S4S – Advice for new bloggers

Hello there friends! How are we all this last Sunday of September? Have you had a lovely month? What have you done that makes you smile?

Today’s #SixforSunday is all about:

Advice for new bloggers

Now, I do not feel qualified in the slightest to give this advice and I think this advice is as much for me as it is for “new bloggers”.

  1. You do you – this is your blog, you do it how you want to do it. You’re not posting about the same things that you see everyone else is? You don’t set your blog up the way everyone else does? Someone tells you you should be doing something that you don’t want to? Don’t worry about them… your blog, your rules. 
  2. Don’t do something just because everyone is – linked to the first one, just because everyone else is talking about a certain book, doesn’t mean you should be. I was LATE to the Simon party, but that doesn’t matter. 
  3. There is no set schedule – I remember vividly when I first started blogging asking how often everyone posted because I thought there was a rule for how often you should blog. Nope. There’s not. You do you. Post daily, 3 times a week, weekly, monthly… whatever feels right for you.
  4. Do it for the love – I blog because I love to blog. If I ever don’t love it, I’ll stop. Whatever your reasons for blogging are, know that you have to have the love for it above everything else.
  5. Say thank you – whether it’s to fellow bloggers, authors, publicists… say thank you. If they comment, send you something, tell you they read your review, email you, link up to your blog… thank you is a powerful 2 words. I try and use them as often as I can.
  6. Don’t think you need professional equipment to be a blogger – you don’t need a fancy camera to be a blogger. I use my phone. You use what you have at your disposal. 

Basically, blog because you love it and you do you.

Thanks for coming along to #SixforSunday

See you next week for: Best debut books!

S x

 

BOOK BLOG: Neal Shusterman

Scythe: brutal, sinister and full of intrigue

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“A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control. Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own”

I’ve seen Scythe around for MONTHS and it was always something that I was interested by, but just never got round to picking it up. When I finally did get round to buying it and then picking it up, I REGRETTED the time it had taken me to read. I devoured it in a matter of hours.

Scythe is set in a world where there are more people than the world can cope with – there’s a population crisis. There is no disease, no poverty: people are rarely dying from natural causes it seems. In order to combat this, there are people whose job it is to go and kill people. This is where the scythes come in to play – these are the people who are tasked with going out and killing, to try and control the population. 

Imagine being a young person in this world, one who really doesn’t want to become a scythe. That’s the position that Rowan and Citra are in. Neither of them wants to become a scythe, but as luck has it… that’s the fate that has become them. They are hired as apprentice scythes to Scythe Faraday – a quiet scythe who has never before taken an apprentice, never mind 2 at the same time (in fact no scythe in history had ever taken 2 apprentices at once). They both hesitatingly take on their positions and, after time, both “warm” to scythedom in their own ways. But obviously, things don’t always go as smoothly as they should… and what ensues is an exploration into a rebellious side of a group of scythes, who have taken the rules into their own hands. A group of scythes who don’t play by the rules. 

There’s death plots, mass killings, moral dilemmas, twists and turns aplenty in this book. I wasn’t bored for a second. There’s a BRUTAL scene on a plane, and another in an office block, that genuinenly made me gasp. I was shocked. It’s a very cleverly woven story in which you’re compelled by the scythes and their work. I was fascinated by them and by how they did their jobs. There’s a lot of compassion shown by most of the scythes in the way they undertake their killings. Contrast this with the brutality and sinister motives of the rebellious group and you have a gripping tale. 

The characters in this story are truly brilliant. You’ve got the brilliant main characters in Citra and Rowan – I loved their sense of duty and the will they/won’t they in this book. They both show some deceptively clever behaviour that I look forward to reading more in book 2. I’ve gotta give a massive shout out to Scythe Faraday here too – he is one of my favourite things about this book. 

As well as the story, you learn about the history of the Scythedom (I think I may have made that word up…) through diary entries from scythes from the past and I loved these. I like learning about the world that I’m reading about without just being dumped with information. You learn a lot about motives, rules, protocol and the duality of a scythe’s thought processes through these diary entries. 

I have just bought Thunderhead because I need to read it NOW. (It might actually end up being a half term treat to myself, we’ll see how the reading comes on!) 

My goodreads review:

This book was just brilliant. There were twists and turns, little crumbs, misleading statements and action galore. I can’t wait to read the second one. Some of the characters are horrid, but in that excellent enriching of a book kind of way!

