The London Eye Mystery

18 Mar

I’ve been making the most of my local library lately – discovering books that I’ve missed and picking up ones that have been languishing on my wish list for far too long. One of the joys I’ve discovered is The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd. As a quick side note – if you haven’t come across the Siobhan Dowd Trust then do take a look, they do brilliant work getting books into the hands of kids in areas of social deprivation. 



‘Monday 24 May, 11.32a.m. Ted and Kat watch their cousin Salim get on board the London Eye. The pod rises from the ground. Monday 24 May, 12.02 p.m. The pod lands and the doors open. People exit – but where is Salim? Even the police are baffled. Ted, whose brain runs on its own unique operating system, and his older sister, Kat, overcome their prickly relationship to become sleuthing partners. They follow a trail of clues across London in a desperate bid to find their cousin, while time ticks dangerously by…’

The London Eye Mystery is that wonderful mix of strong story and character. The plot is well structured and full of drama, never talking down to the reader or letting the mystery or outcomes become too obvious or too far fetched. It is brilliantly constructed and entirely believable. But the true beauty of this book is the depiction of the characters, particularly the main character, Ted. The London Eye Mystery has the most realistic and sensitive portrayal of a child with Aspergers that I have read. His hopes and his thoughts, the way he responds to his Aspergers and to the responses of others, are all thoughtfully realised. There’s some brilliant analysis of sibling relationships here, with wonderful moments of truth. This book has helped me to understand Aspergers. It has made me think and taught me about the world and my responses to it. And that is everything I could wish for from a book.

Source: my lovely local library (although I loved this book so much that I have since bought myself a copy, with royalties going to the Siobhan Dowd Trust. Get your copy here

Beautiful Birds

11 Mar

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Designed as part alphabet book and part introduction to the world’s most beautiful birds, this book is a thing of beauty. The text is pure poetry and the artwork is delicious!

My photographs can’t do Emmanuelle Walker’s illustrations justice. The vivid orange/pink colour from the cover (think bright pink highlighter pen) is included throughout, highlighting parts of each bird. And oh the exquisite lines! And the patterns! And the contrasts! And the colours!

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The birds are introduced through Jean Roussen’s rhyming text with wonderfully creative and inspiring language. Owls have ogling orbs, macaws are ‘rainbows that ruffle’ and tanagers have polychrome quills. Beautifully evocative language for children to absorb.

Stunning illustrations, tactile pages, beautiful language, unique birds and the odd amazing fact dropped in. This is a special book that will appeal to children of all ages. Even the fully grown ones!

Source – kindly sent for review by Flying Eye Books.

The Great Big Green Book

11 Mar

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We have a responsibility to teach our children about conservation issues and to do so in a way that inspires them to make a difference. The Big Green Book is a hugely positive book that highlights where we have been going wrong but clearly points the next generation to a brighter greener future. This book says ‘we can fix this. You can fix this!’

The Big Green Book begins with our place in space and explains the balance of life on earth and our responsibility to maintain it. Looking at water, plants and trees, air and animals, and touching on climate change, everything is explained in a child-friendly and child-focused way. Climate change can be a scary concept for children but it is handled with perfect balance here – and linking it to Santa’s reindeer is genius!

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The rest of the book focuses on what we can do to protect our world. Full of practical and inspirational ideas to save water and energy and recycle and reuse, it even explains nuclear energy and food miles.

As always, Ros Asquith’s illustrations are beautifully inclusive, witty and filled with speech bubbles and captions. They add so much to this book and help make it so beautifully child-focused.

I love this book for its perfectly pitched information, just at the right level for prompting children to question the way they (and their families) live. The part that really inspired my daughter was the double page spread encouraging the reader to be the change, to think big and invent solutions. Including information about young inventors who are already making a difference has left my daughter scribbling designs and dreaming of saving the world.

Quick! Get a copy of this book in every primary and secondary school – the people who are going to save the world are waiting!

If you like the look of this, try the other two titles in the series:
The Great Big Book of Feelings and The Great Big Book of Families.

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

The Trail Game by Herve Tullet

5 Mar

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Herve Tullet is the master of interactive art books. This one is a particular favourite here. Place your finger on ‘start’ then follow the trail. Turn the pages to match the shapes and find your way through the split pages of this beautifully designed book.
 

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Part maze part art book, the split pages and crazy lines left us in a heap of tangled fingers and giggles. A lot of fun!

