Friday, 6 March 2015

Pom Pom Gets the Grumps by Sophy Henn

Book Cover:  Pom Pom Gets the Grumps
I love Pom Pom Gets the Grumps. I feel that this little panda and I have much in common. Pom Pom is grumpy because he gets out of the wrong side of bed one day. This is me most days. Mornings and me don’t mix too well. I wish I woke up with sunshine in my heart, but I don’t.

The dark cloud over Pom Pom is just about perfect.

Everything annoys Pom Pom and makes him exclaim ‘Harrumph!’

It all gets too much for him and he explodes at his friends, who are only trying to cheer him up.

Then he is a very sorry panda indeed. That look would break your heart.

Luckily, true friends are there for you even when you’ve been not so very nice, as long as you make amends. It’s a good story, told with few words – which is my favourite type of picture book. Pom Pom’s bad mood is a little bit funny, especially all the harrumphing, but I do empathise with him!

The style of the illustrations is what attracted me initially to the book. I like the chalky texture, and the colours…I sometimes found myself thinking of Tim Burton’s suburbia in Edward Scissorhands or Big Eyes, or a David Hockney painting from the 1960s or ‘70s – all things that make my eyes very blissfully happy. As I said, I love Pom Pom Gets the Grumps!

Sophy Henn has a lovely website with lots more gorgeous pictures and patterns to feast your eyes upon. There is a paper umbrella pattern (in the Projects section) that is so pretty I want to eat it (that is in no way weird, to be clear!)

Pom Pom Gets the Grumps by Sophy Henn is published by Puffin in hardback and paperback. I bought my copy with my own pocket money (or wages as they are sometimes known).

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Happy World Book Day!

Whatever you are doing today I hope you have time to squeeze in a little reading to celebrate World Book Day. 

I love my new job, but today I REALLY MISS being a Children's Bookseller. Good luck to everyone organising school visits and storytimes!

Here are this year's completely brilliant £1 World Book Day books.
World Book Day 2015
The World Book Day website has lots more exciting stuff on it too.

I can't resist a little shout for the storytelling event at Foyles on Saturday. The theme is Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and it looks like it will be lots of fun. All the details can be found on the Foyles website.


Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Book Shopping

On Monday I was seized with the desire to do a spot of book shopping. This is really very easy to do when you work in a big and beautiful bookshop! Books were browsed and books were bought.

I was always going to buy some World Book Day Books. This year’s are an outstandingly good selection. Goth Girl and the Pirate Queen is crammed full of Chris Riddell’s illustrations – my mind boggles to think all this is mine (and yours if you get yourself to a bookshop) for £1. Also a ridiculous bargain is Geek Drama, which is set between Geek Girl 1 and 2 so there’s no need to worry about spoilers for the new full-length story.

Talking of geeks…The Case of the Exploding Loo is the first story by Rachel Hamilton featuring Noelle (or Know-All) Hawkins, mystery-solving child genius. It is VERY funny and has caused strangers to look askance at me laughing on public transport.

Faber very cunningly gave away samplers of The Girl in the Red Coat at the end of last week. I read the one I grabbed from the hand of a woman at Euston (she was giving them away, I didn’t randomly steal someone else’s) and haven’t stopped thinking about it since; the half price hardback was clearly too much of a temptation to resist. A little girl goes missing at a festival and is taken in by a man claiming to be her grandfather...the opening chapters are so gripping that I will read this in my next available grown-ups' fiction spot.

I am so excited that the second volume of Coffin Hill is out. I got behind with the comics so decided to wait to read it in graphic novel form. I won’t pretend being patient has sat easily with me, but it’s all worth it now I have this. It’s dark and gothic and creepy and intriguing and beautiful to look at. And it has witches.

Two more things that are beautiful to look at round off my shopping spree. Noisy Neighbours is full of colours and shapes that make me think of my childhood and Lemur Dreamer is just so cute. Picture books are a joy.


I haven’t given up the idea of joining in with TBR20, but I’m not ready just yet. And, I gave seven boxes of books to the charity shop last week (thanks Dad for shifting them all for me) so I do have a little wiggle room right at the moment. And buying books is one of life’s pleasures – but I remind myself that reading them is even better.

Friday, 27 February 2015

The Dreamsnatcher Blog Tour

The Dreamsnatcher
Today, I could not be more thrilled to welcome Abi Elphinstone to my blog. Abi's debut book, The Dreamsnatcher, is an amazing adventure story and was published yesterday. It is a brilliant book and I can't recommend it enough. The main character Moll has a very special friend; over to Abi to explain...

The Only Animal That Can’t Be Tamed…

Although Moll is an orphan, she has a lot of people looking out for her back in camp: Oak and Mooshie, Sid, Cinderella Bull and even Hard-Times Bob. But it’s the wildcat from the northern wilderness that perhaps looks after Moll the most. Whether she’s trespassing into the Deepwood to get her cob back or racing over the heath away from Skull, Gryff is never far from Moll’s side.

