Archive for April, 2012

Happy Publication Day

To Insurgent by Veronica Roth

War looms in sixteen-year-old Tris’s dark dystopian world as disputes between the factions grow. Tris must now fight against all odds to discover the truth that can save her and the people she loves. Sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge – and the choices she makes will have devastating and unexpected consequences.


Here at Big Book Little Book we are delighted to be involved in the blog tour for this highly anticipated sequel to Divergent. Along with our Candor UK team mates we will spend the week discussing all things Insurgent and Candor.

Check out our Team Candor UK list in the sidebar for the latest offerings or visit Carly at Writing From The Tub to view the full Team Candor UK tour schedule.

If you are on twitter you can get involved by checking out the hash tags #INSURGENTUK and #CANDORUK.

In addition to our regular Carnegie and Greenaway Awards feature and Little Book post (postponed until tomorrow), Big Book Little Book will be posting reviews for both Divergent and Insurgent and a Candor inspired Novel Nibbles post. We will also be answering Sarah’s daily Faction inspired questions over at Feeling Fictional

In the meantime to wet your appetite, check out this awesome trailer for Insurgent.

This post is part of the Team #CANDORUK campaign for #INSURGENTUK. Click on the picture above for more information.

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Carnegie and Greenaway Awards: My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece

Annabel Pitcher

Ten-year-old Jamie Matthews has just moved to the Lake District with his Dad and his teenage sister, Jasmine for a’Fresh New Start’. Five years ago his sister’s twin, Rose, was blown up by a terrorist bomb. His parents are wrecked by their grief, Jasmine turns to piercing, pink hair and stops eating. The family falls apart. But Jamie hasn’t cried in all that time. To him Rose is just a distant memory.
Jamie is far more interested in his cat, Roger, his birthday Spiderman T-shirt, and in keeping his new friend Sunya a secret from his dad. And in his deep longing and unshakeable belief that his Mum will come back to the family she walked out on months ago.
When he sees a TV advert for a talent show, he feels certain that this will change everything and bring them all back together once and for all.

Five years ago Rose died. One moment that tore Jamie’s family apart. Now his Mum has left them, his Dad is an alcoholic and the only person there for him is his sister Jas, who was Rose’s twin. But nobody understands why he doesn’t cry for Rose, why he doesn’t miss her, because they remember her and he doesn’t, he was too young when she died. Now they have moved to the Lake District for a new start, to make things better, only it doesn’t seem to be working. Jamie still has deal with school bullies and his mother’s indifference. And just how does he explain to his father that his only friend is a Muslim, especially after Islamic terrorists killed his sister.

People have been telling me that I should read this book for months, that it is a heartbreaking, moving story that just deserves to be read. Yet I’d been putting it off because I hated the cover. Yep that’s right, me, a school librarian that tells kids daily that they shouldn’t judge a book by a cover was put off by a cover. I was so relieved when the Carnegie books were delivered and I found that they had changed the cover for the paperback. One I could get excited about reading it now and two the cover actually matches the story that I’d been told about.

And the story. I’m beginning to wonder if the Carnegie judges have shares in Kleenex this year as this is yet another shortlisted book that can’t help but move you to tears. I keep wondering if all the Year 7’s shadowing the Awards will give up due to the bleakness of some of the books but they are just so well written that they keep coming back for more. This is no exception. The book is written from Jamie’s point of view and by the end you feel as though you know him inside out. However this doesn’t stop you from getting to know other characters in the book just as well. Jamie is an incredibly perceptive character so you get to know characters close to him really well too. This book is about how death can tear a family apart and using a younger brother who barely even knew his dead older sister is a very effective way of adding enough distance to see the subtleties in characters behaviour yet keeping close enough to show the devastation that an event like this can cause.

Without going into details I loved the ending to this book. It had such an element of hope to it yet at the same time nothing was perfect, it wasn’t a happy ever after, as after all life isn’t like that. I may have been reluctant to read this book but I’m glad I did, it may have made me cry but it left me feeling that life may not be perfect, but it really isn’t all that bad.

