Friday, 26 April 2019

Story Sack – ‘The Day the Crayons Quit’ by Drew Dewalt & Oliver Jeffers and ‘The Crayon Man’ by Natascha Biebow & Steve Salerno

For a long time I’ve wanted to make a story based on Drew Dewalt ‘s and Oliver Jerrers’s ‘The Day the Crayons Quit,’ but as is often the way I could not find an age appropriate related non-fiction book to compliment the story. It was therefore joy to me, when I heard that SCWBI-BI Regional Director, (who I’ve had the pleasure of working with in my time volunteering for SCBWI) Natascha Biebow had written a picture book about the man who invented crayons, as it is the illusive missing piece of the story stack.

So before we start our post, here is a quick note on what a story sack is, and what it includes…

Story Sack Checklist

  • A good quality fiction book. (picture book or novel)
  • A non-fiction book related to the story and themes in the chosen picture book.
  • Toys, (ideally a soft toy for younger children).
  • A game or activity also related to the theme of the chosen fiction book.
  • Optional worksheet based on the story and themes off the story sack.

Fiction Book - ‘The Day the Crayons Quit’ by Drew Dewalt & Oliver Jeffers

The Day the Crayons Quit is a celebration of colour and creativity. It’s a humorous read, as the Crayons all write letters to their owner Duncan complaining about how he uses them; pointing out the notions of preconceptions of how things are; pink for girls, blue for water, and so on. It is done in charming way which is reminiscent of the Little Prince’s drawings in the classic Antonie de Saint-Exupery book. Duncan responds by unleashing his creativity to use his colours in a more liberated way, pleasing everyone, including his teacher. The Day the Crayons Quit is an original, unique and funny read with vibrant illustrations which work perfectly with the text.

Non-Fiction Book ‘The Crayon Man’ by Natascha Biebow & Steve Salerno

‘The Crayon Man’, is much akin to ‘The Day the Crayons Quit’ as it is also a celebration of creativity and colour, telling the remarkable true story, of Edwin Binney who invented the Crayola waxed crayons. The book is beautiful, as it explores Edwin’s journey with fun flowing narrative interjected with boxes of facts and beautiful illustrations by Steve Salerno. In addition it has a biography of Edwin Binney and a section explaining the way Crayola Crayons are made today, which makes it a perfect companion book for the story sack – Thanks Natascha and Steve! 


This is maybe the easiest story sack I’ve ever done as far as soft toys are concerned, as there is a wide range of ‘The Day the Crayons Quit’ merchandise available online, I opted for the Crayon box full of Crayon finger puppets, which was relatively inexpensive at £6.99 including postage. Plus I’ve included a man finger puppet which can be used as Edwin too. 


There are ready made games available online, like a fabric crayon matching set from Esty, or a Crayola branded card game (if you can find one cheap enough), but to keep cost down, I chose to make my own. So, I used four small draw string bags that I already had and filled them with four packs of chunky crayons (89p each) , which can be used in multiple ways…

Crayon Colour Snap

Up to four players

Equipment: Four bags full of identical set of crayons.


1. On the count of three, all players pull a random crayon from their bag.

2. If any colours match, the first person to shut Snap wins them all, and places them in front of them. Any un-matching coloured crayons go back in the bag they came from.

3. When the bags are empty, the player with the most crayons in front of them wins. In the event of a tie, those players play again, until there is an outright winner. 

Crayon Colour Quick Fire Draw

Up to four players


· Four bags full of identical set of crayons. Colour Dice. Paper. Doodle cards, (or story cube)


1. All players have a bag with identical crayons inside (that correspond to the colours on the dice).

2. Turn over a doodle card to see what you need to draw, or if using a story cube, throw the cube.

3. Throw colour dice - to get a colour.

4. Find the colour in your bag, and draw the picture with that colour. First player to shout done, and having drawn the picture correctly in the right colour wins. If using a doodle cards, the player gets the card, and the overall winner is the one with the most cards at the end, if using a story cube, keep tally.

