Guest Post

Guest Post – Amy from GoldenBooksGirl

amybannerYou remember Amy from GoldenBooksGirl? Before she asked to take a cracker slot, she had agreed to write a Blogmas Guest Post! Amy has been as busy as Santa’s elves this year. She’s had her own Blogmas planned and in production since *July*. Amy has written about the fictional settings she would like to spend Christmas in. Which characters she would like to meet and which settings she wants to explore. It’s lovely to welcome her back. 

If we could climb into books, this is where Amy would spend Christmas – 

Harry Potter (JK Rowling)- whether with the Weasleys or at Hogwarts, I think I speak for every Harry Potter fan when I say a Wizarding World Christmas would be magical in more ways than one. The food sounds divine, I’m sure there’d be incredible gifts on offer (and I’d gladly accept my Weasley jumper) and the company would be exceptional.

With the Tanberry family (Cathy Cassidy – Chocolate Box Girls series ) – I love the Christmas in Marshmallow Skye; it’s so cosy. And I’d imagine there’d be lots of Chocolate Box goodies to go around (you have no idea how much I wish that business was real…). But even if there weren’t, I think the stockings and gifts and traditions are lovely.

At the Manners household (Geek Girl Series by Holly Smale)- I love Geek Girl, and seeing that I’ve never seen actual Christmas Day in that world, I really want to see their wacky traditions and the sorts of gifts they give! If Lion Boy made an appearance, all the better.

With the Love family (Ally’s World by Karen McCombie) – Ally’s World is a phenomenal series, and I’d love to meet the family full stop, so getting to do it at Christmas would be incredible. They’re madcap, funny and very close-knit, and have some super sweet Christmas traditions judging from Angels, Arguments and a Furry, Merry Christmas. Also, there’d be tons of animals around for cuddles, which is a Christmas essential if you ask me!

With the Beetle Boy cast (Beetle Boy series by MG Leonard) – I’m not sure why, but I feel like those characters together (with the exception of Lucretia Cutter, for obvious reasons!) would have a super fun Christmas day. Here’s hoping in book 3, we might get one…?

Nevermoor (The Trials Of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend) – I loved the Christmas scenes in Nevermoor! I want to go and see the red/green stand off  and be part of such a special world on a special occasion. I really want to meet all the characters from the book too (especially my ultimate favourite Fenestra, but also Morrigan and her friends and Jupiter North)

Lundinor (Uncommoners Series by Jennifer Bell)- Lundinor, from Jennifer Bell’s Uncommoners series, is an exceptional world, and I’d so love to explore the Undermart at Christmas time. I wonder what uncommon goodies I’d find? (I’d like an adorable bell just like Scratch, to start off with…)

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Middle Grade Reviews

Review: I Killed Father Christmas by Anthony McGowan

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Extract

Now that I had killed Father Christmas, I knew I wouldn’t get any of the toys on my Christmas list. No robot, no racing car, no helicopter that really flies, no anything.

But that wasn’t what was making me sad. What was making me sad was the hole in the world where Father Christmas used to be.

(I killed Father Christmas by Anthony McGowan. P17)

birdSynopsis

It’s Christmas eve and Mum and Dad are fighting again. Dad says Jo-Jo is greedy for writing a long Christmas list. He says Jo-Jo is stealing presents from the poor children. Then he says Jo-Jo has killed Christmas.

Killed Christmas? Did Father Christmas die carrying that big heavy sack? Can it really be Jo-Jo’s fault that Father Christmas is dead? Jo-Jo reckons it is his job to fill the hole where Father Christmas used to be. Armed with a red coat and a pillow case full of presents, Jo-Jo sets out to do Father Christmas’s job.

birdReview

A charming story based on the misconceptions of a young child. Jo-Jo’s heart is in the right place, and he shows the reader that Christmas is about giving, not receiving.

Mum and Dad’s argument stems from worry about money. Anthony McGowan captures the pressure Christmas puts on families in a child-friendly way. There’s no judgement on Jo-Jo for wanting lots of toys for Christmas. He’s a nice kid, it’s OK that he’s excited. Is it OK that he’s not bothered about poor kids and economics? Father Christmas teaches him that the magic of Christmas is about carrying love with your heart. That love can be big enough for the whole world. It’s a sweet message, and a lovely place to start thinking about world issues.

Jo-Jo’s imagination goes wild when he overhears Dad talking. It reminded me of being a child at Christmas, when the boundaries of what was possible seemed to shift. If a man can fly around the world in one night, why should bad thoughts not start a crazy chain of events which leads to that man’s death?

The story also tackles the big question children have at a certain age. The one where that flight around the world seems a bit too good to be true. Luckily Father Christmas is on hand to explain everything, and Jo-Jo goes home for another magical Christmas. This is a lovely narrative for children of late infant/early primary age.  

Chris Riddell’s illustrations were a big attraction for me. I love his style – he uses so many different lines, and his pictures have a slightly gothic edge. These are coloured, and more gentle than a lot of his pictures, not unlike the infamous Mr Underbed. Father Christmas is my favourite illustration – he’s so big and round and friendly. Riddell has captured the warmth of Father Christmas’s character.

