Showing posts with label July 2021. Show all posts
Showing posts with label July 2021. Show all posts

Thursday, 23 September 2021

Daisy May Johnson - How to Be Brave - Interview (Q&A) - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books #7


It's time for another lovely interview with local debut author Daisy May Johnson. How to Be Brave was published back in July 2021 by Puskin Children's Books and has one of my favourite book covers of the year. This loveable mystery should appeal to both mystery seekers and action armchair lovers. 

We carefully put some questions together, under the flicker of glorious candlelight, with the hope to reveal more about the book and the author. So sit down with a cup of Yorkshire tea (possibly a slice of cake) and enjoy the interview. If you would like to support the author by reading a copy of the book then you can purchase it right HERE 
  • What keywords best describe your debut book, How to Be Brave?
I would go for: buns, nuns, ducks, friendship, boarding school, and adventure (and I think my narrator would ask for Victoria Sponge to be added as a keyword...!)
  • I understand that you love libraries and particularly visiting them. With the restrictions over the last year, do you feel this has hindered your writing and creative flow?
Libraries are very important to me. I'll never get over how amazing they are. I think the fact that we have spaces where people can better themselves - for free! - is one of our greatest achievements. The restrictions over COVID have proven challenging, for sure, not just for my reading of comic books and taking out reference material for book two, but also for those times when I wanted to work in the café and listen to the world around me. As a writer, I love that noise and vibrancy and I'm incredibly grateful to all of the medical personnel and the scientists who developed the vaccine because they gave it back to me. 

It's also worthwhile paying tribute here to all of the remarkable library staff who - the moment that COVID hit - pivoted their services to deliveries, kerbside collections, lucky dips, distanced browsing, enhanced electronic delivery, zoom book clubs and so more. Librarians come into contact with all parts of society - some of them incredibly vulnerable and/or isolated - and the power of their work has never been more impressive. 

  • There seem to be a lot of authors (including celebrities) deciding to write for children at the moment. What were your reasons for selecting children as your audience?
I've never wanted to write for anybody else but children. I used to work in a public library and honestly, the Summer Reading Challenge was one of the best times ever. There's nothing better than young readers who are giddy with excitement over a book that they love. Why would anybody not want to be part of that? And with regards to the other part of this conversation, I think there's some nuance to be had about the position of celebrity authors. I have all the time for them if they understand where they are, what they're doing and do it well, and I think something like Nadiya's Bake Me A Story does this excellently. There are others though, that I have a lot of issues with! 
  • How do you go about writing realistic characters and can (or do) they take you to places you have no control over?
I think the idea of realistic characters in fiction is something really interesting because it's an inherently artificial space, right? A book is a created and crafted thing, so there's always going to be that edge of the unreal about anybody who lives within it. What I think you need to do is to find the legitimacy - you have to find justification for what your characters do and make it feel legitimate. If readers believe why something happens and what the rationale behind it is, then that something will work. One of the things I wanted to do with How To Be Brave was to do and feature a lot of things that didn't normally appear in children's fiction but I didn't want to be tokenistic about it. I had to have it all work within the rules of that world. I had to have the story earn the things that I wanted it to do. 
  • How would you describe the music soundtrack to your book?
Oh this is interesting! Okay so for me when writing it, I listened to a lot of 90s pop and also an enormous amount of Ben Platt, 1930s music, Nicki Minaj, and movie soundtracks. I suppose in a way that eclecticism would carry over to the soundtrack of the book itself - the big, scopey sounds of the Lord of the Rings soundtrack would overlap some Noel Coward before Siobhán Donaghy would cut in and we'd finish off with Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal doing "What You Own" from Rent. A little bit of everything, really, but all of it full of heart and feeling. 
  • How would you define brave and do you think our concept of this has changed in literature over the years?
I think sometimes bravery can be characterised as a very big thing. I read a lot of late nineteenth century and early twentieth century fiction and sometimes it's quite startling what these stories give to the reader. I picked up a batch of Boy's Own annuals from this period recently and every other boy was either nobly sacrificing himself for King and Country, going to the end of the world as part of the Empire, or doing remarkable acts of bravery for his friends on the battlefield. It was eye-opening stuff.

For me, I found interest in the small and quiet acts of bravery in the world. I wanted to explore the very intimate and personal side of what it meant to exist and to make sacrifices for the people that you love - all those little acts of bravery that perhaps nobody ever knows about but happen every day. People are complicated. Adults, children, all of us. And we do a lot for the people that we love. It's kind of cool to explore that. 
  • Would you have read your book as a child?
Yes! I would have read it for sure - and would happily read it now :) I was always able to roam throughout the library and would just pick books from wherever looked interesting. Obviously, some choices worked better than others, but that sense of empowerment was really important to me. 
  • You have received some lovely quotes from readers on the internet. What has been your favourite comment and why?
I was very touched by the lovely review from Sophie (aged 9) at the Book Nook ( because it came with art! The first ever! (I'm still not over how amazing it is). 

