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1. The Manager, by Caroline Stellings | Book Review

This funny novel is told through the eyes of seventeen-year-old Ellie, but the real star is her older sister Tina. They live in Whitney Pier over the gym where their father, a former boxer, trains aspiring boxers.

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2. Badass Women Back Before the World Knew About Badass Women

In celebration of the release of BOOK OF EARTH, the first book in my medieval fantasy warrior girl series THE BRADAMANTE SAGA, I thought we’d all like a little extra dose of some badass women. Enjoy!

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3. TURNING PAGES: STRANGER, by RACHEL MANIJA BROWN & SHERWOOD SMITH

I was reminded of the controversy surrounding this title in its infancy when I happened upon a Big Idea article about it last month. I'm pretty sure the authors are quite tired of the novel being tied to the... Read the rest of this post

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4. Blog Tour: ARES: BRINGER OF WAR (Olympians #7) by George O'Connor

click to embiggen.Summary: Ares is the seventh book in O'Connor's very successful Olympians series of graphic novels. In fact, I was amazed to see that we've already gotten to book 7, because that means I've missed quite a few in the middle. For... Read the rest of this post

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5. And Now For Something Completely Different: BOOK OF EARTH

You know how I’ve been writing contemporary all these years?

I’ve secretly always been a medieval warrior girl in my heart.

Time to see what that’s all about.

Book of Earth

One rash act: anything to finally protect herself from her mother’s abuse.

One rash act: and young Bradamante unlocks a future where she’s destined to become a warrior.

With the help of a mystical teacher, Bradamante and her brother Rinaldo learn the skills they’ll need to survive in a brutal kingdom. They’ll also learn that destiny can demand giving up the one that you love.

Loyalty and betrayal, danger and triumph, the magic of mystics—

The Bradamante saga begins.

BOOK OF EARTH, coming February 14, 2015. It’s my Valentine’s Day present to you.

You can pre-order it for the special price of $2.99 from:
Kindle
iBooks
Kobo
Barnes & Noble (link to come)
Scribd (link to come)
Page Foundry (link to come)

Want to know more? Read the opening chapters here.

0 Comments on And Now For Something Completely Different: BOOK OF EARTH as of 2/3/2015 9:22:00 AM
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6. The Accidental Highwayman - an audiobook review

Tripp, Ben. 2014. The Accidental Highwayman: Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, His Horse Midnight, a Mysterious Princess, and Sundry Magical Persons Besides. New York: Tor Teen.


Can I tell you how much I like this book?  I reviewed it several months ago for AudioFile Magazine and could hardly wait until they published my review so that I could freely blog about my affinity for it!  Although "swashbuckling" is the term I've seen most often in reviews of The Accidental Highwayman, I would characterize it as a mix of daring deeds and derring-do, of historical fiction and magical conviction.  You can read my official review here, I listened to the audio version, but would guess that the printed copy is equally enjoyable.

To summarize:

Amidst a grim 18th century English setting arises the accidental highwayman, Whistling Jack.  Teenager Kit Bristol makes the unlikely yet unavoidable transformation from circus performer to manservant to famous highwayman tasked with the rescue of a mysterious princess from an enchanted coach.  Narrator Steve West employs the English "standard accent" for his presentation of the gallant robber.  He delivers non-stop action and suspense while maintaining an air of wise contemplation suited to this retrospective narrative of daring deeds from a magical past.

This is the first in an expected series. Judging from the effort expended on the series' official website, http://kitbristol.com , they knew right out of the gate that this one would be popular!  Enjoy the goofy trailer (there are two more on the site).

 

Note:
As a fledgling ukulele player myself, I love that Ben Tripp plays the ukulele in this trailer.

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7. Book Review- Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Title:  Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief
Author:  Rick Riordan
Series:   Percy Jackson and the Olympians
Published:  May 2005 by Miramax,  May 2006 by Miramax
Length:  377 pages
Source: bought and library
Other info: Many other series such as The Heroes of Olympus and the Kane Chronicles have stemmed off. There was a film adaptation of The Lightning Thief.
Summary :  Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can't seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse-Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy's mom finds out, she knows it's time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he'll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends -- one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena -- Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.

