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.

 

Great books from 2019 – Happy New Year and Happy Reading #HappyNewYear #2019books #2019wrapup #MyYearinBooks #BestBooks #MustReads #amreading #readingforpleasure #books #CrimeFiction #Thriller #FamilySaga #Saga #Historical #Kidslit #YA #NonFiction #Fiction #Fantasy #UpLit #Bookish

Great Books to check out and read from 2019

I have read and reviewed so many books this year. I have decided to follow the trend of compiling an end of year list of what I would consider “The Must Read or Top 2019 Books. The list will be in no particular order, but will be broken down into genre. Here you will find great Children’s Books and Young Adult books, followed by all types of crime fiction; followed by general fictional books; followed by family saga/historical fiction; followed by fantasy; followed by non-fiction/autobiographical/biographical.
Firstly, I would like to say a few thanks:

I am incredibly grateful to everyone however who contacts me through my blog or Twitter, interacts with me, sends me books to review, either personally or through publishing houses. I am grateful for the generosity of authors, publishers and bloggers for sharing my reviews on their social media platforms and websites. I thank publishers and authors for considering me and for giving me the responsibility of reviewing their books. Reviewing someone’s work is something I don’t do lightly. A lot of thought goes into it all and also I am so conscious that what is in my hands at that moment is someone’s hard work and, whether I’ve met the person/people face to face or not, I am always aware of them being human too. I must say that I do love writing my blog and I appreciate every opportunity I have ever had that has come with writing it.

I also thank those authors, publishers and bloggers who have been kind and generous in other ways too, such as help with the community library I currently lead. You know who you are and I am eternally grateful.

Now onto the lists. I hope people find something new, some inspiration or are perhaps reminded that they want to check out a book. The books on the list are all on my blog, so feel free to check out the full reviews. The books can be borrowed from libraries, bought from bookshops and are also e-books on the various e-book platforms.

Children and Young Adult Fiction


Princess Poppy – Please, Please Save the Bees by Janey Louise Jones
Timothy Mean and the Time Machine by William A.E. Ford
The Hangry Hamster by Grace McCluskey
Leo and the Lightning Dragons by Gill White
Toletis by Rafa Ruiz
The Age of Akra by Vacen Taylor

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty
10 Things to do Before You Leave School by Bernard O’Keefe (YA)

Crime Fiction , including Thrillers and Political Thrillers

Absolution by Adam Croft
Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver
In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone

Nothing to Hide by James Oswald
The Poisoned Rock by Robert Daws
Death at the Plague Museum by Lesley Kelly
The Killing Rock by Robert Daws
In Plain Sight by Adam Croft
Sealed with a Death by James Sylvester
Hands Up by Stephen Clark
The Silence of Severance by Wes Markin
A Friend In Deed by G.D. Harper

General Fiction

 


The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris
Birthday Girl by Haruki Murakami
A Summer to Remember by Sue Moorcroft
Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls
Let it Snow by Sue Moorcroft
Summer at the Kindness Café by Victoria Walters
Secret Things and Highland Flings by Tracy Corbett
Sunshine and Secrets – The Paradise Cookery School by Daisy James

Family Saga/Historical Fiction

Bobby Girls coverHeady HeightsTime will tell book

Bobby Girls by Johanna Bell
Welcome to the Heady Heights by David F.Frost

Time Will Tell by Eva Jordan

Fantasy

The Blue Salt Road Joanne HarrisThe Old Dragon's Head Coveer

The Blue Salt Road by Joanne M. Harris (YA and Adult)
The Old Dragon’s Head by Justin Newland

The Longest Farewell by Nula Suchet
Zippy and Me by Ronnie Le Drew
First in the Fight 20 Women Who Made Manchester by Helen Antrobus
The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler

I have some books to review already and working on them for 2020.
I’ve plenty of exciting things to be blogging about in 2020 and hopefully many more exciting opportunities will crop up in the future. I will also be publishing brief resumes of great theatre shows from 2018 and 2019, most of which are still running, going to tour nationally in the UK and some of which come back every so often, so could be ones to look out for in the future.
For now, I hope you enjoy what I have for my 2019 resumes and all else that is on my blog. I hope you all had a great Christmas and I wish you all a Happy New Year and all the best for 2020. Thank you too for following and reading my blog, without such, it wouldn’t exist. I love writing my blog and always grateful to those who give me opportunities to review and to write and to talk to people and to those who read what I write. Thank you!!!!

