Archive for October, 2011

To celebrate the paperback release of the fantastic book ‘My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece’ the author; Annabel Pitcher is doing a blog tour and today it’s my turn and I’m hosting the lovely Annabel as she talks about the character of Jasmine.

If you haven’t already heard about this absolutely beautiful, haunting book (which was longlisted for the Guardian first book prize award) check out the book trailer to find out more

“Ten-year-old Jamie Matthews has just moved to the Lake District with his Dad and his teenage sister, Jasmine for a ‘Fresh New Start’. Five years ago his sister’s twin, Rose, was blown up by a terrorist bomb. His parents are wrecked by their grief, Jasmine turns to piercing, pink hair and stops eating. The family falls apart. But Jamie hasn’t cried in all that time. To him Rose is just a distant memory. Jamie is far more interested in his cat, Roger, his birthday Spiderman T-shirt, and in keeping his new friend Sunya a secret from his dad. And in his deep longing and unshakeable belief that his Mum will come back to the family she walked out on months ago. When he sees a TV advert for a talent show, he feels certain that this will change everything and bring them all back together once and for all.”





Before I could write about Jasmine, I had to figure out Rose’s character. That had to come first because Rose was born first and definitely the leader of the pair. As twins, I imagined them as two sides of the same coin, so it was impossible to know Jasmine’s traits without first defining Rose’s. In my head, I pictured Rose as the bolder, more dominant and moodier twin, and it is therefore apt that she is named after a red flower with thorns. There was certainly something spiky and dramatic about Rose’s personality! In comparison, Jas was softer and more innocent as a child, which explains her choice of flower: jasmine petals are white and delicate. Jas explains that, in the absence of Rose, she feels like ‘a shadow without a person’, and I often imagine Rose to be running ahead with Jas tagging behind, far more biddable and far less brave, very much like Rose’s shadow.


The fact that the two are both named after flowers is, of course, no coincidence. I wanted to reflect the strength of their bond, running deep, connecting the two, sort of like roots underneath the ground. There is something claustrophobic about this image too, which perfectly reflects how Jasmine feels: close to her dead sister but also suffocated by her, as if Rose’s roots are wrapping around her own, preventing her from flourishing. Obviously, all this changes on Jas’s fifteenth birthday. When she cuts off her hair and dyes it pink, Jas finally emerges from the shadows, severing the link with Rose.  


In the first draft, Jas was a far more minor character. Though I knew a lot about her due to the planning I had done, I was so focused on Jamie’s story that all that really emerged about Jas in my first attempt was the fact she had pink hair, didn’t eat, liked punk music and rejected anything mainstream (in reaction to her parents, who had tried to keep her looking young and childlike and rather ordinary for many years). In the rewrites, I attempted to bring out her relationship with Jamie. I invented her obsession with astrology, which seemed appropriate for a girl who was scared of the unpredictability of the future after what happened to Rose, and used it to create some tender moments with her brother. Jas shows Jamie the ‘lion in the sky’ – the constellation for his star sign, Leo – to comfort him and give him a sense of protection. Jamie refers to this lion all the way through the novel, highlighting the importance of his relationship with his sister. Again, it is no coincidence that Jas’s boyfriend is called Leo, named after the constellation. One of the major themes of the novel is Jamie’s search for identity, particularly his search for courage and masculinity, and he looks both to the lion in the sky and Jas’s boyfriend for answers so I created that parallel through the name.


Like the rest of the novel, I wanted Jas to seem real and three dimensional, rather than blandly idealised.  She is often impatient with Jamie, snapping at him and calling him ‘a bastard’ throughout, and she puts herself before her brother when Leo comes on the scene, often coming home late. Hopefully, this stops their relationship becoming overly sentimental. Jas is there when it counts – on Jamie’s birthday, at the football match, comforting him after parents’ evening – but most of the time I tried to show that she’s just an ordinary girl, a big sister very much like mine – sometimes grumpy and far from perfect and, I hope, more real and likeable for that very fact.




£6.99 / Indigo / £6.99 / September 2011

Read Full Post »

Here’s what’s coming up on the My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece blog tour. Join me here on Friday 14th October as author Annabel Pitcher describes the character of Jasmine and how she came to live. It’s all in the flowers…

Read Full Post »

You may have recently seen my excited tweets talking about this great new book and with it, I want to share the fantastic interactive website full of games, features and bits about the book.

