Blogmas 2018 · christmas · Middle Grade Reviews

Review: The Truth Pixie by Matt Haig And Chris Mould

Review: The Truth Pixie by Matt Haig And Chris Mould

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Review: The Truth Pixie by Matt Haig And Chris Mould

Once upon a time, a little pixie was cursed to always tell the truth. Always – even when it might be insulting. Every single social situation goes wrong and Truth Pixie is about to give up when she is confronted with Aada – an unhappy child who wants to know if things get better. Truth Pixie is terrified because all she can tell is the truth …

A rhyme which will speak to anyone who has ever been afraid or had a difficult time.

Matt Haig is an author who has written and spoken about his experiences with mental health. He is an advocate for changing attitudes towards mental health, particularly towards eradicating the stigma and giving mental and physical health equal priority.

Aada is the character in the story who appears to need a comforting fib. Her Dad is out of money, they will be forced to move from their house and Gran is terribly ill. Aada is going to lose friends as a result of her situation. Most people would tell Aada it’s all OK – but the difficult truth is, it isn’t. Lying won’t change Aada’s situation and it won’t make her feel better in the long-run. I related to this. I can’t bear it when someone dies and the news is drawn out into a string of false hope and comfort. The only way to deal with something so huge is to hear it. It will be terrible. It will be dire. Telling people otherwise will never, ever change this. 

Truth Pixie has the right words because, just as Aada is about to face a dark time, better times will come again. There will be times when life feels impossibly wonderful and times when it feels unbearable. This is the unfortunate truth of the human experience … and knowing it can make the dark times bearable.

The Truth Pixie is a character from the Christmas stories by Matt Haig and Chris Mold. Hearing this message from a familiar character will add an extra-dimension because it associates positive approaches to mental health with existing works. If characters from these stories have bad mental health moments, it reassures the reader that these experiences are normal and manageable.

The Truth Pixie is an open, honest rhyme which will help anyone facing a difficult time. It will also make people who are a bit too honest for their own good feel better, and give them confidence that just as the truth can be difficult, sometimes it can be the best policy.

 

Thanks to Canongate Books for my copy of The Truth Pixie. Opinions my own.

Blogmas 2018 · christmas · Guest Post

Author Guest Post: Michelle Harrison’s gingerbread recipe

Author Guest Post: Michelle Harrison’s gingerbread recipe

2018
Author Michelle Harrison

There is one middle-grade novel I am extra especially looking forward to in 2019. Michelle Harrison writes folksy, magical stories full of black-cats, fairies and local traditions. I have loved every story she has written so far, and  A Pinch Of Magic looks equally amazing.

It is the story of three sisters who must break a deadly curse which has haunted their family for generations. Each sister possesses an object which has been handed down the family – a mirror, a carpet bag and a set of wooden nesting-dolls. None of these objects is what it seems. 

The Widdershins sisters kindly agreed to share their gingerbread recipe. It is a pleasure and a delight to welcome Michelle Harrison and the Widdershins to my blog. 

 

Widdershins Gingerbread

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The isle of Crowstone, home to the Widdershins sisters ‒ Betty, Fliss and Charlie ‒ is often damp and chilly thanks to the freezing fogs from the nearby Misty Marshes. So what better treat to stay cosy with than some warming, spiced gingerbread?

Ingredients

  • 350g plain flour (plus extra for rolling out)
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 125g butter
  • 175g soft light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup

 

mh1Makes approx. 20 pieces, depending on cutter size. I found this gorgeous Russian doll one on eBay which came with a stamp to press in the detail. I’ve used it several times and the shapes are always met with delight. Without further ado I’ll hand over to the Widdershins . . .

Method

 

FLISS: In a large bowl, sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon. Add the butter and rub together with your fingers ‒ CLEAN fingers, Charlie! ‒ until it looks and feels like sand.

BETTY: Sand? That looks more like shingle from the marshes. Rub it in some more.

FLISS: Shh. This is my recipe.

CHARLIE: No, it’s not. It’s Granny’s.

BETTY: Stop eating the sugar, Charlie.

FLISS: Stir in the sugar. I usually close my eyes and make a wish when I do this part.

BETTY: Can you wish not to burn it this time?

FLISS: *Snorts* Lightly beat the egg and the golden syrup together in a jug—

CHARLIE: Make sure it’s a free range egg. They’re tastier and kinder to the chickens.

FLISS: —then pour the egg/syrup mix into the bowl. Combine until it begins to clump together, then remove from the bowl and knead until smooth.

