Friday, 25 May 2018

3D Review - Kate Wiseman - Editor Interview with Elaine Bousfield the MD of Zuntold Publishers

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

I loved reading more than anything else in the world. It is difficult to choose just one book to be honest. As a younger child there were two books that stayed with me for quite a long time. The first was Carbonel by Barbara Sleigh and the second was The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley.

I loved, and still love, books with a magical element or fantasy edge to them. I drove my sister mad with the Water Babies because I insisted that if I poked my heads under my bed covers at night, there was an ocean waiting for me, where I would turn into a Water Baby and have all sorts of adventures. I was so convinced of this, that my sister went crying to my mum, saying she was afraid that I would drown.

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

Ok..again this is difficult. I think my favourite has to be Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman. It is quite a tricky read for many children though - I think it is more likely to be enjoyed by older children - age 11 or 12 onwards. I love this book because of its beautifully detailed world building, and the amazing concept of the daemon - that part of our soul that lives outside our body as a separate but intricate part of ourselves.

I loved it, also because it combined a wonderful female character (Lyra - strong, curious, impatient, kind) with a fantastic life-changing adventure. It was pure genius. It was an important book because it tackled questions of adult power and how adults abuse their power sometimes and of course, the role of religion. It asked the important question, how can we find meaning if there is no God? They are big questions but I think children all over the world think about these things. Not many children’s books explore such complex themes. I also loved A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, a masterpiece in that it explores grief and loss, and the suppression of guilt which so often accompanies it.

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

Ok…my immediate answer to this is they are not self -conscious; they remind us of the importance of play. They allow us to imagine again. And they teach us things about ourselves and the world without preaching at us (the best ones do anyway). I think our education system drills the imagination out of us and we forget how to play. Children’s books allow us recourse once more to a deeper, more connected inner world.

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

I love gangster school because of the reasons mentioned above. Kate is so playful - the story turns the normal world of school on its head and gives us chaos, naughtiness and rule breaking instead. And it places at the centre of the story, two very different personalities who soon learn that despite being different, they need each other. So its about friendship and loyalty but it is also hilariously funny. I love Gruffles and Wolf. Kate develops characters well alongside a sizzling plot-line that keeps you turning the pages. The second Gangster school had me laughing so much, my entire family came up to my loft room where I work to see what I was laughing at.

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

I got to Gangster School quite late in the day and didn’t have to do much editing to be honest. Just a little bit here and there. Kate worked on it for four years I think, but the other Gangster School books are being written much more quickly - the characters now have a life of their own I think. We also have our production team at Carnegie - Anna the MD there took a look and loved it p- and Lucy did that typesetting. Isla Donohoe, a young artist from Manchester designed the cover - like me she read both the first Gangster School and the second and could not stop laughin

Elaine Bousfield has worked in mental health and trained as a counsellor, working for many years with young people. She ran her own business, Xenzone, and developed an online counselling and support platform for young people called . She sold Xenzone in 2015 and is still its chair and founding director. She writes fiction herself and in 2017 set up Zuntold with the aim of publishing new and exciting fiction for children and young people. She is particularly interested in diversity and the role that fiction can play in changing lives. She is interested in exploring fiction which can be used in therapeutic work with children.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

GDPR - Are you happy to keep in touch with Space on the Bookshelf?

As you will be aware due to the influx of e-mails in to you in boxes, there are some changes afoot in regards to GDPR. We are Space on the Bookshelf, really appreciate your support and hope you wish to stay in touch. We have always taken the matter of privacy seriously and have always had a privacy policy available for people to view on our blog. However we have updated it and you please follow the link to see how we protect your data and for detail on how to unsubscribe if you wish to.

Many Thanks


Wednesday, 23 May 2018

3D Review - Gangster School - Kate Wiseman - Author Interview

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

That’s a hard question! There are so many to choose from. As a child, I used to get told off for reading in the shower and ruining my books. I was very dedicated.

There are two that really stand out in my memory: the first is Five Children and It by E Nesbit. I loved the Psammead (sand fairy) with his lumpy body and grumpy attitude and his eyes on stalks. He grants wishes to the children who dig him up, and they always backfire in some outlandish way.

My other childhood standout is My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. I was green with envy at Durrell’s unconventional life on the island of Corfu, enchanted by his descriptions of nature, and his family’s high jinks made me laugh my grubby knee-high socks off.

