Summer Reading

Hello everyone, it’s the last Friday Library for this school year, so I’m going to share a couple more books that tie in with the Summer Reading Challenge theme of #WildWorldHereos, and then I have a special book for Year 6.

Don’t forget, you can sign up to the challenge at https://summerreadingchallenge.org.uk/ or pop into your local library. It’s totally free!

First up I have Amara And The Bats by Emma Reynolds.

Environmental activism gets a nocturnal twist in this utterly charming picture book about a young girl and her mission to save the bats! Amara loves bats! Her favourite thing to do is to collect bat facts and watch the amazing mammals fly at night by her house. But when Amara moves to a new town, she learns that her beloved bats no longer roost nearby because they are losing their habitat. Amara is upset. What can she do to help? She’s just one person, and the problem feels so much bigger than her. But after doing some research, she discovers that there are many young people making big changes all around the world. Inspired to take action, Amara gathers her new friends to help save the bats. Together, she knows they can make a difference! Emma Reynolds crafts an inspiring story about community action, perseverance, and what to do in the face of climate anxiety. At its heart, this is a story about hope and finding a place to call home.

Next up is The Most Important Animal Of All by Penny Worms, illustrated by Hannah Bailey.

A beautiful picture book where a teacher challenges her class to decide which is the most important animal of all. Seven children champion a different animal for the top spot. Is it bees as master pollinators, or bats who are night-time predators and pollinators? Is it elephants who shape their landscapes and spread seeds, or beavers who create watery habitats? Is it tigers or sharks who keep populations in balance so there is food for all? Is it tiny krill, food for so many whales and sea creatures? Packed with information about a myriad of species, and combining captivating illustrations and photographs showing them up close and in their habitats, this is a brilliant book to introduce the concepts of habitat loss, endangered species and climate change to younger readers.

Song Of The Far Isles by Nicholas Bowling is a stunningly beautiful, evocative writing bring this gripping adventure to life.

Oran lives on Little Drum, where music is everything. Every islander has a birth instrument and a life song – and the ancestors, called ghasts, linger to hear the music. But when the Duchess arrives from the mainland bringing orders of silence, she threatens the ghasts’ existence, the very soul of the community. When Oran hears of a mythical instrument with the power to manipulate hearts, she brings her ghast best friend, Alick, on a quest to find it, play it, and change the Duchess’s mind…

And finally, for Year 6, You Are A Champions by Marcus Rashford.

A brilliant book to help ease any worries you may have about moving on to secondary school, and build the skills you need to be the best you can be. It shows you how to:

  • Be comfortable with who you are – you can’t be a champion until you’re happy being you!
  • Dream big
  • Practise like a champion
  • Get out of your comfort zone and learn from your mistakes
  • Navigate adversity in a positive way
  • Find your team
  • Use your voice and stand up for others
  • Never stop learning

As Marcus says, you are already a champion – you just might not know it yet.

 

 

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Summer Reading Challenge

We’re so excited to reveal the theme for the Summer Reading Challenge 2021!

Get ready for Wild World Heroes, arriving online and in your local library this summer.

Pack your bags, we’re headed for Wilderville! It’s a pretty cool place, but there are lots of things that the Wild World Heroes can do to make their town even better for the people and animals that live there.

Join the Wild World Heroes for the Summer Reading Challenge and discover how you can make a difference to the environment too at https://summerreadingchallenge.org.uk/ or sign up at your local library. It’s totally free!

Are you excited to join the #WildWorldHeroes this summer?

Here a just a few of my favourite books featuring #WildWorldHeroes.

Unplugged by Steve Anthony

A delightful picture book about the wonders of all the fun you can have inside AND outside, by the award-winning Steve Antony, author of the bestselling Please Mr Panda.

BLIP spends all day plugged into her computer, playing games and having fun. But when there is a POWER CUT, Blip goes down the stairs and out the front door, where she discovers playing games and having fun . . . OUTSIDE. Isn’t it wonderful to be UNPLUGGED?

