Sunday, 11 April 2021

The Best New Children's Book Picks US - April 2021 - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books



Erin Bowman - Dustborn - Published by HMH Books for Young Readers (April 20, 2021)
Delta of Dead River sets out to rescue her family from a ruthless dictator rising to power in the Wastes and discovers a secret that will reshape her world in this postapocalyptic Western mashup for fans of Mad Max and Gunslinger Girl.

Delta of Dead River has always been told to hide her back, where a map is branded on her skin to a rumored paradise called the Verdant. In a wasteland plagued by dust squalls, geomagnetic storms, and solar flares, many would kill for it—even if no one can read it. So when raiders sent by a man known as the General attack her village, Delta suspects he is searching for her. 

Delta sets out to rescue her family but quickly learns that in the Wastes no one can be trusted—perhaps not even her childhood friend, Asher, who has been missing for nearly a decade. If Delta can trust Asher, she just might decode the map and trade evidence of the Verdant to the General for her family. What Delta doesn’t count on is what waits at the Verdant: a long-forgotten secret that will shake the foundation of her entire world.

Richly drawn, with harrowing escapes from dust storms across parched land and a general sense of blistering doom…Readers will be left to ponder the sometimes warring forces of hope and truth—right after they find a cool drink of water.
 

Sarah Prineas - Trouble in the Stars - Published by Philomel Books (April 27, 2021)
Trouble knows two things: they are a shapeshifter, and they are running from something--but they don't know what. So when the StarLeague--shows up, Trouble figures it's time to flee.

Changing from blob of goo form, to adorable puppy form, to human boy form, Trouble stows away on the Hindsight, a ship crewed by the best navigators and engineers in the galaxy, led by the fearsome Captain Astra. 

As the ship travels, Trouble uses the time to figure out how to be a good human boy, and starts to feel safe. But when a young StarLeague cadet shows up to capture Trouble, things get complicated, especially when Trouble reveals a shapeshifter form that none of them could have expected. Soon a chase across the galaxy begins. Safety, freedom, and home are at stake, and not just for Trouble.

From acclaimed author Sarah Prineas comes a rip-roaring outer space adventure about an oddball hero, a crew of misfits, and finding family where you least expect it.


Jennifer Adam - The Last Windwitch - Published by HarperCollins (April 13, 2021)

Fans of Shannon Hale and Kelly Barnhill will delight in this charming and richly imagined middle-grade fantasy debut, featuring a wicked queen, magical animals, a henchman with a golden heart, and a small girl with a great destiny.

Many years ago, in the kingdom of Fenwood Reach, there was a powerful Windwitch who wove the seasons, keeping the land bountiful and the people happy. But then a dark magic drove her from the realm, and the world fell into chaos.

Brida is content in her small village of Oak Hollow. There, she’s plenty occupied trying to convince her fickle magic to actually do what it’s meant to in her work as a hedgewitch’s apprentice—until she accidentally catches the attention of the wicked queen.

On the run from the queen’s huntsman and her all-seeing Crow spies, Brida discovers the truth about her family, her magic, and who she is destined to be—and that she may hold the power to defeating the wicked queen and setting the kingdom right again.


Mari Mancusi - Dragon Ops - Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (April 13, 2021)
From the beloved author of The Once and Future Geek comes this action-packed adventure set in a futuristic world filled with magic, monsters, and high-tech video gaming.

One wrong move, and its game over.

Welcome to Dragon Ops, the world's first augmented-reality video-game theme park. Set on a once-deserted island, our three beta players—classic-gamer geek Ian; his adventure-seeking sister, Lily; and their too-cool-for-gaming cousin, Derek—have been lucky enough to score an invite to play before the fully immersive experience opens to the public.

But once inside, they find themselves trapped in a game taken over by a rogue AI dragon called Atreus, and suddenly the stakes go beyond the virtual world. With no cheat codes, guidebooks, save points, or do-overs, they'll need all their cunning and video-game hacks to beat the game . . . and survive in real life.

Action-packed and unputdownable, Dragon Ops will thrill gamers and reluctant readers alike with high-tech adventure and electrifying twists and turns.

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Matthew Wainwright - Out of the Smoke - Book Review (Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books)

We recently had an author guest post by Matthew Wainwright about his experiences of being a debut author (Read Here). Unfortunately, having his book published in the midst of a global pandemic (October 2020) has not been ideal. However, after reading the guest post, I really wanted to read this book as it covers a setting that I'm very fond of. I did have my reservations regarding the editorial side of the book with it being published by a very small publisher (Wakeman Trust). However, my concerns were unnecessary as the narrative runs as freely as the River Thames and has been very well edited. The book cover is amazing and I think it might have been produced by the author himself. I'm really pleased to able to get behind this fantastic book and give it a massive thumbs up.

This is a Young Adult book that introduces a host of characters that will melt the reader's heart. It's a story set in Victorian London that shows the harsh realities of that era. The plot is gripping as it delves into the working and living conditions of a group of chimney sweeps (or soot monkeys) as they were known. These boys could be as young as 4 years old! Billy is one of the main characters you follow as you plunge into the criminal underworld of Victorian London. Unfortunately, he clashes with the notorious gang leader (Archie Miller) who is a very bad man as he believes that gangland life is the best place for an education. 

This is a fully immersive and fantastically told story with historical detail that makes the book shine with reality and realism. It was a real treat to get to know the characters and the bloody side of the gangland culture (a way of living) that was so prevalent at this time. It magically weaves a plot of faith (from a Christian standpoint) but is not overly used, in my opinion. There is just enough of a driving force to show the strong feelings of religion at that time. I really liked the introduction of the British politician and social reformer the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury. When the 'Poor Man's Earl' offers Billy a chance to exchange his gangland life for an education, he must decide what to do. What would you do in this situation? I thought it was very well thought out and researched; it certainly encompassed the narrative very well. 

This story was a glorious read. I would love for more people to read this book and, by doing so, to support the author and small publishing company. Whilst it's a sad, heartfelt, and sorrowful story, it is still full of hope, courage, and fighting spirit. If you want to know more about Billy, Tosher, and Clara and follow their plight, then please pick up a copy from your local bookshop. This is a heartfelt story for all ages. It's one that you will reflect upon and take to your beating hearts. 

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books - Signed Book Recommends & Real Book Shop Links (Whilst Stock Lasts)


 Derek Landy - Dead or Alive: Signed Exclusive Bookplate Edition - Skulduggery Pleasant 14 (Hardback) - Waterstones - Click Here 

In a matter of days, the world will change.

Billions of lives will be wiped away in a final, desperate search for the Child of the Faceless Ones ― she who is destined to bring about the return of humankind's ancient overlords.

To prevent this, Skulduggery Pleasant and Valkyrie Cain have one last – terrible – option: the assassination of Damocles Creed. With protests stirring in the magical city of Roarhaven, with riots and revolutions on the horizon, Valkyrie must decide who she wants to be: the hero who risks everything for a noble ideal, or the killer who sacrifices her own soul for the fate of humanity.

The decision must be made, and time is running out.



Hannah Gold & Levi Pinfold - The Last Bear: Signed Bookplate Edition (Hardback) - Waterstones -
Click Here

There are no polar bears left on Bear Island. At least, that’s what April’s father tells her when his scientific research takes them to this remote Arctic outpost for six months. But one endless summer night, April meets one. He is starving, lonely and a long way from home. Determined to save him, April begins the most important journey of her life…

This moving story will win the hearts of children the world over and show them that no one is too young or insignificant to make a difference. The Last Bear is a celebration of the love between a child and an animal, a battle cry for our world and an irresistible adventure with a heart as big as a bear’s.


Vashti Hardy & George Ermos - Harley Hitch and the Iron Forest - Signed with Map - Book Nook In Hove -
Click Here 

Join Harley, her robot dog Sprocket and best friend Cosmofor problem-solving adventures and mysteries in Inventia, a world where science rules and technology grows in the forest; and where exploding science projects, giant slugs and runaway robots are all part of a normal school day.

The Iron Forest near Harley’s home is unlike any other – plants and trees grow cogs and hinges and other mechanical parts – and all of Inventia depends on it. So when a strange fungus is discovered, there’s a race to find a solution. Without essential parts for inventions, the town is quickly falling apart…



Elle McNicol - Show Us Who You Are - Signed Bookplate - The Rocketship Bookshop - Click Here  (Book Review Here)

When Cora's brother drags her along to his boss's house, she doesn't expect to strike up a friendship with Adrien, son of the intimidating CEO of Pomegranate Technologies.

As she becomes part of Adrien's life, she is also drawn into the mysterious projects at Pomegranate. At first, she's intrigued by them - Pomegranate is using AI to recreate real people in hologram form. As she digs deeper, however, she uncovers darker secrets... Cora knows she must unravel their plans, but can she fight to make her voice heard, whilst never losing sight of herself?


Dominique Valente - Starfell: Willow Moss and the Vanished Kingdom - Signed Hardback, Numbered, Special Edition - Goldsboro Books -
Click Here  

For the very first time, magical children like Willow are allowed to go to school alongside their non-magical neighbours. But Willow is suspicious. She knows the Brothers of Wol are up to no good, so why are they changing the rules all of a sudden?

On her first day, Willow meets an elf girl named Twist, and soon they are embarking on Willow’s most urgent mission yet: to protect the children of Starfell, uncover the mystery of a long-lost kingdom – and prevent the very source of magic from getting into the wrong hands . . .



Jonathan Stroud - The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne - Signed Bookplate - Book on the Hill - Click Here 

England has been radically changed by a series of catastrophes – large cities have disappeared and London has been replaced by a lagoon. The surviving population exists in fortified towns where they cling to traditional ways, while strangely evolved beasts prowl the wilderness beyond. Conformity is rigidly enforced and those who fall foul of the rules are persecuted: some are killed, others are driven out into the wilds. Only a few fight back – and two of these outlaws, Scarlett McCain and Albert Browne, display an audacity and talent that makes them legends.

Julian Sedgwick & Chie Kutsuwada - Tsunami Girl - Signed BookPlate - Guppy Books - Click Here  (Book Review Here)

Tsunami Girl is a powerful coming-of-age story of 15-year-old Yuki Hara Jones who gets caught up in the March 2011 Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. It's about a young person trying to work out who they are, and where they fit - and trying to do this whilst surviving the trauma of a triple disaster of colossal scale, told through both prose and manga.

Monday, 5 April 2021

Tsunami Girl by Julian Sedgwick (Author), Chie Kutsuwada (Illustrator) - Guest Post Interview - Guppy Books

 


Hello Everybody! (みなさん、こんにちは) One of my favourite books of the year has been Tsunami Girl by Julian Sedgwick. It has been brilliantly illustrated by Chie Kutsuwada. Told through both prose and manga, it's a fantastic but very poignant cultural reality. If you would like to read my review then follow the link HERE. This post is an interview with Julian and Chie about the partnership between author and illustrator and the origins of this amazing book. We hope you enjoy it as much as we have. 

There is a link at the bottom of the post to watch the live book launch and a place where you can buy signed copies of this special book. Enjoy and see you soon. 

Julian writes: Two things in particular worried me about researching and writing Tsunami Girl. The first was to earn the trust and support of affected communities on the Fukushima coast, and create a story that would do justice and respect to the heavy themes of loss, trauma, damage and recovery. If I hadn’t had such a positive reaction from the towns I visited near the stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear plant, I would have abandoned the idea. 


But secondly - even after winning that trust, and friendship – I also worried a lot about whether my idea of combining a prose and manga story could work. It took many, many notebooks, early abandoned drafts and plot diagrams to find a way to combine the main prose part of the novel  (which tells central character Yūki’s story) with the manga inserts that show another angle – another world even – and highlight Yuki’s own creation, a diminutive superhero called Half Wave. 


