Friday, 10 April 2020

Tom Huddleston - FloodWorld + DustRoad - Series Book Review - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books

Kara and Joe spend their days navigating the perilous waterways of a sunken city, scratching out a living in the ruins. But when they come into possession of a mysterious map, they find themselves in a world of trouble. Suddenly everyone’s after them: gangsters, cops and ruthless Mariner pirates in their hi-tech submarines. The two children must find a way to fight back before Floodworld’s walls come tumbling down…

This is one of my favourite series written by the multi-talented Tom Huddleston. I recently read both books back-to-back and thoroughly enjoyed each one. The book covers are brilliantly shiny and capture the superb illustration by Manuel Sumberac. In my opinion, he is one of the best illustrators around. The first book FloodWorld was published by Nosy Crow Books in October 2019 whilst DustRoad was published just this March 2020. However, with everything going on in the world you may have missed this exciting release.

Both stories encapsulate a dystopian vision that is well constructed and fantastically written. The adventures are imaginative, creative and very cinematic. When you turn the first page of DustRoad, you travel to a world that will engulf you in a fantasy bubble which only pops once you have turned the last page. It is a truly engaging and gripping story, in fact, it's a Sci-fi pleasure to follow the characters through this narrative and be absorbed in a world full of gadgets, tech, and worldbuilding. 

Each book uses the same characters and general ideas, nevertheless, both books work equally well independently. New characters are introduced in DustRoad alongside some of the more unassuming characters from FloodWorld who now find themselves playing a greater role. The stories are layered with equal amounts of action, dialogue, and descriptive narrative that both hooks and immerses the reader. Just like a good action movie, the book has everything you want from bumps, scrapes, danger, and death as well as stilll being able to make the story feel real and meaningful. 

This is a brilliant and entertaining series full of totally addictive mystery, mayhem and madness. It's certainly a great way to pass the time at the moment, so pick your side. Will it be the ruthless Pirates or the controlling Mariners? Whoever you decide to support you'll be grabbing yourself a slice of the delicious action. Out of interest, downloadable discussion notes and a teaching resource pack including activity sheets are available on the Nosy Crow website HERE

The sequel to FloodWorld, this equally cinematic book tells the story of Kara and Joe’s adventures in the US. Travelling with a band of ideological outlaws, they become determined to destroy the Mariners and steal their world. Can the kids come up with a plan to stop the seemingly inevitable destruction?

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's Book Picks - April 2020 - POST THREE

This is my third post for some of the best new children's books being published this April 2020. Through these extraordinary times, we are encouraging you to support small independent book shops up and down the country. The sad thing is that, if we don't, we might lose some at a time like this. Therefore, if you fancy reading any of the below books and are thinking of buying a book or two then why not support them - buy directly and let us do our part to support them in these difficult times. They need our love. Check out Twitter for an idea as to which bookshops are posting out @IndieBookshopUK or visit the website which has a handy map for you to look at Thanks for reading and stay safe. 

Jess Butterworth - Where the Wilderness Lives - Published by Orion Children's Books (2 April 2020) - ISBN-13: 978-1510105508 - Paperback - Age: 8+

An epic race for survival that follows four children and their dog through treacherous waterways, dense forests and the deep, dark wilderness of Wales.
One day, as Cara and her siblings are trying to clean up the canal where they live, they pull out a mysterious locked safe. Though none of them can open it, they're sure it's something special.
That night, a thief comes after the safe. The children flee, traveling with their boat as far as they can, before continuing into the forest on foot. But soon they're lost in the mountains with a snowstorm about to land and food supplies running low. 
Will Cara and her siblings be able to survive the wilderness with nothing but their wits, their bravery and one very large dog to help?

Nicola Skinner - Storm - Published by HarperCollins Children's Books (2 April 2020) - ISBN-13: 978-0008295325 - Hardback - Age: 10+

The extraordinarily moving, funny and original new novel from the author of the rapturously acclaimed BLOOM.

