BOOK BLOG: Sinead O’Hart

The Star Spun Web: what would you do if you discovered you held one of the most incredible pieces of scientific gadgetry in your hand?!

img_4853(Star Spun Web kept me company on the train to London recently… and it gripped me STRAIGHT away!)

“With her passion for scientific experimentation and her pet tarantula Violet, Tess de Sousa is no ordinary orphan. When a stranger shows up at Ackerbee’s Home for Lost and Foundlings, claiming to be a distant relative come to adopt her, Tess hopes to find some answers to her mysterious origins. But as she adjusts to her new life at Roedeer Lodge, it becomes clear that Norton F. Cleat knows more about Tess – and the strange star-shaped device left with her when she was abandoned as a baby – than he’s letting on. And when Tess discovers that the Starspinner is the gateway between her world and a parallel world in which war rages, she realizes she may be the key to a terrible plan. A plan she must stop at all costs…”

The Star Spun Web is the second book from the brilliant Sinead O’Hart – author of the wonderful Eye of the North – and man, it’s A TOTAL RIDE. 

The Star Spun Web tells the story of young Tess, who is living at an orphanage, having been left there by her father in strange circumstances. Tess knows very little about her family, only that she was left at Ackerbee’s Home for Lost and Foundlings when she was a baby and has lived there ever since. There are family secrets aplenty for Tess to discover, but when an ominous ‘uncle’ appears out of nowhere to claim her, she has to upheave her life and move to his MASSIVE mansion. 

Now this all sounds wonderful, moving away from an orphanage to a massive mansion… but Tess loves her life at Ackerbee’s. She’s got friends, there’s adults there who genuinely love her – she doesn’t want to leave with this strange man who has appeared out of nowhere. If you pair these emotions with a strange gadget that is handed to her before she leaves, Tess is well and truly confused. All she knows about this gadget is that it was left with her when she was left at Ackerbee’s… so it must have been important. 

Once Tess has moved from the orphanage, what follows is a complete and utter rollercoaster of science, finding your feet and fighting for what you know is right. 

I loved Tess. She’s such an incredible main character. She’s intelligent, witty, charming. She thinks for herself. She stands up for herself. She fights for her friends. She isn’t afraid to be brave and do her own thinking – big or small thinking, it’s all scary at the end of the day! I loved Violet too… I know… me! Saying positive things about a spider! I think it’s the thing that Violet represents for me that I love. We all need a “constant” in our lives – be it your mam, dad, brother, a friend, a cousin – to keep us grounded, and that’s what Violet did for Tess. 

A brilliant main character, some friends who help her along the way, and some baddies. Oh the baddies. They’re clever and wily. I don’t wanna spoil it too much… but obviously things don’t end up being what they seem. People have ulterior motives. There’s SHOCKS aplenty with some of the characters (one of them floored me at one point). 

I absolutely adored all of the science of this book too. It’s accessible and out there, but it’s explained in such a way that it won’t go over the top of kids’ heads – if I can understand it, then you’ve got a winner! 

This is a brilliantly meaty book to get your teeth stuck into. It’s pretty long for a MG book, but it’s perfect for Year 5s and 6s. It’s gone down wonderfully with my 5s so far. A few quick snippets from 2 children who’ve read it so far:

“It’s a load of fun because it’s really clever. Plus Tess is a great character. I’d love to be her friend”

“Imagine moving to a mansion but then someone wanting to use you to do something terrible? I don’t wanna be in Tess’ position ever, but she’s clever and makes the right choice”

My goodreads review:

I loved this absolute ride! The brilliant characters, the fascinating science, the incredible plot and the brilliant sidekicks. Man, I REALLY hope there’ll be a second one!

Thank you to the brilliant publishers at Stripes for my copy. I’ve since bought 2 more copies for school!

Thanks for coming along! Speak to you all soon! 

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Nicola Killeen

Ollie’s Magic Bunny: a beautifully illustrated and charming story, perfect for bedtime!

