Pretty Funny by Rebecca Elliott

This book is spit-your-drink-out and snort with laughter funny. And let’s face it, we all need a bit of that right now!

A riotous journey through school days and friendship dramas and surviving those horrendously embarrassing moments that feel like the end of the world, all whilst trying to break down gender barriers and break in to stand up comedy. Pretty Funny is here for you and all your self-care laughter medicine needs.

Does anyone ever really want to ‘fall’ in love? Knowing me I’ll just trip over it and graze my knee on the gravel of humiliation.
Haylah Swinton is fairly confident she’s brilliant at being a girl. 
She’s an ace best friend, a loving daughter, and an INCREDIBLY patient sister to her four-year-old total nutter of a brother, Noah. 
But she has a secret. She wants to be a stand-up comedian, but she’s pretty sure girls like her – big girls, girls who don’t get all the boys, girls who a lot of people don’t see – don’t belong on stage. 
That hasn’t stopped her dreaming though, and when the seemingly perfect opportunity to write routines for older, cooler, impossibly funny Leo arises . . . well, what’s a girl to do? But is Leo quite an interested in helping Haylah as he says he is? 
Will Haylah ever find the courage to step into the spotlight herself? And when oh when will people stop telling her she’s ‘funny for a girl’?!

We love this book!

It’s about families and first love and finding your true self… and then finding the strength to actually like and comfortably become your true self.

Rebecca Elliott has perfectly pitched the young teenage voice and created a painfully funny and realistic picture of the early teen years. It’s a joy to read and an absolute page turner.

Mostly, this is a tonic. A healthy dose of self-worth and confidence building. A hugely positive and powerful hug of a book. It shows young teens how resilient and awesome and brilliant they really are and how to hold on to that power and smash their way through life, smiling and laughing and loving themselves.

Perfect for fans of Girl Online, Tamsin Winters and Louise Rennison, and a book that should be in every secondary school library. Perfect for 12+ but there’s nothing here that wouldn’t be appropriate for discerning 10+ readers who need a good old belly laugh.

You can get your copy here.

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!

Evernight by Ross MacKenzie

If you like your adventures dark and dangerous and your stories gory, this is  the book for you. Perfect for fans of the magic and story building of Harry Potter and the darkness of A.F. Harrold's The Imaginary. 

Evernight is dramatically written; crying out to be read aloud. It would be a great choice for teachers who want to share some magic with Key Stage 3 pupils. We were totally engrossed, although we did have to read some of the more macabre sections through our fingers!

With fantastic characters who come alive through strong, dramatic writing, this is a vivid and engaging story. This is a refreshing take on good versus evil, with the evil being deliciously dark and dangerous and the good being feisty yet powerless.

Evernight is hard to put down and harder to let go of. We can't wait to see what happens later in the series.

About the book:

Thousands of years ago, the Evernight came to the Silver Kingdom and turned everything to darkness and chaos. It was only defeated thanks to the skill and bravery of the Witches. But now the Evernight is about to return, released by the evil Mrs Hester, and the only spell that might stop it is lost, deep below the great city of King’s Haven.

Then orphan Larabelle Fox stumbles across a mysterious wooden box while treasure-hunting in the city’s sewers. Little does she realise she is about to be catapulted into an adventure, facing wild magic and mortal danger – and a man who casts no shadow . . .

Best for 11+ You can get your copy here.

Tiger Heart by Penny Chrimes

One magical friendship. One roaring adventure. The magical tale of a bold young chimney sweep and a remarkable tiger, a dangerously hypnotic ruby and a mystical land that’s found across an ocean and through a storm. Perfect for fans of The Girl of Ink and Stars and Pax.

Tiger Heart is a fierce historical fantasy where nothing is as it seems and magic can come from the most surprising of places. It is also deliciously dark; dealing with themes of capitalism, control and greed. A tale for our age, the nods to capitalist politics, child labour and animal welfare make this historical adventure all too relevant.

A fantastic story for children who enjoy their magic grounded in history with believable, authentic characters and a layer of worldly truth. We loved it!

About the book:

Fly never meant to end up in a cage with a man-eating tiger. And though she’s no princess, when the tiger bows to her, she can’t help vowing to free him and return him home. But the bird-filled jungles and cloud-topped mountains of the tiger’s homeland are an ocean away. And not everyone wants the tiger to return.

With dark and dangerous forces working against them, will Fly be able to fulfil her promises, keep them both alive and – just maybe – become the queen her tiger knows her to be?

You can get your copy here.

Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

The gods of The Myriad were as real as the coastlines and currents, and as merciless as the winds and whirlpools. Now the gods are dead, but their remains are stirring beneath the waves…

On the streets of the Island of Lady’s Crave live 14-year-old street urchins Hark and his best friend Jelt. They are scavengers: diving for relics of the gods, desperate for anything they can sell.

But there is something dangerous in the deep waters of the undersea, calling to someone brave enough to retrieve it. When the waves try to claim Jelt, Hark will do anything to save him. Even if it means compromising not just who Jelt is, but what he is…

Deeplight by Frances Hardinge is a deliciously dark exploration of identity and how far you will go to be true to yourself. It is an exploration of religion and the damaging effects of power, as well as a celebration of the life-giving power of stories.

The best fantasy has strong links with reality and Deeplight explores the teenage experience of identity and the confusions and contradictions of life beautifully. Dealing with themes of power, manipulation, bullying and the trials of friendship, it is about learning who you are and fighting for your independence.

With all the mystery and adventure we have come to expect from Hardinge, Deeplight doesn’t disappoint.

You can order your copy here.

The Monster Who Wasn’t by T C Shelley

“A brilliantly rich and strange fantasy adventure that will make us all believe in monsters – be they good, bad or somewhere in between.

It is a well-known fact that fairies are born from a baby’s first laugh. What is not as well documented is how monsters come into being …

This is the story of a creature who is both strange and unique. When he hatches down in the vast underground lair where monsters dwell, he looks just like a human boy – much to the disgust of everyone watching. Even the grumpy gargoyles who adopt him and nickname him `Imp’ only want him to steal chocolate for them from the nearby shops.

He’s a child with feet in both worlds, and he doesn’t know where he fits. But little does Imp realise that Thunderguts, king of the ogres, has a great and dangerous destiny in mind for him, and he’ll stop at nothing to see it come to pass…”

Imaginative and unusual, this is an intriguing, compulsive read that will stay with you long after you close the covers. A story of magic and darkness, with lots of gothic elements and an exciting quest for belonging.

Brilliant for fans of Lorraine Gregory and those looking for something a little different. Best for 9+.

You can get your copy 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.

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.

Book recommendation – The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree by Paola Peretti

A novel for all ages about a young girl losing her sight, inspired by the author’s own life story.
Mafalda is a nine-year-old girl who knows one thing: some time in the next six months her sight will fail completely.
Can Mafalda find a way through a seemingly dark future and still go to school, play football and look after her beloved cat?
With the help of her family, and her friends, Mafalda needs to discover the things that will be important to her when her sight has failed.