Sister to a Star by Eloise Smith and Federica Frenna

If you are looking for a story full of glamour, adventure, mystery and sibling rivalry then this is definitely the book for you.  The two sisters, Evie and Tallulah are as different as chalk and cheese, with Tallulah having ambitions to become a famous film star;  Evie on the other hand wants to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps and become a stage sword fighter.  When they find themselves in Hollywood, it looks as if their dreams might come true, but Evie finds herself being constantly pushed aside by her sister’s ambitions.  Things change when it looks as if Tallulah is kidnapped and Evie sets off with some new friends in a bid to find her sister.

I hope that this has whetted your appetite for this exciting tale and that this post from the author Eloise Smith will bring the characters to life.  Thank you to Chicken House and Eloise Smith for this and for the opportunity to take part in the blog tour.

 

SISTER TO A STAR: A book for girls?
By Eloise Smith

Sister To A Star by Eloise Smith

Middle grade books tend to be highly gendered. Titles beginning ‘The boy who . . .’ or ‘The girl who . . .’ are fearsomely popular amongst 9 – 12 year olds. Common wisdom dictates that girls will happily read books with boy protagonists, whilst boys reject books with female protagonists.

However, when I set out to write Sister To A Star, I didn’t want to write a ‘book for girls’. Growing up, I loved action adventure movies: Indiana Jones, Star Wars, James Bond, even Ghostbusters. So all my favourite characters were male. I imagined myself escaping pits of snakes like Indy, fighting with light-sabres like Luke Skywalker and electrocuting villains like Bond, before delivering witty one-liners like Peter Venkmann.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

 

 

 

 

 

Princess Leia waiting to be saved in Return of the Jedi

I could never get very excited about their female sidekicks, who seemed so passive and dispensable as they waited to be saved.

 

 

 

So I decided I wanted to write a high-octane action adventure, full of fights, duels, dare-devil stunts and narrow escapes. What the traditionalists might call a ‘book for boys’. The only difference of course, I was that it would have a girl lead. She would be just like my action heroes – really physical, driving the action, fighting, climbing, jumping, tight-rope walking, escaping fire, wild animals and any number of thrilling horrors. Hell, she could even save her own female sidekick. And so emerged my protagonist, Evie.

Evie and Tallulah from Sister To A Star
I balanced Evie with her more conventionally feminine twin, Tallulah. She can dance and act, loves pretty dresses, hair and make-up and dreams of being a movie star. She’s as girly as Evie is tomboyish. Neither is positioned as a better or worse way to be a girl – just different.

Ultimately, it’s only by embracing each other’s skills can the twins win the day. So this is neither victory for the clichés of girly girls nor tomboys. It’s about encouraging readers to avoid gender stereotypes traps, and be their best self. In the words of the stunt fencing coach in Sister To A Star:

“Just be the best you, don’t worry about everyone else.”

Sister To A Star by Eloise Smith is available at Amazon, Waterstones, WH Smith and The Book Depository. Happy reading!

A Head full of Magic by Sarah Morrell

Hashtag Press, 9781913835156

This is a strikingly original look at magic and the various ways that it is perceived and understood in different cultures.  Thank you to Hashtag Press for giving me the opportunity to read this and to be part of the joyous celebration for its publication.

The heroine, Fleur is just a normal year six pupil, who lives with her English Mother and West India Nan.  The only unusual thing is that she doesn’t like birds, especially the parrot (called Sir Barclay Wigbert Titus Smythe) who shares Nan’s room in the attic.  Apart from that, she is focused on surviving the last term at her school and avoiding the bully Celeste, who seems to have taken a dislike to her.  But strange things are happening in the community, with mysterious flying figures, lost slippers in the road and even more strange, Nan seems to be part of this.  The final, and really disturbing occurrence is when  Fleur discovers she can understand what the animals are saying.  It starts off with Sir Barclay, but she soon finds that she can communicate with everything from insects to large animals.  After finding the courage to talk to her Nan about all of this, she discovers that she is a Hexter (someone with magic) and her  version makes her an Animalator.  Nan explains about many of the other versions and says that she is able to fly invisibly, hence the  lost slipper.    It turns out that the rather nasty Celeste has the ability to recognize magic, but does not have any skills that she can use, hence her dislike of Fleur.  But can Fleur deal with this problem, help her Nan and come to terms with her amazing new powers; above all, can they manage to reunite Sir Barclay with his lost love Dame Genevieve?

