“Which books should I add to my Christmas list, Miss?”

Yesterday, I shared 10 recommendations for emerging chapter book readers – check it out if you’re after recommendations for 6+ years! Today I’m sharing books that I’ve shared with the kids in my class, school and life! Today is the turn of those who are confidently reading longer chapter books – longer chapter books that are BLOODY BRILLIANT.

None of these books will come as a surprise to ANYONE who knows me, but nevertheless. I think one of the best books you can buy kids is a book. These recommendations are books I’ve loved, but also books that my kids have wholeheartedly taken under their wing!

2018 mg recs

(I know right, SHOCKERS)

Now, some of these are book 1 in a series that I would recommend the whole series of… but if I’d put ALL of the books in the series of, I would have been here forever!

The House with Chicken Legs – Sophie Anderson

The Polar Bear Explorer’s Club series – Alex Bell

A Place Called Perfect series – Helena Duggan

Armistice Runner – Tom Palmer

The Light Jar – Lisa Thompson

Tilly and the Bookwanderers – Anna James

The Way Past Winter – Kiran Milwood Hargrave

Snowglobe – Amy Wilson

The Nowhere Emporium series – Ross Mackenzie

Brightstorm – Vashti Hardy

The Storm Keeper’s Island – Catherine Doyle

Who Let The Gods Out series by Maz Evans (Simply the Quest reviewBeyond the Odyssey review)

And there you have it… my second lot of MG recommendations which are perfect to buy for any budding bookworm in your life!

Have you read any of these?
Do you have any favourites?
Would you recommend any for me to add to my list?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments! Come back tomorrow for YA recommendations!

S x

 

BOOK BLOG: Sam Usher

Snow: the perfect addition to your shelves for the wintery season!

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“Every child loves a snow day—no school and snowball fights galore! But Sam has to wait for Granddad, even though all the other kids have already gone to the park . . . and all the dogs . . . and all the zoo animals! Only when the two finally arrive does Granddad see why Sam was in such a hurry—and they have the best time playing with everyone in the snow.”

As a massive fan of the book Storm, when I saw there was another Sam Usher book (with a very festive snowy theme) I knew I needed to treat myself to it! I mean, just look at that cover. Who wouldn’t want to know more about the penguin casually strolling down their street? 

Snow tells the story of a very impatient young boy who wants to go out into the snow, while his grandfather thinks they should stay in for a little while. There’s so much joy in the young man’s face when he sees the snow. We’ve all been there. Wanting to be the first one to stand on snow – is there anything more irresistable than a patch of freshly fallen snow? 

When they do eventually get outside, they wander down to the park and end up having an awful lot of fun with a new bunch of friends. It’s all a bit silly, but this would make a perfect readaloud. Kids will love this story. What’s more fun than snow ball fights? Snowball fights with animals… obviously! 

With gorgeous illustrations, characters who are realistic and a brilliant portrayal of family (I loved seeing this story of a young man and his grandfather, rather than a mam/dad or sibling), this book is going to be a great one to read aloud to kids (and adults alike!). I am loving this Weather series from Sam Usher and can’t wait to get even more! I would recommend wholeheartedly getting on the series! I own Snow and Storm so far, I need to check out Rain and Sun. 

Have you read any of Sam Usher’s books?
What’s your perfect wintery read aloud?
Are you a snow lover, or not a fan?

Let me know your thoughts! Speak to you soon… fingers crossed the snow stays away! I don’t want to run into a bunch of animals throwing snowballs at me! 

S x

 

BOOK BLOG: Emma Yarlett

Dragon Post: a whole lot of fun and friendship! 

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I’d seen this on my friend’s Instagram and as I’m a lover of The Day The Crayons Quit and the trusty The Jolly Postman, I knew I needed to get my hands on this book. With beautiful letters inside and an endearing young main character, Dragon Post was an absolute delight to read! 

Alex finds a dragon living under his stairs and knows that the most sensible thing to do would be to write to different people to get their advice on the whole situation. (Alex is very sensible, in my opinion! I don’t know what I would do!)

