Tales Before Bedtime Juniors – Celebrating Books for Children 2019

 


Meet the Penguins by Mike Brownlow

Meet the penguins! They really want to make some new friends.

But does anyone want to play?

When two penguins arrive from a faraway place and want to make friends, the other animals do not want to play with them. If only they would give the penguins a chance, they might discover how wonderful they really are!

A funny story about welcoming others – brilliantly written and illustrated by best-selling author of Ten Little Superheroes, Mike Brownlow.

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These little penguins are SO ADORABLE!  and yet it would seem that no-one wants to play with them.  Everyone they meet is rather unwelcoming and are either too busy, too concerned about mess, think they won’t understand or simply don’t even see them.  As the story progresses our little penguins become more and more downhearted.  Will there ever find someone to play with?

The illustrations are beautiful, bold and colourful. They are delightfully funny (I especially love the giraffe!) and there is much to discuss on each page.  The story also raises plenty of questions to ask of our young readers and reminds us (even us adults) that saying yes and making time for others can lead to lots of fun with new and old friends.  It’s a great story to share and also to help children begin to look at word formation and recognition with repetition and just a small amount of text on each page.

Meet The Penguins has been published by Oxford University Press and is now available from all good bookshops.

You can follow Oxford University Press on Twitter at @OUPChildrens

About the author

Mike Brownlow

Now I first discovered Mike through one of his first books Little Robots which went on to become an animated show on CBeebies, with the voice talents of Lenry Henry, Sue Perkins, Mel Giedroyc,  Martin Clunes, Emma Chambers and Su Pollard.  You can read more about this on Mike’s website here.  My son and I absolutely loved watching these funny little robots.

He has written many books to share with young book lovers and contributed Ten Little Bookworms to the selection of World Book Titles on offer this year. He understands how important it to learn to read and his books help us to instil a love of books from a very early age. Everything changes when we learn to read. We learn empathy, gain knowledge and nourish the imagination. It’s how minds connect and people understand each other. We need literate citizens more than ever.’ – Mike Brownlow

Find out more about Mike Brownlow by visiting his website here.

You can follows him on Twitter at @mikebrownlow1


The Royal Rabbits of London: The Great Diamond Chase by Santa Montefiore, Simon Sebag Montefiore and Illustrated by Kate Hindley

The biggest, most beautiful diamond in the world has been stolen from Buckingham Palace! Shylo and the brave Royal Rabbits of London will do whatever it takes to crack the case and return the jewel to its rightful place.

Then they discover that Russia’s elite sharp-toothed secret-agent minks are in London. Could they have anything to do with the theft? But nothing is quite what it seems, and the Royal rabbits soon realise they might need a bit of help from an old friend to solve this mystery.

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This is the third in The Royal Rabbits of London series and if you are still yet to discover these brave, regal rabbits then boy are you in for a treat. They will hop their way into your hearts and you now have three fantastic tales to catch up on.

Now, you may think that the Royal family is under the protection of the Secret Service and the Royal Guard. But what you may not be aware of is that there is also a team of brave rabbits watching over them. The Royal Rabbits of London are a ‘secret society devoted to protecting the Royal Family and evil across the world.’

These books are fun and full of adventure, with characters you and your young readers will fall in love with. These little rabbits teach us about courage, loyalty, doing what you feel is right, and the importance of believing in yourself – even when you do make mistakes.

Beautifully illustrated throughout and just perfect to share or for confident young readers to read alone.

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Shylo and Horatio crept outside to sit beneath the Weeping Willow.

 

About the authors

Santa Montefiore

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Photo taken by Elaine Fattal and sourced from the Simon and Schuster website.

Santa Montefiore’s books have been translated into more than twenty-five languages and have sold more than six million copies in England and Europe. She is married to writer Simon Sebag Montefiore. They live with their two children, Lily and Sasha, in London. Visit her at SantaMontefiore.co.uk. You can also follow Santa on Twitter at @SantaMontefiore.

