Escape into literary winter wonderlands

Whether as part of an advent calendar, included in a Christmas Eve box, a stocking filler or a main present, there’s no doubt that books make great Christmas presents – they even make the cut in the “four gift rule” of want, need, wear and read – so no wonder there are so many great titles to choose from.  Here Deborah Holland of Waterstones, Lincoln picks out a few of her favourites with a wintery theme to look out for if you’re buying for mini ones this year.

polarbearexplorersThe Polar Bear Explorers’ Club – Alex Bell (Faber & Faber, PB, £6.99)
This book is a brilliant fantastical adventure story with a stunning cover and illustrations by Tomislav Tomic.  On this expedition to the Icelands join Stella, Beanie, Ethan and Shay for a thrilling tale with snow pirates, carnivorous cabbages, unicorns, wolves and pygmy T-Rex to name a few!  This is Alex Bell’s first book for younger readers as she usually writes for young adults.  I’m very excited about what will come next.  If you were looking for that extra stocking filler for your own bookworm then this is a must.  Perfect for any child aged 9 years old onwards.  Chosen as November’s Book of the Month at Waterstones it’s not hard to see why.

invisiblechildThe Invisible Child & The Fir Tree – Tove Jansson (Sort of Books, HB, £4.99)
This book is available exclusively through Waterstones, Oxfam and the Moomin shop.  Two short stories in a beautiful hardback with gorgeous illustrations.  The Invisible Child is about someone finding their voice with the help of a simple Moomin recipe.  The Fir Tree is perfect for this time of year showing the Moomins unselfish take on Christmas.  My children love these stories and I love their message of respect and tolerance.  Perfect for ages 6 to 106 years old.  Aside from being a huge Moomin fan – 100% of the sale of this book will go to Oxfam’s projects empowering women and girls around the world.  A perfect gift.

WalkingWinterWonderlandWalking in a Winter Wonderland – Tim Hopgood (Oxford University Press, PB with CD, £8.99)
Tim Hopgood’s illustrations are amazing in this stylish picture book of Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith’s song Winter Wonderland.  Stunning pictures of wildlife to spot on each page and everything blanketed in snow.  A brilliant book to read to your young one over the festive season and an added bonus CD of Peggy Lee singing the song!  Festive spirit, nostalgia and a sing song too.  I dare it not to get you and your little one in the mood for Christmas.

ADotintheSnowA Dot in the Snow – Corrinne Averiss (Oxford University Press, PB, £6.99)
I read this out at a story time recently and though very simply told it really engage the young ones of 3 years onwards and is beautifully illustrated by a new talent – Fiona Woodcock.  Her sparkly snow is a particular winner in our household!  This is a tale of a polar bear cub, Miki and a girl who get separated from their mothers.  Miki sees a red dot in the snow and slowly gets bigger until Dot reveal herself a human girl.  This is a lovely story of friendship, a changing polar landscape and a heart-warming story to end a wintery day.

Need more suggestions?  See what Gill Hart from Lindum Books recommends here: Seasonal stories make perfect presents.

For more recommendations from the Lincoln bookseller pop into their store in High Street, Lincoln. 

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Seasonal stories make perfect presents

Whether as part of an advent calendar, included in a Christmas Eve box, a stocking filler or a main present, there’s no doubt that books make great Christmas presents – they even make the cut in the “four gift rule” of want, need, wear and read – so no wonder there are so many great titles to choose from.  Here Gill Hart of Lindum Books picks out a few of her favourites with a seasonal theme to look out for if you’re buying for mini ones this year.

SnowSamUsherSnow – Sam Usher (Templar Publishing, HB, £5.99)
A charming little book all a-sparkle with snow!  The ground is covered in snow and one little boy can’t WAIT to get outside and play.  But his grandad is taking SO LONG to get ready.  When they finally leave the house, they have a very surprising adventure!  A beautiful mini hardback gift edition of Sam Usher’s bestseller.

