Children’s Reads for September

I have decided from now on to do something different with my blog. Each month,  I am going to focus on books whose authors were born or died during that month. There will be some exceptions like when I have a specific book to review or I am just so excited to share a book with you all. I will also be doing this in my posts about adult books. One thing I have noticed, is that with a lot of modern book releases, it is hard to find a date of birth of some authors, so apologies that during some months, I may have to bend the rules.

  • Jane Hissey. 1st September 1952.
  • Ruff

A woolly dog bounces into the playroom with no name and no home. But worst of all, he says he has never had a birthday! Luckily, Old Bear and the other toys are bursting with brilliant birthday ideas for their new-found friend.

I remember reading these books with my sister when we were children. Picking them up again 30 years on and they haven’t aged at all. Both my girls enjoyed the books – Edith (5) more than Ceci (3). The pictures are absolutely stunning and Edie loved reading about Old Bear and Ruff to her school of toys.

  • Julia Donaldson. 16th September
  • The Snail and the Whale

One little snail longs to see the world and hitches a lift on the tail of an enormous whale. Together they go on an amazing journey, past icebergs and volcanoes, sharks and penguins, and the little snail feels so small in the vastness of the world. But when disaster strikes and the whale is beached in a bay, it’s the tiny snail’s big plan that saves the day!

I think The Snail and the Whale is one of my fave Donaldson books. I love the sentiment that no matter how small you are, you can still do amazing, brave things. Also how humbling it is to be aware of the size and magnificence of our planet. Its impossible to mention Julia Donaldson without a massive nod to Axel Scheffler. I say his name and a rock star image is conjured up…..Axl Rose. Scheffler is nowt like Axl Rose 😂. His illustrations are completely epic. Really engaging and there are always lovely little details to spot. Ceci (2) loved looking for the tiny snail in every picture.

  • The Detective Dog

There once was a dog with a keen sense of smell.
She was known far and wide as Detective Dog Nell.

Peter’s dog Nell has an amazing sense of smell. Her ever-sniffing nose is always hard at work solving mysteries and finding all Peter’s lost toys. But Nell has other talents too . . .

When she’s not cracking cases, Nell goes to school with Peter and listens to the children read. Books about dinosaurs, books about space and even books about dogs – Nell loves them all! But one day Peter and Nell arrive at school to find all the books have disappeared! Who could have taken them, and why? Luckily, Detective Dog Nell, with help from the whole class, is ready to sniff out the thief!

Written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by the multi-talented illustrator and print-maker Sara Ogilvie, The Detective Dog is a fast-paced celebration of books, reading, libraries and the relationship between a little boy and his rather special dog.

The story is about Nell the Detective Dog who helps a class hunt down a book thief. Ted (the thief) is overjoyed to discover that he can borrow books for free from his library. His stealing days are over!!!

Any book that promotes the use of libraries is top banana! As children, my sister and I were taken to the library a lot. As a mum, I go at least once a week…storytime, rhyme time and just taking books out. I remember, as a child being so excited to take 8 books home. Playing librarians was a common childhood game. I used to be intrigued by the barcode scanner….this has now lost its joy when I am standing at the self checkout in Sainsbury’s and the scanner goes on the blink.

For a book to be a hit for Edie and Ceci, the story has to be fast paced, exciting, brilliant pictures with tons to look at and it is a massive bonus if the word ‘poo’ appears. ‘Poo’ makes an appearance on page 2 so my discerning girls are happy. Is is also important to say that Sarah Ogilvie’s pictures are fab with tons to spot. Brilliant book. Happy Birthday Month Julia Donaldson!

  • Eric Hill September 7th.

Eric Hill OBE. What a legend. Born in 1927. The Spot books have been translated into 60 languages. It is reported that he said “children have far more intelligence and style than many adults credit them with.”

This book is a special copy for me. My dad bought it for my eldest daughter Edith, on a shopping trip. It means so much because it is always Nana who spoils my children, bringing them presses and cakes. This was a gift chosen by ‘Pampa’ with no input from Nana, so to me, it is very special.

  • The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield.

