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The Jewelled Jaguar by Sharon Tregenza

The Jewelled Jaguar by Sharon Tregenza

Bookchat: Top five children’s books in East Sussex (and events July 16 onwards)

A total of 620 children from 36 schools in East Sussex voted to choose their favourite books in a competition organised as part of a series of events where authors read extracts of their work to children across the county. Angela J. Phillip looks at The Jewelled Jaguar by Sharon Tregenza which came first and the other four top books suitable for 9 – 11-year-olds (and upwards to about 95 or so).

‘The Jewelled Jaguar’  (2017) by Sharon Tregenza
A sinkhole opens underneath Griffin’s house and swallows his mum. After this dramatic beginning, everything changes in his life. While his mum is in a coma in hospital, Griffin has to go and stay with his uncle and aunt and his cousin, Cinnamon. They don’t much want him there, but Griffin and Cinnamon become friends and have hair-raising adventures. This was chosen as the favourite book. It is fast-moving with excitement, adventure and a hint of mystery. The Jewelled Jaguar by Sharon Tregenza was nominated for the Tir-na-nOg Award in 2018.

Authors Ally Sherrick, Sharon Tregenza, Sharon Coen

Authors Ally Sherrick, Sharon Tregenza, Sharon Cohen

Here are three of the award-winning authors: (from left) Ally Sherrick, Sharon Tregenza and Sharon Cohen. And you can read about the other four top-listed books below. This competition was organised by the East Sussex Library Services so you can borrow these books from Hastings library. If you would like to buy them, please buy locally if you can from The BookkeeperBookshopBookbusterPrinted Matter Bookshop or other independent bookshops. In case you can’t, I’ve included links to the books on Amazon.

‘The Starman and Me’ (2017) by Sharon Cohen
Kofi, who is twelve, meets Rorty Thrutch, a prehistoric man, near a supermarket (although he has no idea how he got there). Rorty has some strange powers to do with cutting and pasting, so Kofi and friend, Janie, have to protect him from the powerful world of adults who want to exploit him. And they have to find Rorty’s girlfriend, Pogsy Blue. This is more than just an adventure. It raises questions about how scientific discoveries should be used and explores themes of friendship and bullying.

This is billed as ‘ET meets Stig of the Dump’. Do any of you remember Stig of the Dump by Clive King? An exciting book about a friendship between a prehistoric man and a boy which took place mainly on a rubbish dump because that was where Stig lived. It always reminded me, too, of The Iron Man by Ted Hughes – another marvellous book for kids more than 50 years old now. It’s science fiction with a message of peace and hope.

‘The Sand Dog (2018) by Sarah Lean
Azi is lonely, waiting for his grandfather to return to their Mediterranean island. A sandy dog turns up instead and starts helping Azi in his search for his grandfather. A girl on holiday there takes an interest in him, too, and the three of them, boy, girl and the sand dog set off to find out the secrets Azi needs to uncover. Secrets about his grandfather and where Azi comes from. It’s a story about belonging.

‘The Buried Crown’ (2018) by Ally Sherrick
This is set in World War 2 and Hitler is about to invade Britain. George is from London but has been sent to live in the countryside while his big brother (and guardian) learns how to fly planes. In an old burial site nearby, George finds a priceless treasure, a magical crown that Hitler is desperate to possess. Together with Kitty, the granddaughter of a Jewish archaeologist, he has to protect the crown.

This draws on real life-facts about the war and mixes these with myth and mystery. As the action pounds along, it is often difficult to tell what is real and what is not. Along the way, it explores what it’s like to be far from home and sends a message of love and kindness and of standing up for what is right.

‘The 1000 Year Old Boy’ (2018) by Ross Welford
Alfie Monk’s problem is that he is one thousand years old, but he doesn’t want to live forever. What Alfie wants it to find a way to die. This story reminded me of an old fairy tale that I read when I was small. It was in a green hardback book with a plain front. Must have lost its paper cover long before I got it. What the book looked like is not at all necessary for anyone to know but it’s strange and somehow comforting to suddenly see the object in my mind after all these years.

Just try remembering a book you once held and loved. The pleasure of the story gets mixed in with the pleasure of the object, how it felt in your hand, how it felt when you opened it. The cover of mine had a diagonal semi-crack across part of the front so it was battered and I can remember the feel of it even now. Adult books are just not the same. Anyway, back to the fairy story. It was about death being needed. In the story, somebody tied Death up so he couldn’t go about his business and the result was that the hens couldn’t be killed or eaten and so on. The boy who had tied Death up learned that as much as we fear and hate Death, we need him (and yes, Death was personified as a ‘he’ and thereby lies another tale).

For more information on the authors and their books, please see:
Sharon  Tregenza
Sharon Cohen
Ally Sherrick
Sarah Lean
Ross Welford

Soul Food

‘Whenever I walk in a London street,
I’m ever so careful to watch my feet;
And I keep in the squares,
And the masses of bears,
Who wait at the corners all ready to eat
The sillies who tread on the lines of the street
Go back to their lairs,
And I say to them, “Bears,
Just look how I’m walking in all the squares!”

