Son of the Sea by Richard Pickard

It is always exciting to read a second book by an author, especially if you have really enjoyed their first book.  I was lucky enough to be part of the blog tour for Richard’s first book in August 2021 and he wrote a short entry for me, all about his influences and where he writes.  He spoke about the outline that he was writing for his second book, so it is fantastic to see all of his hard work come to fruition.  You can see this first blog entry  by searching”Peculiar tale of the Tentacle Boy

The hero in this story is called Caspar and he has a dream that he can swim the channel before his 12th birthday.  The only problem is that he is now more than 11 years old and his parents ban him from going anywhere near the water.  Despite this he finds ways of swimming, whether it is in the local ponds or even the water feature at the shopping centre.  However things are about to change dramatically; following a freak accident at the local supermarket both of Caspar’s parents end up in hospital (they were run over by a giant wheel of cheese!) and Caspar is sent to the seaside town of Corallium, where his unknown grandmother lives.  This is not the last of the surprises that he comes across in the next few days.  Corallium is the home of his absolute hero, Beryl the Bazooka and he not only meets her, but finds out that she was his grandma’s wife, until they fell out.  Then Caspar discovers that sea swimming is very different from being in a small pond and after he nearly drowns, Beryl volunteers to train him.  The record that Caspar is trying to break has stood for 60 years and every person under the age of 12 who has attempted the crossing, has been struck down by a ‘curse’; so will our hero overcome all the obstacles in his way?  With the help of his new friend Wynn, he is determined to follow his destiny.

Underpinning this whole story is the enormous secret that Caspar has been hiding for all of his life, as his parents are scared he will be treated as a freak; both of his feet are webbed, with skin between each of his toes.  The question is whether this has anything to do with the ancient legend that Corallium was once a city under the sea.  This is a story about keeping secrets and the impact that it can have on relationships and also how we feel about ourselves. This very much applies to the relationship between his grandmother Ida and Beryl, but it also is central to the way Caspar, his parents and grandma also interact.  We have a multilayered story where the events of the past still impact on the lives of people today and it is so sad to see that some characters are trying to hang on to past glories, rather than trying to support a new generation in their attempts.  The author has managed to combine both humour (in the guise of Wynn’s archaeologist father) and pathos, particularly when we see the anguish of those who have failed to achieve their dreams because of the so-called ‘curse’.  However, the ending is particularly uplifting and I gave a quiet cheer as people finally admitted to things they had kept hidden and then discovered that they were not alone, in fact they were part of a community that had been hiding in plain sight.  I have read this book twice and it is one of those enchanting stories that you know you will go back to in the future.  Congratulations to Richard on this lovely book.

 

https://www.richard-pickard.com/bio  to find out more about the author and his work.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Chicken House; 1st edition (11 May 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 336 pages
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1913696726
  • Reading age ‏ : ‎ 9 – 12 years

Moonflight by Gill Lewis and Pippa Curnick

As a fan of books by Gill Lewis, I was delighted to be asked to take part in this blog tour.  The book itself is a fabulous tale of adventure and overcoming the limits that are placed on us (often by those who love us best).  Thank you so much to Gill for agreeing to answer these questions for me and many thanks to everyone at David Fickling books for publishing the book and asking me to be involved.

 

  • Moonflight is a very different story to those that we often associate with you. Have you always wanted to write this type of book and if so, have other authors been an influence on this?

My other stories are very grounded in the real world and are often about conservation with the human characters telling the story. I ventured into anthropomorphism with A Street Dog Named Pup, but Pup does live essentially as a dog in the modern human world. I suppose as a writer one can get pigeonholed into one genre, but I think most writers have a variety of stories they want to tell. I did enjoy being released from detailed factual research and building the world of the highly anthropomorphised Dockland Rats.

As a child, the stories I wrote were about small people or animals having adventures, and it has been wonderful to immerse myself in these worlds again. I have always enjoyed stories such as Despereaux by Kate Di Camillo and the world of the mice she created. As a child I loved Paul Gallico’s book Jennie, about a boy transformed into a cat after a car accident. I also love the Disney films of The Rescuers. I think children can relate to small creatures being the heroes of the story.

 

  • What gave you the idea for a hero who was so restricted in his lifestyle? Did lockdown have any impact on your thought process?

