Librarian’s Choice – Sisters

This blog is from Kat, an Assistant Community Librarian.

Being a sister is weird; there is no one I love or hate more in the world than my little sister. I recently realised that some of my favourite stories are centred on this special and frustrating relationship – books, films and reality TV. My mum is also a sister and understands the special bond of sisterhood – I was once watching Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and she said “Oh, I love this film, it’s about sisters being horrible to each other…” My all-time fave sisters are obviously the Kardashians but here are a few others that I quite like too;

kat-little-womenLittle Women by Louisa May Alcott

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve read this (and watched the Winona Ryder film version)– and I keep meaning to reread as an adult but never get around to it. This is a story of four sisters and how the family copes whilst their father is away fighting in the American Civil War. Each sister has a different personality, but are all united by their love for each other and their grief (just like the Kardashians? Okay… I know no one else likes a Kardashian reference). Does anything sum up an annoying little sister more than when Amy throws Jo’s manuscript in the fire? And then needs to be rescued from the ice and becomes the victim? That is definitely something my sister would do!

kat-the-lost-and-the-foundThe Lost & The Found by Cat Clarke

Nominated for a Leeds Book Award last year this book is about a little girl who is kidnapped, and returns to the family years later, seen through the eyes of her younger sister; how she felt during the years without a sister and how she tries to get to know her on her return. This is such a heart-breaking book, it actually made me cry real tears (which very rarely happens!).

kat-pride-and-prejudicePride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

Another book about four sisters, and again a really annoying younger sister (although actually Lydia was probably the most fun, I’d much rather have a sister like her than boring Jane). Although there is a focus on marriage, class and wealth at its heart this is a novel about family and the lengths siblings will go to to support/defend each other.

kat-double-actDouble Act by Jacqueline Wilson

This was the first Jacqueline Wilson I ever read – I can remember finding it in my school library (which was pretty much a single shelf in the corner) and devouring it. It made me wish I had a twin with a matching name (probably around the same time I was watching Sister, Sister on Nickelodeon and thought it was possible I had a long lost twin somewhere). It was also around the time I just got my sister, and although she wasn’t my twin at least there was someone with just as weird a name as me.

kat-the-other-boleyn-girlThe Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

Where Little Women touches of the idea of one sister stealing another sisters love interest this goes all the way – and the worst part is this is based on real life sisters! Mary is Henry VIII’s lover for a while and then whilst she is pregnant he moves on to her sister Anne. Which in the end works out better for Mary, she might never become Queen of England but at least she isn’t beheaded. This is a little unbelievable from a modern perspective, but I guess this is just the way sisters were with each other back then – and at least they loved each other in their own bizarre way.

Librarian’s (and family) Choice

This week’s blog is from Trudi (and her family), a Community Librarian based in the South of the city.

It’s almost Christmas and after all the festivities there may be time to relax and read. Looking for inspiration? Perhaps these will help…

Books for a Year Six child…

trudi-street-childStreet Child by Berlie Doherty
This is on a Year 6 reading list at a local primary school. The list also includes Goodnight Mr Tom and as most of the children had already read it, Street Child was the next most popular!
My youngest daughter is enjoying this immensely. The story is set in Victorian times and is about a boy called Jim, whose dad has died and his mum is going to die. There is no money and they are about to lose their home. A book about survival.

trudi-wimpy-kidDiary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
There are ten books in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.
The series started off online in 2004 and made its print debut in April of 2007. There are now more than 180 million copies of Diary of a Wimpy Kid books available in 61 editions and 52 languages.
A few children I know have asked for a set of these books for Christmas! Ever popular, written in a comic format with drawings and speech bubbles, my daughter cannot get enough of these. Funny and complete escapism.

I asked my husband which book he would recommend as a gift for someone. His answer was…

trudi-fellowship-of-the-ringLord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien
This is an epic adventure and renowned as a favourite for children and adults. My husband read it when he was aged 28 (almost 20 years ago) and loved being transported through lots of different lands and settings on a magical and fantastical grand adventure. He says that the books are much better than the films! If he could own only one book, this would be it.

