Gaslight

Gaslight
Eloise Williams
Firefly Press

Gaslight is incredibly rich in detail – full of vivid descriptions of a grimy Victorian underworld. You can taste, smell and feel the sooty Cardiff backstreets with every page turn.

The story tells of Nansi, a young girl in constant conflict with villainous theatre owner Sid (a Dickensian fiend and devilishly corrupt master) as she tries to uncover the whereabouts of her mother. It’s a hard life – split between bit parts on the Empire Theatre stage and thieving from rich households, all the time dreaming of being able to find her own identity and free herself from the perilous life she leads.

Whilst the portrait is bleak, the characters zing and sparkle with life – Nansi is bold, feisty and independent; Sid is menacing, evil and intimidating (there was cheering and much jumping on beds when we read of his comeuppance!) This is absolute testimony to the skill of the author: Eloise Williams received a Literature Wales Writer’s Bursary to produce this book and they should be very well pleased “to Barry and back” as they’ve had more than their money’s worth.

The tale is brutal too as descriptions and suggestions of death, incarceration, and ill-treatment are not shirked from; and in the final few pages of Gaslight, as Nansi is poring over a selection of beloved books, the strong female lead declares that children’s books are often censored and made more palatable so the audience will not be scared, and we sense that this may be the author’s voice, standing up for the raw, real and gripping tale that she has produced.

I loved it and heartily recommend to mature readers age 10 and up.

Author Q&A: Dan Anthony

Dan Anthony is the author of The Bus Stop at the End of the World, published by Gomer. Noah read Bus Stop shortly after it’s publication in January 2017 and thought it was an “amusing and adventurous, mythical page turner”. It follows the adventures of Ritchie, and a cast of  strangers as they try to stop “the most dangerous enemy known to man”. Ritchie’s real world and the world belonging to a host of fantastic characters come together at this bus stop not far from Ritchie’s house. You can see Noah’s vlog review here, and it’s also one of his Top Ten books. Noah sent some questions to Dan and he has very kindly replied.

Dan’s books for children include the Rugby Zombie trilogy, famously lauded by Tom Palmer, and Steve’s Dreams. As an experienced scriptwriter and short story writer, he has written extensively for children including working on CBBC’s Story of Tracy Beaker and S4C’s The Baaas. He was born in Cardiff, lives in Penarth, and his radio plays have been performed on Radio Wales, Radio 4 and Radio 2.

Where and when do you write?

Usually first thing in the morning. If I’m at home, I’m working in my office (in the cellar) between about 8:30 and 2.

How do you choose names for your characters?

I like unusual names, sometimes place names give me ideas. (Kid Welly and Dic Penfro are characters in The Bus Stop at the End of the World).

Who or what inspires you?

I think I get a lot of ideas from just being outside – anything from a supermarket to a bus stop to a mountain top – also talking to people. I love talking!

How long does it take you to write a book?

It takes me ages to work them out, and ages to correct. But I write fast – about a month.

Which book do you wish you’d written?

Fungus the Bogeyman by Raymond Briggs

How important is Wales to your writing?

Very, because I live here. Wherever I live gives me lots of ideas.

What other authors are you friends with, and are they a help or a hindrance?

Tom Palmer is a great friend and help. Its nice to meet people who share an interest in adventurous stories.

Can you tell us something about your next book/idea?

Yes – it’s about a boy who runs away from home and finds a race horse. I can’t say too much!

If you weren’t an author, what would you do?

A musician – but not a very good one!

You can buy The Bus Stop at the End of the World from your local bookshop or direct from Gomer.

Most Anticipated New Books from Welsh Authors and Publishers

Daddy Bookworm looks ahead to the next few months of Welsh books

So we’ve already had a few corkers in 2017 – our favourites being The Bus Stop at the End of the World by Dan Anthony (Gomer Press) and Elias Martin by Nicola Davies (Graffeg). We thought we’d look ahead to what’s on offer in the coming months, with a few books from Welsh publishers getting us VERY excited…

Next week sees the publication of Gaslight by Eloise Williams (Firefly Press). From what we’ve heard, it’s comparable to Pullman’s Ruby in the Smoke and is a dark and rich Victorian thriller. Can’t wait for our copy.

The amazing Nicola Davies has so many books out this year; I bet even she is struggling to keep pace. There will be two more supernatural tales in the Shadows and Light series published in September and another release through Graffeg in May. The Pond is a second collaboration with Cathy Fisher (see Perfect) exploring a difficult topic – the death of a father. Graffeg do a brilliant job in making hardback editions to treasure – we’re sure this will be no exception.

Nicola Davies works with other publishers too and has two books coming out with Walker. King of the Sky will be published in May, but our most anticipated Nicola Davies book is Lots: The Diversity of Life on Earth. This will be out in June and is a collaboration with Emily Sutton – the team that brought you Tiny, The Invisible World of Microbes. From what we’ve seen (only snippets of pages on Twitter!) the illustrations look absolutely gorgeous and completely captivating.

Nine year old Noah’s most anticipated book is Aubrey and the Terrible Ladybirds by Horatio Clare (Firefly Press). The first Aubrey book won the Branford Boase Award and was also longlisted for this year’s Carnegie – scandalous that it didn’t make the shortlist! This is the book we are most excited about!

