Archives for the month of: March, 2015

Published by Vintage / HDBK Out of Print / PBK: ISBN 9780099575450

When you lose something your stomach plummets, until you remember. The same sensation happens when something occurs because of something you haven’t or shouldn’t have done. Something that might not be able to be rectified.

It can plummet, and never stop falling…

Time shifts and moves differently. Helen Macdonald describes casting her goshawk to the winds when she wasn’t as hungry as she might be. Standing still and persuading herself, against that same sinking feeling that it would be fine, and then realising and running to the next horizon to stop and stand in silence gazing around and listening for that all too quiet falconry bell, to give her some idea of direction. To actively listen; as I once did when I heard the tiniest sound of a bell, the hawk fed up and tired who had settled far out of sight on a roof. So soft it didn’t truly register. So far the falconer had to return to find her. I remember saying I thought I heard, I might have heard something, but I couldn’t be sure… Perhaps it was just that I hoped I heard…

She describes too in this extraordinary book the passion and raw wildness of a goshawk taken from its box after a journey across the Irish Sea – eyes large, feathers angled, hunched and feral -its eyes a mad impossibility.

She writes too of T H White the author of The Sword in the Stone, that brilliant novel of King Arthur that describes the medieval training and care of hawks so perfectly. She found The Goshawk almost unbearable when she read it as a child. I too found it disturbing and knew I’d never read it again, but had forgotten why.

She is a poet. Her writing as a result is superb. If you should read only one book of falconry, this should be it. The technical manuals are just that, and though neither those nor this can replace the thrill of handling training and hunting a bird, this does give a reflection, a shadow picture of that relationship.


I would love to meet her and ask her to sign my copy of this gorgeous volume. The dust jacket was designed by yet another artist whose work I have long admired, Chris Wormell and complements the book perfectly. If you can, buy it in hardback, though the paper would do as a reading copy…

A goshawk is a murderous force of nature, wild and impossibly remote an extraordinary creature of perfect design. I have had the privilege of handling one such goshawk at the Bird of Prey Centre – its character so much more complex than the eagle I flew so many years ago, and the harris hawks I have flown since.

If reading this awakens something within you, contact the English School of Falconry at the Bird of Prey Centre at Herrings Green Farm, Wilstead, Bedfordshire (www.birdsofpreycentre.co.uk)

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Published by Orchard Books / ISBN 9781408314555

Osbert is the ultimate anti-hero from Schwartzgarten. This is not a book for teachers to read. It might give them nightmares.

So far there are three Schwartzgarten volumes: Osbert, The Woebegone Twins, and The Lily-Livered Prince. All have superb Chris Riddell covers that belie the devilment contained within.

Osbert, takes revenge on his school teachers and not in the usual schoolboy style. They say Christopher William Hill is like Roahl Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory / Matilda etc), perhaps he is, but somehow these seem

darker and

more twisted.

Published By Harper Collins ISBN 0780007526901

This is a book of legends. The Luck Uglies are the stuff of legends. Depending on whom you believe they were either outlaws who once saved Rye’s village from monsters or they were as bad, if not worse. This book is superb. Dark and twisted with an end you won’t see coming, it is one not to be missed.

At the back of my copy I’m pleased to report that the publishers have printed the following: The Luck Uglies The Forked Tongued Charmers – Coming Soon.

Published by Piccadilly Press / ISBN 9781848124370

This is part of the new genre for 9 – 12 year old readers. Murder mysteries. When the headmistress and her brother drop dead at Sunday dinner the pupils take a rather different view of the situation than that you might expect. This is a romp of a book and is full of wonderful vignettes – the burial in the vegetable patch for reasons only to be made clear in the book and the resulting repercussions really start the story – its wonderful. Full too of old boarding school type references, a bright fun, school story mystery, with at least two deaths (if you don’t count the stoat) and manipulations a plenty! The school is remarkably small, with only seven pupils, but all gloriously and suitably named: Smooth Kitty Heaton, Stout Alice Brooks, Dour Elinor Siever, Disgraceful Mary Jane Marshall, Dear Roberta Pratley, Pocked Louise Dudley and who can forget Dull Martha Boyle!

Published by Penguin / ISBN 9780141319117

This is a tale of friendship, a tale of prejudice and a tale of accepted beliefs, atitudes and values. It is the ending of the book that makes it so powerful.

Things are never quite as clear cut as the world would like you to believe.

Published by Wayland / ISBN 9780750280532

This is a simple and powerful tale of depression that not only shows how it affects those suffering directly from it, but also about how it affects those around them. It explains what might happen and about how long positive results can take in a very clear and caring way.

The charity Sane (http://www.sane.org.uk) promote the book on their site – Explaining to children what is happening when someone they are close to becomes mentally unwell can be a daunting task, and it can often be difficult ot know where to begin. The Colour Thief can be a beginning for families, as it is a book that not only offers context, but also opens a door for further, much-needed discussion.

Superbly illustrated by Karin Littlewood in wonderful watercolour.

Published by Anderson Press / ISBN 9781849395144

This is essentially a sympathetic carefully written book about death. Badger has been getting old, he uses as stick and his legs don’t work so well as they used to do.

When he doesn’t come out in the Spring, the other animals remember him; the things he taught them – for fox, how to do his tie up properly, & the frog learnt how to ice skate. At the end of the book it is mole who makes a very touching observation.

It is a lovely book. There are no references to any religion at all, and is all the better for that. It is my ‘go to’ book when asked for books when a young child has had bereavement. It is very subtle and beautifully written and illustrated.

Published by Walker Books

It is the illustrations as much as the text that really does this for me. The small fish has stolen a hat. It is probably a good thing that the crab won’t say where the little fish has gone, should the big fish wake up…

This is as much a piece of artwork as a wonderful fishy tale. Sublime.

Jon Klassen  puts expression in art work that would seem to be potato printing (but obviously isn’t) – this is by far his best – but do look out for the others…all about hats… This one is a landscape volume – which reflects the chase that is so integral to the story. Magic.

Published by Anderson

ISBN 9781842704264

This is the best picture book – superbly written and suitably brilliantly illustrated in watercolour by Tony Ross. Not one that is filled with sugar or any sort of sugar substitute. Children are amused by it and parents either laugh hysterically, or are absolutely horrified. So good, I have a second-hand hardback, and that sits along side the more recently published paperback copy on my bookshelf.

I have sold copies of this to everyone, including a member of a royal family who gave it to her husband. Somewhere out there is a palace, with a library full of leather bound books and a copy of this landscape paperback protruding between the bindings…

Published by Chicken House / ISBN 9781908435897 / 7 – 8 Years

A million wishes are quite a responsibility, and not one that Sam is aware of until after he makes a wish on a shooting star. Not everything goes as he thinks it should and his well meaning efforts have interesting results.

At first I thought this was going to be too light and a little obvious, however it developed beautifully and covers some interesting and quite deep ideas.