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Inverness Artyness columnist and writer Barbara Henderson knows book trips will soften the blow of 'back to work' plus her round-up of best new books


By Barbara Henderson


Schools are back this week.

Every teacher on the planet will identify with the looming question: Do I remember how to do my job?

Barbara Henderson.
Barbara Henderson.

But, joy of all joys, back too is the Edinburgh International Book Festival, significantly softening the blow of my return to the classroom.

As I write, I am preparing for a couple of day trips to Auld Reekie to take advantage of all the inspiration on offer over the next fortnight or so.

Whether you can travel down or not, there is plenty of brand-new reading material out there.

I thought I’d give you a round-up of some of the best:

For fiction fans:

The Edinburgh Skating Club by Michelle Sloan – my favourite read of this year so far, hands down! History, humour and plenty of heart, in a slice of Edinburgh heritage served up with more than one unexpected twist. Perfect for fans of Alexander McCall Smith, art lovers and anyone who loves the capital.

The Edinburgh Skating Club.
The Edinburgh Skating Club.

For edgy Scots:

Disnaeland by DD Johnston – apart from the cleverest title I’ve seen in ages, this gorgeous book sports an iconic cover, pacey and funny Scots narration driven by plenty of dialogue and a host of ordinary, and at the same time extraordinary, characters. Politics and identity are central but steeped in story. Blackest comedy with a helping of grime on the side.

Disnaeland.
Disnaeland.

For history aficionados:

Homecoming – The Scottish Years of Mary, Queen of Scots by Rosemary Goring – Following my reading Jennifer Morag Henderson’s excellent Daughters Of The North, you would imagine I’d have had enough of the eponymous Scottish queen, but in fact the opposite is true. I understand Goring’s book better – and it is definitely accessible enough for those new to Mary’s story too. I loved the structure, focusing on the buildings and places we associate with our most famous queen. Goring’s prose is compelling, as one might expect from an author who was literary editor for both the Herald and Scotland on Sunday. This may be non-fiction, but she is a storyteller, and in this book, I was firmly under her spell. Highly recommended.

Homecoming.
Homecoming.

For caring kids:

Call Me Lion by Camilla Chester – this week I walked home from Chester’s book event in Waterstones Inverness clutching her debut novel with Firefly Press. Call me Lion shines a sensitive and engaging light on a child with selective mutism. I found myself utterly drawn to Leo in all his anxiety and rooted for his friendship with bubbly Richa next door. A book about fears, yes, but also about joy, fun, friendship and dancing – all set in a heatwave of high summer. I loved it. Ideal for ages 7-11.

Call Me Lion.
Call Me Lion.

For kids facing a new start:

Jump Into The New by Janis Mackay – The former Caithness writer in residence Janis Mackay may be based in Edinburgh now, but we still count her as one of our own. Her new book is part of a Collins Big Cat reading scheme and tells the story of Cody, a popular boy who has to cope when his circumstances change dramatically. An uplifting story about finding friendship and joy in unexpected places. Financial hardship is handled with a light touch, and the book sports gorgeous illustrations by Alfredo Belli throughout. For ages 6-10.

Jump Into The New.
Jump Into The New.

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