A place to go and be happy

A place to go and be happy

The school place

Teachers spend chunks of time during their year reorganising classrooms. There are many reasons for this; from different events to varying themes and needs. However, one constant factor is a need to create the right reading place.

Physical restrictions of some classrooms mean the right place may have to be a child’s desk or table. In that case, the teacher will ensure that she/ he has the right atmosphere for reading. This will be a routine time, always quiet with the only focus upon the reading process. In some of the best classrooms I’ve seen, the teacher reads too. She/ he is modelling that this is a special time.

This is different from curricular class reading practice with  tasks and teaching points. This is reading, with joy of the book and a personal experience.

Joyce Carol Oates says, ‘Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.’  Readers know, what we hold is Not Just a Book 

The home place

At home, many of the same considerations for finding the right place to read apply. Reading time and behaviour should be routine. That means at the same time in the same way.

The home reading book for children should never be a battle. The child should be fed and watered and relaxed. Ideally, the same area for reading practice should be allocated.

Reading, aka reading for pleasure– the type that is C.S. Lewis’s ‘cup of tea‘ of life- needs a similar approach. This time should be uninterrupted, free of pressures, and comfortable. It should be their time. Parents who read demonstrate this sort of approach, so children assume it is natural. When children see their parents read as a matter of course, they will read too.

Bookwagon place

Mr Bookwagon and I read differently. Years of reading on his city commute became Mr B’s routine. He could block out the other travellers within a decent amount of travel time that was his own.

After his commuting days, he found it difficult to find a new reading place. Now it’s propped up on the the bed with cushions, morning and evening.

I read, as Gustav Flaubert instructed, ‘to live’. When teaching, with many hours devoted beyond the school day, my reading was truncated and frequently frustrated. It meant that any holiday became a void wherein I was offered ‘escape, comfort, consolation and stimulant‘- Paul Auster.

My reading place is different from Mr Bookwagon’s. While I like cushions, I need to be propped up. I sit on my feet, or stretch onto a footstool. A favourite place to read is in the room where I’m working, which is well lit, airy and secluded.

Bedtime reading

The bedtime read is an altogether different thing. This is that cherished time that bonds readers and the story they share. It’s physical and specia

Olivia by Ian Falconer:-

‘Only five books tonight, Mummy,’ she says. ‘No Olivia, just one.’ ‘How about four?’ ‘Two.’ ”Three.’ ‘Oh all right, but that’s it!’ 

Like reading alone, bedtime reading should always be routine and uninterrupted. Reading parents continue reading to their children long after they are able to read alone in their reading place. They recognise how hearing a story supports and extends understanding, vocabulary development, and real literacy.

Reading for pleasure

Even from infant, when it seems the child is too young and the book doesn’t make sense, that child merits a reading place.

It may be through a basket or shelf of books, possibly baby chewed, from which she or he will  make a selective decision. They may linger, point, approximate the text as they’ve heard the words read before, but they’re reading for pleasure. They’re hearing the voices, realising the story and reading.

When it’s all put together, the book becomes the jewel in the place, the target and  joy. J.K. Rowling says, ‘Wherever I am, if I’ve a book with me, I have a place I can go and be happy.’ 

Take a look at our selection of Latest titles for children’s books to read in their reading place. Every book has been read and loved by us, in our reading places.

Happy reading!








Sun shining on the rain and rain falling on the sunshine- it’s time to read!

Sun shining on the rain and rain falling on the sunshine- it’s time to read!

It seems to have been raining, grey and cold forever. However, I have photographic evidence of a bright Monday’s visit to Chelsea Physic Garden. There, I removed my coat and felt the promise of sun on my skin. 

Schools organise academic years through seasons; autumn to spring to summer. Britain’s sleet grey winter days preclude their own school term because a ‘carrot lure’ of spring is too important.

As a teacher, I was startled by the change evident in my students at this time of the year. They grew physically, while their learning and growing independence were noticeable. It’s the same with the garden. We spent a soggy Tuesday afternoon stocking and replacing essentials for this year’s work. Our determination is to grow vegetables that will thrive and we like to eat, and flowers that encourage wildlife and pollinators.

Barnaby Lenon, Chair of the independent Schools’ Council and former Headmaster of Harrow School hit the headlines recently. He proposed that GCSE and/or A-level students should have a 7- hour a day study routine in place over the spring holiday:- Advice to revise seven hours a day over the holiday.  While an educator, I encouraged families to regroup during public holidays. Games, food, projects and times together, revive and reinforce.  We are all healthier through periods of leisure, a chance ‘to breathe’. Teaching and learning are constant throughout our lives. Cramming or ‘propping up’ have no place in children’s education.

Spring into some books

Billy’s learning is supported by an obsession with Sir David Attenborough and a daily swim. These conceal concerns about his mother’s health and fears of Jamie Watts’ bullying in the masterful Fish Boy. I took ages to read this title, recommended for readers aged from 10 years. Rather like a talking mackerel, it worries and lingers.

Holidays, especially at this time of the year, suggest a need to read deeply. I am amidst another title by Laura Amy Schlitz at the moment; Mr Bookwagon accused me of ‘ adoring my new discovery.’ However, we ‘adore’ every writer of books on our shelves.

A welcome return of two favourites

One is Jan Fearnley. This writer accepted my invitation to lead two school workshops at two different schools. They were riotous and wonderful. Her books are joyous, clever, and so satisfying, rather like the food she includes, often. Her latest picture book title we present proudly is:- Oh me, oh my, a PIE!

Like Mrs Bear, I’ve been baking over the holiday, but brownies, rather than pies. It was an obstacle course to find cake tins in my kitchen cupboards. They do not contain magic tricks, unlike the tin found by Francis and Alex in Heather Dyer’s captivating The Boy in the Biscuit Tin. It is really gratifying to rediscover this author. Like Jan Fearnley, she was a welcome guest to a school in which I worked at the time of publication of another of her titles, The Girl With the Broken Wing.  .

Initiating Bookwagon, a priority was to find quality books for newer readers, those aged from 6 or 7or 8. Too often, the most popular titles are repetitive, disrespectful or reliant on lame jokes. Heather Dyer’s books are imaginative and satisfying.

Adding quality books for newer readers to our wagon

We’re proud of the range we’ve developed in our newer readers’ category. Another recent inclusion is Attack of the Woolly Jumper: A Roman Garstang Adventure by Mark Lowery. Mr Bookwagon was really tickled by the first book of this series, The Jam Doughnut That Ruined My Life and keen to read on.

I was similarly enthralled by Sarah Lean’s series about Tiger Days. We join this character in Tiger Days and the Secret Cat as she gets to know her grandmother, May Days, long absent through African wildlife work. Now May Days is restoring a neglected woodland home, which offers Tiger opportunities to explore. It is a gentle, interesting series. The second book, Tiger Days and the Midnight Foxes continues with Tiger’s discoveries from the opening book. All four books are available from Bookwagon.

Teaching, I recommended Diana Hendry’s books to readers frequently. It is a pleasure to see her return with a great new series. Oliver Coggins lives with his eccentric family in Dizzy Perch, high above a small seaside village. In Out of the Clouds Oliver recovers his overlong absent researcher Pa from the Scottish wilderness. In Whoever You Are  Oliver, alone, is suspicious of the visitor claiming to be Ma’s favourite writer. He is determined to reveal her while protecting his father from an old adversary.

Non-fiction reports

There have been tremendous developments in non-fiction writing for children. We were excited to take delivery of The Zoological Times: The Animal Kingdom’s Wildest Newspaper, a newspaper style animal information book. It offers ample opportunity to revisit, learn and reinforce understanding. It includes facts, anecdotes and puzzles. This is a sustaining title for newer readers aged from 7 or 8 or 9 years.

Readers of this age and older will love Rescue and Jessica: A Life- Changing Friendship. This true story reveals the training of Rescue, a black Labrador, alongside the recovery of Jessica, injured in the Boston Marathon bomb attack, whom Rescue supports. This is a satisfying story, lovingly and bravely told.

Mr Bookwagon enjoyed Gareth P. Jones’ The Thornthwaite Inheritance, ideal for readers aged from 9 or 10 years with an appreciation of an Addams’ family, black humoured plot! Further gore is available through The Yark. The title creature hungers for a scrumptious, beautifully behaved child. When he tracks one down finally, he’s perturbed to find she trusts him, despite his base instincts!. With crafty, Carroll- like vocabulary and Packham style illustrations, ‘ The Yark‘ is reminiscent of works from the Victorian age. 

Words, words, words

The studied interpretations, presentation and forensic wordplay offered in Apes to Zebras An A-Z of Shape Poems by Liz Brownlee, Sue Hardy- Dawson and Roger Stevens are bewitching. This is a ‘forever’ poetry book to hold the interest of even the poetry shy. 

I spent an afternoon reading What a Wonderful Word. This includes  a selection of about thirty unique, untranslatable words from around the world, examining their background and setting, and curious usage.

Daniel Egnaeus’ magnificent picture book These Are Animals offers animal sounds, habitat and movements of its subjects in an original and wonderful manner. It’s like onomatopoeia in pictures and facts! This picture book is an ideal gift for infant and younger readers. 

Once the gloom lifts and we can get outside, I’ll take Carter Higgins and Emily Hughes’ advice to ‘take time and look at the sky’. In Everything You Need for a Treehouse, they encourage readers to contemplate the true potential of a treehouse. We are drawn beyond the grim reality into something inspirational and tingling. I love Emily Hughes’ picture books. We have waited for her latest title for some time. It is beyond my expectations. This book is for those readers who know that space and dreaming and wonder are what makes the world goes round. We are reminded of this through hints of spring, and during holidays.

Happy reading.


Ice cream castles and feather canyons

Ice cream castles and feather canyons

There is nothing like sharing joy in a book you’ve read. I’ve had that at my book group on occasion. It’s like being spread with warmed jam. Sometimes, upon completing a Bookwagon title, I  need Mr Bookwagon to read it too because I want to share it so desperately. Other times I’m grief-stricken because my experience of reading that book is complete.

I felt that way when I’d finished reading Bicycling to the Moon. Even now, I have to stroke its cover when I’m close. Writer Emma Carroll, with whom we had the pleasure of working last week, said that she is compelled to stroke the covers of her books. If I had the storytelling talent and energy of Emma Carroll, I’d feel the same way.

The enthusiastic educator

Parents are encouraged to model reading for pleasure. Working with Emma Carroll, I was reminded how essential teachers are in building readers for life. Pupils lucky enough to have teachers who read, enthuse and opine about books and authors are at an advantage. Recently, I recalled Miss Metcalf, my Year 3 teacher. She shared her love for Ursula Moray Williams’ ‘Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat‘ and told us of how we would love it. We were captivated by the story. ‘Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat‘ has stayed with me through many years and across many miles. I feel a ‘stroking’ affection for it still.



