Archive | Books about feelings RSS feed for this section

One Thing Stolen by Beth Kephart 

12 Apr

  This book is stunning. 

The cover is gorgeous and perfectly depicts the essence of the story- all hail Kristine Brogno. But the writing! The writing is like nothing I’ve ever read before. Think Sarah Crossan meets Jeanette Winterson. It is the book that I am still holding even though I’ve finished it. Because I can’t quite let it go yet. I’m not ready to move on to another. And when I do, it will be the next book by Kephart. Because, right now, it feels like nothing else will match up to the writing-made-new of One Thing Stolen.

I want you all to read this book, yet at the same time I’m so jealous that you’ll get to experience it for the first time. 

Something is not right with Nadia Cara. While spending a year in Florence, Italy, she’s become a thief. She has secrets. And when she tries to speak, the words seem far away. Nadia finds herself trapped by her own obsessions and following the trail of an elusive Italian boy whom only she has seen. Can Nadia be rescued or will she simply lose herself altogether? Set against the backdrop of a glimmering city, One Thing Stolen is an exploration of obsession, art and a rare neurological disorder. It is a celebration of language, beauty, imagination and the salvation of love.

The depiction of mental illness is artfully and truthfully done. As a reader you are enveloped in Nadia’s thoughts and her memories and her creations. Kephart understands the dislocation and portrays it perfectly with clipped sentences and poetic structure and the imagery throughout. Yet it feels universal. It encompasses teenage angst and awkwardness and self-doubt. This is a book that I would gift to teens and young adults to show them that they are not alone. That love and loss and the search for identity is painful but beautiful and ultimately worth it.

There are so many love stories in here. Besides the obvious girl meets boy (which is in no way written in an obvious way), there is the most beautiful celebration of  friendship that left me remembering the power of first loves and the emotional intensity of having a best friend in the world. Then there is the love of place; of history and architecture and all the memories and stories that knit together to create a city. And the love and stability and comfort of family. And, beautifully, a real ode to the power of creativity. 

This one is special.

You can order a copy here

Source – review copy kindly sent by Chronicle Kids 

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.

20141003-121539-44139101.jpg

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.

Binny for Short – Hilary McKay

26 Sep

Attention please…! You must all read this book:

20140926-114303.jpg

I am newly converted to Hilary McKay’s outstanding writing. She has such a gift for observation, understanding, warmth and wit in her writing. This is a book that feels like coming home.

‘Binny’s life has been difficult since her father died and her dreadful old Aunt Violet disposed of her beloved dog, Max. Her world changed then, to a city flat with not enough space for her Mum, her big sister Clem and her small brother James. Definitely no room for a pet.

Then one day Aunt Violet dies, leaving a small cottage in Cornwall to Binny and her family. Binny finds herself in a new world once more, full of sunshine and freedom and Gareth, the enemy-next-door and the ideal companion for dangerous dares. But Max is still lost in the past, and it seems impossible that she’ll ever find him again…’

Binny is a character that readers can aspire to be like. All of McKay’s characters are so beautifully realised that they jump from the page and follow you around. They get into your head and pull you in to their story, their lives. And then, without your realising it, your lives have become intertwined and you look up from the book, unsure as to what is real and what is written.

McKay is a truly gifted storyteller and she invites you inside the world of Binny and her family through a brilliantly delivered dual narrative. One layer tells the story of Binny and her new enemy, Gareth, as they attempt to pull out a huge barbed fishing net tangled amongst rocks.
The second layer provides the background, the family history and the build up to their mission.

McKay’s writing is pared down to perfection with sentences that surprise with their exactness:
‘For Binny it had happened the way some people become friends. Totally. Inevitable from the beginning, like the shape of a shell.
Only it wasn’t friends; it was enemies.
Binny had known at once that she was looking at her enemy, and the boy had known it too. The understanding was like a swift brightness between them.’

The best children’s writers can place themselves inside the mind of a child. They can remember and imagine what it feels like to be a child, the everyday thoughts, worries, dreams and actions. McKay has the fantastic ability to master this across a wide age range. James, six, is portrayed beautifully. His dreams and inspirations, his ideas and imagination feel plucked straight from the mind of a creative six year old boy. Binny is adventurous and headstrong and big sister Clem is full of determination and self belief, and McKay excels at Gareth’s anger and hurt, his fear and bravado.

