The God of all Small Boys by Joseph Lamb

The God of all Small Boys is an astounding debut from author Joe Lamb that had me laughing and crying in equal measure throughout.  The beautiful front cover perfectly captures the carefree and sometimes reckless spirit of being a child, a theme which is at the heart of this book.

Set during WW1 in Dundee, it is the story of 11 year old James whose father is sent away to fight. James’s desperate plea of ‘Don’t go, Daddy’ right at the start sets us up for an emotional rollercoaster. With his father gone, James is sent away to stay with his mill-town relatives in the Lochee area of Dundee.  Initially at odds with his cousin, Billy, James eventually forms a close bond with a group of boys and we follow them as their sense of adventure prevails, sometimes with tragic consequences.

The God of all Small Boys is essentially a story of exploration, childhood, friendship and growing up.  It is a story that transcends time and place, making it incredibly relevant to today’s children.  As a teacher, I could not help but think of how brilliant this novel would be to use in a classroom setting, especially when studying WW1 and the impact in had on ordinary children like James and his friends.

The God of all Small Boys is a magnificent debut from Joe Lamb, whose meticulous attention to historical and local detail make it a totally authentic and believable story. On one hand it is gritty, moving and emotional.  On the other it is full of fun and humour making it a totally enthralling read.  The characters really got into my head creating a novel that left an indelible mark on me long after I’d finished reading it.

Make sure you put this on your must read list.  You will not be disappointed by this powerful and haunting debut.

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One of the things I loved was Joe’s inclusion of Scots and Dundonian words and phrases which add to the authenticity of the book.  Here, he talks about the use of Scots in his novel.

Although The God of All Small Boys is set entirely in Dundee, I thought it best to limit the amount of ‘scots’ that is used in the book. There are a few places where I allow the characters to lapse into the Dundonian dialect, which has quite a few words and phrases which would mean little to anyone not from the city—even if they were from Scotland!

In fact only a few characters are written solely in a light Dundonian dialect (Mrs Harkins being one, and Teeny being another). In the first few drafts of the book, I had a full glossary of terms and words used in the story—but unfortunately it had to be removed purely down to space— one of the harsh realities of publishing!

This, of course, leads to the question… ‘Why use it at all?’ Well, the simplest answer is realism. People do speak that way, and indeed a great deal thicker a dialect, than I use in the book. But there is also a reason why I chose to limit it.

If this were a book for adult, then the language used would be quite different. And, although I am a very proud Scotsman, and have lived in Dundee all my life—I also used to be a professional actor. As I learned that you could write wonderful tales, and weave amazing stories… but unless a broader public can understand them, the tales will struggle to succeed.  Even Robert Burns, the best known writer of Scots language, turned to solid and unclipped ‘English’ more often than you might imagine!

The main concern with Dundonian, is use of the single syllable word… “Eh”.

This is NOT pronounced as “Ayy”, but rather as throaty ‘E’ as in ‘mEg’.

This single word has three seperate meanings in Dundonian… “I” (as in ‘me’), “Eye”, and (oddly) “Yes”.

This means that it is possible to write a full sentence in Dundonian which contains only vowel sounds… For example: “Eh, Eh e’ i’ a! ” (where e’ and i’ are glottal stopped words for et (ate) and it.. and where a’ mean All – Thus “Yes, I ate it all!”
Here’s the clever part though…
In ‘I’ – the Eh stands for the ‘I’ sound. In  ‘Eye’ , again, it stands for the same ‘Eye’ sound… But why is it used as  Yes…?
Well… What is Scot’s for Yes?

Aye!

There were some words in Dundonian that I initially wrote into the book, but then decided that they might be too obscure for the non-Dundonian reader. Feechs being one of them. Something I didn’t include in TGoASB, with a little regret, is the word “Peh”…  If you are not Dundonian… look it up! 🙂

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Fing by David Walliams

Fing, the latest offering from David Walliams, hit the shelves yesterday and it proves to be just what we expect from Walliams – surreal, fun, quirky and wonderfully enjoyable.

Fing is a cautionary tale about the perils of spoiling your children and always giving them what they want. Mr and Mrs Meek are a quiet couple who desire nothing but a calm life and a happy daughter.  However, daughter Myrtle is demanding, spoilt and an absolutely monstrous child who always expects to be given whatever she wants.  ‘Being Meek by name and meek by nature’, Myrtle’s parents have never stood up to their daughter and watch as she becomes the outrageously unlikeable nine year old we meet in the book.