Writers in schools

Bookwagon loves to take writers into schools. Special experiences occur when staff are thoroughly informed of the writer, have read their books, and share their excitement with the guest and the children. Many will bring their own titles to have signed, or will purchase copies for members of their family. Children feel validated in their choice when this happen and more attached to the experience.

Former pupils and colleagues whom I’ve met over the years reminisce about writers we’ve had visit our schools. The gift of these writers’ words, stories and experiences is inspiring and unique. We recall  an older colleague, moved to tears of laughter by Sir Michael Morpurgo’s fluent storytelling.

A parent messaged me after Katherine Rundell visited her daughter’s school to share her daughter’s words, ‘The author visit was amazing…. Katherine Rundell. Shook. My. Hand… said with exactly that emphasis like it was one of the best experiences she’s had. I LOVE that!’ That same parent, incidentally, reading the irresistible Pax with her daughter, told me, ‘I cannot stop thinking about the story, about Peter, about how they will survive and if they might reunite. I don’t want the story to end.’

Reading’s relationship toward STEM

That daughter is a logical thinker, keen mathematician and scientist. However, her experience of stories enables her to think creatively and expansively. The late Professor Stephen Hawking spent his childhood playing board games and tinkering. He said, ‘Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet.‘ Wonder and possibilities abounded throughout his life. He said, ‘I am just a child who has never grown up. I still keep asking these ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions. Occasionally, I find an answer.

Book fairs

Bookwagon provided book fairs for World Book Day. These allow us to show our reading range with our readers. They enable us to donate a full selection of our quality forever titles to the schools at which we work. Feedback from parents, teachers and librarians attending has been welcome and warm, including:- ‘It’s so wonderful to be surrounded by so many delicious books!’ ‘I could barely speak for there was so much to choose!’ ‘You have brilliant books!’ ‘There is no trash at this one!‘  Such feedback makes us strengthen our purpose and redouble our effort!

Bookwagon offers books from a huge range of genres, works from translation, titles to meet different reading needs and inclinations. We are continually choosing, reading and recommending. Even the descriptions are our own!

New books aboard the wagon

Recent titles we’ve read and entered upon our wagon shelves include two early non-fiction titles, in the hope we’ll have a spring!

Bird Builds a Nest and Bug Hotel offer wonderful reading and learning experiences for younger readers.

Babies would love participating in the wacky races’ style of Leo Timmers superb Who’s Driving? This is an exceptional companion piece to that writer’s rhyming Gus’s Garage

New picture books include Great Bunny Bakes for bunny budding Paul Hollywolves. We are charmed by Sophy Henn’s encouraging, warm and paper-hatted Almost Anything.

Bookwagon welcomes a new series for lower Junior (lower Middle Grade) age readers in Sarah Lane’s The Riverbank Otter and Duckling Days. We travel to the countryside around Tiger Days’ grandmother’s Willowgate Cottage to investigate and explore the natural world.

Bookwagon joins the chorus of acclamation for Erin Entrada Kelly who won the ALA Book Awards for ‘Hello Universe’. We look forward to presenting that title to you shortly. Meanwhile, do not miss The Land of Forgotten Girls, a ‘Lucy Barton’ for child readers.

Little did Mr Bookwagon know his enquiry about the origins of Spanish influenza, prompted after reading Star By Star would be answered in a book I read this week. The Goose Road, available for Bookwagon readers from the beginning of April, is an unflinching story from WW1 rural Northern France.

Readers of all ages are urged to read Matt de la Pena’s latest title available in Britain. The Caldecott Award winning creator of Last Stop on Market Street returns with the blind-siding, pulsating, glorious Love. This outstanding picture book will be on my 2018 gift list this year.  

A special delivery from Bookwagon

These newer titles are available to Bookwagon readers. We invite you to enjoy our new delivery pricing, with free postage and packaging available to all shoppers who spend £20.00 or more aboard the wagon. We think you’d agree with a recent Book Fair shopper who complained joyfully, ‘There’s so much to choose from Bookwagon! I could be here forever!’   

Happy reading



Hermiones rather than Pansy Parkinsons!*

Hermiones rather than Pansy Parkinsons!*

Award season is upon us. As predicted, Frances McDormand won the 2018 Academy Award for Best Actress as bereaved mother, Mildred Hayes, in ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri‘. Mildred’s angry grief, as played by Frances McDormand, is painfully palpable. You fear for her, and fear her, for as you watch, understanding that Mildred has lost everything and fears nothing.

Gary Oldman, winner of the Academy Award for Best Actor this year, offered that Winston Churchill was an ‘intimidating character’. Yet, he said he ‘loved going to work and getting into being him’. He appreciated the opportunity to present Churchill as ‘energetic and funny’ rather than the curmudgeonly character of stereotype. Oldman says he found the ‘vulnerability, the sweetness, the big heart’ in Churchill’s character. Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill dancing to James Brown

Getting a voice

‘Getting a voice’ was a mantra from this year’s Academy Awards. Minorities – and victims – were recognised through respectful acknowledgement, appearance and nomination. What we will be remembered for

Recently, I was asked how I read and selected some Bookwagon titles. We sell books we have read and loved only. I admit that when choosing books originally, I would pass a selected few to Mr Bookwagon, most often thrillers, or including themes of fantasy.  I relinquished A Spoonful of Murder, the latest ‘Murder Most Unladylike’ title to Mr Bookwagon. He was riveted, bringing a fresh eye and appreciation to the series. Likewise, I girded my loins and plugged my (prawn) nostrils to read the chilling Below Zero and loved it!

My natural inclination is to seek character rich books that I may make an attachment. I wanted Mildred Hayes to appreciate her son, and show compassion to Police Chief Willoughby, although I did not like her.

The value of character

Research from Durham University shows that reading character rich books improves a reader’s intuitive abilities.  Readers can ‘hear’ the voice of the character as they read. Some respondents offered that the voices or thoughts of the characters appear in their real lives and experiences. They ‘think in that voice as that character, while carrying out normal duties’.

I was reminded of this yesterday in the local park, marvelling at the snowdrops, crocuses and early daffodils, survivors of last week’s bitter Siberian storms. ‘How would Anne Shirley describe this picture?’

Although we read apace, a number of Bookwagon characters have made themselves comfortable in my thinking and every day experience.

Notable characters

Muzna, the lead character in I Am Thunder And I Won’t Keep Quiet is so frustrating and concerning that her desires and the weight of expectation are tangible. In Muzna, Muhammad Khan has created a ‘voice’ for older readers who must be heard.

We travel from the hood to the heights, respecting Jade’s contradiction of opportunity and background in Piecing Me Together. This award-winning title must be read by older readers. What steps will Jade take next?

I suspected Natasha Farrant’s Lydia of seeking to ride on the coat-tails of ‘Pride and Prejudice’. Now, I suggest that Elizabeth Bennett’s disgraced youngest sister, Lydia, deserves to be heard. Her stay in Brighton and relationship with the dastardly Captain Wickham are explained so that the wayward girl is realised and understood. Natasha Farrant creates a voice respectful to Jane Austen’s masterpiece. Lydia is an adventure taker, frustrated by convention, and the education and opportunities denied her.

For Middle Grade readers

‘Lydia’ compelled me to read Natasha Farrant’s latest title for middle grade readers. The Children of Castle Rock. Alice Mistlethwaite is frozen by grief, longing and a world of her story writing imagining. Sent to Stormy Loch, a boarding school in the far north west of Scottish, something is unlocked in Alice so that she becomes fearless. Her determination and worries resonate with her friends, Fergus and Jesse, urging them to rebel, team up and face their demons. This adventure story reminds me of classic adventures from the past. It is brilliantly written and boldly characterised.

Mr Bookwagon was hooked by The Secret of Nightingale Wood.  Henry’s belief in herself, despite adult skepticism and negligence, is so inspiring that readers urge her on towards the truth. Lucy Strange’s WWI family drama is strongly characterised and boldly realised.

Completely captive

Many memorable characters whom I’ve encountered have been American. I broke my heart when finishing Holly Goldberg Sloan’s Counting by 7s and Short. I felt responsible for Willow and Julia and keen to know their progress.

Similarly, I felt connected to Ada in Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s Newbery Honor book The War that Saved my Life and galloped ahead to its sequel The War I Finally Won. Susan, Ada and Jamie’s guardian, connected herself to me. Ada must trust Susan in order to move on and take advantage of the love she deserves, finally.

For younger readers

Caldecott winner, Dan Santat’s latest title. After the Fall has sat alongside me for some weeks. The ‘great fall’ that crushed his life and aspiration is how Humpty is remembered. A paper aeroplane flying far above that wall unleashes a wave of courage. His character is restored. Can Humpty be put together again?

Now that’s character!

While Dolly Parton is best known for rhinestone flashing singing and songwriting, ‘The Book Lady’ is how she is referred in some quarters.

Last week Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library donated its 100 millionth book to the Library of Congress. Dolly’s programme has spread across the globe after starting with a book a month donation. A literate life is offered children aged between birth and five through receipt of one of the one million books a month sent by this intervention.  Dolly Parton’s literacy programme donates its 100 millionth book Dolly Parton is a trailblazer, a character who has used her ‘voice’ to enable reading futures. 

  • Let my girls be Hermiones, rather than Pansy Parkinsons.’- J.K. Rowling

Happy reading

I’m Sorry I’ll Reread that Again

I’m Sorry I’ll Reread that Again

During one of our first Christmases Mr Bookwagon and I agreed to watch a film the other loved, that would be outside of our comfort zone. Mr Bookwagon was persuaded to watch the 1995 version of ‘Persuasion‘, starring Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds. I watched ‘The Searchers’.

Mr Bookwagon has been watching ‘The Searchers’ religiously for many years. He can describe the lighting contrasts, how shadow has been used allegorically, how the story is a parable. I have watched ‘The Searchers’ once. 

Recently, writer Lucy Mangan wrote in ‘The Guardian’ about her childhood reading habits. She revisited ‘Milly Molly Mandy’ by Joyce Lankester Brisley, first published in 1928, and set in the south-east of England, around the author’s home in Bexhill-on-Sea. Lucy Mangan read and reread these stories as a child. I loved these stories too, and like Lucy Mangan followed the series. Lucy Mangan: My Life as a Bookworm. Lucy Mangan compares her reading to her 6- year old son’s. She wonders that he does not reread, as she did.

Rereading and rereading

Re-reading is essential. When I trained, we spent a lot of time learning about the mechanics of how a reader is formed. We tracked readers’ behaviour with exhaustive, intricate running records, full of clues and matching symbols. There was delight when a reader would retrace his/her reading. This was the moment we knew they were looking to make sense from the page.

