Scavengers

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

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Scavengers by Darren Simpson, illustrated by Tom Clohosy Cole

Landfill enjoys his life in the Hinterland – running free with dogs, foxes, goats and cats; swimming with turtles and chasing squirrels. He is happy in his wild, junk-yard home with old Babagoo taking care of him, as long as he follows the rules and sticks to the routine.

The rules are Babagoo’s way of keeping them safe from Outsiders. So is the wall inlaid with glass shards which must be checked for cracks, disrepair or infiltration every day. So is the need for cover whenever the Eye passes over. So is the fact that Landfill cannot yet accompany Babagoo to the Spit Pit to rummage for useful ‘treasures’ and catch gulls to eat.

And it is this last point, along with a couple of other seemingly, but emphatically not, insignificant events that plants a seed of doubt in Landfill’s mind about Babagoo’s rules and what he has always known to be true. And it is this seed of doubt combined with a chance meeting, that gradually triggers the events which will see Landfill and Babagoo’s world turned on its head.

The world-building in this is fantastic. While very much sticking to show not tell and avoiding being at all laboriously descriptive, Darren Simpson manages to describe in intricate detail this world made up of discarded, broken and ‘good for nothing’ objects in a way which has you clambering around it, climbing over it and chasing through it with Landfill.

The thick, sweet scent of rubbish and the acrid, sour smells of living unwashed, along with a multitude of others infiltrate the pages. The swarms of butterflies we see taking flight, the joy of splashing about in a sunlit pool of water (albeit, rather dirty water!), the absolute abandon with which Landfill lives as he lopes along on all fours with the dogs – all of it is described in a way which not only makes this place incredibly easy to picture,  but in a way which makes it easy to understand both how and why Landfill is so content in this place you couldn’t imagine being a home.

The use of a combination of altered, made up or old versions of words add to the sense of Landfill and Babagoo being a world apart, as do the scenes in the latter half of the book in which Landfill is slowly introduced to ‘Outside’ concepts, inventions and life. The way these are shown and described really hammer home how isolated from ‘normal’ life Landfill has been. Likewise, his innocence and naivety about the world only highlight his separation from it.

This is a coming of age story like no other. Landfill begin to question his world and rebel against Babagoo’s rules and ‘facts’. We see doubt creeping in and hurt, anger and confusion taking their turns. But ultimately, we see his love for Babagoo and his want, and need, to trust him and believe him.

However, as the reader, we are also able to see, or at least guess at, Babagoo’s dishonesty and his motives – there is no doubt he loves Landfill and wants to protect him, but his fear of Outsiders and the actions they cause may be pushing him away instead.

While part of me would have loved to know more about Babagoo’s backstory, I also liked that we were left to make up our own minds about Babagoo and his past – where do the lines of right and wrong blur, cross or meet? What should or shouldn’t he have done? Can we excuse him? What led him to his current life? Why does he do what he does? The book comes with discussion questions at the end (great for schools or children’s book groups) but there is so much to discuss from Babagoo’s character alone.

I thought the relationship between Landfill and Babagoo was incredibly well-written – the bickering and rows and the deception and disobedience juxtaposed with really tender moments where we clearly see how much they care for each other. The way this built over the book made the final chapters even more dramatic and emotive.

I did at times find the early chapters a bit slow, but the pace gradually quickens as events unfold, until the final chapters which are punchy and pacey, chaotic and tense, making this slow burning start very effective in the end. These final scenes are frenetic with panic, confusion, and desperation and a stark contrast to the contented tranquillity of their life at the start.

Again, this leaves us with questions that open up a wealth of discussion about personal vs. private lives and when we intervene and how, about mental health, homelessness and support (or lack of), about society, materialism and ‘the norm’.

I started reading this with echoes of Room or Our Endless Numbered Days, but it soon moved into its own, with its unique and detailed language and world-building to thank. There is a feel of David Almond to this, or at least there was for me, though I can’t quite place why, perhaps the coming of age narrative or the fact that the voice of this sits so well in that mid-ground between MG and YA, or perhaps for other reasons entirely! Whatever the reasons, I think if you like Almond, you’d enjoy this.

This book was a slow burner for me, but I’m glad I stuck with it. It’s incredibly moving, heart-breaking at times, and there is much to discuss, pick over and reflect on by the end.

 

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WWW Wednesday 20/2/19

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

What are you currently reading?

Monsters by Sharon Dogar.

I’m still chipping away at Monsters. I have mixed feelings on this one but I definitely want to see it through to the end.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J K Rowling, read by Stephen Fry.

I’m nearing the end of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on audiobooks too…which is disastrous as Prisoner of Azkaban isn’t available for another 2 weeks…! As you can tell. I’m still really enjoying these!

What have you just finished reading?