Review: Percy Jackson is a mostly normal child. Yes, he has trouble concentrating and keeps getting thrown out of schools but mostly, he's ok. Until, on this school trip, it looks like he'll get thrown out because his maths teacher wants to kill him. And he vaporises her with a sword. More things happen, and Percy ends up at Camp Half Blood, with satyrs, demigods, and a centaur of a Latin teacher. And a quest. Because Zeus is angry. And things get better from there.
I love this series from the bottom of my heart. I read it first when I was eight or nine, maybe? I don't know, but I wanted a book and I asked my dad for recommendations in Waterstones and he picked this off the shelves and I fell in love with it when I read the chapter titles. Add the fact that I already had a love of Greek mythology and you can see how this is going to work out.
I reread this because my reading aim for 2015 is to work my way through all of Rick Riordan's demigod series and this is the first one.
The world of this is wonderful. The Gods are alive and kicking and operating out of the USA, doing what they've always done in a more modern way. This "what they've always done" includes having children with mortals, thus necessitating Camp Half Blood, a safe place to train and live without fear of monsters.
The characters  are well fleshed out and great to read about. The new takes on mythology are genius, especially when you notice the clever ways little things are updated'. You just fall in love with all the characters- Percy for his determination to keep trying, Grover for his determination to keep trying, Annabeth for her cleverness and levelheadedness, Chiron for his general badassery of being both a centaur and a Latin teacher...the list goes on.
They adventure in such a way that we meet a variety of creatures from Greek myth. I must say, when I first read it, I felt so proud of myself for being to guess ahead as to who this threat was, and I also enjoyed learning about new aspects of mythology too.
The writing describes well, but has a huge dose of humour. Case in point: chapter titles. But I loved the sheer amount of fun that this book was, comparatively speaking to everything else I was reading.
The  plot keeps running in new direction throughout the whole novel. The twists at the end where we learn how the thing got in, I  did not see coming the first time I read it. It was foreshadowed so perfectly and the way it all came round made me happy.


Overall:  Strength 5 tea to  a strong opening to a brilliant series.


0 Comments on Book Review- Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan as of 1/23/2015 6:43:00 PM
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8. Catching Up: Book Blurbs of Fall/Winter, Pt. 1

I've gotten incredibly far behind on my reviewing, so it's that time again: time to cut to the chase and offer quick, no-nonsense book reviews before I completely forget everything about these stories. This past fall was a real bear as far as... Read the rest of this post

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9. I am Henry Finch by Alexis Deacon and Viviane Schwarz

Are you ever too old for a picture book?

Walk into a bookshop, and you’ll rarely find a picture book on the shelves labelled 5-8, 9-12 or Teenage/Young Adult (the age bandings used in the most widespread chain of bookshops in the UK), implicitly telling buyers that picture books are only for those under 5.

But what if you have a picture book about Descartes’s philosophical statement “Je pense donc je suis” or to put it another way “Cogito Ergo Sum”?

A book which not only explores learning to listen to yourself, to trust your own instincts but also what it feels like when you think you have failed and how to fight against the dark thoughts that then crowd in.

Gosh, if only we all knew everything we needed to know about these issues by the time we were five! Wouldn’t life be much simpler?

henryfinchfrontcoverI am Henry Finch written by Alexis Deacon and illustrated by Viviane Schwarz is a new picture book which makes readers and listeners think about every one of these big concepts and more. It’s about being brave, about being independent, about feeling secure enough to not follow the crowd (though also being happy to be part of a community).

It’s also about totally adorable little birds and one terribly monstrous beast who wants to eat them all up.

Henry is just one of a huge flock of finches. They make a racket all day long, doing the same as each other over and again but one day Henry starts thinking for himself. He starts to have his own dreams, his own vision of who he could be, independent from the community he’s grown up in.

Alexis Deacon has written (although not specifically about Henry Finch):

“It seems to me that if every character in your story is entirely on message and engaged with the world you have created it can be very off-putting for the reader. I find that I am drawn to stories where not every character follows the grain: Reluctant characters, perverse characters, selfish characters, irreverent characters. They are often the catalysts for action too.”

And Henry Finch does indeed go against the grain, doing things differently to those around him, daring to be different. But he’s not selfish. In fact, his ability to think for himself gives him the courage to tackle the monster who threatens his family and friends.

Danger, doubt and darkness beset Henry, but he survives and shares what he has learned with his fellow finches, sparking a cascade of individual ideas and wishes as they each set off to explore the world, though not before reassuring each other that “We will come back“; the finches are thinking for themselves, but individuality doesn’t have to lead to the destruction of their community.

henryfinchinterior1

Deacon’s story is full of food for thought, opportunities for discussion and debate, whether you’re 4 or 40 or more. The meaty issues explored never become overwhelming, not least because Viviane Schwarz’s illustrations bring so much humour, delight and simplicity into the story.

