Tag Archives: Books

Notes from a Public Typewriter – Michael Gustafson & Oliver Uberti

Hello Beautiful People!

I hope all you beautiful people are well and enjoying the much deserved and wanted sunshine. August is here, though I’ve no idea where June and July went.

So, you may have realised I’ve done a bit of a vanishing act. I always find the end of the school year utterly exhausting so I wanted a bit of underground time to recover. We all need a break from everything sometimes, so I knew you’d all be supportive of that. Also, rather amazingly, I have been on holiday to Cyprus. Two weeks of sun, sleeping, reading and eating. It was everything I needed and more. I had the BEST time. I’ll share some snaps and experiences in future blog posts. I’ve got a bit of a backlog of writing that needs to happen – May, June, July and August book reviews based on the Waterstones Book of the Month, other reviews of books I’ve read and loved, some glorious Picture Perfect Posts to share with you all and explorations from Cyprus I cannot wait to show you all. Likewise, I hope you all are having a well deserved break. Today’s post: a book I spotted, bought and read all in one afternoon: Notes from a Public Typewriter.

As wonderful as the modern world is, I think there is something quite special about a typewriter. I personally love the fact that there is no ‘delete’ button. Whatever is typed, remains; a piece of history forever. This is even one of the comments left by the typewriter. I remember watching my lovely Grandma on her typewriter. I was allowed to try it once – it is harder than it looks but I loved everything about it: the shapes of letters, the font, the slight smearing. Therefore, as I was shopping yesterday, this book naturally jumped off the table to me. I had to get it and boy, it did not disappoint. Let’s do this!

Overview

Told through the eyes of Michael Gustafson and his wife, Hilary, this is a tale of a bookshop, typewriters and the people who leave messages on them. Like me, Gustafson saw a 1930s Smith Corona typewriter on his grandfather’s writing desk. This typewriter became a gift from his grandmother when he was struggling to write.

In 2013, the pair decided to leave their jobs in New York City and open the Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This was the perfect setting for their next project as Ann Arbor has a proud tradition of independent bookshops. In 1971, the original Borders was opened there but only survived until 2011. They weren’t worried. They both knew they offered something unique. Their logo is a typewriter and his grandfather’s Smith Corona is proudly on display by the cash till. The two decided they would leave a light blue Olivetti Lettera 32 on the lower level of the shop with a clear, fresh piece of writer paper. They left it to see what would happen with arguably low expectations. At the end of the first day, there were messages. This really was going to be something special.

“The world’s smallest publishing house, waiting for an author.”

Since then the public typewriter has become part of the shop’s identity. People use it every day to propose, admit feats, to apologise, to joke, to love and to philosophise. The best ones have been used to be a part of the fabric of the shop – painted onto the wall behind the typewriter, scraps of paper stuck around the typewriter, sharing these messages of the world. The artist, Oliver Uberti, the book’s designer, copied perfectly these messages to the wall, using the exact font from the old Smith Corona.

“smudgy e’s, q’s, and all.”

This beautiful book contains a range of these anonymous notes showing how successful the typewriter is. I for one am now desperate to see it and add my own part of history. One day.

Without spoiling the whole book, I’ve selected three that I want to share with you. They each resonated with me for different reasons really. They made me think of family and new friends, love, life, loss and everything in between. It is perfect because it is anonymous. Each and any of us could have written those words. We’ve probably all thought them, or will do in the future. It is universal.

Final Thoughts

It is my personal belief that the best books make you think. They evoke an emotional response, whether that be happy or sad etc. This little book did exactly that for me. It is beautiful in every sense of the word. It was by pure chance that I spotted it so for me it feels like a real gift. It was meant to be; I was meant to read it. It moved me, it made me smile and it will absolutely be a book I shall treasure on my bookcase forever. I urge all of you, each and every one of you, to read this. You will hopefully see why I think it is an inspirational piece of our living history.

Finally, I am going to be a better blogger and catch up with you all. Stay tuned for more posts as I slowly but surely catch up. Thank you for sticking around. You’re all awesome in so many ways.

Big love to you all. xx

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Filed under Book review, Books, New Books

Left & Found – London

Hi Everyone!

