Abi Elphinstone


All 80 titles for the six categories of our long list have now been reviewed! Each and every one a fantastic book, highly recommended by JAB and the NSTAB team.

The short list will be announced on the 8th September. Votes from the panel are already coming in so here's a little reminder of the twelve fabulous books on the Quality Fiction Category Long List.


Just Jack- Kate Scott (Piccadilly)

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 The Hippo at the End of the Hall- Helen Cooper (David Fickling)


To the Edge of the World- Julia Green (OUP)


Sky Chasers- Emma Carroll (Chicken House)


Sky Song - Abi Elphinstone (Simon and Schuster)


 Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki - Kevin Crossley-Holland & Jeffrey Allan Love (Walker)


Revolt against the Romans - Tony Bradman (A&C Black)

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The House with Chicken Legs- Sophie Anderson (Usborne)


Mark of the Cyclops- Saviour Pirotta (A&C Black)


Song of the Dolphin Boy- Elizabeth Laird (Macmillan) 


A Story Like the Wind- Gill Lewis & Jo Weaver (OUP)


The Jewelled Jaguar- Sharon Tregenza (Firefly)

Which of these twelve amazing titles will be among the final four of the shortlist?


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Erkenwald is under the rule of the Ice Queen, who has divided the tribes and is consuming the voices of the people in an attempt to gain immortality. She also has a special prisoner- a young girl called Eska whose voice the Ice Queen longs to possess.

Flint is a young boy from the Fur tribe. In an attempt to free his mother from the Ice Queen's fortress, he finds and frees Eska. Together with Flint's young sister, Blu, and with the help of the wild, they set off on a quest to find the legendary Frost Horn that will free the people of Erkenwald and end the Ice Queen's reign.

This is such a magical book! Beautifully written, the story is a classic quest, full of adventure and overcoming adversity. Our Year 6's were completely gripped by the story and were really inspired to do work based around the book.

One of the story's main strengths is the wonderful development of characterisation. Eska is a captivating heroine- honest, brave, loyal and in tune with nature, she stands true to all she believes in, yet is vulnerable as she craves acceptance. Flint seeks approval from his tribe as his talents are not in line with being a warrior; his inventor skills are not valued. He is sensitive and kind- and shows genuine emotion, particularly when caring for his younger sibling, Blu. Fiesty, loving and loyal, Blu is honest and wilful- and completely endearing. Pebble- the fox-cub- is also a masterful creation!

The world of Erkenwald is beautifully developed and described and reading Ali's notes about how she created her world really inspired my children to choose place names with great care and describe their own lands in great detail. 

This is a story of hope and love which champions tolerance and acceptance. It is a story about being yourself and accepting who you are. It is a story about standing up to evil and having the courage to do right when it seems all the odds are stacked against you. It is a story to be enjoyed and shared.

Sky Song    Abi Elphinstone, cover illustration by Daniela Terrazzini

Simon and Schuster   ISBN: 978-1471146077

You can read another review of Sky Song here.


Sky Song


Beyond the footsteps of the greatest explorers and up past the reach of the trustiest maps there lies a kingdom called Erkenwald.

So begins this tale of magic and mystery. Erkenwald is in the grip of the evil Ice Queen who has created Winterfang Palace, 'a shimmering fortress carved entirely from ice'. Determined to control all the tribes of the land, she sets them one against the other and then imprisons them in her palace, consuming their voices in a bid for immortality. The children, however, remain hidden, beyond her grasp- except one.

Eska, frozen inside a cursed music box, has no memories of where she has come from, who she is or why the Ice Queen so desperately wants her voice. Flint, a young member of the Fur tribe, is on a mission to rescue his mother from the Ice Queen's palace. When he finds Eska and saves her, together they begin an amazing journey to find an ancient song with the power to defeat the Ice Queen.

From the first page, this is a magical, beautifully crafted story. The prologue sets the scene perfectly, encapsulating Erkenwald's history and capturing the reader's interest instantly. This is a story offering so much to discuss and enjoy from the very beginning. Abi Elphinstone has created a world which cries out to be explored further- the map at  the front could easily be added to as the adventure progresses, locating the obstacles which the children must overcome before they can achieve their goal. 

Eska and Flint are wonderful characters, full of life. Flint struggles with feeling like an outsider, a user of magic, whose skills are not like those of his tribe and he has to re-evaluate ideas about others that he has grown up with in the face of what he learns. His devotion to his little sister, Blu, is heart-warming - and her character is a complete joy. Stubborn, sweet and loyal, Blu often offers words of wisdom and guidance without realising, offering a very positive portrayal of a child with Down's syndrome. Eska is brave and determined, trying to make sense of a challenge she does not fully understand, yet never faltering. Even the children's animal companions are full of personality- Pebble, the ever-hungry fox cub and Balapan, the eagle. 

There is so much to recommend this story- and I am very excited to be using it with my class. Quite apart from offering endless possibilities for discussion and inspiring work, it is just the sort of book which captures the imagination and leads to wonderful story times (or independent reading!). Abi's teaching ideas are also very useful- the insights into her thinking and writing 'as an author' are invaluable! We teachers might tell our children things, but as one of my class told me, 'It's not we don't believe you, but you didn't write the book- she did!' And I'm so glad she did!

Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone, cover illustration by Daniela Terrazzini

Simon and Schuster   ISBN: 978-1471146077