For The Love of Books by Eva Jordan

read-2869328_1920 (1)

Image by RDRogers1971 from Pixabay

Last month I reviewed the beautifully illustrated children’s picture book, The Hospital Hoppities which you can read here. Inspired by such a lovely book and brilliant idea, I thought I’d take a look at why it’s so important for children to read books.

 

As a child I loved reading. I couldn’t wait to clamber up Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree or explore C. S. Lewis’s land of Narnia via the back of an old wardrobe.

 

 

Then, when my children were very little, I got the opportunity to go back to some of my childhood favourites by reading to them. I loved reading to my children, and they loved listening. Perched on my knee or snuggled up beside me they were always eager to listen to a bedtime story or two, including some I’d read as a child as well as new ones we discovered together. The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Harry And The Terrible Whatzit were always firm favourites.

 

 

Reading to children provides a wonderful opportunity to bond with them, and a brilliant way to introduce them to the magical world of books. Even before they are born children recognise their parents’ voices, so reading to them from birth, just for a couple of minutes a day, gives them the comfort of hearing a familiar voice while increasing their exposure to language. 

child-3046494_1920

Image by 2081671 from Pixabay

 

However, as my children grew older and their enthusiasm to sit on my knee waned, I’m pleased to say their love of books didn’t. They enjoyed trips to the library almost as much as a day out.

children-684584_1920

Image by Ben Kerckx from Pixabay

So, what do the experts have to say about it? Well, apparently reading for pleasure is really good for children, and here’s why.

Not only does reading encourage children to use their imagination, studies have also shown that reading for pleasure can make a great difference to a child’s educational performance.

unicorn-2074469_1920

Image by Mandyme27 from Pixabay

They will often perform better in reading tests, develop a broader vocabulary, increased general knowledge and a better understanding of other cultures. In fact, Bali Rai, award-winning writer of novels for teenagers and younger readers suggests, “Reading for pleasure is the single biggest factor in success later in life, outside of an education. Study after study has shown that those children who read for pleasure are the ones who are most likely to fulfil their ambitions. If your child reads, they will succeed—it’s that simple”.

 

 

girls-2838810_1280

Image by b0red from Pixabay

Eva Jordan in conversation with retired nurse and author Joy M. Lilley

Eva in conversation with Joy

 

Today on my blog I’m very pleased to welcome the lovely Joy M. Lilley, author and former nurse.

 

Hi Joy, thanks for chatting with me today. Can you tell everyone a little bit about yourself? I understand you’re a retired nurse?

 Hello Eva, yes, I worked in the NHS for a long time. My nursing years were wonderful. I enjoyed every minute. Caring for others gave me much satisfaction. And I made some wonderful life-long friends.

Taking on three stepchildren along with one son of my own when I married, while working to train as a registered nurse was hard work. At that time I already had seventeen years under my belt nursing as a State Enrolled nurse. That training no longer exists. Looking back I wonder how I did it.

My nursing skills were required at home too. My husband was diagnosed with critical coronary heart disease aged 45. It was in 2008 I retired, when he needed his third major heart operation. Thereafter, I was able to get on with a goal I’d dreamt of for years, namely to write and publish my first novel.

I am a Grandmother of 6 and a great grandmother (gosh).

As well as writing, I also work as a voice over recording artist. I work mainly for the U.S. market, some European and the U.K. I have a British, mature voice and can manage most British accents and some others.

   

How long have you been writing? Did you always want to be a writer?

Seriously since 2008.And yes, I always hoped I’d end up writing novels.

 

What is the most difficult/frustrating part of being a nurse and how does it compare to the most difficult/frustrating part of being a writer? 

Interesting question. Nursing during the 60’s was hard slog compared with the modern era. Don’t get me wrong; nurses still have to work very hard, but there are a number of better systems in place now. We had to hand wash out the catheters of each prostatectomy every 30 minutes, with likely three patients having had the operation that day, along with 28 other patients to care for – it was exhausting. And wow betide any nurse who reneged on that duty as the patient could go into clot retention and need to return to theatre. There was only one trained nurse on night duty. Thankfully, that situation no longer exists as patients are now connected to a continuous infusion, releasing the nurses to cover all their other duties.

Perhaps not so much a comparison, but thinking through an appropriate, readable story to tell is frustrating to me, along with the discipline required to sit down and write.

 

And finally, what advice would you offer anyone thinking of becoming a nurse or a writer?

If you are thinking about becoming a nurse the most important skills you need are compassion, empathy and patience. Be prepared for much study and a whole lot of giving oneself to others. Five GCE’S are required before the colleges will accept a student. The rewards are immense and as a Registered General nurse you will need a degree under your belt.

