Archive for the ‘Special Features’ Category

How to Write a Love Story by Katy Cannon

Monday, May 14th, 2018

Katy Cannon is the author of Love, Lies and Lemon Pies as well as Secrets, Schemes and Sewing Machines, both of which are perfect for teenage readers. Her latest YA novel, How to Write a Love Story is based on one family who are “obsessed” with love. The main character, Tilly Frost has grown up reading the bestselling romance novels written by her grandmother. Tilly knows them so well that when Beatrix Frost is taken ill, she is able to finish her latest one for her.

The 16-year old Tilly must navigate the difficult ground of school crushes and relationships while also working out how to write a convincing and enjoyable romance novel when she’d never been in love. This touching book shows that love never quite happens in the flawless ways depicted on paper.

What Our Editorial Expert Thought

Our Editorial Expert Joanne Owen read and reviewed this book for us. Here is a glimpse at what she had to say:

‘In a Nutshell: A feel-good feast of romance, writing and one glorious gran … “When your whole family is obsessed with Love and Romance it sets some pretty high expectations, believe me”, explains 16-year-old Tilly, the witty narrator of this bright and breezy book … Delightful on the everyday dramas of family life, first love and fiction’s edifying allures, this is perfect for aspiring writers and fans of funny contemporary YA.’

The see the full review from Joanne, go to the How to Write a Love Story book page.

A Bit More About the Book

How to Write a Love Story was published on the 3rd May and is our Weekly Staff Picks this week on LoveReading4Kids (10th-17th May). The story of Tilly’s introduction to writing, her grandmother’s illness and her trials and tribulations as she decides to fall in love for real are all heart-warming and touching. This marvellous new YA novel by the incredibly talented Kay Cannon has is bound to have you falling in love with it.

A chat with Guy Bass, bestselling children’s author

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

1. Can you describe Noah Scape Can’t Stop Repeating Himself in 5 words?

When Noah doubles there’s trouble.
When Noah doubles there’s trouble.
When Noah doubles there’s trouble.
When Noah doubles there’s trouble.
When Noah doubles there’s trouble.

2. What was the inspiration for writing the book?

The name was the starting point. I wanted to write a “be careful what you wish for” story, with Noah deliberately deciding to start doubling but it soon spirals out of control to become a situation he can’t escape. There is something appealing about the idea of there being one more of you, or four of you, or eight, or a hundred … but when everyone’s the same, it’s a sadder world. At the beginning of the story, Noah’s so set in his ways that he rejects other people’s ideas and opinions but the more he duplicates, the more he realises that difference makes life interesting. Difference and dinosaurs.

3. You could say that Noah is a bit of a difficult student… What were you like at school? Were you as demanding as Noah?

I wish I had been – demanding, not difficult. I was really quiet at school. So quiet that I’m pretty sure I could have turned invisible and I pretty sure no one would have noticed. Which is just one of the two hundred super powers I wished I’d had as a child. I spent every school assembly daydreaming about floating into the air and out of the window. My memory’s hazy but i’m almost convinced it never actually happened.

4. We love Steve’s artwork and he’s said he just might have broken the record for drawing the same character again and again and again! What version of Noah is your favourite?

It’s an impressive record! My favourite’s one of the (many) Noahs on page 51. He’s far off in the background, holding a balloon and looking strangely sinister. Thanks to horror films it’s now impossible to hold a balloon and not look evil.

5. Noah loves nothing more than talking about dinosaurs and eating spaghetti with tomato sauce. What two things do you wish everyone loved as much as you do?

Comic books and cheese fondue.

6. Finally, we’d love to see the spot where all your characters come to life. Can you show us a picture of where you write?

I should point out that my main problem with writing books is the isolation. As you can see, I found a solution – you’re never alone with a thousand lifeless painted eyes staring down at you. Oddly, the toys on my shelves seem to have doubled recently. Maybe that’s where the real inspiration for Noah Scape came from.

Noah Scape: Can’t Stop Repeating Himself by Guy Bass and illustrated by Steve May is published by Barrington Stoke, the leading publisher of books for struggling and reluctant readers including dyslexia friendly books.

