Real life heroes

“Youthquake” by Tom Adams and Sarah Walsh is a book that I first came across when it was nominated for the Information Book Award.   It is aimed a Middle grade readers, as well as those in KS3 and focuses on 50 young people throughout history who have had a lasting impact on the world that we live in.  This is a book that is divided into themes, so that creative arts are under the heading “Create and Dream”, while sport is called “Lead and Triumph”.  It is a book to dip into, as well as to learn more about specific people.  Many of the names are now well known, but there are also many who are just receiving their first acknowledgements.  It shows how people an overcome multiple challenges if they are determined to achieve.

“Just like Me” by Louise Golding, Melissa Iwai and Caterina Delli Carri is a collective biography of a range of individuals who are neurologically and physically diverse.  It is aimed at the Middle Grade age range, even down to age 7 years according to the publishers.  It is great to see a title that allows young children to understand that we are a world of wonderfully diverse people.

“I am not a label” by Cerrie Burnell and Lauren Baldo is another collection of biographies from the past and present.  All of the people represented are disabled in some way and this book focuses on their achievements, rather than on the disability.  There are quite a few names that I am not familiar with, so it is wonderful to see people from across the world who have overcome many obstacles to achieving their ambitions.

We are the Beatles” by Zoe Tucker and Mark Wang  AND “We are the Supremes” by Zoe Tucker and Salina Perera. These two titles are the first in a new series from ‘Wide Eyed Editions’ and aimed at KS1 readers. The author is beginning to make a name for herself with the range of biographies for young people that she has written, so it is great to think that we have another talent to depend on for many years hopefully.  The stories are told very simply and have underlying themes of friendship, equality and teamwork.  There are some exciting titles in the pipeline and I am really looking forward to the books on NASA Scientists and also the Apollo 11 crew, which are due out this autumn.

“Fearless” by Gattaldo  tells the story of a Maltese journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was well known for her expose of injustices in her country.  I first heard about her a couple of years ago when there was a TV documentary about her life and an investigation into the bomb  attack that killed her.  This book is aimed at younger readers and emphasizes her belief in freedom of speech and civil rights, it does not cover the horror of her death.  It is supported by Amnesty International and shines a light on the fact that all countries seem to have dark areas in the way they are run and in the way that people are able to live their lives.

“The Fog of War” by Michelle Jabes  Corpora and  Amerigo Pinelli,  AND “Queen of Freedom” by Catherine Johnson and Amerigo Pinelli are both titles in the best selling series “True Adventures” from Pushkin Children’s books.  The range of subjects is extremely broad.  The former title is about Martha Gellhorn an American journalist who managed to be part of the D-Day landings, something that her then husband, Ernest Hemingway, did not manage.  The latter title is about the Jamaican freedom fighter Queen Nanny who led  the revolt of the Maroon people against the British colonial authorities and slave owners in the late 18th century.  All of the books in this series tell us about people that struggled against oppression, stereotypes and colonialism among other issues.  They bring all of this home to the reader in a straightforward and understandable way.

Little people: BIG DREAMS” is a wide ranging series of biographical books aimed at very young readers. Written by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara they have a range of  illustrators , however they do follow a ‘house style’ that most people will recognize.  This links in to the small format of the books and also the age range that they are aimed at, which is in the 5-8 years range.  the characters portrayed range from people such as Alan Turing and Martin Luther King, to Captain Tom Moore and Marcus Rashford.   there are also multiple books about famous women, from Mary Anning to Frida Kahlo and Coco Chanel. One of the latest that I came across is about the iconic figure of Iris Apfel, who at the age of 100 is still a major figure in the fashion world and an example to us all.   Hopefully some of these titles can be found in every school and library.