Saturday, 18 September 2021

Kate Wilkinson - Edie and the Box of Flits - Interview (Q&A) - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books #6


Here on Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books we have another fantastic interview for you to get your fantasy teeth into. We've been given the brilliant opportunity to ask Kate Wilkinson some questions about Edie and the Box Flits. This is an amazing magical debut book which has been illustrated by Joe Berger. The book was published this year by Piccadilly Press (22 July 2021) and will delight both young and old readers - especially those who love brilliant stories like the classic The Borrowers. If this sounds like your kind of book then you can order a copy HERE. 

  • Edie and the Box of Flits is your first children's book. Can you tell us something about it and what inspired you to write it?

It’s about a girl called Edie Winter who lives in London and her dad runs the Lost Property Office for the London Underground. Edie has just started secondary school, but she’s not finding it easy as her old primary school friends have abandoned her and she feels very lonely.

So Edie decides to spend the first half term helping Dad to collect missing items. She finds an abandoned box on the Piccadilly Line and as she picks it up, she feels something fluttering inside. And so begins an adventure that takes her into a thumb-sized world deep in the tunnels under London. 

As a Londoner, I spend a lot of time waiting for trains and buses especially at Highbury and Islington station which is on my route home. There is a family of sooty mice that live on the platform and I often sit on a bench watching them gathering up discarded crumbs and crisps. They gave me the idea of a ‘parallel’ world of small creatures foraging on the Underground. 

  • Part of the story is set on the London Underground. Why did you choose this as a setting?

I have lived in London most of my adult life and so the London Underground has found its way into my DNA. I love the maze of tunnels, the platforms and the whoosh of air as the trains rush into the station. It also runs overground through many of the suburbs so you rattle along in the dark and then suddenly you are out in the daylight often at rooftop level as you pass between the houses.  

When I was researching my book I took a couple of Hidden London tours that the London Transport Museum organises and saw the ghost stations and abandoned passageways that still exist down under London’s pavements.  That’s when I decided to set the scene when the Flits are freed in a ghost station at Wilde Street. 

  • What is the future for the characters? Will there be a sequel?

Yes there will hopefully next year and the adventure will be set on another great Underground system in a different city! Edie will discover the secret of the eyeglass and meet more Flits, but she will also be approaching her thirteenth birthday and once you are thirteen the Flits become invisible. Will this happen to Edie? 

  • Joe Berger has illustrated elements of the book. What process did you both use and did you see the illustrations as you were writing the book?

Publishers don’t tend to put illustrators and writers in touch with each other as you both work via an art director, but I was sent roughs for all the illustrations and love Joe Berger’s work. I particularly like the drawings he did of the wilderness station and Edie, Benedict and Charlie walking through the deserted Underground tunnels late at night. As we will be working together on a sequel, I did get in touch with Joe and we met in Bristol where he lives and had a lovely chat. 

  • You started out as a children's writer for BBC Radio creating audio stories. What are the main differences in writing a book as opposed to writing an audio story?

I did! It feels like a long time ago, but I wrote two long running series about The Boot Family who lived on a farm and Walter Crumpton who was trusted with looking after all sorts of unruly animals. The stories were for pre-schoolers in a slot called The Listening Corner and the joy of writing for audio is that you can really be playful with the different voices and use lots of music and sound effects to tell the story. The narrators were always brilliant at dialogue and often very funny. My favourite was the voice of a particularly grumpy donkey. 

  • What do you particularly love about writing for or listening to audiobooks?

My day job is producing readings and short stories for the BBC and audiobooks for publishers like Penguin and Bloomsbury, although they all tend to be for adults. As the audiobooks are unabridged, I can be in the studio with an actor for five or six days working our way through a particularly long novel. If the actor reads well, it’s an absolute joy and a privilege just to sit there and listen to a brilliant story unfold.  

  • At what point in your life did you realise you wanted to be a writer?

I’m afraid I was a bit annoying as a child and full of myself and my earliest memories are bouncing up and down on my mother’s bed, dictating stories to her about a walrus that could fly and insisting that she wrote them down. The walrus as you can imagine came to a sticky end! 

  • If you could hold imagination in your hands, what do you think it would look like?

A wardrobe with a hundred tiny doors and drawers. As you pull each one open you are never quite sure what you will find. 

  • How do you relax and switch off from the world?

