5Ws Wednesday

Since I only tend to do a WWW Wednesday post every other week, I thought I’d use today to get some more Ws out there – this time the ‘5 Ws Book Tag’ which I pinched from Amy over at Golden Books Girl!

1 – WHO? Who is an author you’d love to have a one on one with?

There are so many for so many different reasons (Kiran Millwood-Hargrave, Katherine Rundell, Shaun Tan, Zana Fraillon, Helen Oyeyemi, Frann Preston-Gannon, Morag Hood, Rob Biddulph…) but honestly, I think I’d be so shy that I’d just stand there and be fidgety and awkward not knowing what to say or saying something stupid, so maybe it’s best that I don’t have a one on one with anyone!

2 – WHAT? What genre or style do you most gravitate to?

Hmm, this is a tricky one. With picture books I like anything quirky and fun – nothing smushy and sentimental or moralistic please! With MG, I definitely read more fantasy than anything else, but really anything with great world-building and that little bit of magic (whether real or just in the feel of it!). With this and YA I’m less keen on the contemporary/funny/everyday life stuff, but it means when I read one in that style I do like I usually rave about it! With YA and adult I do still like some fantasy, but nothing TOO fantasy-y, I prefer historical fiction, magical realism or contemporary stuff with social issues as a theme.

3 – WHERE? Where do you prefer to read?

This definitely used to be bed – well, it still is, but I can’t read in bed anymore as Peapod sleeps next to us and I’d wake him with a light on, so now I read on the sofa in the evening or stood up in the kitchen when he naps in the sling during the day (I daren’t sit down!)

4 – WHEN? What time of the day do you prefer to read?

Definitely evening before bed – I think it just feels cosier. But really, I find it so hard to squeeze any reading in now that I prefer to read whenever I have two minutes to do so!

5 – WHY? Why is your favourite book your favourite book?

My absolute favourite book is Shaun Tan’s ‘The Red Tree’. It puts into pictures (and words!) a feeling I could never articulate but know so well. It’s both an explanation and a comfort.

BONUS! How do you go about selecting what you’ll read next?

I look at what I’ve been sent to review and which are out/out soon/have been out for ages because I’m way behind (always), use this to narrow it down then pick one I fancy from those. Usually I try to mix it up a bit, so if I’ve just read a YA or 2, I’ll switch to MG or adult, or if I’ve read a fair bit of fantasy, I might read something more historical or contemporary.

Do we share any of these answers or reading habits? What would your 5 Ws be?

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Mini Monday – a YA double bill

I requested and received advance copies of both books free from the publishers, in exchange for an honest review. All views are my own.

This month I’ve read two YA books, both by authors whose debuts I read and loved last year, so I was very lucky and very excited to get early copies of both of these.

Both of these books not only take on some serious and relevant issues, but also give a voice to what have traditionally been (and continue to be, although it may be improving) under-represented members of society: a British-Pakistani teen and a young black American girl.

Up first:

Kick the Moon by Muhammad Khan. Illustrated by Amrit Bird. Cover design by Rachel Vale.

I thought Khan’s debut I Am Thunder last year was brilliant – well-written, ground-breaking in the way it looked at radicalisation and with huge contemporary YA appeal – so I was eagerly anticipating this one too.

Fifteen-year-old Ilyas is under pressure from everyone: GCSE’s are looming, his dad wants him to join the family business while he dreams of designing comic books, and he’s becoming increasingly unsure of the direction his group of mates is taking.

Serving detention one day, Ilyas finds a kindred spirit in Kelly, but when Kelly is caught up in his gang’s toxic bet, Ilyas must decide where his loyalties lie.

While I didn’t feel this broke the mould in the same way I Am Thunder did, it nevertheless tackles some difficult and important subjects – racism, revenge porn, gangs, bullying and peer-pressure not to mention culture, family and friendship – and it does so with sensitivity, awareness and realism.

Similarly, when I first started reading the book, it felt like there were a lot of stereotypes at play. However, as I read on, they felt necessary, believable and, perhaps most importantly, familiar.

There’s a lot in this book teens will recognise and all of it feels well-described, with voices that sound natural and real, not forced or too ‘adult’. There is a lot of slang used in the dialogue and this feels carefully considered, well-researched and integral to the characters and the story which just would not have the same effect without the characters speaking as they really would.

Immensely relatable, my heart went out to Ilyas as he struggled with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, but it also cheered as he found the courage to stand up for what he believed in and grew in confidence.

