December Children’s Reads

Happy New Year to all you wonderful people. I hope you had a restful break. Is Christmas ever restful??? Maybe not restful then, eventful. We spent Christmas with my parents in Leicestershire and then we went to the Wirral for New Year to stay with my in laws. We head off to Wales tomorrow for a few days for what I hope will be the calm after the storm.

  • Christmas by Dick Bruna

Dick Bruna brings his iconic style to this beautiful re-telling of the Nativity story.

About the Author

Dick Bruna was born in 1927 in Utrecht, Holland. Dick comes from a family of publishers who under the name of ‘A.W. Bruna and Son’ started to print books in 1868. While on holiday in 1955, Dick began to tell his son stories about a little white rabbit who lived in the garden of their holiday home and this little rabbit soon became known to the world as Miffy. Dick Bruna is now one of the most famous creators of picture books in the world. He has written and illustrated 124 books, which have sold over 85 million copies in 50 languages.

When Edie came home a few weeks ago, all excited about the forthcoming Nativity in which she was to play a star, I started to ask her what the play would be about. “Well mummy, the play is called Funky Camels and it’s basically about how funky camels are.” “Hmmmmmmm” was my response and then I asked Edie what she knew about the real Christmas Story. “Well mum. Joseph and Enid had the baby Jesus. Shepherds came and some Kings who brought gold, Frank and mud.” 🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️😱😱 Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have an issue with schools updating the Christmas story, as long as the children do actually know what the Christmas story is about.

So, I brought out this book by the Miffy author Dick Bruna. A perfect version of the Christmas story for young kids. As you would expect from Bruna, the pictures are eye catching and brilliantly simple. The story doesn’t have a funky camel in sight and just does what it says on the tin….a lovely version of the Christmas story.

  • The Nutcracker by ETA Hoffmann.

The story that inspired the legendary ballet, presented in a beautiful hardcover edition perfect for giving as a gift.

Written in 1816 by the German Romantic E. T. A. Hoffmann for his children, nephews and nieces, The Nutcracker captures better than any other story a child’s wonder at Christmas. Since its publication, it has inspired hundreds of artists and adaptations, most notably the legendary ballet, scored by Russian composer Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Today, the story – and its enchanting images of sugar plums and nutcrackers, mistletoe and the Kingdom of the Dolls – continues to cast its fantastical spell on readers of all ages.

E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776-1822) was one of the major figures of European Romanticism, specializing in tales of the fantastical and uncanny. He was also a music critic, jurist, composer and caricaturist. His Tales of Hoffmann, available in Penguin Classics, includes such masterpieces as ‘Mademoiselle de Scudery’, one of the earliest example of crime fiction, and Hoffmann’s terrifying version of ‘The Sandman’. 

Joachim Neugroschel won three PEN translation awards and the French-American Foundation Translation Prize. He translated Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice and Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs, among other works, for Penguin Classics.

I have to say that I am not one for buying beautiful books. Books probably see me coming and cower in the corner. I am a book’s worst nightmare. People choose not to borrow my books. I read them in the bath, they sit in my bag and get covered in whatever delicacy I have forgotten to remove for the bottom corners….usually old raisins. I only use a bookmark if I have a spare photo lurking around, but usually I fold down a corner. I am not a girl who instagrams her beautiful hardback copies of Jane Austen novels. Since having children however, people have bought the girls beautiful copies of books. The Nutcracker has been sat on my shelf for a couple of years and this Penguin Classic copy is absolutely beautiful. Right here comes the shocker….the ballet is tons better!!!! Tons. I persevere but I have to say, as soon as we got to the section about the sausage (!!!) I started skimming. Yup, not a patch on the ballet.

  • Jane Austen born 16th December 1775.

If you are a big Austen fan and looking to start ‘em young, it is definitely worth checking this book out from the fabulous @babylitbooks. This is what is known as an opposites primer…prettt much what you get on the tin. Babies will love it and actually my 3 year old thinks it’s the best thing ever. This morning on the way to nursery she told me she was sad like Brandon!!!😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂 I hope she doesn’t say it too often or people will think I have raised a right show off! @babylitbooks is a company I discovered this year and they are beautiful books. For little ones there are the primers and older children can enjoy the storybooks. My 5 year old loves Pride and Prejudice. Anyway it’s never to early to get your kids into the classics and @babylitbooks are perfect for that.

