New review: Dog on Wheels by Gillian McClure

Gillian McClure has written and illustrated wonderful picture books including We’re Going to Build a Dam, which was nominated for the UK Literacy Association (UKLA) book awards and the Kate Greenaway medal.  Dog on Wheels published by Troika Books is a lovely picture book and I instantly fell in love with the skateboarding dog Dubbin!


Dog on Wheels by Gillian McClure

Dog pals Dubbin and Todd are going on a walk before breakfast: Dubbin on his skateboard and Todd lagging behind on paws. Not only that, but poor Todd is also carrying a huge bone which is attracting attention from another, not so nice, dog.  Can Dubbin, Todd and the bone get home safely?


A dog with a very special skill springs off the page in this lovely picture book. Dog on Wheels stars Dubbin, a dog who can skate board, taking his friend Todd on a pre-breakfast jaunt through the town!  But Todd isn’t quite so adventurous and ends up moaning about his heavy bone – which Dubbin quite rightly says he should have left at home!  When Todd realises his bone is lost, it’s up to Dubbin, aided by his wheels, to get back the bone and both dogs to the safety of home in time for breakfast!


The lively narrative and rhyming words create a fun story brimming with energy.  Dubbin is a great character – you’ve got to love a dog that can skateboard! Whilst Todd slows Dubbin down, Dubbin still looks out for his friend and helps Todd when he most needs it!

The lovely illustrations and text layout compliment the story and bring to life the daring Dubbin perfectly – I loved the stars that surround him wherever he skates.  Dog on Wheels is a celebration of a dog’s life – walkies on wheels! It’s a story that will make all who read it smile! Great for readers aged 3+ and a brilliant book to read aloud.

With thanks to Troika Books for sending me this book to review. Find out more about the author at

New reviews: Nature with Nosy Crow and the National Trust

The National Trust and Nosy Crow have produced some lovely books of late, with a view to encouraging children to explore nature.  And these two are no exception, both of which we took on holidays and they proved extremely useful whilst camping in the wilds of Devon and Cornwall! 

Go Wild in the Woods An Adventure Handbook by Goldie Hawk & Rachael Saunders and Out and About Night Explorer by Robin Swift and Sara Lynn Cramb are two brilliant books for children who want to know more about the outside world.  And what better time to explore than during summer? With a few weeks left of the holidays these books might just be the answer for those of you looking for something different to do!


I really love this! The Complete Night Explorer’s Kit is a fantastic package with a cute little backpack for small hands; a map of the night sky (both hemispheres); a set of glow in the dark star stickers; a little torch and of course, a book Out and About Night ExplorerIMG_4860

We took the whole thing camping and our youngest (aged 7 almost 8) loved it! We attempted to use the night sky map but cloud cover meant we couldn’t – however we will definitely try again. The book itself is full of information about nocturnal creatures from owls to mini beasts as well as night time plant life.  There are helpful hints so you can find wildlife with suggestions such as keeping an eye out for animal poo (which of course my son found hilarious!) and how to spot animal tracks.


The book also has some great activities whatever the season or time of day, which reinforces the fun to be had being involved with nature and how to help Great British wildlife. I particularly liked the ideas for building a hedgehog feeding place in the garden.

There are colourful illustrations throughout, a useful index, a quiz and even night time games suggestions.  All in all this is a great book for encouraging intrepid young explorers and their parents to take a closer look at the world around them!  It would make a great gift and is perfect for ages 5+ (younger children will need to share the reading with an adult or older sibling).

Find out more at


-National Trust- Go Wild in the Woods-284651-1

Go Wild in the Woods An Adventure Handbook is a similar idea but for older children aged 8+.  It’s a lovely pocket sized book that aims to help children stay safe in the woods, but also discover all the magic nature has to offer with advice for everything from building dens, to how to tie knots to foraging for food and cooking over a campfire!


The book invites children to get to know the outdoors and introduces map reading skills and all important survival skills such as finding water. Think Bear Grylls!  The lovely illustrations give it a story book feel and perfectly capture the joy of discovering nature with friends and family.


I particularly liked that there’s a really useful glossary and ultimate survival kit guide with sensible suggestions of what you might need to take when exploring in the woods. We made use of this on some of our day trips! As a young girl I was fortunate to be raised in the countryside and spent hours every day exploring, climbing trees and making camps. I would have found this book so useful then too!


Go Wild in the Woods is a celebration of the wonder of nature with practical ideas that will help children make the most of the outdoors, whilst staying safe. And I suspect many parents and carers will appreciate the hints and tips too!  Well timed for summer, this book would be a great addition to the holiday backpack and give children loads of ideas of things to do outside.

Find out more at

With thanks to Nosy Crow for sending me these books to review.


Bookchat Roadshow. Just brilliant!

It’s a week ago today that we were busy welcoming parents to the Bookchat Roadshow at Harlands Primary in Haywards Heath.  This was a unique event, bringing together children’s authors, publishers, education specialists, along with local organisations and the Public Library Service to share ideas with parents and carers.  And being the second event I was possibly even more nervous than the first time round! The first event had gone so well, would this one be the same?  I can safely say it was even better, not least because after the main event, the authors ran workshops with 240 children at the host school!

“The atmosphere is positively buzzing” one parent said to me – and I couldn’t agree more. It really was exciting and I am so grateful to my brilliant fellow presenters, participating authors and the organisations who were exhibiting for helping to make it this way!  After a lovely introduction by the school’s Headteacher, Jane Goodlace, I spoke to parents about encouraging reading and the importance of reading for pleasure. It’s not easy to do this in such a short time – there is so much you could say!059_The-Book-Activist-Bookchat-Roadshow But the crux was how to help your child’s enjoyment of reading through helping them choose the right book for them, taking into account their interests. I truly believe parents can be the best reading role models a child can have but as parents we often worry about our children’s reading and this can sometimes remove the joy of the experience – for both parent and child.  If we can remove the stress from the situation and focus on what children want to read and get enjoyment from, the path to discovering the magic of stories is much smoother!

“It was really helpful to confirm I am doing the right thing and to give me new ideas” Parent feedback

I was followed by Jane Walker from Barrington Stoke, who spoke brilliantly about reluctant readers and making reading accessible. It was fascinating to hear how Barrington Stoke produce books that are so readable on a practical level and also really helpful to hear how whether your child can’t read or won’t read, there are ways to support them. “Reading is for everyone” Jane said.

Moving on from this, author Nikki Sheehan was totally inspiring on how to encourage children’s creative writing, with brilliant and achievable ideas that all parents – and of course their children – could benefit from.  Her final comment was ‘be their inspiration’ – what better advice could you get?!  I was delighted that both Kate Manning and Clementine McMillan-Scott from Scoop Magazine joined the line-up and shared the story behind Scoop.  Their presentation focused on the importance of celebrating all kinds of stories, sharing that every reader is different and how we can all play a part in encouraging all types of reading and writing.

“Congratulations on delivering such an inspiring and positive event!” Parent feedback

On that note, the coffee break arrived, and the celebrating continued with attendees having the chance to peruse the exhibition.  Parents had the opportunity to ask advice from organisations including local education service Discover & Be, dyslexia specialists Helen Arkell, Inkpots Writing Workshops and Nature Nuture Sussex. Even the Schools Library Service and the Public Library Service were represented with parents able to join up if they weren’t already members and find out about the Summer Reading Challenge!  With a bookstall provided by Waterstones Haywards Heath, and Usborne books it was a hive of activity!

“Attendance should be compulsory; it was inspirational!” Parent feedback

The grand finale of the morning was the fantastic author panel Bookchat featuring four award winning children’s authors; Nikki Sheehan, Jamie Thomson, A F Harrold and Jenny McLachlan which I was very excited to be chairing.  There is something magical about authors sharing their ideas – they create the worlds we inhabit when we read and I like to think some of the magic rubs off on those who hear them!

A lively chat ensued with questions from the audience and the authors shared their best tips for getting children into reading and writing and why stories are so important. As a parent myself I am eager to encourage my children’s reading and hearing the author’s childhood experiences of books and stories was just brilliant!  It was the perfect consolidation of all the wonderful ideas and advice heard throughout the morning, but with the extra inspiration everybody needs.

“It was a fabulous morning with excellent presentations and entertaining authors” Parent feedback

After a quick lunch break, it was back to work for the authors who ran workshops with pupils in years three to six at the host school as well as signing lots of books!  On visiting each classroom, I can’t tell you how incredible it was to see the look at the children’s faces as each author brought their stories to life and inspired them with ideas for getting into reading and writing.

Jenny McLachlan talking to Year 6

Jenny McLachlan reading an extract from Stargazing for Beginners

Nikki Sheehan talking to Year 4

Nikki Sheehan working her creative magic


Jamie Thomson aka The Dark Lord!


A F Harrold performing poetry

Schools don’t often have the opportunity to benefit from one author visit, let alone four, so this was a real achievement! As you may know this Roadshow was supported with funding from West Sussex County Council and I am truly grateful to them for recognising the value of the Roadshow and the importance of empowering parents and carers to support their children.   

The Roadshow was a great success… The combination of authors, publishers and specialists provided a focus for everyone in the audience… The workshops went down incredibly well with teachers and especially the children.” 

Jane Goodlace, Headteacher of Harlands 

I am so pleased we had fantastic photographer, Adam Hollingworth, to help capture some of the magic of the Roadshow! Feedback for the whole event has been even more positive than I could have hoped for and I’d like to say a HUGE thank you to EVERYONE who supported the event and made it so special.  Bring on the next one!

All photographs courtesy of Adam Hollingworth Photography.

If you would like to get involved please contact

With thanks to our funding partner:


Supporters new

For more information about the Bookchat Roadshow visit

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Making reading accessible at the Bookchat Roadshow!

It’s really important we ensure all children can access reading, whatever their ability. And supporting dyslexic readers is a cause close to my heart – my 14 year old son is dyslexic so I am well aware of the struggles this can cause.  We want to make sure the Bookchat Roadshow supports parents and carers of children of all ages and all reading abilities.
BS_button_whtSo I can’t tell you how pleased I am that Jane Walker from Barrington Stoke will be speaking to parents at the Bookchat Roadshow on 20th July. Jane says:
“At Barrington Stoke we are all about cracking reading. We have nearly twenty years experience of publishing fiction particularly for the reluctant, struggling and dyslexic young reader and I will be talking about how we remove the barriers so that everyone can access and enjoy a good book. I look forward to meeting families and being part of this excellent initiative. “
Jane will be sharing tips and interesting facts around ‘readability’ and reading for pleasure and a very brief overview of what Barrington Stoke can do to support readers of all ages.
We also have the brilliant organisation Helen Arkell exhibiting at the event and on hand to give advice to parents and carers. Helen Arkell Logo Online
Helen Arkell offer dyslexia support and advice to anyone who may need it, whether they think they have dyslexia or care for someone who may have dyslexia. They support children and adults alike through assessments, training, consultations and offer a variety of courses on dyslexia and related topics. Their aim is to “inspire people to believe in themselves, achieve their goals and succeed on their own terms”.  

You can register for FREE to attend the Bookchat Roadshow, which takes place on 20th July 2017 at Harlands Primary School, Haywards Heath, West Sussex.   The Roadshow brings together authors, industry experts and people passionate about children’s reading and writing for pleasure.  With inspirational talks and an author panel bookchat, plus a selection of exhibitors, we give a huge range of ideas to help support children’s creativity. Speakers include author Nikki Sheehan and also the team behind Scoop Magazine. Register online now!

For more information please visit


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Reading matters…at the Bookchat Roadshow

I’ve been fortunate to interview some wonderful authors on my blog and I’m thrilled to say some of them are here today with wise words on reading in support of the Bookchat Roadshow and the importance of encouraging children’s reading for pleasure.




“I learned to love books, words and the worlds they created because of my Mum and now I try to pass on that love to my children – I’m so thrilled to see the Bookchat Roadshow helping this happen.”  

Alice Broadway



Reading to a child is a unique experience you share together. You become travelling companions and join them on an adventure into the unknown. You meet new friends, you face adversity. You share how you feel and wonder at the world that unfolds in front of you. Finding time to read to a child is precious time. Find time. Childhood is all too short.” 

Gill Lewis




‘No one’s ever too old to be read aloud to. Better yet, why not read aloud together. Showing your passion for reading, whether that’s reading aloud with your child or reading books together so you can discuss them, is the best way to inspire a lifelong love of reading. Pick things you can both be excited by and always go beyond the page. What do you think happens after the end of the book? Which character is your favourite? Where would you love to go in the book or which object would you most want to have from it? Reading is as much about what you put into making the book come alive in your imagination as what’s on the page. Seeing that is the gateway to writing your own stories…’ 

Alexia Casale



“I love that this event is designed to support parents and carers to help and encourage their children to read and write for pleasure. That’s the key word here, for me. Pleasure. Not enough people read and write for pleasure. So anything that aims to encourage reading, writing and creativity as a form of pleasure, escape and fun, is definitely good in my book!” 

Maria Grace



“I’m very pleased to be taking part in the Roadshow, because I like to read and I liked to read when I was younger too, and sometimes it’s nice to share those things that make you happy. In this day and age the empathy and other-person’s-shoe-ness that reading, both fiction and non-fiction, can help nurture and grow inside a human heart cannot be a bad thing to encourage, so let’s encourage it.”  

A. F. Harrold


goodnight boy

“I’m so excited to be taking part in the Bookchat Roadshow! As a reader, writer and story mentor with Little Green Pig, I’m very aware of the miracles that can happen when you allow children to take ownership of their reading and writing. There’s nothing better than the look on a child’s face when they realise that there really are no limits to the worlds they can explore and create, and as parents, teachers and librarians it really is within our power to help them to access to their own wildest imaginings.” 

Nikki Sheehan



“Looking forward to receiving the oaths of allegiance on pain of death from all my minions at… no, wait, wrong speech. Umm…. Looking forward to helping parents getting kids reading and writing at the Bookchat Roadshow! Well, my books at any rate. Forget the other authors, pah!!!’ 

Jamie Thomson



“I’m thrilled to be participating in the Roadshow and meeting parents and carers to talk about the wonderful world of reading. When I was a teacher, I saw first hand the hugely positive impact reading has on the lives of children and young people. Reading is empowering, encourages empathy and provides a calm oasis in what can be a chaotic world. A love of reading is one of the greatest gifts you can give a child which is why I’m so excited to be taking part in the Bookchat Roadshow.” 

Jenny McLachlan


BookChat Roadshow A4 Flyer


The Bookchat Roadshow takes place on 20th July 2017 at Harlands Primary School, Haywards Heath, West Sussex.   You can register for FREE to attend this unique event bringing together authors, industry experts and people passionate about children’s reading and writing for pleasure.  With inspirational talks and an author panel bookchat, plus a selection of exhibitors, we give parents and carers a huge range of ideas to help them support their children’s creativity. Presentations will include author Nikki Sheehan on creative writing, the team behind Scoop Magazine on celebrating stories and Barrington Stoke and reading and accessibility. With giveaways galore this is an event not to be missed!

For more information please visit or REGISTER your space for FREE via Eventbrite.

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Branford Boase Book Blog Bonanza!

BBA_LogoI was delighted to be invited to review the Branford Boase 2017 shortlist. The Branford Boase Award is given annually to the author of an outstanding debut novel for children, in memory of Henrietta Branford and Wendy Boase. Uniquely, it also honours the editor of the winning title, highlighting the importance of the editor in nurturing new talent and celebrating the author/editor relationship.

Having now read my way through this amazing variety of children’s debut fiction, I can see that the judges must have had a very difficult task when choosing the winners. Wonderful writing, amazing characters, absorbing worlds and inspirational story lines abound.  All thoroughly deserved of their place on the shortlist, these stories demonstrate the brilliant array of fiction available for children today.

The Branford Boase 2017 Shortlist



Little Bits of Sky by S.E. Durrant

Ira and Zac have been moved around foster homes for as long as they can remember. All they have from their past is a tatty, blurry photograph of a black dog. Then they move into Skilly House, a children’s care home in London. It’s here that they make friends. Lose them again, and wait for their lives to begin. And then one day, they do…

Little Bits of Sky is an utterly believable reflection of growing up in care and the heartache felt when you don’t have a family of your own. Set against the backdrop of the late 1980s, it’s a lovely story about people young and old, who don’t always say the right thing, or do the right thing, but whose hearts are in the right place.  Moments of childhood are captured perfectly; like playing outside and climbing trees as well as having to share a bedroom with your sibling and finally finding a grown-up who understands you. Ira tells the story through diary entries and is full of wonderful observations like “the trouble with holidays is they make ordinary life feel even more ordinary”. You instantly warm to her and her sometimes quite demanding little brother Zac.  Throughout the narrative you are rooting for them to find a home.  Without being overly sentimental Little Bits of Sky grabs at your heart strings and the characters are truly authentic.  I particularly liked Silas, who helps look after Skilly House and the lovely Martha, who wants nothing more than to give Ira and Zac a home.  An evocative snapshot of childhood, this is a fantastic story with writing that reminded me of L M Montgomery.

Find out more at



We Are Giants by Amber Lee Dodd

Sydney thinks her mum Amy is the best mum in the world – even if she is a bit different. When everyone else kept growing, Amy got to four feet tall and then stopped right there. The perfect height, in Sydney’s opinion: big enough to reach the ice cream at the supermarket, small enough to be special. Sydney’s dad died when she was only five, but her memories of him, her mum’s love and the company of her brave big sister Jade means she never feels alone . . .

But when the family are forced to move house, things get tricky. Sydney and Jade must make new friends, deal with the bullies at their new school and generally figure out the business of growing up in a strange new town. And Sydney doesn’t want to grow up – not if it means getting bigger than her mum…

We Are Giants is an absolute gem of a story, celebrating love, family and friendship. Yes Sydney’s Mum is different but many of the things they face as a family are not and that’s what I enjoyed most about it.  Everything felt normal and the author cleverly sheds light on the difficulties facing a mother with dwarfism as part of everyday life.  Financial worries, difficult relationships, teenage angst, problems at school, moving home, romance all become part of a convincing narrative; a realistic reflection of things we all have to deal with. We Are Giants generates real empathy for Sydney, her Mum and her sister, who are ably supported by an array of eccentric characters. Sydney’s new friend Bobby is a gorgeous character – everyone could do with a friend like him.  The well-paced plot keeps the story moving and just the right amount of humour keeps it light, enhancing the positive messages of believing in yourself and the power of family.

As as young girl I myself had a family situation that was a bit different – my oldest sister was disabled.  To me, it was completely normal but I imagine to everyone else it was ‘different’.  But we just got on with it; we were just ‘normal’.  Family comes in all shapes and sizes, and that’s what Amber Lee Dodd celebrates in this book.  I loved it.

Find out more at



The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped. When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.  But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.

The Girl of Ink and Stars is storytelling at its best, taking me back to the childhood feeling of only being limited by your own imagination. A story as gorgeous as the cover that binds it and the pages it’s printed on, it is a magical adventure, with a great plot. Bravery, loyalty and friendship abound and as Isabella is drawn deeper into uncharted territory the truth about the island is revealed.  The perfect blend of mystery, myth and monsters – and of course, maps – keeps you on the edge of your seat.  What is it about maps that is just so magical?  I think they can reflect the wonder of the world; a time long ago when people explored in a way they perhaps don’t today.

When an author takes the trouble to write stories within the story, it always creates a world that is that much more believable. The myths in the narrative become more important as the story progresses and Isabella and her best friend Lupe reflect a courage embodied in the island itself. Their enduring loyalty is the lasting impression. The Girl of Ink and Stars is bound to inspire and encourage friendship in all who read it.

Find out more at



Riverkeep by Martin Stewart

Wull knew it was his Pappa as he had always known him….but there was something else there now too.  Fifteen year old Wulliam is dreading taking up his family’s mantle of Riverkeep, tending the river and fishing corpses from its treacherous waters.  But then everything changes. One night his father is possess by a dark spirit, and Wull hears that a cure lurks deep within the great sea-beast known as the mormorach. He realises he must go on an epic journey downriver to find it – or lose Pappa forever.

Riverkeep is an impressive blend of myth, fairytale and coming of age story. Beautiful, haunting descriptions create an absorbing world and Wull is a believable character with whom you feel much empathy. What with trying to save his father from a parasitic creature, as well as coping with the impending duty of taking over the role of Riverkeep – keeping the river free of corpses – Wull is facing many challenges.  Surrounded by an eclectic mix of characters as he embarks on his quest, Wull’s journey is far from dull! The persistent threat of the mormorach reminds us of the fragility of humanity with every life it devours. I enjoyed the authenticity the dialect added to the characterisation enabling you to really ‘hear’ the characters voices. Not being a fan of gore, for me the blood and guts distracted from the beauty of the prose. However, Riverkeep is a truly well-written debut evoking a fantastical but believable world, worthy of the comparisons it has drawn to other celebrated writers of the same genre.

Find out more at



Beetle Boy by M.G.Leonard

Darkus Cuttle’s dad is missing, vanished from a locked room and now everything for Darkus is about to change. Miserable and lonely, he is has to move in with his eccentric uncle Max, next door to the most disgusting neighbours ever and their house infested by beetles. But when a giant beetle called Baxter comes to his rescue, Darkus learns that these are no ordinary creatures. They’re an incredible super-species and they could just be the key to solving the mystery of his dad’s disappearance.

When links begin to emerge connecting the crime with cruel Lucretia Cutter, mad scientist and fashionista, and her penchant for beetle jewellery, Darkus, Dexter and the other beetles are caught in a race against time to find the answers. A coffee-mug mountain, home to a million insects, could provide the answer – if Darkus and Baxter are brave enough to find it.

I defy anyone not to enjoy Beetle Boy! Darkus is a wonderful character, who despite having had a really tough time, remains optimistic and is incredibly brave – a fantastic hero in the making. This bravery is in no small way down to his new found and fairly unusual friend, Baxter the giant beetle along with new school mates Virginia and Bertolt – both also fairly unusual themselves!  Baxter leads Darkus, his friends and his eccentric Uncle Max to find out the truth; what follows is a well-paced adventure with plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing.  Larger than life baddies including the rather awful Pickering and Humphrey; and Lucretia Cutter (surely Cruella De Vil’s far-more-foul-cousin) will have you jumping up and down for justice! I will confess to not being fond of beetles but after reading this, can see the magic in these fascinating creatures whom I now know so much more about. Beetle Boy also has a positive message about facing your fears and celebrating being different which, alongside the mystery and mayhem, are ingredients for a wonderful story. I’m looking forward to the next one!

Find out more at



The Bubble Boy by Stewart Foster

‘Amir is mad. He’s crazy. But the hospital wouldn’t let a crazy person in. They must have interviewed him and checked his qualifications. But maybe he didn’t even meet them? Maybe he hasn’t even come from India. He might have arrived on an alien spaceship and snuck in here in the middle of the night.’

Eleven-year-old Joe can’t remember a life outside of his hospital room, with its beeping machines and view of London’s rooftops. His condition means he’s not allowed outside, not even for a moment, and his few visitors risk bringing life-threatening germs inside his ‘bubble’. But then someone new enters his world and changes it for ever. 

It doesn’t sound like the happiest of tales, but thankfully The Bubble Boy is more than just a view of being a sick kid.  Joe is a sweet boy who has been dealt a really rough hand in life – on top of his illness, his parents died in a car crash so the only person he has in the world is his sister Beth and his Skype- friend Henry who lives in the US with the same condition.  The writing effectively creates a picture of the claustrophobia of living with this awful illness, but it also demonstrates that Joe in many ways is just like every other kid. He’s loves superheroes and football and wants to do something with his life, someday. And it’s the totally odd, but very kind, Amir, his new nurse that takes the story in a different direction where you’re not entirely sure what is going to happen! I enjoyed the friendships Joe has with the wider cast of characters: his nurse Greg; the camaraderie with his Doctors; his fellow Bubble Boy Henry and the endearing Amir and his crazy ideas. It’s a tough but compelling read and perhaps a reality check for those of us who take our health for granted.  How do you stay hopeful in a hopeless situation? Through friends, kindness, the love of family and yes, by being a bit of a superhero.

Find out more at




Cogheart by Peter Bunzl

Some Secrets change the world in a heartbeat.  Lily’s life is in mortal peril. Her father is missing and now sliver-eyed men stalk her through shadows. What could they want from her.? With her friends – Robert, the clockmaker’s son, and Malkin, her mechanical fox – Lily is plunged into a murky and menacing world. Too son Lily realises that those she holds dear may be the very ones to beak her heart….

What a thrilling and brilliant adventure!  Full of imagination and fantastic characters, I absolutely loved Cogheart.  The setting comes alive with wonderful imagery and vivid steampunk themes.  The dirigible airships are utterly magical and capture the sense of adventure that runs through the narrative reflecting the Victorian age of discovery.  Lily is the perfect heroine, and as she sets about trying to solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance, danger is never far away. As a world famous inventor it quickly becomes clear he has lots of enemies; not least because of the incredible life-like mechanicals he has made.  There is the utterly charming if slightly irascible Malkin, a pet fox made for Lily by her father and one I am certain will find his way into the hearts of everyone who reads this story. More mechanicals make up the household staff – a brilliant addition to the wider cast of characters, including Mrs Rust the cook whose exclamations are particularly endearing. “Clockwork and Cam-wheels!”. 

Lily let’s nothing get in her way but even the bravest of heroines need help and thankfully she has stalwart Robert to help her. He has to face his own self-doubt whilst fighting against some fearsome villains alongside Lily.  The fast-paced plot keeps you on the edge of your seat, as do the action-sequences. Cogheart doesn’t hold back on the treachery but balanced with the warmth and courage of friendship this creates an authentic story full of adventure sure to be a classic for years to come.

Find out more at

I absolutely cannot wait to see who wins this evening and wish all the authors and editors on the shortlist huge congratulations for their success so far! And thank you to the organisers of the Branford Boase Award for sending me these books to review!

You can read my reviews of the 2016 Branford Boase Shortlist here.





Discover creativity at the Bookchat Roadshow!


The Bookchat Roadshow is an event for parents and carers with children of ALL ages. We want to inspire and encourage those attending with practical advice and ideas to support children’s development as readers and writers from birth right through to teens!  So we’re delighted Discover & Be will be on hand to chat to parents and carers about any Early Years concerns and advise about general teaching and learning worries for primary school age children.

Discover and Be logoDiscover & Be is an exciting educational service providing hands-on, creative experiences for children. As well as weekly multi-sensory messy play sessions for 0-4 year olds, they also offer academic and music tuition.

Rhiannon and Sheila, the co-founders of Discover & Be, share a passion for hands on, creative learning experiences. Their goal is simply to make learning meaningful and inspiring for children.  As the word ‘educate’, from the Latin educare, ‘to lead out’, suggests, Discover and Be aims to focus on not what is put into the child, but what can be led out of each individual. Sheila says:

“We are passionate about reading and sharing stories with children of all ages (even grown up ones).  The Roadshow provides a great platform for parents, teachers, authors and reading experts, to get together to share ideas and experience.”

Discover & Be also has a team of qualified, experienced and passionate tutors who provide bespoke 1 to 1 private tuition across Sussex.  Their tutors champion creative hands-on learning, with the primary goal of engaging the child’s interest to help pupils of all ages reach their potential.  This approach not only achieves fantastic results, but ensures that lessons are fun and meaningful for the child.

“Reading really is the gateway to the curriculum so making it fun and interactive is the best way to get children excited about it.  We love teaching phonics as these sounds are the building blocks that form reading. Empowering children with phonetical skills and watching them build sounds into words is amazing.”

Discover & Be’s weekly messy play sessions are themed, sometimes around a topic such as transport or the rainforest, for example, or often exploring a particular book. Rhiannon and Sheila feel it is important for all sessions to include a shared story with interactive aspects, thereby helping a story come to life. By engaging both the children and parents/carers in this way, reading for pleasure is encouraged and different approaches to sharing stories are explored.

“We feel it is important to access all learning styles and engage all abilities in this way, in order for each child to develop holistically and achieve the most out of each learning experience. We hope that our name ‘Discover & Be’ reflects this philosophy.”

Sheila will be joining us at the BookChat Roadshow on Thursday 20th July so do bring along any questions you have about making learning fun!

“The Bookchat Roadshow gives everyone the chance to come and chat about reading, phonics and writing too. This is definitely something we are proud to support. No matter how old you are, what could better than discovering a new exciting book that you can’t put down???……Chatting about it with your friends of course!!! So what are you waiting for? Get reading books and getting chatting about them.”

Parents and carers in the Sussex area with children of all ages can register for FREE to attend the Bookchat Roadshow, an event bringing together authors, industry experts and people passionate about children’s reading and writing for pleasure.  With inspirational talks and an author panel bookchat, plus a selection of exhibitors, we give parents and carers a huge range of ideas to help them support their children’s creativity. Speakers include author Nikki Sheehan and also the team behind Scoop Magazine. The next event takes place on 20th July 2017 at Harlands Primary School, Haywards Heath, West Sussex.  

For more information please visit

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