#Review of Red Snow by Larraine S Harrison – A story of life, courage and strength of a young girl. @larraineharri3 @matador #kidslit #SchoolLibraries #Bookshops #Libraries #ChildrensBooks #ReadingRocks #ReadingForPleasure

Red Snow
By Larraine S. Harrison
Rated: 5 stars *****

I came across Larraine S Harrison on social media and got interested in her book – Red Snow. The title and the cover grabbed me, so I looked further into it and the blurb interested me even more, so I figured I would chance my luck and ask her if I could review her book. Thankfully, Larraine agreed, so today, I present my review of Red Snow, which tells the story of Megan – a strong, independent girl who wants to resolve the mystery of what really happened to her mother once and for all, so that she may know the complete truth.

I thank Larrine S. Harrison for sending me a copy of her book.

About the Author

Larraine S Harrison is a retired teacher and school inspector who has written several books for teachers on using drama for learning.
Since retiring she has written two children’s novels: Red Snow and Angel’s Child.
She likes to involve children in the writing of her books as much as possible.
When she is not writing, she volunteers as a school governor and also enjoys playing tenor saxophone.
She now lives in Yorkshire.

Twitter link:

Larraine Harrison

Red Snow Cover

Blurb

Twelve-year-old Megan though she knew everything there was to know about her mother’s death, but she was wrong.

Why will no one tell her what really happened and why has she become her father’s carer?

The boy next door has a dangerous secret that could help Megan, but will she be strong enough to pursue it to the end?

A story of danger, hope and perseverance.

Review

Red Snow is atmospheric and leaps into action from the start as Megan Townsend tries to follow Ryan from next door into the woods as it would appear he has developed an interesting routine of being out each night. The curiosity of a twelve-year-old girl comes across well, because who isn’t a bit curious when someone has perceived peculiar habits when you’re a child. The story then turns more mysterious and sinister as there’s a trail of blood and possibly a big cat in the woods. It certainly would grab any child’s attention, especially those who are 8 or 9 years old plus.

The contrast between leisurely pursuits such as swimming, the sinister woods and Megan’s desire to find out about her mother works really well. Irene is an interesting character with her closely held secrets. The book becomes even more intriguing and really holds its own when Megan becomes more inquisitive about the death of her mother.

The emotions displayed by Paul – Megan’s dad and Megan herself are exquisitely portrayed. This entire book seems so natural about how each character’s personality and emotions are portrayed. It adds to this book being a really good read for children. The context, the language used and the pace makes it a book that children will be able to get into.

There are big, important themes like life and death, loneliness and being a carer, being strong, but all sensitively written and all at a child’s level of understanding and all wrapped in a fantastic story that will capture children, because, who doesn’t want to know what happened to Megan’s mum. Megan, especially is also a very likeable character. She is certainly a strong, determined girl, but also has a niceness about her. Children will be able to relate easily to this story, whether it is something they themselves have experienced in full or in-part or not as there is plenty to empathise with.

The changes in pace works well and the length means children can have a good chance of getting into it, without it being overwhelming in size (153 pages). The cover is curious. It makes you wonder what Megan is looking out of the window at and also draws you closer to her somehow. This is very much a children’s book in the way it is written and would sit very well in the children’s sections of libraries and bookshops.

The end will leave readers feeling very satisfied as the answers to the questions become apparent and there is hope.

I just had an instinctive feeling that it was going to be a good one and I was not disappointed and I am sure many readers will enjoy this book too.

*Please note that views are my own and are also unbiased.

#Review of Princess Poppy – Fantastic No Plastic @janeyjones23 @JenniePoh @Zoologist_Jess #EdenCooper #Cbeebies #PrincessPoppy #FantasticNoPlastic #Kidslit #ChildrensBooks #Environment #SchoolReadingList #Libraries #Bookshops #Newbook

  Princess Poppy – Fantastic No Plastic
By Janey Louise Jones
Illustrated by Jennie Poh
Rated: 5 stars *****

I return to reviewing for very successful children’s author – Janey Louise Jones. She is doing a great job in bringing the environment to the forefront in her popular Princess Poppy series of books. I previously reviewed Princess Poppy – Please, Please Save the Bees and this time I am pleased to present my review of Princess Poppy – Fantastic, No Plastic. These books are perfect for the times when people of all ages want to know how to look after the earth and what they can do in a practical way. Princess Poppy is also a strong young girl who girls and boys enjoy. The books are endorsed by Environmental Education Consultant – Paul Lawston and by Head of Nature and Biodiversity for Scottish Government – Hugh Dignon. This book also has a quote given by Dr. Jess French – as seen on Cbeebies channel.

janey louise jones author

Janey Louise Jones has been writing the Princess Poppy series for fifteen years. She lives in Edinburgh. She has three sons.

