Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Book in Every Stocking 2014 - Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo - Suggested by Robin Stevens

At Space on the Bookshelf we campaign the Man in Red every year to try and get him to put a book in every child's stocking. However we know that there are so many great books out there and so many different children that it can be difficult to match books to children. We therefore try to give him a helping hand by asking people to writer a letter to Father Christmas suggesting a stocking filler. 

Today we welcome back to SOTB author and assistant editor Robin Stevens whose début novel Murder Most Unladylike was featured as a 3D review in the summer Press Here to read. This is also Robin's second Book in Every Stocking letter, as she also contributed last year, press here to read her letter from 2013.

Dear Santa,

This year, the book that I think should be in stockings all over the world is Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo. Kids are always being told what kind of books they should read, because grown-ups are not always as smart as they think they are. I hope this book teaches those grown-ups a lesson. Flora and Ulysses is a beautifully written, touching story about a little girl with divorced parents trying to work out her place in the world – and it’s also a totally brilliant comic book about a flying squirrel who loves doughnuts. It totally confounds expectations, it’s crazy, and it’s sheer fun to look at and read. There’s something for everyone, and I think it could just perform the ultimate Christmas miracle – turning a kid into a reader.

So good luck, Santa – and merry Christmas!


Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Book in Every Stocking - The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis suggestion from Amber Caravéo

Today we have the lovely Amber Caravéo, former Editorial Director at Orion and founder of newly launched Skylark Literary Agency . Amber was featured on Space on the Bookshelf in October when she was interviewed about developing series fiction, press here to read the interview.

Dear Santa,

My Book-in-Every-Stocking suggestion is The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis. It’s a rollercoaster ride of an adventure, full of magic and wonder and sheer inventive tomfoolery!

Meet Fin, the boy (and master thief!) who nobody can remember, and Marrill, the girl who stumbles upon a pirate ship in a car park and finds herself whisked away to a whole new, crazy, magical world!  Together these two must find the Bintheyr Map to Everywhere before the terrifying and creepy wizard, Serth, can get it for himself and ruin everybody’s fun.

This is a wild and wonderful adventure for boys and girls – and frankly, Santa, I wouldn’t be surprised if your elves and reindeer start sneaking a peek too! In fact, you probably shouldn’t let the reindeer see it until after the deliveries or your sleigh might not even get off the ground – that’s how fun and absorbing this adventure is!

I’m sure that by sharing this book with all the children in the world – not to mention elves and reindeer – you will be giving everyone the very merriest of merry Christmases! J

Lots of love and mince pies,

Amber, x

Monday, 22 December 2014

Book in Every Stocking - Cakes in Space by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre suggested by Spike aged 8

Today's Book in Every Stocking suggestion comes from one of our child reviewers eight year old Spike. 

Dear Father Christmas, 

I've been thinking very hard about a book which would be good for you to put in other children's stockings. I think that you should give Cakes in Space by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre as it is very very funny!

Cakes in Space, is about a girl called Astra. Astra and her family are asleep in pods, on their journey through space to Nova Moody. Astra wakes up and is hungry so she goes to Nom O Tron 500 and ask for a asks for a Ultimate Scary Cake, and that exactly what she gets. The Cakes are alive, the grow hands, they grow leg and sprout teeth and begin to talk and try to eat anything that’s moving including Astra and the Poglets. Poglets are funny aliens that worship spoon, and steel but od Astra’s ship look for more spoons! Astra and Pilbeam her trusted friend the robot, find a new friend that looks like oily spaghetti called The nameless Horror! Together Astra, and Pilbeam and The Nameless Horror, save the day!

This is a funny book and it is exciting and is full of really great illustrations!

Dear FC please bring me lots of books too as i read loads. Plus some batteries for my torch but don't tell my mum and Dad! 

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Book In Every Stocking - The Pinhole Egg by Diana Wynne Jones recommended by Nick Cross

Today's Book in Every Stocking filler suggestion comes from writer Nick Cross, whose short stories feature in the amazing Stew Magazine. Nick was interviewed about his contribution to Stew in the summer [press here to read]

Dear Santa,

My stocking book filler suggestion is The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones. Normally, it would be sensible to begin with the first book in a series (rather than the last) but in this case the book is so splendid that I can’t resist! The seven book Chrestomanci series (which began with Charmed Life) offers a great many magical treats, but for my money The Pinhoe Egg is the funniest, best-written and most compulsive book of them all.

