My Summer with Grandad

Tom Tinn-Disbury

A story of a little boy, love and letting go.

The old saying goes, ‘if you love something, set it free’ and this touching book tells of this with such tenderness and warmth.

Eric loves spending summers with grandad. This summer is even more special because Grandad gives Eric a very important job on his boat – Chief Seagull Shoo-er! But when Eric and his grandad rescue Beaky, a baby seagull, Eric isn’t sure he wants to see his new friend fly away…

My Summer With Grandad had all the feels of Lost and Found – I really think Tom could be the UK’s answer to Oliver Jeffers! The book can be enjoyed on so many levels and with children of different ages. The spread where Eric is crying as he says goodbye to Beaky and they embrace before he flies off into the sunset is heart-wrenching but so beautifully done – it brought tears to my eyes.

I’m looking forward to seeing more of Tom’s signature style words and pictures on bookshelves very soon. He does humour and heart so well and there’s so many little details to notice throughout (look for the little surprise that the seagulls on the end-papers have left you- it’s supposed to be lucky you know!)

So let’s meet the man behind the pages. Here’s a guest post from author and illustrator Tom Tinn-Disbury on how this perfect little book was formed and some discussion points for during and after reading:

When writing a story, especially a picture book, I always try to avoid hammering a moral or “life lesson” over the head of the reader.

However if you have make the characters feel real, then their experience throughout the book usually informs the story’s themes or lessons.

So while I didn’t set out to write a story about learning to accept friends moving on or how important relationships with our grandparents can be. That became the over riding theme of the book.

So, I hope that that if teachers or parents were to perhaps use “My Summer with Grandad” in an educational setting, they could use it as jumping off point to talk about letting friends go and live their own lives? Being respectful of the needs of others? What role do their grandparents play in their lives? Then perhaps broader conversations about friendships in general or making sure wild animals aren’t hurt by our interventions?

So along with these talking points you could also try:

• Getting children to draw or write about a wild animal they would like as a friend

• Making a postcard to send to their Grandparents

• Listing the things you might find on a sandy beach – or if you live near one, go on a seaside Scavenger hunt!

• Talking or writing about their own steps in helping an injured animal.

Tom is an illustrator based in Rugby, UK. He has illustrated books for Simon & Schuster, Sleeping Bear Press and Hachette. His
debut picture book as both author and illustrator, The Caveman Next
Door, was published in 2019.

Tom can be contacted on Instagram
@tom_tinndisbury.
Visit Tom’s website here

My Summer With Grandad was published by New Frontier Publishing on 1st April and is available to purchase now.

Be sure to continue to tour for more exclusive content.

Madam Squeaker

Pip Jones

Illustrated by Paula Bowles

A charming tale of finding your voice and being heard, no matter how small your squeak.

Crumbs on the counter, morsels on the floor…there should be plenty of food for all the creatures of Hollyhock House to eat. But the Ruling Rats are running rampage every night, taking the best of everything for themselves.

Minetta the mouse has decided enough is enough – it’s time those rats learned to share. But Minetta is so small and her voice is but a squeak. How will she ever make them listen…?

It’s a game of rat and mouse as Minetta and fieldmouse friend Tan try to outwit Bandit and his band of rotten ratbag accomplices. After some sage advice from a wise old Owl, Minetta decides the days of being as quiet as a mouse are over.

Armed with a make-shift megaphone made from a broken teacup and an army of animal friends, Minetta storms the layabouts’ lair in the loft to break up the mischief of rats. Scared as she might be, this is no time to be timid. With the support and encouragement of her animal friends, she finds courage (and her voice!) and squeaks her way to securing a fairer future for all at Hollyhock House.

This small and mighty mouse stands her ground with bravery and boldness and encourages her young readers to do the same.

Barrington Stoke bring together the best children’s authors and illustrators and The Little Gems collection have a super readable, super supportive layout for new readers – they’re perfect for children in Key Stage 1 or Lower Key Stage 2. The activities hiding inside the book jacket keep the fun alive after reading.

With thanks to Barrington Stoke for my review copy.

To read the first chapter of Madame Squeaker click here

Monstrous Devices

Damien Love

‘Beware of things that go click in the night…’

Action packed adventure at a breakneck pace, Monstrous Devices takes us on a whirlwind tour of Europe, stopping only to explore realms of strange, macabre magic and escape a band of dangerous assasins.

