If you’re short of things to do this Summer then nip down and support your local independent bookshop.  You can’t go wrong.  Even if you’re not a huge reader there’s often a café, things for the kids to do, and lots of lots of alternative books to browse that you may not have ever considered looking at.  The best ones, especially when you have young children, should feel like a portal into the adult/real world.  I get strength from them that, yes, your brain still works and you can have an intelligent conversation whilst your kids are occupied elsewhere in the shop.

Simply Books in Bramhall, Cheshire is a great example. The owners, Sue and Andrew, are always on hand to stop and chat, and will always give up their time to pass on advice and recommendations.  They clearly care about you and your needs and have a wealth of knowledge to go at.   You don’t get that on-online!

So with Summer in mind, I cheekily asked Sue to help me pick out a few of her favourite and most popular reads for children aged 4-6, and 8+.  These are books that might actually  keep your little one entertained just long enough for you to sit down next to the pool in peace.   Ok, well, maybe.  We’re not miracles workers!


1 – Hide and Spot: Zoo on the Move  – Lo Cole

Basically it’s a spotting book with a cool red lens that makes the image visible once you hold it over it.  It’s kept my youngest entertained throughout our holiday.  It’s just brilliant.  That’s all I can say.  One up from your usual spotting book, and in hard back it’s just lovely to have on your shelf. The down side is that if the lens goes missing the book is pretty useless so it might be one to look at together!  Every illustration throws up a surprise and there are loads, so you will definitely feel like you have got your money’s worth.  I really love this one, and if it hadn’t been for Sue I wouldn’t have ever found it.  The story of the creator, Lo Cole, is really interesting too.  In the past he’s drawn for Vogue, The Times and Sony amongst loads of others.  A really different, fun book that everyone will enjoy.


 2 -Big Brown Bear’s Cave – Yuval Zommer

To be honest I only had a quick flick of this one, but my little one loved it and Sue recommended it as one with lovely pictures and a really good message.  It’s all about the value of friendship and has lots of humour in it.  Yuval Zommer is a lovely illustrator too, ‘One Hundred Bones’ and ‘One Hundred Sausages’ are previous favourites of ours!  I think it’s the perfect bedtime read on holiday as it gives you a chance to calm your child down before bed.

3 – The Koala who Could – Rachel Bright & Jim Field

Ok, so anything with Jim Field’s name on it is a winner.  His drawings are just beautiful, funny, cute, whatever you want to call them; they are simply joyous to look at.  Rachel Bright’s stories also always have a lovely message, and this one is no exception.  They’ve worked together previously so they are clearly a reliable partnership to deliver you a great story.  A huge thumbs from my little one!


4- Danny McGee Drank the Sea -Andy Stanton and Neal Layton

A really witty book which really tickles my daughter every time she reads it, and she’s read it a lot as it has been part of a project at school!  Now, anyone who has enjoyed the wonders of ‘Mr Gum’ (see previous post) then you might have a little inkling of how clever this book is.  The pictures are great too, Neal also illustrated the Emily Brown series so you might recognise his style.

5 – Supertato – Sue Hendra

This series has been a bedtime favourite of my youngest for a while now, so I had to pass on the recommendation.  They are just completely wacky stories about an evil pea and a super hero potato who always saves the day – what more can I say!  I think it appeals both to boys and girls and will keep them entertained over and over again.


Thanks to Sue for all these ideas, we both really hope you like them.  Now onto the 8 +!  Together, we chose a range of books that are for both the eager reader, or the much more reluctant one.  I’ll point out which is which as I go.

1 Knitbone Pepper Ghost Dog – Claire Barker and Ross Collins

This has been a surprise hit, as interestingly my daughter said she didn’t want to read it as she thought it was a spooky story.  However, after the author came to her school she changed her mind! Funny, beautifully illustrated and with a dog in it.  Can’t go wrong, especially as there is a series to go at.  It’s quite wordy, so might scare off an unsure reader but I think the pictures help draw potential readers in.  Check out the signed copies at Simply Books too!


2 There’s a Werewolf in my Tent – Pamela Butchart

This is the latest in a really funny, edgy series that have been read from cover to cover by my oldest.  Now, it looks scary on the front, which it kind of is, so one perhaps best to avoid before bed/at sleepovers etc (that’s sound advice from my daughter who was woken with a bad dream at her cousin’s house after reading it !*!) However, it’s not in anyway really scary, just humorously so.  Interestingly the marketing blurb with the book says it is for the ‘newly confident reader’ so would be a good one for children who need a little push to get started.  A good one for boys too.  If they like this one, the rest of the series is just as good, and features the same characters.