I love to escape London and go for a walk in the woods with my dog or go swimming. Cold water doesn’t put me off so I try to swim right through the winter. Plunging into a river in March is a brilliant way to shake off all the wordly grumbles. 

  • Is there anything you wish you'd known sooner as a writer that you would be happy to share with any aspiring authors reading this?

It can take a very long time to find a publisher and for your book to move through the cogs and wheels, but just keep going and you will get there in the end. 

Thursday, 26 August 2021

Jamie Russell - SKYWAKE INVASION - Interview (Q&A) - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books #2


Welcome to the second interview as part of the series of debut authors that we are hosting. It is a delight to introduce Jamie Russell who is the author of SkyWake Invasion which was published by Walker Books in July (2021). This book has been on my personal radar for some time so, it has been a great opportunity for me to ask the author for more information about this book. After reading the fabulous answers, I'm definitely going to be running to the shop to purchase a copy. If you too would like to read this book then you can purchase a copy of the book HERE. If you also have any questions you would like me to ask the author then PLEASE get in touch. Thank you for reading and enjoy! 

Unfortunately, I've not yet had a chance to read SkyWake Invasion. What can you say to entice me and other readers to pick it up and read it?

OK, sales pitch alert! SkyWake: Invasion is the first book in an action-packed sci-fi trilogy for readers 10+ about an alien invasion, videogames and what it means to be a leader. I pitched it as a book for kids too busy playing Fortnite to read Harry Potter and I wanted it to be a really immersive, edge-of-the-seat ride. 

The main character is a girl called Casey. She discovers that her favourite videogame, SkyWake, is actually an alien training tool designed to train kids to fight in a distant alien war… whether they want to or not. When the aliens arrive to abduct the best players, Casey and the boys on her online team must fight back using everything they’ve learned from the game.

One of my favourite genres is Sci-fi. What ingredients make a good children's Sci-fi book in your opinion? 

What I love about sci-fi is that it’s such a huge genre with so many different kinds of stories, from space operas to robots to alien invasions to time travel. We always think about sci-fi as being a window onto the future, but it’s also a mirror of the present. It always reflects ‘now’ back to us, I think, which is why it’s great for young readers. It can be a fun space to explore big issues like what it means to be human or the pros and cons of technology.  


What video game would you partner with the story and why? 

Space Invaders plays a huge role in the book via a series of flashback chapters about Casey and her late dad, who died in Afghanistan before the story begins. They buy an old retro Space Invaders cabinet and refurbish it as a kind of father-daughter adventure. Her dad teaches her how to get a high score on the machine and also introduces her to the idea of ‘flow’ – that feeling of being ‘in the zone’ when you’re totally immersed in a task, like playing a game, or reading, or exercising. Flow becomes really important to Casey as the SkyWake trilogy unfolds. 

When you started to write this book. Did you always have in mind that this would be a trilogy?

One thing I learned as a screenwriter is that there’s really no shame in being commercial. When a company has to invest a huge sum of money in your story, you really need to convince them that they won’t be making a financial mistake! So when I pitched SkyWake I played up its ‘franchise potential’ in the hope of enticing a publisher. In truth, I actually didn’t know how the story would really unfold in Books 2 and 3 beyond a few key plot points. Of course it backfired on me because before it went out on submission my agent asked me to write a synopsis for the sequels. I was on holiday in Wales at the time and had to quickly come up with the plot for the next two books while my kids were shouting at me for working. I find the outlining process really hard, so it was actually a very effective way to get me to knuckle down and do it quickly!  

Can you reveal anything that we might not know already about book two? 

SkyWake: Invasion ends on a HUGE cliffhanger – so huge that I’ve had complaints! Book Two effectively picks up right where it leaves off. We travel to the alien planet where the gamers are being forced to fight in a war between the evil Red Eyes, who invented SkyWake, and their mortal enemies The Squid. It turns out that the Squid are telepathic creatures who use their powers to create a shared virtual world called ‘The Mindscape’ that Casey and the boys are invited into. It’s a bit like being inside a videogame. Also, warning, Book 2 also has a cliffhanger of an ending… #Sorry #NotSorry 

Knowing you are a climate activist, are any of your characters likely to be an activist and what would they be campaigning for?

It’s funny because until recently I never saw any parallel between doing climate activism and SkyWake, but then people who read the book started pointing it out to me. The theme of the book is leadership and what it means to be a leader. But I’ve realised that the story is really about kids facing an apocalyptic event that totally upends the world they know. They have to learn how to work together to fight back, because the adults can’t or won’t do it for them. That isn’t a million miles away from what’s happening in reality with the school strikes and Greta Thunberg. I really feel like kids are being forced to take on this huge responsibility because my generation has failed to listen to the science. The boys on the team are quite a diverse bunch so I think they’d all have causes they’d get behind – from Scottish independence to disability rights. 

