Thursday, 27 February 2014

Whizz your way through the Summer Reading Challenge with Fleeced!

Templar Publishing are thrilled to announce that Fleeced! by Julia Wills has been selected for this year's Summer Reading Challenge.

Set up by The Reading Agency charity, The Summer Reading Challenge takes place every year during the summer holidays. It is completely FREE and allows children to read six library books of their choice, collecting stickers and other rewards along the way.

In addition, children can now track their reading all year round, find new books and take part in competitions and games. There is also advice for parents and carers alongside videos from authors and celebrity recommendations. 2013 saw a record 780,000 children participate with the challenge hoping to improve on this in 2014 by at least 50,000. 
The theme this year is Mythical Maze, perfect for Julia's fantastic novel about a heroic ram called Aries. 

Here she tells us a little bit about her inspiration behind the book...


My name’s Julia Wills and I’m delighted to be guest blogging for Templar about the launch of my debut novel Fleeced! starring Aries the ram.  
What’s that? 
You’re surprised.  Can a ram really be the hero of a book?  Well, read on!  Bouncier than Skippy, balder than Lassie and with a bottom bigger than Black Beauty, Aries is a new breed of hero.  And, on the last Saturday in January, he made his storming appearance at Hunts, an independent bookshop, owned by Kelvin and Pauline Hunt, in Rugby, Warwickshire. 

I’d invited friends and family and the local press to take photographs.  More importantly, I’d organised a lovely big cake with a picture of Aries on and some drinks to refresh any customers who popped in. But, as a new novelist, I really had no idea what to expect from the day and certainly not a Greek temple.  So, imagine my delight on arriving at Hunt’s that morning to discover that Pauline had made me one of my very own.  Standing in the window, glorious in cardboard and resplendent with twirling, crayoned columns, it looked wonderful. I felt so touched at the trouble she’d gone to and, not wishing to brag, felt immediately on a par with the goddess Athena.  Not a bad start!

 Soon, lots of shoppers were bundling in, keen for a closer look.  Some had popped in for a browse of the erudite volumes on Thomas Hardy or compilations of photographs of old Rugby, but left with smiles and copies of Fleeced! instead, each dedicated to children and grandchildren, nephews and nieces.  Others, those under three-years-old mostly, were far more fascinated with Mini-Ram (you can see him in the photos - actually a dog toy in disguise with fabby pipe-cleaner horns) who stood proudly on the pile of books but soon found himself doing many circuits of the bookshelves courtesy of Toddler Airways.   One little ‘pilot’ in particular, Jacob, gave him lots of heartening cuddles and named him Lamb-Lamb-Ram.  I think Aries would have been pleased, though of course, he’d be far too proud to own up to it in public.

Emma Goldhawk, the Senior Fiction Editor at Templar Publishing came up from London to join the fun.  Not only was she a terrific confidence-booster and cheerer-on, but she also proved herself hugely adept at neat cake slicing - a talent I have not yet mastered - and made sure everyone had a taste.  Thank you, Emma!

The launch for Fleeced! was a wonderful couple of hours, brimming with good wishes and a feeling that Aries was finally getting his moment in the spotlight.  And, indeed, what a long time it’d been since he was such a celebrity. Centuries ago, he’d dazzled Ancient Greece, flying and sparkling like a shooting star, performing the most amazing barrel rolls over the Aegean Sea.  Right up until he was sacrificed to Zeus, the king of the gods, and his coat flung high in a tree in an enchanted forest, allowing Jason and his Argonauts to steal it.  Can you imagine?  Losing the most wonderful thing in your life to some bragging, spangly-sandaled prince? 

The idea for Aries’ story came to me when I was a primary school teacher.  The children loved studying the Ancient Greeks, their monsters and heroes, the epic tales of good and evil.  But, to me, it always seemed a little unfair.  After all, most of those heroes were already so lucky – princes, handsome and athletic, and often with the help of the Greek gods to accomplish their quests.  But what about the monsters they slew?  The fabulous creatures they destroyed and left behind?  And, more importantly, what about Aries?

The idea grew and grew.  What did it really mean to be a hero?  Did you really have to be big, bold and brash?  Or could you just be absolutely hoof-stompingly furious that you’d been robbed and treated so despicably?  Might you find the courage inside to fight back?  Well, that’s what Aries does in Fleeced! when, with the help of Alex, a zookeeper from the Underworld Zoo of Monsters, and Rose, a London girl, he sets about finding his golden coat again.

Can a ram really be the hero of a book?  You bet.  And in Hunt’s that morning, he took his first stomping, snorting steps out into the real world to prove it. 

*WIN*For your chance to win a copy of this fantastic novel, just tell us who your favourite Greek God is and why.

Fleeced! is published by Templar and is out now! Click here to SHOP NOW!

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