Meet the Gatekeepers was so much fun and it had an overwhelmingly positive response so I decided to flip the coin and get to know those who read and covet the books! I am aiming for two posts each month!

What better way to start than in a new year with high hopes for a wonderful year of reading, blogging and making connections. This new feature will run every two weeks and will promote the brilliant folk I have met and interacted with since joining the blogging ranks.

This week’s Reader is timely as it was announced just last week that our very own book blogger, Jo Clarke has been offered a publishing contract for her MG mystery, Libby and the Parisian Puzzle. Firefly Press are the lucky publishers to pick this debut novel up and I know we are all thrilled for Jo and can’t wait to read it and see the wonderful illustrations from Becka Moor.

When did you start blogging and what made you begin?

I’m a primary school librarian ​and after being asked to recommend books on a regular basis I decided to start my own blog in July 2015. I thought no-one would read it, apart from at school. I had only just joined Twitter so I didn’t know there was a whole blogging community. At first I thought I would get books out of the library and review them every week but then people started reading my blog and then publishers started getting in touch and sending me books to review. It was a real surprise to me that people all over the world read my blog.

What are the highlights of blogging for you?

Blogging has opened up so many opportunities for me, I have worked with the Booktrust on a number of projects including the Blue Peter Book Awards and the Bookbuzz panel. I was invited to be a judge at the British Book Awards in 2019 and to speak at The Bookseller Children’s Conference. I even won Champion Adult Blogger for my blog in the UKYABA awards. But for me the most important thing is that it has helped me find my voice as a writer, giving me the confidence to write my own stories and I signed with my agent, Alice Williams, in September last year. I have some exciting news to share shortly but I can’t say anymore for now.

What are the challenges of blogging?

The biggest challenge will always be finding the time to read and to write reviews whilst trying to juggle work, writing and parenting. Last year was a particularly difficult time trying to find the motivation and space to blog when life in general felt like a real slog. I know in my heart that I need to focus on my own writing but I still hope to find time to blog.

Tips for Book Bloggers?

I think it’s really important to be true to yourself and carve out your own style, be mindful of what you choose to review. I only review books on my blog that I genuinely enjoyed. If you write thinking that no-one is reading then you’re more likely to create something personal and people will recognise that when they read it. The children’s book community is really welcoming, get to know other bloggers, share their blog posts and blog because you just love sharing books with no expectations of what might or might not happen.

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading the submissions for this year’s Alligator’s Mouth Book Awards so unfortunately they’re all top secret. I love reading illustrated fiction so it’s an absolute joy to be involved with judging these awards.

What is your most eagerly anticipated book this year?

It has to be Emma Carroll’s ‘The Week at World’ End publishing on the 2nd September. Emma has the ability to touch your soul when she writes, it’s a true privilege stepping into her character’s lives and to feel their emotions so deeply. A new book from her is always something to look forward to. If you can’t wait until then I have to recommend Lesley Parr’s debut, ‘The Valley of Lost Secrets,’ It’s very rare that I read a debut that completely steals my heart away but Lesley Parr’s, but this is one of these unique finds. A truly extraordinary and accomplished debut which is destined to become a future classic.