Thursday 28 March 2013

Amity & Sorrow - Daddy Cool's review

Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley
reviewed by Daddy Cool
Please note: this is an adult fiction review

Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley
This is my first ever book review so please forgive my (un)literary analysis.....

I took part in We Sat Down’s 24 hour readathon and thought now was the time to try and move away from those fast action packed books that I am so used to reading (by Lee Child, Matthew Reilly etc). I decided to experiment with Amity and Sorrow and what a brilliant book it was.

The book is written around a mother and two daughters who have run away from their father and a religious sect. As you read on you start to understand how disturbed the values of the religious sect were and the affect on the daughters / mother. All along, I wanted to know how and why the family had to run and were so desperate to stay away. I loved the way the reader is leapt backwards and forwards in time to piece the story together.

I would say it’s one of those thought provoking books where you really believe the story could happen if you absorb yourself into a small community cut off from the other ways of living. This book has given me an appetite for more thought proving books rather than just the action packed hero books I am so used to.
Publication details: 28 April 2013, Tinderpress, London, hardback
This copy: uncorrected proof (pushed into my hand by M!)

You can read M's review here.

Wednesday 27 March 2013

The Weight of Water - Carnegie Shadowing

We explored the longlist, now we're down to shadowing the Carnegie Medal 2013 shortlist. For each title, we'll provide a review (or links to our reviews) and some discusssion points too.
The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan
The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan
Little M's short review
The Weight of Water is written in verse but as a narrative. It can be read as a book or as separate poems. To start with, I found the style too jumpy because it was short lines. However, when someone started to read it to me I got into it and started to read on.

The main plot was about Kasienka travelling to England and finding her father. I think a sub plot is the relationship between Kasienka and Will. Another sub plot is how people treat others e.g. how the boys and girls at school tease Kasienka because she is from Poland and looks a bit different to them.

My favourite character was Kanoro because he was always friendly and he had a good personality.

You can read M's review here.

Joint thoughts guided by the Rydens Book Review Form
We both thought the book had a strong plot. M thought the novel rounded the story off well by tying up the original concerns but leaving enough about the future open. Little M thought that the ending was left a bit too open.

We both believed in the characters and related to them well.

Writing Style
We both liked the way the book was written and it was easy to understand. M thought that the style, particularly the verse form, contributed to making the book special. Little M can't decide if a different style would have made the book more enjoyable. Although the verse - because unfamiliar - was awkward to get into at first, she's edging towards agreeing with M that the verse and current style made it more enjoyable.

We both enjoyed this book and it was right for both our age groups (Little M is 13, M is much older!). We both wanted to carry on reading. It was a lovely book. The copy we read was a little hardback - almost like a pocketbook which made it different. We both read it quickly - probably in under 2 hours. For such a quick read, the story packed a lot of plot and rich characterisation into it.

Score out of 5: 5 - excellent, could be a winner.

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Fractured (Slated #2) - Little M's review

Fractured by Teri Terry

Fractured is the second book in a trilogy by Teri Terry. The first novel is Slated (careful, this review of Fractured has big spoilers for Slated. You can read M's review of Slated here.).
Fractured carries on from Slated which is about Kyla who has been slated. Slated is where memories get wiped from your brain.  Fractured is about Kyla finding out about her past and experiencing memories she shouldn’t have. I think this book is incredibly hard to review because I keep thinking I’m going to give away spoilers or not say enough.

Fractured by Teri Terry
Nico wasn’t a main character in Slated but in Fractured he is. Ben, who was Kyla’s boyfriend in Slated is not so important in Fractured but he does play a big role. Kyla is still trying to find him. Some characters in Slated were nice and kind but in Fractured they’re not what I expected them to be. There are new important characters in this novel. I preferred Fractured to Slated because I think the characters progressed more in this book and you find out more about the past. There’s also more action, knives, blood, and guns than there was in Slated.

Fractured was one of those books that I couldn’t put down. I liked the way it was written with flashbacks/dreams which play a massive role in the novel. This was also the case with Slated.

I think this book has lots of good points and some bad points. The good points are that a) you just can’t put the book down, b) the characters keep you hooked and you can’t wait to see what they do next (they keep you in suspense). Some bad points are that a) Ben is not a big character and Kyla misses him so it’s quite sad and b) I don’t think there are any more bad points.

Slated fans will probably like it but there is a bit more action in Fractured than in Slated.  I loved that.

