Firefly Press

Seaglass

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Lark’s anger is getting out of control. Her mother is ill, her little sister has stopped talking and Lark has fallen out with her best friend. Faced with a family holiday in a caravan park, Lark escapes to explore at the first opportunity. Taking her sister, Snow, with her, the two soon discover a ruined cottage in the woods which has an eerie atmosphere. Glimpses of a mysterious girl in a green dress increase Lark’s feelings of unease and when this figure appears in Snow’s drawings, Lark fears for her sister’s safety.

Eerie and atmospheric, ‘Seaglass’ is a chilling ghost story which will grip the reader from the outset. As the tension grows, there are some truly spooky moments designed to keep you on the edge of your seat.

The story is enhanced by vivid descriptions of the countryside and seashore. The mood of the plot is frequently echoed in by the weather- the drifting fog hiding mysterious figures, the squall at sea, the snow at the story’s chilling climax- and references to wildlife and Welsh traditions add colour and detail.

Full of strong characters, ‘Seaglass’ is a story about relationships- the complexities of family life, the ups and downs of friendship, the suspicion and prejudice often offered to strangers. Lark is feisty, yet torn by worries for her family, her loneliness and anger constantly simmering beneath the surface.. Mam-gu is a wonderful character- a strong matriarch, yet one who is shown to be vulnerable as her role in the unfolding tale becomes clear. The complexities of family relationships and the ease at which misunderstandings can damage relationships are also explored as the story reaches its emotional conclusion.

‘Seaglass’ is powerful and absorbing, unsettling and moving. Not the thing to read at bedtime!

Seaglass Eloise Williams

Firefly Press ISBN: 978-1910080801

The Sea House

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Having just lost her parents, Coral cries herself to sleep one night. In the morning, she wakes to find her home transformed into a magical underwater world full of wonderful sea creatures. Here she meets Fabulous, a beautiful Damselfish, determined to be her best friend. There is darkness lurking in the house as well and Coral must find the strength to overcome this with the help of her new friends.

There is much to this relatively short story. Descriptive writing using rich and varied vocabulary makes it a pleasure to read aloud and offers plenty to challenge a developing reader. Many sea creatures are introduced and described in the story with Fabulous’s Fantastic Fish Facts offering additional information at the end of the story.

Grief is also a theme of the story and through her experience in the Sea House, Coral comes to realise that her parents accident was not her fault and that their love will always be with her in her heart. Overcoming the evil creatures in the house helps her to face her fears and her grief.

Coral celebrates her Welsh heritage in the story by singing ‘Calon Lan’ or ‘Pure Heart’ and the words are given in both Welsh and English, adding another layer of interest to the story. The illustrations throughout the book are just delightful. Full page pictures, chapter headings and illustrations inset into the writing mean there are many pictures throughout the story which adds to its charm.

Perfect for guided reading with younger children or as a class read aloud, ‘The Sea House’ is well worth a read.

The Sea House Lucy Owen, illustrated by Rebecca Harry

Firefly Press ISBN: 978-1910080825

NSTBA Past Winners- Quality Fiction Category

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We love a good book which inspires both teachers and children to produce amazing work and are constantly on the hunt for those special texts we think will achieve this. There are so many lovely books available, but it takes something special to make a book a quality text. Here are the wonderful titles that have won this category over the past four years.

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Beautifully written, ‘The River Singers’ was our first winner in this category. The adventures of Sylvan and his siblings are a compelling read, full of stunning descriptions and lyrical language. Tom was able to join us for the awards with his lovely wife in 2015 and they were absolutely lovely. You can read our review here.

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In 2016, this category was won by Horatio Clare with his extraordinary book, ‘Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot’, a very powerful, moving story. You can read out review here. Horatio and Jane were not able to attend the awards due to other commitments, but I caught up with them at Hay Festival and gave them their award then.

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Hilary and Martin won again- this time in the Quality Fiction Category with their poignant and beautiful book, ‘A Song for Will and the Lost Gardeners of Heligan’. Based on historical evidence, it tells the story of the gardeners of Heligan who went to the First World War, some of whom returned and others who did not.

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Both Hilary and Martin were able to come to the awards and you could not meet two nicer people. Each of their books is written from the heart and with the greatest attention to detail. You can read our review here.

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Last year’s winner was Saviour Pirotta’s novel, ‘Mark of the Cyclops’. Saviour came all the way from Yorkshire to join us at the awards ceremony and was delighted to win. His book is a fabulous mix of historical detail and mystery, perfect for engaging children with work on the Ancient Greeks. You can read our review here.

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Each of these books has been widely used in our schools and each has ideas for a book event and /or teaching notes to go with them which are available to our members. It is a pleasure to see them being used in classes and enjoyed by so many children! If you haven’t read any of them, give them a try- each one is really wonderful! What will this year’s long list bring?