Lockdown had a huge impact. I was lucky that we had a big garden and access to local walks, but our lifestyles were so restricted in the first lockdowns. I remember feeling claustrophobic with a need to escape. And so, I escaped into Tilbury’s world, following him on his adventures, the twists and turns of the story happening organically as I wrote. I think I needed a change from my usual stories that are based in the real world, and to travel to new unexplored worlds. The infinite realms of the imagination were my portals out of reality. Lockdown also made me feel a little institutionalised, and anxious to venture out when Lockdown was lifted. A trip to London seemed a huge undertaking. I really felt I understood Tilbury’s paradoxical desires for adventure and yet to stay at home and never leave.

 

  • A main element of the story is about family and the importance of allowing the young to find their own way in life. Does modern life make us more wary of giving freedom to young people?

This is a hard one to answer – yes and no, I suppose. I think my early childhood had more freedoms than that of my own children’s – I lived in a suburban street and I played outside all the time, at friends’ houses, in local woodland even when we were really quite young. I didn’t have to say where I was going or what time I’d be back, I just had to turn up before dark or for tea. I think parents are more worried by stranger danger and dangerous traffic on roads these days. But also sadly, a problem of modern life, especially in urban areas is that are fewer places to play outside as many places may be developed for housing. My own children grew up in a rural area, but the small roads were so busy, and used as cut-throughs for local traffic, that cycling and walking were not very safe. Like all mothers, Tilbury’s Ma wants to protect her little son as much as she can, but of course, she cannot protect him forever. She must be brave and let him begin to find his way in the world, letting him test his own boundaries. Even Tilbury’s Pa must remind Ma that they were young rats once in search of adventure. But Ma will always there for Tilbury with a hot dinner and a warm bed if he should need it.

  • There are several very strong themes around greed, trust, cultural history and beliefs. Were they part of your original plans, or did they develop as the story grew?

These themes developed as the story grew. Part of the story was inspired by the myths behind the Koh-i-Noor diamond, a priceless diamond in the Crown Jewels. Queen Victoria gained this diamond by deception from the then 11-year-old Sikh Maharaja, Duleep Singh. This diamond has many stories woven around it, and different claims to its ownership. Queen Victoria would never have wanted to admit to the deception and may indeed have convinced herself she lawfully gained it. But this diamond also holds a curse such that no royal male ever dares wear it. Maybe the curse itself is a story, a hidden narrative of guilt, lies and bloodshed that cannot be ignored.

In Moonflight, I wanted to explore the stories we tell ourselves, those narratives we weave around our own lives to protect us and validate who we are. Sometimes it can be difficult to challenge those stories. I wanted to put Tilbury, a timid little rat, into a tale where he has to search for the truth, and in doing so, gain a greater understanding of himself too.

 

  • Finally, are we likely to see more stories set in this magical world?

At the moment I don’t have any plans, although if there were to be a spin-off I think it would follow Nimble-Quick on her travels. The first draft of Moonflight had other rat groups that ended up being cut from the story. I’d particularly like to revisit the City Rats, large domestic fancy rats that live in the top of the Shard and collect shiny watches and other bling. I’d also like to delve into the Elders’ possessions in the Tower of London, acquired and stolen over the centuries. An earlier draft of Moonflight included a rather mature piece of cheese from the original piece that Samuel Pepys buried to protect in during the Fire of London. So will there be more stories? Not right now, but maybe watch this space!

This really is a highly recommended story and gets  five stars from me.  I do so hope that we will have more stories from this magical world.

 

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)

 

 

His Royal Hopeless by Chloe Perrin and George Ermos

Every now and again you get someone who is the ‘black sheep’ of the family.  But in this story we have the opposite happening.  Young Robbie is the heir to the Sinistevil’s dynasty and whilst he tries very hard to live up to his mother’s expectations, it is obvious that he will never fit (both literally and metaphorically), into his dead brother  Brutus’s shoes.  The family are the most evil rulers that you can imagine, with a love of killing, looting and pillaging.  At the age of 12 years they are made to pledge their heart to a  jewelled sceptre, which re-enforces their desire for evil.  Nothing gets in their way and there is no such thing as family love or loyalty.  The problem is that Robbie really does not fit into this world.  He thinks he is evil, but in fact he is a real softy and even has a local peasant girl, Layla, as his friend.  When Robbie discovers that he has an artificial heart, after his mother had the real one removed when he was a baby, he decides to go and retrieve the real one, so that he can take the oath to the sceptre.  What follows is a funny and yet sad look at someone who is desperate for love and affection, but who cannot see the reality of the family that he is growing up in.  Thankfully there are people who want to help Robbie be the good person he is meant to be, although they have their own challenges in life.

