The One Where I Read Two Books In One Day And Cried…

Hello. 

If you know me, you know I cry at all of the books.

I decided to read two books in one day the other day. Both of them which would make me cry. 

Why did you decide that? I hear you cry.

BECAUSE I AM A FOOL. A FOOL.

However, since I read them both, I figured I would write quick reviews of them because they were BOTH incredible and they need to be read ok? Excellent. 

Image result for art of being normal

The Art of Being Normal – Lisa Williamson

Two boys. Two secrets.
David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl. On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long…

The Art of Being Normal tells the stories of David and Leotwo boys who are going through A LOT. David wants to be a girl: he knows he’s in the wrong body. Leo wants to be forgotten: he wants no attention. These two boys are so very different, but there’s something that they very much have in common (something I did NOT see coming). What you get when you put these two boys together is a brilliant story of unlikely friendships, solid bonds and an awful lot of tears! (I cried for the last 50 pages)

I loved this book so so much. The thing that stands out the most about this book is the incredible portrayal of relationships (between families, friends, enemies) and the power that these relationships have on our day to day life. You see the two boys’ relationship grow in front of your eyes and realise that sometimes the most important relationships you have in life are the non-romantic ones – it’s friendships built on love, respect and acceptance. You get to explore the incredible relationships between siblings; with parents and their children; not only that but negative relationships like the one between bullies and their victim; misunderstood relationships between parents and children. 

This book doesn’t shy away from the issues around a main character who is transgender and I really respect that. There’s discussions about all kinds of thtmes: clothing, acceptance, body image, coming out to parents, coming out to friends, bullying. I think this book has a place in every teenager’s life and I think it’s important. I don’t know why it’s stayed on my TBR for so long. If you haven’t picked it up yet you absolutely should. I want to give Leo a massive hug because I adore him.

Image result for they both die at the end uk

They Both Die at the End – Adam Silvera

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—to live a lifetime in a single day.

Imagine living in a world where you get a phone call to tell you that you’re going to die that same day. JUST HOLD THAT IN YOUR HEAD FOR A MINUTE. IMAGINE THAT. (I can’t, it’s too big an idea for my head, I don’t know where I would start, who I would see, what I would do. I think I’d be too overwhelmed and just cry for a day) This book explores a world where this is the reality. A reality for two teenagers who are told they’re going to die before midnight. 

We meet Rufus and Mateo, two very different boys, who have been given their call. They’ve got one more day on this earth. Mateo needs someone to help him along on his day otherwise he’ll just end up in his bedroom all day. He needs to tell his dad he loves him and his best friend. Rufus needs to say bye to his family, to the girl he loves. These two meet and what happens is a wonderful story about how sometimes you can meet the person you need most when you need them most.

The two boys grow together and change massively through the day. Rufus starts his story beating someone up and by the end his actions couldn’t be more gentle and caring. Rufus doesn’t push Mateo to do the things: he’s just there and him being there makes Mateo more brave. These boys do more for each other in one day than I think some people can do for each other in years. 

This book BROKE MY HEART. It tells us in the title what’s going to happen, but my god I was NOT prepared. Typical Adam Silvera breaking my heart. Again, you need to read this book. It’s just wonderful and it makes you think. 

There we go – two books, one day, LOT OF TEARS. 

RECOMMEND ME MORE BOOKS THAT WILL MAKE ME CRY.

I love a good cry!

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Brave Molly

Brave Molly: a gorgeous wordless picture book dealing with facing your fears

img_5902

“What do you do when no one can see your monsters but you? At first, Molly runs from them. But they follow her down the sidewalk, getting in the way when she tries to make a new friend, popping up unexpectedly out of shadows, and multiplying. Until finally…Molly faces her fears.”

As a teacher who is working in a world where Mental Health is rightfully a conversation that is had more openly than ever before, I am always after stories that I can use as conversation openers. Whether my children relate exactly or not, books are portals to conversations and feelings that can be so so essential to talk about. Brave Molly is yet another book in my library that I think helps to open up that conversation so beautifully. 

When I first opened Brave Molly, I was surprised by the lack of words (we all know I love a wordless picture book) but it is that exact lack of words that makes this book so powerful and so brilliant. When we’re struggling with whatever is coming our way, it’s usually our words that go first. Our emotions stay, our lives have to go on, but we struggle to talk or to give words to the things that is going on. Being a wordless picture book gives this such power and useability (is that even a word?). This book could be used with children from a young age to secondary aged children. 

