Sunday, 25 November 2018

Books To Share- Part 1

This selection of books are great for reading book bites aloud from. From engaging openings to great characters to exciting prose they have something for everyone.

I wanted to share some that students I've worked with, in my role as a school librarian and reading support facilitator, have enjoyed.

These are only a few examples. The world of children's literature holds treasure troves of opportunities for encouraging confidence by reading aloud.

1. Best Dramatic Performance

This book has a fantastic dramatic, imaginative and atmospheric opening. As the fog creeps in over London a mysterious stranger arrives at the door of a workhouse. Students can act out different roles- the narrator, Mr Bledlow, The Showman, Wild Boy and the chorus of orphanage boys. The prologue is alive with description, evocative characterisation and memorable imagery. It's an engaging narrative that entertains those who act it out.

2. Best Suspense

The Medici Seal's action packed opening scene grips from the start with short, punchy sentences filled with suspense as a boy struggles for his life.  Breslin uses evocative imagery and great vocabulary with good examples of alliteration. Words featured include 'broiling', 'torrent' and 'flailing'. Students want to read on to discover what happens to Matteo. It's an historical novel set in Romagna, Italy in 1502 at the time of Leonardo da Vinci.

3. Coolest Action Fantasy

The Blood Guard has a wonderful opening which intrigues the reader engaging them with a gripping plot line from its first words- "It wasn't me who burned down our house." It's an action packed fantasy that offers magic, action and quirky characters. Students raised interesting questions such as 'How can a house burn in a snowstorm?', which the author, Carter Roy, was gracious enough to answer via Twitter much to their surprise and delight.

4. Award for the Quirkiest

Un Lun Dun is an amazingly inventive, imaginative and quirky book filled with bizarre illustrations that perfectly reflect its crazy world. Set in an upside down version of the city of London created entirely from rubbish it is peopled with absurdly random denizens like ninja bins, unbrellas, an evasive bridge, arachnid windows and abseiling librarians. It also boasts a rich vocabulary.  Great chapters to read aloud are 'Market Day', 'The Evasive Bridge' and 'Despotic Logorrhoea' which is set in the Talklands and features utterlings. Students respond to the fantastical illustrations and the comic dialogue. Librarians will especially enjoy 'Classmarks All the Way down'.

5. Most Guaranteed to Get A Laugh

Readers can have real fun with this fantasy adventure classic which plays with vocabulary as a boy goes on an incredible journey.  One of the best scenes to share is Milo's experience of the alphabet market where letters can be purchased. The author revels in nonsense and absurdity with a layerof tongue and cheek as Dictionopolis vs Digitopolis and Milo searches for the Princesses of Rhyme and Reason. This book works on different levels for different types of readers. It's clever, quirky and surprising. You can read more about it in Laura Miller's article at

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Book Travels

On a whirlwind trip to Kenya in amongst animal safaris and amazing sights I travelled back in time and visited an imaginary dystopian world. From the turbulent times of the suffragette struggle to a place where inhabitants live on borrowed time I went on an entertaining book journey. Before the plane had even taken off I also devoured a fantastical adventure which delivered magic, mystery and excitement. It's definitely one to watch. I also needed a guide to the fabulous birds of Kenya.

Here's my holiday lineup.

I absolutely loved the Trials of Morrigan Crow. It's a real page turner and one for fans of expert world building, quirky fantasy and plucky heroines. Once you enter the world of Nevermoor you won't want to leave. It's the perfect cocktail of mystery, magic and imagination. Morrigan is left with just as many questions as the reader as she embarks on a mysterious series of tasks in a bid to be chosen for the Wundrous Society. Just what is her true talent and where does she belong? Can't wait for the sequel.

 This book accompanied me on a visit to Treetops where I saw buffalo, elephants and waterbuck. Set during the time of the suffragette movement it celebrates the importance of individuality, explores the right to love whom you choose and educates the reader on the changing role of women during WW1. Evelyn, May and Nell's paths collide during a period of increasing socio-political tension. They each have a different role to play but who will sacrifice the most? Whose relationships will develop and grow and who will survive? Meticulously researched and thought provoking novel.

 This intriguing dystopia keeps the reader guessing in a world where time is a commodity and inhabitants drain their essence in a bid to survive. Sempera is a place of haves and have nots and Jules resolves to break the vicious cycle by infiltrating the rich stronghold of Everless. The problem is she and her father already have a troubled history and the past will come back to haunt her as she attempts to unravel it. Whom can she trust and who has betrayal on their minds? A curious concoction offering fantasy, reincarnation, magic and a touch of horror with a pinch of romance. Shades of the Gelfling's fate in The Dark Crystal.