When a writer returns to a much-loved series after a long break, the results are often disappointing. So, it was with some trepidation that I began reading about the further adventures of Cat Chant, even though I was dying to know what happened to him after Charmed Life. I shouldn’t have worried, because Diana Wynne Jones crafts a masterful, magical, mad-as-a-bag-of-spanners story that expands the world around Chrestomanci Castle and shows Cat finding his true path as an enchanter. The action scenes are amazing (and hilarious), the characters richly drawn and there’s even a cat who can walk through walls!

The Pinhoe Egg is a fitting end to a fabulous series, and can also be read quite comfortably as a standalone story. So what are you waiting for, Santa?


Nick Cross is a regular contributor to Stew - the magazine for curious kids. Stew Magazine is a lively bi-monthly title for inquisitive young minds that launched in January 2014. Aimed at children aged 8 to 12, it is educational but not stuffy, fun without being trivial, and inspirational rather than worthy. Visit for more information and to find out how to subscribe.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Book in Every Stocking 2014: THE BOY IN THE TOWER by Polly Ho-Yen suggested by Natalie Doherty

Today we are very pleased to welcome Natalie Doherty back to Space on the Bookshelf, Natalie is a Fiction Editor at Random House and we interviewed about her role as Editor of Murder Most Unladylike back in the summer press here to read.

Natalie, has kindly agreed to write a letter to Santa to recommend a stocking filler book...

Dear Santa,

If there’s one book I’d love to see in all stockings this Christmas (in all honesty I’d love to see HUNDREDS of books in all stockings, but I don’t think I’m allowed), it would be THE BOY IN THE TOWER by Polly Ho-Yen.

Polly is a) a new writer, b) the owner of an incredible imagination, and c) an all-round lovely human being. THE BOY IN THE TOWER is a story about a boy named Ade, who lives in a tower block in London with his mum, who doesn’t like to go outside. One day, mysterious blue plants start to appear in the streets close to Ade’s home and school . . . and then without any warning, buildings start to collapse. Soon the streets are evacuated and even Ade’s best friend Gaia escapes with her family, but Ade’s mum refuses to leave, and so she and Ade are left in their tower block, knowing that it might fall down at any minute, with a rapidly-dwindling supply of food and water, and no one else for miles around. Or so they think…

The reason I’ve picked this as a stocking-filler book is that it really does leave you feeling that there are good people in the world. It’s a book about friendship and sticking together and helping other people out in any way you can, even when you’re feeling unhappy or scared yourself. And it’s a brilliant adventure!

Thanks Santa!

Natalie x

For more book stocking filler suggestions,pop back and visit SOTB throughout December! 

Friday, 19 December 2014

Book in Every Stocking - Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer and Shine by Candy Gourlay suggested by Bea aged 10

Today's book in every stocking suggestions comes from one of our child reviewers Bea aged 10.

Dear Santa,

I think you should stuff stocking with the following books, firstly Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, because it is full of action and is very funny.

Artemis Fowl is a great book, with loads of description and funny but serious acts. The main thing about Artemis Fowl is that it brings characters to life and gives you great ideas for books. The book is about a 12 year old master criminal, Artemis who kidnaps a fairy, Holly Short, to use her as ransom to get Fairy Gold. The imprisoned elf Holly tries to fight her way out of the prison cell by uploading her magic. Will Holly escape the war ahead of her, or will she destroy her kind? And will Artemis get his gold?

My favourite character is…Mulch…he is a criminal to fairy’s and a very naughty dwarf. He has a way of escaping underground. He will eat the soil and open his bum strap where the soil will come out the other end!

The second book I think would be great for putting in stockings is Shine by Candy Gourlay.

