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  • Sara Mai a Lleidr y Neidr - Casia Wiliam

    *For Welsh review, see language toggle switch on top of page* Suggested reading age: 8+ Suggested interest age: 7-11 Genre: #animals #fiction #friendship #WelshOriginal Illustrations: Gwen Millward I'm sure that Casia Wiliam, the author, felt a teeny bit of pressure whilst writing the follow up novel to the very successful Sw Sara Mai. The first installment went on to win the Welsh Language Primary age category in the Tir na n-Og Awards 2021. Not an easy task to top that! I think she’s definitely maintained the standard with this one, and frankly I enjoyed this one as much if not more than its predecessor. The ingredients that Sw Sara Mai so popular are all there, but we’re now a lot more familiar with the likeable characters, and we are even introduced to a few new ones as well. The first novel was praised for introducing a main character of mixed race and also for including some discussion about racism. Of course, this is a good thing - our literature needs to reflect our society today. For me, the success of both novels is how these subjects are presented so naturally. In the first story, the zoo's own future was threatened, but this time, as the title suggests, someone has stolen a snake - but this is no ordinary snake, oh no, but a rare Purple Albino Python. The situation requires Sara Mai to become a detective in order to solve the big mystery: 'who’s the snake thief?' At the start of her investigation, a number of her friends and colleagues come under suspicion. Is it a stranger who’s to blame or is there someone closer to home hiding right under her nose? No more spoilers from me sorry! I think it was a wise decision to locate the story in such an interesting place as a zoo. After all, most people like animals, don’t they? I appreciated the facts about different animals that are sprinkled here and there in the book. I have to admit that I hadn't heard of a pademelon before! The animals provide opportunities to present topics such as loss, grief and relationships in a sensitive and relatable way. I liked how the author turned things on it’s head with this novel. In the first one, Sara Mai was upset because someone had been saying nasty things about her. This time, we see that Sara Mai herself isn’t always perfect and she learns an important message about being kind and respecting others, even if they look different or have different interests. The natural, easy-to-read language means that the Sara Mai books are perfect for 7-11 year olds and I would recommend these as novels that primary teachers should consider investing in. Review by Morgan Dafydd A review from, with the permission of the Books Council of Wales. Publisher: Y Lolfa Published: 2021 Price: £5.99 ISBN: 9781800991170 HAVE YOU READ THE FIRST BOOK IN THE SERIES? ♥BOOK OF THE MONTH: AUGUST 2020 ♥ ♥WINNER Tir na n-Og 2021 ♥

  • Ffwlbart Ffred: Yn Dywyll fel Bol Buwch - Sioned Wyn Roberts

    *For Welsh, see language toggle switch on top of page* Reading age: 6+ Interest age: 3+ Illustrations: Bethan Mai Insta:@bethan_mai Genre: #picturebook #WelshOriginal #funny #fiction After the last two years, I think we could all do with a little bit of light relief and something to make us smile. I’d say this is even more important in our children's books, because there really is no better way of fostering a love of reading than with humour. I was a big fan of the first book in the Ffwlbart Ffred series and I thought it was a cracking idea to have a funny little story to ‘explain’ where some of our most well-known idioms came from. This time, ‘dywyll fel bol buwch’ is getting the Ffwlbart treatment. When you actually stop and think about it, these idioms are actually quite bizarre! Who came up with the phrase ‘dywyll fel bol buwch?’ [as dark as a cow’s belly] The Welsh language is full of little quirks like this! You’re sure to have a giggle reading this story, and it’s chock a block with funny rhyming couplets about a rather cross Aunty Gyrti and a cow who won’t produce any milk! What does half a pork pie, Nain Chwilog’s glasses have to do with all this? And what will Dr Ffwlbart have to say about all this? I’ll warn you – there’s plenty of talk of cow’s bottoms, nickers and a couple of underpants! Does it get any better? I’d imagine it’s quite difficult to come across someone who doesn't like this story. Bethan Mai's delicate pictures bring the story’s fun and mischief to life. This is a special partnership between a writer and an artist that grew naturally from a residential course at the Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre. Awesome. These books are naturally funny and mischievous, full of silly over-the-top fun. Just what we need really. I'm looking forward to seeing which idiom or saying the Ffwlbart will be tackling next time. I have two young cousins (who can be a bit wild at times) and it’s not always easy to settle them down for a story that really keeps their attention. I can GUARANTEE that they’ll love this one, and and fairly confident it’ll find it’s way into Santa’s stocking this year! The 'verdict' - one of my personal 'top 5' books for 3–7-year-olds published this year. Grab yourself a copy! Publisher: Atebol Released: 2021 Price: £6.99 ISBN: 9781913245412 ABOUT THE AUTHOR: SIONED WYN ROBERTS Yn wreiddiol o Bwllheli ond wedi ymgartrefu yng Nghaerdydd, bu Sioned yn gweithio yn y maes darlledu plant ers dros ugain mlynedd. Ar hyn o bryd mae'n Gomisiynydd Cynnwys Plant yn S4C ac yn gyfrifol yn olygyddol am raglenni 'Cyw' a 'Stwnsh'. Cyn hynny, bu'n cynhyrchu ac yn uwch-gynhyrchu rhaglenni plant gyda'r BBC. Dewiswyd Sioned fel un o awduron cwrs Llenyddiaeth Cymru a Chyngor Llyfrau Cymru (Tŷ Newydd Chwefror 2019). Dyma lle datblygodd ei syniad ar gyfer y gyfres hon o lyfrau. Cred Sioned bod creu cynnwys safonol yn y Gymraeg sy'n tanio dychymyg plant ac sy'n helpu caffael iaith yn hanfodol. ALSO IN THE SERIES...

