Blog Tour: Bob the Bear’s Adventures by Alice Chambers

Today I am delighted to be joining the blog tour for Bob the Bear’s Adventures a sweet photographic story aimed at pre-school children. The author and photographer, Alice Chambers certainly knows her audience well after a long career teaching in kindergarten and primary school settings, followed by grand-parenthood!

Bob is a very dapper knitted bear who sports a smart waistcoat and wire-framed glasses and loves to climb and try to hide in Alice’s verdant garden. On the evidence of the photos, I would say that Bob is rather better at climbing than hiding! The text is very simple, a running conversation with Bob about his current hiding place, pitched at exactly the right level for toddlers and I can imagine that the chatty style and recognisable settings will be very engaging for young children. There is so much in this book to prompt interesting conversations with young children, awakening their knowledge of the garden habitat and sense of exploration.

It reminded me very clearly of an activity that my children took part in during their first year in Primary School, where a class bear was sent home with a different child each week and through the school holidays. The idea was to take the bear (in this case he was called Barnaby) along to any activities and photograph or draw him joining in with your football match or trip to the beach or Sunday lunch and write a sentence to take back to school. Bob the Bear’s Adventures would, I think, inspire children to want to recreate some of his antics with their own soft toys. Listening to the story multiple times will help with language development and I particularly like the use of prepositions to describe Bob’s locations as these can be a tricky concept for some children to grasp. The Primary School computing curriculum encourages children in Early Years classes to use digital cameras and I could see this book being a useful model for four/five year-olds to try to replicate in the school wildlife area.

In summary, I think that Bob the Bear’s Adventures will be a lovely story to add to home reading collections, pre-school bookshelves and even Reception Class bookshelves.

I am grateful to Helen at LiterallyPR for supplying a copy of the book and inviting me to join the blog tour for Bob the Bear’s Adventures and I encourage you to check out the other reviews written by my fellow book bloggers.

Blog Tour: I Am Winter by Denise Brown

Cover design by Anne Glenn, published by Hashtag Press 11th November 2021

This newly published YA mystery is a gritty, contemporary, whodunnit quite unlike anything else I’ve read this year. Denise Brown’s writing is exquisite and utterly compelling, placing the reader completely inside the head of her fifteen-year-old first-person narrator, Summer. She has structured the story with such skill that I honestly could not tell where it was heading; hints are dropped from the erratic machinations of Summer’s mind, which has been damagingly fragmented by her under-age drinking, drug taking and as we gradually discover, years of irresponsible parenting.

Summer lives a life of school truancy, duvet-wrapped daytime TV, and nights spent hanging out at the local playpark with a group of older teenagers – drinking alcohol that they have taken from their parents or purchased with fake-IDs and taking pills. Her best-friend Courtney (Cee) is always the life and soul of the party and Summer clearly revels in her friendship and basks in its reflected glory. She also has a massive crush on Cee’s older brother Ritchie, who acts like a protective figure to the girls but appears to only view Summer as his sister’s friend while he dates a string of older girls. Whilst Summer has no responsibilities in her home life, Cee is relied upon by her mother (known around the estate as “The Ovary”) to care for her troupe of half siblings, all of whom have different fathers. This is the scene that is set out in the opening chapter, before Cee’s dramatic death. She has been travelling in the back of a car with Summer, both girls high on alcohol and pills and singing at the top of their lungs when the car crashes and Summer witnesses the vitality drain from her only real friend.

On her own release from hospital she is swamped with grief and guilt for persuading Cee to join her on the fateful journey, which is compounded by the gradual realisation that she is being unjustly blamed for supplying the pills which caused Cee’s heart to fail. This revelation is played out over social media, where the degree of love and loss for Cee is measured in likes and comments. Sadder than Summer’s grieving process is the image of lives validated or ruined by their perception on social channels. The cruel comments on her social posts develop into threatening notes through the letterbox, followed by foul deliveries and even an angry, abusive and foul-mouthed visitation from The Ovary warning her to stay away from the lantern ceremony organised in Cee’s memory. 

