Once by Morris Gleitzman

20 Feb

Yesterday I took my daughter to the library and had a dig through the Junior fiction shelves and stumbled upon Once. It is a book I’ve heard so much about but never picked up before. I know I am years late to the party on this one, but that’s the joy of libraries – you come across gems like this entirely by accident. And that’s one of the many reasons that libraries are vital in every community…but that’s another rant for another time.

Last night I devoured Once and then immediately downloaded the next book in the series onto my phone. And I devoured that too. This morning I am a bit blurry eyed and downloading the third book. I am totally under Gleitzman’s spell.

“Once I escaped from an orphanage to find Mum and Dad. Once I saved a girl called Zelda from a burning house. Once I made a Nazi with toothache laugh. My name is Felix. This is my story.”

These are powerful books. Harrowing, yes. But also moving and affirming.

The way Gleitzman uses childhood innocence and imagination against the backdrop of nazi brutality is what makes Once shine for me. In SF Said’s brilliant piece in the Guardian this week, he said “re-reading is a given for children’s authors. It’s one reason why we try to write books that have many layers and work on different levels, rewarding re-reading by growing richer each time.” And that is where the child’s perspective excels in these books. The layering and contradiction of the reader’s awareness and the characters’ innocence is hard to bear but it’s also what makes this book so successful and what is making me itch to start on book three, Now.

Source- my lovely local library.

Rhymoceros by Janik Coat

11 Feb


For obvious reasons, a book about a rhino is always going to catch my attention. But this one caught my attention and then didn’t let it go. It’s a smiley, strokey kind of book. My favourite kind.

The simple premise of a rhino enacting rhyming words is pulled off with humour and style. Coat has chosen original and unusual rhymes, never settling for an easy option. The use of texture and foiling adds to the joy of this beautifully designed chunky book. I just love it!

See for yourself:
Beautifully tactile flocking on the moss.


Brilliant word choice.


The tilted/quilted page is genius and the stinky/inky page had me laughing out loud! It’s also worth noting that the rhino is gender neutral. Hurrah!

If you love the look of this you might also like Coat’s previous book Hippopposites.

Source: kindly sent for review by Abrams and Chronicle Books.

International Book Giving Day is nearly here!

11 Feb

International Book Giving Day is THIS WEEKEND! A whole day dedicated to giving books to children…what could be better?

If you are new to IBGD you can find out more here. You can also download beautifully designed bookmarks and bookplates to tuck into the books you donate. Find them here.


It was IBGD 2013 that inspired the first Rainbow Library. The Rainbow Library has expanded and developed in the last two years and for IBGD this year I will be concentrating on my new partnership with HomestartUK. They are a charity helping families with young children deal with whatever life throws at them. They provide one to one support for parents through their volunteer scheme. This is hands-on support right at the most crucial time in children’s development. I really believe in Home-Start and the difference they make to children’s lives.

Before Christmas I donated a big box of books for them to give to the children they work with. Books are already helping children across Sussex; families in temporary accommodation, children with speech and language delay, families with mental health issues, children who don’t have any other books at home. The books are starting to filter out to these children who need them most.

HomestartUK work mostly with children under 5 so for IBGD 2015 I will be delivering another box of books tailored to that age group. I’m also setting up a library for HomestartUK to keep in their offices and draw from for their visits. This library will be filled with books that can help children in difficult situations. Books where they can see themselves or see other children experiencing the same situations they are facing. Books where they can see they are not alone, and books they can escape to. I want HomestartUK to have the resources available to help these kids. They can take the books with them to use during their visit, to lend to the family or for the family to keep. I want the Homestart staff to use them in whatever way they need to best support the children. I will keep the library up to date and packed full of brilliantly inclusive, imaginative, supportive books.

Join me! Celebrate IBGD by donating a book to a children’s charity near you. Or pop a book in the post for the Homestart kids. You can send them here:
Carmen Haselup
The Rainbow Library
19 Headland Way
East Sussex
BN10 8TF

I promise you that these books will be helping children in need and that they will make a difference. You will make a difference!