    Watership Down by Richard Adams.
    Richard Adams died 24th December 2016.

A phenomenal worldwide bestseller for over forty years, Richard Adams’ spellbinding classic Watership Down is one of the best-loved novels of all time. Set in the beautiful English countryside of the Berkshire Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage, and survival follows a band of very special rabbits fleeing the destruction of their home by a developer. Led by a stout-hearted pair of brothers, they leave the safety of Sandleford Warren in search of a safe haven and a mysterious promised land, skirting danger at every turn.

A book that resonates as vividly today as it did nearly half a century ago, this keepsake Oneworld Classic edition showcases more than twenty sumptuous, evocative paintings from Aldo Galli, an illustrator chosen by Richard Adams himself.

I have very clear memories of reading this book and The Hobbit in my first year of secondary school. I remember the books being handed out in English class covered in old wall paper or wrapping paper which we were encouraged to do to keep the covers neat and clean. I have remember feeling really excited because I had loved the film/cartoon and also because it felt like a big, thick, grown-up book. I’m sad to say, the excitement did not last. Everything about our English teacher was grey, including the way she taught English.

Watership Down is a big, dense book. Although it is beautifully written, I am not sure my 11 year old mind would have appreciated this fact. At 37, I have enjoyed it but I am struck by how massive a tome it must have felt to my 11 year old mind. I then got to thinking how many books were ruined for me by dull, dull teachers or readers. I used to take my little ones to story time at the library. We stopped going when Ceci fell asleep….lulled by the monotonous rendition of The Wonky Donkey. I honestly thought it was impossible to make this book sound like a reading of the Financial Times but it appears not. I am a firm believer that if you are lucky enough to have a job which aims to inspire kids, make sure you do so.

  • Hamish the Highland Cow by Natalie Russell.

Hamish is a Highland cow and VERY hairy. He hates having baths and NEVER cuts his hair. Why should he when his shaggy coat is the perfect place to keep his favourite sweet – toffees! But one day his friends get fed up with the increasingly smelly Hamish, and they hatch a plan that involves a hairdresser and, yes, toffees! An exuberant story with bold, bright illustrations from a very talented artist. ‘Russell’s bright-eyed cast, including sheep with coloured rinses, is full of character and her text is deftly delivered – it’s a gift to read aloud.’ Scottish Sunday Herald

This year we spent Christmas with my parents in Leicestershire. On the 27th we loaded up the car again and drove to the Wirral to spend the aftermath with Ozzie’s parents. One of the many reasons I love going to other houses is to browse their book shelves and kids books are no exception. On the first night we read Hamish The Highland Cow. This is a complete joy to read aloud….my Scottish accent is pretty impeccable (even if I do say so myself) and what child doesn’t love a book where you as the adult can do some entertaining voices??? This would also be a great book to buy if you are the owner of a little person who hates getting their hair cut. We have now been on the Wirral for 4 nights and this book has been requested every night. My accent is going from strength to strength and as the reader, I am definitely not getting bored. Thank you Natalie Russell for writing such a readable book.

Thanks for reading and have a great January.

November reads for children

Hi all. Well that’s it for November. It’s been a pretty mental month. We opened 3 new shows in work and I have been out pretty much every night working. As a chorister in a Opera company, the fact that I hate having a show every night is a major flaw. As a mum with young kids it’s pretty pants. I take the girls to school and nursery in the morning and am often gone before they get back . I feel like the worst mum at drop off saying “see you tomorrow morning Edie.” God knows what the teachers think I do for a living. Because I am not doing proper mothering during the day, my girls are constantly waking up at about 3 am and looking for some mum time. I feel and look a little like a zombie.

  • Dracula by Bram Stoker.
  • Bram Stoker born 8th November 1847.

A dramatic retelling of Bram Stoker’s classic horror story retold for children ready to tackle longer and more complex stories. Jonathan Harker has no idea of the horrors that await him in Castle Dracula. An ancient evil is alive and hungry for new blood. Can Jonathan and his friends defeat it? Part of the Usborne Reading Programme developed with reading experts at the University of Roehampton.

