We Come Apart

22 Apr

There are some authors whom you cherish. Their words bring you to life. Their books are stroked and collected in different editions. A new book’s publishing date is scribbled on your calendar and you inhale it when it arrives. There are so many authors whose work sends me a bit giddy like that and Sarah Crossan is definitely one of them. I inhaled the e-book of We Come Apart as soon as it was released. And then I visited Hunting Raven bookshop and bought the hardback and I read it again, slower this time, revelling. Because Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan have created something really beautiful here.

9781408878859

‘Nicu is so not Jess’s type. He’s all big eyes and ill-fitting clothes, eager as a puppy, even when they’re picking up litter in the park for community service. Appearances matter to Jess. She’s got a lot to hide.

Nicu shouldn’t even be looking at Jess. His parents are planning his marriage to a girl he’s never met back home in Romania. But he wants to work hard, do better, stay here.

As Nicu and Jess grow closer, their secrets surface like bruises. And as the world around them grows more hostile, the only safe place Jess and Nicu have is with each other.’

Written in free verse poems, the two characters take turns to share their stories. Jess and Nicu’s lives are very different and are written by two authors, yet their voices work beautifully together as the characters circle each other, learning about themselves through each other. As they become closer and their worlds begin to enclose them, we are shown a post-Brexit Britain filled with poverty, bitterness and anger towards otherness. And yet We Come Apart is full of hope. It shows two teenagers who are squashed by so much, and yet have the strength of their developing friendship to lift them through. It is powerful, emotional and it will hold you tight by the heart. It still hasn’t let mine go.

You can get your copy here.

Source – bought from Hunting Raven bookshop

Young Ambassadors for diversity and inclusion

21 Apr

I’m making the assumption that if you read this blog you are already on board with the fact that inclusive and diverse books are groovy and important things. I figure you know that they can, and will, help the next generation change the world. And that’s why I want to share this campaign for Young Ambassadors by Inclusive Minds. They want to develop a network of young ambassadors with real experience of marginalisation (in all areas of diversity), who will share their knowledge with the book world. They will be the ace team who comment on ideas and manuscripts and help authors and the children’s publishing industry to create authentic diverse voices. This project has already been successfully piloted and will help to dramatically improve authenticity in books and give young people a real voice in the children’s book world. But they need our help.

Inclusive Minds is a not-for-profit collective who work with the children’s publishing industry to push for more inclusive and diverse characters and stories. They are awesome and they are making a real difference. Their crowdfunding campaign to roll out their Young Ambassadors campaign only has 8 days left and they need help to reach their target. There are some incredible perks on offer, like signed artwork and books, an hour’s consultation with Inclusive Minds for your writing and a ticket to the next Children’s Laureate ‘unveiling ‘. Even if you can’t contribute financially at the moment, please have a read of their plan – it might be something that can help the authors/creators among us – and consider sharing it.

I know times are hard but this campaign could make a huge difference to the books that the next generation are reading, showing them a wider more inclusive world view and helping them grow up to be empathetic and awesome human beings. Plus, end of month pay day is coming up and should fall within the last few days of the campaign.

Have a look here. Be a part of the mission to change the world, one book at a time.

Behind the scenes of Happy, Sad, Feeling Glad – with giveaway

15 Apr

BlogtourI am thrilled to have a guest post from award winning illustrator Yasmeen Ismail as part of the blog tour for her Draw & Discover series of activity books. Yasmeen is the bestselling author/illustrator of Time for Bed Fred and I’m a Girl. The books in the Draw & Discover series are her first activity books and they are stunners!

Lively and full of humour, Happy, Sad, Feeling Glad is beautifully designed and produced and just makes me smile. I love that it has splashes of colour throughout and is so playful and inviting, encouraging kids to explore their own feelings as they create. Each spread has a prompt, open enough to allow little artists to put their own personality to paper. This is my favourite page:

Yasmeen has kindly put together a sneak peek behind the scenes of Happy, Sad, Feeling Glad:

Happy, Sad, Feeling Glad is the third in the ‘Draw & Discover’ series. With this series I wanted to take intangible ideas and help kids put them into context. For Happy, Sad, Feeling Glad I followed the same format as I have in the first two books (Push, Pull, Empty, Full and Inside, Outside, Upside-down) I created three characters – Donkey, Cat and Dog – and activities in which to explore intangible ideas such as feelings and emotions.

When I create characters, I decide on how they look alongside planning the whole book. I often make little page sketches, and then cut them all out make a pile of the ones I want to keep and the ones I don’t want to use. The sketches I keep are artworked up with an ink-brush pen, and then put together and tied up in Photoshop. Below are some images of early artwork I made for Happy, Sad, Feeling, Glad.

Those of you that have seen the book will notice a new character below, called Pig – we very nearly had Pig in the book as well as Cat, Dog and Donkey, but in the end I decided to stick with just three characters. There was no real reason for this except that the previous two books had three characters and there was no need for an additional character. So Pig was left out. Perhaps he’ll turn up again, who knows?

