Posts Tagged ‘bereavement’

Five Fabulous…Books Which Challenge Stereotypes

fab-five-logo-e1397403514389Five Fabulous Books is an original feature here at Big Book Little Book. The aim of the feature is to showcase fabulous books and bookish things, with connecting themes, there by promoting reads we have enjoyed and sharing recommendations for similar books. We love to share contributions from fellow bibliophiles, bloggers, vloggers and twitter users. We love to hear from you too, so don’t forget to comment with your favourite themed books. You are very welcome to use the Five Fabulous feature on your own blog just be sure to link back to Big Book Little Book and leave your link in the comments below so we can check out your recommendations! Feel free to copy and paste our Fabulou5 graphic or create one of your own.

I can say with absolute certainty, that I have read a lot of books that have heavily influenced my views on certain subjects. A lot of novels (fictional or non fictional) have made me realise how easily prone I am to accepting stereotypes and to taking everything I see in the news as fact.

Here are five fiction books that have really changed my ideas and opinions:

Wonder-R J Palacio
“I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking it’s probably worse”
Auggie is a boy born with “mandibulofacial dysostosis” more commonly known as Treacher Collins Syndrome with a cleft palette. The story follows his insistence to go to a public school and how manages even with an obvious face disfigurement.
This book was an amazing story and Auggie is a really inspirational and brave character who you just love. It really made me think about the treatment of people with physical disabilities, not only the people who can’t help but stare but the people who are overly nice or fake towards these people because they are physically different. It was thought provoking and interesting and I would definitely read it again.

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece-Annabel Pitcher
“My sister Rose lives on the mantelpiece. Well some of her does. Three of her fingers, her right elbow and her knee cap are buried in a graveyard in London.”
This book was a brilliant read and it makes you think not only about child bereavement and neglect but also stereotyping terrorism (cheery stuff) but what really struck me was the way the book was written like a child, very naïve and pliant. The protagonist is a little boy and one of his twin sisters is killed in a terrorist attack in Trafalgar Square by people who consider themselves part of the Islam religion. This turns his father against people of the Muslim religion because he believes that ‘all Muslims are terrorists’. When Jamie befriends a Muslim girl, he struggles to be friends with her as well as staying on good terms with his father, all this at the age of five.

Looking at the Stars-Jo Cotterill
“The only way we can survive is to work together. Each of us must play our part. The minute we stand alone, we fall alone.”
As one of my absolute favourites, ‘Looking at the stars’ follows two sisters whose lives have been destroyed by a war in their country. They need to reach a refugee camp and find their missing mother and younger sister. After a reread, this book became particularly poignant due to the very full coverage of ‘the refugee crisis’ in the media. Although the novel is fictional, it really opened my eyes to the kind of treatment that refugees receive after losing everything and the importance of family and friends. No matter where you stand on this issue, this book is certainly worth a read.

Will Grayson Will Grayson- John Green and David Levithan
“me: you just sound so gay.
tiny: um . . . there’s a reason for that?
me: yeah, but. i dunno. i don’t like gay people.
tiny: but surely you must like yourself?”
Structurally, ‘Will Grayson Will Grayson’ is an interesting book written by two authors who both wrote two different Will Grayson characters in alternative chapters. This is interesting because when their paths cross you know both the character’s stories. While not really being a classic ‘John-Green-cry-your-eyes-out’ sort of story, it challenges views on the LGBTQ+ community and while one Will Grayson is straight, he meets the other Will Grayson who is gay but in the closet, gay Will Grayson actually goes out with straight Will Grayson’s very flamboyant gay best friend Tiny Cooper. This book presents all different sorts of people struggling to find themselves and shows how difficult it might be for a gay person to come out of the closet. The book was so popular it reached the New York Times Children’s Books Bestseller List and stayed there for 3 weeks, the first of any book with any sort of mention to the LGBTQ+ community to reach the list.

The Kite Runner- Khaled Houssini
“It may be unfair, but what happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime.”
I loved this book! It is so powerful and thought provoking and shone a light on a whole variety of traditions that sometimes are ignored by western culture. I was very emotionally invested in the characters and it changed my views on ideas like the Taliban, terrorism and cultural tradition. After reading this book, I realised the powerful effect on people o th media and how people are changed by the government and it follows a story of two friends and one is a servant to the other’s family. It is a representation of slavery and terrorism that still happens today.

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Goodbye For Now

Laurie FrankelLove, loss and the extraordinary potential of social networking media come together to create a powerful, moving, unforgettable novel that will make readers laugh, cry and resolve to find their own true love.
Imagine a world in which you never have to say goodbye.
A world in which you can talk to your loved ones after they’ve gone.
About the trivial things you used to share.
About the things you wish you’d said while you still had the chance.
About how hard it is to adjust to life without them.
When Sam Elling invents a computer programme that enables his girlfriend Meredith to do just this, nothing can prepare them for the success and the complications that follow. For every person who wants to say goodbye, there is someone else who can’t let go. And when tragedy strikes, they have to find out whether goodbye has to be for ever. Or whether love can take on a life of its own.

This is one of those books that I have really been wondering where to start when I come to review it. I have chatted to couple of people about it whilst reading it and the thing is, there is so much to say! When we were offered the book to read, the blurb caught my attention but it has definitely exceeded my expectations.

