Thursday, 28 June 2012

Review - The Other Side of Truth

The Other Side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo

The Other Side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo
I am interested in stories about contemporary Africa that are suitable for older children. So when I spotted The Other Side of Truth in the library a couple of weeks back, I picked it up in a shot.  And if you see it in yours, I’d recommend you borrow it too.

The Other Side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo was a Carnegie medal winner in 2000. That meant it was probably well-written but it could also mean that it was full of ‘issues’.  Being Beverley Naidoo, of course there were going to be ‘issues’. Her earlier novel, Journey to Jo’burg had been banned by the South African government during apartheid.  And, yes, The Other Side of Truth tackles very big issues. It deals with political murder, smuggling, racism, bullying and political asylum in the UK – and it does it sensitively and very well.

The Other Side of Truth literally starts with a bang in Nigeria and it swiftly moves on to London. It tells the story of two Nigerian children, Sade (12) and Femi (10), who find themselves caught up in a growing web of lies in a strange country without their parents after their mother is killed in Nigeria. Sade is tormented by these lies because her mother had always taught her how important honesty was.  Now, Sade finds that being honest isn’t always so easy when there are life or death issues at stake.

The story is written as a bit of an adventure but deals with the real life issues of asylum seekers. Sade especially proves herself to be a worthy heroine as she holds herself responsible for ensuring their father's safety - even at her and Femi's expense. 
Most readers will warm to Sade and Femi immediately because these characters find themselves in really awful and heartwrenching situations more than once.  Will it ever get better for them? Despite the big issues that this book takes on, it is an easy read.  What I particularly liked about this story was that there are some really nice adult characters too. It is a very hopeful story and I highly recommend it. If I had a list of ‘best books for children/teens’, this would be on it.

Publication details:
2000, Puffin, London, paperback

This copy: borrowed from public library

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Victoria Eveleigh interview & book giveaway!

If you’ve read Little M’s review of A Stallion Called Midnight, you’ll know that it’s a story about much more than horses and ponies.  You’ll also know that she loved it! But did you know that Midnight was based on a real Lundy island pony?

We’re delighted to welcome author Victoria Eveleigh to our blog where she answers some of Little M’s burning questions.  And at the end of the interview, we’re excited to host our first book giveaway!!

Author Victoria Eveleigh and a lovely friend!
Little M: What made you start liking horses?

Victoria: Some of my earliest memories are of horses and ponies. I was brought up in London, so the first horses I ever saw were police horses and the horses from the local army barracks who passed by the end of our road when they were being exercised. Also, there was a rag and bone man who used to come down our street with a pony and cart (that shows how old I am!) and I loved his pony.

I couldn’t wait to start riding, but I wasn’t allowed to have lessons until I was six years old. My first riding lessons were around Hyde Park in London on a pony called Jenny. I was fond of all animals, but horses were always extra special – and still are.

I can’t really pin down why I like horses so much, but here are some of the reasons: riding is great fun, horses are beautiful, I like their company, I love the smell of them and the sounds they make, they fascinate me and there’s always something new to learn from them.

Little M: Why is Midnight called Midnight when he is not a black horse?

Victoria: Phew! That’s an easy one: Midnight was called Midnight because he had midnight-blue eyes.

Little M: Did the real Midnight ever get properly tamed?

Victoria: No, the real Midnight was always pretty wild, and nobody managed to ride him. However, Peggy Garvey (the lady who gave him a home on the mainland for several years before he died) trained him to accept a head collar so she could lead him. She told me he was never easy to handle, though.

Little M: Did you or any of your children ever go to boarding school?

Victoria: I went to a boarding school in Kent when I was a teenager. I was very lucky because I made some good friends and enjoyed my time there. However, it can’t have been much fun for people who were homesick or found it difficult to make friends. Our children went to a local school every day. We live on an isolated farm miles away from the nearest secondary school. They had to spend two hours on the school bus every day, so sometimes they wished they were boarding!

Little M: Will there be a sequel to A Stallion Called Midnight?

Victoria: I’m not planning to write one at the moment, but you never know...

Little M:  When did you first start writing?

