Me in TBR

Today I am doing something a little bit different! I’m going to list some books on my TBR (or which I need to put on my TBR) which spell out my name! I might have pinched this idea from my lovely friend Aoife (If you’re interested in her choices, check out her post here).

Six of Crows
The Dark Wild
Extinction Trials
Harper and the Scarlet Umbrella
All That She Can See
Northern Lights
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

What is your name in your TBR books?
Have you read any of these books?
Which ones should I read first?

Let me know in the comments or on twitter! I would love more suggestions, and I’d love to see your names in TBR! Thanks Aoife for the idea!

S x


BOOKBLOG: Sarah Millican

How to Be Champion: canny lush and proper champion

(thank you Waterstones for your exceptionally gorgeous table as the background of this picture… it’s my favourite table!)

“Part autobiography, part self help, part confession, part celebration of being a common-or-garden woman, part collection of synonyms for nunny, Sarah Millican’s debut book delves into her super normal life with daft stories, funny tales and proper advice on how to get past life’s blips – like being good at school but not good at friends, the excitement of IBS and how to blossom post divorce.

If you’ve ever worn glasses at the age of six, worn an off-the-shoulder gown with no confidence, been contacted by an old school bully, lived in your childhood bedroom in your thirties, been gloriously dumped in a Frankie and Benny’s, cried so much you felt great, been for a romantic walk with a dog, worn leggings two days in a row even though they smelt of wee from a distance, then this is Your Book. If you haven’t done those things but wish you had, This Is Your Book. If you just want to laugh on a train/sofa/toilet or under your desk at work, This Is Your Book.”

Hello, you know me. I’m a Geordie. I am a very proud Geordie. I love being from where I’m from. I also love Sarah Millican. I think she’s hilarious, she’s got a potty mouth and she’s just normal – she’s relatable

When I knew there was going to be a Sarah Millican book, I knew I needed to get my hands on it. I love autobiographies, I think they can show you so much about a person. I love autobiographies by people I like even more, so this was one I had to get my hands on. I knew it was going to be funny. I knew I would love it. I didn’t know just how much I would love it. 

It made me laugh.
It made me cry. 
It made me happy to be a northerner. 
It made me proud to be a woman.
It made me glad that I support this wonderfully funny woman.

The way it works is there’s a chapter and then at the end there’s a little “tip” from Sarah. These tips are easily my favourite thing about the book. They give you tips on being champion. For those who don’t know, being champion is being lush, it’s being good, great, brilliant. It’s a brilliant Geordie word. 

When I saw this chapter heading, I knew this was the book for me. I am awfully fond of stationery. This chapter is the most me thing I’ve ever seen in a book. 

There’s some bloody brilliant messages delivered throughout this book, and I think they’re important:
– Be yourself
– Work hard
– It’s OK to not be OK
– Don’t be afraid to say something isn’t your cup of tea

Please go and buy this if you can. It’s such a brilliant book. I loved it so much that I had to finish it in a day. I didn’t want to put it down.

Do you like autobiographies?
Whose book have you loved most?

Talk to me, I’m champion.

S x

Desert Island Books – PewterWolf

Hello everyone!
Today we have another unwilling castaway for #DesertIslandBooks! Today our castaway is my lovely friend Andrew from @PewterWolf on twitter! He’s absolutely brilliant! Go give him a follow. Check out his choices below!

DIB rules

The six books I would take (baring maybe a “How do I Live on a Desert Island” and “How do I build a book” manuals are:
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” by JK Rowling (Joint fave in the series. LUPIN!!!)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” by JK Rowling (New Joint Fave in the series. But, it’s meaty in length so it should last me for a while)
Sabriel” by Garth Nix (this is one of my fave fantasy books. Kickass lead, creepy undead things, Death and [by far the best part] a sarcastic talking cat. WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE?!)
His Dark Materials” by Philip Pullman (Am cheating, I know this. But there is a beautiful bind-up of all three novels in one book and I NEED to reread these! This, including the previous four, is the highest standard of fantasy. Breathtaking and thought-providing)
Earthsea: The First Four Novels” by Ursula K. Le Gin (Again, another cheat as I own a bind-up of the first four books in a beautiful green book. Plus, I have never read any of these. But, from the little I know, this is A-class fantasy that I will love, hate and everything in-between while reading).
Lord of the Rings” by JRR Tolkien (Ok, I don’t own this and I’m not 100% certain I would read it. It has this huge thing about it being THE FANTASY CLASSIC. But, I don’t know how long I will be on the island without being rescued so might need something to challenge me. Plus, if I hate it, I can rip the book up and use it to start a fire…)

My snack of choice (OH, THIS IS HARD! I love food. Some people see food as fuel, I see it as a hobby. Plus, you said snack, not food, so that rules out food such as pasta, cereal, soups, etc) is going to be a dark chocolate hobnob biscuits. As that’s what am eating now while answering these questions so seems apt.