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“Ollie and her toy Bunny have been waiting for the day that the rain would stop and they can play in the puddles… Finally that day has arrived! But when a magical breeze of blossom turns Bunny into a real rabbit, Ollie’s day takes an unexpected turn. After Bunny runs off with the other rabbits, Ollie has to find and save her beloved pet toy!”

Ollie’s Magic Bunny is a wonderfully charming tale about Ollie and her bunny rabbit, who one blustery day ends up turning into a real rabbit. When Bunny turns into a real rabbit, it runs away from Ollie, and she must find different, ingenious I may add, ways in which to save Bunny! 

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Lots of children have a teddy that’s special to them, who they carry around with them constantly, so this will appeal to them. It would make a brilliant rainy day read, or a bed time read. It would make for a brilliant question: what would happen if your teddy came to life? Kids will come up with some weird and wonderful answers! 

Ollie has to be clever to follow her bunny as he goes across a big puddle of water, and jumps into the air – transforming her brilliant yellow umbrella into a boat and a parachute at different times!

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The colour palette for this book makes me so happy. It’s all yellow, green and grey. I’m particularly fond of Ollie’s bunny onesie and her yellow boots. The simplicity makes this so much more appealing. There’s cut outs and some beautiful gold foiling on the pages too… to make it even more pleasing to the eye! 

This is a gorgeous and sweet story that would go down brilliantly at bedtime, or any kind of story time. I look forward to reading it to my own bunch of wonderful kids at school! 

Thank you to the brilliant publishers, Simon and Schuster, for sending me a review copy! 

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Ana Seixas

Are you looking for an interactive book about the human body? Look no further than Scratch and Learn: Human Body!

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You can’t beat a good bit of non-fiction… but WHERE do you start? And how do you make it accessible to kids? How do you make it appealing? And how do you make it fun, without it taking away from the SCIENCE? 

This Scratch and Learn: Human Body book is BRILLIANT. 

Now, confession time: teaching Science isn’t where I think I excel. It scares me a bit. There’s a lot of facts, there’s a lot that I don’t know… so for me, books like this help me learn, as well as my kids LOVING them. A double win, if you will! 

JUST LOOK AT THAT.

There’s pages about all sorts of parts of the body, as well as facts and things for the kids to do as they read. (We have since scratched the black bits off and winner!) I love how all of the pages are simplistic, without being babyish. It’s totally child (and teacher) friendly!

Each double spread comes with some information (see left picture) and then some element of scratching and discovering (see right picture). This double spread on the brain I particularly enjoyed because it shows how complex the brain is without a total barrage of information.

There’s ALL SORTS of different topics covered in this book: you’ve got senses (perfect for KS1), muscles and the skeleton (KS2), digestion (KS2). 

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There’s loads of these brilliant activities jotted about through the book too. They’re such engaging, but small, activities for the kids to do to think scientifically and talk about science and what they notice. 

A massive thank you to Quarto for sending me a review copy of this – it’s a brilliant book that would sit beautifully in any classroom or home library for budding scientists! 

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Cory Leonardo

Call Me Alastair: touching, charming and filled me with hope!

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“Born in the back of a pet store, Alastair the African grey parrot dreams of escape, to fly off with his beloved sister, Aggie. But when Aggie is purchased by 12-year-old Fritz, and Alastair is adopted by Mrs Albertina Plopky, Alastair’s hopeful vision for the future crash-lands. In-between anxiously plucking his feathers, chewing a few books, and finding his own poetic voice, Alastair plots his way to Aggie and their flight to freedom.

This debut novel is a heart-felt, bird’s-eye view of love and what it means to break free from the cages we build for ourselves- and the courage it may take to finally let go.”

