What We Have Been Reading Lately from Jonathan Ball Publishers…

Recently Jonathan Ball Publishers held their media evening for new and exciting books that will be launching in the second half of this year. I loved it of course, who wouldn’t love a book event… Anyway, I posted this picture on instagram, and when you see a bookish picture in our insta feed then you know that a book post will be following soon… and here it is…


A couple of picture books for you, a colossal comic book, chapter books and can I say more than a few adults books that I have been reading lately. Every year around this time, we read our way Around the World, only this year it appears to be me that is reading Around the World, scroll down for a trip through Australia, Syria and Italy. Here you go… Enjoy the Journey…

What We Have Been Reading Lately from Jonathan Ball Publishers

A Picture Book Giveaway

Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson
This is a most beautiful picture book, and should be part of any family library. It’s Giveaway on our blog right now, click on this link and leave a comment to enter.

A Family Fun Picture Book

The New Neighbours written and illustrated by Sarah McIntyre
This book is a happy one, full of bounce and bunnies… and a very well placed message about our preconceived ideas about folk. There is a very excitable family of bunnies living on the top story of an apartment block, and they hear about new neighbours, rats… that have moved in on the ground floor. As they head downstairs to meet them, filled with joy and glee, they stop off and meet and greet a different animal family on each floor. Assumptions about their ratty neighbours are announced on each level… and the bunnies enthusiasm gets less and less as they head downstairs. Eventually they get to the ground floor, and very apprehensively knock on the door of the Rat Family… (spoiler alert)… only to be greeted by the most genteel pair of rats ever, and they have baked a large cake to greet their new neighbours with. Oh the shame for the bunnies, when they realise that all the not so very nice things that they had been told about the rats, were completely unfounded… and you can see that everyone is going to be firm friends and live happily forever after. You can visit Sarah McIntyre’s Website, Jabberworks, here.

A Chapter Book for Your Heart

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park: Reading books like this one, with our kids, will teach them compassion far more easily than us telling them that they are privileged to go to bed every night, knowing they are safe and that their tummies are full, not to mention that our water can flow from a tap. This is a book with two stories, both set in South Sudan and thirty years apart: Nya a young girl in Sudan that has to walk to a pond twice a day to fetch water for her family, the whole event takes eight hours. Eight gruelling hours out of her day, every day. The other story is about Salva, a boy whose village was attacked and he was forced to flee, and become one of the “lost boys” of Africa… this is the story of his journey without his family, not only does he have to contend with a harsh environment and terrifying people, but wild animals too. This story is about bravery and struggles, really hard struggles. It is written for children and told really well… in a world where terrible things happen, we often don’t want to share atrocities or the unfairness of it all with our kids. You have to start somewhere and this book is a good place to start. It is a true story and the point is never to give up hope, Salva and Nya meet up and their stories collide. You can meet Linda Sue Park on her website here.

Kids Doing the Right Stuff

A Good Day for Climbing Trees by Jaco Jacobs: This book was a lovely surprise, firstly it is always great to discover someone who writes in the South African context, and with a green/environmental theme. Both of those make this book a winner for us. Manus is a middle child. He has an old brother who is a heartbreaker and school swimming champion and a younger brother, with classic manipulative business skills. It looks like Manus is going to have a long and dull summer holiday, answering to his brothers’ beck and call… until Leila, a neighbour hood gal comes knocking on the door. And together Manus and Leila set out to save a tree in the local park that is doomed to be chopped down by the city council. They stage a sit in… and their families and community have to come to terms with the two of them finding their voice and standing up for what is right. While they are “tree sitting” they meet a number of interesting characters and have lots of long discussions about life… life lessons learnt around a campfire, or up a tree… It is a great story and my middle grade kids will love it. A new to us author, Jaco Jacobs, you can meet him on his website here.

This is Absolutely Fantastic!!!

The Hippo at the End of the Hall written and illustrated by Helen Cooper: Oh this is delightful… delightful. I have to say it is so picture rich and the illustrations are fantastic I thought it would be easy reading… wait a little bit if your child is just starting chapter books, until they are comfortable readers. Not the easy chapter book that I thought it would be, but an out of this world, wonderful story. Our youngest was drawn in by the illustrations (!!!), and his powering his way through this one chapter by chapter the story is intriguing, and it is full of little stories, fables, legends, myths… it is a treasure trove. Ben is a thoughtful and curious kid, who is mysteriously invited to visit the Gee Museum, it is not often one receives a beautiful invitation via bee-mail. For some reason Ben’s mum doesn’t want him to go near the museum, though how can he resist, and he finds himself on a quest to save the museum. The Gee museum is a museum of curiosities… lots of them… and this story is packed with curiosities… lots of them. This book is in fact so good that I am going to use it as our next family read aloud.

Colourful Comics

The Phoenix Colossal Comics Collection Volume 1: My kids have not been exposed to a lot of comics… and I thought they would be very excited to read this collection. It is a grand collection of comics all jam packed into one album and would have been my absolute summer holiday treat as a kid. They were really intrigued with the one comic about the Trail Blazers, who are group of friends on an intergalactic mission to discover why their network is failing… and then what’s not to love about an Evil Emperor Penguin… this pure fun and escapism. With illustrators like our favourite Chris Riddell featured, and Robert Dean, Jess Bradley, Jamie Smart, Mike Smith Joe List, Laura Ellen Anderson and Dan Boultwood. If your kids love comics, then they will most likely love this collection. Meet the team at The Phoenixcomic…

