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Aul McDonald hid a Fairm in Doric, wirds and picters bi Aaron Gale

I was so excited to receive this beautiful wee copy of Aul McDonald hid a Fairm in the post this morning. Written in Doric it is an absolutely stunning book that should sit pride of place in any home or classroom.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Doric, it is a distinct dialect of the Scots language which is spoken in North-East Scotland. Doric Books was brought about by author/illustrator, Aaron Gale, and storyteller, Jackie Ross. They had a dream to share stories and pictures books in Doric that could be enjoyed within families and beyond, and to promote the value of Doric as a dialect of Scots.

Aul McDonald hid a Fairm in Doric is one of their first publications and it is an absolute delight, perfect for Doric speakers as well as those just beginning to explore this diverse and unique Scots dialect. The classic song is interspersed with a mini tale about Aul McDonald and each of the farm animals.

The combination of the stories and the illustrations gives each character the most wonderful personalities. The illustrations are just pure joy and the animals’ facial expressions are just perfect! From the bemused looking yowes, to the cheeky and rather unfriendly looking rubbits, to the delighted looking grumphies in the mud and to the weary looking cuddy and more. Every charcter shines, none more so that Aul McDonald himself.

This is a wonderful introduction to Doric and it is a book that will delight both children and adults alike. It is the perfect picture book to share at home or in the classroom, as a story in itself or to compliment a focus on the Scots language. As a familiar story with gorgeous illustrations it is not too tricky to follow along and identify the meaning of any unfamiliar words. There is, however, a comprehensive glossary at the back to check on if needed.

Doric Books, as I have discovered, also have a superb website which, among other excellent Scots and Doric resources, has an activity book and flashcards to accompany Aul McDonald. If you are interested in Scots and Doric it is well worth checking out.

I absolutely adored this book. It is funny, beautifully illustrated and the perfect way to enjoy a story in Doric.

To find out more about their books and resource please check out their website at https://doricbooks.com/ and follow them on Twitter at @BooksDoric

Spider by Linda Strachan

I was delighted to be gifted a copy of Spider by author, Linda Strachan, and to be given the opportunity to read and review this uncompromising, intense novel which hits you full force and leaves you gasping for air.

Spider and his friends have a thing for joyriding. The speed, the adrenaline and the danger has them hooked. But Spider is on his last warning. He knows if he is caught again he will be sent straight to prison. However, when his girlfriend, Deanna, and mate Andy convince him to take them out on one last run, everything starts to unravel and their lives quickly start to spin out of control.

Spider is told through multiple perspectives, with each of the main characters telling their side of the story throughout the book. I love how this gives a real insight into the thoughts and feelings of Spider, Deanna and Andy. We may not agree with their actions but we are given the chance to understand their motivations.

I could not help but think what a fabulous book this would be to use with a secondary school class. There are so many opportunities for discussion around choice and personal responsibility as well as the difficult issues that are raised.

Just as a wee note, there are some really hard-hitting themes tackled in this book so it is definitely one for mid to older teenage readers. Car accidents, life-changing injuries, teenage pregnancy, domestic abuse and attempted suicide are all touched upon.

I absolutely loved this book. It is fast, breath-taking, forceful and powerful. Just like real life, none of the characters are perfect and their decisions leave lasting consequences but I didn’t feel like any character was demonised, nor celebrated. Rather, the multiple narratives show us that nothing is ever absolute and finding a sense of empathy and understanding towards others is essential.

This is teenage fiction at its best. Definitely a must read!

You can find out more about Linda’s work by following her on twitter at:

@strachanlinda

The Race by Roy Peachey

I am delighted to be kicking off the blog tour today for The Race by Roy Peachey. The Race is a brilliant, very cleverly told story about running, family, perseverance and being true to yourself. With the Olympics in full flow, it is the perfect book to read between watching the Games. This morning Roy has shared his thoughts about the challenges of writing a dual narrative. Have a read and be sure to get your copy of this fantastic, original and inspiring story.

The Race is a dual narrative, middle grade novel, featuring Lili, a young Chinese-British sprinter in the modern day, and Eric “Chariots of Fire” Liddell, star of the 1924 Olympics. Lili and Eric have many things in common: they were both born in China and grew up in Britain; they both love running fast; and they both believe in doing the right thing even when put under great pressure. 