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

Another tricky question. There is so much brilliant kids’ lit out there. I’ve read Phillip Pullman’s Northern Lights countless times and my family never tire of trying to work out what form someone’s daemon would take. Beware though – it may cause offence. Another favourite is Ross Wellford’s wacky, funny, touching Time Travelling with a Hamster, which incidentally also gets my vote for Best Book Title of All Time.

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

One of the great tragedies of growing up is that we’re encouraged to downplay the importance of imagination in favour of other, more ‘practical’ qualities. Kids’ books embrace imagination and celebrate its power to transport us beyond the confines of the everyday.

As life becomes more and more pressurised and kids are pushed to conform to society’s expectations regarding everything from passing endless assessments and exams to the way they look, children’s books are a portal to countless other worlds where they can live a million different lives. They have no limits.

Why did you start writing for children?

When I finally got the courage to write fiction instead of essays, it never occurred to me to write anything else. I love the freedom and spontaneity of kids’ lit. It allows me to pour my overactive imagination and daft sense of humour into my writing. I still can’t imagine writing for adults and doubt that I ever will.

What made you want to write this book?

My son had just gone off to university and I was moping around, biting my lip every time I passed his bedroom door, and I needed to concentrate on something else. I decided to stuff all my fears of failure into a little box, lock it away in a dusty corner of my mind and have a go at fulfilling my childhood ambition of being a writer. I’ve worked with kids for a long time and writers are encouraged to write about what they know, so a school was an easy choice.

When my son was smaller, he used to disconcert people who asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up by saying ‘an evil genius’. That got me thinking – what would a school for young felons actually be like? And what would happen if you got sent there, but you weren’t actually a criminal at all?

What is your favourite aspect of writing for children?

Being able to give free reign to my imagination. I especially love concocting a rich history for Blaggard’s School for Tomorrow’s Tyrants. To me, the characters of Sir Thomas Blaggard, the school’s founder, who was born in a mud hut on the banks of the Thames and survived by eating stinging nettles and wrestling bears until he found his criminal feet, and Sally Masters, the eighteenth century Highwaywoman (nickname Blunderbuss Sally) and Foggarty and Spinks, the body snatchers, make the school what it is today. I also love thinking up situations that make me giggle.

Kate Wiseman is a wife, mother and cat minion who lives in Saffron Walden, Essex. Her many years experience of working in schools prompted her to begin writing about Blaggard’s School for Tomorrow’s Tyrants, the world’s best educational establishment for trainee villains.

Gangster School was shortlisted for several prizes and was published first in Germany, by Piper Verlag in October 2017. Piper has just released Gangster School 2: The Brotherhood of Brimstone and there are more to follow. Gangster School is also being published in summer 2018, by Uitgeverij, Holland.

Kate has a degree in English and Creative Writing and a Masters in English Literature. Gangster School is her first novel.

Monday, 21 May 2018

3D Review – Gangster School Kate Wiseman – Reviews

Gangster School is a funny, action packed adventure following the most dependable of the new intake of year seven students at Blaggards Gangster School as Milly and Charlie try to fit into their new school, win the converted thievery competition and battle a super villain that’s hell bent on taking down the school and after that world domination.

We watch as quick thinking and resourceful Milly Dillane the daughter of a family of art forgers and skilled hacker Charlie of the family Partridge famous for kidnapping, embark on their first year at the school which is renowned for its output of infamous scoundrels and villains. Both want to make their families proud, but have doubts about their criminal tendencies, feeling like they are much more dependable (honest non-criminals), but also don’t want to end up at the rival school Crumleys a dangerous establishment for lower class of criminals, which is built on a mound of deceased failed students.

Milly and Charlie, become fast friends and allies helping each other navigate through classes, outwitting older students initiation rituals and even thwarting the most infamous evil villain, Pecunia Badpenny who visits the school with the intent on destroying her nemeses the renowned head teacher Ms Martinet, brainwashing all the students and then using her new technology and student criminal army to brainwash the army, and police in her bid for world domination. Using their unique talents and dependable moral compasses, Milly and Charlie along with a little help in the form of Gruffles Charlie’s unruly pet dog, and Badpenny’s unloved robot dog-henchman Wolf, save the school and even win the thievery competition. 

With Gangster School Kate Wiseman, has used the ‘fish out of water ‘ concept of new students in boarding school, but has made it very much her own, creating an funny and chaotic world, where the protagonists are undeniably the good guys, but are trying to pass as not-so-good, amongst a cast of shady eccentric and funny characters. This leads to many amusing incidents throughout the story, making for a funny read, both for children and adults, as she uses every criminal cliché with excellent comic effect, personally I loved the nods to early criminal facial profiling with the possibly the best monobrow in children literature!

