YA Book launch: Nikki Sheehan & Lisa Heathfield

On Wednesday evening I found myself eagerly awaiting the train to London, hoping it wouldn’t be late.  Thankfully it wasn’t – Southern Rail were running on time!!

I was going to Waterstones Clapham to celebrate the launch of two books – one I know well, one I haven’t read.  Goodnight, Boy is a brilliant YA novel from Nikki Sheehan (you can read my review here).  Flight of a Starling is Lisa Heathfield’s third YA novel and if her previous offerings are anything to go by, it’s sure to be brilliant.  Incidentally both books have gorgeous covers!

It’s always such a nice kind of event to be invited to and I felt privileged to join family, friends, book-ish folk (blook bloggers, agents, publicists) and of course the authors in celebrating.  After some delicious Prosecco had been consumed, the speeches began, with congratulations from the editors at Rock the Boat (Nikki Sheehan) and Egmont (Lisa Heathfield).  Nikki and Lisa then went on to thank their families, friends, publishers and other members of the book circle, including fellow authors who were there to help celebrate.

Writing a book is a lengthy process and then within minutes of release it takes on a life of it’s own which must be an amazing – and scary – feeling for an author.  It was lovely listening to both authors describe who had supported them and helped them produce these wonderful books.   Nikki spoke about the people who had been instrumental in her being a writer including her sons: ‘Without them there would be no point in writing’.  Yes that did bring a tear to my eye, especially as I’m a mother of sons too.

Lisa mentioned that she used to be a teacher and that two of her ‘pupils’ were there whom she thanked.  As it happened they were standing next to me, and I was so excited by this I had to speak to them.  It turns out they still call her ‘miss’ – old habits – and even though it was about nineteen years ago they still keep in touch.  I was excited because working in a school as I do, you can have such a positive influence on children’s lives (or not) and clearly Lisa had been an inspiration to these girls, now grown-up women.  That they were there to support her and clearly felt very emotional about this book, was wonderful to see.

Clutching both the books, I got back on the train with the nice warm feeling that comes after being at one of these events.  I love books.

For more information visit www.nikkisheehan.co.uk and www.egmont.co.uk

New review: Goodnight, Boy by Nikki Sheehan

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Nikki Sheehan has written fantastic books for middle grade children including Swan Boy recently nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2017.  Her new novel, Goodnight, Boy, is her first for Young Adults and written in both prose and verse and is published by Rock the Boat.

Goodnight, Boy by Nikki Sheehan

The kennel has been JC’s home ever since his new adoptive father locked him inside. For hours on end, JC sits and tells his dog Boy how he came to this country: his family, the orphanage and the Haitian earthquake that swept everything away.

When his adoptive mother Melanie rescues him, life starts to feel normal again. Until JC does something bad, something that upset his new father so much that he and Boy are banished to the kennel. But as his new father gets sicker, JC realizes they have to find a way out. And so begins a stunning story of a boy, a dog and their journey to freedom.

Told in a mixture of verse and prose, Goodnight, Boy describes a life that no child should ever have to live.  Rescued from the streets of Haiti by a Haitian-American Doctor, Melanie, and taken back to the US to start a new life, JC finds himself yet again being dealt the hand of injustice with no idea when he will escape.  Stuck in the kennel with his dog Boy, it is through ‘conversation’ with Boy that JC shares his life story and we hear of the traumas he has experienced. Stolen from his family at a young age, thrown in an orphanage to be sold, enduring disease and totally unwanted; it is more than most could ever survive.  How unfair that JC now finds himself stuck in a nightmare again and with his new ‘mother’ Melanie seemingly disappeared.  Kept a prisoner by his ‘adoptive’ father, it’s impossible to know how or when he’ll escape.  But his relationship with Boy, who provides companionship, keeps JC from being completely alone.

Goodnight, Boy is quite an incredible, poignant story. The strength of the writing is demonstrated by the empathy you feel whilst reading; it’s achingly real. With pacing that gives time for moments of reflection and to draw breath, and with the mix of verse and prose Goodnight, Boy is like nothing you’ve ever read before.  There are moments of humour and the relationship between JC and Boy is utterly endearing.  You can’t help but feel JC’s sharing is actually a kind of emotional healing for him – even if he is stuck in a dog kennel.  As he talks, he works his way through the horrors of his life but also reflects on those moments of hope that have given him courage.  JC’s stream-of-consciousness show the complex nature of love, family life and remind us of the turmoil of natural disasters and the extreme poverty many people live in. His resilience is a lesson to us all. How does one boy survive such terrible times?  If you come from nothing, then there’s everything to hope for. And with a little bit of hope, perhaps anything is possible. A fantastic YA novel.

For more information visit www.nikkisheehan.co.uk/

Perfect picture books published by Pavilion!

I’m delighted to be reviewing these four very different, but all very gorgeous picture books, published by Pavilion on the blog today.  My New Room by Lisa StickleyJust like Daddy by Lucy Freegard; Little Red by Lynn Roberts-Maloney, illustrated by David Roberts and Woolf by Alex Latimer, illustrated by Patrick Latimer are a wonderful example of the amazing picture books available for children’s enjoyment today.

