Saturday, 26 October 2013

Half Term Shenanigans!

Half term has arrived and with it the promise of weather that makes you want to curl up and stay indoors or jet off for some Autumnal sun, whichever your choice be sure that you have a good book or tow, perhaps even three to see you through the week.  I have…

In fact I have a very large pile, books from picture books through to YA and even adult along with some non-fiction for good measure – cooking and crafting that I will be reporting on in the Winter edition of the magazine which will be here before we know it!

So back to the fiction, I am sure and I hope that you are wondering what is in my pile?  Well let’s start with the YA and work down.

For older teens there is some truly excellent reading material available.  I recently discovered Sarah J. Maas.  An evening at Bloomsbury to mark not only the publication of her novels but a rare visit to the UK put copies of books 1 and 2 - Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight - into my hands and had me enthralled by their mix of fantasy and reality, the blurred lines of love and loathing, the thrill of the assassin, the fear of the dangers presented by some real threats and above all else the fluidity of the writing, I was gripped and I am sure many of my readers will be too.  I must now admit that I don’t read as much YA and teen fiction as I should – partly from working in a prep school and not necessarily having the time to fit it in with all the younger fiction I need to read!

However I have enjoyed another series, or again the first two books in, this one
by Maureen Johnson (Suite Scarlett, Hot Key Books) who again I was lucky enough to meet, this time at an event at Waterstones Piccadilly where she shared the stage with James Dawson (this is the subject of another Blog to follow soon).  Maureen’s books are unashamedly teen stories are great for those who love the nitty gritty of teen romantic angst, family trials and tribulations and some great, down-to-earth story telling that they can relate easily to.  

Finally for teens a book for the Christmas list.  The One Safe Place by Tania Unsworth (Orion) is not published until January 2nd but is a book that will be well worth the wait.  The mysterious Gabriel H Penn Home for Childhood looks like the answer to the prayers of the street children, offering a roof, safety and food.  However looks can deceive as Devin and his friends are about to discover, will they find a safe way out or be trapped forever in a very disconcerting fairytale life?  Suspenseful and full of adventure, a book to wait for and then devour!

Now to those younger readers who need to get their teeth into something fun for half term holidays.  My reading pile has been particularly extensive where these readers are concerned with something for the various ages and both genders too.  Rainbow Beauty: Blueberry Wishes by Kelly McKain (Usborne) is the third book in the Rainbow Beauty series and takes us back to the Rainbow Beauty Parlour where things are looking up for Abbie and her family or are they, will competition and a celebrity mean a its all change for the girls?  

On a completely different note we take to the high seas, or at least would like to, with Hilary Westfield.  Wannabe pirate Hilary is about to be sent off to Miss Pimm’s Finishing School, having been rejected by the Very Nearly Honourable League of Pirates but she has very strong views and a determined plan.  If you love swashbuckling adventure, the thrills and spills of a pirate life then this is most certainly going to be a book you will love so look out for Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson (Simon and Schuster).  Not satisfied yet?  Not yet found something for this half term holiday reading, well as Halloween features in this holiday why not consider something spooking and ghoulish?  

William Alexander author of the brilliantly narrated and cleverly conceived Goblin Secrets has once again put pen to paper for a companion title.  Ghoulish Song (Much-In-Little) begins ominously with the last day of Kalie’s life, it then becomes more upbeat before we discover that without her shadow Kalie will die but not be dead.  Making sense?  It will when you start to read and learn how Kalie and her shadow must conquer a certain flute and a band of travelling goblins to save themselves and Zombay too.  

If you love this then you will also love the next Sesame Seade mystery Gargoyles Gone AWOL by Clemetine Beauvais (HodderChildrens) finds Sesame and her friends on the trail of the mysteriously disappearing gargoyles in Cambridge University – can Seasame’s detective skills solve the crime or will the mysterious new arrival and the strange footprints continue to baffle?  Get your sleuthing hat on and get ready for a great detective adventure with lots of laughs!

