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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.

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‘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

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.

Books for a Future

12 Nov


We are all reeling from the American election results and the impact a Trump-led leadership is already having on tolerance, equality and justice. And all that on top of our own Brexit backlash! This shift to a right wing leadership is going to have a huge impact on the most vulnerable in our communities and will leave a lasting legacy for our children to fix. 

So what can we do? We can stand together and stand up to bigotry and hate. Now is the time for solidarity, kindness and inclusion. It’s more important than ever to teach the children in our lives to stand up for what they believe in and to look out for others. My social media has been full of positivity and plans for action. It’s one of the things I love most about social media – when the shit hits, there’s always an uprising of hope. 

So here’s what I’m going to do, and I’d love for you to join me…

*Goes full Whitney* I believe the children are our future. And I believe that books can change the world. So I’m going to bring the two together by gifting an empowering, inclusive book to my local school every month, as well as highlighting the best of the bunch on here. 

Books teach children about the world they live in, and in turn about tolerance, appreciating diversity and supporting others. I want to arm children with these qualities. They are going to need them!

This is something everyone can do to make a difference. We all have children in our lives, whether in our families, in our social groups or in our communities. Sharing empowering books with them could make all the difference. And it doesn’t have to cost money. You could donate your time and talk to these kids about books and the world, or share the book recommendations with parents and teachers you know to help get these books to the kids. 


The first book I’m going to give is Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World by Kate Pankhurst (Bloomsbury). It seems very apt! I love this book more than I can say. It’s a hugely empowering, fun and fact-filled picture book about women who changed the world across very different fields, including Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo, Marie Curie, Mary Anning, Mary Seacole, Amelia Earhart, Agent Fifi, Sacagawa, Emmeline Pankhurst, Rosa Parks, and Anne Frank. I want to push this book into the hands of every girl and tell them it will be okay. That they can do it. That we believe in them and that we’ve got their backs. 


Want to join me? Perhaps you could gift a book to your local school, library or community group? Or to a child in your life? Perhaps you could give your time to read with a child at a local school. Have a look at Beanstalk and see if they work with schools in your area. Because reading unlocks the future. 

Sadly this awesome book is out of stock pretty much everywhere at the moment – that’s how good it is! – but more stock is coming and there are tons of fantastically inclusive and inspirational books out there. Perhaps you could gift one of these:

If you are concerned about right wing views on refugees and migration you could gift The Journey. If you fear for the freedom of the press and the impact of a biased media you could give Girl with a White Dog. If you want to empower young women you could give What’s a Girl Gotta Do? If you want to support inclusion try any of The Great Big Book… series. For LGBT awareness you could gift Made By Raffi. Or have a look at Letterbox Library for inspiration. 

I’ll be using #booksforafuture to share the book giving and highlight other awesome world-changing and empowering books that our children deserve in their lives. Come and join me. What books would you add to the list? 

What to read after the Rainbow Magic Fairies?

9 Oct

Last week a friend asked me for book suggestions for her daughter who loves the Rainbow Magic fairy books. She loves the fantasy aspect of the series, and the slim volumes that don’t intimidate her. But what could she read next? What should she move on to?

It struck me that it’s probably a common question. The Rainbow Magic books are quite a phenomenon, with children lapping up the books and enjoying following a series. But there are so many beautifully written and illustrated books out there – so many wonderful new characters to meet and authors and illustrators to discover. So a quick look through the bookshelves and a lot of twitter chat later, here are some ideas that may help.

I’ve split the books by type and in each section the books get progressively trickier to make it easier for you to judge which books will suit your children’s reading abilities.

Fantasy books

The Rescue Princesses by Paula Harrison (Nosy Crow)

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A fantastic series of books that shows children that princesses can be smart, independent and great role models. Think ninja-princesses working together and using magic jewels to rescue animals and help the environment. The book format is very similar to the Rainbow Fairy books with short chapters, lots of line-drawing illustrations to break up the text and confidence-boosting slim volumes. They will appeal to children who enjoy the fantasy of Rainbow Fairies while gently nudging children in a slightly more ‘girl-power’ direction. Plus bonus points for character diversity. Hurrah!

When they’ve worked through The Rescue Princesses they could try Faerie Tribes by the same author. (Nosy Crow)

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Paula Harrison’s Faerie Tribes series offers magic, mystery and excitement with a new quest at the heart of each book. The books are longer than The Rescue Princesses books and more advanced in language and structure.
You can find out more here.

