Published by Simon and Schuster January 2017

Mathew Corbin is an only child and  he spends the majority of his time in his bedroom, watching people go past in the street. He writes everything down along with the times people go out, when they return, and how often they water their pot plants.

Life is not easy for Mathew. He believes that he is responsible for a tragedy in his past and this colours everything he does, and doesn’t do. Life is prescriptive, threatening and painful. He suffers from a form of obsessive compulsive disorder.When a neighbour’s small grandson goes missing Mathew decides that he has to do something, even if it can’t be very much, since going outside isn’t really on the cards.

There are obvious correlations between this and Mark Haddon’s book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, though this is much more suited for younger readers.

Ultimately this is a positive book, dealing with a severe mental disorder and that worst nightmare of a missing child…

 

 

Published by Corgi early November 2017

This is a story of a day – an extraordinary day centred around Natasha and Daniel – two young people destined, perhaps, to meet. Is there such a thing as Destiny? This is one story of these two characters, there may be other stories about them, that don’t turn out as this one does, but this is this story…not one of those.

It is the story of emigration. The small things that happen, that are catalysts for larger life changing events.

It is a story of racism. Of hopes, dreams, fears, regrets and prayers. It is a roller-coaster of a story – a day in the life of two people and some others, along the way.

There are mini chapters, mini interludes if you like, covering subjects as

Fate – A History,

Half-life – A History of Decay,

Multiverses – A Quantum History,

Hair – An African American History, and

Eyes – An Evolutionary History, which are fun and curious, but mainly it is essentially a book about people, the interconnection between different people and how they relate to one another. It is a love story.

Nicola Yoon is also the author of Everything, Everything, already reviewed in this blog.

 

 

There are good teachers, and bad teachers. Fat and ‘fin’ teachers. Some ugly and others are pretty. Some are ‘cool’, a few are clever. Some can teach. Others are just able to recite what they know, but are unable to explain it. Some think outside of the boxes. Some don’t know about boxes at all. Some are kind, and some are bullies.  There are frightened teachers, relaxed teachers. Others are brave, and then there are the down right brilliant teachers, teachers such as he.

I would not say that I particularly enjoyed school. I would rather have spent my time with Ptolemy, my Abyssinian  guinea-pig. I did, however make an impression on one or two people.  My headmistress expelled a pupil, in circumstances that I felt weren’t right. I told her what I thought about that.  I also had a short discussion about the freedom of choice about how much money should be put in the weekly collection. I explained to another how the death of a clergy orphan’s father, was none of a class’s business, and I also spelt the word library wrong, when I moved from lower school to senior.

It seems the first R is of importance.

Probably more so than the library rules that we had been transcribing.

My year and I were told, by the English teacher who had set the work that, amongst other things, that this proved that there was little point in attempting to teach such a person, who could make such an error. In fact it was further stated that should she ever be given the rather questionable opportunity of trying to teach me, that she wouldn’t. As there was no point; so she wouldn’t do so and didn’t want to.

I suppose we must have been allowed out from the library at some point. I don’t remember much more, apart from realising I would do well to avoid having anything to do with her. She was a large woman & I remember thinking she was older than most of the others, heavy, with her greying hair plaited tight around the crown of her head – I suppose in some sort of ancient Greek style.

She taught Latin, and English and frankly, I avoided her like the plague. As did several other pupils. It was certainly worth walking down the other side of the corridor. I wasn’t very good at Latin either; I remember once receiving the great result of 11% in an exam – but I look on this as not something that was particularly my fault. After all she was the teacher, I but the pupil. It didn’t help, that I really didn’t like her. For that matter, I don’t think she liked me either. She also took the classes for those pupils who weren’t doing so well at English, as well as putting us through our paces with Latin, and I was always rather relieved to know that I was in the middle group stream – with Mr Brown.

He was a smallish man, who wore a tweed jacket with elbow patches, he had a beard and a twinkle in his eyes, slightly dwarfish in appearance. Apart from being relieved about the group I was in, I didn’t think much about him really.

Until the day he called me up to his desk and asked me whether I would mind moving down to her group, as he felt my English would benefit from a firmer grounding. To be honest the idea didn’t appeal, as you can probably imagine. It was like Mr Brown to ask, rather than arbitrarily move me to her stream. I suppose, though, the end result would have been the same, except I replied that I didn’t, (which was I’m afraid a lie), however, I knew that she would.

Mr Brown looked at me very hard, and asked why I should think such a thing, as it couldn’t be true. I replied that I knew that it was, and further that she had already stated that given the opportunity she wouldn’t, as she had said there was no point in trying. Mr Brown looked surprised, and asked me for the details of what had happened. He was sure I had misunderstood. So I explained. He turned to the class and asked whether it was true, to which my friend Philippa replied that it was, and no-one understood why anyone would bother trying to teach me – there wasn’t any point.

