Monthly Archives: November 2015

A virtual tour of art galleries around the world

When life gets busy (particularly at this time of year), it’s easy to fall into the same types of thought patterns and habits. So we thought we might change it up a bit and do a virtual tour of 6 amazing art galleries around the world. We’re going to look at why each gallery is significant and also what works they are currently curating or headlining. We also feature a key book of the artists’ work. We hope you find something to engage the brain, inspire the imagination and energise your spirit over the pre-Christmas period.

Guggenheim                                                        New York

Why it’s important: The Guggenheim is designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and it’s cyclindrical shape was conceived as a ‘temple of the spirit’. The museum was founded by Solomon R. Guggenheim and it’s collection has grown organically over eight decades. It is founded upon several private collections.  Alberto Burri is currently showing at the Guggenheim.



Our pick: Burri: Works 1949-1994. The Measure of Equilibrium

This book showcases the pioneering work of Alberto Burri (1915–1995). In it, we explore the Italian artist’s unconventional materials and experimental techniques that position the former army medic and prisoner of war as a central figure in post–World War II art.

MONA (Museum of Old and New Art)        Berriedale, Tasmania

Why it’s important:  MONA was founded by the eccentric Tasmanian millionaire David Walsh and is the largest privately funded museum in Australia. It presents antiquities, modern and contemporary art from the David Walsh collection. Walsh has himself described the museum as a ‘subversive adult Disneyland.’ Not for prudes.  Gilbert & George are currently showing at MONA.



Our pick: Gilbert & George

Gilbert & George are among the foremost artists of their generation. A collaborative team, they were early to explore performance as an art form, and early to explore the idea that every aspect of daily life could be classed as such. They were early to mingle photography and graphics in a style reminiscent of advertising, and early to address sexual identity in that work. In fact, they were early to do much that viewers now take for granted.


Tate Modern                                                        London, UK

Why it’s important: Since it opened in May 2000 in the former Bankside Power Station, over 40 million people have visited Tate Modern. It’s one of the UK’s top three tourist attractions and generates around £100 million in revenue each year. In 2009, Tate Modern began redevelopment to make the use of the power station’s redundant oil tanks, increase gallery space and improve visitor facilities.  Alexander Calder is currently showing at Tate Modern.

978377573710420151129-2125-mqwmsvOur pick:                                                              Alexander Calder Trees: Naming Abstraction

Alexander Calder (1898-1976) transposed modernist visual abstraction to space, naming his works  for the aspects of motion or balance they portrayed. Leaving Paris for his native United States in 1933, he settled in an old farmhouse in Roxbury, Connecticut, where nature became a new source of inspiration for his creativity. The monumental standing mobile ‘The Tree’ (1966) demonstrates the relationship between abstraction and realization.

MOMA                                                                     New York

Why it’s important: The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is an art museum located in Manhattan in New York City. It has been identified as one of the most influential museums of modern art in the world. The collection includes works of architecture, design, drawing, painting, sculpture, film and electronic media.  Picasso is currently showing at MOMA.


978158093257820151129-27703-8n94zcOur pick: Picasso

Art critic and scholar Philippe Dagen approaches Picasso as a subject through a series of questions. What does it mean to be an artist in the twentieth century? What does it mean to be an artist in the time of newspapers and museums, in a time when the art market has expanded to reach the entire western world? Is modern civilization so different that it gives an artist a new attitude and causes him to redefine his role for the public, the market, and, therefore, to invent entirely new artistic practices?


Casa Batlló                                                          Barcelona, Spain

Why it’s important: Casa Batlló , being one of Antoni Gaudi’s masterpieces, is an incredibly recognizable building located in the centre of Barcelona. It was redesigned in 1904 by Gaudí and has been refurbished several times after that. The local name for the building is Casa dels ossos (House of Bones), as it has a skeletal quality.

Like all of Gaudi’s work, it is full of sculptural irregularity. The building, like all of Gaudi’s art, can be identified as Art Nouveau.  Gaudi is currently showing at Casa Batlló (of course!).

978383656028320151129-31173-dxc5w6Our pick: Gaudi

Gaudí’s ravishing symbiosis between built environment and natural world.  From the towering Sagrada Família to the shimmering, textured facade of Casa Batlló and the enchanting landscape of Park Güell, it’s easy to see why Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926) gained the epithet “God’s architect”.



SCAI: The Bathhouse                                       Tokyo, Japan

Why it’s important: This gallery is known for bringing contemporary Japanese artists to the world stage. Artists such as Lee Ufan and Tadanori Yokoo have held large-scale exhibitions at The Bathhouse. Also, through their association with SCAI, international artists such as Anish Kapoor have produced new series of works inspired by Japanese traditional culture and crafts.  Lee Ufan is currently showing at SCAI: The Bathhouse

978233001909920151129-570-gmft6kOur pick: Lee Ufan

Korean artist Lee Ufan (born 1936) initially studied (and wrote) poetry and philosophy. In 1969, he became the theoretician and leader of the Mono-Ha movement in Japan, where he developed his artistic methods and motivations. As a lecturer at the Tama University in Tokyo, he started a career as a painter and a sculptor, and his reputation spread internationally. In his early minimalist paintings, he combines ground mineral pigment with animal-skin glue, a traditional East-Asian technique.







The Best DVD Box Sets of 2015

2015 has been a great year for DVD releases, so compiling this “Best of” list has been tough.  I have scoured the world to find these hilarious, absorbing, and downright gorgeous box sets.  Perfect for some downtime as we approach the frantic end-of-year period; these box sets also make excellent gifts – for a favourite someone, or just for yourself!
These titles hail from several different DVD/Blu-ray regions, so do check whether they will be compatible with your media players.  In many cases, an edition suitable for your country will be available.


Mad Men: The Complete Collection (Blu-ray and Digital HD) [Region A/1]

My absolute favourite is this Mad Men Limited Edition Gift Set, as stylish as the show itself.  23 discs containing all 7 seasons of the show, all previously-released special features and commentaries, plus over 4 hours of exclusive new special features including Cast Wrap Ups and Show Timelines.  And to get you into the spirit of things (pun intended), two handmade low-ball tumblers and four themed cork coasters.  All packaged in elegant black, white and red.  So pour that whiskey sour, settle into your mid-century armchair, and relive that Mad Men magic once more.  This gift set also comes in DVD format.  The complete final season (Series 7) is also available separately.

X Files – The Collector’s Set (Blu-ray) [Region A/1]

As one iconic show wraps up, another is reborn.  The X-Files revival, a six-episode “event series”, will premiere in late January 2016.   Helmed by original creator Chris Carter, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson will reprise their roles as Mulder and Scully.  Will the new episodes be as good as the originals?  Inform your decision by revisiting the original show – a ground-breaker that has become a significant influence on media and pop culture in general.

This Collector’s Set is the first time The X-File has been available in Blu-ray.  Containing the nine original series (202 episodes) plus over 23 hours of extras, the compendium box has also thoughtfully set aside space for the 2016 series.

Utopia The Complete Series [Region 4]

Utopia is a deadpan satire about public service bureaucracy – however, such a simple description does not do it justice.  Think The Office with a dash of Yes, Minister.  Focussing on the fictional Nation Building Authority (NBA), Utopia shows how grand plans and great visions are compromised and eroded by red tape and political fickleness until nothing can be achieved.  A central irony is that the less the NBA achieves, the more it finds favour with the government.  The creators’ observations are spot-on and eerily prescient, with some of the absurd-sounding story arcs coming true in recent months.  Its depictions of the frustrations of working life is so realistic that some public servants describe it as documentary.