This is where the humour for adults comes in. There’s puns a plenty with the names of the people Alex writes letters to. I read this book aloud to my mam, and she and I had many a chuckle! Not all of the letters are positive… with one suggesting that the writer of the letter would like to eat the dragon. Most of the letters Alex receives give him good advice however! 

The final letter Alex writes is to his best friend (who he calls one of the best people he knows) and I absolutely adored this! I love the idea that the person Alex thinks is the smartest person in his world is another child – I think this can have quite a profound effect on kids. The very last letter Alex receives is from a very special someone indeed and I know kids are going to ADORE seeing the letter to Alex! 

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This book, just like The Day The Crayons Quit and The Jolly Postman, is going to be taken in my classrooms and children alike. With the inclusion of the letters, the incredible illustrations and the brilliant story, this is one that will inspire writers of letters, stories and illustrations (I only wish I could come up with something this brilliant!) I can see this working in so many houses, minds and ways. As a Y5 teacher, I’d love to use this book, but it equally has a very important place in every classroom. I know the KS1 teachers in school will love this book… and I can’t wait to read it to Reception for their Advent Story time! 

Would you like a dragon as a pet?
Have you read Dragon Post? 
Who would you write to if you found a dragon under your bed?

Speak to you all soon!

S x

BOOK BLOG: Matt Haig

The Truth Pixie: poetic, charming and inspiring.

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“From number one bestselling author Matt Haig comes a hilarious and heartwarming story, brilliantly illustrated throughout by Chris Mould Wherever she is, whatever the day, She only has one kind of thing to say. Just as cats go miaow and cows go moo, The Truth Pixie can only say things that are true.”

Anyone who has been here for a while will know that I am a MASSSSSSIVE Matt Haig fan (he’s probably one of my most read authors). I’d heard whispers of a new kids book a few months ago and this made me so happy! The Truth Pixie just seems to have shot up on me and come in no time at all, but I am so glad it’s in my life! 

The Truth Pixie tells the story of a young pixie who was blessed/cursed with only being able to tell the truth. She has very few friends because no one wants to hear the truth. Her family don’t want to know her because of her truth-telling, so she lives alone and dreads going out into the wide world. One day, when shopping for groceries, she comes across a troll who changes everything for her. (He’s not a nice troll…)

img_3938(look at that spine man… swooooon)

I think my favourite thing about this book is that it delivers quite a few MASSIVE messages to kids in ways that they’re going to understand. If you’ve ever read one of Matt’s books, you’ll know they’re books that will restore your faith in humanity and this one delivers just that. It has some important messages about being yourself, being sad (and that being ok) and the truth being something that we should embrace. 

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I read The Truth Pixie aloud to myself laid in bed and it’s such a glorious one to read aloud. I might have to reread it a few times before I read it aloud to any kid though – it made me cry, quite a lot. It’s pages like these 2 above that just turn me into a bumbling mess. Adults and kids alike will love this book. It’s written in a beautifully rhyming style that made it so easy to read aloud. It’s going to be a firm favourite for me to use in the classroom – as a story, as a book with a message. The illustrations (by the incredibly talented Chris Mould) are just wonderful too. They add so much to the story. 

This book is a total victory. I will continue to champion Matt Haig books forever. This book is already on its third print run and it’s been out less than a week! 

My goodreads review:

Just incredible. I love the poetic, rhyming style of this book, the incredible illustrations and the absolute championing message of this book. I definitely cried when I read this (aloud to myself, so what of it?) because no one is too old to hear this advice, ever. Off to buy another copy for school.

(And yes, I have bought a second copy for school… one for me, one for school!)

Have you read The Truth Pixie?
Do you also love Matt Haig?
What’s your favourite book to read aloud?

Talk to me! I’d love to know your thoughts!

 S x

BOOK BLOG: Peter G Bell

Today, I have the utter joy of hosting author Peter G Bell on my blog, talking about the story opening in The Train to Impossible Places. You’ll also get to hear about his wonderful main character, Suzy, and her rationalist beliefs and how these relate to the action of the story and the reader. Hope you enjoy!

