Who would have thought the hit of the World Cup would be an animated stick? Hey Duggee is an animated series for pre-school children. It follows the adventures of the Squirrel Club as they gain badges and explore the outdoor world. The Sticky Stick song featured in a single episode of the programme but has since gained something of a cult following. Millions of views later and a special version was introduced for the World Cup.
Kick Kick Kick Kick
Add some techno-vibes, background chanting and an animated stick and an anthem is born.
Sticky Stick Sticker Book review and giveaway
The lovely people at Penguin Random House sent me some copies of the Sticky Stick Sticker book to review and share with my readers.
The book combines stickers with puzzles, activities and your favourite Hey Duggee characters. There is an added element which would earn a great big WOOF of support from Duggee – as well as the usual sticker activities, the book encourages children to get outside, find a stick and decorate it with their stickers. This would be a lovely activity to share with pre-school children and a great way into nature play for the shy or reluctant.
Great fun was had in the creation of sticky-characters. The stickers didn’t stick perfectly to the real sticks, but this would be a nice introduction to decorating sticks with objects from the garden. An alternative would be to use ice-lolly sticks, or to photograph your sticks before the stickers come off. Why not create a gallery of stick friends?
The stickers peel easily and repeel from the pages without tearing. They are big and solid enough for their young audience. The puzzles and games are pitched at different levels so this would be as friendly to a six-year-old as it would to a smaller child. The suggested age range is 3 years upwards.
If you would like to win a copy of the Sticky Stick sticker book head over to my Twitter. I have FOUR copies for giveaway within the UK and Ireland. Many thanks to Penguin Random House for the opportunity to host this giveaway
‘…Your future had obviously been set in stone long before you fell through the Manor doors. It was as if you were destined to be held accountable for the Night of All Catastrophes.’
(The Cradle Of All Worlds by Jeremy Lachlan. P80.)
Fourteen years ago Jane Doe and her father arrived in Bluehaven on the steps of the Manor – the entrance to a labyrinth which connects many worlds. On the same night, the earthquakes started. Bluehaven has been torn apart and Jane and her father have been despised ever since.
When Jane’s life is endangered, the strongest quake ever hits and the Manor is reopened. Adventurer Winifred Robin takes Jane to the entrance to the labyrinth and tells her to run. There is only one problem – once Jane is in the labyrinth there is no guarantee she will get out. Doors to Otherworlds aren’t wide open and the labyrinth has been colonised by a terrible villain and his army. Jane’s quest begins – she must learn about her past, find her father and save all the worlds.
You need to read this book.
Sometimes a book comes along and you think ‘this is going to be something’. I felt that way when I read Abi Elphinstone’s first novel and I feel this way now. Every part of the adventure kept me hooked and the worldbuilding is stunning.
Did you ever read The Magician’s Nephew? In this old classic the children jump into new worlds through pools of water. The worlds are connected by The Wood Between The Worlds – one of the most memorable yet underexplored settings in fantasy. The Labyrinth in The Cradle Of All Worlds is a similar place – it connects multiple worlds – yet Lachlan has understood its potential as a setting in its own right. Making the doors to the Otherworlds difficult to access turned this setting into something extraordinary. Potentially it is a gateway to anywhere but it is also a trap. Throughout the novel we want to know where Jane will end up. How.
There is a trio of main characters, as in many stories, but the relationships between these characters are not the easily-made friendships which are more usual in children’s fantasy. It is common for a little friction to lead to a deep and trusting bond. Jeremy Lachlan’s characters? There’s friction until the very last page and it works. While friendships are wonderful, I found these frenemies fascinating. We don’t always get along with people in life but that doesn’t mean we can’t work together. I always wondered how this would play out in a saving-the-universe situation.
There is a hint at future F/F romance between two of the lead characters. Yep, a hint. Not explored. Not analysed. Set-up like any romance in any trilogy. It is glorious. I’m rooting for them all the way.
