Friday, 6 October 2017

Saviour Pirotta - ANCIENT GREEK MYSTERIES (Q&A) Interview With Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books

Welcome Saviour to Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books. Thank you for taking the time out to answer some questions about the Ancient Greek Mysteries. The series sounds like a fun and action-packed read that all readers will learn from and enjoy. Here is the first question. 
  • For potential readers from this blog, how would you summarise and sell the first book to encourage them to read it? 
MARK OF THE CYCLOPS is a thrilling adventure mystery set in 433BC. Nico is a scribe and his best friend Thrax is a slave who dreams of buying his freedom so he can set off to find his mother. When the two attend a wedding in the city of Corinth, someone smashes one of the precious wedding gifts. A vase. The master of the house blames Gaia, one of the slaves. She insists that a cyclops climbed in through the window and broke the vase. No one believes her but Thrax and Nico set out to find the truth. 

Their investigations pit them against a gang of ruthless criminals who would stop at nothing to conceal the truth. What is the gang up to? Why is it smashing vases all over Corinth, vases that are marked with the face of a cyclops? Will Thrax and Nico find out or will they end up buried alive in one of Corinth’s long-abandoned graveyards?

Book 1, MARK OF THE CYCLOPS was published by Bloomsbury on the 9th March 2017.

  •  Tell us more about the encounter you had with a real-life detective twenty-five years ago on the Island of Poros in Greece? How did this shape the book? 
Poros is a small island about ninety minutes away by boat from Athens. It’s the perfect place to plan books and write. The last time I visited, it was out of season. Most of the other travellers on board were Greek. There was only one English guy. He was very tall, with a tattoo of a snake on one side of his shaved head. I nicknamed him Snake, after the main character played by Kurt Russell in Escape from New York. 

We struck up a conversation. It turned out Snake was a detective. He wouldn’t tell me what he was investigating and I couldn’t for the life of me think what a detective would be doing on Poros. It’s a tiny island with only a small town and a handful of shops and cafes. 

During my week there I spotted Snake several times, once on the beach and at least three times guzzling stew in a café. He seemed to be on holiday rather than working. But one morning, I saw him boarding the boat back to Athens. There were two Greek policemen with him, who shook his hand warmly and thumped him on the shoulder before he left. It was obviously a case of mission accomplished. I asked locals if they knew anything about Snake but no one even seemed to be aware there’d been a detective on the island. Or if they did, they were keeping mum about it. The next day I visited the famous temple of Poseidon on Poros. I was researching a non-fiction book about temples in ancient Greece but somehow I couldn’t stop thinking about Snake and the policemen seeing him off on the ferry. Snake became Thrax in my imagination and the Ancient Greek Mysteries were born.

  • How are the books being used in schools to support the KS2 curriculum? 
A lot of schools doing Ancient Greece in KS2 are adopting the Ancient Greek Myths as their class read. The stories can be read for pleasure but they also give you tons of facts about how the ancient Greeks lived, not just what they are and wore but also what they felt about major issues like slavery, poverty, freedom of expression, the role of women in society etc.

 I quote from a teacher’s review on Amazon: "Expertly written historical fiction - an engaging narrative with historical accuracy and carefully woven facts. Perfect to support the study of Ancient Greece and perfect for children who enjoy a good read. My son is now hooked, desperately awaiting the next book in the series!" 

From a teaching point of view, books like this are worth their weight in gold, especially with the Primary Curriculum having so many historical drivers and topics and, sadly, very little historical fiction available. 

Bloomsbury have produced teaching notes to go with Mark of the Cyclops which teachers can download HERE!

I also do writing workshops in schools helping children to write their own mystery stories set in the past.

  • How have you used research to incorporate facts and information about life in ancient Greece?
One of the reasons I wrote the Ancient Greek Mysteries is because I feel there are a lot of fantasy books based on Greek mythology but not much about what life really was like in Ancient Greece.

I’m obsessed with facts, especially everyday details from ancient history. I’ve always been curious about how people lived in the past, what clothes they wore, what food they ate, what games they played. My aunt used to get me a magazine called Look and Learn which fed my obsession. It had wonderful articles and illustrations. I was always in awe at how the authors could spin an actual incident in history into an exciting story.