I hope you’re all well and have got your umbrellas handy! ☔️ The weather has definitely taken a turn for the worse but not to worry. It helps things grow after all. Today’s post is all about my first instalment of Left & Found. If you’re unsure as to what my little project is, please see my other post: here!

I was in London last weekend so I saw this as the perfect opportunity to spread a little happiness and start my Left & Found project.

To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect. However, I had one goal and that was (and still is) to bring a smile to someone’s day. Who wouldn’t want to find a free book? I figured that if someone didn’t want it, they’d just leave it for someone else to find. I had four books to leave and that’s exactly what I did.

Whilst I spent Saturday mooching around, the first book I left was at Bank tube station. This station, like the others really, gets quite busy so I hopeful that this would get picked up quite quickly.

The second place where I left a book was outside the stunning Westminster Abbey. Again, there were crowds of people here from all over the world. The building is absolutely breathtaking too!

Thirdly, I left my next book not too far from here actually. I decided to take a walk to Buckingham Palace and found the perfect spot along the way. This time, outside the Queen’s Gallery which is currently showing a Leonardo Di Vinci exhibition.

My last one was possibly my favourite stopping place. I was lucky enough to have tickets to see Wicked the musical. It’s just such an awesome show! I highly recommend it. Anyway, it seemed the perfect place to leave a copy of the book there for a lucky finder.

I did happen to notice on my way back to Kings Cross that the books had gone which was such an exciting prospect! I really hope whoever found them loved them and have had some ‘me’ time for reading.

Fast forward a couple of hours later when I checked my inbox. There was an email! I can’t lie, I let out a little scream. My heart leapt as I read it. Someone found a book AND loved it! This is all I ever wanted.

“We spotted a little gem by the stage door in which we had waited for the stars of the performance the previous night… The book is now in the hands of a 10 year old avid reader and now life long Wicked fan.

Thank you for your lovely gesture, and we will pass it forward once we are finished.”

This book was picked up by the lovely Meggan and her daughter on their weekend adventure in London – just like me! Since then, it’s made it’s way to Liverpool. Megghan, if you’re reading this, thank you.

Fingers crossed I hear from others who have found these books but even if I don’t, I’m really pleased with the start of this project. I can’t wait to see what happens next! 😊

Here’s to the next instalment of Left & Found. I’ll keep you all updated.

Big love all. Xx

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Filed under Books, Exploring, Left & Found, Random Acts of Kindness

The Reader on the 6.27 – Jean-Paul Didierlaurent

Hi Everyone!

I hope you all had a great bank holiday Monday and are enjoying the last week of May. It’s been a bit changeable I think but at least the sun is streaming in now. Nevertheless, this has given me ample opportunity to read.

Today I want to share with you a book I read this morning: The Reader on the 6.27. It was a really lovely little read! I hope you enjoy it.

What’s it all about?

The novel focuses on Guylain Vignolles and his simplistic life. Every day he takes the the morning train, at 6.27 to his job as an engineer at the TERN company’s book pulling plant.

Every morning, he read aloud from a few damaged pages that he salvaged from the plant. Fellow commuters thoroughly enjoyed this routine and listened to the snippets they received. Once the commute ended and Guylain arrived at work, greeting the security guard and poet friend, Yvon Grimbert, his joyless day began.

‘For all those fellow commuters, he was the reader, the bizarre character who each weekday would read out, in a loud, clear voice, from the handful of pages he extracted from his briefcase.’

Under the watchful eye of the awful character Felix Kowalski, Guylain and his younger coworker Lycian Brunner ran “the Thing”, the Zerstor 500 industrial pulling machine.

This machine is the epitome of hideousness. It is presented as a monster. It even ate rats in addition to the truck loads of books that it daily slashed to bits. Guylain detested this machine for many reasons. He missed his coworker Giuseppe Carminetti, who had nearly been killed as the machine came on whilst he was cleaning it, munching away his two legs. At first, he was accused by TERN’s lawyers of gross negligence. Some time after, we was awarded 176,000 Euros in compensation after it was discovered that the Thing has faulty wiring.

The first mouthfuls were always tricky. The Zerstor was a temperamental ogress. She sometimes became congested, victim of her own greed. Then she would stall, in the midst of her chomping, her mouth full to bursting.

