Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Lunch with a PhoenixPhoenix Yard Literary Lunch I was delighted to be able to accept the invitation to this occasion last week on behalf of Armadillo

Phoenix Yard Literary Lunch

I was delighted to be able to accept the invitation to this occasion on behalf of Armadillo and I wasn’t disappointed. This very young Publishing House is situated in a small yard just off King’s Cross Road in London and shares the fascinating old building with a team of Architects – who I gather are very useful for impromptu book reviews!

Emma Langley , Editor, Andrea Reece, Publicist, and Ellie were very enthusiastic to share their new list of books - all very varied and distinctive and it was fun to sit round a large table with Nicolette Jones, Nick Tucker, Ferelith Horden, Ann Lazim (IBBY) , Meg from Booktrust and Pip and Lesley from Bounce! to discuss their merits.

Here is a link to their latest list

Happiness is a Watermelon on Your Head by Daniel Hahn and Stella Dreis immediately caught my eye with its wonderful bright, colourful and zany cover. The continuing pages are just as fun as the rhyming text tells of three grumpy ladies (Miss Whimper, Miss Grouch and Miss Stern) who try to discover why their friend Miss Jolly is so happy all the time. Their antics, as they try everything from wearing fruit as hats to climbing trees and having exotic pets, are very amusing and the final pages are a riot of colour and shapes as Miss Jolly manages to make them laugh. The pages have wonderful detail to keep you amused for ages.

As a contrast, Freight Train by Donald Crews has the gentle simplicity of blocks of solid colour but is no less effective. An introduction to colour, this short book celebrates the grandeur and strength of the train as it moves through the pages. This picture book has the indefinable hall marks of a classic.

Colour, or rather the limitations of just the white of the page and red and black, is the signature of Little Red Hood by Marjoliane Leray (translated by Sarah Ardizonne) Here we have the well known Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf but beautifully pared down to a simple conversation and illustrations which convey mood and character and attitude in scribbles of colour. This book is very entertaining and deceptive in its apparent simplicity. Great fun!

As I move on to describe Monacello The Little Monk by Geraldine McCaughrean, illustrated by Jana Diemberger, I realise that Phoenix Yard Books like to use every shade and colour palette available to them! This is a short story illustrated in muted hues on wonderful soft brown pages which are perfect for the story of the strange orphaned child, dressed in the dark brown cloak and hood of a monk. Monacello roams the streets of Naples creating a mixed reaction in everyone he meets – except for the cats who are his friends. His background is a mystery as is the aura of both good and bad luck he seems to create. This is the first of a trilogy as Monacello searches for his Mother and is a haunting tale beautifully recounted by Geraldine McCaughrean in her typically skilful style. The accompanying art work is moody and haunting.

Finally, Phoenix Yard has published Coping with Chloe by Rosalie Warren which is aimed at top Juniors, early teens. Anna’s twin Chloe died in an accident, her parents have split up and her Mother isn’t coping. But Anna knows that Chloe hasn’t gone for ever, she is sharing Anna’s body and living with her. This intriguing story tells of Anna’s struggles at home and at school, her friendship with Joe, the new boy at school and the ups and downs of sharing your body with your twin sister…who might have different ideas from you at times.

So overall, Phoenix Yard Books has an unusual and fascinating list. Many of the books have been translated and have stories of their own behind the publication and I recommend keeping a look out for the books they publish in the future.

Louise Stothard 31st January 2012

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