Amazing Esme by Tamara Macfarlane and Michael Fowkes (Hodder)
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Meet Esme and her cast of weird and wonderful friends. Follow her wild and imaginative adventures as she leaves behind her circus home to spend the summer with her cousins. When hundreds of baby penguins hatch in Esme’s top floor bedroom, the children have to figure out how to get them outside. Esme and her cousin have the ingenious idea of building a helter skelter around the castle turret, but this is just the start – soon Maclinkey Castle is turned into a full-on Fairground Circus with a big wheel, Bumper Bears, and the show stopping Flying Tigers starring Esme herself!
Amazing Esme is the first book in a series that celebrates the freedom to have adventures. Think Pippi Longstocking with a pirouetting donkey. The Esme books are well-written, short, easy to read, fast-paced and full of fun and adventure. Loads of illustrations throughout and follow on activity ideas at the back.

The Secrets of Flamant Castle by Frances Watts and Gregory Rogers. (Allen & Unwin)
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The complete adventures of Sword Girl and friends includes six books about Tommy, a kitchen girl at Flamant Castle. She dreams of becoming a knight and when she is made the Keeper of the Blades, caring for all the swords in the castle, it seems like her dream might come true. Fun stories about standing up for yourself and following your dreams. Tommy is a great role model with a team of fun characters -like Lil the talking cat and the ghost of a young squire. Short chapters and large text, the book itself is large as it has all six volumes in one, but each individual story is only about 80 pages long.

Sally Gardner’s Magical Children (Orion) series is a collection of six books about children with magic powers.
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Well written stories about ordinary children with extraordinary powers, these books use magical adventures to look at real life problems that children might face – like absent parents, bullying, friendship problems and finding the bravery needed to follow your dreams. Large text, slim volumes with some illustration.

After the Magical Children series, children who are comfortable reading independently could try Sally Gardner’s Wings & Co. fairy detective agency books (Orion).
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Operation Bunny is the first in the series. When Emily Vole inherits an abandoned shop, she discovers a magical world she never knew existed. But a fairy-hating witch, a mischievous set of golden keys, and a train full of brightly coloured bunnies are just a few of the surprises that come with it. With the help of a talking cat called Fidget and a grumpy fairy detective called Buster, it’s up to Emily to get to the bottom of Operation Bunny.
Brilliantly written by Gardner, and exquisitely illustrated by David Roberts, these are longer books (180 pages in Operation Bunny) with smaller text. The wide line gaps and short chapters (about 6 pages each) which are broken up by a couple of illustrations per chapter, make these books excellent stepping stones towards longer novels. Sally Gardner’s books are beautifully gender-stereotype-free with positive characters and strong role models aplenty.

The Worst Witch series by Jill Murphy (Puffin)
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I loved these as a child, and last year the 7th book in the series, The Worst Witch and the Wishing star was published alongside lovely large format new editions of the first six. Start with The Worst Witch – Mildred Hubble is the worst witch at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches – she’s always getting her spells wrong. But she manages to get by until she turns Ethel, the teacher’s pet, into her deadly enemy…
Large format paperbacks, with large text and illustrations throughout, children who can read the Rainbow Magic books independently will be comfortable with these.

Madame Pamplemousse and Her Incredible Edibles by Rupert Kingfisher. (Bloomsbury)

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This is the first in a series of books about a girl called Madeleine who works for her horrid uncle. She discovers Madame Pamplemousse’s shop selling the strangest, rarest and most delicious edibles in the whole world. Madeleine joins forces with Madame Pamplemousse and Camembert the cat in a magical adventure to protect the incredible edibles from her uncle. These are slim and sparkly volumes with large text and line drawings throughout.

Baby Aliens Got My Teacher by Pamela Butchart (Nosy Crow)
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One day Izzy and her friends are surprised to find that their teacher, Miss Jones, is actually being nice to them. This is the woman who was caught secretly smiling when Maisie Miller fell off her chair. There can only be one conclusion: she’s been taken over by aliens, and now she wants to make them all aliens too! A very funny book with large type and fast paced writing that will have children racing through to the end. Lots of illustrations at the edges of pages throughout to break up the text.