We read this at the beginning of the month when Edie was still on a high from Halloween. My daughter is all about the scares and I remember being similar at her age. Witches, ghosts, vampires all completely intrigued me. Edie is also a sucker (🤣) for a love story and that is essentially what Dracula is about. I think if you want to introduce your kids to a little scary then as long as good triumphs over evil then all is well. I would also like to do a big shout out to the Usborne Young Reader books. They are utterly brilliant. The titles are very varied, the illustrations are fabulous and thanks to this range I have introduced Edie to some brilliant Classics which I hope she will love forever.

  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman.
  • Neil Gaiman born 10th November 1960.

There is something strange about Coraline’s new home. It’s not the mist, or the cat that always seems to be watching her, nor the signs of danger that Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, her new neighbours, read in the tea leaves. It’s the other house – the one behind the old door in the drawing room. Another mother and father with black-button eyes and papery skin are waiting for Coraline to join them there. And they want her to stay with them. For ever. She knows that if she ventures through that door, she may never come back.

Gaiman is an author I only really started to get into last year. The Ocean and the End of the Lane was my favourite book last year. I think Edie is a little young for this (although I did read a review of a 4 year old boy who listened to it on audio and loved it). I think we will try it in a year or two.

Coraline is a great heroine and a great role model for kids…..

“Because,’ she said, ‘when you’re scared but you still do it anyway, that’s brave.”


Coraline is quirky, independent, adventurous, intelligent and curious. Gaiman is a master at writing non-condescending books that appeal to adults as well as children. I also applaud the fact that he doesn’t shy away from the creepy… I often feel that as parents we are so scared of our kids being scared. Edie definitely handles creepy things like a pro. I think as parent I am happy for Edie to read something a little scary as long as there is no gratuitous violence and also makes the point that good can conquer evil. I don’t want her to feel that the horror can continue. In Coraline, Gaiman does just that.

  • Some Dogs Do by Jez Alborough.
  • Jez Alborough born 12th November 1959.

All dogs walk and jump and run, but dogs don’t fly – it can’t be done…can it? Jez Alborough’s uplifting tale will fly off the page and straight into the hearts of anyone who has ever, just for a second, stopped believing in miracles.

Some Dogs Do is a fave in our house. When asking Ceci (3) what she likes about it, she said she likes it because it’s sad. Morose little thing that she is. It’s not particularly sad but as Sid loses his self belief, he finds that he can no longer fly. 🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶

Edie’s review was just as entertaining. “It’s a book of lies mummy. Dogs cannot fly.” 😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂

Anyway, I guess that was Alborough’s point. Dream big little ones. Lovely book, lovely rhymes, pictures and message.

  • The Legend of the Great Pumpkin by Charles M Schulz.
  • Charles M Schulz born 26th November 1922.

Celebrate Halloween with Linus, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang in this shaped board book with holographic foil on the front cover!

Linus loves one thing more than his cherished blue blanket: The Great Pumpkin! He believes that on Halloween night the Great Pumpkin will rise out of the pumpkin patch to bring presents to all the kids in the world. Will Linus and his friends ever finally see him? Learn all about the legend of the Great Pumpkin in this adorable board book based on the classic Peanuts comic strips!

Thanks to Birthday Reads I am trying to make a real point of introducing myself and the children to authors born in the current month. As a result there have been some hits….The Secret Garden (Oct) and also some misses….The Selfish Giant which I loved but Edie thought was boring (Oct). There have also been some misses for me. I can’t stand The Rhyming Rabbit by Julia Donaldson (Sept). My husband and I both try to scarper when Ceci requests this. 🐰🐰🐰🐰🐰🐰🐰🐰

Unfortunately The Legend of the Great Pumpkin by Charles Schulz (Nov 26th) is another miss from me. Yes it’s seasonal, but the story is utter pap. Schulz himself seems to get bored of his writing and finishes the book without resolving the already tenuous storyline.🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃 Anyway, thanks to that Law of Sod, Cilla ADORES it. When asking her why, she says because it’s scary (it’s not) and exciting (it’s not). 🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃

Happy Birthday for the 26th Mr Schulz. 🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂

And the last book of the month and the biggest hit…….

