Sir Henry Cole.   The illustrations are by the legend that is Axel Scheffler and really bring the Victorian period to life, as we see Jim deliver the first Christmas Card to Queen Victoria. The book is not divided into chapters, but it would be possible to have sections to be read over several days. A lovely story, full of Christmas spirit.

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Older Reads

Usborne, 9781803705033

“Operation Nativity” by Jenny Pearson  puts a whole new twist on the story of the nativity.  When the Angel Gabriel gets things wrong, he ends up in 2022 and so do the shepherds, wise man and even Mary and Joseph.  It is up to the children Oscar and Molly to try and find all these characters and somehow get them back to the correct time and place, so that the Christmas story actually takes place.  It is a brilliantly funny story that deserves a place in every Christmas collection.

Macmillan, 9781529041613

“The Grumpus: and his Dastardly, Dreadful Christmas Plan” by Alex T Smith takes this anti-hero and help him discover the warmth and meaning of Christmas.  This is the third year that Alex T Smith has given us such a fantastic story and he just keeps getting better and better.  The illustrations are amazing and the characters will touch your hearts.  However, I don’t think that the love of brussel sprouts is going to be increased anytime soon.  (they are the Grumpus’s favourite food!!)

HarperCollins, 9780008334307

“Virtually Christmas” by David Baddiel and Steve Lenton  shows what happens when we allow computers and technology to take over our lives.  Father Christmas is no longer real and everything is done with AI and robots.  How Etta and Monty go on a quest to find the real Santa and bring back the true meaning of Christmas makes for a fun-filled adventure that I loved.

Scholastic, 9780702315879

“Humbug, the Elf that saved Christmas” by Steven Butler  turns our idea of Father Christmas  and his helpers on its head.  Forget about the factory and house from “Santa Claus, the movie”, this North Pole has a hierarchy of elves and when you are part of the ‘poo burning team’ then that is it, for generations and you don’t even get to eat any mince pies.  Humbug wants to change things, but it is not going to be an easy task.  A brilliant story where the elves have a language all of their own.

Simon & Schuster, 9781398515819

“Secrets of a Christmas Elf” by Ben Miller is the second story featuring Holly Christmas (yes her dad is Father Christmas) and in this tale Holly finds herself in a race against time, as her father is kidnapped and the festivities are fast approaching.  Can she  save the day as well as all of her family.  This is a fast and furious story full of action, as we follow Holly’s pursuit of the villains.

Farshore, 9780755503742

“The Christmas Carrolls: The Christmas Competition” by Mel Taylor-Bessant and Selom Sunu sees the famous Christmas Carrolls in a race to prove that they are the most festive family in the land.  This time they are in competition with a family called Klaus, who are determined to prove that they are the most Christmasy.  The problem is that they are very wealthy and will stop at nothing to win the competition.

Nosy Crow, 9781839945908

“Murder at Snowfall” by Fleur Hitchcock is the fourth (?) in her series of murder mysteries for middle grade readers.  I must admit that I am biased as I have known the author for years, as part of the Bath group of children’s authors.  If you love Robin Stevens and Katherine Woodfine then you will definitely enjoy these books.

 

 

 

A couple of other books to have on your radar are these

Elf Road: An Epic Christmas adventure” by Jacqui Hazell   Nowness books, 9780995726864

“The Christmasaurus Cracker” by Tom Fletcher.  Puffin, 978-0241624456

A Happy Christmas to everyone.

Walk like an Egyptian

This year has seen the centenary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, as well as the bi-centenary of the finding of the Rosetta stone and the translation of hieroglyphs by Jean-Francois Champollion.  This has given me the impetus to compile this list of books featuring that fascinating civilization.  It is something that I have wanted to do for a long time.  However I am amazed by the sheer volume of books about the subject.  Mainly I have kept to those published in the last year or so, but I have included some long term favourites from my own library.  I hope you enjoy reading some of them

“The Mystery of the Golden Pyramid” by Adela Norfan and Aaron Cushley is a delightful introduction to Ancient Egypt.  When Sophie moves to Egypt, she is surprised to find a dog in her bedroom, but this is a talking dog who gives her a quest to find and return four lost amulets to the tomb of King Nebra.  It is full of action and humour and will appeal to all KS1 children.  The illustrations are excellent, with some great ‘lift-the-flap’ elements.

The Curse of the Tomb Robbers” by Andy Seed and James Weston Lewis is an exquisitely illustrated story of intrigue and tomb robbery, in which two children are able to foil the robbers and bring them to justice.  It highlights the importance of reading the hieroglyphs and also the respect that was given to the dead, by the Egyptians.

“Secrets of the Dead” by Matt Ralphs and Gordy Wright is produced by the British Museum and looks at the various forms of mummification found around the world.  Egypt is only one of those places, but the chapter in this book looks at the methods used and at some famous examples such as Tutankhamun and Ramses II.  The book makes for a fascinating read.

“The magnificent book of Treasures: Ancient Egypt” by Philip Steele and Eugenia Nobati.  I have written a full blog post about this book and you can see it by looking for the title on the blog site.  It is a gorgeous book.

King Tutankhamun tells all” by Chris Naunton and Guilherme Karsten is written by one of our most well-known and knowledgeable Egyptologists.  The illustrations are cartoon style and full of colour and is written in the form of a memoir by the dead Pharaoh.  There is a great deal of humour in the way that it is written, but it is still full of information about the king and also Ancient Egypt itself.

Mummies Unwrapped” by Tom Froese is written in conjunction with the British Museum and is a fascinating look at the various processes that a mummy underwent; asking many of the questions that young people want to know..  The illustrations are  bright clear and have elements of humour, which really adds to the enjoyment.  The cover is gold, which will add to the attraction for the intended audience.

“Egyptology” by Dugald Steer is the first in a series of truly sumptuous books, full of illustrations, lift the flaps, added artifacts and information about a range of topics.  this book has a gold cover and really gives the reader a sense of the grandeur that was found in Egyptian tombs.  Whilst this is not a new title, it is one that should be the basis of anyone’s collection about Egypt.

Egyptian diary: The Journal of Nakht” by Richard Platt and David Parkins is the story of a young boy living in Memphis with his family and how he helps foil a gang of tomb robbers and eventually get to meet the Pharaoh Hatshepsut, only to discover that they are a woman (one of very few female pharaohs).  this is a large size book with some fabulous illustrations.  Since its publication in 2005 it has become a staple of all school libraries.

“Marcy and the Riddle of the Sphinx” by Joe Todd Stanton is the second tale in the “Brownstone’s Mythical collection” series and follows the adventures of Marcy, the daughter of the original hero Arthur, as she attempts to save her father from the clutches of the Great Sphinx.  Children will love the graphic novel format and the fast pace of the action.

“I was there: Tutankhamun’s Tomb” by Sue Reid is a great read for younger audiences.  It is based on the fact that a young boy was involved in finding the stairs which led to the tomb discovery.  it is full of action, villains and  of course introduces the audience to Howard Carter and his patron Lord Caernarvon.

This is just the first section of this rather mammoth post, but I found it o difficult to cut down on the titles to be included.  Join me again for part two of this collection.

 

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.

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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