Shine is an AMAZING book by Candy Gourlay has lot of different imaginative ideas and facts from the Philippines, such as the disease of The Calm. This disease affects the throat, constricting it with lumps of dry skin, so people with The Calm can’t talk. Shine is the story of a young girl named; Rosa she and her mother, Kara, unfortunately have the calm. Rosa has to stay at home and hide as the local people think that people with the calm are monsters. Lonely Rosa hopes that her mother may come to visit her as a ghost.

When Rosa was young and the sun comes out in Mirasol (which is unusual because it rains most of the time) Rosa and her mum run outside to enjoy the weather.  The glorious day takes a disastrous turn when Rosa’s mother is hit by a bus and killed.

The story is told from Rosa’s point of view and through extract of her mother Kara’s childhood diary. Shine is a ghost story and a mystery as Rosa’s family’s secrets unravel and a ghost does turn up to taunt her family only this one is very much alive.

This story is such a great book and there are so many reasons to read it, so I think Santa you should use Shine in Stocking so other children can find out all those reasons for themselves.

Thank you Santa!


Thursday, 18 December 2014

Book in Every Stocking 2014 - Going Home by Cliff McNish suggested by Anita Loughrey

Today's book in Every Stocking suggestion comes from prolific writer Anita Loughrey, who we interviewed back in Autumn about her work for the reluctant readers series Star Struck, press here to read. Anita suggests a book for all dog lovers...

Dear Santa

If you are looking for a fantastic stocking filler this year, you should try the book Going Home by Cliff McNish. A dog may not be for Christmas but this book certainly is. Children who love animals will adore it.

Going Home is about the Happy Paws Dog’s Home where some of the dogs have been labelled ‘no-hopers’ on the ground of their looks, phobias and general behaviour. When the Dog’s Home reviews its policy of never putting a dog down the story takes you on a roller-coaster of emotions. One minute there are tears of laughter. The next you are on the edge of your seat, turning the page, hoping the dogs will find a home of their very own before it is too late.

It will give any child a fairly realistic view of the psyche of a dog and how their needs are more than just a roof over their heads. Not only is the story a real feel-good, tear-jerker but the illustrations by Trish Phillips are adorable and will melt even the hardest of hearts.

Hope you take my advice on this must have Christmas stocking filler. J

Love Anita xxx

We are posting Book in Every Stocking Suggestions all through December so do pop back and see what other authors, illustrators, editors and readers recommends Santa puts in Stockings!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Book in Every Stocking 2014 - Oliver and the Seawigs suggested by Alan aged 5

Every Festive season we at Space on the Bookshelf campaign to Santa encouraging him to 'put a book in every stocking'. We know that it is very difficult matching books to children, especially with sooo many great books out there so we give him a helping hand! We ask book lovers who have contributed to the blog in the year to write a letter to the man in red, recommending a stocking filler book.

So here we have a Stocking Filler suggestion from the son of one of our WOW! Comics, Graphic Novels and Magazines! features, illustrator and comic expert Simon Russell, to read Simon's interview press here.

Dear Father Christmas

My dad asked me which book I liked enough from this year that we should ask you to put in the stockings of every boy and girl. He read me lots of really fun stories since last Christmas, but the one I want to share is Oliver And The Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre. It's a fantastic adventure with some super drawings and GREEN SEA MONKEYS!

A brilliant thing about this book is Dad could read it out loud on the first time without mixing up the voices or saying the wrong words too loudly (Dad says most books are not written with enough thought about how to sight-read with the right stresses but it's ok - he mutters a lot about things like that).

This was my first long book that didn't have a picture on every page and I loved it! I hope the other children get to read it too.

Love from Alan (age 5)

PS can I have their new book about Cakes In Space in my stocking this year? 

Monday, 15 December 2014

Book in Every Stocking - Zombie Goldfish, Spies in Disguise, Oliver Fibbs, Where the Sidewalk Ends & he Collected Works of A.J. Fikry, all suggested by Sara Grant

Continuing our Book in Every Stocking campaign we have a letter to Santa literally suggesting a book for everyone in the family from Sara Grant. Sara Grant has many strings in her bow, being author of YA books, Dark Parties and Half Lives as well as Magic Trix a series fiction for younger readers. Sara is a senior commissioning editor for Working Partners, as well as being part of the team that envisioned and run Book Bound.

