The House on Hoarder Hill- Blog Tour

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

I am incredibly excited to be a part of this blog tour. The House on Hoarder Hill is a top pick for 2020 from me and I simply adored every moment spent in the house with Hedy, Spencer, Grandpa and the amazing cast of characters. Learning about TV Rights being sold, it seemed an apt question to ask the authors Mikki and Kelly about their dream casting for the characters! My questions are in bold and their brilliant answers are below those. Do watch the sizzle reel for an idea of what’s to come!

“The House on Hoarder Hill” has captured my heart and my imagination.  I loved the story line, mystery and magic, not to mention my favourite characters of Stan and Doug. 

Hello! And we so love reading the above. And we do have to say that, yes, Doug and Stan will probably become their own hashtags #TeamDoug #TeamStan!

Having found out that TV rights have been sold I am immensely curious as to who you would LOVE to play the characters.  Which celebrities do you think would bring this story to life, especially the main characters but not forgetting the importance of the supporting cast.

Who would voice Stan and Doug and portray their incredibly funny relationship in the best way?

Ohhhh, we go back and forth quite a lot with this question. Unfortunately casting will be out of our hands, but with our book author hats on, we did quite a lot of fantasy casting as we wrote…

Hedy: The most important qualities for Hedy are really intelligence, curiosity and courage. We loved what Emmy Marriot pulled off in our sizzle reel of 3 minutes!   (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thW2Md9s6Ks)

Spencer: Paddy Holland – who also played the part in our sizzle reel. He’s not only talented but brings a natural sense of wonder and innocence to his performance.

Grandpa John: This is a character who has a significant arc, so ideally it will be an actor with incredible range and charisma in very still moments. We’d be thrilled to have any of the following – Sir Ian McKellan, Sir Patrick Stewart, James Cromwell, Roddy McDowall.

Uncle Peter: Whoever plays Uncle Peter will also have to carry some very tricky moments. We love Simon Callow and Owen Teale.

Mr Nobody: Ioan Gruffudd. Who doesn’t want Ioan Gruffudd in their project?

Mrs Vilums: We’re not even entirely sure what age Mrs Vilums is – and it doesn’t really matter. Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer and Helen Mirren all have popped up in our fantasy cast list.  

Soumitra: Dev Patel. Don’t get Kelly started on Dev Patel, she will never shut up about his dynamic hair.

Doug: Doug should have a salt of the earth, gravelly tone. Hi, Ray Winstone or Liam Cunningham!

Stan: We imagined Stan as being more high-brow than Doug. Richard E Grant and Simon Callow’s voices played in our heads.

Of course, the pair of them are very much in the spirit of Statler and Waldorf from the Muppets!

Thank you so much for answering my questions about casting! I love your answers and the sizzle reel is AMAZING! Those children are perfect and I love the sense of magic, mystery and wonder shown in the short space of time! This is one to watch over and over again.

The Vigilante Tooth Fairy by B.B. Taylor

Follow the blog trail for more reviews, insight and fun!

The tooth fairy is one of those myths that lasts until the molars come out…or at least it has in my house. The tooth fairy has been imagined and re-imagined time and time again, from being a fairy to a troll, from tiny to large, but always magical! But what would happen if children stopped believing?

Written by B.B. Taylor, Illustrated by James Shaw
Published by Tiny Tree Books

A fairy named Mouse is too small to carry teeth, and so cannot be a tooth fairy. When the fairies and their magic are in trouble, Mouse decides size doesn’t matter and breaks “the fairy code of conduct” to help.

Mouse travels to our world and meets a young girl named Faith. Faith still wants to believe in the magic and so helps Mouse. Off they go on an adventure to find magic that will save the fairies. Discovering that magic doesn’t just come from teeth might be the best part of their journey.

A completely delightful and fun re-imagining of the legend of the Tooth Fairy. A perfect length for bedtime stories with wonderful illustrations throughout the book. My daughter thoroughly enjoyed it and we had a brilliant time thinking about our own tooth fairy and what they might look like. Unsurprisingly, my daughter thought she should have purple hair, just like the author B.B.Taylor.

Extraordinary Blog Tour- Focus on Illustrations

Written by Penny Harrison, Illustrated by Katie Wilson
Published by New Frontier Publishing

This book is not an adventure for just the boy and his dog but for the reader. Beginning with a question, “Have you ever had an extraordinary wish?”. A question that asking those with huge imaginations sparks conversations and fun. A question that makes you think. With this book, it isn’t simply the words that get imaginations soaring, it is the illustrations. It is a visually stunning book, full of the high quality, colourful and detailed work of Katie Wilson.

Luckily, for the blog tour, she has sent over some examples of her sketches for the book. These are rough sketches yet I would still frame and display them as I think they are incredible. Katie’s talent is undeniable and I can’t wait to see what else she works on in the future. I have included pictures of her sketches alongside the finished images.

My favourite page in the book- this is my idea of the perfect day!

Stemming from the wild and wonderful wishes are the reminders of what you already have and do that are amazing. This books encourages its readers, young and old, to remember fondly, those experiences and events that form their world. Whether a family camping trip, fun in the snow or swinging on the swings. Those moments that bring a smile to your face. These ordinary moments are actually extraordinary.

This is a book that encourages children to dream big and aim high! It reminds them to relive the memories they love the most. I adored this book and the illustrations are powerful and match the text in its power for the reader.