Thank you to Zoe from Playingbythebook, Catherine from Storysnug, Beth from Mummysaysknow and Lucy, Charlie and Josie Latter for their very kind donations. And as always, huge thanks to all the publishers sending review books. I couldn’t do it without you all.

#IamCharlie – Inclusion in children’s books as a power for change

10 Jan

It is hard to respond to the events that have devastated Paris this week. Words like ‘shocking’ and ‘awful’ lose meaning and can’t sum up what has happened. I think that’s why so many people have responded with action. People have stood together in solidarity, held pencils in the air, and used hashtags like #IAmCharlie and #IAmAhmed.

The response across social media has been uplifting, inspiring, and hopeful. Cartoonists and illustrators have put pen to paper to show their support. People are thinking and discussing, showing real passion and a commitment to stand up for freedom of expression and equality. My twitter timeline is full of positivity.

A couple of the responses I’ve seen over the last few days have really chimed with me:
This illustration from Sarah McIntyre

And Zoe’s response at Playingbythebook. She has put together a list of inclusive children’s/YA books that “might help spread understanding of what life can be like for Muslims living in the west.”
Both responses are hopeful; looking forward and celebrating literature’s power to bring change. And that’s what I want to focus on too. Because books really are windows into other worlds. The more children see and understand other cultures, religions, ideas and beliefs, the more they will understand. The more they read, the more they will empathise with others.

So my response has been to sign up to take part in a workshop looking at how to pro-actively improve authentic inclusion in children’s publishing. A Place at the Table is on Wednesday 28th January, run by Inclusive Minds, the Publishers Association, the IPG and EQUIP. Here’s the workshop description:
(A Place at the Table) will give participants the unique opportunity to come together in force to show their commitment to achieving real inclusion and diversity in children’s books. The discussion will range from the importance of access to inclusive and diverse books, to identifying the barriers, to ideas for practical and commercially sound strategies to enable the children’s book world to move forward.

The workshop is primarily for the book industry, teachers and librarians but has places for others interested in equality and inclusion. There are still places available. Come along, have a place at the table. Help make the change.

Let’s work together to get these stories told, these inclusive books published. Let’s make 2015 the year that inclusion in children’s literature and equality in choice and access become a reality. You can help make it happen. Use your voice, your keyboard, your pen or your pencil. Think about the power you have in your words and your creativity- what you choose to make, what you choose to buy, what you choose to read to your children. Above all, think of the people who are listening and watching, reading and looking. What do they need to see? What do they deserve to hear?
Make the change.

Through the Woods – Giveaway

8 Jan

(Competition now closed. The winner was Damyanti!)

Happy New Year!

I’ve decided not to give anything up for New Year- January can be gloomy enough as it is. Instead, I am going to continue. To carry forward. I had such a delicious warm and scrummy Christmas and I want to bring as much of that joy into January and the new year as I can. We saw friends and family that we hadn’t seen for too long. We spent quality time together. There was yummy food and good wine. And coffee Baileys. Oh! The coffee Baileys! There were books and board games and hugs and building things out of Lego. There were decoupaged rhinos and handmade cards. All the brilliant and beautiful things that make Christmas special.

Today, it’s bucketing with rain. Everyone is back at work and school and I have a terrifying to-do list. But I also have a coffee, a chocolate reindeer, a pile of new books to peruse, and a smile.

So to celebrate all that is delicious, I am giving away a hardback, 1st UK edition of this stunner:


Through the Woods by Emily Carroll – ‘It came from the woods. Most strange things do.’ Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss. These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll. Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there…


To be in with a chance to win, simply comment below. You can get an extra entry in the hat by tweeting/spreading the word on social media, but please add an extra comment below for each extra entry.
Worldwide entries happily received, competition ends midnight Wednesday 14th Jan. I will contact the winner on Thursday 15th Jan.

Good luck!

