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Reading “Feelings”

Feelings

This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week, a week designed to raise awareness and start conversations. My picture-book, Feelings, aims to start those conversations about the emotions we experience much earlier – getting children to recognise and understand what feelings are.

Picture books are magical things. They introduce children to wonderful creatures, imaginary places and the art of storytelling but that’s not all. They also teach children to read pictures and to understand imagery before they can even read words. Feelings, uses picture book principles to help children read and understand how emotions feel without prescription and, most importantly, without judgement.

Feelings is a peek-through picture book that looks to take the reader on a journey through a range of emotions they might experience, with the philosophy of:

Looking from the outside, I may seem the same as you, but deep beneath the surface feelings bubble, stir and brew…”.

The same character appears on every spread, by way of a central cutaway, to explore the emotional spectrum. My Publisher, Thomas Truong, came up with this format to give readers a ‘guide’ and illustrator Richard Jones deliberately made the character androgynous so not to exclude any readers from the journey.

Illustrator Richard Jones explains what it was like to tackle the huge subject of feelings through art:

The moment I read the text for Feelings I knew it could be not only a thoughtful, magical book but a useful one too.

Having worked in a busy children’s library for nearly 15 years I was aware there are very few accessible books for children that tackle the complicated, knotty subject of feelings.

Although there are many tangled distinctions between feeling and emotion it was my role as the illustrator to focus on the feeling – the unique reaction to an emotional response that makes us the person we are. 

Each page needed to be imaginative, inventive and interesting to young eyes but not so specific or abstruse that the reader cannot relate to the feeling portrayed.

FeelingsFeelings is a book designed to start conversations about how we feel, to help make children feel comfortable and confident in talking about or drawing their emotions. It can be used both in the classroom for art projects and poetry lessons or as a one-on-one storybook, allowing parents to guide their child. We’ve had some lovely responses from teachers and bloggers posting the pictures children have done to show how they feel and we’d love to see more! Use the tag #FeelingsBook to share and discuss – join the conversation.

 

Feelings can be purchased online (Amazon, Waterstones, etc.) or in your local bookshop.

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Oh Lydia!

Lydia

I am fifteen years old today, and this journal was a present from Mary.

To me, Pride and Prejudice is the one book to rule them all. Elizabeth Bennett is the utter dream (I wish I was her!) and Mr Darcy is the love interest all other love interests look up to as far as I am concerned. In Austen’s classic, these two are finally brought together through a family scandal – the disappearance of Elizabeth’s younger sister, Lydia. The whys or wherefores of Lydia’s unexpected departure from Brighton with the unsavoury Wickham is only touched upon in Austen’s classic but Lydia by Natasha Farrant aims to fill in the blanks and unmask the mystery once and for all!

Written in the style of a diary, Lydia is a fun first-person narrative that offers an insight to the inner-workings of the spoilt, selfish Bennett sister as Farrant gives Lydia a voice and a platform on which to perform. The story is both familiar and unfamiliar, starting off in the Bennett household, mirroring Austen’s narrative, then following Lydia to Brighton where details of her escapades have always eluded P&P fans.

Now obviously, due to popularity of P&P, spin-off titles are inevitable – got to ride that train! – but I have managed to avoid pretty much all of them bar one ( PD James’ not so inviting Death Comes to Pemberley). I’m not a huge advocate for spin-offs, they are very rarely done well, but Lydia surprised me. Farrant managed to bring life to the youngest Bennett sister, encompassing the character traits created by Austen and develop her into a more rounded literary figure. She finds a depth to the otherwise childish Lydia, maturing her within the tale to a character worthy of attention. The plot and reasoning behind Lydia’s behaviour is credible, the narrative is witty and fast-paced and the titular character is finally able to come out of the shadows of her siblings and shine.

3 star

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Four Years of Going Through the Wardrobe!

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Today my little blog turns four –

1,096 days Through the Wardrobe door!

I’ve read, reviewed and spread bookish good cheer,

So it’s time to celebrate another literary year!

Blogging is a tricky little beast but one I wouldn’t be without. Yes, book blogs may be ten a penny but, to me, they are so incredibly important. I discover books, people and ideas through the blogging world that I wouldn’t have come across on my own. I see more of the literary market, themes and blockbusters through blogs and social media than what my tastes or day-to-day working life would allow.

Through the Wardrobe is four years old today – four YEARS old!! Though it may be just a quiet toddler within the blogging community, I never believed my little space in the virtual universe would 1) ever be sustained for so long and 2) still be something I am so passionate about. I absolutely love being able to share bookish recommendations, thoughts and musings with you and I shall endeavour to continue and grow Through the Wardrobe over the next twelve months. Thank you so SO much for visiting, following and supporting this blog and me this past year. TTWers – you will never know how much that means!

Now time for some cake!

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Don’t Follow The Herd

 

The Cows

(Yes, I own a cow-print chair and I’m not even sorry!)

I see a bead of sweat pop out of his forehead and flop down his face like a melting slinky.

Two major points drew me to The Cows – 1) Dawn O’Porter (I’m a complete fangirl when it comes to DO’P so picking up her debut adult novel was a bit of a no brainer!) and 2) the title. I went through a bit of a cow obsession as a teen (to the point where I still have a cow print bedroom back home…) and though I’m pleased to tell you that it has somewhat subsided, I was still intrigued to see what DO’P would do with such majestic creatures as a title…

Tara, Cam and Stella are three very different women leading very different lives but with the same problem – the expectations and demands of society are restricting their voice. One utterly embarrassing incident later and the three women find that unless they grasp the mettle, their lives will be played to someone else’s tune. It’s time to take a stand and stop following the herd.

