Monday, 30 September 2013

3D REVIEW - Brock - Anthony McGowan Interview

This month with have super 3D Review of the Barrington Stoke published, Anthony McGowan penned novel, Brock.

Barrington Stoke publishes books written for and designed to be accessible to challenged readers; printed on special thicker cream coloured paper with dyslexia friendly font. The books are written by top authors and are read by dyslexic children and people learning English as a foreign language.

Anthony McGowan is a multi award winning author with Catalyst award and Booktrust Teenage prize in his pocket, and a film adaptation of his book The Knife That Killed Me, in production.

So we start the 3D review of Brock, with an interview Anthony. We've also got an interview with his editor and MD OF Barrington Stoke, Mairi Kidd, a review form me and a teen reviewer plus our spotlight on writing. All this and a book giveaway as well!

Anthony's Interview...

What was your favourite children’s book as a child?
The Lord of the Rings – a teacher gave it to me when I was 9 – too young for it, really… I learned how to read novels by working my way through it. It took two years!

What do you think makes children’s books so inspirational?

It's all about the characters. Create compelling and sympathetic characters and everything else falls into place.

Why did you start writing for children?

When I first became a writer I never thought of myself as writing for children. My first book, Hellbent, was originally intended for adults, But when it was finished I realised it was really a teen book. Later on I had children and began to write for them …

What was the inspiration behind Brock?

The setting for Brock – a small town in Yorkshire – is closely based on the place where I was brought up – Sherburn in Elmet. The plot was strongly influenced by A Kestrel for Knave by Barry Hines – a truly great book.

What is your favourite aspect of writing for children?

When a child or teenager loves a book, they love it with an incredible intensity and purity. It's wonderful being part of that.

How did you get the opportunity to write for Barrington Stoke?

I met someone from the company at a book awards several years ago. We got talking and I was totally won over by what they do, and I really wanted to write something for them. And I think at the time they wanted someone to write grittily realistic stories for older teens, and that turned out to be me.

Are there any challenges / rewards when writing a book of Barrington Stoke?

The reward is getting reluctant readers to pick up a book. At an book prize ceremony in Coventry last year they showed a film of a teenager talking about my book, The Fall. He had never before thought that reading was for him, but he'd loved it. I got quite emotional hearing him speak. In terms of challenges, I don't approach a Barrington Stoke book differently to the way I approach any other writing project. I simply write the best book I can. It then goes through some fairly rigorous editing, which irons out any problems that might make the book difficult for a dyslexic or reluctant reader to to understand.

Questions from Cameron our teenage reviewer . . .

How long did it take you write Brock?

It only took me a couple of weeks to actually write the book, but I'd been thinking it over for about a year, getting the plot and characters sorted out in my head.

When you were writing Brock did you use a dictating program like Dragon?

I've tried Dragon, but I just didn't get on with it. When I write, it's almost as if my fingers are doing the thinking, and changing to a dictation programme broke that physical bond that I seemed to need.

Are you dyslexic?

No, but I'm a terrible, terrible speller …

What is your advice for someone with dyslexia about how to get things (thoughts) onto paper?

It's just a matter of practice. Keep doing it, keep writing, keep thinking and dreaming. There are plenty of wonderful dyslexic authors – like Sally Gardner - so, although there are clearly obstacles, you can overcome them. 

We have a copy of BROCK to giveaway!
Just e-mail  with your name address and Brock in the subject line to

Good Luck!

Friday, 13 September 2013

Patrick Ness and Meg Rosoff reviews - facing up to reality

Is it better to live a life sheltered by the sometime awfulness of reality – or better to face the truth? Is the worst nightmare the one that’s real, or the imaginary one you create for yourself?

Expect some big questions and prepare yourself for a bumpy ride as two of our biggest stars in the young adult field go head to head with new books out this autumn.

Patrick Ness’s ‘More than This’ takes place in a dark world and opens with a death. But does Seth die? He finds himself living back in his childhood home – a place his family left because of a terrible incident.

But is he a ghost? If so, he’s not your conventional type. Or is it a hell he’s created for himself because of past guilt, because he appears to have returned to the past, but it’s a different past – and he is the only person in it.

Much of the early part of the book follows Seth trying to pull together the pieces as he forages in abandoned supermarkets for the tins that haven’t rusted or exploded.

Seth remembers and dreams what happened after a move to America to leave the past behind and the events that led up to his death.

Patrick Ness expertly weaves three storylines – why Seth moved to American why Seth died and where he is now and why is no-one else around.

You need someone of Patrick Ness’ abilities to make this compelling when it could so easily be confusing and the reader has to work hard to tie all the threads together. But it’s worth the challenge. Patrick Ness is a beautifully emotional writer as well as building tension even before you get to the action scenes and then wrong-footing you just when you think you're getting comfortable.

But the real strength in the book is the questions he wants us to ask ourselves. If it’s so easy to recreate a version of yourself online, to inhabit an internet world that seems welcoming and controllable – are we in danger of not confronting the real-life challenges that the world out there faces? Is it becoming just too easy to ignore the fact that the planet is looming towards environmental and economic disaster and choose to disengage ourselves?

And ultimately – if we had the choice would we choose messy, complicated, painful real life over computer controlled happiness?

Patrick Ness is surely one the ‘must read’ authors of the moment. My favourite children’s book of last year was ‘A Monster Calls’ and his intriguing ‘The Crane Wife’, written for adults, is a romance between a humble man and the woman who arrives in his life and turns it around. 