We are naturally geared to read at pace. Our brain anticipates what is to come, while our eyes and mouth (if we’re reading aloud) catch up and confirm. Reading at pace is another behaviour that a reading trained teacher looks for. The reader might track, most often with a finger, and then retrace rereading and working to make sense and confirm what he/she sees.  It demonstrates the reader’s desire for meaning of his/her actions.

I was trained to encourage parents to avoid stopping at individual words when their child read aloud. It was considered a priority that the parent encouraged his/her child forward, offering words quickly and quietly to avoid lulls, delighting in their progress and the fact their child was reading. At the conclusion of the book, we would suggest parent and child reviewed a few words or a selected obstructive section, checking them through gently. These actions and behaviour would be repeated in future reading, and with other books.

However, it was always about reading, pace, sense, building literacy, skills and joy. We were taught that by isolating reading into a word by word assessment, teachers and parents risked destroying a child’s confident reading development.

This was entirely separate from the desired interaction of bedtime reading.

More rereading

Very young readers, fortunate to be in a bookloving household, form attachments with certain books. They demand that these books are read repeatedly. They participate in the story reading. The story must be read in a certain way- the way they know. They anticipate, join in, correct perceived errors, draw their reading companion’s attention to places that fascinate, or about which they feel confident.

Later your very young reader could be found reading their book alone. At that point, they may follow the text with a finger, reading aloud using a similar inflection to that they experienced. They might repeat the text, and point out sections to an imaginary co-reader. This behaviour is reading. It is a crucial first step in becoming a reader.

Continuing to reread

As confident readers, we acquire favourite books, authors and series into which we retreat and reread. Our choices offer comfort and certainty. Many readers offer classic series such as C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books, or J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ as rereading choices. I reread series including  K.M.Peyton’s ‘Flambards’, ‘Anne of Green Gables’, Louisa May Alcott’s ‘Little Women’, Susan Coolidge’s ‘What Katy Did’, Tessa Duder’s ‘Alex’ and Ethel M. Turner’s series, ‘Seven Little Australians’. I reread the stories of Colette and the short stories of Katherine Mansfield. As an adult, I reread books by Anne Tyler or Ann Patchett.

Comfort and certainty charge our humanity through confirmation of the pleasure in and meaning available from reading.

Series (serious) rereading recommendations

Recently, Mr Bookwagon read the latest Robin Stevens’ Wells & Wong mystery- A Spoonful of Murder This tight, meticulously researched series, is a huge favourite of our readers. Many children read and reread Daisy and Hazel’s adventures so they are able to recall and recite their adventures, and predict future developments. Rereading offers certainty that informs plotting and characterisation.

I received the sequel to The Apprentice Witch delightedly last week. I love Arianwyn, James Nicol’s central character.  I imagine her like Susan Coolidge’s Katy Carr – ‘in spite of her age and size, she was as heedless and innocent as a child of six.’ A Witch Alone lives up to its predecessor.  I shall reread it, looking for clues. At its conclusion, I was compelled to message the writer anticipating the story’s progress.

We look forward to further titles in the ‘15 Things NOT to-‘ series. These imaginative, amusing titles for  very young readers, include complex text and ideas to fascinate- 15 things NOT to do with a Granny. I imagine possible discussions after sharing these titles, with readers suggesting other things ‘NOT to do’.

Jim Field is best known for the highly successful ‘Oi’ series (omitted from our independent bookshop because we cannot compete with its pricing at chainstores or supermarkets). We champion the titles co-created with Julian Gough, for their intelligent humour, originality and insight. The latest in this series is Rabbit & Bear Attack of the Snack.

Bookwagon has revelled upon Wild Animals of the North. Dieter Braun returns with the equally addictive Wild Animals of the South that has every reader reading, rereading, retelling and researching. Flying Eye publishing’s is commendably determined to create quality non-fiction picture books.

Serious (but highly enjoyable) rereading recommendations

Award-winning American writer, Laura Amy Schlitz is little known in Britain. I am delighted to introduce  her latest, lauded title to Bookwagon. The Princess and the Crocodile is a story of initiative and charm, already beloved by our readers. One customer contacted us to share that her child insisted on carrying this title everywhere they had travelled during a half term holiday break of visiting family at either end of the country!

Frida Nilsson’s The Ice Sea Pirates is one of the best adventure stories for children I have read. It is fearless and genuinely scary and demands to be reread. I will seek readers with whom to share it . When you reread you are eager to share and talk about the experience. ‘The Ice Sea Pirates‘ was an adventure I was lucky enough to read ahead of Mr Bookwagon. He was quick to seize Padraig Kenny’s Tin. Mr Bookwagon burned the midnight oil, determined to discover Christopher’s fate. ‘Tin‘ is one of my co-director’s favourite titles. He is adamant there must be a sequel. 

We invite you to share the titles to which you returned as a child, and those your child returns to, also. Which are the favourites that we reread?

Happy reading (and rereading!)




Bookwagon Winter Reading Recommendations

Bookwagon Winter Reading Recommendations

Recently Mr Bookwagon sent a newsletter to our lovely readers, revealing recent winners of book awards. I shadowed awards in schools- the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway, UKLA, Red House and Smarties’ awards (two of which no longer exist)- but did not realise how many exist or are created. A majority are settled toward the end of the year and into a new year. Added to this the number of reviews including  lists of favourite/ best books of the year, and this Bookwagon duo feel rather overwhelmed!

We include information of awards won by individual titles and share results from notable awards, e.g., Carnegie and Kate Greenaway, Newbery, and UKLA awards. However, we have decided that we cannot, in all faith, offer you a review of our favourite books of 2017, like some other booksellers.

Bookwagon was established to offer readers a personalised service. In this, we aim to match you to books that you and/or your family or friends require, according to your specific needs. The personalised refers to us, too; we recommend and sell books that we have read and loved only. There are a few exceptions to this rule, e.g., like the Harry Potter series, or more recently, Philip Pullman’s ‘Book of Dust‘, which we have abstained from selling because of Philip Pullman’s reputation and the corporate, discounted availability of this release.

The books we read, love, recommend and sell are most often books that are less well known,  that may have escaped readers’ attention, come from different sources, maybe a little known writer or illustrator. It’s a joy to find these titles. Every single book in the Bookwagon shop is an award-winner to us. We talk about them as though they are our Crufts’ entrants.

If you have contacted me for recommendations to fit your readers’ needs, you will realise how I know our books. I invite you to take up this opportunity to seek suggestions. Personalised service and free delivery- a Christmas cracker you can’t refuse!

Shortly one of the publishing industry’s big hitters will award the biggest selling book of the year. We do not really want to be part of this celebration, for we are keenly aware of the many writers struggling to get their deserving titles into the hands of real readers. Unfortunately, seldom do best-selling, biggest selling products equate to ‘best quality’-  with a few exceptions.

However, I’ve thought about the season, books that could inspire, those that merit a consideration for Christmas gifts or a peruse during snowy days such as we’re enjoying. This is a section (22/430) of the Bookwagon (Crufts’) award-winners:-

 Snow Rain Sun Sam Usher’s beautiful, seasonal titles are ideal for reading alone, sharing, imagining and treasuring. Each new day offers new possibilities for the boy and his grandfather, desert excavations, polar discoveries, gondola rides. We love ‘Sun’, ‘Rain’ and ‘Snow’ and recommend each book to any reader aged from 3 or 4 or 5 to many more years;

Mouse House The mouse family has lived happily in the same house as the human family until one fatal day. When the ‘mouse man’ is called, it’s up the children to ensure their tiny housemates are kept safe to enjoy the sort of lives to which they have become accustomed. This is a gorgeous, smile of a title, recommended to readers from 2 or 3 years old. 

All the Wild Wonders  Considering the delights and possibilities of our planet through a variety of poetry is a superb prospect, especially when the collection is as special as this one. We love this title as a gift, as a stalwart in the bedtime reading selection, or as a book that can be read, shared and loved forever.

Edgar and the Sausage Inspector Edgar plans the treats he will buy and share for his evening meal with his sister Edith. However, after each purchase, he is met by the sausage inspector, a badge carrying, hat wearing rat who insists that confiscating Edgar’s tasting haul, is all part of his job, and he’s doing Edgar a good turn. However, Edgar’s suspicions grow…. Tempting, torturous good fun, with fabulous Francophile allusions, recommended for readers from 5 or 6;

The World Is Not a Rectangle The childhood, inspiration, education and obstacles of acclaimed, ground-breaking architect Zaha Hadid are revealed in this beautiful picture book. The shapes and storyline are real and glorious, while the themes are vital, current and universal. This is a superb book for readers of all ages; 

Detective Gordon: The First Case  There’s a snowy case for the wearied, cake- tempted Detective Gordon to investigate, but he’s at a point when he’s realised he needs help in his work. Who can possibly measure up to his exacting standards? With whom can he share his tea breaks? An insignificant mouse? This is the first of a glorious, whimsical, gentle series recommended for readers aged from 6 or 7 years;

All the Year Round This is a rhyming riot of poetry celebrating each month of the year through activity, reminders, observations and farce. It is a superb bedtime read, sure to be read many times, recalled and quoted long after its first sharing. John Yeoman and Quentin Blake are an exuberant, skilled duo;

A Kitten Called Holly This winter themed title from Helen Peters’ Jasmine Green series is typically unsentimental, gripping and real. Jasmine and her friend Tom disturb a feral cat, who abandons several kittens for the children to raise. This is not easy; the detail included is informative and interesting. Jasmine and Tom are purposeful, appealing characters, and the series a real find. We recommend this title and the others to readers aged from 7 or 8 years old;

Bicycling to the Moon  Barkus and Purdey share a home in the Finnish countryside. Through a year we share their adventures, from a singing competition, to new hobbies, supporting a friend, to a bold journey. The friends compare their unique canine and feline characteristics throughout each of the twelve chapters. We recommend this  gentle, wry, laugh-out-loud, much-loved title to readers aged from 7 or 8 years;

Hilary McKay’s Fairy Tales This is a definitive reinterpretation and retelling of a variety of familiar tales, retaining the truths of the stories, but relocating them to different settings, with a variety of voices and angles. It is a tour de force and recommended highly as a ‘forever’ book to keep, read and share, for readers aged from 7 years or so;

Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy  We join Ophelia, her sister and father in new home in a new snowy town with a father ‘tied up to the clock hands’ by a demanding new job, refusing to talk about the family tragedy. Ophelia is left to her own devices in the town museum, which has its stories, history, prisoners and a countdown. A Snow Queen/ Narnia like mystery that is truly entrancing, we recommend this title to readers aged from 8 or 9 years old.