As for becoming a writer, similarly you’ll need empathy with your characters. Much patience is required when the rewrites take over. As is the need to go over the script, time and time again. I would also say it’s imperative to get an editor. They are often able to see the ‘schoolboy howlers’ we don’t.

 

Thanks for chatting to me today, Joy. 

 

If you want to know more about Joy’s books you can read about them here

 

Eva Jordan in conversation with publisher @janefspencer @EyriePress

 

Eva in conversation with Jane Spencer

 

Earlier this month I reviewed the wonderfully illustrated children’s story The Hospital Hoppities (see my review here), published by Eyrie Press. So, I thought I’d take the opportunity to have a chat with Jane Spencer, the publisher and managing director behind the local press who published this lovely children’s story. 

 

Hoppities-5

 

  1. Hi Jane, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and about Eyrie Press?

 

Hi Eva. I’m an editor and proofreader living in March, Cambridgeshire. I home educated my four children and realised there weren’t many books that featured home educating families, at least not in a positive way, so I decided to address that and publish some! I set up Eyrie Press as a social enterprise and then broadened its horizons to publish books that take a non-tokenistic approach to featuring other communities underrepresented in fiction, or books by writers from East Anglia. We also run local writing and publishing workshops from time to time and have an annual short story competition exclusively for East Anglian writers.

 

  1. The Hospital Hoppities is such a lovely, beautifully illustrated book and is the perfect companion for small children that have to spend time in hospital. How and why did Eyrie Press get involved with its publication?

 

Charlotte, the author, submitted it to us and it was such a lovely idea that we knew straight away we wanted to publish it. As a story which aims to make families in hospital feel ‘seen’ in children’s literature, and which empowers its main character with a helping role rather than a dependent one, it very much ticked our boxes! We put out a call on Facebook for an illustrator and were delighted to find Anjalee, who did an amazing job of bringing the story to life. We could hardly believe this was the first book she’d illustrated!

 

  1. And finally, for all those budding writers out there, I understand you are open for submissions. What, ideally, is Eyrie Press looking for?

 

Going forward, we’re focusing on well-crafted novels and novellas in the genres of contemporary, historical and speculative fiction. We’d really like submissions that are by writers from East Anglia (which we define as Cambridgeshire, Peterborough Norfolk, Suffolk and Lincolnshire), or which feature underrepresented communities. There are more details on our website www.eyriepress.co.uk and you can get some hints as to what I like in a submission by reading the Q&A I did over at The Book Stewards blog! www.thebookstewards.com/qa-with-jane-spencer-of-eyrie-press

Jane Spencer

Eva Jordan reviews… The Hospital Hoppities by Charlotte Hartley-Jones Illustrated by Anjalee Burrows @anjaleebee Published by @EyriePress

 

Eve Reviews The Hospital Hoppities

My book review this month is something a little different for me. The Hospital Hoppities is a beautifully illustrated children’s story aimed at younger children that have to spend extended periods of time in hospital, the idea being to make their stay a little less scary and a lot more fun.

Ollie, a little boy waiting for his operation, is bored. His wise old grandmother tells him about the Hospital Hoppities: small, furry rabbits, with big eyes, shimmering fur and log floppy ears. They are, according to Ollie’s grandmother, magic rabbits that live in hospitals. “They look after the children and help the hospital be a happier place, but they don’t like to be seen”, so most of the time they make themselves invisible. They do this by thumping their back paw. However, one-day Ollie spots a Hospital Hoppity in the drawer of his hospital bedside cabinet. Somehow he has got his paw stuck. Ollie helps the Hoppity release his paw but when he taps it to make himself invisible, it doesn’t work. The Hospital Hoppity then asks Ollie for help, and between them they fly around the wards of the hospital carrying out good deeds.

Hoppities-3

Charlotte Hartley-Jones, the author of this delightful story, is a trained clinical psychologist and writer. She was inspired to write this story after her own first-hand experience of life on a hospital ward with a son with a chronic medical condition. She was keen to write something children could relate to, especially those that spend a lot of time in hospital, by taking some of the fear out of the experience. Therefore, although the story itself doesn’t focus on individual health conditions, the beautiful illustrations by Anjalee Burrows, a digital illustrator, do show medical equipment like heart monitors, drip stands and hospital staff wearing stethoscopes and scrubs, helping to ‘normalise’ such things. The storyline also empowers Ollie, the main character, by giving him a helping role, instead of a dependent one.

 

Hoppities-1

The Hospital Hoppities is a wonderfully magical, beautifully illustrated story that is both entertaining and comforting, especially for small children that have to spend time in hospital. It also makes the perfect companion for children visiting siblings and loved ones in hospital, helping to ‘normalise’ what can sometimes be a very daunting experience.