Noah Scape loves dinosaurs and spaghetti with tomato sauce. But Noah doesn’t always get what he wants and when school doesn’t revolve around dinosaur facts and lunch isn’t always his tried and tested favourite, well… enough is enough! It’s time for him to stop wishing and to decide on exactly what he needs; a world full of Noahs!  But, getting what you want isn’t always what you need in this laugh-out- loud comedy from one of the fastest-rising stars of the children’s book world Guy Bass.

Noah Scape: Can’t Stop Repeating Himself  is particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 8+.


The UKLA Shortlist for 2018 has been announced!

Monday, March 26th, 2018

It is that time of year again to announce the Shortlist for the 2018 UKLA Book Awards. This year, the judges for these unique book awards will come from Wales. The UKLA Awards are the only awards that are judged solely by active classroom teachers.


The UKLA is a registered charity that works to improve and advance education in literacy. The UKLA is completely focused on promoting good practice in literacy and language teaching and research nationally and internationally. The UKLA Awards prides itself on being the only national book awards which are judged by teachers.

UKLA understands how important it is to encourage children to read and to promote the place that books hold for young people across all educational settings. The Association works to promote this outlook from nursery all the way though to key stage 4. Supporting their hard work and co-sponsoring this year’s awards alongside Micro Librarian Systems (MLS) are our very own LoveReading4Schools and LoveReading4Kids. One of our Directors, Deborah Maclaren says:


LoveReading4Schools and its sister site LoveReading4Kids are delighted to again support the UKLA Book Awards in 2018. Under new ownership the brand has been re-launched and the sites are being re-designed to bring them bang up-to-date and will continue to develop further to further support our mission to promote a love of books and reading by offering the tools, advice and information needed to help our members and browsers to find their next favourite book.

The fact that the teacher judges reflect on their students’ responses to the books gives these Awards huge credibility and trust so that schools know the books will be in turn loved by their own pupils. The awards are equally valuable for parents looking to support the school environment and further engender a love of reading at home. We can’t wait to see the eventual winners as the shortlisted books are all simply wonderful.


The UKLA Awards are judged by 8 groups of judges across three different age ranges, before coming together to decide the shortlists for each category.

More Information about the UKLA Awards

The titles that are celebrated through the UKLA Awards are titles that teachers can and do share with their pupils as a part of their regular classroom experience. It is great to highlight the diversity in children’s literature and using high quality and enjoyable books throughout education is a great way to get more children reading for pleasure. The titles that already feature in the UKLA 2018 longlist have been highlighted for their ability to inspire an extended dialogue about the books. Whether this is a wider discussion of the book and its themes, a creative interaction with the topic or a better understanding of the wider curriculum. The UKLA also want to make sure that the books they celebrate in the awards work to enhance all aspects of literacy learning as well as literary study.

The choices made by the judges as a part of this awards programme reflect the teachers’ preference for the diversity and quality of reading material offered by small independent publishers such as Andersen Press, Barrington Stoke, Gecko Press, David Fickling Books, The Bucket List, Two Hoots and Words & Pictures, who all feature on the shortlist.

The Shortlist

Now that the shortlist has been announced, the next stage for the judges will be to narrow the books chosen down even further, and eventually choose a winner. The winner of the 2018 UKLA Awards will be announced on the 6th July at the UKLA International Conference. The shortlist for the 2018 UKLA has been announced today, keep reading to see which books managed to make the cut for each category. The books that feature in this shortlist have the unique guarantee that they have been tried and tested in the classroom.

Past winner Jason Wallace has proven to be a hit once again. Jason won the 12-16 category in 2011 with Out of the Shadows, his debut novel. This year, his second novel is featured in this year’s shortlist. Featuring alongside him in the shortlist are the Current Carnegie medal shortlistees Geraldine McCaughrean with Where the World Ends and Marcus Sedgwick with Saint Death. Past winner Sarah Crossan co-authored We Come Apart with Brian Conaghan, a verse novel also featuring on the shortlist. 2018 sees the first graphic novel featuring on the UKLA Awards shortlist with Alpha: Abidjan to Gare du Nord. Frogkisser! By Garth Nix completes the line-up for the 12-16 category.

