Posts Tagged ‘Historical fiction’

Odd and True

Cat Winters
Trudchen grew up hearing Odette’s stories of their monster-slaying mother and a magician’s curse. But now that Tru’s older, she’s starting to wonder if her older sister’s tales were just comforting lies, especially because there’s nothing fantastic about her own life—permanently disabled and in constant pain from childhood polio.
In 1909, after a two-year absence, Od reappears with a suitcase supposedly full of weapons and a promise to rescue Tru from the monsters on their way to attack her. But it’s Od who seems haunted by something. And when the sisters’ search for their mother leads them to a face-off with the Leeds Devil, a nightmarish beast that’s wreaking havoc in the Mid-Atlantic states, Tru discovers the peculiar possibility that she and her sister—despite their dark pasts and ordinary appearances—might, indeed, have magic after all.

What are your overall thoughts?

This is my first Cat Winters book so I had no idea what to expect when I requested Odd and True to review. The cover is what immediately drew my attention, it put to mind some well-mannered ladies who are just as comfortable taking tea as they are kicking arse, a kind of 1900’s Buffy.

What I got was a much subtler, but no less enjoyable, character driven story of two sisters reconnecting after a period of enforced separation, untangling the threads of truth from their fantastical childhood recollections of their shared past and the more recent experience of their separation.

I enjoyed the shared storytelling. Truncheon’s provides the first person present tense observations, while her elder sister Odette gradually reveals the sisters shared history, from childhood through to present day 1909. I found myself as equally invested in each narrative and would get to the end of each chapter, not wishing for that perspective to change only to be quickly absorbed in the story of the other sister.

What was your favorite aspect of the book?
I really enjoyed the inclusion of a diverse character in a historically set novel, I this incidence it was the inclusion of Trudchen’s disability. I loved that Trudchen was the heroine of her own story, not in spite of her physical limitations, or by overcoming them, but because of her strength of character, the culmination of her life experiences and empathetic personality.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Tue- Despite being physically less able than her order, self appointed protector sister, she brings her own strengths to the partnership- strength of character, a strong moral center and bloody minded determination- all of which stand her in good stead when she travels across the country with her sister searching for strange beasts, finds herself fighting for the under dog and in a position to be a positive role model for a vulnerable young girl.

Would you recommend this book?
Yes, I would recommend it for people that like slow building character driven novels about female familial relationships and the many different strengths of young women.

Verdict: Sisters seeking the supernatural armed with a suitcase full of shared history find themselves and each other.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Amulet
Publication Date: September 2017
Format: ebook
Pages: 368
Genre: Historical, Fantasy, Supernatural
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: None
Posted on:

Miriam’s Secret

Debby Waldman
In 1930 nine-year-old Miriam travels by train from Brooklyn to her grandparents’ farm in upstate New York. Her grandparents are kind, generous people, but they aren’t exactly ideal playmates for a lonely girl. When Miriam is not doing homework in the kitchen with Bubby or helping prepare meals for the migrant workers that Zayde hires to help out on the farm, she plays with the barn kittens born just before she arrived. Those kittens are her only friends, until the day Miriam discovers a young girl hiding in the barn. Cissy and her brother, Joe, who’s one of Zayde’s farm hands, are on the run from an abusive uncle back in Mississippi. Miriam and Cissy hit it off immediately. But their friendship is tested when Miriam is forced to choose between keeping a promise and doing the right thing.What were your initial thoughts on the book?
My initial thoughts about the book were that this book was a totally different style and by a totally different author to what I usually read, which means that I may not like it, but I was wrong.

I really did enjoy the book more than I thought, it is one of my very favourites, and despite it having 25 long chapters I finished it in only 2 days. I wish I had cheeked how many chapters there were so I could have savoured each sentence carefully instead of reading for hours and hours like I always do!