New Year’s Read : Five Reading Resolutions for 2015

1 Jan


This year I will read and write. Recklessly, generously, emotionally, widely, loudly and selfishly. I’m looking forward to sharing with you all. The lovely LH Johnson sums it up beautifully here.
Happy New Year folks!

Originally posted on Did you ever stop to think and forget to start again?:

(With obvious inspiration due to Daniel Pennac)

1. Read Recklessly

Read books when you have no time to read; read them in snatches on the bus, whilst waiting for the kettle to boil, whilst the adverts are on. Read them recklessly and with abandon and dangerously and interlace these texts into your life. Jam a paperback into your bag. Make the packed lunch and tuck in chapter fourteen. Read on the run, on the go, read recklessly and hopelessly and hungrily.

2. Read Anything

Read books that are books, books that aren’t books, books that are words on the back of the HP sauce bottle and compose a message from them and drop them it into the sea, wrapped in a bottle and sealed with candle-wax. Read an adventure on the back of the soap packet, wrap words around you, read books for girls, books for boys, books for adults, books about toys…

View original 273 more words


18 Dec

I’m making the assumption that, as you are reading this blog, you share my belief that books can change lives. The belief that learning to read and having access to quality books is the most important thing for a child’s successful education. I truly believe that, and I work hard to introduce books and a love of reading into children’s lives. And that’s how I came across Give A Book and why I asked for help when my daughter’s school went into Special Measures and lost its entire book budget.

Give A Book is a wonderful organisation that was there for our school when we needed them. A UK registered charity, Give A Book facilitates the gift of books to selected charities and other organisations. Their aim is to get books to those who need them. They use donations to source new books at cost price, then package and post the books to selected charities, schools or organisations.

When our school went into Special Measures and we lost our entire book budget, Give A Book got in touch.

Thanks to the generosity and support of Give A Book’s donors, our school received a big box of fairytale early reader books. These books were used across all the classes in the school to help children learn to read, they supported the Early Years classes with their Fairytale topic and they gave the staff and children a much needed smile and morale boost. They spread through the school and they made a huge difference.

Whilst there is still a way to go, the school is on a journey of improvement and is now out of Special Measures – and much faster than initially anticipated! The children’s reading and writing has come a long way and there is a real sense of achievement and pride in their work. We wouldn’t have been able to achieve so much so quickly without the support of Give A Book and the others who helped us with our book budget crisis. Thank you!

Thankfully, our time of need has come to an end. But Give A Book keeps working and helping those that find themselves in need. Every donation you make buys and distributes a book to someone who – for differing reasons – might need one. You could be supporting prison book groups, magic breakfast book clubs, Beanstalk reading support, or a school that needs a helping hand. Have a look at some of the wonderful initiatives that Give A Book are supporting and help out if you can.

Gove stole our books but he couldn’t steal our learning

18 Dec

You may remember I wrote this post about my daughter’s primary school going into special measures and losing its entire book budget. I asked for help with books and was bowled over by the response.

Well guys, together, we did it! We have been told this week that the school is officially out of Special Measures! And in record time too.

I want to say a huge thank you to all the authors, illustrators, publishers and booky friends who supported the school by sending books, encouragement and messages of support. Particular thanks to Caryl Hart, Clara Vulliamy, Louie Stowell, Ellie Irving, Joanna Nadin, Anne Booth, Paula Harrison, Leigh Hodgkinson and GiveABook.org for their generosity and kind words.

Together we stood up for education, for the importance of reading, and – most importantly- for the children. And we showed Gove that he can’t win against integrity and passion and honesty and a group of people who believe in the power of books. Bravo to us!!

A Very Brilliant Book Swap for IBGD

11 Dec

Hurrah! Today marks the beginning of the build up to International Book Giving Day!!

International Book Giving Day has a special place in my heart. It was for IBGD two years ago that I first started The Rainbow Library, with a new library for a local nursery. The Rainbow Library is still going strong and growing by the week and so is International Book Giving Day, now in its fourth year!

