Guest Post

Blog Tour: Author Content – Pages & Co by Anna James

Pages & Co by Anna James – blog tour. 

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Pages & Co was one of my favourite reads this summer. It is a magical middle-grade story which will by loved and enjoyed by all bookish people. The story follows a girl with the magical ability to wander inside books. 

I am delighted to welcome Anna James to BookMurmuration to talk about the books which made her an avid reader. bird

Children’s Books That Made Me The Person I Am Today – reccomendations from author Anna James 

 I imagine that anyone reading this is built of books. I dread to think of who I would be if you took everything I’ve learned or felt because of a book I’ve read, I worry there wouldn’t be much left. In Pages & Co, my heroine Tilly feels much the same, so much so that she struggles to relate to real people outside of the bookshop that she lives in. When characters from her favourite books start popping up, she thinks she’s found the friends she needs, but of course real life is still waiting.

Yesterday I wrote about my top ten children’s classics over on a Day Dreamer’s Thoughts. All of those books were hugely formative for me, but I’ve resisted the urge to repeat any (Anne of Green Gables in particular!) to choose some more modern books that had a big impact on me growing up. From the super famous to the out of print, these are the five books that have most impacted me as a reader, a writer and a person.

 

Favourite books from childhood –

–          Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones

“And it’s a pity too that I’ve no right to open your letters. I hope you don’t get many, or my conscience will give me no peace.”

If I had to name one writer that has had the biggest impact on me it would be Diana Wynne Jones. She’s written a lot of books and I think I’ve read most of them. She’s probably best known for Howl’s Moving Castle because of the Studio Ghibli film, but in my mind the Chrestomanci series is her best. They’re a bit of a Narnia situation, i.e. do you read them in the order they were written, or chronologically in terms of in-world timing, but I would recommend starting with Charmed Life. Quirky, funny and clever, it’s storytelling at its absolute best. With her worlds within worlds, playfulness with genre and tropes, and stories of finding yourself, Wynne taught me all the foundations of the things I love to read and write.   

 

–          Back Home by Michelle Magorian

“Come on,’ said Peggy. ‘You’ll have to come with me. I need you to show me the way.”

Michelle Magorian wrote the beloved Goodnight Mr Tom (which I’ve somehow never read) but my heart lies with Back Home, the story of Virginia, nicknamed Rusty for her red hair (I can’t resist ginger heroine as a redhead myself) who is returning to England after her evacuation to the US during the Second World War. She comes back to a country and a family she barely understands and struggles to fit in at home or at the strict boarding school she’s sent to. It’s a story of hope, bravery, family and being true to yourself. If you’re already a fan, I recently read Hilary McKay’s The Skylarks’ War and it took me right back to how I felt reading Back Home.

 

–          Momo by Michael Ende

“Those who still think that listening isn’t an art should see if they can do it half as well.”

Another book where the author is better known for a different title, you might have heard of Ende as the writer of The Neverending Story, but he also wrote another book about the power of storytelling about an orphan called Momo. It’s sometimes also published as The Grey Gentlemen, who are the villains of the piece and inveigle their way into Momo’s town and start to steal the people’s time. This is one of my Dad’s favourite books, and I came to it through his version which is printed in brown ink with amazing illustrations. It’s a trippy, weird, profound book about how we use our time, and what is really important in life, and the grey gentlemen were big inspiration for me creating Enoch Chalk, the villain in Pages & Co. His grey bowler hat is a nod to them.

 

–          Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

“You cannot change what you are, only what you do.”

From some slightly more obscure titles to one of the most famous books of recent decades. I was bought Northern Lights for Christmas by my Grandad when I was about nine or ten and I fell in love. My Grandad, and the way he chose books for me and my sister, hugely inspired Tilly’s Grandad. He died when I was at university, but I hope that in Tilly’s Grandad he exists still in some way. His Dark Materials is also the series that made me aware of publishing, because I had to wait for the third book in the series. I remember going into my local Waterstones every time I passed to ask if they knew when it was going to be available. As well as being brilliant stories, these books taught me about challenging corrupt authority, standing up for what is right, and showed me the power of being your own heroine, something that is at the heart of Tilly’s story too.

