BOOK BLOG: Sarah Roberts

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

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“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! 

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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. 

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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! 

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

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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!

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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.

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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!  

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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!

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

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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 

BOOK BLOG: Anna Williamson

How Not To Lose It: a brilliant book to use when talking MH with kids

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“The go-to mental health guide for kids!
Exam stress? Friendship issues? Panic attacks?
How Not to Lose It will help you be the boss of all of this, and more.

It’s not just your body that should be fit and healthy – your mind needs to be, too! How Not to Lose It is the go-to guide for achieving a balanced mind and strong emotional well-being. With immediate, heart of the matter advice and a chatty yet honest tone, Anna Williamson addresses all of the key issues affecting children today.”

As a teacher, it’s so important that I have resources available to me for talking to kids about their mental health. We are seeing more and more that MH is something that is talked about in schools – and rightly so. There are more and more books becoming available to help kids learn about and talk about their MH and How Not To Lose It is a brilliant example of a book that’s going to do that! Aimed at 9-14 year olds, this book covers a wide variety of topics and is filled with empowering advice, delivered in a honest and chatty tone. 

How Not To Lose It covers such a wide variety of topics that you can find advice based on almost anything. The contents page kicks off in the way the book continues – friendly, colourful and it doesn’t feel like your typical “self help” book. There’s a handy index in the back too – always useful when you just want ONE specific thing. The topics covered in the book are:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • stress
  • friendship
  • bullying
  • relationships and sex
  • family life and bereavement
  • phobias
  • peer pressure
  • self-harm
  • self-esteem and confidence.

I love that this book is approachable. If a kid (this book is aimed at 9-14 year olds) picked it up, it’s appealing to them and it’s not just pages and pages of words. There’s agony aunt letters aplenty and there’s these brilliant “myth busting” boxes throughout. The illustrations are perfect for the age range that it’s aimed at and I read through as an adult and I learned things! The language used is chatty and honest, which makes it brilliantly readable for kids without sounding patronising.

This book is BRILLIANT. Properly brilliant. I love the variety of topics that it covers. These ‘To sum it all up…’ pages are my favourite pages throughout – there’s some proper sound advice on them. (This one about friendship is one of my favourites!) 

Anything that empowers our kids and helps them deal with anything they’re going through is a proper winner in my books and this one is brilliant! 

What are your favourite resources to use in the classroom about mental health?
Would you find this resource useful in the classroom?

A massive thank you to the publishers, Scholastic, for sending me a copy. I am going to have this at hand in my classroom. This book is out now and I would recommend UKS2/KS3 teachers to check it out!

S x

Mini reviews: MG edition

Good morning! 

How are we all?! Today I come to you with some mini reviews. I’m going to keep them short and sweet, but these are some books that I’ve read recently that I want to shout about that I’ve just not had a chance to yet!

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The Fire Maker – Guy Jones

“Alex loves magic – its glamour, tricks and illusions. He’s good at it, too: he’s reached the semi-finals of a prestigious competition for young magicians. But when he stumbles into eccentric Mr Olmos’s back garden while running from his former best friend, Alex sees something he can’t explain: three tiny flames floating in the air. Fire magic. Real magic. Soon, Alex and Mr Olmos are swept up in a great adventure of secrets, genies and an ancient, bitter rivalry…”

I loved this book. It’s a quick but brilliant story about Alex, a magician, who ends up stumbling across a mysterious old man and his mystifying magical flames. They spring up an unlikely friendship and Alex makes a mistake: one which has some pretty bad consequences! A brilliant tale of magic, friendship, secrets and lies. With interesting charactes and an interesting plot, this is perfect for KS2 readers! 

Good Boy – Mal Peet

Sandie has been battling it since childhood: the hulking, snarling black dog of her nightmares. For years, her precious pet dog Rabbie has kept the monster at bay, but when he is no longer there to protect her, the black dog reappears to stalk Sandie in her sleep … Illuminating the undeniable power of Mal Peet’s pared-back prose, Good Boy is an evocative examination of fear and anxiety that will leave you guessing long after its final page.

