‘Bear Hug’, by Katharine McEwen – Book Review + Reader GIVEAWAY

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Rain aside, I’m seriously digging winter right now. It’s finally starting to get cold! The sparkly days such as we had on Thursday, with a proper nip in the air and that cold, clear light are for spending time out in it, and then retreating from to a warm house and the prospect of candle (and fire!) light come late afternoon.

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This, and Christmas round the corner, makes it seem just the right time for a review – and GIVEAWAY – of three copies of ‘Bear Hug‘, by Katharine McEwen, a beautiful, beautiful book about seasons and the circle of life.

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For the sake of transparency, I will add that Katharine (or Kate, as she is known outside of her cover name) is one of mine and my husband’s best friends (we met at her wedding!) and guardian of my boys. I am very proud to have such a book be given to us with a personal message to my children on the inside cover – and very proud to share it with you!

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Published by Templar in September, and already available in paperback, you can tell from the end papers alone, that ‘Bear Hug’ is a true labour of love. Every element has been drawn, painted and cut out by hand, before being constructed as a richly considered collage. The process is painstaking, and took Kate six months to create, with each spread taking on average three days. None of it went anywhere near a computer until Kate packed it all up and send it in to the publisher for scanning.

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The result is that the bears’ fur has a touch quality to it, the snowflakes trail delicately across the pages, and nature’s landscapes, with their cross-hatching, layers and softness, are a total – and tonal – treat for the eye.

The story begins in the season of snow, with a bear making ready for hibernation. He has learnt from his mother and father how to catch and eat enough fish, and how to make his bed ready for his great sleep. While he’s doing this, he meets another bear, and they retreat together to the cave, their noses sweetly touching.

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When they emerge, the colours Kate uses suggest spring. There are buds and greenery and the birds are singing long, curling, colourful tunes – vividly depicted as looping ribbons that burst forth from their beaks.

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And soon the bears are not alone. They teach their own little cub to do all the things that bears should do – just as their own mothers and fathers did. Together they take honey from the trees, and gather leaves and bracken for their bed.

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Then, as the year unfolds, Kate’s snowflake-discs again start to ‘twirl and tumble’ across the pages. The three retreat together to the cave.

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My children are in love with this book. Never mind that it is written and illustrated by someone meaningful and important to them, when I read it to them the language leads my voice into a natural graduation towards softness and slowness: ‘shudder-cold night’, ‘lollopy-lumber’, ‘soft as thistledown’, ‘lively as a sunbeam’.

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The name – ‘Bear Hug’ – is perfect for the book. Because when we start to read it, my own little cubs subconsciously nestle closer to me. They move onto my lap, curl into my body, and lift my arms up and around them.

This is a perfect Christmas book – it’s one of the books included in my children’s book advent calendar – but it’s also a book to give in celebration of new little lives joining the world.

Being as much for giving as winter arrives as for when spring or summer or autumn are upon us, ‘Bear Hug’ heralds the wonderful rhythms that the natural world passes through every year as it falls asleep – and then chirrups awake.

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The way each page of ‘Bear Hug’ started
Image courtesy of Katharine McEwen

READER COMPETITION + GIVEAWAY

This is a social media competition in which THREE copies are being given away. To enter to be one of the lucky winners of ‘Bear Hug’ just:

  • Share this post on Facebook (yes, you may do that despite how I feel about it! But if you do, please let me know in the comments section below so that I can register your entry)
  • Share the post on Twitter, following @LittleLewes if you don’t already, as well as @katharinemcwewen – all while tagging with #BearHug
  • Share the post on Instagram – take a picture of your screen, or a screen grab from your phone, follow littlelewes and katharinemcewen, and  hashtag #BearHug
  • Share the post on Google+ (again, please let me know in comments, as I am not yet on Google+ – I am most certainly not a luddite, but could someone please explain it to me!)
  • Comment on this post in the section below, making sure to put your email address in the indicated field so I can reach you. If you subscribe to receive Little Lewes post notifications, extra credit again… *smiley winky face*
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Colour and tone added…Image courtesy of Katharine McEwen 

CLOSING DATE

The competition/giveaway will run for just under a week, closing next Friday the 28th of November at midday. If you’re doing the book advent calendar you should get it for the beginning of December to include you in your 24 (or 25). Get sharing!

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Further texture, plus features…
Image courtesy of Katharine McEwen

‘BEAR HUG’ DETAILS

The book retails at £11.99 for hardback and £6.99 for paperback.

It can be found at Bags of Books, who have a good stock of the book. If they’re out of them, Bags of Books can order ‘Bear Hug’ in for next day or two-day delivery at no charge. ‘Bear Hug’ can also be ordered from Hive.co.uk as a hardback or paperback – if you order through Hive, you can have your books delivered in to Bags of Books at no charge.