The use of fingerprints to illustrate a narrative about what it means to be an individual is a stroke of genius; is there a more powerful symbol of individual human identity than the imprint left by the small ridges on the tips of our fingers? They also bring massive child appeal; mucky fingerprints on walls and furniture are unavoidable aspects of life with children, and so there is nothing like these marks to proudly proclaim, “Hey, I’m here, me, this child, and I can make a mark on the world around me!”.

henryfinchinterior2

I really like how Schwarz sometimes brings her real life community into her artwork. In her graphic novel The Sleepwalkers there are crowd scenes filled with real people she knows, and in I am Henry Finch, she’s included fingerprints from friends as well as her own. The joy she’s had in creating these images can be seen in the hugely expressive faces and wings of the finches, and that seeped into us: we just had to make our own flock of finches using the same technique.

We started out with inkpads, paper and lots of messy fingerprints…

drawingfinches2

…but soon we were experimenting with other sorts of prints too…

drawingfinches3

Then we added beaks and wings…

drawingfinches

And soon we had our very own chattering of finches:

fingerprints5

One or two elephants interloped! (these were made from prints using the side of our fists – click here to see what Viv Schwarz created with similar prints)

fingerprints4

These finches were born from toe-prints, whilst the beasts were heel-prints:

fingerprints3

They just kept on coming, causing havoc, and just getting on with doing their own thing.

fingerprint2

Whilst fingerprinting and making our own flock of birds we listened to:

  • Fingerprints by I Am Kloot
  • All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints by Paul Simon with Los Lobos
  • Fingerprints by Patsy Cline

  • Other activities which could work well alongside reading I am Henry Finch include:

  • Going to hear Alexis talk about this book at Discover (in London) on March 8.
  • Making up your own body organs, from watercolour blobs. You’ll see both why this is relevant and how you could do it if you check out this post from Viviane Schwarz.
  • Learning how to dust for fingerprints, using these helpful (teacher/technician/student) notes from Creative Chemistry.
  • I’ve more philosophy in the form of illustrated books coming up soon on the blog, with offerings from the Netherlands and Spain. What are your favourite picture books which deal with the big issues in life?

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of I am Henry Finch from the publishers.

    4 Comments on I am Henry Finch by Alexis Deacon and Viviane Schwarz, last added: 1/14/2015
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    10. Monday Review: MS. MARVEL VOL. 1: NO NORMAL by Wilson and Alphona

    Summary: I was excited, intrigued, and a little wary when I heard that the new reboot of Ms. Marvel was going to be a Pakistani-American, Muslim teenage girl. I cheered because young women of South Asian descent would finally be represented in the... Read the rest of this post

    0 Comments on Monday Review: MS. MARVEL VOL. 1: NO NORMAL by Wilson and Alphona as of 1/9/2015 7:17:00 AM
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    11. The Little Black Fish – an Iranian story about determination and freedom

    Is there a better way to start the new year than by introducing you to a book which will take you somewhere you’ve likely not visited via picture books before, is illustrated by the first Asian recipient of the most prestigious awards in children’s literature, the Hans Christian Andersen Award, and is about to be published for the first time in the UK with its original illustrations?

    thelittleblackfishThe Little Black Fish written by Samad Behrangi, translated by Azita Rassi and illustrated by Farshid Mesghali is perhaps the most famous children’s book of all time back in its home country, Iran.

    As anyone who’s spent time with children knows, the littlest people can ask the biggest questions, and so it is with the little black fish in this story who wants to find out more about life outside of the pool where he and his family have always lived. Just because the family have always lived a certain way, why shouldn’t this brave and curious fish extend his horizons and set out to explore beyond his known world?

    As the fish travels downstream he sees incredible sights the like of which he could never before have imagined. He also faces some terrible dangers. Will the fish survive to see his dream – the wide open ocean? Will his story of inquisitiveness and desire for freedom inspire others?

    Behrangi’s story took on great political significance in Iran after it was published, read by many adults as a political allegory (you can find out more here). Indeed the message was so powerful, the book was banned in pre-revolutionary Iran. Whilst this historical background gives the book an additional charge for adults, younger readers in 2015 can enjoy this short story as an encouraging tale about believing in oneself, about learning from personal experience, and about not being afraid to be different.

    readinglittleblackfish

    The Little Black Fish won the First Graphic Prize at Sixth International Children Books’ Fair (1968) in Bologna for its illustrations by Farshid Mesghali. The stylish bold textured prints in a limited range of colours are beautifully reproduced and bound in this smart edition from Tiny Owl Publishing. Their apparent simplicity suggests something both childlike and timeless.

    Inspired by the style of illustrations in The Little Black Fish we set about creating fish prints using plasticine (oil based, non permanent modelling clay). This was a great activity for giving old and manky plasticine one last shot at life!