Fantasy villains run the risk of becoming pantomime characters, popping up at random and not really scaring anyone. Roth isn’t like that. He has powers to rival a hundred dementors, powers which hold his villains in a psychological prison. People sense him before they see him. A burn in the throat. An itch on the skin. Bile. The scent of rancid meat. He conceals his real face behind a shiny white mask. If you want a villain who genuinely sends a shiver down your spine, this is the book for you.
When we learn about the creation of this world – no spoilers – it is one of the most compelling creation myths ever written. The past is integral to the future of this story, from the story of creation to the books written by people who have adventured through the Labyrinth and into Otherworlds.
The Jane Doe Chronicles is a masterpiece. An original word, a compelling adventure and a creation story to blow your mind. Prepare to read into the night.
The swot. The fraud. The dutiful daughter. The child star. The fangirl. The asshole. Six teenagers are at the scene when a man collapses in a lift. None of them have the skills necessary to save his life. Although the teenagers come from totally different worlds – and have different aspirations – they recognise the significance of the moment and keep in touch via social media.
The group meets every year on the anniversary of the man’s death. Romances are formed and broken, lives change and change again and the group becomes a larger part of their lives with every passing year.
One Day meets YA-literature in this explosive collaboration.
Floored is one of the most highly anticipated UKYA novel of the year. Written between seven YA authors, the question buzzing around the bookish community is which author wrote which character? Six characters and a narrator. We know that it is one author to one voice. The rest is secret. The buzz this has caused is publicity-gold.
The story follows a group of young people across five years. They come from different walks of life but they discover similarities as well as differences.
One of the things I liked about Floored was its current-day themes. In the wake of Brexit social divisions have become more apparent. Politicians and national publications fail to understand anyone outside the metropolitan elite. Floored captures these attitudes and gives them faces. Joe, who wants to distance himself from the town where aspiration means becoming a supervisor. Hugo, who thinks people without money are lazy scroungers. Floored is a book of its time and it challenges its readers to see past those divisions.
To clarify – this is not a political book. It is not aboutBrexit or Trump or left VS right. It is a book about people. It is about young people in Britain today.
All of the voices are distinctive. I particularly enjoyed the introduction, where we saw how each character had become entrenched in one way of thinking. Joe wants to escape his hometown. Sasha wants her father’s approval. Hugo doesn’t want anything to change – he just wants to trog through the system until he too has a high-flying job. I loved how the characters bounced off one-another, changing each other’s outlook and self-perception.
I have said for years that UKYA needs more books aimed at the oldest end of its (target/marketing) audience. This gap seems to have been noticed and Floored is one of the books which fills that space. It looks at the transition from teenager to young adulthood and the different routes journeys people take.
Did I have strong feelings about the relationships in the novel? I was more interested in the friendships and the trajectories of the individual characters. Dawson’s relationships interested me most because they were so much a part of his self-discovery.
A story about young people redefining themselves. Redefining each-other. I recommend this if you enjoy character-driven fiction or contemporary stories with a large cast.
Yazan is no longer allowed out to the park to play. He isn’t allowed outside at all. He no longer sees his friend next door. The world is changing. His parents stay inside with the news on and the volume turned up. Their fear and worry take over the house like a dark cloud. Meanwhile, Yazan is bored. Will he ever be allowed outside again?
A poignant and sensitive look at the war in Syria from a small child’s perspective.
The brilliant thing about this book is how it tells children enough, but not so much that they will be frightened. Certainly, they will understand that Yazan is frightened. The illustrations make clear that Yazan’s world has turned to a dark place. Blackness shrouds the hallways and strange images appear on the television screen. The genius is not a single one of these images tell children exactly what is happening in Syria. Yazan eventually learns that there is fighting in the streets. Until the fighting stops he will be stuck indoors.
That is enough information for a very small child. Conversely, if the child in question came from a wartorn country, they could apply their own knowledge and use the book to talk about their experiences and emotions. The book isn’t so bright as to make light of the subject but it tackles a difficult subject in a child-friendly manner.
I love the use of colour – Yazan’s home and local area are painted in a sombre pallet to reflect the situation. Everything which brings him joy – his bike, his parents and his memories of outdoors are given a splash of colour. In the final pages, he and his mother paint a pretend park inside the house, bringing joy and colour back to the house.