3 – Fantasically Great Women Who Changed the World – Kate Pankhurst

Now, Sue said this is a book simply everyone should have.  As the title so clearly states, this is a non-fiction book about really important women through history.  It’s beautifully put together, and as you can see by the author’s name it has a real personal touch to it.  It’s one you can dip in and out of, but essential reading for all kids.  This could really go in both ages groups as it is accessible to both due to the illustrations.  I think this one would throw up lots of questions, so on a wet day in Wales you could have fun doing a bit of research together.



4- Claude on Holiday by Alex T. Smith

This series was chosen for a number of reasons.  Sue says they are really popular, and perfect for a reader put off by wordy books.  Also, they have been picked up by Disney Junior and turned into an animation, so we’re thinking they are soon going to be really big!  My oldest one, who is a strong reader, felt they were a bit young for her so I think they would be a great read for children who don’t usually enjoy books.  The drawings are fantastic and Claude himself is a real treat. In this one he gets into all sorts of trouble when he meets pirates and finds treasure! Obviously, a great one for the beach.


5 – Knighthood for Beginners – Elys Dolan

This one is on our recommendation list because Sue herself has been bowled over by the response from her customers.  Children have been coming in and asking for it, and due to its popularity Simply Books have done some signings with Elys and said she was great fun, or ‘bonkers’ as she is described on the front! (Hence the signed copies still in stock if you’re quick!) This is a brilliant read for boys, has great illustrations and a really unusual hero in Dave the dragon and his friend, Albrecht the goat.  It’s off the wall, will make anyone laugh out loud and a real joy to have in your collection.





Phew, Ok, so there are some, I hope, really interesting ideas for your hols. I can’t tell you how important sticker books are too, always great to have in your bag whilst out and about on holiday, or simply for the journey.  They keep my lot happy for a fair amount of time, filling that gap when they are really tired out but don’t want to admit it.

A huge thanks to Sue at Simply Books – check out upcoming events at http://simplybooks.info  or on Facebook.

Happy holidays!







You know me, I’m a sucker for anything that makes a child open a book and see what’s inside.  So, when I heard about Easyjet’s Library in the Sky I nearly wept!  What a brilliant idea.  On various flights this Summer, at the front of every middle seat will be a free book for your child to read.  There are also extracts on the website, so if you are mega organised you can have a look what might be on offer before you fly.  http://www.easyjet.com/en/bookclub

Now in reality I know it’s not going to make much of a difference, as most kids (and parents) look forward to a guilt free few hours on the i-pad whilst in the air.  It’s the one time when your happy for them to binge on Peppa Pig and everything above.  Me included.  However, maybe just having a book in front of them that is free of charge, might just encourage some to at least open the cover, and see that books aren’t the enemy and aren’t ‘boooring.’  They’ve been chosen by Dame Jaqueline Wilson so come with a huge stamp of approval by someone who knows a good book when they see one, and you can catch her new book on the website too.  A lot of them have been turned into films, so a quick chat about what they’ve seen might be a good way to encourage them to start reading.

I’m really hoping that the books get looked after, and aren’t destroyed by the second week of the holidays.  Wouldn’t it be great if the idea inspired someone to sit by the pool and read – and you could get the cheeky beer in after all.

Happy holidays everyone!!

CBBC presenters at work

I had been preparing my daughters all morning for disappointment, you know how it is, ‘that they might not see anyone they know,’ ‘how telly people were always busy and might not have time to stop and chat.’   How wrong could I be!  For young girls,  this weekend was what dream’s are made of.

It was the CBBC Summer Social at Mediacity in Salford.  I’ve worked for the BBC, and had my suspicions that access would be very controlled, but it was the complete opposite.  In the bright sunshine, my two completely overwhelmed daughter’s mingled with the presenters, saw actual people off the actual TV and were spoiled by lots of photos and autographs.  Everyone couldn’t have been kinder. (Blue Peter’s Lindsey Russell, Karim, Lauren, Hacker, the vet’s off Pet Factor need a special mention!)

It was such a great day.  My highlight, other than seeing the huge smiles on the girl’s faces, was unsurprisingly book-related.   The books tent wasn’t hidden away in some dark corner, ashamed to be alongside the blogging, u-tubing generation.  Instead it was right there, in a prominent spot for all to see.  Most ‘Awesome Author’ events had been sold out, and every hour queues formed outside as fans queued desperately to see their favourite author.  It was just so heart-warming to see!  And the authors were good, I’m talking Liz Pichon (Tom Gates), Pamela Butchart (Baby Aliens Got my Teacher series – very funny!!)  and Robin Stevens (Murder most Unladylike series).  There were more, but these were the ones that seem to feature most in my house.

