Tag Archives: OUP

Guest Post – Inspiration, Explorers and Exploring by Roland Chambers

Today I am hugely excited to have the wonderful Roland Chambers on Tales with a wonderful guest post!

Roland Chamber is the author of Nelly and the Flight of the Sky Lantern which was released on the 2nd February and previously Nelly and the Quest for Captain Peabody which was released in 2015 and are wonderful middle grade reads.  Both books are beautifully illustrated by Ella Okstad.







The books follow the epic adventures of explorer Nelly and her best friend and sidekick, a turtle called Columbus.

Nelly makes for a clever, tenacious and positive female protagonist.” – The School Librarian

Roland did some fascinating research into real-life female explorers for the books. Nelly becomes a balloonist in the latest book, which draws inspiration from the eighteenth-century ballooning pioneer Sophie Blanchard.

With this in mind, and the fact that it’s International woman’s day on the 8th March, we thought this would make a really fascinating blog post about inspiration and exploring and explorers……

One girl. One turtle. One epic voyage! If you like Pippi Longstocking, you’ll love Nelly Peabody.
When Nelly says she’s going to do a thing, she does it, whatever it is.
Learn to juggle china cups? Of course!
Live on lemons for a month? Why not?
Set out in a boat with knitted sails to find her long-lost father, with only her turtle Columbus for company? Absolutely!
And she won’t let anything get in her way . . .

Sometimes secrets are hidden in the most obvious places.
When Nelly returns home to discover that her mother has mysteriously disappeared, she vows to stop at nothing until she’s found her.
Climb to the tops of the clouds in a laundry basket? Why not? Dive to the depths of the ocean in an oversized tin can? Of course! Leave her turtle, Columbus, behind? CERTAINLY NOT! He’s her best friend, what an awful suggestion.
Together they will find the answers!
An original, quirky adventure story, beautifully written, packed with eccentric characters, and illustrated throughout in two colour. If you like Pippi Longstocking, you’ll love Nelly Peabody.

Inspiration, Explorers and Exploring

When my daughter Nelly was born I was the first person to make eye contact with her as she cartwheeled up into her mother’s arms. It was such an intense moment that I remember it in black and white, in freeze frames. That’s what it was like for me – electrifying, life-changing – but just imagine what it must have been like for her. The shock of it. The sudden freedom of movement. The cold air on her skin and this hairy giant goggling at her. This doting monster. The atmosphere of a new and strange planet filling her lungs.

When we think of explorers, we often think of men with snow-caked beards gripping ice-picks or hacking at tropical undergrowth, but actually we are all explorers from the moment we’re born. Some people don’t like to admit it. They live their lives as far as possible from the edge, making sure they know where everything is and what’s going to happen next, eating the same breakfast every day, taking the same route to work. But some people want to keep on busting out, and at least half of them are women, like my daughter Nelly, leaping from high furniture, conquering the BMX track, listening wide eyed to stories of Sophie Blanchard, who over two hundred years ago amazed the world by taking to the air beneath a hydrogen balloon in a basket no bigger than a rocking chair.

A little while ago I wrote a book about a fictional Nelly who sets off to find her missing father in a boat with knitted sails and only her pet turtle, Columbus, for company. Nelly sails half way round the world to discover the truant still in his pyjamas, gone native in a forest of his own planting, and along the way has so many adventures of her own she forgives him a little for his thoughtlessness. Then she comes home, only to discover her mother has vanished too, so off she goes again, this time in a hot air balloon, like the mighty Sophie Blanchard. She floats to the very edge of space, where it is impossible to breath, but before she finally solves the mystery, she has to dive to the bottom of the ocean too, because pinning down a mother is not an easy thing. A mother is a whole world.

Exploring is about returning to the beginning, to the astonishment of being born, which is why the Victorians were always hunting for the source of famous rivers, like the Nile or the Amazon. It’s about breaking new ground, but it’s also an act of self-discovery. A journey to the centre, into the great, dark interior, where all true things live. Or that’s what Nelly finds. She follows in the footsteps of women like Sacawega, who led the Lewis and Clark expedition into the Wild West, or the deep sea diver Sylvia Earl. She finds out where her mother is and in hunting her down, begins to understand her. She discovers her own source, the origin of Nelly, but not so completely that there will be no need of further adventures. Of course not! Because being born is one thing, but you wouldn’t want to leave it at that, would you? Not if you’re a real explorer. You’ll need to do it again and again until you’ve busted out completely, whatever that means, wherever that goes. Let your inner Nelly take you!