As the countdown to this ceremony ratchets up the tension, my heart was breaking at the lack of support that Summer is given by the adults around her. Apart from platitudes about how strong she is and how everyone knew that she loved Cee more than anyone else, Summer’s mother is far too obsessed with losing the baby-weight she gained with half-brother Jonah and enjoying nights out, to pay any attention to her daughter’s feelings. At one point, Summer describes her mother as follows:

She’s buried her eyes in hollows above her cheekbones, and her hair clings to last night’s cigarettes.

Chapter 26

Mum’s boyfriend; Jonah’s father, Mac, attempts to offer some advice about her unreliable friendships and her lack of school attendance, but it is clear that his main concern is his baby son who we learn has Down’s Syndrome. Mac provides the nurturing to his own offspring that “Mum” fails to provide to either of her children. As a reader, you comprehend the cause of Summer’s sofa-based stupor but desperately hope that she can find the impetus to break free from it and uncover the real identity of the drug-pusher.

This story is hard-hitting and tackles a number of social issues, including under-age sex, and the lack of self-respect and self-control exhibited by some youngsters when they have not benefited from a loving parental relationship. The difference in the level of care given to Jonah by Mac compared to Jonah and Summer’s mother is stark. This awakens Summer’s own caring side and you begin to hope that her love for her half-brother will be her salvation. She considers his experience of the world and concludes:

Whatever Jonah’s soul is made up of, it’s pink, and pure, and honest, and he follows me with his eyes wide open and trusting.

Chapter 33

Another wonderful relationship is the portrayal of platonic care between Summer and her friend from primary school, Kofi. He is a noble figure, undaunted by his step-father’s homophobic physical abuse, and proves to be a steadfast voice of reason and love when Summer needs an ally.

Throughout the story, Summer makes reference to her bear-wolf, a furry beast living in a hollow tree in the woods beyond her estate. I was never entirely sure whether this was indeed a real animal or a drug-induced delusion. By the end of the tale I could best rationalise it as her longing for a comforting, warm figure who would provide love and protection to her lonely soul. In my opinion, great books are those which leave an imprint after you have read them. This one left me wondering just how many teenagers face the daily reality of the lives portrayed here in fiction, facing the consequences of poor decisions because they have not had reliable guidance from those who should provide love, boundaries and aspirations. 

I highly recommend this book to a readership of 15+ and I am most grateful to Helen at LiterallyPR and  Hashtag Press for providing me with an electronic copy and inviting me to join the blog tour; do check out the other stops on the schedule.

Blog Tour: Bears Don’t Wear Shoes written and illustrated by Sharon Davey

Today I am delighted to join the blog tour for Bears Don’t Wear Shoes and welcome a guest post from author and illustrator Sharon Davey describing her creative process.

How to write character led stories by Sharon Davey.

Character led stories are at the heart of picture book making and perfect for young readers who like to know whose point of view they are following from the very first page.

For me, most stories start with a character sketch that makes me laugh. It could be a penguin stuck in a teapot or a leopard sunbathing. Now to write the rest of the story.

I use the who, what, where and want approach.

Who – Suzy – the only child in a family of parents and grandparents. Also affectionately known as Dearie and Little Lady. She’s bubbly and playful with the confidence that only another pre-schooler would understand.

What – she’s a natural negotiator and creative organiser. She likes biscuits, painting and colouring and dressing up. She doesn’t like waiting.

Where – she’s between houses and feeling pretty worried about that.

And then we give her a problem.

Want – she wants a friend. Someone to play with and to persuade into doing her favourite activities.

A popular picture book sequence is to create a character, give them a problem, make it worse, resolve and end with a twist.

When you start with a character rather than a theme or story idea your biggest challenge is often how to end the story.

I find it useful to work your way through the problem.

Problem-Suzy wants a friend,

Worse -Suzy’s new friend is not as cooperative as she would like, and they disagree.

Resolve -Suzy learns to compromise, she loves Mr. Bear (Even without the shoes)

Twist – Suzy now wants to find a friend for her friend, for when she’s at school so he doesn’t get lonely.