One day, a young bear stumbles upon something he has never seen before in the forest. As time passes, he teaches himself how to play the strange instrument, and eventually the beautiful sounds are heard by a father and son who are picnicking in the woods. The bear goes with them on an incredible journey to New York, where his piano playing makes him a huge star. He has fame, fortune and all the music in the world, but he misses the friends and family he has left behind. A moving tale of exploration and belonging from an exciting debut author-illustrator.

This book is very loved in our family. My sister bought it for Edith and it has been one of those books that I buy for all my friend’s children. The sentiment behind the story is beautiful: your true friends will support and encourage you in your talents without envy. Your true friends will let you spread your wings and fly and when your heart leads you home, your family will be there with open arms. Edie, Ceci and I had a funny chat about things that make us so happy you forget where you are….Edie – sweets and Ceci – her dummy. Nothing as profound as music. 😂. As an over emotional musician, I find the book ridiculously moving. Edie tells me off for crying at the end! The illustrations are so beautiful. Can’t wait to read the next book The Bear, the piano, the dog and the fiddle.

  • Hide and Seek by Taro Gomi

In the tradition of classic hidden pictures, international favorite Taro Gomi slyly infuses his dynamic original art with objects that don’t go where they belong. A crocodile’s grin is a toothbrush; a butterfly’s dots are hearts. Young readers will delight to find the unexpected treasures hidden in the brightly coloured illustrations.

My little Cecilia/ceci/Cilla. I can’t say she lives in her sister’s shadow. Ceci is a force to be reckoned with, but when it comes to choosing the films we watch or the books we read, her older sister often overrules. At 3, she has grow out of the brilliant That’s not my….series and the constant asking for Peppa does get a little boring. Ceci does however love this book by Taro Gomi. Gomi is a very famous Japanese author. Ceci loves spotting the everyday objects hidden in the animals . If you are ever looking for a good book for a little one, give this a go.

  • Dr Seuss. Died 24th September 1991.
  • Horton Hears a Who

Horton the kindly elephant has his work cut out saving the tiny Whos who live on a speck of dust – no one else believes they are there! But Horton eventually convinces everyone that, ‘a person’s a person, no matter how small’!

‘A person’s a person, no matter how small..’

Horton the elephant sets out to save the inhabitants of a speck of dust, in this classic and hilarious tale about friendship and respect, from the inimitable Dr. Seuss.

Born Theodore Seuss “Ted” Geisel in 1904, he wrote and illustrated over 60 children’s books. In our house Horton is a massive favourite. Edie loves the book and the Jim Carrey film. The message in the book ‘a person’s a person no matter how small’ combined with the idea that if people work together as a group they have the strength to change things is so important and relevant to teach to our children.

Hilariously, the Grinch cartoon is on our tv very frequently. It is watched at least once a month so we feel festive all year round. Edie is obsessed with the scene when the grinch does his massive smile. Dr Seuss you are a legend. Thank you.

  • T.S. Eliot. 26th September
  • Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.

Happy 130th Birthday T.S. Eliot. Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats was written in 1939. Cats was one of the first shows I ever saw in the West End. I remember the band starting and literally just crying I was so excited. I remember really wanting to be the white cat. I found it on YouTube the other day and Edie was utterly entranced. She now knows all the words to Jellicle Cats. For me though, Gus is my favourite. I bought this book, illustrated by the legendary Axel Scheffler quite recently. It’s a brilliant way to get kids into poetry.

Happy Birthday to Stan Berenstain. One half of the Stan and Jan duo who wrote the Berenstain Bears. I think these books might be relatively rare over here in the UK. My sister and I discovered them when we were children and we were on holiday in Canada. Our older cousins loved them. Interestingly, they were inspired by the Dr Seuss books. The Berenstain’s wanted to write a series which focused on the issues parents faced. They were criticised for not moving with the times but I think this is part of the charm. Too Much Birthday has a very special place in my heart and is a phrase my parents used to use when we got a bit over emotional at our parties. Edie loved it as she is the same age as Sister Bear. She now wants a birthday party with ponies and a carousel. I remember feeling exactly the same after reading it at her age.

Thank you so much for reading. See more updates on Instagram @ellamkpbooks. Next month, I am going to combine some birthday reads with some spooky favourites. Edith loves a good scare.

A Year in Books

Happy New Year!