Victoria: I always enjoyed writing letters at boarding school, partly because if you wrote letters you were more likely to get some sent to you. (As in A Stallion Called Midnight, the letter rack was a very important thing at boarding school.)

However, I studied sciences for A levels and at university, so I wrote essays rather than stories for a long time. Essays are like stories to a certain extent, though, because they have a similar structure (introduction, main part and conclusion) so in some ways writing essays taught me how to write stories. I think my scientific training made me keen on facts and being precise, which is why I always try to get my facts right in my stories and make them realistic. I wouldn’t be comfortable writing fantasies, but I admire people who do.

I wrote my first story, about a girl and an Exmoor pony, during the foot and mouth crisis in 2001. It was a terrible time for livestock farmers. Our sheep and cattle didn’t get foot and mouth on our farm, but we were so anxious not to get it that we kept our children at home for a whole term, didn’t have any visitors to the farm and only went out when we really had to. The result was that I had the time to write the story which had been forming in my head for several years.  I published it myself.


Thank you very much Victoria!

Victoria is in the middle of writing a brand new trilogy for Orion.  Horses and ponies will still be a central theme but they will have a boy as the main character.  She also has a lovely horsey website.

Book Giveaway!!!!
Orion Children’s Books are sponsoring our first ever book giveaway! 
There are 3 copies of Victoria Eveleigh’s A Stallion Called Midnight up for grabs. So that means, 3 winners!!

All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post.
Or you can send an e-mail with A Stallion Called Midnight Competition in the subject line: wesatdown2 [at] gmail [dot] com.

The competition closes on Friday 6 July 2012 @ 17h00.
Winners will be announced on this blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter on Saturday 7 July 2012.
If you haven't left a way for us to contact you, please do check back to see if you have won.

This giveaway is UK only and is open to readers 13 and older.  If you are younger, please get your parent’s permission to enter (or ask them to enter for you). Winners are picked at random.

Good luck!!

PS. If you want to find out if you think you'll like this book, you can read Little M's review.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Little M's Review - A Stallion Called Midnight

A Stallion Called Midnight by Victoria Eveleigh

A Stallion Called Midnight - Victoria Eveleigh

Jenny is going to learn how to ride, but to do that she must leave the wild stallion Midnight on the island and go to the mainland. But there is a catch; her Father has always said she should get a good education and that cannot be achieved on the island. So Jenny is going to go to boarding school and she is leaving the island and Midnight.
Jennie’s dream is to be able to ride Midnight, but because he is a wild stallion she has no idea how she will. But when people come to take Midnight to the main land to be tamed and sold, Jennie’s heart breaks. How is she going to live without him!!! Poor Midnight is on a boat to the mainland and Jenny can’t do anything to save him.
Once in boarding school she meets a girl called Fran; Fran becomes Jennie’s best friend. Then when the half term holidays come her boat is cancelled because of the bad weather, so she must stay at the boarding school. Everything is so miserable for Jenny till Albert comes and takes her back to where he lives on the mainland. Albert is one of the light house guards on the island but he and his family mainly live on the mainland. Albert has a son called Ben who is a few years older than Jenny, but when they met on the island they instantly started talking.
Jenny and Ben had been trying to tame Midnight with a halter that had been hand made by Ben. But before they could finish Midnight had been taken to the mainland. Now on the mainland they are both going to try and get Midnight back....
I adore the little foal Gale. She sounds so nosey and all she wants is attention. I can’t believe Gale managed to survive the storm; she must have been so weak.
I loved this book because it was not 100% pony mad, but had other aspects to it like when Jenny has to make friends and make a decision whether to stay with Fran in London or stay at the boarding school. It also had the most important thing in the world in it which is love. You could see how much Jenny loved her Mother but also let Sheila in.   
This book made me think about the way people treat animals with respect. Like in the book, Jenny thinks it is not right to own a horse; it is like someone owning you.
I even think my Mum would like this book. 

Publication details:
Orion, June 2012, London, paperback
This copy: review copy from the publishers

Exciting!!! Tomorrow, Tues 26 June, we'll be giving having our first book giveaway!!!! And Victoria Eveleigh tells us some very interesting things too. 
See you tomorrow!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Take a look at the books we got #14

Here we join in with blogger memes like In My Mailbox (IMM) at The Story Siren  and the new British-based Letterbox Love to share the books that we recently bought, borrowed or received through the post.