Have you read Scythe?
Would you make a good scythe?
Do you think I would make a good scythe?

Let’s talk! I need more people who love this book in my life!

S x

 

What’s in my bag?

My brilliant friend Cora mentioned that she was doing a “What’s in my bag?” blog post and I thought this was a great idea. It’s not quite bookish BUT because I’m a nebby person, I’d love to see what is in everyone’s bags. I thought I’d start by sharing my bag!

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This is my trusty backpack. I got it in the Accessorize sale last year and I really love it. It’s a lovely grey colour and it’s just big enough to fit everything I need in. I do think I’m going to have to change it out for a bigger bag soon though, it doesn’t hold anything particularly big!

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This is all of the stuff that I carry in my backpack on a daily basis (excluding my phone and my headphones!)

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First up and most importantly: I always carry a book! My book lives in the FairyLoot bag for safe keeping (on the day I took these pictures I actually was carrying 2 books in my bag, I’m not sure why either!). As well as a book, there’s my sunglasses (prescription sunglasses are a game changer kids), an umbrella (it’s Newcastle, it’s autumn… rain will happen), chewing gum and a surprise chocolate bar! (These mint chocolate bars are exceptional, go treat yourself to one!)

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Next up, some life essentials. My purse (I got in a few years ago in the Cath Kidston sale, it was a pure bargain), my bus pass, my Oyster card and my portable charger. I generally don’t go anywhere without these things. Apart from my phone, my bus pass is the most important thing I carry around with me.

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You know you’re a teacher when… you carry around a million pens. The last time I cleared out my bag I found 18 pens (18 yes, what do I think I need that many pens for?!) This time round we have 11 pens… which is still a fair few. Also the obligatory receips and a pay slip from February (why is it still in my bag?!)

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It seems the majority of my bag is made up of these things. I am not sure why I have 2 different hand sanitisers or 4 different lip balm type products… I recently added the make up wipes to my bag because I am a lover of finding new lipstick shades (the NYX lipstick there is one of my most recent acquisitions… I am a lover of NYX products) and walking around with lipstick on my hand was never a good look. There’s the standard deodorant and body spray too. Plus some glass nail files which I am a complete convert to! I love that hand cream too – I have one in my bag, one in my bedroom and one in my classroom!

And there you go! A very quick, whistlestop tour of my handbag. I hope you enjoyed it! I was surprised there weren’t more receipts or rubbish to get rid of!

S x

 

BOOK BLOG: Tilly and the Bookwanderers

Today I have the ABSOLUTE JOY of hosting Anna James, author of the incredible Pages and Co on my blog as part of her blog tour. She’s here today to talk about her writing soundtrack. 

Without further ado, I hand you over to Anna and that amazing book of hers!

 

My Writing Soundtrack for Pages & Co

I listen to music whenever I’m drafting, but I cannot listen to music with lyrics of any kind as it instantly distracts me and I can’t concentrate on my own words. Instead I listen to a lot of classical music, especially film soundtracks. Here is some of the music I listened to while writing Pages & Co, and the music that most influenced the book.

Dario Marianelli

Dario Marianelli is my favourite modern composer; he wrote the scores for films including Atonement, the Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice, Anna Karenina, and the Mia Wasikowska adaption of Jane Eyre. He writes beautiful, soaring orchestral music that I find instantly get me into the right head space for writing magical adventures. A favourite is Briony’s theme from Atonement as it comes complete with typewriter sounds to really get you in the writing mood.

The Planet Earth Scores by Hans Zimmer

This is along similar lines to Marianelli; the music for these TV series is epic and inspiring, and if I’m ever struggling to focus and to get immersed in the world of Pages & Co I use music like this to stir my emotions and remind me of the power of good art. It helps make the outside world melt away, and encourages you to try and create something worthwhile.

Rabbit & Rogue by Danny Elfman

The first book that Tilly bookwanders into is Alice in Wonderland, when Alice takes her to the Mad Hatter’s tea party, and she visits the Queen of Hearts croquet game later, as well. When I was looking for music to write these scenes too I stumbled across the score from an Alice in Wonderland ballet that had been created, and scored by Danny Elfman that I’d never heard of before. The quirky but lovely music is absolutely perfect to write Alice’s brand of nonsense to.

