Category Archives: Blog

Roald Dahl’s Wonderful World of Imagination

A feisty girl genius.  A wondrous chocolate factory.  A Big Friendly Giant who gets his words muddled.  Pheasants who are paralysed by ‘special’ raisins.  A leg of lamb that is used as a murder weapon – then cooked and served to the police investigators. These memorable characters (does a leg of lamb count as a character?) all come from the witty, wild (and sometimes wicked) imagination of Roald Dahl.  Roald Dahl remains one of our most beloved authors, because his wild ideas and clever wordplay create indelible images that delight and enthral. Join us in our tribute to Roald Dahl, with great titles by and about him, for fans of all ages:

 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Colour Edition) by Roald Dahl

For many people (me included), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory epitomises the appeal of Roald Dahl’s stories – a fairytale story of a poor boy made good; the gleeful comeuppance for all the bad / nasty characters; and the whimsical chocolate factory, filled with the most delicious delights imaginable. A child-like humour, sense of justice and of wonder permeate this story, made all the more real through the amazing movie adaptations by Gene Wilder and Tim Burton.  This full colour edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will help you relive your own enjoyment of this story, as well as introduce new readers to Charlie and Mr Wonka’s technicolour world.

 

More about Boy: Tales from Roald Dahl’s Childhood by Roald Dahl

More About Boy is an expanded edition of Boy, Roald Dahl’s celebrated autobiography of his childhood.   All of the original stories and the Quentin Blake illustrations are still there, and have been richly illustrated with archival material including photos, letters, recipes and previously unpublished stories.  These rollicking stories of his childhood not only show Roald Dahl’s eye for the absurd, but also the events and themes that inspire his future stories.  For Roald Dahl fans of all ages!

 

Fantastic Mr Dahl by Michael Rosen and Quentin Blake

You get two brilliant writers for the price of one in Fantastic Mr Dahl. This authorised biography is written by the (also very funny) Michael Rosen, who is such a big fan of Roald Dahl that he set up a book prize in his honour (The Roald Dahl Funny Prize). Aimed at young readers, Fantastic Mr Dahl is a mix of biography, literary analysis and writing advice. It includes stories about Dahl’s work as a medical pioneer and real-life spy (where he made friends with Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond), as well as Roald’s own tips to aspiring writers, and reflections on how and why Roald Dahl was able to imagine such amazing stories.

 

Tales of the Unexpected by Roald Dahl

Before Roald Dahl became famous for children’s books, he wrote mainly for an adult audience, with screenplays (such as the James Bond film “You Only Live Twice”) and short stories published in magazines including The New Yorker and Playboy.  Like his children’s writing, Roald Dahl’s short stories weave fantastical elements into everyday settings; however, the nasty, grotesque elements that get defeated in his children’s stories may emerge the victor in his adult ones.  Tales of the Unexpected is a collection of sixteen short stories, made famous by TV adaptation in the 80s.  Macabre, risqué and often with a gasp-inducing twist, these stories show another side of Dahl’s fantastical imagination.

 

Roald Dahl Scribble Book by Puffin Books

Young fans who are inspired by Roald Dahl’s stories to stretch their own imaginations will enjoy The Roald Dahl Scribble Book.  Readers are guided through a range of writing, drawing and other creative activities based on Dahl’s stories, such as “design your own chocolate factory” or “make your own dreams and put them into jars”.  Perfect for those “I’m bored!” moments on a rainy day, car trip or during the school holidays.

Top 10 Most Clicked Books on Booko This Year

Some days choosing a book can be a little tricky…there’s just so many good ones out there that a recommendation would make things so much easier. Thankfully, we have a great little tab on the site that shows you what everyone else is clicking on to read next…and we have made finding that tab super easy as it’s called “Most Clicked” and the range of books our community is viewing, buying and researching is wide and varied. There is bound to be a title that piques your interest.

Here are the 10 most popular books so far this year:

 

#1 The Barefoot Investor by Scott Pape

This is the only money guide you’ll ever need. That’s a bold claim, given there are already thousands of finance books on the shelves. So what makes this one different? Well, you won’t be overwhelmed with a bunch of ‘tips’ … or a strict budget (that you won’t follow). You’ll get a step-by-step formula: open this account, then do this; call this person, and say this; invest money here, and not there. All with a glass of wine in your hand. This book will show you how to create an entire financial plan that is so simple you can sketch it on the back of a serviette … and you’ll be able to manage your money in 10 minutes a week.