 

–          They Do Things Differently There by Jan Mark

“We have to be careful from now on,’ Elaine said. ‘In a minute we’ll be back where we started. If we’re going to disappear, this is where it happens.”

It is an absolute travesty that this book, first published in 1994, is out of print (I think I am going to have to petition my publisher to buy the rights and reissue it). It’s one of the weirdest, most wonderful books I’ve ever read, and my childhood copy (whose RRP is £3.50!) is very worn from how much I read it. Arguably a UKYA novel before UKYA existed as a genre, it’s about two teenage girls living in a newly built town just outside of London, inventing a hidden world in the cracks and corners of the identical suburban houses. It features fishmonger poets, avenging angels, and a mermaid factory and it is a clever, weird trip of a book that kicked off my love of books about magic just around the corner, hiding in plain sight in the real world (see also Archer’s Goon by Diana Wynne Jones!).

 

Pages & Co: Tilly And The Bookwanderers is available from 20th September 2018.

Thanks to Anna James for your time and to Sam White at HarperCollins UK for organising the tour.

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Guest Post

Author Guest Post: Pippa Goodhart

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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. 

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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)

Connect with Pippa @pippagoodhart  and Catnip @catnipbooks

 

Chat · Guest Post

Guest Post: Bath, book, bed by Hannah from A Cup Of Wonderland.

I am delighted to welcome Hannah from A Cup Of Wonderland to my blog. A Cup Of Wonderland is a beautiful bookish blog with amazing photography and great reccomendations. If you haven’t found Hannah’s blog already, do check it out

Back in April, I wrote a post in support of BookTrust’s bath, book, bed campagain. I suggested adults and teenagers would do well to adopt this routine too. Hannah kindly agreed to give us a look at her own bath, book and bed habits. A big thanks to Hannah for your time. 

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Bath, Book and Bed.

 A while ago on BookMurmuation, Louise published a post which was inspired by the Booktrust recent campaign of Bath, Book and Bed routine. Louise wrote about the importance such a routine has not only for children but for adults as well. I found her post incredibly insightful as Louise illustrated the importance of this routine by discussing her own. Now I happily admit that I am quite an inquisitive person, which perhaps is just a polieter way of saying incredibly nosy, so I quite enjoyed her post. Which is why I was equally delighted when Louise invited me onto her blog to write this post presenting my own Bath, Book then Bed routine.

I feel that before I begin this post, I should include a disclaimer. The majority of the time my routine is quite chaotic and probably not good because I am a phone addict and will watch YouTube videos or Netflix instead of going to sleep. But at least once a week or a couple of times a month, I like to set some time aside especially for this routine. I think it’s a great way of recharging your batteries, allowing yourself a break which is incredibly important if your a bit of a workaholic like me. Now onto my Bath, Book and Bed routine.

 

The Bath:

hannahbathIn my household I live with both my parents so normally when I plan to have one of these types of evenings, I make sure I get in the bathroom last as it means I can happily spend an hour or two in the bath with a nice bath bomb with no complaints or someone (my dad) banging on the door telling me to get out. At the moment my bath bomb of choice has been Lush bath bombs which I love immensely which is due to the fact that it’s one of the few types of bath bombs which don’t irritate my skin or psoriasis. The one which I used for this bath in particular was the Monster one which Lush released for Halloween and it’s my favourite which is why I been rationning the ones which I have remaining.

Once in the bath, I always have a book in hand. After all I will happily spend an hour or more enjoying a good soak with a good book and a cup of tea too.

 

The Book:

hannahbookThe most important part of the evening. Now I normally read in bath for a good portion of time before I get out and light some candles, dry off and then dive right back in. The book in choice for this post was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I saw the movie adaptation when it was released. I adore the film but reading the book made fall entirely in love with every single character, place, and aspect of the novel. If you haven’t read it then I would definitely recommend you purchasing it. 