This is science-fiction at it’s sensational best! Expect to be perched on the very edge of your seat from cover to cover as the danger and threat of death is relentless. Every page feels like a James Bond movie, with hints of Terminator and The Da Vinci Code thrown in for good measure! Expect scuffles in moving train carriages, precarious rooftop chases and heart-in -the -mouth moments teetering on ledges and jumping balconies hundreds of feet above snowy cities. Oh, and a car chase… a clifftop car chase to rival all others!

When twelve-year-old Alex receives an old tin robot in the post, the note from his grandfather simply reads: ‘This one is special’. But as strange events start occurring around him, it doesn’t take Alex long to suspect that the small toy is more than special; it might also be deadly.

Just as things are getting out of hand, Alex’s grandfather arrives, whisking him away from his otherwise humdrum life and into a world of strange, macabre magic. From Paris to Prague, they flee across snowy Europe in a quest to unravel the riddle of the little robot, and outwit relentless assassins of the human and mechanical kind. How does Alex’s grandfather know them? And can Alex safely harness the robot’s power, or will it fall into the wrong, wicked hands?

Grandad’s character is absolutely exceptional – an ageing 007! I am absolutely sure he was a secret agent in a previous life as he is so deft in dealing with dangerous attackers – very handy with a cane! His dry humour is reminiscent of Michael Cane in The Italian Job and his little off the cuff remarks at the most deadly of moments are hilarious. He’s also a man after my own heart as food is never far from his thoughts – one can’t let hunger get in the way when there’s killer assassins to evade can they old bean! Food and fight-scenes are a winning combination throughout the plot

Grandad and mate Harry (or ‘arry should I say) who we meet in France have obviously been around the block a few times together and know the criminal underworld like the back of their hands but there’s much mystery and intrigue around both their pasts – who are they? And there’s lots of details of Alex’ own past that Grandad is extremely evasive about too…

Monstrous Devices is a proper old-skool adventure that has goodies, baddies (in spades!), robots and the thrill of a good old fashioned chase – a must read!

Monstrous Devices by Damien Love is published in paperback by Rock the Boat on 1st April 2021

I am literally counting down the days until I can rejoin Alex and Grandad for another white-knuckle adventure in the sequel The Shadow Arts. I cannot wait to see what’s in store next and I’m gearing myself up for another breathless chase. Watch this space!

The Shadow Arts by Damien Love is published in hardback on 20th May 2021

Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour for more exclusive content, including extracts from Monstrous Devices and Q&A with author Damien Love.

With thanks to OneWorld Publications for my review copy of the book and inviting me to be part of the tour.

The Secret Detectives

Ella Risbridger

A marvellous Middle Grade murder-mystery aboard a mail ship makes for a thrilling Victorian voyage.

The body seemed to fall for a long time. There was no splash, or if there was it was lost in the waves. Isobel was frozen to the spot for a moment – then her common sense caught up with her and she stepped quickly back into the shadows.

Newly orphaned 11 year old Isobel Petty is forced to leave her home in India to live with a distant Uncle, in England. She must make the three week voyage aboard the S.S.Mariana under the care of prim and proper Mrs Colonel Hargington-Davis and her two children – sickly-sweet, butter-wouldn’t-melt Letitcia and sticky-fingered 6 year old Horace.

Eight nights into the voyage on moonlit decks, Isobel witnesses a shocking act – somebody being thrown overboard – and she’s not the only one…Sameer Khan, the son of the distinguished Dr Khan sees it too. Curiously though, nobody raises the alarm the next morning and with all the passengers accounted for, how is it possible that the incident happened in the first place?

The children make a pact to solve the crime and as the ship charts it’s course from Calcutta, through the Suez Canal to the Mediteranean, Isobel and her new friends must solve two mysteries – the identities of both the murderer and the victim. Can they crack the case before they reach England and the culprit has the chance to jump ship?

There’s something so appealing about a murder mystery at sea and especially one set in the Victorian era – I would love to be left to my own devices all day long exploring the decks and belly of the ship with only the dinner bell to structure my day. The attention to detail in the story is a triumph! Petticoats, pinafores, crisp white tablecloths, kedgeree, boot polish and buffed silverware make for an immersive historical read.