Patrick Ness's humble romantic hero never feels he deserves the beautiful, exotic woman who seems to love him, so he suspects instead she cannot what she seems. Patrick Ness takes the traditional myth stories where beings can be gods or from other worlds sent to live among us and is a lesson in trust and how prying too deeply into people’s backgrounds can be damaging in an updated love story. A beautiful read and two books definitely worth seeking out by any of his readers who want a change of pace from Patrick Ness's teen reads. 

Meg Rosoff also turns to creating a mystery story as her latest book. ‘Picture me Gone’ is published just as we are preparing to welcome the film version of her first novel ‘The Way I Live Now’.

'Picture Me Gone’ is similarly about a trip to America, but this time it’s a holiday for twelve-year-old Mila and her dad, Gil, who live a comfortable existence, looking forward to an exciting holiday.

Mila is so good at picking up peoples’ signals, better than the adults around her who sometimes seem to be out of tune, not as clued-in to seeing what is really going on.

Mila likens herself to Agatha Christie’s Poirot, so that sometimes she appears almost psychic. She laughs a little how her mum and dad aren’t half so good at seeing how obvious life is.

Mila think’s she’s going to be useful as she sees herself as the grown-up of the two – practical about packing and planning, organising life.  At twelve Mira definitely feels she’s a grown-up.

The road trip around snowy America is a delight for the senses in the company of such an observant narrator, seeing the motels and the grocery stores up close.

But the old friend of her father’s they are visiting has disappeared – just after the birth of his second son.

Where has he gone? And, more importantly, why?

As Mila and Gil travel she realises he has a hidden agenda for the trip and over the course of their holiday she will have returned to her father’s years as a young man and learned how some adults, even ones that start out with promise, are able to spectacularly mess up their lives.

It’s not a pretty expedition – like Patrick Ness’s journey it goes to some dark places about quite ordinary people can get their lives spectacularly wrong and how hiding from bad choices rather than facing up to them can take you to where there is nowhere back from.

It’s also a journey into the adult world and a discussion about how much more there is to the world than adolescent readers might like to think. How much easier to assume that, at twelve, you already have all the answers, see everything in black and white when most people's lives quickly descend into a grey, fuzzy mess with no clear-cut edges.

The best thing about stories is the ability to inhabit someone else’s head for a while, get a new perspective on the world. They both do that brilliantly for their adolescent market - both thought provoking reads that challenge their readers to want to see life for how it really is and to embrace the world for that.

Two perfect novels for people who want their teen novels to be quietly intense.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Bookaholics Story Sack DIY Guide & Giveaway!

It’s September and so it’s back to school for all the children, teachers, teaching assistances and back to routine for parents, grandparents and other child careers. So here at Space on the Bookshelf we thought we’d celebrate by breaking our routine and instead of doing a 3D review this month that we’d treat you to a going back to school special feature on story sacks! So we’re going to look at what story sack are, give you a DIY guide to making them and if that's not enough we’re giving away a story sack we've made just for you!

What’s a story sack? 

Story sacks are another way of getting children excited about reading. A story sack is a bag and inside there is a good quality fiction book (usually a picture book) and a non-fiction book which is related. There are also soft toys a game and sometimes an activity sheet. All the contents of the sack relates to the story in the fiction book, and are designed to explore the story in other ways, and to ignite the childs imagination.

Tips to make best use out of your story sacks...

Teaching assistance and story sack creator Janice Markey (whose been making story sacks for ten years) shares some tips for making story sacks and how to use them best to excite children about reading.

  • Don’t forget the toys -There MUST be a soft toy and a game in the sack!
  • Fewer are better - We keep four to five story sacks in the class room at any one time allowing the children to borrow them on a rota system. A child can take them home for a week and read them together with their families. The rota system means they look forward to their turn the children often ask when their turn is to take home a story sack
  • Keep them Fresh- I’m always keeping them fresh and making news ones and keeping up with trends. I did an Olympic one and a queen’s jubilee one last year. If they get tired I take them out of circulation and remake them. Keeping them fresh means they are always exciting for the children. 
  • Scrounge – Story sacks cost to compile, so scrounge funds wherever you can!

DIY - making the giveaway story sack!

Picking the story book…

We thought long and hard about what story book to put in the story sack, because this is the key, getting the
right story which will dictate what else going into the sack. We wanted to put in a story which share the ethos of story sack, so we choose ‘ The Little White Owl’ by Tracey Corderoy and Jane Chapman. The Little White Owl is a charming story which is beautifully illustrated about a lonely little white owl with got a big imagination, which he uses to win the friendship of the more colourful owls.

The Non-Fiction book…

So this was trickier; do we try to find a book about story telling of owls. Owl won (because they’re owls and who doesn’t like owls!) Soto accompany ‘The Little White Owl’ book we have a lovely illustrated factual picture book called ‘I Love Owls’ which has pages about different species of owls. This got the thumb up from my seven year old!

Soft Toys…

Just feast your eyes on these beauties! As I couldn't find any soft toy owls colourful of otherwise, I commissioned these lovely little fellas to be crocheted especially. We have Little White Owl, and some of his colourful friends!


As this story sack is all about storytelling we have managed to find a story game. Three story telling wheels, where you spin the arrow to give you a places and characters in which you them make up a story about. You can use them individually or as a group to make up to make up stories.

Activity Sheet…

I’ve made a special activity sheet which to help children use their imagination, by asking them what colour owl they would be and to colour the owl in. Then what stories they would tell other owls, and to draw these stories, which can be completely from their own imaginations or helped along with the story wheels!

So there we are one completed and very colourful story sack! 

If you would like to win this Little White Owl Story Sack for you or for your school please email and tell us your name and address what colour owl you would be!

The Giveaway is open until the Monday 30th September to please share, tweet and facebook about this, because we'd love this to go to an good home.

Good Luck!

Thursday, 5 September 2013