The Girl Who Speaks Bear

I requested and received a free copy of this from the publishers in exchange for honest reviews. Opinions and views are all my own

The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson, illustrated by Kathrin Honesta

So, I liked Sophie Anderson’s first book The House With Chicken Legs, but I didn’t love it the way everyone else did. So I was keen to read this, but my expectations were firmly in check.

I absolutely love, LOVE, LOVED it.

I felt there was a greater depth here than in THWCL, though it retained the readability (is that even a word?!) of Sophie’s first book, as well as her distinctive style.

It was such a moreish read, and the fact that many of the chapters are a tale being told makes them much shorter than average MG chapters too and so perfect for those ‘just a bit more’ moments (and also perfect for readers who feel overwhelmed by long chapters/books).

These tales were one of the things I loved best about this book. Sophie Anderson’s passion for and knowledge of folk and fairytales really shines through in this book, even more so (if possible) than it did before!

The way it was told through stories within the story was simply magical. I really sank into the tales that were told and I thought the way they gradually helped to unravel the main tale was incredibly clever and so skilfully done.

I also found I got behind Yanka in a way I never really did with Marinka. And I really did get behind Yanka. I suspect this is because I felt more common ground with her – those feelings of not quite fitting in, of being a part of a group, but always slightly outside of it too, were all so familiar.

Whatever my reasons, she was a great main character and I loved how we saw her grow and change over the book, especially where she acknowledged past mistakes or errors of judgement (both her own and others’) and learned to move on, though not necessarily to forget. Complex feelings and themes were touched on with subtlety and perception.

Yanka’s ‘herd’ is wonderful too (Mousetrap especially!). A fantastic mix of creatures and personalities add humour, energy and a certain edge to the story, whilst also making the point that we each have our strengths even though it may not always seem like it, and that we don’t have to be the same to be together.

There is also a message of doing together what you would struggle to do alone; of asking for and/or accepting help when it’s offered, of not being too proud or self-conscious or worried to do so. This is something I really struggle with and I loved the way it was addressed – it didn’t make it seem easy to do, but gently suggested it was worth trying.

The setting is richly described, with close attention to detail and the depiction of life there really adding to it. I felt I was there. It was made even more immersive through those folk tales Yanka is told throughout the book – they give the place a history and I absolutely loved the idea of Anatoly’s map with a little detail added on each of his visits to represent a new story. I believe there will be a map in the finished version and I cannot wait to see it.

On that note, the illustrations are gorgeous and so fitting for the story. I was so so lucky to receive a hand-printed proof with previews of the interior art and they’re just as rich and atmospheric as you could want.

This is going to be a truly stunning book.

Full of traditional folkloric magic, with humour and the increasing tension, danger and drama of Yanka’s journey keeping it fresh and exciting for modern readers, this is one of my stand out books if the year so far.

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Sequel September

I’ve decided (though whether I stick to it and how far I get with it and different matters entirely!) to attempt a ‘Sequel September’ next month.

As many of you will know, my reading has slowed right down over the last year and I have a ridiculous TBR pile looking at me.

And so in trying to get through all the new releases I ‘should’ know for work (or feel I should) sequels often get sidelined with the thinking that at least if I’ve read the first book I’ll know enough about the theme, style etc to get by with book 2.

Nothing like a bit of alliteration is there, so Sequel September is born and will be my attempt to get through my sequel stack!

The books I’m going to try to read are:

I’ll also be trying to read The Train to Impossible Places and Storm Witch even though they aren’t sequels, but their sequels are out/will be out soon and I still haven’t read them! So they are going in the mix!

There’s no way I’ll get through them all, I’ll be lucky yo get through a couple, but it might make a dent in them at least! Wish me luck!

Have you read any of these?

Are there any sequels you’re planning to read or looking forward to?

WWW Wednesday 28/8/19

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

What are you currently reading?

Cream Buns and Crime by Robin Stevens (ebook)

While I prefer the full length mysteries, this is really fun and I’m loving reading through Daisy’s eyes for a change – it’s making for a very amusing read.

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood-Hargrave.

After getting out of my YA slump with Rose, Interrupted what better way to continue than with absolute fave Kiran Millwood-Hargrave?!

I have to confess, while I did enjoy The Way Past Winter last year, it didn’t capture me in quite the same way that her previous books did otherwise I don’t think there’s any way this would have sat on my shelf for so long, I normally devour her books at first opportunity. But I am loving this so far, it’s rekindled the fangirl inside!