The Ancient Greek Mysteries use the same technique. They’re mystery adventure stories but they’re peppered with what I hope is interesting information about Classical Greece. I have a huge non-fiction library which I built up over the years and I mostly use that for research. I have whole books about ancient Greek coins, weapons and food. I actually cooked the food Thrax and Nico eat, to make sure I described it right.

Book 2, SECRET OF THE ORACLE publishes on 5th October.
  • How was the collaboration established between you and Freya (illustrator)?
I have no say on who gets to illustrate any of my books. Which is probably a good thing or they’ll all look like the Pauline Bayliss editions of the Narnia books. 

Bloomsbury chose Frey who’d just illustrated The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart. It was the right choice. Freya had really made my version of Ancient Greece come alive. The characters are so close to what I imagined them to be, it’s uncanny. She first drews roughs which Hannah Rolls, my brilliant editor at Bloomsbury, emailed me to make sure we got right. There were little details that had to be tweaked, like the shapes of tombstones, the patterns on vases and styles of haircuts but I was amazed at how accurate her portrayals where. I printed out the final edits when they arrived and hung them up in my office for inspiration. Freya is hard at work on the illustrations for Book 3 at the moment. It’s called Pirates of Poseidon and I’m dying to see what they look like. 

  • What is the best question that you've been asked by a child? 
I’ve been asked all sorts of questions over the years. They vary from the sublime, to the incisive, to the downright funny. The most bewildering one came from a Year 2 boy in South Shields a few years ago. Do you have a toilet in your house? I thought that was a pretty odd question, until I discovered that the boy’s grandfather still used an outside toilet in the backyard. Perhaps to the boy I looked as old as his grandpa.

I get asked one question over and over again, and it’s my favourite. How do you become an author? The answer is simple. Write every day. Work on your writing to make it better. Read other people’s work; it will inspire you and give you ideas. And never give up your dream. I had to leave my country of origin to achieve mine. I slept rough in London, lived in freezing squats, cried when I got rejection slips, but it never occurred to me to give up.

  • Are you able to give us a sneak preview of one of the illustrations from book 2 prior to its release in October?
Here’s an early rough that Freya did for Secret of the Oracle. The two boys are Thrax and Nico, the main stars of the Ancient Greek Mysteries. The woman is a diviner called Mother Kessandra. She can interpret dreams and tell the future. She receives her clients in a mysterious cave high above the famous oracle in Delphi. It’s a real cave, which is still there to this very day. It cost money to consult the famous oracle so the very poor used to make do with visiting people like Mother Kessandra. 

I think even in this early sketch, Freya managed to capture the eerie atmosphere of the cave. I love the contrast between the light from the fire and the shadows in the background.
  • Who would you choose as your four guests for a literary dinner party? 

I had to give that question a lot of thought. I am completely obsessed by the creative process and there are a lot of writers whose brains I would love to pick. In the end I settled on these four. Sadly they’re all dead, so my fantasy literary dinner party will never be anything but a dream. 

Guest of honour would be C.S. Lewis, because he wrote the Narnia books. They blew my mind when I first read them. His house was packed to the rafters with books. A bit like mine, really, so we’d have a lot to talk about.

My second choice would be R.L. Stevenson. I think Treasure Island is the best pirate story ever written and I’d love to find out how he created the character of Long John Silver.

I’d also invite Tove Jannson, creator of the Moomins. Her books are not only entertaining but also deal with some very serious issues, like mental health and artistic freedom.

Last of all I would invite Roald Dahl. He’d probably be vile to the other guests and that would make for a lively evening. Hold on, he’d probably be horrible to me too…

Book 3, PIRATES OF POSEIDON publishes March 2018.

