Books That Feel Like a Big Hug

In times of uncertainty we try to find comfort in the day to day and one way many people find this is through reading.

Personally, the book I could return to time and time again is Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson. I am a big fan of the Moomins but there’s undoubtedly something very reassuring about being pulled into Moominvalley and exploring the magical snowy landscape with Moomintroll. The characters all feel like old friends and I know that if anything does go wrong, Moominmamma will make it all better somehow, either with her unerring patience and logic or with something useful stashed in her gigantic handbag.

Winnie the Pooh is another such book that welcomes me into a world of childhood innocence, joy and fun. The Hundred Acre Wood is the friendly yet slightly wild playground we all dreamt of and who else is of more comfort than Pooh himself? He’s a simple bear; surprisingly wise, completely at ease with himself and he always has honey on hand in case you feel a little peckish.

Another story for a slightly older audience that feels like a big hug is I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. It’s the coming-of-age story of teenager Cassandra who lives in an old romantic castle with her eccentric family. The narrative style, relationships between characters and the romance that entails never fail to give me warm fuzzy feelings inside.

I asked our followers on social media which books brought them the greatest comfort and these either tended to be books loved at a young age which create feelings of nostalgia, stories read by adults with their children when they were little or those that had heart warming moments within providing the warm fuzzy feelings we all love.

The Harry Potter series was a very popular choice for many, especially Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. If you combine the escapism of the magical world, the excitement at rediscovering Hogwarts, the warm embrace of familiar characters like Hagrid and Dumbledore and the nostalgia associated with this series then it’s no surprise that this was the most widespread suggestion for ultimate comfort reading.

Other suggestions included books that made people laugh like Claude in the City by Alex T. Smith, magical classic picture books read repeatedly at a young age, more modern classics such as Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson or pure magical escapism such as The Enchanted Wood series by Enid Blyton.

If you’re in need of a comforting story at the moment then call the shop on 01273911988 or email us on info@booknookuk.com, talk to a member of staff and they’ll recommend something just for you. We can deliver free locally or post to anyone outside of Brighton and Hove.

Keep reading and keep safe!

Teenagers! Swap the doom and gloom for a belly laugh or two…

Are you a teenager who loves to read but is feeling the need for something light hearted? Maybe you’re a parent who thinks their teenager needs something less  gloomy to read.

We’re not saying that there’s anything wrong with sad and tragic tales of lost love and family upset, dark dystopian worlds, crazy cults or chilling crimes committed by or to teenagers  – they’re some of our bestselling YA books. In such a bizarre, and often jarring, time of self-isolation it’s feasible that you may be looking for something that might make you crack a smile or even belly laugh. If this is the case then keep reading…

Pretty Funny by Rebecca Elliot

In Haylah Swinton, Rebecca Elliot has created a loveable, flawed and fabulously feisty protagonist who’ll make you giggle and guffaw.

Haylah has always wanted to be a comedian but has never had the courage to perform. Somehow she finds herself staring out at an audience during an open mic night; oh, and the audience includes the boy she has a very big crush on.  When it all goes a little awry she is mortified but could this embarrassing situation lead to greater things?

If you’re looking for a strong and funny female protagonist, some hilariously awkward teenage exchanges and some truly endearing characters then this is the book for you.


Girl Out of Water by Nat Luurtsema

This is one of my go to recommendations for customers when they’re looking for a more light-hearted book to read.

Lou is one of the funniest narrators I’ve come across in YA books. I definitely snorted on public transport a few times whilst reading this. When her best friend Hannah sails through Olympic time trials Lou is left flailing in her wake. Her failure to qualify and the loss of her best friend sends Lou into a crazy world of underwater somersaults, talent show auditions, gossiping girls and one great big load of awkward boy chat. This is a thoroughly British teen comedy starring a hilariously flawed heroine with a quip for every occasion sure to make you giggle


Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green

Meet Noah Grimes. He’s unpopular at school, his mother has a Beyoncé tribute act, his father is absent, he’s completely obsessed with Murder She Wrote and he has only one friend, Harry. When he gets the chance to work on a project with a popular girl, he figures this could be his chance to integrate with the normals, even get a girlfriend. However this plan comes crashing down when, instead of Noah kissing Sophie at a party, Harry kisses Noah. Cue chaos.

This book will make you laugh out loud repeatedly. Noah is endearing in spite of his many flaws and I found myself really wanting him to succeed in life. The journey he goes on with his sexuality and family feels completely natural and believable. It’s a funny and light read but the emotional moments still pack quite the punch.


