Authors & Illustrators

Bath Festival: Emma Carroll

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Last week, I saw Emma Carroll at the Bath Festival, talking about her new book, ‘The Somerset Tsunami’. Where I live would have been completely flooded by this event so I was very keen to hear about her story. Emma’s enthusiasm for writing and storytelling is infectious and everyone really enjoyed the session.

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Fortune Sharp lives in Fair Maidens Lane, a small community of strong women in rural Somerset. When her neighbour, Old Meg, is accused of witchcraft by a rival cheese maker- a man- the outside world starts to show more interest in this little hamlet and tomboyish Fortune and her brother attract attention to themselves by testing a boat that they made on the Sabbath, a day when such a thing is not considered seemly.

To save her daughter, Fortune’s mother sends her away disguised as a boy to search for employment. Ending up a servant at Barrow Hall, Fortune finds herself caught up with an unhappy family, whose father hates witchcraft yet is willing to exploit the fear and suspicion of others to increase the trade in people across the Atlantic. When natural disaster in the form of a tsunami takes place, Fortune survives only to find herself accused of witchcraft, facing imprisonment, torture and trial.

This is a stunning piece of writing, drawing on a little known piece of (for us, local) history and weaving a fascinating tale using this and other social events of the time. Witchcraft was taken very seriously during the reign of James I who had himself written a book on the subject called Daemonologie published in 1597 whilst he was King of Scotland and the famous Bideford witch trials took place in Exeter in 1682, their hangings being one of the last for witchcraft in England.

Fortune is a wonderful character whose individuality and personality made her an easy target for those looking for a scapegoat for their troubles. Those in power used fear and manipulation to create distrust and division in communities, destroying anyone who challenged the status quo. Sadly, it is not hard to draw parallels with events happening today.

Easily Emma Carroll’s best book to date, ‘The Somerset Tsunami’ is a wonderfully atmospheric, action packed novel which is a joy to read. Historical fiction at its best!

The Somerset Tsunami Emma Carroll

Faber and Faber ISBN: 978-0571332816

Cheltenham Festival: Rob Biddulph

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Today, I went to the Cheltenham Festival to see the wonderful Rob Biddulph in brilliant fun-filled event. So many mini book lovers gathered in one place to enjoy storytelling and drawing- it was a joy to see their excitement and enthusiasm.

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Everyone was very excited about the random appearance of some aliens, although Rob didn’t seem able to see them! Rob told the story of ‘Odd Dog Out’ (a huge personal favourite!), sending a clear message to all about having the confidence to be yourself.

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Having shown us some wonderful photos of him growing up and his early artistic triumphs, Rob taught us all how to draw an alien before sharing his fabulous new tale, ‘Show and Tell’. Everyone enjoyed it so much!

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We reviewed ‘Show and Tell’ for Reading Zone a little while ago so here’s that review…

It's show and tell time and Class 2L are full of enthusiasm and excitement. Mr Lumsden, their teacher, is offering a prize for the child who impresses him the most. Adam starts off with his treasure and each child who follows tries to outdo the one before. However will Mr Lumsden decide?

Rob Biddulph's books are always a delight and this is no exception. Told in bouncy, rhyming text, 'Show and Tell' is a real joy to read aloud. The antics of the children and their attempts to upstage each other are wonderfully silly, but the language used to carefully chosen and interesting, offering plenty to discuss and enjoy. The objects the children bring could also lead to much sharing and learning- why do we assume the monster is from Loch Ness? Where is that? What are Venus flytraps? Why are they snapping? And so on!

The children's names are in alphabetical order and the opening pages show them on their drawers (some with a silhouetted clue about their show and tell poking out) before we see the children sitting at their desks, ready for action, each with an alphabet card on their desk. This would be great for teaching the names of the letters of the alphabet (not the sounds) and alphabetical order.

Full of fabulous illustrations, each page is a joy to explore and there is the added bonus of a list of 'five things to be found in this book'. The observant reader will also enjoy following the adventures of the class pet. Even the cover is beautiful; remove the dust jacket to reveal even more pictures!

Ending with a lovely reminder about the importance of valuing the simple things in life, 'Show and Tell' is a brilliant story which is sure to become a firm favourite.

Always a pleasure to see, always great fun, Rob Biddulph is just wonderful- as are his books!

Show and Tell Rob Biddulph

Harper Collins ISBN: 978-0008317911

Peril en Pointe

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Today, two of our schools were delighted to have a visit from Helen Lipscombe, who came to talk about her new book, ‘Peril en Pointe’. This excellent story offers plenty of action and excitement - it’s a real page turner- and the children were very excited by the fact that my copy contains a secret message!

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Helen talked to us about how she came to write and challenged us all to think of ‘what if..?’ questions which might start a story. The children came up with some amazing ideas; the hall was buzzing with suggestions- stories in the making.

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The children were particularly fascinated by how much time and effort Helen had put into writing her book. They think that she drinks even more tea than I do! I think the ratio of cups of tea to biscuits must be wrong, but that could just be me…

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Helen passed round some pointe shoes for everyone to have a look at before she read an extract from her story, The children were completely captivated, desperate to find out what was going to happen next. It’s a good thing we have copies for the library!

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It was such an inspiring session which we all learned so much from. Many thanks to Helen for visiting us and to Dave from Books on the Hill for coming to sell books.

Peril en Pointe Helen Lipscombe

Chicken House ISBN: 978-1910655795

(review to follow…)