Top Ten / Children’s and Young Adult Books Set During WWI

Did you know that 100 years ago today was the start of the First World War? World War One (WWI), the First World War or the Great War began on 28th July 1914 and lasted until 11th November 1918. It was one of the deadliest conflicts in history, but there’s few children’s and young adult books set during it (you’ll find much more about WWII). The centenary has meant that a whole host of children’s books surrounding WWI were published this year, so here’s a selection that I’ve come across, some read, some just on my wishlist.

Top Ten / Children's and Young Adult Books Set During WWI

Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer, set in a 1960s boarding school until young Charlotte Makepeace slips back in time to 1918, where everyone starts to call her Clare.

Stay Where You Are and Then Leave by John Boyne, about Alfie Summerfield, just five years old when World War I broke out. His young father, Georgie, promised he wouldn’t enlist voluntarily, only to break his promise the very next day, walking into the house in full uniform. Stay Where You Are and Then Leave is beautifully written and does not shy away from the harshness of wartime and the effect the war had on the entire country. I loved it and reviewed it last year.

Poppy by Mary Hooper, about a young girl whose life is about to be thrown dramatically off course. Poppy is fifteen, beautiful and clever, but society has already carved out her destiny. There’s no question of her attending the grammar school – it’s too expensive and unsuitable for a girl. Instead, Poppy will become a servant at the big house.

Valentine Joe by Rebecca Stevens, in which Rose’s granddad takes her on a trip to Ypres, Belgium to visit the graves of those who died in the Great War. When she goes up to her room that night, she hears the sound of marching feet and glimpses from her window a young soldier on his way to the front line…

Remembrance by Theresa Breslin, where a group of teenagers from two families meet for a picnic, but the war across the Channel is soon to tear them away from such youthful pleasures.

Top Ten / Children's and Young Adult Books Set During WWI

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo is one you’ve all heard of: the story of Joey, a thoroughbred horse, and how he is forced into the thick of the harrowing, poorly-led battles of the First World War.

War Girls: A Collection of First World War Stories Through the Eyes of Young Women by Various is a collection of short stories explores how the First World War changed and shaped the lives of women forever, which I read and reviewed this year. I also interviewed Sally Nicholls about her story, Going Spare.

The Great War: Stories Inspired by Objects from the First World War by Various is a collection of stories, each inspired by a different object from the First World War. Each object illuminates an aspect of life during the war, and each story reminds us of the millions of individual lives that were changed forever by the fighting. It’s beautifully illustrated by Jim Kay.

Stories of World War One edited by Tony Bradman is a collection of short stories chronicles the events of World War One – imagining the conflicts and emotions of those people caught up in the war and its aftermath.

Ellen’s People by Dennis Hamley begins at the start of the war. When recruiting officers come to her village and her brother enlists, Ellen knows that her life will never be the same again. She longs for something more than her life as a housemaid. When her brother returns home after losing a leg, through helping him, she realises she wants to be a nurse at the front.

I will have missed some, so suggest more in the comments below! Tony Bradman also wrote a similar article for the Guardian earlier this month.

Book Review: Say Her Name by James Dawson

Book Review: Say Her Name by James Dawson

Young adult fiction (horror)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

Say Her Name was one of two books I read in June for #aryaclub, a young adult book club. We’re all super fans of James Dawson (I’ve previously read Cruel Summer, his YA thriller) so it was an obvious choice, although some of us (not me!) were worried about reading horror. Horror is a under-represented genre in young adult fiction, but that seems to be changing, and James Dawson shows that you can write horror and do it well enough so it to be considered ‘definitely YA’.

Did Say Her Name scare me? No, but then I watched movies like The Exorcist, Scream (all of them!) and The Sixth Sense with my Dad when I was 12-13. (I’m more likely to be scared by horror movies now than I was then!). So, it didn’t scare me, but it was incredibly enjoyable for someone looking forward to reading horror and it was deliciously eerie. One of my favourite horror movies of all time is The Ring and if you enjoyed that, you’ll love Say Her Name. James Dawson brings remnants of The Ring into his story, but with a brilliantly modern twist – a contemporary boarding school setting.

Bobbie and Naya, best friends and roommates, are students at Piper’s Hall School for Young Ladies, an English boarding school. There’s a legend that’s been passed around the school for generations that claims if you say ‘Bloody Mary’ five times in front of a candlelit mirror, ‘Mary’ will come. Bobbie and Naya, alongside fellow teenagers Sadie and Caine (a cute boy who Bobbie wants to impress), dare each other to perform the ritual, so they do it. It’s just a joke, right? But in five days, they find out just what happens when you Say Her Name.

Piper’s Hall, being a boarding school, is the perfect setting for most YA novels if you ask me, but YA horror in particular. It’s enough to peak my interest, but Bloody Mary is a fabulous… ghost zombie? Think The Returned, but much more nightmarish. She’ll make you never want to have a shower ever again. I cannot say much because the best part is not knowing what is going to happen next, but parts of Say Her Name were seriously chilling to think about, and Bloody Mary has a tragic backstory that makes everything seem real. You don’t often get to see the human side of the supernatural in horror, but this makes her even more terrifying. Mary doesn’t just ‘get’ people for the sake of it and I loved getting to know her before she became Bloody Mary, while equally hoping that she would stay away from Bobbie, Naya and Caine, who are realistic teenage characters – they’re afraid and don’t believe they can ‘defeat’ Mary – that you want to keep safe.

