The Wonderling by Mira Bartok

A beautiful middle grade steampunk fantasy adventure story…

This story is set in the Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures. An institution run by evil Miss Carbunkle, who believes her terrified young charges exist only to serve and suffer. Part animal and part human, the groundlings toil in classroom and factory, forbidden to enjoy anything regular children have, most particularly singing and music.

For the innocent-hearted, one-eared, fox-like eleven-year-old with only the number 13 etched on a medallion around his neck and does not have a name, this place is the only home he has ever known but unexpected courage leads him to an unexpected friendship and the loyalty of a young bird groundling named Trinket, who gives him two amazing gifts: a real name “Arthur” like the good king in the old stories and friendship. From here, they embark on an excitingly scary adventure that will take them out into the wider world and down the path of Arthur’s true destiny.

This was such a wonderful book to read. So beautifully written and just so heartwarming. It brought back memories of my childhood when I embraced The Chronicles of Narnia – the friendships formed in the “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” as well as the characters and adventure. This is a middle grade fantasy fiction story however an adult can really enjoy this. A fantastic tale of courage, friendship and adventure with amazing illustrations that really brings the story to life. It’s one collectable you will want to keep on your shelf forever and a story you will want to read over and over again.

Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

 

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Kidz Korner Round Up

With our passion for reading, we still engage in children’s books so we can continue to make book recommendations for parents and our younger audience. Here is a round up for our children’s reading recommendations!!!

Hugo Makes a Change by Scott Emmons and Mauro Gatti

Hugo the vampire craves red, juicy meat for every meal! But when his eating habits leave him feeling sluggish and bored, he goes on the prowl for something new. After trying fruits and vegetables for the first time, he discovers the joys of a more balanced diet. The story is told in rhymed verse accompanied by simple, charming, graphic illustrationsA fun read. Hugo learns what fun it is when you try eating new and exciting food produce. In his it was fruit and vegetables. Hugo also learnt not to judge certain foods by what they look like. I had fun going on the adventure with Hugo as he went exploring. A great read for those fussy little eaters!!! Suitable to readers under 5 years old. Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Meredith

Ivy and the Lonely Raincloud by Katie Harnett
Everyone loves the warm sunshine—except the lonely raincloud. No one wants to be his friend! But one day, he stumbles across a grumpy little florist, could she be looking for a friend too? In this charming tale, a solitary raincloud finds a way to make a sad little girl happy again, by using the very thing that most people dislike about him—rain! This is a picture book about finding friends that are right for you. It shows that being with the right friends can make you happy. An important lesson to surround yourself with people who make you feel good. Suitable to readers 6 years old and up. Special thanks to Walker Book Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Amanda

Swan Lake by Anne Spudvilas
The iconic ballet Swan Lake, the tragic love story of a princess transformed into a swan by an evil sorcerer, has been revered for more than a century. In this atmospheric adaptation, the picture book reimagines the classic tale of passion, betrayal and heartbreak in the dramatic riverscape of the Murray-Darling. This is such a beautiful picture book illustrating the classical ballet, the art work is so well done, a book where charcoal art speaks a thousand words. Very beautiful and flows so well, a book you would want to read over and over again. Suitable to children and families and recommended as a family storytime book. Special thanks to Allen and Unwin Pubishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

The Poesy Ring by Bob Graham
It’s 1830 in County Kerry, Ireland, and a gold ring is thrown into the wind by a young woman on a black horse. As the seasons pass, the little treasure finds itself on the most astonishing journey, finally settling at the bottom of a deep sea. Will the ring, inscribed with “love never dies”, ever fulfil its destiny, and find the finger of a woman truly loved? It doesn’t matter what form one might take, this book shows us that you can always have an adventure. Whether your adventure is sitting on top of a hill, in a field being plowed by a farmer, flying through the air with wings or even in the ocean – take your time and enjoy the adventure you are on. A wonderful read suitable for children ages 6 and up. Special thanks to Walker Book Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Meredith

Horses by Iris Volant and Jarom Vogel
The beautiful honrse has been part of us for centuries. These
iconic animals have been a part of human history–they’ve plowed our fields, pulled our carts, fought in our wars and been our beloved companions. Journey through the history of human and horse interaction in this beautifully illustrated book. A great and insightful history that captivates the attention of youngsters. Suitable for ages 5 years old and up. Special thanks to Walker Book Publishers for a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

The Junior Readers Round Up

We’ve posted a few blogs that cater for our children’s readers however I thought it may also be beneficial to post a Junior Fiction Round Up. These recommendations are for the older kids who don’t quite read YA just yet…

Here are some recommendations!!!


