The Trouble With Perfect

I read ‘A Place Called Perfect’ when it was shortlisted for Waterstones Children’s Book Prize last year and thought it was brilliant – a real breath of fresh air in the MG (‘middle grade‘) releases; don’t get me wrong, there were many I LOVED but this felt very different in style.

 

I finished the first book already eagerly awaiting the sequel, so when Usborne very kindly sent me a copy of The Trouble With Perfect I couldn’t wait to revisit Violet, Boy and the rest of the citizens of Perfect and find out what was in store for them this time. The cover is once again illustrated by Karl James Mountford and has retained the same bold and quirky print-like style of the first; this suits the books so well, with the eyeball motifs in particular a great touch.

Strange things are happening in the town that used to be Perfect. Things are being stolen…children start going missing too. And everyone is blaming Violet’s best friend, Boy.

Town is in trouble – double trouble – and it’s up to Violet to save it.

I audibly gasped upon reading on the back of the book: “Boy’s not bad – is he?” Surely not?! But what a fantastic twist to start the book with – I was hooked before I’d even opened it!

The book begins with David Shephard’s map of Town (I love, love, love a book with a map) and a fantastic ‘story map’ of book 1.  I think a visual recap like this is truly inspired! Helena Duggan does a great job at reminding us of events from book 1 in more detail or at key moments as the story goes on too, but this is such an instant way to bring it all back and begin book 2 feeling like you’ve only just finished the first. It also means anyone inadvertently picking up this one first can still enjoy it and understand it.

Trouble builds on the themes book 1 began – segregation vs unity and fearing differences vs embracing them. With questionable ethics in the press, some persuasive public speaking and fighting against the tide of mob mentality,  as an adult reader, it resonates with a familiarity that is almost as sinister as the book’s creepy goings on.

That said, A Place Called Perfect had a lot to live up to, and hand on heart I have to say The Trouble With Perfect didn’t quite manage to knock it off top spot. For me, book one felt just that little bit darker and creepier; Trouble felt even more action-packed, but at times it felt like there was so much going on it was hard to keep up and that there was almost too many ideas, characters and twists to cram in to it.

Nevertheless, it is full of the adventure, mystery and sinister goings on that we’d expect in Perfect/Town. There’s still no sign of the evil Archers, but with robberies, kidnappings and missing eye-plants aplenty, we’re thrust headlong back into a weird and wonderful world of all-seeing eyeballs, secret passages, mutant zombies and chemical clouds that will be a sure-fire hit with younger readers.

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Into the Jungle: Stories for Mowgli

First published almost 125 years ago, the combination of the wild world, freedom and adventure in The Jungle Book mean it is just as appealing today as it was then. And that writing a ‘companion’ for it would be no easy task.

Luckily, Katherine Rundell is more than up to the task. Already a huge fan of her writing and the way it captures perfectly a scene, a mood, a character… and knowing from her last book The Explorer how well she can conjure up the jungle, I had no doubts she’d bring The Jungle Book roaring to life in Into the Jungle.

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Charming and compelling origin stories for all Kipling’s best-known characters, from Baloo and Shere Khan to Kaa and Bagheera. As Mowgli travels through the Indian jungle, this brilliantly visual tale will make readers both laugh and cry. 

Firstly, this is going to be an absolutely stunning book. I received an ARC which included samples of Kristjana Williams’ sumptuous illustrations and they are as rich and vivid as Katherine Rundell’s text. Put together in a hardback edition, this is going to be a beautiful gift of a book.

This is a wonderful series of five stories, as told to Mowgli as he makes his way through the jungle (trying to evade Mother Wolf and the telling off he thinks is coming!) Each story is narrated by one of the animals and tells the backstory of one of the others, with the stories giving a brilliant new depth to each of the characters, while at the same time staying true to Kipling’s original depictions of them.

Mother Wolf’s story is one of the reckless invincibility of youth, female ferocity, loyalty and love. Bagheera’s solemn, often solitary nature is perfectly explained by his story – one of loss, freedom and the ways of the wild. Kaa’s story was the most surprising to me, while Baloo’s was without a doubt my absolute favourite of the bunch – a story of intelligence, courage, defying expectations and challenging preconceptions. While Shere Khan doesn’t have his own chapter, his story also threads through the book and, like Baloo’s, is one of the ones that I enjoyed most.

Mowgli’s own character – one of a typical child: selfish, blunt and arrogant at times; carefree, mischievous and friendly at others, but always full of life – is gradually drawn from each of these encounters before the final chapter shows just how much of life, loyalty, courage and respect he has learned from his jungle family.

These individual stories weave together as the book progresses to create the central plot of the book, which has a much more modern feel to it, despite still being rooted in the characters and events of the original. It is an exciting, colourful and cleverly woven tale, in which quick-thinking, creativity and teamwork make for a dramatic and gripping finale. It has all the ingredients needed to be a hit with young readers today, whether they are familiar with the original or not.

Important messages about diversity and celebrating differences, as well as the impact of man on nature, run through the book too and are written into the story in the very best way: it’s not at all shouty, preachy or shoe-horned in, but it makes the points in no uncertain terms that, as Bagheera finds: “To be alive is to be wild and various.”

Full of warmth, humour and life, and perfectly complemented by beautiful, bold illustrations – this is an adventure for all ages. Those familiar with Kipling’s Jungle Book will relish the chance to delve deeper into some of our favourite characters, and for those unfamiliar with the original this is a perfect introduction to whet the appetite or a thoroughly enjoyable stand alone story bursting with jungle life.