Publication details: April 2013, Orchard, London, paperback
This copy: received for review from the publisher

Friday 22 March 2013

We Sat Down For A Chat.....with Fluttering Butterflies

Michelle runs a very chatty, interesting and thoughtful book blog called Fluttering Butterflies. She's one of my favourite bloggers whom I've actually met (!!!) and she's a mum. It's great to have her here today.

M: How did you come up with the blog name Fluttering Butterflies?

Michelle: Hello, and thank you so much for having me here, it's an honour! I really wish that there was some special meaning behind my blog name. If I were to do it all again, I might have made a conscious effort to choose something literary inspired to name my blog, but I didn't. I was browsing through other lifestyle/personal blogs back before my blog became a book blog and I came across a website in which a woman had been doing gardening. She mentioned something about butterflies fluttering about her flowers and I loved the imagery of her words. I wanted something memorable and pretty for my blog's name, and I have been Fluttering Butterflies ever since!

M: You were an American teenager. What were some of your favourites teen reads then?

Michelle: Many years ago, yes! I was an American teenager. I moved to the UK nearly 13 years ago when I was only 18. I have always, always been a reader and as a teenager, I had lots of favourites. I think the two books that were the most influential to me during my teen years had to have been The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and The Outsiders by SE Hinton. I read and re-read both books constantly and both books are guaranteed to make me bawl like a baby.

I remember loving Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, Night by Elie Wiesel and books by Caroline B. Cooney. I was also a huge of the Anne of Green Gables series and Anne's House of Dreams was the first book that I bought for myself. But I mostly read adult books as a teen and I really loved The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, books by Isabel Allende and the complete works of Jane Austen. I went through a big Shakespeare phase and read Romeo and Juliet more times than I can count. But I did also read other Shakespeare's plays and his sonnets, which were lovely. My dad was a big fan of James Clavell and reading his copy of Sho-Gun was a life-changing experience for me.
M: You enjoy reading with your two young sons. What books have you enjoyed reading together?

Michell from Fluttering Butterflies: Happy looks like.....
Michelle: I absolutely adore reading books with my two sons. E is 7 and The Littlest is almost 5 (!!!). I've been reading to both of them since they were still in my belly and I will continue to read to them for as long as they let me! When they were both little, I was pretty limited in what I could read to them, but luckily there are some gorgeous picture books about. Family favourites were always picture books by Julia Donaldson and Oliver Jeffers. Then there was the Bob the Builder/Thomas the Tank Engine phase which I'm glad has passed. Whenever possible, I tried to steer us towards Dr Seuss and funny poetry like Shel Silverstein's, who are both authors that I grew up with.

Now that they're both that little bit older, we've set up a Family Book Club to great success. I haven't been great about updating our progress on the blog like I originally planned, but we've been reading a whole host of books by Roald Dahl - The Twits, Fantastic Mr Fox, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach - as well as How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell and most recently, Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner.

The most popular book? Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling. E said I was reading it too slowly and would take the book into his own room to read chapters ahead. He refused to wait for me to read him the second book and decided to read Chamber of Secrets on his own. Same for the 3rd and 4th book and he's currently reading Order of the P
Phoenix by himself. He's 7. I'm so proud of him.

M: Are there any books that you are planning to recommend to your children?
Michelle: Despite E's growing confidence in reading books on his own, I am still determined to keep up with our nightly bedtime routine. And I'm so excited that he seems to have taken up my bookish ways. I've put a small stack of books that I've received for review from publishers aside to read with the boys soon (including Itch by Simon Mayo, The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver and North of Nowhere by Liz Kessler) but I still have a whopping great pile of books that I want to read with them, which includes Holes by Louis Sachar, Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett, The Princess Bride by William Goldman and Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. I am filled with excitement at the idea of sharing these wonderful books with my beautiful boys!

Already my chats with E about Harry Potter have quickly become one of my favourite parts of the day. He loves to retell bits of the story to me and he asks the most thoughtful questions that I would have never considered before. I love hearing his opinions on a series of books that I've loved so much and his passion for reading and learning and questioning things absolutely inspires me.
M: One of your blog features this year is British UKYA (Young Adult). Can you tell us a little bit about this?
Michelle: Sure! A few years ago now, I signed up for the British Books Challenge that Becky from The Bookette set up (this challenge has been ongoing and the host for it has changed over the years from Kirsty at The Overflowing Library last year to Sarah at Feeling Fictional this year). In doing so, I became more aware of how many (and in this case, how few) books by British authors I was reading. I wanted to do more to support British authors and reading and reviewing their books seemed to be the best way I knew how. Over time, I wanted to do more. So I held my first British month during November of 2011. It was actually overwhelming how much support I received during that month, so I held another smaller event the following year.