    We squished together lots of old pieces, and created “blanks” of different sizes. These blanks were turned into fish shapes using scissors to cut them, and then decorated with impressions made using butter (blunt) knives, forks and sharpened pencils.

    littlefishprinting

    Top tips for printing with plasticine

  • Plasticine is more forgiving than lino or styrofoam for printing with little kids; it works really well when the inked design is squished a little bit into the paper.
  • If it’s a bit old or hard for little hands to work, drop it into a bowl of hot water or run it under the hot water tap for 10-20 seconds. This will soften it up and make it much more malleable and easier to press implements into.
  • Pencils work really well as mini rolling pins for little hands to roll out the modelling clay.
  • Once the plasticine is in the shape you desire, you can put it in the fridge for an hour or two to firm up before printing.
  • If you use poster paint or water-based printing ink, this can simply be washed off the plasticine afterwards. Because the plasticine is oil based, water is repelled and once the ink has been washed off you can dry the modelling clay and reuse it (something you can’t do with styrofoam or lino!).
  • Buttons, lego bricks, cocktail sticks, forks, hair grips, seed pods, pencils and shells are all useful tools for making impressions in the plasticine.

  • Once our prints were made we worked on some net-themed frames for them, making use of some of the cardboard collected over the Christmas parcel and present season. Here’s a short animated tutorial I made to show you how we did it:

    Here are some of our finished and framed prints of fish exploring the wider world!

    littlefishgallery

    Whilst weaving and printing we listened to:

  • Persian songs for kids on youtube including
  • Some Iranian folk music and dance including
  • We also watched several videos of Viguen, “King of Iranian Pop”, including
  • Other activities which would go well with reading The Little Black Fish include:

  • Creating a fish from paper lanterns – here’s a lovely looking tutorial from Live. Craft. Love.
  • Making folded paper fish using this tutorial from Buggy and Buddy. There’s something about how these look which reminds me of the print patterns created by Mesghali.
  • Turning toilet rolls into fish, with this tutorial from No Time for Flash Cards.
  • I’m delighted that Tiny Owl Publishing will be bringing us more translated Iranian children’s books in the coming months (although I do hope that future books will fully credit the illustrator and translator on the front cover of books, not just inside). What other unsung heroes in the international picture book world would you recommend I look out for – authors and illustrators who are famous in their home countries but who haven’t had wide recognition in the English speaking world?

    Finally, you might notice things look a little different on the blog today. Over Christmas I updated the blog so that it should now be fully mobile-platform friendly; if you want to view this blog on your phone or tablet it should now be much easier to navigate and more pleasant to look at as the text and images are fully scalable. I’ll also take this opportunity to highlight Playing by the book can be found on twitter @playbythebook, Facebook, Pinterest and even (in a very small way) on Youtube – please feel free to follow me wherever it suits you.

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of The Little Black Fish from the publisher.

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    12. Zac’s Destiny 2014 Kindle Award Winner!

    Zac’s Destiny, winner of The Book Awards for a Kindle title 2014!
    Available on Kindle from Amazon worldwide.

    2014KindleWinner

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    13. Parallelogram 4 Now Available for Pre-Order!

    Parallelogram 4

    Happy 2015! And here’s a new book for you!

    Parallel universes. Time travel. And a race for teen amateur physicist Audie Masters to save her own life before it’s too late.

    Enjoy the exciting, mind-bending conclusion to the PARALLELOGRAM series.

    You’ll never look at your own life the same way again.

    I am BEYOND ecstatic to be able to tell you that PARALLELOGRAM (Book 4: BEYOND THE PARALLEL) will be coming out January 20, 2015, and is available right now for pre-order! Yes! Finally!

    This final book in the series took me a long, long time to write (as those of you who have been waiting for it can attest), but you’ll understand why once you read it. It’s full of adventure, mystery, love, some very cool science, and the return of what I hope are some of your favorite characters.

    In celebration of the final book coming out, each of the first three books in the series will be a mere $2.99, and the new book will be only $4.99–but only until January 20. After that, all of them return to their regular prices.

    So if you haven’t read the first three books in the series yet, now’s your chance. I’m your book nerd friend who’s saying, “Come on! Come on! Catch up so we can discuss it!”

    Can’t wait to hear what you all think. I truly wrote this series for YOU!

    You can pre-order Book 4 from:
    Kindle
    Nook
    iTunes
    Kobo

    Thanks for being my readers! Hope you love the book!

