Got a messy sibling problem?

It’s my stop on this fabulous book tour today and I’m really excited! Why? My favourite poem to read when I do school visits is “Messy Room” by Shel Silverstein. I act it out and it’s always a huge hit. So this new picture book, How Messy, by Clare Helen Welsh and Olivier Tallec really appealed.

When I read it, what caught my attention was how the situation with the two characters, Dot and Duck, could be used to help siblings sharing a room with each other when one is very messy, and the other is not. This reminded me of sharing with my sister – I’m not going to tell you which one is me, but I bet you can guess!

It is a super simple story with very few words, so ideal for the youngest of pictures book readers – perhaps the older sibling could even read it to the younger sibling? I would have definitely read it to my sister (yes, I’m the older one, but I’m still not telling if I was the messier one!)

I have to comment on the lovely colours used in the illustrations – very traditional English beach holiday. And having rediscovered the staycation – I approve!

Blurb

Dot and Duck are best friends, but Dot hates mess and Duck hates tidy. Duck leaves the bed unmade, the cupboards open and breakfast everywhere. How messy!

In the morning, Duck makes Dot pancakes for breakfast, how kind! But Duck leaves a BIG mess! At the beach, Dot carefully lays out her towel and picnic… and Duck digs a big hole covering everything with sand! SO messy!

Characterful watercolour illustrations bring this story to life, and big font makes the story easy for young readers. How Messy! is a simple yet hilarious story with a touching ending and an important message about accepting differences and learning to compromise.

About the author and illustrator

Clare Helen Welsh is a children’s book author who lives in Devon with her husband and two children. In 2013 Clare won the The Margaret Carey Scholarship for Picture book Writers and in 2014 she received the silver medal at The Greenhouse Funny Prize for her debut picture book Aerodynamics of Biscuits. She teaches primary school and has over ten year’s experience in Early Years and Key Stage One education.

Olivier Tallec’s work has been called “sensitive”, “stunning”, “breathtaking”, and “beautiful”. Tallec was born in Brittany, France, in 1970. After graduating from the École Supérieure D’arts Graphiques in Paris, he worked in advertising as a graphic designer, after which he devoted himself to illustration. Since then he has illustrated more than sixty books

Hedgehoggy snuffles

I loved Mrs Tiggy-Winkle by Beatrix Potter and remember my dad reading it to me often. So a hedgehog book is always going to make my heart melt. But first, have a confession. I have never seen a hedgehog. In fact it’s on my bucket list. Preferably not one squashed on the road. Anyway, when I saw Hoglets’ Christmas Magic I invited the author Lynette Creswell for a chat about books and everything hedgehogs.

  1. Tell us a little about yourself. (How did you get started writing? What do you do when you’re not writing?)

Hi, I’m Lynette and I’ve been writing for over thirty years. Having suffered a dysfunctional childhood, I was compelled from an early age to write stories that took me to another place. I created new realms and magical creatures influenced by stories such as The Magic Faraway Tree and The Wishing Chair, written by Enid Blyton.

Years later I wrote stories for my own children. It gave me such a buzz to see their eyes light up when they realised they were one of my crazy characters. My husband could see how much joy writing gave me and bought me a laptop. He told me it was time to live my dream and write something substantial. I couldn’t wait and in 2012 published my first YA book Sinners of Magic

When I’m not writing I tootle off to my static caravan in Chapel St Leonards, Lincolnshire. It’s a wonderful seaside town and my ‘happy place’. We’re situated right by the sea. I enjoy long walks along the prom, eating ice cream and paddling in the sea. I get inspiration for writing new stories there. 

2. Is this your first children’s book?

Yes. Hoglets’ Christmas Magic is written for children aged 5+. It tells the tale of Prickles and Primrose, two adorable hedgehogs.

3. What or who inspired you to write this book?

I actually published Hoglets’ Christmas Magic for my blog a couple of Christmases ago and the response was phenomenal. I received a mountain of messages and emails from parents and grandparents enquiring when the story would be published. I can’t deny it’s taken oodles of blood, sweat and a pandemic to get the book published. Yet, now the hoglets are here, I’m glad I listened to my readers and took the plunge.

