fairytales · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

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

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

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Book badges: Build your own collection of bookish badges. 

Book badges: Build your own collection of bookish badges.

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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.

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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. 

 

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Review: Through The Water Curtain & Other Tales From Around the World. Selected by Cornelia Funke.

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Fairytales can get a bit same-old. The handsome prince rescues the girl in the tower, who is glad to become his wife. There is a place in the world for every kind of story, and if you dig a little deeper there are stories of all kinds of people in all kinds of places. Stories with endings you may not know or expect. 

Through The Water Curtain takes thirteen stories from around the world and looks a little deeper into their origins. Insightful commentary at the end of each tale helps us to think about how stories come to be written in the first place. 

Cornelia Funke, bestselling author of series such as Inkheart and Dragon Rider, is the perfect person to edit a collection of fairytales. Over the course of her career, she has travelled the globe in search of stories, something which she refers to in this collection. Her commentaries offer insight both into the stories themselves and into Funke’s experience as a storyteller. 

These stories certainly aren’t Disneyfied. Character meet brutal endings, such as the girls in Kotura, Lord Of The Winds who freeze to death when they fail to heed instructions. They remind us that fairy tales can be dark and unknowable. 

The book is beautifully desinged. The cover demands that you pick it up and I love the detailed design of the pictures. Each story has a title page with an illustration like those on the front cover. 

If you are looking to treat yourself to a fairytale collection, this is a beautiful and insightful introduction. It is also a lovely size to read and reread until the tales are known by heart. 

 

Thanks to Pushkin Press for my copy of Through The Water Curtain. Opinions my own.