Experiment’s end.

My blogging experiment that is. It’s been a few months since I split my blog into two, keeping the bookish stuff here and taking everything else away to a new home. I liked the idea of having two discrete spaces but the reality just hasn’t worked out the way I’d imagined. That’s why I’ve re-imported all of the posts I’d exported and Juniper’s Jungle will again be home to all of my blogging.

This means of course that there will be a reduction in the number of book related posts because there will be more posts about other things. I have a handful of books I’ve committed to review, those posts will appear over the next couple of months. I’m not planning on committing to any more reviews in the short term, I’ve got a few different sorts of book type posts I want to have a bit of a play with so I’m going to take my time and work out exactly what’s going to work best.

In addition to the book related stuff expect posts about my crafting, the tv I’m watching, what I’m getting up to (tomorrow I’ll be blogging about the work I’m currently doing) and anything else I want to commit words to. It’s going back to a good old hotchpotch sort of a blog, as pleasingly random as me.

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Picture Book Round Up.

A slightly different sort of picture book post today, I’m simply rounding up the picture books I’ve read recently.

A Home for Mr Tipps written and illustrated by Tom Percival – a cute book about a young boy adopting a stray cat. It has lovely illustrations with bold colours which work well with the story.

Daddy Does the Cha Cha Cha is written by David Bedford and illustrated by Bridget Strevens-Marzo – a fun story about lots of dads who all have their own signature dance. Not particularly high on plot but the choices of different dances made me smile.

Grandma’s Saturday Soup is written by Sally Fraser and Derek Brazell. Published by Mantra Lingua, the book is available in 29 different dual language editions, I read the English with French version. It’s a lovely story, everything Mimi sees around her reminds of her grandmother and the delicious sounding soup she makes on Saturdays. There’s lots to discuss here, from family to different cultures to the seasons and days of the week.

Here Be Monsters written by Jonathan Emmett and illustrated by Poly Bernatene – an exciting pirate adventure with a real sting in its tail. The illustrations are gorgeous and add a lot to the reading experience. The text is rhyming, some work better than others, and lengthy – this would be best suited to slightly older children.

And finally, sticking with the nautical theme, The Sea Tiger is written and illustrated by Victoria Turnbull. It’s a touching story about a sea tiger and merboy who are best friends, having lots of adventures together. The story is quite deep and whilst the illustrations are beautiful they’re also very muted, I’m not entirely sure what young readers would make of the book.

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Book Review: Starring Kitty by Keris Stainton.

StarringKittySometimes the greatest love stories happen behind the scenes…

Kitty’s keeping secrets. Like how she’s struggling to cope with her mum’s illness. And how she’s falling for the girl with the purpley-red hair… A fun film competition with her friends Sunny and Hannah seems like the perfect distraction. But then Dylan wants to be more than Kitty’s secret. Is Kitty ready to let her two worlds meet or will she risk losing Dylan forever?

Starring Kitty is the first in a new series about first love and friendship by much-loved teen author Keris Stainton.

I have known Keris for a long time now, quite a while before her debut novel Della Says OMG! was published. I’ve read and enjoyed each book that she has written, you can see my review of Jessie Hearts NYC. When I heard about her new series for Catnip Publishing, focusing on three friends who enter a film making competition, I thought it sounded wonderful. Starring Kitty is the first book in this series, and it completely lived up to my expectations.

Kitty, the star of this book, is 14. It’s hard enough being a teenager but she has other things to worry about. Firstly there’s her mum, she has Multiple Sclerosis and Kitty is trying to cope with how this has changed her family life. I thought the way this subject was covered was excellent, having a close family member with a chronic, disabling illness has such an impact and this was explored thoroughly and thoughtfully. I particularly liked that Kitty’s feelings are negative at times, I think this is really important.

The other major thing in Kitty’s life is her first, fledgling romance. We learn at the very beginning of the book that she has feelings for someone, but that someone is a girl not a boy. This aspect of the story is just lovely, it’s tentative and cute and everything first love should be. Kitty is still becoming confident in her own self and her own identity, this leads her to make some decisions about her relationship that we the reader can see are not for the best, but they feel entirely understandable.

Kitty is an excellent main character, I really loved her friendship with Sunny and Hannah. I’m very glad that this is a beginning of a series and that the subsequent books will be from their perspectives – I really want to get to know them even better. One of my favourite relationships in the book only features a couple of times, it’s between Kitty and her brother Tom who is away at university in London. I loved well written sibling relationships and theirs is wonderful.

The #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign is growing stronger and stronger at the moment. This is a great example of a diverse book, some of the characters happen to fall in to minority groups but they are never defined by these characteristics, instead being fully rounded and allowed to just be.

The next book in the series Spotlight on Sunny comes out next Spring, I can’t wait to read it!

Starring Kitty is published by Catnip Publishing in the UK. My copy of the book is one I purchased myself.

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Project Remix.

ProjectRemix

Yesterday Malorie Blackman, Children’s Laureate, launched Project Remix – a creative challenge for 13 – 19 year olds in the UK. Here’s Malorie herself introducing the competition:

From the Children’s Laureate website:

To enter, teenagers are asked to make their own creative work in response to a selection of acclaimed literature – featuring fiction, poetry, graphic novels and short stories from some of the bestselling contemporary and classic authors, including: John Green, Suzanne Collins, Philip Pullman, Benjamin Zephaniah, Jane Austen, Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker. Entries can be submitted into five categories: Music, Book Cover Design, Book Trailer, Creative Writing, and Comic Strip.

