BOOK BLOG: Katie and Kevin Tsang

Sam Wu is Not Afraid of Sharks: laugh out loud funny and brilliantly illustrated book that kids will love!

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“Sam Wu is NOT a scaredy-cat (except when he is). And when a shark TOTALLY tries to eat him at the local aquarium, he decides he’s not going to take any more chances. So at his friend’s birthday party at the beach, Sam refuses to dip even a toe in the water. Nothing could go wrong now, could it?”

Sam Wu is a brilliant new series of books written by husband and wife team Kevin and Katie Tsang (also known as Katherine Webber, yes… her! Author of the amazing Wing Jones), illustrated by the brilliant Nathan Reed. If you’re new to the Sam Wu books, you might fancy checking out my review of the first book in the series ‘Sam Wu is Not Afraid of Ghosts’ here. Book one was a delight, so I was VERY excited when I got the opportunity to read book 2. Thank you so much to the publishers, Egmont, for sending me a review copy!

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Sam Wu is Not Afraid of Sharks tells the story of Sam and his friends, who end up going to an aquarium and (as Sam is DEFINITELY not afraid of sharks) the hilarity that ensues. Obviously, as Sam is not afraid of sharks, when one of his classmates invites him to her birthday party (being held at the beach), he is THRILLED (see: not thrilled) to be going. The beach is the LAST place Sam wants to be – but he’s NOT scared of sharks, no sir. 

I love this series so much. The books so far have both been really funny and the first book has been a total hit with the kids at school. They’re the perfect book for kids who are just starting out reading chapter books for themselves. We’re so lucky at the minute that there are many wonderfully illustrated chapter books being published, and Sam Wu fits so beautifully in that category. 

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Sam continues to be one of those really funny characters. He has some amazing people in his life. His friends are wonderful; his little sister makes me laugh. They surround Sam, who is definitely not afraid of everything, and keep him going when in reality he just wants to stay in his room all the time. There’s some brilliant moments in this book with some new characters and old favourites. On top of all of this, the portrayal of Sam’s family is brilliant – they are hilarious. 

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One of my favourite things about these books is the illustrations. I think they add SO MUCH to the story. The pages are all different and I love that. There’s so much going on in these books that you can’t get bored. The illustrations are just top notch. They add a level of humour that I adore. 

My Goodreads review:

I love these books – they’re fun, brilliantly illustrated and younger me would’ve picked them up in a heartbeat. I love the humour in the Sam Wu books, he’s the perfect MC! These books always make me laugh. I can’t wait for book 3! Come on February!

I am VERY excited for the third book in the Sam Wu series – Sam Wu is Not Afraid of The Dark. There’s a sneak peek of the cover on the back of Sharks, but I won’t spoil it! 

Have you read any of the Sam Wu series?
What are you DEFINITELY not afraid of?
Can you recommend any other books like Sam Wu?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments or on twitter!

S x

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Spread positivity like wildfire

A LONG while back, I started following the amazing people of Doodle on twitter (@doodle_ed) and have long admired their products from afar. 

My lovely friend Kathryn bought me a copy of these 2 Doodle pads for my training year. I found them so useful that I’ve had to buy another of each pad ready for September! The thing I love about these is that you get to reflect on the day in a really fun way. As a student teacher, doing these once a week (sometimes twice) made me really think “yep, I’ve achieved something today/yep I’m making a difference”. It’s the little things in life that we need to celebrate, so much of the time we beat ourselves up as teachers – we didn’t get that done, that went wrong, this wasn’t quite right… we encourage our kids to celebrate their successes so we should celebrate our own. And I would 100% say teaching is in fact the BEST JOB IN THE WORLD. 

If you’re interested in finding out more about these pads, follow the links to the Doodle website:

To Do pad

Best Job In The World pad

Safeguarding pad

Doodle also do amazing postcards, that I will MOST CERTAINLY be using in my NQT year. I think there’s something so beautifully simple about postcards. They can be used for so many different purposes. Celebrating the good in schools is so important to me. Building up the kids I teach, making them proud of who they are, their work, their effort… it all matters. If I get to help them build up that impression of themselves by sending out a postcard every now and again, I’m going to do it. 

I absolutely adore the rocket one! It makes me so happy.

Follow the link to see the full range of Doodle postcards – clicky click.

Let me know if you can recommend any other websites for buying postcards, or if you’ve used any of Doodle’s products! They do “create your own exercise books” and brilliant posters too. 

