Monday, 10 June 2013

Event: WOW 2013 - Wonder of Words Young People's Literary Festival - 13 July 2013

You may have noticed that I have been a little quiet recently. One of the reasons for this is the semi-secret project I have been working on at school, which I can now reveal to the world. Yes, the school where I work is going to be holding its very own young people's literary festival. I have pasted details below, taken from the school's book blog page which you can view by clicking here. We are really excited about the brilliant line-up of authors we have arranged, and we hope you will join us if you live in or near Berkshire. If you're a blogger and help us to promote the festival by adding something to your blog then I will arrange a free VIP ticket for all three events. I know it's not much but... :-)

On Saturday 13 July Charters School will be holding its very own young people's literary festival. Read on to find out more about the event, the authors who will be appearing and how you can get tickets. Alternatively, you can download the festival programme by clicking here.

Last summer we held a summer fair at Charters School to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and also the London Olympic and Paralympic Games. It was a great success and so we decided we wanted to continue to hold an annual summer fair, with all the great stalls, games, live music and food that people have come to expect from a Charters School summer event,  but with a slight difference. That difference is WOW!

For our very first Wonder of Words Young People's Literary Festival we have managed to provide a brilliant line-up of author events, featuring some of the hottest authors currently writing for children and young adults. We are very excited to be hosting Laura Dockrill, Holly Smale, Will Hill, Rob Lloyd Jones and Conrad Mason and we believe we have a programme which has a little something for everyone.



Laura Dockrill

Laura visited Charters in April and we are delighted to be welcoming her back to wow the audience with her wild and colourful imagination. Laura's debut book for children, Darcy Burdock, has received countless rave reviews, with The Guardian saying: "Move over, Jacqueline Wilson. Darcy Burdock could just be the new Tracy Beaker." Darcy Burdock is a hilarious and fun book, with a main character who will be loved by boys, girls and adults. This event is suitable for children aged 7+.


Holly Smale

Don't miss your chance to meet Holly Smale, author of Geek Girl, the best selling Young Adult debut of 2013. Although Geek Girl has been aimed at the 11+ market, girls as young as 7 and as old as 18 are finding it to be hugely enjoyable read. Clumsy, a bit geeky and somewhat shy, Holly spent the majority of her teenage years hiding in the changing room toilets. She was unexpectedly spotted by a top London modelling agency at the age of fifteen and spent the following two years falling over on catwalks, going bright red and breaking things she couldn't afford to replace.


Will Hill, Conrad Mason and Rob Lloyd Jones

 We are delighted to welcome three very talented writers for our final event of the day. Covering horror, fantasy and mystery this panel event is suitable for all ages from 10 upwards. Will Hill is the author of the extremely popular and critically acclaimed Department 19 series, which features a secret government agency who are dedicated to protecting the public from the vampire menace. Conrad Mason's hugely entertaining and magical Tales of Fayt fantasy books have been described as being perfect for fans of Pirates of the Caribbean or the works of Terry Pratchett. Rob Lloyd Jones is the author of Wild Boy, a fast-paced adventure mystery story set in Victorian London, whose main character lives in a freak show.


There is no charge for entry to the Summer Fair, but we are making a small charge for each of the author events. Tickets for each author event are only £2 for adults and £1 for under 18s. All children under the age of 11 must be accompanied by a ticket buying adult.

Tickets can be purchased by post by sending a cheque for the correct amount made payable to Charters School. Please ensure you state clearly the event(s) you wish to purchase tickets for. You tickets will be posted to you for a charge of 60p or free of charge if you include a stamped addressed envelope with your booking. Otherwise your tickets will be held at the school for collection on the day of the festival.

All cheques should be sent to:

WOW Festival, Charters School, Charters Road, Sunningdale, Berkshire. SL5 9QY

Books and Signings

Waterstones will be selling books after each event and there will be an opportunity to meet each author and get your books signed. Unfortunately we will not have credit card facilities on the day and we will only be accepting cash or cheques for book purchases. You are welcome to bring books you already own for signing.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to email or call the school on 01344 624826

The Summer Fair

As mentioned above, the summer fair part of the day is completely free to enter, and there will be plenty going on for all of the family to keep you occupied between the author events, including:

Hog Roast


Indian food stall

Tea and cakes

Silent auction



Bouncy castle

Sumo suits

Games, games and more games

Second hand book stall

Jewellery stall

All kinds of other stalls (info to come)

Friday, 7 June 2013

Review: Frankie's Magic Football - Frankie vs The Pirate Pillagers by Frank Lampard

When Frankie wins a leathery old football from a mysterious stall at the fair, little does he know that he’s been entered into a fantastic fantasy league – leaping from one adventure to the next with his best friends and team mates Charlie, Louise and faithful dog Max. In this first book of the series, all is not as it seems and the odds are stacked against the little gang who must outwit a gang of pirates to win a football match on the high seas and escape home!

When it was first announced that Frank Lampard had secured a deal to write a series of books for the 5+ age group, there were a number of people (disappointingly many of them were authors) who seemed to express nothing but outrage. Some claimed it was patronising to children, and boys in particular, and I remember one person stating that the way to attract readers is through good writing, and that's it. Whilst I would agree that once a child has fallen in love with reading, good quality writing is the way to keep them hooked, I would suggest that books like this are the perfect way to get children (and boys in particular) reading for pleasure in the first place. Just look at the phenomenally popular Beast Quest series - the books won't win any kind of literary prize but I bet there are thousands of children out there who have read them multiple times, and who have subsequently been turned on to a love of books that may last them a lifetime. Author Barry Hutchison wrote a great blog post about this shortly after the announcement was made, and I strongly recommend you popping over his blog to read it here.