“You were born raging, Frances Frida Ripley. That’s what happens when you’re born in a storm.”
Frances’s parents were not prepared for her birth: they had a blanket and an easel and some paint, but not anything useful, like a car or a phone. So it’s no wonder Frankie has always had a temper. She was born on a BEACH, in a STORM.
What Frances was not prepared for was dying in a freak natural disaster that wiped out her whole town.
Waking up 100 years later, Frances finds a whole load of new things to be angry about. And that’s before the visitors start turning up, treating her home like it’s a tourist attraction. Which it is.
Only there are worse people out there than tourists… and they’re coming for Frankie.
Frankie is about to discover that there are things more important than herself – and that anger has its uses. Because when you have a storm inside you – sometimes the only thing to do is let it out…

Emma Read - Milton the Megastar (Milton the Mighty) - Published by Chicken House (2 April 2020) - ISBN-13: 978-1912626069 - Paperback - Age: 7 

In this sequel to Milton the Mighty, Milton goes international!
Milton's superstardom is stressing him out: the events, the glamour, the adoring fans! Secretly, Zoe, Audrey and Ralph think he's turned into ... well ... a bit of a diva. So when Dad and Greta plan a trip to Hawaii, Zoe knows she has to take her best spider pals along for the ride: they all need a break. But with a live volcano, an endangered spider species, an unscrupulous entrepreneur and Milton's ego to contend with, this is hardly a holiday ...

Fleur Hitchcock - Clifftoppers: The Thorn Island Adventure - Published by Nosy Crow Ltd (2 April 2020) - ISBN-13: 978-1788007900 - Paperback - Age: 7+

For Aiden, Chloe, Ava and Josh, holidays at their grandparents' cottage mean wild beaches, no curfew, Bella the dog, and most of all - adventure! While sailing their Grandad's boat along the coast with her cousins, Chloe sees a terrified face at a tower window on Thorn Island. Could the face belong to recently kidnapped young George, the only child of a rich local businessman? No one they tell believes there could be a child held prisoner in the tower. So, certain that the villains are hiding out nearby, the cousins must use all their skills and cunning to conduct a daring rescue. Fleur Hitchcock is famous for her excellent "thrillers for beginners". 

This action-packed series takes 7+ readers on fantastic, realistic adventures. 

Cover illustration by Tom Clohosy Cole. 
Look out for the other books in the Clifftoppers series: 
The Arrowhead Moor Adventure 
The Fire Bay Adventure 

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Interview with Author Damien Love - Monstrous Devices (Q&A) - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books

Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books would like to welcome Glasgow-based writer, Damien Love. Damien has recently published his brilliant debut book, MONSTROUS DEVICES, which is due to be published by OneWorld Publications on the 19th March 2020.  It's a wild and wonderfully weird children's adventure. The imaginative and spooky story (featuring amazing killer robots) is highly recommended for all ages and is a real page-turner. I think this might be a book that some of you may not have come across. Therefore, it's a fantastic pleasure for us to introduce both the author and the book to you and pique your interest. We hope you enjoy the interview. 

To entice potential readers to read Monstrous Devices, how would you summarise the story?
DL: Monstrous Devices is a full-on, old-school adventure story, full of mayhem and magic and…sinister stuff. It’s about a 12-year-old boy called Alex, who gets swept up into a very weird mystery after his grandfather (a somewhat elusive old gentleman) sends him a shabby old tin clockwork robot in the mail as a gift. Alex collects old toys like this, and so at first, he reckons it’s just another scratched-up antique to add to his collection. But strange things start to happen, and he quickly begins to suspect that this one is different…and possibly also deadly. Because it turns out that there are other people who are desperate to get their hands on it, too, and are prepared to go to any lengths. So, soon, Alex and his grandfather are on the run, being hunted across Europe in the snow by a strange gang, all of them trying to unlock the secret of the old toy. 

There have been some connections made to Indiana Jones and Alex Rider fans enjoying the story. Do you feel these types of adventure books or films have influenced Monstrous Devices in any way?
DL: Most definitely. Alex Rider’s author, the great Anthony Horowitz was, very graciously, one of the very first people to read Monstrous Devices, before it was published, and he gave it a hugely kind quote for the cover, for which I can never thank him enough. (I should add: I don’t know him! He was just exceptionally generous.) I think that’s where the Alex Rider comparisons have come from, and I’m very glad if people think that. Although, the Alex in my book is quite a different kind of character to Alex Rider. Something like Indiana Jones was a slightly more conscious influence, the style of it – action and thrills and fun were among the things I tried to keep at the front of my mind while I was writing Monstrous Devices. And, maybe even more than that, the older films that Indiana Jones draws on itself, all those kind of cliff-hanger adventure movie serials from the 1930s and 1940s, and old detective thrillers. Hopefully, the book jumbles some of that style and pace and atmosphere up, along with some other things, into something else.

