What do a reindeer, a monkey, and a cow have in common?

I can honestly say that’s not a sentence I ever thought I’d write! Until I received a review copy of Billy and the Balloons by Elizabeth Dale.

I confess I was a little worried that the title and cover might give away too much, but there is just so much fun and magic in this book, that I couldn’t have been more wrong. Think Peter Pan meets The Snowman and you’re on the right lines.

The “up up and away” fold out page was a complete surprise. I’d actually love a poster of this page for my Christmas decorations.

I also have to sing the praises of illustrator Patrick Corrigan. Not only are the colours are absolutely divine – rich and warm – but the illustrations manage to find that perfect blend of nostalgic and fresh.

PS – pass the mince pies – unlike Santa, I’m not planning to climb down any chimneys!


Fly up, up, and away with Billy! When the wind takes Billy and his colorful balloons on a ride in the sky, he ends up having the most magical Christmas ever.

A small boy + a big bunch of balloons = magic! Billy’s dad has a special touch with balloons, turning them into every imaginable shape and creature. But one Christmas Eve, the wind whips up and tiny Billy finds himself and his father’s balloons floating away through the clouds. Lots of friends, both human and animal, scurry to the rescue–but instead of bringing Billy down to earth, one by one they end up coming along for the ride. Will Billy succeed in landing safely . . . and help Santa and his tired reindeer deliver their presents too?

Author biography

Elizabeth Dale

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!  

I have also written a couple of interactive picture books where the reader has to be a hero and pull faces, shout, stamp and twist and turn the book to help save a child from impending disaster – Chase Those Witches!(Salariya) and Save The Day for Ada May (Willow Tree Books.) The latter has won two Awards and been short-listed for a third. Of course there is always room for books which are just pure fun, whether they’re rhyming – Mix Up Monday (Maverick) coming in 2021 or non-rhyming – When Betsy Came To Babysit (Tamarind, read on the Cbeebies Bedtime Hour). 

I have recently moved into writing Non-Fiction picture books – Trailblazer (Maverick) is the story of Lily Parr and her battle to play Woman’s Football in the early 20th Century.

As well as my picture books I have written a lot of Early Reader texts – fun stories that help young readers develop their reading skills – for Franklin Watts and Maverick Books as well as Junior Fiction for Egmont.

Illustrator biography

Patrick Corrigan worked as an art director at a design studio before becoming an illustrator of educational and picture books for children. He illustrated Save the Day for Ada May!, which won the picture book category in the 2019 Northern Lights Book Awards.

This puppy is just for Christmas

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know I I’m a fan of everything Carol Thomas writes, for grown-ups and for kids. We’ve done her first picture book, Finding a Friend, in my book club, so I was excited to see a sequel is out. And I’m a sucker for a Christmas book. So I invited Carol to chat …

Hello Lexi, thank you for having me on your blog to chat about the release of my latest children’s book, Being a Friend at Christmas.

It is the second in my Little Pup series of books, but each can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone story. In this book, Little Pup is looking forward to his first Christmas in his new home. But he remembers the dogs he has left behind in the shelter. He has a plan to ensure they have a happy Christmas too, but he needs Father Christmas’ help to make his wish come true.

Being a Friend book cover

Aimed at under 7s, the text is purposefully rhythmic and written in rhyme to make it accessible to its young audience, who can join in and anticipate words and phrases. The pictures are bright and colourful. I illustrated the book myself and had great fun capturing the puppy’s thoughts, feelings and expressions. The book has been described as the ideal gift for all young dog lovers, which is lovely to hear!

As I like my books to be shared and to inspire a conversation, the story also carries a message about being kind, thoughtful and generous. These things are important all year round, but especially at Christmas. At the end of Being A Friend, there is an opportunity for children to make their own Christmas wish.

I always love hearing from readers. At the end of Finding a Friend, readers were asked to name Little Pup; I enjoyed hearing all of the wonderful names he was given. This year, I hope to hear all about the Christmas wishes Little Pup has inspired. If readers would (with help from their parents and carers) like to get in touch, they can do so here: https://www.carol-thomas.co.uk/contact-me/

Thanks Carol! If you’d like to meet the pup, check out this cute book trailer: https://youtu.be/q8Yhj7AfwPE

And of course, here’s the purchase link: http://getbook.at/BAFAmazon

About the author:

Carol Thomas lives on the south coast of England with her husband, four children and lively Labrador. She has been a playgroup supervisor and has taught in primary schools for just over twenty years.

Carol writes for both adults and children. Her children’s books have irresistibly cute, generally furry characters young children can relate to.

To find out more about books by Carol Thomas:


Great gratitude journalling

A while ago, I reviewed the ‘365 days of writing‘ journal by Marielle Smith which I absolutely loved, so I leapt at the opportunity to review ‘365 days of gratitude‘.

I confess, journalling doesn’t come naturally to me. I have notebooks filled with lists and ideas and random scribbles, but they aren’t a ‘journal’ as such. I love the idea of the freeform ‘bullet journal’, but when I see pictures of immaculately illustrated ones on Instagram, I feel my terribly messy notebooks are woefully inadequate by comparison. I actually have to remind myself that I’m a writer not an illustrator so it’s hardly surprising.

