Literary Festivals, Time to talk

Chiddingstone Literary Festival – A treasure trove for literary lovers in the South East.

Just four years ago the very first Chiddingstone Literary Festival was held in the splendid grounds of Chiddingstone Castle near Edenbridge, Kent, bringing a missing element of unadulterated literary indulgence to the south east. It has gone from strength to strength, each year attracting a diverse range of authors to entertain and inform in the most glorious of settings. ‘The four days of talks, performances and workshops are set in the historic house and grounds and have been carefully curated to ensure there is something for everyone, of all ages and interests.’

Tickets are available to buy either per event or as day tickets and whichever way you choose to buy includes entry into the castle and grounds.

Personally, it already holds some great memories. In the first year I had the joyous privilege of introducing the then Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell, to his eagerly awaiting crowd. He then proceeded to hold the audience completely spellbound whilst he chatted and drew his way into our hearts.

Introducing author and illustrator Chris Riddell in 2016

Each year there has been a whole host of authors, illustrators and performers at Chiddingstone. Last year I was thrilled to catch talks by Abi Elphinstone, Philip Ardagh and current Children’s Laureate, Lauren child.

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Author Abi Elphinstone weaves her magic over a full house in the marquee
Talking adventures and catapults…
Philip Ardagh being fantastically funny as always.

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Children’s Laureate, Lauren Child

This year includes another impressive line-up of events with talks and workshops so much so the adult day has increased to two days (Saturday and Sunday), with the family day still making a brilliant bank holiday Monday day out.

Inspiring Creativity

As well as listening and watching there are also many opportunities throughout the event to get creative and last year I was invited to run several children’s creative writing workshops on both the family and school’s days. I have to say, it was so much fun and the atmosphere was wonderful. Work commitments unfortunately mean that I am unable to run them again this year but I will be attending and writing about the event over the weekend.

One of the beautiful rooms within the castle ready and waiting for our budding storytellers

There are of course plenty of workshops available for both adults and children. Why not indulge in a spot of poetry, creative writing or life drawing? For children there is also plenty going on including film making workshops, creative writing and even Wallace and Gromit clay model making workshops with Aardman Animations.

Furthermore, there is a feast of events waiting for you in the Castle grounds across all four days.

‘Our adult events take place on Saturday, Sunday and Monday with the Festival’s most ambitious programme yet – spilling over with riches and diversity. On Saturday we will also hold our Festival Drinks Party at Stonewall Park, kindly hosted by the Fleming family. Come and celebrate our opening day with a glass of wine from Squerryes, delicious canapés, meet some of our authors and enjoy a stroll through the glorious bluebells and rhododendrons.

Bank Holiday Monday is our Family Day, with events for children and adults.We have our festival favourites Pericles Theatre company performing The Little Mermaid and clay modelling workshops with Aardman Animations, who are celebrating 30 years of Wallace & Gromit.You can watch their films, learn how to make an animated film with Press Play, meet the illustrator of children’s classic Giraffes Can’t Dance and enjoy live drawing and funny antics from duo A F Harrold and Emily Gravett.

Tuesday sees the return of our annual Schools Day, with another wonderful line-up of children’s authors and performers including Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Maz Evans, Dan Freedman and poet Joseph Coelho, alongwith a fun-filled show from Really Big Pants Theatre Company.’

There are too many highlights to mention so do check out the website (link here) where you can view the full event programme and book tickets.

I have already booked my ticket to see Joanne Harris but I am already starting to wish I had just gone straight for a day ticket. :). There is just so much going on.

In a previous life I had the great privilege of working with Chiddingstone Literary Festival’s Artistic Director, Victoria Henderson. She has been at the helm since the very start and does an incredible job each and every year. I’m delighted that she has had time to answer a few questions for me ahead of this year’s festival.

In conversation with Victoria Henderson

Chiddingstone Literary Festival is now in it’s 4th year and has extended to a 4 day event. Why did you decide to add an extra day?

