Archives for the month of: December, 2017

Published by Bloomsbury.

I was sorting the picture books today and came across this book, that I hadn’t come across before. Norman lives a ‘normal’ life, until the day he grows some wings.

Rather than upset his parents, Norman begins to wear a heavy coat to cover his feathers. Which is fine outside when its raining, but not so good when the sun is shining or he is indoors.

His parents wait a while, as the coat gets tattier, until the day when Norman realises that the thing that is making him hot and bothered isn’t his set of wings, but his coat. When he at last throws it aside he realises that everyone is hiding sets of wings too – and he needn’t have worried.

This is a wonderful book about normality. The fact that we all have wings and should perhaps just enjoy them – after all what is normal for me is normal…

It is super – and its always a joy coming across a book like this when you are half way through removing every book form a section, off the shelves so you can dust, and then return them all in order.

Marvellous.

Published by Simon and Schuster

I haven’t got very far with this yet – but it is quite an extraordinary volume.

It is a brilliant piece of fantastic fiction and adventure that (so far) involves an evil ice queen, a young boy with his arctic fox cub, and a young girl frozen alive onto a musical box.

It is intriguing, well written and (so far), quite wonderful – It has all the elements to making this a very, very good story. At the moment I am at home writing this up, and outside it is cold, with rain/sleet – a day for snuggling down with a good book. Which I intend to do – with this one. Though I think I might put the fire on first.

‘…Flint found himself wondering whether birthplace, parentage and appearance were really the things that you should list people under. Somehow courage and loyalty seemed better markers.’

‘Belonging is not about knowing your tribe. Its about trusting people whatever their tribe.’

Read it – I know this is a ‘good one’.

Later…I seem to be savouring this volume – not finished yet – but it is a brilliant and a superb read. An absolute ‘must by’. Good thing Waterstones is making it the Children’s Book of the Month for January! Go out and buy a copy – and get another book in the promotion for half price (if cheaper than this), or get this one for half price, if the other is more…

Or just buy, borrow or beg a copy. It isn’t expensive. It’s a paperback and its good.

 

 

Published by Harper Collins

This is a rather clever book. I am not sure I would ever have wanted to live for ever. The world changes so fast, and not always for the better. I wouldn’t have minded being able to time travel, though, that would be different. As long as I was able to return to where I should be; today – now: 27th of December 2017 at 10.57 am.

This story, though, (unless everything changes), is about a boy who will essentially live forever. Like Peter Pan, he will never grow up; he will stay 11 years old and unless he has an accident, will never die.

For some, that sounds almost perfect. Alfie, though, finds his friends grow away from him. They don’t understand how he can stay a boy, when their interests begin to change. He is still playing football and with his cat and wants to stay with his mother. His interests are still those of an 11 year old boy. Friends never last long.

He and his mother live a very quiet life. His father died a long time ago from an accident on a ship and so they live in peace with his cat.

When his mother dies in a fire, Alfie finds himself alone and begins to think that perhaps he would prefer to grow up with his friends and to live a normal life. He has one opportunity to do this, a way of changing things. Other factors, however, are beginning to be brought to bear on his life – things are changing and being a boy alone, life is getting more complicated, more difficult.

This is about a boy and Biffa, his cat from around 1014 AD. living in the 21st C. It is clever and touching. What happens in the end, is for me coloured by Biffa’s survival – but for all that, this is a story of friendship, history and that peculiar yearning we have to ‘live for ever’. Do we really want to?

 

Published by Oxford University Press

Sailing – especially in small boats is an almost visceral occupation for some. For others, it is a mechanical procedure, hardly understood. Then again others know the physics, the mathematics, but would never step on board.

St Kilda is an island off the west coast of Scotland. The most remote part of the Outer Hebrides. Bleak and uninhabited, apart from the birds and sheep – and even these are different from the usual woolly ruminant. There used to be a small hamlet, and the army have had a base there, but on the whole, it is left to the birds (and the sheep). It is a desolate place. A place, on the whole, deserted.  A place where you could, if you can reach it, disappear. Escape from life, perhaps, just for a while.

