The list of entertainers who have tried their hand at writing for children is really quite long – but the number who have been successful is very short. Top of that list is David Walliams who has just released his third collection of stories about the World’s Worst Children!
Within these pages we meet Bonnie Bossypants who bosses everyone around. She sends her father to his room for not finishing his peas and her mother for speaking without putting her hand up first. Pretty soon she’s bossing her teachers at school until ‘Wonder nanny’ arrives to sort her out.
There’s Fanny who loves to shock, appal and terrify people with the horrible faces she pulls. But when she scares the guards on sentry duty at Buckingham Palace it turns out to be a step too far.
Worst of the bunch is boastful Barnabus who goes to the poshest school in the country. Each time he boasts his head swells until something pricks his inflated self-importance – literally.
These laugh out loud tales reach a satisfying conclusion as each child gets their deserved comeuppance.
HarperCollins Hardback, £14.99
They say no news is good news. But what that means, of course, is that the stories in our newspapers and TV bulletins tend mostly to be bad news. And in turn our view of the world is coloured by this tendency.
This book analyses that negative influence on our world view – and it is a dramatic bias. In a survey people were asked a series of questions about such important issues as levels of child poverty, disease, deaths from natural disasters and many other important world trends. Most people believed the world to be in a much worse state than it really is. And the difference was so great that even journalists, scientists and politicians were less accurate in answering these questions than chimpanzees picking answers at random!
The bias runs through all the media. The unusual and dramatic always attract the most attention. One death from a bear attack in Sweden, for example, generates acres of news print while numerous deaths resulting from domestic violence are barely mentioned. When such distortions affect political decision-making and budgeting the result can affect every one of us.
This book is both a call to look more carefully at the world and manifesto for rationality and good sense in all walks of life.
Sceptre hardback, £12.99
After six gruelling years working as a junior doctor Adam Kay’s medical career ended abruptly after a particularly traumatic experience. He had recorded his journey from House Officer through to Senior Registrar in dairies and, discovering a talent for writing and performing, he turned his experiences first into a stand-up musical comedy show and eventually into this award-winning book.
It is by turns both shockingly funny and heart breaking as he describes the people and situations that are faced daily by junior doctors. As his speciality he chose obstetrics and gynaecology, known in medical school as “brats and twats”. And he has some hilarious stories to tell, some involving extremely unusual objects and his patient’s most private parts! But there is also the pain and loss when things don’t go to plan and the drama of emergency operations.
The book also documents the effect that working a 97-hour week can have on the lives of our young doctors; the stress, the cancelled holidays and the fractured relationships. Written as mass demonstrations against recent NHS ‘reforms’ were taking place he observes that in fact that the £3 an hour parking meter outside was actually earning more than he was!
Picador paperback, £8.99
It’s pretty clear how some birds got their names. Blackcap and whitethroat for instance are simply descriptive. Or cuckoo and screech owl where the song or call is referenced. Then there are birds like the woodpecker or flycatcher whose name describes their behaviour.
But for most birds the name is a puzzle. The bearded tit is neither bearded nor a tit! And what of the isabelline wheatear? Could it be named after Princess Isabella, sixteenth century ruler of the Netherlands? Isabella vowed not to change her underwear until the siege of Ostend was over. Unfortunately, it lasted three years and the colour of her undergarments became known as Isabelline!
There are names which are older than the Anglo-Saxon era. Auk is from old Norse, rook is Germanic and the word goose, our oldest bird name, has been tracked back to the steppes of eastern Europe, more than five thousand years ago.
This is a fascinating exploration of our birds, tracing their names through history, folk lore, literature and science and spiced with the intrepid adventures some distinctly eccentric ornithologists.
This moving and compassionate novel features Jen Maddox and her 15 year-old daughter, Lana. They have the kind of fractured and turbulent relationship, not unusual between parents and their teenage children but one night, midway through a painting retreat in the Peak District, Lana disappears without trace.
After four days she is finally found. She is cut, bruised, hungry, cold and wet but is unable to explain where she has been or what has happened. The longer Lana remains silent about those four days, the more concerned and worried her mother becomes. Suspicion falls upon some of the eccentric characters on the retreat but at the heart of the story is Lana’s disturbed adolescence and her family’s struggle to understand her.
Issues around social media, teenage depression and relationships are handled with insight and with humour as the truth of those missing days is slowly revealed.
Penguin Hardback, £12.99.
It is so easy to overlook the interesting things we walk past every day,
For instance, the pillar box just outside our shop is really a rather special large capacity, double aperture George V model! One of a good many rare pillar boxes amongst the 107 located around Colchester.
During the last war London’s first line of defence against a possible invasion force centred on Colchester. Known as the Colchester Stop Line, the town became a heavily fortified anti-tank ‘island’. Many of the defences can still be seen. There are concrete blocks peeping from the shrubbery of front gardens in Old Heath Road and others clearly visible beneath the trees in Castle Park.
Look up at Jumbo and see 15 bricks carved with the initials of the Water Works Committee members. They are 30 feet high as a result of a badly organised and much delayed foundation stone laying ceremony!
In the rocks of the roman wall there are some ammonite fossils dating from the Jurassic period 100 million years ago.
Packed with pictures, this book highlights Colchester’s fascinating hidden secrets and should set you off on a fresh exploration of our town’ s rich history.