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!

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

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.

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!

Rita Wong and the Jade Mask by Mark Jones and Seamus Jennings

At the moment we are in a period that can only be described as something of a golden age for children’s books, but especially for the genre that surrounds crime and mystery writing.  When this is then widened to include beings such as dragons, werewolves and vampires, then you can expect to have an exciting time.

“Rita Wong and the Jade mask” encapsulates all of these characteristics, although it starts out being situated in the rather prosaic setting of Morecambe.  Somehow, despite it’s glorious Art Deco hotel and the associations with Morecambe and Wise, we cannot really think about this seaside town as being a centre of intrigue and a doorway to another world; yet, as Rita Wong discovers, this is exactly what it is.  13 (nearly 14) year old, Rita has moved to the seaside town with her parents, which is a bit of a difference from her previous home in Hong Kong and she is still struggling to make friends and settle into a new country.  Whilst waiting in a cafe for the library to open up, she sees something that intrigues and slightly confuses her and before she knows it, she is having a conversation with an eight foot green dragon called Lester Thyme.  He is visiting from a parallel world called Neon City, where crime is rife and there are more types of inhabitants than we are used to.

What happens thereafter is somewhat surreal, but Rita finds herself partnering Lester as a private detective, helping the local policeman, Inspector Donnelly, solve the theft of a variety of antique items.  The duo find themselves caught up in a mixture of crime and magic, which puts them both in danger and yet brings them a deep sense of satisfaction as they find challenges as well as new friends.

This really is a fantastic book for those who love their detective stories.  The two main characters have their imperfections, but they persevere in their enquiries, learn to make friends and also to balance out their individual skills and knowledge.  I really love the relationship between the two main characters and the humour that shows itself every now and again.

I particularly love the illustrations for this book.  The front cover puts me in mind of work by artists such as Satoshi Kitamura, David Roberts and Chris Riddell, with the use of very fine ink outlines and the use of shading to create the atmosphere and perspective.  There are other illustrations throughout the book, most of which introduce us to characters, or provide a sense of concern about what is about to happen.  This is very much about accepting people for themselves and realizing that being different can be a positive thing.  I am definitely looking forward to more adventures with this enterprising duo.

 

 

 

Mark Jones
Mark Jones is the author of poems and children’s books. He began writing for his college magazine, and later moved to Delhi. There he edited and wrote original stories whilst expanding his waistline with delicious Indian cuisine. He followed that with a job teaching English in Singapore, where he consumed large quantities of sushi. When he is not writing, he likes to travel to see someone he loves in Osaka.

from “Everything with Words” site

 

Seamus Jennings, illustrator

Seamus works as a political cartoonist and has work produced in The Times, The Guardian and The Independent, amongst other publications.  This is his first children’s book.  https://www.seamusjennings.com/9d665dcf17-gallery

The Peculiar Tale of the Tentacle Boy by Richard Pickard and Maxine Lee-Mackie

I know that I am biased about this, because they are based in my part of the world, but anything published by the fabulous Chicken House is going to get my attention.  This title was even more noteworthy because it was the inaugural Chairman’s Choice prize winner at the 2019 Times/Chicken House competition.  Added to this is the totally original concept that we find in this heartwarming story, it is a real must-read for this summer.

Marina lives in the fishing port of Merlington, where there are probably more fish shops that anything else; unfortunately Marina really dislikes fish, but particularly since her beloved father (a fisherman) went missing 6 years before.  Life in the town appears  boring, so Marina resorts to storytelling to liven things up; unfortunately she can’t seem to limit the scope of her tales and it ends up with her being called a ‘liar’ by one of her classmates.  When she discovers  a mysterious young boy, with claws for hands and hair made of tentacles, no one believes her; not until the boy is found asleep on the beach the following day.  What follows is a quest to discover where the boy, called William, comes from and whether there is any link to her missing father.  There are are mysteries and a very evil villain, who is hiding in plain sight.

The first thing that came to mind when I started reading this story was that Marina was a little bit like ‘the boy that cried wolf’.  She was so in love with telling stories that she did not know when to stop and the consequences threatened to ruin her life in the town.  We all love stories, after all that is why we read books, but it is about recognizing  fact from fiction and also knowing how our stories will impact on our listeners.  This is a lesson that Marina has to learn and we are lucky to be able to follow her on this journey of discovery.  This is also a story about the importance of family and friends; as Marina needs the support of her mother and close friends to overcome the disbelievers and find the answers to her questions.