Worksheet or Activity

For a activity, I’ve included a pack of Crayola crayons, for drawing and colouring, a pack of crayon stickers and a ‘the Day the Crayons Quit’ inspired activity Sheet. 

Thank you for visiting!

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Review & GIVEAWAY - To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo - BY Teen Reviewer

Lira is Royal, but unlike the any other Royal family, she is a siren. A killer, who will take a human heart for every birthday, and this year it will be her 18th. Her mother, the unforgiving Sea Queen, who cares little for her daughter as she does for anyone else, is sure Lira will not be worthy of Queen. So much, that when Lira disobeys the oldest rules, she curses Lira into becoming human, and without delivering the sirens most hated enemy; the siren killer’s, heart, she will stay human for eternity…

But Elian won’t give up, Prince of Midas, Captain of The Saad, and Leader of Siren killers. His mission is to defeat all sirens and in doing so kill the infamous Prince’s Bane, but when Elian rescues a defenceless woman floating in the water on his journey, he has to try and build trust if he wants her help…

This amazing book is full of twists and turns, as well as a brilliant plot. I love the way Christo has written this. The characters are so real, and intriguing that you find yourself rooting for even the most despicable characters. The incredible journey takes you on a whirlwind of adventures, I couldn’t put it down! I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a bit of fantasy, or twisted fairy tale or even pirates! It was one of the best books I have read, and I didn’t want it to stop!

Review by Bea aged 14

We are giving away a signed copy of To Kill a Kingdom, just retweet our pinned tweet on Twitter @BookshelfSpace& follow before 1st December 2018. Winner announcer 2nd December. UK only. Good Luck!

Friday, 12 October 2018

October reading round up

Murder at Twilight by Fleur Hitchcock

Viv, grumpy teenaged daughter of the live-in childminder of posh-boy, Noah, hates her mum being at the beck and call of the Belcombe family.

A row that ends with her satisfyingly punching posh Noah on the nose has serious consequences when accusations and suspicions fly when he is kidnapped.

Viv is used to wandering the vast acres owned by the Belcombes, after all, they own practically everything around here. But when she accidentally finds herself embroiled in the kidnap plot, the realises she is in far more danger than the fragile, but valuable Noah.

It all leads to a series of thrilling chases as the pair have to flee and try to get to safety. But the landscape is flooded and almost unrecognisable, even to Viv. Is it going to be too easy for the baddies to be one step ahead of them? They are going to have to come up with a better plan, but resourceful Viv proves herself more than a match for any kidnappers.

There are really nail-biting descriptions of race-against-time daring escapes and chases (that don’t always go so well) to keep you frantically turning the pages. Another unputdownable thriller by Fleur Hitchcock.

Dragon Daughter by Liz Flanagan

When Milla witnesses a murder, the last thing she expects to discover is that the victim has hidden something extraordinary – four incredibly rare dragon eggs.

Milla feels instantly protective of the eggs. She has heard stories of course, that once there were dragons here on the island of Arcosi. But as she is only a servant and a lower-class citizen, she knows the risks if she keps the eggs. She has to be very careful as the consequences will be severe if she is discovered keeping things from the Duke.

Milla has no idea how her life will turn upside-down when she starts to learn what the return of the dragons truly means to her island home. At first it only seems to bring trouble. Chaos erupts, sending the divisions between the islanders even deeper.

But Milla knows she must protect the dragons at all costs. And she must learn their secrets if she is to find a way to heal all the warring parties and prevent a civil war.

Anyone who speaks up against unfairness is dealt with brutally and there are powerful descriptions of a whole country moving towards the brink of war.

This is a compelling tale of a society organised by caste and favouritism. But all that looks like it might be turned on its head by the return of the dragons and the forging of a whole new set of friendships and allies with more in common and more to lose than they realise.

This is an epic story with much to say of warring nations and how greed and corruption lead to bitterness and battles, but how finding common bonds reaches across the barriers of origin and caste. 

My favourite scenes were those beautifully evoked moments between the riders and their dragons, which is the glorious heart of the novel.

A beautiful and thought-provoking read in equal measure. And also with one of my favourite jackets of the year by Angelo Rinaldi.