Agents Of The Wild by Jennifer Bell and Alice Lickens

When 8-year-old Agnes is signed up for SPEARS (the Society for the Protection of Endangered and Awesomely Rare Species), she has no idea of the adventures that lie ahead with her elephant-shrew mentor Attie (short for “Attenborough”). Operation Honeyhunt sends them to the Brazilian rainforest, on a mission to save an endangered, dance-loving bee named Elton. Will Agnes pass the test and become a full SPEARS agent? Species in danger? Girl and shrew to the rescue!

Twitch by MG Leonard

Twitch has three pet chickens, four pigeons, swallows nesting in his bedroom and a passion for birdwatching. On the first day of the summer holidays, he arrives at his secret hide to find police everywhere: a convicted robber has broken out of prison and is hiding in Aves Wood. Can Twitch use his talents for birdwatching to hunt for the dangerous prisoner and find the missing loot?

And for non-fiction lovers, Wild Child by Dara McNulty

Join brilliant young naturalist Dara McAnulty – winner of the 2020 Wainwright Prize for his book Diary of a Young Naturalist – on a nature walk and experience the joy of connecting with the natural world on your multi sensory journey. This beautiful book, illustrated in full colour by Barry Falls, is divided into five sections: looking out of the window, venturing out into the garden, walking in the woods, investigating heathland and wandering on the river bank. Dara pauses to tell you about each habitat and provides fantastic facts about the native birds, animals and plants you will find there – including wrens, blackbirds, butterflies, tadpoles, bluebells, bees, hen harriers, otters, dandelions, oak trees and many more.

Each section contains a discovery section where you will have a closer look at natural phenomenon such as metamorphoses and migration, learn about categorization in the animal kingdom or become an expert on the collective nouns for birds. Each section finishes with an activity to do when you get home: plant wild flowers, make a bird feeder, try pond dipping, make a journey stick and build a terrarium.

Dara ends the book with advice for young conservationists, which he is fully qualified to do being the youngest ever recipient of the RSPB medal for conservation.

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Year 3 and 4 meet Matt Goodfellow

This afternoon, Year 3 and 4 got to meet Matt Goodfellow who poets all over the UK and beyond. Matt is proud to be a National Poetry Day Ambassador for the Forward Arts Foundation and has worked with all sorts of different people including The Premier League, The National Literacy Trust and many more…

“Matt Goodfellow was excellent – very funny.  He read us lots of his poems from his books – Bright Bursts of Colour and Being Me. They were very funny and made us laugh.  He also gave us ideas for our own poem – ‘Blessings’.  Finally, he answered our questions.”

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Books About Football!

The Euros are well underway, and I’m sure you are as excited as I am that England have made it to the group of 16! Here’s hoping that “Football’s coming home!” doesn’t just mean we are playing our games at Wembley…

This week’s books all celebrate the beautiful game. There are some fabulous non fiction books from Simon Mugford and Dan Green – the Football Superstars Series, featuring many well loved players including Aguero, Pogba, Rashford and Sterling, and coming out this summer is the Football Quizzes Rule which will really test your knowledge about your favourite clubs and players.

Fantastic Footballers: 40 Inspiring Icons by Jean-Michel Billioud and Almasty celebrates great footballers throughout history from Stanley Matthews to David Beckham and Pele to Neymar. Featuring stats, honours and and the greatest goals of all time, you can learn how these players became the best in the world.

There are some great stories out there about football too. Whether it’s Frank Lampard’s Frankie’s Magic Football series, or Tom Palmer’s Football Academy or Foul Play series there really is something for everyone.

Some of my favourite fiction books are Cyborg Cat: Rise Of The Parson’s Road Gang by Ade Adepitan. Previously shortlisted for the Coventry Inspiration Book Awards, this charts Ade’s arrival in the UK and shines a light on the discipline and perseverance he showed to overcome his fears. It’s a story about standing out, settling in and stepping up from an inspirational Paralympian.

The Mighty Dynamo by Kieran Crowley celebrates football’s ability to bring children together to work as a team. This hilarious book charts Noah’s determination to play in the School’s World Cup, despite being banned from playing for his school team (for something he definitely didn’t do). Great illustrations are dotted through the book, and the player profiles between chapters are a great addition. Packed with humour, emotion, friendship, football and a great ending!