Last year’s festival was such a success and we were overwhelmed with the positive response, so we felt it would be a good idea to introduce a 4thday to include the Saturday of the Bank Holiday weekend. We also felt that running 7 consecutive events in a day for those who bravely bought All Day tickets was a bit of a big ask, so we’ve reduced the number of back to back events to 5 each day and introduced more time between events so visitors have more time to have a book signed, get something to eat, visit the Castle’s collections and enjoy the Castle grounds. This year we have also added more workshops for adults and children so people can really get involved. We have Life Drawing, Creative Writing, and Poetry classes and a session on How to Get Published, running alongside the author talks and conversations.

Each year from the very first has seen a collection of interesting and varied authors and events. What factors do you consider when putting together your plan ?

We start planning and researching authors about 10 months before the festival. It’s a mixture of following up authors of interest, talking to publicists about upcoming books, browsing through publishers’ catalogues and keeping an eye out for subjects that are topical. On the whole we look for new authors although we’ve had a couple of returnees such as Anna Pasternak who last year gave a fascinating insight into the life and work of her great-uncle Boris Pasternak, and this year is publishing her biography of Wallis Simpson, which has attracted attention because of the recent arrival (and very different treatment) of another American divorcee into the Royal Family. We like to feel that there is something for everyone on offer at the festival so we try to keep the subjects as varied as possible. This year we’re covering cookery, science, history, biography, poetry, fiction, politics and real crime. The family day is a lovely mix of children’s and adults author events with a performance of The Little Mermaid for all the family, workshops from Aardman Animations, Press Play Film and Creative Writing classes.

Do you have a favourite part of the festival?

I love the Schools Day. It’s such a joy to see the reaction of the children as they listen to some wonderful authors who inspire them with their enthusiasm to think about books and reading in a new way. We’ve been lucky enough to host two Children’s Laureate’s – Chris Riddell and Lauren Child – and How to Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell. We have over 1500 pupils visiting the festival on our Schools Day and it’s an emotional moment watching them empty out of the coaches and minibuses to enjoy a day devoted to the joy of books. A number of the schools make a day of it and set up camp in the grounds, playing games between events, exploring the lake and the woods, visiting the Castle’s Egyptian and Japanese antiquities and enjoying a picnic. They get to meet the authors who sign copies of their books and they go home with lots to fire their imaginations.

What do you feel is the key to the festival’s success?

I think it’s a mixture of the glorious setting of a historic house in the beautiful Kent countryside and the warm and intimate atmosphere we’ve created for both authors and visitors. The festival is a small but beautifully formed event, in the heart of the Chiddingstone community, bringing top quality writers to this idyllic corner of West Kent.

The British weather can be rather unpredictable. Of course Chiddingstone Castle is stunning at any time of year but what is the greatest challenge you face with the festival weather wise?

Don’t tempt fate! We’ve been incredibly lucky over the last 4 years with the weather and have enjoyed some glorious Spring sunshine, including last year’s mini-heatwave which was almost too hot! We had one downpour in the second year during Nicholas Crane’s talk about the British geography and climate which seemed highly appropriate! Almost all the events take place either in the Castle or in marquees with the exception of Pericles’ Theatre Company’s performances in The Orangery, where the audience sits on chairs in the gardens. If it does rain the show goes on – with brollies!

Who are you most excited about seeing at this year’s festival?

I am looking forward to seeing Joanne Harris talk about her latest novel in the Chocolat series, 20 years after the first book was published. We have Giles and Mary, the unlikely stars of Gogglebox who will be very entertaining, and we’re honoured to be hosting Jackie Kay, the Scottish Poet Laureate. We have a conversation between a forensic scientist and a barrister on some of the most sensational dramas played out in court, and two eminent scientists Dr Giles Yeo and Vybarr Cregan-Reid talking about the obesity epidemic and how humans are adapting to the technological age.

After four years, what is your most memorable moment at the Literary Festival?

