I often think that being a grown-up can be a real drag! Bills to pay, meals to cook, ferrying around of children to do, just to name a few. But if I’m going to be absolutely truthful the worst thing of all is that when you become a grown-up, you stop reading children’s books. There are some people (myself included) who are proud not to have grown up and embrace their inner child and love nothing better than settling down with a children’s book. Katherine Rundell explains far more eloquently than me, why as an adult you should still be reading books in her beautiful, new, pocket-sized book, ‘Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise.’ This is a brilliant and thoughtful exploration of how children’s stories in particular can enrich our lives, I loved her description of them being ‘literary vodka,’ for us sensible adults. If you’re in any doubt about the truth of this statement, them please do take a look, she makes an incredibly convincing case. So today on the blog I’m sharing a selection of books that I have recently devoured, each offering something slightly different to the reader and hoping to tempt you try something new. On reflection they do have more in common than I originally thought, each one featuring children trying to understand the world around them and their place within it. And if you think about it, that rings true for most of us grown-ups too!
The Somerset Tsunami – Emma Carroll
A new book from Emma Carroll is always a highlight in my literary calendar and ‘The Somerset Tsunami,’ is a welcome addition to my collection. Emma excels in writing enthralling, historical adventures and for me this was a welcome return to the wonderfully atmospheric and dark storytelling that I enjoyed so much in ‘Strange Star.’ When strange events happen, they’re proclaimed as unnatural and the witch hunters are looking for someone to blame. Girls like Fortune, who choose to be different, stand out, making themselves easy targets. Although the superstitions and distrust are very much of their time, you can see clear parallels today and it highlights how easy it is to conjure up division and hatred and fear of the unknown with a few carefully chosen words. Fortune is a child brought up with a strong female role model, in a holding run by a woman, which is the far from norm. We can see how this shapes her behaviour and I love how she refuses to fit into the constraints that society demands of her. Telling this story alongside the dramatic events of 1607, gives this story a real sense of reality, making the reader feel like they have stepped back in time. Another absolute gem, that will truly captivate the reader.
Sophie Anderson’s debut, ‘The House With Chicken Legs,’ is a truly, unforgettable story and I wondered how she could possibly write something else as special but fear not, ‘The Girl Who Speaks Bear,’ is a remarkable follow up. Sophie tells the tale of Yanka, who was found in a cave, living with bears and is desperate to know more about her parents. One day she can no longer ignore the calling and sets out on an incredible journey through the snow forest, determined to uncover the truth. She takes the reader on a real voyage of discovery, by telling the most beautiful and thoughtful tale then interweaves it with the most exquisite fairytales. It has a real pureness and timeless feel which makes me feel like I have found a tale, long forgotten, from the past that I have discovered by chance. The characterisation is joyful, I have a real fondness for the brilliantly funny and sassy Mousetrap, who contrasts marvellously with Yanka, who despite her size and perceived fierceness, has this innate vulnerability. Ultimately this is a story of accepting yourself, finding out where you belong and realising that friendship can be found in the most unlikeliest of places. A truly stunning story that is bound to enchant and delight readers.
From the moment I set eyes on the exquisite proof for Jamie Littler’s fiction debut I had a feeling that this was something very special indeed. Promises of frozen lands, magical powers and daring escapades lured me in and I was instantly captivated, this was before I’d even saw the full glory of Jamie’s illustrations in the finished copy. Far out in the coldest part of the Snow Sea, surrounded by nightmare-inducing monsters, Ash waits for his parents, who left him behind. An outsider in every way, banished to the edges of his village, with only a grumpy yeti for company, he feels that something is bubbling inside him that he can’t control. Desperate to sing the song her hears in his head but expressly forbidden until the day when his powers are revealed and he is banished. But the crew of the Frostheart sense Ash has something they need and whisk him away for a most unexpected adventure. ‘Frostheart,’ has to be one of the most exciting debuts I’ve seen this year, Epic world-building combined with a thrilling, edge-of-your-seat adventure makes for a really enthralling read. Jamie’s illustrations wonderfully enhance his storytelling, capturing the danger and drama magnificently. Jamie is a real talent to watch out for, a joy of a read!
Sometimes a book strikes a chord in your heart and leaves a lasting impression on your thoughts. It’s a rare thing but just like Onjali’s beautiful debut, ‘The Boy at the Back of the Class,’ her latest book, ‘The Star Outside My Window,’ has done exactly that. Aniyah suddenly finds herself in foster care with her younger brother Noah after the disappearance of her Mum. She’s completely confused how a game of hide and seek with her Dad, has resulted in them being far away from their home. Her only comfort is her Mum’s words, that the brightest hearts become stars and stay with us forever. So when a new star is spotted behaving strangely in the sky, she knows this must be her Mum. All she needs to do is convince the star makers to realise it’s her Mum and the only thing that stands in her way, is the small matter of getting to London and finding a way into the Royal Observatory. What Onjali excels at is taking the most difficult and painful experiences and creating the most thoughtful and sensitively told stories. She allows the reader just a glimpse of the pain and devastation her characters are feeling, without explicitly revealing the true circumstances. I could barely read the last pages of this stunning story, through my tears. Once again Onjali deserves all of the awards, she shows there is hope to be found in even the darkest of times. It’s a courageous tale of bravery and friendship, celebrating the power of resilience and determination. Pippa’s illustrations wonderfully enhance Onjali’s storytelling. An absolute triumph of a story, that I completely fell in love with.
I’m a huge fan of Susie Day books, she has been writing effortlessly diverse and downright entertaining books for years and I welcome a new book from her with open arms. ‘Max Kowalski Didn’t Mean It,’ is another marvellous book from Susie, she has this incredible ability to get into the hearts and minds of children capturing their inner struggles brilliantly. When Max’s Dad disappears leaving him in charge, he knows whatever he does, he mustn’t let him down. Worried that questions will be asked and armed only with a suitcase full of money that doesn’t belong to him, he sneaks away to a cottage in the middle of nowhere to hide out. But whispers of a dragon in the mountain, give Max a hope, a way of proving that he can do the right thing and protect his family. You are equally frustrated and fond of Max as he tries to make good of an impossible situation in the best way he can. . It’s a wonderful blend of superb storytelling and marvellously written characters, who help bring this story to life in a rather special way. A really emotional and compelling read.
Thank you to Faber, Orion, Puffin and Usborne for sending me gifted copies of these books in exchange for an honest review. All of these books are available to buy now online (click on the link in the title) or from any good bookshop.