It’s not every day you pick up a book that is written from the perspective of a grey parrot, and I’m not going to lie… that was half of the reason I picked it up. The other half was the cover. JUST LOOK AT THAT COVER MAN. However, once I’d picked it up and started it, I found a book that packed a punch, had some BRILLIANT messages and made me feel ALL of the feelings. 

Call Me Alastair follows the story of Alastair, an African grey parrot, who loves poetry, his sister and cherries, and his exploration of freedom, love and loss. When we start the book, he’s living in the pet shop surrounded by some brilliantly hilarious fellow pet shop inhabitants. It was so lovely to read a book told through the eyes of a parrot – it’s not often you get to read a book from an animal’s perspective and that was totally refreshing. It really really helps that he’s really endearing too! 

As the book progresses, we get to the inevitable – the two parrots (Alastair and his sister) have to be separated. Aggie is taken in by a brilliant young man, Fritz, who has aspirations of being a doctor and Alastair is taken in by Bertie, a wonderful old woman. What ensues is an adventure to try to get his sister back, while trying to ensure that everyone around him stays happy. 

We see this story through three different perspectives and I think my favourite was Bertie’s – the old woman who decides to buy Alastair. She decides to buy Alastair to help with her loneliness, broke my heart. She writes letters to her husband. It was heartbreaking to read these letters to him. She just wants someone to talk to, and as always in life, you find these things in the most unlikely of places! 

Alastair is a brilliant character to read because he’s quite dimensional (as much as an African grey aprrot can be I guess!) There are so many nods to sadness from Alastair, and in an MG book it’s important. It’s important for kids to know that you can feel sad and that people will care about you and try to help! He’s funny, sweet and charming. I really liked him! 

My Goodreads review does the honours of reviewing this book in a much more concise way:

A brilliantly moving tale about a young parrot who wants bigger and better things for him and his sister than the shop they live in. This book made me cry, made me laugh and made me hopeful – that’s not something you say after reading many books from a parrots perspective. I love Bertie – she made this book for me! I loved the mixed narrative – Alastair’s perspective through narrative and poetry; Bertie’s perspective through her letters and Fritz’s perspective through his log. Just a lush book.

Call Me Alastair is out now! A massive thank you to publishers Scholastic for sending me a copy to review!

What was the last book you read that was told from the perspective of an animal?
Which animal would you love to see the perspective of?
If you were an animal, what animal would you like to be?

Talk to me! I’d love to talk!

S x 

BLOG TOUR: Sam Wu

Today I have the absolute joy of being part of the Sam Wu is NOT Afraid of the Dark blog tour! I ADORE the Sam Wu books, written by the brilliant Katie and Kevin Tsang, so when I was asked to be aprt of this blog tour, I jumped at the chance! Check out my review below (featuring some quotes from some of my kids!)

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“Sam Wu is NOT afraid of anything. Except for quite a lot of things. Like ghosts. Sharks too. And also THE DARK! And so when Sam goes camping in the woods with his friends and cousin Stanley, who knows what scary kind of things they’ll face . . .?”

The Sam Wu books are a brilliant series featuring the hilariously afraid of everything nothing Sam Wu and his bunch of friends! This third book in the series sees Sam taking on a new fear he definitely doesn’t have… the dark! 

Sam Wu ends up having to go camping with his friends and his cousin… a cousin who thinks he is excellent at everything! There’s MANY hilarious moments in the story – I was in fact cackling from the first page. As well as lots of hilarity, of course Sam’s arch nemesis ends up turning up on the camp site and they have to learn to work together to get over their fear not fear of the dark. There’s a scene at the campsite in particular that made me PROPER giggle – it’s funny seeing the world through a child’s eyes and things like getting from a tent to where adults are sat made me proper laugh. 

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These books are so perfect for children who are just building their confidence with reading and those who love a brilliantly illustrated story! The illustrations are just spot on for this story and they add so much to the story. Nathan Reed, the illustrator, has got the whole story and the feel of the story spot on in his pictures. 