This is a fabulous book for middle grade children.  It is full of adventure and some amazing characters, especially Marina and William.  Not only will you want to visit Merlington for the various fish dishes, but you might even give Japanese ‘Sashima’ a try.  You will have to read the book to discover these delicacies if you don’t already know what they are!

******************************************************************

I am delighted to say that Richard Pickard has agreed to provide a guest blog about this book and I know you will enjoy it as much as I did.

 

MY WRITING SPACE

A short walk from Westbourne village, where you’ll find a gorgeous bookstore and the best fish and chips in the world, there is a small path that punches a shapely hole through a thick wall of hedging… This is the doorway to Alum Chine – a steep-sided valley that guides you down through the cliffs and toward a Bournemouth beach hut, where much of The Peculiar Tale of the Tentacle Boy was written.

Spending most of my time in London, where space is a premium and my own desk is the stuff of dreams, I find myself writing wherever I can – on trains, in cafés (pre-pandemic) and on my bed propped up by pillows. But my favourite place, where I’ve found much of my inspiration, has always been the beach hut.

The walk down Alum Chine is the perfect way to find the right headspace – the scent of damp pine needles filling your nose as a canopy of trees obscures the sunlight. Further along the pathway, a black iron fence shielding its steepest edge, a weathered bridge comes into view – the teal green paint flaking as it stretches across the deepest section of woodland. We call this ‘Summer’s Bridge’, a place to remember my dad’s beautiful border collie who was possibly the only being to love Alum Chine quite as much me.

The journey to the beach hut is punctured with memories such as these at every step. From the small hole at the base of a now-felled tree (my Granny Pat taught us this was the Dorset home of Winnie-the-Pooh), to the secret archways and snug stone staircases that twist through the undergrowth and lead up to unknowable places. An army of invisible birds call out through the trees which cover the steep banks at the mouth of the Chine, which we’d run down at full pelt and still would if it weren’t for the tightly packed vegetation that has claimed the slopes over the years.

Once the deep blue of the English Channel appears on the horizon, the most eager person calls out: “I saw the sea first!” and the sunlight breaks through at last. Sand mingles with a row of wild poppies as you pass the sprawling playground which felt so impressive at 3ft tall, and the newest beach huts rise from the promenade where an old stone amphitheatre once circled our childhood paddling pool.

Past the cloisters and three huts down you’ll find it. The place where my story took shape. A small, terraced cabin facing out onto the golden sand of Bournemouth’s prize-winning beach. Here I would sit, come rain or shine, in a squidgy deck chair with my leatherbound notebook from Portobello market and a thick mug of tea – which I’d brew on the small gas hob inside.

After the death of my beloved Granny Pat, this spring was sadly our last with the beach hut. But for more than thirty years it was the scene of so many happy moments. Eating bacon sandwiches on the morning of my dad’s wedding. The long evenings sat drinking a beer with my boyfriend Rob. The countless childhood summers spent visiting Granny Pat and Grandad, and of course, those happy days writing my novel. So, now that I’m drafting a second story for Chicken House, I’ll need to make do with a towel on the sand and a large thermos of tea. I’ll pack an umbrella, in case of weather-related disaster, plus extra jumpers in those colder months and a pack of biscuits to munch on after emerging from the sea to write…

Which actually, when I think about it, sounds like a pretty great alternative.

THE PECULIAR TALE OF THE TENTACLE BOY is out now, priced £6.99. Read chapter 1 on the Chicken House website!

 

The Three Impossibles by Susie Bower

Having worked for Bristol Libraries for nearly 20 years, I am always delighted when I read that an author lives and works in this vibrant city, although I have just heard that Susie has moved to Devon; yet another hub for fantastic authors and illustrators.  I first came across Susie Bower when her book “School for Nobodies” appeared in 2020 and was excited to hear about this new title.