  • The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith.

The book behind the viral internet sensation of “The Scottish Granny” reading this story to her grandchild, viewed over 3 million times. Based on the popular song, THE WONKY DONKEY has sold over one million copies worldwide. Who ever heard of a spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey? This hilarious picture book will have children – and adults – braying with laughter!

One for the grown ups more than the kids I think. Ozzie (my husband) would admit to not being a lover of books. For him to enjoy reading to the kids it has to be a funny one. I think the pic shows how much he enjoyed it. 😂🤣😂🤣🤣😂🤣🤣🤣😂

The Wonkey Donkey started out as a bit of a YouTube sensation of a Scottish grandma reading it to her grandson. It really is hilarious.


Anyway thank you Craig Smith and Katz Cowley, this is utterly hilarious.

Three Great YA Novels

Last year I read 6 YA novels. 10% of my years reading was YA. I discovered some amazing authors…Neil Gaiman and Patrick Ness to name a couple. How had I not read these authors before??? Since discovering Neil Gaiman, I have bought The Ocean at the End of the Lane for loads of friends who have also fallen in love with his writing.

So what kind of YA novels do I enjoy? Nothing that resembles Twilight. I have no urge to read books about teenagers discovering their hormones and sex drives. I like dark books, mostly about real subjects and also the protagonist is important to me. No insipid women, no pathetic girly girls. Virginia Zimmerman, professor of English Literature at Bucknell University says

People might to go to YA literature to sink into a reality different than their own, but I think they sink into that reality to encounter feelings, challenges, and relationships they recognize from their own lives.

I was listening to a podcast the other day about book recommendations. A lady was looking for a YA book without any triggers. She wanted a ‘happy’ YA book to give to her son who was struggling with depression. The podcasters discovered that this was a rare phenomenon…happy YA doesn’t exist. YA books often deal with triggers and the struggles of growing up.


The Hazel Wood

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC of this novel.

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the strange bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate – the Hazel Wood – Alice learns how bad her luck can really get. Her mother is stolen away – by a figure who claims to come from the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: STAY AWAY FROM THE HAZEL WOOD.
To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began .

I think I am too much of a control freak to read fantasy. The lack of ‘rules’ frustrates me. I often feel that authors of Fantasy have free reign to write whatever they like. If the world is made up and the people are magic what is to stop the author writing whatever thoughts are in their head at the time. I found this particularly true of The Hazelwood. I really enjoyed the beginning of the book. The part of the story which was set in New York. I loved the creepy idea that Alice was being watched by people from the Hinterland. For me it all became a bit of a mess when Alice managed to break into the Hinterland. From this point, the book read like a tangle of necklaces that I had to unpick – so many ideas squashed into the pages. I felt frustrated and like I was suffering from sensory overload.

That’s not to say I didn’t appreciate how clever the book was. The idea that if a character leaves a story, all the other players are stuck

The musician’s tormented playing of the same wild notes. The woman in a heavy headdress, lifting a knife to her mouth, then lowering it, then again. The man who threw his head back and laughed, a gutsy sound, scraping dryly over a throat that must be bloody-raw.

I really enjoyed Albert’s imagery. This is a novel I can imagine being made into a film directed by Tim Burton. Indeed, a lot of the book reminded me of Alice in Wonderland.

I also really enjoyed Albert’s fairytales. I think she is onto a winner here and would love her to release a book of Tales from the Hinterland. She is obviously an author of incredible imagination, I just felt she was trying to put all her ideas into the first novel. I have an image of her sitting at her desk getting idea after idea and writing each one into the book in case she forgets them .

The fact that this novel is going to be the first in a trilogy poses some questions for me. Will I read the next one??? I think for me this depends on the content. I really would love to read more about Ella and her childhood and how she left. Why she stole Alice. I think her story has a lot of unanswered questions that really interest me.

The teenage me would have loved this book and I can imagine it will be ridiculously popular. Albert’s use of pop culture is also brilliant….so many Harry Potter references so she is clearly aiming for the Hogwarts fans!!!!

All in all, a solid 3* from me.

What if the world’s worst serial killer…was your dad?

Jasper (Jazz) Dent is a likable teenager. A charmer, one might say.