Who was your favourite character and why?
I have two favourite characters, Mariam and Cissy, because they are both very easy to like. They are brave, kind and funny but their lives are very different. Mariam has a great life in a warm house with food to eat whenever she is hungry however not all of us have a home, food or water and one of these people in this book is Cissy.

Mariam and Cissy might have opposite lives but that makes them perfect for each other.

Would you recommend this book?
I would recommend this book to older readers around the age 10 or readers that enjoy books set in the past.

Summarize the book in one sentence.
A nice book about unexpected friendships that you will enjoy.

Reviewed by Jimena (11)

Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Publication Date: October 2017
Format: eBook
Pages: 192
Genre: Hystorical
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Jimena
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: None
Posted on:

Clover Moon

Jacqueline Wilson
Clover Moon’s imagination is her best escape from a life of hardship in poverty-stricken Victorian London. When tragedy plunges her into a world of grief, Clover realizes that everything she loved about the place she called home is gone. Clover hears of a place she could run to, but where will she find the courage – and the chance – to break free? And could leaving her family be just what she needs to find a place that really feels like home?

What were your initial thoughts on the book?
I really enjoyed reading Clover Moon by Jaqueline Wilson because I always enjoy her books.
I thought the book was very emotional and funny.
I mostly enjoyed reading this book because it doesn’t have any pictures except for one at the beginning of every chapter which lets me use my imagination to make the people in my head by using the description from the book.

Who was your favourite character and why?
My favourite character is Clover Moon because she is the bravest, funniest, most adventurous girl and she cares for other people. Clover turns everything into an adventure which makes very easy to like her.

Would you recommend this book?
If you like Hetty Feather then you will definitely like Clover Moon because they are set in the same place and have some characters in common. I would recommend this book to other girls -from age 9- that are interested in adventures happening in the present, past or future.

Summarise the book in one sentence.
Clover Moon is a fun, attractive book that drags you in to the story the minute you turn the page.

Jimena Gutierrez-Reviriego (10)

Publisher: Doubleday Children’s
Publication Date: October 2016
Format: Hardback
Pages: 400
Genre: Historical fiction
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Jimena
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
Posted on:

Author Interview: Karen McCombie

We are delighted to welcome Karen McCombie to Big Book Little Book as she talks about her latest novel, The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall.
The Whispers of Wilderwood HallEllis is losing track of time…
After leaving her friends to move to a crumbling Scottish mansion, Ellis is overcome by anxiety and loneliness. Then she hears whispers in the walls…and finds herself whisked back in time to 1912.
At first, she feels like she’s finally home. But the past may not be as perfect as it seems – and is there more to hope for in the present than she first thought?

Wilderwood Hall is just one of many of your books, but can you tell us what your favourite book has been to write?
Erk! That’s a bit like asking me to choose my favourite child*! But okay, since you’re holding a gun to my head (sort of), I’ll say last year’s evacuee novel ‘Catching Falling Stars’, because it was my first historical book and fascinating to research. Though I did love writing ‘Life According to Alice B. Lovely’… the weird and wonderful Alice B. still feels spookily real to me. Oh, and my younger ‘You, Me and Thing’ series was SO much fun to write, and I adored the illustrations Alex T. Smith did for it. And– [large hook appears and pulls Karen away from the keyboard…]

Here at Big Book Little Book, we would love to know how you first got into writing?
I worked as a teen magazine journalist, occasionally writing short stories for the mags. Reviewing books wasn’t part of my job, but I loved flicking through the novels that publishers sent in. The great ones inspired me to have a go myself. The not-so-great ones inspired me too, just in a different way!

Over your time writing you have written both series and standalone books, what is your favourite kind to write and why?
I’m lucky enough to write not only standalones and series, but books for different ages and genres too. I even write for a dyslexia-friendly/struggling reader-friendly publisher, and that’s pretty interesting because you have to think about complex phrasing etc that can trip up less confident readers. And the truth is, I enjoy all these different styles of books. Going back and forth between a long-form novel and then a short early reader, for example, is really great; the change of pace keeps you fresh.