Following his recovery, Giuseppe set off on a mission of tracing down every copy of the book made with the batch of recycled paper in which his legs had been pulped into. Guylain decided to help him by contacting the author. As a result, he managed to get one hundred copies of the book which he gave to his friend periodically over time. Each time Guylain found a new copy, they would meet and have an elaborate Italian meal to celebrate. Afterwards, Guylain would return home to the apartment to see his only companion, a goldfish named Rouget de Lisle.

‘He was truly addicted to the golden creatures. Guylain could no longer cope without that silent, colourful presence gracing his bedside table. From experience, he knew that there was a vast difference between living alone and living alone with a goldfish.’

One morning following the celebratory meal, Guylain was approached on the platform by two elderly fans of his daily reading. Mesdemoiselles Monique and Josette Delacote. They managed to convince him if he would read at their home next Saturday. He reluctantly agreed, but agree he did. Upon arriving, he quickly realised that they lived in a nursing home, where a crowd of residents were waiting for his reading.

He read from the discarded pages he found and every extract he read was received positively, even one from an erotic novel. Guylain decided he would visit again next week to read further pages he found from the machine.

Guylain’s life was about to take another turn as the train was about to give him a gift, a mission of his own. Whilst pulling down his usual seat, he discovered a USB stick on the chair. It was bright red and calling to him. So, out of curiosity more than anything else, he picked it up and read the contents on there, hoping to find clues about its owner so he could return it.

‘When the train pulled into the station and the passengers alighted, an outside observer would have had no trouble noticing how Guylain’s listeners stood out from the rest of the commuters. Their faces did not wear that off-putting mask of indifference. They all had the contented look of an infant that has drunk its fill of milk.

The little stick contained a journal of a young woman called Julie. Guylain devoured the 72 entries she had written. She was funny, witty, charismatic. He learnt that she was a lavatory assistant in a shopping mall. She was a creature of habit, every morning of the spring equinox she counted the tiles: 14,717 just as the previous year. When he finally fell asleep, deep into the night, he felt that she had suddenly shone a light into his bleak world.

The following morning, Guylain decided to read the printed pages of Julie’s journal to his fellow passengers. The commuters enjoyed her having to hide her writing habit to snippets about her aunt and her habit of eating sugar puffs in the lavatory stall. Following this positive reception on the train, Guylain decides to read the journal again on Saturday at the nursing home.

Again he received a warm and positive review of his readings, so much so that he decided to invite Yvon to his next weekend there. As a result of Julie’s writing, Guylain began to feel a new hope rise up within him. It made him address certain fears – the fear of commitment following his father’s early death.

Each morning Guylain continued to read the journal on the train. In one entry, Julie describes her daily routine – breakfast with her friend Josy, the crowds that descend on the mall, especially in sale season and the horrible visitor every 10.am who sullied her pristine stalls.

“The 10a.m lard-arse didn’t put anything in it. Besides, he wasn’t in a state to put anything anywhere. But the sight of Josy and I were treated to as he attempted to go up my stairs with his shit-covered buttocks clenched will forever be one of the best tips I’ve ever received.”

When Guylain retold the story to Giuseppe about Julie, he decided to start a quest. He was going to find her! He showed Guylain a map of Paris with eight possible malls he had identified through clues in the journal. Guylain came alive at such hope and he too began searching for her.

He knew she was single (thankfully to him) and was having trouble meeting someone. She tried and failed at speed dating, returning home to the book that was waiting for her bed.

By that Saturday, Guylain had visited seven of the malls and was beginning to lose faith. He was cheered up by Yvon’s antics at the nursing home following another successful reading there. After finishing there he decided he would visit the final mall on the list provided by his friend. The world stopped and his face lit up as he finally found Julie.The final chapter of the novel is written as an entry in Julie’s journal. She tells of her amazement at the huge, glorious bunch of flowers she receives and her missing USB stick. In an attached letter, Guylain explained how he came across the stick and has fallen in love with her as he was reading. With immense affection, he asked if she would go out with him sometime. Julie paused, hesitated, but she thought about his words all afternoon. She decided she would call him the following morning and set up a date.