    0 Comments on Parallelogram 4 Now Available for Pre-Order! as of 1/5/2015 4:59:00 AM
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    14. Monday Review: UNMADE (THE LYNBURN LEGACY #3) by Sara Rees Brennan

    Cool font, spooky silhouettes...me like.Summary: Okay, so, I have read books 1 and 2 of The Lynburn Legacy and failed to write about those, so this is really a review of the entire trilogy. I know, I know; I really MEANT to write about them... Read the rest of this post

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    15. The Wonder and The Imaginary; 2 very special books indeed

    I believe any book can fuel the imagination when it arrives in the right hands at the right time, but there are also some which explicitly explore how we nurture creativity and create space for inspiration and following our dreams. The Wonder by Faye Hanson and The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold and Emily Gravett are two such books which I’ve read recently and which have left me brimming with delight, hope and happiness and which have sparked hours of inspired play in my children.

    wonderfrontcoverThe Wonder by Faye Hanson is a sumptuous début picture book about a young boy whose head if full of daydreams which transform the humdrum world around him. Time and again adults tell him to get his head out of the clouds and come back to reality, but this is barely possible for a child who finds wonder, curiosity and delight wherever he looks. Finally in art class he’s able to let loose his imagination onto a blank sheet of paper delighting his teacher and filling his parents with pride.

    The child in this story sees ordinary objects but has the imagination to turn them into astonishing stories, breathtaking ideas, and worlds full of adventures waiting to happen. I know I want to foster this ability in my own children (and in myself!); the world becomes more beautiful, richer, and simply more enjoyable when we are able to imagine more than the grey, wet and humdrum daily life that all too often catches us up. This utterly delightful book is an enthusiastic encouragement to let more imagination in to our lives.

    Click to view a larger version of this interior spread from The Wonder by Faye Hanson

    Click to view a larger version (it’s really worth it!) of this interior spread from The Wonder by Faye Hanson

    Hanson’s illustrations are dense, saturated, and rich. Careful use of colour lights up the boy’s dreams in his otherwise sepia coloured life. Limited palettes add to the intensity of these pictures; it’s interesting that their vitality doesn’t come from a rainbow range of paints, but rather from focussing on layer of layer of just a few colours, packed with exquisite detail. There’s a luminosity about the illustrations; some look like they’ve got gold foil or a built-in glow and yet there are no novelty printing techniques here.

    All in all, an exquisite book that will tell anyone you share it with that you value their dreams and want to nurture their ingenuity, inventiveness and individuality.

    imaginarycoverNow let me play devil’s advocate: Is there sometimes a line to be walked between feeding a child’s imagination and yet enabling them to recognise the difference between real life and day dreams? In The Wonder, there are plenty of adults pointing out the apparent problems/risks of day dreaming a great deal. On the other hand, in The Imaginary, a mother fully enters into her daughter’s imaginary world, not only acknowledging an imaginary best friend, but actively supporting this belief by setting places at meal times, packing extra bags, even accepting accidents must be the result of this friend and not the child herself.

    Amanda believes that only she can see her imaginary friend Rudger. But all this changes one day when a mysterious Mr Bunting appears on the doorstep, apparently doing innocent door-to-door market research. But all is not as it seems for it turns out that Mr Bunting has no imagination of his own and can only survive by eating other people’s imaginary friends. He’s sniffed Rudger out and now he’s going to get him, whatever it takes.

    Click to see larger illustration by Emily Gravett , from The Imaginary by A. F. Harrold

    Click to see larger illustration by Emily Gravett, from The Imaginary by A. F. Harrold

    If you’ve ever wondered where imaginary friends come from, and what happens to them when their children grow up and stop day-dreaming this is a book for you. If you love a good villain, adventures which include libraries and narrow escapes you’ll enjoy this too. If you’re a fan of elegant and attractive books you’ll want to feel this between your hands. The illustrations by Emily Gravett are terrific (in every sense) and incredibly atmospheric, magically adding beauty and tension to a story which I thought couldn’t be bettered.

    Intelligent, clever, thoughtful, and packed with seeds of love and inspiration The Imaginary is perhaps my favourite middle grade/young fiction book of the year. If you want a fuller flavour of this gem before hurrying to get it into your hands, head and heart, there’s a full teacher’s guide to The Imaginary available on the Bloomsbury website and you can watch a video of Emily Gravett working on her illustrations here.

    *************

    One of the ways my girls have been inspired in their playing since sharing these books became clear when they told me they wanted to make a star-making machine to go with the one features in The Wonder (see the illustration above).