Hailed as the new ‘Harry Potter’, ‘The History Keepers’ aims to fill the void Harry and co. left behind. My review of this fantastic book will be coming soon but for now, here’s a link to the website.


where you can create your own characters. You choose the era the character comes from and after uploading your picture you can choose all sorts about your hero. And here’s some more information  on what the book is all about…

“When Jake is kidnapped by strangers on a stormy London night he discovers his loving parents have been leading a double life and are now missing, lost somewhere in history. He is plunged into a world of secret societies, dangerous double agents, and a terrifying countdown to oblivion. Transported by a Spanish galleon back to 19th century France, he finds himself in the headquarters of The History Keepers – a remarkable league of time-travelling special agents. The History Keepers preserve the true course of history against those who would change it for their own gain, such as the diabolical Prince Zeldt.  Driven by a sense of adventure and a desire to reunite his family, Jake makes the most thrilling – and dangerous – decision of his life.


Damian Dibben has worked extensively as a screenwriter on projects as diverse as Phantom of the Opera and Puss in Boots. Dibben, who lives on the South Bank with his dog Dudley, has lived in London all his life. He was born in Eaton Square to a family of famous eccentrics from whom he inherited his sense of humour and a love of London and history. His passions include cosmology, archaeology and natural science, all of which have informed this remarkable debut.”

The History Keepers: The Storm Begins 

 Damian Dibben 

 Doubleday /  HB/ £12.99 / out now

Read Full Post »

“It’s not magic…it’s the power of YOUR imagination.”

As advertised last week, the Press Here blog tour has begun and will be flying through dedicated children’s book blogs this week.

I’m kicking things off with a review of this wonderful book and the book trailer.

In this trailer, we get to see the book in action used by a group of young children. Watch them clap,shake and poke and see amazing things happen in this interactive picture book.

So. What’s so great about this picture book, created and written by the ever-talented Herve Tullet? Well first of all it convinced grown adults that they absolutely HAD to press the yellow button on every page. Second of all, it makes kids smile and laugh and gasp in amazement.

The book starts with a single, bright yellow circle in the middle of an otherwise blank page. On each page there are instructions on what to do next. You don’t know what will happen until you turn the page. But if you don’t do as the book tells you, weird things will happen.

This book is great because it brings readers together. They can each be involved in different tasks. From rubbing the circle to shaking the book; this is a really useful book to use in schools or during storytime.

The anticipation of what will be on the next page grows and grows and there’s a great surprise at the end of the book. I really can’t recommend this book enough for something different and interactive. If you don’t want another touchy-feely or lift-the-flap book then this is for you.

Don’t forget to follow the Press Here blog tour, all this week.



by Herve Tullet


HB £9.99

Read Full Post »

Once there was little tree…

I couldn’t not post about this beautiful book by acclaimed children’s book author Shel Silverstein. If you’ve ever seen any of Silverstein’s books, you can tell they’re quite American in nature but the messages transcend culture differences and this book in particular is beautiful and has a lot to say.

I’ve been admiring it at work for some time now and had it out on my ‘beautiful books’ table. But it wasn’t until my colleague Michelle came in to see me that my interest piqued. Upon hearing Michelle’s stunned gasp; she told me the story of how she has been trying to get her hands on a copy of a book. Years ago, an American boy at church (who she was madly in love with) told her the story of The Giving Tree. And it was his storytelling which made her fall for him even more. Of course in hindsight, it was merely a passing crush. But this experience cemented her love for the book and now everytime she sees the book she is hit by such a feeling of nostalgia and happiness; she has to buy the book.

“Once there was a little tree … and she loved a little boy.

So begins a story of unforgettable perception, beautifully written and illustrated by the gifted and versatile Shel Silverstein. 

Every day the boy would come to the tree to eat her apples, swing from her branches, or slide down her trunk … and the tree was happy. But as the boy grew older he began to want more from the tree, and the tree gave and gave and gave. 

This is a tender story, touched with sadness, aglow with consolation. Shel Silverstein has created a moving parable for readers of all ages that offers an affecting interpretation of the gift of giving and a serene acceptance of another’s capacity to love in return.”


Shel Silverstein


Partcular Books

December 2010


Read Full Post »

Every so often, I come across a book which makes me stop what I’m doing, find a quiet corner and take a good look at it. In the most recent case, Wonderstruck; the new book by Brian Selznick caught me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting another book so soon having so recently been bowled over by the re-issue the The Invention of Hugo Cabret and the film hype surrounding it. Hugo Cabret was originally published in 2007, but this was the first I had heard of it.