 

Simon Sebag Montefiore

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Photo taken by Ian Jones and sourced from the Simon and Schuster website.

Simon Sebag Montefiore’s bestselling and prize-winning books are now published in over forty-five languages. His new book The Romanovs: 1613–1918 has been universally acclaimed and is already a bestseller in the UK, Australia, and the USA where it was on the New York Times bestseller list for eight weeks. Montefiore has won literary prizes for both fiction and nonfiction. His latest novel, One Night in Winter won the Best Political Novel of the Year Prize and was longlisted for the Orwell Prize. He is now writing the third novel in this trilogy.

Follow Simon on Twitter at @SimonMontefiore. For more information visit SimonSebagMontefiore.com .

About the Illustrator

Kate Hindley

Kate Hindley is an illustrator who graduated from Falmouth School of Art in 2008. Kate lives in Worcestershire.You can follow Kate on Twitter at @hindleyillos.  For more information visit KateHindley.com

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The Royal Rabbits series is published by Simon and Schuster AND there is a 4th adventure coming this Autumn!  I am very excited about that. You can follow Simon and Schuster on Twitter at @simonkids_uk


The Pooka Party by Shona Shirley Macdonald

How do you get in trouble with the moon?

Throw a great big Pooka party!

High in the mountains lives a magical creature called: The Pooka.  The Pooka loves living there on its own and spends its time singing, gardening, dancing and reading.

One day The Pooka realises, it feels a bit lonely and misses its friends.

So decides to invite everyone to a great big party with music and cake!

Deer Fellow Beeings,

I invite yoo to a

Pooka party, ther

Will be mOOsic

And lotz of cake.

Address: By the

waterfall and near

the hOOj bowlder.

Time: Midnite.

Will anyone turn up?

Or will everyone turn up?

Come to the Pooka Party and find out what happens!

A magical and beautifully illustrated story about loneliness and the power of friendship, by highly acclaimed illustrator, Shona Shirley Macdonald.

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This such a cute book.  I absolutely adore The Pooka.  He reminded me a little of myself.  Those of us that like to spend time alone often get into the habit rather easily and then eventually we realise that it’s actually rather nice to see friends and this is exactly how The Pooka feels.  Even though he spends his time doing all the things he likes he gets lonely and misses his friends.  So he decides to have a party but has he left it too long?  Will they come?  A really lovely story that it super to read aloud and is full of fascinating and stunning illustrations that will give you plenty to talk about.

And if you’re wondering what The Pooka is…

The Pooka

The Pooka or púca (Irish for ghost) is a creature of Celtic folklore.  It is considered to be a bringer of both good and bad fortune and is said to enjoy creating havoc and mischief.  The Pooka, who usually lives in the mountains and hills, is a shapeshifter and can take any form it chooses: dog, rabbit, goat, horse, hare and even human form.

The Pooka Party was published by The O’Brien Press in hardback last year.

Thank you so much to the lovely people at The O’Brien Press for sharing this wonderful book with me.  It’s been a pleasure to read and share.

About the author/illustrator

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Shona Shirley Macdonald is a Scottish author/illustrator based in County Waterford.  Her published illustration includes The Moon Spun Round: W.B. Yeats for Children, edited by Noreen Doody, published by The O’Brien Press in 2016, Rita Kelly’s poetry retrospective Turas go Bun na Spéire and two Scottish Gaelic graphic novels, Cuir Stad air an Stoirm Shnaechda and An Smutag Ghaisgeil.  Her projects range from publications of poetry and fiction to concept artwork for theatre.


Pencil Dog written and illustrated by Leigh Hodgkinson

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Now to share something for our younger book lovers. Pencil Dog is a stunningly illustrated picture book about ‘memory, remembrance, and how those who live on in us.’

With Pencil Dog ANYTHING is possible.

We have adventures together.

But I’ve noticed he’s getting smaller.

What if,

one day,

he disappears…?

A moving and inventive celebration of friendship and imagination from author-illustrator and co-creator of acclaimed TV series Olobob Top.

