Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday – The Mousehole Cat by Antonia Barber and Nicola Bayley

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Synopsis:

Mowzer and her human are old. Their families are grown. Mowzer and Tom live in their cottage, comfortable with each other’s company and their well-worn routines. Tom takes his fishing boat out and catches fish for Mowzer’s supper. One Winter, a great storm takes hold. Mowzer knows it is the great strom-cat, who plays with men on the sea as if they were mice. No boat can leave the safety of Mousehole harbour. In a community which relies on fish for its table, this is a disaster. The residents of Mousehole are left to starve.

Old Tom knows it is his duty to go out and fish. The young men have families. Mowzer accompanies him. She cannot imagine life without old Tom. Besides, she knows no human would stand a chance against the wrath of the Great Storm Cat.

 

Discussion:

Inspired by the Cornish legend of Old Tom Bawcock, The Mousehole Cat has become a primary school staple since traditional tales were written into the National Curriculum. It is a beautiful retelling. The cats in the story know more than their human counterparts. The reader is privy to this ‘secret’ – to the knowledge Mowzer has of the Great Storm-Cat. This is a legend within a legend, offering excellent scope for discussion about what legends do. Is the great storm-cat real, or are the cats explaining the storm through narrative? If so, what might the story of Tom Bawcock be about?

 I came to the story through this video. Friends had recorded it from the television, (I kid you not, on a VHS,) alongside a documentary about the making of the film. Left to my own devices, I’m not certain it would have got back to our friends. I was delighted to find it on YouTube, many years later.

The text is poetic. In places, such as the list of Mowzer’s weekly menu, it lends itself to rereading. These sections fit in with the flow of the story, but they also become separate rhymes. This is ideal for young children. When learning to read, we gain confidence through repetition of favourite passages.

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As a teenager, I spent a lot of time trying to reproduce the illustrations. None of these attempts survived – to memory, none were completed to my satisfaction. Regardless, the book remained a favourite beyond early childhood, and encouraged me to look closely at artwork.

My family have always had cats. I loved Nicola Bayley’s illustrations from three or four, when I met The Patchwork Cat. Since my late teens, I have collected her work. From The Mouldy to the animal cat books, to the wonder that is ‘The Necessary Cat’. When I’m in book haunts like Hay-on-Wye, Bayley’s name is always high in my mind. I would hazard a guess that this is one of a small number of books better known for its illustrator than it’s author. This is no criticism of the text, only a mark of how these pictures stay with you. A quick GoodReads search reveals Barber has written another cat story, and a couple more legends. I will get my paws on a couple of these and get back to you. If they are anything like The Mousehole Cat, they should be compulsory reading.

Tom Bawcock’s Eve is celebrated annually in Mousehole. It is a life’s ambition to visit during the celebrations.

Did you come to any books via TV or Video? Comment below. Would love to hear your thoughts. I understand this is a discussion new Children’s Laureate Lauren Child is keen to start.

 

 

 

 

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Waiting on Wednesday – Piglettes by Clementine Beauvais

piglettesSynopsis (From Goodreads):

A wickedly funny and life-affirming coming-of-age roadtrip story – winner of France’s biggest prize for teen and YA fiction. Awarded the Gold, Silver and Bronze trotters after a vote by their classmates on Facebook, Mireille, Astrid and Hakima are officially the three ugliest girls in their school, but does that mean they’re going to sit around crying about it?
Well… yes, a bit, but not for long! Climbing aboard their bikes, the trio set off on a summer roadtrip to Paris, their goal: a garden party with the French president. As news of their trip spreads they become stars of social media and television. With the eyes of the nation upon them the girls find fame, friendship and happiness, and still have time to consume an enormous amount of food along the way.

Reasons:I can’t wait to read Piglettes:

  • It has similar themes to Editing Emma, for example self-worth. The Trotters? How mean does that sound? Perhaps taking off on a hiking trip will give the girls new things to aspire to. I hope a little distance from the people who judge them will give them space to rethink their priorities.

 

  • Social media – again, this follows on from Editing Emma. Will their new-found following go to their heads, and distract them from their initial goal? Will it bolster their resolution and help them spread their message? In Editing Emma, there was interesting exploration of the impact social media has on mental health. I want to find out whether the girls in Piglettes find their online life has a positive impact on their real lives.