McKay really *knows* children. She writes about the things that affect children and play on their minds. And that makes her books so perfect for child readers. They can see themselves in these books. They can read about characters believably going through the same experiences as them. And they can see these characters come out the other side, they can watch them develop and learn and grow alongside them. By including positive images of older children, teenagers and adults, McKay is filling her books with role models and inspiration. I can’t wait for Binny in Secret to be published so I can catch up with them all again

You can get your copy of Binny for Short here.

Try the Casson family stories too. The first book, Saffy’s Angel is stunning.

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

I want to see myself in my books – eczema/allergies/skin conditions

19 Sep

A dear friend asked me if I knew of any books that would help her 2 year old son understand his eczema and allergies, something to show him that he is not alone or ‘different’. He has severe allergies and as a family they are still learning what his triggers are and how best to deal with it all. It would really help him and his siblings if they could see him represented in books and understand that other children have the same problems.

So with a little help from my friends I pulled together this collection of beauties:

Hop a Little, Jump a Little by Child’s Play Books, illustrated by Annie Kubler.

20140905-130329.jpg

20140905-130341.jpg

I love this for its casual inclusion. It isn’t ‘about’ allergies or eczema, or children that are ‘different’. It is about very young children being children. But the pictures have such diversity and allow children to see themselves in their books. Children with allergies/skin conditions/birthmarks will recognise themselves in the picture above. The illustration shows bandages peeping out beneath clothing and red patches on skin, but it’s subtle. It allows children to recognise themselves in the illustration but it’s not what that child *is*. Brilliant!

Recycling! by Child’s Play, illustrated by Jess Stockham is part of the Helping Hands series.

20140919-105432.jpg
A brilliant series of inclusive books that blur the line between fiction and non fiction, the Helping Hands books use conversational text to explore tasks that children can help adults with as a natural extension of pretend play. They work beautifully as jumping boards for discussion and play and are perfectly pitched for inquisitive young children.

Recycling! shows twins helping with lots of different recycling tasks. The illustrations of the children are wonderfully gender neutral, allowing children to place themselves in the story. For my friend’s son there is an illustration of a child with eczema or a birthmark.

20140919-111939.jpg

Doctor is another Child’s Play book illustrated by Jess Stockham. This one is from the First Time series of books which, like the Helping Hands series, uses conversational text to explore experiences children will come across for the first time. In Doctor there is a double page spread showing a child with eczema.

20140919-114223.jpg

Casual inclusion is so important for children – that moment of recognition when they see themselves in their book and feel that sense of inclusion and of being valued. But books that are more overt and ‘about’ an issue can be helpful too, and are often sought after by adults trying to help a child’s understanding of an issue they are dealing with.

Emmy’s Eczema by Jack Hughes (Hachette) aims to fill this gap.

20140919-114917.jpg

Emmy has eczema, which makes her skin really itchy. She knows she shouldn’t scratch, but sometimes she just can’t help it. One day, she scratches so much she makes her skin really sore. Can her friends help her?

I think this book will help my friend’s son feel less alone and will also help his older sister. The dinosaurs have to work together to support Emmy and remind her not to scratch. They journey together to help her find the flowers to make a cream that relieves the itching. The sense of teamwork and support in this story is one that I’m sure will resonate with my friend and her family. I can imagine them all cuddling up to read it together and discussing how it relates to their own lives.

20140919-115815.jpg

For older children, The Peanut-Free Cafe by Gloria Koster and Maryann Cocca-Leffler is a fantastic book that celebrates difference and shows children adapting their daily routines to support a new classmate with a peanut allergy.

20140919-130216.jpg

Simon loves peanut butter. But Grant, the new kid at school, is allergic to it – he can’t even sit near anyone eating it. Grant sits all by himself at lunchtime until Simon comes up with a great idea: turn part of the cafeteria into “The Peanut-Free Cafe” and make it a fun place! Soon the other kids are leaving their peanut-butter sandwiches at home so they can eat in the cafe with Grant. But it’s not so easy for Simon. Can he give up his very favourite food?

Telling this story from the point of view of a classmate makes it a book that encourages awareness and support for children with peanut (and all) allergies. It also shows Simon – a very fussy eater – being brave and trying new foods so he can join the Peanut-Free Cafe and support his new friend. A great book for friends and families of children with allergies, this is a book that will work equally well in the classroom.

Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School by David Mackintosh (HarperCollins) is another picture book that celebrates difference.

20140919-124558.jpg
Marshall Armstrong is new to the school. He looks different, he acts differently and he eats different food. But it doesn’t take long for Marshall to prove that you don’t have to follow the crowd to be the most popular kid in the playground. When he invites the children from his class to his house for a party, they learn that Marshall Armstrong is fun and friendly and they have a great time trying new things.

