Non-Fiction · Round-Up

Blogmas 2019: Illustrated Non-Fiction Gift Ideas.

Blogmas 2019: Illustrated Non-Fiction Gift Ideas.

 

Anatomicum by Katy Wiedemann and Jennifer Z Paxton. 

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Welcome to Anatomicum – a museum that is open 24 hours a day with displays about the anatomy of the human body. 

Have you ever wondered what you look like inside? What you really look like, with nothing held back? This book examines the different systems inside the body in fine detail with pictures of everything from veins and connective tissues to the different chambers of the heart.

The illustrations are drawn in the style of Victorian anatomy pictures but the style of the book feels fresh and modern. What I like most about this is that the book not only has broad appeal but it treats its younger readers as serious students. 

With the biggest museums in the UK mainly in London, a large number of people are shut out of accessing one of the most incredible forms of education. Putting some of those facts into books in a very visual format brings knowledge to people who might not otherwise access it. 

This series has been a big favourite for its high-quality production and serious approach to different disciplines. A book like this will remain a favourite for years and would make a wonderful gift this Christmas. 

 

Colossus by Colin Hynson. Illustrated by Giulia Lombardo. 

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Colossus explores some of the most amazing engineering and architecture in human history. From the Great Pyramids of Ancient Egypt through to the Eiffel Tower and the artificial islands of the modern-day, this book studies a range of buildings, bridges, and structures and celebrates the ingenuity behind their designs. 

Take a tour around the world to admire the greatest structures and feats of engineering – from the ancient to the futuristic. With lots of books suddenly available about travel and exploration it is lovely to see one that looks at the world through this lens. 

Nothing is missed out here. I was delighted to read pages about building for specific needs, such as earthquakes. There are facts here that most people would never know and it is wonderful to see a book for young readers that doesn’t underestimate its audience. It was also lovely to see a book about engineering in context. This shows so clearly how engineering is tied up with design and imagination and that art and creativity can be related to STEM subjects. 

With some double-page spreads dedicated to one structure and others exploring a specific area – such as canals – this book is an eye-opening tour of the world that will encourage readers to question whether they too could become an engineer and create amazing things. 

With striking illustrations and design, this will be a real favourite with young readers. 

 

Darwin’s Voyage Of Discovery by Jake Williams. 

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Step on board HMS Beagle with Charles Darwin and learn about the voyage that led to his theories about evolution. From the invitation to join a warship to the return home five years later, learn about the events that lead to one of the most famous and groundbreaking scientific theories of all time. 

With beautiful full-colour pages and illustrations, this book is one to treasure. 

It is important to learn the links between disciplines and this book reminds us that there is a history in science. How did Charles Darwin come to be on a ship and how were his studies carried out? What kind of kit did he have? The fact that the book follows Darwin’s progress in chronological order allows the reader to imagine themselves inside the story. The detailed pictures of the kit he handled, too, make the story feel more real because by thinking about what kind of objects Darwin might have handled we can think of him as a real person. 

My favourite pages are about the animals Darwin saw. There are clear links between natural science and geography and each section begins with a map of the location. 

Darwin’s voyage is one of the great adventures and as such, it is a favourite story among aspiring scientists and explorers. This wonderful volume brings the story to life and makes studies of the science richer. 

 

Dr Maggie’s Grand Tour Of The Solar System by Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock. 

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Get set for an adventure in the solar system with space scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock. 

What is space? How do humans get there? What are the conditions like on the different planets? These questions and so many more are answered in this fantastic guidebook to the world beyond our planet. Layed out like a guidebook, this not only offers readers a chance to learn about the solar system but it encourages them to believe in themselves as future space scientists. 

With photographs and clear diagrams, this dispells so many common myths about the solar system. Hands up who once saw a picture of all the planets in a neat row when learning about the relative distances of planets from the sun? (Hand right up). Hands up who heard vague descriptions about gas planets that made it sound as if one was very much like another? Now that so much has been discovered about our solar system, and that so many fantastic images have been taken from space, it makes sense for readers to learn about space with photographs of the real thing alongside non-confusing images. 

Many of the pages are broken into bitesize chunks of text in boxes. This allows readers to digest one fact at a time on a very big subject, but the levels of both the information and language never underestimate the audience. 

The perfect introduction to space for aspiring scientists. 

 

Explorers by Nellie Huang. Illustrated by Jessamy Hawke. 