Kick by Mitch Johnson looks at football from a completely different angle. Budi’s plan is simple. He’s going to be a star. Budi’s going to play for the greatest team on earth, instead of sweating over each stitch he sews, each football boot he makes. But one unlucky kick brings Budi’s world crashing down. Now he owes the Dragon, the most dangerous man in Jakarta. Soon it isn’t only Budi’s dreams at stake, but his life. A fast-paced, adrenaline fuelled, action packed story with a conscience. From the very first page until the last, we are immersed into the slums of Jakarta, where dreaming big, hope and heroes, and never letting anything stand in your way keep the difficulties of day to day life at bay where dreaming big, hope and heroes, and never letting anything stand in your way.

And, Eve Ainsworth has brought the first female league to life in her series about the Dick, Kerr Girls. The Perfect Shot is the second book in the series.  As the girls embark on their first domestic and international tour against the French Ladies team, Freddie finds he is on a journey of his own, facing up to his mistakes and taking a step to correct them. Can he learn from the vital lesson that the Dick, Kerr Girls have to offer? That team work, communication and friendship can overcome just about anything.

The series also has the companion Dick, Kerr Ladies: Football’s Forgotten Legends by Gail Newsham. Lace up your boots and get ready for kick-off – it’s time discover the true story of the Dick, Kerr Ladies football team, courageous pioneers of women’s football in the UK. From the founding of the team in World War One to the eventual ban of the women’s game by the FA, join the team in their journey to the top of the league. Written by a world authority on the Dick, Kerr Ladies, and featuring original artefacts, and history of the game, this Companion Guide is a must for any football fan. Gail is a former footballer and lives in Preston. She’s 100% dedicated to bringing this remarkable story to younger readers. The Dick, Kerr Ladies: the greatest sporting heroes you’ve never heard of.

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Experience the life of refugees through reading

June 14th -20th is Refugee Week, and there are some truly amazing books to help us travel in their shoes, and understand why people “choose” to travel thousands of miles to find a safe place to call home.

Starting off with picture books that are brilliant for sharing to open discussions, The Day War Came by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Rebecca Cobb is a powerful and necessary picture book – the journey of a child forced to become a refugee when war destroys everything she has ever known. Imagine if, on an ordinary day, war came. Imagine it turned your town to rubble. Imagine going on a long and difficult journey – all alone. Imagine finding no welcome at the end of it. Then imagine a child who gives you something small but very, very precious…

Next up is The Journey by Francesca Sanna. With haunting echoes of the refugee crisis this beautifully illustrated book explores the unimaginable decisions made as a family leave their home and everything they know to escape the turmoil and tragedy brought by war. This book will stay with you long after the last page is turned.

And the last picture book is an incredibly powerful, wordless book more suitable for older readers.  Migrants by Issa Watanabe. narrates the journey of a group of animals leaving a leafless forest. Borders must be crossed, sacrifices made, loved ones left behind. Issa Watanabe takes extraordinary care to show the individuality and humanity of each migrant through the detailed patterns on their clothing, their care of each other as they set up camp, the symbol of the blue ibis showing the connection between past and future, life and death.

For older children who are ready to explore this topic on their own, I have chosen Child I by Steve Tasane (Year 4+), and a previous Coventry Inspiration Book Award Winner – Looking At The Stars by Jo Cotterill (Year 6+).

Child I tells the story of a group of undocumented children with letters for names who are stuck living in a refugee camp, with stories to tell but no papers to prove them. As they try to forge a new family amongst themselves, they also long to keep memories of their old identities alive. Will they be heard and believed? And what will happen to them if they aren’t? An piece of writing that will enchant and intrigue children; and no doubt encourage questions and build empathy.

Looking At The Stars is a stunning story that will stay with you for a long time after finishing the final page. What if the only thing you had left were the stories in your head? Amina’s homeland has been ravaged by war, and her family is devastated… The women of the family – Amina, her two sisters and their mother – have no choice but to leave their home town, along with thousands of others, and head for a refugee camp. But there are even more challenges ahead…  Set in a fictional war torn country, Looking At The Stars is heart-breaking, yet hopeful and very hard hitting. There are a number of upsetting scenes in this story which places it as very firmly Year 6 and above.