Unlimited Tea or Coffee? TEA! No brainer! But, I need milk in my tea or coffee so that might change my mind. But TEA! No question. I like a good builder’s tea so BRING ME THE TEA!!!

One music album. Ok, this is a cheat – I know this, but am going by my iTunes – but I would go for the Grey’s Anatomy Original Soundtrack: Collector’s Edition. I always return to this soundtrack when reading/writing/doing things. Plus, it’s a nice mix of music and genres of music so will always be perfect for whatever mood I’m in.

What would I prefer: the Bible or the Complete Works of Shakespeare? This is a very personal question to people, and each will have a different reason. I would lean towards Shakespeare, and I can’t really answer why. I’m not deeply religious so while it would be fascinating to read the Bible, I feel I would learn more and enjoy reading Shakespeare more. 
(Don’t worry Andrew, you get BOTH!)

Now, the hardest part of all this. Saving a book and a song. You’re a monster, Steph. You know that right? It would really depend on the mood I am in when I’m saved/forced to leave my holiday (I’m not 100% certain which this is, truth be told. Can it be both? Can someone super hunky save me?). The song would be between Keep Breathing by Ingrid Michaelson, A Cold Wind Blows Through Your Door by Bill Ricchini or Where Does the Good Go by Tegan and Sara. It will really depend on the mood that day. Today, am tempted to say Keep Breathing… though I’m not sure why…

Saving a book. Hmm… which book am I reading at the time isn’t an answer, I sense. So, let me have a think. It’s going to be either of my Harry Potters or Sabriel. They all have value to me and I know that if I choose one over another, I will be kicking myself on the plane back, going “Why? WHY?!” I might ask someone to pick for me. It would be easier for my soul and my panic of “I’m leaving. But… I can’t. THE TEA!!!”

(This is HILARIOUS. It took Andrew SO LONG to get back to me because he couldn’t decide and he had so many questions!)

Thank you SO MUCH Andrew for agreeing to be sent away… I hope you and Dave get on well! (Dave is the resident island butler!)

S x

BOOKBLOG: Sharratt/Goodhart

You Choose In Space: the most perfect Space themed book to get kids talking and expressing opinions!


“Zoom off into space for an adventure where YOU CHOOSE what happens next. Which alien would you most like to be friends with? And what fantastically freaky food will you decide to munch for lunch?

The possibilities are infinite in this mesmerising creative toolkit which will inspire children from 3 up to make their own stories time and again – a spectacular sequel to the bestselling You Choose – it’s out of this world!”

The You Choose books are a firm favourite in schools, so when I heard there was going to be a new one, I knew I needed to snap it up! Thank you so much to Sarah from Puffin for sending me a review copy. It is certainly a very popular book at school.

These books are brilliant to use with children of all ages, they are a brilliant stimulus for talking or writing. The EYFS team at school in particular are very fond of these books! They’re attractive and they’re brilliant for vocabulary. This space themed one fits in brilliantly with a space theme too! 

If you’re unfamiliar with these books, the way they work is that each double spread is something else to choose from, for example the pages below encourage children to talk about the outfit they would wear on a new planet:


This page asks the children which job they would like to do aboard the ship:


These books are so brilliant for getting children to talk and not just with the little ones, the older children (my KS2 children) love talking about it! Brilliant for justification and description.

Most importantly though, these books are brilliant for enjoying reading! 

Which outfit would you choose?
Would you like to visit space?

Thank you so much to Puffin for sending me a review copy of this book! It is going down very well at school! 

S x

DesertIslandBooks – Chris Callaghan

Today we send another unsuspecting author on to the island of booklessness, #DesertIslandBooks. Today’s participant is the lovely Chris Callaghan, author of The Great Chocoplot – a hilarious and brilliant MG novel about the end of chocolate. I read it last year and it is still one that I recommend to all of my kids! Check it out! I recommend following him on twitter too – @callaghansstuff

Image result for the great chocoplot

Without further ago, check out the rules and Chris’ choices below!

