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96 items found for ""

  • Mae gan Mam Lwmp: Llyfr lluniau sy’n helpu i esbonio - Simone Baldwin [adapt. Rhys Iorwerth]

    (suggested) reading age: 6+ (suggested) interest age: 3+ (suggested) age by publisher: 4-8 Genre: #rhyme #health #wellbeing #illness #cancer Illustrations: Caroline Eames-Hughes Note: A paperback picture book to support telling young children that a parent has a tumour or has cancer. The poem is aimed at children aged approximately 4–8 years and can be read together as a supportive way to open discussions, with beautiful illustrations to help children understand. The book includes a description for adults of the author’s own experiences of a brain tumour diagnosis and treatment and how she told her family. They say that 1 out of every 2 people will get cancer at some point. Surely, then, you know someone, or have heard of someone who has been affected by the disease. I don't speak from experience, but I can imagine that receiving the news that they’ve 'found a lump' is one of those events that can turn someone's life upside down – almost like a film, where everything fades away and time goes in slow motion. It’s hard to imagine how that would feel without going through the experience yourself. I’ve got two close friends who’ve been affected by brain tumours and I see how it can affect the whole family not just the individual. The issue has just received a lot of attention in the news, when we heard about a 3 year old girl from Wales, who is learning to live with her brain tumour: This is certainly not an easy topic to discuss. Adults have enough trouble talking openly about such sensitive and private things, let alone trying to start the conversation with a young child. With this in mind, I think a book can usually be a good starting point. As we know, books can be very powerful and moving, - a good way to find the right words when they don't come naturally. I'm not for a second saying that giving a book to a child and then sending them off is enough.  Of course it isn’t.  But books are particularly good at being a platform for starting a conversation, especially when the conversation has to be a tough one. According to the author from Llandudno Junction, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour, few resources exist to help try to explain things like this to a young child, or at the very least, finding them can be difficult. That was one of the main reasons for creating the book. One can assume there are even fewer things like this available in Welsh, so I'm pleased to see the book fills some of that gap. Read about her story here on The Brain Tumour Charity website: The story takes the form of a poem, decorated with simple, minimalist illustrations. The look and feel of the book is quite simple – just a little bit of text set against a mostly plain, white background. To me, this is much more suitable than having loads of colours and pictures, given the subject matter. The book is relatively short and doesn't have the information overload you sometimes get, so this is a very suitable book to share with very young children without scaring them. The story itself is short, and gives plenty of scope for any co-reading adult to expand on it should any questions arise. Being that it’s quite vague, the ‘lump’ could refer to several different types of cancer, not just those of the brain. If further questions do come up, which I think they inevitably will, then I think this is a good thing – the book will have achieved it’s core purpose of facilitating a discussion. This is the kind of conversation no one wants to have to have with their children, but if that day comes, it's nice to know that there are simple, lovely and caring resources like this to support in those hard times. Thank you so much Simone for bringing this book into the world. It will help be a big help to many I'm sure. Publisher: Three Bs Publishing Released: 2022 Price: £6.99 Fformat: paperback A Welsh language article about the book: ENGLISH VERSION ALSO AVAILABLE: BOOK ALSO AVAILABLE FOR DADS (ENGLISH ONLY AT PRESENT):