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Coventry Inspiration Book Awards: The Winners!

This week, I am delighted to announce the winners of this year’s Coventry Inspiration Book Awards. There have been some truly amazing books in every category and a huge range of writing styles and genres so that hopefully everyone had a book that inspired them to read.

The winning book in the What’s The Story category for Reception, Year 1 and 2 is…

The Diddle That Dummed by Kes Gray and Fred Blunt. Flinty Bo Diddle is writing a tune for his fiddle. All his diddles have lined up nicely – except for one who keeps going DUM, right in the middle! Which diddle went dum? The culprit steps forward saying: “ I’m not like the other diddles. Sometimes I like to go dum.” No matter what Flinty tries he just can’t get this diddle to diddle like it’s supposed to! A story about standing out from the crowd- we all know a Diddle that dums. A fabulously funny read aloud that is bound to get you laughing.

The winning book in the Telling Tales category for Year 3 and 4 is…

Harriet Versus The Galaxy by Samantha Bains, illustrated by Jessica Flores. The intergalactic adventure starts at home with Harriet, who discovers that her hearing-aid can do more than she ever bargained for when she finds an alien in her room. Discovering that her family secretly work for an intergalactic agency, Harriet becomes the Earth’s first line of defence as the only one who can understand the invaders. Sure, her hearing aid helps her understand aliens from across the universe, if only she could understand her own feelings. A hilarious and heartfelt debut from multi-award winning, hearing aid wearing, comedian, actor and author Samantha Baines.

The winning book in the Hooked On Books category for Year 5 and 6 is…

What’s That In Dog Years by Ben Davies, illustrated by Julia Christians. The last woof and testament of Gizmo the Wonder Dog! Gizmo has been my best friend since the day I was born – he’s always been around. But now they’re  telling me he might not always be around which completely sucks. I’m determined that me and Gizmo will have lots more fun and adventures before he goes – I mean, he loves parties, deserves pampering, and needs a break by the seaside. And as for that old saying about how you can’t teach an old dog new tricks – it’s true, you really can’t! Gizmo’s bucket list is up and running – unlike Gizmo who is totally lazy and demanding to be carried.

Before the book even gets started, it say, “A really funny story (but with a few sad bits too, so get your tissues ready!) They weren’t joking – I made it to page 3 before needing them! A brilliantly funny, poignant, heartbreaking book about life, best friends, growing up and moving on.

Ben has a way of taking serious subjects, adding his sharp humour and weaving them together to create stories that entertain, connect you with the characters and give you lots to think about. Tackling serious issues; death, family break-up, anxiety, bullying, poverty, and child careers, What’s That In Dog Years is a great read for empathy, and anyone in need of a jolly good cry (but you’ll laugh a lot too!). Julia Christians’ warm, humourous illustrations pepper the pages, helping to bring the characters and settings to life.

What an amazing set of winners this year. Huge congratulations to them all for inspiring us to read for pleasure! And a great big thank you to Coventry SLS for organising the awards.

And finally, as June is Pride Month, and this week saw Empathy Day on the 10th June, I’d like to share  Grandad’s Camper by Harry Woodgate. Grandad’s camper van is hidden away in the garage – now Gramps isn’t around any more, the adventures they shared travelling in it just wouldn’t be the same. As she listens to his wonderful stories, Grandad’s granddaughter has an idea to cheer him up…

Gorgeous illustrations adorn the pages of a story celebrating love, loss and a life lived to the full. Exploring a range of big emotions, including family love and the love we choose for ourselves, and the loss of a loved one and how we remember them, Grandad’s Camper is a brilliant book to open discussions to help children understand how others feel, and how they might be able to support them, putting empathy into action.

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Coventry Inspiration Book Awards: The Last Evictions

The fifth and final books are evicted from the competitions this week leaving the top three in each category.

What’s The Story?