Do you have any odd writing habits? (i.e. having to listen to music?)
Oh, I’d LOVE to listen to music! I’m so envious of authors who talk about the playlists they devised as a background mood for their work in progress… But it’s fatal for me; I just end up tuning into the words instead of my work. Even instrumental music doesn’t help; I start daydreaming and staring out of the window.

Where is your favourite place to write?
I am such a fidget, especially in the mornings; like a dog, I need to go out for a walk. So most mornings, I pack my laptop and head out to work in a café or library, which makes me more settled and focussed for writing in my wee back bedroom office in the afternoons. But my favourite place to write is the local garden centre café. It’s so light and bright, and perfumed by plants…it’s just fab. And most importantly, it has cake.

What is your favourite thing about being an author?
Ooh, there’s a lot of good stuff: dreaming up a new idea; having an editor love it; finding a way to solve something you’re stuck on; the thrill of finishing your novel; going out to schools for events… But my favourite? Well, nothing beats seeing your ACTUAL book in an ACTUAL shop. That’s always a total buzz.

If you had to describe Wilderwood Hall in a tweet (140 characters), what would you say?
I just practised on Twitter! So, here it is…
Ellis struggles with loneliness when she and Mum move to a dilapidated mansion in Scotland. That’s till she hears the whispers in the walls…

Who is your favourite character in Wilderwood Hall?
Ellis; when she struggles with waves of anxiety I want to wrap my arms around her and tell her it’ll be okay. I’d like to tell my 13-year-old self the same, sometimes. (I tell my daughter sometimes too.)

If you could live in any fictional world, which one would you choose?
Could I just visit? I’d love to spend time with author Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family in her autobiographical world of ‘Little House of the Prairie’. To see the prairies and buffalo and unspoilt world of 19th century America… it would be truly amazing. But then I’d like to come back to my sofa and eat crisps and watch ‘Friends’ with my daughter.

What is your next book going to be about? If you’re allowed to let us know!
I’m writing more historical and more funny books (not at the same time, or in the same books!). I’m not sure yet which is going to be published when, so if I say which novel is coming next, I’ll probably get it wrong and look stupid. But hey, looking stupid doesn’t usually stop me doing anything!

* Milly. Phew that was hard**.

** Alright, alright, she’s my ONLY child, so it wasn’t that difficult, I suppose!
Interview questions by Faye
Karen McCombieKaren McCombie is from Aberdeen but now lives in North London with her husband, daughter and one big ginger cat.
Before Karen became a full-time writer she worked for several teen magazines such as Just Seventeen, Bliss and Sugar in a variety roles – everything from Fashion Editor to Features Editor – all very exciting and glam!
Karen has sold over one million books in the UK alone and has been translated into 15 languages.
Find out more at www.karenmccombie.co.uk and take the opportunity to join Karen’s Club!

The lovely people at Scholastic have provided us with one copy of Karen McCombie‘s The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall for one lucy Big Book Little Book reader.

IF you could travel in time, when would you travel to and why?

To enter the giveaway, simply let us know, in the comments below, when you would like to travel to and why.

One commentor will be randomly selected to receive one book.

UK and IRL only

Comments made after the 24th of June will no longer be counted as entries.

Posted on:

My Top Ten Secret Gardens

Big Book Little Book is delighted to host author Holly Webb as she shares her top ten secret gardens.
Holly has written a sequel to one of my favourite childhood books, The Secret Garden. Dickon, from the original story, was one of my very first book crushes, before I even knew what a crush was. There was something so wonderful about the walled garden, a secret , special place away from the adults, where the children were in charge, and in the case of Dickon, much more knowledgeable than the adults. I am really looking forward to sharing the story with my children in the future and this exciting follow up.
With out further ado, over to Holly.

