When the Karate Kid gets real

This isn’t an obvious choice for my blog, but bear with – it will make sense in a minute. If you were wondering, I have never even tried a martial art myself and my personal knowledge is almost entirely limited to the Karate Kid movies, however one of my flatmates at Uni was a black belt in Aikido and his daily practices outside our place probably deterred any potential burglars, as well as impressing the rest of us with his commitment and dedication. Then I didn’t give it a second thought until my son started both judo and karate and I, like many other mums, found myself spending hours sitting outside the dojo.

As a mum of an enthusiastic seven-year-old, martial arts were pitched to me as self-defence, strength, and co-ordination training rather than combative, and offered in both our local community hall as well as at an after school club, so pretty much all his friends participated in one form or another, many did both. So from the title to the opening lines of this book I was a little surprised to see the emphasis on fighting, although in the context of the “mean streets” it makes sense. In fact, this sets the scene for a gritty, hard-hitting recount of a fascinating life bringing in class, race, and society generally. It’s by no means a light read, or an easy read, but I’m passing it to my now teenaged son to see what he thinks (NB: given the content, this book is not recommended for younger readers). In the meantime, I’m going to finish by saying I fully expect this to be turned into a movie or, more probably, a docufilm.


Novelist and former karate champion Ralph Robb recounts his experiences at one of Europe’s toughest dojos and provides an insight into the philosophy and training methods of a club which produced national, European and world titleholders. In a hard-hitting story, Ralph tells of the fights on and off the mat; his experiences as one of a very few black residents in an area in which racist members of the National Front were very active; and the tragic descent into mental illness and premature death of the training partner who was also his best friend.

About the author

Author Ralph Robb

Ralph Robb was born and raised in the industrial town of Wolverhampton, England and now lives in Ontario Canada with his wife, cat and dog. A proud father of four, Robb works as an engineering technician and loves rugby, martial arts and a good book. His world is balanced by quality TV, global events, great outdoors and of course his grand-daughter. 

Chase those witches!

The Beatles song “Paperback writer’ is stuck on a loop in my head, although with a slight tweak to the lyrics.

So I wanna be a picture book writer
Picture book writer

I blame the new picture book, Chase Those Witches, by Elizabeth Dale! It’s just such great fun, so interactive, and fabulously illustrated. I absolutely love it. I’m definitely going to use it in some of my after school clubs.

Now bizarrely, I got sent this book to review a few days after I’d bought the new Tom Fletcher picture book, ‘There’s a witch in your book‘. It seemed such a coincidence to have two witch-themed interactive picture books on my desk at the same time, so I was very curious as to the differences.

Actually, they are both absolutely brilliant, and surprisingly different.

In a nutshell, Tom Fletcher has bright, bold graphic illustrations, easy actions, and a simple plot so is ideal for the youngest picture book reader.

On the other hand, Elizabeth Dale’s rollicking, globe trotting adventure has more detailed illustrations and slightly more complex actions, including a very funny “Whatever you do, don’t …” which of course I did, and every other reader will too! I laughed out loud at falling for that one. Anyway, as a result, it’s ideal for the older picture book reader.

Definitely no need to wait for Halloween to enjoy these witchy treats, although I can see both books being best-sellers when the spooky season arrives! Have fun 🙂

Blurb for Chase those Witches

When Bernie, a boy’s pet frog, is stolen by a coven of wicked witches, the reader has to help rescue Bernie by turning, shaking and blowing on the book as the boy ventures through ice caves and aboard pirate ships on his mission. A fun and interactive picture book adventure!

Author Biography

Elizabeth Dale worked as a writer of fiction for magazines before becoming a full-time author of children’s books. Her work has won multiple awards, including in the picture book category in the 2019 Northern Lights Book Awards. She was also a runner-up in the 2015 Dundee Picture Book Award.

Illustrator Biography

Sian Roberts graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Illustration from the Arts University in Bournemouth in 2018. She works as a freelance illustrator of children’s books.

Bear mania is real!

