My favourite books for children from 2018

I read some excellent books for children and young adults last year (I can’t believe I’m saying last year to 2018 already) so making a top ten list was very difficult. Which is why I ended up making a top eighteen list (that’s only nearly a lie; I mostly chose 18 due to template considerations but I bet I could easily make a top twenty-five list. I also spent most of December reading too many books which left me with very little time to write about all the books I’ve been reading. So the blog tragically languished. I’m hoping to find more sustainable reading and blogging (and hopefully-soon-to-be-launched vlogging) habits in 2019 but I’m not going to make it a resolution lest I jinx it. In fact, I’m just not even going to think about it too hard in case I spook the idea away. For more details about why I loved these books, I wrote a blog post for the lovely folks at Duckbill which you can read here.

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Book Activities: Rosie Revere, Engineer

Activities inspired by books are a brilliant way to make the reading experience interactive, creative and playful. Children also develop a range of skills when they make things but that’s for the adults to think about – young people can focus on the fun bits. 


rosie revere engineerWhere some people see rubbish, Rosie Revere sees inspiration. Alone in her room at night, shy Rosie constructs great inventions from odds and ends. Hot dog dispensers, helium pants, python-repelling cheese hats. Rosie’s gizmos would astound—if she ever let anyone see them.

Afraid of failure, she hides them away under her bed. Until a fateful visit from her great-great-aunt Rose, who shows her that a first flop isn’t something to fear—it’s something to celebrate.




Image courtesy Sanny van Loon Illustration

Rosie comes up with all sorts of inventions, some of which try to fix a problem – like the hat which keeps snakes away for her zookeeper Uncle Fred and the heli-o-cheese-copter to help her great-great-aunt Rose fly.

Ask the child you’re working with to think of

(i) something they really want to do and/or

(ii) a problem they’d really like to fix.

Next, hand them a sheet of paper and plenty of art and craft material and ask them to illustrate ideas for imaginative inventions which would help make it happen.



Image courtesy Leo and Bella

Rosie used everyday materials she found around her to create all her inventions.

Ask the child you’re working with to wander around the house on a quest to collect objects which are going to be thrown away or things which are broken and no longer useful or any other things which can be recycled.

Now ask them to experiment and create something using the gathered materials. You can combine this with the previous activity where these recycled inventions can be ideas for fixing problems. Alternatively, you can ask them to come up with uses for the invention once it is actually ready.



Sometimes Rosie’s inventions work, sometimes they don’t, and sometimes you’re not quite sure. But she’s always curious and creative and ready to look at the world with a fresh perspective.

In this joyful talk featuring demos of her wonderfully wacky creations, Simone Giertz shares her craft: making useless robots. Her inventions — designed to chop vegetables, cut hair, apply lipstick and more — rarely (if ever) succeed, and that’s the point. “The true beauty of making useless things [is] this acknowledgment that you don’t always know what the best answer is,” Giertz says. “It turns off that voice in your head that tells you that you know exactly how the world works. Maybe a toothbrush helmet isn’t the answer, but at least you’re asking the question.”



Image courtesy Spice N Flavors

Cheese plays a significant role in some of Rosie’s inventions – both the python-repelling hat and the heli-o-cheese copter involve cans of cheese spray.

Get the child you’re working with to make an easy cheese-based snack to pair with the book.

What you need:

Slices of cheese

Monaco biscuits/Ritz crackers

Tomato, onion, capsicum, boiled corn (or any vegetables you have in your kitchen)

Tomato sauce/coriander or mint chutney/mayonnaise/any sauce you have in your kitchen

What to do:

Cut the cheese slices into smaller squares and place them on separate biscuits. Add a drop of sauce on top of the cheese. Chop the vegetables and add them as the top layer of the biscuits.

You can find more combinations for this fuss-free snack at Artsy Crafty Mom.



Image courtesy Red Ted Art

Use stiff pieces of paper/thin card paper to make paper planes with your child. Then go outdoors and find the best spot to have a flying contest.

If you’re in the mood for something more ambitious, you can check out Buggy and Buddy which features eighteen craft ideas for kids to make a wide range of projects which fly.

What I Read In November

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The Lost Words is full of magical poems and gorgeous illustrations. Since it is imperative to read this book aloud, I decided to read this out to the household cat (since the household boy was working). I borrowed this enormous, beautiful book from the library and I couldn’t trust the Scottish weather to be kind to it if I hefted it outdoors. But it’s a book which is meant to be owned and read aloud during picnics in wild places.

I’m a huge fan of mythological retellings and already love Rick Riordan’s version of Greek gods living in the modern world. Who Let The Gods Out, the first book in a series, does a similar thing but shifts the gods to modern day England. The gods and goddesses are also much kinder and live in the human world. It was a tad unfair that I kept making comparisons to Percy Jackson because this book definitely deserves to be read on its own merit. But in good news for those who love this kind of book, here’s a new(ish) fun, funny series to fill that Percy Jackson-shaped hole in your reading lives (just don’t make the mistake I made in comparing the two).