From the library:

The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett.  This was on the Carnegie shortlist and recommended to us. I don't know much about the plot other than it's wartime and about two brothers.

For review (lots of historical and quite a few from Bloomsbury this week):

The Horse Road by Troon Harrison. Combining history and the horse; could tick lots of boxes for both of us.  It's set in 102BC in Central Asia during the Chinese invasion.  And it's intended to be an equestrain adventure with a 13 year old girl as the main character.  Looking forward to this. From Bloomsbury, this one's already been in store for months.

The Broken Road by BR Collins.  Yes, two books with 'road' in the title. Another historical teen novel from Bloomsbury, this one's about the Children's Crusades in 1212.

Scarlet by AC Gaughen. Will scarlet is a she and retells the story (romantically) of Robin Hood. You know me, always like a bit of gender mix-ups. It was published this month by Bloomsbury.

Velvet by Mary Hooper. A 16 year old laundress gets mixed up with a medium who speaks with the spirits. Something caught my eye on this one but I'm not sure what it is....This is being published by Bloomsbury in July.

And speaking of 'seeing', next up is The Seeing by Diana Hendry.  It's about a teen who has 'second sight' and can see 'leftover Nazis' and he and some friends decide to root them out.  It starts out as a game but ends up as something else. It is said to be thrilling and disturbing.  Little M says the cover makes her think of ghosts.  For me, it looks like Harry Potter. This is being published by Bodley Head in July.

Then we have thieves. Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter is the second in the Heist Society series from Orchard.  We haven't read the first book but the central character is Kat, a high class art thief. This one involves a Cleopatra gem and curses.  Reminds me a bit of Nancy Drew and the BBC's Hustle.

And coming out in October from Hodder, we have a proof copy of Obsidian Mirror by Catherine Fisher, author of Incarceron. This one includes finding a killer, stange truths and visiting and changing the past.  Looking forward to this one.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Gill Lewis chat

We Sat Down for a chat....with Gill Lewis

We are so delighted to welcome Leeds Book Award winner, Gill Lewis, to our blog. Gill is the author of Sky Hawk and White Dolphin
Today, we've asked her a bit about writing White Dolphin, being a vet, writing in treehouses and accidents on the Zambezi!  Her answers are a real treat for everyone! 

Gill Lewis as a vet

Little M: What made you want to write White Dolphin?

Gill: It's difficult to pin-point the reason I wanted to write White Dolphin. I think much of the inspiration came from childhood holidays on the Gower where my father grew up and kept a small boat for many years. I have many fond memories of going out on the Lougher Estuary and listening to the calls of the wild marsh birds and sleeping under the stars in that boat.
White Dolphin is dedicated to my parents and to our boat. I also spent some years working as a vet in Cornwall and was inspired by the landscape, the wildlife and the people.

In fact, White Dolphin was initially going to be a story for much younger readers about a girl who could 'talk' with dolphins. But the more I researched, I realised that a more powerful story could be told by keeping the dolphin true to its own nature.

My research also revealed the fragility of our endangered ecosystems beneath the waves. I was shocked to discover that less than 1 percent of the oceans has some form of protection. Overfishing and pollution pose huge threats to marine environments. For many years our sea beds have been 'out of sight and out of mind'. However we are beginning to realise just how much damage has been done and that by taking measures now, we can restore the balance before it is too late. Just recently, Sir David Attenborough has issued a plea to then government to secure 127 marine protected areas around our coasts. So, I suppose, in the end, I wanted to write a story about the threats facing our marine environment, and to use a dolphin to tell that story.
Little M: Why did you pick a white dolphin?

Gill: I chose a white dolphin for a few reasons. Partly, I needed the dolphin to be recognisable. I did consider giving the dolphin a distinctive notch in the dorsal fin, but as I wrote the story, I liked the idea of Kara looking for signs she thinks are connected with her mother. Hence the white dove feather, then cowrie shell and then ultimately the white dolphin. Albino animals are quite rare in the wild, but they do exist. An albino orca, thought to be about sixteen years of age has recently been sighted off the coast of Russia.

