Archives for the month of: July, 2016

Published by Usborne

This a steam-punk of a book! A real joy to read – and I’m loving it. It starts with three stories, slowly being woven together, that of Lily at the beginning of the book, unhappy in a finishing school, and after her Dad goes missing she finds herself under the care of his housekeeper who is not to be trusted… Then there is Robert, the clockmaker’s son, taught by his father to mend anything that is broken, brave and resourceful, especially when it matters and lastly Malkin a sentient and rather glorious character, a fox made of cogs and wheels.

This is set in London in 1896. Servants are mechanicals, known for not having feelings, the objects of derision. If left too long without attention mechanicals can wind-down, to stand stationary – until metal fatigue takes them.

This is glorious – I have only read a third of it – and can’t put it down.

It is something special for the summer.

As I can’t seem to get the cover to import, or whatever the word is, I did some more investigating at home (this post was written in my lunch hour) and found the above – a part illustration from it. As a bonus it seems to be moving. Taken from Peter Bunzl’s site – amazing…if it will continue to work after I have saved it, I will be so pleased…a brilliant illustration for a brilliant book. We will see….the cover is superb…



Published by Egmont

This could be listed as the first of the Naughty Little Sister books – of which there are a handful, most of which I think are in print, but are not always in stock, with all good bookshops, which is a pity.

These are beautifully written stories about a small little sister and the day to day adventures she has, often with her friend,  bad Harry.

The scrapes she gets into are usually as the result of not understand what is going on, or because she is a little frightened. I particularly remember a chapter where she meets Father Christmas, with disastrous results, and one about a birthday party.

They are illustrated by that consummate artist Shirley Hughes, who manages to get the expression on her face exactly right – and the books should never be re-illustrated by anyone else.

Each chapter is an adventure – so they are ideal for bedtime stories, and for those who are just getting going with their own reading. Superb chapter books – they are of a quieter time – no monsters, no time travel, just good solid very English traditional adventures. Wonderful. Another series I grew up with.

There are some editions of these in colour, however, I prefer, on the whole, the black and white illustrations…probably because those are what I had.

Looking on the Internet it seems there are the following titles still in print:

My Naughty Little Sister

My Naughty Little Sister and Bad Harry

More Naughty Little Sister Stories

When My Naughty Little Sister was Good and

My Naughty Little Sister’s Friends


Published now by Penguin.

This charming black and white story originally published in 1936 is one of the oldest children’s books that is still in print.

American, with black and white possibly lino illustrations it tells the story of Ferdinand, a bull in Spain who is a rather peaceful fellow. More inclined to sit under his cork tree than to run around with the other young bulls, who are always butting their heads together. He likes to smell the flowers. His mother (as mothers do), worries about him, but he is content to just smell the flowers. That is until he has the misfortune to sit on a bee…

Gorgeous naïve illustrations that I have loved since I was a child… When I first helped set up the Children’s Books section in Harrod’s and came across this – I was so pleased, it was like meeting a very old friend again.


Published by Pushkin Press –

Once again a superb book published by Pushkin Press.

This is a book for all those cat lovers out there – those who know cats as felines / cats, not as ‘kitties’ or any other derogatory and disrespectful term… These cats mean business.

Set in India in the heart of old Delhi – it is atmospheric and superbly crafted. Three main types of cats live in the area – indoor cats, most of whom never go out, the Wildings a group of felines living with respect for each other, their prey and other species around them and another group the Ferals – enclosed in a shuttered house who’s Big Foot is coming to the end of its life…They are not respectful. They kill for pleasure and enjoy any torment that they can cause in the process.

This is not a cat book for those of a delicate nature. It is a beautifully observed extraordinary volume. There is life and death in this book – beautifully described and detailed…

As to characters – each is distinctive and as different as you might wish from a book that isn’t about cats – some cruel, some wise, and the kittens, almost mindlessly falling and tumbling though life and the dangers that are set against them.

It is marvellous.

There is a note in the back which states that the story continues in a volume called The One Hundred Names of Darkness. Which I will be ordering, of course, as soon as I return to work tomorrow. I hope and trust it will be as good. Looking on the computer – there is a note that states this title won’t be available till November. Irritating, but I expect I will survive.

My only complaint – and it is a severe one, is that Nilanjana Roy, lives in India, which I suppose is reasonable, considering the setting of this book. It does mean though that it is unlikely I will ever meet her and she probably won’t come and ‘do’ an event in Waterstones. Which is a great pity. I have been told though, that I can have a single title table for this – and will organise this as soon as the weekend is over.


Published by Hay House

My edition’s ISBN is: 978178180560 – a lovely paperback…

This is a beautifully designed paperback. With cream thick crisp paper, printed in black with good sized margins. The cover has a picture a beautiful blue eyed cat, which I hope is an Himalayan, gazing over some monk’s habits.