Book 4, REVENGE OF THE CENTAURS publishes October 2018

Check out Saviour Pirotta Website for more details:

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's Middle-Grade Book Picks (9-12yrs) October 2017 - UK Post

Alex Bell (Author), Tomislav Tomic (Illustrator)The Polar Bear Explorers' Club - Published by Faber & Faber (2 Nov. 2017) - ISBN-13: 978-0571332540

It sounded like a respectable and worthy enough death for an explorer - tumbling from an ice bridge to be impaled upon a mammoth tusk - but Stella really, really didn't want that to happen, just the same.
Join Stella Starflake Pearl and her three fellow explorers as they trek across the snowy Icelands and come face-to-face with frost fairies, snow queens, outlaw hideouts, unicorns, pygmy dinosaurs and carnivorous cabbages . . . 
When Stella and three other junior explorers get separated from their expedition can they cross the frozen wilderness and live to tell the tale?

Andrew Beasley - Carnival of Monsters (S.C.R.E.A.M #2) - Published by Usborne Publishing Ltd (1 Oct. 2017) - ISBN-13: 978-1474906937

Roll up, roll up if you dare to Doctor Vindicta's carnival! Gasp at the dancing ghosts! Grimace at the creepy clowns! Giggle in the hall of mirrors!

It's all harmless fun and frights... until a young boy disappears. The police believe he's run away, but his sister swears he was snatched by a monster.

Only the cleverest detectives can catch a demon: send for Billy Flint and Charley Steel aka S.C.R.E.A.M. - top-secret investigators of Supernatural Crimes, Rescues, Emergencies And Mysteries.

Kate Saunders - The Land of Neverendings - Published by  Faber & Faber (5 Oct. 2017) - ISBN-13: 978-0571310845

The cat flap opened. Emily thought a wild animal was coming into the house. But the muddy creature that climbed through had four little wheels and a tail. It spoke in a voice like rough sandpaper. 
'Come on, you two - it's nice and warm in here.'

What if there exists a world powered by imagination?
A world of silliness, where humans and their toys live on long after they've left the Hard World . . . and what if the door between that world and this one was broken?
Welcome to the Land of Neverendings.
Moving, raw and funny in all the right ways, The Land of Neverendings is a rip-roaring adventure, but it also gives an honest portrayal of grief for young readers, and shows us that whilst sadness does exist in the world, it doesn't have to cancel out happiness, or silliness, even when you lose someone you love.

Andy Mulligan - Dog - Published by Pushkin Children's Books (26 Oct. 2017) - ISBN-13: 978-1782691716


When Tom gets a puppy called Spider, it changes both their lives. Tom finally has a special friend all of his own - which is just what he needs as he struggles with a difficult new school and trouble at home. And Spider has someone to love him. But the course of their love does not run entirely smoothly, as they embark on a gruelling journey of separation and reunion.

Dog is a book about trust, standing up for yourself, and learning to love. By the award-winning Andy Mulligan, author of the bestselling Trash, it is a story that will delight readers young and old.

Chris Priestley - Curse of the Werewolf Boy (Maudlin Towers) - Published by Bloomsbury Childrens (5 Oct. 2017) - ISBN-13: 978-1408873083 - Book Review Here

'We shall be detectives, Sponge!' exclaimed Mildew. 'We shall solve the Mystery of the School Spoon!'
Mildew and Sponge don't think much of Maudlin Towers, the blackened, gloom-laden, gargoyle-infested monstrosity that is their school. But when somebody steals the School Spoon and the teachers threaten to cancel the Christmas holidays until the culprit is found, our heroes must spring into action and solve the crime!
But what starts out as a classic bit of detectivating quickly becomes weirder than they could have imagined. Who is the ghost in the attic? What's their history teacher doing with a time machine? And why do a crazy bunch of Vikings seem to think Mildew is a werewolf?
Hugely funny, deliciously creepy and action-packed by turns, this brand new series from Chris Priestley is perfect for 8+ readers who like their mysteries with a bit of bite. Fans of Lemony Snicket and Chris Riddell will love Curse of the Werewolf Boy.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Jessica Townsend - Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books Review

Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she's blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks - and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday. But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor. It's then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city's most prestigious organisation: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart - an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests - or she'll have to leave the city and confront her deadly fate once and for all.

One of this years most hotly tipped and anticipated children's books, Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow will be zipped on the brolly line and into publication on the 12th October 2017. Published in the UK by Orion Children's Books and later in the US by Little, Brown Book Group on the 31st October 2017. Written by Austrailian author, Jessica Towsend, this story has been ten years in the making. Finally, this book is ready to fledge and fly into the hands of eager readers and dragon riders alike. 