Little M: How did you come up with the characters’ names?

Gill: The character's names…sometimes names just pop into my head and feel 'right' from the very beginning. Sometimes I have to work hard at finding a name. Kara's name was quite easy, as it is the Cornish meaning for 'Love', and it is love that threads through the story. The boat is named Moana, from the Maori name for 'ocean'. Aunt Bev's name came from a friend's mother whose character is very similar! I'm not saying who, though!

Gill Lewis and her writing treehouse
M: You write in a treehouse!  That’s amazing.  How did this come about?

Gill: I do write in the tree house…in the summer! It's too cold in winter. I have had some unwelcome visitors…firstly the squirrels' nest and more recently an overwintering hornet. There is only one way out from the treehouse and my exit was blocked by a massive angry hornet! I like writing in the treehouse because it has no internet, so I can't get distracted by Twitter/ Facebook etc.

M: Have you ever swum with dolphins?

Gill: I have never swum with dolphins although I would love to swim with them in the wild. I have been very close to them in boats and the thrill of seeing them leaping alongside never leaves me. I have swum with seals around the Scilly Isles. It was a magical feeling as they twisted and turned around me, pulling at my flippers with their teeth.

M: Do you still work as a vet?

Gill: I don't work as a vet the moment. :0(  I wouldn't have time with writing and also being a mum too, although I do miss it. Luckily my husband is a vet too, so I help him out from time to time, so I feel I still keep in contact with veterinary work. I do miss meeting the owners and their animals, but I don't miss being woken up for calls at 2am though!

Gill Lewis and rescue pony Murray
M: What was one of your most memorable vet experiences?

Gill: There are so many memorable vet experiences, from scary to sad to heartwarming, life affirming moments. But there is one moment that particularly stays with me, because it was at a time of change and I felt I was a witness to some of it. Cornwall is a rural county with many dairy farms, some suckler herds of cattle and sheep farms. Once, there were many small family run farms with small herds, but as profitability in the farming industry decreased, farming  intensified; big farms became bigger and many of the small farms were pushed out of business.

I remember visiting a farm high on Bodmin Moor to inspect every cow in the farmer's herd for a particular disease. I couldn't drive up to the farm, as there was only a very rough track. After walking half a long muddy mile, I found the farmer sitting on a milking stool, milking a cow by hand into a bucket. I really felt I had stepped back in time. The farmer had no holding facility for his cows, except for an old cowshed where his cows were fed.

When I arrived, the twenty cows of his herd were all out in the field next to the barn, and I remember feeling exasperated thinking I'd have to go and help bring them in, and I had other calls that day too. So I asked him how would we get his cows into the barn, and he asked which cow I wanted first.

Then he proceeded to call each cow by name. When he called out 'Daisy!', one cow put her head up and ambled in. This happened for each cow. Each knew her own name. After examining all his cows I was invited into the farmhouse to have a cup of tea, and there, standing in the middle of the kitchen was one of the cows, eating cabbage peelings out of the sink as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

At the time, it seemed I was witnessing a piece of passing history, a farmer in tune with his environment and his animals set against a world of increased intensive farming. However, in recent years there seems of have been a slight shift, towards organic farming,  less intensive land use and increased welfare for animals. It's something I hope will continue.

M: Have you got any tips for readers who would like to become vets?

Gill: For readers who want to be vets…firstly, it's a great job. You come into contact with so many interesting animals and people and have the opportunity to travel to some amazing places. I would say, however, to keep your options open. If you want to be a vet, the chances are that you love animals, and so it’s worth considering other jobs where you work with animals, such as RSPCA inspector, wildlife photographer, ecologist, marine biologist, veterinary nurse, working with horses etc.

There is a lot of competition for places at vet school, so you have to be dedicated and usually have to achieve high grades in three sciences at A level. This shouldn't put you off if you are very determined. I didn't get the grades I needed at first and had to re-take my A- levels. It seemed a huge slog at the time, but was definitely worth it. Also, if you have work experience days, ask about visiting a local veterinary surgery. You usually have to be in year 10 plus to do this. Work experience can give you a useful insight into the job.