Gangster school from its vibrant and humorous cover illustrated by Isla Bousfield-Donohoe, to its final chapter is a fun rip-roaring adventure.

Child Review by Spike (a boy who is frugal with words)…

Gangster School is awesome. Is there a real Gangster School? If there is can I go? And if yes, can I have a robot dog?

Would you like to win a signed copy of Gangster school, along with a loot bag complete with stripy criminal t-shirt and criminal mask to decorate? If so head over to Twitter and check out our competition. @Bookshelfspace

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Rose’s Dress of Dreams - Katherine Woodfine - Mini Blog Tour & Review

Today we are delighted to welcome Katherine Woodfine to SOTB as part of her Mini Blog Tour ahead of the publication of the beautiful 'Rose's Dress of Dreams'.

Rose’s Dress of Dreams is inspired by the real life of Rose Bertin, who was born in 1747 in France. She moved to Paris at a young age, where she found work as an apprentice dressmaker.

Portrait of Rose Bertin 

Rose was ambitious and excelled at her work. She was soon promoted, and her designs became popular with the ladies of the French court. But her biggest success came when she became the favourite dressmaker of the new Queen of France, Marie Antoinette.

Portait of Marie Antoinette by Elisabeth Vigée Lebrun [

Rose’s imaginative designs helped the young queen to make a sensation. She was responsible for many of Marie Antoinette’s most iconic outfits (which continue to inspire designers to this day).

Kirsten Dunst in Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette [

Rose even helped design Marie Antoinette’s towering hairstyles, which were often decorated with objects relating to current events - such as a ship to represent a naval battle in which the French had triumphed!

Marie Antoinette’s famous coiffure

Rose became an important figure at the Royal Court, known as the queen’s ‘Minister of Fashion’. The outfits she created set trends not only in France, but all around Europe: dolls like this one, dressed in miniature versions of her designs were sent to foreign courts to help them keep up with the latest styles.

18th century fashion doll from the V&A Collection []

Rose opened her own shop on Rue St Honoré, which was always full of ladies of fashion who wanted to emulate the queen’s style. Today, her shop is long gone - but I couldn’t resist visiting where it had once stood on my most recent trip to Paris.

Visiting the Rue St Honoré, Paris 

Nearby was a lovely shop with a window full of pink-and-green macarons which seemed perfectly in keeping with Marie Antoinette’s wardrobe!

Delicious macarons!

Of course, the French Revolution changed everything for Rose. The glittering splendour of life at the French Court came to an end - and she soon had to leave Paris for a new life in England.

Today, she is often remembered as ‘the world’s first fashion designer’. I hope my story about how Rose’s amazing career got started will be enjoyed by young readers - who will find her passion, creativity and determination as inspiring as I do!

Dress by Rose Bertin worn by Marie Antoinette, from the Royal Ontario Museum collection [

For lots more pictures of Rose Bertin’s incredible creations, check out my Rose’s Dress of Dreams Pinterest board []

We have endeavoured to cite all photographic sources  -  Many images via Pinterest - click on the link for the source

Review - Rose’s Dress of Dream  - Katherine Woodfine & Kate Pankhurst

Rose’s Dress of Dreams, is beautiful book which celebrates those extraordinary people with imaginative minds that dare to dream different by telling the tale of Rose Bertin. Katherine Woodfine tells us the tale from Rose’s perspective as she dares to dream about frocks and gowns, drawing her designs and wishing to make fine attire for fine ladies. Young Rose undeterred by people mocking her dreams and designs both, leaves her little town for Paris where she becomes an apprentice dressmaker, where a mistaken encounter with The Princesse de Conti, gives her just the break she needs as the Princesse commissions her to make her a gown. The gown, Rose’s Dream Dress, is such a hit, she soon the most in-demand dressmaker in Paris.

With Rose’s Dress of Dreams, Katherine, has both told an engaging and delightful account of Rose’s true life achievements; her rise from humble beginning to the become histories first Fashion Designer, but also woven in a message to children, to dare to dream and to work hard and be determined to see your dreams realised. The story is enhanced with Kate Pankhurst’s beautiful illustrations. The pictures and text are a perfect pairing, given that Kate is best known for her Fantastically Great Women Who Made History and Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World, both books about other inspiring and history changing woman just like Rose Bertin.

