Archive | Inspiring the imagination 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 

Beautiful Birds

11 Mar

20150311-131231.jpg

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!

20150311-135300.jpg

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

20150311-113152.jpg

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!

20150311-101607.jpg

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

20150305-133430.jpg

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.
 

20150305-133535.jpg
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:

20150305-135717.jpg
and The Game of Tops and Tails where you can create your own precarious balancing acts.

20150305-135804.jpg

20150305-135847.jpg

Source: kindly sent for review by Phaidon Press.

Line Up, Please!

23 Oct

I love a picture book that beautifully and seamlessly brings together different genres. Line Up, Please! by Tomoko Ohmura (Gecko Press) is part counting book, part finding out book and part humourous story. It even includes a catchy game for families to play together. And all with fantastic design and illustration and a lovely surprise ending.

20140913-145702.jpg

Gecko Press specialises in publishing English versions of curiously good books from around the world by well-established authors and illustrators. Their books have already been successful in their own countries so you know you are in safe hands. This is certainly true of Line Up, Please!

The story, and the line, begins on the title page where the reader is encouraged to join in and see what everyone is waiting for. A frog is joining the line with the reader, labelled number 50. Turn the page and the fun begins with a line of animals gradually increasing in size and counting down in number, all labelled with their animal name and number. They are all chatting away and building anticipation. What is at the end of the line? As with any queue, the waiting causes problems and the animals start bickering and squashing up – with very good reason!

20141023-131453.jpg

The line counts down from 50 and finally the reason for the queue is revealed in a glorious gatefold spread that will delight children – it made me beam!

50 different animals to count and identify, lots to look at and learn and a ton of wit and smiles. This book will appeal to children young and old. The word game in the middle will catch the imagination of older children and is still keeping us entertained on car journeys weeks later.
This book is a real gem! Get your copy here.

Source – kindly sent for review by Gecko Press.

Shhh! A lift-the-flap book with a difference

21 Oct

We LOVE Keep Out! Bears About! by Sally Grindley and Peter Utton. It’s a brilliant concept which involves the children directly in the story – the narrator speaking are they sure they want to carry on? Are they brave enough to go through that dark wood, even if there might be bears? And all the children I have read it with relish the interaction.

Shhh! came first, first published in 1991, but we are very late to the party and have only recently discovered it.

20141020-162921-59361130.jpg

SHHH! You are about to enter a giant’s castle. Will you get through without waking the giant? Do you dare try?

Based on the familiar story of Jack and the Beanstalk, the narrator leads the reader through the castle, creeping past the characters from the story and peeping back to the previous page to check that they haven’t been disturbed.

20141020-161928-58768474.jpg

I love the illustrations, with tons of detail and magical things for children to spot. But the true joy of this book is the way it reinvents the way children respond to and interact with a book. It invites them in, right in to the story and the setting. It asks them to get involved and encourages them to play.

Repeated phrases, beautiful interaction and building of tension that leads to a squeal-worthy ending. What’s not to love?

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

Sloth Slept On by Frann Preston-Gannon

20 Oct

A group of children find a sloth snoring away in their garden. Not knowing what it is, they pile it into their wagon and set off to find out. Two of the children use their imagination to play out where the sloth could have appeared from, while the smallest looks to books to find out what the creature is and where it belongs. Once they have identified the sloth they need to send it home…

20141020-120240-43360954.jpg

This is a beautiful book that celebrates things close to my heart – children’s imaginations, the power of books, and the natural joy of animals.

Frann Preston-Gannon’s textured illustrations are just delicious. I love the sloth’s smiling sleepy face, the cracked paintwork for the trees and fences, and there’s something very loveable about these faces with their upturned noses and their squishy cheeks.

20141020-130029-46829723.jpg

She’s done a fantastic job of capturing childhood curiosity and adventure, and really celebrating their imagination and play. The hints hidden throughout the book suggesting where the sloth has come from, and the double page spread of sloth facts give the book an extra level of interaction. And the ending…the ending is delicious!

