blog tour · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: When It Rains by Rassi Narika

Review: When It Rains by Rassi Narika

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Why does it rain? There are so many things you can’t do when it rains. 

Kira watches miserably as rain pours down the windowsill. It isn’t fair. She’ll have to wear her heaviest clothing, there won’t be anybody outside to play with and if she takes her books outside they will get squished to a pulp. She’s certain there can’t be anything good about rainy days. Then her friends Ana and Ilo come to play, and what started out as a boring day turns into a wet weather adventure. 

A beautiful story about perspective and finding an upside to bad weather. 

Jumping in puddles, watching duckling splashing about and seeing everybody’s bright umbrellas from a high-up window. The rain has a bad reputation, and to little children especially it can mean getting stuck indoors. Remember wet break? Or being called inside to avoid catching a chill? Sometimes I think the dangers of rain are a myth handed down from one generation to another. There is so much to do and see on a mild or even moderately wet day, and allowing children to play in the rain sets them up to carry on in all weathers later in life. 

A gentle narrative begins with questions, building a sense of disappointment, which is slowly replaced with wonder and happiness. This isn’t a story about overawing discoveries, but about the inner joy which can come from spending time observing nature and the outdoors with a group of friends. As well as being a great book to share with young readers, it would make a lovely introduction to study of the early Romantic poets whose ideas about joy and the outdoors were in line with this story. 

Pale watercolour and line illustrations evoke the rain as much as the words. It seems in places as if the rainwater has dripped on to the page, but instead of spoiling it, it has created beautiful textures. Bursts of bright colour such as the umbrellas and raincoats bring joy into the pale pictures. 

This story was translated from Indonesian by Ikhda Ayuning Maharsi Degoul. Reading children’s books in translation is a joy, and I think it is pivotal for readers to see words and ideas from other cultures from an early age. Even something as simple as seeing different words for ‘mother’ and ‘father’ opens up the concept of other cultures and languages and encourages young readers to ask big questions about what lives might be like in a country other than their own. 

A beautiful book which captures that early childhood interest in the outdoors, and openness to new ideas. 

 

Thanks to The Emma Press for my gifted copy of When It Rains. Opinions my own.

 

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blog tour

Blog Tour: Kingsbane by Claire Legrand

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About Kingsbane. 

Sun Queen Rielle is touring the kingdom when a request for help arrives from a neighbouring kingdom. Upon investigation, it turns out Rielle is the only person who can help. The Gate which keeps most of the angels at bay is falling. To repair it, Rielle must collect the hidden castings of the saints who constructed the gate. The castings are hidden across the kingdom.

She must also overcome the temptations of angel Corien.

Centuries later, Sun Queen Eliana fears corruption and becoming another Rielle. Eliana is supposed to be humanity’s saviour, yet she is the daughter of the woman who put the world in peril. As Eliana grapples with her identity, her friend Navi is in increasing danger. Her transformation into a crawler is progressing.

Eliana learns of a way to help Navi, but she will only be able to do it if she takes ownership of her powers.

Kingsbane second book in an epic fantasy trilogy. Think big world, big plot and a huge number of questions.

As in the first book, the story is told in a dual narrative. Rielle lives in a time of magic. The angels who have been held at bay are breaking through into the world. Rielle is succumbing to the temptations of the Angel Corien and her actions will lead to downfall.

Eliana lives centuries later when magic is viewed as a myth and Angels are in control of the world. Without any spoilers, her mother’s legacy is such that Eliana is uncertain whether she can be the person to save the world. 

The worldbuilding is as complex and believable as any fantasy I’ve read and I love Eliana’s unique perspective. Living in a time when the story of Rielle is a legend, you would think Eliana has an advantage, but her personal backstory and ties leave her unable to see past that legacy. 

Although the story is dark, there are strong romances and friendships which keep us invested in the characters. 

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Giveaway:

Thanks to the lovely people at Midas PR, I have a copy of Kingsbane to giveaway. Check out my Twitter page for more information. UK and Ireland only. Giveaway ends at 11.59pm 28.05.2019. 

 

Thanks to Midas PR for my ARC of Kingsbane. Opinions my own. 

 

 

 

blog tour · Q & A · Q and A/Author Interview

Blog Tour: Q&A with Kathryn Evans, author of Beauty Sleep.

Blog Tour: Q&A with Kathryn Evans, author of Beauty Sleep

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About Beauty Sleep

What happens when you wake up and find that forty years have passed? Do all sleeping beauties live happily ever after?