In December of 2012, as I was sitting down pondering what changes I could made on my blog in the New Year, I began thinking of ways in which I could hold a British month EVERY month on the blog. It seemed crazy, but why not? I started by creating a list on Goodreads of all the books by British authors that I'd heard of which were being published in 2013. Then I got some friends to add to it. And then as publicists began emailing me of all the wonderful new books coming out this year, I thought 'hey! they'd know more, wouldn't they?' And I began thinking about the possibility of guest posts or interviewing some of these wonderful authors. I contacted a few authors and publicists and everyone was very willing and enthusiastic.

My UKYA in 2013 feature now has a snazzy new button that my husband, N, helped me to create and the plan is to post a list of books that are published every month by British authors. I've made it my personal challenge this year to read and review as many new UKYA books as I can and I have had the great pleasure of already having agreed guest posts and interviews by British authors such as Sangu Mandanna, CJ Flood, Holly Smale and CJ Skuse amongst many more to come!
M: Finally, the big philosophical question of our time, do you like ketchup?

Michelle: It's only been in the last few years that I've been able to eat any sauce with my food, actually! I was quite the fussy eater when it came to ketchup growing up, but I've since seen the error of my ways and can't eat a plate of chips without anymore :)

Thank you so much for having me here! It's been such fun!

M: Thank you, Michelle! I loved Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden too and I'm planning on re-reading those soon. Lots of great books on your lists: Little M's read Holes in both primary and secondary school. Lots of books on your planned reading lists that are on mine too.

You can find Michelle on her book blog Fluttering Butterflies and on Twitter: @cloverness

Has anyone else read any of these books. And do you read the same books as anyone else in your family like we do?

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Midwinterblood - M's review

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

Midwinterblood has been shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal 2013.

Midwinterblood is the only title on this year’s Carnegie shortlist that I have read after its shortlisting was announced. This puts it at an unfair advantage or even disadvantage in the way I’m going to review it, especially since I reviewed some of the others before the longlist was even out.

The cover on my copy
So, Midwinterblood. I didn’t pick it to read from the longlist – mostly because of the cover. Also, from what I’d seen, Marcus Sedgwick was mostly a horror-fantasy author, genres I usually avoid now (although maybe not when I was a teen). If it is horror-fantasy that you’re after, Midwinterblood delivers. However, it offers up something much more than chills or gore (thankfully for me, the latter was not in undue abundance) and I was very pleasantly impressed.

Note the different covers: I think the newer cover (see below), not the one on my copy (see left), fits my interpretation of the novel better.

Midwinterblood is an unusual novel and quite different from anything I remember reading for teens (there is plenty that I have not read though). Quite simply, it tells the story of Eric Seven and Merle and how they know each other. But, it is much more exciting than that and it is also not quite as straightforward as that. Inspired by a real painting (which features in the novel), the story is divided up into eight parts and told in chronological reverse. Each part tells a separate story that can be read on its own. But together, the stories work to weave together what might be seen as something akin to a folkbook.

New cover; I prefer this one.
The novel’s blurb and other reviews have identified strong themes of love and sacrifice in the novel.  Of course yes, they’re there in many guises. After reading Part 1, I thought Midwinterblood might follow similar plotlines to Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler’s Wife – love that builds and endures against the odds against and through time. In some ways, it does, but in many ways it doesn’t and it certainly isn’t as romantic (in my view).

The themes and ideas that stood out for me most were personhood, permanence/longevity and roles. What is a person? If you change one thing, like their sex, are they the same person? The novel certainly delivers many discussion points.

Midwinterblood also defies some of the suggested criteria that we’ve been using for shadowing. This either marks the novels strengths or its weaknesses.

I think it is weak on narrative and feels more like a collection of stories that read like different interpretations of fairytales (or myths) over time and space, enveloped by the original frame story in Part 1 and Part 7. But, the Epilogue belies what I’ve said and indicates that there is a narrative (in my mind, only just a weak one). Although only chronologically reversed, the narrative development is still non-linear – I couldn’t spot real plot or character growth. Did I miss it? However (again!), the narrative and plot structure are also possibly the novel’s key strength.

(Careful: for some people there may be a very small SPOILER in the following paragraph: I don’t think it is but some might.)