I’m not going to lie – the first chapter in this had me a LITTLE bit scared. This book is probably more suited for teens than younger readers, but there’s nothing particularly horrifying in it. It’s a complex and interesting story all about a young girl and her nightmares. It’s an interesting portrayal of what our nightmares look like and what they can do to us. It really made me think and has definitely left a lasting impression. There’s some wonderful illustrations too!

Amelia Fang and the Half Moon Holiday – Laura Ellen Anderson

It’s the half-moon holidays in gloomy Nocturnia which means no school for Amelia and her friends! Instead they are going to spend it with their Rainbow Rangers troop, (lead by unicorns Ricky and Graham) earning badges on Sugar Plum Island. But whilst exploring, Amelia and the gang stumble upon an ancient curse – and are shrunk to the size of bugs! How will they make the bloodcurdlingly BIG journey to break the curse when they are all so very TINY?

I’m a massive fan of the Amelia Fang series! You definitely need to get on this series if you’re a KS2 teacherthey’re fun and filled with great messages! Amelia Fang is such a polite character and these books are filled with humour. This latest installment of the series sees Amelia and her friends going on a camping trip as part of Rainbow Rangers (think Brownies/Rainbows/Scouts). Shout out here for Ricky and Graham – the unicorn leaders of Rainbow Rangers. These books are jam packed with illustrations that add so much to the story. I hope this series just goes on and on. 

Hotel Flamingo – Alex Milway

When young Anna inherits a dilapidated once-grand hotel from her Great Aunt Mathilde, she’s determined to restore it to its former glory. But this is no ordinary hotel – all of her staff and guests are animals! Anna soon rises to the challenge. Whether it’s a flamingo, a penguin or a hippo knocking at the door, Anna is ready to welcome them all – with the help of her trusty sidekicks T Bear the doorman, Squeak the friendly elevator mouse, and Lemmy the lemur receptionist … As she soon finds out, though, running an animal hotel is no easy task. Can Anna make Hotel Flamingo a success once more?

I’m always on the look out for slightly longer books that are perfect for Y2 readers and I can look no further than this! With beautifully illustrated pages and an interesting story, this book is perfect. Here you have a story about the importance of team work, hard work and acceptance. A story about a young girl who needs to do up the hotel she’s inherited (which is in a state of sheer disrepair) and her friends who she helps to give the hotel a new lease of life! I really loved this book. I hope there’s more to come from this author! 

And there we go! 

Let me know in the comments if you’re a fan of a mini review, or if there’s anything you’d like to know about these books. 

S x 

BLOG TOUR: Jane Kerr

The Great Animal Escapade: adventure filled brilliance!

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When The Elephant Thief came out in 2017, I absolutely devoured it, so when I heard there was going to be a sequel I was thrilled to be asked to be part of the blog tour! My expectations were pretty high for this follow up book… and man was I not disappointed. Filled with adventure, mischief, mayhem and mystery, this book is just as good as it’s predecessor.

In a stark difference to the first book, Danny has left behind his life on the streets to be working and living somewhere far more comfortable. His past however is never far behind him, and he never really gets the chance to forget it! It hangs about him like a bad smell. He is now living with the Jamesons, who, despite the fact they have taken him in, never really trust himespecially when things start to go wrong! He never really feels like he fits in – not in this new life, or in his old life – and he has so many unanswered questions that it starts to play on his mind a little. Throw in the mysterious character who says he knows more of Danny’s life… and you’ve got one well and truly confused main character!

I loved Danny. I think that’s one of the biggest things about this book is that you proper fall for him and you want things to work out for him. We all love a good main character we can root for… so Danny fits that category perfectly. You want people to believe him and trust him, and you really feel for him when things start to go a little awry in his life – both in and out of the zoo! Danny’s got a brilliant heart and you can tell throughout the book that he just wants whats best for the animals – his care and attention for them is lovely to read. We see things aren’t perfect, but the animals’ one constant is Danny’s love. 

No book is complete without it’s very own villain… and there is definitely a character who lives that role perfectly. He’s a mysterious and untrustworthy character, who we don’t really know a lot about. He’s elusive and secretive and we definitely don’t know whether or not to trust him at the start. I like a character like this because it makes the guessing game all the more satisfying! Plus, they’re a little more interesting to talk about than down and out evil characters.

