Signed Margaret Atwood giveaway – Reading my rainbow

30 Jul 20140730-184853.jpg

Today I challenged myself to spend the summer holidays sorting out my teetering piles of books; getting reacquainted with the ones at the back and trying to have a bit of a (gentle) cull by releasing a book a day.

It hasn’t entirely worked yet, as hunting through the piles has just made me realise that I’ve lent books out that haven’t come back. Where is Morrison’s Beloved? Donoghue’s Slammerkin? These are books that I really do *need* to replace. So I’ve technically added books today. But, whatever.

I’m kicking off my summer reading challenge in style by giving away a signed first edition hardback copy of Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. It is a bit damaged- it fell foul of some over-zealous watering of a nearby pot plant and has some water staining on the bottom of the pages. You can see it in the picture here and it goes through the whole book. But it’s just a bit of staining and won’t stop you reading, enjoying or stroking the book. But worth bearing in mind if you think you’re getting your hands on something worth a few quid – it isn’t.

20140730-184301.jpg

20140730-184311.jpg
I’m giving it away because I just didn’t get on with it. I love Atwood’s earlier work but her more recent dystopian stuff has lost me. I am reading through my rainbow, one book from each colour, starting with my red copy of The Robber Bride so it feels fitting that my first book to go is Oryx.

Want it? Just post a comment below. Tweet a link to this blogpost to get an extra ticket with your name on in the hat (please comment again on here to say you’ve tweeted so I know to give you an extra entry)
I’ll draw a name from the hat on Sunday night so get your entries in before then.

Sorry but I’m going to have to restrict this one to UK only – it’s heavy!

Reading the Rainbow – my summer reading challenge

30 Jul 20140730-105744.jpg

This week I’m taking Mollie to the library to sign up to the Summer Reading Challenge and then we’ll have a booky picnic in the park and read each other stories. And I’m really looking forward to it! Last summer Mollie and I had a very booky summer holiday and this one is heading in the same direction. I guess it’s no surprise that books manage to infiltrate every corner of our lives. And of our house. Which leads me nicely to my summer book challenge.

My house is overflowing with books. I know that won’t come as a shock to any of you. I have a lot of The Rainbow Library books here for a summer holidays patch up and reshuffle, a (large) heap of review books I haven’t caught up with, all of Mollie’s books and all of my books. And somehow I still manage to keep buying more! You can actually hear the house creaking and shifting under the weight of all this paper. This beautiful, dream-smelling, transporting paper. But something has got to give. It’s the books or the house. And if I didn’t have my house where would I put my books??

So my challenge this summer is to release a book a day.
Gulp!

As well as all the boxes of books for The Rainbow Library, I have my own Rainbow Library in my house. It is full of actual grown up books (yes… I do read grown up books too! A lot of them)

20140730-082451.jpg
And I have my beautiful book nook on my landing.

20140730-095522.jpg
And what’s left of my Christmas book tree and the three rows of children’s books by my bed. And… And… And…
And then Mollie’s Room. Which is basically a library disguised as a bedroom.

I’ve been following the #bookaday tweets and thinking about all the amazing books I have stashed away that I don’t really look at enough. It made me realise that my books are a little bit neglected. I have a lot of unread books that have been gathering dust and overtaken by newer books in my reading list. It’s time to get up close and personal with my books again.

So my challenge is two-fold; to explore my bookshelves and read some of the books that have been hidden at the back of the queue, and to reduce the volume by releasing a book every day. I’m going to read through my rainbow, starting at red and choosing one book from each colour in turn. I’m going to read some of the books that have been smiling down at me, patiently unread, for a very long time. And I’m going to be Ruthless. I will give up on books that don’t grab me. I will give books away. I will cull. (But I will do it nicely while stroking them and telling them they are going to live on a farm.)

The ultimate plan is to get to know my books again and to give them a bit of an overhaul, hopefully making a bit of space. I’m not deluded enough to think that there will be more outgoing books than incoming. But at least I’ll be easing the floorboards a little.

Follow the fun with #readingmyrainbow

I hope that this will lead to some book chats. I do love book chats! So I’m going to start it off by asking which of these red books I should read first. What’s your recommendation?

20140730-100247.jpg

Interaction + immersion = possibilities.

30 Jul 20140730-080941.jpg

Children’s books and art have a lot in common. Not just because the majority of children’s books are highly illustrated and created by artists, but because the art and language work together to create a kind of theatre and immerse children in the world of the book. When they are immersed in this new world they are encouraged to look and question, challenge and learn. This process helps them find out about themselves and the world around them, to think about their place in it and who they may become. That is what the best children’s books, the best theatre and the best art give to children.
Interaction. Immersion.
Possibilities.

This Saturday we went to the new Hauser and Wirth gallery in Bruton, Somerset. Mollie’s Grandparents live in Bruton and we are hugely lucky to have such an amazing, inspiring and child friendly place right on their doorstep. Mollie took part in their first Family Saturday; a child focused tour of their Phyllida Barlow sculpture exhibition, followed by a creative session where the children made their own recycled art inspired by what they’d seen.

Mollie particularly liked the room filled with fabric pom-poms of different sizes:

20140726-152606.jpg

20140726-152655.jpg
And the art that celebrates the farmland where the gallery is situated.

20140726-152846.jpg

It was a hugely immersive and interactive exhibition that made us think about why and how art is created. Mollie was inspired. She came home and experimented with different materials and tried out some of the techniques she had learnt. She recycled plastic bottles into skittles and made her own large scale art work on cardboard.

I am thrilled that Mollie will grow up with access to world class art like this just ten minutes walk away from her grandparents’ house. And of course… access to a gallery bookshop! The shop has a whole stand devoted to children’s books and art materials. Mollie and I were in our element! I stroked some beautiful looking Tate Publishing books, flicked through some wonderfully inventive Herve Tullet books and smiled at Lydia Crook’s Paper Play, which we have and love -and is published by my local Ivy Press. I have added a fair few books to my wishlist, particularly the delicious looking Art in a Box- a keepsake box with twenty A5 cards each depicting a work of art from Tate’s collection, with related art activities for children on the back. Want!

But this trip was all about Mollie so she got to choose the books. And she chose two corkers.

20140728-103802.jpg
The joy for me is that these books (and Paper Play, the Herve Tullets and Art in a Box) all echo our experience of the gallery. They are interactive and immersive and they have made us look carefully and think again about what we have seen and thought we knew. That, I think, is what art and creativity is all about- interaction, challenge, inspiration, making us think and feel and question who we are and what we know. The best children’s books do this seemingly without effort. These books certainly made us look at the format of children’s books anew.

In The Forest by Anouck Boisrobert and Louis Rigaud (Tate Publishing) is a delicious pop-up book that tells the story of a sloth living in the forest. Huge machines come to destroy the forest, gradually getting closer and closer to the sloth’s tree. The reader is invited to hunt for the sloth in every pop up scene and encourage him to run for safety. The machines destroy the forest and the sloth is gone. But then a man comes. He misses the forest and plants some seeds.
Regrowth. Regeneration. Reappearance of the sloth.

In the Forest is a book that begs for interaction. The pop ups are filled with animals to hunt for and identify. The machines destroy a further section of forest with each page turn.

20140728-215705.jpg
Mollie played with the seed page for ages; growing the shoots and then shrinking them down again, holding the book to the sun and raining on the shoots with her fingers and growing them back up. She was chatting away narrating her own part of the story. She was truly immersed in the world of the book.

20140729-192726.jpg

There’s so much to do and love in this book. The story delivers an important ecological message and discussion point and the format makes the book hugely interactive. A beautiful combination.

Dot to Dot by Malcolm Cossons and Neil Stevens (Thames & Hudson) is a flip-over book about a little girl called Dot and her Grandma, also called Dot. They share a birthday and more than anything they want to spend their special day together. But Dot lives in London and Grandma lives in New York. Each side of the book tells a Dot’s story with the culmination double page spread in the centre of the book describing the meeting of the characters as the two stories combine.

20140729-192906.jpg

Mollie was fascinated and inspired by the format of this book. You know that look of innocent wonder and fascination that flashes across children’s faces when they find out something new? That was her face as she played with this book. She’s come across flip over books before, her favourite being Sue Hendra’s Upsy Down Town where the book is turned upside down halfway through. But Dot to Dot uses the format perfectly, the centre spread cementing the characters, the story, and the reading experience.

These books have encouraged Mollie to look at the traditional book format and storytelling experience from a fresh perspective and have opened her eyes to new possibilities. Much as the Barlow exhibition inspired her to look at materials in her home through an artist’s eyes. She has been intrigued, immersed and inspired. New possibilities have been opened for her.
And that is what art, literature, creativity and childhood is all about.

Mine! A sharing story

22 Jul 20140722-125828.jpg

Sharing is a tricky concept that all children have to learn to deal with at some point. It can be a very emotional lesson to learn and often children need a little help.

Mine! by Jerome Keane and Susana De Dios is a bright, bold and stylish book that gently explores sharing through humour and fun.

20140716-133657.jpg

Fox was bored. Horse was bored. But then something happened. An egg falls down between them. Can Fox and Horse learn to share their new entertainment?

This book is a visual delight. It has perfectly balanced design with great use of colour. The illustrations beautifully capture the characters’ emotions. Mine contains the best bored horse I have ever seen…

20140722-123225.jpg
as well as a fantastic portrayal of the rigid awkwardness of Uncomfortably Pretending Indifference.

20140722-123358.jpg
You can feel the tension. All that character and emotion portrayed through the positioning of eyes, hands and bottoms. Great stuff – and something that could inspire some fab creativity if pointed out to children.

Brilliantly simple repeated text builds tension and involves children in the story. Allowing the children to see the duck appearing in the background to reclaim the egg really empowers them.

20140722-124457.jpg
They know what is going on before the characters do, and will be yelling at the book as the duck creeps closer and closer. This is a joyful way to involve children and encourage them to interact with the book – whilst also placing them in a position of wisdom. They can call out and tell Horse and Fox what they should be doing, leaving them confident in their own knowledge of how to share.

Deceptively simple, yet very clever stuff. Bravo!

And don’t worry, my caring sharing friends… Horse and Fox may have lost their egg but something far more exciting soon appears for them to play with. And surely they’ve learnt their sharing lesson now. Haven’t they?

If you liked this you could also try It’s Not Yours, It’s Mine by Susanna Moores. Another great book about learning to share.

Source: Kindly sent for review by Orchard Books.

None the Number – a counting adventure

16 Jul 20140716-132046.jpg

Oh, picture books! I really do love them! They give children so, so much… and then they just keep on giving.

In my recent post about learning to read I begged parents/carers not to leave picture books behind when children are learning to read – or when they can read independently. Picture books still have so much to give children and aren’t only for the 3-5 age range that they are often slotted into. They are created by writers and illustrators at the top of their game. They expose children to world class art and language. They encourage their minds to open and question and explore. These are skills that will set children up for life.

I often write posts about picture books that give children something more. Something different. In addition, I’m going to start a semi-regular feature of picture books that stretch the genre and work beautifully for children learning to read or already reading. For children who are at the stage where they are told they should be ‘moving on’ from picture books – as if picture books are only an introductory tool to real reading. NoNoNoNo!

These books will stretch children, give them a new way of seeing something, prompt them to stop and think and question. They will build on all those wonderful skills that their early picture books have taught them and stretch them further. Think of these books as the picture book gifted and talented programme.

My first example is this gem:

20140711-130036.jpg

None the Number – A Counting Adventure is not your average counting book. It doesn’t deliver the numbers 1 to 10 with sweet pictures of animals that can be neatly grouped and gently counted. Instead it questions the way counting books work and the way we count objects. It encourages children to think and question things for themselves. And of course, being authored by Oliver Jeffers, it does so in a very funny way.

None the Number introduces the concept of none, or zero, as a number through the Hueys. Written as conversation, one Huey is explaining the concept to another, who is finding it somewhat tricky to grasp. I like the neutrality of these characters. Beautifully simple and yet full of character and expression.

20140716-114047.jpg

“Is none a number?” asks white Huey. “Of course,” says Huey Blue who proceeds to count objects up to 10 before taking them all away to demonstrate the concept of none as a number.

I love the quirky and often very funny objects that readers are given to count. My personal favourites are ‘Four. That’s how many tantrums Kevin throws every day.’ And seven:

20140716-115640.jpg

The addition of handwritten text -an Oliver Jeffers special- offers a challenge for independent readers as well as working beautifully towards the design of the book.

20140716-125810.jpg

At the end of the book White Huey is still confused. But children won’t be. They can laugh at White Huey’s inability to grasp the concept and position themselves with Huey Blue. The use of conversational writing here is a clever approach that allows children to act out the book and take on the roles of the characters, enabling them to ‘be’ Huey Blue and read the book from a position of knowledge. Deceptively simple, hugely effective.

So is this one of those picture books that has been created for adults, with Pixar style humour to entertain the adult reader as they read a book for the ninetieth time? No, I don’t think so. Mollie has just turned five and she loves the humour in this book. She particularly enjoys reading the handwritten speech and doing the voices. The book involves her and entertains her. It has made her think and the facts about zero on the endpapers have prompted some great discussions. This is a great example of a book that works across ages. With design and language that is simple enough for young children to find lots to love and lots to point out, it has enough depth and humour to entertain older children and encourage them to question and wonder. It’s also a beauty for the adults trying to get a look in over the children’s shoulders!

If you like this book, try Drew Daywalt’s The Day the Crayons Quit which includes pages of handwritten letters for children to read, a lot of advanced language and ideas and a highly original concept that will get children thinking and questioning and looking at the crayons they have taken for granted through new eyes.

Source: kindly sent for review by HarperCollins Children’s Books.

Worries Go Away by Kes Gray and Lee Wildish

10 Jul 20140709-134921.jpg

The dream team of Kes Gray and Lee Wildish have done it again with their new book Worries Go Away.

20140709-134215.jpg
Like their previous two books, this one should be in every school, library and children’s centre. Mum and Dad Glue is the perfect book to support children and families through parental separation or divorce, Leave Me Alone is a stunning book that deals with bullying, and Worries Go Away is a comforting look at coping with worries. Quite a trio!

Leave Me Alone portrays the bully as a big dark monstrous form and in Worries Go Away Lee Wildish has taken a similar approach. A young girl hides herself in her head in a world of her own making. At first it is beautiful and filled with ice creams and sunshine and bees buzzing. But before long her worries begin to infiltrate her world and long tentacle-like yellow and orange arms creep and stretch in from the edge of the page. They are ominous and threatening and they spoil everything they pass. Ice creams melt. Skies darken. And the worries grow larger and take on forms with squinting red eyes.
‘They turn into monsters
That circle and prowl,
That bellow and cackle,
That grizzle and growl.’
The girl panics and runs. The monstrous worries give chase. The illustrations become more threatening, beautifully matching the tightening rhythm and increasing pace of the text. It is immersive and powerful but not too scary for young children. A wonderful balance that’s tricky to achieve.

20140709-133438.jpg

The girl is backed into a corner by her worries – until she finds a locked door. Her family and friends stand behind the door calling for her and she realises that she is the key – if she opens her heart she can let her friends and family in.

20140709-132006.jpg

There’s a lot to love about this book. I was initially concerned about the message being a bit ambiguous. What is meant as a book saying ‘don’t bottle things up, talk to someone about your worries’ could potentially be suggesting that children shouldn’t live in their imaginations and that a world of their own can be a bad place. But the more I read this book the more I see and the more I love. The endpapers are a delight, combining the colours from the worries and the family reunion with the images from the girl’s imagination. This brings everything together in a positive happy light, celebrating her imagination and new-found happiness. Plus I just love that unicorns serene smile!

20140709-133006.jpg

The combination of Gray’s emotive rhyming text and Wildish’s colour-rich and textured illustrations create a book that is immersive, emotional and uplifting. It’s a fantastic springboard for discussion and would work perfectly in any classroom or library. A great book to use with children who are worried or struggling with their emotions, Worries Go Away is another winner.

Source – kindly sent for review by Hodder Children’s books.

Welcome to the Family

9 Jul 20140709-124349.jpg

Last night Mollie was reading an old finding out book about the body. She called me upstairs and asked “It says that when they grow up a man and a woman can live together and have a baby but it doesn’t say that a woman and a woman can, or a man and a man can. Why?”
Gulp!
She had been looking up belly buttons in the index and come across a very high level and outdated ‘making babies’ page. Mollie has two mums. We have always been honest with her and answered any questions that arise and she knows that the doctors put the man’s seed into my tummy to make her because we were two mummies. But this book dated from my childhood and it confused her. And I was the stupid mum who left it on her bookshelf.

Luckily, just a few days before, this gem had arrived through the door:

20140709-111449.jpg
By the inclusion dream team of Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith, Welcome to the Family follows in the footsteps of their previous non-fiction books Great Big Book of Families and Great Big Book of Feelings and explores all the diverse ways a baby or child become members of a family. It covers natural birth into a nuclear family, fostering, adoption, same sex families, surrogacy, IVF and more, all in their inclusive, child-friendly and humorous style.
I knew Mollie was in safe hands.

The overriding message of this book is that all families are different and all families are equally valid and special. A message that is so important for children and their families to hear and see. I wish something like this had been available when I was a child – what a lot of progress has been made in one generation. Hurrah to that. The sentence that is repeated and emphasised throughout is ‘the children are very welcome.’ No matter what the family make up, or how the child came into the family, they are welcome. They are special. They are valid. Affirming stuff.

Affirming, but also honest. I love that the Hoffman/Asquith dream team don’t shy away from honesty. They show such respect for the children that will be reading their books. They respect their right to see themselves portrayed in an honest and truly reflective way. So we see that families are complicated. Things don’t always go smoothly and children aren’t always perfectly happy. They show us reality. And that can be equally as affirming – seeing a family in a book that is going through a tricky patch just like yours is, seeing that it is normal and okay to feel angry and jealous and frustrated and worried and all the other million emotions that a child will go through. That is a hugely affirming and positive message for a child.

20140709-120621.jpg

Mollie’s friends come from all sorts of different families and came into their families in all sorts of different ways – they are all different and all special. Mollie knows that and is happy and comfortable talking about it. But a book that reflects that is such an important resource. Mollie has devoured it, reading it to herself and hunting through the illustrations. She has found her friends who are adopted, found her friends who are in foster care, found her friends that have blended families, mix race families, one parent, two parents, three parents… She has found herself and how she came to be in our family. All that from one book. Impressive stuff!

20140709-114447.jpg

I used it to support her last night. Imagine if every teacher or adult who works with children had access to a copy. Imagine the ways in which it could be used to help children see themselves and their place in families, to help them through a change in the family – a new sibling, fostering, adoption, a new parental relationship. To help them understand all the diverse families they will come across in their lives. It has such potential.

Perhaps Gove should scrap all his education reform and, instead of donating a King James Bible to every school, he could put a set of the Hoffman/Asquith books in every school library. He could change the world.

This wonderful book is due to be published 4th September 2014- just in time for the new school year. I’ll be getting a copy for Mollie’s school library and probably a few as presents for some beautiful families I know. But this copy is staying right here on Mollie’s bookshelves, replacing the outdated body book and ready to give her an affirming inclusive nod whenever she may need it.

Thank you Mary, Ros and everyone at Frances Lincoln for making this book available to her and all her peers. You have made a difference.

Source- kindly sent for review by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Simon and Gaspard

23 Jun 20140707-121604.jpg

Children (and indeed adults) often name pets after their favourite characters in books. As a child my rabbits were (rather obviously) Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontails and, if she’d been a boy, I would have really liked our dog to be named Timmy. A generation on and Mollie has her own rabbits and full freedom and responsibility for naming them. Beatrix Potter is still very much loved in this household and Flopsy and Mopsy or Peter and Benjamin were a very real option. But Mollie’s love for the anarchic and quirky has led to the arrival of Simon and Gaspard. Or PooBum and StupidBaby if you are on good terms and have a dandelion to offer.

20140707-120533.jpg

Simon and Gaspard are named after the rabbits in Stephanie Blake’s series of books about a rather pesky rabbit called Simon and his brother Gaspard. We have LOVED these books ever since Mollie’s Grandma came across Poo Bum in her local indie bookshop. Poo Bum introduced us to Simon who would only say the words ‘Poo Bum’. A Deal’s a Deal and a very large bogey followed and then, hooked, we bought Stupid Baby. These books celebrate children and their crazy ways. They relish silliness and encourage children to test their boundaries and play with language. What’s not to love? There is nothing better than reading these books with kids and watching them giggling behind their hands and falling about with laughter.

20140707-120916.jpg

I Don’t Want to go to School is the latest in the series. Our lovely Gaspard is due to start school but he is not at all taken by the idea. His mother and father encourage him and tell him he is their big brave bunny. He will only reply ‘I’m not going!’ The dreaded day arrives and Simon is delivered to school where he does hundreds of things. At the end of the school day his mother comes to take him home… and you can guess what he says.

Another triumph. What Stephanie Blake is fantastically good at is looking at important events in children’s lives, like a disappointing swapsies, a new sibling or starting school, and writing it honestly from the child’s point of view. She can get into the child’s mind and create a book that portrays their thoughts and ideas and decisions and fears. All the hundreds of emotions that young children go through every day. And she reduces them down like a fine sauce and portrays them simply, with humour and style, so that children can see themselves and relate to the events and emotions they see. She shows (rabbit) children behaving as children. Bravo!

20140707-120428.jpg

So if your little one is due to start school in September and you are looking for a book to support them through their worries, this is the book for you. It doesn’t belittle the child’s fears or anxieties but neither does it put extra things to worry about into their heads. It shows them it is okay to be nervous and it’s alright to have a little cry but then they will be far too busy having lots of fun and… it will all be alright in the end. Hurrah for that.

20140707-121357.jpg

Source- kindly sent for review by Bounce Marketing and Gecko Press.

East Sussex Children’s Book Awards 2014

18 Jun

Oh, books! They are incredible things, aren’t they?! They have a special magic and the power to bring people together, unite them and excite them. I feel very privileged to be able to share books and spread their magic.

It was a joy to take my year 6 book group to the East Sussex Children’s Book Award final ceremony last week. To see their excitement and watch them revel in the build up to the announcement of the winner. To hear them chatting passionately about their chosen authors and to watch them bouncing at the thought of actually meeting them in actual real life. They were so passionate about their chosen authors that, on the minibus on the journey there, they gave themselves temporary biro tattoos on their hands to proclaim their faith. “Matt Haig to win” “Christopher William Hill rocks”. (I was holding on to my twitter-based insider knowledge that Matt Haig was at his home dealing with estate agents and house viewings, and therefore not the soon-to-be-revealed winner.)

The East Sussex Children’s Book Award is an annual award run by the East Sussex Libraries and Museums Service. It is an incredibly child-centred award with children in years 5 and 6 involved through the entire process. The five shortlisted books are selected by a group of local schools and the participating years 5 and 6 children spend six months reading, reviewing and working creatively with the shortlisted books. The winner is voted for entirely by the children and is revealed in a special award ceremony for the children.

This year the shortlisted books were:

20140618-095445.jpg

Since the start of the year we have been busily reading and discussing the shortlisted books, and the children have been writing reviews, designing book jackets and doing their own creative writing based on the books.

Matt Haig’s To Be a Cat caught everyone’s imagination and was unanimously enjoyed, Ali Sparkes’ Out of this World had a core group of fans, but it was Christopher William Hill’s Osbert the Avenger that ignited the most passion within the group. One of my girls is a voracious reader and dreams of becoming a writer. She inhaled Osbert and then bought the next book in the series and raved about it to the group. It was swiftly shared round and a Christopher William Hill gang was formed. Often seen huddled round copies of the books and whispering together, they knew every inch of every murder and death and plot twist. They have analysed his writing style and written their own reviews. They have been begging me to get my hands on an advance copy of the third book, but alas, they will have to wait til next school year.

The intensity of their love for Christopher William Hill’s books and the way they have been inspired by his writing both surprised me and filled me with joy. Unlikely friendships grew from their shared love of the books. A so-called ‘slow reader’ burst from his shell and became animated when discussing the books. They asked for recommendations and sought out other books that they might enjoy and recommended them to each other. This is what books can do! This is what reading can achieve! And it is beautiful to watch!

So back to the ceremony. I’m sure you can understand now that I was sitting on crossed fingers for Christopher William Hill to win. The CWH crew were sitting next to me, faces alight with hope and anticipation. And when his name was called as the winner we all burst out with YESes and cheers. I looked round to see my crew and I wished I could have photographed their faces. Filled with joy and pride and amazement. And then in came Christopher William Hill. The room erupted! My kids could barely stay in their seats.

Christopher William Hill was joined on stage by one of the shortlisted authors, Ali Sparkes. We had seen her at an event during the build up to the final and she is a fantastic speaker. If you get the opportunity to see either of them at an author event, grab it! They are both fun, witty, honest, incredibly funny and fantastic with the kids. Their passion for what they do is palpable and they really did light up the stage. They were very generous with the children, happily signing books and answering questions and having their photos taken.

My kids came out of the event energised, passionate and full of chatter. About what would be the best way to die, what food sounded the most deadly, where Ali Sparkes got her incredible sparkly boots and whether there was a story behind them. They raved about the authors and their stories. They chatted about what they want to be when they grow up and what kind of books would be the most fun to write. They were buzzing. And that’s what books can do. Yes, Christopher William Hill and Ali Sparkes were energising but these kids have been chatting about books like this since we started. They have been set alight by books!

The best thing about this whole experience has been sharing it, and loooots of books, with the kids. It has been a real privilege to see them grow up over this school year and to share all the booky chat with them. I feel very honoured to have been able to ignite their book passion and help them find and explore so many new books. I have loved being a small part in the process and I really hope I get to run the book group again next year.

A HUGE thank you, from me and from my booky crew, to East Sussex Libraries and Museums Service, to all the shortlisted authors and especially to Ali Sparkes and Christopher William Hill. I think I have some budding new writers growing here, thanks to you.

And for Christopher – my student’s passionate and prize-winning review of Osbert:
The story is about a boy called Osbert Brinkoff , who is a young genius. Osbert and a girl called Isabella both pass an exam to enter a school called The Insitute. Yet they did not know that the teachers at the Insitute were cruel and horrible. Soon after the two children get accepted, Osbert speaks out of line to the head master of the Insitute. Trouble lies ahead for the Brinkoff family when Osbert gets expelled and vowed revenge on the teachers of the Insitute.

My favourite character , undeniably , is Osbert; because, in my eyes he is quite admirable for creating those ingenious plans to get rid of the teachers of the Insitute and not get caught.

I loved the entire story, I loved the plot line and how every thing was set out; It honestly is the best book that I have ever read.

I think that both boys and girls would enjoy it, mainly boys though. It may appeal to a small selection of girls, I am one of those girls. The age group reading this book should be 9-12 year olds.

Pea’s Books of Pure Joy by Susie Day

17 Jun

I spend a lot of time looking for and championing inclusive books. Books that show real people and real characters, reflecting the true diversity of our world. If I could have given you an overview of what I have been personally looking for, it would have looked a bit like this:

20140617-174857.jpg

I can’t tell you how happy the Pea books make me. If only there had been books like these around when I was a girl. I would have devoured them then as joyously as I am savouring them now.

Full of wonderfully diverse characters that are beautifully real and flawed and intriguing, Susie Day’s Pea books are the books I am foisting upon everyone at the moment. My friends, their children, my year six book group, my daughter’s school librarian, anyone who will listen to me! Because I think these books are really important and I think people deserve to be able to read them as much as the books deserve to be read.

I am so thankful that my daughter will be able to read these when she is a bit older. She will be able to read about real children who grow up in diverse families that are brilliantly unique and creative and imaginative and caring and fun. She will be able to read about a family like hers – one that has two mums. And she probably won’t even notice because the story won’t be about that. The story will be about things that she will care about – finding a new best friend, settling in at a new school, having a really good birthday party, planning what job to do as a grown up.

Hurrah to Susie Day for creating genuinely diverse characters that are refreshing, relevant, unique and casually included. For me, casual inclusion is when you have no idea that you are about to meet these characters. When the book is all about the story and the fun. When the book looks like it could fit nicely in to any child’s bookcase or any school shelf and looks enticing enough for the child to want to grab it and read it. The inclusion is secondary to the story itself and the book is something that children want to read. Congratulations to Susie Day – she’s nailed it on all those fronts.

This is storytelling at its best. Brilliantly skilful writing, fantastic characters, and a series that you will never want to end. I am off to read the latest book in the series, Pea’s Book of Holidays. Treat yourself to a few copies – you’ll be wanting to share!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 102 other followers