And…

trudi-grapes-of-wrathGrapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
My husband read this recently and couldn’t stop talking about it.
With themes pertinent to society today, this is a journey with the Joad family who are evicted by greedy bankers recovering their farming properties in the American mid-west to sell to larger, more profitable farming companies. Their only hope is to travel to California to start a new life having been tempted by the misrepresentation of the land of opportunity. Everyone should read this!

My eldest daughter is almost out of her teens and her recommendations include:-

trudi-handmaids-taleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
This book was lent to my daughter by a family friend and came highly recommended.
Written in 1985, this novel, in the genre of speculative fiction, is set in an oppressive imperfect world – where women exist to fulfil the desires of society but are chastised for it. A group of women are moved between wealthy men, to mother their children to keep the population stable. They are harshly judged by other women for this vital job. Although she found some of the themes terrifying, this book is very highly rated by my daughter as a ‘must read’.

trudi-the-girl-who-savedThe Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson
A poor girl from the slums of Soweto comes across a fortune and gets embroiled in a political secret. She is sent to Sweden where she meets a man who, in law, doesn’t exist. A completely bizarre and hilarious book. Another ‘must read’ from my daughter who was laughing so much trying to explain the storyline that it must just speak for itself!

What I will be reading over Christmas…

trudi-talking-headsTalking Heads by Alan Bennett
I first read this collection of monologues as soon as they were published in the late 1980s and realised quickly that although I was only in my teens, I had an old soul! Humorous and touching, all human life is here.
I love anything by Alan Bennett and look forward to reading Keeping On Keeping On!

trudi-a-million-yearsA Million Years In A Day by Greg Jenner
A good ‘dip in and out of’ book, this is a witty look at the popular history of everyday life and social rituals, from the Stone Age to the phone age, brought to you by the chief nerd of the Horrible Histories TV series.
If you secretly enjoy watching Horrible Histories then you will love this!

Librarian’s Choice -Personal Favourites

This blog is from Alli, a Community Librarian based in the south of the city.

alli-ninth-lifeThe Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen

This unforgettable book took my breath away, literally. The funniest first chapter I’ve ever read and the rest just such a compulsive read. Louis, 9, is on a family holiday in France with his family, when his life changes. A psychological thriller about a child’s connections to his parents. Fabulously written with well-drawn characters, it’s hard to say more about the plot of this book without giving it away. It’s a much bigger book in every way than the slim volume it is physically. Read it – I’d love to hear what you think of it.

alli-memory-gameMemory Game by Nicci French

First novel of the writing duo Nicci Gerard and Sean French in 1997, it’s a crime novel about the nature of memory and about recovered memory syndrome. I found it exciting and compulsive.

alli-pride-and-prejudicePride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I studied this for O’Level, but loved it. For me, an unexpected, understated, delight.

 

alli-the-lion-witch-wardrobeThe Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis

I read this during a spell in hospital when I was thirteen, having missed it when I was younger. I loved the adventure, the different levels of meaning, the imagination it created in me. I read all the books in the series as soon as I could get them from the library (the Mobile Library the used to visit the bottom of Pool Bank). It was so exciting, waiting to see if they had brought me another one!

alli-devotion-of-suspect-xThe Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

A mystery in which you know “whodunit” from the beginning. I suppose it’s a sort of Police crime thriller in which everything you read is a clue and everything is included to help you find out why. It’s like a literary game of chess and is logical, simple and really different.

alli-woman-in-whiteThe Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

This was the first book that I read when I started work in libraries and for me, it had everything. The cover had an Atkinson Grimshaw painting on the front, which immediately evoked an atmosphere of mystery. I was gripped form the beginning and remember being absorbed by its mystery, love and a touch of the sinister.

alli-elizabeth-is-missingElizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

Maud is suffering from loss of memory, but is convinced her best friend Elizabeth is missing and she believes her to be in danger. No one listens (not her daughter, the police etc.), but Maud is determined to find out what has happened to her.

alli-thirteenth-taleThe Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Novelist Vida Winter wants to get the tale of her life recorded and so she engages biographer Maureen Lea. Maureen also has a story of her own and as she starts work on Vida’s, she starts to find out about her own….

Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard

Best friends Caddy and Rosie go to different schools. A new girl, Suzanne joins Rosie’s school and the dynamic of Rosie’s and Caddy’s friendship begins to change. It’s clear to Caddy that something has happened to Suzanne before coming to Brighton and she begins to find out what. Caddy’s friendship with Suzanne takes her on a journey that challenges her outlook, her upbringing and all that she has experienced so far. Caddy goes out on midnight walks with Suzanne, during which she learns more about Suzanne’s background and her fragile mental state. Caddy listens to Suzanne’s situation, but who is getting more out of this – Suzanne, or Caddy, who experiences being important to someone? When things go wrong and Caddy suffers serious injuries from an ill-conceived trip to an old building, Suzanne finally gets the professional help she needs, but with the consequence that she will have to move away from her “best friends”.
The way it covered friendships and their importance to individuals, I thought was excellent, making clear there is more than one way to support someone who is having a difficult time and that it’s the support that counts. The book was gripping in an uncomfortable way. It was a compulsive but disturbing read at times, with the feeling that all will not end well pervading whilst I was reading it. I was there in the situations Caddy found herself in and felt uncomfortable for her.

UNESCO’s World Falconry Day

This year sees the 4th anniversary of World Falconry Day, in recognition of Falconry by the UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage, celebrating with the theme Recovery of the Peregrine Falcon.

By Falconry we understand the hunting tradition defined as taking quarry in its natural state and habitat by means of trained birds of prey. Preserving falconry involves maintaining not only the traditional culture that builds practical skills of empathy with animals, but also the conservation of raptors and their prey through preservation of natural habitats. Therefore falconry is encouraged within the context of sustainable use of wildlife.

Here I’ve selected a dozen of books available from Leeds Libraries on the topic:

montse-falcon-kesA Kestrel For A Knave – Barry Hines

Everybody has heard of this book or seen the film by Ken Loach “Kes”, which is based on it. A working class boy troubled at home and school snatches a kestrel chick from its nest (totally illegal nowadays) and trains it to fly with him with the help from a book he steals from his local library (tut tut). It is pretty much a classic that highlights the life hardships of a boy in the 60’s in South Yorkshire. Even though kestrels are falcons they are not used much in falconry as a way to bring meat to the table because you’d be feeding yourself on mice, voles and the such, which are the typical quarry.

montse-falcon-trainingTraining Birds of Prey – Jemima Parry-Jones

Jemima Parry-Jones is one of the best known names in the falconry circles. She is the director of the International Centre for Birds of Prey, Newent, which I recommend you visit if you get a chance. Following in her father’s (Phillip Glasier) steps, she has written several books about falconry and become a world-renowned falconer and conservationist. This is the book to read for those with an interest in taking up falconry; it covers all aspects in training your hawk from even before you buy it, and it’s an eye-opener for those who think of them as pets, dispelling any similarities with Harry Potter.

Fledgling days – Emma Ford

As well as Jemima, Emma Ford is another world acclaimed female falconer, who has also written several books on falconry. Together with husband Steve, they opened the British School of Falconry at Gleneagles hotel in Scotland. In this book Emma tells us of her first encounters and fascination with birds of prey when she was just a young girl aged 8 and how she went on to train and look after birds and other animals, teach falconry, work for TV and films and even the Emir of Abu Dhabi, Seikh Zayed. An inspirational biographical read for anyone with a love of animals.

monste-falcon-historicHistorical Falconry – Helen Rowlands

This is a superb illustrated guide to the history of falconry from its beginnings to present times with regards to attire, training methods, evolution of chosen species, etc., how falconry became popular and fashionable and how it declined with the advance of firearms. The book explores falconry both as an art and as a hunting method, including techniques and skills and how it’s always been part of the cultural heritage of the country where practised. Not so much about modern falconry but more focused on its historical aspect.