AllTheWayHomeDebiGloriAll the Way Home – Debi Gliori (Bloomsbury, HB, £12.99)
Daddy Penguin has to look after the egg while Mummy is finding fish.  But he wanders away from the Dad Huddle and he and the egg are whisked up into the air by a gust of wind, landing in the Arctic.  Brave Daddy must find out where he is and how to get home.  But the Arctic creatures aren’t that friendly and he stumbles along in the cold, lost, until he bumps into a reindeer, who takes them to breakfast with the Special Air Navigation Transport Authority.  Can brave Daddy Penguin and his new little one get all the way home before Mummy returns?  If only penguins could fly…

SnowAngelLaurenStJohnThe Snow Angel – Lauren St John (Head of Zeus, HB, £10.99)
Lauren St John’s stunning Christmas classic is about forgotten children, the power of nature to heal us and a girl who will climb mountains in search of a place to call home.  Growing up in vibrant, crowded Nairobi, Makena has only one dream: to climb Mount Kenya like her hero, her mountain guide father.  But when her beautiful world is shattered, she finds that in the city’s dark places there are a thousand ways to fall, each more deadly than any crevasse.  In a world of strangers, does she dare trust Snow, whose ballet dreams are haunted by a past she’s still running from?  And is the sparkling fox friend or foe?  After a fresh start in the Scottish Highlands turns bad, Makena flees to the mountains.  But will they betray her or be the making of her?

FatherChristmasAndMeFather Christmas and Me – Matt Haig (Canongate, HB, £12.99)
It isn’t always easy, growing up as a human in Elfhelm, even if your adoptive parents are the newly married Father Christmas and Mary Christmas.  For one thing, Elf School can be annoying when you have to sing Christmas songs everyday – even in July – and when you fail all your toy-making tests.  Also it can get very, very cold.  But when the jealous Easter Bunny and his rabbit army launch an attack to stop Christmas, it’s up to Amelia, her new family and the elves to keep Christmas alive.  Before it’s too late…

OneChristmasWishOne Christmas Wish – Katherine Rundell (Bloomsbury, HB, £14.99)
It’s Christmas Eve and Theo – left at home with a babysitter – sees an odd-looking star out of his window and decides to make a wish.  He wishes that he had some friends to keep him company.  Moments later the Christmas decorations begin to disentangle themselves from the tree behind him, ready to wreak a little havoc.  Written with generous helpings of warmth and humour, this is a story about treasuring the people and values that really matter at this time of year from master storyteller and bestselling children’s author Katherine Rundell.  Emily Sutton’s breathtaking illustrations perfectly capture the magic of Christmas in stunning detail.

For more recommendations from the Lincoln bookseller call 01522 262374 or pop into their store in Bailgate, Lincoln.

Author event may inspire children to write

Dan Walker Book Signing PosterBilled as “amazing, action packed stories,” you can find out more about from the author of Desert Thieves and Sky Thieves himself when Dan Walker visits a Lincoln bookshop on Saturday (October 14th, 2017).

Aimed at ages 9-12, the swashbuckling adventure series includes flying galleons, floating islands and long lost treasure.

And Walker is looking forward to his appearance at the High Street branch of Waterstones from 11am to 2pm just as much as any of his young fans are.

“As a children’s writer, events are super-exciting,” the Nottingham writer explains.

“Writing stories is something children do at school, so the understand the process well.  It is not an abstract thing for them.  So when they meet someone who does it for a living – someone who can give them tips and tricks, talk about structure and characters – it’s really interesting.

“In terms of reading as a hobby, kids are always fascinated by the inspiration for characters, events, settings, everything!  I also get a lot of feedback from children who had given up on their writing, but were inspired by meeting an author to get back on it again.”

DanWalker
Author Dan Walker

And it’s not just the children who might find the event inspirational as Walker finds meeting his young readers very beneficial too.

“For a writer, events are great because it means you get to speak to your readers, ” he says.  Writing is a solitary job, and sometimes you get so buried in the details of a story that you lose touch with why you’re putting words on the paper.

“When you go out to an event, and meet readers, it reminds you of the end-point of your story.  You remember who you’re writing for, and the joy it hopefully brings.

“Practically, it gives you a little boost, so that next time you sit down at the computer you’re ready and raring to go.  From a craft perspective, it’s also good to know which bits of your books kids particularly enjoyed, and which bits they didn’t.