The 7-11 category features a book in translation from Gecko Press publishing with Megumi Iwasa’s Yours Sincerely, Giraffe which goes up against the powerful refugee story written by Elizabeth Laird, Welcome to Nowhere. The brilliant debut novel from Maria Farrer Me and Mister P. and the gorgeously illustrated The White Fox by Jackie Morris also feature in this category alongside two information books: Lesser Spotted Animals by Charlotte Gullian and The Street Beneath My Feet by Yuval Zommer

The final category, focuses on titles aimed at children aged 3-6. This category sees Eric and Terry Fan, or The Fan Brothers pitted against themselves, as they have illustrated two of the titles on the shortlist: The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield and The Night Gardener. The brothers will be competing to win this category with two English Association award winners including the inaugural winner of the Margaret Mallet Award for Children’s Non-Fiction Laura Knowles (It Starts With a Seed) and the 2017 4-7 picture book category winner Oi Dog by Kes and Clair Gray and Jim Field. Also competing in this category is the debut from Morag Hood Colin and Lee, Carrot and Pea and Odd Dog Out by Rob Biddulph.





Tricks from the Top to Improve your Writing

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

The Wicked Young Writer Awards deadline is looming (12th March 2018), and in order to encourage anyone considering entering, we have a round-up of advice from some of the best children’s authors in the industry. So whether you’re looking for tips ahead of submitting your entry to the Wicked Young Writer Awards, or have already caught the writing bug and want to improve, keep reading to find some great writing tips perfect for budding authors.

Cressida Cowell

Cressida Cowell, the popular author of the books How to Train Your Dragon that has gone on to beadapted into two films and a TV show has shared her tips for writing ahead the release of her latest book, The Wizards of Once.

My Top Writing Tip – Read lots, to give you a feel for the way different stories can be told. Also practise writing as much as you can – write, and re-write – don’t worry if you don’t finish a story, as long as you are practising, that’s what matters. Also don’t worry if your stories aren’t very long: I didn’t start out writing books as long as the ones I write now. You can still do research when you are creating your own fantasy world. Kids often think that ideas get beamed into an author’s head, or that when you write fantasy you can’t do background reading, but many ideas in The Wizards of Once were sparked by books I read about the history of magic, and magical creatures.

Inspiration – You can be inspired by your own experiences. Ideas I had about Vikings and dragons during summer holidays when I was 9 years old became 12 books, and a film and TV series. I had a slightly unusual childhood (I spent my summers on an uninhabited Scottish Island), but the world we all live in is full of extraordinary, wonderful idea for stories. You only have to watch an episode of Blue Planet to see that’s true.

Draw a Map of your Imaginary Place – I always begin my stories with a map of my imaginary place. Lots of other authors have done the same – Robert Louis Stevenson drew a map of Treasure Island before starting to write. This is a really easy way of thinking about characters and setting.

Think you are Not Good at Writing? Then think again – Often kids say to be that they aren’t very good at writing, but I know that’s not true – what they’re struggling with is the mechanics of getting the words onto paper. If you can make up a game in the playground, or you tell your friends stories, you can be an author! Get an adult to write or type for you, if you need to.

An Ideas Notebook – Keep an ideas notebook so you can scribble down ideas and drawings. This doesn’t need to be neat, and no one should be correcting it for spelling, because spelling doesn’t matter. I kept a sketchbook for The Wizards of Once for about 5 years.”

Lauren St John

Lauren St John’s portfolio of popular books include The White Giraffe, Dolphin Song, The Last Leopard and The Elephant’s Tale. Lauren also wrote Dead Man’s Cove, winner of the 2011 Blue Peter Book of the Year Award and a part of the Laura Marlin mysteries. Her latest book, Kat Wolfe Investigates is due out on the 17th May. Lauren has also worked as a Journalist for the Sunday Times and has shared her tips for writing too!

You don’t have to Begin at the Beginning – If you’re having one of those days or even years where a blank piece of paper feels like a cliff you’re expected to scale without ropes, forget about starting with the first sentence of your novel, story or chapter. Write what you feel most passionate about writing. If you’re in the mood for writing a thrilling chase scene that takes place on page two or 200, write it now. If you wake in the middle of the night longing to write about the moment the girl in your story rescues a runaway horse, or makes a break for freedom from some ghastly boarding school, get up and write it then and there. Writing something that moves or excites you often makes it easier to get back into the flow.