Verdict: At time a laugh out loud story, a times a total tearjerker, a book that deals with the devastation of loss, but reminds you of all you have to live for.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Indigo
Publication Date: September 2011
Format: Paperback
Pages: 240
Genre: Family, Relationships
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: British Book
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Carnegie and Greenaway Awards: Puffin Peter

Petr Horacek

Peter and Paul are the best of friends, but when Peter gets lost in a terrible storm he can’t find Paul anywhere. With the help of a big blue whale Puffin Peter set off to find him. They find all kinds of birds that match Peter’s description but none of them is quite like Paul.

This is a heart warming story of two puffins called Peter and Paul who are separated by a terrible storm. Peter finds a big blue whale who wants to help, so Peter describes Paul to him, but he just can’t quite seem to get the description right and they find lots of birds but none of them are Paul. Just as Peter is about to give up he spies an island and on it is his friend. So the big blue whale wants to know why didn’t Peter tell him that Paul was a Puffin?

The pictures in this book are really colourful with lots of detail that really adds to the story. This makes it easy to discuss the story with little one’s when you are reading to them. The theme of friendship is strong throughout as Peter travels the seas in search of his friend. He describes his friend in detail to the big blue whale but they still aren’t successful in finding him, the issue could however have been solved by saying that Paul was a puffin in the first place. This is an effective way of showing a preschooler that sometimes it’s the simplest way of explaining things that count.

Verdict: This isn’t my favourite of the Greenaway books but I’ll still be borrowing this when shadowing is finished to read to my preschooler.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Walker
Publication Date: July 2011
Format: Paperback
Pages: 40
Genre: Picture Book
Age: Picture Book
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: None
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Novel Nibbles: Steampunk Cupcake Toppers

Yesterday we took a look at how to make Earl Grey infused cupcakes. The post included two types of flavoured butter cream and two kinds of easy, low effort Steampunk inspired cake decorations.

Today’s post shows you step by step how I created the edible bronze cogs and washers.

These decorations involved a few bits of specialist equipment and a considerable time commitment (approx 2hrs) but it was well worth the effort. I will certainly make them again if I ever need to contribute to a steampunk event and I am already plotting a robotic themed birthday party for my 2 3/4 year old.

Note: The bronze paint is made using “Bronze Professional Metallic Lustres”, an edible food colouring powder, and a few drops of clear alcohol, which evaporates during the drying process.

Bon appétit!

Post by Caroline

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Novel Nibbles: Steampunk Cupcakes

Following my recent outing to Foyles to meet Gail Carriger, I suddenly found myself craving afternoon tea and compelled to do some home baking to satisfy this craving. I found myself recalling the Cassandra Clare even I attended October 2011 and how one creative fan had made Cassie some yummy cupcakes, complete with edible clockwork cogs.  A regular cupcake just wasn’t going to hit the spot, I was going to have to make Steampunk Cupcakes.

With the image of Cassandra Clare’s cupcake in mind the search for a Clockwork or Cog shaped cookie cutter began. A rummage around Lakelands and Steamer Trading provided fruitless. It was time to bring out he big guns. A Google  search highlighted the distinct lack of Clockwork or Cog shaped cookie cutters. Those I could find were far too large and the shipping times too long for my sugar craving. Thankfully Google came through and I stumbled across Om-Noms by Kelly and her very clever cog shaped sugar cookies. The decoration sorted, it was time to focus on the main event- The Cake!

I wanted to do something a little different from a traditional vanilla cupcake. As much as I love chocolate, lemon and carrot cake, none of these flavours fitted with the image of a dainty Victorian afternoon tea. The inspiration struck, TEA! Searching through my cookery books I found a recipe for a chi tea infused cup cake, which brought to mind trendy coffee shop frequenters supping on Chi Tea lattes, close but not quite right.

Earl Grey on the other hand conjured images of a dainty floral tea service and raised pinkie fingers, Perfect! Two minutes later I was salivating over gorgeous images of Earl Grey infused cup cakes, of which there were many! I finally settled on this recipe from Mean Mother Cooker. Anyone who can pipe butter cream that beautifully  knows a thing or two about cake.
What follows is a build your own cupcake post.

1. Make 12  Earl Grey Infused Cupcakes
2. Choose from either Lemon or Earl Grey Butter Cream (I couldn’t resist making both!)
3. Select topper by level of effort (none, some, lots)

1. The Cup Cake

The Ingredients

150mls of Milk
3 Earl Grey Teabags
115g Soften Unsalted Butter
225g Caster Sugar
2 Large Eggs, beaten
250g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
Preheat oven to 180C.