The story tells of Molly who is at her happiest when she’s indoors: she’s creative, artistic and loves to read. However, as we all know, you can’t spend all of your time inside: the outside world beckons lovingly (but terrifyingly for some people). She’s afraid. Her fear monsters follow her whenever she leaves and goes into the world. Her fear monsters loom in the background like shadows: we can never really get away from our fears, they’re always there… we just have to learn to live with them. Molly’s monsters manage to ruin many a situation she is put in. 

One of my favourite images in the book is when Molly shows that she is in fact a very brave little girl. We ALL fear things. We all struggle with things. Squaring up to them and saying, “You have no power over me” is TERRIFYING, but with the help of our friends and our own selves, we can do it. 

img_5907

I really love this. It ticks so many boxes for me. With beautiful illustrations, a powerful message and a good story, this book is one that I can’t wait to use with the children I work with. It’s going to end up being one I use over and over. (If you’re after something along the same vein, Ruby’s Worry is similar, but not entirely the same).

A massive thank you to the publisher, Abrams and Chronicle for sending me this book. You guys are awesome!

S x

 

BLOG TOUR: Boot

Boot: a fun and friendly story all about finding yourself!

43706076

“When toy robot, Boot, wakes up at a scrapyard, it has no idea how it got there and why it isn’t with its owner, Beth. Boot is scared but tries to be brave, which is hard when its screen keeps showing a wobbly, worried face. Luckily Boot meets Noke and Red – other ‘advanced’ robots who have learned to survive in secret. With its new friends by its side, Boot is determined to find Beth and the gang set off on a dangerous adventure.”

Very occasionally a book comes along that makes you just SMILE and feel buoyed up by things in life. This book is 100% one of those books. 

Boot tells the story of a robot, who lives in a world where his kind have been replaced by newer, fancier and more up to date models. Boot wakes up in a scrapyard and is very confused. It only has two and a half glitchy memories which don’t really help it to find out where it is, who it is or where it should be. These memories tell it that it was once loved, which means something important to humans. Through these memories, you see that it has once lived a happy life with its human, Beth. It knows instantly that it needs to get back to Beth, but getting out of the scrapyard and across the city with only a glitchy memory and no help is harder than it seems. 

Boot manages to find friends who will help him along the world. Early on in his adventure, Boot realised that it is different. Boot feels emotions and thinks differently to other robots – other robots who just function and don’t think. This makes Boot feel alone, until it meets other robots, and other friends, who are just like Boot is.  

I really loved this story. It was one of those stories that made me smile. It reminded me of the power of friendship, adventure and not giving in, even when things get tough. Boot goes through the story from a very scared and lonely robot, to someone who finds his friends, his family and his purpose: you’ve got to be brave and a special robotto find these things. You can’t beat a good story that will make you laugh, make you feel good about the world and make you appreciate your friends! 

As well as having a gorgeous story, this book has some stellar illustrations. They are SO SO LUSH. I’m a BIG fan of an illustrated book, so Boot ticks off so many boxes for me! 

This book would sit beautifully from Year 2/3 up. It’s a slightly longer chapter book, but it’s such fun.

My Goodreads review reads:

This is fun, friendship and finding yourself. I loved Boot and his bunch of merry robot friends! Imagine waking up one day with only 3 memories and a sense that you need to get home! Boot needs to find his way back to Beth and to himself. I chuckled a lot at this!

Boot was quickly picked up by a few of the children in school and they ADORED it:

“This is a really fun story. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have only a few memories, but Boot shows that you can do anything you put your mind to”

“Stories about robots are funny because they’re not real humans, but Boot is like a human. I’d love to be his friend”

“I loved this story because it was like seeing the future through the eyes of someone really fun and really brave. I would love to be brave like Boot”

Massive massive thank you to the publishers, Hachette Children’s, for sending me a review copy and inviting me onto the blog tour! This book is Boot-iful! Check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour! 

Boot Blog Tour2

S x 

BLOG TOUR: In The Shadow Of Heroes

Today I have the utter joy of hosting author Nick Bowling who is sharing his thoughts on some Unheroic Greek heroes. We all know I love a bit of mythology (if you didn’t know that then WHERE HAVE YOU been?!) so this post is PERFECT in my life!

Nick’s new book In The Shadow of Heroes is out now and I can’t wait. It’s been snatched up by one of the kids in my class… so I guess I need to wait my turn!

In the Shadow of Heroes lowres

“Fourteen-year-old Cadmus has been scholar Tullus’s slave since he was a baby – his master is the only family he knows.