Jessica started to write this ever-changing book in the year that she left High School. Subsequently, she moved to London and found that the story grew into this fantastical adventure. It will spirit you away on a magical journey that is both for the young and old. As soon as you turn the first page, you'll find yourself plunged into an intriguing and extraordinary world that is . . . . .  Nevermoor. 

The narrative starts with a sombre feel as we are introduced to the main character, Morrigan. Eventide would march on like a drum beat, unstoppable. Morrigan Crow would have no future as she would die on her eleventh birthday; this story will have no happy ending. Tears will flow like little seeds of imagination in this story as you are whisked away on a mechanical spider on an unforgettable adventure like no other. 

This book has all the magical ingredients required to leave you with wonderful memories. You will soak up the atmosphere by being accompanied by a host of quaint, odd and rather endearing characters through a chorus of screechy violins and spooky organ music. Nevermind being transported to a world of infinite pleasure, chased by the deadly Hunt of Smoke and Shadow which will lift the stakes of this bold and brilliant adventure and add a little creepiness that will deliver a shaky hand to Hallowmas night. 

It's such a thrilling read that you will not want to put this book down. Equally, you will not want it to ever end. You will turn every page absorbing the humour and snarky remarks that deliver an icy punch. It's wildly imaginative and full of creativity and personality; a visit to Hotel Deucalion Smoking Parlour must not be missed. I recommend a pinch of excitement, a splash of courage and a little hint of lavender smoke to get you into the mood of the trials and madness that Morrigan Crow will face with her friends.

Stories like this can take time to shape like shimmering shadows that lurk beyond the peripheral vision. They often have other adventures that manifest before the main plot incubates and becomes the actual story that we read. The author's many ideas, feelings, and inspirations, whilst possibly writing in her pyjamas, have shaped this book into a  magical storytelling spectacle. There is so much more that I could mention about this fantastical book, but I won't. Read it for yourself and enter the wondrous world of Morrigan Crow and Nevermoor. This is one of the best books of 2017. 

Thursday, 28 September 2017

The Literary Lakes - A Place For Inspiration and Writers Infographic

The Lake District is well-known for its amazing scenery. It’s no surprise the region has formed an inspiration and backdrop to some of our most famous wordsmiths, with the likes of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge writing about the beauty of the area. Their legacy remains today, with countless visitors to the district looking to follow in their footsteps.

The region remains a huge inspiration for all visitors who put pen to paper. Enjoy our literary guide to the all-time greats and here’s to the next generation of Lakeland scribes and poets.


The Literary Lakes by Craig Manor.

This post is shared in conjunction with:- thank's Daisy. 

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's Middle Grade Book Picks (9-12yrs) September 2017 - US Post

Polly Horvath - The Night Garden - Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (September 12, 2017) - ISBN-13: 978-0374304522

From Newbery Honor and National Book  Award–winning author Polly Horvath is this magical middle-grade novel about a garden that grants wishes. It is World War II, and Franny and her parents, Sina and Old Tom, enjoy a quiet life on a farm on Vancouver Island. Franny writes, Sina sculpts, and Old Tom tends to their many gardens―including the ancient, mysterious night garden. Their peaceful life is interrupted when their neighbor, Crying Alice, begs Sina to watch her children while she goes to visit her husband at the military base because she suspects he’s up to no good. Soon after the children move in, letters arrive from their father that suggest he's about to do something to change their lives; and appearances from a stubborn young cook, UFOs, hermits, and ghosts only make life stranger. Can the forbidden night garden that supposedly grants everyone one wish help them all out of trouble? And if so, at what cost? The Night Garden is a poignant and hilarious story from acclaimed children's author Polly Horvath.

Patrick Moody (Author) Graham Carter (Illustrator) The Gravedigger's Son - Published by Sky Pony Press (September 26, 2017) - 

  • ISBN-13: 978-1510710733

“A Digger must not refuse a request from the Dead." —Rule Five of the Gravedigger’s Code 

Ian Fossor is last in a long line of Gravediggers. It’s his family’s job to bury the dead and then, when Called by the dearly departed, to help settle the worries that linger beyond the grave so spirits can find peace in the Beyond.