Witchworld by Emma Fischel (Nosy Crow)

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More confident readers who are ready to read a longer novel may like Witchworld. A contemporary witch school story, Witchworld tells the story of Flo, a thoroughly modern witchgirl. She has a spellstick, travels about in her skyrider and wouldn’t know a cauldron if she fell into one. But when her grandmother turns up on an actual broomstick, warning that ghouls are about to attach Witchworld, Flo realises everything she’s been told about being a witch is just hocus pocus.
A very funny story, this is the first book in the Witchworld series. This is a full sized novel with smaller type and no illustrations to break up the text, although it does have character illustrations by Chris Riddell at the start – and a gorgeous bright green edging.

Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends by Shannon Hale (Little, Brown)

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Shannon Hale demonstrates that a popular series with spin offs and merchandise can be beautifully well written. She has smashed all my preconceptions and taught me never to judge a book by its merchandise. Her Ever After High series is fantastic and her use of language shines through. The first book, The Storybook of Legends, tells the tale of the students of Ever After High and their pledge to fulfil their destinies as the next generation of Snow Whites, Prince Charmings and Evil Queens. A fantastic concept and brilliant mix of school story and reimagined fairy tale, showing children that they have the right to choose their own destinies and follow their dreams. These are full sized paperbacks suited to confident readers. (Once you have the Shannon Hale bug, try her prize-winning Princess Academy series for a beautifully feminist twist on the traditional princess-in-training story. Her writing sings throughout.)

The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler (Orion) is the first in a series of books centred around mermaids, friendship and family.

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Emily Windsnap lives on a boat, but her mother has always been oddly anxious to keep her out of the water. It is only when Emily has her first school swimming lesson that she discovers why: as soon as she gets into the water, she grows a tail! Great writing and a very collectible series, these are longer books for confident readers.

Animal stories

Zoe’s Rescue Zoo by Amelia Cobb and Sophy Williams (Nosy Crow)

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The Zoe’s Rescue Zoo books follow Zoe’s adventures living at her uncle’s very special zoo. He travels the world rescuing animals and bringing them back to the zoo to be nurtured back to health. It’s Zoe’s job to help them settle in and she has a secret that helps her – she can talk to the animals! Each book in the series focuses on a new animal. The reading level is very similar to The Rainbow Fairies books – slim volumes, beautiful illustrations, large text and short chapters.

Lucy’s Secret Reindeer by Anne Booth and Sophy Williams (Oxford)

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A magical winter’s tale about a very special friendship, perfect for Christmas. Lucy has a big secret . . . Santa’s left her a little reindeer in the garden shed! But Starlight is poorly, and Santa won’t be able to deliver any presents if he’s not well in time. Can Lucy make Starlight better and save Christmas?
This is a beautiful book with a gentle tone that children will love to read independently. A slim volume with large text and illustrations throughout.

Seal Island by Julia Green (Oxford)

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For more advanced readers, try Julia Green’s animal books. Seal Island follows the adventures of Grace as she spends her holidays with Granny at her house by the sea. Grace makes friends with local boy Col who knows the secrets of the island. When Grace discovers a small seal pup separated from its mother after a storm, she’s not sure if she can help it, but she has to try.
A great step between small novels and full sized ones, this book is a slim volume but with smaller print and very few illustrations. Julia Green has written more animal stories for children to collect and would make a wonderful step towards the Gill Lewis animal books.

Broadening their horizons

Life after Rainbow Magic doesn’t have to be all about magic, glitter and cuddly animals. Books can be a child’s window to a whole new world, or a mirror to see themselves from a different perspective. How about something a bit different…

The Girls FC series by Helena Pielichaty (Walker) is a highly collectible and beautifully inclusive series about a girls’ under 11s football team.

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The first book in the series, Do Goalkeepers Wear Tiaras? introduces Megan and how wearing a tiara and fairy wings to football practice led to her starting her own, brilliant girls’ football team.

Great characters to follow

The Daisy books by Kes Gray (Random House) are genius!

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They are riotously funny and Daisy is a fantastic character; smart, articulate, full of imagination, creativity…and mischief! The books really celebrate childhood and show children being children. Children may have already come across her in picture books such as Super Daisy And Eat Your Peas. Once children are reading independently the Daisy and the Trouble With… series are perfect books to engage children and boost their reading confidence. These books are a similar reading level as the Rainbow Fairy books, with larger text and short chapters, lots of illustrations and fast paced story lines. The language used is simple but the books themselves are thicker volumes, which will help build confidence and take away the fear of picking up a big book. The Daisy and the Trouble With… books work as stand-alones and can be read in any order.