Warrior Boy by Virginia Clay

Ben doesn’t feel he fits in at his London school, even though it’s the only life he has known. But he worries even more that he won’t fit in when he travels to Kenya with his mother. His father was Kenyan and Ben is worried to meet family he has never met before. 

He knows they will be very different and how can he possibly relate to people who wear strange clothes, have such unusual customs and live in huts made of cow dung?

Even more than that, one of Ben’s biggest fears is how he will cope when he has a phobia about blood and he learns his father was a brave warrior?

This is a thoroughly enjoyable fish out of water story where the sights and smells of the Maasai come really to life and plunges the reader, along with outsider Ben, into a culture that he gradually learns to love. The life and landscape seeps through the book in such a delightful way that I challenge any reader not to fall under its spell.

With an exciting plot about catching poachers, some great interplays with his new-found cousin and grandfather, Ben’s journey becomes one to see if he can dig deep and discover any warrior roots hidden in this nervous, urban boy.

This is such a great read about the things we have in common, no matter where we grow up. About finding bonds in family and learning that differences can be a cause for celebration. But it is also an enthralling and uplifting tale about how facing your fears can bring you closer to others.

Peril in Paris by Katherine Woodfine

Thirteen-year-old Arnovian princess, Anna, is full of envy of her younger brother, Alex, who will get to go to boarding school and be King one day. Being a princess is a lot less fun. All she seems to do all day is learn the history of her country and how to walk and talk nicely. But maybe life is about to get exciting . . . Anna is getting suspicious that her new governess might be a spy.

Meanwhile, in another part of Europe a young woman is investigating the death of a secret agent. Was it really just a burglary that went wrong? With the shadow of the First World War starting to fall across Europe, it is important to get to the truth and spying is a new and dangerous mission as secrets trade for high value.

The twin narratives of this intriguing story set in the early twentieth century is full of glamour and parties, but there are also exciting developments happening in science and aviation. Paris is the scene of the first air race and it forms a great backdrop to the climax of this exciting spy thriller. 

The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius 

Ship’s engineer, Sally Jones, is an absolute genius at anything mechanical. She is also a gorilla, a fact that characters throughout the story react to in different ways! But her abilities and character help her make friends and win allies at every turn. 

Gentle Sally Jones is content to follow Captain Koskela anywhere. She works diligently and news of her talent is widespread. Then they go on a dangerous voyage together that goes terribly wrong. The captain is arrested for murder. Only Sally Jones believes in his innocence and there begins her epic tale to find the evidence that will free him.

This is a great historical adventure that will take Sally Jones to the other side of the world in a thrilling quest involving everything from planes to palaces, as she leaves no stone unturned, but patiently finds the evidence that will free her friend.

This is an unusual book for many reasons. It's a children’s book with no child characters. That the main character is an ape in itself makes this such an astonishing book. But the main character also never says a word throughout the story, yet it is all told from her point of view as she writes her memoirs. 

Sally Jones is both a believable engineering superstar, and someone who is only ever herself. She has a childlike quality of trust and goodness, almost the epitome of humanity, without her being human at all. 

It’s a legendary piece of writing, an enjoyable adventure as Sally Jones never sways from her unswervable belief that she can free her captain, no matter how long it takes. The amazing Sally Jones will remain in your heart.

The Light Jar by Lisa Thompson

Nate can’t quite understand why Mum has brought him to this freezing cold cottage  in the middle of nowhere in the snow. It’s all a bit musty, but he knows she has rowed with Gran and at least they have got away from the hateful Gary.

But when Mum goes out for food and then doesn’t return. Nate is really pleased that his old invisible friend, Sam, turns up again to help. And then there’s Kitty from the big house, obsessed with mazes and dolls houses, pestering him to help her solve a treasure hunt – as if he is worried about finding treasure when Mum might have gone back to Gary, and the only food around is what was left in the empty house.

The Light Jar is a gripping story about facing up to our fears, but it is also a tale of the sometimes strange things we find ourselves doing in order to get through and survive. A brilliant tale of friendship and standing on our own two feet.