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Tales of sea and ice are not for the faint-hearted. 

With so much information available now at the touch of a button, it is difficult to imagine that, not so long ago, people had to set off on great voyages to learn about other parts of the world. Presented like an inspirational people book, Explorers delves deeper into the stories of people who set out to learn more about our world. 

With beautiful illustrations and clear colour photographs, this is a great book for readers who are interested in the history of natural science. 

There are different definitions of ‘exploration’ and I like that different kinds of explorers are represented. From space scientists to sea navigators to all-out chancers, this book takes us back to a time when there was everything to learn about the science and geography of our world. 

Exploration has been tied up with colonialism. This book only touches on the realities of this when it talks about a couple of artifacts that have been returned to other countries. However, it does at least acknowledge this somewhere and this offers adults a chance to open important conversations with younger readers about whether or not ‘discovered’ artifacts belonged to the explorers who stole them from their homelands. 

 

Heroes by Jonny Marx. Illustrated by Gerhard Van Wyx. 

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Not all heroes wear capes. Some are ordinary, everyday people. The kind you might pass on the streets, like firefighters and engineers and artists. This book showcases different kinds of heroes and looks at the work they do. 

With the number of books about inspirational people on the shelves, it is important to see that not every kind of heroic or amazing job is newsworthy. Not every hero goes down in history (although some people who start such a job find they do almost by accident). This book showcases historical and well-known figures alongside names that are never mentioned or heard. 

Although I have seen more inspirational people books in the past 18 months than I can count, this one stands out because it introduces different fields and the events that stand out within their history before giving profiles of people. This shows readers that being inspirational isn’t only about individual actions, but that learning from other people and belonging to a field comes first. Even self-taught people learn from books and conversations and following work that has come first. 

The other thing I like about this is the striking design. It is part comic-book and part retro-style poster and, with the orange, black and green colour scheme, it really makes a strong impact.

This achieves the tricky balance of allowing readers to reach for the heights whilst being grounded in the everyday work that involves. This is why I would recommend it of all the inspirational tales books this Christmas. 

 

Inventor Lab by Jack Challoner. With a foreword from Dr Lucy Rogers.

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Do you know anybody who pulls everything apart to see how it works?  Are you looking for a gift for a young engineer or inventor? This is the perfect book for anyone who wants to makes things work for themselves.

From nightlights to a door alarm to a wire buzzer game, this book is packed with ideas for things to create and explore.

Everybody has seen a recipe book but this is the first time I have seen a book about simple engineering laid out in a similar way. The unwritten message of this book, unlike so many other STEM titles, is that inventing and putting together is something to do on a day-to-day basis, instead of something that happens in a secret laboratory in a faraway place. This is the very best part of this title because it shows readers that engineering is for everyone.

The book begins with introductory sections that show clear pictures of tools and components that might be used. It runs through basic safety and also some simple skills that might come in handy. I like that this has been done over a good number of pages and that everything is backed up by clear pictures. This is so important when readers might not know how something is supposed to look.

Every step of the project is pictured and labelled clearly too and it is impossible to flick through without wanting to have a go.

The perfect book for young inventors as well as for the insatiably curious.

Tyrannosaurus Rex – A Pop-Up Guide To Anatomy by Dougal Dixon. Illustrated by Rachel Caldwell.

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Have you ever wondered what a T-Rex looks like underneath its skin? Now you can lift the flaps up on 3D illustrations and study the anatomy of the world’s most famous dinosaur.

The first thing everyone has said in response to this book is ‘Wow’. Think pop-ups. Think beautifully designed pop-ups. Then throw in some interaction. This is learning through play at its greatest. It is impossible not to be amazed when a realistic-looking dinosaur model forms seamlessly out of the pages.

This book explores different areas of the tyrannosaurus rex’s body, from its skull to its abdomen. It also introduces us to what tyrannosaurus rex eggs look like and to the kind of habitat it might have lived in. Text around the diagrams explains how different features would have been an advantage to the dinosaur, which is a wonderful early introduction to ideas about adaptation and evolution.

Dougal Dixon is a paleontologist and educator who has written previous children’s titles on dinosaurs. This idea – of turning readers into scientists who can see and deduce things for themselves, proves that he knows his stuff. Combined with Rachel Caldwell’s striking illustrations – both the pop-ups and the line drawings – this is bound to be a hit with young dinosaur explorers.