IBGD is on 14th February and aims to counter the commercialisation of Valentine’s Day by encouraging people to give a book and get books into the hands of as many children as possible. Every year, renowned illustrators create posters, bookmarks and book plates for International Book Giving Day and people around the world spread the love of reading by sharing books with children. It is a very warm and fuzzy, delicious day.

For IBGD 2015, award winning illustrator Chris Haughton has designed the IBGD poster – and it’s a stunner!

You can download your copies here.

And to celebrate all that is good and wonderful with IBGD, the lovely Zoe Toft from Playing By The Book is hosting a worldwide bookswap which I’m really excited about and I hope you all join in with.


Zoe says:
“#GiveABook, #SwapABook is all about sharing, sending and receiving wonderful, indeed brilliant children’s books. It will be a way for you to spread the word about a children’s book you are passionate about, and to discover another equally amazing book through a gift from someone else.
Here’s how it will work:
You’ll sign up and I will pair you with one other children’s book lover. You will send each other a book that you think is the best of the best. You’ll read your new book, fall in love with it and (hopefully) set off on a new adventure with its beautiful writing and/or its gorgeous illustrations spinning away in your head.
Anyone can sign up (whether or not you have a blog, whether or not you have children) but when you sign up what you’re agreeing to is purchasing and posting a lovely book to your partner. You in return will receive a lovely gift of a book back.”

What’s not to love? I’ve signed up, and You can too, right here.

I am Making Plans for IBGD 2015. There is plotting going on. Coffee-drinking, biscuit-eating, strokey-chin kind of plotting. I am very much looking forward to sharing it with you all very soon, but in the meantime, download your posters, share them everywhere, and sign up for Zoe’s Very Brilliant Book Swap. Enjoy!

Christmas Countdown Week 1

9 Dec

The Advent Book Tree of Joy is working its magic again this year. With one book to open each night in the build up to Christmas, the first week has brought back some old favourites…


Are You Ready For Christmas

Santa is Coming to Sussex

The Lion, the Unicorn and Me

Winter’s Child
(For a chance to win a copy of Winter’s Child, visit my previous post!)

And introduced some new…


The Christmas Show by Rebecca Patterson (Macmillan) is a joy to read. A heart warming story that captures the essence of the school play beautifully. Told from the point of view of a little boy who is not entirely sure what his role is, children will relate to and laugh along with the ups and downs of rehearsals. It is also brilliantly funny for any parents and teachers who have been through one too many school Christmas shows in their time -the illustrations show the truth behind the tinsel. Nose-picking, wardrobe malfunctions, grumpy angels and the small child in his own world in the middle of the stage. With loads going on in Rebecca Patterson’s full of character illustrations, I think this is one we’ll come back to year after year in the build up to our own Christmas Show. It also makes a really awesome present for stressed out teachers at this time of year!

Usborne Christmas Stories for Little Children
Look at that… for children! Not for boys or for girls but actually for all children. Woo hoo!!! I love that this book has been marketed for kids and is beautifully non gender-stereotyped. This collection of six stories is a lovely addition to our advent tree. Mollie loves the humour in the stories and I love their traditional Christmas feel. Fun stories that celebrate trying your best, believing in yourself and being kind to others. What’s not to love?

Santa’s Christmas Handbook by Santa’s Elves (Templar).
This book is AMAZING!
Written by Santa’s elves (with a little help from Christopher Edge) Santa’s Christmas Handbook contains everything he needs to know to make the Christmas deliveries run smoothly. With help on reindeer care, navigation, present refilling and delivering, rooftop and chimney safety and a full explanation of all the new gadgets on Santa’s sleigh, I’m pretty confident that Santa is going to have the easiest Christmas Eve yet. The book contains loads of fun information, flaps to lift, games to play and even an insta-chimney. There really is tons to look at and play with in this book. I am hooked!


A perfect Christmas Eve present to keep over-excited children entertained and really build up the magic.

Source- Santa’s Christmas Handbook, The Christmas Show, Usborne Christmas Stories for Little Childrenall bought for The Advent Book Tree of Joy.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 137 other followers