Friday 23 January 2015

'Oliver Twist for Kids' by Playing With Plays (****)

Hello readers, and welcome to another book review, this time another review of one of the marvellous kids books by the talented Brendan P. Kelso at Playing with Plays. I was so excited when I was sent a review of ‘Oliver Twist for Kids’ as Oliver Twist was one of my favourite books as a child and I wanted to see if Kelso would be able to translate this timeless classic into a fun, enjoyable and accessible play for kids to be able to perform. As usual, he did, and with the wit and humour that would be sure to appeal to kids (and adults!) of all ages.

As is always the case with Kelso’s series, I was struck with how real he made the characters, and how their integral selves shone through their dialogue and interactions with the other characters. As should be the case with any play written for children, no part was a small part, and even the characters usually seen as minor were given fabulous dialogue and a good amount of time spent on stage. Kelso managed to keep ‘Oliver Twist for Kids’ short and snappy without losing the crucial bits of the story and keeping the themes and complexities of the story perfectly clear. When I first read Oliver Twist I remember feeling horribly confused at the relations between the characters and what groups they all belonged to, ect. But with Kelso’s adaptation, not only were the ‘good guys’, ‘bad guys’ and ‘in-betweeners’ clearly set out at the beginning, with a short description detailing any relationship they had with the other characters, and who they would eventually turn out to be, but the story was so clearly written that there could be no confusion. 

The characters themselves were warm, charming and appealing to a younger audience. There was enough of the serious stuff of the original Oliver Twist story to sustain the meaning of the play, without holding back the humour and risking making the message too heavy. There were many humorous moments and slang was used so that the kids performing could not only relate to the characters, but actually understand what they were saying. Although the play was clearly simplified to suit a younger cast, I still found myself laughing along with the comedy, warming to characters like Nancy, Oliver and the Artful Dodger, and tensing at the moments that made me nervous when I first read Dickens’ classic.

Overall, ‘Oliver Twist for Kids’ was another resounding success for Playing with Plays, and it fulfilled its purpose of creating plays from ‘tricky’ classics that were enjoyable and accessible for kids to perform, allowing them to enjoy the literature that adults are often guilty of thinking too advanced for them. 

Visit their website here:

  Follow author Brendan P. Kelso on Goodreads here:

Sunday 18 January 2015

My TBR Haul

Happy Sunday, readers, and welcome to the last post in the mini-series of my book hauls! I hope you have enjoyed seeing the books I have been gifted or have bought, and this last haul includes the books that will be popping up on my blog very soon with reviews! I am quite proud on how small this TBR pile is, and I aim to always keep it this small! Do you have a TBR list? What is the biggest your TBR list has been? I'd love to know in the comments <3


This Book is Gay- James Dawson

Bobcat- Rebecca Lee

I can't wait to read these, and I will post reviews as soon as possible! Thank you for tuning into this mini blog series, I hope you enjoyed it :)

Until next time :)

Saturday 17 January 2015

Book Gift Haul

Finally it's Saturday, and the penultimate day of this mini-series on book hauls! Today I'm going to show you a book series I was kindly given by my grandparents, a series of books all about writing and improving your craft. There are three books which all combat different possible areas of weakness in your writing and gives you helpful tips and advice for how to carry on your writing! I love books like this as I believe that you can never have enough advice when it comes to writing, and any advice is worth trying out because you never know what's going to work for you!

Books (top to bottom)

Write a Novel: And Get It Published- Nigel Watts and Stephen May

Write Great Dialogue- Irving Weinman

How To Craft A Great Story- Chris Sykes 

Until next time :)

Friday 16 January 2015

Oxford Book Haul!

Happy Friday readers! I promised you an abundance of book hauls this week, and that's what you're gonna get. Today is my Oxford book haul, because when you're in Oxford for four days for interview, what better way to spend your time than walking around the beautiful city with a coffee and perusing the numerous book shops they pride themselves on. I visited Blackwells Bookshop, the HUUUGGEE Waterstones they have there and also an Oxfam bookshop- if you haven't been to one before, I'd highly recommend it! Unfortunately I didn't manage to secure a place at the University but at least I got some good books out of it. 

 Books (top to bottom)

Selected Poetry- W.B. Yeats

The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry- Selected poets

Brighton Rock- Graham Greene

The Canterbury Tales- Chaucer

Emily Brontë: A Chainless Soul- Katherine Frank 

Until next time :)

Thursday 15 January 2015

Awards Evening Haul

Happy Thursday readers of my blog! In this mini-series of long overdue book hauls I have shown you everything I have bought/been given and read over the past few months, and today is no exception. A good few months ago we had an awards evening at school to mark our achievement in lower 6th, and since I do all essay-based subjects the prizes I won were obviously book-related! I thought it would be interesting to show you what I won, just because... well, they're books. The Orwell book wasn't one I won at Prizegiving, but I was given it at a school workshop so I've thrown it in anyway. Enjoy! 