But when Tullus disappears and a taciturn slave called Tog – formerly a British princess – arrives with a secret message, Cadmus’s life is turned upside down. The pair follow a trail that leads to Emperor Nero himself, and his crazed determination to possess the Golden Fleece of Greek mythology. This madcap quest will push Cadmus to the edge of the Roman Empire – and reveal unexpected truths about his past…”

Unheroic Greek heroes

The Greeks thought differently about what a hero was. Google the word “hero” today and you get the following result: “A person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”  Most people would agree with this as a definition. But in an Ancient Greek dictionary the word heros brings up three fairly vague ideas: 1) the Greeks before Troy, all free men of the Heroic age; 2) men born from a god and a mortal; 3) inferior local deities, patrons of tribes, cities, guilds, founders of cities etc. etc.

The important difference is that the heroes of Greece usually were people who demonstrated “courage” and performed “outstanding achievements”, but “noble qualities” were often sorely lacking. Nowadays, we assume that a hero has some kind of moral rectitude, but for the Greeks and Romans there were more shades of grey. Their heroes were messy, complex, conflicted, often just plain awful people. This is what makes them interesting; it’s also what makes them function as mirrors to our own lives.

IN THE SHADOW OF HEROES takes this idea and asks the question: what is a hero? To get you thinking, here are five heroes you might have heard of, along with some of their less “outstanding achievements”:

  1. We’ve all heard of Hercules suffering nobly through his Twelve Labours, but less well known is the reason why he had to perform them: he killed his wife and all his children in a fit of madness. The rest of Hercules’ life is similarly chequered with random acts of extreme violence. He killed his music teacher for correcting his mistakes, he killed King Eurytus and his sons when he was denied the hand of his daughter in marriage, he killed Sileus for forcing him to tend his vineyards. All of which was, sadly, left out of the Disney motion-picture.
  2. Heroic slayer of the Minotaur, but also heroic home-wrecker. He escaped from the Labyrinth with the help of Ariadne (King Minos’ daughter), who then eloped from Crete with him. Theseus then abandoned her on the island of Naxos, and upon returning to Athens forgot to change his black sail to a white sail, which would have signalled his success in defeating the Minotaur. His father Aegeus, assuming his son was dead, threw himself into the sea.
  3. After reclaiming the Golden Fleece from Colchis with the help of Medea (the King Aeetes’ daughter – there’s a pattern developing here…), Jason settled Corinth with her as his consort. He then got embarrassed by having a girlfriend who was foreign and, admittedly, a bit weird, and promptly dumped her to marry Creusa. This, despite the fact Medea helped him win the fleece in the first place, betrayed her family and travelled halfway around the world to be with him. This pushed Medea to perform one of the all-time great acts of female vengeance (no spoilers).
  4. Perhaps better known for his bad behaviour, but it still bears repeating. Achilles had the mother of all tantrums because Agamemnon took a slave girl from him. He refused to fight and said he won’t return until Agamemnon say sorry. Hundreds of his own men died as a result.
  5. Even the most unwarlike heroes don’t get clean consciences. Daedalus was a master craftsman, inventor and architect, who built the Minotaur’s labyrinth. While you might pity him for the death of his son Icarus (of melting wings fame), you’ll probably feel less sympathetic when you hear he killed his own nephew – threw him off the top of the Acropolis – because he came up with the idea for the handsaw before Daedalus did.

IN THE SHADOW OF HEROES by Nicholas Bowling out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com

Follow Nicholas Bowling on twitter @thenickbowling

Why don’t you check out the rest of the blog tour?

In the Shadow of Heroes blog tour banner

Massive thank you to Chicken House and to Nick for his blog post! What a great start to a Wednesday! 

S x

BOOK BLOG: Bethany Rutter

No Big Deal: a book that means a very big deal!

21eba24b-9c6a-4906-86d0-bf42bfc98cae(gorgeous proof copy sent to me from the publishers… see final cover further down)

“Meet Emily Daly, a stylish, cute, intelligent and hilarious seventeen-year-old about to start her last year at school. Emily is also fat. She likes herself and her body. When she meets Joe at a house party, he instantly becomes The Crush of Her Life. Everything changes. At first he seems perfect. But as they spend more time together, doubts start to creep in.

With her mum trying new fad diets every week, and increasing pressure to change, Emily faces a constant battle to stay strong, be her true self and not change for anyone.”

No Big Deal tells the story of Emily (gorgeous, brilliant, wonderful), a teenager who is going through it all. She’s a girl who the world judges based on one thing: her weight. Emily doesn’t see her weight as a problem, but the rest of the world does. The rest of the world expects her to change because of who she is. Emily has this brilliantly unfaltering confidence in herself, but as you go through the book, as friendships fall apart, as boys come into the picture, as society wears her down, this unrelenting confidence risks changing forever.

I loved this book. Like hands down loved it.