9781474954877-beauty-sleep-fc-wipIt was supposed to be the perfect solution. Laura was dying. The only chance to save her was to freeze her until medical science progressed enough for her to be cured. 

How would it really feel to wake up and find that forty years have passed? Laura not only deals with the trauma of building a new life. She is left with the mystery of her old one. 

If teenagers being frozen in time sounds like the stuff of sci-fi, you’ve missed the news stories about cryonics. It is now possible – for a large fee – for a body or a brain to be preserved until such time as the condition which killed it can be cured. There is no evidence that this will be certain. However, in 2016, a teenage girl’s dying wishes to have her body preserved made headlines. 

These kind of news stories open up a whole series of ‘what ifs’ which lead to stories. What if a girl in a similar situation didn’t know who she had been? What if some of her family were still alive? 

The questions raised about the ethics of the companies offering these services also provide rich material for storytellers.

I was delighted to be offered an opportunity to ask Kathryn Evans some questions and her answers have made me desperate to finish the book. Thanks to Kathryn for your time, and to Jessica at Usbourne for arranging this opportunity. 

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Q&A with Kathryn Evans

Was your story inspired more by Sleeping Beauty or by scientific progress?

I guess its scientific progress – I wanted to tell a story that looked at how change in modern life impacts on young people. By having Laura traverse two time periods while she was still a teenager, I was able to do that in a unique way. Cryogenics and the Sleeping Beauty story are just an obvious fit to me.

 

 How did you research Laura’s experience of returning to society forty years from when she went to sleep?

Have any real-life experiences come close to this? I did a lot of research into amnesia but there really wasn’t anything comparable to Laura’s experience. There are stories about people recovering from comas but their lives after the miracle of recovery are rarely documented in the public sphere. I used my own experience of the 1980’s and projected how I’d feel if I hadn’t lived through all the changes that have happened but was suddenly presented with them.

 

How do you imagine being a teenager at the point of going to sleep would shape Laura’s experience?

As a teenager, you expect to have your whole life ahead of you and suddenly, that door closes, and you don’t have any idea if you’ll survive beyond the next hour. It was so sad writing those scenes – not just because of Laura’s fears for herself but her for her little brother too. The one thing she did have was hope – hope that they’d be woken up. As she says, it was that, or die.

 

Fairy tales often have a darker element to the story. What is the darker side of Beauty Sleep?

Without any spoilers? That’s a hard one to answer – let’s just say I thought a lot about how good citizens could stand by in a holocaust and watch their friends and neighbours be victimised. About how we can ignore the harm that comes to others for our own benefit as long as we don’t have to see it in front of us. About how easily we learn to ignore the suffering of others if it’s an inconvenience to us.

 

With the chance to live again, Laura loses her old life. How much of our identity is formed by the people and places around us?

It’s everything – she’s suddenly rootless but she learns that to throw down new roots and that some of those tap into memories. Memory is a powerful way to hold onto people you’ve physically lost.

 

Aside from personal things like family and friends, what would you miss most if you woke up in the future? 

Aside from friends and family, it would depend on the world I woke up in. In a world without books, it would be books. In a world ravaged by disease, it’d be antibiotics. In a world with a climate damaged beyond repair it would be balmy spring days and birds singing and polar bears on ice caps. This is the problem with asking a writer a ‘what if’ kind of question, my brain is now in overdrive!

 

Q&A arranged as part of a promotional blog tour. Opinions my own. Thanks to Usborne Books for arranging this and for sending a copy of the book.

blog tour · Guest Post · Non-Fiction

Blog Tour: Ocean by Sabrina Weiss and Giulia De Amicis

Blog Tour: Ocean by Sabrina Weiss and Giulia De Amicis

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About Ocean – Secrets Of The Deep. 

Have you ever wondered what lies beneath the ocean? 

With new technologies, scientists are learning more about the watery world every day. And what a world it is, with coral reefs and kelp forests and zones so deep that only four humans have ever explored them before. 

Written by science communicator Sabrina Weiss and illustrated with graphics from Giulia De Amicis, this volume is packed with facts and information about the oceans. 

As part of the blog tour to celebrate the book’s release, Sabrina Weiss has written a guest post about manatees, the stunning animals who inspired legends of mermaids.  

A huge thanks to Sabrina for your time. 