BETTY: Sprinkle some flour on to your work surface so the dough doesn’t get too sticky. When it’s ready, wrap it in cling film and chill in the fridge for fifteen minutes. This stops it spreading out too much and losing its shape while it’s baking.

FLISS: Ooh, yes. I always forget that part.

CHARLIE: Who cares what it looks like? Get it in the oven I WANT TO EAT IT!

FLISS: Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4. Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper. Once chilled, roll out the dough to a thickness of about 0.5cm on a lightly floured surface, and cut out the gingerbread shapes. Place them on the tray with a gap between them and bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly golden brown. This usually gives me just enough time to write a little love poem.

BETTY: No, this is when you clean up the kitchen and keep an eye on the oven, feather-brain. The best gingerbread is a bit chewy, so don’t overdo it! Once it’s out of the oven, leave it on the tray for a few minutes, then move to a wire rack to finish cooling.

CHARLIE: IS IT READY YET?

FLISS: Once cooled, you can make your shapes look pretty by adding icing, and silver balls or sprinkles.

CHARLIE: Or just scoff it as it is. Jumping jackdaws, that’s good!

 

Huge thanks to Michelle Harrison for your time. A Pinch Of Magic publishes in February 2019. Pre-order here.

 

Check out day one and day two of Blogmas. 

Blogmas 2018 · christmas · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: The Twelve Days Of Christmas by Brian Wildsmith

Review: The Twelve Days Of Christmas by Brian Wildsmith

img_7584Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves … and a Partridge in a pear tree. Join in with the song with this beautiful gift edition, illustrated by artist Brian Wildsmith.

The Twelve Days Of Christmas is one of the most popular carols and one often taught to children. The repetition and the counting-rhyme make it an obvious choice to sing with the very young. This edition would make a lovely gift for children or adults. You almost don’t need the words because the illustrations speak so beautifully for themselves.

Originally published in the 1970s, the illustration style is in keeping with picture books from the second golden age of Children’s literature – the works of John Burningham and Eric Carle spring to mind. Some of the pictures are impressionistic and there is a heavy focus on pattern and colour. I love the colour-palette – the reds, purples and yellows have the quality stained-glass or paper decorations.

This new edition is a lovely size – it would fit into most stockings and would certainly make a lovely Secret Santa present or a table gift. A traditional rhyme with retro illustrations. Buy this for the arty friend in your life or for children who appreciate gifts which they will love equally in 40 years’ time.  

 

Thanks to Oxford University Press for my copy of The Twelve Days Of Christmas. Opinions my own.

 

Check out day one and day three of Blogmas 2018. 

Blogmas 2018 · christmas · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Sammy Claws The Christmas Cat by Lucy Rowland And Paula Bowles

Review: Sammy Claws The Christmas Cat by Lucy Rowland And Paula Bowles

img_7588Furry, purry Sammy Claws dreams of the day that Santa will take him up in the sleigh, but every time Sammy tries to help with the Christmas preparations he ends up causing trouble. When Sammy Claws falls asleep in a box, he finds himself wrapped up and packaged away in the back of the sleigh. Can Sammy save Santa when he gets into a spot of bother?

A cute and funny story about Santa’s pet cat.

Ginormous purrs for this lovely story about Santa’s pet cat. Cat lovers will recognise Sammy – he’s the sort of cat who licks the bowl clean, asks for more then falls asleep in a corner. He’s also warm-hearted. As someone who has always lived with cats, I know how they come to help with different tasks. Help, unfortunately, often means delay and disruption.

Even so, we love our furry friends. As Santa finds out, they are there for us in ways we may not even expect. Sammy’s run-in with two burglars is classic comedy. Think people in black-and-white stripes sneaking up on the sleigh while good old Santa is busy down the chimney. Get in practice for the panto season with cries of they’re behind you, and calls for Sammy to wake up and help. This story would make a lovely read-aloud because of the opportunities for acting and audience-involvement. 

The illustration is bold and twinkly. I love the blue backgrounds. Lots of starry skies and icy North-Pole dwellings. It feels just a little bit magical and provides the natural backdrop for Santa’s red sleigh. I love the detailed buildings and the bright textile patterns which bring out Christmassy details like wrapping paper and warm scarves.

At long last there is a story about Santa’s cat. Sammy Claws is as memorable and sweet as any literary cat and you will cheer him on as he saves Christmas Day.

 

Thanks to Nosy Crow Books for my copy of Sammy Claws The Christmas Cat. Opinions my own.

 

Check out day two of Blogmas 2018.