Thursday, 30 November 2017

Books for children on the feast of St Nicholas

For those who are not aware of it, the popular Christmas figure of Santa Claus is based on the historical figure of St Nicholas, a Greek bishop of Myra, which is in present day Turkey. The real St Nicholas apparently lived from AD 270-323 and in many European countries, the feast of St Nicholas is celebrated on either 5 or 6 December and is very much a children's festival.  

 But who was St Nicholas? It seems that no one really knows much about him except that he loved children and legend has it he brought three little boys back to life after they had been killed. It is also said that he is the patron saint of unmarried girls after endowing three very poor young ladies with enough money to marry the men of their dreams. However, how he came to be canonised is unknown. What is also unknown is why he is always depicted as having come from Spain and why he rides a white horse. Nevertheless, by the 11th century, he was not only the patron saint of children and single girls, but also of sailors and Amsterdam; hence the very special connection to the Netherlands.   

 These days, the feast of Sinterklaas on 5 December is probably more important in the Netherlands than Christmas, but it is also very popular in Belgium, northern Germany, Luxembourg and northern France. It is the day children by tradition receive gifts from St Nicholas and his helpers if they have been good and various degrees of punishment if they've been naughty. The nature and the amount of the punishment seems to vary depending on where he is. He generally arrives from Spain by boat around 20 November and from then on, proceeds around the participating countries until 5 or 6 December when he dispenses his gifts. The celebration is accompanied by many family activities, such as writing verses for each family member, eating together and playing games.   

 Incidentally, the tradition of Sinterklaas is also continued in the United States in Hudson Valley, an area originally settled by Dutch immigrants. It is through the combining of St Nicholas and the British Father Christmas that the American Santa Claus and his reindeer came into being. Now isn't that fascinating?  

 So now you have learned about how special an occasion St Nicholas/Sinterklaas is for children, why not think about celebrating it too by giving your young things a special Sinterklaas festival book? At Sunpenny, we have a lovely selection of children's fiction, so click on the titles below and reward your children for just being themselves with a beautiful and unusual book!  

The Skipper's Child
Sophie Topfeather

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Happy Thanksgiving to our US readers and authors

Thanksgiving is one of the most important family celebrations in the US calendar and to share in the celebrations, we bring you books from our very own American writers. 

First up is Uncharted Waters by Sara du Bose.

About the author: Author and speaker, Sara DuBose is a first place winner in Putting Your Passion into Print and a first place fiction winner with the Southeastern Writers Association. She is also the author of four previous novels. Where Hearts Live, Where Love Grows and Where Memories Linger form a trilogy, and A Promise for Tomorrow is a stand alone. One reviewer wrote, “Sara DuBose is as good a southern writer as one would expect to find. Her unique and heartwarming book is a gem.”

About the book: When Beth Davidson spies an unfamiliar black Honda lurking outside her apartment, and hours later a stranger leaves a suggestive message on her answering machine, her worries are just beginning. Her fear grows as mysterious gifts appear on her doorstep, and photos are stolen from her apartment. It’s not too long before Beth turns to the police for help – in particular, the rather attractive Donnie Crawford. As the Domestic Violence Unit investigate her case, gradually closing in on the man who is terrorizing her life, Beth soon develops a relationship with the protective and supportive Donnie.  However, before she can find happiness, she has to draw on some deep resources to resolve the terror of the stalker in her life.

Secondly, we have Stephanie Parker McKean's Bridge Beyond Betrayal

About the author: Stephanie, like Sara, is from the US south. She has been writing for as long as she remembers – only in her early school years, her tales were generally considered “lies”! But her father wrote a book that did rather well, and when young Stephanie discovered it too was all made up, she decided writing would be the career for her. Stephanie is now married to another writer, Alan T. McKean, a minister. They live in the west of Scotland.

About the book: When successful mystery writer Michal Rice, better known as 'Miz Mike' in Three Prongs, Texas (where misfits fit), spots a dead body in a red pickup truck, she springs into action. But no-one believes her! So she searches for the elusive truck and murder victim herself. After finding and losing them, and being coshed on the head on finding them again, Mike learns the identity of the murdered man. The rest of the story is a madcap adventure in which the inimitable Miz Mike gets herself into surprising number of 'pickles' as she calls them.

Moving further north, we have Redemption on Red River (featured on our blog a few weeks ago) by Cheryl R Cain.

