Jamie Thomson at the Bookchat Roadshow!

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 Helping parents and carers encourage their children’s reading and creative writing for pleasure.

Completing our fantastic author panel at the Bookchat Roadshow is none other than the Dark Lord’s minion himself, the brilliant Jamie Thomson!  jamie1

Supporter of the Book Activist since it’s launch in 2015, Jamie delighted the audience with his dark humour and tales of boyhood reading at the inaugural Roadshow last year.  I’m so pleased he will be joining us again to inspire – and scare! mmwwahhhhh! – more parents and carers into encouraging their children’s reading and creative writing.

Jamie has a diverse background in writing having created stories in many forms from computer games to gamebooks to comics to novels.  His book The Dark Lord: The Teenage Years won the Roald Dahl Funny Prize and his most recent instalment Dark Lord: The Headmaster of Doom was released in February this year.

Jamie’s insight into working as an author and in the creative industries will be hugely helpful to parents and carers looking to encourage their children’s creativity.

The Bookchat Roadshow is an event designed especially for parents and carers 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. The next event takes place on 20th July 2017 at Harlands Primary School, Haywards Heath, West Sussex. Read all about our last event here.

For more information about the Bookchat Roadshow visit www.thebookactivist.com.

Jenny McLachlan at the Bookchat Roadshow!

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 Helping parents and carers encourage their children’s reading and creative writing for pleasure.

The delightful Jenny McLachlan will be participating in the Bookchat Roadshow!

Jenny is the author of the gorgeous Stargazing for Beginners and the brilliant Ladybirdz series for teens. Her books have been hugely popular for their warmth, wit, romance and fierce friendships.  I am so pleased that she will be sharing her inspiration with parents and carers at the Roadshow! Jenny is well placed to share her experiences with parents and carers having worked as a teacher prior to becoming an author.

Jenny taught English to secondary and sixth form pupils and also as an Advanced Skills Teacher, delivered masterclasses to pupils, parents and teachers throughout the country. She will be participating in the author panel bookchat and sharing her thoughts on reading and creative writing. Jenny says:

“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.”

The Bookchat Roadshow is an event designed especially for parents and carers 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. The next event takes place on 20th July 2017 at Harlands Primary School, Haywards Heath, West Sussex. Read all about our last event here.

For more information about the Bookchat Roadshow, visit www.thebookactivist.com.

 

New review: A Berlin Love Song by Sarah Matthias

Sometimes you read a book and when you reach the final page, you realise the story has found its way into your soul.  Heart-wrenching, beautiful and so well written A Berlin Love Song by Sarah Matthias is undoubtedly one of those stories and stays with you long after the final page.

It is the fourth book written by Sarah; a YA novel published by Troika Books. Her first job after leaving Oxford university was with the BBC where she was involved in a documentary called The Nazi Hunter, based on the life and work of Simon Wiesenthal, a holocaust survivor who spent much of his life tracking down war criminals. A Berlin exhibition, Hitler and the Germans, Nation and Crime, further inspired her to research the wartime persecution of the Romani people, and to write A Berlin Love Song.

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A Berlin Love Song by Sarah Matthias

Max is a German schoolboy, when he first meets Lili, a trapeze artist from a travelling circus that performs every year in Berlin.  Lili is a Romani and her life and customs are very different from those of Max and his family. Their friendship turns into love, but love between a German and a Romani is definitely forbidden. As Max is conscripted into the SS and war tears them apart, can their love survive?

The story starts in present day, where Max, now an old man, is finally writing down his precious memories from long ago.  We are drawn into a narrative telling the tale of how he, an ordinary German boy, and Lili, a beautiful Romani girl, fall in love.  Theirs is a love that is a meeting of souls; a love that cannot be ignored; “a kind of madness”.  Alongside this, we are shown the impending doom of the rise of the Nazis; the impact the looming war has on everyday life and ultimately how families are ripped apart. Max’s father refuses to conform to the Hitler regime; Lili’s father won’t acknowledge the threat posed by the Nazis to the Roma.  But with the persecution of many groups identified as “gypsy scum” along with the Jews, and with the terrible punishment for those Germans refusing to respond to Hitler’s call, both Max and Lili’s families have no choice but to face the unavoidable.  It is clear that Max and Lili will be unable to choose which ‘side’ they are on; their paths are inevitable.

A Berlin Love Song is a beautiful love story and a brilliant but terrible reflection of the ‘forgotten holocaust’ – the persecution of the Roma and Sinti people during World War 2. The thread of love that runs through the narrative keeps hope alive and whilst the inevitability of the war unfolds, we see that even the most physically broken of people survive in spirit. The stark realities of war are portrayed through the eyes of Max and Lili and through the very different experiences of their families.  It never ceases to fill me with horror the atrocities that took place in World War 2 and the characters are so real in this story, it feels like a true to life account.

Thankfully there are moments throughout that restore your faith in humanity.  The Roma people are beautifully brought to life – the colour, the freedom, the music and above all the spirit of the people leap off the page.  Added to this the wonderful descriptions of Lili’s home and livelihood, Circus Petalo, it is no wonder Max falls for her.  Set alongside the stifling household of his own family, Lili is a breath of fresh air.  Max’s household have very different opinions about Hitler and the Nazis; the claustrophobia and the fear of this situation are palpable and there is a sense Max finds an escape through his love for Lili. Meanwhile, the threats to Lili’s family grow ever closer and the sense of foreboding increases in intensity with every page.

A Berlin Love Song is well-paced and the juxtaposition of the romance alongside the complexities of war keep the reader captivated throughout.  Whilst desperately sad in places, the story holds the joy of love and the strength found in family at its heart. A very appropriate metaphor for our time.

Find out more at www.troikabooks.com or www.sarahmatthias.co.uk.

Thanks to Troika Books for sending me this book to review.

 

 

 

 

A.F. Harrold at the Bookchat Roadshow!

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 Helping parents and carers encourage their children’s reading and creative writing for pleasure.

The brilliant poet, performer and writer of children’s fiction A.F. Harrold is joining the line-up at the Bookchat Roadshow!

This event is especially for parents and carers to help them encourage theirA magnificent beard - AF Harrold by Naomi Woddis children’s reading and creative writing, and I am so excited A. F. Harrold is going to share his amazing imagination with all those attending.

He has written numerous wonderful books for children including the Fizzlebert Stump (illustrated by Sarah Horne) series – a particular favourite of mine to read aloud in the library! The first Fizzlebert Stump book was chosen as 2017’s Young City Reads book in Brighton and Hove. He has also written thought-provoking books such as The Imaginary (illustrated by Emily Gravett, longlisted for both the Carnegie and Greenaway Awards 2016)) and The Song From Somewhere Else (illustrated by Levi Pinfold). His children’s poetry collection, Things You Find In A Poet’s Beard is illustrated by Chris Riddell.  His new book, Greta Zargo and the Death Robots from Outer Space (illustrated by Joe Todd-Stanton) comes out in September.

A.F. Harrold will be participating in the author panel bookchat and sharing his experiences as a writer and thoughts on reading and creativity – and maybe even a line of a poem or two!!  He says:

“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.”  

The Bookchat Roadshow is an event designed especially for parents and carers 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. The next event takes place on 20th July 2017 at Harlands Primary School, Haywards Heath, West Sussex. Read all about our last event here.

For more information about the Bookchat Roadshow visit www.thebookactivist.com.

Nikki Sheehan at the Bookchat Roadshow!

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 Helping parents and carers encourage their children’s reading and creative writing for pleasure.

I’m so excited to tell you that the wonderful Nikki Sheehan is participating in the Bookchat Roadshow on 20th July 2017!Nikki_Sheehan_res

Nikki is author of Swan Boy, recently nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2017 and Who Framed Klaris Cliff ?. Her next novel Goodnight Boy, is due to be published in July and is already receiving critical acclaim. (Watch this space for a review – I’ve read it and it’s amazing!).

Nikki will be talking to parents and carers attending the Roadshow about her work as an author and as someone who regularly supports and encourages children’s creative writing through workshops in schools across the region. Nikki has worked with Little Green Pig, a writing and mentoring charity for young people and she will also be participating in the author panel bookchat. Nikki says:

“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 took part in our inaugural Roadshow and I’m delighted she is going to be presenting to parents at our latest event. She is always inspiring, great fun and full of ideas and I am sure all those attending the Roadshow will truly benefit from her knowledge.

The Bookchat Roadshow is an event designed especially for parents and carers 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. The next event takes place on 20th July 2017 at Harlands Primary School, Haywards Heath, West Sussex. Read all about our last event here.

For more information about the Bookchat Roadshow, visit www.thebookactivist.com.

 

New Review: Aubrey and the Terrible Ladybirds by Horatio Clare

In Aubrey and the Terrible Ladybirds, published by Firefly Press, award winning author Horatio Clare takes us back to Rushing Wood; the home of rambunctious Aubrey and all his amazing feathered, furry and sometimes frightening friends! The follow-up to Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot (for which Horatio won the Branford Boase Book Award) it promises to be just as exciting. And it doesn’t disappoint!

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Aubrey and the Terrible Ladybirds by Horatio Clare illustrated by Jane Matthews

In which a small boy and a house spider try to save the world….

It’s the Easter holidays, you’ve just become as small as an earwig, the swallows are back (and offering you rides), and a spider wakes you up in the middle of the night and asks you to save the world. As if that weren’t enough, the Ladybirdz turn up from Bohemia to find they’re not welcome in Rushing Wood….

Aubrey is a bit fed-up. The start of the Easter holidays has been somewhat unsettled with his parents arguing all the time. It’s a welcome, if slightly startling, distraction when Aubrey finds a new friend to share his woes with in the shape of Ariadne, a large spider. And when Hirundo the swallow turns up offering adventure, he can’t resist! With the help of the Swallow Stone he finds himself flying on the back of the bird seeing his home as never before.  However, he soon realises even this magical moment can’t take his troubles away especially when Ariadne reveals there are creatures suffering everywhere and the threat of The Great Hunger is approaching!  Aubrey is not the only one to feel unsettled; a new family of ladybirds have arrived in Rushing Wood hoping to make a home for themselves.  Little do they realise the uproar their arrival is going to create and the turn of events that follows could change the shape of Rushing Wood forever.  Aubrey soon finds himself drawn into a magical journey taking him to France and Italy, making new friends and discovering that maybe there is a way for even the smallest of people to make a difference.

Aubrey’s adventures continue in brilliant fashion in this full-of-fun second instalment with lovely illustrations by Jane Matthews bringing the story to life.  The award-winning Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot is a hard act to follow, but the author absolutely does it justice.  As ever, Aubrey is surrounded by brilliant characters only he can hear and talk to. I’ve always loved the idea of being able to shrink and be tiny (think Mrs Pepperpot or The Borrowers) so it instantly appealed to me when Aubrey discovers he can do this with a bit of help from the Swallow Stone. The narrative takes you on a fantastical journey through time and space, yet again bringing to life the magic of nature. The Ladybirdz family are fun characters, forming part of a tale which deals with complicated issues like the use of pesticides in farming; migration and even family upset, in an accessible way never patronising the reader.  I enjoyed the array creatures who join the story such as the top-hat wearing spider Aloysius Wolf Von Wolf (brilliant name!), Bernado the Bee, Eric the Earthworm and of course the slightly mad swallow, Hirundo. But really Aubrey shines through as the ordinary boy with EXTRA-ordinary abilities – not just in talking to animals but seeing the world differently.   Aubrey and the Terrible Ladybirds has a wonderful plot full of original and imaginative ideas that entertain throughout, demonstrating how we need to pay attention to the world and each other before it’s too late.  Tolerance of others and respect for nature can make all the difference in a world that belongs to everyone.

 

Find out more at www.fireflypress.co.uk. Follow Horatio Clare on Twitter @HoratioClare.  With thanks to Firefly Press for sending me this book to review.

New Review: Show Stopper by Hayley Barker

Show Stopper

Hayley Barker’s debut YA novel Show Stopper will be published by Scholastic on 1st June 2017.  An English teacher and huge YA fiction fan, Hayley says being published is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to her! She was inspired to write Show Stopper by her fears about the growing wave of crime and animosity against minority groups in England.

Show Stopper by Hayley Barker

A dazzling, high-octane read filled with death-defying acrobatics, circus crowds with an appetite for disaster, and two forbidden teenage lovers trying to escape the shackles of their very different lives. Set in a near-future England where the poorest people in the land must watch their children be taken by a travelling circus – to perform at the mercy of hungry lions, sabotaged high wires and a demonic ringmaster. The ruling class visit the circus as an escape from their structured, high-achieving lives – pure entertainment with a bloodthirsty edge. Ben, the teenage son of a draconian government minister, visits the circus for the first time and falls instantly in love with Hoshiko, a young performer. They come from harshly different worlds – but must join together to escape the circus and put an end to its brutal sport.

Living in a dystopian future set in the UK, Ben is a Pure and the son of one the most powerful families in the ruling class; his mother being the Dreg Control Minister. The Dregs are outcasts – immigrants who over the last 100 years have now become so reviled they are like slaves.  Controlled by the Pures, it is the Dregs and their children who provide a never ending, and often needed, supply of performers for the deadly circus.  Ben is not like his mother or the rest of his family and hates having to ‘keep up appearances’. Through his relationship with the family housekeeper who herself is a Dreg, Ben begins to see the pain and anguish they suffer.  When he finally gets to see the deadly circus with his own eyes, he realises the full extent of the horror before him and cannot stop himself from trying to save Hoshiko and escape from a life of almost totalitarian control.

A story with much to admire, Show Stopper is a roller-coaster ride told from the points of view of the two central characters, who both have to draw on all their bravery and strength to succeed.  Ben’s mother is horrible and you do feel great sympathy for him. It is no surprise he falls for the beautiful but fierce Hoshiko, who herself lacks security of her real family, with only her fellow performers to rely on.  There are parallels between Ben and Hoshiko’s very different lives; they both crave the love of their families, suffer at the hands of bullies and have to ‘perform’ for various audiences.  Although the penalty for Hoshiko is far more severe if she fails…. Show Stopper makes knife-throwing in an ordinary circus look like a walk in the park and with the positively evil Ringmaster in charge, there are plenty edge-of-your-seat moments!

The circus is a great setting for a story and the narrative brilliantly captures the atmosphere and excitement – as well the danger and fear. The cast of circus characters are well imagined and you feel great empathy for all of them having to perform in such frightening circumstances.  The scenario of the Pures letting their hair down, transforming into a baying mob and watching the ‘dregs’ of society perform to the death is sadly quite believable, even if somewhat extreme. With some gruesome scenes bringing a definite flavour of horror to this novel, it’s not for the faint-hearted. However, the author succeeds in highlighting the potential ramifications if the increasing hate and prejudice that is embedded in some parts of our society is not addressed. I’d recommend Show Stopper for YA readers who enjoy a thrilling, dark, romance. Watch out for evil Ringmaster!

Follow Hayley on Twitter @HayleyABarkerFind out more at www.scholastic.co.uk. Read my interview with Hayley here. With thanks to Scholastic for sending me this book to review.