The Rogues: Accidental Heroes, Book 1 by Lian Tanner
Expected Publication: October 2017

Synopsis as seen on Goodreads: In the city of Berren, strange things happen. People disappear, trees sprout overnight. But no one believes in magic. To believe in magic would be disloyal…The devious Lord Rump and his granddaughter, Duckling, need a disposable boy, and Pummel, a farm boy looking for work in the city, fits the bill perfectly. Duckling is happy to tangle him in her grandpa’s web, as long as Grandpa keeps his promise – that this will be his very last Scheme. Lord Rump’s intrigues take both children into the Strong-hold of Berren – where time has stopped – and before long they are entwined in a plot to kill the heir to the Faithful Throne. If they want to protect the Young Margrave, and save themselves from an awful death, Duckling and Pummel must learn to use the magic that no one believes in. This is a book filled with epic adventure!! It’s highly recommended to readers who love fantasy adventure and are aged between 8-12 year olds. Even as an adult, I found this book to be quite exciting and a lot of fun to read – I am sure kids will love this!!

Special thanks to Allen & Unwin Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
 

Girlish: An empowering journal for the twenty-first century girl by Alana Wulff.
“Don’t be afraid to be the smartest person in the room”

“I never cut class. I loved getting A’s. I liked being smart. I liked being on time. I thought being smart was cooler than anything in the world” -Michelle Obama

A great journal every young girl from the age of 9 years old should have – a journal that teaches young girls a sense of empowerment and self-confidence. I think it’s great for young girls to have this book – it’s ok to be smart, it’s ok to go for your goals – don’t let anyone else tell you differently!!!

Special thanks to Black Inc. Publishers for sending me an Advance Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.

Pirate McSnottbeard in the Zombie Terror Rampage by Paul Whitfield
This was a funny book – one that can be enjoyed by all the family and the laughter (as in the LOL type) starts from its title.. Pirate McSnottbeard!!! This story is about Emilie and her brother William who embark on an adventure to rescue their parents from the horrible and smelly pirate king – Pirate McSnottbeard. Whisked from the high seas, through prehistoric lands, into an evil wizard’s castle and finally to the PIRATES’ clifftop hideout, they must tackle dinosaurs, zombies, angry parrots, and at least one warlock. I read this book then handed it to my friend’s daughter who is 8 years old who then handed it to her brother who is 7 years old – the 3 of us absolutely loved this book!!! From beginning to end we found ourselves cracking up laughing at the characters and the story line. Highly recommended for junior fiction readers aged 7+

Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.

The Secret Throne by Peter F. Hamilton.

The Secret Throne is the first installment of the children’s fantasy series: Queen of Dreams.
Taggie and her younger sister, Jemima, live with their mum, go to school, play sports and spend their holidays with their dad in the countryside. But one day, everything changes, when a white squirrel wearing purple glasses turns up in their lives. Next minute.. their dad has been kidnapped and it’s up to Taggie and Jemima to get him back. But it seems their father has been keeping some very large secrets from his young daughters and it appears their dad is no ordinary man.
Once again I read this one and passed it on to younger readers I know for a second opinion and this one was very well received. It’s an intelligent tale – one that is very suitale to the junior readers as it’s full of adventure and intrigue with underlying words of wisdom that all kids should know. I highly recommend this to junior readers who love adventures and mystery!!! This book is the first of a series that is worth investing in. Peter F. Hamilton is better known for his fantasy fiction/sci-fi stories that target an adult audience however he’s done very well with plot and dialogue with his children’s series!!

Special thanks to Pan Macmillan Publishers for sending me review copies in exchange for my honest review.

-Round Up compiled by Annie

Kidz Korner Round Up

Here is a round up of our recommended titles for the little tykes who love to immerse themselves in a great book!!!