Emily is an absolutely astounding MC. She’s stylish, she’s hilarious. Her perspective is absolutely mint. I laughed A LOT at some of the things she gets into because I’ve been there. Getting stuck in a dress in Topshop? God, I know that feeling so much. Doubted your worthiness because of your weight? Yep. Been there. I loved that she bossed life and was stylish and cool and brilliant. Her weight wasn’t the thing that defined her. She showed that it doesn’t need to. She had interests. She was a ROUNDED character. 

For so long, the fat character was the funny friend, or the one who never got the boy, but in this book, that’s not the case. This book shows that it doesn’t matter what size you are, you matter and that your story isn’t dependent on your weight. Your story is important: even if society doesn’t think so.

I’ve struggled to write this review, not because I didn’t love this book (because trust me, I loved this book an awful lot), but because every time I come to write this review it turns into something about my life… and y’all don’t need that.

This book is brilliant. It’s funny, it made me cry, it made me think, it made me want to shout: so many emotions. It’s interesting. It has a refreshing voice. It’s written in a brilliantly readable way. I’d love to think that Bethany Rutter will be around for MANY MANY BOOKS introducing us to a whole range of characters who are as badass, brilliant and body positive as Emily. This book, its character, its story is going to hit a chord with so many people. Whether you’re the fat friend or not, it’s going to matter. It’s so much more than a story about a fat girl: it’s a story about the importance of loving yourself and how much of a BLOODY HARDSHIP that can be at times. 

I think this book hit a note with me because I WAS Emily. I am Emily now. I’m on that journey of self acceptance, of loving myself for whoever and whatever I am that day. I’ve been there. I’ve doubted every single thing in my life because of the status of my weight. It’s just a thing.

PLUS. Look at this cover man. I proper love it. I can’t wait to have a finished copy in my midst. It’s going to have pride of place on my “favourites shelf”.

No Big Deal

My Goodreads review:

If I could swear, I would. This book is exceptional. I am/was Emily and there’s nothing more important that seeing yourself in a book. I hope every young girl gets a chance to read it. Loving yourself is SO IMPORTANT. This book made me laugh, cry and want to shout. Just bloody marvellous.

And because I loved it so much, I made a mood board. To me, this moodboard represents so much of what the book talks about. Style, fierce, brilliant women, loving yourself, owning life.

NBD mood board

Thank you so so much to Bethany and the brilliant humans of Macmillan Books/MyKindaBook for getting me a proof copy. I GENUINELY think this book is going to hit a chord with so many people.

Have you read No Big Deal?
Can you name another book that has a fully-realised fat MC?
Who is your favourite body positive person?

Talk to me! 

S x 

The 7 Deadly Sins Tag

Hello!

Today I’m taking on the Seven Deadly Sins tag! I don’t remember where I saw this first/who tagged me in it: it’s just been sat in my drafts folder for months! So if it was you, let me know and I’ll thank you! 

Without further ado… let’s see what my sins tell you about me!

Greed – what is the most expensive book you own? What is the least expensive book you own?

Most expensive is probably the hardback editions of the illustrated Harry Potter books. I didn’t buy them (one of my brilliant humans did) but they’re definitely the most expensive books.

The least expensive book? Oooh… I have bought many books from charity shops. In fact, I found a Zoella edition of Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Banard for 75p… so probably that?!

Gluttony – what book or books have you shamelessly devoured many times?

I am not an elusive rereader, however I’ve reread Matilda NUMEROUS times in my life. That and Charlotte’s Web are probably the books I’ve reread most in my life. I find myself rereading snippets of Reasons To Stay Alive on occasion too.

Sloth – what book or book series have you neglected out of sheer laziness?

Despite the fact that everyone still shouts at me, I’ve not got around to reading The Hate U Give yet. I know. I know. It will happen one day. I have a complex relationship with hyped books (deserved or not) so I don’t tend to read books that are EVERYWHERE.

Pride – what book or books do you bring up when you want to sound like an intellectual reader?

Lol… erm… HAHA. This is genuinely not one that I think I have an answer to. Maybe like 1984? Shakespeare? Circe? I don’t read things that I want to sound clever because I’ve read them. 

Lust – what attributes do you find most attractive in characters?

ARMS. (If you get this reference we are forever friends).
Hahaha, in all seriousness… humour, realness, honesty, flaws.

Envy – what book/s would you most like to receive as a gift?

Literally any books. I love presents and I love books, so they’re a match made in heaven. I don’t think theres any books out there at the minute that I DESPERATELY seek. I’m an adult who buys her own books haha! 

Wrath – what author do you have a love/hate relationship with?

Hmmm… get back to me on that one!

PHEW I made it. If you fancy doing this tag, go for it! I am so non-commital in some answers haha! 