 

Hardcover: 32 pages

Publisher: Eyrie Press (30 Jun. 2019)

 

Hope Springs Eternal

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness”

– Desmond Tutu

0-10

Back in April this year I was lucky enough to visit the beautiful city of Krakow in Poland. If you’ve never been I highly recommend it. Dating back to the 7th century it is one of Poland’s oldest cities, rich in history and culture. It is also one of the few eastern European cities to escape bombing during World War II, which is why many of the streets and architecture remain exactly as they were before the war. In 1939, during the Nazi occupation of Poland, the Third Reich began rounding up all Jewish residents and confining them to overcrowded ghettos before later deporting them to concentration camps. Which was another reason for my visit to Krakow—I wanted to visit the nearby infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau camp and pay my respects to the many innocent men, women and children that had been imprisoned and, in most cases, murdered there.

First stop was the Auschwitz camp where we entered via the notorious iron gates and emblazoned words “Arbeit Macht Frei” ­­­­­­­(Work Sets You Free). My biggest fear at this point was that people would attempt to take selfies––thankfully no one did, with those taking photos (myself included) doing so quietly and discreetly. Walking through the gates I noticed the old lookout towers and surrounding, once electrified, barbed wire fencing, which made me shiver, despite the warm weather. Our guide then led us to various rooms in numbered buildings known as blocks, which had once housed prisoners, some of which now contain physical reminders of those murdered. It was heart breaking to witness the hills of human hair, shoes, hairbrushes, clothes, and toothbrushes displayed behind glass panels. Equally appalling were the standing chambers, suffocation chambers, starvation chambers and the firing wall of notorious Block 11—otherwise known as the punishment chamber.

0-4

Our next stop (10 mins drive away) was Birkenau (which reportedly held over 90,000 prisoners in 1944) also known as Auschwitz II. Built to keep up with mass European arrests taking place it evolved into a network of camps where most prisoners were exterminated, often in gas chambers, or used as slave labour, while other prisoners were subjected to barbaric medical experiments led by Josef Mengele. Our guide took us inside what was once one of the women’s barracks. These were brick buildings often housing up to 700 people, sometimes more, containing three-tier wooden bunks (sleeping up to six or seven people to each bunk), shoddily built, lacking any real heating or sanitation facilities. Our guide then led us alongside the same train tracks that had transported prisoners from Poland and other parts of Europe via overcrowded cattle trucks into the camp. We then walked the same route to the “shower blocks” that on arrival, most of the elderly men and women, and women with young children believed they were going to, with the promise of a hot meal and a bed afterwards. History tells us otherwise though, and we now know they were in fact marched straight to their deaths via the gas chambers, their bodies then burned in the nearby crematorium.

0-2

As our tour ended, I took stock for a moment and looked up, feeling the heat of the sun on my face. I wondered how the prisoners of the camp must have felt on the days the sun shined for them, if they found the energy to notice or enjoy it—even for a few seconds? I concluded that what I found most difficult to believe about Auschwitz-Birkenau, and the many other camps like it, was that its mass extermination of ordinary people took place very recently, less than eighty years ago to be exact. And it wasn’t just Jews that were targeted, many non-jewish artists, writers, journalists, teachers, politicians, Romas, communists, homosexuals, and mentally and physically disabled people met their death––anyone basically, deemed unfit for Nazi Germany. Sadly though (although perhaps not on the scale of the Holocaust), our history books are littered with accounts of genocide, both before and since World War II.

However, there have been many inspiring accounts of survival since those terrible events took place. Stories about people that never gave up hope, who went on to live full lives, many of whom married and had families of their own. Ten years ago I was privileged enough to meet Eva Clarke, one of the Holocaust’s youngest known survivors. After spending time in Auschwitz, her mother, Anka, gave birth to Eva on a wooden cart in the shadow of the prison gates of Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria in April 1945. Eva explained how her mother once told her that before her incarceration she would never have predicted being able to withstand such an experience, but when it happened, and for no real logical reason, she just assumed she would survive, attributing a bit of luck and the overwhelming love for her unborn child as one of her greatest motivators to keep going.

So, as long as there is good in the world, and love, there is always, I believe, hope.

 

Eva Jordan reviews… The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris Published by @ZaffreBooks

EJ Reviews The Tattooist of...

 

“Hope begins in the dark,

The stubborn hope that if you just

Show up and try to do the right thing,

The dawn will come.

You wait and watch and work:

You don’t give up”

–– Anne Lamott

 

Having recently visited the Auschwitz–Birkenau concentration camps in Poland I knew it was time to read a book that, due to the subject matter, I’d been putting off for a while. However, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, despite the horror and sadness surrounding it, is in fact a love story. One that shows, where possible, even during the most wretched of circumstances, you should never give up hope.