Nicki Thornton

Friday, 5 October 2018

October Picture Book Round UP – 100 Dogs – Not Yet a Yeti – The King That Banned the Dark

100 Dogs by Michael Whaite

100 Dogs is fun rhyming book, with vibrant humorous pictures, which is an easy read-aloud book to share. With pages bursting full of dog of every shape, size bread and personality type, it groups them together by way of rhyme that slips of the tongue and poses the question, which dog is like yours? Funny and full of dog traits that all dog owners will find funny, it also poses as a great books for learning your phonics, with so many rhymes. But primarily it is just a funny book great to share at bed time.

Not Yet A Yeti by Lou Treleaven and Tony Neal

George is the youngest of a family of yeti’s and he anxious as to why he is not a yeti yet. So he asks his family members why he’s not yet a yeti,, and they ask him if he can do essential yeti tasks, like leaving big footprints in the snow to scare people, or being capable of luring hikes to their doom. None of these staple yeti activities really appeal to George, and it’s only when his Mum ask him if he really wants to be yeti, that George realises his vocation if very different. George soon realises he can be what he dreams, and with the acceptance of those he loves, he finds his own role within the family, and finally becomes the happies and truest form of himself. Not Yet A Yeti, is fun and colourful tale of self-acceptance and family love.

The King who Banned the Dark by Emily Haworth-Booth

What would happen if a king was scared of the dark? He’d ban it of course! And so begins Emily Haworth-Booth’s lovely yearn, accompanied by muted and exquisite illustrations. Of course the King’s advisors are aware that banning the dark could cause the kingdoms people to revolt, so they cunning spread rumours about the dark so’s to fuel the people desire to ban it. When the people are ready, a huge artificial sun is hung above the palace, and the whole kingdom rejoices, until they become weary and sleep deprived. And so, the people decide action is needed, and their treachery payback as they save the Kings celebrations, and in doing so teaches him a valuable lesson. The King Who Banned the Dark is modern fairy-tale, akin to The Emperor’s New Clothes, told with sophistication and paired with extraordinary beautiful illustrations in monotones, juxtaposed with vibrant yellow.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Celebrations & Thanks as Last Chance Hotel - is picked as Waterstones Book of the Month - Nicki Thornton

We have been amazingly proud of Nicki Thornton, who writes for this blog, who had her first middle-grade novel, The Last Chance Hotel published this summer.

Her murder mystery set in a magical world has enjoyed the support of many independent bookshops with a special limited edition of the first print run and was supported by many Waterstones booksellers, who placed it in their summer promotions.

We would like to celebrate today that The Last Chance Hotel has been chosen as Waterstones’ Book of the Month for the deliciously spooky month of October by offering a giveaway of two goodie packs of a signed copy and signed bookmarks.

To win just let Tweet us @BookshelfSpace with tag #TLCHGIVEAWAY and let us know what enchanted sidekick you’d choose if you were investigating a magical murder! The competition closes on Halloween 31st of October at 10am GMT.

Thanks to everyone at Waterstones – and indeed to booksellers everywhere - for such brilliant support of The Last Chance Hotel.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Snail Story Sack - Featuring ‘Are you A Snail?’ by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries – Budget Story Sack

Recently my sister who is a Key Stage 1 teacher acquired some Giant African Land Snails as class pets, and as I was instrumental in her decision to have the snails in class, I put together a Snail Story Sack, as an educational resource.

we on SOTB do an array of Story Sack features, and from time to time we do a budget sack to show that they don’t have to be expensive to assemble. This Snail inspired Story Sack is indeed a budget sack, and came in at under £14.00. So before we start here is a reminder at what is included in a Story Sack…

  • A good quality fiction book, (picture book or novel).
  • A non-fiction book related to the story and themes in the chosen picture book. 
  • Toys, (ideally a soft toy for younger children). 
  • A game or activity also related to the theme of the chosen fiction book. 
  • Optional worksheet based on the story and themes off the story sack. 