I understand (from what I have read) that you have the ability to talk to cats. What have the cats told you about the protagonist(s) in this book?
DL: Yeah. My ability to talk to cats is proving to be something of a one-way street. I can talk to them, sure enough – but I’m not sure if they understand me. But, to answer your question, I just asked them (there are two cats here right now) about the characters in the book. And as far as I can tell, one of the cats says, “Feed me.” And the other one says, “I’m asleep. I can’t hear you. I can’t hear you. Look, there’s just no point in your keeping talking to me. I’m a-sleep.” So, make of that what you will.

You've also written the sequel (The Shadow Arts). Do you have any idea when this might be published in the UK?
DL: Well, the plan was for The Shadow Arts to come out in the UK in February 2021. However, as you know, the current crisis with the coronavirus lockdown is having a huge impact on everyone’s plans, including publishers’ release schedules. Hopefully, the book will still come out around that date, but I guess, like everyone else, we’ll have to wait and see where we are and how the land lies. But I hope it will be early next year.

Do you think that the book cover plays an important part in the book-buying process? Who produced the front cover illustration for your book?
I think the cover is hugely important, especially for a book like this, and for a first-time novelist like me: my name doesn’t mean anything to anyone, no one is looking for it, so the cover is the thing that will catch the eye. And I think that the cover of Monstrous Devices really works a particular kind of magic – it draws people in, it makes them ask questions, and, even before you start reading, it begins to weave a hint of a strange, glowing, slightly ominous night time mood, and gives a sense of place. I count myself really lucky that my book is inside this cover. The artwork is by a brilliant young illustrator called Sam LeDoyen. 

You can see more of his stuff here: and you can follow his adventures on twitter at @abelgraymusic

What did you edit out of this book and why?
DL: Let’s see… there’s not a lot left on the cutting room floor, actually, that I can remember right now. Although, without giving anything away, there was a little scene I cut out late in the book: in Prague, where Alex and his grandfather run into members of a British stag party in the streets late at night. I try to always have a sense of reality and fantasy colliding in the story, and the reality is that Prague has become a bit of a stag-party destination in recent years, so this was kind of reflecting that. I quite liked the moment, but I finally took the scene out, really just to keep the pace up in that particular section.

As the TV critic for Scotland's The Sunday Herald, what are your favourite TV programmes and do you think they inspire you to write?
DL: Yes, I was the TV critic there for years. My own favourites, in no particular order, include, let’s see: The Sopranos, The Avengers (the 1960s TV show, not the Marvel Comics stuff), the original Twilight Zone, The Prisoner, Callan, Mad Men, Children Of The Stones, Deadwood, Danger Man, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy with Alec Guinness, The Phil Silvers Show, Spiral, the Alan Partridge saga, the 1960s Batman, and…eh…I could go on here for quite a while. And yes, for sure: while I might not necessarily draw on all of these in Monstrous Devices, I think that good writing is inspirational wherever you come across it, whether it’s in a book, in a play, on TV, in a movie or in a song lyric. And, on a more technical level, I did kind of try to write Monstrous Devices with a bit of a “camera-eye” watching the action in many places.

Do you have any strange writing habits that you would be happy to share with us?
DL: I wrote Monstrous Devices while I was working other jobs, sort of in-between other things, and so it just started to happen that a lot of it would come together while I was sitting on trains – I’d sit thinking over the plot, sometimes even working problems out on the backs of tickets or whatever scraps of paper came to hand. Then writing it up properly when I got home. But then, after a while, I got to a stage where, if I found myself stuck over something…I kind of felt that I had to get on a train to get my brain working on it. Like: I actually wouldn’t be able to figure anything out unless I was on a train, moving. So…that got a bit strange for a while.

What genre of books do you particularly like to read?
DL: I like all kinds of writing, but my favourite writers, the ones I keep coming back to, include Patricia Highsmith and Raymond Chandler, Shirley Jackson and MR James, so I do like to read thrillers, noir-like stuff (Chandler and Highsmith) and also stories tinged by the strange and supernatural, but which are still also grounded in a very solid sense of reality (Jackson and James). Hopefully, in a way, I’ve made a stab at combining elements of all this, along with some other stuff, in Monstrous Devices.