This next image is one of my very early sketches of Cat. She is frustrated because she can’t get the sauce out of the bottle onto her sandwich! I eventually decided to keep this spread in the book but changed the theme to Cat being ‘excited’ about her sandwich.

4

Below are some more sketches that are more finished, and give an idea of they kind of colour I wanted to use. What makes these images different from the earlier sketches, is that they are a little tidier, and they show a clearer idea of what each of the activity spreads should be about.

56

Here is the first sketch I did for the cover. It came out pretty much the same in the final artwork, except for the title change!

7

9781780679327

WIN a full set of the Draw & Discover books – and a tote bag!

A huge thank you to Yasmeen for taking the time to share her work. I can’t recommend these books enough. You can get your copies here.

Or, to be in with a chance of winning a full set of the Draw & Discover books plus a tote bag, follow this blog and add a comment below, or head over to twitter to enter. Open to UK only, closing date eod Tuesday 18th April. Good luck!

Thanks to Yasmeen and to Laurence King Publishing.

Illustrator photo by Olivia Hemingway.

Stargazing for Beginners by Jenny McLachlan

6 Apr

There’s a lot to love in this book about friendship and finding yourself amongst the chaos of life. 

‘Science geek Meg is left to look after her little sister for ten days after her free-spirited mum leaves suddenly to follow up yet another of her Big Important Causes. But while Meg may understand how the universe was formed, baby Elsa is a complete mystery to her. And Mum’s disappearance has come at the worst time: Meg is desperate to win a competition to get the chance to visit NASA headquarters, but to do this she has to beat close rival Ed. Can Meg pull off this double life of caring for Elsa and following her own dreams? She’ll need a miracle of cosmic proportions.’

Jenny McLachlan aces teenage awkwardness and the overriding want to fit in. The characters are real; flawed, learning and developing. It’s a joy to read about a science loving girl who is handy with a wrench but has no possible clue when it comes to relationships – with her baby sister, with the other kids at school, with her mum. Meg is intelligent and practical but is still afraid of saying the wrong thing and making a fool of herself. 

Her developing friendship with Annie is delicious. Annie has Cerebral Palsy and sometimes uses a wheelchair or crutches but, thanks to some awesomely inclusive writing, she isn’t defined by her CP and is a wonderfully funny and fierce character. Annie is where McLachlan’s teenage voice really comes to life and she captures the dry wit and banter perfectly.

Stargazing for Beginners is not about the science geek getting a makeover and getting the boy. It laughs in the face of that kind of message. Instead, it’s about a girl turning into a young woman, learning to love herself and finding a network of friends who love her for who she really is. It’s about finding yourself and above all being true to yourself. And that is a beautiful thing.

You can get your copy here.

Source – kindly sent for review by Bloomsbury.

Animal Rescue – with app giveaway

21 Mar

PatrickGeorge create clever, bright and fun interactive books. I have raved about their books before and now I have something new to shout about. They have produced their first app – Animal Rescue – and I have a promo code to give away so the lucky winner can download the app for free.


Animal Rescue is based on the book of the same name, released in 2015. The book uses PatrickGeorge’s trademark transparent pages to allow you to interact with the book and become an animal rescue hero. Each page shows an animal that needs rescuing and the transparent sheet allows the reader to turn back time and rescue them. Some are a simple placement, like the bear:



While some use clever design to alter the images:


There are no words in the book, or the new app version, allowing the reader to choose the words that are age appropriate. Animal Rescue is a fantastic introduction to animal welfare and a great springboard for discussion.

The Animal Rescue app uses the same transparent sheet concept but animates the whole process. The pictures come to life and the background sounds make the animals’ environments even more realistic. By swiping your finger across the screen you can turn the transparent sheet and rescue the animal, collecting a cheer and an app sticker as you do so. 

The app even has extra animals to rescue, including one that is particularly close to my heart!

PatrickGeorge have a real talent for strong design and equally strong messages. This app is bold, bright, stylish and smooth to use. It’s a great app for classrooms to use as a discussion starter.

To win a promo code to download the app for free, head over to twitter and retweet the competition tweet.

The app is available now through the App Store. You can get your copy of the book here.

Thanks to PatrickGeorge for providing the promo code for this giveaway.

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

15 Mar

9780008124090

‘Pax was only a kit when his family was killed and he was rescued by ‘his boy’, Peter. Now the country is at war and when his father enlists, Peter has no choice but to move in with his grandfather. Far worse than leaving home is the fact that he has to leave Pax behind. But before Peter spends even one night under his grandfather’s roof he sneaks out into the night, determined to find his beloved friend. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their journeys back to each other as war rampages throughout the country.’

As is the case with all the best children’s books, Pax is about so much more than a boy and his beloved pet. Pax is about love, trust, the price of war, and the importance of self discovery. Peter’s fear is of becoming like his father; of inheriting his anger and closing himself away. Through his journey he learns to trust in the people he meets and to trust in his self and his ability to become the boy he wants to be. It is a powerful message of tolerance and hope in the face of adversity, beautifully echoed by Pax’s own discovery of his inherent wildness.

