Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Flying Tips For Flightless Birds - Children's Book Review

Flying Tips for Flightless Birds by Kelly McCaughrain is my suggested read for the school child over the Easter hols. It is a teen read (12 years +). 

Birdie is one half of a trapeze act duo, she also blogs about her personal histories and sensibilities of the circus and circus school. Birdie has an accident and it is through the first person voice of Finch, her twin, that the young reader will identify with the insecurity felt of having to team up with a new 'life on the wire' partner; and not just in a circus performing sense. 

This is a story surrounding the angst involved in choosing the right partner whether it's in friendship, or in one's first love/gay love awakenings and the complexities we feel with ourselves and in relationships with others at a time of such heightened awareness. Author, Kelly McCaughrain, captures the essence of having an all inclusive approach for her early teenage audience, but I find it strange that the circus is still a popular theme with children's writers, it appeals to the inner romantic I suppose. Language includes some colloquialisms. The writing is lively.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

The Music Shop

Book Review -

The Music Shop 
Author: Rachel Joyce
Publisher: Doubleday (13 July 2017)
Language: English
An Adult Fictional Book
ISBN 978-0857521927


It's 1988, a time when Britain's industrial past first started to disappear from the landscape. Peoples' jobs and social positioning were changing; resulting in changed emphasis in regard to lifestyle, focus and interest. Some took the baton and ran with it, while others held things more preciously; were defensive and were not always best placed to do the same. Turning to fiction now, and Music shop owner, Frank and his fellow traders/service providers on Union Street would fall under the latter if they were for real.

Frank has great appreciation and a good ear for music of all genres which he loves to pass on and to make people feel better. Nonetheless, his love of the vinyl record and his insistence to sell from his shop music in this format only meant his passion and livelihood was somewhat doomed because: 'Lots of people threw away their records. In 1988 all we wanted were CDs'.

The story is not just about Frank's nostalgic and sometimes sad personal past, there is a main plot story thread, a love interest, but 
Frank needs to be less stubborn and drop his guard and it is not going to be an easy ride to do it.


I admire the intelligence in the writing and the attention Joyce has paid to portray the rational and sometimes irrational thinking of Frank and that of the people in his past (Peg and Deb), as well as his small world present (I'll not name check them all) but I mean the shopkeepers; the tattooist; the undertakers; the waitress, Father Anthony etc.

Joyce is successful in giving identifiable personalities to all her characters. She is people observant in her writing and allows us to perceive a sense of time and place that falls within living memory, she does this sympathetically and engagingly. 

Any rise in the otherwise gentle storytelling tone involves the character, Ilse Brauchmann. This character is both the conflict of mind and a distraction for Frank, causing him equal angst with having to accept the fact the demand for vinyl records has bottomed out.

Yet, with the rise again in popularity of vinyl records in recent years, I think it is an interesting theme for a book and a well timed release. 
I am sure Joyce's intention however, was to be more clever in having those music mentions stir people curiosity to visit YouTube or to download tunes and classical pieces, but for anyone like me with a memory for various artists and a broad music taste nothing stuck in my mind particularly, apart from the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah; (if you read the book you'll know why I say this).

I do, however, think this story is a little gem! Yes, I question whether or not the move to introduce each chapter with a well known song title adds anything at all, and that toward the end it all gets a bit nonsensical; but the text is highly navigable. That doesn't mean that I skipped through it, no, actually, I read every word and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Debra Hall

Paperback publication - 22 March 2018

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

The Reading Room

The Reading Room 
 “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! -- When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” ― Jane AustenPride and Prejudice

... sadly how times have changed ◄ ►but I am liking the nostalgic image of Wall - To - Wall books on the lid of The Reading Room jigsaw by the Ravensburger brand 🎓👓📚 


Monday, 26 February 2018

A Picture Book with Science Facts Designed for Young Children

This afternoon, while I blog, there is the first flurry of snow flakes falling. This means something in a tenuous sense as I am writing a review of 'The Squirrels' Busy Year' by Martin Jenkins and Illustrated by Richard Jones and the theme is seasons and weather