You can buy a copy of these books here or from your local bookshop

About Roland Chambers

Roland Chambers has had some adventures of his own. He’s been a pig farmer, a film maker, a journalist, a pastry chef, a cartoonist, a teacher, a private detective and an author. He’s also lived in a few different countries, including Scotland, Australia, Poland, America and Russia. Now he lives with a professor next to a cake shop in London. He owns two cats, two children and two guinea pigs. Roland is currently working with the charity First Story (http://www.firststory.co.uk/) as a writer-in-residence at Pimlico Academy.

You can find out more about Roland on his website – www.rolandchambers.com

About Ella Okstad

Ella Okstad was born in Trondheim, Norway in 1973. She graduated from Kent Institute of Art and Design with a BA Hons degree in illustration in 2000. She now lives and works in Trondheim, Norway.  She has illustrated a range of children’s books including the Squishy McFluff series (Faber & Faber). She illustrated the first Nelly adventure Nelly and the Quest for Captain Peabody and most recently Nelly and the Flight of the Sky Lantern.

A huge thank you to Roland for a fantastic post!  Also a huge big thank you to Hannah at OUP for asking me to host.

Have you read any of Nelly’s adventures?  Who are your favourite explorers?   I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of this review or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Happy Reading!

Guest Post – Diaries, Writing and Detectives! by Julia Lee

I’m super excited to have the wonderful Julia Lee on Tales today to celebrate the release of the second Nancy Parker mystery, Nancy Parkers Spooky Speculations.

Nancy Parkers Spooky Speculations was released on the 5th January 2017 published by OUP and is set to be another cracking mystery!

A funny and energetic middle-grade mystery, narrated part in the third person and part through Nancy’s illustrated journal. Follow-up to Nancy Parker’s Diary of Detection.

So today in a fab guest post Julia talks all about diaries, writing and detectives…..

And if you use those detective skills there may also be a giveaway at the bottom of this post!

About The Books

On this day 24th June 1920 I turned fourteen.

I plan to have a very exciting future now that I have thrown off the SHACKLES of SCHOOL! A detective is what I would most like to be. I cannot think of any reason why I could not be one. Except perhaps I am too young. And I don’t like blood.

Nancy Parker has recently been engaged in her first position – as a housemaid for the very modern Mrs Bryce. It’s not Nancy’s dream job (she’d rather be investigating crimes like they do in her beloved six-penny thrillers) but as Mrs Bryce starts to entertain her new neighbours with lavish parties, it becomes clear that something strange and interesting might be afoot. Local burglaries, a cook with a deep, dark secret – and Mrs Bryce’s own glamorous but murky past.

Will Nancy solve the mysteries while still keeping on top of her chores?

A hilarious and energetic middle-grade mystery, narrated part in the third person and part through Nancy’s journal.

Maidservants, Mystery, and Murder! Everyone’s favourite housemaid-detective is back! Now Nancy has a new job working at Oxcoombe Grange. It’s great except for one thing – Nancy is convinced the house is haunted! Ella Otter, now a reluctant pupil at nearby Seabourne Grammar School for Girls, demands a scientific investigation. Together, Nancy and Ella set out to do some spooky snooping, and to uncover the mysteries of the Grange’s cellars. But in doing so they make a few enemies, discover a few surprising secrets, and put themselves into a little more danger than they were bargaining for . . .

A funny and energetic middle-grade mystery, narrated part in the third person and part through Nancy’s illustrated journal. Perfect for fans of Murder Most Unladylike and The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow.

You can buy these books here or from your local bookshop

Diaries, Writing and Detectives! 

11th January. Got up. Had breakfast. Went to school. Maths test. Raining again.

It’s easy to see why the diaries I began each new year in my schooldays never lasted more than a few weeks. Entries like this (they were ALL like this) only showed how unexciting my life was. I couldn’t seem to find my own voice in these words, plus I cringed at starting sentences with ‘I’. It was all too self-conscious, too boring, too – aargh, just fling the wretched thing across the room!!

So, with such a failed record of diary-keeping, what do I do? Come up with a series of children’s books in the form of a diary. It’s so much more fun to write one from someone else’s point of view.

I am writing this on the train on my way to begin a New Chapter in my life! That accounts for the slitely wobbly handwriting…

That’s how Nancy Parker starts her second adventure. She’s so much more enthusiastic about everything than I was at 14. Ok, it is a detective diary, so she’s bound to see more action than I ever did.  The year is 1920 – and, just coincidentally, the dawn of the Golden Age of English crime writing from which I have ‘borrowed’ a few ideas. Nancy is a bright but poorly-educated London girl. Her only real option in life, like so many from her background, is to go into service as a lowly maidservant.