The perfect companion for a trip to Kenya. It features detailed profiles (including location maps) on its amazing bird life including the stunning Lilac Breasted Roller Bird,the Pied Kingfisher, the Superb Starling, the Crowned Crane, the Village Weaver, the Long-Tailed Widow bird and the Green Woodhoopoe.

Lilac Breasted Roller aka the Rainbow Bird

Monday, 11 June 2018

Book Haikus in Celebration of Empathy Day

Twelve Books for June 12th -#EmpathyDay 

1. The Stars at Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard

This book is a beautiful story about how two people in pain can heal each other. It is the exaltation of the human spirit over despair and a celebration of the power of words, the redemptive nature of love and forgiveness.

Alice makes music

as her pen speaks of heartbreak

while Manny listens.

2. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Ruta's writing takes you on an amazing journey into the past and you follow in the footsteps of memorable characters hiding secrets and seeking respite from the ravages of war. Salt to the Sea won the Carnegie Medal for 2017.

Four strangers haunted

by secrets and lies seek peace

in a metal womb.

3. I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan

Sassy, brave and fierce. Muhammad creates an engaging, authentic and colloquial voice, drawn from his own experiences as a teacher and the inspiring teens that he has met, as the reader is brought into the heart of British Muslim Pakistani teen Muzna's world.

Courageous Muzna

battles with her heart and head

as she cries Thunder!

4. After The Fire by Will Hill

After the Fire is a remarkable tour de force. It is a meticulously researched and sensitively told exploration of human rights' abuses inspired by real events inside a religious cult in Waco, Texas.

Moonbeam struggles with 

terrible trauma slowly

uncovering truths. 

5. The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

Set in an Australian refugee camp, this is a life affirming story of the power of friendship and stories. It is another example of the exaltation of the human spirit over tragedy and injustice and highlights human rights' abuses which are very real today.

Friends under the wire

connected by a story

triumph over pain.

6. Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

This is a beautifully lyrical and sensitive portrayal of Caitlin, a girl with Asperger's syndrome, who is trying to cope with the loss of her brother in a tragic school shooting. It is a gentle study of bereavement and searching for closure. It won the US National Book Award Award for Young People's literature.

Caitlin needs colour

after Devon is taken

but how can she heal?

7. One by Sarah Crossan

This novel is a heartrending, thought provoking and powerfully evocative exploration of the relationship between conjoined twins Tippi and Grace. It is told in verse which intensifies its impact on the reader. It won the Carnegie Medal in 2016.

Tippi and Grace are

intertwined and existing

aren't they amazing.

8. A Dangerous Crossing by Jane Mitchell

Mitchell perfectly captures the lives of a Syrian family torn apart by war and suffering. Her book is painful, powerful, evocative and thought provoking.

Ghalib's family

flee as Syria erupts

amid explosions.

9. Hidden by Miriam Halahmy

'Hidden' examines key issues relevant to today as teen Alix, who lives in an island community, struggles with a moral dilemma. Who is she hiding? The book's stage adaptation will tour in Autumn 2018.

Alix and Samir

are secretive in Hayling

as they make choices.

10. We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen

Popular Ashley has lessons to learn when her mum and Stewart's dad move in together in the hopes of being a blended family. She christens him 'Spewart' but soon discovers that "we are all made of molecules" and it is how we act and who we are in our hearts that matters.

Ashley and Stewart-

Beware smooth appearances

They are deceptive.

11. Refugee by Alan Gratz

This amazing book tells the story of three children connected through the decades by shared peril. Gratz links the trials and tribulations of Josef, Isabel and Mahmoud in this remarkable story which spans continents. Can they and their families find refuge and sanctuary?

Josef, Isabel

and Mahmoud are escaping

in search of refuge.

12. Wonder by R.J Palacio

Wonder is already a poster child for empathy. It is about kindness, not judging a person by their appearance and appreciating the wonder of their generous, imaginative and caring personality. It is a life affirming book. You will fall in love with Auggie. #ChooseKind

Auggie wants to hide

but his family know he

is just amazing.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

I Am Thunder

BOOK BITE:  "A sassy, brave and vulnerable protagonist who suffuses this amazing, groundbreaking book with an indomitable spirit." 

AUTHOR- Khan, Muhammad 

TITLE- I Am Thunder


PUBLISHER- Pan Macmillan


ISBN- 9781509874057

MULTI-GENRE/Real life issues - Muslim Culture, Islamophobia, Anti-Radicalisation, Prejudice, Racism
Profile at

TWITTER - @mkhanauthor

Quotes from 'I Am Thunder'- 

"I promised myself this would be different. I would stand up for myself."