I for one have absolutely no problem with Frank Lampard writing a series of books if even just one child picks one up, reads it and then asks his/her parents for more. I would imagine that many parents would agree with me. And that was my opinion before reading it. Now that I've read the first in the series I would suggest that Little, Brown extend the deal to even more books. Frankie vs The Pirate Pillagers is a fun read from beginning to end, and many kids will love it. 

Main character Frankie wins a tatty old football from the local fair, and he and his friends can't resist one quick kick-around at the park on their way home. Before they know it, Frankie, Charlie, Louise and dog max find themselves whisked away to a pirate ship in tropical waters, where they are forced to face a team of pirates in the fantasy league. If they win, Frankie's FC get to play another game, if they lose it's the long walk off a short plank for them all. Built into the story are themes of fair play and friendship, although they are not delivered in a preachy manner. 

This is a great little book for kids who want to move on from large format picture books. A mere 80 pages of largish text, accompanied by Mike Jackson's fun illustrations, make this perfect for boys and girls who are just finding their feet when it comes to reading, and especially those who are football fans. I gave a copy to my nephew for his 5th birthday and I'm expecting to be asked to get him copies of the other books in the series as they are published. Incidentally, his mother (my sister) also agreed completely with me - it doesn't matter who has written a book if it encourages a child to start reading for pleasure.

You can find out more about the books over at The book was published yesterday and the second in the series, Frankie vs the Rowdy Romans, is due out in August. My thanks go to the lovely people at Little, Brown for sending me a copy to read.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Review: My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish by Mo O'Hara

Frankie was a Big Fat Zombie Goldfish and somehow he’d hypnotized my best friend’s sister!’ Tom’s big brother is an Evil Scientist who wants to experiment on Tom's new goldfish, Frankie. Can Tom save his fish from being dunked in radioactive gunge? Er, no. In an act of desperation Tom zaps Frankie with a battery, bringing him back to life! But there’s something weird about the new Frankie – he’s now a zombie goldfish with hypnotic powers, and he wants revenge . . . Tom has a difficult choice to make - save his evil brother, or save his fishy friend?

As a secondary school teacher my understanding of what makes a great book for primary aged children is fairly limited. Sure, I have read a good number of these, but I wouldn't go as far as to claim to be any kind of expert on deciding  what is good and what is not so good. Case in point, it was my nephew's fifth birthday recently and I really did not know which books to buy him. I gave him a huge box set of Horrid Henry books for Christmas, and I know they went down really well, so I pretty much guessed and bought him some more books that his mum and dad will read to him, and that hopefully he will read himself as he develops the skills.

What I'm trying to say, in my usual rambling manner, is that books for this age group rarely appear on my radar before they are published, or before a copy arrives in the post from a generous publisher, but My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish by Mo O'Hara was an equally big fat exception to this. My good friend Liz de Jager (ex of My Favourite Books fame) was raving about this book months before it was published, as she knows the author through SCBWI and I believe had read several early drafts of it. On several occasions Liz pretty much ordered me to make sure I got my hands on a copy, boldly claiming that it was extremely funny, and perfect for boys, and as pretty much everything Liz has ever recommended to me has turned out to be blinkin' brilliant, I found myself waiting impatiently for its release. And yet again, Liz's recommendation was spot on. My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish is one of the most enjoyable, funny and clever books I have read for this age group in a long time. 

My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish follows the story of Tom, a boy with a particularly evil older brother called Mark. The day after Mark gets a chemistry set from his grandparents for his birthday he comes home with a goldfish, and Tom knows his brother well enough to fear for the safety of said goldfish. Tom manages to rescue the goldfish from his brother's evil clutches, but is to late - the toxic chemical cocktail that Mark left the fish in seems to have finished him off. However, with the help pf his best friend Pradeep, Tom manages to revive the goldfish, but Frankie, as he is quickly christened, is now one of the walking swimming dead, and the combination of chemical sludge and electric shock has given him the power to mesmerise anyone who upsets him.

This book contains two exciting stories, both of them focusing on Tom and Pradeep's desperate attempts to protect Frankie from Matt, and then later Pradeep's equally evil older brother Sanj. When Matt and Sanj join forces in the second of the two stories, things start to look bleak not only for Frankie, but also every member of Tom's school and eventually world domination. However, evil as they may be, Matt and Sanj are still fmaily, and so Tom and Pradeep also have to keep Frankie's vicious streak under control, just to make sure he doesn't go too far with his mesmerism. 

The book is full of clever jokes and funny illustrations (by Marek Jagucki) which will keep kids entertained from beginning to end. However, for me, the stand out element of this book was the interplay between Tom and Pradeep. The two boys make a hilarious pair of geeky kids, with code words, secret hand gestures and planned escape routes from both of their houses. Any boy who has an older brother, whether he is evil or just occasionally a little but mean, will be able to identify with the pair of friends and will take great delight in rooting for them in their quest to defeat Matt and Sanj and save the world.

My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish is perfect for children (and boys in particular) who have just learned to read and want something that they can talk to their friends about. It is just as great for younger children when read to them by a parent. We need many more books like this - books that just might turn a child on to a lifetime love of books and reading. And the great news is that The Sea-quel is due out in July!

My thanks go to the lovely people at Macmillan for sending me a copy to review.