June 2017 Newsletter

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June's News from Bookbag Towers

Hello you lovely Bookbaggers. It's been a sad and angry month since we last spoke, what with terror attacks and general elections. We hope all is well with all of you and you are all coping as best you can. But we are going to try to distract you from it all just for a minute or two by pointing you in the direction of some great books to read. When all else fails, books can comfort, right? So let's have some positivity, if only on the subject of books and reading.

So here's some exciting news! We have a title, a character and an extract for the first volume in Philip Pullman's new trilogy, out in October. La Belle Sauvage is the canoe owned by Malcolm Polstead. His daemon is Asta. And you can read an interview about it with Philip Pullman here. As you can imagine, we at Bookbag Towers are beyond excited. Roll on October! And while we're on the topic of young readers, here's some more good news. Record numbers of children say they enjoy reading. A survey by the Literacy Trust has found that more than half of children and young people say that they read for pleasure. Isn't that great?

And here's a nice piece of news.Clockwork Orange author Anthony Burgess's lost dictionary of slang has been found among his archives. Burgess only managed three letters and several hundred entries but there are some gems in there and it reminds of how much he - and we - treasure language. We particularly liked this bit - arse: I need not define. Ha!

What else? Oh, yes! Are you watching the adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale on Channel 4? Ok, perhaps it's not the cheeriest of books for this positive newsletter but it's a fantastic adaptation, beautifully shot and acted. We can be happy about a wonderful piece of work even if it is about serious things with very worrying current ramifications, right? As we always say, literature - and adaptations of it - are vital tools of resistance.

Golden Hour

Our blast from the past this month takes us back to 2010. Coconut Unlimited by Nikesh Shukla is a book for anyone who is a teenager or was one once. It's the early 1990s and Amit, Anand and Nishant are three young Asian boys in an all white private school. As such they are considered massively uncool by default. Too bad then that their Asian peers in the North London Gujarati enclave known as Harrow think that they are a bunch of stuck up toffs. Soft. Weak. No street cred whatsoever. There's only one thing for it - start a hip-hop band. The fact that they don't have any songs, talent or initially any idea what hip-hop actually sounds like isn't really a problem. As everyone knows, forming a band makes you pretty cool and after that the girls simply fall at your feet. No matter your age or background, through the aid of three hapless Asian hip-hop wannabes you can relive your own experience and remind yourself of why it all mattered so much back then. Read it you pendoo!

Books of the Month

And on to to the new... . In fiction, we think you should consider The Bureau of Second Chances by Sheena Kalayil. Recently widowed, with a grown-up daughter forging her own life abroad, London-based optometrist Thomas Imbalil takes early retirement and returns to his native India and agrees to commute to the city for a few months to look after Chacko's Optical Store to help out an old friend. Thomas soon discovers that the eager young assistant Rani is running another business on the side, but he agrees to turn a blind eye and leave it to his friend to deal with on his return. However, it stirs up thoughts and doubts within Thomas and before long he's involved whether he wants to be or not. This surprisingly tense novel set in southern India has a thread of romance but also a serious side, exploring the displacement of an expat returning after thirty years and reassessing his life and aims.

And Luke recommends The Original Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig. To Ginny, a child with autism, the word Forever means until the police come. Five years ago the police forcibly removed her from the home of her abusive birth mother, Gloria. Now fourteen, and in her fourth Forever Home, Ginny remains hell-bent on finding her way back to Gloria's apartment, obsessed with finding something she insists she left behind, something she hid under her bed. Her teachers, therapist, and new Forever Parents are in turn frustrated, infuriated, and perplexed. As Gloria returns to her life, the reader follows Ginny on a journey filled with danger and discovery, in her quest to find a place she can truly call her Forever Home. Beautifully told and sensitively crafted, this novel is emotional, gripping and honest.

In non-fiction, Neils recommends Martin Luther:Renegade and Prophet by Lyndal Roper. Exactly five centuries ago in October 2017, Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses against the sale of indulgences to the door of the All Saints' Church in Wittenberg. The ensuing maelstrom ripped the Christian church asunder and changed the course of history. But how was a provincial professor in a cassock able to set the Reformation in motion, despite papal and imperial authority being ranged against him? In a biography which was ten years in the making, Lyndal Roper combines historical analysis with style and empathy, provides a thoughtful analysis of the forces which drove the evangelical preacher and convincingly explains his contradictions.

For teens, James was bowled over by Marvel: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale. He was expecting a graphic novel and so was initially disappointed to find a novel. What he found was a clean origin story and a female superhero whose gender is simply there: not something to be overcome. Squirrel Girl is an accessible character who will appeal equally to girls and boys. Suffice it to say that James is now a convert and praises this well-told story to the rafters!

For the very little ones, Sue recommends First Science Encyclopedia by Dorling Kindersley, an excellent first reference book which will sit proudly in the classroom library and comfortably on a child's bookshelf. We probably don't recommend enough in the way of children's non-fiction to you in this newsletter so here's one volume to address at least some of the balance. This book is bright and fun and interesting and inspirational - a great way to introduce the smallest children to the STEM subjects that will be so important in their lives.


Sue has been out and about with our reporters pads interviewing authors for you this month. She thought that Seven Days With You was a quick but suprisingly deep read which looks sensitively at young love and terminal illness and that it's more uplifting than you might expect from that description! There was a lot to chat about when author Hugo Driscoll popped into Bookbag Towers. When Hugh closes his eyes and imagines his readers, he sees beach bums!

Sue was stunned by Fall Out by Lizzy Mumfrey and simply couldn't put the book down. She thought she was reading a story of village life, but she got an awful lot more. In her chat with Lizzy, Sue found out how the author came to write such a powerful story about the aftermath of a nuclear attack and whether or not writing this novel has changed the way she thinks about nuclear weapons.

Sue was also grabbed by The Beta Mum: Adventures in Alpha Land as soon as she started reading. She decided to tackle author Isabella Davidson about what it means to be an alpha or a beta mummy when she called into Bookbag Towers for a chat. Isabella has lived in seven countries on four continents. That's not bad going, is it?


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 .

All at Bookbag Towers

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