Five Facts about Muhammad Khan
  • Loved working as a Maths Teacher
  • Favourite book as a child- The Worst Witch
  • Favourite book as a teen- Rice Without Rain
  • British born Pakistani
  • Treasures-Given a special gift edition set of Tolkien's works
Muhammad Khan on what inspired him to create 'I Am Thunder':

Giving a voice to Muslim teenagers brought up in Britain:

I Am Thunder was influenced by: “I wanted to speak to those Muslim students who were feeling unloved and afraid at the rise of the far right across the world. They’re trapped in the middle. They don’t recognise ISIS as Muslims. There’s the [far] right who hate them for something they haven’t done. I wanted them to know that they are British, they are valuable, they are loved and they have nothing to apologise for.”

“Muzna’s teenage experience is something each and every one of us can relate to, whatever our background.”

Everyone has a spark of greatness inside them, you just need to be kind to yourself and discover your inner thunder.

BLURB (from Goodreads):

Fifteen-year-old Muzna Saleem, who dreams of being a writer, struggles with controlling parents who only care about her studying to be a doctor. Forced to move to a new school in South London after her best friend is shamed in a scandal, Muzna realizes that the bullies will follow her wherever she goes. But deciding to stand and face them instead of fighting her instinct to disappear is harder than it looks when there's prejudice everywhere you turn. Until the gorgeous and confident Arif shows an interest in her, encouraging Muzna to explore her freedom. 

But Arif is hiding his own secrets and, along with his brother Jameel, he begins to influence Muzna with their extreme view of the world. As her new freedom starts to disappear, Muzna is forced to question everything around her and make a terrible choice - keep quiet and betray herself, or speak out and betray her heart?

A stunning new YA voice which questions how far you'll go to protect what you believe in.

Click link for full review: 

Friday, 11 May 2018

Twitter Book Chats

I want to share the fabulous book chats I have discovered on Twitter which are invaluable to me as a school librarian and book lover. It is great fun sharing book choices with enthusiastic and welcoming authors, book bloggers, reviewers and readers.

Here are some highlights from this Twitter Treasure Trove.

#histficchat-  Hosted by the wonderfully welcoming historical fiction author Viv Conroy (who specialises in 1920s crime fiction) @VivWrites this entertaining chat with author guests takes place on Thursdays at 8pm. Spotlights have included exploring eerie locations in historical writing, WW1 spies and indomitable females. Guest authors have included Kate Quinn, author of the exhilarating #TheAliceNetwork. The #histficchat community are friendly and full of great reading communications. Chocolate & cheese features too.

#MGiechat- This chat, hosted by the Irish fantasy author Elizabeth Rose Murray @ERMurray, showcases the best in Irish MG fiction authors. It takes place on Tuesdays from 8.30-9.30 pm. Cool topics discussed have included diversity in children's literature and historical fiction. Featured authors have included Victoria Williamson @strangelymagic, writer of the Fox Girl & the White Gazelle which highlights refugee issues.

#OhYABookClub- Hosted by the inspirational, innovative and irrepressible Lucas J Maxwell, past winner of the prestigious School Librarian of the Year award, this Twitter book club celebrates groundbreaking YA authors who offer rich fictional experiences. It takes place on Thursdays from 8-9PM. As well as exploring insightful issues, it also enables tweeters to vote for the book they most want to read next from an exciting cavalcade of recently published books celebrating diversity in YA fiction. Lucas invites diverse authors like Muhammad Khan and Savita Kalhan to take part in absorbing discussions.

#UKLibChat which is on Mondays from 7-8.30 PM is the perfect place for aspiring librarians and library professionals to stop in, network, share ideas and discuss pertinent topics such as learning techniques, librarianship, technological developments and reading promotion.

#UKMGChat- Hosted by children's writers @miriamhcraig and Lorraine Gregory@authorontheedge, it takes place between 8-9pm on Thursdays. Showcasing the best writers in MG fiction, it's an enjoyable platform on which to meet authors. Recently it welcomed the imaginative Jonathan Stroud, the author of the spooky supernatural series Lockwood & Co and the fantasy sequence The Bartimaeus Chronicles.