Some quotes from the kids I teach:

“I love these books because Sam Wu doesn’t look like most characters in stories. He’s different and it’s good for us to learn about different kinds of people”.

“These books make me really laugh and I hope there will be more” (when this child noticed book 4 cover on the back, there was an audible YAY)

“I just love how some of the pages are different colours and that makes them really fun. I also like that Sam and his friends always work together. And Sam is really scared of everything, he’s just really brave too though”

My goodreads review:

Brilliantly fun! I love these stories. Full of laugh out loud moments, friendship, adventure and beautiful illustrations! This had me cackling from the first page!

Have you met Sam Wu and his brilliant friends yet?
What one thing are you definitely NOT afraid of?

Go check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour! And buy Sam Wu is NOT Afriad of the Dark when it comes out on Thursday! (In fact you might already find it in your local shops, so GO GO GO, or preorder it today!)

DARK - sam wu blog tour egmont

A massive thank you to Egmont for sending me a copy of the book and for inviting me to be on the blog tour! 

S x 

BLOG TOUR: A Pinch of Magic

Hello lovely friends! 

Today I have the ABSOLUTE JOY of hosting a Q&A with author Michelle Harrison – who has written the absolutely incredible A Pinch of Magic. Now, I read this book back in 2018 and guys… it’s PROPERLY stuck with me. I just adored it. It’s one of those that I hope I get to read aloud to my kids one day because I just loved it. EVERYTHING I COULD NEED IN A BOOK: Brilliant characters, magic and charm. WONDERFUL.

Anyway, you’re here for the Q&A, not my rambling on about the story! I asked my kids to help me think of some questions and once they started they didn’t want to stop! 

1. Where did you get the inspiration for the story? 
The idea came from a book called The Lore of the Land, which is all about Britain’s
folklore. I noticed a section on Essex, and read that the village of Canewdon will
supposedly always have six witches there. Whenever one dies, a stone falls out of the church walls. This was the starting point for the curse in A Pinch of Magic. I decided to write about three sisters as I’m the youngest of three.

2. Which character did you enjoy writing the most? 
I loved writing the sections in the past about the mysterious girl in the tower and how the curse all came about, but I don’t want to give too much away here! I also really enjoyed writing about Charlie, she’s a little scamp who brings lightness to the story.

3. Do you think you’d survive in the world you wrote?
No way! It’s damp and miserable in Crowstone ‒ I’d HATE it! I don’t handle the cold
well, and my hair is a lot like Betty’. One bit of damp weather and POOF. Fuzzball.

4. Is there one of the characters you think you’re the most like? 
Well, according to the quiz in the back of the book I’m most like Charlie. I’m fond of
animals and I’m usually thinking about my next meal. But there’s also a touch of Fliss, as I enjoy baking and homely things, although I’m not a disaster in the kitchen like she is. I’ve probably given my heart away too easily in the past, too. 

5. If you could have a magical object, what would you choose and why? 
From the book it would have to be the travelling bag ‒ the potential for adventures
and mischief would be impossible to resist. But if I could choose anything it would be something pretty like a dragonfly pendant or ring which could allow me to fly. I used to have lots of flying dreams when I was younger and they were so much fun I was always sad to wake up!

A massive massive thank you to the publishers (Simon and Schuster) for inviting me to be on this blog tour, and for Michelle for taking time to answer my kids’ questions! 

You should all DEFINITELY go out and buy A Pinch of Magic (if you need any more convincing, it’s also Waterstone’s Children’s Book of the Month) I really really loved it!

Go check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour! I can’t wait to read the rest of the posts! 

APOM BLOG TOUR

S x

Using blurbs in the classroom

As you saw the other day, I was very very lucky to be able to share the exclusive cover of Aisha Bushby’s new book A Pocketful of Stars (if you missed the announcement, check it out here!) 

It got me thinking about using blurbs in the classroom and how much we really learn about a book from its blurb. What do we learn about the characters? What about the plot? What about the themes? 