What a fabulously funny story, with some really feisty and  smart characters.  You can’t help but love Nan with her wonderful spirit and sense of family;  despite being 89 years old, she is the glue that holds everyone together.  However, for me, it is Sir Barclay who really steals the show;  he is a totally snarky parrot, with a wicked turn of phrase but he also has the determination to help the family in any way he can.  I do hope that we will be treated to more stories as Fleur learns to control her powers and perhaps find her father, who had left home when his father died.  This is definitely aiming to be a five star story.

 

Thanks to Literally PR

About the Author
Sarah lives in Yorkshire and worked as a Criminologist until
she fell in love with writing and quickly swapped a life with
crime for a life with rhyme! She is married with three awesome
kids who keep her on her toes whilst she is plotting and
sharing her latest stories.
Sarah has self-published two picture books. The King and
the Cockerel was a finalist in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards
in 2018 and Molly’s Magic Brolly picked up a Silver Award
in 2019. She is currently working on a number of middle
grade and children’s picture books and has a couple of book
club novels up her sleeve too. When she is not writing, she
loves nothing more than to run, bike or swim in the hills
of Holmfirth and recently entered her first Triathlon. Next
New Year’s Eve, she will not be making any sports related
resolutions.
Sarah is an active SCBWI Member and a Volunteer
Ambassador for Candlelighters Charity.
Follow Sarah @SMorrellAuthor
www.sarahmorrellauthor.co.uk

Hedgewitch by Skye McKenna and Tomislav Tomic

I admit to really loving books about magic, witches, and the mythology surrounding the Fae folk.  This belief in the fairy people has its roots in Celtic myths, as far as I know and you can forget any thoughts of pretty little fairies with tinsel and wings.  The characters in this story are human sized, powerful and have a very strong dislike for humans, although they have a fondness for young children and often kidnap them.  In the land of fae there are also creatures ranging from goblins to pookhas, all of which are a danger or at least an irritation to the human world.

Cassandra, or Cassie Morgan has been at the really awful Fowell House School for seven years, ever since her mother left her there at the age of five.  When she is told that her mother has been declared officially dead, she does not believe it and runs away, to avoid being sent to an orphanage.  But that is when things become very strange; firstly she is attacked by six very small men and then she is saved by a talking cat (yes, really!) and a flying broomstick.  The cat, Montague, tells Cassie that he has been sent by her unknown Aunt Miranda, to bring Cassie to the family home and when she arrives she discovers a world that she had dreamt about, but had not really believed existed.

Aunt Miranda is a witch, as are some of the locals in the village of Hedgely and her duty is to protect the ‘Hedge’, a dense wood that creates a barrier between the human and faery worlds.  It seems that creatures are trying to break through the barrier and they have been stealing children to take them back to sell to the ‘Lords and Ladies’ as the Fae are called.  Cassie finds that life has become very complicated; not only is she is starting lessons at the witch version of the girl guides, trying to navigate between several friends and getting to know her new family, but above all she is trying to find clues about her mother’s disappearance.  As you can see from the brilliant map, this is a small and tightly knit community, but it is still wonderful to be able to visualize it in this way.  There are also some marvellous illustrations throughout the book.

This is a truly fantastic story of witchcraft and magic, mixed with that slightly dark version of Celtic mythology.  Cassie is one of those characters that you can’t help but like, even though as an adult I find her very frustrating at times.   The friction between her and her aunt  is caused by the difference in the way they see the world.  Cassie, like many young people sees the world in fairly straightforward terms, unlike her aunt, who has learnt that there are all kinds of nuances and you often need to tread carefully.  Mixed with the search for the missing children and mother we also have multi-layers of friction between individuals and witch families.  You can see that there are echoes of other stories featuring young witches, but of course it is what the author does with the story that makes all the difference.  I first read this story in preparation for attending the Federation of Children’s Book groups’ Conference last month; as you can see from the photos, I had the pleasure of meeting Skye, as she launched her book with a selection of cakes.  I have now re-read the book ready for this blog and I am really delighted to say that the book is even better the second time around.  We are treated to adventure, intrigue, family and some fascinating characters, although I think that my favourite is that cat with attitude, Montague; he has that hint of sarcasm in his comments and yet we feel that he would do anything for the Morgan family.

