We open with a thank you
Recently Bookwagon celebrated two years in operation. We have made so many discoveries along the way.
As a special thank you for being aboard with us, special subscribers and loyal customers are offered a 15% discount on products, aside from those already on offer. Enter the code AUG08 at the checkout. This offer is available until midnight August 12th.
A year ago we developed the Bookwagon site notably. Now, a second year in, we’re revising it anew to include extensions to our subscription programme and further information about services. We have learned so much about the mechanics of websites!
The children in your family, or those with whom you work, will be making discoveries this summer. When I taught, I felt children learned more in their ‘off task’ times than their structured lessons (discuss!)
Bruce Lee said, ‘Life itself is your teacher and you are in a constant state of learning.’ Time to make discoveries is rare in our scheduled lives; summer holidays suggests these possibilities.
A lifetime of discoveries!
Aboard a giant killer jellyfish
Martha in Jelly makes discoveries beyond possibilities. She watches Petrified Pete attempt to escape the killer giant jellyfish upon which they and a post-apocalyptic community are captive. Consequently, she feels her need, and the potential to break away, grow. Is it possible to leave this Kraken that seems to sense the schemes of its inhabitants? What lies ashore, left broken by the travesty of humankind ignoring warnings of climate change and rising water levels?
Jelly by Clare Rees, alongside No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg
Darwin (and some ovis aries)
Mr Bookwagon was awed when he read Darwin: An Exceptional Voyage. Although we know something of Charles Darwin’s discoveries, we know little of his life, research, duration of his voyages, nor his extreme youth when he began his exploration.
Brenda is making culinary discoveries. Mint flavoured sauces are brewing. It seems like Brenda is preparing a thank you for the warmth of her welcome into the sheep community. She’s taught them archery, though attempts at tag have gone awry. Brenda is a Sheep, though a taller sheep than the others, with sharper teeth and a knitted woollen jumper…
Brenda is a Sheep by Morag Hood
Ahead of kd lang’s appearance in concert, I chatted with my neighbour who’d returned from interviewing Michael Sheen about his Homeless World Football Cup. His charity inspires me. Thereafter, I thought of Joe, and the message within a seemingly simple picture book The Extraordinary Gardener by Sam Boughton. Joe sees beyond the sterile hopelessness of a grey world, seeking something exceptional, which he creates through one seed of hope and community.
An extraordinary gardener!
Summertime hopes, seeds and discoveries
Seeds of hope, community and raspberries are sown in Freddie’s Amazing Bakery The Great Raspberry Mix-Up, Harriet Whitehorn’s introduction to a new early chapter book series. I love her deft characterisation and the creativity and charity evident in her lead character. What would he make with a new, improved cooker?
Miranda has never baked despite her recipe collection. Baking is but one of the activity she’d love to try with her mother. Yet her mother avoids any prospect of being close with Miranda. Moreover she rejects all opportunities to share her childhood, or support Miranda through her fears, including a paranoia about water. What discoveries might Miranda make when circumstances mean she must stay at her mother’s childhood home of August Island in The Secret Summer?
The Secret Summer by Ali Standish
From the familiar to the new in early chapter books
Bookwagon has worked determinedly to extend our range of superior early chapter books. We are overjoyed when sequels to much loved series appear, we are overjoyed. Recently, we have welcomed Hotel Flamingo Holiday Heatwave, Pigsticks and Harold and the Tuptown Thief, Rabbit & Bear: A Bite in the Night and King Dave Royalty for Beginners.
Mac B Kid Spy Mac Undercover, and Rabbit & Bear: A Bite in the Night
Alongside ‘Freddie’s Amazing Bakery The Great Raspberry Mix-Up’ we have introduced two new series. The first is another solo effort by one half of the acclaimed Barnett- Klassen writing partnership. Mac B. Kid Spy Mac Undercover sees the 1970’s Californian Game Boy- playing school boy take his first spy mission- for the Queen!
Lolo doesn’t have any missions. However she does have school, skipping, library books and twinkling pavement discoveries! We are delighted to discover Here Comes Lolo and Hooray for Lolo from South Africa.
