This is the time of year when all the beautiful gift books are published and this year is no exception. There is a pile of lovely lovely giftable reads that we have been reading our way through, so that we could share them with you. We are working our way up from books for the smallest to the tallest of readers…
This is an eclectic mix of what we have been reading lately… big books little books, fact books and fun books… there really is something for everyone in this pile of books…
A Fantastic Family Read
Norse Myths, Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki by Kevin Crossley-Holland and illustrated by Jeffrey Alan Love: We are reading this book together as a family and it is fantastic. This has to be our book of the year it is truly a work of art. Can I say I know that my middle school boys, who are intrigued by all things to do with Norse Myths, have snuck off and read ahead. This book is a large format hard back book, very much of the coffee table variety… and the illustrations are superb and absolutely make the book. I love that they begin the book with a great description of who is who in the world of Norse Myths… not all of us have grown up with a background in Norse-mythology… clearly my children have because they know all about the characters long before I get there. This book is a work of art from the get go… from the runes in the end covers to the twisting winding illustrations that bring these ancient myths to life.
Let’s begin with the main players Odin, the ruler of the Gods and know as the all-father; then there is Thor, the god of thunder; and finally Loki, the trickster, who stirs things up in the Norse World, like nobody else could even imagine. The book is packed with other gods, dwarfs and of course giants. North mythology takes place in nine worlds all linked together by a great ash tree… and the stories wind in and out of each world. Of course like all mythology there is good and bad, there folk that play fair and others that never will. What we love about this collection of stories is that they stories are new to us, we have no idea where each story is going and we have to read on to find out. Not only that but the characters have their faults, along with incredible strengths, they have incredible failings… there is a lot of each of us between the pages of this book. Not to mention if you are planning on making a rainbow book case, it is often hard to find a fine yellow book… this beautiful book fits perfectly into that category!!!
Poetry for Everyone
I’m Just no Good at Rhyming by Chris Harris and Illustrated by Lane Smith: Let’s begin by saying we are huge fans of Lane Smith, and as soon as I see a book illustrated by him I know that we are going to love it. The illustrations in this book are totally, totally wacky… and just the creative license to illustrate with words… it is delightful. His work full of surprises, seeing things form a different perspective to the rest of the world… and so creating a page turner, you can’t wait to see what is on the next page.
Apart from that the poetry… is engaging, hilarious and just slightly outrageous. you will read poems in this book the will leave you pondering life, and laughing out loud… Poems like: The Good-Child Test, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, Chocolate for Breakfast (it’s not chocolate it is chico-early!!!) and what about: Somebody Stole my Bagel’s Hole. This book is packed with funny quirky, expressive and most importantly shareable poems that we have loved… this is our poetry book of the year and if you wold like your kids to engage in poetry in a playful way, rather than a truly schoolish way, then this is the book for you… Our whole family loves it. We have enjoyed it together at the kitchen table. And as it lies on the coffee table, so it gets enjoyed again and again, by folk of all ages… stopping by and dipping in.
A Brilliant Board Book
My Big Book of South African Animals by Roger Priddy: Finally we have a board book for South African children, featuring local animals. This is a large format chunky book, packed with dozens of beautifully photographed animals presented on brightly coloured pages… just what you would expect from a Priddy book. As well as the usual culprits you would find in an animal book, you will also find some lesser spotter South African varieties… there is an ostrich, a kudu, a duiker and nyala, sun fish and a cape vulture, to name a few.
Your tiny animal lover will love this book, the crystal clear photographs, the naming of names and such like. I firmly believe children need to experience things that they encounter in their own world, and so many great books for small children that are published overseas do not have any of our local animals… English woodland creatures and Amazon jungle wildlife is great, but here is something with animals a local child will encounter whether they live at the coast or further inland. This book is a winner for us.
The Nutcracker, A Colouring Book from PanMacmillan: A beautiful colouring book that the whole family will enjoy. It is based on the classic story by E.T.A Hoffmann, and you don’t have to be a ballerina to enjoy it… the pictures are beautiful and there is something for everyone to enjoy and colour in… pages of beautiful presents, candy canes and christmas trees…
The cover is delightfully Christmassy with red and gold embossed highlights. This book is extremely giftable for folk of all ages who love the story, and folk of all ages that love colouring.