Simon Vs The Homo Sapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon Spier is sixteen and trying to work out who he is – and what he’s looking for. But when one of his emails to the very distracting Blue falls into the wrong hands, things get all kinds of complicated. Because, for Simon, falling for Blue is a big deal … It’s a holy freaking huge awesome deal.

This book will give you lovely fuzzy feelings inside.  Simon is completely loveable and I spent the whole of the book just rooting for him. It is simultaneously hilarious and heart warming and I guarantee you will want to read it again.



We have stock of all of the above titles available at the moment however our staff are also able recommend a book for you or your teenager if you call the shop on 01273911988 or email us on info@booknookuk.com. Just let us know who the book is for and their age – it’s as easy as that.  

Anisha Accidental Detective by Serena Patel and Emma McCann

Anisha is all set to be a (reluctant) bridesmaid at Aunty Bindi’s wedding…until a secret ransom note arrives. Bindi’s groom has been kidnapped and will only be released IF THE WEDDING IS CALLED OFF!

With best friend Milo, mischievous Granny Jas, a runaway lobster, a kitten-loving giant, and some super skills of logic and observation, it’s up to Anisha Mistry to find her uncle, before the big family wedding of the year becomes a big disaster.

This brilliantly funny character-led series is perfect for fans of Pamela Butchart and Swapna Haddow and is a great gateway read into older detective fiction like Robin Stevens’ Murder Most Unladylike series.

Anisha Accidental Detectives is the first in a brilliantly inclusive detective series featuring a multi-generational British Indian family. It reflects reality with a strong cast of characters and footnotes explaining cultural references in a fun and unobtrusive way.

Anisha is a fantastic female lead; a reluctant heroine who would rather stay out of any drama. She has much more common sense than all the grown ups and is a strong role model for STEM loving children.  Together with her best friend Milo she must use all her logic and reasoning skills to get to the bottom of the great kidnapping mystery.

The book is an ode to the strength and solidarity of female family members, celebrating women in all their different forms with Anisha’s fantastically fierce granny who never gives up and oozes positivity, and her unflappable Mum who stays calm through every crisis. The book is filled with role models and wonderful women for readers to aspire to.

Anisha and Milo flip gender stereotypes on their head and this book is a real celebration of knowing who you are, being comfortable with yourself and seeing your differences as your strengths. Emma McCann’s illustrations bring the diverse characters to life and add an extra layer of humour to a wonderfully written, fun and engaging story. 

You can get your copy here.

Wigglesbottom Primary: Break-Time Bunnies

All is chaos in Year 2! An unexpected visitor, a bewitched violin and an invasion of bunnies! What can it all mean?

The hilarious Wigglesbottom Primary series is back with a bang… and a lot of bunnies, in this laugh out loud book with three new stories about Class 2R and their wild imaginations.

School days are never boring at Wigglesbottom Primary and we love the way the stories race along at the same pace as Class 2R’s imaginations. These adventures are hugely relatable and super fun, showing a class of brilliantly positive and diverse children working together through every step of their adventures.

Pamela Butchart never fails to ace the imaginary leaps of young children and to celebrate the fun and excitement of childhood. Becka Moor’s illustrations bring all the energy of the characters to life and add even more comedy to the zany situations they create.

Perfect for Key Stage 1 and newly independent readers who love riotously funny stories.

You can order your copy here.

Sam Wu is Not Afraid of Zombies

We love the Sam Wu series! Highly illustrated, fun and fast-paced reads with guaranteed laughs, they never disappoint.

In Sam Wu is Not Afraid of Zombies Sam and his team are back to face their fears together as they investigate the strange noises – and smells – coming from Ralph and Regina’s Do-Not-Enter basement. Hilarity and chaos ensue as the team try to save the world from a rabid pack of zombie werewolves.

We particularly love this series for its readability, strong sense of fun and imagination and its beautifully positive and casual inclusion of diverse characters. Sam Wu is Not Afraid of Zombies includes gentle nods to the fear of being different and not fitting in and shows the reader that you will always find your people if you are brave enough to be yourself.

Perfect for fans of Pamela Butchart and a brilliant follow on from her Wigglesbottom Primary School series.

About the book:

The fifth in the slapstick, action-packed middle-grade series. Sam is conflicted about saving the day when it’s his arch-enemy Ralph Zinkerman the Third who falls foul of the zombie werewolves. Deals with common childhood fears in a sensitive and accepting way.

Be More Bernard by Simon Philip and Kate Hindley

Perfect for fans of Jim Field, Rabbityness, Dogs Don’t Do Ballet and Giraffes Can’t Dance. Be More Bernard is a fabulously funny story about finding your own groove and being yourself, encouraging us all to chase our dreams and embrace our differences. We love Kate Hindley’s comic illustrations and have all been inspired to get our dancing shoes on.

