Archives for the month of: October, 2016

Something I have noticed recently is a tendency for publishers of children’s books to combine punctuation marks.

So far it is limited to their combining the question mark, with an exclamation.

It is as though the editors of these books believe the reader is unable to ascertain that the character is expressing themselves with surprise or not.

I am finding this irritating new strain of ‘punctuation’ more of a distraction than a useful additional indicator for my reading. So much so I am beginning to metaphorically put those books published with this new editing gimmick in my mental bin of ‘Candy Floss’ reading; books for children, that should only be read as often as they have candy floss.

Not very often.

I feel that it is used where the editors are not sure themselves – which is strange, and I have never heard of anyone wondering about whether a character has asked a question with surprise, or have only just exclaimed with a question. The context of the sentence usually indicates which it is.

In my view this is an unnecessary piece of entanglement in a language which seems to confuse people enough when they are asked to punctuate properly – so that they can clearly communicate.

Mr Brown would not have been pleased if I had started to pepper my writing with such a union. I think he would have marked my essay down with an acerbic comment and a neat exclamation point to finish.

I hope it isn’t an indication of worse things to come.

Punctuation is important and shouldn’t be abused.

A woman, without her man is nothing.

A woman: without her, man is nothing.

Published by Chicken House

I have only relatively recently started my blog in earnest. I am, I suppose a cautious beast – particularly since some person destroyed my computer some while ago – which meant I lost a lot of work and photographs. What particularly angered me, though wasn’t so much the loss, I think, (though that still makes me grind my teeth), but the fact they got absolutely nothing from it. Nothing at all*.

This books is essentially about the responsibility we have when using blogs and similar social media. This time, its not the teenager who is abusing the social niceties – it is Scarlet’s mother. She is doing what all parents do – talking about her daughter. What she has done. What she hasn’t done. What she eats. What she doesn’t. The fact that she went out. That she didn’t. What her gym kit smells like at the end of a day of sports. The difference is that all of it is on Scarlet’s mum’s blog, along with photographs to make it more interesting.

Scarlet is beginning to retreat – to disappear, when she investigates a noise from the house next door and finds a cat, an empty house, a modern kitchen and a cook book…

This is a wonderful read about friendship, responsibilities and families…a lovely book to snuggle down with.

* I must admit though to having had two witches in my ancestry. I like to think that those who do such things are cursed – after all I must have inherited something from those two ladies.

I may never know what has happened to the computer abusers, but then again, they never knew the trouble and distress they caused me.

It still happened though, so you never know…



Published by Harper Collins

I had a copy of Bottersnikes and Gumbles bottersnikeswhen I was a child that I enjoyed reading. Over the years I have remembered it, at irregular intervals, but no one else seemed to remember it at all. It was almost as though I had dreamt the book.

The only detail I  could recall, apart from the fact that I had really enjoyed it, was that the Bottersnikes were not unlike very large, bad tempered blackberries, with enormous ears that got very red and hot when they were angry.  The Gumbles were a rather naïve and benign group of creatures, not unlike large marshmallows who were more intelligent, but would come into conflict with the Bottersnikes who weren’t very friendly. The Gumbles could be squashed into different shapes or flattened, without any harm coming to them, which was a good thing, because whenever the Bottersnikes got hold of them that is what they would do.

You will understand why I should think I had dreamt reading such a book. I once looked the title up on the Internet and found copies being sold for rather more than I wanted to spend. So I left it – still with that vague feeling that it was all, irrespective of the fact I had found reference to it on the computer, a figment of my imagination.

Then, after about 19 years of working in Waterstones a customer arrived and dragging a copy out of the back of his rucksack asked, ‘Have you ever heard of this, and if you do, have you got any in stock?’ and gave me a copy of Bottersnikes and Gumbles. I remember he was rather surprised by my reaction. We talked about the books and he left me feeling as though something  had come out of my dreams to accost me in real life, which was a little disconcerting.

Then yesterday. I was putting out stock and came across a copy of The Adventures of Bottersnikes and Gumbles, which is a compilation of various stories taken from the books – so not exactly my book, but none the less I was astonished to find it sitting on our shelves. I feel as though these truly extraordinary characters and books gently haunt my bookselling life, from my childhood.

On reading the back of this new book I find that the stories are Australian – which seems very right – where else would you find such creatures?

The selection of stories are taken from: Bottersnikes and Gumbles, Gumbles on Guard, Gumbles in Summer & Gumbles in Trouble.

I would have preferred the books to have been published in their entirety, (perhaps as a boxed set), but at least they are now represented on our shelves in The Adventures of Bottersnikes and Gumbles.




Published by Puffin

One of the joys of working in the Children’s section of a bookshop is the books you come across. Those books that as an adult you aren’t supposed to read (though I can never understand why you shouldn’t), unless you have a ‘reason’ to do so – like, working in the Children’s section of a book shop. I’m not sure I would care about it, even if I didn’t, but since I do, if I need an excuse, that’s what I’m using. At least that is the one that seems to be acceptable to those who feel I should have an excuse for reading such marvellous stories as Flour Babies.

I have seen the book on our shelves for years. Never picked it up – but did so the day before yesterday and became entranced by it. I finished it yesterday – which is the way of things; good books ‘go’ faster, but this is one of the funniest books I have ever read – touching too – simply one of the best books, ever.

It tells the story of 4C, their teacher Mr Cartwright, our hero Martin Simon and the yearly Science Fair – they are not what you might think of as the brightest pupils in the school – they are in fact those pupils that have slowly settled to the bottom of the heap, however, Mr Cartwright is ever hopeful that something might be made of them, some of them, perhaps. Since they haven’t passed any exams, they have lost out on the more interesting experiments for the fair, exploding custard tins and the like and have the choice of: textiles, nutrition, domestic economy, child development, or consumer studies. The start of the book begins with them voting for which of these subjects they should use as their topic for their contribution to the school’s annual fair. None of them seem inspiring, apart from domestic economy, which might, but probably won’t, have something to do with food.