I’m now absolutely obsessed with Congletown (real place) history. Apparently, Congleton became notorious in the 1620s when bear-baiting and cockfighting were popular sports. The town was unable to attract large crowds to its bear-baiting contests and lacked the money to pay for a new, more aggressive bear. Legend tells that Congleton spent the money they were going to spend on a bible on a bear. Now that has the makings of a great story, but it’s not child friendly, so I was relieved to see that these bears are more of the picnicking kind.

A quick google confirms that Congletown is still totally bear obsessed. Beartown beer anyone?

The fact that Congletown is in Cheshire in the north of England caught me by surprise. I was expecting this to be a black bear inspired story, and set in America. With my educator hat on, this immediately started me thinking of a huge variety of themed projects.

Back to the book though. As a mum, I was a bit shocked that the teacher ignored the bully and confiscated a cuddly toy OVERNIGHT and I was happy to move on from that scene (plus I’m not even sure the bear needed to be absent for the story to work). Anyway, as the bear statues come to life, there’s a “Night at the Museum” party, and a great twist to the end.

Superb illustrations from Si Clark – amazing rich colours and lots of details. I also love that this book is the result of a community collaboration project.


From the award-winning duo that brought you Sarah’s Shadow comes another magical adventure…

When bear-mad schoolgirl Sandy Lane has her beloved teddy bear Berisford confiscated at school, she dreads the thought of going a whole night without his cuddles. 

Little does she know that a bear-rilliant night awaits her, involving Berisford, a bear statue and many other wonderful friends!

Author Bio

I’m Nick Jones, an award-winning author originally from Bristol but now living in Congleton, Cheshire. I write books for kids and I’ve also written several joke books for adults. My first book, “Gagged and Bound”, was a best-seller under Puns and Wordplay on Amazon UK, and two sequels soon followed. You can download a FREE collection of my jokes here.

In December 2017, I tried something different: a children’s picture book about a girl who loses her shadow. Illustrated by the super-talented Si Clark, “Sarah’s Shadow” has proved popular with kids and parents alike. In 2018 it won Best Children’s Picture Book in the 2018 Book Awards on international book review site Readers’ Favorite. My claim to fame is that the same award was previously won by none other than Jim Carrey, the Hollywood actor-cum-children’s author! Sarah’s Shadow also won Runner-Up in the Book Excellence Awards and received a Purple Dragonfly Book Award as one of the best picture ebooks for children aged 6+.

In 2020 I ran a Kickstarter campaign during lockdown to fund this book. It was inspired by the Bearmania event that took place in 2011. Thanks to amazing support from businesses and individuals in Congleton and beyond, I raised £4,000 to illustrate and print the book. For updates, please follow me on social media or subscribe to my newsletter!

How to get into a writing habit (and keep it)

I must be part magpie – I love shiny new things. Unfortunately, this includes collecting shiny new writing projects. So I need help! I reviewed the first journal in this series a while ago and love the way it helps keep me from those oh-so-tempting distractions (you can about read it here). Having not quite finished Book 1, I was interested in what the next 52 weeks would look like, and how a blank journal could possibly be different! Of course, I had to ask the author what the difference would be, so here she is …

Why create a second volume of an undated journal and planner?

That’s an excellent point, and was my thought exactly when I first received a question about ‘next year’s version’. What next year’s version? It’s an undated journal and planner. Something you can buy and use over and over.

‘Right! I thought you might change the cover or something, so we don’t end up with a row of the same journals a few years from now.’

Now that I hadn’t considered. I, who wouldn’t even buy the same notebook twice…

Obviously, I could have taken the easy road after that seed was planted and simply slapped a new cover on the version I already had. That, however, isn’t how I do things (I might have to work on that at some point). So, instead of merely swapping covers, I handpicked fifty-three new writing quotes and came up with as many new writing prompts and exercises. Of course, I also gave the journal and planner a new look, because why not? (I really have to work on that not taking the easy road, don’t I?)

Without further ado, here’s the second volume of the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I enjoyed creating this new version.


P.S. There’s no actual order to the two volumes. If you picked this one up first, you can simply get the other one next year.