 

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Swimming with the animals that inspired the mermaid myths

By Sabrina Weiss

I have always had a love for the marine world and learned to scuba dive at the age of 11. I have since travelled extensively across the world and dived in various places: from Mexico and Colombia, to Eastern Africa, the Red Sea, and Southeast Asia. But it was a recent trip to northern Florida that gave me a glimpse into the lives of one of the most elusive marine creatures.

During the winter months, large numbers of manatees gather in the Three Sisters Springs to relax and keep warm. The water in this lagoon is crystal clear so it was easy to float on the surface and watch them go about their daily lives. Some of the calves, which are born at an astonishing 30kg or so, are curious by nature and will often initiate playful interactions with snorkellers.

 

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Manatee in Three Sisters Springs, Florida © Sabrina Weiss

 

Manatees are the only vegetarian marine mammals (along with their cousins, the dugongs). They love to graze on fields of seagrass and algae. And they need lots of it to grow to 400 kg in weight. Their short, paddle-shaped flippers and horizontal tail fluke help them to power through the water, at a comparably slow 5-8 km per hour, although they can go faster in short bursts.

Manatees are sometimes called sea cows, but their closest relatives on land are actually the elephant and hyrax (a small rodent-like mammal). What is even more extraordinary about these slow, bulky animals is their history. On his voyage to what is now the Dominican Republic, the explorer Christopher Columbus supposedly saw three mermaids from his ship. In his journal, Columbus described the mythical creatures as ‘not half as beautiful as they are painted’, and historians believe that he actually mistook manatees for mermaids.

 

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Manatee mother and calf in Three Sisters Springs, Florida © Sabrina Weiss

 

That was reason enough for us to include this amazing animal in our OCEAN: Secrets of the Deep book. As well as beautiful illustrations of mermaids and manatees, we tell the tale of the fearsome Kraken: a ferocious, tentacled beast that was believed to pull ships down to the murky depths of the seabed and devour the sailors on board. Young adventurers will also enjoy our map that explores the possible locations of the legendary lost civilisation of Atlantis. Scientists are still scouring the ocean floor, from the Mediterranean to the North Sea and even the Caribbean but are yet to find evidence of this peaceful utopia.

OCEAN: Secrets of the Deep by Sabrina Weiss, illustrated by Giulia De Amicis (£14.99, What on Earth Books)

Follow Sabrina on twitter @sabrinamweiss and Giulia @giulia_de_amicis

Find out more at www.whatonearthbooks.com

 

Thanks to Laura Smythe PR and What On Earth Books for my gifted copy of OCEAN: Secrets of the Deep. Opinions my own.

blog tour

Blog Tour: Tigeropolis – Caught In The Trap by R. D. Dikstra

Blog Tour: Tigeropolis – Caught In The Trap by R. D. Dikstra

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About the Tigeropolis series:

Tigeropolis follows the adventures of a family of tigers in the foothills of the Himalayas. The series begins with the tigers, who have lived sheltered lives away from sight, realise that unless they make an appearance, nobody would take interest in saving their beautiful forest home. 

Once they are out in the public eye again, the tigers relearn how to act wild and negotiate matters so that they are running things without the humans realising. A thriving Tigeropolois is formed. 

Book three sees the tigers facing a new and deadly threat  – poachers. 

Tigeropolis – Caught In A Trap

When tiger cubs Bittu and Matti are out playing they come across a metal trap on the ground. It is the first sign of poachers who would threaten the peace of Tigeropolis. 

The tigers make a plan, but if they are going to outwit a gang of hardened criminals, they will need to join together with other animals and use all their knowledge of the local area. 

With strong themes of conservation, wildlife protection and extinction running through the series, these books are extremely topical and hit on important themes. Although they are shorter reads with cartoon-like illustrations, the threat posed by the poachers is sufficient that these books would be better suited to older middle-grade readers (9 plus). 

What makes the books stand out is their authentic representation of Indian culture. Books set in the jungles around the Himalayas have in the past had an anglicised version of Indian culture, but these are more realistic and up to date. 

The cheeky cubs and their extended family make what could have been a difficult theme into a fun adventure. If you are looing for stories which touch on themes of conservation these would be a great place to start. 

 

Thanks to Literally PR and Belle Media for my copy of Tigeropolis – Caught In A Trap. Opinions my own.

blog tour · Middle Grade Reviews

Blog Tour: The Great Animal Escapade by Jane Kerr

Blog Tour: The Great Animal Escapade by Jane Kerr

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Extract:

Mr Jameson sounded like a man worried about his business. About the money he would lose if anything went wrong. 

(The Great Animal Escapade by Jane Kerr. P42). 