“This morning, the spring equinox, I hummed as I counted my tiles. Guylain Vignolles’s tile, tucked in the pocket of my overalls, knocked pleasantly against my hip… 14,718 was a really beautiful number on which to begin a love affair.

Final thoughts

This was a charming little read, chosen really by my love of books. It was so lovely to see a character transformed by a small event like finding something. A USB could be seen as something insignificant but to Guylain it changed his world. It’s setting in the heart of Paris also ticked a box for me. I just knew it would have a happy ending. I really loved the fact that for Giuseppe, books were literally his way of getting his life back. The metaphor surrounding his legs was a really clever touch.

This book was an easy read which left my heart full. Sometimes, I believe we just need a happy ending novel to distract us from our daily lives. Needless to say, this book has been added to the Left&Found pile ready for hiding.

Enjoy the rest of the week all!

Big love xx

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Filed under Book review, Books

Left & Found – my next project!

Hello Lovely People!

I hope you’re all good and having a restful time, reading plenty. I wanted to share with you an idea and a plan I’ve had recently. It’s linked to the new banner at the top of this post so that’s a bit of a giveaway!

So I was thinking about all the books I donate to charity, which is a lot. However, I also thought about how I want to do more random acts of kindness too. Thus, the Left & Found project was born! Basically, I want to leave books in places I’ve visited for someone to find and enjoy for themselves.

I’ve been doing some research too. I remember hearing something about Emma Watson leaving books on the subway for people to find which she absolutely did! Also, I’ve learnt that in London there is such a thing as Books on the Underground – more information here! There are branches around the whole world it seems!! Books on the Move are doing something so amazing. Obviously, these are all based on transport. Whereas I’ll be leaving mine wherever I end up on my travels.

Early followers may also remember why I even started blogging in the first place. I wanted my own little internet space to call home, but it was reading 60 Postcards by Rachael Chadwick that really showed me the power of social media. Information about that here.

I’ve got a few city breaks coming up and my plan is to leave books dotted around the city for people to find, read and pass on. I’ve put little cards on them (laminated of course) for the people who find them to hopefully get in touch. I’ll keep you all posted too, my beautiful blogging friends.

The first five books I’ve got to hide are shown below. I’ve gone for a right mix because I just don’t know who will find them.

Regardless, I’m really excited about just sharing a little bit of happiness! What do you think?

I’ll update you with where I’ve put them. Can’t wait! Let me know your thoughts – I’d be so grateful.

Big love all xxx

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Filed under Books, Exploring, Left & Found, Random Acts of Kindness

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Turns 50!

Happy Bank Holiday Monday Everyone!

I hope you’re well and making the most of the long weekend. Today is a very special day in the book world because it is the 50th birthday of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. It has its own hash tag on Twitter and everything! (#VHC50 if you’re interested).

I saw this as the perfect opportunity to review this book and look at how important this book has been in so many peoples lives.

What’s it all about?

The book starts on one Sunday morning where a caterpillar hatched from an egg under the moon. He’s absolutely starving, ravenous for gorgeous food. Thus, the Very Hungry Caterpillar is born. He goes off to search for food.

‘One Sunday morning the warm sun came up and – pop! – out of the egg came a tiny and very hungry caterpillar.

Over the course of five days, he eats increasing amounts of fruit. He starts on Monday with one apple, two pears on Tuesday, three plums on Wednesday, four strawberries on Thursday and five oranges on Friday.

On the Saturday, still hungry, he eats a ginormous amount of food! He eats one piece of chocolate cake, one ice cream cone, one pickle, on slice of Swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake and one slice of watermelon.

However, that night, he gets a pain in his tummy from eating so much. By the next morning, he feels much better after eating a luscious green leaf. By now, he’s neither hungry nor little. He’s a very big caterpillar who looks like he’s fit to burst.

The caterpillar spins himself a cocoon where he sleeps for two whole weeks. After this time as passed, he emerges from it as a beautiful butterfly, with large and colourful wings.

Then he nibbled a hole in the cocoon, pushed his way out and…

he was a beautiful butterfly!

