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#MGTakesonThursday

Welcome to Week Three!!

This is a weekly event started by Mary Simms on her super  Book Craic blog.

Every Thursday, the aim is to promote the brilliant middle grade books we all love so much! There are a few steps needed to participate…

Post a picture of a front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.

Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence from that page. Choose three words to describe the book. Share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

Previously I have recommended Demelza and the Spectre Detectors by Holly Rivers and The House on Hoarder Hill by Mikki Lish and Kelly Ngai. Both published by Chicken House.

This week I am pleased to recommend, The Light Hunters by Dan Walker, Published by UCLan Publishing, Cover Design by George Ermos.

Favourite sentence from Page 11 is “Lux didn’t know whether the antique book in the library would contain what he needed to cure his grandpa, but he wasn’t just going to sit there like everyone else, hoping for a miracle.”

Three Words to Describe this book; Adventure, Monsters, Bravery

Lux lives in a world where monsters lurk and keep cities locked away. He hides a life changing secret- something that must remain hidden to protect himself and his grandfather. However, we as readers know that secrets in an MG fiction book must reveal themselves. Lux shows his abilities for light healing publicly by saving best friend Maya from a monster attack.

From this point, Lux must avoid capture by those who want to use his power for evil. Luckily Maya and Grandfathers nurse, Ester are on hand to help Lux evade capture. More secrets need to be unraveled and mysteries solved in this exciting and thrilling adventure. Hopefully this will be the start of a brilliant MG series.

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The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates by Jenny Pearson

Written by Jenny Pearson, Illustrated by Rob Biddilph
Published by Usborne, April 2020

Sometimes a book comes along and it warms your heart, tickles your soul and ensures you find hope in the world! I didn’t realise how much I needed Freddie Yates and his adventure until I finished laughing and crying simultaneously. A true delight for these strange times. This was an instant hit in our home and will fly off the library and bookstore shelves.

Freddie likes facts! He knows plenty and they help him to deal with new and uncertain situations. Facts like his Dad broke his leg and is laid up for the summer. Facts keep Freddie going.

Freddie Yates is finished school for the summer! His best friends have plans but not Freddie! Arriving home that first day, Freddie is hit with some devastating news and his summer becomes very different than expected.

A letter to Freddie soon becomes an adventure. Join Freddie, and best friends Charlie and Ben as they set off for Wales. With the boys each escaping family problems, they truly let loose while away, in epic, hilarious proportions. I adore this trio and can appreciate their reasons for getting away from home! New step mothers, a summer as a vegan and loss are valid reasons for their adventure.

Onion eating competitions, boat break ins, angelic choir boys and Wales media capturing every moment, it seems there is a lot to see and do in Wales! For the boys, keeping a low profile should have been on their agenda, but nothing goes according to plan this summer.

This book is laugh out loud funny, with some incredible moments of love and friendship to warm your heart and feed your soul. Precocious boys, an epic journey and a search for something we all crave and do not always see before us…family!

With plenty of facts, fun and friendship, this book will be a firm favourite this year.

Follow this week’s virtual launch and blog tour for ultimate fun during lockdown!

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The Cut Throat Cafe Blog Tour

How I love a trilogy! Although this may end up as a series, for the moment the three books sit happily in a trilogy on my shelves.

Seth Seppi returns, still bumbling away and having disastrous effects when practicing magic. Despairing of him, Angelique has brought him to Gramichee, where pockets of magic are still practiced and magic folk abound. He is to finally be given an apprenticeship. How he longs to learn and practice, be guided and gifted with knowledge and experiences. Thrilled to be around magical folk, his spirits are high.

However, poor Seth gets apprenticed to Miss Young, and ends up selling her lotions and potions on the shop floor, not allowed to know what ingredients they contain or how they work. Despondent, Seth befriends Tendril, apprentice to Calamus, a cantankerous old wizard living next door.

Together the boys dabble in potions, but Seth always seems to pass out during them. These potions seem harmless until one of the apprentices is murdered and clues found at the scene point to Tendril. Did Seth accidentally help create the murder weapon? Is Tendril or Calamus behind these attacks on apprentices?

Inspector Pewter, Nightshade and Angelique all appear in this third instalment and though Seth is gifted at finding trouble and murder mysteries, they are gifted with skills to help pull him out and save the day! This mystery has plenty of action and I was kept guessing throughout the entire story. Just when I thought one suspect, a twist would appear or an alibi and I was back to the beginning.

