Challenge Participant


Friday, 22 May 2015

Elspeth Hart and the School for Show Offs by Sarah Forbes

Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-Offs - Elspeth Hart 1 (Paperback)

Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-offs is the first adventure featuring the fabulous Elspeth Hart, a modern heroine with doodles on her trainers and unstoppable determination. Can you imagine never being allowed to play outside, dear reader? How about sleeping in a wardrobe every night? That's what life is like for Elspeth Hart. Ever since her parents were tragically washed away in a flood, poor Elspeth has been forced to live with her disgusting aunt, Miss Crabb, in the attic of the Pandora Pants School for Show-offs. Elspeth spends her days sweeping up mouse droppings, washing filthy pots and dodging Tatiana Firensky, the most horrible show-off of all. But what Elspeth doesn't know is that things are about to change...A fast-paced and funny story from a fresh new voice in children's fiction, Elspeth Hart's quirky adventures will delight fans of David Walliams, Lemony Snicket and Roald Dahl.

Publisher: Little Tiger Press Group
ISBN: 9781847155955

What happens if you take Hogwarts from Harry Potter, add in the cast from Holly and Kelly Willoughby's School for Stars and the mischief of Dirty Bertie and you are left with this book!! A modern day Malory Towers style boarding school where the pupils work hard, but they also play hard. There is an air of Roald Dahl's humour throughout the story which I am sure will make it very popular and appeal to both boys and girls.

I loved this book - as I have said already there is a fantastic setting of a boarding school full of wannabee stars of stage and screen who think they are above Elspeth Hart the niece of the school's cook, Miss Crab, who set Elspeth to work each day with the worst jobs possible. As with all schools there are troublemakers who make Elspeth's day even worse but she also has her firm friends who make life manageable.

The story has lots of funny bits which will have children laughing out loud and will keep their attention to the very last page - and wanting the next book in the series! 

I even love the cover of this book - it has cut out windows which, when the cover is opened, reveals another picture behind of the school girls 'posing' while Elspeth cleans. The fantastic illustrations continue throughout the book, and the illustrator, James Brown, has captured the aloofness of the school pupils and the performance art teachers in every pencil stroke.

I am really looking forward to the next installment of school life at Pandora Pants School for Show Offs (Yes that really is the name of the school) and can't wait to see what happens to Elspeth Hart, who I think life may be very different for, in the future.

Thank you to Stripes for sending me this book to review and to the author, Sarah Forbes, for joining me at my blog, for a stop on her blog tour.

Blog Tour - Elspeth Hart and the School For Show Offs by Sarah Forbes

Today I am pleased to welcome Sarah Forbes to my blog. Sarah has, in the past, worked on magazines, interviewing pop stars, and is also an editor. She can now add author to this list, as her debut children's novel, Elspeth Hart and the school for show offs, hits the shelves this month.

Sarah joins me today to tell me about her writing influences.

My writing influences 

I find it hard to pick out my exact writing influences, but it’s something I like thinking about, because it lets me daydream my way back into the books I loved as a child. My first book, Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-offs, is set in a very odd boarding school. Inspiration for that setting must have come from the piles of school stories I devoured as a kid: Mallory Towers, Chalet School, St Clare’s, Trebizon, Dimsie Goes to School…most of these were in my local library and I can still remember how their yellow pages felt between my fingers. The world of Mallory Towers is a long way from Aberdeenshire in the 1980s, but like so many kids I found myself immersed in a world of lacrosse and tuck-boxes and prep. I was fascinated by it all.

Other writers I adored: Anne Fine, Judy Blume, Roald Dahl (of course). The atmospheric mystery of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. But also the dark, intriguing, Rats of Nimh books, Stig of the Dump, and the Choose Your Own Adventure stories I used to swap with friends.

We studied some great books at school as well; The Monster Garden by Vivian Alcock sticks in my mind, as does Carrie’s War and Joan Lingard’s Across the Barricades. So that’s quite a mash-up of different styles I was reading as a child!

I suspect anyone who writes is influenced by so many things: TV, movies, music, art, overheard conversations… you name it! I sometimes laugh quite hard at childish slapstick humour (people falling over or slipping on things, for example) and so a fair bit of that creeps into the books. I’m also constantly peckish, so it’s no surprise that Elspeth’s story features a top-secret-sticky-toffee-sauce recipe.