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Reason Vs Weird

Most of us would love to discover that magic is real. Imagine if you came downstairs one night to find a trans-dimensional train, crewed by fantastical creatures, waiting to whisk you off to uncharted realms were anything was possible. You’d be thrilled, right?

   This is exactly what happens to Suzy, the main character of The Train To Impossible Places. And she is not thrilled at all.

   On the contrary, she feels positively offended. Because, as an eleven year old rationalist, she knows full well that magic can’t be real, and that trolls can’t exist. The laws of physics are sacrosanct. In short, the train shatters her understanding of the world. How she chooses to deal with that will determine both her fate, and the fate of everyone she meets on her adventure.

   I made Suzy a rationalist because I knew the train and its crew were going to be fairly anarchic and unpredictable, and I wanted a main character who would push back against that. In doing so, Suzy keeps the story grounded, even when she’s out of her depth (which is most of the time) and always asks the questions the reader needs answering.

   When it comes to science, the trolls’ rule of thumb is this: the laws of physics are all well and good, but as soon as they become inconvenient, a dash of magic is needed to help grease the wheels. This is fuzzics (like physics, only fuzzier), and it drives Suzy up the wall. Sometimes literally.

   I’m no sociologist, but I suspect many of our culture’s current problems stem from the conscious uncoupling of reason from the other human faculties; a nasty habit we picked up during the Enlightenment, and which has been indulged to a greater or lesser extent ever since. On the one hand, this culminates in people choosing to dismiss the valid spiritual, philosophical and emotional foundations of so much human experience. On the other, it leads to a suspicion of empirical knowledge, which opens the door to all manner of charlatans eager to present us with “alternative facts”. Neither condition is good for us.

   That’s why, in the midst of all the fantasy elements, I made sure never to undermine Suzy’s belief in science. It is never shown to be untrue – on the contrary, she uses Newton’s Laws of Motion to save herself from danger at one point – but she also discovers that science isn’t the neat and tidy solution to all life’s problems that she thought it was. She is never tempted to reject it, but she does have to expand her thinking beyond it and, to her credit, that’s exactly what she does.

   She makes room in herself for a broader perspective. And that’s what sees her through in the end.

You should definitely check out The Train to Impossible Places! It’s such a great story and the cover is JUST EXCEPTIONAL. 

Massive thanks to Peter for this blog post! I love getting an insight into authors and their characters – authors really do know their characters inside out! 

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Susan Verde

I Am Human: a beautiful picture book, delivering an important message of empathy

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“I am human
I am a work in progress
Striving to be the best version of ME

From the picture book dream team behind I Am Yoga and I Am Peace comes the third book in their wellness series: I Am Human. A hopeful meditation on all the great (and challenging) parts of being human, I Am Human shows that it’s okay to make mistakes while also emphasizing the power of good choices by offering a kind word or smile or by saying “I’m sorry.” At its heart, this picture book is a celebration of empathy and compassion that lifts up the flawed fullness of humanity and encourages children to see themselves as part of one big imperfect family—millions strong”

This book is the 3rd in a series from this pair, with the other two being I am Yoga and I am Peace. These books explore things which children could see as complex, and puts it into words and sentences that children can relate to and use in their lives. 

Something which I loved about this book is there’s a lot of positive, but there’s also the important thing to explore with children about when things don’t quite go right – when you make mistakes, get hurt and hurt others. These things are all human. These things make us human and these are things that children need to develop an understanding of in order to become empathetic. 

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This book explores fear and sadness – some things that as teachers, or caregivers, we can be afraid to explore. Books are excellent pathmakers (that’s not a word!) so that these conversations can happen. These conversations are essential. 

It’s important that children learn the importance of making choices and through this book, children (and adults) can see that making a choice matters. What you say, what you do, what you think… it all matters. Choosing to keep going, choosing to have hope, listening, being generous. 

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The illustrations in this book are quintessential Peter H Reynolds and I love it. If you’ve seen any of the books he’s illustrated before, your kids will instantly recognise his style. I love the fact that the characters are all multicultural and that children will feel seen by this. This book is full of colour – from happy and vibrant colours, to sad and dull colours. We, as humans, attach meaning to colour and this is used brilliantly in the book. 