Click for links:
Twitter – Janey Louise Jones
Twitter Link for Princess Poppy

Princess Poppy Fantastic No Plastic

Blurb

When Poppy is invited to a beach party by cousin Daisy in Camomile Cove, she has to help clean up the beach first. There is so much plastic refuse. Meanwhile, her puppy Sidney chokes on a discarded bag. Poppy joins the campaign to rid the planet of one use plastic waste and comes up with an enterprising idea. Poppy is her usual energetic and passionate self as she realises everyone can do a little bit to make a big difference.

Review

Princess Poppy is a great story with a really good mix of positive environmental messages and general fun in the characters setting.

Fantasic No Plastic is the latest in this revamped Princess Poppy series of books. Poppy has been turned into an eco-warrior princess who has a wonderful caring and determined attitude. First came the brilliant Please, Please, Save the Bees – now available in paperback and now there is the new addition – Fantastic, No Plastic. These books are absolutely great for boys and girls alike as their main focus is on the environment and conservation. I can confidently, having read it to both boys and girls, both do really get into these stories about Princess Poppy and gain knowledge and have fun with the story. They are great for the home, libraries, bookshops and the classroom.

With both of these books, the stories have been well-researched to create a great story with a great environmental message, all there for both pre-school and school aged children to enjoy, as they are all on their level of understanding and enjoyment.

The illustrations are as fabulous as ever by Jennie Poh. They are big and assist really well in communicating the story to children.

The story begins with Poppy and her grandpa looking over a poster that’s for a competition to create an object to replace a plastic one. This gets me thinking that this could be an awesome and fun school project. There’s a list of some things that are made of plastic. The story then moves onto the beach with Poppy hanging out with friends, where there is lots of plastic. The book also shows the consequences of there being litter left on the beach. This again could open up brilliant discussions during storytimes in libraries or in classrooms or at home. There is certainly plenty of scope and things to ponder over. The story does also return to the competition and gives examples of plastic replacements for some items.

This is a really positive story about how action can be taken by everyone in a
non-complicated way and has a fantastic end.

There is humour to be found within the book. The balance between getting the environmental message across and some fun is right and works really well together. The humour and fun comes in, primarily in the form of Sidney – an energetic dog; and Princess Poppy and her friends playing on the beach.

I highly recommend that people do get these books in classrooms, school libraries, public libraries, community libraries and in homes. Climate is an important topic. It has been for many years and still is. There are lots for children to both enjoy and learn from in these books in a non-intimidating way. It has become obvious that the way the environmental issue is presented is completely on a child’s level and is so well-thought out. All of the content is relatable and can all be used for Reading for Pleasure and
in-conjuntion with environmental/climate activities.

I thank Janey Louise Jones for giving me the opportunity to review for her again and for sending me her paperback book of Princess Poppy, Please, Please Save the Bees (and again for last year’s hardback copy of this) and for a paperback copy of Fantastic, No Plastic.

        Paperback Princess Poppy please Save the Bees            Princess Poppy Fantastic No Plastic

 

#Review of Star Child – The Healing Stone by Vacen Taylor @VacenTaylor #rararesources #kidslit #fantasy #children’sbooks

Star Child – The Healing Stone
By Vacen Taylor
Rated 4 stars ****

I have been invited by blog tour organiser – Rachel Gilbey, to return to the Age of Akra in the Starchild series, to review Starchild – The Healing Stone. I am pleased to present my review on this, the final day of the blog tour.

The Healing Stone Full Tour Banner

About the Author

The Healing Stone Vacen Passport SizeVacen Taylor is a children’s author with a portfolio of screenwriting and stage play achievements.  A selection of her poetry has been published in Art and Literature Journals. One of her plays was selected to be part of the Playwrights Program 2017 and then directed and performed as a performance reading at HOTA (previously the Gold Coast Arts Centre).

Her feature film script received a special commendation for Best Unproduced Screenplay titled Grandfathers at the British Independent Film Festival in 2018.  The logline can be found under Special Commendations for Unproduced Screenplays here.

