Published by Orion / Hodder & Stoughton

NYP February 2023

Nothing better to do, I suppose. Rhodd found that most frogs she had met tended to be of a lugubrious, melancholy disposition.

I think I owe everyone a bit of an apology. I haven’t reviewed any books for some time and usually I do a run down of books that you should have / should buy for Christmas – a bit of a failure on that front. I caught some sort of bug…but that’s all history and this, this is a brand new (almost) year….

This is Penny Chrimes’ new book – as always her books are a little different. This about a young girl from the marshlands and her friend. She’s a bit of an outsider she’s different… and lives with her ‘Mum’ on the outskirts of the village. It used to be beautiful there…but the marsh has engulphed the river. No-one travels from there any more. No-one leaves by boat…

Penny’s books often have curious and wonderful elements and so it is with this – a wonderful ending, though not one you will expect…

A book of wildness and nature…not to be missed.

It is out on the 16th of February – put your orders in now to avoid disappointment!

Don’t miss her other titles…The Dragon and her Boy and Tiger Heart…this though, could be, her best yet.

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The ice was here, the ice was there,

The ice was all around:

It cracked and growled , and roared and howled,

Like noises in a swound!

At length did cross an Albatross,

Through the fog it came;

As if it had been a Christian soul,

We hailed it, in God’s name.

It ate the food it ne-er had eat,

And round and round it flew.

The ice did split with a thunder-fit;

The helmsman steered us through!

And a good south wind sprung up behind;

The Albatross did follow,

And everyday for food or play,

Came to the mariner’s hollo!

Published by Rose Corcoran / WhiteFox Publishing

Paper: Cordenons’ Modigliani 200gsm

The illustrations are black and white with the letters of the alphabet picked out in burgundy.

It is though the combination of the paper, illustrations, poems and choice of animals are what make this book rather special. Around 310 x 240 cm it has the face of a tiger on the front board – making it very distinctive.

For me though, my first love was the paper. Proper real paper – not art paper. It has weight, thickness, texture and a feel that is a pleasure to experience.

The book is filled with quotes from notable naturalists and poems, some classic, others more modern.

It’s super.

Contributions are from amongst others, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (A is for Albatross), Charles Elgington (C is for Cheetah), and Sir David Attenborough (G is for Gorilla).

A proportion of the sales goes to the Whitley Fund for Nature…which funds conservationists in 80 countries. A reason to purchase, if for no other. WhitleyAward.org

Macmillan Children’s Books…

The forward of this tome, by Roger McGough refers to it as being like a maze of poetry. 52 poets, and seven poems from each. One for every day of the year. I only bought it yesterday. It is just under 1 & 1/2 inches thick, 9 & 1/2 inches tall – so not a small book of poems – but not unwieldy either. The paper is that light stuff, not what I would call good quality, but good enough for this purpose.

It is filled too, with Chris Riddell’s usual fantastic pictures, the boards are a colourful illustration of a book case with a plethora of mice running over the volumes. I prefer it to the DJ – which I may dispose of as I find reading in bed, they become tatty and worn.

As to the poems – I am beginning to stick post-it notes into it, where poems have drawn me in…

Staff Meeting

The teachers have gathered in private to talk

About their collections of leftover chalk –

Bits that are rare, bits they just like,

And fragments they’ve saved just in case there’s a strike.

One has a blue that you don’t often see,

Another a remnant from nineteen-oh-three.

They’ve thousands of pieces in boxes and tins,

Each sorted and counted with tweezers and pins.

And when all their best bits have been on display,

They’ll take them home carefully, and lock them away.

Nick Toczek

Many won’t remember chalk boards from school, and the dust. Let alone the pieces that were worn away into a weird shape that fitted into the fingers, and how the chalk worked its way into your finger prints, it’s whorls and loops, only to be brushed off against your skirt. The smell of it and the job of bashing the erasers, the felt exploding with dust, the wood wide against the palm of your hands…

That’s what good poetry does. Takes you back, informs and is often a joy too – the play on words, the surprises. This is a compendium of everything, some modern poets and a few, more classic.