 

  • Personal one – as a young woman, I wrote a story about a girl taking off on a bike journey through post-war Europe. Looking back, it was pretentious and poorly written, but it got a distinction at that level of my degree.

 

  • Look at the cover! Pink! Pretty. It screams summer read.

 

Piglettes by Clementine Beauvais

Pushkin Press

Published 6th July 2017

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday – 27.06.2017

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a quickie. The theme is ‘Best Books You’ve Read in 2017 so Far’. ‘Best’ is a broad word. I have chosen ten middle grade books I have enjoyed reading. Click on the title to read my review. Please note – some of these reviews are on blogspot, where I started my blogging adventure in February. As this is a reflection on the year so far, I have made a second list of ten things I have most enjoyed about joining the blogging community. 

Top to bottom, Left to Right – 

 

Ten Things I love about blogging –

  •  I make notes as I read, to offer my blog readers some critical analysis. This has taught me about fiction and improved my own writing. 
  • I have explored new genres, contemporary fiction especially. 
  • Connecting with other newbie bloggers. Shout out to – Amy and Charlotte. Their blogs are great, and we share advice and experience, saving each other time. 
  • Networking with authors on Twitter. Emerging and established authors can be generous with their time and experience. It is my ambition to publish a novel. It makes sense to listen to people who have already done so. 
  • *Whispers* Free Books. Some people shrug this off. I’m not in it for freebies. My degree is in literature, I’ve read since I was a dot. I started the blog to network with other readers. Nevertheless, freebies have given me access to titles I would never have thought of reading otherwise. When I enjoy these titles, my reading preferences grow. 
  • Interaction with Gen-Z. It is the first time I’ve interacted with Gen-Z. I’ve spoken to young people ready to stand up for their rights, and it gives me hope. I have also learnt that Gen-Z rely on visual communication in a way I have never done. Gen-Z is about to hit the workplace. Learn how they communicate and incorporate it into your repertoire.
  • I have learnt to write for clarity. 
  • I am on top of news and new releases in a way I could only have dreamed of when I worked in a bookshop. If I was good at it then, I’ve taken it to a whole new level. By a book’s release date, I might have known about it so long it feels it has been around ‘a while’. 
  • Connecting with people all around the world. Where are you? Shout out in the comments below. 
  • My project management skills are slowly improving. I’m getting good with that ‘schedule’ button. 

 

Young Adult Reviews

Review – Editing Emma by Chloe Seager

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Extract:

 

‘I’m nothing.’

‘You’re not nothing. You’re definitely something.’ 

We stayed hugging for a while until she said, ‘Emma, this is all lovely and everything, but on second thoughts can we hug after you’ve had a shower?’ She moved away.

‘Oh God. Look at me. This happened two months ago and I still feel exactly the same about it. I mean, yes, that status only just came up. But we stopped speaking at the beginning of the summer. In two months, I have made zero progress. How is that possible?’

‘Maybe because instead of actually  trying to make progress you keep stewing over how you’ve made no progress.’ 

(Editing Emma by Chloe Seager. P15.) 

 

Synopsis:

Leon changes his Facebook status. After two months of ignoring Emma, Leon has started to date Anna.  Emma is forced to admit something is wrong. Was Emma even dumped? Surrounded by Leon’s old Chewit wrappers, and the sticking plaster she rescued from the bin, Emma sits in her pyjamas posting bitter updates on her blog. Leon isn’t worth any girl’s time or virginity. His parents hate him anyway.

When best friend Steph tells Emma to get a grip, Emma decides to take her blog in a new direction. She will transform herself one ‘edit’ at a time, starting with a new boyfriend. If Mum’s serial-dating is anything to go by, there are plenty of willing guys out there. So what if Emma has to lie a bit?

Her transformations result in a life which is less than plain sailing. The internet is the greatest tool of communication in existence. Has Emma got it completely wrong? 

A hilarious, heart-breaking read which gives an honest picture of teenage life.

 

Review:

Editing Emma reminded me how painful it is to be a teenager. However bad adult life gets, the only person entitled to an opinion on your private life is you. Emma is constantly monitored: by her mother, her teachers and her peer group. She broadcasts her emotional life to the world, in a way which could be metaphoric of teenage life itself. Not that the exploration of online life is figurative. Chole Seager understands how the internet is a very real presence in modern teenage life. Themes raised include the omnipresence of social judgement, and the decisions we must make about how to use the internet in a positive way. The Frankenstein-thread is a great analogy for this. However ‘modern’ we think we are, people have faced the same issues before. It will make you want to revisit Shelly’s work.