If you create a super appealing character and are looking for a story to write around them try keeping it simple and following the problem all the way to the end.

Thank you so much Sharon for the insight into your writing process and for the use of your beautiful illustrations. I absolutely adored this book with its vibrant colours, lively protagonist and message of acceptance. It recognises a situation which raises anxieties in many children; will they find a friend as they start or change nursery, pre-school or school and resolves the problem with humour and empathy. Suzy is a delightfully appealing character and her interactions with Mr Bear reveal so much about their personalities. I particularly love the scene above where she is interviewing him for the position of best friend with all the confidence of a pre-schooler who has got their hands on a clip-board!

For me, this book had echoes of two classic picture books, The Tiger Who Came to Tea and Not Now Bernard; I heartily recommend that you add this to your picture book collection where I am sure it will be much loved by children from 3-6 and any adults with whom they share it!

I am grateful to New Frontier Publishing UK for inviting me to join this blog tour and for providing me with a review copy of Bears Don’t Wear Shoes, and to Sharon Davey for the guest post and artwork. Do read the other posts by a wonderful selection of book review bloggers on the tour throughout this week.

#BlogTour: Midnight Magic by Michelle Harrison, illustrated by Elissa Elwick

cover image by Elissa Elwick, published by Little Tiger Press

A magically mischievous kitten, a kind young girl and a purposeful broomstick make Midnight Magic a story that young readers will joyously pounce upon! 

I am delighted to join the blog tour for this enchanting tale today, and honoured to share these beautiful images from Chapter One with you, with many thanks to Little Tiger Press. Enjoy!

Review

Michelle Harrison’s first book for younger readers displays all of her enchanting storytelling skills, wrapped up in rhythmically rhyming text and encased in a package that will grace any bookshelf. I am not judging a book by its cover, but oh my goodness, the sumptuous purple and gold detail is supremely beguiling, as you can clearly see from the images above! Elissa Elwick’s illustrations are charming and expressive and fully encapsulate the fun and warmth of the story.

Before you begin reading, make sure that you have a hot beverage and tempting snack on hand because you won’t want to put this down once you start.

A cat gives birth to two cute and cuddly kittens,  followed, on the stroke of midnight by a third, jet-black sibling. Appropriately-named Midnight is unlike her brother and sister, Foxy and Snowdrop, having a tendency to breathe purple smoke, cause inanimate objects to move and generally cause chaos. For this, she is not popular with her family and in an ultimate act of betrayal she is abandoned and must seek out a new home…

Friendship and joyous adventure abound when she is taken in by Trixie, her rather apprehensive father and incorrigibly adventurous Nan. Weaving bedtime story imagery with a twitch of Midnight’s magical tail the story whisks readers away on an enchanted night time journey.

This is the ultimate magical Halloween read for children in the 6-9 bracket, a heart warming and rib-tickling tale of friendship and fun. It is perfect for newly confident readers to read alone and will also be a lovely bedtime story for younger children. If you are using the story in school, you can access teaching resources created by Scott Evans @MrEPrimary, here.

I am most grateful to Charlie Morris at Little Tiger Press for an invitation to join the blog tour and a review copy of Midnight Magic. Do check out the other stops on the tour for interviews, features and further chapter extracts.

Blog Tour: Alfie Fleet’s Guide to the Universe by Martin Howard, illustrated by Chris Mould

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With a loud toot on Betsy’s horn, I welcome you to my stop on the blog tour, where I am honoured to join a troupe of wonderful children’s book bloggers, to bring you Alfie Fleet’s latest adventure.

The amazing and frankly alarmingly inventive imagination of Martin Howard has taken off on another fantastic journey through the lesser-known planets, and here he explains a little of his creative philosophy! Over to you, Mart…

So, here we are again. Hullo, and it’s good to be back at V’s View From the Bookshelves with everyone’s favourite reviewer, our fabulous host – the one and only Von Price! Let’s give her a big hand …

*Wait for standing ovation*

Von Price, everybody. Isn’t she great? Love the book bloggers. Heart-shape. OK, settle down, we’ve a lot to get through. So, I’m back to bang the drum for the second instalment of Alfie Fleet’s fantastical adventures. He’s off to a fresh bunch of planets, which I’m sure Von will tell you all about in the review. Meanwhile, she’s asked me to talk about how I came up with the idea and why I write funny books.