This is one of those books that you give 10 out of 10, or even 5 stars, but if you bring it all to a basic level then this is a brilliant read and I can’t wait for the follow up, “WoodWitch” due to be published in April 2023.  It is a must have for any lover of fantasy stories.

 

The Author

Skye McKenna grew up in a mining town in the Australian outback. Surrounded by the red dust of
the Pilbara, she developed a healthy respect for wild things and wild places at a young age. Seeking
adventures of her own, she travelled to the UK and fell in love with the British countryside.
Skye now lives in Scotland and works for a heritage charity, with whom she recently curated an
exhibition on medieval magic. When she’s not reading and writing, she goes looking for stories in
the hills and forests of her new home.

Hedgewitch is Skye’s first novel.
For further information, images please contact Lorraine Keating
Head of Children’s Marketing and Publicity at lorraine.keating@welbeckpublishing.com
@KidsWelbeck @WelbeckKids

Cover illustration  Saara Katariina Soderlund

Interior illustrations   Tomislav Tomic

The Truth be Told by Sue Divin

I am absolutely delighted to have been asked to start off this blog tour for the new book by Carnegie short-listed author Sue Divin.  Thank you Sue, for writing this guest blog which explains your thought process and the background to the story.  I spent 18 months in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, working at a library headquarters and I have fond memories of colleagues who worked so hard to bring books and the joy of reading to the people they served.  This brings Northern Ireland life up to date, but of course there are always the underlying shadows of the past.  I will be adding my own review to this blog in the near future, but until then, I hope this inspires you to read the book.

 

The inspiration behind Truth Be Told

Truth Be Told is about truth, forgiveness and the stories that do not fit. Up front, it’s the story of two sixteen-year-old girls, Tara and Faith – imagine ‘Parent Trap meets Derry Girls’. It’s a pacy, contemporary YA novel set against the real backdrop of events in Northern Ireland in Autumn 2019. Readers should expect laughs, tears, smiles and a roller-coaster of a read.
Tara has been raised by her mam and nan in Derry City. Faith lives in rural Armagh. Their lives on opposite sides of a community / political divide couldn’t be more different. Until they come face-to-face with each other and are shocked to discover they look almost identical. Are they connected?
In searching for the truth about their own identities, the teenagers uncover more than they bargained for. But what if finding out who you truly are means undermining everything you’ve ever known? Sometimes who you are, is not what you expect.
The overarching plot was just something that landed into my head in the space of a day. I’d been toying with a trilogy based on characters from Aidan’s family in Guard Your Heart, or a sequel, or going a different direction completely and writing a dystopian environmental story. None of these fully settled. There was a sense of wanting to write something similar in style to Guard Your Heart, yet different.
Another gnawing in my brain was that, whilst Guard Your Heart told a valid and authentic story from Northern Ireland, it wasn’t the only story. I wanted to tell the stuff that didn’t ‘fit’. In a writing sense, I also wanted to challenge myself to write strong, female protagonists. I’d found Aidan far easier to write than Iona in my début novel so it was like throwing down a personal gauntlet to decide to have two female protagonists.
My writing often reflects contemporary issues in Northern Ireland – stories brew and write themselves in ‘real time’ in my head. In Autumn 2019, the backdrop was no government for three years (yes, you read that right); and campaigns for LGBT rights, Women’s rights and pensions for victims and survivors of the conflict.

With that cocktail of things mixing in my brain, it makes sense to me that Truth Be Told was the story that emerged. It’s a story with layers. Truth Be Told is about both ‘the Troubles’ and the legacy of that conflict today. At its deepest level, the novel is the story of women across three generations in Northern Ireland. Stories that are often left untold. Stories that are deliberately left out. Stories that challenge patriarchy. Woven into the narrative are also big questions. Where (if anywhere) is the line between freedom of religion and homophobia? Is violence (in many forms) ever justifiable? What’s the relationship between truth, justice and forgiveness? These are heavy themes, but honestly, there is also a lot of light, hope and humour in there too!