When the other bunnies bounced, I bounced. When they hopped, I hopped. When they slept, I did too. Like them, I dreamed. But MY dreams weren’t the same. They were less . . . rabbity.

Bernard has decided that he’s not going to be like all the other bunnies any more. He’s not going to twitch his nose and prick his ears. And while others might dream of carrots, Bernard’s dreams are altogether more…disco!

He starts small, but when he finally gets to groove with grace and jive with joy at Bertie and Brenda’s Bunny Ball, Bernard shows the world that being yourself is the very best thing a bunny can be. From the author of the Sainsbury’s Book Award-winning You Must Bring a Hat and the illustrator of the brand-new Treacle Street series!

You can get your copy here.

The Land of Roar by Jenny McLachlan and Ben Mantle

Believing is just the beginning . . .

When Arthur and Rose were little, they were heroes in the Land of Roar, an imaginary world that they found by climbing through the folding bed in their grandad’s attic.

Roar was filled with things they loved – dragons, mermaids, ninja wizards and adventure – as well as things that scared them (including a very creepy scarecrow. . .)

Now the twins are eleven, Roar is just a memory. But when they help Grandad clean out the attic, Arthur is horrified as Grandad is pulled into the folding bed and vanishes. Is he playing a joke? Or is Roar . . . real?

We love this stunner of a book. Beautifully illustrated by Ben Mantle and with a cover that would be coveted by the most fussy of dragons, The Land of Roar looks as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside.

The Land of Roar is a story with a heart. Filled with dementor-style darkness, beautifully balanced with humour and brilliantly imagined gender-stereotype-flipping characters, it perfectly captures the imagination and play of children and explores what happens to your lands of make-believe when you begin to grow up. It celebrates embracing play and imagination and not growing up too soon.

All the ingredients for the perfect reading for pleasure fantasy adventure are here; ninja wizards, mermaid witches, a band of fierce lost girls, dragons and of course, a glittering sprinkle of magic. We lost ourselves entirely in The Land of Roar

Let your walls down and allow magic in. Get your copy here.

Billy and the Dragon by Nadia Shireen

Our fearless heroine Billy is back! Whilst at a fancy-dress party, something terrible happens: Billy’s loyal sidekick Fatcat is kidnapped by a fire-breathing dragon. Uh-oh! But luckily for Fatcat, Billy won’t stand for that: off she goes on a brave rescue mission… Join Billy for a fairytale adventure with a twist.

We love Billy and her amazing hair where she keeps all her useful things. We're so glad she's back to inspire more children with her strength and positivity. Full of fun and mild peril, and with Fatcat begrudgingly along for the adventure, young children will be transported to a land of danger and dragons and savage fluffy bunnies. Never too scary, Nadia Shireen cuts through the peril with exquisitely timed humour, creating a brilliantly paced story that will have young children bouncing along in delight.

You can order your copy from our online shop here

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.

Jemima Small Versus the Universe – Q&A with Tamsin Winter

Jemima Small is funny and super 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 feel like nothing… or how being made to join the school’s “special” healthy lifestyle group – A.K.A Fat Club – could feel any less special, and make her question her dream of applying for her favourite TV quiz show. But she also knows that the biggest stars in the universe are the brightest. And maybe it’s her time to shine…
A brilliantly funny and touching new novel exploring bullying, body confidence and, most importantly, learning how to be happy with who you are.

We love this brilliantly accessible book about the power of positive representation and role models. Witty and fun but also painfully honest, it will appeal to fans of Jacqueline Wilson and Cathy Howe.

We asked our young reviewer, Mollie (10), to give us her verdict and to pose some questions for Tamsin Winter. Read on to see what they both have to say about this stunner.

MOLLIE’S REVIEW

Great read, really makes you feel empowered, sad, inspired, angry and happy all at the same time. It feels so real, like you’re actually talking to Jemima about her experience. It’s so wrong, sad and sort of makes you angry body shaming is happening to beautiful, lovely people. If you read this book you will realise just how wrong and horrible it is to body shame or be body shamed. I would recommend this book to confident readers from the age of 9 and I think you would definitely enjoy it if you have been bullied, are being bullied or just like a good read with wonderful descriptions. You might like it if you like the Girl Online books. Overall it is a fantastic read! – Mollie aged 10

WELCOME TO OUR BLOG, TAMSIN

THANK YOU MOLLIE FOR THIS AMAZING REVIEW! ☺ ☺ ☺

M: What was your main inspiration for Jemima Small Versus the Universe?