Murder in Midwinter Aboard a London bus texting her sister, Maya inadvertently observes an argument between a couple in a Regent Street doorway; one of them is pointing a gun. The flash of her phone camera alerts them to Maya and the drama begins. 
Taut, real, brave and pacy, ‘Murder in Midwinter’ is a really exciting book for readers aged from 9 or 10 years old;

Arthur and the Golden Rope Join Arthur on his daring, death-defying journey in this brave, brilliant graphic novel interpretation of a formidable Norse legend. We recommend this exciting title to all readers, especially to those aged from 6 years;

The Travel Book Publishers have realised the demand for quality information books and are filling the void with readable, fact-laden, well researched books like this.  This is quality, thoroughly researched and captivating information, that demands attention of readers;

Do You Speak Chocolate? This is pitched as a title for those readers who enjoy books by Dame Jacqueline Wilson. It offers the same pacy text, social context, yet is its own very fine, very readable story, suitable for readers aged from 9 years old;

Sky Dancer A warm human drama from the Queen of relevant environmental writing, about a boy from a troubled family, who finds purpose in a shared endeavour to save an orphaned hen harrier chick, an unwelcome inhabitant on the moors where he lives. We recommend this title to readers aged from 9 or 10 years.

I’m Just No Good At Rhyming And Other Nonsense For Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-ups Chris Harris has created a superb collection of poetry in which every page is an unexpected delight. At times, it is like reading an internal monologue. Award-winning illustrator Lane Smith’s sepia toned pictures add meaning, fun and form. Readers building a commitment to and interest in language and are recommended ‘I’m Just No Good at Rhyming’. As the full title says, it is ideal for adults too;

The White Fox When Sol’s father tells him there’s been an Arctic fox sighted at the Seattle docks, Sol determines to investigate. Little does he know that his discovery, lured by peanut butter sandwiches, will unlock the door to understanding his past while offering a future. Jackie Morris’s exceptional pictures add resonance to a ‘forever’ book; 

The Snow Angel From bustling Nairobi, to the foothills of Mt Kenya, the rubbish heaps of a city slum, to snowy Glencoe, we journey with Makena. Ill fortune, epidemic, superstition and thieves conspire against her, and her friend, Snow. We learn so much along the way from a story of survival, hope, open hearts and kindness. It is an essential title recommended to any readers aged from 11 years;

First Light  When Peter’s father, a climatologist, determines to take his family on his latest expedition to Greenland, the problems seem to be in the preparations and the cold. However, Peter’s soaring headaches, and the discovery of a peculiar ice shelf marked by a red bracelet, lead to revelations of which he could never dream. Beneath the ice lies a whole, waiting world….This apocalyptic book is a ‘stand-alone’ story, something different, mesmerising and lingering. We recommend ‘First Light’ to demanding readers aged from 11 years; 

Dreaming the Bear Darcy and her family have moved to the wonder and wildness Yellowstone Park. Within this alien environment, Darcy grows weaker, seeking respite through sleep, moving out of her body until… she discovers a wounded bear. The two find unexpected, healing comfort in each other, so we, the reader, are drawn into their experiences, fears and feelings. This is ideal for readers aged from 12 or 13 years, who relish stories in which emotion and experience really matter;

See You in the Cosmos Eleven-year-old Alex’s obsession with space leads him to seek out the annual SHARF rocket launch in New Mexico. Despite problems, including caring for his mother and a fretful puppy, Alex feels that launching his iPod rocket is something he must do. We travel alongside him, listening into his travelogue through the iPod, realising that behind the facts, lie further truths that Alex does not realise. This is a strong title, ideal for young adult/ teen readers.

For further inspiration and/ or recommendations please look through our bookshop site or email or telephone. We are honoured to assist you in building a reading habit.

Happy reading!




Read the book before you see the film

Read the book before you see the film

We have a number of titles that have enjoyed screen adaptations. Most often the film disappoints; the pictures seem so different from those in our reading heads.

Shortly, we’ll have an opportunity to see the big screen version of R.J. Palaccio’s multi award winning,  Wonder. In a house in springtime New Zealand, this is the bedtime read for a 9 year old and 12 year old. Recently a lovely 9 year old, Raiya, read ‘Wonder’ and wrote:-

“Wonder” is about a boy named August who is brave and kind. He doesn’t look the same as normal people because he has needed many surgeries when he was little. This book evokes so many emotions like happiness, melancholy, laughter, fury and hopefulness. This book was written so descriptively I could feel and see a clear, vivid picture in my mind of what was going on in the story. It was one of the most heartwarming books I’ve ever read. The message I got from the story is- what’s inside you really matters- your true heart.’

Other adapted titles in the Bookwagon shop, include:-

Because of Winn-Dixie

I Was a Rat!, or The Scarlet Slippers 

Bridge to Terabithia

A Monster Calls  – a glorious, stand alone adaptation of a masterpiece title;    

The Princess Bride – ( a pitch perfect adaptation, but then the writer’s hand is all over it!);

My Family and Other Animals – the television adaptations have not made me laugh as much as the book, and then I prefer the Hannah Gordon led series of the 1990’s;

Joe All Alone

From the stage show of ‘Matilda’ we are proud to present an interpretation of Tim Minchin’s When I Grow Up 

What’s On Your List?

What’s On Your List?

When I was eight or so, we celebrated our Christmas Day at an aunt’s house. I did not like this aunt or her husband very much, so was apprehensive. I would be the only child amongst a throng of older family, little interested in or accommodating to children. To my astonishment, and those gathered, my grandmother presented me with an heirloom brooch that Christmas, one that had been in my late grandfather’s family since they had settled in New Zealand. It was a small 22 carat gold bar, with a greenstone (jade) tiki hanging from it. My mother warned, ‘Be careful. This is a very special moment.’ I was frozen with fear. By the end of that Christmas day, I had lost that precious gift. It was never found. I was a disgrace.

The following Christmas, at a favourite uncle and aunt’s home, my grandmother gave me a book, ‘The Adventures of Ben Gunn‘ by R. F. Delderfield. ‘I know you won’t lose this,’ she told me, ‘nor do I expect you’ll read it. ‘ I was dismayed, in truth, a prequel to ‘Treasure Island’ didn’t thrill me. However, as I had a reading habit and there were no other children, again, I began to read the book that afternoon. Unlike the brooch, the book lasted; it stayed with me. 

I have written before about ‘books as gifts’ how I have always taken great pleasure in giving and being given books, long before I became a bookseller. There is nothing so personal, considered and lingering as a book. I feel an attachment to the people who’ve given me books.

Last week, Mr Bookwagon and I exhibited at the Herts and Essex Baby and Toddler Fair. We felt increasingly cautious about the event as it drew closer. As it happened, for a variety of reasons, the exhibition drew very few visitors. Despite this, it was an enjoyable day for Bookwagon. We set up our new table complete with beautiful bunting, and sold a range of baby and toddler titles proudly. However twice during the day, I was knocked back to hear passers-by declare, ‘Well, she’s/ he’s only a baby, she or he doesn’t need books yet.’ I assumed the message that ‘babies need books’ was Marmite strong!

Whatever your celebration, there is something about longer hours of darkness, icy mornings, sparkly starlight, festive decorations and lights, that inspires a greater need to snuggle with the ‘right sort’ of book. We have been working hard to gather specific recommendations for gifts for your younger readers- alongside a few for families and older readers too.  You will find a selection in our ‘gifts’ category. If you click on any title you will be led to a fulsome Bookwagon written descriptor to help you choose.

Here are a few of our recommendations:-

Grandad’s Secret Giant is a perfect book to share across the generations, with magic and meaning in abundance;

We love Sam Usher. These two titles suggest the possibilities of the season:- Rain and Snow;

Considerations of rain and snow lead us to some lovely story picture books for children. The first is particularly recommended to those facing change, a new arrival, in their lives:- Home in the Rain, The Snowbear,  Little One and Stardust

The season, the light, the lack of light, the wonder and magic and mystery, are all alluded to, or feature strongly in these sophisticated picture books, that will linger forever as beautiful treats for readers:- Under the Same Sky and Once Upon a Northern Night and The Story Orchestra;

Titles specific to Christmas include Polly and the Puffin The Happy Christmas and the ‘destined to become a classic title that is already in my gift box, don’t look goddaughters’- One Christmas Wish. Acclaimed illustrator, Anna Wright, has reimagined The Twelve Days of Christmas.;

Readers longing for words of meaning and might, would love Wild Animals of the Frozen North, or the superb The Picture Atlas: An Incredible Journey, or Patricia Toht and Jarvis’s gorgeous rhyming book, Pick a Pine Tree;

Snowy wonder abounds in the splendid new title for readers aged from 9 years in Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy and the mesmerising First Light. We recommend for older readers Dreaming the Bear, and again, from a snowy landscape, Orbiting Jupiter;

All things natural for every season are imagined, celebrated and declared in the magnificent The Lost Words, one of Bookwagon’s favourite and most essential books of 2017. 

We hope you find something that ‘fits your list’ in our recommendations. However you may choose, as a number of our customers, to email or telephone to ask for recommendations specific to your needs. A number are so well organised to have done this already!  Meanwhile, I’ve hopeful spring bulbs past their planting, chutney not made still, and a Christmas cake that may never be baked!

Have a happy week.

Walk a Mile in My Shoes

Walk a Mile in My Shoes

While I have five homegrown pumpkins still waiting to be pulped into chutney or jam, several of the neighbourhood properties are jack o’lantern decorated for Halloween. Mr Bookwagon and I talked about including scary stories within a blog or newsletter, but at the risk of being seen a little ‘Bah humbug’ feel it would compromise our ethos, i.e., ‘to bring good books to you.‘ Halloween is compelling to retail businesses because it is the second most commercially successful festival after Christmas. It’s a remarkable fact for an event that is an amalgamation of so many celebrations and traditions as to be rather confused (and costly).

It was not until coming to live in Britain that I realised that New Zealand is one of the few countries that commemorates Bonfire Night, better known there as Guy Fawkes Night. We watched the initial episode of the BBC’s ‘Gunpowder‘ recently. It has been criticised as being overly brutal. Oddly, despite being mocked for my oversensitivity, I stayed the course (albeit behind a cushion) throughout the scenes of torture. 

Recent Canadian research offers that children demonstrate greater empathy with human than animal characters- Children connect more strongly with human characters. Titles such as Julia Donaldson’s masterpiece, ‘The Gruffalo‘ are said to resonate less than titles with other boys or girls.