Truth Be Told by Sue Divin is out now in paperback (£7.99, Macmillan Children’s Books)

Small by Hannah Moffatt and Rory Walker

This is a perfect read for young readers who enjoy a really good laugh, together with giants, goblins and even a school inspector, who turns out to be a fairy called Ms Sugar Plum!  I am sure that this gives you a hint of the heights (or depths) to which this humour can go.  Anyway, this really is a great story to relax with.

Everything with Words, 9781911427278

The action starts when Harvey’s mum enrolls him at ‘Madam Bogbrush’s Academy for Gifted giants’, the only problem is that his family are not giants, so he has to wear stilts and very long trousers to try and blend in.  Now, Harvey has a history of being somewhat accident prone at school hence this latest option, as all the other local schools have thrown him out.  The problem is that the curriculum is nothing like he has come across before and even worse, giants really dislike “smalls”, otherwise known as humans, so Harvey is definitely going to have problems.  Thankfully he makes friends with a giant called ‘Walloping’, who is able to help him with his stomping and grunting classes among other things.  School becomes a lot more complicated and even dangerous when the school inspector arrives, but particularly when the resident School Fortune Teller predicts that someone will go missing and that the ‘Unspeakable Circus’ will be responsible.  The pupils find themselves faced with secrets, danger and trying to save their school.  Will they be up to the challenge, will Harvey find his perfect school?  It is just a matter of holding your breath as we go on a roller coaster of a ride, with a few bumps on the way.

This is a glorious romp of a story, but at the heart of it is the theme about not judging people by their looks, but by their actions.  Harvey has spent his life moving around with his mother and attending a multitude of schools, all of which seemed to have problems.  With this latest school, Harvey is more concerned about not being stomped on, rather than whether he can avoid causing a disaster; in fact helping his new friends is something that he really wants to do.  One of the things that we see highlighted is the fact that various communities differ in their likes and opinions and we see how important it is not to lump all giants, or smalls, together.  The illustrator Holly Ovenden has produced a fantastic cover, which is then complemented by the very funny illustrations by Rory Walker; all of which really adds to the overall humour of the book.  It is  really great read for all middle grade readers.

This book is published in the middle of June, so look out for it then, or pre-order from your favourite bookshop.  Thank you to the publisher ‘Everything with Words’ for the chance to read an early copy.

 

Author Picture

Hannah Moffatt

Hannah Moffatt is a creative director at a language and behavioural science consultancy, where she spends her days writing very sensible things for businesses. At night, she escapes into the beautifully bonkers world of middle grade fiction, where she writes significantly less sensible things for children.

Hannah lives in London with her husband and a sombrero-wearing toy hedgehog named Cedric.

Big Sky Mountain by Alex Milway

We seem to be in a really great period for those books aimed at newly confident readers. Not many years ago, this was an area that seemed to suffer from a lack of titles and a real sense that publishers were too concerned with the academic side of the reading process.  Luckily there is now a much better understanding of  the fact that if you want children to read, then they will do so if they really enjoy the stories that are being presented to them.

This is a delightful new series by Alex Milway, featuring a young girl Rosa, who has to go and live with her grandmother in the Canadian wilderness; you can tell it is wild because Rosa arrives in a seaplane, which is delivering Nan’s winter supplies, before the weather freezes.  Nan seems somewhat grumpy to begin with, but accepts that Rosa is family and they settle into the small cabin that is now home to two of them.  Rosa gets a great surprise when a moose puts its head through the open window, but the greatest shock comes when he actually starts talking to her!  What follows is totally fantastical, but Rosa finds that she is surrounded by amazing talking creatures such as a very grumpy hare, a bear and newcomers, the beaver sisters.  We follow all of the characters as they discover the balance that is required to make the environment work for everyone; they need to consider the others in the area and not just think about their own wishes.

The second story in the series has several new characters and the action starts when Rosa discovers a wolf cub who has become lost in a great storm.  This leads Rosa and her Nan to go in search of the pack and find out why they have moved from their old home.  We also get to met a group of Moose, an owl called Little Pig and a family of hedgehogs, all of whom have to work together to try and repair the damage that has been done to the river bank and surrounding area.  At the same time Rosa and her Nan are extending the cabin, so that Rosa will actually have her own bedroom, a move that really emphasizes how he has become part of her grandmother’s life.  We are promised  third title in the series so I look forward to reading about adventures with “The Sea Otters”.

