The Sun, The Sea & The Stars – Iulia Bochis

Hello Loves!

I haven’t posted anything because what can I say? Isn’t it all just very overwhelming at the moment? School has started and that is overwhelming – lots of changes and on a much larger scale, the death of Queen Elizabeth II has completely thrown me and brought up my own experiences of grief. I am deeply moved daily by the scenes surrounding the death of her. I guess it isn’t a shock but the sense of loss is overwhelming. With work and life I took myself off to a place that brings me great joy and comfort: the book shop. I’m back in a stage of buying many (I am on a ban…so far so good) and not being able to read them. Whilst aimlessly walking and not staring too hard in case I get tempted, I did spot something that felt like a sign from the book gods. That sign was The Sun, The Sea & The Stars – Ancient Wisdom as a Healing Journey. Firstly, it’s a beautifully illustrated book and I knew it would be a manageable and healing read.

What’s it all about?
Small but mighty is the best way to describe this book. It opens with a personal message from the author and illustrator Iulia Bochis where it is revealed that this book was born out of the feeling that everyone is different yet we share so many thoughts and feelings the same. We all face moments in our life that cause us to stop, think and reflect whilst we are navigating our journey through life. It was just the antidote that I needed at this period in time.

Starting in Autumn, we see a season of great change. Bochis wants us to remember that there is beauty in every season and as we are approaching Autumn, it’s perfectly apt now. Whilst the seasons are changing around us, our natural world is also changing and adapting around us too. We need to remember to be at one with the natural world – we help to shape it of course.

“The trees look vulnerable, shedding their past lives.”

We have to remember that time doesn’t stand still. Therefore, we have to keep moving because we can’t stop time. It is only when we continue that we are able to see what actually happens next. Autumn leads us into Winter when our surroundings are naturally darker. Yet, it is within the darkness that the stars and the moon shine brighter for us all to see. The world rests in Winter and time moves us towards Spring – the time of new beginnings and bloom. We have the opportunity to start again. We bloom too.

“Being still does not mean don’t move, it means move in peace.”

The book ends with Summer. Everything is different again, including ourselves. The summer is naturally a happier time for people purely because we see light and for me, this book was like summer because it provided me with more light for our current times. It’s become part of my journey and by sharing it with you, I hope that it is becomes part of your journey too.

Final Thoughts
This book gave me the opportunity to stop and pause just to reflect and recover. When everything is overwhelming, it is really easy to run away or bury our heads. I do both of these things. Yet, it is just delaying the inevitable. It is much better to take time and explore the world around us. There is beauty wherever we look, we just need to remember to look. It is really easy to glance and let it all pass us by. This book gave me the opportunity to remember that. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and like it is all a bit much at the moment, take half an hour and read this book. It’s one I am certain I will be dipping in and out of/

“What feels like the end is often the beginning.”

Until next time my loves, thinking of you all. This post dedicated to her majesty the Queen.

Big Love xxx

Big Panda and Tiny Dragon – James Norbury

Hello Loves!

Happy Sunday! I hope you’re all well and enjoying this typically autumnal weekend. 🍁

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book and felt the urge to blog about it straight away but here we are. I just couldn’t wait to share this beautiful book with you all. I had no idea it existed until I saw the pretty cover. Naturally and unsurprisingly, I left with arm fulls of books to add to my ever increasing shelves that I’m barely making in a dent in. However, I read this first and I haven’t been able to stop talking about it since. I’m here to share with you today the stunning book of love, courage, hope and friendship: Big Panda and Tiny Dragon by James Norbury. I hope you fall in love with this just as much as I have.

What’s it all about?
This book definitely has The Boy, The Fox, The Mole and The Horse vibes but it’s stunning and heartfelt in its own right. Inspired by Norbury’s volunteering experience with the Samaritans, this gem of a book follows Big Panda and Tiny Dragon, two unlikely friends, that follow the seasons sharing hope and lessons for us all to learn from.

Throughout the book there are a series of conversations, sometimes silly, sometimes serious, which show a range of emotions and fears. The words of wisdom within this little book are all inspired by Buddhist philosophy and spirituality which gave Norbury hope during difficult times. I personally believe in fate and I found this book at this point in time for a reason. It gave me the heartwarming hug I needed. I’m passing this hug (virtually) onto you.

Big Panda and Tiny Dragon embark on a journey through the four seasons of the year together. Whilst on this journey, the journey of life, they get lost more often than not. This is something we all can relate to – whether it is getting lost on a journey of losing ourselves in times of doubt and question. However, it is what Big Panda and Tiny Dragon find when they are lost that makes the journey that little bit more special. They discover beautiful sights they have never seen before and would never have seen if they had gone the right way. Good things can come from mistakes we make.

“My head feels like this storm sometimes,” said Tiny Dragon.
“If you really listen…you can hear the raindrops splashing on the stone. It’s possible to find a little peace, even in a storm.”

It isn’t just the words that aid this beautiful story but the drawings too. I always appreciate things like this because I am not artistic in any way. Norbury’s use of bold brush strokes, the fluffy, cuddly Big Panda and the small, wiry Tiny Dragon, the meadows, lakes, forests and hills mean that each page is as beautiful as the last.