I have massively enjoyed my reading this year and honestly feel that at times it has completely stopped my from falling into a black hole of depression. I’m sure a lot of people love a good book to enjoy the escapism. For me, it is more the sense of achievement I have on finishing a book. Since having children my feelings of achievement come from my children attempting to eat a vegetable or them wiping their own bums. Reading is honestly probably the only thing I do on my own now….yes I do wee with my kids present and at least 6 nights a week I have a little person sharing my bed who is not my husband.  Reading however is my quiet time.  Conversely,  I do love the sociable aspect of having a good chat about a book. I have started 2 book clubs in 2017 and I am really chuffed to have made new friends who also enjoy reading. 2017 was also the year of the book multi tasked. I now generally have 3 books on the go. I have to pick these books carefully….if I’m reading a book of poetry, I like interspersing it with fiction. This does depend on how complicated the fiction is however. Some books require complete fidelity and if I sleep (read) around  whilst reading a complicated book, I always seem to be at odds with the plot, characters etc.

So, without further ado, here are my reads of 2017.

5*

  1. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
  2. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  3. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  4. All Change by Elizabeth Jane Howard
  5. Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson
  6. The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell
  7. Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land
  8. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
  9. The Knackered Mother’s Wine Club by Helen McGinn

4*

  1. The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker
  2. My Life in France by Julia Child
  3. Two Brothers by Ben Elton
  4. Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal
  5. The House on Cold Hill by Peter James
  6. The Zone of Interest by Martin Amis
  7. His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet
  8. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
  9. Something Dangerous by Penny Vincenzi
  10. The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin
  11. Release by Patrick Ness
  12. When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman
  13. The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
  14. Four Stories by Alan Bennett
  15. Gone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung by Min Kym
  16. Conclave by Robert Harris
  17. Bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward
  18. On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder
  19. A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman
  20. Feminine Gospels by Carol Ann Duffy
  21. Motherhood Reimagined by Sarah Kowalski
  22. The Map and the Clock edited by Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke
  23. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
  24. The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall
  25. Depression and Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim
  26. I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

3*

  1. What We Didn’t Say by Rory Dunlop
  2. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
  3. Capital by John Lanchester
  4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  5. Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris
  6. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  7. Invincible Summer by Alice Adams
  8. Cousins by Salley Vickers
  9. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  10. Six Poets: Hardy to Larkin by Alan Bennett
  11. Raising Girls by Steve Biddulph
  12. The Angry Chef by Anthony Warner
  13. The Blackbird Season by Kate Moretti
  14. Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
  15. An Equal Music by Vikram Seth
  16. The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth by William Boyd
  17. The Rotter’s Club by Jonathan Coe
  18. Confessions of a Learner Parent by Sam Avery

2*

  1. Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk
  2. Friends Like These by Danny Wallace
  3. Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
  4. We the Animals by Justin Torres
  5. 30-Second Mythology by Robert A Segal

1*

  1. The Book of Mormon Girl by Joanna Brooks

GAVE UP!!!!

  1. The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes
  2. Ruby by Cynthia Bond
  3. A Secret Sisterhood by Emily Midorikawa, Emma Claire Sweeney
  4. Essential Poems from the Staying Alive Trilogy by Neil Astley

4 Very varied book reviews.

It has been yonks since I put up some book reviews and the irony/impropriety of reviewing a children’s book, a parenting guide, a wine guide and a book of poetry based on depression is not lost on me. If this grouping of books offends you, please stop reading now. Interestingly, I did not plan to read these books around the same time but for me, they are beautifully linked. I am a parent to two girls under five, I have depression and I really like a glass of wine. There, all linked and packaged up with a nice bow.

A LION IS A LION by POLLY DUNBAR

Is a lion still a lion if…he wears a hat? And carries an umbrella, too?

And is a lion still a lion if he says, “Oh yes, lunch would be lovely, thank you.”

And he asks you for…a BITE?

Firstly, I would like to say how much my daughters and I loved Polly Dunbar’s illustrations. My 4 year old told me ‘they were easy to understand.’ I think by this she means that the pages weren’t so busy that her 4 year old brain suffered with sensory overload. I often find books for children are so full of bright colours, big words, all singing and all dancing that children are so distracted that they lose the thread of the story. Not so with the book. The pictures are simple and beautifully drawn. My children and I particularly likes the ‘danger moments.’ This is when the lion decides he would quite like to eat the children in the story. Cleverly, Dunbar uses the colour red as a page background which prompted a lot of discussion with my 4 year old about red meaning danger. She is apparently steering clear of red food for a while. The message behind this book is also really empowering to children, particularly before bedtime. If something scares you/tries to eat you….chuck it out of your house and tell it ‘No! No! No! NO!’ This is a lovely book, really enjoyed by my 2 and 4 year old.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC of this book.

