Brum Radio Book Show: My April Recommendations

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Wonderful, Marvellous, Hurrah!

Earlier today I was lucky enough to be invited on the Brum Radio Book Show again to share some of my favourite recent reads. This time I wanted to big up the Midlands Massive and share some of our wonderful local talent. Oh, and talking of local brilliance, big shout out to all involved in The Brum Radio Book Show, which is a truly marvellous thing! It’s well worth a listen, although be warned: tuning in WILL result in multiple new book purchases, as the titles recommended and discussed by Blake, Mike and Catherine all sound great. Luckily for you though, they’ve done a deal with Birmingham Waterstones, so you can buy the book of the month (currently Different Class by Joanne Harris) at a heftily discounted rate. Hurrah!

You can listen to April’s Brum Radio Book Show here.

The following books featured as my recommendations:

Don’t Call Me Choochie Pooh written by Sean Taylor and illustrated by Kate Hindley

choochie poo

Don’t Call Me Choochie Pooh is the perfect picture book for anyone three or over. Sean Taylor, the writer here, also to be much applauded for his Hoot Owl Master of Disguise, is a Booksagogo favourite. Kate Hindley is the illustrator and Birmingham resident of glory. She has an incredible knack for drawing animals with ‘telling’ expressions on their faces and our Choochie Pooh is no exception. See here on the front cover: he’s properly miffed because:

  1. He’s wearing a big, pink, floppy bow.
  2. He gets carted round in a handbag all day.
  3. He’s called Choochie Pooh.

What he wants to do instead is romp around the park, play with the other dogs and roll in muddy puddles. Does he get to do this? You’ll have to buy it to find out! I’ll say no more, except it’s a wonderful book to read aloud and share with others. Good stuff!

Oh, and if you’re after a book for slightly older children (7-12years) but still want to chuckle at Kate’s amazing art, you should definitely check out Jumblecat by Archie Kimpton– another winning read.

The Next Together by Lauren James

My other choice is The Next Together by Lauren James. This is a BIG story and you should get it straight away if you want something to binge read and get really immersed in.

It’s the story of Matthew and Kate. They meet at Nottingham University in 2039 as science undergraduates, and both immediately get that strong feeling that they’ve met before. They have, but more than that, in their past lives they’ve fallen in love and been tragically separated many times.

Lauren James chooses three pasts to show us…

  1. 1745 and the Jacobean uprising
  2. 1854 and the Crimean War
  3. 2019, and on the brink of the next world war.

…which are events Kate and Matthew are in some way linked to.

I was sucked right into this book and hardly came up for breath. The intrigue for me was ‘Why are Kate and Matthew playing out this tragic love story again and again? What force is driving it and can or should they break the cycle?’ Gripping stuff. Get reading now and you’ll be ready for the sequel which comes out in the Autumn.


Brum Radio Book Club: My January Top Reads

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The Brum Radio Book Club

For those who don’t know, I’ve been lucky enough to be asked to talk a bit about children’s books on Brum Radio‘s book show,¬†The Brum Radio Book Club. I can’t tell you how lovely it’s been to be asked to do this and must thank Mike and Blake who do the show for inviting me to get involved. I’m currently working my way up to listening to the show later on today and feel quite terrified of hearing myself, but will be quickly getting over this as soon as I’ve written this post.

The last time I was on the radio I was about ten I think: Coventry’s finest station, Mercia Sound, played a recording of my class and me reciting our Band Aid inspired Christmas poem. It was an epic occasion destined to be recorded on an old C60 and then lost sometime in the 90s. Probably recorded over with some Morrissey I would imagine.

So, for the show I chose three new books to talk about, covering the primary age range. If you want to read the original posts you’ll find them if you scroll down. To listen to January’s Brum Radio Book Club, here’s the link. It’s really, really good *and also Jonathan Coe, local literary hero, is being interviewed about his new book Number 11 too, and he is a pleasure to listen to**.

Here are my recommendations for January:

How to Find Gold by Viviane Schwarz


How to Find Gold is a picture book with a big personality, suitable for sharing with children of three years plus and will especially appeal to parents and teachers who enjoy doing ‘voices’ as there’s a good bit of speech to play with. Anna and Crocodile are after gold by use of maps, ‘secret faces’ and the implementation of much adventuring.

Why should you choose this book?

Firstly it’s a hoot: really funny, in a dry way that works wonderfully and will definitely appeal to the adults who will be reading it time and time again. With funny books recently found in a Scholastic survey to be the most popular genre for kids and adults, this has got to be good and Schwarz proves that picture books can do this just as well, if not better, than books for older children.

