Archive for November, 2010

I adore Christmas. I especially love the lead up to it so from now right up to the big day I am in my element. I’ve done all my Christmas shopping, the Christmas cards are written and I’m planning all the Christmas baking and reading I want to do this month. I’ve got a lot to fit in so I’m glad I’ve been organised.

To celebrate Christmas here at 5 Minutes Peace, I’m turning the blog into a literary winter wonderland and sharing my Christmas favourites with you every day right up until the 24th December. There will be some old classics, some new favourites, some crafty ideas and certainly festive cooking, my favourite type of cooking.

I’ll also be holding two competitions this month in light of the festive season and to say thankyou to the followers of this blog for all your ongoing support.

The first competition will start tomorrow, Wednesday 1st December in which I’ll be asking what the first picture in my advent calendar was. Of course, I won’t know this myself until tomorrow so be patient.

Let the festivities commence…

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This book warmed my heart after a horrible day at work. I came home to discover the Zoe and Beans book, a bag, a mug and jelly beans. I couldn’t have been more thrilled.

Published by Macmillan in January 2011, this is going to do so well in the picture book market for those who are fans of friendship tales along the lines of Oliver Jeffers and for existing fans of Mick Inkpen.

Written and illustrated by Mick Inkpen and his daughter Chloe, ‘Zoe and Beans’ tells the charming tale of a little girl Zoe and her pet dog Beans, who makes the habit of stealing Zoe’s toy ever since he misplaced his. Will Zoe get her toy back before it smells of dog and will Beans ever be reunited with his chew toy Binky Boo?

I love the almost camaraderie between the two in this book. There is clear love between the pet and his owner but their friendship is not without its ups and downs, as is the case with every friendship. A charming book. I fell in love with the illustrations immediately; Chloe Inkpen’s drawings depict the friendship between Zoe and beans with an artists ease and I can see why she got the esteemed second prize for the Macmillan Children’s Prize for illustration.

 ‘Zoe and Beans: Where is Binky Boo’ is published by Macmillan Children’s Books on 7th January 2011


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Cooking the Indian Way


Cooking the Indian Way - Cooking Around the World S. No. 7

What better time to review this book than during National Curry Week? I originally wanted this book to feature in my National Non Fiction Day post but I chose to wait. This book is a fantastic way of introducing children to new traditions, cultures and ways of cooking.

I don’t think enough children are taught cooking. There will be the rare occasion of a stir up Sunday or a cooking class at school (in which you recreate a meal eaten on the Titanic-oh yes!) but other than that, what time do we honestly have to pass on some cooking wisdom? This book; part of the ‘Cooking the … Way’ series, teaches you the customs, traditions and flavour of Indian cooking through simple, photographic step-by-step instructions.

There is a fascinating map in the introduction explaining where certain foods are traditionally found. Rice is primarily harvested in the North east region of India and more exotic seafood can be found off the Western coast. My favourite recipe has to be the Indian Toffee…the recipe for which you will find at the bottom of this post. There’s also a substantial vegetarian section and a chapter dedicated entirely to festival food…my favourite!   

And whilst an Indian cookbook may seem daunting for even the most cultured adult cook, this book has all the starting safety points, instructions and shopping list that will calm any child (or parent!). A great introductory cookery book.

Cooking the Indian Way is published by Lerner Books. wwwlernerbooks.co.uk

9780761343950 £7.99

INDIAN TOFFEE Families exchange plates of sweets during Diwali. Barfi, a favourite treat at many celebrations, is quick and easy to make, which allows more time for socializing.

INGREDIENTS: 95g sugar, 120ml water, 85g condensed milk, 115g mixed chopped nuts, 45g bread crumbs, 1tbsp butter, 1/2 tsp vanilla


1. Bring the sugar and water to the boil and remove it from the heat.

2. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until the mixture thickens and resembles dough.

3. While the mixture is hot, roll it out flat until it is 1.5-2cm thick. Roll it on a greased surface or a piece of greaseproof paper. Immediately cut it into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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The Cat Kin by Nick Green


I took this book on to review with some interest as it is a re-issue of a once very popular book. The Cat Kin follows a group of children who by some twist of fate, end up in a mysterious Pashki class at their local leisure centre. For those not in the know, Pashki teaches humans to find their inner cat and use our existing senses to a greater height. Intrigued? I was too. The premise of Pashki did make me a little dubious for how this would translate into a teen read but with the villians and action throughout, there’s plenty to keep the book at a good pace. And if you thought cats were enough animal for you, there’s plenty far more dangerous creatures out there, causing concern for the Pashki community.

This book will appeal to girls and boys as the strong male and female protagonists Ben and Tiffany really play off one another, in a similar fashion to Suzanne Collins’ ‘Hunger Games’ series.

With their new found feral powers, it will take Ben and Tiffany all of their strength to beat off the villians that threaten their existence. But one thing is for sure…nine lives will come in handy. A great read and I look forward to the re-issue of the second book in this series ‘Cat’s Paw’ published in 2011.

Cat Kin is published as a re-issue by Strident Publishing £6.99


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I am so passionate about the charitable Nation Non-fiction Day that I wanted to keep its spirit alive by mentioning another fantastic title, this time from Macmillan Children’s Books imprint Kingfisher. This was sent to me to review.