Her TV pilot for a series (teleplay) was selected as a semi-finalist in the Hollywood Just4Shorts Film and Screenplay Competition in Los Angeles, CA. This pilot was listed in the top 50 for the Cinequest Screenwriting Competition in 2018.

She presented the first mental health panel at OZ Comic-Con in 2017. This panel was a fantastic opportunity to discuss openly and honestly about artists and their mental health to help support wellbeing, foster connectivity and provide a culture of support.

In 2018 she presented the panel, ‘An artist’s guide to creative happiness: How to strengthen your creative performance’ at Oz Comic-Con in Brisbane. Her panels are extraordinary opportunities to explore ideas with people who are currently working in the industry. She aims to discuss subjects like individualism, the community, mental health, wellbeing, happiness, creativity, co-creating and self-awareness which often leads to interesting questions from the audience.

What else does she do? Vacen is also a creative workshop facilitator and proficient in, teaching, speaking and concept creation. Guest Speaker. Workshop Presenter. Creative Panel Facilitator. Mentor. Support Worker. Counsellor. Social Welfare Advocate.

The Healing Stone - 9781922200204-Front

 Blurb

A riveting ice adventure full of incredible challenges, bravery and friendship.

When they escape the attacking forces, Mai, Akra, Kalin know they must find a way to purge the evil of the dark peddle that has consumed Long.  But as the news of the Underworld king spreads, gloom and fear begin to sweep over the lands.

The children must face a dangerous adventure across the ice to reach the healing stone. Once they reach the stone they must face the truth.

Have they made the journey in time to save Long ⸺ or is he lost to the Underworld forever?

Review

On this quest, Mai is chosen to take the journey to the Valley of a Thousand Thoughts. The journey by boat is trecherous, but there is hope that the Ice Queen will help and can heal Long from his wounds. She will, however take much convincing if she is to be won round to help. There is also a crowd to be pleased and a tournament to be won.

There are memories and some of them good, such as Mai’s birthday when thoughtbankers brought her kind gifts.

As for Long, he is in a dark place indeed, but Amual wants to rescue him.

Within the book is magic and powers to be able to morph and many other creatures.

The book is moody and the setting is icy and freezing cold, but cutting through is some softer, kinder and warmer elements of characters trying to help each other.

There’s a mission to accomplish and being a Starchild has its burdens and there are dangers that must be faced if the healing stone is to be used to try to get the poison that is within Long. There are Waterclaspers to be saved.

There is enough to capture children’s imaginations and to transport them to different worlds and to think about friendship and being on a journey to accomplish things. There is enough character development from book to book in this series, as well as world building for children to follow.

The final chapter of this book, gives a hint as to what to expect and what type of land/world the Starchild will enter into next.

Social Media Links

Facebook  – https://www.facebook.com/Vacen-Taylor-Author-233611656699562/

Instagramhttps://www.instagram.com/vacentaylor/

Pinteresthttps://www.pinterest.com.au/vacentaylor/

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/VacenTaylor

#Review – Eileen – The Making of George Orwell by Sylvia Topp – An Insightful book of their lives and her influence. @SylviaTopps @unbounders #Eileen #GeorgeOrwell #RandomThingsTours @AnneCater #Biography #BlogTour #non-fiction

Eileen – The Making of George Orwell
By Sylvia Topp
Rated: 4 stars ****

I am very pleased to present my review about Eileen, who, I knew so little about, until now, and it turns out she is a remarkably talented woman who does deserve credit and who really was the making of George Orwell, so he became the author we all know today.

About the Author

Sylvia Topp has worked in publishing since college, starting as a copy writer on medical Eileen Sylvia Topp Author Picjournals, then moving to freelancing editing at a major literary publishing houses. She was the long-time wife and partner of Tuli Kupferberg, a Beat poet who later was a co-founder, in 1964, of the Fugs, a legendary rock and roll band. Together Sylvia and Tuli wrote, edited, and designed over thirty books and magazines, including As They Were, 1001 Ways to Live Without Working, and Yeah! magazine. Sylvia joined the staff at The Soho Weekly Newsand later The Village Voice, before finishing her publishing career at Vanity Fair. Eileen is her first book. She lives in Kingston, Ontario.

