Monday, 27 June 2016

Congratulations Nicki Thornton on winning the 2016 Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition

Today we at Space on the Bookshelf, we are celebrating one of our own, the lovely Nicki Thornton. You may know that all us blog authors, at SOTB, are also writers of children’s fiction and are all aspiring to be published. The road to publication is a tough one, with many hurdles and stiff competition, and bucket loads of rejection.

Nicki is a true trouper and has been writing for a long time, she’s is no stranger to the hardships writers face, but she’s had some fantastic achievements along the way. Nicki made the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition Long-List way back in 2012, with her middle grade novel The Sleeping Beauty house.

Then earlier this year, Nicki got a further accolade as her Novel, ‘The Firefly Cage’ was Honorary Mentioned in the prestigious SCBWI Undiscovered Voices Anthology. 

‘The Firefly Cage’ then went on to win Nicki the 2016 Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition! This is no mean feat, as the competition is open international and has thousands of entries every year, and has to impress no less than ten judges!

We are immensely proud and uber-excited about Nicki’s achievements, and are looking forward to her book being published in 2017.

I hope you will join us at SOTB in congratulating Nicki on this fantastic achievement.



Saturday, 25 June 2016

Tommy V Cancer - 3D Review - The Terrible Tale of Melody Doom - Tommy Donbavand – Editor Interview with Danny Pearson

Today we are concluding our 3D review of Tommy Donbavand's, The Terrible Tale of Melody Doom with an interview with his editor Danny Pearson.

Danny Pearson is senior editor at Badger Learning. To find out more about Danny and Badger follow
@Danny_D_Pearson  and @BadgerLearning.

What was your favourite children’s book as a child?

I would love to say something romantic like at the age of four I had my head in The Wind in the Willows or War and Peace, which are pretty much the same book, but I can’t. I loved non-fiction books especially a book that may not have been entirely appropriate for me at a young age - The Usborne Guide to the Supernatural World. Worth a look see if you ever get the chance. The images alone are horrific. I don’t know how Usborne thought it was appropriate for anyone under the age of 18! But no complaints from me as they all helped mold me into the human I am today.

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

I have become a massive fan of picture books. To tell a story using a very limited amount of words (sometimes now words) is a tricky task. A lot of professional writers struggle when faced with the limits of a low word count. I am a very visual being and I love to see how the illustrator has interpolated the writers words.

It is impossible for me to narrow down all the books I have seen and to say ‘That one... that one there is the best there has ever been!’ But I will say among the best modern picture books I have seen are The Day the Crayons Quit and Oi Frog. Again, worth a look see if you ever get the chance.

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

Passion!!!... and a good marketing team who have a bottomless pot of gold as their budget,

Illustration's by Peter Richardson
What made you want to work in children’s publishing?

I heard it paid well. I can confirm that it does not. Unless you are JK Rowling.

But in all honesty I used to work in a Waterstones store. I was promoted to looking after the entire Children’s department and from there my love of children’s books came flooding back. I wanted to be on the ‘other side’. I wanted the chance to make the books!

What makes The Terrible Tale of Melody Doom stand out?

The plot is great and it grabbed my attention as soon as it arrived onto my desk.

Following her supervillain parents being captured and locked away in jail, Melody Doom is adopted by a family who couldn’t be more different to hers.

Her goody two shoes foster family are a complete nightmare. They sing songs, wear bright colours and, worst of all, play charades every night! Melody knows she needs to escape, but how?

Hatching a plan involving her fluffy pink foster sister as a sidekick, Melody attempts to break into the jail and release her parents. But will the pony-loving princess give the game away?

Find out in The Terrible Tale…

I loved it!

Badger Books Gems are designed for challenged readers. Does this impact how you edit these books?

Massively! Thankfully Tommy is an expert at writing for reluctant/ struggling readers and knows what language we can use. The imagery in these books can say more than what a 100 words can a lot of the time. Tricky, long and hard to decode words are out in most cases. This does make it very difficult for an author to keep the story entertaining but the prized authors I work with make it look easy.


Tommy V Cancer was initially started to create moral support for Tommy and his family in the difficult time, but as his battle has gone on, the reality of being a jobbing writer (like any self-employed professional) has reared its ugly head; income. So if after reading this of any you wish to find out more about Tommy’s battle, or how to support him, visit: Tommy V Cancer.

Also Don't forget to check out the other posts in the Tommy V Cancer Blog Tour...