Even when I had the main shape of an idea, and a contract with my new publisher, Guppy Books, I still had to convince an experienced manga artist that this would work. It was at this point that a mutual friend introduced me to Chie Kutsuwada, and – after our own discussion about motivations and trust! - our collaboration began. 


Below, we chat about the practical process involved in weaving manga and prose into one book.



JULIAN: Hi Chie! I’m still so delighted that I found you to bring the manga sections of Tsunami Girl to life. For a long time I worried whether the idea would work, and what a manga artist would make of my script. Did you have any worries about the technical aspects of tying prose and manga together? And was there anything that particularly excited – or worried you - about the task?


CHIE: Hi Julian! So do I! I’m still feeling honoured and lucky to be involved in your brave and epic project! 

Well, I actually didn’t have many worries. I just liked the idea of prose and manga together. And when I read your text, I felt sure that it would work well. The aspect I was most careful about was this: I had to make sure that all the characters ‘looked’ the same in both the prose and in the manga parts where readers can actually see the characters’ faces. So, I tried to imagine the whole book visually first. By doing so, I could get an even approach to, for example, how each character makes their facial expressions. How about you, Julian? How did you make the text go back and forth between prose and manga seamlessly?




JULIAN: Through a long process of trial and error! I always knew there would be both manga pages and a manga storyline, but in early versions it was Grandpa who had created Half Wave, and it was the grandchild who helped him imagine one final great instalment of Half Wave’s adventures. At that point the manga story was a separate adventure that mirrored what was happening to our central character Yūki - (who incidentally started out as a boy in the first few drafts!) 

Whilst I could make certain echoes between the prose and manga stories, they just wouldn’t interweave well enough, until I realised the manga story had to be more about the disaster itself, and just show a different, imaginative interaction with that disaster and the recovery. Suddenly I could feel it was going to work. But even then I wondered if the images and text would gel. 

Your early roughs of characters and settings were really convincing and good to see. But I remember it took us a little while to find a version of Half Wave that worked for us all. Maybe you could say a little about developing the characters visually - particularly Half Wave?


CHIE: I know it is not the most practical way to do character design, but I usually wait for inspiration to hit me. In this case, I read the script a few times and repeatedly read some critical parts. I was thinking about the characters, almost all the time, until I started feeling that I knew them.

Usually when I feel I know characters, I can get to see them visually, then I start sketching several different versions. For the Tsunami Girl characters, I did not need to do much planning sketches. As I familiarised with the story, I quite easily started to see them visually because the way you describe them is very clear. I believe you know them very, very well. Because you are the creator, of course to come extent you must know them - but it is beyond that. I feel you really KNOW them, maybe it is because some of the characters were based on your actual friends? Also the image references you showed me helped me a lot.

As for Half Wave, the sketch of him by your son was everything. His sketch, and how Half Wave acts in the story, gave me inspiration - and I think I did not change much from your son’s initial image! What I did was to make him look more manga. That’s it really!  I remember that our discussion was mainly his age and height,  wasn’t it? 




JULIAN: It’s interesting that your process of finding characters as an illustrator is so like mine as a writer. Suddenly - you know they are coming to some kind of life. 

Practically, with Half Wave, getting his height right was really important - he’s an eternal (wise) child, forever on the cusp of growing up, with real wisdom and strength. What we did discuss was how Half Wave should look subtly different from Yūki, Taka, Grandpa and the other people from this world. Half Wave needed to look like he belonged in the liminal space between this world (konoyo) and ‘that world’ (anoyo). After two or three versions, suddenly he was there. A very exciting moment. (And as my younger son comes towards the end of his comic and character design degree at uni, he’ll be glad of that praise!)