How to be Brave by Daisy May Johnson

Pushkin Press, 9781782693253

What an absolute treasure of a book.  It is a total delight for all of those who love stories set in a boarding school, which in this instance is called the School of the Good Sisters.  The story  begins with a young girl called Elizabeth North being sent to the school after the death of both her parents.  The nuns are kind but eccentric and Elizabeth soon learns to love the school. One day her class is out for a walk in the grounds and they come across a small brown duck, sitting in the road.  Elizabeth is the one person who is brave enough to go and help it.  This leads to her lifelong fascination with ducks (and especially the Mallardus Amazonica, which she had first seen) and also to the adventures that are to await her and her daughter in the future.  If we fast forward quite a few years we find Elizabeth and her daughter Calla (named after a lily from southern Africa) living a somewhat erratic lifestyle, due to Elizabeth’s difficulty in coping with the mundane aspects of life, such as keeping a job, paying bills and not burning the food.  When she is offered a job in the Amazon, studying the ducks she loves, Calla is sent to her mother’s old school.  However, when she arrive she finds that things have changed.  Her mother’s nemesis from her school days, Magda DeWitt is now the headteacher and she is trying to make the school a much stricter place (and don’t get me started about the awful food, yuck!).  The pupils are ready to start a revolution and Calla finds herself  caught up in events; but then she receives a message to say that her mother has been kidnapped and then gone missing.  Calla is determined to attempt a rescue mission, but first she has to deal with the ‘headmistress from hell’.

This is a stunningly original take on the boarding school story.  There is family, friendship, adventure, mystery and above all there are BISCUITS.  The author has added to our reading pleasure with the inclusion of many footnotes throughout the book.  They explain some of the terms, provide humorous comments and generally work as gentle asides from the author.  It is a delightful mix of Hogwarts and St Trinian’s, with a mix of eccentric pupils and teachers who would be equally at home in either establishment.  Having attended a convent for 7 years, I only wish that I had such an enterprising group of teachers.  Most of us get our knowledge of boarding school from reading books and watching films but for those who want a look at the reality for those attending school post- WWII then Ysenda Maxtone Graham’s book “Terms and Conditions” (Slightly Foxed,  9781906562977) is well worth a read; you will see that the fiction definitely lives down to the reality for many past pupils.  I have also just come across this latest podcast from the publisher Slightly Foxed which has a section about boarding school stories https://foxedquarterly.com/picnic-at-hanging-rock-slightly-foxed-podcast-episode-32/?ct=t%28SF+Podcast+Episode+32+Reminder%29  so I am really looking forward to listening to this as well. Daisy  has definitely made me want to revisit some of the books from my youth and perhaps catch up on some of the authors that I missed out on.  Most of my boarding school knowledge came from stories such as the “Sadlers Wells” series by Lorna Hill and the “Four Marys” who appeared in Bunty magazine throughout my childhood, this means that I have a wide range of authors to read and then discuss with other fans of this type of book.  It should keep me busy for quite a long time and perhaps i will be able to meet up with Daisy at a conference or festival and have a long chat about favourite school heroines.

 

Daisy May Johnson

Agent: Bryony Woods

copyright, Bookseller?

Writer, researcher, chartered librarian and former A14 Writer In Residence with the University of Cambridge, Daisy wears a lot of literary hats. She blogs about children’s literature at Did You Ever Stop To Think, about her research at Big Boots and Adventures, and can be found happily gossiping about children’s books on Twitter.

She’s a specialist in children’s literature, and has written about gifted and talented characters, the representation of landscape, literary tourism, and currently researches young girls and creative writing. Her favourite children’s books include boarding schools, buns, and silver brumbies wandering around the outback.  She’ll talk to you for days about how groundbreaking The Chalet School In Exile is.  And when she’s not reading or writing books, she’s making chocolate brownies and watching vintage films. She loves a Gene Kelly dance number, fangirls over Burt Lancaster, and adores a good Powell and Pressburger.

Daisy’s first novel for children, How To Be Brave, will be published by Pushkin in 2021.

© Diamond Kahn and Woods Literary Agency, 2012-2021

The Three Impossibles by Susie Bower

Having worked for Bristol Libraries for nearly 20 years, I am always delighted when I read that an author lives and works in this vibrant city, although I have just heard that Susie has moved to Devon; yet another hub for fantastic authors and illustrators.  I first came across Susie Bower when her book “School for Nobodies” appeared in 2020 and was excited to hear about this new title.