Rose’s Dress of Dreams is a delight, a feast for the eyes and inspiration for the mind.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Review – AdoraBULL – Alison Donald & Alex Willmore

Tom and Alfred are inseparable, they are as close as a boy and bull can be, spending all their waking hours together. However all things must end and when Tom has to go to school Alfred pines for his friend. Alfred’s loneliness is made worse when he hears Tom ask his parents for an adorable pet. 

Envious and lonelier then ever Alfred uses Tom’s Dad’s phone to look up the meaning of adorable, and upon finding oodles of images of tea-cup dogs, and cute cats, tries his hand at being adorable too. However no matter what Alfred tries his efforts are met with ridicule and laughter, as he faces the fact that bulls just aren’t adorable. Just as Alfred has given up, Tom swoops in with a surprise, one adorable pet, to keep his best-bull-friend company when he’s away at school.

AdoraBULL is funny, charming and crammed full of lovely messages about loneliness, friendship and faith. It is also beautifully illustrated by Alex Willmore’s earthy soft images which really work exquisitely with Alison Donald’s text. 

But what really makes AdoraBULL stand out is that it has had the courage to do something that is truly rare in picture books, by including modern technology. Most picture books are free of new-fangled tech, staying firmly in a nostalgic pre-internet world. But with AdoraBULL, we see Alfred actually using a smartphone, and the internet. But far from detracting from the story, this little snippet of the 21st century sets up the jokes and laughter, as well as mirroring the readers own world, (when was the last time you looked up a word in a dictionary?)

AdoraBULL, is a funny, relevant and charming books, a future classic.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Review: Dino Wars – Rise of the Raptors by Dan Metcalf and Aaron Blecha

You now a book is good when: as soon as it arrives, before you get to read it is disappears, stolen by a child to read.

You know a book is REALLY GOOD when: every time you find said to book and put it aside to read and review it, it goes missing, stolen by the child to re-read and re-read again!

This is exactly what happened with Dan Metcalf and Aaron Blecha’s new book Dino Wars, Ride of the Raptors. Hence the delay in posting of the review! No apologies though, I fully blame the author and illustrator of creating such a good book!

So what makes it so good? Well Dino Wars, is a funny, exciting adventure with a fantastic concept at its heart. Set in the future, mankind have brought back genetically enhanced intelligent dinosaurs and weapons. The Dinosaurs have rebelled and won the Dino War, and last remaining humans, have walled themselves into a city living in harmony with peace loving herbivorous.

All is well until Adam Caine and his friends, in their haste to outrun a huge brontosaurus they’ve annoyed stumble upon an old Dino Wars bunker, and accidentally set of a weapon that will kill every dinosaur in the world. The group must venture beyond the safety of the wall and collect four crystals from Dinosaur strongholds, to disarm the weapon and save the dinosaurs from extinction.

Dino wars is fast paced and funny with a great cast of characters from Adam who’s brave and brash, his sister Chloe who is intelligent and cautious, Dax a tech loving inventor Iguanodon, and the stealthy mischievous six year old twins. Plus an array of eccentric dinosaur helpers they pick up along the way.

The book has twists and turns, action and humour for children and jokes specifically for adults like the fabulous nod to G R Martin’s Iron Throne being a particular highlight!

Dan’s story is further enhanced by Aaron’s fun and energetic illustrations. Dino Wars is a great read for younger readers.

And as I can tell you, you know a book is good when – your child steals it, reads and re-reads it and then asks for the rest of the series!

Friday, 16 March 2018

My Colourful Chameleon - Leonie Roberts – Mike Bryne – Story Sacks

To conclude our ‘My Colourful Chameleon’ features we bring you some Story Sack ideas inspired by the book. Before we begin here is a quick reminder of 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 

My Colourful Chameleon Story Sack for Younger Readers

So for younger readers we have paired My Colourful Chameleon, with the non-fiction picture and fact book ‘Let’s Learn about Chameleons', as it is simply designed with lots of photographs to assist with learning.

As you have read above toys, and especially soft toys are a must for younger children, so we have included a MyDoll Rag Doll and a TY Chameleon. For the game/ activity element we have included a robust and vibrant ‘The Learning Journey’ reptile themed wooden jigsaw puzzle.

My Colourful Chameleon Story Sack for Older Readers

For older children we have paired My Colourful Chameleon with Chris Mattison’s Lizards of the World, which is a much more advanced factual read, which can be dipped in and out of. 

For toys, I recommend the Schleich ‘Chameleon In Reeds’ figure.