As a teacher, it’s important that I help my children to understand themselves and to understand others. By creating empathetic people in my classroom, I’m enabling them to be kind, loving, compassionate, thoughtful, not only to each other, but to themselves. This book would fit BEAUTIFULLY in any classroom, regardless of how old the children are and would create some incredible talking points around behaviour, choice and what it means to be human. I can’t wait to read it to my kids to get them thinking and talking. It’s going to be one of those fail-safe books I have around. 

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A massive thank you to the people of Abrams & Chronicle for sending me this book, I am so grateful and I know my kids (and the people I work with) will love reading this! 

Have you got any books you use when talking about empathy?
What’s one piece of advice you give children when exploring empathy?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments! 

S x

BOOK BLOG: Tilly and the Bookwanderers

Today I have the ABSOLUTE JOY of hosting Anna James, author of the incredible Pages and Co on my blog as part of her blog tour. She’s here today to talk about her writing soundtrack. 

Without further ado, I hand you over to Anna and that amazing book of hers!

 

My Writing Soundtrack for Pages & Co

I listen to music whenever I’m drafting, but I cannot listen to music with lyrics of any kind as it instantly distracts me and I can’t concentrate on my own words. Instead I listen to a lot of classical music, especially film soundtracks. Here is some of the music I listened to while writing Pages & Co, and the music that most influenced the book.

Dario Marianelli

Dario Marianelli is my favourite modern composer; he wrote the scores for films including Atonement, the Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice, Anna Karenina, and the Mia Wasikowska adaption of Jane Eyre. He writes beautiful, soaring orchestral music that I find instantly get me into the right head space for writing magical adventures. A favourite is Briony’s theme from Atonement as it comes complete with typewriter sounds to really get you in the writing mood.

The Planet Earth Scores by Hans Zimmer

This is along similar lines to Marianelli; the music for these TV series is epic and inspiring, and if I’m ever struggling to focus and to get immersed in the world of Pages & Co I use music like this to stir my emotions and remind me of the power of good art. It helps make the outside world melt away, and encourages you to try and create something worthwhile.

Rabbit & Rogue by Danny Elfman

The first book that Tilly bookwanders into is Alice in Wonderland, when Alice takes her to the Mad Hatter’s tea party, and she visits the Queen of Hearts croquet game later, as well. When I was looking for music to write these scenes too I stumbled across the score from an Alice in Wonderland ballet that had been created, and scored by Danny Elfman that I’d never heard of before. The quirky but lovely music is absolutely perfect to write Alice’s brand of nonsense to.

Soundtracks for existing adaptations

In Pages & Co, Tilly visits several well known children’s classics, and the useful thing about classics is that they’ve often been made into multiple screen adaptation which means there are multiple soundtracks out there. Not all of them are quite right, but I listened to the scores for the recent Alice in Wonderland films, some of the music from the Anne of Green Gables TV series, and even some of the songs from the Muppet version of Treasure Island while I was writing scenes from those books.

The Maze Runner

One of the specific pieces of music that I associate with writing Pages & Co is the finale music from the first Maze Runner film. It’s an urgent, heroic, and beautiful piece of music with real pace and tension and I listened to it on repeat while I was writing some of the scenes towards the end of the book where stakes are high, and Tilly ends up in a dangerous situation in a book she’s wandered inside. I rarely listen to soundtracks all the way through, because they shift and change too much tonally, but I pick and choose tracks to create playlists for different beats; quieter emotional moments, tense action scenes, or cosy bookshop scenes to help me get in the right frame of mind.   

A massive thank you to Anna for such an amazing blog post! I’m off to listen to some of these myself! I love the idea of a writing playlist. 

If you want to see my review of Tilly and the Bookwanderers, check it out here

If you’d like to go and buy this amazing book (you really should, because it is exceptional), it’s out now! 
Amazon
Waterstones

S x

BLOG TOUR: Daddy Hairdo

Hello! Today I have the pleasure of hosting Francis Martin (of Daddy Hairdo fame!) on my blog as part of the Daddy Hairdo blog tour, talking all about the inspiration behind the gorgeous picture book Daddy Hairdo!

