Monday, 17 November 2014

Celebrate! Its National Non Fiction November

Educational, fun, inspiring, creative.

When  I think of non fiction books these are the words that come to mind.  Why? because it is all these things and more that non fiction books pack into their pages.

There are non fiction books for every age and every taste, even for those who claim not to love reading,I bet they love facts and they need to read in order to find these so put them in front of a non fiction book, see their faces light up and help them to realize that in fact reading is great fun, it just doesn't have to be make believe, it can be very real!

National Non Fiction month is a great opportunity to celebrate the diversity of the world around us, to learn a new fact, a new language or even a new skill.  

For me craft books are the real draw, for others it could be science, nature or even art.  In my school library it is university guides and obscure topics being researched for A Level independent study that are currently popular.

What is the topical non fiction November book where you are?

In Armadillo we make sure always to review a selection of titles for younger and older readers, it is important to remember them all and to remember that they are not just for homework they are for pleasure too.

My non-fiction book for November has to be the brilliant Yo Er San: My First Chinese Nursery Rhymes selected by Jie Mu and illustrated by Patrice Aggs (Frances Lincoln) which has taught me my very first words of Chinese thanks to the accompanying CD - I cannot fathom the text but I love the gentle illustrations.

Then of course there is also the stunning pop-up panorama of New York bought to us by Jenny Maziels and paper engineer Richard Ferguson (Walker Books).  This amazing book captures the glamour and scale of New York with its 3-D skyline and fascinating accompanying facts.  I love it!

So there we have it, a very brief look at some non fiction to help celebrate National Non Fiction November.

I hope you have found something to surprise you this month, something to love, something to learn and a new love of all books to keep you going until the same time next year!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Three ~ Not of A Kind!

Armadillo reviewer and avid reader Bridget Carrington gives us a taste of three very different but equally excellent titles for the week ahead...

Swarm: Operation Sting
It’s a race against time for SWARM to locate and retrieve a dangerous weapon before the thieves crack the encryption code protecting it… but just who are SWARM? The clue’s in the title of this new series by Simon Cheshire – they’re robotic insects used by the Secret Intelligence Agency to outwit villains. They may be robots, but they can squabble and moan just like us, but when things become serious they maximise their individual talents (or talons…) and act together to support each other. Packed with detail, easy-to-read, and accompanied by trading cards detailing the skills of each member of SWARM, this is a highly enticing series, particularly for boys who prefer games to books. Fans of Saxby Smart and Jeremy Brown stories will recognise the style, which Cheshire describes as ‘action packed comedy’, and look forward eagerly to the forthcoming titles in the series.

The Kingdom of Beautiful Colours
A collection of seven folk tales by Isabel Wyatt, a twentieth-century teacher, storyteller and collector of stories, which she retold in numerous books to resonate with the Rudolf Steiner philosophy in Waldorf schooling. Steiner’s views on education are a million miles from those of Michael Gove (for a start Steiner’s ideas reflected his observation of how children learn, and what makes a rounded human being…), and Wyatt’s stories add much to this enrichment, filled with a corresponding morality, wonder and beauty. This is just one of the new inexpensive Floris republications of Wyatt’s stories, and I would urge readers to seek out the other six volumes.

Scarlet Ibis

Gill Lewis is a vet, and her three earlier novels have resulted from her passion about practical conservation. She doesn’t just concentrate on the animals though, she is equally concerned about the humans who must interact with the animals, and in her latest book she looks at what the natural world can do for vulnerable humans. Scarlet looks after her severely depressed mother, and her autistic-spectrum brother Red, and she’s desperate to evade the intervention of their social worker. Red’s deeply focussed life revolves around his collection of bird feathers, and the baby pigeon on his windowsill.  When the family gets split up following a fire in their flat Scarlet has a plan to prevent her brother being taken into care, a plan which has a far-reaching effect. In this powerful novel infused with respect and empathy, Lewis highlights the plight of those who are old, homeless, mentally ill or just different from us, people who at best we often fail to understand and help, and at worst deride and bully. 

We'd love to know what you think after you have read any or all of these books so do leave us your comments ...

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Back for Good (the good of books)

Dear all,
Faithful followers I know you have missed this Blog and I have missed making my contributions to it but I do hope in the interim you have been enjoying the magazine.

I have not been idle these last few months and this may be part of the reason that you have not seen me here, but I have plenty of posts to contribute and will be updating this Blog every Wednesday from now on, so please, as they say, watch this space, come back into the fold and enjoy some great Blogs on some even greater books!

To begin ... an explosion for an explosive day ... (contributed by Simon Barrett)

Itchingham Lofte: the explosive adventures of an element hunter

Itchingham Lofte is an element hunter.  He collects the elements on the periodic table, possessing a totally obsessive and near encyclopedic knowledge of them.  Impossibly Itch finds a new element, number 126.  It is hot, radioactively hot.  Suddenly Itch attracts a lot of unwelcomed attention.

So far there are three adventures in the element hunter series: Itch, Itch Rocks and Itch Craft.  It seems impossible that the story can continue and the stakes can get any higher.  Bruised, battered and near to death on more than one occasion, Itch and his cousin Jack, manage to keep outwitting rogue corporations and corrupt governments.  As Kirsten, an assigned M15 operative says, ‘I’m glad the kid is on our side’.  Inevitably his family and friends get dragged into a spiraling deadly situation, fuelled by Itch’s commitment to do the right thing and his enemies desire for revenge.

Itch’s nemesis is his old science teacher Dr Flowerdew.  Flowerdew’s menace extends out of the classroom and goes global as he uses his contacts and money in the oil business to try and steal element 126 and in villainous Bond-style exact a suitable death upon Itch and his friends.  In turn Itch must use his knowledge of science to escape and finally bring Flowerdew down.  Flowerdew however is ruthless and simply refuses to die.

Above all Simon Mayo is a terrific storyteller.  The adventures are impossible to put down as each chapter spurns you into reading the next.  Each book is packed with action as Itch travels around the world hounded by the mafia, corporate goons, government secret agents and outlaws.  There is suspense and hints surreptitiously placed in the book, teasing the reader to pre-empt what will happen next.  Itch, his family and friends are great characters, showing great grit and courage.  Sadly not all of them will survive.

Moreover the books have a really cool marketing concept.  If you download the app and point your device to the front cover of each book, the front cover comes to life and starts a book trailer.

The element hunter adventures have been the hit books of the summer for me.  I’m glad I could review the books after the final adventure, Itch Craft, had been released as I don’t think I would have had the patience to wait for them to be published.  If you haven’t done so already, start reading about the discovery of Lofteium, element 126.