Pushkin, 9781782692928

“The Three Impossibles” is the story of a young girl called Mim, who is actually Princess Jemima, but hates all of the trappings that go with being a ‘perfect princess’.  She lives in a castle, but is forbidden to leave its grounds and the whole town is said to suffer from a curse that occurred when her mother died, just as Mim was born.  The arrival of a new governess called Madame Marionette soon sets the cat among the pigeons.  There is something very sinister about this teacher, her servants and her so called ‘pet’ that she keeps hanging in a covered cage; she appears to have a secret agenda and Mim is worried by what that might mean to the inhabitants of the castle.  Mim is a very inquisitive person and loves escaping to the library and reading her way through the books, unfortunately she can only reach those at the start of the alphabet.  But then she comes across a book that is definitely out of place and there is something very unusual about it.  “The Three Impossibles” positively glows, as if it want to be found, but Mim finds it impossible to open the book, which just makes her more determined to investigate this puzzle.  the story develops at a tremendous pace as Mim uncovers the secrets surrounding her home and the inhabitant of the lighthouse that is just off the shore.  Will the book finally reveal its secret and can Mim actually break the curse that has ruined lives for so many years?  Well, you will have to read the adventure to find out, I am afraid.

This is a fabulous story about a young girl who just doesn’t fit in to the world that she lives in. She loves science and finding things out, hates dressing up and wants to have more freedom, but I think above all she wants to be loved by those around her, especially her father.  There is magic and mystery, curses and creatures of myth for Mim to contend with, but with the help of her friend Smith and Miranda (the cursed grand daughter of the court alchemist) she battles to  overcome evil.  There is a wonderful lesson for us all about striving to be the best we can be, whilst also being true to our inner selves.  So often, this world tries to mould us into something we aren’t, so Mim reminds us to recognize our true selves.

What made you want to write for young people? Or was it a happy accident?

Susie Bower

By the time she hit her teens, Susie Bower had lived in 8 houses and attended 7 schools. This theme continued in her working life: she’s been a teacher, a tour-guide, a typist, a workshop facilitator, a PA and a painter. She formerly wrote and directed TV programmes for children at the BBC and Channel 4, for which she won a BAFTA Award, and she currently writes audio scripts. School for Nobodies, her debut novel, is also available from Pushkin Children’s. Susie lives in Devon.

The Hungry Ghost by H.S.Norup

When Freja moves to Singapore, to live with her father and his new family for a year, she could not imagine the mysterious and frightening occurrences that will change her life.  The move was caused by the breakdown in her mother’s mental health, but Freja feels guilty for not being able to stay with her.  The world that she discovers in Singapore is very different from her home in Denmark and she finds it difficult to adapt to life with her step-mother Clementine and her two year-old twin half-brothers.  Freja arrives in her new home during the month of the “Hungry ghosts”, a festival celebrated in Buddhist Chinese and Vietnamese cultures;  where local residents leave food and other offerings at the graves of their ancestors to appease them and prevent evil spirits gaining access to our world.  On the evening of her arrival Freja sees a young girl, dressed in white, in the garden but no one seems to know where she comes from.  As the story progresses we learn that the girl is called Ling and that she is a ghost who cannot settle until she remembers what happened to her family.  How Freja and her new school friends help solve the mystery makes for a fascinating story and we discover that it was not just Ling who had hidden away some painful memories.

This is a beautifully told story with characters that are full of energy, but who are often suffering a lot of hidden pain.  The world of Singapore is brought to life and we are aware of just how much of a multi-cultural place it is.  All of the friends that Freja makes come from different parts of the world and their parents are often from separate countries; just like Freja, whose mother is Danish but her father is English and her step-mother is Anglo-Chinese.  The festival of the “Hungry Ghosts” puts me in mind of the Mexican Day of the Dead, but there is a slightly darker aspect to the commemoration as there is a strong need to prevent the ‘hungry ghosts’ (who may have committed a wrong doing in their life) from coming back to this world and wreaking havoc on their descendants.  The multiple layers of the story that are gradually revealed remind us of the inequalities of our colonial past and the heartache that this could cause for many of the people involved.  This is at times heart wrenching as Freja peels back hidden secrets and finally understands her links to Ling and Singapore.

 

Author bio:

H. S. Norup is the author of The Hungry Ghost and The Missing Barbegazi—a Sunday Times Book of the Year in 2018. Originally from Denmark, she has lived in six different countries and now resides in Switzerland with her husband and two teenage sons. She has a Master’s degree in Economics and Business Administration and sixteen years’ experience in corporate marketing strategy and communications. When she’s not writing or reading, she spends her time outdoors either skiing, hiking, walking, golfing or taking photos.

Thank you to the author for the author information and the photograph that she has made available on her website https://www.hsnorup.com/