“Feedback is good in every station of life; writing is no different.”

Find out more at: www.waterstones.com

On the trail of the Lincoln Knights (part three)

We took advantage of a rare dry day recently to finally finish the Lincoln Knights Trail that celebrates the 800th anniversary of the Battle of Lincoln and the sealing of the Charter of the Forest.

You can, of course, complete the quest to find the 36 sculptures across the city centre in one go but then you probably won’t have had a run around The Lawn’s play park, stopped for a lesson in a Victorian schoolroom and got lost around the University’s building works along the way and your legs are probably a lot longer than the minis are.

The third installment of our hunt for the guardians on horseback saw us finally take in knight number one as we took to Lincoln’s uphill streets with Willow often leading the way calling “knight, where are you?”

This day’s selection included Luke’s favourite – 07 The Battle of Lincoln Knight – as he has always been drawn to white horses.  And also Daddy Malpi’s favourite – 10 Lincoln City Knight.

Having found all the green shields hidden on the knights and completed the key to reveal the phrase and find the answer to the quest we finished at the Lincoln Visitor Information Centre where the minis were awarded their certificates and badges and we claimed the discount on the children’s book 1217 The Battle of Lincoln book.  It might be aimed at children older than ours and we had planned to put it to one side for when they are a bit bigger but Willow was determined to do her own reading of it for us at bedtime that night.

Just because we know we’ve seen them all now hasn’t diminished their enthusiasm much and, as well as stopping for another photo each time we pass a full size one, they’re also very keen to point out the half-sized education knights designed by local children from 42 primary, secondary and special schools and the mini ones in numerous shop windows around the city.

And, on another day, we also had the chance to stop by the Knights’ Central Pop-up Shop and Activity Centre in the Cornhill to indulge in some themed colouring and crafting, making woven shields.

It’s been lovely to see so many other people of all ages taking part in the trail too whenever we’ve been in town (which makes the couple of incidences of vandalism particularly sad) and we’ll miss their colourful presence after they are auctioned off for charity.

They’ll be on their separate plinths until September 3rd so you’ve still got plenty of time to conquer Steep Hill or take them in in sections like us.  If your summer holidays are already spoken for however you also have the opportunity to take them in in one fell swoop at Lincoln Castle at The Reunion from Wednesday, September 20th to Wednesday, September 27th.

Find out more here: www.knightstrail.com

The BFG, Mr Men and a gecko’s echo…

Newark Book Festival 2017

Formerly known as Books in the Castle, this year’s Newark Book Festival (July 15th and 16th) was rebranded, revamped and a resounding success.

With a last minute change to the mini ones weekend schedule we headed to Newark on Saturday instead of Sunday as planned and, with many of the events already sold out, we were very glad there were also street theatre acts to enjoy and drop-in workshops to join in too.

On arriving in the Nottinghamshire town, we located the festival’s stall in the market place and were just in time to enjoy a performance by The Smallest Theatre in the World.

The humorous take on Hound of the Baskervilles (in celebration of the 125th anniversary of the first Sherlock Holmes publication) involved audience participation and hijinks that captivated Willow who got especially excited whenever a character popped up on top of the theatre’s roof.

NBF3We then took time to listen to Doctor Rhyme reading us a poem describing the problems of trying to write a poem when your tin of alphabetti spaghetti turns out to be spaghetti hoops and requested a poem to be written in celebration of Luke starting school this year.

A quick chase of the BFG around the market place, who we were quite happy to wave at but not quite brave enough to high five, and a short stop to refuel and then we set off to join in the Make and Create: Mr Men session at Millgate Community Centre.

Cardboard templates, scrunched up newspaper, kitchen roll liners, tissue paper coloured squares, facial features and accessory add ons plus some liberally applied glue and sticky tape and Luke had his own Mr Tickle and Willow a Mr Man all of her own creation.

The Roger Hargreaves characters are staple reading in the minis’ library and it was a well thought out craft that the smallest of hands could join with, that could be similarly recreated at home with a rummage through your recycling and which it wasn’t too difficult to get a recognisable finished artwork from.