Memories of the last four festivals include an extraordinary conversation between a former Commissioner in the Metropolitan police and a convicted murderer about the effects of crime on their mental health, meeting Terry Waite in the Green Room and feeling awed by his presence, his height and his astonishing survival in captivity. I remember Rev Richard Coles falling foul of the Bank Holiday train timetables who arrived with only minutes to spare and Chris Riddell spontaneously volunteering to illustrate the winning entries of the children’s Short Story Competition whilst they were being read out on stage, to the delight of the winners.

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Chiddingstone Literary Festival has all the ingredients for a fantastic weekend of everything literary, no matter the weather. It is a real gem for us here in the South East and I urge you to pop online and book your tickets just as soon as possible. Perhaps I’ll see you there.

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Blog Tour, Books that adults should read, Debut, Fiction, Teen, Time to talk, Young Adult, Young Adult Fiction

The Burning by Laura Bates

NEW SCHOOL.

TICK.

NEW TOWN.

TICK.

NEW SURNAME.

TICK.

SOCIAL MEDIA PROFILES?

ERASED.

There’s nothing to trace Anna back to her old life.

Nothing to link her to the ‘incident’.

At least that’s what she thinks.

Until the whispers start up again….

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So today I am thrilled to be hosting the Blog Tour for The Burning, the first YA novel by Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project.  Laura is the author of three non-fiction titles exploring gender inequality and the difficulties still facing girls and women in the world today.

Last week I was invited along to the launch of The Burning and to listen to Laura in conversation with Anna James at Foyles Bookshop.  She was incredibly inspiring to listen to, especially after reading The Burning just a few days before.

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This book is incredible and as a piece of YA fiction very, very important. The Burning is not only a great piece of fiction, but will also help others who suffer from any similar form of abuse and bullying.  Anna is a character that sadly many girls and women will be able to identify with.  In the author’s note at the back of the book Laura yells us that ‘almost everything that happens to Anna is based on the real-life experiences of students I have worked with in schools, or young people who have contacted me online.’  I find it absolutely shocking and this book, I hope, will give those who face such experiences the courage to speak out and, at the very least, to know that they are not to blame. There are SO many discussions that this novel can inspire. I urge you to read it, no matter what age or gender.

Anna’s world  falls apart when she shares an intimate photograph with someone she trusts.   To use something so intimate that has been shared with trust is an even greater betrayal and yet she is the one who is vilified.  This isn’t a simple girl against boy story.  It shows the power that rumour has and the effect it can have over people.  ‘A rumour is like a fire.  You might think you’ve extinguished it, but all it takes is one spark…’ Girls, boys and adults are seen as behaving in a terrible, unacceptable manner but we also see great courage and support within the pages of this story too.

‘The Burning tells the story of fifteen-year-old Anna who has moved to a small Scottish village with her mother.  There’s nothing to trace Anna back to her old life. Nothing to link her to the ‘incident’.  At least that’s what she thinks… until the whispers start up again.

Desperate for a distraction to escape the brutal bullying at school, Anna finds herself in a history project about a young girl, Maggie, who was accused of witchcraft hundreds of years before.  Anna finds herself irresistibly drawn to the tale of Maggie, a girl whose story has terrifying similarities to Anna’s own…

The Parallels between the persecution of medieval witches and the social burning of modern day Anna become unnervingly apparent.  the reader will be left in no doubt: it’s time to extinguish society’s sexist attitudes.’

I found this book deeply unsettling and I believe that parents, teachers and adults in general should read this story. It gives us an insight into what our young people face. It stirred certain memories hidden in my subconscious. Those moments growing up that we ignore and try to bury. Yet in comparison, back in my teenage years, we had so much less to contend with.  Social media has moved the goal posts dramatically and opens up the possibility of being mercilessly hounded and bullied at any time of day or night to an ever growing audience.  We need to sit up and take notice now.  With an ever growing online-presence,  our past and experiences really never leave us. They are there for all to see and the level of abuse possible through these mediums is scary. The dual time frame brilliantly shows us that the problems girls face aren’t a contemporary problem and that even after years of feminist campaigning things haven’t changed, there are simply new ways for women to be persecuted and mistreated. The term witch-hunt for so many girls and women is still very real.  This snowballing form of abuse at times can feel like a form of torture. The constant ping of social media notifications gradually pushing them to the limits and offering no escape or peace of mind.

