Tag Archives: Bloomsbury

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? 

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.