So firstly I kept my eyes peeled whilst out and about, and in a charity shop I picked up a good condition hardback copy of ‘Are you a Snail?’ by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries for 50p. This is a beautifully illustrated picture book which is full of facts about snails posed in questions and answers, all accompanied by charming illustrations.

Now, there are oodles of other snail books that you could use as the non-fiction element of the story sack, like ‘Snail and the Whale’ By Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, ‘Watch out Snail’ Gay Hay and Margret Tolland, ‘Snail Trail’ by Ruth Brown or ‘Norman, The Snail with the Silly Shell?’ by Sue Henra to name just a few alternatives. 

For the non-fiction element I chose to get a second hand copy of ‘Snail’ by Karen Hartley and Chris Macro, because it is a full colour picture book, which is fact based but the right level for Key Stage One students. This I got from a second hand book dealer on line for £3.50. In addition I have included a copy of the RSPB’s ‘My First Book of Garden Bugs’ which I also found in a charity shop for 50p, so children can use it to help discover snails in the garden. 

Soft Toys, 
Games & Activities…

Now soft toys are tricky, as snails are not the most snuggly of animal. However I did find a plush snail finger puppet by The Puppet Company for £3.50 which is charming and fun.

For games I managed to pick up a snail puzzle for £1.00 in a budget shop and ‘Little Bug Bingo’ by Orchard Toys for £4.50 from a well-known supermarket. I have paired these with a magnifying glass and plastic bug viewer which I picked up for 25p each from a charity shop. To further ignite interest and curiosity, I found some empty snail shells in the garden, disinfected them and have included them for the children to observe with the use of the aforementioned magnifying glass. 

This story stack should be a fun way to help the children further their understanding about snails, plus also provide a good display to go alongside the class pets. It came in at a modest cost of £14.00. Of course if you have a smaller budget with good buying, you could go for a smaller sack with fewer games, or if you are lucky enough to have a larger budget you could go for the Hansa Plush Snail and possibly the Snail Pace Race Game! Either way there is lots of stuff out there to compile great snail Story Sacks whatever your budget.

Thank you for stopping by, please come back soon!

Sunday, 9 September 2018

August reads - Candy Gourlay, Catherine Gilbert Murdoch, Will Mabbit, Valija Zinck

Bone Talk – Candy Gourlay

Candy Gourlay delves into her own Filippino heritage to bring us Samkad’s thrilling story of life among hilltribes and takes you on a journey to the other side of the world and back over a hundred years.

It’s her supreme storytelling skills that not only bring this rich tale of a primitive existence so vibrantly to life, but make Samkad’s story seem so immediate and relevant.

Samkad’s life is dominated by the landscape, ruled by superstition, strict lore and community. 

To Samkad nothing about his life seems extraordinary, even though violence is commonplace, with tough consequences for anyone not conforming or challenging the ancient ways. A journey to the next village is considered too dangerous to even consider.

But then the local tribe are head-hunters. 

His worries are about rituals and displeasing the ancestors. His dreams are about his status, particularly with the other young men. 

It feels an impeccably researched story of the daily tribulations of a tribal life. Which makes it more shocking when his way of life is so brutally interrupted by the inexorable march of western exploration, with the arrival of Americans.

How utterly alien tribal ways, with their sometimes cruel rituals, must have seemed to those foreigners when they first arrived in the Philippines. The same story could be told of so many colonial explorers who landed on foreign shores feeling dominant, confident in their superior civilised way of life and ready to impose their views.

One of Bone Talk’s strengths is that it doesn’t take a romanticised view of a complex, enduring way of life – nor of the strangers who first encountered it.

Following individual desires rather than the strict rules and displeasing the elders can be met with a brutal response. Women must know their place. There are no equal chances for success and happiness. But it's a sustainable existence that has changed little, but endured.

It’s a strong twist that the first American Samkad meets plays an important part in the story, befriending the tribespeople and bringing some modern benefits, such as medicine. 
It all heralds the winds that bring inevitable change.

It’s the superlative storytelling that crosses both time and geography to connect with Samkad’s story. But it’s the plea for tolerance and understanding, rather than fear of what we don’t know and understand, which make this such a brilliant story for our times.