Social Media Links –

Twitter – @sylviatopp

Publisher – Unbound

Eileen Cover

Blurb

In 1934, Eileen Shaughnessy’s futuristic poem, ‘End of the Century’, 1984, was published. The next year, she would meet George Orwell, then known as Eric Blair, at a party. “Now that is the kind of girl I would like to marry!” he remarked that night. Years later, Orwell would name his greatest work, Nineteen Eighty-Four, in homage to the memory of Eileen, the woman who shaped his life and his art in way that have never been acknowledged by history, until now.

From the time they spent in a tiny village tending goats and chickens, through the Spanish Civil War, to the couple’s narrow escape from the destruction of their London flat during a German bombing raid, and their adoption of their baby boy, Eileen is the first account of the Blair’s nine year marriage. It is also a vivid picture of bohemianism, political engagement, and sexual freedom in the 1930s and ’40s.

Through impressive depth of research, illustrated throughout with photos and images from the time, this captivating and inspiring biography offers a completely new perspective on Orwell himself, and most importantly tells the life story of an exceptional woman who has been unjustly overlooked.

Review

Eileen! Who on earth was Eileen in relation to George Orwell’s work? It is true to say, not much seems to be known about her, until now. This book will tell you who she was. This is a book that offers a completely new perspective on George Orwell and is insightful about his wife – Eileen.
Eileen was much more to George Orwell than just his wife. The book shows a rounded character build-up, so a real sense of her life and personality really does come through. It really is absolutely fascinating, especially since so little was known and yet she had such a positive influence on George Orwell’s life. I get the sense that a lot of research has been put into this book and not all of it, easily found. Eileen, at times seems a woman of complete mystery and other routes have to be taken to discover more about her, and other times, there are letters right there, about her life. There are great photos of the key people mentioned, placed in the middle of the book. There are letters and archive materials scanned into the book too. I love that this book is, built on research that is actually supported by the Orwell Estate and Orwell Society. Recent biographers of George Orwell seem to laud this book. 

So, why write a book about Eileen, the woman who would become George Orwell’s wife? Readers will partially find out in the very interesting foreword, expertly written by Peter Davison who is the editor of The Complete Works of George Orwell and will certainly know much more about her by the end. The book also debunks some myths about George Orwell being a self-made man. Eileen has to be able to have credit to what she did and this book sets out to give her recognition. She was much more than a wife to George Orwell, it would seem. She was a woman who did a lot and achieved a lot in her life and helped shape George Orwell to be the successful man he became.

The book takes readers right back to archived material and research conducted on her ancestry and then moves onto her school days in South Shields and how nowadays there is memorabilia from the school is now scattered around the world. It is interesting having a look at her school reports and also a poem she wrote.

The book, interestingly gives an insight into what people thought of George Orwell and whether he was suitable marriage material or not and the marriage itself and the problems and expectations.

It is known that Orwell went to Catalonia and as well as addressing what he was doing there, readers will also see some of the extent of her work in their cottage, in helping Orwell on the road to becoming the author he became. What comes across is that she was a hard worker and also seemed quite devoted  to Orwell and did a lot, including making expensive and stressful trips to visit him in a sanatorium when he was terribly unwell.

Apart from having a positive effect on Orwell’s writing; Eileen typed and she also got review copies of books organised from his publisher. She comes across as being very supportive of him and his work. She also wanted him to be healthy after so much illness and tried to find a better home than the cottage to live in. I felt the writing gave her justice and her personality comes through.

The book moves on to a time in Morocco. There’s a real sense of what Morocco was like then and the experience they had. With secret letters to another for a time, I felt sorry for her and with all the sacrifices she was making. There does, however seem to be happier and better periods in their marriage, before and after this. It’s like they were bound together some way, no matter all their troubles and strife. It’s certainly interesting reading about what sort of marriage they had. 

It is interesting reading about what Eileen may have done to support the war effort and she seems to be a woman with substantial connections to important people and how she seemed to be becoming successful in her own-right, but even then, there is still a bit of bleakness and hardship to live through. I figure that there must be quite some strength of character in Eileen.

It is then, so interesting to see what influenced George Orwell to write both 1984 and Animal Farm and reading about his other works. It is equally interesting to read about how Animal Farm could have been such a different piece and perhaps, not quite so cleverly written or indeed in story form, if it was not for the influence of the extraordinary Eileen, who was also, it would seem, talented in her own right. Her influence on Orwell’s work, especially Animal Farm is hugely significant and I certainly had not realised until reading this book, for that to be the case.

