Archive for March, 2010

This week, Bloomsbury unveiled new editions of the Harry Potter series due to be published November 2010…just in time for Christmas.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's StoneHarry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets9781408810569RGB230.jpg







 Harry Potter and the Goblet of FireHarry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixHarry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows





     So what do we all think of them?

Personally I like them; I’m not sure who is left in the world without a copy of Harry Potter but I’m sure they will do well for those looking for collectors editions and for children growing up and yet to discover the vast world of Harry Potter. Available exclusively in paperback, these new editions take on a new level of maturity thanks to illustrator Clare Melinksy.

Named the Signature editions the books look set to do well as the illustrations give the cover a new level of symbolism, and fresh excitement for the timeless classics.

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This is a beautiful, haunting picture book which will captivate all your senses and let you experience all levels of emotion. It is a wordless picture book and has the rare quality of saying much more by not having any words.

This works so well because we get to empathise with this immigrant’s world. He does not understand a word any of us are saying and so we get to share that same feeling. Nothing can be demonstrated, no feelings can be shared and yet Tan achieves the impossible and we get to know this man, more than we might a vocal character in a novel.

Shaun Tan has caught my eye recently and I’m really excited about looking at his other books such as ‘The Lost Thing’ and ‘Tales from Outer Suburbia’. His illustrations are not typical of a young child’s picture book, and for that reason I recommend this picture book for older children 7+ and adults alike. His sketch-like illustrations and subtle in their evocation of meaning and yet so much is depicted in one illustration and lets us in to this lonely characters life.

The illustrations follow an immigrant in a new city as he travels to find a new life. Alone and scared; the reader is given that rare opportunity into someone’s feelings and we see the ‘immigrant’ in a new light. We share his sadness and joy throughout and it’s a very rare and spectacular thing to see such a range of emotion through illustrations.

From this page above we know exactly what is going on. Following the illustrations in a sequence, we see a foreign map, a man struggling to read a foreign map, a man alone struggling to read a foreign map, a man alone in a large, intimidating city struggling to read a foreign map. It’s just a masterful piece of work and I couldn’t sing its praises anymore. If you come back from the book feeling empty, perhaps you were meant to; you were meant to feel the emptiness the immigrant is feeling. If you come away joyful and uplifted; you were meant to do that too.

Some have described Tan’s work as surrealist, as a graphic novel and after reading Art Spiegelman’s review, we might even liken ‘The Arrival’ to his ‘Maus’ work in a sketchboard like format. However you may interpret the book, I can say wholeheartedly it is an outstanding piece of artwork and of literature in its most imaginative format. Stunning. I’m very excited to discover the rest of Tan’s work and will be running a feature on his books in the current weeks.

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I have always been quite evangelical of my love of book illustrations and for children’s book, I believe they are integral to the story and can complement a book so well and take it to the next level in a child’s reading experience.

Last week over at http://www.blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/ they featured an interview with the wonderful Oliver Jeffers and I have been inspired to look at his and other work more. And for that reason, Oliver Jeffers is the first to feature in my #Tuesday Choosings.

1. Oliver Jeffers is author and illustrator to ‘Lost and Found’, ‘The Great Paper Caper’, ‘How to Catch a Star’, ‘The Way Back Home’ and ‘The Incredible Book Eating Boy’.

The first book I read of his was ‘Lost and Found’ and I subsequently watched the 30 minutes animation which was shown during Christmas 2008 and it really captured the essence of the story. The picture book has a haunting silence to it in which the characters speak through the illustrations. The friendship felt between the young boy and the lost penguin who arrives on his doorstep is immediate even if the boy does not realise this himself.

Each of Jeffers’ books have a sense of humour and it feels like he is letting us into his own personal scrapbook of ideas rather than a composed book. There’s an important element of whimsy which underlies the beautiful tales and often important messages. A talented writer and illustrator who evokes such emotion, I can’t wait for what comes next.