Sedgwick’s writing style is sparse. He doesn’t overly describe anything, which I like. But I think this also contributed to weaker characterisation. I didn’t empathise with any of the characters. Perhaps too, this was the point of the novel: we are not just one individual, we are many people. This bit is interesting because the characters take on different relationships with each other throughout the novel and that in itself addresses many taboos about acceptable relationships. The change in narration is also interesting to consider in terms of how that might affect characterisation: the novel is written in the third person, other than Part 6.

(End of small SPOILER. You may proceed without fear.)

Midwinterblood is an allegorical novel. Its inspiration comes from a painting (which is featured in the novel – there’s a whole part centring on it) and there is plenty of symbolism and allegory in the novel that could point curious readers to ideas about philosophy and religion (like Nietzsche and eternal return) as well as literature. When I was reading, there was always a sense that the novel was following, considering, contemplating, pointing me to something else. I’d expect this novel to prompt further questioning and research enquiry by the most curious of readers.

I read Midwinterblood quickly and I wanted to read it. It wasn’t so much that I was absorbed into the story but rather that I was curious to see how it would all pan out. This novel has many talking points, not least of which are its form and readers’ expectations. In my mind, it scores many bonus points for doing that.

For suggested teens reads, Midwinterblood offers a wonderful thought-provoking alternative to Twilight. It is also a quick read. For educators, talk about a novel that is both popularly contemporary yet cuts easily and effortlessly across the curriculum.....history (Vikings, World Wars, cyclical/linear, architecture), art, geography, religion and philosophy, literature, science, citizenship: they’re all there.
It is probably more suitable for Year 7 plus although advanced (and interested) readers in Year 6 might enjoy it.

If you enjoy the interlinked his-stories of Midwinterblood, you may well like  Nick Lake's In Darkness (another Carnegie shortlisted title!) or Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (an adult novel with mixed and much more dense writing styles).
Publication details: Indigo, 2011, London, paperback
This copy: given to us as a prize.

PS. You can win a copy of Midwinterblood with the new cover over here if you are in the UK and enter before 19 May 2013.

Monday 18 March 2013

To Kill A Mockingbird - M's review

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I first read To Kill A Mockingbird at school when I was sixteen. Like The Beadle, I noted on my Reading list that it was ‘OK’. But, again like The Beadle, I’ve always recalled enjoying them. I could never remember all the details but something about them had played around in my head. Now, I’ve just reread To Kill A Mockingbird for my Classics Club challenge. It’s my second reread for leisure ever (The Beadle was my first!). And I loved it.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
For those readers who are not familiar with To Kill A Mockingbird, it’s a story about the events that led to a thirteen year old boy breaking his elbow. It’s set in a 1930s small town in Alabama, USA. The story is narrated by Scout (aka Jean Louise Finch), who is probably a grown woman when she recounts a story about a time when she was eight years old, living with her brother, Jem, and her father, Atticus, who is a lawyer about to defend a Negro who has been accused of a crime for which the punishment is death. Scout’s story is about growing up, perpetuating social prejudices and standing up to  them too.  She doesn’t hide anything in her story (as least I don’t think she does) but she realises that much was hidden from her.

Racial prejudice is an obvious and substantial theme in the novel and one that I remembered from my earlier reading. What I had forgotten (and possibly not even have understood that brilliantly!) were the other prejudices and social mores that the novel explores, criticises and humours. The children’s tormenting and embellishing stories about reclusive Boo Radley is an obvious one. Disabilities and social class are others. Gender and growing up as a girl in a society that expects you to turn into ‘a lady’ is another one, and as it is Scout who is narrating, this is probably more a central thread of this novel than racial prejudice (but, I also spot gender issues more - remember, this review is my narrative). All of these themes and sub-plots are woven together in a very charming yet slightly shivery way.

The majority of the characters in the novel are very likeable. Very. Apart from the few who are horrid (Atticus definitely loves more people than I do).  Jem is lovely. Scout is adorable and gives voice to frustrations that must plague many girls (and boys too) – like what you should wear, how you should behave, what you can and can’t do – just because you are a girl as opposed to a boy. Within this context, it’s hardly surprising then that rape features. While only lightly explored as an issue, this is not in a dismissive way. While all the characters are reluctant to speak about it, including Atticus, Atticus also makes it clear that it is a crime that concerns him and is bigger than what is being voiced. And Atticus of course, is the novel’s moral compass.

The novel is full of heroes. There’s Scout, in her many flawed guises. There’s the real, heartbreakingly tragic hero who we don’t learn too much about – but we learn enough. And of course, there’s Atticus Finch. Scout’s father embodies the real hero in this novel. He’s almost perfect (in my eyes, maybe he would be if he didn’t side with Aunt Alexandra a little too much: that’s the Scout in me lurching out!) but he’s not Superman. Throughout the novel, more than I’ve pointed out, there are lots of interesting bits that explore the concepts of cowardice and bravery.

While the lighthearted daily fun and games and mishaps that happen to adventurous eight and twelve year olds fill the pages to provide humour, the novel instils a sense of foreboding that traverses many of the sub or parallel plots in the story: what bad thing is going to happen at the Radley place, who’s going to get hurt or killed, will Tom get off, who is to blame? Once you’ve finished the novel, go back and read the first three paragraphs again. Scout and Jem are offering up different explanations and interpretations. Atticus of course, is the judge!

This sense of foreboding is partly heightened by the slow pace of the novel. The focus in this novel is definitely on the characters and themes. There is a lot of plot but it meanders lazily over a couple of summers. The novel is a bit like the hot, sleepy town that is its Maycomb setting.

To Kill A Mockingbird is one of those novels that some people would describe as a very quotable novel: Dill’s mixed up comment about joining the circus because people are laughable ; Scout’s view that there is only one type of people: everyone; Atticus on why we shouldn’t kill a mockingbird.

It is also a very sad novel. It passes commentary based on real events where sadness understates how terrible they were and it is also sad when you think about how we make judgements about people and things and act on these. Atticus would say that’s exactly what is wrong with circumstantial evidence.

I can see why it’s studied at school. There is so much packed into this shortish book that you could discuss it forever both as a literary work but especially for the themes that run through it. But, if you’re like me and find that reading a set text at school ruins the pleasure of reading a novel for you, then make sure you read this before it comes up at school – or reread it when you’re older, like I have. To Kill A Mockingbird has not only jumped from OK for me, it’s probably gone to one of my all time favourite novels. I’m a bit sad to have finished it. Harper Lee should have written a sequel.

For any teens who were interested in the death penalty debates raised in Annabel Pitcher’s Ketchup Clouds, To Kill A Mockingbird will be right up your street.

My Classics Club verdict: Not that anyone would believe me if I said otherwise but definitely it’s a classic. Wonderful in so many ways.
(Gosh; that was a bit long. It’s so I don’t forget why I liked it so much. Or what things it made play around in my head. For when I’m old and really grey – or just forgetful.)

Publication details: 2004, Vintage, London, paperback (first published 1960)
This copy: my own

Saturday 16 March 2013

We are one!

Looking back and looking forward

We Sat Down is one year old today!
A detail from our handmade bookmark
We'd like to say a very big thank you to all the publishers, authors, bloggers, teachers, parents, readers and literary festival organisers who have helped to make We Sat Down such a memorable experience for us this past year. What started off as a digital recording of our reading thoughts and an exploration of Young Adult fiction has become so much more than we expected. Special thanks to Alice, Lucy, Kate, Nanny Bee, Grandad Africa, Daddy Cool and commenters who have all contributed their reviews and thoughts on this blog.

Our highlights

Little M:
My favourite things in the last year of blogging were being a part of Team Candor; talking to people about books that I have read; going to Hot Key Books in London and meeting other bloggers there like Georgia, Nina and Meg; and getting Twitter so I can talk with other bloggers/people in the booky world. I also love shadowing the Carnegie and seeing what people think about the books that have been nominated for it.

Some of Little M’s favourite things have been mine too. Of course I know that reading is enjoyable but blogging about books has just made it terribly good fun as well. I’ve enjoyed exploring my own reading habits but the thing I’ve liked the most about the past year is the joint or group activities that blogging has fostered. The blogging teams that Harper Collins set up for the publication of Veronica Roth’s Insurgent felt like a huge reading party! Both of us being invited to meet publishers and authors together has also been wonderful. I’ve also really enjoyed doing interviews with authors, via e-mail and in person. Like Little M, a particular highlight has been following the Carnegie longlist and we're looking forward to shadowing the shortlist too (although I've read it all already).

Overall, it’s the discussions that we’ve had about individual books, reading and literature in general that have brought me a lot of satisfaction (much more so than my literature degree ever did). With a little bit of help from all sorts of people, we’ve also put together a book list for our future reading with about seventy book titles on it for us to explore over the next few years (and that's not incuding our Classics Club reading list!).

Remember, to celebrate our blogoversay, we're holding a 24 hour sponsored readathon next Saturday 23 March (inspired by Ms Adkins). Please pop by our Justgiving page to help raise money for school supplies for children who've been traumatised (many have been living on the streets).

