Category Archives: Top Books

Our best picks and recommendations

Exploring the world with Bill Bryson

He’s sharp and witty and regarded as one of the world’s best writers of travel. Bill Bryson has penned numerous books that have made readers snort out loud and laugh until tears were streaming down their faces. He’s been a favourite in our household for years and we always look forward to his next release. Bill Bryson is one of those authors who sparks the reading bug where once you turn the last page in one of his books you’re instantly looking for his next.

Here are a few of our favourites…

The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes From a Small Island

Twenty years ago, Bill Bryson went on a trip around Britain to celebrate the green and kindly island that had become his adopted country. The hilarious book that resulted, Notes from a Small Island, was taken to the nation’s heart and became the bestselling travel book ever, and was also voted in a BBC poll the book that best represents Britain. In 2015, to mark the twentieth anniversary of that modern classic, Bryson makes a brand-new journey round Britain to see what has changed. Following (but not too closely) a route he dubs the Bryson Line, from Bognor Regis to Cape Wrath, by way of places that many people never get to at all, Bryson sets out to rediscover the wondrously beautiful, magnificently eccentric, endearingly unique country that he thought he knew but doesn’t altogether recognise any more. Once again, with his matchless homing instinct for the funniest and quirkiest, his unerring eye for the idiotic, the endearing, the ridiculous and the scandalous, Bryson gives us an acute and perceptive insight into all that is best and worst about Britain today.

 

 

Bill Bryson’s African Diary

Bill Bryson goes to Kenya at the invitation of CARE International, the charity dedicated to working with local communities to eradicate poverty around the world. Kenya, generally regarded as the cradle of humankind, is a land of stunning landscapes, famous game reserves, and a vibrant culture, but it also has many serious problems, including refugees, AIDS, drought and grinding poverty. It also provides plenty to worry a nervous traveller like Bill Bryson: hair-raising rides in light aircraft, tropical diseases, snakes, insects and large predators. Bryson casts his inimitable eye on a continent new to him, and the resultant diary, though short in length, contains all his trademark laugh-out-loud wit, wry observation and curious insight. All the author’s royalties from this book, as well as all profits, go to CARE International.

 

 

In a Sunburned Country

Turning his attention to Australia, Bill Bryson takes a truly outrageous tour Down Under, revealing hundreds of entertaining eccentricities about the world’s largest island and about himself. Leaving no Vegemite unsavored, readers accompany Bryson as he dodges jellyfish while learning to surf at Bondi Beach, discovers a fish that can climb trees, dehydrates in sweltering deserts, and tells the true story of the rejected Danish architect who designed the Sydney Opera House. Definitely worth a read.

 

 

I’m a Stranger Here Myself

Bill Bryson has the rare knack of being out of his depth wherever he goes even (perhaps especially) in the land of his birth. This became all too apparent when, after nearly two decades in England, the world’s best-loved travel writer upped sticks with Mrs Bryson and his family and returned to live in the country he had left as a youth. Of course there were things Bryson missed about Blighty but any sense of loss was countered by the joy of rediscovering some of the forgotten treasures of his childhood: the glories of a New England autumn; the pleasingly comical sight of oneself in shorts; and motel rooms where you can generally count on being awakened in the night by a piercing shriek and the sound of a female voice pleading, ‘Put the gun down, Vinnie, I’ll do anything you say.’ Whether discussing the strange appeal of breakfast pizza or the jaw-slackening direness of American TV, Bill Bryson brings his inimitable brand of bemused wit to bear on that strangest of phenomena – the American way of life.

 

 

…and finally the book that prompted our love of Mr Bryson…

 

Notes From a Small Island

This book was voted the nation’s favourite book on modern Britain in a World Book Day BBC poll. After nearly two decades in Britain, Bill Bryson took the decision to move back to the States for a while, to let his kids experience life in another country, to give his wife the chance to shop until 10 p.m. seven nights a week, and, most of all, because he had read that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another, and it was thus clear to him that his people needed him. But before leaving his much-loved home in North Yorkshire, Bryson insisted on taking one last trip around Britain, a sort of valedictory tour of the green and kindly island that had so long been his home. His aim was to take stock of the nation’s public face and private parts (as it were), and to analyse what precisely it was he loved so much about a country that produced Marmite, a military hero whose dying wish was to be kissed by a fellow named Hardy, place names like Farleigh Wallop, Titsey and Shellow Bowells, people who said ‘Mustn’t grumble’, and Gardeners’ Question Time.

…and once you’ve read all of the above treasures you may want to have a look at these

Enjoy!

Looking for our happiness with Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin is changing the world..and teaching us to be happy along the way.

With four New York Times bestsellers, a podcast, speaker engagements, and being the creator of the Four Tendencies framework…she’s a real life happiness expert!

 

The Happiness Project

Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany: “Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.” In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to a happiness project. With humour and insight, she chronicles her adventures during the year she spent test driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Rubin didn’t have the option to uproot herself -nor did she want to- instead, she focused on improving her life as it was. Each month she tackled a new set of resolutions. She immersed herself in principles set forth by all manner of experts, from Epicurus to Thoreau to Oprah to Martin Seligman to the Dalai Lama to see what worked for her and what didn’t.

 

 

Better Than Before

Tackling the critical question “How do we change?”. Gretchen Rubin’s answer is simple; through habits. Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life. It takes work to make a habit, but once that habit is set, we can harness the energy of habits to build happier, stronger, more productive lives. So if habits are a key to change, then what we really need to know is: How do we change our habits? Better than Before answers that question. It presents a practical, concrete framework to allow readers to understand their habits and to change them for good. Infused with Rubin’s compelling voice, rigorous research, and easy humour, and packed with vivid stories of lives transformed, Better than Before explains the (sometimes counter-intuitive) core principles of habit formation. Along the way, Rubin uses herself as guinea pig, tests her theories on family and friends, and answers readers’ most pressing questions.

 

 

Happier at Home

One Sunday afternoon, as she unloaded the dishwasher, Gretchen Rubin felt hit by a wave of homesickness. Homesick why? She was standing right in her own kitchen. She felt homesick, she realised, with love for home itself. Of all the elements of a happy life, she thought, my home is the most important. In a flash, she decided to undertake a new happiness project, and this time, to focus on home. And what did she want from her home? A place that calmed her, and energised her. A place that, by making her feel safe, would free her to take risks. Also, while Rubin wanted to be happier at home, she wanted to appreciate how much happiness was there already. So, starting in September (the new January), Rubin dedicated a school year September through May to making her home a place of greater simplicity, comfort, and love. In The Happiness Project,  she worked out general theories of happiness. Here she goes deeper on factors that matter for home, such as possessions, marriage, time, and parenthood. Each month, Rubin tackled a different theme as she experimented with concrete, manageable resolutions and this time, she coaxed her family to try some resolutions as well.

 

 

The Four Tendencies

Gretchen Rubin realised that by asking the seemingly dry question ‘How do I respond to expectations?’ we gain explosive self-knowledge. She discovered that based on their answer, people fit into four Tendencies: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Our Tendency shapes every aspect of our behaviour, so using this framework allows us to make better decisions, meet deadlines, suffer less stress, and engage more effectively. More than 800,000 people have taken her online quiz (here’s the link), and managers, doctors, teachers, spouses, and parents already use the framework to help people make significant, lasting change. With sharp insight, compelling research, and hilarious examples, The Four Tendencies will help you get happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative.

 

You can read Gretchen’s blog here and listen to her podcast here.

Enjoy!

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!

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!

Best Books For Mother’s Day

The market for Mother’s Day books has always been very broad and a little ‘obvious’…titles promoted often range from the latest romancy-fiction through to cookbooks that you know she’ll never actually cook from…that’s why we’ve decided to change it up a little this year and share books with you that really do deserve a spot on your mum’s bookshelf…and ones you may actually want to borrow back.


The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart
by Holly Ringland

If your mum is into the latest fiction then this enchanting debut novel of 2018 is a must-read. It is a deeply moving and romantic story of a young girl who has to learn the hard way that she can break the patterns of the past, live on her own terms and find her own strength.

After her family suffers a tragedy, nine-year-old Alice Hart is forced to leave her idyllic seaside home. She is taken in by her grandmother, June, a flower farmer who raises Alice on the language of Australian native flowers, a way to say the things that are too hard to speak. Under the watchful eye of June and the women who run the farm, Alice settles, but grows up increasingly frustrated by how little she knows of her family’s story. In her early twenties, Alice’s life is thrown into upheaval again when she suffers devastating betrayal and loss. Desperate to outrun grief, Alice flees to the dramatically beautiful central Australian desert. In this otherworldly landscape Alice thinks she has found solace, until she meets a charismatic and ultimately dangerous man. Spanning two decades, set between sugar cane fields by the sea, a native Australian flower farm, and a celestial crater in the central desert, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart follows Alice’s unforgettable journey, as she learns that the most powerful story she will ever possess is her own.

 

The Wisdom of Sundays by Oprah Winfrey

This book is filled with meaningful conversations from Oprah’s show, Super Soul Sunday. Organised into ten chapters, each one representing a powerful step in Oprah’s own spiritual journey and introduced with an intimate, personal essay by Oprah herself. The Wisdom of Sundays features selections from the most meaningful conversations between Oprah and some of today’s most admired thought leaders. Visionaries like Tony Robbins, Arianna Huffington, and Shonda Rhimes share their lessons in finding purpose through mindfulness and intention.

 

 

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn

If your mum is someone who enjoys the thriller genre, give her The Woman in the Window.

It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside. Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers. But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

 

I See You by Clare Mackintosh

Here’s another one for the Mum that loves a thrill. When Zoe Walker sees her photo in the classifieds section of a London newspaper, she is determined to find out why it’s there. There’s no explanation: just a grainy image, a website address and a phone number. She takes it home to her family, who are convinced it’s just someone who looks like Zoe. But the next day the advert shows a photo of a different woman, and another the day after that. Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is someone keeping track of every move they make…

 

 

 

 

 

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

This is a charming and moving story exploring the objects that hold meaning to our lives, and the surprising connections that bind us. This book is great for the mums who have kept everything.

Anthony Peardew has spent half his life collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before. Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners. But the final wishes of the ‘Keeper of Lost Things’ have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters.

 

 

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

We went to school that Tuesday like normal. Not all of us came home…

Huddled in a cloakroom with his classmates and teacher, six-year-old Zach can hear shots ringing through the corridors of his school. A gunman has entered the building and, in a matter of minutes, will have taken nineteen lives. In the aftermath of the shooting, the close knit community and its families are devastated. Everyone deals with the tragedy differently. Zach’s father absents himself; his mother pursues a quest for justice – while Zach retreats into his super-secret hideout and loses himself in a world of books and drawing. Ultimately though, it is Zach who will show the adults in his life the way forward – as, sometimes, only a child can. If you’re looking for a book to stop and make mum think, then this is it.

 

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.