If you’re friends with a bookworm, the chances are they are a massive penguin fan and will have a collection of vintage penguin books (guilty) or some kind of penguin lifestyle item hanging around their house.
What better way to jazz up a book that you’ve bought them for Christmas than this handmade bookish penguin gift tag which doubles up as a unique bookmark that can be enjoyed long after the rest of the wrapping has gone?
To make a bookish penguin gift tag you will need:
Old book page
Cardboard (I used white watercolour paper and gold card)
Decorative twine or ribbon
How to make a bookish penguin gift tag:
Sketch out your penguin onto a piece of plain paper. When you’re happy with the design, turn your paper over and shade heavily with a graphite pencil. Hold this over your book page and pressing heavily on the paper, draw over the penguin so that the image transfers like the one below.
2. Using black paint and a fine brush, carefully go over your pencil lines then fill in the black parts of the penguin on the book page.
3. When your penguin has dried, cut out an oval of paper which fits around the penguin and trace the shape around your penguin to give it a good border. Cut this shape out and stick it onto a white card background.
4. Cut around the oval to create a white border and then stick the bordered oval onto another shade of card of your choice. I chose gold to make it feel Christmassy. Once these have dried, make a small hole in the top of the card and thread with decorative twine or ribbon to allow you to use it as a tag or as a bookmark.
It’s that time of year again. You know, less than a month to Christmas and a lack of ideas for secret santa presents or stocking fillers has you panic buying “funny secret santa presents” like stressticles or office voodoo dolls which the recipient will throw in the bin by January 1st. I’m here to make a plea that you save the planet from the extra plastic waste, and for under £15 buy them book that they will enjoy for at least three hours, if not a lot longer.
The best bit? These will all be available at your local bookshop for a last minute Christmas gift.
La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust
For readers of a certain age (my age) the release of La Belle Sauvage: The Book ofDust by Philip Pullman, the first in a new trilogy which is set to be a companion to his Northern Lights trilogy was probably the publishing event of the year. Hailed as a tidal wave of imagination, though darker and more savage than the original trilogy, it’s a safe bet for any lover of fantasy.
The most powerful work of speculative fiction that I’ve read in a long time, Naomi Alderman’s The Poweris a must read for any fan of Margaret Atwood. I keep meaning to write a review of this, but my mind is still processing the emotions I felt reading it. It’s a safe present for any woman who hasn’t read it, and it’s always interesting to listen to people’s post-read dissections.
The Wildlife Gardener
I was delighted to see the new edition of Kate Bradbury’s best-selling The Wildlife Gardener publish this year and swiftly bought myself a copy. It’s the perfect present for any gardener or wildlife enthusiast, and gives fun, practical advice for creating a home for wildlife in what outside space you have available. Saving the planet starts here, folks.
The Lost Words
Remember when Oxford University Press decided that children no longer needed to be able to look up words like acorn and bramble in the dictionary? Well that outrageous act inspired Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris to create The Lost Words, this beautifully illustrated volume of poetry. A spell book which reminds adults and children alike about the power of words, reading the poems brings the words back to life and gives nature power and relevance for a new generation.
Lincoln in the Bardo
Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2017, and shortlisted for multiple awards and honours besides, Lincoln in the Bardois a safe fiction bet for anyone who likes to read the current big novel. This first novel is an experimental work of fiction, a story of love after death which looks at a problem which faces all humans, how do you find the courage to love when it means you will face loss?
Hortense and the Shadow
A beautifully illustrated picture book, with a story in the tradition of the old fairy tales, Hortense and the Shadow is dark and exhilarating at the same time. This is set to become an instant children’s classic which adults will love as well. I’ll be adding it to my collection.
Last Stop on The Reindeer Express
I loved Last Stop on the Reindeer Express so much when it published that I bought it only a month later to read with my daughter on Christmas Eve. It would make an ideal Christmas present for any picture book lover or younger gift recipient. A little girl who is missing her Daddy discovers a world within a post box and goes on a beautifully illustrated lift the flap and peep through the pages adventure. I can’t wait to read it as a family before Santa visits.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
In case you worried that you’d run out of presents to buy for Harry Potter fans, the launch of the Fantastic Beasts film franchise has also lead to the publication of this beautiful Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Thembook which reminds me of the Tolkein’s bestiary that I had as a child, with the names, descriptions and magical illustrations of all the fantasy creatures you encounter in the Potter novels.