Final thoughts

It is easy to see why this book has turned 50 years old. I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t read it. However, what I find more meaningful than any age of a book, is where it goes next. Of course, this book has travelled through generations of readers. I read this book as a little girl and I still marvel in its wonder today as an adult. Reading this with smaller children in my own family is a joy as the legacy continues.

I was reading somewhere that apparently one of these books is sold, on average, every minute. The story and the illustrations have lived in many a home and continue to do so today. It’s been translated into over 60 languages with more than 46 million copies being sold. There is, of course, a new edition for the 50th birthday which features a rather lovely gold cover. Regardless, this story is just a wonderful, humble piece of writing that we’ve all loved, since our childhood. Happy birthday Very Hungry Caterpillar! 🎂 🎉

Enjoy the rest of the long weekend my dearest friends.

Big love xx

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Filed under Book review, Children's Literature, Reading

The Boy in the Dress – David Walliams

Hello Lovely People!

How are you all? I hope you’re well and enjoying the weekend peace you’ve hopefully been given.

Back at work for me now and exam season is fast approaching! With the pressures and strains of every day teaching life, it is so important to me that the weekends are all about relaxing and reading. Yesterday I went to the beautiful place of York and bought a number of amazing Harry Potter products from The Shop That Must Not Be Named. Then I spent some time in York Minster. However, one other little treat was that I’ve managed to get a front row seat to the RSC’s musical of The Boy in the Dress. I can not wait. There’s information about this here if you are interested. Matilda the musical was and still is awesome, so I expect the same from The Boy in the Dress. Therefore, it’s only fitting I review the first of David Walliams children’s books with you all today.

What’s it all about?

This life-affirming novel centres around 12 year old Dennis. He lives with his father and his older brother (14) John. Dennis loves football and watching Trisha on TV but has always felt a little different to his father and brother. Their mother left when Dennis was 7 following her divorce from his father. Their father, only known as Dad, reacts to the divorce by comfort eating which consequently results in him becoming quite large.

Dennis is a very contrasting character to his brother and father, who seem more alike. Despite being the best on the school football team, he desperately misses his mother. His father believed he burnt all the photos, but Dennis found one to keep. In that photo his mother is wearing a yellow dress which comforts him greatly. It’s the only way he can still see his mother.

One day, Dennis sees the same dress on the cover of a Vogue magazine. Dennis buys this magazine from Raj, the local shop owner. But when his father finds the copy of Vogue magazine, he is furious. His brother John starts to tease him, calling him “Denise”.

Are you sure you want this, Dennis?” asked Raj. “Vogue is mainly read by ladies, and your drama teacher Mr Howerd.

Things get worse for Dennis as he receives a detention at school the same day for kicking a football through a window. Something magical happens in detention because Dennis meets Lisa James. Lisa is the most amazing girl in school. She’s pretty and fashionable and popular. Lisa invites Dennis around to her house and shows him her drawing designs for different clothing. She persuades Dennis to dress up in girls’ clothing. After wearing an electric blue dress, Lisa convinces him to go out in public, under the alter ego of “Denise”, a French exchange student with limited English.

Their first stop is to Raj’s corner shop. Naturally, Dennis is worried that he will be recognised but amazingly, he isn’t! Raj completely believes that it is “Denise”. Because of their success here, Dennis is convinced to go to school with Lisa as “Denise”.

Rules don’t apply here,” laughed Lisa. “Dennis, you can be whoever you want to be!

The school day starts well and Dennis is unnoticed. However, Lisa forgot that she had a double French period. The sheer excitement from the French teacher means the narrative splits into French, not knowing that Dennis won’t understand a work. Rather than being found out, Denis accidentally upsets the teacher by criticising her accident. She is absolutely devastated.

Things go from bad to worse as during break time, a football is flying towards “Denise”, and naturally Dennis kicks it. Rather unfortunately, he slips and is revealed to be a boy. What feels like the whole school laughs at him. He’s sent to Mr Hawtrey, the headmaster, and is expelled from school for cross dressing.

His Dad is absolutely furious and sends Dennis to his room. Darvesh, Dennis’s best friend comes round to see Dennis, to tell him that they’re still best friends regardless, but is sent him again by his Dad.