M: What did you do when your canoe split in two on the Zambezi?

Gill: Ah ha…when my canoe split in two in the Zambezi! I didn't actually learn of the canoe's fate until a little later in the day. I was paddling the same canoe as my husband. Unbeknown to us, our canoe party approached some rapids, and we were in a situation where we were in the middle of a wide stretch of river and had no choice but to head straight down the rapids. Everything was going to plan, except for the fact that the canoe had no spray decks (to keep water out of the canoe) and no buoyancy within.

So water filled up in the canoe and the canoe sank, leaving us swirling down the rapids. We were then stuck on a small rock in the middle of the Zambezi for several hours awaiting rescue. Luckily there were no crocodiles or hippos around to keep us company!

Rescue came in the form of a fisherman whose own boat then broke down and we were drifting toward the Victoria Falls. We managed to paddle to the Zimbabwean side of the river, but then had problems getting back to the Zambian side as we didn't have our passports! The worst thing was losing my camera to the Zambezi as I had taken some lovely shots of elephants crossing the river and a huge monitor lizard and beautiful bee-eater. 

M: And in case you're wondering what Gill is reading right now? 

Gill: I'm reading Gangsta Granny with my youngest and the illustrated Life of Pi with my eldest at the moment!


Gill, thank you so much for these answers and photos. They were really interesting!

You can find out more about Gill Lewis on her website - it's in the treehouse! 
You can read Little M's reviews of Sky Hawk and White Dolphin
And, for younger readers or teachers, you can find activities linked to both books on the Reading Agency's Chatterbooks site.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Little M's Review - White Dolphin

White Dolphin by Gill Lewis
White Dolphin by Gill Lewis
White Dolphin is based on a girl called Kara. Kara and her father have been living with her aunt and uncle in Cornwall. A year ago Kara’s mother disappeared when she was on a trip to help save the ocean from being dredged. Now Kara has to face life without her mother but she is so scared about her beloved boat being sold.
A new boy named Felix arrived at school one day. He and his father are thinking about buying the boat that Kara and her father own. At first Kara hates Felix but when a white injured dolphin appears they become really good friends.
Can they stop the people from dredging the sea bed and can they save the white dolphin?!!!!!!
My favourite character was Felix; Felix is a boy who is willing to do what he wants even though he has a problem with the movement of his legs and one arm. He loves the sea and wishes he can one day enter boat racing in the Paralympics with Kara.
I really thought this book is one of the best books Gill Lewis has ever written. I even think it is better than Sky Hawk. I give Gill Lewis a massive pat on the back because this book was a heart moving tale about a girl who is determined to save animals lives and never give up hope. I thought this book was sad in some parts like when Dougie has started dredging the reef. But I think this story has lots of hope in it too.
This book is suitable for any person who wants to read about how animals are so important in life and people who love Michael Morpurgo and Gill Lewis.

Publication details:
Oxford University Press, 2012, Oxford, paperback
This copy: review copy from OUP

And look out for an interview with Gill Lewis here tomorrow: find out what happens when your canoe snaps on an African river and other funny stories.  And some wonderful pics too!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Review - All Fall Down

All Fall Down by Sally Nicholls

All Fall Down by Sally Nicholls
In a really bittersweet sort of way, I loved this book. 

All Fall Down is a tale about survival during the Black Death of 1349. The Black Death, or pestilence as it is referred to in the novel, was brought about by a deadly illness that spread through Europe killing at least a third of its population. Nobody knew of a cure. Once you had it, you died. That was that.  And it spread like wildfire. So the thought of it arriving in a town near you, or in your village, or in your household was horrifically terrifying.

And so fourteen year old Isabel picks up the tale in her Yorkshire village of Ingleforn. The village has heard of this pestilence – all sorts of stories and some that are most likely untrue. They’re not too sure what to believe and some of them live day by day in denial that it even exists.  And then they hear rumours that it is on the road from York, coming towards them, towards Ingleforn…

Just like the way that Isabel describes the pestilence, All Fall Down will sniff its way around your body, it will slip itself under your skin and bury itself deep in your bones and your heart.  It’s a dark and mournful story and you may well want to shake it off.  In fact, the first few pages are a bit difficult.  There are a lot of characters and place names (I got confused, mushy brain!) and a lot of unfamiliar words from the time like pestilence, murrain, solar (but there’s also a glossary at the back). But the chapters are really short so it's also easy to take a break if you want to - I didn't!