Gryff - hunting for food in the winter

It’s funny to think that when I wrote a very early draft of The Dreamsnatcher, Moll’s animal companion started out as an owl called Cobweb! He was a cute little tawny owl who could swivel his head full circle and do a shuffly backwards moonwalk, but as the story developed, I realised I wanted a wilder animal – one who could race through the forest by Moll’s side and protect her if danger lurked close. At first, I wanted that animal to be a snow leopard, one of the most secretive wild animals in the world – and one I fell in love with after reading Jackie Morris’ The Snow Leopard. But I needed my story to be believable and although I never say where The Dreamsnatcher is set, in my mind it’s in the New Forest in England – and there aren’t any snow leopards there, that’s for sure…

The Snow Leopard in Jackie Morris’ book

I grew up in Scotland and I remember glimpsing a wildcat once in a wood on the moors and my father saying how rare they were (they are currently a critically endangered species with an estimated 35 left in the wild in the UK) and how they were ‘the only animal that can’t be tamed.’ Moll is about as feral as kids come so a wildcat seemed a fitting sidekick for her – and in my head I could imagine one coming down from the ‘northern wilderness’ to the ‘southern parts of the country’ to protect Moll. It then took me ages to come up with a name for my wildcat and after weeks of thinking, I sent this email to my husband, Edo: ‘Which of these names do you think is the best name for a wildcat? Silver, Skylar, Fly, Pace, Grey, Bry. The wildcat is solitary, intelligent, fiercely protective, stealthy... And it's male.’ Edo replied: ‘None of those. I like Gryff.’ As soon as I heard it, I knew Gryff was perfect – the name even sounded like a growl he might make.

Gryff looking over to check up on Moll

It was a freezing day in January when I went to watch the wildcats in captivity at the New Forest wildlife park. But I sat shivering in the snow before their huge cages, watching them sleep, eat, stretch and slink around their territory. I listened to their greeting call and watched them leap, like ripples of silk, from the tallest branches to the ground. The wildcats’ warning growls sent shivers down my spine and watching them rip apart meat with razor-sharp claws made me understand that Gryff, although a friend to Moll, would have to be wild at heart. And after seeing all this, Gryff went from being a page on Wikipedia to a fully-drawn character.

Me holding baby Gryff (I found him in Burma!)

Gryff is large, even for a wildcat, with a muscular body and long, banded legs. His coat is thick and grey with jet-black stripes and his tail is long and bushy, ringed with bands of black and ending in a blunt tip. His eyes are large and bright yellow/green (a bit like Moll’s but with vertical black pupils) and he has white whiskers and sharp claws on all four limbs. Usually he sleeps inside hollowed trees, beneath fallen branches, inside rocky cracks or in the abandoned nests of other large animals like foxes or badgers. But because Skull’s dark magic is growing stronger, Gryff starts to sleep beneath Moll’s wagon so that he can guard her at night. Gryff hunts at dawn or dusk, patrolling forest glades and woodland areas and he can leap from the highest branches of trees to the ground unscathed when hunting other animals. He uses his camouflage and patience to stalk as close possible to his prey before reaching a full speed sprint and catching it. He crouches on alder branches overhanging the river when he’s after a duck, he waits above rabbit warrens for rabbits to emerge and he kills by grabbing the prey in his claws, piercing the neck with his fangs, then consuming almost every part of the kill. Gryff’s night vision is seven times better than our own and his hearing is active 24 hours a day, even when he’s sleeping. He can detect minute changes in air currents with his whiskers movement, he can smell meat 200 metres away and in sprints he can reach up to 30 miles per hour!

Gryff hunting in the mountains

Gryff is powerful, agile, intelligent, fearless, loyal and patient and although he is by nature a solitary animal full of secrets, he forms an extraordinary bond with Moll and she learns to read his movements…

·      Whiskers twitching: he’s heard something
·      Ears swivelling: he’s listening for something
·      Ears flattened to his head: he’s scared
·      Tail down low: he’s seen something
·      Stamping forelimbs: he’s angry

… and his noises…

·      Brrroooooo: his greeting call (like a dynamo throbbing deep in the earth)
·      Urrrrrrrrrrrr: he’s seen something that could be a threat
·      Hisssssssssss: he’s angry or feels threatened
·      PAAAAH: he’s angry (often comes with growling, spitting and snarling)
·      Noine, noine, noine: he’s content (like a purr but wilder)

If you’re interested in helping protect the critically endangered Scottish wildcat, check out the fantastic school workshops and assemblies Wild Intrigue offers:

Or get involved in buying some beautiful wildcat art to help raise money to save the wildcat:

Thursday, 12 February 2015

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

Autumn winds bring strangers.

I do love Sarah Addison Allen’s stories. It’s the joy of reading about women full of strength and wisdom helping each other, pulling together and valuing each other even while making the usual everyday mistakes and missteps in life. And then there’s the magic – beautiful inner magic at the core of these women that a small part of me clings to no matter how rational I try to be.

First Frost sees us back with the Waverley women of Bascom, North Carolina. If you’ve not read Garden Spells, then do. It’s not actually necessary to read it before enjoying First Frost, but it’d be a great shame to miss out on it. Sisters Claire and Sydney are at the heart of the story, along with Sydney’s teenage daughter Bay. All three of them are restless, frustrated, distracted and not entirely themselves as Autumn drifts in. As they await the first frost of the season, signalling the rebirth of their curious apple tree, they struggle to make decisions and find their path.

Claire’s catering business has been put to one side for Waverley Candies, bringing her flair for knowing just the right ingredients to a much wider audience. Her new fame brings a visitor, causing her to question everything about her life. Sydney has her hands full with her newest employee, and Bay has boy trouble. They need to pull together and look after each other. Fortunately, the sisters are closer than ever now ‘the way adult siblings often are, the moment they realize that family is actually a choice.’

There’s a smaller story I enjoyed very much too, about Anne Ainsley and the stranger. Life had not been kind to her, and hers ‘was a life that accepted disappointment as inevitable.’ She’s looking for stories...sounds familiar. The writing is lovely; the descriptions of food are scrumptious and even the town itself is tinged with fairytale – ‘It looked like the world was covered in a cobbler crust of brown sugar and cinnamon.’ In my mind, there is definitely something of Stars Hollow about the place; reading Addison Allen puts me in the same place as watching Gilmore Girls (Seasons 1-4, after that I made up my own endings).

I read it (twice), I loved it, and am already impatient for more.

I read the book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley. First Frost is available now in paperback.