This could be a looooong piece. Sure you don’t want to talk about biscuits? Biscuits are an author thing, right?

No?

OK then.

Let’s dispense with the how first, ‘cos that’s nice and quick. I came up with the idea of stone circles being used as portals to different places for a book called The Wickedest Witch, which was published about ten years ago. (It’s a good ‘un, by the way. Beeeyootiful illustrations. And still in print – hint, hint.) Years later, one summer afternoon, I was sitting in the garden and my train of thought took a sudden detour. It went something like this: “Pom pom pomty pom. Bees. Ooo, lovely flowers. Pom pom … hey Martypants, you should write about an interstellar cartography club using stone circles to map other planets.” I’ve no idea where it came from but that’s how Alfie was born. A few weeks later I came up with Professor Bowell-Mouvemont (or Major Bowell-Mouvemont as he was originally called). The name made me giggle and, as a writer, if you can make yourself laugh you’re halfway there …

So that’s how. Why I write funny books – that’s a much bigger question.

Hmm. Chin stroking moment. I suppose, when we get right down to the nitty of the gritty, I write funny books because funny seems to be my factory setting. My brain automatically goes for the funny side of any situation, which makes me a hoot at funerals. Now, I’m not saying I’m the world’s most hilarious person (I’m actually pretty annoying and humour is in the smile of the beholder, a lot of people don’t get mine) but I LOVE laughing, and making other people laugh is just about the best feeling in the world. I once made a friend laugh so hard she actually, properly, wet herself. And not just a little bit but a catastrophic loss of bladder control. People were putting animals on boats.

It was the proudest moment of my life.

So, I don’t think I had much choice. I once tried writing a serious YA horror novel. Total disaster. I had a cool, sassy hero lined up. He wore a nifty coat. Plus, I spent ages working out a gasp-worthy, didn’t-see-that-coming plot. In the first chapter he started telling gags. By the end I may as well have had vampires wearing false noses and bonking their victims over the head with rubber chickens.

At that point, I discovered it was funny writing or no writing.

Beyond the fact that I love it so much though, I strongly believe that comedy is much more important than people realise, and especially for children.

Uh-oh, serious bit alert.

Humour makes a massive impact in young peoples’ lives. This we know for an actual fact. I’ve lost count of the school librarians who have told me how much they rely on funny books to turn reluctant readers into eager readers – with all the life benefits that entails – and science tells us that laughter is beneficial on every level: physically, mentally and emotionally. Funny writers – even *yikes* David Walliams – are helping children grow up well-balanced, healthier and better educated.

So, what I’m saying is that we’re basically saints, like lovely, lovely angels making the world a better place one fart gag at a time. I mean, obviously we get paid from time to time, but it’s righteous work and it drives me bonkers that funny children’s books are sometimes seen as less important than serious books like Barry Tortoise Finds Out We’re All Going to Die. For that reason, me and Rachel Delahaye – a writer who is much, much funnier than me – recently set up a blog called Snort! We hope it will grow into a place where funny books are given the attention they deserve.

In the meantime, I’m hugely – enormously – proud to have maybe helped make a tiny difference in one or two children’s lives just by writing barmy stuff about eccentric professors wearing corsets.  Every so often I’ll get a letter from a child saying how much they enjoyed something I’ve written, and how much it made them laugh. For me, more than glory or riches beyond imagination, that is the reward of being a funny children’s writer. That said, if you have any glory or riches-beyond-imagination hanging about, I wouldn’t say no.

Mwah for now

Martxx

PS: for the record – a chocolate finger, if you have one.

PPS: Chocolate finger. SNORT!

Review Time!