We're looking forward to our next year with you all - happy reading!

Friday 15 March 2013

Darcy Burdock - Little M's review

Darcy Burdock by Laura Dockrill

Darcy Burdock is a story about Darcy Burdock's life when she is 10 and 11.
Darcy Burdock by Laura Dockrill
My first impression of the main character, Darcy Burdock, was that she has got her own imaginary world, she likes mermaids and really wants to be a writer when she grows up. Darcy turns eleven in the story but she seems too young for that age because she doesn’t understand some things and I thought she should have. Darcy’s best friend is a boy, but he is not a boyfriend, just a best friend. People used to tease her about it, but they stopped because Darcy could accidently-on-purpose spill PVA glue on their heads in art. I like Darcy, but I don’t think she would be my all time favourite character because I find her a little weird (like she doesn’t brush her hair and some other things).

I think the language is easy to understand for young readers (9+). It’s quite straightforward to read but ever so funny. I liked the way the book was written but it’s not really something I would buy compared to Dear God It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume.
The author creates a joyful happy mood in the story but it can get sad. I think Darcy has a little bit of evil growing inside her but it dies down towards the end of the book.

I think it is a really good book for people who like Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson because I read some of her books when I was younger (but I’m not so keen on them now). So this isn’t one of my favourite books because it’s not really my cup of tea because it feels a bit young to me.
After I finished this book I didn’t have that feeling that I had lost something; Just, “oh I’ve finished it”. That’s just my opinion.   

Publication details:  Corgi Children’s, 28 February 2013, paperback
This copy: uncorrected proof received for review from the publisher

This book counts towards Little M's British Books Challenge 2013.


Tuesday 12 March 2013

First Birthday Bash: Sponsored 24 hour Readathon

We Sat Down’s 24 Hour Readathon

We Sat Down's First Birthday Bash: 24 hour readathon
We Sat Down will be one year old this weekend. Instead of a giveaway, we've been inspired by Ms Adkins to hold a 24 hour Readathon to raise money for charity.
We're doing this with some of the other teens who've reviewed for We Sat Down. It will take place on the 23rd March and it will start at 9 in the morning and finish at 9 the next morning.

Join us on Sat 23rd March on the blog, on Twitter or just by reading. We also hope that you’ll head on over to our sponsorship page.

Sponsor children in need

We are setting up a Justgiving page to raise money for a primary school in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The money will go to Maranatha Care Children and they will by educational supplies or services for children who attend Protea Primary School. Little M selected this charity because Nanny Bee and Grandad Africa have gone and read to children there before. The primary school takes children who have been abused, homeless or traumatised and they give them an education.

Many of the children who attend Protea Primary have temporary residence at Siyakatala Youth Centre which is also supported by Maranatha. Please pop over to our Justgiving page to find out more about the charity and give a donation to make a difference to these children’s lives.

Video made by Little M: featuring books we've reviewed over the past year!
 Please donate!
with love from M & Little M


CILIP Carnegie 2013 Shortlist

The CILIP Carnegie 2013 Shortlist  has been announced today and it's a whopper. Excellent books with some variety too.  I highly recommend at least 6 of them!

The CILIP Carnegie 2013 Shortlist:
1. Maggot Moon - Sally Gardner
2. The Weight of Water - Sarah Crossan
3. In Darkness - Nick Lake
4. Wonder - RJ Palacio
5. Code Name Verity - Elizabeth Wein
6. A Boy and a Bear in a Boat - Dave Shelton
7. A Greyhound of a Girl - Roddy Doyle
8. Midwinterblood - Marcus Sedgwick.

Numbers 1-5 on the list were picked for my personal shortlist, which includes links to reviews of seven titles on the shortlist.

Next read for me will be Midwinterblood. It's the only one I haven't read and reviewed yet and I've heard marvellous things about it.

Very excited to get going with our shadowing group now.

If anyone would like to join us, please let us know.
Also, Anna James is hosting a shadowing group on Twitter (@acasefobooks #tweetckg).

Saturday 9 March 2013

Carnegie 2013 longlist coverage (& our shortlist)

Since November 2012, we have been reading, reviewing and exploring the CILIP Carnegie Medal's 2013 longlist. Four readers (three are young teens) have been working their way through them. We've read and reviewed 22 longlisted titles. We've obviously chosen the titles that appeal most to us but the longlist covers all genres and is very varied. Our reviews have attempted to take some of the judging criteria into account.
In anticipation of the shortlist announcement on Tuesday 12 March, we've wrapped up our longlist reviews. From what we've read, the titles in red are the ones on M's personal shortlist.

1. A Boy and a Bear in a Boat by Dave Shelton (David Fickling Books) + author interview
2. A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle (Marion Lloyd Books)
3. After the Snow by S.D. Crockett (Macmillan Children's Books)
4. All Fall Down by Sally Nicholls (Marion Lloyd Books)
5. Call Down Thunder by Daniel Finn (Macmillan Children's Books)
6. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (Electric Monkey)
7. Hitler's Angel by William Osborne (Chicken House) + Alice's review
8. In Darkness by Nick Lake (Bloomsbury)
9. Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner (Hot Key Books) + about the cover
10. Mortal Chaos by Matt Dickinson (Oxford University Press)
11. Pendragon Legacy: Sword of Light by Katherine Roberts (Templar Publishing) + interview
12. Soldier Dog by Sam Angus (Macmillan Children's Books)
13. The Double Shadow by Sally Gardner (Indigo)
14. The Seeing by Diana Hendry (Bodley Head) + author interview
15. The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne (Doubleday) + Alice's review
16. The Treasure House by Linda Newbery (Orion Children's Books)
17. The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan (Bloomsbury) - a beautiful work; a very surprising read
18. This is Not Forgiveness by Celia Rees (Bloomsbury) + author guest post
19. To Be A Cat by Matt Haig (Bodley Head)
20. Trouble in Toadpool by Anne Fine (Doubleday Children's Books)
21. VIII by H.M. Castor (Templar Publishing) (Little M's review & Kate's review)
22. Wonder by R.J. Palacio (Bodley Head)

Little M thinks Wonder and VIII should be on the shortlist.
We've also heard some strong support for Marcus Sedgwick's Midwinterblood (review here: added 20 March 2013).

(23rd title reviewed by Kate (Year 9, april 2013) - The Girl In the Mask - Marie-Louise Jensen)

Still with a bookmark in them....!

A Face Like Glass - Frances Hardinge (Macmillan)
- M is still reading this. It's 500 pages and she is going slow. It's also a fantasy and Hardinge's writing is engagingly descriptive. Really, really enjoying it. Because I haven't finished it yet, I can't judge it. At this point, a possible contender for my shortlist.

Dying To Know You by Aidan Chambers (Bodley Head)
- M started it before it was nominated. It seems excellent but thought Little M might like to read it first. She's currently reading it.

Spy For The Queen of Scots by Theresa Breslin (Doubleday Children's Books)
- Little M is enjoying this but is dipping in and out. She says it is a challenging read for her. She's passed it on to Kate who loves historical fiction and might finish it sooner!

The Flask by Nicky Singer (HarperCollins Children's Books)
- Little M was reading and enjoying but got distracted by some other books.

The Broken Road by B.R. Collins (Bloomsbury)
- M started it before it was nominated but has been distracted; might return to it sometime becuase it was very promising (I need to find an alternative phrase!!).

Far Rockaway by Charlie Fletcher (Hodder)
- Little M has started this; says it's good but has moved onto another book for now.

Not finished
The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan (David Fickling Books)
- M struggled to get into it and found some of the imagery offputting; however, this is one that we might go back to at some point because there is something strangely compelling about it.

15 Days Without a Head by Dave Cousins (Oxford University Press)
- M started but didn't like the scenario that was presented.

Saving Daisy by Phil Earle (Puffin Books)
- M struggled to get into it before it was nominated; thought it might be too depressing.


We'll still be blogging bookish thoughts on other longlisted titles all the way up until June - but we might not be reviewing them. Right now, we're looking forward to Shadowing the shortlist. We'll be doing this on our blog, on the Shadowing website and on Twitter using the hashtag #tweetckg (hosted by school librarian Anna James @caseforbooks).

The Carnegie winner will be announced on 19 June 2013.

Thank you very much to the publishers who have supported our CILIP Carnegie 2013 longlist bookish adventuring!

CILIP Carnegie Children's Book Awards


Friday 8 March 2013

We Sat Down For a Chat...with Katherine Roberts

An International Women's Day and Carnegie 2013 longlist author post wrapped into one! What more could we ask for?

Myths and magic, knights and horses, and strong girl characters abound in Katherine Roberts' fantasy Pendragon Legacy series. It is another creative and adventurous development of the Arthurian legend. The first book in the series, Sword of Light, has been nominated for the Carnegie medal 2013. Today, Katherine tells us what inspired her to create a central female character for her stories and offers some further reading suggestions. There's a fantastic horse illustration by her too!