Mr Brown left her in charge of the class and took me to the staff room, knocked on the door and we waited. When she came out Mr Brown asked her about it. She replied that she didn’t remember. So I gave her more details. Her reply amounted to the fact that she may have said something of the sort, she really couldn’t really remember, but what of it?

Mr Brown pulled himself up to his full height, and turned on this Grecian colossus – he explained that what she had said was not true and went on to express his opinion of what she had done in words that were clear and disparaging…so much so she seemed to shrink. His anger was as all encompassing as any I have seen or experienced in my life – perhaps made more impressive as I had never heard him so much as raise his voice before. Thinking back now, I realise that even then he didn’t shout. It was just a very intense and clear statement of facts. It wasn’t even a conversation, more of a soliloquy.

At the end, he turned to me and told me that if I was willing he would prove to me and her that he was right. Would I be happy to do extra work for him – which he would mark and give back to me? I could write about anything I wished – but he would ensure I got good grades, and further would enjoy English too.

Which resulted in my writing numerous essays,  and I received two B’s for my English exams, but what is more important to me now is that he instilled a love of words, and the use of English. For that, and for standing up for me in such a way, I will never forget him, he was truly a brilliant and inspiring teacher.

Sadly a few years ago, when I thought to contact the school to let him know about how English has become so important to me, I heard he had died.

Since there is no proof either way, however, I like to believe that Mr Brown knows about my blog, letters, books and the fact that I have encouraged so many children to read and to enjoy the language.

He was a remarkable man, and an exceptional teacher.

 

 

 

 

 

Published by Corgi / Penguin Random House Group

I have reached page 128 – and I can’t put this volume down. Ant and her brother Mattie were put with an emergency foster family when their parents disappeared. From there they have landed up in HMP London, otherwise known as Spike – a ‘family’ prison. This used to be HMP Holloway and Pentonville. Things have changed since then. They are there as a result of Heritage crime (Noun): A previously undetected crime committed by your parents or grandparents for which you are held responsible.

Ant believes that they should fight the system – as much as is possible, however, that leaves her small brother vulnerable to that same system along with her foster parents who are also residing in HMP London along with hundreds of others.

This book is intense. Are you responsible for other people’s behaviour? At the moment people are in prison for many reasons – their beliefs, for errors of judgement, for murder. Some are caught in a system that they will never manage to escape. I am not aware, though of any society that makes the children pay for crimes committed by their parents. I have recently begun to think that ideas in books, can often reflect what could happen, unless we are careful. We are not responsible for other people’s behaviour. We are all individuals and should be taking responsibility for our selves and for our children. This is a book about blame. About society’s responsibility to the individual and the individual’s responsibility to society. To care for one another. We are responsible for our own actions…

So far there has been little in Blame to make me laugh. Its not that type of book. I relate so well to Ant and her impetuosity and the need to speak out. I hope and trust though, should I ever be in a similar situation that I too would fight, and protect. I don’t know, though. I have been lucky – my ‘fights’ have been non existent compared to this.

I did laugh out loud though on the way to work this morning. I stopped reading the story and thought I would look at any notes e.t.c. at the end of the book – for background research really for this…and as expected there is a page of acknowledgements.

The first sentence I read was the following.

‘Personally, I blame Michael Morpurgo.’

I had to get off the tube at that point (because I had arrived for work) – but will be reading the rest of the Acknowledgments before I continue Blame – I suspect Simon Mayo there is more to that statement than at first appears..

This is an important book. I hope that the world becomes a better place, and not a worse one.

Simon Mayo is also the author of the 9 – 12 ‘Itch’ trilogy Itch, Itch Rocks and Itch Craft – about a boy who collects samples of all the elements of the periodic table – a marvellous series for those who are ‘into’ science…

 

 

 

 

I am so pleased to announce – Peter Bunzl the author of Cogheart is coming on Saturday 13th of August to Waterstone’s Finchley Road O2 (NW3 6LU) to talk about the book. He will also instruct and help customers to make their own zoetrope – which they will then be able to take home with them at the end of the event. This looks to be one of our best events – do come and visit, purchase a signed copy and take home an amazing optical gadget too…

I’m so excited about this one…

 

 

Published by Bloomsbury

There is something really rather wonderful about this book. It is not, though a book for those of a nervous disposition.

An alphabet of sorts. A list of rather unlucky children, perhaps, then again it is a compendium of children who through want of a little care and attention, come to  grief.

