Wranglestone by Darren Charlton – Stripes Publishing

Wow! Just wow! I could not put this down at all! Wranglestone has got to be one of my reads of the year so far and possibly my favourite Young Adult book ever! If you read one book this summer let it be this!

Thrilling zombie apocalypse meets a truly gorgeous gay love story; it’s perfect for fans of Walking Dead and Steven King’s The Stand. My heart pounded throughout, not only at the chilling zombie action but for Pete and Cooper’s genuinely tender romance and their overwhelming love for each other.

Winter was the only season every Lake-Lander feared…

In a post-apocalyptic America, people have fled the cities and set up communities in the mountains and national parks of Yosemite and Yellowstone. Lake Wranglestone is one such community; surrounded by water its inhabitants live on small islands, the water keeping the Dead or ‘Restless Ones’ at bay. But when winter comes and the lake freezes over, there’s nothing to stop them from dragging themselves across the ice searching for flesh.

Peter lives with his father, his mother a casualty of the Dead. He’s very much a homebody, darning socks, making quilts and keeping the tree house the two of them share neat and tidy. He’s a gentle trusting soul who always sees the good in people but one day, this is his undoing; he puts the camp in danger by naively allowing a stranger to come ashore with catastrophic consequences…

An emergency meeting is called on the Sky Deck of the lake’s Watchtower and the community of Wranglestone decide he must make up for his carelessness. He will act as bait, going into the forests and leading the Dead away from the lake.

Cooper, the boy he’s always admired from afar, is the polar opposite of Peter. Rugged, handy with an axe, machette, shotgun and accomplished on horseback, Cooper is no stranger to staring death in the face. He wrangles the Dead, herding them from their shores and out onto the plains before the lake freezes over. They say opposites attract and this couldn’t be truer; Cooper and Peter are made for each other and after a narrow escape from a frenzied attack of the Dead, Cooper confesses he’s also had feelings for Peter for some time. The pair share a the most beautiful night together in the boathouse – a safe haven between the lake and land – and from that moment, they belong to one another.

Every minute Pete is away from Cooper is agony and their love blossoms as Cooper takes Pete out riding across the plains. I was completely in love with them falling in love – Darren Charlton has written their story to perfection – and their story is for everyone. It’s for everyone that has loved another person so much that it hurts. But danger and the Dead are never far away and in a chain of events that will shock you to the core, their relationship faces truly devastating complications…

I’m bursting to say so much more but this is a book where there are so many special little moments (and utterly horrific and shocking ones!) that every reader deserves to discover for themselves. I wish I could read Wranglestone again for the very first time – there’s so many parts I keep going back to and re-reading that give me goosebumps and so many sections I assure you that you will read through your fingers or with your heart in your mouth.

A absolutely cannot wait to read the sequel Timberdark which publishes on 1st September.

Do not read the synopsis to this at all until you’ve read Wranglestone!!

About the author

Born by the sea in Hastings, I studied B.A (hons) English Literature and Theatre at De Montford University. I’ve always been creative, and found life a struggle whenever I wasn’t being, but it wasn’t until my thirties following a trip hiking and camping in the National Parks of America, that I landed upon writing. The landscapes and sky are so big out there, you can actually feel the planet. And it struck that me that other than being with loved-ones, exploring the world was the only thing that really mattered in life. This created a restlessness in me and this restlessness eventually took the form of writing and finally, these two books. I’m lucky I got a chance to exorcise my feelings by making them, but ultimately they’re for all LGBTQ+ young people looking not for another issue based coming-out drama, but the promise in life, of love and adventure.

Visit Darren’s website here to read more about his inspiration for Wranglestone and see photos of his amazing trips to America’s National Parks.

Alice Éclair Spy Extraordinaire: A Recipe for Trouble, by Sarah Todd Taylor – published by Nosy Crow

There’s such a buzz about this book at the moment! My fellow bloggers have been raving about this scrumptious new spy series and now I know why – Alice Éclair really is a legend in the baking!

I wanted some pure escapism to officially start the school holidays and with my appetite well and truly whetted by so many superb reviews I couldn’t wait to dig in. Alice Éclair was just the ticket with a cherry on top; I was completely whisked away by France’s newest spy on her first mission and devoured this delectable detective drama in one sitting.