This book is a joy, a real gem – this is a small excerpt from it…from pages 98 – 99 which is the beginning of a discussion the pupils have that is frankly superb.

‘Or cook and eat them.’

Mr Cartwright felt obliged to step in at this point to pull 4C’s lively discussion back on the rails.

‘No, I don’t think so, George. Not cook and eat them.’

‘Oh yes, sir.’ George was adamant. ‘They taste exactly like pork. I read it in a book.’

The general clamour for more information was almost drowned out by potential individual     researchers.

‘What book?’

‘Do you still have it?’


‘What about crackling? Do babies make proper crackling?’

A book for boys, girls and parents – and perhaps (with consideration to page 99), those who might become parents through a ‘slip’ or intentionally.

Simply marvellous. The book made me laugh out loud on the tube, tears falling down my face whilst my bemused fellow commuters looked on in wonder when I explained that ‘No, its not an adult book, but everyone should read it…’

It is a pity, I think, that it isn’t required reading in schools across the country.

Read it.

Published by Egmont

This is a superb little volume. Beautifully binding Welsh myths, magic, and a modern story of friendship and bravery. It is a story of loss, but also of finding things again.

Gwyn’s grandmother gives him a collection of eclectic items for his birthday. A brooch, an old damaged toy horse, some dried seaweed, a whistle and a scarf. She tells him he might be a magician, someone from the old Welsh myths. Gwyn’s parents wish she wouldn’t fill his head with stories…

When Gwyn releases his gifts to the wind he receives things in return. Extraordinary and often beautiful things, though one is certainly dangerous.

The brooch becomes a beautiful silver spider and her webs become something mystical and beautiful allowing him to see another world.

Gwyn’s sister Bethan disappeared on the mountain behind their farm four years ago and the family still mourn and wonder about what happened to her. Gwyn is told by his Grandmother that should he be the magician she thinks he might be, then perhaps he will have his heart’s desire. Perhaps, just perhaps, Bethan will be found, and will return to her family…

A mythical and rather beautiful book for Christmas –



Published by Orion

“Ned was the reason why Mr Doyle had to get a pacemaker fitted.”


“And besides, according to most of our teachers, you are not supposed to give power to wild boys on horses. It only encourages them”

Another superb book from the Orion stable.

This is a book about friendship, horses, and being your own person. It is about horse racing, bravery and standing up for what is right. It is about finding out that not everything fits neatly in boxes and that it is rare for people to do so too.

I marked two small points in this book – both made me laugh out loud and they are quoted above…

Ned is something else. I wish I had met Ned when I was a child – wild, different and silent. He doesn’t attend school very often. Ned, though is special – an extraordinarily talented boy – wild, determined, and exceptional. He reminds me a little of my favourite uncle –

This is a story with characters that almost engulf the book.

Minty’s parents though, are parting…things are not right at home. An understatement, if there ever was one. Her father’s stuff is in a skip in their drive, her mother is smiling fake smiles and talking about “turning new leaves”, “starting again” and “new lives”.

The trouble is Minty rather liked the other one – the one before her parent’s began to talk earnestly in whispers, and started smiling fake smiles at one another and then there is Ned.

Ned who doesn’t ‘do’ school. He is the boy that the teachers shrug about. Who glowers at everyone and has something to do with horses…

K M Peyton’s Blind Beauty was my favourite ‘horse’ book. Now I’m not so sure – I suspect it is this, a glorious celebration of being different, bravery and friendship. They should both be sold together – I feel they are a pair of siblings…

I wish I could ride like Ned…I wish I could have a relationship with a  horse like he has with Dagger… but that would entail so much more…

It is superb.




Published by Nosy Crow

This is a post with my sister Clare in mind. She breeds Middle White Pigs…in Yorkshire – and once won the Great Yorkshire Show with her boar Boris…Not that I’m inordinately proud of my big sister…but there you are. So you get a picture of her and her pigs with this too!

Back to the review – Jasmine’s father is a cattle farmer. There are no pigs on his farm at all. He doesn’t want pigs; he only has enough time for the cows on his farm and doesn’t need or want the complications of pigs to add to his work load. His wife is a vet – dealing with everything from large animals to pets. The family is busy – the children going back and forth to school; everyone with their own interests….

Jasmine’s interests? Well, Jasmine is into all things porcine. Jasmine, would love a pig – whatever her parents say. She is reading up on all the rare breeds in a magazine she receives regularly, and any books she can get hold of. When her mother takes her out on a call to a calving at a local farm she asks the disagreeable farmer if she can look at his pigs whilst her mother deals with the calving. Without really thinking about it the farmer tells her that there are piglets – 12 of them.

There, in the third enclosure, sure enough, is a sow with 12 bright pink fat little piglets… but what is that movement under the straw?

This is the start of a wonderful series of books about Jasmine, her family and the animals she comes across.  Though a book for five to eight year olds it has not followed many other animal books for younger readers. The book includes details of the hard work involved and the more technical aspects of looking after animals, and this is stirred well into the mix – Jasmine knows about colostrum, about using the warmth from an oven to help small animals to recover. I don’t think this series will shy away from death either, (Jasmine makes the observation that the first 24 hours are the most important) – and it looks to cover the care of animals as well as having a good plot for this most important age group.

I hope there won’t be too many Jasmine books – just the right number and no more – I don’t think, though that Helen Peters will be prolific, and I suspect these will become much loved classics. I hope too that pigs, (perhaps Middle White Pigs) will feature again in one of the later books.