My blog posts are erratic despite best intentions to write fortnightly. Like many, I am time, sleep and leisure poor. It seems life is about working through the rush. It could be television binge watching, a seven-minute workout, or 30-minute no fuss dinners. Recently, Bake Off winner, Nadiya Hussain created ‘Time to Eat‘. She offered ‘recipes designed to help us all save time and calm our hectic lives’.
What is the rush? Who is counting down? Furthermore, are we permitted time to read?
Bookwagon is on an autumn tour, from Somerset to Surrey, North London to the Midlands. The journeys allow us time to read and a lot of time to catch up and make discoveries. We are captives in the car. We talk about the books we’ve read and enjoyed. I’ve realised anew how much Mr Bookwagon loves the series initiated by Rory Branagan, Detective He feels Lucy Strange is amongst his favourite middle grade writers- The Secret of Nightingale Wood and Our Castle By The Sea.
Reading on the move
I’m reminded of how important it is to have time to talk about the books we’ve read. There are book groups, obviously, and schemes built around books, but what about the reading? Isn’t that most valuable?
The Somerset Tsunami by Emma Carroll
It was an honour to popup within the esteemed gathering of the annual Somerset Literacy Network meeting. Speakers included Charlotte Hacking and Farrah Serroukh (CLPE- Centre for Literacy in Primary Education). Both emphasised the need for educators to take time to read and consider what they are reading with their classes. The pair spoke about the role of pictures in reading, emphasising the value of taking time to develop visual literacy. They encouraged the company to absorb the view and pitch perfect text in picture books like those from guest Joseph Coelho.
Somerset Literacy Network Bookwagon popup
Guest Nicola Davies spoke of time anew. She asked us to consider the three hundred years it takes for an oak tree to grow to full maturity.
Later, guest Laura Carlin shared her sketchbook. She asked us to contemplate the time it has taken her to grow into the illustrator and designer she is now. We were reminded of how important it is to be allowed to be wrong, erase, review and view.
From acorn to oak…
Laura Carlin’s sketchbook
Bookwagon supports and arranges visits by writers and illustrators. We know the value of these to schools. School funding issues and the rigidity of school timetables can make these difficult. Indirect, deep learning potential of school visits may not be realised because of dense school schedules. Do these schools allow time to chat and discover, and time to read?
The ticking clock
We are all working to deadlines. Nadiya Hussain repeated, ‘In our time short world….‘ We watch Noel and Sandi shouting about how much time the GBBO contestants have to perfect their jaw-dropping crafts. Thereafter, we block our ears to Gregg Wallace’s or Joe Lycett’s warnings, or Michelle Ogundehin’s footsteps approaching as would-be designers fluff their cushions ahead of deadline. It is little wonder that so many viewers enjoy ‘The Repair Shop’. Craftsmanship is valued over a time limit, here.
Migrations, 2019 nominee for BAMB Beautiful Book Award
A consideration of targets
Who sets these targets? What do they determine? What are we seeking? Does everyone step to the same beat?
Could it be, as Nicola Davies and I considered, that animals, such as dolphins and whales, are superior to us in that they follow a natural rhythm? Artificial goals, affirmation through targets, the need for ‘things’ do not determine worth or happiness.
Dolphin, Cedar Key, Florida
Deadlines for writers
In Spring 2020, we are promised ‘The Mirror and the Light’, the third, long awaited,final book of Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell trilogy. The writer said, ‘“When I began work on my Thomas Cromwell books back in 2005, I had high hopes, but it took time to feel out the full scope of the material. I didn’t know at first I would write a trilogy, but gradually I realised the richness and fascination of this extraordinary life. I hope they will stay with me as we walk the last miles of Cromwell’s life, ascending to unprecedented riches and honour and abruptly descending to the scaffold at Tower Hill. This book has been the greatest challenge of my writing life, and the most rewarding; I hope and trust my readers will find it has been worth the wait.”
Worth the wait…. We’ve been aware this year, of writers at the end of their tether, desperate to meet deadlines. These are writers whose income and self-belief depends on meeting deadlines. Bills, edits and thereafter, sales concern them. We can at least offer them the courtesy of taking time to read their works.
The Adventures of Harry Stevenson
Recent Desert Island Discs’ guest Lin-Manuel Miranda of ‘Hamilton‘ says he gets his best ideas from ‘listening to people’s stories‘, and ‘playing around in my imagination.’
When Nicola Davies discussed her poignant picture book,Perfect she reminded us about swifts. She explained their design enables them to fly continually for two years, so that their lives are on the wing. They ‘live meaningful lives’.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first chosen disc, ‘Cabaret’, reminds us that ‘it isn’t that long a stay.’ So, let’s take time to read. Reading offers possibilities, avenues, explanations, questions, affirmation that ‘We’re all right.’ Aren’t we all better for taking this time?