How do you spread positivity in school? Shout your ideas at me. I really want to inject a healthy dose of positivity into my NQT year and would love to hear your ideas! Let me know in the comments, or share them on twitter (@eenalol)

S x

If you’re happy and you know it…

Sometimes you’ve gotta remember the things that make you smile…

Getting my job. Coming to the end of my training year. Succeeding and feeling proud. Exhaustion – the good kind. Watching my friends succeed. Being surrounded by the most supportive bunch of people I have ever known. Reading some incredible books. Authors I’d consider my friends. DMs which make you smile. Cats. #CatDad. Seeing so many people join in #SixforSunday. Tea with my people. Sunshine. Pyjamas. Clean pyjamas after having a shower. Book post. My bujo. Blogging for me. Ariana Grande. Roger Federer. Ed Sheeran concerts. My amazing family. Reading a book I’ve waited FOREVER for and loving every single page. Talking about books with the kids at school. Talking about books with the adults at school. Feeling like progress is being made. The future. The basement in Waterstones. Paperchase sales. Kaz Brekker. Books. Always books. 

S4S – Monochrome books

Morning #SixforSunday‘ers!

How are we all? I hope your day is not grey today!

Today’s prompt is:

Monochrome books

I have to admit I struggled a bit with this one! I don’t own/know of that many monochrome books! We’ll see… 

  1. The Call – Paedar O’Guilin
  2. Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern (mostly black and white, featuring some red!)
  3. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Perculiar Children – Ransom Riggs
  4. A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness 
  5. The Lie Tree – Frances Hardinge (yes, yes I know… but this was one of my first thoughts!)
  6. Noughts and Crosses – Malorie Blackman (I own the beautiful rainbow covers, but I KNOW there’s a black and white version of these covers!)

Remember to share your #SixforSunday choices with me! I would love to see what you can all come up with, and if you struggled as much as me! 

See you next week for ‘Metallic Books’ (aka the books you can guarantee I will ALWAYS pick up)

S x

 

June bujo

Well hello… how are we all? Sorry for my sporadic posting this week! I never post this late normally… there’s some medical things going on in my life (nothing serious, don’t worry!) so energy at the minute needs to be reserved for work. Don’t worry though, all should be back to normal soon!

Today I’m here to show you my very much stripped back June bujo. Compared to my bujo months from the past, this month is VERY stripped back and minimal. I’m not sure whether it will stay this way or whether I’ll go back to the way I’ve done it in the past. I was a terrible bujo mam in April and May, so I wanted to ease my way back into bujo life with something much more simple and manageable (especially with all of the tiredness/poorly in my life).

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The trusty month page remains because I need to know where the month begins… I really quite love my little ice lolly. It makes me smile! I’ve gone with a red and orange theme for this month, so there’s lots of red and orange featured!

Then we move on to this spread – book post on the right, mood tracker on the left.

I asked my friend Kelly (of Kelly’s Ramblings fame) how she kept track of her book post for when she does her wrap ups and she said in her bujo, so I decided I would try it and it SEEMS to be working for me. I’ve been very lucky so far in June that I’ve had quite a lot of post! I may need a second page for this. I am eternally grateful to publicists and publishers. I genuinely will never get over this whole book post thing.

For my mood tracker, I decided rather than assign a colour to a mood, I would assign colours to shades of mood this month. The brighter the colour, the happier my emotion, therefore the darker the colour, the sadder my mood. So far it seems I’ve NOT had a great month emotion-wise (blame this on being poorly/exhausted). However, note that ONE golden day – that is my Ed Sheeran day. I quite love this scale of happy/sad mood tracker style, so I may keep this… but we shall see!

The last 2 pages are my gratitude pages and my to do list.

My gratitude page I’ve kept really simple and I can just add to it as and when. I’m still adding a thing a day because it’s good for my MH to find something good about every day. Some days it’s a TINY thing, some days it’s something that is massive (hello Ed Sheeran). 

The other side is my to do listbroken down into school, blog and life. (This is NOT what my to do list looks like normally, I just took the picture before I put all of the other things on) You’ll see the red circle around the star beside Doctorsthat means I’ve achieved that thing… I have not (it appears) achieved much this month. HA.

And there you have it! June’s VERY much stripped back bujo. There are some things I miss filling in that I’m going to have to think about adding for July (my weekly mood trackers are something I miss, but for now, they can wait as I feel everything would be on the more negative scale!) 

If you’re interested in my other bujo monthly spreads, you’ll find examples at these links:
– April bujo!
– February bujo!
(I’ve just chosen 2 at random, if you use the search facility on my blog and search “bujo” or “bullet journal”, you’ll see the rest of my bujo posts)

I’d love to hear your thoughts on my minimal June bujo – good, bad, indifferent. I’m all ears! As ever, leave me a comment, send me a tweet, email me – just get in touch. Happy to answer questions too! 