This is a huge and dangerous adventure for Seth, whose powers are slowly starting to form and it turns out he is very powerful. Seth also seems to have a knack for the darker spells and potions. There are hints at further potential and directions for the story of Seth to continue and he is now armed with more skill and information than ever before. What could be next for Seth Seppi?

When I am writing a review, I consciously try to avoid any spoilers. For those books with so much intertwined action and a detailed plot, it is tricky to avoid those important details without giving away some of the mystery to solve. Needless to say, you will need your wits about you to solve the mystery, learn who to trust and stay safe like Seth!

I was completely engrossed and felt a roller coaster of emotions as Seth finds trouble yet again. Storytelling at its best!

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Picture Book Perfect

Titles from Little Tiger and Oxford University Press

Five new picture books landed on my doormat last week and I was ridiculously excited. As a book blogger, the book post is a complete highlight! We all wait for the news of lockdown being lifted so we can browse bookstores, libraries and publisher catalogues.

These five picture books will keep me going a little longer and certainly Netgalley has become a go to for me to read new books. I still have fingers crossed that the physical copies of those books will find their way into my home so they can find their way into schools.

Impossible! Written by Tracey Corderoy, Illustrated by Tony Neal
Published by Little Tiger

Certainly a word we are hearing a lot of, this book may just have the answers we need. Dog dreams of visiting the ocean whilst living in the noisy city running his laundry. A new washing powder brings unexpected adventures and friendship. Uttering the word, “Impossible” time and time again, Dog is worried and afraid of adventure, even with new friend Crab at his side.

A delightful story filled with Tony Neal’s impressive illustrations

The catch phrase to take away from this story is “It’s only impossible if you say it is.” Crab teaches Dog to be courageous, adventurous and to step back and enjoy the journey. It is no secret I am one of Tracey Corderoy’s biggest fans, and this book continues to prove the reasons why. Sometimes we need to step out of our comfort zones and find freedom in the journey! You can’t help but adore Dog and find Crab wise beyond his years!

The Bedtime Book written by S Marendaz, Illustrated by Carly Gledhill
Published by Little Tiger

A gorgeous book all about the importance of bedtime stories and sharing. Frank the dog is woken by a sad and frantic mouse searching for her favourite bedtime story. Cat and Owl have seen the book and offer clues to where it could be, joining in the search.

Colourful illustrations bring the nighttime to life

When it is found, Mouse sacrifices her favourite book so another little one can enjoy it, and goes home sad. In an attempt to cheer her up, Frank shares his favourite book and they both fall asleep curled up together. Wonderful story of sharing books and being good friends. A perfect bedtime book, and conversation starter about favourite books.

I’m Sorry written by Barry Timms, Illustrated by Sean Julian
Published by Little Tiger

Hard words to say to your best friend as Fox and Owl will learn. Scribble and Swoop are the greatest of friends, and vastly different. Scribble is a playwright and Swoop a carpenter. When they find the perfect home to share together, they are both drawn to the potential of the veranda. A super theatre space or a workshop….enemy lines are drawn as the friends battle it out for the space.

“But sorry is not a magic word. It only works if you mean it”! Incredibly wise words from master storyteller Barry Timms. Scribble and Swoop have some work to do to mend their friendship. The stunning and detailed illustrations will warm your heart. A valuable lesson to be shared with children, and adults too!

The Crow and the Peacock written and Illustrated by Jo Fernihough
Published by OUP

Although Crow is happy, he believes that other birds must be happier than him. Perhaps they sing better, live in a better place or have more beauty in their feathers. He flies around meeting Dove, Nightingale, Cockerel, Swan and Peacock, expecting them to be the happiest.

Colourful, striking illustrations allow the reader to be immersed in Crow’s world

What Crow discovers, however, is the opposite. They are not happy, they wish and want for more. The overriding message of being happy with who you are comes across strongly and makes for a joyous book to read and share with children. Often we compare ourselves with others but in reality we are all unique and wonderful, with a right to be happy and free.

Where’s My Peacock? Written by Becky Davies, Illustrated by Kate McLelland
Published by Little Tiger

A beautiful board book perfect for tiny hands and grabbing fingers. Tactile and sensory, join the hunt for peacock. A great introduction to animals with touch and feel wings, tails and beaks. A special ending to find the glorious peacock.

Captivating illustrations and use of fabric to promote touching.

Board books are excellent for little ones as they can withstand a bit of chewing, grubby hands and reading over and over again! This little delight will enchant the tiniest of readers. Adorable.

