Pages and Co.: Tilly and the Map of Stories by Anna James

Anna James’ Pages and Co. series is one of my all-time favourite series. It’s a series all about the magic of books, stories and reading and Anna just perfectly captures the feeling of being a book-lover and a reader. Being able to wander within books is something that all readers have wanted to do and Anna makes it sound so magical. I eagerly await each new book in the Pages and Co. series and I’ve been desperate to bookwander into the third book. Tilly and the Map of Stories has just been released and it is bursting with all of the things I love about the series – book character cameos, cosy bookshops, libraries, secret societies and bookwandering.

As Tilly and the Map of Stories opens the sinister Underwoods are still in charge of the British Underlibrary. Tilly and her best friend Oscar have gathered clues which they believe can help them find the legendary Archivists, who they think will be able to save bookwandering. Tilly and Oscar travel to America where they hope to find some answers at the Library of Congress. Their search will lead them further inside the world of story than they have ever been before, and they will meet some of the most famous writers of all time. However, the Underwoods are hatching plans that are more sinister than just binding the Source Editions, and it is up to Tilly and her friends and family to try and halt their plans.

Tilly and the Map of Stories absolutely enchanted me and I wanted to stay inside the story long after I reached the endpapers. Like Tilly you find yourself disappearing into the book and find yourself on adventure with friends old and new. Reading the story feels as if you are bookwandering, experiencing the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the story. I loved being back with Tilly and Oskar, who felt like my best friends after just the first book. Anna James has a brilliant imagination, which conjures up all sorts of bookish delights for the reader. She takes us inside the places that booklovers dream of, from a bookshop inside an old theatre to the Library of Congress. I love the way that Anna describes the marvellous things that book magic and story magic can do.

I absolutely love the train in the story, called the Sesquipedalian (or Quip for short). I can’t really say how it fits into the story (as it may be a bit of a spoiler) but it is a wonderful train that has an important role to play. At one part in the story the characters are all having a meal in the dining car of the Quip and each of the meals are straight out of stories. You can have a picnic with all the trimmings from a Famous Five book or some Turkish delight from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, among other delicious treats. I would love to go to a restaurant or a cafe that served book-themed food!

Like each of the previous books in the series, Tilly and the Map of Stories is a gorgeously designed hardback book. They are books that feel really nice to hold, smell amazing and look just as good with their dust-jacket off as they do with it on.

This book feels like Tilly’s story has come to a conclusion but I really hope this isn’t the last that we see of her and Oskar. I have enjoyed every minute of these Pages and Co. books and I hope to lose myself in another adventure with Tilly soon.

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

Be prepared to fall madly in love with the most stunning celebration of books that you will ever read!


Ever since I first heard about A Child of Books I have been eagerly awaiting its release.  It is the first collaboration between Oliver Jeffers and another artist, typographical fine artist Sam Winston.  There have been a few teaser images, showing illustrations made up of text, and I knew I needed to have this book.  It has just been released and it is absolutely stunning!

A Child of Books is about a little girl who sails her raft ‘across a sea of words’ to arrive at the house of a small boy. She invites him to come away with her on an adventure where they can journey through ‘forests of fairy tales’, ‘across mountains of make-believe’ and ‘sleep in clouds of song’. Guided by his new friend, the boy unlocks his imagination and a lifetime of magic lies ahead of him… But who will be next?

A Child of Books is a celebration of stories, books and reading, that you will want to read again and again.  It’s one of those books that you will find something new in each time you read it.  You might notice a line from a book that you missed the last time or note the significance of a particular line of text.  I want to take this book everywhere with me and show it to everyone I meet.  However, I also want to take the book apart and have the pages on the walls of my house and my school library to look at every day.

Oliver Jeffers’ characteristic illustrations and hand drawn text that I already love is combined with Sam’s astonishing typographical landscapes that I couldn’t get enough of.  Sam has taken excerpts from classic children’s stories and nursery rhymes, from Treasure Island to Alice and Wonderland, and shaped them into stunning creations.  There is an ocean made from castaway stories and clouds made from lullabies.

If I ever doubt why I do what I do all I need to do is open this book.  If anyone questions the validity of libraries and librarians all I need to do is put this book in their hands.  A Child of Books is my picture book of the year and it will always have a special place in my heart.