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In My New Room by Lisa Stickley, we meet Edith again, after her first outing in HandstandThis time Edith has a new bedroom and her toys are each helping her settle in.  Featuring wonderful characters such as Gary Guardsman, Clarissa the Cow, and Major Ted, we discover that having a new bedroom can be an exciting time for everyone – even the toys! And a big bed isn’t as daunting as you might first feel, especially if you’ve got all your special toys around you. I absolutely LOVE Lisa Stickley’s unique style; childlike illustrations with bold colours and wonderfully imagined scenes.

The storytelling is gentle with a light touch of humour; just the right tone for turning what can seem like a life-changing event into a joyful one.  All the toys have to adapt and find their new place in the room, but they’re all there just waiting to welcome Edith and make her feel at home.  This is a really lovely story and a great addition to your picture book collection!  Find out more at www.lisastickleystudio.com

 

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Just Like Daddy by Lucy Freegard is one of the best picture books I’ve read celebrating the relationship between a child and their Daddy.  I’m certain this will have made it’s way into lots of Daddies hands over the last weekend for Father’s Day!  Full of charm and warmth, the story reminds us of the very special relationship between a father and child and all the magic and fun they have together.  Whether on the fair rides, reading stories or even tug of war, this little one is going to be just like daddy – brave and fearless! And not only this, Daddy will always love his child – even through the tantrums and the tears.

I loved that we’re reminded how fleeting those early years moments can be and how precious memories are for parents and their children. Colourful and lively illustrations bring the story to life and capture  how wonderful a Daddy can be – and how much love a child can have for their parent!  Find out more at www.lucyfreegard.com.

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Little Red retold by Lynn Roberts-Maloney, illustrated David Roberts

I absolutely adore this series of re-imagined fairytales, each set in a different time period including Sleeping Beauty set in the 1950s. Little Red is, of course, a version of Little Red Riding Hood with incredible illustrations giving a wonderful twist to the tale, featuring artwork and characters inspired by the 18th Century. A little chap called Thomas takes the central role of Little Red.  He lives with his parents who preside over the local inn and who make the most amazing ginger beer, enjoyed by an interesting mix of visitors! Little Red sets off to visit his Grandma and the tale unfolds, taking a few unexpected turns along the way.   Detailed images beautifully depict quite a scary forest, with scary inhabitants, giving a darker flavour  to the story perhaps more akin to the original fairy tale.  However, there are also humorous moments that lighten the mood and of course, ensure the wolf does get his comeuppance – but not how you might expect!

Little Red is a great way to introduce younger readers to fairy tales but with more artistic flair and interest – and perhaps even a lesson in what life might have looked like in the 18th Century! Find out more at www.pavilionbooks.com.

 

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Woolf by Alex Latimer, illustrated by Patrick Latimer

A wonderful story with a simple narrative; a perfect parable for acceptance, tolerance and diversity. The tale starts with a he-sheep and a she-wolf finding love together. They have a son who loves his home and is happy being both sheep and wolf.  But as he grows up he realises how different he is to the flock of sheep and pack of wolves he meets. Trying to fit in, Woolf pretends to both wolves and sheep he’s in disguise, but his plan only works for a short time and he gets bored of just being one thing.  Woolf is more than this but instead of making him happy, it makes him sad.  Finally his parents help him see that he is special and unique, and thus encouraged Woolf finds new friends who accept him for who he is.

Woolf is a fantastic picture book  for demonstrating the difficulties we face fitting in sometimes, and how with a little bit of love and encouragement we can overcome them. Given the stark differences between wolf and sheep, children will instantly recognise the problem this could create and identify with Woolf trying to find friendship, and the lengths he goes to, to fit in.  The narrative springs to life through great illustrations, capturing Woolf’s character perfectly as he plays the part of both a wolf and a sheep.  With a positive message about accepting yourself just as you are, this is a great picture book to have in the classroom and at home. Find out more at www.alexlatimer.co.za

 

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With thanks to Pavilion for sending me these books to review.

Supporting creative writing at the Bookchat Roadshow!

 

The Bookchat Roadshow celebrates children’s creativity and inspires parents and carers with ideas to support their child’s reading for pleasure and creative writing.

inkpots.smallWith this mind, I’m pleased to welcome Inkpots Writing Workshops who are participating in the Roadshow and will be on hand to give advice about encouraging creativity through stories. Founded by Gill Pawley, Inkpots Writing Workshops offer children age 7 – 12 the opportunity to express themselves through words and pictures in a secure, supportive environment. Their fun workshops are open to all young writers and artists; they provide after school clubs, workshops and specially-designed sessions for schools. New for 2017 is their online club, Inkpots Inc.  Gill presented on creative writing at the inaugural event last October and will be exhibiting at this event:

“Inkpots is delighted to take part in the second Bookchat Roadshow. It’s a real pleasure to support this initiative to encourage children’s reading and writing”

For more information, you can visit their website www.inkpots.org or email gill@inkpots.org.

Parents and carers in the Sussex area 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 www.thebookactivist.com.

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Celebrating nature and creativity at the Bookchat Roadshow!

Spending time in the great outdoors can be a great way to encourage children’s creativity, so I’m delighted that Nature Nuture Sussex are participating in the Bookchat Roadshow next month.  Nature Nurture Sussex provide forest school sessions for pre-school and primary aged children, and their families in Mid Sussex and will be sharing their ideas and work with Roadshow visitors:

Nature_Nurture_Sussex_logo_RGB“We are delighted to be a part of the Bookchat Roadshow! At Forest School children have the freedom to explore, have fun and be inspired by the natural world around them – the ever changing natural classroom definitely feeds their imagination and their creativity. We love to hear the children talk about their time in the woods, and the real (and imaginary!) creatures they find there, making up stories, games and art outside.”

Parents and carers in the Sussex area 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 visit www.thebookactivist.com.

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Countdown begins….

Exactly one month from today, the Bookchat Roadshow will be rolling into town!

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The Roadshow brings together a whole host of wonderful people to inspire parents and carers with ideas for supporting their children’s reading for pleasure and creative writing.    Visiting Harlands Primary, in Haywards Heath on 20th July, it’s an event not to be missed!  After the success and positive feedback of the inaugural event last year, it was clear to me that parents and carers welcome this support. We all like to be inspired, especially when it comes to helping our children.

Nikki Sheehan, the Carnegie nominated author, will be sharing her experiences and talking about creative writing.  The team behind Scoop Magazine will be talking all about their love of stories and how they encourage creativity.  I’ll be sharing lots of ideas for encouraging a love of reading. And most exciting of all, Nikki Sheehan will be joined by Jenny McLachlan, Jamie Thomson and A. F.Harrold for an author panel bookchat.  I cannot wait to ask our fabulous panel to share their insight into stories, reading and writing.

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As if this wasn’t enough, there will be a group of brilliant local organisations exhibiting with advice for parents and carers covering a whole range of areas from creativity through nature to dyslexia.  And all parents and carers attending will receive a wonderful goody bag filled with giveaways from children’s publishers.  So what are you waiting for?! Register online now! For more information visit www.thebookactivist.com

 

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New Review: The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis

Stephanie Burgis is the author of books for both children and adults.  Born in America, but now resident in the UK, Stephanie has always been an avid reader enjoying stories such as Lord of the Rings and Pride and Prejudice as a young girl. I absolutely loved her stories about Kat Stephenson set in Regency England and I am pleased to say The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart published by Bloomsbury didn’t disappoint!

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis

Aventurine is the fiercest, bravest kind of dragon, and she’s ready to prove it to her family by leaving the safety of their mountain cave and capturing the most dangerous prey of all: a human.

But when the human she captures tricks her into drinking enchanted hot chocolate, she finds herself transformed into a puny human girl with tiny blunt teeth, no fire, and not one single claw. She’s still the fiercest creature in these mountains though – and now she’s found her true passion: chocolate! All she has to do is walk on two feet to the human city, find herself an apprenticeship (whatever that is) in a chocolate house (which sounds delicious), and she’ll be conquering new territory in no time . won’t she?

Aventurine is bored – bored of being stuck in the mountain for another thirty years until her parents say she’s old enough to go out into the world and hunt for herself. So strong are her dreams of freedom, she ignores her mother’s advice that her scales “haven’t hardened enough to withstand a wolf’s bite” and she leaves the safety of the mountain.  Aventurine can’t wait to prove her family wrong, return triumphantly with food and find her true calling (so she can stop her sister and brother driving her mad!). However, little does she realise the challenge that lies ahead of her and as she trips her way down the mountainside, a new smell reaches her nose: CHOCOLATE. Her desire to taste this is her downfall; Aventurine finds herself on two legs instead of four; a twelve year old girl with no wings and certainly no fierce dragon teeth to help her.  She must now find a way to survive, assuage her desire for chocolate and prove just how fierce she still is….

What a delightful story!  The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart instantly reminds you of the magic of stories and the brilliant adventures they can take you on. Aventurine is a wonderful heroine, ably supported by a fantastic and lively cast of characters. I particularly enjoyed Silke, the street-wise girl who has the same feisty spirit as Aventurine and offers her much needed friendship; and Marina the bad-tempered Chocolatier who takes Aventurine on as an apprentice, truly seeing her passion for chocolate.

Not only does Aventurine have to deal with the complexities of ‘being human’ she has to negotiate her way through the multi-cultural town of Drachenburg, which is full of snobbery, devious officials and of course, fear of dragons!  Her adventure is told with much humour and there are some highly entertaining moments where her dragon responses take over. You also learn the intricacy involved in making chocolate; I loved the scenes describing the creation of various sweet treats; you can almost taste them! There are lessons to be learnt and challenges to be faced through all of which you are rooting for Aventurine to succeed. In making the biggest mistake of her life, she finds her true calling as well as some firm friends and a second family.  The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart is the perfect blend of fantasy and adventure; and of course the wonder of chocolate. You won’t want to put this book down!

Find out more at www.stephanieburgis.com  and follow Stephanie on Twitter @stephanieburgis.  With thanks to Bloomsbury for sending me a copy of this book to review.