  • Betty - Bywyd Penderfynol Betty Campbell - Nia Morais

    ♥ Book of the month: November 2023♥ (suggested) interest age: 7-11 (suggested) reading age: 7+ Gwales description: Read about Betty Campbell's valuable contribution to our culture as Wales's first black headteacher. Another book in the popular 'Enwogion o Fri' series. Gwales Review - by Delyth Roberts This is a new volume in the critically acclaimed ‘Enwogion o Fri’ series. Betty: Bywyd Penderfynol Betty Campbell was written by Nia Morais, the current Bardd Plant Cymru, and illustrated by Anastasia Magloire. What we get is the life story of Wales' first black headmistress, and her ambition and struggle to overcome prejudice and resistance because of the colour of her skin. Betty Campbell grew to be a strong symbol of an inspiring and selfless individual in pursuit of her goal. Anastasia Magloire is an artist who lives and works in Florida. There is a good marriage between word and image, and the names of other heroes are noted in their chosen fields on the pages celebrating the establishment of October as Black History month. The naming of King Charles and Nelson Mandela on the preceding pages is probably deliberately omitted. The writing is simple and effective, and as Children's Poet of Wales Nia Morais herself wants to encourage children to build their independence and their identity while developing their own personal and powerful voices like Betty Campbell did before them. A review from, with the permission of the Books Council of Wales. Quick review by Sôn am Lyfra As you know, we're big fans of this series in Sôn am Lyfra, and I think the books are very popular all over Wales, whether it's the Welsh or English versions. I've seen them in homes and in our schools. They are excellent and useful educational resources, particularly in the context of the New Curriculum for Wales. Betty's' life has been an amazing one. I'm so pleased that there's proper recognition of it here in Wales – in the form of a statue – and now in this book as well! The recently unveiled statue of her in Cardiff is reportedly the first one of a real, non-fictional female in a public place in Wales. That is hugely significant. (But also outrageous to some extent that there aren’t more of them!) The cartoon/comic style of the book is modern, colourful and striking. It stands out, perhaps more than any of the other books in the series. Betty was a very remarkable individual, and so it's very fitting that the look and feel of the book reflects that. I remember hearing about Rosa Parks' story when I was in primary school, but I think we need to tell our children about our very own Welsh inspirational figure, Betty Campbell, who was determined not to let anything stop her from succeeding. Not even her own nasty teachers, who told her she’d never achieve her dreams! Her story sends a powerful message I feel. This book is well suited for a morning assembly at school or it could be useful when undertaking work exploring the history of Black people in Wales. And whilst it’s a very useful educational resource, but it would also make a nice gift for a child between the ages of 7-9+. This series is going from strength to strength. I’m looking forward to seeing who will be under the spotlight in future books. *There is also an English version of this book. Publisher: Broga Released: 2023 Series: Enwogion o Fri Format: paperback Price: £5.99 MORE ABOUT BETTY:

  • Diwrnod Prysur! - Huw Aaron

    (suggested) reading age: 5+ (suggested) interest age: 0-5 QUICK REVIEW BY LLIO MAI ‘Diwrnod Prysur!’ is a simple picture/word book that reflects a child's busy day. We are introduced to 21 different verbs such as eating, climbing, dancing and laughing. The words are accompanied by one of Huw Aaron's vibrant and colourful doodles. This is a good book to read with a young child/toddler/baby who is starting to learn new vocabulary and I think its an useful book for showing and practicing the daily routine/structure of the day for a child too. As Huw Aaron says 'doing’ and ‘words’ come together for children and they’ll enjoy imitating some of the actions as they read the book. You could play a little game to learn the different actions. Simon Says perhaps… At the back of the book is a translation of the words/sentences with phonetic spellings to help anyone learning Welsh who want to practice some of the words.  This is a great idea and should be included in more books. ‘Diwrnod Prysur!' is a great book to read before bedtime, to learn new vocabulary, but could be one to use during the day in an energetic session exploring actions and movements. It could play a part in helping children make sense of order of the day. This book has no narrative or 'story' in the traditional sense, but that's not what it's trying to be.   Mae ‘Diwrnod Prysur!’ yn lyfr llun a gair syml sy’n adlewyrchu diwrnod prysur plentyn. Cawn ein cyflwyno i 21 o wahanol ferfenwau fel bwyta, dringo, dawnsio a chwerthin. Ynghyd â’r geiriau ceir un o ddarluniau bywiog a lliwgar Huw Aaron o blentyn bach yn gwneud y weithred. Publisher: Gwasg Carreg Gwalch Publication date: Sept. 2023 Format: paperback Price: £6.95