It has made me think; particularly after a long, recent period of reading strongly emotive books with human protagonists. My mother told me that I was inclined to become ‘overly impressed’ by what I’d been reading; I think she had a point. Currently, I’m haunted by Coco, the main character from Hospital High by Mimi Thebo, who is based on the author’s real life survival after death.

Unlike Frankie, I cannot see Jessica, the titular character of Jessica’s Ghost by Andrew Norriss. This author’s Bookwagon titles, including I Don’t Believe it Archie have been longstanding favourites, amongst our best sellers. ‘Jessica’s Ghost‘ is a completely different shape, subject and approach, and essential for an older reading audience, particularly those who feel isolated or different. It is magnificent.

Also for older readers, with a sympathetic and endearing main character, is Word Nerd by Canada’s award-winning Susin Nielsen. Ambrose is a delight, and the reader feels such sympathy for his plight. I’d suggest that Susin Nielsen is one of those special authors who can really get inside her characters so that we know them and believe in them. I was wary of reading her UKLA winning title The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen for the subject matter- the younger brother of a young murderer attempting to find meaning in a new life- is heavy and difficult to contemplate. However, Henry and his supporting cast have stayed with me, gently and lovingly. 

Younger Junior school readers after an undiscovered, brave heroine will love Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard, who confronts the unexpected and seemingly mystical in a practical, considered way in Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy, I predict great things for this title! The language and setting are lyrical, yet almost tangible- I could feel the Snow Queen cold and hear the counting down of the Wintertide clock.

I have to mention Budi again, when thinking of brave, unexpected heroes, for this boy, working in an Indonesian sweatshop, is one of the strongest characters whom I’ve encountered this year. Mitch Johnson’s wonderful book Kick is so truthful, poignant and inspiring. I hope families with committed readers aged from 10 years old, will choose this title.

I think it’s the ‘under the radar’ heroes/ heroines who grab the reader the most. Like the boy who turns up in The Boy on the Porch, a gorgeous title for Junior readers, from about 8 years old, with such joy, fear and love. Sharon Creech draws wonderfully sympathetic characters, but none more so than the protagonist of her multi award winning narrative poem, Love that Dog. Every reader, aged from 8 or 9 deserves to know and love this wonderful book. 

Joy, fear and love pulsate through the picture books of the masterly Bob Graham, a longtime favourite.  His gentle pen and ink characters may appear insignificant within the scope of the pages and the big landscapes, yet these little people may be selected by the might of the sun on a snowy day, as in How the Sun Got to Coco’s House. They may be awaiting momentous change, alone with their mummy on a perilous rainstorm journey, brave, sympathetic and loved, as in Home in the Rain. 

In Bob Graham’s footsteps follows Gaia Cornwall. Her debut picture book holds us captive, as we travel the course of Jabari’s excitement, anticipation and fear about diving and so much more in Jabari Jumps.

Come to think of it, it makes sense that the books seen to be more meaningful to children are those with a human protagonist. Those children who grow up from earliest infancy sharing books, and hearing stories, having books about them, and seeing their parents and greater family read,  and recognise their parents and families are reading parents and families. They in turn will be readers.

Halloween and Bonfire Night will have passed by the time I write again. I did a little of my first Christmas shopping today, but refuse to launch into recommendations for this season until I’ve baked the cake and we’ve constructed a helpful tag in the Bookwagon tag cloud. I’ve more books to read before that as I continue to aim to bring you the best children’s books. Happy reading! .

A wholesome and necessary thing*

A wholesome and necessary thing*

Mr Bookwagon and I have been reading up a storm. Super Thursday, October 5th, was followed by a slightly less super Thursday (12th) and, this week, a slip of a slightly super Thursday; the Bookwagon trolley is full of ‘must read’ new books.

I had the good fortune to teach last week in a school that necessitated a 45 minute drive each morning and evening. I began to relax into the journey, and look forward to the changing scenery. Many years of darkening mornings, misted windscreens and a packed seasonal work and home schedule had me dreading autumn.  However, with a change of career, something has lifted. It’s aligned to a year where our only travelling has been within Britain. I’ve been reminded of the awe I felt when I first came to this country, when my sister-in-law’s generous parents insisted upon and supported my explorations- particularly South-West England, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Sussex, Kent and Wales. I was dumbstruck by the beauty of these areas, and again, when I travelled north, Suffolk, Shropshire, Cumbria and to Scotland.

Mr Bookwagon took delivery of ‘The Lost Words’ by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris (Hamish Hamilton). As a keen British birder, Mr Bookwagon was offered the first opportunity to read the book, although I had heard the ‘buzz’ about it, read Jackie Morris’s blog, heard its writer, academician Robert Macfarlane, explain its initiative on Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme.

Jackie Morris had been contacted by Robert Macfarlane to make a children’s book offering meanings and images for twenty words from the natural world erased from the Oxford Junior Dictionary. They were considered no longer relevant, no longer within ‘the current frequency of words in daily language of children‘.

The result, The Lost Words , is one of the most wonderful books I have ever encountered. It is breath-taking. From its lush gold lustred pages, to proud A3 stature, this book is a monument. It defies a categorisation; it is not a children’s book, a natural book, a poetry book, a picture book – it is a testimony to all that is free, awesome and wild in our world.

Together, Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris have created a brave book composed of swirling verse, with each of the twenty subjects announced as an illustrative acrostic containing tear-jerking, spring sampling language. So a conker is announced as a ‘cabinet maker, could you craft me a conker?‘ An ‘i’ included in magpie is- ‘interrupt, interject, intercept, intervene!’ A kingfisher is declared a ‘the colour giver, fire bringer, flame flicker, river’s quiver.

Each creature or object is announced in a declarative illustration of its name’s letters, before a glorious page of illustrative text alongside a single portrait image. To conclude each entry is a double page painting. It is almost like the most luscious dessert Versailles could contemplate.

Bramble, bluebell- Lost in the depths, drowned in the blue’, an ‘air eating’ weasel, a shape shifting, heart stopping otter, newts who are ‘kings of the pond, lions of the duckweed, dragons of the water’.

I am alight with this book, this treasure trove of magic, yet…. it follows a week of teaching, a week of outdoor shoes, padded overcoats, jumpers, fleeces, holding hands in safe columns, of children who have never picked up feathers for ‘fear of touching dirt.’ They are not exceptional. A National Trust survey in 2016 discovered that while 96% of parents thought ‘it important that children had a connection with nature and playing outdoors was important‘, children play outside for just over four hours a week, compared to their parents’ 8.2 hours. A poll last year, sponsored by Unilever, undertaken by Sir Ken Robinson, discovered that 1/10 children play in wild spaces only, that 3/4 of British children spend less time outside than prison inmates – ‘many children don’t get to be outdoors in a natural environment in any regular or meaningful way.‘ United Nations’ guidelines insist that prisoners require at least one hour of suitable exercise in the open air daily, yet just 74% of children spend less than an hour outdoors every day. Meanwhile, we have warnings that severe Vitamin D deficiency in this country, caused by an absence of natural light, is increasing noticeably.

I recognise that Britain’s weather, about which there is so much conjecture and derisory comment, alongside its equally tempestuous political climate, can make a dash abroad feel a necessity, but, to quote a New Zealand jingle from my childhood, ‘Don’t leave home till you’ve seen the country.‘ It would  sadden me when Year 6 children on a school journey, were dumbfounded to discover the sights and spectacle of Somerset or the Isle of Wight on our annual pilgrimages; some had never ventured out of London, yet had travelled business class to Florida, Mauritius or Dubai.

It doesn’t have to be a big journey to the country. Our towns and cities are full of countryside, places to explore, get dirty, have an adventure, make discoveries and get close to nature. While the Forest School initiative is a superb inclusion in the curriculum, and cycling is a healthy pursuit, neither are constant or even frequent, while a good dig in the garden, outdoor chores, a seasonal walk, a pond dip, a little bird spotting or natural collecting, are timeless, free and a forever plaster. ‘Children don’t have enough idle time to think on things. There is too much frenzy, too much scheduled activity‘- said children’s laureate, and mother, Lauren Child, last week.

I am in awed gratitude to Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris for their magnum opus. It is a work of great wealth, worth and quality. It merits a place in every home and school. It’s message meanwhile, of the wonder of our outdoors and the respect and attention it merits, must be realised.

“The Lost Words” is available from Bookwagon with a new delivery charge of £1.25 only

*It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the Earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know the sense of wonder and humility’– Rachel Carson, ‘The Sense of Wonder

The Thing with Feathers that Sings Without Words

The Thing with Feathers that Sings Without Words

Kate DiCamillo introduced her Bath Literature Festival audience to her latest title, ‘La La La’ last week. She said this book, like all her titles, is ‘a search for connection, the radiant connection, the story I keep telling in every book.’

Last week included Super Thursday, the first of three days in October when publishing houses release a majority of new, Christmas trade titles. We’ve been looking these through cautiously, to make sure every book we select is one we have loved reading and want Bookwagon readers to enjoy too.

La La La was one of our first choices. The title of only three words, or rather, one phrase – ‘la la la’- is the only text. Kate Di Camillo turned in a storyboard of circles to her publisher, including different mouth shapes and variations of ‘la la la’. The circles represented her main character, later developed by her illustrator Jaime Kim, into the ‘story of hope’ that Kate DiCamillo had visualised.

We need these stories of hope, or radiance, of affirmation. When I complete reading my Saturday newspaper I feel wrung out, saddened and hopeless. Television viewing leaves me feeling cold and hopeless, frequently. On Saturday night, we struggled to find any new movie that did not leave me feeling threatened or disheartened. It may be the weather, the time of year, or the state of the world, but I feel an increasing need for ‘stories of hope’, ‘feelings of radiance.’

Recent Harvard research found that those who feel goosebumps when listening to music ‘may be special’, i.e., with ‘an emotional and physical attachment to music that suggests a different brain structure’ with ‘denser volumes connecting auditory cortex and emotional processing.’ I suggest, without Harvard research, that some, especially those with a strong reading habit, are able to ‘feel’ or make emotional and physical attachments in other areas of the arts, e.g., a connection to a character, a story, a scene, an experience. Being read to is a necessary foundation to inspiring this reaction (46% of British children suggest that they wish their parents had read aloud to them for longer, incidentally).

Bookwagon includes a strong complement of ‘radiant’ stories, stories that offer hope, inspiration, an avenue or direction. These are enabling for readers – the power of suggestion to a reader is like a drink in the desert. Stories of radiance were included in Super Thursday’s releases, amongst other titles we recommend.

