little books for little loves

I’ve absolutely loved getting to pick out stories every day for our 11am story time at The Little Bookshop Leeds. I’ve been so encouraged by the reactions my *terrible* voices have got from the little children who come to listen. It’s also such a treat getting to read some of my childhood favourites to them, and seeing them follow along with the story, often joining in if they know it well enough.

Along with The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Comet In Moominland, and We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, (my most favourite favourites) I’ve been introduced to some really fab picture books which have all been loved by the little ones who arrive to story time. I’ve picked some of my new favourites out, hopefully to give you some inspiration if bedtime reading is getting a bit repetitive!

1.Florence Frizzball – Claire Freedman and Jane Massey

This is an absolute joy to read at story time and also a story I relate to lots as a girl with untamed and frizzy locks. It’s funny, and a good one for little listeners to follow along with, especially those with curly hair!

2. Here We Are – Oliver Jeffers

Oliver Jeffers is a delight. His writing is so beautiful and he is a true born storyteller. It’s a book even the adults will enjoy reading, and his illustrations are stunning. The story follows a child’s journey into the world, punctuated with illustrations of the night sky, and the world.

3. How To Catch A Star – Oliver Jeffers

This is another one of Jeffers’ beauties. It follows a boy who dreams of catching a star, and his journey to find one. It’s full of beautiful spreads, and has some real funny moments and interactive parts which the children love.

4. I Wrote You A Note – Lizi Boyd

This is another beautifully illustrated book which follows a friend who writes a letter to another friend. Along the way, the note gets lost and the story follows who has found the note and where it ends up. A lovely story about friendship, as well as animals and wildlife.

5. Grandma Bird – Benji Davies

Benji Davies is fab. His book The Storm Whale was my first introduction to his writing, and now he has adapted his tales of the sea and families. This one follows Noi who spends the summer at Grandma’s. He gets into a storm, and the beginning of a new friendship is revealed. Davies is a fab storyteller and anyone who loves The Storm Whale will love this.

6. In My Heart – Jo Witek

This is an emotional story about feelings, great to read with children who are maybe struggling with expressing themselves. It is vibrant and humorous, whilst also dealing with hard emotions for children to understand. It is more of a celebration of the many different emotions we can feel, and is illustrated with different coloured hearts which fan out of the centre of the book. It would make a lovely gift, too.

7. Katinka’s Tail – Judith Kerr

Renowned for The Tiger Who Came To Tea and her Mog series, Kerr has put together a beautiful story of a cat with a rather remarkable tail. It’s a great story for children to follow, with gorgeous illustrations to keep the story going from each page. It is a good traditional storybook, with lots of humour and emotion, as well as a lovely dreamy element which includes a trip to the moon.

I hope this list is helpful to you if you’re ever looking for fresh inspiration, and if you’ve come across any of them already I’m sure you’ll agree they’re all great examples.

If you have any of your own favourite picture books, let me know!

love sophie

 

book club: eleanor oliphant is completely fine

I closed the last page on this beauty yesterday, and I was sad. How could a book this good actually come to an end?

From the very beginning I was fixated with the main character, Eleanor, a twenty-nine-year-old, set in the odd ways she goes about her business. Her routines, her likes, her dislikes. The characterisation Gail Honeyman employs is incredible. Eleanor’s voice is sharp and clear throughout the whole story, keeping you with her and routing for her.

She’s far from ordinary, but also so totally ordinary that she’s relatable. Maybe we don’t all sink a few bottles of vodka over the weekend, or go days without a human interaction, but the principles are there and we can relate, along with hard hitting themes. Loneliness. Depression. Social awkwardness. The pages encourage it all. So much so that I couldn’t put it down.

She’s a complete creature of habit, so seeing her unhinge throughout the story keeps you turning the pages for reactions and her awkward emotions.

With her unusual appearance, including an eczema glove and a scar on her face left by her mother, she’s perceived as a loner. The only contact she has, other than with the people she’s always worked with and the man in the local off license, is a weekly phone call with ‘Mummy’, who’s in prison for an unknown crime.

Then we meet Raymond, someone Eleanor works with.

Slowly and surely, the cracks of the past start to fill, and Eleanor – with the help of Raymond – addresses her childhood, and the reasons why she is the way she is.

It’s a book that will no doubt speak to introverts, those who are unsure of themselves and their quirks, and those looking for someone just like them.

The book is bold, moving, and original.

With such skilled writing, you can’t help but follow Eleanor’s journey and feel familiar with it from the off. To say it’s a debut is insane. Hats off to you, Honeyman. You are ace. Eleanor is ace. I blooming loved it.

love sophie

book club: northern lights

There’s something so spectacularly magical about the way Philip Pullman writes. His lyricism and imagination work so well together and the images he conjures are stunning. His Dark Materials make me want to read children’s books forever.

Set in a completely parallel universe, the book follows Lyra as she journeys to the Arctic in search of her missing friend, Roger, and Uncle Asriel who becomes imprisoned. It’s the first book in the trilogy and I’m sure I’m not the only one who wanted to pick up the next book as soon I’d shut the back cover.

The idea of human souls manifesting outside of our bodies is a major plot point, and these dæmons embody a sentient animal, bringing aid, comfort and companionship to their humans. The idea is genius, and one I loved as soon as I started reading. Lyra is intrigued after overhearing a controversial lecture on Dust from her uncle, Lord Asriel, and this leads her on her adventure.

Often fantasy novels take me a while to get into, but from the end of the first few pages I was hooked with Lyra’s character, and the idea of her dæmon.

Set initially in Oxford, Pullman uses varying forms of description to indulge the reader in the setting and life of Lyra. He does it so well it’s annoying. Pullman includes only what’s needed, and the scenes are visual and vivid, so much so that you can imagine them, and feel the atmosphere. Top writing, done well.

Along her journey, Lyra meets and interacts with many other people. There are themes of theology – particularly with the Gobbers – as well as abandonment and loss, which Lyra deals with both internally and externally. She’s a lot more than just her blonde hair, blue eye exterior, and this is developed throughout the novel and her journey, and the obstacles she has to face.

She’s crafty, brave, and equally curious. With Pan by her side, she manages to steer through the troubles and challenges until…

If you haven’t yet discovered Pullman and His Dark Materials, go and buy them. This introduction will leave you wanting more of his indulgent writing.

love sophie

top titles of 2017

And that’s a wrap on 2017. So here’s my top ten books of 2017 that I’ve enjoyed reading over the year (some more than once.)

There’s some I always go back to, some I’ve read as a proof edition and cannot wait to be published, and some I’ve just stumbled across and absolutely loved.

1.Sophie Kinsella – Finding Audrey

2. Sara Bernard – Beautiful Broken Things

A stunning debut from my fave bae. Barnard writes so beautifully and the emotions in the book, although quite dark and mystical at times, are stunning. A Quiet Kind Of Thunder is another of hers I love.

3. Jennifer Niven – Holding Up The Universe

A great example of contemporary YA. Niven’s style is original and makes for light hearted, easy reading with all the juicy bits plugged in for good measure. All The Bright Places is another filled with goodness.

4. Jandy Nelson – The Sky Is Everywhere

The most beautiful title for the most beautiful book. I almost wish I was a character. A hopeful spin on teenage life that is relatable and current.

5. Nicola Yoon – Everything, Everything

I finished this book sat outside the Louvre fountains. What a wonderful place to end a wonderful story. I was so attached to the characters and empathised with Maddy the whole way through the book. (Read it before you watch it!)

6. Graeme Simsion – The Rosie Project/The Rosie Effect

An incredible portrayal of ability. If you’re a reader, go and read it because it is written so well. As I read it I continued to be amazed by the fascinating characterisations. A very good role model for writers.

7. Jojo Moyes – Me Before You/After You

Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. Moyes is the god of writing emotive and colourful books which ooze energy and a lot of love. Oh how I hope I’m half as good as her! I hope I find my Will Traynor one day.

8. Sara Barnard – Goodbye, Perfect (proof)

Barnard is back. And what a book. The excitement of it being a proof makes the reading experience even better. I absolutely love her style and she has YA down to a tee! I’m excited for this to be published in January so I can hear what you all think of it!

9. Giovanna Fletcher – Some Kind Of Wonderful

I thoroughly enjoyed worming my way through this book. It put a whole new spin on relationships and took the pressure of being in one away from the main plot, focusing instead on what we each want as individuals. I took a lot from it, amongst many things was the desire to find myself and do things for me before getting tied up. A really lovely, honest spin on romance.

10. Roald Dahl – The BFG

I couldn’t write this without including my favourite children’s book. I reread it again this year in preparation for my MA applications. I included it in my personal statement as well as in interviews.

I just love Roald Dahl. What a hilariously imaginative writer. I absolutely loved reading him as a child and know that he definitely inspired me to want to write. He does humour, friendships, and family, along with a few odd quirks for good measure. What a man. What a writer.

 

I hope you enjoyed my top ten. It’s difficult to cut it down to so little when I’ve read so many, but I’ve enjoyed looking back over the year and reflecting on which I enjoyed. Writers read. If they don’t, they’re doing themselves an injustice. I learnt a lot from all of the books on this list, and will continue learning from all the books on my reading list.

love sophie

book club: goodbye, perfect (proof)

I was very fortunate to land myself one of the beautiful proof copies of Sara Barnard’s Goodbye, Perfect and have thoroughly enjoyed worming my way through it. I was completely transfixed by the characters and am incredibly excited for it to come out in full publication glory in February. It was captivating, honest, and blooming fab! I love Barnard and don’t deny she is definitely my girl crush.

But seeing the proof got me thinking about how much goes into the publishing process and how long it takes for a story to go from being a blank word document to a bound and beautifully marketed book.

Once I finished the book and put it down (and after a ‘I’m-sad-that-it’s-over-but-feel-better-brew’) I sat for quite a long time just staring at it and then at my own word document which was open on my laptop. It made me realise that the book I’d just read was once a Word Document, being edited, read, reread, deleted. Just like mine.

We’re in the middle of NaNoWrMo at the minute (National Novel Writing Month) and, although I’m not taking part, I have been using it as motivation to try and up my word count.

I felt that the beautifully bound book I had in my mind was so far away, but looking at my word document made me realise it’s a lot closer than it could be (18,583 words closer to be exact.)

In November alone I’ve written 6,000 of these words. Now, to some people, that’s nothing, but to me, it’s huge (especially seen as I wasn’t actually in the country for one week.)

I realised, sitting between my unfinished manuscript and Barnard’s proof, that the key to writing is reading. It is such a catalyst to great words and great works. I struggled to keep on top of reading when I began my manuscript, especially reading for pleasure. I was too deep in thick research and books I would never usually choose to read that I lost my way with reading.

This year, since I’ve started the MA, I’ve found my way back. Although it’s not always for pleasure, I find that I’m reading a lot of good stuff which is helping to nourish my own work.

Reading Goodbye, Perfect made me realise that the challenge of writing really is worth it. That the pudding really is sweet and delicious and worth the trials and tribulations the process brings.

So, read. It doesn’t even have to be a book. Read the ingredients on the cereal box, read the road signs, read the adverts on the bus.

The words do wonders to your own.

love sophie