Jamie’s family build boats, and sail them. Theirs, so far, have never capsized and his grandfather intuitively, it seems, builds beautiful small vessels and hopes that Jamie might follow in his footsteps… though he thinks he should become a stronger swimmer, before learning to sail.

Jamie, however, has a secret.

This is a lovely book about boats, sailing, friendship, a dog, and bravery.

The illustration below, is I think, a picture of a ‘swell’ – and I have ‘nicked’ it from the Internet again – from Pinterest – Beth Robertson Fiddes / Dark Sea St Kilda. Somehow it fits this story…it gives the feeling of menace…

Published by Chicken House (February 2018)

Are you proper, or have you been constructed, made to do a job. Do you need to sleep? If you cut yourself, do you bleed? Do you have a soul? Or are you made of metal?

If you are proper, you are real – flesh and blood. If not, then someone, somewhere, made you. If you are adult sized, and look proper, but aren’t, then you are probably illegal.

This is a story of identity. Of lies. Belief and friendship. Gripper, Jack, Manda and Rob are mechanicals. Christopher though is different. They live with Absalom, who runs what amounts to being a junk yard, from which he resources much of his materials… Life is hard, but they support one another. There is time to make the odd snowman between bouts of work…

I haven’t got far with this yet – but it is superb. 148 pages in (of 329) – it has already given one twist, that I didn’t see coming…a twist that results in far reaching changes…

It comes out in February – buy it, and enjoy it….

I am reading a proof – the above illustration of the cover-to-be may not be the one that is actually used. So it is no indication of how good this is. Trust me. I know.

 

Published by Scholastic (February 2018)

A rather good story written in, sometimes overly, colloquial English, quasi American. So much so, it did colour the book for me, and not positively. I am uncertain as to where it is set – perhaps in the US, but it could just as well be somewhere imaginary.  It is written in the first person and tells the story of a girl’s search for her father. It is the story of a rather marvellous witch, and of course magic. Good against evil. School bullies and their stories too. Ghosts. It is the tale of a dog, with a wagging tail – brave and true.

It is a most extraordinary book. If the story hadn’t been so good, I’m afraid I would have found the English would have brought me to a halt. Mainly as I think we should encourage ‘good’ clear language for young readers, so that becomes the norm (particularly for exams and the like), and the more interesting, should perhaps be for later, once clear good English is the practice.

That said, there were some rather nice ‘nuggets’.

Then she told Ma the whole of Culleroy would think I was being raised by mudskippers.

… his spider-brown eyes followed me around. They were deep-set as if someone had pushed them hard into his skull.

Bird song floated up from the valley. I smelled the breath of the forest: all sticky pine and baked herbs and wild flowers and hot grass. Insects hummed and rattled and zizzied; bees gathered on giant bushes of yellow flowers as if they were dropping into their local diner for pollen shakes; ants march and lizards flicked their tails and butterflies slashed their patterned wings.

Perhaps the colour of the language, the use of it, fits the book – anyway it is certainly one to enjoy.

It is not for the faint of heart – dark, but also rather wondrous.

Enjoy.

I read a proof – so the cover probably isn’t that shown above. Though it might be – the proof had a black and white rendition of that one. So, just perhaps…

Due out February 2018

Published by Harper Collins.

It is now 02.15 – early in the morning. Dark outside and cold. I have just finished reading this small book, having gone to bed with it, and then to wake to finish it some while ago.

The dark can be disturbing. Actually outside now it isn’t really dark. There are street lights, pale now as it is early morning and they are run, I think on solar energy – and weaken in the early hours. There are Christmas lights too, shining from one of the houses, and someone has left their light on over their door. So not really dark at all.

Number the Stars is the fictional tale of one instance of what happened in Denmark during the war. Of what happened in so many different ways all over the country.

It follows the story of a family caught up in that terrible time, when the world was not only dark physically,  spiritually and in so many other ways.

It is simply and clearly told; it is the story of a great aunt who never was. A story of two girls, friends almost from birth. The God of Thunder falling into a milking pail. A story of young men and women doing what they could, and risking their lives for their country, and what was right.

It is the story of Denmark, Copenhagen and the Nazis…it is also the story of bravery, and hope. It is a remarkable, extraordinary story.