However, the challenge in writing The Race was not finding similarities between the two protagonists, but ensuring that they had their own distinctive voices. Lili had to sound like a twelve-year old girl and Eric had to grow through the book. When we first meet him, he is only five-years old and when we leave him he is in his forties. 

It was also vital that the historical sections sounded right. Period dramas often pay great attention to tiny details of clothing and food, while serving up horrid anachronisms in the script. I have a history degree, so maybe this bugs me more than it does most people, but I wanted to ensure that Eric genuinely sounded like someone who lived in the first half of the twentieth century. 

However, getting his voice right caused problems of its own because I also had to remember my audience. My first novel, Between Darkness and Light, was written for adults. I spent many months, if not years, doing my research and I was able to use the full resources of the English language when doing so (as well as a little Chinese, French and Breton!) But I was writing The Race for a different readership and so I had to adapt. 

That wasn’t quite as difficult as it might sound for three reasons. Firstly, my own children are the age of my target audience, so I tried out The Race on them. Secondly, my day job is teaching in a secondary school, so I had my students in mind when trying to pitch the book at the right level. And, thirdly, I tapped into my own inner child. We lose our child-like qualities at our peril, especially if we are children’s authors, and can sometimes be too grown up for our own good.  

What does this mean in practice? It means that I laughed at my own jokes quite a lot. I figured that I might as well enjoy my book, even if no one else did. Fortunately, The Race has been well reviewed, so it seems as though my sense of humour isn’t as quirky as I had feared. Maybe Lili – if she really existed – might have enjoyed the book. I sometimes even dare to hope that Eric Liddell might have approved as well. Which makes me wonder if liking your own characters is, in the end, the key to writing a good dual narrative. I certainly like and admire Lili and Eric, and I hope you will too. ‘ 

Follow Roy and Cranachan on Twitter:

@roy_peachey

@cranachanbooks

Scottish by Inclination by Barbara Henderson

I am so excited to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for Scottish by Inclination. I absolutely adore Barbara’s books that are mainly steeped in Scottish historical life and are aimed at young folk. But this is something different. This is a book that is charming, funny, informative but overall, downright important.

Barbara is a natural born storyteller and Scottish by Inclination is her tale of how she made Scotland her home. Set against the backdrop of the 2016 EU referendum she shares the tales of fellow European Scots and outlines why so many have added ‘Scottish’ to their identity.

As I say, Barbara is something of a master of storytelling and her retelling of her own experiences is full of warmth and humour, whilst remaining factual and thought-provoking. Barbara left Germany at the age of 19 and over the last 30 years has made Scotland her home. In Scottish by Inclination she lovingly retells her experiences of being a student, teacher and mother in her adopted homeland. This is contrasted by her forced journey to citizenship following the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

But, as I said, Scottish by Inclination is not just Barbara’s story. She spent time interviewing 30 Europeans who, like her, have made Scotland their home and each individual has their own story to tell. Their own story of how they became ‘Scottish by Inclination.’

We hear the stories of a politician, an artist, professors, sportsmen and many more. Every tale is perfectly and honestly shared and I loved reading every single one.

This book is hugely important. Although told in a wonderfully positive manner it forces us to reflect on the decisions the UK made back in 2016 and the impact it has made on our hugely important immigrant population. It reminds us of our commonality, our shared passions and our shared humanity.

This is a really personable, enjoyable and accessible read. It is told with wit and charm, each story shining a light on a European Scot’s journey to settling in our country. It is a beautiful collection about belonging, positivity and hope for the future and it is an absolute must read.

What If, Pig? by Linzie Hunter

What If, Pig?: A wonderful wobble of a story, all about worries - and the  friends who get you through them!: Amazon.co.uk: Hunter, Linzie:  9780008409500: Books
What if, Pig?

Pig is kind, friendly and thoughtful. Everyone think so, especially his friend Mouse. One day Pig has a great idea. He will throw a party for all of his friends! He carefully plans all the details and sends out the invitations.

But as the party gets closer Pig suddenly becomes overcome with self-doubt and anxiety. He imagines all the things that could go wrong and that, actually, nobody really likes him at all! It turns out that Pig is a massive worrier.

Fortunately Pig has some wonderful friends like Mouse who understands how to help him.