 

Weather by Isabel Otter. Illustrated by Hannah Tolson. 

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Snow, rain, wind, sun, and thunder. Weather is everywhere and there is so much to find out about what makes it happen and change. 

It is a beautiful introduction not only to naming different types of weather but to the science behind them. What I like about this is it is divided into five double-page spreads, like mini-chapters on Sun, Rain, Wind, Snow, and Ice, and Thunder and Lightning. Young children are often introduced to weather as one big list of names but this means they have to be separated out again when children come to study the science. By keeping things in like groups from the start, this allows children to think of weather as a series of different but related systems. 

The big attraction here is undoubtedly the sliders. Each spread has two illustrations that are merged together. One can be changed for another by pulling the slider across. The very best of these is the slider about the water cycle, which lends itself perfectly as a subject to this format. 

As well as the sliders, the spreads are broken up into little boxes and each box is beautifully illustrated. This will go down beautifully with readers who are used to seeing tablet and smart-phone screens as each box is like a separate window. 

 An impressively designed book with just the right amount of facts for a new reader or to share with younger children. 

 

When We Walked On The Moon by David Long and Sam Kalda. 

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Getting humans to the moon and back began long before 1969. It was a tremendous feat of human engineering and it took the greatest intelligence and resources of the day to achieve. This book looks at the story behind the 1969 moon landing and at missions to the moon before and since. 

With the 50th anniversary of the 1969 moon landing celebrated this summer, the moon will be a hot topic amongst readers of all ages, and especially amongst young readers who learned all about it during the build-up. When We Walked On The Moon is a great book to give this holiday season because it looks at the wider picture of missions to the moon. 

This covers both history and science. It is told in chronological order, beginning with the Space Race and working through to the present day. It looks at the science needed both to build the space crafts and then to get them from the Earth to the Moon’s surface and back again. Later parts of the book detail the kind of work scientists have done on the moon and in space from collecting samples to repairing spacecraft and working on the International Space Station. 

With the Appollo Mission patches reproduced beautifully on the chapter page and pictures of the missions in progress, this book will recall an era of hope and excitement in human progress. 

 

With thanks to Big Picture Books, Templar Publishing, Pavillion Books, Buster Books, Dorling Kindersley, Little Tiger Press and Quarto Publishing Group UK for the titles supplied for review featured in this title.

Opinions remain my own.

blog tour · Guest Post

World Animal Day: Guest Post from ‘Wild Lives’ author Ben Lerwill.

World Animal Day: Guest Post from ‘Wild Lives’ author Ben Lerwill.

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About

October 4th is a very special day. It is World Animal Day – a chance for every one of us to raise awareness of the other creatures who share our planet. This is a sentiment I believe in as a vegetarian and friend to animals.

Ben Lerwill is a travel writer, whose love of wildlife comes from the amount of time he spends outdoors. Wild Lives is his first book for young people, and it tells the stories of 50 amazing animals throughout history. From the two male penguins who hatched an egg to Elsa the lioness who changed the way we think about conservation, the stories in this book prove just how much we can learn by looking at other animals.

In his guest post, Ben Lerwill talks about three of the places which informed his stories. From Tasmanian streams to the mountains and beaches right on our doorstep, he teaches us that animal encounters can be found just about anywhere in the world.

Thanks to Ben Lerwill for your time, and to Catherine Ward PR for organising.

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Guest post from Wild Lives author Ben Lerwill.

Gathering together the 50 stories that make up WildLives has been enormously enjoyable, largely because it’s allowed me to bring in animals from all over the world. There’s a wolf, an orca, a giraffe, a silverback gorilla, a red-tailed hawk… we even managed to fit a giant tortoise in there!

Part of my passion for the project came from spending the past 15 years as a travel writer for different magazines and newspapers. I’m extraordinarily lucky that this has led to some unforgettable wildlife encounters, from watching penguins in Antarctica to tracking chimpanzees in East Africa. Selecting just three of the most memorable experiences is difficult – but I’ve given it a go.

 

Kakadu National Park, Australia

Few places in the world rate so highly for wildlife as Australia. I have family living out there, so it’s somewhere I’ve spent a lot of time. Where animals are concerned, the joy lies in the variety: platypuses drifting down Tasmanian streams, cassowaries high-stepping through Queensland rainforests, red kangaroos hopping across the Outback. The book’s adorable Aussie representative is Sam, a koala who survived a horrific forest fire.