I saw the book some years ago – and thought I might like to read it, but never bought it. Then the other day I was shown a copy and then when I took it to read, was told it was a reservation for a customer; so had to leave it and wait for a second copy to come in.

I know very little about the Dalai Lama, Buddhism, or the genre of ‘Mind, Body and Spirit’ – in fact it was a section I avoided. I’m not a great one for angels, or astrology and had regrettably decided that the section wasn’t for me…

A mistake – I think. Essentially this small volume relates the thoughts and deeds of the Dalai Lama’s cat, it also though, explains some of the principles of Buddhism. Amongst others: karma, kindness, the fact that what makes us unhappy isn’t, perhaps the people and things around us, but how we perceive them, that we should appreciate things now, the little things. To be mindful of things and life…it is a beautiful book and an informative one. I don’t believe I ‘caught’ everything that David Michie explains and will without doubt read it again…to remind myself of some of the lessons with in it.

This is the first ever, Mind Body and Spirit book I have bought- though it has a notation on the cover to state it is ‘a novel’ – and so it is…along with so much more – but it won’t be the last one I will buy…

I will also be purchasing of Buddhism for Busy People…also by David Michie…and any others of his that I think might be of interest…


Published by Chicken House –

A slim volume, the story is only 156 pages, not including some notes about the blitz and the Second World War at the back.

Atmospheric, and historical. The story of a family both in the war and also in the 21st century. Rose sees her Great Aunt leave the house and follows her down into the Underground and finds herself back in the 1940s – and the beginning of the blitz, tracking and becoming quite involved with her own history.

It is a solid adventure – detailing some of the worst occurrences of the war. Rose seems, on the whole not to be overly concerned about how her involvement might affect history, or for that matter whether she will be able to return to her ‘own time’, however, that aside it is a very good read and a beautifully described introduction to this rather horrific time in our history.

Not yet published (Chicken House) – October 2016 –

Its just after the first World War. Henry (Henrietta) is living at home with her family.  All is not well. Henry’s mother is ill, and the doctor comes regularly, but she doesn’t seem to improve. ‘Piglet’ – the baby, is unsettled and cross, and Nanny Jane just has too much to do to spend much time with Henry. Her father is far away, working abroad and her brother, Robert…though encouraging, seems ephemeral…

The house is set in the shadows of a wood, in which periodically Henry has spotted the flame from a bonfire, glinting between the tree trunks. There is the smell of wood smoke in the air. Henry sinks into a time of reading, of stories, exploring the house, and an old attic, and watching the coming and going of the doctor and his wife.

There is mention of a place called Helldon, as Henry’s mother becomes less and less aware. Henry is unsure about what Helldon is, or why the idea of her mother going there bothers her. She just knows its not something she wants to happen.

This is an atmospheric story of families, secrets and friendship.

The proof I read was illustrated with simple line drawings – beautifully done – as chapter headings, which reflect the content of the story. It is a story to read in the evenings, preferably in front of an open fire…


The original story about Badger, Rat, Mole and of course the irrepressible Toad. A story every child should have read to them – charming and wonderful.

Badger wise, retiring and a bit of a recluse (if that isn’t tautology). Ratty – friendly, full of confidence, brave, generous and resourceful, Mole, shy, a little cautious, but kindly forgiving  naïve but full of common-sense and then there is Toad – exuberant, brilliant, full of life, affluent and trying ever so hard to be ‘someone’.

It is the story of a yellow canary coloured caravan. An otter cub going missing. The river, and animals just messing about in boats…a story of stoats and the weasels, picnics, horse theft, horse dealing, an escape from prison, a train chase,  car theft, a washer woman, and a grand battle.

The language is wonderful and this is one classic that everyone should read, at least once – though I suspect many will read it again and again.

It is a book about friendship, and bravery.

The play Toad of Toad Hall by A A Milne was developed from this story – with the backing of Kenneth Grahame – and both are marvellous.

There are almost too many different editions produced of this classic title. Each with different illustrators, and bindings. I grew up with A A Milne’s illustrations and Arthur Rackham’s too – both so different from one another it didn’t matter. There are many other illustrators now for all the different editions available or for that matter for those that are out of print.

The pictures illustrating this post are from Milne and Rackham’s editions – they are the people who illustrated the books for me….

I was taken to see productions of this play every Christmas by my parents as a child.

It is the original play written by A A Milne. The story was taken from Kenneth Grahame’s book The Wind in the Willows  and was written with Grahame’s approval and input and far surpasses any productions I have seen since.

In no other production do you have ‘a different kind of rabbit’, making an appearance. Nor do you ever have Ratty cleaning the barrel of his gun with the end of his tail. A practice he continued to do through all the productions I saw – and which worried me considerably.