I, Cosmo by Carlie Sorosiak

This is one that I’d promised Amy I’d try at some point after her post made me think I might like it more than I thought (those if you who know me know contemporary and animaks are really not my thing!). I hadn’t planned on reading it quite so soon, but for work reasons (massive knowing tap on the nose) I am doing!

I hope Amy doesn’t mind but *whispers* I’m still not sure it’s for me, BUT I do think it’s really original, sweet and written with great humour and ‘doggishness’ (that’s not even a word but it’s the second time I’ve used it in a review this week!)

What have you just finished reading?

Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens (ebook)

I’m so glad I didn’t skip this (albeit temporarily) as I think it might be my favourite yet!

I also think I’ve finally warmed to Daisy. I’ve always thought she was a brilliant character but I couldn’t help feeling a bit sorry for Hazel! But she’s really grown on me now and I think in this book I was able to really appreciate her properly.

What will you read next?

Audio

I’m still plodding slowly through Circe…only 2 hours to go though!

E-book

I’ll be working my way through the Murder Most Unladylike series!

Physical copy

I don’t know! Maybe The Switching Hour or Meat Market. Though I am still considering a Sequel September to get through some of the sidelined sequels and next-in-series I have waiting…

Have you read any of these?

What are you reading at the moment?

Rose, Interrupted

I requested and received a copy of this from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

9781444940657

Rose, Interrupted by Patrice Lawrence.

Cover art by – to be added: my proof copy didn’t have the finished artwork or name the artist and I have tried and failed to find them online. I’ll add as soon as I know who they are!

I have enjoyed both of Patrice Lawrence’s previous books, Indigo Donut particularly, but this was by far my favourite that she’s written so far.

It follows Rose and her younger brother, Rudder, as they attempt to adjust to life in the ‘Worldly World’ having left the strict religious sect they’d been brought up in. Rose, like their mum, is relieved to be ‘free’ and doing all she can to fit in and shake off her religious past, having written herself a ten point decommissioning programme.

Rudder, on the other hand, is finding it hard. He’s struggling to adjust and swings between finding in comfort in his Harry Potter books, throws and robes and feeling guilty for having them as he yearns to be accepted back into God’s Pilgrims.

I also loved the use of music, which is a common theme in Patrice’s books (especially the choice of Simon and Garfunkel). It added a wry humour and helped build Rudder’s character further.

Unlike Rose, who has thrown herself, ultimately rather naively, into modern teenage life – using chat rooms to guide her actions when it comes to relationships and choosing flamboyant ‘fairy kei’ outfits and make up to stand out on her own terms rather than because of her past – Rudder is finding the outside world, the idea of making friends and teenage behaviour terrifyingly confusing.

The dual narrative in this works brilliantly as the characters and their worries are so different, but have the same root causes for their situation and struggles. Their different ways of coping (or not) and their differing views on what happened before they left the Pilgrims are really well articulated this way, and their frustration, anger and worry for each other is made clearer because of it too.

It was also a great way to depict their relationship in a realistic way – they clearly love and care for each other, but they bicker, fight, roll their eyes, take deep breaths and generally annoy each other the way only siblings can. I thought this was so well-written.

There are real layers to this, both in terms of the story which we get more and more of the history for as it unfolds, and in terms of the topical and thought-provoking issues it deals with – social media, sexting, so-called ‘revenge’ porn and consent, but also poverty and power, religion, control and being able to break free.

There is much to relate to in both Rose and Rudder’s situations and feelings – no, I’ve never had to leave a strict religious community that shun modern life, but I have been a teenager and so many of their doubts and uncertainties and their attempts to fit in, to do what ‘everyone’ does and to be accepted will be universally recognised.

It feels deep and complex and the emotions and shades of grey involved in so much of what’s covered are clear, but it’s such a page turner too!

Those of you who are here often will know I’ve been struggling to boot myself back into reading some YA for a while now, and contemporary (in YA or MG) is NOT MY THING…but this really grabbed me and I couldn’t put it down. Really well-written, it feels like Patrice Lawrence is going from strength to strength and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Peapod’s Picks 26/8/19

We were lucky enough to request and receive copies of these free from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and views are all my own.

Peapod’s Picks is a weekly round up of some of the books that Peapod* has read (often, but not always, for his bedtime stories) each week plus a review of at least one of them.

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

My Pet Star by Corrinne Averiss and Rosalind Beardshaw

This is a lovely story and one that I think will be extra enjoyable as the nights draw in and autumn arrives – there’s just something really cosy and comforting about it.