Think like a Journalist – No, I don’t mean one of those horrid tabloid reporters that you see in the movies. I spent years working for The Sunday Times and the essence of my job was to capture the sights, sounds and magic of a situation for our readers. Whether I was swimming with sea lions and Hammerhead sharks (yes,that really happened) in the Galapagos Islands, or interviewing Sia or Tiger Woods, I had to make readers feel as if they were there. That helps me now as a novelist. I want my readers to experience the sights and sounds of riding at Badminton or racing across the Savannah on a white giraffe. I want them to feel the thrill of finding clues or outwitting assassins alongside Kat Wolfe, my newest young detective.

Walk in the Shoes of your Characters – Beyond a vague outline, I don’t plan my books. That’s because I like to solve the mystery with my characters. For instance, in Kat Wolfe Investigates, there’s a scene where Kat climbs a cliff path in a sea fog to the futuristic mansion of her first pet-sitting client. It’s a nail-biting scene, and when I wrote it I felt as if I was with her and as scared of what she might find as she was. That’s the best bit about writing children’s books. You get to have the adventure yourself!

Sir Michael Morpurgo

Children’s novelist and writer of War Horse Sir Michael Morpurgo has been honoured with an exhibition about his life and writing process at the V&A Museum. With a large number of other books published, such as the Mudpuddle Farm series or his latest novel Flamingo Boy, Michael has a wealth of experience to call upon when offering writing advice.

Live an interesting life – Get out there, go places, meet people and move outside your comfort zone. Read a lot and widely, learn from other writers, from the greats. Every book you read informs, builds confidence.  With every book you read you are subconsciously finding your own voice.

Write just a Little Every Day – Have a note book handy wherever you go – a writer’s sketch book – and jot down thoughts and ideas, memories, snatches of overheard conversations, moments of high drama, or quiet reflection.   Frequency is important. The more you do it the less inhibited you become, the less you worry about words. From these jottings will emerge the ideas for your stories and poems.

Take the Time before you settle on the Idea for your Story – Find an idea that you care about, that you’re really passionate about, then research around it, read around it and dream it out in your mind. Don’t be in a hurry to decide but make sure it feels right.

I don’t Plan the Plot though other Writers do – What works for me is as far as possible to forget I’m writing it at all. I tell it down onto the page, as if I’m telling it to one person only, my best friend. Remember to be comfortable when you write.  Don’t hunch over. Don’t stay sitting too long. Get up and walk about every half an hour. If you dry up, go and do something else, put it out of your mind and come back fresh.

Remember to Write for Yourself – not for a market and give yourself time to develop your own style, your own voice.    It takes a lifetime. Enjoy it!

Jill Murphy

Writer and Illustrator Jill Murphy is well known for a wide range of works including the Worst Witch novels. These novels have inspired a TV series that has been refreshed, and is still running on CBBC. Jill has also gone on to write more popular children’s books such as Whatever Next!, and Peace at Last. Below are the tips that she has for aspiring writers.

Try to be Original – Don’t be too influenced by the books you’ve been reading – we’ve already got those! Try to think of an original or unusual angle if you base your story on well-known genres.

Use your own Experiences – Try to remember things that have affected you, either happy or sad and weave a story round that time in your life. You can always give it a happy ending, even if the incident was a sad one – it’s your story, you can do what you like with it!

Beginning, Middle and End – Make sure that your first paragraph grabs the reader’s attention making them want to read the next part of your story, all the way through to a satisfying ending.  The ending can either tie up all your loose ends, or leave the reader guessing what happens next, paving the way for a sequel!

Save all your Energy for Writing Your Story – Don’t tell people about your story or read bits to friends. I find that if I do that, I feel as if I’ve already written it and sometimes don’t finish writing it down. Speaking, and writing something down are very different processes. For a start, when you’re reading your own story aloud, you can do funny voices or put in emphasis and make it sound funny or easy to understand. You must remember that your reader will have to make sense of your story without any verbal assistance from you.

I do hope these tips will help you on your quest for the very best story you’ve ever written!

Hopefully, these tips and tricks from popular authors will inspire you to get writing. Entries for the Wicked Young Writer Awards close on the 12th March, and entries are accepted from people aged 5-25. Happy writing!

Mark International Women’s Day with LoveReading4Kids!

Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

What Is International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day, or IWD for short, is on 8th March and has been marked around the world for more than 100 years and is seen as a day to feature the achievements of women across history while also looking ahead, and making sure that women and girls have the same opportunities to succeed now and in the future.

