Book review – Photo Adventures

Title: Photo Adventures

Photographs by: Jan Von Holleben

Text by: Monte Packham

Published by: Thames & Hudson

Photo Adventures

Ingenious! Such as brilliant idea. This book is full of fun ideas for children to enjoy experimenting with. It is not just a book about photography, it is a book about stretching your imagination to transform everyday objects and settings into incredible, zany and magical at. The children are encouraged to create scenes such as, flying through the air as a superhero, floating in space amongst the stars, deep-sea diving after treasure, swinging through a tropical jungle to growing extra arms and legs and dissecting your brain.

Jan Von Holleben is a professional photographer and his photographs throughout the book will inspire any child to step away from their games console or tablet. The only thing the child needs is digital camera or smartphone. A great way to keep the children amused and happy on rainy days whilst encouraging them to be creative. All the suggested ideas can be achieved in three to five easy steps.

Photo Adventures inside

The text is written by Monte Packman to support the photographs. It is often written in rhyming couplets, which helps to set the tone and adds to the entertaining nature of the book.

Photo Adventures is recommended for children aged 7 upwards (KS2) and some of the activities will need adult supervision. I believe it would be possible to adapt some of the activities for KS1, or nursery with more helpers. There is a photo school chapter at the end of the book, which is ideal for older children who have been inspired to take their interest in photography a step further.

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

Happy New Year to you All

My goal for 2019 was to build-up my author platform by blogging regularly and hopefully creating a following. I feel I have achieved this to some degree. I have blogged regularly, I have done several Christmas fayre’s to sell my many books and have continued doing school visits many at schools I have been to before. It is always lovely when the staff and children want you back.

christmas fayre photo

This year I hope to continue growing my followers and publicising my books. If you would like to help me with this goal please follow my blog and follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also follow my dogs Instagram account here.

New Year 2020

This year I will be celebrating the launch of my new picture books. So keep an eye out for them.

I hope 2020 brings everything you wish for.

Happy New Year


Book Review – A Postcard to Ollis

Title: A Postcard to Ollis

Written by: Ingunn Thon

Illustrated by: Nora Brech

Translated by: Sian Mackie

Published by: Wacky Bee

A Postcard to Ollis

A story of friendship and family loyalties, written in third person and present tense. Ingunn Thon develops full and engaging characters with very different personalities. Ten-year old Ollis is inquisitive, inventive and determinedHer best friend and neighbour, Gro, is cheeky, quick-witted and impulsive. Ollis is named after five women who played important roles in Norwegian history. She likes to invent things, which often do not go to plan. Her mum has a new baby and announces her plans to get married to the baby’s father, who has recently moved in. Ollis is jealous and disappointed as she can not see her own father, especially when she discovers her name is not on the invitations.

Ollis’ and Gro, go on a bike ride and stumble upon a yellow letterbox mounted on a crooked post. They look inside and its empty. They hear a whumph-thunk-clang and in true Lake House style, a postcard addressed to Ollis appears in the letterbox. The friends return everyday to see if there are any more postcards. It is not until they meet Borgny, that Ollis finally discovers a hundred and one postcards addressed to her with drawings of places all around the world. She works out these postcards have been sent for ten years. Ollis believes they are from her father and embarks on a quest to find him.

This chapter book won the Nynorsk Prize 2017 for Excellent Prose and was shortlisted for the Italian Premio Strega 2018 literary prize, which is the equivalent of the Carnegie Medal.

A Postcard to Ottis is full of witty banter and distinct, diverse characters that capture your heart. I loved the wacky Borgny and was pleasantly shocked at Ollis’ father’s reaction to her. However, I found the present tense rather difficult to read and in places it jolted me out of the story. I also felt there was too much unnecessary description that was not relevant to the plot. The characters make you laugh, cry and scream with frustration. Full of twists and surprises this book really makes you think about what ‘family’ is and the many different types of family relationships.

Merry Christmas Everyone

Thank you to all my followers, friends and family for the support you have all given me in doing this blog. You have all been fantastic. I have been blogging regularly for over a year now and have hardly missed a single post. I hope you have found the information I have shared with you over 2019 useful and informative.

christmas 2019 1

I started writing this blog hoping to raise my profile and let everyone know just how much writing I do. Thank you to everyone who is supporting me on this endeavour. If there is anything you would like me to write about, any books you would love to see me review, or any of my interviews you would like me to share, please let me know.

I look forward to posting many more book reviews and interviews next year.