What if, Pig? is an absolutely gorgeous picture book, perfect for worriers young and old. It provides a great prompt for discussions with children about anxiety and self-esteem, how we can overcome these feelings and how we can help others who may be feeling overwhelmed by worry and self-doubt.

Ultimately this is a beautifully positive book with a wonderful message that it’s okay to worry and it’s normal to feel sad but things don’t stay that way forever.

This has got to be one of my favourite picture books. The illustrations are wonderful and the facial expressions are just perfect. It would be a great book to read with young children at home or in the classroom to provide a discussion prompt around mental health.

I loved it, make it a must read!

You can follow the author on twitter:

@linziehunter

A Polar Bear Called Forth by AP Pullan

I am so excited to share my review of the delightful, thought-provoking, A Polar Bear Called Forth by AP Pullan. I am so pleased to have stumbled across this gorgeous story. It is a simple beautifully told tale, that highlights the importance of friends and family and the overwhelming need to belong.

Caitlin McGill is a 10 year old girl who lives in South Queensferry. Her mother has long sinced abandoned her so she lives with, and cares for, her elderly gran. When she unexpectedly finds a young polar bear cub washed up on the shore one day she names him Forth and he quickly becomes her best friend. With her new friend by her side, Caitlin spends her time between school, out sailing and cooking and cleaning at home. However, when her gran’s health starts to deteriorate it becomes clear that her life is about to change for good.

The story is really about the central character of Caitlin and about how, through her friendship with Forth, she is able to deal with the uncertainty and trauma that is going on in her life. It is about her journey to discover a place where she belongs, where she is cared for and where she is loved. There are parallels throughout between Forth and Caitlin and their stories and it is through her imagination that Caitlin is able to discover a way to cope.

I really like how we are given such an insight into Caitlin’s feelings and responsibilities as a young carer for her gran. She is such an independent wee girl who has had to grow up beyond her years but, as the story goes on, we are reminded that she is still just a child, desperately in need of nurture, love and a place to call home.

As someone who lives in central Scotland who regularly visits the beautiful town of South Queensferry, it was lovely to read a story set against the background of the three Forth bridges and the settings are definitely one of the things I loved about this book. The brilliant Highland Wildlife Park, near Kincraig, which has its own polar bears, is another one of the fantastic settings.

I have to mention the stunning front cover which features the iconic Forth Bridge. The author got local academy students to run a competition to contribute artwork and the cover was the winning entry by Cliona Riach.

A Polar Bear Called Forth is an absolutely unexpected joy. It made me laugh, it made my cry and it made my smile. It is a gorgeous, magical tale about friendship, self-discovery, belonging and, ultimately, hope.

You can order A Polar Bear Called Forth from Amazon:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Polar-Bear-Called-Forth/dp/B08SGG953P

The Glasgow Gruffalo’s Wean by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, Translated intae Glaswegian by Elaine C. Smith

For anyone who doesn’t know I love books written in Scots. There is something magical about the beautiful Scots leid, a language that is full of regional variety and one that is a glorious mix of the past and present. It is full of the most wonderful expressive vocabulary and it is a language that is simply brilliant to speak and read aloud.

Many of Julia Donaldson’s classic picture books have been translated into Scots and from The Shetland Gruffalo to The Troll and the Kist o Gowd, to The Riever Rat and more, they are an absolute delight and well worth checking out.

In The Glasgow Gruffalo’s Wean, Elaine C Smith has taken the classic story of the adventurous young Gruffalo , dunked it the River Clyde, wheeched it round the city for a couple of laps and left it dripping in Glasgow sprinkles.

This is a brilliantly clever translation that is full of humour, quirks and pure joy. Without wanting to give too much away, I will say that I was left howling with laughter at the distinctly Glaswegian humour.

Without a doubt one of my favourite translations that will appeal to young and old alike and an excellent book to use across the primary school.

Published by Black and White Publishing

Thanks to Black and White Publishing for the review copy.

The Astonishing Future of Alex Nobody by Kate Gilby Smith

It is Thursday and I am delighted to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for The Astonishing Future of Alex Nobody by Kate Gilby Smith.

Imagine a future where time travel is possible, where tourists are able to choose a destination, a time, a person, that they would like to visit. Where and when would you go?

