Evie and the Animals by Matt Haig

I am always in awe of those authors who show their talents in so many different ways – Matt Haig is one of those authors. Haig can write with such style, not just for adults but also for children (and even then he can adapt his style).

‘Evie and the Animals’ is a book I believe was inspired by his daughter’s love of animals. It is a great story – in my opinion, for all ages – of a girl who has a love of animals and a special talent that allows them to communicate with her, and vice versa. There is a wonderful emphasis on the importance being special in your own way – that there is no need to try and be like everyone else.

Evie can gather great strength when she knows the truth about her past. And she goes on to use that to save those that she loves – human and animal alike.

This is a glorious adventure with brilliant illustrations from Emily Gravett, which bring even more life to this novel.

We should all remember that we have our own special talents and that they make us the individuals we are today.

Tilly and the Lost Fairytales by Anna James

This is a book that I could not wait to read, having read the first one earlier this year. And this book did not disappoint at all.

Anna James has created the best world for bookworms young and old. As Tilly and her best friend Oskar are bookwanderers and enter books, make friends with characters, and go on adventures. However, as with all great stories, there is an element of danger and mystery along the way.

This time, Tilly and Oskar find themselves caught up in fairy tales. An unusual story, as they do not always have a clear original source but they still hold all the magic of stories. They are a little bit of a mystery but certainly need to be saved for everyone to enjoy. Even if there are those who simply want the magic for themselves.

I genuinely adore these novels; I feel they are like my ultimate fantasy book. We all enter stories every time we open our books and let our imagination take us in an adventure – but, let’s be honest, we would all like characters to really be our friends.

Even better, this is a book that sparked a conversation between me and a bookseller as we discussed how fabulous Anna James’ tales are (and, if I am honest, neither of us are the target audience).

The illustrations and presentation od thse books are stunning, and I can not wait until we go on another adventure with Tilly.

Reading for Pride Month

I have decided that I wanted to try and complete June reading books to celebrate Pride month. This, of course, does not mean I do not read books with LGBTQ+ characters or themes the rest of the year, but it has been good to have a focus this month.

I have based all my choices on books that I have seen on Instagram or in the press. I did not read what they are about before I start, but just dived right in to find out more.

Unintentionally, the first two titles I chose had the same theme, and it has been fascinating to see how two different authors have handled the same theme.

First up is ‘My Brother’s Name is Jessica’ by John Boyne. Aimed at 9-12 year olds this book tackles the issue of Sam having to understand his brother’s desire to transition to become his sister – the person she believes she should always have been.

I was really pleased to find a novel that tackled such a subject for younger readers. Boyne tackles not only the emotions that Sam goes through, but also for so many different people that are impacted by Jason’s secret. You go on an important journey of self-discovery with all all the characters and I am not ashamed to say that I shed a tear or two as I reached the story’s conclusion. Boyne’s writing is so engaging that this was a novel that I struggled to put down.

My second novel this month was ‘Birthday’ by Meredith Russo. This has a similar theme as ‘My Brother’s Name is Jessica’ but is a YA novel. Morgan and Eric have spent every birthday together and have grown up together. However, Morgan has been struggling with a decision: should she live as her true self and will she be accepted if she does? Aimed at older readers, this novel is grittier at times and full of raw emotion. I felt as though I was living every emotion that Morgan and Eric were. And, there are some twists in this tale which make this book a gem and one of the happiest endings I have read in a while. (Although it is an emotional roller coaster).

It is great that there are now so many more books with a diverse set of characters and story lines for younger readers.

Have you read with Pride this month? Any recommendations?

The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Rauf

This book needs to be on every bookshelf in the country. This has to be one of the most wonderful stories I have ever read.

Onjali Q. Rauf has written the Children’s book that needed writing – I could not believe how easily accessiable she has made the issue that she tackles in this novel.

Through the innocent eyes of nine-year-olds, we meet Ahmet – a young refugee boy who is running away from the bullies. And all our young heroes want to do is help him find his family. The most wonderful adventure then unfolds as they attempt to ensure no borders are closed before Ahmet is reunited with his family.

This tale will make you smile and it will make you cry. Tears of happiness as well as of sadness. And this book will stay with you long after you have read the final words.

The thing that made this novel was the fact that the children who befriended Ahmet saw nothing but a friend who needed help, without being influenced by any opinions of others. It also makes it so clear that we can all learn so much from each other and that a multicultural society is one of the best gifts that we have.

This book truly deserved to be a ‘Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize’ winner – but it should never only be read by children. It is a gift that should be read by all to remind us that, metaphorically, we should all make friends with the boy or girl at the back of the class.

Pages and Co – Tilly and the Bookwanderers by Anna Jones

I think I may have found my book of the year (although I did purchase at the end of last year) and, yes, it is Children’s novel, and I have no problem with that at all. ‘Tilly and the Bookwanderers’ will speak to any bookworm or anybody who loved books as a child.

I want to be Tilly because she is a Bookwanderer – and lives in a bookshop – what more could a bibliophile want? Tilly does not just read books – she enters them!! Tilly, and her friend Oskar, really end up in Avonlea with Anne (that’s with an ‘e’) among other fantastic places we encounter through novels. Of course, this wonderful chance for adventure does not come without its risks and dangers. That does not hold back our two adventurers from trying to discover the family secret that has hovered over Tilly all her life. And, of course, there is a shady character in the background attempting to thwart Tilly and Oskar in their mission.