Next on Myrtle’s list of demands is a ‘Fing’. Not knowing what a ‘Fing’ might be Mr and Mrs Meek investigate in the library where they work, discovering it in a dusty old book called Monsterpedia. Having established what a ‘Fing’ is, Mr Meek sets off to the jungliest jungle to try and catch one for his darling daughter.

I love Walliams’ eccentric characters, and they are brilliantly brought to life by Tony Ross’s fantastic illustrations.

If you are a fan of Walliams’ books you will love Fing. It is David Walliams doing what he does best.  It is funny, daft and totally brilliant and I absolutely loved it.

Who Let the Gods Out by Maz Evans

I have arrived a bit late to the party with Who Let the Gods Out, a book that has been on my must read list for the past few months. In fact, having bought my copy back in November, it mysteriously went missing until a few weeks ago when, with great delight, I discovered it stashed under my daughters bed.
All I can say is that it was well worth the wait and I cannot shout loudly enough about how much I absolutely loved this book! It is clever, heartwarming and downright laugh out loud funny.
Who Let the Gods Out is a meeting of two worlds. Elliot is trying to survive school, take care of his unwell mum and ensure the bills are paid, while trying to keep their home out of the clutches of the uppity and interfering neighbour, Patricia Porshley-Plum.
Meanwhile rookie Virgo is trying to make a name for herself on the Zodiac Council and find a way to escape the boredom of her stationery order role. When someone is required to travel to Earth to make a delivery to ‘Prisoner Forty-Two’ she seizes her chance and sneaks off to prove herself.
Thereafter we are introduced to a whole array of Gods and other brilliant characters, who had me crying with laughter. I was met with some strange looks from my family as I guffawed my way through the story.
I cannot recommend this book enough and I cannot wait to pass it on to everyone I know. It is a wonderfully clever, hilarious adventure and I am so delighted that there are another three in the series!

Mary Poppins by PL Travers provided for review by @BooksforTopics

Like many people I had not read the original Mary Poppins before now but, as most of us are, I am very familiar with the Disney film version of the 1960s – the iconic characters and songs that have long been part of my memories. So it was with great intrigue that I approached the book.

Mary Poppins is the story of the magical nanny that blows in on the East Wind and lands into the lives and home of the Banks children – Jane and Michael and their younger twin siblings, John and Barbara. A stern and enchanting figure, she leaves an indelible mark on Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane and the young children who quickly grow to idolise her.

Throughout the story we are taken on a mesmerising journey with Mary and the children from one dreamlike adventure to the next. We travel the world with them as they meet a whole array of wonderfully engaging characters – Bert the matchman who draws pavement pictures that you can jump into, Mr Wigg whose laughter keeps him perched up in the ceiling, the bird lady outside St Paul’s Cathedral and the magical Mrs Corry to name but a few.

I was fascinated by the story of the young twin siblings, characters not included in the film. Although the main thread of the story focuses on Jane and Michael’s relationship with Mary Poppins, the twins help to provide a deeper insight into the magical nanny which helps to give the story more clarity.

The wonderful characters and locations would be an ideal stimulus for a literacy topic in the classroom, with unlimited scope for writing and art ideas. The author, P.L. Travers, led a fascinating life and would provide an interesting and notable character to research.

I absolutely adored Mary Poppins. It is so full of quirkiness and oddities that you cannot help but be drawn into the weird and wonderful story of the mysterious nanny. I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book in the series!

Originally published on the Books for Topics website here:

https://www.booksfortopics.com/blog/review-giveaway-mary-poppins

Mary Poppins by P.L.Travers provided for review by @BooksforTopics

Like many people I had not read the original Mary Poppins before now but, as most of us are, I am very familiar with the Disney film version of the 1960s – the iconic characters and songs that have long been part of my memories. So it was with great intrigue that I approached the book.

Mary Poppins is the story of the magical nanny that blows in on the East Wind and lands into the lives and home of the Banks children – Jane and Michael and their younger twin siblings, John and Barbara. A stern and enchanting figure, she leaves an indelible mark on Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane and the young children who quickly grow to idolise her.

Throughout the story we are taken on a mesmerising journey with Mary and the children from one dreamlike adventure to the next. We travel the world with them as they meet a whole array of wonderfully engaging characters – Bert the matchman who draws pavement pictures that you can jump into, Mr Wigg whose laughter keeps him perched up in the ceiling, the bird lady outside St Paul’s Cathedral and the magical Mrs Corry to name but a few.

I was fascinated by the story of the young twin siblings, characters not included in the film. Although the main thread of the story focuses on Jane and Michael’s relationship with Mary Poppins, the twins help to provide a deeper insight into the magical nanny which helps to give the story more clarity.

The wonderful characters and locations would be an ideal stimulus for a literacy topic in the classroom, with unlimited scope for writing and art ideas. The author, P.L. Travers, led a fascinating life and would provide an interesting and notable character to research.

I absolutely adored Mary Poppins. It is so full of quirkiness and oddities that you cannot help but be drawn into the weird and wonderful story of the mysterious nanny. I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book in the series!

Originally published on the Books for Topics website here:

https://www.booksfortopics.com/blog/review-giveaway-mary-poppins

 

 

The Jewelled Jaguar by Sharon Treganza Provided for review by @BooksforTopics

The Jewelled Jaguar is a wonderfully entertaining and thrilling story brimming with mystery and intrigue and full of adventure throughout.

It tells the story of a young boy called Griffin who lives with his mum, a diver who has become a bit of a local celebrity after she discovered an Aztec sacrificial knife, The Jewelled Jaguar, on one of her explorations.

The tense and dramatic tone of the book is set right from the beginning as Griffin’s house is engulfed by a huge hole, taking him and his mum with it. While Griffin recovers, his mum remains in a coma. Griffin ends up being looked after by his estranged relatives and is forced to form some kind of relationship with his cousin, Cinnamon, who makes it clear from the off that she doesn’t want him there.

Griffin soon finds out that he needs to be careful who he trusts and the book rides a rollercoaster of mystery and suspense as Griffin discovers that everything is not always what it seems, culminating in an electrifying conclusion.

The Jewelled Jaguar is a vivid and exhilarating story following Griffin’s quest to uncover the truth. However, at its core is the power of friendship and family and the importance of trust. The dynamic between Griffin and Cinnamon is fantastic and I loved watching how their relationship developed throughout the book.

The other message running through the book is that first impressions can often be misleading and we need to be careful of making snap judgements about people.

There are lots of opportunities in terms of literacy, art and health & wellbeing if reading this book in class and it would also be a great accompaniment to a topic on The Aztecs.

Although an adventure story from start to finish, there are some gritty and scary elements in it which make it more suitable for mid-upper primary.

Overall the Jewelled Jaguar is an exceptional story of adventure, trust and family that I absolutely loved.

Originally published on the Books for Topics website here: https://www.booksfortopics.com/blog/review-the-jewelled-jaguar

Punch by Barbara Henderson Ages 8+

Punch is a fantastic example of tense, masterful storytelling, with wonderfully engaging characters that had me totally captivated right from the start.

The story begins in 1889 in Inverness when 12 year old Phineas is abruptly woken by ‘Uncle Ewan’ who has forgotten to include the sausages in an order from his butcher’s shop.   To prevent an unhappy customer Phin is send on a mission to retrieve the missing part of the order from the shop in the market before delivering it to the customer.

However, Phin finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time as the night takes a shocking and unexpected twist and he is accused of a dreadful crime. With no other feasible options open to him, he decides to run.

After a startling encounter with an escaped prisoner, he and Phin form an unlikely alliance and when they meet a family of travelling entertainers Phin’s life really begins to change.  He suddenly finds himself immersed in a world of performance, puppetry, dance, fiddles, dancing bears and royalty as the group begin to find success.

However, the fact that Phin and his companion are still on the run and are always looking over their shoulder never escapes them and Phin is tormented by memories of his previous life which slowly come to light.  The relationships that build between the characters is very touching, and there is a real theme of kindness, understanding and empathy throughout.

I love a bit of historical fiction, especially when it is set close to home.   It is clear throughout that Barbara Henderson really knows her stuff and this attention to detail makes it an even more exhilarating read.

Punch is jammed packed full of drama, intrigue and tension.  It is a cracking piece of storytelling, which vividly brings late nineteenth century Scotland to life with wonderfully descriptive settings and characters you embrace and believe in.  I absolutely loved it and would recommend to readers young and old.