4. List three interesting facts about yourself.

  • I’m scared of Daddy-long-legs.
  • I’m partially deaf.
  • I gave birth in 1985 to my eldest son in Berlin. The room was right above the medical bunker of Herr Hess, Adolf Hitler’s Deputy-in-Chief. 

How to help wild hedgehogs

Once I started raising money for Happy Hogs Hedgehog Rescue Centre, I realised I wanted to do more to help hedgehogs in the wild. I went online and bought a hedgehog house which I placed in a sheltered part of the garden. It has a slate roof and two rooms inside and I filled the bedroom compartment with barley straw, (straw is better than hay as it doesn’t get too damp). Next, I surrounded the hoggies new home with a few plants to make it slightly hidden from view. I also turned the entrance of the house towards the fence so that it made it harder for cats to get their paws inside. 

Once the house was secure, I needed to make a feeding station. This is because you mustn’t put food inside a hedgehog house, this must be separate. 

Here’s how to make a feeding station of your own…

1. For the structure of your hedgehog feeder, get a plastic see-through box at least 30 cm (12 inches) wide and 45 cm (18 inches) long.

2. You can turn the box either way but make sure you weigh it down with a heavy object so it doesn’t blow away. I used part of a broken patio paving slab.

3. Cover the floor with newspaper and acquire two small bowls. One for food and the other for water.

4. In the side of the box make an entrance hole. Usually the size of a CD disk and use thick tape to smooth the edges to make sure the hedgehog doesn’t hurt itself.

5. Place the bowls inside and away from the entrance. Use specific hedgehog food such as Brambles hedgehog kibble and/or soft wet cat meat (non-fish). Cat food is high in protein which hedgehogs need to survive. Remember NEVER give hedgehogs milk. They’re lactose intolerant and you could cause the hedgehog harm.

6. Keep it safe. Place the feeder a hand’s length away from the wall to prevent cats getting in and stealing food.  

Congratulations! You’re now the proud owner of a feeding station and you’re helping hedgehogs in the wild.

Tips for keeping hedgehogs healthy

A hedgehog’s natural diet mainly consists of slugs, ground beetles, caterpillars and worms. Please don’t use slug pellets in your garden. Hedgehogs eat these and can die.

Get more involved!

If you’d like to learn more about hedgehogs you can join the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. You’ll find them on Twitter under @hedgehogsociety or you can visit their website: http://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk. The society’s great for sharing valuable information about hedgehogs and if you need help you can contact them directly.

As a parent or teacher who would like more information, there’s a great website People’s Trust for Endangered Species (ptes.org) have information on hedgehogs and on their site you’ll also find a link to Hedgehog Street. This is a website where you become a Hedgehog Champion. If you visit Hedgehogstreet.org you’ll find free downloadable resources, a photo gallery and forum.  

Thanks Lynette. Now I’m off to look into building a hedgehog house. Watch this space!

Books and lists – what more could you want?

You might have noticed I like books. I keep my Goodreads lists up to date, and set myself targets every year. I also know Jennifer Gilmour, the author of The Book Review Log Book, has targets on Goodreads | you can see them here, although I suspect she’s using her log book now so it may not be up-to-date!

But the Goodreads system only lets you set a target number of books – I go for one a week because it requires no thought! Which is fine, but with the emphasis purely on quantity, it misses that for a reluctant reader, three books could be a huge achievement. That’s why I published The Book Dragon Club packed with fun reading activities and challenges for kids.

So, back to The Book Review Log Book. Now, full disclosure, I’m working on a grown-up version of my Book Dragon Club, so I was a bit worried I might be conflicted if I reviewed this book, but I’m really glad I did as I love it, and mine will be different so no conflict.

It starts with goal setting – yay! And it’s free form so you can tailor it to exactly what you want to achieve – another bug bear of mine regarding the Goodreads system.

The “To be Read” section suggests drawing spines on shelves, which I love as an idea instead of a list. There are 6 shelves, so you could even organise them by genre, or any other way.

And the inclusion of a “Book release calendar” is genius – unless I add a book to my Amazon pre-orders, I often lose them.