Dear Santa

Books are the perfect stocking stuffers! They are the gift that keeps on giving. Finding the right book for a child can unlock the wonderful world of reading. So don’t think of it as one gift – think of it as giving a lifetime of stories.

I have several suggestions for young readers. These books have two things in common: 1) They are funny, and when I say funny, I mean giggles, chuckles and belly laughs galore. 2) They are series of books – when one book is not enough, and it never is.

Any young readers will enjoy My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish by Mo O’Hara, Spies in Disguise by Kate Scott and Oliver Fibbs by Steve Hartley. I know I did!

And if you want laughs that can be shared by the whole family then wrap up Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein and plop it under every tree. This book is celebrating its 40th anniversary. I grew up with these poems and my family still recites them from time to time.

And for the adult book lover on your list, please give The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. I don’t just like this book, I ADORE it. The book blurb says it all: “An irresistible novel about second chances and finding room for all the books – and all the love – that transform our lives.”

Wishing everyone happy reading this holiday season!

Sara Grant

Friday, 12 December 2014

3d-review – editor interview – ‘My hamster is an astronaut’ – Dave Lowe

Dave Lowe's 'Stinky and Jinks' series is published by Templar. We talked to his editor, Matilda Johnson, Senior Editor for Hot Key Books, Piccadilly and Templar.

What is your favourite children’s book as an adult?

'Northern Lights' by Philip Pullman has been one of my favourite books of all time since I discovered it age 17. But more recently, 'A Boy and a Bear' in a Boat by Dave Shelton has been a real fiction favourite, and 'Oh No, George!' By Chris Haughton for picture books.

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

The creation of stories through writing and artwork is amazing and so, so exciting. Being able to read and hold and re-read books involves you in them, and then I think the excitement becomes infectious. I always loved reading fiction because it allowed me to step into someone else's shoes, and explore different lives. And I have always loved illustration because of the sheer beauty and joy and emotion it can convey – it is so satisfying to see something done well, to see it work.

What do you love about this book and what makes it stand out?

The Stinky and Jinks stories have their own life and personality – the plots are full of fun ideas and humour which are perfectly mirrored in the artwork. And 'My Hamster is a Pirate' is no different (you gotta love the broccoli warning on page 16!). But I think it's the premise that makes the series stand out – Ben's talking, well-read hamster who helps him get both in and out of various scrapes, but usually saves the day… It's mad, but you're with them from the off, you completely believe in the world and stories, which allows he reader to have tons and tons of FUN.

How many people have worked on this book and for how long?

Author, illustrator, agents, editors, designers, publicity, marketing, sales… quite a few people! Time-wise, you'd have to wind back to Dave's very first draft of the text though..

What made you want to work in children’s publishing?

I never stopped reading books for younger readers, or buying picture books that I loved . . . and one day a friend asked if I'd thought about it. I was a bit wary of working in an office, at a desk, but when I did work experience at a small company in Oxford, I knew it was for me; I couldn’t wait to get stuck in full-time.

Monday, 8 December 2014

3d-review – author interview – ‘My hamster is an astronaut’ – Dave Lowe

 We are featuring Dave Lowe and his wonderfully funny, adventurous series for younger readers featuring a boy and his hamster 'Stinky and Jinks'.

We have been talking to Dave about the inspirations behind his writing.

What was your favourite book as a child?
Like most kids, I loved Roald Dahl.  I also read a lot of Enid Blyton, especially the Mystery series.  I was (and still am) into football, and I read all of Michael Hardcastle's football books.

What is your favourite children’s book as an adult?
One of my big pleasures in life is reading with my kids - I have two daughters who are 9 and 6.  It's always good to check out the competition!  The last book I read with my older daughter was 'When You Reach Me', by Rebecca Stead, which is an absolute cracker.

Why did you start writing for children?
I really don't remember!  I started writing when I was 7 or 8, so I guess I've always been writing for children.

What is your favourite aspect of writing for children?
I love remembering what it was like to be a child, and the kind of things that made me laugh.  I also love it that you don't need to write long descriptive passages - children have such great imaginations that you can set a scene with just a few words, and their brains can do the rest.