Thank you for that Mart, and I wouldn’t say no to a little portion of glory and riches myself, or a full packet of chocolate fingers if you have any spare! Onto the review…

Firstly, let’s take a moment to marvel at the glorious cover art by Chris Mould, and let me assure you that his black and white illustrated pages will provide much amusement and enlightenment throughout the book.

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It’s possible that your holiday plans this year might be disrupted, but do not worry – Alfie Fleet is back, and he wants to offer you the holiday of a lifetime!

If you read The Cosmic Adventures of Alfie Fleet you will remember that Alfie and his mum moved into Number Four, Wigless Square with Professor Bowell-Mouvement and Derek, the Under-sixteens Unnecessary Violence Champion from the planet Outlandish, where they were planning to start The Unusual Travel Agency (UTA). We rejoin Alfie as he and the Professor embark on a whistle-stop tour of their proposed destinations, putting the final touches to their information leaflets  and ensuring that sufficient travel brochures are left at each hostelry on the tour.

Unfortunately, the planet Bewayre not only proves to be a greenly-unwelcoming place, but also provides some unexpected and unwelcome guests to Wigless Square, in the form of five ragged, crusty and extremely grubby individuals who look like survivors from a Tudor disaster movie! The leader of this pack of adventurers is Sir Willikin Nanbiter, a deeply unpleasant character, former President of the Unusual Cartography Club from 1542 – 1546 (time passes very slowly on Bewayre compared to Earth). He is accompanied by his hideously snobbish wife Lady Gardenia; brow-beaten son Flem; a donkey and two rotten henchmen named Bernard Stiltskin and Incontinence Pance. Using the ancient rules of the UCC they vote the Professor out of office, reclaim control of the UCC and set about destroying the UTA.

Alfie must use every ounce of ingenuity he possesses, to lead the Professor, Derek and Flem, along with trusty Betsy the scooter, on a quest to discover the long-lost members of the UCC to outvote Sir Nanbiter. Searching far and wide for stone circles through which they can travel across the universe, their main objective is Catsic the Henge. He was last heard of on the Planet Frimp, a vast collection of tropical islands where our intrepid heroes discover that they have been pursued across 36 worlds by Nanbiter’s henchmen! Cue a fearsome pirate battle and subsequent ship-wreck.

This book is an absolute hoot from beginning to end. From the hugely inventive planets and their inhabitants (Winspan: looks like a half-chewed tennis ball and has such low gravitational pull that the population own strap-on wings) to the running gags based on the Professor’s constant confusion of words, and the profusion of toilet jokes, it will appeal to the most reluctant of readers. Of course, under the hugely entertaining jokes, there are themes of loyalty, trust and bravery as Alfie strives to meet the expectations placed upon him. The quest zips along at a great pace, with laughs and peril often combined to great effect – the gruesome duties that Alfie encounters whilst crewing on the Jewel of the Breezy Seas had me choking on my coffee!

Will Alfie fulfil his destiny and bring peace and harmony to the universe? Read this book and expect your face and sides to ache with laughter as you find out! Toot!Toot!

 

Thank you Mart and OUP Children’s Publishing for my review copy and for inviting me aboard Betsy for the blog tour.

Scoop McLaren: Detective Editor Blog Tour – Author Interview with Helen Castles

SM_Blog Tour

Today I am beyond excited that it is my stop on the #Blogtour for Scoop McLaren: Detective Editor, the first in a new MG Detective/Mystery series by Australian author Helen Castles. As well as my review of the book, Helen has kindly answered questions about her inspiration and motivation for this wonderful new series. So, without further delay, allow me to introduce Helen to UK readers through a Q and A!

Hi Helen, firstly, can I congratulate you on your debut novel Scoop McLaren: Detective Editor, which I thoroughly enjoyed. What inspired you to write an MG book?

I loved books as a child, the places they took me to and the people I got to meet. As an author, I wanted to write novels for children, to be able to provide that joy for them that I always felt as a child when reading. I had written two books previously (unpublished), one for middle grade and one young adult novel. The YA novel subsequently got turned into a short film. After a few years of working for a newspaper, meeting so many interesting people and telling so many stories, I thought it would be a good idea to write about my life as a journalist. While still wanting to write a children’s novel, I decided to combine the two and Scoop is the result!