 

Thanks to Barrigton Stoke who sent a copy in exchange for honest review.

Chat

Bookish Stocking – Fabric and Accessories

stockingbannerStockings. They’re still tradition in our house, even though we’re out of small people. Everyone gets a stocking. Even the cats have one this year. Nothing could be more joyous. Traditions in my stocking include the giant chocolate penny, which is always in the foot, and little cosmetics from the Body Shop. 

If you want to theme a stocking for a bookish person – a lover of kidlit especially – here are some fabrics and gifts to get your ideas going. Hover the mouse over the pictures for links.birdFabric (*squee* Moomins!) –

 

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What do you hope to see in your stocking? Do you have any traditions? Let me know in the comments below.

Picture Book Reviews

Goodnight Mr Clutterbuck by Mauri Kunnas

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‘Goodnight, Gus buddy! Sleep tight!’ says Mr. Clutterbuck. He turns off the light and falls asleep instantly.

‘Goodnight, Clutterbuck,’ answers Gus.

But what’s this? Mr. Clutterbuck bolts upright in bed. Sound asleep, he trots out into the street. Mr. Clutterbuck is the town’s busiest slweepwalker, although he himself doesn’t know it.’

‘BzzzPSHAW … ha ha … BzzPSHAW!’ snores Mr Clutterbuck.

(Goodnight Mr Clutterbuck by Mauri Kunnas)bird

img_4304Mr Clutterbuck has got a reputation. Every night he sleepwalks, persued frantically by guinea-pig gus. Every night, Mr Clutterbuck causes lots of trouble. Noisy, messy trouble. Motor bike gangs end up tangled in washing lines. The sausage factory is eaten out of stock when Mr Clutterbuck lets the local dogs in. Every morning he wakes up to hear about what has happened on the breakfast news, with no idea he is the cause! 

The big joke is that Mr Clutterbuck appears to cause lots of trouble, but actually he puts lots of problems to rights. The motor bike gangs make peace, the sausage factory has its best custom in years and is saved from going bust … and the mystery of the Christening Spoon thief, which runs through the story, is solved thanks to Mr Clutterbuck. 

Mr Clutterbuck is an institution in Finland. He even has his own tourist attraction, The House Of Mr Clutterbuck, where children can reenact his adventures. Mauri Kunnas is a leading Finnish illustrator. I was pleased to have a chance to see her work. Reading books in translation is the first step to curiosity about and empathy with people in other parts of the world. 

img_4305.jpgChildren aged 4 -7 will be addicted to Mr Clutterbuck’s antics, and want the story read over and over again. It is visually busy, and there are liberal doses of naughty words like ‘butt’ and ‘poo’ to satisfy young readers. (Pretend to be shocked. It makes the satisfaction of hearing the word greater.) The text is broken into small chunks, which makes it rewarding for less confident readers, and it follows a familiar pattern. Repeated jokes cement this pattern, so we know there will be a big misunderstanding on the morning news, and that Gus the Guinea-Pig will be exhausted when Mr Clutterbuck wakes up. I can see children picking a favourite part, with the familiar pattern building anticipation before it comes. 

img_4303The book is almost like a graphic novel in that there is as much to read in the illustrations as there is in a text. As well as being visually imaginative (what would it look like if a snake played the drums?) there is a hunt for Mr Clutterbuck in the larger pictures. Children can compete to find him in a Where’s-Wally fashion. The reward is that he usually looks ridiculous, as he gathers more and more trouble on his way through town. When you reach the end, you realise the same is true of the spoon thief. 

If you know any reluctant readers, give this a try. It’s a low-pressue/high-reward read. 

 

Huge thanks to Sarah Mather and Turnaround Books who sent a copy in exchange for honest review.

Middle Grade Reviews

Review: Father Christmas And Me by Matt Haig

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Extract:

‘An impossibility is just a possibility you don’t understand yet. I have heard it a hundred times. But what about walking on the ceiling? That’s impossible. What about flying to the stars? That’s impossible.’

‘It isn’t, actually,’ muttered Father Christmas. ‘It isn’t impossible. It’s just not the right thing to do. And that’s a very big difference.’

(Father Christmas And Me by Matt Haig and Chris Mould.) 

birdSynopsis:

It’s difficult being human in Elfhelm. Amelia Wishart loves her home with Father Christmas and Mary, but it’s difficult being human in elf territory. Without drimwickery, the elfish magic, there are lots of things Amelia can’t do. Father Vodol says humans shouldn’t be allowed in Elfhelm. When Amelia damages a sleigh, other elves think he is right. Determined to put things right, Amelia sets out to work until she has paid the damages, but terrible things are going on in Elfhelm. Once again, it’s up to Amelia and Father Christmas to save Christmas, and this time there is no convincing anyone to help.

