Poetry Thursdays: Fierce Fairytales

So, a couple of weeks ago, on National Poetry Day, I posted about how much I enjoy poetry, but rarely choose to read it. This evolved into the idea of making my Thursday posts (weekly when I can, fortnightly when life takes over!) poetry posts.

In strangely serendipitous timing, I had just started reading ‘Fierce Fairytales’ by Nikita Gill, which I was sent by Trapeze in exchange for an honest review.

Drawn in by the fairytale theme (anything linked to a fairytale gets me!) and that gorgeous cover by Tomas Almeida, I hadn’t realised when I requested it was that the majority of the book is poetry (though some ‘chapters’ do take the form of prose).

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Step into this world of empowering, reimagined fairytales where the stereotypes of obliging lovers, violent men and girls that need rescuing are transformed.

Opening it to find poetry inside was a lovely surprise – what an original way to examine these characters and tales. And ‘examine’ I think is the key word there: for that is what this feels like – rather than a reimagining (although there are reimagined versions of tales in there), it’s more analysis, speculation and possibility: why did the characters act like they did? What if this had happened instead? Could it be possible that the way we were told it was not quite how it was? What lessons can we learn from them?

The book features everyone from from Jack and his magic beans to Cinderella to Peter Pan to Red Riding Hood – each with a new angle or twist; but standing alongside them are the villains cast against them – each giving their side to the story, their reasons and their own misfortunes.

Tradition and perception are challenged with humour, defiance and reason. There is rage in these words, but there is also hope. There is caution, but also inspiration.

If I was being harsh my only minor issue was that I felt some of the later poems in the book were rather repetitive or contrived in their links to the fairytale themes. Personally, I’d have rather had a slimmed down collection with a strong, specific fairytale link, as many of these had, and seen some of the others that linked more broadly to the feminist/mental health/societal themes in a separate collection.

But that’s just me, and I still loved it overall.

However, whether grouped here or separated, within these poems you will find one that speaks to you (most likely more than one) – maybe, like Baba Yaga, you are ageing ungracefully and proud; maybe you’ve encountered your own Prince Charming (spoiler: this is no Disney romance); maybe, like so many of the characters here, you know the power of words to build or destroy:

“They used to burn witches because of stories. A story is no small thing.”

(Belladonna)

Personal favourites included Cry Wolf, The Hatter, The Woods Reincarnated and The Miller’s Daughter. But the one I love best of all, so much so I’d like it printed and framed is the opening poem, Once Upon a Time:

Are you a fairytale fan?

Have you read this – what did you think?

What do you think of the poem I’ve shared here from it?

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Six For Sunday: Best Trilogies or Series

Six for Sunday is hosted by Steph at A Little But A Lot. She gives a prompt for a list of six books each Sunday – the list can be found here. This week it’s

Favourite Trilogies or Series

So tough – old or new? Picture book, MG, YA or adult?

In the end I decided to go with a mixture of ages and only more recent books (bar one) otherwise it risked being a list of the obvious – Harry Potter, His Dark Materials (even if The Amber Spyglass is nowhere near as good as the first 2), Judith Kerr’s Out of Hitler Time trilogy etc. (see how I snuck some in anyway!)

Picture Books

Triangle/Square/Circle – Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

I LOVE this trilogy. SO much. Even though Circle isn’t out yet (one of my most anticipated books of 2019!) See this post to find out more!

Oi Frog/Dog/Cat/Duck-Billed Platypus by Kes Gray and Jim Field

These books are so clever. Writing good picture books is hard. Writing good, funny picture books is even harder. Writing good, funny, rhyming picture books is harder still. So to do that not just once but to take the format and create four (five including Oi Goat) hilarious books from it is quite something. Unbelievably good. See this post for more.

MG (“Middle Grade”)

The Huntress trilogy by Sarah Driver: Sea, Storm, Sky

Deserving of being on the list for the gorgeous covers alone (created by Joe McLaren) , I loved how original and exciting this series was. A truly wild adventure with the most fantastic and inventive world-building. Find out more here.

The Five Realms series by Kieran Larwood: The Legend of Podkin One-Ear, The Gift of Dark Hollow and The Beasts of Grimheart (so far!)

