Books we are loving November 2020
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Thieves of Pudding Lane: A Story of the Great Fire of London – Jonathan Eyers
Another one of Bloomsbury’s Flashbacks series, The Thieves of Pudding Lane is set during the Great Fire of London. Orphaned by the plague, Sam must now find a way to stay alive on the streets. This story begins not so dissimilarly to Oliver Twist, as Sam teams up with a talented pickpocket who introduces him to Uncle Jack. But it doesn’t take long for Sam to realise that Uncle Jack is not as charitable as he seems. Suddenly Sam’s choices are to risk death stealing or risk death starving. When the Great Fire of London spreads across the city, Sam thinks he sees a way out of his predicament. But first, he has to find his way through the maze of smoke-filled city streets.
The Thieves of Pudding Lane was a great follow-up to our history reading about the Great Fire of London. It was a quick read and included a lot of memorable details about London buildings, the many reasons why the fire spread so quickly and easily, and the different reactions of London’s wealthy and poor woven nicely into the story. Miss Seven managed to follow most of it (verbal/auditory learners will have no problem) and Mister Eleven really enjoyed it.
Sequin and Stitch – Laura Dockrill
I found Sequin and Stitch among the Books for Keeps recommendations at the beginning of this year. As a mother of a budding seamstress, the description certainly piqued my interest as something she might really enjoy. I was so excited to find out our library service had a copy so I reserved it straight away. RIGHT before lockdown. We waited for a looooong time to get this reservation ya’ll. But it was worth the wait.
This book is so much more than a story about a little girl and her relationship with her talented seamstress mother. Sequin’s mother is afraid to leave the house. Sequin never has friends over either. None of her friends believes her mum makes the amazing dresses in the fashion magazines. And when her mum is asked to make the dress for the Princess’s wedding, Sequin begs her to request that she get some credit for her efforts. It’s complicated. And then there is Stitch, Sequin’s baby brother, whom she looks after while her mum is busy. But Stitch is not all that he seems either.
Sequin and Stitch had me on the verge of tears at the end, both the sad and the happy kind. This book is about family trauma and healing and if that might trigger your children, do read it yourself first. Miss Seven and Mister Eleven had lots of questions and I don’t doubt this book has positively affected their abilities to empathise.
Publisher Barrington Stoke has labelled this book ‘super readable’ and ‘dyslexia friendly.’ As a read-aloud, we completed it in a day. It was really hard to make it last two days as everyone wanted to know how it was all going to end.
Black and British: A short essential history – David Olusoga
Audiobook narrated by Ben Onwukwe
My children and I listened to this on Audible the day it became available. It was such an eye-opening experience for Mister Eleven and me. We had just finished our unit on the Georgians and the beginning of the end of Britain’s involvement in the slave trade. Between this audiobook, Olusoga’s Black and British tome for adults (read by my husband), and Akala’s Natives (more my speed), my husband and I had really big conversations with Mister Eleven all October long.
Miss Seven got lost pretty quickly, however. The narrator for this audiobook is very sombre in tone (I should have expected this). The chapters were very long and it was difficult to know where to pause within a chapter . If you’re looking to share this book with children younger than ten/eleven I would recommend the paper copy for ease of adjusting the content.
Goth Girl – Chris Riddell
We are big fans of all things Chris Riddell in my house. It started with The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman (big Gaiman fangirl here, hello *waves*) which is beautifully illustrated by Riddell. When I saw Riddell’s name on Guardian’s of Magic, we just had to read it and we loved it. Riddell became a go-to name when perusing the library catalogue for my very visual Miss Seven. She loved the Ottoline series too. So, I tried to convince her on Riddell’s Goth Girl series but had no luck – at first. In preparation for Halloween, we explored the Gothic Horror genre and she finally consented to read Goth Girl. She was not disappointed.
We all enjoyed the many pop culture references with their playful names and exaggerated caricatures, like Simon Scowl, Donald Ear-Trumpet, and Tailor Extremely-Swift (daughter of Jonathan Extremely-Swift, author of Gulliver’s Trousers). You know it’s a good book when there are so many giggles!
I highly recommend Riddell’s work for visual children who want to read chapter books but maybe find all the text and no pictures hard work. Also, his writing and stories are really enjoyable for me as an adult, which I can’t say for all books that fill this awkward in-between phase for children.