Pigsticks and Harold and the Tuptown Thief, and Hooray for Lolo
At the London Book Fair, Mr Bookwagon and I pledged to select only the best books relevant to the 50th anniversary of the moon landings, recently celebrated. We delighted upon Pop-up Moon, discovered at that event. Thereafter, we applauded the launch of a superb poetry collection by Brian Moses and James Carter, Spaced Out. Recently, I alighted upon the story of the seamstress charged with designing and making the first garments to be worn by the Apollo 11 crew, in The Spacesuit.
The Spacesuit by Alison Donald & Ariel Landy
To infinity (with a book)
Bookwagon sells books we read and love only. When I am surrounded by mountains of TBR books I find it hard to maintain that pledge. Yet they are laden with discoveries. Two titles read recently transported, moved and overwhelmed me, like the very best books do.
I was reluctant to read Toby Ibbotson’s The Unexpected Find, for the reason that his mother was Eva Ibbotson. What a mistake. From the moment the storm hits town, to its revelatory conclusion, it seemed as though this book held me in its grasp. This is a parable for all readers; wise, joyful and moving.
How can a ‘Grease’ loving, old English sheepdog fearing, bacon afficionado hope to mend his family? Carlie Sorosniak’s I, Cosmo is an empathetic, funny, insightful, Sandy-fluffed story. It is glorious!
I, Cosmo, and The Unexpected Find
We hope you are making wonderful discoveries during your summer.
With our thanks, and warm reading wishes
In the basement of my grandparents’ house hung a shark’s jaw of teeth. My grandfather had captured the shark on one of his deep sea fishing adventures. I would touch the points of the teeth trepidatiously and wonder. Upstairs, in the sun room, stood a near fossilised swordfish’s sword. Today, it stands in my sister’s sitting room. I wonder if her family think about about the story of this item.
Grandad was a John Wayne/ Steve McQueen type of man. He survived Gallipoli. His bride nursed him before emigrating from genteel SW London for New Zealand’s untamed wilderness. Grandad broke that wilderness to create a sheep farm. Grandad was not an empathetic husband, father or grandfather. Yet I loved him when he sat me on his lap to tell me stories of whales and the oceans.
Forming the character
Like most of my mother’s family, I was terrified of my grandfather, aside from these times he would tell me stories. During these interludes, I felt close and able to build my own impression of him. I drank in the smell of Scotch and cigarettes. I felt the fabric of his shirt, the stretch of his braces. His sinewy arms, with their faded sailor tattoo, fascinated me. I saw the curl of his hair at the back of his head and compared it to my mother’s curls.
My grandmother was a storyteller. Her tales of childhood, her siblings, boarding school and nursing threaten to become a story one day.
A Room Full of Chocolate
Grandparents offer a wealth of storytelling potential. Jane Elson showed discord and misunderstanding between a parent and grandparent in her gripping A Room Full of Chocolate. One of Mr Bookwagon’s favourite titles, Hour of the Bees has the main character desperate for her grandfather to ‘tell me stories’ to make sense of her life.
Hour of the Bees
This week, we included A Witch Come True the third part of James Nicol’s warm- as- buttered- toast stories about Arianwyn aboard the wagon. I felt reassured whenever our main character’s grandmother was present. She enabled Arianwyn to confirm her instincts and role.
A Witch Come True
Stories recalled and left to tell
Alice Melvin created Grandma’s House, a lift-the-flap, picture book memoir of her grandmother’s home. This visit invites us to join her as she revisits nooks and crannies, mementoes and her grandmother’s history. Alice Melvin’s forever picture book tells me stories of love and familiarity.
When I Was a Child is a lyrical fantasy of memory and stories. Nostalgia for a golden age of wonder and possibilities is bridged by a greying sadness at the passing of time and a loss of hope. The child who picks up the story demonstrates empathy and positivism in her response to her elder. There is still wonder. Possibilities exist. The words and pictures are like a kaleidoscope of stardust.
When I Was a Child
My history, our history
At the turn of the twentieth century, dance and deportment teachers over sixty years of age were unlikely adventurers. Award-winning picture book maker Chris Van Allsburg recreates the story of Annie Taylor, the first person to ride a barrel over the Niagara Falls, in Queen of the Falls. I appreciate the dramatic way her story unfolds, from her ‘Eureka’ moment.
