Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Exploring Children’s Literature #3 – Billy the Kid by Michael Morpurgo

Exploring Children’s Literature #3 – Billy the Kid by Michael Morpurgo
Wednesday, 25 April 2018
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When I was 10 years old, I was introduced to the wonder of Michael Morpurgo through Kensuke’s Kingdom. Of all of the books I read whilst at school when I was a child, there are only two that I specifically remember studying and being completely engaged by – this one, and The Suitcase Kid by Jacqueline Wilson. Morpurgo’s style of writing thrilled me beyond any feeling I’ve ever experienced and it is probably his influence that encouraged my love of reading further. Since reading this book, I have read countless books by him and am constantly on the look-out for new releases.

Now that I am a primary school teacher myself, using class readers to help with engagement and encourage children to read good quality literature makes a lot more sense to me than it did back then. I’ve realised it wasn’t necessarily just the book that attracted me, but the way it was taught- with insightful activities, memorable pieces of artwork and an enthusiasm that came directly from the class teacher. I have learnt that to encourage a child to love a book, you have to love it yourself, so being able to teach Billy the Kid by Michael Morpurgo this half term has definitely allowed for that intention.  

Anyone that knows me well will know that, as well as my love of books, I have a love of football and of the wartime period. This book manages to combine all three of my loves and brings us a story full of beauty but also incredible sadness. Reading this story aloud to a group of children full of innocence and belief in the world is poignant – they understand how deep the words are and the room is brought to a complete hush as I read.

The story follows Billy, an 80 year old man looking back on his life. He reveals his talent as a footballer and how, back in the day, he played professionally for Chelsea Football Club. He tells of the trials and tribulations that he experienced to get to the point, including the loss of his father and later on, the loss of his brother in the Second World War. It is this loss that finally breaks him and he signs up to join the army- specifically, to drive ambulances – to make his brother proud of him and as a means of allowing himself forgiveness for the war he treated the same brother when he told of his decision to enlist. His war days are told in detail and his suffering is vast – to the extent where he returns from the war, years later, a changed man – he comes back to nothing and no-one and has to make do with living on the street. It isn’t until he meets a young family who understand his difficulties, take pity on him, that he realises the extent of his trauma.

This book is beautiful. I’ve noticed recently when reading war based literature that it can often be problematic- this book, for the most part, comes without political agenda. The story focuses more on Billy and his personal experiences of the war, as opposed to the experiences of the war as a whole. Morpurgo writes in a way that is enjoyable to both adult and children, and I am not at all embarrassed to admit that the story brought a tear to my eye on more than one occasion. (Embarrassingly - on the train. Why do I always read heart-wrenching books on the train?)  My class and I are around three quarters of the way through the story and they too are enjoying it immensely. The work that’s being produced as a result of the reading is fantastic.

I can’t wait to read Morpurgo’s newest book Flamingo Boy in the coming weeks – I imagine I’ll love it just as much as I loved this one.


4.5/5.


Saturday, 7 April 2018

Goodreads: The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

Goodreads: The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed
Saturday, 7 April 2018
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I’m really getting back into the swing of this reading thing, aren’t I? Get me, with yet another book review! Last week, my friend and I were lucky enough to be invited to a brunch at Santa Maluco and inevitably, brunch led to a little shopping trip and a shopping trip wouldn’t be a true shopping trip if it didn’t end in new book purchases. I was quite good, all things considered, and only left Waterstones with two books: The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed and A Hero in France by Alan Furst. I’d heard a lot about the former online and thought it was about time I found out what all the fuss was about. The second book was a bit of a spontaneous purchase, but sounds like it’ll be right up my street – historical fiction at its finest. The Nowhere Girls is of course the purpose of this blog post so enough babbling on about nothing, Hol. Let’s get stuck into the review.



The Nowhere Girls is set in a high school in the States and revolves around a trio of girls who come together with the sole intentions of avenging the rape of a girl from their school. In a particularly misogynistic environment, the victim of the rape is made into a laughing stock and driven from the school with absolutely no consequences for the boys who committed the act. Grace Salter has just moved to the town after her and her family were run out of their town because of her mother’s more liberal views towards life in a particularly conservative church constituency. Rosina Suarez is the daughter of a family of Mexican immigrants who dreams of becoming the next big thing in the rock n roll world. Erin Delillo is neurodivergent, obsessed with Star Trek, and has a secret of her own that she hasn’t even shared with her best friend. Seperately, the girls lead lives that aren’t particularly intriguing – they are not cool, they are not popular, and they are certainly nothing special – but together they make up the forefront of the Nowhere Girls, a revolution created to fight sexual abuse and change the misogynistic views that had settled in the minds of the town’s inhabitants. As a group, they meet, inviting the female population of their school to join them – to raise awareness and collectively make the decision to refuse sexual contact of any kind until they start receiving the respect they deserve. They raise the importance of understanding that sex is not a right- it is something that someone chooses to do, without the sense of entitlement that a lot of the men around them seem to have.