Bee and Puppycat, Vol. 1 was a part of the Humble Bundle digital comics pack I was gifted several months ago. I’m slowly but surely working my way through them all. This one is a cute, inventive comic series featuring Bee who takes up magical, inter-planetary odd jobs for a living and her curmudgeonly roommate Puppycat who helps her out.

I’m only beginning to explore the world of comic books and graphic novels. I haven’t had much exposure to superhero comics and Ms. Marvel is an excellent, non-intimidating, fun and engaging gateway. The more I’ve had time away from the first volume, the more I realise how much I loved it. Apart from all the complex and diverse representations in this series, my favourite part was how Kamala Khan’s world is so desi. At one point she’s late to a mehendi ceremony of a wedding because she’s beating up a bad guy, and her mom calls her up to shout “Kalmuhi!” at her which made me cackle in glee.

I think I may have enjoyed listening to Doctor Who: The Ripple Effect more had I actually been acquainted with the Doctor and the companion the short story features. I liked the narrative just fine but it was a bit meh-ish. Which is a shame because the Malorie-Blackman authored Rosa Parks episode of Doctor Who earlier this year was one of my all-time favourites.

As I was putting this list together, I realised that I had completely forgotten to add Diggers, the second book in the Bromeliad trilogy. There’s no more room in the image but I really enjoyed my further foray into this non-Discword Terry Pratchett world. It features tiny nomes (who are actually aliens) exploring life in an enormous, unfamiliar human world. I wanted to immediately listen to the last book in this series but someone had very rudely borrowed the library copy.


I picked up The Testament of Loki from my library on a whim and it made for a fun, easy read featuring a smattering of the Norse gods who enter 21st century England through a video game. It was only after I had finished reading it and was shelving it on Goodreads that I realised I had entered this author’s retelling of Norse mythology the wrong way round. This appears to be the second book in the Loki series and while that didn’t get in the way of understanding the narrative, I still wish I’d picked up the first book (because I loathe reading books out of order).

I had been dying to read Circe ever since I’d first spotted the gorgeous cover on various bookshelves in both India and the UK. So I was super excited that it was my library’s book of the month which meant that the ebook could be borrowed by everyone without waiting in queue. And I loved it. Even a few days after I’d finished reading it, I still felt drawn to the mythological Greek world, like I was still a part of Circe’s story. Unlike disappointment-filled October, I’m so happy that so many of my reading expectations were met this month!


I Am Legend isn’t usually the kind of book I would have picked up but my boyfriend had been asking me to read it for ages so I thought I’d give it a shot. It was a really interesting contribution to the genre of vampire novels (and actually predated most of the really famous ones since it was first written in 1954). It could be classified under either horror or science fiction. What it most reminded me of was The Girl With All The Gifts, which albeit featured zombies rather than vampires, but had similar philosophical explorations.

I still don’t know quite what I think of House of Leaves. I was superbly gung-ho about actively engaging with the experimental format of the book even before I read it and that bit was quite fun. This is a book within a book – a postmodern narrative, according to the reviews. I think I enjoyed reading the book within the book more – it was an academic exploration of a documentary about a mysterious house, and sometimes the academic ivory-towerishness of it even made me laugh. And I did enjoy reading the book as a whole too – but when it ended, I sort of felt … unfulfilled? Let down? Hungering for a proper conclusion to the other book? Like I said, I still don’t know what to make of it. I’m glad I read it because it was such a fascinating experience but I don’t think it’s the sort of experience that’s going to make me recommend this book to everyone I meet.

Love Letters To Jane’s World is a collection of comic strips of Jane’s World which features an irreverent young lesbian woman’s life, loves, friends and jobs. Apparently this strip first appeared twenty years ago and has since accumulated a lot of fans. I received a free review copy in my email many months ago and like most of the books on my TBR, ignored it until I was in the mood for something unfamiliar. It was quite fun and weird (at one point, there’s an alien abduction). I enjoyed the everydayishness of it the framework which allowed for pretty much all manner of random hijinks.


I’m trying to read more about English history since I’m going to be moving down from Scotland in the next couple of months. The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England caught my eye at the library because of the concept. It offered a travel guide to a contemporary visitor to the 14th century and went into great detail about the lives, houses, hobbies, food, diseases and entertainments of the rich and the poor. It was very well executed offering fascinating glimpses – both familiar and unfamiliar to someone from India – into the historical English world. There are two more books in this series which I’ll keep an eye out for.

I borrowed Being a Dad Is Weird: Lessons in Fatherhood from My Family to Yours because I wanted something light and breezy to listen to. I am obviously not the target audience for this being neither a father at the moment nor having any fatherhood ambitions for the near future. I gave it a shot since it featured a comedian writer. I’ve read so many random memoirs by random comedians I’ve had little knowledge of and they’re always a bit hit and miss. This one was fine. Some moments were funny. Some were fun. I was reading other more complicated books at the time plus working on an essay plus hunting for flats so it was exactly what I needed at the moment.