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
Do you know we read every book we sell? Every word written about every book we sell is from our own reading experience? This means that families and schools seeking recommendations can depend on Bookwagon. We are able to offer a selection of books confidently because we know every book we stock.
School grandparents’ day
What we do
We read every book we sell. If we like a book, we write about it. We have an enormous TBR (to be read) pile. Some very popular titles are on our TBR pile. There is greater attention paid to writers/ picture book makers of very popular books, so we are not unduly concerned. What about the new writer or picture book maker? The creator who’s taken a punt on something different? A writer or picture book maker from another country, or a title from a smaller publishing house, that is less visible.
Jump (Gecko Press)
How we find our books
I search for books constantly. Currently I am compiling unique book lists for two schools where we are contracted as reading consultants. I think about our gift book readers. Each has a list where I note possible titles constantly, seeking to fit each reader’s preference and need.
Bookwagon HQ + assistant
I read lists from international press. That’s how I discovered Martin Brown, best known as the artist for ‘Horrible Histories’. Martin Brown’s Lesser Spotted Animals received two starred American national book of the year reviews at the conclusion of 2017. After reading and describing the title for Bookwagon, I recommended and sold it there, through gift book subscription and at popup school book fairs. It was a privilege to be the bookseller that supported Martin Brown’s visit to a Hampshire primary school ahead of the Spring school holidays as he launched Martin Brown’s Lesser Spotted Animals 2.
Martin Brown, signing, school visit
Martin Brown’s Lesser Spotted Animals 2
Bookwagon readers are a huge source of information. This week, I received a letter from one of our gift book subscribers. This month her gift book subscription choice was The Midnight Hour. She was exultant. For two pages she described the story and contemplated the advantages of each Pooka. (I choose Hare, incidentally.)
The Midnight Hour- Benjamin Read & Laura Trinder
This child is a reader. Books entertain, extend and enthral her. She loves the opportunity to explore new worlds. This reader seeks ‘forever’ books to sustain and delight.
A letter from a reader
I learned of adventure writer Dan Smith through my godson who received Boy X for his ninth birthday. This reader told me that Bookwagon must track down Dan Smith’s books. We have loved reading Dan Smith consequently, with Mr Bookwagon recently describing She Wolf.
She Wolf- Dan Smith
This is that godson reading ‘She Wolf‘ on Easter Sunday:-
Bookwagon Easter Sunday reader
Press far and wide
I seek information about new releases, or titles of interest, through the global press, book fairs, publishing houses, certain social media sources and international book awards. We read every book we sell. It is imperative to be able to offer the broadest range of quality children’s titles.
Blackbird Fly- Erin Entrada Kelly
I discovered Erin Entrada Kelly and Dan Santat through the American Library Association Awards. Titles such as Blackbird Fly and After the Fall are a privilege to know and recommend.
After the Fall- Dan Santat
Writers and picture book makers
Discovering a great writer and picture book maker encourages us to seek other titles they have created. Have You Seen My Blankie? is an original, rhyming reading journey. I sought to read other works by Lucy Rowland, thereafter. The Knight Who Said, “NO!” and Little Red Reading Hood have been ideal additions to our Bookwagon.
Have You Seen Blankie?- Lucy Rowland
Cath Howe’s stirring Ella on the Outside has been a favourite Bookwagon reading selection. I read her follow-up Not My Fault in one sitting. Then I described it for our readers, for we read every book we sell.
Not My Fault- Cath Howe
Why do we read every book we sell?
I was frequently asked for reading recommendations by children, colleagues and parents when I taught. This counsel increased over the years. I was aware parents and colleagues were time poor, although we were information saturated. We started at a time in which numbers of public libraries, school libraries and independent bookshops are in decline. Public media seldom gives a platform to children’s literature despite its importance to our society.
Sam Usher, Bookwagon school event
We needed to hit the ground running in creating Bookwagon. To that end, we have not formed a physical shop- yet. We did not want to have to offer coffee, cake, gifts and stationery to enable survival. Bookwagon is focused on children’s books alone. We offer recommendations based on the fact we read every book we sell. I have a long experience and specialism in reading and children’s literature. Bookwagon recommendations are available immediately whether online, through personal contact or popup event.
Bookwagon makes a stand
A Golden Age of Children’s Literature
I listened to a recent broadcast focused upon children’s literature- BBC Radio 4 Front Row Golden Age of Children’s Books? A speaker suggested ‘There are better books being published than at any other time.’ I agree. There is a greater choice and higher quality of titles. However, ‘We are drowning out fine children’s books’. A proliferation of overly familiar titles, authors and themes, a ready availability of cheap, disposable books result in better books not reaching their deserved reading audience.
A Bookwagon reader
Bookwagon is tiny and new. However we are determined to do our best to bring good books to readers. We read every book we sell, proudly.