It’s interesting, ever since reading Spiegelman’s Maus I’ve been in no doubt that all subject material can be tackled in comic/graphic novel/manga type approaches. I never worried that manga could help carry the weight of the story of the disaster, (especially after reading more widely around  alternative manga or gekiga - and coming across works like the incredible Fukushima Devil Fish by Katsumata Susumu.) Are there any manga series or titles you’d love to see translated and brought into the UK market from Japan? Anything we’re really missing out on?!


CHIE: It was amazing when your visualisation of the characters and mine overlapped and merged to become what they are now…
Well, as for manga which I strongly believe should be translated... all of Yumiko Oshima’s work, especially short stories. She debuted in 1968 and is a very well-established manga artist. She is just one of the best storytellers… (Another manga artist who I think is in that category is Moto Hagio. Her work is getting translated more and more recently.)
Oshima’s work may look quite pretty and delicate, but often the theme is very heavy and philosophical, concerning love (not typical romantic type), birth, death, mental illness, aging, and the end of the world - which are not typical topics for manga works targeting towards young girls. I think this kind of heavy but realistic theme is picked as a theme for manga more and more recently, but she did it more than 30 years ago, and her work does not look dated at all… 

One of many qualities I like about her work is even though she talks about those heavy issues, she does not use bang-in-your-face sensationalism. Her work is very poetic, her choice of words and drawing style is soft, but as you read, it feels like something has gouged at your heart. Very powerful. I hope one day some of her work is properly translated into English. I even want to volunteer to be that translator…!



Click Here if you weren’t able to make the event live – and enter password +aD4@u%4 to watch. Signed copies by both Julian and Chie are available on the Waterstone’s Website Here.

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Kirsty Applebaum - The Life and Time of Lonny Quicke - Book Review - Mr.Ripley's Enchanted Book

 


I'm delighted to be able to introduce another new title published on 6th May 2021 by Nosy Crow. This is the third middle-grade book by Kirsty Applebaum and for me the best one so far. The brilliant book cover has been illustrated by Matt Saunders and makes it very appealing. This for me has an intriguing premise and from the very start asks a lot of questions. What if you could save animals or human lives with the touch of your hand but every time you healed someone you got older? What if you got older more quickly if you saved a larger life, would you still do it?  I thought this was a really interesting concept.

Of course, the quicker you got older would mean you had less time for yourself. How would you feel and what would you think as an older person looking at yourself in the mirror? I wonder how many people would actually forfeit some of their life if this was a possibility in the real world? Is it a gift or a curse? You have to decide as you walk the tight rope of tension and daily life. 

Lonny, the main character, is a lifeling that is passed down from generation to generation. He has the power to heal any living creatures, but he has to be VERY careful and stay hidden with his family in the forest. Midge is his smaller brother but the relationship between them is rather sad and slightly bitter. Life has taken its toll on the family. Lonny dreams of travelling to amazing places and meeting new people. At this point, the buzzing starts again as his jaw vibrates which tells him something is dying nearby. How is he ever going to get the chance to visit these places when this keeps happening? Lonny is a very endearing and well-written character.

What can you expect from the story? The first thing is that it's a very earthy story that belongs to nature and human emotions. In my opinion, it is also a modern-day fairytale told with thought and emotion in a folkloric way. You'll find yourself investing your emotions in each of the characters as they make you think about yourself as a reader in the real world. Grandad made me particularly smile as he never leaves his bedroom and is always looking out of his bedroom with his binoculars. 

The author has done a fantastic job of teasing the fantasy strands out of her head and applying them onto paper. She has a very creative and unique way of telling the narrative which is full of mystery, family secrets, and a yearning to have a normal life. It takes a philosophical look at how stories can shape us as readers and takes us on journeys without even leaving our home. I would have loved to have seen the story expanded upon in some areas. However, by keeping it trim, readers can fill in the gaps and develop their own opinions. It would be a really fantastic book to discuss as a group with so much to ponder over. I had no idea how the story would pan out - it kept me guessing throughout!

This is a chocolate delight of a book that will make waves in the literary world. It's a great seed for thought so grab a copy, read it and talk about it. Let the story fully blossom into a profound place in your heart.