Another hugely original and brilliantly told series with more top class world building and interesting characters. I’ll be honest when book one came out I wasn’t sold on the idea of this adventure with talking rabbits – I read it anyway and was absolutely hooked. I gulp these down and am so pleased there’ll be more than three in the series!

The Bromeliad by Terry Pratchett: Truckers, Diggers, Wings

OK, this one breaks my ‘recent books’ rule but it was a favourite of mine growing up, as was his Discworld series (two for one in my list of 6 there!) and both require a reread soon! Dry and witty, Pratchett was a master at poking fun at the world and making the absurd seem utterly normal.

YA/Teen

Ink Trilogy by Alice Broadway: Ink, Spark (plus book 3 still to come)

OK, it’s another incomplete series. And yes, it’s another that would be on the list just for its covers and inner maps (beautifully illustrated by Jamie Gregory) but I love this series too. Rich in storytelling culture, imagery and symbolism and with a highly unique take on some very relevant themes – segregation, prejudice, propaganda and power – this is a must-read series! Looking forward to book 3!

What are your favourite trilogies/series? Do we agree on any?

Have you taken part in #SixforSunday too – leave me a link to your list!

The Lost Magician

I was offered a copy of The Lost Magician for review (thanks to Hachette Kids) and how could I resist with a cover like that?! Courtesy of Ben Mantle, it has a wonderfully magical feel and is a perfect match for the story inside.

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An ode to the world of Narnia:

1945. They have survived the Blitz, but when Simon, Patricia, Evelyn and Larry step through a mysterious library door, it is the beginning of their most dangerous adventure yet.

I didn’t know about the connections to Narnia when I got this, but as I started reading I was taken back to the first time I read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and the countless times I stepped into my grandma’s wardrobe (complete with *fake* fur coat) hoping it would lead me through to a snow-covered Narnia (and imagining it had when it invariably didn’t!).

As in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the story centres around four siblings who unwittingly find themselves key to saving the land they’ve stumbled upon.

As with the original four, here too are four very distinct personalities and everyone will have a different favourite. Personally, I loved Larry and Grey Bear. Evelyn will go down well as a female science fanatic, and Simon’s dyslexia (undiagnosed because of the time period) proves an interesting perspective and its nice to see it represented in a book about books.

Cleverly reimagined, this uses the Narnia stories as its base and leaps off into an entirely new world, albeit one with a war raging – mirroring the one the children have left behind and posing some interesting thoughts, ideas and talking points on that theme.

First we meet the Reads (pronounced ‘red’) and Unreads. The Reads are storybook characters, and I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling a little buzz of excitement as some very well-known and well-loved characters were described, introduced and alluded to.

However, trying to destroy the Reads are the Unreads, led by the White Queen inspired Jana (and yes, she is every bit as icy cold and merciless!) The Unreads represent facts, truth, information and data. Brilliantly imagined and described, they turn what could easily have become a nostalgia-fest right into something original and altogether less cosy, with futuristic robots, vehicles and buildings. They provide a great balance to the comforting idea of the Reads.

And ultimately, that is a key theme of the book – balance and compromise; of needing and benefiting from differences – as is the idea that stories are not just entertainment and diversion, but that despite seeming to be the complete opposite of fact, they too teach us things, help us to learn and develop and bring about change and progress.

Books, adventure, battles and magic – it’s an exciting and modern take on ‘The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’ and the perfect homage to libraries, librarians and all things bookish!

Peapod’s Picks: Voices

I’m going to try and post a a Peapod’s Picks every Friday, or at least alternate Fridays. They’ll be picture, board or cloth books – some old, some new – that we’ve enjoyed or are looking forward to.

This week: ‘doing the voices’

Before I go any further, I should point out that despite by all accounts being a fairly accomplished reader of stories, capable of keeping even the wriggliest entertained, I am RUBBISH at voices. I’m no good at accents and I forget who sounds like what halfway through.

As I mentioned last week Peapod has a story as part of his bedtime routine. Actually he has two most nights – one read by me and one read by Daddy.

As I also mentioned, at (nearly) 8 weeks old he’s still far too little to know what we’re reading, let alone whether or not we’re ‘doing the voices’. I on the other hand am seemingly less forgiving…

It all began with The Dark by Lemony Snickett and Jon Klassen (As quirky as you’d expect from this pair – humorous, reassuring and creepy all at once!)