  • Aduniad - Elidir Jones

    (asuggested) interest age: 14+ (suggested) reading age: 13+ Genre: #fiction #shortstory #scary #horror #folk Finding time to read has been challenging lately. With an 8-month-old baby in a house, sleep and spare time are very rare things indeed. Where we used to binge watch tv series in a matter of days, it now takes a hell of a lot longer. It took us over a month to watch the latest season of Happy Valley! How life has changed! Anyway, I’m not complaining. But the reality is, reading lengthy novels is now a thing of the past. I just don't have the stamina. So thank god for the Stori Sydyn (Quick Reads) series. I've read titles from the series before, such as Herio i'r Eithaf by Huw Jack Brassington, and Un Noson by Llio Maddocks, but I think I've forgotten about the series somewhere along the way. Now that I work part time in a library, it's the perfect place to discover new books -that's where I saw this one staring at me with the haunting cover image from the display unit next to the desk. When I saw the cover – 'my kinda book' is what I immediately thought. I wasn't wrong either. Bethan Briggs-Miller has created an excellent cover, and if I ever wrote a horror story, I'd get her to do the artwork. I've enjoyed Elidir Jones' recent horror stories, so keep them coming as far as I’m concerned – the darker the better. It’s great (and terrifying at the same time) that he’s shining a light on some of Wales’ lesser-known folk ghost stories. I've had a telling off about giving too many spoilers, so there won't be anything like that here. What I can say is, that 4 uni friends, Dan, Emyr, Alun and Celt, are having a bit of a reunion, but instead of going to the pub or hitting a strip club, they decide to go camping in the middle of nowhere – the Darran Valley. I think the aim was get the tent set up quickly, light a fire and crack open a few beers, sitting round reminiscing until they drink themselves to sleep. Sounds like a plan! That’d be far too simple though, wouldn’t it? As the blurb suggests, someone – or rather, someTHING – has followed them into the mountains. They all went up as friends, but they may not return that way. One of them has something to hide. LLYGAD AM LYGAD. DANT AM DDANT. BYWYD AM FYWYD. The Stori Sydyn series is ideal for those, like me, who are too tired or lazy to read, or short on time. You're straight into the story, and there's not too much descriptive and emotional fluff. You also get that smug buzz from being able to finish a novel for a change, (then write a little blog about it if I’m lucky!) Oh yeah, and the book cost £1. What's not to like? I've watched quite a few horror movies in my time, and enjoy reading short horror stories. I didn't expect that the book would scare me if I’m being honest. I decided to add to the scary vibes by reading the novel in dim light late at night (the only time I get some peace and quiet!) There were some pretty creepy parts to be fair, and all of a sudden, every little noise in the house sounded much louder... It's been about ten years since I left college, and with everyone scattered all over the place we don’t get the chance to meet much. But if I get a whatsapp message coming through asking about a reunion, I think I'll have to swerve that one! I’m… erm… busy that day! Publisher: Y Lolfa Series: Stori Sydyn Format: paperback Released: 2023 Price: £1 (a bargain btw)

  • Y Bysgodes - Cymdeithas Affrica Gogledd Cymru a Casia Wiliam

    ♥Llyfr y Mis i Blant: Awst 2023♥ (suggested) reading age: 7+ (suggested) interesr age: 5-11 Genre: #magic #fiction #Wales #Africa Illustrations: Jac Jones We all know what happens in the three little pigs, and you’ll of course be familiar with Jack and the Beanstalk. These are well-known stories that originated in England, but have since been incorporated into our own culture. Of course, Wales has plenty of it’s own stories and legends - Cantre'r Gwaelod, Stori Gelert, Dreigiau Dinas Emrys, Stori Branwen to name but a few! For me, Wales has always been associated with the land of song, legends and magic. But I can think of one folk tale you won’t have heard before – Y Bysgodes (The Fish Princess). This is quite different to your average run-of-the-mill story – you’ll hear about the greedy fisherman, a beautiful princess, an old witch and a sneaky snake. The story is the product of an innovative project, between Wales and the North Wales African Society, as part of the BLAS project, ran by Pontio Bangor culture centre.  The project aims to strengthen links between Wales and Africa, as well as helping to bring communities together. I love seeing books that have an international dimension like this, because it brings together the the storytelling traditions of Wales and Africa to create something special. The resulting story is something of a fusion of Welsh and African traditions, to create a legend with different yet familiar elements. Who’s the author of this book? Well, according to Casia Wiliam, she's not the author, she was just the one to bring all the strands together. The ideas all came from the young people who were involved in the project. The book was designed by a God amongst children’s illustrators in Wales, Jac Jones, and his paintings bring the magic of the story to life, in his unique, recognizable way! Be sure to check out the colourful tapestry within the covers displaying the artwork of everyone involved. The book takes it’s inspiration from old Ghanian, Nigerian and Welsh stories to create something completely new. There's quite a bit of text in the story, so it would probably be too difficult for early/young readers, but it’s perfect for enjoying with a parent at bedtime. All the better if the book works as a springboard to inspire others to go on to create new, unique stories. It's about time we had some new ones to tell, adding to our vast collection, that reflect today's modern, multicultural Wales. Sometimes, the story jumps from one place to another in a bit of a whirlwind, and is a mishmash of different elements and ideas. Because of this, at times, the book feels like one that's been written by committee – and that's pretty much true. It was co-written by a lot of people contributing all their amazing, magical, whimsical ideas, so it’s no surprise the book feels busy. My advice is just go with it! Hopefully we’ll see more international projects like this, that bring communities from around the world together, but more importantly – to simply tell a good story. Here's the press statement about the project: More information about Pontio Arts Centre: BLAS project Facebook page: BOOK ALSO AVAILABLE IN ENGLISH: Publisher: Y Lolfa Released: 2023 Price: £5.99