But Ian doesn’t want to help the dead—he wants to be a Healer and help the living. Such a wish is, of course, selfish and impossible. Fossors are Gravediggers. So he reluctantly continues his training under the careful watch of his undead mentor, hoping every day that he’s never Called and carefully avoiding the path that leads into the forbidden woods bordering the cemetery.

Just as Ian’s friend, Fiona, convinces him to talk to his father, they’re lured into the woods by a risen corpse that doesn’t want to play by the rules. There, the two are captured by a coven of Weavers, dark magic witches who want only two thing—to escape the murky woods where they’ve been banished, and to raise the dead and shift the balance of power back to themselves.

Only Ian can stop them. With a little help from his friends. And his long-dead ancestors.

Equal parts spooky and melancholy, funny and heartfelt, The Gravedigger’s Son is a gorgeous debut that will long sit beside Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and Jonathan Auxier's The Night Gardener.

Alexandra Bracken - The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding - Published by Disney-Hyperion (September 5, 2017) - ISBN-13: 978-1484778173

Prosper is the only unexceptional Redding in his old and storied family history-that is, until he discovers the demon living inside him. Turns out Prosper's great-great-great-great-great-something grandfather made-and then broke-a contract with a malefactor, a demon who exchanges fortune for eternal servitude. And, weirdly enough, eight-hundred-year-old Alastor isn't exactly the forgiving type. 
The fiend has reawakened with one purpose--to destroy the family whose success he ensured and who then betrayed him. With only days to break the curse and banish Alastor back to the demon realm, Prosper is playing unwilling host to the fiend, who delights in tormenting him with nasty insults and constant attempts to trick him into a contract. Yeah, Prosper will take his afterlife without a side of eternal servitude, thanks. But with the help of his long-lost uncle, Barnabas, and his daughter, Nell, a witch-in-training, it seems like Prosper has at least a fighting chance of ridding himself of Alastor before the demon escapes and wreaks havoc on his family. 

Little does Prosper know, the malefactor's control over his body grows stronger with each passing night and there's a lot Alastor isn't telling his dim-witted (but admittedly strong-willed) human host 

From #1 New York Times best-selling author Alexandra Bracken comes a tale of betrayal and revenge, of old hurts passed down from generation to generation. Can you ever fully right a wrong, ever truly escape your history? Or will Prosper and Alastor be doomed to repeat it?

Katherine Applegate - Wishtree - Published by Feiwel & Friends (September 26, 2017) - ISBN-13: 978-1250043221

Trees can't tell jokes, but they can certainly tell stories. . . .

Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood "wishtree"―people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red's branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red's hollows, this "wishtree" watches over the neighborhood.
You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red's experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.
Funny, deep, warm, and nuanced, Wishtree is Newbery Medalist and New York Times–bestselling author Katherine Applegate at her very best―writing from the heart, and from a completely unexpected point of view.
This book has Common Core connections.

Robert Kondo & Dice Tsutsumi - The Dam Keeper - Published by First Second (September 26, 2017) - ISBN-13: 978-1626724266

Life in Sunrise Valley is tranquil, but beyond its borders lies certain death. A dangerous black fog looms outside the village, but its inhabitants are kept safe by an ingenious machine known as the dam. Pig’s father built the dam and taught him how to maintain it. And then this brilliant inventor did the unthinkable: he walked into the fog and was never seen again.
Now Pig is the dam keeper. Except for his best friend, Fox, and the town bully, Hippo, few are aware of his tireless efforts. But a new threat is on the horizon―a tidal wave of black fog is descending on Sunrise Valley. Now Pig, Fox, and Hippo must face the greatest danger imaginable: the world on the other side of the dam.
Based on the Oscar-nominated animated short film of the same name, The Dam Keeper is a lush, vibrantly drawn graphic novel by Tonko House cofounders Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Chris Priestley - Curse of the Werewolf Boy (Maudlin Towers) - Bloomsbury Kids - Book Review (Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books)

