THIS is the second of our monthly review slots especially for The Gazette & Herald

It’s been a wonderful month, welcoming customers back into the shop to browse our shelves and talk about books.

We may have been closed for World Book Day but we continue to honour the vouchers through until the end of July so you can swop one for a special WBD book or enjoy £2 off another children’s title.

Here are our four recommendations from our book team this time. We hope you like the selection.

The Hatmakers by Tamzin Merchant, illustrated by Paola Escobar (Penguin Random House, 2021)

Tamzin Merchant’s setting of Georgian London provides a magical backdrop for her debut novel The Hatmakers. Her feisty and adventurous heroine Cordelia leads young readers (8-12 years old) through a series of scrapes and lucky escapes during a time of turbulence for the family, monarchy and city of London.

In Cordelia’s world, hats (or gloves or boots) help people achieve greatness or master a new talent – and sometimes help them overcome problems. Cordelia’s family are called upon via royal warrant to make a very important hat to help the King of England negotiate a precarious peace with enemies abroad. Of course, when hats get into the wrong hands, chaos ensues – sometimes with hilarious (or dangerous) consequences!

Although they are publicly sworn enemies, Cordelia and her best friend Goose (from a bootmaker family) uncover important secrets and really find out who their friends and enemies are.

Merchant’s novel is as beautifully written as it is an exciting story. The characters visit the theatre, enlist the help of creatures with magical powers and make new friends in unexpected places. The main characters’ families provide fun and engaging detail on their apprenticeship into the family’s specialist trades and extra insight into the magical world they inhabit.

Running alongside the exciting events of the story is Cordelia’s missing father, who has been lost at sea in a terrible storm. Only Cordelia believes that he can be rescued, and the end of the novel has the best cliffhanger!

ISBN 9780241426302 £12.99

‘The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot’ by Marianne Cronin

The One Hundred Years of Lennie and Margot is an easy-to-read and life-affirming story about the power of friendship in the most difficult circumstances. Marianne Cronin’s debut novel (already being adapted as a feature film by a major Hollywood studio) is the story of friendship between two women who meet in hospital and become the firmest of friends through attendance at the hospital’s art therapy group.

As a consequence of their friendship and with the help of a fine cast of supporting characters, they share the stories of their personal histories and experiences. We learn about the trials and dramas of their own lives and loves, and we see how their situation shines a light upon the lives of those around them. Although they grow up in different times and are far apart in age, they are both spirited and rebellious women who impart a sense of joy, fun and empathy each to the other. In some ways, they are the mother and daughter that each has never really known.

At first glance that sounds pretty sad, but Cronin’s beautifully developed characters and witty narrative style will make you laugh out loud as well as cry quietly – sometimes on the same page.

ISBN 9780857527196 £14.99

Captain Tom Moore (Little People, Big Dreams series), by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara, illustrated by Christophe Jacques (Frances Lincoln, 2021)

The Little People, Big Dreams series provides illustrated biographical summaries of modern heroes and icons of our time – designed especially for children. A recent addition to its extensive list of titles is a book on Captain Tom Moore, who not only raised in excess of £30 million for NHS Charities during the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, but also brightened the spirits of the nation with his message of optimism that ‘tomorrow will be a good day!’

Youngsters (aged 3-7) can learn all about the life of a man they’ll recognise from the TV and from his charity work. The book tells us more about how he became the person the nation admired and respected in an easy-to-read format supported by illustrations designed to engage young readers and support early reading.

We learn about his life as a Yorkshire boy (who knew?), who showed early promise and skill as an engineer, restoring an old motorbike at the age of 12. He later joined the army and travelled to faraway lands, spending time with his fellow soldiers and later (following promotion for his courage and determination), helping keep up everyone’s spirits with his cheery personality and positive outlook.

At the age of 90, a fall during his daily walk resulted in extensive surgery, but also sowed the seeds of his admiration for healthcare professionals. The rest is a story we know and love. Aged 99 he inspired the nation towards his own charity fundraising appeal and rewarded those who had helped him in his own difficult days. Inspirational!

ISBN 9780711262072 £9.99

Couch Fiction: A Graphic Tale of Psychotherapy by Philippa Perry, illustrated by Flo Perry (Penguin, 2020)

Most readers of Philippa Perry’s graphic case study outlining the process of psychotherapy will know her as the wife of one of our favourite artists (husband Grayson Perry), or through her calm, creative and playful disposition as seen on Channel 4’s COVID-19 lockdown show Grayson’s Art Club.

She is, of course, a highly influential practitioner in her own sphere – psychotherapy. She is a well-known and highly regarded therapist of 20 years’ experience, who also broadcasts on a range of mainstream media platforms and has written extensively about her particular areas of expertise.

Couch Fiction is her one of her recent titles, lauded by famous psychotherapist Susie Orbach, and illustrated by her daughter Flo, who clearly shares the family’s artistic talent. The book provides a light-hearted and accessible insight into the psychotherapeutic process, presented as a case study of a highly successful barrister who is also steals mindlessly for reasons he does not understand. Whilst the case study itself is fictional, Perry bases the details of the therapeutic interaction on what happens typically, enabling readers to have access to what happens during therapy, a process normally carried out behind closed doors.

The graphic format of the book is ideal for presenting the thought-processes of both therapist and client with artwork that is both explanatory and witty. Alongside this runs an engaging commentary on the role and developing relationship of those involved with reflections upon the therapeutic process.

For anyone curious about how therapists set about understanding and helping their clients understand themselves better and live a more contented life, Perry’s book provides a brilliant introduction.

ISBN 9780241461785 £16.99