As a parent I will look to inform my son. As a Librarian I will make these stories accessible to my students and teachers. As a book blogger I will share the word as much as I can. This book has made me stop and think. I was shocked at how those who should have been protecting Anna were simply not equipped to do so with either experience or understanding.  It has made me so much more aware. Feminism isn’t just about equality. It’s about a woman’s right to feel safe. To not be used and abused simply because she is a woman.

About the Author

Laura Bates is the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, an ever-increasing collection of over 100,000 testimonies of gender inequality, with branches in 25 countries worldwide. She is author of Everyday Sexism, Misogynation and the Sunday Times bestseller Girl Up. Laura writes regularly for the Guardian, New York Times and others and win a British Press Award In 2015. She is a prolific commentator, appearing regularly on Newsnight, The Today Programme, Woman’s Hour, Channel 4 News, BBC News, BBC Breakfast and others. She works closely with politicians, businesses, schools, police forces and organisations from the Council of Europe to the United Nations to tackle gender inequality. She was named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list 2015 and has been named a woman of the year by Cosmopolitan, Red Magazine, The Huffington Post, and The Sunday Times Magazine. Laura is a contributor at Women Under Siege, a New York-based project tackling rape in conflict worldwide and is patron of SARSAS, Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support.

You can follow her on Twitter: @EverydaySexism and Instagram @laura_bates_

To find out more about the Everyday Sexism Project or to add your voice visit the website here.

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Time to talk

2018 – What a great year for books!

I wanted to send out one last post in 2018, a post to celebrate all the amazing books that have visited Tales Before Bedtime.  Over the last year I have seen my blog grow incredibly.  My visitors have increased massively and come from all over the world.  It never ceases to make me smile when each and every one of you take a moment to read my posts.  So I’d like to take a moment to thank each and every one of you.  Also a big thanks must go out to the publishers, authors and blog tour organisers who send me books to read and feature on my blog and via social media.  I appreciate each and every book that comes my way and I do read them all. The book world is a friendly one and I’ve met so many wonderful people both on social media and in the flesh.  I hope that I have helped, in my own way, bring new books and authors to you too.

So now on to 2019.  The New Year always brings great excitement – all those new books we’ve yet to discover! Already my review pile is growing and I can’t wait to read and share them all with you.  Please keep on checking in to see what I’ve been up to; follow, share and do comment too.  It’s always lovely to hear from you.  Now all that’s left for me to do is wish you all a very happy New Year – may it be filled with peace, love, good health and of course great books!

Time to talk, Travelling Tales

Cornwall, Daphne du Maurier and me – my summer with Daphne.

Cornwall has always been a place that I have loved to visit. There is an energy about it that refreshes and invigorates.  For our holiday this year we craved an escape to the coast, a chance to recharge batteries and share some family time together. Cornwall was the perfect choice.

After searching the internet a few months ago we came upon a holiday let that looked cosy, was big enough for our small family of three, and was close to Fowey, a place that I have often been drawn to. The name of our home for the week was Jenny Wren which was located in a small village called Tywardreath about three miles from Fowey and within walking distance to Par beach. It was perfect and just right for our break. Comfortable, very clean, with stunning views across the village and continuing countryside, I felt very much at home from the moment we arrived. We were tired from a long, slow journey and happy to make the most of our accommodation after an exploratory stroll down to Par beach.