  • O'r Tywyllwch (2021) -Mair Wynn Hughes

    *For Welsh, please see language toggle switch on top of page* Reading Age: 11+ Interest age: 11+ Genre: #fiction #dysoptian #environment #adventure New 'Best of the Best' Series Sound familiar? It should do, because ‘O’r Tywyllwch’ [from the darkness] was originally published in 1991. You may remember seeing it from on the bookshelf years ago, or this may have even been your weekly reading book at school. The first three volumes in the ‘Gorau’r Goreuon’ series are out. These have all been given a modern re-vamp, to ensure they look fresh and appealing for today’s readers. After all, people have quite high expectations nowadays! They’ve all had specially commissioned updated covers, and are a huge improvement on the originals. Are we always looking for something new? They say a good story doesn't age. And to an extent, that’s true. But books certainly do age. Some better than others. One thing’s for sure, they can definitely be forgotten. This is probably what happened in the case of O'r Tywyllwch by Mair Wynn Hughes. Just a year ago, you’d have struggled to get hold a copy of the original version, except for that one second-hand copy on ebay for over a £100! And this is not a problem confined to this particular book. There are hundreds of good novels, well worth reading, that are out of print and have long been forgotten. In the mainstream British publishing world, many old books are still widely available and in print. Many are considered classics. I’m talking about your Christmas Carols, Black Beauties, Charlotte's Webs, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe etc. In England, they still seem to value older books, but in Wales, many of our ‘classics’ are gathering dust on charity shop shelves, school storerooms or even worse, the landfill. The reason why? A total lack of awareness of books from days gone by. Do we show enough appreciation for the children's literature of days gone by (with the exception of T. Llew Jones, of course) or are we too quick to forget? This raises another question - do Welsh books for children get enough attention in general? Is re-publishing the answer? There’s always two points of view. Some will say that it’s foolish to look back at what has already been. You could say that it’s all in the past and that republishing books is lazy, simply because we are bereft of ideas. What a ridiculous thing to say! I think it's important to have plenty of choice and diversity. There’s definitely room for a balance between old and new. A good story is a good story in my opinion, and there are far too many good Welsh language books 'out of print' and unavailable. That's why I welcome the shameless nostalgia of ‘Gorau’r Goreuon’ and wish it the very best. Maybe I am a bit biased. Of course, not all books are suitable for re-publication. Some are horrendously dated and contain views and stereotypes that are totally unsuitable today. Having said that, there are plenty of lost treasures out there, just waiting to be introduced to a new generation. Some old stories fully deserve to be considered 'classics' and are still very relevant to us today, with ‘O’r Tywyllwch’ being a very good example of this. Manon Steffan Ros’s Review This story actually needed very little changing or updating, which is a testament to the standard of the original. A few months ago, Manon Steffan Ros tweeted about the original book after she re-discovered it by chance, and she was kind enough to write us a review at the time. As the actual story is more or less the same as the original, here is an extract from her review: I don’t know how on earth I forgot about this novel, because honestly, it's great. I'm a big fan of Sci-Fi books and especially of dystopian novels, but I often feel they can be too busy, with too much happening and the characters fall rather flat. O’r Tywyllwch isn't like this at all- the first thing to draw you in is the friendship between the two main characters, Hywyn and Meilyr. They live in our world, but, perhaps a future one. The earth has warmed, and you have to wear special suits before venturing outside. Big plans are afoot- everyone will have to go and live in a special city in the mountains, and shut out fresh air and the outside world forever. Not everyone wants to go, but they have no choice. This is the start of the tension in the story. There’s also a second part to the story, about the experience of living in the underground city generations after the great migration. I was frightened by this part, because this new nightmarish world felt so real. A few parts of it felt like the world in George Orwell's famous novel, 1984- but for me, O’r Tywyllwch is more personal, more familiar, and thus a hundred times more shocking. I’m doing my best not to drop spoilers here, but I think the ending might feel too vague for some. For me, I like the fact that the novel doesn't finish with a definitive answer to each question. In fact, the ending feels like a challenge for us, the reader – What are we going to do next as the world gets hotter? Publisher: Y Lolfa Released: 2021 Series: Gorau'r Goreuon Price: £6.99 ISBN: 9781800991361 OTHER BOOKS IN THIS SERIES...