Friday, 24 June 2016

Tommy V Cancer - 3D Review - The Terrible Tale of Melody Doom - Tommy Donbavand – Childs Review

Continuing our 3D review of Tommy Donbavand's The Terrible Tale of Melody Doom, as part of the Tommy V Cancer Blog Tour today, with a review from our child reviewer.

Child Review by Bea aged 12

This is a funny, twisting tale that makes you laugh so much you could squirt Melody’s’ parents have been sent to prison, and she thinks it’s her job to break them out. Though there is one problem in her way: Mr and Mrs Sopper and there ‘adorable’ daughter Rose Petal. These characters are crazy, but won’t let Melody see her parents. Also Melody knows she can’t do this alone but there’s only one person that can help and that’s Rose Petal. Thinking that this is all a game, Rose Petal joins the team. But when Melody arrives at the prison the pink princess has betrayed her, and something more terrifying than her own death awaits Melody with open arms…

This book is so funny that you will spit popcorn out your nose (if you are eating it, which i was OUCH!). There is no other book like it, it is very unique. The story is told by Melody’s point of view. The book is written by Tommy Donbavand.

I think this book would be great for anyone who loves a laugh and a bit of trouble!

Tommy V Cancer was initially started to create moral support for Tommy and his family in the difficult time, but as his battle has gone on, the reality of being a jobbing writer (like any self-employed professional) has reared its ugly head; income. So if after reading this of any you wish to find out more about Tommy’s battle, or how to support him, visit:Tommy V Cancer

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Tommy V Cancer - 3D Review - The Terrible Tale of Melody Doom - Tommy Donbavand – Adults Review

One of the most special things of the children’s writing/blogging community is of being part is being of group of lovely and empathetic people. Whether it’s a tsunami across the other side of the world or an individual writer in need, the writing community gets together to usher support where it is needed. We Space on the Bookshelf are very humbled to be participating in the Tommy V Cancer Blog Tour along with many other lovely and fantastic writing and children’s literature blogs and bloggers, in support of one such writer, the extremely talented and hardworking Tommy Donbavand who is literally fighting for his life.

Initially, I was worried about what SOTB could contribute to the blog tour, and then it was obvious, we would put together a 3D Review of one of Tommy’s books, to promote his fabulous writing, and hopefully inspire you to go out and buy some of his books. As we at SOTB have a particular interest in books for challenged readers, we picked one of Tommy many reluctant reader titles, The Terrible Tale of Melody Doom.

Over the next three day we will be looking at Tommy’s challenger reader book, The Terrible Tale of Melody Doom, form different perspectives; a adults review, a child review, and an interview with his editor Danny Pearson.

Adults Review

Ask any writer and they’ll tell you that picture books are very difficult to write, as with such a frugal word count, EVERY word counts. So writing a book for reluctant readers who find reading challenging due to having a reading age lower than their actual age, and therefor having to deliver an engaging story within a minuscule word count most is no mean feat. This is exactly what Tommy achieves with The Terrible Tale of Melody Doom.

The story is fun and mischievous, bringing humour and empathy to the character of Melody, the daughter of two incarcerated criminal masterminds, Captain Doom and Dame Dread. With both her parents serving life sentences, Melody is placed in the care of the sickly-sweet Soper family and even worse sharing a room with goody-two-shoes Rose-Petal.

But Melody has a plan to free her parents and return with them to life of dastardly endeavours, she just needs some help to put it into motion, and who better to get doing her dirty work, then naive Rose-Petal? Melody and her unwitting accomplish Rose-Petal initiate the plan, but there is one variable that Melody has considered; that the Soper Family can make anything and everything a game, and Melody finds herself being outwitted.

Tommy’s writing has brought a beautifully plotted charming and funny story with a hilarious twist. The book, a Bagder Gems title, is written with easy digestible vocabulary, but also includes a list of the more challenging words at the front of the book, so that the reader has a head-up and knows to expect them. Another great feature of the book is the questions at the end of the story, which means that the story can be discussed, and therefore engaging the reader and encouraging them to think more deeply about the story thereby helping with their comprehension. To further enhance the story, the book is illustrated throughout with full colour vibrant pictures by Peter Richardson.

The Terrible Tale of Melody Doom is a masterfully constructed story which will appeal to middle-grade and early teen readers, but written in an accessible and inviting way. I would recommend this book to any reluctant reads of this age group, or even competent readers who may enjoy a lighter quicker read. Tommy is a great writer and we hope you join us in wishing him a speedy recovery.