The Book of Bad Things may seem like a bad omen but it’s anything but. Instead it’s a ‘sinister guide to history’s dark side’ and I for one love it. Published in a beautifully dark, padded hardback format this book is full of facts you never knew and perhaps never wanted to know. But I just love it and it will make a perfect present for curious kids!

Ever wondered what bibliophobia is? The fear of books…well I never. Or pupaphobia? I think that’s quite an obvious one…puppets of course.

This is such a visually stimulating book full of pull outs, secret guides and lift the flap sections. The narrator, a curiously omnipresent Count Droffig will haunt until the end of days and has much to tell from the poisonous pits and perilous libraries. There’s quite a few references to death but they’re told purely as statement.

In 1542 the poisoner Margaret Daby was the last woman in Britain to be executed by being boiled in a cauldron of wine. Puts Dickens’ saying “they should be boiled in their own pudding” in a different light, doesn’t it?

Each page of this wonderfully vast book is a treasure trove to be explored and looked at in awe. The kids will be impressing their friends with amazing facts for weeks to come. What’s great also is how the book also reads like a novel, thanks toCount Droffig. Use the book however you choose but know that once you open it, there is no turning back.

One last thing… did you know the North American Horned Toad can squirt blood from its eyes?      Charming.

The Book of Bad Things 9780753419137 HB £16.99


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“It is the engaging with a child’s imagination which is the key to learning.”

Today, November 4th 2010 is the first ever National Non-Fiction Day. Head over to http://nnfd.org/ to find out everything you could ever want to know about this great day which celebrates the wonder of non fiction children’s books.

Started by the Federation of Children’s Book Groups and sponsored by Scholastic, this day hopes to raise awareness of the importance of including non-fiction books in children’s reading experiences. The inclusion of non fiction books in a child’s education is paramount to honing skills they will use later on in life.; be it history, maths or even gruesome statistics. Quite simply, non fiction is important. It grounds us. It provides key knowledge and information…the starting point for any informed opinion or developing passion. And through non fiction books, you never know; your child might just find their life dream.

I was so thrilled to be asked to participate in this day and hope this becomes a recurrence in the years to come. What better way to support children in their education than with amazing, insightful and inspirational books.

As a children’s bookseller, I feel reference and indeed non-fiction in general has taken a back seat in children’s reading patterns and this shouldn’t continue. We shouldn’t get lost in the vampire netherworlds but nor should we stifle children with scientific facts and statistics. Indeed, it is a fine line between deciding when a child’s education stops for the day and when they can start reading for pleasure. And that’s why it’s so great that of late, publishers seem to have recognised the gap in the market for interesting non fiction books. A non-fiction book doesn’t always have to be produced with the preconception that it will be read only for schooling and education purposes. Some children just want to learn, but usually they want to get carried away into an exciting reading experience at the same time.

Take a look at posters, you can buy them from most children’s bookshops. Just stop and look at them. They’re usually educational and yet there are different components which make it engaging, fun, interactive and just that little bit wacky. It is the engaging with children’s imagination which is the key to learning. Thankfully of late, we have caught on to this and books such as ‘Wallace and Gromit’s Cracking Inventions’ and ‘Bill Bryson’s History or Nearly Everything’ are testimony to this.

A leading publisher in non-fiction titles is Usborne. The list of titles, aimed at children of many ages is endless. Usborne sent me ‘The Usborne Kings and Queens Sticker Book’ and ‘The Usborne History of Britain Kings and Queens’ to review. They must have known my history knowledge is rubbish. But to be fair…can you name all of Henry VIII wives? I couldn’t before but I can now!

Kings and queens sticker book

Kings and Queens

The Sticker book series is always a winner and this one in particular really helps cement what has been learned from the Kings and Queens history book. The illustrations are diverse and what’s great is that a lot of the stickers are real life photographs and this really brings truth to life. Of course for those who lived a little before the invention of the camera…portraits will just have to do. I still remember one art lesson in year 4 at school in which we had to draw King Henry VIII and I was so proud of how the big fat man came out!

The Kings and Queens history book is a lovely hardback edition, rich in colour, illustration and information with lots of little interesting facts thrown in all over the place. It really is a book you can…correspond with as you wrestle with remembering all the kings and queens of times gone by. You might even impress people with your in the know lingo. For example did you know Richard III was aptly named ‘The dandy king?’ The chronological order of the book also helps with digesting the vast information throughout and the family trees are fascinating.

I was never a history fan and sadly, always had the mindset of ‘It’s already happened…why waste time learning about it?’ Thankfully my ethos towards history has matured and I’m sure any child who gets their hands on these books will love history. It is truly fascinating and a testimony to evolution, telling us how we got to where we are today. And you never know, you might just have fun whilst learning.

Happy Non-fiction day everyone, I hope you can put down your Mr. Gum’s and Beast Quests for one day and find a world of possibility out there.

Usborne Kings and Queens Sticker book…coming soon. Suitable for KS1 ages 7+

Usborne History of Britain Kings and Queens…coming soon. Suitable for KS” ages 8+

Visit www.usborne.com for more information and for more great titles.

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