I can’t wait to see it on the Carnegie short-list as it so deserves to be, it would make a perfect book for shadowing.

The Book of Boy - Catherine Gilbert Murdoch

Known only as Boy, this is the story of a kindly young goatherd, who is taken on as a servant by a strange pilgrim on a long journey to track down the scattered bones of a saint.

This is the fourteenth century where anything connected to a saint is prized and has enormous value. The income of whole towns can depend on the visitors who come to pray to the saint for anything from answering wishes to cures. Rivalries for more authentic relics are rife. But it’s all down to belief, with plenty of openings for fraudsters.

The reader is plunged into the sight, smells and politics of the medieval world. Boy has been regularly taunted and called a monster in the manor where he was brought up because he has a humped back. But his disability doesn’t impair his agility at all. He a terrific climber – and he has another brilliant skill used with great comic effect throughout the story – he is able to talk to animals.

This means that although the book is mostly about religion, it’s a fun and playful read, at times a rollicking adventure, full of doubt and danger as Boy realises lengths his new master will go to and his mission gets more desperate. The lines between good and evil blur and with an extraordinary blend of history, religion and fantasy, this really is a book like no other. 

The Embassy of the Dead – Will Mabbit

When Jake accidentally accepts a gift from a ghost his troubles quickly spiral to very dangerous levels, in this quirky comedy story of the spooky underworld. 

Jake can see ghosts, which is how he got into trouble in the first place, but now only ghosts can save him. He has broken the complicated bureaucratic rules of the Embassy of the Dead and there is no way to call off the grim reaper who is coming after Jake.

With the help of an odd assortment of the long-dead (including a cute dead pet!) Jake learns quickly about the people who work for the Embassy to solve all sorts of the ghostly problems and mysteries of those departed, but who have not successfully passed to the other side.

But most importantly he must work out the mystery of why the creepy relic that has fallen into his possession is so important . . .and see if he can outwit the several baddies on his tale and save himself a horrible fate – all while pretending to his parents that he is spending a few days on a geography field trip.

Such a fast-paced, fun story. The ghostly set-up is really imaginative and the mysteries of why ghosts might end up haunting is really well realised (and promises sequels!). This is a page-turning adventure story with a great twist; good ghostly characters and worldbuilding and plenty of shocks and laughs in equal measure along the way. A thoroughly entertaining read.
Really hope to see more of Jake and his ghostly goings-on.

A Tangle of Magic - Valija Zinck

Penelope has always felt herself to be strange and different, and not just the fact that she is ten-years-old and has grey hair.

But when her hair suddenly turns red, Penelope knows it is not the only thing in life that has changed. She feels a totally different person, suddenly full of not just energy. Penelope realises she has powers.
But she has no-one around to teach her about magic. 

Valija Zinck’s ‘A Tangle of Magic’ is such an enjoyable story about someone who discovers they are magic but has to learn all by themselves, with plenty of room for fun and adventure as Penelope experiments and tries to work out what she can and can’t do – and how it is all connected to her hair.
What are her powers? How do they work? Has she has inherited powers from her missing father? And are there other magical people in the world?

Penelope is such a great character, adventurous and curious, kindly, popular and independent in spirit. She lives on the edge of the swamp forest with her lovely family, her doting mother, a grandmother who can’t cook and a loyal cat called Coco.

There are many ways this book is both unexpected and zany – like the fact that the only magic Penelope seems to be able to do is to talk to the road! 

Her mother is bitter about Penelope’s father abandoning them suddenly and why he sends them weird post every month. But this gives Penelope the glimmer of an idea and she starts to hatch a complicated plan to deceive her mother and see if she can find out more about her father.
It’s both a warm and intriguing story where the menace builds quite unexpectedly.

One of the great things is the hints about a much wider magical world that Penelope knows nothing about. Her grandmother is definitely hiding secrets and knows more than she is letting on! 
And there are hints about magical people being very menacing and a sinister organisation that trains them, which hopefully means there are many more stories about Penelope to come.

Nicki Thornton  @nicki_thornton