Flights of Fancy – Children’s Laureates

I thought this was a lovely book – perfect for aspiring writers, illustrators, creatives everywhere. I’ll post a full review this week.

Little Bird Flies by Karen McCombie

Amy at Golden Books Girl recommended this and I’m so pleased she did as I might not have picked it up otherwise and I loved it. With a remote, rural, historical setting it felt do well rooted and it was such a joy to read – I really liked the writing style. I’ll be reviewing it soon.

What are you planning on reading next?

I’ll definitely be listening to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as soon as its available. In the meantime I might give something else a go but I’m not sure what yet…

I’m just about to start The Closest Thing to Flying by Gill Lewis too which I have high hopes for.

Have you read any of the books here?

What are you reading at the moment?

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?

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!

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?

WWW Wednesday 9/1/19

Ooh, I’ve just noticed today is a palindrome date!

Anyway, on to WWW Wednesday, hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday’:

What are you currently reading?

Swimming Against the Storm by Jess Butterworth and illustrated by Rob Biddulph.

My copy is an ARC (a rather bath-and-bag-eared one too!) If you want to see the gorgeous real cover, have a nosy at The Reader Teacher’s Cover Reveal post!

I have been so excited about this, as I loved Jess’ other two books, and Rob Biddulph always makes them look as beautiful as the stories themselves.

So far, this is no exception and I’m really enjoying it – full review will follow when I’m done!

What have you just finished reading?

There’s a Yeti in the Playground by Pamela Butchart and illustrated by Thomas Flintham.

My first full read of one of the stories about Izzy and her friends, but it won’t be my last – so funny! You can read my review of it here.

What are you planning on reading next?

I’m pretty sure it’ll be ‘On The Come Up’ by Angie Thomas – another one I’ve got very high hopes for!

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

New Year’s Resolutions Book Tag

I often read tags like this and think they’d be fun to do but never do them, so they’ll be sporadic but as and when I can I’ll be throwing them into the mix!

Today’s is taken from Golden Books Girl, Amy – you can see her answers here!


1. An Author You’d Like To Read That You’ve Never Read

So many! There are a lot of authors/books I feel I should have read but haven’t – this is a big reason I’m going to try and read more classics this year! From a recent conversation though, I’ll say MG Leonard.

2. A New Book You’d Like To Read

There’s lots of books out this year I’m excited for – the new Five Realms (Podkin) book by Kieran Larwood, the second Wild Folk book by Sylvia Linsteadt for starters. New Jess Butterworth and Abi Elphinstone…

But the book I’m most excited about is Circle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen! (You can read my thoughts on the first two books in the trilogy here).

3. A Classic You’d Like To Read

One of my reading goals this year is to read more classics, both adult and children’s (I’m looking forward to the children’s more!).

I have the new Lauren Child illustrated Mary Poppins so I think I’ll start with that. I also have Patrick Ness’ ‘And The Ocean Was Our Sky’ which is a new take on Moby Dick, so I’d quite like to read the two together.

4. A Book You’d Like To Re-Read

I’ve been meaning to re-read the Harry Potter books for AGES! So those! I’d like to re-read Discworld (and read those I’ve not read) too – I can’t see that happening this year, but who knows!

5. A Book You’ve Had For Ages and Want To Read

So many! The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden or Alice by Christina Henry maybe. Or, I haven’t had it for ages but Marcus Zusak’s Bridge of Clay has been on the shelf for longer than I’d have liked.

6. A Big Book You’d Like To Read

Hmm. I’m not sure about this one. Can I say Bridge of Clay twice?! Or I have Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s Labyrinth of the Spirits waiting too.

7. An Author You’ve Previously Read and Would Like To Read More Of

I’d like to read the rest of the Murder Most Unladylike Series by Robin Stevens, as well as the Emma Carroll books I’ve not yet read.

8. A Book You Got For Christmas and Would Like To Read

I didn’t get any 😭😭 No one wants to buy a bookseller books! I do have some book vouchers to spend though – I’ll be getting a hardback set of Harry Potter.

9. A Series You Want To Read From Start to Finish

Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows or Shadow and Bone. I read her fairytale collection ‘The Language of Thorns’ and loved it but haven’t read her novels yet.

10. A Series You Want To Finish That You’ve Already Started

The Ink trilogy by Alice Broadway.

11. Do You Set Reading Goals? If So, How Many Books Do You Want To Read in 2018?

Yes, although I don’t get too worked up about meeting them – it’s always nice to reach my target but I won’t binge or speed read to do it. Ultimately, I’d rather enjoy a book than rush through it. This year I’m hoping for at least 75. I’d like to reach 100 but we’ll see!

12. Any Other Reading Goals?

You can read my post on this year’s reading goals here.

Have you read or are you looking forward to reading any of the same books as me? What are you hoping to read this year?