I started the month with a short free ebook of Jim Smith’s My Dad is a Loser by Barry Loser. The Barry Loser series is really popular with children 7+ and I hoped this promotional ebook would give me a taste of it. Unfortunately, it didn’t really enthuse me to check out the rest. These free ebooks are so difficult to get right though, and I imagine it might not be entirely representative of the series as a whole, which has previously won the Roald Dahl Funny Prize. I would take a bet that it would be a good addition to the shelves of any child who has already made their way through The Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Mr Gum, and who enjoys the series format.
My second children’s book of the month was an absolute favourite of mine: Chris Riddell’s Goth Girl and the Fete Worse Than Death. This is the second in the Goth Girl series, which follows the adventures of Ada Goth, daughter of Lord Goth, in their enormous and mysterious home, Ghastly-Gorm Hall. Riding on the Great British Bake Off bandwagon, this installment of Ada’s story sees celebrity cooks, from Nigellina Sugarspoon and the Hairy Hikers through to Mary Huckleberry and Gordon Ramsgate, arriving at the hall for the Full-Moon Fete and the Great Ghastly-Gorm Bake Off. It is witty and full of clever references that will inevitably appeal to parents reading along with their children. Chris Riddell’s illustrations bring the story alive and the incredible production of the book, with shiny red sprayed edges, beautiful gothic end pages and a ribbon, make this a stunning object to own and a fantastic gift.
Later in October, I picked up the third in the series, Goth Girl and the Wuthering Fright, at a Waterstone’s event with Chris Riddell and Emily Gravett, and I can’t wait to read it. The event was fantastic. Chris Riddell is constantly brimming with enthusiasm and ideas, which he willing shares with everyone. I got the impression that he has been a great mentor to the wonderful Emily Gravett (author and illustrator of Wolves and many other picture books) and, after hearing him speak, I am more pleased than ever that he was appointed as Children’s Laureate.
Moving on to some YA, we reached a momentous point this month… I finally finished The Hunger Games! I am incredibly behind the times, but I felt Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay was a fitting end to the series. I gradually became more annoyed by Katniss’ ongoing Peeta/Gale dilemmas, but it was still a very enjoyable and addictive read. It even infected my dreams for a couple of nights. I think I was on a mission to kill President Snow!
My graphic novel of the month was This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki, which I picked up at Gosh! Comics in Soho. I bought it primarily because it is one of the first graphic novels aimed at the teen market that I’d really heard people talking about. On an initial flick through, it wasn’t immediately apparent to me where the buzz surrounding this book had come from, but I was pleasantly surprised. On the face of it, it is a classic coming of age story: two young girls who have spent many summer holidays together at the beach discover secrets, boys, heartaches and family breakups. Once you dive in, however, it is an incredibly realistic portrayal of teenage friendships with some surprisingly dark subject matter and a healthy dose of feminism thrown in. I found the characters annoying and infuriating at points, but it only added to how real they felt.
I picked up I’ve Lived in East London for 86½ Years by Martin Usborne at the Photobook Weekend in Shoreditch, where lots of small, independent and local presses were selling their photography books. I’d had my eye on this one, the first in Hoxton Mini Press’ East London Photo Stories series, for a while. It is a beautiful book full of photographs celebrating both East London and a man, Joseph Markovitch, who lived there for 86½ years. His wonderful character comes across in the photos and his select words which are scattered throughout: “I like to walk because I see things that I would never see, like boats and ships and strange people’s faces. I would like to walk in the rainforest but I’d have to be careful of the snakes and the spiders, it’s very dense over there.”
Finally in October, I read some non-fiction. Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Sex and Science is a fascinating look into the study of sexual physiology. Mary Roach is a truly brilliant writer who made this book addictive reading with hilarious stories of her research (which took her to pig farms, sex toy labs and inside an MRI scanner) and insights into the aspects of sex most people have never even thought to ask about. I would particularly recommend this to anyone who is just getting into reading more non-fiction or anyone who enjoyed the recent Institute of Sexology exhibition at the Wellcome Collection in London or the Masters and Johnson drama on Channel 4. I warn you though, you will get strange looks if you read this on the tube, which only goes to show how much time commuters spend reading over other people’s shoulders. Perhaps they wouldn’t be so nosy if they thought to bring their own book. Don’t they know they are wasting valuable reading time?!