Just getting your weekend reads together for you… here are the latest and greatest books that we have been reading from Jonathan Ball Publishers. Something for everyone…
A Picture Book
Not Yet Zebra by Lou Kuenzler and Julia Woolf: This story is a delightful romp… Little Annie, who is a “quite in charge of things, thank you very much” kind of gal, is trying to paint her way through the animal alphabet. And then she has a very keen and enthusiastic little friend, Zebra, who really should be last, who is desperate, desperate to be painted.
She gets through Aardvark, Bear and Crocodile… and Zebra gets more desperate, resorting to dressing up. She resorts to “Shoo Zebra,” and finally in desperation while she is painting Yak, “Go away, Zebra, it is not your turn.”… And of course then when it is finally Zebra’s turn, he is nowhere to be found.
Annie, starts to feel a little remorseful, “Was it something I said?” Turns out Zebra has exhausted himself bouncing around and has simply gone to bed. Lovely bouncy rhyming story… and a chance to learn a little empathy at the same time. Very sweet book. You can meet the author, Lou Kuenzler over here… and the illustrator, Julia Woolf, over here.
A Chapter Book
The Midnight Gang by David Walliams: This is a fabulous fat book and richly illustrated by the zany Tony Ross. This is the perfect chapter book for the kid that whiffles through books really quickly and never has enough to read… 478 packed pages. And a less enthusiastic reader will happy bounce through this book as well, as there are plenty of illustrations to carry them along.
The story is about the Midnight Gang… a collection of children on the 44th floor of the Lord Font Hospital. A somewhat draconian hospital, in England, where children are sent to suffer in silence… except for the Midnight Gang, that literally comes alive at midnight, when all other children are sleeping. This book certainly feeds into the idea in every childs’ mind… that all good things happen long after bedtime. It is packed with the flippant wit of young lads, and many a joke has been packed into these pages. The nicest thing about this read is that David Walliams is a fairly prolific author and once your child discovers that they like the The Midnight Gang, they then discover heaps more books to read by the same author… it’s a win win. You have to take a peak at this book on David William’s website… there is a lot of fun stuff over there, including an excerpt to listen to.
A Historical Saga
The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson: I loved this book. Not often that I will say that… but I loved it and stayed up nearly all night reading it. I have to be honest, its a slow starter and it took me a while to get into it… but once the story started flowing I could not put it down. It is an epic, set in Iceland and North Africa, about 400 years ago. The book begins with heavily pregnant Asta, and her fellow islanders, that have all survived a brutal attack being carried off on a ship, in horrendous conditions away from the land they love. When she and the remains of her family, as well as a newborn, arrive in Algiers, the family is divided and sold to different quarters, she becomes a member of a wealthy businessman’s harem. The Muslim business man recognises, Asta’s Christian husband, Olafur as the leader and pastor of the clan, and sends him “home” to Denmark, to recover a ransom. He was sent on his own adventure, perhaps never to return. Meanwhile, the women gather each evening on the roof to swap stories and legends from whence they came and Asta’s skill and storytelling and knowledge of Icelandic mythology, brings her to the attention of her wealthy owner. He asks for her more and she is clearly not like the other women he interacts with, and they grown closer. When it appears that her husband will never return, they become closer still. But a twist fate and a messenger from afar, reveals (spoiler alert) that her husband is indeed alive… now she needs to decide between returning to her first love, in the cold and poverty of her homeland, or does she stay in her new wealthy world, where her children will always be just out of reach. A hard decision and one that Asta has to make for the book to reach its finale. This book is full of highs and lows and apparent contradictions, a wealthy life in captivity versus a life of poverty and freedom are continuously played against each other… it sounds like she had an easy choice to make, but then again, matters of the heart are never trivial. This is a historical fiction based on true facts of the time and I really love that the story is told from Asta’s perspective… a women’s perspective of a hair-raising raid, followed by years of captivity, one can only imagine. It is not often that we get to hear the feminine version of historical events, especially in an era when men were conquerers and women apparently, sat by the fire and darned socks… this book will throw that stereotype right out of the window. Asta is no push over, she is a woman of deep and abiding strength, she stands by what she believes throughout and doesn’t let her readers down as circumstances beyond her control rock the world around her, she stays firmly grounded. You can meet Sally Magnusson on her website here.
A Time Travelling Mystery
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton: Let me start by saying, I did not love this book… but I was intrigued. Absolutely intrigued, I had to read this book all the way through. While I never felt emotionally connected to the characters, the author has created some very interesting characters and his plot just keeps you reading on. From the blurb, I was expecting something of a “Groundhog Day/Murder Mystery” type book… you can safely get Bill Murray out of your mind and stick with the Murder Mystery. There are murders and there is a mystery and it all begins with man with amnesia, running desperately through a forest towards what appears to be a Manor House, to report a terrible crime. It feels like a classic crime all the main players are gathered together for a celebration and surely you just need to hear each story to resolve it, but it is nothing like that… because the protagonist keeps changing throughout the book, each time our main player falls asleep he wakes up as a different person from amongst the characters,and you see the window into his world through very different eyes. He has eight hosts and eight days, or rather one day that keeps repeating, as he tries to understand, to figure out who is who and what it is all about. This is time travelling, but on the spot… until you realise that you are embroiled in a re-visit to a murder that happened nineteen years before. Not only do the goal posts move all the time but the players constantly change “side” from good to bad and back again… as your main narrator changes character. The point is, the victim remains the same. As the reader, you will love some of the unusual characters, you will loathe others, but that is neither here nor there, the point is you will really want to know if Evelyn can be saved from her inevitable fate, not only that… but why, why, why? There is a lot of cleverness in this complicated plot, and a lot you will still wonder about long after you have finished the last page.
And a Classic Collection
100 Books that Changed the World by Scott Christianson and Colin Salter: This is journey through time looking at 100 Books that have shaped our world… from I Ching in 2800 BC all the way through history to Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Picketty in 2013. They have managed to select a wide variety of books, through science and mythology, from every corner of the globe, religion and contemporary, classics from days of old and classics in our own time… Each book is on a double page spread, including a cover photograph and perhaps an illustration from within, and a full page write up about the author, the book and they have managed to take us behind the scenes and often provide a fair amount of back story to the book as well. It is the fastest track to inspire you to read all those books you “should” have read, as well as perhaps a quick way to find out why some of those books that you were told you must read, you never managed to get around to reading. I have to say that is packed with a lot of my favourites, including Jane Eyre, which may well be one of my desert island favourites… as well as other favourites of mine: Maya Angelou, Dr Seuss, Rachel Carson and can I mention Euclid!!!
This book is very giftable, a beautiful hardback with page after page of book lover’s delight… not quite coffee table presentable in our house it does contain Vatsyayana’s K.ma S.tra amongst Homer’s The Iliad and the Odyssey and Dante’s The Divine Comedy. There is also Thoreau and Lewis Carroll, Tolstoy and Anne Frank… and for all the fans, Tolkien. Many books you probably have read and many that you wish you had read. This is a lovely collection for browsing through before a trip to a second hand shop, not to mention a trip down memory lane through your own reading journey.
Thank you to Jonathan Ball Publishers 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.