T: I’d read a newspaper article about a girl who received a letter from her school telling her she was overweight, and it really stayed with me. The article was written very much from the mother’s perspective – about how outraged she was (quite rightly, in my opinion). But there wasn’t really anything about how the girl felt. I can remember that feeling of awkwardness and self-consciousness about my body that sort of hit me aged 9 or 10, and wishing I could look like someone else. I guess I wanted to write a story about a girl who experiences that kind of feeling. But who is definitely a lot smarter than I was. 

M: Are there any characters you feel you connect with?

T: The story is written from Jemima’s perspective, so naturally I feel very connected to her. Anytime she is laughing or crying in the book, you can be sure that’s exactly what I was doing while I was writing it. She made me rock with laughter, and made me shed enormous tears of sadness. Writing the final chapters was a strange mixture of emotions, because I felt so proud of her, but I was sad to be letting her go. My other favourite characters are Jemima’s auntie Luna and her “Fat Club” teacher, Gina, although in very different ways. Luna’s belief in connecting with the universe is something I believe in myself. Gina’s relentless smiling and enthusiasm always lifted my spirits when I was having a tough writing day. As did Miki’s practical jokes! 

M: What was your favourite part of writing your book?

T: I have to say the ending! It was tough getting Jemima through some of the difficult scenes, particularly when she was treated cruelly by people at school, and strangers. The scenes where she is missing her mum, who left when Jemima was six, were exceptionally heartbreaking to write. So, writing those final few chapters were a joy. There’s also a scene on a cliff top between Jemima and her brother Jasper which felt like the writing equivalent of a hug. I am rather fond of Jasper, despite his ferocious showing off.

M: Have you got any writing tips for kids like me who want to be writers?

T: Don’t give up! That’s the main one. Keep practising. No piece of writing is a failure. It is a step towards getting better and finding your own style. Don’t try to write like anyone else because no one can write like you. And read lots of books, obviously.

M: How do you make up your characters?

T: My characters kind of appear inside my head and then never leave. It’s an odd feeling sometimes, because they feel so real it’s like poking your head into someone else’s life. I do a lot of character profiling, and for the main characters I always write a little timeline of their life, whether or not it will be referenced in the book. It was a lot of fun to do this for the Small family, as they have so many weird and wonderful members, like Jemima’s great-great auntie Lilian. By the time I’m editing the book, the characters don’t feel made up any more.

M: How do you make your characters, situations and their world so realistic and convincing?

T: I draw maps of all the locations in my books, including a floor plan of the houses and the school. I sketched the wooden cabin Auntie Luna lives in, even down to the fairy lights and where the trees are in the garden! Imagining the characters as real people, and the places they inhabit as real places is a really important part of the writing process for me. I am also exceptionally forgetful, so it helps me remember where on earth they are supposed to be! I also do a lot of research. I interview people, read articles, blogs, books. Jasper’s magic tricks are based on magicians I’d watched on YouTube. There’s one line Jemima says about Jasper’s pet tarantula and I tracked down a pest controller to answer my very-much hypothetical question! Little details like that matter, even in a fictional world. If it doesn’t feel real to me, it won’t feel real to my readers. 

M: Is there a place where you like to go to come up with ideas and write?

T: I’d like to say there is a beautiful lake or something that I sit by and ideas appear like clouds, but it doesn’t work like that for me. I always have lots of ideas buzzing around in my head, lots of lines, fragments of conversations, so the notes page in my phone is always full, because it tends to be very late at night when I am supposed to be asleep. If I’m struggling with writing a scene, I usually head to a forest for a walk. It usually brings me some kind of inspiration or comfort. I also just love walking in wellies.

BookNook: And the killer question that we ask everyone who does a guest piece with us at The Book Nook…Wow us with something we didn’t already know…

T: I used to be afraid of the sea when I was little, mainly because my big sister would shout “SHARK!” as a joke whenever we were swimming in it. I couldn’t even bear to dip my toes in the sea. Weirdly, learning to scuba dive got me over my sea phobia. A few summers’ ago, when I was travelling across Indonesia, I took a boat trip and went scuba diving.  Just as I’d put my mask in the water, I spotted a tiger shark. It must have been five metres long. It was an exhilarating experience. Probably my favourite scuba diving memory. But for a moment, I was transported back to my childhood and my sister’s voice yelling dramatically: “SHARK!” and then laughing as I swam for my life towards the pebble beach. As Jemima Small Versus the Universe is set by the sea, I had to sneak in a reference to it! 

Thank you to Tamsin and Mollie for a fab review and Q&A. Coming soon we have a guest post from Tamsin Winter about body image and positivity. Watch this space!

You can get your copy from our online shop here.