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A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month November 2019 | A touching story about family interactions – and hair! When Dad takes his son to have his hair cut they spin the stories of Rapunzel and Sampson into the excitement of a hair cut. The new look brings new power! But when Dad goes away there are no more haircuts. The little boy gets more and more lost as his hair grows longer and longer. It is as if his thoughts and feelings are all tangled up in the wayward curls. How will he ever feel happy again? Poet Joe Coehlo tells the story of a moment of sadness in a child’s life with great sensitivity and a suitably hopeful ending.
Episode by Tracey Morait is a fanciful re-imagining of the story of Helen of Troy. It is also an attempt to show just what it's like to experience an 'episode', that is an epileptic seizure. The story brings together some well-known characters from the world of Ancient Greece - Helen, Menelaus, Paris, Hector and, of course, the 'meddlesome' gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus - with Alisha, a 13-year-old from the present day and Travis from a terrifying England at the end of the 21st century. The action switches between these three time zones, which Ali and Travis are able to access by time travel through portals, which come into being at the time of their seizures, as both are epileptic. The author paints a very realistic picture of life in Ancient Greece, a life Alisha finds very distasteful when catapulted there from a family summer holiday in Cyprus, as she is dressed, smells and is expected to behave as a slave girl. Her outrage and contempt for the system, especially the treatment of women, rubs off on Helen and the story then takes on a very different twist. The terror from Travis' time also comes into play when destructive entities access the portals and rewrite the events of the Trojan War, until the combined ingenuity of Travis and the gods (particularly Chronos, god of Time) finally set the records straight. I really enjoyed this book, it rekindled my interest in Greek mythology. It's an exciting fusion of legend and science fiction, with the added medical theme, which, as my granddaughter is epilectic, I also found fascinating. Drena Irish, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Winner of the An Post Irish Book Awards Teen & Young Adult Book of the Year 2018 | Longlisted for The CILIP Carnegie Medal 2019 | Heart wrenching, honest, funny and bold, this exceptional novel about the life, loves and agonies of a young carer, and the love between a mum and her sons, is a storytelling triumph. Seventeen-year-old Bobby Seed is a devoted son and big brother and an all-round firework of wit and charm, wise and strong beyond his years. He’s also a young carer to his mum who’s suffering from debilitating MS. Bobby has to “brush his mother’s locks every day, sort out her medicine, sponge her clean three times a week, ooze positivity” even when all he wants to do is “punch the shit out of a walk or wail in the shower”. In his situation “the worry of death never leaves you”, but that doesn’t stop the brilliant banter between Bobby and his mum. Theirs is a beautiful, tender relationship. Bobby does what he does for her “because she’s my Mum. That pure and simple”. Bobby’s spirits are kept up by best friend Bel and attending Poztive support group for young carers. It’s there he falls for Vespa-riding Lou, who helps him fulfill his mum’s unexpected birthday request as her deterioration quickens. But then comes the ultimate request. Can he do what Mum needs to alleviate her excruciating pain and loss of function? Always warm and witty, and never sentimental, this raw portrait of real-life ravages is suffused in the magic of the human heart. Bobby is an unforgettable, inspirational character – we could all do with taking a leaf from Bobby’s book of strength and wit - and author Brian Conaghan is a writer of the highest rank.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | May 2019 Book of the Month | Another insightful and compassionate free verse novel from the queen of this increasingly admired form, this time exploring the transformative relationship between an abused runaway teenager and an elderly lady with dementia. Allison has grown up “stepping on eggshells” to circumvent her father’s violence. While she often wonders whether his behaviour was “all my fault”, one of his outbursts compels her to run away. With nowhere to go, she finds sanctuary in the house of an elderly woman called Marla. Marla has dementia and thinks Allison is Toffee, her best friend from childhood. After spending some time in Marla’s company, Allison decides to “stop correcting her… I like the idea of being sweet and hard, a girl with a name for people to chew on.” Moreover, in meeting Marla, Allison has found an unlikely kindred spirit: “I am not who I say I am. Marla isn’t who she thinks she is… Here, in this house, I am so much happier than I have ever been”. Returning the favour, Allison enriches Marla’s life – she listens, she indulges Marla’s desire to dance - while Marla’s carer and son show no real regard for her happiness, as if she’s beyond life, which makes Allison’s attentiveness all the more heart warming. Both vulnerable, they find strength through each other. With incredibly moving insight, Marla says of Allison’s dad, “none of it was about you. It was about him. It’s always about him. Surely you know that.” The writing is compellingly fluid, flowing freely between Allison’s precarious present and the tragic, abusive circumstances that sent her careering down this path. While fleeting, the impact of their time together is monumental, and I felt privileged to have spent time in their company.