And then how can you stop when Isabel says “We knew then that 1349 would be terrible. But nobody could have imagined quite how terrible it was going to be” (p.4)? You know it’s going to be bad but you’ll want to know just how bad and how they coped with it. Because what Sally Nicholls does really well, is create an attachment between the reader and the characters. There’s Isabel, Robin, Will, Alice, Geoffrey and a good few more. I bet you will get choked up and cry a few tears for each and every one of them. Isabel is a really fine character but so are Robin, Alice, Walt and Geoffrey. Oh, and Simon too!

While All Fall Down is an historical novel about death and survival during the Black Death, there is also a wonderful coming-of-age element to the story. It explores the difficult choices that young adults are faced with as they start to realise their own individual identities and discover what love, family relationships and even romance might mean in their lives. And the Black Death was a time to ask some big moral, ethical and religious as well as practical day-to-day questions.

What do you do when a baby’s parents have died? Do you risk your own health and the health of your family to rescue it?  What about people who are going to die but haven’t been seen by a priest? Will they go to hell? Should you do something about this? Should you feed them?  How brave should you be?  How compassionate should you be? Is being brave and compassionate stupid – or maybe even selfish? Are there some things in life that a woman just shouldn’t be allowed to do? These are the sorts of things that Isabel suddenly has to deal with. Could you do this at fourteen?

And if you were fourteen and you know that you might not live for much longer, what is the one thing you would wish for? Should Isabel feel guilty about her wish?

All Fall Down is one of my favourite reads so far this year. Like RJ Palacio’s Wonder, it’s a story that almost any age could read and enjoy. However, while everything is very sensitively dealt with in this novel, there are themes of illness and death that might be unsuitable for some younger readers. Anyone who enjoyed SD Crockett’s After the Snow will probably enjoy this too.

Publication details:
Marion Lloyd Books (Scholastic), 2012, paperback

This copy: our own

Monday, 18 June 2012

A Random Mad Hatters Tea Party

Random House Childrens Publishers Summer Blogger Brunch – London, 16 June 2012

Last Saturday, I attended an event at Random House in London. Random introduced us to their forthcoming Children’s and Young Adult titles, took us through their cover design process, brought in sisters from Vintage, had us in stitches, fed us cake, and sent us away with a goody bag of books.

Here are some of my highlights from their Mad Hatters Tea Party menu!

RHCP Mad Hatters Tea Party menu

Dodger’s Carrot Cake
The word is that Terry Pratchett’s next treasure, Dodger, will be published on 13th September 2012.

The Queen of Hearts’ Jam Tarts
Yes, Alice in Wonderland herself – at least in book form. Vintage is launching a Children’s Classics range in August that will have 20 -30 titles.  Included are some all-time favourites like Alice but some more contemporary inclusions are Swallows and Amazons, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (12+) and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (12+). These editions will have new maps in them and a Backstory section (that might be similar to the Harper Collins’ Essential Modern Classics series). If Vintage’s adult Classics are anything to go by, these editions are likely to appeal to cover fundies too. The World of Stories, a new children’s book website will be launched simultaneously –– aimed at 8-12 year old bookworms.

Vintage Children's Classics: World of Stories

Speaking of Alice, there was also…..

Posh Pink Lemonade
Laura Dockrill - pretty (funny...and) in pink
Plenty of this not least of which came in the form of Laura Dockrill, whose children’s tween book debut, Darcy Burdock, publishes in 2013. 

Laura read from her manuscript…..yawn. NOT!!
If ever there was a born entertainer, Laura is one.  She had us all chortling away.  Darcy Burdock certainly sounds like it’s going to be a really, really, really funny read. And if there’s an audiobook (which they say there will be), snap that up because listening to Laura is fantastic.

