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I am thrilled to be hosting Thursday's stop for Sarah Ann Juckes' brilliant, Waterstones Children's Book of the Month 'The Night Animals.' Below, find a video response from the author to my question: Why do you think reading for pleasure, and particularly reading about animals, is so important for our mental health? Thank you for addressing this to my school too. Review also follows...

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Reading 'The Night Animals' is an absolute pleasure. I adored this deeply emotional, charming, beautiful, magical book. As Sarah Ann Juckes discusses, 'The Night Animals' is a story about how we respond to our mental health; how we befriend our emotions and find true friendship to help us through life's challenges. It's a real tear-jerker; full of heart, hope and beauty. A triumph, well deserving of its Waterstones Children's Book of the Month accolade.

Nora's mum has good days and bad days, but the bad days are getting worse. It's been just the two of them for always, and they don't need anyone else. When the rainbow-shimmering ghost animals Nora used to see when she was small start to reappear, she's convinced that they hold all the answers. Along with new friend Kwame, Nora follows a glittering ghostly fox, hare, raven and otter on the adventure of a lifetime, helping her to find the strength she needs to help her family.

The concept of having rainbow ghost-animals to represent different emotions is just brilliant, and our attention is grabbed immediately with a ghost fox sitting on Nora while in bed! Sarah Ann Juckes skillfully blends Nora and her mum's difficult reality with a dazzling magical realism, providing tender symbolic representation of the characters' inner transformations. It's just beautiful! Nora's mum's battle with PTSD, having been a paramedic, feels pertinent and timely given our collective national traumas to the pandemic and the current NHS strikes. It's about facing our memories, no matter how hard. And Sarah Ann Juckes offers us wild hope in recovery, as Nora transforms with each ghost animal and her mum learns to accept and deal with her own shadowy ghosts of the past. In someways, this is a story about stepping out of our physical and mental lockdowns and finding ourselves again in nature, with meaningful friendships and restored relationships. I loved Kwame and his grandfather and how their kind-hearted natures bring Nora to life, as much as the ghost animals do too. What a brilliant message for children: that no matter how different you feel you are, your imagination, your hopes and dreams, are important and need to be nurtured.

Sarah Ann Juckes writes with sensitivity, poetic-wonder and, above all, hope. Fans of Katya Balen, Ewa Jozefkowicz and Lisa Thompson will find much to admire here too.

It is also worth praising Sharon King-Chai's gorgeous illustrations which delicately and vibrantly complement the text so well!

Thank you to Simon and Schuster and Sarah Ann Juckes for involving me on this blog tour.

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