About the author: Cheryl Riley Cain began writing for others when asked to create humorous biographies for birthday and anniversary celebrations and character sketches for friends’ baby showers. Since then, she has written numerous plays for children’s vacation Bible schools and Christmas presentations for churches. Cheryl’s love for history and for her home state-Oklahoma, combined with her desire to share God’s love to others, culminated in her novel, “Redemption on the Red River.” Cheryl lives in Oklahoma with her family. 

About the book: In 1837, at her graduation, Anna Collins has her whole life ahead - a teaching post, a handsome fiancé and a future which twinkles with promise. A week later, her life lies in tatters. Nearly destroyed by grief and despair, Anna decides to prove to both her fiancé's family and her own, as well as to herself, that she can succeed as a teacher, and survive without a man in her life. When after a good search the only opening for her as a teacher is at Fort Towson in Indian Territory, she accepts it as an answer to her prayers. From here on, the story involves a host of adventures and challenges, not least of which is who will ultimately win her heart.

Then last, but absolutely not least, we have Rooster Street by Janet Purcell

About the author: Janet Purcell is a professional artist and writes a weekly fine arts column and feature articles for many magazines, travel guides, and newspapers. Rooster Street is her third novel. Her first, Singer Lane, was published in 2008; her second, The Long Way Home, was brought out in 2015. Though not a trilogy, many of the same characters are found continuing their lives in each of the three books. The covers of all her books are her own paintings.

About the book: A breathtaking journey marrying a slave girl's escape in the 1800s with a young lawyer's present-day discoveries. A hidden room, a box of photographs, a hunt through Boston's streets and alleyways... Rooster Street is a story on multiple levels of discrimination, abandonment and violence; fortitude, love, and final celebration. It ties the past with the present in a touching and poignant story that ultimately shows us we are all the same.

All the books are linked to the site, but they are available worldwide and as paperbacks on both Amazon and the Book Depository. Kindle versions are priced on a basis of $2.99, so stock up this Thanksgiving, and enjoy the holiday reading!

Monday, 13 November 2017

On the run up to Christmas: Val Poore talks about giving the gift of a book

It's amazing to think it's only about six weeks until Christmas now. Are any of you thinking of buying Christmas gifts for the readers in your family? Of course, you can give e-books as gifts if you're unlikely see your loved ones and that's a great way to treat them from a distance. Since the majority of books sold now are ebooks, it's clear that many people would regard having their e-readers stocked up a real joy.

Val Poore
However, giving real books is that bit more special. The feel, smell and weight of a brand new book are sensations that are hard to beat. I can remember being thrilled as a child when I received three Georgette Heyer paperback books for Christmas. I can still conjure up my delight to this day when I opened the wrapping paper and found them. The smooth untouched covers, the uncreased spines, the tightly packed pages that had never been opened before. I know I picked them up, ran my hands over them and unashamedly breathed in their wonderful newness. Okay, so you might be laughing now and thinking I was really going overboard, but it's true! I was more thrilled with those three books than I have ever been with a Christmas gift before or since.

As a Sunpenny author, then, which books would I recommend for my family this Christmas from the Sunpenny collection?

If I take my eldest brother first, he is a great boater and loves cruising around the UK; he's also very environmentally aware. I'd probably give him a sailing memoir to read, such as Tonia Parronchi's Whisper on the Mediterranean or Corinna Weyreter's Far Out: Sailing into a Disappearing World. They might not be about cruising, but they are about boats and he'd like that; he'd also appreciate Corinna's focus on the environmental damage being done to the oceans. As for his wife, she is a committed Christian, but also someone who enjoys traditional values, so I think she would probably enjoy William Wood's A Little Book of Pleasures or missionary Rowland Evan's My Sea is Wide.

And what about my other brother? Well, he's a lover of the Welsh hills and spends a great deal of time hiking in Wales. I might choose Julie McGowan's The Mountains Between for him. I think it is a good blend of history and fiction and I think he would love the beautiful descriptions of the Welsh scenery. I don't see his wife as a great reader, but I could be wrong, so I would suggest Julie's book of short stories Close to You. Then I have a niece living at home still, and I'd definitely go for something adventurous for her. It would have to be JS Holloway's Dance of Eagles.