Book Review – Littlest Magpie and the Star

Title: Littlest Magpie and the Star

Written by: Gill Hutchison

Illustrated by: Carol Daniel

Printed and bound by: David Barlow Printers

Littlest Magpie

Gill Hutchison was a dear friend and SCBWI British Isles member. After her tragic death her SCBWI network group (Central North) friends and family set up an Indiegogo campaign to raise money to publish her picture book. They raised £1,252 which was 42% of their goal and raised a further £592 through direct orders. The book was launched on November 12th 2016

The book is beautiful. It is about the Littlest magpie who loves shiny things and watches the stars in awe. This tender story encapsulates the themes of patience and perseverance as the little magpie tries to catch a star.A heart-warming story about growing up, friendship and believing in your dreams.

The illustrations are beautiful and portray the Littlest Magpie’s character perfectly. We can truly watch Little Magpie learn to fly and grow into an adult bird with a love of shiny objects.

Ideal for reading at Christmas.

An interview with… M. G. Leonard

In my Research Secrets double page spread in Writers’ Forum M. G. Leonard explained how her research into beetles turned her fear of creepy crawlies into an obsession.

Front cover

She told me her, Beetle Boy book didn’t start out with a beetle as a central character and it wasn’t called Beetle Boy. M. G. Leonard revealed she knew there would be beetles in the story, but because she was scared of creepy crawlies and thought they were horrid and signified something bad it neveer occured to her to make them the protagonists. But when she started researching beetles she became obsessed .

She didn’t start keeping pet beetles until after Beetle Boy was published and was still nervous around live insects.

“Everything changed when I was invited to appear on Blue Peter for National Insect Week with lots of live beetles. I visited my entomologist friend, Dr Sarah Beynon, who has a bug zoo in Pembrokeshire. She spent a day getting me to hold insects, and I fell in love with rainbow stag beetles. They are so beautiful. I immediately bought myself a pair and took them home so that I could handle them every day and desensitize myself to my fear. I was at the beginning of a journey.” M.G, Leanard

Since then she has bought an adult pair of African flower beetles, which she claims are relatively easy to breed. Watching them grow, eat and eventually pupate, informed her descriptions of the rooms inside Lucretia Cutter’s villainous lair – the Biome deep in the Amazon jungle – featured in Battle of the Beetles.

MG Leonard’s tip if you are incorporating unusual pets into your stories, is to spend time with the living creatures. Peering at them in a zoo won’t give you a unique insight into the way they behave when they’re hungry, or horney, scared or resting.

The descriptions of what it feels like to hold a beetle, to hear a beetle flying, of how they express themselves, all comes from careful observation of her living pets. It’s because she keeps beetles she knows many species are nocturnal, none sleep, and they control their body temperature by burying into soil.

“I did so much research for the Beetle Boy series. There isn’t a book about beetles that I don’t own. I trawled the internet browsing every single website that contained information about beetles. I watched all the youtube videos, listened to BBC audio shows.” M. G. Leonard

M. G. Leonard told me that researching is like a treasure hunt. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. You find a clue and follow where it takes you. There’s no pattern to it. She believes that there is no greater resource to the researching writer than the internet. Google maps allow you to see any place on the planet and Wikipedia will give you information about it. Books would take years longer to write without them.

You can find out more about M. G. Leonard and her books on her website and follow her on social media: Twitter @mglnrd; Instagram @mglnrd; Facebook@ mglnrd

To read the complete feature take a look at #219 Jan 2019 of Writers’ Forum magazine.

Book Review – The Twelve Unicorns of Christmas

Title: The Twelve Unicorns of Christmas

Written by: Timothy Knapman

Illustrated by: Ada Grey

Published by: Egmont

Twelve Unicorns of Christmas

When a Christmas picture book is all about unicorns you know you are on to a winner. If your child loves unicorns this is the perfect Christmas picture book, with lots to laugh about as the little girl counts down to Christmas with her unicorn friend. A fun and delightful blend of the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas song and crazy unicorn’s antics. The fabulous colourful illustrations play a large part in creating a zany image of an action packed, chaotic build up to Christmas day.

Twelve Unicorns of Christmas spread 1

Things do get a bit crazy and there’s so much to do, but her wonderful unicorn is a little mischievous… he munches all the mince pies, scribbles on the Christmas cards, makes a lot of mess and when the carol singers arrive, cover your ears, because unicorns definitely can’t sing. I think children will identify with this as the run up to Christmas can really get busy and hectic.

Twelve Unicorns of Christmas spread 2

A wonderful interactive book that you can enjoy with your child as you join in the song and count each gift on the page as you go along, ending with a grand festive finale full of unicorn celebrations. This fantastic book is full of humour, warmth and family fun.