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Upon the bookshelves in Jenny Wren were a wide selection of novels, biographies and non fiction titles including a short book entitled The Cornish World of Daphne du Maurier, which had been published by Bossiney Books, a small publishing house based in North Cornwall specialising in books about the West Country. I knew that Daphne had lived for some time in Fowey at Ferryside and also at her much love home Menabilly, which was close by but I didn’t realise just how soaked in her history the local area of Fowey, Par and Tywardreath is. The book was fascinating and perfectly placed upon the bookshelf of our summer home. Reading it during my visit bought me a little closer to this author who has fascinated me for so long. Over the years I have been discovering her work, beginning with one of my all time favourites Rebecca and most recently The House On The Strand. It seemed utterly right that I should begin the latter whilst staying in the very village in which the novel is set.

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For the first few days of our holiday we were treated to glorious blue skies and warm temperatures. Ideal beach weather in fact and as I sat on Par beach enjoying the stunning coastline I felt a little closer to her still. I can understand why she felt such undying love for Cornwall. There is a sense of calm yet also an unrest, a peace yet a thousand stories waiting to be told. It feels rather exciting and inspiring and I felt very at home there.

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We discovered Par beach on the night we arrived and returned many times over our stay. Only a mile from our home for the week, it was a pleasant 20 minute meander away. The bay itself was unspoilt and enjoyed a lovely view. Although busy it never felt crowded and indeed we did feel rather put upon when new arrivals plumped to set up towels right behind us when there was so much space to choose from. I took with me books and notepads but my attention was stolen by my surroundings and the sea, and I felt content to simply soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the moment. A natural mindfulness perhaps, with very little effort required. The sand cold and damp beneath my feet. The salty freshness of the sea air. The chatter of people. The holler of others. The cry of the seagull chasing the breeze and the rumble of the waves gently coming closer or moving farther away.

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There is something rather wonderful about mornings in Cornwall, even on a cloudy day. There is a fine mist in the air or ‘mizzle’ as I’ve heard it referred to. The birds are louder, their cries cutting through the air, shattering the silence. At home they are gentler in their song, more like the softer side of the percussion section in an orchestra. Yet here in Cornwall they boom, dramatic and clear across the Cornish skies. There are of course many gulls but also other birds each with a unique voice which when combined creates quite the orchestra to awaken me from my dream filled sleep.

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The weather can be moody and incredibly atmospheric as captured so perfectly in any of du Mauriers tales. Glorious blue skies and sunshine or clouds tumbling dark and sinister filled with menace, or light and whispy, like the breathe of an angel. Our holiday home rose high up on a residential area which enabled us a view far across the countryside. From the kitchen we could sit and watch the weather roll in, distant clouds carrying rain which we could see falling on the hills, whilst we sat emersed in the warmth of the sunshine until the clouds would finally reach us before disappearing as quickly as they had arrived.

I love this place, it soothes my soul and I can see why Daphne du Maurier and so many writers and artists have been inspired by it. The history, the atmosphere and the dramatic coastline all hold such magic.

She was never anything but perfectly suited to the place in which she lived. Without that stability, I very much doubt if those novels would ever have been so immensely enjoyable. For that, we can thank the Cornish landscape that she so loved. Above all, of course, she was the supreme story-teller. A master craftswoman in the fine art of narration.

An excerpt from The Cornish World of Daphne du Maurier

It does make me question if the Cornwall we see today would have existed if not for Daphne du Maurier, or even would the Daphne du Maurier we know and love have existed without Cornwall? So intrinsic each was to the other.

Towards the end of her life Daphne wrote Vanishing Cornwall, a fascinating insight into the Cornwall she knew and loved.  I have since purchased a copy and look forward to returning via the pages of her book over the coming winter months.

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We spent only a week in Cornwall this summer, but on that visit we travelled in time, back to where knights protected our shores from enemies across the seas, to the future and a visit to Mars via a speedy tour of our wonderful solar system. It filled me with such wonder and we returned home with so many fantastic memories.