One of the main events that is often focused on is the Women’s Suffrage movement which 100 years ago this year succeeded in getting votes for women. As a suffragette (the more militant women in the women’s suffrage movement), one of the most important figures was Emmeline Pankhurst who is the main character for Megan Rix’s Emmeline and the Plucky Pup. You can also read more about Women’s Suffrage, by clicking here.

Why is it important that we mark International Women’s Day?

It is really important that we celebrate IWD to remember the work and sacrifice that has gone in to women’s education and the chances they have today. The work that has been carried out throughout history has changed the lives of women today, with the education they are allowed to have, and the jobs they can choose. In the past women weren’t able to own anything, all their possessions belonged to their fathers, then their husbands.

However, there is still room for improvement, so celebrating IWD every year offers a chance to educate the younger generation of girls and boys, and help them to understand the need for an equal society. There is a wide range of books available for children and teenagers that will encourage the next generation of women to think big, as well as to educate boys and girls about Suffrage. These books include Things A Bright Girl Can Do (13+) by Sally Nicholls which is set in the 19th century and tells the story of three young suffragettes who come together from three different backgrounds in order to join the fight for a fairer society. Mollie on the March (9+/11+) by Anna Carey is about Mollie Carberry and her best friend Nora and their work to be involved in the suffragette movement, overcoming obstacles in the urgency and excitement of the times.

Fantastically Great Women Who Made History (5+/7+) by Kate Pankhurst (a distant relation of Emmeline), the follow up from Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World is an inspiring picture book packed full of women’s stories that will get young readers inspired and excited about the remarkable achievements of pioneering women and the power that everyone has to change the world. Lucy Beevor’s Amazing Women: 101 Lives to Inspire You is another beautifully illustrated collection of amazing achievements of more than 100 inspirational women of our time who have become trailblazers, campaigners, pioneers and creators including Beyonce, JK Rowling and Serena Williams. Another great recommendation is Girls for the Vote (9+/11+) by Linda Newbery which tells the tale of thirteen year old Polly who becomes friends with two suffragettes and, with her new found understanding, starts to question the views of those around her.

Little girls with dreams become women with great vision so do share The Little People Big Dreams series with children aged 5+. From designers and artists to scientists and engineers, all of the people in this trailblazing series went on to achieve incredible things. Yet all of them began life as a little child with a dream…Little People, Big Dreams is the original biography picture book series for young change-makers – a first library showing the true breadth of women’s achievement. Each book tells the childhood story of one of the world’s female icons in an entertaining, conversational way that works well for even the youngest non-fiction readers, allowing them to identify with the characters in each story.

You can also check out our Blog post on which has a wide range of books written by fantastic female authors as well as suggestions that are perfect for perusal this International Women’s Day.

Designing a book cover for arresting debut novel: an Art Director’s view…

Saturday, February 10th, 2018

When a very special teen/YA debut novel, She, Myself  and I (#SheMyselfAndI) by Emma Young (@EmmaELYoung) came in to Little Tiger Press, the art director Paul Coomey (@MrCoomey) knew he needed a cover artist who was adept at combining a complex narrative in an arresting visual.  Levente Szabo (@briskartist) was the first person he and the team at Little Tiger thought of and luckily, Levente was available to take on the project.  We gave him free rein to apply his technique of overlapping and merging illustrations to the intertwined stories of Rosa and Sylvia. Levente’s initial ideas were promising and thought provoking:

The idea of Sylvia falling through the ice led us to further explore the relationship of what this evokes to Rosa’s journey to finding her identity. Levante pushed this idea in a further series of concepts:

He then built on these and explored different colourways:

Which led us to our final cover!



She, Myself and I is published on 8th March 2018.

It is a very special debut novel for teens/YAs and perfect for fans of  The Art of Being Normal, Extraordinary Means and Faceless


Enter to win a family break to Salisbury

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

*****************NOTE : THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED**************

Don’t miss out! Win a family break to Salisbury – CLICK HERE TO ENTER.

Here at and we have joined with VisitWiltshire and are delighted to be giving you a chance to win a wonderful family break in Wiltshire. You could see yourself indulging in the finest food and slumbering comfortably into one of the grand rooms at The Red Lion Salisbury for two nights. The Red Lion Hotel is located in medieval city of Salisbury, which is home to all your favourite stores as well as independent shops, restaurants, cafes and parks and green spaces.