Susie Day’s Pea books (Random House) are full of fantastic characters, wonderfully written, fast-paced, and beautifully inclusive works of joy.

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Pea’s Book of Best Friends is the first in the series. Pea has just moved to London with her mum, her (sometimes annoying) sisters, and Wuffly the dog. She sets out to find a new Best Friend…but it proves to be harder than it sounds. If you want your children to read about characters who are beautifully real and flawed and intriguing, then this is the set for you. I can’t rave about them enough! These books are a step up from the Rainbow Magic books and are best suited to confidently independent readers.

Laura Dockrill’s Darcy Burdock books (Random House) are the perfect follow on from Susie Day’s Pea books.

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They share the same energy, humour and pace and they are very similar in size and format. Ten-year-old Darcy Burdock is one of life’s noticers. Curious, smart-as-a-whip, funny and fiercely loyal, she sees the extraordinary in the everyday and the wonder in the world around her. Darcy is a great character to grow up with.

New authors to fall in love with

If you are looking for fantastic writing (and who isn’t) Hilary McKay is the author to head for. Flawless and inspiring writing, brilliant characters, great role models and stories that will engage and excite. You could start with her Lulu stories (Scholastic).

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Short chapters, slim volumes and illustrations throughout make these lovely books for newly independent readers.
For older/more advanced readers try Binny for Short or The Casson Family stories, starting with Saffy’s Angel.

Jacqueline Wilson is a hugely prolific author whose books offer a huge variety of characters and story lines. Her skill is in portraying real families and children dealing with real-to-life situations. The Jacqueline Wilson Treasury (Random House) is a full colour illustrated book that includes some of her stories suitable for younger readers and is the perfect introduction to her work.

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For more confident readers, you could try the Tracy Beaker or Hetty Feather series, or her most recent book, Opal Plumstead

Graphic novels/illustrated chapter books

Oliver and the Seawigs and Cakes in Space by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre (Oxford) are stunning books. Highly illustrated throughout by Sarah McIntyre (Summer Reading Challenge 2014 illustrator) these books are laugh out loud funny masterpieces.

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Oliver grew up in a family of explorers – but his biggest adventure is about to begin! With his new friends – a grumpy old albatross, a short-sighted mermaid and a friendly island called Cliff – Oliver goes off in search of his missing parents. But before he can put his rescue plan into action, there’s an army of pesky sea monkeys to contend with…

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Astra and her family are travelling through space when their spaceship is attacked! Killer cupcakes, batty battenbergs, and marauding muffins – cakey fiends are on the loose! It’s up to Astra and her robot friend, Pilbeam, to stop them before they destroy her ship… After all, people should eat cakes, not the other way round…

Graphic novels offer fantastic storytelling in a highly illustrated format that can be easier for children to digest than their chapter book counterparts.
Gum Girl by Andi Watson (Walker)

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Short stories in a comic book format with a super-heroine who has just moved to a new town. With mild peril and fairy tale twists, humour and modern issues, this is a great place to start.

Hildafolk by Luke Pearson (Nobrow)

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Hilda is sitting in her tent at night listening to the rumble of the storm passing overhead when she hears a bell. As she hurtles towards the vanishing tinkling sound, Hilda unwittingly embarks on an adventure into strange worlds ruled by magical forces. The start of a brilliantly contemporary graphic novel series.

Your suggestions?

What would you add? Please let me know what books you and your children have enjoyed. Join in in the comments below.

A huge thank you to my twitter crew who helped me out with some fantastic suggestions.

Source: review copies of Esme and the Pirate Circus, Opal Plumstead, and The Secrets of Flamant Castle kindly sent by the publishers. All other copies my own or researched online.

Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan

3 Oct

This book is a gift. A book that I want to share with all the children (and adults) I know so that they can experience the journey of reading it.

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The best books change you as you read them. They offer you a view of another way of life or a different perspective when looking at your own. You come out the other side refreshed, with new-found understanding of yourself, the world and the people in it. That’s what great literature can do, and why it is so important. That’s what Sarah Crossan does so beautifully.