Liz Pichon, Greg James and Chris Smith!

We also caught the tail-end of a book-signing with the very lovely Greg James and Chris Smith, who despite the heat and the length of queue couldn’t have been more accommodating.  They were promoting their first book, ‘Kid Normal,’ which I suppose I could be sniffy about, celebs turned authors etc but if it gets kids reading then why not? More the merrier and having already had a quick flick through the book I really hope there are more in the pipeline.

My oldest has come home and has barely taken her nose out of her new Tom Gates book ever since.  She’s never read one before, but is now determined to finish off the entire series over the Summer. My little one is still amazed that she meet Rastamouse, and last night took her new book from the series to bed with her.  To me, it seems that meeting the presenters was an unbelievable, exciting but short term experience.  I reckon the discovery of new authors; authors that are fun, bright and truly interested in them, will last much longer.


This is all a bit left-field I know I as bang on about books all the time, but I also just want to underline the importance of reading other stuff as well, not just books. I hate the fact to ‘be a reader’ you have to have read the most recent Booker Prize list, and know what’s in this weeks top ten. You don’t. You don’t even need to read books; magazines, newspapers, recipes books, instruction manuals etc anything as long as it interests you and fires off your imagination.

If you are visually happy, comfortable or whatever it is with whatever you are reading, that then it going to give off super positive vibes around the house. To be interested in what you’re reading is the key, whatever the age. It drives me potty when school books are slid into my daughter’s book bag of which she has absolutely no interest in. What is the point of that? I know it’s part of a drive to teach her comprehension skills, but as an adult you know that if you are in a meeting that you are not interested in, you switch off. Same with this. Usually, I pretend it’s been read after a quick skim read and wait for the next one in the hope that it will get better. There is a vast range of subject matter out there, and the reason is because thankfully, we don’t all like the same thing.

What I am most desperate to get rid of, is the label that reading is some kind of punishment, or forced activity. ‘Sit in the corner and read a book!’ ‘Go upstairs and read a book!’ Two phrases that I really hope aren’t used any more. Reading should be a pleasurable, leisurely activity, one that has good connotations for all.  If exposed to books, a child who likes reading will pick one up and get started. A child that doesn’t, must be shown that books shouldn’t be sneered at. There will be something out there that they like!



1 Magazines – for younger children the BBC ones are all great as they teach early phonics too

2 – Jaquliene Wilson magazine

3 – Footballing magazines full of facts

4 – Comics (Beano – yes, it’s still going!)

5 – Joke books

6 – Graphic novels

7 – Stories on the ipad

8- Cook books (think of the fun you can have cooking together)

9 – Annuals

10- Guiness book of World Records

I will get on to the subject of i-pads, apps and computer games soon enough but it is too big a subject to write about here.



I’m a Mancunian but I haven’t visited the floral tributes.

I haven’t fully explained what happened to my daughter, 8 years old and a huge Ariana Grande fan.  She knows the briefest details, but that that is all. Not that people were killed.  Only hurt.

I watched the concert, donated money but that is all I have done.

In all honesty, Manchester, I feel a bit of a coward.

I’ve worked as a journalist here in the city, brought up two children here and still haven’t felt validated to add my voice to all those already on social media.  But then I went abroad and got sad, really sad.   Gone were the ‘You’re from Manchester?  Manchester United – the best football team in the world!’ And instead we got, ‘Oh.  Manchester, you say.  Terror attacks.’  Now that hurt.  Really hurt.  How dare our amazing, creative, multi-cultural, busy, fun city be tarnished by such cruelty?  I remember looking out of the taxi window with tears in my eyes, not knowing how to explain how wrong they were.

On arrival back home, I thought long and hard about what to do.  I thought about my children and what their future holds.  I’ve always worried that my daughter’s school cares more about attitude than academia, but have they got it right after all? This term they have celebrated friendship, team work and tenacity.  They’ve both come home with certificates for ‘ always doing the right thing’ and the teachers have held celebration assemblies to ensure all the children know what is expected of them. Could this be exactly what I need too?

If there is anything I have taken away from this terrible, turbulent time is joy in the space we’ve created where it is OK to express love and support.   In the past, I have been terrible at this.  Insular and a little under-confident I haven’t ever really made much effort with the people around me.  New neighbours moved in six weeks ago and I have barely said hello.  An elderly lady lives two doors down and I have never checked on her to see how she is doing.  This has got to change.  I have got to change, and I want to follow my daughter’s example and not be afraid to celebrate what’s good in the world.

I’m not brave enough do any big gestures to help those directly affected, but I can do lots of small things to help those that weren’t.

I want to be a better person.

Thanks Manchester. You’ve shown me the way.