Monday, 6 April 2020

Nosy Crow - Free Downloadable - Coronavirus A Book for Children - Professor Graham Medley and Illustrated by Axel Scheffler


Axel Scheffler has illustrated a digital book for primary school-age children, free for anyone to read on-screen or print out, about the coronavirus and the measures taken to control it. Published by award-winning independent children’s book publisher, Nosy Crow, and written by staff within the publishing company, the book has had expert input: Professor Graham Medley of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine acted as a consultant, and the company also had advice from two head teachers and a child psychologist.

 The book answers key questions in simple language appropriate for 5 to 9-year-olds: 

What is the coronavirus? 
  • How do you catch the coronavirus? 
  • What happens if you catch the coronavirus? 
  • Why are people worried about catching the coronavirus? 
  • Is there a cure for the coronavirus? 
  • Why are some places we normally go to closed? 
  • What can I do to help?
  • What’s going to happen next?

Nosy Crow wants to make sure that this book is accessible to every child and family and so the book is offered totally free of charge to anyone who wants to read it.  However, the company suggests, at the back of the book, that families might make a donation to help our health service if they find the book useful:

Kate Wilson, Managing Director of Nosy Crow, said:

“We were very aware that many parents and carers are struggling to explain the current extraordinary situation to children, many of whom are frightened and confused. We thought that the best thing we could do would be to use our skills to produce a free book to explain and, where possible, reassure children. We asked Axel, whose work is so familiar and so loved, to illustrate it. He was happy to do it, and did it extraordinarily quickly. Meanwhile, having heard Professor Medley interviewed by the BBC, we looked him up and wrote to him, and despite his huge workload, he reviewed the book over a weekend, and we were able to incorporate his suggestions, together with those of two headteachers and a child psychologist, into the final version of the book. We hope it helps answer difficult questions in difficult times.”

Axel Scheffler, the illustrator of The Gruffalo, said: 

“I asked myself what I could do as a children’s illustrator to inform, as well as entertain, my readers here and abroad.  So I was glad when my publisher, Nosy Crow, asked me to illustrate this question-and-answer book about the coronavirus. I think it is extremely important for children and families to have access to good and reliable information in this unprecedented crisis, and I hope that the popularity of the books I've done with Julia Donaldson will ensure that this digital book will reach many children who are now slightly older, but might still remember our picture books.”

Professor Graham Medley, Professor of Infectious Disease Modelling at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said:

“This pandemic is changing children’s lives across the globe and will have a lasting impact on us all. Helping children understand what is going on is an important step in helping them cope and making them part of the story - this is something that we are all going through, not something being done to them. This book puts children IN the picture rather just watching it happen, and in a way that makes the scary parts easier to cope with.”

You can download a copy of the book here

Sunday, 5 April 2020

Michelle Paver - Viper's Daughter - Book Review - Blog Tour 2020 UK

Viper's Daughter by Michelle Paver is out now, published by Zephyr (an imprint of Head of Zeus) priced £12.99 in hardback.

  • Viper's Daughter is the seventh book in the award-winning series that began with Wolf Brother.
  • Selling over 3 million copies with a million copies sold in the UK 
  • Published in 36 languages 
  • Winner of The Guardian Children's Fiction Prize
WOLF BROTHER began the literature journey back in 2004 when the world was a different place for you, I and even the characters. The series continued with another five books, ending in 2009 with GHOST HUNTER. All explored the adventures and the troubles of Torak, Renn, Wolf, their friends and, of course, their enemies. I'm sure that many avid readers (like me) have held the characters in their fantasy hearts for all those years; they have lived on in spirit within us as we have not wanted them to disappear. 

Eleven years have now past and, finally, the characters have been brought to life once again. We have an exciting new adventure full of courage, hope and another dramatic quest to follow and indulge in. On opening VIPER'S DAUGHTER, my heart beat a little faster as I found myself at home once again. The spirits were awoken and continued to live on through another amazing adventure.

The sense of adventure and the human soul are captured with maturity. Michelle Paver's sense of adventure is an absolute joy to read; the landscape and the characters have come of age with her great passion for the outdoors and a great sense of history. The plot has a wonderful sense of drama that is captured in this new episode and could easily be read as a standalone story or as a continuation of this wonderful series.