I loved her debut Weight of Water. It made me think and look at the world through fresh eyes. It gave me a window into another way of life. And it sparked something in the year six children I shared it with too. So much so that I found myself having to buy another copy…and another…and another. I can see the same happening with Apple and Rain.

Apple has lived with her Nana since her mother walked out when she was tiny. All her life Apple has longed for her to return and answer her burning question – why did you go? But when her mother does return it is a bittersweet reunion. When Apple meets someone else who is feeling lost, Apple sees things as they really are and learns that you need to feel whole from the inside out, not just on the surface.

This is writing at its very best. Oh to be able to write as beautifully and intelligently as Sarah Crossan! Her characterisation of Apple is so spot on, so perfectly constructed, that you go on an emotional journey alongside her. Her emotions, thoughts, hopes and fears are explored and shown with such skill that you feel them with her at the same time as wanting to protect her from the inevitable crash. As a reader you become her friend and her helpless guardian. And thus you learn and grow alongside her. Her moments of clarity become yours, her realisations and growth fuel your own.

Throughout Apple and Rain Sarah Crossan demonstrates poetry’s power to heal and give strength. The joy of Apple and Rain is Crossan’s ability to write really great literature which explores and demonstrates the power of really great literature. It’s a perfectly constructed double whammy.

You need this book in your life. And so does everyone you know.

Source – bought from hive.co.uk You can get your copy (copies!!) here.

Books about books

11 Feb

Not much makes me happier than a book. And a book about books and storytelling is likely to make me do a little happy dance.

I came across these stunners in my local children’s book shop Bags of Books. I was looking for some great books to add to The Rainbow Library for International Book Giving Day. I grabbed these with glee. Books about the power of books… for IBGD… perfect!

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The Story Machine by Tom McLaughlin (Bloomsbury)
Deceptively simple, this book beautifully shows children how they can be their own story makers. Elliott finds a typewriter and, not knowing what it is (what young child would?) he experiments with it and finds that it is a story maker. Not through typing words – Elliott isn’t good with words- but by making pictures with the placement of the typed letters. Elliott finds that he can tell his own stories. He is a story maker. And he is really very good at it.

This book is acknowledging the importance of children’s creativity. It is showing children that the book in their hand is no different to the painting they just made. That they are artists and storytellers too. What a lovely concept; that you can tell stories in whatever way suits you and everyone can be a story maker. But in reality, I don’t think children need a book to tell them that. They are innately creative and uninhibited. It is only with age that we lose that creative freedom. Sit in any reception classroom and you will see children being storytellers – through writing, drawing, telling a story through the cars they are pushing across the floor, or just by running round in a circle singing at the tops of their voices. It is all play and all play is story.

Perhaps it is more likely that this book is reminding the adult of their own creative potential and of the importance of acknowledging their children’s creativity. Perhaps this book isn’t for children after all. Perhaps I will keep hold of it for myself, just for a while.

The Snatchabook by Helen Docherty and Thomas Docherty (Scholastic)
I am a fan of Thomas Docherty’s work and instantly recognised his style from The Snorgh and the Sailor and The Driftwood Ball. I love the way he uses colour to bring light and life into his pictures. Combine that with a story about a Snatchabook and I’m there! And, oh! This book! It really is delicious!

A lovely rhyming tale celebrating bedtime stories, The Snatchabook begins
‘One dark, dark night in Burrow Down,
A rabbit called Eliza Brown
Found a book and settled down…
When a Snatchabook flew into town.’
You’re hooked already, aren’t you! I certainly was. Burrow Down! And a female animal character! The story develops as all the books in Burrow Down begin to vanish. The animal inhabitants are not impressed and Eliza decides to catch the thief in action. With a pile of book-bait she lays in wait and discovers the Snatchabook. The cutest creature you could imagine.

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I really want one to sit on my bookshelves!

The poor Snatchabook just wants someone to read him a bedtime story. Luckily, Eliza understands the importance of bedtime reading and steps in to help.
‘Eliza sighed. He looked so sad.
If he just had a mum or dad
To read him stories every night –
Well, then he might behave all right!’

The illustrations have a beautiful luminous quality to them and are full of detail for little ones to enjoy. Beautiful.

A really special ode to the power of the bedtime story, The Snatchabook is perfectly pitched to appeal to children and the adults reading to them. I’m not ready to give this one up yet. I might have to read it just a few more times.