Soundtracks for existing adaptations

In Pages & Co, Tilly visits several well known children’s classics, and the useful thing about classics is that they’ve often been made into multiple screen adaptation which means there are multiple soundtracks out there. Not all of them are quite right, but I listened to the scores for the recent Alice in Wonderland films, some of the music from the Anne of Green Gables TV series, and even some of the songs from the Muppet version of Treasure Island while I was writing scenes from those books.

The Maze Runner

One of the specific pieces of music that I associate with writing Pages & Co is the finale music from the first Maze Runner film. It’s an urgent, heroic, and beautiful piece of music with real pace and tension and I listened to it on repeat while I was writing some of the scenes towards the end of the book where stakes are high, and Tilly ends up in a dangerous situation in a book she’s wandered inside. I rarely listen to soundtracks all the way through, because they shift and change too much tonally, but I pick and choose tracks to create playlists for different beats; quieter emotional moments, tense action scenes, or cosy bookshop scenes to help me get in the right frame of mind.   

A massive thank you to Anna for such an amazing blog post! I’m off to listen to some of these myself! I love the idea of a writing playlist. 

If you want to see my review of Tilly and the Bookwanderers, check it out here

If you’d like to go and buy this amazing book (you really should, because it is exceptional), it’s out now! 
Amazon
Waterstones

S x

NQT life

Well hello,

Here I stand, 3 weeks into my NQT life and what a ride it has been so far. There have definitely been more ups than downs (I’m not even sure I’d say there’s been any downs so far). I am learning so much every day. I can’t wait every single day to get into the classroom and get started.

The only wobble I’ve had so far was when I was asked when I could be observed. (I knew it was coming, but the DREAD I feel is real). You’d think having been observed weekly (sometimes twice weekly) last year, that I’d be used the observations, but no. I still get uneasy around them. I think it’s the “judgement” side of it. This is the only job I want to do, in fact I know it’s the only thing I want to do for the rest of my life, so to hear that I’m potentially not doing brilliantly terrifies me. I’m a perfectionist and a bit of a control freak, so yeah… that’s something. Don’t get me wrong, I know I can’t be perfect all the time. I know this. I’m one of these people who doesn’t believe there’s such a thing as an outstanding teacher… I just think there’s teachers who can teach outstanding lessons and for me that’s a MASSIVELY different thing. No one’s at their utter best ALL THE TIME. That’d be exhausting. (I’m rambling now, sorry guys)

I still have to pinch myself that yes I do have my own class, I have my own kidseverything that goes down in that classroom is our doing: me and my kids. It’s still quite a surreal feeling. But it’s also bloody incredible. Having worked for SO MANY YEARS to get here, getting here is taking a bit of processing. There are days where I still feel like I’m “playing” at being a teacher and that someone is going to come along and just burst my bubble. I think that will take a while to get rid of tbh.

It’s a brilliant thing reaching your goals, but there’s always more. However, for now, I’m celebrating where I am. Now that I’m here I want to be the best I can beit’s what I deserve, it’s what my kids deserve, it’s what every single person who believed in me deserves. The hard work isn’t over yet, it’s just started in fact. I’m here, with my own classroom, but this is only the start of my journey. I’m on this amazing learning curve with this amazing bunch of kids and a brilliantly group of staff who are supporting me and I genuinely couldn’t feel any luckier. I am learning from the kids, from myself, from all of my colleagues. I think that’s something I’ve always strived for… to never stop learning. I’m in a profession now where that’s something that will happen. I have to keep learning because EVERY SINGLE DAY is different. 

It’s quite lush sitting in my classroom at the end of the day and thinking about what’s happened through the day. The amount of progress I feel my kids are making is just lovely. Their enthusiasm, their determination, their resilience astounds me so much. There’s something very special about that enthusiasm and excitement of learning that I hope they never lose. For me, it’s those moments.

It’s that little girl’s face when she made the connection between the purple bird and the boy’s purple pen in Journey; it’s another boy’s face when he used incredible mathematical vocabulary to describe a process; it’s seeing their faces when they finally hit their goal having struggled a bit; it’s the YET about all of it.

Seeing the tiniest and biggest bits of joy that make it worthwhile for me.

I love my job. It’s not all plain sailing. But I’m not here to whinge. I’m here to be thankful and celebrate everything that’s happened so far.

I feel lucky every single day that I walk though that door.

S4S – Reasons I love blogging

Guten morgen friends! 

How are we all this fine Sunday? (Is it fine where you are? Is it fine where I am?)