Philosophy: Key Themes- Julian Baggini & Gareth Southwell

The Paris Gourmet- Trish Deseine

Why I Write- George Orwell

Until next time :)

Tuesday 13 January 2015

Cornish Book Haul!

Happy Tuesday readers! Recently I have been thinking that I haven't done a book haul in a reaaalllllyyyyy long time, and that isn't because I haven't bought or received any books, because I have. A lot. In recent years, I haven't bought nearly as many books as I used to, mainly because since I have become a book blogger I am fortunate enough to be sent a lot of books, but also because now I have a 'thing' about reading the books I have, before buying any new ones.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. But am I right in assuming buying books with book tokens don't count? Because, I mean, that's not really money, is it?

Nevertheless, I do have quite a few book hauls in store for you this week, starting off with my Cornwall book haul, which features books I have either bought or read in Cornwall over the past few months. I hope you like it :) Also, let me know if you have read any of the books on this list!

Books (from top to bottom)

Breakfast at Tiffany's- Truman Capote

Someone Like You- Sarah Dessen

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower- Stephen Chbosky

Mystery in White- J. Jefferson Farjeon

The Cornish Coast Murder- John Bude

Fangirl- Rainbow Rowell

The Walled City- Ryan Graudin

Oh Yeah, Audrey!- Tucker Shaw

Going Over- Beth Kephart

Emma- Alexander McCall Smith

Monday 12 January 2015

My Time in Berlin...

Happy Monday lovely readers! As promised, today I've got a few pictures to share about my time in Berlin, in dedication to Beth Kephart's INCREDIBLE book Going Over. I can honestly say that Berlin was one of the most beautiful, artistic and captivating cities I have ever been to, and I can't wait to go back. The people were so friendly, the food was so good and it was a great place to explore with friends. We were only there for a few days but we managed to squeeze so much in- we visited a concentration camp which was so unbelievable and thought provoking, we visited the Jewish Museum, Checkpoint Charlie, the Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate, Topography of Terror, House of the Wannsee Conference and much more. Check out my pictures! 

I hope you enjoyed this different post! Have you ever visited Berlin?

If so, let me know in the comments!

Check out my review of Beth Kephart's Going Over, a tale of Berlin while it was divided by the wall, here.

Until next time :)

Sunday 11 January 2015

Interview with Jacqueline Harvey!

Happy Sunday readers! Today I have a very exciting interview that has been in the pipeline for a while but today I finally get to publish it! Jacqueline Harvey, bestselling Random House author is on my blog for a chat about all things stories, character inspiration, and why writing for children is so special. My sister Polly is a massive fan of her Alice-Miranda books so obviously I was thrilled to get the opportunity to interview Jacqueline! Here is our interview:

When did you first discover that you wanted to be a writer?

I think the idea of being a writer was something that was always there in the background but I hadn’t the first clue how you’d make it happen.  As a child I loved to tell stories but as a teenager I won a minor writing competition and it really made me wonder if there was a future in that direction – journalism was something I considered but my heart was always in teaching – from the age of nine!  At University I took several electives in children’s literature and had a particularly encouraging lecturer who told me I should give writing a go.  In my early career I wrote a lot for school (not just programs and reports).  I was the school reporter for the local newspaper and also wrote things like the annual Year 6 review as well as poems, stories and plays for my own classes.  It wasn’t until I’d been teaching for ten years that I realised (with thanks from my incredibly supportive husband) that I really wanted to give writing a proper go.  I didn’t want to look back in ten or twenty years’ time and wonder if I could have done it.  So I wrote on weekends and in school holidays and over the next three years had four books published, one of which was an Honour Book in the Australian Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Awards in 2006.  That gave me a lot of confidence to continue; however it was another four years until I had anything published again and that was Alice-Miranda at School in 2010.  I resigned from my job as Director of Development in a school for girls in Sydney at the end of 2012 and have been writing full time since then.

What's exciting about writing for children?

Children are really honest.  They’ll tell you straight up what they like and don’t like.  When I was teaching I’d always test out my stories on the students.  I think in the beginning they would tell me what they thought I wanted to hear but it didn’t take long to develop honest relationships where the children would give me the sort of feedback that was critical to improving and really hitting the mark.  I’ll never forget one day, when I was working with a class of Year 6 girls who were involved in a long term project to each create a picture book.  I decided I’d read them a picture book manuscript that I’d recently written.  When one of the girls prefaced her response with, ‘You know I really like you Mrs Harvey,’ I laughed because what came next was a very honest opinion (and it wasn’t good!).  Fortunately I listened to the kids and over time I think I did improve.

