Blog Tour, Children's Fiction, Middle Grade Fiction, Tales Before Bedtime Juniors

A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison

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.

Synopsis

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…

Author, Michelle Harrison

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.

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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.

 

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Bookish Post, Children's Fiction, Debut, Middle Grade Fiction

The Girl with the Shark’s Teeth by Cerrie Burnell

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.

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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

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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 Teethwhich she is very excited about.

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Children's Fiction

A new tale from The Badlands series by J.R.Wallis

I love a good series.  It’s the waiting for the next book that’s the hardest.  I’m not the most patient person but then again I love the sense of anticipation as the date of publication comes closer and closer.  Last year I reviewed The Boy With One Name by J.R.Wallis and boy, did I love it.  Book one from the Badlands series, I hoped that the next instalment wouldn’t be too long coming. Well The Black Amulet has now been published and I happy to say that it’s every bit as exciting as The Boy With One Name.   So without further ado, here’s a little more about both books.  If you haven’t yet come across the series then do start with The Boy With One Name.

The Boy With One Name by J.R.Wallis

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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.

Last 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.

Twelve-year-old Jones is an orphan, training as an apprentice hunter alongside his mentor, Maitland, tackling ogres, trolls and all manner of creatures that live in the Badlands – a hidden part of our own world, and which most people think exist only in fairytales and nightmares. But all Jones secretly wants to be is an ordinary boy and to leave the magical world forever…

When an ogre hunt goes wrong and Maitland is killed, Jones finally has a chance to find out where he came from. But the truth he uncovers isn’t what he’s expecting and it seems that if Jones is going to make his dream come true he’ll have to defeat a creature not even Maitland had dared take on and he won’t be able to do it alone…

He’s going to need help from Ruby, the first girl he’s ever met. She’s outspoken, fearless and determined to prove she’s as good as any boy, and unlike Jones, being ordinary is the last thing on her mind. Ruby’s desperate to find her place in the world and thinks the Badlands could be it. So, working together isn’t going to be straightforward. In fact, it could be downright dangerous.

But who said getting what you want is supposed to easy, even if it is just wanting to be ordinary?

The story features two young protagonists – Jones desperately wants to be a normal boy, yet since before he can remember 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 one night whilst Jones, as part of his commencement, is making his first kill.  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 along with 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, head-first, 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.

The Boy With One Name was published in August 2017 by Simon and Schuster\

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.

The Black Amulet by J.R.Wallis

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Reunited with his parents, Jones is finally living the ‘normal’ life he’s always wanted.  But, despite leaving the Badlands behind, there’s still magic inside him…

His two friends, Ruby and Thomas Gabriel, are struggling with their new lives too; Thomas Gabriel’s magical abilities are fading away and Ruby is railing she might never be accepted as a ‘proper’ Badlands in a world of monster-hunting run by men.

One thing could help all of them – the Black Amulet, a magical artefact hidden for centuries by the most powerful Badlands that ever lived.  But finding it won’t be easy, and using it even harder, because things are never simple when magic’s involved…

This is a fantastic second Tales From the Badlands.  All three friends are working together to find the Black Amulet but all for very different reasons.

The Black Amulet gives us more insight into both Ruby and Thomas Gabriel.  Both are desperate for their magical difficulties to be resolved and the Amulet offers the solution to those problems.  Yet it has a dark side to it. It is a powerful artefact and can take possession of those who wear it with sometimes deadly consequences.  There are ways to stay remain immune from its effects, however,  the Amulet is constantly working to break down those protections.  Perhaps together, Ruby, Thomas and Jones, can find the way to use it safely to take away all their problems.   Yet how much can you trust your friends?

I love the way the novel highlights how important it is to be true to yourself and that being ‘different’ is good.  This is a great series and The Black Amulet finishes perfectly to continue on in a third book.  I have another wait ahead of me but I have no doubt it will most definitely be worth it.

Another taster…

    ‘But Ruby, I want to be an ordinary boy too and I can’t be that with magic inside me.  It’s not meant to be in the regular world…’

     Ruby leant forward and took his hands in hers.  ‘You can still be both if you want t0.’  Ed looked at her, unsure what she was getting at.  ‘You don’t have to be a regular Badlands.  I won’t be, even if Drewman fixes our Commencement.  I’ll always be a girl.  I’ll be different to other Badlands.  So why can’t you be a different type of Badlands too?’

Review copies 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.

 

Tales Before Bedtime Juniors

Meanwhile over on Tales Before Bedtime Juniors – Time School by Nikki Young – Blog Tour

Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour to celebrate the publication of Time School by Nikki Young. A power cut and a series of mini disasters means friends, Jess, Nadia, Tomma and ash barely make it to the station to catch their train to school. What they find is a far […]

via Time School by Nikki Young – Blog Tour — Tales Before Bedtime Juniors

Fiction, Middle Grade Fiction, Review

A Far Away Magic by Amy Wilson

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.

Suitable for aged 9-11yrs+

Discover more about Amy Wilson here.

Published by Pan Macmillan

Published on 25th January 2018

Christmas 2017, Middle Grade Fiction

Christmas 2017 – Book Advent – Day Five & Six

Day Five & Six

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…

Who Let the Gods Out

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

Simply

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.

Find out more about Chicken House Books here.

And for more great books visit Lovereading4kids.


Middle Grade Fiction

The Boy With One Name by J.R. Wallis

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 Name by 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.