Reception and Key Stage 1 say goodbye to Number 7 Evergreen Street by Julia Patton. Pea lives in a flat at Number 7 Evergreen Street. It’s a grey building in a grey street, in a grey city. Inside the building, however, it’s not grey at all. Pea and her parents have lots of amazing, colourful neighbours. One day, an army of construction workers turn up on the street and start putting up brand new buildings. When it looks like Number 7 Evergreen Street is going to be demolished, Pea has to think quickly to save her and her neighbours homes.

Your final three are:

Telling Tales

This week we lose Too Small Tola by Atinuke, illustrated by Onyinye Iwu. Three delightful stories about Too Small Tola, a young girl who, though small, is very determined. Tola lives in a flat in Lagos with her sister, Moji, who is very clever; her brother, Dapo, who is very fast; and Grandmummy, who is very bossy. Tola proves to be stronger than she seems when she goes to market with Grandmummy and manages to carry home a basket full of yams and vegetables, chilli peppers and fish. When the taps in the flat don’t work, it’s Tola who brings water from the well, and it’s Tola who saves the day when Mr Abdul, the tailor, needs his goods to be delivered quickly.

Your final three are:

Hooked On Books

This week, we leave the Wonderscape by Jennifer Bell. When Arthur, Ren and Cecily investigate a mysterious explosion on their way to school, they find themselves trapped aboard The Principia – a scientific research ship sailing through hazardous waters, captained by one Isaac Newton. Lost in the year 2473 in the Wonderscape, an epic in-reality adventure game, they must call on the help of some unlikely historical heroes, to play their way home before time runs out.

Your final three are:

Make sure you vote for your winner:  https://www.coventry.gov.uk/info/140/coventry_inspiration_book_awards

 

And finally, as the sun is out at last and it’s half term next week, I’m sharing The Lost Book Of Adventure from the notebooks of the Unknown Explorer. A facsimile edition of the tattered notebooks of the Unknown Adventurer, this love letter to the wild details everything you need to know about how to live and thrive in nature, from the principles of treehouse building to wilderness first aid.


If you are reading this, it means my notebooks have been found. I am leaving them here at camp for safekeeping along with a few other belongings that I won’t be taking with me. The notebooks are a lifetime’s worth of knowledge, which I’m passing on the you.

So reads an excerpt from the weatherworn letter discovered by nature enthusiast Teddy Keen on a recent trip to the Amazon, along with sketchbooks filled with details of extraordinary adventures and escapades, expedition advice and survival methods, annotated with captivating coloured-pencil drawings. It is thought that the sketchbooks were created for two young relatives of the author. Drawing on Teddy’s knowledge of the outdoors, the pages of the sketchbooks have been carefully transcribed for young readers, as they were originally intended.

You’ll be transported by riveting adventure tales from around the globe, like being dragged off by a hyena in Botswana, surviving a Saharan dust storm, being woken by an intrepid emperor penguin in Antarctica and coming face-to-face with a venomous bushmaster (one of the most dangerous snakes on the planet) – all told in lyrical prose and illustrations that wonder at the mysterious beauty of the wild.

Having inspired the adventurous spirit in you, the Unknown Adventurer encourages you to set out on your own adventure with information on wild camping, rafting, exploration, and shelters and dens, plus tips on first aid and tying knots. Expert instructions on wilderness basics, like building a fire, what to do if you get lost, and how to build various types of shelters are accompanied by more specific skills culled from many years of experience, like baking campfire bread, creating a toothbrush from a twig, making a suture from soldier ants and even how to pan for gold.

Find your way back to your primal self with the immersive text and glorious colour artwork of this one-of-a-kind adventure book.

REMEMBER: be good, be adventurous… and look after your parents.

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Coventry Inspiration Book Awards: the half way point!

Another week of evictions sees yet more amazing books leave the competition.

Reception and Key Stage One have lost the adorable Don’t Worry Little Crab by Chris Haughton, a fabulous book about facing your fears. In the rockpool above the sea live two crabs: Little Crab and Big Crab. One day they decide to venture into the sea and Little Crab is excited until he sees how big the sea is and how huge the waves are. Little Crab is scared but with help from Very Big Crab, they slowly edge closer and closer until they are eventually in the sea. But what will happen to them as a humongous wave is heading their way?