Katherine Roberts:
"I love Arthurian fiction, but I was always more interested in the girls’ stories than those of the knights, who seemed to get all the fun.

There are some strong women in the legends:
  • Morgan Le Fay, who uses witchcraft to plot against Arthur.
  • The beautiful Guinevere, Arthur’s queen, who later falls in love with Sir Lancelot.
  • Brave Igraine, Arthur’s mother, who gives up her baby son to Merlin for safe keeping.
But none of these women had real adventures like the men. So I decided to invent one who did.

Rhianna Pendragon and her horse Alba (by Katherine Roberts)
Her name’s Rhianna Pendragon, and she’s the secret daughter of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. Raised by the elves in enchanted Avalon, where Merlin spirited her away as a baby, Rhianna grows up riding a fairy horse, and later learns how to fight with her father’s sword Excalibur. When her dark cousin Mordred kills King Arthur in battle, she leads the knights on a quest to find the four magical “Lights” that have the power to restore her father’s soul to his body. She’s a bit of a tomboy, but also a bit romantic since she cares for her Avalonian friend, Prince Elphin. In fact, with her long red hair that more often than not has twigs stuck in it, she’s a bit like me when I was a girl!

Some other books to try if you are a girl/woman who likes the Arthurian legends:

Women of Camelot by Mary Hoffman
A beautifully illustrated book of short stories, based on the well-known version of the legends by Sir Thomas Malory.

The Enchantresses and The Three Damosels by Vera Chapman
Two collections of novellas based on the Arthurian stories, and where I first came across the idea that King Arthur might have had a daughter.

Mists of Avalon by Marion Bradley
A long, romantic adult novel told by several of the Arthurian women."

You can read Little M's reviews of Sword of Light and Lance of Truth.
Katherine Roberts is a Branford Boase winning fantasy writer. You can find out more about Katherine Roberts on her website.
Rhianna and her friends Elphin, Cai and Arianrhod (by Scott Altmann, cover artist)


Thursday 7 March 2013

Maggot Moon uncovered - twice

Continuing with our Carnegie 2013 longlist adventures, here's Maggot Moon.

Sally Gardner's award-winning Maggot Moon drew inspiration from the 1969 moon landing conspiracy theories and explores aspects of totalitarian propaganda. Here, we look at the messages hidden behind Maggot Moon’s two different UK covers. Jet Purdie, Hot Key Books’ art director, takes us behind the covers once again.


“Hot Key Books Managing Director Sarah Odedina expressed an interest in Brazilian Cordel style wood carving for Sally Gardner's Maggot Moon cover and put me on to a talented illustrator friend of hers called Julian Crouch.

I knocked up a dramaticcally cropped Cordel style rough with what I thought was the most striking image in the book – Standish Treadwell's different coloured eyes. One blue one brown.

(M: Standish is the main character & I loved that image in the book and the cover.)

We then commisioned Julian Crouch who created some lovely Cordel style cover art.

Illustration by Julian Crouch

I hand drew some cyrillic / Russian / propaganda style title type.

I decided to use Cyan (blue) and black and avoided red as I thought it too obvious. I like to work with a limited colour pallet and the blue already existed in Standish Treadwell's eye.

The first version's cover, published for children

 After Sally Gardner won the 2012 COSTA Children's Book Award we decided to print an adult version of the cover.

(M: This adult definitely enjoyed reading Maggot Moon)

For the adult version I took inspiration from Russian match boxes that featured space race images of rockets orbiting the moon. I love the poor quality printing and the fact the images had to be illustrated so graphically due to the tiny size of the matchbox label they were printing on. When the illustration are enlarged they reveal all kinds of beautiful imperfections.

(M: I wonder what they say? My Russian’s a bit lacking....)

For the adult version of Maggot Moon I re-drew various sections of dozens of the Russian government issue match boxes and merged them together. In my mind the rats symbolise Standish and his best friend. The proportion of the moon is intentionally unrealistic in comparison to the rats… but you'll need to read this wonderful book to discover why that might be.

The book was purposefully distressed and printed on uncoated paper to give the feeling it was printed in the mid 1950s when the story is set.

 I hope you love it as much as I do.”
- Jet Purdie

M: Oh, I loved Maggot Moon. Probably, I prefer the original cover, maybe because I loved the story from the first time I read it. But now, I’m looking at the adult cover a lot more curiously too....
You can read my review here.