  • Pwyll a Rhiannon - Aidan Saunders [Welsh words - Mererid Hopwood]

    *For English, see language toggle switch on top of page* Reading age: 7+ Interest age: 7-11+ Following the success of Branwen, author/illustrator Aidan Saunders @printwagon is back with a new volume that reimagines a story from the first branch of The Mabinogi, the story of Pwyll and Rhiannon. These myths and legends are an important part of our Celtic storytelling tradition, and have been told and re-told throughout the centuries. I hope this book will succeed in introducing the wonderful mythology of The Mabinogi to a new generation of young readers. I believe that the author has wisely selected which its to include and which ones to omit when creating a fresh and contemporary version of an old story. With its unusual long, narrow shape and it’s impressive lino print artwork, this distinctive book demands your attention as you glance past it on the bookshelf. We tend to forget about pictures in books by the time we reach the 7+ age group so I’m delighted to see a book that celebrates having illustrations to look at, making it abundantly clear that picture books are suitable for older children as well as younger ones. You’ll be fascinated by the author’s work, which looks like a beautiful medieval tapestry, with all sorts of subtle nods to ancient Celtic life. Without going into too much detail, we have here the story of Pwyll Pendefig Dyfed, [Prince of Dyfed], a man chosen by the strong-willed and mysterious Rhiannon to be her husband. There's only one small problem, she's supposed to marry someone else! I wonder if there’s going to be a happy ever after with this one? I doubt it’ll be that simple – this is the Mabinogi, after all. You’re in for a treat – you’ll get a story full of adventure, passion, treachery, violence and some helpings of sorcery to go with that that! One of the unique advantages of this book is the fact that it contains Mererid Hopwood's perfectly adapted text directly opposite the English words, which means that the book's appeal reaches a wider audience. Given the bilingual nature of modern-day Wales, I’d like to see more bilingual books like this one coming to market. A review from, with the permission of the Books Council of Wales. Publisher: Atebol Released: Hydref 2021 Price: £6.99 ISBN: 9781801060820

  • Tomos Llygoden y Theatr a Feiolet Pot Blodau - Caryl Parry Jones a Craig Russell