Big Panda and Tiny Dragon explore the thoughts and emotions surrounding hardships and happiness. This connects every single one of us together, reader or not. Whilst they see the offerings of nature through the seasons of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, they learn to live in the moment and to embrace those gifts of nature. Big Panda and Tiny Dragon also learn how to be at peace with uncertainty and how to find the strength to overcome life’s obstacles. They do it together. These conversations show us friendship, inner wisdom and self acceptance.

Final Thoughts
This book felt like a breath of fresh air. It’s been so easy for us to feel overwhelmed with life pausing and starting up again. We each have been tested and tried in our lifetimes and sometimes it is easier to give up. This little book has the biggest heart and is there for you when you need it. Read it cover to cover, look for your favourite conversation, find the lesson that suits your current experience. The series of vignettes mean that you can read this however you want to really. It is there as in inspiration, a reminder that not all is lost. Pause. Breathe. Enjoy. Look at life in a positive way.

I just have so much love for this book. It reminded me of me, of the most amazing group of family and friends I’ve got around me. Like I said at the beginning, I found this book for a reason and I’ll be spreading the message of this book near and far. I adore the drawings that bring the lessons to life too. All I keep thinking now is, I really want my own Big Panda and Tiny Dragon. To finish my review, my favourite quote.

“Some people are like candles. They burn themselves out to create light for others.”

With so much love to you all but especially to my candles…

Big love xxx

Reading Challenge 2021: Oskar’s Quest – Annika Perry

Hello Lovelies!

I hope you’re all well and are getting into the Easter spirit 🐣! I’m thoroughly enjoying my Easter break – reading plenty, spending time with my family (my support bubble), in the garden and spending time soaking up the warmer days. I seem to have got my writing mojo back so whilst I appreciate it is now April, I have a couple of posts I need to catch up with. Today’s post is the book I chose to read for the reading challenge. The focus for March was: Read a book that was gifted to you. If you’d like to catch up or take part in my reading challenge, please click here for more information. I’m sure all my avid reader blogging friends get books for birthdays, Christmas and then when you decide to treat yourself… or is that just me? Anyway, I had the perfect book in mind for this month from my dear friend, Annika Perry. Those of you who have seen my blog will remember that a couple of years ago, I blogged about Annika’s first book, The Storyteller Speaks. You can see this post here. Annika is a blogger who was here from day one of my journey and I’ve been so honoured to be a part of her writing journey. You can find her wonderful blog here. I was privileged to receive a copy of Oskar’s Quest, Annika’s second book. I can’t wait to share this with you all today.

What’s it all about?

This children’s book hits all the right notes. It’s about courage, kindness and friendship – all the ingredients for a meaningful and happy life and all the lessons we teach children and young people today. There is a simple premise behind the book but it stands for so much more which is why it personally appeals to me as an adult. Oskar is a blue bird who finds himself on Roda, a little lost. This mysterious island is filled with beautiful flowers and interesting creatures but Oskar is afraid. He sees the red bell-flowers and notices they look lonely.

‘The flower nodded sadly as one more leaf drifted to the ground. A drop of water followed.’

The reason for all the sadness is because their songbird, Maya has been taken by Drang, the darkest cloud in the sky. What can Oskar possibly do? He’s just a little blue bird. He decides he wants to be brave and help. He makes the decision to go to Drang and ask for her back. After all, the island needs her beautiful music to bring them happiness once again. But he can hear the fear and the names inside his head. This doesn’t deter him, he will get the songbird back. As he gets closer to the cloud, the worse the weather is. He has to really hold his nerve and be the bravest bird he’s ever possibly been.

‘Maya opened her golden beak but stopped, swallowed her screech and hiccuped loudly. Her body trembled with fear and hope.’

Drang booms and bangs and scares both the birds. However, he is misunderstood. He saw the happiness of the other birds and felt left out. He has no friends so he thought that by taking Maya, she could make him happy too. But she stopped singing and cried instead making Drang cry too. It was this that caused the terrible weather! Oskar’s bravery and kindness meant that they could all head back to the island together and be friends there.

‘At her words, all the birds, flowers and trees of Roda sang a song of celebration. The music made Drang so happy he could not help but shed a few tears of joy.’

Oskar has to return home where he hears the calls again, mocking him for being scared. Yet this time was different because he was not scared and because he had new friends. He was a much braver bird than he was before. Rather than act in nastiness towards the birds, he invites them to join them on their new adventures.

Final Thoughts
There’s a real art to writing children’s books and I think Annika has produced an excellent one. It teaches us that we can be brave and we can use kindness to defeat anything. It’s also made me reflect back to my own childhood and how I could have done things differently, if only I were a bit more brave. The illustrations are also stunning and support the story wonderfully. I naturally loved Oskar and Maya’s illustrated beauty was matched perfectly to the writing about her. I am really in awe of Gabrielle Vickery’s drawings.