What do you think makes children’s books so inspirational?
When you're young and you really get into a book, it becomes such a big part of your life.  This can still happen when you're a grown-up, of course, but it's more difficult, somehow.
What made you want to write this book?

My older daughter had been going through an 'animal book' stage, and the animals were always pretty cute.  I though it would be funny to write about an animal that wasn't at all cute - a hamster who was clever and sarcastic and quite rude.

Thank you to Dave Lowe - and we hope the books continue to inspire younger readers everywhere to discover just what great fun reading can be!

Friday, 5 December 2014

3d-review –‘My hamster is an astronaut‘ – Dave Lowe

There is nothing Ben wants more than a pet – he longs for an exciting, possibly rare or even fierce animal he can tame and call his friend. And then his mum brings one home - and it is the start of a beautiful friendship.

Dave Lowe's brilliant 'Stinky and Jinks' series is not just any other story about pets, Ben's big wish does come true and he meets his new friend - a very small and very fluffy hamster. At first Ben is disappointed. But then he discovers that Stinky is no ordinary hamster . . .

Animal stories abound for younger readers, but Dave Lowe’s ‘Stinky and Jinks’ series give a great twist to the whole idea. Stinky has a very grumpy personality and spends most of his time being very rude, and the rest of the time he is being sarcastic of just plain cross. Especially when he has to suffer the sort of insults pets have to put up with, like when Ben’s sister dresses him up in dolls’ clothes.

But Stinky is also very clever and a very determined hamster. Stinky is always full of brilliant ideas as well a being a genius at maths homework, which is where things start to go well . . . and the they start to go wrong.

Ben and Stinky are an amazingly brilliant team, very funny, getting involved in all sorts of scrapes and nothing ever goes according to plan so the plots twist and there is plenty of excitement as well as humour. 

They are also illustrated by Mark Chambers and you can read an interview of him by Stinky at Stink’s blog

Children’s ability to read is often outpaced by what they demand and can understand in terms of plot and complexity so it’s always a challenge to find books for early readers that are simple enough so that they can understand them, but with stories that they really want to read.

The Stinky and Jinks books achieve this just brilliantly – simple, yet clever and funny - an unbeatable combination in stories that are told in such a short number of words. We have fans in the bookshop aged from five to eleven.

I was lucky enough to meet Dave Lowe when he was visiting from Australia earlier this year, It was interesting to learn just how much work goes into these stories, but not surprising. The books are deceptively easy to read, but they are also very clever and engaging.

Dave told me that the editing process takes much, much longer than the first draft. Dave spends several months editing, going over every word and phrase to make it clearer, more imaginative, or more exciting or just more laugh-out-loud funny. 

He finally became a published author after a long apprenticeship of a love of writing that started when he was very young, followed up by a lot of rejection – not a unique story, but often one that produces very good writers.

There are too few books that are fun, imaginative, well plotted and accessible for early readers, or indeed for older readers who find reading challenging. If you aren't a fan of 'Stinky and Jinks' yet - there are now six books in the series – with the last one ‘My Hamster is a Detective’ published in October.

Stinky and Jinks may sadly be coming to an end, but Dave is busy working on a new series.

My Hamster in an Astronaut - Dave Lowe

Book Review by Spike Poyton

My Hamster in an Astronaut is REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, good! It is very, very funny. Stinky the hamster is grumpy; he is scared of heights and his owner, nine year old, Benjamin Jinks, is planning on making him the astronaut of a home-made rocket that he is going to launch for a science project!

Stinky wearing a helmet made out of a tennis ball is set to go to space to beat school bully’s flying saucer display. Lots of funny adventures happen to Stinky and Benjamin and it will make you laugh!

If you like, 'My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish', 'Guinea Pigs Online' or Dick King Smith book’s, you will LOVE My Hamster is an Astronaut!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Book in Every Stocking - Alex, the Dog and the Unopenable Door by Ross Montgomery recommended by Katherine Rundell

It's back! our annual festive campaign to persuade Santa to put a book in every stocking! Press here to read 2013 suggestions, and here for 2012's! We do this by aiding him (you know he is rather busy so keeping up with the publishing industry is tricky!) by asking authors, editors, readers and all round book lovers to write to the man in red and suggest good stocking filler book. Over the weeks approaching Christmas we have many cracking suggestions, but to kick us off we have one by the lovely Katherine Rundell! 