#UKYAChat- Hosted by the phenomenal Queen of Teen book bloggers, Lucy Powrie @LucyTheReader, who runs the Queen of Contemporary book blog and has a Book Tube channel, this chat is the perfect opportunity for authors, book bloggers, educators, readers, teens to discuss burning issues in YA fiction. It welcomes exciting guest authors and celebrates diversity in teen fiction in all its forms. Attracting a wide audience, it is a must see on a Friday night Twitter trail taking place from 8 to 9PM. Past guests have included the amazing E Lockhart ('We Were Liars' is such a compulsive, intricate, clever, searing read),

Lucy's style is bubbly and chatty and she is an aspiring author herself as well as being a big fan of the Bronte sisters. Topics featured have included diversity, taboos, encouraging teens to enjoy reading and writing, the role of publishers and the draw of book covers.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Independent Bookshop Gems- Belfast

Belfast is home to these two independent gems. More for my TBR list. 


I love the open plan layout of this enchanting bookstore located on the Stranmillis Road in Belfast. It has great selections- charming picture books for young children, a 10-13 range and a YA spot. Little recommendation cards perched on eye catching displays complete the look. There are spotlights on best selling adult reads, travel choices and pretty designer cards to choose from too.
Books I purchased here include the magical Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge, the adventurous The Jewelled Moth, 2nd in the entertaining Sinclair mysteries series and The Dollmaker of Krakow which is set in Poland in WW2 but is imbued with magic & folklore.


No Alibis specialises in the crème de la crème of crime fiction showcasing many exciting authors. It's not just the perfect venue for students needing course texts, book lovers looking for an eclectic selection and crime aficionados. It also hosts literary events including book launches, interviews and music evenings. 
Books I snapped up here include the steam punk mystery The Watchmaker of Filagree Street, the beautiful graphic novel The Sleeper & the Spindle, the Murdoch Mysteries (a popular crime series set in Toronto in the 1900s) and Gaiman's powerhouse American Gods.

Independent Bookshop Gems- London

I'm still addicted to buying books. My TBR list just grows and grows.

My Recent Discoveries


The wonderful @StanfordsTravel- a shangri la for travellers. Located in Covent Garden, it has three floors of fantastic books, maps, antiques and travel related trivia. I purchased a lovely globe there which displays the animals you can find in each continent. There is even a coffee shop where you can chill out and peruse your purchases.

The charming @talesonmoonlane located on Herne Hill in South London (nearest tube stop Elephant & Castle followed by a bus journey but it's well worth it) specialises in Children's books. It has selections for the very young, MG and YA. A lovely feature of the shop is the wall covered with messages and illustrations from illustrators.

Books I purchased there that intrigued me include:
Review Coming Soon


Tuesday, 27 March 2018

After the Fire

The sixth book I've chosen for the #BritishBooksChallenge 
is the thought provoking After The Fire by Will Hill. #CKG18

BOOK BITE:  "A meticulously researched and sensitively told exploration of human rights' abuses inspired by real life events inside a religious cult in Waco,Texas." 

AUTHOR-Hill, Will

TITLE-After The Fire


PUBLISHER- Usborne Publishing


ISBN- 9781474924153   

MULTI-GENRE- Psychological Drama, Historical, Human Rights' issues. 

Other Books- Department Nineteen series


TWITTER - @WillHillauthor

Quotes from 'After the Fire'-

"The things I've seen are burned into me, like scars that refuse to fade..."

"It feels like someone has pushed my hand into a jar of acid and is holding it there.."

"All I can do is wade through inky blackness, dragging myself forward, trying to find the way back..."

"I take a sheet of paper from the stack and run my fingers over its surface. It's smooth, because its never been used. It's brand new. It has no history."

Five Facts about Will Hill
  • Grew up in Lincolnshire
  • Admires Angie Thomas's novel 'The Hate U Give' for its depiction of "a teenager trying to decide who she is, in the face of injustice and pressure from all sides."
  • His favourite track that complements After The Fire- 'The Lost Art of Keeping A Secret' by Queens of the Stone Age
  • Would like to visit Svalbard and the Arctic Circle to see the Northern Lights
  • Quitted job in publishing to become a full time author having previously worked as a bartender and bookseller.  
Hill on what inspired him to create 'After The Fire' 

"I listened to recordings of David Koresh. His voice was so flat and ordinary as he discussed the end of the world that it sent chills up my spine."

'I wanted to explore how cults function, how power and authority are wielded over men and women... but I also wanted to explore what happens after such a group ends.'

"It’s a book about faith, and desperation, and manipulation, and control, and – ultimately – it’s about survival. And hope."

BLURB from Goodreads

The things I've seen are burned into me, like scars that refuse to fade...

Father John controls everything inside The Fence. And Father John likes rules. Especially about never talking to Outsiders. Because Father John knows the truth. He knows what is right, and what is wrong. He knows what is coming.

Moonbeam is starting to doubt, though. She's starting to see the lies behind Father John's words. She wants him to be found out. What if the only way out of darkness is to light a fire?

Click link for full review: