Posted in poetry

These are the gifts that I would if I could give to you, by Holly

Holly recently enjoyed a poetry workshop at her school, run by Oxfordshire-based poet James Carter. (You can read about him at his website:

The children were asked to write a poem based on the sentiment: ‘These are the gifts that I would, if I could, give to you’ and this is Holly’s composition – we absolutely loved it.


For my Mummy and Daddy:

These are the gifts that

I would

if I could

give to you.


The golden key to an ocean of peace

A life so crystal clear you can see right through it,

The colours bottled up in a jar ready to spill out,

The warmth of a flickering candle glowing in the night.


I would give you all the brightness of a sunflower.

I would give you the guidance of my hand.

I would give you all the time you want and need

And all the happiness the world possesses.


These are the gifts

That I would

If I could

Give to you.


By Holly Fratter


What gifts would you give to someone you love, if you could?

Posted in general and welcome

Books are My Bag, it’s official!

If you’re a book lover living in the UK it’s likely that you will be aware of a national book-giving party occurring in the UK today, Saturday 14th September. The idea, says the campaign’s website, is:

‘…to celebrate bookshops. This collaboration between publishers, bookshops and authors and is the biggest ever promotion of bookshops. For many people bookshops conjure fond images of book readings, in-store cafes and delight at the discovery of a new author. In fact, 56% of all book buying decisions are made by consumers in a bookshop and high street bookshops (both chains and independents) still account for almost 40% of books bought by consumers. Yet, many high street bookshops are under threat. BOOKS ARE MY BAG aims to halt this process by celebrating the nation’s love of bookshops, calling on book lovers to show their support by visiting and purchasing a book from their favourite bookshop on Saturday 14th September.’

I can’t imagine a world without bookshops and so I was delighted to support this cause. We were rather pushed for time today as Holly is singing in a wedding but we made it down to Blackwell’s in Oxford to check out what was happening.

The buzz in the shop was undeniable as people browsed through the books, listened to talks and had their purchases handled by booksellers in fancy dress (there was an impressive bunny in the adult section). We of course headed towards the children’s department and were delighted to see Griselda Heppel, a local author whose book Ante’s Inferno won The Children’s People’s Book Prize (read more about the book on her blog). We have a copy of this book to read soon and are definitely looking forward to it having heard Griselda read an excerpt from the story in the shop.

In the children’s section there was an arts and crafts table where children could redesign a book cover or do general arty stuff. Holly chose to decorate the free Books Are My Bag bag she was given instead:


Holly's Books Are My Bag bag
Holly’s Books Are My Bag bag


With time rapidly running out, we then had a browse in the children’s section and bought three books:

  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  • Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell (another local author)
  • My Brilliant Life and Other Disasters by Catherine Wilkins


Despite a hurried visit we had a fantastic time and it’s been amazing to see people getting excited by books both on Twitter (talking about today’s events around the UK) and in the bookshop itself. We hope Books Are My Bag will become a regular feature in the bookselling calendar, and will be there to support it!

There’s still enough time today to get out and support your local bookshop, so please do. And tell us which one is your favourite and why! Tell us why we should visit it and send in pics!


Posted in general and welcome

Bedtime stories are old news

The Guardian printed a short article yesterday about the decline in parents reading their children, aged 0-7 years, bedtime stories, based on the results of a survey run by Littlewoods. I checked it out even though these kinds of news stories are so common nowadays that it might seem more newsworthy to print one that reveals that most parents do read to their children and have books in their house.

The basic facts are as follows:

  • 2,000 mums were interviewed
  • 64% read to their children
  • 13% did not read to their child(ren) every night
  • 75% of these admitted that they were read to every night by their parents when they were young.


The key information that I took from this is that nearly two-thirds of parents surveyed DID read to their children, even if they couldn’t be perfect about it every night.

Celebrate, don’t negate

At this point, when we are worrying so much about children having books in the house at all, it seems a little churlish to berate parents for managing only three nights a week. We all know that reading to or with your child is a very important activity, beneficial not only to their educational development but also to their emotional needs but not everyone can manage this. So perhaps we should turn this news story on its head and celebrate, instead, that parents are making an effort. In a perfect world it would be great if we were all reading every night to our children but at that point would we start dictating the amount of time that is acceptable? The books that we should read?