Visit his website at http://www.oliverjeffers.com

2. Quentin Blake- An obvious choice perhaps but worthy of being on this list. He brought such joy to my reading when I was younger and I have wallowed in rediscovering his work at an older age.

Quentin Blake is best known for his affiliation with author Roald Dahl, illustrating for books such as ‘James and the Giant Peach,’ The BFG’, ‘George’s Marvellous Medicine’ – (my favourite) and ‘Matilda’. Today, Dahl’s writing goes hand in hand with Blake’s illustrations and we just couldn’t have it any way. No other illustrator has had such an influence on children’s books and I love just how passionate Blake is about his work and subsequently, how much joy he brings to a child’s reading experience. Visit his site http://www.quentinblake.com

3. Judith Kerr brings so much happiness to so many people. Author of the ‘Mog the cat’ books and ‘The Tiger who came to tea’ her writing and illustrations are simple; traditional and most importantly, familiar.

I’ve fallen back in love with the Mog books recently. I think it has something to do with me getting nostalgic about my cats Rolo and Scrumpy. The premise of the Mog books is simple; a cat and her family. Mog is a forgetful cat, she can be scared, she can be lazy and she can be silly, but she’s loyal, often saves the day and brings the family together. No more “Bother that cat!” Judith Kerr is also wrote her biography ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’ and this tale of her childhood is now considered a classic educational book alongside Anne Frank. Judith Kerr is a wonderful, wonderful woman who through her simple, childlike illustrations (and I mean that in the highest compliment possible) brings a sense of family to every childs life. After reading each Mog book, I want to be part of that family and that’s just a great thing. Or, at the very least I go and find my cats and give them a big cuddle.

4. You can probably all see right through me- another author/illustrator whose stories are based on families. Well yes, I relish the family dynamic but also recognise the importance of representation to a child.

Jill Murphy had to feature on here, she was my inspiration for this blog which is aptly named after one of her ‘Large’ family books ‘Five Minutes Peace’. As I grew up my picture books were stored away in the roof to make room for new ones, so for a large part  I forgot all about them. Then I started working as a bookseller; bad for my bank balance, great for my memories. I saw this book sitting on the bookshelf and there was the undenying feeling of nostalgia and happiness. I love that a book can just take us back. That is a sign of a good book, when it evokes feelings, when you get a response from it. Jil Murphy is quite diverse in her illustration style as she is also the author of the ‘Worst Witch’ series, another favourite of mine and one of the few ‘series’ which I stuck with. The sketchy black and white style of these illustrations work well with the hap-hazard character of Mildred.

5. Who knew the tales of a little girl and a blue kangaroo could be so successful? Emma Chichester-Clark has charmed the nation with her beautiful illustrative work.

Emma Chichester-Clark has also recently illustrated a new picture book edition of Alice in Wonderland. Her illustrations in all her books are rich and diverse with colour. Emma attended the Chelsea School of Art and the Royal College of Art where she was taught by Quentin Blake. Emma’s career has spanned many years and yet her style has unwavered because of its timeless ability to capture a child’s imagination. The simple character of Lilly is innocent and takes you back to a time where you sat in your room and had  favourite toy. Mine was a little hedgehog called harry. Lily’s is a kangaroo called Blue.


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‘Stones into Schools’ by Greg Mortenson

Greg Mortenson is the author of Three Cups of Tea and this new book picks up where the first left off. I’m so glad Mortenson has continued his writing but with the overwhelming success of Three Cups of Tea, i’m not surprised. He has been an inspiration to me for his relentless work and unwavering ethic for hard work.

‘Stones into Schools’ is a personal account of Greg’s missions to educate the children of Afghanistan; particularly girls, through building schools and specific literacy plans. Quite frankly, Mortenson is a selfless man and I’m quite ashamed at how naive I am to the plight of these children who, through no fault of their own have no access to education and without Greg’s help would have gone on to live uneducated and worthless lives.

