Category Archives: Blog

Tackling separation anxiety through picture books: Owl Babies

Reading Nook Reviews – Owl Babies
Curl up and share a book with someone you love

An oldie but a goodie, Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson was first published back in 1992. I vaguely remember having my own copy of the book, stuffed between copies of Enid Blyton and Super Ted. A simple, sweet board book primarily for children up to the age of three, it’s surprisingly text-heavy for a book for such young readers in mind, with quite dark illustrations (it is, after all, a book about owls in the middle of the night).

‘Three baby owls, Sarah, Percy and Bill, wake up one night to find that their mother has gone. So they sit on a branch and watch and wait for their mother to return… Clever pop-ups bring this bestselling picture book to life – the owl babies slowly close their eyes and fall asleep, their mother swoops gracefully through the forest, and Sarah, Percy and Bill bounce up and down with joy when their mother comes home.

Designed to reassure children that their mummy will always come home, in theory, it’s a great book for parents trying to get kids to sleep alone, or looking to leave them with relatives or at pre-school for the first time. It had the opposite effect for me. I remember being worried, not reassured, when the book was read to me. Would I wake in the night only to discover I was alone in the house, with no-one there, and no clue as to when Mum may return? Unlike the owl babies, Sarah, Percy and Bill, I had no older siblings to reassure me, to logically think of where my mum may have gone. Much like little Bill, who’s only words (over and over and over) were ‘I want my Mummy!’ I would worry that she may disappear whilst I slept.

Despite what may sound like a fairly negative assessment, I do recommend Owl Babies to parents of children not predisposed to anxiety or worry. Owl Babies can be taken as a reassuring tale, but it’s worth considering if your child (or the child you’re buying it for) is the kind of person who could be more worried than reassured by the overall topic at hand.

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Rediscovering the joy of reading, one book at a time

For some, it’s like love at first sight. For others, it’s a hard-earned slog, resulting in a grudging degree of respect and a slight tinge of resentment.

When I was young, I hated reading. The words all seemed to move around the page in a strange jumble. Why did I need to read, anyway, when I had audiobooks to tell me the stories I loved to hear? If the books were any good, then why weren’t they made into films I could watch while I played?

It wasn’t until I was around eight I began, grudgingly, falling in love with the written word.

As I entered my teens, I discovered manga and fanfiction; two loves that have dominated my life ever since. While the still count as a kind of reading, it wasn’t until much, much later that I would realise that my love of the printed written word had fallen by the wayside. Sure, during my time at university – first as an eager undergraduate, then a dedicated postgraduate – I discovered a new love, one of factual texts and academic examining of exciting new concepts and ideas. But this still left little time for reading for pleasure.

During the last few days of a truly dreadful year for the world, and a fairly wonderful year on a personal level, I spotted several reading challenges on my Facebook feed. It seemed like perfect timing.

I planned on taking the 26 books challenge; that’s one book every two weeks. However, after starting a new job, I’ve regained a lot more time previously lost to commuting (trying to read between train to train to bus changes, all the while packed in like sardines with your fellow commuters rarely leaves time or low enough stress levels to pick up a book). 18 weeks in (as of May 1st), I’ve just hit 21 books.

That sounds a little more impressive than it actually is, as many of those are children’s books I’ve read for work. Rather than following a ridged reading challenge, I’ve decided to just read a little bit of everything; to see what takes my fancy, book by book. I’m hoping to hit 52 books before the end of the year, so I can try and up the amount of young adult and adult fiction on my list.

If you aren’t already, it’s not too late to start in on your own reading challenge for the year. It doesn’t have to be a book a week; just try and see if you can make a little more time for reading than you did last year.

I’d love to hear how your reading is going this year! Let me know in the comments below.

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Waiting on Wednesday – Wave goodbye to boredom with Jacqueline Wilson

Waiting on Wednesday’s Kids Corner: This month’s most exciting pre-orders and upcoming releases for young readers.

I’ve been a huge Jacqueline Wilson fan since I first read The Illustrated Mum and Girls in Love back in the late 90s. If like me you’re a fan of Jacqueline Wilson’s past history-based works such as the Hetty Feather series, Clover Moon, Opal Plumstead, or The Lottie Project, Wave Me Goodbye could be for you.

