Where the World Turns Wild- Blog Tour

I am so pleased to be a part of this blog tour. I fell in love with the book and have written a review which I will post this weekend. After reading this guest post from Nicola, I took my children to the forest where we built a den, ran around and enjoyed the fresh air and time outside. It was wonderful!

A sentence from my future review- 
"A heart pounding adventure with danger, struggles and learning to fend for themselves in a wild forest.  It beautifully highlights so many of our environmental issues and worries over conservation".

Rewilding yourself and your children

Nicola Penfold

I’m writing a few thoughts about connecting with nature, as it’s so pertinent to my book, but I’m wary of trying to be an expert. I’m absolutely not – I’m a city dweller who’s learnt to seek out wild spaces because they make me feel better. Happier, calmer, stronger. Time seems to stretch out for me when I’m somewhere green. Or somewhere blue actually – I also love being by the sea!

I don’t want to write anything approaching an instruction manual either, because that defeats the purpose of ‘going wild’. There aren’t any rules. But maybe there are things we’ve forgotten, from our own childhoods. Maybe it’s helpful to remember:

Making mudpies. There’s growing evidence that there’s beneficial bacteria in the soil and exposing ourselves to it can help protect against certain illnesses and allergies. My kids and I all love mudpies, and I love thinking of the good bacteria we’re carrying home in our fingernails and on our clothing!

Sketching. In Where the World Turns Wild, thirteen year old Juniper draws. For much of her journey through the wild, there isn’t time to get out a sketchbook, but where she does, these are the parts of the journey she remembers most. Sketching makes you look at something properly. You can also take your art home and it’s like taking back a little piece of wild.

Playing with loose parts. There’s a whole theory about loose parts – that loose parts spark our imagination and creativity. There’s no better source of loose parts than the natural world. Shells, sand, pebbles, seaweed, driftwood, even washed up plastic on a beach (and you can put the plastic safely in a bin after you’ve played with it). Leaves, acorns, conkers, bark, pinecones in a forest.

Making nature art. This is an extension of above. A year or so ago, my kids and I spent the day on Shoeburyness beach in Essex, helping collect shells for my eldest daughter to make spirals in the style of artist Andy Goldsworthy, for a school art project. Mussels, cockles, periwinkles. It was the best day. We left the shells for the tide to take.

Noticing things through the seasons. A particular tree, through spring, summer, autumn, winter. A swan’s nest on a local river becoming a line of cygnets, then grey swan teenagers, which seem to stay with their parents for ages. The naturalist and artist Emma Mitchell has written an absolutely beautiful book called The Wild Remedy: How Nature Mends Us, which is a hand-illustrated diary of observations of her local Cambridgeshire Fens. Reading it feels a bit like medicine. I have learned from Emma to look for cow parsley all year round. It flowers in May, but even in deep winter, the pretty green seedlings are visible on the ground – a promise of spring.

Nature tables. What tokens can you bring home? The era of picking wildflowers is over I think, but feathers, pinecones, acorns, shells. My children and I carry these things back like talismans. I love having a piece of nature in my pocket. Less can be more – pick your favourites! Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane’s Lost Words feels a bit like a nature table in book form. It’s a good substitute if you can’t get out to collect the real thing!

Taking photos. I love taking photos of wild things: trees, flowers (and mostly simple ones: daisies, dandelions, etc), ferns, beaches, shells. I put favourite photos on Instagram and I often scroll through it, so that even when I’m not in nature, I can look back at recent times I was.

Fossil hunting. One of my perfect mornings would be spent on Charmouth Beach down in Dorset, or Robin Hood’s Bay up in North Yorkshire, collecting fossils. I love imagining when the sea was swimming with ammonites and belemnites, and giant marine reptiles such as the porpoise-like ichthyosaur or the long-necked, Loch Ness monster-like plesiosaur. It’s a different kind of nature, but it’s just as magical and it gets you out next to the sea. It’s amazing how your eyes adjust to the shapes – the spiral of an ammonite, the star of a tiny crinoid – and I’ll go to bed dreaming of them. I’m sure it’s good for me.

So many other things, but I’m running out of space. Here are a few last favourites.

Deciding if you like butter with a buttercup under your chin.

Telling the time with a dandelion clock.

Skimming stones.

Making dens.

Walking.

The House of 100 Clocks

Written by A.M. Howell, Illustration by Saara Soderlund, Published by Usborne

A mysterious house full of clocks and a strict contract ensuring none of the clocks ever stop. When her father signs this contract, he agrees to forfeit their worldly belongings if the clocks cease to work. Helena feels bereft at the thought of losing all she owns. Her most prized possession is Orbit- a blue fronted Amazon parrot. She couldn’t possibly say goodbye to him.

Tension is immediate as Helena is willing to fight to save her beloved Orbit. As the story unfolds, we learn why Orbit is so treasured and the true consequences of a clock stopping.

