Tag Archives: Children’s Laureate

The Wizards of Once: Knock Three Times: #3 – Cressida Cowell




SEP 24, 2019 | 9781444941470 | RRP $19.99

Not strange at all – looking up and seeing three children clutching a magical flying door high above a forest. Well ok, perhaps a magical door flying is a tiny bit odd but not in a Cressida Cowell fantasy/adventure! Xar, Wish and little Bodkin are escaping their Warrior and Wizard families along with their faithful retinue of assorted sprites, enchanted objects, snowcats, Crusher the giant and of course, Caliburn, the raven who was once the great wizard Pentaglion. However, it’s not just their respective parents and their supporters pursuing them but far worse, the Witches who are hovering above them, unseen but with the worst of intentions.

When Wish’s mother, Warrior Queen Sychorax, sets the forest alight all manner of chaos results. The ragged and tired children are facing the grimmest of narrow escapes until they are unexpectedly rescued by a giant bear. Although the giant bear is not really a bear but is actually Caliburn’s sister whom they are hoping to find and with whom they are hoping to seek shelter.  Perdita and her talking owl advisor  Hoola may not at first appear the best of saviours but the assorted band of refugees are taken into Pook’s Hill, the school for gifted wizards and are able to re-group, as well as contemplate a possible traitor in their midst.

Xar and Wish have a mission. They are determined to find a way to rid their world of Witches – and most especially the Witch-King, who is trapped in an iron ball but always posing a threat. Their sojourn at Pook’s Hill is not lengthy but enough to fortify them and give them both some skills and confidence with which to control their respective magical powers.

In the meantime, Queen Sychorax and Encanzo, Xar’s father and head of the Wizards, must reconcile their past as star-crossed lovers and unite to rescue their children.

It’s complex, fascinating, enchanting and chockers with exciting adventure and creepy characters.  I absolutely adore Cressida’s ability to combine the scary with the humorous, the seriousness with the silliness and of course, her unique illustrations and funky fonts all combine to create a really unique reading experience. No wonder she was chosen as the newest Children’s Laureate UK!

There really is no need to ‘sell’ Cressida’s novels and any readers who have already raced through the first two books in this new series will be leaping to grab this next instalment.

Highly recommended for your readers from around 10 years upwards.

Flights of Fancy: stories, pictures and inspiration from ten Children’s Laureates 😉



Walker Books, April 2019, 80 pp., $27.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781403687858

Quentin Blake, Anne Fine, Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson, Michael Rosen, Anthony Browne, Julia Donaldson, Malorie Blackman, Chris Riddell, Lauren Child.

Naturally we are not the only ones to celebrate our creators of extraordinary children’s books and this compilation is a real treat. The above authors, who have all been such familiar names for us all as we share amazing stories for children, have all been UK laureates. Their contributions to the world of children’s books are completely inspiring and now they share their thoughts, ideas and processes with children, in the hope of encouraging the next generation of outstanding authors and illustrators.

Each noteworthy person offers a personal insight into the creative process with sketches, tips, suggestions and techniques.

This is a beautiful volume filled with colour and life and wonderful insights. If you are looking to provide your young readers with some encouragement to pursue their own creative pursuits this will be a super addition to your ‘arsenal’.

Of course, there is also the opportunity to further explore the  works of each contributor – so many of whom are considered ‘legend’.

I fear my own bookshelves are going to need some expansion as I think this is another one that I cannot let go. I’m perfectly sure you will feel the same when you pick it up.

Highly recommended for any lover of children’s literature.

Such Stuff: A Story-maker’s Inspiration – Michael Morpurgo. Illustrated by Michael Foreman



Walker Books

October 2016

ISBN 9781406364576

RRP: $27.99

What a master storyteller Michael Morpurgo is! His body of work and his reputation are both completely awe-inspiring. This unparalleled weaver of dreams who was the UK Children’s Laureate from 2003-2005, with over 100 books to his credit, (many translated into other languages) and numerous awards has provided those of us who are such admirers of this work with an unprecedented insight into his writing.

This is truly a joint production. When Michael’s brother suggested that so many people always ask about how the stories come to life it would be a good idea to write about it, Michael took up the idea with enthusiasm.  It was natural to involve his long-time illustrator and collaborator, Michael Foreman, who has often provided him with the germ of an idea for a story. And along with his wife, Clare, began the task of collating anecdotes, excerpts and background information for the brilliant format of this book.

The ‘story’ of each book begin with Michael’s recount of the first idea – sometimes a real life incident, a media story, an historical fact or a yarn from someone met in a pub. He discusses how the pieces of each story then come together, to be woven into one narrative. At times, many such singular ideas all combined into the one book. Then follows an excerpt from the book in question, these selected by Clare and lastly, a few pages of information that provide back story to the particular theme of each – all fascinating and interesting aspects of the relevant title.

As an indulgence I must share this from the chapter on “I Believe in Unicorns”:

…We know the best parents and the best teachers do this, change lives. So often forgotten are the best librarians, dedicated people who go quietly about their business of trying to encourage reading. For many children who are not read to at home, or who have been frightened of books, or bored by them, at school, a good library and good librarian can change the life of a child, by judicious and sensitive recommendations, by arranging book groups, by readings, by inviting authors into to talk to children….

Thank you Michael both for that positive affirmation of our profession but also for the joy you bring to our lives with your superb writing. Visit Michael’s website here.

I highly recommend this to you for students who are interested in the process of creative writing, for lovers of Michael’s work and for your own professional reading. This one stays firmly on my own shelf!