Peter’s time in the woods with an isolated and self-destructive ex-soldier highlights the human cost of war. She is a brilliantly created character who resonates long after the last page is turned. Their relationship is beautifully developed and sings of the power of standing against social expectations and following what is in your heart.

Told from both Peter and Pax’s point of view, Pax is deeply layered and filled with echoes and balances. The sections from Pax’s point of view made me look at everything through fresh eyes and were an intelligent, well-researched, sensory adventure. Beautifully illustrated by Jon Klasson – just look at that cover! – Pax truly is a wonderful, wonderful book.

Source – my lovely local library.

the stars at oktober bend by Glenda Millard

14 Mar

Australian author Glenda Millard is highly respected for her work in her home country and deserves to be as well-known and respected in the UK. Old Barn Books are releasing her works to a wider audience and the stars at oktober bend had me wowed.

9781910646151

‘Alice Nightingale writes about how it is to have perfect thoughts that come out in slow, slurred speech. She imagines herself stepping into clear midair with wings made of words and feathers.

Manny James runs at night, trying to escape memories of his past. He sees Alice on the roof of her river-house, looking like a figurehead on a ship sailing through the stars. He has a poem in his pocket and he knows the words by heart. He is sure that the girl has written them.

Alice longs to be everything a fifteen-year-old girl can be. And when she sees the running boy she is anchored to the earth by her desire to see him again.’

Glenda Millard’s writing is beautiful. Evocative and lyrical, the stars at oktober bend explores the healing power of creativity and hope and the importance of family – however it is formed.

Alice and Manny are both survivors. Alice from a violent assault and Manny from war in his home country. Both are learning to live and trust again and to move on from the guilt they feel over the loss of their families. Despite the premise, this book sings of hope. It is in the poems Alice writes, the intricate fishing flies she makes from feathers, and in the way trust develops friendships into family. the stars at oktober bend opens our eyes to the darkness in the world – and feels very relevant in these times of Trump – but it also shines a light. In the words of Alice, ‘if we let cowards stop us living the way we want to, we let them win.’

A special mention, too, for Ruth Grüner’s stunning cover design which manages to echo the book perfectly.

Old Barn Books are releasing a further novel by Glenda Millard. Keep your eyes open for A Small Free Kiss in the Dark this summer.

Source – bought from my lovely local indie bookshop, Bags of Books in Lewes.

Labyrinth -a maze book for the digital age

14 Mar

Labyrinth by Théo Guignard (Wide Eyed Editions) is a large-format, stylish maze book that is packed with things to spot and explore.


Each spread is set in a different world full of sea creatures, dragons, robots, and knights. With a list of things to spot on each spread there is plenty to keep you occupied.



The mazes get progressively harder as you work through the book, until you arrive in a digital world that will have the most proficient of puzzlers retracing their steps and caught in dead-ends.


As with all Wide Eyed books, the design is forefront and this book looks and feels special. Definitely gift-worthy, Labyrinth is a stunner!

You can get your copy here.

Source – kindly sent for review by Wide Eyed Editions.

 

Secrets of Our Earth: A Shine-A-Light adventure

13 Mar

Secrets of Our Earth by Carron Brown and Wesley Robins (Ivy Kids) is part of the innovative Shine-A-Light  non-fiction series. Perfect for Early Years and Key Stage 1 topics, these books make learning a hands-on adventure.


Exploring the planet from the outside in, looking at mountains and rivers, rainforests and cities, children can hold each page up to the light to get a glimpse of what happens behind-the-scenes.



Brilliant fun and full of facts, this is a great book to get young children involved in reading and learning. I can imagine children in dens with torches exploring this book and learning about the world around them. I love how it plays to children’s natural curiosity and interest in hands-on learning. It shows them that there is a whole world out there waiting to be explored and that there’s always something new to be discovered.



The series of Shine-A-Light books includes Secrets of the Seashore, On the Space Station, Secrets of the Rainforest and On the Construction Site, meaning there’s a book for every interest and every school topic.

You can get your copy here.

Source – kindly sent for review by Ivy Press.

Under the Love Umbrella

10 Mar

I love to wave my diversity flag and champion books that are inclusive and celebrate diversity. Under the Love Umbrella by Davina Bell and Allison Colpoys (Scribe) does so beautifully, and I am thrilled to be a part of this blog tour and sing the book’s praises. This book deserves to be in every nursery and early years library.


A diverse range of families celebrate the comfort to be found from familial love. In gentle rhymes, parents tell their children that, no matter what situation they may find themselves in, they will always find comfort ‘under the love umbrella’.

I love the warmth and gentle humour throughout the book.


Reading it feels like a big cosy hug. The celebration of childhood and togetherness is just delicious.


Bright colours and neons play against black in this bright and playful book. The illustrations are beautiful and oh, the joy at seeing them smash so many gender stereotypes! Boys are scared of the dark and carry dolls, dads are primary caregivers – and read bedtime stories, two women are parenting together, children of different colours and genders play together. In fact, every type of family can be found between these pages. Every page has something to celebrate. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. 

Bravo to all involved.

You can get your copy here.

Source – review copy sent by Scribe Publishing