Raymie Nightingale by Kate Di Camillo
This is a recommended title to the junior fiction fans, most suitable from ages 12+ Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie’s picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways. Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

Possum Magic by Mem Fox
Grandma Poss uses her best bush magic to make Hush invisible. But when Hush longs to be able to see herself again, the two possums must make their way across Australia to find the magic food that will make Hush visible once more. This is a timeless Australian classic.My favourite part of this book was how this fun creative story was able to just casually teach my child the names of Australia’s capital city’s and my next favourites being full of Australian animals and even introducing a few different foods that are unique to Australia. Amazing illustrations filled with very detailed drawings and a beautiful use of colour and shading techniques. Another great book for developing language and cognitive skills in children ages 3 and up.
-Crystal

Home in the Rain by Bob Graham
A beautiful tale of a child waiting and excited for her younger sibling to be born. The child wants to meet, play and get to know her sibling.. Waiting out a storm by the highway inspires a name for an unborn baby sister in a tender. The rain is pouring down in buckets, and Francie and her mom are on their way home from Grandma’s. As the little red car pulls into a picnic area to wait out the storm, the windows fog up, and Francie spells out Dad, Mom, and Francie with her finger. But the back window is waiting for another name, that of Francie’s soon-to-arrive baby sister. What should they call her? I recommend this to children in senior primary school. Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Meredith

Imagine by John Lennon
Imagine all the people living life in peace.
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.
This is a beautiful picture book that illustrates the classic by John Lennon “Imagine” as the lyrics take the page through art, it follows a piegon to demonstrate peace to help us enjoy our life, for peace to flourish and for everyone to treat all kindly, equally and fairly. It was really nice to read this – very refreshing, it also brought back wonderful memories of my late uncle who loved John Lennon and the Beatles. I recommend this to children and families – it’s a wonderful family read that everyone can enjoy. A beautiful message of peace. Special thanks to Allen & Unwin Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

 

Princess Cora and The Crocodile – By Laura Amy Schlitz and illustrated by Brian Floca.
Princess Cora is sick of boring lessons. She’s sick of running in circles around the dungeon gym. She’s sick, sick, sick of taking three baths a day. And her parents won’t let her have a dog. But when she writes to her fairy godmother for help, she doesn’t expect that help to come in the form of a crocodile—a crocodile who does not behave properly. With perfectly paced dry comedy, children’s book luminaries Laura Amy Schlitz and Brian Floca send Princess Cora on a delightful outdoor adventure — climbing trees! getting dirty! having fun! — while her alter ego wreaks utter havoc inside the castle, obliging one pair of royal helicopter parents to reconsider their ways. This is a fairy godmother story with a twist. Cora is such a good little girl and does her best to do as her parents ask and deals with her upset well, even when frustrated she writes it down – Amazing right! But when her fairy godmother sends her the solution it’s in the form of a naughty crocodile so straight away I knew this story was going to be cheeky and funny. Without spoiling the ending I found this book to have the potential to start so many different conversations with kids well over the age of even a ten year old. It’s got everything from consequences for actions and how to maybe find a better solution than what the crocodile chose to deal with Cora’s helicopter parents and nanny. Another great book for developing language, cognitive skills and a great potential for discussions about behaviour, consequences and how to communicate – recommend for children ages 5 and up. Many thanks to Walker Books for supplying this book in exchange for my honest review.
-Crystal

Leaf by Sandra Diekmann
When a polar bear arrives unexpectedly in the woods, the animals fear and avoid him, suspecting him to be dangerous—and his habit of collecting leaves only adds to their distrust. Then one day, they watch as he attempts to fly over the water with wings made of colorful leaves, just trying to go home. Maybe he needs some help? The old saying of ‘Don’t judge a book by the cover’ holds true in beautifully drawn picture book. As well as the tale. Within ‘Leaf’ you learn that just because someone looks different from you that doesn’t mean that they are monsters. Special thanks to Allen & Unwin Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Meredith.

Read3r’z Re-Vu Exclusive – Father’s Day Special

Anybody can be a father but it takes someone awesome to be a Dad..
Read3r’z Re-Vu would like to wish all the awesome Dads a wonderful and happy Father’s Day!!! To celebrate this great occasion, here is a Father’s Day special – a blog round up of recommended reads for the Dads!!!