Sloth Sleeps On is also beautifully inclusive and gives more than a nod to equality. The children are wearing non-gender-stereotyped clothing and their imaginative play isn’t gendered. They ask Dad what he thinks but he is too busy cleaning. The other adult pictured is hidden behind a newspaper and is gender-neutral.

20141020-131956-47996932.jpg
I’m happy to see some diversity in the illustrations too- how refreshing to see children of colour in the book. These purposefully ambiguous characters leave it open to the reader, allowing them to find themselves in the book. This could be a family with two dads. It could be a foster family or family with adopted children. It could be a lot of different things because Frann Preston-Gannon has thought about diversity and thought about how children see themselves and their families in their books. Hurrah for her!

Source- kindly sent for review by the publisher, Pavilion Children’s Books.

Opal Plumstead by Jacqueline Wilson

24 Sep

I’m going to let you in on a secret… This is the first Jacqueline Wilson book I have ever read. Gasp! My year 6 book group were horrified when they found out, and spent a year howling at me and plying me with recommendations. Somehow I still remained a JW virgin until this book came along. But what a way to start! Tying in beautifully with the centenary of the Great War, this is Jacqueline Wilson’s 100th book. And it had me hooked from the very first page!

20140924-120659.jpg

Opal Plumstead is the Matilda for this generation. A book I wish had been available to me when I was growing up. I longed for a book like this where I could see characters who thought like me, and learn about a world I could be a part of. Books are such magical tools in this way – they show us who we are and who we could become. They inspire, comfort, open the mind and create hopes and dreams. Opal Plumstead offers the reader all of this, and more.

Opal Plumstead is a scholarship girl. She is always top of the class but wants more from life than the prescribed future of marriage or a career in teaching. She is intelligent, self aware and proud of her individuality and dreams of university. When her family’s circumstances change she is forced to leave her school and her dreams behind to work in a sweet factory. Opal has to take on new responsibilities and find her way in a world of older, more street-wise girls. But through this new working life Opal meets Mrs Roberts, the factory’s owner, and is whisked into the women’s rights movement, meeting Mrs Pankhurst and her fellow Suffragettes. Perhaps Opal will have a bright future ahead of her after all?

On one level Opal Plumstead does what the Enid Blyton books did for me as a child – introducing children to a whole new era of language and culture and history. But Opal Plumstead does so much more than describe a character in a historical setting. It introduces the reader to inequalities of the past in a highly accessible way, enabling them to compare their own lives and make connections with social and political situations in the world they live in now. Opal Plumstead‘s themes introduce the reader to feminism, the realities of poverty, injustice, corporate greed, the economic class system and social politics, as well as more domestic ideas such as the reversal of the parent/child relationship, the need for positive role models, unhappy adult relationships and a new generation’s hope to do things differently.

Opal Plumstead, along with her sister, Cassie, are fantastic characters for children to relate to and emulate. Readers will be able to find shared characteristics; see themselves and confirm who they are and who they could become. Opal feels misunderstood by her teachers and her family and longs to find a soulmate who she can share her dreams and ideas with. Opal and Cassie have strong self awareness and know who they respect (and who they don’t). Despite set backs and circumstances that are thrown at them, they stay true to their beliefs and follow their dreams with passion and integrity. As Cassie says, “I’m the heroine in my own life and I’ve got to live it the way I want”. Isn’t that what we hope for in any role model?

Opal Plumstead is a thoroughly enjoyable read with a storyline that had me in turns hiding behind my hands waiting for the inevitable disaster and sitting up into the small hours racing through to the end. But more than that, it’s an important book that will show a new generation of children that they can look at the world they live in and make it better.

I am officially converted. *orders 99 books*.

Published on 9/10/14 pre-order your copy here.

Source: kindly sent for review by Random House

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor

15 Sep

I am happy to be kicking off the blog tour for a book set to inspire the scientists and engineers of the future.
Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka and Brian Biggs is a force of nature. A whirlwind of a book that whips through story and science alike. It is a wonderful combination of fact and fiction with an engaging and adventurous storyline that carries the reader through – without realising they are learning much more than they would in science class.