Through his overwhelming desire for change and his heartfelt attitude towards everyone he met, Greg did change the world and actually made it a little bit better.

If you haven’t read Three Cups of Tea, do so; it’s quite integral to this new story and will give you a little understanding towards Greg’s feelings. However there is a little recap of the original story at the front of this book.

Written in first person narrative, the book is undoubtedly inspirational but it’s not without its politics and terrifying moments including a kidnapping by the Taliban which shows just how much Greg risked for these children. 

This book will show us that change is tangible, it’s right there if we make the effort, but it also highlights the ongoing problems and abhorrent situations some of these children and indeed adults are in and we must continue on a path of change, because without education we cannot evolve, let alone survive and I wholeheartedly agree that every child in this world is entitled to an education. Why can one child be taught about how the universe was created and not another? Each child, like ourselves has the chance to change the world, but we are responsible for giving them that opportunity through our own existing wealth of knowledge and indeed, our wealth.

Read this book, be inspired, never forget how priviledged some children are and how reading and literacy skills are fundamental to our society and growth. A truly heartwarming, terrifying and shocking book.

Greg Mortenson is my hero and I think it’s safe to assume he is the hero of a lot of people out in Afghanistan. Who is yours?

ISBN:  9780141047140

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Jasper Jones (paperback) by Craig Silvey










Jasper Jones has come to my window.
I don’t know why, but he has. Maybe he’s in trouble. Maybe he doesn’t have anywhere else to go.

Interested? Captivated? I am. This book is being sent to me from Windmill Books and I can’t wait to read it.

http://www.windmill-books.co.uk/index.php/books/?ean=9780099537540 Windmill Books describes it as:

Late on a hot summer night at the tail end of 1965, Charlie Bucktin, a precocious and bookish boy of thirteen, is startled by a knock on his window. His visitor is Jasper Jones. Rebellious, mixed-race and solitary, Jasper is a distant figure of danger and intrigue for Charlie. So when Jasper begs for his help, Charlie eagerly steals into the night by his side, terribly afraid but desperate to impress.

Jasper takes him to his secret glade in the bush, and it is here that Charlie bears witness to a horrible discovery. In this simmering summer where everything changes, Charlie learns to discern the truth from the myth.

By turns heartbreaking, hilarious, tender and wise, Jasper Jones is a novel to treasure.

I’ll be writing an in-depth review of this book, without giving too much away so keep an eye out for it. This book seems to be in similar nature and style of ‘Tender Morsels’ and ‘Love, Aubrey’ so I am interested to read how the author deals with the issues raised.

ISBN: 9780099537540

Published 29th April 2010

Windmill Books.

Just a short post this week for #mailbox monday as I have a lot of other books on my to be read pile previously.

Mailbox Monday is hosted by http://printedpage.us/

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Continuing from my earlier post I have found this great book which charts the developments of children’s illustration. Dilys Evans founded the New York Original Art exhibition which featured the work of children’s illustrators from that past year. This box, in a similar light looks at 12 contemporary illustrators and explores their styles and interprets their work in an informed yet readable way.

If anyone has an interest in children’s books or is interested in becoming an illustrator; this is a great book to start with and it is fascinating to delve into the lives of the illustrator and see what inspires them.

I have some favourite illustrators of recent years in cluding Emily Gravett (The Rabbit Problem, Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears) and Oliver Jeffers (Lost and Found). You can find a great interview with Oliver Jeffers over at  http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=1910 The interview is a great insight into Jeffers and his work and is done in a similar way to this book. Jeffers has a moustache to be marvelled at!

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Since featuring the ‘Penguin by Design’ cover book in my #Mailbox Monday last week I have become a little…obsessed with looking at the designs and evolution of book covers and set my sights on children’s book design. I have made it clear how important I think illustrations are to the story being told and a book cover is no exception.

The best book I have found is an out of print hardback copy of

Children’s Book Covers: Great Book Jacket and Cover Design (Hardcover)

by Alan Powers. It is still available second hand on various websites and Amazon lets you have a look inside the book.