Return to the Secret GardenIt’s 1939 and a group of children have been evacuated to Misselthwaite Hall. Emmie is far from happy to have been separated from her cat and sent to a huge old mansion. But soon she starts discovering the secrets of the house – a boy crying at night, a diary written by a girl named Mary and a garden. A very secret garden…

1. Great Maytham Hall

Frances Hodgson Burnett lived in this house in Kent from the mid-1890s, and the walled rose garden was her inspiration for The Secret Garden. She wrote in a little summerhouse in the corner of the garden. The garden is open one day a week under the National Gardens Scheme.
Click here learn more about Great Maytham Hall , or here to find a garden

2. Misselthwaite Manor, from The Secret Garden

The site of the secret garden itself – in amongst the kitchen gardens and orchards, surrounded by a high brick walls. Mary first discovers the garden in winter, and the trails of roses look grey and dead. Only the little green points of the bulbs give any clue to the garden that’s waiting to come alive.

3. My childhood garden

I grew up in a Victorian house in South London, with a long, narrow garden. My parents still live in the same house, but strangely, the garden seems much smaller now! I remember it as huge, and full of hiding places…

4. The garden in The Magician’s Nephew

I loved (still love) the Narnia books, and this garden is fascinating – Polly and Digory fly on the winged horse Fledge (possibly my favourite character) to pick an apple from the tree in this walled garden.

5.Miniature gardens

While she’s still living in India, Mary Lennox makes toy gardens, picking flowers and arranging them in the dusty earth. I used to do this too, and I loved making gardens in trays with my children.

6. Kew Gardens

Not a secret at all, of course. But I remember visiting these as a child, and being fascinated by the glass houses, with the enormous water lilies. I loved fairy tales, and Beatrix Potter’s Jeremy Fisher, and I was sure there were secret creatures living in those glass houses.
To learn more about Kew Gardens visit their website here.

7. Thumbelina’s garden

In Hans Christian Andersen’s story, Thumbelina appears inside a flower. After a whole series of adventures, she and her friend the swallow find a meadow full of flowers, and Thumbelina meets a flower fairy prince. I don’t know why, but I’ve always imagined that the flowers were tulips!

8. RHS Wisley

Again, I visited these gardens as a child, but all I remember is a house made out of wisteria. It was a summerhouse, completed surrounded by the purple flowers, and I wanted to live there. The wisteria in my own garden now is one of my favourite things! Looking at photos of Wisley’s long pergolas, I wonder if imagined that the house was round? But I’m sure it was… There’s a wisteria pergola at Great Maytham, too. I changed the idea of the summerhouse slightly for Return to the Secret Garden, my character Emmie imagines herself a house of flowers, but hers is made of roses and honeysuckle. (It would have been wisteria, except in the book it was the wrong time of year!)
Learn more about Wisley here

9. The Lost Gardens of Heligan

Real life secret gardens! Heligan was abandoned during the First World War, and the gardens were rediscovered and recreated in the 1990s.
Discover them for yourself by following this link.

10.The garden next-door, from Moving Molly by Shirley Hughes

One of my favourite books ever. I read it so many times, and I still have my copy. Molly moves house and finds that the garden next door has been abandoned – it’s a paradise for tigerish cats, and full of adventures.

Post by Holly Webb

Holly Webb_RTSG2Holly Webb is the author of Dog Magic, Cat Magic, and Lost in the Snow. She has always loved animals and owns two very spoiled cats. They haven’t said a word to her yet, but she’s always listening, just in case! She lives in England.

Posted on:

Delicious!

Ruth Reichl
deliciousDear Mr Beard,
I sent my Magic Moments off yesterday, and that made me think of you.
I hope the cookies will remind Father of our life here. Or maybe I should say what life used to be, before the war changed everything . . .
Hidden in the library of Delicious! magazine young intern Billie discovers the wartime letters of twelve-year-old Lulu Swan, written to distinguished food writer, James Beard. Lulu’s can-do spirit in the face of food shortages and other hardships help Billie come to terms with her own tragic past. Until one day it occurs to her: Lulu Swan might still be alive…

What were your initial thoughts of the book?
I saw Delicious out of the blue and got completely drawn to the cover. After scouring the synopsis, I knew that this was a book I’d be interested in reading. Thus I decided to give the book a go which I’m glad I did as this book was truly lovely and was such an entertaining read. I was drawn in from the very start and found it very hard to put the book down again. It is a book that has a truly remarkable story at its centre, one that will capture your heart and make you feel warm inside. It is one of the best food-centric books I’ve read.

