Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Why We Love: There is a Tribe of Kids

Whenever I spot a new picture book at the library that I've already heard about, I have to pick it up. This is exactly what happened with There is a Tribe of Kids, which won the 2017 Kate Greenway medal. 

It follows a young child's attempts to find a group where he fits in: from baby goats, to turtles, to - finally - a tribe of children.

There are some brilliant collective nouns in this story. The words are sparse, but cleverly used and we loved the illustrations. There's also lots to discuss as you read, in terms of loneliness and belonging. It's a really lovely book and one that I will be disappointed to return next week. 

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Strange the Dreamer

Laini Taylor is one of those author's whose book I will buy without reading the synopsis - I know they're going to be amazing, no matter what they're about. They're also usually so beautiful that I have to buy them in hardcover rather than as ebooks, so can admire how pretty they are on my shelf. Strange the Dreamer didn't disappoint in either of these criteria.

“You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable," she pleaded. "Something beautiful and full of monsters."

“Beautiful and full of monsters?"

“All the best stories are.” 

Lazlo Strange has been obsessed with the city of Weep for as long as he can remember. A librarian and a dreamer, he longs to journey to the lost city and discover its secrets. But this is a story of godspawn and monsters, of alchemy and nightmares; sometimes fulfilling your dreams brings much, much more than you ever imagined. 

“It was impossible, of course. But when did that ever stop any dreamer from dreaming.” 

Taylor's writing is a whole other level of beautiful. She has such a clever way with words and her novels are a joy to read as a result. I'm sure I will be flicking back through this purely to enjoy her wonderful writing. 

“I turned my nightmares into fireflies and caught them in a jar.”

I loved the dual perspectives of this book: some chapters focused on Lazlo, while others followed Sarai, the daughter of a god, trapped in a citadel floating above the city of Weep. No one knows that she, or her siblings, are there and they need it to stay that way. 

“Without his books, his room felt like a body with its hearts cut out.”

There were some brilliant plot twists in this novel, some I saw coming, others I didn't. And the ending is just... Well, I can't really say anything without major spoilers, but it's superb and has left me desperate to find out what happens in book two. I'm so disappointed that I went to YALC the day before Taylor was there, as I would have loved to meet her.

First non-picture book review in a while! I have a lot of these to catch up on, so expect regular updates and a few writing related posts too. I've been busy recently completing a Faber Academy writing course, which I'll post about very soon. I hope everyone's having a lovely summer!

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Why We Love: Sleeping Handsome and the Princess Engineer

It should come as no surprise that I love a fairytale retelling, especially one with gender reversals! 

Sleeping Handsome is cursed. If he ever touches a pointy thing he will fall asleep for a hundred years, and can only be woken by the gift of cleverness. Luckily, Princess Anya is clever enough to find his castle - now she just has to wake him up. 

Sleeping Handsome was a really funny take on the original tale. It was modern and feminist - especially the twist at the end. I will definitely be looking out for the other stories in this series. 

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Why We Love: Use Your Imagination

I had been eyeing this one up in Waterstones for a while, so was pleased when I found it in the library. Use Your Imagination is the story of a bored little bunny rabbit and the wolf who offers to help entertain him with a story. A story where rabbit is the hero and wolf is the bad guy. Can rabbit use his imagination to get himself out of a tricky situation before it's too late? 

We had a lot of fun reading Use Your Imagination. We especially liked the end and the large, pull out page. 

Noisy Crow also includes a QR at the front of the book which will take you to an audio version of the story. This was a really interesting way to enjoy the story and was useful after I'd already read so many books that my voice was beginning to go!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Why We Love: Rain

Rain is a story about patience, and learning that waiting for the right time to enjoy something can make it even more fun. It is a story that any child who has been stuck inside watching rain pour down the window outside will be able to relate to and the beautiful artwork makes it a real treat to read. 

Saturday, 1 July 2017

The Crown

The Crown by Keira Cass

When Eadlyn became the first princess of Illéa to hold her own Selection, she didn’t think she would fall in love with any of her thirty-five suitors. She spent the first few weeks of the competition counting down the days until she could send them all home. But as events at the palace force Eadlyn even further into the spotlight, she realizes that she might not be content remaining alone.Eadlyn still isn’t sure she’ll find the fairytale ending her parents did twenty years ago. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and soon Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more impossible—and more important—than she ever imagined. {goodreads summary}

The final novel in the selection series was everything I hoped it would be.

As with the Heir, I really enjoyed seeing the selection process turned on its head. Eadlyn is a great character and the outcome of her selection is exactly what I wanted. I'm really disappointed that this series has come to an end, but I can't wait to see what Cass works on next.

“Maybe it's not the first kisses that are supposed to be special. Maybe it's the last ones.”

The boys in the selection were well developed and even though I had a strong favourite, I still really liked the rest and cared about what happened to them at the end. Probably due to the change in perspective, it felt as though there was less animosity in the group than in America's selection.

“I’m Eadlyn Schreave, and no one in the world is as powerful as me,” I blurted without thought.

He nodded. “Damn right you are.” 

I also enjoyed Eadlyn's character development in this book, although she was still flawed at the end (which is great because perfect YA heroines can get a bit annoying - I like someone I can find fault with).

“It was a delicious feeling, falling in love. I'd had so many luxuries in my life, and I thought I'd had a taste of this before, but I realized now it was merely a cheap imitation of something not meant to be imitated in the first place.” 

The world building and politics is really strong and had me thinking about the way realms are ruled in YA novels for some time after I'd finished reading. I wonder what the obsession with monarchies is? Interestingly, fantasy seems to be the home of kings and queens, while dystopia and sci-fi are normally ruled by dictators. Politics is such an integral part of so many YA novels, which is one of the reasons I love YA books so much, but it would be great to see more democracies represented in YA fiction - especially as they can have just as many flaws as monarchies and dictatorships, and I think discussing these would be of real value to teenage readers; particularly in the current political climate.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Why We Love: Fabulous Pie

We first discovered Fabulous Pie on CBeebies story time, where it was read by Nadiya Hussain. This funny, repetitive story appealed to my little girl straight away and we watched it every night that it remained on iPlayer. I was really excited when I found it on my next trip to the library, so we could continue to read it during the day. 

Fabulous Pie tells the story of a very bad bear, who bakes a very big pie. But what is he planning to put inside it? The berries, honey and fish collected for him by helpful woodland animals, or something much more sinister? 

Fabulous Pie is really fun to read aloud and for weeks afterwards, you'll find yourself quoting it every time someone mentions pie!