Today's Book in Every Stocking suggestion comes from Katherine Rundell. We at Space on the Bookshelf we are great fans of Katherine Rundell  and feel very privileged to have featured her on the blog several times, Press Here to read our 3D review of Rooftoppers, which then went on to win the 2014 Blue Peter Book Award. 

Dear Santa,

I am writing to recommend a book that I think you, as a man with an unusual job, an understanding of the fragility of the space-time continuum and a love of travel, will adore. It's for 9-12 year olds, and is called Alex, the Dog and the Unopenable Door. It's the debut novel of Ross Montgomery.

There are stories that make sense, and a few stories that do not (looking at you, Cinderella. Shoe size is not a valid criteria for forging long-term relationships) - and there are stories that make a totally different kind of sense from that which you had expected. 'Alex' falls into the third category. To describe it without plot spoilers is difficult - but it's about the son of a famously failed explorer, on an adventure to the Forbidden Lands, in the company of a talking dog. There is survival, and real fear, and there is a secret to be discovered. If the Coen bothers wrote children's fiction, it might be like this.

From the very first page, the book flies. 'The world's biggest dog was a Great Dane called Gibson, who was 107cm tall, or 42 inches, which is about as big as a 42-inch television screen.' It's like a less sly, more mad Roald Dahl novel. There are chapters that will give a child the nearest possible approximation to the experience of being slightly drunk that they can legally access. There are bits, too, that will make you cry. If you are anything like me - and, Santa, you have given me no reason to think you are not - you will find Alex, The Dog and the Unopenable Door a book to cheer for. It is beautiful, and clever, and warmly, wittily insane.


Katherine Rundell

Monday, 1 December 2014

Spreading Festive Book-Cheer - Robin Steven tells us why she supports the Blackwell's Oxford Giving Tree

Why I Support The Blackwell’s Oxford Giving Tree

Christmas, for me, is about trying to show my appreciation of the people who make my life wonderful. I love giving gifts to friends and family because it’s a small way of telling them how much I’m glad of them – and I also think that Christmas is a good time to look further than the people in my own life, to recognise how lucky I am to have everything that I do.

As an author who also works for a children’s publisher, my whole life revolves around books. If I wasn’t literate I’d be a very different, and much less happy, person. Reading has given me so much, and I think it’s important for me to acknowledge that and try to pass on that gift to others.

That’s why I was so glad to have been asked by Blackwell’s bookshop in Oxford to help launch their Giving Tree charity scheme for 2014 (Press here for more information), along with fellow authors Jo Cotterill, Susie Day and Sally Nicholls. The Giving Tree is a drive that Blackwell’s has run for the past three years – in partnership with The Children’s Society, it allows shoppers to buy books for disadvantaged children who would not otherwise receive them this Christmas.

It is very sad that a scheme like this is necessary, but it absolutely is. The facts are stark and deeply upsetting. The number of children living in poverty has risen sharply since the beginning of the recession. It’s now approximately 27% of all children in the UK – a quarter of all British children live in families who, through no fault of their own, struggle to feed them and keep them warm and dry. In those circumstances, it’s hard to think beyond necessities. It’s not surprising that parents choose to buy food for their children rather than books – but those children still need books just as much as anyone else.

We know that children who read at home do better in school giving children books really can help lift them out of poverty. Reading gives children the tools they need to succeed as adults. But for me there are other, less measurable advantages. Reading builds empathy and imagination. Books bring young readers happiness, interest and excitement, and they help children learn to dream. If a child goes to sleep hungry most nights, life can seem very narrow and dark. Reading about other experiences allows those children to see that there is something else to hope for.

Books give value to people’s lives, and that’s why I want to urge you to support the scheme – either by visiting the store, or by purchasing a book online by pressing here. Either method will get a book into a child’s hands.

Remember that, in being able to afford books, we are lucky beyond measure. Remember that, as libraries are threatened with closure all over the country, it is becoming more and more difficult for underprivileged people to access books. Remember what books have done for you. And please be generous this Christmas.