Tamsin Winter Guest Post – Jemima Small Versus the Universe

Jemima Small is funny and smart. She knows a lot of things. Like the fact that she's made of 206 bones, over 600 muscles and trillions of cells.

What she doesn't know is how that can be true and yet she can still sometimes feel like nothing... Or how being made to join the school's "special" healthy lifestyle group - aka Fat Club - could feel any less special.

But Jemima also knows that the biggest stars in the universe are the brightest. And maybe it's her time to shine...

Jemima Small Versus the Universe is a fabulously powerful story of body-positivity and self-confidence. It celebrates the power of positive representation and role models, and the importance of being yourself. Jemima is a fantastic character with a funny and accessible voice. Witty and fun but also painfully honest, this book is perfect for fans of Cath Howe and Catherine Wilkins. It's perfectly suited to year 6 and above and would make a fantastic summer holiday read. We adore it and want to share it with all our customers.

We asked Jemima author Tamsin Winter to tell us a bit more about the book, why she wrote it and what she hopes it will bring to its readers.

Over to Tamsin...

I came up with the idea for Jemima Small Versus the Universe after reading an article about a girl who’d been sent a letter from her school telling her she was overweight. For days afterwards, I couldn’t get the article out of my head. She was an eleven-year-old girl, getting a letter saying that her body wasn’t okay. And worse of all, that letter came from her school. I imagined how that girl must have felt, and how I would have felt getting a letter like that at her age.

It was a time when my body was starting to change in so many ways; a time I began to feel those uncomfortable prickles of self-consciousness on my skin. A time I already had blisters from wearing shoes that were too small because I was worried my feet looked too big. And before I knew it, I had started writing Jemima’s story.

Jemima Small was bold and smart and funny from the very beginning. She is awesome in a million different ways. But because of how she’s treated for her size, she feels like she can’t measure up. Jemima’s hasn’t been an easy story to write. A lot of the research I did meant I had to read about body-shaming, of the sad statistics about how negatively many girls perceive their bodies, about the bullying that young people face because their bodies aren’t exactly the same as other people’s.

I thought about the many films I watched and books I read when I was younger about a fat or ugly or plain character undergoing some kind of dramatic transformation and finally being accepted. And the books and films that poked fun at people because of their size. I wanted Jemima’s story to be one of transformation – but not a physical one.

In Jemima Small Versus the Universe, Jemima begins by wishing she could be invisible. And by dropping out of auditioning for her favourite TV quiz show because she thinks no one wants to see her on TV. But eventually, she learns to like who she sees in the mirror, without changing a thing. Okay, she dyes her hair seven shades of neon at one point, but nothing apart from that!

Being able to look in the mirror and appreciate your body for the extraordinary elements and energy it holds, to look yourself in the eye and say, “My body is unique and precious and powerful,” to feel your heart beat in your chest, as it will approximately 2.5 billion times in your lifetime, like a warrior, to hold your head high and decide not to be invisible - well, that’s what I hope readers get from this book.

Tamsin Winter

Thank you, Tamsin, for sharing your thoughts with us. We can't wait to share Jemima Small Versus the Universe with the world.

You can order your copy through our online shop here.

You can follow Tamsin on twitter here.

Heartstream by Tom Pollock

A taut psychological thriller about obsession, fame and betrayal, for fans of Black Mirror. Cat is in love. Always the sensible one, she can’t believe that she’s actually dating, not to mention dating a star.

But the fandom can’t know. They would eat her alive. And first at the buffet would definitely be her best friend, Evie.

Amy uses Heartstream, a social media app that allows others to feel your emotions. She broadcasted every moment of her mother’s degenerative illness, and her grief following her death. It’s the realest, rawest reality TV imaginable. But on the day of Amy’s mother’s funeral, Amy finds a strange woman in her kitchen. She’s rigged herself and the house with explosives – and she’s been waiting to talk to Amy for a long time.

Who is she? A crazed fan? What does she want? Amy and Cat are about to discover how far true obsession can go.

Tom Pollock’s previous book, White Rabbit, Red Wolf was a Book Nook favourite, so we knew we were in for a treat with Heartstream. Pollock’s work is unique and fiercely intelligent; you know you’re going to get something wildly different and fresh.

Heartstream examines obsession, online community and belonging. It imagines the future of social media and explores the concept of how much of ourselves we share online – and when it crosses the line and becomes too much. The examples of the anonymity of online bullying are brutal and wholly relevant.

Heartstream is reminiscent of Years and Years and Black Mirror and shares their tension and visions of a technological online future. But it is when it looks at the relationships between all the characters- their uncertainty and confusion and soaring, conflicting emotions – that it really holds your heart.

This is a gripping, whirlwind of a book that will play with your emotions and keep you guessing until the very last page.

You can get your copy from our online shop here.

The Way to Treasure Island by Lizzy Stewart

Matilda and her dad are very different. Matilda is fast and Dad is slow. Matilda is tidy and Dad is messy, and Matilda is quiet and Dad is very, very loud.