And the little bears growl to each other, “He’s mine,
As soon as he’s silly and steps on a line.”
And some of the bigger bears try to pretend
That they came round the corner to look for a friend;
And they try to pretend that nobody cares
Whether you walk on the lines or squares.
But only the sillies believe their talk;
It’s ever so portant how you walk.
And it’s ever so jolly to call out, “Bears,
Just watch me walking in all the squares!”‘

Lines and Squares by A. A. Milne

This A.A.Milne poem was written for very young children. Funny, then, how I’ve enjoyed it all my life. Used to substitute ‘Leeds’ for ‘London’ and walk along the pavements with my kids, chanting as we went. Could be ‘Hastings’ streets. Hope you like it, too.

In the news

Drop everything and read, Hastings!
As you already know, reading is good for you. This is a campaign to get everyone in Hastings reading (goodbye phone, throw out old tv – no, of course not, only joking – just saying ‘add book’ – even it’s on the phone….). As Nick Terdre reports in New Campaign wants you to drop everything and read even as little as ten minutes reading per day helps children to do better in school and for all ages, reading relieves stress, improves empathy and you know how much more. Find out how you can join in and help from the Get Hastings Reading website.


Bronwen Griffiths & Steve Amos

Bronwen Griffiths & Steve Amos

The Bookkeeper Bookshop 1a Kings Rd, St Leonards 14 July 2019
Bronwen Griffiths and Steve Amos – Book Launch
A lovely event hosted by Carol Dennard. Bronwen Griffiths & Steve Amos talked about their new short story/flash fiction collections based on their childhoods/parenting. Two Sides of an Indie Dad and Listen with Mother will shortly be available from the Silverhill Press website.


Hastings Literary Festival 30 August – 1 September 2019

Lucy Cooke

Lucy Cooke

Sun 1 September 10.00 am St Mary in the Castle The Unexpected Truth about Animals a talk given by tv presenter and zoologist, Lucy Cooke. The talk, based on Lucy’s book of the same name, will be lifting the lid on some familiar animals which – it turns out – we don’t really know at all. The show is suitable for children aged 12 and above.

Tickets for The Unexpected Truth About Animals are available through Hastings LitFest website or from St Mary in the Castle.

Sarfraz Manzoor

Sarfraz Manzoor

Sat 31 August 19.00 – 22.00 at Kino Teatr, St Leonards Blinded by the Light a film about a teenager of Pakistani descent growing up in the 80s and finding comfort in Springsteen’s music. It is based on the autobiographical book by Sarfraz Manzoor who will be there to talk about it.

Tickets for Blinded by the Light with Sarfraz Manzoor are available from Kino Teatr or by clicking the link on the Hastings LitFest site.

For the full programme for the Hastings Literary Festival, please see: Hastings Litfest Programme

Bookbuster 39 Queens Rd, Hastings
Thurs 18 July, 6 – 9 pm £2 entry Sheer Poetry – an open mic poetry night

Printed Matter Bookshop 185 Queens Rd, Hastings TN34 1RG
Mon 22 July 6.30 pm PM Book Club discussing Akala’s Natives

The Bookkeeper Bookshop 1a Kings Rd, St Leonards

The Literary Shed Writing Sessions run by A. Vasudevan
Two-hour weekly writing sessions in safe, creative spaces in Hastings and St Leonards
Thursday 18 July, 10–12 am (free) at Stooge Coffee Bar, Hi Store, Trinity, Hastings
On the first Thursday of each month, there is also a writing critique group in which members share work.
For further information, please email:, subject: WRITE-INS.

Writing Courses from CWP with New Writing South
2 year Creative Writing Course
Advanced Writing Course
Autobiography and Life Writing Course
for details on all courses, please see  Creative Writing Programme in collaboration with New Writing South

Taster Sessions on Sat 20 July at Sussex Coast College (next to the station)
Autobiography and Life Writing Programme (2-year) 10.30 am – 12.45 £10 Book here.
Creative Writing Course (2-year – taught in Brighton in 2019) 1.30 pm – 3.45 £10 Book here.

Taster Sessions on Sat 7 September at Sussex Coast College (next to the station)
Autobiography and Life Writing Programme (2-year) 10.30 am – 12.45 £10
Creative Writing Course (2-year taught in Hastings in 2019) and The Advanced Writing Workshops 1.30 pm – 3.45 £10
For further information on the two-year programmes and courses go to

Well, folks, that’s it for this week. I’m still thinking about the sound and rhythms in pieces of prose and how they affect the pleasure/ meaning/ memorability of the writing. (See Every piece of prose should be a poem.)

It’s so nice to hear from you when you get in touch. Please do post comments either here or in the Facebook Bookchat group.

Thanks for reading.

Angela J. Phillip

Images of book covers from Amazon adapted by Paul Way-Rider
Image of authors at book awards supplied by East Sussex County Council.
Image of Sarfraz Manzoor supplied by Hastings Literary Festival

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Posted 09:00 Tuesday, Jul 16, 2019 In: Hastings Bookchat

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