So I’ll start with the plot, Sam is a computer whizz. He writes an algorithm to find your soul mate and it works! As a consequence he meets Meredith, the love of his life, but he also gets the sack from his job at a computer dating agency. They aren’t making enough money now and want to hush up Sam’s invention. This leaves Sam with a lot of time on his hands and when Meredith’s Grandmother, Livvie, dies and Meredith is devastated, he come up with an ingenious and unusual way to help. He uses all the technological data amassed between the two women to allow them to still communicate electronically with each other. At first Meredith is horrified at the idea of video chatting with her dead Grandmother but soon loves the whole thing and feeling so in touch with Livvie.

Following this, Dash, Meredith’s cousin, suggests they begin to offer dead mail to the masses and RePose is born. They become involved in the lives of many people and discover people have more reasons than they ever thought possible to want to communicate with their DLO’s (dead loved one). Then tragedy occurs and Sam has to find out for himself whether RePose really does any good.

Sam and Meredith are strong, well written and believable characters. Their relationship is lovely and the story also shows the ups and downs of family life in all it’s many facets. Obviously there is a strong emphasis on bereavement and grief. It was really interesting to see the huge variety of ways people have been effected and the wide spectrum of ways in which people try to cope and help each other through difficult times.

This is more than an innovative story, it introduces lots of thought provoking ideas and examines the ethics involved in the use of technology for such a purpose as this. This was the part of the book that I found most enthralling. Laurie cleverly weaves many questions into the narrative through the comments of others, the press, the church, other interested spiritual parties and through the families themselves. In addition Sam has his own internal dialogue through the whole process about its rights and wrongs.

This was a fascinating read. It was plausibly written and I could well believe in the ability of Sam to produce the technology (although in real life I hope we are some way off opening this can of worms!). Laurie gets the most out of her story, both the ethical side and the journey of her characters. I hope I’m not giving too much away by saying I liked the open nature of the ending. I usually don’t like this being a lover of a cut and dried happy ending but it was really appropriate to leave the characters at this point in their journey.

Verdict: If you like to read with your brain in this is a fabulous thinking read.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Headline
Publication Date: August 2012
Format: ARC
Pages: 336
Genre: Sci Fi, Bereavement
Age: Adult book review
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Received from publisher
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Carnegie and Greenaway Awards: The Gift

Carol Ann Duffy and Rob Ryan (illustrator)

In a quiet town, of a sort not found nowadays, lives a beautiful young girl. One summer day, she visits the woods with her mother and father. While her parents prepare the picnic, she seeks out buttercups and daisies for a flower necklace. As she does so, a wish forms in her mind – and to her surprise, a silver haired woman appears, ready to grant it.

This book looks at the whole life of a girl who one day went for a picnic, found a clearing and decides that this is where she wants to be buried. It sounds quite morbid but it really isn’t. It’s a book that celebrates life and all that happens within it. The story highlights the main event in the girl’s life, there is little to no character development, in fact we never even find out the girl’s name, but that doesn’t matter. Part of the magic of this book is that it could be about anybody. All through the book, and therefore her life, the girl returns to the clearing. She plants flowers and creates stone towers in order to really make the place her own, until she returns there last, in her dreams, on her deathbed. The ending to this book is really bittersweet. This is another that it’s quite difficult to put an age too. It is aimed at younger children, but I think it would take a certain amount of emotional maturity for them to really understand and enjoy it.

The illustrations are a delight. They are in a single colour on each page and the colour reflects the mood of the page, which almost gives it a dreamlike quality. Whilst there aren’t huge amounts of detail in specific objects and people there is so much going on within the pictures. This means the book can be read time and time again and the reader will still find new things within the pictures. This is a big plus point as the nature of the story means that it’s difficult to get really involved with it so it was good that I found that the pictures really brought it to life.

Verdict: A bittersweet story of the circle of life backed up by truly delightful pictures.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Barefoot Books Ltd
Publication Date: October 2010
Format: Hardback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture Book, Death
Age: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: British Book
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Carnegie and Greenaway Awards: A Monster Calls

Patrick Ness and Jim Kay (Illustrator) based on an idea by Siobhan Dowd

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting — he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments.
The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth.
From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd — whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself — Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined

As some of you may have seen in a previous post, Caroline and I went to a Patrick Ness/Jim Kay talk. Prior to this event, I didn’t really know who Patrick Ness was (I know! I promise to flagellate myself later for such ignorance) and what with it being only February, I was still feeling skint so promised myself that I was not going to buy, ‘A Monster Calls’ at the signing. Well, that lasted almost as long as my decision to give up chocolate during lent! I just couldn’t help it. The moment I clapped eyes on the black and white foreboding cover and then to caress the pages to be rewarded with such beautiful artwork, I just had to have it!

Thankfully, the story does the artwork justice. The premise is simple, a young boy struggles to cope as his mother battles terminal cancer. As he is becoming increasingly isolated and frustrated, he suddenly gets a visit from a monster who insists on telling Conor three stories, each with an unexpected thought provoking twist and in return, Conor must tell him one that’s the truth.

Whilst Conor is dealing with all this and his father’s pathetic attempts of being supportive, putting up with his not so stereotypical grandmother and being bullied by what can only be described as a sociopath in the making at school, you can’t help but hope that everything will turn out okay for him. Conor isn’t a saint though, there are a few times you’ll be shaking your head over his actions but this only makes him and the story more real – which is surprising really, when the most interesting and influential character in the story is a talking tree…

Verdict: This is a book, even in it’s Paperback form that will be treasured for it’s outer beauty and for the heart wrenching story within

Reviewed by Karen

Publisher: Walker
Publication Date: February 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 216
Genre: Fantasy
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Karen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British Book
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