I initially requested this ARC because I want to read more poetry. I am sorry to admit that I am a bit of a novice when it comes to reading poetry and my vision of it is fuelled by memories of plodding through A Level poetry which I often found tedious. So far, in my tasting menu of poetry, I am really enjoying modern poetry and I thought the subject matter of Benhaim’s new book of poems would definitely be something I could relate to.

Benhaim, is not a poet I am familiar with so before embarking on her collection I sat down with a cuppa and got onto Google. I was hoping to find a Wikipedia post giving me some background. This was unfortunately not to be. Instead, I became immersed into the world of Slam Poetry. To Slam Poetry virgins like myself, Slam is a competition which originated in 1984 in Chicago. It was intended as a way to move poetry away from stuffy libraries and bring it out to audiences. Poets take to the microphone and compete against other poets. Slam poetry is Benhaim’s background. It is worth watching her perform her poem ‘Explaining my depression to my mother, a conversation.’ This video has been viewed 6 million times on Youtube.

Having watched everything of Benhaim’s I could find, I embarked on her book. I loved these poems. So many of them spoke to me and even though the main subject matter is depression, a had a wry smile on my face as so much of what she said made sense to me:

In some stories,

the protagonist has to kill the bad thing to

release its light.

in my story,

I am the protagonist & the bad thing,

I have to learn how to bend the light out of myself.

I can do that magic.

So many beautiful thoughts and ways of expressing them. I think my favourite poems were ‘How to fold a memory’ – her words created such wonderful and fragile imagery. ‘Another plain truth,”poem for the moment after you left,”so my friend tells me she identifies as a mermaid,”feed a fever, starve a cold,’ ‘what I told the doctor, the second time,’

These poems, short stories really came alive to me after having watched how she performs. I completely have her voice in my head and it really helped my to get used to her conversational style.

A really wonderful book of poetry and I will definitely recommend it to others.

Oh Helen McGinn where have you been all my life??? Thank god I have found you now. I feel as I am now in my late 30s (argh) it is time for me to get into the club. The club I talk is the Club of Wise Ones What Know About Wine. I had friends who joined this club in their early 20s and I thought it was all a bit pretentious. I just wanted to get pissed on whatever was cheapest in sainos. If something was on offer, I would buy it….as long as it was in the £6 and under price bracket. In the year before we jumped on the baby train my husband and I went on our last big holiday. We went to America and spent a lot of time in Napa. We hired bikes and I have slightly soft focused memories of us cycling around various vineyards, trying to pretend we weren’t pissed and that we knew vaguely what we were on about. We didn’t, and it made me realise I wanted to be part of this club who did know.

I live in South West London which is an area often referred to as Nappy Valley. Everywhere you look, there are pregnant people, Range-Rover priced buggies, sleep consultants, breast-feeding consultants, mothers who are wearing jumpers with slogans describing how they are just blagging motherhood (they aren’t. Their idea of blagging motherhood is to feed their kids chicken nuggets one night a week instead of organic bolognese). Controversially, i have found since living here, I am slightly allergic to this group of women ( by all means, it is not the women round here) who quaff prosecco whilst holding baby Zara (who is dressed in Bonpoint) wanking on about how knackered they are. As a result, i tend to veer away from blogs and books with the title ‘The knackered/yummy/ confused/baffled/hysterical mummy.’ Helen McGinn has without a doubt proved me wrong and made me realise that my prejudice is ridiculous.

This book is so readable without being too easy. It is definitely a book which I shall keep and often refer back to. This does not read like an idiots guide to wine, but its simplicity in content makes you feel that you are getting to grips with how wine works without being bamboozled by the complicated stuff.  For a wine beginner, this is definitely the book for you. Its humour, lack or pretension and brilliantly structured chapters make it a really fun read. The chapter about book clubs and wine has inspired me to start my own wine tasting/book reading club. Thanks Helen. Top work.

