Ready, Set, Read!

Summer Reading Challenge 2023

The Summer Reading Challenge takes place at libraries across the UK every year over the summer holidays, and this year the theme is Ready, Set, Read!

I’m very very excited that The Sky Beneath the Stone has been selected as part of the booklist for this year’s challenge, which is all about sport, play and getting outdoors. There are some amazing-looking books in the challenge, about everything from sailing to surfing, horse riding to women’s football. There are even puffins, dolphins and otters!

“Children are challenged to get reading over the summer holidays. From July to September, through taking part in the free Challenge, children will be able to join a superstar team and their marvellous mascots as they navigate a fictional summer obstacle course brought to life with illustrations by children’s illustrator Loretta Schauer, rewarded by free incentives including stickers.”

You may or may not know that the hero of The Sky Beneath the Stone, Ivy, loves hiking and camping in her county of Cumbria (home to the Lake District). Although she’s been going through a difficult time that means she’s spent less time outside over the past year, the beginning of the book sees her pack up her rucksack and set off on a big adventure.

Ivy enters the fairy realm of Underfell, a strange world that lies beneath Cumbria, but has the same geography. Almost all the places she visits along the way exist in the real world. Because of this, Ivy is able to use her map to navigate in Underfell.

I decided to include Ordnance Survey grid references at the start of each chapter so that, if people wanted to, they could find the settings from the story on real maps, and maybe even visit some of them. For example, my friend Sophie Anderson went to visit the stone circle Long Meg and her Daughters after reading the book!

If you’re not sure how to read grid references (to tell you the truth, I often have to look it up because I forget) my friend Jess Meagher and I made this guide for an exhibition we ran last summer – Navigating Underfell.

The Ordnance Survey maps that cover the areas mentioned in The Sky Beneath the Stone are OL5, OL6, OL7, OL8 and 89. You can often find maps like these in charity shops, or you can use OS Maps Online.

In my author events we do outdoor-themed activities like making a packing list for an adventure, practising finding grid references, describing settings using our senses and sometimes even making a collaborative map of magical places.

If you want to learn about some of the wildlife and plants that are mentioned in the book, you can look them up on Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s Species Explorer. 10% of author royalties from sales of TSBTS go to Cumbria Wildlife Trust because of the amazing work they do protecting nature in the county.

For more information about the Summer Reading Challenge and how you can take part, visit their website or speak to a librarian at your local library! For event enquiries please visit my contact page. For activity ideas, check out Resources.

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