The Squirrels' Busy Year' by Martin Jenkins and Illustrated by Richard Jones


This storybook allows a year long sympathetic window into the lives of two squirrels: starting with winter, then spring; summer; ending with autumn. 
Owl is keeping an eye on things over the icy landscape while the squirrels are in their nest for the best part. Winter moves into spring - Owl continues to keep an eye on things from the hole in the tree. The squirrels' are out and about and the frogs and the birds' are first mentioned in the spring section. It's summer, Owl is still there and the squirrels and the frogs are keeping cool. Autumn, and the birds' have flown, the frogs have disappeared from surface ground living but the squirrels are still out and about at times. 
Aside from the story, and the wonderful illustrations in earthy colours by Richard Jones, author Martin Jenkins has included a line or two, or short paragraph of seasonal related commentary and factual information which binds the scientific real world with the season led activities of the cute animal characters. 
Page 28 and the story is done, five science and nature questions follow and are designed to prompt the child to think about seasons and weather in context.


I like this book a lot, I question however, the age suitability being named as 5 - 7 years in the promotion. This is a Picture Storybook after all, so, arguably, better that it be read out loud by others to a little people audience in Nursery or a Reception class? Or one-on-one at a reading time session snug in an armchair? Or, as a bedtime story? So that participants can enjoy the pictures and respond to the questions in a pairing or a group. Better for children of early years in reality-if you get my meaning!

Because many children of the designated school age range given have some first science knowledge already, and an average/above average reading ability, therefore, would a picture book be a first choice as an independent read for such a child? Wouldn't an A5 sized easy read or a fun facts paperback be their preference? Perhaps not...I don't know.

In defence of the book I note that the word and sentence structure of it meets with the English reading level of a child falling in the stated age range quite fittingly. To independently read this book a child would need to get around paragraphs like this from the book and I quote 'The weather is often cool in autumn and it can be wet and windy. The birds that have flown off will come back in the spring. Many trees lose their leaves in autumn'. 

I acknowledge that it is very difficult to gauge whether or not the concept of making a pre-school favourite (a picture storybook format in other words), into a teaching aid for a child that is near ending his or her first grade education is a wise one. 

Thank you for reading. Comments welcome. 


Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Corporate Gifting on World Book Day 2018

Illustrations from various titles published by Walker Books Ltd. © 2017 Individual artists.  All rights reserved

Calling corporate companies, and large; medium; small businesses who adhere to a strong social responsibility policy. Why not consider supporting children's literacy skills by gifting a primary school or community group with a Literacy Toolkit from National Literacy Trust (pictured above)?  

Each box is filled with:

  • A range of 50 books for children and young people to inspire reading.
  • Guidance and templates to help schools engage parents and their local community.
  • Activity sheets and other information to use in classrooms and send home.
  • Access to National Literacy Trust Membership, which offers expert literacy support and resources, for a local school for one year.

Gifting a box is a simple way to make a difference to your local community and show your commitment to raising literacy levels. Buying one now will mean a primary school or community group will receive their toolkit on World Book Day as part of the nationwide celebration of reading and literacy. You could also buy the toolkit to support your own employees as parents.

Each Literacy Toolkit costs £650

For more information Visit :


Attn. Schools - if you'd like to approach local businesses to fund a pack for your school the National Literacy Trust can help with the supply of a supporting letter:

Monday, 29 January 2018

Ravensburger Puzzle 'Toy Wonderama' - A Product Review

***** Excellent Quality and Imagery

I've spent the last few nights mesmerized by Aimee Stewart's 'Toy Wonderama' with my 9 year old daughter. 500 pieces of toy nostalgia including robots, vehicles and other clockwork pieces. This brightly coloured picture gave us lots to talk about as we worked together to complete this puzzle. Ravensburger as always have produced another top quality jigsaw with pieces that lock together well to form the completed picture. Aimee Stewart packs so much detail into her pictures that it takes repeated viewings to make sure that you have seen everything, definitely an artist that I'll look out for on jigsaw in the future. My 9 year old enjoyed the jigsaw but did find it a challenge, she liked the colours on the jigsaw which helped her assemble the puzzle.

Review by Guest Reviewer Catherine F from Lancashire UK

Monday, 8 January 2018

Rug Making and Rug Recycling Ideas

Upcycling Your Rug Infographic is by The Rug Seller This Infographic details the up-cycling ideas and the reusing of rugs to make new things

The book HOOKED Carpetbags, Handbags and Totes includes 13 Great Designs by Editors of Rug Hooking Magazine Below, via my Instagram, is a page image of a Floral Duffle Bag that was once destined to be a rug made by designer and rug maker, Susan Clarke.