Year 3 and 4 say goodbye to The Worst Class In The World by Joanna Nadin, illustrated by Rikin Parekh. According to head teacher Mrs Bottomley-Blunt, 4B is the WORST CLASS IN THE WORLD. She says school is not about footling or fiddle-faddling or fun. It is about learning and it is high time 4B tried harder to excel at it. But Stanley and Manjit didn’t literally mean to make their whole class sick with homemade biscuits. And they definitely didn’t literally mean for Manjit’s dog Killer to eat their teacher’s shoes or for Bruce Bingley’s rat to escape. These things just happened even though they had a foolproof plan. You see, 4B may be the WORST CLASS IN THE WORLD. But you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Year 5 and 6 lose one of my favourite books of 2020; Struan Murphy’s Orphans Of The Tide, an amazing adventure set in a fantasy world where beliefs and superstition underpin law and justice. The City was built on a sharp mountain that jutted improbably from the sea, and the sea kept trying to claim it back. That grey morning, once the tide had retreated, a whale was found on a rooftop. When a mysterious boy washes in with the tide, the citizens believe he’s the Enemy – the god who drowned the world – come again to cause untold chaos. Only Ellie, a fearless young inventor living in a workshop crammed with curiosities, believes he’s innocent. But the Enemy can take possession of any human body and the ruthless Inquisition are determined to destroy it forever. To save the boy, Ellie must prove who he really is – even if that means revealing her own dangerous secret.  For anyone who loved this, Orphans Of The Tide: Shipwreck Island is out now.

Make sure you keep voting to ensure your favourite isn’t evicted next week at:  https://www.coventry.gov.uk/info/140/coventry_inspiration_book_awards

And finally, tomorrow is the Eurovision Song Contest, so this week I’m sharing Music: A Fold-Out Graphic History. Follow this unique 2.5m long fold-out timeline through a celebration of the history of music all around the world, while listening along to the accompanying Spotify playlist!

Learn about how different genres started including classical, folk, jazz, gospel, rock ‘n’ roll, country, punk, grunge and pop. Explore the histories of music linked to particular cultures or regions including Indigineous American, Asian, and African music; Son Cubano and Caribbean styles; and Australian bush music. Discover the stories of music maestros from around the world including Beethoven, Wei Liangfu, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, David Bowie, Maria Callas, Nina Simone, Louis Armstrong, and Beyoncé. Published in conjunction with the Royal Albert Hall, marvel at the orchestra with a huge illustration set inside the hall, and find out about the ancient instruments discovered all over the globe.

All this and more features in this richly illustrated timeline of music from 60,000 years ago to the present day that will delight children and families alike!

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Year 5 interview author, Dan Smith

Having loved The Invasion Of Crooked Oak, Year 5 were thrilled when we got an early copy of Dan’s latest book, The Beast Of Harwood Forest to read before having the chance to send our questions off to him. So imagine our utter delight, when on reading our questions, Dan offered to answer them live in our classroom! But first – the book!

What’s hiding in Harwood Forest …?

When Pete, Nancy and Krish arrive at Heathland Camp for a school trip, they’re in for an adventure – just not the kind they were expecting. Nearby sits the abandoned Harwood Institute. The crumbling buildings are out of bounds but strange screams come from the surrounding forest at night. Secrecy surrounds the events that took place at the institute during the war, so Pete and his friends make it their mission to find out the truth. But the forest is hiding a sinister secret, and the trio could be in real danger…

Are some mysteries best left undisturbed?

With links to the oldest written epic poem, Beowulf, and to the mysterious world of biological engineering, The Beast Of Harwood Forest is an utterly  gripping, thriller of a book packed with suspense and delivering a growing sense of dread as we head deeper into the forest. Sci-fi horror for children at its finest, that delivers just enough scares to get hearts racing without causing nightmares!