But topping the list, for me, are the saltwater crocodiles of Kakadu, a magically expansive national park in the Northern Territory. Five or six years ago, I joined an early morning sailing along the park’s Yellow Water Billabong. Our small boat was the only vessel out. The day was warm and still, with egrets in the shallows and eagles overhead. Then the crocs appeared. The sight of ton-weight dinosaurs basking in the mud, slithering into the water and swishing their thick, tree-trunk tails within feet of the boat was impossibly thrilling.

 

Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire

I’m an ardent believer in the fact that you don’t have to venture outside of the UK for a fantastic travel experience. We live in a truly spectacular part of the world – for proof, you need only look at the peaks of Snowdonia, the coast of County Antrim, the islands of Scotland or the hills of the Peak District. Our wildlife is fantastic too, whether you’re spotting otters in Shetland or snorkelling with seals in Scilly. And the birdlife, of course, can be sensational.

For me, the seabird nesting season is my birdwatching highlight of the year. I’ve gone in search of puffins everywhere from Orkney to Northern Ireland, but my all-time highlight was a two-night trip to Skomer Island, off the coast of Pembrokeshire. It’s a birdlife bonanza – not just puffins, but huge numbers of guillemots, razorbills, fulmars and gannets too. Watching them all circling above the waves, on a small, high-cliffed island miles from the mainland, is truly special. At night, meanwhile, Skomer gets taken over by more than half a million Manx shearwater – which is as mind-boggling as it sounds.

 

Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda       

Most wildlife-centred trips to Uganda focus on the mountain gorillas in the brilliantly named Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Mine certainly did, and I found the experience of seeing a troop up close almost overwhelming. However, a trip further north to Queen Elizabeth National Park has also seared itself into my memory. This was, I think, mainly because I had almost no expectations, so was rather giddy to find a wildlife reserve not only packed with animals but low on other visitors.

The park’s Kazinga Channel is a long, wide waterway, where the banks were alive with elephants, warthogs and great honking pods of hippos. The real highlight came on one early-morning game drive, however, when we spotted a herd of panicked deer skittering over the plains in the distance. Minutes later, we crested a hill to see the cause of the commotion – a stunning leopardess, no more than ten metres away, her spotted coat glowing in the dawn light.

No leopards feature in WildLives, but we’ve made space for a tiger and two lions – because no animal book would be complete without a few big cats.

 

Wild Lives by Ben Lerwill, illustrated by Sarah Walsh, is out now, published by Nosy Crow £16.99 hardback.

 

 

Stationery

Stationery: Ten objects which fill me with stationery envy.

 

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Rainbows of pens and little pots filled with erasers. Cloth bound journals. If you are drooling at the thought of these things, chances are you too are a stationery addict. You know what they say about addiction. Feeding it only makes it worse. 

Well. Stationery isn’t the worst addiction to have. 

Being a blogger, I spend a lot of time looking at pictures of other people’s stuff. Shiny, pretty stuff. Yes, I know it is all curated but I can’t help making a mental wish list. One of my biggest weaknesses is posts about pens and notebooks. Forget the make-up and theatre-trips and far flung holidays. All it would take to please me is a pretty journal and a collection of pens.

Here are some of the things which fill me with stationery envy. And a little envy is good, right? It means what you have is worthy of admiration. birdDot paper

Blogging and networking on social media has brought me into contact with bullet-journals. You can hardly avoid the photographs of mood trackers and months-at-a-glance and birthday lists. Why would you want to? It’s the best thing since photographs of cheesecake. I could happily binge on pictures of people’s bullet-journal creations.

Recently I have been made aware that the secret to a good bullet-journal is dot paper. It is like the structure which underpins the art. I would love to mess around with dot-paper, although the first time I became aware of my astigmatism was when I used isometric dot paper in maths lessons. I find it very difficult to focus on dot paper.

 

Fine-liners

I have invested in a small number of fine-liners. Occasionally I draw, and outline my work with fine-liners. I have accepted that I will never be a cartoonist, but I haven’t gotten over my love of fine-liners. It starts before I’ve taken the lid off. Look how you can line them up by nib size. Look at those numbers on the lid. My inner-geek is already excited.