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Oh but this is SUCH a beautifully illustrated and charming story.  Full of bright colours, the warm and friendly art work make this an absolute delight to share with young book lovers.  The story is a gentle tale showing us that although loss can make us sad, there is still always something left behind of the people or things we miss.   Pencil dog fills this little girls life with fun, adventure and friendship and it’s hard when he disappears.  However she soon discovers that he is still there with her in other ways.  I love the way Leigh has used something relatable in Pencil Dog without causing too much distress or worry for our young readers.  A lovely, tender story filled with friendship, adventure and memories.

About the Author

Leigh Hodgkinson graduated from the University of Hull in 1998 with a first in graphic design. She went on to study Animation Direction at the National Film and Television School where she made two short animated films, Excess Baggage and Novelty. Novelty toured the world at festivals bringing home numerous awards. She is passionate about writing, making things and daydreaming.

Her picture books include Colin and the Snoozebox, Limelight Larry and Scrummy! She also co-created the hit CBeebie’s children’s television programme Olobob Top. Leigh lives and works in Lewis with her husband, animator Steve Smith, and their two young children,

Pencil Dog was published by Simon and Schuster in hardback on 7th February 2019 with the paperback edition following soon on the 13th June 2019.


Winnie and Wilbur by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul

Oh, how I love Winnie and Wilbur. I discovered them when my son was small and now he’s much bigger I still love reading them (I think he has a sneaky peek too).

The partnership between Valerie’s words and Korky’s illustrations works incredibly well. Korky’s rather stunning art work brings her characters and words alive. His illustrations are filled with humour and there is so much to look at, discuss and chuckle over on each and every page.

Some years back now, I saw him at a literary festival. He held the children captive and had both them and the adults in fits of laughter as he chatted and drew Winnie and Wilbur before our very eyes. It was incredibly memorable. I love his attention to detail and it never fails to amaze me when I look through the books. Winnie always looks rather wonderful in a swimsuit to my mind and her party dress in Happy Birthday, Winnie, is particularly marvellous

There are lots of books to choose from if you are new to these curious, charming characters but the latest offerings are a great place to start. They are just wonderful and I heartedly recommend them.

Winnie and Wilbur: The Monster Mystery

Winnie and Wilbur decide to explore

the MYSTERIOUS forest that surrounds

their home. They want to discover just

who has been leaving the STRANGE

FOOTPRINTS on their lawn. Their foray into the

FOREST is just the start of a WILD and WOODED

drama but will they solve the MYSTERY?

IT’S A PUZZLING

WINNIE AND WILBUR

ADVENTURE!

Here are THREE SPELLBINDING

WINNIE AND WILBUR

BOOKS IN ONE!

Winnie and Wilbur make every day

SPECIAL! An outing to the museum

turns into a DINOSAUR discovery,

they use MAGIC to make a birthday

party EXTRAORDINARY, and when they

fly over a ruined CASTLE it’s the start

of a thrilling day of MEDIEVAL mayhem.

Both books were published by Oxford University Press in paperback on 7th March 2019.


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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On The Come Up by Angie Thomas

The award-winning author of The Hate U Give returns with a powerful story about hip hop, freedom of speech – and fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you.

Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. As the daughter of an underground hip hop legend who died right before he hit big, Bri’s got massive shoes to fill. But when her first song goes viral for all the wrong reasons, Bri finds herself at the centre of controversy and portrayed by the media as more menace than MC. And with an eviction notice staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it – she has to. Even if it means becoming the very thing the public has made her out to be.

Angie Thomas has created quite a stir in the world of YA fiction, hard-hitting with characters and situations many young people can relate to. Her first novel The Hate You Give was a book picked off the library shelves time and time again.

Nominated for awards and adapted for the big screen it’s certainly a lot to live up to but I think On The Come Up can certainly hold it’s own. It’s smart and very readable making it suitable for even reluctant readers. Give them a story that will grip them, excite and move them and they won’t be able to put it down. I can’t wait to share it with my young adult readers.

On The Come Up is published today by Walker Books.


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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