There are many seasonal events in Salisbury, and you can find out what’s on here. You will also receive a family ticket to Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, the gardens are especially beautiful in the winter, with bold coloured stems, scents, and fabulous foliage, you can be sure to be impressed. For the children there is also a play park, and you can stop off in the Victorian tea room to warm up and treat yourself to a traditional cream tea.  

To enter click here.  Entries close 31st January 2018.

Terms and Conditions

Red Lion: Two night stay includes breakfast for two adults and up to two children sharing a family room. Subject to availability and cannot be exchanged or redeemed for cash value. Not to be used in combination with any other offer. Valid until 1st Dec 2018 and excludes bank holidays

Sir Harold Hillier Gardens: Valid for day entry, Not to be used for special events or group entry. Voucher is not transferable or refundable, no Cash Value. Ticket must be redeemed on entry. Valid until 31 Dec 2018. Gardens open daily from 10am – closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Prize admits 2 adults and accompanying children Under 17 FREE to Sir Harold Hillier Gardens.

By providing us with your contact details when you enter the competition you are agreeing to future contact from VisitWiltshire and its selected partners.



Coram Voice’s creative writing competition for children in care and young care leavers returns

Monday, January 15th, 2018

Coram Voice is excited to announce the return of ‘Voices’, its national writing competition for children in care and young care leavers, for a third year running. The competition is open for entries until 8 February 2018.

Coram Voice, a charity that provides a range of services for children and young people in and around the care system, first launched the competition in 2016 as a platform for care-experienced young people to express their creative talents and to celebrate their voices.

Research conducted with previous Voices shortlisted entrants found that participation in the competition had inspired them to write more, allowed them to be recognised for their talents and for some, even helped them to come to terms with being in care.*

The theme of this year’s competition is ‘Who or What Makes You Proud’ and entries can be submitted online at in any written form including poems, short stories, raps and newspaper articles with a 500 word limit. The competition is grouped in four age categories: primary school, lower secondary school (age 11-14), upper secondary school (age 15-18) and care leavers.

The entries for Voices 2018 will be judged by a panel of experts, each with personal experience of, or a special interest in the care system including:

  • Jackie Long, Social Affairs Editor for Channel 4 News
  • Lucy Spraggan, singer-songwriter, and newly approved foster carer
  • Ashley John-Baptiste, BBC reporter and producer
  • Jenny Molloy, author of ‘Hackney Child’
  • Mr Gee, spoken word artist
  • Lola Jaye, author of ‘Orphan Sisters’
  • Lisa Cherry, author of ‘The Brightness of Stars’
  • Dreadlock Alien, slam and performance poet

The winner of each category will receive a tablet** and £100 shopping vouchers, and will be announced by the judges at an awards ceremony in London on 9 April 2018.

“I know that storytelling is one of the most powerful ways we can understand each other’s unique experiences. That’s why I am so pleased to judge Voices 2018, a competition that amplifies the voices of young people in the care system and gives them a platform to tell the world their stories.  I can’t wait to read what they produce and celebrate their achievements.”

One of the judges, Lola Jaye commented: “I know that storytelling is one of the most powerful ways we can understand each other’s unique experiences. That’s why I am so pleased to judge Voices 2018, a competition that amplifies the voices of young people in the care system and gives them a platform to tell the world their stories.  I can’t wait to read what they produce and celebrate their achievements.”

One young person who previously entered Voices said: “The competition is a safe opportunity to share your personal story – it’s a wonderful way to embrace your history and yourself” and another added “to put what you feel on a piece of paper is quite therapeutic.”

Another previous entrant commented: “It can be the start of a journey… it opens up new opportunities and also shows people the potential you have.”

Voices 2018 is open for entries until 8 February 2018. For more information about the competition and how to enter, please visit

For further information and T&Cs go to




The Sleighmaker: A Christmas Story That’s Never Been Told By Ian Shepherd

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

As warming as a hot minced pie and mulled wine, this unashamedly traditional Christmas story will delight children and adults alike.

Set in the late 1800s, it’s a bitter-sweet tale that harks back to the traditional yuletide tales of the Victorian era.

