Book Reviews

Kitten Corner: Gorgeous Gift Books

I have three books to show you today which don’t have a lot in common beyond the fact that I think each of them would make an amazing gift – they’re all beautiful hardbacks that feel really special, and slightly outside the ordinary for kids’ books. All three of these were sent to me free of charge by the publishers, but that doesn’t affect my opinions: I genuinely think they’re all lovely!

Writes of Passage: Words to Read Before You Turn 13, selected by Nicolette Jones, from Nosy Crow

This collection of excerpts, poems, quotes and lyrics is an interesting and inspiring read. Perfect for dipping into and out of, it’s full of wise words on subjects from family to equality to childhood to books. Although it doesn’t specify a lower age range to ‘before 13′, I think this is probably best for 11+ if not 12+, as it does touch lightly on some dark topics, such as suicide, murder, rape threats and war. At times the different sections can feel a little disjointed from each other – it’s a little jarring to go from the murder of Jo Cox and the shooting of Malala Yousafzai for standing up for equal rights, to whimsical quotes about how enjoyable books are in the turn of a few pages, but the underlying theme of the collection is giving kids examples of how to make the world better, and that happens in many different areas and with many tiny changes. There will certainly be more than a few quotes in here that will inspire any reader, and I like that there’s a wide range of eras represented, from Seneca writing 2000 years ago to childrens’ authors publishing right now like Frances Hardinge.

Children of the World, written by Nicola Edwards, illustrated by Andrea Stegmaier, from Little Tiger

This is a really sweet glimpse into the lives of children all around the world. Moving through themes from houses to weather to food and more, it offers bitesize facts about life in dozens of different countries. It’s a very warm book, and it takes care not to present any cultures as exotic or ‘other’, just presenting facts with the same amount of excitement no matter which country they’re about. It’s obviously a little simplified, and it would be important with any book like this to discuss with a young reader how we can’t make universal statements about everyone in any given country – for example, kids will know that not everyone in England has a cooked breakfast every day, so it should be easy to start a conversation about how perhaps not all Japanese breakfasts are savoury. But as I say, that’s an issue writing anything about whole countries, and I think this book would be a great jumping-off point for interest in other countries. The art is lovely, with a really comfy, homey feel no matter what type of home it’s depicting – it’s a real pleasure to look at all the details!

Earth, Sea and Stars: Inspiring Tales of the Natural World, retold by Isabel Otter and illustrated by Ana Sender, from Little Tiger

This collection of nature myths and stories from around the world is presented in a similar format to their lovely short story collections Tales from the Forest and Tales from the Sea, with 20 very short stories accompanied by beautiful full-page artwork. It’s just as great a collection as those two, and really feels like a treasure trove of stories. They’d work wonderfully as special bedtime stories, as each one is only a few pages long. There’s a great mix of tales from different countries here, most of which I’d never heard of before, and there are also ‘thinking points’ at the back of the book, a question about each story to get you thinking about the themes. It’s just a very lovely little read, and I hope Little Tiger come out with many more of these collections.

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