We love book covers at Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books. In my opinion, this is an excellent cover. Can you tell me who the illustrator is and what your personal thoughts are about it?

I absolutely love the cover! It’s so different from many of the other middle-grade books out there. I especially like the way the image at the very top works as both a spaceship and the face of one of the Red Eyes from the book. It’s a real trompe l'œil. The artist is Matt Griffin who is hugely talented and does lots of sci-fi posters and book covers. You can check him out at 

There's quite often a lot of negative press about video games and the impact they can have. What are your thoughts and experiences about this?

This is something I’m really passionate about. I even do a talk for schools called ‘Why Videogames Are Actually Good For You and Can Help You Read More Books (Guaranteed To Convince Your Teachers)! I’ve been playing videogames since they first arrived in the 70s (yes, I’m that old) and I’ve seen the medium grow and mature over the decades. If you play videogames for ten hours a day, you will turn into a zombie. But as part of a ‘healthy diet’, videogames are full of positives – they encourage decision-making, problem-solving, team-work, spatial awareness and can even get you to read more. SkyWake is a love letter to gaming really, from Space Invaders to Fortnite

How do you relax in your spare time?

I love books and games (boardgames, role-playing games, videogames, anything!). I live in Shropshire and my idea of heaven is walking across the Shropshire hills with the family and the dog then returning home for a game of Ticket To Ride or Betrayal At House on the Hill

Monday, 23 August 2021

Alysa Wishingrad - The Verdigris Pawn - Interview Q&A - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books #1

Hello Everybody! We recently reached out to a number of debut children's authors on Twitter about becoming involved in a Q&A session. The response was overwhelming. As a result, over the next coming weeks, we will be publishing these on the blog. This is an amazing opportunity for us to highlight the vast array of new talent. We hope the Q&A's pique your interest and hopefully, you might consider picking up a copy of the book to read. We would really love to hear your thoughts. 

I am delighted to be able to introduce the first Q&A by the very talented author Alysa Wishingrad. Her new book, which is published by HarperCollins in Hardback can be purchased Here OR Here. Don't hesitate to order your copy now! 
  • The Verdigris Pawn is your debut children's book which was just published this July by HarperCollins. What can you say about it to entice new readers to read it? 

THE VERDIGRIS PAWN is perfect for readers who like classic Middle Grade novels like The Chronicles of Prydain, or the work of Diana Wynn Jones. There’s a timeless quality to the story— it’s a quest that takes place in a quasi-medieval time period-- and yet it’s incredibly timely as it takes a very close look at issues around power, privilege, and social responsibility.

THE VERDIGRIS PAWN is the story of Beau, heir to the ruler of the Land, a man so frightening, people only dare call him Himself. Beau has been raised isolated and alone. And despite the harsh and judgmental treatment he gets from his father, he has no idea of the brutal tyranny Himself unleashes upon his subjects and how hated and feared their family is. 

This all changes when Beau meets Cressi, a young servant girl, who opens his eyes to the realities of life in the Land - and most especially about Mastery House, a terrible and brutal place where the children of the poor are sent to be raised and trained to be servants in exchange for their family’s taxes. 

This discovery of the truth sets Beau off on an epic adventure as he tries to undo the poisoned legacy of his family. But, to restore fairness and equality to the Land, he must think of things like a real-life game of Fist (a game similar to chess!) 

But when you're reviled throughout the Land and false heroes lurk around every corner, leading a rebellion is easier said than done.

This is a story about how appearances aren’t always what they seem and how real power can come from the most unlikely places.

  • I love reading for escapism. Will potential readers be able to escape into this story and where will it take them? 

Oh yes, readers will absolutely find an escape in The Verdigris Pawn although it might not always be comfortable. 

The Land is a place where the wealthy and the powerful enjoy luxurious and privileged lives, while the rest of the Land suffers to serve them. Craftspeople and merchants can live well enough, but they are subject to paying high taxes and surrendering the best of their crops and goods to the Manor. As for the poorest citizens, survival is nearly impossible. The only way they can afford to pay their taxes is by surrendering their children to Mastery House where they are raised to serve the wealthy.  

The Land is a place where uneasy alliances are made and broken with regularity, and where you can’t always trust what you read, hear, or see with your own eyes. But it’s also a place where magic, long thought wiped out, might still exist, and where hope might once again reign.

  • Can you tell us a little bit about the main characters in the book? What did they say to you when you started to write about them?

