After a small boy’s imagination takes root, a magical tree grows producing mouthfuls of marvellously juicy jelly beans under a canopy of cheerfulness and fun allowing the boy to be whomever he pleases and gad about ‘rudie nude’ in the rain. Filled with Parker’s delicious linear illustrations, …Jelly Bean Tree is an exuberant testimony to the potency of imagination and belief.
This is a book I almost missed this year. I had an early review copy but it just sat in my TBR pile well after the book had been released. I don’t know why I kept passing it over but I am so glad I finally got around to picking it up. Sarah Hall is a superb writer and I am confused as to why this book has so far been overlooked for this year’s major literary prizes.
Rachel Caine is an expert on wolves. For the past ten years she has been working in Idaho studying wolf populations on the reservations. Keeping as far from home and her upbringing as she can manage. She is also distant from her colleagues, forging as little close relationships as possible. However she is drawn home by an ambitious plan to reintroduce the grey wolf to Britain. The plan is not without controversy, opposed by the local population.
The idea is driven by the Earl of Annerdale who has the political and financial capital to make the plan a reality. Rachel accepts the Earl’s offer to manage the project and returns home. Her mother has recently passed away and when Rachel finds herself pregnant she grasps the opportunity to not only restart her professional life but also her personal life. While she sets about smoothing over the locals concerns and arranging for the introduction of two wolves into a preserve that has been set aside she also sets about restoring her relationship with her estranged brother and preparing for the arrival of a new addition to her own new family.
Sarah Hall’s writing is absolutely captivating. Her descriptions of the wolves and their behaviour is cleverly set against and matched with Rachel’s experience of pregnancy and motherhood. Added to the backdrop of the story is Scotland’s quest for independence and the politics and conflict wrought by Britain’s class system and history of land ownership.
A deeply fascinating, evocative and personal story, this is one of the books of the year.
It’s the Year of the Rabbit so Tania and I thought we’d let the rabbits have their say this week on Kids’ Book Capers.
We’ve brought our bunnies, Cosi and Pickachew (who live at the White household) and Mango and Max (who are fluffy McCartneys) along this week to talk about their favourite books.
Not surprisingly, every book they chose features a rabbit or close relative.
So please put your paws together today to welcome Pickachew and Mango rabbit talking about what they love to read. Today it’s the White Bunnies turn and tomorrow the Brown Bunnies will be here to talk about their favourites.
I love this book, not just because it features my cousin, Fuzzy Hare, but because I can so relate to that feeling of having an itch that just won’t go away, that really needs to be scratched.
I’m lucky I have my friend Cosi Rabbit to do it for me.
I really like all the friends Fuzzy O’ Hare has in this book too. Like Timpkin the mouse, “gleefully gobbling his cheese beneath the fru-fru trees”. And Possum Pie and Feather McDoo.
The pictures are great and I like the way everyone helps each other in this book.
MANGO RABBIT’S COLLECTION
The Rabbit Problem – written and illustrated by Emily Gravett.
I’m a soft, white Netherland dwarf – but don’t let that fool you – I’m also a feisty bunny with big ideas …. just like Emily Gravett, who is one of my fave authors because she really knows her bunnies.
In The Rabbit Problem, we meet a pair of rabbits who come together to… er… multiply. It’s not done in an obvious way or anything, so it’s totally suitable for kids.
When, seemingly overnight, the multiplication gets kind of out of hand, the pair realise overpopulation is not their only problem. There’s also teeming rain, a carrot shortage, a plague of crows, a too-hot summer and carotene-fuelled weight issues.
Like any intelligent species, however, they soon work out just what to do. Complete with chew holes and pop-ups, this book makes me feel like ‘home’.
Wolves – written and illustrated by Emily Gravett.
I know, I know – it’s another Gravett book, but I already told you I was a serious fan.
Now, many would say this book is anti-rabbit … but I disagree. It’s important that young rabbits are made aware of the dangers out there in this big bad world, and Wolves certainly tells it like it is – no carrots barred.
The star of the book – a RABBIT – goes to the library to burrow [sic] a book on wolves. As he reads through it, he becomes more and more wide-eyed and nervous – clearly, too much information may not be a good thing … especially when the rabbit discovers what wolves like to serve up for dinner.
I know for a fact that no rabbits were harmed in the making of Wolves – and I do feel that although this book is somewhat confronting, there’s nothing wrong with injecting a little fear into the current crop of young upstart rabbits who think they’re utterly invincible.
Wolves are everywhere. This is an important book.
Pickachew and Mango had so much fun playing together today and talking about their favourite books. Tomorrow, Cosi will meet Max rabbit and they’ll be talking about the Brown Bunnies’ Best Books. Hop on over and meet them.
My Dorothy-style there’s-no-book-like-Vampire-Academy moan hasn’t stopped since the last few times I’ve mentioned it on this blog. I don’t own red shoes and clicking my heels together to conjure up either more, as-yet-unpublished books in the series or books equal to the task of filling the series’ big, now-empty shoes hasn’t worked.
My friend Kate tried to assuage my sadness (and quite possibly stopper my whinging) by recommending a book she’s found to be pretty good.
Called Shiver and penned by American writer Maggie Stiefvater, it’s a young adult novel about a girl who’s in love with a boy who’s half-human and half-wolf. Grace, the female lead doesn’t initially know the wolf and the boy are the same, of course, and the two watch each other from a distance for a long, long time.
The problem is that cold weather turns human Sam, the male lead, into a wolf and the couple live in a rather chilly, snowfall-is-just-around-the-corner place. Once Grace discovers that Sam and the wolf are one and the same, they become romantically involved and then embroiled in super-human efforts to keep him warm and in human form.
There are further complications with the wolf aspect—and this is where, in my so-very-shallow knowledge of the conventions of young-adult fiction, I think this book offers something unique.
The complications include that there comes a time when the humans permanently morph into wolf form. That means that Grace and Sam’s recently found true love (and yes, you’re allowed to channel The Princess Bride here) is about to be permanently torn apart.
Also playing out in the background are the storylines that Grace was once been attacked by these wolves, and a newly formed and unstable wolf is causing chaos about town.
As much as I wanted it to be, and as much as I found the cover art very pretty, this book was no Vampire Academy for me. But that’s also an impossibly high and unfair benchmark by which to judge it.
On its own, Shiver is a good book and one that I enjoyed enough to read in a few sittings and for which I sacrificed the hallowed sport of sleep. To continue the Dorothy theme, I should recognise and get over the fact that I’m not in Kansas anymore.
The exchanges between characters were sassy and clever and, although I didn’t think Sam was quite in the realms of Edward (the brooding, vampire love interest from Twilight) or Dimitri (the brooding, kickass vampire love interest from Vampire Academy who kicks even Edward’s ass), I thought he was very sweet.
Shiver also thankfully lacked some of the annoying moral overtones Twilight, in particular, reeked of, or the drawn-out-ness of the will-we-won’t-we love story. Sam and Grace get together, stay together, and there’s no annoying forlorn looks or I’m-a-danger-to-you-so-it’s-best-that-I-leave-you mucking about.
Getting to the final page, I discovered that Grace and Sam’s tale continues, branching out with another one-word-entitled book called Linger. Shiver might not have rocked my world as much as Vampire Academy, but I liked it enough to warrant continuing onto book two. Who knows, maybe the series will grow further on me. Maybe I’ll come to like Sam as much as Dimitri.