Thursday 2 November 2023

: Leila and the Blue Fox by Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Tom de Freston


The stories of refugee Leila and blue fox Miso intertwine.   

Both travel a long way.  Leila flees from Syria to live in London and then travels on to the Arctic to join her mother who is documenting the fox’s journey. Miso’s story is based on a true one: Anna the fox walked over 2000 miles in seventy-six days. Both Leila and Miso are seeking something. Will they find it?      

Kiran Millwood Hargraves’s text is touching and Tom de Freston’s illustrations are delightful. I read the hardback version of Leila and the Blue Fox. This would make a delightful Christmas present for a child.    

Thursday 5 October 2023

The House of Serendipity, Sequins and Secrets by Lucy Ivison, illustrated by Catharine Collingridge


Class barriers are dropped as two young girls plot to help an older sibling and her friend wow the rest of the world. 

Myrtle and Sylvie become a team. First of all they design and make a superb dress for Sylvie’s sister Delphine.  Then they become involved with Agapantha Portland-Prince who wants to wear trousers for her coming-out ball and also wants to disguise herself as a man so that she can go on an exotic adventure.

It almost all works but a misunderstanding almost spells disaster.

Lucy Ivison tells a good story and Catharine Collingridge charms us with her exqusitie fashion drawings in The House of Serendipity, Sequins and Secrets

Monday 4 September 2023

Dawn Knox’s A Folly in Plotlands


A heart-warming story of romance and survival.

Dismissed from a school where she was neve really that happy but that had been home for her for a long time, Samira Stewart cultivates an unlikely relationship with her estranged grandmother. She has to grow up quickly. She takes care of the ailing old lady who doesn’t deserve the attention that is now lavished on her. Then her brother and uncle really start to make life difficult. She falls in love and a childhood illness almost stops her beloved from staying with her.

Expert story-teller Dawn Knox’s A Folly in Plotland is an uplifting read.  Enjoy!                   

Thursday 3 August 2023

East of Eden by John Steinbeck


This month I’m recommending another John Steinbeck: East of Eden

This time we are dealing with a man who has plenty of money.

Yet there are still struggles. He has a strained relationship with his half-brother, partly caused by his father’s expectations. His wife flees the family home. She seems to have some sort of personality disorder. He and his manservant bring up the twin sons who have something of Cain and Abel about them; indeed their behaviour rather reflects that.

In the end this is about a dysfunctional family but we can forgive them. Another long text, but John Steinbeck keeps the reader engaged through his well-drawn characters in this classic novel, East of Eden. 


Tuesday 11 July 2023

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck


A farming family struggles as the Dust Bowl and the banks put them out of business.  

John Steinbeck creates believable characters with whom we can empathise. He gives us a good sense of time and place. He presents the struggles of the times that in many ways still exist today. As the Joad family move to California they encounter all of the prejudice and fear that migrants face today. These working people struggle to make a living, always with hope but rarely with success. There is a little state aid: special camp sites, help with funeral costs and something almost like our modern day foodbanks. Further drama is added as Tom becomes a man on the run; he has served a jail sentence for man slaughter. As he is out of state he has not met the conditions of his parole – and then he kills again.

A long text, but John Steinbeck keeps the reader engaged in this classic novel, The Grapes of Wrath.           

Monday 5 June 2023

Still Alice by Lisa Genova.


This month I’m recommending Still Alice by Lisa Genova.   

Alice has early onset Alzheimer’s.

We watch her life deteriorate.  It starts with her not recognising a name on a to do list.  Then she forgets to go to a conference.  One day whilst out running she cannot figure out where she is. We follow her downward spiral. It’s terrifying. Do we recognise the symptoms? Unusually we are seeing the point of view of the sufferer rather than that of the carers.    

Lisa Genova has completed an impressive amount of research here.  In some ways this makes the text if anything reassuring about Alzheimer’s.

I confess to not having seen the film but I’ve come across good reviews of it.  

I really was totally absorbed in the book. Lisa Genova’s thorough examination of what an Alzehimer sufferer may go though is very convincing.