Packed with pastry-fuelled peril and more than a pinch of Parisian glamour, A Recipe for Trouble launches what promises to be a superb new spy series from Sarah Todd Taylor, the author of Max the Detective Cat. Climb aboard the Sapphire Express for an action-packed adventure – Agatha Christie eat your heart out! Secret ciphers, jewel thieves and an enemy agent – there’s non stop thrills and spills, red herrings and pulse-pounding action atop the majestic steam train to rival a 007 movie.

Baker by day, spy by night – Alice Éclair leads an exciting double life. She whips up a storm as genius pastry chef in the kitchen of the family bakery Vivre Comme Éclair, but in the blink of an eye swaps her Mille-Feuille for Morse Code working undercover as a spy.

For months, Alice has been receiving notes outlining secret missions she must complete. The mysterious source of these is unknown but one thing is clear; Alice is being trained to track down master spy La Renarde. Alice must go undercover and sneak aboard France’s most glamorous train, the Sapphire Express in order to intercept the illusive villain.

Disguised as a pastry chef, Alice blags her way aboard as Sapphire Express staff. The kitchen is a prime place for spying as she is able to observe the passengers in the dining car and bar and innocently eaves-drop on conversations whilst serving her exquisite creations.

As the train steams through the French countryside, Alice must work hard to discover which passenger is the duplicitous enemy agent. She befriends Penelope, a young lady on her way to finishing school who is keen to do some detective work of her own, but as Alice digs deeper everyone on the train seems to be hiding something…

Alice can trust no-one and armed with her wits, her whisk and her will to succeed, the pressure is on to crack the case. When the enemy realises the net is closing in on them, it spells a whole new level of danger for Alice and there’s some hair-raising moments dangling over the edge of the high speed train, the rails thundering beneath…

This is one of those books you become thoroughly immersed in and I was completely unaware of the passage of time whilst reading. Apart from a few growls from my stomach, triggered by the many mouth-watering pastries mentioned throughout the story, nothing could take my attention away from this treat of a tale – perfect for children in Year 4 upwards.

A Recipe for Trouble publishes on 4th August.

The greatest of thanks to Nosy Crow for sending me a beautiful review copy of this absolutely brilliant book.

Once Upon a Fever by Angharad Walker, published by Chicken House Books.

‘Disease begins with a feeling Miss Darke. It has been that way ever since the Turn – when people’s feelings started making them ill…’

After being completely captivated by Angharad Walker’s critically acclaimed first novel The Ash House last summer, I was very excited to be offered the opportunity to review Once Upon A Fever.

An alternative dystopian London with stag-drawn carriages is the setting for this enthralling and at times unsettling medically-inspired story. Imagine footsteps of robed nurses echoing down dark hospital corridors, whilst disused underground brick tunnels network beneath the operating theatres…

Since the world fell sick with fantastical illnesses, sisters Payton and Ani have grown up in the hospital of King Jude’s…

Payton wants to be a methic like her father, working on a cure for her mother’s water fever. Ani, however, thinks the remedy for all illness might be found in the green wilderness beyond the hospital walls.

When Ani stumbles upon an imprisoned boy who turns everything he touches to gold, her world is turned upside-down. The girls find themselves outside the hospital for the first time, a dark mystery unravelling …

‘We do not know why some feelings turn into illness Miss Darke. That is the mystery of the Turn. Medicine is only a small light shining in the darkness.’

Since the Turn, the wards of the foreboding gothic hospital of St Jude’s are lined with beds, treating patients afflicted by their own feelings. The Inertia Ward for example is one of the hospital’s oldest wings: the Sanatorium for Hysteria, Despair and Melancholy. A guild of Doctors or ‘Methics’ as they are ironically known throughout the story are working on ground-breaking treatment to ‘cure’ patients of their feelings and ‘blood reading’ is one such procedure being pioneered.

St Jude’s has all the feels of a Victorian Asylum, both in it’s physical appearance and in the courses of treatment the patients receive. As with The Ash House, Walker makes us think and question throughout – the ethics of the methics and their obsession with neutralising strong feelings vs the holistic, natural approach of a group of Wilders Ani meets outside the hospital.

Ani and Payton are such courageous, strong-minded individuals. Unafraid to disagree with one another and determined to hold onto their own beliefs, they carve out completely separate pathways to one another and the narrative skilfully switches between both sisters – I was willing them to find their way back to each other!

Once again, Angharad Walker had me gripped with another highly original story unlike anything I had read before.