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Daddy Hairdo is a bit of family history that mutated into a picture book.   As a young father I had had to take on the role of coiffeur to my infant daughter whenever I took her to nursery.  For years I thought I had acquitted myself admirably and that the plaits, buns, ponytails and top knots I created were a match for any of the other parents’ hairdressing skills. It was only years later that my grown up daughter revealed to me that  the nursery nurses at the playschool were laughing at my  efforts and would immediately take them apart and do something a little more conventional.  My creations were called “daddy hairdos”.

Even more years later I am a mature student at Cambridge School of Art working for my MA in Children’s Book Illustration, desperate for a story. I have always thought that a good title is half the battle when creating a picture book. I recalled the daddy hairdos. I knew it would make a great starting point for a story. A dad who creates fantastical hairstyles for a daughter who won’t get her hair cut. I went into a writing and drawing frenzy. I explored ideas, researched hair styles and threw my own male pattern baldness into the mix. 

Initially I created the images but realised that the text would benefit from another artist. My own artwork wasn’t wasted. It worked as a guide for the text.  It always seems pointless if the text and the images just echo what the other says.  I try to get text and image to feed off each other create surprises, alternate narrative duties, tell jokes.  Being aware that there is a power in images, I can be confident enough to hold back on the writing and let the visuals do their job. I think that the Daddy Hairdo text works because I developed it with a visual context. Claire Powell’s pictures then lifted it even further.

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You should go check out the rest of the blog tour and get your hands on a copy of this gorgeous picture book if you get the chance! It’s out now! 

S x

Back To School Blog Blitz

SURPRISE!
It’s Saturday and you’re getting a post… 

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Today I’m taking part in the Back to School Blog Blitz with Bonnier Zaffre to share an extract of one of their books! It’s an MG book billed as “one of the most uplifting, warm and funny novels they’ve published this year: Charlie And Me by Mark Lowery.”

I hope you enjoy the extract! Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

My little brother Charlie’s sitting cross-legged on the floor of the corner shop, humming with his eyes closed. He does this kind of thing a lot.

‘Hurry up,’ I say, giving him a friendly shove with my raggedy old Reebok. ‘We’ve got a train to catch.’

Charlie wipes his nose on his sleeve. ‘Gizza minute, Marty,’ he replies. ‘I’m just charging up the laser in my belly button.’

He says this kind of thing a lot too.

My brother Charlie doesn’t have a laser in his belly button. I know this for a fact. Not that I’ve ever studied it. But if you share a small bedroom with your brother for ten years then you end up pretty well acquainted with his whole body whether you like it or not.

Charlie isn’t like ordinary kids. He’s one in a million. In fact, he’s one in a Charlillion. A Charlillion, by the way, is a number he invented, which is one more than infinity. I tried to explain to him that you can’t have one more than infinity. Infinity means it goes on forever. Charlie called me a banana-brain. He can be very childish when he wants to be.

At poetry club in school, Mr Hendrix sometimes plays a game to warm up. You’ve got to talk about a topic for thirty seconds without stopping or repeating yourself. Here’s what I’d say about Charlie:

‘Lazy eye, massive head, snores like a hippo, often ill, weird taste in food, terrible memory, always out of breath cos of his asthma, weedy, cheeky, can’t do anything for himself or concentrate for more than two seconds, brain’s inside out, no understanding of danger. My absolute best mate in the whole entire world.’

I’d have to stop there. You could talk about Charlie for a Charlillion seconds if you wanted to, and you’d never run out of things to say.

“Thirteen-year-old Martin and his younger brother Charlie are on a very special journey. They’re going to be travelling 421 miles all the way from Preston to the very tip of Cornwall. By train, bus and taxi, they are determined to get there in the end; and they’re hoping to catch a glimpse of the dolphin that regularly visits the harbour there. But is that the only reason they are going? 