Mildew and Sponge don't think much of Maudlin Towers, the blackened, gloom-laden, gargoyle-infested monstrosity that is their school. But when somebody steals the School Spoon and the teachers threaten to cancel the Christmas holidays until the culprit is found, our heroes must spring into action and solve the crime!
But what starts out as a classic bit of detectivating quickly becomes weirder than they could have imagined. Who is the ghost in the attic? What's their history teacher doing with a time machine? And why do a crazy bunch of Vikings seem to think Mildew is a werewolf?
This is the brand new series from the talented Chris Priestley. The first book, The Curse of the Werewolf Boy, will be published by Bloomsbury and will hit the shops on the 5th October 2017. Book two will soon follow as it is going to be published during the summer of 2018.

You only need amble through the first few pages to see the rising pillars of gloom leading to Maudlin Towers. Here you will enter the weird and wonderful world and meet the unlikely heroes, Mildew and Sponge. 

This amazing adventure is illustrated throughout by the talented author. The pen and ink style complements the gothic appeal perfectly. The black and white illustrations provide an extra dimension to the story and certainly develop the atmosphere. They will definitely appeal to the younger audience.

Chris Priestley welcomes the reader to the weird and wonderful world and delivers a fantastic spooky narrative by bringing together a range of quirky characters. The muddled and varied humour makes for an interesting and funny read. The character gallery is entertaining just by itself, as it introduces each character profile and personality. 

There is a crime to be solved at Maudlin Towers. It is down to Mildew and Sponge to detect who has stolen the school spoon. It is imperative that they catch the thief otherwise the school Christmas holidays will be cancelled. Together they unravel the mysteries, but rather weird events also unfold such as ghosts in the attic, a teacher with a time machine, werewolves and a group of Vikings in the school perhaps. 

This is a hugely engaging and easy going gothic story which is full of action-packed twists and turns, mayhem, madness, and nonsense. It is perfect for readers of 8+. Fans of Lemony Snickett and Chris Riddell will love this book. The mystery adventure has a bit of bite and some atmospheric realism which will captivate readers of all ages. There's never a dull moment at Maudlin Towers so grab a copy now - it is a perfect autumnal read. 

Chris Priestley lives in Cambridge with his wife and son. His novels are brilliantly original additions to a long tradition of horror stories by authors such as M.R. James and Edgar Allan Poe. Chris wrote one of the World Book Day books for 2011 and has been shortlisted for a variety of prestigious children's book awards. Catch up with Chris at

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's Middle-Grade Book Picks (9-12yrs) September 2017 - UK Post Two

Chris Riddell - Goth Girl and the Sinister Symphony - Published by Macmillan Children's Books (7 Sept. 2017) - ISBN-13: 978-1447277941

There are musical goings-on at Ghastly-Gorm Hall and another spooky mystery for Ada Goth to solve in the fourth book in the Goth Girl series by Chris Riddell, Children's Laureate 2015-2017.
Lord Goth is throwing a music festival at Ghastly-Gorm Hall, with performances from the finest composers in the land. Ada can't wait, but it's quite distracting when her grandmother is trying to find her father a fashionable new wife, there's a faun living in her wardrobe and Maltravers is up to his old tricks. Ada must make sure everything goes to plan, and luckily help is at hand from a very interesting house guest . . .

Kieran Larwood (Author) David Wyatt (Illustrator) - The Five Realms: The Gift of Dark Hollow - Published by Faber & Faber (7 Sept. 2017) - ISBN-13: 978-0571328413

 The bard tiptoes out of his room, the crow-dream still echoing in his head, making him twitch at imaginary creaks of iron wings.

The bard must leave Thornbury. It is not safe for him to stay. Rue, his new apprentice, travels with him - keen to learn his trade - and hear the next installment in the legend of Podkin One-Ear . . . 
Podkin and his fellow rabbits have been sheltering in Dark Hollow after their battle with Scramashank. Paz tends to the rabbits with sleeping sickness; Crom meets with the war council . . . Podkin has nothing to do! Frustrated, Podkin goes exploring and discovers an abandoned underground chamber! Armed with the Gift of Dark Hollow, Podkin learns to moonstride, and Paz is rewarded with a magical gift of her own . . .

Jonathan Stroud - Lockwood & Co: The Empty Grave - Published by Corgi Childrens (21 Sept. 2017) - ISBN-13: 978-0552575799

Want to hear a ghost story? That's good. I know a few . . . After their recent adventures, the Lockwood & Co team deserve a well-earned break . . . so naturally they decide to risk their lives breaking into a heavily-guarded crypt. A building full of unsettled souls, it's also the final resting place of Marissa Fittes, the legendary and (supposedly) long-dead ghost hunter - though the team have their suspicions about just how dead she might be. What they discover changes everything. Pitched into a desperate race to get to the truth behind the country's ghost epidemic, the team ignite a final, epic battle against the Fittes agency. A battle that will force them to journey to the Other Side, and face the most terrifying enemy they have ever known. Can everyone make it out alive? 

Sue Purkiss - Jack Fortune and the Search for the Hidden Valley - Alma Books (28 Sept. 2017) - ISBN-13: 978-1846884283

An orphan child full of mischief, Jack lives with his crotchety widow aunt in eighteenth-century England. His naughtiness knows no limits, and when one day he goes a step too far, Aunt Constance decides that she s had enough: from now on, his bachelor uncle can take care of him. Uncle Edmund is in no way prepared for a boy with boundless energy and an impish streak and anyway, he s off to the Himalayas to search for rare plants! But Aunt Constance is absolutely determined, and Jack's uncle has no choice he will have to take the boy with him. What follows is a terrific adventure that will see Jack and his uncle the most unlikely of all expedition teams sail to India, cross the jungle and reach their mountainous destination, before returning to London to present their findings to the Royal Society. Along the way, Jack will finally come to terms with the great loss that has blighted his childhood years and discover, quite unexpectedly, that he and his late father have much in common.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Barry Hutchison - Spectre Collectors: Too Ghoul for School (Nosy Crow) - Book Review (Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books)

Denzel is having no luck with his maths homework. First, it's too difficult, then there's a terrifying mess of smoky black tendrils that wants to kill him, then two teenagers explode through his window holding guns and throwing magic. They are the Spectre Collectors, and spooky is their speciality. Realising that Denzel has a special gift, they sweep him off to their headquarters for training. Tested with awesome weapons and ancient magic, Denzel realises just how little he knows. But there's a serious problem on its way from the Spectral Realm, so Denzel has a lot to learn. FAST.

Spectre Collectors: Too Ghoul for School is the first book in a supernatural adventure series from author, Barry Hutchison. Published 7th September 2017 by Nosy Crow 

This is a very funny book that even adults will find humorous. For me, it was like being transported back to my childhood. If only this type of book had been written when I was younger then what fun I would have had reading it. How fortunate we are now, having so much choice and with so many talented authors gracing our bookshelves. 

Denzel, the main character, is very endearing and might not be classed as your average hero character. However, Smithy (his sidekick) is my favourite character. He is full of sarcastic wit and is very laid back. They make a comedy pair like no other. "What would you rather fight?" Smithy began. 
"Go ON" said Denzel. "A zombie with the brain of an evil genius, or an evil genius with the brain of a zombie?" The questions and the replies will make you laugh and also make you think, this goes on all the way through the book and I really loved this. Interestingly, what would you choose? 

The story has a snappy narrative that will really help reluctant readers engage in the story. It is really easy to read. I found myself so engaged that I ended up reading it in just one sitting. It is written in an all-out action comic book style. Nosy Crow, yet again, have adapted this really well just as they have in so many of their previously published books. Some of the action sequences are 'too cool for school' but will certainly engage your magical socks right off your literal feet. 

The book is very imaginative and has a real punch of a twist later on. It is full of magical mayhem, fire power and some very nasty monsters. I particularly loved the RUBBISH-MONSTER classic caper narrative gold. However, I think I would have loved a little more detail weaved into some parts of the story, but this might be from an older readers perspective. It would also have been interesting to have included more of the amazingly detailed illustrations by Rob Biddulph, who also did My Evil Twin is a Supervillain by David Solomons. He really is a fantastic illustrator.

