April 2016 Newsletter

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April's News from Bookbag Towers

Hello there, Bookbaggers, and how the devil are you? Well, we hope. What are you reading today? Anything we should know about? If you are undecided about what to read next, we have plenty to recommend to you from this month's releases.

Guess what? In a poll commissioned by Amnesty International UK, parents were asked to choose the activity that they thought developed their child’s empathy the most - and reading was the runaway winner. We agree! Reading is a vicarious experience and really helps us all - not just children - to appreciate the world through someone else's eyes. Amnesty UK will also give a special commendation this year to one of the shortlisted books in the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway awards . This will be the first ever human rights commendation for children’s books and we think it's a really positive initiative.

And ooh, ooh, ooh! This is England and Last Panthers writer is to adapt Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy for the BBC . This is really exciting. We love this series and we don't think the 2007 film really did it justice. We have high hopes for this and can't wait to see how it turns out.

How do you feel about becoming a Reading Ambassador? If the idea appeals, then look no further than to the Publishers Assocation, who are looking to recruit 10,000 of them. Follow the link for some tips on getting started. We love this initiative. Everyone can - and should - find a niche in which they can love reading and the more we can help people on that journey, the better.

Has our technology-obsessed, interconnected world made it harder for authors to write books with twisting plots? Nicola Solomon thinks so. She says that Enid Blyton's cliffhangers would not have worked today because of mobile phones. Val McDermid agrees it's now more difficult to write a satisfying crime novel, thanks to advances in forensic science. We see the problem, but we trust in all our favourite authors to find new ways to keep us turning the pages!

Golden Hour

Since the film adaptation is making so many headlines, our blast from the past this month is Room by Emma Donoghue . It's the morning of Jack's fifth birthday, but Jack is no ordinary boy. He and his Ma have been imprisoned by the character known only as 'Old Nick' in a single room for all Jack's life. True he has a television, but his mother has convinced him that those people are not real. The room is all Jack has ever known - and in it he has developed his own attachment to things like Bed, Rug, Table, Skylight and Wardrobe where he sleeps. The first victim of incarceration, it seems, is the definite article. Narrated in the voice of five year old Jack, this is a haunting, innovative and brave story that will stay with you long after the final page. You should read it.

Good news! We have a competition to win both book and DVD! You have until 16 May to enter!

Books of the Month

And on to to the new... . In fiction, Luke spent a wonderful afternoon racing through Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave. An epic novel of war, love, and humanity, it is both a sweeping romance and an intimate look at the horrors of war on everyone caught in its path. Moving, shocking, and immensely gripping – the strong connections that the author has to the characters in this book make it his best novel yet.

Ruth was deeply moved by The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood. It's the story, mostly of Miss Ona Vitkus, a one hundred and four year old lady who has a young boy scout come over to help her with jobs and how he ultimately ends up changing her life, and not at all in the way you might imagine since before we even begin the story the boy is dead. This is a book that has death and grief as its focus, yet manages to remain truly positive and uplifting and it found its way deep into Ruth's heart.

In non-fiction, John thoroughly enjoyed John Aubrey: My Own Life by Ruth Scurr. Seventeenth-century antiquary and archaeologist John Aubrey was one of the earliest biographers, although his Brief Lives remained unpublished for more than a century after his death. Scurr's book is a fascinating work which combines biography and memoirs through arranging extracts from his writings to form a continuous journal telling his story from childhood to old age, with perceptive observations of the natural world around him, great events and the work of a scholar writing around the time of the restoration.

For teens, Jill recommends Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman. Olivia - Vee - and her brother Aidan are trying to get back to Earth after a mystery virus killed everyone, including their parents, on their ship. It's been a lonely three years and a dangerous one, too, as they've tried to avoid the dangerous and xenophobic Mazons. But sometimes the Mazons can't be avoided and this is one of them. Riffing on Othello, this is a thriller and a love story combined, in true Malorie Blackman form. If Othello in space doesn't whet your appetite, nothing will!

For the little ones, Sue fell in love with Tidy by Emily Gravett. Pete the badger likes tidy. He does it very well. Well, perhaps it's a little bit too well. What looks initially to be a simple story of a rather over-fussy badger, delivers a very important ecological message. We can think of no better way to show children the virtues of the forests and the dangers of losing them and can't recommend this book highly enough.


We have some cool features for you this month. Author Quentin Bates popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us about Thin Ice, the seventh book in his Officer Gunnhildur series. He says that it's not about crime, it's about people - and we think he's right. Thin Ice doesn't disappoint, by the way.

Ani was impressed by the world building in Lilith: Eden's Planetary Princess and knew that there was an exciting series to come. She had quite a few questions for author C E Robinson when he popped into Bookbag Towers. Jill thought that Fox by Anthony Gardner was plot-focused and had twists to suit every thriller fan. She was impressed by the serious depiction of the downtrodden individual against the erosion of hard-won civil liberties. She enjoyed chatting to Anthony.


We're always on the look out for people to join our panel of reviewers at Bookbag. We need people who understand that the reader wants to know what the reviewer thinks about the book and not just what's written on the back cover. If you think that you're one of these special people that we're looking for, we want to hear from you. You can find details of how to apply here on the site. Don't be shy!


We have competitions for some great books going this month, and every month, so get entering!

And that's about it for this month. If you're passing Bookbag Towers do pop in and see us – we're at www.thebookbag.co.uk .

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