NSTBA

Rabbit and Bear: A Bite in the Night

DSC_0014.JPG

The latest in this series sees our lovable forest friends facing Progress with a capital P! As Bear is getting ready for her winter sleep, Rabbit is increasingly worried by things that are changing. The river has moved…trees are disappearing…soon, even Bear is close to being slightly worried. Beaver has been at work and Progress is his middle name- nothing is going to get in his way. But Progress is not good for Rabbit- or Mole-or Vole-or Mouse… Although some of the animals might be better off as a result of the changes made in the name of Progress, can they stand by and see their friends suffer?

DSC_0015.JPG

Told with the usual gentle humour and fabulous illustrations, the ‘Rabbit and Bear’ stories are also wonderful at conveying clear messages and making everyone stop and think. Although change needs to happen and some progress is needed, the cost to the countryside and other people should always be considered. Once Bear’s favourite scratching tree has gone, it cannot be replaced in a hurry- years of nature at work destroyed in an instant. Sometimes, alternatives need to be considered or simply more thought needs to be given to whether ‘Progress’ is really necessary.

DSC_0016.JPG

The fabulous illustrations are every bit as engaging as in the previous Rabbit and Bear stories and Bear’s expressions are just wonderful! This latest addition to the ‘Rabbit and Bear’ series is a delight.

Rabbit and Bear: A Bite in the Night Julian Gough, illustrated by Jim Field

Hodder ISBN: 978-1444938180

You can read our reviews of Rabbit’s Bad Habbit, The Pest in the Nest and Attack of the Snack.

Shadow

IMG_9886.JPG

In their old house, her mother told her that there was nothing to be scared of- no monster hiding under beds or in wardrobes. But when they move to a new house, the little girl finds Shadow living under her bed amongst the cobwebs and dust. Although she tells her mother about him, her mother is so distracted that she can’t see him. Left to their own devices eventually, the two wander off to the woods where Shadow leaves her alone to go off and play until it is so dark there are no shadows left. After a very long while, there is a chink of light and her mother appears and take her home. They play together until they know all the dark places in their new house and are no longer scared.

IMG_9887.JPG

This is a strange tale whose pictures lend it a dreamlike quality. We don’t know why the little girl and her mother leave their old house where there is nothing to be afraid of; we just see them bundled up against the cold, standing outside a grey building, their suitcases behind them. Although the two are touching hands, it seem even in the opening spread that the mother is distracted and it is the child reaching for a mother who is not really aware she is there. Neither has a shadow of their own.

IMG_9888.JPG

The reader never knows whether it is bereavement, separation, grief, depression or something else which has caused her mother to withdraw from life, but the illustrations clearly show her caught up in her own world, oblivious to her daughter. Shadow changes from picture to picture, starting as a small boy and growing to almost wolf-like proportions before they run off to the woods. We know that mother and daughter have found each other again when each has a shadow of their own, the mother, now down at her daughter’s level, reaching her hand to her child. Shadow is left behind in the woods where the little girl has tied her scarf to a tree so that he won’t forget her and she can find him again if she needs to.

IMG_9889.JPG

The story shows the power of communication - of togetherness- as part of the healing process. Together, mother and daughter overcome the distance that has developed between them, finding once again that dark places are not to be scared of.

Powerful illustrations in greys with accents of red and dark blue perfectly accompany the text, making this very thought provoking story one to come back to again and again.

Shadow Lucy Christopher, illustrated by Anastasia Suvorova

Lantana ISBN: 978-1911373834

Bath Festival: Emma Carroll

IMG_0762.JPG

Last week, I saw Emma Carroll at the Bath Festival, talking about her new book, ‘The Somerset Tsunami’. Where I live would have been completely flooded by this event so I was very keen to hear about her story. Emma’s enthusiasm for writing and storytelling is infectious and everyone really enjoyed the session.

IMG_0891.JPG

Fortune Sharp lives in Fair Maidens Lane, a small community of strong women in rural Somerset. When her neighbour, Old Meg, is accused of witchcraft by a rival cheese maker- a man- the outside world starts to show more interest in this little hamlet and tomboyish Fortune and her brother attract attention to themselves by testing a boat that they made on the Sabbath, a day when such a thing is not considered seemly.

To save her daughter, Fortune’s mother sends her away disguised as a boy to search for employment. Ending up a servant at Barrow Hall, Fortune finds herself caught up with an unhappy family, whose father hates witchcraft yet is willing to exploit the fear and suspicion of others to increase the trade in people across the Atlantic. When natural disaster in the form of a tsunami takes place, Fortune survives only to find herself accused of witchcraft, facing imprisonment, torture and trial.

This is a stunning piece of writing, drawing on a little known piece of (for us, local) history and weaving a fascinating tale using this and other social events of the time. Witchcraft was taken very seriously during the reign of James I who had himself written a book on the subject called Daemonologie published in 1597 whilst he was King of Scotland and the famous Bideford witch trials took place in Exeter in 1682, their hangings being one of the last for witchcraft in England.

Fortune is a wonderful character whose individuality and personality made her an easy target for those looking for a scapegoat for their troubles. Those in power used fear and manipulation to create distrust and division in communities, destroying anyone who challenged the status quo. Sadly, it is not hard to draw parallels with events happening today.

Easily Emma Carroll’s best book to date, ‘The Somerset Tsunami’ is a wonderfully atmospheric, action packed novel which is a joy to read. Historical fiction at its best!

The Somerset Tsunami Emma Carroll

Faber and Faber ISBN: 978-0571332816