New author website: www.abielphinstone.com

So, there are some exciting changes going on. Moontrug maaaaaay have mentioned that her debut children’s book, THE DREAMSNATCHER, is being published by Simon & Schuster on 26th February… And with that in mind, she’s set up a snazzy new website. For anything to do with Abi and her writing, check out www.abielphinstone.com (and for general book reviews and interviews with other authors, keep with www.moontrug.com). For now though, here’s a little sneak peek at what’s going on over at Abi’s author website:

  • The trailer for The Dreamsnatcher has just been released
  • You can read an extract from the book
  • You can find out all about Abi, listen to her writing playlist and watch her speak about The Dreamsnatcher
  • You can get to know the characters in the book and read about their favourite gypsy recipes
  • You can download activities and resources on every chapter of The Dreamsnatcher
  • You can follow Abi’s blog for the latest on her book research adventures
  • You can come on a Dreamsnatcher expedition!
  • You can pre-order the book here

Dreamsnatcher full cover spread

www.abielphinstone.com

The Wolf Princess by Cathryn Constable

Moontrug has decided that she would very much like to be called Sophie. Sophies have ALL the adventures. Sophie from Roald Dahl’s BFG, Sophie from Katherine Rundell’s Rooftoppers, Sophie from Cathryn Constable’s The Wolf Princess. And it’s this last Sophie – Sophie Smith – who Moontrug is interested in today…

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On a school trip in Russia, Sophie and her two friends find themselves abandoned on a train. They are rescued by the glamorous Anna Volkonskaya, who takes them to her winter palace and mesmerises them with stories of lost diamonds and a tragic past. But as night falls and wolves prowl, Sophie discovers more than dreams in the crumbling palace of secrets…

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Overlooked by teachers, most of her peers and even her guardian, Sophie yearns for a different life – one filled with adventure, magic and, as she says to her friends, Delphine and Marianne, ‘and…a…p-pistol.’ And so when a glamorous Russian lady shows up one day at her school and Sophie and her friends find themselves in wintry Russia a few weeks later, Sophie feels as if her dream has come true. But Anna Volkonskaya’s palace is a place of terrible sadness. Why, when she has been told that there are no wolves left in that part of the country, can Sophie hear them howling at night? Who are the kind children living in the under palace and why has she been told not to speak to them? What dark secrets torment the princess? Why have the paintings been slashed and who has stolen the diamonds?

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The setting is wonderfully magical – beautiful, old-fashioned train carriages, snowy woods, icy lakes and glistening chandeliers – and it will lure in readers who loved Joan Aiken’s Wolves of Willoughby Chase. Delphine provides the story with some brilliant one-liners (‘But what’s the point of being a princess unless you winter in Gstaad and spend the summer on Cap Ferrat?’) and Marianne’s sense of reason and logic provides a fantastic contrast to Sophie’s imaginative side. And to top all of that, the book boasts the very best setting for a conversation EVER: inside a glitteringly enormous chandelier. Moontrug was totally captivated by the magic of that scene… The plot moves with twists and turns as Sophie discovers more about the winter palace and its inhabitants and the final scenes are fantastically dramatic: pistols, wolves, ice, chases, prisons, fights. The story’s got it all! The Wolf Princess is a lovely book for 8-12 year olds, conjuring up the feel of classic children’s stories like those by Eva Ibbotson. Recommended.

Q&A with debut children’s author A.L. Sonnichsen

Moontrug is excited to announce the next debut children’s author taking part in the bi-monthly Q&As. Think ogres, dragons, unicorns, embarrassing moments and random historical events. Here goes for middle-grade author, A.L. Sonnichsen, whose debut, RED BUTTERFLY, is out on February 3rd…

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1. You wake up to find a massive ogre in your bedroom. If you had to choose one MG character to fight him off who would you choose and why?
I’d choose Peter Pevensie from the Narnia books, because he learns to be brave and he has a big enough sword to kill an ogre.

 

2. Having defeated the ogre, you find that your car doesn’t start. Bummer. Would you rather ride a dragon or a unicorn to work? Why?
Definitely a unicorn. It would feel like riding a horse, but better. I love riding horses when I get the chance. A dragon might be faster, but dragons also increase the risk of burn injury. Not worth it, in my opinion.

