Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Belle and Boo

Belle and Boo are a sweet and innocent duo who are always together - "on sunny days, rainy days, and dreamy let's-be-lazy days."

These books by Mandy Sutcliffe are part of a whole brand centred around the little things that Belle and her bunny, Boo, get up to. I recently spotted a cute little Belle and Boo tin in the gift shop at the Devon Guild in Bovey Tracey.  And I'd seen some gorgeous prints and things for sale online the other day. And now I see there are actual stories too.

"Belle and Boo and the Birthday Surprise" is a gentle little story about the preparations for a birthday, which turns out to be a surprise for Boo himself. The sweetest thing is that after all their work and adventuring, although "Birthdays are best" in Boo's opinion, Belle reminds him that she loves him more than Birthdays themselves. Cuteness. 

The books are available in libraries and the products are all listed online, inlcuding some lovely prints.

The illustrations have a retro, verging on kitsch feel and the stories are a perfect wind-down for little girls at bed-time. Especially if they have their own Boo, or completely wonderful unique equivalent. 

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Book Review

'You, Me and Thing: The Legend of the Loch Ness Lilo.'

written by Karen McCombie & illustrated by Alex T Smith

I discovered this brand new shiny book the other day sitting wonkily amongst the other familiar junior fiction as I was shelving a a few titles. The books do get very tumbled about and kids often put them back with their spines facing inwards or splaying the pages around other books, which is extremelydistressing. But I do love tidying up the kids' section and making it as perfect as possible even if it won't stay that way for long. 

It means I am very familiar with all our stock and new books do tend to jump out at my face.  Quite often I come across new books when unpacking our delivery every other day but sometimes they escape me and find their way onto the shelves without me even glimpsing their lovely covers. 

Anyhow, as I straightened this one on the shelf I couldn't help but notice the lovely drawings and my Alex-T-Smith-o-meter piped up and I knew here was what promised to be yet another quirky, fun and lovely book. Because Alex T Smith only illustrates cool stories and his pictures are always totally excellent. 

I was so right. 'You, Me and Thing' is 
brilliant.  Here is Thing, a small creature covered in ginger fur with paws that are like little hands and wings that are stubby and don't work,  ... "two HUGE eyes that blink up at you, all shy and wondering and worried."

There is a generous smattering of illustrations throughout the book, and a nice variety of different layouts of pages to keep the eyes busy and interested. The story is bitesized, for young readers, but a complete and amazing adventure. From the first page the writing endeared itself to me; candid and fun. We have a lot of books by Karen McCombie in the library and they are very well borrowed. Her Indie Kidd series and Ally's World books are just a couple of examples of her huge array of fiction for children and young people. Here's a link to an indispensable website called Fantastic Fiction where you can view everything an author has written, in date order and by series. You can also click on a title for a synopsis: 


This little story has broken away from her super girly books and would appeal to boys as well as girls. 

Ruby and her neighbour Jackson, (sometimes her friend, more often annoying) discover this Thing between their back gardens, the last precious piece of nature left after the woods were cleared to make room for a big new housing estate. This magical little being is incredibly cute, not only to look at but in its communication. Although it can speak English, its vocabulary is childish and it often mispronounces words. Its understanding of the wider world is limited and Ruby and Jackson are forever trying to explain what they've just said. Thing's eagerness and innocence is what lands the children in a spot of bother, trying to keep Thing a secret and protect it. Thing is easily scared so the kids are constantly trying to keep it calm and happy. One of its favourite activities in jumping up and down on a miniature, homemade trampoline, using a the bottom of a biscuit tin and Ruby's swimming cap. 

 When Thing decides to join them down at the local swimming pool one day for a birthday pool party, mayhem is sure to follow.

There are two preceding title in this fun series: 

The Curse of the Jelly Babies 
&  The Dreaded Noodle Doodles

Plus, more to come soon. I highly recommend them for any young reader who needs something fresh and fun to keep their nose in books. 

As always, free to borrow and reserve at your local library! 

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Pottering about

I was walking out from my house an hour ago and was reminded of something truly lovely. 

There had been a heavy downpour all morning and I had been getting on with tasks inside until I needed to go out into the town to collect a parcel. 

I donned my Wellington boots and grabbed my big umbrella, just in case, and stepped out down the garden path looking up at the clear sky. Not a drop of rain was falling and I set off into the town with a sense of wellbeing and delight and suddenly a tune came into my mind. It was the serene melody that plays in an animated episode of Beatrix Potter, with an introduction and final scene acted by the lovely Niamh Cusack. I used to love these programmes. This particular episode started with Miss Potter sitting on a little stool out in the Cumbrian countryside, painting the landscape she knew and loved so well. She feels a spot of rain and quickly shuts her box of watercolours, picks up the rest of her tools and notebook, gathers her skirts and dashes back through the grass to her cottage where she looks out at the suddenly grey sky and decides it's time to write a letter. So she settles down to write to her friend, launching into a charming story and so the animation begins. 

When the story of Peter Rabbit is finished and the letter is sealed, a beautiful song begins to accompany the credits.The rain has stopped and Beatrix Potter emerges from her house, walking into the quietly bustling village. Children pass her and greet her, hens part for her as they peck at the ground. "The rain has moved on and it's a new day. Everything is still, nothing seems to move." The clear voice of the singer washes over the scene as we follow the letter to the bright red postbox and the group of children chase, carefree, through the bluebell woods. 

Beatrix Potter's garden at Hilltop, on our Honeymoon in 2009.

As I walked through the modern, rather grubby town of Cullompton, the sense of newness was just as refreshing. I love the rain. I love to watch it, and be in it. But when it stops, there is a certain, delicious peace over everything. As I strolled I heard the music in my head, remembering only half the words, but all the heart and beauty of it. I will always love it.

End scene for you to enjoy on youtube. (Thank God for youtube!)


Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Reading in no time at all

What are you currently reading?

In my four and a half years of working in a library, I cannot count the number of times customers have asked me this question. But I can probably count the number of times I've had a good answer, because most often I have not been able to give them a book title. Most often I haven't read a book for weeks, even months. Most times I have shamefacedly admitted "I don't have time to read." This is met with the predictable but true exclamation: "But you work in a library!!!" 

I should point out, I am not paid to read books all day every day, or in fact for any segment of any day. I am paid to do a great many other tasks, but not reading. Sad face.

And as I work there a fair bit, I have allowed my lifestyle to reign over my reading habits. Apart from my illustrating time, I don't usually have large chunks of time to myself. I flit about the household hoovering up, wiping up surfaces, tidying this and that. My days at work are long. Weekends are about Andy and I, and what we want to do together. I have become one of those people who do not read. I am ashamed, but mostly saddened, by this fact. Because, I LOVE to read. I love paper, I love authors. I love publishers, printers, libraries, stories. I love books. 

I realised that not reading often is no way to behave, no matter what excuse I have, so I have recently vowed to myself to READ MORE.

I've realised that my perception of reading time is sitting for large periods of time, in a comfy place, with a cup of tea, and no responsibilities or time constraints. This perception is based upon my past life, as a child and teenager where I had no responsibilities or time constraints. I could lounge in fields of buttercups with a book, laze in my hammock in my parents' garden with a book for hours on end. Spend a lie-in reading an entire novel, antisocially get my nose in a book for a whole evening. (Once homework was done, of course.) I could read whenever I liked, for however long I liked. I spent most of a summer holiday reading the entire series of Anne of Green Gables. My idea of reading is to devour chapters and chapters at a time, or not at all. I know, that's really poxy, and WRONG!!! 


I have learnt that I need to read, even if for a few miserly minutes a day. I have come around to the idea of reading at even the smallest opportunity; tiny tea-breaks at work, waiting at the dentist, stirring a stir-fry. I can pull out whatever delightful tome I have on the go, and get stuck in. I refuse to be vexed or disappointed by interruptions or having to close my book just as it's getting really absorbing. I will take whatever I can get. And I will appreciate it. And it's working. I have read many books in the last few months that I would otherwise not have tackled. And, even in 2 minutes of reading, have been made to laugh and cry by the words I have read. I can engage from the first to the last word, I can read in no time at all. 

If you feel you don't have time to read, have a think. Where are those few minutes in the day or week where you're waiting for something, or you have a few moments to yourself? Don't think that those moments are too small to use. A book is made of many many small moments. Don't be put off. Pick up your book.