Monthly Archives: October 2018

Book Review – Migration

Title: Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys

Written by: Mike Unwin

Illustrated by: Jenny Desmond

Published by: Bloomsbury


Each spread of this illustrated non-fiction book talks us through the migration of twenty different animal from the hump-back whale to the green turtle. There are actually twenty-one incredible animal journeys included in the book if you count the swallows in the introduction. You can follow the emperor penguin through snow, ice and bitter temperatures; watch as the great white shark swims 10,000 km in search of seals; track huge herds of elephants, on their yearly hunt for water and be amazed at the millions of red crabs, migrating across Christmas Island.

Incredible Animal Journeys is a larger than A4 hardback book, which makes it ideal for sharing and discussing together. There are hundreds of facts and interesting snippets of information on each of the animals and is a credit to international travel writer, Mike Unwin. My first impression was the font was too small but as I read the book I realised this made it easier for the writing to fade into the background and for the reader to concentrate on the beautiful watercolour-painting illustrations whilst imagining each animal’s migration journey.

 Incredible Animal Journeys is the kind of book a child will treasure forever.

This book review was previously published on the online Armadillo Children’s Book Review Magazine.

An interview with… Philip Kazan

In the November issue of Writers Forum I interviewed Philip Kazan about his research for his novel The Black Earth, based during the Greek Civil War in the run-up to WWII.


Philip explained to me how he used his family history as inspiration for the novel. He found as many eye-witness accounts as he could and pieced them together. He also found useful information in the UK and US newspaper archives.

black earth mock 1

One of his research tips for other historical writers is to find a tangible link to the period you are writing about, such as food and music. When talking about his writing process Philip said:

My practice is to write whatever I feel like writing as I build the characters and tell the story. What I’m usually left with is a huge book full of digressions that really fascinate me but are extraneous to the main thrust of the narrative. I prune reluctantly until I find the hard outline, then I become fairly ruthless. I love research and I love detail, but in the end it’s usually obvious what a reader will see as padding and what will actually advance the story.

You can read the full interview in the Nov 2018 #205 issue of Writers Forum. You can find out more about Philip Kazan and his books on his website or follow him on Twitter @pipazan 

Writing Workshop – October 24th 2018

Today I held another of my FREE writing workshops for children during half term. We looked at creating stories using emotion. I sparked off their creative juices by thinking of scenarios where they felt different emotions and we brainstormed the physical and internal  reactions to different events.


The children were aged between 9 to 14 years old and worked extremely hard on the exercises. Everyone shared a piece of writing and the standard was high.

We payed special attention to the events leading up to an emotional response showing a build up of emotion and going through a variety of emotions. It was fun to hear the children’s writing on how they would feel if they accidentally smashed their phone or if they found a million pounds in a bag like in Frank Cottrell Boyce’s, Millions.


We went on to do exercises in how we use the senses to convey emotions and how we can use dialogue to show emotion. I packed a lot into the one and half hour slot.

We have pencilled in another workshop for the February half term so I am looking forward to doing another workshop then.

Creative Writing Workshop

I am teaching another FREE creative writing workshop at Newbury Library this half-term. It is aimed at children between the ages of 10 to 16 years. There are only 25 places so booking is essential.

Creative Writing Oct 18 2018I have run similar workshops last year, and during the spring and summer half-terms this year. They have taken place at both Theale and Newbury libraries. These fun workshops have been very successful and quickly get over-subscribed.