No more watching that show Small England or whatever it’s called where those two idiots dress up as ‘laydees’. It’s a bad influence.

Darvesh’s actions mean so much to Dennis that he decided to attend a very important football match against Maudlin Street, at school on the Saturday. He’s not allowed to play and can see that the team are going to suffer an almighty defeat.

Lisa has a plan and the whole team encourage Dennis to play in a dress, which he does. With Dennis back on the team, it is complete again and they come back from being 6-0 down to actually win the final.

Dennis’s Dad has never attended a football match before, much to his sadness. This time was different. It wasn’t just Darvesh’s mum cheering and hollering from the sidelines, it was Dennis’s dad too.

The following Sunday morning upon visiting the corner shop again, Raj informs Dennis that Mr Hawtrey used to come and collect the Telegraph paper every Sunday at 7am. Although recently it has been his sister, Doris. What Raj found strange was that there was something peculiar about her.

Lisa and Dennis wake up ridiculously early to see what they could find out and as soon as the clock struck 7, Mr Hawtrey arrived at the shop dressed in a skirt and blouse! With this new knowledge, Lisa and Dennis threaten that unless Dennis is reinstated in school, they will tell everyone about Mr Hawtrey’s cross dressing. The next Monday Dennis is back in school, as normal.

By the end of the novel, Dennis, his Dad and his brother are able to talk about the wife and mother who left them. Dennis and Lisa remain the best of friends, as does Dennis and Darvesh. John even decides he needs to look out for his younger brother more. Harmony is restored.

Final thoughts

This book is everything you’d hope children’s books to be like. Honest, funny, understanding and accepting. We have all felt a time in our lives where we just feel like we don’t belong. The book is an anthem for that feeling and for the reality that that is actually ok. I really think this will be an awesome production too. Its cross dressing is actually a very Shakespearean element, meaning it will be right at home in Stratford upon Avon’s RSC theatre. Children’s books really lift the heart and Walliams has a way of making us all feel like we’re perfectly acceptable as we are. After all, we all belong whether we wear dresses and kick footballs or not.

“I think all those rules are boring. About what people can and can’t wear. Surely everyone should be able to wear whatever they like?

Big love all xx

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Filed under Book review, Children's Literature, RSC

The Boy at the Back of the Class – Onjali Q. Raúf

Happy April Everyone!

What a beautiful start to the year it has been. The spring flowers are much to be celebrated and the light nights are ever increasing. Today I want to share with you the absolute joy that is, The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Raúf. Not only is this one of the books of the month for April, but this book also won the overall prize for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2019. It’s current, relevant and an incredible read. I thought I’d take the photo in my garden with this little guy. The protagonist reminded me of him a bit. Look at his cute little face!

What’s it all about?

Told through the eyes of a group of friends, Tom, Josie and Michael, this novel is something we can all relate to in so many ways.

The story starts with an empty chair in a classroom following the absence of a student who had moved to Wales. A group of friends are naturally inquisitive and want to know why Mrs Sanders (the head of the school) and Mrs Khan (the teacher) are whispering at the front of the class. After a short amount of time, a young boy walks in behind Mrs Sanders. Ahmet became the focus of everyone’s attention. He looks very sad indeed.

‘I made a secret promise to myself right there and then that I would be friends with the new boy. I happened to have some lemon sherbets in my bag that morning and I thought I would try and give him one…’

Outside of lessons, Ahmet is nowhere to be found. After all, from the children’s point of view. it’s hard to make friends with someone when you rarely see them. However, one thing that is described so beautifully are his eyes. It’s the one thing that the character of Alexa (the story teller whose name we do not learn until the final chapter of the book) focuses on. The children wait until the end of the day and eventually they see him! They’re over the moon, but it doesn’t quite go as planned, despite having the lemon sherbets.

‘But the new boy grabbed her hand and hid his face behind her arm. I didn’t know what to do because I’ve never really scared anyone so much before that they wanted to hide from me.’

As days went by, the group of friends continually waited for Ahmet to give him gifts of sweets, chocolates and fruit. Over time, Ahmet started to make improvements with them. A smile here and a wink there. All signs he wanted to be their friends. After overhearing comments about how Ahmet is a ‘Refugee Kid’ the storyteller decides she doesn’t care and it really doesn’t matter. Finally, she gets a nod from Ahmet. A sign to her that it doesn’t matter that he’s a ‘Refugee Kid’.