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Synopsis:

Danny has settled into his new home at Belle Vue Zoo and he loves working with the animals and living with the Jamesons. Not everybody is so impressed with the zoo. The Reverend Eustace Threlfall campaigns for the zoo’s closure, and when the animals start escaping, it only gives credibility to his campaign. Danny discovers that the locks have been broken on purpose and he comes under suspicion himself as the boy who once lived on the streets.

Meanwhile, Danny’s father has returned and the news reaches the park that gang leader Frank Scatcherd has broken out of prison.

Can Danny untangle the mystery of the animal escapade, or is it time to move on from Belle Vue and the people he thought were his friends?

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Review:

Jane Kerr’s debut in 2017, The Elephant Thief, remains one of my favourite books which have reviewed for BookMurmuration. (It was also one of the earliest and published before I moved to WordPress). I was delighted to hear about the sequel and had high expectations. I am delighted to say the second book lived up to the first.

Danny may have settled into his new home, but his past as an orphan on the streets of Edinburgh hangs over him like a shadow. He has lived with the Jamesons but they have never officially adopted him and suspicion still falls on Danny faster than it does on other people. Added to that is the uncertainty about his past. Who his parents are and where he belongs. This informs his character and the question set up in the early part of the story is whether Danny belongs at Belle Vue.

As in the first book, we desperately want things to work out for Danny. His heart is in the right place. He cares for the animals in the park. In the first book, we were firmly on the side of Belle Vue over its cruel competitor, but this book acknowledges that even the best entertainment parks still paved the way for animals to be brought to the UK away from their natural habitats and treated as a source of entertainment. Danny sees beyond that, caring for the animal’s needs and seeing through to their different personalities. He is also a great friend to Hetty, who is having difficulties of her own.

With the Reverend outside the walls of park stirring up distrust and fear and the man who introduces himself as Danny’s father first creeping around at night, there is a dark tone to the mystery. As in book one, we don’t get a handle on everyone’s motives straight away and that makes the outcome more satisfying.

This could be read as a standalone – you don’t need to understand anything more than that Danny came to the park after life on the streets where a gang ruled – but I would recommend reading book one first. Aside from anything else, that is double the adventure but it also shows how Danny came to bond with Maharajah and Hetty.

A lovely return to a favourite fictional world and an insightful look at the zoos and entertainment scene of the 1800s.

 

The Great Animal Escapade by Jane Kerr is available now from Chicken House Books (Paperback, £6.99).

Thanks to Laura Smythe PR and Chicken House Books for my gifted copy. Opinions my own.

blog tour · Young Adult Reviews

Blog Tour: Alice Oseman shares her experience of illustrating a story for the Proud anthology.

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Blog Tour: Alice Oseman shares her experience of illustrating a story for the Proud anthology.

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Alice Oseman on Illustrating ‘Penguins’

While I’ve been drawing my own characters and comics for years, I’d never tried illustrating someone else’s story until Proud. I was so excited to be invited to illustrate one of the many incredible stories in Juno Dawson’s LGBTQ+ anthology and was even more excited to discover I’d be illustrating Simon James Green’s story, ‘Penguins’, having read and loved Simon’s Noah Can’t Even duology.

The first thing I did was read Simon’s story without thinking too much about how I’d illustrate it. I, of course, loved it! After that, I read it again, this time much more carefully, thinking about which parts would make a good illustration and what sorts of images could properly express the feelings of the story. It’s such a sweet, romantic, adorkable story that I quickly decided that I had to draw the two main characters, Cam and Aaron, and I knew that would suit my own strengths too, as my artwork is mostly characters and cartoons.

I spent a couple of days trying out some sketches. I highlighted the parts of the story that revealed little bits about the boys’ physical appearances, but mostly I was left to my imagination, so I tried to capture their personalities – Cam’s awkwardness and Aaron’s shyness!

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After that, I sketched out a couple of composition ideas. I knew I wanted to create a comic page, as that’s what I love drawing above all things, and I had decided that I wanted to draw the kiss at the end of the story, as that was my favourite part, and I suspected would be many readers’ favourite part.

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Once I’d decided on my final composition, I got to work drawing it with my graphics tablet into Photoshop. I spent a few days working on it and I’m so happy with the result. And it’s incredibly exciting to see my illustration in a book!

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A huge thanks to Alice Oseman for your time and for sharing your sketches.

Many thanks to Charlie from Stripes Publishing for arranging this opportunity as part of a promotional blog tour.