 

 Post-it wallets

00567903_2I have a healthy collection of post-its and sticky tabs. I use tabs to mark out plot points in books and I have recently experimented with post-it notes during the plotting of my own stories. (Verdict? Great idea but don’t get hung up on it. Sometimes you need to write first.) Anyways, I’m still envious of people whose post-it notes are held in one beautiful wallet. Just look at those things!

 

Pencil Rolls

Especially if it is filled with expensive art pencils. Oh, I can’t colour, not to save my life, but I want that pencil roll. I went to school with a talented artist who used to spread her pencil collection out across the school desk. So much easier than fishing around in a pencil case. Just add the beret and the cappuccino and my perfect cliché is complete.

 

Massive sketchbooks

You know those sketchbooks you see in art shops and small-chain bookshops? The ones which you could lie down on? Yep, you know the ones. They cost a fortune but the paper is glorious.

This is not about the desire to be an artist. This is about the desire to make huge mind-maps and write non-stop notes. This is about drawing diagrams of plot (because, as those of you who’ve kept up with my writing know, I like a good plot diagram. Too much. These days I limit my diagram time to weekends and holidays, but I still love them.)

 

Brush pens

Another throw-back to childhood and my friend who had a stash of art equipment. Those anime pens? The ones where you can buy 46 shades of the same colour? When I was 15 I nearly spent my life-savings on them. It wouldn’t have done any good. There is a knack to using them and my attempts looked like toddler-scribble. These days I am better sticking to my own hobbies, although I could happily devote a draw to these pens.

 

 Ex-Libris Stamps

Oh deepest wishes and ridiculous fantasies. Up there with the oak bookshelves and the ladder on wheels, except this one would be easier to sneak into the house. I have researched ex-libris stamps but have never found the perfect one. It would probably be bespoke.

 

Fountain Pens

I own fountain pens and ink pens and roller-balls. It is no good. I am chronically left-handed and angle my pen from the top of the paper in something known as a crab-claw.

Given that my parents and 6/7 of my primary teachers were right-handed it is little wonder I didn’t learn to handwrite with much success.) Think smudged paper. Think ink down the side of my hand. And on my face. And anywhere my hand happened to touch.

 

Blogging planner

My mid-year diary system is put to shame by the dedicated blogging planners available online. The ones which encourage you to think out the premise of each piece before you type. The ones with little boxes to plan out images and links. The ones with a tick-box for when the post is published. Oh, the satisfaction of a tick-box.

My current system involves a week-view diary. I highlight the post with green highlighter when it is scheduled.

 

                                       Mini-erasers      

00567657_1The most whimsical item on my list. Mini-erasers have come a long way in recent years. Guys, you can buy unicorn-shaped erasers. Collections themed around mermaids. Itty-bitty pots filled with eraser goodness. Paperchase even did an eraser advent calendar. I would never in a century use such things to rub my work out, but why wouldn’t you? It’s like fairy-dust for pencil cases.  

 

What would you like to add to your stationery hoard? Let me know in the comments below.

Louise Nettleton.

top ten tuesday

Ten Children’s Books About Cats

img_3882Cats are integral to my life. First there was Lucy. Gentle giant. The kind of cat who kept the house in order by licking her kittens (humans) into shape. Then there was Max. Diva. Deity. Think of Maui from Moana turned feline. What can I say folks, you’re welcome Max knew he blessed us with his presence and he capitalised on it. Now we have Maisie and Willow, our beautiful rescue cats. 

It is only natural that I like stories about cats.

Six Dinner Sid and The Diary Of A Killer Cat were childhood favourites. And Mog. Gentle, dozy Mog, who knew it was her role in life to keep her humans in check. There were stories about cats which I detested too. Those sugary here-kitty-kitty type stories. The ones where the cat was some kind of … pet.

I am suspicious of people who overuse the word pet. Sure, we talk about pet products and pet insurance. One word to refer to our animal companians. That’s fine. It is people who treat my animals as something inferior, something there for the human’s entertainment that I cannot abide. No. My girls are animals. They are part of the family. I like my cat books to reflect their nature (see … nature. Not trained behaviour.) If humans are involved in the story it needs to reflect the very special bond which can be formed between feline and homo-sapien. 

If you are still reading, odds are you are a cat person, in which case I salute you, and send respectful greetings to your feline friends. Let me know your favourite cat books in the comments below. 