Laura is also involved with the Ministry of Stories, a fabulous organisation that offers creative writing courses and mentoring to young people in east London .  She knows a couple of your favourite popstars and she and Katy Perry share a shoemaker.  Killer red heels, neon pink tights, polka dotty dress, lipstick, eyelashes and a crowning glory.  Really, she is Alice in Wonderland who uses a looking glass and I think she could very possibly turn out to be next year’s Queen of Teen.  We’ll just have to wait and read…

And last but not least, Hotcake Picks – for Me!:
Of all the new books that were presented, these are the ones that I'll be looking out for:
  • Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick (about children and the Khymer Rouge’s Killing Fields in 1970s Cambodia; coming August 2012)
  • The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket (about a normal boy who floats; from author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas; coming August 2012)
  • Muddle and Win: The Battle of Sally Jones by John Dickinson (lighthearted comedy about a battle raging in Sally’s head that’ll affect her lifetime deeds score for getting into either heaven or hell; coming August 2012)
  • Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone (pitched as The Time Traveler’s Wife for teens, I’ll say no more; coming October 2012).

Thank you to the editors, publicists and designers from Random House and Vintage for inviting me.  It was a thoroughly entertaining day.

Not to mention all those bloggers I eventually met too: Raimy, Hannah, Carly, Jesse, Sarah (yes, we had a strong Candor contingent there!), Sophie, Viv, Lucy, Clover and more! What a lovely bunch they are.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Take a look at the books we got #13

Our thirteenth week of joining in with blogger memes like In My Mailbox (IMM) at The Story Siren  and the new British-based Letterbox Love to share the books that we recently bought, borrowed or received through the post. And what a lot we got got this week (but no still no Smarties)!  But there's a lot that'll take you to the seventies!
Bought & Gifted to Little M:
We've  gone all retro here - 1970s but with updated covers. From the horsey series read long ago and by an author whose tales we both love - Follyfoot by Monica Dickens. And Iggie's House by Judy Blume - another one from the past with a story about new black neighbours in a white 1960s street. 

Not quite the '70s anymore, we've made it to the 21st century with Raspberries on the Yangtze by Karen Wallace - a coming-of-age novel set not in China but in Canada; Morpurgo calls it Swallons and Amazons for the 21st century!

And another Sophie McKenzie - The Medusa Project: The Set-Up: a story about four teenagers who were implanted with the Medusa gene at birth.

Talking of updated covers, we found a proof (seriously!) of Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl with the 2011 cover. Have heard so many good, good things about this but neither of us have read anything by Colfer yet.

For Review:

Three titles for tweens:
A Stallion Called Midnight by Victoria Eveleigh - a story about a wild stallion called Midnight who won't be trained.  What caught our eye most on this one (apart from the horse of course) was that it is inspired by a real horse called Midnight who lived on the island of Lundy.  And watch out, we have an interview with the author and a book giveaway from Orion coming up soon. Being published by Orion next week on 21 June.

Tiger Wars by Steve Backshall - What happens when the predator becomes the prey? This is an action adventure story about two teenagers who become eco-warriors. Steve Backshall is a wildlife and children's presenter. This was recently published by Orion in May.

Black Tide by Caroline Clough. This is a sequel to Red Fever which we have not read but the publisher thinks that Black Tide is also suitable to read on its own. This is another action-adventure story set in Scotland about a boy who needs to do quite a bit of rescuing. Published in June by Kelpies.

And for the olderYA set:
Pushing the Limits by Kate McGarry, another gritty US contemporary being published in the UK by Mira Ink in August. It's about a good girl and a bad boy who have issues and social workers - and they set out to confront their pasts. She was attacked and left scarred. He's a foster child. I suspect this one will be really gritty.

And then from Random House Childrens Publishers:

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick: The Killing Fields. For those of you who've watched the film, you've got goosebumps right now, haven't you!? My gut feeling is this is going to be a tearjerker the whole way through. It's a fictional account based on the true story of Arn-Chorn-Pond, a boy who survived the atrocities of the Khymer Rouge's Killing Fields in Cambodia in the 1970s. I'm dropping everything else to read this next.  It publishes in August.

Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone.  Described as The Time Traveler's Wife for teens.  A big, bold claim but I don't need to know anything more to give this one a go.  It publishes in October.