What Wave me Goodbye
Who By Jacqueline Wilson, illustrated byr Nick Sharratt. Ideal for ages 9+
When Out 18th May ‘17
How Pre-order your copy now at Amazon, Waterstones, or all good local bookshops
Why  The latest book from former Children’s Laureate and award-winning best-seller Jacqueline Wilson, Wave Me Goodbye is an all-new story about bravery and friendship, set against a WWII backdrop – a first for Wilson.

September, 1939. As the Second World War begins, ten-year-old Shirley is sent away on a train with her schoolmates. She doesn’t know where she’s going, or what’s going to happen to her when she gets there. All she has been told is that she’s going on ‘a little holiday’.

Shirley is billeted in the country, with two boys from East End London, Kevin and Archie – and their experiences living in the strange, half-empty Red House, with the mysterious and reclusive Mrs Waverley, will change their lives for ever.

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Best book blogs for 2017

Five fast recommendations for the best book blogs going in 2017.

5 – Tara Lazer: Run by children’s author and mother of two, Tara Lazar, this blog mixes writing resources with unique insight into the children’s book market, writing for young audiences, and publishing.

4 – Signature; Making well-read sense of the world.’ Signature explores books that educate and inspire, that can help us better understand the world in which we live. Founded by Penguin Random House.

3 – Bustle; Simple, clean and professional, Bustle creates high-quality posts covering a wide range of topics from writing tips and getting inspired to reviews, top ten’s, and must-reads.

2 – Electric Lit; Accepting essays, opinion pieces, writing advice, and more at set points throughout the year, Electric Lit cover reviews, news, interviews, essays and more, though some content is locked behind a membership paywall.

1 – Book Riot; A book blog with a different, the people over at Book Riot believe that writing about books and reading should be just as diverse as the books and readers themselves are. Written by a mixture of pros and amateurs, offering serious and silly reviews without judging your reading choices, they had the coolest ethos, including believing in always preferring the book to the movie; practicing charity; and treating both bookshelves and cats as family – something we here at Gnomicorn can always get behind.

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Drop everything. You NEED to read ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ now

I don’t usually recommend books before I’ve had the chance to finish reading and reflecting on them. Recently, I encountered a story I just couldn’t wait to share. You’ve probably heard about it already; Netflix just released a 13 part adaptation based on it – the best-selling young adult novel, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

I’ve stumbled across the book in the past while browsing the YA section at my local bookstore. It’s popped up more than once on Amazon as well; I’ve just never gotten around to buying it in the past. It appealed, but I couldn’t face picking it up; I hate stories with sad endings. How else could a book that starts in the aftermath of a suicide end, anyway?

 ‘You can’t stop the future. You can’t rewind the past. The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.

Clay Jensen comes home from school to find outside his front door a mysterious box with his name on it. Inside he discovers a series of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker – his classmate and crush. Only, she committed suicide two weeks earlier. On the first tape, Hannah explains that there are 13 reasons why she did what she did – and Clay is one of them. If he listens, Clay will find out how he got onto the list – what he hears will change his life forever.

Like most book gnomes, I rarely recommend the screen version – big or small – when it comes to adaptation, but after just one episode of Th1rteen R3asons Why, I had to order a copy of the book.

It begins with Clay; a teenager with good morals but no backbone. He can see when things around him are wrong – a boy photographing girls from the window in the men’s room – but he says, and does, nothing. Clay is like many teens his age. Like many adults as well. He sees himself as a good person – and he is, for the most part. But the impact of his inactions isn’t something that has ever occurred to him, or those around him.

We see through flashbacks Clay’s memories of how he knew Hannah; the new girl in town, the girl he went to school with, who he worked with part-time at the local movie theatre, who he loved, quietly, afraid to make the first move.

We quickly see the callousness of youth; teens taking selfies in front of Hannah’s locker, now turned into a memorial. An ex classmate of hers asks in class when they can be ‘done with it’ – when they can be done with talking about Hannah’s suicide.