These are a really great read for younger readers, with brilliant illustrations full of humour and energy.  The underlying themes about the environment and living with nature mix with the need for family and friendship.  There is also the need to try and understand those who are different and not to just go with the public perception, as with the wolves.  this series is highly recommended and I can’t wait to read more about our bold heroine and even more feisty Nan.

TAILS: the animal investigators of London by Martin Penny

They say that truth is stranger than fiction, but in this case it is definitely a case that the fiction stems directly from real events.  The world of children’s literature has long been the natural home of stories featuring animals, both wild and domesticated.  From ‘Wind in the Willows’ to ‘Watership Down’ we have grown up with these glimpses of life for other creatures.  In the last couple of decades we have seen a focus on more animals that we think of as being domesticated, although in the stories they are often feral and very wary of the human world; characters such as ‘Varjak Paw‘show a slightly different side, being more akin to Yowl with his connection to humans.  The characters that we find in this story are a mix of domesticated and wild and they share an uneasy truce, in the face of a common enemy.

This particular new story features a collection of animals, all of whom live in the London  suburbs; it is based on true life events that took place in Croydon, starting in about 2010.  The central character is a young kitten called Yowl and he has just moved to a new home with his owners  and their young daughter, Lucy.  We follow this young and intrepid kitten as he gradually meets his neighbours, both feline and canine.  He is then gradually introduced to some of the surrounding wildlife, in the guise of pigeons, squirrels and even a family of foxes.  What really brings all of these creatures together is the realization that cats have been disappearing over the last year or so, something like 70 of them,  and the human ‘authorities’ have decided that it is all the fault of wild foxes.  As with any really good detective story, we are given a set of clues and a central character who has the ability (with the help of older and wiser friends) to sort through the evidence and find the likely culprit.

The hero, Yowl, may be young but he is very intelligent and has learnt to understand human speech and written words, from watching television and reading the local paper!  However, at no time does he lose his character as an animal and his encounters with a ‘litter tray’ can be quite amusing.  I love the underlying humour and also the tensions that exist between the various species.  There are some real lessons to be learnt about accepting people who are different, showing empathy and treating others as you would wish to be treated.  It is definitely a recommended read for KS2 children.  I look forward to further adventures for this intrepid band of friends.

Author

About the author: Martin Penny is a cat lover originally from London, the son of a
BBC sound engineer who worked on the Goon Show, he
takes after his mother who used to say, ‘a home isn’t
complete without a cat’. The character of Yowl is based on
the tabby he got as soon as he left his parents’ home. Later in life, for over ten
years, Martin managed the flagship Oxfam Bookshop in Marylebone High Street
(London) which under his stewardship became one of the most profitable Oxfam
shops in the country. He has been living in Turkey since 2015 where he teaches
English part-time. Ideally, this enables him to dedicate himself to his ‘real’ job as
a writer. Already the author of a 7-book crime series, TAILs: The Animal
Investigators of London is his first children’s book. He has enjoyed the company
of Yowl and his friends so much (the pleasure is mutual) that he’s already writing
a new adventure, Yowl and the Fugitive from Justice. It seems that Martin’s
brave and enterprising animal friends aren’t going to leave us any time soon!

The Butterfly Club: The Ship of Doom by M A Bennett

Welbeck Publishing, 9781801300049

Like many millions of people around the world, I have been a fan of time travel stories since I was a child.  Tales such as “Tom’s Midnight Garden” by Phillipa Pearce”, “The Ghosts” by Antonia Barber” and  “The Gauntlet” by Ronald Welch” introduced my generation to the possibilities of movement in time.  This sub-genre has become increasingly popular in the last generation or so and a basic search on websites such as Waterstones and Amazon will give you a plethora of titles for a wide range of age groups.  However there is one element that most of these books share, namely that the characters tend to find themselves going backwards in time and only a few authors have taken the heroes forward into an unknown future.  This new series manages to find a compromise with this situation, so read on, to find out how it was done.