A little girl finds a star that’s fallen from the sky. She takes it home, patches it up and takes care of it. As the days pass, the star gets better and brighter until the time comes when it’s time to say goodbye as the star returns to the sky.

With pared back text, this is a perfect example of illustration and text working in harmony to tell a story, create atmosphere and express feelings. To do this using rhyme (and using rhyme which flows, reads well and doesn’t feel clunky or forced) is an achievement indeed.

Bonus points for a non-white main character who doesn’t live in a detached house with garden!

I loved the way the book conveyed imaginative play and bigged up reading – if I still taught I’d have the spread below framed:

“I showed him pictures in my book. He couldn’t read, but he could look.”

So many early years children would start the year telling me “I can’t read though” as if being able to decode the words was the only way to enjoy a book. A lot of work went into encouraging looking at pictures, making up stories etc.

And of course, there’s a gentle introduction to the idea of letting go, transience and saying goodbyes.

This is a warm, tender-hearted book perfect for snuggling up with at bedtime.

I can’t wait to have Corrinne into work in October for one of our Read and Make sessions!

There’s a Rang-Tan in my Bedroom by James Sellick and Frann Preston-Gannon

Produced in collaboration with Greenpeace, this starts much like your typical picture book might – funny, animated, bright and seemingly light-hearted. An orangutan (or Rang-Tan) has arrived in a little girl’s room and is causing chaos.

But, when the little girl stops to find out why the Rang-Tan is there, the book’s more serious message is revealed, along with a clever change in illustration style to mirror it.

We see how humans are destroying the Rang-Tan’s home for palm oil in dark and muted tones, desolate and bleak.

We’re then offered a ray of hope along with a nudge of encouragement not to be passive but to do whatever we can to help. We see the little girl writing letters to big companies, rallying friends and neighbours through posters and word of mouth and going on protests.

It finishes with more detailed information about orangutans and their habitat as well as palm oil, its uses and the problems with it, as well as suggestions for action similar to that taken by the girl in the story.

This would be ideal for use in schools, as well as for reading at home, as a way of both developing understanding and interest in environmental issues and getting children engaged and involved in doing something about them.

Be More Bernard by Simon Philip and Kate Hindley

Bernard pretends to be just like the other bunnies, who all eat, dress, act and even dream alike. But deep down, he knows he’s different.

Until one night, he decides to let his inner self go! Of course, the other rabbits are shocked at first but they soon start sharing their dreams of being different too and slowly the burrow realise they can be themselves as well.

We always love Kate Hindley’s illustrations but the burrow scenes in this are truly fab and not without a touch of Richard Scarry which is wonderful!

Its an enjoyable read with a positive and affirming message about being yourself and following your dreams, and Bernard is brilliant in both words and pictures.

Here’s the thing though – we love You Must Bring A Hat by this duo so were very excited for this and, honestly, although we enjoyed it and it did have some of the dry humour that we love in YMBAH, it just couldn’t compete with it…even with Bernard’s absolutely kick-ass, roller-disco-dancing outfit and moves.

Fun, positive and guaranteed to make you smile, but it didn’t have the originality, daftness or ‘just because-ness’ of ‘You Must Bring A Hat’ so while we like and recommend this, for one you’ll want to read and read again get YMBAH.

This is a Dog by Ross Collins

This is a great example of a book that benefits hugely from not being afraid to strip the text back to bare bones and let the pictures do most of the work.

Written in the style of a young children’s animal primer, each page introduces us to a different animal…except that dog (in typical dog style) isn’t content with just his page. He needs your attention on everyone else’s page too!

From crossing them out to chasing them off the page, disguises and even wee – dog goes to great lengths to remain centre stage!

The other animals eventually get fed up of dog’s antics, but he has one last trick up his sleeve to ensure he stays top dog (couldn’t resist that, sorry!!)

It’s such a great book – dog is utterly doggish! It’s simple but clever and its minimal style allows the humour to really shine.

Peapod loved looking at this too. It’s a book that we enjoyed as a softback story to read together, but one that would make an even more fantastic board book – perfect for toddlers to ‘read’ with its repetition, recognisable animals, block-coloured backgrounds and visual humour. I’m told there are whisperings so fingers crossed!

Book Snob Tag

I always say I’m going to do Book Tags then never do, but this was such a short and quick one I thought it’d be a good bank holiday weekend sort of post! Thanks to Amy and Lily whose blogs I saw it on!

Adaptation Snob: Do you always read the book before you see the movie?