It’s a journey that’s full of challenges and surprises. Martin adores his brother Charlie but he’s not like ordinary kids. He’s one in a million. He was born far too early, and ought to have died. And cheeky, irrepressible, utterly unique Charlie is always keeping Martin on his toes – especially on this crazy trip they are now on. Martin is doing his best to be a good big brother, but it’s hard when there’s something so huge coming once they get to Cornwall…”

S x

BOOK BLOG: Anna James

Tilly and the Bookwanderers: magical, wonderful, incredible. 

djvdworxsaa74_2(This is the proof cover, a massive thank you to Harper Collins Children for sending me a copy… I feel like a very lucky book blogger!)

“Since her mother’s disappearance, eleven-year-old Tilly has found comfort in stories at Pages & Co., her grandparents’ bookshop. But when her favourite characters, Anne of Green Gables and Alice from Wonderland, appear in the shop, Tilly’s adventures become very real. Not only can she follow Anne and Alice into their thrilling worlds, she discovers she can bookwander into any story she chooses. Tilly’s new ability could even help her solve the mystery of what happened to her mother all those years ago. But danger may be lurking on the very next page.”

Tilly and the Bookwanderer tells the story of Matilda Pages, a young girl who discovers she has a magical ability to see characters from her favourite books and wander into their books with them. Matilda’s mam isn’t around, but she is very lucky to be surrounded by an awful lot of love from her grandparents (who own an incredible bookshop, Pages and Co.) As the book progresses, Tilly goes from being quite a lonely character to one surrounded by magic and friendship, through the help of someone from her school, Oskar. There’s secrets, lies, a pretty scary bad guy, discoveries, magic, the Underlibrary and a Librarian (you know it’s series when there’s capital letters involved!) to explore. 

There is SO MUCH I love about this book that I could be here forever. The characters, the setting (I want to visit Pages and Co. because I would spend so much money and I’d just sit and read because it sounds like the ideal reading date location), the magic, the baddies, the plot, the writing style, the cover, the wonder it creates, the love of books, the importance of books. I could go on.

Seeing the world, the real world and the bookish world, though Tilly and Oskar’s eyes was absolutely gorgeousthere’s nothing quite like seeing the wonder of books through a child’s eyes. There are so many moments of utter delight in books and stories that you can get lost in the story without quite realising. 

This book is a gorgeous tale about the magic and wonder of books and imagination. It’s a book that will make you remember why you love your favourite books, and will make you want to reread them (or read The Little Princess, because I never have and that book plays quite an important role in the book). There’s some lovely paragraphs all about the importance of reading, libraries, bookshops, the magic of books that I wanted to just take a picture of them all and frame them. Anna’s writing encapsulates the importance of all of the bookish love so beautifully. I’m very excited for book 2 and 3. I didn’t expect to love this book as much as I did, but it’s just lush. 

Reading this book turned me into a bit of a kid again. The idea of being able to jump into books and seeing my favourite fictional characters in real life is just magical. I have no idea which book I’d like to jump into, or who I’d like to meet in real life. Just imagine that! Seeing your favourite fictional character just chilling in the bookshop you frequent… I don’t quite know that I’d know what to do. 

I think this book will have a very special place in many classrooms. My kids are going to love this a lot. It’s such an incredible story about the magic and wonder of stories. It’s going to make readers fall more in love with reading. Anna James is an absolute wonder. 

There’s so much more I’m yet to talk about. I can’t wait to be able to talk to everyone about this book and recommend it to all of my kids!

My goodreads review reads:

An absolutely incredible adventure told through the life of Matilda Pages – a bookwanderer, book store inhabitant and all around brilliant young girl. I loved this story. There are baddies to be terrified of, good guys to root for, unexpected friends, lots of mentions of other books and so much more. This book is what’s so brilliant about all books – adventure, magic, getting lost, being found, friendships and discoveries. I can not wait for more from this series.

Have you read Tilly and the Bookwanderers?
Which book would you like to wander into?
How would you react if your favourite character appeared in front of you?

A massive thank you to Jo at Harper Collins Children for sending me a copy of this book. I’m still in awe. I have pre-ordered the hardback and eagerly await its arrival on my doorstep! 

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S x