Heat milk until steaming.Add tea bags and leave to infuse until milk is room temperature

Cream butter and sugar

Add the egg a little at a time, beating well.

add 1/3 milk, mixing mix well,followed by 1/3 flour. Repeat untilall milk and flour combined.

Line a muffin tin with 12 cake cases.Fill until 2/3 full. Bake in oven for approx 20min.

Allow to cool on a wire rack. If necessary trim of peaks to prepare for butter cream.

2. The Butter Cream.
Choose either Lemon  or Earl Grey butter cream.
The amounts stated will ice 12 cupcakes to the perfect ratio of 1/3 butter cream to 2/3 cupcake.
Alternatively halve the ingredients and make 6 of each type 😉

Beat 75g of Unsalted Butter with therind and juice of two unwaxed lemon(approx 5TBS) and 1/2 of your
375g icing sugar.
Once smooth slowly beat in the rest of the icing sugar.
Optional: Add a couple of drops of yellowfood colouring.

Earl Grey
Infuse 5TBS of milk with 1 earl grey teabag(same method as cakes).
Once cooled beat tea with 75g of unsalted butter and 1/2 of your 375g of icing sugar.
Once smooth slowly beat in remaining sugar.
Optional:add a couple of drop of lilac food colouring.

3. The Cupcake Topper
Pearls and Ball Bearings.
Simply sprinkle with these shop bought decorative balls.

Effort Level: Some
Steampunk Some Snowflakes.
Take left over snowflake sprinkles and mixed with a drop of vodka and 1/4 tsp of edible bronzing powder.
Spread out over a plate in a single layer.Leave to dry.

Effort Level: Lots
Clockwork Cogs: Come backtomorrow to check out my step- by- step post to creating these bronzed beauties!

Post by Caroline

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Dan Wells

Sixteen-year-old Kira is trapped on Long Island. Her community clings to survival, but what hope can they have when no baby survives for more than three days?
Kira is determined to make a difference, to find a cure. Her best friend is pregnant and Kira cannot let that baby die. Time is running out and finding a cure means capturing a Partial…

‘Partials’ is set on Long Island in America at some time in the future. 99.996% of the population has been wiped out by the RM virus, believed to be released by the Partials, biological robots created by humans to fight in their wars. Partials were immune to the virus and now live on the mainland of America, the humans that remain on the Island may be the only survivors left in the world. But even these humans are split, those who support the senate that controls them and ‘The Voice’ who opposes them. In the middle of this is Kira, a sixteen year old medical student who has dreams of finding a cure for RM. In the eleven years since the virus was unleashed there has not been a single baby who has survived for more than a few hours. Then Kira’s best friend gets pregnant and finding a cure becomes that much more important.

This is another dystopian novel, in the wave that follows The Hunger Games, but this is a little different. Partials reminds me more of a traditional dystopian novel that pays homage to its sci-fi roots. This becomes very clear in the first couple of chapter and as I’m not really a lover of sci-fi I thought it would put me off but it didn’t. This book contains all the elements that you would expect from a dystopian novel all in one book. It’s set in a world unrecognisable to the one today due to one event that changed everything. It deals with governments who want to fully control the lives of their citizens and touches upon those who oppose them. It also deals with reproductive rights and the question of whether women should be forced to have babies to ensure the future of mankind. It also goes into the study of virology to give it more of an element of sci-fi (I will admit to not paying as much attention as I could have to these bits). The Partials are also pure sci-fi biological robots that think and feel and look exactly like humans, but aren’t.

The writing is incredibly fast paced, at nearly 500 pages it is quite long for a YA book, but reading it never feels like a chore. The characters are very well written and very believable, there could have been a danger that the characters would take second place to the storyline in a book like this, but that really isn’t the case. Character development is good and by the end you really feel as though you really know and can relate to the main characters, particularly Kira, the main protagonist. Not all the characters are all that likeable but that is to be expected in a book where control over others is such a strong theme. Dan Wells doesn’t pull any punches either and there is plenty of violence and death. None of it is gratuitous and it’s all in keeping with the storyline, but this probably isn’t a book for younger children. Despite reservations at the start, I found myself completely absorbed in the story. Partials covers a huge amount of threads throughout the book but is never confusing. Most of all, it will definitely make you think. The ending sets it up very nicely for another book in a way that guarantees that the stakes will be higher. I can’t wait.

