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December 2016

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#FoylesFive: Non-Fiction Picture Books
7th December 2016 - Matt Blackstock

Non-Fiction Picture Books

#FoylesFive: Non-Fiction Picture Books

Matt from our web team tells us all about his favourite Non-Fiction children's books for this Christmas and beyond.

 

Atlas of Oddities by Clive Gifford & Tracy Worrall

A beautiful book celebrating the diversity, wonderfulness and epicness of our little blue and green planet. Discover the weird and wonderful, the strange and fairly odd, all illustrated fantastically. With the wildest of habitats from blistering hot deserts to the icy mountain ranges, and animals galore for everyone to enjoy.

 

Illuminature by Rachel Williams & Carnovsky

Reveal the hidden secrets of our natural world with this fab interactive and bold kaleidoscopic book!

Use the magical lens to find out which animals are prowling after dark, the dazzling daytime adventures of creatures and the amazing unseen lives of plants and trees. With a marvellous design that leaps from the pages, this lovely tome will keep younger and older readers, and explorers happy for hours on end.

 

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky

One of my favourite books right now. This is the fascinating illustrated history of science's most famous and influential women: biologists, physicists and x-ray crystallographers and lots, lots more. What’s wonderful about this book is the perfect balance of fun and education, and it looks absolutely stunning too.

 

Atlas of Animal Adventures by Rachel Williams, Emily Hawkins and Lucy Letherland

Delve into the animal world, find out hundreds of incredible facts and discover animals that you never knew existed. Brought to you with gorgeously colourful images, and filled with more creatures than an Indiana Jones movie and twice as adventurous… go forth traveller!

 

Animasaurus by Tracey Turner

Let’s face it, pre-historic animals are amazing. Their size alone is enough to make us gaze with wonder, but this is just scratching the surface of how astonishing the animals in our past can be. Hamsters with horns, giant kangaroos and millipedes the size of a person, plus much more - all lovingly drawn in eye-popping colours.

 

 

Damian Barr Revisits a Christmas Classic
6th December 2016 - Damian Barr

Damian Barr Revisits a Christmas Classic

 

Great books deserve great wine. And what’s a book club without a bottle or three? Every month Damian Barr, author and Sunday Times Drinks Critic, suggests surprising and delicious #NovelPairings: Would Bridget Jones choose Chardonnay now? How tipsy is Ulysses? It’s Christmas so this month we had to choose Dickens’s classic festive ghost story, A Christmas Carol, which is well worth re-reading to experience the truly scary hauntings and to understand Scrooge’s sad back-story. Helping me choose our #NovelPairings were Rebecca Palmer from Corney & Barrow and Simon Heafield from Foyles. 

 

 

 

 

 

A Christmas Carol essentially is Christmas: the turkey, the tree, all the trimmings.  Except maybe the ghosts.

'Few novels have had a bigger or more enduring cultural impact,' says Simon from Foyles.  'So many traditions stem from it.  We never really doubt Scrooge will change but we forget how scary his journey is.'

The ghosts aren’t all that terrifying — particularly the Ghost of Christmas Present: 'a jolly Giant, glorious to see; who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty’s horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge.'

I’d forgotten that the Ghost of Christmas Past takes us back to Scrooge’s utterly miserable childhood where he’s bullied at school and home. His pathetic little sister, Fan, says: 'Father is so much kinder than he used to be.'  Maybe this cruel treatment is the root of Scrooge’s meanness?

Then there are the twin horrors of Ignorance and Want, apparitions revealed by the Ghost of Christmas Present: 'They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds… No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.'

Ever alert to the injustice of poverty, Dickens does not (at least here) moralise about the dangers of drink. Our bibulous-o-graphy is lengthy and may lead to gout. Punch features often and was Dickens’s favourite. There is also something called Negus and another curiosity called Smoking Bishop. He criticized tee-totalism as 'an attempt by the weak-willed to make the temperate suffer for their inability to drink moderately'.

In her brilliant biography Clare Tomalin claims that on his final American tour in 1868 Dickens drank all the time: cream and two tablespoons of rum before breakfast; a Sherry Cobbler at noon; a PINT of Champagne at three; and an egg beaten into a glass of sherry as a primer for his evening lecture.

'Port is very Victorian,' says Rebecca from Corney & Barrow. 'Our Ten-Year-Old Tawny is basically Christmas in a glass.  The lovely warm colour comes from wooden barrels.'  It bursts with pudding mixture — dried fruit and toasted nuts. Like the book, it’s not too sweet.

'I think of Port as a deeper red,' says Simon. And with that Rebecca pours a glass of Corney & Barrow Ruby Port. It’s all summer fruit pudding and vibrant berries and plums. Perhaps a bit too cheerful.

Like most Victorians, Dickens also loved Gin and our final option is Corney & Barrow Sloe Gin. I make my own so I am wary of commercial offerings. 'This is delicious,' says Simon. 'It’s really punchy but not overwhelming, pleasantly medicinal.'

Port, for all its charms, lacks the clout of the story – it doesn’t have enough kick.  So the Sloe Gin is our #NovelPairing.  Save a tot for Tiny Tim – God bless us, everyone!

 

Bibulous-o-graphy for A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

 

B is for Beer

Which the Victorians drank like water because their water was so dangerously foul. It runs through the book.

 

G is for Grog

As drunk by the salty lighthouse keepers shown to Scrooge by the jovial-seeming Ghost of Christmas Present:

'But even here, two men who watched the light had made a fire, that through the loophole in the thick stone wall shed out a ray of brightness on the awful sea. Joining their horny hands over the rough table at which they sat, they wished each other Merry Christmas in their can of grog; and one of them: the elder, too, with his face all damaged and scarred with hard weather, as the figure-head of an old ship might be: struck up a sturdy song that was like a Gale in itself.'

 

N is for Negus

The Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge to witness the Fezziwig Christmas feast and they drink Negus:

'There were more dances, and there were forfeits, and more dances, and there was cake, and there was negus, and there was a great piece of Cold Roast, and there was a great piece of Cold Boiled, and there were mince-pies, and plenty of beer.'

Negus is a hot drink made of red or white wine, water, lemon juice, sugar, and nutmeg created by Colonel Francis Negus who died in 1737.  Keeps wintry chills away!

 

P is for Punch

Dickens loved this quintessentially Victorian drink and it often appears in his books, most memorably Mr Micawber is fond of making it. It appears several times in The Christmas Carol but first when Scrooge meets the Ghost of Christmas Present:

'It was his own room. There was no doubt about that. But it had undergone a surprising transformation. …. Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam.'

 

S is for Smoking Bishop

Nothing to do with religious persecution or some kind of cheese, this concoction appears at the very end of the book when Scroooge has learned his lessons from the ghosts.

'"A merry Christmas, Bob," said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back.  "A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year.  I'll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob.  Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!"'

It's a gingery sort of Punch.  Here’s a great recipe: http://toriavey.com/toris-kitchen/2012/12/drinking-with-charles-dickens-the-smoking-bishop/ 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#FoylesFive: Graphic Novel Gifts
1st December 2016 - Matt Blackstock

Graphic Novel Gifts

#FoylesFive: Graphic Novel Gifts

Matt from our web team shares his great graphic novel gifts, that will make someone's Christmas extra special.

 

Last Look by Charles Burns

This collection of Charles Burns’ trippy trilogy will make an excellent gift for anyone who likes to be freaked out a little, takes pleasure in stories that unravel on you and feed your imagination… just before destroying it. An unworldly mix of true life and an ugly underworld, this book will stay in your mind for a very long time.

 

The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg

Love and a wicked sense of humour guide us through the most gorgeous graphic novel I’ve read in years. Beautiful drawn and written, follow this epic journey of stories within stories, gods, wicked men and brave women. Isabel Greenberg’s story is told from the heart and doesn’t shy away from being a bit dark, scary and heartbreaking. An absolute must!

 

Angel Catbird – Volume 1 by Margaret Atwood & Johnnie Christmas

Margaret Atwood makes her graphic novel debut with this devilishly dark and witty superhero comic book. When genetic engineer Strig Feleedus is involved in a horrid accident, his DNA is combined with that of an owl and a cat! Action and adventure follow in this blisteringly exciting page turner that you will want to re-read over and over.

 

Unbelievable Gwenpool by Christopher Hastings

Meet Gwen Poole comic book fan until one day she wakes up in the world of superheroes; I know it happens to us all! Perhaps the craziest, out of control and zany graphic novel Marvel have produced in years. Pitting our newest untrained and untested hero against the world’s mightiest heroes, what could possibly go wrong?

 

Literary Life Revisited by Posy Simmonds

Posy Simmond’s classic work is the perfect gift for that very literary person in your life, with a charming and frankly hilarious take on the life of authors. This new edition is brimming with extra cartoons. It will be more than enough to keep the avid reader (or writer) happy and laughing way past Christmas Day.

 

 

#FoylesFive: Stocking Fillers
28th November 2016 - Jay Moran

 

Beautiful Stocking Fillers

Jay from our Birmingham branch shares his Christmas stocking fillers.

 

The Stocking: the first port of call on Christmas Day. Usually, they're full of chocolates, socks, a satsuma. For the book lovers in your life, here are some petite little treats to make their stockings a bit more personal this year (as well as get them pondering where on earth these tiny books will go on their shelves).

 

The Christmas Truce  by Carol Ann Duffy

This is an ideal gift for anyone; no matter their age there is something to be appreciated - be it the artwork, the prose, or simply the meaning of the stories. In The Christmas Truce, Carol Ann Duffy takes a tremulous scene of friendship between enemies, and delivers a truly heart warming story that will resonate with any reader. Accompanied by sweet illustrations by David Roberts, this a truly beautiful book.