A quirky and humorous book that celebrates the differences that make us unique, Marshall Armstrong will bring a smile to anyone who feels a bit different.

Thank you to everyone who made suggestions and pointed me in the right direction. If anyone has any more recommendations, please do add them in the comments below – we’d love to hear your ideas!

UPDATE
It’s working!!!!!

20140923-202208.jpg

Source – all copies bought from these lovely people:
Child’s Play
Letterbox Library
Hive stores

Your Hand in My Hand

11 Sep

Your Hand in My Hand by Mark Sperring and Britta Teckentrup is deliciously scrummy! I wish I could photograph every page and share the delightful illustrations with you. Or pop round to every single one of your homes to give you a look. Instead, I’ll share a glimpse and you can all go out and find a copy to coo over and stroke a bit.

20140911-130254-46974559.jpg

Your Hand in My Hand takes the reader for a lyrical stroll through the seasons, following these two loveable mice.

20140911-130255-46975443.jpg

Each double spread shows them sharing the wonders of nature and enjoying their time together, dancing along a path, gazing in wonder at rainbows, cuddling up together against the cold. These are illustrations sure to tug on parental heart-strings everywhere. They perfectly describe the closeness and shared wonder of the adult/child relationship.

20140911-134439-49479305.jpg
Wearing just a red scarf, the adult mouse could represent any adult of any gender, making this book representative of any adult/child relationship and relevant to any family set up. Hurrah!

Mark Sperring’s text is a gentle joy matched perfectly with Britta Teckentrup’s contemporary art. This is a book that will continue to please with so much to point out and share in the illustrations. A wonderful cuddle-up-together story, Your Hand in My Hand is an absolute delight.

I’m going to be passing this on to a mum-to-be who is preparing for her own hand in hand adventures.
You can buy your copy here.

Source: kindly sent for review by Orchard Books.

Mine! A sharing story

22 Jul

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

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

20140716-133657.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deceptively simple, yet very clever stuff. Bravo!

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

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

Source: Kindly sent for review by Orchard Books.

Worries Go Away by Kes Gray and Lee Wildish

10 Jul

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

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

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

20140709-133438.jpg

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

20140709-132006.jpg

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

20140709-133006.jpg

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

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

Welcome to the Family

9 Jul

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

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

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

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

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

20140709-120621.jpg

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

20140709-114447.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

Simon and Gaspard

23 Jun

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

20140707-120533.jpg

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

20140707-120916.jpg

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

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

20140707-120428.jpg

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

20140707-121357.jpg

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

Looking forward for a future

13 May

The Duck and the Darklings by Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King is a beautiful book that had me entirely enthralled. I was captivated by its use of language and the stunning design.

20140513-132159.jpg

The Duck and the Darklings tells the story of Peterboy and Grandpapa who live underground in a community of Darklings. They live underground because the world above them has been ruined and destroyed. Everyone but Grandpapa has forgotten what the earth had once been like. One day, when Peterboy is searching in the finding fields he comes across an Idaduck. He takes her back to Grandpapa who heals her wings but cannot stop her wanderlust. The Idaduck reminds Grandpapa of what the earth used to be and he tells stories of the long-ago. But his tales can’t stop her longing and instead they decide to throw a ‘fine and fitting fare-thee-well’ for Idaduck. They dance and sing until night ends and, to their surprise, the sun rises and they see the start of the most wondrous day.

The language is filled with idiom and childlike imagination and is brilliantly reminiscent of traditional oral storytelling. It has a beautiful rhythm that lends itself to reading aloud.

‘Over heaps and hummocks of lost and lonely things they clambered, gathering fiddlesticks for firewood, filling billies with trickle and seeking crumbs of comfort to take home.’
‘There are holes in the dark, Grandpapa, and light leaks through! It slides down the steeps, puddles in the deeps and glimmers on the trickle.’

20140513-131709.jpg

The illustration and design is fantastic. Brilliant use of dark and light, line and colour and gorgeous multicoloured typeface. This is a wonderful example of the text and the illustration working together to create more than the sum of their parts.

Full of touching relationships, gentle wonder and hope, The Duck and the Darklings celebrates the power of stories and imagination and the importance of memories and hope. It is also a fantastic book to use with children who are learning about the environment and climate change. It opens up some interesting questions without being didactic.

I can’t tell you how delicious this book is! But I can tell you that you can order a copy through Hive here.

Source- kindly sent for review by Allen & Unwin Books