  • Wyneb yn Wyneb - Sioned Wyn Roberts

    ♥Welsh BOM, August 2023♥ (suggested) reading age: 9-13 (suggested) interest age: 8+ Tags: #fiction #Victorian #history #adventure Gwales Description: Twm is a thief, a cheat and a bully. But something is missing in his life and he doesn't know why. One dark night, when Twm is out thieving, he comes face to face with his fate ... and discovers a shocking truth that changes his life for ever. I'm familiar with the author's previous work from my time on the Tir na n-Og panel, where Sioned Wyn Roberts came out on top with a great debut novel, Gwag y Nos. That book was so good, her second novel was going to get a read by default! I've included a screenshot of the first page of Gwag t Nos to show how effective the writing was from the get go. The author starts the second novel with something similar as well. To make it clear, Wyneb yn Wyneb (face to face) isn’t a sequel, but it does exist in the same universe as Gwag y Nos, so a few characters or locations will be familiar. Wyneb yn Wyneb starts in the same place, in the workhouse of Gwag y Nos ­– hell on earth if you recall, where the awful Nyrs Jenat and the cruel Robat Wyllt reign over the unfortunate children. Whilst Jenat was the antagonist last time round, this time it’s Robat Wyllt who’s causing problems as he rules through intimidation and violence. The novel begins with the main character, Twm, explaining how he’s become Robat’s little lapdog. He’s been in his head, and over time, has turned him into a loyal little stooge. Being Robat’s little minion has afforded him some protection and status, but the price has been a heavy one to pay. Twm has turned into a bully himself. He hasn’t a friend in the world, and more than anything he hates himself for it. Whilst we come to learn that Twm, over time and due to Robat’s influence, has turned into someone rather unpleasant, my feeling is that this backstory is somewhat rushed. I would have found this more authentic had we seen a bit more of this and how he interacted with some of the others. After being sent by his ‘boss’ to a local mansion to steal precious jewels, Twm's life is forever changed as he comes up close and personal with a familiar (yet unfamiliar) face. I'll say no more. Having just learned that there’s more going on than meets the eye, and that his life has been one big lie, Twm & co decide to escape and go on the run. Not sure how believable that is considering how quickly it all happened? Anyway, roll with it, because their daring escape lays the basis for a perilous adventure that takes them far from Pwllheli, all the way to docks of Liverpool. Out of the frying pan... Remember, you don't need to read the other book to enjoy Wyneb yn Wyneb, as it effectively works on its own. I'm being honest I didn't enjoy this novel quite as much as the last one; it just didn’t make the same impact on me. However, it was good to return to Gwag y Nos once again. I was strongly reminded of the English classic, Street Child by Berlie Doherty, while reading the book. I'm sure the main character ran away in there too. Sioned’s writing style is unique – easy to read, colloquial and natural, making use of short, punchy sentences. (we don’t need overly long sentences do we? Just get to the point innit!) The language can be quite blunt/hard-hitting at times, which works well. With one Tir na n-Og Award under her belt, Sioned Roberts has proved herself to be adept at writing an adventure story. Is there more to say in the Gwag y Nos world I wonder? Could this be a trilogy?  I wouldn’t be surprised that Robat Wyllt will be looking for his revenge after the events of this novel… Publisher: Atebol Released: 2023 Price: £7.99 Format: paperback

  • Ble Mae Santa / Where's Santa? - Pip Williams [adapt. Luned Whelan]

    (suggested) reading age: 5+ (suggested) interest age: 0-5 Gwales description: Play hide-and-SNOW-seek with this magic searchlight book where hidden Christmas characters are revealed on the 'clever window' on each right-hand page! There are five festive scenes to 'go-seek' and find the hidden Christmas characters. Just insert the included magic card 'searchlight' between the page under each clever window and be amazed as the hidden pictures are revealed. One of the most interesting things that I did in 2023 was getting a job in a library. It's such a fun place to work, and it's really handy for finding out about new books. One such example is Ble mae Santa/ Where’s Santa? I only found out about this because a girl brought it to the counter to scan because she wanted to borrow it. I thought it was rather cool and a novel idea (if you pardon the pun!) Here's a few bullet points about it: It's bilingual - so great if you're learning Welsh and want to support your child's reading. If you already speak Welsh, well then you get two stories for the price of one! The style is colourful and modern. I really like the animation/caroon style. The book includes a torch that you can use to search for special items or characters. This makes the reading way more fun than usual. I'd imagine this book would go down well especially with children who normally don't care to sit down for a story. Just slide the torch in between the pages in the 'special window' to get it to work. Such a simple but effective idea. The torch makes the book interactive and gives the young reader something to actually do. Watch the video clip below to see how it works: Publisher: Rily Released: 2022 Price: £6.99 Format: hardback/boardbook