I’ve had such lovely feedback from parents telling me that their children have become hooked on books because of Alice-Miranda or Clementine Rose.  It’s incredibly humbling to think that as a writer you can have such a positive impact on a child’s life.  Having been a teacher for the better part of 20 years, I know the joy of seeing children come to love books.  

How do you go about creating your characters, like Alice-Miranda?

Alice-Miranda was definitely a product of my teaching career. In the beginning I wanted to write a school story – it was a place I knew so well and the character of Alice-Miranda developed from the idea of three little girls in particular who I had taught in Kindergarten then later in their primary school years.  She was sort of a combination of their traits and experiences but as I continued thinking about her, she really became the best bits of so many children I’ve taught over the years.

The joy of writing series’ is that you get to work with an ensemble cast which feel so real; it’s like spending time with old friends and then there’s the fun of adding new characters in each book too.  I’ve just created an interesting new character called Alfie Doncaster – he’s a health and safety inspector for the council and has come to pay a surprise visit on Lady Clarissa (Clementine Rose’s mother) at their hotel, Penberthy House.  I think about what the character looks like, what sort of mannerisms they have and how are they surprising.  I’m an avid watcher of people and frequently get ideas when I’m out and about and particularly when we’re travelling.  I write things down – descriptions, mannerisms, how people behave toward one another.  There’s inspiration for characters everywhere.

What do you think the difference is between writing for adults and writing for children/teenagers?

I haven’t ever written fiction for adults so I’m not sure that I’m qualified to answer this although I suspect that at the heart of it is the voice.  As a children’s author I need to tap into my inner child.  One of the best things I was ever asked when I was starting out was, ‘how old are you?’ I answered honestly, then the asker said, ‘no, not your real age – how old are you in your head when you write a story?’  I’m about nine I think.  Children’s and YA authors have an ability to remember themselves at the ages they’re writing for.

In your opinion, what's the best way to encourage children to read?

There are lots of ways to get kids reading.  First and foremost, read to them from the time they’re born, engage with books on a daily basis, visit the library and borrow together.  My mother introduced me to the library as a small girl and I remember how special I felt with my own library card.  I couldn’t wait to go each week.

Buy books as gifts and also let children choose what they want to read.  Although you might be well and truly sick of dinosaurs, your son or daughter will grow out of them at some stage and discover their next passion – you just have to be patient (not that there’s anything wrong with dinosaurs of course!).  

Don’t stop reading to your children when you think they’re old enough to read for themselves.  Let them read to you and find stories that you both love.

When your child is reading aloud, don’t focus on the mistakes, focus on the context and the meaning and only correct them when their comprehension is at risk.  

Be a good reading role model.  Have books in the house and encourage children to read for pleasure, not just for school.

What type of messages do you try to put across to your young audience through your books?

I never set out to present a message or a lesson in the stories, but by virtue of the characters and their adventures there are often themes that shine through.  Alice-Miranda is a very kind and courageous girl.  She tries to make friends with everyone (sometimes that doesn’t work out) but above all she doesn’t give up on people.  Her stories are full of mystery and problem solving, friendships, bravery, discovery and humour.  Clementine Rose is more naïve.  Being younger and less travelled than Alice-Miranda, she tends to live a more contained life.  Family and community are at the heart of the stories.  She’s a good friend and tries to be helpful especially with her mother in their hotel (although that doesn’t always work out either – and there are lots of funny conundrums as a result).  I am always thrilled when parents or children write to tell me what they like about the characters and books.  Often parents tell me that their children have surprised them by doing something slightly out of character (like cleaning up their room voluntarily) and when questioned about it, they’ve been told, ‘because that’s what Alice-Miranda would do.’

Any advice for those who want to start writing for children?

If you really want to do it, don’t talk about, make a start and understand that like anything worth doing, it takes time to hone your craft.  Learn from the experts.  Take courses, read widely in the genre that you’re keen to write in and heed advice.  Everyone approaches their work differently and there is no ‘one right way to be a writer’.  Learn everything you can about the business so that you don’t go in with rose coloured glasses. Writing for children can be a frustrating business – but ultimately I’ve found it to be incredibly rewarding and I can’t imagine doing anything else these days.

Thank you for being interviewed, Jacqueline!

If you would like to check out Jacqueline Harvey, here's her website

Until next time :)