“I want to show you something,” Daddy read.

“What kind of voice is that?!” Mummy chortled.

“It’s a voice as creaky as the roof of the house and as smooth and cold as the windows!”

We were crying laughing trying to read this and find a voice that sounded quite like that!

Then, we read ‘Dave’s Cave’ and ‘Dave’s Rock’ by Frann Preston-Gannon. (Simply told stories brilliantly brought to life by the illustrations and carefully selected text – Dave is instantly loveable and the stories are warm and funny – I would love to see more adventures from Dave!)

” Is Dave a Cockney Caveman?!” enquired Mummy between giggles.

” I’ve gone for League of Gentlemen…”

Cue yet more hilarity as we attempted to perfect Dave’s caveman voice!

And tonight we’re reading ‘A New Home for a Pirate’ by Ronda Armitage and Holly Swain (think The Smartest Giant in Town meets Room on the Broom – brilliantly under-rated) It features both pirates and farmers…need I say more?!

Do you ‘do the voices’ when reading aloud – do you have have any books you particularly enjoy doing? Or any you hope won’t be requested?!

WWW Wednesday 10/10/18

Hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’, every Wednesday we ask and answer the 3 W’s:

It’ll be a short one this week as I’ve not managed much reading at all. I don’t know where this week has gone!

What are you currently reading?

I pre ordered this, having been ridiculously excited about it since it was announced. I picked it up early, at the end of September. And up until today, I still hadn’t started it! I think I’d built it up so much I haven’t quite been able to bring myself to begin! So, I’m taking the plunge today…

What have you just finished reading?

I didn’t know what to expect from this and hadn’t realised at all when I requested it that it was predominantly poetry, but it was a pleasant surprise – especially in light of my recent decision to read more poetry and dedicate Thursdays’ posts to it.

I enjoyed it, though it felt a bit like a book of two halves and I definitely preferred the first half. The latter part of the book did feel a bit ‘filler’, but on the whole it was a really creative and interesting take on the fairytale-retelling that seem very popular at the moment.

Full review to follow.

What are you planning on reading next?

I’m probably going to go on an MG spree, but as I’ve only just opened The Way Past Winter, I’m not sure yet, so instead of what I’ll read next, I’m asking/answering

What books were added to your TBR this week?

I received an absolutely bumper bookpost parcel from OUP this week and am very excited to dive into these, especially the Michael Morpurgo Myths and Legends.

I also received these gems from Harper Collins – I’m especially looking forward to Hubert Horatio.

I ordered both of these after seeing them on Read It Daddy and they both look fab!

And this is a treat to myself! I absolutely love it when a book has a map in it, so I just couldn’t resist!

Did you get any exciting book deliveries/purchases this week?

Have you read any of the books here? What are you reading at the moment?

Peapod’s Picks: Bedtime

I’m going to try and post a a Peapod’s Picks every Friday, or at least alternate Fridays. They’ll be picture, board or cloth books – some old, some new – that we’ve enjoyed or are looking forward to.

This week: our favourite bedtime books.

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Peapod is nearly 7 weeks old now and sleep is not high on his to-do list. He’ll cave in to a nap in his sling or doze off lying on us but getting him to sleep in his crib is another matter!

So, while it doesn’t always go to plan and there’s no hard and fast timings about it, we have our bedtime routine of bath-feed-book-bed to help.

At the moment, he’s too small to mind what we read, more interested in just hearing our voices, but I’m loving the chance to read some picture books so he has a picture book for bedtime.

So this week, I’ve picked out some of the ones we’ve read so far:

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Sometimes I Like To Curl Up in a Ball by Vicki Churchill and Charles Fuge

I read this as part of my interview to get on my Early Years degree a good 15 years ago and in honesty I’d almost forgotten it, but my love for it has been rekindled!

It’s a great all-rounder: Wombat and friends spend the day running, jumping and playing – perfect for an interactive daytime read. But by the end of the day, Wombat is tired and ready to snuggle up to sleep – perfect for bedtime. I love the illustrations too. This will be on heavy rotation for years I think!

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Goodnight Everyone by Chris Haughton

It’s officially impossible to read this without yawning. In a really, really good way!