What an absolutely magical story this is. I can’t imagine that anyone will not love Robbie despite the fact that he needs a bit of ‘backbone’.  However, with the strong-willed Layla and loyal servant Devon, he is able to overcome many dangers and eventually realizes that he does not want to be evil and much prefers being an ordinary person.  I think it is possible to come to the conclusion that we are not just the character we inherit from our family.  We definitely see that Robbie has an innate goodness that even his horrible mother cannot destroy.  There are so many instances where we wonder about the meaning of family; the Sinistevils take the meaning of ‘dysfunctional’ and then raise it by several notches.  Some of the other characters prove that money plays no part in the way that family love can work and are excellent role models for young Robbie to follow.  If you want a story of a lovable character, with the added ‘attraction’ of a really vile villain (hiss, boo!)  then this really is the book for you.  It is full of laughter, adventure and even the possibility of redemption at the end of the book.

 

“CHLOË PERRIN is a North Walian writer who currently lives in West London studying Creative Writing at Brunel University.

They love to feed crows, prefers Halloween to Christmas and was frequently told off as a child for reading in class. Chloë has previously worked as a youth worker, drama tutor and professional storyteller, having always believed that the best way to teach anyone anything is through a story.

HIS ROYAL HOPELESS was longlisted for the 2019 Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Prize and is their debut novel.”  Chicken House website.

HIS ROYAL HOPELESS by Chloë Perrin is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)
Find out more at chickenhousebooks.com

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Feast of the Evernight by Ross McKenzie

I absolutely loved the first book in the series, “Evernight” when it reached our shelves in early 2020.  It introduced us to a new world that we very quickly became engrossed in.  I was already a fan of the author, Ross Mackenzie through his series about the “Nowhere Emporium” and was delighted by this strange new world that he presented us with.  The main characters are the young girl Lara(belle) Fox and her friend Joe; both of them are Toshers and much like the ones in Victorian London, they make a living finding lost items in the sewer below the city of  King’s Haven.  When the country is threatened by the Everdark and the evil Mrs Hester, together with the Silver King, who rules the land, they link up with the Westerly Witches in an attempt to thwart their evil plans.  At the end of this book we get the impression that Mrs Hester has been eliminated and that a greater freedom is starting to seem possible for the general population.  But  is everything really better?

In this second book we find ourselves nearly a year further on in time; Lara has just passed her test and become a Witch, whilst Joe is getting over the death of his grandmother, as well as feeling rather out of place in the magical environment.  He decides to return to King’s Haven and the world that he knows, but he is asked to meet up with Rob, a ‘resistance’ worker, in order to carry out a secret mission.  At the same time Lara is also sent south, to work with another Witch and find out what has caused several mysterious deaths.  The friends make the first part of the journey together and end up helping a young girl, who is showing startling signs of  ‘out of control’ magic.  We have two parallel stories going on throughout the book, but we gradually come to understand that they are linked and that there are some deeply evil minds trying to destroy the witches and keep the population under their control.

This is an absolutely brilliant book and a worthy successor to the first in the series and whilst I am sure that people can dive straight in to this book, I think it is better to have read the first book, so that you are totally immersed in the world.  The cast of characters may be quite familiar, but they are having to cope with increasing danger and a whole range of villains. We see the young people mature as they have to cope with the terrifying events that surround them.  Luckily they have strong friendship bonds that give them the strength to carry on, despite the dangers.  I absolutely love the way that the author has created a world that is so different from our own and yet it is one that we can believe in.  The action is fast paced and at times quite hard hitting;  the author is not afraid to show that death can be a consequence of standing up to the evil that the heroes face.    The atmosphere really sparks the imagination and I can see the book being used in school  to encourage activities from writing and drawing, to music and drama.     It is yet another fabulous read for the older ‘middle grade’ reader and I know it will become yet another firm favourite not only in the home, but also in the classroom.  This is definitely a five star story.

 

Author Information

Contact: rossmacauthor@gmail.com

Local authority: Renfrewshire

Languages: English

19/10/18 . The Sunday Post, by Andrew Cawley.
Pics of staff designer Ross MacKenzie, who has written a children’s book. Location: Skypark, Glasgow.