Ultimately I think the best inspiration is time, having space to think, but this is in short supply for most of us. One good thing about having started my career as a journalist is that I got used to coming up with a constant stream of ideas under pressure… so maybe my days writing quizzes about Girls Aloud were all good practice for writing books!

Thanks very much for featuring me, Sarah 

Thank you Sarah for visiting today and tells myself and my readers about your writing influences. I too enjoyed Malory Towers, Trebizon and St Clares when I was younger and I must confess that I have read Malory Towers recently and now I want to re-read St Clares too. Unfortunately my daughter does not share my love of these books but I still have copies on my bookshelves just for me!

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Blog Tour - Delete by Jeff Povey

Delete: Shift #2 (Paperback)
'Tense and witty drama' Sunday Times 'High-concept sci-fi series with shade of Michael Grant a strong shot of black humour' The Bookseller Just when you thought the apocalyptic detention was over...Having fought their way back to what they believe to be their home world, Rev, GG and The Ape discover that they're now stuck in the nightmarish world of doppelgangers, surrounded by a town of super-powered killing machines. Johnson, Billie and the Moth are still trapped in the empty world. Alive, but with no way home. Can Rev get the misfits back together? And even if she can will she be able to do it before the world ends. Time is running out...And believe it or not that's the least of their problems.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
ISBN: 9781471118708

Last year I was asked to be a part of Jeff Povey's debut children's novel, ShiftI was very lucky to share the first chapter with you, my blog readers, of his novel which was described as an apocalyptically funny and thrilling read for young adult readers.  Now, twelve months on, Jeff is back with his second book, Delete, which is the sequel to Shift, and is again visiting my blog, this time with a conversation between Ape and Non-Ape



- A Polemical Discourse OnProblems Within The Education System-


After we arrived in London and found the rubble that was once a five star hotel Non-Ape ate solidly for three straight hours.  He grew larger and stronger by the minute and the Ape started wondering just how strong and big Non-Ape could get.

‘Could you lift a tree?’


‘A car.’


‘How about a bus.’

Non-Ape chewed on that one for a moment.  ‘Does it have people in it?’

Oh my God, that means he must have lifted a bus with passengers inside.  I started to realise just how powerful – and dangerous – he must be. An Ape with that sort of power must need very careful management.

‘Say it’s packed.’

‘What’s packed?’ Hanging onto a train of thought has never come easy to Non-Ape.

‘The bus.’

‘Oh yeah.  Easy.’  Non-Ape smiles and I’m pretty sure he has definitely lifted a commuter packed bus at some stage in his oafish life.

The Ape would never be one to worship or idolise but his eyes had widened in a subtle wonder.  But then again he was talking to himself in many ways so it was probably more that he was thinking of trying the same when he got home.

They high fived and I could see the Ape racking his brains now.  Thinking of all things heavy.

‘A JCB digger.’


‘A big cow.’


‘Those big metal rooms in banks.’

‘What are they?’

‘Where they hide money.’

The Ape was thinking of a bank vault but I’ve only ever seen them in films.  Do they really exist?  Non-Ape’s grin spread all the way across his lips as a lightbulb lit up in his huge head.  ‘Yowza.’

I could see it now, Non-Ape marching into a bank and dragging the vault home with him.

‘Could you lift a tank?’

Non-Ape shrugged.  ‘Already did.’

The Ape looked impressed.  ‘Yowza.’

‘Threw it in a field.’

‘Yow----za!A whole tank.’

‘Yeah.’  Non-Ape wasn’t even boasting, it was as if he threw tanks into fields every day of his life.  Maybe he did.

Non-Ape stopped shoveling pasta down his throat.  ‘They shouldn’t have got me mad.’

The Ape couldn’t help but grab pasta for himself as Non-Ape continued.  ‘They said I got bad marks at school.  And I said no way.  I got four U’s.’

‘Fouris genius.’

‘That’s what I said.  Who else got that many?  I’ll tell you.  No one.  But they said I had to leave school.’

‘With four U’s?’  Non-Ape shook his head, as if he was totally bewildered.  ‘They should leave school.’

