Posts Tagged ‘Jo Cotterill’

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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Looking At The Stars

Jo Cotterill

looking at the starsAmina’s homeland has been ravaged by war for many months, but so far they are safe, together. When a so-called liberating force arrives in the country, the family think their prayers for peace will soon be answered, but they are horribly wrong. The country is thrown into yet further turmoil and Amina’s family is devastated. Her elder brother is accused of being a ringleader in a rebel group and goes into hiding. Her father is then killed for apparently protecting him. The women of the family—Amina, her two sisters, and their mother—have no choice but to leave their home town, along with thousands of others, and head for a refugee camp. But there are even more challenges ahead

I loved this book, it is so honest and innocent but at the same time it is powerful and heart-breaking.

Amina Ambrose lives in Talas, an unsteady Dictatorship country on an unknown continent. The army who run it are called the Kwana and it is starting to exploit its power over the people in Amina’s country. They have made rules in the country that are unjust, such as making females wearing headscarves and men having the power over the women and boys having power over the girls. A revolution is needed to save the country. Amina is about 14; she has an amazing imagination-brilliant for making up stories and telling them to her family. She lives with her Mother-Mamie, her Father-Potta, her older brother-Ruman, her sister, who is a year older-Jenna and her little sister-Vivie.

Kwana have bought in a new rule: ‘Depending on your status or your family’s status you will be given a letter of heritage which you will have to wear at all times’. The letters of heritage determine your rank in life so if a family member was part of the Kwana you would be a letter A. The highest rank is a letter A. Amina’s family is an H. These letters were turning friends against friends and brother against brother. A family friend mysteriously disappeared and on their door was painted the letter Q.

Things started to look very bad. People were being shot, many were punished for saying anything bad against the Kwana and after school one day Ruman decided that he wasn’t going to have it anymore and left to join an underground Rebel movement. Even at night Amina could hear her parents whispering things like: “we’ve got to tell them, sooner or later they’re going to find out”…

War had broken out between the Kwana and an invading country to help save the people of Amina’s country. In the dead of night the Kwana broke into Amina’s house demanding to know where Ruman was. The family didn’t know so in the end the Kwana dragged them out of the house and tried to get answers. Amina tried to lie to save her family but still there was a devastating outcome.

There was no way that Amina’s family could remain in Talas so they left-and got stuck at a checkpoint. The Kwana were examining identification papers to see if they could leave. Sadly Amina’s family had trouble at the checkpoint (by the way, I’m not saying what happened because I don’t want to give it away!) and now Jenna and Amina had lost Vivie and Mamie! Can you guess what happens to the Ambrose family? Read the book to find out!

Verdict: I think this book was a real eye-opener to the wars ravaging other countries in the world. It shows peoples genuine struggle to stay alive and I thought it was a very good book and it was very interesting.

Reviewed by Daisy (13)

Click HERE to read author Jo Cotterill’s fabulous guest post about why boys should read books about girls.

Publisher: Random House Children’s
Publication Date: February 2014
Format: Hardback
Pages: 288
Genre: War
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Daisy (13)
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
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Boys don’t read books about girls…

We are delighted to host Jo Cotterill, author of the stunning middle grade book, Looking At The Stars.

looking at the starsAmina’s homeland has been ravaged by war for many months, but so far she and her family are safe, together. When a so-called liberating force arrives in the country, the family think their prayers for peace will soon be answered, but they are horribly wrong . . . The country is thrown into yet further turmoil and Amina’s family is devastated . . .
Through it all, Amina has her imagination to fall back on – of a better place and time. But can her stories get her through this?

Some time in 2013 there was an online argument among authors and readers about writing ‘strong’ female characters. Why should girls be ‘strong’? asked some people. Why were they supposed to be emotionally strong and assertive above all else? Surely a good three-dimensional character can be strong, weak, confused, angry, wrong, passionate and frightened. When authors write male characters, are they referred to as ‘strong’?

Our society persists in dividing the sexes with a line so thick you can’t see through it. As a mum of two young girls, I see an insidious creep towards the Disney Princess. Many toys are now aimed at boys or girls, as though children should be placed carefully into categories because of their gender. Well-meaning people buy pink purses for my daughters instead of toolkits or Meccano. My five-year-old already has firm ideas about what ‘girls’ like and what she should prioritise. Yet the female of the species is worth more than that! Possibilities should not be limited by gender, and that’s why fiction is important, because it can show a world of options.

There is also a persuasive idea going around that boys don’t read books that feature a central female character. I don’t think this is true for all boys, but I do think society teaches boys that girls are still less important than they are. Why else would boys avoid ‘girly stuff’ and lump female characters in with it? And yet many books written about girls are hugely useful. They teach us about relating to people; about finding inner strength in realistic situations; about kindness and cruelty; about discovering your own talents. All of these are vital skills for real life. Not to mention that girls make up half the population: shouldn’t boys want to read about them?

In Looking at the Stars, Amina and her sister Jenna are the two central characters. They have been living under a very repressive regime that prevents them going to school and forces them to wear headscarves that identify their age. This is not a ‘female issue’; it’s a human issue. And to test out a boy’s reaction to my book, I sent it to a friend of mine. Her twelve-year-old son, an avid reader, sent me this review:

Even after reading the Hunger Games, which had some really sad moments, this is the first book that ever made me cry. Because it was so life-like. I almost felt I was with the characters, on their journey. It is now one of my favourite books. I think it is like…nothing else I have read.

THAT is why boys should read books about girls, and why we should stop assuming they won’t be interested in them. And it’s why I hope lots of boys and girls will read my book.

Written by Jo Cotterill

Jo headshotJo’s first story at the age of five was a festive one entitled ‘Chismas’. After writing a lot of stories about unicorns, she decided at the age of thirteen to become an actress. Her professional acting career was enjoyable but frustrating, so she became a teacher instead, writing stories on the side. Her first book was published in 2004, and she gave up teaching in 2009. Jo now lives in Oxfordshire and fits writing around her young family. She enjoys music and card-making, and is an avid fan of Strictly Come Dancing.

Looking At The Stars was published today by Bodley Head.

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