So, if you have not read any of the other books in the series then what can you expect?
  • A setting that is set deep in the past that will have you engrossed and intrigued; 
  • Brilliant descriptive detail that transports you to that place and time;
  • Characters that are full of warmth, realistic, complex and yet still very relatable;
  • A plot full of action, drama and suspense. 
The story is driven by morals, giving the reader a real sense of emotion and dilemma as it pulls the threads tightly through the eye of a storm. Especially, as the darker side of the story deepens and situations become more tricky to deal with. The book has been brilliantly researched - you can tell the author has visited the places depicted in the book. It really helps the readers to resonate with the setting as you visualise the places. The detail is really astounding and, at a time like this, it makes you feel as if you are outdoors in the wilderness living and breathing the story. 

This is your chance to enter a world that will captivate and enthrall you with a large body of work that has already found many readers across the world. The book covers are all wonderful and look brilliant on any bookshelf! I believe another book in the series will be published midway in 2021. These are already a classic (in my opinion) but perhaps they will become even more widely known and cherished as they are being adapted for TELEVISION.

As part of this post, I have included the synopsis to give you an idea of what this book is about. There are also some YOUTUBE Videos for you to watch including an author talk and a reading by Sir Ian McKellen. Finally, I have embedded a link to obtain free readers' notes which are very useful, fun and a great tool for learning. I hope you really enjoy this post and extra materials. Please stay safe and be kind to each other. 

A boy. A wolf. The legend lives on. 
The world of Torak and Renn is that of six thousand years ago: after the Ice Age, but before farming spread to north-west Europe when the land was one vast Forest. The people looked like you or me, but their way of life was very different. They lived in small clans, some staying at a campsite for a few days or moons, others staying put all year round. They didn’t have writing, metals or the wheel – but they didn’t need them. They were superb survivors. They knew all about the animals, trees, plants, and rocks around them. When they wanted something they knew where to find it, or how to make it. Like the previous books in the series, Viper’s Daughter takes place in northern Scandinavia. The wildlife which Torak and Renn encounter on their adventures is appropriate ➔

And don't forget to check out the rest of the blog tour! Details are below:

Viper's Daughter Readers' Notes
Free download perfect for home learning - Download for FREE HERE

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's Book Picks - April 2020 - POST TWO

This is my second post for some of the best new children's books being published this April 2020. Through these extraordinary times, we are encouraging you to support small independent book shops up and down the country. The sad thing is that, if we don't, we might lose some at a time like this. Therefore, if you fancy reading any of the below books and are thinking of buying a book or two then why not support them - buying directly from them and let us do our part to support them in these difficult times. Thanks for reading and stay safe.

Rob Lloyd Jones - Jake Atlas and the Keys of the Apocalypse (Jake Atlas 4)  - Published by Walker Books (2 April 2020) - ISBN-13:978 1406385014 - Paperback - Age: 8+ 

This fourth riveting Jake Atlas adventure takes Jake and his family to Rome, where they uncover the secret history of a Roman legion sworn to protect four mysterious keys. The keys hold back a force that wiped out a lost civilization - now, Jake and his family must find them to stop it from returning. Their mission leads them to the edges of what was the Roman empire - to a volcano in Morocco, Hadrian's Wall and an island in the Middle East. There they are forced to team up with their enemy, the People of the Snake, to stop a power that threatens to destroy half the world. But the closer Jake grows to the group that were once his enemy, the further apart he and his family drift. And as he approaches the end of his quest, he's faced with a terrible choice - save the world or save his family!

L. D. Lapinski - The Strangeworlds Travel Agency - Published by Orion Children's Books (30 April 2020) - ISBN-13: 978-1510105942 - Paperback - Age: 9+

Pack your suitcase for a magical adventure! Perfect for fans of The Train to Impossible Places and The Polar Bear Explorers' Club.

At the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, each suitcase transports you to a different world. All you have to do is step inside . . .
When 12-year-old Flick Hudson accidentally ends up in the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, she uncovers a fantastic secret: there are hundreds of other worlds just steps away from ours. All you have to do to visit them is jump into the right suitcase. Then Flick gets the invitation of a lifetime: join Strangeworlds' magical travel society and explore other worlds.
But, unknown to Flick, the world at the very centre of it all, a city called Five Lights, is in danger. Buildings and even streets are mysteriously disappearing. Once Flick realizes what's happening she must race against time, travelling through unchartered worlds, seeking a way to fix Five Lights before it collapses into nothingness - and takes our world with it.
A magical adventure for 9+ readers that will take you to whole new worlds.

