Tag Archives: creativity

the stars at oktober bend by Glenda Millard

14 Mar

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Beginning Woods

7 Oct


Oh this book! This book, this book. I almost want to leave the review there. Because how to tell you about this book?

The Beginning Woods by Malcolm McNeill (Pushkin Children’s Books)

The Vanishings started without warning. People disappearing into thin air – just piles of clothes left behind. Each day, thousands gone without a trace. Max was abandoned in a bookshop and grows up haunted by memories of his parents. Only he can solve the mystery of the Vanishings. To find the answers, Max must leave this world and enter the Beginning Woods.

This is a book that is deep and rich and layered. It explores that messy grey area where science and imagination collide and overlap. It looks at what it means to be human, what it means to live. The power of creativity and storytelling is here. The divisive fear of Other is here. It is a book that is far bigger than it appears to be, with whisperings of the past and the feel of an instant classic. It is beautiful. I wanted to both devour it and savour each word.

Did I mention it is Malcolm McNeill’s debut?

Zoe at Playingbythebook has written a wonderful interview with him here.

You can grab your copy of The Beginning Woods here.

Source – purchased copy.

Following My Paintbrush with Tara Books

20 Jan

I am just a tiny bit in love with Tara Books. I like to look through their catalogue and dream about having a Tara Books-case, specifically for their books. It’s a good job I have the PDF catalogue and not a paper copy – it gets a bit dribbly!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Tara Books, they are an independent co-operative publisher of picture books – for children and adults. Based in Chennai, South India they have been running for 20 years and have a passion for beautiful books that mean something. Tara Books is an ethical collective full of passion and integrity and dedication to design and the artistic communities of India. They excite me! I believe in them! Their books are beautiful, diverse, feminist, inclusive, inspiring…. I could go on! Instead I’ll quote their catalogue:

“We are unabashedly interested in the form of the book. We are also keen to explore the quirky pleasures of reading, and to genuinely change the perspectives from which stories are told. We collaborate with unusual talent from unlikely places – often bringing artists and art traditions into the form of the book for the first time. In doing so, we ensure that our books reflect the richness and breadth of India in a very specific way.”
What’s not to love??

It feels refreshing and exciting to come across a publisher that believes so strongly in the form of the book and in creating art with and within its community. I love that they make genuinely handmade books, they use handmade paper and non toxic inks and that any misprinted books are recycled into notebooks called Flukebooks (which will be top of my birthday list this year!). They are “nurturing the physical form of the book in an age that is busy writing its obituary.” Beautiful!

Tara Books are passionate about indigenous tribal and folk art in India and work closely with varied communities to give these artists a voice and a platform to shine from.

Following My Paintbrush is the story of Dulari Devi, a domestic helper who, while working in an artist’s house, discovered her creativity and learned to paint in the Mithila style of folk painting. In the book, Dulari tells her own story and illustrates it with her paintings. The text is based on her own oral narrative and is therefore hugely accessible, immediately drawing the reader in.


Dulari tells the story of her childhood, her work and the seeds of her creativity. She tells of going to work at a new house and finding that it belonged to an artist who agreed to teach her to paint. Dulari had to start at the very beginning as she had never been to school or learnt how to hold a pencil or paintbrush. But she worked hard and her passion for her art shines through as she follows her paintbrush and paints her life. I love that the paintings develop subtly from re-imagining her childhood to painting herself as an artist in her own pictures. Following My Paintbrush is immediate and engaging and a wonderfully positive story about following your dreams – without a prince or a fortune in sight.

A beautiful way to inspire children and introduce them to art from other cultures, Following My Paintbrush is stunning.

Source: kindly sent for review by Tara Books

The Cloud by Hannah Cumming

26 Mar


The Cloud was Hannah Cumming’s debut picture book in 2010. It’s a stunner and she has since released The Lost Stars and The Red Boat. Seek them out, for I am sure they will please you greatly!

The Cloud sees a happy group of children all enjoying their art class. All, that is, except one little girl who sits by herself, draws nothing and seems to have a cloud above her head.
A classmate wants to be friends and heads over for a chat.


When that doesn’t work she tries to build a friendship through drawing together. Creativity and persistence win and soon the girls are both smiling and the whole class is drawing together.

This is a smart book about the power of creativity and friendship, great for children learning about feelings and supporting others.

There are loads of nice touches to this book. At the start the room is dull and grey with clouds and rain at the window. As we progress through and the children become happy inside, the rain clears and the weather and light in the room reflects the children’s emotions. The use of the cloud is wonderful and children will love to point out and talk about all the split drawings in the book. I am particularly fond of the EleBee.


I love the children’s creative freedom. In their art class they are allowed to splodge paint about, stomp in it, roll it, explore it. They are seemingly left to their own devices to explore and create. How very refreshing. It’s lovely to find a book showing children enjoying art and celebrating the healing power of creativity.

A special hurrah for the inclusiveness of the book. The illustrations show boys and girls of various nationalities, as well as showing a child using a mobility aid. The joy is that these are all incidental images, they are just there in the story blending in rather than being pointed out as if ticking a box for diversity. Well done, Hannah! A joy to read and explore together and a wonderful resource for helping children learn the importance of creativity and friendship.

Published by Child’sPlay in 2010.
Source: Our bookshelves.