 

 

#2 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson

What does everyone in the modern world need to know? Renowned psychologist Jordan B. Peterson’s answer to this most difficult of questions uniquely combines the hard-won truths of ancient tradition with the stunning revelations of cutting-edge scientific research. Humorous, surprising and informative, Dr. Peterson tells us why skateboarding boys and girls must be left alone, what terrible fate awaits those who criticise too easily, and why you should always pet a cat when you meet one on the street. What does the nervous system of the lowly lobster have to tell us about standing up straight (with our shoulders back) and about success in life? Why did ancient Egyptians worship the capacity to pay careful attention as the highest of gods? What dreadful paths do people tread when they become resentful, arrogant and vengeful? Dr. Peterson journeys broadly, discussing discipline, freedom, adventure and responsibility, distilling the world’s wisdom into 12 practical and profound rules for life.

 

 

#3 The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers

From the best-selling author of The Circle, the true story of a young Yemeni-American man, raised in San Francisco, who dreams of resurrecting the ancient art of Yemeni coffee but finds himself trapped in Sana’a by civil war–and his riveting tale of escape. Mokhtar Alkhanshali grew up in San Francisco, one of seven siblings brought up by Yemeni immigrants in a tiny apartment. At age twenty four, unable to pay for college, he works as a doorman, until a statue of an Arab raising a cup of coffee awakens something in him. He sets out to learn the rich history of coffee in Yemen and the complex art of tasting and identifying varietals. He travels to Yemen and visits countless farms, collecting samples, eager to bring improved cultivation methods to the countryside. And he is on the verge of success when civil war engulfs Yemen in 2015. The US Embassy closes, Saudi bombs began to rain down on the country, and Mokhtar is trapped in Yemen. Desperate to escape, he embarks on a passage that has him negotiating with duelling political factions and twice kidnapped at gunpoint. With no other options, he hires a skiff to take him, and his coffee samples, across the Red Sea. A heart-pounding true story that weaves together the history of coffee, the ongoing Yemeni civil war, and the courageous journey of a young man following the most American of dreams.

 

 

#4 The Unreal and the Real: The Selected Short Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin by Ursula K Le Guin

The Unreal and the Real is a collection of some of Ursula K. Le Guin’s best short stories. She has won multiple prizes and accolades from the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to the Newbery Honour, the Nebula, Hugo, World Fantasy, and PEN/Malamud Awards. She has had her work collected over the years, but this is the first short story volume combining a full range of her work.

 

 

 

 

 

#5 Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff

With extraordinary access to the Trump White House, Michael Wolff tells the inside story of the most controversial presidency of our time. The first nine months of Donald Trump’s term were stormy, outrageous and absolutely mesmerising. Now, thanks to his deep access to the West Wing, bestselling author Michael Wolff tells the riveting story of how Trump launched a tenure as volatile and fiery as the man himself. In this explosive book, Wolff provides a wealth of new details about the chaos in the Oval Office.

 

 

 

 

 

#6 The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

The Black Swan is a standalone book in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s landmark Incerto series, an investigation of opacity, luck, uncertainty, probability, human error, risk, and decision making in a world we don’t understand. A black swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable, it carries a massive impact, and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it was. The astonishing success of Google was a black swan; so was 9/11. For Nassim Nicholas Taleb, black swans underlie almost everything about our world, from the rise of religions to events in our own personal lives. Why do we not acknowledge the phenomenon of black swans until after they occur? Part of the answer, according to Taleb, is that humans are hardwired to learn specifics when they should be focused on generalities. We concentrate on things we already know and time and time again fail to take into consideration what we don’t know. We are, therefore, unable to truly estimate opportunities, too vulnerable to the impulse to simplify, narrate, and categorise, and not open enough to rewarding those who can imagine the “impossible.”

 

 

#7 The Motivation Myth by Jeff Haden

It’s comforting to imagine that superstars in their fields were just born better equipped than the rest of us. When a co-worker loses 20 pounds, or a friend runs a marathon while completing a huge project at work, we assume they have more grit, more willpower, more innate talent, and above all, more motivation to see their goals through. But that’s not at actually true, as popular Inc.com columnist Jeff Haden proves. “Motivation” as we know it is a myth. Motivation isn’t the special sauce that we require at the beginning of any major change. In fact, motivation is a result of process, not a cause. Understanding this will change the way you approach any obstacle or big goal. Haden shows us how to reframe our thinking about the relationship of motivation to success. He meets us at our level, at the beginning of any big goal we have for our lives, a little anxious and unsure about our way forward, a little burned by self help books and strategies that have failed us in the past and offers practical advice that anyone can use to stop stalling and start working on those dreams. Haden takes the mystery out of accomplishment, proving that success isn’t about spiritual awakening or a lightning bolt of inspiration, but instead, about clear and repeatable processes.

 

 

#8 Hickory Dickory Dash by Tony Wilson, Laura Wood

It’s so great to see a Children’s book in the top ten! Before the clock infamously strikes one, a poor mother mouse must search the house for her two missing sons. But she’d better watch out for the cat!

 

 

 

 

 

#9 Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 2 by Elena Favilli

This book has been popular since it came out…as it followed on from its ground breaking #1 version (which you can click here for details). Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls 2 features 100 new bedtime stories, each inspired by the life and adventures of extraordinary women from Nefertiti to Beyonce. The unique narrative style transforms each biography into a fairy tale, filling the readers with wonder and with a burning curiosity to know more about each hero.

 

 

 

 

#10 Havana: A Subtropical Delirium by Mark Kurlansky

A city of tropical heat, ramshackle beauty, and its very own cadence, a city that always surprises, Havana is brought to pulsing life by New York Times bestselling author Mark Kurlansky. Kurlansky presents an insider’s view of Havana: the elegant, tattered city he has come to know over more than thirty years. Part cultural history, part travelogue, with recipes, historic engravings, photographs, and Kurlansky’s own pen-and-ink drawings throughout, Havana celebrates the city’s singular music, literature, baseball, and food; its five centuries of outstanding, neglected architecture; and its extraordinary blend of cultures. Through Mark Kurlansky’s multilayered and electrifying portrait, the long-elusive city of Havana comes stirringly to life.

 

Enjoy!

Celebrating public libraries

Many of us booklovers have fond memories of public libraries – whether it’s the treasure trove of books; the calm, quiet spaces where you can be (or find) yourself, or a friendly librarian who helped you discover a favourite author. I can safely say that my love of libraries has influenced my decision to become a librarian!  What’s more, modern libraries are better than ever – offering a huge range of classes and activities that aim to educate, inform, support or entertain you.  A day at a busy public library now goes something like this:

A group of Storytime regulars get ready for stories and rhymes as soon as the library opens. Other users focus on study, watch YouTube, or browse for jobs online, while the onsite cafe fills the air with delicious aromas.  An English Conversation group learns about road rules, while members of a social club greet each other at their weekly gathering.  In the afternoon, library staff lead workshops on computer skills and after school robotics, while others learn to crochet.  Finally, in the evening, a local author arrives to speak about their latest book.

Libraries are part of the same ecosystem as booksellers and writers – one which celebrates the written word, and promotes literacy and a love of reading. Modern libraries also celebrate creativity – not only can they provide how-to guides on many topics, they also offer classes and equipment for activities such as podcasting, video editing, 3D printing, electronics, art and crafts, and woodwork.  These classes also serve another important purpose – libraries as a place to meet like-minded people and become connected to the wider community.

Libraries around Australia will be celebrating Library and Information Week from 21-27 May. So whether you are  an active library member or a lapsed one, drop in to your nearest library to enjoy some special celebrations or just check out their current offerings! To inspire you, I can’t resist highlighting these very excellent library-themed books:


The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett



Her Majesty, chasing unruly corgis, chanced upon a Bookmobile parked outside the royal kitchens. Good manners dictated that she should borrow a book.  The rest is… alternative history.  This is a cheeky, charming gem of a story.


Library Wars: Love and War by Kiiro Yumi and Hiro Arikawa

In a future Japan, libraries raise their own armies to literally fight against government censorship.  A fast-paced manga filled with action, political intrigue, friendship and romance.



The Library: a World History by James W. P. Campbell

From Baroque magnificence to Zen-like minimalism, libraries have often been built to impress.  This catalogue of spectacular libraries, from the ancient to the modern-day, will fuel your travel dreams.


The Bad-ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer


When Timbuktu fell to the Al-Qaeda in 2012, thousands of priceless manuscripts were at risk of destruction.  It was these bad-ass librarians who, with bravery and ingenuity, smuggled them out to safety.

Top Picks for Mother’s Day… part two

Last week we looked at titles that both make a great gift for mum but also double as a book to borrow back for your own reading pleasure. This week we’re focusing on the younger children and have some fabulous titles that highlight the love we have for our mums…no matter what species they are!

Everything is Mama by Jimmy Fallon

Everything is . . . MAMA! Jimmy Fallon, one of the most popular entertainers in the world and NBC’s Tonight Show host, was on a mission with his first children’s book to have every baby’s first word be DADA. And it worked! A lot of babies’ first words were DADA. However, everything after that was MAMA. So take a lighthearted look at the world from your baby’s point of view as different animals try to teach their children that there are other words in addition to mama for familiar objects and activities.

 

A Gift for Mama by Linda Ravin Lodding

Oskar sets out with a single coin to find the perfect gift for his mother. And he spots it at once: a beautiful yellow rose. But when he meets an artist, Oskar trades the rose for a paintbrush. And when he meets a conductor, he trades the paintbrush for a sheet of music. The bustling streets are full of interesting people and delightful possible presents, and Oskar trades one gift for another, and another, and another! But what he finds by the end of the day is even more precious. Simple kindness is at the heart of this enchanting, gloriously-illustrated tale.

 

My Mom Has X-Ray Vision by Angela McAllister

Matthew’s mum is just like all the other mums. She has ordinary hair, ordinary clothes, and a nice smile. Matthew’s mum is just like all the other mums…except she has X-RAY VISION! How else could she always know what Matthew is up to? She knows when he jumps on the bed, or when he uses her pots and pans outside, and she even knows when he is wrestling with sea monsters in the bathtub! Matthew is sure his mum can see through things just like a superhero! One day he decides to test his theory.

 

My Mom is Magical by Sabrina Moyle

A magical mother is personified by a dazzling cartoon unicorn with a rainbow mane and tail. “My mom is more amazing than a billion butterflies! More sparkly than a universe of stars! Sweeter than a cloud of cotton candy!” No task is too daunting for the bipedal and fashion-forward unicorn as she frolics underwater in a sea of smiling jellyfish while clad in a pink diving suit. “Braver than a deep-sea explorer!” She even plays a pink electric guitar while wearing roller skates, rainbow leg warmers, and a disco ball on her horn. It’s a delightful book.

 

The Best Mother by C.M. Surrisi

When Maxine wakes up on the wrong side of the bed one morning, she wonders if the problem might be her mother. What if she could try out a new mum who doesn’t make her brush her teeth or comb her hair? Enlisting Mum to help her with the search, Maxine interviews various prospects to be her new mother at the park, the toy store, and the zoo. Unfortunately, these other mothers present a host of new problems and concerns. Maybe her “old mother” was the best mother of all? For every child who’s ever wondered if the grass is greener, The Best Mother affirms that there’s nothing better than your own mother’s love.

 

I Would Tuck You In by Sarah Asper-Smith and Mitchell Watley

This children’s bedtime story is filled with baby animals and their mothers. An otter tucks her little one into a kelp forest bed; a family of brown bears snuggle all through the winter; a humpback whale sings a song to soothe her calf. Lovingly illustrated and lyrically written, I Would Tuck You In is written and illustrated by husband-and-wife author and artist team Mitchell Watley and Sarah Asper-Smith.

 

How to Babysit a Grandma by Jean Reagan and Lee Wildish

Grab your pillow and get ready to spend some special time with your grandma! When you babysit a grandma, if you’re lucky it’s a sleepover at her house. With the useful tips found in this book, you’re guaranteed to become an expert grandma-sitter in no time. Be sure to check the sections on how to keep your grandma busy, things to do at the park and what to do when you’re both snugly tucked in at bedtime. From the author-illustrator team behind the bestselling How to Babysit a Grandad comes a funny and heartwarming celebration of grandmas and grandchildren.

 

Grandma’s Purse by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

When Grandma Mimi comes to visit, she always brings warm hugs, sweet treats…and her purse. You never know what she’ll have in there, fancy jewellery, tokens from around the world, or something special just for her granddaughter. It might look like a normal bag from the outside, but Mimi and her granddaughter know that it’s pure magic.

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy!

Books for girls that don’t include unicorns, glitter and fairies.

It’s a wonderful feeling when you see a child read a book from cover to cover by themselves and we know the best way to encourage this is to fill their bookshelves with fun and exciting books to read, but sometimes finding those books, especially titles that empower young girls, can be difficult…especially is she isn’t into unicorns, glitter and fairies!

It’s with this in mind that we have found a selection of our favourite titles for girls that are ready to dive into the world of books on their own…and there’s not a pink pony in sight!

 

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls broke records as the most-funded original book in crowdfunding history, and has since become a bestseller in 30 languages. Challenging gender stereotypes, Good Night Stories profiles 100 women – scientists, athletes, politicians – who have contributed to public life. It further celebrates women by highlighting the work of the two authors and 60 illustrators, who produced this striking and colourful volume. Written in the style of fairytales, Good Night Stories is not just for bedtime or for girls – it is inspirational for all children. Adult readers can also enjoy it as a sampler offering ideas for further reading. Volume 2 is available here.

 

Heidi Hecklebeck 10 Book Collection by Wanda Coven

Heidi Heckelbeck has a special secret: she’s a witch! But that doesn’t mean she gets to skip school, so during her time at Brewster Elementary, she enjoys perfectly normal, day-to-day activities, just like any kid. Of course, when the occasion calls for it, she sometimes pulls out her Book of Spells to see if she can give things a little nudge. With fun stories, easy-to-read language, and engaging pictures, this early chapter book series is sure to be a hit.

 

Violet Makerel’s Outside the Box Set by Anna Branford

Violet Mackerel is a little girl with big ideas and a lot of theories! Whether she’s knitting an unusual project, digging for fossils, feeding ladybugs, or even getting her tonsils out, she has a theory for everything and a can-do, empathetic spirit that helps her turn theory into practice. This box set includes four of Violet’s outside-the-box stories, which are sure to be a hit with children who are ready for early, picture-heavy chapter books.

 

 

 

Amelia Bedelia 10 Book Box Set by Herman Parish

For years children have giggled at literal-minded Amelia Bedelia’s misunderstandings. Now, in this 10-book series, Amelia gets imagined as a young girl whose adventures with family and friends get thrown off by her little slips, whether she’s saving money for a bike, going on a road trip, or adding a four-legged furry family member. Fortunately, good-natured Amelia is always able to straighten things out in the end! The end of each book includes a “two ways to say it” section that provides a guide to the idioms in the story, so it’s a great option for building kids’ repertoire of sayings.

 

 

Lotta on Troublemaker Street  by Astrid Lindgren

Poor Lotta is having a very bad day. First, she wakes up mad because in her dream her older brother and sister were mean to her. Then, Mother expects her to wear a sweater that “scratches and tickles.” Madder than ever, Lotta decides to run away and find a new place to live. After all, everyone at her house is mean, so she won’t miss her family at all, or will she? Children will giggle as they recognise their own bad days in Lotta’s story. Written by Astrid Lindgren, the fabulous author of Pippi Longstocking, this book shows that there’s an exciting story lurking in even the most ordinary days.

 

 

 

 

 

Nancy Drew and The Clue Crew Collection by Carolyn Keene

For girls who aren’t quite ready for the original Nancy Drew books, Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew is the perfect solution. These early chapter books reimagine Nancy as an third grade student solving mysteries around her community. Children will love following along with the mysteries and trying to put together the clues with Nancy, George, and Bess.

 

Enjoy!

Re-engaging with the classics

Literary classics have a bit of a PR problem – while they have stood the test of time because of their brilliant plotting, excellent writing and timeless messages, their longevity can also mean archaic language and a fusty image.  If you love the classics, but don’t know how to introduce them to your young readers, Booko can show you how.  Here are classic literature ideas for young readers – from babies all the way to young adults.

1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up edited by Julia Eccleshare

Everyone loves a list, and this one is great fun to browse as well as a fantastic reference.   These 1001 titles have been chosen by Julia Eccleshare, a writer, reviewer and editor who has worked with children’s literature for almost 40 years.  It’s a good overview of the best children’s books from across the ages and around the world, including translated titles.  The books are grouped by reading age, and there are reviews of favourite books written by beloved authors including Margaret Atwood, Judy Blume and Philip Pullman.  Leave this book lying around and everyone will want a turn flicking through.  For those with teen readers, pair it with it’s grown-up cousin, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die edited by Peter Boxall.

Little Miss Shelley: Frankenstein – an Anatomy Primer by Jennifer Adams

The super-cute BabyLit series enables discerning parents to introduce babies to their favourite literary characters! The sturdy board book format is perfect for little hands (and mouths); the artwork is stylish, colourful and fun; and each title matches a classic story to a related concept.  The latest titles include Frankenstein (about anatomy) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (about fairies). There’s also Jane Eyre  (counting), Jungle Book  (animals) and many more.

 

The Oxford Treasury of Fairy Tales retold by Geraldine McCaughrean

The Oxford Treasury of Fairy Tales is a classic example of a book gift that can be enjoyed for years to come.  It is a bumper edition of twenty stories, ranging from Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, to The Dancing Princesses and Tamlin.   Pastel illustrations in jewel tones add a vibrant yet dreamy quality. These beloved stories have been retold in hypnotic, poetic language by the award-winning Geraldine McCaughrean – her style makes these stories seem ancient and fresh all at once.  If myths and legends are more your style, Geraldine McCaughrean has also done excellent retellings of Greek Myths and Roman Myths, with illustrations by Emma Chichester-Clark.

Kristy’s Great Idea by Ann M. Martin and Raina Telgemeier

Add a superstar comic artist to a beloved series and you get a modern classic ready to engage with new (and old) readers. Raina Telgemeier has amply demonstrated her ability to depict tween/teen relationships in bestselling graphic novels such as Smile and Sisters; The Baby-Sitters Club was a hugely-successful series, now celebrated for its girl-power message and its efforts in highlighting issues such as divorce, chronic illness and racism.  This full-colour graphic novel edition of Kristy’s Great Idea is gorgeous to look at, and introduces readers to how the series begins.  Books 1-4 are also available as a box set, while the original novels have also been republished.

 

Burning Maze (The Trials fo Apollo Book 3) by Rick Riordan

Burning Maze is the latest instalment in the Trials of Apollo series, where Apollo finds himself stranded in the body of a teenage New Yorker, as punishment for angering his father Zeus.   To return to Olympus, Apollo has to complete five impossible tasks – without access to his godly powers.  In Burning Maze, it’s two down, three to go.  Rick Riordan has won many fans with his action-packed adventures firmly rooted in Greek / Roman / Egyptian / Norse mythologies. Not only does he achieve the seamless blending of modern fantasy with ancient mythology, he has also updated the deities in witty ways.  For other modern updates for middle-grade readers, try Four Children and It by Jacqueline Wilson.

 

 

Hamlet by John Marsden

The challenge in making Classics appeal to teens is how to minimise the daunting reputation of the historical language while letting their gripping plots – full of love, grief, angst – shine.  The solution (particularly for Shakespeare’s works) lies in re-imagining these stories in vivid, modern prose.  While John Marsden’s terrific version of Hamlet stays close to the original, he views Hamlet as a teenager – young, vulnerable and relatable.  Other retellings give fresh perspectives through the eyes of a different / minor character – such as I am Juliet by Jackie French, Ophelia by Lisa Klein, or The Secret Diary of Lydia Bennet by Natasha Farrant.

Top Picks for Reluctant Readers

The term ‘reluctant reader’ is a tricky one because there are a number of reasons why a child may pause before picking up a book…we think it’s super important to recognise why somebody is reluctant and the reasons range from low reading confidence to a lack of interest. Here are our top picks that are bound to pique interest from children who would rather do anything else than pick up a book.

 

Laugh Out Loud by James Patterson

James Patterson creates books kids love, and his latest book is all about a boy who decides to create books kids love by setting up his own book company. Jimmy is determined to follow his dream of a company run by kids for kids, despite the scepticism of parents, teachers and the bank. The story mixes real life and fantasy, and along the way slips lots of recommendations for other unputdownable children’s books. The pacey narrative, variety of scenes and events, and Jimmy’s straight-to-camera narrative keeps the pages turning nicely.

 

 

 

Little Red Reading Hood by Lucy Rowland

Whilst leaving footpaths should never be done, Straying from stories is all sorts of fun!

Little Red Reading Hood loves reading books and making up stories of her own. When she meets a cunning wolf while on her way to the library, he convinces her to stray from the path and read for a little while. But hasn’t she read this in a story before? Perhaps it’s time she came up with a new ending . . .

This is a contemporary and fun take on the classic fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood. Created by incredible new picture book partnership, Lucy Rowland and Ben Mantle, Little Red Reading Hood will inspire children, and adults, about the magic of books and reading.

 

 

The Superhero Handbook by James Doyle

There’s no excuse for anyone who, having read this book from cover to cover and followed its instructions carefully, does not emerge a superhero. Contained within its pages is a complete superhero training course. Not only do you learn how to invent your superhero name, and how to choose a sidekick, but you can also have a go at some special superhero activities, such as making a mini jet-pack (you’ll need string, a straw, sticky tape and a balloon), or an electro-magnet. The superhero fun and games are very entertaining, as are the science bits, and it’s all delivered in a friendly, knowing and thoroughly engaging way. An unusual information activity book that cleverly mixes science learning with the allure of superhero-dom.

 

Planet Stan by Elaine Wickson

Space, family relationships, friendships are all cleverly and vividly described in this entertaining story. Stan is a nerdy but very likeable hero, who wants nothing more than to win a telescope in the science fair so that he can study space. The main obstacle to this and indeed all Stan’s hopes and wishes, is his little brother Fred, a dinosaur-obsessed five-year-old tornado of destruction and unpredictability. Super-orderly Stan resorts to a range of charts and measuring devices to fill us in on his life – pie-charts, ordinary charts, illustrated diagrams, Venn diagrams – and together with his lugubrious, sometimes agonised delivery, it makes for fast and very funny reading. Readers will be on Stan’s side from the start, and this will speak to anyone who has, is or knows a younger brother or sister.

 

Just Plain Weird by Kaye Umanksy

The Primms and the Weirds are two totally different families. The Primms are fish-eating, hedge-trimming, neighbourhood-watching, they are as strait-laced as they come, while the Weirds are just, weird! Mum is a stunt woman, Dad is an inventor, Gran is very, very small. Despite their differences, when the Weirds move in next door, Pinch Primm becomes friends with Ott Weird, and their adventures make wonderfully comic reading. There are three different stories, each is short, very funny and with a momentum that keeps the pages turning right until the end.

 

 

 

 

 

The World’s Worst Children by David Walliams

Are you ready to meet the World’s Worst Children? Five beastly boys and five gruesome girls! Like Sofia Sofa a TV super-fan so stuck to the sofa that she’s turning into one! or Dribbling Drew a boy whose drool gets him into trouble on a school trip! and not to forget Blubbering Bertha a girl who bawls and tells terrible tales!

David Walliams has created a collection of wickedly funny, deliciously mischievous tales, illustrated in glorious colour by the artistic genius Tony Ros.

 

Enjoy!

The best children’s books you might never have heard of

I love hearing about new or ‘new to me’ children’s books as it’s great to mix-up children’s reading options with some different choices. Sometimes I feel like I know some children’s books off by heart, I have read them so often (like the Mr McGee and some of the Julia Donaldson titles), but I love gifting books that are a bit more unusual. Special books span generations within families, long after the Kmart ‘trend of the moment’ has passed.