What was your favourite aspect of the book?
The journey that our main protagonist, Billie, goes on. (I know, you were expecting me to say the food, weren’t you?) I loved her narration and how much she changes throughout the story. I found the writing style was easy to follow and I just got sucked in and really needed to know where Billie’s life would take her next. I really enjoyed how this all came together and how she grew into such a confident, outgoing, and resilient character by the end of it all. This was definitely a character-driven plot!

Who was your favourite character and why?
I’m sure this will come as no surprise to you but my favourite character was Billie. As much as I loved all of the other side characters and all of their own journeys, there was just something about Billie that I completely loved. She was a remarkable character who was well-written and someone who was really relatable. Essentially, this story was a coming-of-age story in which Billie finds her true self and learns to enjoy it all which just made for an entertaining read that was thoroughly enjoyable.

Would you recommend this book?
In a heartbeat. It is the kind of book that will whisk you away to another place and time easily. It is full of language that will warm your insides and mentions of food that will have you salivating. It has a story that is full of heart and warmth and is one of those books that will make you feel really good and blessed by the end of it. So if you like books like that, then you should definitely read this book. I would say it is perfect for fans of Cecelia Ahern and Jodi Picoult!

Summarize this book in one sentence (verdict): A wonderfully warm story about hope, love, food, and finding yourself.

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: Ebury Press
Publication Date: September2014
Format: Paperback
Pages: 384
Genre: Historical, Fiction, Food
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: None
Posted on:

#CountDownTo7th August : Interview With Emma Carrol

Big Book Little Book are absolutely delighted to host author Emma Carroll as she counts down to the August 7th release of her second novel The Girl Who Walked On Air . The Girl Who Walks On Air is a beautifully written middle grade novel which perfectly balances breath holding daredevilry and adventure with a compelling personal mystery.
TGWWOAAbandoned as a baby at Chipchase’s Travelling Circus, Louie dreams of becoming a ‘Showstopper’. Yet Mr Chipchase only ever lets her sell tickets. No Death-Defying Stunts for her. So in secret, Louie practises her act- the tightrope- and dreams of being the Girl Who Walked on Air. All she needs is to be given the chance to shine.
One night a terrible accident occurs. Now the circus needs Louie’s help, and with rival show Wellbeloved’s stealing their crowds, Mr Chipchase needs a Showstopper- fast.
Against his better judgement, he lets Louie perform. She is a sensation and gets an offer from the sinister Mr Wellbeloved himself to perform in America. But nothing is quite as it seems and soon Louie’s bravery is tested not just on the highwire but in confronting her past and the shady characters in the world of the circus . . .

Both TGWWOA and your debut, Frost Hollow Hall, are set in the Victorian era. What is it about historical fiction and this time period that inspires you?

To me, historical fiction gives you freedom to put characters in situations that wouldn’t occur nowadays- a 13 year old walking a tightrope without a safety harness, for instance. There weren’t health and safety laws, crash helmets, antibiotics. Danger is everywhere in historical fiction!

Reading your work you really get a feel for the Victorian era, but without feeling like you are being given a history lesson. It is obvious you have had to undertake a great deal of research in order to get the setting of your books just right. What is your favourite fact/ piece of research about the era that you didn’t include in your work?

When researching ‘Frost Hollow Hall’ I found out about post mortem photographs, where people had their picture taken with a loved one who’d just died. It was one of many Victorian grieving rituals which to us seem creepy, but at the time were a popular mark of respect. For The Girl Who Walked On Air I loved reading about Charles Blondin. I had no idea he’d cooked an omelette on a tightrope over Niagara Falls! What a nutter!