Doctor Who – 10 Christmas Specials [Region 4]

The Doctor Who Christmas Special is a highlight of Christmas TV viewing, and has become a tradition for many.  These stand-alone movie-length episodes often include big-name guest stars (Kylie Minogue comes to mind) and are a good introduction to the Doctor Who universe.  Bearing in mind that they are usually the most-watched episodes of the year, the show’s writers often include key plot points into these stories, including new companions and Doctor regenerations.  So here is a collection of all ten official Christmas Specials from 2005-2014, starring Doctors Eleven to Thirteen (aka David Tennant, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi). Each set contains a bonus gift – Christmas cards for Regions 2 and 4, while Region 1 is offering a sonic screwdriver!


Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Series 3 (Complete) [Region 1]

Take one gutsy, racy lady detective, put her in the glamorous Jazz Age, add a string of carefully-plotted mysteries, and you’ll begin to understand why Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries has become a favourite world-wide.  Closely based on Kerry Greenwood’s beloved novels, the show has an enormously entertaining heroine, who is strong, independent and liberated.  The series is a visual feast, with acclaimed set and costume designs recreating the 1920s based on the author’s meticulous research.  Series 1 and Series 2 DVDs are also available.

Archer Complete Seasons 1-3 [Region 2]

If you think James Bond is politically incorrect and gives spies a bad name, you probably haven’t watched Archer. Sterling Archer is a suave, egotistical and highly accomplished secret agent.  He is also extremely dangerous because he is into espionage for the thrills and the jet-setting lifestyle.  The outrageous story arcs follow Archer and his spy agency colleagues, including his mother (who happens to be his boss), and his ex-girlfriend (who happens to be a fellow agent).  Archer is a fast and furious spoof of 60s/70s spy shows, mixing retro stereotypes with futuristic technology.  It is rude, violent and very funny.  Animation that is definitely not for kids.

Miffy 60th Anniversary Collection [Region 4]

Miffy, the sweet little bunny star of books, TV series and a film, celebrates her 60th birthday in 2015.  Stories about Miffy and her friends are available in over 50 languages, and are part of many childhoods worldwide.  This 3-disc set contains episodes of the original TV animation series, that shows Miffy and her friends having fun doing, making and learning.  These are short, gentle stories that will engage even very young children.


Horrible Histories Series 1-6 & Specials Box Set [Region 2]

The creators of Horrible Histories know that grossness and jokes about bodily functions work for kids, and have used them to great effect in a show that combines music, comedy, and “the horrible bits of history”.  Based on the books by Terry Deary, what started as children’s edutainment grew into a ratings winner with a cult adult following, picking up many awards along the way.  Horrible Histories is subversive, satirical, and has an impressive cast and creative team drawn from the UK comedy scene.  This new box set contains the five original series, plus Series 6 (a reboot produced this year), as well as four Specials episodes.

Life Story narrated by David Attenborough [Region 4]

Sir David Attenborough’s documentaries are the gold standard in natural history broadcasting.  It is amazing that, after almost 40 years, he can still find fascinating stories and craft amazing footage to keep us riveted.  Life Story follows the journey from birth to parenthood, with each episode focussing on a different life stage, such as Growing Up, and Courtship.  We see the myriad challenges animals must face just to survive from day to day, and to reach their ultimate goal – producing and ensuring the survival of their offspring.  There’s plenty of drama, pathos and humour to enrich the stunning visuals.

Making the most of Black Friday

Screen Shot 2015-11-14 at 8.15.09 amThe name Black Friday was first used over 50 years ago by Philadelphia police offers to describe the crazy shopping day after Thanksgiving when the city was overrun with traffic flocking to Christmas sales.   This year, Black Friday is predicted to generate sales of $50b in the US (matching last years sales). While it’s the biggest shopping day of the year in the UK, sales are expected to top £1b.

Black Friday is scheduled to take place on Friday, November 27 and a number of retailers have already started promoting their offers in preparation. If you want to do some research prior to the sale, visit this site.  (It’s a US site but can give you a comprehensive overview of who is selling what).

While it can be a great time to purchase a new TV or laptop, it’s also a smart way to do some of your Christmas shopping early. If you are thinking about purchasing books or DVD’s for gifts, take advantage of the special offers available during the Black Friday sale. Here’s how to make the most of the sale:

  1. Make a list of all the books and DVD’s you want to purchase using the Booko Lists functionality. Booko Lists is a great tool that can help you to plan and manage your purchases for a one off event (like Black Friday) or ongoing. We’ve written a handy blog on how to use Booko Lists or you can visit the page on our website.
  1. If you’ve ever missed a sale on an item you really want, you’ll know that it’s not a great feeling! The Booko Alerts feature can help you avoid that happening to your book purchases.  When the price drops on a nominated title, Booko will email you with the new best price.  Booko Alerts work for DVDs and eBooks as well as printed books.  It is easy to use, and will help you get more out of your money! We’ve written a blog on how to use Booko Alerts or you can visit our website.

Here’s to savvy shopping!


Get ready for the Force awakening!

Only 35 days to go!  Star Wars: the Force Awakens (Episode VII) will premiere on December 14, 2015.
Commercial release will occur following the premiere, with key dates being:
  • December 16 – France, Italy, Denmark, most of continental Europe
  • December 17 – UK, Germany, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Hong Kong
  • December 18 – US, Canada.

It has been over ten years since the last Star Wars film graced our movie screens.  As excitement builds ahead of this new release, it is a great time to gather your friends for that Star Wars-themed party or movie marathon.  But do you know that there are other ways to brush up your Star Wars knowledge ahead of the big day?  Here’s an overview on the rich and diverse mythology around Star Wars, and a sneak peek at some new Star Wars books that are available right now.

 The Force Awakens is more than just a film

To accompany the release of The Force Awakens, Disney Publishing and Lucasfilm (current owners of the Star Wars franchise) have developed a big publishing program called “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens”.  This series of novels, comics, reference guides and activity books are available in both print and digital format, with titles to appeal to all age-groups.  Some relate specifically to The Force Awakens, while others elaborate upon past eras.  Publication has already started, with at least 20 titles in the pipeline.  Highlights include:

Smuggler’s Run: a Han Solo & Chewbacca Adventure by Greg Rucka

Available now
This is the Han Solo story the fans have been waiting for.  The Smuggler and his trusty co-pilot run a secret mission for the Rebellion.  Can they succeed while avoiding bounty hunters and the Imperial forces?





Aftermath by Chuck Wendig

Available now
Starting soon after Return of the Jedi, Aftermath is an adventure-thriller about pilot Wedge Antilles, a character from the original films. It provides insights into how the destruction of the second Death Star, and the establishment of the New Republic, has affected the Star Wars galaxy. First of a new trilogy.




Star Wars: the Force Awakens Visual Dictionary by DK Children

Release date December 18, 2015
A complete visual guide to everything you want to know about The Force Awakens.  Comprehensively illustrated in true DK style.




5-Minute Star Wars Stories

Release date December 18, 2015
12 exciting Star Wars stories adapted from all seven Star Wars films. Perfect for bedtime reading with your favourite little Padawan.

An important feature of the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens series is that all of these titles are deemed part of the Star Wars canon, meaning that they contain the official version or “facts” about the Star Wars universe, and are consistent with the films and other canonical works.


What constitutes the Star Wars Canon?

The Star Wars “canon” is the collection of media depicting the officially-recognised characters and storylines of the Star Wars universe.  The Canon currently includes:

  • The six released Star Wars films plus the three planned sequels (Episodes VII, VIII and IX)
  • Star Wars: the Clone Wars animated film and tv series
  • Star Wars Rebels tv series, and
  • All Journey to Star Wars: the Force Awakens books and media.