Say Her Name is an eerily awesome introduction to YA horror, with a frighteningly believable story and fantastic ending. You’ll want to talk about what you’ve just read, so it was the perfect book club book. I adore the cover, designed by Jet Purdie, and so purchased a finished copy at the Say Her Name book launch last month, where we ate creepy cake and got to see James Dawson dressed up as a Bloody Mary. Don’t be scared – pick it up (but definitely do not say her name).

Published: 5th June 2014
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Pages: 240

Behold the Pretty Books! / May & June Book Haul
Behold the Pretty Books! / May & June Book Haul

Book Review (of sorts): Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (Classics Challenge #4)

Book Review (of sorts): Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Shelved: Children’s fiction (contemporary)
Challenge: Classics Challenge – #4
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret is one of those books that fits into the ‘teenage fiction’ category – not quite 9-12, not quite young adult. Judy Blume is one of the authors who started writing about young teenagers, way before ‘young adult’ even existed. I cannot possibly write a ‘book review’ of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret because it’s one of those books that (at least, it felt like) everybody except me had read – it’s a classic! But here’s my thoughts on reading it as a 25-year-old girl who never got the opportunity to read it as an actual pre-teen. Yes, I’d never read a younger Judy Blume, I’m sorry! I only read Summer Sisters, her adult novel, last year. Published in 1970, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret seems to be Judy Blume’s most famous novel and as she visited the UK a couple of months ago (I’ll write the blogpost soon, I promise!), it seemed only right to pick this one up first.

Margaret Simon likes long hair, tuna fish, the smell of rain and things that are pink. At 11-years-old, she’s just moved from busy NYC to the quiet suburbs – Farbrook, New Jersey – where she’s faced with a whole bunch of awkward new firsts. I was surprised to see how relevant and current Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret still is, but yet it’s unsurprising because growing up is difficult, whether it’s 1970 or 2000, when I turned eleven.

I can see how Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret would feel pretty life-changing to young girl growing up, unable to talk about the challenges of puberty and worries of getting your first period. (It’s odd to think how controversial this was in the 1980s, when it became a ‘banned book’). It’s incredible to discover a book where the main character is going through something you’re going through, something that you couldn’t talk to other people about. I only had teen magazines! It reminded me of all the things I used to worry about as a 11 to 14-year-old and how the worrying doesn’t stop, but the things you’re worrying about just change. I enjoyed the realistic banter between Margaret and her new best friend (and neighbour) Nancy, and the challenges of dealing with Nancy’s older brother Moose and his friend Evan (especially when you mix school gossip into the equation), plus seeing her deal with between torn between her parents and her Grandma.

I assumed Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret would be a religious novel, likely one of the reasons why I hadn’t picked it up until now, because of the title and the fact that it’s American (and the US edition emphasises that aspect of the storyline a little bit more), but how wrong I was! Margaret’s parents are technically Catholic on one side and Jewish on the other, but neither actually follow a religion. Margaret is unsure what she believes in, so tries out both before she makes a choice (which she doesn’t find easy), meanwhile talking to her own private God, instead of ‘Dear Diary’, about the trials and tribulations of being a young, new and uncertain.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is timeless in its ability to show young girls that they are not alone. I love the new US editions of her books (check out the tagline: ‘Growing up is tough. Period’) – bringing them to fans of YA contemporary fiction (and contemporary romance), who may never have picked up Judy Blume before. I already have Forever, which will be my next Judy Blume!

Published: 1970
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (US) Macmillan Children’s Books (UK)
Pages: 192

Behold the Pretty Books! / May & June Book Haul

Blog Tour: Landline by Rainbow Rowell / Rainbow Rowell at Waterstones Piccadilly

Landline Blog TourI don’t usually participate in blog tours, you may have noticed, but how could I turn down the opportunity to participate in the tour for Rainbow Rowell’s latest novel?! That’s right. I COULDN’T. Landline was published on 3rd July and you can read my review here. Rainbow is in London right now and has hosted two fantastic sold out events at Waterstones Piccadilly. I’m the last stop on the tour, so here’s my experience of her event on Monday!

I rarely attend a book event where an author has to cover so many books in one evening, but she sped through, talking about Eleanor & Park, Fangirl, Attachments and Landline. For these events, Rainbow Rowell was in conversation with Bim Adewunmi, pop culture enthusiast and writer/editor, who was absolutely brilliant! Enthusiastic, knowledgeable about all things Rainbow and incredibly funny, Bim made an event with Rainbow Rowell even more enjoyable (we didn’t think it was possible!). I’d also like to say that although I made notes, there is still a chance that I misquoted or misunderstood some things, so if you were there and think I’ve said something drastically incorrect… do say! I’m also pretty sure there’s no spoilers, but here’s a spoiler warning, just in case.


