Blog Tour: Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb / Reasons to Read Children’s Classics

Blog Tour: Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb / 5 Reasons to Read Children's ClassicsWelcome to my stop on the Return the Secret Garden blog tour!

Scholastic published a pretty new edition of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden this month alongside a 1930s sequel, Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb.

It’s 1939 and a group of children have been evacuated to Misselthwaite Hall. Emmie is far from happy to have been separated from her cat and sent to a huge old mansion. But soon she starts discovering the secrets of the house – a boy crying at night, a diary written by a girl named Mary and a garden. A very secret garden…

As I run the 2015 Classics Challenge and have thoroughly enjoyed delving into children’s classics, I thought it’d be lovely for Holly Webb to share with us why it’s important to read classics.

Why read a classic, when there are so many amazing new books published every year? Looking back, I read a lot of ‘classics’ when I was a child – my favourites were Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden (unsurprisingly…) and A Little Princess, but I also worked my way through Arthur Ransome, E. Nesbit, especially The Treasure Seekers and The Would-Be-Goods, all of the Anne books, and as much Louisa M. Alcott as I could find. What Katy Did, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, all the Narnia books, plus any number of classic school stories and horse books – it goes on. I even had an ancient copy of The Wide, Wide World by Elizabeth Wetherall, published in 1850, and I loved it, but then I really was a sucker for anything old, and I skipped a lot of the moralising…

Trying to pin down what I love about all these books (which are only vaguely defined as classics, and were published over a long period, nearly a hundred years) is fascinating and frustrating. I keep coming up with more and more thoughts which don’t tie neatly into any argument. So…

The main thing, for me. All these books are led by strong child characters, often suffering great adversity (and your Victorian adversity could be pretty horrific). Mary Lennox comes to Misselthwaite after her entire household in India has died from cholera, and she’s been left alone in the family bungalow, eating the food from an abandoned dinner party. She’s then sent to a strange, ancient house full of servants, with a guardian who’s hardly ever there. It’s possibly the most dramatic way to leave a child to find for herself ever… I love her strange, cold, stubborn ways at the beginning of the book, and the way the garden changes her is so believable.

I’m fascinated by the details of everyday life from the time these books were written. It’s even better because these are things which the authors weren’t including to be interesting at all. It’s all just as it was. Some of this makes events tricky to understand, but that’s all the more intriguing. It gives you a real appreciation of modern medicine, too. I had pneumonia at about 10, and I remember thinking this was a very dramatic, storybook thing, and being very grateful that I wasn’t going to die!

Sense of place
Fabulous recreations of landscape – Dickon’s stories about the moor and its creatures in The Secret Garden are spellbinding, Frances Hodgson Burnett created the most amazing word pictures. And think of the descriptions of woods and walk in Anne of Green Gables (even if I do want to kick Anne for being a complete drip, some of the time…)

Continuity – sharing something special
Often, these books are bought for children by parents or grandparents, wanting to share their own love of the stories. While I was writing Return to the Secret Garden, so many people told me that The Secret Garden was one of their favourite books. It’s great to be able to talk about the books you love with the people you love!

Thank you for joining me on the blog, Holly! The Secret Garden and Return to the Secret Garden are out now. Go here to enter to win copies!

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Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier (Classic #8) + Blog Tour

Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier (Classic #8) + Blog Tour

Shelved: Classic (Gothic, mystery)
Published: 1936 by Gollancz (Virago, current editions) 
Rating: ★★★
Challenge: Classics Challenge – #8
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

Here’s my 8th post for the 2015 Classics Challenge and the 24th stop on the Daphne du Maurier blog tour!

In the bitter November wind, Mary Yellan crosses Bodmin Moor to Jamaica Inn. Her mother’s dying wish was that she take refuge there, with her Aunt Patience. But when Mary arrives, the warning of the coachman echoes in her mind: Jamaica Inn has a desolate power, and behind it’s crumbling walls Patience is a changed woman, cowering before her brooding, violent husband. When Mary discovers the inn’s dark secrets, the truth is more terrifying than anything she could possibly imagine, and she is forced to collude in her uncle’s murderous schemes. Against her will, she finds herself powerfully attracted to her uncle’s brother, a man she dares not trust.