For the GameAbacus Spiele toys, Coloretto a colour matching Chameleon card game if fun, and relates to the themes in the book beautifully. In addition for extra educational element you can always include a DVD of David Attenborough’s Life in Cold Blood.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

My Colourful Chameleon by Leonie Roberts and Mike Byrne - 3D review - Author Interview

Today we are continuing our 3D review of My Colourful Chameleon, with an interview with author Leonie Roberts.

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

Ooo this is a tricky one. I can remember enjoying Jill Murphy's "Five Minutes Peace". I think this was my Mum's favourite to read.

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

At the moment my favourite is Roald Dahl's "The Twits" because I have recently re-read it and have been reminded of how fabulous it is.

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

They are a child's first introduction to books. The unique way that the pictures and words work together can ignite childrens' imaginations and really bring familiar and fantastical worlds to life.

Why did you start writing for children?

Me being a Primary School Teacher probably had a large impact on why I started writing for children instead of adults. Initially I wrote poetry about children for adults but then the ideas for stories for children began to pop into my head. It has definitely helped me to get into the mindset of a child by spending so much time with them. There is never a day working with young children were you don't come home with a funny story about what they have said or done. Children are amazing!

When writing the book, do you think about the illustrations will interact with the text?

Yes, most authors to consider how the illustrations will interact with the text and I could certainly picture what would be going on each page. I didn't give any illustration notes though so Mike Byrne had completely free reign and I am delighted with his interpretation of the text.

Do you love chameleons?

Sadly I haven't met one in real life but it is definitely on my to do list for this year. I think a trip to the zoo is called for!

LeoLeonie Roberts (1984) was born in Plymouth and raised in South Liverpool. Although as a child she did not enjoy reading herself, Leonie has always been mesmerised by listening to wonderful stories. She grew up with the tales of Roald Dahl, The Pongwiffy series by Kaye Umansky and classics such as "Stig of the dump" by Clive King.

Around the age of seventeen, Leonie’s love of reading began and she went on to study English Literature and Language at university. Since then, Leonie has trained as a Primary school teacher and has spent three wonderful years living and teaching in Italy. It was there in 2013 that she began writing for children.

Leonie is now back living in Liverpool with her new writing companion, Chester the dog. She has written a number of picture book stories and can be often found in local libraries sitting on small chairs, making her way through a giant pile of picture books (whilst trying to blend in)

Monday, 12 March 2018

3D Review - My Colourful Chameleon – Leonie Roberts and Mike Byrne – Review – Picture Book

My Colourful Chameleon is a fun bright exciting story about one cleaver little girl and her misunderstood pet.

The trouble is her pet chameleon keeps changing colour and blending in with its setting, causing mayhem ay home, school and in the car. Mum thinks the chameleon is trouble – or poorly, but her daughter is adamant that her pet is cleaver and is changing colour to camouflage its self to keep its self safe.

The story is written In rhyme with a laugh on every page, combined with beautiful illustrations by Mike Byrne, and the plumb in the pudding is (or course) that the little girl is right!

My Colourful Chameleon is further enhanced with educational prompts and craft ideas at the end, it is a lovely introduction for younger children to Chameleon’s ability to change in a fun way!

Come back later this week for more My Colourful Chameleon posts, including author interview and a story sack! 

My Colourful Chameleon - Child Review by Oscar

I LOVED this book. It is so funny, and now i want a chameleon as a pet too!

Thank you for stopping by and reading this review, please pop back later in the week when we post a Author Interview with My Colourful Chameleon's Creator Leonie Roberts, and a post with ideas on how to construct  a story sack inspired by the book!

Monday, 26 February 2018

Shark Lady, The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist – Jess Keating & Marta Àlvarez Miguéns - Review and Story Sack

'Shark Lady, The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist’ penned by Jess Keating and illustrated by Marta Àlvarez Miguéns, is a beautiful, engaging picture book which to add to its charm is a true story.

The vividly illustrated hardback picture book tells the story of The Shark Lady, Eugenie Clark, from her first childhood trip to aquarium, through to her becoming one of the most respected and pioneering shark expects in the world. Through the charming told story, Jess Keating shows the childhood passion, and Engine’s determination to rise above discrimination, and prove to the world that she as a women was both intelligent enough to become a zoologist and brave enough to explore the watery depth of the ocean.

Along with the main story, the book is full with facts about Marnie creatures, like the inside covers which are bursting with Marta’s illustrated species of sharks and the ‘Shark Bites’ which are small factoids dispelling common shark myths, plus a timeline depicting Eugenie’s amazing achievement and discoveries.