Read the first Chapter of Once Upon a Fever here:

With thanks to Chicken House and Laura Smythe PR for my review copy of this fantastic book and inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Once Upon A Fever is published by Chicken House Books and is available now.

Click on the image to read my review of The Ash house

Read the first Chapter of The Ash House here:

Festergrimm by Thomas Taylor – An Eerie on Sea Mystery. Published by Walker Books

It’s nearly the summer holidays and I was ridiculously excited to be granted an early mini-break in the legendary seaside town of Eerie on Sea. And my goodness… there was never a dull moment! Creepy wax works, a conniving villain a colossal clockwork robot reminscent of Ted Hughes’ Iron Man…adventure drips from every sea-soaked page. Oh, and watch out for the seagulls…you have been warned!

Our favourite ship-wrecked orphan Herbert Lemon, Lost-and-Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel, once again finds himself at the centre of an Eerie Mystery of epic proportions along with trusty side-kick Violet Parmer.

It’s late November and Herbie and Vi have been sent to greet a VIP guest of The Grand Nautilus at the railway station by morngy hotel manager Mr Mollusc. But nothing could’ve prepared the duo for who is about to step out from the swirling mist. A shocking blast from the past is back to wreak havoc on the town, plotting and scheming to their own gains and of course it’s down to the duo to save the town from disaster.

I feel the beauty of this series is that in each instalment, Thomas Taylor allows us to discover and explore different elements of the seemingly dilapidated town, steeped in myth and legend. As well as dropping into familiar locations such as Seagoll’s diner, Mrs Fossil’s Flotsamporium and paying the Mermonkey a visit at the Eerie Book Emporium, much of this adventure takes place in Fargarzi Round and the boarded up and very creepy Festergrimm’s Wax Works.

Formerly a hit with the tourists, the wax works has long stood derelict and abandoned, but it seems that amongst the dust and cobwebs is something of real value and key to unlocking the Great Legend of Eerie on Sea. And one cunning and conniving character is desperate to get their calloused hands on it.

The children break into Festergrimm’s and bravely explore (at night of course) you wouldn’t get me in there! It really is scary amongst the exhibits with their unblinking eyes and the ghost train that would whirr into action to transport tourists around the gallery. Bumps in the night lead our explorers to the cellar, where they discover their treacherous nemesis tearing apart the wax mannequins limb from limb, feverishly searching for something – it’s like a scene from Frankenstein!

After all the chilling thrills and spills, it’s time for cake and hot chocolate at Mrs Fossil’s and she sheds some more light on the legend. Turns out she has a personal connection to the wax works and is harbouring a shocking family secret. The answer lies in Festergrimm’s legendary robot and a missing part of the clockwork giant. It’s a race against time and Herbie and Vi must solve the mystery and set the cogs in action before their arch enemy gets there first…

This is my absolute favourite Middle Grade series. For me it has everything; gripping mysteries, just the right level of threat and such a well developed location and characters that each visit feels like returning to old friends at a much-loved childhood holiday destination.

Erwin the talking bookshop cat stole the show for me in this adventure. Always on hand to deliver purrrrrrls of wisdom in his trademark deadpan way, he dutifully directs the duo away from danger and hints at clues that they’ve missed. I imagine his voice to be that of Ian McKellen or Stephen Fry and I’d love to discover more of his back story – there is definitely a human trapped inside that feline body!

This is a series I don’t want to end, yet I am absolutely desperate to find out once and for all how Herbie came to be washed up in a crate of lemons in Erie on Sea and what happened to Violet’s parents. At the end of Festergrimm there is the usual teaser for the next adventure and I can’t wait to see how Thomas Taylor ties it all together in MERMEDUSA.

Festergrimm publishes on the 1st September.

A huge thanks to Walker Books and Netgalley for offering me the chance to read this fantastic story in advance of publication.

Click on the cover to read my review of the previous instalment Shadowghast

The Boy Who Rescued a Rainbow by Corrina Campbell, Published by Little Door Books

The Girl Who Stole the Stars became an instant hit in my Reception classroom so I was thrilled to learn that Corrina Campbell had penned a perfect companion; The Boy Who Rescued a Rainbow.

What does it mean to be strong, brave and fearless?

When a little boy finds a broken rainbow lying on the ground he decides to take it home and look after it. The little boy loves the rainbow but when it eventually disappears, he finds out what it really means to be strong, brave and fearless. What follows is a magical adventure exploring one boy’s journey through love and loss.