S x 

The Words That Fly Between Us blog tour

Hello comrades! 

How are we all on this wonderful Tuesday morning? 

I have something very exciting to share with you all. I am here today to share an extract from the very brilliant ‘The Words That Fly Between Us‘ by Sarah Carroll. 

The Words That Fly Between Us

“Lucy’s father is a successful lawyer making a killing on the property market. She and her mother want for nothing. Nothing, that is, that can be bought. But money cannot buy Lucy the words she needs. The words to stand up to her bully of a father. The words to inspire her mother to do something about the family life that is suffocating them both. The words to become the person she wants to be.

Then Lucy finds something else: An escape route… 
Soon she discovers that every building on her row is connected, through the attic, to the next. As she explores the inner lives of those who live on her street, Lucy realises that she is not the only one to suffer in silence. She also sees ways she can help some, and ways to punish those that deserve it. But as the mighty fall, Lucy is forced to realise that while she can affect the lives of others from the safety of the attic, she will need to climb down to face her own fears.”

Words can be sticky. They nudge their way into the grooves of the tiles, and get wedged in tiny cracks in the plaster, and seep into the grain of the floorboards. And they stay there. If you look closely, you can see them. Our house is filling up with them. People don’t realize, though. They think you can just fling them around.

Chapter 1
I hate when Mum and Dad fight. Dad says they don’t, they have heated debates. Your mother gets heated while I debate. I’m with my sketch pad and pencil in the nook by the window in the living room. I’m not drawing anything in particular, really. 
‘Did I tell you, “Don’t get white wine”?’ Dad says from behind the double doors into the kitchen. Mum must have made a mistake with the order for his party tonight. 
‘Yes. You said you only wanted red—’

The higher Mum’s voice goes the flatter Dad’s stays. ‘Did I say, don’t get white.’ He’s doing that thing where he rolls the words around in his mouth before he spits each one out, just to be sure that there can be no mistake.
‘Here, look . . .’ She’s probably pointing to the piece of paper she’s carried around all week. It’s been opened and folded so many times it’s beginning to tear along the
creases. She’s right, there was no white wine on the list. ‘You wrote down—’
‘I’m aware I didn’t specify that you should buy white wine. I didn’t specify that we needed toilet paper either. Should I check the toilets?’
I know Mum’s searching Dad’s face right now, looking for just the right words. No more. No less. ‘Should I go out now . . . ?’
‘Oh, forget it, Alice.’
An intimate get-together, Dad had said. Starting around seven-thirty. Mr Reynolds will be dropping in. Mr Reynolds, who practically owns the bank. No fuss. Just enough hors d’oeuvres to keep the shareholders from dropping dead with hunger, so to speak. Four trays from Donnybrook Fair should do the trick. And champagne, of course. We’ll take one . . . No, wait, better make it two truck loads of the usual.

I realize I’m sketching Dad as he’ll look in a few hours, big smile, waving a fancy bottle around. We’re a champagne house, ha, ha. What’s that, you’re not a champagne drinker? Not to worry. Paula here will pop open a delicious little red. Oh, pardon me, it’s white wine you’re after… but… but… there is no white… Catastrophe. The whole night ruined. Dad’s head explodes. I don’t draw that.
‘You’ve had all week, Alice. I’ve so much on my plate, and I asked you to do one thing…’
The kitchen double doors open and I sit on my sketch pad so Dad doesn’t see. Wasting time drawing is bad enough. But I definitely don’t want to be caught drawing him. He’s already in his suit and a bright pink tie. His fun tie. He folds one door back so it’s flat against the wall. He sighs and shakes his head. Mum is standing behind him. She’s wearing her red silk dress. She’s had her hair curled and has her diamond earrings on too. After a while, she looks up. ‘Actually, I think there’s
a box of leftover white in the cellar.’ Dad acts like he hasn’t heard her, so she says, ‘I’ll go check.’

When she’s gone, Dad disappears through the kitchen too and I relax back against the wall. It’s got worse since he won that contract for The Old Mill last Christmas. It’s like underneath, things started turning bad, but from the outside you can’t see. Like an apple getting eaten up by a tiny worm. If you look closely you can see the
hole, but that’s all.

Take yesterday, for example, when Dad couldn’t find his golf shoes. Mum swore she left them on the washing machine, and she ran around looking for them while Dad
stood in the kitchen shaking his head and complaining that she was making him late for golf with potential investors. In the end, Dad found them in the conservatory. He
grabbed them and left without saying anything else because he was in too much of a hurry.

When he was gone, Mum went into the conservatory and stared at the spot where he had found them. She said, I was sure I left them on the washing machine around seventy times. Thing is, so was I. Because I saw her leave them there. I know it was only small, but things like that happen all the time since Dad moved into the big leagues. And the longer the development of The Old Mill is delayed, the more
stressed Dad gets.