 

The Mousehole Cat by Antonia Barber and Nicola Bayley: 

Mowzer lives with her human Tom. He catches fish for her supper and knows the perfect place to tickle behind her ear. One day, the Great Storm Cat comes. The boats can’t get out to fish. The community starves. Mowzer and Tom are elderly. They have lived long lives. They take it upon themselves to go out and catch fish. It  is up to Mowzer to tame the Great Storm Cat with her beautiful voice.

Based on a Cornish legend, this is one of the best books about the life-long bond between human and cat. Mowzer is not Tom’s pet, she is his companion. Neither can contemplate life without the other. Nicola Bayley is famed for her illustrations of cats. Here her expertise brings the Great Storm Cat to life in a way which is both striking and memorable. 

 

Six Dinner Side by Inga Moore:

Six Dinner Sid: Sid is accoustoumed to six dinners a day. He answers to six different names and sleeps in six different houses. One day, Sid gets ill and the game is up. His humans are not best impressed with their cat-share arrangement. Can Sid find a place where his lifestyle will be accepted?

Some cats eat. And eat. And eat. When I rented a flat, I had regular visits from the handsome tabby upstairs. This chap would fling himself into a pan of baked-beans if you turned your back. Our Maisie likes her food too. She parades around her food bowl for up to nintey minutes ahead of food time. Everybody loves Sid because the story begins with a recognisable feline trait. 

 

Tabby McTat by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler: 

Tabby McTat was a busker’s cat …

This rhyming story follows the adventures of Tabby McTat. McTat always lived with busker Fred. When Fred has an accident, McTat is taken in by a kindly couple and there he meets the love of his life, Sock. By the time Fred is found, McTat has a litter of kittens and a whole new life. 

I think I loved this book because it captures the ineractions of city cats. Our Max lived most of his life in London, and he had regular interactions (both friendships of a sort and blood-curdling fights) with the neighbourhood cats. 

 

Cat, You Better Come Home by Garrison Keillor:

A dark twist on Six Dinner Sid. A cat with expensive tastes does not get the lifestyle she is accoustomed to at home, so she sets out across the world on a globe-trotting adventure in search of fame and fortune. Delicious fortune. At first she has a great success, but ultimately she ends up at the front door with her tail between her legs. 

I found this slightly surreal book when I sorted books at a charity shop. I read to Max. It made no difference – he still preferred fresh king prawns to the ordinary frozen ones. 

 

The King Cat by Marta Altes:

This cat was king of his household until a disgusting, dribbly dog arrives. Cat is not keen to adjust to being one of two pets. A brilliant metaphor for new sibling jealousy.

Cats get jealous. They get possessive of their humans. Maise and Willow love each other to pieces when they think nobody is looking, but if they are having a cuddle they want the human to themselves. Max … Max got jealous of laptops. He learned to push the screen down. I think he thought we were stroking the keyboards. 

 

Slinky Malinky by Lynley Dodd:

Slinky Malinky steals anything. Gloves, slippers socks. She gains a reputation as the local cat burgler. 

I knew a cat burglar Her name was Mabel. She had a penchant for gloves and ear-buds. We used to buy washing up gloves and write messages on them. Sometimes we looked out of the window and saw her dragging rubber gloves across the road. She was also an expert at breaking and entering. She used to follow sales-people around and slip through the open doors when people were distracted. She even made the local paper. 

 

Diary Of A Killer Cat by Anne Fine: 

So hang me. I killed the bird. For pity’s sake I’m a cat …

Tufty has a reputation as a cold-blooded murdurer. If it fits through the cat-flap, he’ll kill it and bring it home. When Tufty turns up with next-door’s rabbit, all hell breaks loose. Did Tufty really kill Thumper? Tufty watches with amusement as the humans devise a plan to put Thumper back in his cage before next-door cotton on. 

This is laugh-out-loud funny, and one of the best examples of voice an aspiring writer can find. 

 

The Wildings by Nilanjana Roy: 

The feral cats of Delhi fear no-one. They stick to their territories or pay the price. Now there is a new cat, a pampered house cat with strange powers. And something is stirring in the shuttered house. Something dark and dangerous. 

This may be fantasy, but it is particularly observant of feline behaviour. It is also a bloomin’ good story. I read it with my mouth open. Please tell me if you read this, because I want to talk about this series. 