This book is filled with magic, mystery and intrigue and makes a brilliant read: perfect for Year 5s and 6s! I’d quite like to travel back to this time and experience what it was like… and maybe give Danny a big hug! This book delivers quite a punch with its messages, but does it in ways which are subtle and just plain great. If you’re after a book that is sure to make you want to read on, then look no further!

A massive thank you to the publishers Chicken House for sending me a review copy – it is now at school being consumed by my class! 

Check out the rest of the blog tour below: there’s some cracking posts to get your teeth into! 

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S x

 

COVER REVEAL: Dino Knights

Hello! Happy 2 post Friday (watch out for my other post going live this afternoon!)

Today I am thrilled to share with you a cover of a new book coming out! A while back the brilliant people of Awesome Reads got in touch to tell me about a new book that they were publishing and asked if I’d be interested in sharing the cover… I of course said yes! I was sold when I heard it was a brand-new series set in medieval times with a twist – dinosaurs still exist and roam freely across the human world. Dinosaurs and medieval times? WINNER WINNER.

DINO KNIGHTS

Title: Dino Knights

Author: Jeff Norton

Release date: June 6th

Short synopsis: Imagine medieval times where the dinosaurs never went extinct. When dinosaur stable boy Henry Fairchild stops a vicious T-Rex from attacking his master, he is invited to join the most elite group in Brecklan, the brave Knights of Panterra, the Dino Knights. But before he can prove himself, the enemies of Brecklan attack with a flock of pterodactyls and kidnap Lord Harding. Whether he’s ready or not, Henry and the Dino Knights mount a daring rescue mission…but nothing is what it seems.

Link for pre-order: https://awesomereads.com/book/dino-knights/

Massive thank you to the publishers for inviting me to be part of this cover reveal! I’m loving it! Dinosaurs and swords: what more could a girl ask for?! Watch out for the blog tour in June!

S x

BLOG TOUR: She Wolf

She Wolf: an exciting adventure with a brilliant main character!

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“Northumbria, 866. Washed ashore on a frozen English beach, Ylva’s survived. She will not cry. She’s meant to be strong. She’s a Viking. But when her mother dies at the hand of a three-fingered man, and the wolves of the forest circle closer, Ylva will need more than the memory of her mother’s stories to stay alive. Can she shape her own legend? Will it end in revenge – or is there another way?”

As a massive fan of Dan Smith books, I was super excited to have my hands on a copy of She Wolf. (I’m not going to lie: this book DID fly out of my hands and in to the hands of a few of my chidlren before I got to read it though! Their short reviews are shared at the bottom of this review!) The cover interested me INSTANTLY and once I’d read the blurb I was like YES THANKS GIMME. The back cover tells us it’s “Vikings. Vengeance. Wolves” and never have I known a book summarised so well in 3 words – what more could you want from a book?! 

She Wolf is a brilliant account of what it would have been like to be poor living in the FREEZING cold Northumbria in 866. Ylva loses her mother at the beginning of the book and sets off on a mission to avenge her mother’s death (I mean who wouldn’t?!) She has a few clues about the murderer, but she knows that she’s going to struggle to trust people along the way on her mission. She does have one constant she can trust though: her brilliant dog, Geri. What ensues for Ylva is an adventure filled with twists, turns, survival, some violence and the quest to find herself.

I really liked Ylva. She’s really brave and bold. She’s determined and stubborn. She’s like an onion. You learn a lot about her as you go through the book – you turn the pages and you stip off another layer of her personality. This was one of the things that the kids liked most about her. They loved learning more about her as a person through the story. I really liked the relationship between her and Geri – this was touching. It’s important for us all to have a “constant” in our life and whether it’s a person or a companion of some description, they have a massive impact on our lives. 

One of the things I liked about this book was that once I opened the pages, I was there. There’s plenty of action, there’s plenty of intrigue. There’s intelligent twists and turns. I think Dan has written a brilliant story here that has got a lot of children talking!