A Fine Chapter Book
Nevermoor, The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend and illustrated by Beatriz Castro: This book arrives with the tag: “Highly Acclaimed” pretty much embossed on the cover. It was the cover in fact, that drew me into it… it is just beautiful. The story is about a girl called Morrigan Crow was born on Eventide, and so she is a curse… she is the blame for everything in and out of town that goes wrong… the dead kitchen cat, the hailstorm, the broken hip and even a local heart attack. Not only that, but she is cursed, cursed to die on the night of her eleventh birthday. It is a grim beginning, but then a book that states the problem right at the start is indeed a good one, because we are left to read our way through to the solution… A series of events brings Jupiter North into Morrigan’s life, and you know that this is no accident. Morrigan has been selected to “try out” for a place in the prestigious organisation, the Wundrous Society. Four difficult and dangerous trials, need to be overcome. These are trials of the exceptional skill, mind bending kind… the extreme self discovery kind of challenge… will Corrigan be able to complete the challenges? This book is full of extremes and surprises as you follow Morrigan on her journey. My middle schoolers will enjoy this book, and our eleven year old gal would absolutely love it… This is a timeless tale, and one that any adventurous middle grade reader would totally love.
My one hesitation about this book is why did I have to go hunting for the illustrator’s name on the the publisher’s page. The illustrations are beautiful and enrich the book, Beatriz Castro’s name deserves to be on the front cover, not buried with the barcode on the back cover… it is a design flaw.
In Case You Need a Hobby
Calm Calligraphy, Malleus: After wanting to up my lettering skills all year, I finally have a book that could well set me on my way. The book begins with a beautiful introduction to the author, her passion for calligraphy is explained. And then she goes on to tell her readers how exactly the art of calligraphy can prove to be somewhat of a meditation in your life. After the introduction there is a section, called The Seven Rules… and these are tips on writing in general, lots of ideas on how to write better, best practices and so on. How to create the perfect space for your writing, be disciplined, take it slowly and so on.
Essentially this is a workbook, with tons of practice pages… and I am sure if one was disciplined and worked at it… starting with letters and moving on to words, then phrases… that you would indeed not only change your handwriting but have beautiful script writing. I love it lettering practice at it’s best. And the just the kind of challenge I need to write beautifully.
Something to Inspire Your New Year
How to Bullet Plan by Rachel Wilkerson Miller: Bullet planning is the new in thing… it is quick and easy journaling to keep you on track in every single area of your life. I absolutely adore looking at folks marvellous Bullet journals all over instagram… there are well over a million bullet journal tags on instagram, go and check them out and thank me later. Meanwhile, I have been working on my own version of bulletin journaling, had I even known it was called this (!) for years. I had to get this book and I had to check it out and I had to share all the details with you… this is the complete guidebook to everything you need to know: the basics, yearly spreads, monthly spreads, habit trackers and so much more… even travel spreads. Stacks of “How to tips…” and beautiful photographs to show you all the details you might miss in a quick read. There are boxes of quick inspiration and lots of little tips so that you can get started immediately…. because that is what you will want to do. The best kind of notebook for the job (any blank notebook), the best pens, the best ideas, not to mention this book begins with a glossary, so that when you do trawl around on the internet for #bulletjournal inspiration, that you are not totally overwhelmed or baffled by what folk are talking about.
All you need to get started is a blank notebook, and from there you go… what is it you would like to keep track of? Basically if you love being organised but can’t stand to be told what to do… which is why to-do lists never work for me, then you will love bullet journaling… because you can make it exactly what you want it to be. You can start off really and truly simply and you can create and elaborate as you go along… you can keep it simple or be inspired to do more, it is all up to you and not predetermined by whatever else the crowd is doing.
I confess I read this book in an afternoon…I couldn’t help myself I was inspired. It is a dipper though, and I will be returning to it again and again for future tips. The book has a soft cover and is about four times fatter than a moleskin (because it is packed with so many tips), but otherwise the same feel and texture. It is lovely you could toss it in your bag and read it on the go and be inspired for weeks!!!