The book makes a fantastic present for new parents, and is a wonderful Christmas book. Being about seasons, I’m also told by my younger son’s nursery that it’s also a great book to donate to nurseries or school libraries.

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Elements of the environment all drawn out, cut out and assembled loosely with tape
Image courtesy of Katharine McEwen

KATHARINE MCEWEN DETAILS

Kate’s website is at: katharinemcewen.co.uk – you MUST look at the ‘Made Objects‘ section, and please scroll far enough along to see Kate’s rather incredible pottery (called ‘Pot Shots’).

Kate can be found on Twitter at @katharinemcewen

She’s also on Instagram (an especially captivating feed!) at @katharinemcewen

Good luck in the competition!

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The page done, ready to be sent to the publisher for scanning and making into the book!
Image courtesy of Katharine McEwen

Disclosure: I approached Templar about reviewing ‘Bear Hug’ after Katharine McEwen gave my boys a copy of the book just before it was published. I knew that Little Lewes’s readers would like it, and asked Templar if they would agree to give away three hardback copies. I have also cited Bags of Books as a place to buy the book in Lewes because I’m their biggest fan – I encourage you to buy the book there. Any links to Hive.co.uk are affiliate links and purchases made via these links will result in a small commission being paid to me (at no cost to the customer). No compensation, financial or otherwise has been offered or accepted for the writing of this post.

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Magnificent Stanley’s Bespoke Christmas Toddler and Kid Tees

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My very own Magnificent Stanley button – also over there to the right!

In celebration of Lewes-based Magnificent Stanley being my first ever advertiser at Little Lewes (!), I thought I’d put together a quick post about the Christmas tees that founder Becky is doing this year.

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The ‘Mr Robin’ tee with ‘Thorpe’ fabric

Priced at £12, these are super soft, long-sleeved red toddler and kid tees (up to age 5-6). Instead of initials or ages, the Christmas tees feature robins or tress in your choice of the Liberty fabrics found at Magnificent Stanley.

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Becky’s desk since she launched the Christmas tees

You can specify the fabric you’d like at the checkout – I have given QUITE a few of these red tees lately as presents to the older siblings of new babies (who at the same time receive the lovely little babygros). I recommend the darker florals with the red tones in them (with the exception of the ‘Pears’ on the ‘S’ tee at the top, which also looks super) – they all look beautiful on the red background.

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The ‘Christmas Tree’ tee with ‘Thorpe’ fabric

I think the Christmas tees are darling, but an initial on a red background is also festive (and can be used beyond Christmas). That’s why two little cousins dear to my heart are receiving matching ‘F’ ones this Christmas.

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Those ‘F’ tees in ‘Thorpe’ and ‘Daisies’ fabrics – ‘Poppies’ and ‘Retro’ also look good on the red, as do ‘Pears’ and ‘Green Floral’

I’m pretty sure their mothers are reading – you know who you are, and now you know!

The last order date for Magnificent Stanley tees for Christmas is December 13th. Head to magnificentstanley.com to order, using code LL10 to receive 10% off at the checkout. If you live in Lewes, you can also add the code LEWESSHIP for free postage. Becky will then be in touch about getting your order to you.

Magnificent Stanley also takes the faff out of wrapping – all tees come in pale yellow tissue secured with red and white twine and a hand-stamped name label with the child’s name on it. They can be shipped anywhere in the world. Orders over £50 are eligible for free shipping with the code SHIPFREE.

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Stick it in your diaries!

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The Magic of Choosing and Cutting Your Own Christmas Tree at Wilderness Wood, Sussex

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Hunting down the perfect tree – before the sniping started

I adore Christmas trees. I adore them for two reasons: first, I grew up in the Far East and real Christmas trees were something very very special because they had to stand in such an alien environment. They were imported and extortionate and a few times we went fake. But with a father from the Nordic countries, more often than not my mum went to extraordinary lengths for a perfect spruce.

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What’s on offer for Christmas at Wilderness Wood – note the Christmas market dates

The second reason is my now-passed Danish grandmother. In Denmark, the Christmas meal happens in the evening on the 24th. Dessert is rice pudding, and an almond is hidden in one of the bowls – whoever finds it wins a special present. But over all that, the tree has real candles on it, and in my grandmother’s day, the children don’t see it until the evening of Christmas eve. There was so much magic tied into this ritual whenever we spent Christmas with her in Canada (yes, I am from quite a few places!).

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Perfect Guests: Leigh Hodgkinson Presents Her Sticker Advent Calendar

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The main event – in a scene built over 25 days…

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about alternative advent calendars, and earlier this week, shared my progress with the book one. When the original post was published, Lewes-based illustrator Leigh Hodgkinson commented on it, saying she was creating a sticker advent calendar. So I asked her to pen a guest post for Little Lewes when she launched this on her site wonkybutton’s shop.

You may recognise Leigh’s name from past Little Lewes posts about the puppet workshop she did at the Bags of Books Summer Party last year, her summery cover for Viva Lewes this summer, and the online art auction she arranged for War Child.

Anyway, over to you Leigh! Continue reading

Creating a Book Advent Calendar (Or: How I Collated 25 Christmas Books Without Remortgaging)

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All our Christmas/winter-themed books gathered ready to be wrapped for advent
(‘Bear Hug’ will be reviewed as part of giveaway on the blog next week!)

Perhaps a little previously, I wrote a post about alternative advent calendars two weeks ago – most of the ideas came from a post I saw at babycinnokids.com/blog. Among the enthusiastic comments on the post, everyone seemed to love the book idea, where you wrap up 24 books (in my case 25 because I am going to read the boys Dick Bruna’s ‘Christmas’ on Christmas morning), and one of the kids opens one each day so you can read a Christmas-related story each evening in the lead-up to the big day. You then keep these for future advents – so it’s a long-term investment.

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The image from the original Christmas Book Advent Calendar post at Babycinno Kids’ blog
Image copyright babycinnokids.com/blog

Following this, I thought I’d see just how many Christmas books we had lying around. Rather a few it turns out. Even so, to save money I extended the brief to include books about winter and snow – digging up ‘The Snowy Day’, ‘Mr. Snow’, ‘Spot’s Snowy Day’, ‘Miffy in the Snow’, ‘Boris in the Snow’ (Miffy’s bear counterpart) and ‘Bramley Hedge Winter Story’ (I bought all four seasons for my first son when I was pregnant with him, and we’ve never read them!).

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Treats For us Girls – By Way of a Quest for a Nice Kids Christmas Jumper

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My friend Jody and I have been worshipping these shoes for weeks. They are too pretty for words also come in black with silver sequins and diamonds. And they are flat (I do not do a heel, far too impractical for dancing – or walking for that matter)
Jewelled Pumps, were £129 – discounted until Sunday

In line with my plan to have the least stressful Christmas ever, I actually started Christmas shopping on Saturday. I am about halfway there and plan to have it all wrapped up – literally – by December 1st. So uncharacteristically organised!

Christmas jumpers are on the list for the boys – Little can inherit Big’s from the year before last, but Big needs a new one. We take a photo of them in front of the tree each Christmas to send out to our families, who are spread around the world. They’re not ‘Christmas jumpers’ Christmas jumpers though – no reindeer/snowmen or anything. They’re more Scandi fairisle types, so that they can be worn throughout winter, not just for Christmas.

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I think this is the one for this Christmas!
Chunky Jumper, was £30-£35, discounted until Sunday

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The World’s Best Christmas Present for Kids, from Bags of Books, Lewes

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Doesn’t the outside of Bags of Books just make you want to GO IN?

Now Bonfire is behind us (did you have an amazing night?) we can start talking Christmas in earnest. So let’s start with what I think is the MOST marvellous idea for a Christmas present, just launched last week at Bags of Books. It’s a YEAR OF BOOKS!

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Made-to-Order Lifesavers (AKA Children’s Birthday Cakes from Rosehip Sussex)

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The ‘Lemonade Confetti Cake’ with special yellow frosting, by Rosehip Sussex

Well that’s done and dusted for another year, and as of yesterday I’m the mother of a six-year-old. Although this makes me feel decrepit, I must say that this year I feel I finally ‘got’ the kids’ party thing.

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Advent Calendar Ideas (Yes, Seriously) Inspired by Babycinno Kids

I’ve done it. I’ve said the C-word. Or at least insinuated it in this post’s title.

Although I take serious exception to being told mid-August by a catalogue that ‘it’s never too early to start planning for Christmas’ (because yes, yes it is), I accept that it’s late October and there’s about eight weeks to go until the big day. I aim to have the least stressful Christmas of my life this year, so I’m open to doing small things towards this end at this early point. Highly unlike me, but I even booked my Christmas delivery slot for my online food shop last weekend. So you can see where I’m going with all this.

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Ferm Living calendar, where you wrap up little presents for each day… Available from cissywears.com
Image via babycinnokids.com/blog

With this in mind, I read a post about different ideas for advent calendars over at Babycinno Kids earlier this week. These do seem a nice alternative to a chocolate Peppa Pig version, which will only give my children the sugars at the very point I need to get them out the door, making the chance of being listened to (and my orders actioned) slimmer than ever.

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Charleston for Children: Special Kids Tours of a Special House this Half Term

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Detail from John Maynard Keyne’s room
Image copyright Penelope Fewster

I’m excited – but also gutted. Charleston contacted me earlier this week to tell me they’re doing special children’s tours of the house during half term week. I would love to do this with my son, but we are away or he’s in clubs while I work. Boo. If anyone goes, you must let me know what it was like.

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