Everything about this book is perfect. The illustrations by Paolo Escabor are delightful and represent the characters and events perfectly. Also, the font and typesetting throughout the novel is used to express some of the events and emotions as you read them. Thus just adds to how delightful this book is to read.

However, what really strikes me about this beautiful book is how much I agree with all the references to how important it is to read and enjoy books as individuals. Yet it is also clear that the enjoyment of books can bring people together too.

So, please, whatever your age, seek out this novel and remind yourself why you fell in love with reading in the first place.

The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

So, the first book of 2019 is completed. It was a gem to start the year – especially as we are all probably looking for a way past winter as we enter January.

Although we all know we should not judge a book by its cover, how can you not be drawn to this stunning cover? Classical and stylish in white, gold and green, it oozes winter fantasy. There is also the figure of the girl which is another delight of this novel: strong female leads (well, they do not have a choice, as all the boys appear to be mysteriously disappearing).

The story is set in perpetual winter, the only season many have known, with spring and summer almost a myth. Mila and her sisters have already lost their father in a mysterious disappearance that, when their brother, Oskar, also disappears on the same night the family have some strange visitors, they decide something is to be done. It leads them on a magical adventure with Rune, the boy mage.

This is a beautifully written tale that whisks you off on a fantastical adventure. Strong female leads can give inspiration to many young readers – after all, we can all go on adventures in our own way.

Which book have you started your 2019 reads with?

The Truth Pixie by Matt Haig

2018 has been a funny old year so far, but one constant has been my enjoyment of books by Matt Haig, both fictional and factual. I did, in fact, read his Children’s Christmas fiction first and was intrigued when this year he released his first Children’s book that really tackled those issues he can be so outspoken about on social media.

Although ‘The Truth Pixie’ is a Children’s book it is a book, I think everyone should read it. The Truth Pixie is a little bit of an unhappy soul at the start of the book. However, her chance encounter with a little girl who is finding things tough helps them both find some happiness. In fact, the truth our pixie friends speaks is a truth about life that we should all try to learn from.

This book, for me, was not only a beautiful read from cover to cover, with great illustrations from Chris Mould, but will also be a little reference guide. You can turn to a number of pages and you will find a spark of inspiration or motivation for any number of difficult situations.

So, I urge adults and children alike to read this book – or why not read it together? After all, most of my fondest memories with those I love are of when we shared a book together!

Tin by Padraig Kenny

Apologies for the delay in blog posts – technical issues meant that everything slowed. However, now we are back in business and we start with ‘Tin’. My lovely friend suggested that this may be a book I would enjoy, so I gave it a go.

The concept was an interesting one – a world of humans loving alongside a world of mechanicals. In some cases, it is difficult to tell them apart – in fact mechanicals are almost seen as a replacement for some lost ones.

However, what really struck me about this novel was its comment on war and the struggle for power that can come with this. The conflict that comes with having a machine that can end war but also the moral dilemma of the additional issues this causes. Now, I may have read too much into this as a children’s novel, but this is why I enjoy books of all genres for all ages as they can be enjoyed and interpreted in so many ways. This, of course, is why reading is the gift that keeps giving.

Additionally, the characters in this book bring some wonderful humour to the story (despite the very serious messages I have suggested it carries). It is an enjoyable read. Another great discovery for 2018.

Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend

A second award winner for April. Nevermoor won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2018 for Younger Fiction, so I decided I needed to give it a go.

The cover is wonderful, you are automatically intrigued about the tale as the blue and gold suggests a beautifully magical world. Centre-stage of the cover is our bold heroine, Morrigan Crow. It is lovely to read another tale with a strong female lead. Morrigan is whisked away, on her eleventh birthday, to Nevermoor by Mr Jupiter North, her guide and protector in this new city. She has to face a series of trials to earn her membership of the mysterious Wunderous Society. To succeed in these trials, Morrigan must use her exceptional talent – whatever that may be. Of course it all results in some exciting, and occasionally scary, adventures with a whole load of colourful characters to encounter along the way.

As you read this tale, you are on all the adventures with Morrigan and her friends. You are almost part of the secret city of Nevermoor, avoiding the Hunt of Smoke and Shadows, and trying to gain your place in the Wunderous Society.

This book would be perfect for any bookworm – especially those readers who may have enjoyed books such as Harry Potter and will go on to become fans of stories such as The Hunger Games. Remember some books can be enjoyed by readers of all ages – and this is one. Who knows where Morrigan’s adventures will take her next?

Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone

This was another title shared by my fellow bookworm Faye. Before we even discuss the book, we need to discuss the absolutely stunning cover. It is true that you should never judge a book by its cover, but this is a stunner! The cover beautifully sums up Erkenwald, our setting, but also it is almost alive with emotion. I adore it and could almost frame it and pop it on the wall.

So, the story: this is another beautiful adventure in a stunning snowy setting. A good versus evil traditional tale – with a wonderful villain in the Ice Queen. There is something a little Narnia-esque about it, so it will not disappoint, especially if you are a fan of ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’.

Erkenwald is in the grip of deadly winter as the Ice Queen’s hold seems to be getting stronger. Our heroes Flint, Erska and Blu are determined to prevent this from happening and return snowy Erkenwald to its rightful people, the traditional tribes.

Along with the support of the animals and mythical creatures of the land, they face danger and adventure as they aim to remove the Ice Queen from the Winterfang Palace. They want peace restored, families restored and the spell to be broken.

It is a lovely read, another novel with a strong female lead, but also the idea that we all have our skills to share. If you like a good old-fashioned adventure novel with a little sprinkle of magic, this is the book for you.