The book focuses on the perspectives of multiple characters throughout and is incredibly poignant. It’s very rare that I read a book that has such a massive affect on me. I found myself unable to put the book down, whizzing through it in a matter of hours and feeling the need to talk all about it at every possible opportunity. Just like The Hate U Give, the book focuses on a topic that needs to be talked about and approached in a thoughtful way; and if people stop talking, remind them of it. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book to some people, as there are quite detailed accounts of sexual assault, and there are also (intentional) examples of racism in the pages. Immediately, the principal of the school decides that the only person who could possibly be responsible for creating the group is Rosina, the ‘angry’ Mexican in a principally white town.

The book is dark- there’s absolutely no hiding that fact. In spite of this, it is beautifully written and gets its message across well and truly. It paints positivism and shames victim shaming. Amy Reed has done a mighty fine job here, and I’ll be recommending this book to everyone who asks for the foreseeable future.


4.5/5

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Food: Bold Street Coffee x Santa Maluco Collaboration*

Food: Bold Street Coffee x Santa Maluco Collaboration*
Wednesday, 4 April 2018
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Anyone who knows me well will know that I’m an absolute fiend for good food and going out for dinner is my favourite thing to do. I love the rush of looking at a brand new menu and picking out something that looks and sounds absolutely delicious. The idea of being a ‘lady who brunches’ appeals to me on an exponential scale so any opportunity to try out a good old fashioned brunch menu goes down a treat. 


Liverpool is renowned for having a mighty fine breakfast scene with restaurants all over the city hosting their own take on the most important meal of the day. The most recent take comes from a collaboration between two renowned Liverpool favourites – Santa Maluco and Bold Street Coffee. 

I am a massive fan of Santa Maluco, making absolutely any excuse to visit for pizza and a cocktail. Bold Street Coffee is another firm favourite, with their brunches drawing in the crowds from all sides of the city. When they announced that they were closing for refurbishment reasons, naturally, disappointment and frustration was wide-spread. Opening a pop-up shop in the Santa Maluco restaurant was a bit of a no-brainer really, utilising the mornings to share good old-fashioned breakfast and keeping the pizza loving customers happy with their traditional rodizio and mouth-watering wood fire pizzas in the afternoons and evenings. Being invited along to taste their menu made for a very happy Hollie. 

With my brunch side-kick in tow, we arrived at Santa Maluco with our stomachs empty (very impressive, considering it was Easter weekend and Easter eggs were sat there waiting to be eaten) and our expectations high. We were seated quickly and it was clear to see exactly why Santa Maluca is the perfect location for a brunch pop-up – the atmosphere of the place was relaxing and very chilled out, making for a fantastic first impression.


Deciding what to order was a difficult one, as there were so many delicious sounding options to choose from. In the end both Emily and I decided on scrambled eggs on toast, with sides to accompany our dish. I decided to add bacon on the side of my dish and Emily was a little more ambitious, going for bacon AND mushrooms. We ordered lattes to accompany them – or, as Emily referred to them as; those fancy coffees that look good on Instagram- and settled down for a good gossip while we waited for our food. The wait wasn’t a particularly long one and before long we were tucking into a generous portion of scrambled eggs on fresh crusty toast. The bacon was crispy and salty, exactly how I like it and the eggs were beautiful. I always worry that I’ve ordered the wrong thing when eating out but this was definitely not the case here – the food was delightful, left me full to the brim and feeling incredibly content, ready to seize the day (and the shops). I can guarantee I’ll be definitely going back there of my own accord in the coming months, ready to try the other items on the menu and get a feel for their entire menu.


The menu offers for people of all dietary requirements, with gluten free options and options for vegetarians as well. I’m not sure how well the restaurant accommodates vegans but I’m sure they’d be happy to change things around if you follow a vegan diet. I’m completely recommend trying out the brunch menu here while you have the chance – top notch food, a lovely environment and friendly, thoughtful staff make for a wonderful and fulfilling experience. 

You can try out the Bold Street Coffee menu at its new home in Santa Maluca from 7.30am-3.30pm during the week and 8.00am-3.30pm over the weekend. 


*Food was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thoughts, as always, remain my own.