All posts by Helena

Merry Christmas!

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Dear Story Room friends,

It is very hard for me to express how much you have all meant to us this year. I am not normally lost for words, but your support and help in keeping The Story Room going in such difficult times for all, has been amazing. You all changed to Zoom classes without question and trusted us to deliver our workshops in this new (and sometimes challenging) way. The show certainly went on!

Who would have known the power of story writing on Zoom? Your children adapted so seamlessly, it was like they had always worked online, helping us to find our way when technology wasn’t kind to us oldies! What great poetry and stories we heard!

At the Story Room, we all believe in story and poetry writing as tool and remedy to help everyone through difficult times and we hope that you felt the healing, uplifting power of it too. We have laughed and cried on Zoom and had such wonderful times with your children.

We couldn’t have done it without your unending support and positivity. Thank you so much!

We wish you and your families a wonderful and peaceful Christmas and New Year and look forward to a bright and positive 2021 full of stories, poetry and good health!


From Helena, Angels, Ben, Kerry, Lizzy, Michelle, Sundra and Allan.

Rumblestar – Abi Elphinstone

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Dear Abi,

I hope you are well. It’s lovely to stay in touch with you during lockdown, even if it is by reading your books. We have a new set of book clubbers to introduce the wonderful imagination of Abi Elphinstone to this year, so I thought that Rumble Star would be an appropriate place for them to begin their journey and what a journey it was…. They loved it! The world left them breathless and wanting MORE! Here are their reviews and thoughts. As you can see from the photos, they couldn’t put the book down!

Hoping all is well with you and your little elves. Helena

Dear Abi, 

I absolutely loved all the characters but my favourite character is Arlo. He is smart, friendly and never gives up.

I also loved the just-in case. It is so clever and appropriate at all times. 

I really liked the idea of frozen lightening armour and phoenix tears.

I loved when Utterly says ‘Cross is what happens when you burn toast or forget an umbrella. I’m not cross; I’m just unbelievably fierce.’

I also liked when Casper said ‘I did tell you that I am never, ever late. Especially when it comes to rescuing a friend.’

Florence Su

Dear Abi,

I really like magical creatures and unknown kingdoms. I couldn’t put the book down because there was so much information. I really liked it because there were so many characters. My favourite character is Arlo because he is very clever at everything including riddles. I like the fact that Arlo is determined to keep Utterly safe know matter what.

I personally think you tried really hard to write Rumblestar, and what a great book it is.

 From Amy Storey


Dear Abi (great author),

What I loved about your book ( Rumble Star) was it was that it was about friendship and I personally think that’s super lovely of you to write a book like that. (Your characters all had really weird names by the way!) and my favourite character was Arlo as you wrote a very good description about him, which in my mind made him look very cute. I also loved Arlo because he is very clever in the story and cares for everyone( especially Utterly, who I also loved). He also saves Utterly Thankless and Casper Tock from the witches hut on the Witches Fingers River by letting the two friends know what the answer to the riddle was  that the three witches had given Casper & Utterly & I think Arlo. It was also mainly Arlo who saved Rumble Star as he, as I just said, got the group of three out of the witches hut, otherwise they could’ve still been in the witches hut. I do have to be honest with you, after Arlo saved them from the Witches Fingers River he wasn’t really in the story much which I thought was a bit sad, and I am just going to repeat again that he kind of saved Rumble Star.

As I said at the start,  I still really love your book and think it is an amazing book and you should carry on writing as you are absolutely brilliant at it. I love you personally as a writer as I don’t know you in person of course, but as I said before you ARE A STAR THAT SOMETIMES RUMBLES!

From Reya xxxx 

Dear Abi,

When Casper got to the Hot Air Balloon Sky Soar 9000 it felt like I was Casper .The hot air  balloon was very prepared and could actually talk .The balloon has lots of stuff that surprises  you like the haches 1,2,3,4,5 . Tt is very funny when zip says in the LIKELY event… and normally it says in the UNLIKELY event… ,that was probably scary for Casper .What is the most hilarious  is if there is a fire or sudden tilt all you do is cry,  I mean that won’t save you! Zip couldn’t be more surprising. I like it when the balloon saves Utterly from falling to her death. Casper liked the hot air balloon because there right next to him was a prepared hot air balloon who liked plans. I think it made him feel a little bit more comfortable and safe. I liked it when Casper said “I told you I was never ever late, especially when it comes to saving a friend”.

From Isobel


Dear Abi

I loved Rumblestar! It’s one of my new favourite books.

My absolute favourite bit was near the beginning, after Utterly Thankless had dragged Casper Tock to the Lofty Husks, but before they met them. It was the bit with them walking on the carpet.

This page made me laugh out loud at the carpet’s remarks. I liked it as the carpet says the words like a loving Aunty, cooing, but it is sarcastic. This makes me think of a funny lady who pulls people’s cheeks.

Like I’ve said, I also like the red carpet as it is sarcastic as when Casper looks like he is pesky and the opposite of important, yet the carpet said he was.