Now to those picture books which I also mentioned I have been reading and two of my very favourite authors have delivered some fantastic reading for the youngest of my readers this half term (and any older ones who just can't get enough of gorgeous books).  
The first comes from Debi Gliori Dragon Loves Penguin (Bloomsbury) is a charming story showing how the most unlikely of pairings can be the best.  Touching, clever, amusing and delightfully illustrated in a new style - for the author who has turned to charcoal and loose watercolour, this book is not only stunning to look at but a sheer delight to read.  Children and adults alike will love the story of a lonely egg and a mummy figure.  

If your little one is scared of monsters then Debi Gliori's book will soothe them, Adam Stower's Troll and the Oliver (Templar Publishing) may at first scare them until they realise that this is a story all about the troll who tries to eat Oliver but never manages to for Oliver is just too fast and too clever ... until one day ... but that would give away the story.  Suffice to say there is a happy ending and children will love this book, once again a great story and stunning illustration combine to make a book to add to the every growing collection of bedtime and anytime stories.  Two perfect picture books to round off a fantastic selection of half term reading choices!

Monday, 7 October 2013

Picture Books Galore

Its a fabulous time for picture books, they have been finding their way to my desk in vast quantities recently which has been lovely for not only are they always a delight to read they are a delight to recommend too!

Following a wonderful event with Scholastic Books at Daunt Books on Holland Park recently where we celebrated the launch of Cerrie Burnell's charming story, Snowflakes, illustrated by Laura Ellen Andersen a story about a mixed race family, it has been lovely to read Look Back! by Trish Cook, illustrated by Caroline Binch and published by Papillote Press.  This small independent publisher has taken on a big book - one that is magical and one that celebrates other cultures, in this instance the Caribbean culture.  In the story the reader is treated to a tale of magic adventure in the rainforest but is not quite sure whether the story is all in a grandmother's imagination or a true adventure.  Does it really matter?  probably not for the adventure takes us on a glorious journey through brightly coloured
foresty jungle and into the heart of storytelling.

A very different but equally colourful book comes from Tor Freeman.  The Toucan Brothers, published by Macmillan finds the intrepid plumbing brothers- Sammy and Paul - vying for business when a new plumber arrives in town.  The biggest problem however is not the competition but the fact that the new plumber is just no good!  Can Sammy and Paul save their reputation and their town?  A brilliant story with rhyming text making it perfect for reading aloud and pictures that just add so much to the words ...

Next it is back to grandparents with the charming How to Babysit a Grandad by Jean Reagan, illustrated by Lee Wildish, published by Hodder.  Filled with instructions for how to look after your granddad in the best possible way this will have children, parents and grandparents giggling as they discover that entertaining consists of somersaults, scary plays and muscles whilst drawing means pirate-shark battles and puddle pictures!  Remember to clear up all the mess and that when it is time for goodbye you need to check when they are coming again - utterly charming!

Of course we all love our parents and grandparents and quite often our brothers and sisters too but for anyone in any doubt I Love You by Giles Andreae and illustrated by Emma Dodd should help...  Here is a celebration of love, an exploration of everything in the world of a child that they may love - ice cream, puppies, teddies and more,  Funny, lively, rhyming and just gorgeous!

Of course sometimes children are not wonderfully charming, they don't always clean up their mess and of course it was not them that made it in the first place - it was the gorilla!  Ding Dong Gorilla by Michelle Robinson, illustrated by Leonie Lord , published by Orchard Books, is a wonderfully messy celebration of the imagination of a child - what happens when you answer the door to a gorilla- mischief and mayhem of course.  Hilariously funny and anarchic picture book with cheeky illustration too!

Last but by no means least I will leave you with a question, posed by Alison Green and deftly illustrated by Adam Stower - What Can You Stack on the Back of a Yak? I most certainly don't want to spoil the surprise but can assure you that you will be amazed and will enjoy the surprise when you turn every page ...

A wonderful selection of picture books, really and truly offering something for everyone, the child, parent and grandparent, lots of laughs a riot of colour and the beginning of a great reading adventure!