There is then plenty of space for 100 book reviews, and progress checks to celebrate as you go. Fun!

Blurb

Keep a track of your reading progress and your book reviews in one place:

  • Reading Goals
  • To Be Read List
  • Book Release Dates
  • Word Cloud
  • Your Reviews
  • Your Notes

Author bio

Jennifer Gilmour is an author and advocate for women in abusive relationships, using her own experiences of domestic abuse as a catalyst to bring awareness and to help others. Jennifer has published two publications, Isolation Junction and Clipped Wings which have both been Amazon Best Sellers and received awards. Jennifer speaks at events across the UK and continues to raise awareness through her blog posts, public speaking, radio interviews and social media. 

Most Informative Blogger Award 2018 (Bloggers Bash Annual Awards)
UK & European Award for using Social Media for Good 2019 (Social Day: Social Media Marketing Awards) 

Jennifer says: “Together we are Louder”.

Racoon and the Hot Air Balloon

Jill Atkins is in my writing group so I was thrilled to be invited by her publisher to take part in the blog tour for her new book, Racoon and the Hot Air Balloon. Unfortunately a hiking holiday in the hills meant I missed the actual tour, but I was lucky enough to be sent a copy to review anyway.

I absolutely loved the Racoon character – everything you could want in a role model – kind, compassionate, brave, and adventurous. And always getting into mischief – something that should appeal to young readers!

And the Eagle mum character is also very strongly written. She allows Raccoon to explore, but there in the background to prevent disaster. What a lovely way to include the “grown-up” in the story. I remember hearing Katherine Rundell say in a speech “there is nothing so endangered in children’s literature as a mother” and it’s true – as writers we’re encouraged to write them out so the children can solve their problems, but I like them to be there in the background.

And as if that wasn’t enough, there is the underlying message of good deeds repaying themselves.

Blurb

Raccoon is in search of adventure! A hot air balloon looks like the perfect way for her to experience flying…but how do you get down?

Author Bio

Jill Atkins is a self-proclaimed ‘escaped teacher’ who is now writing for children with 46 books published so far, ranging from early reading material to teenage novels. She is married with two grown-up children and five grandchildren, and loves to read both adult and children’s books.

Delightfully different, totally terrific

Dilly the penguin has one leg, so she hops rather than waddles. Some penguins are fine with this, others not so. Approaching the topic of “difference” often feels like a potential parental minefield, but I promise you can’t go wrong with Delightfully Different Dilly. There’s a learning here, obviously, but many stories which cover this scenario feel uncomfortably forced or contrived. Not so here. This is a classic adventure set-up, with courage, teamwork, and friendship shining through, and it’s flawlessly done.

Stunning illustrations (see the pic), tons of drama, great characterisation, and an important message that is not rammed down your throat – this is an absolute must for every home bookshelf and classroom book box.

Not only are there great talking points leaping from every page, but I was so impressed with the linked sensory activities done by @rascals_and_rainbows that I have to highlight them here. Check it out!

Blurb

When Dilly is born, her parents think she is perfect – from the top of her head to the bottom of her foot. The other babies notice that she is different but soon accept her, and love her different way of doing things. They even try  to copy her – in the funniest ways! Their mummies and daddies aren’t sure, though – someone different makes them anxious, they like everyone to be the same. Can their babies convince their parents to accept Dilly – and to understand that it’s actually brilliant to be different?

Author bio

I began writing magazine fiction and have sold thousands of stories all over the world, but when my daughters were born and I started reading to them, I was reminded just how wonderful children’s books are, and decided to try writing them myself. They are the most fun of all and I have had over eighty books published from picture books up to novels for up to age 12. 

Some of them deal with issues I have faced with my own children such as a pet dying – Scrumpy (Andersen) or an over-adventurous hamster – Hammy (Orchard), others cover issues common to many children, such as being scared of monsters – Nothing Can Frighten a Bear (Nosy Crow), being different – Delightfully Different Dilly (Quarto 2021) and being small – Billy and the Balloons (Salariya) and Off to Market! (Frances Lincoln -a runner-up in the Dundee Picture Book Award and based on my journey on an over-crowded minibus in Uganda filled with villagers, furniture and animals!