My kids are proper book devourers (more about reading in my classroom next week!) and I thought it would make a brilliant lesson to share with them the blurb of A Pocketful of Stars and give them the chance to design a cover based solely on the information given in the blurb.

Initially, a few of them were quite hesitant because they wanted more information – which obviously I couldn’t provide, because I didn’t know it myself – but after a bit of encouragement, they all had a go. We had a chance to have some discussions about what makes a good cover, what makes you want to pick up a book, what covers of books should give away and the kids were SO engaged. Once we’d had a talk about covers, they got talking about their ideas and started to share ideas. 

I literally only gave them a blank sheet of A5 paper and told them they had time to design their cover… and this is what some of them came up with!

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I LOVE all of them – the kids all put their hearts into their designs and really thought about what they’d want to go on the cover. 

This is definitely something I’d do again. The levels of engagement and the thought that they put into it made me so proud! I even got to show them to Aisha too and she loved them! 

What are your favourite book activities to do in the classroom?
What would you have put on the cover?
Do you have a favourite cover of the designed ones?

I can’t wait to show my kids the actual finished cover. One of my girls will be very surprised at how close her design is! 

S x 

COVER REVEAL: A Pocketful of Stars

WELL ISN’T THIS AN EXCITING BONUS SATURDAY POST?! 

Today, I have the ABSOLUTE JOY of revealing, exclusively, the cover for one of my most anticipated MG books of 2019 – A Pocketful of Stars by Aisha Bushby. What a cracking way to start 2019!

A Pocketful of Stars promises to be something pretty incredible! Check out the blurb below and scroll down for the cover! 

Can piecing together the past help you change the present?

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…

A Pocketful of Stars is a story about family, friendship and finding out who you are… with a sprinkling of magic.

 

I mean, WHO WOULDN’T WANT TO READ THAT? MAGIC? FRIENDSHIP? FAMILY? GAMING? GIRLS WHO GAME? WINNING…

So yes, I know, get on with the cover reveal… I’m just keeping you all on your toes!

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DEAR LORD IN THE HEAVENS LOOK AT IT!
THIS IS 100% GORGEOUS. 
*swoon*

Keep your eyes peeled for A Pocketful of Stars, released on August 8th (I know, SO FAR AWAY) with Egmont UK. 

ALSO, check out a post next week where I gave my class the title and the blurb and asked them to design a cover for the book! We had so much fun doing it! 

Massive massive thank you to Aisha and Egmont for asking me to be part of this cover reveal, I couldn’t be happier and more excited to be involved. 

Do you love the cover as much as I do?
Are you excited for A Pocketful of Stars?

Let me know in the comments your thoughts! 

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Jason Reynolds

Ghost: a brilliant tale of grit and determination

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“Running. That’s all that Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But never for a track team. Nope, his game has always been ball. But when Ghost impulsively challenges an elite sprinter to a race — and wins — the Olympic medalist track coach sees he has something: crazy natural talent. Thing is, Ghost has something else: a lot of anger, and a past that he is trying to outrun. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed and meld with the team, or will his past finally catch up to him?”

Ghost follows the story of a young boy (not Ghost by name, Ghost by nickname) who is going through a lot. He’s fighting a few losing battles. School isn’t great, home isn’t wonderful and he just wants to play ball. That is until he happens upon a track practice and he boldly joins in. What ensues is an incredible Coach, a team who become his friends and some life changing decisions which will shock!

Ghost is a pretty proud young man, dealing with some pretty intense things in his life. He’s bullied, his dad wasn’t a great man, he’s trying to hide who he really is from the world. He’s surrounded by people who have plenty when he doesn’t. He’s a great main character. I think lots of kids will warm to him. He does things wrong, he makes mistakes. He goes from being quite a lonely and troubled young man to a young man with an incredibly diverse set of people around him who believe in him. 