monste-falcon-no-wayNo Way But Gentlenesse – Richard Hines

I haven’t read this book yet but it’s in my “to read” list. Richard Hines is brother to Barry, who wrote the first book in this list. The main character Billy Casper is based on Richard, he found the kestrel and trained it, and A Kestrel for a Knave is pretty much his biography written by his brother. Aaaah, I hear you say. Yes, I was surprised as well when I found out this.

montse-falcon-h-is-forH is for Hawk – Helen MacDonald

This is an autobiographical account of how the author, an experienced falconer, went to train a goshawk, Mabel, to cope with the sadness and bereavement after her father died. For those who don’t know, goshawks are notorious for their nervousness and killing instinct and can be quite a handful to train compared with other bird of prey species. Helen grudgingly decides to re-read The Goshawk, by T.H. White, as she trains Mabel and exposes the differences in technique between themselves. The story tells us of the bonding between human and bird, both predators with a wild side.

montse-falcon-goshawkThe Goshawk – T. H. White

You can borrow this book from the library but personally is one of those books I don’t want to read because it’s going to make me cross and angry. Mr White wasn’t a falconer as such but an eccentric character with an obsession for “belonging” in a society he didn’t really fit in. Thus, he goes to train birds of prey without knowing what he’s doing and sadly killing them in the process. His lack of skills and experience added to the ancient and superseded books he uses as reference translate as cruelty to the bird. Perhaps I should do as Helen and one day, grudgingly read it.

Of Falconry (Book III of The Ornithology) – Francis Willughby of Middleton in the county of Warwick Esq.          REFERENCE ONLY

This jewel is only available from the Information and Research department of Central Library, so you won’t be able to take it home. However, it’s worth spending some time in the library marvelling at this book from 1678!! The book is divided into books, sections and chapters and the last book is about falconry, wherein the 2 main parts are “reclaiming and managing hawks” and “diseases of hawks, prevention, signs and cures”. It also includes over 100 pages of illustrations of the birds he talks about throughout. A truly interesting read all in all.

montse-falcon-eaglesEagle & Birds of Prey – Jemima Parry-Jones

Even though this book is classed as Junior, the information within is apt for adults as well. It deals with hawks, falcons, eagles, vultures and owls covering all aspects from anatomy, reproduction, hunting techniques, types of quarry, and extinction of species, especially vultures, of which Jemima is a stalwart conservationist. Raptor weekend at her centre on 2nd and 3rd Sept 2017 – not to be missed.

All British Eagle – Captain Charles Knight

This is a 1943 memoir of the war-time adventures of Charles William Robert Knight with his famous golden eagle Mr Ramshaw. Captain Knight was a great British falconer, writer, lecturer, photographer, explorer and film director. His travels with the eagle are well recorded in his own books and films (I Know Where I’m Going). He is uncle of Phillip Glasier, who is Jemima’s father. Falconry runs in the family.

montse-falcon-falconFalcon – Helen MacDonald

Another book by Helen MacDonald and previous to H is for Hawk. Here we learn all about falcons from all aspects other than just the obvious naturalist ones. She covers history, culture and folkloric meanings, conservation and use in falconry; but also how falcons have been used in war and by NASA and even publicity campaigns. This is a truly enjoyable read for everyone with an interest in nature and birds of prey. Lots of illustrations accompany this cultural analysis of falcon-human relationship.

montse-falcon-peregrinePeregrine Falcon – Patrick Stirling-Aird

Last but not least, this book comes with dozens of amazing photos of falcons in colour and close-up detail, but also it’s full of information about different aspects of the bird including biology, behaviour, reproduction and hunting. It tells the gripping story of how peregrines were rescued from the brink of extinction and inhabit our cities. Well written and easy to read.

 

Blog Post by Montse, an Assistant Community Librarian based in the east of the city.

Librarians Choice – Book Club Favourites

This blog post is from Maddie, a community librarian based in the North east of the city.