I am a multi award-winning author of books for children, including The Nowhere Emporium, which won both the Blue Peter Book Award and Scottish Children’s Book Award.Stories have always been important to me. I can remember vividly how I felt as a child, curled up in bed, eager to set off on the next great adventure. I became a writer for children because I love the magic of great stories and my dream is that readers will one day feel the same way about my books.I regularly visit primary schools, libraries and literary festivals where I read from my books, discuss the power of stories and imagination, and hold Q&A sessions and writing workshops. I live in Renfrew with my lovely wife and two beautiful daughters – though I spend much of my time exploring other worlds.

thank you to Scottish Book Trust, who host this information

 

 

 

Emily Knight: I am … Becoming by A Bello

This is an exciting and action packed series of books about a young girl called Emily Knight.  The title that we are
celebrating is actually the third book, of what I think is going to be a quartet; at least that is the impression I get from the end of the book.  I would however suggest that starting with the first title and working your way through is probably a very sensible option.  The complex plot and relationships mean that you need to understand the background and it is book one that gives you this information.

The series is set in a modern world; but it is one made up of ‘Mundanes’, who are people like us and the ‘Warriors’ who appear to have an assortment of special powers and act as protectors to the ordinary population.  Emily is the daughter of the most famous warrior, Thomas Knight, who had defeated the renegade warrior called Neci in a past battle.  She does not want to be the centre of attention and feels the pressure on her to be like her father and elder brother, Lox, both of whom have cult star status; having been star players in the seriously tough game called Dojo.  In books one and two  Emily’s brother is missing and her father is on a hunt to try and find him, leaving Emily at home with foster parents and friends.  By the start of book three the family have been reunited, but there are still many tensions and there is a move towards a war as Neci becomes more powerful and builds an army of followers.

This is definitely a series for those who love the idea of friendship groups involved in battling evil.  There are real echoes of other popular series from the past, but as always it is what the author does with the basic outline that is important. A Bello has produced something that although familiar in many ways has its own distinct story and characters.  Although we know that Neci is cast as the villain of the piece, I find myself wanting to know more about her back story.  We are told how she discovers her powers and develops her hatred of the warriors, but I feel there is more to the story and I hope that we will learn more about her motivation in the final story.  Emily herself  has all the anxieties and uncertainties of someone in their teens.  She feels the burden of leadership that is being placed on her and does not think that she can live up to the expectations.  She is also going through the normal ups and downs of adolescence and dealing with her attraction to two of the male students at her school.   With the reappearance of her father and brother she has to learn to cope with their personalities and to make them understand that she is an individual in hr own right.

It is good to see a series where there is a strong female central character and particularly one who is a person of colour.  There has been a lot of emphasis on diversity in literature this year, but this author has been writing such stories for several years and we can see from her author profile she is someone who is heavily involved in broadening the range of people and stories in children’s publishing.  I am delighted to have had the opportunity of reading these books and I look forward to the next title, when hopefully we will see the  finale of this exciting series

 

The Author

A. Bello is the award-winning author of the bestselling fantasy
series Emily Knight I am. . . and Emily Knight I am. . .
Awakened, which was nominated for the CILIP Carnegie
Medal 2019, Winner of London’s Big Read 2019, finalist for
A. Bello first began writing the Emily Knight saga at aged
12 with the intention of filling the gaping hole in children’s
fiction for an inspirational, strong, black female, young
protagonist.
A. Bello won the London Book Fair’s Trailblazer Award
2018. She is the founder of The Lil’ Author School, co-founder
of The Author School, Hashtag Press, Hashtag BLAK, The
Diverse Book Awards and ink!
Find out more at www.a-bello.com
Follow A. Bello on Twitter: @ABelloWrites
Instagram: @abiolabello @emilyknightiam
Facebook.com/EmilyKnightIAM
Facebook.com/A.BelloAuthor

 

what’s on the top of the book pile?

With half term fast approaching, I am starting to look at sorting my reading pile for the break.  At the moment there is “Dodger” by Terry Pratchett, “Oblivion” by Anthony Horowitz, “Four children and It” by Jacqueline Wilson and those are just the big names.  So look out for what I think about them after the break.  I will also be looking at the shortlisted titles for the Centurion book award, which means I will have to spend some time sitting in a comfy chair – it’s hard, but someone has to do it!