The Martian by Andy Weir
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive — and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

This book!!!! I know the writing style won’t work for everyone. However, as a science nerd, the scientific jargon and log entry style was engaging and I consumed this novel. I felt all of the emotions while reading this book. I feel like no matter how hard I try I won’t be able to adequately express how much I loved this book. A rare gem.

This is one of my all time favourites and tells the story of an Astronaunt that gets left behind on Mars and his struggle for survival. I couldn’t read this book fast enough.
-Amanda


The Grimm Series: The Icy Touch by John Shirley
There once was a man who lived a life so strange, it had to be true. Only he could see what no one else can: the darkness inside, the real monster within. And he’s the one who must stop them.. This is his calling. This is his duty. This is the life of a Grimm.

When a torched body is found in an underground tunnel, Portland Police Captain Sean Renard takes one look at the victim’s burned claws and assigns the case to homicide detectives Nick Burkhardt and Hank Griffin. They soon discover that a criminal organization known as The Icy Touch is threatening Wesen into joining their illegal drug-smuggling operation, and brutally murdering those who refuse. But as Nick closes in on the gang’s charismatic and ruthless leader, the Grimm uncovers an ancient—and deadly—rivalry.

As a HUGE fan of the TV Series, I immersed myself in this book to manage my Grimm withdrawals after watching the final episode ever. I did enjoy this book and I found I was able to relive the series and the characters. What I loved most was the historical backstory taking us back to the Grimm’s ancestors which we didn’t get to see on TV. The underlying storyline of the Grimm being the centrepiece in a world of kersheite and wesen however I found the dialogue was different than what I was used to on TV – I found some of the way the characters conversed in the book was very different from the TV but you have to expect that when you read a novel that is inspired by TV and film (and vice versa). I enjoyed the story – the mystery – the action.. I don’t believe this book ruins anything if anything it helps you enjoy the Grimm story a little differently.
-Annie

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the  OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

This is easily one of my ALL TIME favourite books. Ready Player One is a virtual reality treasure hunt, based around 1980’s pop culture. This novel celebrates geek culture with an action packed, suspenful treasure hunt that had me obsessed with every page. You don’t need to know 80’s pop culture to love this book. I didn’t know a lot of the references but the passion of fandom transcends genre. I think that there is something for everyone in this story. There are geeky references, gaming, an action-adventure packed treasure hunt, suspense, romance, dystopian setting and political undertones. There is no way I could write a review which could accurately capture the awesome of this novel. It was a true joy to escape into the world of Ready Player One. I highly recommend this novel.
-Amanda

S.T.A.G.S by M.A Bennett
9 students.. 3 blood sports.. 1 sinister secret.. TEAM SAVAGE!!!! This is a recommended read to the Dads that enjoy Y.A. Inspired by 1985’s “Blood Sports”, It is the autumn term and Greer MacDonald is struggling to settle into the sixth form at the exclusive St. Aidan the Great boarding school, known to its privileged pupils as S.T.A.G.S. Just when she despairs of making friends Greer receives a mysterious invitation with three words embossed upon on it: huntin’ shootin’ fishin’. When Greer learns that the invitation is to spend the half term weekend at the country manor of Henry de Warlencourt, the most popular and wealthy boy at S.T.A.G.S., she is as surprised as she is flattered – a weekend away with society’s elite – an opportunity to make new friends and try new, exciting activities.. or is it? A suspenseful thriller that will keep you turning the page right until the end with unpredictable twists and plots. The writing style is definitely YA – especially the dialogue between the characters however the plot and the premise is what holds you to the end. Many thanks to Allen & Unwin for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

Happy Father’s Day to all the Awesome Dads!! Happy Readings!!

Have Sword, Will Travel by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

“Live by the Sword.. Die by the Sword.. No matter how often the Sword yells at you.. “

Release Date: 31 October 2017

Get ready boys and girls.. it’s time for a chivalrous quest!!!