For older readers, The Lost Happy Endings by Carol Ann Duffy and Jane Ray (Bloomsbury) is stunning. Carol Ann Duffy’s text is beautifully lyrical and deliciously inventive – ‘when dusk was removing the outline of things, like a rubber’ Jub carried a sack of happy endings and scattered them in the air for the children’s bedtime stories. The next morning the happy endings had flown back and were hanging in a tree to be collected and sent out again that night. But when a witch intercepts Jub and steals all the happy endings, children’s stories become terrifying and sad. With a little bit of fairy tale magic, Jub tells her own story within a story to rescue the happy endings and put everything right.

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Definitely one for older readers, this is a much longer text than usually found in the picture book format and contains description of the witch burning to a pile of ashes. I wouldn’t read it to my 4 yr old yet, but highly recommend it for older children who are moving on to longer stories.

I love its story within a story and its celebration of the power of words and storytelling. A wonderful idea beautifully told, perfectly matched with Jane Ray’s magical haunting illustrations, The Lost Happy Ending is a keeper.

Dog Loves Books by Louise Yates (Random House and I love dog! This is a duplicate copy bought specifically for the library. You can read my review of the delicious Dog series here.

Hmmm… Only one out of the four actually made it in to the library – I may have to go shopping again!

Source:
All purchased at my lovely local bookshop, Bags of Books.

Friendship through the books of Tom Percival

2 Oct

I have just had another sort through of books. I am not naturally organised but I do love a list. And making piles. I don’t tend to get much done beyond that, but my lists always look good and the piles of books make me feel organised. Today, however, I have had a crazy coincidence. Sitting at the toppest most top of my review pile is this:

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And at the top of my ‘library books I love’ pile is this:

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And nearish the top of my ‘books I’ve bought that I must tell everyone about’ pile is this:

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So there you go! I’m being book-stalked by Tom Percival. Luckily, I can take a hint and will take this opportunity to rave about them a bit.

I’ll start with A Home for Mr Tipps as it was published first. Mr Tipps is a scared and lonely stray cat who strikes up a friendship with a small boy who leaves milk out for him. But one day the boy doesn’t come to visit and Mr Tipps is bereft, lost, and in mild peril! And I love a bit of mild peril! Yes, the story is lovely and well-written. It is a joy to read aloud and has a heart warming ending. But for me, the real joy is the artwork. The illustrations are delicious! The colours and the contrasts are beautifully used to enhance the story and really explore the character’s emotions. It looks fresh and stylish. The word that is rolling around on my tongue is luminous. I think this book is luminous.

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Jack’s Amazing Shadow is about a different kind of friendship. This time between a young boy, with super cool hair, and his pesky shadow. Jack and his shadow are best friends but sometimes his shadow can get a bit carried away. Eventually, Jack has had enough and decides that his shadow has to go. His attempts at escaping his shadow are genius and genuinely very funny. The illustrations showing Jack playing on his own once he finally succeeds in losing his shadow are wonderful, you can hear the ‘bok’ of the solitary swing-ball. This is a book that will appeal to children and adults alike as we all giggle together at Jack’s shadow’s exploits. I love the way this book works across age groups with extra elements for older children to notice and understand. Great concept, well executed. It’s a good’un!

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Herman’s Letter is the most recently published and my favourite of the three. It is beautiful in every way. It centres around two friends- Herman and Henry. They are the best of friends (notice a theme?) and when Henry has to move away they are determined to write to each other and stay friends forever. Alas, life is never quite that simple and Herman’s emotions get in the way of his letter writing. Time goes on and their friendship is tried and tested. But true friendship always wins in the end, and Herman embarks on a wintry adventure to reunite with Henry. Tom Percival’s trademark humour is evident throughout and his illustrations get better and better. In Herman he has melded the best of his illustration techniques and we have strong character and that luminous quality again. The lift-the-flap letters are a wonderful addition to a beautifully created book. I think this will end up being the first of many copies of this book that I buy. It’s going to make a delicious Christmas present!

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Source:
A Home for Mr Tipps – borrowed from my lovely local library.
Jack’s Amazing Shadow – kindly sent for review by Pavilion Children’s books.
Herman’s Letter – bought from my lovely local bookshop, Bags of Books.