 Lastly, what about my sister? She likes fun books with lots of humour and great, strong female characters. I would have to give her Stephanie Parker McKean's Bridge to Nowhere, and because she's very close to me, I'd give her another book too. She loves France and cooking, so I'd also give her Blackbirds Baked in a Pie by Eugene Barker. My brother-in-law is a little more difficult to buy for, but since he loves the history, tradition and customs of mediterranean places, he would probably enjoy Fish Soup by Michelle Heatley. It has the right mix of gritty characters and lyrical magic. Yes. I think that would do for them all!

Many thanks to Val for sharing her choice of books for her family. Of course her own books, Watery Ways and the Skipper's Child would also make precious gifts for those who enjoy boating books in both fictional and memoir form.

So, if like us you love to give books as gifts, take a look at our selection above or keep an eye on our Facebook page on the run up to the festive season. We'll be sharing all our books there in the coming weeks.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Happy festival season: celebrate by reading!

Isn't is amazing how the time just seems to fly? Here we are, already well into November. In fact, today is the 5th, the day in England when people have bonfires, burn a cloth figure supposed to represent Guy Fawkes who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament, and set off fireworks. From now until the end of the year, there will be other celebrations in other countries. There is Thanksgiving in the United States on 23rd November. Then in much of Europe, there is Sinterklaas in a month's time at the beginning of December. This is a children's festival and in many places, namely the Netherlands, Belgium and parts of Germany and France, Sinterklaas is more important than Christmas. The date of the festival is either December the 5th or 6th depending on where you are and it is celebrated enthusiastically by whole families. Following this, there is the Jewish Festival of Lights from the 13th to the 20th December, and then of course, we have Christmas itself. It's a very busy time of year, and one marked by joy, goodwill and togetherness for everyone concerned (we hope).

At Sunpenny, we'd like to celebrate right along with you all and offer suggestions for reading that you might find fitting on these occasions. So since Guy Fawkes is mainly a children's festival, we'd like to suggest some books for our younger readers that will give them insights on customs in other countries too.

Our first suggestion is The Lost Crown of Appollo by Suzanne Cordatos

Here is a summary of the story from the book's blurb:

Climb aboard for an adventure to the Greek islands of past and present! You'll meet creatures of land and sea-and if you think pirates are a thing of the past, you might want to keep an eye on your valuables. Meet Elias Tantalos, an almost-eleven year old bad luck magnet who escapes the most dreadful school year of his life by boarding a boat in the Aegean Sea where there are, happily, more rocks than people. When he discovers a two-thousand-year-old good luck charm-the gold leaf crown meant for the sun god Apollo-he is sure the worst is behind him. Antiquity thieves are rummaging around the ancient Greek ruins, however, and when they kidnap his sister, Elias knows he holds the perfect bait to lure the thieves away... but if he gives up Apollo's legendary Crown of Victory will sixth grade be even tougher than fifth? Can he find the inner strength to do the right thing?

Lost Crown is a delightful story that will appeal to youngsters because it has everything that keeps them turning the pages. But even more than that, it introduces children to the history and mythology of Greece as well as to what makes the Greek culture so historically important. It's an ideal gift to mark this time of year.

Our second suggestion is Sophie's Quest by Sonja Anderson

Here is the blurb about this charming story:

Sophie Topfeather loves to collect people-things with which to decorate her life and home. When she finds a golden necklace, she is intrigued by its shape and shows it to her grandfather, the Great Wise Horned Owl of the Park. His reaction only stirs her interest even more; he calls it a holy symbol, and then a ‘t’ for ‘trouble’! All of which sets our young owl off on a Quest to learn its true meaning. Little does she know that a day-dreaming, over-protected, adventure-seeking Pirate – er, mouse – named Timley has leapt into the brim of her hat as Sophie flies off on her Quest! And suddenly, their adventure takes its own turn as they find themselves on board a ship bound for the Holy Land. Thorns and thistles! Has the trouble started already? Can Timley convince Sophie she should not—I repeat, NOT—eat him?  

This book is also for young children and like Lost Crown of Appollo, it introduces children to a variety of cultures through Sophie's adventures in the Middle East. It's an ideal way of encouraging young readers to be curious about the world around them and the different history and cultures that make up the people that populate it.

So why not celebrate this occasion with books as well as bonfires and fireworks? Both of these suggestions are available as paperbacks and Kindle books, so whatever your choice, it's available for you and your families in the medium you prefer. And don't forget, all Sunpenny Kindle books are great value at $2.99