Wonderstruck is a beautifully crafted book. On par with Hugo Cabret (winner of the esteemed Caldecott medal) it’s haunting in its beauty both in prose and illustration. Both complement one another perfectly. People are often surprised to open Selznick’s books and discover that the majority of pages are filled with stunning illustration sketches. It’s like a picture book for older people and in my experience, those are often the best kind.

“Ben’s story takes place in 1977 and is told in words. Rose’s story in 1927 is told entirely in pictures. Ever since his mother died, Ben feels lost. At home with her father, Rose feels alone. When Ben finds a mysterious clue hidden in his mother’s room, and when a tempting opportunity presents itself to Rose, both children risk everything to find what’s missing. Rich, complex, affecting and beautiful, WONDERSTRUCK is a staggering achievement from a uniquely gifted artist.”

I really cannot recommend this one enough. It makes a beautiful gift for someone and is something wonderful for you yourself to open up and get lost in.

Quite simply…it’s storytelling at its best.


Brian Selznick



September 2011


Read Full Post »

On Monday, I am kicking off the brand new blog tour for the fantastic picture book ‘Press here’. It’s an addictive book which sparks the imagination. Follow the yellow dot through the pages, follow the instructions and see magical things.

The blog tour starts here on Monday and is making it’s way through some fantastic blogs. Here’s the list below.

Read Full Post »

Today the Angel Fire blog tour is stopping here and it’s about time we find out more about the elusive (and gorgeous Seb) and just why Willow is so drawn to him…

But first, a little more about the Angel Trilogy and why it’s just so amazing. I was first made aware of ‘Angel’ by L.A. Weatherly last year when I did some work with Usborne. Ever since reading it on my commute to and from London I’ve been hooked and it’s been a long year waiting for this sequel ‘Angel Fire’. It’s 700+ pages of pure YA drama and I’m torn between finishing it as quickly as possible or saviouring the feeling of reading something for the first. time.

The blog tour began over at My Favourite Books http://myfavouritebooks.blogspot.com/2011/10/angel-fire-blog-tour-in-depth-interview.html Liz spoke to Lee Weatherly all about the new book and the writing of it. What a fantastic start to the blog tour, and now it’s about time we have a little chat about Seb!

ANGEL book cover


Sometimes in writing you get a lightning-flash that you know instantly is right – Seb was one of them. Playing around with ideas for book two, Angel Fire, I suddenly wondered what would happen if Willow met another half-angel. More than that, what if she met a boy half-angel? The thought sent shivers through me – because, of course, this boy half-angel would be able to understandWillow in a way Alex couldn’t. The potential tension and drama this posed were irresistible. (Writers LOVE tension, so long as it’s fictional!)


At first, I had it in my head that Seb was a charming rogue – a user. An early scene I wrote had him breaking out of a young offenders’ facility, but refusing to help a younger boy; another had him using his flirtatious charm to scrounge food in a marketplace. I quickly realized that I didn’t like this Seb very much – and more importantly, I couldn’t imagine Willow liking him, either.


Back to the drawing board. This time, I let Seb himself take the lead, and a wholly different character emerged: quietly determined; a teasing sense of humour; a complex mix of sociability and introvert. Despite Seb’s difficult past, all that mattered to him was finding his phantom half-angel girl. When he finally meetsWillow, it’s like he’s discovered the other half of his soul.


Ah. Now this was a Seb I could imagineWillow being very drawn to.


Probably the most difficult part about bringing Seb into the mix was that I myself became a little too enamoured with him! At times I had to work at getting the balance right, because of course Alex is still very much the story’s hero. What’s lovely about having Seb in the series is that it means the tension will continue … because I rather imagine that we haven’t seen the last of the love triangle yet.


What can I say?Willowis a very lucky girl!


– L. A. Weatherly

It’s so interesting to find out about characters; how they were created and what drives them. It seems in this case, Seb was true to his character and took control of the situation. He’s created a whole new dynamic to the book opening it all up to so much possibility. Whether people will be accepting of Seb stepping on Alex’s toes is another thing altogether. So, are you Team Seb or Team Alex?

Next up on the Angel Fire Blog Tour is http://withoutabookshelf.blogspot.com/ on Thursday ‘From Mexico, with Love’.

Read Full Post »