How is it Sunday already? WHY DO WEEKENDS GO SO FAST PLEASE?

However, with Sunday comes #SixforSunday… what an excellent silver lining! 

Today’s #SixforSunday post brings you:

Reasons I love blogging

  1. The sense of community
  2. The friends I’ve made
  3. Blogging gives me a creative outlet
  4. I finally have somewhere to shout about the books I love
  5. The opportunities it brings me
  6. Celebrating my friends’ brilliance 

I mean, are there 600 other reasons? ABSOLUTELY, but these are 6 of the top ones! 

I can’t wait to see what you all think of blogging. I love blogging, it has genuinely changed my life for the better. Don’t forget to share your reasons using the hashtag #SixforSunday!

See you next week for: Advice for new bloggers (lol, as if I’m qualified to do that!)

S x

 

The Book Title Book Tag

Well hello again!

How is everyone this fine Friday? I hope you are all well… I once again come to you with a tag. I am LOVING tags at the minute. It’s really fun thinking of answers to all the questions! Don’t forget I have my own tag going – The One With The Friends Tag. If you’d like to have a go on your own blog, please do! If you want to be featured on my blog, let me know… I’d love to host you all!

I saw this tag over on my friend Kelly’s blog and it was A GREAT ONE FOR THINKING. I definitely considered my answers seriously! Using book titles to answer prompts? YES PLEASE. If you wanna check out Kelly’s post, clicky here!

Title that’s the story of your life

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I am an exceptionally proud northerner (I know, who’d have guessed?!) so I thought The Eye of the North was apt. (I did almost go for Me Mam. Me Dad. Me)

Title that describes your perfect weekend

The Bookshop Girl

Not only is The Bookshop Girl an incredible book, but it is my ideal weekend. Books, tea and friends. What’s not to love about a weekend like that?

Title of an adventure you’d like to go on

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As terrifying as the sea is, I am an avid swimmer and I would love to give scuba diving a real go to see The Secret Deep.

Title you want to name your child

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I LOVE the name Matilda. I love the book Matilda. The perfect combination

Title of your ideal job

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I’m very lucky to have the job I’ve always wanted (a teacher), but I would LOVE to be good at EVERYTHING and try everything.

Title of a place you’d like to visit

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Not technically the name of a place I’d like to visit BUT I’d love to go to the poles and see polar bears.

Title of your love life

(LOL, I actually have so many different options for this prompt…)

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I’m going with Ella on the Outside because I feel like everyone else is on the inside with their partners and I’m on the outside, a single pringle.

Questions you ask yourself

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I often ask myself How to be Champion. (Read this book… it’s smashing!)

Title of a kingdom you want to rule OR name

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Imagine ruling somewhere called The Island at the End of Everything? It doesn’t even have to be the island from this story… just an island at the end of existence. How wonderful. It could be whatever you wanted it to be.

Title you’d name your band

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If Slay isn’t the most perfect band name, I don’t know what is!

And there you go!

If you’d like to have a go at this tag, feel free! I really enjoyed it!

S x

BLOG TOUR: Daddy Hairdo

Hello! Today I have the pleasure of hosting Francis Martin (of Daddy Hairdo fame!) on my blog as part of the Daddy Hairdo blog tour, talking all about the inspiration behind the gorgeous picture book Daddy Hairdo!

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Daddy Hairdo is a bit of family history that mutated into a picture book.   As a young father I had had to take on the role of coiffeur to my infant daughter whenever I took her to nursery.  For years I thought I had acquitted myself admirably and that the plaits, buns, ponytails and top knots I created were a match for any of the other parents’ hairdressing skills. It was only years later that my grown up daughter revealed to me that  the nursery nurses at the playschool were laughing at my  efforts and would immediately take them apart and do something a little more conventional.  My creations were called “daddy hairdos”.

Even more years later I am a mature student at Cambridge School of Art working for my MA in Children’s Book Illustration, desperate for a story. I have always thought that a good title is half the battle when creating a picture book. I recalled the daddy hairdos. I knew it would make a great starting point for a story. A dad who creates fantastical hairstyles for a daughter who won’t get her hair cut. I went into a writing and drawing frenzy. I explored ideas, researched hair styles and threw my own male pattern baldness into the mix. 