This is a book which really understands how hard it can be to find yourself trapped in a bad situation and how it can be even harder to get out of it again. The increasing desperation came across powerfully and will be so familiar to so many. It shows how confusing and difficult teenage years can be as you try to find your way, your goals, your ‘people’ and of course yourself.

A story of hope, change and self-belief: I really enjoyed this and it deserves to be a big hit with contemporary YA fans.

And next…

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas. Cover design by Tim Marrs.

Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. As the daughter of an underground hip hop legend who died right before he hit big, Bri’s got massive shoes to fill.

But when her first song goes viral for all the wrong reasons, Bri finds herself at the centre of controversy and portrayed by the media as more menace than MC. And with an eviction notice staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it – she has to. Even if it means becoming the very thing the public has made her out to be.

The Hate U Give was one of my favourite books of last year – powerful, hard-hitting and brutally honest, it was truly something else.

On The Come Up returns to ‘The Garden’ (Garden Heights) where THUG was set and – while it isn’t a sequel and reads perfectly well as a stand-alone book – there is much overlap, with events from THUG seeing their consequences reaching into On The Come Up.

As with ‘Kick the Moon’, this didn’t feel quite so ground-breaking as THUG, but still tackles some very important issues – racism, poverty, class, misrepresentation, drugs and gang affiliation – in a compassionate but unsentimental way which very much holds a mirror up to certain aspects of society and the media.

Angie Thomas is an incredible writer – her characters feel real and complex, their relationships and lives the same. Bri’s mum in particular struck a chord with me, while the changing dynamics of Bri and her best friends’ relationships will no doubt hit home for many readers.

Bri herself is incredibly likeable – and if you’ve read THUG and liked Starr, you’ll love Bri just as much if not more: fiercely determined, stretching her wings and aiming for the sky, she is a character with big dreams, plenty of hope and just as much fire…which, whether rightly or wrongly, can lead to trouble.

It was near impossible for me to like this as much as I did THUG, but it was still brilliant and readers from all backgrounds will find both things they relate to and other things which open their eyes or make them pause for thought. It is a book brimming with friendship, love, hip hop and hope!

Six for Sunday – Bookish Hates

#SixforSunday is hosted by Steph at A Little But A Lot. Each week she gives a book-themed prompt for a list of six and this week that prompt is

Bookish Hates

This is a tough one. I’m not sure I’d say hate, but these are certainly things I’m not keen on. In no particular order:

  • Didactic picture books. I don’t mind a book with a message as such, I just hate it being put across too obviously or with too much sentimentality. I read one recently where I loved the illustrations (seriously beautiful, colourful things) and I enjoyed the story…until the last page. Then vom. For some picture books with messages that aren’t rammed down your throat, try Steve Anthony’s Mr Panda series or I Don’t Want to be a Pea by Ann Bonwill and Simon Rickerty.
  • Bad rhyme. Again usually in picture books. I just hate clunky rhythm or words and phrases that have been shoe-horned in in an attempt to maintain the rhyme. Dodgy, repetitive or just poorly flowing – ugh! For picture books with great rhyme, there’s always the great Julia Donaldson, the classic Hairy Maclary books by Linley Dodd or try the Ten Little… series by Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty (who I promise has not commissioned this post!)
  • Celebrity authors. So, this could be a blog post in itself. Yes, if a celeb gets a parent whose own relationship with reading isn’t great or who are intimidated by bookshops to read, buy or borrow books for their kids – I’m all for it. If their popularity gets kids reading and talking about books, brilliant. I just love it when they’re a springboard rather than an end point. And I think it’s sad the amount of hype, space and promotion they get which could be given to actual authors who need it. I tried to think of exceptions to the rule to recommend but I couldn’t. Are there any celeb authors you rate?
  • Romance. Im just not a fan. There’s nothing wrong with it, if you enjoy it that’s great, but it’s not for me. Though I think there’s maybe no greater love stories than I Love You Stick Insect by Chris Naylor-ballesteros and Tadpole’s Promise by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross.
  • Happy endings. Not to be confused with hopeful endings. I love a hopeful ending, I just hate it when everything is perfectly tied up and fixed. I like a bit of misery/anguish/grief/bleakness in a book! I think there’s a lot of MG authors doing hopeful over happy incredibly well at the moment – Kiran Millwood-Hargrave, Abi Elphinstone, Kieran Larwood…
  • Charles Dickens. We just don’t get on!