Shark Lady, The True Story of How Eugenie Clark, is an inspiring insight into the life of an amazing lady, but is also a message to young children that determination and hard work along with the tenacity to never give up can lead to the realisation of your dreams.

Shark Lady, The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist – Story Sacks

Story Sack are fun education tools, which can be used to help children immerse in a book and gain greater understanding of the story. Most Story Sacks are constructed around a fiction picture book, but there are many children who much prefer to read non-fiction, so SOTB thought we’d have a go at constructing a story sack around Shark Lady, The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist.

So just before we begin, I’ll start with as quick refresher of 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.

Shark Lady Story Sack for Younger Children

For the Non-Fiction book element we have paired Shark Lady, with Miles Kelly Publishings ‘I Love Sharks; First Facts and Pictures’ which is a beautiful picture book filled with shark facts.

For the younger readers activities, we have a plush Shark Lady, and Shark, plus a Magnetic wooden ocean fishing game.

Shark Lady Story Sack for Older Children

The older childrens storysack utilised the same nin-fiction book, but we’ve swapped out the soft toys, for Schleich Wildlife Shark set with three shark figures, plus a playmobile female diver (it is the only female diver figure I could find, proving socusity still belives it a masuclie pursuit!) For the game element, we choosen the fact filled Top Trumps Shark cards.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Frankenstein at 200 – Review of Making the Monster, The Science behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by Katheryn Harkup

When we posted our Frankenstein inspired Story Sack features a few weeks ago we promised you a full review of Katheryn Harkup’s ‘Making the Monster, The Science behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’, and so here it is!

So firstly, this book does exactly what it says on the cover, and a more bedsides. Making the Monster is a non- fiction adult’s book that explores the sciences that Victor would have used to fashion his creation and history both social and Mary Shelley’s that went into the shaping of the book. Despite being an adult book, the book is accessible (for me a dyslexic who reads predominately children’s books, and who has not studied any science since the mid 1990’s, I both read and understood it without difficulty) so is definitely pitched at a level that older YA readers will be able to read and understand.

Making The Monster looks at the science that was known at the time and how Victor would have applied it to both construct and crucially to bring it to life. With this aim, Katheryn explores the history of science from the ancient times through alchemy to the life and times of Mary (and of course Victor), The Enlightenment. The Enlightenment being at time where great leaps in the understanding and the application of science, medicine and electricity took place, and when science was an everyday entertainment and subject of interest and conversation to the greater public. 

In addition to looking at the ‘nut’s and bolts’ of how the monster could have been made, Katheryn explores the science obsessed society in which Mary was surrounded, and the fascinating, eccentric, brilliant and often morally dubious real life figures that Katheryn poses as the influence of some of the books pivotal characters. The likes of John Hunter the famous surgeon, anatomist and dentist who pioneered may medical advances (many still used today) whose multi-faceted personality has said to have inspire, not only Frankenstein, but Jackal and Hyde, Doctor Doolittle, and Moby Dick.

But it is not just the science that makes the story of Making the Monster so fascinating, but the history, not only of science, and society at a whole, but of Mary herself and her unique, radical, and often uncontroversial upbringing. Kathryn begins the book, by exploring the lives of both Mary’s parents, Mary Wollstonecraft – writer, translator and pro-feminist and William Godwin a writer known for his radical views. Mary’s childhood, was one in which she was exposed to and immersed in the company of many of the great thinkers of the time, as many of her father friends would visit their home, which also doubled as a publishing house for her father and step-mother’s publishing business and bookshop meaning young Mary also had access to a wealth of texts. 

Making the Monster as part of our YA Frankenstein Story Sack

In the early chapters, Katheryn looks at how this unique upbringing helped shape Mary, and nurture her intelligence and creativity, it also looks at many of the family and her future husband’s (Percy Shelley) friends and acquaintances and how they also played strong parts in influencing the novel. Through reading these chapters of Mary own life experiences, Katheryn also explores the auto-biographical elements of Frankenstein, inspired by dreams of the reanimation of her recently deceased child, and of the aspects of both Percy’s personality and life that heavily influenced the character of victor.

Making the Monster, The Science behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, is a fascinating read, which would appeal to adults and YA readers who are interested in sciences, social histories or literature, as it brings a beautifully penned and accessible in-depth look at all the aspects that had to culminate for Mary to write the book. It is definitely worth investing the time to read this fascinating book.