 

Varjak Paw by SF Said:

Varjak Paw is a Mesopotamiam Blue. His cousins say he is not a good one. Mesopotamiam Blues do not dream of adventure. Varjak and his family live in a large house. When their wealthy owner dies, a strange gentleman comes in with his dangerous cats. Varjak must escape the house, learn the ways of his ancient ancestors and bring a dog back to help his family. 

Varjak learns a code called ‘the way’. It is like ninja-skills for cats, based on real cat behaviours. Literature has previously refered to the secret ways of cats. Cats have a mystique. Varjak Paws uses this to great effect. 

 

The Other Alice by Michelle Harrison:

‘You’re the only person and know. And, well … I’m hungry.’ 

This is the only book on my list which isn’t about cats. It has a great feline character, a talking cat called Tabitha who has come out of a fictional story into the real world. Tabitha may be a talking cat, but it is her feline behaviour which makes her real. Michelle Harrison knows her cats and it shows in the narrative. 

 

Do you have a favourite children’s book about cats? Do you have a feline friend? Let me know in the comments below.

Chat · Lifestyle

7 things which brighten my February

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The tinsel is back in the loft but we’ve still got six weeks of winter. How does that even work out? Like many bloggers this week I am asking myself what is the point of February? Dark mornings. Dull skies. Rain. Endless rain.

We talk about seasons as if they are places we arrive at, fixed destinations when in fact the world is always turning. February is part of that cycle and it seems a pity that so many people want to put it on fast-forward. When I look past the rain there is really quite a lot to love about February. There lies the trick. The sun may not be shining right now but that doesn’t mean we create our own warmth.

This list is by no means exhaustive but here are some of the little things which brighten my world. What’s making your day brighter?bird

String lights: One reason January and February hit people hard is the post-Christmas blues. As winter rolls in we string up tinsel and fairy lights. Our houses twinkle and glitter throughout December. Why is it tradition to take those lights down in the darkest weeks of the year? 

String lights are cheap and cheerful and they bring back some of that festive glow. Suggestion: add string lights to a glass jar.

img_4807Book Post: Publishing people. I love you regardless of whether you send me post. You turn manuscripts into stories, you turn stories into masterpieces and you create something which genuinely makes the world a better place. You’re fantastic guys. BUT. When book post lands in my letter box it brightens my day. Every. Single. Time.

Migratory Geese: I live near a salt marsh. From October through to Spring we share our local area with migratory geese. Twice a day they fly past my house – on their way to feed and as they come in for the evening roost. Right now the geese are gathering ready for migration. This afternoon the sky filled with geese and it was the most beautiful sight.

img_3882Kitty Snuggles: Maisie comes to me when the house is quiet. She’s a Heffalump of a cat who rolls around when she wants a tickle. Willow is Little Miss Dainty Paws. She is a hunter, a burrower. Her favourite thing is to crawl beneath a blanket or dressing gown and snuggle right up to her chosen human. There is no doubt my girls play a big part in my life.

img_4881Cosy Boots: I don’t care what they look like on my feet. My booties are like a hug for my calves and feet. Cosy anything sounds about right. Onesies, leggings and bobble hats are all welcome here.

Bath stuffs: The Body Shop outlet sold off Christmas bubble bath in bundles. I kid you not. Our bathroom is all about frosted plum and vanilla chai. They smell so nice it is a wonder we ever emerge from our bubbly kingdoms.

 

Monty Don:  As much as I love the Solway it isn’t the sunniest place in the world. No worries – Monty Don is bringing paradise gardens right to my living room. Did you know pavilions came into being because nomadic people based them on tents? Dream fodder. 

 

What is brightening your world? Perhaps you enjoy the long, dark nights? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

top ten tuesday

Ten Reasons We Might Fail To Get On With A Book.

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Sometimes we don’t want to finish a book. It’s the dirty secret bookworms believe is theirs and theirs alone. If you organised a confessional, people would come. I swear. We get into such a tizz about our DNFs. Can you imagine people behaving the same way over films or computer games? 

My big secrets:

It is OK to dislike a book

It does not mean you are inferior. It does not mean the book is too literary or political or intelligent for you. 

You are not a snob for disliking a writer’s prose. You are not a snob for disliking certain themes. 

You might like it in the future. You might not. Remember – we bring ourselves to fiction. As we change and grow we need different things from our reading. A character who bored you to tears the first time around might be the one you relate to in ten years. They might not. 