All future authorised Star Wars material will also be canonical, as Disney/Lucasfilm re-establishes greater control over the Star Wars universe.  The relationship amongst canonical works is shown in this beautiful timeline by Outerspaces

Star Wars Timeline | Outer Places
Star Wars Timeline by Outer Places

But wait, there’s more – Star Wars Legends

If the prospect of 20-odd new Star Wars books doesn’t sound nearly enough, there is also a back catalogue to dive into – Star Wars Legends.  Star Wars Legends is previously known as The Star Wars Expanded Universe, and comprises a large collection of media – books, comics, animations, games, toys – created over the last 35 years.  These works cover thousands of years’ worth of Star Wars chronology, and include well-known items such as the two Ewoks films and the web-based Lego Star Wars series.

The Expanded Universe was testament to how the Star Wars story had captivated imaginations; its premise, at once new (high tech science-fiction) and ancient (a classic quest based on mythological motifs), encouraged deep and extensive world-building.  While Lucasfilm did not create in the Expanded Universe, it did help to maintain consistency amongst variously story lines.  Many of the books were written by established sci-fi writers including Alan Dean Foster (, Kevin J Anderson ( and Timothy Zahn.  Stories such as The Thrawn Trilogy ( were highly regarded, and introduced hugely popular characters such as Jacen and Jaina Solo, twin children of Han and Leia.  Many of these Expanded Universe titles were considered canon prior to a major redefinition in 2014.

While the Expanded Universe content is now considered legends rather than canon, it contains a wealth of great stories that can keep fans happily occupied for years.  The Legends books will continue to be re-published to satisfy market demand.  Moreover, Disney/Lucasfilm have not ruled out re-introducing Legends material into the Canon.  A good starting point for exploring Star Wars Legends is the detailed chronology at Wookieepedia, a wiki-based Star Wars encyclopaedia.

Best of the old and new: the 10 cookbooks every cook should own The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi

Nopi: The Cookbook features over 120 of the most popular dishes from Ottolenghi’s wonderful restaurant NOPI. Written by Ottolenghi and his long time collaborator and Head Chef Ramael Scully, Ottolenghi’s collection of recipes has been modified to make them accessible to the average home cook. This recipe book will challenge and inspire you to create some of the famous restaurant dishes we have heard so much about. His ‘Persian Love Rice’ sounds amazing! NoMad Cookbook by Daniel Humm, Will Guidara, and Leo Robitschek

Daniel Humm and Will Guidara are owners of the innovative and beloved acclaimed restaurants Eleven Madison and The NoMad. Full of stunning photography, the book features ‘genre-defying’ recipes and also has a surprise cocktail recipe book at the back, making it an amazing collection of both sweet and savoury dishes as well as some funky cocktail recipes. Great Australian Cookbook  by Kylie Kwong, Charmaine Solomon, George Calombaris and Maggie Beer.

Penned as the ‘Ultimate’ Australian cookbook, this is a comprehensive collection of dishes from over 100 of Australia’s best-loved cooks. Featuring 165 recipes from cooks, chefs, bakers and with beautiful original photography shot on location, this collection of quintessential Australian recipes is perfect for the home cook. Year of Good Eating by Nigel Slater

With a fresh, inspiring take on seasonal eating, ‘A Year of Good Eating’ is the third installment of Nigel Slater’s classic Kitchen Diaries series. It explores the balance of eating well right throughout the year. Nigel Slater is one of Britain’s best-loved Food writers and is the host of BBC’s series ‘One’s Eating Together’. These book features beautifully simple recipes, such as roasted summer vegetables with sausages, quick baked eggs or a salmon pie with herb butter, making eating well both inspired and easy. Harvest by Guy Turland and Mark Alston

From the super popular TV series of the same name, Bondi Harvest features over 100 recipes in its now famous casual cooking style. With a focus on seasonal flavours, whole foods and simple but beautiful recipes, this cookbook doubles as a coffee table book with its sumptuous photography. Super Food by Jamie Oliver

Partnering with a nutritionist for this book, Jamie Oliver has developed a range of recipes that are less than 400 calories (breakfast) or 600 (lunches and dinners) per portion. The recipes are low in salt and saturated fat. The theme of the book is having a ‘balanced plate’ combining the right amounts of protein, fruit and vegetables, carbohydrates, dairy and sugar/fat. This book complements the focus on nutrition and balanced eating that Jamie has, making it easy for people to plan and eat healthily. of Classic Italian Cooking
by Marcella Hazan