A book which promotes empathy and gives children a space to ask questions about the more frightening things in the world.
July is an odd month. Summer has barely started and yet it isn’t so long until autumn. At home, we are coming to the end of a three-week heatwave. I have been working in the summer house with the windows wide open and the birds singing in the trees.
The format of this post was inspired by Anne from the wonderful Modern Mrs Darcy. Anyone who hasn’t found this blog needs to get on board ASAP. It is the epitome of all things bookish and it is one of my major blog-crushes. Anne proves that bookish posts can sit alongside lifestyle content.
I want to bring more chatty content to my blog. To tell you what I’ve been up to and to hear from my readers. We learn so much over the course of a month – we learn about ourselves. We learn big, life-changing philosophies. We also learn small things like our latest favourite dessert and book-gossip from the publishing world. What have you learned this month? Let me know in the comments below. I love hearing from you.
Posing is a misleading word
Regular followers might have noticed there are very few pictures of me on either my blog or my social media. While I believe in maintaining a level of privacy, I would love to include more photographs of myself. There is only one problem: I have never found it easy to pose for a photograph. With ambitions to grow my blog, I decided this was something I wanted to overcome.
Several hundred awkward selfies later and I have realised that posing is a misleading word. Tell me to pose and that’s exactly what I’ll do – pull my face into an overdramatic expression. A parody of a smile. Instead of posing for the camera we need to simply be. Be as if the camera isn’t there. How would you smile for your friend? How would you look at a book?
This journey is going to be long-haul but I’ve figured out what’s putting me off.
Kids need reading role models
For the first time in a thousand years, I watched football.
My interest in football is limited to major tournaments, on the occasions when England reach a stage worth talking about. And that’s fine. I have my hobbies, you have yours and we can all get along together.
What’s not fine is sporting personalities bashing readers. Not when the audience includes millions of children. Sporting figures seem happy to put their names to ghost-written fiction. Perhaps they could tell children about the place reading has in their lives. It doesn’t seem too much to ask.
During the World Cup quarter-finals, Martin Keown, former Arsenal defender and BBC co-commentator, told anyone reading a book to ‘get a life’. It’s a sad precedent and the exact opposite of what children need to hear. No, I’m not suggesting we interrupt the football with book trailers, but casual comments like that affirm negative beliefs children hold about literacy. Kids need role models to promote the joys of reading.
Finishing a draft is only the start
I am about to write the immortal words the end under a 40,000-word draft. More than that, this one is worth editing. I already have a list of changes I want to make and I am looking forward to developing the characters. At the moment they are more like sock-puppets. They need fleshing out with characteristics.
The rough draft is finished. Now the hard work begins.
In with the old
New releases are a delight. The biggest change my blog has brought to my reading habits is my reading calendar. I often promote books several months ahead of their release. By the time their release date falls I have heard a lot about the title in question. It’s amazing … but it sometimes comes at the expense of other books on my shelves.
No longer. I have vowed to work in other books even if my blog schedule falls a little behind. This month I have been catching up on Robin Stevens’s Murder Most Unladylike series and I have a mental list of books which I have been staring at for the past eighteen months. It’s time to catch up on my unread novels. My blog will be better for it.
Evanesco is the vanishing spell in Harry Potter. The Lego Company are, once again, about to perform a vanishing spell upon my life savings. Aside from the new Harry Potter sets, a new series of minifigures is set to focus on characters from the Harry Potter universe. The lineup includes figures never before seen in Lego such as Cedric Diggory and Cho Chang. There are also six figures from the Fantastic Beasts franchise, which, as you will find out later this year, rules my world.
My skills as a blind-bag feeler will once again be put to the test.
… if the man in the man is a god, and if he brings the summer, and plucks growing things out of the air and does whatever else a summer god does, what else can he do?
Not superpowers or jewels or fairy palaces. I don’t want those things. My wishes are simple and plain.
Could he make my dad take us back?
Could he bring my mum safe home?