Meet the Gatekeepers

Meet the Gatekeepers- Leilah Skelton

While I add the latest publicist answers for next week, I am leaving Leilah’s answers on my main blog page. Next publicist on Meet the Gatekeepers will go live on Monday.

I first started blogging in November 2018 and it was a completely new experience for me. I had been reviewing books for Armadillo Magazine and knew how to approach publishers for books that I was asked to read. In one of those first emails I remember asking, “Do I send the book back once I am finished?”. I received a lovely response saying that the book was now mine and I could gift it to a school or keep it myself.

I then began to think about how I incorporate this into my blog and I slowly began to build my own network of bloggers to follow. I reached out to Jo Cummins of Library Girl and Book Boy fame and she advised me to find the publicists of the different publishers. She called them the Gatekeepers and that term has stuck with me since then. I have long wanted to get to know these gatekeepers better and over time an idea formed. I had a set of 6 questions I thought would help me to know more about them and this incredible job they have. One that I covet but could not imagine being able to do so well!

I sent a few emails and had such a positive response that I now have a new page on my blog all about The Gatekeepers. Several publicists, who I have had the honour of meeting, emailing or bothering have answered these questions in unique ways. I am sure you will find them as fascinating as I do.

The first to feature is the lovely Leilah Skelton from Little Tiger!

  1. How did you get your start in the publishing industry?

I’d been part of the wider book industry for over a decade in my role as a bookseller at Waterstones in Doncaster. I joined Twitter reluctantly to try to win a book, but found that it was the perfect platform for me to shout about the books that I loved, to share creative ways to sell them, and to join in with conversations about the industry at large with other booksellers, librarians, creators, publishers, literary agents, media figures… the list goes on. My current boss knew me a little from visits to Doncaster with authors, but mostly through Twitter. She approached me at the London Book Fair on one of the rare occasions that I’d made it down to London, and asked me if I’d like to apply for a role in marketing and publicity. It did feel like a huge leap in the dark, and I had to turn my life upside down to move to London on a shoestring. She had faith in me that I could adapt to the role from bookselling, as she had… I hope every day that I’m proving that I can. There’s so much I’m learning all the time!

  1. What is the most interesting part of your job?

Oooh, that’s hard to answer! I’d say seeing a book develop from early concept right through to finished product, then working out the best way to share it with the world. I’m lucky at Little Tiger that the team is small enough that there’s lots of crossover when it comes to many of aspects of publishing. We all get asked our opinions on submissions, titles, covers, etc. regardless of whether we’re working in design, editorial or accounts, as new starters or seasoned pros, and I feel that those opinions are valued.

  1.  What are the challenges of your role?

Bookselling required Octopus Arms, and publicity and marketing requires Octopus Brain. It’s 4D chess on a travellator. There are always new things to take on board and several timelines to consider. I’m a list-maker, and thank goodness I am. I’d have lost the plot a long time ago without a solid ‘To Do’ list!

  1. Describe a typical day?  Or are no two days alike?

The beauty of this role is definitely the variety. Some days are admin-focused; submitting for book prizes, collating reviews, writing press releases. Some are more physical; making props, standees, packing reviewer copies, etc. Some days are planning for physical tours or blog tours, and some days (the best days) are out on the road meeting booksellers and teachers and festival organisers and librarians and hundreds of young, excited, book-loving faces.

  1. Tips for book bloggers?

Tip 1: To thine own self be true. Blogs are wonderful spaces, and the absolute best ones reflect the tastes, personality, and passions of their curators.

Tip 2: (And this is something I’ve come to notice in a publishing role more than I ever did as a bookseller…) When reviewing, concentrate how the book made you feel, and who you’d recommend it to rather than describing the plot. Publishers are looking for those reactions and opinions over everything else.

Tip 3: Post reviews and make noise as early as you want. I think it’s a bit of a myth that publishers want you to hold fire for publication day to share your reviews. Early reviews help to create a buzz and encourage pre-orders. Quotes from early reviews are really helpful. There’s nothing to stop you re-sharing on publication day! In fact, please do!

I’ve so much respect for bloggers. Blogs require a lot of time and energy. I’m in awe of anyone that successfully carves out time to keep the plates spinning in their own spare time. It reflects such a level of commitment to the art of promoting books and reading. Heroes, all of you.