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
I read Rebecca in early 2012 and adored it, so it was about time to pick up another Daphne du Maurier! Virago got in touch to offer copies of Rebecca, Frenchman’s Creek or Jamaica Inn as part of the blog tour to celebrate the new adult (left) and young adult (right) editions of the books.

WHY I Chose to Read It
I have already read and reviewed Rebecca. As for Frenchman’s Creek, I don’t know how I feel about pirates. But it has received such as glowing response on the blog tour that I might now be persuaded to try it. I enjoyed the quiet suspense of Rebecca, and Jamaica Inn sounded closest to that – a thrilling mystery set on the Cornish moors. Who can resist a dangerous world of smuggling and murder?

WHAT Makes It A Classic
Daphne du Maurier writes Gothic fiction full of mystery and suspense. She takes common themes from the classics and makes them feel a little more invigorated, even though it’s set in the 1820s – and with even more drizzly treacherous moors than in Wuthering Heights. In Jamaica Inn, the gloomy, foreboding atmosphere is as prominent as the bleak events that occur, as Mary Yellan struggles with the problem of her uncle Joss and his dangerous company.

WHAT I Thought of This Classic
Jamaica Inn was deliciously dark; much darker and violent than I thought it would be, even with the promise of smuggling and murder! I adored our protagonist Mary, only 23 and incredibly determined. She’s instantly undeterred by her terrifying uncle, Joss. And I unexpectedly found myself understanding why Mary was drawn to his young brother, Jem, even as she says: He stood for everything she feared and hated and despised; but she knew she could love him. But perhaps I don’t love Gothic literature as much as I thought I did. I did not find myself rushing to get back to the story, similar to my experience of reading Northanger Abbey and the (second half of) Wuthering Heights earlier this year. Perhaps I find that the tension works much better for me with visuals on screen? But nonetheless, the twists kept me interested right up until the explosive ending.

WILL It Stay A Classic
I forget how old Daphne du Maurier’s books actually are. Her prose is so accessible that her stories could have been published for the first time this year. Jamaica Inn was published nearly 80 years ago and it is still as readable as ever, so I can see Daphne du Maurier’s novels still being read years from now. Hopefully the new YA editions will enable teenagers to discover her too! I’ll still be checking out more novels from her.

WHO I’d Recommend It To
People who love Gothic stories like Wuthering Heights, Northanger Abbey and Jane Eyre. People who love adventure, mystery and romance. People who want to read accessible classics. People who love bad boys!

Blog Tour
Check out the beautiful new editions below, out now!
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Blog Tour: Landline by Rainbow Rowell / Rainbow Rowell at Waterstones Piccadilly

Landline Blog TourI don’t usually participate in blog tours, you may have noticed, but how could I turn down the opportunity to participate in the tour for Rainbow Rowell’s latest novel?! That’s right. I COULDN’T. Landline was published on 3rd July and you can read my review here. Rainbow is in London right now and has hosted two fantastic sold out events at Waterstones Piccadilly. I’m the last stop on the tour, so here’s my experience of her event on Monday!

I rarely attend a book event where an author has to cover so many books in one evening, but she sped through, talking about Eleanor & Park, Fangirl, Attachments and Landline. For these events, Rainbow Rowell was in conversation with Bim Adewunmi, pop culture enthusiast and writer/editor, who was absolutely brilliant! Enthusiastic, knowledgeable about all things Rainbow and incredibly funny, Bim made an event with Rainbow Rowell even more enjoyable (we didn’t think it was possible!). I’d also like to say that although I made notes, there is still a chance that I misquoted or misunderstood some things, so if you were there and think I’ve said something drastically incorrect… do say! I’m also pretty sure there’s no spoilers, but here’s a spoiler warning, just in case.


Rainbow & Bim

Eleanor & Park, unsurprisingly, is the book that Rainbow Rowell holds closest to her heart. It’s the one, she says, that’s most like a child you have to keep an eye on, and the one that she’s most protective of, so when it was optioned to be a movie, she was a little afraid. At the event she said she was worried that a few changes could alter the story and that it could very easily go wrong. Shailene Woodley cannot play Eleanor. Park cannot be white. But then she imagined what it would be like if the film we went well, if we got to see a chubby girl and an Asian boy kissing on-screen – it would be great! So she’ll be writing the screenplay (but she hasn’t started yet!). She’s currently trying to figure out how to show the most famous quotes, like ‘Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something’, because they were never actually said aloud. Eleanor & Park is the book she wrote during an awful part of her life and when stuff from her teenage years began rising up. She didn’t plot out the story or plan, but wrote it like ‘falling down a hill’. Because, she says, nothing tastes as good or sounds as good as it does in your teenage years (like how older adults still listen to the music they loved as a teenager!), she didn’t really need to research the 80s because it started coming back to her clearly. Eleanor & Park is also the book she receives the most tweets about (especially people asking about those three words!).