This is the premise for this brilliant story. Alex has always noticed strange people in the background of her life but has always assumed this to be normal. What she doesn’t realise is that these strange characters that she occassionally hears or catches a glimpse of are time travelling tourists from the future, intent on catching a glimpse of her. The question is why, and who is it she destined to become?

When a mysterious boy named Jasper appears, Alex’s world starts to unravel and she sets out a mission to discover who she is and who she going to be.

The Astonishing Future of Alex Nobody is an absolutely stunning story full of adventure, time travel and mystery. It is a clever tale with friendship and family at its heart as we follow Alex on her journey to discover her truth.

This would be a fantastic story to read with an upper primary class. There is so much room for discussion around the plausibility of time travel and the moral implications of what you could do with it. There are many vivid literacy prompts, with plenty of scope for art and technology activities too.

I loved this book. It is a clever, engaging, exciting and fun story that is based on a truthful ‘what if’ scenario.

To find out more follow Kate on Twitter at: @kate_gilby and the publishers at @HachetteKids

Bookworm Blethers with….. A P Pullan

I am absolutely delighted to welcome A P Pullan to Bookworm Blethers. I’m in the middle of reading A Polar Bear Called Forth right now. It is a brilliant read and I’ll post my review soon. In the meantime have a read of this excellent interview.

  • Tell us a little bit about your books: The Crying Wind and A Polar Bear Called Forth

Well, they are both set in Scotland. I often tell folk that Yorkshire drew me, but Scotland coloured me in. I met my wife here and I’ve been nicely settled in a country for nearly twenty years, a country I will forever love to explore. With both books, I am paying back a debt of gratitude.

The books I’ve written are ones I want to read. That may sound as if I’m stating the obvious, but I wonder how many writers are influenced by their agents or publishing houses as to what to write and indeed the content of their writing. I wonder on the would-be-author wanting to get the contract compromising and following regulation story-plot formulas. Take risks, go against the grain, write what you want to write. It’s something I try get across to kids at school. Knickers to the current trends or what is the current genre da jour (get me by the way!)

  • What has been your journey to becoming an author? 

Well – I had no GPS to start with. Nae Google Maps or indeed any map. My first love was poetry. I managed to get published in a few literary journals such as Gutter, Northwords, Poetry Scotland, and I was really chuffed with that. Poetry taught me to be taut with my words. Gave me an appreciation of what a word, not just words, can do.

I’ve been teaching for a millennium and have immersed myself in children’s stories throughout. So, I feel I’m now playing to my strengths. And coming to this being so very old and yet having this under my belt is delicious.

I also have mental health issues and I’ve got to say the outlet of writing has been, in many ways, a response to this. I’m currently studying for a qualification in CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), and I hope that in a future this journey takes me to new continents and interesting landscapes from giving a creative outlet for those with depression, anxiety etc.

  • Where does your inspiration for your stories come from? 

Well, being alive is a good place to start. Also setting up a challenge for myself also motivates. All story tellers are liars. We tell the best and most elaborate lies. Thing is, can I lie so elaborately you end up believing me and walking alongside me, sentence by sentence? Can I do that?

Obviously, Scotland has helped. And I’m thankful to her. She still has problems with my accent (by the way, Yorkshire has been independent for thousands of years) – yet she is still very welcoming. The Crying Wind was born out of me trying to understand about the many clearance villages I’d come across. A Polar Bear Called Forth uses one of my favourite places, Queensferry as it’s backdrop.

I’m not a note taker – to flush stories out at later date. Currently I have an idea for a World War 2 story as well as a present day one of finding someone living in a cave. Beyond that I’d like to write a series of books – something supernatural but funny. For now, all these ideas are filed away in my head.

I need to challenge myself to influence my writing: its content and style. Hopefully that will keep the audience turning the pages. So that’s the main inspiration: to challenge myself.

  • What is the best part about writing and what are the most challenging parts? 

The best parts: starting, planning, seeing it in paperback form, needing cake to get you through, going into schools.

The worst parts: starting, editing, untangling the knots, editing, worrying that you have written something that’s pants, editing, thinking you should have been a gardener or brain surgeon, editing, realising your grammar is akin to a ten-year-old tortoise, editing, your continuity is a mile out, editing, thinking you’ve finished, editing, oh look – he/she has got their third novel out while you’ve been doing your one book, editing.

  • What books or authors did you love as a child? 

I guess all the obvious: Blyton, Dahl, Tolkein. Alan Garner stood out as he scared the socks off me. Yet I was taken by the real-to-life stories the most: Bill Naughton’s A Goalkeepers Revenge, Keith Waterhouse’s There is a Happy Land and Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines. I connected to these, saw my life in their stories.

  • Are there any current children’s books / authors you would recommend? 

Emma Carroll – very taut and her consistently high standard of output is to be admired.

Lesley Parr (The Valley of Lost Secrets) has a great future.

Jessica Townsend’s brilliant, Morrigan Crow series of books, which made me laugh out loud. And I adored Dave Shelton’s A Boy and a Bear in a Boat,so I’d love to see more of his work.

My favourite picture book of all time – Where the Wild Things Are closely followed by Shaun Tan’s, The Red Tree.

I love Michael Rosen, particularly his take on children’s literacy but the standout children’s writer for me is David Almond. Reading him you know you are at the hands of a master – assured, taut and again, the quality of his output is phenomenal.

  • What subjects did you love at school?   

PE. As long as it was football. Funnily enough I didn’t love any subject. I had no passion for any of it. Yes, writing stories was a big love – so OK, possibly my favourite. Yet those occasions we were allowed to were rare. It seemed to be more about the process of writing (grammar) and studying books (literature).

  • How important do you think it is for children to have access to books?

Well, you’re asking a teacher – so I have to say, crucial. And for development in so many areas. To be successful in academia means a heavy requirement to have a standard of literacy skills that enables you will have a chance in obtaining those bits of paper that state you’re worthy of entering Higher Education or the world of work. It’s quite a blunt one-dimensional system. It saddens me how many pupils out there have the imagination, have that creative bent but are stifled by a teacher’s red pen. Teachers themselves are under pressure – to deliver results and to show progress – which doesn’t help.

My personal philosophy is a top-down one – stories and their magic first – then we’ll have pupils who want to read and write and spell in order to recreate that magnetism. I certainly find that motivates those who have difficulties in literacy. Teachers are pretty good at getting a balance of top-down, bottom-up. Yet I see so many lessons and piles of resources surrounding phonics. Yet the whole context of this device – to read magical tales, is kept invisible. It’s a bit like saying, ‘I’ve got this brilliant rocket to take you to other planets,’ but all the kids get are the nuts, bolts and washers to make the thing, and so for the duration of the lesson it never leaves the ground! (Right, I’m off my soap box now, I’m away to do writey stuff – whatever that is?)

Thank you so much for joining us! To find out more you can follow A P Pullan on twitter @The_Wee_Pencil and check out the promo video for A Polar Bear Called Forth here, https://t.co/jvE3SHqSVH?amp=1

Pinkie and Boo! by Chae Strathie and Francis Martin

I am very excited to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for the fantastic wee picture book, Pinkie and Boo!

Pinkie is the smallest in the family. That is why she is called Pinkie, like the littlest finger. She loves being centre of attention so when her mum and dad inform her that there is new baby brother on the way she is not impressed! With the help of her new stuffed monkey toy, Boo, she sets out an journey to discover the best way to deal with this new arrival and to make sure her parents still remember to put her first.

I love Pinkie. Her attitude oozes from each page and the iillustrations are just a perfect represtentation of this fiesty wee girl. It is, on first read, a beautiful wee story about a little girl learning to accept her new brother into the family.

What I love, though, is that is also a very astute interpretation of a child’s worries and anxieties when they feel that their whole world is about to change. It is scary and it is unknown and it reminds us, as adults, that we need to remember that.

With Boo in tow, Pinkie does what she can to win back the attention of her parents. Her good intentions don’t pay off and but we have a lovely insight into her motivation. It serves as a message to us all, young and old, that we need to look beyond the what and focus on the why if we are to move towards relationships that are based on understanding and compassion.

Pinkie and Boo is a gorgeous little picture book that addresses children’s feeling, especially when they are faced with a big change in their lives. It is clever, beautifully illustrated and lots of fun.

Another triumphant publication from @littledoorbooks

Follow the author and illustrator on Twitter: @korkymaster @chaestrathie

Children's Book Reviews