Mr Westcott and his sister are mysterious characters and have an odd relationship. The house, full of clocks and watches of all shapes and sizes and ages is not welcoming or friendly, and many of the rooms are unfurnished. This does not stop Helena from exploring it all.

Helena has a natural curiosity and due to the size and nature of the job, her father is busy much of the time. Helena is left to explore while her father becomes obsessed with his role. During the first week in the house, Helena meets Stanley- housekeeper, cook, tutor, and Boy- Mr Westcott’s daughter. Alternating between looking like a boy and a girl, Helena is confused but eventually the sad story emerges.

Not all are who they seem and others are hiding secrets. There is a grave superstition at the heart of the clocks ticking. Helena, Boy and a new friend Ralph find themselves racing against the clocks (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself!) to save Orbit, Boy’s mother and to prove who is truly behind all the mystery and clock stopping.

A truly wonderful and amazing book- intriguing, mysterious and full of secrets. All waiting for the reader to lose themselves in the timelessness of this adventure.

The Highland Falcon Thief

Written by MG Leonard and Sam Sedgman, Published by Macmillan Children’s

An unforgettable adventure set entirely on a train? -Yes Please!

When Hal joins Uncle Nat on the farewell journey of The Highland Falcon he assumes it will be a bit boring. However, spotting a stowaway and then the disappearance of a priceless brooch ensure this is not a boring trip.

In a nod to the wonderful Agatha Christie, this book is perfect for would be detectives- where everyone is a suspect and unease grows as the train continues on the journey.

Hal and stowaway, Lenny, quickly becomes amateur sleuths looking for clues and small details. As Lenny is not an official passenger, she has access to plenty of information. But what happens when suspicions fall on them and Uncle Nat? It will take all their observational powers and eyes for details to save themselves and their families from investigation.

What I loved about this book was the incredible attention to detail- something entirely necessary for a mystery. Leonard and Sedgman have created a timeless masterpiece of children’s fiction. It will keep readers guessing and suspecting the entire journey. I try not to guess “whodunit” while reading, just to sit back and relax into the story.

The Highland Falcon comes alive in this book- becoming a character in itself. You can feel the clickety clack of the rails, hear the whistle and smell the steam. Completely immersive and wonderful to read.

I am entirely sure this will be an epic series of adventures on trains! Already looking forward to America and a trip on the California Zephyr!

Demelza and the Spectre Detectors

Written by Holly Rivers, Illustrations by Alex T Smith, Published by Chicken House

Demelza is a scientific genius, creating inventions, plotting new ideas and trying new things. She is about to try something completely un-scientific though.

Living with Grandma Maeve, Demelza is left to her own devices a lot of the time, unless it is bedtime. Grandma Maeve is strict about bedtimes. After hearing some spooky sounds one night, Demelza sets out to investigate and make a trap. Enlisting the help of her constantly ill neighbour, Percy, Demelza is in for a surprise.

In the greenhouse, Grandma Maeve is found chanting and conjuring up spectres. She does this to help the living say goodbye and grieve for their loved ones. In actuality Demelza comes from a long line of Spectre Detectors, including her parents, who died in a car accident.

There is a lot to take in and understand but the plot truly thickens when Grandma Maeve is kidnapped. Demelza needs all the help she can get to find her. Help comes from Percy, from the skull named Lord Balthazar and even from super strict headmistress, Ms Cardinal.

Twists and turns, shocks and surprises, spooks and science fill this incredible book and it was hard to put it down….so I didn’t. I read it entirely in one sitting!

Demelza may just be my new favourite character, curious, brave and scientifically gifted. She learns some new talents throughout her adventure and now must balance her passion, “Demelza Clock: Inventor” alongside her gift “Demelza Clock: Spectre Detector”.

Another triumph from Chicken House- this is one not to be missed! I plan to buy the finished copy just to immerse myself in the genius illustrations from Alex T Smith!

The House on Hoarder Hill

Written by Mikki Lish and Kelly Ngai, Illustrations by Maxine Lee-Mackie, Published by Chicken House

Hedy and Spencer are spending a couple of weeks with Grandpa John. They haven’t spent much time with him or in his house on Hoarder Hill. The rather spooky, but not unfriendly, house on Hoarder Hill is home while their parents go on a dig.

Within hours of their arrival, strange events start occurring with little explanation. Grandpa John has one express rule, “Don’t touch anything”! It becomes pretty clear why he has this rule as the strange events continue while the children explore the house.

Grandpa John is a solitary man, a former magician, a little lost since the mysterious disappearance of his wife during a show. Decades have passed since her disappearance and now the children believe she wants them to find her.

With help from good and dark forces, the children seek Rose out by disobeying Grandpa John’s only rule. Danger lurks and an evil force is released causing endless problems for the magical items stored in the house. Grandpa John, Hedy and Spencer have to overcome an evil spirit, travel into a painting to rescue a missing piece of the mystery, all aided by a raven and some stone figures brought to life.