  • Mari a Mrs Cloch - Caryl Lewis

    (suggested) interest age: 3+ (suggested) reading age: 7+ Illustrations: Valériane Leblond Every year several Christmas books pop up, but this is the one that drew my attention this year, and it's one of those you can keep going back to again and again, year after year. It's certainly a keeper. Isn’t this such a beautiful book? It’s very much worthy of a hardback. The partnership between Caryl Lewis (author) and Valériane Leblond (illustrator) has been very successful in the past, giving us gems such as Sgleinio'r Lleuad a Merch y Mêl. One can instantly recognize Valériane's style, and pairing her pictures with Caryl's words works very well. I like the contrast between the coldness of the night and the warmth of the houses. The white Christmas on the cover conjures an image of a traditional, old-fashioned Christmas – like how one imagines what Christmas used to be like. In fact, I'm still hoping that we'll get a white Christmas one day, but I’ve been doing this since 2010! Mari and her Mum are busy baking mince pies on Christmas Eve, and as the little girl stares through the window, she notices the strange little cottage next door, with its higgledy-piggledy walls. Some of those Welsh adjectives are simply gorgeous, and we don’t use them often enough! An old lady, Mrs Cloch, lives in the house, but Mari hasn't seen anyone call there to visit her. With the cottage looking lonely in the darkness, the young girl is rather sad about it. This is a very relevant theme in this modern times. With everyone leading such busy lives and the changes in society, how many of us actually know our neighbours? Will you be dropping in on them over Christmas? I count myself incredibly lucky that I have family around me, and that we can all get together over the festive season. But not everyone has this luxury, and I'm sure many will be lonely over the holidays, especially amongst the elderly. As for the story, I'm not sure if I quite buy the idea that such a young child would be allowed out into the night all alone by their parents, but I’m thinking too much about it I know! I understand it’s important for the narrative so I'll let that one slide on this occasion! When Mari arrives at the cottage, which is cold and dark outside, she is welcomed by Mrs Cloch, who is delighted to see her. I can’t help thinking about my own Grandparents here. With the days long and tedious in the house all day, having the company of us, the grandchildren, brightens their day. As I get older myself, it’s not the gifts that matter to me, but spending time with the most important people in my life. As the hours go by, and with Mrs Cloch and Mari enjoying each other’s company, they decorate the cottage whilst waiting for Mrs Cloch’s son. Who is he I wonder? Well, he’s a bit late because he’s ever so busy on Christmas Eve and has to do a lot of travelling. Go figure! Each year, you always get a few new Christmas books, and Mari and Mrs Cloch is one of the best. For me, the obvious message of the story is love your neighbour, and be kind. If you know of someone who is frail or lonely, head over to see them from time to time, especially at Christmas. Your company will be enough I'm sure – but a mince pie or two would go down a treat! This has the potential to become one of those Christmas classics, a bit like Raymond Brigg's The Snowman in English. It’ll have a place on the Sôn am Lyfra shelf for some years to come, and I look forward to sharing it with my son when he’s a bit older. Note: The date where I finally posted this review is January 15th (I forgot to do this before Christmas. Oops) Yes, Christmas 2023 may have come and gone, but remember it's never too early to start buying Christmas books. Grab a copy ready for next Christmas! Publisher: Y Lolfa Released: 2023 Price: £7.99 Format: Hardback