A few of the thoughts of my kids:

“I loved that she was just like a person. Sometimes book charactes are never scared of things. I’d be really scared if my mam was killed and I’d never be brave. Plus she makes mistakes and no one’s perfect. I’d love to ask her how she was so brave!”

“I loved that this book was set in the past because books set in the past are the best. Just imagine living in that time. This book was really fun to red because there’s so much to read about and so many things happen. Plus there’s some scary characters to deal with”

“Imagine having a friend who loved you all the time. I really liked Geri because I’d like a dog who went with me everywhere!”

A proper hit! I can’t wait to see what Dan does next!

Thank you so much to Chicken House books for sending me an early copy of the book to review! Check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour to find out more about this brilliant adventure!

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S x 

BLOG TOUR: Dinosaur Department Store

Today is my stop on The Dinosaur Department Store blog tour and I am delighted to share with you my review! 

The Dinosaur Department Store Cover

The Dinosaur Department Store: a brilliantly illustrated picture book with a gorgeous nod to looking after animals! 

“Eliza Jane was an unusual child. Some called her wilful, some called her wild! Our feisty heroine Eliza Jane isn’t your average child. Instead of a cute, fluffy bunny, she has her heart firmly set on a prehistoric pet. Join Eliza Jane and her parents on a marvellous magical tour of their local dinosaur department store. From huge, stomping sauropods stretching their necks to a pair of loved-up Ankylosaurs called Maud and Frank, there are plenty of amazing dinosaurs for Eliza Jane to choose from. But this wild child is hatching a fantastic plan of her own.”

The Dinosaur Department Store tells the story of brilliant Eliza Jane who doesn’t want a fluffy bunny for her birthday. Oh no, she wants a dinosaur… obviously! Her parents take her to the perfect place for her to shop for a dinosaur… but when she gets there, she realises that what she really wants is the dinosaurs to all be free!

I LOVE that Eliza has parents of different races – which was something that one of my children noticed when I read it to them. This created a lovely talking point for some of the children in the class I read it to. I think it’s SO important to introduce children early to different families, so a massive thumbs up from me for this!

It’s such a brilliant thing to see a girl in a book who loves dinosaurs too! She’s a very determined young girl, who most definitely loves dinosaurs… which I KNOW will go down well with lots of parents of girls who love dinosaurs! Girls can love them too! This again created conversation about who can play with what toys!

I absolutely adore the bright and vibrant illustrations in this book. My eyes were constantly caught on the pages looking at all of the detail. Each page gives you something else to look at and search for. A particular shout out to the back page for its BRILLIANT pronunication guide (it certainly helped me to practice saying the names… being the dinosaur novice I am!)

Massive thank you to the publishers for sending me this gorgeous picture book – I think it’ll go down so well for so many reasons! So many brilliant things to talk about and look at in this book! This book went down SO well with the group of children I read it to! I can’t wait to read it to more children to see what their reactions will be.

Why don’t you check out the rest of the blog tour to see what some other amazing bloggers thought of this book?

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S x 

BOOK BLOG: Lisa Thompson

Owen and the Soldier: a brilliant tale about the importance of feeling heard 

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Owen and his mum are struggling. It’s just the two of them now and they’re finding it difficult to ask for the help they need.
When Owen discovers a crumbling stone soldier in a memorial garden in the local park, it feels like he finally has someone he can talk to. But the town council can’t see how important the soldier is and they want to remove him. Owen’s so scared that he’ll be left on his own again, but can he find the courage he needs to save the soldier before it’s too late?”

The brilliant publishers of Barrington Stoke had heard how much of a Lisa Thompson fan I was, so asked if I wanted a proof of her newest book… I OBVIOUSLY SAID YES. Lisa is one of my auto-buy authors… she’s just brilliant. 

So… Owen and the Soldier. This book tells the story of Owen, a young boy who is struggling a bit with everything that’s going on in his life. His mum is poorly, he’s not having the best time at school – he’s just not having a wonderful time and he feels really lonely. The one person who always makes Owen feel better, who always listens to him, is a stone statue of a soldier in the local park. Owen visits the soldier every day to talk to him. One day however, it is revealed that there are plans to move Owen’s soldier from the park… and Owen needs to find his voice to help do something about this. 

