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Joanne Owen - Editorial Expert

About Joanne Owen

Joanne Owen’s lifelong love of reading and writing began when she was growing up in Pembrokeshire, and very much wished that witches (and Mrs Pepperpot) were real. An early passion for culture, story and folklore led Joanne to read archeology and anthropology at St John’s, Cambridge, after which she worked as a bookseller, and led the UK children’s book buying team for a major international retailer. During this time, Joanne also wrote children’s book previews and features for The Bookseller, covering everything from the value of translated fiction, to the contemporary YA market. Joanne later joined Bloomsbury’s marketing department, where she had the pleasure of working on epic Harry Potter launches at Edinburgh Castle and the Natural History Museum, and launching Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. After enjoyable spells as Marketing Director for Macmillan Children’s Books and Consumer Marketing Manager for Walker Books, Joanne went freelance, primarily working for multi-award-winning independent children’s publisher, Nosy Crow.

Alongside her publishing career, Joanne has written several books for children/young adults. She’s now a fulltime reviewer, workshop presenter and writer, working on YA novels with a strong basis in diverse folklore from around the world, as well as fiction for younger readers (in which witches are very much real).

Latest Reviews By Joanne Owen

When dynamic independent children’s publisher Guppy Books put out a call for submissions from unpublished, un-agented writers in 2020, Nadia Mikail answered with The Cats We Meet Along the Way - a poignant debut with a punch-packing, end-of-the-world set-up, and unconditional love at its heart. Through its deeply endearing characters, this tells a stirring story of family finding a way through loss, loneliness and feeling abandoned to embrace what’s really important. Until the Announcement “Aisha had been a seventeen-year-old student, who treasured her lie-ins and whose mother shouted about breakfast to wake her up. Now time ... View Full Review
The first in a duology from Elle McNicoll, multi-award-winning author of A Kind of Spark, Like a Charm is ablaze with magic, mythical beings, and the indomitable derring-do of its inspirational neuro-divergent heroine. Also underpinned by powerful messages around self-discovery and community, and the power of books and booksellers, it delivers all the thrills and twists of a classic adventure with contemporary verve. Ramya’s adventure begins with words of warning from her grandfather: “Beware the Sirens.” After she and her family relocate to Edinburgh, Ramya is initially thrown by the magic that’s presented to ... View Full Review
This second volume of Lize Meddings’ The Sad Ghost Club series of graphic novels is a beautifully original, beautifully told tale that will speak to readers who feel anxious, invisible or lonely. Its relatable portrayal of friendship offers hope and support, alongside an empathetic steer on how to find a way through social anxieties and insecurities. If that wasn’t enough, it’s completely compelling, and witty with it. “Being around people is so hard” - a sentiment many young readers might identify with through this story’s relatable “sad ghost” characters. ... View Full Review
Part of the stimulating Rita Wants series that sees an imaginative little girl figure out life’s dilemmas for herself, Márie Zepf’s Rita Wants a Fairy Godmother is great to read to together to spark discussion of the scenarios Rita finds herself in - scenarios many a toddler will relate to, with Mr Ando’s illustrations offering exuberant entertainment, and extra talking points. So many toddlers will identify with Rita at the beginning of the book - she “is still not dressed”. If only Rita had her very own Fairy Godmother, someone ... View Full Review
Máire Zepf’s Rita picture books cleverly blend celebrating children’s unbridled imaginations with inviting them to reflect and empower themselves. In this case, while playing hide-and-seek, Rita is struck by a desire to have her very own ninja. After all, “a ninja is silent, fast and invisible”, a “ninja master would teach Rita the art of invisibility” - what better skills for a lover of hide-and-seek? Then, on reflection, Rita considers the fact that ninjas are sneaky, they like fighting, and they might even steal something (or someone…) she loves. ... View Full Review
Riveting and richly realised, Akshaya Raman’s The Ivory Key (the first in a duology) presents readers with a thrilling opportunity for utter immersion. Set in a sumptuously conjured world in which magic is the ultimate resource, and driven by relatable characters that leap from the page with exhilarating verve, this is YA fantasy as its most inventive. What’s more, The Ivory Key is underpinned by the pertinent belief that resources should be equally, universally accessible. “Magic was woven into the very fabric of Ashokan society... It was even Ashoka’s biggest export… Or ... View Full Review
Melding modern day derring-do with classic-style whodunnit mystery and local history, Mark Dawson’s The Case of the Smuggler's Curse (the first in The After-School Detective Club series) comes recommended as a contemporary alternative to Enid Blyton. Co-written with Allan Boroughs and featuring lively illustrations by Ben Mantle, this character-driven story will keep adventure fans enthralled from start to finish. Meet Lucy (brave, loyal and athletic), Max (geeky genius with a wicked sense of humour), Joe (intrepid, funny, and prone to stretching the truth) and Charlie (fearless, fierce and devoted to her dog, Sherlock). Four friends whose everyday lives ... View Full Review
This latest addition to the innovative The Questioneers series by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts is a wonderful story that’s sure to inspire young readers who are trying to find their voice and express themselves, especially dyslexic children for whom reading and spelling might be a struggle. The eponymous Aaron Slater Illustrator of this beautiful rhyming picture book is based on Aaron Douglas, the African American painter, muralist, and graphic artist. Often hailed as the father of Black American art, and a key part of the Harlem Renaissance movement, the book follows Aaron from the age of four, ... View Full Review
Penned by long-time paranormal investigator and TV presenter Yvette Fielding, The House in the Woods is a Point Horror-esque adventure for fans of fast-paced fiction. It’s Halloween and friends Clovis, Eve and Tom are well and truly shunted into spooky mode when they see something scary in a graveyard - a tall man wearing a top hat. While logical Clovis reasons that it may well have been someone in fancy dress costume, Tom is certain it was a ghost, while Eve is open to either scenario being true. Matters take an undeniably terrifying turn when they play with ... View Full Review
Set in a super-elite high school, How We Fall Apart, Katie Zhao's super-suspenseful YA debut, serves insights into race, class and the pressure to perform in gripping style. Shimmering with secrets, love, toxic peer pressure, parental pressure and tested loyalties, the novel delves deep into the world of academic competitiveness to create an edgy fast-paced thriller. Voiced by scholarship student Nancy Luo, “the daughter of two immigrants who’d fought tooth and nail to make it to the States, only to spend years struggling to make ends meet”, the story begins with the disappearance of one of ... View Full Review
From the creator of some truly original, heart-warming picture books (among them The Suitcase and Out of Nowhere) comes this moving seasonal story about a small reindeer who does a big deed to help a little girl remember her granddad. Being so very small, Tiny Reindeer can’t help but feel like he doesn’t fit in, not least when Christmas comes around. While all the bigger reindeer are busy helping Santa, Tiny can’t help but make a right mess of things, from getting tangled in reins, to falling into water bowls. ... View Full Review
Five teens in detention are hit by a storm when one of them of dies. Outsider Simon, creator of the notorious Bayview High gossip app, wryly remarks that they’re all “walking teen-movie stereotypes” and casts himself as the “omniscient narrator” shortly before collapsing to his death. The question is, why was there allergy-inducing peanut oil in Simon’s water? And why were the EpiPens missing from the nurse’s office? His death seems anything but accidental and, since Simon had dirt on pretty much the entire school population, a whole lot of ... View Full Review
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