Archives for the month of: April, 2015

Books, printing and wood engraving are I suppose in my blood in one form or another and I grew up, I think from quite an early age learning by design, but mostly by osmosis, about book design, illustrations and collecting. It stuck.

I like a well designed book. I love books with gorgeous illustrations, and if you can combine the two, all the better.

This volume, it has to be admitted was written by Dad.  It is in effect the celebration of Joan Hassall, a wood engraver of extraordinary quality.

It is, perhaps my favourite of Dad’s books that have been published by the Private Library Association. Probably because I love Joan’s work and this really is a beautiful volume of pictures, (over 470 of them) even if you are not interested in wood engravings or Joan.

The full title of the book is Joan Hassall Engravings and Drawings. It has an introductory memoir by Joan Hassall and an appreciation of her technique by George Mackley. The book contents also includes: Books and Bookplates / David Chambers, List of Illustrated Books, Lists of Illustrated Journals, Dust Jackets and Miscellanea, List of Bookplates, Select Bibliography, Book Illustrations, Occasional Blocks, Bookplates, and an Index of Books.

She is probably most well-known for her illustrations for Jane Austen’s books – and these are reproduced along with those from books of Perrault’s Fairy Tales, natural history, including The Strange World of Nature, collected poetry, Old Scottish Christmas Hymns and bookplates amongst a plethora of other works.

She died in 1988, thankfully a few years after this publication came out. It really is a beautiful celebration of a very special, self depreciating and talented lady.

Should you wish (and you should) to have a copy of this, please contact the Private Libraries Association who will be happy to supply details. Further, if you mention this you will receive a 10% discount on this gorgeous volume.

Private Library Association,Ravelston, South View Road, Pinner, Middlesex HA5 3YD

Published by Corgi Childrens / ISBN 9780552570725

This is the first volume in the Murder Most Unladylike series of which there are three so far (the third not yet published as this goes to ‘post’). Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up a detective agency, similar in style to Sherlock Holmes’ with Daisy Wells taking the part of Holmes and Hazel Wong the part of Watson. They are a school romp of a series of books – great fun, with the added twist of crime running through them. They are part of something that is almost a new genre – murder in schools…there aren’t many of these books yet, but there is definitely a small shoal of them beginning to come out.

The other titles are:

Arsenic for Tea / ISBN 978 0552570732 &

First Class Murder / ISBN 978 055270745 / Not yet published – June.

Published by Chicken House / ISBN 978 1908435996 – The edition with this cover (similar to the second in the series) / Not yet published

ISBN 978 1908435996 – Already published with a different cover, that isn’t in the series design.

Due in part to her Grandmother moving into a home, Edie finds herself staying with an aunt and her cousins with whom she doesn’t get on with  in the least. One in particular takes great enjoyment in bullying her. When she is given the opportunity to go to boarding school to assist her older cousin in investigating a mystery, she takes up the challenge with some relief…

This is the first book in the Knight Haddon School series, and works very well indeed. It has the feel of all boarding school stories, with a mystery add to the mixture for more ‘kick’. The series reminds me a little of the Chalet School Books (Elinor M Brent-Dyer) that my sister used to read, and The Naughtiest School books (Enid Blyton), but have a more modern twist to them. They also remind me of the A Murder Most Unladylike series by Robin Stevens which also mix a good crime with a school story.

Published by Walker Books / ISBN 9781406353013

Not yet Published – May 2015

A story of illicit love. Cage fighting. Families, trust and tradition. Sammy-Jo is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter in a large gypsy family with all the allegiances and difficulties a large peripatetic family can have. The family is a maelstrom of characters from her grandmother through to the youngsters in the family. One of her sisters is due to get married and the organisation is down to Sammy-Jo who uses her extraordinary ability in cage fighting to subsidise the cost. Though that becomes the least of her worries as the story unfurls. A love story reminiscent of Romeo and Juliette, but modern and with startling results.

Colourful and intricately told with detail that makes the gypsy way of life very vivid – superbly done. Brilliant.

Published by Chicken House / ISBN 978 1920002131
Friendship. Bravery. The big questions and extraordinary canine loyalty.