This book fulfils my criteria for this month perfectly because it is a treasured gift and it always will be. I have read this book three times now and it’s magical with each read. Annika really knows how to keep her audience entertained whilst also teaching them that kindness, bravery and friendship mean the world. Adult or child – read this book. Felling sad or lost – read this book. Gift it to anyone that has ever been afraid fo anything. Thank you so much, Annika. ♥️

See you all next time for my round up post. Take care all and HAPPY EASTER.

Big love xxx

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse – Charlie Mackesy

Hey Loves!

How are you all? I hope everyone is well and embracing the lighter days and evenings. It’s been a bit of a strange time for me so I apologise for the absence. School is interesting, especially in light of the recent announcements. I’m sure everything will make sense soon enough. As long as I am doing the best for my students, that’s all that matters. At least there is a light at the end of the tunnel now.

I’m sure we all have worries and concerns, the same worries we have had for the past twelve months really. We have all been affected by the pandemic – whether we have been poorly or lost someone we love. In these times, I know I am missing the physical contact with people – I love a good hug! But I am certain that this won’t be a negative post – that’s not my style at all! I want to share with you a book that felt like a hug. It’s beautiful in every sense of the word. Of course, I am talking about The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy. 👦 🦊 🐴. I really hope you enjoy the post and the book as much as I did. Consider this my virtual hug to you all during these trying times. 💜

What’s it all about?
Following numerous Instagram posts showing the illustrations of a young, lonely boy and his animal friends in 2018, the book, The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse, was born. It tells the story of a lonely boy who ambles through the countryside on a glorious spring day.

The first animal the boy meets is the mole. They become friends and continue the journey, meeting the fox and the horse. On this journey they talk about anything and everything. They form a companionship and become great friends. They share their hopes and their fears with each other and provide each other the support they need. The boy is no longer lonely.

Whilst asking the big questions life throws at us, each animal has a different reaction. The fox is usually silent whereas the horse and the mole offer reassurance and wisdom. Don’t misunderstand the silence from the fox. His presence is just as important as the advice given from the other animals.

Each animal represents a different part of us as human beings. The boy is naturally inquisitive with so many questions about the world. The mole (arguably my favourite) is overly enthusiastic and a lover of cake. The fox has clearly been hurt and upset and is now distrusting and sad. The horse represents the wiseness, the deepest part of us. Each of us can relate to each character in the text. That’s what makes this so magical. By the end, your heart and harmony will be restored.

Final Thoughts
I love this book. I genuinely love this book. I think everyone should read it. It gave me a little boost that I so desperately needed. As I said at the start, I wanted to share this with you all so it brings you the joy it bought me. If you’ve read it, I’m sure you know exactly what I mean. Whilst this doesn’t have a linear structure, it is more episodic and showing the different fears we all have and the joys that friendship and companionship bring to our lives. The calligraphy writing is stunning and I wish I could do that myself to be fair. The illustrations are also beautiful. The two things work together to create a sublime book. 👦 🦊 🐴

Continue to look after yourselves. Stay safe. I’ll see you at the weekend for a roundup of this month.

Big love all xxxx

Matilda At 30 – Roald Dahl & Quentin Blake

Hey Everyone!

Welcome to October! The leaves are changing, it’s definitely getting colder and Autumn is fast upon us. What is perfect about this time of year is it’s the right time to get cosy on the sofa, in a chunky blanket with a book.

Before my Read The Year post for September, I wanted to share with you the news that Roald Dahl’s Matilda was published 30 years ago today. Happy birthday Matilda!!

I can’t believe it’s 30 years old – only two years older than me! It’s fascinating how it’s stood the test of time. That’s because it’s absolutely brilliant!! I have so much love for Matilda in my heart. The message that good will always conquer evil is one to remember, even when we feel most defeated. Also, the comfort and joy we can get from a good book cannot be understated. For Matilda, it’s all she has at some points in her life.

By pure coincidence, I’ve had a really Matilda orientated weekend. I went to Manchester to see the touring cast of Matilda the Musical. It was awesome! Just as amazing as when I went to see it in London. (see here for information!) I have a huge swell of pride about this as it started in my beloved Stratford upon Avon. It’s grown into this incredible production which is now being shared across England. Go and see it if you get chance, you won’t be disappointed!

To celebrate 30 years, Quentin Blake has released a number of drawings and illustrations which reimagine Matilda as an adult. Blake shows Matilda as a poet laureate, an astrophysicist, a special FX artist, a world traveller and the CEO of the British Library. I chose the latter cover to buy to mark this special occasion. Also, in my opinion, it’s the most likely career I think Matilda would have. Also, how beautiful is this cover?!

In true Quentin Blake style, the illustrations are just awesome. It’s so clever to be able to see the potential lives Matilda could have had. The opportunities are indeed endless. Regardless, it’s a beautiful book with the original story and illustrations within. What a relief this has been republished for the world to consider where the incredible little girl would be now.

So, happy birthday Matilda! I hope this novel continues to give hope to those who need it, shows that good will conquer evil and shares the love of learning. Matilda, you are a beauty.

Happy reading everyone!

Big love.