Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Mr Birdsnest and the House Next Door by Julia Donaldson

Title: Mr Birdsnest and the House Next Door
Author: Julia Donaldson
Published by: Barrington Stoke
Publication date: 6th July 2016
Pages: 77
Genres: Children's
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Monkeys! Tigers! Bird-eating spiders!

Elmo and his sister love to play in the jungle house next door.

But then mean old Mr Birdsnest moves in.

Will the jungle house be Out of Bounds forever?

Every now and then, I like to review a book outside of my usual YA comfort zone. Today, that book is Mr Birdsnest and the House Next Door, otherwise known as one of the cutest books I've read this year. Aimed at younger children, it's full of engaging illustrations and funny dialogue, and there is never a dull moment.

Elmo's Granny is moving in, which means they need to buy a bigger house. They find the perfect one, with jungle wallpaper, a lion-shaped door knocker, and a wildly overgrown garden. Their parents, however, pick the much more boring house next door. In an act of adventurous rebellion, Elmo and his sister play in the jungle house while no one is living there, but then Mr Birdsnest moves in...

I love this book not only because it's a delightful read, but also because it is specifically designed for reluctant readers and children with Dyslexia. Barrington Stoke uses a special font and alters the colour of the paper to make it easier to read, which I think is AMAZING. Lately, I've been doing a few bits and pieces for Dyslexia Awareness Week which is 3rd-9th October, and I've found it so interesting. I love that people in authority, like publishers, are starting to change the game to make reading more accessible.

Mr Birdsnest and the House Next Door also has jokes and a drawing tutorial under the cover flaps, so, y'know - it's pretty awesome.

This is one of those books that I want to press into the hands of every child. The way it's written and presented is going to make so many children feel more confident, and that's a wonderful thing. Plus, it's beautiful, funny and diverse, and was written by literature royalty, Julia Donaldson! 5 stars to you, Mr Birdsnest. 5 stars to you.
Find more accessible children's books at Barrington Stoke and BookLife, and enter below for your chance to win a copy of the book!

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GUEST POST: Cheerleaders by Sue Wallman


Today, I'm happy to introduce Sue Wallman to the blog. Author of hugely popular Lying About Last Summer, you might think Wallman found the process easy - but she didn't. Here are her thoughts on writing, and cheerleaders on tour...

Before I had a book deal, I often found being asked "How's your writing going?" a painful question. When I first started writing fiction seriously I didn't broadcast it too widely, but then as it took up more of my time and mental energy I thought why wouldn't I tell people what I'm doing if it's so important to me?

There were some highlights in pursuit of publication such as being given good feedback by people I really rated, securing an agent, winning a big writing competition and becoming a writer in residence. There were also difficult times, such as endless rejections, losing my first agent, accepting that four of my young adult novels weren't going to make it and failing two acquisition meetings.

It was embarrassing talking about my writing sometimes, other times it was boring or it was too personal. Sometimes I thought people were asking me the question out of habit or they were trying to make me feel bad about my lack of progress.


In retrospect I think it was me who felt bad about my lack of progress. I had cheerleaders but I didn't properly appreciate them. When I received news of my book deal, my mum cried from happiness. My sister whooped down the phone. My brother swore with his special-occasion expletives. My other half sagged with relief. When the news was official I received cards and messages. Even champagne. People who I thought couldn't care less were happy for me.

A friend came all the way from Newcastle to London for my book launch with her daughter who'd been given an authorised day off school. My cousin came from Devon. A Russian colleague of my husband's turned up (though I think he might just have been lonely in London). I had writing group friends, friends from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), friends I knew through my children who'd made the effort on a rainy May evening. These supportive people bought Lying About Last Summer, they listened to my speech, and the huggers hugged me, then everyone went off into the rain again.



Since publication there have been lovely cheerleaders on social media. Book bloggers and people I've never met. I've had emails through my website from teenagers who've taken the trouble to let me know they liked the book.

My daughters have recommended it to their friends. My kind neighbour across the road bought loads of copies including one for her builder. My sister walked into the school at the end of her road with a copy for the English department.

At a SCBWI conference I met fellow debut author Olivia Levez who wrote The Island. She suggested a group of us teamed up to do some events. A group to cheerlead for each other. There are five of us: Olivia, me, Kathryn Evans (More of Me), Patrice Lawrence (Orangeboy) and Eugene Lambert (The Sign of One). We (actually it was Olivia) came up with a group name of Lost and Found because although our books are very different they all fit into that category.

By going on a tour of bookshops around the country we are hopefully spreading the word about our books and supporting each other through the debut experience (because being a new author can be strange). It's a new chapter. Our first panel is on 1st October in Birmingham at 2pm. Other tour dates are listed below. All events are free and we would love it if you could join us if we swing by your neck of the woods. Click here to buy tickets.



Sue Wallman is a former magazine journalist who lives near Kingston-upon-Thames. Her debut book, Lying About Last Summer, was published in May, and her second book, See How They Lie, will be published in May 2017. She likes swimming, eavesdropping and watching First Dates with her three teenage daughters.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

7 Reasons You Need to Read The 100 by Kass Morgan

Title: The 100
Author: Kass Morgan
Published by: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date: 29th August 2013
Pages: 323
Genres: Young Adult/Sci-fi
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought.


No one has set foot on Earth in centuries - until now.

Ever since a devastating nuclear war, humanity has lived on spaceships far above Earth's radioactive surface. Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents - considered expendable by society - are being sent on a dangerous mission: to re-colonise the planet. It could be their second chance at life... or it could be a suicide mission.

Clarke was arrested for treason, though she's haunted by the memory of what she really did. Wells, the chancellor's son, came to Earth for the girl he loves - but will she ever forgive him? Reckless Bellamy fought his way onto the transport pod to protect his sister, the other half of the only siblings in the universe. And Glass managed to escape back onto the ship, only to find that life there is just as dangerous as she feared it would be on Earth.

Confronted with a savage land and haunted by secrets from their pasts, the hundred must fight to survive. They were never meant to be heroes, but they may be mankind's last hope.

1. It's set in space and on Earth. It's the best of both worlds, literally.


2. This trilogy is a space-age Titanic with hints of Divergent and Monument 14. I mean, really, what more could you want?


3. The world-building is absolutely believable, especially at the rate we're destroying our world... (I'm a cheerful little soul)


4. I flew through the entire trilogy in a weekend. NO REGRETS.


5. Usually with books that have alternating POVs, there's one character's POV that you really don't care about and you always want to skip it, but - in my opinion - that's not the case with The 100. I was interested in each of them, and the pacing was spot-on.


6. The TV series looks pretty cool, but if you're a stickler for reading before watching, then, well... you'll just have to read them, won't you.


7. It's original, clever, and suspenseful. I wish there was a fourth book because, damn, that ending...


Have you read/watched The 100?