(Season Of Secrets by Sally Nicholls. P60.)
Nothing has been the same since Molly’s Mum died. She and her sister have been sent to Hexham to live with their Grandparents because Dad can’t cope with children right now. One stormy night, Molly sees a desperate man running from a pack of hounds. Who is the man and why is he being chased? Why is it that Molly can see him but nobody else can?
A story of grief and mending meets an ancient legend in this beautiful novel.
Ancient folklore meets a modern story of grief in this haunting and lyrical novel. Season Of Secrets reminded me in so many ways of Skellig – both are stories of one person coming to terms with a difficult situation. Both involve an encounter with an otherworldly figure. Both show an exceptional command for the musicality of words.
Folklore is one of my interests and Season Of Secrets weaves an ancient story with modern day in a way which reminded me of some of my favourite novels – The Owl Service, The Dark Is Rising, Long Lankin and Midwinterblood. The Holly King and the Oak King battle for supremacy. Their battle plays out across the year. It is the story of life and death, birth and renewal. Molly learns the truth about their battle as she deals with her grief.
The story is set in Hexham, a town on the Border between England and Scotland. It is unusual to see stories set in the borders, let alone stories with such a specific location. I love it when books are set in specific regions of the UK. Too many books have a generic setting (middle-class south-east suburbia) and it delights me when books break that mold – particularly books written before the clamour for representation which has come in the past couple of years.
I have Sally Nicholls’s latest novel on my TBR and I can’t wait to dive in. Season Of Secrets has given me a whole new author to explore and I can’t wait to explore her other novels. Thanks to Amy from GoldenBooksGirl for the recommendation.
Author Pippa Goodhart talks about bookish characters in an amazing guest-post.
When one of Bill’s experiments goes badly wrong, and his father loses his job, Bill sets out to make money selling fossils. He finds something amazing, something which might make him a fortune, but is the world ready for the questions raised by Bill’s discovery?
I delighted to have Pippa Goodhart on the blog to talk about bookish characters and Bill’s thirst for knowledge. Thank-you Pippa for your time.
The Facts Behind the Fiction
By Pippa Goodhart
How is it that spiders know how to build complex webs, but flies don’t know to avoid those web traps? Why is the earth layered into different kinds of soil as you dig downwards? Why are there so many fossils of sea creatures found so very many miles from the sea? How can there be rhino fossils in an island nation thousands of miles from Africa? What happened to the dinosaurs and other ancient creatures which are no longer around?
My story’s main character, eleven-year-old Bill, wants to find answers to all sorts of questions. His nurseryman father has some answers, and, like Bill, enjoys chasing those questions with ideas. But then Bill meets young academic Robert Seeley, real-life assistant to the great Victorian professor of geology at Cambridge University, Professor Sedgwick, and the world of research into scientific and theological matters opens to him.
Bill is also trying to work out answers to the questions he has about himself and his family.
There are so many stories in which the main character is bookish in a literary way, meaning stories and poetry rather than books about how things work. That’s perhaps not surprising when those who write books are naturally bookish and sympathetic to such interests. But the world is full of so many different kinds of interest, and actually fiction can be a very effective way of imparting knowledge and enthusing interest in science and history and so much more. I’ve always loved stories which give practical information about things which are new to me. I reckon I could just about build a log cabin and tap maple trees for syrup to be boiled into molasses from my reading of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books!
I am not an expert on pre-history or fossils, but I knew the questions I wanted answers to, and I hope they are questions that readers will also want answers to. Because those answers come in the form of fairly brief conversations within the developing personal story of Bill’s life, they are necessarily brief and, I hope, accessible. I had advice from the Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge which holds the fossils used in my story, just to be sure I wasn’t getting the historical and scientific side of things wrong.
My hope is that, as well as enjoying the up personal and who-dun-it mystery sides of this book, children will also pick up Bill’s habit of really noticing and questioning the world they live in. As Dad says,
It turns out that the biggest question of all in this story is about Bill himself.
The Great Sea Dragon Discovery by Pippa Goodhart out now in paperback (£6.99, Catnip)