But he’s also the son of the world’s most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, Take Your Son to Work Day was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could–from the criminal’s point of view.

And now bodies are piling up in Lobo’s Nod.

In an effort to clear his name, Jazz joins the police in a hunt for a new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret–could he be more like his father than anyone knows?

I massively enjoyed this book. This is Lyga’s first in the Jasper Dent trilogy and I will definitely be reading all three. I found the subject matter completely gripping. Much like Good Me Bad Me we are dealing with the child of a psychopath. A killer, and in this case, one of America’s most infamous serial killers, Billy Dent. After his father’s arrest, Jazz requests to live with his grandma. This is so he can stay in his home town, nurse his senile grandmother and be near his best friend Howie and his girlfriend Connie. Jazz tries to continue his life in the way ‘normal’ teenagers do. Going to school, dating, joining drama club, all the while being haunted by his father’s words and the very real fear that he himself could commit crimes akin to his father’s. When a copycat killer starts a murder spree around the town, Jazz uses the knowledge of his father’s crimes to catch the killer.

I really liked Jazz as a character and considering what he had been through, I thought he was remarkably well adjusted….almost unbelievably so!!! He has just the right amount of vulnerability and humour to make him instantly likeable. even though he had the most appalling upbringing, he acknowledged that he wasn’t the only victim of his father. Jazz had a chance of a life which Billy’s other 50 victims were denied. There was no hint of Jazz wanting anyone to feel sorry for him.

I think it is important to acknowledge that obviously this is a book which contains pretty dark subject matter. This isn’t fantasy. This is real life and real people killing each other in very brutal ways. The methods of killing are quite elaborate and I definitely don’t think this book is aimed at younger teenagers.


The Hate U Give

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.

This was my first 5* read of the year and although it is still early February I would be surprised if I read anything else this year that will move me as much as this novel. This is a book that needs to be read. The social and political messages in this novel, combined with the wonderful writing and characters make this book so important.

I am a mother of two daughters. We live in South West London. Both my husband and I work full time. I don’t consider us rich by any means but we definitely are stereotype white middle class. My children are brought up to know that the police catch the baddies. If they are ever lost, a policeman will help. For Starr, the female protagonist in this novel, she is taught that because of the colour of her skin and the neighbourhood in which she lives, nine times out of ten the police will think she is up to no good. She is taught to shut up to avoid being arrested or even shot. This is the very situation Starr finds herself in when she is being driven home from a party by her friend Kahlil. They get pulled over by a police officer and Kahlil gets fatally shot.

Angie Thomas says the book was inspired by the shooting of Oscar Grant who was a black teenager killed by a police officer.

At the time I was living in my mostly black, poor neighborhood in Jackson, Mississippi while attending a mostly white upper-middle class college. There was a 10-minute drive between my house and my school but in 10 minutes I drove out of one world and into another. I went from seeing Church’s Chicken on every corner to seeing Starbucks on every corner. And I heard two conversations about Oscar Grant. At home, he was one of our own — I saw kids like him every day who were trying to get their lives right but who had mistakes in their past. And at school, I heard people talk about how maybe Oscar deserved it or wondering why people were so upset about an ex-con. Oscar was dehumanized because he had a record. I was angry and hurt and frustrated. It felt like people at school were saying that someone from my neighborhood deserved to die.

This book completely opened up my eyes to the Black Lives Matter movement, the Black Panthers and idea of THUG life. So interesting and I really feel I learned a lot. Thomas’s writing is absolutely wonderful. The language is brilliant. I could hear each characters voice so clearly and her writing of Starr’s family dynamic was wonderful. Each character and their relationships with eachother was utterly believable and so well observed.

Starr is a wonderful protagonist. Her struggle to come to terms with what she has witnessed, her grief and then ultimately her anger of the injustice of the system is utterly inspiring. She is a character who demands respect. Juggling her life in her neighbourhood where drive-by shootings are the norm with her life as one of the few pupils of colour at her privileged school. It is also wonderful to see her mature throughout the novel. Through this awful event happening to her, she finds her own voice and the courage to stand up for justice. She is an awe inspiring character and a great role model.

A definite 5* from me.

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.


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.