WWW Wednesday: 12/9/18

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

WWW WednesdaysI’ve missed the last few weeks – newborns are time consuming! – and I’m definitely not getting through books at my usual rate (goodbye evening read before bed!) but I’m just about surfacing again! Posts and reviews are likely to continue to be sporadic, but we’ll do what we can!

What are you currently reading?

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I started Piers Torday’s ‘The Lost Magician’ at the start of the week and I am loving it so far! Set in post-war Salisbury, it’s a fresh twist on the Narnia tale – no wardrobe here tough, but a library leading 4 siblings into a magical world of Reads and Unreads. It finds a perfect balance between a feeling of nostalgia and time gone by but with a fresh and modern feel to the writing. My favourite things about it so far have to be Larry and Grey Bear: “Grey Bear nodded, with the help of Larry’s hand.”

What have you just finished reading?

I finished The Trouble With Perfect by Helena Duggan earlier in the week, it’s the sequel to the wonderful A Place Called Perfect.

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I have to say I enjoyed book one more – just that little bit darker, creepier and with what felt like a slightly higher action:dialogue ratio. Trouble was still thoroughly enjoyable – with a mechanical mutant zombie, evil twins, chemical clouds and kidnappings it will be a sure-fire hit with younger readers. Full review to follow.

What has Peapod read this week?

Ok, I need to amend my WWW Wednesday to WWWW Wednesday since I’ve snuck an extra W in there now! Peapod and I are just starting to manage a story most days, and usually a board or cloth book too if he’s awake and in a good mood for long enough! This week, we’ve been reading:

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My Animals by Xavier Deneux (board book) – high contrast black and white images for little eyes with fab little peepholes on each page teasing a glimpse of the next animal make it one that will last as he gets bigger too. This is probably my favourite of his black and white books.

Baby Lit Les Miserables (board books) – A new addition to our Baby Lit collection, with images from the story and words and phrases in English and French. We bought this as a present for Daddy as he loves Les Mis and my Francophile friend will also be getting a copy in the post for her little boy!

Sneak a Peek Colours (board book) – with bright, bold patterned pages I love this colours board book. Peapod ‘s mind was pretty much blown by the mirror at the end too – win, win.

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Up and Down by Oliver Jeffers (picture book) – a classic – I suspect we’ll be making our way through a lot of Oliver Jeffers in the coming years, but the short, simple text of the ‘little boy’ stories (Up and Down, Lost and Found, How to Catch a Star) make them perfect for now (plus these are some of my favourite Oliver Jeffers books) I love the humour of Up and Down and the friendship between the boy and penguin is so touching too.

Mopoke by Philip Bunting (picture book) Another book that just really tickles me: short and simple with clever word play that adults will love as much as if not more than) the kids! I thought I’d reviewed it on here, but it seems I haven’t – how I’ve let that happen I don’t know! A full review will follow…

How To Lose A Lemur by Frann Preston-Gannon – Frann Preston-Gannon is such a hidden gem of an author-illustrator, not nearly shouted about enough! I love lemurs s this ticked a lot of boxes for me. Gannon takes us on a heart-warming journey of a reluctant friendship complete with hot air balloons, bikes, trains, mountains, oceans and…LEMURS! Love it (and so does Peapod!)

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What are you planning on reading next?

I never know until I finish my current read and see what I fancy, but I’ve got SO much to choose from at the moment! These are probably the top contenders, but it could all change!

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Which would you choose?

Have you read any of the books I’ve read this week? What are you reading at the moment?

#ReadABookDay

I am reliably informed (thanks Twitter) that today is #ReadABookDay. I’m choosing to ignore the fact that really that’s every day and using it as a good way to play catch up on the blog, especially since I missed yesterday’s WWWWednesday…

So, the blog has been somewhat neglected over the past few weeks, thanks to our new arrival!

20180822_064946.jpgQuite the bookworm already!

He is GORGEOUS and wonderful and amazing and other superlatives, but he is also a full-time milk-guzzler, wee-machine and sleep-is-for-the-weak-stayer-upper. Which means our hands are pretty full and the blog is having to take a back seat. I’m attempting to catch up a bit, but it’s a one-handed, grab-10-minutes-where-I-can-and-hope-he’s-not-sick-on-the-laptop sort of affair, so posts will continue to be sporadic!

20180906_153720Our current set-up!

So, while I attempt to get some reviews posted and generally catch up, here’s a quick look at what we’re reading on #ReadABookDay…

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It’s taken the first few weeks, but I have finally just about mastered reading-while-feeding! Keeping me company at the moment during the never-ending feeds is the fantastic The Trouble With Perfect by Helena Duggan. It’s the sequel to last year’s equally fantastic A Place Called Perfect (think Gaiman meets Dahl meets Stepford Wives meets Tim Burton and throw in a good bit of mystery – if you haven’t read it, you really should!) So far, it’s just as good as the first…full review to follow!

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I was very excited to find some #bookpost waiting for me when I got home from my breastfeeding group this morning too…

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I have been SOOOOOOOO excited about this and was lucky enough to win a copy! Pretty certain kids would love it too, but I just read it with my mum who came to visit us this afternoon and we were both absolutely cracking up so it’s definitely recommended for those in their 30s/60s ! Every bit as good as the rest of the series, if not even better because it has a platypus in and it’s pink. Again, a full review will follow, but it was SO worth the wait!

As for ‘Peapod’ and I – we’ve had a play with his black and white cloth book ‘Faces’ and he also very much enjoyed Oi Duck-Billed Platypus!

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What have you read on #ReadABookDay?