The book has an epilogue about what happened at the end of Eileen’s life and what happened next. There are also eloquent letters she wrote. It is worth pointing out that after the index, there are lists upon lists of people’s names who have supported this book.

By the time you’ve finished this book, you will have learnt a lot and you will see why this book had to be written and why Eileen deserves recognition, I certainly think she does. This book is definitely worthwhile reading.

Eileen BT Poster

Review of Deep Dark Night by Steph Broadribb 5 Stars @CrimeThrillGirl @OrendaBooks #DeepDarkNight #TeamLori #GirlPower #Thriller #LoriAnderson #BlogTour #Review #RandomThingsTours @AnneCater

Deep Dark Night
By Steph Broadribb
Rated: 5 stars *****

About the Author

Steph Broadribb Author PicSteph Broadribb was born in Birmingham and grew up in Buckinghamshire.
Most of her working life has been spent between the UK and USA.
She is a member of the crime-themed girl band The Splice Girls.
Steph is an alumni of the MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) at City University London, and she trained as a bounty hunter in California, which inspired her Lori Anderson thrillers.
She lives in Buckinghamshire surrounded by horses, cows and chickens.
Her debut thriller, Deep Down Dead, was shortlisted for the Dead Good Reader Awards in two categories, was a finalist in the ITW Awards, and hit number one on the UK and AU kindle charts. The sequels, Deep Blue Trouble and Deep Dirty Truth soon followed suit.
My Little Eye, her first novel under her pseudonym Stephanie Marland, was published by Trapeze Books in April 2018.

Follow Steph on Twitter @CrimeThrillGirl and on Facebook facebook.com/CrimeThrillerGirl or visit her website: crimerthrillergirl.com

Blurb

Fearless Florida bounty-hunter Lori Anderson travels to Chicago to trap the head of a notorious crime family, in a high-stakes, nail-biting mission that sees her trapped in one of the city’s tallest buildings during a blackout…

A city in darkness. A building in lockdown. A score that can only be settled in blood…

Working off the books for FBI Special Agent Alex Monroe, Florida bounty-hunter Lori Anderson and her partner, JT, head to Chicago. Their mission: to entrap the head of the Cabressa crime family. The bait: a priceless chess set that Cabressa is determined to add to his collection.

An exclusive high-stakes poker game is arranged in the penthouse suite of one of the city’s tallest buildings, with Lori holding the cards in an agreed arrangement to hand over the pieces, one by one. But, as night falls and the game plays out, stakes rise and tempers flare.

When a power failure plunges the city into darkness, the building goes into lockdown. But this isn’t an ordinary blackout, and the men around the poker table aren’t all who they say they are. Hostages are taken, old scores resurface and the players start to die.

And that’s just the beginning…

‘A real cracker’ Mark Billingham

‘Fast, confident and suspensful’ Lee Child

‘Like Midnight Run, but much darker … really, really good’ Ian Rankin

Deep Dark Night final cover

 

Review

I like that this is a book that is published to co-incide with International Women’s Month.

So compelling a suspensful thriller with a fast pace, this is. It is such a page-turner.

Who is Herron, whose identity is hidden.

From the off, I want to know what is lurking in the basement. What secrets can there be. I know, basements and you think of horror. This is however a thriller, so apart from instantly thinking “don’t go down there.” I am as curious as the kids wanting to go there, despite warnings from their parents in the prologue.

Readers then meet, FBI Special Agent Alex Monroe in Chicago and he has a particular interest in Cabressa and the valuable chess pieces he wants for his collection. When more pages are turned and read, the magnitude of these chess pieces become more apparent. They are far from the standard chess pieces and their value is incredibly huge. It’s the start of setting the scene, which is done fast. In comes Lori and JT. Lori needs Alex to be off her back and feels she may be forever in his debt, so she, working off the books, to try and nail Cabressa. Critten is far from pleasant and Lori gives as good as she gets back to him, with his bad remarks. I get the sense that Lori is written to be a strong woman, this much is clear in that she isn’t going to put up with any nonsense and can certainly stand up for herself. The sense of character that comes so quickly is testament to the writing.

After a tense game of poker, it seems that it’s quite a hot relationship between JT and Lori. It’s written well. It’s not at all cringeworthy, which is a good thing.