Queen of the Falls
Some years ago, I read Joseph O’Connor’s ‘Star of the Sea‘. A little way in, I realised the passage of Irish emigration described would have been similar to that taken by my great-grandmother and her parents. They travelled from the county of Leinster in the same year as that story. I smelled the ship, felt the fear, sadness and sense of possibility. The writer created a connection to someone I never met. There was a sense this long ago relative might tell me stories.
Stories that don’t measure up…
Maggie follows the most important rule of all, ‘Never go beyond the boundary.’ Her younger brother Trig urges her to ‘tell me stories’ of how the wanderers over the boundary attacked the Wetheral family. Her older brother, Jed, is an eldest, destined for heroism upon his fourteenth birthday. when he will head to fight The Quiet War. The Middler is a story of acceptance, honour and sacrifice. What happens when Maggie steps over the boundary and changes the stories of Fennis Wick?
Emmet and Caleb have little in common. One awakens early, while the other lies awake star gazing. One digs for nature or tinkers, while the other naps. We wonder at their friendship when they are such different characters. Yet Emmet and Caleb know and respect each other. Across a year, we view their friendship. This is an intelligent and heartfelt storytelling.
Emmett and Caleb
Reading Rocks South West
I caught some of writer Maz Evan’s presentation at Reading Rocks South West. Aside from her star-spinning Who Let the Gods Out? series, Maz teaches creative writing to children and writing. She recommends that writing is a ‘stew pot’ into which the first necessary ingredient is character. It makes sense.
When I read, I want to know the character. When I meet someone, I want to know the character. In sitting with my grandfather, or listening to my grandmother, I longed for them to tell me stories. Maggie, or Arianwyn, or Annie Taylor, or all the other wonderful characters whom I meet in reading every book we sell, tell me stories.
Annie Edson Taylor and barrel
Into the world
In the aftermath of the horrors of the terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern offered the victims’ stories. She sought to recognise and respect them. Such action has provoked empathy and a sense that New Zealand, as a nation, might chorus, ‘We are one’.
Listening to, sharing and reading stories, builds knowledge and understanding of different characters within a tolerant and communicative society. What are your stories?
The benefits of reading for pleasure
There are constant educational debates about children’s reading, from best methods to learn, to best titles to choose. Children’s bookselling is a better avenue for my vigorous education in and devotion to children’s literature.
However, I leapt into action when a message appeared on social media asking for advice as to why reading for pleasure is essential. A new Headteacher had determined to remove it from the messenger’s school timetable. Children who read for pleasure are at an advantage over their peers, all evidence proves. From academic results, social interaction, self esteem and employment opportunities, reading for pleasure enables. Reading for pleasure improves children’s mental health.
Immersed in reading
Mental wellbeing in reading children is three times better than their peers, states research from the National Literacy Trust:- The effects of reading on mental health well being.
Reading reduces stress levels by 60%. Levels of empathy improve through reading fiction. Readers who continue to read into later life demonstrate a mental decline 32% lower than their contemporaries.
The benefits of reading for pleasure are measurable by scientists, but immeasurable to the reader.
The benefits of reading for pleasure for our youngest readers
Babies and infants offered opportunities to share stories have a head start. Educators around Britain are concerned at recent research revealing the declining literacy skills in 4-8 year olds. Many nurseries and Reception classes report children arriving at their premises unable to create full sentences. This inadequacy threatens their academic and social progress inexorably.
Children who share stories from an early age build vocabulary and engage in spoken sentences. They participate in rhyme. They realise how stories are formed. Stories give these emergent readers sound starting points. Picture books offer context, and suggest opportunities to question and connect.
Early reading experience
Some picture books with which early readers might engage
Readers are invited to hide, seek, play and question in Vivienne Schwarz’s There Are Cats in this Book, its companion piece There are NO cats in this book and Is There a Dog in This Book? These books are adventurous, engaging and ready to share.
Young readers building experience will enjoy the frustration and message offered in Baabwaa & Wooliam and Read the Book, Lemmings! Such readers realise the value of reading through bonding, modelling, and their security in the benefits of reading for pleasure.
Read the Book, Lemmings!