Now is Good by Jenny Downham. No, it's not a new Jenny Downham.  It's Before I Die being published under the same title as the film which is coming out (starring Dakota Fanning). Tessa is 16 and this is her 'before-I-die' list.  Number one on the list, is the s-e-x word. It publishes in August.

Thanks for these, Random House, but please can I have a box of tissues now? No, instead they've sent me a whole box of fun.  Look:

Muddle and Win: The Battle for Sally Jones by John Dickinson - Time for a light read and a laugh now. This is a funny story about having lifetime deedcounters. You get points added and deducted based on the deeds you do and your final score decides whether you go to heaven or hell.  But there's a real weird battle going on in Sally Jones' head. It publishes in August.

And from Vintage, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Needs no introduction but this is one of the titles from Vintages new Children's Classics series which launches in August.

Friday, 15 June 2012

We Sat Down for a chat....about forced marriages

We're delighted to welcome author Sufiya Ahmed to our blog to talk about forced marriages and other important issues that she raises in her novel, Secrets of the Henna Girl (our review) .

Author Sufiya Ahmed
M: What inspired you to write this important novel about forced marriages?

Sufiya: I worked for a number of years as a parliamentary researcher in the House of Commons. Whilst there I met some very brave women, survivors of forced marriages, who were lobbying MPs for better support in their campaign against forced marriages. I found these women to be inspirational and courageous and I listened, observed and decided that a British girl’s forced marriage experience was a story that had to be told.

M: Can you explain the difference between a forced and arranged marriage?

Sufiya: A forced marriage is one in which an individual or both individuals do not wish to marry each other and is forbidden in all religions. An arranged marriage is one in which two people are introduced to each other through traditional methods, and is a marriage that both individuals enter willingly.

M: Your novel, Secrets of the Henna Girl, explores the importance of female bonding, friendships and support.  Can you say more about what ‘sisterhood’ means to you?

Sufiya: Sisterhood to me is about valuing women’s rights and sharing those rights. It means having empathy for women who don’t have access to the opportunities most of us take for granted. The freedom, the right to choose, being in charge of our own destiny. Sisterhood is about helping our more disadvantaged sisters by sharing our knowledge and our political power.

M: What does fatherhood mean to you?

Sufiya: My father’s name is Farook and he has only ever been three things to me: protective, loving and proud. Fathers are meant to protect their daughters from harm and make them feel safe, and more importantly not put obligations to other relatives over the happiness of their daughters.

M: A number of myths surrounding forced marriages and Islam are explored in the novel.  What do you think some of the key ones are?

Sufiya: A lot of people think that Islam allows or encourages forced marriages because the majority of people doing the forcing in the UK are Muslims. This is so far from the truth. In Islam a marriage is only valid if both the bride and groom give their consent. The teaching of Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) is very clear in that a forced marriage is not a marriage at all. I hope readers of Secrets of the Henna Girl will come to realise that forced marriages are cultural practises and completely forbidden by Islam.

M: Is there anything else you would like to say about this topic?

Sufiya: You may have noticed the government has announced plans to criminalise forced marriages. I welcome this as I think it is important to send out society’s condemnation of this heinous crime. However at the same time I would say that the new law, although is a necessity, is not sufficient. I hope the government won’t think it’s done its job by ticking a box. More work needs to be done to educate frontline services; teachers, social workers and police. I am a firm believer in prevention rather than prosecution.

M: Where can young people get more information and advice about child protection and forced marriages?

Sufiya: There are many charities out there that can help young people. I would advise contacting the Forced Marriage Unit at the Foreign Office. They have a helpline and some wonderful people working there.  They also have a public facebook page which is called the Forced Marriage Unit.

Also for child protection issues the NSPCC would be able to help: or 0800 800 5000

Thank you very much, Sufiya, for these insightful answers. It really is an important issue and I would urge people to read Secrets of the Henna Girl (read our review).

And here's a heads up.  Sufiya says she is writing a new book "about a young girl who moves to London from India. It’s a story of settling into a new home and a secret that she tries to keep from her new friends".

 You can find our more about Sufiya Ahmed at her blog.