Category Archives: Authors

Read in Geneva

I have trained her well. If Daughter sees something she feels could make a blog post, I might discover she has emailed me some photos that I can use. In this instance it’s the Geneva bookshop she happened to walk past a couple of weeks ago.

Booked in Geneva

Having time on her hands, she entered, and found they had a largish section of books in English. These are the teen books, so I’m guessing that were we to add adult books and picture books, there would be a great deal more of them.

It would be unfair to compare this kind of offering with the equivalent French section in Waterstones. I mean, I don’t even know if they have a French section. But books in English are easier to supply anywhere in the world, as they can be bought and read by many more people than are native English speakers.

I’d still say this is a good selection of books, for those who can afford them. I understand they were quite expensive. Whether this was with domestic UK book prices in mind, or what Swiss residents can afford on their higher salaries, I’m not sure.

Booked in Geneva

It’s good to see this kind of thing. Even if the shelves do seem to be bending over backwards.


Zebra Crossing Soul Song

Lollipop man with soul. Sita Brahmachari’s latest dyslexia friendly book is different. It’s an unusual topic; the friendship between a young boy and the local lollipop man. But also the way it’s been written.

Otis the lollipop man is West Indian, and Sita has him speak in his own accent, which could potentially be hard to understand, if you don’t know how he might sound. On the other hand, I can see that this makes it even better from a point of view of including many readers who have never found themselves in a book.

The other thing is that Otis communicates with young Lenny through songs, and not just any songs, but ones from the ‘olden days’ i.e. my youth. At least I knew the songs.

Sita Brahmachari, Zebra Crossing Soul Song

There are more issues covered in this story. Lenny has two dads, and one of his old school friends has two mums. Lenny is also having to re-sit his A-level in Psychology, which means he’s a year behind his friends, and he is struggling with revising and keeping on top of things.

As he’s doing all this, he also puzzles over what happened to Otis the last time he saw him. We are kept guessing all through the book.

There’s a lot of depth here, and it feels pretty grown-up. I’m hoping Zebra Crossing Soul Song will find many fans, especially among those who don’t read much.

‘Sittin’ on the dock of the bay…’  🎵

Words and your heart

‘Let’s make our world a happier place!’ That’s what it says on the cover of this rather Valentine-ish picture book by Kate Jane Neal. It’s more about kindness to others than any kind of romantic love, but it fits in so well today.

Kate Jane Neal, Words and your heart

It’s about ‘the little bit inside of you, that makes you, you.’

We should look after each other’s hearts, by saying things that will make those hearts happier, rather than hurt. When good stuff happens, our hearts feel better. And when not, they don’t feel so great.

You know that, don’t you?

Kate Jane Neal, Words and your heart

It’s about words. Words can change how you feel. It’s important to choose to say words that will make another person feel good. They are just words, but they go into your ears, and then into your heart.

Somewhere, through the rainbow

In the line of work, Daughter was listening in on a conference kind of event, on the other side of the world. I asked what it was about, and it seems it’s for another way of finding heavenly bodies up there in space.

For some inexplicable reason she wanted to explain in more detail. Maybe I appeared to have one of my ‘slightly intellectual’ moments.

So first she briefly mentioned what she normally does when hunting, which I knew about. Then she asked how far I’d got reading the book that the Resident IT Consultant bought for us, which is all about this kind of thing. I admitted to only a couple of chapters.

This was when Daughter mentioned spectrums and maybe even rainbows? And do you know what? It sounded awfully familiar, even to me. I had read it. In that book. It comes at the beginning, and my recent reading in the dentist’s waiting room had been on this very topic.

So I said that rainbows and the Doppler effect sounded pretty familiar, and I did ‘know’ about it.

Maybe I’m not as hopeless as I thought?

Making art

Oh how I wish books like these had existed when I was the right age!

The Artist in You, by Julie Brunelle and Peter Wood, is perfect on more than one count. First they show you some famous, but still gorgeous, works of art, from pop art to old masters. They talk you through what you are seeing, which means that you learn about the paintings, and the painters, and facts about painting. (And then I want to rip the pages out to stick on my poor walls again.)

