Ask a Bookseller: Rachel from Waterstones Canterbury

Rachel from Waterstones Cantebury

Bookshops are the very best places to go for book recommendations – and booksellers are the friendliest, most knowledgeable of readers!

Ask a Bookseller brings the brilliance of bookseller recommendations to Caboodle. Rachel – children's bookseller extraordinaire at Waterstones Canterbury – has joined us in Caboodlers' Corner to answer your questions.

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Beasts of Olympus

My son is 7 1/2 and absolutely obsessed with Greek myths. He has been working his way through the Percy Jackson series and I have read him a child's version of the Odyssey. I would love to have some really good modern fiction books that would bring this time to life a bit more for him. Any advice gratefully received! – Rose

I loved Greek mythology growing up as well – and still do, my two cats are named after my favourite myths! As well as Percy Jackson, I would definitely recommend Who Let the Gods Out? by Maz Evans – it's so funny and there's four in the series – and Lucy Coats' Beasts of Olympus series, illustrated by David Roberts, is really good fun too. Tales of the Greek Heroes by Roger Lancelyn Green is a lovely book of the classic stories, or there are lots of lovely hardback collections; The Usborne Book of Greek Myths is my favourite for something more special. If he wanted to branch into Norse mythology, Loki: A Bad God’s Guide to Being Good by Louie Stowell is great and hilarious! Also Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell. It might also be worth looking at the Rick Riordan Presents books – selected by the author of Percy Jackson himself, all featuring exciting adventures and based on different cultures and mythologies from around the world.

I Capture the Castle

Which classic novel should teenagers read before they turn 16? – Sam

When I was fifteen, my mum gave me I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – all three of these have really stuck with me, I think I Capture the Castle is my favourite. The Catcher in the Rye is somewhat divisive, but I think it is worth reading as a teenager – most people I know who first read it as adults didn’t appreciate it in the same way. There are some amazing more contemporary reads that I think are equally important, though: Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (I think this should be studied in schools!), The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, to name just a few. Truthfully though, read whatever you want to read! Anything that grabs you and motivates you to read is just as important as an old book that you are told is essential reading. The wider you read, particularly from different points of view, the more understanding and empathy you will gain.

Amari and the Night Brothers

My 9 (nearly 10) year old daughter has really enjoyed the Young James Bond and Alex Rider series of books, but would really like a female version of a spy/action/thriller portraying a smart, strong, cool female. We tried Ruby Redfort, but it didn’t feel quite as 'young grown up cool' (if you know what I mean!). My daughter is a strong, feisty, fearless child and wants to find a similar character who can do martial arts and foil the grown ups and save people, etc. (not as bleak as The Hunger Games though!). – Emma

I definitely know what you mean! Great question. The Enola Holmes series by Nancy Springer might be worth a look, although the historic setting might make it slightly less 'cool' and relatable. Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston is one of my recent favourites, it's a little bit Men in Black – a fantastical world with a bold and brilliant heroine. The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell is a brilliant heist book, one of my favourites (all of hers are amazing but I think your daughter would enjoy this one most). Vi Spy by Maz Evans might be a little lighter than your daughter is after, but is really good fun! There are a lot of female-led detective stories, but that might be slightly different to the action-packed thrillers she is after – but for example, Agatha Oddly by Lena Jones and the amazing Murder Most Unladylike series by Robin Stevens.

The Moonshine Dragon

My 8-year-old daughter has recently been diagnosed dyslexic. She loves a story being read to her but wants to be able to read on her own as well. She has enjoyed the Isadora Moon series and likes fairies, magic and animals. Can you suggest a book that is dyslexia friendly that she could try on her own please? – Victoria


Try looking up the publisher Barrington Stoke – they specialise in dyslexia-friendly books for children (or kids who are reluctant to read for any reason) of all ages, printed with a special dyslexia-friendly font on off-white paper to make them easier to read, and with really engaging stories with a range of themes. The Little Gems series might be especially good, particularly The Moonshine Dragon by Cornelia Funke, The First Third Wish by Ian Beck, or The Beach Puppy by Holly Webb. There are more that sit in the slightly older range (8-12), The 13th Fairy by Kaye Umansky might be particularly appealing! They're not specifically dyslexia-friendly but some others that might be good, with nice illustrations: Captain Pug by Laura James, Midnight Magic by Michelle Harrison, Dixie O'Day by Shirley Hughes, and the Kitty books by Paula Harrison. It also depends very much on the child and how the reading feels for them, but graphic novels might be worth a look too? Maybe the Hilda series by Luke Pearson (the Netflix series is a delight too!), Bunny Vs Monkey and Looshkin by Jamie Smart, or Barb the Brave by Dan & Jason. Best of luck!

How High the Moon

My 15-year-old granddaughter has wide-ranging tastes. She recently asked me about such diverse people as Rosa Parks and Edith Piaf, is interested in music, and plays a ukelele. Can you recommend an historical novel that might pique her interest? – Cindy

Wonderful range of interests! My first thought was How High the Moon by Karyn Parsons – set in 1940s America, about a young Black girl whose mother is a jazz singer. It's classed as slightly younger (9-12) but deals with some quite hard-hitting topics, so might suit your granddaughter. Last Night at the Telegraph Club might be worth a look, a gentle romance whilst also looking at ethnicity, racism and sexuality in 1950s San Francisco. Laura Wood's young adult books are lovely historical stories – I like A Snowfall of Silver about an aspiring young actress, but all of them are sweet, dreamy and fun, set in the 20s-30s. Other authors to look out for include Ruta Sepetys, Alex Wheatle, and Elizabeth Wein. Also, it is modern day, but I was also reminded of Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, as one of the main characters also plays the ukulele! And Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman, set in Hawaii, about a young songwriter dealing with grief – it's very beautiful.

Ask a Bookseller

I love reading and have a reasonable collection of books on my bookshelf that I have not yet got around to reading, sometimes it is overwhelming. As a bookseller is it ever overwhelming for you, that you are surrounded by so many books but may not ever have the time to be able to read them all and how do you pick your next read? – Ani

YES! I am often overwhelmed and wish I had some kind of time travel device, just to have more time to read. I completely understand the feeling. There is a Japanese word: Tsundoku – it refers to collecting books but just letting them pile up unread in your home, so it is definitely A Thing that booklovers do! I have also read articles that say it is good for your brain to have unread books, something about the idea of there always being new things to learn and new stories to hear. Books are joyful objects, and if being surrounded by them makes you happy, never feel guilty for that. I also think it's important to read what calls to you at the time, or reading according to your mood, so it is really helpful to have a variety of books to choose from.


I run two book clubs (one fiction and one science-fiction/fantasy), so between those I actually don't have so much time to read books I really want to read – which can sometimes be helpful in making me choose what to read next! Other than that, I try to alternate children's, young adult and adult fiction books.

 

What makes Waterstones Canterbury a great place to visit?

"Waterstones Canterbury has a bit of everything. Three floors of books for everyone and perfect gift ideas, a wonderful café, knowledgeable staff and talented baristas. More than just a shop, it is a place people get excited to visit and spend time in, and we love to encourage that! We have two very old rocking horses and a fish tank (look out for Big Billy) in our children’s section. I spend most of my days off there as well!" - Rachel

Waterstones Canterbury

 

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