I’ve also looked at pre-designed journals, but they do tend to be a bit too ‘girly’ and I’m not. So, what about this one? This is a no-nonsense journal focused on results and outcomes. And I love it. Yes it’s a template, yes it’s repeated 365 times. But that’s exactly the point. It’s a tool, and you need to practice using it. Isn’t there a saying that you need to do something 10,000 times for it to become a habit?

365 days of gratitude journal cover

There’s another thing I like about it – the days aren’t fixed, so you can actually dip in and out. I know that’s kind of cheating, but life happens, and I don’t get to use it every day. My 365 days of writing has lasted about twice as long as a regular diary would have. Value for money!

‘Gratitude is the wine for the soul. Go on. Get drunk.’ Rumi

Being grateful is easy … when everything goes according to plan. But how do you keep at it no matter what life throws at you?

Enter 365 Days of Gratitude, the undated daily journal that will help you stay on track.

After years of barely surviving her own emotional minefield, writing coach Mariëlle S. Smith discovered the transformative power of practising gratitude. But, like no one else, she knows that cultivating an attitude of gratitude is easier said than done.

Complete with inspiring quotes, daily prompts, and recurring check-ins, the 365 Days of Gratitude Journal encourages you to create a sustainable gratitude practice too. Ready to commit to the life-changing power of gratitude? Order your copy of the 365 Days of Gratitude Journal now.

Purchase Links 

Get 50% off the printable PDF until 6 September 2020 with the following discount code: HAPPYLAUNCH. Go to https://mswordsmith.nl/365daysofgratitude or https://payhip.com/b/Hld2 to claim your copy. 

Author biography

Mariëlle S. Smith is a coach for writers and other creatives, an editor, and a (ghost) writer. Early 2019, she moved to Cyprus, and island in the Mediterranean Sea, where she organises private writer’s retreats, is inspired 24/7, and feeds more stray cats than she can count. 

Wombat & Wow

If you’ve followed me for a while you’ll know I loved Daisy May’s Daydream Parade so I was eager to listen to Wombat & Jones. And I wasn’t disappointed. What fun! Again, the author’s BBC CBeebies Radio background is very evident and this is razor sharp.

Young listeners (ages 3-5) will love it but, with my mum hat on, I promise the parents will enjoy it too. No screechy shouty voices here. Just crisp and clear characters with very distinct accents so they’re easy for everyone to distinguish between.

The writing is strong. Who doesn’t love “a wombat called … errr … Wombat”. And “Badger, the giraffe, who wasn’t a badger at all” is bound to make you smile.

There’s a moral, but it’s not overdone, and at 50 minutes it’s perfect for a car journey.

Enjoy 🙂


Wombat and Jones are excited to attend the famous Boris Beaker’s banana bread baking class and like many other friends in town they can’t wait to get to work on making scrumptious banana bread. However, there’s just one problem — before class gets underway, Boris discovers that all of the bananas have gone missing!

Boris Beaker and his disappointed students know there is no chance they can make banana bread without this key ingredient, but Wombat isn’t willing to give up that easily. Putting her investigative skills to the test, she gets help from her trusty sidekick — Furlock Jones — and together they attempt to solve The Great Banana Mystery.

Written by author Arran Francis, creator of multiple series for BBC’s CBeebies Radio, Wombat & Jones: The Great Banana Mystery is a funny tale about friendship, problem-solving, and teamwork. Simple mistakes and jumping to conclusions can happen after all, but Wombat & Jones try their best to put it right and learn from them. 


Author Bio

Arran Francis is the creator of multiple series for BBC’s CBeebies Radio and has worked as an audiobook producer on behalf of MacMillan Audio, Audible and Harper Collins. He launched Wombat and Jones Audio in 2019 with the aim of writing children’s novels to be released exclusively in audiobook format.

The audiobooks for the Daisy May’s Daydream Parade and Wombat & Jones series were released last summer with further books in the series and standalone titles being scheduled for publication in 2020.

Hop on board another bus journey and a giveaway

Since meeting author and primary school teacher Sue Wickstead at an event, and remembering playbuses from my own childhood, I’ve followed the playbus series for a while now.

Glora’s story is, at heart, an old fashioned tale of learning to play together. But to me, this series is much more than the individual plots, it’s about the discussion topics each book opens thanks to the true stories behind the books, from general topics like

  • Where were the playbuses?
  • Why did children need them?
  • Are there any playbuses left today?

To more specific topics

Giveaway to Win a signed copy of Daisy Daydreams Bus Rhymes and Jokes (Open to UK Only)


*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries 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.


Gloria is a special Playbus. She is painted with bright colours that makes her stand out. Now she is ready for a summer of fun, but will Max enjoy the adventure. Why don’t you join in the fun, too?

Author biography

Sue Wickstead is a teacher and an author and writes children’s picture books with a bus theme. She has also written a photographic history book about the real bus, which is where her story writing began.

Sue once worked with a playbus charity based in Crawley. This led her to write the photographic history book about the project. The ‘Bewbush Playbus’ book was published in 2012.

Sue then began to write a fictional tale about the bus. ‘Jay-Jay the Supersonic Bus’, his number plate JJK261 gave him his name and has now been followed by more picture books which all indeed have a bus connection as well as links to her teaching journey.

Gloria is the most recent book and is based on the summer play-schemes which operated during the school holidays providing a safe place for children to meet and to play.

She is also an award winning author.