Walking through history at Tintagel

and Restormel Castles

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Meeting King Arthur at Tintagel

And river adventures with Fowey River Hire

A visit to The Eden Project took us to Mars

Family fun on the Lanhydrock bike trails

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Daphne first moved to rented accommodation in Readymoney Cove in 1942. She’d discovered and fell in love with Menabilly many years before but it wasn’t until 1943 that her perseverance paid off and she convinced the owners to lease it to her. Menabilly was then her home for over 20 years but when the lease ended she was forced to move on to her final home, Kilmarth. Sadly her husband of many years died just before they moved and so the house that they had chosen together would be hers alone. Yet she found contentment there and made it her home for the last twenty years of her life.

This grand old house, overlooking the majestic sweep of the bay beyond began to spur Daphne’s curiosity and imagination and the result was The House on the Strand, first published in 1969.

An excerpt from The Cornish World of Daphne du Maurier

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Cornwall is steeped in history, mythology and legend. There are stories in every corner and for me it is somewhere I feel at home. I love the sense of space, the fresh air, the feeling of becoming whole again – if only for a brief time. I feel I can stretch and breath deeply. Indeed a holiday should give you a sense of freedom, freedom to relax, to take in the world around you. To just be. Yet this Cornish landscape also feeds the soul from the moors to the coastline, it fires the imagination and for me, provides a sense of balance. I wish I could stay but I know that it will always be a part of me and I’ll be back.

When I made the booking I had no idea that I would be spending quite so much time with Daphne du Maurier. Yet I could feel her there with me, in the smells on the air, the sea breeze, the summer rain, and the birds as they flew through the air, sending their message out to the world. Perhaps that is why it feels so familiar and so much like coming home. I have visited many times before both in person and through her novels. Cornwall is ever-changing and yet its ghosts surround you as you wonder. Their stories permeate through sand, stone, grass and skyline, and there still so many yet to be told.

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We booked our holiday through Sykes Cottages.

You can find out more about our fabulous holiday let, Jenny Wren here. It was absolutely perfect for the three of us and had everything we needed. The owners, Dave and Dianne were incredibly friendly and welcoming. The location was very peaceful but close to the village centre. We slept well throughout the week and were very sad to leave.

We booked our kayaking adventure through Fowey River Hire ( it was excellent)

We had a fantastic day at Lanhydrock where we hired bikes and explored the cycle trails.

We visited both Restormel and Tintagel Castle – both were excellent and full of history and atmosphere.

There is always something new going on at The Eden Project and on this visit We travelled to Mars.

One favourite pub was The New Inn in Tywardreath.  They have wonderful food, good beer and a warm welcome.

The Yummy Scrummy cafe in Par was an absolute find and did THE most delicious savoury pancakes and cooked breakfasts. We visited throughout the week. Yum.

And finally… visit Cornwall. It’s wonderful.

Blog Tour, Someone Else’s Shoes, Time to talk, Young Adult Fiction

Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow Blog Tour – seeing things from another perspective

This is a blog tour with a difference and I’m delighted to be kicking it off today on Tales Before Bedtime. The tour has been inspired by the novel, Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow by Siobhan Curham which is published today by Walker Books. As Siobhan’s book is about empathy and seeing things from others perspective I’m delighted to have the opportunity to step into someone else’s shoes and post a piece by a fellow blogger and book lover.

Our lives are often touched by people who leave a mark: perhaps a light in dark times or kindness, love and laughter. Perhaps they’ve reminded us of who we are or who we’d like to be, or simply they’ve become part of memories that stay with us long after we’ve known them. Quite often we never get the chance to let them know what they mean to us and Amy has expressed this perfectly in her piece. We should never presume that others know how we feel about them. Some things just shouldn’t be left unsaid.

 

So now over to Amy.

Open Letter: To those, I still love but have lost

To those, I still love but have lost,

I have wanted to write this for the longest time, but this was finally the right time. For this blog tour but also because I finished university recently. University was a place where I met so many new people, but my life seems very up in the air.

You might be wondering who this is about, and the truth is: this is for everyone. Anyone who has made an impact on my life. My friends. My family. Those who are no longer in my life anymore. Although this is my side of the story, I respect your OK too. After all friendship is a two-way relationship.