Another bit which I loved was with the tree which Casper had turned up in after transporting from the cupboard in his school.

What I love about this, is that the tree knows the truth, yet it didn’t help Casper in the situation, which made me think, maybe the tree wanted Casper to loosen up. So I thought for three days whilst reading this book about this, which fascinated me.

Samaara Taneja 


And Hayley couldn’t put it down. 

The Highland Falcon – letter to Elisa Paganelli

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Cara Elisa,

Ciao! I run a Book Club for  a group of year 4, 5 and 6s who love to read! They are a fun and eloquent bunch who really love detectives stories and reading The Highland Falcon was a real treat for them. They loved the drawings so I wrote down what they told me they liked best about them and here is a transcript of what I typed up: 

I liked the picture of Lady Lansbury the best as it was very detailed. I liked the patterns and the shades of her clothes and I also liked the jewellery. The pictures really helped me identify who the characters were.  (Hayley) 

My favourite picture is the one at the end where Harrison is with his family at the train station as there is lots of detail in it and although they are focusing on the family but you can still see the bustle of the train station. It is a happy picture because he sees his baby sister for the first time.  (Samaara)

I liked the picture of when Harrison climbs up the train and is clinging on. It gave me a better view of that scene in the book. You can see the wind and how fast the train is going. (Isabel) 

My favourite picture is on the front cover as it really showed that the story was going to be about an adventure on a train and a thief. I like to know what a story is about when I see a front cover and I thought that the cover was just right. (Amy)

The picture I liked the best was on page 66, It has a lot of details and shows the area of the train’s engine. It gave you a lot of detail and showed the leaves blowing in the wind. It is eye-catching. It made me shiver because Harrison is outside and looking down into the coals and he could fall. (Charlie) 

My favourite picture was the one of  magpie holding the jewel in its mouth as the one on the cover does not have the jewel. So it shows that is going to steal the jewel. The sly look in eye makes him look evil and I also think the picture show Harrison to be a talented artist. (Florence) 

The one of the princess is my favourite. It shows the Atlas Diamond really well and it shows how I imagined it in the book. I also liked the drawing of Lucy,  as she has a simple look  but her glasses make her eye-catching and her hair is  how she is exactly how she is described exactly. The pictures of the characters at the front of  the book helped me a lot. Without the pictures I would have been stuck as I was confused by the characters of  Lydia and Lady Lansbury. (Freya) 

Thank you for illustrating a wonderful book so beautifully. It added to the children’s enjoyment and understanding of the book. They look forward to seeing more of your drawings in other Adventures on Trains books. 

Distinti saluti.  

Helena and Book Club! 

Book Recommendations for Years 7-9 (secondary school).

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We have a group of avid readers in Teen Book Club. They read a wide variety of books – some for younger children and some for older teens – so I asked them what they had read over the summer that they would recommend to other readers and here is that list:

Girl Missing – Sophie MacKenzie

The Boy at the Back of the Class Onjali Rauf

The London Eye Mystery – Siobhan O’Dowd

The Opposite of Always – Justin Reynolds

The Tattooist of Auschwitz  Heather Morris

The Hitchhikers’ Guide to The Galaxy – Douglas Adams

Holes  Louis Sachar

Stepping Stones  Louis Sachar

The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness

The End of Time – Gavin Extence

Spies – Michael Friarn

Wonder – R.J Palacio

The Goldfish Boy – Lisa Thompson

The Blood Guard – Carter Roy

Boy 87 – Ele Fountain

Kensuke’s Kingdom – Michael Morpurgo

Please use caution when choosing books for young teens. I’m not a fan of censuring reading but some teen books can deal with very adult themes, so please choose according to your child’s maturity and sensitivity.

Happy Reading!

Book Recommendations from Book Club – years 5 and 6

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We currently have a lovely well-read group of Book Clubbers so we asked them what they had read and enjoyed over the summer holidays so that we could share the list with you… and here it is.


The Guggenheim Mystery – Robin Stevens 5/5

Candyfloss – Jaqueline Wilson 5/5

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe  – C.S. Lewis 4.5/5

The Lost Magician – Piers Torday 4/5


Recommends anything by David Baddiel

and the following by David Walliams

The World’s Worst Parents 5/5

Grandpa’s Great Escape 5/5

The Beast of Buckingham Palace 5/5


The Infamous Adventures of Benjamin Piff  3/5

AniMalcolm  – David Baddiel 4.5/5

The Person Controller – David Baddiel  5/5


The Magician’s Nephew – C.S Lewis 4/5

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe  – C.S Lewis  5/5

Great Expectations – Charles Dickens  (the adapted version) 5/5


Candyfloss –  Jaqueline Wilson 4/5

A Journey to the River Sea  – Eva Ibbotson 5/5

The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett 4/5

A Diary of a Wimpy Kid  – Jeff Kinney 4.3/5

Number The Stars –  Lois Lowry 100/100

And we all read The Astounding Broccoli Boy by Frank Cottrell Boyce, which was enjoyed by all.
Happy Reading!