Publication Date: 27 October 2022
From the acclaimed author of Elsetime, shortlisted for the Awesome Book Award, a magical and thrilling adventure.
“Starting on All Fools Day, twelve years ago, I remember everything. EVERYTHING. That was a wet Saturday, and that was the day I was born.”
12-year-old Piaf has the ability to (and burden of) remembering everything that has happened since the day she was born. When she discovers everyone in Paris has forgotten the entire last year, 1887, including the disappearance of several gifted children, Piaf and her twin brother Luc embark on a dangerous journey that brings them to the depths of Paris’s underground twin, the Catacombs, to capture the memory thief and find the lost children.
Mesmerising! Atmospheric writing transports the reader to two very different cities of Paris, one above and one below ground as the Eiffel Tower begins to rise into the sky. From the chestnut stand that Piaf mans on the corner of her street and the beauty of the Sainte-Chapelle to the basement of the Hotel-Dieu and the dark, damp network of tunnels beneath the city’s streets, these worlds are brought to life as the characters traverse them, hunted by dangerous adversary.
Piaf is a wonderful character – her strength, sense of adventure, and ability to turn fear into excitement belies her size. Caring and courageous, she is the only person in all of Paris who has the ability to uncover the reality behind the Micacles Parisiens, and track down the missing children.
There is so much love, kindness and grief in this story between Maman, Madame, Piaf and Luc, and those who have lost someone dear. And it is this that brings a prevailing sense of hope when all seems lost. The Chestnut Roaster straddles the dark line perfectly for older primary, just enough for goosebumps and nail biting without taking it too far! It would be worth being Luc just to be able to read it again for the first time.
Stunning double page illustrations by Ewa Beniak-Haremska intersperse the story, and information on each one is featured at the end of the book, guiding readers to look again and spot the myriad of details within each one.
Great for fans of
The Guest Post where we ask Eve McDonnell which writers have inspired you?
Many books and many writers have shaped me – if I go back to my early childhood, one that triggered a love for the extraordinary was L Frank Baum with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900. Baum wrote this book ‘purely to bring pleasure to children’ – a rarity in its day where most children’s books carried a strong moral message. I call that magical moment when Dorothy opens her door to Munchkin Land the ‘wonderspark’ moment, and I use it as a litmus test for all that I write – I would love to deliver that same feeling to my readers.
Fast forward to more recently – I am inspired by the beauty of Katya Balan’s writing, particularly in her October, October and the simplicity of her storytelling in Birdsong. A brilliant story coupled with stunning writing always leaves a mark on me, and both Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Kieran Larwood do this to perfection. I often find myself underlining their phrases, rereading them in isolation, like lines of fine poetry. Kieran’s world-building is up there with the greats – I am currently reading his latest offering, Treekeepers, and it has already inspired me to think bigger.
I am a fan of historical fiction – sometimes enjoying stories where the balance is heavily tipped towards fiction, and other times feasting myself with a more history-heavy and well-researched read. Irish writer Nicola Pierce is a master at balancing this make-believe/reality mashup, as does Emma Carroll. I particularly enjoyed Nicola’s Chasing Ghosts – An Arctic Adventure and Emma’s The Somerset Tsunami.
For whimsy and low fantasy, I loved Jennifer Bell’s Uncommoners and Helena Duggan’s A Place Called Perfect series. For strong, confident writing coupled with brilliant storytelling, Zillah Bethell hits the nail on the head – I adored The Shark Caller.
Finally, I am heavily inspired by nature writing and I was first in the (virtual) queue to purchase Dara McAnulty’s Diary of a Young Naturalist in 2020. Dara’s writing is sublime and instantly places you by his side as he explores the hills and forests around him. Each page is bursting with beauty and intrigue – enough to fill any writer’s ideas jar to the brim.
Huge thanks to Eve for her fabulous guest post – I’m off to get myself a copy of Chasing Ghosts! And thanks also to Everything With Words for sending me a copy, and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Do make sure you check out all of the other stops.