I also really like the way Schwarz plays with how the story is broken up. Sometimes there’s a full page of text, on others maybe just one sentence. There are actually a few pages simply devoted to pure blissful illustration, but as our friends Anna and Crocodile are underwater at this point and can’t therefore speak, that of course makes total sense.

What children can rely on with every fresh turn of the page are the presence of those gorgeous drawings. What child (or adult) doesn’t love that, especially as the pictures here grow bigger, brighter and more exciting as the adventure really gets going! Every aspect of this book amplifies the joyousness of reading and hands it over to young readers at a crucial time. Possibly even better than finding gold!

GGGGG A picture book of true glory. I love.

gold inner


The Adventures of Miss Petitfour by Anne Michaels, Illustrated by Emma Block

miss petitfour amended

“Some adventures are so small, you hardly know they’ve happened. Like the adventure of sharpening a pencil to a perfect point, just before it breaks and that little bit get stuck in the sharpener. That, I think we’ll agree, is a very small adventure.”

A delicious hardback: part charming story and part object of great beauty due to Emma Block’s illustrations. Suitable for children aged seven plus and probably more likely to appeal to girls, it’s ideal for bedtime reading or would be great as a class reader as each chapter is a whole different adventure. Also, for this reason it’s a good choice for children new to independent reading as it gives all the joy and pride of reading a ‘proper book’ whilst kindly providing bite-sized servings for gentle souls.

Meet Miss Petitfour:

miss p amended

Isn’t she a delight? Miss Petitfour lives in a marvellous world of cats, chums, baking, bunting and breezes. Firstly, the cats: she has sixteen of them, often be-hatted and occasionally be-jewelled. We learn that cats enjoy festooning to an expert level. Each cat of course comes with its own picture and description.¬†Adventures start with Miss Petitfour and all sixteen cats travelling by flying tablecloth, usually to the local village which is like a really ace mix of Totnes, Hay on Wye and Camberwick Green. The style of tablecloth is dependent on the kind of day and the time of year, but blustery days are obviously the best sort. Cats, we also learn, enjoy flying greatly:

“The cats liked to be aired. They liked to feel the wind pick up every one of their hairs and set them down again, gently, as if the wind were looking for something.”

Once they’re up and away, all manner of escapades can and do occur. One even involved an ‘oom’. But I’ve said too much. You need to investigate this further and without me.

A book to bring warmth and joy this January and is sure to be picked from the book shelf time and time again.

GGGGG I really, really wish this was non-fiction.

How to Look for a Lost Dog by Ann M Martin

lost dog

“I am Rose Howard and my first name has a homonym. To be accurate, it has a homophone, which is a word that’s pronounced the same as another word but spelled differently. My homophone name is Rows.”

How to Look for a Lost Dog has recently been released on January 1st and sets a high bar for the year. Ideal for children aged nine years plus and also appropriate for Key Stage Three, this is all about Rose.¬†Rose is a high functioning autistic eleven year old girl telling her own story. Rose tells us a lot about her fascination with homonyms. She also likes prime numbers and following rules. It’s important that everyone follows the rules and when they don’t, Rose gets upset and her aide (the book’s set in America, so this is her TA) has to ask her to step into the hall to calm down.

It seems that everyone finds it hard to see past Rose’s diagnosis: her classmates, her teacher, her father too. Ann M Martin has written this so that at first, we too might feel a little overwhelmed by Rose’s personality. On the other hand it’s easy to number those that do totally understand and accept Rose: her lovely Uncle Weldon and her dog Rain (reign, rein).

It’s watching how well-adjusted Rose is despite her daily life that makes this one of those stories that slightly takes over your life for the duration of reading. Add to that the knowledge that sooner or later we know Rain is going to go missing, and it becomes almost un-put-downable. This way, Rose’s diagnosis soon diminishes for the reader, and in turn her classmates and teacher also start to see her properly. Once we all step over the diagnosis, it’s easy to keep doing so.

This isn’t a story about an autistic girl losing her dog. The disappearance of Rain is just one part of the book, one part of Rose’s life, albeit an important one. Just like any eleven year old, she is learning, growing and figuring out the world. Her journey will leave you humbled and wet of eye.

A book to be loved and shared.

GGGG Gorgeous but there may be big, fat, blobby tears- embrace the emotion.

*Added after listening, so I can genuinely vouch for it being an extremely splendid way for you to spend an hour.

** And this too.