The author’s note at the beginning of the book reads, “This is a work of fiction, based on the first-hand testimony of one Auschwitz survivor”. She suggests reading some of the many detailed accounts available about the holocaust for those that would like further information on the subject. This story, however, in the main, concerns the experiences of survivor Lale Sokolov, a 24-year-old Jewish Slovakian who arrived at Auschwitz–Birkenau in April 1942. Lale becomes the camp tattooist, a position that affords him slightly better food rations and sleeping conditions than most. He hates what he does, “Tattooing the arms of men is one thing; defiling the bodies of young girls is horrifying”, but he does as he’s told because—well, what choice does he have? One day he spots a young woman waiting in line with her number written on a piece of paper. Shaking, she is obviously terrified but Lale takes her hand and begins tattooing her arm. Bravely, she doesn’t flinch, and when he’s finished she smiles at him. Lale discovers her name is Gita, and for him it is love at first sight. With a renewed sense of purpose Lale knows he has to survive Auschwitz, if only to ensure the survival of the woman he loves.

Written in close third person, this is an unsettling story. Having researched the holocaust whilst studying for my degree I am no stranger to the horrors that took place in the Nazi concentration camps. However, I’m also pleased to say, despite my initial trepidation about reading it, Heather Morris has written a tale about friendship and love, and above all else, a story of hope, which, unbelievably, even amongst the everyday occurrences of death, starvation and brutality, people still managed to hold on to. Well-written, honest and brave The Tattooist of Auschwitz doesn’t skirt the atrocities of the holocaust but neither is it too graphic. An engaging and powerful read including a beautifully written afterword by Gary Sokolov – Lale and Gita’s son – who growing up remembers a home filled with “love, smiles, affection, food and my father’s sharp dry wit”––testimony to, if it was needed, the shining strength of the human spirit.

 

Publisher: Zaffre

Paperback: 320 pages

 

The Deepings Literary Festival

If you like going to Literary Festivals but don’t have the means, money or motivation to travel to more established ones that take place throughout the UK literary calendar, you’d do well to remember one that started three years ago.

Following on from the enormous success of the first festival in 2017, Deepings Literary Festival this year was a 4-day event running from 23-26th May, and I was one of the authors invited to take part.

67403755_2042215166073004_2233682774047326208_n.jpg

 

For those of you who don’t know the area, The Deepings are a series of settlements in the south of Lincolnshire near the River Welland, some 8 miles to the north of Peterborough and 10 miles east of Stamford. The Deepings include: Deeping St James, Deeping St Nicholas, Market Deeping, and West Deeping. The area is very low-lying, and as a Saxon name is translatable to either ‘deep places’ or ‘deep lands’. 

 

coronation-hall

 

My event took place on the Saturday in Market Deeping but my first stop was Coronation Hall to hear best-selling author Barbara Copperthwaite give a talk. Barbara explained how, although born and bred near the seaside resort of Skegness in Lincolnshire (a location slightly north of The Deepings), she more or less regards herself as local. She discussed how her journalism background has helped her writing and how the flat, rural setting of her childhood has influenced the settings of her psychological thrillers. I had a quick chat with the author afterwards and bought a signed copy of her latest novel The Perfect Friendwhich I’m currently reading and thoroughly enjoying.

 

IMG_0749

 

Next up was my event, Read Dating, along with fellow authors, Ross Greenwood, Jane E James, Tony Forder, Helen Claire Gould, Tony Millington, Margaret Castle and Sarah Bennett, which took place at Deeping Library.

 

deeping-library

 

Based on the popular speed dating format, Read Dating is a big get together of local authors and readers in one fun-filled event, inviting members of the public to spend ten minutes with eight local authors so they can find out about their books, writing, work in progress and inspiration. The event was extremely well organised, the location perfect, the staff friendly and helpful, and the public, just brilliant. All in all it was a very pleasant, entertaining afternoon, and I even sold a few books to boot.

 

Deeping Fest 3

 

Other authors that took part in the four-day festival included Sophie Hannah, Milly Johnson, Cathy Cassidy, Cathy Bramley, Lizzie Lamb, Darren O’ Sullivan and Louise Jensen, to name just a few. The festival also incorporated live music including the brilliant, The Bookshop Band, not to mention a plethora of mouth-watering homemade cakes offered for sale (the cheese scones and coffee cake were sublime).

However, if you missed out this year, I am reliably informed that preparations are underway for the next festival which at present is a biennial event, so will take place in 2021.

Put it in your diary folks!

 

Deeping Fest 2

Talking and laughing with writers Graeme Cumming and Esther Chilton