  • Babi Cyffwrdd a Theimlo: Nadolig / Baby Touch and Feel: Christmas

    (suggested) interest age: 0+ Genre: #nonfiction #baby #Christmas #boardbook I brought this book home from the library for my five-and-a-half-month son. I grew up with DK books so I knew and trusted the brand. The 'Baby Touch and Feel' series is a series of bilingual book that help babies recognise new words, see amusing patterns and feel different textures. This book is colourful and full of festive cheer. The pocket size of the book is handy for bringing it on outings in the pram, and the hardback (which is also quite squishy) is very tough and durable enough to handle a lot of dribbles– it needs to be frankly, because everything is being chewed at the moment. Yes, we’re in that phase. I love seeing the look of wonder on his little face about absolutely everything. As adults, we can sometimes forget that everything is new and fascinating for babies. In the book, there are sparkling stars, an icy snowman, a cute penguin, a fluffy teddy bear and more. Some shine and others have small bits of different materials for small hands to 'touch and feel' and experience new things and sensations. If 'reading' independently (I use the term reading loosely) the little one usually likes to hold the book and practice picking it up, gripping it, turning a few pages etc. The fact that he doesn't really take notice of the contents of the book doesn't bother me at all - he's busy exploring the book and getting used to holding books, which develops those fine motor skills and prepares him for a book-filled future. As a tatty old library book, this didn’t cost me a penny, and it did the trick. Although Broc loves it, I’m a little disappointed if I’m being critical. I think the touch textures need a bit more variety – they're all pretty boring and quite unremarkable. Doesn’t bother him though, so who cares really! I think a newer version of this book has been released earlier this year, under the title Baby Touch and Feel: Merry Christmas / Baby Touch and Feel: Merry Christmas. This version may well have more to offer, but I haven't seen it myself. Publisher: Dref Wen Released: 2011 Price: £3.99 (out of print) Format: boardbook /hardback

  • Yr Ardd Anweledig - Valérie Picard [adapt. Luned Aaron]

    Finalist at the Prix des Libraires Jeunesses 2018 - Category 0-5 years old. Lux Prize 2018 - CHILDREN'S BOOK (suggested) reading age: 5+ (suggested) interest age: 3-7+ Illustrations: Marianne Ferrer Something a bit different Like most of us involved in the book industry in Wales in one way or another, we do it because we love books and are passionate about getting people reading- we certainly don't do it for the money! Recently, I came across a small international oddity on the bookshelf. It's not often you see a clothbound book these days. This book seems a bit of a curiosity, and whilst I don’t see it selling hundreds of copies, it’s an interesting one nonetheless and adds to the variety of alternative books out there. It's good that publishers like Broga like to take a gamble every now and then, by publishing rather peculiar delights, instead of the usual samey things. It’s also nice to see international adaptations from countries other than England for a change. I think the book was first published in French, under the title Le Jardin Invisible. For your £12.99 you get a good quality hardback book, and the pages feel glossy and thick, which is sure to last for years to come. Granted, in a cost-of-living crisis, every penny counts and if price is an issue, remember about your local libraries who are more than happy to help. Do we need words at all? As Luned and Huw Aaron run Llyfrau Broga, I'm sure it was Marianne Ferrer's beautiful artwork that appealed to them in the first place when they decided to translate the book into Welsh. We start with a little car travelling from the ‘big city’ whilst a little girl asks "are we almost there?" (classic line) as she approaches a majestic forest. In a small clearing in the trees, a little red house stands out. It's Grandma's House, and it's her birthday. After becoming fed up of the adults’ boring conversations, it is suggested that Elsi go out into the garden to play. To begin with, she’s bored there too. But when a small pebble draws her attention, this opens the door for an extraordinary adventure, which takes her over the mountains, under the water, and flying with mighty insects. Is it that they are huge and she is small? Who knows! Is she actually in the garden or is it all a dream? It doesn’t matter. It does feel like a crazy dream as she catapults from one extraordinary situation to another. Wait a minute, has she gone back in time? It's not clear. Possibly. The dinosaurs she encounters suggest she may have been travelling through space and time. Many of the scenes are open to interpretation, and each reader is likely to see something different. The book takes us on a journey into the mind of a child. Once she's in the garden, and her imagination is free to roam, the possibilities are limitless. In fact, the story can feel a bit confusing at times as it moves from one unbelievable thing to another - not too dissimilar to Alice in Wonderland! The trick is not to overthink things, and just go with it, letting Elsi's imagination take you on an adventure. Whilst reading, I was reminded of going to my great-grandmother's house in Llanrwst. Over the years, the garden had overgrown into something of a monster, and I loved going there to explore. One day, in the middle of the foliage, I found an Austin Maestro van and an old 'outside' toilet almost totally covered in ivy. What fun – and thankfully there wasn’t an Xbox or a playstation in sight! Here's the thing, there’s actually very little text in the book. No more than about 30 words give or take. Just enough to nudge the 'story' forward. This is the strength of the book, and also, its weakness, depending on which side of the fence you sit. I think this is a book that will split opinion. Some will love it, some won’t. For the creative, imaginative people who like these kinds of books, the sparse text lets the pictures do the talking, and the story is so open, that it will read differently each time, depending on the reader. The ambiguity certainly leaves plenty of room for many conversations about things such as the contrast between city and country life or how to overcome boredom. One question I would ask a young reader is ‘was it all a dream?’ Of course, there will be others who will feel that the story lacks structure and that there’s just not enough of a ‘story’ there to tell. This probably depends on whether or not you’re used to wordless picturebooks. Fans know that they can be incredibly useful, powerful and flexible resources that open the mind and stimulate discussion. Publisher: Broga Released: Medi 2023 Price: £12.99 Format: hardback/clothbound