  1. What are you currently reading?

My lockdown brain isn’t really letting me relax into reading properly, and I’m trying not to beat myself up about that. Before the news became so stressful and relentless, I was thoroughly enjoying Things In Jars by Jess Kidd, which has merefolk, mystery, and the most wonderful pipe-smoking, no-nonsense female protagonist in sturdy boots, so I’m holding off finishing it until I can give it the attention it deserves. When a world is so enveloping, and such an enjoyable place to spend your time, it’s worth waiting for. I’m so envious of those who manage to keep reading through times of great stress. I think it’s important to recognise that this isn’t the case for everyone, and that’s OK. I have to say it to myself enough, so I’ll say it again here: Be kind to yourself.

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#MGTakesonThursday

This is the third week of #MGTakesOnThursday led by the brilliant @marysimms72. The idea is to recommend middle grade books, describe them in three words and share our favourite sentence from page 11 in the book. In the hope it will inspire others to pick up MG books, this is a great thread to follow.

In the first week I recommended Demelza and the Spectre Detectors by Holly Rivers, Published by Chicken House. Last week I highlighted the superb The House on Hoarder Hill by Mikki Lish and Kelly Ngai, also published by Chicken House.

For my third recommendation I am choosing Tiger Heart by Penny Chrimes, Published by Orion Children’s Books.

This book in three words: Courage, Love, Freedom

My favourite sentence from Page 11: (Must admit- read this on my kindle so counted 11 pages and it may differ from physical book) “You have blue blood- royal blood- in your veins, insisted the tiger, and he sank down and bent his knees and bowed his head to Fly.”

My full review of Tiger Heart can be found using the link below.

https://myshelvesarefull.wordpress.com/2019/10/27/tiger-heart/

Now to hunt for a book for Week 4- I have too many I want to highlight and recommend!

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Wonderscape by Jennifer Bell

Written by Jennifer Bell, Cover by Paddy Donnelly, Published by Walker Books

This is one of the most highly anticipated books of 2020! Gaming, time travel and adventure are thrown together in this fascinating book.

“The story you hold in your hands describes a voyage to distant lands. An adventure through time and space, A quest to save our heroes’ fate. You will encounter within these pages great people from across the ages. So open up and turn the cover, Wonderscape is yours to discover.”

The perfect book to suite the gamer in your life, or the arm chair explorer, historian or dreamer. There is truly something for everyone in this MG fantasy!

We meet Arthur, Ren and Cecily as an explosion rocks a house on their estate. Drawn in to the house to rescue a dog, the action starts before we know much about the characters. One door closes and another opens- however it is a portal to a ship and 300 years into the future.

Given rhyming clues, magical cloaks and powers, as well as the chance to chat with famous and important figures from history helps them on their quest- not only to save one of the writers of the game but themselves. Sir Isaac Newton has delivered the news that they have a limited time to beat the game or the game with turn them into protoplasm. Beating levels, solving riddles and sharing pieces of themselves takes the reader through the ups and downs of an in reality adventure game.

Now, admittedly, I am not a gamer but if this was a game, sign me up. It was a fascinating insight into what virtual reality games could aspire to, the use of historical figures, riddles and battles. The cloaks in particular were ingenious- they would offer clues to the wearer about their new powers. When a level was complete, one of the three heroes would gain a new ability or power. A great way to keep the game fresh and new within each level.

A thoughtful plot line, relatable characters (the friends who wouldn’t normally be friends scenario), and an overwhelming desire to beat the game and get home- sheer brilliance!

Travel with Wonder

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Beauty and the Bin by Joanne O’Connell

Publishing June 2020 by Macmillan

Laurie, Fern and their parents live in a house which is also hydroponic growing farm. Intent on spending little to no money, bin diving for wasted supermarket food and growing as much food as possible are the aims of this family. They are eco-warriors and protectors of the planet. Laurie subscribes to most of their day to day living, but she is also in seventh grade and is trying to find a balance between being cool and accepted, and diving in the bins for their weekly shop.

Ultimate cool girl Charley notices Laurie at the most inopportune moment possible…fresh from a bin dive accident involving pasta sauce. Laurie and Fern fill Charley in on their Beauty in the Kitchen videos and recipes. The sisters create beauty treatments using only natural ingredients and that which is sometimes found in the bins. Charley, naturally is horrified and Laurie worries about the ramifications.

When the school announces an entrepreneurial fair and opportunity, Laurie is even more surprised when Charley wants to partner with Laurie, bringing Beauty in the Kitchen to the population of the school. Winners are given amazing prizes, the profits of their enterprise and a chance to be CEO for the day in a linked field.