 

Bed:

hannahbedNow if the book is really really juicy, and I’m unable to put it down. I blow the candles, get my pjs on and slip into bed and continue reading. Which is better than normal as it means that my phone is not being used and I’m not working at all. Now when I finally put the book down and decided to go to sleep, unfortunately the plan deviated a little because my 6 month old pup Oscar, decided to bring his Micky Mouse up and wanted to play. So it was almost completely perfect then? Eventually I’ll to sleep.

 

Huge thank you to Louise for inviting  me to write this post as I too think it’s incredibly important to use your bedtime routine as a way of relaxing and having an allocated downtime.

 

Guest Post

Blog Tour: Author guest post from Laurel Remington

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Guest post – Laurel Remington, author of The Polka Dot Shop.

The Polka Dot Shop by Laurel Remington is a new favourite contemporary middle grade novel. It is modern, moving and I adore the vintage shop setting. I particularly love how  a classic polka dot dress sets events into motion and brings people together. I am delighted to host a guest post from author Laurel Remington. She has written some fun facts about polka dots birdFun facts about Polka Dots!

I’m delighted to announce that The Polka Dot Shop, my third book for ages 9+, is out on 5th July 2018. The book tells the story of 13-year old Andy, who has a hate-hate affair with her mum’s vintage shop and the ‘pre-loved’ clothing she is forced to wear. But when she discovers a classic polka dot Chanel dress, Andy begins to change her tune. She embarks on a journey to transform her mum’s shop into something fabulous, and ends up transforming herself in the process. In honour of Andy’s foray into fun, friendship, and fashion, here are some fun facts about polka dots!

 

  1. The word “polka” derives from “Polish woman” (Polska) in Polish, and in Czech, it translates to “little woman or girl.” Not a bad name for such a fun and feminine print.
  2. The exact connection between the polka dance craze of the mid 1800s and the pattern of dots is not known. The first printed use of the term was in the American women’s magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1857. There was a description of a: “scarf of muslin, for light summer wear, surrounded by a scalloped edge, embroidered in rows of round polka dots.”
  3. The first known photograph of polka dot clothing is from 1865. A woman is sweeping a floor in a baggy polka dot shirt tucked into a striped skirt with a polka dot apron.
  4. In America, the polka dot craze began in 1926, when Miss America was photographed in a polka dot swimsuit. In 1951, Marilyn Monroe was famously photographed in a polka dot bikini. In 1960, the trend resurged with the release of Brian Hyland’s song “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”.
  5. Minnie Mouse was introduced by Disney in 1928, wearing a red polka dot dress and matching bow.
  6. In 1940, Frank Sinatra’s released his ballad “Polka Dots and Moonbeams”, capturing the height of polka dot mania. That same year, the Los Angeles Timesassured its readers: “You can sign your fashion life away on the polka-dotted line, and you’ll never regret it.”
  7. In the famous wartime poster from 1942, Rosie the Riveter is wearing a red and white polka dot headband.
  8. Polka dots are not just for women. In 1962, Marvel Comics unleashed its polka dot-clad superhero – Polka-Dot Man – who used the power of polka dots to defeat baddies.
  9. The leader in the mountain section in the Tour de France wears a polka dot jersey.
  10. In the 2001 film Legally Blonde, Elle Woods’ college counsellor said: “Harvard won’t be impressed that you aced History of Polka Dots.” Can a woman ever be taken seriously in polka dots? I think so.
  11. As Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama reminds us: ‘Our earth is only one polka dot among millions of others’.

 

With all that in mind, let’s wear those dots proudly!

 

Laurel Remington’s new novel THE POLKA DOT SHOP is out now, priced £6.99. Get your copy here or follow Laurel on Twitter!

 

 

 

 

Guest Post

Guest Post: Books With The Boy

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Followers of my blog know that Charlotte from Charlotte Somewhere is one of my closest blogging friends. I love so much about Charlotte’s blog – her acerbic wit, her photography and her coffee recommendations come straight to mind. The other thing I love about her blog is a regular feature called Books With The Boy. This is a collaboration between Charlotte and nearly-7-year-old S. 