Right off the bat Beau told me he didn’t want to be who he was raised and expected to be. It wasn’t because he was rebellious or because he wanted to lash out, but rather because the role he was expected to step into didn’t fit. It was all wrong for him. Just because he was born heir to the leader of the Land, didn’t mean he wanted that role, or was well-suited for it. He also told me that having been raised isolated and alone, spending his days studying a version of history written by and for the victors of countless years of tyrannical rule, that he had no idea the depth of privilege he had. He told me that even though he felt utterly powerless, once he understood the truth, he’d do whatever he could to help set things right. 

Cressi is in many ways Beau’s opposite. Raised in Mastery House and sent into service a year early she has endured hardships no child should ever have to suffer. And yet, her eyes are wide open, as so is her heart. She’s long suspected that her talents for healing come from somewhere deeper inside her than just a knowledge of herbs. And while the discovery of her powers is confusing at first, she never tries to deny them. She is both an a realist and an optomist. She understands that change is uncomfortable, but that’s no reason to avoid it. She also knows she could just as well bring the Manor down on her own, but she’s wise enough to understand that real power comes from unity.

Nate is not a POV character, yet we still hear him loud and clear. He’s been pushing boundaries since he could walk. He’s constantly been testing, watching, and waiting for the moment he could run away to fight for right.
Loyalty runs so deep in him that sometimes he forgets to look beyond what he wants to see in someone. But he’s no fool, once faced with the truth he’ll fight with all he has to right the many wrongs in the Land.

  • You have worked in theatre and TV/film. What skills do you think may have been transferable in helping you to write this book?

I began my writing life as a playwright, so the three-act structure is baked into my bones, as is a love for dialogue and deep character development. 

And while a 15-year long career in casting for theater, TV, and Film was somewhat of a detour, it also served to deepen my understanding of storytelling. Reading a script then working to find the exact right actors to bring the story to life isn’t as dissimilar to writing as it appears. It’s all storytelling.

  • Where do you get your ideas from?

The inspiration for The Verdigris Pawn came from a writing prompt in a workshop some years ago. With the prompt, “tsk, tsk, poor little boy,” I saw this young boy being raised like a bird in a gilded cage in a Manor house on a hill, an old man his guardian (or perhaps jailer). It also sparked a new writing voice for me—it took some time, but the story eventually unfolded.

The idea for my next book was inspired by an old photograph of a young girl. She was so expressive, she invited me to weave an entire tale around here.

But I’m also inspired by philosophy and politics—not along party lines, but rather how we organize ourselves in society. Power, truth, how easily people can be corrupted are an endless source of fascination to me—and I think they’re important ideas for young people to think about and examine. 

  • The book cover was illustrated by Júlia Sardà and designed by Laura Mock. What were your immediate reactions when you first saw it? 

Pure and utter heaven! I was so thrilled when I found out Jùlia Sardà would be doing the illustration for the cover. Her work is nothing short of amazing. Have you seen her Alice in Wonderland, or her Frankenstein? If not, do yourself a favor and run, don’t walk, to see her work on those two classics, and then stroll through her entire body of work. It’s stunning.

Laura Mock’s design had me at the very first! I love how she played with the pawn shape. There’s an air of mystery and danger to the cover, and yet it’s also such an invitation to adventure. That glint in Cressi’s eye, a hint of knowing and wisdom gets me every time!

The cover harkens back to an earlier time in children’s literature – it’s at once classic and very of the moment. It stands out as quite different from many covers today, and I love that!

  • What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I’m the youngest of three girls from a family for whom conversation and debate was oxygen. Learning how to wield words and language, how to formulate my ideas and point of view into a cogent argument was probably do or die so I didn’t get steamrolled over. 

But there was this one time when I was ten, maybe eleven years old, I remember getting very frustrated that I wasn’t being heard. I couldn’t get my point in amid the chatter. So instead of trying to match the cacophony, I get very quiet. But this wasn’t a retreat, or a capitulation. It was the first time I remember understanding that there’s also power in silence, in holding your thoughts back to listen and taking the time to fine tune (or sharpen) your argument. 

  • What do you love most about being a children's author?

The readers! I am constantly moved and impressed by the depth of thought and feeling of 10–13-year-olds. But it’s also a harrowing moment, when they’re leaving childhood behind and beginning to realize that they have choices to make- choices about who they want to be, who to trust, and how they can impact the world around them. It’s an honor to be a small part of the conversation with them.

  • Are there any significant ways in which your book has changed since the first draft? 

Oh, it has changed significantly. In fact, the book is quite different from the version my editors bought.

The story arc remained the same as did the themes and overall plot. It has always been Beau, Cressi and Nate’s story, but how the story unwound changed quite a bit. Back then there was a third POV character, and there was an additional antagonist—a woman who was Doone’s benefactor. The perils and pitfalls Beau faced were different and the game of FIST wasn’t nearly as central to the plot. 

After a long conversation with my editors about what was and what wasn’t working, I realized that the only way to fix the book was to white page it – meaning, toss the version that existed and begin again from a blank page. I won’t lie and say it wasn’t scary at first, but it was also incredibly liberating. Rather than trying to Frankenstein the book back together, I was given the freedom to rejigger it from the very beginning. 

Because I knew the world and my characters so well by that point it was incredibly fun to be able to begin again. I know there are several writers who do this as a matter of course – write a first draft, toss it, and begin anew. It’s a powerful way to work and to deepen your understanding of the world of the book.

  • Can you tell us what you are working on at the moment?

I can’t reveal too much about my next book yet, but I can tell you that it’s another upper middle-grade fantasy.  Like THE VERDIGRIS PAWN, it takes place in quasi-historical setting with fantastical elements. Set in a time period that looks like 1910, the story begins on an Island (think something like Mackinaw Island) that is home to the wealthy and privileged. The action then moves to the mainland and a city which is overrun by industry, pollution, corruption, and deadly lies. I’m very excited about this story and can’t wait until I can say more about it! 

Monday, 9 August 2021

Nicolas Bowling - Song of the Far Isles - Book Review - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books

One of the books we've very much loved reading this summer is Nicholas Bowling's third middle-grade children's book published in July 2021 by Chicken House. It's a story inspired by the author's time in the Hebrides of Scotland and New Zealand. The book has a great outdoors feeling as it is set on the fictional island of Little Drum. The landscape and the characters come crashing down on you in a sweeping melody. Music is everything to the islanders. In fact, it's so important that everybody has a birth instrument and a really close bond to it which results in a very special and unique life song. This for me created a very interesting idea that pulled the story threads together into a very intriguing and beguiling read. 

The book has a very appealing feel to it through a fantastic blend of both music and mother nature which results in a wonderful heartfelt adventure. The story is infused with myths and folklore and has an excellent plot that will make you tap your feet to the story's unique rhythm. Oran is the main character who will have you enraptured as you plummet into an action-adventure on sea and land. However, we are soon lead into a merry dance when the Duchess arrives from the mainland bringing orders that will silence the islanders forever. No more MUSIC. Oran must set out on a high-stakes adventure to change the Duchess's mind. Whatever will happen?

Oran, with a little help from her best friend ghast called Alick, plus a group of musical pirates makes this story a brilliantly gripping and entertaining read. There are rumours of a mythical instrument that might be able to change everything. It might just save the islander's way of life and restore the balance to the island and their families. 

The book has everything that I love to find in a great read - quirkiness and a great setting. It's a rapid page-turner that is full of passion and detailed accuracy. The book flows with fantasy adventure and an air of mystery. It is also full of great characters depicted within a family life setting. This for me was a fantastic book with a difference to escape into. Its soul will last with you for some time. Grab a copy to read now as it will inspire you to explore your inner self and the great outdoors whilst playing the cithara. What more could you ask for?

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

New Children's Book Picks - Published US July 2021 - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books

  • Joseph Fink - The Halloween Moon -  Published by Quill Tree Books (July 27, 2021) - Hardback 

From New York Times bestselling adult author Joseph Fink comes a wickedly fun middle grade novel about a Halloween-obsessed girl named Esther Gold, who goes out trick-or-treating for one last year, only to find her town under the thrall of a mysterious presence.

Esther Gold loves Halloween more than anything in the world. So she is determined to go trick-or-treating again this year despite the fact that her parents think she is officially too old. Esther has it all planned out, from her costume to her candy-collecting strategy. But when the night rolls around, something feels . . . off.

No one is answering their door. The moon is an unnatural shade of orange. Strange children wander the streets, wearing creepy costumes that might not be costumes at all. And it seems like the only people besides Esther who are awake to see it all are her best friend, her school bully, and her grown-up next-door neighbor.

Together, this unlikely crew must find a way to lift the curse that has been placed upon their small town before it’s too late. Because someone is out to make sure Halloween never comes to an end. And even Esther doesn’t want to be trapped in this night forever.

Ryan Douglass - The Taking of Jake Livingston -  Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (July 13, 2021) - Hardback 
Get Out meets Holly Jackson in this YA social thriller where survival is not a guarantee.
Sixteen-year-old Jake Livingston sees dead people everywhere. But he can't decide what's worse: being a medium forced to watch the dead play out their last moments on a loop or being at the mercy of racist teachers as one of the few Black students at St. Clair Prep. Both are a living nightmare he wishes he could wake up from. But things at St. Clair start looking up with the arrival of another Black student—the handsome Allister—and for the first time, romance is on the horizon for Jake.
Unfortunately, life as a medium is getting worse. Though most ghosts are harmless and Jake is always happy to help them move on to the next place, Sawyer Doon wants much more from Jake. In life, Sawyer was a troubled teen who shot and killed six kids at a local high school before taking his own life. Now he's a powerful, vengeful ghost and he has plans for Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about dead world goes out the window as Sawyer begins to haunt him. High school soon becomes a different kind of survival game—one Jake is not sure he can win.

Victor Piñeiro - Time Villians - Published by Sourcebooks Young Readers (July 6, 2021) - Paperback 

Story Thieves meets Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library in this wacky, hilarious, and fast-paced middle-grade series starter, with the perfect combination of magic, imagination, and adventure.

Javi Santiago is trying his best not to fail sixth grade. So, when the annual "invite any three people to dinner" homework assignment rolls around, Javi enlists his best friend, Wiki, and his sister, Brady, to help him knock it out of the park.

But the dinner party is a lot more than they bargained for. The family's mysterious antique table actually brings the historical guests to the meal...and Blackbeard the Pirate is turning out to be the worst guest of all time.

Before they can say "avast, ye maties," Blackbeard escapes, determined to summon his bloodthirsty pirate crew. And as Javi, Wiki, and Brady try to figure out how to get Blackbeard back into his own time, they might have to invite some even zanier figures to set things right again...

Greg van Eekhout - Weird Kid - Published by HarperCollins (July 27, 2021) - Hardback

From the author of Cog and Voyage of the DogsWeird Kid is a hilarious and heartfelt homage to everyone who feels like they don’t belong. Perfect for fans of Gordon Korman and Stuart Gibb. 

Jake Wind is trying to stay under the radar. Whose radar? Anyone who might be too interested in the fact that he has shapeshifting abilities he can’t control. Or that his parents found him as a ball of goo when he was a baby.

Keeping his powers in check is crucial, though, if he wants to live a normal life and go to middle school instead of being homeschooled (and if he wants to avoid being kidnapped and experimented on, of course). 

Things feel like they’re going his way when he survives his first day of school without transforming and makes a new friend. But when mysterious sinkholes start popping up around town—sinkholes filled with the same extraterrestrial substance as Jake—and his neighbors, classmates, and even his family start acting a little, well, weird, Jake will have to learn to use his powers in order to save his town. 

Thursday, 8 July 2021

New Children's Book Picks - Published July 2021 - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books

Steve Cole (Author), Oriol Vidal (Illustrator) - Welcome to Trashland - Published by Barrington Stoke (1 July 2021) - Paperback 

A search for treasure reveals the toxic consequences of modern life in this thrilling adventure set against the backdrop of the world’s largest e-waste dump.

Theo lives and works in Agbogbloshie in Ghana, a vast dumping ground for the world’s broken electronics. He spends his days scouring the trash for scraps of metal to sell for cash, while dreaming of going to school and escaping this harsh life. The money Theo makes is barely enough to pay for lessons, so when Emmanuel turns up with talk of buried treasure, Theo sees a chance to get out of Trashland.

But Emmanuel’s presence draws the attention of a local gang, and Theo starts to wonder if his new friend is keeping dangerous secrets ...

Lindsay Littleson - Secrets of the Last Merfolk - Published by Floris Books (22 July 2021) - Paperback 

"One of the swimmers plunged underwater with a flick of his long, dolphin-like tail. The other followed, sending an arc of spray shooting upwards, tail slapping against the choppy waves."

In the quiet Scottish seaside village of Dunlyre, Finn is enduring a winter holiday with his annoying new stepmother, wishing things could go back to how they were, while Sage is enjoying her new home, wishing things would stay as they are. 

Finn has seen mysterious swimmers in the Firth late at night. Then, from the clifftop, first Sage, then Finn, hears an eerie song. Could the local legend of merfolk living amid the waves actually be true? When the new friends meet the magical sea-people, they are amazed and impressed, but the merfolk are hiding a secret. The two human children must put aside their own problems and help in the battle against the young merfolk's ancient underwater enemy before the last of their kind are lost forever.

Kate Wilkinson (Author), Joe Berger (Illustrator) - Edie and the Box of Flits - Published by 
Piccadilly Press (22 July 2021) - Paperback 

A modern classic for readers of THE BORROWERS - about eleven-year-old Edie Winter and her magical box of winged people that only children can see.