Dianne Hofmeyr and Jane Ray’s The Glassmaker’s Daughter is one such radiant light. It enables through a suggestion that happiness may be within our individual grasp, our own hands. Encouragement and space enable the hero of Jabari Jumps to succeed beyond his fears. Mrs Noah knows that survival is not only due to species rescue, but sprinkles of magic, wisdom and hope in Mrs Noah’s Pockets. The comfort, wisdom and wonder conveyed in Under the Same Sky are like the sort of warm, winter coat Lucie Goose meets in Lucie Goose. Our heroine in that story, sorts out her would-be foes through a combination of naivety, courtesy and humour that is inspiring and refreshing. 

Series that offer hope include the wonderful Jasmine Green books by Helen Peters, which we’ve been racing through with relish. Readers with a fresher reading pace and vivacity will feel the same way about these farm animal, family-centred stories, starting with A Piglet Called Truffle. 

I was delighted to receive the latest of the Mary Plain reprisals on Super Thursday. For all fans of Paddington Bear, Teddy Robinson, Goscinny and Sempe’s ‘Nicolas’ and good, funny series of their childhoods, I recommend this wonderful outing with the bear of the ‘white rosette and gold medal with her picture upon it’:- Mary in America.

Laughs, considerations and curiosities abound in the poems of Frantz Wittkamp, translated by Roger McGough and imagined by Axel Scheffler, Fish Dream of Trees. Poet Joseph Coelho has moved beyond poetry to create his first picture book, beautifully supported by illustrator Fiona Lumbers, Luna Loves Library Day. This title includes a book within a book and a message about love and families in all their different versions. 

There is a suggestion that Princess Anya’s quest will continue, despite her evocation of a magic lip salve in Frogkisser! a very funny, inspiring, audacious title for older readers. The quest of Ebo, developed from real life testimony of refugees seeking asylum and safety, is recreated movingly in Illegal. Despite the trauma and uncertainty of the story, Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin offer hope, a sense of radiance in this outstanding graphic novel. Petula, the main character of Susin Neilsen’s latest title, Optimists Die First learns her constant guilt and watchfulness cannot prepare her for love, heartbreak or- hope.

Thank heaven for the prospect of Italian week on ‘The Great British Bake Off’,  new music from Gregory Porter, forthcoming live performances by Michael Kiwanuka (to rattle the goosebumps),  but especially, wonderful children’s books that offer the sort of radiance and hope that we all seek.

Welcome to a whole new generation of readers!

Welcome to a whole new generation of readers!

I stood at Parsons Green station awaiting a train this week, watching fresh schoolchildren tumble down the steps onto the platforms, with scooters, nannies, blazers and energy, new haircuts and shoes already bearing the marks of their returns to school. I strained to see what the older children were reading; there were a lot of boys from a nearby secondary school. The younger children were carrying proud book bags home. It took me back to the not too distant past, of new readers and new readers’ parents.

It’s imperative to get reading right, right from the start. Getting it right is not about how it sounds. We do not read aloud unless we’re Sophie Raworth. We read in our heads. Even when we ARE reading aloud, we are reading ahead in our minds. We work to make sense of what we read. That is the crux of reading- sense.

It’s why I argue back with my Sat Nav or the recipe book. It’s why I have to read back over pages of some books to retrace my steps and check I have established the plot, the characters and their relationships sorted out. Most importantly, it’s why early reading behaviour is a greater barometer for starting reading.

When your child selects the same book for the 99th time in the week, she or he is seeking to make sense. Rereading is about making sense. Hearing the story when you read it, again and again and again, establishes the sense of the story, ‘the rightness’. Your child is likely to choose to read that same book alone; she may not be really ‘reading‘; rather what you see is your child remembering, following learned behaviour, turning the pages as you did, following and possibly reciting the text that you read. Possibly she’ll look for the same clues in the pictures- picture clues, or picture context, are essential to making sense. Actually, your child IS reading.

When they have initial reading skills of their own, you may see your reader rescan, i.e., reread by looking back. Maybe they trace the line with their finger and draw it back. That’s a time to light the fireworks, for your child is demonstrating one of the most important reading developments, the ability and need to check back, independently, that their reading makes accurate sense.

When you listen to your child read, do not linger over the correctness of each individual word. Do not inhibit the flow of reading through your need for mechanical accuracy. When your child falters, tell them the word quickly, to enable pace, allow them to move on. At the conclusion of the book, if your child is not exhausted, look back over it, reread some of it, point out a few words at that stage, but do not make it an exercise about accuracy. Reading is like driving, but more important, in that you need to get moving!

We move when we read by predicting. Our brains are reading ahead, anticipating the plot development, the sense, the flow, the story. We use full amounts of text/ words to make sense- that’s context. We use the pictures to take clues and make sense also. It’s another reason why the step-by-step, word-by-word, need for accuracy is so agonising and off-putting for a new reader, for they need to make sense while the whole mechanical exercise is teeth grindingly dull and horrible. There is no sense to it!

Let your child read at a pace, review the book at the conclusion, offer words to maintain the flow, review,  if they’re not shattered, and look back over the book at another time. Encourage the sense, the flow, the use of text and picture, the joy, the story and reinforce your shared experience of text.

Never force your child to read when they are tired or emotional. Rather, try to have a routine for every day in that your child returns with a snack and drink, a chance to change and refresh, before having some time when she or he reads to you. Try to make it the same time. If it’s not working for whatever reason, read the book to your child, if you cannot take turns. School, especially at the start of the new school year, is exhausting. The nights are drawing in, it is colder, and all the new routines and people and experiences of school can prove physically and emotionally exhausting. It is not a race for you or your child. Take time and care. That bonding, when you ease your child into the routine reading before all the other school week routine activities, is essential. It’s even more essential later in the day, at bedtime when you have your regular bedtime story experience. 

The most essential advice I offer to families of new readers is to ensure that  your habits are the best habits your child can adopt. If your child sees you enjoying reading, they will enjoy reading. If you have a library or book choosing habit, they will be book selector. If you demonstrate a devotion to the bedtime reading routine, they will build the same devotion to reading at bedtime, and will take real pleasure from reading- the ultimate aim. If you are a reader of quality books, so your child will be a reader of quality books.

So, lovely Bookwagon readers, that’s the end of the Bronnie, old teacher, lesson. It’s heartfelt, based on my wonderful training and years of happy experience. Reading is one of the most important and wonderful experiences we can offer our children and our society. You, dear Bookwagon readers, hold the key.

We’ve been busy this week. We estimate that we have added around 40 books to the wagon site. Have a look at Latest Titles in the drop-down menu, and hit the filter for newest titles to see what’s available. Meanwhile, here are a few, new favourite bedtime reading books we recommend:-

Tickle My Ears

A Brave Bear

Grandad’s Secret Giant

I Want to Be in a Scary Story

Jabari Jumps

Mrs Noah’s Pockets

The White Fox

Under the Same Sky

The Boy on the Porch



It Takes Courage to Grow Up and Become Who You Really Are *

It Takes Courage to Grow Up and Become Who You Really Are *

Recently, we wandered to look at the plaque alongside St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, that marks the place where William Wallace died. The inscription concludes:- ‘His example of heroism and devotion inspired those who came after him to win victory from defeat and his memory remains for all time a source of pride, honour and inspiration to his countrymen.’

Many of us know some of William Wallace’s heroism and history. We may have ideas of it through Mel Gibson’s interpretation, ‘Braveheart’, or through the gory retellings of William Wallace’s end. However, something in that inscription- ‘example….. inspiration…. memory…. pride’ spoke to me anew.

When I read of heroes, a little part of me wishes they’d keep their heads down and avoid obvious peril. Shouldn’t Malala Yousafzai hide away? Hasn’t she realised the risks? Why didn’t Jeanne d’Arc worship quietly? Take a vow of silence? How could Nelson Mandela have spent so many nights breaking curfew to help the very people he was forbidden from meeting?

I watched Mo Farah break further athletic records nervously, when he won his 10th world title in the 10 000 metres in London’s World Athletics’ championships. Later I read how other competitors taunted him beforehand- “But sometimes before the race there’s that chat and I don’t understand it…People take my calmness for weakness. If I was weak do you think I would have won? Don’t judge people by the cover. I am who I am.”.At 34, he is beyond the optimal peak age of his sport. He emerged from that race needing stitches and swollen knee, ahead of his 5000m race. As ever, I found it difficult to watch. I wanted it to be over, for Mo to win, go home, have a good meal and put his feet up. Despite the adversity, the injury, the collaboration against him, Mo Farah fought back to win a silver medal. 

In Life and Style, The Guardian, (August 5th, 2015), author Neil Gaiman, is quoted:- ’When I was 13 an English teacher took me aside and said: “Keep your head down. You know too much, you answer questions, you are going to be resented. Just try to blend in.” I spent the next five years desperately trying to blend in, trying not to be good at the things I was good at. It was appalling advice. Do not worry about keeping your head down. Raise your head up. Maybe they will shoot you, but they probably won’t.’

Heroes in history, heroes today help us to be brave and stand up to adversity. We are at a point in history where truths, honesty, speaking up and taking a stand matter more than ever. Books, good books, help us find our words. They give us inspiration too.

In Bigfoot, Tobin and Me,  Melissa Savage (Chicken House)— Lemonade stands up for her friend Tobin against his bullies, ‘Look,’ I step in, pointing my finger at Beau’s chest. ‘Here’s the deal: If I hear another thing about dodgeballs or the girls’ bathroom, or if I pick up the receiver and hear your stupid voice screeching over the phone, you’re going to have me to deal with. Do we understand each other? And his name is Tobin, get it?’ I poke Beau. ‘I don’t want to hear about you calling him anything else.’

In The Monkey’s Secret, Gennifer Choldenko- (Hot Key Books)– Rebelling Lizzie Kennedy is confronted in the unfamiliar dark of Chinatown as she works to rescue her friend, Jing, ‘Think, think, I tell myself, but my mind has gone dark. That’s when Billy’s voice comes to me. ‘There are points on a person, Lizzie, that will kill them. Temple, armpit, liver groin. Behind the ear. With a sudden shock of power, I bust my arm out of Bull Chest’s lock and hit him as hard as I can behind his ear. He yelps and loosens his grasp for one second, and I pull free. Scruffy Beard catches my leg. I yank it loose; the denim rips. I run like fire.’

In All the Things that Could Go Wrong, Stewart Foster- (Simon and Schuster):- OCD suffering Alex (Shark Face) is ‘helpfully’ teamed to build a raft with his bully, Dan, who is angry at the loss of his brother to a young people’s offender unit. Disbelievingly, we read as Alex comes to Dan’s rescue:- ‘Dan’s gone to the cave. Dan’s going on ‘Shooting Star.’ I’ve never deliberately missed a lesson. I’ve never broken the school rules. I step up onto the wall and jump down onto the path. ‘Hey!’ I look for a gap in the traffic and run across the road.’

