I Can Only Draw Worms by Will Mabbitt

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Pure genius, right here people!

I Can Only Draw Worms

I Can Only Draw Worms, suitable for children aged three years and over, is very cool indeed. It’s a picture book, a counting book and a very funny adventure about ten worms. As the narrator confesses, he can only draw worms- so we are told this is what the book is about. A brilliant idea which translates into a book that will have the grown ups laughing just as much as the kids.

Never Mind the Molluscs…

With an eye mugging colour combination of yellow and pink- more usually associated with a certain well-known punk album- I Can Only Draw Worms demands attention and wholly deserves it. Will Mabbitt manages to give counting to ten an anarchic wit rarely seen and much appreciated here. I’m loving the chaotic colouring of the worms themselves and the somewhat unexpected personalities attributed to them. I’m looking at you Worm Four.

…Invertebrates are Truly Great!

See the worms engage in adventure and risk mild peril along the way. I Can Only Draw Worms is not just a lovely book but also very good value: it provides a great way of getting kids enjoying counting with the Brucie Bonus of also beginning to see the wonder of reading for pleasure. And what could possibly be better than that?

I Can Only Draw Worms: as outre a picture book about worms as I have ever read; a triumph and a joy and you’ll love it.

 


Girl Online by Zoe Sugg. Living the Dream?

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Girl Online by Zoe Sugg

girl online

This is the hardest book I think I’ve given myself the task of reviewing. Girl Online is a record breaker, with the highest ever first week sales and as of last month was also the fastest selling book of the year. For those who don’t know, it’s written (to some extent, as yet undetermined) by Zoella, blogging/vlogging prodigy. That makes it stand out, so I had to read it.

It’s also so not meant for me in any way, shape or form. Teenage girls were quite the different thing when I used to be one. To try to relate via my own experience is about as valid as reviewing Guantanamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi because I once got trapped in a lift. So here’s what’s going to happen: I can tell you what I think about it and then I can guess why it’s so popular with today’s kids, but beyond that I offer no more help.

The Story

Penny Porter is a sixteen year old girl, living in Brighton and rubbing along with some of the usual insecurities and some less so. In her corner are her family, her best friend Elliot and an army of her (anonymous) blog followers. Fly in the ointment is so-called friend Megan who seems to be labouring under the misapprehension that making Penny look ridiculous will have a positive effect on her own social status. Things luckily take a turn for the better when Penny’s parents (kooky wedding planners) are offered a New York gig at Christmas! Yeay! And off they go- Penny, parents and Elliot- to a much-needed change of surroundings following Megan’s sterling attempts to be the worst friend ever. Ever.

New York brings excitement and romance and snow to Penny’s world. Even her anxieties begin to feel controllable as she is swept along by love’s young dream Noah. But life isn’t that simple of course, especially not in young adult romance fiction. Dealing with psycho-hosebeast Megan begins to feels like child’s play compared to new developments  in which Penny is left spinning a variety of predicament plates including personal integrity, love, friendship and th’internet baddies. Oof. But don’t fret reader, like I said earlier, Penny has plenty of people in her corner to help her reach the last page in one piece.

Why it Works So Well in the Young Adult Market

Essentially, Sugg has made Penny imperfect and likeable for her readership. She has her demons and does daft things, feels shy and stupid at times and her life often feels beyond her control, but unlike ‘friend’ Megan, Penny remembers who she is and is painted as someone who has remained true to her personality. She allows herself to have fun and goof about, laugh and be silly. She likes her parents. She has her own ‘things’: she loves taking photographs and always carries her camera.

This in turn has inspired her blog, which she writes simply and honestly. Her followers are lovely and supportive, which sounds about right because before this, I had a lifestyle type blog and people were just that- lovely. The blog helps her deal with all aspects of her life and also gives her a creative outlet for her photography. School provides social opportunities friendship, boys, gossip and in that it seems the basics remain the same.

That the turns taken in Penny’s life are far-fetched and the stuff of fairy tales is essential to making the book work. It’s the ‘what if…’ factor, escape into the world beyond the plot and let it inspire the reader. Because Penny doesn’t let life roll over her, she acts. In turn she’s rewarded ridiculously. Who wants to read about real life though when you can have a New York boyfriend who looks like a rock star and treats you like a goddess? And why should we have Penny getting excited about one new follower when she could have thousands?

The story is straightforward but plenty happens. It’s a romance, so it was always going to be about the boy but apparently there’s also more to life for today’s teenage girls, which is good to know.

GGGG- Positively page turning and all about the girls.

Postscript

The book started with a list of reasons why it’s rubbish to be a teenage girl: dealing with face plague whilst trying to convince people that you are attractive. We all remember that. Then in comes Penny, complaining about having freckles like the speckles on mini eggs and uncontrollable curly Titian locks. I can’t say my heart bled for her. Obviously Penny also has ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA that she is beautiful which isn’t at all annoying is it? Still, maybe compared to a lot of teenage girls in books/ films etc this counts as acceptably flawed. Clearly the world still isn’t ready for full-blown acne and tomato soup breath (two things I personally associate with teenagers). Maybe this is not a bad thing.

I can see a lot of parents loving this fact: Penny is a very young sixteen. She doesn’t once try to buy half a sweet cider in a pub and the raciest we get is kissing under fairy lights. So it’s okay for kids aged twelve up, but real sixteen year olds might find her a bit of a blast from the past rather than a contemporary. Because unless things really have changed, being sixteen can mean a whole range of approaches to growing up and that isn’t reflected in the people Penny meets. It’s all very sweet.

I also thought Sugg missed an opportunity to encourage young bloggers more. I really hoped there would be a Q and A at the end, but it just ended. It’s not really about the blogging so much as the boy which I found dull, but I guess I’ve done my time with Lisa Jewell and Jenny Colgan so can’t really criticise, but hope readers enjoy it whilst reading other types of books too.

GG- Reading this over the age of twenty? Prepare for toothache…

 

After a second opinion? Here’s a cracking review from someone who really enjoyed it:

http://www.themilelongbookshelf.com/2014/12/girl-online-by-zoe-sugg.html#.VdH1EPlVhBc

 


Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff. Me and the Mysterious Missing Book.

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Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff

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I Read This Weeks Ago But…

It feels timely to review Meg Rosoff’s Picture Me Gone, in light of this week’s publication of the Carnegie Shortlist 2014. Fast forward a year and the chances are this will be one of the books on it. Personally, I’ll be both unsurprised and pleased when that happens: this is a good book, but it also fits the Carnegie agenda of making the reader feel a little uncomfortable, plus Meg Rosoff’s got proven Carnegie form with Just in Case in 2007 so she knows the score. We’ll see. However, back to now: This is densely written book, rewarding to read with hidden depths to swim around in and consider piece by piece. Reviewing it feels rather daunting, but here goes…

Missing

Twelve year old Mila is off on holiday to New York with her father. They’ll be leaving behind their vaguely bohemian sounding life in London, where parents are called by first names and are of ridiculously romantic European heritage.It’s a trip which will see her dad reunited after some years with his best friend Matthew, but shortly before they’re due to leave, they get a call from Matthew’s wife Suzanne telling them that he has gone missing. Gil, Mila’s father, decides they’ll go anyway, after all, Matthew might yet turn up and if not they can help look for him. But he doesn’t turn up, so after a few uncomfortable days with Suzanne, baby Gabriel and Honey the dog in Matthew’s Modernist Fox’s Glacier Mint family home, Mila and Gil head off into the country to follow a possible lead.

And so they embark on a journey which may lead them to Matthew, but more likely will be inconclusive. The dog goes with them: Matthew’s dog which Suzanne doesn’t just not like, she apparently can’t even bear to acknowledge it. A noble beast which left me with a feeling of foreboding, a bit like you feel for the third non-speaking member of the Starship Enterprise crew on a mission or the astronaut in Gravity who isn’t Sandra Bullock or George Clooney. I’m not saying the dog dies, just that I was in fear for the poor creature who we are told is pining like crazy and as old as the hills. I do get a bit over emotional with dogs though, I’m sure you will have no such issues.

The Hidden Book

More importantly, Honey’s presence gives form to the ubiquitous and absent Matthew but also reflects Mila’s pretty spooky gift for intuition. This is where Rosoff really shows her artistry: In a book of less than two hundred pages, the lightness of touch and economy of words with which she achieves depth of content is staggering really. She’s a master of metaphor I’d say, something you’re best off investigating in your own reading time and I advise you do that, whether you are a teenager or an adult, there’s a whole other book in here with each page far more crammed with story than may initially meet the eye. From the landscape and the good people of America to the relationships old and new and the oceans of difference and similarities between adults and children, Rosoff’s skill at depth of word is undeniable and like Mila, she shows amazing intuition.

Get Ahead of The Game

Because this time next year, we’ll still be talking about it here at Booksagogogogogo. We’d love to know what you think of this one. Is it a Carnegie 2015 dead cert in your eyes and is that label still a good thing?

GGGG- Gogogogo- Ooh, that was really rather good and blooming cleverly written!