Laurie and Charley begin their business but of course it is not all smooth sailing. Pressure on the quality of beauty products is mounting, competition between groups gets heated and Laurie seems to be working harder than Charley. However, there is no telling Charley anything and Laurie has to carry on if she wants to win!

Striking the balance between Beauty and the Kitchen, school and family expectations is taking it toll on the family dynamic at times. Laurie must still find time for sister Fern, plans for the upcoming March4Climate protest as well as ensuring her final beauty product is a best seller. Not to mention that she is neglecting her best friends and is feeling on the outside.

There is so much to celebrate with this debut book. Raising awareness of supermarket waste, home beauty product recipes and a young girl learning to honour her principles and be true to herself. It is within the pages of this book that I realised just how much a supermarket potentially throws away. When Laurie pulls out enough food to feed a market and later finds a crate of chocolate spread still within date, the family celebrate while the reader cringes at the waste.

I love the idea of Laurie and Fern creating beauty treatments, lip gloss, and bath fizzes all from natural and home grown ingredients. Adding these recipes to the back pages is ingenious and I have already checked for several of them to see what I could make.

The relevance of this book is to be admired with many people looking for more natural plant based products and new ways to grow their own, make their own and ensure there is little waste. We could learn a lot from this family.

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Gargantis by Thomas Taylor

Publishing May 2020 by Walker Books

Welcome back to Eerie on Sea….a seaside town steeped in myths and legends. From the impressive Malamander to mysterious Gargantis. Many townsfolk just know these as myths, legends and stories told by generations of fishermen over pints in the pub. However, as Herbie Lemon and Violet Parma know from experience, myths and legends are based on truth and are dangerous.

A terrible storm has been raging over Eerie for days, shaking the very foundations of the town. Many are quoting a past legend of “Gargantis sleeps, Eerie keeps, Gargantis wakes, Eerie quakes…and all falls into the sea.” Believing it to just be the name of a Storm, Herbie and Violet carry on discussing the latest lost and found mystery, A hooded figure had dropped off a mysterious shell with a clockwork mechanism, a shell that promptly ran away from the duo.

When another item is given to Herbie it is with much interest from those in the town. This glass bottle that seems alive and to shimmer with light, has caused Herbie to be in the centre of danger. He is being threatened and unbeknownst to him, there is a very good reason as to why.

Following impulsive Violet’s suggestion, the pair manage to open the bottle, and they are surprised to see a light, almost fairy like come from within. It soon attaches itself to Herbie and stays with him, living under his hat.

Eavesdropping on some unsavoury conversations, Violet and Herbie realise that the hooded figure is behind all the danger over the glass bottle. He is urging the fishermen to sacrifice him (Herbie) in order to capture Gargantis. Understanding that this is no mythical name for a storm but a true creature shocks Herbie and Violet.

An incredible sea faring adventure follows, and for Herbie who firmly decided never to go on a boat or in the water, this is a tough choice. With clever Violet and her love of books and legends by his side, they soon figure out the danger the town is in. Eerie will literally crumble into the sea if Gargantis is captured and killed.
Fighting fishermen, the hooded figure, the Vortis and Gargantis take its toll on everyone, but what they find under the Vortis is amazing.

Can Herbie become the hero again? Who is the hooded figure and why does he have a tentacle coming out of his neck? Do we know this figure?

I think it was invigorating to be back in Eerie on Sea, thrilling and adventurous. Herbie is given another clue to his mysterious past and I can’t help but hope we can piece together more for Herbie in future books in the series. Thomas Taylor has a true knack for bringing myths alive and I am already anticipating the brilliance of more to come.

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#MGTakesOnThursday

A new weekly blog courtesy of @marysimms72! In an aim to highlight more Middle Grade tittles. I am so pleased to take part as I seem to solely read this genre.

Last week I highlighted the super scientific Demelza and the Spectre Detectors by Holly Rivers.

This week I am recommending The House on Hoarder Hill by Mikki Lish and Kelly Ngai. It is published by Chicken House.

This book in three words: Adventure, Magic, Family

Favourite Sentence from page 11, “Looking like Grandma Rose gave Hedy a small glow of satisfaction until she realized that Grandpa John’s eyes were shiny with tears.”‬

This is one of my favourite books and I was so pleased to ask Mikki and Kelly about who their celebrity picks would be for casting as excitedly, this book will become a tv show! I will add the link so you can read their choices and see a teaser trailer!

https://myshelvesarefull.wordpress.com/2020/03/10/the-house-on-hoarder-hill-blog-tour/

Now to start thinking about my next choice!