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Review:

I love this book. Top of my seasonal selection, Father Christmas And Me covers topical issues in a fast-paced and hugely readable adventure. Amelia and Father Christmas have taken part in previous adventures. This is the third book set in this world.

Fake News. The word – or term – of 2017. Father Christmas And Me is all about Fake News. I love the sinister Father Vodol, going out of his way to spread fear of humans. It can be hard to think for ourselves when we’re inundated with opinion, and children are especially impressionable. Taking an issue outside it’s original context can be a great way to help children think for themselves. Should humans be banned from the magical Elfhelm just because they are human? Should rabbits have been chased away? Do we want to construct a wall to keep refugees out?

The other thing this book does well is think about every day mental health. This isn’t mental health treatment. Mental health illnesses. Rather, an acknowledgement that everyone has mental health, as everyone has physical health, and some situations put a strain on our mental health. I also love the magic which can’t take away bad things, but can show you that the world contains magic, and will feel magical again. That’s the most realistic message someone facing a mental health crisis can hear, and realistic is easier to accept than false promises.

It’s a magical world. Santa’s workshop has been reimagined as a full-scale industrial operation, but the magical touches have been left. Houses are made of reinforced gingerbread. Elves learn sleigh-craft at elf school. Letters fly in from around the world. It’s a kid’s dream of Santa’s home turned into a setting, and it is special. The adventure builds up nicely, with hints in the right place. I love how the backstory of Elfhelm’s relations with the rabbits turns into something important, and how the clues are in place.

As well as being a great story, the book is made magical by Chris Mould’s illustrations. Some author/illustrator partnerships are legendary. Dahl and Blake. Donaldson and Scheffler. Matt Haig and Chris Mould belong in this category. Their work goes together like Christmas pudding and brandy cream.

Definitely one for Santa’s sack, and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

 

Title: Father Christmas And Me

Publisher: Canongate

Publication date: 12th October 2017

Pages: 294

 

Huge thanks to Canongate for sending a copy in exchange for honest review.

Chat · Q & A

Christmas Cracker Q&A – Amy from GoldenBooksGirl

The first thing I remember thinking about Harry Potter? I wish Christmas crackers were like that. I was – by happy luck – nine and three-quarters years old when I read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for the first time. The plot had me hooked, but it was chocolate frogs and live mice in Christmas crackers which made me want to be part of JKR’s world. 

This Blogmas I will ask authors and book bloggers to design their dream Christmas Cracker. First up is Amy from GoldenBooksGirl. Amy is a new blogger this year. She has so much to say about children’s literature, and so much time for everyone that she’s taken to blogging like a … wizard to levitation. She’s also the blogger who makes me braver. From clicking request on Netgalley for the first time (oh yeah, but it was such a big deal back in June), to asking for real actual proof copies or emailing authors to ask if they will do an interview. Amy, without you the mouse button would still be hovering over ‘request’. 😀 

Anyways. Here’s Amy’s dream cracker:

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Would there be a joke inside? What would it be, or what would you have in place? 

I am not a big fan of cracker jokes, unlike my uncle who takes great glee in reading every single one. 
This is one of his favourites: What do you get if you cross Santa with a duck? A Christmas Quacker! It’s also one I can bear, so I’d put that in.
 

What sort of hat would you wear?

I generally try to swap paper crown with the person who has the purple or pale pink one.
 

What would you hope to see inside?

The best thing I have ever gotten out of a cracker (which was from Dog’s Trust) were some really gorgeous magnets with dogs on them. 
 

 Which fictional character would you pull it with?

I am incredibly competitive and pride myself on never losing a cracker pull. If they lose I don’t care who they are, but I’d probably let Ade from Boy in the Tower win as he’s so brave and inspirational and lovely. Or Sam from Ways to Live Forever for similar reasons.

 

Check out GoldenBooksGirl 

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Check back on the 10th of December when 2018 debut author Sophie Anderson will answer the same questions!

Uncategorized

Letter to Santa – 11 things I want this Christmas

wishlistbannerIf I get all this, it will be a sign that I’ve been very good this year. My wishlist says a lot about who I am. Reading and writing are the most important things in my life. Everything else makes those an even nicer experience.

When my parents asked what I wanted for Christmas this year I said Moomin Bedding. I’ve wanted this for a year or two, but constantly forgotten it around birthdays and Christmas. The chocolate is sorted. We’re planning a family trip to Kennedy’s, and this being an important event we’ve marked it on the calendar. 

There are more books I want than I can possibly name. My family suggested I tell them a smaller number, to ensure I get the ones I really, really want. I chose the illustrated edition of Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, Tell Me A Dragon by Jackie Morris and Daemon Voices by Phillip Pullman. My sister also hinted that she’d bought me a picture book because she knows I like the illustrator. I have a sneaking suspicion I know which book, and am intrigued to find out whether I am right.

I’m off shopping – my family are so generous with present-buying that I owe them presents they actually want. In the meantime, here is my wishlist for Christmas 2017. 

 

 

What is on your Christmas wishlist? Have you sorted your pressie buying? Let me know in the comments below.