This is I suppose a rather macabre volume – however, I deal with all sorts of  small children on a daily basis, and am regularly surprised how they survive…often there doesn’t seem to be much attention given to them as they crawl out of our store, towards the escalators…

I wonder what Gorey would think. Perhaps there is a second volume out there…

A is for AMY who fell down the stairs

B is for BASIL assaulted by bears

C is for CLARA who wasted away

D is for DESMOND thrown out of a sleigh

E is for ERNEST who choked on a peach

F is for FANNY sucked dry by a leach

G is for GEORGE smothered under a rug

H is for HECTOR done in by a thug

I is for IDA who drowned in a lake

J is for JAMES who took lye by mistake

K is for KATE who was struck by an axe

L is for LEO who swallowed some tacks

M is for MAUD who was swept out to sea

N is for NEVILLE who died of ennui

O is for OLIVE run through with an awl

P is for PRUE trampled flat in a brawl

Q is for QUENTIN who sank in a mire

R is for RHODA consumed by a fire

S is for SUSAN who perished of fits

T is for TITUS who flew into bits

U is for UNA who slipped down a drain

V is for VICTOR squashed under a train

W is for WINNIE embedded in ice

X is for XERXES devoured by mice

Y is for YORICK whose head was knocked in

Z is for ZILLAH who drank too much gin

 

 

 

Inventive, fun and a good cautionary tale for parent’s of curious children…

I particularly like the demise of Xerxes…

Though written out here in full, it is worth the small expenditure to buy a copy so it can be read without hindrance.

I may produce a modern version…I must put my mind to it one day…

Published by Nosy Crow

This is the story of an Italian family in Wales. It is a story of immigration. Of nationalities, and of the war.

It is also a story of food. Quality Italian food. The stuff that makes you salivate.

Joe loves his Italian heritage, the café  his great-grandfather  founded, and his family. The café though is slowly dying, as is the high street. Slowly he realises that he can’t let his inheritance disappear. The café is bound up in the history of the village and there is so much more to it, than just a place to buy a coffee.

It is a book about family. About tradition. Respect and doing the right thing.

Gemin also wrote Cowgirl – which was also a good feeling story – and both were a real pleasure to read and enjoy. There is a small amount of historical notes, along with some details about opera, and even a few pages giving recipes…

I love the idea of a sweet pizza, but have never come across a restaurant that offers one…

 

 

 

Published by Julia MacRae Books 1986 Now Out of Print.

This is a small volume that I treasure, and at just 3 and a half inches tall by 3 wide, it is one of the smaller books I own. With detailed illustrations by John Lawrence. It is, perhaps just a catalogue of babies: Good, Bad (I particularly like the engraving for the  Bad Babies), Sweet, Sour, Bald, Curly, Fat, and “Fin Ones”… all the way through to “Bye Bye Baby Ones”.

It is sadly out of print, so your best bet to purchase one of these small nuggets of joy – is to look on ViaLibri where you will find (as I did this morning) various copies listed from around £8 and upwards. Certainly worth looking into, though be aware that Amazon does deal through that site too, and I always feel that they should be avoided and ‘real’ second-hand and rare bookshops should be supported where possible…

The above illustration is taken from the Internet. That copy has a stain across the front board and spine. I have to say mine is in mint condition. Do be careful when purchasing second-hand or antiquarian books off the Internet. Unless you really just want the text; the condition is all important!

It is a little gem of a book.

Published by Gecko Press

This is about the power of friendship.  Giraffe has everything he needs, apart from someone to share his thoughts with. When he comes across a notice offering a postal service he asks Pelican to deliver a letter for him. To the first animal Pelican comes across, beyond the horizon.

This book is charmingly and naively illustrated – with a bright red cover it really stands out. Translated from the Japanese there is something rather good about it. Small, without much text on each page – and rather good…

Perhaps we should all write more letters…to people who live over the horizon…

Published by Gecko Press

What makes a friendship work? Sometimes it can seem that one is always giving and the other taking.  Purdy the Cat and Barker the Dog have one such friendship. Purdy would rather take the easy way. He’s a dreamer. Someone who likes to hope, believe that everything will work fine, but without really planning anything. He refuses to worry. Barker on the other hand worries. About everything. If things aren’t done the way he feels they should be, if he doesn’t prepare, he worries that it will fall apart. He worries. Takes responsibility. Purdy though, is full of mad-cap schemes. He hopes that if he rides the moon beam across the water he will fly up to the moon. Barker knows this won’t happen, but then realises the Purdy can’t swim…

This is the story of a friendship. Actually its about all friendships. Its about hopes and dreams and practicalities too. Each chapter is a story unto itself, until the book is completed, when you realise that each story makes up a greater whole.

The illustrations are extraordinary and full of life. It is the story a bicycle ride. It is about a cat who has a birthday…

 

 

 

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