This book doesn’t shy away from some pretty gritty and dark themes. Rather, it deals with them in a way in which is accessible to kids. There’s storylines around bullying, dealing with home issues and stealing – all of which are dealt with brilliantly. I loved the fact that Ghost has to deal with the things he does wrong. He doesn’t get “let off” for any of the things he does wrong. Because that’s life. You do something wrong, there’s usually some kind of consequence. 

There’s one big, massive, shining light in this book and that’s Coach. He’s this exceptional character. He’s selfless, motivating, passionate. I just think he was a proper standout character in this book. He shows Ghost that there’s no point trying to run away from yourself, but that you should accept who you are and embrace it. He shows Ghost that if you do something wrong, you will have to face the consequences. But he’s kind and caring. He cares about the kids on the running team like they’re his own kids. There’s a brilliant scene in a diner between Coach and the “newbies” on the team that I just loved. 

My goodreads review:

This book is gritty, determined and shocking at times. I just thought it was incredible. A gripping story about a young boy who is running from his past and ends up in more trouble. Along comes someone who believes in him and things start to change. Bloody yes. This book is a proper victory.

This book gave me some real Wing Jones feels. Just like when I finished Wing Jones, I finished this book thinking “god, I wish I was a runner!” so that’s something! 

A massive thank you to the brilliant humans of Ed PR and Knights Of for sending me a surprise copy of this! I absolutely adored it. Keep doing the good work you guys are doing! If you want to know more about the incredible work Knights Of are doing, check out their website here and follow them on twitter for more updates. They’re killing the game at the minute and it’s SO incredible to watch!

Have you read anything by Jason Reynolds?
Are you following the amazing things Knights Of are doing?
Has a book ever made you want to take up running?

Talk to me! If you recommend me enough running books, I’ll have to take it up eventually hah!

S x 

 

BLOG TOUR: Vote for Effie

Hello!

Today I have the absolute joy being on the blog tour for Vote for Effie – the first in a new hilarious series by Laura Wood (author of 2018 YA sensation A Sky Painted Gold) for 9-12 year olds. Inspired by 2017’s Women’s MarchVOTE FOR EFFIE is extremely timely and the perfect antidote to the current political climate; it will inspire young readers to stand up for the issues that matter to them, whatever that may be!

I’m honoured to be on this blog tour as each stop on the tour is written to celebrate a young female activist and/or inspiring girl who is working to change the world; each post will include a short profile on the person written by Laura.

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Mari Copeny

When she was only eight, Mari Copeny wrote a moving letter to President Obama about the Flint water crisis. Not only did Obama reply, but he came to Flint to meet with the people there, and he eventually signed off on $100 million funding to help repair the city’s poisoned water system. Mari is known as ‘Little Miss Flint’ as she continues to fight for her city, and raise money to tackle the problems they are still facing. Now, aged eleven, she is a fierce advocate for change and she uses social media to share her message. 

Mari has said that she’ll be running for president in 2044, but, until then, she wants other kids to know “you’re never to young or to small to change the world.” I think Mari is an enormous inspiration. She hasn’t let being young stop her from being heard. When people weren’t listening, she didn’t give up… she made more noise. I love her confidence, her intelligence and the sense of empathy that drives all of her efforts. I see these qualities so often in the children I meet while visiting schools and it makes me feel so hopeful. These girls really are the leaders of tomorrow.

If you would like to see why Mari is so amazing, and why I think she and Effie would be best friends, you might like to watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ML2dRP9i3FQ

Yes for women and girls who are doing good things! 

Do you have an inspiring woman who you’d like to shout about?

You should definitely go and check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour. There have been some absolutely incredible women highlighted in the posts and it’s certainly been inspiring! Plus, there’s some pretty incredible bloggers on this tour too! Massive thanks to Harriet at Scholastic for inviting me to be on this incredible blog tour! I hope you all enjoyed the post and go and check out Vote for Effie – out now! 

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Speak soon, 

S x