    Reading age: 6/7+ Interest age: 5-8 ♥Welsh Original♥ Genre: #fiction #funny #empathy We’ve all been away from the theatres for quite some time, haven’t we? And guess who’s been patiently waiting for us? Yes, everyone’s favourite little mouse, Tomos Llygoden! He’s back with a new story (the fifth in the series) and he’s got a new friend for us to meet – Feiolet Pot Blodau. A few cleaning ladies work at the theatre, but Feiolet is by far the mice’s favourite, and it’s easy to see why. She’s kind and thoughtful but ever so slightly mad! She does things a bit differently, which is how she came to have her nickname, because she wears a flower pot on her head! See, I told you she was unique! The main reason she’s so popular is because she’s actually a pretty lousy cleaning lady, which means more than enough cookies and crumbly treats are left for them to enjoy! Although brilliant for the mice, it’s not so good for Mr Meilir, the manager, who doesn’t seem to be very impressed with her cleaning efforts. In fact, Feiolet’s very job is in jeopardy! I wonder if Tomos and his friends will be able to find out why Feiolet is such a bad cleaning lady? And will they be able to help her keep her job? This is the final story in this series, but is nevertheless a welcome addition to this charming series. Suitable for 5–7-year-olds, Tomos and his friends are kind, thoughtful and friendly little fellows and it’s fun to follow their adventures in the classic old theatre. Adding to this magical and theatrical world is Leri Tecwyn’s lovely artwork. She uses warm, dark colours such as red, green and brown which convey the feeling of a grand, traditional old theatre which reminds us of days gone by. I’m sure she had fun drawing Feiolet. Personally, I’m a big fan of her socks! I tend to think that there’s too much writing on some pages compared to others, and perhaps it could have been spread out more evenly. It may be too difficult for younger children to read independently, but it would certainly work as a story for listening to. I know I’d have loved these theatre-based stories when I was a child. For a light-hearted story with a message of kindness and empathy, together with sweet little characters, go and find a copy of Tomos Llygoden. You’re spoilt for choice too, as you’ve got 5 adventures to choose from. Publisher: Gwasg Carreg Gwalch Released: March 2021 Price: £4.95 ISBN: 9781845277376 OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES..

  • Chwedl Calaffate - Lleucu Gwenllian

    Reading age: 8+ Interest age: 7+ Genre: #fable #international #original #Patagonia #love This is definitely one of the most beautiful Welsh language books to be published in 2021 and it's one of my personal favourites. I'm thrilled with this publication - the story, the pictures – the lot. Well done Lleucu. According to her blog, Bethan Gwanas is also a fan of the book, and she knows better than most about what makes a good book. I'm so pleased to see a story with an international dimension coming to market – It’d be great to see some more to be honest, especially if they are of the same high standard as Chwedl Calaffate. The illustration is excellent. Now, there are a number of talented artists in Wales producing really good children’s books, but in my opinion, this is an example of one of the best. The warm colours of orange, yellow and red, perfectly convey the hardship of life on the prairie. As is evident from the title, this is a legend or a fable. Originally from Patagonia, it mentions the fruit of the Calafate shrub, and the sad story behind it. I wasn't familiar with the tree, its fruit or the legend, I have to admit. The legend comes from the saying "El que come Calafate siempre vuelve." That is, those visiting who taste the fruit of the calafate, are sure to return one day. There’s something very romantic behind it, much like the idea of 'hiraeth' (longing) that we have in Wales – the powerful link between the people and the land. There’s romance in the story too, which according to the author's own words, resembles the story of Blodeuwedd. Both stories depict young couples who fall in love, albeit a love that is not meant to be. You can't help but think what a shame it was that the older men didn’t just mind their business and let the young couples crack on. I rather liked the fact that it didn't have the usual 'happy ever after' that you get in many children's books... I think this fable would be a good one to adapt as an animated short for television, if there was money to do so. In addition to the story itself, we get a glossary, and some more information about the origins of the tale, and some details about the process of putting the book together. I don’t know about you, but I’m fascinated with little behind the scenes details like this. Now there’s only one thing left to do – to make sure that I visit Patagonia one day, and to try the fruit of the calafate [berberis microphylla] for myself. Publisher: Gwasg Carreg Gwalch Released: 2021 Price: £6.50 ISBN: 9781845278182 WHO'S THE AUTHOR? Lleucu Gwenllian is a 24 year old illustrator originally from Blaenau Ffestiniog with a BA in illustration from Prifysgol De Cymru, Caerdydd. As part of her course, she completed several creative projects, and you can see samples of her work on her website - and her Instagram – @lleucuillustration

