fairytales · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Magical Myths And Legends. Chosen by Michael Morpurgo.

Review: Magical Myths And Legends. Chosen by Michael Morpurgo.

img_0401

Every tale in this book is centuries old. So explains the introduction by Michael Morpurgo which explains that even before we had books, we had stories. 

Regular readers of my blog know that I have a passion for folk tales and legends. They are the stuff on which our dreams are built. They are the place from which other forms of storytelling evolved. It is lovely to see this collection of ten tales about well-known figures like Icarus and Robin Hood. 

This is the perfect introductory book to myths and legends. It looks a challenging size, but the text is large and the illustrations take up most of the page, so it is actually limited to one or two paragraphs per page. This makes it brilliant for less-confident readers, or for sharing aloud in shorter time-spaces, such as bedtime or the gap between lessons and play. 

img_0402

It also has a good range of origins – Greek Myths, and English folk tales, and Viking legends among them – and the stories are told and illustrated by different creators. I was particularly charmed, as a Millenial, that many of these the storytellers of my childhood. It felt like something I might have picked up in my childhood library (albeit in the fresher, prettier publishing style of today). Perhaps myths and folk-tales feel like this anyway, but reading words by Tony Bradman and Jeanne Willis added to this effect. These are some of the most established and practiced children’s authors working today. 

The range of illustration styles makes each story feel distinctive. Readers will soon have their favourites, and it is impossible to pick this up without flicking through to pick. 

I am impressed with this as an early collection of folk tales, and as stories that can be shared between people of all ages. This is the perfect book for reading out loud. 

 

Thanks to Oxford University Press for my gifted copy of Magical Myths And Legends. Opinions my own.

 

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Nordic Tales (various authors and translators). Illustrated by Ulla Thynell.

Review: Nordic Tales (various authors and translators). Illustrated by Ulla Thynell.

IMG_9794

Princesses and enchanters and giants. Dragons and polar bears and hags. Enter a world of icy magic with this beautiful anthology of traditional Nordic Tales. 

This collection contains 17 stories, each with a full-page illustration by Ulla Thynell. Her artwork is so beautiful and atmospheric that just looking at them brings an imaginary breeze into the room. They conjure up a world carpeted in white snow, where anything and everything could be waiting beyond the window. Although there are no further illustrations or decorative borders within the text, the pictures are so rich and detailed that they set the scene and draw the reader into the story. 

Tales include East Of The Sun And West Of The Moon, The Forest Bride and The Magician’s Pupil. They are categorised by events, so those which contain stories of transformation are together. The three categories are Transformation, Wit and Journeys. This was interesting as a writer because it allowed me to see similarities between stories in each category.

IMG_9797

The stories come from different sources and were rewritten by various translators. A section at the back explains their origin, and credits all involved. 

I was interested in this title because of my love of folklore. I grew up on my Dad’s collection of folk-rock, which led me, in turn, to seek out folk stories as a teenager. The books I found were primarily British or Celtic, although I also read some Greek mythology. It was later that I started to look wider, and discovered stories from so many other places. 

Anthologies like this are magical. The beautiful pictures make the dark nights seem bearable, and possibly even a bit special. Reading this every evening made me want to curl up in front of a log fire and sink deeper into the words. The perfect present for a winter celebration, or the perfect treat to ease yourself into the cold weather. 

 

Thanks to Chronicle Books for my copy of Nordic Tales. Opinions my own.

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: The Lost Fairytales by Isabel Otter and Ana Sender.

Review: The Lost Fairytales by Isabel Otter and Ana Sender.

IMG_E9889

Once upon a time, there was a girl at the centre of the story who didn’t need rescuing … 

If you’ve ever fancied a fairy tale with a strong heroine, look no further. This anthology contains 20. Better than that, these stories haven’t been rewritten to change the roles of the characters. They always featured strong females. 

The range of stories is brilliant, with tales from different cultures around the world. I loved seeing the range of influences, and also similarities between the tales – bold eagles, special presents and magic wells recur in stories from all over the world. 

IMG_E9890It also contains an old favourite of mine. Tam Lin, here known as The Company Of Elves, is about a girl called Janet who rides out at Halloween to prevent her love Tam Lin from being paid as a tithe to hell. She’s up against another strong woman, the Fairy Queen. And we’re not talking innocent fairies here. This Queen turns Tam into a series of animals which turn on Janet, but she holds tight. I’ve heard this in folk music many times, but rarely see it included in fairytale anthologies. 

A section at the back contains some thinking points about each story. These are designed to motivate young readers and to encourage readers to think about what makes the heroines so strong. There are also some useful summaries to each story which explain its background and origins. 

The book is illustrated in a way which makes it irresistible. I particularly love how details and colours are used to give an impression of the different landscapes, and how the page colours coordinate with the illustrations. This apparently tiny thing makes each tale feel unique and separate from the others. 

This beautiful anthology stands out for its range of world fiction, and for the heroines who prove that there are different ways to be strong and brave. It would make a lovely addition to any bookshelf and is going on my list of Christmas gift recommendations. 