 

Five Historical Miniatures by Stefan Zweig 

If I'm recommending books, I always try to squeeze in at least one by Stefan Zweig. This charming book is perfect for any lover of history, covering events such as Lenin's journey across Europe before the Russian Revolution and the discovery of El Dorado. His writing, as ever, flows beautifully, and I firmly believe this will make a wonderful festive gift.

 

Soppy by Philippa Rice or The Trouble with Women by Jacky Fleming 

We all know someone who is becoming increasingly obsessed with graphic novels. If you want to treat them but don't have a lot to spend, these two are great picks. Soppy is so endearing and adorable that this would be great for your other half, smitten friend or the hopeless romantic in your life. If not, The Trouble With Women is a hilarious graphic novel that looks at the absurdity of sexism throughout the ages. A genuine rib tickler, this will be one book to share.

 

Rabbit Warren Peace

Sometimes your literary chum is just too hard to buy for. They appear to own every book. You spend hours squinting at photographs of their bookshelves on their social media pages, trying to discern what the somewhat blurry titles are. Sometimes you just have to get them something silly, something they wouldn't get for themselves but will definitely earn either a hearty chortle or a look of confusion (which is perfectly acceptable around Christmas time). I confess to having a soft spot for these books. I can't resist a good pun and a literary pun is almost too much for me to bear. A Guinea Pig Pride & Prejudice or Oliver Twist are delightfully silly although I do admit to liking Rabbit Warren Peace even more. 

 

 

 

#FoylesFave: Jim Henson's Labyrinth Tales by Cory Godbey
25th November 2016 - Andi Yates

Foyles Fave

Jim Henson's Labyrinth Tales by Cory Godbey

 

If, like Andi, Labyrinth is one of your favourite films, you won't want to miss this gorgeous book.

 

LabyrinthWho can believe it's been 30 years since Labyrinth exploded into our hearts and minds?! Like a lot of people in their mid-thirties, this has always been one of my favourite films. (I even have a ferret called Sir Didymus), and I can  recite practically all the words and sing  all the songs - although, not very well!

 

I've been on tenterhooks waiting for this beautiful picture book to come out (I almost lost my head) and I'm so happy to say that it does not disappoint. Written and illustrated by the talented Cory Godbey, it really captures the essence of the film and the whimsical feel of all the characters. Split into three small but perfectly formed tales, with cameos from many of our beloved goblins, this really takes me back to my childhood. I couldn't stop myself smiling as I read it and saw many of my favourite friends again.

 

A wonderful, fantastical read for children, but a necessity for fans.

 

 

 

#FoylesFive: Beautiful Picture Books
23rd November 2016 - Matt Blackstock

#FoylesFive: Beautiful Picture Books

 

Matt from our web team talks about one of his most favourite things, picture books, and why they make a great festive gift.

 

We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen

Two turtles find a hat, they both like it, they both want to wear it. What follows is a funny, sad and touching story, beautifully told and drawn by Jon Klassen. This is one of those rare books that will appeal not just to the little ones in your life, but to everyone… especially if they love turtles. Finally, the last part of the greatest trilogy ever written is now complete!

 

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis

What is that? An all important question posed at the beginning of this gorgeous bug filled story, told in bug language, of course. Here we delve in to the drama of a common, everyday garden and what we are greeted with is utter delight! In Carson Ellis’ follow up to the amazing Home we find an imagination that will bring a smile to all.

 

The Nightmare Before Christmas by Tim Burton

Who wouldn’t love this fantastic book based on the famous Christmas/Halloween film by the genius director, Tim Burton. Illustrated and written by Burton himself, this is a fantastic way to celebrate Christmas (or a late Halloween) be it a very alternative and scary one.

 

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd

This is one of the most beautiful books I have ever seen. And accompanying  the astonishing art work by Levi Pinfold is a deeply woven story of a young girl and a secret she must keep, the secret of Briar Hill.

 

An Artist’s Alphabet by Norman Messenger

What a delightfully engaging and visually stunning book. Transforming the ABC into an adventurous collection of natural objects, flowers and more! This is the kind of book that will keep you entertained for hours, one of those incredible books that you will return to year after year. 

 

 

Latest Blog
#FoylesFive: Non-Fiction Picture Books
07/12/2016

Matt from our web team tells us all about his favourite Non-Fiction children's books for this Christmas and beyond.

Damian Barr Revisits a Christmas Classic
06/12/2016

It’s Christmas so this month we had to choose Dickens’s classic festive ghost story, A Christmas Carol.

#FoylesFive: Graphic Novel Gifts
01/12/2016

Matt from our web team shares his great graphic novel gifts, that will make someone's Christmas extra special.

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