Verdict: A fast paced book that deals with a number of issues. Sometimes challenging but very much worth it.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Harper Collin’s Children’s
Publication Date: March 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 470
Genre: Dystopian, Sci-Fi
Age: YA
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: None
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The Blue Balloon

Mick Inkpen

A boy and his dog, Kipper, find an ordinary-looking blue balloon with extraordinary powers. By folding out the pages, readers can make the balloon grow, change color, and carry the boy and Kipper high into the universe

This is the current favourite bed time story in our house for both my 2 yr old and my 4 yr old. It makes sharing a bedtime story so much easier when you stumble across books they both adore!

Lots of children love balloons and this definitely appeals to that fascination. The story is simple, a boy finds a balloon and it turns out to be an extraordinary, indestructible and very thrilling. This balloon can change shape, size, colour and even better, it doesn’t pop. It will even fly you to the moon.

This is all made more exciting by the different bits to pull or open out in the pictures. The enormous balloon has a page that opens out 4 times the size of the others. When the balloon is stretched a part of the page ‘stretches’ too, and so it goes on.

Verdict: The girls love the story and the pictures. It is a great book.
And for anyone interested in useless bits of information; this is also the story in which Kipper (the dog) makes his first appearance before going on to have his own series of books

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
Publication Date: July 2006
Format: Paperback
Pages: 42
Genre: Picture book
Age: Picture books, Early Readers
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British book
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Carnegie and Greenaway Awards: Everybody Jam

Ali Lewis

Danny Dawson lives in the middle of the Australian outback. His older brother Jonny was killed in an accident last year but no-one ever talks about it.
And now it’s time for the annual muster. The biggest event of the year on the cattle station, and a time to sort the men from the boys. But this year things will be different: because Jonny’s gone and Danny’s determined to prove he can fill his brother’s shoes; because their fourteen-year-old sister is pregnant; because it’s getting hotter and hotter and the rains won’t come; because cracks are beginning to show . . .

When Danny’s mum admits she can’t cope, the family hires a housegirl to help out – a wide-eyed English backpacker. She doesn’t have a clue what she’s let herself in for. And neither do they.

Danny is thirteen and still trying to cope after the death of his older brother last year. He has an older sister Sissy who is pregnant at fourteen. Its summer in Australia and the rains aren’t coming. The annual muster at the cattle station at which Danny lives is about to happen and Danny is determined to show his Dad that he is growing up and that he can live up to the shadow of Jonny, his older brother. Amongst all of this enters an English housegirl, she hasn’t got a clue how an Australian cattle ranch his run. But maybe she is what Danny needs to help both him and his family heal.

I really struggled to get into this book. It took me over a week to get to page 50 which is most unlike me. In fact had it not been on the Carnegie shortlist I probably would have given up. I am however glad I didn’t, although slow to start Everybody Jam turned into a poignant coming of age tale that grew and grew on me. I found the language hard to start with, Ali Lewis seems determined to get as much Australian slang in there as possible, you won’t forget where the book is set, but after a while this ceased to matter.

Danny is a very strong protagonist and a typical young boy. Lewis has captured the confused nature of his emotions incredibly well and whilst he isn’t always likeable, he is an incredibly real character. Everything is told from his point of view, so the story comes out in stages, I think this did contribute to the slow start but was effective by the end. In spite of this supporting characters are also drawn very well. Lewis uses the drought at the ranch to show the state of Danny’s family. As the cracks show in the earth, so they do in the household. It is only when the family starts to heal that the rain comes too.

It won’t be my favourite off the list, I’ve already read better. But Everybody Jam is worth getting through a slow start.

Verdict: Slow to start but the effort is worth it. A moving, poignant tale of a boy coming of age and family relationships.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Andersen
Publication Date: March 2011
Format: Paperback
Pages: 336
Genre: Coming of age
Age: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: Debut Author
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Carnegie and Greenaway Awards: There Are No Cats in this Book

Viviane Schwarz

Our furry friends from There Are Cats in This Book – Tiny, Moonpie and André – have returned, and this time they are filled with the spirit of adventure – they are off to see the world! They have their suitcases packed and are ready to set off – but they can’t seem to get out of the book. They try pushing their way out, and jumping their way out but nothing works. Finally they decide to WISH themselves out and they are going to need your help!

I absolutely adore this book; in fact I think it may well end up being my favourite of all the Greenaway books this year. This follows on from ‘There Are Cats in This Book’ which was on the shortlist for the Greenaway Award last year. The title is of course misleading to a degree as there are cats in this book. This time however the cats want to escape and see the world and they need your help.

The pictures in this book are great, simple but tell a story all on their own. There is a very basic storyline, but what is the most important is the way that it is told. The cats in this book talk directly to the reader, something that is bound to appeal to little ones, but again a class full of 11 year old loved it too. In fact when the cats ask them to close their eyes and make a wish they did just that with no cajoling from me! It involves the reader in the story so that they can feel as though they have contributed to how it turns out. It has pop ups and postcards which also will appeal to pre-schoolers.

Verdict: A really lovely simple book that makes the reader feel as though they are part of the story.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Walker
Publication Date: June 2011
Format: Paperback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture book
Age:Picture books
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: None
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Department 19: The Rising

Will Hill

Sixteen-year-old Jamie Carpenter’s life was violently upended when he was brought into Department 19, a classified government agency of vampire hunters that was formed to deal with a little problem…known as Dracula.
But being the new recruit at the Department isn’t all weapons training and covert missions. Jamie’s own mother has been turned into a vampire—and now Jamie will stop at nothing to wreak revenge on her captors. Even if that means facing down Dracula himself.
The Rising is a fast, furious, can’t-turn-away thrill ride that will suck readers in just like a video game. This riveting second book in the Department Nineteen series is packed with cutting-edge gadgets, international locales, and daredevil action that tumbles ferociously across the page—perfect for fans of Darren Shan and Anthony Horowitz

While the pink, fragile scar tissue acts as a visible testament to the horrors Jamie and his friends experienced that fateful night on Lindisfarne, the hidden physiological trauma is no less indelible. Having turned their backs on any semblance of normality and accepted a life of danger and responsibility in the pursuit of world safety, Jamie, Larissa and Kate are now feeling the impact of their decisions and experiences.

A slick three person unit within the super secret department, they work instinctively together, trusting each other with their lives, but not always their secrets and insecurities. The trio cannot help but have matured in the three months following their withdrawal from society and their absorption in to the classified government department; nevertheless they are teens dealing with the huge emotional fallout from book one, coping with anger, grief and the absence of any real parental supervision and support. Jamie particularly is struggling with balancing his recently commissioned leadership while maintaining his friendships with Larissa and Kate.

The only negative thing I can say about this book is its size! You can’t fail to have noticed that with 700+ pages, this is a big book! I have to admit that while a gorgeous signed hardback graces my shelf I found the thought of starting the book a little intimidating not to mention difficult to manage with my preferred reading posture ( lying on my side if you must know). I found a really simple solution, I downloaded the kindle version!

Despite its length, the pacing of the book was spot on and I never felt bored. Will Hill cleverly manipulates multiple story threads, weaving together heart racing action with gut twisting emotional scenes and informative flashbacks to create a compulsive page turner. I particularly love how the author makes references to historical events and figures, grounding the fantasy world building with our own recognisable history.

After 13 years in the health service with up close and personal experience of most body fluids, I consider myself to have a strong constitution, but even I have my limit and Will Hill writes to it. In Department 19 it was the creative use of violin strings, in The Rising, a scene involving Dracula and a library had me swallowing excessive saliva and pushing my lunch to one side. (In retrospect the unpleasant sensation may be due to the first vampire’s maltreatment of books!) However I don’t believe that the bloodletting is gratuitous, this is after all, a war between vicious, carnivorous immortals (old school vamps) and fragile humans. Rather, Hill’s imagery is so unapologetically vivid that it’s Technicolor.

Verdict: This book should come with a health warning; it will cause your stomach to flip and leave you physically and emotionally exhausted, but I promise that you will love every minute of it! Now time to read something light and fluffy, preferably with unicorns, kittens and rainbows!

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books
Publication Date: March 2012
Format: eBook
Pages: 7000/ 1066KB
Genre: Action, Paranormal
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British Book
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