What are your bookish hates? Do we agree, or disagree, on any?

Have you taken part in #SixforSunday?

Peapod’s Picks – I Don’t Want to Be a Pea!

Peapod’s Picks is a weekly round up of some of the books that Peapod* has read (usually for his bedtime story) each week plus a review of at least one of them.

*His social media alter ego, not his real name!

This week:

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I Don’t Want to Be a Pea by Ann Bonwill, illustrated by Simon Rickerty

So, as you know (or have just found out) our nickname for Peapod has always been Peapod. It began when I was pregnant and he was the size of a peapod and despite becoming quite considerably bigger, the name just stuck! So anything pea or peapod related we have to have (I bought him a wonderful ‘Peapod’ book for Christmas, Peapod Lullaby, that I’ve just realised I haven’t put up on here, so will post about that soon!)

We found this at a tiny stall on a local jumble trail and I picked it up solely because of the pea thing. I’d never heard of it before, but for 50p it was worth a chance!

And it definitely as worth it – I love this book!

I never post spoilers but just this once – the ending is revealed below! Skip ahead of you really don’t want to know!

Hugo and Bella are off to a fancy dress party as ‘The Princess and the Pea’ – Hugo is the princess naturally, but Bella doesn’t want to be a pea! Cue various suggestions which inevitably leaves one of them feeling put out (my favourite being Bella’s suggestion of a mermaid and a rock because Hugo is ‘grey and blobby’ so makes ‘a very fine rock’). After an argument, a strop, a sulk and finally a think about things, they both decide to let the other be the princess and end up going as…two peas in a pod!

There’s so much to enjoy in this, not least the lively, funny and expressive illustrations (Hugo in the shower washing off his pumpkin paint is just the saddest thing – I want to hug him!).

It’s a wonderfully written, witty and believable story of friendship and fall outs. Perfect for reading aloud, doing the voices and getting into character this is a great story to share. It’s very funny and relatable with a pleasing resolution.

I was also thrilled to see that it’s Hugo who unashamedly wants to be the princess – no making an issue of it, no gender themes to the book, it just *is* and I love that.

We thoroughly enjoyed this and I’ve now ordered the other Hugo sbd Bella books too!

What else did we read this week?

  • Jampires by Sarah McIntyre and David O’Connell (superbly silly!)
  • A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers (a real favourite of mine)
  • The Lost Property Office by Emily Rand (Reviewed here)
  • Hairy Maclary’s Bone by Linley Dodd (a classic rhyming tale)
  • A Pipkin of Pepper by Helen Cooper (another classic with beautiful illustrations)

Have you read any of these?

Do you know of any other pea-themed picture books we’re missing?!

Which picture books or bedtime stories did you read this week?

WWW Wednesday 23/1/19

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday’:

What are you currently reading?

Kick the Moon by Muhammad Khan. Illustrated by Amrit Birdi.

I thought Khan’s debut I Am Thunder last year was brilliant – quite ground breaking in tackling radicalisation and very well written.

Im not too far into Kick The Moon yet, but I’m enjoying it, although it doesn’t feel like it’s breaking any moulds. We’ll see how it pans out…

What have you just finished reading?

On The Come Up by Angie Thomas. Cover design by Tim Marrs

I loved The Hate U Give last year, so I was really excited about this. I definitely preferred THUG (I think I just found its subject matter a bit grittier and more interesting) but I really enjoyed this too – there’s a lot of the same themes touched on but with new ones too, and all new characters – if you liked THUG’s Starr, you’ll love Bri too! Full review soon.

What are you planning on reading next?

I’m not sure! I’m trying to plan ahead a bit better with regards to what I read and release dates this year, but I’m already behind on my planning ahead so I’ll probably just choose one!

Possibly/probably/maybe A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison or Little Bird Flies by Karen McCombie.

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

Mini Monday 21/1/19

This week’s Mini Monday* features four picture books – two we were kindly sent (thank you, Bounce) and two we bought and read this week.

*I’m only halfway through and it’s turning out to be less mini, more mega – sorry!

First up, our free review copies:

The Lost Horse by Mark Nicholas

At a gallery in the city, the sculpture of a horse has disappeared. Meanwhile, in a village outside the city lives Lyra all alone…until one day a horse appears at her window!

This is a book I wasn’t sure about – little girl dreams of horse isn’t a story I’d normally go for! But the illustrations drew me in, with a unique style and unusual palette, they are detailed and expressive and complement the story well.