 

Thanks to Caterpillar Books for my gifted copy of The Lost Fairytales. Opinions my own.

Chat

Book badges: Build your own collection of bookish badges. 

Book badges: Build your own collection of bookish badges.

badges

Gone are the days when being a bookworm was a secret hobby.

Bookish communities are explanding, bookish merchindise is available and bookworms everywhere are proud to show their true colours. But how do you get hold of those badges everyone wears at book festivals which celebrate not only reading but individual books and authors? Where, actually, do you get bookish badges at all?

That was my question as a newbie blogger. Sometimes it felt as if I scrolled through pictures of lanyards filled with badges. Was I missing something? In those early months I felt as if I had missed out on access to a secret club which only true bloggers knew about.

Now look at my beautiful lanyard. And those are just the ones that fit!

I have always been a collector. From Pokemon cards and Beanie Babies as a child, to Lego sets and pin badges in my 20s, collections have always played a huge role in my life. It isn’t only about owning one thing for me. Half the thirll is in the chase. The other part is in finding different ways to organise my collections. During the 2012 Olympics, I worked in the shopping centre beside the Olympic park and gained a reputation as a ruthless hunter of Olympic pin badges. It was inevitable, when I became a blogger, that I would crush on book badges.

Some of the books on my lanyard were produced for sale. Others were made in limited editions around the release of a book. I even have a very special badge celebrating The House With Chicken Legs which is different to the ones handed out to the public. I won mine in a competition.

The bad news is you will never get every badge. Or even a fraction of what is available. The great news is the ones you get will become a record of the books you have read, people you have met and the places you have visited. Really, that’s the greatest thing about my lanyard.

Here are some ways to get hold of bookish badges. Happy hunting … I mean collecting.

cropped-bbd35e74-4b7a-46ca-8f8f-0e29fc08a5861.png

Book events

Book festivals like YALC, the Northern YA Literary Festival and YA Shot are brilliant ways to build your collection. Publishers set up stalls to promote their books and badges are often available on the stalls. They may also feature in goodie bags.

Badges are often available for sale too. I bought my larger Northern YA Literary Festival badge for the grand sum of £1. 

 

Pre-orders

Ordering books in advance is a great way to support authors. Pre-orders alert shops and booksellers that a title is attracting interest, and may lead to an increase in shop orders. 

As an incentive and a way to thank supporters, publishers sometimes run pre-order campaigns. Evidence of pre-orders can be sent in exchange for anything from a bookmark, a signed bookplate, an entry in a competition draw or even a pin badge.

I’m waiting on a The Paper And Heart Society pin as I type. 

Run a quick internet check or look at the publisher’s Twitter feed for news of pre-order campaigns. 

 

Exhibitions 

Children’s literature doesn’t attract as much museum space as it should, but when it does, the tickets sell faster than you can say Quidditch.

The Harry Potter exhibition at the British Library in 2018 saw fans from all over the world heading to London. That’s where my Fawkes the phoenix pin came from. Additionally, the Seven Stories centre in Newcastle is home to a vast archive of children’s literature material, and there is always something interesting on. The exhibitions even tour the country, if you can’t make it North. I have a big Seven Stories badge and a badge celebrating Where Your Wings Were, an exhibition about David Almond’s work. 

 

Meet the author

Meeting an author is, of course, a treat without a badge. The best reason to go to an author talk or signing is to hear about the story or learn about the author’s experience of the craft. 

However. Badges are sometimes available. 

Robin Stevens, author of the Murder Most Unladylike series keeps badges to badge the colours of her books. My Snowglobe, Whiteout and The Maker Of Monsters badges were all from authors, although that is no guarantee they will be available at current or future signings. 

Author events are amazing. Badges are a lovely bonus and a reminder of the day. 

 

Competitions

Competitions on social media are most likely to happen ahead of or around the release date of a book. Check out publisher pages and social media feeds from your favourite authors, and you never know. Occasionally there might be a giveaway.

 

Treat yourself

Generic book badges are available, and although they don’t relate to individual titles, there are some beautiful designs available. 

Additionally, badges often come in bookish subscription boxes such as Fairyloot and Owl Crate. If, like me, you can only drool over unboxing pictures of bookish loot, the Twitter #swagfortrade is regularly used by book box subscribers looking to slim down their collections. There are often items for sale. 

 

Non-Fiction

Review: Edvard Munch Love And Angst. Edited by Giulia Bartrum.

Review: Edvard Munch Love And Angst. Edited by Giulia Bartrum.

munch 1

Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ is an iconic image of our era. For the first time ever the British Museum has put together a major exhibition of his work, which is also the largest show of his prints in 45 years. The accompanying book, Edvard Munch Love And Angst, examines the society and times in which his works were produced and how they influenced his work. 

Munch grew up in 19th-Century Europe. Industrial advance and high mortality existed hand in hand. Munch’s own sister and mother both died from tuberculosis, which meant he was familiar as a child with blood-stained handkerchiefs and agonizing decline. Great theories about the world were in their infancy, and a sense of the uncanny was born from the possibilities about the world which were opening up but not yet confirmed.