This is a great start to a new series. It is a gadget, supernatural, monster action-fest that has a fantastic immersive feel which 8-12-year-old readers will love to read, as well as big kids like me. I for one am certainly looking forward to the next book.

About the Author

Barry Hutchison, author of over eighty books for children and teenagers, and adults who never properly grew up. I live in Fort William in the Highlands of Scotland with my wife, two children, and very annoying dog.

As well as books, I also write comics like The Beano, DC Super Hero Girls, Angry Birds and Supermansion.
I also write animation, including all six episodes of Dreamworks TV’s upcoming ‘Kip Van Creepy: Delivery Boy’ and an episode of ‘Supermansion’ starring Bryan Cranston and Chris Pine.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's Middle-Grade Book Picks (9-12yrs) September 2017 - UK Post One

R . M . Romero - The Dollmaker of Krakow - Published by Walker Books (5 Oct. 2017) - ISBN-13: 978-1406375633

A timeless fantasy set in the Second World War that weaves together magic, folklore and history, perfect for fans of The Book ThiefThe Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and Goodnight Mister Tom
One night a little doll named Karolina comes to life in a toyshop in Krakow, Poland, in 1939 and changes the life of the gruff, broken-hearted Dollmaker. And when the darkness of the Nazi occupation sweeps over the city, Karolina and the Dollmaker must bravely use their magic to save their Jewish friends from a terrible danger, no matter what the risks. This powerful story is about finding friendship in the darkest of places and the importance of love in times of great pain.

Mira Bartok - The Wonderling - Published by Walker Books (28 Sept. 2017) - ISBN-13: 978-1406370645

In this extraordinary debut novel with its deft nod to Dickensian heroes and rogues, Mira Bartók tells the story of Arthur, a shy, fox-like foundling with only one ear and a desperate desire to belong, as he seeks his destiny.
Welcome to the Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures, an institution run by evil Miss Carbunkle, a cunning villainess who believes her terrified young charges exist only to serve and suffer. Part animal and part human, the groundlings toil in classroom and factory, forbidden to enjoy anything regular children have, most particularly singing and music. For the Wonderling, an innocent-hearted, one-eared, fox-like eleven-year-old with only a number rather than a proper name ― a 13 etched on a medallion around his neck ― it is the only home he has ever known. But unexpected courage leads him to acquire the loyalty of a young bird groundling named Trinket, who gives the Home’s loneliest inhabitant two incredible gifts: a real name ― Arthur, like the good king in the old stories ― and a best friend. Using Trinket’s ingenious invention, the pair escape over the wall and embark on an adventure that will take them out into the wider world and ultimately down the path of sweet Arthur’s true destiny.

Frances Hardinge - A Skinful of Shadows - Published by Macmillan (21 Sept. 2017) - ISBN-13: 978-1509837540

When a creature dies, its spirit can go looking for somewhere to hide. 
Some people have space inside them, perfect for hiding.
Makepeace, a courageous girl with a mysterious past, defends herself nightly from the ghosts which try to possess her. Then a dreadful event causes her to drop her guard for a moment.
And now there's a ghost inside her.
The spirit is wild, brutish and strong, but it may be her only defence in a time of dark suspicion and fear. As the English Civil War erupts, Makepeace must decide which is worse: possession – or death.

Kim Ventrella (Author), Victoria Assanelli (Illustrator)Skeleton Tree - Published by Macmillan Children's Books (21 Sept. 2017) - ISBN-13: 978-1509828678
When Stanley Stanwright finds a bone poking out of the earth in his back garden, he is determined to take a picture of it and send it to the Young Discoverer's Competition, thinking it will help bring his dad back home. But the bone begins to grow, reaching up out of the ground until it turns into a skeleton - a skeleton with an unusual interest in his unwell younger sister Miren.
As time wears on, Miren's condition worsens, and the only time she is truly at peace is when she is playing with the skeleton. But Stanley is wary of him, especially when he finally manages to get a picture, and spots a scythe at the skeleton's feet. . .

A whimsical, heartfelt story about a boy who finds a friend in Death with the help of an unusual tree growing in his back garden. With black line illustrations throughout by Victoria Assanelli.