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!)




Under a Super Blue Blood Moon

Under a Super Blue Blood Moon

From January:-

The end of the first month of 2018 is portentous. A super blue blood moon, where a blue moon, total lunar eclipse and super moon, coincide, is due. The best places to observe this phenomenon are Hawaii, Alaska, eastern Russia, Australia, New Zealand or western North America. For me, I predict a  last minute run to cloudy disappointment.

January has felt rather like a hibernation for Bookwagon. We have been unwell and overwhelmed with work. Now we are emerging, rather like the crocuses outside the kitchen window, ready to blossom, but full of books.

To February:-

Next week we will begin a hugely busy period of exhibition book fairs, school book fairs, author visits and festivals. These run until the summer holiday. It feels like being a outsider in the stalls ahead of a Grand National!

The excitement is increased by the quality of guests with whom we are working- Clara Vulliamy, SF Said, Jane Ray, Katherine Rundell, Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet, Robin Stevens… and that’s just to spring! It’s heightened again at the prospect, as from next week, of sharing some of the fantastic books we’ve been reading with an audience.

Bookwagon is exclusive for a number of reasons. We have reason to believe we are the only independent online children’s bookshop in the country. Every book we sell has been read by us. That is unique. There is not a time in the day that the Bookwagon team is not carrying, considering, or reading, children’s books.

To books:-

The start of the year coincides with one of the year’s major publishing release dates. We have read through many, many titles and welcome some wonderful new books to our shop. These include:-

For younger readers:-

I Am The Wolf…. And Here I Come! Just imagine the countdown, the sustained anticipation, the laugh, the chase, the tickle! Delightful bedtime reading that we love!

From the same publishing house comes the lushly hued, temptingly rhyming and keenly contextual Gus’s Garage. Watch Gus’s pile of miscellaneous junk become essential to the progress of each visiting customer. It’s an enticing read!

There’s rhyme, a very familiar refrain, included in Ten Fat Sausages although the story is rather unpredictable and great fun! What happens if the sausages don’t want to ‘pop‘ or ‘bang‘ but have other plans? How sensible is a sausage? (There’s a question I’d never expected to write!)

Other additions to the Bookwagon shelves for younger readers include The Perfect Guest discovered after its successor, Dog in Boots. I’m always happy to find ‘new’ writers, and Paula Metcalf’s books are warm, funny and very readable. 

A friend recommended Tiger in a Tutu to me. I love Fabi Santiago’s inspiration. The majesty of Max’s performance across Paris can be imagined! We want him to have his moment in the spotlight so much!

Picture books for older readers:-

Recently, celebrated picture book writer Oliver Jeffers posted pictures of his home on social media- Oliver and Suzanne Jeffers’ Brooklyn apartment. I observed his bookshelves microscopically, and discovered this gem, Mr Peek And The Misunderstanding At The Zoo. It is reminiscent of Jacques Tati’s Monsieur Hulot. The comedy is intense and completely over the head of the main character, Mr Peek.

Oliver Jeffers collaborated with Drew Daywalt for the best-selling The Day the Crayons Quit. That writer has progressed to another American US bestselling title with The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors. This demands to be read with a WWF MC voice- ‘Let’s get ready to rumble…’

Every time I look at another new, American title, I smile. It is SO ridiculous, so captivating. Read the Book, Lemmings! is already a favourite of mine. It reminds of me Chris Haughton’s award-winning Shh! We Have a Plan yet with greater complexity of plot and picture context.

Non-fiction picture books:-

We are blessed by a progressive market of children’s non-fiction and reference books. There is an appreciation that children deserve something more certain than websites to investigate and learn from. In our lives and professions, reference books have been committed certainties.

Fooled Ya! explores the science of the brain. It explains and shows how the brain works and may be tricked by optical illusions, con tricks, magic and, even, fortune telling. If is compelling, fascinating and very informative. As someone who was less confident in the science subjects, I feel so lucky to have a chance to learn anew through great books like this, and others we have unearthed. 

Books like What We See In The Stars have been a revelation. After reading this for our bookshop last week, I found myself answering questions about constellations in a University Challenge competition between Newcastle and Bristol! I’ve watched Mr Bookwagon’s greater consciousness of the science of time time since he read Just a Second. This demands contemplation and rereading. There is so much to explore and think about included!

Comparisons galore, weird facts, asides and anomalies are offered in Marc Martin’s, factual Richard Scarry like Lots. I read this today, only, and am determined that it is included in our book fair next week. What I could tell you about Mongolia! 

Next week Britain will commemorate a century since women were given the vote (this same year my home country will celebrate 125 years of women’s suffrage.) There are some tremendous books that support the efforts of the suffragettes and women who have made a difference to our lives. These include:- Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World and its successor, Fantastically Great Women Who Made History. One of the women included in Kate Pankhurst’s list of great women is Mary Anning. I knew a little about her, but not that she inspired the tongue twister, ‘She sells seashells…‘ and that’s just the start of some amazing facts uncovered by Laurence Anholt in Stone Girl Bone Girl


Continuing the theme of women’s suffrage is an outstanding new collection of short stories written by some of Britain’s most celebrated children’s writers. While I often feel rather apprehensive of compilations, that the quality of writing is not of the same standard throughout, Make More Noise! hits every spot with aplomb! This is an essential, diverse and superb selection, worthy of the anniversary and its title.

I have been captured by a new older reader book. Its sensitivity, the sense of being a confidante to our protagonist’s unravelling and interpretations of the world are so real. I love Counting by 7s devotedly.

If you’re still here and not longing for the next blue moon, you’re in for a treat. We are turning off the delivery charge for our books by way of thanks for your loyalty during our relative hibernation. It’s time for Bookwagon to emerge and ‘Make some noise, rumble, pop and bang!’ We’ve some outstanding new books to share, and we’re rather excited!

Happy reading!


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