 

My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC of this book.

In my review above I have already given my opinions on the trend that is self-deprecting parents writing books and blogs on how they bare winging parenthood. This phenomenon has really taken off in the last few years and I feel we are inundated with similar parenting manuals. Having said that, I requested this ARC because I hadn’t read anything from the father’s point of view.

Sam Avery is a funny guy. He should be…he is a stand up comedian. He also has twin sons which will provide him with enough funny material for the next 15 years. His first chapter, entitled Diary of a Two-Year-Old made my openly guffaw on the train. I made my husband read it whilst we were trying to stay awake over a glass of wine last saturday. We did that knowing laugh, that parents do when we discover that we all go through the same thing. Also, his chapter on soft-play was brilliant.

My only issue with this book, is that for me, I think I would have enjoyed it more had I read it a little more sporadically. Avery is hilarious but if you read it in one sitting you get slightly bored of the humour. Pretty much every paragraph has a simile or analogy which eventually become totally frustrating. I felt I was drowning in Avery’s need to make me laugh every 5 seconds and as a result, as the book continued, to became less funny.

Having said that, it was really refreshing to read a man’s take on parenthood and it would be a great book to give to any soon to be dad’s.

 

Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas people.

Through the wringer. Good me Bad me, Bone and A Horse Walks into a Bar

Wow this has been a week for emotional reads. As the title suggests, I definitely feel that I have been put through the wringer. Not a week for feel good books but definitely a week for 3 reads that I love, would definitely recommend and that I know will stay with me forever.

Good Me Bad Me is the debut by Ali Land. It tells the story of Annie whose mother is a serial killer. Annie is the reason her mother is in jail when she bravely decides that the only way she can stop her mother’s killing spree is by going to the police. Annie is given a new identity (Milly) and a new foster family while she waits for the court case.

This book was a brilliant read. I whipped through it in 2 days and found it hard to put down. I need to add that I found it ridiculously harrowing. This is one of those novels which I know affects me a lot more as a result of me being a parent. Don’t get me wrong, before children I would have found the material upsetting, but as a result of me being a mother, there were literally parts of this novel that I struggled to read. In fact this was a book that I had to read on the tube just to offer me some kind of distraction. It was not only the death and abuse of children that I found upsetting but also the bullying that Milly was subjected to that I found so painful. My reading this book has also come at the time when my daughter has just started school, and like Milly, having been to an all-girls school myself, I am hyper aware of just how cruel girls can be to one another.

Ali Land graduated university with a degree in Mental Health and before becoming an author she worked with children and teenagers as a Mental Health nurse. She is obviously more than qualified to write this subject matter and to pose the question of nurture over nature. Milly is a heartbreaking character who having been mentally, physically and sexually abused by her mother, struggles to block out the voice of the monster who created her.

I do it a lot. Think about what sort of parents other children have. The staff at the unit were so quick to tell me what you did wrong. Abnormal. So I’m trying to learn what’s right, I’m trying to be different from you.

How do you do that though? How do you escape what has made you? That is one of the things that is so upsetting in the novel. The perpetual cycle of dysfunctional relationships leading to dysfunctional relationships. Obviously Annie’s relationship with her mother is hugely dysfunctional but, on a lesser level Saskia’s relationship with Phoebe is also riddled with problems. Phoebe is a bully because her relationship with her own mother is non-existent. Sadly this is something that Milly recognises and even though she suffers greatly at the hands of Phoebe, she knows the two of them are similar:

I can’t help but feel sorry for her, I’ve felt it too. The hunger of loneliness around the people, or persons, you’re supposed to be protected by. Nurtured.

This would be a great choice for a book club as it poses numerous questions. I found the story fascinating as having read a lot of novels about male serial killers, this is the first I have come across where the killer is not only a woman but also a mother.

Bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward. 

I received a copy of this from the publishers via Netgalley.

Daley-Ward is a poet, actor and model born to a Jamaican mother and a Nigerian father. She was raised by her grandparents in Chorley in the North of England. Bone is an amazing book of poetry that I devoured in an hour. This is poetry that I just ‘got.’ Daley-Ward does not use flowery language or long flowing sentences. This is poetry that goes back to the bare ‘bones’ of language and emotion.

