Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Rose Campion and the Curse of the Doomstone - review

When famous actress Lydia Duchamps visits the lively Campion’s music hall to see the Great Gandini performing his magic act, she is wearing the famed, but possibly cursed, Doomstone diamond. 

Then, in a packed theatre, it is stolen. Is it part of some trick? 
Rose Campion and her friend Aurora (the other half of a bicycle act at the run-down, but much-loved theatre), respond to this intriguing mystery and soon find plenty of shady goings-on when they turn detective.

This is a lively mystery that makes the most of its energetic Victorian theatrical setting. Lyn Gardner brilliantly creates a truly colourful atmosphere of life behind stage. There is an eccentric cast list of showbiz folk, all shady in their own way, all making a living not being what they seem. Other London landmarks, such as the grim Newgate Gaol add gritty historical ambience. 

Rose and her theatre friends are a great bunch of sleuths and their relationships give the story a lot of heart. They never know when they are beaten and fight for the scattered strays that have made Campions their home. 

The clues and red herrings stack up satisfyingly, then the stakes ramp up when the mystery becomes a murder – also committed in a packed theatre.

The plot keeps twisting in a very clever way. Whoever the reader next suspects is bound to be revealed to have a totally different secret to the one you thought! 

A gutsy intelligent heroine, brilliant setting, an intriguing mystery, clever and with enough plot twists to keep young sleuths guessing. Great stuff.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Covers of my Book are Too Far Apart (and other grumbles) – Vivian French & Nigel Baines - Review

The Covers of my Book are Too Far Apart (and other grumbles), is a unique and inspired picture book that tackles the matter of reluctance to read head on by carefully and amusingly putting a positive counterargument for many of the common ’justifications’ for not reading.

The books is simple formatted with a character that gives their personal justification for not reading; ‘Reading’s rubbish,’ ‘I don’t have the time to read’, and ‘I can’t find a book I like’, to name a few and then shows other vibrantly visualised characters sharing their solutions to the reason while encouraging the character to reconsider their stance and give reading another chance. 

Having raised two children and helped them on their journey from reluctant readers to avid readers, plus my experiences of bookselling and helping out in schools, I’ve heard each and every one of the justifications for not reading that are addressed in this book, and have myself used the counter points and so I find this book a breath of fresh air. ‘The Covers of my Book are Too Far Apart (and other grumbles)’, is an accessible and light-hearted way of encouraging children (and adults) to reconsider their preconceptions about reading. The book cleverly highlights many peoples anxieties about reading and shows that reading, when given the chance can be rewarding whilst demonstrating that reading is personal and that each person can experience and enjoy reading in their own way.

Coming from publisher Barrington Stoke, it may be no surprise that ‘The Covers of my Book are Too Far Apart (and other grumbles)’ also illustrates the plights of people who find reading difficult, and in a nurturing manor shows alternative ways of accessing books, like audio books, and e-books, along with explaining ways that make reading easier like using coloured lenses or filters. But most importantly and reassuringly, it shows in print and pictures that finding reading difficult is not uncommon, and that there are many people who find decoding words and letter challenging. Sometimes knowing you are not alone is all you need to help you persevere.

‘The Covers of my Book are Too Far Apart (and other grumbles)’, is not only an accessible book that can engage reluctant readers and encourage to them to read, but it also a valuable resource for promoting empathy and understanding to children whom don’t have difficulties accessing the written word, to the challenges of children who do.

In short I would love to see a copy of ‘The Covers of my Book are Too Far Apart (and other grumbles)’ in every classroom and library, to encourage reluctant and challenged readers to pick up a book, and to help other children to be emphatic and encouraging to their classmates who may find books intimidating. 

Having said that, ‘The Covers of my Book are Too Far Apart (and other grumbles)’ would be equally placed on a home bookshelf, as it also doubles as manifesto of reader’s rights, mirroring in a child (and parent) friendly way many of the concepts of Daniel Pennac and Quentin Blake’s ‘Rights of the Reader’, by reassuring that it is OK to stop reading a book that you are not enjoying.

Lastly, I must take my hat off to ‘The Covers of my Book are Too Far Apart (and other grumbles)’ creators; wordsmith Vivian French, illustrator Nigel Baines and publishers Barrington Stoke for tapping into the current zeitgeist and shining a light on an accept of publishing that has long been under represented.

The Covers of my Book are Too Far Apart (and other grumbles) is in short; a brave and engaging book with positive messages which is effectively a love letter reading, but more than that, it is a humorous and charming picture book, which can be enjoyed for its story alone.