Chances are, you may well have heard of some of these titles as they have won a string of awards, but they’re definitely not some of the more well-known children’s books.

I discovered The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris van Allsburg as an adult, studying teaching and absolutely loved it. It’s a picture book containing a series of images by Harris Burdick, a man who mysteriously disappeared. This book is a great resource to start the story-writing process with small children. Many famous authors have written short stories prompted by the stunning black and white images. There is a sinister nature to some of the pictures so best to use with mid-Primary students and above.

When I remember some of the lessons we were taught as kids in schools, I loved collective nouns – in particular, ‘a murder of crows’. I heard about Jennifer Crossin’s beautiful book 101 Collective Nouns just the other day. It’s beautifully illustrated and each page features an image of a different collective noun. This book is lovely to give as a gift and perfect to read aloud with younger readers.

 

 

Love a book that starts a discussion? Try Ask me by Antje Damm. I love this book, the questions and images are thought provoking and it’s quite a precious book to share with children.  Each page features a question such as ‘Can you see animals in the sky?’ or ‘How do you know that you are growing?’. It’s thought provoking and I see it as a great resource to use with the thinkers and dreamers of the world. In a sea of wonderful fiction written for children, this is a great alternative.

If you are searching for engaging titles for Mid-Primary age boys I feel like your options are either a focus on toilet humour (bum jokes) or the Harry Potter series. Of course there are plenty of girls who enjoy these genres, too. I was delighted to discover the Mr Gum books by Andy Stanton recently and fell in love. Don’t get me wrong, these books do contain their fair share of toilet humour, too. But it’s more their rambling, conversational style and nonsensical plot lines that kids love. They’re silly and crazy in a Roald Dahl and Spike Milligan style, making them hugely popular and very readable.

The Sammy Keyes series by Wendelin Van Draanen were a recent discovery and feature a strong female protagonist who is an unofficial teenage detective, as well as dealing with the ups and downs of personal relationships.  A character with spunk and heart, the Sammy Keyes books are terrific for readers aged 10-16 as they show the main character struggling to fit in and manage complex feelings, as well as solve mysteries in her new home town.

 

 

If you know of some less well-known titles, we would love to hear from you at Booko!

Emerging authors of 2018 and their page turning novels.

It’s exciting to find a new author…and especially one who has you completely absorbed into their debut novel that you wish never finished…or that they would release another straight away!

We’re excited to share a few emerging authors who are bound to have you hooked from page one.

 

Lullaby by Leila Slimani

Okay, so this isn’t a debut novel but we’ve only just become aware of Slimani’s body of work and it’s amazing. Lullaby is a dark psychological thriller that opens with the murder of two young children by their nanny…hooked already right? When Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect caretaker for their two young children. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite and devoted woman who sings to their children, cleans the family’s chic apartment in Paris’s upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late without complaint and is able to host enviable birthday parties. The couple and nanny become more dependent on each other. But as jealousy, resentment and suspicions increase, Myriam and Paul’s idyllic tableau is shattered.

 

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

This is a spell-binding story of curiosity and obsession where Imogen Hermes Gowar has created an unforgettable jewel of a novel, filled to the brim with intelligence, heart and wit where Gowar explores issues of class, family and women’s role in society.

One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock hears urgent knocking on his front door. One of his captains is waiting eagerly on the step. He has sold Jonah’s ship for what appears to be a mermaid. As gossip spreads through the docks, coffee shops, parlours and brothels, everyone wants to see Mr Hancock’s marvel. Its arrival spins him out of his ordinary existence and through the doors of high society. At an opulent party, he makes the acquaintance of Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever laid eyes on and a courtesan of great accomplishment. This meeting will steer both their lives onto a dangerous new course, on which they will learn that priceless things come at the greatest cost.

 

Brother by David Chariandy

This is the second novel by Chariandy and if it is anything like his first (which won a whopping 11 awards) it’s expected to be an enthralling book exploring universal themes of love between brothers as well as race, masculinity and the challenges faced by immigrant families.

Brother is the story of two sons of Trinidadian immigrants coming of age amidst the hip-hop scene on the deprived outskirts of Toronto, Canada in the Eighties and Nineties. Weaving past and present, the story explores the relationship between the boys and their mother struggling to make ends meet in their adopted home, the prejudices and low expectations they face each day, and a tragic event that changes their lives irrevocably.

 

White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht

White Chrysanthemum is the debut novel by Mary Lynn Bracht who was originally studying to be a fighter pilot when she visited her mother’s childhood village and the seeds of this novel were laid. This is a story of two sisters separated by the Second World War in South Korea when Hana, a proud haenyeo (a female diver of the sea), saw her younger sister captured and forced to become a “comfort woman” in a Japanese military brothel.

One day Hana sees a Japanese soldier heading for where Emi is guarding the day’s catch on the beach. Her mother has told her again and again never to be caught alone with one. Terrified for her sister, Hana swims as hard as she can for the shore.