    M first wrote out some recipes for stars:

    bluegiantrecipe

    redgiantrecipe

    I provided a little food for thought…

    foodforengineers

    …and a selection of machine parts.

    machinepartsJPG

    Several hours later the star machine was coming together

    starmachine1

    buildingmachine

    Next up a selection of star ingredients were sourced:

    staringredients

    The machine was fed…

    feedingmachine

    Can you see the pulses of one star in the making?!

    starinmaking

    And out popped these stars (here’s a tutorial) at the end of the star making process:

    starsfrommachine

    Here’s one just for you:

    endresult

    Whilst making our machine we listened to:

  • Invisible Friends by Dog on Fleas
  • Imaginary Friend by Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
  • ‘Pure Imagination’ from the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film
  • Land of Make Believe by Bucks Fizz (Groan!)

  • Other activities which could work well alongside reading The Wonder and The Imaginary include:

  • Creating a wonder wall on which to write all those curious questions you and the kids want to find answers to. There’s a lovely tutorial for creating your own Wonder Wall over on Nurture Store.
  • Going on a Wonder Walk. I’ve been thinking about places which spark the imagination or create a sense of awe and thinking about how I can take the kids to visit these places and see what ideas the experience sparks. In general the sorts of places I think have the potential to ignite wonder include high-up places with views to the horizon, hidden places, for example underground, enormous spaces whether man-made or natural, and dark places lit only by candles or fire. I think these locations could all work as seeds for the imagination, and so during the coming holiday I’m going to try to take the girls to a place that fits each of these descriptions.
  • Spirals feature a great deal in The Wonder‘s artwork. Here are various art projects which might inspire your own spiral creations: spiral mobiles, spiral suncatchers, spiral wall art made from scrap paper and even human spirograph art (you need huge pieces of paper but this looks great fun).

  • How do you foster your kids’ imagination? And your own?

    Disclosure: I was sent free review copies of both books in today’s post.

    3 Comments on The Wonder and The Imaginary; 2 very special books indeed, last added: 12/15/2014
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    16. George Can! (And You Can Too!), by Maria Stuckey-Leach | Dedicated Review

    George Can! (And You Can Too) is an affirming picture book about the wonderful powers of positive thinking. It offers young readers a playful nudge toward an optimistic attitude by utilizing the mantra “I can! I will! I believe!”

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    17. TURNING PAGES: ROSE EAGLE, by JOSEPH BRUCHAC

    It's a blustery, rainy day, and I have hot tea and lemon and have just finished a novella I've been looking forward to for weeks. All is well in the Wonderland treehouse, people. Happy, happy times. I'm generally not attracted to prequels as much as... Read the rest of this post

    0 Comments on TURNING PAGES: ROSE EAGLE, by JOSEPH BRUCHAC as of 12/5/2014 6:33:00 AM
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    18. The Enchanted Castle (1907)

    The Enchanted Castle. E. Nesbit. 1907. 291 pages. [Source: Bought]

    I really enjoyed reading The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit. I had started this one at least twice before, but, I had never been in the right mood to properly appreciate this children's fantasy novel. I was in the right mood this time.

    If you enjoy adventure fantasy novels, you'll probably enjoy spending time with Jerry, Jimmy, Cathy, and Mabel. Jerry, Jimmy, and Cathy are siblings. When these three first meet Mabel, they mistake her for a princess. At the time, they are having an adventure looking for an enchanted castle. So finding a princess within that castle makes complete sense! Mabel is actually the niece of the housekeeper. She confesses that a bit later on. That first meeting is magical enough! She shows them a secret room behind a paneled wall. This room is fabulous if you're looking for treasures. While in the room, the children find (and pick up) a ring. This ring is central to all their further adventures. And Mabel is their new best friend. She's always part of the group.

    This one was a very fun read. It reminded me of why I love E. Nesbit in the first place. It wasn't a perfect novel. But flaws and all, it worked well enough for me. It was a joy to read of their adventures and misadventures. The ring gets them into trouble more often than it gets them out of trouble.