‘What I said.’

‘U stands for University.’  The Ape suddenly declared.  ‘You could go to four of them.’

U stands for Ungraded.  It usually means you were either absent during the exam or you got a low score that meant you failed to get a grade.  Zero counts as a low score and I wondered how many zeroes Non-Ape got.  I’m thinking four.

Non-Ape stopped eating for a moment.  He was definitely getting bigger and the chair he was sitting on was starting to buckle under his weight.  ‘Four U’s and they were yelling at me.  Yelling ain’t teaching.’

‘It’s just yelling.’  The Ape agreed and it started to feel like that there was a great meeting of minds taking place.  No two people could have been so similar in their outlook.‘Should’ve got a gold star.’  The Ape slurped more pasta.

‘I asked for one.’

‘They didn’t give it?’

Non-Ape shook his head again and looked quite hurt.  ‘Not even a green one.’  Do they really give out stars to seventeen year olds?  Sometimes the Apes were almost too heartbreakingly na├»ve.  I could see them in their classroom’s, probably never listening and thinking up ways to make people laugh or get their attention.  They only grasped a quarter of what was being said and didn’t ever really get that school and learning was something important.

‘Four U’s, that’s got to be a record.’  The Ape could feel Non-Ape’s pain.

‘So the teacher’s yelling and I’m thinking, is he shouting at me?  Or is it someone behind me?’  Non-Ape clearly felt his four U’s were worthy of amuch better response.

‘Was there someone behind you?’  The Ape asked.

‘Was just a wall.  I sit at the back.’

‘Me too.Every class.’  The Ape and Non-Ape stopped to bump fists, excited that they were so alike.

‘So he’s yelling and he’s been eating onions which makes the air smell bad.’

‘Onions.’  The Ape executed an exaggerated retching reflex.

Non-Ape retched in return.  ‘And I wave the smell away.  Only he’s too close and next thing I’ve hit him in the face and he’s gone out the window.’

The Ape sits forward, he’s getting into the story now.  ‘You knocked him out the window?’

‘It was open.’  Non-Ape stopped to dredge through his memory.  ‘Well. It was definitely open afterwards.’

‘Should’ve cleaned his teeth.’

Non-Ape started laughing.  ‘He landed in the car park and the alarms started going off.’

The Ape joined in with a big hearty laugh and they spent a good two minutes just laughing and making car alarm noises. Non-Ape shifted in his chair and the pained creak filled the hotel kitchen.

‘Then the Head came into the classroom.’

‘Did he have onion breath?’

‘Probably.’  Non-Ape slurped more pasta and was still growing bigger.  ‘He said I had to leave school.’


Non-Ape nodded.  ‘I got four U’s!’

‘Four Universities, got to be a world record.’

‘Got to be.’  Non-Ape stopped to let out a low belch.  The Ape immediately responded with one of his own.  ‘But I just sat there.  Said I’m not leaving.  So he phoned for a tank.”

The Ape was still impressed.  ‘Was it loaded?’

‘They said it was.’

‘Probably was then.’

‘Probably.’  Non-Ape’s chair wasn’t going to hold.  I gave it another three minutes at best.  ‘They told me to come out of the classroom.’


‘So harsh.’  Non Ape wiped his mouth with the back of a hand the size of a frying pan.  ‘The whole school was outside.’

‘Like for a fire alarm?’

‘Yeah.  And the Head was yelling stuff.’

‘What stuff?’

‘Dunno, wasn’t listening.’  Non-Ape shrugged.  ‘But I got up and went outside.  Wanted to see the tank.

‘Never seen a live one.’

‘Me neither.’  Non-Ape sucked up more pasta.  ‘Everyone was yelling stuff now.  So I picked up the tank and threw it away.’

‘Good.  Because yelling ain’t teaching.’  The Ape repeated knowledgeably.

‘Tell you something.’  Non-Ape said after finishing the last of the pasta.

‘What’s that?’

“I’m not going to bother next year.  Learning and that.  If that’s how they treat you when you get four U’s.’
Thank you again to  Simon and Schuster  Children's Books and Jeff Povey for inviting me to again take part in their blog tour and apologies for the late publication of this blog post.