The poetry tells of Daley-Ward’s life. Her history, identity, mental health. Her relationships with men, women, family and also religion. All of her poetry spoke to me on some level but I found her poems on metal health and also the loss of relationships particularly moving. Nose is a poem which I am so grateful to have discovered:

all the Mornings in Lancashire still smell like you.

Last week I was caught in a storm overseas.

When the rain smell drove me silly

all I could feel were your hands.

Her poems are about the senses. I love the language she uses – its simplicity is so evocative and honest.  I feel I can taste, smell, touch what she means. This is not pretentious poetry. It is not full of metaphor. You don’t spend hours trying to understand what she means. The understanding is immediate and I think that is what makes it so accessible:

If I’m entirely honest,

and you say I much be

I want to stay with you all afternoon evening, night and tomorrow

pressed into you so tightly that we don’t know whose belly made what sound whose heart it is

that is thumping like that

until I don’t know if the sweat on my chest is yours or mine.

I was initially quite surprised that on Netgalley Bone is marketed as Young Adult. Having said that, I think the immediacy of text and subject matter would really really speak to adolescents.

Brilliant read and one I would thoroughly recommend.

I received a copy of this from the publishers via NetGalley.

A Horse Walks Into A Bar by David Grossman won the 2017 Man Booker Prize. According to Wikipedia, the panel were ‘bowled over by Grossman’s willingness to take emotional as well as stylistic risks.’ For me, this is completely true and at the beginning I was unsure that the risk would pay off….it took me a while to really get into this novel but I am so pleased I persevered.

The idea is a simple if really unusual one. The action takes place in a bar during a stand up comedy show. The comedian Dovaleh Greenstein asks Aviashai Lazar, an acquaintance he hasn’t seen since he was 9 years old to come and watch his routine:

“I want you to look at me,” he spurted. “I want you to see me, really see me, and then afterward tell me.”

“Tell you what?”

“What you saw.”

Aviashai is the protagonist and he describes the stand up routine as he sits in the audience. The evening starts as a normal stand up routine….Dovaleh trying to get the audience on side….sometimes successfully, sometimes unsuccessfully. Telling a few offensive jokes, picking on members of the audience:

He nods with affected understanding. I can see him dive inside himself to bring up pearls of mockery and ridicule engendered by the encounter.

The atmosphere is claustrophobic and tense as individuals in the audience hope they are not going to be the object of ridicule. There is a feeling of relief when others are picked. As the evening goes on, the jokes become more intermingled with traumatic accounts from Dovaleh’s past. Dovaleh is a character who has always been ridiculed in front of an audience and we learn as a result of  bullying, he plays the joker. He is a jester and like Aviashai, we choose to be silent participants in his abuse:

I knew for certain that if he hadn’t been in the tent it would have been me they’d be picking on.

We watch Dovaleh fall apart and as we start to question who is the object of the joke, we pity Dovaleh.

‘How ’bout a joke or two, man?’ someone calls out, and another man grunts: ‘We came to hear jokes!’ A woman shouts back at them: ‘Can’t you see he’s the joke today?’ She rakes in a whole avalanche of laughs.

For me, the bullying is what this book is about and how it is so easy to be pulled along by a crowd of people being cruel, rather than stand up for someone:

He senses, of course, that the whole show is starting to tilt again. He is out on a limb that is getting heavier than the whole tree. The crowd feel it too. People look at each other and shift restlessly. They understand less and less what it is they have unwillingly become partners to. I have no doubt they would have got up and left long ago, or even booed him off stage, if not for the temptation that is so hard to resist-the temptation to look into another man’s hell.

Grossman’s writing is incredible. The feeling of claustrophobia he managed to create was suffocating and like the audience in the club, I was often tempted to abandon the show. However, I had to keep reading, almost peeking through my hands. It was such an uncomfortable read that I have to say I was relieved when it was over. If I had been in the audience, would I have walked out?

Thanks so much for reading.

Three books

So a word about reading. This is my happy place. I am reading obsessed.

I tend to have 3 books on the go at any one time.

Book  1 has to be a library book. Since having kids I am in the library a lot. I think it is really important to make reading fun for children and I also think it is important that my children see me reading. Libraries are a wicked resource that we should massively support.

Book 2 has to be one of the many unread books on my book shelf. This is mainly because I have a book addiction and if I don’t read what is on my shelves the books will take over the house.