S x

BLOG TOUR: Mirror Magic

Today I have the absolute priviledge to be part of the blog tour for Claire Fayers’ newest book, ‘Mirror Magic’. I was super lucky to get this book back in May and read it pretty much instantly. Check out my review below… (spoiler alert: those who are fans of MG books might want to DEFINITELY get your hands on this book…)

Mirror Magic: serious fun with some brilliant characters!

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“Welcome to Wyse, the only town left in Britain with a connection to the magical Unworld. When Twelve-year-old Ava meets Howell on the other side of a mirror, the two are quickly drawn into a mystery to discover why the enchantments that link their towns are disappearing. But it’s hard to distinguish between friends and enemies when magic is involved and Ava and Howell soon learn that it can be very unwise to mess with mirrors…”

Magic? Mystery? An incredible cover? Two sides of the same coin? I am SOLD. 

Mirror Magic follows the story of Ava, a young girl questioning lots of things about the place in which she lives and works. The people all seem to be under the spell of one of the hot shot people in their town.  Ava doesn’t see it. Why is she the only person who can see that he’s not quite as nice as people let on? There’s lots of things that don’t fit quite right in Ava’s world. There’s lots of strange goings on. There USED TO BE lots of magic, but now there’s barely any. Where is all of the magic going? Ava works in a manor owned by her aunt and uncle, but they don’t acknowledge her, she is treated exactly the same as the servants. This frustrates Ava. She misses her dad. She knows he was somewhat magic. There’s a lot of unanswered questions about Ava’s dad, his mirror and Ava’s myserious moon shaped scar. 

Now, Ava lives on one side of the mirror, and on the other side lives Howell. He lives in the darker half of the mirror. His town is not quite as “pleasant” as Ava’s. He works in a “dead magical mirror museum” – none of the mirrors work in the museum, or so the people think. When one day the mirror starts to mist up and Howell sees Ava’s reflection, what follows is an amazing story of friendship, taking risks and some serious fun.

Each chapter starts with input from ‘The Book’ – The Book is a HILARIOUS part of this book. I can’t describe quite what the book does… but it’s funny, charming and an extra special insight into the story. 

I absolutely adored the characters in this book. Ava and Howell were both gutsy and brave. There’s a connection between Howell and Ava that gave the book a brilliant bit of history too! The baddies in this book are brilliant too… they’re scary but not terrifying. Their motives are DEFINITELY questionable and this makes for brilliant scenes between all of the characters. This book is character rich, with even background characters adding a lot to the story. 

You all know I love a book with magic in it, so when I heard this was all about magic, I knew I needed to read it. I tell you now it did not disappoint. If you’re a lover of magic, I would 100% recommend this. I loved the idea of the mirrors being a portal to the magical other half of the town and them being used as a kind of “shopping window” – it did make me chuckle. 

A massive shout out here to the illustrations too! As well as that beautiful cover, there are illustrations throughout and I just think they add so much to the story. 

A brilliant story, with excellent characters and a massive chunk of danger, fun and friendship chucked in for good measure. The recipe for a brilliantly fun book!

Would you like to be magic?
What kind of magic would you like?
If you could ask the magical world for something, what would it be?

A massive thank you to Karen and Macmillan Kids for inviting me on this blog tour! It was certainly a lot of fun! Check out the rest of the blog tour to see what others thought, and I know that Claire makes an appearance on some too!

S x

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BOOK BLOG: Alesha Dixon

Lightning Girl: a fun book filled with positivity!

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“10-year-old Aurora Beam lives at home with her utterly unremarkable family… until the day she sees her little sister being picked on in the playground and suddenly beams of light shoot out of her fingers! It’s time for her parents to drop a life-changing bombshell. Mum is a secret superhero, fighting crime across the globe while Dad looks after the kids at home. As Aurora’s own powers come into play, will she be able to balance her new super skills training with school? Will she be able to keep it all a secret from her friends? And when her mum’s evil twin pops up, will Aurora think that being a super VILLAIN might be more fun…?”

Lightning Girl follows the story of brilliantly brave 10 year old Aurora Beam, who discovers something unusual about herself… she has powers! I mean, which 10 year old doesn’t wish they had powers? (I’m 29 and I want powers… I don’t know what, but powers would be LUSH thanks) Naturally, Aurora is quite frightened at first, and VERY confused, but after some coaching and some love from her parents comes to realise that they’re something to be embraced. Your differences make you YOU. 