There was more even crafting to be done afterwards as we headed to Newark Library where there was also dancing and stories to listen to as children’s author Lucy Rowland introduced young readers to her titles The Birthday Invitation and Gecko’s Echo alongside the library launching its Summer Reading Challenge.  Luke was suitably impressed, requesting to buy a copy of Gecko’s Echo to take home with us which he was able to watch the author sign for him and his sisters.

Before it was time to go back to the car we stopped to explore Newark Library’s lovely children’s area with it’s inventive seating and bookshelves that are also tunnels, it’s play kitchen and dolls’ house.  Willow had clearly got the message that books are good as she helped herself to a huge pile of different titles to have mini excerpts read to her from.

And, back at home, bedtime reading requests involved several renditions of Gecko’s Echo (and who wouldn’t appreciate a story featuring a strong mother?) with a couple of the Mr Men stories to follow.

I used to love attending literary festivals before I had children and, whilst it may be in a slightly different way, it can be even more fun with them.  Definitely one for the diary for 2018, hopefully with a little more planning involved too.

#30DaysWild Day 30 – Tattershall bats

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_30We were going to go camping this weekend but the adverse weather forecast earlier in the week made us decide it was not the right time for Faith’s first foray into canvas living.

It has, of course, mainly been a lovely day after all and the weekend looks set to be the same but it did mean we had an extra “Daddy Day” today anyway and we decided to head to Tattershall Castle for the afternoon instead.

T1

The 15th century red brick castle is a National Trust property in the village near Sleaford in Lincolnshire and – as well as lots of steps! – it has lovely grounds whose moats add to the diversity of wildlife that makes its home there.

And there’s also a great sandpit behind the tower where, not only can you make your own more temporary battlement bedecked buildings, but you can also have lots of fun burying your brother.

 

The minis were also keen to explore Holy Trinity Collegiate Church on the way back to the car park and we were rewarded with discovering how proud its parishioners are that their place of worship also provides a home to 900+ bats.

 

The “largest bat colony in any inhabited building in the country” has even inspired a children’s book, Tatty Bat – “a beautiful tale of adventure, friendship and Christianity”.

Perhaps we will order a copy ready to read during #30DaysWild 2018!

30DAYSWILD_ID2 teal

Newark Book Festival 2017

NBF logoThe biggest ever Newark Book Festival promises to transform the Nottinghamshire town into a land of adventure and heroes during the event’s weekend of July 15th and 16th.

Back for its third year, more than 100 authors, artists, entertainers, wordsmiths and street performers will take part in ticketed panel discussions, live music, book markets, children’s storytelling, family activities and literary talks on everything from crime writing to bear hunts to the BFG and Sherlock Holmes to Steampunk in various venues across Newark.

gecko echo cover (2)Sara Bullimore, artistic director for Newark Book Festival, said: “We’re so excited to be building the festival with a new feel, brand and working with more venues to bring a bigger festival to Newark. Our programme is full of fantastic fictional tales and amazing true stories from some of the UK’s finest writers; showcasing their talent, stimulating debate and inspiring the next generation of writers.

wally-wizard (2)“We chose this year’s theme, Adventures and Heroes, to celebrate Visit England’s Year of Literary Heroes, as well as Nottinghamshire’s incredible writers.  There’ll be something for book lovers of all ages, from children’s writers and comedy theatre groups to best-selling novelists and the finest local writing talent.”

Pirate Pete HB cover (2)Mini readers may want to look out for Wally the Wizard on his Magic Ship of Stories, Words and Pictures and Make and Create Mr Men workshops and the launch of the library’s Summer Reading Challenge on the first day of the festival.

And on the Sunday, they can take part in The Festival’s Famous Adventures, celebrating 75 years’ of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, at Newark Castle alongside face painting, treasure hunts and the inimitable Admirable Admirals, as well as enjoying a Pirate Pete storytime at the town hall and time to meet Doctor Rhyme in the Market Place.

Tickets are on sale now from the Newark Palace Theatre Box Office, call 01636 655755.

For a full programme and to find out more visit www.newarkbookfestival.org.uk