Dragon Post

I’ve mentioned before how much I loved stories about dragons as a child, (ok, both my mum and I still do). I also LOVE post – real, through the letterbox, not a bill type post – my friend and I even started sending each other letters because it’s so nice to receive one!

So when I received this book from. Walker (thank you 😊) I was beyond excited…

With ‘real’ letters to open and read; a warm and funny storyline; characterful, expressive illustrations; and, of course, an incredibly loveable dragon (who just can’t help the trouble he’s causing!) this is such a wonderful book.

The main story and illustrations are simply told and engaging with a visual humour that will appeal to everyone, from the very young up.

Meanwhile the letters are longer, more detailed and contain more sophisticated sentences, word play and humour – ideal for older readers who still love picture books (who doesn’t?!)

There is so much to love about this book and its perfect for poring over together at home, but I suspect will be equally popular in the classroom – there is SO MUCH you can do with this book. From instructions for looking after unusual pets to all kinds of letter writing to editing for mistakes, not to mention the animal welfare/habitat tangent you could take, or the wealth of exciting dragon activities that would tie in with it.

One of my favourite picture books of recent months – I loved it!

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Six for Sunday: Books I Wish I’d Had As a Teen

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

Books You Wish You’d Had as a Teen

I’m really interested to see what others come up with for this. I’ve struggled with it; I honestly can’t think of any books I’ve read as an adult that I wish I’d read as a teen – maybe I’ve just forgotten when I have thought this or maybe it’s because it feels so long ago!

Either way, I’ve decided to pick 3 books I’ve read as an adult that I think teen me would have liked and 3 books I’ve not yet read that I think both teen and adult me would/will like.

I’d probably also squeeze in a music biography of some sort too, but I’m not sure which. Any recommendations?!

First, the three I’ve read:

Clean – Juno Dawson

The Bees – Lalline Paul

The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak

And for the 3 I haven’t:

Vox – Christina Dalcher

Smoke and Mirrors – Neil Gaiman

Alice – Christina Henry

Interestingly, there’s not many actual YA books on here. I wonder if that’s because it wasn’t a big thing when I was younger and I mostly read adult fiction? Or whether it’s because of children’s, YA and adult books that I read now, YA is still what I read least… I’m not sure!

Have you read any of my choices? What do you think?

Have you taken part in #SixforSunday too? Leave me a link to your list!

 

The Restless Girls

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When I was younger, Twelve Dancing Princesses was one of my favourite stories. Something about the midnight trips out, the worn out shoes, the boats to magical forests and dancing maybe.

As a huge fan of Jessie Burton’s adult novels ‘The Miniaturist’ and ‘The Muse’, I was very excited to hear she was writing a modern version of this.

Especially since I revisited it myself last year as part of some artwork, and was struck by how little autonomy the Princesses have.

Twelve Dancing Princesses

And it is this lack of autonomy, and the sexism that dominates traditional fairytale kingdoms, that is put right in The Restless Girls.

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There’s a real energy and spark to both the girls and the story – with some fantastically impossible events (a dance hosted by a lioness and a peacock with a wild animal band for starters) alongside some fantastically important ones – namely the girls being in charge of their own choices and futures, and being a force for change in those around them too.

Rather than just stumbling across the party in the woods, the girls use their skills, talents and knowledge to find it – each demonstrating their unique personality and strengths, from science to languages to sports.

There is an inspiring sense of determination and loyalty in the sisters and their relationship with each other is portrayed with warmth and understanding; youngest sister Agnes is described affectionately as “their little walking popcorn” which I loved!

It is little phrases and details like this which I really enjoyed in the book – adding depth at times (“The dark was simply the beginning of new things. The dark was necessary.”) and humour at others (the excuses they found for the holes in their shoes are brilliant and there’s a perfectly placed “It’s bloody freezing!” which made me smile too.)

Truly a fairytale for modern times, this keeps all the magic of the original, with midnight feasting and dancing in glittering forests, but throws in a large helping of adventure, independence and resourcefulness too.

Wonderfully detailed illustrations from Angela Barrett complete the package and make this a stunning book to give, gift and keep!

WWW Wednesday: 24/10/18

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

What are you currently reading?

Another one I’ve been mega excited to read, it’s the 3rd in the Five Realms series – if you haven’t read them, you absolutely MUST! Only just started this, but I’m already right back in it.

I’d forgotten bits of the last book and I read a bit that had a recap/reminder of something and actually gasped out loud on the bus in a ‘oh my god, I’d totally forgotten that – I’m even more excited to see what happens now’ kind of way!

What have you just finished reading?

I loved this as much as I knew I would! Kiran Millwood Hargrave is one of my favourite authors and this more than lived up to my expectations! I love how her books are so clearly he’s but also incredibly different from each other. This is a great winter read – hot drink and a cosy corner at the ready before you begin!

What are you planning on reading next?

I can’t wait to read Wundersmith, SkyCircus, Snowglobe…so much MG! But I also have some shorter chapter books to read.

And it’s only a week til Halloween, so surely I should read something spooky?!

Do you have any spooky book suggestions? Have you read any of the books here? What are you reading at the moment?

Peapod’s Picks: Black and White

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: Black and White

High contrast books are brilliant for babies’ developing eyes, so this week we’ve chosen our favourite black and white baby books.

Black and White by Emma Dodd

Classic board pages with black, white and yellow patterns in different shapes. I love that there’s a little rhyme to accompany each page, making it more than just a word book and the patterns are linked to all sorts of interesting things – snails, bees, trains and planes – there’s even a rocket to spin round on the final page! So there’s plenty to look at and talk about. Peapod loves the patterns in this one – clear, big and bold.

My Animals by Xavier Deneux

Full of all sorts of animals, this will have lasting appeal thanks to its stylish illustrations and peephole feature. Each page shows just a tiny peek of the page behind so when he’s older there’s lots of fun to be had guessing what’s behind it.

I like the variety of animals in here – domestic, farm, wild all in together – so there’s plenty of patterns to spot, noises to make and actions to do!

Little Baby Books: Outdoors by Melissa Four

Another one with lovely illustrations, our favourite part of which is the shiny coloured foil on each one – they really capture Peapod’s attention. There’s a bath time edition too, which I think we’ll be getting!

Faces by Jo Lodge

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With crinkly cloth pages and a mirror, this is a lovely one to leave Peapod with as he starts to get a bit bigger, and the velcro strap means we can attach it to his activity mat, car seat or pram too. He loves the mirror (mirrors are currently blowing his mind!) and simple line-drawn faces on each page appeal to babies’ interest in facial features too.

The only thing we don’t like is the labelling of the faces – mummy, daddy, baby – which doesn’t really reflect the range of families there are.

Mamas and Papas Black and White Interactive Travel Flashcards

Ignore the fact that this is called a set of flashcards. It’s more like a book that’s not bound. Like ‘Faces’, it’s cloth and attaches to his pram or car seat so great as he starts to look at them on his own as well as with us.

The pages all have something ‘extra’ to help him interact with them too – crinkly pages with a squeaker and rattle inside and a mirror on the back page (we do love a mirror!)

The pages showcase the world – sun, sky, moon and stars, trees – with stylish text and illustrations that I really like.

Have you read any of these with your little one(s)? Do you have any others you’d recommend?

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?

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!