But Nancy has big dreams and bags of courage.  More than anything she wants to be a detective and doesn’t really see why that shouldn’t happen.  She loves lurid crime stories and her brain works overtime on theories about those around her, finding suspicious behaviour just about everywhere she looks. And who is better placed to spot such things than a housemaid: unimportant, unnoticed, but expected to be working hard behind the scenes?

I can never resist a bit of a culture-clash between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ in my books – it’s an ever-present part of life and great for creating dramatic tension. The upstairs-downstairs nature of Nancy’s world gives me plenty of scope for this. Especially when she meets some mystery-loving children from the other side of the divide.

Writing Nancy’s journal entries let me really explore the way she expresses herself. She doesn’t hold back on giving her opinions. When events are really momentous, Nancy puts them in capital letters with lots of exclamation marks. And adds comments in brackets.  So I can indulge my love of !!! And of ( ). Even of ***. My editor at Oxford Children’s Books encouraged me to ramp up Nancy’s lists of suspicions and suspects, her diagrams and sketches, and the bits of evidence gathered and stuck into her notebook for safekeeping. Designer Holly Fulbrook and illustrator Chloe Bonfield went to town on how it all looks.

Does anyone keep an actual paper diary these days? But if you’ve started a new one, in whatever form – even if you’re not really struggling yet – think of it as a journal. Ignore the tyranny of daily entries. Just put in the momentous or funny or ridiculous things whenever they happen. Draw sketches, maps and plans, stick or scan in pictures, tickets and lists. Or just make stuff up, like I did.

And read Nancy Parker for inspiration! (Don’t hold back on those !!!)

You can buy Nancy Parker’s Spooky Speculations here or at your local book shop

About Julia Lee

I’ve been making up stories for as long as I can remember. As a young child I was ill quite a bit, which meant I could spend lots of time lying in bed, reading – bliss.

I grew up in London, studied English at university, and have an MA in Creative Writing. I have worked in education and for children’s charities, particularly in the field of disability. My career has really been a series of accidents, as I tended to fall into jobs rather than seeking them out, because all the time I secretly wanted to be a writer!

I have written award-winning short stories and a novel for adults as Julia Widdows, and also researched and edited a book about disability, inclusion and everyday life.

I have two sons, and live in Sussex with my husband and an unhelpful cat.

You can find out more about Julia on her website – www.julialeeauthor.wordpress.com

Or why not follow Julia on twitter – @JuliaLeeAuthor


With thanks to the lovely people at OUP I have 5 copies of this wonderful book to giveaway to 5 lucky winners!

UK Only

Ends 18/01/2017

Please do check the terms and conditions on the rafflecopter giveaway before entering

Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A huge thank you to the wonderful Julia for such a wonderful post!

Another huge big thank you to Hannah at OUP for organising and for being so super wonderful!

Have you read any Nancy Parker books?  What did you think?  What was your favourite part?  If you have not read it yet have we tempted you to go and grab a copy?  Are you starting a diary this New Year?   I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of this review or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Happy Reading!

Guest Post – Learning To Live With A Polar Bear by Maria Farrer


Today I am over the moon to have the lovely Maria Farrer on Tales to celebrate the release of Me and Mister P which was released yesterday, 5th January 17, published by OUP!

Maria is the author of two brilliant YA novels and Me and Mister P sees Maria venture into the middle grade world of storytelling.

Packed with gorgeous illustrations throughout by Daniel Rieley, I hear this story has heart and humour in equal measure and is sure to be a hit with developing readers and as a great book to be read aloud.  I can’t wait to read it myself too!

Today Maria tells us exactly what its like to live and communicate with a polar bear in this wonderful guest post…..

I also have a fantastic giveaway so do check the bottom of the post!

About Me and Mister P

There are times when only a polar bear will do . . .

“All I want is a normal family but no, I’ve ended up with the brother from Weirdsville. Liam is so embarrassing, but Mum and Dad can’t see that and give him all the attention. Leaving me with zero! Zilch! A big fat NOTHING!
And I’m not really sure how an enormous, funny, clumsy polar bear is going to help with all this, but he was standing on the doorstep, so I had to invite him to stay, didn’t I? Well, what would you have done?”

Meet Arthur and his brand new friend, Mister P – the world’s most helpful polar bear!

Learning To Live With A Polar Bear

When a polar bear knocks on your door and then takes up residence in your home, you KNOW about it — it’s a size thing. And then, of course, bears can be mightily unpredictable — you have no idea what might happen next. It takes time to get used to having a bear around, especially a polar bear with attitude, a bear like MISTER P.