Here are reasons I might fail to finish a book. Do you relate to any of these? Let me know in the comments below. bird

  • A newer book is on our shelves, casting its latest-purchase magic. Even worse? There is a book I do not own but somebody else does. Why is the book I have acquired most recently always the one I want to read? 
  • Dull prose sends me to sleep. The end. 
  • I bought it for the cover. The shiny, shiny cover which the publisher invested heavily in. Other than that it isn’t my thing. 
  • Netgalley made me click-happy and now I am cowering in the face of digital files. 
  • Somebody told me I would love this book. It’s a curse. Speak not the fatal words if you want your friends to enjoy the same book as you. 
  • It appropriates someone else’s experience. I don’t believe you must live an experience to write about it but you must research and be sensitive to the real thing. 
  • I’ve read a-bazillion-and-one books this month. I will never read again. I do not know what reading is. 
  • It’s due back at the library so my reading pace has slowed to snailish. Deadlines. Also a curse
  • Entire GCSES and A-Levels and Degree modules count on me knowing this plot. OK, not relevant right now, but if my understanding of a book is going to be graded my interest in it is nada. Expectations? Curse
  • My book group chose it. Hence I don’t join book groups. That’s deadlines and expectations and I’m-supposed-to-love-it rolled into one. Albeit with tea and biscuits on the side. 
Reflection

One Year Blogging – Reflections

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Happy blog-day to me! This time last year I came home from an author event and started a book blog. What did I expect then? Maybe to connect with 20 or 30 people. To find adults with a theoretical/writing-based interest in children’s literature. In the intervening year my blog has gained 240 followers, and I have an extra 1500 on Twitter.

Thank you to every single follower. You are the reason I write this stuff. I love your feedback and opinions. I love talking to you about books, and hearing whether my review caught your interest. 

 I have made friends, even finally met a couple, and a couple of my quotes have appeared in the front of books I admire. Not bad for my little bloggie.

I don’t dish out blog advice on a regular basis because I have barely started learning and it has been written before. Written better. Occasions like this seem a good time to reflect, and I do think there is value in these posts for people just starting out. When I searched for blog advice last year, the questions I was asking were newbie questions. The things everyone had forgotten about. I also found a lot of conflicting advice. 

Here are some learning-curves I hit. I can’t tell you the answer, because you will have to find your own right. I can tell you about the places where I have had to rethink or revise my approach.    birdNegative Reviews:

The blogging community seems split on what is more difficult, a positive or a negative review. Personally, I find negative reviews harder. The difficulty is:

  • how much to write
  • what purpose your review serves

Some people say you must post them to maintain integrity. Others say you shouldn’t spread your miserable opinions. No subject causes more conflict in the kidlit community. You need to find your own answer, but these tips might help:

  • never tweet an author or publisher into a negative review. Sounds simple, but it happens surprisingly often. I think this is because what you think of as a three-star or fairly enthusiastic review might come across as negative to someone invested in the book. Save author tweets for books you loved.
  • don’t fall back on the cliches. We all do it in our early reviews ‘if I had been this age’ ‘I would have done xyz’ and ‘I would have given it four stars BUT …’ are review cliches. 

 

Network beyond Twitter chats. Networking is about building connections with people. Twitter chats are a great place to start, but it wasn’t until I networked outside of scheduled chats that I made meaningful connections.

 

If you’re looking to build social platforms, you need to be flexible about the content you are willing to include.  If you’re blogging for fun and stats don’t matter to you, write what you like when you like. My blog falls somewhere between. Writing chatty content was a big step towards building my stats.

 

Find the hosting which works for you – I started on Blogger, but didn’t really get going until I moved to WordPress. Free WordPress (.com) is easy to edit, and brings people to your posts through WordPress reader. Now I’m looking at self-hosting options a little too often to pretend I’m not considering it. My storage on free WordPress might see me until the end of the year. After that, I will have to self-host or delete old media. I’m not sold on self-hosting. I would love to redesign my website and have more flexibility to code links in, but free WordPress is like the training pool. It is safe. It is easy. Unless I expand my blog into something other than a hobby, I am not certain I want to move.

 

Use more than one social platform – Twitter is my main social media platform. It is where I have most followers and it is the format I find most useful for connecting with people. Ask yourself where you would be if your main platform closed overnight. I don’t spend hours of time setting up pictures for Instagram, but I have started to build my network. Discord is great for blogger chats.

 

What have you learned in your time as a blogger? Share your reflections below. 🙂