    Favorite quotes:
    “Go then, and be not more naughty than you must.”
    “If we were in a book it would be an enchanted castle — certain to be,” said Kathleen. “It is an enchanted castle,” said Gerald in hollow tones. “But there aren’t any.” Jimmy was quite positive. “How do you know? Do you think there’s nothing in the world but what you’ve seen?” His scorn was crushing.
    “I think magic went out when people began to have steam-engines,” Jimmy insisted, “and newspapers, and telephones and wireless telegraphing.” “Wireless is rather like magic when you come to think of it,” said Gerald. “Oh, that sort!” Jimmy’s contempt was deep. “Perhaps there’s given up being magic because people didn’t believe in it any more,” said Kathleen. “Well, don’t let’s spoil the show with any silly old not believing,” said Gerald with decision. “I’m going to believe in magic as hard as I can. This is an enchanted garden, and that’s an enchanted castle, and I’m jolly well going to explore.
    “I am so hungry!” said Jimmy. “Why didn’t you say so before?” asked Gerald bitterly. “I wasn’t before.” “Then you can’t be now. You don’t get hungry all in a minute. What’s that?”
    “Well, then — a detective.” “There’s got to be something to detect before you can begin detectiving,” said Mabel. “Detectives don’t always detect things,” said Jimmy, very truly. “If I couldn’t be any other kind I’d be a baffled detective. You could be one all right, and have no end of larks just the same. Why don’t you do it?” “It’s exactly what I am going to do,” said Gerald. “We’ll go round by the police-station and see what they’ve got in the way of crimes.” They did, and read the notices on the board outside. Two dogs had been lost, a purse, and a portfolio of papers “of no value to any but the owner.” Also Houghton Grange had been broken into and a quantity of silver plate stolen. “Twenty pounds reward offered for any information that may lead to the recovery of the missing property.”
    You know pretty well what Beauty and the Beast would be like acted by four children who had spent the afternoon in arranging their costumes and so had left no time for rehearsing what they had to say. Yet it delighted them, and it charmed their audience. There is a curtain, thin as gossamer, clear as glass, strong as iron, that hangs for ever between the world of magic and the world that seems to us to be real. And when once people have found one of the little weak spots in that curtain which are marked by magic rings, and amulets, and the like, almost anything may happen.And what more can any play do, even Shakespeare’s?

    © 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    19. TURNING PAGES: THE BODY ELECTRIC, by BETH REVIS

    When I first saw that Beth Revis had self-published a new novel, I wondered why. After all, her ACROSS THE UNIVERSE series was three successful books long, published in twenty languages; she had contacts and contracts and didn't really need to do... Read the rest of this post

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    20. The Katie Morag Treasury / Books with a strong sense of location

    Over the last couple of year’s I’ve read quite a lot about how children’s books with a very specific cultural setting are not favoured by publishers because it is hard to sell rights widely; publishers are keen for “universal” stories which translate (literally and figuratively) well across borders and languages.

    Whilst I understand publishers’ drive to maximise sales, I think a great deal is lost if we ignore stories boldly and vividly set in specific and identifiable locations and cultures. Indeed, considering the current drive for increasing diversity in children’s books, I would argue that books which are culture specific have a vital role to play.

    And of course, a great book will be “universal” whether or not it is set in a specific time, location or country; enduring stories speak to that which we share whatever our differences.

    I have been a fan of Mairi Hedderwick’s books for as long as I can remember. She writes and illustrates rural Scottish island life in a magical way. She captures truths like poetry can in her watercolours of Hebridean life, whilst her stories are full of acute observations about family life that’s more or less the same wherever you are in the world, exploring issues such as sibling rivalry and intergenerational relationships.

    katiemoragetreasuryThe Katie Morag Treasury by Mairi Hedderwick is a glorious book, bringing together a mix of the most popular previously published Katie Morag books and new stories and illustrations first heard and seen on episodes of the highly acclaimed BBC Katie Morag TV show. It really is a treasury, with a range of witty and poignant stories, illustrated in ink and watercolour in a way that invisibly and movingly marries romance and realism.

    For kids listening to these stories Katie Morag’s tales act as mirrors; yes she may live in a community vastly unlike the one the young reader or listener lives in, but that only makes it more interesting and reassuring to read that Katie Morag has the same sort of worries, plays the same sorts of games and quarrels with her parents just like they do. Thoughtfulness is a consistent thread in all these stories, and Katie Morag herself is a terrific role model; full of strength and imagination she is not afraid to explore, to try new things, or to be kind.

    katiemorag

    This is a keeper of a book, one which works well both as a read-aloud, or for children who can read themselves. Indeed the lovely hardback binding makes this ideal for older readers who might not want to be seen reading picture books any more.