I also thought the ‘mystery’ of the missing horse sculpture, the two different starting points and the way the story was resolved (no spoilers here!) gave this extra depth and made it much more than a girl-dreams-of-horse story.

This would be a great book to read and use in primary classes across the curriculum, but especially to link with art/gallery visits and stories.

The Lost Property Office by Emily Rand

A little girl leaves her Teddy on the train. Luckily she and Grandpa come up with a plan to get him back!

I really warmed to the characters in this – they felt like real people, as did all the people in the background. In a similar way to Shirley Hughes’ Alfie books (though very different in style) this conjured very familiar places and faces very naturally and convincingly.

It was also good to see a black family as main characters and to see a setting as recognisable for city-dwellers as others too.

My absolute favourite thing about this though was the illustrations, which I loved. With a collage style, they were full of colour, shape and texture. And on each of the spreads (especially the ‘lost property’ ones), there’s so many different things to spot, find, talk about and notice – it’ll never get boring! One of those books you’ll see something new in every time.

Top marks for this one, we really enjoyed it and I’ll be keeping an eye out for more written or illustrated by Emily Rand.

And onto the books we bought…

Octopants by Suzy Senior and illustrated by Claire Powell

There’s all-in-ones for urchins and slipper socks for eels, but will Octopus ever be able to find a pair of pants?

I hadn’t heard of this one, but it caught my eye on a trip into work last week, so we picked it up straight away – it had an octopus and pants, what’s not to like?!

Delightfully silly, bright and fun, this rhyming story was thoroughly enjoyable, with lots of laughs and a pleasing twist at the end.

I’ll be buying more copies as presents for friends’ little ones as I know it’ll go down a treat with them too.

We Eat Bananas by Katie Abey

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All the animals are eating their favourite foods in their own hilarious way. We Eat Bananas invites children to choose their favourite foods and how they like to eat them across 12 spreads, packed with animals eating bananas, soup, sandwiches, sausages, ice cream, vegetables, spaghetti and more.

I wrote here about how much I loved Katie Abey’s first offering ‘We Wear Pants’ (yes, I have a thing about pants stories…) so when I spotted this on the table after storytime the other day I positively jumped for joy. We snapped it up!

Just as funny and fun as the first, and filled to bursting with animals doing all manner of unusual things as they cook up their favourite foods. And, as with the previous book, there is SO MUCH to spot, find, match, answer and talk about on each page, with speech bubbles, captions, questions and puns galore (plus a parp-ing penguin!) The cheeky monkey who refuses to do what everyone else is doing is back on each page too!

I also really like that there is both fast food and fruit, pancakes and peas – this is truly a balanced diet of a book, embracing the treats as much as the good for you stuff, making it perfect for fussy eaters to talk about food in a really fun and open way.

Both this and We Wear Pants are books to visit and revisit over and over again, there’ll always be more to find, spot, laugh at and talk about. I absolutely love this series and really hope there’ll be more where these came from.

Peapod hasn’t quite got past the cover yet – he wouldn’t let me open it to look at so fascinated was he!

Have you read any of these with your little ones?

Which picture books have you read recently?

Six for Sunday: Bookish Loves

#SixforSunday is hosted by Steph at A Little But A Lot. Each week she gives a book-themed prompt for a list of six and this week that prompt is

Bookish Loves

I’m sure this should be books I love, things I love to see in books etc and it should almost definitely be older books, but 🤷‍♀️

Today I’ve chosen 6 of my favourite picture books on the theme of love.

First off three funny ones – these are always my top choices for a Valentines Day display/table at work (in the case of the first two, I’m not sure what that says about me…)

Both I Love You Stick Insect and Tadpole’s Promise have brilliant twists/’punchlines’ at the end. I love them both and they crack me up.

This one’s a little more tender but still very funny and relatable!

Next up a true story. I’m. Not one for squishiness, but this really is an ‘aaaw’ kind of book!

Mr and Mrs Large are probably one of my favourite fictional couples and the Large family stories represent the love of a family with enough humour to feel much more believable than some of the soppier offerings!

And finally an antithesis to all those romantic happily ever afters. Long live Princess Smartypants!

I promise some more MG/YA in my #SixforSunday choices soon!

What would your bookish loves be? What do you think of my choices? Have you taken part in #SixforSunday? Leave a link to your post in the comments!