Usually, yes. But a lot of books that become films aren’t my cup of tea (romance, contemporary etc.) so often neither. Often it’s the book that makes me want to see the film, so it’s less of a ‘I must read the book first’ and more of a ‘ooh, I enjoyed that, I’d like to watch it.’

Although, I do think once you’ve seen the film it’s that version of the characters/setting etc that becomes stuck in your mind (well in mine, anyway!) so I do like to read the book first to have my own version of them first.

There’s a lot of ‘the book is always better than the film’ and usually I’d agree, but the film is often a different beast altogether and there are a fair few that I think are just as good. A Clockwork Orange and Trainspotting stand out.

Format Snob: You can only choose 1 format in which to read books for the rest of your life. Which one do you choose: physical books, ebooks, or audiobooks?

Definitely physical. I started reading ebooks and audio as a way to keep my reading up around Peapod, but I’d always choose a physical copy if practicalities were no obstacle!

Ship Snob: Would you date or marry a non-reader?

Yes. As long as they weren’t anti-reading and just didn’t enjoy it themselves. My partner isn’t the biggest reader – we joke about how many books I’ll have read by the time he gets through the one he’s been reading FOREVER! – but he just rolls his eyes lovingly and orders another bookcase when it comes to my bookishness and he loves reading with Peapod.

Genre Snob: You have to ditch one genre – never to be read again for the rest of your life. Which one do you ditch?

Romance. I never read it anyway unless it sneaks into a book that’s mainly another genre, so I probably wouldn’t even know it had gone!

Uber Genre Snob: You can only choose to read from one genre for the rest of your life. Which genre do you choose?

So, to jump on Amy and Lily’s bandwagon – I’m going to say I’ll just take the children’s section please. I know this isn’t a genre, but my blog, my rules. I’m having it.

Ha! Ok, if I had to pick an actual genre, I’d probably go fantasy…but I’m over-riding the question and just picking kids, because I’m not giving up picture books.

Community Snob: Which genre do you think receives the most snobbery from the bookish community?

Also like Amy and Lily, less a genre, more a section – kids. Kids book snobbery winds me right up (except when it comes to being snobbish about celeb authors, because you know – double standards)

I hate how many people look at me oddly when I try to explain I read the kids books for work (no, I don’t *have* to, I’m in kids because I *want* to) and love picture books.

I hate how many older kids are steered forcibly away from younger books and told they’re ‘beyond’ them – what does that make me then?!

I hate how many children’s authors have tales of how they’ve been dismissed by other authors or book industry people for not writing ‘proper’ books and taking the easy route (yeah, right).

I hate how little coverage kids books get in the media when everyone bangs on about wanting kids to read.

Snobbery Recipient: Have you ever been snubbed for something that you have been reading or for reading in general?

Nope. Lots of my friends aren’t really readers, but they’d never snub me for reading.

That’s a short answer, but there’s not much more to say on that!

If you’ve not done this and fancy it, consider yourself tagged.

WWW Wednesday 21/8/19

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

What are you currently reading?

Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens (ebook)

I toyed with the idea of skipping this one and coming back to it at Christmas, but after consulting the MMU oracle Amy, I decided to read it now and stic to the correct order.

I’m really enjoying it so far – the setting and the mystery have gripped me – I’m exoecting a fair few red herrings and twists in this one! And I’m excited to see the rivalry between the Detective Society and the Junior Pinkertons get going again.

What have you just finished reading?

Rose, Interrupted by Patrice Lawrence. Cover art by

Definitely Patrice Lawrence’s best yet (in my opinion!) I’ll write a full review on the next week, but I really enjoyed this. It managed to deal with topical, difficult issues believably and sensitively without being sensationalist, melodramatic or superficial and I felt really invested in the characters.

Jolly Foul Play by Robin Stevens

I did enjoy this in the end, but it probably is my least favourite of the series so far – I’m already much more invested in Mistletoe.

The Time of Green Magic by Hilary McKay

I loved this so much. Its gone straight into my favourites of thr year so far. It is a cosy, comforting read perfect for the upcoming autumn/winter months. An ode to nature, family and the magic of imagination. Full review to follow.

What will you read next?

Audio

I’m still plodding slowly through Circe…

E-book

I’ll be working my way through the Murder Most Unladylike series!

Physical copy

I don’t know! Rose, Interrupted has got me back on the YA track, but I also have lots of MG to read (not to mention a stack of grown up books I think I’ll never get round to!) I can’t decide whether to alternate (an MG-a YA) or read MG during the day and YA in the eves like I have been…hmm…

Have you read any of these?

What are you reading at the moment?