The Trail Game is part of the brilliantly fun and imaginative ‘game’ series. Perfect for little ones who like to explore their books, use their imaginations and create their own stories. If you like the look of this, check out The Game of Lines with its bright pink and yellow patterns that you can transform with the turn of a page:

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and The Game of Tops and Tails where you can create your own precarious balancing acts.

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Source: kindly sent for review by Phaidon Press.

How to Fly with Broken Wings

5 Mar

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This is a stunner from Jane Elson. Her debut, A Room Full of Chocolate, was well received and I think this one is even better.

Twelve-year-old Willem has Aspergers Syndrome and two main aims in life: to fly and to make at least two friends of his own age. But all the other boys from the Beckham Estate do is make him jump off things. First his desk – and now the wall. As his toes teeter on the edge, Sasha Bradley gives him a tiny little wink. Might she become his friend? Bullied by Finn and his gang the Beckham Estate Boyz, Willem has no choice but to jump. And soon, while the gangs riot on their estate, Willem and Sasha form an unlikely friendship. Because they share a secret. Sasha longs to fly too.

I love this book for its believably written and diverse crew of characters. It has depth and it has soul. Touching on loss, absent and troubled parents, Aspergers, bullying, gang culture, poverty, friendship, and the power of believing in yourself, How to Fly with Broken Wings is a beautiful book that will make you want to lift your arms and fly.

Get your copy here.

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

World Book Day celebrations

5 Mar

So now that exciting announcement is off my chest and I’ve done a little happy dance, let’s get down to World Book Day business.

World BookDay isn’t all about dressing up as your favourite book character, or for us parents, desperately trying to cope with a last minute costume change. It is about celebrating books and fostering and encouraging reading for pleasure.

So for WBD this year I am:

Buying some books
What a hardship!!
I have ordered some books from my wishlist via Hive.co.uk. A brilliant website that supports indie bookshops and doesn’t rip off publishers and authors. My books will be delivered for free and a percentage of the money from my order will go to my nominated independent bookshop. Hurrah for hive!

Gifting some books
Mollie will get her WBD voucher today from school and she will be so excited by the idea of choosing her book. But in the meantime, this awaits her…

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And for those of you who are zooming in to try and see through the paper (I know who you are)…

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Mollie is inhaling books at the moment. She has read a Claude book a night this week and has exhausted her current supplies. I want to encourage her love for reading so here’s the next few nights sorted.

Donating to book charities
Take a #bookselfie and text Read98£2 to 70070 for Readwell, a charity gifting quality books to hospitals and getting them into the hands of ill children. Then nominate 3 mates to do it.
Here’s mine:

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Or how about watching a book den being built from the ground up? Head over to @playbythebook on twitter and watch her transform her kitchen into an enormous book den, all for BookAid. Donate here to support Zoe’s efforts and cheer her on. BookAid increases access to books to support literacy, education and development in sub-Saharan Africa, and they really do deserve your support.
Zoe’s doing a grand job so far:

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Celebrating books
For the rest of today I’m going to be racing through my review piles and my bookshelves, posting pictures on twitter and writing reviews of books that I love and that I think children will love. Have a look through… maybe you will see something just right for that World Book Day voucher?

Reading books!
Because that’s what it’s all about!
Happy World Book Day, folks! Enjoy!

WBD and An Announcement!

5 Mar

HAPPY WORLD BOOK DAY!!!

I am celebrating in lots of different ways today. But first… A little announcement I have been hugging hold of for a while….

*small drumroll*

I am going to be reviewing children’s books for Chicken Newspaper! A fantastic newspaper for young citizens.

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I am so excited about this project because there is a huge amount of passion sitting behind this newspaper. It is the creation of author and illustrator Ken Wilson-Max who I met at the A Place At The Table workshop. He is passionate about inclusion and getting quality books, stories and information into the hands of kids. Sound familiar?? He wants to get kids involved; getting the newspaper sponsored so it can get into individual schools for free, setting kids up with newspaper clubs so children learn about making their own newspapers and writing their own content. Chicken newspaper has children at the very heart. I am proud to be involved with the Chicken! mission.

It’s a great paper filled with current affairs, global learning, fascinating articles and brilliant art work. And from the next issue it will have a little Rainbow Library review section where I will highlight brilliant books that children will love to read. I’ll also be writing content for the Chicken! website with feature books and longer reviews. Woo HOOO!

So take a little look and hey… why not order a subscription to celebrate World Book Day??

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.

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“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

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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.

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Brilliant word choice.

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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.

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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
Peacehaven
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.

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