Buy this book for your collection and share it with everyone in your life.

Reading survey for parents from CORE Education

Sue Bridges, Literacy Facilitator at CORE Education is looking to gather information from parents of primary-aged children for her research on reading help at home.  Sue is wanting to gather information about the ways in which parents and whanau are helping with reading at home – including both traditional and digital resources.  Please find the info about it below and the links to the survey.  If you know any other parents of primary-aged children please encourage them to fill in the survey too.

Reading Help at Home Survey

Helping your child to learn to read at home used to be just about your child bringing home today’s reading book from school (in a folder), to read with you.  Nowadays, with the addition of digital devices, it may look and feel a little different.

Sue and Catriona are experienced teachers, educational facilitators and researchers. We are carrying out research across New Zealand into whānau/parents’ views and current experiences of helping their children to learn to read. This will give us useful information to share with schools so they can better support children’s literacy learning in partnership with whānau/parents.

YOU are invited to contribute your experiences and views about this important process. It will take about 10-20 minutes. All information about this voluntary survey is at the beginning.  The survey will be open through the July holidays 2016.

It’s easy to take part:

Many thanks for considering sharing your valuable experience and ideas with us. If you have friends who are parents of primary children at other schools, please feel free to pass this invitation on to them.

Sue Bridges  (; ph 021 569 041)

Catriona Pene (; ph 021 390 604)

A Library of Lemons by Jo Cotterill

Books can give us a window into a different life or show us that we’re not alone.  I had a pretty happy and comfortable childhood so it was books that showed me how other kids lived and some of the tough things that they have to live with.  I think it’s hugely important for kids to read books about all sorts of kids so that they see the world from different points of view.  Jo Cotterill’s new book, A Library of Lemons, gives us a window into Calypso’s life and the ways that her and her father deal with grief.

a-library-of-lemons-488x750Calypso’s mum died a few years ago and her emotionally incompetent Dad can’t, or won’t, talk about Mum at all. Instead he throws himself into writing his book A History of the Lemon. Meanwhile the house is dusty, there’s never any food in the fridge, and Calypso retreats into her own world of books and fiction.

When a new girl, Mae, arrives at school, the girls’ shared love of reading and writing stories draws them together. Mae’s friendship and her lively and chaotic home – where people argue and hug each other – make Calypso feel more normal than she has for a long time. But when Calypso finally plucks up the courage to invite Mae over to her own house, the girls discover the truth about her dad and his magnum opus – and Calypso’s happiness starts to unravel.

A Library of Lemons is a beautiful, heart-breaking story about a family that has lost itself in books.  Jo Cotterill has perfectly captured a love of reading and books.  It’s almost like she has seen inside my head and my heart and put down on paper what it means to be a bibliophile.  Jo makes you feel for her characters, especially Calypso and the situation that she finds herself in.

This is a story of grief and how we all cope with it in different ways.  Both Calypso and her dad retreat into books, Calypso into her stories that take her far away and her dad into the book he is writing ‘A History of Lemons.’ Calypso misses her mum, who died five years ago, but her dad tells her to be strong and that they have ‘inner strength’ to get them through.  Calypso’s dad puts everything into writing his book and often forgets to eat and provide what Calypso needs.  When Calypso discovers what her father has been hiding in his library her anger and sadness comes exploding out of her and sets off a chain of events that will hopefully fix her broken family.

One of the things that Calypso holds on to is her mother’s books.  She knows that she can still be connected to her if she reads the books that her mother did.  This is one of my favourite quotes from the book:

‘Books give you more than stories.  Books can give you back people you’ve lost.’

Anyone who reads this book will wish that they had a friend like Mae.  Not only does she love books and writing like Calypso, but she is always there when Calypso needs her.  She absolutely trusts Mae and confides in her about how she is feeling and the situation at home.  Mae listens to Calypso and gets her mother’s help when she knows they need it.

The ending of the book is perfect.  It shows readers that there is no quick fix to the pain and grief that children and adults face, but over time, things will get better.  It feels very real rather than rose-tinted.

A Library of Lemons is perfect for anyone aged 9 and up who enjoys stories about families and friendship.  If you love books as much as I do you need to read it too because you’ll see a bit of yourself in Calypso.