It’s usually Mum that he gets annoyed with, but sometimes it’s me. And even when everything seems fine, you’re just waiting for that moment when the air sours. That’s why I hide my sketch pad. So he doesn’t give me that look – the same one he gets when he stands in dog dirt. Like I’m a disappointment. Or worse.

The side door to the front hall opens. Our cleaner, Paula, steps into the doorway and holds a champagne glass up to the light. She rubs at a smudge that’s not really there. She probably polished the wine bottles too. A great little cleaner, Dad calls her. Mum calls her a Duracell battery. Paula says, with her kids in school, she’s ready to do
something different. So she’s studying at night. But not tonight.
‘Have you eaten?’ she asks me.
‘Yup,’ I say.
She looks over the top of the glass at me. ‘Washed?’
‘Scrubbed,’ I say.
‘Good woman.’
She leans in a bit so she can see through the double doors.
‘What was that about?’ she whispers.
‘Mum didn’t buy white wine,’ I say.
Paula lifts an eyebrow. ‘He didn’t ask for white.’
‘I know,’ I say.
Now she lifts the other eyebrow. ‘And there’s loads
downstairs.’
‘I know,’ I say.

Mum comes back into the kitchen, carrying a box, walking like a robot because she’s trying not to trip in her high heels. ‘Found some!’ she calls and she tries to put the
box down carefully. But when she looks up, she sees Dad’s gone, and her words, and the box, drop with a thump onto the marble countertop. After a second, she claps her hands together and looks down at her dress to make sure it’s not smudged. I hop up to help but Paula says, ‘Stay where you are, honey. It’s covered in dust, you’ll ruin your clothes.’ She goes into the kitchen where Mum is saying, ‘Knew we had some.’
Dad comes in the other door behind them. He pulls a bottle out and turns it over to read the label. He sighs like his best friend, Oly, just died. ‘Best we can do, I suppose.’
Paula takes the bottle from his hand and whisks the box out of Dad’s way.

Dad comes back into the sitting room. He looks around at the platters and bottles and glasses on the tables. He plumps the cushions on the couch and runs a finger over the mantelpiece. He’s checking to see if anything is out of place. But there’s nothing wrong. Everything is gleaming. He notices me sitting in the window nook.
‘Ready?’ he asks.
I nod.
Then he says, ‘At least someone is.’

Who are his words for? They’re standing in the air like a glass of wine that someone was supposed to grab. But no one gets to them in time. They drop to the carpet and spread out in an invisible stain. That’s why the carpet’s so thick: it’s filled with words that no one wants.

‘You better go get ready.’ I look up. He’s talking to Mum, even though she’s been ready for over an hour. Her mouth drops open a bit. She looks down at her dress, then back at him. He breathes in deep and sucks up all the air in the room. Then he goes over to the couch. Reaches down behind it. Lifts something. It’s a box. He hands it to Mum.

Her hands are shaking a bit when she takes it. I’m leaning forward, as if that’s going to help me see better. All I can think is, Please let it be nice. Please. She lifts something out and the first thing I think is that it’s armour, like the chain mail stuff that knights used to wear. It’s not. It’s a dress. Silver and sparkly, in a really, really
expensive way.
‘Try it on. It should fit,’ Dad says.
‘Declan . . .’ Mum says. Her shoulders relax a bit. And the air rushes back into the room again. I breathe it in.
‘God, it’s just gorgeous,’ Mum says.
‘It would want to be. Cost nearly three grand,’ he says.
‘Three grand!’ I say. I didn’t mean to, the words just came out. Dad turns. But he laughs, too. He’s having fun now.
‘Why not?’ he says. ‘We have the money.’ He looks at both of us like our cat used to when he jumped in the window and plonked a dead bird down in front of us. ‘Mr Reynolds is going to be here,’ he says.
‘Thank you,’ Mum says and holds it up against her. She looks so happy that, for some reason, it makes me sad.
‘You. Are. Welcome,’ he says. Then he holds up his arm and shakes his wrist so his Rolex slides down. ‘Go on, go get changed.’
Mum rushes off. Dad surveys the room again and then goes into the hall. I hope the dress fits. And I hope Dad stays in a good mood.

If you’ve loved this extract, then I promise you, it only gets better. There’s so much I loved about this book. The characters, the interwoven lives, the secrets and lies. It’s great. The Words That Fly Between Us is out this month and I encourage each and every one of you to treat yourself! 

Massive thank you to Simon and Schuster for inviting me to host on the blog tour! Go check out the rest of the tour and get your hands on this brilliant book when it comes out! 