Corrina’s signature style is instantly recognisable in her bold illustrations; wax crayon combined with the most strikingly beautiful colour washes make each page irresistible to the eye.

I always find it fascinating to discover the story behind a story and how an author arrives at the book we hold in our hands. Listening to Corrina talk gave me a greater understanding of the how different stages of grief are portrayed in this gentle story. We see the little boy experience denial, anger, sadness, depression and finally reach acceptance when he realises he will always have happy memories of the time he and his rainbow spent together. Click the link below to hear more about the inspiration behind the story.

The little boy’s beloved dog is on the journey with him every step of the way and offers reassurance and advice such as ‘it’s ok to cry’ and ‘we all feel sad sometimes’ teaching children that we don’t have to suppress our emotions or hide our feelings. It’s so important that we validate the feelings that children are experiencing.

As well as being a talented author and illustrator, Corinna is a also a teacher and this shines through in how perfectly pitched her books are for teaching emotional literacy to young children. This is such a hopeful little book that delivers important messages in the gentlest, most age appropriate of ways.

So finally, who better to hear the story from than Corinna herself. Listen to The Boy Who rescued a Rainbow below and have a peek at the gorgeous illustrations.

With thanks to Little Door Books for inviting me to be part of the blog tour.

Click on the cover to read my review of The Girl Who Stole the Stars

Her Dark Wings by Melinda Salisbury, published by David Fickling Books.

Heddy, intoxicating, intense and totally unputdownable, this is Young Adult fiction at it’s very best!

Melinda Salisbury has reimagined the Persephone Myth and infused it with contemporary romance in the most thrilling and compulsive of ways. Heartbreak, hatred, jealousy and obsession combine with Ancient Greek lore, resulting in a deliciously dark, highly addictive read. Greek Gods, forbidden fruit, love, lust and malevolent mythical creatures draw us deep into the Underworld and stir the darkness within.

Seventeen year old Corey lives on a small unamed island. It could be in the middle of the Aegean Sea or one of the Shetland Isles but the islanders practise Ancient Greek customs.

Corey and Bree have been best friends for forever and Corey thinks their friendship is unbreakable. But when her boyfriend Ali breaks up with her and then Bree won’t return any of her calls, it becomes clear that Bree has betrayed her in the worst possible way.

On the night of the Island’s annual Thesmophoria festival, Corey knows she is bound to run into her exes. As she stands awkwardly on the edges wondering whether to stay or go, a beautiful boy wearing a hammered copper mask and golden lips takes her hand and pulls her into the crowd. The pair share a passionate kiss and when Corey looks up into the boy’s eyes it’s as if he knows exactly what she is thinking…

Just as the kiss is over, Corey spots them; cosying-up together, flaunting their relationship in her face. In that moment the hatred she feels for Bree consumes her and she wishes her dead. For a moment she’d forgotten about her and Ali and been happy, but the second she saw them all the anger hurt and humiliation came rushing back. And so she sends a cursed dart from her mind straight to Bree’s chest and wishes she’ll be dragged to the Underworld and left there to rot. The boy says something Corey doesn’t quite catch, too preoccupied with her hate, then the music ends and he disappears into the crowd, giving a funny little bow like a character from a play. Not long after, Bree is found dead – face down in the lake.

Corey cannot reconcile her grief and emptiness with the feelings of bitterness and pure hatred she still harbours for her dead not-friend. But on her Grecian island, the boundaries between the mortal and immortal realms are blurred. Corey is called to the Underworld by an arrogant and unyeilding God who traps her there. She is forced to witness the desolate space that exists between life and death where there is no day, no night, no flowers or trees. She observes the poor souls trapped in purgatory, forced to pay for their crimes by the terrifying winged creatures called ‘Furies’ so that justice may finally be served on them in the afterlife. It’s horrific and heart-wrenching but secretly Corey is hoping there is one soul she will get see to serve retribution.

The longer Corey spends there, the more she learns about herself and her own power stirs. Can she resist the darkness within her or will love blossom and life bloom in the most unlikliest of places…?

I cannot stop thinking about this novel! Hermes, Hades, the Furies and the intense teen relationships completely got under my skin and l’ve re-read the final chapter several times already as the ending is so utterly perfect. Salisbury has researched Ancient Greek Mythology and customs meticulously and I enjoyed reawakening my own knowledge of Greek Gods and Goddesses.