Pushkin, 9781782692928

“The Three Impossibles” is the story of a young girl called Mim, who is actually Princess Jemima, but hates all of the trappings that go with being a ‘perfect princess’.  She lives in a castle, but is forbidden to leave its grounds and the whole town is said to suffer from a curse that occurred when her mother died, just as Mim was born.  The arrival of a new governess called Madame Marionette soon sets the cat among the pigeons.  There is something very sinister about this teacher, her servants and her so called ‘pet’ that she keeps hanging in a covered cage; she appears to have a secret agenda and Mim is worried by what that might mean to the inhabitants of the castle.  Mim is a very inquisitive person and loves escaping to the library and reading her way through the books, unfortunately she can only reach those at the start of the alphabet.  But then she comes across a book that is definitely out of place and there is something very unusual about it.  “The Three Impossibles” positively glows, as if it want to be found, but Mim finds it impossible to open the book, which just makes her more determined to investigate this puzzle.  the story develops at a tremendous pace as Mim uncovers the secrets surrounding her home and the inhabitant of the lighthouse that is just off the shore.  Will the book finally reveal its secret and can Mim actually break the curse that has ruined lives for so many years?  Well, you will have to read the adventure to find out, I am afraid.

This is a fabulous story about a young girl who just doesn’t fit in to the world that she lives in. She loves science and finding things out, hates dressing up and wants to have more freedom, but I think above all she wants to be loved by those around her, especially her father.  There is magic and mystery, curses and creatures of myth for Mim to contend with, but with the help of her friend Smith and Miranda (the cursed grand daughter of the court alchemist) she battles to  overcome evil.  There is a wonderful lesson for us all about striving to be the best we can be, whilst also being true to our inner selves.  So often, this world tries to mould us into something we aren’t, so Mim reminds us to recognize our true selves.

What made you want to write for young people? Or was it a happy accident?

Susie Bower

By the time she hit her teens, Susie Bower had lived in 8 houses and attended 7 schools. This theme continued in her working life: she’s been a teacher, a tour-guide, a typist, a workshop facilitator, a PA and a painter. She formerly wrote and directed TV programmes for children at the BBC and Channel 4, for which she won a BAFTA Award, and she currently writes audio scripts. School for Nobodies, her debut novel, is also available from Pushkin Children’s. Susie lives in Devon.

Antigua de Fortune of the High Seas by Anna Rainbow and Oli Hyatt

This is the second book about Pirates that I have had the pleasure of reading in the last few months.  this one is aimed at a slightly older audience, age 8 years and above and definitely makes it onto the reading list for “Talk like a Pirate” day.

Tiggy (short for Antigua) wants to lead a life of adventure and perhaps even be a pirate.  She wants to spend time down by the harbour with her friends Marina and Felipe, but unfortunately, she is a young lady and has to wear long dresses and even attend her first dance at the Governor’s Ball.

During the celebrations to commemorate the freeing of the town’s boys, based around  a legend about the ‘Pirate King’ who had taken all the boys and turned them into Sea Golems in the distant past, history seems to repeat itself.   A band of sinister pirates and a giant squid, attack the island and make off with all of the young boys, including Tiggy’s younger brother; she and her friends decide to try and free the captives.  Mysterious mental messages from a mermaid and the fact that Tiggy’s friend Marina is the daughter of a Selkie helps them in their quest.    Importantly,  how can this threat be defeated?

Although there is no real location for the island on which they live, the authors have very strongly given the setting a feel of the Caribbean, but with strong links to Spain, with the use of Madre and Padre  as well as some of the characters’ names.  They have created a world that we can associate with, but which has magical elements that weave a wonderful  and complex place.  You can absolutely feel the heat and hear the sounds of the busy Caribbean Port, together with the rich diversity of characters that are found there.

This is a roller coaster of a story in which the Swash has never before been so Buckled!  It is a fantastic story for the KS2 reader and gives the opportunity to explore themes such as identity, belonging, family, as well as folk tales and legends.  There are wonderfully strong characters, so that this book will appeal to both girls and boys.  It is also a great starting point for some very creative art and writing.  I definitely hope that we will see some more adventures for Antigua and her friends.  Thank you to Anna for this short post that she has given, sharing the background to the Selkie theme that is so important in the book.

 

An introduction to Selkies

By Anna Rainbow

One of the oceanic myths of particular interest to Oli and me was that of the selkie. Unlike the better known mermaid, who is permanently a human with a fish tail, the selkie is a shapeshifter, most commonly a woman who can exist as a seal in water, and then upon shedding her seal skin, change into a human form on land.

A main theme of our book was trying to reconnect landlubbers with the ocean, and promoting the synergy between land and sea, so the selkie seemed to encapsulate this theme perfectly — a person (or a seal) who could live in and enjoy both environments. Someone who values both habitats equally is far less likely to dump plastics in the waves and destroy marine life with pollution.