This is an epic story that follows the Odo, Eleanor and Biter – an unlikely knight, a stubborn, head strong girl and.. a talking sword as they embark on a thrilling adventure to save their kingdom from the danger that comes in both human and dragon form. This is one fantastic collaboration between Garth Nix and Sean Williams. A very fun story to read that I was easily engrossed in, I always wanted to know what happened next and I grew fond of the characters very quickly. Yes I even enjoyed a laugh or two. I particularly liked the use of ‘medieval’ font for each time the sword, Biter, would speak – the setting of the scene really puts you there. I also loved the witty dialogue between Odo and Eleanor that presents a strong friendship and importance of team work. I found Eleanor’s character to be an important part of the story – being quite intelligent and head strong, Eleanor demonstrated strength in female characters which I find to be important for middle grade literature – it doesn’t always have to be a heroic prince or a male knight who has ability to embark on a quest and to save their kingdom. Although I can see this story is suitable for a younger audience, it would also be suitable for older readers and fans of adventure reads for young adults. It’s definitely a family friendly adventure that’s well written, easy to read that pulls you in from page one. I certainly enjoyed this one, another favourite for 2017.

Special thanks to author, Garth Nix for giving me this Advanced Review Copy at the Read3r’z Re-Vu session held in May as we hosted the “Author in Focus: Garth Nix” theme.

-Annie

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness + Exclusive Q&A with Patrick Ness

At 12:07am, A monster shows up.. As they do..

A monster that is wild, ancient.. different.. not one you would expect..

Connor O’Mally is the central focus of this monster and he wants the most dangerous thing of all.. Connor’s truth.

Author Patrick Ness has released a few epic novels – titles you may recall: ‘The Knife of Never Letting Go” and “Release” however “A Monster Calls” is the first of his novels to hit the box office!!!

Thoughts on the book:
I flew through this book in a matter of days, it was an amazing story one I believe is suitable for all ages. It has a strong element of truth to the storyline with the added magical twist that makes it work so very well. I found it very fast paced and enjoyable. What was also very notable was the words of wisdom that is intertwined with this fantastical story – the truth will always set you free no matter how bad you believe the truth is. I highly recommend readers of all ages to pick this one up before watching the movie.

Thoughts on the movie:
Patrick Ness not only wrote the book “A Monster Calls” he also wrote the screen play for the movie adaptation. I had the pleasure of attending a private screening courtesy of Walker Books Publishers and I have to say, having often felt the deflation of watching a film adaptation that goes against a favourite book, I found the movie did the book justice. It’s a family movie that has everything – a visual feast, humour.. even a tear jerker – though I must admit, some scenes may be scary for younger viewers. The cast all delivered their parts extremely well – I was engrossed in the film from start to finish.

“A Monster Calls” kicks off in cinemas around Australia on 27 July 2017. For a sneak peek of this awesome movie, here’s the trailer!!

Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a review copy of “A Monster Calls” and for inviting me to a private screening of the movie adaptation.

Exclusive Q&A with Patrick Ness:

How did you feel when you found out that the book was going to be turned into a film?
Well, it was great, but I am always skeptical. I’m skeptical about everything, even my books – I never believe they’re going to exist until they do, with a film even more so. So much had to be in place that was completely out of my hands. I was optimistic: there were really great creative partners, who knew what they were doing and really wanted to make this happen. But I thought, movies don’t happen to people like me! So I didn’t ever count my chickens – I’m still not counting my chickens!

You have written several screenplays. What did you find interesting about adapting your own book into a screenplay? How different a writing experience was it?
I’d been very protective of the material right the way through so I held off from selling it for a very long time. Then I thought I’d actually like to write the screenplay because I thought I knew how the story works and how it could be changed. You don’t always know that something’s going to work; you just hope.

I’ll always consider myself a novelist because in a novel, for good or ill, all the choices are yours. You’re in charge of it and it’s one hundred per cent an expression of you. That’s a great freedom and a great responsibility and a great challenge – the tyranny of all that choice! It’s hard, but really rewarding, and I love it.

Screenplays, on the other hand, are kind of like puzzles: a movie at best if a long short story, so how do you take the essence of your story and communicate everything in it in a shorter space? That kind of creative challenge can spur you on. I’ve always found limitations can be a great spurt to creativity.

What needed to change in the story? How did you feel about altering things from the book? Was there a strand from the book that you wanted to be emphasized in the film?
The bullies get emphasized in the film because they’re Conor’s connection to the outside world and, given Conor’s world is so interior (he’s always in his home, or his grandmother’s house, or in the tales), it’s important to have this visual link to the outside world in his film. We need to know what the outside looks like, and how the world regards him, and how small his world has shrunk.