 

3. After arriving at work late, your boss asks you what your most embarrassing childhood memory was. You have to tell him. 
I grew up in Hong Kong and we took public transport everywhere. We didn’t have a car. One Sunday coming home from church, I really had to go to the bathroom. I ran into a McDonalds, but their bathroom was out of order and there was nowhere else to go. Our apartment was still half an hour away by bus. While waiting for the bus, I became so desperate I peed my pants right there on the street … and cried all the way home! It was awful. My sister wouldn’t even sit next to me on the bus (though I can’t really blame her).

 

4. You’re pretty fed up now so when a time machine appears offering to take you to any historical event, you agree. Where do you go and why?
It’s not exactly an event, but I’m researching 1920s southern China (for a new book!) and I’d love to explore the streets of old Canton for a few days. That would be fascinating.

 

5. There is light at the end of the tunnel. As a Fearless Fifteener, your debut is out this year. Tell us about your book in 15 words or less.
Kara is left alone in China when her American foster mother is forced to leave.

 

RED BUTTERFLY

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A young orphaned girl in modern-day China discovers the meaning of family in this inspiring story told in verse, in the tradition of Inside Out and Back Again and Sold. Kara never met her birth mother. Abandoned as an infant, she was taken in by an American woman living in China. Now eleven, Kara spends most of her time in their apartment, wondering why she and Mama cannot leave the city of Tianjin and go live with Daddy in Montana. Mama tells Kara to be content with what she has…but what if Kara secretly wants more? Told in lyrical, moving verse, Red Butterfly is the story of a girl learning to trust her own voice, discovering that love and family are limitless, and finding the wings she needs to reach new heights.

 

AUTHOR BIO

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Raised in Hong Kong, A.L. Sonnichsen grew up attending British school and riding double decker buses. As an adult, she spent eight years in Mainland China where she learned that not all baozi is created equal. She also learned some Mandarin, which doesn’t do her much good in the small Eastern Washington town where she now lives with her rather large family. Find out more at http://alsonnichsen.blogspot.com. Twitter: @alsonnichsen. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorALSonnichsen

 

Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy by Karen Foxlee

At last. A book that literally sings with magic: Karen Foxlee’s effortlessly beautiful Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy (for 8-12 years). Jenny Davies, bookseller and blogger extraordinaire, recommended the book to Moontrug and it is all kinds of wonderful…

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Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard doesn’t believe in anything that can’t be proven by science. When her father takes a job in a strange museum in a city where it never stops snowing, Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a forgotten room. He is prisoner of Her Majesty, The Snow Queen, and he has been waiting a long time for Ophelia’s help. As Ophelia embarks on an incredible adventure to rescue the boy, everything she believes is tested. Along the way she learns more and more about the boy’s own remarkable journey to reach and save the world. A story within a story, this modern-day fairytale is about the power of friendship, courage and love – and the importance of never giving up.

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The heroine of the book, Ophelia, is absolutely wonderful: asthmatic (simply adorable when she takes a puff of her inhaler to give her strength before each ordeal), fond of tugging down on her pig-tails when things get tricky and the kind of girl who would like very much to see dinosaurs rather than dresses. She is delightfully curious and although she belongs to the Children’s Science Society of Greater London which places importance on fact and truth, Ophelia realises that possibly, just possibly, magic is real after all. She may start the book with sentences like ‘I am from the kingdom Animalia, phylum Chordata… I don’t believe in unicorns or dragons’ but when she meets the Marvellous Boy the world as she knows it starts to change.