The critical reviews of Katherine Rundell’s The Explorer– (Bloomsbury) have been united in tfive-star praise. We watch, breaths caught in our throats, as the four survivors of the Amazonian plane crash, find inner and collective strengths to find a route out of the jungle.- ’Lila’s voice grew even quieter, ‘Fred? Are we going to be OK? He kept staring up at the sky. ‘I don’t know. Con stared and turned to look at them, ‘Are you scared?’ she whispered. Ye’s, ‘said Fred. He had never been so frighted in his life. But they were alive. He held that thought in his hand, tight against his skin.

In the remarkable A Place Called Perfect by Helena Duggan- (Usborne), Violet Brown seems to be the only person impervious to the rose-tinted Perfect, the town to which her family has moved. The tea, the specs, the rule abiding all seem a little too- perfect- ‘’Violet’s fighting back? Eugene said, with a hint of hope. ‘I knew it. She’s braver than all of us!’

So many of Neil Gaiman’s characters speak up, dare to raise their heads. It’s a characteristic that makes the reader roar with delight. It’s a factor that has determined Gaiman’s success too, as his is continual pursuit of knowledge and excellence in children’s writing. His Bod, in the award winning The Graveyard Book fights exceptional circumstances. So does, Odd, in  Odd and the Frost Giants when he is reputed to be a loser, to have nothing to show for himself and is a taunted outcast. Even Gaiman’s female protagonists, especially as depicted by Chris Riddell, for example in The Sleeper and the Spindle, are strong, thorn bludgeoning, Amazonian warriors against the odds. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9e1LpbXevg

Probably the most startling and unsettling literary heroine I’ve encountered recently is Mirielle, third place winner in the annual Bourg-en-Bresse Piglettes Competition, in which a social media survey ranks the town’s girls as to their similarity to pigs. Mirielle is entering the Hall of Fame, according to Malo, the organiser, after winning first place in the two previous years. Piglettes, Clementine Beauvais- (Pushkin Press)- ‘And what would you do dear reader, in my place? What would you do if your ex best friend- at nursery, if that former friend, after turning his back on you, after having you voted the school’s number- one Pig for two years running, and then number- three Pig the next year; after trying to sabotage the cycle trip you organised in the hope of getting back some of your dignity; what would you do if that ex-best friend, pale as sliced aubergine and shaking like a bunny rabbit, chased by the police, suddenly appeared around a street corner right in front of you?’
Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye.’

From real life to literature, we need our ‘heads up’ heroes. When we join them, we share a little of their bravery, and feel better able to face the world, and know true selves.


Bringing a funny book to you

Bringing a funny book to you

What are you looking for in a good book? One that takes you places, although your feet may be on the ground? One that shivers your timbers? Twangs your heartstrings?

The genre often most difficult to ‘get right’ is humour. Yet this genre is ideal for child readers, enticing reluctant readers, bonding at bedtime or during a holiday, or for ‘I’m bored and tired’ spells.

Frequently I’ve read a blurb urging ‘this book will make you laugh out loud.’ Most often, it doesn’t. Preparing this piece, Bob and I considered books that make us laugh He recalls laughing through David Nobbs’ ‘Reginald Perrin’, and ‘Scoop’ by Evelyn Waugh. P.G. Wodehouse makes me laugh. I remember laughing so much while reading ‘They Came from SW19’ by Nigel Williams, that I had gravel rash on my tummy- (I was sunbathing on a pebbly beach.)

However, as booksellers who read everything we sell, we have a greater responsibility to find books that make us laugh, and therefore our readers:- George Bernard Shaw, ‘Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself.’ 


So, what makes the Bookwagon team laugh?

We love Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. Together, they have written splendid titles Bookwagon is delighted to sell, like Sam and Dave Dig a Hole (Just writing the title has me grinning in recall.)

One of my favourite read aloud titles is Shh! We Have a Plan by award winning, Chris Haughton. It has my child audience and me convulsing in laughter at every reading, in anticipation, yet complete perplexity, as the story progresses.

I discovered Mrs Mole, I’m Home! by Jarvis (V&A illustrator of the year) at the 2017 London Book Fair. I laughed long and hard while reading it, much to the distraction of other shelf browsers. I determined there and then we would add it to Bookwagon.

I found Before & After by Jean Jullien while book browsing with a friend. We both laughed at the inventive comparisons included in this wonderful picture book. It led me to discover Sean Taylor, with whom the writer had collaborated on Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise. I have seen little boys fall from their chairs with laughter at this daft and wonderful title!

A new picture book title popular with our younger readers is Have You Seen Elephant? by David Barrow. There is great comedy in having the title character hiding in clear view! 

A.L. Kennedy’s and Gemma Correll’s Uncle Shawn and Bill and the Almost Entirely Unplanned Adventure is populated by comedically grotesque characters, and a menacing, yet almost farcical, plot line. It is great fun to read alone, or share, and will elicit a lot of laughter, for certain. (You may not choose to eat pie for a while!)

Writing humour is a real skill. Successful purveyors do not over egg the story or circumstance. Philip Pullman, master storyteller, created two very different but funny stories in I Was a Rat! and The Scarecrow and His Servant. The latter is another title wherein I have seen children rolling on the floor with laughter. (Spoiler alert:- There is a certain part in which one of our heroes loses his pea brain…..)

Funny poetry has been popular in Britain throughout the ages. Jeanne Willis’ and Tony Ross’s Sticky Ends picks up where Hillaire Belloc and Roald Dahl left off, with a collection of cautionary, humorous, and sometimes gruesome verse, beloved by our readers.

I suggest two titles with which I am besotted, that left me bereft when I’d finished reading. Both have nuanced humour, one sweet and considered, the other slightly bruised and raw, but gosh, they are funny. Bookwagon is proud to offer both books, and recommends them ‘to the moon’ and back (as Barker the Dog would say).

Bicycling to the Moon by Timo Parvele and Virpi Talvitiie is translated by Gecko Press from the Finnish original. I adore this title and hope it may be the start of a series.

I finished The Incredible Billy Wild by Joanna Nadin two weeks ago, but continued to carry it with me as an accessory. It is an outstanding book, wise, warm, stirring and so very funny. I love Billy, and suggest other lucky readers will feel the same way about him and his family. Again, I think a series may be in the offing.

We have added a couple of classic humorous titles to our older readers’ section, after thinking about all the ‘issue’ titles that seem to proliferate this genre. Do tweens/ teens/ young adults enjoy humorous stories too? We returned to two favourites, one of which might be forgotten, but is a very funny read. So, William Goldman’s The Princess Bride (as good as the outstanding film adaptation) and My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. I have not taken to the ITV series, so returned to read the original story . Again, it made me laugh out loud. I wonder whether it will do the same for you?

Let us know titles and authors that make you and your family laugh. We’d be especially interested in hearing about writers and books with whom or which we may not be familiar. Bronnie


Summertime and the reading is ready

The problem with selling books that you love is that when it comes to choosing from them, it’s like deciding on your best friend. In this case, the ‘best friends’ I’ve selected from the Bookwagon bookshop are those that fit a long, hot summer holiday season, and have a staying power to engage and satisfy your reader.

For the very young, babies to nursery, nearly school:-

A Perfect Day by Lane Smith (just right for all…….. until Bear arrives – the latest title from the 2017 Kate Greenaway winnerhttps://bookwagon.co.uk/product/a-perfect-day/

Banana by Ed Vere (hardly any text, but big contextual understanding) https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/banana/

Before & After by Jean Jullien (simple, yet complex, intriguing fun!) https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/before-after/

Alan’s Big Scary Teeth by Jarvis (V & A Illustrator of the Year winner- very funny!) https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/alans-big-scary-teeth/

One Happy Tiger by Catherine Rayner (counting, rhyme, lovely illustrations) https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/one-happy-tiger/

You Must Bring a Hat by Simon Philip and Kate Hindley (very funny, full of pacy misunderstanding) https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/must-bring-hat/

For readers newer to reading, aged from 6, building up momentum, pace, range and tenacity:-

Polly and the Puffin series, by Jenny Colgan (lovely stories, and appealing activities too!) https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/polly-and-the-puffin/ https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/polly-puffin-stormy-day/ https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/polly-puffin-new-friend/

The Cat and the King by Nick Sharratt (Nick Sharratt’s first picture book hits the spot perfectly!) https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/the-cat-and-the-king/

My Dog Mouse by Eva Lindstrom (‘Didn’t it go well?’ I defy any reader not to add this perfect picture book of a child’s walk with Mouse, an aged dog, to their favourite book pile) https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/my-dog-mouse/

For independent readers who want to get caught by a great series, with gusto, feeling and imagination, aged from 7 or 8 or 9:

Mostly Mary and All Mary by Gwynedd Rae and Clara Vulliamy (Mary Plain is funny, naive and appealing, and ready for a post – Paddington generation) https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/all-mary/ https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/mostly-mary-mary-plain-adventure/

The Fairytale Detective Agency series, by Sally Gardner, illustrated by David Roberts (bizarre, engaging, fish paste flavoured writing); https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/fairy-detective-agency-operation-bunny/ https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/three-pickled-herrings-wings-co-fairy-detective-agency/ https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/the-rollercoaster-case/ https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/the-matchbox-mysteries/ https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/flying-carpet-thief/

Snake and Lizard, and Helper and Helper by Joy Cowley and Gavin Bishop (NZ award winners deservedly, for quality writing, unique characters, and thoughtful themes); https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/snake-and-lizard/ https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/helper-and-helper/

My Happy Life, When I am Happiest and My Heart is Laughing by Rosa Lagencrantz and Eva Ericsson (thoughtful, appealing and tender, without condescension in theme); https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/my-happy-life/  https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/my-heart-is-laughing/  https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/when-i-am-happiest/

Animals Behaving Badly by Nicola Davies (thoroughly researched, arresting animal facts), https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/animals-behaving-badly/ and

Bigfoot, Tobin & Me by Melissa D. Savage (with humour, resolution, mystery and pathos) – a perfect fit https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/bigfoot-tobin-me/

For confident readers, aged from 9 or so, who have a reading habit,  needing great books for summer, Bookwagon recommends:-

The Apprentice Witch by James Nichol (oh boy, oh boy – where has this author been?; he has surely passed his witchy evaluation with this title); https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/the-apprentice-witch/

The One and Only Ivan and Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate (each totally different, relevant, emotional, beautifully researched and realised – glorious!); https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/the-one-and-only-ivan https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/crenshaw/

The Jamie Drake Equation and The Many Worlds of Albie Bright by Christopher Edge (award winning and nominated – watch this ‘space’ for Christopher Edge can REALLY write!); https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/jamie-drake-equation/ https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/many-worlds-albie-bright/