David O'Connell (Author), Claire Powell (Illustrator) - The Revenge of the Invisible Giant (The Dundoodle Mysteries) - Published by Bloomsbury Children's Books (2 April 2020) - Paperback - Age: 6+

When a batch of his experimental sweets goes wrong at the McBudge Confectionery Company, Archie needs a distraction. And when he hears about a book of magical wisdom lost in a tunnel beneath the mountains, Archie is determined to find it. It's DEFINITELY so he can be the best magical guardian of Dundoodle that he can be and DEFINITELY NOT so he can turn tree branches into flying surfboards. Only trouble is, the key to open the tunnel was broken into four pieces hundreds of years ago and hidden.
Archie, Fliss and Billy set out to find the pieces of the key, but why was the tunnel sealed off in the first place? And what is the deep, sinister, MOUNTAINOUS voice Archie keeps hearing on the wind?
David O'Connell, author of The Chocolate Factory Ghost, returns with the latest adventure in his madcap magical mystery series for anyone who loves monsters, puzzles and SWEETS.

Tom Percival - Attack of the Heebie Jeebies (Dream Team) - Published by Macmillan Children's Books (2 April 2020) - ISBN-13: 978-1529029154 - Age: 7+

Meet the Dream Team! Turning nightmares into incredible adventures!
Erika's had a bad day. But going to sleep upset means bad dreams. She finds herself stranded in the Dreamscape along with a mob of hungry Heebie Jeebies - and to make matters worse, she's being hunted by a terrifying Angermare!
Enter the Dream Team! Can they help Erika overcome her worries and get home, or will she be trapped forever?

Attack of the Heebie Jeebies is the first in a fun and engaging colour illustrated series from Tom Percival, exploring anxiety in children through action and adventure.

Friday, 3 April 2020

Alastair Chisholm - Orion Lost - Interview (Nosy Crow) - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books

Good Morning, Everybody. I hope you are all keeping well and safe. I'd like to welcome you to this fantastic interview with Alastair Chisholm. Some of you may recognise Alastair as the author of Orion Lost - a fantastic action-adventure story - published in January 2020 by Nosy Crow. This story is perfect for Star Wars/Star Trek and SCI-FI fans. If you would like to read my book review to find out more then click on this Link

Otherwise, keep on reading until you reach this fascinating interview. It gives a very interesting insight into the characters, the processes and even allows us to learn more about the author. I'm sure you will find it thoroughly interesting (I know that I did). Hopefully, it will entice you into obtaining a copy to READ and enjoying this brilliant book.

Tell us a little about Orion Lost and what can people expect when they read it?

Orion Lost is a sci-fi adventure story set on a stranded starship, about a group of children who have to take command and try to get everyone home. There’s excitement, and danger, and aliens, and space pirates … and someone is lying to them.

Did you let the story and the characters take you on a journey or did you map out the whole plot and know exactly what you wanted to write?
I had the bones of the story in my head, and it more or less went that way. My editor at Nosy Crow, Tom Bonnick, had some great suggestions that we adapted into the book. I find characters are much more fluid, and I tend to discover their personalities as I write them. Like Mikkel, for example – I had no idea really what he was like at first, but suddenly he was telling me all about his world. And some of the children were originally more like villains, but I couldn’t help liking them!

How did the process differ between writing a picture book to that of a middle-grade fiction book?
With picture books you’re thinking about it page by page, planning how the words and pictures will work together. (Especially once you get to know the artist – I worked with the fantastic Jez Tuya on The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears, and for the sequel, I was thinking all about how Jez might draw characters and scenes). With middle-grade it’s about creating the pictures yourself, in the readers’ minds. I love both types, but middle-grade (8-12, roughly) is a brilliant age to write for, because the readers are very sophisticated but still willing to take on fantastical ideas. 

What were your thoughts/ideas behind the interesting place and character names?
In some cases, I look through name lists to find one that feels right. Sometimes a name just happens – like for Arnold, the big brash American jock. Once he was Arnold, I couldn’t imagine him being anything else! 

For others, like the Videshi aliens, it came from a mix of the world I was building and what I wanted from them. Videshi are mysterious and strange, and I imagined India being a future space power, and so picked a Hindi word – Videshi – meaning stranger, or foreigner. 