I relish interspersing my mainly Middle Grade reading with the occasional compulsive Young Adult novel. My regular followers looking for recommendations for Primary School pupils need to know that Her Dark Wings is definitely aimed at older teens due to the language and adult content. I highly recommend it anyone aged 16 upwards – unmissable summer reading!

Her Dark Wings is out on the 7th July, published by David Fickling Books.

With thanks to Liz Scot PR for the review copy.

Zo and the Forest of Secrets by Alake Pilgrim, Published by Knights Of.

‘A Story don’t start where we tell it you know…’

Perfect for fans of Fireborn, The Crooked Oak Mysteries and Dreadwood, Alake Pilgrim weaves an intricate web of mutant creatures, fantastical gifts, folklore, friendship and adventure. This felt like Christopher Edge meets the Caribbean and as with Escape Room, there was many a moment in The Forest of Secrets when my mind was well and truly blown! It’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s imagined and there are some absolutely nail-biting pursuits and escapes too!

Allow yourself to be swept away to rural Trinidad for sun, sea and sci-fi futuristic fantasy! This is the trek of a lifetime through forests and hills, over rocky outcrops and along rushing rivers. I could almost feel the unbearable heat of the sun beat down on me as I journeyed through sticky mangrove swamps and the cool sea breeze of the bay. But where there is beauty there is also danger. What is hiding in the forest…lurking in caves below ground…what lies beneath the murky waters…? Zo must unravel the secrets of the forest before she is lost in them forever…

Zo’s parents have separated and she has been forced to move to the island with her mother, stepdad Jake and baby Tayo, AKA ‘The Terror’. Zo resents having to leave her home, her dad and most of all, she resents the attention Tayo and Jake command from her mother. So Zo hatches a plan, a plan to run away.

She’s got it all worked out, she’ll not go far, only staying away for a few days, long enough for the alarm to be raised and a search party sent out to look for her – long enough for her dad to fly in and join the rescue team. Taught well by her beloved Da in survival skills, Zo has gathered supplies and seizes her opportunity to evade old Ms Kofi, her keeper whilst on the island.

But it’s not long into her expedition when things take an unexpected turn. As she journeys through the once-familiar forest, terrifying creatures and warped visions begin to emerge. Dazed and dehydrated with a beast on her heels, Zo strays far from the beaten track. With only her knowledge of physical geography to guide her, she follows the flow of a small stream, hoping it will be a tributary to a larger river that will lead her to the coast. When she eventually meets the gushing waters she spots a boy, flailing and and struggling against the current.

Zo fights against the powerful waters and manages to drag him, surely drowned to the shore. But when her skin touches that of the unconscious boy, she is plunged into a vision of his memories so real, it is like she is actually there. When Adri, as she now knows him to be called comes round, the pair must embark on the wildest and most deadly trip of their lives. Things are not as they seem – be ready for some futuristic twists. Could a mysterious abandoned research facility hold answers…?

There absolutely HAS to be a sequel to this as there are clearly many more secrets yet to be revealed. We absolutely need more books for Middle Grade readers set in Africa and the Caribbean on our shelves. I thoroughly enjoyed the island setting with its diverse cultural backgrounds and the camaraderie that develops between it’s characters, Zo Joseph a black girl and Adri Khan a South Asian boy. The atmosphere in the forest was palpable – a feast for the senses! This is an incredible debut and I can’t wait see what pulse-pounding adventure Alake Pilgrim pens next – definitely one to watch!

Zo and the Forest of Secrets was published on the 2nd June by Knights Of.

Thank you to Knights Of and Anabelle at edpr for sending me a gorgeous proof copy of this wonderful book.

Slug Love by Cath Jones, illustrated by Craig Shuttlewood. Published by Maverick Books

Slug would LOVE to be the gardener’s best friend, but how can he win her love? Will chomping heart-shaped holes in her favourite plants send the right message, or will he end up in the Bucket of Doom? A tale of an optimistic slug in pursuit of an unlikely friendship.

Today I welcome author Cath Jones to the blog to chat about some of the green-fingered inspiration behind her adorable new picture book Slug Love.

Welcome Cath! I’ve heard you’re a keen gardener; what inspired you to get into gardening? How do you think we can encourage children to become gardeners, especially when so many children don’t have access to one?