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Blog Tour: War Girls by Sally Nicholls (as part of Countdown to 5th June)

Blog Tour: War Girls by Sally Nicholls (as part of Countdown to 5th June)

War Girls, published tomorrow, is a collection of short stories that explore how the First World War changed and shaped the lives of women forever. A courageous nurse risks her life at the Front Line; a young woman discovers independence and intrigue in wartime London; a grief-stricken widow defends her homeland amidst the destruction of war; and much more. I am pleased to have Sally Nicholls on Pretty Books today as part of Countdown to 5th June (@CountdownYA), an epic five week-long author blog tour, organised by Jim at YA Yeah Yeah.

PB: Hello Sally! Thank you for taking part in Countdown to 5th June! I’m excited about all the children’s and young adult WWI books being published this year as it’s a favourite topic of mine, but War Girls stood out to me in particular, so I’m thrilled to be interviewing you about your short story, Going Spare, today!

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Blog Tour: Tinder by Sally Gardner

I rarely participate in blog tours, but when I was asked if I’d like to share 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Sally Gardner, I knew it’d be a fun blog post. Earlier this year, I went to the Stoke Newington Literary Festival and attended the event for Maggot Moon. I had such an enjoyable time – Sally’s a wonderful person to listen to – and I loved hearing stories about her childhood.

But for her latest novel, Tinder, Sally’s moved away from dystopian alternate realities and back to her fantasy roots with this modern retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, The Tinderbox, about a young soldier who defies death. She was inspired to retell the story after meeting a soldier who had served in Iraq, who felt that war ‘left him with little except nightmares’. I’ve not read the original fairy tale, so this will be new to me, but I’ve been promised that it’s a dark, young adult – not middle grade – novel… !

10 Things you Didn’t Know About Sally Gardner



1. Sally has three Japanese tattoos on her arm – they look like re-imagined planets.

2. Sally loves dachshunds, particularly miniature long-haired ones called Lottie.

3. Sally’s mum, Nina Lowry, was the second female judge in the Old Bailey.

4. Sally likes collecting robots and ravens. Especially robots circa 1955.

5. Sally also has an obsession with antique maps and antique books, as if they were animate objects with lives of their own…

6. Sally started out as a set designer and built a set out of 1,500 car tires for the Good Woman of Szechuan at the Royal Court back in the day.

7. Sally didn’t have a television when growing up, instead she used to dream she had an actor living in her bedroom cupboard to read her stories.

8. Sally has pink hair at the moment, but she likes to change the colour often for that element of surprise.

9. Sally is a dab hand at interior design, often called upon by friends for eccentric design advice.

10. Sally believes in magic (you might know that already, but just in case…).

So there you are! I also really quite like antique books and maps – they’re beautiful. Tinder is also beautiful book – if that’s an appropriate description for something that sounds terrifying! – and full of exquisite, haunting illustrations by David Roberts. In the acknowledgements Sally says ‘as a young adult I was heartbroken that being grown-up meant reading books without illustrations’ and I quite agree. I’m looking forward to curling up with this on a dark winter’s night.

Blog Tour: Tinder by Sally GardnerBlog Tour: Tinder by Sally GardnerBlog Tour: Tinder by Sally GardnerBlog Tour: Tinder by Sally GardnerBlog Tour: Tinder by Sally Gardner

Other stops on the Tinder blog tour:
31st – Waterstones Blog
7th – Gollancz Blog
8th – The Book Addicted Girl
11th – Choose YA
12th – Me!
13th – Serendipity Reviews
14th – The Pewter Wolf
15th – Reading Zone

Tinder is published by Indigo and is out now. Follow Sally @thesallygardner and you can see the many other books she’s written here.