DIB rules

You are allowed to take 6 books of your choosing. These can be any 6 you wish. 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams (it never gets old)

Dirk Gently’s Detective Agency – Ditto (that’s ditto as in Douglas Adams not as in Mr Ditto, but you knew that!)

Matilda – Roald Dahl (the first story that my daughter read to me the whole way through)

Einstein’s Dreams – Alan Lightman (a science geek’s dream!)

The Illustrated Sherlock Holmes Treasury – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the stories that got me reading as a teenager)

The House That Sailed Away – Pat Hutchins (possibly the first book that I LOVED!)


You are allowed to take a snack of your choosing: this will be provided in an unlimited quantity. 

Wine gums (you’re surprised it’s not chocolate, aren’t you!)

You may choose from unlimited supplies of tea or coffee. 


You are entitled to carry with you 1 music album/playlist (not surpassing 15 songs). 

This was HARD!!!! 

Achtung Baby – U2

You MUST CHOOSE ONE BOOK and ONE SONG from your playlist/album that you get to keep when the Desert police come along. 

Those Desert Police are bastards!

Matilda & The Fly

In addition to this book, you will be given the entire works of Shakespeare and the Bible (totally not stealing from Desert Island Discs, no sir) 

Can I have the Complete Works of HG Wells and The Bible According to Spike Milligan, instead? Much more fun!

Thank you so much for choosing this journey on DesertJet. Remember the rules are simple, but strict. 

Thank you for having me, although with rules this strict, I might go with RyanAir next time and run the risk of a cancellation!

Now, where’s the bar?

I am SO SO GLAD to have Chris along for the ride… and the fact he chose to save Matilda makes me SUPER happy. Chris is a man after my own heart! Thank you very much for making these hard choices!

S x

6 weeks down, 1 to go!

Well, week 6 is done and there’s 1 more to go until half term… WHERE DID THOSE WEEKS GO? How crazy is that? To think that 6 weeks ago I was starting my journey to becoming a teacher and now I’m 6 weeks in… it has FLOWN. 

So how did my week go? 
It was really good. It was STRESSFUL but it was great

The big things from this week was I had my first (of many) formal observation. The Year 6 teacher observed me teaching Maths. Before the observation I was SO nervous. I hadn’t slept well, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to vomit or cry – I managed to do neither and got through the observation without any mishaps! We were working out time elapsed using a time line (we call it a Frog line, it’s one of the tools that we use in our Maths scheme of work!). We started the lesson recapping Roman Numerals from the day before and then talked about how you would calculate how long marathon runners run for. The kids were so well behaved. The lesson went over in a blur. There was a lot of modelling, lots of the children applying their skills and then working in pairs/independently to attempt the task. I then had them use their skills to “be the teacher” and told them I’d made a mistake in one of the questions I had written in the morning, so they had to correct it. 

Some of their “marking” was very funny, but they all managed to find and fix the error! It made my teacher heart very happy! (A few examples of their funny marking: “you miss break time”, “you should learn your facts or ask for help”, cheeky!)

The class teacher was lovely when she gave me feedback and had some really lovely things to say about the lesson! (If you’d like to know what, feel free to ask me!) It gave me a lovely glow. I realise not all my lessons are going to go that well, but to start the year with a lesson like that was great!

What else happened this week?
I’ve been teaching SPAG (Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar) this week, looking at speech punctuation. The children were really struggling with punctuating speech correctly at the beginning of the week, but by the end of the week they were doing much better! It’s lovely to see their progress over the span of a day, a week, a few weeks: it all adds up! 

We’ve been continuing on our English with Journey. The children have been writing the boy’s story! They’ve really enjoyed it. It’s been tough going, but they’re getting there. My copies of Quest and Return arrived this week too, so we’re going to “read” them this week (I say “read” because they’re wordless picture books! Excellent for use in the classroom!)

This week in 3 words?
Tough. Emotional. Brilliant.

So that’s my week in a nutshell… there’s loads more but I would hate to bore you! 

S x

S4S – Books on my TBR


It’s Sunday again, which means another #SixforSunday prompt! 

This week’s prompt is:

Books on my TBR

Now I’ve gone for “books that I’ve recently added to my TBR” (because my TBR is excessive, ha!) So here goes… 6 books I’ve recently added to my TBR list

  1. Polar Bear Explorer’s Club (massive shout out to my friend Amy for sending this to me… I’ve been after it FOREVER)
  2. Pax
  3. The Girl Who Lost Her Smile
  4. Podkin One Ear
  5. Maudlin Towers: Curse of the Werewolf Boy
  6. Rise of the Wolves

Which books have you recently added to your TBR?
Have you read any of my TBR books?