There were some changed Director J.A. Bayona wanted – the director always brings things. He was very interested in the idea of legacy and what a parent leaves behind. So he had the idea that Conor loves drawing because his mother is an artist, and this works perfectly visually because it links right into the tales, which erupt from his drawings. It comes together just gorgeously at the end. Throughout the whole film there’s been a locked room in Conor’s grandmother’s house. At the end we discover that the grandmother has been making it into a room for Conor and it’s full of all his artworks and all his mother’s old drawing pads. The final shot shows him opening one up and finding a drawing of the monster on his mother’s shoulder, so she has clearly seen the monster herself, probably when she lost her father. So the monster had come for her as well and they share that. It’s a beautiful addition.

Were you involved in the casting process for the film? What do the individual actors bring to your characters?
Casting is half desperate desire and half chance. You make lists of actors you want and they’re just ridiculous because, if you were to get them all, the salaries alone would be $300 million. Liam Neeson is so perfect for the role it’s almost slightly obvious, but we thought, let’s try him anyway. And he turned out to love the book, and he’s a truly lovely man so getting him involved felt like a bit of a blessing.

As for Sigourney Weaver, I don’t think we thought she’d be available, but then Bayona called me one day and said, “We’ve got Sigourney Weaver,” and I thought, whoa! And she’s perfect – she is physically perfect and her manner is perfect.

Bayona and the producer Belén Atienza suggested Felicity Jones and got her before The Theory of Everything – before she was too busy! So that was a great bit of timing. I once talked to a director who said casting is important but, in some ways, if you get good people, the film will sort of shape itself to fit them. But still, how amazing to get Liam Neeson, Felicity Jones and Sigourney Weaver for a film that didn’t have a huge budget! And among all the kids who were auditioned, Lewis MacDougall just stood out. He’s auditioned for three things in his life and he’s got all three, so that says it all really.

Did you spend much time on set? What did you enjoy most about the film-making process?
I was involved in the process all the way through. The director, J.A. Bayona, and the producer, Belén Atienza, were very generous and very collaborative. There were lots of script meetings in Barcelona where we’d talk and talk about scripts, scenes and order. We hashed it out until we were all happy. I was on set about ten or twelves times. It was a fairly lengthy shoot because they had a juvenile lead, so could only shoot a certain amount of hours a day. Throughout the whole process they would send me scenes. They would always ask me about additions to the dialogue – every single line of dialogue they were thinking of adding in. Sometimes actors suggest things on set, and some of it’s just fantastic and needs to be woven in.

The first two weeks were spent with Liam Neeson in a suit doing motion capture for the CGI monster. Because the monster is created using CGI, they had a big model of the monster’s head on set to give Lewis something to act to. And the final tale, which is set in a graveyard, was filmed in an abandoned hospital-studio on the outskirts of Barcelona, with a huge construction of a graveyard. It looked half impressive and half not there, but then in the film it looks amazing.

A Monster Calls is a very emotional novel. How difficult was it to translate into motion onto the screen?
I think we’re a good match, me and Bayona (Director J.A. Bayona). He’s very outwardly emotional and passionate, like a lot of directors are, and I’m very reserved (which doesn’t mean unemotional, just privately emotional). So I thought between us we could probably get to a really good central point which neither of us could get to on our own. I would always want to make sure the emotion is really true. I want ugly crying, not pretty crying. I don’t want any easy outs (not that Bayona would have gone for easy outs), and he probably instinctively distrusts lack of expression in emotion. So, together, we find the right path that most people are going to fall into.

In a movie it’s the performances that are going to do it, and all the actors understood that it’s not a movie about grief, but about sadness and anger. 

Both film and illustration are activities that transform a writer’s words into images. What do you feel about that visual process?
I’m not an artist, and I’m not a film director, so I felt a huge curiosity about how Jim Kay, the book’s illustrator, and Bayona would respond to my work. Jim is so talented! Some of the stuff he drew I could never have thought of and some of the stuff Bayona shot I could ever have thought of. That’s what you wish for – somebody who knows different things than you know and brings those to the work. The important thing for me always is to keep learning. I never want to be complacent – that’s why I wanted to do the screenplay myself. Even if I failed I wanted at least to try.

-Annie