This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor
Adam Kay is a comedian and former junior doctor, and This is Going to Hurt is his frank memoir of life on the front line of the NHS. Hilarious and heart-breaking, it gives you an insight into what life is really like for the junior doctors keeping us and the NHS ticking along.
Daemon Voices: Essays on Storytelling
I always find it fascinating when an author I admire writes an exposition on their craft. Philip Pullman is indisputably something of a master storyteller, and in Daemon Voices, a collection of thirty essays, he lets his readers peer behind the veil to learn about his views on storytelling, including such topics as the origins of his own stories, the art of writing, and the storytellers who have meant the most to him. A great gift for readers, and aspiring writers.
If you’ve dipped even your little toe in the murky waters of social media recently, I’ll bet that you’ve seen an advert for some kind of subscription service. From make up to meat, surprises to sanitary towels (no, really) it seems that there’s a subscription box for almost everything, though until recently a monthly box for book lovers has been a pipe dream for those in the UK.
But no more! There are now a wide range of book subscription services for bookworms in the UK, so you don’t have to pay a huge postage fee to enjoy a monthly book box from across the pond. And, dare I say it, it seems to me that UK bookworms actually have a more grown up selection of book subscription packages to choose from?
I’ve selflessly gone out of my way to test a few of these (best month ever) and am able to give you a round-up of the best book subscription boxes the UK has to offer. Curated by small teams of imaginative, talented and hardworking bookworms, they really are all fantastic:
If you’ve ever had wall art envy for an amazing framed literary quote, you’ve probably come across a print from Bookishly. They’ve recently branched out from creating word art with Vintage books and have created a book club that sends out a monthly package containing a vintage book, a luxury tea sample from Jenier World of Tea and a curated item of stationery. If you know a bookworm who loves to curl up with an old book and a cup of tea before writing a thank you note on beautiful stationery, then the Bookishly book subscription is the gift for them. Or you, if you fit that description.
Curated by Daphne at Winged Reviews, Illumicrate is the new heavyweight on the book subscription box market and it really packs a punch. Filled with items that match the Illumicrate ethos of “fun, beautiful and geeky” this larger subscription box is released monthly. The perfect gift for a reader who is passionate about their contemporary and young adult literature, the former teacher in me also thinks it would be the perfect way to lure a reluctant reader into exploring literary worlds.
Chocolate and Book
If you’re looking for a special gift for a loved one but don’t necessarily share their literary tastes, the the Chocolate and Book Subscription box service can help you out. Better yet? The box comes with a load of delicious chocolate to eat while you read. The chocolate and book subscription service has a wide range of genre book subscriptions, including thriller, chick lit, sci-fi and YA, so they have a package to tickle every bookworm’s fancy, if their passion is for horror, thrillers or romance as long as they have a sweet tooth. They cater to a range of dietary requirements and you can order a one of box, or a longer term subscription package.
The Willoughby Book Club
Founded by Adam and Chloe Pollard in 2012, The Willoughby Book Club provides a personalised book subscription service with some really clever package options. Not only do they provide a Contemporary and Classic packages for those who want to hone their reading in a particular direction, they also provide hobby subscription packages for cooks, gardeners and natural historians. The Willoughby package I like the sound of most is, sadly, not for me… The Couples Book Club package which sends out two copies of the same novel so that you can read it together and discuss it. My boyfriend may make wonderful cups of tea and buy me the books I am embarrassed to be seen with in bookshops, but a reader he is not! Still, I think it would make a great gift to share with a close friend and it really is a genius idea.
Books that Matter
I was really excited to come across Books That Matter, a monthly subscription box which aims to deliver books which explore important themes to enlighten readers on key issues and themes such as gender, race, culture, class, ethnicity, ability, sexuality, politics, or history, along with at least two gifts by independent female-identifying or non-binary artists. The boxes supply fiction as well as non-fiction books that explore their particular theme, and while this might be of interest to male-identifying allies, the gifts that came with my Brexit-themed box were a floral necklace and pocket mirror. I think that this box subscription would be the perfect present for a difficult to buy for teenage girl.