An impressive debut novel by Ian Shepherd, The Sleighmaker is ostensibly aimed at children aged seven and up, though it will certainly appeal to kids in a higher age bracket. While it might be a little challenging for seven-year-olds to read by themselves, grown-ups are sure to enjoy reading it to younger children.

The main character is Drummond, a master-craftsman once known as the most talented sleighmaker in the land.

After a tragic event, Drummond turns his back on his trade and leads a lonely life, shunning the company of others, before an old friend manages to get him to agree to work on the estate of the local gentry, Lord and Lady Harrington.Here he labours alone, embracing the solitude his new work gives him, until his life is changed by the arrival of a cheerful young boy known only as William, whose way with animals manages to prevent a riding accident involving the Harrington’s young son, Henry.

Wise beyond his years, William comes to work as Drummond’s apprentice and, along with his close companion, kitchen maid Marny, manages slowly but surely to bring a warmth back to the sleighmaker’s life.

William discovers a magnificent sleigh that Drummond had once built, now mothballed in his workshop, and eventually convinces his master to restore it for the coming winter parade.

Filled with a real sense of purpose for the first time since the tragedy, Drummond gets to work on the sleigh, enlisting the help of his friend and artist, Auguste.

It’s not easy for Drummond to continue, given his traumatic experiences, but with the loving support of William and Marny he fashions a sleigh fit for a king.

There’s a magical twist to the tale that I won’t spoil, but it’s enough to say that Drummond’s sleigh gets to serve its purpose with aplomb and is finally rekindled with the Christmas spirit and the promise of a bright future.

The Sleighmaker is an unashamedly traditional Christmas tale a million miles away from the typical modern children’s books, and is all the better for it.

The sad but ultimately uplifting story of Drummond is rich with description and nuance, presents engaging characters with depth, and though dealing with some dark issues, does so in a sensitive way.

Ian Shepherd revels in the sights, sounds and tastes of a Victorian Christmas, with readers almost able to taste the rich cakes and chocolates, fresh-baked bread and hot soups that the author so evocatively describes.

And he is confident to take his time with the narrative, building up to the wonderful and memorable ending without ever rushing and forcing things.

It’s a charming, classic Christmas story that celebrates all that is good and true about this most special time of year and it would no doubt work very well on the big screen.

For anyone who yearns to return to a simpler, less commercial time; when Christmas was still a magical occasion about family and enjoying your time together as opposed to staring zombified into digital devices; this novel will be sure to delight.
The Sleighmaker by Ian Shepherd is out now through Raj Joshi Publishing and priced £11.99 in hardback, £6.99 paperback and £4.60 as a Kindle eBook. Visit Amazon UK.

Win a family ticket to see The Gruffalo’s Child Live on stage in the West End plus a copy of The Gruffalo and Friends Annual 2018

Monday, October 30th, 2017

Following hot on the heels of The Gruffalo’s monstrous success comes The Gruffalo’s Child – with attitude! Just how brave is she? Find out for yourselves by joining her in the West End this Christmas!

The Gruffalo said that no gruffalo should ever set foot in the deep dark wood. . .

One wild and windy night the Gruffalo’s child ignores her father’s warning and tiptoes out into the snow. After all, the Big Bad Mouse doesn’t really exist… does he?

Tall Stories returns, bringing Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s award-winning sequel to life in this magical, musical adaptation.

**** “Fun, daft and a little scary!” Time Out

The Gruffalo’s Child Live is playing at the Lyric Theatre Shaftesbury Avenue from 22 November to 7 January.

For more information and to book your tickets (from £15), visit

Running time: 55 minutes (no interval). Recommended for ages 3+.

Terms and conditions: One winner will receive a family ticket (four tickets, minimum one adult) to see The Gruffalo’s Child Live at the Lyric Theatre valid until 16 December, excludes 12pm weekend performances plus a copy of The Gruffalo and Friends Annual 2018. Subject to availability. No cash alternative. Travel and accommodation not included. The Gruffalo’s Child © Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler 2004 – Macmillan Children’s Books.

To enter the competition to win the family ticket to The Gruffalo’s Child Live on stage in the West End plus a copy of The Gruffalo and Friends Annual 2018, click here.

Entries close on 20th November 2017 and winners will be notified soon after. Privacy Policy Disclaimer