In today’s society, parents are constantly coming under fire for failing their children in some way or other. Unsurprisingly one of the main reasons parents in the Littlewoods survey gave for not reading every night to their children was stress, so discovering yet another weakness in their parenting skillset won’t help matters.

Let the games begin

Another major obstacle was getting children to pay attention to books. Apparently, many find other distractions such as television, video games and toys more fun than books.

Holly has an iPod – something I held out on allowing her for ages because I didn’t want her to turn away from books to easier entertainment. In fact, when she was seven I remember people telling me that I was being cruel when I revealed that instead of playing on a Nintendo DS she was designing her own to pretend-play with – drawing the pictures and creating the games. I felt that was more creative and quite sweet! Someone told me that playing with a Nintendo DS games can be educational – eg you can learn to look after your own ‘animals’. I commented that since we have two cats at home, she gets plenty of real practice with them – she doesn’t need a video game!

However, for her tenth birthday I relented and her nana and grandpa gave her an iPod for her birthday. Holding out for so long did have its benefits though – it made the present extra special. And, while she does like to play on it (a lot!), she still loves her bedtime stories and enjoys reading by herself too. Perhaps we instilled the reading bug in her early enough for technology not to present a threat but a part of me thinks that some people just don’t like reading much. In which case, should we be forcing them?

I asked Holly about this. I told her about the results of the survey and she said, with the typical bluntness of childhood, ‘If kids don’t want to read then it’s not important. If it’s because they just sit in front of the telly then turn the telly off and say you want to spend time with them. Kids love it when parents want to spend time with them as it makes them feel loved and wanted. It doesn’t matter what it is, what matters is that they are spending time together. Books aren’t everything.’

Read for pleasure, not pain and gain

I am not sure I agree with the ‘it’s not important for children to read’ statement and wondered how I was going to include this in a blog that is about sharing a love of reading! But I realized that Holly had a good point. As adults we are constantly striving to ensure our children achieve academically and that we nurture their talents and ability. This is extremely important of course but perhaps we are losing sight of something that matters more: that whatever we do together, be it sharing bedtime stories or playing games or going on walks, should be a chance to enjoy being in each other’s company. If reading becomes a chore for parents or children or both then a battle begins and avoidance can ensue. Childhood rushes past very quickly – perhaps we should take Holly’s advice and find where we all share common ground. Books are a great place to start but try not to let them be the end.

Holly and her friend Neil, enjoying books in our local library at its 50th birthday party last year.

Image courtesy of



Posted in general and welcome, picture books

Review: Moo! Said Morris, by Jon Lycett-Smith

Today’s review is of Moo! Said Morris, written and illustrated by Jon Lycett-Smith.

image courtesy of


What it’s about (from the publishers): 

Enter the colourful and original world of Morris the Mouse.

Morris isn’t like other mice. Morris is different.

Other mice are mousey. They do what mice do. Morris isn’t like that.

A maverick, an outsider and a true hero, Morris marches to the sound of his own drum. And the drum goes PEEP!


Holly’s review:

This book is about a mouse who makes funny noises like animal noises and big, banging noises. But it is sort of like a fable to me because of its ending – Morris saves the day but by making a noise and not by being a knight in shining armour.

I like this book because it is funny and it puts a smile on my face. I would definitely recommend it especially for younger children because older kids might not enjoy this book as much if they don’t read picture books so much anymore. I am not saying I don’t find these books interesting – I think I will never grow out of picture books. I liked the drawings as they were sort of like watercolour paintings. 

I also wanted to add a note to the lady who sent us the book. Thank you so much for the last two books you sent us. I loved the way you packaged them as they were really fun to open. Oh and thanks for the little presents that came with them!

Sam’s review:

While the storyline in this book is similar to many found in children’s picture books – of difference being frowned upon but the importance of remaining true to yourself – I found the execution of this tale unique and refreshing. The drawings were funny and often zany, the words simple but not simplistic. Humour was in there too, in a gentle way, and the moral came out clearly but not patronizingly. Follow your own path, despite what others try to make you believe or do. Because, as the other mice in this story soon realize, being different can make all the difference. In this way, Holly’s observation that the story is like a fable is very astute.

What is your favourite fable and why?

Please note that we received a review copy of this book from Digital Leaf but were not under any obligation to review the book and all opinions are our own.