Letters from the Lighthouse by Emma Carroll (assured, rich, well characterised, and plotted historical fiction); https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/letters-from-the-lighthouse/

Little Bits of Sky by S.E. Durrant (nominated, deservedly, for the Branford Boase first writer’s award; no hammer blow of reality, just gentle, thoughtful, heart stirring story telling, from the view of a girl in care) https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/little-bits-sky/

For young adult, tween, teen readers, needing a great story into which they can really lose themselves, I suggest:

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen (winner of the 12-16 UKLA book award; a difficult topic told brilliantly; I couldn’t put it down); https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/reluctant-journal-henry-k-larsen/

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt (at last one of this award winning US writer’s titles has made it to Britain, and it’s a heart-breaking, cow rump-slapping story from the start);  https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/orbiting-jupiter/

The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock (from Alaska, is a beautiful story of five young people lost in their setting and themselves, Carnegie Medal nominated); https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/smell-peoples-houses/

An Island of Our Own by Sally Nicholls (affirmative, strong, reality based, ‘despite the odds’ story telling); https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/an-island-of-our-own/

A Storm of Strawberries by Jo Cotterill (possibly the first story told through the experience of a girl with Downs’ Syndrome, as she struggles to share her older sister with her friend). https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/a-storm-for-strawberries/

To enjoy, recite, experience or learn from, Bookwagon has the following suggestions from its non-fiction, poetry and picture book area:-

The Wolves of Currumpaw by William Grill (an outstanding story of beast versus man, wilderness versus civilisation); https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/the-wolves-of-currumpaw/

The Little Mermaid and Other Fishy Tales by Jane Ray (traditional tales, verse, myths and legends beautifully retold by Jane Ray, amongst a backdrop of her unforgettable illustrations); https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/little-mermaid-fishy-tales/

A First Book of Animals by Nicola Davies and Petr Horacek (rhymes, facts, gorgeous illustrations and anecdotes); https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/first-book-animals/

Spot the Lot! (Find it, score it, then draw it!) Lonely Planet Kids, illustrated by Thomas Flintham (activities for any summer day, that call for careful reading and exploration); https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/spot-the-lot/

Sticky Ends by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross (funny poetry in the style of Hillaire Belloc’s ‘Cautionary Tales’ or Roald Dahl’s ‘Revolting Rhymes’), https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/sticky-ends/

Amazing World Atlas: Bringing the World to Life (Lonely Planet Kids) (so the children might know where they’re going, where they might go, where they come from, or where someone else is going). https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/amazing-world-atlas/

All books are Bookwagon books, read and recommended by us, We want our readers to have the best reading experience, so please support our aim and enterprise by shopping and engaging with us.

We would love to hear from you should you have any questions or comments, or have a need for suggestions specifically for your readers. Please call or email us. 

Happy summer reading, Bronnie and Bob – Team Bookwagon




Refugee Week 2017

It was only as I posted a recommendation for ‘The Emergency Zoo‘ by Miriam Halahmy, https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/the-emergency-zoo/,  that I recalled that this is Refugee Week 2017- http://refugeeweek.org.uk.

Brexit negotiations have commenced, London has suffered another terrorist attack on its community, while  the Grenfell Tower tragedy continues to unfold; it is fresh in our hearts and minds. Thoughts of those less fortunate than so many of us, today, and through history, perpetuate. This week carries weight and meaning.

Throughout 2016, with difficult events and decisions abounding, many of my friends and families were at a loss to explain them to their children. I have tried to put myself in their places, but frequently returned to the recommendations of esteemed educator Nancy Carlsson- Paige- http://www.nancycarlssonpaige.org

However, as we take the lessons raised by the Empathy Lab, and think about the messages within the Amnesty Honour winners in the 2017 Carnegie/ Greenaway Medals, yet again, I have turned to books.

Reading offers explanations, both directly, as in non-fiction books, and indirectly, through fiction. It suggests actions and reactions.

When I read William Grill’s wonderful ‘Shackleton’s Journey‘ I am inspired by leadership, camaraderie and resilience. ‘This is How We Do It‘ by Matt La Mothe explains how we are all the same, even when we are different. ‘Last Stop on Market Street‘ by Matt De La Pena, offers us an opportunity to share a journey with a young commuter making sense of his place in the world.

When I read ‘Pax‘ by Sara Pennypacker, I am shaken, urging Peter’s father to show compassion with his son’s untenable situation. When children move from reading words, to inhaling and needing meaning from books, they seek to make sense of this crazy world.

They look to hold their own, as ‘Cowgirl‘ Kate does, despite persistent doubts, slurs and arrows. They seek to stand up for the truth, as Maia does in ‘Journey to the River Sea‘. They make plans against the inexplicable, like Tilly and Rosie in ‘The Emergency Zoo.’ They cheer with hope in Lara, in Jane Ray’s ‘Heartsong‘. They aim to show unbelievable courage, like Parvana’ in ‘The Breadwinner‘. They hold their breaths and wipe their tears as they share Standish Treadwell’s finest moment, in ‘Maggot Moon‘. We realise that while we may see the world about us differently, we all see the world- ‘They All Saw a Cat‘.

It matters to us that the titles we select for Bookwagon should have meaning, reason, warmth and empathy. They should stir emotional response in the reader.

Refugee Week reminds us that though ‘different parts/ shared futures’ we all want futures that are safe, secure and happy. Bronnie


As I have been writing there has been news of of acclaimed writer, Emma Carroll. Her most recent book, ‘Letters from the Lighthouse’ includes the unravelling of the heartbreaking history of secondary character, Esther Jenkins. This author has demonstrated her empathy and strength, by initiating Authors for Grenfell Tower, an initiative to raise money to support victims of this tragedy, many of whom have been left as refugees. Refugees are not people ‘out there’ or ‘long ago’ but here amongst us. https://twitter.com/emmac2603/status/876750971308781568 






Salt to the Kids!

Amongst much hoopla and the whirring of air conditioning, the annual Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals, for outstanding writing and illustration, respectively, have been awarded today (June 19th). Both awards are decided upon by children’s librarians.

Salt to the Sea‘ by Ruta Sepetys, is the winner of this year’s Carnegie Medal, while ‘There is a Tribe of Kids‘ by Lane Smith is the Kate Greenaway winner.

During earlier announcements, Amnesty Honours were awarded to ‘The Bone Sparrow‘ by Zana Fraillon, and ‘The Journey‘ by Francesca Sanna. It is considered that each of these two shortlisted titles ‘most distinctively illuminates, communicates or celebrates our personal rights and freedoms’.

While these awards seek to commend books that best fit their criteria as those written/ illustrated in English, none of the winners is English. Immediately after the announcement there was an ‘hoorah’ from the American contingent, in support of their country people,  Ruta Sepetys and Lane Smith. While Zana Fraillon is Australian, Francesca Sanna is Italian. Through their writing and pictures, each of these successful writers and illustrators reflects something of their individual cultures, and their global perspective and experiences.

Bookwagon is intensely proud to have read, loved and recommended each of these award winning titles. These awards endorse our aim to share quality children’s books with young readers.

Congratulations to all the winners, and every Bookwagon ‘winning’ selected title.









Getting gripped on a book

I love that feeling of being completely submerged by a story. Currently, I’m reading through the incomparable Sally Gardner’s ‘Fairy Detective’ series, with a view that all the titles should be included in our bookstore. It’s the Bookwagon way to ensure that every book measures up to its premise.

Often the best way seems to be to ‘latch’ onto a reading series. It may be all the work of one particular author,  or through a series such as ‘Harry Potter’. It may even be through a series that parents loved as a child and hope their child will love too.

Sometimes it’s worth considering reading themes, i.e., what sort of genres does your child like to read? Stories from the past? Funny stories? Adventure stories? What does she or he NOT like? Or does your child need a change? Has she or he tried poetry, or non-fiction? Has your child looked through some of the outstanding sophisticated picture books that are making the reading world spin?

When we initiated Bookwagon, a former colleague asked me why we did not stock Michael Morpurgo’s works. Michael Morpurgo is a prolific author, very well known and widely read. We were keen to source the best and most unread titles by Michael Morpurgo;. Yesterday we offered our first discounted package of his lesser known myths and legends- ‘heroes’ series-  to customers.

Some years ago, I was at a reception when one of  these titles was first released to the public. A member of the audience asked the mighty Michael Morpurgo whether he considered Oliver Cromwell a legendary hero; the whole launch was derailed, amusingly and unforgettably. However, I have thought henceforth, ‘who could be included in addition to these three?’ Any suggestions? https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/michael-morpurgo-myths-legends-collection/

We have been inviting young readers to preview new titles. Some of their recommendations can be found in our bookstore. However, others have fed back that the books they read for Bookwagon did not meet our objective of ‘quality children’s books.’ I hope that the titles they are reading now may meet this criteria, for they, like all keen readers, relish the satisfaction of a really good book.

Meanwhile, take a look at our bookstore for unvarnished recommendations by two of our reputable readers, who’ve caught the reading bug, and know a great book when they read one. https://bookwagon.co.uk/product/cogheart/



Lauren Wolk is a bright and shining star

I was stopped in my tracks by ‘Wolf Hollow’ by Lauren Wolk. So often a blurb will suggest the reader will ‘laugh uproariously’ or be greeted by ‘the new Harry Potter’, or, as in the case of ‘Wolf Hollow’, experience a book similar to ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’

Wolf Hollow’ is the exception to my rule of never believing the blurb entirely, for its similarity to ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ in its sensibilities, is valid. This is a book that holds your heart and made me, a reader wallowing in strange times, feel renewed and reinvigorated.

When I’ve really loved a title, I feel anxious when I prepare to read the author’s next work. ‘Beyond the Bright Sea’ (Dutton) is an entirely different book, but it has Lauren Wolk’s subtle, spare approach.  I sensed real value in the way she builds and directs her characters. It has taken me longer to ‘get into it’ but then this is a different kind of book. To some degree I think the isolated setting is reflected in the way I felt a need to take time and care in my approach.

Crow, an orphan discovered as a newborn baby in a skiff in the Elizabeths, islands off the coast of Massachusetts, is raised by Osh, who has escaped his past, and Miss Maggie, a neighbouring pioneer type farmer. They are entirely isolated, yet co-dependent on each other. When Crow begins to question her origins, the world threatens to intrude on their peaceful existence.

Lauren Wolk took a lot of time to be discovered by her readers. I suggest we have a writing star in our midst.  I am delighted to have found her around the same time as initiating Bookwagon. Her press tell us than in addition to the two books we’ve come to know her by, her family, and a 60- hour a week college arts’ role, she is writing a third children’s book, this time set in Arizona. There is no trepidation for me this time; I cannot wait for its release!