There are books that always provoke a reaction – have an instant emotional response. Always the same and always at the same point in the story. They are the good books. They are the books you remember. They are the books you tell everyone about. This is one of them.

Set in America. Written in first and third person. The cover could have been so much more – but as they say, and I firmly believe, never judge a book by its cover.

Published by Puffin / ISBN 978 0141355146

Not yet Published – 4th June 2015

This is a story of pirates. Of child-bagging.

The deed.

It is the story of a bone leg, possible world domination, a crew of monkeys, a wolf (Idryss Ebenezer Split, a captain of a pirate ship), Pelf, a goat with a pipe, a silent loris (Omynus Hussh, possibly one of the most evil pirates to ever join such a gang of evil doers) a pig, a Puffin, (that looks not unlike ‘Fat Puffin’ from the Puffin Club from many years ago), an orangutan, and Old Sawbones, a saltwater crocodile to name just a few.

It is also the story of pirate ship battles, the high seas, secrets, dreams, snuglets, friendship and evil… The narrator tells the tale, with drama and with cliffhangers. He has some consideration for those more lily-livered readers (usually parents), who might find the loss of a hand, or possibly two, (by poison and the chopping block), of ghosts and a toxic bite a bit much, but children of wise parents will know that this is just what is needed in this life of soft beds, safety and parents…after all, I suspect the narrator certainly does…

A truly hilarious, brilliant adventure illustrated superbly, not to say excellently by Ross Collins along with a good use of type fonts make this a wonderful book. It really is stuffed full of adventure.

Published by Usborne / ISBN 978 1409507673

Without doubt this is my favourite noisy book. Usborne really have become expert at these. They seem to source their sounds directly from life – at least it seems so. Their See Inside series of books cover a very wide range of subjects all of which are very good and they seem to do two versions of each title. Plain with flaps or the same book, but with buttons attached to the side. Their noisy books are, as I have said, very nearly perfect. This one though, trumps them all.

The button that gives me most pleasure is the third one down on the left hand column. Each button has an image taken from the book on it (so they fit with the content of the book)  – this one – yes the one in red, has an image, of a pirate firing two pistols – sadly I can’t get a clearer picture. Nor have I been able to either find a sound that I can ‘copy’ onto this post, even if I knew how to do it. If and when I find out – I will insert it as soon as I can. Hopefully so that the sound is activated as soon as the post is opened…

Press the button on the book and you have a very good rendition of two pistols being fired in quick succession. Then, just as you assume that to be ‘it’ – suddenly there is a very life like cry of agony…

Published by Red Fox / ISBN 9781849415262

Possibly the best retelling of the Nativity – the story of Jesus’ birth from the point of view of the inn keeper. A point of view that has been long ignored. It can’t have been an easy night…a full inn, then a baby…followed by numerous people suddenly turning up in the middle of the night. Let alone the chorus of angels. Probably worse than a dawn chorus… Brilliant.

Published by Hachette Children’s Group / ISBN 978 1408330036

The dark. Can be very dark. This story about how one night the dark visits Laszlo in his room and how he bravely confronts his fears… It is the illustrations that make this book so powerful, pertinent and wonderful.

I remember so well the darkness depicted in this book…Jon Klassen has managed to show how darkness can fill a room and how light can cut through darkness,  – an extraordinary piece of work and collaboration.

Published by Puffin / ISBN 978 0141338675

This is a gorgeous book about how everyone is different and everyone is ‘something else’.

A small blue creature finds that he is not tall enough and doesn’t have good enough  hand to eye coordination to play with the others – and he quickly realises that to be ‘something else‘ isn’t a good thing and goes home. A while later a different creature turns up on his doorstep and really just asks if he can be his friend, if they can hang out together, but he’s different, he’s ‘something else’. Our little blue monster starts to turn him away. Just before he does, though, he realises that if he really is something else, then really, they are both the same (though different) and they make friends.

Everything is fine, until something else knocks on his door….Sadly I haven’t been able to track down a picture of that particular ‘something else’, so you will have to buy the book to see…

Illustrated by that superb author and artist Chris Riddell…