My love of gardening grew from a Halloween pumpkin. More than twenty years ago, I carved my first pumpkin and saved the seeds. The following spring, I sowed the seeds and from that moment I was hooked on growing anything you could eat. I went on to run school gardening clubs and manage a small community allotment as well. 

There are lots of opportunities for children to get involved in growing: many community gardens run family sessions and most schools will have a school garden and a gardening group. You don’t need a garden to grow things. I grow lettuce in polystyrene boxes and herbs in old tins. You’d be amazed what will grow in a pot on a windowsill.

There are lots of wonderful, gardening themed picture books. Sharing these with children is a fun way of inspiring an interest in growing. My first picture book, Bonkers About Beetroot, includes everything you need to know about growing things from seeds.

As spider says in the story, ‘gardeners hate slugs!’ Is ‘the bucket of doom’ based on real life events? 

Yes, the bucket of doom really did exist! Back when I first got into growing vegetables I was trying to grow things in a garden that had not been touched for many years. It was a complete wilderness with its own huge community of slugs and snails eager to chomp my seedlings. Each night, I went out with a torch and collected them up into a bucket. I didn’t want to kill them so I cycled down to the local common with the bucket and relocated all the slugs and snails.

You’ve teamed up with fantastic illustrator Craig Shuttlewood to bring Slug and his garden friends to life. What is your favourite spread from the book and why? 

The very first page of Slug Love is an absolute delight. It includes orange pumpkins and a cosy gardener’s shed. It’s the first time the reader meets all the characters and Slug is looking adoringly at the gardener. There is so much going on, plenty of little details to hunt for: a couple of cats and clues that show gardeners don’t like slugs. But Slug totally fails to notice all the anti-slug clues. Hilarious!

Tell us about the gardener in the story. Did you have someone in mind when you created her character and briefed your illustrator? 

The fact that the gardener is a wheelchair user was inspired by someone I know who has become a wheelchair user in the last few years. She said she would like to see more wheelchair users depicted in stories with their wheelchair use NOT the focus of the story.

Do you have any more green-fingered adventures planned for young readers? 

I’m always busy creating stories for children and yes, growing vegetables does feature quite often. I’ve just written a story for a school reading scheme, called The Biggest Carrot in the World, though I don’t know yet whether it will be published or not.

A big thanks to Cath for stopping by to chat and share Slug’s adventures with us – it’s always a pleasure discovering the story behind a story.

Slug Love will be published by Maverick Books on the 28th June.

Keep following Slug’s sparkly trail as he visits these fantastic blogs on the tour.

With thanks to Maverick Books for inviting me to be part of the tour.

Happy Sad by Pippa Goodhart, illustrated by Augusta Kirkwood – published by Little Door Books

Can you be happy and sad at the same time?

Fans of Bog Baby will love this absolutely gorgeous picture book, which explores the themes of friendship, love and letting go. I’m sure adults and children alike will identify with the bittersweet feeling of being ‘Happy Sad.

Pippa Goodhart’s soothing story flows like gentle waves and as you’ll see below, August Kirkwood’s stunning illustrations speak for themselves. See the fish shimmer and the mermaid’s emerald hair and irredescent scales shine in a striking colour palette of aquamarine, turquoise, purple and cobalt.

When Toby finds a mermaid stranded in a rock pool on the beach he takes her home and tries to cheer her up.

Toby tries songs, stories and a paddling pool full of bubbles, all the time asking:

‘are you happy now?’

And for a while Toby and the mermaid have fun. But…

…the more the mermaid sees the love Toby and his family have for each other the more she misses her own family and home.

Toby is really sad to see his friend go, but can he be happy for her at the same time?

We had a little talk in Reception class about when we have felt ‘happy sad.’ Here are a few of the children’s contributions:

“I’m happy coming back to school but sad that the holidays are over.”

“I’m happy our butterflies have hatched but sad we have to let them go.”

“I was happy on my birthday but sad when I had no presents left to open.”

“I’m happy we’re going to Year 1 soon but sad to leave Reception.”

Happy Sad is a particularly great choice for us at the moment as we have been observing minibeasts in class such as snails and butterflies but then had to release them back into their habitats. The children could really relate to Toby having to let his friend go, yet knowing she is living happily in her natural environment.

Happy Sad was published on the 6th June by Little Door Books.