Let me know your #SixforSunday! Share your posts on twitter using the hastag.

S x


The Fandom: unique, exciting and brilliant.

Image result for the fandom anna day

“Cosplay ready, Violet and her friends are at Comic-Con.

They can’t wait to meet the fandom of mega movie, The Gallows Dance. What they’re not expecting is to be catapulted by freak accident into their favourite world – for real. Fuelled by love, guilt and fear, can the friends put the plot back on track and get out? The fate of the story is in their hands…”

I was very lucky that the lovely Jazz over at Chicken House sent this over to me a while back and it’s sat in my TBR ever since, so when I finished a book and saw it staring at me, I knew it was time to finally pick up The Fandom. I am so very glad I did pick it up in the end! 

The Fandom tells the story of Violet, Nate, Katie and Alice, 4 bookish people (just like me) who go to Comic Con and something happens and they’re magically transported into the world of their favourite book – The Gallows Dance. Imagine that, your favourite book, and you’re transported into the story, the setting, the characters and you have to live it. The characters can barely believe it and don’t believe it at first… until things start to get real. There are moments of disbelief in the beginning, with the characters just thinking they’re on the movie set, but then they come to the realisation and panic sets in. (They certainly react better than I would!)

What I loved about this book was the duality of Violet carrying out the story versus the way that Rose lived out the story. The man Rose falls in love with versus the man Violet falls in love with. The characters in The Gallows Dance versus the characters that Violet and co meet. How things have so much more depth than just on the page. There’s back stories of The Gallows Dance that Violet didn’t even know about, that she discovers having been thrust into this life.

Another thing I loved about this book is that you get 2 books in one. You learn the story of ‘The Gallows Dance’ through the story of ‘The Fandom’ and I have never come across that before. I absolutely loved it. Seeing the evolution of one book within another. Using Violet’s knowledge of The Gallow’s Dance to get her through The Fandom. So so clever. 

I loved the characters. They made the story for me. I want to marry Ash. I want Katie to be my best friend (she’s sweary and I love it). Violet is fierce and bold, without realising her own brilliance. Saskia is one of those dark, mysterious characters. Nate is just the lushest thing ever, I really loved him. The characters and their relationships with each other are pretty incredible.

I met lovely author Anna at YALC this year and she’s a Geordie. This makes the book even better for me. I am the proudest Geordie you will ever meet, so for there to be this incredible book written by an incredible Geordie makes it even better! (I am not biased or ANYTHING). 

I hope there’s a sequel to this. I really want to see what happens next!

If you had to be thrust into your favourite book, where would you end up?
Are there any books you’d hate to be thrown into?

Talk to me on twitter (@eenalol) or leave me a comment! I would love to find out the books you love!

S x

Today we have something EXTRA special. Like of all the special things I’ve done, THIS is one of the ones that I think is ONE OF THE MOST SPECIAL. I preface this blog post with


So when the gorgeous humans over at Scholastic asked me if I wanted to take part in the blog tour for When I Grow Up WHO WAS I TO SAY NO? Thank you so much to Scholastic for involving me in this blog tour… it is definitely a pleasure!

‘When I Grow Up’ is one of the incredible songs. written by Tim Minchin, from the Matilda the Musical soundtrack and it has been beautifully turned into a picture book, illustrated by the incredibly talented Steve Antony. It is that very illusrator that I am hosting on my blog today and I couldn’t be happier. If you fancy a listen, click, click.


Without further ado… I hand you over to Steve Antony himselfimg_9911


It took roughly five to six months to illustrate Tim Minchin’s When I Grow Up.

“Five to six months?” I hear you say. 

On average each illustration took about one week to complete. That’s three months, and that’s not even including the cover, endpapers and title pages.

It was a team effort. I regularly met with the book’s designer, Strawberrie, and editor, Pauliina, from Scholastic UK. I also conversed with Tim, at first via Scholastic, and then personally. The teams at Scholastic USA and Scholastic Australia also touched base periodically. The person I was in contact the most was Strawberrie. She helped me immensely. 

What you see in the published book are the twelve final illustrations. These twelve illustrations make up my visual adaptation of Tim’s words and roughly took three months to finish (one week per double page spread). But what you don’t see is everything else.

By ‘everything else’ I mean the following:

You don’t see the ‘animal’ version of the story featuring a koala bear, a giraffe, a crocodile, and an elephant. In this version a cast of animals literally performed the song onstage, a bit like The Muppets would. It was self-referential and a bit tongue-in-cheek. But it all started to morph into something that didn’t feel true to the song. 