20140912-120120.jpg

Frank Einstein loves figuring out how the world works by creating household contraptions that are part science, part imagination, and totally unusual. In Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor, after an uneventful experiment in his lab, a lightning storm and flash of electricity bring Frank’s inventions – the robots Klink and Klank – to life! Not exactly the ideal lab partners, the wisecracking Klink and the overly expressive Klank nonetheless help Frank attempt to perfect his Antimatter Motor . . . until Frank’s arch nemesis, T. Edison, steals Klink and Klank for his evil doomsday plan!

I love the way Scieszka and Biggs have included so much ‘actual real life science’ in a non-intrusive way. It is perfectly blended with energy and humour, the perfect combination for inspiring children and encouraging them to question the way things work and how they, too, can experiment with science. The illustrations and labelled diagrams, the zany adventures, the explanations of scientific terms and random science jokes at the end of the book- all add together to create a highly entertaining manual for the scientists and engineers of the future.

Frank Einstein is a book that will catch children’s attention. Frank is a character bursting with ideas and passion. He wants to ‘master all science’. He says; ‘The word comes from the Latin for knowledge. We want all science. All knowledge.’ He proceeds to excitedly pace around the room, classifying science and creating a six point plan of research that covers matter, energy, humans, life, the earth and the universe.
Now *that* is passion! That is ambition and a thirst for knowledge! Imagine what he could achieve if he had a lab team that matched his passion and knowledge….

The lab dream team
Frank Einstein – chosen for his wide-ranging scientific knowledge, his ambition and thirst for learning.
Aristotle – He was, essentially, the first scientist and, as Frank Einstein’s inspiration, deserves his place at the lab bench.
Hermione Granger – her bravery and determination, intelligence and exemplary research skills make her the perfect choice.
E. Lilian Todd – the designer of the first airplane at a time when female engineers were unheard of, Todd would give the group the level-headed focus and inspiration to succeed against the odds.
Mortimer Keene – quite a character, but one that matches Frank’s energy and ambition with an added dose of cunning and mild peril.
Rosie Revere – all good teams should be supporting the next generation. Rosie’s ambition and engineering dreams make her the perfect addition.

Who would you include in your lab dream team?!

Jon Scieszka will be in the UK on a national tour in October – with events at Bath and Cheltenham Literature Festival, plus a panel discussion with Louise Rennison and Jim Smith at Waterstones Piccadilly, an event at Seven Stories and a range of school and library events.

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor is out now and you can buy your copy here.

You can follow the blog tour and see what Frank has inspired over at Wondrous Reads tomorrow.

20140912-115926.jpg

Rosie Revere, Engineer

12 Sep

Hurrah!!!! A book that shows a female engineer! In fact, Rosie Revere, Engineer (Abrams) provides two stonkingly good role models for children and celebrates the history of women engineers and aviation pioneers. Shortlisted for the Little Rebels award 2014, it is a book that has the potential to empower children and change their future.

Shy Rosie Revere dreams of becoming an engineer. She collects treasures for her engineer’s stash and alone in her room she creates gadgets and machines from all her broken bits and pieces. Worried about being laughed at and failing, Rosie keeps her inventions to herself. Until great-great-aunt Rose comes to stay.

20140912-123257.jpg

Great-great-aunt Rose built planes during the war and inspires Rosie to invent something bigger and more daring than ever before.

20140912-124921.jpg

By handing down her notebook of role models throughout history, and sharing that all-important life lesson of persistence, Great-great-aunt Rose teaches Rosie (and the reader) to always follow dreams and never give up.

20140912-123810.jpg

Andrea Beaty’s inspirational story full of diverse characters, positive role models and stereotype-squashing, is matched perfectly with David Roberts’ absolutely gorgeous illustrations. This book deserves to become a feminist modern classic.

Imagine a young girl who is fascinated by science and loves to design and invent and create. Imagine this book in her hands. Empowering, much?? In a world where gender stereotyping is still sadly rife, young children need all the positive role models and gender-stereotype-free messages that they can get. Bravo to all behind Rosie Revere, Engineer!

As an added bonus, the hardback copy reveals this under the dust jacket. Beautiful!

20140912-125335.jpg

Source – bought from Letterbox Library to inspire and empower my own little engineer. You can get your copy here