Book 3 is a dip in and out book. Poetry , play, something more factual.

So

Without further ado…..


This was my library book.

I really liked the blurb about this book mainly because it is a family saga. The story is told through 3 women. Grandmother Betsy, Aunt Bel and daughter Hetta. The story essentially centres around a devastating accident which changes all the lives of the Tye family but in particular between cousins Cele and Will.

I love a good family epic, but I felt this book was lacking something.  Because the story is told as memories of the three women, it feels somehow detached. I also really wanted to hear from Cele.  I think the combination of the memoir concept and the lack of Cele’s voice made me struggle to really care about the characters even though what they were going through was so emotional.

My favourite character’s voice was Betsy, mainly because it focused on WW2 and the fact that Betsy’s husband was a Concientious Objector. This was a slant to the story which I found really interesting in particular how the father’s political views affected the lives of the rest of the family.

The other interesting topic the book brought up was euthanasia……

‘So what should I do?’ I asked. ‘You know something about the sanctity of life but is there not a sanctity of death? There are occasions where there is such a thing as a good death, wouldn’t you say?’

This is topic I have thought about a lot since reading the book and it is impossible to not be moved by the plight of the characters but I think it’s the subject itself rather than Vickers’s writing that has made me think.


Book 2. I read this for my book club and I have to say I was really looking forward to it. There was so much hype around this book that I was massively intrigued. I also loved the idea of the pictures and it has to be said that the look of the book is great. Having said that, it is really hard to read such a hyped book with an open mind. Will the book ever live up to expectations? Also reviewing a YA novel as a 36 year old is also quite tricky. Without a doubt my 14,15,16 year old self would have loved it.

My 14 year old self would have loved the photos. Would have thought they were absolutely amazing. 36 year old me is slightly more cynical. It seems a little paint by numbers. Briggs describes a character and the next page is a picture of said character. So far so good. Unfortunately it gets a bit silly when you see a photo of some silly squiggles which are then described as Horace’a premonition. The same as the photo of the girl smoking a pipe and peeling potatoes. Really???? Did Briggs just find these photos and think ‘yup, I’ll just chuck ’em in the book.’

Sometimes I’d find a new photo that just demanded to be included in the story, and I’d find a way of working it in; other times I’d look for a certain type of photo to fit a story idea I had.

Raymond Briggs

I started questioning what the book would be like without the pictures?? This is slightly unfair as the pictures are a massive part of the book. Nevertheless, I don’t think the story alone is that impressive. All in all, I did enjoy it but I wasn’t blown away.

Should I read the other 2 in the trilogy????
Book 3


So with reading 3 books at a time I thought it would be a good think to read an book that would take me out of my comfort zone. I am a poetry novice. I have not read any poetry since A Level English and even then I am embarrassed to say it was a bit of a chore. I think maybe I just haven’t found my thang so my plan is to dedicate a bit of time to discover what it is I like. I don’t want to be one of those people who hate all seafood because they dislike prawns. I need to be open minded and challenge myself.

This book has been sitting on my shelf since Xmas. It is perfect to dip in and out. Alan Bennett’s commentary is brilliant and I think I preferred a lot of his words to the poems in question. His words on Larkin’s This Be The Verse:

Even if Larkin hadn’t got on with his parents, I still think he was wrong to complain about it. If your parents do fuck you up and you’re going to write, that’s fine because then you’ve got something to write about. But if they don’t fuck you up, then you’ve got nothing to write about, so then they’ve fucked you up good and proper.

So what new poems did I discover and love….

Last Words to a Dumb Friend  Thomas Hardy

Trilogy for X    Louis MacNeice

Les Sylphides   Louis MacNeice
I will definitely keep reading poetry. I love the challenge and I thinkit completely   centres the mind as I have to really concentrate.

What are my next 3 books???


All 3 books are to do with mothering/child rearing. I have already started the Kevin Wilson and I am loving it. I decided to look at the Biddulph as my 4 year old daughter is already asking me if I think she is pretty. She is insisting of wearing 10 (yes 10) hairbands at a time because with only 1 she is ugly. Terrifying and something I don’t feel equipped to deal with.  And The Mormon Girl…..well this is just a subject I want to know more about.

Anyway thank you for looking at my blog.