S x 

A Pocketful of Stars review

A Pocketful of Stars: magical, mysterious and memorable.

(proof cover – see finished cover at the bottom)

When I next open my eyes, I’m back… in front of the house again. It’s night time. The stars wave hello, like they’ve been expecting me. The door of the house, Mum’s house, is wide open, like it expects me too. This time, I go inside…

Safiya and her mum have never seen eye to eye. Her mum doesn’t understand Safiya’s love of gaming and Safiya doesn’t think they have anything in common. As Safiya struggles to fit in at school she wonders if her mum wishes she was more like her confident best friend Elle. But then her mum falls into a coma and, when Safiya waits by her bedside, she finds herself in a strange alternative world that looks a bit like one of her games. And there’s a rebellious teenage girl, with a secret, who looks suspiciously familiar…”

I’d like to preface this review by saying that this book has been one of my most anticipated books of 2019 and that my giddy… it BROKE ME. SO MUCH. 

OKAY. Let’s go. I’m sorry if my thoughts are all jumbled in this review… just bear with me. 

A Pocketful of Stars tells the wonderful story of Safiya, a young girl who is forever battling against her mam and her mam’s opinions on Saf’s hobbies. Saf is a gamer and her mam doesn’t necessarily see that as a “wise” way to spend time. Saf lives with her dad most of the time, but she sees her mam on a weekend. When something happens to Saf’s mam, Saf has to battle to try to save her mam: someone she has more in common than she realises. 

Picking up A Pocketful of Stars was like being transported to this incredibly magic and mystical world. A world where magic is possible; where you can fight for something you need and want desperately; one where that fight matters. There’s a real life setting and there’s this incredible setting of this alternative world. The setting descriptions immerse you entirely in whichever setting Saf is in. Aisha has a GORGEOUS writing style. I didn’t want to stop reading (I was GUTTED when I finished the book… because I needed more!) When Saf learns and understands the link between the two, the magic really kicks off. You see the world through a desperate young lady trying to fix something that may be unfixable.

Saf is a brilliant main character. I loved the fact she was a gamer – it’s so important that we show that girls can be gamers. She’s flawed, brave, clever, resourceful, proud, honest and scared. She makes mistakes. She says things she regrets. She’s warm and kind. She doesn’t pretend to be something she’s not. I think a lot of kids (and adults) are going to like Saf. There’s going to be girls who see a bit of themselves in Saf – and we all know that seeing yourself in a character is so important. She’s proud of who she is, and as you go through the story she becomes more proud of where she’s come from. Learning about her family, in particular her mother, shows Saf that she’s more similar to her mother than she thought. 

I loved that this book dealt with a family dynamic in a way which is kind of flipped on the head. Usually, you see that children live with mam and go and visit dad. Here, however, you have Saf lives with her dad and goes and visits mam. It might seem like a small detail, but for me, I really liked it. Family is a massively important theme in this book – both the family you have now and the family that came before you. There’s a lot of discovery in this book. Saf learns about herself, her parents and her extended family throughout this book: in more ways than one. 

This book is BRILLIANT for kids 9+. Teenagers will love this too. It’s a bit more grown up than typical 9-11 books. I think (and this is a total compliment) this is one of those books that we discover privately. It gives me slight A Monster Calls vibes – another book I PROPER adore. 

This book is like a deliciously written scavanger hunt. We all love going on an adventure and this book scratches that itch satisfyingly so. You go on a scavenger hunt in a very unconventional way with Saf. I don’t want to spoil too much because it’s one of the things that was just incredible about this book – but the magic of this book (we all know I love a bit of magic in my life) just made my heart complete. The way in which Saf tries to go about saving her mam made my heart just leap with joy.

Along with joy however, there was a LOT of tears. I need to warn you guys of that.

Not that we judge books by their covers (ahem) but LOOK AT THAT MAN. It is just incredible. There’s going to be some real shelf appeal with this. I adore it.

9781405293198

My Goodreads review:

God. This book. BROKE MY SOUL. Guys, it’s bloody brilliant. It’s full of hope, magic, wonder, intrigue and love. There’s so much love in this book: between friends, with family and for yourself and your own strength. I loved Saf’s story and I can’t wait for you all to discover it.

OK, I’m going to lie down now and have another little cry about this book. Because it’s brilliant. pocketful of stars

Have you read A Pocketful of Stars?
How do you feel about a scavenger hunt?
DO YOU LOVE THAT COVER THO?

Talk to me! A massive thank you to the humans of Egmont for sending me a proof copy of A Pocketful of Stars. Year 5 are going to DIE.