I thought I would share my Readers Groups’ favourite books. I joined a Community Choir over 10 years ago and a few of us shared a passion for reading and decided to start up a Readers Group. These are a few of the titles that have prompted the best discussion.

maddie-we-are-called-to-riseWe Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride

This is debut novel, powerfully written and we felt it was a page-turner despite it being sad.
This novel is written from the different viewpoints of each of the four main characters. Middle aged Avis, struggling with an imminent divorce and a war torn son while Bashkim is an eight year old Albanian boy with immigrant parents and a strong sense of responsibility. Alongside them is Luis, a troubled soldier suffering from Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder and a world of other issues and Roberta, a volunteer social worker. These four lives all collide in one alarming incident.

maddie-saturdaySaturday by Ian McEwan

This was one of the first books that we read as a group. One of us wanted to read an Ian McEwan book and Saturday was one that none of us had read. ‘Saturday’ is a novel set within a single day in February 2003. Henry Perowne is a contented man, but what troubles him is the state of the world. Following a minor car accident, Perowne is brought into contact with a small-time thug called Miller. This meeting has savage consequences.

maddie-dissolutionDissolution –by C J Sansom

This is a murder mystery set at the time of Henry VIII. It introduces Matthew Shardlake, a monk, sent to investigate the horrific murder of Commissioner Robin Singleton. This is the first in a series. One of us had already read the book and was so impressed with it that she wanted to see what the rest of us thought of tit and it was a hit.

maddie-secret-life-of-beesThe Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Set in South Carolina in the 1960s at the time of desegregation. It’s a story about Lily Owens a teenager who has grown up believing that she killed her mother. Her father is cruel and harsh and she runs away with their servant Rasaleen and they end up finding sanctuary at the home of three sisters who keep bees.

maddie-skelligSkellig by David Almond

When a move to a new house coincides with his baby sister’s illness, Michael’s world seems suddenly lonely and uncertain. Then, one Sunday afternoon, he stumbles into the old garage of his new home, and finds something magical. A strange creature – part owl, part angel, a being who needs Michael’s help if he is to survive. With his new friend Mina, Michael nourishes Skellig back to health, while his baby sister languishes in the hospital. But Skellig is far more than he at first appears, and as he helps Michael breathe life into his tiny sister, Michael’s world changes for ever.

Librarian’s choice – Top 10 Favourites

This blog is from Stu, a community librarian based in the East of the city:-

Here’s a list of ten of my favourite fiction books, in no particular order.

stu-catch-22Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.

Joseph Heller was once confronted by an interviewer with the statement, ‘Since Catch-22, you haven’t written anywhere near as good.’ To which Heller replied, ‘No. But neither has anyone else.’ I think this is the greatest book written by anyone anywhere ever and is worthy of every bit of praise that’s been lavished on it over the years. It’s the sorry tale of Yossarian, a bomber in the US Airforce during World War II and his quest to “live forever or die trying”. It’s gloriously, riotously funny, contradictions piling up on top of one another so fast you need wings to stay above them, and the dialogue is absolutely hilarious too. At its heart it’s a razor-sharp satire on the utter ridiculousness of war and what it does to those who are made to fight it, and there are so many classic scenes it would be impossible to even begin to describe them. If you’ve never had a look at this one, you really should do so immediately. Read read read.

stu-salughterhouse-5Slaughterhouse-5 by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Kurt Vonnegut was described for the vast majority of his career as a sci-fi novelist, but it was a tag which he absolutely hated. So it goes. There are sci-fi aspects to this book to be sure – time travel, aliens from the planet Tralfalmadore – but really it’s a wickedly clever, achingly sad autobiographical novel about the fire-bombing of Dreseden at the end of World War II, which Vonnegut himself actually survived. It’s a startlingly original work with a mellifluous blend of fact, fiction and meta-fiction (years before it became de rigeur), and parts of it – such as the American soldier shot for stealing a teapot – are completely unforgettable. I must have read this book ten times and I’ll read it ten more before I’m finished. Amazing stuff.

stu-cannery-rowCannery Row by John Steinbeck.

“Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses. Its inhabitant are, as the man once said, “whores, pimps, gambler and sons of bitches,” by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, “Saints and angels and martyrs and holymen” and he would have meant the same thing…..” If that opening paragraph doesn’t grab your attention, nothing will. This novella about Doc, Mack, Hazel and the boys panhandling down on Cannery Row is a thing of absolute beauty, and is the perfect introduction for anyone new to Steinbeck’s world. If you’re already familiar with this, the sequel Sweet Thursday is a great read too, as is Tortilla Flat, which is almost like a prototype for this little gem.

stu-wuthering-heightsWuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

Emily is my favourite Bronte by a considerable distance, and this is my favourite Bronte novel by a country mile. Most people will have a vague idea of the story – Cathy, Heathcliff, love, passion, death etc. – but the real star of this novel is the wild Yorkshire landscape, described perfectly in Bronte’s turbulent, almost Gothic prose.

stu-notes-from-undergroundNotes From Underground by Dostoyevsky.

This book provides us with the first great anti-hero in literature, the progenitor of a whole motley crew of misanthropic weirdoes from the starving, unnamed wretch in Knut Hamsun’s Hunger to Arturo Bandini and Henry Chinaski and everyone in between. You could also look at it as the first proper Existential novel, if you really wanted to. The great Russian writers come with a lot of baggage and formidable reputations to boot, and the sheer size of their works can often put people off, but for the dedicated reader there are great delights to be found therein. This is reasonably short by the standards of many of his other works, so if you’ve ever fancied checking him out but feel over-faced by The Idiot, maybe this is the place to start.

stu-frankensteinFrankenstein by Mary Shelley.

Yeah, I know, people will tell you that there were Gothic novels before this one – The Castle Of Otranto, The Monk, Ann Radcliffe and all that – but for me this is really where it all started. It’s a canny mix of early Gothic atmospherics shot through with Romantic sensibilities, and it’s treatment of the dichotomy between science and religion captured the Zeitgeist perfectly when it was first published in the early 19th century. It’s a surprisingly easy read for something that’s as old as it is, and it’s a compulsive, page-turning story to boot; it’s also a hugely influential work that has spawned thousands of imitators both in printed and cinematic forms. If you’ve ever read a book or watched a movie with a mad scientist protagonist who ends up being destroyed by his single-minded pursuit of his vision, whether the writer even knows it or not, you can trace a direct line back to poor, misguided Victor. Incidentally, Shelley’s treatment of the creature he creates is deeply sympathetic, extremely humane and quite forward-thinking in many ways, so it’s kind of odd that over the years it has come to be known as Frankenstein’s Monster. It may be monstrous, but that’s not quite the same thing. With all the recent debates about GM foods, cloning and stem cells, it’s still as relevant as ever and seems destined to remain so for quite some time yet.

stu-johnny-got-his-gunJohnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo.

It’s worth noting that this book is unique on this list as it’s the only one that I haven’t read more than once – yet. I read it two or three years ago, having had it on my list since my university days a long time ago in a universe far, far away. It’s an absolutely breathtaking piece of creative writing and trying to describe it effectively is virtually impossible. In a nutshell though, the whole novel is an internal monologue from inside the head of a soldier who has been blown up by a shell in World War I. The thing is, he doesn’t realise initially that he has been blown up, and over the course of the opening few chapters he makes – via some astonishingly inventive psychological insights from the writer -several chilling discoveries about the extent of his injuries; he has no arms, no legs, and most of his face has been blown off so he’s deaf and blind as well. What follows is his attempts to deal with the situation he’s in, and his amazing efforts to communicate with the outside world. Absolutely extraordinary, this one.

stu-ulyssesUlysses by James Joyce.

Ulysses is really more of an artistic statement and an intellectual puzzle than a novel, but it’s no less enjoyable for it. On the face of it’s the tale of Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom and their meeting one day in Dublin on 16th June, 1904. What lies beneath is a virtuoso display of technical skill, linguistic pastiche (check out the Oxen Of the Sun section for a stellar example of this) and stream-of-consciousness monologues, all addressing serious contemporary issues such as the power of the Catholic church, Home Rule and Irish Nationalism. It fulfils Joyce’s promise from A Portrait Of the Artist As A Young Man to ‘forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race’ and it does so brilliantly.

stu-the-fightThe Fight by Norman Mailer.