Enjoy getting lost in this library of poems and poets…

Published by Otter-Barry Books

It isn’t often I review a picture book. Not quite sure why. I must start to do more…

I saw this advertised somewhere and thought that it would be phenomenal to have a signed copy. Had to wait for the book to be published – so I preordered – as I do and waited. I knew I wanted it. How can you not? A Jackie Morris book about BEARS…though I wasn’t able to order a signed one…I knew I wanted one. Then ‘they’ advertised prepublication copies…so I requested one…I am SO lucky. My ordered copy is now on our shelves…and my copy from the publishers is beside me as I write.

I thought Jackie Morris had written/illustrated a book about bears before – she had. This is a new edition (and a phenomenal one at that) of the book of the same title published back in 2014…

I suppose some of you will want to know a little more about it – though it should be enough for me to say it is written and illustrated by JM –

A larger format hardback (don’t wait for the paperback to come out, if it does. It just WON’T be the same) – 370cm x 270cm – so a book that will need shelves big enough to accommodate it. DON’T let that put you off.

It has cream boards – well – you can see what the cover looks like. The front pastedown is illustrated with paw prints on mud, made it seems by the bear illustrated on the flyleaf. The book itself is filled with bears, everything from salmon munching Brown bears, to Pandas, Sloths, Spectacled, Moon, Polar, Sun, Black and of course the Teddy Bear. The back pastedown and flyleaf are stunning! I won’t say more about that or the gorgeous illustrations that fill this tome of bears. It is by way a natural history volume, but actually it is a thing to treasure. One of these days I’m going to buy some of her art work – and hang the expense…

That said, I visited Keswick a month or so ago and visited their small overfilled wonderful bookshop – Bookends (66 Main Street, Keswick CA12 5DX) and they, were advertising signed copies. I left my details. I waited.

The day before yesterday I received an email. They have a signed copy reserved for me. When they open in ten minutes or so, I’m going to ring and have it sent…I am SO excited.

When you see this book, you will understand why you have to buy a copy (or maybe two) – I have asked for us to have a number for Waterstones Finchley Road O2 – if we haven’t got them when you come in – do ask for us to order you one specially. It’s that sort of book.

Worth every single penny, at just a smidgeon under £19 – this is a Stupendous Sue book, that EVERYONE must have…

Published by Lucy Hope

There is something about flying…if I were to have a super power, it would be to be able to fly, to leap from a cliff and play with the wind – I love to watch birds play in the sky and even ‘little brown jobs’ have that ‘something’ as they flit from my feeders back under cover when the cat stalks by.

Wren’s mother died attempting to fly. Wren herself likes to go out over the waters near her home in her small coracle and potter about on the water…but has yearnings too to know what it is to leap into the air and soar.

Her father, perhaps understandably, isn’t keen on his daughter following in her mother’s footsteps.

They live near the sea in a large Welsh castle – the family have lived there for generations, but the building is beginning to disintegrate. Cracks are forming, the castle seems to sigh to itself, and though for the most part it is much like other castles, a bit on the cool side, periodically there are shifts in temperature and the building becomes warm and uncomfortable in phases, it also seems to sing…

It is out in October – so you may find it on shelves now…a super book about taking your own destiny in your own hands and making something of it.

Published by Walker Books

It has taken me WAY too long to write this review. My own time has been rather taken up with other commitments of late – and so, my reviewing has dropped off a little, for which many, many apologies.

This is the second book in Maya’s Bird Series, as you will know she has done one about beetles and is in the middle of a series about trains too…if you haven’t read them – I don’t know why you are reading this blog, but I digress, again. For which apologies.

Another brilliant book from this consummate of authors…this time surrounding the rather fantastic lammergeier – a kind of vulture that enjoys eating bones… They are some of the most extraordinary birds. In fact, they are also one of the most statuesque and beautiful members of the vulture family – some of which could be said to be ugly. I find, however, that animals that are designed specifically for the way they live, have a fascination all of their own – and a beauty too. You don’t want a head of feathers if you are going to regularly shove it into the carcasses of dead antelope. There is a beauty in that too.