When eleven-year-old Edie Winter finds a mysterious box on the London Underground she's amazed to discover that it's home to a family of Flits - tiny winged people. But Impy, Speckle and Nid need Edie's help. Not only do they need supplies (rice crispies, sugar sprinkles, digestive biscuits and raisins) and someone to look after them, but their brother Jot has run away and they need Edie's help to find him.

Set against the backdrop of London and its Underground network, EDIE AND THE BOX OF FLITS is a story about friendship, family and noticing the little things in life. 

With delightful black-and-white illustrations by animator, cartoonist and illustrator Joe Berger.

Lindsay Galvin - A Discovery of Dragons - Published by Chicken House (1 July 2021) - Paperback 
How to Train Your Dragon meets natural history, with real science, in this story of discovery through one of the lens of one of the most historical voyages in history.

It's 1835. Cabin boy Simon Covington is on the voyage of a lifetime to the Galapagos Islands with the world-famous scientist, Charles Darwin. But when Simon falls overboard during a huge storm, he washes up on an unexplored island. Stranded there, he makes a discovery that could change the world. Now it's not just his own survival at stake - the future of an undiscovered species is in his hands. But perhaps there's one person who could help...Based on the real events of Charles Darwin's legendary voyage, this is a novel that melds science with wonder.

Monday, 3 May 2021

Alex Cotter - The House on the Edge - (Nosy Crow) - Book Review - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books


This is a debut book to look forward to by Alex Cotter. As a former bookseller, her dream has come to fruition as she publishes The House on the Edge. It is due to be published this summer (beginning of July 2021) by Nosy Crow Books. I am a massive fan of the book cover which I believe is illustrated by Indonesian illustrator Kathrin Honesta. It's very reflective of the story and really eye-catching on the bookshelf. In my opinion, the colour palette works really well. 

What can you expect from this brilliant book? It's a story of sadness and new beginnings as Faith's dad has gone missing. We are not sure of the circumstances as we are lead down the mysterious garden path. Why has he left his family living in an old house perched on a crumbling clifftop? A crack has suddenly appeared in the cliff and, just like the story, the adventure turns into a thrilling and splitting adventure. The setting is idyllic but the family side of the narrative is anything but. There are many mysteries to uncover in this book. The plotline will keep the readers on their little tiny toes. 

The book turns into a dark and spine-tingling ghost story. Faith's brother brings an element of surprise to the plot when he claims sea ghosts are living in the basement of the house. He then disappears and we start to feel the fractures of family life splinter into dust. You need to watch out for her greedy Uncle Art as the VILLIAN. However, the story is really a race for time to find her brother and father and save the family house from falling into the sea. 

There are a lot of really great elements to this book: a dramatic setting, a moody atmosphere, and a great depiction of a coastal town. The loveable but rather quirky characters are well-written. The history is like a layer of antique dust as it is uncovered to weave the different story threads. It's a creative jaunt that will leave you with a creepy feeling. Chuck in some pirate treasure, smuggler's caves, and a sour teacher and you just about have the lot going on here. It's both thrilling and exciting - just about the best type of book you want to wake up to and have on the reading pile. 

Monday, 8 March 2021

*BOOK COVER REVEAL* Between Sea and Sky by Nicola Penfold (Mr.Ripley's Enchanted Books)


Good morning and what a wonderful start to the Monday morning we have. Today, on Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books, we get to show off the brilliant book cover artwork for Nicola Penfold's second book Between Sea and Sky. It's always such a special and privileged opportunity to get to present the unveiling of such wonderful artwork and design. This is a brilliantly bold cover that is both eye-catching and in keeping with the author's first book (Where the World Turns Wild). The book cover has been designed by Pip Johnson (Senior Designer at Little Tiger Group) whilst the illustrator of the cover artwork is Kate Forrester. I think both have done an amazing job in making me want to pick up the book and find out more. 

I can tell you this book is a middle-grade standalone novel full of thought-provoking ecological themes. It is due to be published by Stripes Publishing on the 8th July 2021. Below is a brief synopsis for you to consider and, hopefully, this will encourage you to support these wonderful people and pre-order a copy. 

In a near-future where a series of environmental disasters has left much of the country underwater, Pearl lives on a floating oyster farm with her father and younger sister, Clover. Following her mum’s death several years earlier, Pearl refuses to set foot on land, believing her illness was caused by the poisons in the ground. Meanwhile, Clover dreams of school, friends and a normal life.

Then Nat comes to spend the summer at the sea farm while his scientist mum conducts some experiments. Leaving behind the mainland, with its strict rules and regulations, he brings with him a secret. But when the sisters promise to keep his secret safe, little do they realize that they may be risking everything...