Familiarity with stories suggests young readers will love There is No Dragon in This Story. Can Dragon ever be the hero? Will every story book depict him the same way?
There is NO Dragon In This Story
Through the bad times
I feel vulnerable without a book. It is a constant friend. My mother passed me a book when I was very young, constantly. I had a very adult- overladen childhood, through which books were my shelter and escape. Such escapism helped me connect as well as disappear. i had something to share and a source of wonder and comfort.
Books for newly independent readers
Sunny helps the ghosts who live in his parents’ Devon antique shop in Sunny and the Ghosts. He arranges piano lessons and offers ways for them to escape their confines. He helps one of the ghosts to read. Sunny recognises that reading is an escape for everyone.
Sunny and the Ghosts
Property Jones is ashamed to reveal her deepest secret to her family in The Bookshop Girl. She lives with the benefits of reading for pleasure, and longs to engage.
The Bookshop Girl
Tilly engages completely. She connects in an way that offers complete, and dangerous, escape, in the inspiring Pages & Co Tilly and the Book Wanderers.
Pages & Co. Lily and the Book Wanderers
A dash of bibliotherapy
A couple of my book group subscribe to this blog. Since establishing Bookwagon, I have fallen by the wayside of reading adult books. I feel guilty about this at each meeting. The group shares its reading experiences, offering how the books make them feel. I am engaged and inspired by this discussion. Talking about books I’ve read and have in common with other readers connects and empowers me.
Sharing books and tea
Reading helps us learn how to be
Sally Jones, the protagonist of the magnificent The Murderer’s Ape reads. She realises that reading will help her understand what it is to be a human.
The Murderer’s Ape
Three books given to her by her teacher are Joan’s most precious possessions. She aspires to live as Jane Eyre. Reading enables Joan escape and reinvention as The Hired Girl
The Hired Girl
Reading was a foundation to each woman selected in Kate Pankhurst’s Fantastically Great Women Who Worked Wonders. These trailblazing women overcame odds and obstacles to learn, share and discover.
Fantastically Great Women Who Worked Wonders
There is a deeper story beyond the side-aching comedy of The Book Case An Emily Lime Mystery. What are the reasons that Daphne Blakeway been deposited to St Rita’s so ruthlessly? Who is vandalising and thieving school library books? Books offer clues, companionship and connection in Dave Shelton’s absorbing mystery.
The Book Case An Emily Lime Mystery
Reading helps us question and wonder
Bookwagon welcomes new publishing house Scallywag Press aboard. It offers two magnificent titles in Hat Tricks by the acclaimed Satoshi Kitamura and The Wall in the Middle of the Book.
It seems natural to read the second, a clever title by Jon Agee, and consider a certain 2016 US election pledge. Readers of all ages will seek to reread, consider and discuss the story within the story.
Scallywag Press titles
‘Hat Tricks‘ meanwhile, is fascinating! I found myself reading back through the book seeking Hattie’s reaction to what is going on with her hat! (Watch the cat, meanwhile!)
Reading helps us cope, dare and understand
Lenny worries about her mother, handkerchief folds and her absent father. Most of all she worries about the excessive growth of her younger brother, Davey. Could an instalment of Burrell’s Build-it-at-Home Encyclopaedia reveal an answer? The benefits of reading for pleasure are constant for Davey, and Lenny, in Karen Foxlee’s Lenny’s Book of Everything
Lenny’s Book of Everything
In a battered hat box, Semira discovers Henrietta’s diary. Both girls are trapped for different reasons, in different times and settings. Yet a sympathetic connection, through frustration and fear, ignites courage and possibility. I was absorbed and moved by Gill Lewis’s The Closest Thing to Flying.
The Closest Thing to Flying
Mr Ponzio is called upon to help Harold Snipperpot who has never had a birthday party. Yet his parents’ relationship that has left this young boy ‘extra sad’. What Mr Ponzio arranges becomes Harold Snipperpot’s Best Disaster Ever by Beatrice Alemagna.
Harold Snipperpot’s Best Disaster Ever
Reading is pleasurable
I trust the Headteacher doubting the benefits of reading for pleasure is convinced. As writer Nora Ephron said:- ‘“Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real.”