I love your main character, the quick-thinking, bold and determined Henley “Scoop” McLaren. Knowing that you are a journalist I wondered how much of Scoop is based on your own childhood?

I am so thrilled you love Scoop! While I wouldn’t say that any part of Scoop is based on my own childhood, I do love and purposely wanted to focus on the relationship between Scoop and her dad. My own father died when I was nine, so it’s kind of like writing about a part of me and my life that I wished I’d had growing up.

The seaside town of Higgity Harbour almost seems to be a character in its own right, is it based on an actual place?

That’s a great compliment, thank you. It’s not based on an actual place but, in my mind, it would be an idyllic place to live. I’ve always been drawn to the seaside and always wanted to live by the ocean. I really wanted Higgity Harbour to come to life for readers, for them to be able to close their eyes and just see the town so clearly with its cherry blossom lined streets and cobblestone pavement. I grew up in a small community so I also wanted to relay the values of such close-knit communities – friendship, looking out for one another, helping each other – in the novel.

Although the story is obviously set in the modern day, with mobile phones, laptops, internet publishing etc, somehow the story gave me a nostalgic vibe – it reminded me of The Famous Five and The Nancy Drew Mysteries that I loved as a child; was this something you intended?

Yes, so thank you again! I tried to add traditional touches to the language and to the story as well; the kids always referring to people as “Mr” and “Mrs”, that sort of thing. I wanted to add an element of wholesomeness from days gone by to the story, while still keeping it modern.

Who would you see as your target readership for Scoop McLaren?

I think Scoop will appeal to both girls and boys from ages nine through to thirteen/fourteen. While some may think of the book as just appealing to girl readers since the two main characters are female, some of the strongest feedback I’ve gotten thus far has been from boys.

I like the tips and tricks for writing at the back of the book, do you hope to inspire a new generation of junior journalists?

Absolutely! I can just picture children in their school holidays interviewing friends and relatives, collecting and researching stories and turning them into their very own newspaper. I really hope my readers will be inspired to consider journalism as a career because it’s such an important job, keeping people informed. But it doesn’t even have to be journalism – I hope the books inspire kids to just write. To tell their own stories.

I am hoping that there will be a long series of Scoop McLaren books; have you finished writing book 2, and how long will we have to wait for publication?

I am in the final stages of editing book 2 at the moment, and I’m so excited about it! I imagine it will be available early 2020.

How long did it take you to develop the character of Scoop McLaren, and was it straightforward to get a publishing deal?

I first mentioned the character of Scoop to a friend of mine who is a librarian and she loved the idea of a girl mystery-solving newspaper editor. I then left it for a while, mainly due to newspaper commitments, but a few months later I thought, “Right. This is it. I’ve wanted to write this book for so long, I’m going to do it!”. Scoop developed over the course of a few weeks. I had scrap bits of paper everywhere with characteristics I wanted for Scoop that would suddenly pop into my head while I was at the supermarket, or out driving. I’d have to stop and get them down. Over the course of that time, I just grew to love this character and I thought her sassiness and her determination would endear her to readers as well.

I pitched the book to a couple of commercial publishers here in Australia and one liked the pitch and requested to read the whole manuscript. I was so pleased about that because it was the first time a book publisher had said, “Hey, we like it, send it over!”. While they did not end up taking it on, the feedback was good and they really encouraged me to keep sending it out which I did and a few months later New Frontier Publishing offered me a contract. I couldn’t be happier to work with a whole bunch of people who love Scoop just as much as I do.

Growing up in Australia, did you mainly read books by Australian authors, or were British and American writers just as accessible and popular? What were your favourite childhood books?

As a young child, I absolutely loved the Snugglepot and Cuddlepie series by Australian author May Gibbs. British and American writers were just as accessible and popular, and I loved Roald Dahl books. Still do! I can’t imagine my childhood without him, really. I remember reading Black Beauty by Anna Sewell and loving it. When I was a bit older I read George Orwell’s Animal Farm and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. While I wouldn’t say they were favourites, they were definitely two books that have stayed with me. 