They’re off to find treasure, but Dad keeps getting distracted.

Soon, they’re lost and Matilda is getting crosser and crosser…

Will they ever find the way to treasure island? This funny, adventure-packed story teaches children that even though people are different, they can still have fun together.

By the author of the best-selling There’s a Tiger in the Garden and Juniper Jupiter.

This is a gorgeous hardback picture book filled with illustrations of sea creatures, jungle animals and brightly coloured birds. There’s lots o spot on each spread and a heartwarming story that celebrates imagination and letting go enough to embrace an adventure. We love it! Brilliant for reception onwards.

You can get your copy from our online shop here.

Toffee – Sarah Crossan

I am not who I say I am, 
and Marla isn’t who she thinks she is.

I am a girl trying to forget. 
She is a woman trying to remember. 

Allison has run away from home and with nowhere to live finds herself hiding out in the shed of what she thinks is an abandoned house. But the house isn’t empty. An elderly woman named Marla, with dementia, lives there – and she mistakes Allison for an old friend from her past called Toffee.

Allison is used to hiding who she really is, and trying to be what other people want her to be. And so, Toffee is who she becomes. After all, it means she has a place to stay. There are worse places she could be. But as their bond grows, and Allison discovers how much Marla needs a real friend, she begins to ask herself -where is home? What is a family? And most importantly, who am I, really?

A captivating read that portrays domestic abuse, loneliness, abusive parents and dementia with honesty and heart. Toffee is about finding your self and creating your own family. Sarah Crossan has done it again with beautiful, emotive language and tension that builds as Allison and Marla’s stories twine together. A story that will break your heart and then hold it together again.

You can get your copy from our online shop here.

The Boxer by Nikesh Shukla

Told over the course of the ten rounds of his first fight, this is the story of amateur boxer Sunny.

A seventeen year old feeling isolated and disconnected in the city he’s just moved to, Sunny joins a boxing club to learn to protect himself after a racist attack.

He finds the community he’s been desperately seeking at the club, and a mentor in trainer Shobu, who helps him find his place in the world.

But racial tensions are rising in the city, and when a Far Right march through Bristol turns violent, Sunny is faced with losing his new best friend Keir to radicalisation. A gripping, life-affirming YA novel about friendship, radicalisation and finding where you belong.

YA books often have a lot to say about the world and our place in it. The Boxer is a beautiful example of this. So much more than a book about a boxing match, it holds equality and respect at its core and brilliantly portrays the self-doubts and uncertainties of a young man navigating his way through trauma-recovery and racism while he fights to understand his own identity.

Relevant, fresh and a thoughtful celebration of self confidence and learning to take up space, The Boxer is an eye-opening look at the positive impact sports can have on mental health and identity. The Boxer is an inclusive and inspiring gem not to be missed.

You can get your copy from our online shop.

The Secret Dragon by Ed Clarke

Mari Jones is desperate to be a real scientist, even though she’s only eleven.
So when she discovers a tiny dragon while fossil hunting on the beach, she’s sure she can find a good scientific explanation – as long as she can keep it hidden long enough to study it. Unfortunately for Mari, this is one secret that doesn’t want to be kept. And as she starts to form a deeper bond with the mischievous dragon, she might have to admit that, when it comes to friendship, science might not have all the answers… 

The first in a new series, this is a heartwarming tale of family, friendship and following your dreams.

Mari is a fiercely determined and independent young scientist and we loved all the brilliant references to Mary Anning and women in science. There’s also some lovely swapping of gender stereotypes here. A brilliant book for the little feminists in your life.

And who could resist a tiny dragon that can curl its tiny tail round your finger but also burn your school down with one burp?! A perfect book for all budding scientists, adventurers and animal lovers.

We love the cover illustration by Ben Mantle and really do want our very own Gweeb to live in our shop.

Available in our shop now, you can get your copy online here.

The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell

Fresh off the boat from England, Vita Marlowe has a job to do. Her beloved grandfather Jack has been cheated out of his home and possessions by a notorious conman with Mafia connections.

Seeing Jack’s spirit is broken, Vita is desperate to make him happy again, so she devises a plan to outwit his enemies and recover his home.

She finds a young pickpocket, working the streets of the city. And, nearby, two boys with highly unusual skills and secrets of their own are about to be pulled into her lawless, death-defying plan.

Katherine Rundell’s fifth novel is a heist as never seen before – the story of a group of children who will do anything to right a wrong.
 

Katherine Rundell writes sentences that you wish you could hold in your heart. Her superpower in The Good Thieves is her ability to write characters who burn with bravery and a fierce sense of injustice.

This is a story full of heart as well as adventure. The extraordinary world of tumbledown castles, terrifying gangsters and forbidden heists becomes the backdrop for acts of daring, kindness and respect.

We loved this story of loyalty, friendship and overcoming the odds. Great for 10+

You can order your copy here.