You don’t see the dual narrative version in which I illustrate the song through the eyes of an adult and a child simultaneously. The ‘adult’ narrative was in black and the white; and the ‘child’ narrative was in colour. But that all started to feel a bit depressing.

You don’t see the long fantastical dream sequences with flying books, magic trees and flying beds. In this version the three main characters climb through a hole in a tree and into a dream land of magical creatures, pirates and so on. But it didn’t feel rooted enough in reality; it was too Wizard of Ozzy.

You don’t see the ‘Sesame Street’ inspired city jaunt. I loved the idea of having these kids skipping and jumping and cartwheeling through alleys, city parks, shops and so on. But this adaptation felt too rooted in reality. 

You don’t see the countless rough developmental drawings of all the characters. Some people can draw children with their eyes closed. I am not one of those people.

You don’t see all of the colour experimentation. And there was a lot of it. Because of my colourblindness I needed to occasionally ask Strawberrie for reassurance. She helped me choose some of the colours. I started off with a limited palette, but the song needed colour. More colour. But I decided that the children should be in shades of grey so that they stand out amongst all the colourful details.

After much blood, sweet and tears, I decided that the best approach was to merge fantasy with reality; a trio of playful children imaginatively exploring what an adult will be like in a way that makes adults remember what it was like to be a child. Fortunately, everyone agreed this was the best approach. Hurray!

This developmental process took a good three months. It took another three months to draw all of the final pictures.

I wanted to add lots of symbolism, like the statue of the man and woman lifting the world, and a diverse group of children. The book is peppered with Easter eggs. 

Hopefully every child will see themselves in this book. I also included Tim, me and a certain somebody else (you can probably guess who).

The one thing I didn’t do was draw Quentin Blake’s Matilda. In fact, I didn’t include Matilda at all. Instead, there’s a little bit of Matilda in each and every child. 

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the book’s cover. Would you believe that it took around 30 attempts to find the right cover? 

Here are some of the rough developmental drawings from When I Grow Up. I hope you enjoy looking through them. I have misplaced some of my earlier drawings unfortunately. They’re probably buried somewhere in my studio.

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And, remember, the next time you flick through a picture book, please don’t. Don’t flick, that is. Read. Read the pictures; they probably took an age to write.


A massive thank you again to Scholastic for having me on the blog tour, and to Steve Antony! 

If you’d like to see the rest of the incredible (and they are!) blog posts on the tour, check out them out!


A very content, S x

Desert Island Books: crowdedbookblog

Hello! Today another unsuspecting victim is castaway on the island of doom. Today’s victim is the gorgeous Charlotte, who blogs over at Crowded Bookshelf. She made the tough choices… check them out below!

A quick reminder of the rules:

DIB rules


1) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Possibly my favourite book…wait…I don’t want to commit to that! But I have read this so many times and it still holds a very special place in my heart!

2) The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
This book is just so wonderfully magical and full of the escapism I would need to survive being on a desert island!

3) When Dimple Met Rishi
A bit different to my other choices and is a book I’ve only just read but it is already one of my favourites. It’s cute and funny and will be perfect to read lying on the beach while I’m waiting to be rescued!

4) The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
This book has everything I love about the fantasy genre in it! Amazing world-building, interesting characters and a gripping plot. There are not enough words for this book!

5) American Gods by Neil Gaiman
I couldn’t not have some Neil Gaiman with me while I’m stranded on my desert island!

6) The Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce
I have loved this book for years! I think I first read it when I was about 11 or 12 and my copy is now so battered because I have read it over and over again. It was the first book I read that had a real kick-ass heroine, so I only have Alanna to blame for my my current obsession with strong female characters! The reason why this book is coming with me on DesertJet is because it is a book that I can literally pick up and open at any point and I know exactly where I am in the story and I know exactly which part to read to suit my mood.

My snack would be those little prawn cocktail shell type things. They are my biggest weakness and the perfect reading snack!

I’m very glad that I get unlimited tea while I’m stranded as well!

The album I would take with me would be Divide by Ed Sheeran.

Oh no! Not the desert police! I guess I would keep The Song of the Lioness and Castle on a Hill.

Let’s hope someone comes to rescue me soon!

(Thank you so much Charlotte for being my castaway. I love The Night Circus SO MUCH. The others I have not read! More to add to my list!)

S x

p.s. remember you can still take part! Get in touch if you’d like to be involved!