I REALLY REALLY loved this book. It made me cry, a lot (I know, I know, you’re all shocked that I cried at a book). I think Owen is one of those brilliant characters who come along in MG books. He’s also another character that Lisa does so brilliantly: boys who are going through things. It’s something that I think we need more of in MG books. Here, you have a young boy who is struggling and trying to be strong because he’s the “man” of the house, when in reality his silence is him screaming out for help. A brave decision is made and he eventually gets the help that him and his mam so desperately need. 

I also love the fact that despite the fact he doesn’t WANT to be heard, he ends up doing something which MAKES people listen. He finds something he is very passionate about and it helps him find his voice. Making a stand for something and fighting against his fears to talk about why it’s important to remember those who have gone turns things around for Owen. 

This book has since been read by a few of my Y5s and they just adored it:

“This is a short book but it has such a big meaning. You’ve gotta stand up for something if you want something to change.”

“I loved Owen because he was scared of something at the beginning, but then he changed and it made everything better. We all need to be a bit brave sometimes”

“I loved that this book was a brilliant story in such a short story. You don’t need loads of pages to tell an important story. All stories are important because everyone deserves to be heard – just like Owen”

My goodreads review is SHORT, but says it all:

Really bloody enjoyed this. Owen is a BRILLIANT MC and this story is proper touching. Man, I’m definitely not in bed crying… NOPE.

A massive massive thank you to the publishers for sending me a review copy! I can’t wait for the finished copies, because I ADORE that cover so much and I think this is a story that children should read. 

S x 

BLOG TOUR: Anna and Evan meet Charles Dickens

Hello!

Today is my stop on the Anna and Evan meet Charles Darwin blog tour. This new book promises to engage and educate children, and is ideal for encouraging curiosity and interest in the natural world and science.

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“Join Anna and Evan on a magical adventure to the Galapagos Islands where they meet Charles Darwin, discover unusual animals and learn some interesting scientific facts.”

Today, I get the joy of sharing 2 extracts with you! I can’t wait to share this book as I think it will go down brilliantly in both KS1 and KS2. 

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A massive thank you to the publishers and Faye Rogers for the invite to the blog tour and again I can’t wait to share this with school – I think it will be a big hit!

Check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour below! Find out what they think of the book and so many other delights! 

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Monday 25th February – Rosie Writes…

Tuesday 26th February – Heavenly Good Books

Wednesday 27th February – Big Book Little Book

Thursday 28th February – A Bibliophile’s Book Blog

Friday 1st March – Bound 4 Escape

Saturday 2nd March – Black Books Blog

Sunday 3rd March – An Awfully Big Adventure

Monday 4th March – Amazeball’s Book Addict

Tuesday 5th March – Jazzy Book Reviews

Wednesday 6th March – Fantastic Feathers

Thursday 7th March – Librarian Laura

Friday 8th March – Donna’s Book Blog

Saturday 9th March – Short Book and Scribes

Sunday 10th March – Yet Another Blogging Mummy!!!


Information about the Book

Author: Tanya Hutter and Lina Daniel
Illustrator: Karin Eklund
Release Date: 28th February 2019
Page Count: 30
Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Goodreads Link: Clicky click
Amazon Link: Go on… treat yo’ self!

Bio of the authors Tanya Hutter and Lina Daniel

As a young girl, Dr. Tanya Hutter couldn’t imagine that she would end up being a leading scientist in nanotechnology and chemical sensing, and a Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge. Currently, she lives in Cambridge with her husband and their two curious children that inspired the book.

Lina Daniel has been always interested in science and medicine, eventually becoming a chemist and a pharmacist, and currently working in the pharmaceutical industry. With her husband, she is raising three enthusiastic boys. They all share a passion for scientific experiences, engineering novelties, fun historical facts, travels and adventures.

Tanya and Lina have been close friends for over two decades. The fact that they are both raising young children enhanced their desire to encourage kids to learn about science, and finally, drew them to write their first illustration book for small children. Hopefully, this will be the first one in a series of books about notable scientists and engineers.