Please come back again tomorrow to read a review by twelve year old Bea.

Tommy V Cancer was initially started to create moral support for Tommy and his family in the difficult time, but as his battle has gone on, the reality of being a jobbing writer (like any self-employed professional) has reared its ugly head; income. So if after reading this of any you wish to find out more about Tommy’s battle, or how to support him, visit: Tommy V Cancer.

A huge Congratulations to CLIP CARNEGIE WINNER...

Sarah Crossan!

We are delighted that Sarah's marvellous book 'One' took home the Carnegie Medal on Monday!

Congratulations, Sarah! 

Also, a big Space on the Bookshelf congratulations to all of the shortlisted authors, we loved reading your books.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

CLIP Carnegie 2016 - Who will take home the medal?

Every year we at Space on The Bookshelf shadow the CLIP Carnegie short-list, and every year we try to predict the winner with varying degrees of success. With each year that we shadow, we find predicting the winner ever harder as the quality of all the short-listed titles is go high, and ever book is unique. This years crop of short-listed titles are again all very different and all brilliantly written, so predicting a winner is again a troublesome task. However, with lots of lively debate and discussion, our bet is on the recent winner of the YA Book Prize 2016 Sarah Crossan's 'One'.

So, here is a big Space on the Bookshelf GOOD LUCK to all the authors on the shortlist, as we wait with boated breath for the announcement tomorrow to find out who will take the medal home.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Carnegie Shadowing 2016 review – The Ghosts of Heaven - Marcus Sedgwick

Marcus Sedgwick is no stranger to the CLIP Carnegie shortlist, having made shortlist no less than five times since 2002, a testament to the quality of his wordsmithery and storytelling. Having not delved into a Sedgwick novel before I was therefore expecting something spectacular, and I wasn’t disappointed.

‘The Ghosts of Heaven’ is intellectual and thought provoking not only with its content and messages, but also with its format, creating a new reading experience. Most books are read from cover to cover, starting at the beginning and going until the words run out. But with ‘The Ghosts of Heaven’, Marcus has created a story told in four parts, four standalone yet interconnected stories that can be read in any order.

“There are four quarters of this story; they can be read in any order and the story will work. The four quarters are assembled here in just one of twenty-four possible combinations; this order makes one kind of sense, but the reader should feel free to choose a different order, and a different sense, if desired.”

Now, I’m not a quick reader, I can’t scan read, or read a sentence at a time. I’m the kind of reader that painstakingly reads word by word (sometimes syllable by syllable), plodding away through a novel. So the notion of reading out of order did perturb me, but not to be out done, I started with the first part, then gained confidence and read part four followed by part two, finishing with part three. There was something quite liberating about reading out-of-order, igniting a rebellious streak which made for an interesting reading experience.

As the front cover design would suggest, with its spiral staircase ascending towards the heavens, ‘The Ghosts of Heaven’, is about spirals, the infinite shape that can twirl and twist around endlessly. A shape which is synonymous with existence, found in everything from molecules, architecture and plants. The novel starts with the definitions of the Spiral and the Helix, an introduction about the origins of the universe and the spiral form. Each of the books four parts spans a different era, and depending on the order in which you read the parts, a surmise a subtly different story. Ideally you need twenty four reviews, one for each combination, but I will offer you my review based on my reading in the order of parts 1, 4, 2 then 3.

Part One, is story told with short sentences and few words, following the trials of a young tribal girl, in what seems like a pre-historic era, who is fascinated by spirals that she sees in nature and by the drawing shapes in the sand. The girl see’s that the shapes she makes in the sand or paints in charcoal on stone have possibilities for wider communication, not exclusively to be performed by one for the purposes of creating magic upon which the whole tribe’s fate depends. The girls fate and that of her tribe hangs in the balance as the elder who performs the ritual of painting on the walls of the sacred cave is killed by a beast, and she must complete the ritual herself.

“The falcon, the ferns, the shell.
They are all trying to tell her something, but she does not know what it is.
She cannot not know what it is. Not yet.”

Part Four, takes on a science fiction stance as you follow the journey of Bowman, a sentinel travelling across space in charge of five hundred specially picked people in longsleep towards a new planet with the purpose of starting a colony. Bowman, is woken for one day every ten years to monitor and maintain ‘The Song of Destiny’ but discovers that someone is stalking the ship, murdering the cargo. In his infrequent days wake, Bowman tries to crack the mystery only to become caught in a spiral of his suspicion and his inner thoughts, tainted by the book of poetry he brought on the voyage and the number pi. When Bowman discovers the truth he is faced with a decision, one which affects all the cargo, and his sanity.