Life has a way of making us lose touch with people. People you think will be in the longest time in life. You make plans. Going to university. Even bridesmaid at a wedding. Then BAM. Life gets in the way. You move. Someone else moves. You lose contact. Your life becomes liking each other’s posts on Instagram or Facebook. You become someone’s old friend rather than someone’s friend. It’s weird.

So, this is for you. You may never see this, but I know that you mean something to me. We may have lost touch, but I still love you. Like you. Remember you. I remember the times when I laughed so hard that I cried. The films that we saw together. Our days at school. The lessons and the inside jokes that only worked at that times that we would laugh at and everyone would think we were crazy. The lunchtimes. The breaks. The throwaway conversations about our day. The nights that we stayed up too late and the sleepovers that we had.

I remember it all. And I hope you do too. But I don’t mind if I am just a distance memory. We needed each other at that time. We moved on and that’s OK. A piece of me would like to talk to you. See you again. See where you are now. But I don’t mind if I don’t. I hope you are well. That your life is great. Because you deserve it. You really do.

So that’s you. If you wonder about me. I’m good. I’m really good. I’m doing what I love, and I am working towards where I want to be. I hope that this is enough. I really do. But if that’s not. Do what I am scared to do. Because I’m here. I’m here.

The weird thing is that I don’t know how to end this, so I’ll leave it here. If you read this and think it sounds like you. Then it probably is. Know that I remember you. That I love you.

Amy

Thank you Amy for sharing such a personal message with us. It was lovely to read.

Do make a visit to Amy’s blog here where she shares her love of books and writing.

And readers do share your thoughts on this post by leaving a comment. Do you have anything you wish you hadn’t left unsaid?

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Want to know a little more about Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow by Siobhan Curham? Here’s the synopsis.

img_0022Fourteen-year-old Stevie lives in Lewes with her beloved vinyl collection, her mum … and her mum’s depression. When Stevie’s mum’s disability benefits are cut, Stevie and her mother are plunged into a life of poverty. But irrepressible Stevie is determined not to be beaten and she takes inspiration from the lyrics of her father’s 1980s record collection and dreams of a life as a musician. Then she meets Hafiz, a talented footballer and a Syrian refugee. Hafiz’s parents gave their life savings to buy Hafiz a safe passage to Europe; his journey has been anything but easy. Then he meets Stevie…

As Stevie and Hafiz’s friendship grows, they encourage each other to believe in themselves and follow their dreams.

 An uplifting story of friendship, unity and hope that highlights the important and topical issues surrounding young carers and young refugees.

Find out more about this title from Walker Books by visiting their website here.

Thank so much to Kirsten and John at Walker books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.

Art & Exhibitions, Time to talk

Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up at the V&A Museum

Kahlo has been dubbed the original selfie queen.

quotation taken from Sponsor’s Foreword by Craig McWilliam from p9, Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up published by V&A Publishing, 2018

Frida Kahlo has always intrigued me. She is someone I had heard of but knew very little about except that she was a famous artist who created self-portraits full of colour and beauty. So when a friend offered to take me to the V&A Museum to see an exhibition celebrating this unusual artist, I jumped at the chance.

I am incredibly drawn to colour. The bolder and brighter the better and Frida Kahlo is one that seems to have embraced that within her life. I knew that she had, rather sadly, died young and I have come across some of her more famous work from time to time but otherwise my knowledge has been sketchy. This wonderful exhibition has completely changed that. It has been expertly curated, bringing together her work alongside some truly fascinating personal items of Frida’s. It really helps to bring to the life the artist behind the art. Her work was always deeply personal, an extension of her most intimate self and so it seems fitting that it should be presented to us now in such a manner.