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Sarah Roberts

Somebody Swallowed Stanley: a beautiful story to teach children about the importance of looking after our oceans!

img_5592

“Say hello to Stanley! He’s swimming around in the sea, but he’s no ordinary jellyfish. Most jellyfish have dangly-gangly tentacles, but Stanley has two handles. Other jellyfish have a magical pearly glow, but Stanley has colourful stripes. Lots of hungry fish in the sea are looking for lunch, and all of them have a taste for Stanley. But plastic bags don’t belong in the sea – or in other creatures’ tummies…”

I’m gutted that I’ve only just found this book now because I’ve done my plastic pollution topic in my class this year! But next year… next year! 

img_5597

Somebody Swallowed Stanley is a brilliant picture book telling about the tale of Stanley – a jellyfish unlike other jellyfish, because he is a plastic bag – and what happens to him when creatures of the sea try to eat him. Some manage to spit him back out, but one of the creatures isn’t so lucky, until a brilliant young man comes along and saves the day. 

There’s some incredible messages in this book about the importance of being kind to the environment and recycling. Stanley is recycled at the end of the book to be a kite and this would be a great thing to get children thinking about what we can do with our plastics once we’re finished with them, so that they don’t end up in the sea!

One of the lovely things about this book is the riddle type verses that describe the animals which eat Stanley. This would be a great thing to use with children to get them to come up with their own riddles about animals under the sea! This could be an activity you do with children from as young as KS1 all the way to Upper KS2. 

img_5593

I love this book and it will be a firm fave that I bring out every year when we talk about plastic pollution. I don’t think picture books should be reserved for only EYFS and KS1 – my Year 5s this year have LOVED being read picture books! 

What are your favourite picture books to use around this issue?
What activities do you do to raise awareness of plastic pollution?
Are you any good at writing riddles?

Talk to me. I wanna know what activities and stories you use to teach kids about the importance of lookinga fter our world!

S x 

 

Ollie’s Magic Bunny Blog Tour

Happy Tuesday!

Today I have the utter joy of hosting author Nicola Killen and we’re getting a tour around her studio. I’m really nebby so I absolutely adored reading this post when it dropped into my inbox! 

Ollie blog tour

—–

Hello and welcome to my studio tour!  This is the place where I worked on the story and illustrations for Ollie’s Magic Bunny.  

bty

I share a space with two other artists – it’s a converted garage on the side of a photographer’s studio.  The door to the studio is very grey and boring so it’s hard to imagine what’s inside!

bdr

Tada! Here’s my workspace. I’m quite embarassed to be showing you round when it’s SO messy.  I’m always untidy, but when I’m in the middle of working on a new book (like I am now), it gets even worse!  As you can probably see, I’ve got two desks: one for sitting at my computer, and one for standing at when I draw and paint.

bty

On my computer desk I have an iMac, and I use a wacom tablet with it.  I also have a very comfy chair and most importantly, there’s a heater next to my desk!  As it used to be a garage, the studio can get very cold at times. I always have lots of lists of things to do on my desk – I like to be able to tick things off!  

bdr

I usually stand up when I’m painting or drawing.  I have a drawing board in the middle of the desk, which is hidden by my lightbox at the moment.  There’s an A3 scanner tucked underneath this desk, as well as sketches, boxes of books and some portfolios too.  I used to have lots more postcards and pictures up on the wall, but they keep falling down and it’s very hard to reach to put them back up!  You may also have noticed my Studio Stegasaurus which lives on this desk – it roars when you squeeze it. I’ve had the anglepoise lamp since I was at school so it’s lasted a long time!

bty

This is all the brushes, dip pens and inks which I’m using for the book I’m working on.  

bdr

Then, squeezed into the corner, is my bookcase.  It’s got lots of my books in it, as well as reference, sketchbooks, paperwork and some of my childhood favourites too!

bdr

I’m not sure I should show you this photo! When I opened the cupboard, I was worried that everything was going to fall out . . . It’s chock full of materials, inks and paper. Tidying it is on my lists of things to do!

bty

That’s all of my space, but we also share an area just inside the door where there’s a big plan chest with a very useful cutting mat on top.  I store a lot of my artwork and paper in the drawers here. I’m preparing some Ollie’s Magic Bunny themed activities today so have been using the cutting mat – but I will need to clear it up later in case anyone else wants to use it!

Thank you for letting me show you around my studio space – I hope you’ve enjoyed having a look around and sorry about the mess!

——

I hope you guys enjoyed that as much as I did! It’s fascinating to see where people work and their process! I’d love to snoop in everyone’s workspaces! Check out my review of Ollie’s Magic Bunny here: BOOK BLOG: Nicola Killen

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour! 

S x