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The Marvellous Boy’s world – of snow leopards, Misery Birds, stolen names and Wintertide clocks – is dripping with magic and within the confines of a seemingly ordinary museum, Foxlee manages to conjure up a very rare, very special story. The imaginative scope of the book is vast and the writing so full of charm: ‘Ophelia was surprised by how easily she lied. She had two stolen keys in her pocket, and the lies were sliding off her tongue. Soon she’d probably be shoplifting. She expected that was how it started’ and ‘The trouble with magic was that it was messy and dangerous and filled with longing.’ The evil of the Snow Queen is desperate, and the story is at times as dark as the Grimm Tales, but set against this you have such an overwhelming sense of hope – championed by Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy – and wisdom, like the words below, from the Wizards:

Be kind to everyone whom you meet along the way, and things will be well.
Kindness is far stronger than any cruelty.
Always extend your hand in friendship.
Be patient.
You may feel alone, but there will always be people who will help you along the way.
Never, ever give up.

 

Cover reveal: A Whisper of Wolves by Kris Humphrey

Moontrug is verrrrrrrrrry excited to be taking part in the cover reveal for Kris Humphrey’s debut children’s book, A Whisper of Wolves. As a huge fan of Michelle Paver’s Wolf Brother and Cathryn Constable’s The Wolf Princess, Moontrug was delighted when a new ‘wolf book’ dropped through her letterbox from Stripes Publishers – complete with a wax-sealed letter and a single white feather…

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When a raven drops a white feather at the doorstep on the day of your birth, it is a symbol of your destiny. You are a Whisperer – a guardian of the wild… Many years have passed since the people of Meridina last knew war, but a shadow has settled over the kingdom. When Alice and her wolf companion, Storm, sense a demonic presence in the forests, they send for help to protect their village. But they’re running out of time. With the entire balance of the natural world at stake, will Alice and Storm have to face the demons alone?

 

Humphrey’s world of tangled forests full of dogwood and sagebrush and craggy mountains hiding ancient Whisperers is powerfully created – and reminiscent of the setting Michelle Paver creates in Wolf Brother. And just as Torak had to draw on his natural surroundings to fight back against demon forces, so Alice has to ‘give [her] whole self to the earth’ to fight back against the Narlaw. But will her wards, stealth wishes and Whisperer talents be enough to fight these strange creatures back? Find out on 2nd March 2015 when A Whisper of Wolves lands on bookshelves all over the country. In the meantime, here is its fabulous cover. WHOOP!

A Whisper of Wolves cover

Q&A with debut author Gail Nall

Moontrug is excited to announce the start of a bi-monthly Q&A feature involving debut authors from all over the world chatting ogres, dragons, unicorns, embarrassing moments and random historical events. And to kick this feature off, Moontrug has got MG author, Gail Nall, whose debut, BREAKING THE ICE, is out January 13th. We’ve got a bio and book blurb at the end of the post but right now we’re skipping straight to ogres.

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1. You wake up to find a massive ogre in your bedroom. If you had to choose one MG character to fight him off who would you choose and why?
Harry Potter’s the obvious choice, what with his troll-fighting experience. But I think I’d pick Anne from Anne of Green Gables, because she could probably talk him to death.
2. Having defeated the ogre, you find that your car doesn’t start. Bummer. Would you rather ride a dragon or a unicorn to work? Why?
Unicorn! A ride on a unicorn looks a lot less bumpy than one on a dragon, plus unicorns don’t breathe fire and singe your favorite pair of boots. And my three-year-old daughter would never forgive me if I chose a dragon over a unicorn.
3. After arriving at work late, your boss asks you what your most embarrassing childhood memory was. You have to tell him. 
I arrive on a unicorn, and this is what he asks? All right then. When I was little, I skated a competition program with my underwear peeking out from under my dress. It’s preserved on grainy VHS for all posterity — or at least until the tape disintegrates.
4. You’re pretty fed up now so when a time machine appears offering to take you to any historical event, you agree. Where do you go and why?
All of them! I have a couple of history degrees in my pocket, so I deem this question highly unfair. 😉  Okay, picking one . . . it’s not an event, but I’d love a day to just hang around late nineteenth century New York City. I’d need a few changes of clothes so I could blend in everywhere from uptown to Five Points. I’d just walk around, see what people were doing, what they were wearing, what they ate, how they talked.
5. There is light at the end of the tunnel. As a Fearless Fifteener, your debut is out this year. Tell us about your book in 15 words or less.
Skater Kaitlin stumbles and has to find a new way to climb to the top.