As I didn’t do this in 2018, here is a quick run down of the best books I read then. 
Fiction – Stealth by Hugh Fraser, Antiques and Alibis by Wendy H. Jones, The Wrong Direction by Liz Treacher, A Christmas Gift by Sue Moorcroft.
Non -Fiction – An Almost Perfect Christmas by Nina Stibbe, Charles Dickens by Simon Callow, Fill my Stocking by Alan Titchmarsh.
Young Adult – Tony Plumb and the Moles of Ellodian by J.M. Smith
Children’s books – The Treasure At the Top of The World by Clive Mantle.
Reviews can be found on my blog. Please note the Christmas books are reviewed within one blog post with quick reviews.

Happy New Year 2020

 

Bookmark pic

Review of A Friend In Deed by G.D. Harper @harper_author #Review #BlogTour @matadorbooks #thriller #politicalthriller #crimefiction #fiction

A Friend In Deed
By G.D. Harper
Rated: 4 stars ****

 

Today, a little later than I had planned, I am pleased to present my review on the blog tour for A Friend In Deed by G.D. Harper.

A Friend in Deed Full Tour Banner

 

About the Author

I was placed third in the 2015 Lightship Prize for first-time authors, won a 2016 Wishing Shelf Award Red Ribbon, been shortlisted at the UK Festival of Writing for Best First Chapter, longlisted in the 2017 UK Novel Writing Competition.

In 2017, I was one of twelve authors selected for Authors in the Spotlight at the Bloody Scotland book festival in Stirling, showcasing who they considered to be the best emerging talent in crime fiction, and was the only self-published author to be chosen. I have spoken at numerous other book events, including Blackwells’ Writers at the Fringe at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe; a stand-alone slot at the Byres Road Book Festival in Glasgow, and the Aye Write! Book Festival, also in Glasgow.

I worked in Russia and Ukraine for ten years, which gave me the ideas for the plot and setting that I used in A Friend in Deed.

Social Media Links
Webpage www.gdharper.com

Facebook: @gdharperauthor

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/harper_author

Blurb

A Friend In Deed CoverBritain: a few years from now. A new populist political party has won the recent general election.

Duncan Jones, freelance political journalist and blogger, loses his weekly column at a national newspaper and turns to investigative reporting. The chance remark of a friend leads him to suspect that the Russians are directing the new British government’s policies and decisions. As he visits Moscow and Ukraine to discover more, scandal follows intrigue, dark forces attempt to silence him by whatever means possible and he turns to an unlikely ally for help.

A Friend in Deed is a fast-paced psychological thriller set in an all-too-believable near future. It is also the story of how one man confronts the traumas in his past and works out how to resolve them.

Review

The book gets off to a good start in the National Portrait Gallery, London, with the main character scrutinising famous Scottish actor Peter Capaldi in the exhibition titled “Celebrity”. It’s a pretty good place to start I reckon as I like the gallery and Peter Capaldi. I also like the description of Bill Nighy too and the way readers are taken through the gallery in general.

I can certainly relate to Duncan Jones feeling the need to finish his blog, even though it is late.

To begin with there’s the interest of a new political party – Act Now, journalism that sounds like is not doing so well for Duncan and the part of the team he is in, there is also new love with Tanya from Ukraine. There’s also a brief snippet of life before as he had a love of his life until tragedy struck. Duncan also goes under 2 aliases, one for his political blog and the other for his novels. Tanya also seems to live 2 different lives, one sort in London and another, darker, more dangerous sort in Russia.

The book has substance and feels so close to what is happening now in the world. It feels like quite a bit of thought has gone into this and also some foresight too, something that not everyone has, but G.D.Harper seems to. It does feel like it is set not in the too distant future.

The story has close truths about how technology can be chillingly misused. G.D. Harper has the atmosphere just right as it is one that is unsettling and so thought-provoking and plausible. There is also the new “Dissemination of Terrorism Act”, which adds even more to the increasingly frighteningly sinister political world that Harper has created.

The ending seemed a little bit quick in some ways, but it was good and the story of course, did have to conclude and it was, on the whole satisfying.

I do recommend this book. I recommend it so that people can see how close to what is written within the pages we actually are in today’s world and how today’s political parties are not too far off the Act Now party. It really does make one think.

