Ross Montgomery

Max and the Millions

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The focus of unwanted attention from his obnoxious head teacher because he is deaf, ten year old Max feels like an outsider as no one seems to know how to interact with him normally. When the school caretaker, Mr Darrow, who has a flair for creating fabulous miniature models, goes missing, leaving only a pile of sand and a message for Max behind him, Max discovers a tiny civilisation living on the floor. This is a world with three warring tribes, defined by the colour of their hair. Can Max help to solve their issues and bring peace?

This is an excellent story for a number of reasons. Ross Montgomery’s depiction of the daily issues faced by someone with hearing problems is sensitively, but honestly portrayed, encouraging empathy and understanding. Attitudes, misconceptions, the problems which can occur when using hearing aids are all introduced as a natural part of the story.

The story also encourages the reader to think about politics and how power can go to people’s heads. Not only do members of each tribe act in despotic ways, but the headteacher also has some very narrow minded, dictatorial ideas which could lead to some lively discussions. The futility of war and the ridiculous reasons people use as a reason to fight might also be discussed.

Above all, however, this is a delightful adventure story with lots of action- I love the sugar obsessed sister- and plenty of humour. Ross Montgomery creates strong, compelling characters, engaging the reader’s interest from the very first page. A real must-have!

Max and the Millions Ross Montgomery

Faber and Faber ISBN: 978-0571333486

Christmas Dinner of Souls

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Forced to work to repay the debt for smashing some windows, Lewis finds himself at Soul's College on Christmas Eve. Expected to serve dinner at a highly unusual feast, he is horrified to discover the guests despise Christmas and lack any decency. They have gathered to tell the most gruesome, repulsive tale they know in a bid to win the Dead Man's Jabberers and wipe Christmas from the face of the Earth. Is Christmas doomed? And how will Lewis ever survive the night?

Ross Montgomery is a fantastic story teller and these gruesome, gory tales are revoltingly good! This is no ordinary Christmas story, but a festive feast of the dark and devious for those who love a frisson of fear!

Each guest's story is seamlessly woven into the tapestry of the whole fiendish plot which offers a pleasing twist to the tale. I made the mistake of reading this in bed last night. The cottage we are staying in is very old and has all the creaks and groans which come with age. Our room also has a locked door to the old gatehouse arch... not the best book to ensure a good night's sleep!
Not for the feint hearted, each tale is well constructed, pacey and deliciously dark, yet with plenty of Montgomery humour. As each dinner guest tells their story, the tension builds and Lewis's fate hangs in the balance. Nothing can be taken for granted and there are plenty of gruesome surprise- I particularly enjoyed ‘The Kensington System’.

The cover - and each chapter heading- is like an advent calendar with each window offering a glimpse of the darkness within, David Litchfield’s wonderful illustrations adding to the sombre tone of the tale!

I might be a year behind in reading this, but I’m very glad I’ve caught up at last! Festive nightmares to all!

Christmas Dinner of Souls Ross Montgomery, illustrated by David Litchfield

Faber and Faber ISBN: 978-0571347582


Bristol's Festival of Children's Literature part one!

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Today, I joined lots of lovely people at the wonderful Horfield Primary School. What a wonderful school it is with reading obviously at the heart of every classroom and it was here that the first Bristol Festival of Children's Literature was held.

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What a brilliant programme packed full of excellent events! It was really hard to choose which to go to, but after much deliberation, I selected four sessions. Before I made it to any of them, the day started well when I bumped into the lovely Andy Seed and had a chat with him while he was waiting for his first event! 

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I was also delighted to see that Book Island had a little shop, offering their wonderful books. They really offer something a bit different and special as well as being really high quality.

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First, I went to see Leigh Hodgkinson, author of 'Are You Sitting Comfortably?' and 'The Big Monster Snoreybook'. 

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Leigh read 'Troll Swap', one of her lovely picture books, which the audience really enjoyed. The book celebrates the importance of being who you are and recognises how different we all are. She then drew a troll as directed by the audience, valuing all contributions and making sure that the quieter children had an opportunity to offer their ideas as well as the confident ones. It was lovely to watch their enthusiasm!

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Each child then made their own troll/ child picture, creating a flip book. They had great fun. I was chatting to a very nice lady who has been training to teach and will start her first job in September! We agreed this would make a great activity to do in class!

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Next, I went to find out how to make a picture book with David Lucas. He talked about plot structure and showed us how he had formed the plot of 'The Robot and the Bluebird' over a number of spreads. David also talked about how pictures and works support each other.  He then read us 'Grendel: A Cautionary Tale About Chocolate' and taught us how to draw Grendel using letter shapes!

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Next, David encouraged everyone to develop ideas for their own stories. He circulated, supporting people and helping them to develop their ideas. He suggested that everyone tried to finish their ideas and that children create their book over the summer to show their new teachers in September- something I would absolutely love if one of my children had a go!

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After this, I was sitting in the sun, enjoying a sneaky ice lolly, when I was joined by Margaret Pemberton and Amy Wilson. It was lovely to have some bookish chat with these fab folk before heading off to my next session. Amy held two sessions during the day which were very popular. She has a new book, 'Snowglobe' out in October which I have a copy of and am looking forward to reading and reviewing very soon!

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And that was all before lunchtime! More about this brilliant new festival tomorrow...