The Secret Detective has all the feels of Death on the Nile. A cast of Cluedo-like characters really bring this story to life – there’s American millionaire and socialite widow ‘Diamonds’ Mrs Drake, Lord Trimlingham and Major Bourne, the Russian Karamazova sisters and German Doctor, Doktor Weiss to name a few and of course their maids, valets and other associated servants. But who has the motive for murder? There’s many a twist and turn as the children collect their clues and the odd red herring thrown in for good measure too! It’s extremely cleverly done and even the most seasoned sleuths will be scratching their heads, struggling to solve the crime.

The story also explores the issues of race and class and carefully threaded-in throughout the plot are opportunities for children to discuss the prejudiced opinions Lettie harbours towards Indians and people that she sees as of lower social classes. Sameer is such an eloquent, well spoken character and the way he challenges and rebuffs her comments with such measured confidence had me almost cheering in places. The book affords us the opportunity to teach children about colonial Britain and think about how we must continue to strive for a fairer world.

The Secret Detectives is a beautifully written, assured debut and Ella Risbridger is most definitely an extraordinary new voice in children’s fiction.

The Secret Detectives is published by Nosy Crow and is released on 3rd June 2021.

To read or listen to the first chapter, visit the Nosy Crow website here

The House on the Edge

Alex Cotter

Nosy Crow – publishes 1st July 2021

Ghosts…hidden treasure…disappearances…mystery…

Although not publishing until July, I just couldn’t resist The House on the Edge after reading the spine-tingling synopsis. From the moment it arrived through the letterbox, the spooky seaside setting spoke to me from the To Be Read Pile and it is absolutely one for the pre-order list. Once I started reading, there was no stopping me!

The House on the Edge had me gripped from cover to cover. I’m a sucker for an atmospheric seaside read and this had all the eeerie undertones of Aveline Jones, whilst the moody, threatening feel of the cliffs and mum’s battle with mental illness was reminiscent of Otters’ Moon.

Where has Faith’s dad gone?

Why has he left his family living in an old house perched on a crumbling cliff top?

A crack has appeared in the cliff and Faith watches anxiously as it gets bigger and bigger each day…

Her brother is obsessed with the sea ghosts he claims live in the basement, and when he disappears as well, Faith starts to believe in the ghosts too. Can she find her brother and bring her father back before everything she cares about falls into the sea below?

The Lookout has perched precariously on the cliff edge for generations – from it’s high turret west window, a lantern would be lit to warn sailors of the treacherous rocks below. And it’s not the only one teetering on the edge…

13 year old Faith is balancing looking after herself, younger brother Noah and her mum. Since their dad disappeared, mum is suffering with crippling depression and rarely gets out of bed. Faith shops, cooks and generally cares for them all. She’s made herself invisible to others – her old friends have faded away and it’s better that way, no-one asking questions. But the cracks are starting to appear and not just in the eroding cliffs.

When Noah begins drawing disturbing images of sea ghosts at school, teachers begin digging for information about mum. And with dad out of the way, obnoxious Uncle Art barges into the Lookout, searching for treasure allegedly hidden there by long-lost relative and Lantern Keeper Thomas Walker. It looks like Faith won’t be able to keep her secret troubles hidden any longer.

Lost and alone, Faith makes an unlikely friend in Sam, a boy in a blue parka, not much older than her. A loner who spends his days beach-combing and wandering the cliff top paths. Sam is fascinated by the history of Providence, a galleon that was wrecked on the rocks below The Lookout. But when Noah disappears, Faith makes a shocking discovery which forces her to question everything she thought she knew about The Lookout, Thomas Walker, her father and Sam.

The House on the Edge takes cliff-hangers to a whole new level! There are so many twists and turns and suspense, mystery and spookiness delivered in spades. There’s crashing waves, vicious winds, shrieking gulls whirling overhead all whilst floorboards creak and cellar doors inch open…definitely one to set your hairs on edge and have you looking over your shoulder.

With thanks to Nosy Crow for sending me an early copy of this gripping book!

The House on the Edge is available to pre-order now.

About the Author

Alex Cotter has worked hard all her life at daydreaming, while making a living from words: from bookselling at W.H.Smith and publicising The Booker Prize to copywriting and teaching creative writing. Alex lives near Bath in an ancient house, with cobwebs, creaky floorboards, one husband, two children, and a revolutionary cat called Trotsky.

Skin Taker

Michelle Paver

‘The answer lies in the jaws of a wolf’

Allow yourself to be transported back to the Stone Age for a truly atmosperic, utterly absorbing adventure. I was completely immersed from cover to cover in a kingdom of ancient clans, demons, wolves and bears – Skin Taker is pure escapism at it’s best!

The world-building in this book is absolutely breathtaking. The elements are harnessed and earth, wind, fire and water, together with a forest setting like no other evoke rich descriptions on an epic scale. The wild is ever-present and Michelle Paver’s love of the natural world is abundantly clear. Her meticulous research of real hunter-gathering cultures make the customs and beliefs of our hero and heroine hunter-gatherers Torak and Renn so authentic.

In the Dark Time of Midwinter, disaster strikes the forest. Chaos rules. Bears woken from their dens prowl the shadowy valleys. Desperate clans battle for survival. Only demons thrive. With their world in turmoil, Torak, Renn and Wolf are tested as never before and as a new evil haunts the devastated land, Torak must risk his sanity, his life and even his souls to save everything he loves…

With threats wherever they turn, Torak, Renn and Wolf embark on a dangerous, magical and heart-stopping adventure that will test them like never before. Will they find ways to survive and thrive in their beloved Forest, or will evil prevail?

Skin Taker is a refreshing diversion from a technological age. The digital, commercial and often unnecessary distractions of everyday life are stripped away and we are grounded in the most primitive and basic needs of human and animal. We are taught about survival by Stone Age versions of ourselves, hunting foraging, clad in animal furs and skins with simple tools made from stone and bone.

I thoroughly enjoyed the parts of the story told through the eyes, ears and nose of a wolf, offering a unique and exciting perspective. It’s a rare treat to be able to feel so close to such majestic creatures, whilst the sense of danger and raw animal instinct is palpable.

Skin Taker is the eighth book in the best-selling series that began with Wolf Brother and like the others, it can be read as a stand-alone story – I had not had the pleasure of enjoying the previous installments but I can genuinely say a new follower has been recruited!

Michelle Paver performs the delicate balancing act of giving readers who are new to the Wolf Brother books a gripping introduction, whilst I’m sure, skillfully satisfying staunch fans of the series.

Skin Taker is sure to attract a new generation of readers like myself to the series and I am thrilled to learn that the adventure is not over yet. We can look forward to joining Torak and Renn for another highly anticipated crusade – watch this space for Wolfbane!

Wolf Brother – 2004

Spirit Walker – 2005

Soul Eater – 2006

Outcast – 2007

Oath Breaker – 2008

Ghost Hunter – 2009

Viper’s Daughter – 2020

SKIN TAKER – April 2021

Skin Taker by Michelle Paver is published 1st April 2021, published by Zephyr, an imprint of Head of Zeus, price £12.99 in hardback.

Skin Taker is also available as an audiobook, read by Sir Ian Mckellen.

Visit Michelle’s website https://www.michellepaver.com/

@MichellePaver #SkinTaker @_ZephyrBooks

Be sure to check out the other stops on the Blog Tour in the exciting run up to publication day on the 1st April.

With thanks to Zephyr Books and ed. Public Relations for my review copy of the book and inviting me to be part of the Blog Tour.

Stop That Dinosaur!

Alex English & Ben Cort

Bloomsbury Children’s Books – published 4th March 2021

A rib-tickling, ROAR-SOME rhyming book!

Oh my! A dino’s at the door.
And now it’s taken Granny…

STOP THAT DINOSAUR!

Children will love galloping through the pages after a Gran-napping Brontosaurus in this ROAR-SOME romp. The raucous repeated refrains make for a wonderfully rowdy reading experience.

A hilarious high-speed scooter chase takes us past the playground, up the high street, past a farm and through the fields to a wood – is poor Granny gone for good?

It turns out, our prehistoric pal just longs for a Gran of his own and the storytimes, snuggles and sweet treats that come with them. All’s well that ends well and there’s a heart-warming conclusion to the tale.

Dinosaurs have always been a big hit in our house and Grandmas are total legends – it’s a perfect prehistoric pairing that pre-schoolers will adore.

(P.S. the dinos are the prehistoric ones, not the Grandmas!)

With thanks to Bloomsbury Childrens Books and Kaleidoscopictours for our review copy & inviting me to be part of the book tour.

Show Us Who You Are

Elle McNicoll

Knights Of – Published 4th March 2021

The Spark has become a flame, burning brightly in my heart.

Show Us Who You Are is a much anticipated, sensational second novel that packs a powerful emotional punch. I laughed, I cried and I nearly hurled the book across the room in outrage at various points – it’s hard to find the right words to do this wonderful book justice. It’s an absolutely phenomenal read! The meeting of two neurodivergent minds that fuse to form the most beautiful friendship.

12-year-old Cora is dragged to a party by her brother Gregor, who is keen for her to meet his boss – the intimidating CEO of the Pomegranate Institute, Magnus Hawkins.

Once there, she unexpectedly strikes up a friendship with his son, Adrien. They soon discover that their difference is what draws them together – Cora is autistic and Adrien has ADHD.

Cora is intrigued by Pomegranate, who are using AI to create life-like holograms of people to provide comfort to grieving families. Magnus and the charming head scientist Dr Gold are keen to get Cora more involved, but her Dad is suspicious of their motives. It becomes clear that Pomegranate have a much darker aim. . .

Can Cora be the one to stop them?

Elle has skillfully created the most gripping of science fiction thrillers and combined it with powerful messages about neurodiversity, identity, individuality and liking who you are.

We live in a world which is advancing at an alarming rate and whilst hologram technology is currently out of reach, Elle writes about it so convincingly that I began to believe that one day it could be a real possibility – an extremely unsettling thought. The murky and sinister world of The Pomegranate Institute raises so many questions and debate about ethical science – just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

But the blurring of the lines between virtual and actual reality is only one element of this stunning plot. Show Us Who You Are explores what it means to be neurodivergent and challenges stereotypes head-on. Both Elle’s novels framed around autistic female protagonists yet both are so different, so individual, so unique. Whether neurotypical or neurodivergent we are all people and no two people are the same. Nobody should be defined by their autism or ADHD. No-one should ever have assumptions made about them – about how they think or feel.

Elle is such a refreshing and assured new voice in Children’s and Young Adult fiction that speaks straight to the heart. She has ensured that Neurodivergent children are represented in the stories they read in the most spectacular and compelling of plots. I absolutely want to read more books about neurodivergent characters and I can’t wait to see what Elle has in store for us next.

Show Us Who You Are by Elle McNicoll is out now, published by Knights Of.

A huge thanks to Knights Of and ed. Public Relations for my review copy of this wonderful book.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Elle McNicoll is a children’s author from Scotland, now living in East London. One of the most exciting new voices in children’s
publishing, Elle is a Neurodivergent writer and is passionate about disability rights and #OwnVoices representation.

Her debut novel A Kind of Spark was published to critical acclaim in June 2020 and has subsequently won the 2021 Blue Peter Book Awards – announced on World Book Day, 4th March 2021. It has also been longlisted for the 2021 Branford Boase Award, and was shortlisted for the 2020 Books Are My Bag Readers Awards.

The Life & Time of Lonny Quicke

Kirsty Applebaum

Nosy Crow – publishes 6th May 2021

This book tempted and teased me from the very moment it arrived through the door – talking to me from the To Be Read pile, begging me to pick it up…and when I did, I could not put it down.

I devoured The Life and Time of Lonny Quicke in one sublime sitting, stopping only to get a few hours sleep. It’s the sign of a good book when it’s the first thing you think about when you awake and finding out what happens is the only thing on your mind.

Kirsty Applebaum has done it again! If The Middler and Troofriend hadn’t already claimed her place as a prominent voice in middle-grade fiction, she’s back to cement it with this heart-stopping contemporary fairytale of the gift of life.

What if you could save lives? What if, with just the touch of your hand, you could stop an animal, or even a person dying?

You’d do it, wouldn’t you?

But what if it meant you got older each time? Older and older…until you had no time left yourself.

Would you do it then?