On To Adult Reads

Let’s Talk About Book Club… In Australia

The Inaugural Meeting of Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green: I enjoyed this book… It is a fantastic holiday read or weekend read, or “I need to escape from the world for a little while” read. Firstly, this is not your typical bookclub, this is a group of Australian Ladies, who live in the back of beyond and who rarely have any contact with anyone who doesn’t live on their immediate compound. These gals are flung far and wide, and the loneliness is real. They would love to meet up once in a while for a catch up and a natter, so in then naming of their meeting, they start a book club. They have to be really intentional about meeting up, the harsh environment is definitely stacked against them. To be honest, they can only meet a couple of times a year when it isn’t monsoon season. So… it isn’t about the book club so much, but it is about friendship. Deep and abiding friendship, they are called to stand by each other, to stand up for each other and stand out for each other. The book is set in the Northern Territory and the author does well do describe the wide open spaces, I really enjoyed the Australian setting, it was a nice change from more typical book club settings. The five women cover an array of characters too, and the slow rolling start of the book, helps you identify the details about each of them and how their friendships connect together. Once you get into this one, you really won’t want it to end… you will want to read on long past the back cover to see what happens to each of the lead players.

And Baking in Italy…

The Little Italian Bakery by Valentina Cebeni: This is a sweet and dreamy story, the kind of story you want to read on holiday, it opens and closes and is packed with secrets and betrayals, mysteries and friendship, love and loss.. this book has it all… and for my mum (I know you are reading this!!!) recipes. You have to love a book, set on an island off the coast of Italy, that has recipes sprinkled throughout it… somehow being able to smell the story and know when to add the lemon juice and the aniseed… makes the book so much MORE, because every time you bake you are going to flash right back to the story.

The story is about a young lady called Elettra, she is burdened by her tricky relationship with her mum and their failing bakery, then her mum goes into a coma and doesn’t appear to be emerging. This is too much for Elettra, she has so many unanswered questions that will now never be answered. She decides to book herself off on a holiday… and ventures off to the island where her mom grew up. Only to discover when she gets there a sense of there is something much bigger going on than an off-season holiday and a well earned rest. The thing is everyone seems to know Elettra’s story, except her… and the more she looks, the more things unravel. It is really only her baking that puts the spring in her step and keeps her on her focused on her quest, to find some answers. This is not a life-changing read, I found the author kept explaining things we already knew, again and again, but it is definitely a good read and it will leave you wanting to escape to the Italian countryside for something scrumptious to eat… which never seems like a bad idea.

Moving on to Syria

The Map of Salt & Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar: I was drawn to this book for the beautiful mosaic cover. I loved it completely, from the first word to the last. This is a story that is beautifully written and every word has been carefully crafted to describe the events of the life of Nour. Nour is a young girl, coming of age in the midst of the Syrian refugee crisis… she loses everything, the adults around her talk past her and think she doesn’t understand, and indeed there is a lot that she can’t comprehend… but never underestimate the understanding of a child. Nour is on the cusp of understanding that not everything is lovely, almost like the first time that as a child, you notice a toy is scratched… and no longer magical. Only her entire world is scratched and losing the magic and events around her are stealing her childhood. Nour and family grew up in New York, but when her beloved father dies her mother returns, with the children, to Syria, the only place she has relatives who can care for her.

Their father was a storyteller and told her many stories, that she in turn has told to the roots of the fig tree out in the garden… because the roots can carry the story through the earth and back to her father, so he won’t feel alone. Her favourite story is the story of Rawiyah, a young girl from the twelfth century, who dressed up as a boy and went to seek adventure, she became the apprentice to the famous map maker, Al-Idrisi. Nour is inspired by Rawiyah, and clings to her story as she herself is sent on a journey, not to find adventure, but rather to escape it. She still asks, “What is a refugee?” Long after her home has been shelled and the family is fleeing with nothing.

The book winds its way between the story of Nour in 2011 and the story of Rawiyah 800 years before… there is Nour’s grief as they lose their home, a tragic ferry ride and endless troubles, and there is Rawiyah’s wild and mythical adventure, but ultimately there is bravery. These girls are full of heart. While there is a sense of loss, and your heart breaks for Nour and stolen childhood, you have to have hope… and you constantly read on in the hopes that something will turn out well for her. You can meet the author, Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar on her website here.

Parenting Skills on Point

The Thirteen Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do by Amy Morin: I confess I am not at the stage in my life where I inhale multiple parenting books a week and still want to read more of them, but this one is so good that I am actually going to stand up and recommend it. If you feel past the, “Your children should eat this. Your children should sleep then. Your children must…”Insert any lame command here”” and yet you are still overwhelmed by it all. Then it is time for you to relax, take a deep breath and read this book. Slowly. One chapter at a time and just let the information settle, before you read the next chapter. Let’s face it we all want to raise great kids, but often we just don’t know where to start.

I have to say this is not a book about raising sweet darling angels. It is a very practical book about how to change bad habits that you might have settled into. How to tackle things that you might have let go, because who knows where to start… and how to recognise mistakes that your family is making. I like that this is not a parents vs. the kids book, this is very much a we have a problem here folks, lets address it. I love that it is packed with relatable examples… each chapter is a case study… you can see how things weren’t working well in a family and you can see how they implemented change, developed a strategy and followed through with it. Basically we can teach our kids skills, how to be resilient, how to deal with pain, how to take responsibility… things we want our children to know. This book is packed with tips on how to teach them… the kind of life skills that you won’t find in a curriculum.

I have to say that when my kids saw the title of this book, they chuckled and then… they read the contents on the back cover and quickly told me that I didn’t need to read this book at all… which immediately made me dive in and read it!!! You can Meet Amy Morin, and check out her Ted Talk, over here.

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 opinions are as usual my own.

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