As locations need to be looked at and there are people to be met, there are gadgets to be used, just to add another layer.

High stake poker games are played, but even if you have never played before, you still get the sense of the importance of the games.
The setting, created by Steph with the family mob against the backdrop of the Skyland Tower is highly sophisticated and the tension is high. The tension is higher still when a chess piece is missing and all power at a vital moment fails and sees Lori in some trouble.

It gets even more interesting when over a tannoy system, people are told that in the company is a theif, a bankrupt, a killer, an illigitimate child, Herron so on. The change in atmosphere to one of paranoia, threat and entrapment becomes very apparent. The writing is really great and captures the mind’s eye perfectly and also leaves you needing to quickly turn the pages to see what will happen next. The fact that Herron is not known, also keeps the suspense going. There are more games and tales of untruths spun as the story goes on.

There’s low oxygen, a gun and no easy way out. All the while, the suspense is mounting.

After all the action, the end is rather satisfying and there is, within that last chapter a little bit of unexpected heartwarmth in how a home is described.

Deep Dark Night BT Poster

 

 

 

Review of 3 Helping Hand Stories by Sarah, Duchess of York @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours #HelpingHandStories #ChildrensBooks #Kidslit #Parents #Families #Schools #Libraries #SchoolLibraries #BlogTour #Review

3 Helping Hand Stories by Sarah, Duchess of York
Rated: 5 stars each *****

Sarah Duchess FINAL Helping Hands BT Poster

Sarah Duchess photo

I am very excited and honoured to be part of this blog and for the wonderful opportunity to present to you all, my  reviews of 3 children’s books by Sarah, Duchess of York, that she has written for Helping Hand for you all to read. Families and schools will seriously find them so beneficial. They have excellent illustrations with great stories and handy hints at the end. The way the stories and helpful hints are presented is excellent. There is so much to be gained out of reading them and they are an excellent tool for any household and classroom. There is so much scope as to how people can use the books.

I thank Anne Cater for inviting me on this amazing blog tour and for arranging books to be sent.

Let me show you the blurb of each book and then my review. Read further still, for an insightful and very interesting  interview about why Sarah, Duchess of York wrote the books, and then a lovely piece all about Sarah, Duchess of York herself.
I have also included the website link for the Helping Hand Stories page for you to check out for more information.

 

Blurb

Daisy Learns About Strangers

Sarah Fergusson Daisy learns about strangers front cover

Daisy gets bored in a supermarket and wanders off from her Mummy. When she realises she is amongst strangers, she feels very alone and frightened but luckily finds a security guard who soon reunites her with her Mummy. Learning about strangers is a difficult but vital lesson for young children. Daisy’s experience in the supermarket teaches her a valuable lesson.

James and the Bullies

Sarah Fergusson James and the bullies front cover

James is small for his age and some of the older boys at school have taken to pushing him around. At first, James tells no-one as he thinks it is his fault but finally he decides to tell his Mum and together they set about solving the problem. Bullying is one of the most difficult issues children and their parents have to face. James and his Mum show how it can be tackled and overcome.

Holly’s First Day at School

Sarah Ferusson Holly's first day at school front cover

A small child’s first day at school is a big step forward for both child and parents. For Holly, her worries about not being with her Mummy are soon forgotten as she meets new friends and starts to learn new things.

 

Review

First of all, these books are not just relevant, they are needed for children and families. They serve incredibly useful purposes. These are books that are really engaging to children, in the full content of the stories, the big illustrations, and  the meaning behind the books as powerful knowledge and understanding is gained.                                               They are excellent for conversation and discussion pieces. These are books that are designed to be read by adults with children.
Each book is realistic about the situations they portray and also has a positive resolution at the end.
Each story is something parents/caregivers and children themselves will be able to relate to. The layout of each is easy to follow as they flow very well from scene to scene.
The pictures and the words all go together very well too, bringing the stories to life and enhancing what has been written.
Check out the pages after the end of each story. There are excellent hints given there for parents/caregivers that are well-written and easy to follow. They really are practical and excellent ideas. The hints are written by a child psychologist and based on sound knowledge. Who knows if Sarah, Duchess of York will write any more of this series of books, but she certainly could as there are lots of topics she could write about and they are very good indeed.