Hedy, as the older sister, is brave and goes above and beyond to save their grandparents. Spencer is full of belief in the magic around them and Grandpa, though a little lost, needs the children to bring life back to the old house and himself.

I was enthralled with this book- there is so much to love. It has everything you could possibly need- magic, adventure and family. Perhaps I shouldn’t tell you but look out for Stan and Doug, two of the best characters in the book although they are not who you expect.

This is a top read of 2020 for me- with enough of a cliffhanger to hope for more!

Dragon Detective: Catnapped by Gareth P. Jones

Illustrations by Scott Brown, Published by Stripes

An old school detective named Dirk Dilly has been called on a case of a missing cat. Not normally his thing, he decides to humour the young girl calling him and look for her cat. However, he soon finds himself embroiled in a massive catnapping taking the town by surprise.

When Holly, the girl with the missing cat, stumbles into Dirk’s office, she finds him hiding. Unravelling that mystery, she learns that he is a dragon detective. Begging to help him solve the mystery, they form an unlikely partnership. One that actually saves their lives.

This is a wonderful old school detective story, with stake outs, warehouses full of secrets and a twist towards the end that keeps you guessing!

I loved the name Dirk Dilly for the dragon detective! There is also a fabulous character, Mrs Klingerflim, who, blind as a bat, hasn’t realised that Dirk is a dragon and drives like a mad woman! A skill that comes in handy this adventure.

A super new series, perfect for younger readers looking for a juicy story to dive into. A second in the series is introduced at the end of this book and I am already hooked and wanting to read more.

Picture Book Perfect

I have been collecting some amazing picture book titles to blog about. Today’s blog features books from Scallywag Press, Little Tiger and Egmont. All are beautiful and distinct, showing off the talented authors and illustrators who create them.

River Stories by Timothy Knapman, Illustrated by Ashling Lindsay and Irene Montano, Published by Egmont

Five rivers are brought to life through history, mythology and into modern day. Each river has a huge fold out page revealing the entire river journey. Featuring The Nile, The Mississippi, the Rhine, the Yangtze and the Amazon, you feel as though you are travelling the length and breadth of the world discovering the surrounding areas of these mighty rivers.

Unfortunately, the photo does not do justice to the beauty and wonder of this book. Every page is stunningly illustrated and full of fascinating facts, the importance of the river throughout history and some myths and legends about each river. It would certainly add a huge value to any class learning about the rivers in the world. This could take centre stage in that topic.

The Moonlight Zoo by Maudie Powell-Tuck, Illustrated by Karl James Mountford, Published by Little Tiger

With its mysterious peek through pages and incredible art work, this book is truly something to behold. Tackling the sensitive issue of a lost pet, this book takes the sadness and fear and turns it into a magical adventure for the pet.

When Eva’s pet cat Luna, goes missing, Eva follows a noise from under her bed. There she discovers The Moonlight Zoo. Following a traditional zoo path, Eva finds her way to Big Cat Kingdom, hoping to find Luna. Helped along the way by a wide wolf, Eva learns about how the zoo cares for lost pets. A beautiful story to share and enjoy, it would be incredibly apt if you have lost a pet.

Little Lost Fox by Carolina Rabei, Published by Egmont

A wonderful tale about the power of imagination and making friends. Completely lovely illustrations paint a vivid picture of Kate and her stuffed friends, who help her to not feel lonely. Miss Bunny loves books, Teddy loves picnics and Ruby the Fox is the best for adventures. When Ruby the Fox goes missing, Kate realises she is not the only one needing a friend.

Helping the Fox cub find its Mummy takes Kate, Ruby and the Fox cub on an adventure. However, it also leaves Kate farther from home and worried. Having formed a new friendship means that they help Kate find her Mummy too. A sweet story perfect for bedtime!

Talking is not my thing by Rose Robbins, Published by Scallywag Press

From the brilliant people behind Me and My Sister, comes another book highlighting the differences between children, promoting the acceptance of a sibling with autism and the challenges faced as a family.

Little Sister doesn’t speak so needs other ways to communicate with her family, flash cards, drawing and actions help to get her message across. The brother in incredible at understanding her, helping her and being there for her when she feels frustrated. Seeing what the sister is thinking and the brother is saying truly highlights the difference but proves the love and adaptations taken as a family. Perfect for children learning to interact with a non verbal friend or family member. It is also perfect for non verbal children to gain confidence to try new ways of communicating.

Lion Lessons by Jon Agee, Published by Scallywag Press

A hilarious book about a young boy training to get his Lion Diploma. It says 7 easy steps but despite his best efforts it is proving to be more difficult. He isn’t roarsome, fierce or hungry for antelope.

However, when an innocent kitten is being chased by a scary dog, all the lessons kick in and the young boy is fierce, fast and ready to pounce. Saving the day, he earns his diploma and is protector of cats in the neighbourhood. Jon Agee has a fantastic style and humour in his books and this one is superb. It would make for an excellent read aloud with the whole class attempting to earn their Lion Diplomas!