  • Gladiatrix - Bethan Gwanas

    (suggested) reading level/age: 15+ (suggested) interest age: 15+ Genre: #fiction #adventure #history Themes: *fighting , blood + gore, violence, sexual references Review by Rebecca Roberts Gladiatrix is the story of sisters Rhiannon and Heledd – a story that takes us from Ynys Môn under the rule of the Druidic tribe, the Orddwig, to Rome and Halicarnassus in Turkey.  After the Roman army under the leadership of Suetonius Paulinus massacres their community, Rhiannon and Heledd also expect to die under the sword. But their own prowess as fighters earns them a reprieve and they are sent to Rome and trained to be gladiatrix, to fight in front of the crowds in the amphitheatre. I’m not one for sharing detailed plot recaps in reviews, so I’ll simply say that the plot, as in every book by Bethan Gwanas, is tight and every chapter is filled with emotion, excitement and tension. I devoured the book – once I began reading it was hard to stop. Several times I had a lump in my throat, or punched the air in glee. The main characters are vivid and real, and I was genuinely sad to see some of them face the chop. (No spoilers from me – read it to find out who survives and who gets a trident to the throat!) It's a historical adventure novel, and I really enjoyed the way Gwanas managed to incorporate several important historical figures -Suetonius Paulinus, Boudica, Caradog, Spartacus – into the narrative and portrayed the day-to-day lives of characters in Ynys Môn and Rome without slowing down the plot. Her thorough research is evident, and the sections where she depends more on her imagination and theorising (as the Celts were not keepers of written records) are convincing. The writing appeals to all the senses, and is so evocative that at times I felt as though I was standing side-by-side with the characters. Despite the violence of the period, and the sadness of the characters as they watched their family and peers die one by one, it is not a dark nor sombre novel. It is a novel about sisterhood, and learning to forgive and to survive. If it’s not completely obvious by now, I absolutely loved it. Well done, Gwanas – this is your best book yet. Review by MORGAN DAFYDD “Father to a murdered son. Husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.” If you recognize that iconic line, you’ll know that it comes from one of the best films of all time – Gladiator. Well now you can forget about Rusell Crowe, because we’ve got our very own book about Gladiators now thanks to Bethan Gwanas – and it’s brilliant. Its shows how good original Welsh novels can be. What little information I had about Gladiators pretty much came from cartoons like Asterix vs Julius Caesar. I’d never quite realised that they were, in fact, slaves, and I certainly didn’t know that there were females Gladiators too! That’s so cool. (or unfortunate for them, depending on which way you look at it!) So the title, Gladiatrix, is the word for female Gladiators and I think it works really well as a title. It has clout. It definitely stands out on the shelves amongst loads of samey Welsh book titles. The beautiful artwork too is just begging to be picked up and purchased. I also knew very little about the Druids who also appear in the novel, but to be fair, no one is quite sure about them, because the evidence is quite sparse. I like how she interpreted them, anyway. Now I'm not suggesting for a moment that a fictional novel like Gladiatrix is going to give you a precise historical account of the period, because that's not what it’s for. Despite the fact that it’s just pure easy-read entertainment, I feel like I've come to know more about these turbulent times in our history a little better, and if anything, it's made me eager to learn more. Living a stone's throw away from Caerhun (Canovium was the Roman name), the evidence of their time here is all around us, if you know where to look. As Bethan herself says, much of our information about this early period is very fragmented, and sometimes there are no records at all. Obviously then, she's taken little pieces of history, and with a little bit of fill in the blanks and some artistic licence, she’s managed to weave an excellent and utterly believable story around the facts. A lot of meticulous research has gone into this book, and the attention to detail is commendable. (it took about two years to write the novel, so fair play!) I’m not going to say much more than what it does on the blurb, to avoid ruining it. What I can say, is that it revolves around two teenage sisters, Rhiannon and Heledd, who were living quite contentedly on Anglesey, with the rest of the Orddwig tribe and their ‘wise’ old leaders… until the Romans show up. Yes, the Roman army has arrived right on their doorstep. Oh dear.  But to think how serious this is, the response from the island natives is quite laughable! As Suetonius Paulinus marches his troops ever closer, the islanders engage in some bizarre pagan rituals, in the hope that their sacrifices will be enough to save them. 'The Romans haven’t got a hope in hell’ they say. Oh lord, they’ve no idea what’s coming for them… When they do finally come face to face with ruthless Roman military force, the sisters are captured and before being taken far far away. After living freely all their lives, they must let all that go, and accept the fact that they are prisoners and will be forced to fight as Gladiators to entertain the Romans. Death might have actually been a blessing. When Gladiators meet in the arena, with the crowd baying for blood, only one competitor is ever likely to come out alive. It’s kill or be killed in the amphitheatre and weakness is fatal. How far will the two sisters be willing to go? I’ll say no more. Other than the fact that BG knocks you for six several times. I was on tenterhooks throughout most of the novel, and some bits of it are enough to make you sick! (though, I must admit, I love all the violence, blood and gore!) Who’s the audience? This is a topic that always gets a bit of discussion going among bookworms. In the case of this book, it’s what I call an OI! Book. (that’s Oedolion Ifanc = Young Adult) But does there need to be a label at all? Ok, so the main characters are teenage girls, but the book will appeal to a wider audience. In fact, I can’t stress enough that adults should read it too. It’d be a huge shame if they didn’t, simply because it’s located on YA shelves. If anything, books in this category are much better – they get straight to the action usually, and there’s less waffle. The author has already proven herself a dab hand at writing fantasy stories that hook you in from the first page and leave you desperate for more. The Melanai series was great, but Gladiatrix goes a step further and is darker and bloodier. What a shame that S4C hasn’t got Hollywood budget, because this is the type of story that would make a hell of a movie! We had fun at the launch event discussing which Welsh actors could play the different characters! Mici Plwm as a pompous Roman general perhaps? Martin Sheen in some capacity? Who could play the sisters I wonder? Because of the fighting, the violence, the bloodshed and the executions the book won't be for everyone, but if you like things like Vikings, Game of Thrones, The 300, Spartacus etc., then you’ll definitely get on with this one. But, remember, amidst the horrors of the situation, this is essentially a story about two sisters, their strength and will to survive. I haven't wanted to read much lately, probably because I can’t keep my eyes open past 8pm (we’ve a 5-month yr old in the house so need I say more?). But this was the book to change that, because I read it all in a couple of days, and it’s given me the kick in the arse I needed to get reading again. Thank you, Bethan. No word of a lie; my favourite novel of 2023. It’s got blood, guts and Gladiators - what more could you ask for? Publisher: Lolfa Released: 2023 Price: £9.99