S has kindly written a guest review of Simon Sock by Sue Hendra. I’m particularly excited by S’s instructions for making a Simon Sock sock-puppet. Thanks to S and Charlotte for this wonderful guest post. birdI liked about Simon Sock when he had to run away from Mr Twinkle-toes so he did not get eaten. But I did not like when the spotties were mean to Simon because that is not nice. I would give Simon Sock one million and thousand stars out of five stars.

I made a sock puppet about Simon Sock with my mum, by doing these instructions:

sockpuppetYou will need a sock, some scissors for a grown-up, three pipe cleaners, googly eyes, superglue and the end of a cardboard box.

First you need to put on some superglue to stick on the googly eyes. You have to put the cardboard right down inside the sock, all the way to the bottom before the superglue goes on because otherwise the sock will get stuck to your fingers.

Then stick on the eyes to the superglue on the sock and hold it until the eye is stuck but don’t get your finger stuck. Aaaarrrgghhh.

Next you need to get a grown-up to cut two holes on the top and two holes on the sides. Cutting holes in socks is very dangerous so you need your grown-up to do this bit so you don’t get all cutted up. . You put one pipe cleaner through the middle hole and shape it into arms however you like. I was trying to tie mine in a knot to make some hands.

Then put two pipe cleaners in the ear holes and shape them however you like to make two sticking out ears.

And then that is it.

Guest Post

Blog Tour: Mirror Magic by Claire Fayers

Mirror Magic author Claire Fayers 

Mirror Magic is a middle grace fantasy about a world which is like ours, and yet unlike ours. It is about a girl called Ava who shares a connection with a Fair Folk boy. 

I am delighted to take part in the blog tour, and to welcome author Claire Fayers to my blog. 

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If William the Conqueror had Magic

Claire Fayers

Mirror Magic imagines a world exactly like our own but with one big difference – magic exists. Fairy mirrors connect us to the Unworld where the Fair Folk have promised to provide magical goods and services to anyone who asks.

The story starts in 1842, when most mirrors have stopped working and only one small town on the border of Wales and England still has access to the Unworld. The Wyse Weekly Mirror (expertly designed by Jess at Macmillan Children’s Books) gives an insight into daily happenings in the last town of magic.

But what of other time periods?

What would newspapers look like if, for example William the Conqueror had magic (and newspapers).

 

William the Conjuror Sets Sights on England

Inhabitants of southern England are today being urged to remain calm amid rumours that William, Duke of Normandy, is planning an invasion of the Kent coast.

Normandy is well known for its enchanted apples and it is feared that Duke William has singled out Kent as suitable land for an extension of his vast orchards.

Williams denies this. “The people of Normandy have a great fondness for Kent,” he said, speaking from his castle. “Many of us enjoy visiting in the summer months.”

Many French people have indeed been seen in Kent, measuring fields and complaining about the quality of the local cider.” Tourists or invaders? King Harold of England has so far declined to comment except to say he is aware of the situation.

 

Stamford Bridge Army ‘An Illusion’

The Norman army camped near Stamford Bridge in the north of England has proved to be a fairy illusion.

The deception was discovered too late for King Harold who had already marched all his forces north to meet the threat.

Meanwhile, a large number of tourists have arrived on the south coast from France and set up camp outside Hastings. “We are definitely not an army,” said William of Normandy, polishing his armour.

 

Harold Defeated at Hastings

Harold is dead. Long live King William of England.

After a fierce battle of arms and magic, King Harold has been defeated at Hastings. Harold, who was tricked into taking his army north, conjured a fairy road to travel back, but the journey exhausted his men and by the time they reached the Norman invaders, they were relying on magical energy potions.

Because of this, Harold insisted on keeping his magic mirror with him in the thick of battle. This proved his undoing when a stray arrow pierced the glass and Harold lost control of the Unworld. Witnesses report thick mist flowing from the broken mirror across the field of battle, turning the grass foul shades of orange and purple. Harold led a final, desperate charge at William’s mirror, but the Norman archers were ready and the king died under a hail of arrows.

 

Huge thanks to Claire Fayers for your wonderful post and to Karen Bultiauw for organising the blog tour. Mirror Magic is available from 14th June.