Powers chronologically follows over 100 years of children’s publishing in the UK and United States. it is fascinating to see what has stood the test of time and what influences our books today. There are colourful illustrations throughout; I should think so too!

There are over 400 books featured in here apparently and charts the influential titles from the Moomin’s to the undisputed Harry Potter. A great anthology for children’s book lovers.

ISBN: 9781840006933

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It’s that time again…



The book blogger hop is hosted by jennifer over at www.crazy-for-books.com and is a weekly meme where bloggers sign up to her site every week and hop away to find new bloggers. Each blogger who signs up lets people know what sort of books they review so it’s easy to find fellow bloggers. It’s great fun and a friendly atmosphere.

I have adapted this a little and chosen five of my favourite blogs of the week and from the hop and feature them on my blog. Here are my five for the week:

1. Pixie Stix Kids Pix

          http://pixiestixkidspix.wordpress.com/ The owner of this blog is a professional in the children’s book industry so knows there stuff. There most recent post is a commentary on children’s publishing in the digital age- well informed.

2. Silly Little Game Called Life

           http://sillylittlegame.blogspot.com/ Now I don’t just recommend this blogger because she gave me a blog award last week. On closer inspection this is a great blog reviewing mostly paranormal/fiction. A diverse site.

3. Smitten with Books

          http://www.smittenwithbooks.blogspot.com/ An informed blog reviewing young adult fiction and if you have been following my posts you will know the subject of this genre has been of great interest to me lately.

4. Reader Buzz

          http://readerbuzz.blogspot.com/2010/03/book-blogger-hop-say-hello.html Drew my attention for her reviews of picture books, be sure to check her out.

5. Tales of Whimsy

           http://www.talesofwhimsy.com/ A clear and well laid out blog. reviews a range of books and is also niche through the christian chick lit reviews.

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Following on from my post last night about the state of young adult fiction, I have chosen my two favourite young adult fiction books for 2010 so far. I’ve chosen books which have a real commentary about them and will challenge the young reader in some way; to deal with emotions they are unfamiliar with, to ask them what they would do.

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan (hardback)

This is a truly stunning book, it overwhelmed me. The story is actually a re-working of Grimm’s Snow White and Rose Red (I knew there was a reason I was drawn to it). Don’t be deterred by the size of this hardback, it is so worth your time. The story follows Liga who at a young age experienced things no child should have to and grew up in an unhappy home. One day, she is given the security of a safe place to bring up her children where no one can hurt them and they can live in the knowledge that their safety is certain. This security cannot last forever and Liga and her children must learn to face reality with the hindsight of knowing what peace and security once felt like. Perhaps it is this knowledge, that love is paramount to a families survival that will get them through.

What is most extraordinary about this book is that the author has used the magical/paranormal aspect of the story in such a positive way. Lanagan has recognised the potency of the paranormal genre right now and used this to her advantage to tell the reader that whilst is is whimsical and inspiring, magic can’t always save us and sometimes with the horrible things we face in life, we have to look them in the eye and use everything we have in our hearts us through. For Liga, living in a violent world was too much to handle and yet so was the sanctuary of living alone with her family. For liga, the toughest thing she has to do is learn how to survive in a world where there is undeniably good and evil, and a lot of the time we must learn to make the best of it.

This book is controversial, there is no denying it and has come under much scrutiny, but let’s not ignore the critical acclaim it has received as it challenges children’s literature. This book is not meant for young children and as long as it remains that way, I see no problem in challenging a teenagers reading and their ability to understand difficult social issues.

Please note, I would only recommend this book for ages 15+ and even then I would recommend you research this book properly and even read it yourself beforehand as it deals with issues of a father raping his child, unwanted pregnancy and gang rape.

Have a look at this article http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/jul/05/tender-morsels-childrens-novel-sex for more information regarding the books suitability and the book cover. Whatever happened to not judging a book by its cover I say! That’s what a blurb is there for. (ISBN: 9780385613231)

The second book I am reviewing today was shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Kids Book Prize 2010.

Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur

  This is another beautiful book that challenges the notions of death and loss and how we deal with it. Eleven year old Aubrey has lost her father and sister in a car accident and her mother has just abondoned her. She feels she can’t tell anyone what she is going through and does not want to, not yet anyway. Like many young children, although it is hard to see she feels completely alone and decides to write letters. These letters give her a way out of the bottled up despair and loss she feels and addresses a need for open relationships when it comes to dealing with death.

Whilst it may be hard for some readers to empathise with Aubrey because they haven’t experience such a tangible loss, the author uses little life experiences well that allow us to connect with this heartbroken little girl. Aubrey is a wonderful uplifting character who will stop you in your tracks.

Of course, Aubrey isn’t completely alone as she has the love of her grandmother and yet the gaps she feels in her heart are palpable and wont go away. Through her beautiful letters to those she misses, Aubrey starts to overcome her tragedy by finding a way to communicate with those she has lost.

The story is not as melancholic as you might think as we see Aubrey’s progression in each letter and we are reassured knowing she is getting better and each day is a little easier to get through. Aubrey, as a protagonist gives us something not every character can give; honesty. She’s writing to people who will never read her letters and she’s writing to herself. A beautiful, beautiful book. (ISBN: 9780141327044) Recommended for 13+

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The reason I have written this post tonight is because I was inspired by Kristen McLean at Pixie Stix Kids Pix  http://pixiestixkidspix.wordpress.com/2010/03/23/obvious-watch-preparing-kids-for-the-digital-future-with-great-books/  to think about the importance of a child’s progressive reading experiences as they grow into adulthood.

In the last few years there has been an increase in the demand for ‘young adult’ fiction aka teen fiction as publishers try to fill the gap between childhood reading and adult reading. I remember always having trouble finding books for myself around the age of 14; I wasn’t ready for the content of adult fiction and the younger stuff felt immature and did not challenge me. In the end I ended up reading R.L.Stine and the Sweet Valley High/College stories which left me a little…empty.

Nowadays the teen fiction/young adult range is so diverse it even has its own sub genre in Waterstones known as Dark Fantasy where the Stephenie Meyer and Charlaine Harris books end up. But with diversity comes confusion as the young adult section caters for any age from 13 up to 16 and to me, that’s quite a difference.

I believe the demands and expectations of each age need to be recognised as what might be suitable for a 16 year old most certainly will not be suitable for a 13 year old. This is something many parents admit to worrying about in finding books for their children because if they haven’t read the book, they can’t know for sure if the content is suitable for their child throughout. Even staple authors like the wonderful Jacqueline Wilson have come into question for their books. Wilson’s ‘Girls out Late’ series has come under the most scrutiny as the two protagonists deal with dangerous situations and…boys! But I truly believe this is all part of the learning experience as we look to books for integrity and social commentary.

Reading with your child should not end with picture books. That’s not to say you should read to your teenager at bedtime rather, it is integral that you know what your child is reading and take a healthy interest in their choices and give them suggestions and new books that will challenge their learning and give them a more diverse reading experience.

There are some great reading guides available in bookshops and even online. I even have a few recommended official sites on my blogroll. Utilise the booksellers who want to share their passion and information with you.

The young adult genre has a range of wonderful series from Anthony Horowitz to Meg Cabot and even Stephenie Meyer. It’s great when a child finds a book they love and can continue with the same author in the same way they may have done during the 5-8 period with Beast Quest and Princess Fairies.

We can have some fun finding new books for children and what’s great about adult fiction is, you might even find something you like for yourself too. Use what you know, remember your childhood favourites and go from there.

Whilst there’s no point reviewing well known books in which my bookseller opinion will have no impact at all. Instead in my next post, I will recommend my two favourite standalone books which I think are truly wonderful and worthy of your attention.

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