 

Daisy Learns About Strangers

It is a worry for parents and caregivers that children could go off with strangers. This book has a brilliant short story with a couple of examples about a child getting lost and also later, about the same child seeing someone she doesn’t recognise. The book shows how such a thing could come about, what to do and how it can all be happily resolved. 

The story starts off in a supermarket and Daisy is being distracted by the tv whilst her mother is talking. Daisy then moves away without her mum knowing. Daisy feels lost and cannot locate her mum. She then goes to an appropriate adult to ask for help. The story resolves nicely. The story then moves onwards with her parents telling Daisy about strangers and them making up a rhyme so she remembers the rules she is taught and gives a scenario of someone who is a stranger. It is resolved nice and neatly.

James and the Bullies

Bullies – so many children are still being bullied and this story sets out how the bullied child can feel and also what action can be taken. The book is so positive that it will show those being bullied can do something about it and can take positive action. It shows that adults will listen, who to tell and what to perhaps say. This is an empowering book for children. It is also fabulous, that it demonstrates the child and adults working together to resolve the bullying and the positivity at the end.

Actually, come to think of it, this is also an excellent story if you are worried your child may be the bully, to demonstrate how the child being bullied can feel, to help set them back on a better, more positive path).

The story begins with James being worried and upset. It then shows the reason why and how 2 boys are bullying him. It goes on with James trying to hide the real reason for his minor injuries and also the internal symptom of his sore tummy and his lowering self-esteem. He does however have one good friend, who really he wants to ignore, but finds he can’t. The story continues and changes to being more positive as James then tells his mum about what has been going on and about how she and his teacher can help. It all gets resolved in the end and James starts to feel more like himself as he gains his confidence and self-esteem back.

Holly’s First Day at School

First days of anything can be challenging and hard. The first day at school is such a big milestone and one which, even the most prepared of children can find daunting as it becomes a reality. This book will help give a positive image, but also show that it is okay to feel worried and cry over it. It shows too that the first day at school can also be fun. It is a great book to use in assisting your child to prepare for this milestone in life.

The story begins with the positive, upbeat feelings of having completed the first day at school and then looks back to when the day began and how Holly had initially felt anxious. She meets up with Amy, her friend, Charlotte’s older sister and she tells them of the friends they’d make and yet she is still worried and a bit upset at the school gates. Then, follow Holly into assembly and the classroom and all the different activities she gets involved in. The story resolves nicely as after the first day, all is well again with Holly and she is now happier with going to school and ready to face another day.

Interview

This is a very insightful and very interesting  interview the Duchess of York gave about her Helping Hands stories (not conducted my me I might add).

Why did you write the Helping Hand stories?

The simple answer is that I was originally asked to by a UK pharmacy chain who felt there was a need for them. But as I started to work on the stories, listened to Dr Richard
Woolfson, the child psychologist who worked closely with us, and talked to mums with
young children, it became clearer and clearer to me that this was something I could really contribute to. If we could tackle the issues that all children face growing up by using that oldest but most effective technique, storytelling, to create something that invited young children to start understanding those issues whilst being of practical help to parents, we would be doing something really worthwhile.

Why have you decided to republish them now?

Two reasons: firstly the importance of encouraging people of all ages to talk about difficult experiences as a healthy thing to do has become increasingly prominent and accepted. The Helping Hand stories are designed to help both parents and young children to do exactly that. My hope is that parents (and grandparents) will read the books with their children and talk about the stories after they have read them. Secondly, they were extremely popular with customers of the pharmacy chain but there is a much bigger audience out there who will not have come across the books yet – and will hopefully find them just as useful.

We have brought them up to date in a bigger format with fantastic new illustrations – I can say that as I didn’t do them! They are the work of a very talented illustrator, Amit Tayal – thank you Amit for bringing the stories vividly to life. We’ve also produced ebook versions of the stories so they can be read on a tablet or laptop.

How did you choose the issues to write about?

I wanted to tackle issues that are important and universal. Take bullying for example.
According to UK research, at least two in five young people have experienced bullying in
some form in the previous year. And bullying is the most common reason for children aged 11 and under to contact Childline. ‘James and the Bullies’ is a simple story of bullying at school that illustrates how to face up to the problem and to go about resolving it. As with so many problems, being brave enough to talk about it is more than half the answer. Also, each story includes ten ‘Helpful Hints’ contributed by Richard Woolfson to give parents practical ways to help deal with the issue.

Do the stories reflect your personal experience?