I am lucky to have two siblings, both older than I am and at various times I have really appreciated having them about. My brother, back in the 1970’s once recorded a production from Radio 4 – pressing the button on the tape recorder in the kitchen at just the right moment, and I have since had that audio tape (look that up if you don’t know what that is) converted onto a CD – and I treasure it. The music and the production always takes me back to the theatre; to sitting as close as I could to the barrier in front of me, sitting on the edge of my seat, just gazing at the curtains, just waiting for that sublime music to start, with Marigold, who is speaking on the telephone. At least she has the trumpet of one daffodil to her ear, and another to her mouth…

We were lucky. The production that was recorded by the BBC, was of one of the original shows that I saw – important because Richard Goolden always played the part of Mole, and his voice is part of why my recording is so important.

Back in 1971 Mum (I am sure it would have been she), encouraged me to write to Richard Goolden/Moley after seeing one of the productions and I am now the proud owner of a Molly Brett postcard, with a note inscribed on the back. The front, in Molly Brett’s usual style, shows a number of small animals enjoying a bonfire: a badger, several rabbits, three hedgehogs, a bat and squirrel… His comment, written in green biro reads ‘Thank you so much for your nice letter. It was kind of you to write. Wishing you a very Happy 1972, with love from ‘Mole’, Richard Goolden’ and there is a small note, just scribbled up the side…‘Sorry there isn’t a mole on the card!!’

There will always be ‘other’ Toad of Toad Hall productions, just as there are different sorts of rabbits in the world. Alan Bennett for one has done a more recent production, which I have never seen. I don’t intend to do so either – after all it will not be able to measure up to the original. It is all very well for those who don’t know, but another for those of us who do. There has also been an opera style production that Mum, Dad and I saw a few years ago, produced the Internet says, by Will Tuckett – I thought I could get away with that, as it was Dad thought, going to be similar to an opera. That production has disappeared into my past without any real memory of it – apart from the fact that some one interesting was the narrator, but sadly who that was has also disappeared from my mind. It made little impression and certainly didn’t have anything to do with the theatre productions of Toad of Toad Hall that I know.

I believe that Samuel French still publish a script of the original play – and I sometimes still look at the modern reproduction I once found through work. I also have an old one too – which I keep tucked away safely in a special folder in my bookcase.

Recently I have been wandering around the Internet, as one does, and came across this U-tube entry – if that is the correct word. THIS is Toad of Toad Hall – there really is no other…

For those who don’t know – if you click on the arrow in the centre of the picture below, you will find yourself listening to Marigold on the telephone, she has just got through to the exchange…

Thank you Peter – I doubt you know how much pleasure that recording you made so many years ago has given me…




Published by Puffin

I am about a third of the way into this proof sent to me by Puffin. I am always pleased when I know a book to be right – and want to review it before I have finished it.

This is one such.

Charming and delightful. Beautifully and touchingly illustrated by Shane Devries.

The prologue sets the scene. A dinosaur egg survives frozen in the ice until an elf finds it in the snows of the North Pole and with a little help from some other wonderful characters returns with it back to Santa… Meanwhile William Trundle is living happily with his Dad and doing all the usual things, enjoying school and only being slightly exasperated by his Dad’s teasing. Then there is Brenda Payne. We all know / knew a Brenda Payne at school – this new girl is something else. I trust that the book will have a suitable ending… Somehow, I know it will.

If this isn’t the book for Christmas this year (good grief, I’m talking about CHRISTMAS in July) – then I will be greatly disappointed.

Tom Fletcher is the author of the Dinosaur that Pooped… collection of picture books – this one, has little reference to faecal matter, and is a proper Christmas adventure story – with a delightful dinosaur as a central character. What more could you want? It is to be published in October and really should be bought around then, and read to young story lovers (or not so young) until Christmas morning, it should be read around teatime – when quantities of crumpets should be eaten.

It is lovely – a very special volume…and, strange to tell, it is quite refreshing to read about the North Pole in July – I’m really enjoying this book.

It will, the information on the back of the proof states, be published on the 6th of October – actually it states it will hatch then. There is a very important egg in the story.  It will be released as a hardback at £9.99 – If the completed volume lives up to the potential shown by the proof, it will be a book to treasure for the future. To be a traditional part of Christmas.

Puffin haven’t released the cover onto the Internet yet. Shane Devries artwork in the proof are charmingly sketch like. I am unsure if the proof’s illustrations are indicative of those that the finished work will have. To illustrate this post though, I have snitched the above illustration from Google – an example of Shane’s coloured work, which would do just as well. So no cover illustration for this one – but keep an eye out. Put it on your list for Christmas. This is a ‘must’ buy and can be purchased from all good bookshops…who may if you are lucky also offer you other similar delights…