The Butterfly Club is the title of the series and it gets its name from a premise that  states “if a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world, then there will be a much larger event happening on the other side of the world”  Basically, it is a case of “Cause and Effect” and although I can’t think of many titles that use this construct, a brilliant example of its use is “Mortal Chaos” by Matt Dickinson.  M A Bennett has used this idea to bring together a group of adults, many of them well-known, who are part of a secret organization that has managed to ‘discover’ the secret of time travel.  The young people at the centre of the events find themselves there because of their family links to the club.  Luna is living with her aunt, due to the ‘disappearance’ of her father; Konstantin is the son of a German member of the group, and Aidan is the son of an Irish engineer.  Whilst the story starts in 1894, the children are asked to travel forward to 1912, in order to ‘steal’ information about a new discovery called a “wireless radio” by Guglielmo Marconi.  they arrive at Southampton and manage to stow away  (with the time machine) on board a very fine vessel, one of the White Star Line ships.  By this point most of the readers will be getting a real sense of trepidation, which is only confirmed as the trio discover the name of their vessel, it is RMS Titanic!

What follows is a mix of an exciting adventure story as the intrepid children try to find the wireless, together with a traumatic build up to the events that befell the ship, crew and passengers.  The author uses the time machine to allow the children to re-live the day prior to the iceberg, so that they can try and prevent some of the small events, which then ended up having a profound impact on what happened.  On each occasion their attempts seem to be thwarted by a sinister figure, with a watch face in place of one eye; but who is he and what is his motivation in wanting the ship to meet its doom?

This is a fabulous read, with some fascinating sub-plots that will resonate with many readers.  The fact that they can only travel between their own time and 1969, means that they are limited in where they can visit.  However the additional premise, that the purpose of the club is to find more modern technologies and bring them to the 19th century, means that there is plenty of opportunity for adventure and even danger.  What we do discover is that each of the young people has a secret and as they gradually become friends they are able to share these secrets with the others.  It will be fascinating to see how these issues play out in the coming stories, but what I can say is that the friendships are only strengthened as the young people learn to support each other.

This is a stunning start to a new series and I cannot wait for the next title in the series “The Mummy’s Curse”; as a fan of Ancient Egypt since childhood this is going to be right up my street.  I am willing to bet that a certain pharaoh might be at the centre of this story, especially as 2022 celebrates the centenary of his tomb being discovered.  Thank you to Welbeck for allowing me to include this excerpt from the book, in order to further whet your appetite.

The Ship of Doom (The Butterfly Club series) by M.A. Bennett (£6.99, Welbeck Children’s) available now.

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The Ghost of Scarletbeard (Flyntlock Bones) by Derek Keilty and Mark Elvins

I have previously reviewed the last Flyntlock Bones adventure and you can read it in this blog.  This is a brilliantly funny story that is going to enchant young readers and which is perfect to promote for “Read like a Pirate” day, later in the year.  Children are introduced to pirates at a very young age, but there has often been a gap for those who are just starting to read so called ‘chapter books’, so it is wonderful to find this gap being filled  by such a lovable hero, together with his rather idiosyncratic friends.

Scallywag Press, 9781912650774

Flyntlock Bones, aka Flynn, is the cabin boy aboard the ex-pirate ship The Black Hound.  Captain Long John Watkins and his motley crew have changed over a new leaf and now work as ‘recoverers of treasure’.  However they are currently having a bit of a slump in business and are quickly running out of funds.  Luckily  they receive a last minute call from a previous client, the Countess of Bohemia.  It seems that her jewels have been stolen yet again and she want the Captain and his crew to retrieve them for the second time.  The only problem is that she swears that it is the same thief as before, who has stolen the treasure;  unfortunately Captain Scarletbeard and his ship were sunk in the last theft!  This leave only one possibility, that the pirate is back from the grave and out for revenge.  Flynn and the rest of the crew face a hazardous journey down to Davy Jones’ Locker to see whether they are right.  What they discover sends a shiver down their backs, as the nefarious pirate is back in business and he seems to have a new partner, in the person of a witch called Molly Macbeth.  It seems the two of them are planning a heist to steal the crown jewels from the Floating Palace of Zora; the question is whether the crew of the Black Hound can stop them and send Scarletbeard back to his watery resting place?