As a mother, I was of course concerned about the issues that the stories cover and I would have loved to have had them to hand when I was a young Mum. But I wanted to write them, based on a broader understanding of the issues and the ways to tackle them. So the situations and solutions I describe come from both Richard Woolfson’s many years’ experience working with children and their parents and the many conversations I have had with other parents at the school gate and subsequently.

Do you have plans to write more Helping Hand stories?

I would love to. There’s no shortage of topics. For example, the growth of cyberbullying is
something I know the parents of young children I talk to are desperately worried about. It’s a problem that just did not exist when they were children so it is more difficult to grasp. I think a story that shed some light on the issue and offered advice on how to tackle it would be very well received.

What do you hope the Helping Hand stories will achieve?

I had a conversation the other day with a mum who had recently read the stories to her
young daughter. She told me that, initially, she had been a little wary of raising such
difficult topics with her innocent young child. But, equally, she knew that her little girl
would have to face such issues, probably sooner rather than later. As they describe a
fictional situation, the stories had been a relaxed way to introduce the topics and her
daughter had engaged with them. She identified with the children portrayed in them and
wanted to read them again a few days later, asking a number of questions. Mum and Dad
had felt very relieved that the topics were now ‘on the table’ and indeed the books were
now literally on the bedside table to be referred to, as and when needed. If that experience could be repeated a thousand times – or even tens of thousands of times – I would be thrilled.

Link for Helping Hands: http://www.helpinghandstories.com

About Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York

Sarah Duchess photo

The Duchess of York is a global humanitarian, businesswoman, best selling children’s book author, producer and wellness advocate. The Duchess is widely admired for her “comeback spirit” and for overcoming formidable obstacles to succeed as a good mother who has worked hard to support her children, a survivor, businesswoman and humanitarian.
In 1993 she founded Children in Crisis (www.childrenincrisis.org.uk) and the charity has educated over 1.4 million children, trained over 18,000 teachers, built 57 schools and supports hundreds of schools on a yearly basis. Recently CIC merged with Street Child and The Duchess is Founder Patron, remaining active in its mission to provide education to forgotten children around the world. She has recently returned from visiting Street Child’s projects in Nepal and Sierra Leone, supporting the most marginalised into education and out of bonded labour.

The Duchess has published over 52 books including two autobiographies and titles dealing with health, empowerment, history, art, as well as children’s stories. Her children’s books include the series of ‘Budgie the Little Helicopter’, adapted into a highly successful animated series on US primetime Fox and her children’s book ‘Tea for Ruby’, published by Simon and Schuster had it’s debut at the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

The subject of countless media interviews herself, The Duchess has also found success as a reporter and presenter. In America, she has been a special correspondent for NBC’s Today show and has presented specials and documentaries on ABC, FOX, and CNN. In Britain, she has presented and coproduced specials for ITV, BBC, and Sky TV. She has served as guest editor on BBC Radio 4 Today programme and has regularly contributed to BBC Radio 2’s primetime lifestyle show “Steve Wright”.
She conceived the film, and produced alongside Martin Scorsese, ‘The Young Victoria’, a period romance based on the early life of Queen Victoria starring Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend and scripted by Julian Fellowes. She has written two books on the subject, ‘Travels with Queen Victoria’ and ‘Victoria and Albert: Family Life at Osborne House’. The Young Victoria was released in the US, UK, Australia, France amongst other territories and it was the closing film at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2009.

She devotes much of her time to promoting wellness and children’s causes. The ‘Helping Hand’ series of books is designed to introduce children to the issues they all confront as they grow old, through storytelling and to support their parents with advice provided by a leading child psychologist. For 10 years she was the highly successful US spokesperson for Weight Watchers International where she distinguished herself as a wellness advocate and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association. She has recently been asked to lead a campaign highlighting women and heart disease by The British Heart Foundation.

She is a passionate supporter of a number of charities including The Teenage Cancer Trust and Teen Cancer America, Julia’s House, The British Heart Foundation and The Children’s Air Ambulance. She also champions Key to Freedom, a business structure initiative set up to support the Women’s Interlink Foundation (WIF) by giving vulnerable young women a platform to sell their products. WIF works across West Bengal, India, helping these women develop skills to earn an income. She has just returned from a visit to The Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation Hospital (BASR) where, as Patron, she is spearheading a campaign to establish a cardiology department to include a heart attack centre and rehabilitation.