Libraries Matter in the 21st Century #Article #LibraryMatters @CressidaCowell @PhilipArdagh #libraries #education

Libraries Matter in the 21st Century

Why, you should ask, when there are Kindles and other online platforms, do libraries matter now in the 21st Century. I have heard people saying that they may be becoming a thing of the past and don’t really matter. There are also people who don’t realise, even after the existence of libraries for many years, that they are free. That is one of the beauty’s of libraries – they are free. Whatsmore books can be borrowed and new books can be obtained for free. Librarians can also introduce you to a whole new author based on what you like. If you don’t know what you like, they can find out by different means through a nice chat.

Libraries have the latest books and follow the latest trends. Pick up a book and escape into different realms, away from reality for a bit, whatever age you are. Some adults think libraries are only for children, they are for every age. Reading for Pleasure isn’t just a trend however, it is for all ages and all it requires is time to be made to relax and unwind with a book. Books are proven to help de-stress after a hard day at school or further education or work.

Books, whether they are fiction or non-fiction all have something that can expand people’s knowledge, language, imagination, exploration of the world, expand tolerance, understanding and well-being.

Libraries have computers and apps with the latest technologies as well as WI-FI. There are also often great study areas within them for all ages.

Libraries offer more. They offer sanctuary through tough times and a source of joy when times are good. They also offer times to socialise and meet you friends. They offer places to unwind. A library is many things.

Libraries offer more even still:

They offer Bookbug Sessions in Scotland and equvelent of sessions such as Rhyme Times south of the border.

Libraries look at STEM and Lego Clubs and Builders Days are popping up across the country.

Libraries give people exciting opportunities to meet an author, get a book signed, hear a talk. In Scotland it is Bookweek Scotland coming up week beginning Monday 18th November. Check your local library to see how they are celebrating it and keep a look out to see how your child’s school is celebrating. Events happen nationally within schools and public library and some community libraries throughout the year, check with your library to see what is planned and how to attend (usually with consumate ease and most are free).

Think Netflix is the greatest thing? The next greatest thing to follow at libraries is Bookflix, cropping up in libraries and school library/book corners.

Books are lovely to share, whether they are children, young adults or adults and there are many benefits from doing this, including forming new friendships.

Libraries and their books and events really are for the youngest of babies to the oldest of adults.

School libraries have been disappearing, but Cressida Cowell and Phillip Aardagh seem to be on the case to work on getting them re-instated because they matter. School visits to local libraries also matter and count. Experiences matter as does making them as positive as possible.

Libraries in both the public and school domains matter. They need people to support them by using them. There seems to be a swath of people who still think libraries are lifeless and are all about stern librarians telling them what to do or not do etc. Libraries changed quite a number of years ago and are ever evolving. Yes, they suffer from lack of funding too, but passionate librarians work many hours to deliver a great service and are always striving to do their best for the public. Support them and enjoy them! They are not a luxury, but a necessity after all and not something to be taken for granted.
So, instead of walking by a library, whether at school or in an area that has a library open to all, why not pop in and see what is going on and what is on offer, you may be pleasantly surprised.

What I worry about the future of libraries is that one day in some places, people may wake up to their being no library in any form. Once something is lost it can be forever. Let’s try and keep libraries for the present and the future. Enjoy them by using them, having a chat with your librarian and seeing what is on offer.

Your library may have closed down already. My local library has and now sits within the third sector. I used to work for the local authority libraries. Jobs go though don’t they. I ironically only worked a couple of times in the library where I actually live. I now work there a lot, bringing it up to scratch and using every inch of experience to lead it and to bring it as close to the local authority run libraries as possible. I and other in other community libraries that try to compliment a council run library ensure we have a great selection of books, in every genre and that they are new, have school class visits, have (in Scotland) Bookbug sessions (I was trained under the council run libraries when I worked with them and the Bookbug co-ordinator for the area allows me to continue). Authors also kindly visit too.

Am I still passionate about libraries, even though I do not get paid anymore? Yes, although it is rather a worrying trend because always, I, anyway am wanting to deliver the absolute best possible library to people because libraries really do matter and can make a difference to people’s lives in many forms. Community libraries can be less recognised where and when it matters and I hope that changes soon, or people may find community libraries also ever more challenging to run, if they want to do it to compliment a local authority library. I feel that’s a whole other subject for another time.
Enjoy libraries and support them and reap the benefits from them before there is nothing left to pass on to present people and future generations.