It’s an intriguing idea, getting to hear, to understand the 13 pivotal moments in a young woman’s life, the ones with the power to drive her to take her own life. It’s heart-breaking. An emotional roller coaster. From slut-shaming to school rumour mills, peer-pressure to exploring sexuality, bullying to sexual harassment…and more. Asher’s work looks at the hopelessness of being just ‘average’ at school; how it can feel like no-one is listening, like no-one can hear you, life no-one knows you’re drowning, until it all just…is too much.

It’s an indescribable, raw, honest look into the lives of teenagers – one that strikes a chord with both those who have lived through it, and are living it now. Thirteen Reasons Why shows the devastating impact of modern technology, and how it can change everything so much quicker than anything that came before. It shows how one unconsidered decision, one idea turned action not fully thought through, can impact those around us in unspeakable, unexpected ways.

One of the aspects that makes Asher’s work so compelling is the perspective. Thirteen Reasons Why explores just about every archetype, every aspect of the modern teen experience; from the overachievers to the jocks, the rich kids, the abused kids, those who will get full scholarships through to those who don’t have a clue what they will do, or what they want to do; the passionless and the passionate. The clueless, and the over-thinkers.

I haven’t finished the book, nor the series yet. I plan on completing both before the week is through. I can’t recommend this book and series enough; for teens, tween, young adults, and most of all parents. The devastation left behind by Hannah’s suicide affects those around her in such different ways. Her parents, the parents of her friends, and the teachers at school…it’s easy to get wound up in how ‘easy’ things are for kids and teens. Before bills, mortgages, never-ending student loans, trying to claw up the career ladder…it’s easy to forget how brutal those last few years of school can be; how callous and self-centred humans can be at all ages; how vulnerable teens really are.

Thirteen Reasons Why will help you remember. It will help you consider a new point of view; you’ll see reflections of yourself, of your children; it may just help you discover a new perspective all together.

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Discover a new perspective this World Book Night

Monday’s are all about making a difference; whether that’s at home, with your own reading habits; getting to understand the issues that affect those around you; or finding a way to help and understand others. Let’s make Mondays a day we can make a difference, big or small.


This week, we’re looking at World Book Night and Marjane Satropi’s graphic memoir, Persepolis.

Despite its’ name, World Book Night is a national celebration of reading and books, held every year on April 23rd. When I first stumbled across it, I imagined some sleepover-style read-in of sorts at libraries and school halls, looking to raise money for literacy. It’s actually a little different from that. Books are given out across the UK to people who don’t regularly read, via organizations dealing with vulnerable people including care homes, homeless shelters, hospitals and prisons, as well as libraries and colleges. Individuals are also encouraged to donate books to their local communities.

For 2017, the focus in on adults with low literacy levels; isolated, vulnerable older people; men and women in prisons; those with mental health issues; as well as LGBTQ groups, parents, and young people who don’t read for pleasure. It’s a pretty big list to call a focus, but it’s an admirable mission none the less. Publishers both big and small have donated books this year, helping get a wide range of genres and a broad range of types of literature to people who don’t traditionally read.

You can check out the main books donated this year at World Book Night. I want to recommend one of this year’s books in particular – Persepolis by Marjane Satropi. A memoir come political history told through simple comic book graphics, Persepolis is a funny, haunting, thought-provoking, fascinating story about a bold, brave young woman growing up during the Islamic revolution and its aftermath in 1980s Iran.

The daughter of radical Marxists, great-granddaughter of Iran’s last emperor, she is an intelligent, outspoken child. Satropi creates an unforgettable view of day-to-day life in 1980s Iran, and it’s bewildering contradictions between home and public life. It’s a fascinating look into another culture and time, one that most of us will never know, and many of us may never have considered.

‘The Story of a Childhood and The Story of a Return

The intelligent and outspoken child of radical Marxists, and the great-granddaughter of Iran’s last emperor, Satrapi bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country. Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. This is a beautiful and intimate story full of tragedy and humour – raw, honest and incredibly illuminating.’

Explicit at times, with both violence and language, it’s a fascinating book for teen and above. Available as either two hardback volumes, a complete paperback edition, or an award-nominated animated movie, Persepolis’s format makes tough subject matter much more accessible than traditional literary formats.

Get involved this World Book Night. Check out their website for great resources and recommendations on how you can take part. Or why not pick up a copy of Persepolis for yourself or someone you know, and see how viewing another kind of world can change your point of view.

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