Have you read a lot of MG fiction in recent years, and if so, what have been the standout authors or titles for you?

Australian author Morris Gleitzman is becoming a favourite. I love his writing style and how he can deliver important messages in such fun, light-hearted ways.

Have you enjoyed the launch events at schools in Australia and do you plan to attend any book festivals or publishing events in the UK in the near future?

I have so loved going into schools and libraries and introducing Scoop. The children  have been phenomenal with their interest in the book. It’s truly amazing to look out into a sea of smiling faces and to hear giggles of delight when I’m reading from the book. As a children’s author, it doesn’t get much better than that.

I don’t have any firm plans to visit the UK in the near future but if the opportunity pops up, I’ll be on the first plane out!

 

Thank you for answering my questions. I’m sure that your UK readers will be delighted to learn a little bit about you and the background to your debut book and I hope that Scoop’s adventure will prove to be hugely entertaining, engaging and inspiring to middle grade readers here in the UK.

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My review

I am always on the lookout for mystery/adventure books aimed at readers aged 7-11, so I was delighted to receive a copy of this book by Australian writer Helen Castles and sent to me by New Frontier Publishing. Before reviewing the content I’d like to praise the production quality of the book itself. The perfectly named Scoop McLaren is picked out in gold on the beautifully designed cover, the glossy illustrations by Beatriz Castro leave you in no doubt that you are about to encounter a young writer and investigator. The cover is also particularly thick, quality card and the pages are very slightly buff-coloured which make the book a tactile pleasure to read.

Onto the story, which is set in an idyllic, small seaside town named Higgity Harbour, where Scoop’s dad is the editor of the local newspaper the Higgity Harbour Gazette (circulation 900). Scoop has been brought up accompanying her dad as he investigates local news stories and now writes her own daily, online newspaper, Click, with the help of her best friend and roving reporter Evie Andrews. Evie is “feisty, pushy, outspoken and over-confident. All the traits you need to be a successful reporter.” The relationships between Scoop and her dad and Scoop and Evie are perfectly crafted and entirely authentic; one example being that Mr McLaren is the only person in the town to call Scoop by her real name, Henley.

Other inhabitants of the town are similarly well-written and relatable with their distinctive personalities which realistically add to the small-town atmosphere, where everybody has been settled a long time and thinks they know everybody else’s business.

When a new online newspaper begins to be delivered to the inbox of every inhabitant at 1 minute past midnight, always predicting the next day’s terrible news (a plague of frogs, flooding, school mean-girl turned to stone) Scoop and Evie cannot understand why the mayor and even Mr McLaren are unwilling to investigate its editor, Sonny Fink. They are determined to reveal the identity of this villain who appears to be predicting events that are causing the destruction of their previously tranquil seaside community. No-one in the small town is above suspicion; will the two young investigators succeed in discovering who is putting on an appearance to cover their true identity!

Although set in the modern day, with mobile phones, laptops and the internet, this book conjured up a nostalgic vibe which reminded me of The Famous Five and Nancy Drew books which I adored as a child. The young teen characters taking matters into their own hands and doggedly tracking down leads to uncover the perpetrator of the villainous deeds will be engaging for MG readers to read alone, or would make a perfect bedtime story. The junior journalist aspect of the plot is likely to inspire to young writers and I could envisage this being used as a teaching resource, particularly when working on newspaper-writing elements of the curriculum or a model for school news reporters. I think this book will be extremely appealing to lower key stage 2 readers, as an introduction to the mystery/sleuthing genre and a fabulous precursor to series such as Ruby Redfort and Murder Most Unladylike. I am certainly looking forward to the further adventures of Scoop and her friends and I will be recommending this series to many young readers.

I am most grateful to the publishers, New Frontier Publishing, for gifting me a copy of Scoop McLaren: Detective Editor and for inviting me to join the blog tour for this exciting new MG series.