Illustrated in typical ‘Haughton’ style with lovely nighttime colours, it’s a cleverly composed book – simple, repetitive and full of sleepy sounds and noises perfect for joining in with (intentionally or otherwise!)

Beautiful night sky/solar system pictures on the inside covers too!

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Can’t You Sleep Little Bear? by Martin Waddell and Barbara Firth

A classic! A heartwarming tale of Little Bear who just can’t sleep with dark all around him and Big Bear’s reassurance.

Parents everywhere will smile a knowing smile as Big Bear has his evening read by the fire repeatedly interrupted by his sleepless charge and little ones everywhere will be comforted by Little Bear and his gradual acceptance of the dark.

Bonus points for being quite a long one too – perfect for those stubbornly not-going-to-sleep nights, appropriately!

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Humphrey’s Bedtime by Sally Hunter

I love Sally Hunter’s Humphrey’s Corner books. Gentle and warm and full of the familiar, with lovely, soft and detailed illustrations.

Humphrey’s Bedtime takes us through Humphrey’s bedtime routine (perfect for little ones just starting to get used to one of their own!) and big sister Lottie’s refusal to join in as she’s a ‘big girl’ who’s too busy putting her own babies (teddies) to bed.

Again, one that will prove only too familiar for parents and a comforting cuddle of a book for children who’ll see others doing just the same as them at bedtime.

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Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman

I absolutely adore the Bear… series by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman’s illustrations are rich, detailed and full of atmosphere.

Bear Snores On is brilliantly onomatopoeic, with a lovely balance of fun and sleepiness! It’s an especially lovely one to snuggle up and read quietly on cold, rainy autumn nights and it’s another I’ll be reading ALL the time!

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The Night Box by Louise Greig and Ashling Lindsay

As with ‘Between Tick and Tock’this has the feel of an illustrated poem rather than the traditional story style found in most picture books.

A lovely look at all the little changes that occur when the Night box is unlocked and night comes out to take over from day (then vice versa at the end).

Full of details both from home and the natural world, it’s a great way to look at the difference between night and day, and the transition between the two.

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I have quite a few other bedtime themed books in my collection that we’ll be reading over the next few weeks, so we’ll probably do another bedtime themed Peapod’s Picks in the future. But are there any I’m missing?

What are your favourite bedtime stories?

Do you have any your little ones love, or favourites from when you were little?

 

Jess Butterworth’s Books

Jess Butterworth is one of my favourite new authors of the past few years and I’m so excited for a new book from her next year. Ahead of that, a belated review of her two books to date…

Both are beautifully designed, illustrated and laid out with gorgeous covers from Rob Biddulph and patterned pages to mark each chapter.

With a truly original and enjoyable style – Jess’ writing is a perfect example of ‘less is more’ and of how sometimes short, sparse sentences can be just as effective as long, adjective-filled passages.

I devoured this book – it’s not a long read, but a brilliant one.

Set in the Himalayas, this is a story steeped in culture and tradition, and I was transported right into the heart of the it.

When Tash’s parents are captured by soldiers, Tash and Sam embark on a dangerous journey out of Tibet to find the Dalai Lama and ask for his help.

It is a tale which shines a light on real issues in an immensely approachable and sensitive way: what could be an overbearingly heavy tale of censorship, control, lost freedoms and protest is instead a book filled with hope, bravery, friendship and family.

With incredibly likeable and relatable characters, a richly described and detailed setting and an important but perilous journey at its heart, this was definitely one of my favourite children’s books of 2017 and remains a favourite now.

Ruby and new friend Praveen set out on a mission to protect the local leopards from some very disagreeable and suspicious types they suspect of poaching.

Unsurprisingly after ROTROTW it is the vivid descriptions of the setting in the story that I like best about it too. The mountain landscape and its flora and fauna, and the bustling city and its busy river will have you sighing, gasping and wondering at the sights along with Ruby as she discovers her new surroundings!

With perilous trips through the mountains, midnight stake-outs, bustling trains and floods this is a thrill-filled adventure that nature-loving readers in particular will relish.

I am so excited for Jess’ new book next year – she has such a distinct and effective writing style creating books that are easy to read in short bursts, but that you’ll want to read all in one go.