Whilst this is a fantastic rip-roaring tale of adventure it also has a range of more subtle themes going on.  The relationships between the main characters is all about caring for others, but mostly about accepting people for themselves.  We are given a range of characters, most of who have a change of heart about the lifestyle that they have chosen in the past.  Above all, we have a tale full of laughter and fun, where only the really nasty villains get their comeuppance and everyone else finds their perfect place in life.  Once again  this author has given us a book that will thrill the audience and persuade many of them that they want to be pirates (at least for a day).  The illustrations are once again a perfect match for the story and are going to attract the young reader who is just becoming a more confident reader.

 

Author

Derek Keilty is an Irish author and lives in Belfast.  He has written more than 10 books for children.  His Will Gallows series was previously short listed for the Irish Children’s Book Prize and has been optioned for a film.

Illustrator

Mark Elvins lives in Yorkshire and is a print-maker.

The Uprising: the Mapmakers of Cruxcia by Eirlys Hunter

The first thing to say about this book is that it is the sequel to “The Mapmakers’ Race”, which makes this a very exciting prospect indeed.  For those who have not read the first book, it follows the adventures of the four Santander children as they go in search of their explorer father, who has disappeared on his latest expedition.  They undertake a gruelling challenge called the “Mapmakers’ Race”, hoping to win enough money to continue their search.  Despite dastardly competitors (not quite Whacky Races) they actually win and thanks to some teasing information they start out on a new adventure.

Gecko Press, 9781776574049

In “The Uprising”, the quartet of Sal, Joe, Francis and Humphrey are joined by their mother, as they follow their information to the small community of Cruxcia.  They find that the area is under threat from a gigantic corporation called the Grania Trading Corporation, who have already appointed the local governor and want to take over the whole of the valley around the local mountain.  The family find themselves in danger from the agents of the corporation, as well as from very unscrupulous map makers, who we met in the first book.  As they begin to uncover the machinations of the giant corporation, the Santanders find themselves helping the local people who are trying to save their homes and land from the outsiders.  Their adventures take us on a helter skelter ride as they face dangers that are both natural and also man-made, so hang on to your hats as we follow these intrepid mapmakers.

I am delighted to say that Eirlys Hunter has written this fascinating insight into her longing for adventure and how it was often thwarted by the adults in her life, when she was a child.  This is probably why her heroes are able to go off and have adventures, sharing them with others of a similar age.  This is yet another fantastically exciting  story as the children continue their quest and find themselves getting closer to finding their father.

Searching for adventure

When I was young, I liked reading about families, and I liked reading about children who were competent. Who knew about motorbikes, or how to care for horses, who sailed boats, put on plays, or acted in films. Most of all, the children in my favourite books managed to have adventures, adventures that rarely involved adults, and never involved parents. 

My sister and I wanted to have adventures more than anything. We lived in London, it should have been possible, but we just didn’t know how to go about it. Once, we persuaded our mother to drive us a long way from home and leave us to get back on our own with just our pocket money. It was exciting to be in an unknown street, miles from anywhere familiar, but then we turned round the first corner and there was the tube station by our mother’s work. We were home in less than an hour. Why did we go on the tube instead of, say, seeing where the first bus that came along would take us? Tragic.

We got our father to drop us at the head of the loch one holiday, with our expedition’s provisions. It was a four-mile walk along a straight road beside the loch to get back to Granny’s house, but long before we got there, the old Ford Consul pulled up and our father insisted we hop in.

We had our last stab at adventure the summer holiday I was thirteen. My sister and I left the campsite in the Italian Alps where we were staying with our parents. We said we were going for a walk, but we didn’t mention that we were going to try to touch the snow that we could see high above the valley. We climbed for hours, desperate for adventure. Then we touched the dirty old snow, and walked all the way back down the endless zigzag path to the tent. Our mother was beside herself – certain that something terrible must have happened. It was all so disappointing. It would have been so much more exciting if we’d been in a book.

I never managed to have an adventure when I was a child, but I nowadays I can invent children, write about them, and give them adventures. And the first thing I always do, is get rid of the parents. And if you read The Mapmakers books you’ll find out how I turned that disappointing hike to touch snow into a proper adventure.   

The Uprising: The Mapmakers in Cruxcia is out now in paperback (£7.99, Gecko Press)