As with all brilliant MG books, there’s a baddie, a point of peril, some danger, some scariness and this comes in the shape of someone trying to steal precious stones. Who this someone is I will keep spoiler free. Throughout there’s one character who I KNEW to be suspicious of… I just never trusted them. 

One of the things that stood out for me with this book was its brilliance at dealing with all kinds of issues in gentle ways – there’s separation, friendship issues, moral dilemmas, dealing with siblings and awkward families. All kinds of things. But it’s all done so brilliantly. Aurora has some amazing friends and I love reading positive friendship portrayals, so that also was a massive big YES from me!

Aurora is a FAB MC and it’s so wonderful to see characters of varying races represented in kids’ books. One of the girls at school even commented “Miss, she’s got hair like me AND her skin matches mine. It’s like me in a book” and that made me think yeah, this book is important. Girls who wouldn’t have traditionally seen themselves in books are getting the chance to now. 

I really enjoyed Lightning Girl. It’s fun, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, it has brilliant characters and it’s all about embracing yourself. I look forward to the second one immensely, I hope there will BE a second one! 

If you had a superpower, what would it be?
What would your superhero name be?
Can you recommend any more MG books like this to me? 

Talk to me! Comment! Tweet me! 

S x

S4S – Book lovers unite!

Morning pals!

How are we all this Sunday morning? What are we all reading? Let me know, I might need to add it to my TBR (because my TBR isn’t long enough obviously!)

Today’s #SixforSunday is something that I could easily make ramble on for hours, so being concise with 6 was both easy and tough. Today we’re talking:

Reasons I love books

  1. Escapism 
    I don’t have to think about my own life for a little while as I’m reading. I can get lost in the streets of Ketterdam, or be watching Sorrow’s life unfold, or get lost in the world of Brightstorm, or travel around the globe hunting Chaos Stones with Elliot. It doesn’t matter. For those few hours I’m just reading. My own troubles can be gone for a while.
  2. Finding a connection with characters
    Whether it’s a love or a hate, characters are the thing I love. Find me a character that I connect with and I’m gone. There’s so many amazing characters in books. So so many. Go find yourself a character you love or hate.
  3. Books have brought me some of the best friends
    If I didn’t read I wouldn’t have the group of friends I do have. It’s as simple as that.
  4. Cover love
    I know, I know, “don’t judge a book by it’s cover”. We all do it, it’s OK. I love covers. They make me so happy.
  5. Author love
    Getting to read a book is a pretty incredible thing. You get to appreciate the work an author has put in to this thing you’re reading. You get to see someone at the very highest level. A finished masterpiece. It’s pretty wonderful. So many books don’t get printed, and here you are reading one. It must be good.
  6. Seeing myself in characters
    Now, I didn’t think this was a thing I cared about until I saw myself in characters in 2 separate books and it just hit me in the face. If you can find yourself in a book then you’re represented. This is important. 

So there we have it! My #SixforSunday why I love books .

I’d love to see your reasons why you love books! Share them with me on twitter using the hashtag #SixforSunday or link me to your post and I shall check it out. I love you all for joining in!

S x

Empathy Day 2018

Empathy Roundel18 Final OutlinedToday, I feature on the Empathy Lab’s blog tour featuring all kinds of wonderful authors sharing their thoughts on empathy and the power of using stories to teach kids empathy. The blog tour so far has been incredible with some amazing authors sharing their thoughts! Check out the blog tour for more details and go check out their posts. Today I’m hosting Margi McAllister, author of 15 Things Not To Do With Granny, which is featured in Empathy Lab’s 2018 Read for Empathy Guide.

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Empathy Lab is one of the most important developments in education today.  For years we’ve educated children to learn facts, to reach targets, to do things that we can measure on a chart and put on the league tables.  Did anyone put a priority on educating hearts and minds?  Have we assumed that the whole process of learning about yourself and how you relate to the rest of the world will happen by accident?  At last we have an Empathy Day.  One day isn’t enough, I know.  Empathy is something children – and adults – need to be aware of every day.  But here’s a day when we can celebrate it.

 It’s simple.  The question is – what does it feel like?  How did I feel when I was ill and missed a party, when my best friend wasn’t my best friend any more, when the dog died?  How did I feel when I won the race, when I made a cake all by myself, when my teacher read out my poem to the class?  And if I feel like that, how do other people feel?  What is it like to be them?  If we want a healthy, happy society we need to know how to react to each other wisely and compassionately.