‘I wish he had smiled back, because you can only ever know that a person’s really your friend when they like you enough to smile back. But it was OK because the nod felt like a promise, and I knew that I wouldn’t have to wait too long before the smile followed.’

What is beautiful in this novel is the storyteller clearly has an amazing mum. Working in the local library, books and knowledge centre their world. Naturally curious, the storyteller asks her mum questions about these children and their backgrounds. It all rings so true with the images we have all seen in the media. However, the child friendly language used makes it seem relatable by everyone; young and old.

Ahmet joining the class raises more questions than answers. Yet, the children are focused on being his friend and learning more about him. They had learnt that he was from Syria and had to flee from war. The storyteller and her mum decide to go off in search for pomegranate in the hopes that Ahmet would like this reminder from his home.

‘The new boy fell quiet. And then, for the first time since we met him, he smiled… a real, proper smile that went from one cheek to the other.’

One part of the novel that absolutely had my heart breaking was Ahmet telling his story, with pictures, to show the class what had happened and where he had come from. Story time is something so common in every classroom in the country. This one created a lump in my throat.

Ahmet tells his class all about his home in Syria, his mum and dad, as well as his sister and their cat. The war in Syria had led him to flee on a boat (like those seen on our television screens) to some form of safety. He went from Greece to the setting of the novel and his new school. To a new beginning. After telling his story hands shoot up around the classroom with yet more questions. The storyteller extends friendship further by offering her beloved Tintin comic to share together. We learn the truth about Ahmet’s family – his sister, mother, father and cat and why he is all alone.

‘I waited to see if Ahmet would show them the pictures and tell them about Syrah and the sea and his mum too. But, he didn’t, and I knew that he wanted me to keep it a secret.’

Then something happened that changed everything. Whilst travelling on the bus, the group overhear a conversation about the refugees. Again, it is a conversation we have all heard over time with some sympathetic views in comparison to the more judgemental views. Nevertheless, the children hear that the border is about to be shut, meaning Ahmet won’t see his family ever again. Despite telling their teachers, the group feel slightly fobbed off. It’s time to make a plan, or three, just to be on the safe side. These include writing to the Prime Minister or creating a Special Appeal. But, that wasn’t the greatest plan of all. The greatest plan in the world involved writing to our one and only Queen of England. They even create an emergency plan, just in case!

Time was plodding a long and the children were well aware about the discussion about the borders being closed. Therefore, it was time for them to work together and head for a London adventure! They had to help Ahmet and his family before it was too late. After navigating the trains and making their way around London, they need to get to the palace. They had presents for the Queen too! The first character they meet is Stan the Taxi driver. He’s a hit straight away!

Following Stan they then meet two Cold Stream Guards: Chris Taylor and Walter Kungu. After a mini adventure in itself, the guards promise to give another letter to the Queen and the presents they brought for the Queen too.

‘Getting into the back seat of the police car, we waved back. Lots of people began cheering and waving at us from all along the palace walls, so we waved back at them too, even though we didn’t really know why.’

As you can imagine, what came next was complete stardom. The children were in the news and causing a stir around the whole world! They even had a reply from the Queen. Finally, the children and Ahmet had some good news. Alexa also had her birthday. In fact, it is here that we finally learn her name! Her birthday was a complete surprise but the best gift wasn’t for her at all. It was for Ahmet, her best friend.

‘I know that afternoon was one of the best afternoons I will ever have. Not because it was my birthday, but because it was an end to one of the best adventures a brand new ten-year-old could ever have…’

Final thoughts

This book should be read by absolutely everyone. I mentioned throughout about comments we would have all heard in the media or even in our every day lives. However, this novel brings a voice to so many children and families who have been in this situation. It’s about friendship and kindness and the fact that we can always do more to help. The childlike innocence throughout is endearing and beautiful. This book is a deserving winner and an excellent read. It stands for something so much more than we ever could realise.

Big love all. Xxx

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Filed under Book review, Children's Literature, Waterstones Book of the Month