Anyway, when I finish my current (blue journal), I’ll definitely get another. And I do love purple, so I think it will be book two. By the way, this is a hefty tome, and you need a paper copy, so it’s well worth the price. But if you want to print at home, you can purchase a printable PDF through: https://payhip.com/b/0YgJ Get 50% off until 31 March 2021 by using the coupon code 52WOW during checkout.

52 Weeks of Writing:

  • makes you plan, track, reflect on, and improve your progress and goals for an entire year;
  • helps you unravel the truth about why you aren’t where you want to be; and
  • keeps you writing through weekly thought-provoking quotes and prompts.

With this second volume of the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner, writing coach and writer Mariëlle S. Smith brings you the same successful strategies to craft the perfect writing practice as she did in the first journal. The only difference? Fifty-three different writing quotes and prompts and a brand-new look!

The power of a burp (and a giveaway)

If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know I always enjoy Robin Bennett’s books – check out my thoughts on my personal favourite, The Hairy Hand, here. Anyway, he’s got a new one out so as part of his virtual book tour, I invited him to join me for a chat about his creation process.

Breaking the Rules in Children’s Books”

Monster Max started with just one hook: what if you could turn yourself into a monster just by burping (but turn back, by simply sneezing). This appealed to me because it meant my central character had the sort of power and control that you can only dream of aged 9. And the ability to bend statues or eat dustbins whole. It’s obviously got a lot of comic potential, too – because we all sometimes burp or sneeze by mistake and this was going to leave Max, quite frequently, with a lot of explaining to do.

I also decided to ignore one of the cardinal rules in children’s writing: I didn’t get rid of the parents. In fact Max’s parents are both fantastic – Max is given the space to fight his own battles with his arch nemesis, the genius inventor Peregrine, but they are supportive enough to give him the confidence he can – and they never take parenting – nor Max – too seriously.

And the rule breaking didn’t end there, I’m sorry to say. A famous editor once said that children’s books must obey all the laws of life – except one: i.e. you can only get away with one big lie. So clouds might have cities hidden in their soft folds but water must still be wet, little brothers annoying and tea should be at 4pm sharp.

And this is why I modelled Monster Max on books like Paddington, where almost everything is comforting and normal – and nice – except for the one huge anomaly that everyone politely ignores because they’re British. So, in Paddington, people are far more put out by his table manners than the fact he’s a talking bear, in Monster Max his parents tend to take his super power with a pinch of salt and spend more time nudging him to use his brains, be nice to his friends and brush his teeth. It’s this gentle, understated way of life and the well-being of his parents – his mother in particular – that Max realises he has to use his monster powers to safeguard.

And that was the clincher for me … because, at the end of the day, lots small boys want to save their mums. Hence his reformed monster motto – To Protect and Do Good Stuff

So, that’s Monster Max and the first book, the Bobble Hat of Forgetting. It’s a happy book, I hope and positive, which is always welcome – especially now. And I also hope there will be many more, each with their hurdles to overcome for Max and his friends … and jokes … lots more jokes.

Back to me. It reminds me of the boy AA Milne poem “Disbedience” (one of my absolute favourites) protecting his mother!

James James 
Morrison Morrison 
Weatherby George Dupree 
Took great 
Care of his Mother, 
Though he was only three. 
James James Said to his Mother, 
“Mother,” he said, said he; 
“You must never go down 
to the end of the town, 
if you don’t go down with me.” 

Giveaway to Win a Monster Max Cuddly Toy (UK Only)

Enter via Rafflecopter here http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494409/

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries only, welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Author Bio

Aged 21 Robin was all set to become a cavalry officer; aged 21 and a half, he found himself working as an assistant gravedigger in south London wondering where it all went wrong. Robin has gone on to start and run over a dozen successful businesses from dog- sitting to cigars, tuition to translation. The list is quite exhausting. Robin is married with three young children. He spends his time between Pau in the Pyrenées and Henley-on- Thames.  

Monster Max and the Bobble Hat of Forgetting is Robin’s first book with Firefly Press publishing in February 2021. He has also written other books for children, published with Monster Books

Rampaging Rugby, first in the Stupendous Sports non-fiction series for 7-11-year-olds will publish August 2021. 

Follow Robin on Twitter @writer_robin and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/robinbennettauthor/