Illustration Daniel Rieley ‘Me and Mister P’ OUP 2017

Mister P first entered my life a year or so ago. Not exactly at my door, but fairly and squarely occupying a large section of my head. Of all the characters I have worked with, he is my complete and utter favourite. He has become like a best friend. I ask his advice, tell him my news, dance with him, sit with him, eat ice cream with him and dream with him. However, I would be lying if I said he’d been the easiest bear to have around.

I should, perhaps, have had a word with Paddington and Pooh before starting the story of Mister P. Michael Bond and A A Milne knew what they were doing when they made sure their bears could speak ‘human’. But when I first discussed the concept of Mister P with Oxford University Press, we decided that Mister P was to be 100%(ish) REAL BEAR — not toy, not pet and, not very domesticated and, above all, not chatterbox. He wasn’t to speak or think ‘human.

Fine, I could do that. Except … it turned out that when Mister P moved in with Arthur and his family, they couldn’t speak polar bear either — not a single word! STOPPPP!!! WAAAAAIT!!!!  A story where a bear moves in to somehow help solve a family’s problems and no-one can communicate?! How is that ever going to work?

I started researching how polar bears communicate with each other and then began studying, obsessively, the way in which my family interacted with our black Labrador. Like Mister P, he doesn’t speak ‘human’ and we don’t speak much ‘dog’ but, interestingly, we seem to understand each other quite effectively. When the dog wags his tail and grins he is telling us he is happy. When he puts his tail between his legs and hangs his head down low, he’s saying, “OK, I’m sorry, I know I’ve done something really bad”. In fact he’s developed all sorts of ways of letting us know precisely how he feels and just what he wants. And we react accordingly.

“I am simply the best looking dog in the world”

“No entry, this is MY castle!”

We talk to, and for, our dog all the time. In reality, of course, he has no idea what we’re saying and we have no idea what he’s thinking. We interpret his barks, his growls, his expressions. “Awww, are you feeling sad? Do you want a walk? Is your paw hurting? Of course you’re feeling sick you stupid dog, you’ve just eaten my best shoes.”

He, in turn, appears to understand our tone of voice, movements, and even mood. And non-verbal communication isn’t limited to communication between animals and humans. Human to human, we do it all the time too — usually without even realising it. We learn more about each other from body language, facial expression and voice than we do through the words that come out of our mouths. The smile is universal in any language, as are tears, horror, shock, boredom, aggression, anger, tiredness, wonder, grief, desperation. We can often convey more in a simple gesture or look, than we can in a hundred words. We know each other best when we use intuition and empathy.

I am pretty certain that polar bears don’t speak the same native language as Paddington bears, so I think that if Mister P spotted Paddington looking sad and lost in the park, Mister P would touch him on the shoulder, raise his eyebrows and maybe offer him a marmalade sandwich (if he happened to have one on him). Paddington would smile, Mister P would smile. Then they’d sit, side by side on a bench, and share a happy moment. Not a word would be spoken — and yet the world would somehow seem a better place.

“Bye, Mister P. Thanks for the sandwich!”

And that’s what I love most about Mister P. He has incredible intuition and empathy. He just ‘gets it’ even though he doesn’t speak a word of human. I’ve learned so much from living with Mister P and I’ve discovered that, for any one of us, there may be times when “only a polar bear will do”! Who knows, maybe the next person he visits may be YOU!

You can buy a copy of Me and Mister P here or from your local bookshop

About Maria Farrer

Maria Farrer writes for children and young adults. But most of all she loves adventures and quite likes being scared. 

She has four daughters and lives in Somerset with her husband and her black labrador. She trained as a speech and language therapist which has made her particularly interested in the way people (and bears!) communicate. 

Her dream is to go and visit polar bears in the wild and to learn more about these iconic, endangered creatures, their habitat and the struggle for survival in their disappearing world of sea ice.

You can find out more about Maria on her website – www.mariafarrer.com

Or follow Maria on twitter – @FarrerMaria

Maria is also on Facebook here


With thanks to the lovely people at OUP I have 5 copies of this wonderful book to giveaway to 5 lucky winners with some lovely signed bookmarks from the lovely Maria!

UK Only

Ends 13/01/2017

Please do check the terms and conditions on the rafflecopter giveaway before entering

Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A huge thank you to the wonderful Maria for such a wonderful post!

Another huge big thank you to Hannah at OUP for organising and for being so super wonderful!

Have you read Me and Mister P?  What did you think?  What was your favourite part?  If you have not read it yet have we tempted you to go and grab a copy?   I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of this review or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Happy Reading!

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