I guess Noah should also be quite excited about Jackie Morris’ Mrs Noah’s Pockets (Otter Barry Books). This is a collaboration between Jackie and James Mayhew; text by Jackie, illustrations by James. We have to wait for September for this one, but it’s such a brilliant idea and definitely one I’ll be taking in to school to share.

Jackie Morris also has two books being republished in large hardback versions by Graffeg – The Ice Bear and Snow Leopard will be published in September. These formats show off Jackie Morris’ illustrations magnificently well.

Claire Fayers’ Accidental Pirates are currently doing battle with Michael Morpurgo and a Jam Doughnut in the Younger Readers’ Book Award from FCBG (Federation of Children’s Book Groups). The second instalment is due in the middle of May and is called Journey to Dragon Island (MacMillan Kids).

Other bookish highlights include Through The Eyes of Me, written from the perspective of a child with autism (by Jon Roberts, Graffeg) and the reveal of the Tir Na n-Og winner in May. The three books battling it out are:

Alien Rain by Ruth Morgan (Firefly Press)

Sweet Pizza by Giancarlo Gemin (Nosy Crow)

The Haunting of Jessop Rise by Danny Weston (Andersen Press)

So we’ll get those read and let you know which one we prefer. In the meantime, if we’ve missed any great releases by fabulous Welsh authors or publishers, please let us know in the comments below. Thanks.

Elias Martin

Elias Martin

Nicola Davies / Fran Shum

Graffeg

Elias Martin is a grumpy, lonesome, hard-faced young man who thinks that nature and the wild are conspiring against him. What with deathly blizzards, harsh winters and cruel terrain the only pleasure he gets in the North is skinning the animals that symbolise nature as enemy. He is fighting a “war against life, driven by a lonely darkness in his soul.” Then one day, a young girl mysteriously enters his life and things begin to change. He hears the birdsong, he notices the sunrise, he feels the fire’s warmth. Is Elias’ heart beginning to thaw?

Nicola Davies expertly paints a callous canvas in this short tale, choosing her words meticulously; within paragraphs the scene is set and we are directly placed into the raw reality of an isolated northern province. The writing is atmospheric, intelligent and compelling. Fran Shum’s black and white etching-style illustrations are perfectly suited to this tale and ideally imitate the naive wood carvings of the little girl.

At under 40 pages, it’s a short book, but it packs a punch: Elias Martin has you feeling the landscapes, worrying for the characters and seriously considering our relationship with the wild.

Perfect

Perfect

Nicola Davies & Cathy Fisher

Graffeg

Reviewed by Nina Worm (aged 8)

A gentle yet sad story about a boy who has a disabled sister. He is upset because his new baby sister cannot run and chase, something he was looking forward to most. However, when a swift drops from the sky, he learned that all it needed was a little help to fly again. So he also helped his little sister and learned to love her.

Nicola Davies does not use many words – it is an easy read – she is very good at animal books and writes expertly about the swifts in this story. Cathy Fisher’s illustration are astonishingly realistic and just ‘perfect’ – so perfect that they have been nominated for this year’s Kate Greenaway Medal.

In my opinion Perfect is a book so beautiful it could make you cry. It is now one of my favourite books by a favourite author – perfect for 7 and 8 year olds.

Daddy Worm says: This is a beautifully produced hardback book – the illustrations and words are in perfect harmony as they work together to reflect the feelings of the brother so well. The result is that the reader can sense the emotion oozing from each lovingly crafted page; children will be able to relate to the boy and be encouraged to empathise with his situation.

Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot

Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot

Horatio Clare

Firefly Press

Reviewed by Noah Worm (aged 9)

This is a really adventurous, different kind of book, unlike any other I’ve read; full of amazing ideas and great drawings that keep you wanting to turn the page. The book is about Aubrey, a “rambunctious child”, an adventurer and determined discoverer with a very free upbringing. The Terrible Yoot is the phrase used to describe depression, which is being suffered by Jim (Aubrey’s dad). He becomes sad, pale, confused and rather lost – “Sometimes he seemed so wispy he might have been made of mist.”

If I make it sound like a miserable book, it’s not! It is a funny and hopeful book about the love between a father and son. It’s also full of talking animals (it’s anthropomorphic!) who guide Aubrey to help him help himself and his dad.

This is Horatio Clare’s first children’s book and I enjoyed it a lot – full of magic and wonder. It has jumped into my top 5 books ever! I would highly recommend it for 9-13 year olds. His next book is out soon and is called Aubrey and the Terrible Spiders. I can’t wait to read it!

 

Daddy Worm says: Very enjoyable with some remarkably adept descriptions. I was initially concerned about how the big D would be portrayed and how Noah would respond – no need; Horatio Clare writes openly and honestly, which is exactly what you want. There is plenty of humour in the book (what with the talking animals and the neighbour who spies on Aubrey’s actions) and plenty of fantasy too (what with the talking animals…) and yet it is a very grounded and relatable story. I loved sharing it with Noah. Highly recommended.