    Last year when we were holiday in Scotland we collected a stash of shells and sea glass and re-reading these fabulous Katie Morag stories inspired us to get our jars of them out of our natural history museum, and play with them using a home-made light box.

    lightbox2

    I borrowed one of our large plastic boxes which we normally store lego in, lined it with white tissue paper, and then put a load of fairy lights inside it. With the fairy lights turned on, and all the other lights turned off and curtains drawn we entered something of a soothing world where the girls could then make patterns with the shells and sea glass, with soft light shining through.

    seaglass

    If you don’t have any sea glass, you could do this activity with florists’ glass (vase) pebbles instead, making light imbued mosaics.

    seaglass2

    Music which goes really well with Katie Morag stories (though maybe not with the light box activity as much of it will get you up and dancing) includes:

  • My favourite radio programme – available worldwide online – Travelling Folk. This is BBC Radio Scotland’s flagship folk programme and it’s full of treats each week.
  • Arrangements of songs like you’ve never heard before from Billy McIntyre and his All Star Ceilidh Band, who I’d love to hear live because they are just WAY out there…. Pop! goes the Ceilidh is a hysterical album with covers of lots of pop classics (eg Living on a Prayer, Robbie William’s Angels, Billy Idol’s White Wedding) redone with fiddle, accordion and more. It will put a crazy smile on your face.
  • Anything by Skippinish but especially Land below the Waves that always gives me goosebumps:

  • Other activities which you could try out alongside reading The Katie Morag Treasury include:

  • Creating a sand imprint roller (!) like we did when I reviewed audiobook versions of the Katie Morag stories.
  • Making stone soup, as per one of the six folk tales told at Grannie Island’s Ceilidh, and reproduced in The Katie Morag Treasury. If you’ve never made stone soup here’s a recipe to get you started.
  • Adapting a pair of shoes to make your own tap shoes; Katie Morag learns to tap dance but uses her wellies and a little bit of ingenuity. Here are some ways you can turn your regular shoes into tap shoes.
  • What are your favourite children’s books which have a very strong sense of location?

    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of The Katie Morag Treasury by the publisher

    4 Comments on The Katie Morag Treasury / Books with a strong sense of location, last added: 11/13/2014
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    21. TURNING PAGES: EUPHEMIA FAN: SPY GIRL by Cassandra Neyenesch

    I received this book courtesy of Full Fathom Five Digital and while normally I prefer digital books which have paper counterparts, I made an exception this time, for Reasons. FFF Digital is an imprint of Full Fathom Five, the content creation... Read the rest of this post

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    22. Demons and Thieves

    Demons and Thieves
    Author: Lynda Berger
    Publisher: Fuluji’s Publishing Ltd
    Genre: Adventure / Fantasy
    ISBN: 9780957374300
    Pages: 268
    Price: £6.99

    Author’s website
    Buy it at Bookstore.co.uk

    Tad Bailey can’t take much more. After another fight between his parents, he runs from his home, wondering if things can get any worse. When he discovers a mysterious gate leading to another world, he’s offered a chance at happiness. He doesn’t know it, but he’s been living in the Shadows, and now he has the opportunity to get out.

    All he has to do is find three Keys in Shiladu before time expires. If he doesn’t succeed, he’ll be stuck there forever. While he’s there, demons prey on his vulnerabilities, another visitor tries to steal his Keys, and a permanent resident of Shiladu upsets the time continuum, making Tad the scapegoat. Seeking the Keys is his ultimate goal, but he’s even more concerned with making it out of Shiladu alive.

    Demons and Thieves is an exciting fantasy and adventure novel that grabbed my interest from the very beginning. Tad faces dangerous situations that he needs to escape from, and he never knows what lurks behind the next corner. Evil comes at him from every direction, keeping the reader hooked to find out what happens next. I enjoyed this story very much, and I look forward to reading the next two books in this Seven Keys Trilogy.

    Reviewer: Alice Berger


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    23. Thursday Review: MORTAL HEART by Robin LaFevers

    Summary: Mortal Heart is the final book (SAD FACE) in Robin LaFevers' His Fair Assassin trilogy (Book 1 reviewed here; Book 2 reviewed here). The books take place in medieval Brittany and France, a setting which the author has obviously researched... Read the rest of this post

    0 Comments on Thursday Review: MORTAL HEART by Robin LaFevers as of 11/20/2014 4:16:00 PM
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    24. The Orphan of Torundi, by J. L McCreedy | Dedicated Review

    The Orphan of Torundi delivers all the key ingredients for a successful young adult novel. Romance, fast adventure, and a believable landscape blend together for a consuming read with a strong protagonist.

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    25. TURNING PAGES: THE SEVENTH BRIDE, by T. Kingfisher

    Fans of Patricia McKillip, Juliet Marillier, Brenna Yovanoff, fans of Holly Black's plot twists, as well as fans of a good hedgehog will really enjoy the newest tale from T. Kingfisher, just in time to read whilst you're waiting for your root veg to... Read the rest of this post

    0 Comments on TURNING PAGES: THE SEVENTH BRIDE, by T. Kingfisher as of 11/25/2014 11:56:00 AM
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