Julie Brunelle and Peter Wood, The Artist in You

Julie and Peter then show you how to achieve art like this, a sort of ‘do this at home.’ I’d have loved that – although most likely it would have been frustrating – and I am sure there are many hopeful young artists who will want to have a go.

Then we have two books by James Mayhew, for slightly younger artists. In Learn to Draw with Katie, James also shows his readers how to copy the great masters, and in this case he helps a bit, by having provided simple drawings to ‘colour in.’

James Mayhew, Learn to Draw with Katie

And in Discover Art with Katie, we have stickers! I love stickers, and I know I’m not alone in this. I have just about managed not having a go myself, ‘improving’ a few of the classic paintings we all know. Described as an activity book, there are puzzles and word-searches as well.

So, three fun books about art, and how to do it yourself.

Everybody feels…

That’s the thing I most often say when trying to improve how someone is feeling. I point out that the people around them very likely also feel a bit like they do, whether it’s nerves or upsets, or anything else. Because we are remarkably similar in so many ways. And just because they aren’t displaying those feelings, doesn’t mean they don’t have them.

Moira Butterfield and Holly Sterling, Everybody feels...

This is what the set of four picture books written by Moira Butterfield and illustrated by Holly Sterling, are wanting to tell their young readers. It’s OK, and perfectly normal, to be scared, for instance. We all are at some stage in our lives, and more often than others think.

The same goes for happy – which is more obvious, maybe – and sad, and I don’t suppose angry is so hard to miss, although it could be.

These four books are rather lovely, in that they show our young characters that their feelings are normal, and they are shared, and that this feeling will pass. If your cat died, you will eventually be happy again, while not forgetting your cat.

Sometimes it can be hard to talk about feelings with a child, so these books should be very useful in many situations. They also show the child that other children can be understanding and supportive. It’s easy to forget this.

Spend with Harry

Back in autumn 2001 we were quite pleased with our Hermione doll for Daughter for Christmas. We were in London, and had a little look in Harrods, and found Hermione and bought her. I’d say she was a successful gift, but that maybe Daughter was just that little bit too old to really play with the doll. And maybe Hermione wasn’t intended to be played with. What do I know?

Anyway, I seem to recall the doll cost a little over £20, which as a parental purchase was OK.

On the other hand, I do agree with journalist Alice O’Keeffe, who wrote in the Guardian about her seven-year-old son who thought long and hard about spending nine weeks’ pocket money on a small chocolate frog (£4.50). But I agree less with Alice’s thoughts on the general commercialisation of Harry Potter merchandise.

If you go to a gift shop after a Harry Potter tour of some kind, you have to expect it to be too expensive, especially at the level of a child’s pocket money. And if you do go into the shop, especially with a fairly young child, you need to have done the adult thing first, which is to either bite the bullet and let the child have something overpriced that you pay for, or to talk to them about this and how you really can’t afford, or tolerate, this price level, and you’re not going to stop, or buy.

You are the adult. It’s your job as a parent to teach your small human what is all right, and what isn’t. In the end it’s up to you to decide whether to go somewhere like this at all.

I don’t feel it’s fair to blame J K Rowling for the £4.50 frog.

And to some extent I reckon the merchandise has been produced for somewhat older fans. In my own friends and family circle the immediate customers for these kinds of items that I can think of are on the ‘wrong’ side of 30. And they can afford wands and broomsticks, school uniforms and yes, the chocolate frog.

With this in mind, I was intrigued to learn that my old neighbourhood has a Harry Potter shop. Stockport now boasts a shop called Hoot, and what’s more, it’s a charity shop. No, I can’t quite get my head round that, either.

But it seems that anyone can open a shop and source the same products you would go to Harrods for. So if you require a wand, downtown Stockport might well be the place for you. It’s just a bit annoying that this happened after I moved away, and it wasn’t there when The New Librarian and Pizzabella were regular visitors at Bookwitch Towers.

And if shopping at Hoot is too expensive, you can always make your own wand, or buy a [used] striped school tie in a normal charity shop. It’s what we did, and I am a witch, after all.