Initially I created the images but realised that the text would benefit from another artist. My own artwork wasn’t wasted. It worked as a guide for the text.  It always seems pointless if the text and the images just echo what the other says.  I try to get text and image to feed off each other create surprises, alternate narrative duties, tell jokes.  Being aware that there is a power in images, I can be confident enough to hold back on the writing and let the visuals do their job. I think that the Daddy Hairdo text works because I developed it with a visual context. Claire Powell’s pictures then lifted it even further.

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You should go check out the rest of the blog tour and get your hands on a copy of this gorgeous picture book if you get the chance! It’s out now! 

S x

BOOK BLOG: DC Litchfield

The Bear, The Piano, The Dog and the Fiddle: the beauty and brilliance of the first book, multiplied by 100. 

“Fiddle-playing Hector and his dog, Hugo, are best friends. Hugo is Hector’s biggest fan, and when Hector decides to retire, Hugo secretly learns to play the fiddle himself. Soon, a famous piano-playing bear invites him to join his all-animal band and travel the world to perform in front of huge crowds—an opportunity that Hector had always dreamed of for himself. Will Hector be able to overcome his jealousy and learn to be happy for his friend?”

The Bear, The Piano, The Dog and the Fiddle manages to capture all the warmth and charm of the first book with beautiful cityscapes and a whole heap of heartfelt emotion. If you haven’t read book 1 then you ABSOLUTELY need to. It’s one of my favourite picture books of ever (I am a massive David Litchfield fan) and I’ve read it to so many classes that they all know it!

In this new adventure you get a gorgeous setting, New Orleans, where our friend the Bear meets a whole new cast of animal musicians. As well as the trademark beautiful illustrations, you get a story that delivers a moving message about the true power of music and friendship. 

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It’s so important that children see success and friendship in all its guises and in this book you get that – you see that there are so many different kinds of success and that ultimately friendships are some of the most important things in life! It’s important that children learn that we can fall out with people and become friends again – seeing this in this book made me so happy! 

I can’t wait to introduce my class to the Bear and his new bunch of friends! This would be the perfect PSHE book for any primary classroom. 

Have you read The Bear and the Piano?
How much do you also adore David Litchfield’s illustrations?
What do you think is next for the Bear and his musical life?

A massive thanks to Quarto for sending me this… I did a massive squeal when it landed in my hands! 

S x

 

BOOK BLOG: Shakespeare Stories

Are you looking for a gorgeously illustrated simplified version of Shakespeare plays to use in the classroom? LOOK NO FURTHER.

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A Stage Full of Shakespeare Stories is a beautiful collection of 12 of Shakespeare’s most popular plays in a new book, perfect for 7 years+. Having had the chance to read through this already, I would say it is PERFECT for Key Stage 2 classes to use when studying a Shakespeare unit. 

The 12 plays featured are:

  • Macbeth
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Hamlet
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • The Tempest
  • Twelth Night
  • Othello
  • As You Like It
  • Julius Caesar
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • King Lear
  • The Merchant of Venice

Now I know Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth are really popular in schools (I’m teaching Macbeth this year to my Y5s… taught it last year and I just adored it so definitely doing it again!) but this book highlights some of the other wonderful plays that Shakespeare wrote. It’s certainly made me think that there’s less obvious choices out there that are worth studying! 

Each story comes with a double spread title page with one of the famous quotes from that play on one side and the title on the other (as below): 

I ADORE each of the title pages for the plays – they’re all so intricately designed and they’re stunning to look at. It would be interesting to use the title pages to see what the children could guess about each play. 

You then get a cast of characters and then the play. Each play is 3-5 pages long, again beautifully illustrated and perfectly readable. 

If you hadn’t guessed already, I ABSOLUTELY adore this book. It’s such an incredible resource to use in the classroom. I can’t wait to use my copy with my kids when we do Macbeth. I was even told by one of the teachers at school that she saw it on my twitter and went and purchased it because she was so curious! 

If my review isn’t enough to pull you in… just look at those end papers… you could play Shakespeare’s Where’s Wally? with them!

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A massive massive thank you to the lovely humans of Quarto for sending me this book. It is going to be a staple in my classroom! It’s out now if you want to purchase it! 

Waterstones online

Amazon

What’s your favourite Shakespeare play?
Do you remember studying Shakespeare at school?
Can you name any of the characters in the Where’s Wally pages?

Let me know your thoughts on this. Comment, send me a letter over the sea, stand at my balcony and tell me! I hope you love it cause I LOVE IT. 

S x