  • Gwag y Nos - Sioned Wyn Roberts

    Reading age: 9+ Interest age: 9-14 You might not have even realised it, but we’ve needed a novel like this in Welsh for a long time on this subject. I hope this’ll be a popular choice with schools, especially with years 5&6 in mind. What better way of discovering about a certain period in history, than through a novel like this? Using the book as a focal point for an unit of thematic work on the Victorian period will provide rich possibilities to generate quality work and explore a fascinating topic. Sometimes, it takes a few chapters to get ‘the feel’ of a book, and sometimes it just never happens. With Gwag y Nos, I was hooked right away (no mean feat as I’m fussy) with its hard-hitting prologue that doesn’t mince it’s words. On a side note, the front cover is excellent and gets a high score from me, so well done @almon once again! It conveys the creepy qualities of the hell-on- earth which is Gwag y Nos workhouse (although I have to say I initially thought that it was a cemetery). Sioned Wyn Roberts has undoubtedly created a masterpiece here, one which rivals Plentyn y Stryd, the Welsh adaptation of Street Child by Berlie Doherty (another classic Victorian novel, which is sadly out of print) In fact, this novel is actually more relevant to a Welsh context, and it’s clearly a story close to the author’s heart – she’s woven a fictional narrative around her real family history. Really interesting stuff. Magi is the main character. She’s a young girl who finds herself in an unpleasant situation. Alone. In the workhouse. Living under the oppressive regime of Nyrs Jenat and Robat Wyllt. I’ll put my head on the block here, and say that Nurse Jenat is up there with some classic baddies from children’s literature – enough to make Ms.Trunchbull seem angelic! You can't help but admire Magi's rebellious determination and her bravery is admirable. You’re always on #TeamMagi although she’s not perfect either (just ask poor Elsi!) When a prank goes awry in the workhouse, Magi is soon carted away to Plas Aberhiraeth to become a servant for a wealthy lady. Life in the workhouse may be horrific, but her new home isn’t much better, and the Plas soon becomes a prison of its own. There really is only one solution – escape! Something very sinister is afoot in Gwag y Nos, and Magis is the only one that can put a stop to it! What’s Nurse Jenat trying to hide? Will Magi manage to reveal the secret and save her friends? Who’s even going to listen to a brat from the workhouse? These are but a few of the questions we have! The characters and plot are spot-on. I don't want to say any more in case I spoil the story, but honestly, KS2 teachers– please choose this as your class novel. Because of its slightly darker themes, I would say that this novel is more suitable for children aged 9+ (9-13 I saw somewhere) and although this is a children’s book per se, it can definitely be enjoyed by an older audience. Publisher: Atebol Published: 2021 Price: £6.99 ISBN: 9781801061650

  • Fira Farus a'r Wy Siocled Enfawr - Eira Moon [adapt. Nerys Roberts]