While putting together my Christmas list for Santa (yes, I’ll believe if it gets me presents…) I’ve come across some amazing book related jewellery that I’ve just had to share. So if you’re looking for some bling for the bookworm in your life, the trinkets below are a good place to start:
I love this Alice in Wonderland Necklace inspired by The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party which is from Notonthehighstreet, £15 a bargain gift for any book lover.
Sherlock Holmes fans will appreciate this quirky magnifying glass necklace, £25, but it’s a great gift for anyone who keeps misplacing their reading glasses as the dainty magnifying glass is a working model.
Fans of The Great Gatsby can get this adorable bow tie necklace with one of the best quotes from the novel for just £14.50. I wonder whether F. Scott Fitzgerald ever sobered up in a library?
This Alice in Wonderland brooch/pin £18 is super cute and would be great for keeping your scarf in place. I have trouble styling scarves (or anything) but a cool present for someone who is a little more sartorially minded.
If you’ve read this blog for a while you probably know I have a slightly sacrilegious attitude to many of the classics which form the literary canon, but despite this I love Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and all things Brontë. The sister’s lives could have been a novel in their own right, I’m pretty there isn’t a massive motion picture being promoted at the moment, given the success of biopics about Keats, Austen and Potter in recent years. Either way, their books are amazing, a blend of the Gothic and Romantic traditions which are perfect for reading on cold winter nights.
Consequently, I have decided that Brontë inspired items would make great Christmas presents for the Romantic (with a capital R of course…) in your life. Here’s a list of my favourites.
Jane Eyre Birdcage Necklace
I love this necklace for the free thinker in your life. As my boss reminded me, much to my amusement, when we were selecting book covers in work the other day; bird cages are very on trend. This trinket adds weight to the motif with a well-chosen quotation on the presentation card, “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”
If it was the Romance with a capital ‘R’ that brought you here, then I think that these earrings which quote Cathy’s outburst about Heathcliff being “More myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same” has to get a mention. Almost certainly one of the best declarations of love in literature, and one of the ones with the most heartbreaking outcomes for the couples involved.
Jane Eyre Manuscript Journal
If you’re looking for a present for an aspiring writer, they may take inspiration from this mini journal which is embossed with Charlotte Brontë’s writing from the manuscript of Jane Eyre. It’s a bargain at £6.99 and would make a lovely diary.
Wuthering Heights Poster
I mentioned some time ago that I didn’t want so much as need this amazing paper cut style poster which is being sold to raise money for a charity which aims to fight illiteracy. So for about £40 you effectively have a gift that gives twice, a beautiful picture for the recipient and a better life for someone who learns to read.
It may be because I’m decorating my house at the moment, but I’m a big fan of this Wuthering Heights decal which contains part of one of my favourite passages in literature. I think it’s great inspiration for a gift for a book worms, you could order a custom decal with a favourite passage from any book, or even a song lyric. I would put this up in a shot if my boyfriend would let me. Compromise leads to a very bland aesthetic.
The Melting Library sells beautifully scented soy candles and has a great range based on a wide variety of books. I want so many of them. If you want to experience being out on the winding, windy moor more fully while reading in the comfort of your own home (or bath) then this Wuthering Heights inspired Wild Heather Emily Brontë candle is just the ticket. Just be careful you don’t stir up any ghosts by leaving it alight in your window…
Anne Brontë always seems to me to be the overlooked sister, but I love this greeting card with a quotation from The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Obviously it would work well as a card in it’s own right, but pop it in a frame and it would make a lovely artwork for a gallery wall such as the one I’ve been creating in my dining room…
Recently, instead of catching up on the news while I wait for the bus, I’ve been reminding myself how much I love reading classic fairy tales by reading the stories of Hans Christian Andersen and The Brothers Grimm as eBooks on my phone. The stories are still great, but the lack the magic of settling down by the fire with a beautifully illustrated book. In honour of Christmas Magic, I thought I would share my top fairytale inspired Christmas presents. I hope you find them helpful when shopping for gifts for fairytale lovers.