 

 

 

Guest Post

Blog Tour: Author content from Victoria Williamson

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I am delighted to be part of the blog tour for The Fox Girl And The White Gazelle, a lyrical middle-grade novel about friendship and tolerance. It is the story of Caylin and Reema, who meet on a Glaswegian council estate when they care for an injured fox and her cubs. 

Author Victoria Williamson has written a guest post about animals, and how they bring us together. Thank you, Victoria for your time. birdAnimal Friends 

 

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Young Victoria with her rabbits

Like most children, I spent years begging my parents for a dog when I was growing up. “It doesn’t need to be a big one,” I’d say, “A little one would do, and I’d walk it every day and feed it and clean up after it and…” My parents knew better than to take my word for it though, and eventually got me a lower-maintenance rabbit instead. I called him Sam, after Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings, and soon he was joined by Hazel, a female version of the Watership Down character, and her sister Katy from the What Katy Did series. It didn’t take long for three rabbits to become seven, then twelve, then…

 

Despite the extra work involved in looking after so many rabbits, who seemed to appear despite our very best efforts to keep the males and females apart, I was thrilled by the new arrivals. It wasn’t just because the baby rabbits were so cute, it was because of the new friends they helped me make. Like many aspiring writers, I was a shy teenager who lacked confidence in talking to people at school. But the baby rabbits brought classmates to our garden in droves, and people who had never spoken to me before in school were happy to chat away as they stroked the soft fur of the tiny rabbits they’d heard about through the grapevine.

That was my first lesson in the power that animals have to bring people together and forge new friendships, and it’s one I never forgot. Animals appeared regularly in my own stories, from the first trilogy I wrote about a clan of foxes living in a forest under threat from a pack of wolves, to a monkey sidekick in a pirate book and a wombat companion in a distant planet colony.

It was a family of urban foxes in my debut novel though, that really reflected my own early experience of animals providing an opportunity to make friends with people I previously thought I had little in common with. In The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle, Reema and Caylin couldn’t seem more different. Caylin’s a Glaswegian school bully, all defensive and prickly-edged on the outside, but lonely and longing to make a connection to other people on the inside. Reema’s a Syrian Muslim refugee, homesick and resentful at the war that’s uprooted her family and stolen the big brother she adores. When the girls first meet their reaction to each other is mistrust and unease. It isn’t until they find an injured urban fox and her family in the back garden of their apartment building that they discover a shared purpose, and eventually forge a strong friendship.

Most people are familiar with the idea that a pet is not just a companion in the home, but a great way to break the ice with strangers. People who would normally stride on past when out on a walk are happy to stop and say hello, smiling at a dog and asking it questions directly that are really meant for the human owners. A purring cat curled up in your lap is one of the quickest shortcuts to feeling at home in a stranger’s house, and even a less cuddly tortoise or a hamster can provide endless topics to discuss when the conversation starts to flag.

Why do people so often feel more at ease talking to animals than to humans? And why do Caylin and Reema initially find it so much easier to make friends with a fox and her cubs than they do with each other? I think one of the reasons for this that animals are multicultural – with Hurriyah there is no language barrier to cross and no sense of being judged for being different. Caylin and Reema can just be themselves around Hurriyah and tell her what they’re thinking and feeling without the stigma of the labels other people apply to them. With the foxes, Caylin is no longer ‘the bully’, ‘the girl with the lisp’, or ‘the girl who doesn’t wash her clothes’, and Reema isn’t ‘the refugee’, ‘the Muslim’ or ‘that girl with the headscarf.’ They are just themselves – two girls who, when all of the surface differences are stripped away, are more alike than they realise. Both have suffered loss, both care about their family more than anything, and both have a real passion for running.

Their willingness to care for the foxes eventually morphs into a willingness to care for each other, and by the end of the book it becomes clear that rescuing Hurriyah, the fox called ‘Freedom’, is a metaphor for the girls’ struggles to overcome their own difficult circumstances together. In literature and in real life, animals often help us see past our own differences, and making friends with one can often lead to us befriending another person who is more like us than we could ever have imagined.

 

Check out the other stops on the tour: 

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