Each of our main characters have a strong personality and together they make a great team. Chris King’s illustrations really bring the characters, settings and The Beast to life!

There are real ethical debates within this story that will help to grow empathy too.

Here’s what Year 5 thought:

  • I thought it was really interesting and I just kept wanting to read more.
  • It was really exciting and I loved listening to it.
  • It was absolutely fantastic – I loved everything about it!
  • I can’t wait for the next book in the series!
  • It was packed full of adventure and suspense and was a bit scary too. 
  • It’s inspired me to find out more about the kind of experiments he talks about in the book!

And now, to the interview!

1. Miss Cleveland has a lot of amazing books on her bookcase (including all of the ones you have written for children). Why should we pick yours?

One of the most important things about reading for pleasure is that you have a big selection of books to choose from, so it’s great to hear that Miss Cleveland has so many on her shelves. I also think it’s important to choose the books YOU want to read, so I would never say that you have to pick mine. But, if you’re looking for some sci-fi action, a story about Viking revenge, some World War II adventure, or a creepy mystery … then I’m your guy!

2. Which of your characters are you most like?

I’m not a lot like any of my characters, but I’m a little bit like all of them. Does that make sense? I think all of my characters have a little bit of me in them, but I’m not brave enough to be Pete, or clever enough to be Krish, or inventive enough to be Nancy.

3. How do you come up with your sci-fi villains?

I usually use a mixture of things that are real and things that are made-up. To me, that makes them feel more believable. For instance, the cause of the trouble in The Invasion of Crooked Oak is inspired by a very real fungus that infects insects, and The Beast of Harwood Forest is inspired by the real belief that there is something strange living in Harwood Forest – not far from where I live. I then add my own twist by taking inspiration from books and films and video games.

4. Have you ever come face to face with a beast in real life?

Well, if I had, I’d probably have to keep it secret …

5. How is writing a series different from writing a stand alone book?

The Crooked Oak stories are a series without being a series because they don’t have to be read in any particular order. That means I don’t have to worry too much about continuity, but if you read all the books you get a much better picture of who the characters are. And that’s one of the biggest differences between writing a series and writing a stand-alone book – the characters. I’ve had so much pleasure writing about Pete, Nancy, and Krish for a second time, and it’s been fun throwing them into different creepy situations. We might even see them again sometime soon …

6. You have written books for adults and children. Which do you prefer?

I like writing both, but writing for young readers often feels more fun. It also feels more special because young readers express so much wonder and excitement for stories – something that often inspires me.

7. What would you do if you weren’t an author?

What I’d really like to be is Han Solo. He is, after all, the coolest smuggler in the galaxy. Failing that, I’d like to be Bear Grylls -but I’m not brave enough- or a rock star -but I have no musical talent. Maybe I should stick to being an author.

8. If you had to be in one of your stories which one would you be in?

That’s a tricky one. All of my stories are so dangerous. Below Zero would be far too cold. I’d probably be the first to get infected in Crooked Oak, or fall victim to The Beast of Harwood Forest. Maybe I’d be better off in Boy X, trying to survive on the jungle island of Isla Negra … at least it would be sunny!

9. Did you have a favourite book as a child?

I loved Tintin books when I was younger (and still do), but I think my favourite book was ‘The Runaways’ by Victor Canning. Don’t worry, no one else seems to have heard of it either. It was the first book in a trilogy about a boy called Smiler.

10. And finally, which characters from science fiction would you like to go on a socially distanced picnic with? Is there anyone you would definitely not want to be there?

I reckon the kids from Stranger Things would be fun at a picnic. Or the gang from Guardians of The Galaxy. I definitely wouldn’t invite Darth Vader because he’d just spend the whole time being grumpy. And the alien from Alien can stay at home, too.

Huge thanks to Year 5 for coming up with such amazing questions, Barrington Stoke for arranging for Dan to join us in our classroom, and to Dan for such an fun and engaging afternoon.

With comments like, “It’s just amazing being able to chat with an actual author,” “I’ll remember this afternoon forever,”  “He was very funny and gave us great answers,” and “It’s made me want to be an author too!” it was a truly inspirational afternoon!

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