    *For English version, switch language toggle on top of page* Reading age: 7+ Interest age: 3-11 Genre: #llyfrlluniau #chwedlau #moeswers #ffuglen It’s always a pleasure to see an independently published book, as it adds to mix of reading material available to our young readers. Very often, independent publishers do much of the work themselves, including writing, design, promotion and marketing - quite a feat really when you think about it. In today’s climate, it’s important to support new authors, including those who self-publish. This is the first book by Eira Moon, an author originally from north Wales, but who’s also lived in Spain for over twenty years. That probably explains why the book is available in three languages, namely Welsh, English and Spanish under the titles Fira Farus a’r Wy Siocled Enfawr, Greedy Gracee’s Giant Chocolate Egg and La Codiciosa Princesa Graciana y el Huevo de Chocolate Gigante. I’m told that this book is the result of countless bed time conversations with her foster daughter. It’s good to see an idea develop into a real product. We have here a fairytale about Fira, a rather unpleasant young princess. Living in a huge castle with her parents, the King and Queen, it’s fair to say that she’s been spoilt, and this had turned her into quite a selfish, greedy and ultimately lonely individual. One day, when a magical giant easter egg lands on the castle's doorstep, the princess finds herself in a bit of a pickle due to her own greediness. I wonder if someone will be willing to help her? This story is perfect for sharing at bedtime, or in school. The pictures by Aswitha Gunda help tell the story and give a taste of the princess's magical world. The book offers an opportunity to discuss different feelings and behaviours; how being greedy can get you into all sorts of trouble! I've always believed in 'karma' (what goes around comes around) and I’ve always felt that greedy and selfish people will get their comeuppance in the end. Although the story contains fantasy elements such as castles, princesses and a bit of magic, this is essentially a story with a simple and down-to-earth message about acts of kindness. In a world that can be so nasty at times, I welcome any story that spreads messages of love and friendship– and there’s nowhere better to do this than in the early years. This book does have a somewhat homemade vibe to it, but I think that’s part of it’ charm. An audiobook is available to download from for £2.99 – why not read and listen at the same time? Available in some of your local shops or from the Gwales website now. Publisher: Eira Moon Released: Mai 2021 Price: £6.95 ISBN: 978-1916875524 ABOUT THE AUTHOR... EIRA MOON She was one of the lucky ones, being born and bred in the land of song and sheep, aka “God’s Country”…North Wales! Since 2001 she’s been involved in organizing music and entertainment for venues all over the world. Her company was lucky enough to arrange voice-over projects involving Hollywood celebrity talent, which she uses to her advantage when trying (in vain!) to impress her young nieces and nephew! Eira and her long-term partner are also proud and dedicated foster carers. They’ve cared for vulnerable children of all ages and backgrounds over the past several years- providing a safe and fun home to flourish and be happy, for however long it was needed. Her debut short story was in fact inspired by a comical chitter-chatter with one of their young foster children! She wanted to create a classic-style fairytale for children to enjoy over and over again which provided a valuable moral lesson. When not on the school run or role-playing superheroes, Eira loves to be in or near the sea, watching rugby or practicing photography!

  • Rali'r Gofod 4002 - Joe Watson [adapt. Huw Aaron, Elidir Jones]

    Genre: #adventure #graphicnovels #fiction #scifi Reading age: 7+ Interest age: 7-12 ♥ Welsh Original ♥ Graphic Novel… what’s one of those? First thing’s first - don't let anyone tell you that reading comics is a bad thing, because that's absolute nonsense! Believe it or not, there are lots of adults who like to read them too, so they are definitely not just things for little children. This is a graphic novel according to its description on Gwales. There aren’t many of them in Welsh yet (although there should be!) but to explain it simply, they’ve put the comic series that appeared regularly in the Mellten magazine, together into one neat little package – this high-quality book. Today's readers are spoilt compared to what was available years ago! I'll be very pleased to give this pride of place on my bookshelf at HQ Bookstore. What’s it about then? Fast-forward about 2,000 years into the future. A big space race is about to start, the Manta Cup 4002, and there’s a strange bunch of racers from the planet New Wales who are ready to compete for the first time (isn’t it great to see that in this version of the future, that Wales is still here and going strong!) Iola, the pilot, and her motley crew Meew, Alun, Tezu, and Branwen have only one desire – to win the space rally. Will they be successful? I’ve got to say, judging by their wooden spaceship, I’m not so sure! While the inexperienced competitors are busy trying not to end up in the middle of the sun, there are some dodgy goings-on and sinister plans working in the shadows. Who are the mysterious people who are up to no good? What does ‘the machine’ do? And what does an angry microwave have to do with it all? So, should I read Rali’r Gofod or not? Of course, you should! If you – like me – love sci-fi adventures with plenty of humour, this would appeal to you. There are many elements that remind me of Star Wars, Star Trek and many other shows I normally enjoy. Indeed, the Manta 4002 race isn't too dissimilar to the pod racing seen in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (a film that gets way too much stick by the way!). The standard of the illustrations is excellent – colourful, full of detail and just looking really cool! Because it's basically a long comic, the reading is divided into small bits of dialogue, which is great if you prefer less heavy reading (but get this - it all adds up in the end, so reading a comic does count as real reading!) I know I’ve been like a broken record, harping on about the lack of choice of books for boys aged 7-11, but it's true. We’ve got to bring out more things that will appeal to them, so I'm very happy to see this series blast-off! Publisher: Llyfrau Broga Released: 2021 Price: £6.99 ISBN: 9781914303029 OTHER TITLES IN THE SERIES...

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