This book is BEAUTIFUL. Thank you New Frontier Publishing for the gifted copy of the book, for allowing me to be part of the blog tour and a huge thank you to Katie Wilson for the sneak peek at her sketches and work!

Demelza & The Spectre Detectors

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

This is a hotly anticipated MG book and I am so thrilled to have read it and be part of the blog tour. Holly Rivers has shared some information about she builds a scrapbook of interesting pictures that help her to create her story. Incredible photos from her scrapbook have been shared today as well!

Scrapbooking a Story

by Holly Rivers

It’s fascinating how differently us writers approach our craft.  Some writers are plotters — those whomake a detailed plan before they start drafting, and stick to it rigorously without much room for change. Then, on the other end of the spectrum there are pantsters — people who write by ‘the seat of their pants’ and revel in the flexibility of not knowing what might happen next.

I, however, would describe myself as…a scrapbooker!

Like my inventor protagonist Demelza, I’m a really visual thinker, and my brain relies heavily on pictures, images and doodles. So for every writing project that I start, I make an Inspiration Scrapbook to generate ideas and aid me on my journey. 

Whether you’re writing a middle-grade adventure, a YA horror, or a fantastical chapter book, scrapbooking is liberating, fun and massively freeing for the imagination. I find it allows me to visualise my characters and locations really clearly before I start drafting, and it also helps me establish the specific tone or mood I want to convey in my writing. Anything and everything can go into a scrapbook: pictures from newspapers, magazine cuttings, maps, postcards, dried flowers, scraps of fabric, buttons, photographs, stamps, train tickets…even sweet wrappers.

When I sit down to write, I like to have my scrapbooks open by my side, and allow their pages to guide me from chapter to chapter. For example, a piece of vintage wallpaper might inspire the decor in a protagonists attic bedroom; an old photograph might rouse a mysterious piece of backstory; an interesting obituary in a newspaper might motivate a new plot point; and an unusually pigmented paint-swatch might lead to a description of a stormy sky. Each treasure that I stick in my scrapbook helps me to build a richer picture of the story I’m working on, and allows me to engage on a really tactile level with the world I’m trying to build.

So here are a few cherished pages from the scrapbooks I created for Demelza and the Spectre Detectors, which I hope will inspire you to get out your scissors and pritt-stick, and start scrapbooking your stories too.

A huge thank you to Holly Rivers for providing this piece and for the inspiration to get scrapbooking. I especially love the photo labelled Grandma Maeve!

Thank you to Laura Smythe and Chicken House for the book to read and the opportunity to be part of the blog tour!

The Power of Picture Books

This is a new type of blog post for me, although it is about one of my favourite topics- picture books! Sometimes you come across a book that is much much more than just a story or a picture book- something powerful and emotive and stunning!

The Power of Picture Books will hopefully prove just how widely used a picture book can be, how it can inspire, evoke imagination and promote empathy.

The first in this series features Extraordinary! By Penny Harrison and Katie Wilson. It is published by New Frontier Publishing.

Being a nature lover I was immediately captivated by the front cover. A beautiful scene of stunning Autumnal colours, a young boy and his dog and what looks to be an adventure. I also loved the title Extraordinary!, a word I wish I used more in my daily life!

This book is not an adventure for just the boy and his dog but for the reader. Beginning with a question, “Have you ever had an extraordinary wish?”. A question that asking those with huge imaginations sparks conversations and fun. A question that makes you think.

Stemming from the wild and wonderful wishes are the reminders of what you already have and do that are amazing. This books encourages its readers, young and old, to remember fondly, those experiences and events that form their world. Whether a family camping trip, fun in the snow or swinging on the swings. Those moments that bring a smile to your face. These ordinary moments are actually extraordinary.

This is a book that encourages children to dream big and aim high! It reminds them to relive the memories they love the most. I adored this book and the illustrations are powerful and match the text in its power for the reader.

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 Girl Who Stole an Elephant Blog Tour

‘Want to win an AMAZING The Girl Who Stole an Elephant prize pack? Follow the blog tour this week to find 7 hidden letters that create our MYSTERY word – then DM the word to @NosyCrowBooks for your chance to win!’

Written by Nizrana Farook
Cover Illustration by David Dean
Published by Nosy Crow

This has been a long awaited debut….plenty of twitter publicity and
anticipation. I was so pleased to have been sent a copy for reviewing. The
cover is incredible and begs to be read.  

We meet Chaya as she escapes the palace after stealing the Queens
jewels….making it a very unique and quickly paced first chapter. Thieving
features throughout the story with Chaya at the heart of it. However, it is thieving for survival and protection of her poor community, not for wealth or sport.  However, she may have gone too far with this latest theft.  When best friend Neelan is imprisoned for the crime, Chaya must risk all for his freedom.  From stealing an elephant to a jungle adventure, from waterfalls to fireworks, there is never a dull moment and the story leaps off the page.

Chaya is a bold character and following her path is dangerous, yet she does it uncompromisingly and without a thought for herself. Blinded by a sense of justice in the face of hardship and adversity, she perseveres and pushes until she is heard. Chaya does all she can to protect her best friend Neelan and new friend Nour, even though exile or certain death could be the outcomes.

The characters are well described and their friendship and devotion are admirable.  Sri Lanka is an intensely beautiful and inspiring place.  As you read, you feel, smell and believe you are lost in the jungles and palaces along with Chaya and friends.  

Fast paced, intense and full of courage, friendship and a sense of doing what is right even if it seems wrong. An absolutely stunning debut.