Highly Commended in the UKLA Book Awards 2019 | Anyone familiar with the story of poor old Humpty Dumpty will be intrigued by Dan Santat’s story of what happens after that fall. In his version the king’s men do manage to put Humpy together again but the cracks are still there, and not just on the outside: a shadow of his former self, Humpty is too afraid to climb back up onto the wall where he used to love to sit and watch the birds. At last though he finds a way to enjoy the skies again and in a surprise ending flies away himself. A powerful story of recovery and overcoming fear this will resonate with all readers. The illustrations are full of clever jokes but portray Humpty’s emotional state perfectly while the sequence that sees him soar away on golden wings is glorious.
We all want our children to be happy and resilient, but may not realise that they can be taught skills to make them happier people. Written by a psychologist with the charity Action for Happiness, this book explains ten keys to happier living and sets out practical, fun activities for children to do that will make a real and lasting difference to their lives. The text is friendly and reassuring, broken down into easily accessible paragraphs or charts while bright graphics with animated characters make it attractive to look at too. Each of the ten chapters has tips for children to use in their everyday lives, including a section on developing mindfulness. Happiness really matters, and the more children and adults who read this book, the better. ~ Andrea Reece
So, how did a slightly bonkers misfit with anorexia, bulimia and anxiety decide to solve their problems? I became a model. As you do. Charli Howard had always wanted to be normal - but for some reason, she couldn't quite find out how to do it. As a teenager, she felt like the only one who struggled with anxiety and self-esteem issues when everyone around her seemed to fit in. So she tried to embrace standing out: by becoming a model. Believing it would make her happy and envied, she set out single-mindedly to make it - and she achieved her dream. But the reality wasn't quite as glamorous as she'd hoped. The pressure on Charli to look a certain way took an extreme toll on her body and self-image, and no matter how thin she got, she was never thin enough. When Charli, though medically underweight, was fired by her modelling agency for being too big, she decided she'd had enough. She used her platform for good and spoke out about the insane standards of the modelling industry, whose images influence young women and girls all over the world. Now, Charli is comfortable in her skin for the first time ever, working happily as a plus sized model in New York. Here, she shares her journey, from anorexic and bulimic teenager to happy, healthy twenty-something.
If anyone can teach young people how to best understand themselves and their world it’s Gemma Cairney. There are lots of good self-help and advice books but Open Your Heart stands out because of Cairney’s honesty and because of her brilliant, direct voice. Reading it is like being in the same room as her and leaves you feeling more positive, more confident, readier to accept yourself for who you are. It’s divided into two sections: your heart, and your body and soul, and covers topics from family and friends to body image, sex and sexual health. Information is provided by experts, often in the form of interviews by Gemma, all interspersed with her own knowledge and experiences, as well as what she’s learned as Radio 1 agony aunt. A properly invaluable book. ~ Andrea Reece
August 2017 Book of the Month Take a tour of one of the most complex, diverse and downright unusual places on the entire planet - the human body! Find out all about what makes YOU tick, from the wonders of the human brain to the tingling in your ticklish toes.
March 2017 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: Utterly invaluable, gloriously gracious guide to life | This heartfelt handbook for young adults by an inspirational presenter and producer is the literary embodiment of a big sister’s shoulder and a best friend’s ear. Split into segments exploring Your Heart, Your Mind, Your Body and Soul, Your World and Future, this warm-hearted, straight-talking nugget of non-fiction gold offers vital advice on dealing with life’s challenges (e.g. depression, bullying, eating disorders, self-harm and grief), while also providing succinctly savvy introductions to politics, feminism, finance and the environment. Cairney confides in her readers throughout, thereby opening a healthy headspace in which individuals can contemplate their own outlook, anxieties and aspirations. The book also offers readers opportunities to personalise the funky graphic pages, which feature thought-provoking, interactive exercises, from playing Family Bingo and taking the Period Quiz, to a map on which to mark your wildest wanderlust dreams. Packed with an abundance of info, insight, empathy and encouragement - from the comforting “we all mess up sometimes”, to the truly uplifting “now go reach for the moon!” - Open is surely set to become THE must-have manual for young women navigating the often-tempestuous waters of their teenage years. ~ Joanne Owen
Take a tour round the inside of the human body in this unusual and quite excellent information book. It examines our component parts, from cells to blood, bones, liver, lungs and the brain, explaining how they function – and thereby how we function – though colourful, intricate cross-section diagrams, each one full of busy little people demonstrating the myriad different actions involved. In this way complex processes are broken down into comprehensible steps. Short passages of text illuminate things further. You can’t help but be drawn in by the look of the pages and this is an absolutely fascinating and thoroughly effective introduction to the workings of the human body. ~ Andrea Reece