While wandering through a bookshop several years ago, a book happened to jump out at me (as they do on frequent occasions). After reading the blurb my immediate thought was this book was going to be amazing and I wasn’t disappointed. The book was called The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, a Spanish author whose work had just been translated into English. It was one of those books that just blew me away and as soon as I opened it I was transported into post-Spanish civil war Barcelona. The story is centred around a boy, Daniel, whose father takes him to a magical place called The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. It is here that forgotten books come to rest and he has to choose a book to release back into the world. He gets completely engrossed in the book and decides he must find out more about the author and so the book follows his journey of discovery with plenty of mystery, passion, books, and murder set in the misty streets of gothic Barcelona.
I got slightly obsessed with this book and when I heard he had written a prequel I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. This prequel, which was just released this month is called The Angel’s Game. I have once again found myself enthralled with the magic of Barcelona and the people and place familiar to me from Shadow of the Wind.
I can’t recommend these books enough and I know I’ll be haunted by the characters when I come to the end of The Angel’s Game. If you want to find out more about Carlos Ruiz Zafon or The Angel’s Game have a look at the author’s website.
Every two years I eagerly wait to find out who will become the next Children’s Laureate. This prestigious title ‘is awarded once every two years to an eminent writer or illustrator of children’s books to celebrate outstanding achievement in their field.’ The idea for the Children’s Laureate came from a meeting between poet, Ted Hughes, and giant of children’s literature, Michael Morpurgo, and was first awarded to Quentin Blake in 1999.
This year’s recipient is Anthony Browne, who hugely deserves the award for his contribution to children’s literature over the years. For those of you who don’t know Anthony Browne, he is an internationally acclaimed author and illustrator of such picture books as Willy the Wimp, Piggybook, Silly Billy, and most recently (and one of my favourites) Little Beauty. The detail of his illustrations is amazing and I always seem to find something different in them every time I pick up one of his books. If you haven’t already, I suggest you pick up one of his books and delve into his world of wimpy chimps, soft-hearted gorillas, and lazy pigs.
You could also check out some other fantastic books by past Children’s Laureates:
This is another gem from the author and illustrator who brought us The Fox Hunt and Pancakes for Findus. When Findus was Little and Disappeared by Sven Nordqvist features the characters we have come to know and love, the quirky and forgetful Farmer Pettson and his curious talking cat, Findus.
The story opens with Findus asking Pettson to tell him the story about how he disappeared. We are told of how Farmer Pettson was a lonely old man who lived in his quiet farm house all by himself, but one day, his neighbour Bertha comes for a chat and suggests that he needs some company. She suggests that he needs a wife and I just love his reaction:
I’m used to looking after myself. I’m too old now. A whole wife would be too much.
Pettson decides that he would quite like a cat to keep him company and so Bertha delivers a cat to him, which he calls Findus after the ‘Findus Green Peas’ box that he is delivered in.
The book follows the capers of Pettson and his curious new friend Findus, who ends up getting trapped in the garden after he spies a badger.
Both the text and the illustrations are superb and there is so much to discover in each. The illustrations are so detailed that there are so many things to find for curious children who like more than to just hear the story.
A great read for parents and children to enjoy again and again as I’m sure you will find different things in the illustrations every time.