 

Sandi Toksvig wrote Hitler’s Canary – another book about the Danes – which is also superb, but is probably for readers who are slightly older than eight. I am a little ashamed that I haven’t reviewed that – but mention it here, as reference for those who would wish to read it. Both books are clearly and compassionately written.

 

 

 

Published by Walker Books

It won’t take you long to read this small volume, more an exercise book than the usual novel. 102 pages of ‘story’ and a couple more at the end, which explain why this book was written.

This is a fictional, moving account of deportation. Superbly written, simply and with power.

It is liberally illustrated with ‘Polaroid’ photographs and I started it today and finished reading it on the way home.

Below is a quote from the Afterword – which I think says it all.

I don’t know much about immigration policy or the politics of our relationship with Mongolia. Maybe there is some complicated reason why a depopulated and culturally deprived area like Bootle shouldn’t be allowed generous and brilliant visitors. I do know that a country that authorises its functionaries to snatch children from their beds in the middle of the night can’t really be called civilised.

Frank Cottrell Boyce rightly won the 2012 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize and was awarded an IBBY Honour for The Forgotten Coat. 

The picture of the eagle is from the book, but also should be credited to Edge Hill University – from whom I stole the image for this post.

 

Published by Chicken House January 2018

A tale of sacrifice. Of ice. Friendship and love. This slim volume published by Chicken House is a little different. This is the story of a young girl who is allergic to the sun. She can never go out without cover, never bask in its light, or stroll around a garden. She couldn’t play with other children as a child, and has to go ‘full hat’ if she goes anywhere at all, covered and sheltered from the sun, irrespective of how hot it might be. Her life has revolved around doctors including one who refers to her mother as ‘Mummy’. Life is to be endured, not enjoyed. Her life is curtailed. Controlled.

Until the night she slips out after dark…

A remarkable story, its ending not as many would expect, but the right ending none-the-less.

It is a cold story – full of ice.

It is a story of fears: fear of change, fear of life, but also one of hope and promises and sacrifices…

A book to read in front of a roaring fire.

 

Published by Bloomsbury

‘Friendly Crime’. A term that I use to myself about murder mysteries that are not graphic and or full of disturbing suspense. They usually have good plots and aren’t going to worry me. Authors of this ‘genera’ include M. C. Beaton (Hamish MacBeth, very friendly, and good for reading in bed with flu), through to Dorothy L Sayers (Lord Peter Wimsey), and James Runcie – whose books are more literary.

I was made aware of the James Runcie’s Grantchester books because of the television programmes & I was intrigued enough some time ago to purchase the first volume in the series. This was quickly followed by volume 2 and 3. There was a small delay whilst waiting for more, but yesterday, I found volume 4 & 5 on our shelves and these were quickly purchased.

I enjoy the characters, and their relationships with one another, as much as the murder mystery. Somehow this type of crime, Friendly Crime, is almost comforting.

Usually I don’t like to be disturbed by what I read. I don’t like gratuitous violence, particularly in graphic detail. I don’t like psychological suspense.  I like my murderers to be clever, but my detectives to be more so, perhaps not in the traditional sense, but certainly to have an edge all their own. These remind me of GK Chesterton and his Father Brown stories.

I would say that was my general view of crime novels, however, I also read Janet Evanovich, (Stephanie Plum, One for the Money) whose books are often violent, but they are tempered by humour and brilliant characters. They are not books I would suggest for non-adult readers. American, with a violent streak, but full of laughter, and character. I suppose the violence is sudden, quick and mixed well in with the humour etc.

I know little of the hierarchy and ‘doings’ of ‘the’ church, so can’t state whether the Grantchester series are accurate in that way, however, they are ‘good’ books.

A pleasure to enjoy, especially with tea,and a slice of fruit cake, somewhere warm and comfortable.

Sidney Chambers & The Shadow of Death

Sidney Chambers & The Perils of the Night

Sidney Chambers & the Problem of Evil

Sidney Chambers & the Forgiveness of Sins 

& the fifth in the series so far

Sidney Chambers & the Dangers of Temptation