But it wasn’t just this that fascinated us, it was the dark feminist twist on the tale, something we weren’t aware of before we started our research. A common tale about Selkies is that should a man steal her selkie skin, he can make her his bride. Perhaps symbolic of the power, the identity and freedom, taken from women when they become a wife, especially in the olden days. Or perhaps even deeper, the power taken from women they are born into a patriarchal society.

It was therefore important to us that the Selkies in our story were strong women who kept hold of their seal skins. It is no coincidence that Gabriella, a well known Selkie and Mother to Antigua’s best friend, Marina, is a single Mother who has kept her powers. On the flip side, woman generally don’t give their power away, it is stolen by men, so it was equally important that the men in our book did not steal our Selkie’s skin.

That is not to say that all men steal women’s power, of course not, but Antigua de Fortune of the High Seas is a feminist book, with a strong female lead who rescues all the boys of her island, and we wanted this reflected in our mythology too. It was important to us that we invented a world where Selkies keep hold of their own skin, and men don’t attempt to steal it.

ANTIGUA DE FORTUNE OF THE HIGH SEAS by Anna Rainbow and Oli Hyatt is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

 

About Oli Hyatt & Anna Rainbow
ANNA RAINBOW grew up and still lives in North East England and works as a Clinical Psychologist with people with disabilities. Anna loves music and has always been in various choirs, singing quartets, bands, and orchestras. In 2015 she was shortlisted for the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition which led to Chicken House publishing The Fandom, her series for young adults (as Anna Day) – it sold in 24 territories and was optioned for TV development by Fox. This is her debut middle-grade novel.  Find out more at annadaybooks.com and follow her on twitter @annadayauthor

OLI HYATT is based in Kings Sutton and is the co-founder of BAFTA award-winning animation studio Blue Zoo. He is also the Director of Alphablocks Limited, the company behind the popular CBeebies phonics shows, Alphablocks and Numberblocks. He is also the chair of Animation UK and was awarded an MBE for his services to the animation industry. This is Oli’s debut novel. Follow Oli on twitter @HyattOli

Antigua de Fortune of the High Seas is Oli and Anna’s first co-authored book together.

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

 

 

 

How to Save the World with a Chicken and an Egg by Emma Shevah and Kirsti Beautyman

I am delighted to say that this is one of a growing number of books that focuses on the world we live in and how we interact with the nature that surrounds us.  There has been an ever growing number of information books and television programmes that focus on the environment and it is so good to see so many young people becoming involved in raising the awareness of the situation.  This book provides a wonderful mix of adventure, nature and also the difficulties that people can have if they are perceived as being ‘different’ in any way.

Chicken House, 9781910655474

Nathaniel has grown up being looked after by his grandmother (although he attends a boarding school during term time).  When his grandmother dies, he was going to spend the holidays with his aunt and uncle, but then his mother, who has just returned from living in India decides that she wants to have him stay with her at the old family home at Southwold in Suffolk He finds living in such a chaotic surrounding a challenge and is on the verge of wanting to leave and go to the familiar surroundings of his other family.  A chance meeting a young girl called Ivy, who thinks she can communicate with animals of all kinds, gives him something to focus on; their common interest in the environment also helps both of them cope with a variety of issues. However, there is a secret from the past that is about to re-surface and the two Eco-warriors will have their work cut out to find a solution.
This is a beautiful story of two children who have had many issues in their lives. Nathaniel has Asperger’s syndrome and struggles to connect with others, while Ivy is living with very supportive foster parents but has undergone abusive treatment from her real father, who even sent her Thai mother back to Thailand. This moving tale shows how these two eventually begin to work together despite the major difference in the way that they interact with others. It also shows how they can connect with the adults in their lives, when the adults take the time to help them. It is a superb read for all children, whether they are aware of environmental issues or not.  I gradually became more engrossed by these seemingly eccentric characters and I would love to follow some more of their adventures; in fact I get the hint that there might be another real adventure in the offing.  Thank you Emma Shevah for such a fantastic read.

 

Emma Shevah is Thai and Irish and was born and raised in London. She is the author

Emma Shevah

of four Middle Grade novels published by Chicken House:Dream on AmberDara Palmer’s Major Drama (optioned by the BBC), and What Lexie Did and How to Save the World with a Chicken and an Egg, and an early reader for BloomsburyHello Baby Mo! She has lived and travelled in many countries but now lives in Brighton with half of her four children. She is Head of Year at Roedean, where she teaches English and gazes at the sea, wishing she was in it.  (Chicken House Books)