What inspired you to write this book?
Well, I love good sci-fi, especially the Doctor Who, Star Trek, Star Wars kind of thing. So I wanted to create something with that feel. But also, a big theme of the book is the idea of command and responsibility, self-control and self-confidence. Beth, the main character, has to step up and become the Captain, and figure out what she can and can’t do. And for me, this was a lot like the experience my daughters were going through as teenagers, stepping up to take part in the adult world. Much of what Beth learns are things I was trying to say to my own daughters.

How important are stories to you? What books are you currently reading? 
I think stories are what really make us human. As many others have said, we’re basically storytelling apes. We look at a world that’s far too big and complex to hold in our heads, and we turn it into stories that we can hold. And we say, I know this isn’t true, but it’s true enough to get going with. We say, these things didn’t happen, but when I tell you them, you can understand how they would feel. We say, you haven’t been here, but I can make you feel like you have.

At the moment I’m reading a lot of middle-grade fiction, which is great fun! I’ve just finished Dashe Roberts’ Bigwoof Conspiracy, which is hilarious, some zombie excitement in Wranglestone by Darren Charlton, and Joan Haig’s really lovely Tiger Skin Rug book. I’m also chomping through absolutely tons of old Judge Dredd comics :-)

It was lovely to see quotes from children on the Press Release. What has been your favourite quote to date and why? 
It was fantastic, wasn’t it? I was so chuffed! I think my favourites are the ones that say, “I’m not normally into science fiction, but …”. I love sci-fi, and I love how it allows you to tell stories about people, and I hope I’ve managed to convert a few readers!
Oh, and this year some children dressed as Orion Lost characters for World Book Day, and that was amazing! 🤩

How do you think children's books can help children and families during the pandemic we are currently facing?
It’s all very strange right now, isn’t it? The news is grim, people are stockpiling, parents are worried, and kids pick up on that. But it’s also weirdly boring, because you can’t go out, even to school.

I love all stories, including TV, film, and games. But books (and audiobooks) have a special magic because they change depending on what you bring to them, and what you need right now. The same book can deliver adventure and escape, comfort and hope, laughter and empathy, danger and courage. When you’re inside a book, you are its heroes, and some of that stays with you. With the best books, it stays with you forever. That’s probably something we all need right now.

What are you currently working on?
I’m editing my next sci-fi novel, which is a story about robots, and in between that I’m writing a series of dragon books for younger children. It’s quite a mix!

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Eloise Williams - Wilde - (Firefly Press) Book Review - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books

Wilde is the latest book by Eloise Williams (Children's Laureate Wales). The book will be published by Firefly Press (a small Cardiff-based publisher) on the 1st of May 2020. Whilst that sounds like a long time away, we really need things to look forward to at the moment! If you would like to, you can support the author and publisher by pre-ordering a copy of the book now. There currently have a special offer/deal to get a signed copy and an exclusive pin badge for no extra cost. All you need to do is order HERE before 10 April 2020. 

This story is a contemporary adventure and it really is an absolute delight to read. The main character, Wilde, is a young girl desperately trying to fit in. She's been kicked out of yet another school. However, this deliberate act didn't quite go to plan as Wilde now has to stay with a relative in Witch Point and start another school. However, Witch Point HAS A HIDDEN and chequered past which soon pulls Wilde and the readers into an atmospheric plot.

As you follow the story down the winding path of strangeness and trouble, a  creeping sensation soon washes over you. It'll send shivers down your spine like the sound of a chalkboard being scratched with fingernails! Birds seem to follow Wilde wherever she goes and she soon finds herself in the strangest of places during the middle of the night. Is she flying in her sleep? The mystery has the reader hooked in so many ways as many strange events unfold. 

The author has done a great job bringing the characters to life particularly within a school setting. The frightening letters sent to pupils was an amazing plot addition as it pulled the narrative together with the signed curses. It really brought out a thought-provoking side to the story which was all delivered through lots of tears and heartache. I thought the ending worked particularly well as Wilde races to find out what's happening before everyone blames her. 

This is a great story filled with equal dollops of knotted tension and genuine warmth. The story heart pumps lots of action and drama through the veins of mystery. The story really focuses on the development of great characters and creative ideas rather than clichĂ©s on the theme of  WITCHES. In fact, I would consider it an eloquently played out ghost story that focuses on FINDING your place and fitting into society and life. It really hits the literary mark and keeps you thoroughly entertained.