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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

Full disclosure - Pippi Longstocking is among my all-time favourite literary characters. Free-spirited, wildly adventurous, sharp as a tack, defender of the less-strong (indeed, she’s the strongest girl in the world) - what an irresistible combination. All of which means I’d either be predisposed love this new edition, or else overly critical. Of course, with Lauren Child at the helm of the illustrations, this handsome, full-colour hardback is a remarkable achievement - Child’s style couldn’t be better suited to bringing Pippi to life. Giving the gift of Pippi to children in your ... View Full Review
Yuval Zommer’s enchanting picture book conjuration of the majesty of the northern lights and Arctic landscape is a seasonal delight that little ones will want to return to time and time again. Both the poetic text and magically stylised illustrations are mesmerising. This is a beautiful book to read aloud to share the wonders of the northern lights, and also a book children will adore poring over in their own time, delighting in the illustrative details while reciting the beguiling text. Much like the lights it describes, Zommer’s language dances - it skips off the page ... View Full Review
From Queenie to Empress, Candice Carty-Williams’ first YA novel is a fresh, authentically engaging, read-in-one-sitting exploration of class, compassion, friendship and empathy that uses a fab Trading Places/Freaky Friday device to tell the tale of two teenage girls who form a life-changing friendship. Empress lives in poverty on a South London estate. Being a bright, young thing, she’s won a scholarship to a fancy school, where she’s thrown in with a bunch of privileged girls who (mostly) mock her poverty. It’s also where she meets Aniya, who’s assigned to help ... View Full Review
Narrated by Ben Onwukwe Adapted for younger readers from his seminal adult edition of the same book, David Olusoga’s Black and British presents an engaging, illuminating and critically needed account of Black British history. Indeed, this succinct, impactful edition also serves as an excellent primer for adults.   The introduction frames the book in the context of contemporary Britain - “Britain’s population is changing. More of us than ever are members of families that include people of different skin colours and ethnicities. Black history helps explain how national history is intertwined with ... View Full Review
Relating the remarkable stories of 100 extraordinary women of colour, Maliha Abidi’s Rise is an inspirational, informative showstopper of an anthology. Global in scope and engagingly lively in style, it’s a powerful and beautifully curated testament to trailblazing women of colour from all walks of life, from all fields of endeavour (literature, science, engineering, business, banking, mathematics, politics, law, medicine, human rights activism, sport, art, music, dance), from all corners of the world. What a glorious gift this is to treasure - and draw inspiration from - for a lifetime. Featuring women from over 40 countries, ... View Full Review
Gripping and prescient, Leyla Suzan’s Giften cuts to the chase of the climate crisis through a haunting dystopian thriller that will have readers on the edge of their seats as it provokes thought, and very possibly action, too. Since the brutal time of The Darkening, life has been a ruthless struggle, not least for those of the Field. With the earth parched and largely fruitless, saying alive is a daily battle. As a Giften, Ruthie possesses the vital gift of being able to restore food to the barren earth. And, as such, she’s revered by her ... View Full Review
Sophisticated in style, complex in construction, and exhilarating in delivery, Rose Edwards’ The Ember Days is a thrilling fantasy for readers who like plenty of meat on the bones of their stories. Sequel to The Harm Tree, a LoveReading4Kids Debut of the Month, timeless themes of trust, betrayal, guilt and survival smoulder through a story that’s altogether mythic in scope. Living in exile in a remote area of the Southern Kingdom, Torny and Ebba find themselves faced with a succession of dangerous situations and ordeals in the aftermath of bloody political battles - a distant cry ... View Full Review
This third novel in Paul Stewart’s cup-final-compelling Football Mad series sees the Dale Juniors face multiple pressures in the form of an excessively critical coach and an impending must-win game. Coach Carlton has taken an immediate dislike to goalkeeper Danny. “Sloppy and slow”, he snipes. “Maybe there isn’t room in the team for you anymore.” His confidence crushed, Danny’s game disintegrates, but when Mr Carlton’s aggression escalates, it falls to a new coach to turn around the tattered team as they face a thrilling penalty shoot-out. ... View Full Review
Chris Priestley, multi-award-winning master of the macabre, here presents six sensational, interlinked ghostly stories that will undoubtedly induce delighted gasps of surprise in readers who relish spine-tingling twists. With his intricate illustrations enhancing the chilling atmosphere, Priestley commands a magician’s prowess to conjure the eerily unexpected. The morning after a frenzy of unsettled nightmares, Maya and her classmates are set the task of writing spooky winter-themed stories, with new girl Winter having no trouble coming up with an idea. As Maya’s friends write and share their creepy stories, she’s gripped by the feeling that ... View Full Review
This inspiring, illuminating, stylishly accessible anthology invites young readers to discover and celebrate phenomenal forebears and contemporary catalysts, while encouraging them to blaze their own inimitable trails. Taking its name from a Nina Simone song, and written as “a love letter to our ancestors, and to the next generation of black changemakers,” this exuberantly illustrated book presents a plethora of outstanding individuals who’ve realised amazing achievements in their respective fields. Among the fifty-two figures we meet are household names from contemporary culture (Michelle and Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Beyoncé, for example), and hugely important ... View Full Review
Set in Britain against the backdrop of the French Revolution, Sovay once again confirms Celia Rees’ tremendous talent for unpacking and enlivening major historical events through new perspectives, most notably through the eyes and experiences of strong female leads who refuse to do as they’re told. Born into a wealthy English family, Sovay has lived a pretty privileged life, though through her forward-thinking father, she has an acute awareness of the principles of justice and liberty. We meet Sovay in splendidly dramatic style when, dressed as a highwayman, she entraps her lover and proves his intentions and ... View Full Review
Absolutely dazzling. With exemplary research that beautifully integrates details of time and place, outstanding characterisation that rings with empathy and authenticity, and powerfully resonant themes, Celia Rees’ Pirates is a true triumph of historic fiction. I could say what a swashbuckling adventure this is. How brilliantly the book conjures the thrills and dangers of life on the piratical high seas; what an incredible page-turner it is. And, while Pirates! certainly is all these things, it’s also much, much more. Centred around two extraordinary young women readers will truly care about, it conveys the brutality of slavery in ... View Full Review