Emma is constantly venting. Although she is a gloomy character, this is lifted by her brutally honest sense of humour, and the way we take her into our hearts. She’s not socially au fait, but this only made me care for her more. Plenty of us have been Emma, and all of us have had an Emma moment – a moment where we make a catastrophically stupid social move, then wonder why the world is being so mean. Emma is fed up of seeing teenage life portrayed on television by glamourous women in their mid-20s. Editing Emma is the brutal – but brutally funny – real thing.

I loved Emma’s friend Steph. She appears to have life sorted when giving Emma advice, but isn’t perfect herself. She is the friend every teenager needs – the one who tells it like it is, while offering high-calorie treats as consolation.

   I also like the relationship between Emma and her Mum. Initially, I condemned Mum as a bad role-model. Part way through, I changed my mind. Mum is imperfect, human, but she steps in when the consequence of Emma’s actions spins out of control. Perhaps she hasn’t sorted her own social life, but she’s a great parent.

At times I wondered whether these could really *all* be posts. Wouldn’t Emma’s stone-drunk messages be incoherent? Wouldn’t her phone be confiscated sooner? Taking the idea that it was all posted online with a pinch of salt, it was a great narrative. It was tightly structured. If you know anything about five-act structure, you will understand why Emma’s initial ‘edits’ are doomed to failure.

 One for anybody who wants a realistic portrayal of teenage life, or important questions about the way we use the internet.

 

Released August 10th 2017.

I received my copy from HQ Stories via NetGalley, in return for a review. This does not affect the honesty of my review. HUGE thanks to HQ Stories for my copy.

Chat

Chat: Dream Reading Space

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Forget the prince – I’ll take the book collection. Who would have thought the film of the year would make libraries fashionable? 

My books fill eight overstuffed bookcases, a couple of boxes and any surfaces you leave uncluttered. Following a house move, I  have a dedicated reading room. It takes six of my shelves, a clutter of pens and my natty student-sofa, (a thing of wonder – it’s basically some metal bars and an oversized ironing-board cover.) The window looks out across the fields in the general direction of the Solway Firth. There’s only one problem with my reading room – it is technically my Dad’s study. 

Belle’s library? Not quite. Dad hasn’t thrown out any technology since technology began. A scout-around uncovered a GameBoy Colour, a not-so-digital videocam, a scaelextric, every mobile phone any family member has ever owned, and a thing of wonder called a Casio VL-TONE. My sister and I spent a happy childhood playing one irritating prerecorded tune to death. We never figured whether the Casio was good for anything else. 

Until I’m a squillionaire, I’ll have to create my perfect reading space online. Needless to say it has shelves. Lots of shelves. Check out my mood board for an idea of what my reading space would look like. You never know, perhaps I’ll get hold of the cushion or travel poster? Hover over the items for links. 

 

What would you have in your perfect reading space? Where do you like to read?

 

Young Adult Reviews

The Devil’s Poetry – Blog Tour

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My review forms part of The Devil’s Poetry blog tour. 

About Louise Cole: 

devil'spoetry3Louise Cole read English at Oxford and hasn’t stopped reading since. She’s an award-winning journalist, a former business magazine editor and director of a media agency. But she is most alive either reading or writing stories. Her family mocks her for telling stories to her dogs. Her fiction includes short stories, young adult thrillers, and other stuff which is still cooking.

Synopsis:

With WW3 on the horizon, Callie and her classmates know consctiption is around the corner, unless they can prove themselves elite enough to work in intelligence. Then a stranger pushes an ancient book into Callie’s hands and tells her to keep it safe. Which is difficult – the dementor-like Cadaveri are on the rise, and they’ll do anything to get their hands on the book. Killing Callie is their first mission. Enter The Order of the Sumer, a mysterious network who claim it is their job to protect Callie. Is there a price for protection? What do The Order want in return? The war, the book, the Order … it’s all connected. What would you give for the chance to end mass destruction?

 

Review: 

This was the first time I have read a kindle book. The pace of the adventure kept me reading, and I was interested to see how Callie would overcome the obstacles in her way, when the stakes were constantly high.