The scene is set in an opening chapter, then Munch’s career is examined in chronological order.

Munch had a conviction from early on that art should show more than the surface. Inner secrets and turmoil were at the heart of his work, and the trauma of watching his mother and sister die from tuberculosis left him with a terrible fear that he too would succumb to the illness. Today such complex grief would be recognised and aided, but Munch’s obsessions are apparent even in work from his later life. 

Seeing this collection of images gave me a broader context to ‘The Scream’. Even a person with no interest in art can associate the image with inner-turmoil, but seeing it alongside Munch’s images of sick beds and dying children helps relate that famous image to the time in which it was created. Looking at the full-colour pictures in the book, I got the sense of a time when death was so normal it was continually on the mind. 

Another thing the book taught me is the number of mediums Munch worked in. Woodcut, oil, etching and printing are represented among others, and Munch’s experimentation with medium is as fascinating as his subjects and life story. Later chapters are dedicated to his process and I was particularly interested to see different works which had come from the same printing moulds. 

Although this book was produced to accompany a museum exhibition, it is possible to appreciate it without attending (and I am now desperate to see the exhibition which runs until 21st July). 

A fine study which gets behind the popular image to reveal the human story. 

 

Munch Love And Angst runs at The British Museum from 11th April – 21st July 2019.

Thanks to Thames and Hudson in association with The British Museum for my gifted book. Opinions my own.

 

 

Early Reader Reviews · Picture Books · Young Middle Grade

Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown and Rob Biddulph

Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown and Rob Biddulph

img_9402

Flat Stanley is back, and this time he is in picture book format.

When a pinboard falls on Stanley, it squashes him flat. Flat as a pancake. Changing shape has advantages and disadvantages. Stanley’s brother can fly him like a kite, but Stanley also gets stuck up a tree.

When the local museum reports trouble with sneak thieves, Stanley comes up with a cunning plan to help. A plan which only someone who is flat can enact.

A humorous adventure from the author of the original Flat Stanley titles. This is a very similar story to one in the original book, but the words have changed to bring it to a new audience.

img_9403Changing shape and doing things which nobody else can is a big dream at a certain age. The Flat Stanley stories play on this to great effect, but they also explore the downside of feeling different. Stanley faces physical obstacles and he is also on the receiving ends of unkind comments and thoughtless behaviour from other people. This more than anything makes him wish to be the same as everybody else.

Stanley is lucky to have a big brother, Arthur, who is always there to help him. The sibling relationship in this story is as memorable as that in the Horrid Henry series. It is difficult to imagine Stanley without Arthur.

Rob Biddulph’s illustrations have brought the stories to life. Both in the picture book and the new collection of the Flat Stanley stories, Biddulph’s work adds energy and freshness which was missing before. Given that the stories are over 50 years old, it makes sense for the illustrations to be updated for the current generation.

Seeing the same brand in different formats is an encouraging new trend in children’s fiction. There is nothing more powerful at an early age than a familiar character. Think how small children are drawn like magnets to their favourite television characters. (For me it was Postman Pat. Everyone can name theirs.) Transitioning to chapter books can feel like a big jump, but knowing the character already takes away part of the work and makes it feel more like an adventure. For a great post about picture book/early reader pairings see this post by mother of small children and blogger Lilyfae. 

A bright and beautiful new edition of an old classic which will be a hit with a new generation. 

 

Thanks to Egmont UK LTD for my gifted books. Opinions my own.

 

 

 

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Winnie And Wilbur – Spectacular Spells by Valerie Thomas And Korky Paul

Review: Winnie And Wilbur – Spectacular Spells by Valerie Thomas And Korky Paul

img_8579

A trip back to the time of the dinosaurs (and home again with a dinosaur in tow). 

A birthday party made extra-special by magic.

A knightly tournament and a banquet worthy of a witch. 

Three titles full of magic and mayhem from the ever popular Winnie The Witch series. 

I remember reading the very first book in this series when I was small. I chose it at a book fair and took it home for our evening reading session. Now, I had read and been read any number of books, but there was something different about Winnie. She fizzled with a kind of energy which just promised trouble. And laughter. 

Wilbur is also a superstar among picture book cats. He reacts to what is happening with hilarious results and has a huge range of expressions. 

Our brains can only register a certain number of things at any one time. If you look at a field for a second, you might see grass, a bench and some football goals. Sit for a few minutes and you will see huge amounts more. The tiny plants in the grass and the insects crawling up the bench legs and the way the light is filtered through the clouds. The illustrations in Winnie The Witch Books are like that. You could look for minutes and fail to spot everything. They are gems for sharing with one reader or a small group because there is so much to keep the readers interested. 

The illustations are also brilliant for encouraging smaller pen marks. Plenty of examples of lines and patterns used to build textures. 

This collection brings together three titles filled with adventure. it was lovely to revisit Winnie and Wilbur. Long may they entertain readers big and small.