 The Fifteen Things series – Fifteen Things Not To Do With A Baby/Granny/Puppy began as a light-hearted idea and turned into a warm, funny way of looking at caring.  What does Granny really want?  She might not be too keen on a crocodile for her birthday or squashed jelly beans on toast for breakfast.  She needs a bit of time out so she can read, sleep, or practice her karate.

 When I wrote The Summer Lion, I began with a community rather than a heroine.  I had Granny Annie, Daffodil Thumping-Jolly, Billy Will-Do and the Snapdragon family.  The village of Twidings thrives on co-operation, and fights back together against the crafty new landowner who’s only out for money and power.  By the end of the book he would happily ban all lions, grannies, and children, especially Drina Snapdragon.

 Something I love in a book is a ‘no, no, don’t!’ moment.  One of my favourite authors is Eva Ibbotson.  She writes warm, empathetic heroines that make you root for them.  Time and again I find myself thinking, ‘Don’t listen to her!’ ‘Come back!’ ‘Get her away from there!’.  And the heroines can’t do it all themselves.  They need the friends, the allies, the community to do their bit.  Empathy is never all about one person.  It’s about each other.

 It’s about each other.  That seems like a good place to finish.

 What are your favourite books for empathy?

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What is Empathy Day?
Empathy Day was founded in 2017 by EmpathyLab. With hate crimes at their highest level since records began, it uses stories to help us understand each other better, and highlights empathy’s power in our divided world. (https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/hate-crime-statistics). Empathy Day 2018 is on 12 June.

Empathy Day’s calls to action
READ – because reading in itself can make us more empathetic
SHARE – because sharing perspectives through books can connect us in new ways
DO – put empathy into action and make a difference in your community

How to join in  

  • Share ideas for empathy-boosting books using #ReadForEmpathy @EmpathyLabUK
  • Use the free Read For Empathy Guide to 30 children’s books – at www.empathylab.uk
  • Follow this blog tour to hear the powerful voices of the authors and illustrators involved
  • Hundreds of schools and libraries are already taking part. Gt a free toolkit from info@empathylab.uk
  • Use the ideas and free downloadable resources at  http://www.empathylab.uk/empathy-day-resources

Blog Tour 7

BLOG TOUR: My Dad, The Earth Warrior

Hello!

Today is a very exciting day. Today you get another brilliant author guest post! Today, Gary Haq, author of the brilliant ‘My Dad, The Earth Warrior’ is featured on my blog. Gary has a passion for engaging children in talking about and learning about the environment. As a teacher, this is REALLY important to me, so I hope you enjoy Gary’s post!

On Writing

As an environmental researcher, I have written scientific papers and reports, non-fiction books and Op-Eds for the regional and national press but never fiction.

But that all changed when my mother died. Clearing out the family home I came across my Nana’s large well-worn black patent leather handbag. We had kept it for years in the back of the wardrobe, and for some reason,  the bag became a repository for all the important family documents.

Inside there were death and birth certificates of grandparents and relatives, a telegram from the Ministry of Defence informing that my grandfather was lost at sea in the Second World War, a letter of from King George honouring his service to the nation, and my primary school reports in a battered brown envelope.

In my old school report, there was a statement from my primary school teacher that said  how much I enjoyed writing stories.

As an academic researcher my career has been all about facts and referencing evidence. I had totally  forgotten the joy of making up stories.

I therefore decided to revisit the imagination I had as a child. Once I had opened that door in my mind, I was flooded ideas for a children’s book. Then one day, I was dancing around the living room being silly trying to calm my baby daughter, and thought how embarrassing she would find this if she were older.  It was then, I had the idea for a story about a boy who has an embarrassing father

Someone said that writing is about 10% putting words on paper and 90% editing – it’s true! It took me six months to write my first draft and six years editing it!

Since I have a busy home and work life, I try to find pockets of time to write and edit throughout my day. I do try to write at home but this has become increasingly difficult as my daughter grown older.  But here are a few places where I do manage to put pen to paper.

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ON THE BUS

Being temporarily based in Italy at a European research Centre, my workday begins by taking the bus to work, where I try and write and edit. 

 

 

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AT THE CAFFE’

In Italy you can’t start the day without your morning coffee. I visit a café before work to have my morning café macchiato, write a little and watch the array of characters that passby.

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IN THE CANTEEN

At lunch time, when fellow colleagues go to the canteen to eat together, I go alone so I can use the time to work on my book  although, my view is not always a concrete pillar!

What a brilliant post! Thank you so much to Gary to writing a blog post! It’s brilliant. Check out the rest of the blog tour below!

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You can also check out My Dad, The Earth Warrior out now!

S x