A bit of a cheat putting this on a fiction list, but it’s an cracking example of what came to be known as the non-fiction novel so I think I’ll just about get away with it. This is Mailer’s account of the famous Ali-Frasier Rumble In the Jungle in 1974. Mailer was one of the great men of American letters, and many of his novels are undisputed classics. What people don’t often realise is that he was a very good journalist too, and that one of his main passions was writing about boxing, something he did for most of his life. This works as a great insider scoop of the fight, but it’s also an intimate portrait of the two fighters (there’s a lovely bit where Ali takes Mailer for a run on the eve of the fight, for example) and he captures the madness of 70s Zaire beautifully as well.

stu-fupFup by Jim Dodge.

I can never resist an opportunity to plug this one. So small you can read it in half an hour, this novella is a lovely little zen-like fable about a ninety nine year old man who keeps himself alive with home-made Death Whisper whiskey, his grandson and their pet duck Fup, who they rescue from the clutches of the crazy wild boar that’s terrorizing their ranch. Jim Dodge is an absolute magician with words and it’s a shame that his whole printed output only amounts to three novels – Stone Junction and Not Fade Away are both pretty mind-blowing too – and a single book of poetry/shorter prose. There’s a bit of magic realism going on here which adds to the mystique, but really it’s just a great story, beautifully told, and with a real heartbreaker as an ending. It’s one of those books that you’ll read once, go back to the beginning, read again, then start buying copies for all your friends. Wonderful.

Librarian’s Choice – Absolutely judge these books by their cover

We all judge books by their covers but within this selection what appealed on the exterior is just a glimpse of the visual feast inside. It’s really refreshing to see children’s information books being presented in this illustrative way. This selection is beautiful yet filled with fun and fascinating information. They are all available in Leeds Libraries and you can reserve them into your nearest branch for free.

Rachel Wild animalsWild Animals of the North – Dieter Braun

The imagery in this book is just gorgeous; it has a simple geometric feel but is so rich in colour. This book takes you on a journey to the farthest corners of the northern hemisphere and explores the fantastic creatures that live there. Braun’s illustrations make the animals pop out of every page, its perfect for the young naturalist out there.

 

Rachel Shackletons JourneyShackleton’s Journey – William Grill

This book is filled with tiny clever sketches which make the facts and figures so easy to visualise. I love the maps as you voyage along your Journey to the Antarctica. Grill has a really fun and uncomplicated style which is very appealing and brings this fascinating and brave story alive.

Rachel Something about a bearSomething about a Bear – Jackie Morris

The detail Morris gets using water colour is incredible, the bears just come to life on every page. This book is a bit of a hybrid between a story and an information book, which makes it really accessible for younger children especially when they are being read to. The information is delivered through beautiful wording and even has a little twist at the end. I wonder which your favourite bear will be?

 

Rachel Smart about sharksSmart about sharks – Owen Davey

Davey’s style is so unique; it has a lovely vintage feel and the colours really stand out. This book is filled with fun facts that are backed up by his minimalist yet lavish illustrations. If you love this there is another book call ‘Mad About Monkeys’ which is just as good!

Rachel Frida KhaloFreida Khalo – Eng Gee Fan

This book is part of a new series of children’s biographies ‘Little People, Big Dreams’ telling the stories of remarkable women in history. Each book is illustrated by a different artist and everyone is wonderful. They are the perfect introduction and the pictures on each page are delightful. If you love this one check out ‘Coco Chanel’, it’s fabulous!

 

Rachel AnimaliumAnimalium – Katie Scott

For any family that loves natural history this book is just fantastic; it’s a trip around a 24/7 museum with immaculate exhibits of the world’s finest and most extraordinary creatures. The illustrations are stunning and it’s packed with absorbing facts. I love the larger than average format of this book and can just imagine a family huddled together on the floor flicking through the pages.

 

Blog by Rachel, Children’s Librarian based at Central Library.