The Yellow Fairy Book
No list of gifts for lovers of fairy stories would be complete without the Folio Society Fairy Books. Colourful, luxurious and beautifully illustrated with introductions from key names in folklore studies, I think they would make the perfect Christmas present. I’m tempted to start a collection as well, but where to start? They’re all so beautiful. The Folio Fairy Books are quite expensive but have real heirloom potential.
This Once Upon A Time storybook necklace, is made from solid silver, and can be customized with a personal message especially for your fairytale fan. It also comes in a really cute little gift box, which is a bonus if you’re no good at wrapping presents. I have this necklace and people always ask about it, especially children who want to open it and read the story inside (it doesn’t open sadly).
I used to have a copy of The Frog Price that was decorated with the most amazing papercut illustrations, I think it might actually still be at my father’s house so I’ll need to dig it out when I’m next back. These papercut illustrations of Cinderellaand Little Red Riding Hood remind me of that book, and I love the splash of red in Little Red Riding Hood’s coat along with the important life advice, it seems a more Brothers Grimm phrase than the slightly saccharine one that accompanies Cinderella…
If you’ve forgotten Valentine’s Day, instead of the obligatory perfume, chocolates and flowers which reveal your faux pas why not give these bookish alternatives which offer a thrilling, and sometimes chilling, take on the love story.
Perfume– Perfume Patrick Suskind
The dark tale of a man who becomes obsessed with a quest to bottle the ultimate perfume by capturing the scent of young women. A compelling novel, this has the added kudos of being Kurt Cobain’s favourite novel.
Chocolates– Like Water for Chocolate Laura Esquivel
A brilliant work of magic realism, Like Water for Chocolate tells the story of the forbidden love between Tita and Pedro. Kept apart from Pedro, Tita pours her feelings into the food she cooks, which then begins to have very strange effects on those who eat it…
Flowers– Tulip Fever Deborah Moggach
In 17th century Amsterdam, Sophia is trapped in a loveless but comfortable marriage to a much older man when she falls in love with a passionate young artist. An engaging read with art, intrigue and tulipomania. A film is rumoured to be in the works for 2013 so appear cultured by giving this to your beloved before the bandwagon gets rolling!
As you may or may not have noticed, I’ve been a bit slow to the post this month. The main reason for this is Virgin Media. Apparently they’re updating our area to broadband which is twice as fast as light soon. Sadly, this won’t matter much if their service continues to be down two weeks in every four.
Anyway, that’s why I’ve been a bit late sharing some of the lovely bookish presents I received from my family and friends this Christmas which I thought any bookworms out there might like to see. They’re pretty cute!
My friend George got me this cute mug with Alice wrestling the flamingo to play croquet. I think it might be from Whittard. It’s now my tea mug of choice, out-ranking even my Wizard of Oz mug collection.
Books to Check Out Journal
Jon’s mother bought me this Books to Check Out journal. It’s really handy with columns for books to read (really handy for me because I can be a bit scatty when I’m busy) and sections for favourite passages and books lent. It also has a pocket in the back which will keep my scribblings safe until I get a chance to use them sensibly.
Golden Shred Apron
My mother bought me this apron which I guess is based on the Golden Shred marmalade campaigns of the 50s. It reminds me of the illustrations in Enid Blyton books like The Magic Faraway Tree that I read as a child. Or maybe even the Noddy books to some extent, though those were more my little sister’s thing.
Book and Biscuit Biscuit Tin
Perfectly matching the theme of my blog, my superhuman cousin turned up at with this amazing box of biscuits neatly wrapped just days before she went into hospital to have my gorgeous mini-cousin Cari. The biscuits quickly evaporated (how does that work, scientists?) but the box will live on forever at my desk. With helpful little snack in case I need energy to help me think.
Last but not least were this bumper set of Penguin post cards from Jon’s sister. I’m a big fan of the Penguin look- a great design which is both classic and contemporary, they’re a publisher’s dream. I’ve been collecting some vintage look postcards for a while with a view to framing them and using them to decorate the walls. The fanned postcards are ones I’ve picked out from the set to use for this, and the rest I’ll use in my correspondence. Now to order frames. Where did I put that measuring tape?