In 1954, following her death, Frida Kahlo’s possessions were locked away in the Casa Azul (Blue House) in Mexico City, her lifelong home. Half a century later, her collection of clothing, jewellery, cosmetics and other personal items was rediscovered.

quotation taken from, Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up published by V&A Publishing, 2018

Frida Kahlo’s life was filled with pain, ill health and massive obstacles to overcome and yet she was able to fully embrace her love of life, beauty and passion.  She used art to radically change the way we see the world, examining our sense of self and the world around us.  Her self-portraits are haunting and although she painted many, each one has a different feeling, a different message to convey.

As with many of Kahlo’s art works, the power of the self-portrait lies in its sense of anguish and a tense ambiguity about who is regarding whom

quotation taken from p13, Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up published by V&A Publishing, 2018

As a child she suffered from Polio which left her disabled and then in her late teens an accident involving a tram left her bedridden for a year with injuries that would plague her for the rest of her life.  This is when she began to explore her artistic side and reinvented herself despite her disabilities.

Her imagine was completely of her own making, Frida herself becoming a work of art as well as the practical purpose of hiding her disabilities. Although battered and bruised she celebrated her body and turned it into a platform to exhibit her art, be it through the beautiful, bright clothes she chose to wear, the flowers taken from her garden and worn in her hair or the paintings she decorated her body casts with, Kahlo sought to bring beauty to everything.

The exhibition is interesting, full of information and fascinating relics. Visually stunning, at times it took my breath away with the colour, the stature, the intimacy. Her art was an expression of herself but also a way for her to explore her heritage, her gender, her political beliefs, and her broken body. There is so much to read into her work and the objects that we are now fortunate enough to see.

Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up offers a fresh perspective on the life story of this extraordinary artist, whose charisma and powerful sense of style continue to captivate. Specially commissioned photographs show her distinctive Mexican outfits along with her self-portraits, an unprecedented pairing that is enriched by iconic images of the artist.

quotation taken from, Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up published by V&A Publishing, 2018

The accompanying book, Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up is full of fascinating essays and stunning photography. If you can’t make it to the exhibition then I recommend this as a brilliant substitute. If you are lucky enough to be be able to visit then allow yourself plenty of time to immerse yourself in the exhibits. Don’t miss a thing. And do take home the book if you can. It adds another dimension to what you see within the exhibition and allows you to study it in your own time.  It not only gives greater depth to the exhibition but gives a fascinating background to the world and time that Frida lived in.

Visiting the V&A and witnessing this exhibition has allowed me to see so much more of Frida Kahlo.  I was touched by a great deal within the exhibition and the book is allowing an even greater insight.  She was incredibly talented and incredibly courageous.  Her life was short but her time still fills our world with colour, beauty and the desire to question and look within; to not only know ourselves better but to strive to be the very best, most enquiring, courageous, openminded and beautiful versions of ourselves.

The exhibition, Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up, will be running at the V&A Museum until Sunday 4th of November.  Tickets cost £15 but entry is free to members.

You can purchase a copy of the accompanying book, Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up direct from the V&A at a special exhibition price by clicking here.

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Blog Tour, Middle Grade Fiction, Time to talk

My Dad, The Earth Warrior by Gary Haq

Today I’m delighted to be taking part on both Tales Before Bedtime and Tales Before Bedtime Juniors in 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.

My Dad, the Earth Warrior - coverHero 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…

Gary Haq
Gary Haq, author of My Dad, the Earth Warrior


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! 

SWITCH OFF 

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 

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. 

SAVE WATER 

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.

Discover more about Gary by visiting his website here: www.garyhaqwrites.com 

Follow Gary on Twitter: @drgaryhaq 

He’s also on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/garyhaqauthor

Find out more about World Environment Day: www.worldenvironmentday.global 

I’m absolutely delighted to be able to include a sample from My Dad, the Earth Warrior.  Just click on the link below:

Sample_from_MyDadtheEarthWarrior_Gary_Haq_

Thank you to Gary and Hannah Cooper for inviting me to review My Dad, the Earth Warrior.

If you haven’t taken a look at Tales Before Bedtime Juniors yet then why not take a look now and maybe give me a cheeky little follow. 🙂