Big shout out to Little Door! As an Early Years Leader and Reception teacher, Little Door Books are now a staple on my classroom bookshelves. Pinkie and Boo, The Girl Who Stole the Stars, Scaredy Bat, Snooze and One Button Benny are such well-loved stories and there’s more amazing titles to come. Keep an eye on my blog next month for another exciting release!

Keep following the Happy Sad blog tour for more fantastic content from the brilliant bloggers below. It’s been a pleasure taking part and having the opportunity to review this beautiful book.

The Riddle of the Sea by Jonne Kramer, Published by Piccadilly Press

I’m absolutely thrilled to have been invited to join the blog tour for this gripping sea adventure and better still, get the opportunity to ask author Jonne Kramer some questions about some of her inspiration behind the book.

Featuring stunning illustrations by acclaimed illustrator Karl James Mountford and translated from Dutch by Laura Watkinson, Carnegie-Medal 2020 short-listed translator, The Riddle of the Sea was a huge hit in The Netherlands and it’s easy to see why.

When Ravian’s father doesn’t return home from sea for his son’s birthday, Ravian is certain he must be in danger. Hearing tales of a cursed ship that captures fishermen, Ravian goes in search of his father accompanied by his only friend Marvin the seagull. Before long, the pair find themselves trapped on the ship with a kindly boy and a bad-tempered pirate for company. The ensuing voyage is beset with battles with giant squid and fierce storms, and Ravian despairs of ever finding his father.

Jonne Kramer

Ask the Author

I read in your guest post earlier in the blog tour that like protagonist Ravian, you are a ‘sailor’s child with a severe and inexplicable fear of boats.’ What made you choose to base most of your book at sea?

The sea is so intriguing to me because it is so enormous and so inaccessible. You can never really know what’s hiding in the depths. That’s what makes the sea so scary, but it also makes it very mysterious and that gives the writer a lot of options. Nothing feeds my imagination as much as a mysterious place where anything is possible, I only have to think of it and write it down.

Was there a particular location that inspired The Harbour of Rotten Herring? Do you have a favourite seaside place?

No, I didn’t base the harbour on any existing place, but the surrounding dunes where Ravian lives were based on Texel. This is a small Dutch island where I used to go very often with my family when I was little, and I especially loved walking through the dunes and the forest next to them.

Ravian finds himself trapped aboard a cursed ship. Are you superstitious? Where’s the spookiest place you’ve ever been? 

Haha, no I’m not superstitious. I just like to believe that nature is more powerful than mankind. In the book, the ship is cursed by the sea as punishment. Even the most evil pirate fears the sea and has to obey her. We would all be better off if we’d obey nature a bit more, I think.

The spookiest place I’ve ever been, was a castle in northern France. During the day it was lovely and romantic, and I could picture myself a princess. But at night everything got spooky and very dark, and it seemed like the wooden floors were constantly creaking, and the curtains were dancing while the windows were closed, because of some cracks in the windowsill.

Marvin the seagull is such a great character and he’s an amazing companion & friend to Ravian. Did you have an animal companion as a child? 

Yes, I love animal companions in stories. Especially adventurous stories where the main characters have to do scary things, it’s nice to give them a great friend who supports them unconditionally.

My own animal companion was our cat Storm. He’s still alive but a very old and grumpy cat now. He would always chase me and my brother and come along when we were playing outside.

Which was your favourite scene in the book to write? 

I loved all scenes where Ravian and Kars talk and get to know each other better. Those were easier for me to write than the more action-filled scenes. Their conversations and cute flirtatious jokes made me feel so warm and I felt they were so needed in between the scary adventure, the sea monsters and crazy pirates.

Are there any stories or authors from your childhood that have influenced you as a writer?

Of course! I loved Roald Dahl’s stories because they’re set in our normal life, but he adds something that’s impossible or magic, but in such a way that makes it seem like it actually could be possible, but we just haven’t noticed it. His stories have always made me try to notice unusual things in what’s around me.

And my absolute favourite book was Wise child and its prequel Juniper by Monica Furlong. When I was young, I always wished I could be the same as the main character and dreamed to live inside the story. I hope my books can have the same effect on readers one day.

And finally, are you writing at the moment? Can you give us a little hint?

Yes, I am! I’m writing a short story collection about a child bandit who lives in a forest with his gang of robbers: a squirrel, a raccoon, and a spider. They go on little adventures and carry out funny robberies.

Please do check out the other stops on the tour for more exclusive content.

The Riddle of the Sea is available to purchase now.

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