On the surface Frost Hollow Hall and TGWWOA are two very different novels. Where do you find your inspiration for such varied subject matter?

‘Frost Hollow Hall’ was inspired by my love of snowy winters and stories set in creepy old houses. I’d like to say ‘The Girl Who Walked On Air ’is inspired by my talent for tightrope walking, but I’d be lying, sadly. One day I was looking at pictures of C19th circuses. It got me wondering what would motivate someone to risk their life every day just for entertainment.

Both of your published works feature very determined young women. What do you think Tilly (Frost Hollow Hall) and Louie’s strongest personality traits are? What are their weakest?

Great question! I think Tilly’s biggest strength is her loyalty to Kit and to her family. Louie’s is her determination to succeed. She isn’t afraid of danger. Weaknesses? Tilly’s rather hot-headed and proud. Louie tends to get the wrong end of the stick sometimes, and she is a bit of a show-off!

Which of your Characters do you identify with the most? Why?

I recognise bits of myself in Tilly and Louie. I think I’m loyal to those I love. I can also be a bit hot-headed and jump to the wrong conclusion at times! They’re both much braver than me- I’d never walk a tightrope, or go up a pitch-black staircase at night. No way!

What is it that attracts you to writing fiction for young people, particularly for the 9-12 year old age range?

For the past 18 years I’ve worked as an English teacher, so I’m around young people a lot. That said, the age I write for is a bit younger than the age I teach. When I started Frost Hollow Hall, I wanted to write a good old-fashioned romp of a story, something that was engaging and uplifting to read. Faber pitched Frost Hollow Hall at the 9-12 market, and I’m so glad they did. School events with this age group have been awesome!

In Louie’s world the ultimate achievement is to become a showstopper. In order to achieve this dream Louie has to maintain her belief and self-confidence in her abilities in the face of external criticism and indifference. Gabriel’s struggles however are internal. He has to face his fears, fears exacerbated by his past experiences. For you how much was writing and publishing a novel about grit and determination in the face of external obstacles and how much was about facing your own internal obstacles?

Interesting question! Writing involves determination. It takes time. It can’t be rushed. Yet it has to fit in around a day job (for me, anyway) and family life. It is hard work- like always having homework, I heard someone once say! But I’d not change it for the world.

Like Gabriel in’ The Girl Who walked On Air’, I think most writers face internal struggles. Not a day goes by where I don’t think ‘ ugh that’s a terrible chapter/scene/sentence’ and when other people say it…well…it can hurt a bit. But at some point you do have to take a deep breath and let go.

Did you have to overcome any personal challenges in your quest to become an established author?

The hardest thing has been juggling a job I find challenging with one I’m desperate to spend more time doing. I’m still so new to all this, so ask me again in a few years time.

IN TGWWOA there is certain level of audience expectation that the circus performers continually push themselves to create and perform more daring stunts. While I’m sure that your publishers didn’t expect you to risk life and limb for the cause, how has your experience of writing a second novel differed from your debut?

Ha ha luckily no they didn’t! Writing The Girl Who Walked On Air to a deadline gave me my first real flavour of writing professionally ie less staring out of windows/checking twitter, more getting words down. I felt I understood the process of crafting a book better so when the editing began, I didn’t quite feel so overwhelmed.

Louie spends many years perfecting her craft before she is ready to share it with the world. Do you have any secret talents you would like to share with us? 😉

If I told you they’d no longer be secret, would they? 😉

While undoubtedly born with a natural talent, I loved that Louie did not just rely on her talent to achieve her dreams. It took practice, self-confidence, determination and commitment to the cause. In our society of instant gratification, reality TV stars and the desire to be famous for five minutes, how important do you think it is for young people, especially girls, to have positive role models like Louie in their life?