  • Llyfr Bath: Ffrindiau'r Fferm / Farm Friends [adapt. Elin Meek]

    (suggested) reading age: 5+ (suggested) interest age: 0+ Genre: #bathbook #baby #firstbooks #farm Bath time with a baby can be a pleasure or a complete nightmare! Fortunately, in the case of our 4-month-old son, he seems to love the water, and enjoys splashing and soaking us as we try and get bath time done! Except for feeding time, I think it's his favourite time of day. Although other things crop up, for the most part, we try to give him a bath every night as part of his bedtime routine. The other day, he got this book, Ffrindiau’r Fferm / Farm Friends, from his Nain and he loves it. It's a bath book, so it's made of a soft, wipe clean plastic, and therefore completely safe to get wet. For the last two weeks, he’s been putting absolutely EVERYTHING in his mouth. That's the way babies get to know the world apparently. If he can get hold of something, you can bet it’s going to be chewed up. It’s a good thing then that this book is tough enough to deal with all that. In the book, there are colourful pictures with farm animals, with bilingual text – ideal for anyone looking to introduce a bit of Welsh to their children. When my friends have babies, these bath books are my go-to’s for simple, useful and inexpensive gifts. Despite being a bath book, it’s getting a lot more use than that. For example, we've started taking it in the pram on our outings because it's lightweight and a pocket size. It's just something handy for him to have in his hand to play with and keep his attention. He’s not too keen on the car seat, so anything to keep him quiet is a godsend! Right now, I'm not worried that he's not actually reading the book, but he's definitely examining it with his mouth and enjoying staring at the bright pictures. The important thing is that he’s going to be familiar with holding books. Everything else will come in time... Also, as part of the series there’s a book with sea creatures, Ffrindiau’r Cefnfor/ Friends of the Ocean. I’ll probably get a copy of one of those to keep in Nain’s house. Publisher: Dref Wen Series: Llyfr Bath Price: £6.00

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