If you want to purchase 1 book as your ‘bible’ of Italian cooking, this should be it.   Marcella Hazan is known as one of the best Italian cooking writers in the world. The beauty of this book is that it is aimed at every level of cook, from beginner to experienced. It has been featured in ‘The Best 50 cookbooks’ and is a true classic. Bellissimo! the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child

I was introduced to this book by the film ‘Julie and Julia’ starring Meryl Streep. That’s how famous Julia Child is: she inspired a book. And a movie! First published in 1961, Child’s book features more than 100 instructive illustrations and is literally a guide through each step of a recipe to its final creation. Temple by Neil Perry

Spice Temple reveals the inspiration behind Neil’s restaurant, of the same name and offers over 130 recipes for dumplings, hot entrees, Merah Putih noodles, seafood, vegetables, desserts and more. Perfect for those with a love of modern Chinese cooking. Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson

Written by Magnus Nilsson, head chef of Sweden’s Fäviken Magasinet restaurant. This book jumps head first into exploring the food of Denmark, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the Faroe Islands. There is a directory that helps you source ingredients to tackle the 700 recipes it features. This is a perfect gift for someone that has travelled or lived in these regions.


Hotly Anticipated New Releases for the Rest of 2015 of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton

In the summer of 2010, photographer Brandon Stanton began an ambitious project -to single-handedly create a photographic census of New York City. The photos he took accompanied  by the interviews he held became the blog Humans of New York. His audience has steadily grown from a few hundred to over fifteen million followers. In 2013, his book Humans of New York, based on that blog, was published and immediately catapulted to the top of the NY Times Bestseller List where it has appeared for over forty-five weeks. Now, Brandon is back with the Humans of New York book that his loyal followers have been waiting for. Lawyer by John Grisham

Sebastian Rudd is not your typical street lawyer. He works out of a customised bulletproof van, complete with Wi-Fi, a bar, a small fridge, fine leather chairs, a hidden gun compartment, and a heavily armed driver. He has no firm, no partners, no associates, and only one employee, his driver, who’s also his bodyguard, law clerk, confidant, and golf caddy. He lives alone in a small but extremely safe penthouse apartment, and his primary piece of furniture is a vintage pool table. He drinks small-batch bourbon and carries a gun.

Sebastian Rudd is one of John Grisham’s most colourful, outrageous, and vividly drawn characters yet. Expect it to be gritty, witty, and impossible to put down. Women Who Walked In Sunshine: No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (16) by Alexander McCall Smith

In this latest installment of the beloved and best-selling series, Mma Ramotswe must contend with her greatest challenge yet, a vacation!

While away, Mma Ramotswe finds herself concerned about how the agency is faring in her absence. Her worries grow when she hears that Mma Makutsi is handling a new and rather complicated case. A politician is up for a major public honour, and his reputation is now being called into question by his rivals. The man’s daughter has contacted the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency to investigate these troubling claims, but, as in so many cases, all is not as it seems. In the end, the investigation will affect everyone at the agency and will also serve as a reminder that ordinary human failings should be treated with a large helping of charity and compassion. Out: A Cyber Attack, a nation unprepared, surviving the aftermath by Ted Koppel

In this strength of investigative reporting, Ted Koppel reveals that a major cyberattack on America’s power grid is not only possible but likely, that it would be devastating, and that the United States is shockingly unprepared. Keppel feels it isn’t just a scenario and a well-designed attack on just one of the nation’s three electric power grids could cripple much of America’s infrastructure, and in the age of cyber warfare, a laptop has become the only necessary weapon. Maker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini

Leah Remini isn’t shy to share her opinion. That willingness to speak her mind, stand her ground, and rattle the occasional cage has enabled this tough-talking girl from Brooklyn to forge an enduring and successful career in Hollywood. But being a troublemaker has come at a cost. That was never more evident than in 2013, when Remini loudly and publicly broke with the Church of Scientology. Now, in this frank, funny, poignant memoir, the former King of Queens star opens up about that experience for the first time, revealing the in-depth details of her painful split with the church and its controversial practices. Geographic Rarely Seen: Photographs of the Extraordinary by National Geographic

In this dazzling book of visual wonders, National Geographic reveals a world very few will have the chance to see for themselves. Shot by some of the world’s finest photographers, Rarely Seen features striking images of places, events, natural phenomena, and manmade heirlooms seldom seen by human eyes. Extraordinary things have been captured; 30,000 year old cave art sealed from the public, animals that are among the last of their species on Earth, volcanic lightning, giant crystals even the engraving inside Abraham Lincoln’s pocket watch. Official A Game of Thrones Colouring Book: A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin

In a world where weddings are red, fire is green, and debts are paid in gold, countless images leap off the page thanks to the eye popping intricacy of the vivid settings and details. Now, for the first time, fans of this blockbuster saga can fill in the blanks and marvel as this meticulously imagined universe comes to life, one sword, sigil, and castle at a time. The perfect gift for fans of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and HBO’s Game of Thrones, this one of a kind colouring book features forty-five illustrations.

Best book gifts for children: 10 stunning versions of modern classics

As we enter November, we are constantly reminded that the end of the year is nigh – the festive season is approaching, time to plan and shop for gifts.  While choosing gifts can be stressful, it can also be fun – and the sense of satisfaction at matching a person to their perfect gift is priceless.  Here at Booko we are firm believers of books as the perfect gifts for children – within their pages lie fantastical lands, memorable characters, infectious laughter and a wealth of knowledge.  So here are ten modern classics, in gorgeous editions that would delight both givers and recipients.

Guinness World Records 2016

The Guinness Book of Records has been wowing readers for over 60 years.  The combination of strange- and astounding records, interesting facts and colourful illustrations has made it a perennial favourite for both boys and girls.
For those who love computer games, there is the Guinness World Records 2016 Gamers Edition which is devoted to trivia, stats and news about gaming.  This year’s edition contains a special section on Minecraft, full of records, tips and challenges.


How Machines Work by David Macauley

How Machines Work is great fun for anyone who loves machines.  Sloth and Sengi are trying to break out of the zoo using what they can find – a bicycle, a crane, hammers and drills.  Through pop-ups, pull-outs and funny illustrations, we learn how these contraptions can help the animals escape, as well as learn the principles behind basic machines such as levers, pulleys and wheels. How Machines Work is aimed at middle-primary students and is a reworking of David Macauley’s bestseller for older readers, The Way Things Work. Both versions are highly recommended for their richly detailed and informative illustrations, as well as their deft balance between education and entertainment.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay

Can you believe Harry Potter has been with us for 18 years already?  (In fact, J.K. Rowling reminds us that Harry is now a father-of-three, whose second child started at Hogwarts this September.)  During this time, the book covers have been updated several times, but never as spectacularly as this all-colour, fully illustrated hardback edition. The illustrations have made this tale of magic, friendship, school-life and adventure especially enchanting.  Not only will this volume be a special keepsake for a current fan, it will also make a wonderful introduction to Harry’s world for a new generation of readers.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (pop up version) by Robert Sabuda

There is something particularly exciting about pop-up books – the magical transformation from 2D to 3D, the anticipation as you turn the page of what spectacle awaits, the ingenuity of the paper constructions.  And what better subject for a 3D rendering, than Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland?  Alice celebrates its 150th birthday this year, and its combination of fantasy, adventure and mathematical cleverness is as popular as ever.  Robert Sabuda has transformed the classic Tenniel illustrations into stunning 3D sculptures, while keeping the abridged text faithful to the original.