This is a very important question on a huge, huge issue. I’d like to think Louie embodies the qualities you mention, yet she’s also flawed. She has to work for what she wants, often doubting herself in the process. She’s an ordinary person doing extraordinary things. It’s vital for girls-and boys- to have positive female role models.

Who are your favourite literary role models?

I do have a soft spot for characters who defy the odds. Jane Eyre isn’t pretty or accomplished, but she knows her own mind. Katniss Everdeen isn’t privileged or highly trained yet she’s a survivor. Hazel Grace Lancaster is terminally ill and still manages to fall in love. It’s a satisfying arc.

Do you envision revisiting any of your characters? In particular, Daisy would love to know if you would ever write a sequel to Frost Hollow Hall?

You’re not the first to ask that question, Daisy! At the moment there are no plans for a Frost Hollow Hall sequel. But, never say never. In the final chapter I did deliberately keep a few story threads open…

Your debut novel Frost Hollow Hall is a ghost story and your current work in progress, “In Darkling Wood” (TBC) also appears to contain a supernatural element. What is it about the supernatural that interests you as a writer? And on a personal level would you believe in Kit (Frost Hollow Hall) if you saw him as a ghost?

As a child I loved anything spooky or ‘unexplained’- obviously, I still do! I think it comes with having an active imagination, the idea that we don’t ‘know’ everything and that some things are beyond our understanding.
Would I believe in Kit Barrington? Absolutely. I’ve never fallen into a frozen lake, but once when I was very ill, I had a dream about a work colleague who had just died. He sat on my bed and told me I was going to be all right. This was my inspiration for how Kit appears in Tilly’s dreams.

Are you able to tell us anything about your current work in progress?

‘Alice’s little brother Theo is dangerously sick. When a donor is found, he’s rushed into hospital for a heart transplant and Alice goes to stay with Nell, the grandmother she barely knows. Darkling Cottage is a strange old place, surrounded on all sides by an even stranger wood.

Meanwhile Flo is writing letters to her older brother Alfred. It’s November 1918. The war is over at last. She can’t wait for him to come home. There’s something in the wood she’s dying to show him. No one else will believe what she’s seen….’
The first wobbly draft is nearly complete.

emma carrollFrost Hollow Hall won The North East Book Award 2013. It was longlisted for the Brandford Boase Award 2014 and The Leeds Book Award. It was named a top book of 2013 by The Daily Telegraph, and was a LoveReadingForKids Book of the Year 2013.
When she isn’t writing, Emma Carroll teaches English part-time at a secondary school in Devon. She graduated with distinction from Bath Spa University’s MA in Writing For Young People. ‘Frost Hollow Hall’ is Emma’s debut novel for Faber. Her second, The Girl Who Walked On Air is out in August 2014. It is set in a Victorian circus. She is currently working on a third book based on the Cottingley Fairies story.
In another life Emma wishes she’d written ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne Du Maurier. She lives in the Somerset hills with her husband and two terriers. To learn more about Emma and her work visit her website here

Questions by Daisy and Caroline

countdownbuttonv2A huge thank you to Emma for taking the time to answer our questions. The Girl Who Walks On Air will be published by Faber and Faber on the 7th of August.
To learn more about the fantastic #CountDownTo7thAugust blog tour and to take a look at the full schedule visit the Count Down YA website here.

Posted on:

A Medal for Leroy.

Michael Morpurgo

leroyWhen Michael’s aunt passes away, she leaves behind a letter that will change everything.
It starts with Michael’s grandfather Leroy, a black officer in WWI who charged into a battle zone not once but three times to save wounded men. His fellow soldiers insisted he deserved special commendations for his bravery but because of the racial barriers, he would go unacknowledged. Now it’s up to Michael to change that.
Inspired by the true story of Walter Tull, the first black officer in the British army, award-winning author Michael Morpurgo delivers a richly layered and memorable story of identity, history, and family

I really like this book! A medal for Leroy is about a boy who visits his auntie’s house regularly but does not enjoy his time there. But he does like seeing their Jack Russell Terrier; Jasper. One day his Auntie snowdrop becomes very ill and gives Michael (the boy) some useful information to unlock all the secrets of his past.