Spy Training For Real
Spy School, Are You Sharp Enough to be a KGB Agent? This is the book all the guys in our house want to inhale in a moment and I would kind of prefer that I got to read it on the side before they even noticed it was in the house. This is the ultimate spy book and I mean ultimate… don’t think fancy gadgets, don’t think boot camp training long before dawn… this book is about training your brain until it is the ultimate elite athlete and spy tool. This book is about sharpening your memory and absorbing all the secrets needed from beginner Junior Agent through the all the levels of training to be an operative double agent.
The book is packed with real life scenarios and exercises that you have to do… and training techniques with mind maps and mnemonics just the easy one. The purpose, to sharpen your brain… not to mention how to survive a polygraph. This is an extremely useful book and I am not surprised that it is a Russian bestseller.
For Rainbow Rowell Fans of all Ages
Almost Midnight Two Festive Short Stories by Rainbow Rowell and illustrated by Simini Blocker: This book is beautiful, it is small, glittery, with adorable pen illustrations and it cries out “giftable.” The first story, Midnights, is about Noel, a highly allergic young fellow and Mags a sweet, lifesaver (literally!). They meet every year at the same New Years Eve Party and every year get to know each other a little bit better.
The next story, Kindred Spirits, is about a girl Elana, who has waited for ever to see the next Star Wars movie and decided she is going to wait in line, no matter what… she spends a week on the pavement with Troy, a tetchy old hat at sitting in line and Gabe a sweet lad with a huge heart for Star Wars… this is really the story of their week in the queue together… Sweet stories, fun holiday reads… for anyone who likes a little love, a lot of friendship and a quick read over the holidays. If you are a fan of Rainbow Rowell you will love these and if you aren’t a fan yet… then these would be a great place to start.
Absolutely Gripping Teen Read
Contagion by Teri Terry: When I saw that we had a Teri Terry book in our review pile I just about died of excitement. Her first series: Slated, Fractured and Shattered, were probably the first “Real teen reads” to be read in our home and we loved them. Absolutely gripping stuff. Let’s move on to Contagion, just saying, is the first in a series, and from the first page you will need to read right until the very end… of the series. One thing about Teri Terry’s writing is that it is very unpredictable, not to mention extremely fast paced. If you have a teen that is a slightly reluctant reader challenge them to read the first few chapters… they will be hooked.
The story is about Shay, a teen whose mum has given her a name that she loathes, not to mention she is bullied to distraction. And then there is Callie, and she is Kai’s younger sister and also somehow in the grip of some sort of epidemic and has been closed off from society… though she can’t remember why. The chapters are short and end right on a cliff hanger every single time. And the book alternates between Shay and Callie, so not only do the chapters end on a cliff hanger but you have to wait a chapter to see what happens next to a particular character. Shay has a photographic memory and Callie is officially missing… and it just so happens that Shay may be one of the last people to have seen her. There is something strange going on with Callie, she appears to be in some sort of government institution… and she is having some sort of out of body experience as she is cured (the book is called Contagion, after all). And then Shay and Callie’s thoughts… hmmm… Creepy, gripping, dystopian and very typically Teri Terry. This book is well over 400 pages long and you will read it really fast… and then you will be in anguish, while you wait for the next book in the series to emerge.
Finally, Young Adult SciFi Read
Satellite by Nick Lake: This book is a touted as the Martian for teens. It is the story of three unusual teens that have been raised together as a family. Fifteen year old Leo and the twins, music-loving Orion and green-fingered Libra, who were all born and raised on Moon 2. They have been raised by astronauts and their whole life has directing them back, towards life on earth. As they draw close to their sixteenth birthday, they will be heading “home.” They are full of trepidation and have no desire to head out of their open ended world of space. The book is told through the eyes of Leo, who loves mathematics and engineering, but wants to live on his grandfather’s ranch in the mountains. The bad language and Leo’s struggle to find his identity when the only choice of a teen crush are really like siblings you have grown up alongside things can be somewhat awkward… and puts this straight into the young adult category for me. Despite all that and the very obvious and annoying “text speak writing” through out… so no capitals,”u” for “you” and so on… the story is a good one and Hood 2 puts it up there with good reads of the year. So if you are a space nut and interested in thinking in “reverse” about what life on earth would be like if you have lived your entire life in deep dark space… then this is the perfect holiday read for you.
Huge thank you to PanMacmillan South Africa for supplying this fabulous collection of books for review purposes. This is not a sponsored post and all the reviews are as usual my own.