“he will take the Song of Destiny to the source of the spiral, and confront whatever lies waiting for him there; be it nothing, or ghosts, or God.”

Part Two, is the dark and forlorn tale of a town that is torn apart by suspicion, jealousy and fear when Farther Escrove, the hateful Rural Dene, comes to tend the congregation. Offended by the less than Christian traditions of the community, and their scared spiral, he wastes no time in finding a ‘cunning woman’ to dangle from a rope to serve as an example to the village folk. The story is one of betrayal and brutality as the villagers one by one seal the fate of the young girl, unware that their actions and hand in her death marks seals their own demise.

“She saw the rope around her neck, and its short journey to the branch. She noted how it twisted, round and round, that same shape.”

Part Three, delves into the dark world of Orient Point psychiatric home on Long Island, where Doctor James is the newly appointed Assistant Superintendent, a live in position where he resides with his young daughter Verity on the airy highest floor at the top of an ornate sweeping spiral staircase. The era appears to be early 20th century, where the term Lunatic is frowned upon but still widely used, and the method of helping the afflicted still hinging on the barbaric with the hope of a cure. Dr James soon realises that the Superintendent DR Philips has antiquated and dogmatic views on treatments, and that the institution is rife with abuse. As Dr James tries to make his, mark, he becomes intrigued by the apparent (relative) sanity of patient Dexter, a poet whose insight into life and Dr James’s own demons is remarkably accurate. Dr James becomes concerned for Dexter’s safety as Dr Phillips treatment plans escalate to gambling with the poet’s life, he begins to look more deeply as Dexter’s psychosis, a fear of spirals, so crippling that he can’t even set foot on the staircase. As Dr James tries to assist Dexter in battling his inner fears, he’s sinking in his own, and his relationship with his young daughter Verity is suffers, and she retreats into a book which chronicles the witch trials. When deception sets Dexter on a murderous path, Dr James must learn from the poets lessons how to quieten his own demons.

From the ground, all the way up to the seventh, is a giant curved stairwell… a vast open cylinder, with a staircase that winds up and up, each elegant turn bringing you to the floor above.’

In addition to the tales that all linking together in a subtle nod to the notion that every event in time and space is contacted, the book has also a hidden code. Whilst reading I noticed that the chapter numbers were not numbered in usual consecutive manor, and I had a fleeting thought that perhaps it was a code, but being un-mathematical I promptly forgot all about it. However someone much more mathematically minded was inspired enough to tackle it, and even break it. To find out more Press Here.

All in all, ‘The Ghosts of Heaven’, is an engaging and intelligent novel which is multi-faceted; bringing with it hidden meanings and coded messages along with challenging the notion the reading experience itself. ‘The Ghosts of Heaven’ his sixth Carnegie shortlisted book, could very well be the one that takes home the medal.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Carnegie shadowing review - Lies we Tell Ourselves

America’s Deep South, 1959. Black children are educated in segregated schools, but a High Court ruling means the white schools must allow in black pupils, opening the way for explosive conflict in a dark period of US history - and one that quite likely UK children will know little about. 

'Lies we Tell Ourselves' thrusts us right in the heart of the issues, in a gripping and thought-provoking story that centres around Sarah, a bright student and one of a handful who is chosen to be on the frontline - taking on white society by taking her place in one of the elite white-only schools. 

Sarah's politically motivated father tells her she has a duty to get ‘the very best education I can’. Yet this is impossible as in the white school she is not only put in remedial class and ignored by the teachers, she and the handful of other black students endure constant verbal and physical abuse, from other students, teachers and senior staff. 

Sarah and her incredibly brave friends become political footballs and no-one, not even the movement supporting her, takes any steps to ensure their safety and what follows is shocking, raw and based on real-life events.

Yet the main thrust of the story is not only Sarah's heroism, but her growing friendship with Linda. Linda, daughter of an ardent segregationist, is distressed when put on a project with Sarah, but the two girls spark off each other, and it shocks them both when a romance blossoms, giving a surprising emotional heart to a political story.

The real strength of the book is the success of the twin narrative and readers will easily find themselves asking what they might do if faced with a similar situation. Even if you think how everyone behaves is wrong – how many people have the courage to stand up for it?

The story of two girls, finding courage in their own way, is what makes this a constantly surprising novel.