I raced through this book, devouring every page! There is a lot going on, with three complex and separate female voices narrating the tale, but DO’Ps authorial flair effortlessly carries the story and creates an addictive novel you won’t want to put down!

Controversial, current yet classic The Cows focuses on the age-old issues aligned with growing-up, womanhood and friendship as well as the new and unexpected. It attempts to cover almost every modern feminist issue and though it is a successful and enjoyable read (one I won’t fail to recommend), I felt that a couple of balls could have been dropped to keep a stronger level of focus and character integrity.

The characters are the strongest part of The Cows. All three women have their own defined voice, character and personality and whilst flitting between the three could be confusing in anyone else’s hands, DO’P has written each so well you enjoy checking in with each one! Even if you don’t agree with their methods, motives or philosophies, you will come to understand what makes Tara, Cam and Stella tick. I really enjoyed the change of pace as you transition between the three viewpoints and whilst some of the things they experience are dotted with artistic license, you forgive DO’P because you just want to know what happens!

The Cows is hilarious, heart-breaking and oh so familiar! As DO’P shows what these women have to face, justify and tackle in their day-to-day lives her novel becomes a stark reminder of how far we have to go in order to accept all forms of individuality, free from judgement. So please do follow this recommendation to pick up the book but #dontfollowtheherd…

4 star

 

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THUG Life

THUG

I shouldn’t have come to this party.

Regular readers of TTW know that I usually stay away from books that have hype surrounding their launch as I like the headspace to make my own mind up about them. But there was something about The Hate U Give that made me desperate to read it and now, having done so, I can say that the hype is justified. This book is important, relevant and heart-achingly good. Everyone should pick up a copy.

Starr Carter lives two lives – balancing her posh co-ed high school in the suburbs with her home life in one of the poorer neighbourhoods, the place where she was born and raised. She’s managing to keep the two successfully apart but one evening and one tragic incident will soon bring those walls that divide her lives crashing down and she has to decide to find her voice before she’s silenced…

Thomas’ debut novel is fearless. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, it is both affecting and effective, drawing you deep into the heart of Starr’s world. It explores the fear, generosity, anger and loyalty a girl, family and community feel when it is threatened by injustice. It examines prejudice at every angle – from a figure of authority’s assumption of behaviour based on race to the issues surrounding couples of different ethnic backgrounds. At its heart, it is the tale of a sixteen year-old who witnesses the shooting of her friend but THUG actually explores much more about the world than we’d readily admit.

Unlike the central incident of the book, THUG is actually an incredibly balanced novel. It examines white privilege just as readily as it explores the problem of gang warfare. It is not anti-white or pro-black but rather calls for universal humanity, justice and consequence. It is as much a social and political commentary as it is a gripping and powerful narrative.

Starr is a wonderfully generous protagonist. She is unfiltered but neutral, seeing all sides of life at school, home and in her neighbourhood. I loved the complexity and honesty that Thomas captures in Starr – she is the only witness to the shooting of her childhood friend, Khalil, by a police officer and has to navigate the guilt, anger and injustice that begin to stand alongside her grief. Somehow she is able to find courage and conviction to go against the accepted authority and fight for what is right. She is an awesome and inspiring protagonist that you’ll root for time and again.

The Hate U Give brings today’s racial tensions and the issues associated with it to light in much in the same way Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird did. It’s just a shame that such a powerful book is still needed today. A fantastic and phenomenally successful novel, The Hate U Give is a book well worthy of its praise. Read it.

5 star

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Marked For Life

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I was older than all my friends when I got my first tattoo.

In the case of Alice Broadway’s debut novel, absolutely judge a book by its cover because this one is a stunner – look at all that beautiful foiling! Whilst I admit the cover drew me in, it was the blurb that made me desperate to read this book because the concept of Ink is fascinating…

Everyone is marked from birth. The stories of their lives are documented on their skin, with every significant moment illustrated for all to see. When a person dies, their skin is removed and made into a special book, a life laid bare. Each book is weighed and judged and, if deemed worthy, will sit in the homes of their ancestors forevermore. But when Leora’s father dies, she soon realises that his Skin Book has been edited and she’s not the only one who has noticed…

Engrossing and immersive, Ink tells the story of one girl’s struggle to understand a parent’s death and to come to terms with the idea that her father was a man not a hero. Everyone, at some point in their lives, has to come to terms with the fact that their parents aren’t perfect or invincible – that they keep secrets and have pasts too. Leora only starts to unveil the truth about her father when his Skin Book gets taken away for examination and she begins to realise the significance of one tiny, hidden tattoo.

The dystopian world Broadway creates within Ink is rich and bewitching. Big concepts such as the afterlife, religion, indoctrination and love are woven into the tale with astute awareness and sensitivity. Ironically in a book about death, there is so much life to the tale and the characters – as the opening book to the trilogy it builds Leora’s world and sets up the premise of the following two books without sacrificing its ability to entertain. The ending was so utterly empowering that I couldn’t help but compare and believe that Broadway was setting Leora up as a Katniss Everdeen-esque heroine for the next book and I can’t wait to see what’s in store!

Normally I wouldn’t read the opening to a trilogy until all three books were out – as an impatient person, I like to read all three in quick succession – but I couldn’t avoid opening Ink. Unique and addictive, Ink rises to a crescendo and leaves you desperate to see where Broadway is going to take us, and Leora, next.

4 star