The fact that in 2020 a specimen was spotted flying over the UK – is extraordinary. I love birds. I wish I had known – I too would probably have travelled to see it and hang the Covid restrictions . Though I suppose that would have been particularly irresponsible of me…but let’s not get into that.

To return to Spark – this is the second, as I said – the first, Twitch I reviewed when it came out – and as I think I said then, anything by M G Leonard or Maya Leonard, is really a must buy – a certainty. A Sue Stupendous. As far as I’m aware, she hasn’t written a dud one yet. She’d better not.

Go out and buy this. Know too that she is coming to the Christmas Book Festival at Waterstones Finchley Road o2 on the 20th of November (Sunday) to sign copies of her books – do come – she will talk ‘bird’, ‘beetle’ AND ‘trains’ to you – separately, if that is your thing, but I am sure she will be happy to combine your passions as you need…

Buy this. Love the adventure, the characters and the bravery. It’s wonderful.

TWELVE FANTASTIC AUTHORS CELEBRATING THEIR NEW BOOKS, INCLUDING:

11:00 – 13:00 :

LAURA ELLEN ANDERSON & JACK MEGGITT-PHILLIPS

11:30 – 13:30 :

ROSS MACKENZIE & CHRIS WORMELL

12:00 – 14:00 :

MICHELLE HARRISON & M G LEONARD

12:30 – 14:30 :

SAM SEDGMAN

13:30 – 15:30 :

KIERAN LARWOOD & LINDSAY LITTLESON

14:00 – 16:00 :

S F SAID & VICTORIA WILLIAMSON

COME EARLY to make sure you will be able to talk to your favourite authors!

Waterstones Finchley Road O2

O2 Centre, Finchley Road, London NW3 6LU

020 7433 3299

I heard him walking away towards the stairs. Then suddenly the parrot squawked: “I can see a finger! I can see a finger!

Published by David Fickling Books

The physical book is a thing of beauty. Gilt blocked with an image of an octopus in the sea grappling with a small bottle, a large wave rising high over the title with a small pirate ship in the distance. The gilding reaches around the spine and across the back board of the book. An enticing cover. The illustrations by the author are examples of his usual, detailed, wonderfully expressive work – and complement this story superbly. This is, without doubt a Sue Stupendous volume.

An adventure of the old fashioned sort with regular references to both Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and Shakespeare’s Tempest too – with pirates, a desert island, magic, mystery, and an extraordinarily observant parrot…it is without any doubt a must buy. Oh, I almost forgot – there are bottles (lots of them) and one, quite extraordinary giant tortoise…

I am pleased to announce that Chris Wormell will be coming to the Christmas Book Festival (Sunday 20th of November) at Waterstones Finchley Road O2 (NW3 6LU) – and will be happy to sign copies for you. There will be 12 authors, he but one – but an essential buy…

…Then Lord Boothby squawked: “There’s a little man in there! There’s a little man in there!” Then: “Too late, you drank ’em!”

Published by Pushkin Books

The second book of Susie Bower’s that I have read. Well to be honest I am halfway though this one. I have been reading at least two children’s books at a time whilst being off from work…

A book for those ‘into’ the theatre! Ophelia’s family are a travelling troop – if you can claim such a word for three people. Her Dad, is very much of the theatre – believes that all Ophelia will need is a good understanding of Shakespeare, and the accruements of a career in theatre. Ophelia would like to go to a regular school, with regular classes. At the moment she is home schooled by her mother…

When an accident means that Bottom’s Travelling Theatre will have to stay in one place, whilst her father recovers, her mother decides that enough is enough and enrolls her in the local school. Then horror of horrors accompanies her on her first day…

‘You have to be registered on your first day,’ Ma leapt down from the cab, her dress – which was practically see-through – swirling around her knees.

Oh, great. Not only would I be turning up for my first day at school without a uniform (you will need to read the book to find out why) and in holey shoes. Ma would be with me, dressed as Desdemona from Shakespeare’s Othello.

I’m loving this – full of mysteries and Ophelia is quite a character…

Just finished this – it’s brilliant – a Sue Stupendous!