It is a very lovely book. One of the best I’ve read in a while (and I’ve read some good books). It always keeps you wanting to read on and has a very good ending

I would recommend it to all my classmates. After reading Tom’s Sausage Lion (see my review here) I have developed a slight addiction for Morpurgo now and have read my third Michael Morpurgo book in a row! I did try reading Books by Michael Morpurgo when I was younger but couldn’t really get into them. Now I’m a bit older I can’t get enough of them!

Verdict: this is a brilliant book I really love it! and I think it’s aimed for kids 9 and up!

Reviewed by Izzy (10)

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s
Publication Date: September 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 256
Genre: Historical fiction
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Izzy (10)
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: British book
Posted on:

Waiting for Anya

Michael Morpurgo

anyaIt is World War II and Jo stumbles on a dangerous secret: Jewish children are being smuggled away from the Nazis, close to his mountain village in Spain. Now, German soldiers have been stationed at the border. Jo must get word to his friends that the children are trapped. The slightest mistake could cost them their lives.

Waiting for Anya is set in France in world war 2. When Jo’s Dad is sent to war, he is left in charge of the farm. One day when Jo is left in charge of the sheep, a bear pays an unexpected visit. The whole village is distracted enough for Jo to sneek off into the forest where he meets a man who will change the way he thinks forever. Benjamin is a Jew. France is a dangerous place for Jews and Jo must do all he can to defend his new friends and get them safely across the border into Spain. One mistake could cost their lives.

This is the best book I have ever read. This is also the first book I have cried whilst reading, and would have sobbed on end if I could get the tears out. The ending is a very sad one but was good as well. I definitely felt mixed emotions. The very best book I have EVER read.

Verdict: I loooove this book. Best.Book.Ever!

Reviewed by Izzy (10)

Publisher: Egmont
Publication Date: November 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 192
Genre: Historical fiction, WWII
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Izzy (10)
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: British book
Posted on:

Cross My Heart

Carmen Reid

cross my heartBrussels, 1940. Fifteen-year-old Nicole watches as the Nazis invade Belgium. Determined not to stand by as her country is brought to its knees, Nicole vows to fight back and joins the Belgian Resistance. Under her new alias – Coco – Nicole embarks on a dangerous new life as a spy, where the only question is not if you’ll be caught, but when…

As the Germans walk into Belgium in May 1940 Nicole’s world is turned upside down. Despite the danger, the warnings and the fear Nicole can’t help herself and joins the Resistance as her world is torn apart. Nicole shows herself to be a brave and resourceful member of the team. She is flung into more and more hazardous situations and has to make difficult and even life threatening decisions. Nicole is an inspiring heroine.

As people disappear, Jews are marked, food diminishes and everyone lives in fear as they witness the viciousness of Nazi rule, Nicole’s determination to help only gets stronger. Nicole’s involvement in the Resistance causes her to see the worst of the Nazi’s in action and as the story develops, Nicole sees more and more of the worst of the Nazi regime. The atrocities she sees and experiences are familiar to anyone with some knowledge of World War Two but I found that seeing them through the eyes of this teenager was a bit like hearing about it for the first time. There is a freshness and immediacy in the writing.

There is also a little romance in the tale as Nicole grows closer to Anton, a childhood friend who she joins the resistance with and comes to mean a lot to her. There is added poignancy in the situation the young lovers are in, knowing they are putting themselves in danger and could be ripped away from each other at any time.

Verdict: This was a great read; there is action, tension, fear, love , courage and inspiration in its pages. Whether you have read lots about WW2 or this is your first attempt at reading anything about that time it will draw you in and keep you there until the last turn of the page.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Corgi Children’s
Publication Date: August 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 384
Genre: Historical fiction
Age: YA
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
Posted on: