Last year I discovered How To Bee by Bren MacDibble, a fascinating middle grade title that looks at the effects of climate change and poverty. I felt it was insightful and dealt with important issues wonderfully. This would make an interesting choice for classroom or book club discussion. I originally reviewed this for Lovereading4kids but I’m delighted to share it again today in celebration of #WorldBeeDay. I’m now excited to have a copy of Bren’s latest novel, The Dog Runner which was published earlier this month, also by Old Barn Books . A review will follow for that asap. For now lets get back to How To Bee.
Set in a future Australia in a time when there are no bees and children are employed to scramble through the fruit trees with feather wands, much like the pear farmers of Hanyuan in China are forced to do today. Peony wants to be a bee, a hand pollinator: she’s light, she’s fast, and even though she’s a year too young, she’s going to be the best bee the farm has ever seen…except when you’re only 9, it’s hard to get everyone around you to go along with your plan. A beautiful and fierce novel for middle grade readers, ‘How to Bee’ explores an all-too-possible dystopian social landscape with an intensely compelling and original voice.
How To Bee is unlike any story I have ever read. The narrative voice is heartfelt and the author uses a mild form of dialect to bring both her characters and setting to life. Seen through the eyes of eight year old Peony, we see great hardship and brutality but also friendship, courage and determination. This is at times a harsh and truthful read, tackling difficult issues of environment, poverty and abuse, unafraid to hide the cruelty and yet finding within the beauty of nature, family and what really matters. It’s a story about standing true to your dreams, and that with hard work, love and kindness we can help those dreams come true. It is also a reminder of how precious our natural world is and how we must do all we can to protect it for both us and future generations.
Peony is a pest who dreams of becoming a Bee. It’s a simple life centred on the trees and family. In a world where pesticides have destroyed the bee population it now falls to children like Peony to save the harvest from pests and other dangers that may destroy their precious produce. The best workers who are light and quick become hand-pollinators. Armed with feather wands they climb from tree to tree pollinating the flowers in the hope that they will bear fruit. Peony lives on the farm with her sister Magnolia and Gramps. Her Ma lives and works in the city, coming home every now and then with cash and fresh bruises. At eight years old Peony can’t understand why she doesn’t stay, they live a simple life but they have everything they need. But Ma thinks Peony would be better off working in the city for cash so they can save and build a better future. Strong willed and courageous, Peony is determined to remain in the place she loves and earn her stripes to work as a Bee on the farm.
How To Bee shows that even the smallest person can make a big difference in a challenging world.
Today I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the latest spell-binding novel from Michelle Harrison – A Pinch of Magic. I’m also thrilled to share a piece from Michelle herself on the inspiration behind the story. Read on dear reader, read on.
How stunning is this cover? Believe me it’s even more beautiful in the flesh, shimmering with gold foil. The detail is amazing and you’ll catch many glimpses of the story on this eye-catching cover.
I absolutely adored reading A Pinch of Magic, it’s a wonderful story full of adventure, courage and magic. Betty Widdershins is a sparky young lady desperate for travel and adventure but she might just get rather more than she bargained for. This is a story about magic but it’s also a story about family, love, and that nothing good can come from jealousy and hatred. Recommended for age 8+, I think this is a joyous read for anyone. Michelle is a mesmerising writer and I was completely held within her spell from the moment I picked the book up.
It was on Betty Widdershins’ thirteenth birthday that she first learned of the family curse…
Living on the isle of Crowstone, surrounded by eerie marshes and a formidable prison, the Widdershins sisters: Betty, Fliss and Charlie, are desperate for adventure. But when Betty strays too far from home, she learns the awful truth: a deadly curse has haunted her family for generations. If Betty and her sisters leave Crowstone, they will be dead by sunrise.
But the knowledge of the family curse comes with a bit of excitement too! Each sister inherits a magical object, been passed down the family: A scruffy carpet bag, a set of wooden nesting dolls and a gilt-framed mirror – none of them are what they seem.
Will they be enough to help the Widdershins break the curse? Or will the sisters have better luck with a mysterious prisoner who claims he can help them?
And now lets here a little from the author herself…
Widdershins and Witches: the inspiration for A Pinch of Magic – by Michelle Harrison
I came across the wonderful, whimsical word ‘widdershins’ in one of the spell books I often leaf through when researching magic for my stories. It’s a word commonly associated with witchcraft, and means the witches’ path/ the wrong way/ anti-clockwise. In the past, even observing someone walking ‘widdershins’ was enough to warrant an accusation of witchcraft. These days, when it is used by modern wiccans it’s usually for the purposes of banishing or eliminating something. It’s also believed to be unlucky. Naturally, I fell in love with the word immediately, and decided it had to be the name of the family in my next story.
Originally, A Pinch of Magic was based on witches, a subject I find endlessly fascinating. In the first three chapters and synopsis which I sent to my editor, Betty Widdershins discovered she was a witch on her thirteenth birthday and had to master a signature spell linked to an ordinary object of her choosing.
The idea stemmed from a snippet of local folklore linked to the Essex village of Canewdon. According to legend, there will always be six witches in the village, and whenever a stone falls from the church tower walls it signifies that one of them has died and been replaced within the coven.
While I loved the idea of all this, there was a problem. My publisher already had several other books about witches lined up, so my editor asked if we could rethink the witch element but retain certain parts of the folklore. Following some discussion and brainstorming I came up with the idea of a family curse, which allowed me to keep the ‘fairy tale’ aspect of the falling stones. Of course I then had to give Betty some siblings to ramp up the tension and danger of the curse, so Fliss and Charlie were introduced. As the youngest of three sisters myself, it felt like a good dynamic and the ‘power of three’ fits with my liking of fairy tales.
The witch became a sorceress, the church a tower, and the stones falling from it a warning of imminent death for the cursed girls. Finally, the ‘signature spell’ became a set of three magical objects handed down the family – after all, gifts and curses go hand in hand. The name of ‘Widdershins’ still worked perfectly with the idea of being cursed; being both unlucky and symbolic of the girls trying to ‘banish’ the curse from their lives. But I have to admit that it’s such a favourite word of mine that I was intent on using it – and I’m thrilled that it continues to be part of my working life, because I’m already working on the Widdershins’ next adventure . . .
So there we have it, the synopsis and the inspiration. There is already so much buzz surrounding this book. It is also a Waterstones book of the month (with some absolutely gorgeous special purple edged copies). This is a story to entrance young readers and add fuel to reading for pleasure, a story that will be treasured. I am so happy to hear there are more Widdershins’ adventures coming our way, these characters have found their way into my heart and I can’t wait to see where their story takes them next.
If you’d like to discover more about Michelle and her writing then take a look at her website here.
Thank you to Michelle for sharing Widdershins and Witches and her stunning photographs for me to feature on my blog.
Thanks also to Olivia Horrox at Simon and Schuster for sending me a copy for review and for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.
The Girl with the Shark’s Teeth is a story that shows us that courage, friendship and goodness comes in all kinds of packages.
Minnow is different to the other girls in her town and there’s plenty to set her apart: the blossom of pale scars which lie beneath her delicate ears, her affinity with the water which leaves people speechless, and the time when, in deep, deep water, her body began to glow like a sunken star.
When her mum gets into trouble and is taken from their boat in the dead of night, Minnow is alone with one instruction: “sail to Reykjavik to find your grandmother, she will keep you safe’. Minnow has never sailed on her own before, but the call of the deep is one she’s been waiting to answer her whole young life.
Perhaps a girl who is lost on land can be found in the Wild Deep.
I first came across Cerrie Burnell when she joined the children’s channel ‘CBeebies’ over eight years ago. It was a channel I watched regularly with my son when he was very young and one that we were both very fond of. I remember Cerrie because she was a great presenter but I also remember being pleased that this channel who assisted me with teaching my child at such an early age, were brave enough to chose a presenter who looked slightly different to what is considered the ‘norm’; a presenter that may arouse some curiosity amongst it’s young viewers and offer the opportunity to explore the differences amongst us all.
Any child should be able to find a character they can relate to in books but children should also be able to read strong characters that are different to them too. To immerse your child in diversity from an early age, I believe, is vital. To teach them that each and EVERY individual is unique, important and has so much to offer the world. I’ve noticed over the years, both as a parent and working with young children, that they are curious when they encounter something different but they do not judge; it is the influence of the reactions around them that will then, I believe, cause the judgement to kick in.
Cerrie has moved on from presenting CBeebies and is writing fiction for children. Inspired by her own dual heritage daughter she wanted to expand on the young heroines out there for our young readers. When it comes to her writing Cerrie herself says “Families like mine are so rarely represented in children’s literature in a positive magical context, so I wanted to create characters who reflect us but are bound up in adventure.”
I was intrigued to read The Girl with the Shark’s Teeth. As always, I try not to consider what I know about the author and let the story speak for itself…and this one certainly does. Cerrie is a natural storyteller. Her empathy, kindness and sense of adventure comes through in her characters. Young readers will love the adventure and magic within the pages. I loved the illustrations throughout, they weaved in amongst the story perfectly, framing the beautifully depicted world that Cerrie has created. The leading characters are strong, fearsome and memorable. Young Minnow is feisty and courageous; the love and bond she shares with her mother driving her forward to face whatever danger is thrown at her. Minnow has been raised on stories and song and it is these that she turns to when life becomes confused and her path feels uncertain. The story itself is exciting, filled with wonder and peril. This will be a wonderful book for all middle grade readers but also as a book to be shared and enjoyed together with younger readers.
Thank you to Oxford University Press for sending me the review copy. It has been an absolute joy to read and I certainly hope we will be seeing more from Cerrie Burnell.
About the Author
Cerrie Burnell is an actor and writer best known for her work on CBeebies, a role that has earned her critical acclaim and a devoted fan base. In 2011 Cerrie was named in the Observer’s top ten children’s presenters and the Guardian’s 100 most inspirational women. She has been an author in residence for Great Ormond Street and is a patron of Polka Theatre for children. She trained at Manchester Metropolitan and her credits prior to CBeebies include Eastenders, The Bill, Holby City and Grange Hill.
Cerrie’s one woman show The Magical Playroom opened at Edinburgh in 2013 and her Harper series, published by Scholastic, has been translated into twelve languages and was a World Book Day title in 2016. She is the author of several picture books including Snowflakes, which Cerrie adapted for the stage for the Oxford Playhouse in 2016. Cerrie left CBeebies in April 2017 with a commitment to push diversity in other directions. Since departing, Cerrie has played the role of Penny in the BBC’s Doctors, presented a documentary about the NHS, and written her debut middle grade book The Girl with the Shark’s Teeth, which she is very excited about.
Today I’m delighted to be taking part on both Tales Before Bedtime and Tales Before Bedtime Juniorsin the blog tour for My Dad, The Earth Warrior by Gary Haq. I’m particularly honoured today because it is not only publication day but is also World Environment Day. Now this is a children’s book and normally I would review books for children on Tales Before Bedtime Juniors (previously Story Makers) but I wanted to share this here too to mark the fact that it is World Environment Day and it’s a great book too. 🙂
My Dad, The Earth Warrior is funny, insightful, unique and full of fantastic illustrations. Not only is it fun to read but it’s also full of important messages and touches on issues that young children have to deal with today from grief, loneliness to concerns about fitting in.
Hero’s dad hasn’t been quite the same since his mum passed away. He disappears into books leaving Hero feeling a little lost and at times forgotten. He wants his dad back but things go from bad to worse when a bookshelf collapses leaving his dad with a rather large bump on his head, his memory lost and convinced that he is an Earth Warrior who must do whatever it takes to help mother earth and the fight against a ruthless energy tycoon. Much to Hero’s horror it seems to involve being naked quite a lot. Follow Hero as he tries to keep things together AND keep his dad somewhat clothed.
This is a book that celebrates knowledge and how being aware gives us power and the ability to change things for the better. It is also a book that will make you think twice about the impact each one of us has on the world today. Yes, we can change the world.
This is a super book to share with emerging readers and newly independent readers too. It’s fun to read but it’s also a great book to raise awareness with our children about the environment, the world we live in and the impact we have on it. But that’s enough from me… here is a little more about the book and some words of wisdom from the author himself.
Hero is an ordinary boy who wants nothing more than to have a normal dad. But Dad is only interested in reading his books and filling his head with useless facts. Then one day Dad has a freak accident and wakes up claiming to be an Earth Warrior sent to protect the land from a ruthless energy tycoon. Hero is forced to go along with Dad’s new personality.
But when Gran mysteriously disappears, Hero and Dad embark on a dangerous adventure. Can Hero save Gran and get his old dad back before it’s too late?
My Dad, the Earth Warrior is a heart-warming tale of a boy and his dad who reconnect their distant relationship and set out together on a mission to save Mother Earth. It is a story of personal growth, environment and discovering the warrior spirit that lies in all of us – written with humour sure to make children laugh out loud.
Written by leading human ecologist Gary Haq and publishing to coincide with World Environment Day, the book addresses issues of our changing climate, heatwaves, flooding and the need for action in an engaging way which will inspire all young readers to be eco-warriors.
So how can you become an Earth Warrior? Here are Gary’s tips…
How to be an Earth Warrior!
Today is both World Environment Day and the official release day of my children’s book, My Dad the Earth Warrior. This is a story about the relationship between a boy called Hero and his Dad who have grown apart since the death of his mother. One day Dad has a freak accident and wakes up claiming to be an earth warrior sent to protect Mother Earth…
The Earth is our mother, our life-support system, our home. We depend on it for the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. It provides us with shelter and warmth and all the materials that allow us to live our lives to the full. We need to take care of it, protect it, and make sure it’s in good shape, not only for ourselves but for future generations. We can all be earth warriors and take action to protect Mother Earth, so why not join the tribe and become one yourself? Here are some handy tips on how you too can be an earth warrior!
Turn off lights and electrical appliances when not in use. This saves money on electricity bills and reduces your carbon footprint too!
CLEAN YOUR PLATE
Food waste has a big impact on climate change. If it ends up in a landfill site, it will rot and release methane (a damaging greenhouse gas) into the environment. So, only take what you need and finish your plate.
TURN DOWN THE HEAT
If you’re cold, wrap up and put on a jumper rather than turning the thermostat up. This saves energy and carbon.
GROW YOUR OWN
Growing your own fruits and vegetables will help prevent CO2 emissions from trucks, planes and ships that your bring your food from far away.
PLANT A TREE
Planting a tree can help remove CO2 from the atmosphere and help tackle climate change.
Reduce the waste you produce in your daily life. For example, by using a refillable water bottle or cup rather than buying a new plastic bottle each time.
RECYCLE AND REUSE
Recycle your waste and think about using second-hand items or swapping things you no longer want rather than buy new.
WALK, CYCLE OR TAKE THE BUS
If it’s safe, then consider walking, cycling and taking the bus for short trips rather than going by car.
Consider how much water you need when washing and brushing your teeth. Try not to waste any by leaving the tap running too long.
SPREAD THE WORD
Encourage your friends, family, neighbours and teachers to do their bit and become earth warriors too!
Gary Haq is an earth warrior whose day job is saving the planet. He is an associate researcher at a prestigious global environmental think tank and a research scientist at a European research centre. He tries his best to be the change he wants to see in the world and hopes to inspire others with his stories. When he’s not involved in his own eco-adventures, he likes to write, read, learn languages and explore new cultures. Gary lives with his wife and young daughter, and spends his time between York, England and Laveno, Italy.
It’s been such a pleasure hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for My Dad, the Earth Warrior and I thoroughly recommend sharing this book with your young readers today. This is our world and it is important we look after it and teach our children to do the same. Looking at Gary’s advice I can honestly say that I am well on my way to being an earth warrior too. I love this planet and its beauty fills me with joy every single day. If we each do our best to do just these little things, then I believe we can all make a big difference.
There is so much more I could write about this book and the subject matter but for now I urge you to take a look at this fantastic book, Gary’s website and World Environment Day by clicking on the links below.
Haunting prose that feeds the magical story as monsters are battled, fears are faced and grief is overcome. There is something quite beautiful in Bavar and Angel’s relationship. A special connection that makes them gentler, braver and more compassionate.
Angel doesn’t fit. Not in her new school or in her foster home in the vanilla house with nice Mary. The day her parents died was the day everything changed for her. A burglary gone wrong they said but Angel knows different. Angel knows that monsters really exist but when they don’t believe her she tries to forget the memories that haunt her dreams…that is until she meets Bavar.
He too is different except that he doesn’t draw attention to himself and seems to shrink back into the shadows even though he is seven feet tall. But Angel can see him, and she sees the magic that surrounds him. The two are drawn together by their differences, by the way they stand out and by the sadness that surrounds them. Soon they discover that they have an even deeper connection and Angel believes she’s found a way to stop the monsters but she needs Bavar’s help. He’s reluctant but if there is one thing she’s sure of it’s that she wants to stop the monsters once and for all and make sure that no one else suffers the loss she has.
Bavar, sees the light in Angel, in his world of shadows and darkness she is sunshine and starlight and his need to protect her draws him into her plan to fight the monsters. But are two young teens enough to defeat the Raksasa, the strange, winged creatures you’d only expect to find in a nightmare. Everyday they are growing stronger and it’s only a matter of time until before they break through the gate and kill again.
Beautifully written, filled with magic, love and grief, this is a powerful novel with wonderful characters – I was left feeling a little of the magic had stayed behind with me.
Okay, I know I’m cheating here a little doing two days in one but I think I can get away with it because today I am featuring two books! Yes that’s right! Two books. Back in January 2016 I was lucky enough to be whisked away to London with my Lovereading4kids hat on to attend the Chicken House Books Big Breakfast. Chicken House are lovely. Not only do they publish some outstanding books for children, they are also a small, passionate team who put on a great breakfast event. Well it was at one such event back on a cold, dark January morning in 2016 that I first met Maz Evans. She gave us a taster from her debut novel Who Let The Gods Out and oh my goodness, did she make me laugh. The book sounded amazing. I am quite shy but I mustered up the courage to say hi to Maz and thank her for the amazing reading. Maz is incredibly warm, lovely and funny and I was was so glad I went along and met her that day. Back I trotted to the Lovereading4kids office and confirmed that this was definitely a book to look out for. I then had to wait over a year until it was published but boy was it worth the wait. Not only was Who Let Gods Out published in February 2017 but it’s sequel (Simply The Quest) was published just a few months later in August 2017. If your kids not only love funny books that have them howling with laughter but also books that are smart, full of adventure and unsual yet lovable characters then this is a series to get them reading. And the great news is that there is still two books to come! Now a little more about the books….
Who Let The Gods Out? by Maz Evans
Here is a wee snippet from my review for Lovereading4kids…
This book is laugh out loud hilarious and I just adored each and every character. Elliot is brave and good hearted and going through such a hard time. The Gods were hilarious and I love how Maz has made them so quirky, fallible and bang up to date. There is also a rather special appearance from her Majesty the Queen that was quite simply magnificent. Who Let The Gods Out is the first in a four part series and I for one am very excited to see what happens next for Elliot and his new friends.’ – Lovereading4kids
And here’s the synopsis:
Elliot’s mum is ill and his home is under threat, but a shooting star crashes to earth and changes his life forever. The star is Virgo – a young Zodiac goddess on a mission. But the pair accidentally release Thanatos, a wicked death daemon imprisoned beneath Stonehenge, and must then turn to the old Olympian gods for help. After centuries of cushy retirement on earth, are Zeus and his crew up to the task of saving the world – and solving Elliot’s problems too?
Who Let The Gods Out was published in February 2017 by Chicken House Books.
Simply The Quest by Maz Evans
Elliot Hooper’s troubles are far from over: his mum’s health worsens, he’s struggling at school, and a bunch of anarchic Greek immortals have moved into his home – including teen goddess Virgo, who’s in trouble with the Zodiac. What’s more, death-daemon Thanatos and his scary mum are at large. As even more immortal and enemies emerge, Virgo and Elliot must learn how to be heroes …
Simply The Quest was published in August 2017 by Chicken House Books.
I can’t wait to find out what happens next….
Find out more about Maz Evans by visiting her website here.
It’s Saturday and it’s Autumn – a great time to buy books.
I absolutely love Middle Grade fiction. It’s exciting and there is such an amazing choice for kids (and those of us still kids at heart). Unfortunately although there are many amazingly well stocked and managed school libraries out there not all of them have the funds or space to keep a stock of fresh, new titles. If you are lucky enough to have a local library then I urge you to use it if you don’t already and of course a bookshop of any shape or size is always a great place to visit. So, if you are looking for a weekend reading treat here’s my recommendation for this week.
The Boy With One Nameby J.R.Wallis
I absolutely adore a little magic and mystery. Throw in some mortal danger, monsters and things that go bump in the night and I’m in heaven. 😄
This summer the rather lovely people over at Simon & Schuster kids sent me a copy of The Boy With One Name. The cover alone grabbed my interest as soon as it slipped out from it’s Jiffy bag.
WELCOME TO THE BADLANDS … a hidden part of our world populated by creatures which most people think exist only in fairytales and nightmares.
The story features two young protagonists – Jones desperately wants to be a normal boy but since he was a baby fate has had other plans, because Jones is an apprentice Badlander. Badlanders hunt witches, ogres, shapeshifters and other monsters that ordinary people only see in their nightmares.
Ruby is also desperate for a different life. Running away from her latest foster carer and a difficult home life, Ruby is searching for a world she can fit into. A world where she has some purpose and meaning.
Things go terribly wrong on the night that Jones is making his first kill as part of his commencement to become a Badlander and suddenly he is left without his master Maitland, the one man who taught him everything he knows and who’s been there for him since he was a baby. Now he is alone with only a talking gun (which he can’t touch) for guidance.
Looking for a safe place to hide, runaway Ruby finds herself caught up in Jones life and the monsters that she thought only belonged in fairytales and nightmares. Before long circumstances force them to work together as each tries to not only stay alive but to find the lives they’ve both dreamed of.
What follows is an adventure story that grips from the very first page as you tumble into the Badlands. Adrenaline filled and full of danger, Wallis will have you cheering for more.
This is a great book about friendship, self discovery, learning who you are and finding courage in even the most desparate of situations. I absolutely loved Jones and fiesty Ruby. They each had their own problems but discovered that working together they could achieve anything.
An exciting start to what I hope will become a series. This will make a fantastic, fun and exciting read.
Published by Simon and Schuster
Published in paperback in August 2017
Review copy supplied by the lovely people at Simon and Schuster (thanks so much:)
Find out more about author J.R.Wallis by visiting his website: here.
Here’s a small taster that I’ve taken from the opening page.
Jones stopped. He’d felt safe enough creeping down the path in front of the cottage, in the dark. But now the moon had reappeared from behind the clouds, the world was relit with a softer silver light meaning he was much more likely to be seen.
He kept trying to focus on what Maitland had promised, that he wouldn’t come to any harm. But that was less easy to believe now they were actually here. Scared to go on, Jones looked behind him, to where his Master was hiding, hoping to be beckoned back.
Maitland stepped out from the granite porch concealing the front door of the cottage and stood on the path, big as a bolder in his greatcoat. He said nothing. His craggy face remained hidden below the peak of his baseball cap. And Jones knew right away Maitland wanted him to go on, however bright the moon, because this was his big night. This was his big test.