The aim of the competition is to engage young people with literature, using it as a creative springboard into other storytelling mediums, and to open doors to the arts and the creative industries. It was inspired by the growth of online fandom, including fanfiction and fan art and the surge in related digital communities.

I think this is a really interesting opportunity. Personally I’ve been involved in fandom for more years than I want to count, reading and occasionally writing fan fiction and admiring other fanworks created by like minded people. That the Children’s Laureate wants to highlight this as a way teens can explore creativity is great, particularly as this competition is aimed at encouraging and nurturing the teens (there have been other competitions in the past that haven’t had such a positive intention). If I was in the target age group I know my brain would be spinning into overdrive with ideas – I’m looking forward to seeing what the winning entrants look like.

You can find out more about the competition, including the list of books that have been selected as the source material, here at the Project Remix website.

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MG Monday: The Grunts in Trouble by Philip Ardagh.

middlegrademonday

Middle Grade Mondays on Juniper’s Jungle feature books aimed at 8 – 12 year olds, or younger. This week, The Grunts in Trouble by Philip Ardagh gets the focus.

GruntsMeet Mr and Mrs Grunt. Oh, go on. They’re not that bad. No, actually, they ARE. Maybe worse, even. But Sunny, their sort-of son, is okay. They stole him from a washing line as a baby. He was hanging by his ears, which probably explains why they’re so wonky (but not why he has sticky-up hair that NEVER lies flat, even if you pour glue into it or try taping it in place). Sticky around and you’ll also meet Lord Bigg of Bigg Manor, Bigg-hater Larry Smalls, Mimi the Bigg Manor boot boy (yup, she’s a girl) and…Well, you’ll have to READ the book to find that out. But I should mention the bees. Did I warn you about the bees?!

There are a number of middle grade series that I have written on a list to try, ones that I hear about from my Beaver Scouts or from parents who have children of the appropriate age. When I do read the first book in the series sometimes it’s a case of love at first page and I find myself wondering when on earth I’m going to find the time to read all of the other books in the series. Then there are books that are an interesting enough read but I don’t feel any drive to read more – this is how I felt about The Grunts.

I can definitely see the appeal of this book to younger readers. It’s funny and engaging with larger than life characters who move from one amusing moment of trouble to the next, with each problem proving larger (and potentially funnier) than the last. I personally found that whilst the story was amusing it didn’t really make me laugh out loud, I think I had started reading expecting it to be more funny than it actually was.

This book is illustrated by Axel Scheffler who is probably most familiar for his work on The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child, written by Julia Donaldson. I reviewed one of his self-penned Pip and Posy books a little while ago, you can see that here. I really like his style and it works well in this book, seeing The Grunts and the other characters brought to life in the pages – I think I’d be hard pressed to pick a favourite character.

One thing I wasn’t quite sure about with this book was the somewhat rambling nature of the narrative. The book has a storyteller style narrator who often goes off on tangents that are only partially related to the story itself. These are sometimes quite funny and entertaining, but at times I found myself wishing that the narrator would just get on with the story. I am very sure that this aspect of the book will work very differently for different readers and that some will absolutely love it.

I’m very glad that I’ve read this, the first book to feature The Grunts, and that I’ve now met the characters. I won’t be rushing to read any more of their stories, but I’ll certainly try some of Philip Ardagh’s other series in the future.

The Grunts in Trouble is published by Nosy Crow in the UK. My copy of the book is one I purchased myself.

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A Brief Break

Just a quick note to apologise for the lack of posts this week. I’ve started a new temping job which I’m loving, but I haven’t quite got my week rejigged yet. Unfortunately this means that reading, and as a result blogging, are the things that have had to give. I’ll be back with a full week from next Monday – see you then!

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October Reads.

Another month, another lot of books to gather together. I had quite a few review commitments this month, this dictated a lot of the books I was choosing to read. I’ve been looking guiltily at my huge number of unread books – I’ve decided for the rest of 2014 I’m going to try and concentrate a bit more on these books rather than agreeing to yet more review commitments. This will of course only work if I stop browsing Net Galley!

I read 17 books in October, half of these were picture books. I had a week away from home so I’m not surprised my total books read is a little lower this month. The books in order of reading were:

  • Iron Sky: Dread Eagle by Alex Woolf.
  • Where the Poppies Now Grow by Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey.
  • The Dinosaur That Pooped Christmas by Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter, and Garry Parsons.
  • Pea’s Book of Birthdays by Susie Day.
  • The Seafront Tea Rooms by Vanessa Greene.
  • The Lost Journals of Benjamin Tooth by Mackenzie Crook.
  • The Windvale Sprites by Mackenzie Crook.
  • Noodle’s Knitting by Sheryl Webster and Caroline Pedlar.
  • Marmaduke the Very Different Dragon by Rachel Valentine and Ed Eaves.
  • The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland.
  • Harold Finds a Voice by Courtney Dicmas.
  • TimeBomb by Scott K. Andrews.
  • Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle.
  • The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith.
  • Woozy the Wizard: A Spell to Get Well by Elli Woollard and Al Murphy.
  • The Great Balloon Hullaballoo by Peter Bently and Mei Matsuoka.
  • Standing in for Lincoln Green by David Mackintosh.

My favourite books in October were Pea’s Book of Birthdays and The Geography of You and Me. Both reminded me in their own ways just why it is that I love contemporary fiction so much.

What were your favourite books in October? What are you excited to read in November?

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