Rainbow & Bim

Eleanor & Park, unsurprisingly, is the book that Rainbow Rowell holds closest to her heart. It’s the one, she says, that’s most like a child you have to keep an eye on, and the one that she’s most protective of, so when it was optioned to be a movie, she was a little afraid. At the event she said she was worried that a few changes could alter the story and that it could very easily go wrong. Shailene Woodley cannot play Eleanor. Park cannot be white. But then she imagined what it would be like if the film we went well, if we got to see a chubby girl and an Asian boy kissing on-screen – it would be great! So she’ll be writing the screenplay (but she hasn’t started yet!). She’s currently trying to figure out how to show the most famous quotes, like ‘Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something’, because they were never actually said aloud. Eleanor & Park is the book she wrote during an awful part of her life and when stuff from her teenage years began rising up. She didn’t plot out the story or plan, but wrote it like ‘falling down a hill’. Because, she says, nothing tastes as good or sounds as good as it does in your teenage years (like how older adults still listen to the music they loved as a teenager!), she didn’t really need to research the 80s because it started coming back to her clearly. Eleanor & Park is also the book she receives the most tweets about (especially people asking about those three words!).

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Top Ten / Classics I Want to Read

I participate in Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, and this week the theme is Top Ten Classics I Want to Read. I picked a mix of modern classics, older classics and children’s classics. I’m a little behind on my 2014 Classics Challenge so hopefully this will inspire me to pick them up again.

Top Ten / Classics I Want to Read

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (1861) because I loved the BBC mini series when it aired back in 2011, but for some reason I still haven’t read the book. I won a book cover poster of the Penguin English Library edition of Great Expectations and I feel like a hipster having it in my room when I’ve not yet read it. I must do so this year!

Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy (1882) because I bought a lovely edition from Any Amount of Books, the secondhand bookshop on Charing Cross Road. I’m looking forward to reading all about the romance between Lady Constantine and Swithin St. Cleeve.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence (1928) because I want to see why it’s a banned book!

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (1989) because I picked it up when I wasn’t quite in the mood for it, so I need to start again! I was enjoying it so far though, but not much had happened!

The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham (1957) because I loved The Day of the Triffids. I also own The Chrysalids, but I haven’t read that yet either. All of his books sound wonderfully odd.

Top Ten / Classics I Want to Read

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (1925) because I haven’t yet read a novel by her and I was given The Bedside, Bathtub & Armchair Companion to Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury for Christmas.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (1943) because it sounds like the perfect coming-of-age novel and it’s been on my TBR for a while now.

Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer (1969) because it’s coming up to the centenary of the First World War. I really want to read more children’s stories about WWI because there doesn’t seem to be many of them, sadly.

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper (1973) because it sounds beautiful and wintry. It was the first Vintage Children’s Classic that I bought.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1968) because this is a must-read classic. The adaptation is on Netflix, but I can’t watch it until I’ve read the book!

And many, many more! I have 150 out of copyright classics alone on my Kindle, a wishlist of modern classics and a bunch of children’s classics on my bookshelves! Which other classics must I read? (You can see all the classics I’ve reviewed on Pretty Books here!).

Behold the Pretty Books! / June Book Haul


Here are the books (and bookish things) I acquired over the last week or so in June. I also talked about the books I bought/borrowed in May and June here.

Jane Austen by Margaret Kennedy
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone
Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy
The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

It’s been a busy month and I start my new job in a week’s time, so I’m trying not to acquire too many books, but that never really works. I visited Any Amount of Books, a secondhand bookshop on Charing Cross Road, and couldn’t resist this lovely Penguin English Library edition of Two on a Tower. I’d wanted one of these editions for quite a while and so had to purchase this. It’s blue! And another classic to add to my 2014 Classics Challenge TBR. I also came across this lovely 1950s book on Jane Austen. I was given Since You’ve Been Gone, the latest novel by Morgan Matson, one of my favourite authors, by Jim and Time Between Us, described as ‘a young adult The Time Traveler’s Wife‘, by Daphne.

I met up with Laura and we’ve spent the week exploring London. I showed her all my favourite London bookshops, including Waterstones Gower Street, which is where I finally tracked down a copy of The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry. I’ve been trying to buy my own copy ever since I read it back in April, but I haven’t been able to find it. On Tuesday we spent the day in Richmond and I bought Anne of Green Gables in Waterstones, another Vintage Children’s Classics edition to add to my collection. I read it in 2012, so I need to re-read it. On Friday we headed to Oxford to meet up with Claire. I bought lovely bookmarks and a pin from The Bodleian Library shop (unfortunately we weren’t allowed in the actual library!) and a tote bag with a quote from Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle on it, from Blackwell’s Broad Street. And before we left, we visited The Story Museum and their 26 Characters exhibition, which is wonderful and I suggest you go if you’re nearby.

Have you read any of these?

Behold the Pretty Books! / June Book HaulBehold the Pretty Books! / June Book Haul

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