The post in which I gush over Reading Matters 2013

It’s 2 days after the end of Reading Matters 2013 and I still can’t stop thinking about it.  It was unbelievably awesome and  the best conference I’ve been to by far.  I’ve never had so much fun at a conference or come away so excited and motivated.  The Centre for Youth Literature team put together a great programme, with a lineup of some of the best young adult authors from Australia and overseas.  You could tell how much time, effort and passion that the team put into making the conference so engaging, thought provoking, and entertaining.  I already thought they were pretty damn awesome beforehand but I’ll be singing their praises to anyone who wants to listen.

At every other book conference I’ve been to I’ve bunked a couple of the sessions, but the Reading Matters sessions were so good that I didn’t want to miss a minute of them.  The authors, volunteers and the Centre for Youth Literature team kept the energy up the whole time and I was constantly buzzing with excitement. They all must have been pretty worn out by the last session, but it never showed.  They were all incredibly interesting sessions and we all learnt a lot more about the authors than we had bargained for.  I had no idea that some of them had such dirty mouths, but they had us almost falling off our seats with laughter.

I love Australian young adult literature and some of my favourite authors were there, including Vikki Wakefield (All I Ever Wanted, Friday Brown), Gabrielle Williams (Beatle Meets Destiny, The Reluctant Hallelujah), Morris Gleitzman (the Once quartet), and Myke Bartlett (Fire in the Sea).  I also enjoyed meeting and listening to the international authors, especially Raina Telgemeier (Smile, Drama), Keith Gray (Ostrich Boys) and Libba Bray (Beauty Queens, The Diviners).  I have to admit I hadn’t read anything by the international authors prior to the conference but I certainly will be now.  They were all really wonderful people who wrote some lovely dedications in my books.  I’ll be writing some more posts throughout the week about some of the sessions.

I also got the chance to meet some of my awesome fellow bloggers/Tweeters in person.  I was so glad I got to meet Danielle ( and @danielle_binks ) and Jess ( and @TalesCompendium )  whose blogs and Tweets I follow, and I could have chatted to them for ages.  Danielle is a super speedy Tweeter so she kept up with everything the authors were saying.  I, on the other hand, was very slow and decided to just retweet Danielle’s.  Between all of the Tweeters there and those who couldn’t be, we even managed to get the official hashtag, #yamatters, trending WORLDWIDE!

To all the authors and the organisers, especially Adele, Nicole, Anna and Jordi from the Centre for Youth Literature, thanks for making Reading Matters an event that I’ll never forget.  The next Reading Matters conference is in Melbourne in 2015 so make sure you get there (I know I’ll be there come hell or high water!).

If you want to catch up on all the #yamatters tweets, check out the hashtag on Twitter.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce

I had heard that the short film, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore had won an Academy Award last year.  I hadn’t paid much attention to it at the time, but when I noticed that a book of the story that inspired the film was going to be published I had to find out what all the fuss was about.  I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to rave about a film as much as I do about The Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.  No movie that I’ve heard of, or watched, has more completely captured the magic of books.  This film is absolutely stunning and EVERYONE should see it.!  It’s fifteen minutes of pure joy and, if you love books, it’s guaranteed to make you incredibly happy.  There is no dialogue at all so you have to figure out what is happening in the story, which I think is part of the appeal.  I’ve posted the link to the film on YouTube below so you can experience it for yourself, and you can buy it on iTunes (I bought it so that I can take it wherever I go).

The creator of the film, William Joyce, has now brought the story to life on the page, in a beautiful hardback picture book.  The illustrations in the book are even more beautiful than the moving images in the film and I read the book several times just to stare at them.  The cover really jumps out at you, and I’d challenge any book lover to walk past it without picking it up to see what’s inside.  Unlike the film, there is text in the book so you are told what is happening (I suggest watching the film before reading the book as I think you get more out of the story that way).  I especially like the design of the book, from the beautiful binding and dust jacket, to the way the text and illustrations interact on the page.

Like Morris Lessmore, we are whipped up by the wind and whisked away to a land where books fly, dance, and even play the piano.  As soon as you see this book or watch the film you will fall in love with the story and want to return to it again and again.  I discovered that William Joyce has also written a fantasy series for children, called The Guardians of Childhood, that is currently being made into an animated movie called Rise of the Guardians, due out later this year.

Watch the Academy Award-winning film below and grab a copy of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore from your library or bookshop.