Lonny lives hidden away in the forest, with his watch-maker father, grandfather and younger brother Midge. The rest of the world doesn’t even know the boys exist and it’s safer that way as Lonny is a ‘lifeling,’ a person who can revive and heal those at the brink of death.

However this unique power comes at great cost; for every life saved, Lonny loses part of his own and the boys have listened to ancient tales of their grandmother’s where lifelings have perished preserving life. Until now, Lonny has only ever used his power to heal tiny woodland animals – he’s much taller than the average 12 year old, but his life hasn’t been cut short by much.

But everything changes when the boys venture into the nearby town of Farstoke. The annual Lifeling Festival is hours away – a yearly event where lifelings are almost worshipped and the local legend is kept alive. How long before the towns-folk realise a lifeling walks among them? And how long before someone needs Lonny’s help?

There are impossible choices to be made – it’s literally life or death…

I was absolutely gripped throughout. There were so many moments where I had to stop my eyes darting across the pages to satisfy the need to know.

With tales as old as time woven into the plot and the atmospheric setting of the isolated countryside town of Farstoke, the story feels like folklore. The Lifeling festival with all its rituals, superstitions, offerings and ceremonies has a certain eeriness about it that had imagining far away villages out in the sticks.

The whole concept would undoubtedly spark a great deal of discussion and debate in the classroom – should we save one life at the expense of another? How would you choose who or what to save…?

This is definitely one for the pre-order list and I’m looking forward to plenty of book-blethering about Lonny Quicke over the coming months.

A huge thanks to Nosy Crow for the advance copy.

Visit the Nosy Crow website & read the first two chapters here

The Perfect Fit

Naomi Jones & James Jones

Oxford Children’s Books

Bright, bold and brimming with fun, The Perfect Fit is a bouncy story of belonging and being yourself. It’s shaping-up to be a sensational picture book debut by husband and wife team Naomi and James Jones.

Triangle doesn’t roll like the circles…

or stack like the squares.

So she sets off the find some friends who are exactly like her. But when she finds the other triangles, there’s something missing.

Will triangle ever find a place where she truly belongs?

It’s a shape hunt like no other! A charming and playful story about a young triangle trying to find her place in the world.

Not only does it celebrate the joy of geometry, there are important messages about diversity and staying true to yourself, told in the gentlest of ways. Triangle and her shape gang present a marvellous opportunity to learn some early maths through play and this is cleverly combined with exploring the themes of kindness and frienship in the most imaginative of ways.

Naomi Jones shaped the story around her 3 year old son struggling to fit in at nursery and because of this, the characters have such a believable quality. For me, we see triangle embark on the journey that all young children go through in different stages of their development; from playing alongside others in their own little world, trying to find a way into others’ games to gradually progressing to socialising with a broader mix of peers and ultimately finding those special friendships.

There’s so much fun to be had during and after reading the book and triangle and her friends have learning about shapes sorted!

Here are some Perfect play ideas:

• Provide shape cutters and playdough for children to explore – add some scent or glitter to the playdough for extra appeal. Googly eyes, buttons and pipe-cleaners can be added to bring the characters from the book to life.

• Go on a shape hunt! Search for shapes around the home, garden or setting.

• Print with shapes – can you make a repeating pattern?

• Make a shape feely bag – can you guess the shapes just by touch alone? Can you describe the shape you’re feeling to your friends and grown-ups?

• Use translucent shapes on a light panel or tissue paper shapes on a window- can you arrange them to make a kite? A boat? A flower? A see-saw? Look in the book for more ideas.

• Using lolly sticks and coloured card make stick puppets of the characters – can you act out the story or make up one of your own?

• Explore tesselation through the shapes in the story – which shapes fit together? (tesselate) Which don’t? Can you explain why using some mathematical language (e.g. curved, straight, corners, edges etc) Extend to other 2d shapes.

• Tap a Shape has always been a personal favourite shape activity – the children adore the mini hanmers and it’s great for developing hand-eye co-ordination.

The playful possibilities are endless!

I’m thrilled I discovered The Perfect Fit. Noami and James have penned a pitch-perfect tale for pre-schoolers and I’m sure it will fast become a firm favourite with parents and Early Years Professionals.

With thanks to Oxford Children’s Books and Liz Scot PR for our review copy.

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the Perfect Fit Blog Tour

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