The main theme is war. I liked how many aspects of the theme were explored, particularly the focus on young people being treated as pawns in a powerful person’s game. The book raised the irony of politicians going out of their way to protect their own children, while sending masses of young people out to die. It also looked at the effect war and trauma has on relationships. Would you allow yourself to love if there was a strong possibility both of you would die in the near future? How much would you have to love somebody to get past that?

  The book, and the role of the reader, are like a master-metaphor – if this war is going to be prevented, it will be with words, not gunfire. The Cadaveri, who thrive negative emotions, go out of their way to separate the book from the reader, so that war goes ahead.

Callie’s main obstacle is emotional reticence. Her mother died when she was small. Since then, Callie’s father has sent an example by bottling his feelings up, and never allowing Callie to talk about hers. If Callie is to avert international disastor, she will have to overcome this.

There is some interesting exploration of gender. At the start, we are told the soldiers who have died are as likely to be female as male, yet Callie finds herself talked down to by boys. Alec is quick to dump Callie in favour of somebody whose father could offer Alec essential worker status, but Alec definitely has a chip on his shoulder about Callie. Alec looks set to play a larger role in book 2, and I look forward to seeing how Callie responds.

I would have liked to know more about the book itself, and the enigmatic Order of the Sumer. It may be the fantasy-buff in me. The book’s powers are such a pivotal part of the story, I would have liked to know more about their origin. I appreciate this could be a story in itself, but this is the question which will see me reaching for the sequel.

 

Huge thanks to Faye Rogers for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, and for my copy of the e-book. The Devil’s Poetry is published  by Kindle Books. Follow the book on its blog tour, and check out the previous stops:

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Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday – Lady Daisy

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Synopsis: 

Tasked with cleaning out the box room in his Grandmother’s house, Ned finds a porcelain doll. Imagine his surprise when she opens her eyes and talks. Lady Daisychain is put out. She was last awake in 1901, and does not at first accept that nearly a century has passed. She expected to be awoken by her doll mother, Victoria.

Ned takes Lady Daisy home. As she brings the Victorian era to life through her tales, Ned deals with some obstacles. There’s school bully, Troy, who says boys can’t have dolls. Then there’s the strange Mr Merryweather-Jones, who would happily take Lady Daisy out of Ned’s hands…

Discussion: 

Lady Daisy is primarily about the passage of time. Ned won’t let Gran talk about the future, and her own mortality. Lady Daisy awakes to find 90 years has gone by since she shut her eyes. The world as she knows it has changed. It is also about ancestry – from Dad’s football gloves to the doll in the family attic, Ned’s interest in the past develops, primarily when he is able to relate dates to stories.

I met Lady Daisy when I was eight. My Year 3 teacher was a great one for reading at the end of the day. I spent a happy year on that carpet, (or up on the HUGE Victorian water pipes if I was quick enough – three small children could squeeze on to that pipe at a push. It was prime seat. This, needless to say, was in the years before reading corners stuffed with cushions and beanbags. The book was linked to our Victorian topic, and it whetted my interest. I found a second hand copy in that year, and have read it almost every year since.

Harry Potter mania took hold when I was nine, (two years after initial publication.) Prior to Potter mania, and the consequent surge in children’s publishing, Dick King-Smith was among a handful of ‘staple’ authors writing for children in the UK. I had been familiar with his work from the age of five or six, when I enjoyed the Sophie books, and I looked for his name in the library.

Why do I revisit Lady Daisy? As well as the comfort of regressing to those afternoons on the carpet, it encompasses my favourite themes. If you read my Top Ten Tuesday post earlier this week, you might have noticed the high proportion of historical settings. A year or two later, my timeslip fetish began. Lady Daisy formed the groundwork of this interest.

The final chapter is called 17/06/2010. I kid you not, I kept tabs on that date across the twelve years from that initial encounter, and miffed when I found nobody online making a FUSS. I cannot spoil the ending, but the speed with which seven years have passed serves to prove the book’s message. Time flies – but new generations come in that time. I hope another generation of schoolchildren will find Lady Daisy, and read her through the next 20 years. 

 

  • Flashback Friday was a meme run by Bookshelf Fantasies. Continuing from this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, I decided to begin a series of Flashback Friday posts. Thanks to Bookshelf Fantasies for the idea.