 

BREAKING THE ICE

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Kaitlin has always dreamed of being a champion figure skater, and she’s given up a lot to pursue her passion. But after having a totally uncharacteristic and decidedly NOT figure-skating-approved tantrum after getting her scores at a major competition she’s dropped by her coach and prestigious skating club. When no other club in town will have her, she’s forced to join the ridiculed and rundown Fallton Club, jokingly referred to as the Fall Down Club. At first Kaitlin thinks this is a disaster, but after meeting some of the other skaters, she thinks it might actually not be so bad. But when she’s tasked with learning a whole new program right before Regionals and figures out that almost all the other skaters target Fallton, she thinks joining the Fall Down Club may just be the second biggest mistake she’s ever made. In this figure skating themed debut, Kaitlin learns that when you fall down, you have to pick yourself up – even if it’s in front of judges and a crowd.

AUTHOR BIO

Gail Nall

Gail Nall lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her family and more cats than necessary. When she’s not writing books, she manages grants for a homeless shelter and chases her toddler. She once drove a Zamboni, has camped in the snow in June, and almost got trampled in Paris. Gail’s middle grade debut, BREAKING THE ICE, will be out from Aladdin/S&S on January 13, 2015. She is also the co-author of the upcoming YOU’RE INVITED books with Jen Malone (Aladdin/S&S, May 19, 2015 and Spring 2016). You can find her online at gailnall.com and on Twitter

Bloodstone by Allan Boroughs

Moontrug is big on adventures – from little ones like climbing the pear tree in the back garden to BIG FAT ones like motor-biking through Burma – because they always throw up unexpected story ideas. And it turns out another author, Allan Boroughs, has been doing some uber cool adventuring in the run up to writing his books. His debut novel for 9+ years, Ironheart, saw him journeying through Siberia to research plot and setting ideas and for the sequel, Bloodstone, Boroughs trekked across Antarctica to find his story. He jumped into the icy Antarctic sea IN JUST HIS SWIMMING TRUNKS and he even wrote some of his research notes next to a penguin!

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Apprenticed to notorious tech-hunter Verity Brown, India Bentley has spent the last year travelling the globe, finding and selling long-lost technology and doing her best to stay out of trouble. Unfortunately, trouble has a habit of finding her. Accused of an assassination attempt and thrown in jail, India is rescued by scientist-adventurer Professor Moon: a man obsessed with finding the Bloodstone – key to a source of unlimited energy hidden in the lost city of Atlantis. Now Moon wants India and Verity to join his quest. Pursued by gangsters, lumbered with a stowaway and haunted by ghosts of her past, India must risk everything to uncover Atlantis’ secrets. But truth comes at a price…

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The story moves at a cracking pace with Chapter One seeing India and Verity escape from an explosion to find themselves perilously see-sawing from the edge of a bridge over a valley dropping away hundreds of metres below them… From there they are catapulted into an adventure just as daring as their first (to find the legendary fortress of Ironheart). The character names are fab, from Sing City bar owner Two-Buck Tim to eye-ball collector Lady Fang (she reminded Moontrug of Mr Carter in Eva Ibbotson’s Journey to the River Sea, a sinister man who collects the glass eyes of famous people). And the characters are carried through the story on a number of fabulous modes of transport – Moontrug’s favourite was Professor Moon’s airship. Very magical indeed.

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The stowaway India finds herself landed with – Tito – provides welcome comic relief to the plot’s action and he has some of the funniest lines in the book when he gets famous sayings mixed up: ‘There is plenty of room in here to swing a gnat’ and ‘All I have to do is explain that I am the monk of the brotherhood and Robert is your mother’s brother,’ to which India replies ‘I think you mean, “Bob’s your uncle.” ’ Boroughs creates a properly engaging world – where terrifying hellhounds lurk, a Bloodstone lies hidden and ridiculous monks worship recycling gods: ‘May your parts be fully recycled and may you always return as something eternally useful’ – and a powerful Antarctic setting where great whales arch out of the ocean and eerie monsters brood in the icy depths. Bloodstone is a fantastic middle grade adventure in which, as the author himself says, ‘a lot of stuff happens.’