My Very First Mother Goose edited by Iona Opie, illustrated by Rosemary Wells

Nursery rhymes make a popular gift for a new baby or young child, and are in fact an important part of our cultural tradition.  This Mother Goose collection contains over 60 rhymes, including favourites such as Humpty Dumpty, Pat-a-cake, and Hey Diddle Diddle. They are brought to life by the distinctive illustrations of Rosemary Wells, beloved creator of the Max and Ruby series, who has injected cheeky humour into the antics of her cast of cute kittens, bunnies, and the occasional human. This large format hardback, with its luxurious pages and full-colour printing, is beautiful to read and touch – perfect for gifting, and definitely a book worth cherishing.

At the Beach (book and jigsaw set) by Roland Harvey

Australians are famous for their beach lifestyle and larrikin humour and this book has both.  Mum, Dad, Henry, Penny and little Frankie have piled into their car, with caravan in tow, for a beach holiday in Crabby Spit.  Through a series of letters to Grandma, we learn about what happened: swimming, fishing, surfing, rockpools, sharks (!), and their neighbours in the caravan park.  Much of Roland Harvey’s humour is hidden in the fine details of his busy scenes – like the sign for a camping shop called “Past Tents” – so everyone can have hours of fun spotting hidden jokes.  At the Beach will bring back memories of childhood summers for many adults, and is also an affectionate introduction of this Aussie rite of passage to younger readers.  This edition comes with a matching 100-piece jigsaw, in an unusual and engaging gift set for an older child.

Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce

Alanna of Trebond wants to be a knight – but noble-born girls are usually sent to the convent to learn to be a lady and a wife.  Her twin, Thom, is about to start knight training, but prefers to become a sorcerer.  So Alanna hatched a plan for Thom and her to switch places – with Alanna disguised as a boy – so they can both pursue their hearts’ desire.  Song of the Lioness quartet (comprising Alanna: the First Adventure; In the Hand of the Goddess; The Woman who Rides Like a Man; and Lioness Rampant) is about growing up, magic, relationships, determination and working hard to pursue your dreams.  Alanna is a brave and resourceful character – one of the first female heroes in fantasy – who has been captivating tweens and teens for almost thirty years.

Pig the Pug (book and soft toy) by Aaron Blabey

Take one googly eyed pug, add humour, rollicking rhymes and some just desserts for bad behaviour, and you get an instant classic! Pig the Pug was only published a few years ago, but it is so loved that it has already spawned a (bestselling) sequel.  It is a fast-paced story that is great for reading aloud.  This beautifully-designed gift set contains a small format book and a cute plush pug that just makes you want to laugh.

Neil Gaiman / Chris Riddell Box Set

Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell are both incredibly successful (also popular and talented) author/illustrators in the fantasy genre. Their recent collaborations show undeniable synergy: somehow, Chris Riddell’s meticulous ink drawings make Neil Gaiman’s text that bit more gothic, ironic, and surreal.  This box set contains paperback versions of their first three collaborations – Coraline; The Graveyard Book; and Fortunately, the Milk.  Coraline is a fantasy horror story about a girl who enters an alternate world from a secret door in her flat, and her battle to return home; The Graveyard Book is a darkly humorous thriller about a teen boy who has been raised by ghosts; while Fortunately, the Milk appears to be the silly and convoluted excuse a father gives his children for returning late from shopping – but may just be a true story!

Ruby Redfort 5 – Pick your Poison by Lauren Child

Ruby Redfort is an unflappable, super-smart 13 year-old with superior detective skills.  She is also a secret agent with a mentor/ sidekick who happens to be her butler.  Each of her novels is funny, fast-paced and tense, featuring puzzling mysteries, dastardly villains, cool gadgets and lots of danger.  Ruby Redfort is a spin-off from the award-winning Clarice Bean series, which author Lauren Child created after many requests from her fans.  It has developed into a witty, stylish series in its own right.  These stories have intellectual cred (with fiendish codes devised by a cryptology expert) and a retro sensibility reminiscent of vintage Batman episodes.  Pick Your Poison is the latest instalment (Book 5) of this series.