So begins the story. Switch-backing between Hana in 1943 and Emi as an old woman today, White Chrysanthemum takes us into a dark and devastating corner of history. But pulling us back into the light are two women whose love for one another is strong enough to triumph over the evils of war.

 

The Feed by Nick Clark Windo

Nick Clark Windo has written a startling and timely debut which presents a world and explores what it is to be human in the digital age. How it makes us…and how it destroys us.

The Feed is everywhere. It can be accessed by anyone, at any time. Every interaction, every emotion, every image can be shared through it. Tom and Kate use The Feed, but they have resisted addiction to it which will serve them well when The Feed collapses. Until their six-year-old daughter, Bea, goes missing. How do you find someone in a world devoid of technology? And what happens when you can no longer trust that your loved ones are really who they claim to be?

 

 

Enjoy!

I have a great idea for a book… what do I do next?

You have lots of great ideas that you want to turn into a book – that’s wonderful! Now the hard work starts.  Much needs to happen before an idea becomes a full-grown manuscript.  The first step is to hone your writing skills, through advice from other writers and from your potential readers too. Here are some ideas on where to get that support:

On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Part-memoir and part-masterclass, On Writing dispels any doubt that a wealth of knowledge and writing skills underpins Stephen King’s prolific output. He starts with a mini-autobiography, discussing his childhood, and the experiences and influences that helped him to become the author he is; this morphs into a section of advice to budding writers, drawn from questions he had been asked (and some he wished he had).  The final section of the book is a raw and compelling description of his recovery from his near-fatal car accident in 1999.  In serious pain and frustrated with his incapacity, it’s no exaggeration to say that the act of writing helped him to survive that difficult time.

20 Master Plots and How to Build Them by Ronald B. Tobias

This is a fascinating piece of literary analysis as well as a useful writer’s resource. Ronald B. Tobias shows how most powerful, engaging stories fall within 20 timeless and universal “Master Plots” – such as Quest, Adventure, Forbidden Love, and Transformation. Each chapter of this book examines one Master Plot, analysing and explaining how it works, illustrating with literary and cinematic examples, and concluding with checklists that keep writers on-track. Ronald B. Tobias also shows how to adapt and develop these themes to suit your characters, making your fiction more cohesive and convincing.

Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on why they Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature edited by Meredith Maran

Autobiography is the ultimate “writing about what we know”, but laying bare our lives and those of our circles is fraught with social and emotional risks. Here, 20 memoirists including Cheryl Strayed (Wild) and Ayelet Waldman (Bad Mother), tell us why and how they do it.  Many of this diverse and talented group talk about a compulsion to write, hoping that their stories will resonate with and help someone else.  Others dispense advice on how to handle the (both positive and negative) reactions to their work. Part bibliography, part personal reflection and part writer’s manual, Why We Write About Ourselves is inspiring and highly readable.

The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults by Cheryl Klein

Cheryl Klein is an experienced editor at Scholastic Books, and this is her comprehensive guide to crafting great middle-grade and young adult fiction.  Her advice ranges from writing and editing to pitching your idea, navigating the publication process and choosing an agent. A range of writing exercises will challenge you to analyse, critique and revise your work.  The Magic Words offers a nice balance between encouragement with pragmatism, and the wealth of insider tips will help you refine your masterpiece into a compelling, publishable form.

Once Upon a Slime: 45 Fun Ways to Get Writing… Fast! by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton

Once Upon a Slime encourages kids to have fun creating stories and playing with words.  Drawing upon the skills of the hugely successful Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, this book can be enjoyed on many different levels – as an activity book, as a series of writing exercises, as Andy Griffiths’ story on how he became a writer, and also as a sneak peek at the creative processes of this mighty duo.  Once Upon a Slime is simply fun to read, full of examples from Andy and Terry’s books. It speaks directly to kids and young people but is also useful for teachers and caregivers – make this your go-to guide for encouraging young people to start writing.

 

Using Social Media to Develop your Writing Career

The rise of social media has changed the publishing landscape profoundly.  It has enabled authors to engage with potential readers even before publication; it has helped authors to connect and form supportive communities; and it has created new pathways to publication, either by self-publishing, or by attracting publishers through your profile as a blogger / social media influencer. Here are two writer- and writing-specific communities worth your attention:

Tablo (tablo.io) is a self-publishing platform that also helps writers engage with their readers – and for readers to discover new books and/or writers in their favourite genres. Writers can upload works-in-progress to seek feedback.  Publishers also have a presence on Tablo, and there are communities offering advice to aspiring writers.

Wattpad (wattpad.com) is a reading app with social networking features that helps writers interact with readers and promote their work.  Wattpad has become a huge repository of user-generated stories, some of which have been adapted into successful TV series and movies.  Wattpad also hosts writing contests and has helped secure book deals for their most popular contributors.